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I live next door to a chain smoker. It normally would not be a big deal. After all, she is in her own apartment killing herself slowly — that’s really none of my business. But the second hand smoke travel into my apartment and sometimes trigger mild asthma attacks in me. I’ve asked her on several occasions to be considerate of her second hand smoke, but she continues to blatantly disregard the harm she’s causing others around her.

Smoking kills, people! If you want to kill yourself, I won’t interfere. But please don’t kill me as I value my life a trillion times more than you do yours. With that said, I am going to start an anti-smoking campaign. I encourage everybody who are affected by second hand smoke to take a stand against inconsiderate smokers. I will start — and if you care to share in my anti-smoking crusade, please post the following video on your blogs too.

I was chatting with a friend the other day about IQ, and he sent me the following map of the average IQs around the world:

Just in case you are not able decipher the legend, the top box (yellow) reads “105”, followed by 100 (tan), 85-90 (orange), 70 (brown), and 60 (red). If you look closely, you will notice that all countries except China and those in Europe are blanketed by either orange, brown, or red, which means the average IQ of the people in those countries are below 90. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t IQ scores supposed to fit the Gaussian curve with a median of 100? In other words, isn’t “100” the average IQ score? If so, how can the average IQ of a big chunk of the world’s population be below 100?

The only explanation I can offer is this: China. Not only is the average IQ of Chinese 105, China is also the most populous country in the world. Perhaps the large population of higher average IQ balanced the equation when averaged with the population of lower average IQ. Even then, I am not totally convinced that explanation is sound — the math simply does not add up.

What do you think? Please offer your own explanation in the comments below.

The following is a guest post by my friend “Joe Harvard”. For a listing of all of Joe’s posts, click here.

Human history can be best summarized by the following: Countless episodes of gory blood letting warfare, and death interspersed by periods of intermittent peace brought to us via the courtesy of the winner(s) of the blood letting contests. These epochs of peace, Pax Sinica/Romana/Britannica, and most recently Pax Americana are all product of an overwhelming military might supported by a giant every growing economy.

But like all good orgies, they come to an end. In the case of the Romans, excessive frivolous government spending on things such as 120 days of gladiator games (game days in Rome are public holidays) coupled with lack of economic growth (Rome ran out of places to plunder) and inflation (Rome printing coins with ever declining silver content), led to severe reduction in military funding, and finally resulting in total economic collapse and ass kicking by the barbarians at the gate.

Unfortunately, I think Pax Americana is heading toward a similar fate as our party loving Roman brethrens. First, the US economy, the sole source funding for US military, is structurally floundering at its core. The US dollar has been the world’s reserve currency for the past 60+ years. As a reserve currency, all major global financial transactions (e.g. oil, gold, copper trades) are carried out in US dollars. The dollar’s special status confers upon it unprecedented global financial power. The US is the only country that does not need to keep a foreign reserve, thus enabling it to run much higher budget deficits than any other country. The US currency also influences interest rates across the globe enabling the country to affect monetary policies, and thus, the world’s economy.

But the US reserve currency status is under tremendous threat. In fact some experts have argued that US dollar has already lost its venerable status, and that the Euro is the new reserve currency. Read the rest of this entry »

I am a big connoisseur of how-to and self-help books (and TV, and magazines, etc). It has everything to do with my “Learner” strength and hence my insatiable appetite to always be learning something new. However, there are a handful of books that I reread and reference often, and one of my favorites is the bestseller Good to Great by Jim Collins. The book was written for businesses — specifically on how to turn mediocre companies or even bad ones into great companies that triumph over time. However, I find several concepts within the book equally applicable to personal success. Today I want to share with you one that has made a great impact in the way I think about my life and career; it’s called the Hedgehog Concept.

The term “hedgehog” used in the book is based on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox” and actually originated from the Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Very briefly, “foxes” pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity whereas “hedgehogs” simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. The Hedgehog Concept states that anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance.

So how does one arrive at and apply the Hedgehog Concept? First, the Hedgehog Concept consists of three circles:

It will probably take you a while to answer those three questions. It took me about three years to really understand myself, so don’t be surprised if it takes you just as long. However, once you have answers to those three questions, then you are ready for the next step — find the intersection of all three circles.

hedgehog-concept.jpgIn order to fully engage in the Hedgehog Concept, set your career and/or life goals and strategies based on the area where the three circles intersect. The beautiful thing is, once you have finally grasped your Concept, it will be as clear and appear as matter-of-fact to you as stating that the sky is blue or the grass is green. As Collins wrote in his book, “When you get your Hedgehog Concept right, it has the quiet ping of truth, like a single, clear, perfectly struck note hanging in movement of a Mozart piano concerto.”

Last but not least, once you found your Hedgehog Concept, go through another round of refinement because getting and applying the Concept is an iterative process. Good luck!

For more information about the Hedgehog Concept, please visit Jim Collin’s website: www.jimcollins.com.

A friend of mine recently introduced me to a very educational video on YouTube on “The Collapse of American Dollar.” The video is too good to keep to myself, so I thought I would share it with the rest of you. Unfortunately, the video is not embeddable, but if you click on the image below, it will take you to the video on YouTube. Here is a summary of what is covered in the video:

  • The dollar today is worth one cent vs. the dollar of 1870; two cents vs. 1919, but the lion share of the dollar decline has taken place since 1970 when the dollar was unhinged from gold.
  • The US now runs total annual budget and trade deficits exceeding $1.5 trillion.
  • Total US debt has grown 5.5 times since 1980 – from $8 trillion to $44 trillion. That is the biggest debt explosion in world history!
  • That has lead to large global dollar holders exiting the US dollar. Continuation of this trend will adversely affect US economic and political power.

February 2008
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