Articles tagged under reasons for everything:

We Make Our Own Luck

It has been a long while since I've penned an article, so here's me making up for lost time with a nice little read. For starters, here's a brain-teaser.  There was a man with a gun on his shoulder wandering in the wilderness. He walked 100 metres North, then 100 metres East, then 100 meters South before stopping. He then had the strange feeling that he had been here before. At this moment a bear wandered past and the man shot it. What colour was the bear? If one ignored the earlier story, answering this question correctly would be a matter of pure luck. Bears only exist in a few colours - black, white and brown. With no earlier consideration, and a small amount of luck, you'd pick the correct answer - white.  This question, however, like many we face in life, rewards the answerer for every bit of general knowledge he or she has. Though faced with the impromptu, the more well read a person is, the more luck is removed from the equation and the more a person increases his chance at solving the riddle.  A combination of geography (the poles), mathematics (vectors and displacement) and natural understanding (bear colors and habitats) is what gives anyone the opportunity to turn ambiguity into certainty. It is possible for us to manipulate events in our favor. There are two kinds of luck. The first kind is Opportunity, and the second is Phenomena. Opportunity defines our very actions, and every action we take defines future opportunities. In a tennis match for instance, Zhicong wonders if his serve will be strong enough to get by his opponent (Tennis serves often make or break matches). He wonders and prays for luck. His worry and anxiety, his nervousness, is defined by the amount of training he has put into perfecting his serve. Training for hours and weeks on end assures him of a faster, more skilful, and more powerful serve when the big game arrives. It gives him a buffer, a stabilizing effect against the unknown, against lousy weather, against his frayed nerves, and even though he can never fully account for every phenomenon that may befall him, the training and hours put in gives him the opportunity to win. And so he does.  As he wins the tournament, he is approached by a sports representative who gives him a new opportunity to play for his country in the national team. Zhicong is lucky, and luck is on his side. But it was through his own actions, training and his seizing of opportunities that his made his own luck first place, allowing him to win and seize future opportunities to get lucky. "Luck" can be manipulated in this way, through effort and will. And sometimes, the first form of luck is defined by the second. Sometimes we don't create our own luck, but gain the opportunity to do so through unforeseen phenomena and "divine intervention." Several prolific men rose to power inspired by circumstances they had no control over. One could say there wouldn't be a Stalin without a Lenin, a Che Guevara without a Castro, or even a Hitler without the treaty of Versailles.  Such prolific events were perhaps random tosses of the galactic dice. Had they not occurred, none of these powerful and influential leaders would have been able to come to the fore and seize success. Knowing how influential external phenomena is on our lives, sometimes we too feel that the world is too big for us to start anything or create any meaning. However, the key takeaway is that even though these leaders didn't start the fire, they took hold of the situation and created the opportunities for their own ascension. Random events always happen. In essence, to take advantage of random phenomena is also exploiting and creating opportunity. We only need a sharp eye to recognize that. The second kind of luck always leads back to the first, but only in the hands of someone ready and waiting to exploit it. But there is a flipside to all this positivity. If we make our own luck, then the inverse, that we make our own bad luck, it also true. If we don't grasp the opportunity, we are stagnating our resources and exhausting future opportunities. Those who do not understand how they are not fully employing their resources believe they have done their best, attributing their stumbles and failures to "bad luck." They often refer to such "bad luck" as "fate" - something beyond their control. This arises from poor understanding of potential actions, and their own capabilities. A person may be great at playing the piano, but may be misguided in trying to eke out a living playing concerts in rural areas. Similarly, a person may possess a fantastic vocabulary, but may be mistakenly trying to apply them in an area like Literature, where speaking clearly and concisely trumps flowery language. Understanding where to apply your strengths is often more important than developing that strength to begin with, and getting the areas right can help you be sure it was just bad fortune, and not your talent being wasted. Even those who were recipients of "bad luck" to begin with, the victims of phenomena afflicted by hereditary conditions like Stephen Hawking, or born into poverty like Mahatma Gandhi, can still make tremendous headways in the world. Even if you've been dealt a bad hand from the start, it is how you react to adversity that shapes your character and life. Right now the prelims are almost onto us. It is not too late. It's never too late. Turning ourselves around is not a mere option. It is our duty. Not a duty to better our schools nor beat our competition, but a duty that we fulfil whatever potential within us to its limit. And toss the dice ourselves. Now, impose this idea of you creating your own opportunities onto the oncoming examinations. Opportunity may knock, but we must first build a door for it to pass through. And how well this door is built will decide if opportunity knocks once, or many, many times.

Why Schools Have To Start So Early.

It’s 5am in the morning. The sun isn’t up yet, but you are. You drag yourself to the bathroom and brush your teeth with your eyes closed, imagining that you’re still lying in your nice warm bed. Lately, your bed and you have become estranged lovers – you adore each other a lot, but just can’t seem to find time to be together. With your eyes still closed you put on your uniform, take your breakfast and make your way out of the house. You’re all too familiar with this dreadful morning ritual. We all are.  Going to school becomes a battle to stay awake (or not be noticed sleeping).  Honestly… Why does school have to start so early? A quick Google search suggests that school start times were once aligned with farming routines. Because children needed to help their parents tend the crops, they’d wake up around 5am anyway. Once they were done, they could go to school and everything would be just right. As much as this is likely to be true, it’s probably not the main reason why schools in Singapore are starting at such worm-getting hours. For one, not many people in Singapore have been tending crops or sowing seeds for a while now. We could say that our school schedules originated from when we were a colony of the British. Those people did do more farming than us, after all. However, we probably wouldn’t have kept the practice we copied from the British all the way till now if it didn’t work. There’s got to be reasons why we’re still doing it…right? Well, firstly… Starting early means more lesson time.  The difference between starting classes at 8 and starting classes at 9 is not always just that one hour. This is because you have to factor in recess and lunch, which, as much as the school’s planners might disapprove, is compulsory. Starting at 8 gives about two hours to plan lessons with, so you can have three periods of 40 minutes before recess which normally comes at 10.If you start at 9, then you really only have one full period of 40. But wait. If you’re familiar with how lectures and tutorials are scheduled in a typical JC, then this all doesn’t make sense, because there isn’t always a mandatory recess time, and in fact breaks are staggered all over the place. It still makes sense for the school’s planners to start things off early, though, because it is quite the challenge to arrange different lectures and tutorials amongst all 50 classes and make sure that no two lessons happen to occur in the same venue at the same time. Take away that precious one hour, and suddenly nothing works anymore. You can’t just squeeze in another class anywhere else. So you have to rework the entire schedule. And if you’re also familiar with the way change works its way through organisations…it doesn’t. Because the ‘smart aleck’ who suggests starting later gets the job of planning the entire new schedule, complete with venues, teacher and class allocations. It’s not anyone’s fault, just how the world works… If that’s the case, why don’t we just start later AND end later? Well, because… Starting early also means ending early. And ending early is awesome. When lessons end early, you have more time for supplementary classes and CCAs. And teachers have more time for the work they need to do in the staff room. Your parents will also be happy that you get to come home early to have dinner with them, rest, and relax study, do your homework, and go for your tuition classes. In fact, the society wins too, because… Waking up early makes you a better person. You read that right. Not just a better employee, but a better person. Cue the entire argument about how waking up at 5am prepares you for the working world when you have to report for work at 8am every day as well. Let’s not dispute that it’s beneficial for now ok? We could point out that many jobs actually start at 9, but let’s just not. The real interesting point we want to be talking about is how scientists have found that there’s some kind of magic in the morning air  that makes us healthier.  In short, when you’re an early riser, your sleep cycle is in sync with natural sleep cycles that human beings should have. The morning, as the research says, is a time where homo prehistoricus liked to go hunting and to socialize. Getting up early and getting some exercise or meeting people actually refreshes you and improves your all-round performance for the rest of the day. Unfortunately for us, though, we’re students. You can’t just go to sleep at 1am after rushing a project and then force yourself up at 5 and expect to feel all revitalized. That’s why articles on the benefits of waking up early tend to feature people who aren’t students (ie. the ones who can actually sleep early too). I’m pretty sure the benefits of sleeping enough far outweigh those of waking up early. In the end, though, these benefits still give schools a pretty good reason to start early. After all, they aren’t the ones who are forcing you to sleep late (or are they?) Their job and what they can make you do is wake you up early and take in all that miracle-working morning air. So, the next time you find yourself prying your eyes open and dragging yourself out of bed at 5am, only to go to school for one lesson before a three hour break, remember these reasons. At least you don’t have to till the land and water the crops before you are allowed to go to school. It might help you feel better about how you can do nothing to change how early lessons need to start.
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