30 May 2006

On Human Potential

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

I am slightly allergic to the word God. Nevertheless the quote above has tremendous appeal for me. That's why I use it again although I had already used it before.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I have tremendous respect for human potential. I am usually quite easily convinced that most people can achieve many quite great things in their lives. I have even made public speeches where I tell the audience, "Hey, YOU can achieve great things."

Nevertheless, I am a realist. Although I believe that most people can achieve great things, I also believe that most people won't. The greatest reason is that THEY don't believe that they themselves can achieve great things.

And really - nobody ever wins an Olympic medal, or becomes CEO, by accident. Nobody ever writes a bestselling novel, or becomes a multimillionaire entrepreneur, or gets a PhD, by accident. Whatever your definition of a "great thing" may be, it just won't happen if you don't do it.

What has led me today, to write about this?

Strangely, it was my previous post. Or rather, some of my readers' comments on it - those comments that asserted "Creativity Can't Be Taught" or "Creativity Can't Be Learned".

On the way to work this morning, I was thinking about those comments and I realised that for the average, not-very-creative Singaporean, such a statement is effectively a cop-out, an excuse.

Suppose you are not particularly creative. If you then choose to believe "Creativity Can't Be Learned", well, you just gave yourself permission to continue to be un-creative for the rest of your life. You would have no self-obligation to learn to be more creative.

Come to think of it -

the statement "Creativity Can't Be Learned" is itself extremely un-creative.

The more-creative approach would be to say:

"Let's just suppose, for a moment, that creativity can be learned. HOW would we learn it? Let's come up with two or three ideas to do it. Or four, or five ideas, or nine or ten. Or maybe 30."

And seriously - I know that if I wanted to, I could definitely come up with 30 ideas for making oneself more creative. It wouldn't take me very long either, and many (not all) of those 30 ideas would be quite effective and quite innovative too.

How can I be so sure? Well, I've tried various creative tools, techniques and processes in the past. And really, if you know just a couple of those tools, techniques and processes, it probably wouldn't be particularly difficult to generate 4, 5, 9, 10 or 30 different ideas to tackle most kinds of challenges.

For instance, it wouldn't be particularly difficult to generate 30 ideas on how to make yourself more creative.

Funny thing is - many people who have never learned about any of those creative tools or techniques, or never really tried them out for themselves, will nevertheless insist that "Creativity Can't Be Learned".

Why not surprise yourself?

Here, try the random input method. That's one tool.

Mr Wang will give you 30 random words. Use each word to generate one idea for making yourself more creative. At the end of the exercise, you should have 30 ideas:

post pursuit resources plan straw story windows artists snake oil teachers massage argument commodity human entrepreneur musical kids piano violin computer history university measure God student school book reflection institutions

22 comments:

whybegay said...

Mr Wang, the answer to all the confusion lies in just 2 simple words- selfishness and laziness.

Creativity and potential is all around us, whether people would want to believe it or not. But to be creative and to fulfill one's greatest potential requires more calories, glucose and oxygen for the brain to process more thoughts and to grow more neural links to make it smarter.

Some people would rather sit on the couch, watch tv, eat drink and grow fat, rather than to be on the thinking chair devising ways to improve the world around them.

It all comes down to human selfishness and kiasuism of people especially Singaporeans who are so stingy to utilise a few calories to make the world a kinder and better place for others. Otherwise,
1. sales staff would be dedicated
2. people would change their handphones to silent modes
3. Ike's parents would have more faith and have done more for their son, and did it much earlier.
4. people would give in to others alighting from MRT trains
5. people would give up their seats to the more needy
6. people would try to solve problems instead of just observing
7. The disabled and disadvantaged would receive more help
8. People would actually think more instead of being left ignorant of the bigger picture
9. Homosexuals would accept their own denial and escapism acts instead of justifying their mental disorders with human rights
10. Teachers would actually teach
11. people would actually use their eyes to see instead of being blind
12. People would actually be intelligent and creative instead of being dull and stupid
13. There would be more people like violinist Loh Jun Hong around

Conclusion: the willingness to sacrifice human calories to benefit others and oneself cannot be taught. And sometimes it is not the software that is going wrong, sometimes people just don't have the genes to have grown efficient and gifted brains. There are humans and there are zombies.

Alvin said...

Hooray for Mr Wang. I'm a strong believer in human potential too.

One particularly powerful experience I had was when I was coaching this lady some NLP skills. She identified herself with a stroke she had a few years before and kept calling herself an 'ex-strokee'.

She kept insisting she couldn't grasp the techniques and the exercises were too tough for her. I decided to take a chance on her potential instead of believing in her limitations (why not) and I insisted she could, and do all the exercises, no exception.

With our help and the help of her team mates, she did eventually complete the exercises, and from one reference of being able to overcome a difficult challenge, her old belief begun to shake, and she built more confidence to tackle the next exercise, and the next, and the next.

The change in her demeanor was amazing instantly, and even more so during the next few months. From someone who kept refering to herself as an 'ex-strokee', she was now holding herself more confidently, happily signing up for dance lessons, finding a job more in line with her interests, taking care of her body.

It seems there is some truth to the saying; 'whether you think you can or you can't, you're right' (Henry Ford, I think).

Hussein said...

Workshops on creativity will typically cover topics like problem definition, idea generation, idea selection and idea implementation. But it takes a creative person to actually produce something out of nothing through this or any other process. There's nothing creative about, say, using toilet water to wash your car, though some garmen officials might give you a national day award for it. Ditto eating with your feet when your hands are in perfect working order. True creativity is to come up with something no one else on planet earth has ever conceived. What goes on in classrooms and lecture halls is the study of what has been done, and what can be done better e.g. reduce the cost per kilowatt of solar cell. Let's face it, there are creative types and there are workers. The workers are too busy to think, and the dreamers are all too often dismissed as slackers.

*The Lunatic Fringe* said...

To whybegay:

I am not sure I agree with your point "9. Homosexuals would accept their own denial and escapism acts instead of justifying their mental disorders with human rights"

has anything to do with selfishness and laziness. Your general thrust that most people are not focussed enough on their goals and to see themselves actively as part of the solution instead of passively part of the problem mirrors my own observations. But there are times when it's a lot more than just selfishness or laziness that we sometimes restrict our own potential. A lot of times, no one else has seen that potential or that no-one believes in it. I taught Primary 5-6 children with one of the self-help groups for 4 years and realise that the EM3 streaming (and the resultant labelling) did have an impact on the child's perception of his own abilities as well as how his parents perceived him. It would be simplistic to write-off EM3 children as being lazy and selfish. They try but sometimes when no-one believes, encourages and is on their side, they never realise they are more than their EM3 class.

Human beings are strange creatures. We do not always work on logic, many times people around me see more in me than what I see in myself and I realise that we sometimes limit our own potential because of how our perception of the world and what can/can't be achieved is affected by our family and environment.

soulburnz said...

Hi, Mr Wang, the quote that you posted was heard in the movie "Coach Carter".

Very meaningful and I'll like to comment that both your blog and yawning bread's are thought-provoking.

Wishing you all the best =)

whybegay said...

To "the lunatic fringe",

Point 9 has everything to do with selfishness and laziness. We don't hear much of homosexuals being sacrificial volunteers but more often being one-sided complainers ultimately to fulfill their very own personal agendas and being suicidal, which is just a lazy escape from reality and a selfish denial of their personal conflicts with the people around them.

"But there are times when it's a lot more than just selfishness or laziness that we sometimes restrict our own potential."

Sometimes people don't consciously restrict fulfilling their potential, they just don't even "want to try".

"A lot of times, no one else has seen that potential or that no-one believes in it."

I'm sure there are many role-models for people to see and model themselves after in Singapore. Of course we are all humans, we all have brains that can think complicated thoughts. But to even want to "see" and "believe" in potential requires a person to "try". But sometimes people give up quickly or don't even "want" to "try". Either they do not have the motivational goals at hand to fulfill, or they are simply put, lazy to try.

"I taught Primary 5-6 children with one of the self-help groups for 4 years and realise that the EM3 streaming (and the resultant labelling) did have an impact on the child's perception of his own abilities as well as how his parents perceived him."

But the reason remains of why EM3 children are streamed into EM3 in the first place. Did the streaming caused them to develop a negative outlook of their potential, or did their negative outlook of their potential caused them to be stream into EM3 in the first place?

Then there is the given reason that young children believe in the image of what others think of them. And they believe in other people's opinions of them. Isn't believing in other people so easily also similar to taking the easy way out? I say don't believe easily in what others think of what , but more of what they would liek to think of themselves.

"It would be simplistic to write-off EM3 children as being lazy and selfish. They try but sometimes when no-one believes, encourages and is on their side, they never realise they are more than their EM3 class."

I think they believe too easily of what others think instead of what they themselves think, they are behaving like zombies. The more important point is that, do they "want" to think more of themselves or simply leave themselves to the mercy of other people's opinions of them. I can still see characteristics of being non-proactive here (lazy and selfish?).

"I realise that we sometimes limit our own potential because of our perception of the world and what can/can't be achieved is affected by our family and environment."

People limit their own potential because they are sometimes afraid of dedicating and using the extra needed precious resources to fulfill the potential.

Perceptions of anything can be changed. Brainwashed negative ideals of oneself can be brainwashed by other positive ideals.

There is no lack of good role-models in Singapore for the young to follow(such as violinist Loh Jun Hong). Show them good role-models of people and it is ultimately up to the person to decide whether he wants to adapt to his environment by adopting better thinking and creative skills of role-models(such as violinist Loh Jun Hong) or chooses to not do anything and allow oneself to be put down by an increasingly demanding social environment.

If some people wishes to be "simplistic" simpletons and don't even want to try to think, then people have good reason to use "simple" ways to "simply" write off such "simple" simpletons off as being selfish, simple and lazy.

I would like to ask whether teachers of the young have done enough by introducing their students to many good role models(such as violinist Loh Jun Hong) to follow and model after, instead of just wishing(selfish and lazy) something would happen out of nothing? There is no point having self-help groups if the student does not "want" to help himself, or if there are no known good role-models for the students to change out of from their old selves and to change to new selves and new identities. Its a simple displacement logic.

Again I ask "teachers" and "parents" of the young, do your students and child know of any good role-models to follow and model after?

Anonymous said...

maybe it is the case of whether the person has an internal locus of control or external locus of control. They probably view things from different perspective and people will always be different :)

blimk said...

I heard and I believe in this: "To be creative is an attitude". To many of us, creativity can be cultivated and learnt.

Mr Wang Says So said...

This statement:

"True creativity is to come up with something no one else on planet earth has ever conceived."

.... sounds to me like an attempt to make the idea of "creativity" sound so scary and difficult that non-creative people once again have an excuse to remain non-creative.

Tell you what ... instead of trying to "come up with something no one else on planet earth has ever conceived" ...

why don't you try, as an exercise, to come up instead with ideas:

(a) to be twice as productive at work than you currently are;

(b) which none of your industry competitors in Singapore has ever conceived of before;

(c) which none of your department colleagues has ever conceived of before;

(d) to solve what you think are the three biggest recurring issues in your workplace;

(e) to solve what you think are the three biggest recurring problems in your home/family;

(f) (if you're in the service industry) to increase your client base by 20% every month,

(g) to manage your time better, so that you have an additional 7 hours a week to devote to your favourite hobby;

(h) to save 25% more money each month, without compromising on your quality of life;

(i) to spice up your sex life,

or absolutely whatever else might be of some real-life significance or importance to you.

When I put it like that, it doesn't sound so impossible, does it. Could be challenging, but not impossible. But that's what creativity is all about it, isn't it. We're primarily interested in solving real-life challenges, real-life goals, real-life applications, not necessarily some abstraction like coming up with "something no one else on planet earth has ever conceived" for its own sake.

If you're the guy who's never at a loss for new ideas to tackle problems and improve things, well, I think it's fair to say you're creative.

message said...

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http://sachatamiagroup.blogsome.com/2006/02/19/list-of-racial-discriminations-in-malaysia




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Anonymous said...

To make a dream happen, you must first have a dream.

Then as a famous runner said, "The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare."

Whenever you have a dream, many people will try to bring you down, saying that you are wasting your time and you will never make it.

They will say, work at your studies, get good results, be a gahment scholar and have a gold ricebowl for the rest of your life.

And we should not resent them for it, but such behaviour does more to kill talent than anything else in Singapore.

When I first ran a marathon, my mum said my uterus would drop out, or that I would die of heart attack and leave my baby without a mother.

All dreams require risk and sacrifice. All dreams require emotional energy and risk, as you are going to be very down everytime you fall as you try to go up and up.

In my youth, when I wanted to continue as a martial arts competitor, I was told not to waste my time and become a doctor or lawyer.

Look at the case of Fandi, he could have played for a euro club when he was in his early teens, but he was held back by his parents as they were afraid for him to be in a foreign land.

Not considering the hinderances played by parents in our parental-control society, we now come to the individual, and her own problems.

We have to fantasize about our objective by day and dream about it by night, we have to push and push and push, knowing that it may all be for nothing, and we may never make it.

But that must not stop us, because the dream only dies when you give it up.

As long as you still fight, the dream lives on, no matter how painful or slim the chance is.

Yet spending all your time chasing your dream may become selfish if you have a family to look after.

Thus there are so many problems and obstacles in having a dream.

Flosduellatorum.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiousity, what has homosexuality got to do with dreams?

Let's put the Brokebackmountain and its inseparable Sheepherders(those two guys are sheepherders, NOT cowboys) in a separate topic.

Thanking you on behalf of Ang Lee.

Flos

Anonymous said...

I think it all boils down to one question. Do you have the Hunger? Once you are certain you want something, then all those lessons on management and creativity will come in handy. They may not even be necessary, because the human mind is ingenious. But if people are satisfied generally and have no great impetus to take risks, then they will achieve a secure stable life but will be without great achievements.

whynotbegay said...

Whybegay,

I disagree completely with point 9.

I quote you: "9. Homosexuals would accept their own denial and escapism acts instead of justifying their mental disorders with human rights"

I'd like to point out that homosexuality is no longer classified in DSM as a mental disorder.

It appears you're the one who is selfish for not accepting people the way they are innately, and uncreative for not being able to see out of the narrow-minded box you've seem to have put yourself into.

Strange, since you're the one who came up with:
"It all comes down to human selfishness and kiasuism of people especially Singaporeans who are so stingy to utilise a few calories to make the world a kinder and better place for others."

Perhaps you could try making this place a kinder and better one for others who do not share the same sexual orientation as you do.

whybegay said...

"Just out of curiousity, what has homosexuality got to do with dreams?"

Since this question was asked out of curiosity to clarify what I mentioned, I would just have to fulfill this request, even though this strange question was asked out of context to the main topics of thinking creativity and fulfilling human potential.

"9. Homosexuals would accept their own denial and escapism acts instead of justifying their mental disorders with human rights"

I listed point 9 as an example of how people are sometimes selfish, lazy and even stubborn to realise the bigger picture and underlying reasons of what they want and choose to do, instead of simply being busy escaping to a fantasy "dream". Being selfish, lazy and stubborn to think are the causes that denies a person of creativity and limits his greatest potential. This is the relevance.

(Out of respect for Mr Wang, please refrain from asking me questions that are strangely out-of-point to his post, which I would have to answer and go off-topic again. Thank you.)

Anonymous said...

Brokeback Mountain! Brokeback Mountain!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Mr Wang, I will not emulate the gentle demurral of *the lunatic fringe*.

Whybegay (WBG), you are a homophobic gaybasher.

Be that as it may, I will address the other points you have raised.

WBG: 10, Teachers would actually teach.

What exactly is it that you think teachers are doing currently? I know a lot of teachers, the lot of a typical arts grad, and I think all of them would be surprised, to say the least, to be told to teach.

WBG: 12. People would actually be intelligent and creative instead of being dull and stupid.

Wow, just wow. Who knew...if I just choose to be, I can be anything I want. I may be completely tonedeaf but by gum! If I simply choose, by the power of my selfwill, you will see me performing at Carnegie!

WBG: We don't hear much of homosexuals being sacrificial volunteers but more often being one-sided complainers ultimately to fulfil their very own personal agendas and being suicidal which is just a lazy escape from reality and a selfish denial of their comflicts with the people around them.

There are something like 5 or 6 assumptions in that statement alone and I'll only address a few because, you know, I'm lazy and selfish and I gots tv to watch.

Someone else might be able to clarify this but I think your first clause qualifies as an example of “argument from ignorance” (check wikipedia for a definition). Just because you don't hear much about homosexuals being sacrificial volunteers doesn't mean there are none. In fact, given Singaporean society and the nature of ours media, the sexuality of sacrificial volunteers is unlikely to be played up, as it should be. A subpoint would be the assumption of heterosexuality that I think most people, at least, most Singaporeans make. I would think that when one sees a sacrificial volunteer (or any person really), one assumes the person is a heterosexual until proven otherwise.

Your implicit definition of a “sacrificial volunteer” is also problematic. You seem to be saying that if the volunteer activity in which one is engaging is self-serving in anyway, then it is insufficiently sacrificial. Perhaps Ms Denise Phua will be surprised to learn that giving up her lucrative career to do full-time volunteer work isn't self-sacrificial because she has an autistic son. I'm not necessarily saying that your assertion is incorrect. I do think thestandard you set is too high as to be useless. It's also slightly bizarre that you put down people who are agitating for their own self-interests in a post that also takes people to task for being too passive to maximise their potential.

Moving on, because I'm bored.

WBG: There is no lack of role-models in Singapore for the young to follow (such as violinist Loh Jun Hong).

To demonstate a plenitude of role-models, you cite the same person 4 times. You're being about as subtle as a product placement in a James Bond movie! And what's with this Singaporean role-models stuff anyway?! Is there some mysterious psychic wall that prevents a Singaporean child from being inspired by non-Singaporeans? Can Mahatma Gandhi only inspire Indians? Does an American investor look at Warren Buffet admiringly then think, oh no, he's not American, better admire George Soros instead?

To address Mr Wang's post and (hopefully) to thank him for his forbearance while I went on a little rant, I think that there are at least 3 concepts that are being conflated/confused. They are originality, creativity and innovation. This statement: “True creativity is to come up with something no one else on planet earth has ever conceived.” sounds more like a definition of originality. What is being taught in creative classes, as delineated in Mr Wang's post, seems closer to being innovation. That is to say, given certain parameters, which function, I think, simultaneously as boundaries and catalysts, one generates varations on a theme/idea. I have no clue how to define creativity.

By all means, teach creativity. Time will separate the quacks from the real deal. For now though, I think I rather lean towards teaching and learning how to write precisely, how to think critically and avoiding the usual logical fallacies.

Thanks for reading.

et

KiWeTO said...

Here's the flip side to the question:

Can inherent creativity in a human being be supressed?

Is that what is occuring in our Education system? Instead of enabling creativity, we are still supressing it?

I think it can be easily supressed. Just telling a student to 'accept' theories and facts because they are there means that there is no encouragement of curiosity. Without curiousity, we all just accept the status quo, which means there is no need to change. Creativity inherently requires change from the status quo.

Are we teaching or are we educating?

Given the power of the web to disseminate information, we have to encourage curiousity by getting students to "ask the web" and then find out for themselves what has been proven, and what has not been, but is generally accepted.



E.o.M.

Meng Wai said...

"Can inherent creativity in a human being be supressed?"
Definite yes! Just look at Balaji telling the reporter that posting photographs of the election rallies is on the "negative list". But we didn't give a damn to them, did we? To debunk anyone telling me Singaporeans are not creative, I carry with me in my PDA the spoof video on NKF and the Mee Pok Man podcast. Now that's creativity!

*The Lunatic Fringe* said...

To whybegay:

I can sense some frustration in your post that you'd wish more people get off their butts and do something (proactive) rather than to whine about their lot in life (ie. why am I not creative, why am I being held back by life?). I agree with you brother!

But perhaps you may want to live and let live that not all of us are born with the intellectual self awareness to examine the human condition with a magnifying glass. Many people (myself included) are zombies who go through life following the wake up-work-lunch(surf Mr Wang blog)-work-home-dinner-tv(opium)-sleep (repeat cycle till weekend). Is it our fault or society's that we can't or won't get creative and volunteer with Medecins Sans Frontieres? That's for another discussion.

Take my EM3 kid. He is not a digit to me, I interacted with with 2 years from P5 to P6 and thankfully he managed to get into Secondary School without flunking out his PSLE. Was he streamed because he was weaker in his cohort in school, definitely! But why was he academically weak? He comes from a single-parent family where his mother works (father passed away) with 2 older siblings - sec 3 and NSF. His older brothers can't be bothered to help him (they are no academically inclined either)or guides/coaches him in school work. His mother has no time to supervise him, so is it him being lazy and selfish that ended up in EM3? Hmmm... Do we choose what family we are born into.....hmmmm?

I'd love to carry on this discussion. Email me at rhys1066 at yahoo.com . Visited a bit about ur blog, u sound like a very interesting person, though can sense some inherent pent up frustration.

Relax brother! and God bless. :-)

whybegay said...

To *The Lunatic Fringe",

No, I do not have inherent pent up frustrations, I am just very articulate and expressive in my writing relatively to those of others, which are actually quite mediocre compared to writings from other first world countries.

I only find it illogical that the locals(who are very selfish and lazy) are not doing more than they should to keep up in this ever demanding society. This bad habit could lead to survival problems if nothing much is done. Perhaps the vast contrast and conflict of my mindset and those of others could have been viewed as a "frustration".

As you said of your son,
"His older brothers can't be bothered to help him (they are not academically inclined either)or guides/coaches him in school work. His mother has no time to supervise him, so is it him being lazy and selfish that ended up in EM3?"

So there is the problem, your son is not exposed to people who possess good proactive habits observed by the lack of people who could show proactive spirit by helping him. This lack of exposure to proactiveness could be the cause as to why he could model after his peers' "selfish and lazy" attitudes. He views being "selfish and lazy" as more of a normality rather than being proactive. This would hinder his mind to develop a proactive and creative behaviour which would limit his potential.

The way to counteract this behavioural deficiency is to introduce your son to good role models he can model their behaviours after.

It seem like your son needs a course coaching by motivational coach Mr Adam Khoo from that "I Am Gifted, So Are You!" inspirational book. He thinks that everybody can be gifted.

So the question, is your son being lazy and selfish that ended him up in EM3? Definitely yes, your son modelled after his whole family's "selfish and lazy" non-proactive attitude, along with a lack of good role-models, which led him to be streamed to EM3.

It is also the fault of the streaming system in schools that distant pupils who require role-models from their other EM2 and EM1 peers. Streaming in schools actually worsens the role-modelling problem and the pupils most affected are ultimately those in the lower streaming band. Streaming can be seen as a segregation of different groups and "classes" of children and as a neglect of the lower band pupils.

Anonymous said...

Time for some poetry writing exercise! :)