Book Review: “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins

The art of work is the lighthouse to those who are lost in finding meaning in their lives. This book will give you some hints how to find your ways. This book is also a guidepost to those who think they’ve achieved success and met their callings. This book will prod you to rise above it and continue to leave a legacy.

The author provide fitful examples to make his points. It’s wonderfully done. I came away so pumped up and convinced of working on my calling(s). I highly recommend this book. The book’s website is here.


The 7 Stages of finding your calling:

1. Awareness: Listening to your life
“The worst way to be happy is to try to be happy.” We need a reason to be happy. “A calling comes when we embrace the pain, not avoid it.” You must believe in that you’re called to something. To cultivate awareness, you must be willing to act, to step out and see what happens. Opportunities always come to those with open eyes. “You do know what your dream is. You’re just afraid to admit it!” Write down and note the significance of every major event in your life. It takes commitments. The risk of not committing is greater than the cost of making the wrong choice. Because when you fail, you learn. Walt Disney decided to become a cartoonist when he got injured and stayed at home for 2 weeks.

2. Apprenticeship: The teacher appears when the student least expects
Traditionally, it took 10 years to go from an apprentice to a “journeyman” to a master. You cannot master a craft on your own. Accidental apprenticeship are everywhere; you must listen to your life to recognize them. There lies Ginny Phang’s story in going from a unwed pregnant woman abandoned by her boyfriend and her own family to becoming a doula (pregnancy coach) and running her own business. Her story is a testament to the ability of human spirit to endure and the power of community. We never find a calling on our own; we all need help.

3. Practice: When trying isn’t good enough
Excellence is a matter of practice, not talent. “Even the most gifted people do not have what it takes to succeed without the right attitude and years of ‘deliberate’ and ‘deep’ (resulted in failures) practice.” 3 Requirements for “deliberate” practices: 1) Requires a context: time and energy from the individual as well as trainers, 2) Not “inherently motivating” activities – not enjoyable, 3) Cannot be done a very long time without leading to exhaustion – needs to push yourself to the point of sheer exhaustion. Often the only way to know the difference between a hobby and a calling is to put yourself through the crucible of painful practice. Accidental Apprenticeship is such that “long before a person is ready for his calling, life is preparing that person for the future through chance encounters and serendipitous experiences.” Seizing the “lucky” moment and doing something about it may be the difference.

4. Discovery
The process of finding and claiming your calling is a “journey,” like the bible story of Samuel, who had a “transcendental encounter” with God. The three stages: 1) hear it, 2) respond to it, 3) believe in it then leap or more like build bridges and keep moving toward something meaningful and life changing for yourself and the world.

5. Profession
On the way to meet your calling, you may encounter many failures when you’d need to “pivot.” Successful people and organizations like Groupon don’t succeed in spite of failure; they succeed because of it. “Pain is the great teacher and failure a faithful mentor.” Don’t turn a season of failure into a lifetime of failure by 1) recognize hardship as an opportunity to learn, 2) not to succeed in the wrong things, 3) be ready to make pivots along the way. Don’t ask “what if” but say “let’s.” Stop “dreaming” but start “doing.” Not all callings lead to successes or fame though.

6. Mastery
Living a “portfolio life” may be the way of the future. You don’t just have one job, you are all of these things that you do: fee work, salary work, home work, study work and gift work. Combining work, home, play and purpose in your portfolio life. “Mastery is something that goes beyond competence and skills. It means approaching one’s life as a creative work.” Stop trying to be famous and focus instead on trying to be successful. Try to reach the state of “flow” as Csikzentmihalyi described. Our responsibility is to use our gifts in challenging ways so that others can benefit – to be given away.

7. Legacy
Think of your work or calling as leaving a legacy to help others could make your work/calling more meaningful. No need to wait until your retirement. “Life has a funny way of teaching us that sometimes the most important stuff is the ordinary stuff. The smallest moments, the ones we think are insignificant, are the ones we will cherish the most.” Your calling is not about dong something good in the world but becoming someone good and letting that goodness impact the world around you. Success isn’t the final goal, legacy is. On the other hand, don’t let your calling consume you. Life is not a support system for your work; your work is a support system for your life. The author suggests to work hard and passionately, but acknowledge the limitation of what one life is capable of. In the end, success isn’t about what you do with your life but what you leave behind. Calling is about leaving a legacy that matters.

The book provides several questions and exercises in the appendix to help find your callings.

Honeywell Water Heater Thermostat Woe – How I Fixed It

I heard a scream from my wife in the shower, “No hot water! No hot water! What’s going on?!” Not good. This was 10pm two days ago. My first thought was that the water heater pilot light went out, based on my past experience. What else could it be? I checked that AO Smith Gas Water heater in the laundry room right away. The water heater comes with a sophisticated, advanced Honeywell Water Heater thermostat/valve that provides continuous monitoring of the water temperature and turning on and off the gas accordingly – all without battery. It uses a “thermopile” technology that converts thermal energy into electrical energy. It’s composed of serveral thermocouples connected in series to create roughly 350 mV of energy. What a nifty device!

Except when it’s not working.

I first tried resetting the module by turning it to off and re-start the pilot light by turning the dial to “Pilot”, holding down “Pilot” and push the spark igniter. The system kept coming back with 4 flashes. Based on the “Status Light Code,” it means “Temperature Exceeded.” It made sense as we had a heat wave recently. So I figured the system should reset itself once the over temperature condition goes away. I kept resetting the system without much success to get the gas burner to turn on again.

I googled around and came across this website by Tyler Tork. Wow, so many people had the same problem dating back to 2013. The problem is that the microcontroller inside the unit remembers the last “over-temp condition” and would not forget it. The recommended fix is to disconnect everything from the module for an hour and let the power dissipated to “flush” out the memory.

That sounded easy. I tried disconnecting it for 30 minutes. No go. 60 minutes: No go. I left it disconnected for overnight. Still no go. I even flushed some of water out to get the sediments out as it’s a source of heat barrier that contributes to overheating.

One of the people commented “shorting” everything on the little printed circuit board to really “short circuit” the memory cell, most likely the big capacitors. And that’s what I did, I figured I have nothing to lose as I would need to replace it if it didn’t work. So I removed the PCB (printed circuit board) from its housing by unscrewing the torx screw and snapping the PCB from the housing. Then I took a sheet of aluminum foil (an electricity conducting material) and touch all the various solder joints (silver-looking blobs) especially the big capacitors, which are the energy storage devices. See figures.
Honeywell PCB Bottom Side
Then I put it back to its housing and put everything back to its original positions. Turn on the pilot and hit the spark lighter. I first saw the LED flashed 7 times, which means “Gas Controller Valve Failure.” Doesn’t sound good. Then I proceeded to dial it up to temperature setting A. Immediately, the burner turns on and we have a lift off! After a minute or so, the LED started blinking once and paused and blinking once again. This means “Normal Operation.” We’re back in business now. I just saved $110 (Walmart’s price) for the module and enduring days of suffering through cold showers and complaints from my family members. Viva DIY!

Book Review: “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex” by Mary Roach

After reading this book, I felt I had just taken another sex education class. I’m amazed by how the researchers in pursuit of science would do to acquire the data they need. They took criticism from people in general while contributing to demystify human sexuality. They are true pioneers.

I even learned a few things I never knew before like:
– how each part of sex organ works exactly.
– There were so many sex researches since as far back as science researches were recorded.
– Best indicator of organism is heart rate and blood pressure, better than its use for detecting lies.
– Animal sexual behavior is not too much different from ours. After all, we all have to derive pleasure from it in order for our species to survive the evolution.
– Dr. Hsu from my home country, Taiwan, is a world-famous penile surgeon in fixing erectile dysfunction and other male-organ-related illnesses.

This is an interesting and thought-provoking book for people who enjoy reading about difficult and controversial researches. Funny at times in Mary Roach’s side comments. Highly recommended.

Summary from each chapter:
1. Highlights from the pioneers of human sexual response. In this chapter, Author highlighted the pioneers in human sexual research. Started with Albert R. Shadle, who peered through animal sexual behavior in 1940’s. John Watson observed sexual behavior in the lab settings in 1910’s. Alfred Kinsey performed the experiments in secrecy. In 1960’s, William Masters and Virginia Johnson performed and published the controversial “Human Sexual Response” book. It was the “right” time as the society was more open to it. He had a penis camera built to better observe the “action.”

2. The orgasm machine for woman. The author describe her search for the penis camera without success and witnessing the orgasm machine in an exhibit event. The fact that the woman had a better control of the speed, angle and thrust may explain why they could get off using the contraption.

3. Some theories about why some women don’t experience normal “voluptuous reaction” – orgasm. The distance between vagina and clitoris may play a role – ideally less than the width of the thumb or the “rule of thumb” by Kim Wallen of Emory University. The distance seems to be proportional to the height of the woman and breast size – bad news for tall women with big breasts. G-spots are discussed quite liberally here – stimulating through different positions (doggy style). Or maybe it’s purely the sense of control that allows a woman to reach orgasm.

4.The author describes the artificial collections of boar sperms and insemination of sow. Some of the youtube videos may do a better job. But the question lingers whether female animal experience organism and whether organism helps with fertility. The answers are most likely ‘no’ for animals or at least no discernible by humans.

5. In this chapter, the author convince her husband to have a MRI 4-D (3D + time) imaging of their sex act and ejaculation. Now that’s professionalism.

6. This chapter started out with the work of Dr. Geng-long Hsu of Taipei, Taiwan who specialized on repairing penile injury and erectile dysfunction. The history of impotence is then described in great details. In the Middle Ages, it was blamed on witches. Then the psychological state of the men was accused, followed by many ridiculous causes like masturbation. Impotence could be a cause of divorces in the late 16th and early 17th century.

7. The author investigated boosting virility with transplanting animal and human testicle, ingesting animal testicles, and other means. Use of Viagra brings in more discussion. It ended with suggested pelvic exercises.

8. If you must, inflatable penile implant maybe the way to go. Roach described Dr. Hsu’s operation on a patient and even got to touch his penis. If the penis is castrated by a jealous wife accidentally, of course, the cure could be in the hand of their microsurgeons, though not to its full potential.

9. Is the clitoris a tiny penis? Yes, but Viagra doesn’t help in woman’s FSAD (Female Sexual Arousal Disorder).

10. Can frequent masturbation (or resulting in orgasm) contribute to your health (or hiccups in one case)? Roach investigated the use of vacuum pump for women’s clitoris that seem to increase flood flow. Roach paid a visit to Topco, US’s largest sex toy maker, which was an interesting encounter with their employees.

11. Orgasm can happen in quadriplegic persons or came about without physical manipulation (hand-free). The nerve paths from organism evidently are NOT blocked by spinal cord injuries.

12. Female sexual arousal poses a challenge for scientist to detect and unlock its mystery. In most cases, it’s in their mind. A promising drug, flibanserin, appears to be effective and in Phase III trials.

13. Sex studies in conservative countries like Egypt could be very difficult. But merely talking about sex already help the society to pay attention to it.

14. The last surprising experiment performed by Master and Johnson was this random matching of sexual partners. Almost all of them had “efficient” sex but not necessarily “amazing” sex. Gay men and women tend to pay more attention to their partners’ needs while heterosexual didn’t benefit from “gender empathy.”

See Mary Roach’s Ted Talk on 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Orgasm | Mary Roach

Book Review: “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough

David McCullough is a master writer in biographies. I have read a few of his books including John Adams and Harry Truman. This book is no exception. A wonderfully written and researched book about two of most important people in 20th century – the Wright brothers.

My Key Takeaways:
– Wilbur’s original plan to go to Yale was destroyed when he got smashed on his front face by a hockey stick in the hand of a future serial killer. Hard to speculate if it’s intentional or accidental.
– Wright brothers are really brave to put their lives on the line to test flights – their invention.
– They picked Kittyhawk, a place seven hundred of miles away from Dayton Ohio, as the place of experimentation to try out their flying machines, overcoming the sever wind, hunger and most notably mosquito attack.
– Wright brothers are the the good old entrepreneurs funding their own new adventure using their the money they earned from the their bike shop. They didn’t want to accept any potential “venture” fund from others.
– The mechanical know how may have come from their years of repairing bicycles. But their ambition didn’t stop at bicycles. At that time, automobiles were starting but they have their eyes on something bigger – an ultimate flying machine.
– The tragic story of the crashing the plane and having the passenger killed and ended up injuring Orville himself takes lots of guts.
– Having to interest the French people seemed to show the lack of vision of the US government, which eventually made a comeback in recognizing their accomplishments.
– Orville lived long enough, until 1948, to witness the use of jet engine in planes that broke sound speed and two World Wars which deployed the planes of their original invention.
– Like all good inventions, people would take advantage of it if they can get away with it. Both Wilbur and Orville had to defend their patents in courts in order to protect their intellectual property.
– Neither Orville nor Wilbur ever got married but their little sister, Katharine did eventually get married at age of 51 against Orville’s will (don’t know why) but died 3 years after at age of 54. Orville refused to talk with her until her dying days. She played a huge role on nursing Orville to health after his crash and supported her two brothers’ adventure throughout.
– Like all disruptive inventions, it’s much easier when you know someone has done it and there is a model to follow. I believe the airplane’s invention is the same. Had it not been the Wright Brother’s invention, the world may be delayed in inventing the plane. Just think how inconvenient not having the airplane.
The Five facts about The Wright Brothers were outlined by the author David McCullough himself: 1) Didn’t have much but they had books. Both are avid readers. 2) A pond hockey injury helped forever change human history. 3) Wilbur and Orville were budget conscious and self-sufficient. 4) Nobody in America seemed to care, but the French took notice. 5) The Wright Brothers were forever sons of Ohio.

This is a great book if you want to know how about the two of greatest inventors of the 20th century:

Book Review: “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World” by Adam Grant

“Originals” by definition: A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity. They take the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better, as opposed to “conformists.”

– Originals are not necessarily reckless risk takers. In most cases, they keep the day job before plunging into their new adventures, as in the case of Warby Parker. “They take the risk out of risk-taking.”

– Employees who use Chrome or Firefox tend to be happier – they tend to be non-conformists as they need to take to the effort to install new applications on their computer.As non-conformists – rejecting defaults – they tend to enjoy their work.

– Child prodigies tend to be conformists, hence not able to change the world.

– Being the first movers does not guarantee success. Sometimes being a second mover could be a better position.

– Originals aren’t very good in judging their own work, but they do kiss lots of frogs to find the prince. E.g. Shakespeare produced 37 plays and 154 sonnets, Picasso produce more than 1,800 paintings, 1,200 sculptures, 2,800 ceramics, and 12,000 drawings.

– Managers don’t evaluate well original ideas unless they started out generating their own ideas. Have an open mind first before judging. But don’t try to evaluate ideas outside of your area expertise as Steve Jobs on Segway.

– Having artistic hobbies like music playing, drawing arts, crafts, writing, performing (amateur acting) increases the odds of winning a Nobel prize.

– Use Sarick Effect to argue the negatives (why you shouldn’t invest in my company) may disarm your potential investor. Reverse psychology.

– Procrastination may sometime yield a better idea: ML King’s “I have a dream” speech was completed just minutes before it began. In fact, “I have a dream” wasn’t written in the script until he was reminded by a lady shouting to him, “tell them about the dream.” Settlers (procrastinators) had a better odd of winning higher market share in business.

– Two life cycles of creativity: Young genius (conceptual thinking, done quickly) then old masters (experimental thinking, takes time to do trials and errors)- more sustainable.

– Frenemies with strong positive AND negative feelings toward us are much harder to handle like in the case of Susan Anthony and Lucy Stone in the suffrage movement. Hence enemies make better allies than frenemies.

– Later birth order (laterborns) in the family tends to become rebels – more original.

– Parents aren’t the best role models. Introducing other roles models to raise our children’s aspirations.

– To avoid groupthink, find a true dissenter, not just an acting one. The devil’s advocates must believe in his/her position to be effective. Polaroid failed because of groupthink that customers always want a hardcopy and lost the chance to develop digital cameras.

– Venting emotion may turn aggressive. The Serbia activists were trained to avoid venting. Venting focuses the attention on the perpetrator of injustice. Instead, reflect on the victims who have suffered.

– “Becoming originals is not the easiest path in the pursuit of happiness, but it leaves us perfectly poised for the happiness of pursuit.

This is an excellent book for those who want to be more original and creative. Some of the suggestions can help. Highly recommended.

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