It’s foolish to wear yourself out with work. (Ecclesiastes 10:15, explained by Pastor Rick Warren)

Pastor Rick Warren is a Christian writer that I respect a lot. I read his groundbreaking and life changing book “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” when I was a teenager. It is one of my favorite Christian books, along with Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.

In this week’s sermon “You’re Not God—Stop Acting Like It!“, Pastor Rick comes up with another gem. It seems God Himself is a proponent of work-life balance. The problem of overworking is especially prevalent in East Asia, where it even flows down to the student level.

It is quite common that the average student in Singapore has less than 8 hours of sleep. In fact, it can be argued that it is almost “impossible” to have 8 hours of sleep, one will have to sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am, and virtually no teenager sleeps so early at 10pm.

The human body is designed to mix work with rest, overworking is not only unhealthy, it is counterproductive as well. It may be quite possible to obtain temporary success by overworking, but the health effects may catch up sooner or later.

Related post: Good night’s sleep adds up to better exam results – especially in maths

The sermon by Pastor Rick Warren:

“Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.”

Ecclesiastes 10:15 (GNT)

You’re not God. You don’t have all the answers. You can’t do everything. If you’re struggling to find balance in your life, those admissions can transform everything. 

The Bible says, “Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work” (Ecclesiastes 10:15 GNT).

It’s foolish to wear yourself out with work. Do you realize that when you overwork, you’re playing God? It’s a way of saying that it all depends on you, that everything will crash down if you don’t keep the world spinning.

That’s just not true! You’re not the general manager of the universe. The universe will not fall apart if you take time to rest, if you take time to balance your life. God has it under control.

Often we do this to ourselves because we’re trying to please everyone. Learn this lesson today: You can’t please everyone. Even God can’t please everyone! One person wants it to rain. Another one wants it to be sunny. It’s absurd to try doing what even God can’t do.

When you live for the expectations of others, you pile a ton of “shoulds” on your shoulders. You may think, “I should work more hours,” “I should be as active as all the other parents,” or “I should volunteer for this project.” But realize this: No one is forcing you to do those things. Overworking is your choice. You choose to take on the extra work or not to take it on. And you choose the consequences that come with your choice.

When you deny your humanity and try to do it all, you’re robbing God of his glory. The Bible declares this in 2 Corinthians 4:7: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (NIV).

Paul reminds us that we’re human beings. We’re feeble and fragile. Jars of clay break easily. If you drop them, they shatter. Clay pots have to be handled appropriately and with care. If not, they’ll be destroyed.

But the good news is that through our feebleness, the power and glory of God shine through. Your humanity isn’t something to hide. Instead, you can celebrate the power of God working through your limitations.

So admit it: You’re human. Thank God for that!


Bible and Chinese history (Su Dongpo & Ecclesiastes)

Quite rare to read an excellent article in the Daily Bread (daily biblical stories) with links to Chinese history. I really enjoyed reading this article by Poh Fang Chia. This clearly shows that Christianity is compatible with Chinese culture.

The poem by Su Dongpo referenced is 《水调歌头·明月几时有》, namely the most famous lines:


The entire poem is much longer, but most people just refer to these 5 lines. The classic song that encapsulates this poem is the one sung by Teresa Teng:

Source: Our Daily Bread (July 15 2020)

Su Dongpo (also known as Su Shi) was one of China’s greatest poets and essayists. While in exile and gazing upon a full moon, he wrote a poem to describe how much he missed his brother. “We rejoice and grieve, gather and leave, while the moon waxes and wanes. Since times of old, nothing remains perfect,” he writes. “May our loved ones live long, beholding this beautiful scene together though thousands of miles apart.”

His poem carries themes found in the book of Ecclesiastes. The author, known as the Teacher (1:1), observed that there’s “a time to weep and a time to laugh . . . a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing” (3:4-5). By pairing two contrasting activities, the Teacher, like Su Dongpo, seems to suggest that all good things must inevitably come to an end.

As Su Dongpo saw the waxing and waning of the moon as another sign that nothing remains perfect, the Teacher also saw in creation God’s providential ordering of the world He’d made. God oversees the course of events, and “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (v. 11).

Life may be unpredictable and sometimes filled with painful separations, but we can take heart that everything takes place under God’s gaze. We can enjoy life and treasure the moments—the good and the bad—for our loving God is with us.

By Poh Fang Chia

Thank You, loving Father, for watching over all seasons of my life. Help me to trust in You and enjoy the life You’ve given me.

What are some things you’re afraid to try because of life’s unpredictability? How can you lean on Jesus as you step forward in courage to forge new friendships and deepen relationships?

The book of Ecclesiastes is a book for a postmodern world. The “Preacher,” whom many believe was Solomon, speaks of the frustrations and disappointments of life. Two key phrases in the book are “everything is meaningless” (1:1) and “under the sun” (v. 3). The phrase “everything is meaningless” speaks of life lived on human terms and according to the values of this world, which is described by the phrase “under the sun.” In the end, the Preacher says that the answer to this meaninglessness is to look beyond this world and “remember your Creator” (12:1), who is the only source of true meaning in this life.

To learn more about the book of Ecclesiastes, visit The Bible Project, Old Testament Series. Bill Crowder

Original source:

Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

This is one of my favorite Christian books. The Imitation of Christ is a Christian devotional book by Thomas à Kempis, first composed in Latin (as De Imitatione Christi) ca. 1418–1427. (Wikipedia)

Despite being written centuries ago, many of the words still apply perfectly. Human nature hasn’t changed over thousands of years. I find the book particularly suitable for those facing troubles, depression, or problems in life.

Some Quotes:

  • “When a man desires a thing too much, he at once becomes ill at ease. A proud and avaricious man never rests, whereas he who is poor and humble of heart lives in a world of peace.”
  • “Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.”
  • “So long as we live in this world we cannot escape suffering and temptation.”
  • “If man had but a spark of true charity he would surely sense that all the things of earth are full of vanity!”
  • “Be not troubled about those who are with you or against you, but take care that God be with you in everything you do. Keep your conscience clear and God will protect you, for the malice of man cannot harm one whom God wishes to help.”


For five hundred years, this gentle book, filled with the spirit of the love of God, has brought understanding and comfort to millions of readers in over fifty languages, and provided them with a source of heart-felt personal prayer. These meditations on the life and teachings of Jesus, written in times even more troubled and dangerous than our own, have become second only to the Bible as a guide and inspiration. It is now available in a modern translation that retains the flavor of the original English translation.

Free Download of Imitation of Christ Book

There is a free download of the book here:

There is also a Chinese translation available for free, in HTML format. I did check briefly that the translation seems fine.

For a printed leather bound version, check out the book on Amazon below.

The Imitation of Christ

Motivational Quote: Work can never be completed

The following are some motivational quotes by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, former president of India. The source is from Pinterest. I have also translated some of the quotes into Chinese.

I believe the quotes make perfect sense! Hope you find it motivational and useful as well.

Love your job but don’t love your company, because you may not know when your company stops loving you.


Work is a never-ending process. It can never be completed.

工作是一个永无止境的过程。 它永远无法完成。

Interest of a client is important, so is your family.


If you fall in your life, neither your boss nor client will offer you a helping hand; your family and friends will.


Life is not only about work, office and client. There is more to life. You need time to socialize, entertain, relax and exercise. Don’t let life be meaningless.

生活不仅是围绕着工作,办公室和客户。 生命还有更多意义。 您需要时间进行社交,娱乐,放松和锻炼。 不要让生活变得毫无意义。

You did not study hard and struggle in life to become a machine.


Diary of a PhD Taxi Driver: True Stories From Singapore’s Most Educated Cabdriver

I recall that this was very big news around 10 years ago. Basically, the author Dr. Cai Mingjie was a research scientist with a PhD from Stanford, specializing in Life Sciences (biochemistry and cell biology). However, he was fired/retrenched at the height of his career, for reasons that were largely unknown. He did not manage to find a job initially and became a taxi driver in November 2008, which he persisted for around six months. (He managed to find another job, though non-academic, subsequently.)

He started a blog called “A Singapore Taxi Driver’s Diary” (now deactivated), which became hugely popular. Subsequently, he published his blog as a book which is featured below.

For a free preview of his stories, one can actually click on the Amazon book preview to read a couple of the short stories. The stories are quite insightful, and motivational in a way. Taxi drivers have a unique perspective since they are able to observe all strata of society on a daily basis.

The free preview on Amazon has the following stories:

  • Day One (first day of working as taxi driver)
  • Broken Barrier and Two Unforgettable Customers
  • Preface & Epilogue (which describes the interesting background of the author)

Diary of a Taxi Driver: True Stories From Singapore’s Most Educated Cabdriver

Overall, the author deserves deep respect for being 能屈能伸, being able to take temporary setbacks; able to bow and rise at will. After all, being a taxi driver is a honest job.

I think the above book and news represented the start of the “bursting of the bubble” of Life Sciences, at least in Singapore. (If a life science researcher with Stanford PhD has problem finding jobs, how about those with lesser qualifications?) For those who recall, life sciences was hugely popular as a major around 10-20 years ago (2000-2010). Many JC students, including many of my classmates/acquaintances would choose it as their major in University. The life sciences department was one of the largest compared to other sciences like Physics or Chemistry. It turned out that the job opportunities in Life Sciences was not that plenty, and many would end up in careers totally unrelated to Life Sciences / biology.

Read also:

Motivational: Take it one thing at a time


Just saw this article on Medium. Quite motivational and applicable to students and even working adults. There are 4 tips on the original website. We just quote one of the tips here. The Chinese equivalent, would be 千里之行,始于足下, or “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

Enduring Work Ethic Stems From The Moment

I had an interesting conversation with him about Hell Week (some US SEAL army training week) a few years back.

For those who don’t know — Hell Week is ridiculous. You wake up on a Sunday to gunfire. You then work out until Friday with no sleep. Hell Week is the bottleneck that breaks a lot of talented people. It’s where the top 20% are whittled down to the top 5%.

I remember him saying, “Tuesday morning was the worst.”

It was a bizarre response. Tuesday? Wouldn’t Thursday be the worst? Or Friday morning? Then he explained and it made total sense.

You wake up on a Sunday morning at ~2 AM to gunfire. You run around getting yelled at. You are doing pushups, carrying logs, rolling in the sand. This continues all day, then into the night.

As people are sleeping in their warm beds, you continue exercising, shivering, and getting shouted at.

Monday morning comes. The drills repeat from sun up to sun down with non-stop exercise and physical torture. Then, all through the night, you do it again.

Then, Tuesday morning rolls around. You’ve gone more than two full nights without sleep. You’ve endured intense stress, cold water, and difficult exertion the whole time. By Tuesday morning, you’re more tired than you’ve ever been in your entire life.

That’s when you start to feel sorry for yourself.

“Oh man, it’s only Tuesday. How am I going to get through all of this?”

“If I’m this tired already…and I’m not even halfway through…”

The people that start thinking like this are the ones that quit.

The people who succeed — only look a few minutes in front of them. They don’t worry about Thursday or Friday. They are only focused on each individual exercise. They get through it one thing at a time.

You can apply this to many aspects of your life.

If you are studying for a massive test, take it one page at a time. Working on a huge presentation, one slide at a time.

For example, I swam in college. Our training was very grueling, 5 to 6 miles of swimming a day. Sometimes the coach would put a set on the board that made me think, “You’ve got to be f#$king kidding me. I’m going to die.” I just took it one lap at a time and got through it.

Lower your vision and piecemeal those big hurdles. It reduces the perceived mental weight of the tasks. Take it one thing at a time.

How to make work-life balance work (TED talk)

Quotes from the talk:

  • “People are working long hard hours at jobs they hate, to earn money to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like”

A book by the same speaker:

Fat, Forty, and Fired: One Man’s Frank, Funny, and Inspiring Account of Losing His Job and Finding His Life

Learning with Passion and Enthusiasm (Motivational Video)

The best way to learn is to learn with passion and enthusiasm. See the excellent motivational video below!

Without passion, learning becomes a chore like doing housework, and it becomes boring and tiring. Needless to say, such learning is not only burdensome but also ineffective and inefficient.

Sometimes kids who are smart don’t do well in school, because they don’t have the motivation or enthusiasm to learn. Check out our blog post on: Motivational Books for the Student (Educational).

From PSLE 124 to PhD A*Star Researcher

Source: A-star Official Website

For those familiar with the Singapore education system, you would know that PSLE 124 is not a good score by any standard. Yet Dr Vincent Lim, through his hard work and perseverance, managed to push on and graduate from university with first class honours, eventually earn a PhD and land a job at the prestigious A*STAR’s Institute of Medical Biology.

I believe the chances of this happening is truly rare in Singapore, possibly even rarer than striking 1st prize in TOTO. Singapore’s education system is known to be not too forgiving, once you make a “slip”, it is hard to get back onto the fast track. It must have taken tremendous courage, perseverance and hard work to overcome the odds to achieve this.

Truly amazing! Do share this to encourage those with children not doing too well in primary school. Certainly, late developers do exist and if given the right environment and nurturing support, they can blossom to reach their fullest potential.

Inspirational quote:

My advice for people who didn’t do well in school is this: it’s never the end. Society may sometimes seem to say: ‘This is your one job, you need to do well in school!’ But that’s not true. There’s never just one job; that’s not the reason you were born for.

Grades are not the most important thing. It is merely a stepping stone; if you’ve got no stone to step on, then run, jump, and climb. What is important is to never give up on yourself and to always keep your options open.”

-Dr Vincent Lim

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Originally Wanted to be a Theoretical Physicist

The world’s richest man is currently Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.

Few people know that he was an undergraduate at Princeton with the goal of becoming a theoretical physicist! What made him change his mind? Watch the video below.

Summary: Jeff Bezos was stuck on a Partial Differential Equation (PDE) question for 3 hours. Even while collaborating with his room mate, he could not find the answer. Upon consulting his Sri Lankan genius classmate, “Yosantha”, Yosantha solved the problem almost instantaneously in his mind!

Also check out our previous posts on Partial Differential Equations:

The Self-Driven Child (i.e. How to make your child motivated to study)

I think this book is a excellent read for Singaporean parents. Have your child ever seem to be too laid back and resist improvement, although he or she has great potential?

Often children in Singapore have to be “forced” to go to tuition to improve their grades, “forced” to study, “forced” to practice piano etc. Wouldn’t it be great if the child has self-motivation to willingly go for tuition / self-study? This change of mindset is explored in this book: “The Self-Driven Child”.

“Forcing” children to study works in the short term, producing temporary improved academic results, but in the long term it leads to psychological problems and even mental breakdowns in severe cases. Not to mention there is no joy of learning experienced by the child. The alternative solution is described in “The Self-Driven Child”.

“It is not an overstatement to say that this is one of the most radical and important books on raising healthy, resilient, purpose-driven kids.” – Madeline Levine, author of The Price of Privilege

“An invaluable resource for the thinking parent.” – Lisa Damour, author

The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives

Check out other recommended Motivational Books here.

“Yu Gong” of India: Mountain Man Motivational Story

Most Chinese would have heard of the story Yu Gong Yi Shan, which is a fable of how a man moved a mountain bit by bit using his perseverance.

Today I learn that there is a true story of Dashrath Manjhi from India who literally cut through a mountain with just a simple tool over 20 years! Incredibly motivational story.

Dashrath Manjhi (c. 1934[1] – 17 August 2007[2]), also known as Mountain Man,[3] was a poor labourer in Gehlaur village, near Gaya in Bihar, India, who carved a path 110 m long (360 ft), 9.1 m (30 ft) wide and 7.6 m (25 ft) deep through a hillock using only a hammer and chisel.[1][4][5] After 22 years of work, Dashrath shortened travel between the Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya town from 55 km to 15 km.[6]

Dashrath Manjhi ran away from his home at a young age and worked at Dhanbad‘s coal mines. He returned to his village and married Falguni Devi. While crossing Gehlour hills to bring him lunch, she slipped continuously and seriously injured herself, which eventually led to her death. Manjhi was deeply disturbed and that very night decided to carve a path through the Gehlour hills so that his village could have easier access to medical attention.[1] He carved a path 110 m long, 7.7 m deep in places and 9.1 m wide to form a road through the rocks in Gehlour hill.[a] He said, “When I started hammering the hill, people called me a lunatic but that steeled my resolve.”

Highly Motivational Math Video (in Chinese)

This is actually one of the best motivational videos on Math I have seen. Unfortunately there is no English translation. It covers how useful Math is, and also some history of Math in ancient China. (It is rarely known, but China discovered negative numbers and calculated pi to high accuracy much earlier than in Western civilization.)

However, (according to the video), Math in ancient China went downhill in the Ming dynasty after it was scrapped from the imperial examination. Seems like removing Math from the examination syllabus is always a bad idea!

Finally, the video ends off with a note not to discourage budding mathematicians. Many budding mathematicians, will face strange looks from well-intentioned friends and society. Will learning math be useful or can it make money? Such thoughts can discourage people from learning mathematics (like the speaker himself).

By the way, at the start of the video, the speaker tells a humorous story of how he used Math to propose to his crush in England. This is related to my earlier post on Valentine’s Day Math on how to draw a heart using math.

Uni Grads: Choosing the hawker life over the tried and tested route

Very nice to see their passion in cooking, and daring to choose the road less travelled. Do support them at their stall, Prawn Village, which currently at 20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-62, 199583.

SINGAPORE: They had not yet graduated from university, but like many of their peers, Joanne Heng and Chan Kheng Yee were already out and about looking for a full-time job. A posting on online portal Gumtree caught their attention, and they responded to the call for “interns” the very next day.

Like any job application, the two friends had to go through a job interview filled with questions about their sincerity, motivation and commitment to the position.

But this job required very different skill sets from your typical office job: Anson Loo, the person who made the post on Gumtree, was looking for young interns to help him run his hawker stall.

“I realised that there are young people who want to become hawkers, but face a lot of financial constraints,” said Anson, who sells prawn mee at Ghim Moh food centre. “So I thought, why not target young people with no experience, so I can give them the training from scratch?”


Of the seven who applied, Anson said Joanne and Kheng Yee fit his requirements the best. They were young, passionate and completely new to the hawker trade. And indeed, the two, who met while they were studying in the polytechnic, recalled bonding over a shared interest in F&B even as students.


8 of 10 Self-Made Millionaires Were Not ‘A’ Students. Instead, They Share 1 Trait

I think this is the latest best selling motivational book (out in Jan 2018). It is quite true, many successful people aren’t necessarily ‘A’ students. They do have some common traits that everyone can learn from.

The book is quite applicable to students. Most often, for students who aren’t performing well in school, the main reason is motivation. They are either not motivated, or their motivation is misplaced (e.g. motivated in computer games). Most parents will actually notice that their child is quite intelligent, but underperforming in school. The problem is psychological (motivation) rather than anything else.

The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win

Source: Jeff Haden Linkedin

Listen to most teachers — and most parents — and it’s easy to assume that getting good grades in school is a requirement for professional success.


Tom Corley, an accountant and financial planner, surveyed a number of high net-worth individuals. Many of them are self-made millionaires. (Not that you have to be a millionaire to be successful, of course.) He found most of the people surveyed did not earn high GPAs in school.

In fact, only 21% of the self-made millionaires were “A” students. 41% reported they were “B” students, and 29% were “C” students.

That’s right: More of the self-made millionaires were C students than were A students.

And if you’re wondering if family background played a part, 59% of the self-made millionaires came from middle-class households and 41% came from poor households — proving where you start does not dictate where you finish.

As Corley writes:

“…success in life does not come easy. It is fraught with pitfalls, obstacles, failure, and mistakes. Success requires persistence, mental toughness and emotional toughness in overcoming these pitfalls. Its pursuit pushes you to the edge emotionally and physically. You must grow a thick skin and become accustomed to struggle if you hope to succeed.

“Individuals who struggle academically may be more accustomed to dealing with struggle and making it a daily habit to overcome pitfalls.”

In short, they become mentally tough, which creates a foundation for long-term success.

50 Life Lessons from an 80 Year Old

Quite interesting list. Wonder who is the 80 year old?


We absolutely love these pieces of advice from an 80 year old man. 

  1. Have a firm handshake.
  2. Look people in the eye.
  3. Sing in the shower.
  4. Own a great stereo system.
  5. If in a fight, hit first and hit hard.
  6. Keep secrets.
  7. Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen everyday.
  8. Always accept an outstretched hand.
  9. Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.
  10. Whistle.
  11. Avoid sarcastic remarks.
  12. Choose your life’s mate carefully. From this one decision will come 90 per cent of all your happiness or misery.
  13. Make it a habit to do nice things for people who will never find out.
  14. Lend only those books you never care to see again.
  15. Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all that they have.
  16. When playing games with children, let them win.
  17. Give people a second chance, but not a third.
  18. Be romantic.
  19. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
  20. Loosen up. Relax. Except for rare life-and-death matters, nothing is as important as it first seems.
  21. Don’t allow the phone to interrupt important moments. It’s there for our convenience, not the caller’s.
  22. Be a good loser..
  23. Be a good winner.
  24. Think twice before burdening a friend with a secret.
  25. When someone hugs you, let them be the first to let go.
  26. Be modest. A lot was accomplished before you were born.
  27. Keep it simple.
  28. Beware of the person who has nothing to lose.
  29. Don’t burn bridges. You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.
  30. Live your life so that your epitaph could read, No Regrets
  31. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
  32. Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them.
  33. Remember no one makes it alone. Have a grateful heart and be quick to acknowledge those who helped you.
  34. Take charge of your attitude. Don’t let someone else choose it for you.
  35. Visit friends and relatives when they are in hospital; you need only stay a few minutes.
  36. Begin each day with some of your favourite music.
  37. Once in a while, take the scenic route.
  38. Send a lot of Valentine cards. Sign them, ‘Someone who thinks you’re terrific.’
  39. Answer the phone with enthusiasm and energy in your voice.
  40. Keep a note pad and pencil on your bed-side table. Million-dollar ideas sometimes strike at 3 .
  41. Show respect for everyone who works for a living, regardless of how trivial their job.
  42. Send your loved ones flowers. Think of a reason later.
  43. Make someone’s day by paying the toll for the person in the car behind you.
  44. Become someone’s hero.
  45. Marry only for love.
  46. Count your blessings.
  47. Compliment the meal when you’re a guest in someone’s home.
  48. Wave at the children on a school bus.
  49. Remember that 80 per cent of the success in any job is based on your ability to deal with people.
  50. Don’t expect life to be fair.

Everyone’s Unique Timezone (Motivational)

Relax. Take a deep breath. Don’t compare yourself with others. The world is full of all kinds of people – those who get successful early in life and those who do later. There are those who get married at 25 but divorced at 30, and there are also those who find love at 40, never to part with them again. Henry Ford was 45 when he designed his revolutionary Model T car. A simple WhatsApp forward message makes so much sense here:

“You are unique, don’t compare yourself to others.

Someone graduated at the age of 22, yet waited 5 years before securing a good job; and there is another who graduated at 27 and secured employment immediately!

Someone became CEO at 25 and died at 50 while another became a CEO at 50 and lived to 90 years.

Everyone works based on their ‘Time Zone’. People can have things worked out only according to their pace.

Work in your “time zone”. Your Colleagues, friends, younger ones might “seem” to go ahead of you. May be some might “seem” behind you. Everyone is in this world running their own race on their own lane in their own time. God has a different plan for everybody. Time is the difference.

Obama retires at 55, Trump resumes at 70. Don’t envy them or mock them, it’s their ‘Time Zone.’ You are in yours!” 


Inspirational Scientist: Dan Shechtman


To stand your ground in the face of relentless criticism from a double Nobel prize-winning scientist takes a lot of guts. For engineer and materials scientist Dan Shechtman, however, years of self-belief in the face of the eminent Linus Pauling‘s criticisms led him to the ultimate accolade: his own Nobel prize.

The atoms in a solid material are arranged in an orderly fashion and that order is usually periodic and will have a particular rotational symmetry. A square arrangement, for example, has four-fold rotational symmetry – turn the atoms through 90 degrees and it will look the same. Do this four times and you get back to its start point. Three-fold symmetry means an arrangement can be turned through 120 degrees and it will look the same. There is also one-fold symmetry (turn through 360 degrees), two-fold (turn through 180 degrees) and six-fold symmetry (turn through 60 degrees). Five-fold symmetry is not allowed in periodic crystals and nothing beyond six, purely for geometric reasons.

Shechtman’s results were so out of the ordinary that, even after he had checked his findings several times, it took two years for his work to get published in a peer-reviewed journal. Once it appeared, he says, “all hell broke loose”.

Many scientists thought that Shechtman had not been careful enough in his experiments and that he had simply made a mistake. “The bad reaction was the head of my laboratory, who came to my office one day and, smiling sheepishly, put a book on x-ray diffraction on my desk and said, ‘Danny, please read this book and you will understand that what you are saying cannot be.’ And I told him, you know, I don’t need to read this book, I teach at the Technion, and I know this book, and I’m telling you my material is not in the book.

“He came back a couple of days later and said to me, ‘Danny, you are a disgrace to my group. I cannot be with you in the same group.’ So I left the group and found another group that adopted a scientific orphan.”

He says that the experience was not as traumatic as it sounded. Scientists around the world had quickly replicated Shechtman’s discovery and, in 1992, the International Union of Crystallography accepted that quasi-periodic materials must exist and altered its definition of what a crystal is from “a substance in which the constituent atoms, molecules or ions are packed in a regularly ordered, repeating three-dimensional pattern” to the broader “any solid having an essentially discrete diffraction diagram”.

That should have been the end of the story were it not for Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel laureate, once for chemistry and a second time for peace. Shechtman explains that at a science conference in front of an audience of hundreds Pauling claimed, “Danny Shechtman is talking nonsense, there are no quasi-crystals, just quasi-scientists.”

Pauling told everyone who would listen that Shechtman had made a mistake. He proposed his own explanations for the observed five-fold symmetry and stuck to his guns, despite repeated rebuttals. “Everything he did was wrong and wrong and wrong and wrong; eventually, he couldn’t publish his papers and they were rejected before they were published,” says Shechtman. “But he was very insistent, was very sure of himself when he spoke; he was a flamboyant speaker.”

Feng Tianwei wins World No. 1 Ding Ning despite being dropped from Singapore Team

Congratulations to Feng Tianwei for the epic win over World No. 1 Ding Ning in the Chinese Super League, despite being recently axed from the Singapore national team (for unknown reasons).

The Chinese Super League, though not as famous as the Olympics, is obviously much harder and tougher to win than the Olympic Games. The main reason being that the entire platoon of All-Star China Team is playing there, while in the Olympics China is restricted to sending 3 men and 3 women.

So, once again congratulations, and Feng’s perseverance and fighting spirit is very motivating to all.

Motivational Quote by Sport Psychologist

“The reality is that if your dream is to accomplish something awesome, it’s not going to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. People who go for greatness are going to get knocked down a lot. They’ll have difficult times. They’ll struggle with doubt and uncertainty. People around them will question the wisdom of their quest. The issue is not whether you’ll fail, because you will. It’s whether you’ll get back up and keep going. It’s whether you can sustain your self-confidence and your belief in yourself and keep bouncing back. Failure is only final when you stop striving.” – Bob Rotella

Inspirational: How can someone who has underachieved for years change their course and exceed their potential?


Do check out this very inspirational post on Quora.


I was about as under achieving as you could get.

Barely graduated from high school. Suspended, arrested, etc.

Luckily I went to an awesome community college and they turned me around.

The full story is here:…

Given one of the suggestions, here’s the speech:

Failure is our only option

Have you ever been in one of those moments where you realized that gee, what’s the harm if I take the quick shortcut, who’s going to notice? (of course none of you did anything like that while here at Maryland) Well, I decided to take the opportunity to give myself an edge. As a Silicon Valley tech guy, I decided to use technology and the world to help me prepare for this commencement address. So, I asked people on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Quora to figure out what wise words you should be imparted with and also what they remember from their graduation speakers. You know what most people remember? Nothing! Zilch! Nada!

So knowing this, I realized, I can say anything I want! Although, I’m sure someone will post this on YouTube. But seriously, as I got feedback from around the world and wracked my brain about what to say, one theme began to emerge.

On your day of such great accomplishment, I’d like to talk about something we rarely celebrate: failure. And why we are counting on you to fail. Now bear with me, and you’ll see where I’m going.

We’re all products of failure. You don’t remember it, but your parents definitely do. From the first time you rolled over, to your first steps. These successes were a culmination of failures. Need further proof? Make sure to ask them over dinner to recount your potty training.

The funny thing is you can read all about me in the bio or my LinkedIn profile and you’ll see that I received my Ph.D in Applied Math from here 11 years ago. I’ve worked for the Department of Defense and been to Kazakhstan. But you won’t see all the failures that made up the journey. What you can’t see from my Facebook or LinkedIn page are what’s behind the most important moments of success all the failures.

While growing up in California, to simply say I was bad at Math would have been an understatement. My freshman year of high school, I was kicked out of my algebra class and had to spend the summer retaking it. This (unfortunately) would become my regular paradigm for the next few years. By the time high school graduation came around, two things happened to me.

First, I almost didn’t graduate. For the record, I did actually graduate, but it was only because a very kind administrator took pity on me and changed my failing grade in chemistry to a passing one.

Second, I got a girlfriend. Since I didn’t get into any of the colleges I liked, I opted to go to the local Junior College with her. Do you remember that moment when you first got here and tried to figure out what classes you’re supposed to take? Well, I had a winning strategy. I enrolled in all the same classes my she was taking.

One problem, the first class was Calculus. Wow, did I get my ass kicked that first day. It was then I realized that I wasn’t just stupid; I was really stupid.

As I looked around at everyone else nodding along with the instructor (including my girlfriend), it dawned on me, I hadn’t failed because of the teachers or the material. No, I failed because I didn’t try. I didn’t even put my self in a position to fail.

I was fundamentally afraid of being uncomfortable and having to address the failure that comes with it.

To me it was like when you get to the top of the high dive, walk out the edge, looking down that the clear blue water (you can even see the dark lines at the bottom of the pool) everyone telling you to jump, and then running back down the steps. I couldn’t commit.

So what did I do about my Calculus class? I committed. Instead of dropping out (my usual method), I went straight to the local library and checked out all the high school math books I could find. I then spent the next week going through them. And it was awesome. Suddenly I was failing at a problem, figuring out what I did wrong, and then course correcting. This feeling of being able to iterate was very new to me.

Now, five weeks later that same girlfriend asked me one afternoon why I was spending so much time on my math homework. It was then that I uttered the fateful words that I will never forget:

“I don’t know – It’s not like I’m going to become a math major or something”

Much to my great surprise, I ended up becoming a Math major. (Actually, I think my parents are still surprised). Then the same thing happened when I got here to the University of Maryland for my graduate work. I got my ass kicked by everyone, again. I failed my first graduate class and even got the 2 lowest score on my first Ph.D. qualifying exam. (The lowest score was actually by a guy who didn’t even show up.) I really, reallywanted to quit, but that wouldn’t be the uncomfortable path.

So I stayed in the game by failing, getting back up, and continuing to push forward. It was probably one of the toughest and loneliest years of my life. The next time the qualifiers came around, however, I had the highest scores.

The big take away I have from this is that tenacity and failure go hand in hand. Without both, you can’t move forward.

Nothing Worthwhile Is Ever Easy

Pastor Rick Warren has a gift of applying Christian principles in teaching lessons in real life scenarios. This is one of them.


“Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9 NLT, second edition).

There are many things that work to keep us from completing our life missions. Over the years, I’ve debated whether the worst enemy is procrastination or discouragement. If Satan can’t get us to put off our life missions, then he’ll try to get us to quit altogether.

The apostle Paul teaches that we need to resist discouragement: “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9 NLT, second edition).

Do you ever get tired of doing what’s right? I think we all do. Sometimes it seems easier to do the wrong thing than the right thing.

When we’re discouraged, we become ineffective. When we’re discouraged, we work against our own faith.

When we’re discouraged, we’re saying, “It can’t be done.” That’s the exact opposite of saying, “I know God can do it because he said …”

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I handle failure?
  • When things don’t go my way, do I get grumpy?
  • When things don’t go my way, do I get frustrated?
  • When things don’t go my way, do I start complaining?
  • Do I finish what I start?
  • How would I rate on persistence?

If you’re discouraged, don’t give up without a fight. Nothing worthwhile ever happens without endurance and energy.

When an artist creates a sculpture, he has to keep chipping away. He doesn’t hit the chisel with the hammer once, and suddenly all the excess stone falls away revealing a beautiful masterpiece. He keeps hitting it and hitting it, chipping away at the stone.

And that’s true of life, too. Nothing really worthwhile ever comes easy in life. You keep hitting it and going after it, and little by little your life becomes a masterpiece of God’s grace.

The fact is, great people are really just ordinary people with an extraordinary amount of determination. Great people don’t know how to quit.

By Pastor Rick Warren

Why every youth must encounter failure…


You can’t live without failure unless you live cautiously doing nothing. Even on that level, your failure is huge. The fatality of failure depends on the individual. You think failure has no benefit? This piece seeks to shed light on the need to embrace failure, learn from it and get better even after you have a warm encounter with it.

As toddlers strive to achieve their “shared goals” such as learning to walk, they fail 17 times per hour

To start with, failure tells us the steps we need to change in order to attain the glory/crown we are seeking. Failure in its real sense means a slip or missing the mark. The mark here is synonymous to the desired target, glory, crown, et al.

To miss the mark means the processes have not been followed thoroughly or you underestimated the importance of a step. Failing helps you to identify the needed change, process or action that will facilitate your reaching the desired goal.

Furthermore, failure helps us to attain the mental toughness and wisdom we need to succeed. Interestingly, the sensible learn from their failures. Failure helps to toughen our minds, broaden our perspectives and help us acquire some essential nuggets for life.

Many successfully acquired practical wisdom after haven failed once or twice. Failure enhances character formation hence positively affects how you respond to things that didn’t go your way. You have to develop a thick skin to make it through life. Life isn’t easy, it is complicated and has pains no matter your level of blessings. Therefore, we come to terms with this reality especially after our encounter with failure.

In reality, failure teaches you things about yourself you wouldn’t have otherwise known (self-discovery and true relationships). Thus in our failures, we are able to know the loyal friends and family members. There are times we either overestimate or underestimate our strengths. At such points, failure brings us back to a stage of self-discovery. You can’t know yourself and the quality of your relationship unless you have been tested by adversities of which failure is part.

Life is a series of detours. We may set our minds on determinations but the detours will show if we did or did not expect it before the destination. One thing we must know is that the world is full of competition and as such extra skills are necessary to strategize and make the best out of every situation.

Most often than not we make up stories to make ourselves feel okay for our failures. We should rather endeavor to focus stories, events, circumstances et al that have the potential to impact on us and cause us to act more positively. Significantly, the detours in life lead us to the destinations.

Being angry at the detours mean you aren’t ready for the destination. Toughen yourself, let us embrace our failures, learn from it and strive hard to apply the valuable lessons we have acquired to write a positive narrative for ourselves and our continent. Let us meet at the top!

By: Bernard Owusu Mensah
President of New Era Africa

Motivational: Failure is never final. You’re never a failure until you quit, and it’s always too soon to quit!

Yet another motivational sermon by Pastor Rick Warren.


“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV).

Failure is never final. You’re never a failure until you quit, and it’s always too soon to quit! You don’t determine a person’s greatness by his talent, his wealth, or his education. You determine a person’s greatness by what it takes to discourage him.

So what does it take to discourage you from going after your dream? It may be as simple as a friend or relative or family member telling you, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

The Bible says in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (NIV). You want to know how many times I wanted to resign from Saddleback Church? Just every Monday morning when I think, “God, surely somebody could have done a better job than I did yesterday. This thing is too big for any one person.”

God says, “Just keep on keeping on.” I may not be real bright sometimes, but I don’t know how to quit. I don’t know how to give up.

God works in your life according to your faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it’s impossible to please God” and “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” and “According to your faith it will be done unto you.” So what are you doing in faith? You need to ask yourself every day when you get up, “God, what can I do today that will require faith?” That’s an important question, because that’s what’s going to please God.

There are a lot of things in your life you don’t have control over. You didn’t control who your parents were, when you were born, where you were born, or what your race or nationality is. You didn’t control what gifts and talents you were given. You didn’t decide how you look.

But you do have complete control over how much you choose to believe God. God uses people who expect him to act, who never give up, who take risks in faith, who get his dream and go after it. It’s your choice whether you want to be the kind of person God uses to accomplish his purpose.

It’s Time to Redefine Failure BY RICK WARREN

Excellent sermon by Pastor Rick Warren.


“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe”(Proverbs 29:25 NIV).

Satan’s favorite tool to diminish your faith is the fear of failure. But you cannot serve God and be constantly worried about what other people think. You have to move forward. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (NIV).

So how do you get rid of the fear of failure?

One way is to redefine failure. What is failure? Failure is not failing to reach your goal. Failure is not having a goal. Failure is not failing to hit your target. Failure is not having a target. Failure is not falling down. Failure is refusing to get back up. You’re never a failure until you quit. So if you’re attempting something for the glory of God, that’s a good thing. Failure is not trying and not accomplishing anything. Failure is failing to try.

Another way to get rid of the fear of failure is to never compare yourself to anybody else. You’re always going to find somebody who’s doing a better job, and you get discouraged. And, you’re always going to find somebody who’s not doing as good a job as you are, and you become full of pride. Both of them will mess up your life. Discouragement and pride will keep you from serving God’s purpose for your life.

The Bible says in Galatians 6:4, “Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others” (GW)

Did you notice that the Bible says there is a legitimate pride? There’s a good kind of pride and there’s a bad kind of pride. The bad kind of pride is comparing: “I’m better than so and so!” The good kind of pride is, “God, I’m proud of what you’re doing in my family, my business, my life, my walk of faith.” That’s the good kind of pride.

When you get to Heaven, God isn’t going to say, “Why weren’t you more like so and so?” He’s going to say, “Why weren’t you who I made you to be?”

Let go of your fear of failure, because anything you’re attempting for God in faith is a good thing, regardless of the results.

To Reduce Your Fear of Failure, Redefine It

This is a post by Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?“. He is a very good author of Christian books.


“No matter how often honest people fall, they always get up again.” (Proverbs 24:16a TEV)

Never forget this truth: Failure probably won’t kill you.

We vastly exaggerate the effects of failure. We blow the prospects of failing all out of proportion. Failing is not the end of the world. The fear of failure is far more damaging than failure.

Proverbs 24:16 says, “No matter how often honest people fall, they always get up again” (TEV). Even good guys stumble. They make mistakes, blow it, and stub their toes.

Successful people are not people who never fail. They’re people who get up again and keep going. Successful people just don’t know how to quit.

Ever heard of these famous failures?

  • George Washington lost two-thirds of all the battles he fought. But he won the Revolutionary War and later became the first U.S. president.
  • Napoleon graduated 42nd in a class of 43. Then he went out and conquered Europe!
  • In 21 years Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, but he struck out 1,330 times. He struck out nearly twice as often as he hit a home run.
  • The famous novelist John Creasey received 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books.
  • Rowland Hussey Macy failed seven times at retailing before starting Macy’s department store.

Great people are simply ordinary people who have an extraordinary amount of determination. They just keep on going. They realize they’re never a failure until they quit.

That’s how you reduce your fear of failure. You redefine it.

You don’t fail by not reaching a specific goal. Instead, failure is not having a goal. Failure is refusing to get back up again once you fall. It’s refusing to try.

On the first day of kindergarten, I got in the wrong line and then into the wrong classroom. Can you imagine me going home to my mom and dad and saying, “I’m a failure at education! This school thing just doesn’t work”? Of course not.

You keep going. If at first you don’t succeed, it’s no big deal. You’re never a failure until you give up.

Very Motivational: Billionaire Sara Blakely’s Secret of Success and her Favorite Motivational Author

Just read an amazing article about self-made billionaire Sara Blakely.

First amazing story is this.

Early in his own career Sara’s father learned that failure is part of success. That in order to be successful at anything in life, you were going to experience some failures along the way. Sara’s father went to great lengths to instill this simple success principle in the lives and minds of his children.

Once or twice a week at the dinner table the elder Blakely would ask his children what they failed at that week. He would stress that if they had not failed at something it meant that had not tried or attempted something new. This instilled a deep belief in Sara’s mind that failure is not the outcome; the real failure was in not trying.

Being able to see failure as just another stepping stone to success would play a big part in Sara Blakely’s struggles later in life as she began to build her company, SPANX.

This is really interesting. This is one good thing about American culture, which explains why Americans are willing to take risks. How many parents in Asia will ask the same thing? Not many, I would estimate.

Second amazing story is this, the power of motivational books. Most people would think that motivational books are hype, or “BS”, to put it mildly. True, 90% of them may be nonsense, but the top tier ones are good, and possibly life-changing.

Over a relatively short period of time a series of events occurred in young Sara Blakely’s life that would set most young people back in a dramatic way.

Recognizing that his daughter was going through very tough times, the elder Mr. Blakely gave his daughter a set of tapes by Dr. Wayne Dyer titled How to Be a No-Limit Person.

Today, Sara Blakely gives almost all of the credit for her success in life to the success principles she learned as a teenager from that one set of motivational tapes by Dr. Wayne Dyer.

Your Erroneous Zones: Step-by-Step Advice for Escaping the Trap of Negative Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life

This is the top-selling and most popular Wayne Dyer book of all time. Also check out this post on Motivational Books for students.

Sara Blakely on failure:

Nick Vujicic’s Academic Advice to a Singaporean Mom

Time: 1.09:32

A Singaporean mother asks Nick Vujicic, “What would you say to a kid who has totally lost all interest in a subject?”.

Can see Nick is slightly caught off-guard by this very typical Singaporean question that is probably rarely asked in the US. His answer is slightly off-topic (talks about drugs, etc, which is not that relevant in Singaporean context) but nonetheless very inspirational!

Watch the video to hear about Nick Vujicic’s answer!

Nick Vujicic is one of the most inspirational motivational speakers ever. He also runs a nonprofit charity organization that help kids in poverty around the world. Do check out some of his books.

Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life

Kids of pushy parents ‘face higher risk of depression’: NUS study

Recently there are two articles on “Tiger Moms” and “Kiasu (translated as “overly afraid of losing”) Parents” in Singapore. Interesting to read.

Parents in Singapore are indeed at a dilemma, overly pushing their child will lead to negative consequences (as mentioned in the articles), but not pushing their child may lead to falling behind academically.

This quote sums it up:

A housewife, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Lim, 43, said: “In Singapore, the pressure to do well starts early. Parents have no choice but to set high expectations of their kids’ performance.

“But I will be more mindful of the way I speak to my kids, so that they won’t feel bad about making mistakes in their work.”

The solution, ideally, is for children to be self-motivated rather than being pushed by parents. Check out some motivational educational books here.

The worst consequence of pushing children is that the child may lose the joy of learning.


Children with pushy parents are at a much higher risk of developing depression or anxiety symptoms, according to a local university study. The findings, according to researchers, are especially relevant to a society like Singapore’s, in which there is an emphasis on academic excellence.

Said the study’s head, Assistant Professor Ryan Hong: “Parents may set unrealistically high expectations for their children.

“As a result, a sizeable segment of children may become fearful of making mistakes.”


SINGAPORE – Children with intrusive parents may become overly critical of themselves, and such tendencies – at high or increased levels – are reportedly linked to depression or anxiety.

Parents who have high expectations of their children’s academic performance may urge them to achieve good grades or over-react when they make mistakes, but such actions may lead to unintended consequences, a National University of Singapore (NUS) study has found.

The five-year study, conducted by researchers from the department of psychology at NUS, examined how maladaptive perfectionism – commonly known as the “bad” form of perfectionism – develops in primary school children in Singapore.

Try your best. Even if you don’t hit your mark, you’ll be near the mark and that’s all you can hope for in life.


Excerpts from this well written article:

Try your best. Even if you don’t hit your mark, you’ll be near the mark and that’s all you can hope for in life.

I’ve been knocked down in life, but I’m still close to where I want to be. I like writing and I hope to write a book some day. Trying to do something is not as bad as Yoda made it sound to be. “Do or do not there is no try,” Yoda said. Wrong Yoda. Trying is good for a person.

I think life is a bundle of different things. A couple of years ago, an evangelist came to my church and he said the worries we’ve got are first-world problems. Something I needed to hear. He said (most of us) are not worried about eating, where we’ll lay our heads at night or if we’ll be warm. Now, I realize that there are people in our community that are struggling, but for most of us with jobs and a roof over our heads what we’re looking at and what we spend most of our time struggling with are first-world problems. What are first world problems? First-world problems are the worries and cares of this world, in my humble opinion. We get caught up worrying to death about our jobs, whether we’ll do well on an exam or if our performance in the sports arena will land us the next big sign on.

We can’t get lost in this or we’ll miss life’s precious moments. The time with friends, the time with grandparents are little moments we don’t think about as we pass through our ordinary days. I urge you to spend time with those who are closest to you. You may spend a lifetime regretting not spending time with those you love because you became caught up in the rat race of life.

King Solomon said all is vanity and chasing after the wind. I’d say that aside from saving souls, he’s right. We want more. We get more. We want more again. Most of us are middle class, struggling with life’s issues. A bad boss, an angry customer, a student who’s on the edge of giving up. These things are all shaping us. Making us better. Gearing us up for the next round. Life’s a race, the bible says. Let us run with endurance the race placed before us.

Is your heart in your race? Are you in the wrong race? Do you just want to give up and throw in the towel. Maybe you’re way behind the race and you feel like you’ll never get to the end. Everyone is running the race of life. Encourage those who you’re running with. Help pick up those who’ve stumbled during the race. A lot of times it’s not what place you finish in the race, but how you ran the race. Integrity, helping others, putting others before yourself — those are the keys to truly winning the race at hand.

Desiderata – An Amazing Poem

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata

Printable version:

Inspirational Story of Sir John Gurdon, Nobel Prize winner


A British scientist whose schoolmasters told him he was too stupid to study the subject has been awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology for his pioneering work on cloning.

At the age of 15, Prof Sir John Gurdon ranked last out of the 250 boys in his Eton year group at biology, and was in the bottom set in every other science subject. Sixty-four years later he has been recognised as one of the finest minds of his generation after being awarded the £750,000 annual prize, which he shares with Japanese stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka. Speaking after learning of his award in London on Monday, Sir John revealed that his school report still sits above his desk at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, which is named in his honour.


Moral of the story: Teachers may not be always right!

Do your best without comparing yourself to others and without fear or failure

Recently, the A Level results just came out, 93.1% score at least 3 H2 passes, best results since curriculum change in 2006. However, as most students know, 3 H2 passes (low pass e.g. 3 C’s) is far from enough to enter the 3 local universities. For those looking for a rank point calculator, check out my post on how to calculate JC Rank Points.

Just to share some motivational advice for those who may not have done as well for A levels. Source:

In reality, the purpose of education should be to open your mind, gain life skills and help you develop your human qualities. It should not merely be considered as a gateway to a job.

Even if your main reason for studying is motivated by your future career, you still need to first consider what you really want to do before proceeding with your education plans. If, for example, you have a passion for cooking, then it might be better to enter a chef training programme rather than spend two more years in school. On the other hand, if you want to be a teacher then class 12 will be your route to achieve your goal.

Anyway, whatever you do, you should do it to the best of your ability. At the same time, you should have no expectations about the result.

Maybe this example will be helpful: Think of the seeds of a sunflower and a violet. A sunflower seed will produce a large, bright yellow flower, while the seed of a violet will produce a small, dark purple bloom. A violet seed can never produce a sunflower blossom no matter how hard it tries. Likewise, a sunflower seed cannot produce the flower of a violet. Neither flower is better or worse than the other. They are just different. However, it is important that the flowers open fully and are not ashamed whether they are small or large, bright or dark.

In the same way, you might discover that you are great at studies or you might find that you are not so great. Like the seeds, you cannot change your natural inclinations, but like the flowers you have to open fully. This means that you try your very best in every situation.

Practically, to do your best means that whatever assignment you are given, you aim to do it beautifully – not to get high grades, but for your own satisfaction. If you have to compose an essay, for example, write each letter and word clearly and in a way that is easy for others to read. Do the same with a math or science or any other assignment. Make each page of your notebook a work of art.

Most importantly is to have tried your very best. Very nice article!

Tough at home but teen perseveres and scores at A-level exams


Very inspirational!


Richmond Tan does not have a study table in the one-room rental flat that he shares with his father, grandfather and brother.

There were times when he did not even have a roof over his head, after his family was temporarily chased out of the Queenstown flat as a result of spats between his father and the landlord.

Richmond had to sleep in void decks or at Changi Airport.

He said what motivated him to do well in his studies was his role model, Han Xin, one of the heroes of the early Han dynasty in China.

He learnt of Han after reading The Art Of War by Sun Tzu, which inspired him to take China Studies for his A levels.

“Han Xin was so poor he had to beg for food. His circumstances were even worse than mine, but he studied hard and became a capable minister,” he added.

Han Xin was also a mathematician, and one of the earliest to discover the secret of the Chinese Remainder Theorem, a key result in Number Theory. According to legend, he used it to calculate the number of soldiers in his army. See this post for more details:

Motivational: The Bible tells us that there is no use in avoiding failure because we have already failed!


Interesting perspective on faith!

We look at society and the things around us and it’s obvious that most of the things around us teach us to be afraid of failure. We were taught not to get “F’s” in school because it’s a bad thing to fail. We try not to look clumsy and fail socially because people would laugh at us. We were told maybe once or twice by our parents not to make a fuss because we’ll embarrass them (and if you’re a parent who’s done that, don’t worry, I’ve done it too!)

Psychologists claim that every human being has a certain amount of fear towards failure. As a result of this fear of failure that we have adopted, we try to avoid it as much as we can. However, the Bible tells us that there is no use in avoiding failure because we have already failed.

Romans 3:23 puts it this way: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have all failed God, and as a result we have failed so miserably at the one thing we were created to do, which is to bring glory and honour to God. There’s not one person except Jesus who has succeeded at living life the way it should be lived, and everyone else has just failed.

And here’s the thing, we’re going to continue to fail. We’ll try and try and sometimes we may do one or two things right, but sooner or later everything is just going to go south on us. It’s a given for us to fail.

However, there is good news. Even when we fail, we’re still going to win because God has already won the battle for us. It’s like we’re in a game of basketball and we’re shooting 0 out of 100 baskets and it doesn’t matter because God is scoring where we’re failing. Psalm 73:26 tells us, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Better To Try And Fail Than Never To Try At All – Poem by William F. O’Brien


Some say risk nothing, try only for the sure thing,
Others say nothing gambled nothing gained,
Go all out for your dream.
Life can be lived either way, but for me,
I’d rather try and fail, than never try at all, you see.

Some say “Don’t ever fall in love,
Play the game of life wide open,
Burn your candle at both ends.”
But I say “No! It’s better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all, my friend.”

When many moons have gone by,
And you are alone with your dreams of yesteryear,
All your memories will bring you cheer.
You’ll be satisfied, succeed or fail, win or lose,
Knowing the right path you did choose.

SAJC Retain Rate (JC 1)

SAJC Retain / Retention Rate (Estimate)

Just heard from a reliable source (cousin who is in the school) that SAJC’s tentative retention rate for 2015 is around 10%. On average, for a class of 25, around 2 or 3 are retained, after the Promos (Promotional Exams) in JC 1.

This is an estimate, intended to give information to those seeking it, hope it helps. By today’ s standards, 10% retention rate is considered “moderate”, considering official statistics from MOE shows that “The two JCs with the highest retention rates at JC1 averaged around 15% over the past three years.”

Side note: Some of those “retained” in SAJC are given a second chance to take another exam, upon passing they can be promoted. Hence the actual retain rate will be less than 10%, which is considered quite ok (compared to other JCs).

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill

For those who are retained, do not despair, check out my motivational page for motivational quotes and stories.

Actually JC life is difficult for students, they have to wake up at 6am everyday, and go home at around 6-7 pm or later (due to CCA). After reaching home, it is just the beginning and they have to revise / do homework / go for tuition. It is much tougher than even the typical adult’s job of 8-5pm work. And JC students have to repeat the schedule daily for two years. The problem is that too much stuff is being crammed into two years.

Apparently, the retain rate / retention rate of JCs is a source of concern for many. Some official statistics has been released by MOE. The statistics given are “over the last three years, approximately 6% of first year JC students in each cohort failed some subjects in their promotional exams and were retained.” “The two JCs with the highest retention rates at JC1 averaged around 15% over the past three years.”

As a student who has gone through the system, rumours of JCs like MJC having 50% retain rate (most likely exaggerated, but having some basis of truth, since there is no smoke without fire) do cause some concern. Currently the JC system works by setting extremely tough internal exams, including promos and prelims (compared to the A levels), such that a D or E in the prelims in top JCs (e.g. RI/HCI/NJC) is very likely equivalent to an A in the eventual A levels. This works for some students to spur them to study harder, but may be overly demoralising for many students. For retention rate, common sense and logic would tell that a high retention rate would boost the school’s eventual A level results (one extra year of study is a lot), however that is at the expense of the student spending one extra year in JC. Since the retention rate is entirely up to the school’s decision (i.e. not regulated by MOE), each JC has different retain rate.

Students choosing a JC should check out their retention rate from reliable seniors / relatives / teachers (there is no official source released online for individual retention rate for JCs).

For students looking for tuition, do check out a highly recommended tuition agency.