Why Aren’t We Reading Better Books?

I started to read books when I was around 7 grades. I remember when I first started carrying books around with me, I would get asked by friends and relatives: “What are you reading?” Then they would glance at the title and the cover of the book. I explained that it was like this, it was like that, what the basic outline of the book was. And as soon as they realized it wasn’t a novel, a short story or basically anything non-fiction, they turned their heads and became disinterested.

This is still true to this day. I realized that there is a disproportionate amount of people that are so engrossed in fiction stories, which means that we have Harry Potter readers, Katniss Everdeen, Lord of the Ring, Game of Throne fans everywhere. And especially in Vietnamese market, we are also flooded with Chinese fictional love stories, consuming a whooping amount of readers throughout the country. And even when people dabble into reading non-fiction books, they often just stuck around books with more style than substance.

And there’s nothing wrong with reading such books, but to entirely dismiss the whole genre of non-fiction books as something not of your taste may cause a big problem. It’s like denying yourself the opportunity to learn and experience yourself.

Then the reoccurring theme brought about a realization: “Most people would rather be entertained than educated.”

And this is more about than books, it’s a statement that can be applied to any medium, let it be movies, books, music, painting, articles, news…

Most people do not spend their time reading to broaden their understanding. They do not read on psychology, history, sociology, hardcore science like physics, chemists, mathematics, religion, spirituality, philosophy, classic literature (which can still be literature but has stood the test of time to prove their value in also philosophical ideology)… Most people are disinterested in such topics. Most people are not curious enough to go out of their way to research, to open up their perspective on such things.

I can name two reasons for why this is our reality.

One, the education system is messed up and it has successfully ripped us off our willingness to learn. During our school years, tests after tests have worn out our curiosity to learn. With a packed schedule at school and even a more packed homework assignments, students simply do not have enough incentive to load more than what they are forced to by school. It takes serious time-management skills to be able to get good grades and a decent academic resume and also pursue your own learning projects. Furthermore, the subject itself is water-downed to lose all of their interesting side but still maintain the fundamental equations that you have to memorize. It’s no surprising that science, especially math, chemist are the most dreaded subject by students. We are given the “what” without ever explained the “why”, we know what we know without knowing why we have to know it and how we can apply that to our daily life. This habit of taking facts and numbers into without proper questioning diminishes our critical thinking as well as our eagerness and willingness to learn. We are like children grown up in an abusive household, always told what to do and what not to do without ever being explain any common sense. No wonder why we do not want to pick up a book to read more.

Second, the entertainment industry has got hold of our eyeballs. The reason why we do not seek for more truth and understanding is simply because we do not feel that we need to. We are dangerously distracted! But entertainment doesn’t feel like distractions, does it? It doesn’t feel like a distraction when you watch good movies, listen to your favorite songs, or chit-chatting and using social media to keep up with what’s popping in the world right now. It feels good doing such things, that’s the thing. It feels too good. It feels so good that we do not need further things, we are complacent with what we have in our head. It has become so easy for us to be entertained. Ten years ago, if we want to read a good fictional book, we have to go to the nearest bookstore and thrift through those pages. One hundred years ago, we would have to find a bookstore (because bookstores weren’t as popular as they are now) and we would have to be somewhat fortunate (so that we are literate, and we have enough money to buy books). Now, we swipe 4 times and click 5 times, and we have enough books to read until next year.

Both of these combined together have turned us away from reading books to educate ourselves. One acts as a distraction, the other as a vicious vampire that sucks out all of our curiosity.

If only you knew how vast and exciting the world actually is. There’s so much to be learned, so much to be researched, so much to be pondered and contemplated. It may sound tedious and boring to you now. But may be that’s because you are so used to the taste of the instant gratification that the entertainment industry have spoon-fed. If you take this leap of faith into a whole new world of books and knowledge, it’s like switching from eating fast food to going vegan. Awkward and discouraging at first, but it would pay off later. Your mind would feel cleaner, you would feel better when you wake up in the morning, and there would be no shame or guilt after finishing a meal.

So may be now you want to make a change, to start your own adventure in this field. If that’s the case, it would mean the world to me.

Perhaps it would be best if I could leave you a few suggestions on which book to start this journey of yours, so here they are:

“Mastery” by Robert Greene. This is one of the best books in terms of mapping out a whole journey leading from a normal personal to a master (think Leo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Mozart…). The whole book is comprised of short anecdotes and insightful analysis.

“The Outlier” by Malcom Gladwell. This is also one of the best books I have read. It clears out some misconceptions that we may have about the “exceptional” individuals. The author created mind-blowing connections between the background and the upbringing to the talents and the opportunity that a super successful entrepreneur like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs may have, or some other factors in our culture that we may not be aware of but are shaping our way of thinking, behaving.

“King, Warrior, Magician, Love” by Doug Gillette and Robert L. Moore. This one is truly fascinating and an eye-opening on Freudian psychology. Keep an open-minded when reading this, it may have some information that’s a little “out there” but I truly have an enjoyable experience reading it.

I hope you have a good time reading books.

Advertisements

The main parts that I want to improve in 2018.

So I woke up at 4:30 sharp today. I don’t know if I’m fully functional and awake yet. My head still feels weird and crampy, like an engine being pushed too hard without sufficient oil.

This post will be part 3 of the 2018 Resolutions posts.

I have been thinking about what I want to achieve in this year.

Simplicity.

There’re a lot of ideas. I can be learning this, I can pursue that, I can join this adventure, I can change this about myself… Then a little reflection took place, I was always like this, bouncing around with ideas, getting lost in the thoughts without actually putting in the work.

It is nice that I know more about the history of Ancient Egypt and the geology of Mars. It is not bad that I want to learn about the basic of modern media and how they manipulate the masses. But how does it really help me as a person? That’s the true question that I neglected for so long.

What does any of these have to offer for me? Or how do I have to approach them to make it worthwhile?

I have already known the answer for all of these, truth be told.

Scrap off all the unnecessary, focus on the few that really matter.

20180125_144525

This year will be the year of a practical, grounded, in-depth approach. I will deliberately not take on any subject or topic but focus on the few that I really want to be better at. Those subjects are:

  1. Meditation. I want to make meditation something of a daily activity in this year. Last year I have made great progress in terms of consistency. This year, I will focus more on actually practicing meditation rather than reading, conceptualizing, fantasizing too much about it.
  2. Weight Training. Same goes as meditation. I have still seen zero result from going to the gym, despite having spent an extended amount of time. Obviously, I’m doing something wrong. I need to take better care of my body, eat more, exercise moderately. Hence I choose this as one the important things for 2018.
  3. Learning. Spend actual time learning something: sit down, crack open a book, listen to a lecture, take notes, contemplate, think, take more notes. I feel like 2017 was the year that I read the least, partly because of my busy schedule, but mostly because I didn’t put an emphasis on the importance of learning.

Those are the 3 main parts.

While writing these down, I notice I haven’t put enough thoughts in these “resolutions”. I guess we would have a part 4 of this series.

I will go and meditate now.

Book Review: “I am gifted, so are you!” – Adam Khoo

Long story short, this book changed my life.

I still remember so clearly the first time I laid my eyes on that blue cover. I bought it from an old bookstore in the Ninh Xá market, which was all the illegal copies and the most worn-out books that you could find and buy for a cheap price. Apart from the cover, the book was in black and white, with so badly printed pages that I couldn’t make out what the added pictures was about.

Despite all that, I was intrigued by the title cover and skim through a bit. It talked about neuroscience, about how powerful the mind really is and how overwhelmingly capable everyone really is. Yes, the book goes on and on about how each and everyone of us has potentially waiting to be unlocked. And by sharing his own story from zero to hero, the author really convinced me of that statement right there, right then. A vision spun out into existence: this book will be my bible, just like in all those Chinese kung fu movies where the main protagonists find the lost teaching hidden in some buried and forgotten scriptures.

I insisted my mom to buy it for me. Carrying it back home, I smiled with excitement.


The first few chapters talked about the necessary mindset of a winner. It stresses about the importance of goal setting and envisioning, visualization of those goals being actualized. I was deeply inspired. I felt my confidence rose up, the mountains could be moved, the sea could be parted, the clouds could be pinned down. Humans are limitless creature, only bound back by our imagination. I’m a slow reader so I enjoyed sipping tiny snippets of that book while daydreaming and creating a vision of myself and all the possibilities. For a couple of weeks, everywhere I went, I carried that book with me.

After putting a great emphasis on the importance of mindset, Adam Khoo laid out the strategy and then the tools to actualize them. To me then, this book truly was the best thing that could ever be given to a student. It seemed that every possible problem has already been diagnosed and elegantly listed out. A major problem has to do with memorization. A good brain is the one that could remember things that it read once from 2 weeks ago, at least in terms of academia. So Adam whipped out the Mindmap concept, a cutting edge tool that allows us to memorize faster and easier using colors, keywords, visualization, symbols… And we could draw while we were studying, which activates the fun part during those long and draining lessons. Another tool was the concept of coding all numbers into symbols or phrases, which enables us to create a whole stories out of the digits. This would help with the specific dates of history that we have to deal with, the equations of math, physics or chemistry, you name it. It put the imagination and creativity into those timid numbers.

Then he adds some more “pro-tips”: time-management, how to schedule the revision for an exam, how to tackle hard subjects that require not only memorization but also application of theories… and on and on.


It got me drawing mindmaps, writing out my visions and goals, thinking about what my future can be. Overall, it boosted my confidence. I wasn’t the shyest kid or the one that got really bad grades during the time that I read this book, I was doing quite good actually, but I could still appreciate all the insights and lessons that it poses.

However, I am not a success story in credit of this book. Far from it, I actually have never finished this book. For some reasons, I could never really got to the end of it. Sure, I have read all the words of those last chapters, but I didn’t analyze, didn’t reflect, contemplate what those chapters have to offer with the same intensity that I spent on the first few chapters. I also didn’t really apply all the coding numbers method that the author has presented. And after reading this book, my grades didn’t really soar up nor any of those “goals” that I set in that particular moment of hyped up with adrenaline actually got actualized.

But still, it has changed my life for the better. It may fail in boosting my grades, but it managed to instill in me a love for reading books, for seeking knowledge and wisdom and for an open mindset that is eager to learn and experience new things. And all those characteristic traits, I hope to say that I would still carry until the days I turn to dust. For those traits have shaped which friends I hang out with, what books I continue to read, what school I want to enroll in and what field I want to dive into and study.

Looking back now, it actually still is quite an impressive book, especially for its targeted audience. It provides the whole package that any student needs, mixed up with a bit of creativity, fun exercises and inspirational stories. If I had been more serious and discipline in applying all the tools and technique, I may have seen better results.

It may be just a book, but it’s my beginning.

 

Where Am I Now?

So where I am now? This is the second part.

What does the beginning of 2018 look like for Cao Khánh? To be completely honest with you, I am not happy with where I am. All thesd busy work days are hiding that hollow empty feeling.

It’s quite simple to test whether or not you are align with yourself and truly living it right: spend an afternoon doing nothing – no friends, no movies, no books, no gym, no sleeping, no planning, no deep contemplating, no meditation basically “wasting” 5 hours just sitting around. If you have no problem doing that, I would say you are perfectly in tune with yourself. That would say that you do not need any stimulus, you rely on the bare minimum that is your fundemental being to feel “happy”.

I can not do that, I can barely go through 30 minutes of doing nothing without scratching my heads and screaming with frustration. I would watch movies to push away the boreddom, would mindlessly surf Youtube for videos of topics that do not have anything but McDonald-ish entertainment, cheap, for sure unhealthy but stimulating as hell. So basically, that’s how I would honestly spend most of my freetime if I have any in these days.

I haven’t gone to the gym for 2 weeks now. I’m not happy with how I eat, how I sleep. I’m starting to sound like a broken record but you get the point, I’m not particularly on top of my game at the moment.

I’m beginning to doubt my potential. Yesterday I took a look at my highschool yearbook, all those comments about how inspirational I was, how rebellious, how capable… they felt odd, as if they were meant for someone else.

I guess growing up can be quite interesting. May be one day, I wouldn’t want to write any of these. May be I would lose my sensitivity too, like an old man with Alzheimer.

OR.

The mind is a trickery motherfucker and it does not want to change. That’s why all the real breakthrough lies beyond our current capacity, that’s why we have to sweat, bleed, take all the bruises and leap through those fears.

Sure, I have been here before. I have been demotivated, I have felt sadness, I have doubted myself, fallen off-track. But for everytime like that, there’s a chance to rise again. And for all the failures, it only take one success. For all the arrows that fly to the sky, we only need one to have a lovely, delicious grilled dove. Pretty sick to think about that, but it sounds good though.

So here we go all over again, another time that Khánh wants to change.

I’m quite consistent, actually.

Looking Back At 2017.

This post is about the events that happened in my life during 2017. This will be part one of the three parts series of past, present and future.

I have been trying to find the time to think about these even before the New Year’s Eve. But as AIESEC and WiCa is viciously consuming my life, only now I have a little time to breath, to slow down a bit and to reflect.

But first, I have to know where I am before I can decide where I want to be. So let’s talk about 2017.

SPRING and UNIVERSITY ENTRANCE

IMG_20170429_233024_429

Writing Literature Essays

At the early months of 2017, I was still in the motion of an old, seemingly forgotten way of life. The life of a senior highschooler in Vietnam, trying to make ends meet with the University Entrance Exam. I wrote a lot in those days, perhaps about 67 days straight, documenting my journey towards that test.

I also tried vlogging for a while, made about 7 or 8 vlogs. Then I felt something wasn’t quite right, the format wasn’t appealing to me. I wanted my videos to be more like an essay than a rant, with much more editing involed, I guess I got that vision from watching Frank Yang’s video. But I was lazy and

things just slowly slipped into the slothful procrastination routine. That’s why there was always a sting in my esteem when someome asked what happened to vlogs.

I remember being nervous about the Uni Test. The days flew by, one by one. There were days that I didn’t sit down to study, to follow through with my plans. Those were the days that I doubted myself, those were the days that fear got the better of me. But luckily for me, the University Entrance Exam wasn’t that hard, at least for me. And I was eligible for the major that I wanted to pursuit.

SUMMER

The summer was nice, I had to opportunity to visit Taiwan and meet Frank Yang out of a coincidence. We spent 2 hours talking and hitting a chest and bicep, tricep training. I still have to videos of him sharing ideas with me. It was surreal to be able to meet someone you admire for so long. He was something else, something different from the common Joe and Jane that we get to see in our everyday life. There’s some truth in saying that he’s fortunate not to worry about money thus was enabled to live a life without mundane responsibilities. But for some reason that aspect only elevates his being to whole new level, a modern day Renaissance man on a quest to find Truth and Understanding.

I want to say that meeting changed my life. I thought so at fist.

“Oh man, I just saw what it’s like to live like a Renaissance, now it’s time to take action!” “Oh man, Frank’s the real deal, I have to start making moves!” “Oh man, how can I be like Frank?”

I want to say that by meeting my idol and actually see how he lives, how he thinks, how he is lit a spark in me that forever changes the track of life. But it didn’t, at least up til now. But I got to be his acquaintance and currently working to help him building his website and creating his own book. So something has come out of that. And that’s the highlight of my summer.

FALL

I was excited and eager to prove myself when I join University. I joined a Debate Contest and made some new friends. I finished at 18th out of 60 contestants in individual score. Not bad as a starter, if I say so myself. Then I applied for DAV’s Leader (which is another contest of my school) but failed. In retrospect, I guess my attitude was a bit off, I was nervous so I over-compensated it with my “confidence” and my “boldness”. That was my first fail at the University.

Simultaneously, I applied for AIESEC in FTU Hanoi. The application process was one week of grueling, hard-core load of work. For the first time in my life, I was put into a sink-or-swim situation and truly tested. At that week, I realized my endurance and capability was not as grand and impressive as I have always assumed. I still have much to learn.

But regardless, I passed through. I got picked to be in the organizing committee of Winter Camp 2017, with the position of taking care of preparing the logistic and eventually running the project. Currently, I’m in between the weeks of running the project. I will dedicate this first chapter of my AIESEC journey to a whole other post, because it’s too important to be a paragraph.

Also simultaneously, I was invited to be the President of Hanoi Socratic Society, which is a club for people who enjoying learning about social sciences and humanitarian subjects. I, alongside 4 other core members have finished the probation phase of this year recruitment. And currently, I’m inactive as a President. I haven’t done anything related to HSS for the past 2 weeks because of the work load of AIESEC. With proper planning and timely execution, I could have.

I also got my first proper job as an English tutor for a 12th grader who almost knows nothing of this language. My job is to guide him through his University Entrance Exam with just the mark to pass, which may sound utterly simple and easy if it weren’t for the fact my student almost knows nothing of English.

Based on what happens in this fall, I can sometimes view myself as a workaholic – a busy busy man with lots of baskets to juggle.

The basket that I have neglected the most, ironically the one that often deems the most important, education. The first out of eight semesters of my college life has passed by without leaving any educational imprint on my mind. I can only barely remember some lines here and there of the only book that I actually read. The rest is already slowly fading away and will soon be forgotten. There’s one subject that I literally studied nothing in the first semester. Zero.

And during the final semester test, I had to work out of that subject. I could have cheated, easily. But somethings told me right then and there that if I decided to cheat at that final subject, the whole semester will official end without me actually studying for anything. To me and my personal values, I have to right that wrong, at least with this subject.

So I ended my year with the agreement with myself to study this subject for real.

WINTER

Winter came when I realized I was drowning in work. Everything was out of my control, I stretched myself a little bit too thin for anything to be efficient. AIESEC work tangled up and turned into a mess because of my inexperience and overall naive way of approach the tasks. The English tutoring work still haven’t gone anywhere, with me and my students taking turns having excuses after excuses to miss a class. Socratic work has come to a halt.

And that’s how my 2017 went.

Somehow, with all of these going on in my life, I felt like my journey still haven’t started.

Somehow, I feel like my action are not mapping out my dreams and ambition. Even contrary, the more I struggled to finish tasks after tasks, the dimmer the vision became.