Jan 30, 2009

Being Green by Investing in Green Business

Supporting and promoting eco-friendly life is one of my life passion. So I've been trying to learn issues and solutions related to global warming and energy security (I have another blog, ecolistic life, that chronicles what I've been learning), and it was when I was going through different books about going green that I found Billion Dollar Green Profit from The Eco Revolution.

This book is really about how we can take advantage of our growing green needs by investing in the companies that are positioned well to meet such needs - It's written for investing purpose, not for fighting the climate change. However, the book was insightful to provide investors' point of view on this "eco revolution"; what are involved and how they work.

Specifically, the book can educate you on the following points:
  • Some of the major issues around global warming and energy security
  • Types of businesses that provide products and services to address those issues
  • Explanation about technologies and processes utilized, and their advantages and disadvantages
  • Specific names of companies positioned well to grow with this green momentum

So even though the book isn't really about how to be green, it provides a very good overview of what technologies/processes are being used or developed, how money is flowing in to each area, which company or technologies are viewed as promising, etc. In a way this knowledge can be used to be green - by investing in a company that can drive eco-solutions AND positioned well in the market.

Jan 26, 2009

Ask Whether You'd Regret

My cousin passed away a few days ago.

He was only 42 years old. It was a stomach cancer that killed him, and they said that because he was young it was spreading fast and there was nothing that could have been done by the time they diagnosed him. So the whole thing went very fast and he was gone.

The first thing that I came to my mind when I heard that he was gone was that I should have gone and see him when I was in Japan. I knew he was hospitalized then, but it didn't seem that he wanted to see anyone and I wasn't that close to him. So I didn't push it. Now I regret it.

Why regret if I wasn't that close to him? Perhaps because I know I live too far away from my family in Japan - unless my family alert me in advance, it's almost impossible for me to make it to anyone's funeral in Japan. So in my heart somewhere I must have known that it could be the last chance to see him when I was in Japan. But I didn't take that chance. And besides, even if I lived close enough to attend his funeral, what's the point getting over there when it's already too late?

Plus it makes me think about everyone else. I wish I could have been there for everyone else.

The second thing that came to my mind was my own health. Last year, I found out that I had a polyp big enough to be a cancer. It wasn't, but it was scary. What's the difference between my cousin and I? The only difference was that I was lucky.

We all say how we need to live the present moment, treasure our lives, and so on. It's something that we understand as a concept, but often don't really know it in heart. Or you feel that you know it, but it slips away next moment. It's something that you don't think all the time. And there's nothing requiring you to go that extra mile to have an OK life.

But what I learned is that I don't want to regret. That I should ask myself whether I would regret before I decide to do or not to do something.

Jan 22, 2009

Benefits of Blogging in Thinking Through Life

This will be my 30th post that I've written since I started this blog after being laid off. So has anything changed since I started? On the surface, not really - I'm still unemployed and looking for that meaningful work that can also pay my bills. But there has definitely been some cumulative thinking happening inside of me that is moving me forward. And blogging along the way has played a very interesting and useful role.

I sort of mentioned in my last post how difficult it is not to get discouraged and to keep doing what you think you need to be doing at the present moment, when you are unemployed without a project with an end date or a regular paycheck. The fact that the economy is in trouble and more people are losing jobs doesn't help, and for someone who is considering to switch a career, the challenge is even larger. But so far, I'm surviving without getting too discouraged. I think blogging is helping me in the following ways:
  • Pushing me to think through things deeply and logically - When you have to write out your thoughts, it forces you to organize your thoughts. Blogging actually made me realize how my casual thinking falls short in identifying all options and evaluating them by following through your thoughts. When you are writing things out, you consciously take those extra steps. And that can provide a sense of progress.

  • Making me to take an objective point of view - The major difference between blogging and keeping a private journal is that blogging is for anyone to see. This, in turn, makes me conscious to take more objective point of view when going through that thought process. And that can keep you from becoming overly emotional; in this situation, overly negative and pessimistic

  • Chronicling the progress - Thinking is a process that never ends, as we never stop learning something new and growing up. But blogging, being a medium made to chronicle, allows me to write out whatever that I got, to the point that I reached. As The 100 Year Lifestyle advocates, it's about progress, not perfection. And blogging allows you to visualize that progress you made over time. Being able to look back to say "I've at least done this much" gives you confidence.

And though I haven't really worked on it too much, blogging also has a potential to create and expand networking opportunity, which can be a significant support to work through any situation in life.

Anyone who is at a life-turning point, in mid-life crisis, or who just wants to rethink life might want to start blogging...

Jan 19, 2009

Taking a Long-Term View of Life

When you are unemployed and not working on projects that have visible outcomes or milestones, it's hard to keep going day after day. Perhaps there are some markers that can confirm that you have been doing something everyday, like the number of resumes you submitted or the number of books you read, but they don't usually result in the kind of gratifications that motivate you to repeat your work next day.

So when Haruki Murakami talks about being novelist - how it requires him to set the pace (stop when you feel you can do more) and stick with it diligently day after day to work on a long-term novel - I can see how applicable this is to my life. It comes down to the fact that you are the only one who can discipline yourself (not your boss or business schedule) and you are the only benchmark that you can go against. This is probably why I was never a fit for working in a large corporation. Doing something because I'm told to, in a way that I was instructed, and with an ever-changing objective or timeline are all opposite to this way of life that Murakami leads (and I identify with).

But what was really interesting and engaging to me was how Murakami takes the same approach to his running AND finds life learning lessons in the process. He realizes something new about himself or experiences the feeling and sensation that he had never experienced before - all changing something within him in the process.

Running, though it is tightly integrated in his life, isn't what he does to earn his living or save the world. He's not doing this to win races. Yet, when I think about life in the grand scheme of things I realize that he may be accomplishing what we should accomplish with our lives (or at least some of them). It then made me think about those years that I spent in the corporate world - was I accomplishing anything for my life? First, I thought I wasn't, that I had wasted my time, but then I had to take that back: I did learn a lot of life lessons while I was there, even though the things that I produced may not have had any positive impact on me personally or anybody's life.

So the epiphany that I had reading this book was that it's the process over a period of time that brings you the life learning, and it almost doesn't matter what the actual process is - it doesn't even have to have own meaning or usefulness. The key is to consistently give all you have to that activity, and to aim to do that for a long period of time.

Jan 12, 2009

Moving to the West Coast

I was wondering whether I should go ahead and move to the west coast, but I have now decided that I want to definitely do that. It'll allow me to be closer to Japan, plus the west coast is leading the nation in terms of green initiatives and I may have a better opportunity finding work in the eco-related field and networking with like-minded people. In addition, I have a relative that I can stay with until I'm better situated and have a steady income.

The only obstacle that I have, the only thing that's stopping me to get up and move right away, is my property. I'd hate to become an absentee owner - I'd be worried about the property, etc. It'll be ideal if I can sell before moving to the west coast. Or at least lease it out. Given the market condition, I'm not sure if that'll happen soon though...

So anyway, here are what I'm doing now:
  • Working with a realter who specializes in property investment - I had my property listed like any other properties were listed, but it hasn't been working well. So I'm now trying to market the property to investors; they probably demand bargains, but I may be able to sell. We'll see.
  • Cleaning up the house, getting rid of things, etc.
  • Browsing and applying for eco-related jobs on the west coast - I'm not entirely sure if they even look at resumes with an east coast address, but I thought I'd start anyway.
  • Continue studying about eco-friendly lifestyle and updating my ecolistic life blog.
  • Thinking about the actual move - I'm thinking about shipping everything everything except for my Prius and my dog, and driving across the States. I haven't traveled within the States for pleasure for a very long time, and it'll be fun to explore the South. Again, we'll see.

Jan 11, 2009

More Ways to Help Your Brain Work

This is a continuation to the previous post that explained how brain needs to be stimulated and how it can be improved. In this post, I want to outline how you can help your brain work better, which I learned from the same book.

1. To enhance your motivation and get you going on the roll, you have to start first.

Your motivation is enhanced when the nucleus accumbens, a collection of neurons within the forebrain, is active. But in order for the nucleus accumbens to be active, you have to first stimulate it. Have you ever found yourself being completely absorbed doing something after you just played with it only a little bit? Maybe you threw away some expired non-perishables from your cupboard, only to find yourself cleaning the entire kitchen. This is because doing "it" enhanced your motivation to do more.

Since I learned that motivation doesn't just come to you, it has become much easier to get out of that "being lazy" mode: I just tell myself that unless I give it a kick start nothing happens.

2. You have to sleep in order to let your brain organize the information you acquired during the day, and to be more effective next day.

Your brain is working while you sleep. It organize the information, digest them by trying out different combinations and scenarios (which generates your dream), and better understand and store the data. It's kind of like your PC de-fragmenting data, only more sophisticated and better. This process happens only when you are asleep, so that the brain doesn't have to deal with incoming information.

Sometimes a complex information that you didn't really feel you understood before you went to sleep seems crystal clear the following morning. This is your brain doing a follow up work for you. So if you have something that you need to learn or think about, it's better to go over the whole thing at least once (even if that doesn't give you a complete resolution), rather than studying one section completely, before going to bed.

3. Making mistakes enhances your experience and memory, allowing your brain to better "connect the dots".

Nobody wants to make a mistake. But it generates additional piece of information for your brain to store and be connected to other information. So making a mistake now will benefit you later in your life by enhancing your ability to relate seemingly unrelated events and to generate new ideas. Those who succeed in one shot will not have this benefit later. So go ahead and make mistakes!

Jan 8, 2009

How Your Brain Needs New Stimulus

It's generally known that we continuously lose a bit of our brain cells (neurons) everyday. And it is said that since we have about 100 billion cells to begin with, we'd have more than enough for our lives. OK, but that doesn't sound entirely encouraging, especially when you are feeling getting old.

Well, it turns out that not all parts of brain continuously shrinks. I came across a book while in Japan that taught me that hippocampus, if stimulated appropriately, could regenerate more neurons than it loses. The book also gave me some very interesting insights about how brain works, and I was fascinated by it because it scientifically explained our conventional notions about how we should "think outside the box", "challenge old thinking", "do what you love to be successful", etc. The book, unfortunately, is only in Japanese, but I'll list some of its interesting points.

Hippocampus basically processes information (i.e. determine whether it's important to remember, how it should be categorized, etc.) to create our memory. This is the gate for data input, so the larger hippocampus' capacity, the better your brain works.

The scientific reason that you should think outside the box or be in exciting/new environment is to increase regeneration of brain cells. Studies have found that mice, as well as humans, who were continuously exposed to exciting and new environment increased brain cells significantly more than those who stayed in dull and unchanged environment. Interesting thing here is that those in the dull environment could start regenerating more once they change their environment. So even if you never forced yourself to be in that reinventing environment, you can always change that and see the effect. Another interesting point here is that you can also change your point of view or look things differently without changing the environment to see the same positive effect.

The need for challenging your old way of thinking is somewhat related to needing to stimulate your hippocampus, but more of it has to do how brain works. Memory doesn't get deleted (You may not be able to recall it easily, but that doesn't mean it's gone - it just means that it gets harder to recall one thing as you accumulate more memory), so the brain tends to stick with previously used way of categorizing and processing information. In addition, brain may "fabricate" some information in order to make sense out of fragment or illogical information. We unconsciously patch our memory so that the brain doesn't get confused. So conscious effort to challenge old thinking is needed.

And about "do what you love" - Amygdala, which plays important roles in emotions, is located right next to the hippocampus and is closely linked with how hippocampus determine what to memorize. The more heightened the amygdala, the more memorable event it will become. And you do better with what you remember most (with favorable emotions, of course).

So doing something new, challenging old way, and focusing what you love to do are all scientifically correct ways to better yourself by actually increasing your brain cells. Now that I think about it, the reason that I constantly struggled to find excitement in my job when I was working was probably because I didn't find enough fulfillment and challenge.

Jan 5, 2009

Back from Japan

I'm now back from my long vacation in Japan. It was great. I ended up not writing any new post here while I was in Japan - I was with my family and I felt that I should just focus on being with them while I was there. Although, I will admit, that I probably didn't do "being with them" well for the last couple of days before I was to come back to the States. Thinking about returning to my reality was hard after spending weeks not worrying about my life and being with my family.

Before I left for Japan, my plan after coming back was to stay here in Florida and try to work on my eco stuff while looking for some temporary or part-time work. But now I'm wondering whether I should move to the West coast to be closer to Japan. I may also have a better opportunities as eco-related initiatives are more active on the West coast. I'd need to give a bit more thoughts to this.

As for the Eco Products 2008 in Tokyo, it was well worth attending. I was afraid that I might not get any new information, but I was wrong - There were a lot of new initiatives and developments and I was able to get new information and contacts while I was there. Though my impression was that there were more of PR elements from large corporations and less emphasis on governmental or community initiatives this time compared to two years ago, the overall event was larger and there were plenty of grass-root initiatives to see. I learned a lot and brought a lot of information back - I'd need to digest them and do some research as to what comparable activities are seen in the States.

So this is my quick update after coming back from Japan. Hopefully 2009 will be an exciting year for me.