Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Truth About Life (A Tribute To Stephen Hawking)

Last year, I finally read 'A Brief History of Time'.

It was mind-blowing. Entertaining. And inspiring.

As much as I love staring into the stars, I had avoided touching the book for  the longest time. I was afraid I would not understand a thing and feel like an idiot. I was afraid the mystique of black holes would be lost. I was afraid I would be bored to death.

But finally, I summoned the will and courage to pick it up - and I was done with it within a day.

Last week, the world lost Professor Stephen Hawking - and one of the greatest human minds along.

Rest in peace, Professor Hawking

The Body Is Weak, But The Spirit Is Strong

It is truly a miracle that he has even lived this long. Stricken by a rare and incurable disease called ALS, most of his adulthood is spent paralysed, and bound to a wheel-chair. After losing his voice, he resorts to tapping words on a device that artificially generates speech.

And yet, he continued to lecture, write books and develop new theories about the universe.

But even as his muscles atrophied, his spirit only hardened. Although death may have been a shadow away, he never stopped living.

The Search For Truth

In 2015, Hawking admitted making his "biggest blunder" in positing that there was a total information loss inside a black hole.

Scientific studies had strongly challenged a fundamental cog of his grand theory, and he was humble enough to concede.

As he once said: "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge".

And perhaps that's the greatest lesson we can draw from his life.

That we must always be critical of our own beliefs. That we must never be too sure about what is right and wrong.

That for as long as we live, we must never stop searching for the truth.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A New Hope Awakens

I'm not one who lets failure get me down.

Whenever I trip and fall, I'm back up and running in no time. What's the point moping around for days, licking my wounds and reflecting about the injustices of life? Instead, I'm always looking forward for the new big challenge... and bracing myself for the next epic failure.

And as I've said last week - and will say again - failure isn't the end of the world.

In every failure, awakens a new hope.

"Good stuff, Master Yoda - but they're all going to die horribly in Episode III, y'know?"

Different Faces, Same Goal

So right after leading a team of students into epic failure, I'm supposed to guide another team to glory.

But this time, it was a team of fresh faces. So I delegated most of the heavy lifting to my senior students to mentor them.

It's good training for the seniors to be future trainers. Eases my burden training everyone on my own. And besides, I wouldn't want to pass on my bad luck to them, and maybe they're even better teachers than I am.

The team was heading into a novice competition in Singapore. The stakes weren't that high. There was room for trial and error. Learning, not winning, was in the forefront of their minds.

Still, a competition is a competition. And the best way for us to learn is striving to win.

To Infinity And Beyond

So how did we fare in Singapore?

Not too bad. Given their inexperience and preparation time constraints, they performed well. The problem (which I had designed with much deliberation) was way above their level, so they were punching above their weight.

Plenty of room for improvement, of course. But more importantly, plenty of reason for optimism.

They're a bright bunch of students. Rough diamonds. Stars in the making.

In short, they gave me great hopes for the future. I'm excited to continue their training.

Their limits? What limits? Batman has no limits, and neither should they. Setting limits for them would be limiting how far and fast they can go.

They have the potential to soar higher than any of us have reached before.

Fashion fail: short tie, unbuttoned jacket

Hope Wins

Even when we fail, we should never give up hope.

It's only when we give up hope, do we truly give in to failure.

As long as we have hope, we can never fail.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Failure Is The Greatest Teacher

Somewhere midway through the latest episode of Star Wars, the ghost of Yoda appears to Laidback Luke and says "The greatest teacher, failure is."

Yes, The Last Jedi is all about failure.

(The movie itself is an epic failure, but let's not go there or I'll be dragged further into the Dark Side.)

How prescient that quote proved to be.

Last weekend, I had an epic failure. Yes, I failed big time. The kind of fail that keeps evoking another stronger kind of four-letter F-word in my head.

(Maybe it's the Force punishing me for my lack of faith in the sequels...)

The greatest failure, Disney is

The Greatest Failure

It was mind-numbing. It was soul-crushing. It was life-shattering.

That's how failure goes.

It makes you want to run away and hide yourself on an isolated swamp or island in a faraway part of the universe. It makes you question your values and goals. It makes you feel like giving up on life altogether.

The worst thing is, I didn't just fail myself.

I failed my friends. I failed my students. I failed all those who put their trust in me.

The greatest failure is failing other people.

The Greatest Teacher

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Maybe I shouldn't feel so sad. Maybe I shouldn't had expected success.

After all, failure runs through my veins. In fact, I failed same time last year, at the very same hurdle. Yes, I did make some small steps of progress lately, but that now seems like a false dawn. Such a long resume of failures, I have.

And since failure is the greatest teacher, it should mean that I'm on the way to be a great teacher. Right? RIGHT?

Funny logic, but it does make sense.

I can tell you when to speed up and slow down. I can point out if a shimmering horizon is but a mirage. I know which paths lead to the Dark Side.

After all, there's more to learn from our failures than our successes. The bright lights of success often blind us from our flaws. The misery of defeat instead forces us to gaze ourselves in the mirror.

"I have failed you, friends... I have failed you all..."
Failure Is A Great Friend

To fail over and over again is a horrible feeling. But I'm not about to give up just yet. And thankfully, there are some of you out there who haven't given up on me as well.

And perhaps that's the greatest thing about failure.

Failure teaches us to trust each other.

Failure teaches us to never give up on each other.

Failure teaches us to pick each other up to fight another day.