Hello you, it has been a while!


I have undergone a rollercoaster of emotion in the past month. The feeling was uneasy yet necessary for me to navigate the next stage of life. March also comes with beautiful adventures in Da Lat and Ha Giang. Here is my memory dumping post.


1. Books:

Trịnh Lữ, ghi chép (Trinh Lu, notes)

My highlight last month was the interview of Trinh Lu by DJ. Thuy Minh. I have always fascinated with conversations. Conversation of all kind. This one however brought me back to core. As I go further down in life, I become more appreciate the the humility and simplicity of a human being. No frills and flares. I have grown to stay grateful with my friends who look so ordinary with extraordinary minds. I am thankful for our conversation and reading recommendations throughout the year. The book is another reminder to stay true to the self. There are many uncertainties, the only way to live is stay humble and grateful.

“Những nỗi khổ sinh ra lại có tư chất thông minh và vài năng khiếu bẩm sinh nên học gì làm cũng dễ dàng, thể là sinh ra ảo tưởng tài năng, rồi sinh lòng tự phụ. Bé được khen quen rồi, đến lúc lớn ra đời hễ không được khen là chán nản, mà bị chê bai chỉ trích thì sinh lòng oán ghét. Nhẽ ra phải lột xác ảo tưởng, để sống đời chân thực càng sớm càng tốt, nhưng vì có chút tài mọn nên thỉnh thoảng lại được khen, thành ra cái ý thức đúng đắn ấy hễ cứ ló ra lại bị ngắt bỏ. Quả thực khen tặng là phân bón tốt nhất để nuôi dưỡng ảo tưởng. Nó vặt trụi mọi mầm mống tự thức. “
Sufferings are born with intelligence and some innate talent. If it is too easy to learn anything, there might lead to an illusion of mastery and growing arrogant. If one is used to being praised, one is depressed when one is not, growing hatred once being criticized. It is much better to strip down such an illusion, to face reality as soon as possible. Yet, once you are down with some talent, minor achievement comes with accolades; sense of deccency got interrupted every time it appeared. Indeed, praise is the best fertilizer for cultivating illusions. It wipes out all seeds of self-consciousness.

Nhà đầu tư 1970 (Investor 1970)

As the stock market in the recent year is on the craze, investor 1970 (active under the name A7) is praised for being money savvy. I listened to his audio book during my leisure walk. His sharing go line with Warren Buffet's principle (with a strong preference over real estate investment in the context of fast urbanization in Vietnam).


From Good to Great

This is a classic management book yet I have neglected it for a while. As my student recommended to book for my teaching materials, I gave it a try and found the books quietly resonate with what I learn in recent year. Here are the few lessons from the books:


Level 5 Leadership: The book advocates for leaders who are humble, most of them come within the company. Someone who is modest and willful, humble and fearless.

Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well (and if they cannot find a specific person or even to give credit to, they credit good luck). At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming badluck when things go poorly.

Around the time I read this book, I also listened to Freakonomics Podcast on why we have many "bad" boss. As company tends to promote good employees as a form of incentives. Good employees, however, doesn’t mean good managers. It is cheaper entitling employees in comparison to raising their salaries. Yet, the policy costs companies future greater earnings from "good employees now turning bad bosses". It is not necessary true that Level 5 leaders should come from the company (not until the company change its promotion criteria).


Get the right people on the bus: Basically we need good people before good idea. I particularly impressed with Nucor as the company in this book. Bellow is the story of the company on recruiting "right people"

Nucor built its entire system on the idea that you can teach farmers how to make steel, but you can’t teach a farmer work ethic to people who don’t have it in the first place. So, instead of setting up mills in traditional steel towns like Pittsburgh and Gary, it located its plants in places like Crawfordsville, Indiana; Norfolk, Nebraska; and Plymouth, Utah—places full of real farmers who go to bed early, rise at dawn, and get right to work without fanfare. “Gotta milk the cows” and “Gonna plow the north forty before noon” translated easily into “Gotta roll some sheet steel” and “Gonna cast forty tons before lunch.” Nucor ejected people who did not share this work ethic, generating as high as 50 percent turnover in the first year of a plant, followed by very low turnover as the right people settled in for the long haul.” workers would either jump or get thrown right off the bus.

Culture of Discipline: To ensure great companies stay great, the book advocate for a long-lived company culture. It echos with what shared by Prof. Phan Van Trong in his podcast on company culture. No wonder why companies or schools always seek people share the same mindset or vibes.


And finally, there is the flywheel effect: Good things take time. The great time will come.

“Steady, consistent progress leads to eventual breakthrough”

One side note: Don't take everything for granted. Even the best-of-the-best selling books, here is WHY

2. Movies:

The fight club (1999):

This is a breath of fresh air after watching too many chick flicks. It is a thought provoking movie dragging me out of the rabbit hole of consumerism. There are many traps out there. You live the life you want, not the life IKEA (and many other fast consummption companies) want.

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

After watching The Fight club, I read many critics and many recommended this movie. Just two men talking about love, death, money, and all the superstition. As a fan of podcast and chitchat, this movie served me so well.

3. Course:

BREAD-IGC Virtual PhD Course : This is an excellent course on current landscape of economics. I have fun learning this. I hope you find them fun too!


Finally my tune for the post from Olivia Dean

Until then, stay happy



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Every year, around this time, I revamp my teaching materials. This year, I switched to the co-construction approach of teaching. Before each chapter, students in the team will send me articles, movies, and exercises they want me to include. Such team will then host an independent study session for the class. I want to explain my WHY here for future reflection.


1. As the age and generation gap between my students and I have been widening throughout the year, I want my teaching to stay current. In the past year, I surveyed to understand them better. However, eighteen-year-old seems to be the age of unsureness. I saw the same pattern in their answers. Students find information from the same source, either Facebook or Kenh 14. They have not figured out their answers when asked about the career plan. I want my students to find their sureness through reading, decide what instil their curiosity, and share with their classmates. More important, I want them to start a habit of research prior to learning session.


2. Some ten years ago, when I was their age, we had two learning sessions: one with our professors and one with our teaching assistant for Q&A. We do not have this luxury in Vietnam. There is no separate Q&A session. Hence, we do not have enough time to deliver our lessons and dig deep into problem sets. The time shortage leads students to believe they need extra classes and crash courses before an exam. Making the independent learning sessions compulsory, I hope to introduce them to working in a team regularly.


3. The final and very selfish reason, I want to grow as a teacher and a learner. I have learned incredibly from my students and younger friends over the past years. I want to continue such learning habits through this co-construction approach with my students. The first week went well. I can't wait to watch a student's recommended movie called Gung Ho! this Tet Holiday.


When writing these lines, I am listening to Spotify's curated Viet Hip-hop. I arrived at this Suboi track, and I would like to share with you all.


Happy Tet holiday you all!



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I finished my application process this December. The journey packed with self doubts and self discovery. I found my past crumbles into anecdotes. I saw my future somehow more vivid. Everything in the past started to make sense. I am incredibly grateful for my teacher, my dear cousin (aka. my bff), old friends, and new friends for their emotional supports. I'm the lucky one. If you are reading my post now. I love you. Yes, you! I'm finally back with my reading, writing, and watching movie. Here is my list for December.

Movies

I watched Great Expectation (1998) for aesthetic pleasure. I've been curious with Gwyneth Paltrow's green knit outfit. It looks amazing on set. Confirmed!

The bridges of Madison County (1995) is another beautiful movie. It was a huge inspiration source in term of interior decor. The 1960s-era farm house with lace curtain, open cupboard, and floral wall papers is full of romance. Talking of lace curtain, this below video is feast to interior enthusiast in me.

Books

In defense of a liberal education:


It was a nice quick read as I've been wondering the role of liberal education. The goals of liberal education are: to train the mind to think and to fill the mind with specific content.

"The two great points to be gained in intellectual culture, are the discipline and the furniture of the mind; expanding its powers, and storing it with knowledge. The former of these is, perhaps, the more important of the two. A commanding object, therefore, in a collegiate course, should be, to call into daily and vigorous exercise the faculties of the student.

Liberal education “teaches you how to think” through the writing process:

“Being forced to write clearly means, first, you have to think clearly. I began to recognize that the two processes are inextricably intertwined. In what is probably an apocryphal story, when the columnist Walter Lippmann was once asked his views on a particular topic, he is said to have replied, “I don’t know what I think on that one. I haven’t written about it yet.”

I also agree with the book that you will be grateful for liberal education not one but six years after graduation. As a person with diverse interest, I am on my way to connect the dots. Everything started to make sense. To learn independently and appreciate other disciplines (beside economics) takes time but worthwhile. Each time you allow yourself to learn something new, the more you know thy self.

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

My friend Minh Dương from One Percent a Month sent me this book for long time. I took me two years to picking it up. The book collects advices and tweets of Naval Rivikant. If you are my students, you might listen to his interview with Farnam Street and aware of Naval's advocation for Microeconomics.

Some interesting takeaways from the book are:

On wealth

  • Pick an industry where you can play long-term games with long-term people.

  • Escape competition through authenticity

  • The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner. You have to know how to learn anything you want to learn

  • Your reputation will literally end up being thousands or tens of thousands of times more valuable than somebody else who was very talented but is not keeping the compound interest in reputation going

  • My definition of wisdom is knowing the long-term consequences of your actions. Wisdom applied to external problems is judgment. They’re highly linked; knowing the long-term consequences of your actions and then making the right decision to capitalize on that.

  • I also encourage taking at least one day a week (preferably two, because if you budget two, you’ll end up with one) where you just have time to think.

  • Reading science, math, and philosophy one hour per day will likely put you at the upper echelon of human success within seven year

On happiness

  • A happy person isn’t someone who’s happy all the time. It’s someone who effortlessly interprets events in such a way that they don’t lose their innate peace.

Saving yourself

• Brain works better

• Exercise & sunlight

• Shorter, less pleasantries

• More dialogue, less monologue

• No slides

• End easily by walking back


On earth we briefly gorgeous

I found Ocean Vuong as running through an Instagram story of one of my favorite fashion influencer (Glam with Trish). My friend circle has raved about him a long time ago. Yet, I completely fall for him after listening to his interview with Seth Meyers.

I spent two days listening to Ocean Vuong interviews and his book (On earth we briefly gorgeous). I am not necessary a fan of his works but I admire his approach to life. I found myself in his story: the love for rhetoric and the struggle with family relationships. He reminded me how power can deliver through tenderness.

And I think I embrace that in everything I do — writing, sitting with you now — how do I do it with care. And even in the temples — in many Asian-American households, when you enter the house, you take off your shoes. Now, we’re not obsessed with cleanliness any more than anyone else. But the act is an act of respect: I’m going to take off my shoes to enter something important; I’m going to give you my best self. And I think, even consciously, when I read or give lectures or when I teach, I lower my voice; I want to make my words deliberate; I want to enter — I want to take off the shoes of my voice so that I can enter a place with care so that I can do the work that I need to do.
“The future’s in your hands.” But I think the future is actually in your mouth. You have to articulate the world you want to live in, first. We pride ourselves, as a country that’s very technologically advanced — we have strong, good sciences; good schools; very advanced weaponry, for sure — but I think we’re still very primitive in the way we use language and speak, particularly in how we celebrate ourselves. “You’re killing it.”

I also admire Ocean for his work ethics. His perfectly constructed sentences amaze me every single time.

“Because the sunset, like survival, exists only on the verge of its own disappearing. To be gorgeous, you must first be seen, but to be seen allows you to be hunted.”
“They say nothing lasts forever but they’re just scared it will last longer than they can love it.”

Podcast

I came across this podcast after being so impressed by Prof. But Tran Phuong on Vietcetera's Edustation Podcast. This episode helped me understand how the East meets West on feminism. Highly recommended for anyone interested in feminism.

I also enjoyed another episode from Future Impact Academy about Cai Luong (a form of Vietnam traditional performance) with Bach Tuyet.

Last year, I appeared in my friends' episodes on teaching during the COVID-19 and life-long learning. Listening back, there is a long (and winding) road to be an effective public speaker. I need to better off my use of word and voice control. So 2022 will be the year of speech improvement.

Teaching technique

A little update after my post on my online teaching techniques with Facebook. I found Mural can be equally interesting way for students to raise their voices.

Music

I intended to post this on Xmas. With a slight delay, here is one of my favourite holiday tune.

Happy New Year and hope to see you in this virtual world again!

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