Thomas Huxley and Darwinism

Thomas Huxley and Darwinism

Thomas Huxley led a movement in support of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

In the 1860s, naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-82) was busy developing his theory of evolution and searching out corroborative evidence for it. He had better things to do than

  1. defend his ideas from his opponents, and
  2. it was not his concern to pull his ideas together to form an overarching super-theory.

Both tasks were undertaken by English biologist Thomas Huxley (1825-95), who dubbed himself “Darwin’s bulldog” for his advocacy of Darwin’s ideas. Indeed, in the lectures he gave in London in the 1860s, Huxley may well have extended the scope of Darwin’s ideas further than the biologist himself intended. In Huxley’s hands, Darwin’s work became a movement with a life of its own: Darwinism.

Thomas Huxley wrote in a 1859 letter to Charles Darwin, “As for your doctrines, I am prepared to go to the Stake if requisite …”

Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley The Darwinist view that the theory of evolution had destroyed the idea of a divine creator encouraged the public perception that agnosticism, and later atheism, was the logical conclusion to be drawn from Darwin’s work. Darwin himself had delayed publication of On the Origin of Species (1859) in fear of such controversy, and the dispute over the theory of evolution’s implications became more entrenched and bitter as a result of Huxley’s championing of Darwin’s work. Atheist scientists, such as the British biologist Richard Dawkins (b. 1941), have become well known in recent years for their intolerance of religion of all kinds, and their firm view that Darwinist ideas have made religious belief untenable. However, by no means all scientists agree. In the face of this debate, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommended in 1981 that religion and science should not be presented in the same context, to avoid misunderstanding.

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Breakfast of Champions: Dark Cocoa Almond Oats Topped with Espresso Yogurt

Breakfast of Champions: Dark Cocoa Almond Oats Topped with Espresso Yogurt

A key contributor to obesity in the United States is the rise in unwholesome eating habits, with particular prominence on skipping breakfast, which has been associated with overeating, weight gain, and obesity. It is presently indeterminate as to whether the daily consumption of breakfast could bring about better appetite control and energy intake regulation in adults.

For a speedy, make-ahead breakfast that’ll endure you through the work week, combine the following in a Tupperware or another covered container. Place this container in the fridge, and in the morning, you’ll have a creamy, no-cook oatmeal breakfast.

  • 2.5 cups of rolled oats
  • 2.5 cups of unsweetened almond milk
  • 5 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 5 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 1.25 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 0.25 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • A pinch of sea salt

For a topping, mix the following in another container till no lumps remain:

  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt,
  • 1 shot or about 2 ounces of espresso
  • 1 tablespoons of maple syrup

If you’d like a booster, add blueberries. They add vitamin C and other antioxidants to whatsoever you’re intending to eat.

This recipe brings out the richness of the dark cocoa by the espresso yogurt. In addition, the fiber and healthy fats will keep you filled and dynamic all morning.

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Posted in Health and Fitness

The Everyday Life of the Buddha and His Monks

The Everyday Life of the Buddha and His Monks

When the Buddha said “world” he was referring to the “miserable world” he lived in. What he said were simple Truths:

  1. Dukkha—sorrow permeates this world.
  2. The source of Dukkha is desire and attachment to sense objects (people, money, power, title, heaven, etc.)
  3. The objective in life should be cessation of Dukkha.
  4. This can be achieved by the Eightfold Path, which has to do with all the functions of the mind: (right understanding, right thoughts, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.)

Having lived in the luxury of the palace and in the punitive extremes of asceticism he was able to say, from his own experience, that neither extreme leads to “waking up” from the dream of our confusion about who and what we are. His teaching became known as the “middle way.”

The Buddhist texts give us an intriguing picture of the life and activity of Buddha and his monks. The rainy season obliged them to spend three months in the house with its vast halls and storerooms, or by the lotus ponds in the adjoining park. The rest of the year was spent in wandering. On their wanderings the monks were lodged by the faithful or slept in the open. When groups of monks met, an immense hubbub arose. When Buddha was about to appear, someone hushed them, for he was a lover of peace and quiet. In carriages or on elephants came kings, merchants, and nobles to speak with Buddha and the monks. Each day Buddha himself took up his beggar’s bowl and passed from house to house. Throngs of disciples followed him everywhere, and lay companions accompanied the procession, some in wagons bearing provisions.

Initially, the Buddha did not accept women in his community At the beginning of his career, the Buddha did not accept women in his community. But as the result of the repetitive remonstrance of his cousin and faithful disciple, Ananda, he agreed, against his own instincts, to welcome them, though he enforced on them absolute submission to their male colleagues. But he could not abstain from commenting, with a exhalation: “If, Ananda, women had not been authorized to leave their homes in order to adopt a life without protection under the aegis of the Doctrine and the discipline of the One who knows the truth, then, Ananda, the pure religion would have endured for a long time; the good Law would have lasted a thousand years.”

Whatsoever love, compassion, and compassionate joy we engender will tend to be one-sided and not completely pure. This is not to say that experiences of love, kindness, and sympathetic joy do not also help melt problematic distinctions between the self and the other, but rather that calmness, because of its focus on uprooting craving and aversion can specifically address problematic notions of the self and thus provide the basis for profounder expressions of love, compassion, and sympathetic joy.

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Books on Creativity Recommended by Ted Leonsis

Creative people often retain a capability to adopt a number of diverse stances or perspectives. When they look at their own work, they focus interchangeably on the technical aspects, the visual design, the ideas, and so on. They develop a set of standards or a checklist that leads their attention and helps them to scrutinize the creative process. Moreover, they master a lexis that enables them to assess their work in multiple dimensions, so that they can pass more qualified judgements than just ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

A multidimensional valuation gives students feedback, which helps them determine their strengths and detect areas in which they need to improve. The scores on such valuations can also help an educational program to review its results, contemplate its position and modify the course if necessary. Although creativity can only make the most of as originality, utility, and surprise all approach unity, the same description indicates that there are seven different ways that creativity can minimize. These alternatives were identified as

  • routine, reproductive, or habitual ideas,
  • accidental response bias,
  • irrational perseveration,
  • problem finding,
  • rational suppression,
  • irrational suppression, and
  • blissful ignorance.

According to conventional wisdom, creativity is somewhat done by creative people. Even creativity researchers, for several decades, seemed to direct their work by this principle, converging predominantly on individual differences: What are creative people like, and how are they different from most people in the world? Although this person-centered tactic yielded some important findings about the backgrounds, personality traits, and work styles of marvelously creative people, it was both limited and limiting. It presented little to practitioners related with helping people to become more creative in their work, and it virtually ignored the role of the social environment in creativity and innovation. In contrast to the long-established approach, the Componential Theory of Creativity assumes that all humans with normal capabilities are able to produce at least judiciously creative work in some domain, some of the time-and that the social environment (the work environment) can manipulate both the level and the incidence of creative behavior.

Books on Creativity Recommended by Ted Leonsis Ted Leonsis, the Internet entrepreneur, former AOL senior executive, and owner of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals recommends the following books on creativity.

  • Ed Catmull’s Creativity : 1970s computer animation pioneer and Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull‘s appealingly comprehensive explanation of how the studio he co-founded generated hits such as the Toy Story trilogy, Up, and Wall-E. Catmull closes that it is a leader’s responsibility to stop ambitious and perfectionist staff destroying their health and that of others. Aiming for zero mistakes is the worst possible goal for a creative project. He argues that a company has to appreciate the work of creativity and learn how to navigate the failures that will happen along the way.
  • 'Crossing the Chasm' by Geoffrey A. Moore (ISBN 0062292986) Geoffrey A. Moore’s Crossing the Chasm: Author Geoffrey A. Moore is managing partner of TCG Advisors, a consulting practice that delivers business and marketing strategy assistances to well-known high-technology companies. Moore declared that the greatest change in the marketing approach happens at the chasm—the organizations to the right of the chasm have meaningfully different opportunities than those on the left. Many ideas fail in the marketplace because their enthusiasts are not capable to cross the chasm.
  • Elmira Bayrasli’s From the Other Side of the World: Journalist Elmira Bayrasli posits that brilliant people around the world are conquering insoluble obstacles to build high-growth businesses that are driving wealth and building communities, regions and countries. By means of seven noteworthy stories, Bayrasli shows the next set of successful entrepreneurs could come not only from the as Silicon Valley but also from Nigeria, Pakistan or Mexico. She writes, “Entrepreneurs, by the very nature of what they do—disrupt and innovate—provide a necessary check and balance on government that no one else can—not businesspeople, not NGOs, not civil society organizations. They help remake the social order and help move progress forward, giving rise to new ideas, new industries, and new possibilities and forcing change. That is what has made them both heroes and villains that many in power feel the need to keep in check.”
  • 'Stop Playing Safe' by Margie Warrell (ISBN 1118505581) Margie Warrell’s Stop Playing Safe: When people confront a challenge, they often recoil into inaction. Drawing from the latest research plus dialogues with highly successful leaders and entrepreneurs, Warrell offers practical tools and inspiration needed to enjoy greater confidence, accomplishment and success in work and life. Outline your sense of purpose and engage in more inspiring goals. Circumnavigate uncertainty with clarity and be more decisive in adversity. Surmount the fear of failure and bounce back from setbacks with superior flexibility. Toughen your leadership ability and expand your influence regardless of position. Build a culture of courage in your office that advances bottom line results. As you strive to reach your goals, as you make those tough choices and take risks, look for your enthusiasm, find your power, and aim to make a difference. And know that this attitude—this mindset, this entrepreneurial way of looking at the world—runs though the lives of all successful people.
  • Linda A. Hill, et al.’s Collective Genius: The perpetual organizational challenge is to develop an organization capable of inventing over and over. Outdated, direction-setting leadership can work well when the resolution to a problem is known and forthright. The role of a leader of innovation is not to set a vision and stimulate others to follow it. It’s to create a cooperative spirit that is enthusiastic and capable to innovate. Collective Genius addresses (1) how leaders generate a willingness to do the hard work of innovation, and (2) how leaders can generate the ability to do the hard work of innovation.
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How to Feel More Optimistic

  • Feel More Optimistic No matter what happens, you’re not a victim. It’s up to you to determine your response.
  • Embrace your life’s purpose. Make your own unique contribution that turns your environment into a better place and fulfills you.
  • Make the reality your reality.
  • Don’t be distracted by the overwhelmingly negative news around you.
  • Don’t look back too often. Keep yourself open to today’s new opportunities.
  • Listen to your friends and loved ones, but don’t become dependent on what others think of you.
  • Be grateful for everything life has given you and for every step forward you can take.
  • Make sure you laugh often. Do not take yourself too seriously.
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Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

Costco’s Winning Business Model Strategy

Costco Logo: Costco's Winning Business Model Strategy

Costco has built a devoted foundation of customers with low prices and workers with high wages. The discount warehouse services industry is highly competitive. There are several warehouse operators across the United States and Canada that offer similar merchandise quality, selection, and price.

At the end of financial year 2015, Costco managed 480 membership warehouse clubs in the United States, 89 in Canada, 36 in Mexico, 27 in the United Kingdom, 23 in Japan, 11 in Taiwan, 12 in Korea, 7 in Australia, and one in Spain. Base and executive memberships cost $55 and $110 per year, respectively. The company operates 557 warehouse stores, 406 of which are situated in 40 U.S. States and Puerto Rico. The rest are in Canada, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and the United Kingdom.

The internet has made it immeasurably easier for shoppers to chase for the latest deal—and a lot more demanding for brick-and- mortar retailers to command customer loyalty. However, Costco has managed to resist the tendency—with only 3% of its retail sales occurring from e-commerce. In reality, it outclasses other retailers when it comes to dependably increasing sales from its millions of loyal shoppers.

At the warehouse stores, forklifts relocate pallets into racks such that the first time an item is actually touched is when the consumer contacts into the shelf to collect the item and places it into their shopping cart.

Costco's Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Costco’s Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Costco’s objective has been to increase sales while cutting long-term costs (by trimming freight expenses, scaling its merchandise, negotiating prices with vendors, and reducing packaging) with the intention that it can pass those savings down to members. Costco has said that its “rule of thumb is to give 80% to 90% back to the customer.” Those efforts have paid off, with memberships reaching an all-time peak of 81 million members in 2015.

Shiny steel caskets exhibited amongst the stacks of snow tires and pallets of heavy applesauce, rose-scented toilet tissue, mentholated shaving cream, and mild-flavored salsa. However, in time, people may grow familiarized to the sight. By including these special deal items to the cart, the total spend at the cash register expands. This behavior diverges severely with the type of consumer who has the self-control to fill up on everyday consumables at everyday low prices. The latter type of consumer does win in the end even if the cost of the membership is factored into the equation. As one (rather demonstrative) instance, when reviewing the 1999 Kroger-Fred Meyer merger, the FTC vindicated this definition by asserting,

Supermarkets compete primarily with other supermarkets that provide one-stop shopping for food and grocery products. Supermarkets primarily base their food and grocery prices on the prices of food and grocery products sold at nearby supermarkets. Supermarkets do not regularly price-check food and grocery products sold at other types of stores and do not significantly change their food and grocery prices in response to prices at other types of stores. Most consumers shopping for food and grocery products at supermarkets are not likely to shop elsewhere in response to a small price increase by supermarkets.

What Makes Costco Successful

What Makes Costco Successful

Renewals of Costco’s $55 annual memberships stand at a remarkable 91%—a record high. On the word of financial analysts, the low price of memberships and a stable return of loyal members is what sets Costco apart from big box and department store retailers which persist to fight for market-share gains in a altering landscape of increased competition from online retailers led by Amazon. Costco’s ability to dependably drive increases in traffic is a key differentiator.

Everything at Costco is continually being evaluated for productivity. Costco manages a mix of distribution facilities to accomplish the overall objective of operating with an efficient supply chain. The company lately substituted the form of their milk cartons to get rid of the empty space at the top. They can fill thinner jugs all the way to the top, so they can get more gallons onto the same amount of space on a freight truck. The loss-leader abilities of Costco’s business model ought to endure to drive market share advances over the long term. However, it is possible that incumbent grocers could react to Costco, Sam’s Club, or Walmart Supercenter entry along one or more of these non-price dimensions, in which case their prices could continue unaffected or rise.

Costco’s philosophy is to provide its members with quality goods at the most competitive prices. It does not concentrate its efforts on maximizing prices in the short term, but instead focuses to maintain a perception among its members of “pricing authority,” or constantly providing the most competitive prices. This question is actually quite complex in that it has multiple answers that boil down to individual consumer behavior. The reality is that Costco has perfected a purchasing strategy known as the “treasure hunt” which means that there are always new items and tempting deals that extemporaneously come and go. The consumer who walks every aisle knows what I mean by this because they are subconsciously on the treasure hunt.

During the next 10 years, warehouse openings should move the number of primary cardholders to 65 million–75 million, up from 45 million in the most current fiscal year. In spite of having warehouses that spanned three acres, and piles of merchandise stacked to the ceiling, Costco carried only 4,000 carefully chosen products at a time. Three-quarters of the items were such “basic” products as batteries, laundry detergent, and instant noodles. Then there were the “high-end” name-brand products, which might be stocked at Costco one day and then gone the next.

Costco Employees Happier with Wages and Benefits

Costco Employees Happier with Wages and Benefits

While Walmart and Target just recently began increasing take-home pay for their employees, Costco has been an industry trendsetter for years. With starting hourly pay at about $11.50 and a company average of $22 per hour, Costco’s compensation costs beat the competition. Costco has asserted that paying employees well can be more advantageous eventually by keeping turnover low and capitalizing on employee efficiency. Actually, turnover stands at about 10% compared with the industry average of 55%. For employees who have been there more than one year turnover drops to just 6%. Employees rarely leave: The company turnover rate is 5% among employees who have been there over a year, and less than 1% among the executive ranks. Costco management has asserted that loyal employees bring about better customer service.

Costco purchases the majority of their merchandise promptly from manufacturers and routes it through a network of cross-docking facilities, which act as merchant consolidation points to move goods in full truckload volumes to the stores. Sam’s Club carries about 4900 items and Costco around 4000; by comparison, the normal grocery store carries approximately 50,000 and the average Walmart about 100,000. Furthermore, the shopping experience at warehouse clubs is unusual—members pay a fee for access to goods stacked high and sold in wholesale quantities in low-amenity environments. Warehouse clubs are very spartan in their accommodations. They do not bag consumers’ purchases, and a club employee checks all shoppers’ carts and receipts on exit.

Secret to Costco's Success Lies in Supply Chain Efficiency

The Secret to Costco’s Success Lies in Supply Chain Efficiency

Big-box retailers Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale, and Walmart, along with full-service and fast food restaurants, are significant contributors to the nation’s obesity outbreak. Costco continues to productively increase its businesses, on account of its low prices and robust customer loyalty. Its ability to provide quality products, at a reasonable price, should appeal to most consumers in North America and around the world. While competition in the market remains ferocious, Costco’s leadership is taking the right steps to guide the company into the future. Over the years, Costco added departments, growing further than the traditional discount warehouse offerings. A large majority of the stores featured a drugstore, an optical-dispensing center, one-hour photo services, a food court, and the ever admired and low-priced hot-dog stands. More than half-offered hearing-aid centers and a handful were equipped with print shops and copy centers. More generally, not all big-box chains are created equal. The big-box retail literature has fixated almost exclusively on Walmart, examining its effects on a wide range of outcomes, including prices, labor market consequences, small business activity, time use, obesity, and social and cultural pointers.

Using city-level panel grocery price data matched with an exclusive data set on Walmart and warehouse club locations, customers find that Costco entry is associated with higher grocery prices at obligatory retailers and that the effect is sturdiest in cities with small populations and high grocery store densities. The competitive response need not be to reduce prices; conversely, as segmented-market models with a mix of brand-loyal and price-sensitive consumers have shown that in some cases incumbents can increase prices in response to a low-cost entrant.

The lesson to be learned from Costco for every manufacturer, distributor, or retailer, regardless of industry, is to figure out how to eliminate the fingerprints within the respective supply chain and within internal processes.

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Posted in Business and Strategy

Lalitha Mahal Palace, Mysore

Lalitha Mahal Palace, Mysore

Lalitha Mahal Palace is one of the most gorgeous and splendid heritage buildings in Mysore, perhaps in Karnataka itself, next only to the Maharaja’s palaces at Mysore and Bangalore.

Mysore being a princely state under the British, many distinguished foreign visitors used to visit Mysore for numerous purposes. They used to stay in Mysore palace itself. But this was not suitable for the stay of foreign dignitaries for obvious reasons. Hence the then ruling king Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV thought of constructing a building wholly for the foreign guests, where they would be more at home. Naturally he thought of a European classical building rather than an Indian palace.

The Maharaja immediately commissioned a famous architect by name E.W Fritchley. He selected a vast site near the foot of the Chamundi Hill, far away from the noise and pollution of the city. The magnificent building was completed in 1931 under the close guidance of the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV at a cost of about thirteen lakhs of rupees.

The building is an imposing two-storied magnificent structure. The projecting square porch at the ground floor and slightly projecting first floor porch with a trefoil pattern at the roof level are very pleasing. Both the floors have twin Ionic columns, eight on either side of the entrance which give a pleasing effect to the edifice. Two tiered domes are placed on all the four sides with one each at the middle. However, the most striking dome is the three tiered one which is just above the circular entrance hall. Actually it is at a great height and dominates the entire area including the elevation. One lakh bulbs were used to illuminate the palace on weekends and explained about the facilities for foreign tourists at the palace.

Magnificent Interiors with woodwork, stone work, or stucco at the Lalitha Mahal Palace Mysore

Though planned by a foreigner, the craftsmen were all local who had attained great mastery in the art of construction—be it woodwork, stone work, or stucco. This is evident from the richly-laid ornamental motifs on walls and ceilings, wall panels, window shutters and door Jambs. The imported tiles and some fixtures add a touch of royalty to the building. The balustrade staircase just facing the entrance branches off to right and left to reach the first floor is a pretty piece of Italian marble. Thus from top to bottom and from one end to another is an epitome of royalty. Even international guests are amazed at this dream-like edifice. Today it is a prestigious hotel of the government of India and attracts discerning tourists from abroad as well as within the country. Even important distinguished persons of the government also stay here, and enjoy the touch of royalty of the bygone ages of Mysore.

Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel is owned by the State of Karnataka and has been leased out to India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC.) The Lease Agreement is valid till 2023. There is a particular clause in the agreement which clearly states that “in case of a possible disinvestment, the hotel shall be given back to the State at the book value.” Hence the Management of ITDC have two choices: Manage the property till 2023 and then hand it over to the State Tourism Department or hand it over to the State right away at the book value. In case they feel they can’t run the hotel, the State of Karnataka is free to do whatever they want thereafter.

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The Expressed Doctrine of Buddhism & The Four Noble Truths

The Expressed Doctrine of Buddhism & The Four Noble Truths

Buddhism is a family of religious and metaphysical positions that are in some way originated from the instructions of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. There is always a vulnerability of over-generalizing the homogeneousness of Buddhist views, but I attempt neither a comprehensive nor a comprehensive examination of Buddhist thought; I merely need to specify something of the Buddhist approach to the self. Prominently, I say little about the Four Noble Truths, even though Buddhism is chiefly a hands-on philosophy, not because they are inconsequential, but because my interest is predominantly with whether autonomy as an educational aim is consistent with a Buddhist notion of the self.

Eight eminent Brahmins who examined the birth of the prince declared that he would be a universal ruler or would retire from the worldly matters and become a Buddha. At the age of sixteen Prince Siddhartha married Princess Yasodhara and lived a content married life for thirteen years in deluxe conditions created by his father to shield him from the realities of life. However while being driven in his horse carriage outside the palace, on four subsequent days he saw an old man, a sickly man, a corpse, and an ascetic, four signs, which changed his worldly views, and he renounced the world in search of the Truth.

In the texts Buddha’s dogma is represented as a body of knowledge, expressed in schemes and rational sequences of ideas accessible to normal consciousness. To be sure, this familiarity has its source in an enhanced state of consciousness, in meditation. Though its inevitability springs from an extramundane vision of total self-extinction, the content of this certainty seems to be accessible to the normal understanding. Buddhist institution challenges and enriches the limited sense of realism that takes superiority in the dialogue between Buddhism and science. This challenge needs to be appreciated in order to portray Buddhism an equal partner in the dialogue rather than the measly object of scientific critique.

Buddha’s lessons communicate not suprasensory involvement but a body of rational thought. They divulge a love of concepts, abstractions, enumerations, and combinations, fully consonant with the Indian philosophical institutions on which it draws. But though Buddha’s doctrine is accessible to normal consciousness, it cannot be operative without suprasensory experience. The rational thinking of our finite mind is not an adequate vessel for it. The core of the doctrine is observed only by meditation, and rational formulation can give no more than a pale silhouette or intimation of it. The source and context of this doctrine must not be forgotten as we now turn to its simple rational expression.

The Four Noble Truths

Buddha’s vision of existence is expressed in the truth of pain:

  1. “This is the truth of pain: birth is painful, old age is painful, sickness is painful. Contact with unpleasant things is painful, not getting what one wishes is painful.
  2. “This is the truth of the cause of pain: that craving which leads to rebirth, combined with pleasure and lust, namely the craving for sensual pleasure, the craving for existence, the craving for nonexistence.
  3. “This is the truth of the cessation of pain: the cessation without a remainder of that craving, abandonment, forsaking, release, non-attainment.
  4. “This is the truth of the way that leads to the cessation of pain: it is the Noble Eightfold Path.”

This insight springs, not from observation of the particulars of existence, but from a vision of the whole. It imitates not a doubtful mood, but a serene insight—for in knowledge lies redemption. Placidly Buddha describes the state of presence in ever-new variations.

Buddha's vision of existence is expressed in the truth of pain (The Four Noble Truths)

Since the beginning of the twentieth century mindfulness has been positioned at the core of modern Buddhism and viewed by many contemporary interpreters as an essential component of Buddhist doctrine and practices. More recently, the practice of mindfulness has become speedily popularized, radically secularized and removed from its Buddhist context, employed mainly as a remedial tool or applied for the improvement of well-being.

The first half of the eighteenth century saw the discovery and circulation of sacred texts (in the three major languages of Buddhism—Pali, Sanskrit, and Tibetan) that ignited the European imagination and thereby inaugurated the linguistic undertaking to appreciate these languages. These discoveries themselves occurred in the background of economic colonial expansion (in contradistinction to earlier phases of interaction governed by theological colonialism) followed by European nations in every region of the world, but the push was particularly deepened across the vast Pacific and onto the Indian subcontinent.

This paper examines the thought of mindfulness using an historical lens, aiming to identify some of the main parameters and consequent implications involved in the changes and developments of this Buddhist contemplative method—from its early beginnings over 2,500 years ago to the present day. Distinct attention is given to the historical progresses in the colonial period, when various Buddhist traditions encountered the main European discourses of the time, resulting in the birth of modern Buddhism.

Transcend Ignorance by Knowledge

The Buddha taught that he heart of the matter is that men, like all living creatures, are blind, ignorant, misled by the things to which they cling, by what never is, but is forever caught up in absolute transience, in coming and going, in never-ending becoming.

A ‘bodhisattva’ is one who has attained the highest level of Buddhist accomplishment prior to nirvana. The bodhisattva is a teacher who foregoes final liberation in order to help the rest of us to accomplish liberation. This concept is part of the Mahayana or ‘greater vehicle’ tradition of Buddhism. The idea is contemplated less selfish than the ideal of the arhat, who pursues liberation individually.

The aim of Buddhist practice is to be rid of the delusion of ego and thus free oneself from the fetters of this commonplace world. One who is successful in doing so is said to have surmount the round of rebirths and to have achieved enlightenment. This is the final goal in most Buddhist traditions, though in some cases (particularly though not exclusively in some Pure Land schools in China and Japan) the attainment of an definitive paradise or a heavenly abode is not clearly distinguished from the attainment of release.

Thus there is only one means of liberation: to surpass ignorance by knowledge. But nothing can be changed by insight into particulars here and there. It is only the essential state of vision in which we see the whole that transforms and saves. Salvation lies in liberation from attachment to things, in release from all vain craving-these deliberate insight into the condition and origin of this whole existence and the means of withdrawing it. Ignorance itself, blindness, attachment to the finite, are the source of this existence; perfect knowledge is its annulment.

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Posted in Faith and Religion

How to Create a Great, Happy, Satisfied Workplace

How to Create a Great Workplace

How does any company, small or large, gain competitive advantage in a crowded and highly competitive marketplace? Instinct tells us to watch what our competitors do and try to the same things better. But, because competitors are also trying to get better, you won’t gain much from that approach. Though counterintuitive and less comfortable, a more productive approach is to be different. By taking that tack, your activities are less likely to end up as commodities, differentiated only by price.

Several companies have taken their basic assets and by rearranging them, have created unique business propositions and a distinctive presence. These companies have made specialization decisions that enabled them to align their assets and activities differently.

First, there is Southwest Airlines. Their strategy is to compete with the automobile as a means of intercity transportation. To that end, they serve short routes with frequent departures. To keep costs low, they limit themselves to one type of aircraft—the Boeing 737. Because they have the industry’s largest 737 fleet, they buy or lease on very attractive terms. Further, they serve no meals, offer no seat assignments, and do not transfer baggage to other airlines. They avoid airports with high landing fees or frequent delays. This enables them to make quicker turns and fly more legs each day, resulting in lower fares. Today they are profitable.

Second, Enterprise Rent-A-Car has shot from relative anonymity to become a leader among car rental companies. They achieved this not by copying Hertz and Avis, but by specializing in a different market. Instead of competing for airport rentals, they aimed at the insurance and car repair markets. They cultivated both by giving superior service and tailoring their activities to individuals who have lost the use of their cars for a period. No one else was doing that.

Edward Jones experience was shaped by just few factors. The first was the insights Ted Jones. Unlike his father, Edward D. Jones Sr., whose vision was to be a department store of finance, offering every product and service, Ted saw a vast underserved market of serious, long-term investors. Instead of offering everything in one market, he wanted to distribute a limited range of highly reliable long-term investments in many markets. His vision was different.

The second factor was the decision in the early 1970s to codify Edward Jones’s beliefs and strategy. Edward Jones had a successful business model with 120 representatives, but also had only $1,005,000 of capital in a business that was based on capital. Edward Jones had to specialize in areas that were not capital intensive.

The thinking of Peter Drucker guided Edward Jones. He teaches that every business must answer three questions:

  1. What is our business?
  2. Who is our customer?
  3. What does the customer consider value?

With so little capital, Edward Jones couldn’t compete for the highly profitable institutional or underwriting business. Knowing it was impossible to do it well, Edward Jones chose not to do it at all. Edward Jones were making trade-offs to align its resources to serve one customer one way. As Michael Porter points out, you define trade-offs not in terms of what you choose to do, but what you choose not to do. At that point, Edward Jones had begun to make ourselves different.

Edward Jones

How to Create a Great Workplace

Here are 10 trade-offs made by Edward Jones. None made was unique. None suggests moral superiority. However, each makes that company a little different and together, they make us so different that few competitors even want to emulate Edward Jones.

  1. Edward Jones’s initial decisions addressed the Drucker questions. Edward Jones were in the securities industry serving the serious, long-term “buy-and-keep” investor. The value Edward Jones sought to add was to help our customers achieve their financial goals through sound advice and a face-to-face personal relationship. In doing so, Edward Jones chose not to serve large institutions, or frequent traders because few, if any, traders are consistently successful over time. Edward Jones chose to forego these markets, one promising large commissions and the other, and frequent commissions. However, they were realistic decisions, knowing that others were not lining up to offer personal service to smaller investors.
  2. If Edward Jones were to serve one customer, Edward Jones felt they should focus on one profit center—the investment representative (IR) who directly serves the customer. They wanted to closely align their activities with their customers’ interest. That notion prohibited profit centers in their trading and syndicate departments. One profit center also meant no manager would get an override commission from the work of their investment representatives. Each of these decisions was at odds with industry practice.
  3. Edward Jones chose not to manufacture its own products. As distributors of a number of mutual funds, it would have been possible to start selling Edward Jones’s own funds. By offering house brands, they would capture the manufacturer’s profit. However, by concentrating on the products offered by preferred vendors, Edward Jones still had the best investment managers working for customers.
  4. Rather than try to lure licensed and trained IRs from competitors, Edward Jones chose to grow its own. Since Edward Jones couldn’t pay competitors’ brokers a bonus to come work for them, Edward Jones dedicated ourselves to on-going training to prepare IRs to serve one type of customer—the individual investor, one way—with sound long-term investments, and in one format—a community-based office. This was and is Edward Jones’s only business. For training Edward Jones were eager to invest capital. Today, using specialized materials and customized facilities, Edward Jones prepares 200 new IR candidates each month. Edward Jones also provides ongoing training to all 7,500 IRs and office administrators. All training is aligned to serve the needs of one customer. Training is the company’s main investment.
  5. Compliance with regulatory and industry standards is the foundation upon which all else rests. Again, alignment helps Edward Jones with their task. They see IRs as artists. Each is given a canvas and a palette of paints. The canvas is compliance. One may not stray beyond its boundaries. Here, the power of technology and the judgment of associates are applied exhaustively to oversee and monitor all activity. The IR’ s palette, meanwhile, contains the products and service Edward Jones want to offer and excludes those they don’t. Within those boundaries they create their masterpieces. The most important aspect of compliance, however, is the sense of responsibility built into the local nature of Edward Jones’s business and the face-to-face relationship. When an IR meets a customer at church, the club, at scout meetings, or in the grocery store, the customers are real people. In seeking alignment with the needs of the serious individual investor, Edward Jones closes off potentially profitable options. But, by specializing, Edward Jones increase its leverage, offering tailored services to the one market they choose to serve. Also, by avoiding compromises they sharpen our image, which is our brand.
  6. To reduce internal competition, Edward Jones ties all bonuses to the firm’s success. Every IR has a direct financial incentive to help, rather than compete with, fellow IRs. Since this model attracts high-achievers, if Edward Jones were to set up incentives that rewarded them for outperforming one another, the resulting conflicts would be destructive. So, Edward Jones never reward the top 10 percent or top 100. All incentives are inclusive. If you achieve, your reward never comes at the expense of a colleague.
  7. Since none of Edward Jones’s products or services is tangible, nearly every associate at our firm is a knowledge worker. Their screens could contain calculus or video games. The only thing that matters is results. Because knowledge work defines the worker’s identity, the reputation of the company and its work style are crucial. Both contribute to the worker’s self-image and self-worth. Since most knowledge workers live to work, not work to live, they aspire to provide a collegial workplace. Edward Jones retain a dress code. They expect civility. They also respect the contribution of each associate.
  8. Edward Jones loves technology. Technology enables Edward Jones to deliver excellent service to more than 7,000 locations in 50 states, Canada, and the UK. For some financial services firms, the Internet presented a dilemma—should they offer online trading? For Edward Jones the decision was easy. In society, about 15 percent of the population likes to do it themselves. Since our value added is the IR-customer relationship, Edward Jones chose not to establish channel that would compete directly with IRs. Instead, Edward Jones’s internet site supports the IR-customer relationship.
  9. Edward Jones have always had heroes. Peter Drucker teaches Edward Jones how to respect the dignity and contribution of each worker. Michael Porter affirms that it’s crucial to be different, to sustain competitive advantage. John Kotter teaches that a growing organization requires many leaders. Warren Buffett shows us the power of principles and discipline in investing. Southwest Airlines shows that enormous potential exists in markets that others reject. Wal-Mart proves that you can grow without compromising service or profit margins.
  10. Edward Jones chose to remain a partnership. It will only become a corporation if they have a compelling need to do so. Because Edward Jones started with so little capital, it created a model that minimizes the need for capital-intensive items, such as bricks and mortar, product manufacture, large inventories, or proprietary trading. Edward Jones limits spending. Thus, as a partnership, Edward Jones have funded our expansion internally.

You need to find way to set yourself apart, even if those differences seem minor. Align your activities so customers and prospects can recognize your unique business proposition. By striving to be better at what you already are the best at doing, unlimited growth is possible.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Mantra for Spiritual Transformation

A Mani stone enscribed with the six-syllabled Buddhist mantra of Avalokiteshvara

Mantras are sounds, syllables, and words as the source of spiritual transformation.

One of the primary goals for those who practice Hinduism and Buddhism is to experience a transformation of consciousness through particular acts of the mind and body. A mantra is a vocalized or written repetition of syllables, words, or phrases that helps to focus the mind and body in order to achieve this transformation. In some mantras, the words themselves become an action that can bring about the transformation. The sound or words of a mantra are representative of an ultimate reality that is meaningful beyond the understanding of the person who is pronouncing them. By performing a mantra, a person is able to place their mind and will in line with the ultimate reality.

The most recognizable mantra is the sound or syllable “Om.” According to the the Upanishads part of the Hindu Vedas, written between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE-the syllable “Om” represents all of creation. Meditating while uttering this syllable brings the subject closer to realizing the connectedness of all things in the universe. Mantras are also meaningful in the Buddhist tradition, in which they have been expanded beyond vocalized sounds to include written language and characters. As Buddhism spread to China, the writing of mantras became more important as a form of meditation. In either form, vocalized or written, repetition of mantras is a common form of meditating on their fundamental truth.

The idea of a mantra is important for understanding the way that a person’s mind can be intentionally and completely focused on a certain task. Mantras are particularly useful in religious practices that strive to push the self beyond its own consciousness. Outside of religious traditions, the term “mantra” has come to refer to any phrase that is commonly repeated, typically one that contains an essential truth or guiding principle.

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Posted in Faith and Religion