Eventually rising!

Draft version 0.18

Last quarter, I took a Marketing class at Stanford called Global Entrepreneurial Marketing (GEM – MS&E 271). The first exam was a strategic thinking paper (STP) that required students to analyze themselves as a startup using a marketing toolkit called DEDART which stands for:

  • Diagnosis Where is this market in its life cycle? How attractive is the market opportunity?
  • Experience How will customers experience the benefits of the new product?
  • Decisions What is your marketing (or business) plan?
  • Analysis Why is your plan the best way to go?
  • Reality Test What are the risks of your plan, and how can we manage those risks?

It was an awesome class and I learned a lot of valuable entrepreneurial lessons from great teachers and professionals while working with a talented team of students.

As part of my STP for the GEM class, I wrote about a mathematical model that I have been thinking about as a bonus exhibit. This post is about that model which I called “Eventually Rising“. Here goes:

Bonus Exhibit I: Eventually Rising 

Given my engineering background, I often like to use mathematical concepts to illustrate my life view. I view constant change in life like a sinusoidal function that keeps falling and rising over time. A lot of people hate change and try to prevent it from happening, or they deny it or try to stop it once it happens. However, as John C. Maxwell once said “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” Success and failure are two examples of change, but unlike change, success and failure are not constant and they are not inevitable.

While change is inevitable, it’s not always forced upon us. Most of the time, we are the primary change inducers in our own lives. The sine and cosine functions are two functions that alternate between a peak positive value equals 1 (maxima – ultimate positive change) and a bottom negative value equaling -1 (minima – ultimate negative change). We all want more successes (maximas) and less failures (minimas) through our actions.

Our actions cause change to the world around us for better or for worse. In an ideal world, we could ensure that change is always positive and all outcomes of our actions are desirable. The world of mathematics offers a great function that represents this ideal world and that is the tangent function. The tangent function is a strictly monotonically increasing function over the period [-π/2, π/2] or [-180°, 180°]. Check Bonus Exhibit III for the definition of monotonic and non-monotonic functions.

Source: http://goo.gl/erVwO

I especially like the fact that the tangent function is the result of dividing two constantly changing functions that results in two exaggerated values -∞ and +∞ on the edges . We often hear, someone changed a 180 degrees and turned his or her life around. That’s exactly what the tangent function does, it goes from the absolute infinite bottom (-∞) to the absolute unattainable maximum (+∞) over a 180 degrees.

In Reid Hoffman and Ben Casanocha’s book, “The Startup of YOU“, they talk about introducing small risks to one’s life on regular basis to build up more resilience and achieve stability through low levels of volatility. That is the division of two changing functions to achieve growth 🙂 Its exactly like dividing the sine function by the cosine function. If we introduce changes to our lives at the right frequency and at the right magnitude, we will get a net positive constant growth. In reality, getting it right every single time is probably impossible. But if you if we introduce small changes to your life as a habit, you will see a lot of benefit.

We have to be careful though. Simply changing sin(x) into sin(-x) will result in a monotonically decreasing function (the exact opposite of what we want):


* sin(-x) / cos(x) using http://www.onlinefunctiongrapher.com/

Or if you change the frequency of the changes, for example by dividing sin(-2x) by cos(0.2x), you will get a very bumpy ride:


* sin(-2x) / cos(0.2x) using http://www.onlinefunctiongrapher.com/

We don’t live in an ideal world and we are never really at -∞ and we will never reach +∞. However, the lesson that I do take from that ideal model is that we should always strive to be growing. Its hard to be monotonically increasing, its probably impossible to be strictly monotonically increasing, but we can be eventually increasing. We are not always able to induce the right amount of change at the right time. Sometimes, change is induced upon us in ways that we have no control over. By investing in yourself, learning new things, gaining new skills, and making new connections as a habit, you maximize the chances of introducing the right change at the right time. When undesirable changes happen, you will take a fall. Those undesirable changes can be external (an earthquake for example) or internal (we all make mistakes).

That’s the math and philosophy behind the term “Eventually Rising“. The following image is a good visual representation of an eventually rising plot:


* Source: this site was tracking Google share value since inception

By focusing on our own constant growth, we may be able to neutralize the undesirable change around us and turn it around to be rising just like the tangent function. By constantly taking any potential failure and flipping it a 180 degrees and making a success out of it.

Every company, large, medium or small, publicly traded or a private startup has its ups and downs. The same applies to people. No one is always winning or always losing. You want the net average over time to be heading up.

Bonus Exhibit II: Functions of constant change (sine, cosine, and tangent)

The Sine and Cosine functions represent the inevitable and constant changes in our lives.

Source: http://goo.gl/erVwO

The tangent function = Sin(x) / Cos(x) over the period [-π/2, π/2] or [-180°, 180°] is a strictly monotonically increasing function.

Bonus Exhibit III: Monotonic and nonmonotonic functions 

“A function  is called monotonically increasing if for all  and  such that  one has , so  preserves the order (see the left figure below). Likewise, a function is called monotonically decreasing if, whenever , then , so it reverses the order (see the right figure). If the order  in the definition of monotonicity is replaced by the strict order , then one obtains a stronger requirement. A function with this property is called strictly increasing. Again, by inverting the order symbol, one finds a corresponding concept called strictly decreasing. Functions that are strictly increasing or decreasing are one-to-one (because for  not equal to , either  or  and so, by monotonicity, either  or , thus  is not equal to .)” *Source: this Wikipedia page 

The following figure is a monotonically increasing function. It is strictly increasing on the left and right while just non-decreasing in the middle.

*Source: this Wikipedia page 

The following figure is a monotonically decreasing function. It is strictly decreasing on the left and right while just non-increasing in the middle.

* Source: this Wikipedia page 

The following plot compares a nonmonotonic function to a monotonic function:

A different view on Religion vs Atheism

Last year, I participated in a little contest that was on prizes.org. The Prizes.org site was an experiment that did not attract enough users so its shutting down. I figured I would make a post out of one of the contests that I participated in and won on the site.

One university student called Gabe posted the following contest questions about religion vs atheism:

Why are there so many people who cling to Religion? Why do they refuse to believe science? Why do the majority of scientists choose to believe there is no god? What has kept Religion around for so long?

The contest had 137 entries and generated a lot of comments and discussions back and forth between users. I took a stab at explaining my viewpoint and submitted an entry. This post is a copy of what I posted on Prizes.org.

I recommend reading this post with an open mind and try to put yourself in the mindset of the opposing side. I am a practicing Muslim and that definitely influenced my viewpoint, but I tried to be as objective as possible. Here is what I wrote in reply to the questions raised by Gabe:

I want to take a different approach. To start off, let’s agree on basic terminology and a few assumptions so that we don’t go around in infinite circles.

0- Theories are either false or true until proven to be one or the other. Proofs are measurable, repeatable, and consistent at all times. Ideally, facts do not need proofs (for example, humans need to breathe to stay alive, that is a fact that does not need to be proven – you would hope). Throughout history, humans were not able to accept many facts until they were proven beyond reasonable doubt (for example, Earth is not the center of the universe). We need to differentiate between facts and theories. Facts are proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are true. Any theory that is unproven or could hold the slightest possibility of being untrue is not a fact.

In my analysis, I will refrain from comparing science and religion, since many scientists are religious. I will compare Atheism and Religion to be more accurate.

1- Religion has not been able to prove the existence of God. Religion asserts the existence of God as a fact although since its not proven, using our terms above, the existence of God is a theory.

2- Atheism has not been able to prove the non-existence of God. Atheist scientists assert the non-existence of God as a fact because they have not been able to prove God’s existence. The non-existence of God has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. So again using our terms above, the non-existence of God is a theory not a fact.

Religion tries to address to a fundamental trait of human nature. Monotheistic religions referred to this trait as the devil. Modern Self-Help literature, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism referred to this as mastering one’s own desires and impulses.

For example, we all know that we should exercise and eat healthy. A healthy lifestyle is proven to reduce the risk of many diseases and improve the quality of life. That is a scientific fact. Not a theory. However, many people do not eat healthy and do not exercise despite knowing 100% that they should.

Given that long intro, here are is my attempt to address your questions: 

Why are there so many people who cling to Religion?

Because there are things we can’t explain. Deep down inside, many people feel that religion re-enforces the basic goodness in human nature. That goodness you feel when you see a child smiling or a family reunion. Universally accepted goodness is what I am referring to. Fairness, justice, mercy, moderation, loyalty, honesty are good values in all cultures. Religion re-enforces these values. At the same time, Religion tries to regulate human emotions and actions. Succumbing to greed, lust, or violence would cause societies to break and even self-destruct.

Why do they refuse to believe science?

Science has not proven anything concrete about the existence of God. So religious people are not really refusing anything (again using our terms above).

Why do the majority of scientists choose to believe there is no god?

There is no proof. Scientist do not like to bet so much in their lives on mere theories. Many scientists are practical and until there is a solid proof, why bother!

What has kept Religion around for so long?

Religion helps many people keep their lives balanced. The optimistic view of religion sees religion for its intentions. In that optimistic view, the intentions or objectives of religion are to balance human life and make the world a better place.

The pessimistic view sees religion by looking at the actions of people in the name of religion. No religion asks its followers to kill innocent people. Some followers on the other hand, unfortunately, killed many innocents in the name of their religion.

As I wrote earlier, the contest had 137 entries and many of them had good points. The comments on each entry were pretty interesting and sometimes very heated. You can check them out on the contest page (remember it will be removed soon as the Prizes.org site is shutting down).

By Moh Posted in Life

Renewal again – The 7 Challenges of 2010

Well … I guess I got hooked on renewal challenges. Except, this time around, I am facing 7 major challenges all at once. I don’t think I have been more challenged in my entire life. I’m trying to work out everyday to prevent stress from taking over.

Lately, I have been posting about a lot of things that have nothing to do with my professional life so I took my blog off from LinkedIN.

The year is coming to an end pretty soon, but between now and then, I have got more than enough to keep me busy. I would have liked to post the 7 challenges in this post, but some things, I can’t talk about yet. We have about 8 weeks left in the year. My goal is to knock out all 7 challenges by then. Unfortunately, a couple of those challenges are completely out of my control so I will do what I can with what I have.

It may all sound extremely vague, but it will all make sense once I can talk more about the challenges and the circumstances around them. All I can say for now is stay tuned for more. I promise it will be worth reading 🙂

Whats up with health insurance in this country?

I just got a letter from my health insurance company requiring itemization of all the medical services I have received in the hospital for the last 2 surgeries I got. The amount that was not covered by the insurance is $230,575.18

This is not the first time this happens. When I got my surgeries two years ago, similar thing happened and the hospital wanted me to pay about $200,000. This is plain outrageous, what is the point of health insurance if every time you get a real procedure done, you have to fight to the nail to get the insurance to pay for it. Last time after fighting for months and involving several parties, I was able to reduce the amount I had to pay from $200K to $14K. It was a long frustrating and stressful process and I really don’t want to go through that again.

I am trying to remain calm. I have worked this out before so I can do it again … its just extremely frustrating. I may even need another procedure done … what then … another $100K… sighs

Growing up never stops

When we were kids, we were always asked what you would like to be when you grow up as if growing up happens once and stops right there. Whenever I think that I have matured enough and that I have reached a stable unshakable character foundation, something happens that proves me wrong. It seems like a never ending process. You are never done with growing up and there is always room for improvement (just like there is always room for dessert :). The moment you stop improving, life gets ahead of you and you are left behind.

By Moh Posted in Life

New challenge

End of July, I had surgery to take the shunt out of my head. After that in August I got another procedure called Endoscopic third ventriculostomy. Overall, I feel like I have recovered quickly but I have fallen behind on working out and my Japanese. Things at work are getting busier than ever and now I’m managing all of North America and Japan by myself.

Beginning of July, I ended a 3 months challenge to improve health, work, and Japanese. I feel like the surgery set me back months behind. I’m at 170 lbs now (10 pounds more than my target weight), have not touched Japanese in weeks, and work is super busy. I may sound negative, but really I think overall things are actually going pretty well considering that people usually take many months to recover from brain surgeries. Mostly, I’m frustrated cause I couldn’t work out. Working out really helps me stay focused and makes me more productive at work. I even sleep/eat/and function better when I have a steady consistent workout schedule.

I just got a green light from my doctor to start working out – lightly however – but its a start. So I decided to set a new challenge. By Nov 10th, 2010 (إن شاء الله), I need to get back to my target 160 lbs weight. I missed registering for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test this year and the next time its offered is in July 2011. This gives me time to improve and maybe even test at a higher level. As for work, just gotta be on top of things and come up with ways to allocate my time carefully. I’m also trying to hire another account manager to help reduce the load.

I won’t record my progress online on daily basis but I will be posting about it as I go along to make sure I stay on track.

End of the 3 months challenge

I started a 3 months challenge on April 12th with three goals; health/weight, work, and Japanese. I’m happy to announce that I’m ending the challenge a week early and starting a new one. Yesterday I weighed myself and was 160 LBS. Now I have to keep the weight off and continue to work out and stay healthy.

As for work, lots of good changes but nothing public yet. Will be writing an update about that pretty soon. Here is a picture from the conference that I just attended:

The Japanese improvement part really kicked my butt. Trying to learn 10 new Kanji everyday was tough. I have another trip to Japan end of August and at that time, I hope to be able to give a technical presentation in Japanese. I will have a translator but my goal is to give one third of the presentation in Japanese by myself. Also I’m aiming to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test end of the year. If I prepare enough, I will take level 2. The backup plan is to take level 3 which is a little easier depending on work, vacation, travel…etc.

Overall, I really like the idea of tracking progress on daily basis and will continue to do that in general.

June 6th – Day 36

This is a summary of the 90 days challenge that I started a while back. The challenge covered 3 areas; health/weight, work, and Japanese.

My current weight is 167LBS. Need to lose 7 more pounds. Losing the first set of pounds was relatively straight forward, just work out and eat healthy. Now even though I have been eating good and working out regularly my weight is fluctuating between 166LBS and 170LBS. I may have reached a balance point where I need to go beyond the regular working out/eating healthy routine. I gotta get hungry and watch my calorie intake 🙂

Work is going well. With E3 coming up, we have been busy preparing for it. Also a couple of trips coming up end of June and mid July. Those trips usually totally mess up my challenge schedule. So I figure I will extend the challenge deadline whenever I have a trip or any other emergencies.

Kanji is the hardest part of the challenge and been kicking my butt. Reading the Kanji is not an issue once you learn the vocab but remembering how to write it is another story. I came up with a few techniques to improve the learning process but really it comes down to putting the time to learn. The Kanji set for this week is:

強盗:ごうとう robber, mugger, robbery, burglary
強い:こわい  stiff, hard, inflexible, stubborn  
強い:つよい strong
強いる:しいる to force, to compel, to coerce
盗む:ぬすむ steal
弱い:よわい weak
犯人:はんにん criminal, offender
犯す:おかす to commit (a crime), to perpetrate, to transgress, to contravene
国境:こっきょう national or state border
越える:こえる cross over, pass through
通勤:つうきん commuting to work
勤める:つとめる to work for, be employed at
代表: だいひょう Representative
航空:こうくう aviation, flying
借金:しゃっきん debt, loan
抱え:かかえ armful, employee
抱える:かかえる to hold or carry under or in the arms; to have (esp. problems, debts, etc.); to employ; to engage; to hire; (P)
潰れる:つぶれる (v1,vi,uk) to be smashed; to become useless; to cease functioning; to go bankrupt; (P)
更生:こうせい rehabilitation; regeneration; rebirth; resuscitation; reorganization; reorganization
法:ほう (n,n-suf) law; act; principle; method; mood;
法律:ほうりつ law
律:りつ (n,abbr,n-suf,ctr) law (esp. ancient East Asian criminal code); regulation; vinaya (rules for the monastic community); Ritsu (school of Buddhism); lushi (style of Chinese poem)
建て直す:たてなおす to rebuild, reconstruct
裁判所:さいばんしょ courthouse
申し込む:もうしこむ (v5m,vt) to apply for; to make an application; to propose (marriage); to offer (mediation); to make an overture (of peace); to challenge; to lodge (objections); to request (an interview);
申す もうす (v5s,vt,hum) to be called; to say;
経営:けいえい (n,vs) management; administration; (P)
直接:ちょくせつ (adj-na,n-adv,adj-no) direct; immediate; personal; firsthand; (P)
原因:げんいん cause, origin, source
世界的: せかいてき global, international, world famous
争う:あらそう (v5u,vi) to compete; to contest; to contend; to quarrel; to argue; to dispute; to be at variance; to oppose; (usu. in negative form) to deny (e.g. evidence); (P)
争う:あらがう (v5u,vi) to go against; to fight against; to oppose; to resist; to deny
景気:けいき business, condition
自体:じたい itself
地域:ちいき area, region
抗議運動:こうぎうんどう (n) protest campaign; demonstration
抗議 こうぎ (n,vs,adj-no) protest; objection; (P)
抗 こう (pref) anti-
少なくとも: すくなくとも at least
武器:ぶき weapon, arms, ordnance
無理矢理: むりやり (adv,n,ateji) forcibly; against one’s will; (P)
無理 むり (adj-na,n,vs) unreasonable; impossible; overdoing; (P)
無 むち (adj-na,n) ignorance; (P)
無 む (n,pref) nothing; naught; nought; nil; zero; un-; non-
運動:うんどう motion, exercise
政府:せいふ government, administration
抑え込む:おさえこむ (v5m) to shut out one’s opponents; to stop the other side from scoring
抑え おさえ (n) weight (e.g. paperweight); rear guard; control; check; pressure
抑える おさえる (v1,vt) to pin something down; to hold something down; to hold something back; to stop; to restrain; to curb; to seize; to grasp; to arrest; to gain control of something; (P)
抑 そもそも (conj,uk) in the first place; to begin with; from the start; originally;
浴びる:あびる to bathe, to shower, to bask in the sun
農村:のうそん agricultural community, farm, village
貧しい:poor needy
生活:せいかつ (n,vs) living; life (one’s daily existence); livelihood; (P)
生 なま (adj-no,adj-na,n,n-pref,col,abbr,pref) raw; uncooked; fresh; natural; unedited; unprocessed; crude; unprotected (i.e. not wearing a condom); live (i.e. not recorded); inexperienced; unpolished; green; impudence; (P)
都市:とし town
差: さ difference, variation
交換し:こうかんし exchange
追い抜く: おいぬく (v5k,vt) to pass (a car); to outdistance; to outsail; to outstrip; (P)
追う:おう (v5u,vt) to chase; to run after; to pursue; to follow (i.e. a set order, a trend); to drive out; to oust; to expel; to drive (i.e. a herd); (in passive voice) to be pressed (for time, etc.); (P)

June 1st – Day 31

The 90 days challenge is still on. Trips and getting sick got in the way, but I won’t let that bring me down. Back on track. I managed to get down to about 167LBS which means I only need to lose 7 more pounds to be at my target 160LBS.

Things at work are going well. I have another trip coming up to Japan pretty soon. I’m hoping to be able to give presentations in Japanese at some point. The technical language needed for a presentation is way beyond me right now so I need to start practicing. I should include that as part of my challenge and incorporate it in my everyday routine.

Kanji is the hardest part of my 90 days challenge and I am learning new ways to become more effective at it. The best way to actually memorize the Kanji is to always associate it with a number of things. I noticed that when a I create a brain map for a character, its much easier to memorize it and recognize it quickly.

Grouping and classifying words really works. When I see a character, I get an instant flash of the whole group that it belongs to instead of just that one character. The problem is that brain maps are very complex and writing them down on paper (while great because of its muscle memory association) is just too time consuming. I started using Free Brain Map software called Free Mind but its taking too much time to do things effectively with it. I need to research more brain mapping software and see which one really fits my learning style.

For today, the Kanji words are (some Kanji characters are new to me, I will tally them up later):

映画: a movie
写真: a picture
趣味: hobby
音楽: music
料理: cooking
番組: program
思考力: thinking power
原色: primary color
白鳥: swan
黒板: blackboard
赤字: deficit
特色:a characteristic
上映する:to show a movie
映す:to reflect
画家:a painter
画面:a screen
原料:raw materials
画数:stroke number
天気予報:weather forecast
記号:symbol, sign
説明する:to explain
動作:action, behavior
自動詞:intransitive verbs
他動詞:transitive verbs
寝台車:sleeping car
遊ぶ: play
遊園地:amusement park
返事:answer, reply

So what’s new?

I have been sick for the past week. Finally, I feel like I have overcome it. Tomorrow back to the gym. I was 168lbs last week but I’m back to 170lbs now. I’m still 10lbs away from my target and my deadline is July 12th. I have about a month and a half to reach my goal.