Welcome to Sharudin Jamal Blogspot

More than two decades ago, I was diagnosed of having a peculiar illness known as Bipolar Affective Disorder. My world as I knew it crumbled; I lost my business, then my job and later my sense of purpose. It was during this dark moments I rediscovered the joy of running and writing. Most of the articles here are about my rekindled pleasure of hitting the tarmac, my coming to terms with the illness and my discovery of the meaning of life.

I always on the lookout for inspirations to write in these three areas with the hope that they will shed new ray of hope to others who are in the same position as I am.

Do keep in touch if you feel connected through these essays.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Parenthood, Life's Greatest Challenge

You might think that running a business or climbing Mount Everest are challenging.  They are pale in comparison to rearing a child.  Not only you are to ensure the survival of this being when you brought her to life.  You must also able to provide ample love, care, education, and opportunity for her to be successful in her future undertakings.  Welcome to the world of parenthood.  The task of making sure that the survival of the genes continues.

In the animal kingdom, the process of natural selection provides two pathways to rearing the young.  If the odds of survival are low, the animals are given the ability to produce many offsprings and less care needed.  On the other hand, if the parents are capable of caring for the young for a long time, then the number is much reduced but the children stay longer with the parents.  It's a question of quantity vs quality.

We humans went through the same evolutionary phase.  In the past, our ancestors had many offsprings because the rate of mortality was high.  However, with numbers, the attention that was given to each child had to be sliced thin.  The children will have to make do with the limited resources the parents can provide.  Often there were siblings rivalry and domestic tensions that everybody had to put up with.   

As we improve out social conditions, the society is seeing less number of children in a household but they are given better attention and care by the parents.  Food is of better quality, each has her own space, and the kids are exposed to better skills to progress ahead.  Every parent wants what is best for his or her children.  Therefore these kids live the life of privilege.

However, because of the general wellbeing of a comfortable home, children nowadays become too protected.  To put it bluntly, they are spoilt rotten.  This is a bad omen of things to come.  If you create and environment of dependency for your children, they will never learn to be independent.  They will not be able to weather the rough sea when they grow older.  A study on a chimpanzee that clung to the mother for too long showed that when the mother died, the adolescent chimp eventually died with her.

Some parents are only concern with the "hygiene" aspects of the children.  These include food, clothing, comfortable shelter, toys, gadgets, and entertainment.  They, however, do not include discipline, ethics, values, and the right attitude as part of the kids' social input.  These kids, therefore, grow up to be inconsiderate brats.  The most dangerous thing is to indulge these young minds with too much cash.  It's true that some parents are well to do but in addition to giving a lot of money, the parents must instill the lesson that money has to be earned.  Otherwise, they will never learn long after they leave home to start their own family.

It is OK to scold your kids if they break rules.  They better get used to it.  If not they will never able to connect the link between action and consequences.  Some parents are afraid to discipline their kids.  These kids will then become problematic students when they enter school.  Later in life, they will have bigger problems with the authority.  

It's also fine to express your love and care for your children but whenever they do something wrong, you must be able to set the record straight.  They must be able to differentiate what is right and what is wrong as early as they are toddlers.  A simple case as regular bedtime needs to be enforced.  Kids require conditioning to grow into responsible adults.

Consider the mind of a child as an empty canvas.  It's up to the parents to provide the colors for the child to draw her own pictures.  Let her imagination runs free but not to breach beyond the boundary of the frame.  The most important part of a child's growth is before she enters preschool.  This is the stage where her cognitive mind is still developing.  During this time her mind is fertile for input.  Don't wait until the kid is in middle school before the conditioning starts.  By then she already has preconceived ideas about who she wants to be because most of the external values and beliefs had already shaped her personalities.    

In the house, there should be at least a disciplinarian.  This person establishes the rules and he or she must be a respected figure.  His or her word is law in the household.  To be that person, your words and actions must be in congruence.  You must be a role model for the kids to emulate.  Also, it is important that this person is not the jabbering and ranting type.  Nobody like a nagging parent.  To discipline, simply scold the kid on the mishap, explain the consequences and then if you want to reprimand, do so on the spot.  No nagging.

It is also important to show that you love your children.  Talk to them daily.  Have a meaningful conversation.  Be involved in their world.  Most importantly, see the world through the eyes of a child.  When you talk to your children, let them be the focus of the conversation.  If you don't talk to your children now, you will discover that you will have nothing to talk about when they become older.

Footnote 16/5/17:  As of this date my youngest daughter Puteri Sarah was admitted to study Medicine in Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  She got 6 A+ and 3 A in her final high school examination.  Of all the right things I did in my life, this seems to be the best thing I ever done.

Sarah and me at her high school graduation day.

Your Right to Riches

A long while ago, a great warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to make a decision which insured his success on the battlefield.  He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men outnumbered his own.  He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed to the enemy's country. unloaded soldiers and equipment then gave the order to burn the ships that carried them.  Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, "You see the boats going up in the smoke.  That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win!  We now have no choice - we win - or we perish!"

They won.

Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to burn his ships and cut all sources of retreat.  Only by so doing can one be sure of maintaining that state of minds known as a burning desire to win, essential for success.

The morning after the Great Chicago fire, a group of merchants stood on State Street, looking at the smoking remains of what had been their stores.  They went into a conference to decide if they would try to rebuild, or leave Chicago.  They reached a decision - all except one - to leave Chicago.

The merchant who decided to stay and rebuild pointed a finger at the remains of his store and said, "Gentlemen, on that very spot I will build the world's greatest store, no matter how many times it may burn down."

That was almost a century ago.  The store was built.  It stands there today, a towering monument to the power of that state of mind known as a burning desire.  The easy thing for Marshall Field to have done would have been exactly what his fellow merchants did.  When the going was hard and the future looked dismal, they pulled up and went where the going seemed easier.

Mark well this difference between Marshall Field and the other merchants, because it is the same difference which distinguishes practically all who succeed from those who fall.

Every human being who reaches the age of understanding of the purpose of money wishes for it.  Wishing will not bring riches.  But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, and backing those plan with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches.

 The method by which desire for riches can be transmuted into its financial equivalent consist of the following six definite, practical steps:
  1. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire.  It is not sufficient merely to say "I want plenty of money."  Be definite as to the amount.
  2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire.  There is no such reality as "something for nothing."
  3. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
  4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
  5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.  
  6. Read you written statement aloud twice daily, one just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning.  As you read - see and feel and believe yourself in possession of the money. 
It is important that you follow the instruction described in these six steps.  It is especially important that you observe, and follow the instructions in the sixth paragraph.  

The mind is a servo mechanism.  It works like a guided missile.  When you set a target, the mind then will follow its course to reach its destination.  However, you must commit your purpose to the subconscious mind.  This will lead to the congruence of the words and actions.  This is necessary because our actions will finally determine our results.

It is worth noting that you must believe wholeheartedly in your desire for riches.  Wishful thinking alone will not get you to where you want to be.  This is because, in the course of attaining your desire, you will meet unforeseeable challenges.  It is important that you rise above these challenges and move on.  It is a part of the learning curve that you must endure.  There is no such thing as failure.  Those things that are known to us as failures are actually false starts on our journey to success.

I came across these six steps at a very young age.  At that time I have this strong desire to be a millionaire.  So what I did was I wrote the figure and the dateline to achieve it; which was in five years time.  I then carry this card in my wallet.  Whenever I remembered, I looked at the card and visualized my life as a millionaire.  I worked my ass off too.  From there my income doubled and tripled every year.  On the fifth year, I noticed I only made RM990K.  I was not entirely pleased.  I missed the target by RM10K.  However the next year I made RM1.4 million.  Not bad at all for a thirty-three-year-old with a dream to become rich.

The lesson I want to impart here is that our life must be goal-driven.  You should not be dependent on hope and chances.  Leave that to those compulsive gamblers.  If you don't decide for yourself, somebody will.  That is why nowadays we see companies and the government applying the Balance Score Card System to their workforce.  Failure to plan is planning to fail.  We must have a clear sight of moving towards the future.

There was a study done by an insurance company sometimes back.  They followed the life of one hundred twenty-five year old until they reached the age of sixty-five.  They found out that out of the one hundred, one was rich, four were financially independent and ninety-five were still working or broke.  All because the majority did not have a specific goal to be financially free.

This principle is not limited to acquiring wealth.  It can also be applied in all sort of endeavors.  The key to its success is the burning desire to have it; you must want it bad enough.  Immediately after, take the necessary actions.  The result may not come immediately but rest assured you will attain your desire in due time.  All you got to do is keep your dream alive.

You must believe in your ability, your potential to change for the better.  Only then will you not be denied.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My Take on World Religions

For the longest time, I was a religious scholar before I delved in philosophy, science, and mathematics.  I read the Bhagavad Gita, the teaching of mainstream Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism.  I also read the Bible and  I had eight different variations of the Qurans which include the Quran for the Skeptics and Quran with Sahih Bukhari Annotations.  I was so intrigued by various religions that I visited the Church of Satan website.  Click here for Church of Satan.  It was, however, the book Exploring Religion by Roger Schmidt that allowed me to look at various religions as an academician rather than as a practitioner.  It opened my eyes to the many questions I had about religions that were left unanswered.

The main thing about a religion is, all religions are based on faith; that is belief without evidence.  This is the reason why people like Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss have a field day bashing the theists on their religious beliefs.  There were no rationalizations in religion.  If the religion teaches you that when a fly dropped in your drink, then dunks in the whole fly because the fly's wings both contain the elixir and poison, you believe.  If the religion says be weary of a passing black dog for it is the devil in disguise, you also believe.  If the religion narrates a story that says drink the camel's urine to cure blindness, that too you believe.  Why wouldn't you?  This is your faith.  Non-compliance means blasphemy.  The punishment is eternal damnation!

I had a whole array of research material on religions that I cannot table out.  All because religious zealots are a bunch of highly sensitive people.  They all believe they hold the key to the truth but in actuality, most of them don't even understand or even finish reading their holy books.  I, however, took the approach of a bewildered kid entering a library for the first time.  Once I asked a Hindu devotee why he worships cows?  To me, it's an animal that is inferior to us humans.  

He replied, "The cow had given humans so much.  Everything about the cow is sacred.  The cow gave its life to humans by toiling the land, its milk for feeding the infants and the dung for fuel and fertilizer."

And so, I gained a new insight towards Hinduism.  Animals are sacred.  Now I also understand why they revere Ganesh, the elephant God and why in India there is a temple, especially for rats.

I also often marveled by the stories of miracles.  Why was it that miracles happened in the past?  Why can't present day people meet with angels?  Why can't the modern man witness the burning bush or  see a man walking on water?   Carl Sagan offers an explanation.  He wrote in his book, The Demon Haunted World that some of these prophetic traits were signs of mental illness.  I can attest to that.  I had dreamt of a star bursting one night and I too had been visited by angels during my mania.  I can relate well to the story of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics,  who sees figures others cannot see. Below is the documentary.  You should also watch the movie A Beautiful Mind starring Russel Crowe:


I can vouch that at least a couple of the prophets had these traits.  In a book, a psychography written about one of them, there are very clear pieces of evidence that this person was suffering from the illusion of grandeur, narcissism complexity, and schizophrenia.  However, due to the sensitivity of the topic, I present to you the cases of St. Paul of Tarsus, click here to learn more about St. Paul and St. Christina the Astonishing for comparison, click here to learn more about St. Christina.  

Having to understand the world religions and their idiosyncrasies does not make me less respectful of the existing religions.  They are the foundation of human morality at large.  Though some of the teachings are no longer applicable to the mainstream, religions are the glue that binds the society together.  When the USSR collapse in 1991, the very first things that popped up like mushrooms were orthodox religions.  

Religions make us feel connected to the Creator.  When we are sad or distressed, the first thing for religious people to do is pray.  For those without religion, the first thing they do is hit the bottle.  Richard Branson claimed he is an atheist.  But when asked what did he do in a life-threatening situation, he replied, "I prayed to God to save my life."  Then he laughed at the interviewer.

There is a quote by Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize Winner in Physics:

"Religion is an insult to human dignity.  Without it you have good people do good things and evil people do evil things.  But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

I disagree with his statement.  I know a lot of people who do good things through religion.  These individuals no matter which religions they belong to will always be good.  The evil things done in the name of religions were done by the evil people.  These kind of individuals are forever evil no matter which religions they belong to.

I do not wish for this posting to be a religious polemic.  There are plenty of those debates going on in You Tube.  I just want to say that every religion is sacred to the believers.  I, however, celebrate all religions.  When I visit Ah Ho my mechanic, I will light up a joss stick at his workshop's shrine.  When I visit Muru, my pothead friend, I will leave some coins at the Ganesh's altar.  My family and I will normally have a special lunch or dinner whenever there is a religious holiday.  

Religion to me is like a multi-facade lamp shade.  Though the shade has various angles, the source of the light is all the same.  It is this light that illuminates all the religions.  No one religion can claim the exclusivity of the Source. 

Below is a documentary on Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, a rare mental illness that might shed us a better understanding of the meaning of God.  This was part of my landmark research when I was trying to comprehend God sometimes back:


Friday, December 2, 2016

Freedom of Choice vs Social Responsibility

Last November we are seeing the unprecedented move by California to legalize the consumption of recreational marijuana.  With that decision, California then joined Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Maine and Massachusetts in legalizing the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.  Already states like Washington DC, Hawaii, Montana and seventeen others had passed bills to legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.  This, however, does not change the policy at the federal level, where marijuana is categorized as a Schedule 1 Drug; a drug with no medicinal value.  President Obama at the time was non-committal on this issue and let the states take the lead pertaining to this matter.

Like any forms of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes included, the potency of the poison is in the dosage.  Even sugar, taken excessively will cause a detrimental effect.  Same goes with carbs, salt and carbonated drinks.  Does this mean we have to regulate their consumption through legislation?  Perhaps it's too far fetch of an idea to label sugar as poison and taxed it exorbitantly to discourage excessive usage.

The answer lies in self-discipline.  The US tried alcohol prohibition before, but the 1920 prohibition paved ways to mobsters and gangsters like Al Capone in Chicago and Lucky Luciano in New York.  People still drank and worse, the illegal bootlegging caused so much malaise in the society then.  

By giving the people freedom of choice, we are opening the avenue towards a civil society.  The big brother approach may work to a certain extent but in the long run, the cost of abstinence will sky rocket due to the resistance from the public.  That is why Uruguay decided to become the first country to legalize marijuana in 2014.  Portugal, on the other hand, decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001.  Instead of treating possession of small quantities of drugs as a criminal issue, Portugal decided to treat them as a public health issue, the drugs are still illegal of course.

Balancing freedom of choice vs social responsibility is a personal choice.  The United States Navy have a policy of no drinking before sunset.  Same goes with the usage of any form of drugs.  You don't expect an assembly line worker to come to work stoned and be able to fully concentrate on his work, do you?  It has to be a conscious effort to control its consumption.  

I know a successful businessman who takes Ecstasy pills when he wants to go clubbing on the weekends.  This guy, however, did proper research on the types of pills and the dosage before taking his course of action. When he caught his teenage son smoking marijuana, he decided to be the one purchasing it for him.  That way he has better control of the son's consumption.  Another friend of mine smokes pot since he was a teenager and can still compete in trail runs and half marathons.  Each of them is very successful in their line of work.  Not your typical addict as the scare media usually portrays. 

During the Vietnam War, it was discovered that 15% of the US soldiers were addicted to heroine.  It posed a big problem to the government.  When the war ended, they expected the country will be flooded with heroin addicts.  Surprisingly upon returning home only 5% became re-addicted.  95% of them kicked the addiction overnight.  Click here for the report.   This was due to a change of environment and a more caring society.

The freedom of choice is not limited to the use of controlled substances.  It also includes such things as littering and speeding.  We need a higher level of consciousness to be socially responsible.  I can't help but cringed when I visited state parks and saw plastic water bottles littering the pathways.  Surely these were the actions of the few self-centered individuals.  They are only concern with their own preservation.  These short-sighted individuals are myopic in their thinking and do not think of the long-term consequences.  Same goes to the speed demons.  When there's an accident, everybody got stalled.

Social responsibility can be improved with greater awareness.  It should start at a very young age.  In Japan, a preschooler first year in school is about learning ethics.  They learn how to take care of the classroom and to keep everything in order.  The Japanese are very good at it.  So much so they have a practice called the 5S as a life's routine - seiri (tidiness), seiton (orderliness), seiso (cleanliness), seiketsu (standardization) and shitsuke (discipline).  This doesn't stop from making the Japanese into a culture of work hard, play harder.  Everything has its place in Japan.

A civil society is a collective effort.  We need to be mindful that though we as individuals have a liberty to act, we are definitely not operating in isolation.  This requires a certain level of maturity by all.  Without a sense of responsibility to our fellow citizens, we are only inviting anarchy into our lives.  I always in favor of liberalization.  Let the social forces take their course.  This is anytime better than a draconian law that stifles freedom and ultimately the pursues of happiness.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Meaning of Life

There was a parable about these three brothers...  Somewhere in time, there were these three brothers who were shipwrecked on a deserted island.  They were unconscious after being swept to the beach the night before.  Upon waking up they noticed there was a glowing figure floating in midair and there were three huge boulders in front of them.

"Each of you is to roll these boulders up the hill and wherever you stop that's where you make your home,"  commanded the floating figure.

And so without hesitation, the three brothers briskly got up and did as they were told.

The youngest pushed and toiled but he managed to barely clear the beachfront.

"I guess this is where I set my home.  There are plenty of fishes for the catching.  I won't get hungry for sure,"  he rationalized.

The remaining two brothers continued their journey uphill.

After a while, the second brother halted.  They were in the middle of the forest, a midpoint between the beach and the summit.

"I just stop here," said the second brother.  "I notice there are plenty of fruits that I can live by,"  said he.

The eldest brother decided to carry on.  It was a laborious task.  The vegetation started to become scarce and soon what's left were patches of moss amidst gravels and stones.  Finally, he reached the top of the hill.  What was waiting for him, words cannot describe.

"What a majestic view this place is!"  Exclaimed the eldest brother.  Surely he had to forgo all the abundance of his two brothers, but in the end, he was rewarded with something more priceless.  Without remorse, he settled at the top of the hill, ever grateful he made the decision to carry on.

Much can be said about this simple anecdote.  In a way, life is what you make out of it.  The meaning of your life is the meaning you give to it.  If you want happiness then pursue happiness.  If you want wealth, pursue wealth.  Same goes with health.  Put some effort to eat right and exercise to be healthy.

It is important to note that you must know what you want in life.  If not you may attract things that you don't want - out of neglect.  Nature abhor vacuum.  In the absent of light, there is darkness.  Life will give back to you things that you desire most.  However, it's a quid pro quo game.  For example, in order to be free, you may have to forgo financial security.  There is no free lunch.

You may decide to have a family early in your life.  To raise a child you may have to sacrifice your career progression  Otherwise, your kid may grow up feeling neglect and before you know it, things may be too late.  To strike a balance requires a skill of a professional juggler.  You may have to wear many hats in you quest for the social upward mobility.

Life is a zero-sum game.  You take out what you put in.  There is no short cut.  What goes around gets around in the game of life.  There is no mystery about it.  Who you are today is the sum total of the decisions you made yesterday.  If you are a cheat and a liar, your future will be full of  deceit.  If you are honest and truthful, your life ahead will be bountiful.  You may not see this immediately but rest assure, your past will catch up with you.  It's just a matter of time.

So you want to be rich beyond you wildest dreams?  You want to be successful all your life?  How about a dream home and a happy family?  All you got to do is know what you want and pay the price.  Always remember this; God delay is not God's denial.  Focus on what matters and do away with unnecessary clutters mentally and physically.  You'll get there I'm sure.

My Views on Politics

Some time back, a friend asked me to write something on politics.  I was reluctant since there are many who already writing on this topic.  So many had their opinions on it to the point it became a gossip material more than anything else.

However, I felt a tinge of desire to write about it due to an incident. Recently a few of my long lost friends left a Whatsapp group just because another friend posted a photo of himself wearing a protest t-shirt in the group.  One of them in full capital letters wrote boldly that this friend, the originator of the group, purposely got everybody together merely to spread his ideology.  He then removed this guy from the group.  I felt that it was an unjust act and added my friend back again.  Immediately after, I got removed!  Then for the obvious reason, this cyber bully removed himself from the group.  My friend then added me back in.  I was bemused.

Now let us get back to the issue of politics.  In a democratic nation, politics is  the representation of the people by the people.  We, therefore, elect the best among us to represent the interest of the public in the parliament, where each representative is empowered to vote for our interest.  However, as the saying goes, "Power corrupts, but absolute power is absolutely delightful."

In Malaysia, the corruption of power is very rampant.  We even have parking lots designated for the VVIP.  What in the world is that?  Very, Very Important Person?  How quaint?  Who are these VVIPs?  They are elected member of the public for goodness sake.  What great things do they do to deserve this title?  Only in Malaysia...

There was also the murder case of Althantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian translator killed at point blank and later detonated with C4 explosives by two of the then Minister of Defense, Najib Razak's bodyguards.  I followed the case closely since this was a national tragedy.  To my dismay, the prosecutor never queried the killers' motive.  What a letdown.  Where was the chain of command?  Why did they kill and then blow up the body?  I was in rage.

So, for the first time in my life,  I decided to vote.  In 2013 I registered as a member of the Democratic Action Party and voted for the 13th General Election.  The opposition party won in my constituency but they didn't win the majority in parliament.  Little that I realize there are many more mishaps waiting to surface like rotten eggs being preserved for too long.

The current fiasco is with regards to 1MDB.  What a mess this turned out to be.  Even as blatant as the Department of Justice USA naming Malaysia Official One (MO1) as the culprit behind this scandal, there are people who still living in denial - stating that MO1 is not Najib Razak.  1MDB matters are not to be discussed in the parliament and several ministers were removed for questioning the status of this ailing organization setup by Najib personally.

Meantime, the economy is going in a downward spiral.  Ringgit value keeps on plummeting.  Cost of living continues to rise.  The people are held hostage by the power play.  Nobody can force Najib to step down.  Our only hope is the next general election.  Najib will do his very best to stay in power.  All we got is the hope for the majority electoral vote to favor us.  This is an important point since we did win the popular vote in 2013 but of no avail.

I wonder, why power is so addictive?  Is it because of greed?  The never satiating lust for material gains?  Or is it because it is so easy to manipulate those who are ignorant.  Whatever the reason may be, I hope it's worth the effort.  Certainly, the price of corruption has affected all of us.  Let's hope those silent majority, the idiots, and the self-serving public can see that their currently elected prime minister is a scoundrel.  If not, do not blame the government for practicing kleptocracy.  It's us who put them there in the first place.

What a bunch of short term opportunists...