Archive for March, 2008

Treat Yourself Like You Would a Good Friend

The folks at have an interesting article titled “How to Be a Friend of Yourself” –

We often focus on building relationships with others that we forget the essential first step: being friends of ourselves. That is the crucial first step if we are to have good relationships with others. How can we have good relationships with others if we don’t even have good relationship with ourselves? (read the rest)

It’s a fantastic article — but I think in order to be a good friend of yourself, it doesn’t just mean being able to accept and embrace yourself. Rather, to be your own best friend, you need to start treating yourself like you would a best friend.

Would you demand as much from your good friend as you do of yourself?

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How To Learn Math

These are my experiences about learning, written from the perspective of a math student. I do think that my advice is applicable to other theory intense subjects such as physics and economics.

So I used to be the smart guy in high school. Doing well in math competitions, not listening in class and all that stuff. Basically I was a smart jerk. Needless to say, when I got to Harvard, I wasn’t the smartest in my class anymore. My freshman year, I enrolled in math 25, the honors class for math majors. I did pretty well in that class, but had to work really hard. Now, looking back at that experience, I see a couple of things that, given the chance, I would have done differently.

One could say that I was good at math, but not at learning math, if that makes sense. In high school, the emphasize for me had been at problem solving, while math studies in college are much more theory oriented.

How do you efficiently learn so much theory?

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The Importance of “Undergraduate Education”

This weekend, I was dragged along by my friend Van to a birthday party at MIT. I got into a discussion with a nice bloke there, and I, of course, had to ask the ultimate question of self-absorbed Ivy League-ers: So, what brought you to MIT?

His immediate response was: The Quality of the Undergraduate Education.

I think my immediate response was some sort of confused look. Education? What is this thing called “education” that brings one to a particular college? Maybe it’s me, but from an informal polling amongst my friends, The Quality of the Undergraduate Education does not seem to be among the list of reasons of why YOU should go to Harvard.

What is the correct response to: So, what brought you to Harvard?

Besides, the satirical “because it’s Harvard,” the appropriate response is: The People.

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The Art of Managing Mental Space

Mental space — like physical space — is what we have very little of as college students. When I took on a leadership role in January, one of the former officers mentioned, “It doesn’t take up much time, but it takes up a lot of mental space.”

What she meant was that the amount of mental energy you needed to devote to the position was much larger than the time actually required. This struck me as an — oh, so that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all along — moment.

Last semester, I was at odds with my schedule (or google cal rather). I would stare at the white empty boxes that seemed to populate my schedule at the end of the week, but when I mentally sat down to balance the accounts, I kept coming up short. It seemed like I had a lot of free time (suppose n hours/week), but I didn’t seem to get n hours of work accomplished and I never actually felt like I was anything less than busy.


Thus, I will try to use the concept of “mental space” to better manage your time (and happiness!) in this entry.

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Happiness: The Most Underutilized Asset at Harvard

It is uncanny how many of my friends have confessed with particular enthusiasm: I hate Harvard. Some attribute it to the “sophomore slump.” Others complain — rightly so — about the arrogance, stupidity and frustrating qualities of our classmates.

I will admit it is true. One of the one true pastimes of the Harvard student is complaining about Harvard. From food to bureaucracy, from professors to classes, Harvard students are notorious for the amount of complaining they do.

But — for all of our complaining, we do very little to try to nip the unhappiness bud. It seems like we glorify our unhappiness: you think your life is bad? well, I just had 3 200-level problem sets due, a thesis to write, and ten organizations to save from self-combustion.

Right. This entry will be dedicated to why happiness is as important of an asset as time (arguably one of the most valuable things a Harvard student has, but that’s another entry).

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