Archive for October, 2014

Book: Gong Hyo-jin’s Notebook

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

My addiction to Korean Dramas continues. I am presently watching “Pasta” which stars Gong Hyo-jin (공효진). Great series for me since I enjoy anything featuring restaurants, food and cooking.

This led me to “Gong Hyo-jin’s Notebook” which I understand to be a collection of essays about her personal viewpoints and practical efforts regarding environmental sustainability. I’ve tried to see whether this book can be purchased in the US and whether there is even an English language version – but I did not find any leads. I certainly would like to be able to read it. [10/30/14 Found a way to get this book. Looking forward to getting it. Memo to self: add photo of the book to this entry when I get it.]

I will instead rely on a couple of articles to base my thoughts as to how it connects with YCISL.

1. From “It may be hard to think of the environment when you talk about actresses. But I thought the small steps I take with other people can become a great achievement in the future,” King [sic] wrote in the preface.

2. From In a conversation with the author in a theater on Feb. 19, Kong said, “I felt that if someone who likes what I do tries to do the same even just a little bit, the world can change. I hope there’ll be more consensus about environment protection in Korea so that I can publish sequel after sequel.”

Connections to YCISL: From both these quotes, emotional intelligence is evidently growing; there are strong indications of personal awareness and personal management. Her statements speak to her desire for social awareness and social management. She is particularly skilled at Reflection, and Your Personal Story. I also see an aptitude for Problem-solving and her embrace of a life purpose. Her concern for environmental protection aligns well with our YCISL sustainability platform.

I am also curious about whether this book will be a good model for the YCISL workshop photo essay exercise.

Her Wikipedia entry ( also mentions a part of her life (high school age) in Brisbane, Australia. I wonder how that might have influenced her to be reflective and grateful. I lived for 2 years  (grammar school age) in Melbourne, Australia and that had a tremendous influence on me.

Update 11/11/14: The book arrived from Aladdin ( Fortunately, a colleague will help with translation but just from browsing the photos and drawings, the depth of critical thinking and personal reflection is apparent. I’ve flagged several sections for translation and look forward to learning her ideas.


Exercise: Fast Ideas from User Frustration

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Grab any item. Try to use it. How could it be better? If nothing comes to mind within 15 seconds, move on to another item.

In everyday use of many items, we often wish that our experience could be better. From things in the house such as getting nice sheets from the plastic wrap roll (I just tried this morning and the cut is never clean, and sometimes I cut my fingers) to things outside such as elevators. I particularly dislike using virtual keyboards on the iPhone, Apple TV and devices with similar interfaces. Also on this list is how often keys and remote controls get lost.

So has any solution come to mind when you are in such a situation? Also think about whether the same solution has come to mind each time you’ve used the same product. If no solution has flashed to mind, ask yourself why. Keep a list of these items and your findings.


Chosun Ilbo: High-Schoolers Say Money Key to Happiness

Friday, October 24th, 2014

I have recently been developing an interest in South Korean culture especially how it might relate to the YCISL principles. Thinking back, there was a Time magazine article (“Teacher, Leave Those Kids Alone” by Amanda Ripley) from 2011 that first pulled my attention to the life a South Korean student might have; it was about the influence of hagwons (after-school tutoring programs). Around the same time, I was in discussion with an organizer to bring a group of South Korean high school students for a YCISL workshop. More recently, I entered some thoughts on the mindset of Ku Hye-sun (구혜선) and how it relates to the YCISL model.

The article discussed here is “High-Schoolers Say Money Key to Happiness” (no author attributed) published on The Chosun Ilbo website on June 6, 2014 ( The title ties in well with YCISL’s focus on high school and happiness, but the article also cites data for elementary and middle school students. The article describes the results of a poll of 6,946 students on the most important factor for happiness (let’s assume this question was posed as pertaining to personal happiness):

Elementary School Students: Harmony in the family 43.6%, Good health 20.6%, Freedom 13%
Middle School Students: Harmony at home 23.5%, Good grades 15.4%
High School Students: Money 19.2%, Good grades 18.7%, Harmony in the family 17.5%, Freedom 13%

I feel that these results are a reflection of the strong shared family values in Korea and perhaps also the result of the practical “fear” mindset that takes hold as youth get older. The encouraging side is that the younger students held “harmony” highest which sets up the challenge as one of preservation as opposed to substitution (similar to how we wish to preserve creativity in youth in YCISL). It would be interesting to also know whether “Money” stays a top factor (or even stands out more) to happiness into tertiary education ages and beyond. Then again, the idea of money leading to happiness is not unique to South Korea. It is also a major perception problem in the US and other countries; the family or societal pressure might be different, but the message is still the same.

Let’s also consider information from OECD PISA on student happiness. Referring to Figure III.1.2 on page 32 of “PISA 2012 Results: Ready to Learn (Volume III): Students’ Engagement, Drive and Self-Beliefs” (DOI:10.1787/9789264201170-5-en), we find that Korea (let’s assume South Korea) ranks lowest out of 65 participating countries at just below 60% on this chart of “Percentage of students who report being happy at school.” [For context, note that PISA participants are between the ages of 15 years 3 months and 16 years 2 months, and the chart totals the students who answered “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” to the statement “I feel happy at school.”] Is this surprising? Not really because I think Koreans are very honest with their familial emotions and are not “happy” because they have less time to be in “harmony” with the family – and so the data should not be construed as showing that the students are un-happy with the school, just un-happy when they are at school which deprives them of time with the family to fulfill filial needs. We can speculatively contrast this with the US which ranked just 16 spots higher at about 80% and in the below average section along with Korea. What reasons do US students have to be un-happy about school? There is likely to be a wider assortment of reasons as compared to Korea because there is less purpose emphasized about secondary school education in the US, and so the reasoning and reference standards behind answering this question is likely different. More significant to consider is whether a lack of happiness at school correlates with motivation.

Malaysia is ranked 6th and Singapore 12th on this chart – relatively high. Using my Malaysia and Singapore background, I can see how these two countries ranked relatively high. In Malaysia, pressure on school grades to get into university is only moderate (low compared to Korea, Taiwan, China, India, US, etc); so a student has opportunity to think about life and their expectations. In Singapore, anxiety about school performance is intense but there is less anxiety about life, tertiary education and career opportunities as compared to other countries.

So the lesson for me to learn here is that youth need to be coached to better understand happiness (and positivity) and to develop exercises towards this aim. This should be tied in to intrinsic motivation practices which de-emphasize the growth of money-related fears.

“Turn that frown upside down.” Let me start by thinking about the song “Happy (행복했을까)” by my latest favorite artiste Ku Hye-sun. Except for the “사랑” which I have learned from Korean dramas, I repeatedly listen to this song not for its lyrics but because of its soothing and hopeful feel. You could contrast this to the so popular “Happy” by Pharrell Williams or “Koi Suru Fortune Cookie” by AKB48. I’m not sure presently where to start on developing the practical exercise, but I have ideas on what the ingredients should be so that it has lasting flavor and healthy benefit. Let the experimental design begin!

Related Articles:

“Korean Children Unhappiest in OECD Despite Material Wealth” (no author attributed) published on The Chosun Ilbo web site on May 7, 2012 (

“An Assault Upon Our Children: South Korea’s Education System Hurts Students” by Se-Woong Koo published on The New York Times web site on August 1, 2014

“Korean students least happy in OECD” by Lee-Hyo-sik published on The Korea Times web site on May 4, 2011 (

“Poll: Are Singaporeans least happy?” by Alexandra Hoegberg published on the CNN web site on December 21, 2012 (

China Daily: Inspired mother pioneers freestyle education

Monday, October 13th, 2014

The YCISL concept positions personal development education in tandem with traditional memorization-based mass youth education. The article “Inspired mother pioneers freestyle education” written by Deng Zhangyu and published October 7, 2014 in the China Daily ( shares perspectives in the development of the Ririxin School in Beijing.

This school was spotlighted in 2011 in various articles (e.g., as a growing home school phenomenon offering priorities that align with personal development and growth as opposed to test-based gated streaming schooling.

I have known families who have chosen to home school as well as schools that support home school families. There are also schools that position themselves away from a rat race mentality and emphasize personal well-being and life purpose. It is fortunate to have these options to the mainstream number-based (your identification number, zip code, test scores, GPA, fiscally-dependent and extrinsically motivated) factories.

I hope to establish contact and exchange ideas with the leaders at Ririxin School.

Key Lessons (quotes from the news article and my comments):

– “Playing is the way children get to know the world.” (Quote of Zhang Dongqing). Play is a great way to promote learning (even memorization) – perhaps as a supplement. As an example, . In YCISL, we see play as a great way to explore creativity and fast thinking. When we think of play, we usually think of freestyle play (e.g., at a playground), but we can also benefit from formalized play such as that in the Gamestorming model or sports or games.

– “…staff at Ririxin are friends with their pupils.” The relationship between teacher and student is complex, especially in Asian culture. Even in mainstream schools today in several Asian countries, teachers are almost like (understanding) parents to their students. In YCISL, I portray myself as a parent and coach. Friendship is something that potentially develops as a result but I feel is not a necessary starting ingredient.

– “Kids are like seeds.” This idea sets the stage for organic growth where students discover their individual potential and ability to rise to challenges and occasions.

– “Zhang’s mission is to help make children become what they want to be instead of modeling them into a same person.” For anyone who tends a garden, you would understand that you can focus your good intentions to help shape good outcomes but there is little hope in planning every detail in growth.

– “…they imposed ideas on them and killed their creativity.” This is consistent with the messages we are hearing about US and European as well as Asian schools. And how this continues today as common practice shows we need to actively intervene in this loss. Our YCISL program therefore emphasizes simple exercises that can be practiced routinely to build strength for personal development…and ultimate retain facile creativity.

– “…her second daughter knows who she is and what she wants, is more confident and has a passion for art.” In our YCISL framework, knowing yourself should be coupled with composing and maintaining your personal story.

– “A better education enables a person to be a more complete one, rich in emotion  and creativity.” (Quote of Zhang Dongqing). I think a better education is a more complete one. Education today satisfies its mission of identifying the best memorizers. It is due time to re-scope the meaning and goals of education and implement the means.

– “…but today it’s easy to get knowledge.” Unfortunately, institutional knowledge isn’t pure (even textbooks) and has a tendency to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. And with many forms of the same knowledge, it’s not easy to efficiently gain knowledge. The challenge is to invest time to gain experiential knowledge, and cultivate a love for lifelong learning. Knowledge will have the most value under these circumstances.
Ririxin School, 日日新学堂
Woquyuan, Xiaoshahecun, Shahezhen, Changping District, Beijing, China, 102206