Sunday, January 23, 2022

What is Genius? Part I - Introduction

The word genius carries a uniquely satisfying connotation.  There are probably many definitions of the term, with most narrowly focusing on people with extremely high intelligence.  To me, a more encompassing definition is preferred: A genius is someone who is exceptionally talented in his/her field(s) and creates meteoric contributions to the world.  
Einstein fits the bill but so do Michelangelo, Mozart and Kasparov.  Debates have gone for centuries on what makes a genius a genius.  Recent studies have shown that it is not all about brains.  Nature vs nurture debates have ensued, but I will settle on these four commonalities: 
  1. Intelligence - yes, brains
  2. Creativity - also brains 
  3. Grit - persevering through highs and lows 
  4. Environmental circumstances - being at the right place at the right time with the right people
Let's spend the next few weeks to deep dive on each characteristic that help to shape a genius.


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Rubik's, Solved!

I tried my hands on a Rubik's Cube in elementary school, only to be met with frustration.  I remembered thinking this was a game only for geniuses.  A second chance came late last year when my 9-5 ordered hundreds of cubes as souvenirs for local marketing events.  After 2 hours of practice over the weekend and with the help of some YouTube hacks, I finally did it!

Not Max Park yet, but it made my day.  


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Book Review: The First 20 Hours - How to Learn Anything Fast

Continuous learning has been a cornerstone of my life.   Being an efficient learner is therefore important to me.  I often wonder about the best way to learn and end up "learning about learning" every so often.  No wonder I was naturally drawn to this book by best selling author, Josh Kaufman, given its catchy title.

Kaufman first clears the air that devoting 20 hours of your life to something does not make your an expert in the field.  However, it allows you to become good enough and be confident in applying the skill being acquired.  He then distils his learning process into 10 steps:
  1. Identify a skill(s) that matters to you
  2. If multiple skills are desired, focus your energy on one skill at a time 
  3. Define a target level on "what is good enough"
  4. Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills 
  5. Ensure the right tools are available for learning
  6. Remove barriers to practice
  7. Make time to practice for at least 20 hours, preferably in regular intervals  
  8. Create fast feedback loops
  9. Practice by the clock in short bursts (e.g., 20-min intervals)
  10. Emphasize on the quality and quantity of practice without focusing on perfection
Kaufman went on to describe how he had applied the above to learning computer programming, Go, the ukulele among other things.  From his real world examples, I get the feeling that first reading about the topic to gain a basic understanding is necessary.  Regular deliberate practice of the skill however, is the ultimate key to learning.  

Applying Kaufman's framework, this is what I should do for my golf game: 
  1. Set a mission statement to play golf well this year.  Well it is already one of my 2022 goals
  2. Agree with myself that this is THE sport I will hone with unparelleled focus this year
  3. Break 100 at 18-holes before end of year
  4. Focus on posture, force dynamics, the woods, the irons and course etiquette
  5. Get better clubs; buy new clothing (shoes, gloves, comfy pants)
  6. Leave my equipment in the car for easy access. Set up a training program with my coach
  7. Get to the course at least once a week alternating between lessons and self practice; and at least twice a month at the course 
  8. Get feedback from my coach during lessons and send him videos of my play for instant critique
  9. Do #7 with focus but also get into a habit of swinging a 9-iron at home every day for the "feel"
  10. Practice without being too self-conscious on getting the perfect posture.  Get the basics right first
The approach looks sound as I have been doing bits and pieces of it since last month.  Putting all this into a system with rigor will hopefully deliver the results soon! 


Sunday, January 2, 2022

Happy 2022!

Happy New Year!

With the arrival of 2022, it is time to put my resolutions to work: 
  1. Improve my golf game with a sub-30 handicap (yes, I am that bad)
  2. Remaster my butterfly stroke in the pool 
  3. Become an advanced chess player by scoring 1500+ on 
  4. Write more blog posts by finding a focus topic(s).  
No world peace this time, but each goal carries with it a deeper meaning for me -- hence the excitement. 

Let's get started!


Monday, December 20, 2021

139, a Very Sweet Number!

After taking the WAIS-IV test last week with a qualified psychologist, my full scale IQ test score was revealed today.  I have an FSIQ of 139, ranking me in the top 99.5% of the population and within the highest IQ category of Very Superior!  Many people may have taken IQ tests online and achieved flying colors.  I also did a few tests for fun in the past, scoring 150+.  The real deal in intelligence tests however, is Stanford-Binet or WAIS-IV.  

My IQ score confirms a long-held suspicion on my intellectual giftedness.  Many of my friends have suggested I take the test for some time.  It was long coming, but I finally took the plunge this year.  And now, it is official. 

This result certainly gives my already high self-belief a boost.  I look to overcome more challenges when the going gets tough and open up a world of possibilities by thinking even bigger.  What's next?  Perhaps I should consider applying to Mensa and meet fellow intellectuals for more personal growth.

For now, let's celebrate this achievement.  


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

My Next Career in the Making

Great day spent at the course.  First time in a long time and already wanting back!  This could really be a next career after retirement from the day job. 

An imminent challenge is participation in a charity golf event mid-month.  My performance there will be very telling on whether PGA is in the cards. 

Joking aside, I am indeed closer to retirement this year.  Getting a taste of university level courses and a retirement hobby is a step in the right direction. 

More good to come!  


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

My First Masters Course Essay

Time flies as my first course back in university has come to an end!  The final exam was completed yesterday and I am happy to share with you my first A in 19 years.  Still got it after all!

The course taken is a Masters Psych course in Nurturing the Gifted and Talented.  This is the only course of its kind in Hong Kong and I thoroughly enjoyed all my learnings from it.  

My essay is hereby attached for those who are interested.  It is not yet graded I must say so read at your own peril.



Education for Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted Primary and Secondary Students in Hong Kong

Gifted students are often seen by society as the lucky few who have won the genetic lottery.  Finding generally gifted students is not difficult as they are often the top ranking students within a school.  The exceptionally and profoundly gifted however, are on a completely different level as they are much more laborious to identify.  Imagine how the world might have further benefited from Albert Einstein, commonly believed to have an IQ of 160 and above (Kiger, 2020), if he was well nurtured by his teachers in his childhood.  If more focus can be provided by our education system on these young bright individuals, they will more likely become the next Einstein or Newton of the world, propelling mankind forward in unfathomable ways.  As such, it is essential for society, led by state educators, to establish a focused education stream catered specifically to these extreme intellects during their formative years - from primary through to secondary school.  The education offering should focus on effectively selecting qualified students and then providing stimulation and realization of their potential.  Finally, the sustainability of such programs from a funding and public awareness perspective should be explored.  While the examples presented below are predominantly from the U.S., the same arguments can easily be extended to the scenarios in Hong Kong. 

Before furthering into education for the extremely gifted, it is important to properly define what it means to be intellectually gifted.  The most straightforward approach -- and often the most contentious -- is to utilize a culturally fair IQ test such as the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scales, Fifth Edition (SB-5) or Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–Fourth Edition (WISC–IV).  The moderately gifted have a score of 130 to 144 in the IQ test and can qualify for Mensa, which accepts the top two percent of the population as its coveted members.  The highly gifted register a score between 145 and 159 in the same test.  The exceptionally gifted achieve a score of 160 to 179 (1 in 10,000) and the profoundly gifted land at 180 or above (less than 1 in 1 million) (Gross, 2000).  To further put this into perspective, profoundly gifted individuals score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ tests and have an exceptionally high level of intellectual prowess. These students score a minimum of three standard deviations above the norm on the bell curve, so they are at the extreme end of the intelligence scale (Winterbrook, 2017).  In this paper, both exceptionally and profoundly gifted individuals will collectively be called extremely gifted. 

A key item of exploration in providing for the extremely gifted is to first identify them for the gifted programs schools have to offer.  To uncover top intellects as defined by the extremely gifted, an IQ test provides a largely objective means to do so.  The Davidson Academy of Nevada, a school in Reno for profoundly gifted primary and secondary students, accepts individuals attaining a score of at least 145 in the SB5, WISC-IV or WISC-V test in at least one of the following areas: verbal, non-verbal, full scale (The Davidson Academy of Nevada, 2021). This school also leverages nation-wide academic examinations such as SAT, ACT, and PSAT to assist in granting admissions.  The emphasis for qualification is on initially “casting a wider net” and then using other methods such as interviews, recommendations from qualified professionals, and reviewing a student’s overall portfolio of achievement to eventually narrow down the search for the cream of the crop.  It is important to note that nominations from teachers, parents, peers and students themselves -- which are often used as criteria for entering generally gifted programs -- do not apply well in the case for the extremely gifted.  This is because while these people who are close to the gifted youngsters, are proven to readily identify the top 15% of the student population, they nonetheless lack the experience and expertise to pick out the top 0.1% from the same population. One should also note that issues such as race, gender, school districts and financial status of families often come into play in skewing (or masking) the identification of gifted students.  Using standardized and culturally fair aptitude tests will no doubt side-step these issues to a good extent. 

Extremely gifted students require the best support outside of the average school. The Education Bureau in Hong Kong advocates the three-tier model for gifted students (Gifted Education Section EDB, 2015):  

  • Whole-class, school based
  • Pull-out, school based
  • Offsite support

Given the need for intellectual stimulus with exceptionally and profoundly gifted students, education administrators should consider option 3, thereby providing a separate school for students in this category.  As a case in point, The Davidson Academy of Nevada was founded with this aim in mind. Its mission is to provide profoundly gifted young people with an advanced educational opportunity matched to their abilities, strengths and interests (The Davidson Academy of Nevada, 2021). The founding of such institutions satisfies the intellectual cravings of the extremely gifted, in addition to realizing their potential.  Such schools also create a social setting for students to interact with their equally brilliant peers, thereby developing essential life skills for these special human beings.  Learnings from social interactions cannot be under-estimated as the whole-person development for students is crucial for their later success in life.  

Needless to say, the education programming for extremely gifted students should be multifaceted. Acceleration and enrichment of traditional school programs are basic essentials.  Curriculum compacting, with the elimination of introductory activities and repetition, is often practiced.  In addition, telescoping curriculums -- such as completing a three-year course in two -- is a norm.  In programs catering to the extremely gifted, educators should group students based on their ability rather than age. In such cases, challenges arising from the amalgamation of students from various age groups and hence different maturity, should be addressed. Even when well implemented however, these aforementioned measures are simply a starting point and do not represent effective, long-term solutions for the exceptionally and profoundly gifted. 

Apart from programming, the curriculum model also requires careful consideration and tailoring to extremely gifted students.  It is safe to say that of all student groups, the exceptionally and profoundly gifted are often the ones requiring the least direct intervention from teachers. George Betts’s Automonous Learner Model (ALM) exemplifies this characteristic.  In ALM, the curricular offerings can be broken into three levels.  Level 1 is prescribed curriculum and instruction.  This curriculum is primarily based on standards set by the state and does not include the depth and complexity needed for gifted and talented students.  Gifted students usually spend minimal time at this level.  At Level 2, the curriculum is differentiated by teachers according to content, process and product, on the basis of individual differences.  Although spending time at this level is best for most students as the learners have choices in what and how to learn, it is still lacking for the extremely gifted.  This is where Level 3 comes in.  At the third level, students are self-directed, and teachers provide opportunities for them to be the owner of their learning.  This level is crucial to addressing the cognitive, emotional and social development of extremely gifted scholars. The ALM focuses heavily on this level (Siegle et al, 2014).  Other aspects of ALM, including orientation, individual development, seminars and in-depth studies provide the breadth and depth exceptionally gifted students require to identify, foster and maximize their talent.  Once again using The Davidson Academy as the case study, their focus on personalized learning plans (PLP) is akin to that of Level 3 in ALM.  In fact, the PLP is an adaptable document used to guide students through a rigorous core curriculum and help them make elective decisions based upon their interests and commensurate to their levels of ability, achievement and motivation.  Students, with adult guidance, including staff and parents, propose ideas of the personalization process (The Davidson Academy of Nevada, 2021).  In essence, each student has their own fully tailored schedules of advanced courses, group projects, and self-study activities.  It is important to stress that the PLP cannot lose sight of the eventual goal of advancing graduates to accredited colleges and universities across the globe.  

Extremely gifted students have an exceptionally high rate of extending their brilliance in tertiary education across the world.  They pursue doctoral degrees at over 50 times base rate expectations, with numerous participants having created noteworthy literary, scientific, or technical products by their early twenties (Benbow et al, 2001).  This is where the guidance of qualified gifted program teachers can play a key role in bridging the learning needs and interests of students to the education systems of tertiary institutions across the world.  

The general lack of public attention and funding for gifted education is a prevalent topic of discussion globally.  For the exceptionally and profoundly gifted, the funding situation is even more pronounced.  Hong Kong’s Education Bureau (EDB) owns the gifted education initiative for the city’s brilliant young minds.  However, it falls short of establishing a full-time school campus allowing extremely gifted students to attend school the way they should on a daily basis.  The solution to the funding problem can often be found through a combination of public funding, student and alumni fundraising, and philanthropy from the wealthy believing in the cause.  The Davidson Academy of Nevada is once again, a good case in point.  The academy insists on providing free education for their on-campus students. It is because they and their supporters believe the right to receiving a gifted education should not be stifled by the financial situation of one’s family.  To widen the source of funding in future, one can also explore crowd-sourcing to assist with the daily operations and maintenance of such institutions.  

In summary, a number of educational topics on providing for exceptionally and profoundly gifted students were explored.  Items such as the definition and qualification of the extremely gifted, acceptance criteria, education program philosophy and curriculum model were examined.  The key to a successful curriculum offering is to ensure heavy focus on Level 3 of the ALM, thereby providing the autonomy and flexibility for gifted students to pursue the fields they desire and at the pace they fancy.  Moreover, the funding of an all-gifted full-time education institution was recommended.  It is up to the EDB to seriously contemplate establishing and operating a gifted school to further this cause.  Finally, the world needs to pay more attention to this small but important group of talented individuals.  If their education is properly accounted for, perhaps the next crop of Nobel Laureates will more readily rise for the betterment of humanity. 


Davis G.A., Rimm S.B., & Siegle, D. (2014 ). Education of the gifted and Talented (6th ed.).

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Gifted Education Section EDB (2015). Gifted Education in Hong Kong Learning about Gifted Education Book 1.


Gross, Miraca U.M. (2000). Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted Students: An Underserved Population.

Kiger, Patrick J. (2020). What Was Albert Einstein’s IQ?

Lubinski, D., Webb, R. M., Morelock, M. J., & Benbow, C. P. (2001). Top 1 in 10,000: A 10-year follow-up of the profoundly gifted. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(4), 718–729.

* The Davidson Academy of Neveda (2021). Mission and Goals.

* The Davidson Academy of Nevada (2021). Qualification Criteria - Accepted Tests & Score Guidelines to Apply.

* The Davidson Academy of Neveda (2021). Personalized Learning Plan (PLP).

Winterbrook, C.A. (2017). Exploring the Lives of Gifted Women. Digital Commons @ Denver University.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Back to School, Part-time!

Finally! After all these years, I have resumed school starting with a Masters psychology course on nurturing the gifted and talented.  This rare subject is close to my heart and I can only find it in one tertiary institution in all of Hong Kong.  As this is my first university experience in my hometown, it means so much more.  COVID-19 and resorting to online classes however have taken some of the shine off, but I am still ecstatic!  Ready to rock the semester.  Bring it on!


Sunday, December 13, 2020

Book Review: Outgrowing God

The year 2020 will certainly go down as a memorable one,  given our struggles to cope with a global pandemic.  When not out and about -- which was often -- I managed to pick up a great habit of reading at least 30 minutes every day.  This practice has given me relaxation, along with the joy of continually learning and gaining new insights to life. 

Of numerous reads this year, I felt compelled to write a review on Outgrowing God, by Richard Dawkins.  If memory serves, I wrote a review on his earlier work, The God Delusion, back in 2009.  Indeed the two books have many similarities and it feels a bit deja vu to read his latest e-book. 

Since taking a more leisurely stride in reading, no notes were taken along the way.  Relying on raw memory, Dawkins' key reasoning on why we do not need a god was: 
  • Assuming the biblical recordings of Abrahamic God (in Judaism, Christianity and Islam) were largely accurate, and that itself is a big "if", the Almighty is simply too cruel, jealous and unforgiving to be the god we wish Him to be.  For instance, the stories of God induced wars, along with human and animal sacrifices, paint a dark picture of the all-knowing.  Moreover many social norms and laws of the time were reflected in the stories from the Bible -- the treatment of women as men's properties is one prime example -- making the world's most popular book anything but timeless.  This leads one to believe the biblical writings are merely accounts from 2000 years ago by authors with motives.  And the motives were often political.  Just look at how the Roman kings used Christianity as a means to control their citizens.  It is also not difficult to tie the "success" of a religion and its god(s) to the might of the civilizations that worshipped them.  The colonization of the world by seafaring European powers in the last 300 years, brought Christianity to almost all corners of the globe.  If China or India were the victors in conquests, the religious landscape in today's world would very much differ.  Does this not make you wonder why anyone should take a leap of faith in any religion? 
  • The other argument for atheism involves the age old debate between grand design vs evolution.  This topic was also explored in the The God Delusion. The designer camp claims the universe (and life) is so elegant that it surely must have a designer. Most people give God the credit.  The evolution camp claims however, that there is an alternative to the top-down approach to life's creation.  The bottom-up approach, via natural selection over eons, allows for the creation of sophisticated lifeforms one step at a time.  After all why else would God create a jaguar, the fastest hunter on land, and then an antelope who can hop sharp turns out of harm's way?  Perhaps the two theories can best be summed up with an actual example.  Consider the famous cathedral Sagrada Familia. Although it has been in construction for hundreds of years, there are complete blueprints to every detail that will ensure its completion one day.  Now consider a termites mound, which looks quite like an exquisite mini cathedral from the outside.  The termites surely has no blueprint to follow in building their castle.  However, engrained in their DNA is a number of simple life choice patterns they follow to contribute their building blocks to the mound.  Over time and combined with the simplistic behavior of many other worker termites, a complex structure can be erected even by relatively unsophisticated organisms. 
  • The book goes on to say evolution may have a part to play in evolving our need to believe in "agents" and superstitions, as they are instrumental in ensuring our survival.  The ability to fear is a good thing when we were easy prey to so many animals in the wild.  Even if there is no god, it is still important from an evolution perspective for the mass public to believe and fear one. 
Personally, I find various concepts in this book repetitive of The God Delusion.  Dawkins tried hard however, to use different examples to illustrate his arguments from over a decade ago. Although his arguments are sound in general, they are not bulletproof when drilled.  For instance, there is no elegant answer to the question of who started off the Big Bang. In the end, we are left to wonder whether there is indeed a creator but maybe it is not the kind-hearted god we should all revere deep down. 


Saturday, June 6, 2020

Monty Hall Problem from a Movie

Time flies and it has been two years since my last post.  Somehow this important pastime has not seen much investment of my time in Hong Kong.

I was watching the movie 21 the other night, which was about a team of MIT students breaking bank at Vegas casinos.  The movie was entertaining as it has (some) action, romance, a twist, and most importantly, math, packed into two hours of lights-out.  I learnt how to improve your odds at Blackjack, by working in a team and assigning a count to a table based on the number of dealt high and low cards. 

The part that really caught my attention however, was when professor Rosa was teaching the Monty Hall problem through his interaction with his A-student and soon-to-be recruit, Ben Campbell.  This problem is often depicted in the form of a game show.  The grand prize, a car, is waiting behind one of three closed doors.  When the contestant picks Door A, the game show host, who knows exactly which door the car is behind, opens a door that is empty, say, Door C.  At this point, only doors A and B remain.  The host offers the contestant a chance to switch his pick to Door B.  Should he take the bait?  The answer is a definite yes.

Why?  Before any door is opened, the probability of the contestant picking the correct door is 1/3. No contention here.  This means that the probability of the car parked behind either of the other two doors (B and C) is 2/3.  So far so good. By opening Door C which leaves someone empty-handed, the probability of Door A being the winning door is still 1/3 because there is no change in information for this door.  However, when the empty Door C is opened, there is new information in the "other two doors" category.  The odds of 2/3 now goes solely to Door B. Hence your odds for switching from Door A to B have suddenly doubled!

Many people failed to comprehend the above when the solution was first presented.  My guess is most of your friends will probably not do the switch, even after you attempt to explain the math behind this - I have tried it on a few without success.  Anyway, please heed my advice if you do end up in a game show offering cars behind closed doors!