Friday, December 28, 2018

Book Review: Out of the Maze

It has been five years since my last post.  The 9 to 5 and life in generally have taken my attention elsewhere.  However, I still do my best to pick up the pen from time to time.  Although time is a luxury, I recently managed to squeeze in a quick read called Out of the Maze, by the famous author Spencer Johnson, who co-penned the bestseller Who Moved My Cheese some years ago.

If Who Moved My Cheese challenges us to embrace change, then Out of the Maze tells us just how to do it.  While it is easier said than done for most people, the ideas preached are surprisingly easy to grasp. Some points may seem overly obvious but maybe this is why so many overlook them.  The story of the mice, Hem and Haw, continue to take center stage in this sequel. A new star, Hope, joins the mix and becomes Hem's new companion in their quest to finding a new food supply.  The underlying message is to challenge our beliefs, especially those that are so deeply entrenched as facts in our mind.  We should also re-explore all dark corners and dead ends of the maze as we may uncover a way out that was previously unfathomed.  It is also important to let go of old tools and baggage in the process so we can act on our new beliefs. If we do all this, opportunities will likely surface.

Some people are reluctant to abandon old beliefs because they are afraid of shortchanging their true selves.  However, Johnson stresses that adopting a new belief does not change who we fundamentally are. I agree as we are not defined by our beliefs, but rather by our character.  Our beliefs in fact, are also defined by our character.  For instance, if I am adventurous (and brave), I may believe that jumping out of a plane is a good leisure activity.  The story rewards Hem by letting him discover a new staple, apples -- when he finally let go of his belief that cheese can be his only diet.

The ending of the book is also very telling.  Hem found a world of opportunities when he finally ventured out of the maze.  On the other side of the wall, there is an abundance of food which many including his best friend Haw, are already enjoying.

This book is a delightful read as it gives hope to those who feel lost in a maze. It resonates as I am feeling very much so at this stage of my life.  Questions like where is my career headed, can I retire by 40, and when can I focus on my scholarly work, have been chipping away at me for some time.  To answer those questions, I will need to look beyond what I already know and try new things.  One thing I won't do for sure is to wait like Hem did before finally embarking on the new journey.

Let's go!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Quote of the Day

It is better to aim high and fail than to aim low and succeed. 


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Quote of the Day

Television often depicts people living perfect lives without any imperfections.  I simply strive to live an imperfect life to perfection. 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Very Real Life Application of the Stable Marriage Problem

I recently stumbled upon a mathematical problem known as the Stable Marriage Problem (SMP).  Per Wikipedia, the problem is commonly stated as:

Given N men and N women, where each person has ranked all members of the opposite sex with a unique number between 1 and n in order of preference, marry the men and women together such that there are no two people of opposite sex who would both rather have each other than their current partners. If there are no such people, all the marriages are "stable".

The SMP has real-life applications to any problem requiring stable pairing of two sets of equal size. In fact, this problem is always solvable using the Gale-Shapley algorithm.

There is a rather big catch however.  While the marriages are always stable, they may not be ideal from the vantage point of an individual.  To illustrate this, imagine three men A,B,C and three women X,Y,Z. Here are their ranked preferences for members of the other group:


There are three possible stable matchings:

1. The men get their first choice and the women their third (AY, BZ, CX)
2. All participants get their second choice (AX, BY, CZ)
3. The women get their first choice and the men their third (AZ, BX, CY)

According to Gale-Shapley, scenario 1 will materialize. This is because the algorithm dictates that the men (initiators) can choose from the entire set of women, while the women (reviewers) choose between a limited subset of initiators at any one time. 

This mathematical problem actually offers an explanation to a common phenomenon in the world of dating. Have you ever seen a breathtaking beauty hooking up with a mediocre Joe? You turn green with envy while cursing her judgement.  Well, the reason can be found above. Females still largely play the role of reviewers in today's dating scene. As a result, they can only choose from men who dare approach them in the first place. In other words, if Brad Pitt did not initiate the relationship with Angelina Jolie (let's play - along suppose he did), chances are they will not be together. The moral? Your chances of successfully dating a pretty girl is higher than you think, even when you are not a Pitt-look-alike. Of course, looking like Pitt helps but taking the leap by initiating the dating routine is the more crucial key. So why wait any longer? Ask the girl of your dreams out now!