Category Archives: Life

Ultimate Goal

To be highly successful and go through the rough times with resilience, you must have an ultimate goal. One that keeps you going, no matter what the obstacles are and what kind of pain you are going through. You will get through all these difficulties if you have a strong ultimate goal.

Then I am thinking…

What is my ultimate goal, really?

To be a good person? Have a comfortable life? Travel around the world? Get richer? Read more books? Enjoy good wines?

These are good simple goals, but all of them are very individualistic. In other words, I am a “taker” rather than a “giver” in each of these goals. Do not get me wrong—there is nothing wrong with these goals.

But are they enough?

What about giving, instead of only taking?

Giving is the real taking, since it gives both you and your counterpart pleasure.

When you help someone get a job that he feels strongly about, he gets happy. Not only him, you become happy too since you created value for someone and you feel useful.

In simple terms, the more lives you touch, the happier you become. To identify and stick with your ultimate goal will make the challenges you experience much easier and more bearable. You will be more resilient and strong.

So, I finally decided my ultimate goal.

Opportunity to access proper education is the key for a society not to be left behind, and to prosper and develop. Being British and Turkish, and planning to move to London in a couple of years, I would like to create a platform to make sure that all the 500,000 British Turks have proper access to education.

I will work hard to reach my ultimate goal! I am always happy to collaborate with people who share the same or similar goals, and I would be extremely happy to generate ideas and action plans to work together.

All the best from Singapore.
Sukru Haskan

Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Value of Time

I would like to thank the many of you that suggested your book recommendations to establish my reading list for 2018. I am compiling all the emails right now and I will choose my 52 books from among them and publish the list in my blog during the next couple of weeks.

Recently, I have not been feeling well due to an allergic reaction that caused hives on my body and I had some days off sick, which enabled me to do a lot of thinking.

Image Credit: Street Artist Banksy

What is the most common valuable asset that we all have?

Many may say wealth, health or family, but actually it is time! Your allocation of time determines the importance of the rest.

All of us have some sort of time on this planet to accomplish our ambitions and desires. But it is not unlimited. It is like a ticking time bomb that will explode at some point.

We can use time to acquire or establish many things: wealth, family, business, etc. It all depends on the basis of our very personal choices!

Are these choices really our personal choices or are we manipulated to follow these choices?

Again it depends on how much you are aware of your surroundings and decisions. Many factors today are trying to control us. For instance, software/app designers are working very hard to steal our attention to spend as much time as possible on social media. Businesses try to make us as busy as possible so that we are unable to think, and do not live in the present time, but in the future, in the hope of distracting us. After applying all their attention to capturing new techniques, they also humbly (!) advise us to live in the present time by applying mindfulness.

What an irony!

TV ads and newspapers try to channel us to think in a standardized way!

As a result of all this, many people start going on a social media diet by deleting the most commonly used applications from their phones to make sure that their attention is channelled towards more useful resources, but most importantly to the resources that one really wants to give one’s attention to.

We have to take control of our time and make our own independent decisions.

After all, does wealth make you rich anymore?

What about time?

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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52 books in 2018

I am pledging to read 52 books in 2018 – in other words, one book per week.

I read, roughly speaking, books with an average of 350 pages, so I should read about 50 pages a day to accomplish this challenge.

I think it is quite doable, but I need your help.

Currently, I am trying to line up the books for 2018.

Please help me by sending your suggestions!

I would be interested in reading history, biography, economics, finance and psychology.

I will publish the list of the books for 2018 by the end of this year.

You can send your suggestions to my inbox: sukru_haskan@yahoo.co.uk

All the best.

Sukru Haskan

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Freedom and GRIT

How free are you really?

I have been thinking this question and its possible answers for quite some time now.

Even though many of us are walking around and thinking that we could potentially do whatever we like, we are not really as free as we like to think we are. In some cases, we are more like prisoners than actual prisoners are.

How come?

We are bound and restricted by many obstacles in our modern lives with commitments that we did not want to commit to or were forced to commit to, such as demands from our surroundings, daily jobs, huge corporations that supply us with modern necessities in the form of electricity, gas, mobile phones and, most importantly, ourselves; our ego.

A person’s ability to explore their own potential is getting more difficult nowadays because those of us with great potential are not really free. Our minds play the most important role in this equation since you could potentially ignore all obstacles and live however you like.

Easier said than done!

Unfortunately, freedom does not really dependent on one’s wealth either. It is the personal choices that makes us imprisoned and creating a meaningful way to escape from modern lives trap is the only way out that I can think of.

What is my conclusion?

Freedom creates happiness. Many of us are not happy since we are not free. Follow the way that scares you most since the seeded fear inside will guide you the right way; the way that many will say is the wrong one! Most importantly, try to simplify everything as much as possible. It is not easy to cut back on luxuries since we are all drugged up to a certain level and cutting back will create quite a lot of symptoms. Nevertheless, be strong and try!

I have recently read a great book by Angela Duckworth called GRIT. If you are not familiar with this term, GRIT means for persistence and perseverance in the long-term in order to achieve our goals.

Talent by itself is not enough to achieve success in our lives. You need to be persistent and consistent for some time to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals!

I personally really liked the book and it opened up my mind to understand why running without a specific goal every day is not good enough. There has to be a specific goal (a deliberate exercise) to improve your running skills each session so that the training gets more effective. More importantly, it has to be combined with your passion so that there is always that carrot stick in front of you when you are going through the pain!

Please take this short test to understand how GRITTY you are!

Grit Scale

Do not worry if you are on the left hand side of the GRIT scale; this can always be changed as soon as you change your MIND!

So where do we start? Please let me know…

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan

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Trip Notes: Yangoon, Myanmar

I was thrilled to be in Myanmar a couple of weeks ago with my family. Since time was limited, we only spent three days in Yangon.

Myanmar is the 57th country I have visited – and I should say I am quite amazed by it.

After visiting Cambodia, I wondered if I was doing the right thing flying to Myanmar with a 15-month old, but I can truly say that it is a very safe country. There are many warm people and the infrastructure for a country with USD 1,300 per head is pretty good.

The airport was built quite recently and looks modern. Even though the online visa processing could have been a little smoother, nothing really bad happened on that front. Immigration to the country also went fairly well.

We stayed at the Savoy Hotel, near the centre of the city. It is a nicely-kept colonial building. The hotel is operated by a German company and the staff’s level of English was extremely high. The room was spacious and nicely decorated with local ornaments.

We had a chance to spend some time at the Strand Hotel, located literally just next to the British Embassy. This would be a great hotel as an alternative to the Savoy!

We were extremely lucky to have a Burmese friend, a London Business School alumni like my wife, who invited us for a nice dinner at a local restaurant, Padonman Restauant. The walls were covered with American and British diplomatic pictures. Burmese food is very similar to Thai food and people who like spicy food (like myself) will really enjoy the cuisine in Myanmar.

We visited many temples, such as the famous Inclining Buddha, the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda. Although Yangon is not the best place to visit pagodas on the whole, the Shwedagon Pagoda was an original example. If you are really keen on temples, I have been recommended many times to visit the city of Pagan in Myanmar. I am not personally a big fan of visiting temples, as I found them rather similar after going to one after another.

We were brave enough to taste Burmese wine – and I would not advise others to try it… Stick to the beer instead!

During our time in Myanmar, there had been a water festival going on, and it was a real experience to see lots of people packed into the back of a truck, throwing water at each other throughout the city. We did not see any violence and watching people having fun was really good. The water festival marks the beginning of a new year for the Burmese people.

Video: Water Festival in Yangoon

For a country where civil war ended only a couple of years ago, and which is opening up slowly, Myanmar has definitely got a lot of potential. With its beautiful people and wide landscape, Myanmar is a candidate to be a real star in the region.

Hospital building from colonial times

Is a new Thailand emerging in south-east Asia?

YES!

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Trip Notes: Sri Lanka

We spent our holidays in Sri Lanka over the Christmas and this is the fifty-fifth country in the world that I’ve visited. It is an island country which is located south of India and has recently become open to tourism, since the civil war ended in 2009.

Room View from Jetwings Galle Hotel

We made a big mistake by booking the hotels and the driver through a tour agency in Singapore and, as a result, we were significantly overcharged and stayed in the hotels that we did not particularly enjoy.

Our first destination was Colombo City and we stayed at Mirage Hotel. Since we landed very late at night, we stayed in Colombo City to sleep and go to Kandy in the morning. Colombo City is the capital of Sri Lanka and there are a lot of nice colonial buildings.

Sri Lanka was a colony of Portugal, the Dutch and the British.

I would not recommend spending much time in the capital, and I think a day should be more than enough to see the all landmarks. I would not recommend staying at Mirage Hotel, either. There is a Hilton in the city centre which would be a much better option.

We arrived Kandy in the afternoon after six hours trip by car. Christmas traffic and a one lane road increased the duration of the journey, which would usually take three and a half hours.

Sunset in Kandy

We stayed at Amaraya Hills Hotel in Kandy. The hotel sits at the top of a hill and has a beautiful view of Kandy. Having said that, the hotel is not up to good standard and they are lacking very basic service requirements. You can find my review of the hotel on the Trip Advisor website.

Kandy Lake and Tooth Temple are places to see, but I would not advise spending much time to see them. Kandy sits in the middle of a valley and, as a result, the air can be quite polluted. Unfortunately, during our two day visit, the air quality was horrible.

We travelled to Sigiriya Rock, which is around a two hour journey from Kandy. Sigiriya Rock used to be a fortress for monks and, today, it is a UNESCO listed World Heritage site. It is an example of ancient urban planning. I would say that this is the most interesting place that we visited throughout our eight day trip to Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya Rock

On the way back to Kandy, we stopped at the Elephant Corridor Hotel, where we ate our lunch. It is a good hotel with a good manager. I would recommend anyone wanting to stay close to Sigiriya Rock to stay there.

On our second day in Kandy, we went to Elephant Park Orphanage, which charges around USD 20 each for entry. It was interesting to see elephants, however, I was not particularly amazed.

Elephant Orphanage

After Kandy, we headed towards Galle which is located to the south of the island. It is another five hour journey by car. Luckily, there is an express way between Colombo and Galle and this makes the journey much more enjoyable.

On the way, we stopped at a spice garden and were introduced to different types of spices. We also stopped at a tea shop where they gave us a free introduction on how tea is processed. It was interesting to go on a small tour to learn about the stages of tea processing and we bought some tea during our visit to the tea shop.

We stayed at Jetwings Lighthouse Hotel in Galle. I would recommend staying at this hotel, since it has a great location, by the beach and lives up to certain international standards. They have a nice open buffet, as well as a good a la carte menu.

The staff are friendly and they definitely do their best to help.

The only downside to this hotel was that they were not able to give us a late check out, since we were checking out on the 30th December, which is understandable.

There are not many places to visit around Galle, except the Galle Fort, which is a must. A lot of small shops and leftovers from colonial times make you feel as if you are somewhere in 18th century. There are some very nice hotels inside the Galle Fort, however, I would not stay in any of those as they are not by the beach. There are nice tea shops inside the Fort, which I would recommend visiting to buy various selections of beautiful tea.

Overall, Sri Lanka is a nice country to visit and is developing very fast. Many foreigners are buying their holidays homes there. For me, it is a good to place to visit, but I am not sure I will go back soon. If I were to go back, I would definitely stay in the middle of the tea plantations, rather than in Kandy and Colombo.

If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, I am always more than happy to help.

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

 

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Trip Notes: Bali

I was in Bali a couple of weeks ago for the second time in my life. It is one of the few things that I really regret that I have been so close to Bali in the last 3.5 years and this has been only my second visit. Many people have asked for recommendations for Bali, so I decided to provide this short write-up. There are many different areas in Bali, such as Ubud, Nusa Dusa, Jimbaran and Seminyak. I personally prefer Ubud over any other area as it is very tranquil and authentic.

So far, I have stayed at the Kamandalu and the COMO Uma Ubud. I slightly prefer the Kamandalu to the COMO Uma Ubud as it has larger grounds. I would say that the staff were very friendly and helpful in both cases. The COMO Uma has a great yoga area, with a stunning view. Alternatively, you might like to check out the Four Seasons, but it is a bit pricey.

Como Ubud Hotel

You might want to try out the Bridges or Mosaic restaurants if you like European cuisine. The Bridges has a good variety of wines, but relatively reasonable prices, although my “carnivorous” friend was not very happy with the size of the meals. For a local treat, you might like to go to Pulau Kelapa, where they grow their own organic vegetables and fruits. If you have chance, walk around their gardens and you will be amazed by the lovely smell of each plant. If you would like to try the local cafés, you could visit the Seniman, Clear and/or Elephant coffee shops.

Pulau Kelapa Restaurant’s own garden

In terms of sightseeing in Ubud, I would suggest you go to the Volcano, Monkey Forest, Uluwatu and Bath temples. There are many temples and I personally don’t think it necessary go to all of them, except the Uluwatu and Bath temples.

In Nusa Dua, I stayed at the Amanterra Villas and my experience was good overall. The level of English may sometimes be challenging, but the access to the beach and the hotel facilities are good.

Como Ubud Hotel Yoga Area View

If you would like to have some drinks, try the Single Fin and the Rock Bar in Jimbaran. The Single Fin is the place the Aussie surfers go and there are many beautiful ladies there, so watch out! 🙂 The Rock Bar in the Ayana Hotel is a “must visit”, but it is unnecessarily expensive and be prepared to wait in a long queue to be able to see the sunset from the bar.

Monkey Forest

I hope these are some useful tips for trips to Bali. If you want to have a chat, you are always more than welcome.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Best books of 2016

   

I managed to read 25 books in 2016 and I hope to finish two or three during my Christmas break.

During 2016, I read the books listed below.

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Focus by Daniel Goleman
Homo Sapiens by Yuval Harari
Homo Deus by Yuval Harari
Startup Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer
A Funny thing happened on the way to Enlightenment by Lenny Ravich
His life biography by Jak Kamhi
Arrested by Can Dundar
Blockchain Revolution by Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott
An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Education by Tony Little
Power of Palace: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape by H.J. de Blij
Never Give Up: Jack Ma in his own words by Suk Lee
Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor
Confession of a Sociopath: A Life spent hiding in plain sight by M.E. Thomas
Facing with our own history by Emre Kongar
Acknowledging what is: Conversations with Bert Hellinger by Bert Hellinger
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
Blimey! from Bohemia to Britpop: The London Artworld by Matthew Collin
This is London by Ben Judah
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
2014: The Election that changed India by Rajdeep Sardesai
Last night I Dreamed of Peace by Dang Thuy Tram
Memoirs of Ataturk’s Servant by Cemal Granda

Of course, you learn something from each book and each book has a relative value to each reader. If I were to suggest only three books to read from this list of great books, they would be the following:

  • Homo Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Harari
  • Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
  • The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

 Both books by Yuval Harari are great and I believe I have already given at least 40 volumes as gifts to my colleagues, friends and clients. In particular, Homo Sapiens is a must read. For those who have not read my review of these two books, here are the links:

http://haskanwrites.com/2016/02/book-review-sapiens-by-yuval-noah-harari/
http://haskanwrites.com/2016/12/book-review-homo-deus/ 

Incognito is also another great book which confirms that while most of us think that we know everything, our brain plays tricks and we are, in fact, missing a large part of the world. I also published a review of this book a couple of months ago.

http://haskanwrites.com/2016/11/book-review-incognito-by-david-eagleman/

Finally, The Prince by Machiavelli is a classic and I bought this book during my summer visit to Florence. I think this is the sort of book that you should read every few years.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone happy 2017!

I am sure 2017 will be much better in many ways than 2016!

Best of luck in 2017.

All the best from Galle, Sri Lanka.
Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Lecturing in China

I was honoured to give a short lecture on wealth management last week in Beijing at Renmin University. It was my first time in Beijing and I wish I could have spent more time discovering the city, but giving a short lecture was definitely more accommodating.

This has been my second teaching experience; my first one was in late 2014 at Singapore Management University.

Public speaking skill is a virtue which I really want to develop further, as it is always good to give back to society and meeting younger people to connect with different generations is always a great opportunity.

My session took about 45 minutes and I spoke about various aspects of wealth management such as its challenges and the opportunities ahead, along with its advantages and disadvantages compared to other departments in an ordinary bank.

What I am amazed by was the quality of the questions and the level of spoken English in the class.

It was such a good experience and I hope to avail of similar opportunities more regularly.

Thank you Eric Sim for the invitation!

All the best from Sri Lanka.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Book Review: Homo Deus

After reading Yuval Harari’s book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind early this year, it was almost impossible not to read his next book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow as soon as it is published and I can get it.

image1

Homo Deus is the second book written by Harari and talks about the future of mankind. Since Deus is “God” in Latin, he argues in his book that a new religion called Dataism to raise and humans will not need gods anymore since we will very accurately predict what will happen or who will do what by the help of gather data.

The book starts with striking statistics about the past and the present. Almost three million people–15% of the French population–starved to death between 1692 and 1694.  Today, more people are dying of diabetes, which is linked to being overweight rather than a result of starvation.  According to Harari, in 2014 more than two billion people were overweight compared to 850 million who suffered from malnutrition. Half of humankind is expected to be overweight by 2030.

Some of the quotes from the book that I really liked:

“Sugar is more dangerous than gunpowder”

“We don’t become satisfied by leading a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon”

Does the above quote remind you of someone?

“Historians don’t ignore objective factors such as climate changes and genetic mutations, but they give much greater importance to the stories people invention and believe”

Like in his first book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, in Homo Deus Harari emphasizes the power of stories whether they are true or not. Actually my interpretation is; the less likely they are true and superficial, the more likely the people will listen.

Another point Harari argues is that humankind’s definition of knowledge has kept changing since the Agricultural Revolution. We were simple creatures during this time, so knowledge for reading the scriptures and applying and applying our logic.

“Knowledge= Scriptures x Logic”

Then the Scientific Revolution came and everything focused on collecting data and trying to find meaning for the gathered data.

“Knowledge = Empirical Data x Mathematics”

Finally in 21st century, as much as we are confident about ourselves, we care more about our life experiences and our sensitivities.

Another provocative fact that Harari argues is that there is no free will, and that free will can be manipulated. With the help of technology and data, machines know much better than what we will do or choose. Harari argues that companies are using this to manipulate us. In other words, Harari says what you think you want to do may not be really what you want to do.

He strengthens these points in the following sentence: “We are about to face a flood of extremely useful devices, tools and structures that make no allowance for the free will of individual humans”

Fascinating and provocative! Isn’t it!?

Harari also argues “In the 21st century we might witness the creation of a new massive class: people devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society”  I personally did not get this point. Since societies are manipulated, how can they have this massive new class?

Some other provocative thoughts in the book are about collecting personal data.  Harari states “In the 21st century our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos”

“After 300 likes, Facebook algorithm can predict your opinions better than your husband or wife!

Yuval Harari is a young and great visionary writer. He definitely make my 2016 and led me to think as well as learn a lot!  He offers great opportunities for readers to think and learn. Harari’s Homo Deus is highly recommended.  His first book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is suggested as a prerequisite to Homo Deus.

I believe he will be in Istanbul on January, 25th which I am planning to fly and meet him in person!

Best Regards from Singapore.
Sukru Haskan

Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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