TED Rule 15

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Back in Kuala Lumpur. Since last post I did a nice tour of Bali. The island is beautiful, impressive landscapes, colorful culture, old temples… Maybe too many tourists, Australians in the South (Kuta) and Frenchs in the North (Lovina). I then came back to Kuta to sell my motorbike and enjoy the lifestyle. I would have stay more but it’s time for new adventures! I am now preparing my trip to Taiwan, then Hong-Kong, Beijing and Pyongyang. Following TED rule 6 I will have to learn Chinese, better to start now and look at manuals, dictionaries and online tools. Not going to be easy!

So I finally did it! I crossed Indonesia in motorbike, from Medan to Bali, a mere 6500km. On a 150cc bike, with no highways. You can check the map here (click on next to get the full trip) – it is equivalent to a Paris (France) – Tehran (Iran)… During the trip I also went on exhausting trek in the mountains of Papua (7 days), I climbed Gunung Rinjani in Lombok (3 days – from 600m to 3726m) and Gunung Batur in Bali (1 day – 1700m full of clouds).

Why did I do that? I must say I’ve never been really found of sport, especially the boring ones (running, cycling…) until I turn 30. But on my birthday I decided to run a half marathon, just to prove myself that I could do it, even with my not-so-healthy lifestyle. And I discovered two things:

For the first one I introduce Lewis Pugh. From Wikipedia:

“Pugh was the first person to complete a long distance swim in every ocean. He frequently swims in vulnerable ecosystems to draw attention to their plight and is best known for undertaking the first swim across the North Pole in 2007 to highlight the melting of the Arctic sea ice and for swimming across a glacial lake under the summit of Mount Everest in 2010 to draw attention to the melting glaciers in the Himalayas, and the impact the reduced water supply will have on world peace.”

Check his first TED Talk where he explains how he prepared to swim across the North Pole in 2007. Impressive.

The most important thing was to train my mind, to prepare myself of what was going to happen

Or as he says in his second TED talk “mind-shifting Everest swim“:

There is nothing more powerful than a made up mind

The way I get it is that in endurance or crazy physical challenges, the body will follow the mind. Going on a marathon or swimming across North Pole is not showing how fit you are, but how mentally strong you are.

The second thing I discovered is the consequence of that. And here I’m quoting back Tim Ferris (the inspiring guy from TED rule 6) in his last (excellent) book, “The 4 Hour Body“:

Running an ultramarathon can’t be good for you. I can’t imagine how it’s possibly good for your body,” I said.

I wasn’t biting on endurance. Running wasn’t my thing and it never had been. Brian MacKenzie laughed: “Good for you physically? No. But you’ll recover. And I assure you: if you run 50K or 100 miles, when you finish, you won’t be the same person who started.”

I thought for a minute, and that’s when I bit.

I’d seen a strange ripple effect dozens of times in the world of strength, but for some reason, I’d never connected the dots with endurance. Perhaps just as you haven’t connected the dots with some subjects in this book. After all, in a knowledge economy, what’s the value of deadlifting more or losing 2% bodyfat? Of hitting a home run?

In a word: transfer

Yes, achieving crazy stupid physical challenges makes you change. In the good way. It makes you mentally stronger, it proves you you can accomplish, in a very simple form: if you finish, you made it.

So I’m going to continue that way, and this is TED rule 15: take physical challenges.

Below some pictures of the Rinjani trek (more on facebook and flickr), and a video from an old prophet, Olivia Newton John…

Let’s get Physical!


TED Rule 14

Kuta, Bali, Indonesia,

Yes I know, I’m (very) late again. But this time I have a better excuse… Last week I joined some friends from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in Lombok, the island just on the eastern side of Bali. We climbed Mount Rinjani, an impressive volcano. The summit is 3726m high, so starting at 600m it’s a nice 3 days trek. Of course no internet connection… Maybe more on that in my next TED Rule (and I’m currently processing the pictures of the beautiful landscapes – soon on Facebook)

So I’m back in Bali, I think I’ll stay there for the next 2 weeks, time to enjoy the island and prepare my next destination. Taiwan or Hong-Kong?

It means that this is the end of the muslim countries for my trip. Malaysia and Indonesia were great discoveries, with beautiful cultures, histories, people, food… and very different from Saudi for example, where I spent some time in 2004. So Indonesia might be the biggest muslim country in the world (86% of the population is muslim – Indonesia has a population of 237 000 000, making it the world’s fourth most populous country), the way they view and practice Islam is not as strong as Middle Eastern countries. It is interesting to note, especially with the importance that Islam has taken in the news for the last 10 years.

But what makes two different muslim countries having very distinctive ways of following Islam? Or more importantly, how does a religion like Islam evolve in relation to the different cultures?

Well, TED talk again. Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish journalist, writing on issues relating to Islam and modernity.

What we call today islamic law, and especially islamic culture – and there is many islamic cultures […] – has a core, the divine message which began the religion, but then many traditions, perceptions, many practices were added on top of it, and these were traditions of the Middle East, the medieval Middle East.

This is what I like about Indonesia, most of the country may be full of mosque, old or in construction, but it keeps his Hindu culture as a base. Most of the legends, dances, music, stories, are based on the Vedas, generally the Ramayana or Mahabharata. And the mix of influences creates the beautiful Indonesian culture.

Coming back to Mustafa Akyol, his wikipedia page has a bit of controversy, especially on his vision to Intelligent Design. I’ve also been advised by some friends that his book might not be totally right… Well, who can I trust?

As an old man once said: “Think for yourself. Question Authority” – or in french PPTM/CA. The best is for me to get the information at its source. I read the bible (old/new), some shortened version of the huge Mahabharata and Ramayana, some buddhist books like the Bardo Todol. Now may be the time for the Koran!

TED Rule 14: Read the Holy Koran

TED Rule 13

Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia

I know I’m late, I missed a TED rule last week. No worries, I’ll add one more soon! During the past two weeks, I’ve been to crazy big durian Jakarta, then Bandung to meet some friends for the week-end. As my visa had to be extended, I came back to Jakarta to start the process. Now I’m on the road again, crossing the Java island to reach Bali and Lombok, where I should arrive next monday to meet another friend.

Since the beginning of my trip in Indonesia, I faced some visa challenges with authorities. Let me summarise quickly two little stories:

– When I arrived one month ago to Jakarta airport, the immigration guy asked me if I had a return ticket. I’ve been to Indonesia many times before, and never had to show a return ticket to get the visa. Unfortunately this time they asked, and I did not have one. The immigration guy transferred me to his boss desk, where after talking for some time, the boss told me “No worry, you help me I help you”. I asked how much, expecting a small amount of money. When I saw the number he was writing, I laugh… 1 000 000 rupia (=81 Euros). It is more than the minimum monthly salary in Indonesia (900000Rp), more than my fly ticket to and back from Kuala Lumpur. I manage to live decently with less than 200.000Rp per day. Well, so I laugh nervously and the guy took it bad. Angry, he told me I had to buy a return ticket now and left to find a travel agency representative. Then I waited. 10min… 20min… After 30min I wrote a fake email on my iPod touch, with the date and number of a fake ticket out of Indonesia. I then went to another immigration guy asking naively where his boss was, and if I could go. When he asked for my passport and if I had a return ticket, I showed him the iPod. He just stamped my passport and let me go…

– When I came back to Jakarta airport one month later to extend my visa, it was in different office, but I had the same problem. You can tell when you cannot enter the office because a fat official with a strange smile takes your shoulder and say: “You want to extend your visa, I can help you if you help me”. I just said I will not. It removed his smile, I had to leave. I managed to find a friendly young woman official who gave me the address of an other immigration office in central Jakarta. The day after I was there, and one more day to get the visa extension, the official way!

I never had corruption problem before in Indonesia, so I knew it is just some wrong apples, most of Indonesians are honest and very helpful with strangers.

Unfortunately sometimes I had to pay. When dealing with the police, there is no escape… They arrested me twice on my motorbike, always finding something wrong (no lights during day, no papers with me). Although it was a reasonable price (50Rp and 100Rp), the money get directly to their pocket.

At a different level, corruption is way bigger in India. And Shaffi Mather, successful entrepreneur, has a very good idea to fight it

Imagine you’re being asked to pay a bribe in your day to day life, to get something done. What do you do?

At my level, in a country where I am seen from far away as a tourist, how do I avoid bribes?

I managed to get the visa and extension without paying bribes. For the police, here is my new way to avoid corruption:

my anti corruption mask!My anti corruption mask! Now I am wearing it any time I ride my motorbike. The mask with a jacket and helmet makes me much more difficult to see from the police. I am not anymore a tourist riding a bike, I am Anonymous inside the huge mass of Indonesian motorbikes. Well… so far it worked.

Any other ideas?

TED rule 13: Avoid paying bribes

TED rule 9

Bengkulu, West Sumatra, Indonesia

One year ago, while I was looking online for tutorials on photography, I stumbled upon a video from the young talented photographer Joey L. He had spent 3 weeks in a remote island close to Sumatra, shooting tribes. The pictures were great, landscapes wild, but what touched me was at the end. The shamans were inviting people from all over the world to come to the island and discover their culture. They were saying that their culture will die with them, the young generations being more interested by the “modern” way of life. I decided I will go there. And I’m just coming back from a week with the exact same people.

The island is Siberut, part of the Mentawai island. It’s a 8 hour boat trip from Padang, sumatra. At first I went there with no real plan, but I met other people going for a trek to meet the tribes. I joined them, and we went on a 3 hour canoe trip, plus 3 hour walk in the muddy jungle, to finally arrive to the Uma (traditional shaman house). We lived with the Mentawai people 3 days, then went to an other Uma, our guide father’s.

Mentawai people are amazing, friendly, with a great humour, speaking a little english from the travelers coming there. They live in harmony with the jungle, respecting each animal they hunt, talking to the spirits, healing with ancestral shamanist knowledge of plants and songs. And it’s true, it seems that their beautiful culture is dying. From the Indonesian government with police pressure and official schools, to the Indonesian culture spreading to the young Mentawai with muslim missionaries, fashion and music.

What to do? Find the right TED talk. From Wade Davis, anthropologist from national geographic. What he says in his last TED talk

We’re living through a time when virtually half of humanity’s intellectual, social and spiritual legacy is being allowed to sleep away. This does not have to happen. These people are not failed attempts of being modern […] and destined to fade away by natural law.

In every case these are dynamic living people being driven out of existence by identifiable forces. That’s actually an optimistic observation because it suggests that if human beings are the agent of cultural destructions, we can also be, and must be, the facilitator of cultural survival.

I chose to show you his first talk, much more dense and powerful.

I could quote most of his talk, but I decided to keep the militant part of it:

We believe that politicians will never accomplish anything, we think that polemics are not persuasive but we think that story telling can change the world.

So for this TED rule: I’ll create an other blog sharing stories, pictures and videos of the people I meet during my trip.

I haven’t much time ( they are closing the internet cafe I’m in), but please watch this other video about a project to keep and finish Mentawai tattoos: Mentawai Tattoo revival. I’ll post more info on Mister Jo’s facebook and Twitter.


TED rule 6

Medan, Indonesia

I finally managed to escape Kuala Lumpur and its physically exhausting nightlife, I left my great friends, my beautiful motorbike – still for sale! – and flied to Medan, Indonesia. I then looked around to buy a motorbike, not so easy when you’re not Indonesia resident, and rested, waiting for the week-end to end and the shops to open again. Hopefully by the time you read this post I’m riding to Toba Lake and new adventures!
In Medan, I’m learning to respond to all the friendly “Hey Mister!” coming every 10 minutes from smiling kids, taxi drivers or any people in the street. In 3 days I haven’t seen any foreigner, which can explain also all the astonished looks I get, but hey, I feel like a star! Many come spontaneously to help me translate to Indonesian, to give directions or just to talk a little bit in English, when they can. And to really feel this country I decided I really need to speak the Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia), and quickly. I have an assimil method, I also use free software to remember the words, but that’s not fast enough, and that’s not fitting my way of learning. Then I remembered Tim Ferriss, an impressive guy who, you can imagine, gave a TED talk.
Tim Ferriss was born in 1977, in 2001 he founded a sport nutrition supplement company, brain QUICKEN, sold it in 2009, and he is now an angel investor for companies like twitter or stumbleupon. He also gained a Guiness record for the most consecutive tango spins in 1 minute, he became national champion of Sanshou (chinese kick boxing), wrote 2 best sellers (“the 4 hour workweek” and “the 4 hour body”), had a show on history channel, and, that’s the worst, he is quite good looking.
I first stumbled upon Tim after the publication of his first book: “The 4-hour workweek, escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich”, in a google video. It was the first time I was watching a video about productivity by someone else than an old teacher, and I was impressed. So there were methods to learn and work more effectively? He got me and I started to follow blogs and videos about the subject. And 4 years after, I can tell  it worked!
As you’re going to see in the TED talk, Tim applies 2 main ideas:

  • The Pareto Principle: “For many events, 80% of the effect come from 20% of the cause”, and  “focus one’s attention on those 20% that contribute to 80% of the income”
  • The Parkinson’s law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” or how Tim turns it: “The perceived complexity of a task will expand to fill the time you allowed for it”

So when you have a task to complete – or something new to learn, deconstruct it, look at the 20% you have to do and allow you only a short deadline. Then you’ll be effective.

You now understand, I’m interested in the 2nd part of his talk. And here is my TED rule 6: I’ll learn bahasa Indonesia, and maybe the other languages I’m going to need (Taralog for Philipinnes, Mandarin for China…)
Now you can stop reading, or if you’re interested by Tim’s method to learn effectively a new language you can continue after the jump, I’m going to summarize it. If you’re really interested I recommend switching directly to his blog Here or Here.

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