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Orchid entrepreneur Koh Keng Hoe makes failure a blooming success, mastering the full cycle of orchid growing through trial and error.

He makes failure a blooming success

Sunday, Aug 11, 2013

Judith Tan, The New Paper

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SINGAPORE – Life had thrown Mr Koh Keng Hoe lemons and instead of wallowing, he grew orchids. He has gone from an unemployed man in his 20s with a bleak future to one of the top growers worldwide. The Kovan boy, whose nursery did not even have a proper road, is now living in a bungalow in Dunearn Road. But back in 1954, life was tough as he had just been sacked from his job in The Straits Times after taking part in a Singapore Printing Employees’ Union strike. “I only had that one skill, nothing else,” he said of his $160-a-month job as a linotype operator. So he sold his BSA motorcycle for $100 to buy a Vanda merrillii, a red jungle orchid with a distinctive scent, from a Simon Road grower. “I had no money. I had to ride a bicycle there,” he said. “I knew nothing (then) about growing orchids. I was told that they grow well on coconut husks. People throw out the husks, making that a zero investment for me,” he added. Mr Koh applied whatever little knowledge of vegetable farming he had and his plants blossomed. That was the start of his six-decade love affair with the flower. He even mastered the full cycle of orchid growing – from cultivation and pollination, to the preparation and perfecting of nurturing seedlings – through trial and error. Read more of this post

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“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”

Annie Dillard on Writing

“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”

What does it really mean to write? Why do writers labor at it, and why are readers so mesmerized by it?

From Annie Dillard’s timelessly wonderful The Writing Life (public library) – which also gave us her vital reminder that presence rather than productivity is the key to living richly and her meditation on what a stunt pilot teaches us about creativity and the meaning of life – comes her infinitely resonant insight on the magic and materiality of writing, a fine addition to famous writers’ collected wisdom on the craft. Read more of this post

NZ PM John Key Says Fonterra Scare Affected All of New Zealand’s Exports

Key Says Fonterra Scare Affected All of New Zealand’s Exports

New Zealand’s entire export industry has suffered from the contamination scare that prompted China to halt imports of milk powder made by Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd., Prime Minister John Key said.

Damage from the incident would be hard to quantify as it affected all of New Zealand’s exports around the world, rather than just dairy sales to China, Key said in an interview with Television New Zealand yesterday. In a separate interview, Fonterra Chief Executive Officer Theo Spierings put the cost at “tens of millions” of New Zealand dollars. Read more of this post

Cronies and capitols: Businesspeople have become too influential in government

Cronies and capitols: Businesspeople have become too influential in government

Aug 10th 2013 |From the print edition

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IN 1994 many Italians voted for Silvio Berlusconi in the hope that he could use his skills as a businessman to revive a sclerotic economy. He had built a property-and-media empire out of thin air. He had reinvigorated one of the country’s great football clubs, AC Milan. Surely he would do a better job of running the country than the old guard of corrupt politicians and introverted bureaucrats? Well, si monumentum requiris, circumspice. Mr Berlusconi was prime minister of Italy for eight of the ten years between 2001 and 2011. During that time Italy’s GDP per head fell by 4%, its debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 109% to 120%, taxes rose from 41.2% of GDP to 43.4%, and its productivity stagnated. Rather than using his business skills to revive the Italian economy, Mr Berlusconi used his political skills to protect his business interests. The great seducer is an extreme example. And with luck Italy’s long Berlusconi-themed nightmare is drawing to a close. But the problem at the heart of Mr Berlusconi’s Italy—the commingling of power and business—is a growing worry around the world. In “Can Capitalism Survive?” (1947) Joseph Schumpeter argued that the answer to that question was probably “no”. The great battle of the 20th century was between the state and business. And the state was likely to win because the thinkers and bureaucrats at its service were better at occupying the moral and intellectual high ground. “A genius in the business office may be, and often is, utterly unable outside of it to say boo to a goose—both in the drawing room and on the platform,” he said. Times have changed. Most politicians now believe that businesses are better than bureaucracies at generating growth. Prime ministers and finance ministers flock to Davos not to lay down the law to businesspeople but to court their favours. Businesspeople have learned not just to say boo to a goose but to put a ring through its beak. Today the problem is often the very opposite of the one that Schumpeter imagined: not the marginalisation of business but its excessive influence.

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Why Founders Fail: The Product CEO Paradox

Why Founders Fail: The Product CEO Paradox

BEN HOROWITZ

posted 12 hours ago

Editor’s note: Ben Horowitz is co-founder and partner ofAndreessen Horowitz. He was co-founder and CEO of Opsware (formerly Loudcloud), which was acquired by HP, and ran several product divisions at Netscape. He serves on the board of companies such as Capriza, Foursquare, Jawbone, Lytro, Magnet, NationBuilder, Okta, Rap Genius, SnapLogic, and Tidemark. Follow him on his blog and on Twitter@bhorowitz.

If I knew what I knew in the past
I would have been blacked out on your a** —Kanye West, Black Skinhead

Because I am a prominent advocate for founders running their own companies, whenever a founder fails to scale or gets replaced by a professional CEO, people send me lots of emails. What happened, Ben? I thought founders were supposed to be better? Are you going to update your “Why We Prefer Founding CEOs” post? In response to all of these emails: No, I am not going to rewrite that post, but I will write this post. There are three main reasons why founders fail to run the companies they created:

The founder doesn’t really want to be CEO. Not every inventor wants to run a company and if you don’t really want to be CEO, your chances for success will be exceptionally low. The CEO skill set is incredibly difficult to master, so without a strong desire to do so the founder will fail. If you are a founder who doesn’t want to be CEO, that’s fine, but you should figure that out early and save yourself and everyone else a lot of pain.

The board panics. Sometimes the founder does want to be CEO, but the board sees her making mistakes, panics and replaces her prematurely. This is tragic, but common.

The Product CEO Paradox. Many founders run smack into the Product CEO Paradox, which I explain below. Read more of this post

Christians, Muslims and Jesus: How two global monotheisms view the same prophet

Christians, Muslims and Jesus: How two global monotheisms view the same prophet

Aug 10th 2013 |From the print edition

Christians, Muslims and Jesus. By Mona Siddiqui. Yale University Press; 285 pages; $32.50 and £20. Buy from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

RELIGION is a tricky subject for scholarship. Even the most professional academic is bound to have personal feelings about the faith under scrutiny. Some see this as cause for concern. Indeed Reza Aslan, one of America’s best-known writers on religion, recently came under fire for his new book about Jesus (“Zealot”, reviewed in the July 27th issue of The Economist). Because he is a Muslim who once embraced Christianity and then dropped it, Lauren Green of Fox News accused him of writing with a “clear bias”. No, Mr Aslan replied, he was writing as a scholar. His response was articulate and dignified, and the interview has helped sell quite a few books, but it will hardly sway those who believe Mr Aslan is writing with a Muslim agenda. Read more of this post

The perils of sitting down: Real science lies behind the fad for standing up at work

The perils of sitting down: Real science lies behind the fad for standing up at work

Aug 10th 2013 |From the print edition

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WINSTON CHURCHILL knew it. Ernest Hemingway knew it. Leonardo da Vinci knew it. Every trendy office from Silicon Valley to Scandinavia now knows it too: there is virtue in working standing up. And not merely standing. The trendiest offices of all have treadmill desks, which encourage people to walk while working. It sounds like a fad. But it does have a basis in science. Sloth is rampant in the rich world. A typical car-driving, television-watching cubicle slave would have to walk an extra 19km a day to match the physical-activity levels of the few remaining people who still live as hunter-gatherers. Though all organisms tend to conserve energy when possible, evidence is building up that doing it to the extent most Westerners do is bad for you—so bad that it can kill you. Read more of this post

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