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Stuck for AQ? Need help to brainstorm for ideas for Paper 1? Not sure how to paraphrase accurately for Paper 2? General Paper (GP) is a broad and all-compassing subject and many students are often left baffled over how to prepare adequately for it. You may even ask: can one prepare for GP? Of course you can! At Irwin’s Study, we will equip...
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Every once a while in my reading journey, I stumble upon a book that is so irresistible because the writing touches you deeply and challenges the paradigms in your head that the reverberations of its ideas still echo after I put the book down. ‘The Road to Character’ by David Brooks is one such recent book. I must admit upfront that I haven’t finished reading the entire book, but the reason is that it is such a moving book that I’m going to ration my reading of it so that I can take time to savour and reflect on the gems found in this tome.
David Brooks is a New York Times journalist and has taught undergraduate courses at Yale University on ‘humility’, which is also the subject of this book. He says,“I wrote this book not sure I could follow the road to character, but I wanted at least to know what the road looks like and how other people have trodden it. ” Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status—and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.
We all possess two natures. One focuses on external success: wealth, fame, status and a great career. The other aims for internal goodness, driven by a spiritual urge not only to do good but to be good – honest, loving and steadfast. The inner self doesn’t seek happiness superficially defined; it seeks emotional commitments without counting the cost, and a deeper moral joy. Individuals and societies thrive when a general balance is struck between these two imperatives, but we live in a culture that encourages us to think about the external side of our natures rather than the inner self.
The impetus for writing this book came because Brooks found himself living in a shallow mode. For years, he remained focused on getting ahead and reaping the rewards for his efforts, placing his career before his character. Finding himself at a crossroads, Brooks sought out men and women who embodied the moral courage he longed to experience. Citing an array of history’s greatest thinkers and leaders – from St. Augustine and George Eliot to Dwight Eisenhower and Samuel Johnson – he traces how they were able to face their weaknesses and transcend their flaws. Each one of them chose to embrace one simple but counterintuitive truth: in order to fulfil yourself, you must learn how to forget yourself.
I’m not certain if Brooks is a Christian, but as he weaves his book, and in the last sentence in particular, I think he is not very far off from what Jesus himself said some 2,000 years ago: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)
To live, we have to learn first to die.Read More
After posting this year’s CGE A-Levels GP Paper 1 Essay Questions, I received so many responses and thoughts about the different questions, which was a pleasant surprise. I even had some friends who are eager to write essays on some of the questions to ‘hand up to me’ for me to mark their essays! =D
As promised in my earlier post, I will be sharing some insights and content ideas for various essay questions (especially those that I personally find more interesting! =) in the coming posts, so here are some thoughts for Essay Question #1:
Can publicity ever be bad? Or is any kind of publicity always welcome? At first glance, it seems that this must not be true, for who wants negative publicity? Yet, in our current world of viral news and 24/7 media updates, no news is actually viewed by some to be…bad news. As a recent study from Stanford Graduate School of Business suggests, negative publicity can actually increase the sales of products when a product or company is relatively unknown as it stimulates brand awareness. Interesting examples include how after the movie ‘Borat’ made relentless fun of the nation of Kazakhstan, Hotels.com reported a 300% increase in requests for information about the country, and a wine described as “redolent of stinky socks” by a prominent website saw its sales increase by 5%!
“Most companies are concerned with one of two problems,” says Alan Sorensen, associate professor of economics and strategic management at the business school and one of the authors of the study. “Either they’re trying to figure out how to get the public to think their product is a good one, or they’re just trying to get people to know about their product. In some markets, where there are lots of competing products, they’re more preoccupied with the latter. In that case, any publicity, positive or negative, turns out to be valuable.”
Looking at 240 fiction book titles reviewed by the New York Times, investigators found that positive reviews, not surprisingly, always increased sales by anywhere from 32 to 52%. For books by established authors, negative reviews, also not surprisingly, led to a 15% decrease in sales.
However, the interesting twist comes when we examine books by relatively unknown authors because negative publicity had the opposite effect – increasing sales by a significant 45%! Follow-up studies affirmed the reason: Even bad reviews drew attention to works that otherwise would have gone unnoted. Moreover, the “negative” impression bad reviews created seemed to diminish over time.
“This suggests that whereas the negative impression fades over time, increased awareness may remain, which can actually boost the chances that a product will be purchased,” explains Sorensen, who authored the study with Jonah Berger, PhD ’07, now a faculty member at the Wharton School, and alumnus Scott Rasmussen, BA ’03, a Stanford undergraduate economics and mathematics undergraduate at the time the research was being conducted.
The research indicates that new entrants may have little to lose when it comes to publicity of any kind — the key is simply to get seen. “Smaller [motion picture] producers,” the authors write, for example, “may want to allow, or even fan, the flames of negative publicity.” Indeed, bad press, they suggest, may even serve as a form of direct marketing that can “slip under the radar” and be unrecognized as such.
Of course, brand names, on the other hand, have more at stake, as McDonald’s saw when a rumor circulated that it used worm meat in its hamburgers: Sales decreased by more than 25%. In 2009, after months of scathing media reports of cars that could accelerate out of control, Toyota had an extremely expensive problem on its hands. Recalls, fines, and plunging sales resulted in losses to the auto manufacturer in the neighborhood of $2 billion.