Category Archives: Culture

Gladwell’s Ethnic Theory Proven by SF Plane Crash?

The San Francisco plane crash that happened this past weekend was extremely unfortunate. It was also very surprising given how rarely plane crashes occur each year, but it does provoke some interesting points that Malcolm Gladwell made in his novel, Outliers, that perhaps should be taken into serious consideration.

According to Gladwell, a large percentage of the plane crashes that do occur are a direct result of miscommunication and language issues —  either among pilots in the cockpit and between air traffic controllers and pilots.  He even goes so far as to propose an “Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes” which suggests that how good of a pilot you are has a lot to do with which culture you were raised in. Gladwell compares Asian airlines to American ones, and explained in a Q&A with Fortune Magazine:

Korean Air had more plane crashes than almost any other airline in the world for a period at the end of the 1990s. When we think of airline crashes, we think, Oh, they must have had old planes. They must have had badly trained pilots. No. What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical. You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.

But Boeing (BAFortune 500) and Airbus design modern, complex airplanes to be flown by two equals. That works beautifully in low-power-distance cultures [like the U.S., where hierarchies aren’t as relevant]. But in cultures that have high power distance, it’s very difficult.

I use the case study of a very famous plane crash in Guam of Korean Air. They’re flying along, and they run into a little bit of trouble, the weather’s bad. The pilot makes an error, and the co-pilot doesn’t correct him. But once Korean Air figured out that their problem was cultural, they fixed it.

Gladwell’s attributes pilot error, particularly on Korean airlines, to the country’s authoritarian culture, which has the tendency to negatively effect the pilot teamwork “needed to fly Western-built jets” because co-captains are too afraid to speak up and tell their superiors when they are making a mistake. This makes it extremely difficult and dangerous when dealing with an emergency.

In Outliers, Gladwell also discusses the 10-thousand-hour-rule, which you can hear him talk about in his interview with CNN. The idea behind this rule is: you’d have to essentially be an apprentice and work on your craft for approximately 10 thousand hours in order to be considered great at what you do. Interestingly, the pilot in the SF plane crash, identified as Lee Kang-kook, had nearly 10,000 hours of experience flying planes; however, only 43 of those hours were spent flying the 777 model (ABC).

In the effort to minimize crashes, Airlines across the globe have been working to improve pilot-co-pilot teamwork efforts. It is becoming more and more common for co-pilots to address superiors by first name, and airilnes are teaching them how to be more assertive and get more comfortable with pushing back, particularly in emergency situations. In turn, head pilots are learning to work collaboratively aboard their planes by operating as organizers, negotiators and facilitators, rather than as dominant commanders. The goal is to make it easier for first officers to speak up in order to correct any mistakes caused by the main pilot.

Interviews with the 4 pilots on the Asiana plane are currently still being decrypted from Korean to English. It will be very telling when those interviews are released what happened — whether or not there was some sort of miscommunication or a last second decision that was made in error — that led to the crash (2 deaths and 183 injured).

I really think that Gladwell’s theory has some validity to it, which is unfortunate because the aim is not to strengthen ethnic divides; however, the positive outlook on this is that we can continue to learn and correct our mistakes no matter what ethnic group we are a part of.



Connecting and Disconnecting

Came across the article written below…and there are some gems. Awareness of self and your surroundings is so important — for your mental, physical, spiritual, and even financial being. In order to be aware we have to be engaged beyond the latest gossip/news, trending topics, and status updates taking place each moment on our touch screens; we have to actively live in the outside world and take advantage of the opportunity to connect with people through our natural senses.

Take a few minutes to read the article below, I will bet that it resonates with you.

Original Source
Written by Whitney Hess

We have become a society of people who avoid each other. Our instinct is no longer to extend ourselves to help a fellow human being in need, but rather to protect ourselves, our feelings, our time. We hide. We prefer to be alone. We prefer to sit back and observe. We prefer to climb inside our devices than to live out in the world.

We screen our calls. We send 10 texts rather than make a one-minute phone call. We don’t reply to emails. We cross to the other side of the street. We stare at our phone in the elevator. We avoid making eye contact. We pray we’ll get their voicemail. We hold the door-close button when we see them coming.

It wasn’t more than a couple generations ago that people would sit on chairs outside their home waiting to see who would walk by. It wasn’t that long ago that people would stop by one another’s homes unannounced. We used to crave face-to-face connection; now we evade it.

Each step ‘forward’ has made it easier, just a little, to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.”

~ Jonathan Safran FoerHow Not to Be Alone

So how is this impacting us? We are so plugged in that we are losing our ability to connect. The less present we are in our own bodies and with others, the less capacity we have for empathy and compassion. The less we’re able to fulfill another person’s needs (or even want to!), and the less we’re able to have our needs fulfilled in return.

We are losing our ability to live a compassionate life because we’re so out of practice. That leads us to make more assumptions about other people based on our own experiences — the only thing we know. And it turns out we don’t know anything.

We are knowing ourselves less and less, and we’re feeling powerless as a result. Because we’re hunched over our computers, hunched over our phones and tablets, our heart centers are facing down — towards our devices. Our backs are to the world. And this posture is negatively affecting our own views of self-worth and our capacity for self-awareness. How we pose shapes how we feel. All these distractions, the lack of physical motion, and the lack of presence all combines to disconnect us not only from one another, but from ourselves.

Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly.

We often use technology to save time, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or makes the saved time less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. It’s not an either/or — being “anti-technology” is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly “pro-technology” — but a question of balance that our lives hang upon.”


Preserving The World’s Rarities

Recognize this fuzzy lion with the cute little roar? Chances are that you’ve seen him in the intro to MGM movies over 1,000 times already. His name is Leo, and he was trained by an incredibly intelligent man named Dr. Bhagavan “Doc” Antle.

Antle is the founder and director of The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.), a wildlife education organization, dedicated to promoting global conservation with informative, educational, and entertaining interactive programs. Additionally, he established the Rare Specific Fund (RSF) to provide funding to critical on the ground international wildlife conservation programs, thereby complimenting the educational messages and field research of T.I.G.E.R.S. The RSF receives its financing base through a percentage of revenues taken in by T.I.G.E.R.S., the generosity of donations from exhibit guests, and the general public.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to meet Antle and visit the T.I.G.E.R.S. preservation in Myrtle Beach, SC. To say the very least, it was one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve ever had…

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The first big cat that I met was Hercules, a Liger. Napoleon Dynamite may have made them more popular commercially, but Ligers are extremely rare to come across. Over 11 foot tall, and at 900 lbs., Hercules is not only the largest breed of cat in the world, but he is in fact THE largest cat across the entire globe. He is a cross between a male lion and female tiger; thus making him a Liger. (If a female lion were to mate with a male tiger, they would produce a Ligon.)


The next cat I met was a cheetah. The way she just stared so intently…she pierced through your soul. It was incredible. Then she walked by us, and suddenly her body became sleek and elongated, her hips dipped low — riiight, llllleft, riiiight, llllleft — and her tail sort of flicked with attitude and poise. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her….until we met the baby tigers.


They were all  1 – 6 months old Bengal Tigers, some the standard orange with black stripes, others white and black with blueish-green eyes. In between running across our legs and playing with chew toys in our laps, we fed them milk out of baby bottles and cuddled with them until they grew tired. While I held a baby girl in my arms, one of the trainers said, “In less than 20 years you’ll never be able to do this again.  When children see pictures of these beauties in books, they’ll ask what they are, and we will only be able to share memories with them.” In the moment, I was so amazed and in awe to be touching the tigers; but the trainer’s words made me feel sad, desperate, and angry that human consumption is responsible for making wild tigers endangered in the first place.

The reality is that there are only about 3,000 wild tigers left in the entire world. Only 1 out of every 10 tigers lives long enough to reproduce — the biggest threats being human consumption of land and resources, starvation, and tigers killing one another over territory and food. My heart broke a little, maybe a lot..

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…even more so when we watched the older adults swim and play in the pool. It’s difficult to put into words how their heart beat really pulsates through your body when you’re around them; but if I had to, I would say that it’s like falling into the slits of the soul in their eyes while an orchestra of the loudest drum beats and a stable purr soothes. It’s enchanting.


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The next animals we got to play with were wolf pups. Their mom was an Arctic Wolf, their dad was a Timber Wolf, and they were gawwwwwgeous. They reminded me of my girls (huskies) so much…they way they wandered (lone wolf) only to return to their pack, they way they crooned colloquially, and their eyes…they way they felt and understood you. Wolves are said to be a guide, a symbol leading you in the right direction based on intuition; trust them, trust yourself. Like wolves, I often travel alone. I like it that way because I don’t have to answer to anyone, and I can move at my own pace. But as an only kid, I’ve always longed to be part of a bigger family and closer to my own. My little wolves have showed me unconditional love that I’ve never felt before, and for that I am grateful. The pups at the T.I.G.E.R.S. preserve felt like guides, too. Their energy was just refreshing, no words needed to be said to be understood.

Here are some of the other animals that I got the chance to meet:


In the top left is Bubbles the West African Elephant, who has been seen in a number of films and entertainment productions, such as Ace Ventura and Ashanti’s “Rock Wit U” Music Video. In the top right is an Orangutan; bottom left, a Gibbon; and bottom right, a Chimpanzee. The elephant is over 30 years old, and was raised by Antle since she was only a baby; all of the monkeys were still in their diaper days :P

Interestingly, many if not most of the animals of T.I.G.E.R.S. are actually renowned actors in over 500 film, television show and commercial advertisement credits. The list is really too long to comb through in its entirety, but some of the most recognized credits include the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Jay Leno and other late-night talk shows, Ace Ventura, Dr. Dolittle, and the Schweppes commercial campaign.

Remember these?

Antle helped train all of these animals, and he has used the money earned from these credits to help continue to fund T.I.G.E.R.S.

Overall, this past weekend was amazing. It of course allowed me to experience and share energy with some of the world’s greatest gems, but it also opened my eyes to the threats endangering these animals and what I can do to help. It makes me happy to know that my money is truly going to a great cause. In 10 years I want to hear that 3,000 has doubled, or more. We can all help make this happen.

If you’re interested in visiting the T.I.G.E.R.S. preservation, visit for more information. If you’d like to know how you can help raise awareness about endangered animals and/or donate to the RSF, visit


Pork Chops are NOT Karate Chops

As if depression could be remedied by anything found in a first aid kit..

It’s hard to explain to people who have never known it themselves…feeling lost, buried between cushions of experiences and expectations; feeling so much that they feel so little; numb to disappointment and the dominos of pain.

It’s not easy…none of it is. Losing your voice amongst life’s white noise is the saddest part of all. Sometimes we just need someone to pay attention to what we are saying when we don’t know how to say it. We need just one person to listen…and care..

Kudos to Shane Koyczan for sharing his spoken word poem, and to the entire creative team that produced this short film, for offering a voice to all of those who are or that have experienced depression.

Pork chops are not karate chops. Don’t underestimate the underdog. If you or someone you know might be suffering from depression, please, get help.



What makes for a good story?

Is it the relationships that mend and break? The mystery that yields suspense? What about the soundtrack that plays along in the background? Are all stories worth telling? If not, are they stories at all?

If we all come from different backgrounds, beliefs, families, environments and experiences, it would seem that opportunities to learn from people nearly always exist in one form or another – whether the lessons are interesting on the surface or not. So, why are some people so close-minded to other peoples’ stories? Why do they sometimes choose to neglect their own?

I think that people have the tendency to live outwardly — seeing what other people do and responding with behaviors that reflect what society might expect of them rather than the thoughts and emotions that they experience from within. The concept itself may seem obvious at first — trying to fit in with the “cool” kids — but if everyone acts and does the same things then the opportunities to stand out and learn from one another lessen dramatically.

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker earlier this week….He is a middle-aged, homosexual German man living in Frankfurt; I am a 23 year old, single, heterosexual, jewish female living in the States. We have walked extremely different ways of life, which is intriguing to me, but it seemed difficult for him to accept…and not for the reasons that you might think.

Although trying to maintain some of my own mystery, I did start to tell him about my story — my family, hardships, love lost; the twists and turns that helped me lose myself to ultimately find myself. I was openly expressing what a bad person I thought I was as an adolescent because of the experiences that I had had growing up. Toward the end of the conversation, all he had to say was that he was somewhat envious and wished that he had a story like mine; if life had kicked him in the ass harder, he would be been more motivated to do and experience more, become more successful.

I thought he was kidding. I mean…I wouldn’t wish my story upon anyone. That’s like gluing together broken glass and expecting it to shine as bright as a new bottle. Then again, broken glass makes for a beautiful mosaic. I have come to appreciate all of my broken pieces; each scar representing only small chapters of my story. I love what they have helped me become, and for that I am grateful.

When my coworker said he was jealous of me, I guess I was just taken aback because I thought he sounded more interesting on paper…or at least that he would have experienced more than I have. He then explained that his family was always supportive of his sexual orientation and it was just never made into a big deal, so he never really had to experience prejudice, malice, or truly trying experiences. Obstacles and hardships are really relative to each individual, but my coworker was adamant that he hadn’t undergone what he thought would make for a proper, interesting story.

He continued to say that after hearing some of what I have gone through, he wished that his story was as much of a page-turner as mine. At the same time, he internally felt guilty for wanting the people close to him, as well as his circumstances, to challenge him more instead of appreciating the path that he says they made easy for him.

I know that he didn’t tell me all of his story. I don’t know what was true and what wasn’t, but the conversation with my coworker made me realize something…that maybe the question isn’t whether or not some stories are worth telling; rather, it might be: What have you learned from your story? Or maybe: How has your story shaped you?

If you are reading the same chapter over and over again, you won’t be able to write the next chapter to your story…Perhaps the most exciting page hasn’t been lived yet. THAT in itself is something to be grateful for. Take the time to reflect inwardly so that you can share your energy outwardly. You never know who you might reach and help, whose narrative you might become a major part of.

Always tell your story.



Perspective is everything.

Are things exactly as we see them? Have they always been this way, or do they change as we do? Sometimes it’s good to revisit the places that we seem to take for granted..appreciate what we have grown up with and how it has shaped us. And yet, remain open minded, willing to learn from another perspective when appropriate.

6:21 pm on 4/18/13, at Rockefeller Center:

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This is where people come to fulfill their dream. Where they thrive…or get chewed up and spit out. Bumping shoulders, avoiding eye contact, exchanging brash words; racing to get from point A to point B, C, D…Z. The city is moving…so fast that we sometimes tend to become nearsighted. Work and money draw a heavy focus here.

8:12pm on 4/18/13, at Rockefeller Center:

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A thick layer of fog has descended on the city, creeping along eerily…calming the energy outside. The city’s people, they are still pacing. But the city, it is illuminating. Focus relaxes and grows increasingly farsighted — on the bridges stretching across East River, the skyline reflecting on water,  the lights on the Empire State Building as they sequentially alternate colors, and the sea of orange-yellow trying to navigate through every crevice of the city. There is a new appreciation at night because we survived another day to look at all of this.