Saturday, July 28, 2007

LIFE IS A SERIES OF CHOICES

The first time I read this wonderful book, 'Life's Greatest Lessons: 20 Things that Matter' by Dr Hal Urban, an award-winning teacher & a peak performance coach, I was struck by one single statement by the author:

Life is a series of choices;

Reading this profound statement was really a defining moment for me.

Life is a series of choices;

The funny thing about life is that all of us have the power to choose:

We can either sit back & take what life deals us, or we can fight back, take charge, & determine our own pathway.

If we want & believe in something, we must take the next step & pursue it rigourously. We need to put our plans in action.

To put this in perspective, I remember talking to a friend of mine recently. He had retired for a number of years & had just been offered more than S$2 million in an en bloc sale of his condo apartment. However, he was moaning & groaning about the difficulty of getting an equivalent apartment for the same amount of money, in the light of today’s spiralling property market.

Instead of exploring how he could leverage on this newly-acquired windfall, & deliberating on other investment opportunities, he kept looking at the negative aspects of his personal situation.
I began to suggest a HDB apartment for a start & asked him to put the money in the bank for the time being.

How did my friend respond? By saying, "I could never live in such a small space." And, in the very next breath, he was complaining again about not getting a good deal for his apartment.

So, there he went. He made a choice. He had chosen to let his current personal situation continue to drain his physical & mental energy.

Life has always been a series of choices. Which one will you choose?

To paraphrase one Chinese philosopher: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step".

Nevertheless, I want to take this opportunity to share with readers the remaining wise lessons, which are apparently deeply rooted in common sense as they are in compassion, from the book, ‘Life Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter’:

1) Success is more than making money;

2) Life is hard & not always fair;

3) Life is also fun & incredibly funny;

4) We live by choice, not by chance;

5) Attitude is a choice – the most important one you’ll ever make;

6) Habits are the key to all success;

7) Being thankful is a habit – the best one you’ll ever make;

8) Good people build their lives on a foundation of respect;

9) Honesty is still the best policy;

10) Kind words cost little but accomplish much;

11) Real motivation comes from within;

12) Goals are dreams with deadlines;

13) There’s no substitute for hard work;

14) You have to give up something to get something;

15) Successful people don’t find time – they make time!;

16) No one else can raise your self-esteem;

17) The body needs nutrition & exercise – so do the mind & spirit;

18) It’s OK to fail – everyone else has;

19) Life is simpler if we know what’s essential;

20) Essential #1 is being a good person!


For me, I believe the 20th thing as mentioned above represents the epitome of personal success.

I am confident this inspirational book will definitely help you to assemble all your life priorities.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The most expensive piece of real estate is the six inches between your right & left ear. It’s what you create in that area that determines your wealth. We are only really limited by our mind."
(Dr. Dolf de Roos, an authority on real estate investment)

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

In what area of life is your performance the weakest?

How could you improve?

Friday, July 27, 2007

THOUGHTWARES FROM TWO MARKETING WIZARDS II

[continue from Part I. This is the final part.]

How to Make Millions with Your Ideas: An Entrepreneur's Guide
By Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy is another marketing wizard whose thoughtwares I really admire. The other is Jay Abraham.

I am well aware of the fact that both authors have generated a persona of being smooth operators. However, when come to what I can take away from their respective published thoughtwares, I always maintain an objective viewpoint.

For me, this particular book, written as an entrepreneur's guide, is definitely a great companion to Jay Abraham's 'Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got' which I had reviewed earlier - & vice versa.

Like Jay Abraham's book, it is jam-packed with actionable tools & ideas. Most of the tools & ideas can also be easily adapted, with a little bit of ingenuity, to suit one's unique marketplace & special circumstances. This is the elegance & beauty of both Jay Abraham's & Dan Kennedy's street-smart advice.

I have specifically adapted many of his tools & ideas. His 'Million Dollar Rolodex' in Chapter 13 is just one excellent example, among many others.

Unlike most authors, Dan Kennedy has a tendency to take a provocatic, & sometimes sarcastic, approach in dispensing his marketing advice. He calls it ‘no bull shit’ approach, which somehow aggravates people.

However, & this is the harsh reality: his ideas are enriching & rewarding, if you expend the extra effort to get them to work!

I certainly rate this book very highly. GO FOR IT...if you want to make your dreams come true! The author's corporate website or blog is a goldmine of valuable tips on direct marketing. I like his Power of Sales Formulas among many others.

I also like to take this opportunity to share with readers by reiterating this simple reading philosophy of mine, particularly in connection with books from slick authors: 'Absorb what is useful; reject what is useless; research my own experience & add what is specifically my own.'

THOUGHTWARES FROM TWO MARKETING WIZARDS I

Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got: 21 Ways You Can Out-Think, Out-Perform, and Out-Earn the Competition
By Jay Abraham

In spite of the hyperbolic factor, I am always amazed by the thoughtware of Jay Abraham. I have most of his published stuff, ranging from this book to all other audio/video resources.

In real person, during public presentations which I have attended, he is not impressive - in fact, quite boring -, but when he writes, I hold him in great esteem.

He reminds me of Dan Kennedy, another marketing wizard whose published works I also admire, despite his persona of being a smooth operator.

From the results standpoint, this particular book is really a masterpiece. His principal premise is very sharp & simple: Maximise what you already have &/or what are already doing. For me, just reading & digesting Chapter 1 Your Flight Plan is already worth the investment in the book. I really like the way he presents the power of geometry & the strategy of preeminence in generating more business.

Readers can actually go to Jay Abraham’s corporate website to download this chapter at no cost.

One specific quotation of his stands out when I first read the book:

"You are surrounded by simple, obvious solutions that can dramatically increase your income, power, influence & success. The problem is, you just don't see it." WOW!

Throughout the book, he goes on to share his strategic - & tactical - approaches to spotting opportunities - through fresh eyes - from your hidden assets, overlooked ideas & untapped resources. These are the windows of opportunity! Using real-world examples, he explains how easy it is to find &/or create opportunities in any existing business or venture.

There are over 200 tools & ideas to help you create wealth from what you've got in your business or venture.

I certainly rate this book very highly. GO FOR IT...if you are hungry!

I also like to take this opportunity to share with readers by reiterating this simple reading philosophy of mine, particularly in connection with books from slick authors: 'Absorb what is useful; reject what is useless; research my own experience & add what is specifically my own.'

[to be continued in Part II]

THE BEGINNING OF MY READING PURSUIT IV

[continue from Part III. This is the final part.]

Beginning from the late sixties & around the early seventies, I started to embark on my initial career as a mechanical draftsman for the first two years. This was then followed by a career change as trainee executive in a trading firm handling engineering products.

For some obvious reasons, I started to stay away from fiction works & began my journey to read non-fiction works.

During the period, the first significant piece of extra-curricular reading material that came into my hands was actually the Reader’s Digest. In fact, I had an annual subscription. Besides the true real-world stories about great men as well as the little guys who beat the odds, my favourite sections were the vocabulary building & jokes. I must highlight that the Reader’s Digest had tremendous impact on my comparatively good command of the English Language.

This was followed immediately by reading a whole gamut of books as well as listening to audios from two standpoints, one covering personal self-development, & the other on how to do well in my job. Whether I did this as conscious or unconscious decision, I could not be sure.

From the standpoint of personal self-development, the principal books that I had read were essentially from Napolean Hill:

- ‘Think & Grow Rich’;
- ‘The Law of Success’;
- ‘The Master Keys to Riches’;
- ‘Success with a Positive Mental Attitude’ (with Clement Stone);
- ‘Succeed & Grow Rich through Persuasion’;

In the words of the publishers, these books formed the world’s foremost ‘core philosophy of personal achievement’.

These were followed by other motivational classics, as follows:

- ‘Psychocybernetics’, by Maxwell Maltz;
- ‘Acres of Diamond’, by Russell Conwell;
- ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’, by Dale Carnegie;
- ‘How to Stop Worrying & Start Living’, by Dale Carnegie;
- ‘How to Develop Self Confidence’, by Dale Carnegie
- ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’, by David Schwartz;
- ‘The Magic of Believing’, by Claude Bristol;
- ‘The Power of Your Subconscious Mind’, by Joseph Murphy;
- ‘As a Man Thinketh’, by James Allen;
- ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’, by George Clason;
- ‘The Greatest Salesman in the World’, by Og Mandino;
- ‘The Success System That Never Fails’, by Clement Stone;
- ‘The Strangest Secret’, by Earl Nightingale;
- ‘Lead the Field’, by Earl Nightingale;
- ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’, by Norman Vincent Peale;
- ‘Possibility Thinking’, by Robert Schuller;
- ‘Your Erroneous Zones’, by Wayne Dyer;
- ‘Pulling Your Own Strings’, by Wayne Dyer;
- ‘How to Raise Myself from Failure to Success in Selling’, by Frank Bettger;
- ‘Winning by Intimidation’, by Robert Ringer;


Regarding aspects of how to do well in my job, I had the following wonderful books to support my learning & enhance my performance during the early seventies,

- ‘The Effective Executive’, by Peter Drucker;
- ‘The Peter Principle’, by Laurence Peter;
- ‘Use Both Sides of Your Brain’, by Tony Buzan;
- ‘Make the Most of Your Mind’, by Tony Buzan;
- ‘Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step’, by Edward de bono;
- ‘Uses of lateral Thinking’, by Edward de bono;
- ‘Mechanism of Mind’, by Edward de bono;
- ‘Secrets of Mind Power’, by Harry Lorayne;
- ‘How to Develop a Super Power Memory’, by Harry Lorayne;
- ‘How to be Rich’, by Paul Getty;

- 'How to be a Successful Executive', by Paul Getty;
- 'What Executives Should Know: Creating & Selling Your Ideas', by Eugene Raudsepp;
- ‘How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World’, by Harry Browne;


As far as my reading is concerned, the various comics, the handful of literary works, the detective novels, the spy thrillers & the motivational classics as outlined in the foregoing posts, were my early influences during the sixties & early seventies. In many ways, they had shaped the way I had looked at the world. In some ways, they had also conveyed to me certain truths about my own life & specific things I was not sure I could have learned in other ways.

Looking back with fond memories, I am very glad to say that all those early reading exposures were interesting times for me. In reality, they had filled - & fuelled – my creativity & imagination in my later years, in addition to equipping me with some basic survival tools to move forward.

In concluding this post, I would like to take this opportunity to quote two personal observations, one from Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist/psychologist, who is considered the father of analytical psychology; & the other from Jonathan Hancock, BBC presenter & formerly World Memory Champion:

“The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, which belongs also to the child, & appears to be consistent with the principle of serious work, but without the playing with fantasy, no creative work has ever come forth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.” (Carl Jung)

“Imagination has no rules. You have a whole new world at your disposal, a place where there are no laws of gravity, no policeman – nothing to limit or restrict. Imagination allows us to switch on the electro-magnet of our minds & change information so that it becomes magnetic.” (Jonathan Hancock)

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The ultimate triumph in a person's life is to develope his or her own unique personal greatness - & to use it to take great personal actions to achieve great human results."
(John Hensel)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)


What did you do today?

Why did you do it?

Was it necessary to do it?

How could you do it better?

What value did you add to your life or your business?

BOOK REVIEW: 'POWER SLEEP: THE REVOLUTIONARY PROGRAM THAT PREPARES YOUR MIND FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE', by Dr James Maas

This book is a fascinating read. It has some useful advice for the peak performer!

I had picked up this book in a used bookstore, again instinctively, after having read Veronique's ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’ & William Anthony's ‘The Art of Napping’.

The author, Dr James Maas, certainly has impressive credentials – a pioneer of sleep research at Cornell University. Although the book does not offer really cutting-edge stuff, I find it fascinating, as it offers some useful advice for the peak performer. The subject of optimum performance technologies has always intrigued me.

Imagine we spend a third of our lives on sleeping. So naturally I want to find out how to do it better, so that I can stay awake longer.

Although personally, I don’t have problems with sleeping – I can sleep like a log - & also I always consider my personal energy level to be comparatively high, I am often curious about other peak performers' sleeping &/or napping habits.

The book starts off with these interesting real-world revelations, in answering the question

‘How much sleep do you get?’

Thomas Edison slept three or four hours at night. President Clinton grabs five to six hours. The performer Janis Joplin never wanted to sleep for fear she might miss a good party. Martha Stewart, an expert on planning good parties, only sleeps four to five hours each night. The comedian Jay Leno manages five hours and the millions of viewer, who stay up to watch his late-night TV show, won't get much more.

Then there are those at the other end of the sleep-length spectrum. Albert Einstein claimed he needed ten hours of sleep to function well. President Calvin Coolidge demanded eleven. Night time sleep wasn't adequate for Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan & Prime Minister Winston Churchill. They took naps (and, incidentally, so did Edison).

As President Reagan once half jokingly remarked to members of the press, "No matter what time it is, wake me up, even if it's in the middle of a cabinet meeting."

Despite the author's tendency for mundane rambling throughout the book, I find the chapters explaining the golden rules of sleep & introducing the twenty great sleep strategies are the most interesting & useful.

There is even a chapter for exhausted parents of newborns, infants & children.

In addition, the book also contains numerous references, including web-sites, addresses of sleep disorder centres in the USA etc. which one can follow up. In today’s context, some of the references may be out of date.

For me, the author has made convincing argument that the best way to stay awake is to get more sleep.

I recommend this book to all readers, as complementary reading to the books mentioned at the beginning of this review. I also reckon that readers who are frequent business travellers or night-shift supervisors will benefit most from this book.

Another companion book to read with this particular one is Jeff Davidson's ‘Breathing Space’.

Combined, they can undoubtedly offer great (stress relieving) stuff for our time-pressed, over-achieving society.

BOOK REVIEW: 'PROTECTING YOUR #1 ASSET - CREATING FORTUNES FROM YOUR IDEAS', by Michael Lechter

Frankly speaking, I am quite disappointed with this book.

When I bought this book, I had the impression that it is about the protection of intellectual capital. Also, I was attracted to the book because of an introduction by Robert Kiyosaki, whose work I am very familiar.

Although the book gives a broad brush about intellectual property (IP) protection from many different perspectives, & offers some useful guidelines to help protect your intellectual interests, it is somewhat incomplete as far as the protection of ideas or intellectual capital is concerned.

It does not give any specific illustration and/or example on how to protect your intellectual capital from the standpoint of goodwill, reputation, expertise, (especially accumulated practical skills), data & know-how...more specifically, your ideas &/or "working methodologies" which are embodied in products & services.

Take an example from the book, on page 58, under Utility Patent Protection, the author talked about:

"Business method is patentable if:

- it produces a useful, concrete, and tangible result; and
- it is novel and not obvious;"

but the book stops short of giving specific business cases or product examples to illustrate this key point. This is, to me, intellectual capital, & I want to know how to protect it!

As a matter of fact, the author talked about how he came to know Robert Kiyosaki...from the CashFlow game. Funny enough, the author did not even bother to give any detailed account on the IP protection scheme pertaining to the game. Nothing at all, period. I thought this would have been a very appropriate subject, because of the need for the protection of intellectual capital behind the development of the game - & the gameplay procedure - from pirates.

The book listed a lot of other IP stuff, which were not covered in the book, but the author directed the reader to his website. For example, the author introduced his IP self-audit checklist, among other things, which sounds interesting. When I checked his website, I realised I had to fork out US$129/- to buy a CD-ROM containing the stuff.

My overall personal impression of the book is that both Michael Lechter & Robert Kiyosaki are using each other to sell each other's products & services! (which are well-illustrated on many end pages of the book!) The poor reader is expected to fork out more effort & cash.

Maybe that's why the Rich Dad series of products are so lucrative for both authors.

On the whole, this book falls short of my personal expectations. I am very disappointed with the author & also, Robert Kiyosaki.

To be fair to the author, I feel that the book, even though it is incomplete from my personal viewpoint, still provides a broad-brush about IP, - especially on copyrights, patents, & trademarks, - from many different perspectives.

THE BEGINNING OF MY READING PURSUIT III

[Continue from Part II]

From the mid-sixties onwards & right through the mid-seventies or so, I discarded my comics reading routines & moved into reading the works of:

- Agatha Christie (about the exploits of the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, in ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, etc.);

- Raymond Chandler (about the exploits of the cool, quintessential private eye, Philip Marlowe, in 'Poodle Springs', 'The Long Goodbye', 'Playback', etc.); &

- Mickey Spillane (about the exploits of tough-talking, brawling, skirt-chasing private eye, Mike Hammer, in 'I, the Jury', etc.);

I believed my reading choices in the subsequent direction were influenced in some ways by the prevailing programs on tv & in the movies.

Following my personal fascination with detective novels, I got somehow attracted to spy thrillers. Hence, I also read the works of:

- Ian Fleming (with James Bond 007 in ‘Dr No’, ‘From Russia with Love’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Thunderball’, ‘Casino Royale’, ‘You Only Live Twice’, ‘On her Majesty’s Secret Service’; also ‘Poppies Are Also Flowers’, etc.);

- Alistair MacLean (‘The Guns of Navarone’, ‘Force 10 from Navarone’, ‘Golden Rendervous’, ‘When Eight Bells Toll’, ‘Fear is the Key’, ‘Ice Station Zebra’, ‘Where Eagles Dare’, ‘Caravan to Vaccares’, ‘Puppet on a Chain’, etc.);

- Frederick Forsyth (‘Day of the Jackal’, ‘The Odessa File’, ‘The Dogs of War’, etc.);

- John le carre (‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’, ‘The Looking Glass War’, ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, ‘The Deadly Affair’, etc.);

- Jack Higgins (‘The Eagle Has Landed’, etc.);

- Len Deighton (‘The Ipcress File’; ‘Funeral in Berlin’, ‘Billion Dollar Brain’, ‘Midnight in St Petersburg’, etc.);

- Trevor Smith (‘The Quiller Memorandum’, etc.);

Many of the above works were made into movies which I had also enjoyed watching.

One of the reasons I had enjoyed reading - & watching the movie versions of - detective novels as well as spy thrillers was because I simply loved the way the principal plot - & the many subplots - were conceived by the authors. It was also intriguing to figure out the myriad of relationships between various characters in the plots. To me, this was human ingenuity & imagination at work.

[To be continued]

THE BEGINNING OF MY READING PURSUIT II

[continue from Part I]

My repertoire of comics expanded to include DC & Marvel comics. My favourite heroes in these collections were:

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, X-men & Daredevil;

For me, these wonderful characters epitomised the power of fantasy. From my earliest recollections as a kid, I had always been drawn by the power of fantasy as it had often helped me to suspend belief as well as preconceptions about the world in general.

In retrospect, I realised that it had also somehow given me a real creativity streak that allowed me to explore a broad spectrum of ideas, especiallly when dealing with many life challenges along the way - from childhood to adulthood.

Later, or maybe at about the same time, I was introduced to Dell & other comics with contained mostly western characters like:

Bat Masterson, Billy the Kid, Hopalong Cassidy, Doc Holiday, Jesse James, The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Wyatt Earp;

Others unusual characters included: Dick Tracy, Jungle Jim, Tarzan, The Phantom;

Towards the mid-sixties, I believed my educational curriculum included some literary classics, which I had to read as part of my English Language lessons:

- ‘The Hounds of Baskerville, by Arthur Conan Doyle – I was then introduced to Sherlock Holmes & his sidekick, Mr Watson;
- ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, by Charles Dickens;
- ‘Jane Eyre’, by Charlotte Bronte;
- 'Gulliver's Travels', by Jonathan Swift;
- 'Ivanhoe', by Walter Scott;
- 'Treasure Island', by Robert Louis Stevenson;
- 'Don Quixote', by Miguel Cervantes;
- 'Robinson Crusoe', by Daniel Defoe;
- 'Frankenstein', by Mary Shelley;
- 'The Three Musketeers', by Alexandre Dumas;
- 'The Count of Monte Cristo', by Alexandre Dumas;

For me, this was very serious reading, as I had to dissect the stories to fish out the essentials to meet my English teacher's requirements & expectations. Somehow, I realised that one outcome from this serious reading experience was that my English vocabulary had expanded & also, I was pretty good in analysing stories.

I also believed that my earlier exposures to comics gave me the ability to follow the story plots & track the principal characterisations as well as the important events.

It was then black & white television came into the scene.

Many of my favourite heroes had suddenly appeared on the screen e.g. Bat Masterson (played by Gene Barry), Batman (played by Adam West), Superman (played by George Reeves), The Lone Ranger (played by Clayton Moore), Tarzan (played by Ron Ely), & The Rifleman (played by Chuck Connors).

The action, suspense & adventure often kept me glued to the black box after school.

Fortunately, my academic performance during those days did not suffer at all. For this achievement, I really had to thank my Dad for it - because the bitter memory of a good whack with his rotan (a Malay word for cane) was already a damned good deterrent (or motivator?)!

[to be continued]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"I will do today what others won't so I'll have tomorrow what others don't."

(John Addison)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason & your own common sense."

(Buddha)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

THE BEGINNING OF MY READING PURSUIT I


I love to read, especially during my spare time. I also love to read in bed before I go to sleep. I have stacks of books to be read next to my bed. I also read - usually a quick read - while I am sitting on the toilet ball, even though this is not a good habit. Not only that, I also love to read several books simultaneously. Thanks to syntopic reading!

I also like to annotate when I read. My bedside table is fully equipped with scratch pads, multi-purpose Rotring pens, colour markers & assorted sticky notes.

I am also a voracious reader. I remember vividly that there was one time I had read some sixty books in four days. It happened during one Chinese New Year season during the early nineties or so, just after I had taken the PhotoReading workshop.

Today, I own a huge personal library at home. I have lost count of the number of books I actually owned. Most of my books I read are generally in line with my personal mission statement: to be a knowledge adventurer & technology explorer in the field of brain-based, future-focused, change oriented strategies.

Of course, I also read some quirky, out-of-this-world, & nonsensical stuff. I like to call them "fringe stuff". You will probably read about them in my subsequent posts.

I reckon I have probably in the region of 3,000 books or more in my personal library, not counting the abundant files of heavy notes, conference papers, & workshop manuals I have gathered over the years. When I shut down my office in mid-2005, I had also to give away quite a large number of books to my younger brother, who also loved books.

In fact, I still have about 500 books neatly packed in plastic boxes, which are then stacked up in my store at home, as I had run out of shelf space.

Most of the newer books I own now have been acquired while I was running ‘The Brain Resource’ from early 1992 to mid-2005. The retail outlet gave me practically unlimited access to many excellent book sources that I would never have thought of. Best of all, it also helped to bankroll my reading pursuits.

How did I get started with my reading pursuit?

I would like to take readers back to my personal history.

I believe that my first lot of extra-curricular reading materials comprised mostly comics during the late fifties & early part of the sixties.

At the very beginning, the comics I read were the Beano & Dandy series from UK. Of course, I do remember many of my favourite characters:

Dennis the Menace, Gnasher, Danny & the Bash Street Boys, Roger the Dodger, Korky the Cat, Smasher, & Desperate Dan (the cowboy of Cactusville);

Although I was born in Singapore, I actually grew up in a very small town called Yong Peng in Johore. There wasn't any book store in town during those early days & accessibility to my comics was naturally restricted. Hence, I had to take a bus ride often to another bigger town, called Batu Pahat, about 30 km away, to get my comics from a local book store. As a result, I often missed out several issues in between.
For me, the Beano, together with the Dandy, series were considered the “pinnacle of juvenile periodical entertainment.”

[to be continued]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What are my gifts?

How can I best serve others?

What am I here to do & to be in this life?

BOOK REVIEW: 'INCREDIBLE VISUAL ILLUSIONS: YOU WON’T BELIEVE YOUR EYES', by Art Seckel

I have acquired this coffee table book at about the same time as ‘Eye Tricks’, which I have reviewed in an earlier post. It contains close to 300 different visual illusions.

This collection has been created by Al Seckel, a cognitive vision scientist of CALTECH.

[The author was here in Singapore three years ago to deliver the lecture at the Singapore Science Centre, "The World's Most Powerful Illusions: A Journey Through the Mind's Eye". In fact, he was the man behind the design of the ‘The Mind’s Eye’ interactive gallery at the centre.]

According to the publisher, this is the most comprehensive & amazing scientific collection of visual illusions ever assembled, with some previously unpublished illusions & oddities.

Major chapters include:

Brightness & Contrast Illusions, Scintillating Illusions, Twisted Cord Illusions, Figure/Ground Illusions, Estimation Illusions, Color Illusions, Stereo Illusions, Relative Motion Illusions, Impossible Figures, Light & Shadow Illusions, Perspective Illusions, Perceptual Ambiguity, Context & Priming Illusions, Illusions of Expression, There's An Angle to This, Topsy-Turvy Illusions, Composite Images, Anamorphoses & Trompe l'oeil, Natural Illusions, & Architectural Illusions.

There is also factual information about the science behind the illusions, a bit about the artists, & about the different types of illusions.

I am always fascinated by visual illusions. Oftentimes, I could just spend hours exploring them, full-colour as well as black & white reproductions.

As I have said before, I often use many of the visual illusions to demonstrate the principal operating principles of the brain, particularly the salient aspects of selective recognition and patterning. I have also found that some of them have been very useful in demonstrating cognitive traps & pattern interrupts, especially in the context of personal creativity.

I reckon this stunning collection can serve as an excellent companion to J Richard Block's 'Can You Believe Your Eyes', which is unfortunately printed in Black & White throughout.

BOOK REVIEW: PERSONAL STRATEGIC PLANNING

CREATING YOUR FUTURE: PERSONAL STRATEGIC PLANNING FOR PROFESSIONALS
By George Morrisey

I have had this wonderful book since the early 90's.

In a nut shell, this book is a professional version of the author's earlier masterpiece, entitled 'Getting Your Act Together: Goal Setting for Fun, Health & Profit' written in the early 80's. The latter book had also originated from the author's earlier work in the 60's/70's during which he had established a well-respect name in 'Management by Objectives', which included a series of books, training films & corporate seminars/workshops.

In fact, 'Getting Your Act Together' is also my first book on goal setting, which I have had since the early 80's. In fact, this book led me to the later book.

In a nutshell, these are the key chapters of both books:

CREATING YOUR FUTURE:

- The case for Personal Strategic Planning;
- Determining Your Professional Direction;
- Assessing Your Strategic Values;
- Preparing Your Personal & Professional Mission Statement;
- Identifying Your Areas of Strategic Concern;
- Strategic Analysis of Personal Areas;
- Strategic Analysis of Career Growth Areas;
- Strategic Analysis of Business Development Areas;
- Strategic Analysis of Financial Areas; - Positioning Yourself with Long Term Objectives;
- Making the Future a Reality Through Strategic Action Plans;
- Where do You go from Here?

GETTING YOUR ACT TOGETHER:

- What's It all About?
- Where Should I go?
- Where is the Payoff?
- How to set Priorities?
- Getting Agreement & Commitment
- Reducing Goals to Bite Sizes
- How to Write a Measurable Goal Statement?
- How to Initiate an Action Plan?
- How to get moving on anything?
- Where do I go from Here?

Both books are complete with planning exercises, checklists, revealing case studies, & lively cartoons.

What I like about the author's books is that they are systematically designed to actively involve you in structuring - & restructuring - your life.

In the business arena, the author is well known for his three-volume set of books on Strategic Thinking, Long-Range Planning & Tactical Planning, which I also own. From the standpoint of application, the three books in the series can be used in any sequence, & stand on their own as individual guides to more effective business planning.

Best of all, in all his books, the author's writing style is jargon-free, with easy-to-understand language.

My suggestion to readers:

For beginners, please go for 'Getting Your Act Together'.

For professionals, please go for 'Creating Your Future'.

Whether you are seeking change or improvement in your personal or professional life, these two remarkable books will respectively guide you unerringly to your dreams & goals.

BOOK REVIEW: RANDOM DOT STEREOGRAMS

Incredible 3D Stereograms: Eye Tricks
By Gary Priester

3D visual illusions, or random dot stereograms as they are more appropriately known, have fascinated me for many years, ever since my first encounter with a supposedly simple one, in black & white, during a PhotoReading workshop in early 1992.

I remember very well that I could not see it the first time. I was really frustrated as many of my friends could see it. It eventually took me some months later to get it. The Aha! experience was really exhilarating!

Since then, I have collected a lot of random stereograms, in book forms, large & small posters, & post cards. I have the entire collection of the Magic Eye series plus those early series published in Tokyo, Japan. I have them in colours as well as black & white.

I use a lot of them to demonstrate how the brain really works & its innate abilities in perceiving the world in my creativity workshops.

In reality, from the scientific standpoint, random dot stereograms help to demonstrate the two specific phenomena of human perception i.e. binocular disparity & stereoscopic vision.

Put it in simple language, each of our two eye balls take in sensory data independently from each other. To see a random dot stereogram, our two eye balls must work together as a coordinated team to sustain a soft focus (or unfocused gaze). In other words, it takes two eye balls to tango as neither eye alone has enough information to see the 3-D forms.

For some people, random dot stereo-grams may be difficult to see, especially during the first attempt, when compared to conventional visual illusions found in 'Can You Believe Your Eyes' & 'Seeing Double' by J Richard Block respectively.

Among my many collections, this large coffee table size book offers 200 of the best full-colour random dot stereograms I have seen. A user guide appears in the front section & the end section of the book offers the corresponding revelations.

From sci-fi bizarre to serenely beautiful, I can safely say that each of the 200 designs can constitute a stand-alone work of art.

I strongly recommend readers to get one as soon as possible & be prepared to experience both rage & delight as you turn the pages.

For a truly scientific explanation on how the brain perceives random dot stereograms, please read Steven Pinker's wonderful book, 'How the Mind Works', particularly Chapter 4.

SYNTOPIC BOOK REVIEW: VISUAL ILLUSIONS

Can You Believe Your Eyes?
by J Richard Block & Harold Yuker

Seeing Double
by J Richard Block














‘Can You Believe Your Eyes’ is the first classic book on visual illusions by J Richard Block & Harold E Yuker, both of whom are professors of psychology.

‘Seeing Double’ is the second book by J Richard Block.

Both are printed in large format. In fact, there is also a handy card deck which amplifies the contents of the two books. Both books generally discussed the phenomena of human perception through hundreds of perplexing visual illusions & mind-bending eye tricks gathered from around the world.

The entire collection in the two books – with close to 500 illusions & other visual oddities - is definitely amazing & unique in some way. Just imagine these playful twosomes from the books: a horse that turns into a frog; a young girl morphs into an old lady; a duck twisting into a sea serpent, etc.

Nevertheless, for the benefit of readers, each illusion or oddity is accompanied by explanatory text which will educate as well as delight the reader.

The best learning experiences I got out of these two wonderful books are a greater understanding - & appreciation - of how the brain really works.

I often use many of the visual illusions & oddities to demonstrate the principal operating principles of the brain, particularly the salient aspects of selective recognition & patterning. I have also found that some of them have been very useful in demonstrating cognitive traps & pattern interrupts, especially in the context of personal creativity.

Although the visual illusions are great fun to play with, I find them very educational, just as what I have elaborated.

There is another type of visual illusions, known as random dot stereo-grams (some people call them 3D visual illusions), which are more fun but somewhat harder to play with. Nevertheless, they are also very educational, especially in understanding - & appreciating - how the brain really works!

THE 7 PRINCIPLES OF LIFE MANAGEMENT

According to Swami Swaroopananda (as recorded in my scratch pad):

1) True living is that by which others gain life;

2) Equanimity & forbearance come from holding an attitude: This too shall pass;

3) Stress has its source in an imagined future, so do your best & leave the rest;

4) Produce more than you consume & give more than you take;

5) Don't just imagine your dreams; work for them;

6) Love is the soul's longing for spiritual awakening;

7) Meditation rehabilitates man's broken, tired, weary inner personality;

[Since 1995, Swami Swaroopananda has been based in Melbourne, Australia, where he continues to reach out to spiritual seekers by translating the teachings of the Master of Vedanta into a most effective & relevant way of life for the modern man & woman. More information about him, & his life-long search for "Real Answers to Real Problems", can be found at the Chinmaya Mission Australia.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If you want to be CEO of your own life, then think CEO: CHANGE EQUALS OPPORTUNITY!"

(Source Unknown)

Monday, July 23, 2007

THE 437 BEST THINGS EVER SAID ABOUT RETIREMENT

This is actually an e-book (in .pdf format) from Ernie Zelinski, the author of 'The Joy of Not Working', which I had reviewed in one of my earlier posts.

It is an invaluable collection of retirement quotations & sayings placed in over 60 categories for easy reference.

As you already know, quotations can be a great source of knowledge & wisdom. They stimulate creative thought, remind you of cherished experiences, & give you insights that you otherwise wouldn't acquire.

Readers can download this free e-book (a US$7.97 value) from his corporate website. It's a goldmine of information & other free e-books!

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)


What is worth choosing to do today that
adds to my life in the longer term?

SYNTOPIC BOOK REVIEW: 'THE ART OF DOING NOTHING' & 'THE ART OF NAPPING'


Instinctively, I had picked up these two small but wonderful books while browsing the local bookstores during one weekend (most probably towards the end of the nineties):

1. The Art of Doing Nothing: Simple Ways to Make Time for Yourself, by Veronique Vienne;

2. The Art of Napping, by William Anthony;

Ever since I had read Jeff Davidson's ‘Breathing Space: Living & Working @ a Comfortable Space in a Sped Up Society’, many years ago, I have always valued - & benefitted tremendously from - the power of time-out. In a world where the future is hurtling at breakneck speed with hurricane-force changes, all of us must learn to do some time-outs!

The first book is divided into ten chapters, each on the art of something, or more precisely, stress-reducing “rituals”: procrastination, breathing, meditating, lounging, yawning, napping, bathing, tasting, listening & waiting. Although, all of us have experienced them in one way or another, this book gives many valuable tips on how to make the best of each occasion.

The chapters are also well illustrated with sepia-toned photographs of nature & other relaxed or tranquil scenes. My personal favourites are procrastination, lounging, yawning & napping.

As for the second book, which is also equally light-hearted & humourously illustrated, I find myself amused & entertained by the author's introduction to a ‘napaphobic’ culture.

In a nutshell, these are his fun stuff in the book:

- profiles in napping (stories of legendary ‘nappers’, including JFK, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Napoleon Bonaparte, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan!);

- napping strategies (novice to advanced levels);

- nap management (getting the most from your naps);

- the future of napping;


In some way, this book reinforces the chapter on 'The Art of Napping' in the first book.

While the first book is beautifully illustrated by the co-author's photographs, the second book has several funny & bone-tickling cartoons.

To sum up my review, I want to say that these two books (plus, Jeff Davidson's book) are excellent handy guides for the time-pressed, over-achieving generation.

[The first author, Veronique Vienne, had written a series of other similar books, e.g. ‘The Art of Growing Up’, ‘The Art of the Moment’, ‘The Art of Imperfection’, ‘The Art of Expecting’, which I have yet to lay my hands on. The other author, William Anthony, had another newer book, entitled ‘The Art of Napping at Work’, which I have yet to read.]

BRAINTALES: A CREATIVE EXPERIENCE FOR STALE BRAINS, with Dilip Mukerjea

My good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, best-selling author of 'The Creative Brain' series of books, is giving a 90-minute presentation at:

Venue: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane
Time: 1900-2030 hrs
Date: Tuesday, 7th August 2007

under the auspices of The Book Council, & in conjunction with The Publishers Writers Network.

It will be an evening of fast-paced, interactive fun!

For more information or to register:

Call 68488293 or email: christina@bookcouncil.sg with your contact details.

Dilip Mukerjea is a Learning Chef. As an eternal student, immersed in creativity, he interacts with the planet via diabolical pathways that serve to enlighten & inspire his inadequate intellect. More information about him, his series of books, & his brilliant work can be found on his corporate website.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"In strategy, it is important to see distant things as if they were close, & to take a distanced view of close things."

(Miyamoto Musashi, Japan's legendary 16th century combat strategist)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

LEARNING, DOING & TEACHING

"Learning is finding out what you already know.

Doing is demonstrating that you know it.

Teaching is showing others that they know it just as well as you do.

You are all learners, doers & teachers.

You teach best what you most need to learn."
[Source: Richard Bach, author of 'Illusions']

THE PHOENIX CHECKLIST FOR PROBLEM SOLVING

I would like to take this opportunity to share with readers a systematic problem solving methodology I have used in my consulting work for many years. I had learned it from one of my American business associates during my years as a corporate rat. It's called the Phoenix.

The Phoenix is a checklist of questions developed by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to encourage their operatives to look at a challenge from many different angles.

Using the Phoenix is like holding your challenge in your hand. You can turn it, look at it from underneath, see it from one view, hold it up to another position, imagine solutions, & really be in control of the problem. It all depends on the questions you ask.

With the right questions, you can solve a challenge the way Lieutenant Columbo (of the TV series in the seventies, played by Peter Falk, with his trademarked rain coat, cigar & catch phrase, “One more thing...”) would solve a crime.

THE PROBLEM CHECKLIST:

- Why is it necessary to solve the problem?
- What benefits will you receive by solving the problem?
- What is the unknown?
- What is it you don’t yet understand?
- What isn’t the problem?
- Is the information sufficient? Or is it insufficient? Or redundant? Or contradictory?
- Should you draw a diagram of the problem? A figure?
- Where are the boundaries of the problem?
- Can you separate the various parts of the problem? Can you write them down? What are the relationships of the parts of the problem?
- What are the constants (things that can’t be changed) of the problem?
- Have you seen this problem before?
- Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form?
- Do you know a related problem?
- Try to think of a familiar problem having the same or a similar unknown.
- Suppose you find a problem related to yours that has already been solved. Can you sue it? Can you use its method?
- Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it? More general? More specific? Can the rules be changed?
- What are the best, worst, & most probable scenarios can you imagine?


THE PLAN CHECKLIST:

- Can you solve the whole problem? Part of the problem?
- What would you like the resolution to be? Can you picture it?
- How much of the unknown can you determine?
- Can you derive something useful from the information you have?
- Have you used all the information?
- Have you taken into account all essential notions in the problem?
- Can you separate the steps in the problem-solving process? Can you determine the correctness of each step?
- What creative thinking techniques can you use to generate ideas? How many different techniques?
- Can you see the result? How many different kinds of results can you see?
- How many different ways have you tried to solve the problem?
- What have others done?
- Can you intuit the solution? Can you check the result?
- What should be done? How should it be done?
- Where should it be done?
- When should it be done?
- Who should do it?
- What do you need to do at this time?
- Who will be responsible for what?
- Can you use this problem to solve some other problem?
- What is the unique set of qualities that makes this problem what it is and none other?
- What milestones can best mark your progress?
- How will you know when you are successful?

BOOK REVIEW: ‘CHANGING STRATEGIC DIRECTION – PRACTICAL INSIGHTS INTO OPPORTUNITY DRIVEN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT’, by Peter Skat-Rordam

I have always been impressed by business books from Scandinavian authors. This may partly be attributed to my love for the four Scandinavian countries, comprising Denmark, Finland, Norway & Sweden, which I have visited many times during my corporate days.

Also, I had worked for a Swedish business consultancy as a Senior Consultant for two years in the late eighties, during which I had the privileged opportunity to get involved with their innovative business & management approaches.

This particular business book is one of the very few business titles (e.g. those titles written respectively by Leif Edvinsson, Karl Sveiby, Mats Lindgren) I have come across so far.

Although written from a strategic thinking perspective, it emphasises on the systematic pursuit of business opportunities as a way of generating company growth & establishing strategic direction. It also provides a very clear distinction between the traditional strategy approach & the new opportunity approach to strategic thinking.

Backed by practice-based field research, & some relevant business cases, it has a lot of useful ideas and hints on how to spot and pursue opportunities systematically, from discovering, refining, evaluating, funding them to managing & controlling them.

After perusing it, I would have thought that the sub-title of this book, "Practical Insights into Opportunity Driven Business Development," should have been the main title, instead of "Changing Strategic Direction."

If you are a business opportunity seeker, or if you just want to try a different approach to business development, this is an excellent guide & toolkit.

On the whole, I also like the author's writing style - crisp, succinct & easy-going. This is generally reflective of Scandinavian business authors/consultants, even though English is not their first language.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do!"
(Bruce Lee)

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What are the most important things in my life?

If I had to choose 5 things to keep, what would they be? Why?

What values would I like people to perceive in me at a later stage in life?

What drives me?

What motivates me?