Saturday, September 8, 2007

IN SEARCH OF PERSONAL MASTERY III

[continue from IN SEARCH OF PERSONAL MASTERY II]

Throughout my career in Behn, Meyer & Co., from the late sixties & through the seventies, most of my knowledge & skills were gained through on-the-job & front-line experiences with customers, coupled with extensive overseas product training in Australia & West Germany.

In the early eighties, I was finally promoted to Divisional Manager with greater managerial as well as bottom-line responsibilities. I was then in my early thirties.

I had six engineers, one administrative assistant & one secretary under me.

I was seeking ways to improve my managerial, in particular, people management skills. In those days, staff training, even at managerial level, was unfortunately not an open company policy.

One day, I happened to see a newspaper advertisement for an evening program/workshop, known as ‘Adventures in Attitudes’, by a company called Personal Dynamics. I learned that the program was originally conceived by Bob Conklin during the late fifties/early sixties. He was apparently inspired by William James’s principal philosophy:

“The greatest discovery in our generation is that human beings, by changing their inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

After verifying the program synopsis - the content & methodology seemed impressive -, I signed up immediately & had even paid for it out of my own pocket. Frankly, I wasn't sure about it, although I did know that I had wanted to understand & lead people as a manager.

In reality, it was also my first personal growth & development workshop.

For three hours each evening after work, & meeting at the SEAMEO-RELC International Hotel on Orange Grove Road, & stretching over ten weeks for the program, I have had an empowering, life-enhancing experience!

In many respects, it was not really a workshop in a conventional sense. There was no lectures, no home-work, no typical classroom structure. The workshop was not taught, but experienced - & shared - through group dynamics & personal involvement. In fact, each & every one of us was the student as well as teacher.

I recall there were about thirty participants in the class, comprising like-minded professionals from all walks of life, led by a Socratic husband-&-wife facilitation team, Mr Kester Chia (a building contractor) & Grace Chia (an insurance agent).

In a nut shell, the entire program covered the following principal topics:

- effective listening;
- developing communication skills;
- attitude awareness;
- dealing with emotions;
- understanding people;
- attitudes of personal empowerment;
- creative problem solving;
- group dynamics & team building strategies;
- motivational power;
- purpose, goals & reaching your potential;

Individually as well as in small groups, we had to work through more than seventy projects under the above ten ‘high-involvement’ areas, which had been designated as critical to increasing self-awareness, changing attitudes & improving relationships.

Till today, I have kept the participant's workbook as well as two large posters, one showing the ‘Dynamics of Positive Attitudes’ & the other, the ‘Dynamics of Negative Attitudes’. I had also remained in touch with a few of the participants.

A few key lessons from this workshop included:

1) How I perceive & respond to events, things & people around myself is my personal choice;
2)
My life is an extension of my thoughts: My positive thoughts create positive outcomes;
3) It's not my aptitude, but my attitude that determines my altitude;
4) In an organisation, attitudes in employees are the primary drivers of individual performance as well as organisational performance;
5) Active listening is the most powerful communication tool in people management;

On hindsight, I now realise that the deep experiential understanding of these key lessons had eventually helped me to establish personal accountability of my own actions, & to deal with & turn passive resistance among employees into high energy performance in the midst of change.

Come to think of it seriously, 'Adventures in Attitudes' seems to be the precursor to current learning models like 'Appreciative Inquiry', 'Learning Circles', 'Open Space', 'World Cafe', '7 Habits', & 'Fish' - all rolled into one powerful self-directed learning process.

To conclude this post, I consider this part of the journey as the 3rd milestone in my search for personal mastery.

Many thanks to both of you, Kester & Grace Chia, wherever you may be.

[to be continued in IN SEARCH OF PERSONAL MASTERY IV]

BOOK REVIEW: 'THE 12 BAD HABITS THAT HOLD PEOPLE BACK', by James Waldroop & Timothy Butler

All I can say is that, unlike most career success books, which focus on winning habits, this particular one reads like a 'Career Failure 101'!

The two Harvard Business School psychologists-authors describe twelve patterns of behavior that keep people from being successful at work. They rely heavily on case studies of failure.

From this standpoint, this book is unique. Besides the root cause analysis, the two authors also offer intelligent step-by-step advice on how readers can change their negative behaviors to get back on track.

In a nut shell, these are the twelve bad habits identified in the book:

1. Never Feeling Good Enough (acrophobia or fear of career progress);
2. Seeing the World in Black and White (meritocrat or not seeing the relevance of loyalty, self-interest, or personality);
3. Doing Too Much, Pushing Too Hard (a hero, with an Achilles heel from overdoing it);
4. Avoiding Conflict at Any Cost (peacekeeper, who avoids even healthy conflict such as that required to overcome misconceptions);
5. Running Roughshod over the Opposition (bulldozer, a male role similar to an offensive lineman in football);
6. Rebel Looking for a Cause (rebels, who want attention more than results);
7. Always Swinging for the Fences (a home run style swinger who strikes out most of the time);
8. When Fear Is in the Driver's Seat (a pessimistic worrier, a naysayer out of fear);
9. Emotionally Tone Deaf (Mr. Spock from Star Trek, low emotional intelligence);
10. When No Job Is Good Enough (Coulda-been, who moves on because they feel inadequate, but don't want to face up to that);
11. Lacking a Sense of Boundaries (People who talk out of school);
12. Losing the Path (Alienated people who have lost their career vision of what they want from a career);

In the same vein, these are the four psychological causes of the twelve behavioural problems:

1. Having a negatively-distorted self-image;
2. Not seeing the perspectives of others;
3. Not coming to terms with authority;
4. Not being comfortable with using power;


I reckon, as a counter-point to even the popular 'Seven Habits' book by Stephen Covey, readers will certainly stand to gain useful insights into dealing with their own weaknesses & handling of others who exhibit them.

This book is definitely worth pursuing.

[Readers whose reading/learning style is auditory, can get hold of an audio version of the book published by Nightingale-Conant.]

BOOK REVIEW: 'BRICKS TO BRIDGES: MAKE YOUR STRATEGY COME ALIVE', by Robin Speculand

I have enjoyed perusing this book, which also has a captivating secondary title: 'Make Your Strategy Come Alive.'

The strength of this book lies in its simplicity & clarity, with a powerful focus on strategy implementation.

It has a zany layout with catchy graphics & varied fonts throughout to draw your attention (& fuel your thinking) to many practical tools & strategies for managers & executives who want to succeed in one of the most critical challenges in the current business environment - strategy implementation!

This book shows what really works & how to make it work for your company. I am very impressed by its unique guide to strategy implementation, called 'The Implementation Compass'. This alone is worth the price of the book.

There are also best practice case studies, plus practical tips & powerful techniques.

From personal & professional experience, I note that formulating strategy is generally not a difficult endeavour, but executing strategy is far harder & often takes massive, persistent & consistent efforts to put it to work. In this respect, the author has done a great service for all of us.

To use the author's opening tag line: "Only a successful implementation will power a strategy forward." No doubt about it!

All in all, there are fourteen well-written chapters. They have been systematically sequenced for easy & convenient perusal. Each is a real gem on its own, packed with tips on what works & what to avoid. They end with a useful glossary & a condensed chapter-by-chapter book summary.

Compared to two earlier books I have read within the same genre, namely, 'Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done' by Larry Bossidy & 'A Bias for Action' by Hieke Bruch, the intellectual intensity in 'Bricks to Bridges' is generally lighter, but there is no sacrifice in content relevancy.

In fact, I would still recommend readers to explore the two earlier books. Their respective real-life stories & indepth assessments are really worth your while!

I wish to add that many of the strategies & tools in 'Bricks to Bridges' can be easily adapted ...with a little bit of ingenuity, of course!..for personal use as individuals also have the same problems & need a powerful solution.

I remember vividly what Joel Arthur Barker, futurist & author of 'Future Edge', once said (roughly):

"Vision without action is day dreaming. Action without vision is random activity. With vision & action together, you can change the world!"

To ensure your action delivery, please read this book quickly!

[This book is published in Singapore. The author has a consultancy outfit under the name of Bridges Consultancy in Singapore. For some strange reasons, this book is no longer available from Amazon.com website.]

BOOK REVIEW: 'THE WHOLE BRAIN BUSINESS BOOK', by Ned Herrmann

'The Creative Brain' by Ned Herrmann was my first brain book that helped me to understand my learning, thinking & decision making preferences - my brain dominance, to be precise. It came with a valuable proprietary personal assessment tool, the 'Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI)'.

I felt very good after learning about my scored results (from the author's outfit in the United States) with the tool, which eventually allowed me to exploit my capabilities - & to overcome my limitations - in both professsional & personal terms.

The book also had an interesting story about the author, Ned Herrmann, & his amazing journey of personal self-discovery. He was trained as a physicist & worked at General Electric in a management function. Yet, he also enjoyed an active career as a performing artist - first as a singer & later as a painter/sculptor.

It was rather a thick book, printed in large format, with 400 odd pages, but it was filled with personal anecdotes, solid data, & useful charts.

I had enjoyed reading - & reflecting upon - the book very much at the time I had bought it in the late 80's.

I was then working as a General Manager of a high-technology software laboratory (Real Time Graphics) from Sweden, with a research focus in developing value-added applications with their proprietary real-time man-machine communication software, designated as 'Eyescream'.

In reality, Ned Herrmann's book gave me a lot of valuable application insights, particularly from the standpoint of cognitive ergonomics. The resultant learning experiences allowed me to work efficiently & effectively with many customers.

Subsequently, I went on to acquire the author's second book, 'The Whole Brain Business Book', in the mid-90s.

WOW, another wonderful book from Ned Herrmann!

In it, the author expanded my understanding of the metaphorical four-quadrant model of the brain & its corresponding learning, thinking & decision making styles: logician, organizer, communicator, & visionary. He believed that we often would make decisions based on some combination of these four thinking styles & that cultivating these styles & utilizing the resulting energy is the key to business productivity & entrepreneurial creativity.

I also enjoyed reading the book very much as I felt really inspired & empowered after learning how to harness the power of the whole brain.

By the way, this is Ned Herrmann's definition of creativity:

"Among other things, it is an ability to:

- challenge assumptions
- recognise patterns
- see in new ways
- make new connections
- take risks
- & seize upon a chance." I

n some way, the two books spurred my burning interests on a continuing quest for better understanding of the world's most powerful portable thinking machine, located between my two ears!

[More information about the HBDI can be found at the Herrmann International website.]

POINTS TO PONDER: PRODUCTIVE WORKPLACE

According to Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, authors of 'First, Break All The Rules: What The World's Greatest Managers Do Differently', answering the following questions affirmatively can readily help you to decide whether you have a strong & productive workplace:

1) Do I know what is expected of me at work?

2) Do I have the materials & equipment I need to do my work right?

3) At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4) In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?

5) Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

6) Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

7) At work, do my opinions seem to count?

8) Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?

9) Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

10) Do I have a best friend at work?

11) In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?

12) At work, have I had the opportunities to learn and grow?

If some of these questions point to unhappiness at work, I reckon it’s time to re-evaluate your employer, your job, or your entire career.

You don’t want to spend your life doing work you hate in an unfriendly work environment. Most work environments don’t change all that much. But unhappiness tends to grow even more to resentment.

You can secretly smile while you spend all of your non-work time job searching. It will only be a matter of time until you can quit your job - with a big smile!

[More information about the author, his series of other books & brilliant work can be found on his corporate website.]

BRAINTALES IN ACTION

On Tuesday, September 4, 2007, I attended the one-day 'Braintales' workshop conducted by my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, at the Art House, under the auspices of the Singapore Book Council.

It was a fun learning workshop with some twenty other participants. The theme was to craft our own life stories with a gamut of self-discovery exercises & exploratory tools provided by Dilip.

Here are some of the workshop highlights I had enjoyed:

1) Personal Shield:
Each of us had to design a personal coat of arms, covering ambition in life, favourite memory, personal interest & a real communication success as well as failure in life, with images & symbols in colours.

2) Personal Obituary:
Mine was "He kicked some butts!"

3) Recallasaurus:
A story must have five principal elements to make it memorable: Primary (Opening), Repeated (Emphasis), Outstanding (Spice), Personal Association & Recency (Close); captured beautifully in a 'recall graph', against the graphic outline of a 'recallasaurus' & with the acronym 'PROPAR';

4) 10 Second Concept Imagery:
Each of us had only ten seconds to draw or symbolise an oral concept given out by Dilip, e.g. 'Alignment', 'Improvement', 'Long-term Viability', 'Opportunity', 'Optimisation', 'Philosophy', 'Principle', "Status Quo', 'Time Pressure', 'Variation', etc.

5) Lifescape Questions & Storyboard:
A visual tool for self discovery, through breakthrough questions, like 'Where are you now?', 'Where do you wish to go?', 'How do you intend to get there?', 'How do you feel?', 'What perils come your way?', 'Now what?', 'What's next?', etc., as well as a visual-spatial path-finding exercise to capture one's life history from infancy &/or to chart one's career path into the future.

6) Memory Recall via A to Z:
We were taught to use this technique to recall keys lessons learned at the workshop by running through every alphabet from A to Z. Wow!

7) Writing a fiction as well as a non-fiction story with exactly 50 words:
This was quite a challenging task as each of us had also to read out the stories to Dilip at the end.

The workshop ended up with a two-some blind-folded walking game to shift perceptual awareness & a group exercise to create a 3-D storyboard, using random objects

[More information about Dilip Mukerjea, his series of books & his brilliant work can be found on his corporate website.]

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: MAKING A CAREER CHOICE

What personal factors should you consider when making a career choice?

1) YOUR BEHAVIOR:
The type of productive activity with which your personality style typically excels & finds enjoyable;

2) YOUR ABILITIES:
Your natural intellectual aptitude & physical abilities to perform well in a given area;

3) YOUR INTERESTS:
The type of work that naturally holds your interest, motivates you & keeps you fulfilled;

4) YOUR TALENTS:
Your natural gifts & talents;

5) YOUR WORK EXPERIENCES:
Skills/trades you have already learned & developed, especially those that are classified as 'employability skills' like leadership, problem solving, decision making, etc.;

6) YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES:
The time, money & energy you have (or need to make) to pursue your desires;

Ponder over these important questions:

1) Do I have any special talents? Why does this come naturally?
2) Am I passionate about any particular interests? Why?
3) What is my favorite sport? Why do I like it so much?
4) What do I do with my free time?
5) Do I have practical experience in any area? How long?
6) Who are my heros in life? Why do I admire them?
7) Have I had success in any particular area of life?
8) Where is my favorite place to be?
9) What comes easy to me when others struggle with it?

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What makes a person effective in life?

How does "personal effectiveness" influence one's everyday life?

(Inspired by James Neill)

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, & you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves."

(Bruce Lee)

QUICK NOTES: SELF-DEVELOPMENT

[QUICK NOTES are just my personal responses of key issues raised or expert advice given in articles written by industry experts in the 'Straits Times CATS Recruit' Page.]

Here are the five keys to positive self-development:

1) Whatever it is that you want to achieve, do something about it. Do it Now!

2) Choose one or two things at a time - stay focused on tasks at hand but remain flexible;

3) Gain your personal victory first before you take on public victory;

4) Spend time with people who are at where you want to be - or who demand more of you;

5) If it is to be, it is all up to you - take personal accountability for your personal as well as professional growth;

[The industry expert is Paul de Burger, associate consultant of d'Oz International.]

Friday, September 7, 2007

IS THIS THE ORIGINAL STARBUCK COFFEE?


BOOK REVIEW: ‘THE ART OF RESILIENCE: ONE HUNDRED PATHS TO WISDOM & STRENGTH IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD’, by Carol Osborn

I have always been intrigued by the Law of Requisite Variety, which to me has this explicit meaning: in order to deal with a constantly changing world, our internal rate of change should equal or better than the external rate of change.


'The Art of Resilience' is just one of those books which I have come cross that offers readers simple tools to build & enhance the internal rate of change.

The author, a theologian by training, has beautifully crafted her book by creating one hundred different pathways to help readers find the wisdom & strength to rebound gracefully & productively against the forces of change in an uncertain world.

Her work is seemingly inspired by the teachings of spiritual masters from both Eastern & Western traditions. Each of her practical tip is weaved into humorous stories & touching anecdotes, encased in either a one- or two-page format. They are then logically arranged for readers to go through ten stages as follows:

Stage 1: Point of Impact;
Stage 2: Time to Regroup;
Stage 3: Signs of Spring;
Stage 4: The Authentic Life;
Stage 5: Unfinished Business;
Stage 6: Uncharted Territory;
Stage 7: Sacred Space;
Stage 8: A New Centre;
Stage 9: Higher-Quality Problems;
Stage 10: Beyond Resilience;


I have enjoyed reading this book & have found some of the stories/anecdotes to be humorous, while some are relatively thought provoking.

From my personal perspective, I reckon a number of pathways may seem esoteric to some extent, but I believe pathway #100 entitled "Make Your Life a Work of Art" rightly sums up the whole book.

In the author's own words: "...The art of resilience does not conclude with a specific result. Rather, it asks something much greater of you: that you make your whole life a work of art. The uncertainties of life, the pain & problems, let them become woven into the fabric of your being - alongside the joys & the triumphs."

To conclude my review, I would recommend this book to all readers who feel overwhelmed by the forces of change: Read it today. You won't be disappointed, but be prepared to be surprised.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘SERIOUS PLAY: A LEISURE WELLNESS WORKBOOK’, by Martin Kimedorf

I have owned this book for more than a decade, & have bought it about the same time as 'The Joy of Not Working'.

The guiding philosophies in both books have been my constant inspirations over all these years.

Since retiring from active corporate life at the age of 43 in the early 90's, & running my own strategy consulting business, I have always made all my days creative yet rewarding, relaxing yet productive, healthful & yet fun, by using the hundreds of great ideas from both wonderful books.

In a way, I have allowed the playfulness I once experienced as a kid to gradually wend its way back into my retirement years.

I know so many corporate rats these days are caught up in the rapidly changing & highly-pressurised pace of work & life that they have lost touch with leisure activities. This particular book is certainly a unique resource for those who face this stressful problem.

Let me use the author's own exact words to recap the essence & the principal ideas of this particular book: "...Though the topic is leisure, the search for leisure wellness doesn't happen in a leisurely fashion. You must actually work at changing your attitude toward leisure time if you expect to see any change.

In the following chapters, I'll show you how to (re)ignite a passionate interest in the quality of your leisure life. You'll begin by assessing your own level of leisure wellness, & then how you view time in general. Next, we'll take a look at how the notion of work & leisure ethics evolved in this country.

These first steps set the stage for a deeper investigation into your own leisure values, preferences, & interests through an exercise called the leisure search, a simple method of applying proven job-hunting techniques to search for rewarding leisure opportunities in your own community; you'll learn how to find local people & organisations who share your interests.

Separate chapters are devoted to the side issues of time awareness & retirement planning, with exercises created especially to help you analyse your schedule & find new sources of free time. Other exercises will help you develop more flexible attitudes toward the wide range of leisure choices available today..."

Overall, the book is entertaining & insightful. The writing style is straight talk, with plenty of question time for readers to ponder & reflect. The author has obviously given it a lot of careful thought, coupled with his own personal experience.

In conclusion, it is powerful guide for helping readers to improve their personal lives & lifestyles. From the first page to the end pages, it is jam-packed with worthwhile information.

Let me end this review with an observation by ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: "We are most nearly ourselves when we achieve the seriousness of a child at play."

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Do I want to be right or do I want to be healthy?

Do I want to be right or do I want to be wealthy?

Do I want to be right or do I want to be successful?

(Inspired by Dr. Regan Golob)

"If you're doing something you love, you're more likely to put your all into it, and that generally equates to making money."

(Warren Buffet, the world's greatest investor)

QUICK NOTES: PEAK PERFORMANCE


[QUICK NOTES are just my personal responses of key issues raised or expert advice given in articles written by industry experts in the 'Straits Times CATS Recruit' Page.]

1) Tap your passion;

2) Have some quiet time & reflect on your options;

3) Be proactive - through reflection, planning, strategising;

4) Realise that you are always striving towards a goal;

5) Use successes - big or small - to re-energise yourself;

6) Realise that life is a do-it-yourself project;

7) Understand that life is not a dress rehearsal - be here now;

8) Psych-up & get ready to act;

9) Write journals to stay on track;

10) Stop procrastinating;

[The industry expert is Bill Cole, founder & CEO of Procoach Systems.]

Thursday, September 6, 2007

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What's good about today?

What needs to be changed?

What am I thankful about my life?

What did I do today that make my life better?

What did I learn today?

ARTICLE REVIEW: '7 STRATEGIES FOR GENERATING IDEAS', by Robert Tucker

How do leading-edge organizations come up with new ideas? And how do they use those ideas to create new products, services, businesses, & solutions?

Well, according to researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, they apply one or more of the following deliberate idea generation methods:

- Invite everyone in the quest for new ideas;

- Involve customers in the process of generating ideas;

- Involve customers in new ways;

- Focus on the needs that customers don't express;

- Seek ideas from new customer groups;

- Involve suppliers in product innovation;

- Benchmark idea-creation methods;

All these deliberate methods are captured in this interesting article, which had been written by Robert Tucker, a favourite author of mine & an acclaimed innovation consultant, who wrote the now classic 'Winning the Innovation Game', among other titles.

This article had originally appeared in the Futurist magazine, published by the World Future Society many years ago.

It's now available as a digital document, deliverable in HTML format & available in your Amazon.com Digital Locker immediately after purchase. You can view it with any web browser.

However, I am happy to show you a place where you can read this original article for free - visit the author's corporate website.

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB II

Further to my earlier post, my wife & I had another unwinding session at the Wednesday Club last night.

Our buddies included Jeff & Betty, S T & Gek Wee, & Bosco. [Alice was on sick leave; James & Sophia had dropped out in recent years, but would often join us, if we meet early for dinner first. Like a baby, James likes to go to bed early, at about 10pm, & Sophia is out of town on business most of the time.]

As usual, last night was pretty quiet, with only our group members hanging out in the Ridge Bar, in addition to the bar staff. Besides drinks, we had some appetising snacks - fried chicken wings & spring rolls - to go along.

The live music band, D' Harmony, comprising the dynamic duo, Ronnie & Jenny [holding their guitars in the second photo], was completely at our disposal.

Once again, & not going to miss a good opportunity for stretching his vocal chords, Jeff took over the mike [seen holding the mike in the first photo] & began his 'oldie but goodie' song routine all night long.

Characteristically, before the clock could strike twelve, we had to be chased out of the bar by the bar staff.

[The photos were captured by S T's Samsung cell phone, fitted with a flash gun accessory. For some strange reasons, they had then to be blue-toothed to my Nokia phone via Bosco's Sony Ericsson phone. Well, sometimes I just feel technology simply doesn't work the way it is intended - or is it my buddies & I are 'Timex in a Digital Age'?]

POINTS TO PONDER: UNDERSTANDING COMPLEXITY

To understand complexity, these are some of the rules of thumb:

1) All things are connected;

2) Every action creats a reaction;

3) Some solutions simply shift the problem;

4) Balancing systems resist change;

5) There is no easy way out;

6) There is no perfect solution;

[Source: World Future Society]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"To prepare for the 21st century, companies need to imagine alternative scenarios for the marketplace of the future, & use these scenarios to stimulate their thinking about possible contingencies & strategies. My advice, therefore, is get busy building scenarios & determining what they imply in the way of strategic planning. Do not think business as usual."

(Philip Kotler)

ARTICLE REVIEW: 'PERSONAL FUTURING: A STEP BY STEP GUIDE', by Verne Wheelwright

This article has originally appeared in the Futurist magazine, May-June 2006, published by the World Future Society. [This organisation has many excellent publications & other resources.]

It is now available on Amazon.com as an electronic document, deliverable in HTML format & available in your amazon.com Digital Locker immediately after purchase. You can view it with any web browser.

It's well-written, & outlines broadly a personal strategic planning model developed by Verne Wheelwright, a PhD student.

The author calls it the 'Personal Foresight System'.

Technically, it resembles a scenario planning model used in the corporate world. The central philosophy of the author is to show you how to think like a futurist & use the model to learn more about your personal future(s).

In a nut shell, the model looks at the following key components:

Personal Research: explains how to look at your past & present in order to explore the future, with the following steps;

Life Stages: the first step in understanding the rest of your life & the lives of your family members;

Personal Domains: the second step examines the primary driving forces in your life;

Future Life Events: the third step discusses events that will probably occur in your life that can, in many cases, be anticipated; doing this exercise helps you to understand the different kinds of life events and which events you should prepare for;

The foregoing stages will form your personal framework. With the information from your personal framework, you are now in a position to construct scenarios that describe your plausible futures. They will be your Personal Scenarios.

In the last part, you will create a vision of your future, then develop plans & strategies to achieve that future. Contingencies are considered here,too. This is your Personal Strategic Plan.

Readers who are really keen to explore the model in greater depth should visit the Personal Futures Network website created by Verne Wheelwright.

From the standpoint of my strategy consulting work with professional adults, I find that there are really application merits in the 'Personal Foresight System' outlined in this article. It is definitely worth pursuing.

[I know of a place where readers can read this article for free: visit the Access My Library website.]

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

ARTICLE REVIEW: 'PERSONAL FUTURING IN ACTION', by Anne Rigby

This article has originally appeared as an addendum to a longer article, entitled 'Personal Futuring: A Step by Step Guide', written by Verne Wheelwright, in the Futurist magazine, May-June 2006. The latter is published by the World Future Society. [This organisation has many excellent publications & other resources.]

It's now available on Amazon.com as an electronic document, deliverable in HTML format & available in your Amazon.com Digital Locker immediately after purchase. You can view it with any web browser.

In a nut shell, it's a very brief & short article, written by Anne Rigby, a student.

Basically, she tracks her minimal progress during the course of applying the 'Personal Foresight System' (a high-powered name for personal strategic planning) developed by Verne Wheelwright, a PhD student.

Frankly speaking, you will not get much from this short article.

Readers who are still keen to read both original articles for free can visit the Access My Library website.

Alternatively, you can also visit the Personal Futures Network website for a thorough understanding of the 'Personal Foresight System', which apparently was set up by Verne Wheelwright.

In fairness, there are application merits in the 'Personal Foresight System', which is definitely worth pursuing.

ULTIMATE SUCCESS FORMULA: TAKE A LEAF FROM STEVE JOBS

At the Commencement Address at the Stanford University, delivered on June 12, 2005, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, shared three poignant stories from his personal life.

I fully concur with the tag line of the Stanford Report of June 14, 2005: 'You've got to find what you love!' says Jobs.

For me, the three meaningful stories form what I would term as his USF, & I just love the way he concluded his life story so beautifully.

I am sure many readers must have watched & listened to the original videocast &/or read the transcript two years ago. It is worth to be reproduced in my blog, as I sincerely believe that its personal relevancy to all of us is timeless.

"I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much."

[Source: Stanford News Service, Stanford University]

HOW TO STAY YOUNG

I am inspired by Harvey Bingham, who has brilliantly conceived & systematically organised the following practical suggestions, since 26th February 2003.

I understand that he has apparently been influenced by George Carlin of the 'Suddenly Senior' website.

I have stumbled on to his website by a stroke of serendipity a short while ago:

12 POSITIVE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR STAYING YOUNG:

1) Throw out non-essential numbers:

This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctor worry about them.

That is why you pay him/her.

2) Keep only cheerful friends:

The grouches pull you down.

3) Keep learning:

Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening,whatever. Never let the brain idle.

"An idle mind is the devil's workshop." And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.

4) Enjoy the simple things:

Gardening is great for that.

5) Laugh often, long & loud:

Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6) Tears happen. Endure, grieve & move on:

The only person who is with us our entire life is our self.

7) Be alive while you are alive:

The dedicated life is the life worth living.

You must give with your whole heart.

8) Surround yourself with what you love:

Whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

9) Cherish your health:

If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable,improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

10) Don't take guilt trips:

Take a trip to the mall, to the next county, to a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.

11) Tell the people you love that you love them:

This is to be done at every opportunity.

12) Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take:

but by the moments that take our breath away. Yes, we should always be open to be surprised by joy.

[Please visit his website for the original extended masterpiece, as well as George Carlin's 'Suddenly Senior' website. Both are goldmines of information nuggets.]

POWER OF OBSERVATION: TAKE A LEAF FROM SHERLOCK HOLMES

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip.

After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night and were soon fast asleep.

Some hours later, Holmes woke up and nudged his faithful friend, "Watson, look up and tell me what you see."

Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars."

Holmes asked, "What does that tell you?"

Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you?"

Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. "Watson, you idiot. Some jerk has stolen our tent."

POWER TIPS: POWER OF OBSERVATION

Being able to anticipate what someone is going to do or feels can provide for greater opportunities to succeed.

If in conversation you observe body language, mood, and tone of voice you have a much better chance of understanding their words.

At work you can notice potential issues before they become major problems.

However many have lost the power of observation through lack of practice and the current technology that brings items to us rather than us having to look for them.

Practice being a good observer to help you better communicate and enhance your career.

Start when in your car.

Can you anticipate that the person in front of you is going to change lanes before they do?

When coming up on an intersection in the right lane and the light turns red, do you look behind and beside you and determine if you should move left a lane to allow those behind you to turn right on red?

At work observe items or situations that can make you more efficient.

Do you sit with your back to the door or cubicle opening?

If yes, this means you can’t see people coming in to talk to you nor do you have time to observe them before conversation begins so you are at a disadvantage at the start of each conversation.

Be a powerful observer as it will give you an advantage!

[Source: Megalink Sales Training & Interpersonal Skills]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The human physiology is part of the cosmic physiology. Every rhythm of the universe therefore naturally has an effect on the individual & vice versa."

(Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Founder of Transcendental Meditation)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What paradigms do I want to keep?

What paradigms do I want to reject?

What paradigms are changing or shifting?

What new paradigms do I predict will develop in the next few years?

[Inspired by Joel Arthur Barker, author of 'Future Edge']

DEVELOPING CHANGE-READINESS & FUTURE COPE-ABILITY

Let's us hear from the experts in the field of change management:

Alvin Toffler:

1) learn how to discard old ideas & grasp new ideas (learn how to learn);

2) learn how to make & maintain rewarding human relationships;

3) learn what values are & how to define your own;

Price Pritchett:

1) learn not to resist change while adapting - fast - to new ways of working;

2) working with a strong sense of urgency, emphasising action;

3) accepting ambiguity & uncertainty;

4) becoming life long learners;

5) managing one's own morale rather than expecting management to do it;

6) continuing to stretch oneself to be better than yesterday;

Marsha Sinetar:

1) have a high tolerance for change, discontinuity, paradox;

2) be willing to think independently;

3) be non-entrenchant & able to release unproductive beliefs;

4) be able to experiment, always willing to look for better ways to do things;

[Source: 'Psychology of the Future: Learning for Tomorrow', by Alvin Toffler]

ULTIMATE SUCCESS FORMULA (USF)

Andrew Duggan, author of 'The Art of What Works', offers his version of USF, as follows:

1) Make an inventory of your dreams - what you want ot have, do, be & share;

2) You make a schedule for when you will achieve each of these dreams;

3) You pick out the four most important goals for this year;

4) For each goal, you create a step by step plan on how to achieve it;

5) You come up with some models;

6) You create your ideal day & design your perfect environment to keep on track toward your goals;

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The basic secret of effective observation is learning to change your point of view as many times as possible."

(Ganet LoPorto, The Davinci Method)

TEST YOUR POWER OF OBSERVATION

Find the 9 people in the picture.

If you find 6, you have an ordinary power of observation.

Find 7, you have above average power of observation.

Find 8, you are very observant. Congratulate yourself.

Find 9, you are extremely observant. Very intuitive and creative. You can rival the observant power of Sherlock Holmes!

[Source: Amazing Illusions]

POINTS TO PONDER: POWER OF OBSERVATION

The power of observation refers to the competency of observing any object, activity, process or phenomenon in all its details using all our senses.

It is a very important skill for an executive, not only from the perspective of environmental scanning, but also from the standpoint of just reading for important information.

What does it entails? In reality, it:

1) depends heavily on one's motivation;

2) demands an eye for the details;

3) calls for a healthy learner's curiosity;

4) requires a willingness to suspend judgement;

5) demands a ruthless realism about facts;

6) requires knowing what to look for;

The difference for the big issues is often a trivial detail.

It is simply the alertness to detail of one who is trained to look & really see.

POINTS TO PONDER: STRATEGIC FORESIGHT

According to Alfred North Whitehead, a British mathematician & philospher, in a celebrated lecture given at the Harvard Business School in 1931, 'strategic foresight' is the crucial feature of the competent business mind.

He had defined it as the ability:

- to see through the confusion;

- to spot developments before they become trends;

- to see patterns before they fully emerge;

- to grasp the relevant features of social currents that are likely to shape the direction of future events;

- to look for generality where there is variety, and to look for idiosyncrasy where there is generality";

How does one develop & apply 'strategic foresight'?

Richard Slaughter, a well respected expert in this emerging field, has written an excellent article on this subject.

He defines 'strategic foresight' as "the ability to create and maintain a high-quality, coherent and functional forward view and to use the insights arising in organisationally useful ways; for example: to detect adverse conditions, guide policy, shape strategy; to explore new markets, products and services. It represents a fusion of futures methods with those of strategic management."

Here is another interesting article by another expert, if you are still keen to read further on the subject.

One more interesting article to go, if you are still hungry.

From my perspective, the two best field books ever written about this subject are:

1) 'Strategic Foresight: The Power of Standing in the Future' by Nick Marsh. You can read the first chapter at the Global Foresight Network website;

2) 'Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight' by Andy Hines & Peter Bishop. More information about this book can be found at the Social Technologies website;

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: DECISION MAKING QUESTIONS & CONSIDERATIONS

1) What is the cost?

2) What is the big picture?

3) How reliable is the information I have? Do i need more?

4) How does this affect other departmenst, teams, areas?

5) Is safety or security an issue?

6) What is the long term as well as the short term impact?

7) What is the real problem o rissue from the customer's perspective? from our perspective?

8) Is time a factor?

9) Is there any good reason we shouldn't do it?

10) If I can't do what is being asked, what can I do?

Monday, September 3, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: ‘HOW TO EVALUATE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES’ by Harvey Gardner

This is a small, little 'no-frills' book...more precisely, a booklet!

My copy is actually a badly-stitched photo static copy from the publisher. Fortunately, the high-content information in the book outweighed the book's poor aesthetics.

The 32 pages of the book are jam-packed with appropriate advice for anyone who wants to go into business for himself as fast as possible with the least risk, time and money.

In 9 easy steps, and the help of many thoughtful questions as a checklist, the author shows you how to spot and evaluate simple business opportunities, in addition to explaining to you the various types or configurations of business opportunities available in today's marketplace.

1: What are the available facts?
2: How to give it an acid test?
3: Who will buy the product or service?
4: Who are my competitors?
5: What and how do I need to invest?
6: How to avoid front loading?
7: What are the supports available?
8: Who are these people?
9: How are they financially?

In a nut shell, the whole system of evaluation from the author is actually very simple and straight-forward.

Go and get a copy immediately.

I am confident that, with this booklet, you can successfully evaluate simple business opportunities with power and confidence.

TECHNOLOGY REVIEW: 'VIZABILITY'

Wow! This is a superbly researched/designed visual thinking toolkit in a beautifully packed boxed collection.

It consists of:

- A 200-page Handbook (to provide you with a broad conceptual overview of visual thinking & to guide you through the interactive experiences of the CD-ROM);

- A Sketchbook (to offer a forum for recording your ideas and experiences, including all the exercises in the book & CD-ROM);

- An Interactive CD ROM (offer you an interactive environment in which to challenge & improve your visual skills; it has some video-clipped interviews with visual thinkers; a gallery of interesting examples);

and comes with these goals in mind:

- to familarise you with visual thinking;
- to make you aware of your own innate visual abilities;
- to exercise & your improve your skills in visualisation;- to incorporate these skills into your daily routines;

You need to work conscientiously with these three components (each actually can stand on its own) in order to experience the vast array of visualisation activities.

It has already taken me some ten weeks to digest and complete almost all the suggested exercises, alternating between reading, hands-on computer activities, and off-screen sketching on paper, plus various cycles of deep reflection and intellectual pursuit on the net.

As of today, I am still working on some of the suggested activities. In fact, many of the completed activities led me to a lot of other new explorations, beyond the originally intended curriculum.

My only complaint is that the interactive CD-ROM was not as exciting as I would have expected. This was probably due to the fact that the product was released in the mid-90s.

Among the many visual thinking toolkits in my personal library, this one demanded the most of my brain and physical power. As the saying goes, once your mind is expanded by new ideas, it is never the same again!

In a nutshell, if you are looking for a toolkit to help you expand your seeing, drawing, diagramming and imagining capabilities, this is it!

QUICK NOTES: 'RIDING THE WINDS OF CHANGE'

[QUICK NOTES are just my personal responses of key issues raised or expert advice given in articles written by industry experts in the 'Straits Times CATS Recruit' Page.]

RIDING THE WINDS OF CHANGE

1) Embrace the internet:
Are you maximising - with call to action - from your online opportunities like blogging, video portfolios, web ads, & online cross promotions?

2) Understand Today's Employees:
Today's youths are strong multi-taskers with shorter attention spans. Find creative ways to engage & motivate them. Create a conducive working environment & stay out of their way.

3) Pay Attention to Global Opportunities:
Watch for & act on trends from China, India, Canada, Dubai, Indonesia & South Korea. I would add Vietnam & the Middle East.

4) Find Unique Ways to Market & Sell:
Pay attention to needs & wants of your target market. Tighten your environmental scan & competitive analysis.

5) Stay Flexible & Take Risks:
Take risks & keep moving forward. Focus on the environment, but stay flexible & innovative.

Recommended Books:
1) Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell;
2) Good to Great, by Jim Collins;
3) The Purple Cow, by Seth Godin;

[The industry expert in this case is Paul de Burger of d'Oz International.]

BLOGGING: A PERSONAL REFLECTION

I have been blogging every day since the beginning of June this year. It has been a terrific personal learning experience as well as great fun.

I am most gratified to have received some personal emails from keen readers of my web logs. That’s real encouragement.

I have actually started with one principal web log, under ‘Optimum Performance Technologies’, with three ancillary web logs, under ‘The Study Smart Smorgasbord’, ‘The Brain Resource’, & ‘Kieu Dung Designs’.

‘The Study Smart Smorgasbord’ is more or less intended to capture my strategy work with students. It covers essentially effective study skills.

‘The Brain Resource’ is dedicated to my beloved late wife, Catherine. I have wanted to use it to capture my humble beginnings as a small entrepreneur as well as a book lover, with her unwavering personal assistance from early 90’s to end of 2001.

‘Kieu Dung Designs’ is dedicated to my new wife, who has a passion for creativity & design. Her first creative project: making clay flowers.

Unfortunately, I could not allocate more of my time to my other web logs, as I have been too engrossed on my principal web log. I plan to remedy this dilemma by according equal or more writing time to firstly, ‘The Study Smart Smorgasbord’ in subsequent months, & secondly, to keep the remaining two web logs up to date in some ways. I am still working on the plan.

Nevertheless, I have learned quite a number of lessons along the way, even though I have yet to master the craft of blogging.

These are my valuable lessons so far:

- I find daily blogging as a good exercise in intellectual stimulation. Just to write a simple daily blog, I need to gather my notes & structure my presentation. Sometimes, I need to do more reading as well as a little bit of research. In reality, it helps to keep me intellectually alive;

- I also find daily blogging as an excellent routine for creative & innovative thinking, as I constantly need to find new & better ways to illustrate a concept or idea. Sometimes, I need to see things differently so that I can illustrate an old concept or idea with a new twist or give it a new spin, or more importantly, just to add some freshness & novelty to the blog;

- I can continue to use my web logs as chronological records of what I have learned, especially over the last four decades of my life. This is reflected in my personal musings as well as my first & subsequent posts for ‘Technology Review’ & ‘In Pursuit of Personal Mastery’;

- I can continue to use my web logs as knowledge repositories of all the random notes & personal musings I have gathered & kept over the years. Hopefully, I can transcribe them into meaningful tools for further exploration. These are reflected in my ‘Notes from my Scratch Pad’ & ‘Points to Ponder’.

- I can continue to use my web logs to share the books I have enjoyed reading as well as the movies I have enjoyed watching. These are reflected in my ‘Book Reviews’ & ‘Movie Reviews’ or ‘Lessons from the Movies’;

- I can continue to use my web logs to write - as well as talk with others - about my life passions & pet subjects: understanding the brain, reading, learning, thinking, peak performance, creativity & innovation, knowledge management, personal mastery, opportunity discovery & strategic exploration;

- I have just started to capture some of my personal observations & social interactions. These are reflected in my posts for ‘The Second Cycle’ & ‘The Wednesday Club’. This is an area I need to expand further;

- Naturally, capturing & sharing all my personal learning experiences over the years e.g. posts for ‘From Executive to Entrepreneur’, ‘PhotoReading: A Personal Exploration’, ‘Getting the Most out of Your Reading’, will continue to be part & parcel of my web logs;

- My web logs have served as interesting talking points with people I meet in both business & social settings;

For me, there are of course many new areas or things to learn & explore further for blogging: video casts, pod casts, affiliations, optimisations, networking, etc.

I am often asked : ‘Do you make any money from your blogging?

Frankly, I often get quite annoyed by this scarcity mindset of people.

Do I have to think about money when blogging?

When I left the corporate world at the age of 43 - during the early nineties -, to pursue my fondest entrepreneurial dreams, money was not the most important thing in my mind. Don’t get me wrong. Money is important – you need it to pay the bills. However, it was never my principal focus.

At that point in time, I had just wanted to follow my bliss - to do what I love & love what I do. I did exactly that, & to my delight, money followed, though not immediately. It helped to support my late wife & myself, paid the office bills & still able to enjoy some surplus to keep the business going till mid-2005.

Interestingly, Marsha Sinetar was right: Do what you love, & the money will follow. Bucky, using the analogy of the honey bee, called this ‘precession’.

I must admit: I did not become rich & famous, but I have been very happy & rich in a different way since day 1 of my departure from the corporate world. Best of all, I am currently in the best of health, with a lot of time to pursue a lot of interests.

I will pursue blogging in the same spirit.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Destiny is the milkshake of luck & intention. I can control the intention, but at best only recognise & ride on the luck."

(Ho Kwong Ping, Chairman, Banyan Tree Group)

WHAT CAN AFFECT YOUR READING SPEED & COMPREHENSION?

Further to an earlier post, I would like to add another perspective on the factors that affect reading performance.

Based on my personal experiences, there are three major considerations:

1) Textual features of the book;

2) Your personal characteristics as a reader;

3) Your habitual reading patterns;

1) TEXTUAL FEATURES:

- format of the book: helpful or difficult to follow;

- graphics: yes or no;

- typographical aids: yes or no;

- language features;

- subject matter: complex or understandable or familiar;

- length: short or moderate or long;

- organisational layout - strong or moderate or weak;

2) READER CHARACTERISTICS:

- background knowledge: strong or moderate or weak;

- physical & mental state: alert or moderately alert or easily distracted;

- personal interest: high or moderate or low;

- reading skills: trained or untrained;

3) HABITUAL READING PATTERNS:

- reading word by word (limited perceptual span);

- slow in recognition & response (slow perceptual reaction time);

- tendency to vocalise;

- faulty eye movements (regularity of movement, rhythm, return sweep; placement)

- tendency to regress;

- inability to pay attention & concentrate;

- lack of practice;

- fear of losing comprehension;

- reading very slowly;

- inability to evaluate importance;

- effort to remember everything;

POINTS TO PONDER: THE THINGS WE LEAVE BEHIND

According to Paul J Meyer, founder of the Success Motivation Institute, Inc., & author of 'Unlocking Your Legacy: 25 Keys for Success', when all is said & done, each of us will leave behind four thing:

1) MEMORIES: thoughts that others have of us;

2) SOUVENIRS: proof of our existence;

3) TROPHIES: records of our achievements;

4) LEGACIES: everything that we are & possess today;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Do I absolutely love what I am doing?

Am I living each day as the person I have always wanted to be?

Are my relationships at home & with friends meaningful & rewarding?

Am I in excellent health?

Do I have as much money as I need?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

POINTS TO PONDER: WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

A window of opportunity is defined as a time period during which an opportunity must be seized or lost (perhaps forever).

The notion of a window that opens for a while & then closes highlights the fleeting nature of opportunity, when timing is everything.

Too early can be as bad as too late.

'SECRETS OF SUCCESS' BY AYATULLAH JA'AFAR SUBHANI

By a stroke of serendipity, I stumbled onto this fantastic website of the Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. The website is a goldmine of information nuggets about Muslim philosophies.

According to what I understand, ABDILP is a non-profit effort by volunteers worldwide to digitise important Islamic resources & to make them available to the masses through the Internet. Ultimately, they aim to explore possibilities of bringing this digitised material together in a comprehensive Islamic Study Database.

However, what strikes me most is this codified knowledge known as 'Secrets of Success'. It's of course a translated work.

For me, this is USF from the Islamic perspective.

In addition to many Muslim references in the text, it contains also a lot of European as well as American references.

In a nut shell, these are the key chapters:

1) Liking & Enthusiasm;
2) Unrelenting Effort;
3) Faith in Intention;
4) Patience & perseverance;
5) Focus;
6) Discipline;
7) Gradual Progress;
8) Avoid Blind Following;
9) Counsel;
10) History is the Best Teacher;
11) Firm Determination;
12) Awareness of Circumstances;
13) failure is Ladder to Success;
14) Courage & Fearlessness;
15) Self-Sacrifice;
16) Difficulties & Calamities;
17) Accepting the Reality;
18) Flexibility;
19) The Correct Way;
20) Unexpected Success;
21) Waiting for a Chance;
22) Incorrect Understanding of destiny;
23) Inherited Wealth;

In some ways, & with due respect, I would say this is the Muslim version of the 'Law of Success'.