Saturday, February 9, 2008

A DAY OF RANDOM EXCURSION

Today is the 3rd day of the Lunar New Year celebration, which traditionally will go for fifteen days.

This year's celebration fell on Thursday & Friday, & plus Saturday & Sunday, which together helped make the whole stretch of public holidays a comparatively long one.

Most of the retail & coffee shops in my neighbourhood was closed for the season's celebration.

My gym buddy called me, & we met for drinks at one of my neighbourhood coffeeshops, which happened to be open. The time was about 11.25am.

As we were drinking our iced water, we were talking about what to do for the day. He suggested dropping into the Queensway Shopping Centre for window shopping, but first he needed to adjourn home to pick up his car. [His wife had dropped him off earlier.]

At his house, while he checked his email, I got hold of one of his books lying around in the living room. It was Stephen Covey's 'The Speed of Trust'. While browsing it quickly, something caught my eye, & I took down some notes on a piece of paper.

Meanwhile, his Indonesian maid also served us some frozen barley & longan, pineapple tarts, home-made walnut cookies & Chinese tea.

Then, we left in his car, a Mercedes 190 Kompressor.

[His wife had decided to stay back at home to watch television, while my wife had left my house early in the morning to visit her Vietnamese friends in Bedok.]

Half-way on the Pan Island Expressway from Jalan Bahar towards the city, he decided that we should have a quick lunch first. He had a yearning for nasi padang (an Indonesian cuisine), & I suggested the famous restaurant at Zion Road, which was often visited by Tun Mahathir, then as PM of Malaysia, when he was visiting Singapore.

It was 1.40pm. The restaurant was quite crowded since it was a public holiday, & there was already a long queue when we arrived.

My buddy eventually ordered saffron-favoured rice, beef rendang (beef cooked in a thick coconut milk sauce, spicy hot), chicken curry, ikan goreng (deep-fried fish cutlets), & some pineapples/cucumber pickles, plus iced water.

The meal turned out to be quite good, although I complained that the chicken curry should have been warm.

After the quick meal, we departed immediately for the Queensway Shopping Centre, famous for its extensive array of low-cost sports clothes, bags & shoes.

My buddy bought for himself a soft leather sling bag as well as a pair of sports shoes. He believed that he had a very good deal. I did not buy anything, as nothing really fancy me.

We took the opportunity to stroll through all the upper floors of the shopping centre. Only a handful of the retail shops was closed for the season's holidays.

Then, we decided to go down to the city centre to visit the Bras Basah Complex.

As he was driving along the ECP towards the city, he suggested that he needed a caffeine boost, partly because he had apparently missed his afternoon nap.

We mutually agreed that the Hainanese coffee shop at the junction of Beach Road & Purvis Street would be an ideal place. He could park his car on Purvis Street, & later we could just walk over to the nearby Bras Basah Complex.

At the coffee shop, he had two rounds of coffee, one portion of toasted bread with peanut, while I had one round each of coffee & tea, one portion of toasted bread with kaya & butter, plus four half-boiled eggs to go.

Best of all, my buddy even added some Chinese ginseng powder into the drinks. No wonder, the Hainanese coffee & tea gave both of us such an exceptionally good kick.

As soon as we had finished eating & drinking, especially with the happy grin on our faces, we crossed the road (North Bridge Road) & walked into the nearby Bras Brasah Complex.

My buddy wanted to take a look at some watches in one particular shop on the ground floor, while I browsed the writing instruments in the same shop.

He finally settled on a pink-strapped Casio Baby-G watch, which he had intended to give away as parting gift to his Indonesian maid scheduled to return home shortly.

I was actually looking for a good writing instrument with retractable multi-colured ball-pointed pens.

The sales lady had shown me some samples of Lamy & Rotring instruments, but they did not meet my requirements. Most of them had a mechanical pencil, a high-lighter, plus two ball pointed pens of different colours.

After his purchase, we decided to go up to the Popular Bookstore, known as Pop@central, located on the upper floors.

We browsed through the first floor, which had management books on display. Finding nothing of interest to us, we decided to visit the top floor, which had mostly stationary & office supplies.

After a perfunctory browse, my buddy bought a battery charger, while I bought a canister of anti-static cleaning wipes for computer peripherals, & four rolls of cellophane tape. I had actually wanted to buy more other stuff, but decided otherwise, as I had forgotten to carry my Popular membership card with me.

It was then about 5pm. My buddy thought it was time for him to hit home, as he wasn't too sure whether he had dancing class for the evening.

While waiting for him to answer nature's call in the public toilet on the ground floor, I sat on a metal chair in the open-air atrium of the complex. The late afternoon breeze was cool & great.

I had a short relaxing break to reflect on what we had done for the day.

It was a random excursion for both of us, with no specific purpose or desired outcome. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to have such a time-out once in a while.

Just followed our instincts & allowed nature (randomness???) to take its course, so to speak.

My buddy concurred, although he cautioned that too much randomness could be counter-productive. I nodded my head.

THE POWER OF FOCUS

This is just a recap of what Shahnaz Rauf, a prolific writer, had written in the article, 'The Power of Focus':

1) What you focus on grows & ultimately manifests in your life;
2) Only 20% of your efforts produce 80% of the results;
3) We are all interconnected through one big natural web like supercomputer structure;
4) Abundance is our natural state… scarcity is a result of limited human thinking;


To read the article in its entirety, please proceed to her corporate website.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials."
(Lin Yutang, 1895-1976, Chinese writer, philosopher, translator, & poet; wrote more than 35 books in English & Chinese, & brought the classics of Chinese literature to western readers;)

Friday, February 8, 2008

10 WAYS TO DRIVE YOUR CREATIVE JUICES

Here is a link to the above article, written by a fellow blogger, Travis Wright.

In writing the article, he apparently drew a lot of inspiration from the book, 'Thinkertoys: A handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques', by Michael Michalko, who also happens to be one of my favourite creativity gurus.

THE MEDICI EFFECT

In November last year, I had reviewed the wonderful book, 'The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, & Cultures' by Frans Johansson in my blog post.

I have just been informed by the author that his book, in full .pdf version, is available for download from his corporate website. It's free!

THE POWER OF FOCUS

Andrew Obremski, an online entrepreneur, shares his focus technique:

"I can guarantee you one thing: If you develop & use the power of focus, your success rate will get better & better with each project. On the other hand, if you keep falling into the trap of working on too many projects at the same time, the chances are you will get nowhere."

Please read his original article, in which he outlines the process of applying his focus technique.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM ALBERT EINSTEIN

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is one of my most favourite personal heroes.

Throughout the years, from early 1992 to mid-2005, when I was running 'The Brain Resource' in the Central Business District (first at 121 Beach Road, later at the North Bridge Centre on 420 North Bridge Road), I had large wall-mounted, glass-framed posters of Albert Einstein in the office.

The most prominent one, also my personal favourite, facing all customers who walked in through the main door:

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

Of course, I also had his now famous quotation on the wall, among many others:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

In all my creativity workshops, irrespective of whether they were intended for professional adults or school kids, I often liked to use the life story of Albert Einstein as a platform for introducing the art of storyboarding, in addition to sharing many of his creative traits.

I have learned a lot of good stuff from Albert Einstein as follows:

1) He was very curious about things:

When he was about five years old, his father gave him a magnetic compass as a birthday present. He was intrigued by the compass needle, which was always pointing north. He often thought there was a 'hidden force' somewhere.

That small gift started him on the quest for scientific knowledge & sparked his lifelong curiosity about the universe.

2) He loved to play with models & mechanical devices:

He often played with models & mechanical devices for fun, which eventually helped him to appreciate the fundamentals of mathematics & physics. [His father & Uncle Jacob had a business that installed electrical equipment.]

3) He was always fascinated by geometry & philosophy:

His uncle, Jacob, taught him algebra. That gave him a tool to solve many mathematical problems.

Later on, geometry & philosophy became his most favourite subjects. Philosophy allowed him to study the universe & to understand the meaning of life. This encouraged him to explore many answers.

4) He loved music:

His love of music came from his mother, who taught him how to play the violin when he was six years old.

He wasn't good at it, but he persevered with his playing. In his later years, when he could not play the instrument, he often sat down to listen to the recorded music of his playing.

His favourite music compositions were Mozart's.

5) He loved to read:

He always had a book with him wherever he went.

6) He loved to think about new ideas:

As a shy young boy, he loved to sit quietly at one corner to think about problems as well as new ideas that fascinated him.

7) He loved to jot down ideas:

He always had a note book in his pocket.

8) He loved nature & the outdoors, especially hiking & sailing;

These activities gave him a lot of opportunities to relax, & more importantly, to think about a lot of things he cared about.

9) He loved to visit the museums & art galleries:

Now, we all know why he was a whole brainer.

10) He loved to write articles:

His first job with the Swiss Patent Office in Bern - where he actually hung out for seven years -gave him abundant opportunities to examine physics & write articles for magazines.

Of course, the nature of his work at the office contributed to his thinking & writing, as his job involved reading & preparing patent records.

In fact, one of his many articles apparently changed our understanding of the universe, & eventually won him the Nobel Prize.

11) He loved to conduct 'thought experiments':

This became his favourite past time. To his teachers, this was daydreaming.

It was one of his 'thought experiments' - imagining riding on or travelling with a light beam - that helped him to finalise the now famous equation.

12) Throughout his life, he had many close friends;

Actually, it was his close friends (one of them during the early years was Max Thalmey; another one was Marcel Grossman, while he was studying at the Zurich Polytechnic) who introduced him to the many complex texts of mathematics, science & philosophy.

His first wife, Mileva Maric, was one of those close friends.

Just after college, he often hung out with two or three other close friends (Conrad Habicht, Maurice Solovine, Michele Besso) as intellectual 'sounding boards', almost on a weekly basis.

That was the informal beginning of the 'Olympia Academy', which had influenced his intellectual development.

In later years, he had also made many friends in the scientific community. One of them was Niel Bohr.

13) He had never ceased to ask questions:

He had always made it very clear that the most important thing in life was to keep asking questions.

[As a teenager, his teachers wanted him to leave school because he asked too many questions. In actuality, he was the smartest kid in mathematics, but he hated all the other subjects which bored him in school.]

14) He rode on the shoulders of giants before him:

Four great thinkers actually laid the foundation on which he had been able to construct his famous theory:

- Galileo;
- Isaac Newton;
- James Maxwell;
- Hendrick Lorentz;

He had often acknowledged the indirect contribution of his close friends from his early days. He said that their close friendships had often influenced his scientific career in later years.

15) He pursued a life of simplicity:

The last twenty years or so of his life was spent at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. It was a quiet college town. He loved to walk about in the town.

[Amusingly, when he first came to Princeton University in 1935, & was asked what he would require for his study, he replied: "A desk, some pads, a pencil, & a large wastebasket to hold all of my mistakes."]

Till today, Albert Einstein has never ceased to be my inspiration for creative expression.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Today's financials are a reflection of what you did yesterday, not what you do tomorrow. So, plan for tomorrow today!"
(Oren Harari, management consultant, writing in his personal weblog about competitive advantage, organisational change & transformational leadership. He is an author of 6 books, including 'Breaking from the Pack' & 'Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell'.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

SUCCESS DEFINED

"Success is knowing your purpose in life, sowing seeds that benefit others, & growing to your maximum potential."

(John C Maxwell, an internationally recognised leadership expert & author of 'Success One Day at a Time'. He asserts that success is for everyone. The secret of success is found in your daily routine, springing from your dreams, vision & consistent self-discipline.)

SUCCESS DEFINED

"Success is the accomplishment of goals & objectives necessary to achieve a particular task, realize a particular dream or satisfy a particular need or want, for a particular period of time."

(Maryse A Nelson, business consultant & trainer. She wishes to clarify that success is not a condition. It is not a stabilized, permanent state of achievement. Her definition of success implies a state of constant motion. If readers are interested to read her original article containing the definition of success, please proceed to this link.)

SUCCESS DEFINED

Success is:

- Defined by You!
- A Moving Target
- Worth Pursuing


This simple definition comes from Keith of http://www.askkeithnow.com/.

He feels that his ultimate success formula is comprised of some of these key elements:

- A Loving Family
- A Core Group of Friends for Life
- The Ability to be Financially Self Sustaining
- A Complete Giver
- A Consummate Mentor
- A True and Trusting Friend to my Friends
- True to Myself
- True to Others
- As Educated as Possible
- A Lifelong Teacher
- Known for Making Others Lives Brighter

RAMBLING THOUGHTS: ARE YOU READY FOR CHANGE?

As I was going through the newspapers, an ad from the Singapore Institute Management (SIM) struck my fancy.

The ad's catchy headline reads:

"Stay relevant, or be stuck in a rut. Change in the workplace is constant. How ready are you?..."

This was followed by a full listing of courses, from Senior Management, e.g. 'Exploring the Frontiers of Leadership', all the way down to Office Management & Secretarial, e.g. 'Telephone Techniques'.

Frankly speaking, I am not impressed with the listing of courses.

I dare to say that two thirds of the courses offered do not dovetail or resonate with their slogan "Stay prepared by equipping yourself with the relevant tools & skills . . ."

I reckon the only courses worth pursuing are probably 'Precision Questioning', 'Think on Your Feet', 'Lateral Thinking', 'Braindancing', 'Lifescaping', 'Matrix Thinking', 'Problem Solving/Decision Making', & 'Data Mining'.

The rest is, sad to say, very mundane.

All of us have more or less come to accept that the only certainty in today's rapidly changing world is change.

The pace of change is indisputedly accelerating.

If we are to be successful, we must continually evolve to match the changing requirements of our external world.

In many of my earlier posts, I had written about the fact that our internal rate of change must always equal or surpass the external rate of change. That's the essence of Ashby's Law.

By now, most readers are probably familiar with the Darwinian principles:

"It is not the strongest nor the most intelligent that survive, but those that adapt best to change."

The increasing rate of change is challenging our traditional approaches to self management.

I reckon the speed of response & flexibility are now essential to surviving & thriving in the 21st century.

For me, change inevitably involves seeing things from new or different perspectives.

Surprisingly, there is not a single course or program currently being offered by SIM on change management, anticipatory management, enhancing sensory acuity, developing change readiness &/or audits, developing strategic foresight, scenario analysis, developing early warning systems, contingency planning, future problem solving, strategic thinking, anticipating the future or futuring.

[This is currently my work-in-progress, to be continued]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1) What are the key drivers for change within the environment in which I am operating?

2) What do I need to do to ensure that I am aligned to my external environment both now & in the future?

3) What do I need to do to ensure that I am in the very best position to identify & respond to future changes within my environment?

4) What do I need to do right now to ensure my future success?

5) How can I maximize the engagement of my supporting resources in both daily activities & future change initiatives?

BONUSES OF BLOGGING

I have been blogging since June last year. It has been a really great learning experience for me.

Rewarding & fun, too.

There are many bonuses from blogging, as far I am concerned.

First & foremost, I have a disciplined & productive routine to do on a daily basis. Sometimes, I will do my bit first thing in the morning, just before I go for my gym work.

Oftentimes, I will start the moment immediately after my quick lunch.

Secondly, I now have another meaningful past-time, in addition to my reading & surfing the net.

Instead of spending so much time watching the TV, which is generally a very passive activity, I am doing something active, productive & creative.

Thirdly, I have initiated a technology-enabled archival system to track my many rambling thoughts, reflections & musings.

For me, I fancy the blog's archives certainly act like a time machine running through the chronicles of my thoughtforms.

Fourthly, I have set in motion a working mechnism for my intellectual mind to stay sharp & nimble during my senior years.

I realised that writing a blog post takes more than just writing. I have to think through what I want to write.

Sometimes, I need to do some background research. Surfing the net is one. Oftentimes, I have to re-read some of my previously recorded stuff or books I had read a long time ago.

Then, I need to sit down, & gather all my thoughts so that I can put them or synthesise them into a cohesive whole.

Likewise, when I write a book or movie or technology review in blog posts, I have to play with numerous scenarios inside my head. Luckily for me, my physical workout in the gym serves as my playground of ideas.

Fifthly, I get the chance to share all my learning experiences with people on the net, so that they don't have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.

Much of the my blog writing comes from my own personal exploration & professional experimentation. In fact, it also comes from my riding on the shoulders of all those giants before me. This is the part I enjoy most.

Next, I often get valuable feedfack through emails from internet readers about what I have already written. In a way, & for me, this is serendipitious meeting of like minded professionals.

Actually, I have been receiving valuable feedback ever since I had started writing book reviews on amazon.com from the mid-nineties.

Last but not least, I have created an opportunity to hone my writing skills.

From early 1992 to early 1994, I had edited & published a subscription newsletter. It was a true labour of love, even though I was under tremendous pressure.

With blogging, I reckon it's a slightly different ball game, but the practice of writing blog posts continues to give me joy & satisfaction.

I consider every single email from a reader out there as a pat on my back.

To conclude, I have found writing my own blog to be a true labour of love.

A PERSONAL REFLECTION ON CHANGE

Over the years, I love to cut out interesting articles from newspapers &/or magazines, & will then read them more carefully at a later time.

I call this 'razor blade reading', something I had learned many years ago from an IBM strategist, Michael Kami.

Well before my adventure into blogging, I often jot down key points, after rereading, into my scratchpad. I have gathered a lot of scratchpads over the years. Today, I have already transferred some of them into my blog.

If I find them more exciting or intriguing, I will convert them into mindmaps or visual tools with the aid of the MindManager Pro or Inspiration. With the mindmaps & other graphic organisers, I can explore what or where they will lead me to.

Naturally, I have also amassed a lot of mindmaps & visual tools, which are streamlined into numerous subject categories.

With technology, retrieval as well as exploration becomes easier & faster.

With the advent of blogging, I now have an additional avenue to synthesise & explore.

I just write some 'Quick Notes', for the purpose of personal reflection, some of which have already appeared in the form of blog posts.

Below is a quick sampling of my personal reflections, as I run through some of my last year's cuttings, which have yet to be captured or synthesised into my scratchpads &/or my mindmaps.

Geraldine Tan wrote about the Rat under the Chinese zodiac. Frankly, I did not know that the Rat had the honor of heading the roll call of 12 animals in the zodiac.

I am born in the year of the Rat.

What she wrote caught my eye:

"Believed to be industrious, ambitious, energetic & entreprising, Rats are survivors who always know where to find solutions & hurdle over obstacles. With great powers of observation & perception, coupled with curiosity & imagination, they are often as sharp as needles . . . Rats have great leadership qualities & a presence that others respect. Add to this a friendly & sociable personality with a knack for sparkling conversation, & what results is a charming, passionate & driven person who is imaginative, intuitive, hardworking & resourceful . . ."

With all modesty, these characteristics fit my personal description to a great extent, but I personally feel that these are also the critical characteristics one must have or attain in order to survive - & thrive - in the 21st century.

I certainly like to single out, in particular, the powers of observation & perception, curiosity & imagination.

Readers should probably have come across this expression (in connection with IBM's real-time collaborative business environments):

"The future is in sight."

Next, I love what Paul de Burger, associate consultant at d'Oz International, had written in the Recruit Page some time back:

"If you don't want the same results, you have to make changes . . . For good things to happen, life will have to change . . . Anything worth doing will require a change on your part, whether that change is in your schedule, effort given, money spent or otherwise."

I certainly recall the day I made my final decision to quit the corporate world. The decision wasn't easy, especially after I had spent more than twenty years in the corporate jungle.

What struck me was my personal revelation when I was confronted by a couple of powerful lessons from Robert Kiyosaki during a life-changing boot camp:

"Do I want to be in the field of action or do I want to stay behind the viewfinder? The choice is mine!";

"For things to change, first I must change!"

From then, the rest was history.

Let me add further: Change is Opportunity!

MM Lee Kuan Yew is a great inspiration in this perspective - he took up computers when he was in his seventies, after he realised that, without the change on his personal part, he could not communicate & keep track with his younger colleagues & old friends around the world, within the global 24/7 context.

Patricia Fripp is a prolific writer. A pretty good one, too. I have read many of her articles in the Straits Times & elsewhere.

Here is my quick adaptation of what she wrote about the five characteristics of a seasoned professional, also in the Recruit Page.

1) Use every opportunity;
2) Ask questions;
3) Be accountable;
4) Sell yourself through vivid stories;
5) Be persuasive & influential;

I reckon the first one is critically important. I like to express it as taking every opporutnity to learn & grow. Asking questions, especially to probe the world, is equally important.

With the foregoing two characteristics, it becomes easier to pursue life-long learning, resulting in a never-ending continual improvement in one's journey on the highway of life.

Daniel Theyagu is a local training consultant. I have read some of his books on study skills & memory training. He has also contributed several interesting articles in the Recruit Page.

In one of them, he shared some interesting perspectives about building emotional strength.

He defined 'emotional fitness as the ability to develop a sustained capacity to thrive when the going gets tough'.

He highlighted four qualities that would help you cope with challenges that come your way:

1) be patient;
2) accept who you are & what you can do;
3) work on your paradigms or ways of thinking;
4) engage in positive self-reflection;


Interestingly, Dr Tony Alessandra, author of 'The Platinum Rule', wrote something relatively similar in the Recruit Page not too long ago.

He used the term 'resilience' & defined it as 'knowing how to cope in spite of setbacks, barriers or limited resources'.

He added that 'resilience is a measure of how much you want something & how much you are willing, & able to overcome the obstacles to get it'.

I like the anecdote he used to illustrate his point:

"When someone says they cannot go to the park because it is raining, they find something else to do.

However, somewhere along the way, they start to develop a rigidity towards the unexpected, & then towards change in general.

They lose their ability to shift course or to try something else. They lose their resilience."

To me, the essence of both articles by two different authors accentuates one very important skill set for the 21st century:

developing paradigm pliancy - the ability to look at your challenges from many different perspectives, adapting yourself quickly & marshalling all your strengths & resources accordingly, with the prime objective of moving forward & moving out of the rut.

Last but not least, I am intrigued by what Dr Sattar Bawany, head of Transition Coaching Practice at DBM Asia Pacific, wrote about the key qualities of a great leader, in the Recruit Page.

He highlighted a few important qualities: self-awareness, internal reflection, outward focus & emotional intelligence.

Although he did mention strategic thinking & innovation, unfortunately more as perfunctory remarks towards the end of his article, I strongly believe that strategic thinking & the relentless pursuit of innovation must be a significant part of the leadership repertoire, especially in the context of today's rapidly-changing landscape of business.

That's all, folks!

THE POWER OF FOCUS

According to Izzy Gesell, a success coach, who calls himself an "organizational alchemist":

"Your quality of presence is revealed through the power of focus . . . It's essential that you concentrate on what's important while staying away from the unimportant . . . With so many stimuli flooding our senses, it’s difficult to pay attention to any one thing at any one time . . . Finding the Point of Concentration (PoC) for any desired outcome forces us to be more focused, & less distractible. Call it 'focused awareness', 'mindfulness', or 'presence'. Once revealed, the PoC becomes home base for any wandering thoughts, feelings or behaviors. You can't be lost if you know how to find your way back home.

He is also the author of 'Playing Along: Group Learning Activities Borrowed from Improvisation Theater'. Readers can visit his corporate website to get more information about his work & articles.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develope your strengths. When you go through hardships & decide not to surrender, that is strength."
(Arnold Schwarzenegger, body-builder, 5-times Mr Universe, 7-times Mr Europa, businessman, Golden Globe winning megastar, politician currently serving as the 38th Governor of California;)

GONG XI FA CAI!

It's the first day of the Year of the Rat, so let the celebrations begin.

I wish all readers an abundance of everything that will make the year ahead a more exciting, challenging & rewarding one for you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

THE POWER OF FOCUS

Jamie Andreas is a master trainer & success coach in the field of guitar practice. She runs a web-based consultancy & training outfit, known as Guitar Principles.

According to her, every principled player knows that the ability to pay great attention or focus is the foundation of our ability to create growth in our practice.

She has written a very good training article on 'Organisation is Power'. Although it is targeted at people attaining a proficiency in guitar practice, I thought it serves valuable lessons for those who want to understand the power of focus at work.

She argues very eloguently that "organization is a form of attention & awareness". She also adds that all of us can be great guitarists if we learn how to put this to work.

She is also the author of 'The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar'. You can read Chapter 1: Desire, Attention, & Awareness for free.

Again, I feel that this particular chapter is worth reading, from the perspective of understanding some fundamental success principles, irrespective of whether they relate just to guitar practice.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“The human condition can almost be summed up in the observation that, whereas all experiences are of the past, all decisions are about the future. The image of the future, therefore, is the key to all choice-oriented behavior. The character & quality of the images of the future which prevail in a society are therefore the most important clue
to its overall dynamics.”

(Kenneth Boulding, 1910-1993, economist, educator, systems scientist & philosopher)

ITE vs POLYTECHNIC ROUTE TO SUCCESS

Recently, a reader shared some very interesting perspectives in the Straits Times Forum Page, with regard to the apparent controversy surrounding some secondary school principals urging their academically poor students to aim for ITE instead of the Polytechnic route to the future.

He specifically mentioned three well-known personalities to drive home his point.

The recently appointed British Foreign Secretary, a rather prestigious post in Gordon Brown's government, obtained only Grade 'D' for Physics & Grade 'B' in three other subjects at his A Levels. He went on to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he got a first in Philosophy, Politics & Economics. He then took a degree in Political Science from MIT.

As a teenager, President Nicolas Sarkozy was reportedly a medicore student. In fact, he flunked one year in secondary school. He went on nonetheless to obtain his baccalauréat, & then enrolled at the Université Paris X Nanterre, where he graduated with a degree in Business Law.

Sim Wong Hoo, founder, CEO & Chairman of Creative Technology, graduated only from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, & his academic results weren't spectacular as a student. However, his sense of wonder, fascination with music & sound, playful irreverence, propensity for breaking conventions, & obsession with innovation helped to put Singapore on the world map & heralded what would later be known as the multi-media revolution.

The reader's point was that, despite seemingly poor academic results in their school days, the three personalities mentioned above still managed to achieve greatness in their own pursuits in later years.

I remember that Sir Winston Churchill did rather poorly in school as a teenager, partly contributed by his speech impediment. Nevertheless, he went on to become the country's unforgettable Prime Minister during the tough wartime years. His command of the English Language & debating skills were legendary.

Once, a lady MP blasted him during parliamentary proceedings & yelled, if she ever married him, & made tea for him, she would add poison. Churchill's rebuttal was swift & sweet: "If I were your husband, I will drink it!"

I once heard from one of my lawyer friends that his wartime speeches were compulsory reading for lawyer wannabes.

Ronald Reagan did not performed well academically, & neither was he great professionally. In fact, he was a B-grade movie actor. Yet, he became the President of the most powerful country on earth, on two terms, when he was already in his seventies or more.

His command of the English Language was equally legendary ("Trust, but verify!"), not forgetting his great sense of humour. When he was shot during an assassination attempt, he told his wife: "Honey, I forgot to duck!"

Steve Jobs & Bill Gates were college & university drop-outs respectively, & yet they went on in their own way to change the world.

So, boys & girls out there, if you don't do well in school, don't despair. But, that's doesn't mean you should plan to fail.

The route to success is ultimately yours for the taking.

MOVIE REVIEW: THE MIST

I really take my hat off to Stephen King for coming up with the thrilling story about a bunch of townfolks battling with some blood-thirsty monsters coming out of a myserious mist engulfing a supermarket in the movie, 'The Mist'.

To me, he is indisputably a great suspense maestro.

[I had enjoyed watching many of Stephen King's earlier masterpieces, including 'Carrie', 'Pet Semantary', 'The Sleepwalkers', 'The Thing', & 'The Fog'. In fact, 'The Mist' bore some resemblance to 'The Fog'.]

Yesterday evening, my gym buddy asked me about what movie we could go & watch, & I told him that the only one I thought worthwhile would only be 'The Mist', after going through all the newspaper ads.

The movie had both of us glued tightly to the edge of our seats for some two solid hours in the movie theatre at the Jurong Entertainment Centre. My buddy was so excited that he even ignored the call of nature till the very last minute of the movie's ending, when he had to rush to the gent's for a quick leak.

The movie started off with a freak thunderstorm overnight. Our hero, probably an artist (played by Thomas Jane, whom I last saw as FBI agent turned vigilante, Frank Castle, in the action movie, 'The Punisher'), his wife & young kid saw their home, located in the vicinity of a beautiful lake, badly damaged on the next morning.

There was an uprooted tree. Another fallen tree had crashed into a boat quay at the lake. In the far distance across the lake horizon, they saw a seemingly vast, but definitely unusual, mist looming on the lake surface.

Together with their neighbour, whose Mercedes convertible was badly smashed up by an uprooted tree, our hero & his young kid went into town to pick up some emergency supplies. The wife was left behind.

As they drove towards the town, they saw a convoy of military, fire-fighting & police vehicles rushing to go somewhere.

As I listened to their casual conversation in the car, which turned to strange cues like 'nearby military base', 'Project Arrowhead', 'missile defence research', 'crashed flying saucer with frozen alien bodies', then I knew the movie was going to be really fun & exciting, even though I did not understand what it was all about.

At the supermarket, a lot of townfolks was busy gathering their purchases.

Three army soldiers then walked quietly into the supermarket, followed by a military policeman in close pursuit. They huddled at one corner, while I overheard the policeman telling the soldiers that their leave was cancelled & they had to return to base.

In the next scene, an elderly man with a bloody nose & blood on his clothes rushed into the supermarket & yelled that something in the mist had grabbed his pal. He urged the staff to close the main door quickly.

Outside the supermarket, the mysterious mist had thickened further & gradually engulfing the entire building.

The building then started to shake violently in the next few scenes, with most of the ceiling panels & fluorescent lamps flying around.

Next, the now frightened & bewildered townfolks trapped inside the supermarket realised that something was not right. The staff rushed to close the main door.

I must say, the movie director certainly knew his craft very well, as he took his own sweet time to build up visually the suspense all the way from the beginning segment of the movie.

Our hero meanwhile wandered into the generator room at the back of the supermarket. It was dark & he bumped his head. He heard something hitting the roller shutters at the rear loading dock. To him, he definitely sensed that there was something quite sinister out there.

The next few scenes were some of the most pulsating action sequences of the movie. Gory & nauseating, too! That's why the movie was rated NC-16.

Well, to all readers out there, I reckon you just have to go & watch this suspenseful movie to catch the remaining exciting plot, with all kinds of fiery monsters, big ones, small ones & even tiny ones, creating havoc inside the supermarket & nearby pharmacy.

Worst of all, in all the confusion, there was this mad lady, holding a bible, talking about the end of days. Not too long later, her message began to affect some of the badly shaken townfolks, who then started to turn against each other. To me, they, the believers, were deadlier than all those crazy monsters coming out of the mist.

Somewhere towards the middle of the movie, I began to put some pieces of the puzzle together, when the military policeman we saw earlier was found half-dead in some sort of a silky cocoon in the nearby pharmacy. Before he died, with thousands of small spiders crawling out of his physical body, he uttered some thing to the effect that the army had screwed up something that had created the diabolical mess in the town.

Two of the three soldiers we saw earlier had also committed suicide at the back of the supermarket. The remaining solder was finally cornered & killed by the believers, & his body was thrown out of the main door, in an attempt to appease whoever or whatever was out there.

It seemed that the army had unwittingly discovered a 'window' to another dimension, which those alien creatures had used to enter our world.

Frankly, I did not like the ending part, although I was intrigued by the six-legged behemoth still lurking happily in the background. Somewhat shocking & unexpected, to say the least.

Maybe, there's some kind of a message to all of us as human beings. Maybe, there's something else. Well, I reckon it serves as food for thought.

In the end analysis, I must say that the cinematography involving all the seemingly out-of-this-world monsters - sliding, crawling, straddling, flying; some had squid-like tentacles, some even spitted acidic fumes, but all had one thing in common - they loved human blood! - inside & outside the supermarket was the best I have ever seen in recent months.

I have truly enjoyed watching 'The Mist'. My buddy, too. He added that the two solid hours were well spent for the evening.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

MAKING ASSUMPTIONS

The following is generally quite a common phrase heard all the time, especially during meetings in the corporate world:

'I assume that....'

In reality, this means 'I haven't a clue but I am guessing that....'

It's OK when you get it right, but not when you get it wrong.

A golden rule before "assuming anything" is to think of the letters that make up the word 'ASSUME'.

Whenever you make an assumption & get it wrong - you have made an ASS of U & ME.

THE POWER OF FOCUS

According to Dr Jane Miner, a life coach & sports psychologist, with her own coaching outfit in St George, Utah, USA, known as Personal Solutions:




"The power of focus is to get what you want & when you want it . . . Focus determines the quality of skill execution. Knowing on what & when to focus is critical to successfully using skills & strategies. If you want to have peak performance & to be mentally tough, powerful focus is a mental skill that must be learned."

[To know more about the services & materials from Dr Miner & Personal Solutions, please visit her other websites. Her two FREE newsletters, 'Sensible Living' & 'Mindtips' can be subscribed to at these sites. Life Coaching contains book recommendations & program schedules; Sport Psychology contains articles & books for purchase.]

THE WALL OF LEARNING AT THE GYM

Besides being a nice place for a good physical workout, I always reckon that the gym I go to at the Jurong Sports Centre is also a conducive springboard for ideas.

Please refer to my earlier post.

Whenever I pause to take a short break in between my exercise routines, I would often stand in front of & look at some of the posters on the wall of the gym.

I like to call it the 'Wall of Learning'.

Somehow I don't find the posters boring. In fact, I am always learning something, besides being spurred with other ideas.

For me, the 'Wall of Learning' serves many functions: visually enhancing peripherals, constant subtle reminders, random environmental stimuli, serendipitious thought stimulation depending on my mood.

Here is a quick sampling what I often come across in my gym.

Naturally, & first of all, I am not surprised any other gym may have similar posters on the walls extolling:

- variety of exercises pertaining to sports focused, gym based training;
- healthy eats: what to do & what to avoid;
- FAQs on losing weight the smart way;
- vitamin & calorie guide;
- 10 steps to CPR;
- mechanics of strength based training;
- how to do abdominal exercises, back exercises, weight training exercises;

There are also large blown-up posters showing the intricacies of major anterior as well as posterior muscles.

Then, there are also the normal cautionary advice in the form of smaller posters about:

- how to warm up & cool down;
- how to avoid sprains & strains;
- how to do a proper working posture;
- understanding obesity as a manageable disease;
- are you stretching right?
- there's no wrong way to eat as long as you eat right;
- how to achieve a healthy BMI?
- how to lose weight sensibly;
- you are what you eat;

Occasionally, the gym staff will display relevant news clipping from the health forum page of our local newspapers, e.g. wild claims of slimming centres; BMI vs weight-to-hip ratio;

I can easily sum up many of the posters & cautionary advice, in terms of teaching (& learning) points:

Eat moderately; Exercise regularly & Rest adequately!

ROBERT STERNBERG'S 10 TIPS TO ENHANCE CREATIVITY

On the wall of my home-office is this large wall-mounted, beautifully framed poster, which I had transferred from my town office after shutting it down in mid-2005. I had owned it since the early nineties.

I have kept & displayed it till now because it shares 10 wonderful tips for enhancing personal creativity from Dr Robert Sternberg, whose published works on creativity, intelligence & wisdom are often favourably acknowledged by the scientific community & the public at large.

I am one of his raving fans.

1) Be motivated from inside, not outside:

- work to please yourself, not your parents, teachers or friends;
- do things that interest you;
- seek personal satisfaction from a job well done;


2) Take to think before you act:

- don't get carried away by the first idea that comes to your mind;
- instead keep thinking;
- chances are you'll come up with a better idea;

3) Practise sticktoitiveness:

- perseverance pays, even when you're feeling frustrated, bored, or afraid you won't succeed;
- on the other hand, too much persistence can block progress, so know when to quit;


4) Find out what you're best at, then use these abilities:

- Now is a wonderful time to discover & develop your true abilities;
- experiment, explore, take risks, & challenge yourself;
- you may find talents you didn't know you had!


5) Finish what you start. Follow through:

- failure to complete tasks & projects can cramp your creativity;
- if this is a problem for you, choose an unfinished project & get it done!
- this may motivate you to finish another & another;


6) Don't procrastinate:

- procrastination smothers creativity;
- the things you know you should do weigh on your mind, crowding out creative thinking;
- if you're a proscrastinator, do something about it today;

7) Don't let personal problems drag you down:

- everyone has personal problems from time to time;
- real life is full of joy & sorrow;
- the best thing to do is to accept this & take it in stride;


8) Strike a balance in your life;

- avoid taking on more - or less - than you can handle;
- if you're trying to do too much, you'll spread yourself too thin;
- but if you do too little, you'll miss out an opportunity & accomplish less that you could;
- find the mix that's right for you;

9) Know when to be creative & when not to be creative:

- different kinds of thinking are appropriate for different kinds of situation;
- the key is learning how to make the right judgement call;


10) Make your environment a creative environment:

- does your work environment support your creative efforts?
- is your own place at home an inspiring place to be?
- decide which parts of your environment are under your control, & then change them;

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Better to die than to live as a loser."

"Experience teaches us. Nothing is lost if we learn from mistakes. Lost investments are not a complete waste if we look at the experience as our profit."

"People are grouped as winners & losers. It's a matter of attitude. A loser sees problems at every opportunity, but a winner sees an opportunity in every problem."

(Thaksin Shinawatra, former Prime Minister of Thailand & multi-billionaire brain behind the country's powerful Shinawatra Group, with major interests in computers & telecommunications; from his point of view, stewardship of the country requires the same foresight, vision, ability, ideas & strategy, as it takes to run a group of companies; in this sense, he argues that the country is like a company that is under-performing;)

Monday, February 4, 2008

CLUELESS MEN IN SINGAPORE

For me, the Sunday Times carried a very amusing story about dating agencies, under 'Cupids to the rescue'.

What intrigued me most was their findings about many 'clueless men' in Singapore.

For example:

- a stingy guy who bought a shooter drink, but asked for a glass of ice so as to prolong his drink;
- guys who arrived late at speed-dating events, dripping with perspiration & sporting unsightly armpit sweat stains;
- men who take their dates to hawker stalls for their first meal;


Looks like there is a new business opportunity for dating agencies: charm school for clueless men?

I am not surprised to read about this development in Singapore.

I reckon most Singapore's men today, in their twenties or thirties, would have probably been brought up in maid-dominated households.

If these men can't even take care of themselves, how do you expect them to take care of their dates, let alone their spouses?

Once, an American-trained lecturer at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) brought up a pertinent issue at the Global Entrepreneur Forum, where MM Lee Kuan Yew was a keynote speaker, a couple of years ago.

The lecturer shared his personal observation: Every weekend, car loads of parents would send their house maids down to the university dormitories to help clean up the rooms & pick up the dirty laundry of their respective sons.

Although his point is seemingly about entrepreneurial traits, I see it from a different angle.

There was another amusing feedback I read about in the newspapers, & this one came from a SAF warrant officer handling the annual intake of national servicemen. He lamented that many of the national servicemen did'nt know anything at all about how to make the bed, use a broom or a mop, let alone to wash the toilets.

Several years ago, I was a co-trainer in a 5-day residential camps for teens aged 12-19 at a deluxe hotel. Upon daily inspection, I came upon teen boys who just threw their dirty T-shirts &/or underwear all over the place inside the hotel rooms, as if they were their homes.

You may argue, what have these foregoing issues to do with dating ladies?

A lot.

Without gaining a personal victory first, it is definitely an uphill task for anybody in attaining a public victory. This is the essence of taking personal responsibility. It starts with self management.

I now share my personal perspective:

If you can't even bother to care about yourself in the first place, you think you will care about somebody else?

For me, the first rule of dating is that you must care about the other party, even if it's the first date. This is always reflected in your being: punctual, courteous, sincere, thoughtful, & appropriately dressed for the occasion.

SUPERFOODS FOR A HEALTHY, LONG & ENERGETIC LIFE

I visited the home of my gym buddy this afternoon. He dropped a paperback book entitled 'SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life', by Dr Steven Pratt & Kathy Matthews, into my lap. I had a quick browse of the relevant pages.

In fact, my gym buddy has for quite some time spoken to me about his personal pursuit of the healthy nutrition program as propounded by the two authors.

To me, he is a real living example - fit & suave for someone of his age who has only recently begun his second cycle of life.

Professionally, he is still relatively active with his own engineering consultancy & licensing business, even though his eldest son has taken over some of his many responsibilities.

Exercise-wise, he follows quite a rigid regimen, especially in the area of high intensity training.

On the dance-floor, he is a very smooth operator. No wonder, all the dancing enthusiasts, especially the ladies, at the Singapore Recreation Club always love to gawk at him, sometimes even cajole him for a quick dance, to the chagrin of his wife.

Please refer to my earlier posts about him in this blog.

Dr Steven Pratt is a world-renowned authority on the role of nutrition & lifestyle in the prevention of diseases & optimising health.

According to him, by eating the fourteen SuperFoods highlighted in the book, you can actually halt the incremental deterioration that lead to common ailments & diseases.

Here is a listing of the 14 SuperFoods:

1) Beans - reduce obesity;

2) Blueberries - lower risk for cardiovascular disease;

3) Broccoli - lowers the incidence of cataracts & fights birth defects;

4) Oats - reduce the risk of type II diabetes;

5) Oranges - prevent strokes;

6) Pumpkin - lowers the risk of various cancers;

7) Wild salmon - lowers the risk of heart disease;

8) Soy - lowers cholesterol;

9) Spinach - decreases the chance of cardiovascular disease & age-related macular degeneration;


10) Tea - helps prevent osteoporosis;

11) Tomatoes - raise the skin's sun protection factor;

12) Turkey - helps build a strong immune system;

13) Walnuts - reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease, diabetes, & cancer;

14) Yogurt - promotes strong bones & a healthy heart;

He argued that these SuperFoods contain the 14 Super nutrients often needed by the world's most health-promoting, disease-preventing, anti-aging, rick-factor limiting diets:

1) Vitamin C;

2) Folic Acid;

3) Selenium;

4) Vitamin E;

5) Lycopene;

6) Lutein/Zeaxanthin;

7) Alpha Carotene;

8) Beta Carotene;

9) Beta Cryptoxanthin;

10) Glutathione;

11) Resveratrol;

12) Fibre;

13) Omega 3 Fatty Acids;

14) Polyphenols
;

By the way, here is an extremely abbreviated outline of the major SuperFoods Rx recommendations:

1) eat at least 8 servings of fruits & vegetables daily;

2) Think healthy fat: try to increase you rintake of seafood, nuts & seeds, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, & canola oil;

3) eat one handful of nuts, about 5 days a week;

4) eat fish 2 to 4 times a week;

5) substitute soy protein for animal protein a few times a week, try to have 1 to 2 servings of soy daily;

6) buy bread & whole grain cereals that have at least 3 gm of fibre per serving;

7) drink green or black tea, hot or chilled, daily;

8) have some yogurt for breakfast or in a smoothie or dessert everyday;

9) add phytonutrient-rich 100% juices & jams to your diet;

10) avoid junk food;

11) eliminate soft drinks;

Since I have been a practitioner of the 'Fit-for-Life' philosophy (of the Diamonds) since the nineties, the above recommendations do not come as a total surprise to me.

I only wish to add that a healthy diet & physical exercise must go together. Together, they make a potent combination for healthy, long & energetic life!

IDEA TRIGGERS AT WORK IN SINGAPORE

[continue from an earlier post]

On record in my files are some of my findings in Singapore pertaining to the incidence of making strategic connections through 'idea triggers':

Dr Christopher Chia, former CEO of the National Library Board, noticed a pink stamp on an egg.

He thought: If, like eggs, library books could be tagged individually, borrowing & returning could be automated fully.

So he put his project team to work & they came up with the Electronic Library Management System (ELIMS), a patented system that is a world's first.

Every year, ELIMS saves about S$50 million in wages for running public libraries in Singapore.

When Singapore first embarked on the design of the MRT, one of the problems that confronted the designers was the air-conditioning of underground stations in a hot climate.

They however observed a pattern among many office buildings, hotel complexes & shopping centres: they have sliding glass doors at the front to trap the air-conditioning.

The Singapore MRT became the first – & probaby the only one - in the world to have fully air-conditioned underground stations.

A playful staff member at Singapore Zoo threw a question while brainstorming: why don't we open the zoo at night. The Night Safari was born - the first of its kind in the world.

When Sim Wong Hoo, founder, CEO & Chairman of Creative Technology, was still a young teenager, his sister gave him a harmonica as a birthday gift.

It fascinated him, even motivated him to establish a harmonica troupe when he went to Ngee Ann Polytechnic to study electrical & electronics engineering. Upon graduation, he set up a computer shop & dabbled with sound & music synthesisers on PC. His subsequent life-long obsession with sound & music later became his driving force in creating the pioneering sound card that blasted the computer world!

When Mr Philip Yeo, the former Chairman of Singapore's Economic Development Board went to the United States to sell Singapore as an offshore petrochemical hub, the American investors laughed at him.

They appreciated the attractive tax incentives offered, but lamented that our offshore islands were too small - & they were right.

One day, he took a helicopter ride to survey our small offshore islands. As the aircraft was flying low, suddenly, something below struck him as he saw beyond the horizon.

Mr Yeo rounded up all the top guns in the Economic Development Board, Jurong Town Corporation & other related government agencies to brainstorm the problem. They thought seriously - & laterally - & eventually offered the American investors a proposition they could not refuse:

A huge & new industrial area, known as Jurong Island, formed by the merging & linking of seven small offshore islands with imported landfill!

Tom Peters, one of my most favourite authors, was absolutely right when he made this insightful observation in his wonderful book, 'Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganisation for the Nanosecond Nineties', which I had read from cover to cover several times during the mid-nineties:


"The essence of creation in all endeavours - is chance connections between ideas & facts that are previously segregated . . . Entrepreneurship is the direct by-product of chance, of convoluted connections among ideas, needs & people."

SUCCESS DEFINED

Dr Laura Nash, a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Business School, & Dr Howard Stevenson, a professor at Harvard Business School, studied hundreds of professionals & have come to the conclusion that success has four irreducible components, as reported in an article entitled 'Success that Lasts' in the Harvard Business Review:

1) HAPPINESS:

- feelings of pleasure or contentment about life;

2) ACHIEVEMENT:

- accomplishments that compare favourably against similar goals others have strived for;

3) SIGNIFICANCE:

- the sense that you've made a positive impact on people you care about;

4) LEGACY:

- a way to establish your value or accomplishments so as to help others find future success;

THE POWER OF FOCUS

Felix-Abrahams Obi related a wonderful story about his childhood encounter with his seniors holding a hand lens that could set fire to a piece of paper or burn the skin under the hot sun.

He was baffled & thought it was mind-boggling magic at work. He was then a young school lad in Lagos, Nigeria, on the African continent.

Only till he went to secondary school to study physics then he realised that this was the power of focus at work.

He shared his personal observations as follows:


"Great inventions are offsprings of focus."

"Focus on an idea & you will attract the wisdom, resources, energy & people that will make the idea work."


[Today, Felix-Abrahams Obi is a physiotherapist & writer working in Abuja, Nigeria. He has a personal weblog.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Excellence is an art won by training & habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

(Aristotle)

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If success or failure of the planet & of human beings depended on how I am & what I do:

How would I be?
What would I do?

(R Buckminster Fuller)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

IDEA TRIGGERS: MAKING STRATEGIC CONNECTIONS

I fully concur with many experts that much of our modern discoveries & inventions actually had come from acute personal observations of places, things, events, happenings, people, movements or listening to other people's ideas.

Sometimes, in addition to the observations, a sense of wonder & asking penetrating questions along the way also had helped to set the discovery process in motion.

I like to call them 'idea triggers'.

According to John Flowers & Calvin Garber, who wrote the 'Handbook of Creativity':

"The ability to 'see relationships between elements' is an attribution commonly made toward authors of major scientific discoveries or noteworthy artistic achievements."

This is further reinforced by the expert observation of Denise Shekerjian, who wrote 'Uncommon Genius':

"The person who can combine frames of reference & draw connections between ostensibly unrelated points of view is likely to be the one who makes the creative breakthough."

Many years ago, I actually set out to do a little bit of desk research to reconfirm the significant role of 'idea triggers' in the process of discoveries & inventions.

The following is a quick represention of what I had found:

1) irritated by frequent changing of the cotton panties of his grandchild --> Pampers (Victor Mills);

2) observed bacteria in a petri dish exposed to mould overnight; bacteria round the mould died --> Penicillin (Alexander Fleming, bacteriologist);

3) recalled laser sword fights in Star War movies --> laser surgery; laser catherer to melt fatty acids that clog arteries (Dr Garrett Lee, cardiologist);

4) while experimenting with cathode ray tube, watched a paper screen covered with barium chemical glowed --> X'ray (Wilhelm Rontgen);

5) watched fluorescent glow from uranium compounds --> radioactivity (Henri Becquereal);

6) noticed chocolate melt in pocket during testwork of microwave ovens --> microwave oven (Percy Spencer, Raytheon engineer);

7) worked with chemicals, rubbed on itching lips without washing hands --> saccharin, substitute for sugar (Constance Fahlbug);

8) passed electricity through wire & saw needle jerk on a nearby compass --> electro-magnetism (Han Christian Oersted);

9) worked with nitric acid in kitchen, spilled & used wife's cotton apron to clean up mess; hung over stove to dry; distintegrated --> nitrocellulose, substitute for gunpowder (C F Schonbein);

10) combined wine press + coin stamp --> printing press (Johann Gutenberg);

11) burned paper cups rose above flames in the chimney --> hot air balloons (de Montgolfier);

12) read a nature magazine with blown-up picture of the eye of a housefly; knowledge of building structures using toothpicks & garden peas --> geodesic dome (R Buckminster Fuller);

13) observed whirlpool effect of water flowing down the drain of kitchen sink --> silencer for gun (Steven Maxim, who also invented the machine gun);

14) used the garden hose --> pneumatic tyre (John Dunlop);

15) watched fresh horses being substituted for tired horses at relay stations --> telegraph relay (Samuel Morse);

16) watched a cat reaching out through the metal fence to grab a chicken --> cotton jin (Eli Whitney);

17) held a beer can while drinking in a pub & thinking about a design problem --> low-cost disposable drum for laser printer (Canon design engineer);

18) saw wife making waffle on the waffle iron in the kitchen --> waffle soles for Nike sneakers (Bill Bowerman & Phil Knight);

19) disturbed by & observed a boiling tea kettle --> steam engine (James Watt);

20) saw mixture of sulphur & India rubber dropped onto the hot stove --> vulcanisation (Charle Goodyear);

21) observed apple falling from a tree --> gravitational laws (Sir Isaac Newton);

22) played with toy rubber-band driven cork-made helicopter & handgliding as a hobby--> airplane (the Wright Brothers);

23) worked with deaf children; design of human ear, mechanism of sound, magnetism, electricity --> telephone (Alexander Graham Bell);

24) played yo yo --> fastening system for satellite to space shuttle (Thomas Kane, Stanford University);

25) watched cowboys lassoing cattle on the run --> commercial fishing net;

26) watched tree trunks used as rollers --> wheels;

27) used sharp object to punch holes in leather strips at father's saddle shop --> Braille (Louis Braille);

28) watched cat's eyes --> road reflectors (Percy Shaw, who used to run a road repair business in Yorkshire, UK);

29) questioned by 3-year-old daughter about why she couldn't see a photo he had taken of her right away --> Polaroid instant photography (Dr Edwin Land);

30) often wondered how friction might be reduced between hull & water to make boat go faster --> hovercraft (Christopher Cockerall, who took sailing as a hobby);

31) tried bouncing radio signals off atmospheric layers --> radar (Sir Edward Appleton & Dr M A Barrett);

32) puzzled by burrs from the cockleburs plant sticking to his pants & his dog while mountain hiking --> Velcro hook & loop fastener (Swiss engineer & amateur mountaineer);

33) observed phenomenon of thin film of oil floating on water --> Pilkington float glass process (Alastair Pilkington);

34) watched wife using perfume spray in bedroom --> fuel injection in automobile (Charles Duryea, AC Delco design engineer);

35) intrigued by a mechanism that counted how many times the ship's propeller went around, while thinking about his dishonest employees, who had been pocketing cash payments in his saloon bar --> mechanical cash registers (James Jacob Ritty);

36) visited a meat packing plant --> mass production of automobiles (Henry Ford);

37) visited a supermarket & saw regular replenishment of fresh produce on the shelves, in America --> just-in-time system (Kiichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Car Company);

38) watched kids playing hide & seek with & knocking on a large hollow wooden log --> stethoscope (Dr Rene Laennec);

SUCCESS DEFINED

"Success is the development of your powers to get what you want from life without violating the right of others in any way."

(Napoleon Hill, author of 'Think & Grow Rich)

SUCCESS DEFINED

"Success is not a goal, but a state of being satisfied & fulfilled by what you choose to do & be on a daily basis."

[Susan Collins, author of 'The Joy of Success')

SUCCESS DEFINED

"Success is the progressive realisation of predetermined & preplanned worthwhile personal goals, & staying on course to your greatest dreams, while creating happiness along the way."

(My synthesis based on inspirations from Earl Nightingale & Paul J Meyer)

RAMBLING THOUGHTS: MIND PROCESSES

I reckon these are probably the predomininant mental activities or mind processes we do all day long:

(Actually, these are my random thoughts. I love to juxtapose ideas from all over the place. Hopefully, this exploratory exercise can lead me to somewhere or to something else along the way.

If they eventually make some good sense, I may even be able to synthesise a useful approach for improving our mind processing skills.)

A) PERCEPTION:

- the key to everything we do - perception directs thinking, but images drive perception?

- using all or some of our physical senses to perceive the world: places, people, things, events, happenings, circumstances, movements, other people's ideas, ambient noises, observations, readings, etc.;

- what we see depends on where & how we look;

- making sense about the world - search/analysis/match;

- in logical sequence, the whole process works this way: i) perception; ii) memory; iii) thought; iv) emotion; v) communication; vi) intuition;

- our senses select information about what is out there: generalise, distort, delete;

- what about awareness vs focused attention? soft focus vs hard focus?

- our brain constructs its own simulation of the sensory impressions we get from the external environment - model of the world?;

- sensory impressions -> combinatory play -> productive thought -> expression?

- on a broad continuum range: i) conscious perception; ii) peripheral perception; iii) subliminal perception' iv) accelerated logic; v) psychic intuition;

- understanding the significance of switching perception? fluidity of perception? multiple perceptions?

- shifting focus? broad vs narrow; external vs internal;

- what about blind spots? natural vs acquired?

- eye movements?

- vision improvement? enhancing sensory acuity?

- marketing is perception business?

- illusions?

B) LANGUAGE PROCESSING:

- the labels we use to 'tag' the incoming information;

- language patterns? submodalities?

- communication with self: self talk?

- communication with others: response?

- transformational vocabulary: power of words?

C) MEMORY PROCESSING:

- information process model: i) acquiring information; ii) retaining information; iii)recalling information, stored in the brain;

- S/T: capuring the info; M/T: developing the info; L/T: fixing the info?

- chunking? chunking up? chunking down? chunking laterally?

- memory lapses - why do we remember? why do we forget?

- magical number 7? strategies to overcome this?

- survive information overload?

D) CLASSIFYING & CATEGORISING:

- pattern recognition = our innate ability;

- data ->information->ideas->decisions->actions->(experience)->knowledge->expertise (cumulative knowledge)->wisdom (discerning use of expertise)?

- idea fragments or preliminary insights-> ideas?

- categorising: things or attributes?

- associations? sequences? clusters?

- personal relevancy? meaningfulness? purposefulness?

- from abstract/general to concrete/specific?

- organising the information for storage & recall;

- organisational patterns from nature?

- how best to do it?

- mindset to mindreset? mindfulness?

- what about comparing & contrasting: similarities vs differences?

E) ANALYSING:

- breaking down complex stuff?

- analysing gaps? needs? fertile &/or high-payout areas?

- applying inductive & deductive reasoning?

- scientific method?

- tendency to using logic to sort out concepts & create new categories?

- the 3Rs: initial response? reflective response? assimilative response?

F) EVALUATING:

- making value judgements;

- what's good & new?

- what about the Big Six?

- pain vs pleasure?

G) THINKING:

- to understand thinking, we must understand what happens to our sensory impressions?

- forming concepts - generalising experiences & sorting out into categories? concept fixation = problem?

- imagining concepts - from 1D words to 5D: symbolic structures?

- combining concepts: analogies, metaphors?

- slippability? creating variations?

- using & stretching the imagination - nurtures thinking?

- playing around with ideas - thinking produces ideas?;

- making strategic connections?

- questions? direct focus?

- brainstorming - rules? free-wheeling? hitch-hiking?

- watch out cognitive traps? subtle influences? habitual domain?

- pattern formation/pattern braking - Edward de bono's 'provocation'?

- checking/challenging our own assumptions - framework of assumptions: a different frame around same set of assumptions allow new pathways to come into view;

- paradigm shifting? paradigm pliancy?

- major thinking skills needed for 21st century: i) problem solving & opportunity maximisation; ii) decision making; iii) creative & innovative thinking; iv) critical thinking; v) entrepreneurial thinking; vi) strategic thinking; vii) system thinking;

- sagacity? serendipity?

- provoke insight vs sudden insight?

- thinking about problems: problem defined; roadblocks to appreciating problems; problem vs opportunity;

- thinking at any given moment depends on mental focus?

- divergent vs convergent thinking;

- intuitive sensing? how does it fit it?

- environment affects thinking (look at the Dunns' PEPS?) ?

- what about groupthink? expertthink?

H) MATHEMATICAL COMPUTATION:

- crunching numbers? measuring quantities?

- what about mental arithmetic skills?

- what's in it for me - value?

- what's the damage, in financial terms?

- timing?

I) SCENARIO BUILDING:

- ballistic prowess - innate ability?

- future focus? anticipating the future?

- future cannot be predicted, but future can be invented?

- developing foresight?

- futurescape: insight about the present? foresight about the future? present = future in its most creative state?

- universe of possibilities? - calls for total shift in i) posture; ii) perceptions; iii) beliefs; iv) thinking process;

- playing with plausible scenarios inside our head - memories of the future?

- 60% favourable/40% unfavourable, according to Dr David Ingvar of Lund University, Sweden;

- visual metaphors?

[This is currently my work-in-progress. To be continued.]

UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN: ANTICIPATORY BIAS

Further to my earlier post on our brain's anticipatory bias, I thought it would be a good idea for me to sumarise as follows:

1) REPTILIAN BRAIN:

wants:

- order, routines & regularity;
- physical safety;
- repetition;
- security;

fears:

- change;
- dislocation;
- novelty;

2) LIMBIC SYSTEM:

wants:

- affiliation;
- celebration;
- emotional involvement;
- recognition;

abhors:

- alienation
- emotional threats;
- lack of communication;

3) CEREBRAL CORTEX:

wants:

- activity;
- challenge;
- novelty;
- stimulation;

deplores:

- boredom;
- deprivation;
- stagnation;