Saturday, April 12, 2008

SUCCESSFUL EYE AEROBICS THAT IMPROVE EYESIGHT

The eye is not only an irreplaceable part of the human body, but also one of highest importance to life.

To maintain a good vision for as long as possible it is essential to take good care of eyes each day.

Presented in this link are a series of eye aerobics & eye care tips that promote relaxation of the eye, or strengthens & conditions them.

Somebody say that vision is “90% mental & 10% physical”.

Doing these aerobics can give relief for tired eyes.

DEVELOPING MENTAL TOUGHNESS

What are the qualities necessary to create a visceral drive & response to real challenges?

Kevin Seaman, an educator for 25 years in the field of human performance & author of 'The Winning Mind Set', gives his expert answer:

• Having a clear & substantial belief of who you are & your objectives;

• Your explanatory style, the way you communicate with yourself & mentally process the things that happen to you;

• Learning how to take personal responsibility for everything you do, successfully or not;

• Reframing the questions you ask to provide better answers;

• Changing your associations by adjusting your mental pictures, inner communication & kinesthetic expression;

[More information about the author & his work can be found at this link.]

MENTAL TOUGHNESS TEST: HOW TOUGH ARE YOU?

Here is a link to a simple self-scoring test of your mental toughness profile.

Have fun & learn something good about yourself along the way.

It is important to realise that the 'Mentally Tough' person is always self motivated; is in full control of the outcome of his or her life; is positive & takes adversity as a learning experience, focusing on his or her goals & not dwelling on the obstacles.

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: MENTAL TOUGHNESS

According to Rick Seaman, CEO of Strategy Implementation, Inc., & a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, these are the 'Principles for Mental Toughness', as part of the US Naval Academy's time-tested, rigorous system of ingraining that mental discipline in its naval officers:

1) Excellence in small, unimportant things leads to excellence in big, important things;

2) Don't guess; know for sure. If you don't know, find out;

3) Work hard on problems. If they persist, work harder. Never give up;

4) Endure pain & discomfort in order to succeed;

5) Take pride in overcoming difficulties. The greater the difficulty, the greater the pride;

6) The more effort you invest in a task, the less likely you are to abandon that investment & quit;


[This was based on an interview by Bill Cole of the Mental Game Coach: Peak Performance Playbook.]

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: MENTAL TOUGHNESS

According to two classic books, entitled 'Toughness Training for Life: A Revolutionary Program for maximum Health, Happiness & Productivity' & 'Mentally Tough: The Principles of Winning at Sports Applied to Winning in Business' by James Loehr, a sports psychologist, these are the important elements in developing mental toughness training:

1) Concentrating;

2) Thinking Positive;

3) Controlling Attitude;

4) Managing Pressure;

5) Staying Motivated;

6) Visualising;

7) Having Humour

Notice that the 'power of focus' is always there, too.

In his newer book, entitled 'The New Toughness Training for Sports', as part of updating his previous work, he zeroes into four principles of mental toughness:

1) emotional flexibility: the ability to handle different situations in a balanced or nondefensive manner;

2) emotional responsiveness: the ability to stay emotionally engaged in the competitive situation;

3) emotional strength: the ability to handle great emotional force & sustain your fighting spirit no matter what the circumstances;

4) emotional resiliency: the ability to handle setbacks & recover quickly from them;

though imaging activities, emotional response practice, acting on 'the way you want to feel' & striking a balance between stress & recovery from stress.

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: MENTAL TOUGHNESS

According to Prof Graham Jones, a sports psychologist, & Adrian Moorhouse, a former Olympic sportsman, writing in their book, 'Developing Mental Toughness' for businesspeople:

These are the important elements in developing mental toughness:

1) Control Stress;

2) Develop Self-Belief (including self-esteem & self-confidence);

3) Develop Self-Motivation;

4) Maintain Focus on the things that matter;

Notice that the 'power of focus' is always there, too.

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: MENTAL TOUGHNESS

According to Dr Patrick Cohn, a Sports Pyschologist & President of Peak Performance Sports, there are four common mental & emotional characteristics that the 'best of the best' sports people seem to have:

1) Competitiveness;

2) Confidence;

3) Composure;

4) Focus;

Notice that the 'power of focus' is always there, too.

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Most people associate 'mental toughness' to competitive & high-performance sports training.

I believe that 'mental toughness' is more than just mental. It's also physical & emotional.

I also believe that 'mental toughness' applies equally in normal life as well as business pursuits

According to Terry Orlick, sports psychologist & author of 'In Pursuit of Excellence':

Here are the critical elements in 'mental toughness', which form the concept of the 'Wheel of Excellence':

1) Commitment;

2) Focused Concentration;

3) Confidence;

4) Positive Images;

5) Mental Readiness;

6) Distraction Control;

7) Ongoing Learning;

"Excellence in performance & in life begins with a vision of where you want to go & a commitment to do what it takes to get there."

Well said, Terry.

Notice that the 'power of focus' is always there, too.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What big question could I ask today to spark my creativity?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"To exist is to change; to change is to mature; to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly."

(Henri Bergson, 1849-1914, French philosopher who was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1927;)

Friday, April 11, 2008

TAKING HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS

According to a recent Sunday Times report, Singaporeans had spent US$270 million on health supplements in 2006, based on latest figures from the Health Supplements Industry Association of Singapore.

This was about 42% jump from the figure for 2003.

The market is growing at 12 to 15% a year, said the association.

Interestingly, I had also noted from the same report that Singapore doctors, nutritionists & dietitians did not seem to agree with each other on their real impact on health.

For me, I have been taking cod liver oil from Scott's in capsules since I was a teenager. Cod liver oil improves body's resistance & promotes good health.

I had started taking Centrum multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplements (from A to Z) about ten years ago, upon the advice of my family doctor, when I had often complained to him about my regular bouts of flu symptoms during my adult years.

For almost a year, I have been taking an additional multi-vitamin supplement under the Vitaton Gold label with antioxidant formulation.

I pass my medical check-ups every year. except for my mild hypertension.

My friends & relatives are often impressed by my natural physical disposition for my current age. My skin complexion is good, too, at least from the viewpoint of my gym buddy, who is now into botox intervention.

When my second wife, age 39 three years ago, from Vietnam told her siblings & relatives about her intention to get married to someone 18 years her senior in Singapore, they were very worried for her. However, after the siblings & relatives had met up with me, they were very relieved.

All I know, I have very high energy, as I don't take any naps in the day. I sleep normal hours, & I have no problems with sleeping at all.

Of course, I still do my physical workouts at the gym everyday from Monday to Friday.

Best of all, I follow the 'Fit-for-Life' philosophy to a great extent.

I always eat in moderation. My favourite dishes are plain porridge & steamed cod fish. Due to my wife's cooking (Vietnamese cuisine), I consume a lot of steamed as well as raw vegetables (salads). I also consume plenty of fresh fruits, mostly pineapples, papaya, mango & oranges before any meals.

Once in a while, I still go for my indulgences. e.g. MacDonald's.

Walking is also my favourite routine in the neighbourhood. I don't pant when I climb stairs.

I am just wondering: Is my natural physical disposition at my current age the result of my genes or the result of pursuing a healthy lifestyle, coupled with taking health supplements?

ADVERSITY QUOTIENT AT WORK

I was very impressed by veteran psychotherapist Anthony Yeo who wrote a short piece under the byline, 'Life Lines' in the Sunday Times of 6th April 2008.

In that piece he related his early struggle with poor self-esteem & insecurity:

- he was born a rat under the Chinese zodiac & sometimes he really felt like a rat (he was small in stature among the siblings);

- his father used to teasingly call him "ngeow chu kia" (small rat in the Teochew dialect) as he was the last to arrive in the Yeo family, following the death of a preceding older sister;

- an older relative decided that he should not visit his home because of his loud & intolerable voice;

- a teacher in Primary 3 often ridiculed his stuttering & stammering;

- he failed miserably in his O-Level exam;

Despite all these vicissitudes of life, he became resilient, resourceful & resolute.

I particularly like what he wrote at the ending:

"My struggle with poor self esteem & security strengthened my resilience & made me dig into my inner resources. It strengthened my resolve in coping with the problems of life.

The fact that I am who I am affirms my entitlement to life, fulfillment in life & hope for living.

It is fine to feel like a rat. The positive & negative features co-exist.

For me, what is more important is to embrace both & learn to live in harmony with myself."

Bravo! Anthony.

From my personal assessment, his personal exemplary experience truly reflects his high adversity quotient.

[Anthony Yeo has been associated with the Counselling & Care Centre in Singapore since 1972 as a psychotherapist, marriage & family therapist, teacher of counsellors, Director & currently as its Clinical Director. He serves as President of the Association of Psychological & Educational Counsellors Of Asia, & is the founding president of the Association for Marital & Family Therapy in Singapore.]

FROM MY TOOLBOX: THE 7S MODEL

From my personal as well as professional experiences, the 7S Model is a powerful tool for analysing your performance, in both organisational & personal settings.


It has its origins from the classic, 'The Art Of Japanese Management', by Richard Pascale Tanner & Anthony Athos during the early eighties.

Both author had apparently been looking at how Japanese industrial giants had been so successful, at probably around the same time that Tom Peters & Robert Waterman were exploring what made a company excellent.

The 7S model was then born at a meeting of the four authors. It went on to appear in another classic, 'In Search of Excellence', by Tom Peters & Robert Waterman.

It was then taken up as a basic management diagnostic tool by McKinsey & Co., as all four authors had worked as consultants with the global management consultancy.

For this reason, it's sometimes known as the McKinsey 7S model.

To be successful in implementing a strategy for running an organisation, managers need to take account of all seven of the 7S.

Likewise, to be successful in implementing a strategy for running your life, I believe that the 7S also apply, with only a slight variation in approach.

The 7S or factors are:

1) Strategy:

- a framework of planned & actionable routines that you start with & must maintain in order to keep you moving in the direction you want;

- the sustainable competitive advantage lies in the formulation of your strategy & the proactiveness of your approach;

2) Structure:

- how all the specific tasks, accountability & scheduling are organised structurally in the pursuit of your longer term goals or objectives;

3) Systems:

- all the day-to-day processes, e.g. scanning the environment, gathering intelligence, reading, thinking, strategising, decision making, communicating, computing, managing, interacting with your people & customers, etc., & the information flows, including the use of technology, that enable you to stay alert & get moving;

4) Style:

- how you act & behave - more precisely, your self-leadership - in various settings, personally, socially & organisationally;
- more precisely, how you spend your time & attention to things that matter;
- your actions are important than what you say;

5) Staff:

- in this case, I take it to denote 'Relationships' - with your spouse & your family; your colleagues at work; your bosses & subordinates; your customers; with all the people around you in social settings, etc;

6) Superordinate Goals (or Shared Values):

- this is actually the interconnecting centre of all the other S;
- as represented in your longer-term vision, & all the beliefs, mindsets & values stuff, that shape & influence your personal destiny;
- your personal values are your identity to the world: what you stand for & believe in;

7) Skills:

- all the distinctive (as well as reproducible) capabilities & competencies you acquire to empower you along the way; [reproducible=easily copied by your competition]

- the emphasis should be on multi-skill development;

In reality, the 7S illustrates the inter-connectedness of factors that define your ability to function effectively as an entity & to deal with a rapidly changing world.

To be effective, you must have a high degree of strategic fit, or internal alignment among all the 7S. Each S must be consistent with & reinforce the other S.

All 7S are interrelated, so a change in one has a ripple effect on all the others.

It is impossible to make progress on one without making progress on all. Thus, to improve your life, you have to master systems thinking & pay attention to all of the 7S simultaneously.

A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO BOB LEWIS

I had mentioned about Bob Lewis in an earlier post.

Following painstaking search through the net, with the aid of my old faithful Copernic Agent Pro, I had managed to track down Bob Lewis.

I was surprised & sad to learn that he had passed away peacefully on 27th July 2005. Dilip, too.

No wonder Dilip & I did not hear from him for so long.

How did I come to know Bob Lewis?

Quite a long story. To cut the story short:

Throughout the eighties & up to the early nineties, I had initiated a deep probe into understanding the intricacies & idiosyncrasies of the human brain.

I had totally immersed myself in books, magazines, journals, newsletters & other published materials about the brain.

Practically, every institution or research body involved in brain research had been targeted by me for query.

Along the way, the name of Bob Lewis had popped up. I wrote to him & he wrote back, among other stuff, about his dreams for the 'Living Brain Museum'.

We then met in Singapore for the first time. He had then stayed at the now-defunct Mitre Hotel, off Killiney Road.

I had met him again on two other subsequent occasions.

Despite the short association, I had found him to be very down-to-earth, full of wit & humour in conversation, deep in love with nature, & also into learning explorations about the brain. Best of all, he also shared my cravings for good food, especially seafood.

Bob Lewis was very helpful, too.

I remember I had once come across a science magazine article about Jonas Salk of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, best known for the research & development of the first effective polio vaccine. There was a colour photograph of the scientist next to a cute looking, colourful, plastic or metal, desk-top brain model.

To my great delight, Bob Lewis knew Jonas Salk. Without hesitation, he specifically arranged for Jonas Salk's secretary to provide me with the name of the model manufacturer.

Since then, I had acquired a good collection of brain models, made out of plastic, metal & other composite materials.

Regrettably, one of his fondest dreams, to have the 'Living Brain Museum' on planet Earth for future generations, could not materialise due to the total lack of of investors & appropriate funding, at least from my part of the world.

Readers who are interested to know more about the 'Living Brain Museum' can read Dilip Mukerjea's book, 'Surfing the Intellect', which had captured many of his conceptual sketches.

More information about Bob Lewis & his work, particularly in the field of landscape ecology, can be found at these two links:

- Aspen Field Biology Laboratory;
- Aspen Times Weekly;

As you can read from the two links, Bob Lewis was certainly a very colourful, planet-friendly character.

To my friend, Bob Lewis, please rest in peace. I know, deep down in my heart, you had invariably kicked some butts!

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"PhD in Leadership. Short course: Make a short list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don't do them
to others. Ever. Make another list of things done to you that you loved. Do them to others. Always."

(Dee Hock, founder, former CEO & Chairman Emeritus, Visa Corporation)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

TIPS FOR PERSONAL BRAINSTORMING

Chuck Frey, the founder of InnovationTools, a web site that provides entrepreneurs & innovators with one of the best collections of resources on business innovation, creativity & brainstorming on the Web, wrote a brief & yet interesting article on personal brainstorming at the Creativity for Life web site.

I would like to throw in some personal suggestions:

Under Step I:

Expand your appreciation of the problem by using the 6W1H framework. [=What? Where? Who? When? Why? Which? How?]

In addition to asking, say 'what has happened? or 'what is happening?', ask: 'what has not yet happened?' or 'what is not happening yet?' . . .

Under Step II:

Pose yourself this question: With unlimited power, money, time & resources at my immediate disposal, how would I deal with this problem?

Here's the link to the article.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If I were to die today would I die happy?

[inspired by David Zinger who runs a website on engaged living & happiness. He also runs a website that focuses on employee engagement.]

POWER VOCABULARY

In continuation of my earlier post, & just out of curiosity, how familiar are you with these bombastic words, which I have picked up from my reading?

1) progenitor;

2) discombobulated;

3) nincompoop;

4) gobbledygook;

5) vitiate;

6) gregarious;

7) gargantuan;

USING BOMBASTIC WORDS

I was having my regular hair-cut recently at the neighbourhood hair-dressing saloon.

As I was browsing through the stacks of used magazines, an article in one of the magazines quickly caught my personal attention. It had a feature story on celebrity gossips.

According to the story, actress Fiona Xie was apparently accused of often using bombastic words in her conversations with others.

I thought about it for a quick while. If that was the case, our MM Lee Kuan Yew would fall in the same category.

Whenever I listen to live interviews on television or read reports of interviews in the press about MM Lee Kuan Yew, even from his days as our beloved Prime Minister, I always could pick up a handful of bombastic words from his speech. In fact, his National Day speeches were often peppered with some bombastic words.

I always have to check my dictionary of those bombastic words in his speeches.

For me, as a listener or reader, I often found them to be very powerful & effective. They were extremely relevant in helping him to register his vital message to the people at large.

Of course, MM Lee Kuan Yew is often well-acknowledged for his excellent command of the English Language, having secured double firsts at Cambridge University during his graduate days.

For me, having the acquired ability in using appropriate bombastic words in speeches or conversations is a true measure of your intellectual pursuits. One of the most common physical input manifestations is reading.

In reality, to say that somebody likes to use bombastic words is more a personal reflection of not reading enough.

Fiona Xie, keep it up!

[Come to think of it, there are a few places in the Straits Times, where one can easily pick up powerful & yet effective bombastic words. They are: the editorials, the economic analyses & the political commentaries. I often encourage students in my training to read these pages on a regular basis to brush up their command of the English Language.]

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Best efforts are essential. Unfortunately, best efforts, people charging this way & that way without guidance of principles, can do a lot of damage. Think of the chaos that would come if everyone did his best, not knowing what to do."

(from 'Out of Crisis' by W Edwards Deming)

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"There are only two things you 'have to' do in life. You 'have to' die & you 'have to' live until you die. You make up all the rest."

(Marilyn Grey, educator, psychologist & author of 'It's All in Your Head';)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

IT'S THE PERSPECTIVE!

This story has been told many times, probably with some slight variations.

It's worth repeating in this post, just to illustrate the power of perspective.

A large American aircraft carrier was headed across the Atlantic on a visit to an undisclosed base in UK.

As it neared its destination at night, a lookout on the wing of the bridge reported "Light, bearing on the starboard bow."

"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.

The lookout replied, "Steady, captain," which meant that that they were on a collision course.

The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees."

Back came a signal, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees."

The captain said, "Send, I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees."

"I'm a seaman, second class," came the reply.

"You had better change course 20 degrees."

By that time the captain was furious.

He spat out, "Send, This is the mighty aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise. Change course 20 degrees."

Back came the flashing light, "This is a lighthouse, suggest you change course 20 degrees."

Needless to say, the aircraft carrier changed course immediately!

TECHNOLOGY MAY BE CAUSING 'BRAIN BLOWOUT'!

Here is a link to a very timely article on something we all face, technology overload.

One of my favourite authors, Jeff Davidson, who wrote the classic 'Breathing Space', shares some expert views on how to tackle the problem.

[Jeff Davison is the work-life balance expert for our time-pressed workforce. More information about him & his work can be found at his corporate website.)

SPARK PLUG OR NUT CASE?

A car hits a flat tire as it passes a mental institution in the suburbs. The driver stops his car to take a look.

He then goes to the boot of his car to retrieve a spare tyre, & proceeds to take off the damaged tire.

A guy, probably from the nearby mental institution, is sitting quietly on the roadside fence watching his every move.

The driver accidentally kicks all the four wheel lug nuts down the roadside drain.

What to do now?

The guy sitting on roadside fence gives a suggestion: Take one nut from each of the other three wheels!

What a spark plug?

The guy may seemingly be a nut case, but he isn't stupid.

OPEN MODE vs CLOSED MODE

The following profound exposition is attributed to John Cleese, British comedian (a member of the comedy ensemble 'Monty Python'), who played the sidekick to 'Q', designated as 'R' in the James Bond movie, 'The World is Not Enough'.

"We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open & closed.

The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful & more humorous.

The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned.

Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode.

Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful.

If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies.

When you charge the enemy machine-gun post, don't waste energy trying to see the funny side of it. Do it in the "closed" mode.

But the moment the action is over, try to return to the "open" mode - to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is need to improve on what we have done.

In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, & therefore at our most intelligent."

HOW FLEXIBLE ARE YOU?

One measure of how creative you are is how you respond to changes in your circumstances & environment.

How flexible are you?

Consider how water adapts to its environment:

- evaporation;
- condensation;
- snowflake;
- melting;
- flowing;
- goes around rocks;
- fills vessels;

I reckon Bruce Lee, the man whose fists shook the world, said it best:

"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water.
Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup;
You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle;
You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot;
Now water can crash, drip or flow!
Be water, my friend."

SYMBIOSIS

Beneficial relationships can develop between very dissimilar or disparate things.

For example:

Lichen (pronounced "liken") is actually a symbiotic community made up of fungus & algae which, in many environments, could not exist by themselves, but together are able to flourish.

Very often, the blending of different (sometimes even opposing) ideas can result in very creative solutions.

There is strength in diversity.

THE WAY OF THE JAPANESE

The Japanese are thought by many as not being true innovators.

However, innovation that EXPLOITS change (which the Japanese do) is not as visible as innovation that attempts to CAUSE change (which is the hard way to go).

The Japanese have a saying:

"The nail that sticks up tends to get hit down."

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"So do I want to resolve all these contradictions [about me & my life]? No. I think it’s better to deal with them, honestly & sensibly, as they arise, to engage them, & see them as part of the process of one’s emotional & intellectual growth."
(Catherine Lim, the doyen of Singapore stories, writing in her personal weblog; she has written more than nine collections of short stories, five novels & a poetry book; her novella, 'Leap of Love', has recently been made into a movie, 'The Leap Years' by Raintree Pictures in Singapore; in 1994, she ran into a controversial entanglement with the government under former PM Goh Chok Tong, pertaining to her article in the Straits Times, "The PAP & the People - A Great Affective Divide", which eventually helped Singaporeans in understanding the "out of bounds" marker;)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: 'IN THE COMPANY OF SPIES'

I recently watched an old spy movie on StarHub Cable Television. It's entitled 'In the Company of Spies', starring Tom Berenger & Ron Silver.

In a nutshell, a CIA operative was captured by the North Koreans in their country. His CIA boss, in order to protect national security, decided to bring in an old retired CIA operative (played by Tom Berenger) to retrieve both the captured agent & the vital information in his possession.

The movie was made during the end of the nineties. It did not contain all those fancy CGI stuff as well as the routine high-octane car chases or shoot-outs found in modern spy thrillers.

It was an entertaining movie about political intrigue, allegiance to human intelligence on the ground, loyalty to mentor & buddies, exploring scenarios (of potential enemy response) & deciphering hidden clues with the aid of technology, & solid behind-the-scenes intelligence legwork.

For these aspects, the movie gave a relatively realistic portrayal of the CIA at work when one of their operatives was captured by the enemy.

Even without the CGI stuff & high-octane action sequences, the movie was adequately tension-filled to keep me in suspense throughout, as our hero thought collectively with the other CIA analysts, as well as work collaboratively with competing agencies within the national intelligence community to extract the vital information from the captured agent.

Come to think of it, the intriguing backdrop of North Korea - amassing nuclear missiles - as depicted in the movie, made almost two decades ago, was so real even for today, especially when we just transpose it to the current perspective of the belligerent North Koreans.

I thought Tom Berenger played his part very well in the movie. I had enjoyed watching him in the Sniper movie trilogy.

GETTING RID OF JUNK

One of my buddies has been awarded to his great delight, towards the end of last year, with some S$2.5 million from an enbloc sale of his condominium off Holland Road, near Pandan Valley.

He has found & bought a new condominium to stay at Upper Serangoon Road in Potong Pasir, for which he has also paid about S$1.2 million.

So, he now enjoys a cash surplus of more than a million. Lucky guy!

He is expected to vacate his old home & move into his new home by the end of next month.

Recently, he has contacted me with regard to the removal of old engineering reference books, some of which went back to three decades ago.

I have advised him of 3 options:

1) sell to second hand book dealers - but he will probably be paid peanuts, or they may even decline him outright;

2) offer to the National Library - but they may pick & choose only the very good ones, or might not even entertain him;

3) throw away the junk;

This brings me to an interesting aspect of life.

I reckon we should also, from time to time, evaluate our own personal inventory of the mind & learn to get rid of mental junk in our heads.

Not only our home has unintentionally accumulated physical junk over the many years of living in it, we have also habitually accumulated a lot of mental junk in our heads.

To me, the mental junk come in many forms & from a myriad of sources: biases, assumptions, dogmas, superstitions, beliefs, habitual routines, etc.

From personal experience, I know getting rid of physical junk can be quite an emotional thing.

When I relocated from my office to my home three years ago, I had a really tough time in deciding what to throw away & what to retain.

Our human nature is such that we like to hang on to old stuff.

Likewise, getting rid of mental junk is even a tougher endeavour. It takes determination, courage & willingness to embrace change, & move out of the comfort zone.

Dee Hock, the founder, former CEO & now Chairman Emeritus of the VISA Corporation, puts it best:

"The problem is never getting new ideas into your head; it's getting the old ones out."

WHAT IS LEADERSHIP?

According to 'The Art of Chaordic Leadership' by Dee Hock, leadership in essence is all about following responsibilities:

- 50% of your time spent on self-management;

- 25% of your time spent on managing superiors;

- 20% of your time spent on managing peers;

- rest of your time spent on managing subordinates;

[Notes: 'chaordic' comes from cha'os & ord'er -

1. The behaviour of any self-organizing and self-governing organism, organization, or system that hamoniously blends characteristics of chaos & order.

2. Characteristic of the fundamental, organizing principle of nature.]

HOTHOUSING: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY

I was shocked to read from the last issue of 'Sunday Times' about the recent story of a child prodigy, Sufiah Yusof, now 23, who led a troubled life that she blamed on hothousing by her dad, Farooq Yusof.

She made headlines in UK as a math genius who got into Oxford University when she was just 13. Her father bragged that she was a product of his accelerated learning or hothousing method.

In principle, as far as I understand, there is nothing wrong with the concept of hothousing.

It is the way it is implemented, especially when it does not take into consideration of the nurturing of emotions & social interaction of the child(ren) under the regime.

As a matter of fact, I had seen it with my own eyes of one successful practice in Singapore.

A customer of mine during the nineties - a policeman turned success coach - had intelligently applied Glenn Doman's methods to bring up his two girls, both of whom had succeeded brilliantly through the bi-lingual gifted school program & subsequent university education.

In the same Sunday Times report, as in the case of Sufiah Yusof, his father's hothousing regime was singled out as follows: (with my personal comments &/or suggestions in brackets);

- television & pop music were banned;

(watching television is undoubtedly a passive activity, but it can always be structured as a rewarding experience for youngsters, especially when television nowadays offers exciting documentaries; on the other hand, pop music, especially rock, is definitely not good for the brain, because of its attendant anapestic beat or disruptive rhythm; Baroque & Classical music is highly recommended;)

- the children were forbidden from mixing around with other youngsters;

(To me, this is real trouble, as social interaction is part & parcel of growing up in normal life; this is apparently where Farooq Yusof had made his biggest mistake;)

- girlfriends & boyfriends were a strict no-no;

(these are understandable distractions, to say the least;)

- breathing & stretching exercises were a must to begin the day;

(this is a significant aspect of the hothousing regime as a resourceful state of mind, coupled with a relaxed body, is conducive to absorbing information at high speeds; for example, Brain Gym techniques & other relaxation sequences like diaphragmatic breathing are proven techniques in this respect, as learning - & thinking for that matter - are the internalisation of body movements;)

- windows were kept open, despite the cold climate, as fresh air was "essential for a fresh mind";

(I fully concur with this one, but I guess Farooq Yusof was pushing too far for it, as he should have seriously considered the unduly cold climatic conditions, which also would impede learning; this is because the brain also recognises "cold" as a stress response; for me, studying or reading in the day near the open window with fresh air & natural light coming in is highly recommended;)

- the house were kept cold to improve concentration;

(from personal experiences, I know 19 degrees C is the most optimal learning environment for the brain; MM Lee Kuan Yew is a firm believer of this aspect as his own office is always kept thermostatically at this temperature setting; his personal comments about air-conditioning were legendary;)

- the children were never allowed to play outside, but would be training in the tennis court at the end of the garden or studying in the sheet plastic outhouse;

(it appeared to me that Farooq Yusof's apparent curtailment of his children's activities in their natural external environment had also spelled trouble for him; for example, I would have encouraged reading under the shade of a tree, in this case, UK, which would have been a wonderful opportunity to absorb information at high speeds, especially under conducive natural light conditions & plenty of fresh air;)

- the children were to remain quietly upstairs after their studies, or tiptoe to the kitchen to help their mother with dinner preparation;

(I believe Farooq Yusof was too strict with his children, which probably engender the emotional resentment from the poor girl;)

As you can see from the foregoing regime, Farooq Yusof had obviously went too far with some of his quirky approaches.

THE GAY MATTER

The Hot Story on Page 4 of yesterday's 'Sunday Times' intrigued me.

It introduced the documentary movie, 'Women Who Love Women: Conversations in Singapore' currently showing at the Singapore International Film Festival. It chronicled the true stories of three lesbians in Singapore. I have yet to watch the movie.

For many years, I have held mistaken notions about gay people. I often associate them with "transvestites".

In the years around the seventies or so, I often brought my foreign visitors to the area now known as Bugis Village, a regular hangout for "tranvestites" in those days.

In the eighties, when I was stationed in Bangkok, I often brought my overseas friends to pop into the Alcazar or Tiffany cabaret shows in Pattaya.

I had thought those "transvestites" were actually gay people.

Only in recent years, I begin to understand that gay people are no different from all of us, except for their sexual preferences.

My gym buddy believes it is a genetic issue. In other words, some of us are born that way.

I remember when I was a young teenager, I had noticed that one of my all-boy hostel mates in the Technical Institute, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was a bit weird. He used cosmetics & his speech & behaviours were funny. All I knew about him then was that he was the youngest in the family of five or six siblings. He was the only boy.

Do I designate his behaviours as gay tendencies?

One of my very distant overseas relatives, a married man with two beautiful children, was often found missing from work for short periods of time at the fish farm he owns & runs.

One hot afternoon, he was caught surprisingly & unexpectedly by his wife in a compromising position with one of his male employees in the fish farm. Luckily, his wife gave him a chance to regain her confidence, by first sacking the employee & returning to his normal married life with the family.

Does his foregoing behaviour represent gay tendencies?

One of my drinking buddies told me this story some time ago. He was experimenting with a proprietary software that could monitor staff usage of computers, particularly in connection with internet surfing, in the office.

He was shocked & dumbfolded by what he had found: two types of internet websites were popular with staff usage during office hours: gay & gambling sites.

Does it mean that those surfers were gays if they had gone into gay sites?

I know of a lot of famous people who are or were gay. In Hollywood, Rock Hudson was one. Leslie Cheung was the other one in Hongkong. The founder of the Versace fashion empire was one, too.

Ellen DeGeneres, a current top talk-show host, has openly declared she is one.

According to a recent Straits Times report, Prof Kerry Sieh, founding director of the proposed S$287 million Earthquake Observatory of Singapore based at the NTU, openly declares he is a gay & has even brought along his male partner to join his career move from Caltech to Singapore.

He has been particularly encouraged by MM Lee Kuan Yew's candid comments about the gay issue in Singapore.

Nonetheless, it still intrigues me as to why a man or a woman would be so fascinated by partner of the same sex from the sexual point of view.

Just wondering, how does the gray matter actually handles this gay matter?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered & prevents us from seeing."

(Jean Cocteau, 1889-1963, French poet, librettist, novelist, actor, film director, & painter;)

SPECTACULAR FEATS BY TWO VERY YOUNG LADIES

A good friend of mine has recently brought my personal attention to the following two links, from which you can watch video clips of two very young ladies, seemingly possessing extremely superb rhythmic/kinesthetic intelligence, performing their respective spectacular feats in front of a live audience.

Upon watching the videos, I was awed by their intricate fluidic body movements during their spectacular performance.

Here are the two links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-9htVkOc88

http://www.glumbert.com/media/koreanfreestyle

Enjoy!

A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO CHARLTON HESTON

I am sad to learn that Charlton Heston, one of my favourite movie stars during my adolescent years, has passed away.

Interestingly, he had played three presidents, three saints & two geniuses throughout his movie career.

I always remember him as the actor with the rugged chiseled features & deep commanding voice. He was always lean & yet muscular.

Besides 'The Ten Commandments', 'Benhur', & 'El Cid', I often remember the fine actor very distinctly in two great sci-fi movies during the seventies, namely:

- 'The Omega Man' (in which he played the only survivor of an apocalyptic war waged with biological weapons, causing a deadly plague which killed everyone else, except for a few zombies on a rampage; till this day, I can never forget the movie tagline: "The Last Man on Earth is Not Alone"; &

- 'Soylent Green' (in which he played a New York police detective in an overpopulated futuristic Earth in 2022 on the run from the government, during which he apparently got too close to a bizarre state secret involving the origins of a breakthrough, but needed new foodstuff;

I certainly remember the controversy surrounding him regarding the issue of gun control when he was the President of the National Rifle Association during the late 90s or later.

I last saw him as the intelligence boss of the secret agent character of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the American counterpoint to the secret agent 007: 'True Lies'.

SUCCESS SCROLLS

Readers can pop into the corporate website of Napoleon Hill Foundation to download the 17 Success Scrolls, which correspond exactly to the 17 Success Principles as embodied in the classic 'Law of Success' by Napoleon Hill.

Here is the listing of the 17 Success Scrolls:

Scroll 1: Definiteness of Purpose
Scroll 2: Mastermind Alliance
Scroll 3: Applied Faith
Scroll 4: Going the Extra Mile
Scroll 5: Pleasing Personality
Scroll 6: Personal Initiative
Scroll 7: Positive Mental Attitude
Scroll 8: Enthusiasm
Scroll 9: Self-Discipline
Scroll 10: Accurate Thinking
Scroll 11: Controlled Attention
Scroll 12: Teamwork
Scroll 13: Adversity and Defeat
Scroll 14: Creative Vision
Scroll 15: Maintenance of Sound Health
Scroll 16: Budgeting Time and Money
Scroll 17: Cosmic Habitforce

If you are thinking of using the Success Scrolls as resource materials for a study group, please proceed to this link to download the 'Points to Ponder' to guide the discussions.

Monday, April 7, 2008

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things – the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, & to prefer the good & the genuine to the bad & the counterfeit."

(Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, one of England's best known literary figures;)

AN INSPIRING STORY BEHIND A SIMPLE PHOTO

I have recently found this photo in my files. It was probably taken towards the late nineties at the then LaSalle College of the Arts in Singapore.

The gentleman in blue shirt with the white vest was yours truly. On my left was my late first wife, Catherine.

One my right was my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea.

I have now forgotten the names of the two gentlemen sitting from the right of Dilip, but they were senior staff members of La Salle College.

On the far left of the photo was Bob Lewis, a landscape ecologist & museum designer from the Environmental Research Group based in Aspen, Colorado, USA. He had come to Singapore (in fact, he came several times) to sell his idea of a 'Living Brain Museum'.

In a nut shell, the 'Living Brain Museum' was meant to be a large museum building shaped like a real human brain. There would be several floors with interactive learning facilities to denote several evolutionary stages of the human brain formation. Vistors would visit each floor to learn about the brain & its constituents at progressive level.

Unfortunately, Bob Lewis could not convince any potential investors in Singapore to take up his interesting idea.

Since then, Dilip & I have also lost touch with Bob Lewis.

Last week, I was surprised to read in the New Paper about the newly opened US$31 million 35m high Corpus Building, a museum attraction with indoor amusement facilities, in Oegstgeest, between Amsterdam & The Hague, in the Netherlands.

It was designed & built more or less along what Bob Lewis had originally envisaged in conceptual terms when we met in Singapore during the nineties.

An interesting write-up on the Corpus Building can be found at this link.

More fascinating pictures about the Corpus Building can be found at this link.

PRIME MINISTER ON THE IMPORTANCE OF INTELLECTUAL ABILITY

"We have a rigorous process to ensure that our MPs & Ministers have the right attributes & values. These include: proven ability, judgment, integrity, commitment to serve, empathy for Singaporeans, as well as EQ. But intellectual ability is still important . . .

Leaders have to think critically & creatively, solve problems, & master the issues they are responsible for . . .

Ministers do not need to know everything about every subject, but they need to know enough to decide which expert's advice to trust, grasp the key elements & make the final decisions on major issues . . ."

THINKING ON YOUR FEET

The 'Monday Interview' in today's Straits Times really piqued my personal interest.

More importantly, the interview also offered valuable real-world life lessons for managers & professionals who want to survive & thrive a rapidly changing world.

Let me recap:

"All the intercoms blew just as the snow machine started midway through the Ashley Isham show at the Singapore Fashion Festival on March 19.

The music was playing, the snow was falling, but no models came on stage.

Realising something was amiss, Daniel Boey, who is the creative director for this year's festival, made a split-second decision.

By the time the snow had fluttered to the ground, I had switched on my mobile phone, given my cue to the crew backstage & the first model had appeared."
[He then cued the entire show via the phone.]

To me, that's thinking on your feet.

What follows next is more interesting:

"As a show producer, you have to assume that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

Another valuable lesson: Seeing Murphy's Law at work.

More importantly, for me, he is practising anticipatory prowess.

Daniel Boey, with 17 years of experience under his belt, is one of Singapore's most sought after fashion choreographers & show producers. His name is apparently synonymous with giants in the industry: Christian Dior, Loewe, Armani, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Tiffany, Lanvin, & Salvatori Feragamo. He has presented his shows in London, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh city, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai & Beijing.

He is known as a control freak & perfectionist in the industry. I reckon he needs to be that way, especially when you are working in a fast-paced, rapidly-changing world of fashion.

What follows are some interesting insights, which I like to call 'the prerequisites for peak performance':

1) He has no interest in working for clients who do not care about standards;

2) He has no patience for incompetence & stupidity;

3) He takes absolute pride in his job & will always push the limit;

4) He thinks he is somewhat of a paradox: taking a lot of risks when it comes to his work, breaking boundaries, & be adventurous; & yet, at the same time, can be considered quite conservative (that's an intelligent mind at work);

5) He is a workaholic (in the passionate sense, of course) - there are 4 items that are always with him when he sleeps: handphone, pen, notebook & camera;

6) He loves nothing more than sitting down at a cafe & watch the world go by (that's a good way to unwind);

7) He gets inspired all the time (by taking pictures or jotting down thoughts as & when they go to him);

8) He wants to continue to surround himself with creative people;

WHAT CONFUCIUS SAID

I am just thinking aloud as I had a brief chat with my gym buddy while working together on the tread mill this morning.

I know my gym buddy has taken a new interest in the teachings of Confucius. Being Chinese-educated, he certainly has a comparative edge over me with regard to understanding the Chinese Language (& culture, of course) as well as the work of this great master.

As for me, I only know Confucius as a great Chinese philosopher.

If I am not wrong, his principal premise was embracing the moral doctrine, which hinged on four virtues:

- sincerity;

- benevolence or kindness;

- filial piety;

- propriety;

Nonetheless, the most memorable imprint I have received from him since I was a teenager is this advisement:

"When you don't like what is done to you, don't do to others."

I also understand many of his purported teachings had actually been recorded by his students, in the form of Analects. Don't forget, that was the era of the feudal states in ancient China.

Hence my intuitive sense is that the many teachings could be open to interpretation, as some Chinese scholars sometimes did not even agree with each other as to what Confucius had actually taught &/or said.

This is what I got after surfing the net, just to keep everything on a short lease, & in capsular form to serve my purpose:

To be able to practise the following five things everywhere under the heaven constitutes the perfect virtue:

1) gravity; [Did he mean 'seriousness'?]

2) generosity of soul or magnanimity:

3) sincerity;

4) earnestness;

5) kindness;

This is my gym buddy's version with regard to the 3 prerequisites for becoming a true gentleman:

1) Kindness;

2) Knowledge;

3) Courage;

Sunday, April 6, 2008

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD

I had jot down the following quote from the website of 'The First Institute Of Dynamic Learning', which operates out of Karachi, Pakistan:

"Three things that can give any young man or woman a running start in this competitive world are:

- good manners;
- good speech;
- the habit of reading;

The humblest home can assure these; the costliest school can not."

[Out of curiosity, I did a little bit of quick research on the net. According to the interpreted teachings of the Qur'an, a true Muslim exercises self-control through good manners, good speech & good habits. Is the quote inspired by the teachings?]

NO PROBLEM

While surfing the net, I stumbled on to a new book entitled 'No Problem' by Alex Lowy.

The author happens to the co-author of 'The Power of the 2 x 2 Matrix', (with Phil Hood) which I had acquired & also read last year. Great stuff!

I was intrigued after reading the synopsis of the 'No Problem' book on Amazon website.

According to the author, there are three prerequisites in problem solving success:

1. Know what you are facing:

Not all problems are the same, & they differ as a result of 2 factors:

- complexity;

- uncertainty.

At the lower levels of each factor there are 'Decisions', mid-way are 'Problems', and at the high end are 'Dilemmas'.

Accordingly, each aspect requires a different attitude & approach: make decisions, solve problems, & manage/exploit dilemmas.

2. Know yourself, the problem solver:

The main barriers to solving problems are personal, stemming from fears, attachments & an assortment of negative & self-defeating behaviors.

Also, clearing away the cobwebs & removing these self-limiting forces begins with awareness & courage.

3. Know a range of methods:

Decisions, problems & dilemmas are different from one another & require the right type of efforts applied with competency & conviction.

Immediately, I was hooked, particularly by the author's apparent distinctions between decisions, problems & dilemmas, & also the differences in making, solving & exploiting them.

There was also a positive review of the book.

I had therefore placed the book in my shopping cart for final consolidation in due course.

I plan to write a review after I have received & read it. Please stay tuned.

ENTER THE CHINESE MERCENARIES: A PERSONAL VIEWPOINT

Last week, the Straits Times reported that a high-ranking ICA officer was charged in court for helping his young Chinese lover to enter & stay in Singapore on several occasions.

He was already in his fifties, married, & reportedly would lose almost half a million dollars in terms of retirement benefits from his employer.

In fact, the news report wasn't new, because there had been many similar unfortunate incidents involving other professionals as reported in the press over the last few years or so.

The last time, I remember, a NTU professor & an oil industry executive were caught in more or less the same situation.

Although the news report did not offer much juicy details about the case, I am already most familiar with the overarching problem that engender such sad incidents.

That is, the new breed of karaoke lounges operating in the Joo Chiat/Geylang/Jalan Sultan/North Bridge Road areas, where a lot of beautiful & sexy damsels from mainland China often hang out.

They come into Singapore in AirBus loads from all parts of China. They stay on a short lease. They dress relatively well, often in revealing outfits, & have good command of the Chinese language & culture.

But, they are extremely deadly, at least to my chagrin. They are true practitioners of the ancient Chinese art of massive seduction.

[My gym buddy likes to use the apt analogy of the seductive charms of those sexy spider vixens, who dwelt in the 'Cave of the Silken Web', according to the Chinese folklore of 'Journey to the West'.]

I like to call them the 'Chinese mercenaries'.

They are no different from the military mavericks who often offer their clandestine services to rogue regimes & are paid handsomely to wage wars in war-torn Africa & elsewhere in the Third World. (No offense intended).

They go in, with only one objective: search & destroy the enemy.

To be frank, I have been to a handful of these karaoke lounges, under restraint in most instances, with my gym buddy & some of my other buddies.

From my personal observations, I can see easily that our Singaporean male thoroughbreds are no match to these sexy & wily Chinese damsels.

In fact, I have noticed that most of the patrons of these karaoke lounges are Singaporean businessmen or professionals in their late thirties, forties or more. Just imagine most of the hot chicks are in their twenties.

In precise terms, I have to say that our 'air conditioned nation' is partly to be blamed.

We have decades of rolling good times under a pragmatic & farsighted government.

Our professionals are therefore risk-averse. Our survival instincts are not tested.

When confronted by sweet young things in the flesh, ever ready for command & servitude to all your whims & fancies, at a mutually agreeable price of course, I realised that this ball game isn't easy for any Singapore gentleman to resist the overwhelming temptations, especially under alcoholic & other tantalising influences.

Many of these young Chinese hot chicks can speak & sing Mandarin songs very well, including our popular Hokien songs. Some are also reasonably deep into Chinese history, & a few can even recite Chinese poems.

But, all of them have one end-minded perspective:

To make as much money as possible on their short lease - I understand they have to fork out a lot of money to 'snakeheads' in China to come to Singapore. If they can hook up a long term deal (or relationship) with local sponsorship, that's real bonus for them.

Like the military mavericks I have mentioned earlier, they come into Singapore for a quick mission:

- 'search' (for honey=money in the short term, & hopefully, a good life, if things turn out favourably for them); &

- 'destroy' (unintentionally, the marriage &/or family fabric in the long run, if left unchecked);

To their great delight, they don't even need to carry any weapons, because their bodies are the most powerful weapons of mass destruction (WMD) known to man.

In fact, I have also learned that, unlike their female counterparts from other countires, they are game for anything under the moon. No holds barred, as long as you are readily generous with your cash flow.

I always hold this notion that they probably can sense that our Singapore men are more docile & hen-pecked. Pushovers, to be exact.

I had seen with my own eyes how one of them had almost succeeded in securing one of my buddies' solid gold chain & brand-new Nokia handphone during the first encounter.

I really take my hat off to the subtle way she could skillfully ooze her way into the man's heart at first. He was extremely lucky that he had regained his rational senses in time.

My gym buddy & I had been subsequently invited to go into these karaoke lounges by my other buddies on several occasions, but we had often declined.

For one sheer good reason: extreme self-restraint is the best defence for potential trouble or danger.

We reckon, once in a blue moon, it's OK, just for the fun of it. Nothing more.

GO PUT YOUR STRENGTHS TO WORK

'Go Put Your Strengths to Work' is actually the title of the latest book from the guru of workplace issues, Marcus Buckingham.

However, in this post I am not going to talk about him or his new book.

I am going to relate an interesting lesson from the legendary Jackie Chan.

I had recently rewatched a life interview of Jackie Chan in 'Hollywood Spotlight' on StarHub cable television, during which he related his recent personal successes (e.g. Rush Hour) & earlier failures (e.g. Cannon Ball Run) as an action star in Hollywood pictures.

In one particular segment of the interview, he talked about why he had continued to do his own stuntwork in those action movies & also why he did not prefer all those CGI stuff.

According to him, he was told by his mentor (name not given) to concentrate on what he was already really good at.

People would go to his action movies because of him doing all those spectacular death-defying stunts. Plus some funny antics to go along.

Everybody can do CGI animated stunts, but there's only one Jackie Chan who does his own real-life stunts.

Jackie Chan has put his strengths to work.

All of us can & should emulate him, not by doing all those crazy stunts, but by putting our strengths to work within our own domain.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"You've got to have guts to grow old;
To claim life you've got to be bold;
But you have to be smart;
As well have heart;
If you want your whole tale to be told."

(from the book, 'Dare to be 100: 99 Steps to a Long, Healthy Life', by Dr Walter Bortz;

According to him, we require two principal ingredients if most of us are to attain 100: 'Smarts' & 'Guts';

'Smarts' is the accumulation & use of the cascade of new knowledge that provides the 'when', 'what' & 'how' to aim for 100;

'Guts' means having the valour of purpose necessary to pursue the 'why', with 'why' as finding a meaning for all the expanded living & also the energy & involvement necessary to make it happen;

Fredrich Nietzsche, 19th century German philosopher summed up best: "A person who knows the 'why' of life can put up with almost any 'how'.")