Saturday, April 19, 2008

SUCCESS IS SEEMINGLY BIG BUSINESS IN SINGAPORE!

Nowadays, I just can't flip the Straits Times in the morning without spotting an ad about 'success building' or the more popular, 'wealth creation'.

There is apparently a wholesome gamut of purveyors promoting success in its many possible physical manifestations, from academic performance, beauty, career to money, weight loss & even Zen.

In this particular post, I am going to zero in on those purveyors & their programs promoting 'teen student success' in the marketplace.

First, 'MindChamps'.

A few years ago, they had actually entered the marketplace under the name of 'Accelerated Learning Worldwide' or 'ALW'. They ran some relatively small ads in the Straits Times to promote their brand of student success methodology.

Today, their ads in the paper are much bigger, & in fact, more regular than before, using mainly the testimonial approach.

One explanation behind their upbeat marketing approach is the planned team-up with local business tycoon, Quek Leng Beng of the Hong Leong Group, which apparently has pumped in a lot of money since the middle of last year.

The Hong Leong Group is a conglomerate of established interests in manufacturing, property & hotel developments & of course, financing, in the region.

For 'MindChamps', & with the financial muscle of the Hong Leong Group, plus its attendant business networks, Singapore has become their springboard for the region.

Also, 'MindChamps' has reportedly initiated a close technical collaboration with Prof Allan Snyder, a world-renown neuro-scientist, who happens to be the founder & director of Center for the Mind based at the University of Sydney, Australia.

Prof Snyder has pioneered the 'Champion Mindset' philosophy, especially with his involvement - exploring the relationship between sporting & intellectual excellence - with the Australian Olympic Committee/Sydney 2000 Olympics.

This research tie-up probably explains the change of name from 'ALW' to 'MindChamps', & conveniently adds further credibility to the research-based teaching methodology behind 'MindChamps'.

More interestingly, 'MindChamps' has recruited the dynamic Mrs Carmee Lim as its Mentor Principal, as well as Dr Tan Sie Keng as its Dean of Mathematics. Both professionals are recognised industry heavyweights in Singapore as far as education is concerned.

In fairness, both the founders of the original ALW outfit, David Chiem as Chairman/CEO, & Brian Caswell as Dean of Research & Program Development, are already established professionals in their own right, predominantly in film, the literary & performing arts.

They had jointly authored the parenting book, 'Deeper than the Ocean: The Complete Guide to Creating a Champion Mindset of Your Child'. I have yet to acquire this book for reading.

In fact, I reckon the former's personal success story from being a Vietnamese immigrant in the late seventies transforming into an enterprising graduate, certainly validates the concept of the power of the mind.

Reading from their corporate website, which has been very impressively configured for public viewing, I am definitely intrigued by their research-based teaching methodology.

Interesting examples are their 'Hour Glass Model of Learning', 'Optimal Flow Method' & the '4A's'.

Judging from the frequency - & the size - of their newspaper ads, 'MindChamps' is systematically poised to give the originally entrenched competitors in Singapore a run for their money.

One of the 'MindChamps' presenters during a weekend preview once took a pointed jab at the originally entrenched competitors, by claiming that 'MindChamps' truly represented 'professional organisations', unlike those 'one-man-shows' in the existing marketplace.

In some ways, there is absolute truth in the presenter's offbeat remarks.

The 'SuperTeen Holiday Camp' & the 'I'm Gifted, So Are You' Programs are the originally entrenched competitors in Singapore.

I reckon, their professional success has to be, to a certain extent, attributed to the personal leadership & charisma of the respective founders, even though track records with student successes played a vital contributing role.

Let me start with the 'SuperTeen Holiday Camp'.

From the late eighties, & throughout the nineties & even up to the early 21st century, 'SuperTeen Holiday Camp' has been the undisputed kingpin in the marketplace.

The founder is Ernest Wong. One of his teen graduates of the camp, who later became his young protege, is the hot-shot Adam Khoo.

The later has even co-trained with the master in the camp as well as in the schools for almost a decade. He has even written a best seller, 'I'm Gifted, So Are You', which essentially captured the entire curriculum, at least the hard skills sets, of the 'Superteen Holiday Camp'.

So, for more than a decade, the two peak-performing stalwarts, master & protege, working in close harmony, dominated the entire marketplace in Singapore. Money flowed in like the Kallang river.

Of course, during those times, there were some other smaller players, who made futile attempts to penetrate the market. They were considered more as annoying aberrations.

At the beginning of the 21st century, cracks began to surface among the relationship between the two.

Through my conversations with him at that time, Adam Khoo apparently had more expansionist ideas to run the business. He felt that the old master was too entrenched with the status quo & a stickler to past success formulas.

Driven by his own entrepreneurial flair, Adam Khoo also wanted more say (& naturally more money) in the business.

Sensing that the master was unprepared to move out of the comfort zone, so to speak, Adam Khoo decided to break ranks with the master. He then started his own pathway to create what he had always dreamed of.

The Adam Learning Technologies Group Pte Ltd was born.

The teaching methodology was conveniently based on Adam Khoo's 'I'm Gifted, So Are You', which of course, as I have mentioned earlier, was a well-documented version of the 'Superteen Holiday Camp' on paper.

Worst still, many of the past SuperTeen graduates went happily to his side, apparently attracted by abundant opportunities to grow with a new & dynamic company.

The marketplace was then unwittingly splitted into two camps. One, pro-Ernest Wong, & the other, pro-Adam Khoo.

Now, somewhat to their delight, consumers were suddenly confronted by two equally powerfully choices.

However, to the utter dismay of the two newly found competitors, it was a mad scramble to fill up all the participant spaces in their respective camps.

Adam Khoo went on a rampant advertising blitz, gradually using a targeted range of student success testimonials. It worked beautifully to his advantage, because the hot-shot entrepreneur had mastered tremendously from his father, Vince Khoo, a one-time kingpin in local advertising.

In other words, his ads were intelligently crafted, while the master's ads were continually run of the mill.

This also explains why today Adam Khoo's corporate website is comparatively more professionally designed.

Interestingly, his business has also over the last few years evolved into a broader range of programs covering neuro-linguistic programming, success building, wealth creation & internet marketing, with planned inroads into the region, including Indonesia & China.

[It is pertinent to mention that Stuart Tan & Gary Lee, both seasoned trainers with Adam Khoo, were originally SuperTeen graduates under Ernest Wong. In fact, Gary Lee was also, at one time, an apprentice trainer with Ernest Wong.]

I have last read that Adam Khoo' best-seller book had already been translated into Vietnamese for the emergent developing country (by 2010), which is now on a dynamic growth path.

To be fair, & despite my personal reservations about him, I must salute Adam Khoo for his unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit.

Meanwhile, Ernest Wong, not wanting to be left behind on account of his complacency & arrogance, has also made commendable inroads into Indonesia & China. He has also in recent months ventured into NLP training stuff, in addition to money mastery with another collaborator.

Interestingly, I read that Peter Lau, one of his SuperTeen graduates, has just written & published a book, which chronicled his 'joys & pains of growing up' & outlined 'the 17 principles every youth must know'. The latter stuff within italics also serves as the title of his debut book.

[For some strange reasons, the book has yet to be released to the bookstores for retail distribution.]

Naturally, all the people behind the 'SuperTeen Holiday Camp' is hoping that the book would replicate the same phenomenal success as Adam Khoo's debut book.

I certainly want to offer the young author & his master my 'Good Luck & Best Wishes' in their endeavours.

More information about the 'SuperTeen Holiday Camp' can be found at this link.

The next player in the marketplace is 'SuperCamp' from the United States.

I understand, with the formation of 'Quantum Learning Network (S) Pte Ltd.', 'SuperCamp' is poised to make some definite market waves, even though their camps had been here on a restrained basis for almost a decade.

I have read that their next camps are already scheduled at the Singapore Sports School in Woodlands for the June school holidays.

Interestingly, 'SuperCamp' is the brainchild of Bobbi dePorter & Eric Jensen in the late seventies or so, following their initial successful collaboration in the now-defunct Burklyn Business School in Vermont, California.

Eric Jensen left a few years later to concentrate on training educators & trainers in accelerated learning. Incidentally, Eric Jensen was Ernest Wong's teacher in accelerated learning.

Putting them together, it comes as no surprise to see a lot of similarities in the curriculum design & coaching methods of the 'SuperCamp', the 'SuperTeen Holiday Camp' &, of course, the 'I'm Gifted, So Are You' programs for young students.

A quick comparative analysis by running through the curriculum as advertised in their respective corporate websites will easily verify what I have just confirmed: a common thread runs through all the twenty or so 'desired outcomes' as expressed by each party!

More information about 'Supercamp' can be found at their corporate website.

In recent months, a new player has also entered into the student success foray.

The company is 'Mind Edge', founded by Alan Yip, who also happens to be a master trainer of world-class memory champions. Hence, their student programs have seemingly a more focused approach on memory management.

Allan Yip also took a pointed jab at all the competitors by comparing his smaller, more focused, classes to the large group of participants among the competitors' classes.

More information about 'Mind Edge' can be found at his corporate website.

I remember that, during the nineties, there were two or three other small players.

One was 'Discovery Camp' from Australia. At one time, it was run by a 'Money & You' graduate.

The other was the brainchild of a maverick entrepreneur, Lawrence Walter Ng from Malaysia. Sometimes, he called his learning camp, 'The A-Star Student'; sometimes he chose, 'The Art of Learning'.

Incidentally, Lawrence Walter Ng, was also, at one time, the marketing manager for Ernest Wong in Malaysia. He was also the co-trainer at the Superteen Holiday Camp with Ernest Wong for a short while.

Like Adam Khoo, he had also started his own training outfit in Malaysia by blatantly cannibalising most of the stuff from the 'Superteen Holiday Camp' into his own programs for students.

Also, during the nineties, there was another enterprising guy, of Indian origin, who unscrupulously stole many ideas, from the 'SuperTeen Holiday Camp', to initiate his own training camps for students, with the personal collaboration of Dr Win Wenger of Project Renaissance from the United States.

Unfortunately, his student camps were short-lived, as he apparently ran into some kind of heavy debts.

While working with Ernest Wong, he was actually the provider of personal accident insurance packages, under AIA, to the student participants. He once appeared in the camp as an observer, which was apparently Ernest Wong's big mistake.

Can the current marketplace in Singapore sustain so many players? By the way, just how big is the market?

I really don't know. All I know is from an old Straits Times report, about ten years ago.

The annual home tuition market was worth S$360 million.

MICHAEL JACKSON & HIS 'UNBREAKABLE'

I have been a raving fan of Michael Jackson since the days of 'Jackson 5', & despite all the idiosyncrasies & indiscretions as reported in the press about him, I still believe he is the greatest music & dance performer I have ever come across.

I was once in Sun City, South Africa with my late first wife, where there was a great live performance by a Michael Jackson impersonator, among other wonderful performers, in one of the major hotels that I had stayed.

My wife & I had thoroughly enjoyed the amazing 2-hour live show. In the hotel magazine available in each room, there was a brief article, plus a photo, about the real Michael Jackson, while visiting South Africa, meeting up with the Michael Jackson impersonator.

Upon the chance meeting, Michael Jackson's first remark to his look-alike was "You are really good!"

That unsolicited remark went on to show the humility & magnanimity of a great superstar.

Till today, I have never forgotten Michael Jackson's magnificent gesture.

While surfing the net, I came across this rather belated but amusing article about Michael Jackson. It talked about the message behind the song 'Unbreakable' by Michael Jackson in a 2001 interview with TV Guide:

"That I’m invincible, that I’ve been through it all. You can’t hurt me. Knock me down, I get back up."

That's the mindset of a champion.

Here is the link.


TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"When enthusiasm is inspired by reason; controlled by caution; sound in theory; practical in application; reflects confidence; spreads good cheer; raises morale; inspires associates; arouses loyalty; & laughs at adversity, it is beyond price."
(Coleman Cox. an American business philosopher from the 1920s, & author of 'Straight Talk', among many other books;)

Friday, April 18, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM

This afternoon, I went to the movies at Jurong Point with my gym buddy.

We chose the movie, 'The Forbidden Kingdom', starring two of our favourite kungfu movie super-stars, Jackie Chan & Jet Li.

Since it was a 3.50pm show, & both of us were senior citizens, we were entitled to half-priced movie tickets, at S$4/- each. For once, we thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of being senior citizens.

The movie was sort of a fantasy story, even though it drew a myriad of characters out of Chinese folklore.

The opening scene started of with a nerdy American teenager, Jason (played by Michael Angarano), in Boston with an unquenchable thirst for kungfu classics.

As he visited his regular joint, a Chinese artefact shop, he was intrigued by a long golden shaft in the store. The shop owner, a blind old man (played by Jackie Chan), told him that the shaft was still waiting for the rightful owner to come & pick up, ever since he had inherited the shop from his grandfather.

The teenager then left the shop, but was confronted on the way & bashed up by a bunch of young neighbourhood hoodlums. They knew he had left the shop earlier & decided to rob the old man, using the teenager as bait for the old man to open the shop.

The old man was accidentally shot, & the scared teenager ran off with the shaft, with the hoodlums in hot pursuit.

In the next instance, the teenager was magically teleported into ancient China at about the time of the Jade Emperor. He then bumped into a shabby looking drunken beggar, Lu Yan (also played by Jackie Chan), who told him a ridiculous story about the origin of the golden shaft.

In a nutshell, the golden shaft actually belonged to the Monkey God (played by Jet Li), from the 'Journey to the West', one of the four great epic novels of Chinese literature.

The Monkey God was unwittingly tricked into loosing the golden shaft while fighting the evil Jade Warlord.

The shaft then mysteriously disappeared for some 500 years, while the Monkey God was turned immediately into stone by the evil Jade Warlord.

Both of them then popped into a tea-house & were confronted by some soldiers from the evil Jade Warlord. A fight ensued, reminiscent of the classic 'Dragon (Gate) Inn' incident in several Chinese kungfu classics.

During the escape, they were helped by a young female warrior, known as Golden Sparrow. She was apparently looking for an opportunity to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of the evil Jade Warlord.

Then, this time three of them somehow got entangled with a monk, dressed in white robes, known as the Silent Monk (also played by Jet Li), who apparently had a life-long mission to locate the golden shaft.

What followed was a seemingly extended & masterfully choreographed fighting sequence (by the legendary Yuen Woo Ping as action director), between the characters of Jackie Chan & Jet Li.

Frankly, my gym buddy & I actually got our money's worth here.

We also got to see the two heroes reluctantly teaching the American teenager some Chinese kungfu routines. That was the most comical part of the movie, reminiscent of master-disciple scenes from 'The Karate Kid'.

This time, four of them decided to work together to search for the Temple of the Five Elements, in an attempt to locate the Monkey God & to return the golden shaft to him as well.

Meanwhile, the evil Jade Warlord got wind of their exploits.

He immediately sent a bounty hunter, a white-haired demoness - she looked & sounded more like a Chinese version of Jessica Alba - with a deadly whip, to retrieve the golden shaft.

The final segment of the movie was a really exciting one, when all hell broke loose as the three heroes/one heroine finally caught up in a ferocious battle with the evil Jade Warlord, together with the white hair demoness. (Many thanks again to Yuen Woo Ping!)

The Monkey God was finally resurrected with the return of the shaft, & he, too, took the final opportunity to beat up the evil Jade Warlord.

I must say, when come to combat sequences, unarmed or with weapons in hand, Jet Li was really good. Jackie Chan was not bad, too, although I noticed that he had lost some steam.

Again, my gym buddy & I got all our money's worth.

The ending of the movie was somewhat funny too. The teenager decided to return home - magically, of course. He bumped into the same bunch of hoodlums again. This time, to their chagrin, he really bashed them out properly.

On the whole, besides the intricate fighting sequences, I truly enjoyed watching the lavish settings, which included beautiful scenes of white cherry blossom trees, barren deserts, luscious bamboo forests, & stone cold temples. The cinematography was great, too.

My end analysis is this: if you want to watch Jackie Chan & Jet Li fighting each other, for once in a joint movie collaboration, go for it. You won't regret it.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM W EDWARDS DEMING

As a young engineer during my early years of entering the world of work, the brilliant teachings of Dr Edwards Deming were already quite familiar to me, at least in conceptual terms.

My profound understanding as well as true appreciation of his work actually came about when I had attended the company-sponsored general management program at the London Business School in UK, during the mid-eighties. It was actually a performance reward from my boss for a job assignment well done in Thailand.

I was then stationed in Bangkok, Thailand, as Executive Director of a zinc-oxide manufacturing plant, in addition to functioning as a turnaround strategist for the engineering division of my employer's long established trading company in the country.

More interesting insights about his work came about when I went to Kona, Hawaii, to rub shoulders with some 130 other professionals in a boot-camp, coached by some 20 experienced instructors, during the early nineties.

Undoubtedly, having considered what he had done initially for Japan, I must say that Dr W Edward Deming's elegant contribution to the worldwide quality revolution was phenomenal.

To me, his or Deming's 14 Points have been personally relevant from the standpoint of carving out a personal management philosophy, even though they were originally intended for the manufacturing world.

For years, I had often made conscious as well as unconscious use of Deming's 14 Points - with appropriate variations to suit my ultimate purpose, of course - in my relentless search for personal mastery.

The following write-up describes how I had put the Deming's 14 Points to work in my life:

First, I like to list out the original Deming's 14 Points, in a simplified version:

1. Create Constancy of Purpose for Improvement of Product & Service;

2. Adopt the New Philosophy;

3. Cease Dependence on Mass Inspection;

4. End the Practice of Awarding Business on Price Tag Alone;

5. Improve Constantly & Forever the System of Production & Service;

6. Institute Training;

7. Institute Leadership;

8. Drive Out Fear;

9. Break Down Barriers Between Staff Areas;

10. Eliminate Slogans, Exhortations, & Targets for the Workforce;

11. Eliminate Numerical Quotas;

12. Remove Barriers to Pride of Workmanship;

13. Institute a Vigorous Program of Education & Retraining;

14. Take Action to Accomplish the Transformation;

The following elaborate outlines give you a good picture of my performance:

1. I reckon the maintenance of the 'constancy of purpose' has kept me focused on my long term vision. It has also kept me on track, especially in the pursuit of my strategic objectives.

It still does.

2. As far as I am concerned, this is adopting a personal philosophy of embracing new ways of thinking about & doing things, especially in today's knowledge economy.

Obviously, it is also accepting the fact that the past does not equal the future.

3. In all my pursuits, be it a simple task, a project, a proposal to management, or just a presentation to clients, the quest for excellence has always been my personal hallmark.

I have always made sure that I do things right the first time. Change begins in the mind.

4. I always look for the long term. All my personal decisions in life had been based on this mode of thinking.

I always pay attention to the long term value I can readily add to the experience. I have thus realised that money isn't everything!

5. For me, this is continuous learning, & also the pursuit of never ending improvement, as far as work is concerned.

Thanks, Tony for the 'CANI'! Today, I am still on the ball.

6. As a hardworking engineer, starting from my early days of employment, I have never hesitated or refused to undertake any given assignment from the standpoint of learning new things.

As an example, I went for multiple skills development. When I was stationed in Thailand, I even took up Thai lessons under a crash course, both in reading & writing, but I had to give up the latter. Likewise, when I was posted to Indonesia for two years, I took up Bahasa Indonesia.

Today, I am multi-lingual.

7. To me, personal leadership is a critical element in the search for personal success in life, in work as well as in business.

As an engineer, I have always taken charge of my work & my own life. Essentially, it is taking personal accountability & responsibility for all my own actions.

8. For me, I interpret this as driving out the fear from moving out of the comfort zone & going into the stretch zone.

It's also driving out the fear of 'making mistakes'. Also, the fear of 'looking stupid' among our peers or/or friends.

When I first embarked on getting out of the corporate world after twenty four years, it was quite frightening. I went ahead anyway, as I knew then, fear was 'false evidence appearing real'.

9. For me, this is constantly breaking down the barriers or roadblocks on the highway of life.


In reality, barriers or roadblocks can come from almost everywhere: relationships, goals, plans, paradigms, decisions, timing & boundaries.

I have realised that regular progress reports or reviews as well as constant monitoring of feedback are some sensible ways to address this problem.

10. Having motivational posters on the wall is generally OK, but I don't just let them end up as excuses for NATO: 'No Action, Talk Only.'


I have realised that, in my own case over the years, concerted & consistent actions or initiatives have always been the vital keys to my successful endeavours.

Likewise, too much obsession with the ultimate goals is also not good, because the fun & enjoyment of the pursuit is also very important.

11. In essence, it boils down to 'it ain't what I do, but it's how I do it'.


I always believed that the process of doing is also important at the end of the day.

More importantly, the value of the experience gained as a result.

12. I always seek joy in all my pursuits, professional or personal. I also always take pride in all my contributions.

All my employers over the years had been most happy with this attitude of mind. Their testimonials said it all.

13. I have always pursued a vigorous program of self-directed learning. I reckon it's going to be that way for the rest of my life.

Automobile University & Invisible University are just part & parcel of my learning journey.

14. For me, I have always made sure that my goals have been clearly defined - covering all areas of my life - in the first place. Clarity is thus power!


Then, moving forward one step at a time, even baby steps, towards my ultimate goals.

All these cumulative steps have built up my critical mass at the end, thus empowering me to anticipate as well as tackle new challenges.

Come to think of it, personal transformation is also a 'do-it-yourself' project.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Would you sell both your eyes for million dollars . . . or your two legs, your hands . . . or your ears? Add up what you do have, & you will find you won't sell them for all the gold in the world. The best things in life are yours, if you can appreciate them."

(Dale Carnegie, 1888-1955, whose thoughts & writings since 1912, starting with 'How to Win friends & Influence People', evolved from one man's belief in the power of self-improvement had spawned to a global performance-based training company;)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)


Am I prepared for the unprepared?

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: MEDIA AUDIT

1) Why did the newspaper or magazine or radio or TV chooses the particular story?

2) What do the numbers mean?

3) To what other events does this story relate?

4) What is the reporter/announcer not telling me?

5) Why is the story more important than another?

6) How does this story apply to my life?

FROM MY CREATIVITY GAMES COLLECTION: ALIEN BEING

Imagine a remote planet somewhere else in the universe that is very different from planet Earth.

Now, picture an alien being that might live on that planet.

What does your alien being look like & how does it behave? How would you draw this alien being?

[My expert comments will follow in a subsequent post. In the meantime, I suggest you take out a sheet of paper & some colour pencils or pens, & get to work.]

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

". . . your success as a leader isn’t just about being a great businessperson. You’ve got to be a great person, performing well in all domains of your life — your work, your home, your community, & your private self . . . you don’t have to assume that these domains compete in a zero-sum game . . . to perform well as a leader not by trading off one domain for another, but by finding mutual value among all four . . . to achieve these “four-way wins” as a leader . . .:

BE REAL: Act with authenticity by clarifying what’s important;

BE WHOLE: Act with integrity by respecting the whole person;

BE INNOVATIVE: Act with creativity by experimenting to find new solutions;

[from the book, 'Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life', by Stew Friedman, founding director of the Wharton School’s Leadership Programs & its Work/Life Integration Project, & former head of Ford Motor’s Leadership Development Center.

More information about the book, the proven leadership methodology, & other wonderful learning resources can be found at this link.]

PROSELYTISING OR TOUTING, OR WORST, PUBLIC NUISANCE?

A few days ago, a Straits Times reader wrote to the Forum Editor to complain about an intrusion by a girl - yes, it was yet another get-to-know-God-session - while sitting alone in a school canteen.

She found the increasingly noticeable trend by Singaporeans to proselytise in public worrying.

She also argued that such intrusions were "undemocratic because they indirectly convey the message that a person feels his religion is superior to the beliefs of others, & that others would therefore switch . . . It is also intrusive especially if courtesy requires one to listen when one wishes to turn away . . . Religious freedom does include the right not to be annoyed by someone who over-enthusiastically tries to promote his or her beliefs. Tolerance & acceptance have their limits."

She concluded with that remark that "I think that there perhaps should be a law to ban such religious touting."

I fully concur with her expressed thoughts.

Before I move on further, I wish to declare at the onset: I am a free thinker, & I have no ill intentions whatsoever against any religious or spiritual beliefs.

The funny thing is this: I was brought up in a missionary school, for nine years from Primary I to Form III, in the only English school in Yong Peng, Johor, Malaysia.

I remember, as a young student, I had to go the church, located next to the school, regularly after the school assembly in the morning to sing hymns & praise the Lord. I could not sneak off like some of my wily classmates as I was the Head Prefect in later years at the school.

Interestingly, I was told by three of my elder sisters that our grandfather, whom I had not met in person, was actually a priest. As far as I know, my three elder sisters & one sister-in-law go to church every Sunday.

I also remember that, when I was enrolled at the Singapore Polytechnic in the mid sixties, I had an encounter with two young men during the compulsory freshmen orientation. The moment they opened their mouths, I knew straightaway what they were up to. I politely declined to talk further with them, & walked away quickly.

Throughout my professional career, whenever people, strangers or friends, bumped into me with a purported mission to praise the Lord, so to speak, I always made it very clear to these people at the onset: there were three things in my life I didn't like to talk to anybody in public, & only three: insurance, politics & religion.

All of my colleagues & close friends then knew my firm stand with regard to the three things.

When I first met my late first wife, & her parents during the late sixties, I realised that there were Taoists. Frankly, I had absolutely no problems with their religious beliefs. In fact, I often followed them to the temple, the one at Ang Mo Kio, & also readily complied with the usual prayer routines as instructed by my wife.

In fact, I had no qualms of entering a Chinese temple, an Hindu temple or a mosque, which I had done so on many occasions in my life, unlike some believers, who dogmatically believed that such actions actually contravened their beliefs.

Sometime toward the end of the eighties, my wife, for some reasons I could not recall now, decided to convert to Christianity.

She sought my personal opinion. I told her that, as long as she was comfortable with what she had chosen to believe, & that she could enjoy better spiritual peace in the process, it was OK with me.

Being a sensible lady, my wife never make any attempt to convert me, & I respected her for that. I even took the trouble to send her to church located off Dover Road every Sunday morning, & picked her up after the assembly.

After my mother-in-law suffered a stroke, & partly influenced by her own daughter, she also converted herself to embrace Christianity. The church group, where they belong to, often popped into my home to sing hymns with my mother-in-law & my wife.

My wife, sensing my discomfort, told the church group, in no uncertain terms, to avoid proselytising me. To my delight, they kept their distance from me.

I recall, when my wife had passed away at the end of 2001, two couple-friends, unknown to each other, & who had attended her funeral service, specifically arranged under Christian auspices, made a direct hint to me to quickly embrace the Lord with the view of seeking solace in my bereavement.

In fact, the occasion was graced by Pastor Song of the Church of Singapore.

Probably a month or more later, one female half of one of the two couple-friends suddenly called me up one day. She said she had a dream or a vision.

Out of sheer courtesy, I gave her a listening ear. She then related a story how she had shared her dream or vision with another friend, who then found spiritual peace of some kind. She then told me that I should go to church immediately. We left the conversation at that point.

The funny thing was this: When my late wife & I first met the couple in the mid eighties, the husband was a staunch non-believer, although he followed his own mother, who was apparently a Taoist. In fact, at that time, the husband was annoyed that the wife had gone ahead to baptise all their three young children in church. I reckon he was eventually converted a year or two before my wife's unexpected departure.

About a week later, she called me again one early morning & woke me up from sleep. She asked me specifically whether I had taken her advisement. I said no, & I just put down the phone.

That was the last straw, as far as I was concerned. Since then, I had deliberately lost touch with her & her family.

Over the years, I have had heard of other similar stories of religious touting from friends or strangers alike. My gym buddy, also a free thinker, has his fair share of the problem. In fact, he told me of an instance, when one of his eldest son's first very close girlfriends wanted to convert him at the first encounter.

Up to today, I am still intrigued as to why believers just can't leave non-believers alone in the pursuit of religious or spiritual beliefs.

Frankly speaking, I find their unsolicited actions, whether intentionally good or otherwise, a public nuisance.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"In the future, being a leader will require new ways to integrate work with the rest of one's life [home, community & self], resulting in more effective leadership & a more fulfilling life."
(Robert Reich, professor, University of California at Berkeley, & former US Secretary of Labour)

FUN PIX #8 FROM AROUND THE WORLD


FUN PIX #7 FROM AROUND THE AROUND


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

FROM MY TOOLBOX: TREND WATCHING & ANALYSIS

I have picked up this nifty approach to trend-watching & analysis from Faith Popcorn of BrainReserve, a strategic trend-based marketing consultancy in the United States since the mid-seventies.

She is the author of:

- 'The Popcorn Report';
- 'Clicking: 17 Trends that Drive Your Business';
- 'Evolution: Understanding Woman';
- 'Dictionary of the Future';

According to her, the first thing to do is to open up all your physical senses - seeing, listening, smelling, tasting & touching - to what's actually happening around you or what's happening out there.

In other words, your power of observation is a critical element.

However, she had in fact added one more important sense, actually, metaphysical sense - your intuitive sensing.

Your gut feel to the information you have observed through your senses, to be more precise.

In other words, you just got to learn to trust your instincts. Not an easy task, I must say, especially in our left-brain oriented world.

Once a guru in Kona, Hawaii shared this insight many years ago: you can feel the vibration in your right leg!

Next, continually ask yourself these questions as you ponder over the information you have observed or sensed:

- what is obvious?

- why am I seeing or sensing this?

- what is this connected to?

- what may this effect?

NOSTALGIA: P RAMLEE

I have read in today's Straits Times about the blockbuster, 'P Ramlee, The Musical: The Life, The Loves & The Inspiration', which has enjoyed a sold-out season in Kuala Lumpur, is scheduled to come to the Esplanade in Singapore next month.

The brief write-up brings back some sweet memories of my teen days of growing up in Yong Peng, Johore, located on the southern end of the Malaysian peninsula & separated from Singapore only by a short causeway.

That was the fifties & the early sixties.

I can only remember P Ramlee (1929-1973) as an entertainer with the clean-cut thin moustache, from his four great movies, at least from my perspective, namely:

- Bujang Lapok;
- Pendekar Bujang Lapok;
- Seniman Bujang Lapok;
- Ali Baba Bujang Lapok;

As far as I can remember, the first three movies chronicled the lives & misadventures of three bachelors during the fifties in Singapore.

The last one was more of a Malay version, with a comical twist, of a segment from the famed '1001 Arabian Nights' - 'Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves'.

I remember P Ramlee was also a wonderful music composer as well as good singer. I also remember that the signature song from the movie, 'Bujang Lapok' - sung by him & others - was really a catchy & memorable one.

One of his wives, Saloma, a very beautiful actress during that period, acted with him in one of the 'Bujang Lapok' movies.

In those days, I recall that watching black & white movies involved sitting on the natural earthen ground, & if lucky, on wooden stools provided, at a make-shift open-air theatre.

The theatre set-up consisted of a bone-shaker commercial van parked on open grounds, which then propped a large white cloth screen, backed up in turn by two large but noisy loudspeakers.

As usual, there were bicycle-mounted sellers of ice-cream & kachang (peanuts), who often did roaring business in such events.

Of course, everbody, especially the poor audience, including yours truly, was fully exposed to the natural elements.

When it rained, it was a long mad scramble for everyone as there wasn't any nearby shelter.

Nevertheless, for me as a growing kid, it was fun & entertainment for the evening, about once or twice a month.

The built-up theatre in Yong Peng came only a few years later, probably at the tail end of the fifties.

DEVELOPING A PERSONALISED SKILLS REPERTOIRE

I have been a regular subscriber to the Nightingale-Conant 'AdvantEdge Newsletter' as well as their 'Motivational Quote of the Day' for quite a while.

They are great stuff as far as keeping me informed about the 'hot topics' in today's world of personal development. Also, they are also goldmines of information gems.

In earlier years, I often purchased their audio-cassette programs for self-study. I now own quite a large collection in my personal library.

During the years I had run my own small but unique retail store, aptly called 'The Brain Resource', I was also one of their local resellers in Singapore. That deliberate special arrangement had allowed me to acquire many of their programs at attractive prices.

As I browse their website a short while ago, it just hits me that their delivery scope of products as outlined below:

1) Personal Development;

2) Business & Strategy;

3) Wealth Building;

4) Mind & Body:

5) Spiritual Growth;

6) Sales Training;

can readily serve as a template for developing one's own skills repertoire.

You can browse their delivery scope to come up with what you need or consider useful in pursuing your own skill development. Naturally, your findings must serve to fulfill your own strategic goals or long term vision.

You don't have to buy the stuff from Nightingale-Conant. There are a lot of other purveyors out there in the marketplace or marketspace.

However, you can use what you see from their website as a quick checklist to explore a self-spaced, self-study skill development curriculum.

Besides Nightingale-Conant, there are also a lot of other similar websites, where you can do likewise. Just browse 'My Favorite Websites' &/or 'My Favourite Weblogs' on this blog for further references.

You can then gradually build - & eventually sustain - your own 'Invisible University' as well as 'Automobile University'.

In the seventies, & through the eighties up to the early nineties, before the advent of the Internet, which I had already gone through, it was difficult to do what I have just outlined.

Today, with the Internet, learning or self-directed learning, is just a piece of cake, not counting the abundant learning opportunities & resources available at your fingertips.

Of course, there are also a lot of junk &/or misinformation in the Internet, but with some ingenuity & imagination, coupled with critical thinking on your part, I always reckon that the Internet is a vast hinterland, as far as learning is concerned.

Last night, I had read about the exploits of an enterprising guy, who had actually set up a great business to publish his own books, by just extracting public domain information available on the Internet. He had used a network of some 60 computers specially configured with mathematical algorithms to help him achieve his commercial objectives. He has to date published 200,000 titles.

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Dr Jolly Ray, Scientific Officer at the Sports Authority of India, Bangalore, wrote a nice piece about mental toughness training.

Although he wrote it in the context of hockey coaching, I feel that the stuff is readily applicable in any personal context, especially in terms of understanding - & then mastering - the major psychological as well as physiological characteristics that can affect your ideal performance under adverse conditions.

Here is the link.

PASSION FUELS ENTHUSIASM

I have extracted the following inspiring story from an employee newsletter of AAA Landscape, a commercial landscape management & construction company in Arizona, USA. The newsletter was dated October 2005, which I had found serendipitously on the net:

[I believe that we all need to be passionate about our jobs, life and family.

Here is a story and some quotes that I hope has a positive effect on all of you who read this.

Have a great October, Bob (Underwood, CEO, AAA Landscape).

PASSION: WHEREVER YOU CHOOSE TO GO, GO THERE WITH ALL YOUR HEART

A bellman made my day recently.

After checking into an Atlanta hotel, Sam (his name was on his badge) picked up my two bags, gave a big smile, and said, Isn’t it a gorgeous day today?”

I nodded and said, “Sure is.”

He then said, “I just spent the entire weekend with my two grand kids, and I can’t remember when I’ve had more fun. Aren’t kids great?”

I nodded again, and said, “They are special,” and then I added, “Sam, it seems like you’re having a great day.”

He then looked up with a grin I’ll never forget and said, “Mr. Anderson, every day above ground is a a great day!”

I walked into my room feeling recharged by Sam’s enthusiasm. It was obvious that he had chosen to live life to the fullest, and given the opportunity to touch someone’s life in a positive way, my bet is that he took it, every time.

Every day we all have that same opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others. We can choose to mope about our lot in life, or we decide to live in awe, touching hearts along the way.

Ah, yes... we all know ducks who make lots of noise, quacking and complaining about their problems in life. And then eagles, who go about their business and consistently soar above the crowd.

Thanks, Sam, for soaring into my life.]

[The story ended with a illuminating quotation from Sarah Breathnack.]

The way I see it, life is actually making choices.

In other words, misery is also an option.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives, but are grateful for the abundance that's present . . . we experience heaven on earth."

(Sarah Breathnack, author of the 'Simple Abundance' series of books)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS FOR SALES & MARKETING PROFESSIONALS

If you are a sales & marketing professional, you can go to this link to download the 'Top 30 Open-Ended Questions', compiled in .pdf format by justsell.com, producer of the web's resources for sales leaders.

THE EXTRA DEGREE

I have just watched an interesting but brief presentation from Nightingale-Conant, & I want to share it with you.

It's actually a 3-1/2 minute movie, based on the booklet bearing the same title by Sam Parker, co-founder of MaxPitch Media, a producer of the web's resources for business leaders.

I'm sure you'll enjoy the compelling images & the inspiring message.

In a nutshell, they capture the essence of excellence in an inspiring way.

I particularly like their principal premise: One Extra Degree = Exponential Results!

You can check it out at this link.

STRENGTH FROM ADVERSITY

This has been the catchy headline that sparked my attention this morning when I read the 'Review Page' of the Straits Times. It has focused on DPM & Coordinating Minister for National Security S Jayakumar's speech at the 2nd Asia Pacific Program for Senior National Security Officers.

I fully concur with the minister that a competent & professional organisation will learn from its mistakes, put right the shortcomings, persevere & move on, stronger than before.

Earlier, I had read the 'Asia Page', where there was a brief story about Datuk Seri Anwar's speech at a massive rally in Kuala Lumpur.

The unintended juxtaposition of the two readings has triggered me to write a short post about 'Strength from Adversity', but drawing on Datuk Seri Anwar's personal experience as a political exile, following his sudden downfall during the previous government under Tun Mahathir.

To me, this comeback kid has certainly come quite a long way.

Despite being arrested under doubtful circumstances, thrown into jail, got bashed up by the former Police Inspector-General, publicly humiliated, & eventually charged in court for unspeakable crimes which he had alleged were part of a larger political conspiracy, he has not been defeated at the end of it all.

In fact, it looks like he may be going to lead the opposition alliance to form the next Malaysian Government, if the current political situation with UMNO in Malaysia remains in disarray.

What impressed me most has been his tenacity & determination to prove his innocence from the very beginning. All this while, the odds were always against him.

I have also truly admired his wife, Wan Azizah Ismail, a quiet mother & a medical doctor by training, & his daughter, Nurul Izzah, a young soft-spoken scholar, who were pushed unwittingly into the political limelight following his unexpected downfall.

Just imagine the harsh & unprecedented public humiliation they had to go through over the ensuing years, for almost ten years.

When Datuk Seri Anwar was here to attend a conference during the heat of the recent electioneering campaign [interestingly, both PM Abdullah Badawi & DPM Najib Razak had openly declared him as "irrelevant"] in Kuala Lumpur, I read from the newspapers & also watched him on television, he seemed very calm, cool & collected. He chose his words very carefully. In fact, he even made some predictions, which had turned out to be true in many respects.

I reckon no ordinary folks could have survived under such horrendous pressures.

The way I see it, what Datuk Seri Anwar has finally regained today in political stature from his unfortunate experience, is certainly the epitome of 'Strength from Adversity'.

32 TRAITS OF CREATIVE PEOPLE


Here is a link to a website belonging to a good friend of mine in the United States.

He is Dr Robert Alan Black, 'The Creativity Wizard'. He is the author of 'Broken Crayons', which has been written with the purpose of showing you how to become more creative through the analogy of broken crayons.

He is also active globe-trotter, with a relentless mission to spread creative thinking around planet Earth.

In fact, he comes to Singapore at least once a year to touch base with old friends & also to run a couple of his creativity programs.

Alan, as he likes his friends to call him, is one of those rare coaching professionals who holds a PhD in Creativity. He has taken the trouble to help us identify the 32 traits - may seem lengthy, but worth exploring - of creative people.

Please feel free to browse his website as there are plenty of gems for your picking.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Are you busy living or busy dying?

Are you at peace with yourself?

Or are you in pieces?

from my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, writing in his latest product & service catalog, 'The Brainaissance Program of iCAPitalism Seminars'; he adds further: "The quality of your life is determined by how you direct your inherent source of energy. Calmness & composure, serenity & substance, tranquility & teleonomy: These are the ingredients of an undisturbed mind!"

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"It doesn't matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going."

(Brian Tracy)

Monday, April 14, 2008

MAKING ASSUMPTION

An interesting event - I like to call it a learning event - happened recently to me & my gym buddy.

He had called me out for an outing to the Queensway Shopping Centre, which was a good place to buy low-cost sports wear & accessories.

He told me that he would be waiting for me in his car at the 'usual spot' in the car park next to my neighbourhood mobile phone shop [he had gone there first to rectify his blue tooth ear-mount hearing device], located not to far away from my apartment block.

In fact, it was actually two blocks away from my apartment block.

Since he had previously parked at a 'particular spot' in my car park, I had therefore clearly assumed that the 'particular spot' was the 'usual spot'.

I went downstairs from my apartment block to look for him at the assumed 'usual spot'.

As I could not see him or his car at the assumed 'usual spot', I immediately called him on the hand phone. Sensing something was wrong, he came forward quickly to locate me.

He told me that he had parked his car at another 'usual spot', which was just one block away from my apartment block.

Apparently, he had assumed that I would walk along the driveway of my car park to reach him, & it would be quite easy for him to spot me from a distance.

However, I had in fact chosen to take a short cut by walking through the void decks of two blocks to go to the assumed 'usual spot', & had apparently missed seeing him & his car at the so-called 'usual spot', which he had actually parked his car.

He had later admitted that he was momentarily distracted by adjusting his blue tooth ear-mount hearing device, which probably explained why he did not spot me from a distance at first.

Looking back at the event, we then realised that our phone communication to meet at the so-called 'usual spot' was not specifically clear to either party in the first place.

Both of us had made certain assumptions about the intended 'usual spot', where we should have met.

No wonder, some body once told me that making assumption is making an 'ass' of both 'u' & 'me'.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Am I focusing on today’s or yesterday's failures, or my preferred future?

How have I dealt with obstacles &/or failures in the past?

EXERCISE BOOSTS BRAIN POWER!

Recently, I came across two interesting brain-based books while browsing the Amazon online catalog.

Thanks to the Amazon online reader, I was able to zero into the synopsis of each title.

From my quick assessment, I realise that both books have reaffirmed that, among other interesting facts, physical workouts boost our brain power & also remodel our brains for peak performance.

They are:

1) 'Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving & Thriving at Work, Home & School', by Dr John Medina, a biologist & Director of the Brain Centre for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University;

2) 'Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise & the Brain', by Dr John Ratey, a psychiatrist & a clinical associate professor at Harvard Medical School;

Here are my extracts, from the first book (plus my comments):

1) EXERCISE: Our brains love motion - exercise boosts our brain power as oxygen builds information highways for the brain;

2) SURVIVAL: Our brains have evolved, too; as our survival organs, they have been hardwired to solve problems related to surviving in unstable outdoor environments & to do so in nearly constant motion (to keep us alive long enough to pass on our genes;

3) WIRING: Every brain is wired differently - our experience makes the difference; the more stimulating our experience with life, the more enriched our brains will be;

4) ATTENTION: we don't pay attention to boring things as emotion matters; hence, we pay great attention to threats, sex & pattern matching;

5) SHORT-TERM MEMORY: repeat to remember as our memories are volatile - so our teachers were right: "repetition is the mother of learning", i.e. we need to repeat in order to remember better;

6) LONG-TERM MEMORY: remember to repeat - spaced repetition or review cycles are the vital keys to remembering information;

7) SLEEP: Sleep well, think well - sleep is powerfully linked to our ability to learn;

8) STRESS: Stressed brains don't learn the same way - stress changes the way we learn; worst of all, it kills brain cells!; to learn efficiently, we must get into a resourceful state of mind;

9) SENSORY INTEGRATION: Stimulate more of our senses - the more senses we use in our learning, the more we can remember what we learn;

10) VISION: Vision trumps all other senses - Vision is our dominant sense, & as much as 90% of our learning comes through our eyes;

11) GENDER: male & female brains are different - undoubtedly, as one of my buddies, a research scientist, makes this remark over lunch recently: a male brain topography looks like a box matrix, with straight lines; a female brain topography looks like a plate of spaghetti (no offence intended!);

12) EXPLORATION: we are powerful & natural explorers - we are designed to never stop learning; also, our curiosity is everything! as learning cannot take place with curiosity & interest;

From the second book, these are what I found in a nutshell:

1) Aerobic exercises physically remodel our brains for peak performance;

2) Exercises are truly our best defences against everything from depression to ADD to addiction to aggression to menopause to Alzheimer's;
3) Exercises improve academic performance, alertness, attention & motivation;

I like the author's central premise of his book: "Thinking is the internalization of movement."

Meanwhile, the two foregoing books are now retained in my shopping cart awaiting final consolidation for purchase requisition in due course.

[For more information about the 12 'Brain Rules', please visit the author's corporate website or personal weblog.]

10 BEST BOOKS ON INNOVATION

Here is a belated link to the '10 Best Books on Innovation' selected by Bruce Nussbaum, who runs the 'Innovation' section of BusinessWeek.

Out of the ten selected books, I have read 'The Opposable Mind' & 'Made to Stick'. Great stuff. I have yet to acquire the rest for perusal.

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

John Kao, business guru, film producer & innovation evangelist, came to Singapore a couple of months ago.

He gave a talk to the Civil Service College in Singapore, & shared his brilliant insights, which were published in the 'Insight' page of the Straits Times of 29th February 2008. I have forgotten about the clipping in my files.

Here are my extracts:

On Innovation:

"Innovation cannot be sliced or diced into specific areas of knowledge, but is inter-disciplinary in nature . . . Everything is changing. Innovation enables people to adapt to disruptive change, including new business models, demographic & geopolitical shifts & new/emerging technologies . . . To realise innovation, efficiency must share the stage with creativity, control with nurture, facts with gut feel, logic with passion."

On Educating innovators:

"Some literacy in science & mathematics is fundamental . . . But a good 21st century education needs to include . . . cultural intelligence & the ability to operate effectively across social & cultural boundaries . . . Design & performing arts are also very important . . . "

On Global trends to exploit:

"I think there's little doubt that big things are happening in alternative energy & environmental sustainability . . . I expect increasing sophistication in dealing with the well being of the elderly . . . "

On China's fast-paced innovation:

"But 20 or 30 years from now, I think a very significant percentage of the world's science & IT will be generated in China . . . "

On Singapore's long term prospects:

"Singapore is testament to the notion that a nation doesn't have to be big to be a leading competitor in the global innovation race . . . While the country is not short of infrastructure & talent, it has yet to develop globally viable brands & companies [Looks like John Kao is definitely missing something: What about our Creative Technology, Singapore Airlines & Tiger Beer?] . . . I think that Singapore companies have often competed based on their mastery of efficiency & logistics & through partnerships & alliances, rather than being driven by innovation."

[John Kao is the author of 'Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back'. I have yet to acquire & read it. His earlier book was 'Jamming: The Art & Discipline of Business Creativity'. I had read this one about ten years ago. A good read, with an excellent creativity toolkit in the appendix.

Business POV, a website based in Chicago that uses video interviews to do business journalism, has posted a two-part interview with John Kao about a wide range of innovation issues.

Part 1 concentrates on innovation hotspots & Part 2 looks into innovation in organizational transformation.]