Saturday, April 26, 2008

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Am I willing & ready to change the way I live?

[inspired by Al Gore, & the movie 'An Inconvenient Truth', with a compelling story about the damaging effects of global warming & a rallying cry to protect the one earth we all share;]

FROM MY TOOLBOX: SCAMPER

As a creativity tool, SCAMPER is essentially a simple checklist to help you think though the problem. It is believed to have been developed by Bob Eberle in collaboration with or from an original contribution from Alex Osborne.

It is actually an acronym from the following action verbs:

S - Substitute
C - Combine
A - Adapt or Adjust
M - Magnify or Minify or Modify
P - Put to another use
E - Eliminate
R - Rearrange or Reverse

The purpose of SCAMPER is to spur many ideas & explore varied possibilities.

The best way to use SCAMPER, from my personal experience, is to use the above action verbs to formulate a series of questions, with the aid of the famous journalists' questions in combination with the following attributes:

- angle;
- cause;
- colour;
- component;
- composition;
- cost;
- direction;
- effect;
- effort;
- element;
- feature;
- form;
- frequency;
- function;
- idea;
- ingredient;
- layout;
- magnitude;
- material;
- meaning;
- motion;
- object;
- order;
- pace;
- pattern;
- people;
- place;
- position;
- product;
- property (characteristic)
- purpose;
- quality;
- quantity;
- role;
- scale;
- schedule;
- sequence;
- service;
- size;
- smell;
- sound;
- speed;
- step;
- structure;
- taste;
- texture;
- time;
- value;
- way
- weight;

For example:

- what or which component can I substitute or adapt?

- what or which part can I magnify or modify?

- who can I eliminate or put to another use?

- where or where else can I put it to use?

- how can I reverse the sequence or weight?

- when can I modify or rearrange the quantity or sequence or time?

- why is weight or texture a major problem & how can I adapt or reverse it?

WHAT I HAD LEARNED FROM WALT DISNEY

I had read many books, including comics, about Walt Disney.

I had watched many of his television & movie productions, starting with 'Mickey Mouse', 'Donald Duck', 'Goofy' & 'Pluto' as well as 'Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs' when I was growing up.

I had also visited - & thoroughly enjoyed all the fun excursions - in Disneyland theme parks in Tokyo (twice), Los Angeles (once) as well as the one in Orlando (twice), with Catherine over a ten-year period.
When I ran the week-long 'Science & the Art of Discovery' workshops for primary school kids in the early years, I had often used him & his life story as a model for kids to learn about the power of imagineering & storyboarding. The kids simply loved them.

I particularly like his attitude of gratitude: he often credited to that little mouse that started it all in the basement where he had started work as a young professional!

From my personal perspective, there have been only four valuable lessons I had actually learned from Walt Disney.

1. DREAM;

2. BELIEVE;

3. DARE;

4. DO;

It has been said that Walt Disney was once asked what had made him successful. He responded that before he began any venture:

1. He dreamed of & envisioned things that hadn't been attempted before or seemingly impossible to construct;

2. He examined his beliefs & values to see if an idea had merit, & also believed that success could only come from the team;

3. He dared to challenge his critics & naysayers by turning his idea into reality; &

4. He developed a plan & inspired the team to make it all happen;

The ultimate result: a legendary organization, now with over 500 destinations around the world, with international guests, including yours truly, who return year after year to relive the magic that Walt Disney had envisioned in the first place.

In fact, one of his personal quotes has always been my inspiration:

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!

The catchphrase,
'Resistance is Futile', in a colourful ad for the Suzuki Grand Vitara 2L 4WD by Champion Motors in a driving magazine caught my quick attention recently, while resting to browse in between my regular gym practice at Clubfitt Gym of the Jurong East Sports Centre.

[In reality, 'Resistance is Futile' has been a regular memory quote in several sci-fi movies, including 'Dr Who', 'Space 1999' as well as 'Star Trek'.]

I thought it would be good title for my post on 'Resistance to Change'.

My idea is 'Resistance to Change is Futile'!

Change is everywhere. Geo-political. Technology. Social-Demographics. Economy & Finance. Organisations. Markets. Competition. Consumer Behaviours. You name it, there is change.

Nobody likes change, except maybe a wet baby.

I reckon one of the biggest reasons for or causes of resistance to change is the fear of leaving the comfort zone & then, of moving into the stretch zone. More precisely, the fear of the unknown.

This is quite understandable. All of us have the habitual tendency to hang on to our safe-bet traditions & customs. Steadfastly, to our cultural norms as well as our personal beliefs.

Sometimes, to our dismay, we have also to contend with prevailing norms from all the people around us, including our loved ones. Groupthink is the appropriate term to describe this phenomenon.

The idea of letting go is just frightful. This explains why we have so much junk in our house when moving house.

To put it in another way, so much junk - in terms of old ideas - in our minds, too.

When I first embarked on leaving the corporate world after twenty four years, I had that feeling too.

In retrospect, I now revel at what I did anyway, i.e. to face up to the new changes coming my life, & to deal with fear in constructive ways.

Actually, to share with readers, & from my many experiences, fear is "false evidence appearing real". It's all in the mind.

For me, the fear of the unknown can also be attributed to the lack of adequate information to help make the decision to move forward. Sometimes, it is also too much information as well as the misinformation available that compound the issue at hand.

Personal history is also an important contributing factor. Sometimes, people get too entrenched with what had actually happened before, or with people they know of, especially the unpleasant events.

The fear of failure, or "kiasuism" in the typically unique Singapore context, as well as the fear of looking stupid in front of our peers or friends, form another set of reasons or causes for resistance to change.

Surprisingly, kids do not have this problem in their minds.

There are a few good strategies I have learned, through hard knocks, about effecting personal change, & they can be outlined as follows:

1) recognise that something must change in order to produce new results in my life;

2) attune to the fact that I can change my life;

3) embrace the fact that I can change my perceptual phase of thinking - my interpretation & response - to what's happening around me;

4) adopt the philosophy that I am solely responsible for any changes, good or bad, in my own life;

5) accept that I am the source of personal change - the power of choice & the power to choose;

6) learn how not to whine, lay blame, & justify!


7) last, but not least, learn to trust my instincts!

I like to leave the following quotation from an unknown source as food for thought:


"If you always keep on thinking what you have always thought, you will always keep on doing what you have always done, & you will always keep on getting what you always gotten. It's time to
change."

UNCOVERING YOUR BLIND SPOTS

I thought the structured questionnaire in this link will be useful as a checklist in helping one to identify one's blind spots.

Here's a brief introduction from the link:

Our blind spots are the parts of us that we can't see - but others can see quite clearly.

Blind spots are generally tied to our personal history & past choices.

Our blind spots cause us to adopt unbecoming, self-defeating, sabotaging, unproductive behaviors & mind sets.

We tend to compensate for our blind spots by taking the "easy way" in life - even if it doesn't bring us fulfillment.

Blind spots have a lot to do with "safety" issues. Blind spots are created by unmet needs for influence, attention, control, &/or power.

Blind spots cause us to inaccurately perceive & define our current reality.

Failing to identify & work on our blind spots will often keep us from achieving our fondest dreams.

Browse through the questionnaire . . . Be honest with yoursef . . . don't feel the need to censor your responses.

Best of all, have fun!

[For recommended readings on the phenomenon of blind spots, please proceed to my listmania entitled 'A Field Guide to Blindspots Detection & Removal Options' on the Amazon website.]

12 WAYS TO WAKE YOURSELF UP FROM YOUR BLIND SPOTS

Earlier on, I had found an excellent article about blind spots in the corporate world, which I had set up a link to it in one of my earlier posts.

I have just found another excellent article about blind spots for ordinary folks.

It's entitled '12 Ways to Wake Yourself Up from Your Blind Spots' by Donald Latumahina, writing in his 'Life Optimzer' weblog.

Here's the link.

"IT WASN'T ALL ABOUT WINNING!"

Yesterday's issue of 'The New Paper' had a brief report about External Fusion, the victorious team from Singapore, competing in the First Lego League World Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, USA from 17-19th April 2008 & beating competent teams from 23 other countries.

The team comprised students from Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS), River Valley High School & Juying Primary School.

What impressed me most was what SCGS student, Sarah Shum, 15, said:


"We made friends with people from many other countries. It wasn't all about winning."

Although the team won, I trust all our students will learn to embrace this kind of spirit or attitude throughout their lives.

Winning isn't everything, because there are also other important perspectives to look at in order to experience life to the fullest.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will not forget how you made them feel."
(Dr Maya Angelou, 1928- , who has been hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature & as a remarkable Renaissance woman. Being a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer & director, she continues to travel the world making appearances, spreading her legendary wisdom; she has authored twelve best-selling books, including 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings', 'A Song Flung Up to Heaven' & 'Even the Stars Look Lonesome';)

Friday, April 25, 2008

EXECUTIVE BLIND SPOTS & HOW TO OVERCOME THEM

Here's a link to an excellent article about blind spots in the corporate world.

It's entitled, 'Executive Blind Spots and How to Avoid Them', by Dr Carl Robinson, Principal of Advanced Consulting in Seattle. He is a business psychologist & executive coach, who focuses on the development of high performance leaders.

I like the term he uses to describe the phenomenon: "psychological blindness".

In his article, he elaborates on this phenomenon & outlines some steps to develop better judgment. More importantly, steps to improve your critical thinking & to avoid what is commonly known as "judgment traps".

HOW LIGHT WORKOUTS CAN BEAT HARD ONES

I have just received this good news, 'How Light Workouts Can Beat Hard Ones', today from the 'RealAge: Live Life to the Youngest' website, as I am a subscriber.

Research shows that a program of low intensity exercise training - like light cycling on a stationary bike for 30 minutes three times a week - can reduce tired-all-the-time feelings by as much as 65 percent.

And it only takes 6 weeks of light workouts to feel pepped up.

Moderate-intensity exercise programs boost energy levels, too, but not as much.

Know what the easiest workout in the world is? It's walking!

What follows is certainly intriguing: Exercising regularly can make your RealAge [Your RealAge is the biological age of your body, based on how well you've maintained it] as much as 9 years younger!

Go to this link to read the rest of the news &/or to access other useful health information.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don't hoard it. Don't dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke."

(Brendan Francis, 1923-1964, Irish playwright, noted for his earthy satire & powerful political commentary;)

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If I could only ever teach just one thing about strategy, what would it be?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

RATE YOUR BRAIN POWER

You are cordially invited to use a simple audit to rate your own brainpower.

It was designed by Dr Eric Bienstock, who is Vice-Principal of the original School of Thinking in New York.

He has based this checklist on the School of Thinking’s 'Learn-To-Think Coursebook & Instructors Manual', as originally conceived by Michael Hewiit-Gleeson & Edward de bono during the late seventies eighties to teach thinking as a learnable skill.

Here's the link.

[Today, the School of Thinking (SOT) is operated by Michael Hewitt-Gleeson in Australia. It's is probably the largest program in the world for teaching thinking skills. It's training is pro bono, & available on an opt-in/opt-out basis for those who are interested.]

SOFTWARE FOR THE BRAIN

The 'Software for the Brain' represents the ‘universal brain software’, which, according to the creator, Michael Hewitt-Gleeson, is currently the most powerful brain software in the world.

WHAT IS THE UNIVERSAL BRAIN SOFTWARE?

The 'Universal Brain Software' is the thinking switch known as:

CVS TO BVS or CVS2BVS

CVS2BVS simply means that the Current View of the Situation (CVS) can never be equal to the Better View of the Situation (BVS).

Or CVS ≠ BVS

When you use the 'Universal Brain Software', your BVS can be ten times better than your CVS.

CVS X 10 = BVS

HOW CAN I LOAD THE BRAIN SOFTWARE INTO MY NECKTOP COMPUTER?

You can practise saying ‘CVS2BVS' hundred times a day for ten days.

(CVS2BVS) x 100 pd

This brain patterning strengthens the cvs2bvs switch and increases the opportunities for you to use the switch every day.

HOW DOES THE UNIVERSAL BRAIN SOFTWARE WORK?

If you’d like to know more about the 'Universal Brain Software', you can download a copy of the ebook, which also contains all the brain software.

Here's the link.

My own understanding of this wonderful work by the brilliant author is this:

BVS > CVS

In other words, the Better View of the Situation (BVS) is more powerful than the Current View of the Situation (CVS).

Everything we do in life boils down to our perception or, more precisely, our perceptual sensitivity to the environment.

To be effective & efficient in whatever we do in the long run, we must always embrace fluidity in perception as well always maintain multiple perceptions, so that the decisions we make & the actions we take are always appropriate & timely to the given situation at all times.

BRAIN FITNESS: 10 TIPS

1: Head first. Good health starts with your brain. It's one of the most vital body organs and needs care and maintenance.

2: Take brain health to heart. What's good for the heart is good for the brain. Do something every day to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke - all of which can increase your risk of Alzheimer's.

3: Numbers count. Keep your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels within recommended ranges.

4: Feed your brain. Eat less fat and more antioxidant-rich foods (fish, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts).

5: Work your body. Exercise keeps the blood flowing and may encourage new brain cells. Do what you can - like walking 30 minutes a day - to keep both body and mind active.

6: Jog your mind. Keeping your brain active and engaged increases its vitality and builds reserves of brain cells and connections. Read, write, play games, learn new things, do crossword puzzles.

7: Connect with others. Leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social elements may be most likely to prevent dementia. Be social, converse, volunteer, join a club or take a class.

8: Protect your brain. Take precautions against head injuries. Use seat belts, unclutter your house to avoid falls, and wear a helmet when cycling or rollerblading.

9: Use your head. Avoid unhealthy habits. Don't smoke, drink alcohol excessively or use street drugs.

10: Think ahead. Do something today to protect your tomorrow.

[Source: Alzheimer's Association]

A WORKOUT CENTRE FOR THE BRAIN

Actually, it's a new business concept for brain fitness. It is patterned after the traditional health spa.

Instead of exercising muscle groups via a series of circuit-training machines, visitors to the centre can hone their mental skills using a variety of computer software programs & other tools.

For more information, please visit this link.

HOW TO GET A DAILY FIX OF FRESH ENTREPRENEURIAL IDEAS?

I have just signed up as a newsletter subscriber with one of the world's leading sources of new business ideas, powered by a network of 8,000+ spotters, so that I can get my daily fix of fresh entrepreneurial ideas.

It's called SPRINGWISE. Here's the link.

A TOUGH COOKIE!

I have noted that 'The Monday Interview' with Ms Saw Phaik Hwa, President & CEO of SMRT Corporation in the Straits Times was fascinating reading.

Ms Saw is certainly a tough cookie.

I reckon her early unconventional childhood as well as teen experiences - especially, challenging her old man in a pragmatic manner - must have moulded her go-getting as well as barrier-breaking attitude towards work & life, as reflected in one simple example, her spunky green/red hairdo.

She reminds me of another tough cookie, a lady colleague of mine during my UMW Group days during the eighties. As a young engineering graduate from UK, she had supervised a male-dominated engineering division in the group.

At that time, we had a fatso General Manager with a habitual propensity for pounding on people down the ranks, sometimes, for no legitimate reasons.

She often stood her ground, with valid reasons of course, & I really admired her resilience.

She is none other than Ms Chong Phit Lian, now CEO of Jetstar Asia Airways. Prior to that, she was the President & CEO of the Singapore Mint.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with - a man is what he makes of himself."

(Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1922, the American inventor & innovator, who gave us the telephone, drawing profound inspiration from his life's work with the deaf;)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

MENTAL TOUGHNESS

[I don't know who wrote what follows from here, but I thought it was an excellent piece of writing about mental toughness, even though it was written from the perspective of coaching racquetball players. I could only traced the name of the racquetball team coach to one Carlise Moody.]

Focus: what you are doing is the same as what you are thinking.

If you focus, you reach a state of passive concentration where you are no longer trying to concentrate. Concentration is effortless and spontaneous. You are in the zone. You are going with the Force. This is a learned skill.

Performing well occurs naturally or it doesn’t occur at all. Trying to play better, trying not to get angry, trying to concentrate, trying not to be nervous makes the situation worse.

Remember what Yoda said, "Do, or do not. There is no 'try'."

Savor the moment. Every moment of every game something to be fully experienced and enjoyed. The act of playing is an end in itself.

Even slightly negative and pessimistic feelings make staying loose, calm, and confident impossible. Positive thinkers play better.

Don’t be a raging bull (angry) or a possum (detached, lazy, uncaring). You have to love doing it if you want to do it well.

Develop rituals and habits. They are triggers for deepening concentration, staying loose, raising intensity, etc. Recall basketball players at the free throw line, batters and pitchers in baseball, golfers, etc.

Become aware of your inner voice. Say "Stop!" as soon as any negative thoughts arise. Replace the negative thought with a positive thought. Also, be aware of your actual voice. Don’t speak negatively. Negative is catching.

Choking occurs when you allow the situation to be perceived as a threat, triggering the flight or fight response. You have lost control of the right internal condition. Relax, get loose, be positive, etc., and you will regain control.

Become an observer of your inner state. Every time you play or practice, make a deliberate effort to understand what you are feeling. Try to understand the link between how you feel and how you perform.

Some examples:

(1) I am not playing well. I am frustrated and a little angry.

(2) I am playing very well. I feel calm. I am really enjoying myself. I am intense yet relaxed.

(3) I am bored, listless, sick and tired of the same old routine. I am sloppy. I keep making the same mistakes.

(4) I am nervous and tight. Everything is going too fast inside. I can’t think clearly. I am definitely not in control.

(5) I am still angry over that stupid referee’s call. I have all this negative energy pent up inside. I can’t concentrate. I keep thinking of that stupid call.

Make the commitment that every time you play or practice, you will work at creating the right internal climate for peak performance. Practice mental toughness as you practice or play racquetball.

We can substantially control how we feel on the inside by controlling how we look on the outside. To start feeling confident, start acting confident. To generate intensity, look intense.

Basic principles of mental toughness:

(1) Control what you think.

(2) Control what you visualize.

(3) Control how you look.

Try softer, not harder. Studies in running, weight lifting, and other sports show that performance improves when athletes relax their jaws as they performed.

Other studies show that performance improved by requesting athletes to "not try so hard" or play at ¾ effort. In racquetball, remember to loosen your grip on the racquet.

During play, deliberately slow your breathing. Take more time doing everything, slow down.

Focus on doing the best you can, not on winning or losing. If muscles get tight, shake them loose.

Focus on the ball. Let the Force be with you.

Drive out distracting thoughts. Play down the importance of the match (who cares who wins this game?). Keep positive, you are already over-aroused, negative thoughts or statements can make good performance impossible.

Remember your finest hour. Try to regain that feeling. Try to have fun and enjoy yourself.

Don’t get anxious about being anxious. It is ok to be nervous. A little nervousness indicates that you are psyched and ready to play your best.

Also, research shows that you don’t need a good night’s sleep before a big match. So don’t worry about not sleeping well the night before.

Visualize, visualize, visualize.

The central nervous system cannot tell the difference between the thought and the actual event. Your muscles undergo a 1/3 contraction every time you visualize an action. The more vivid, detailed, and real the visualization the more powerful the effect.

The ability to think in pictures rather than words, to control imagery flow in positive directions and to visualize in great detail improves with practice. Practice visualization.

Visualize success. Visualize winning. Visualize perfection: the perfect backhand, the perfect forehand, the perfect drive serve, the perfect lob serve, etc. etc.

You should also visualize dealing successfully with adversity. Visualize overcoming bad calls, opponents who cheat, courts that are too dark, obnoxious opponents, etc.

Mental toughness depends on controlling your emotional response to events. Control the situation rather than letting the situation control you.

You can’t control winning, but you can control your mental state, which will help you perform better. Performing better will help you win.

Winning and losing does not define success. If you can answer no to the following four questions, you are a success.

(1) Could I have done better if I had tried harder? No, I gave it my best effort.

(2) Did I turn negative and sour when problems arose? No, I kept my energy and attitude positive throughout.

(3) Did I look like a loser: shaky, unsure, uncertain? No, I projected a strong and powerful physical presence.

(4) Did I offer excuses for losing? No, I was totally responsible.

[The foregoing photo was truncated from the home web-page of E-Force, a maker of racquetball equipment.]

THE GREAT RECESSION: AKAN DATANG!

According to Dr Tony Tan, the Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), the world could be facing its worst recession in three decades.

What a sobering thought!

He added:

"The next few years may well be among the most challenging years . . ."

Something else he added piqued my further interest:

"The GIC has been alert to the prospect of the current problems since last year & moved its portfolio to a more conservative posture by selling some shares & holding on to the cash . . ."

Do I hear, Cash is King?

During the course of my professional life, I had personally experienced three "great recessions".

First, it was during the mid-seventies.

The oil crisis, arising from OPEC countries' refusal to ship oil to nations that had supported Israel in their conflict.

I was then a young engineering executive in Behn, Meyer & Co., a well-established German trading house.

Worst still, I had earlier upgraded my car from a Morris 1300 to a Peugeot 504, with a 2,000 cc engine, under a hire-purchase agreement paying at 14% p.a. interest.

You can imagine the extreme financial pressures I had to endure for a few years.

Second, it was during the mid-eighties. The recession came knocking & caused many countries in the region to restructure themselves economically. In Singapore, the government, for the first time, sat down with the private sector to deal with the downturn.

I was then transferred to Thailand under the UMW Group to run its engineering division as well as its zinc-oxide manufacturing plant.

My annual salary was converted & paid in Thai Baht.

With an unexpected devaluation of the Thai Baht, about 15% of my annual earnings were wiped out through no fault of mine. Worst of all, all annual salary increments in the group were put on hold for almost two years during the recession.

You can imagine how sore I was, not forgetting I was also poorer.

Third, it was just towards the tail end of the nineties. The Asian financial crisis with the dotcom debacle caught everybody by surprise.

I was then already running my own strategy consulting, retail distribution & training development business.

Fortunately, since the early nineties when I had first embarked on my 'retirement' project, I had fully embraced a prudent life-style, drawing on many valuable lessons from the two earlier recessions.

As a matter of fact, on hindsight, I should be very thankful to Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin for their classic book, 'Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money & Achieving Financial Independence'. I had picked up a lot of good ideas from the two authors.

Business was indeed very slow, but I was not badly hit as I ran a very tight ship. Also, I was fortunately a very conservative investor.

Best of all, I was then, & am still is, a true & firm believer in 'Cash is King'.

In fact, when business was so bad during that period, I had even shut down my office/store operations for two weeks & went off on a short holiday in Spain & Portugal with Catherine.

When the next recession comes, I am ready.

['Akan Datang' is a local Malay term for 'Coming Soon'.]

DOING SOMETHING NEW OR SOMETHING ELSE

At the recent Anugerah Planet Muzik (APM) awards show, our Singapore idol winner Taufik Batisah picked up three awards.

What intrigued me most about him was not what he won, but what he did after his slick song-&-dance performance of his music track 'Sesuatu Janji' ('A Certain Promise').

To the amazement & cheers of the crowd, he threw in a back flip just to raise his ante this year.

He said:

"Every year I want to come up with something new for my AMP performance. Usually it takes about six months to learn to do the back flip. I managed to do it in two weeks."

His antics won over the crowd.

To me, that's the spirit all of us should emulate him, & always pursue it in our own life.

This is the essence of breaking your habitual patterns.

The science of neuro-linguistic programming or NLP calls it, 'pattern interrupt'.

This brings me to what Leonardo da vinvi once said:



“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.”


So ask, & then challenge yourself:

What ’something new’ or 'something else' can I work work on today?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The purpose of education is not merely to give us the answers we need right now, but rather to provide us with
the confidence to go out & teach ourselves - for the rest of our lives."

(Brian Caswell, as he related what his father had taught him; he has over 30 years of achievement as a teacher, author, lecturer & creativity coach; currently, he is the MindChamps Dean of Research & Program Development;)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MONKEY ANTICS

I have not read the paper, 'Payment for Sex in a Macaque Mating Market' in the journal, Animal Behaviour, by Asst Prof Michael Gumert, an American primatologist who has joined the NTU's Division of Psychology last year, but I was intrigued by his expert comments about monkey behaviour, as reported in the Sunday Times.

Here is a quick snapshot, from my perspective of reading:

"Studying macaques allows us to see & investigate many facets of social behaviour, such as kin selection, dominance,, social markets & even culture . . . to watch monkeys is to watch a never ending soap opera . . . Indeed, the monkeys' behaviour bear uncanny similarity to that of their human counterparts . . . Adolescent males, for example, are the most unpredictable & the biggest trouble makers . . . They're just like unruly teenaged boys."

"Humans who live on forest fringes complain of monkey's stealing their food & picking their fruits. But to the monkeys, there's no pilfering involved because according to monkey rules, any object that is not being held by anyone is fair game."

Now, I reckon these common expressions in the corporate world certainly make more sense:

"Monkeys see; monkeys do!"

"If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys!"

"Stop monkeying around here!"

In the classic book, 'The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey', authors Kenneth Blanchard & William Oncken even took a humourous jab by cajoling managers with problems to find their own solutions, rather than passing around their "monkeys" on to the backs of others or of their bosses for solution finding.

Interestingly, & no wonder, Robert Pirsig, in his acclaimed book, 'Zen & the Art of Motor-cycle Maintenance' even talked about "monkey mechanics', referring to people who do their jobs mindlessly.

Last, but not least, his pointed remarks pigged my attention, too:

"The less available females are, the greater time a male will spend grooming them during courtship . . . it's an exchange, & grooming seems to increase the likelihood that sex will occur."

Gee, I didn't realise that the reverse is also true.

We see monkeys do; we follow monkeys, too!

This is evident in any young boy-girl relationships, or in any engineered situations as depicted in the hilarious movie, 'Hitch', starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes & Kevin James

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life."

(Abraham Maslow, 1908 –1970; American psychologist; he is noted for his conceptualization of a "hierarchy of human needs", & is considered the father of humanistic psychology;)

THE MAS SELAMAT ESCAPE: BLIND SPOTS AT WORK

Today's issue of the Straits Times has captured the full report by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) & Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng as he detailed the unfortunate events on the day of Mas Selamat's escape, in the Parliament yesterday.

As I read the newspaper report, I was intrigued by one specific word, i.e. "blind-sided", quoted by DPM as he fully concurred with all the findings of the Committee of Inquiry & also accepted all its recommendations.

That specific word brings me to the subject of blind spots, as reflected in the reported shortcomings - a confluence of human errors & physical security lapses - in the whole saga.

In other words, the way I see them, the reported shortcomings were the results of blind spots at work.

Blind spot #1:
The security authorities knew beforehand about the open window of opportunity as seen by the wily old fox, but did not recognise its real potential ramifications, even though they had deliberately sawn off the window latch; worst still, their over-confidence that the other security arrangements within the centre compound were more than adequate;

Blind spot #2:
The authorities had relied - & seemingly dependent - on technology i.e. having CCTV installed, but to their chagrin, the system was not commissioned on the day of the escape, as it was due for upgrading;

Blind spot #3:
Despite being escorted by 3 guards, Selamat was supposed to return his detention garb in exchange for civilian clothes in the locker room, prior to his weekly family visit; obviously, this was a blatant deviation, which worked to his advantage; as a result, he wore two sets of clothing unsuspectingly;

Blind spot #4:
Selamat apparently was allowed to go to the toilet, a seemingly regular routine, to shave & comb his hair; one guard followed him while two others stayed outside the door; he then went into the urinal; took out one pair of trousers & hung them on the door to signify he was answering nature's call under standard operating procedure (wait a minute, why would he need take off his pants in the first place?) - sometimes the door was kept ajar, & at other times closed, as of the day he escaped; he then turned on the water tap - obviously, all part of the wily old fox's elaborate plan to test the vigilance of his captors;

Blind spot #5:
The guard sensing that Selamat was taking too long did not investigate immediately; instead, he alerted the guard outside, who in turn informed the Special Duty Operative, a female officer; the latter informed a fourth person, his Assistant Case Officer, who then went into the toilet to kick down the cubicle door; I would have expected the guard to kick down the door immediately to verify the moment of truth;

Blind spot #6:
Some eleven minutes had elapsed since Selamat first went into the toilet to shave; this reflected the standing operating procedure as well as the chain of command of the centre; worst of all, the public alarm was sounded only four hours later;

[Interestingly, I like to recall the unpleasant incident involving Korean Airlines Flight KAL 007, a Boeing 747 carrying 269 passengers & crew, from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul, South Korea, over the polar route, when it was 'mistakenly & cold-bloodily' shot down by an air-to-air missile from a scrambled Soviet jet fighter twenty five years ago.

I read about a plausible conspiracy theory, which alleged that the incident was engineered by CIA to test the standard operating procedure & the chain of command of the Soviet air defence forces at work.

It was revealed later that a US spy plane on a recon flight along the Soviet air-space periphery was indeed operating within the vicinity where Flight 007 was shot down.

My question here is: what valuable lessons can we draw from here?]

Blind spot #7:
The physical structure of the security fence, the staircase & the roof of the walkway outside the toilet window, which conveniently facilitated Selamat's escape; a helicopter view would have probably discovered the potential security lapse; interestingly, an enactment revealed that the escape based on a possible scenario was over in 49 seconds;

The wily old fox certainly took his own sweet time while under detention to plot, to spot loopholes & lapses in security, & to seize the opportunity to get out of the loo & to go on the loose for good.

In a nutshell, he really knew, from his past escapes, how to exploit & leverage on the acquired blind spots of his captors.

To me, I have learned quite a lot about blind spots.

In fact, to share with readers, there are some interesting perspectives about blind spots:

- sometimes, we see them right in front of us & yet we don't recognise their value or impact;

- sometimes, they are right in front of us, & yet we don't see them, as we are seeing in the wrong direction;

- sometimes, we see them & even acknowledge them, & yet we don't do anything about them;

- it often takes an outsider to see our own blind spots, as in the case with the recent Commission of Inquiry into the Selamat fiasco;

Understanding blind spots helps us to open our eyes & explain why, sometimes, smart people mess up &/or do dumb things.

[For recommended readings on the phenomenon of blind spots, please proceed to my listmania entitled 'A Field Guide to Blindspots Detection & Removal Options' on the Amazon website.]

ARE YOU GAME FOR A BOWL OF TADPOLES?

My gym buddy & I have recently found a new "joint" as an interim place to "unwind", so to speak, after our regular gym practice in the Jurong East Sports Centre.

[Meanwhile, my wife has also found a new friend, a Vietnamese lady married to a Singaporean professional for the last 18 years, plus two new lady friends from Thailand, one of whom is married to a Singaporean businessman; another is a "study mama" (foreigner, usually the mother, who accompanies a child to study in Singapore schools) in Singapore.

After gym practice, they often stay back together to play badminton for an hour in the indoor court.]

The new "joint" is the Yuhua Village Market & Food Court, opposite the HDB Jurong East Branch Office.

It's a wonderful place, as far as abundance & variety of makan (meaning "food" in colloquial Malay terms) specialities are concerned.

One can have heavy stuff, like Sirloin steak, western style, or light stuff, like fish porridge, Cantonese style. There are also plenty snacks of various kinds, from freshly-fried dough fritters to multi-coloured ice kachang or chendol.

Adjoining next door, is a place packed with all kinds of knick knacks for the home. You name it, they probably have it.

Today, to his dismay, my gym buddy's regular ice kachang stall was closed, & so we walked around to explore the food court.

Seeing so many other food stalls around the place, my buddy remarked that Singapore was indeed a great place to live.

We found one new ice kachang stall, with the signboard 'Thailand Deserts', & so he was really glad to be able to satisfy his craving. I ordered a glass of home-cooked barley water, instead.

As we sat down on a nearby table to consume our own favourites, one specific menu item of the stall caught my eyes: Chin Chow Tadpoles. Price S$2/- per bowl.

Intrigued, I went up to the stall-holder to enquire. The friendly stall-holder took out a huge jug to show me the tiny tadpoles. They were actually made from glass jelly, & shaped exactly like tadpoles, with the tail formations, as well as available in multiple colours.

The whole concoction in a bowl essentially consists of the jelly tadpoles, plus black herbal glass jelly cubes, mixed with crushed ice, then topped up with honey & a slice of lime.

In reality, & to me, the jelly tadpoles look really like our magnified human sperms, with their propelling tails that often help to sustain the greatest journey of human evolution. Yak!

My gym buddy & I told the friendly stall-holder that we would come back tomorrow after our gym practice to savour the Chin Chow Tadpoles.

Here is a beautiful photo showing a sampling of the Chin Chow Tadpoles. [I have taken the liberty of lifting it from the Camenberu weblog, a great place to appreciate every meal as an adventure!]

Monday, April 21, 2008

MENTAL TOUGHNESS: A PAINFUL PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I remember vividly, one particular day during the mid-eighties, I had woke up early to go to visit a close Thai buddy (Khun Sirichai) & his family. I was then stationed in Bangkok, Thailand with the UMW Group.

As I walked to the lift lobby of the office building owned by my employer at Suriwong Road, I had a sudden sneeze. [The penthouse located on the 7th floor was my residence.] I felt a sudden jolt in my physical body as well as severe pain in my right leg. I also could not walk properly.

I did not know what was that all about, but with the pain, I still continued to proceed to my buddy's home [I was chauffeur-driven] as originally planned. I told him about it, & he was bewildered.

At his home, I felt that the pain in my right leg was still there, but had somewhat subsided in severity. I also realised that I could not sit down properly.

That evening, when I returned to the penthouse, I realised that I could not go to bed.

I remember that I had rubbed a massive amount of Tiger Balm on my right leg. It helped to relieve my pain momentarily, but not for long. That night, I could not sleep at all, as my right leg was so painful that I could not even lie in bed.

In fact, I stood up whole night against the bedroom wall.

Next morning, upon the advice of my Company Secretary, Mrs Phorntip, I checked into a private hospital in Bangkok.

After a quick examination through X-rays, the doctors discovered that I had suffered from a slipped disc.

No surgery was required, they told me. However I was put through an extensive physio therapeutic program with heat treatment, lumbar traction & deep tissue massage for two weeks. I had to remain at the hospital for observation.

Worst of all, I could not sleep at night at the hospital. I remember that the doctors had prescribed Votaran painkillers to relieve my pain.

After two weeks, I finally allowed to check out of the hospital, but I still felt that the pain in lesser degree was still there.

Upon the advice of my Chairman, Denis Chia, I returned to Singapore immediately to seek treatment from Dr Chacha at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.

Dr Chacha sent me for an MRI scan. After checking the scanned pictures, he did not think surgery was necessary.

Again, I was put through a systematic program of physiotherapy with heat treatment & lumbar traction. I was then given one month's medical leave in Singapore.

Miraculously, the pain eventually went away. I was really happy. I felt good.

However, Dr Chacha had warned me that I should not carry any heavy stuff, not even my briefcase. His physiotherapist had also advised me to continue with the simple physio exercises which she had taught me.

About a year later, I went to New Zealand for a two-week holiday with Catherine.

One of the hotels we had stayed was pretty slow in delivering the bags to the room. On an impulse, I went down to hand carry the bags on my own.

That was my biggest mistake, as I was not supposed to carry heavy stuff. That night, I suffered a pain in my right leg. The same kind of pain I had experienced before.

Upon my return to Singapore from the holidays, I went back to see Dr Chacha again. Off I was sent for another MRI scan. After checking the scans, Dr Chacha recommended immediate surgery this time.

I refused to accept his expert diagnosis, & he sent me again, reluctantly, for physiotherapy.

When I returned to Bangkok, I continued with physiotherapy at the Bangkok hospital. The pain in the right leg came on & off, but as a precaution, I always had my Votaran medication on standby.

It was roughly about this time that I had started to contemplate about my return to Singapore for good.

I had already spent five years in Thailand. All the while, Catherine wasn’t with me, except for the first six months or so. There were times I saw her in Singapore once in about four months, due to my overseas job commitments.

[Catherine had, in fact to my delight, resigned from her secretary’s job in a law firm to follow me to Thailand. She could not get used to the social & cultural lifestyle in Thailand, & also language was a problem; plus, all her close buddies were in Singapore.]

I believed it was luck (or maybe, it was the great spirits at work) - I was head-hunted by a Singapore-based consulting company looking for a professional with Thailand market experience.

[On the other hand, the UMW Group went through a very tough patch during that period, & could not absorb me back in their Singapore operations.]

My new employer was Swedish Business Development Centre (SBDC), & I was happy to start work with them as a Senior Consultant in June or July 1987.

About a month or two into my consulting job, the severe pain in my right leg came back to haunt me.

Worst of all, & for some strange reasons, the pain had started to become more unbearable, even with the heavy dosage of Votaran medication.

I had even explored chiropractics but that didn’t work well for me, although I had thoroughly enjoyed the sessions.

Following close consultation with my Dr Chacha & Catherine, I reluctantly decided to opt for surgery, which had been my last resort.

I told my Swedish boss (Bjorn Bengtssen), who was naturally very concerned, as I would be out of action for at least two months, according to Dr Chacha’s assessment.

However, I told my boss confidently that I would be back as soon as I had completed my surgery. I was very adamant about my immediate return to the office.

All the while, I was the least concerned about my surgery &/or post-surgery recovery.

In fact, I was more concerned about my outstanding work in the consulting firm. In reality, I had realised that my mind was extremely focused on what I needed to do when I got back into the office.

The surgery was scheduled for 9th August 1987 at the Mount Avernia Hospital in Upper Thomson Road. I had deliberately chosen the particular day. It was a Sunday.

Being Singapore’s national day, the next day was a public holiday. I believed that I had checked into the hospital on the morning of 8th August.

Having done my own personal research on post-surgery recovery, as well as having read a lot of books about the power of creative imagery, relaxation sequences & mental rehearsal, I naturally played in my mind all the possible scenarios of getting back to work after the surgery.

I knew the power of the mind, & what it could do, & I was very determined to put it to work in my own case.

To my delight, - & I was sure that Dr Chacha felt likewise -, the surgery went smoothly.

I remember vividly when I was wheeled out of the operating theatre, I had already regained my consciousness. The first friendly face I saw was, of course, Dr Chacha’s. I recall that my first question to him was when could I check out of the hospital?

In fact, I had stayed in the hospital for another day, & eventually checked out on 11th August.

I had to return to the office on 12th August, since I had a scheduled Scandinavian visitor in town.

My Swedish boss was back in Sweden. My only other consulting colleague, Ng Soo Wah, was back in Kuala Lumpur as he was based there.

With the help of a lumbar support from the hospital, I was able to walk slowly. Naturally, Catherine was worried like hell. I borrowed my boss’ Volvo [I haven’t bought my car then, after having returned from Thailand] & picked up the unsuspecting visitor.

I remember vividly that I had brought him to the Science Park at Kent Ridge for meeting with a local company. My office receptionist, Janice, was kind enough to accompany me in the Volvo with the visitor, just in case.

I continued to return to work, with my tightly-fitted lumbar support, of course, & also fortunately, much of my consulting work that followed in subsequent weeks was desk-bound.

In my subsequent post-surgery reviews with Dr Chacha, I had found that he was certainly not amused by my determined antics, but I reckon he was undoubtedly impressed. I had found out that he had often bragged to his other patients that I was his only patient, who had not followed the two-month resting period after a slipped disc surgery.

Anyway, I knew my boss was certainly impressed too, since I had returned to work as I had originally envisaged from the very beginning.

To me, that was mental toughness at work, at least from my personal perspective.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Where was I most inspired this past week?

THE SKILLS OF SUPER ACHIEVERS

Take the free test, designed by Nightingale-Conant, a World Leader in Personal Development since 1961, & see if you have the skills of super achievers.

Getting what you want out of life isn’t about IQ, education, or luck; it’s about mastering the skills & mindset that separate the super achievers from the rest.

The good news is that these skills are learnable.

The free test will score you in 5 key areas (discipline, passion, risk, optimism, & interpersonal skills) & compare you to super achievers.

For me, the results reveal interesting aspects about what specific areas or aspects that require immediate attention & action for improvement.

Go ahead. It’s fun, easy, enlightening … & only takes 5 minutes.

Best of all, you'll get to learn a lot about yourself.

HEY! FLINTSTONES' BIKES EXIST!

These awesome wooden bikes actually belong to the natives of the mountains in Baguio City in the Philippines, as reported in a recent issue of the Straits Times.


To me, this is another physical manifestation of human ingenuity.

DINNER IN THE SKY

From the marketing standpoint, thinking out-of-the-box can produce some fantastic entrepreneurial results.

For example, can you imagine having dinner in the sky, with a table for 22, complete with chef, waiters & musicians, while suspended 50 m above ground?

Read the exploit of a young entrepreneur, David Ghysels, who did & created a very unique, top-of-the-world dining experience in the process.

Here's the link to more amazing pictures.

“It’s a little surreal, but we realized people were getting bored with just going to the same old restaurants. They wanted to try something different. So we decided to push the boundaries. The sky’s the limit!”

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Anyone can be happy, no matter what his circumstances are . . . To achieve life satisfaction, you have to have positive emotions, engagement & meaning in your life."

from Dr Martin Seligman, a pioneer in the field of positive psychology & author of the 'Authentic Happiness' book, which has been translated into 20 languages; he was in Singapore recently for the 'Asian New Science of Happiness & Well-being Conference', organised by the Global Leadership Academy;)

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."

(Samuel Ullman, 1840-1924, German-born American poet; best known today for his poem, 'Youth', which was a favorite of General MacArthur; the poem was on the wall of his office in Tokyo when he became Supreme Allied Commander in Japan; in addition, he often quoted from the poem in his speeches, leading to it becoming better known in Japan than in the United States;)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What if I wake up one morning to find out that I am the last person on planet earth?

GROWING OLDER, NOT GROWING OLD

Veteran psychologist Anthony Yeo has written another beautiful piece under the byline, 'Lifelines', in today's issue of the Sunday Times, drawing on his personal experience in crossing 60 this year.

I particularly like the way he clearly differentiates 'growing older' from 'growing old', as well as making the distinction between 'living a fruitful & meaningful life' & 'living a productive life'.

His ardent pursuit as reflected in the ending part of the foregoing piece is certainly worth emulating:

". . . I seek to embrace moments of each day, to treasure relationships with people who mean something to me & to leave behind a legacy in being a blessing to others. In sum, I seek not happiness but satisfaction, contentment & fruitfulness in growing older. I do not want to grow old."

Thanks, Anthony, for sharing.

Here's the link.

QUIET TIME, WHITE SPACE

I was piqued, in some way, by today's horoscope reading in the Sunday Times, under Aries:

"You're going through some serious weirdness today, but it's nothing that can't be balanced with a bit of quiet time. In fact, that's just what you need to figure it all out."

I still haven't figure out what that meant.

Nevertheless, for me, Sunday is always a rest day, as I don't have to go to the gym. I often spend most of my Sundays at home with my wife.

Normally, on Sunday mornings, my wife & I will pop into the neighbourhood market, first for a quick breakfast at the nearby food-court, & then off to look for fresh fishes & vegetables in the market.

Once in a blue moon, we may take a short bus ride down to Jurong Point for a quick brunch, to be followed by window shopping, our favourite past time on weekends.

Coming back to my horoscope reading, well I must say, I have yet to do anything weird or to encounter any weirdness.

All I know, I am really enjoying my quiet time for today.

For me, quiet time is:

Blogging. Surfing the net. Watching the television. Skimming or scanning a book. Going through my idea scratchpads. Listen to my favourite music, especially Relax with the Classics.

Also, talking to my wife, as she hangs out in the kitchen, preparing lunch for the day. Sometimes, we skip lunch & in that case, she will be preparing dinner for the evening.

Occasionally, my gym buddy calls me for a drink in the neighbourhood cafe.

Quiet time is good for the mind & the body.

Innovation catalyst, John Kao, likes to call it white space. He plays the piano & listens to music.

In fact, when he flew into Singapore a couple of months ago, he said he thoroughly enjoyed the 18 hours of white space in the plane.

In today's fast-paced 24/7 world, we need to plan for all the quiet time or white space we can get.

It's just a matter of prioritising.

If weirdness comes knocking, I am always ready.

SAME PROBLEM, BUT DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES

According to the Friday's issue of the Straits Times, one drinks seller at a coffee shop in Jurong West complained to Minister Lim Boon Heng that she felt threatened by a sweet young lady from China who sells beer at the same joint.

She was worried that allowing such foreigners to work at coffee shops would undercut her wages. She was already working two jobs to make ends meet.

But the Minister saw things differently, & his pragmatic response piqued my attention:

"The co-worker was drawing men in droves to the coffee shop. This meant brisk business which, in turn, helped the local drinks lady keep her job . . . Obviously, if Tiger or Carlsberg asks this mature lady to sell beer, it will not have the same result."

I fully concur with the Minister: Every person, local or foreign, has their own strengths, at least from the broader perspective.

IS GEYLANG BOOM TOWN OR COWBOY TOWN?

Today's issue of 'The New Paper on Sunday' carries a fascinating article on Geylang.

I thought James Lai, 55, the genial uncle with the floral shirt who runs a furnishing shop in the area sums up the sentiments best:

"Even old men have their needs. China girls are actually helping the Government to take care of our senior citizens . . . Even a civilised country needs a place like Geylang . . . It's a matter of yin & yang . . . No other place in Singapore has such a balance, such harmony."

WHAT ARE THE STUMBLING BLOCKS TO MEMORY RECALL?

Nishant Kasibhatla, senior consultant of Training Edge International & world record holder & the only Grand Master of Memory & International Master of Memory in Singapore, offers his answers to the foregoing question:

1) Disbelief in your memory capacity;

2) Lack of Interest in what you are learning;

3) Disuse of the information you have learned;

LOOKING AT THINGS DIFFERENTLY

Alan Fairweather, The Motivation Doctor, related this interesting story to register a point:

Two men used to leave the same office every night & walk to the bus stop. On the way, one of the men would stop & buy a newspaper from a news stand at the side of the road.

The old man who ran the news stand was always grumpy & ill-mannered. However, the man who bought the newspaper was always polite & courteous to the old man. One evening, the man's friend said: "I don't understand why you're always so polite & courteous to that guy, he's always so rude."

The man replied: "I will not allow the man's behaviour to decide mine. I will decide my own behaviour & I'll always treat him with courtesy & respect; how he behaves is up to him."

So, when you are dealing with other people, think to yourself:

"Do they decide how I'll behave or do I decide how I'll behave?"

[For more information, visit this link.]

MANAGE LESS, INSPIRE MORE

Ms Peony Lim of Robert Walters, a global management consultancy, offers some insights on how managers can effectively get the most out of their staff & motivate them to put in their best ways:

1) Adopt a people-focused culture;

2) Be a leader, not a manager;

3) Encourage risk taking & innovation;

4) Stretch & challenge by setting & exacting high standards of performance;

HOW DO I KEEP THE CONTAGIOUS EFFECT OF NEGATIVITY FROM RUBBING ON ME?

The key to staying positive despite the direst circumstances, according to Sarita Maybin, author of 'If You Can't Say Something Nice, What Do You Say', is to ask yourself the following questions:

1) Is it personal?

2) Is it permanent?

3) Is it the big picture?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"To be a great champion, you must believe you are the best. If you are not, pretend you are."

(Muhammad Ali, World Champion Boxer)