Saturday, May 17, 2008

EARLY WARNING SYSTEM OR READING EARLY SIGNALS

It was very intriguing for me to read about the following brief news report in the Straits Times a few days ago.

Two days just before the earthquake in Sichuan, the Chinese media had reported thousands of migrating toads on the streets of Manzhu, about 60km south-east of the worst hit areas.

It seemed that the small amphibians had reacted quickly & in advance to the faintest early tremors that went unnoticed by earthquake sensors.

I read that animals often have the natural ability to detect earth vibrations or electro-magnetic interferences in the ground.

It would be very interesting & very useful too for humans to learn more about the super-sensitivity of such animals, e.g toads, which are seemingly well attuned to signals from earthquakes.

Hopefully along the way as well as in the same vein, we can use the knowledge gained to help entrepreneurs, managers & professionals to detect & read early signals from market changes in the business landscape.

This maybe a very long shot, but Mother Nature has always been a great teacher.

For me, I am always fascinated by the art of strategic anticipation.

READING BOOKS SELECTIVELY (& IT'S FREE!) IN HYPERSPACE

I love to read. Reading is my passion.

It all started with comics, like 'Beano' & 'Dandy', when I was growing up as a teenager in my hometown, Yong Peng, Johor, in Malaysia.

In those days, especially when the mamak stall (a colloquial term for a magazine kiosk ran by Muslim Indians) in my hometown did not carry enough stock, I recall I had to take a long bus ride to another bigger town (Batu Pahat) to acquire back issues of my favourite magazines.

When I was a working pro, I often joined the libraries of NUS & NTU as an external member to gain access to books I wanted to read.

Today, life is very much different, as far as reading is concerned, & especially with the advent of online publishers as well as web bookstores on the Internet.

Also, we have the ready availability of powerful search tools like Amazon Online Reader & Google Reader.

I often spend many afternoons browsing magazines, newsletters, journals & books in hyperspace (also, with the objective of getting new ideas for my personal weblogs).

For books, Amazon.com website is one of my favourite haunts, among many others.

Whenever I read, irrespective of whether it's a newspaper, a book, a magazine, a journal, a newsletter or even a advertising pamphlet, I always pay particular attention to new books highlighted or recommended bibliography.

In other words, I always have an ongoing or evolving checklist with me, as far as new books are concerned.

With the checklist, I then search & hunt for more information about the mentioned books on Amazon.com website, which is my first choice.

If the 'Table of Contents' or 'Excerpt' is listed, then selective browsing of the inside pages is a breeze with the Amazon Online Reader.

Sometimes, prior to that, I will read the editorials &/or the published book reviews, positive as well as negative, if any, to form a quick picture.

It often needs some patience as well as ingenuity on my part, since the Amazon Online Reader has been deliberately designed to hang up for intellectual copyright reasons after a few inside pages.

If not, then I will try out the Google Reader, which is less restrictive in use. Sometimes, for some strange reasons, & if I am really lucky, I can almost access the book in its entirety.

For me, the inside pages facility is a real gem.

Failing both approaches, I will use my old faithful Copernic Agent Pro to do an intelligent search in hyperspace.

Often, the search results will inadvertently lead me to many quirky places - web logs, websites, online journals, publishers, book clubs, & even video clips & podcasts, etc., - which I will never think of, but will still provide me with much unexpectedly useful information.

Such searches, focused as well as unfocused, have led me successfully to download many complete classic business & management books in .pdf versions.

The French consultant Michel Godet's early book on scenario planning is one of them.

However, I must point out, you need patience & diligence to play around with key words as well as sniffing through massive loads of web information.

Sometimes, serendipity holds the key to a successful endeavour.

To my pleasant delight, a handful of established publishers are beginning to display some of their publications electronically in their entirety.

The book, 'Medici Effect: What Elephants & Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation' by Frans Johansson, is one quick example.

For me, both the Amazon Online Reader & the Google Reader - & not forgetting the Copernic Agent Pro - are excellent handy tools for book lovers like me, especially when I have absolutely no intention to buy some of the new books, simply because they offer no or little ground-breaking or new stuff as originally claimed.

With the intelligent combination of the foregoing tools, & some imagination, reading books selectively in hyperspace is a real breeze!

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What would I do if I could really achieve all that I so ardently desire?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“The long span of the bridge of your life is supported by countless cables called habits, attitudes, & desires. What you do in life depends upon what you are & what you want. What you get from life depends upon how much you want it — how much you are willing to work & plan & cooperate & use your resources. The long span of the bridge of your life is supported by countless cables that you are spinning now, & that is why today is such an important day. Make the cables strong!”

~L. G. Elliott

Friday, May 16, 2008

LEARNING FROM THE MOVIES: 'GOAL! THE DREAM BEGINS'

I am not a football fan, although I had been to a real foot-ball stadium, & that was about thirty years ago. It was in Dortmund, West Germany, where I was undergoing factory training with O & K Orenstein Kopel AG.

A German service engineer had invited me to watch a foot-ball match between the home team & a team from Munich, during one weekend. I can't recall who won, but to me that was the first & the last time I had seen a real foot-ball game.

Since I am not a football fan, I don't watch the EPL or World Cup on television. In fact, I just don't understand why people can get so frenzy with watching foot-ball matches on television.

The last time I had seen a foot-ball match on television was while watching the action movie, 'Escape to Victory'. It starred Sylvester Stallone & Michael Caine, plus a handful of real-world foot-ballers - Pele, Bobby Moore - I could not recognise the others.

The movie was about a foot-ball match between a ragtag group of Allied prisoners & a German foot-ball team, which the Nazis had originally planned to promote as a propaganda event during WWII. To the chagrin of their German captors, the Allied prisoners had used the closing of the game as a brilliant escape with the spectators.

Last night, after channel surfing, & also checking out the synopsis, I finally settled down to watch a movie entitled 'Goal! The Dream Begins'.

Frankly, all the actors or actress in the movie were unknown, at least to me, with the exception of Tony Plana, whom I last saw as the prison warden in the action movie, 'Half Past Dead', opposite Steven Seagal, who played an undercover agent.

In a nutshell, the movie traced the exploits of a young Mexican immigrant, Santiago Nunez (played by Huno Decker, a Latin American actor) from Los Angeles, working in the building maintenance crew with his divorced father (played by Tony Plana).

He often dreamed of becoming an international foot-ball star. In fact, he spent most of his evenings in street-corner matches.

One day, while dribbling with his ball, he was spotted by Glen, a visiting talent scout from UK, who was a retired foot-ball player with Premiership Club Newcastle United.

Glen called his ex-boss/club manager, Erik, to inform him of his talent finding. Erik agreed to give the young man an opportunity, & Glen invited Santiago to come to UK.

Santiago's hard-headed father was dead against the whole idea, as he believed that the entire family could only made it through hard-work by setting up their own building maintenance business. To discourage the son, the father even snatched part of the son's own meagre savings to pump into the new business.

Fortunately, his grand-mother was supportive of his dreams, & managed to get him an air-ticket & some cash to fly to UK via Mexico city.

Upon arrival, he got in touch with Glen, who invited him to stay in his private home. Glen then arranged for him to go for his "screen test" under the watchful eye of Erik.

It was raining heavily that fateful day, & the foot-ball grounds were a muddy mess, & so poor Santiago flunked his first "screen test".

Glen pleaded to Erik to give the young man a chance. Santiago got one month to prove himself.

At this point, the movie traced his trials & tribulations as a rookie in the premiership club. As usual in most movies, he also got romantically entangled with a beautiful nurse. He also got teamed up with another newly recruited footballer, Gavin, from Germany.

The latter was a night owl & party animal, who introduced him to the booze, the parties, the clubbing, & the women, often associated with the decadent lifestyle of foot-ball stars we read in the papers.

Santiago (as well as Gavin) almost got kicked out of the club, if not for the unwavering support of Glen, the nurse/girl-friend, the coach, & of course, the club manager/boss, Erik, who truly saw the raw talent in the young man.

It was quite fun to watch Erik showing the young man the importance of being a team player in a club, & sharing some important pointers about game discipline.

I like one particular confrontation dialogue between Erik & Santiago, who uttered: "The only one who can tell me I'm not good enough is you. And even then I may not agree with you."

Of course, the movie ended with a critical match in London, where both Santiago & Gavin finally demonstrated their natural ballistic prowess with their heads & legs.

I have really enjoyed watching the movie. Despite some minor technical goofs here & there, & from an overall standpoint, it has been entertaining & warm to watch. Interestingly, David Beckham had a cameo role in the movie.

For me, it also has many interesting learning points.

In the course of pursuing our fondest dreams, one should always remember all the people who cared, especially those who have extended their encouragement &/or help in one way or another as we move forward.

In the case of Santiago, his grand-mother, his mentor in the person of Glen, his girl-friend, his coach in the club, & of course, the club manager/boss, Erik, all played their contributing part in his journey to personal success.

Even his hard-headed father, who often refused to acknowledge the son's phone calls whenever the latter had called home, had drilled into him the importance of standing up for himself, with no excuses whatsoever.

In fact, the father was very proud of his son, when he happened to witness one of his son's foot-ball matches on television, while visiting a local pub in Los Angeles.

This important fact was only made known to Santiago by the grandmother, after the father had died of a sudden heart attack on a job site. The earlier news about his father's unexpected demise had somewhat tormented him, thus affected his training.

This personal realisation about his father's eventual acknowledgement certainly gave him the necessary closure to move on with his own life as a foot-ball star. In fact, that was his defining moment, as he had earlier made several vain attempts to seek understanding & recognition from his angry father.

What I am saying in the end analysis is that, warm support of the spouse &/or family plays a very important role in one's journey in life.

WHERE SHOULD WE SPEND OUR TIME?


TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Fantasizing about the future is one of my favorite pastimes."

(Maverick billionaire entrepreneur & adventurer Richard Branson; also founder of the Virgin group of more than 250 companies, from gyms, gambling houses & bridal boutiques to fleets of planes, trains & limousines; the man even owns his own island;)

WE GOT TO LIVE OUR LIVES TO THE FULLEST

The following remarks by BANYAN Tree Holdings' Executive Chairman, Ho Kong Ping, as reported in today's Straits Times, caught my personal attention, as he described his close shave on board an aircraft that was about to take off from Chengdu airport when Monday's earthquake struck.

The flight was headed for Hong Kong & the aircraft was taxiing along the tarmac when it was jolted repeatedly.

'I actually thought that the plane's tyres had punctured because we were just rocking back and forth,' he said.

The plane then stopped abruptly on the runway.

'If the earthquake had happened 30 seconds later, when the plane was about to take off, I think we would all...' he trailed off, leaving the worst unsaid.

It showed 'how fragile life is & how everything is due to luck', he added.

We don't have to wait for a natural catastrophe to hit us into realising that how fragile life is.

We just got to live our lives to the fullest.

We must seize the opportunity to learn as many things as possible. We must do the things we always love to do, & more importantly, not forget to help others along the way.

I like to leave this quote from Mahatma Gandhi as food for thought:

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever."

THE ULTIMATE SUCCESS FORMULA (USF)

This is what I have gleaned from the book, 'Quantum Success: The Astounding Science of Wealth & Happiness', by Sandra Taylor, as the 'ultimate success formula':

1) Commit to your goal;

2) Set up your step by step plan;

3) Take your daily actions;

4) Let go of any attachment without stopping your action;

She lists out two major obstacles:

1) Engaging in limiting beliefs;

2) Giving up to soon;

In a nut shell, at least from my personal perspective, the book does not offer any ground-breaking or astounding stuff, but I certainly like the simplicity & clarity of her approach to wealth & happiness.

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

Thursday, May 15, 2008

THE ART OF WOO

The foregoing post title is actually the title of a new book by Professor Richard Shell (of Wharton) & Mario Moussa.

It's secondary title is 'Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas'. In fact, it has attracted me to the book in the first place.

I have always been fascinated by the subject of selling ideas to others.

According to the two authors, "woo" is defined as the ability to "win others over" to your ideas or initiatives without coercion, using relationship-based, emotionally intelligent persuasion.

In other words, how to sell your ideas to the entire organisation, one person at a time.

The authors also presents a simple, four-step approach to the idea-selling process.

First, you need to polish your ideas & survey the social networks that will lead them to decision makers.

Second, you need to confront what the authors call "the five barriers":

- unreceptive beliefs;
- conflicting interests;
- negative relationships;
- a lack of credibility;
- failing to adjust one's communication mode to suit a particular audience or situation;

Third, you need to pitch your idea in a compelling manner.

Last, you need to secure both individual & organizational commitments.

The two authors also highlights the top three mistakes that people make in selling ideas.

The #1 mistake is "egocentric bias," or "focusing on yourself instead of your audience".

The #2 mistake is the belief that there are no systematic strategies to persuade people to accept an idea.

The #3 mistake is to forget about organizational politics.

In the end analysis after reading the book, I reckon that persuading &/or influencing others in an organization to accept & act on your ideas & initiatives is just a matter of strategy.

This is what the book is essentially all about.

There is also an useful self-assessment in the book to discover your persuasion style. This assessment will help determine if you are a 'Driver', 'Commander', 'Chess Player', 'Promoter' or 'Advocate'.

One's influencing skills are determined by defining which of these five persuasion styles is yours.

Then, you can overcome your weaknesses by turning them into strengths.

The two author draws quite heavily on major political leaders in history (Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Nelson Mandela), & past/present business thought leaders (Charles Lindbergh, Andrew Grove, Bono, Charles Kettering, J P Morgan, John Rockefella, Andrew Carnegie, Sam Walton) to illustrate key ideas in the book.

On the whole, this 300-page book has been quite an entertaining read. I must say that the probing questions within the four-step approach as well as the final questionnaire for wooers are certainly well worth the price of the book.

[I like to recommend two other excellent books to be read in this genre: 'Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story', by Jerry Weissman & 'Powerful Proposals: How to Give Your Business the Winning Edge', by David Pugh & Terry Bacon.]

SELLING YOUR IDEAS & RESPONDING TO YOUR CLIENTS

Please consider this latest post as companion reading to my earlier post on 'Selling Your Ideas'.

Laura Wayne, Sales Consultant of Impact Communications, Inc., writing in her article, 'How to Sell Like a CEO, When Your’re Not!', offered the following three key considerations when selling your ideas & responding to your clients:

1) Fulfilling the need;

2) Differentiating from the competition;

3) Having confidence/conviction in your proposition;

Here's the link to the original article.

A ROUND-UP OF QUICK NOTES II

[Quick Notes refer to my own syntheses as well as responses to regular articles in the Straits Times' CATS Recruit Page.]

When you engage people better, you become more persuasive & influential.

I reckon, in neuro-linguistic programming or NLP, the folks call it 'rapport building'.

Philip Hesketh, an associate consultant with d'Oz International & author of 'Life's a Game so Fix the Odds', offers three great things you can say to influence people positively:

1) "How do you feel about that?"

- if you have a conflicting view, you then need to add to it by saying:

"If I were you I would feel the same way. What can we do to address the issue together?"

2) "I can see it from your point of view . . . & (instead of 'but') . . . ?"

3) "I'll tell you what I think you're really good at"

Don Doman, owner of 'Ideas & Training', a business training outfit, explained why we should 'Give Good Employees Their Due'.

He said impersonal recognition is as bad as not giving it at all.

He quoted a USA Today article by Maggie Fox:

"A snub really does feel like a kick in the gut. The feeling is familiar to anyone who has been passed over in picking teams or snubbed at a party - a sickening, almost painful feeling in the stomach."

According to Annah Salleh of ABC Science Online, mentioned in his article:

"A social snub & a big toe snub can generate a similar response in the brain [with functional magnetic imaging], suggesting emotional & physical pain are more closely related that was previously thought."

Wow! A few kind words can really sooth hurt feelings.

To paraphrase the author, recognition motivates. Thoughtlessness produces just the opposite effect.

So, all bosses out there, don't play dumb, as by now you should know what to do in order to enhance your employee productivity.

In his article, 'To Quit or Not to Quit', Joshua Yin, CEO & founder of Achieve Group of Companies, drew his inspired 3-circle intersecting model from the work of Jim Collin's best selling book, 'Good to Great' to form what he termed as a workable 'Happiness at Work' evaluation tool to help you think about what you want out of a career before taking any action:

Circle 1: Skills & competences;

Ask: what are my personal strengths & talents? What am I good at?

Circle 2: Passion;

Ask: what do I really love doing?

Circle 3: Economic viability;

Ask: is my income equitable to the hard work & long hours I put in?

The area where the 3 circles intersect represented work-life sustainability & happiness, & determined how successful you would be in your career & life.

As the author had emphasised, the model allowed us to look closely at & weigh the pros & cons of a career move. At the end of it all, it's all about taking ownership of the decision. At least, it's an informed decision.

A ROUND-UP OF QUICK NOTES

[Quick Notes refer to my own syntheses as well as responses to regular articles in the Straits Times' CATS Recruit Page.]

Patricia Fripp, a success coach from San Francisco, suggested that as employees, we should always 'Have an owner's mindset'.

She illustrated her article appropriately with the 'law of sow & reap'. She pointed out that the successes you reap as an employee would be the results of the positive energy & hard work that you have put in for the employer.

I particularly like what she wrote further:

"No company is perfect. As long as you are accepting a paycheck, you should keep your gripes to yourself & concentrate on some of the positive aspects of your company . . .

. . . People who constantly complain about their jobs, their companies & their colleagues, who goof off or don't give their best, are really robbing themselves of the most exciting & rewarding opportunity in life: the chance to feel great about themselves! . . .

. . . Don't cheat. Do everything as if you owned the company.'

Well said, Patricia.

Tony Jacowski, a quality analyst for 'The MBA Journal', called for a professional attitude at work & suggested 7 things en employee should avoid at the work place:

1) taking extended breaks;

2) coming in late everyday & leaving early as well as misusing work hours i.e, tardiness;

3) talking loudly or conducting completely irrelevant discussions at work;

4) having untidy habits at work or in the cafeteria;

5) dwelling on personal issues at work;

6) not thinking before you speak;

7) expressing emotions too vividly;

So, all employee out there, please take note if you want to earn the respect of your boss & your peers!

Success is always about working towards what you want to achieve. It all boils down to goal setting.

Nikhil Desai, a motivational trainer with ST Training Solutions, offered the following advice:

1) Set smart goals - [besides your goals being specific, measurable, attainable, realistic & time-bound, I strongly feel that they must also be motivating to you;]

2) Put your mind to it;

3) be enthusiastic;

4) take effective actions - [always remember the story of the 3 frogs sitting on the lily pod, 2 of which only decided to jump;]

5) avoid procrastination;

His ending remark:

"People don't fail because they intend to fail. They fail because they fail to do what they intend to do."

You got it, man.

I totally disagree with the author on one point:

He said that "an achievement is a sum total of many things: talent, aptitude, knowledge & desire," when he said that Conrad Hilton was right in quoting "Success is made to order".

I believe it should be 'attitude', & not 'aptitude', because attitude will determine your altitude.

David Goldwich, author of 'Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? Lessons in Effective Communication' shared some illumination about assertiveness.

He defined assertiveness as "the ability to stand up for yourself, without stepping on any one's toes. It is the ability to express yourself in a manner that is clear, direct, specific & considerate. It means saying what you mean & meaning what you say, confidently."

He agreed that most people were not born assertive [Studies show that only 5 to 20% of the population is assertive.], but emphasised that assertiveness, like any other critical life skill, is a strategy that could be learned.

Using real-world examples of thought leaders like Lee Kuan Yew, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi & Martin Luther King, he offered 3 ways to becoming more assertive:

1) Eliminate unassertive habits:

i) behaviours: e.g. avoid eye contact, slouching, speaking too softly, being indecisive, or minimising importance of your own needs;

ii) gestures: e.g. a passive personality, fawning, scratching, fidgeting, preening & putting your hands in your pockets;

iii) speech patterns: e.g. rambling or uncertain statements, frequent justifications or apologies, & putting yourself down;

2) Act as if you were assertive:

- adopt assertive behaviours such as maintaining good posture, looking people in the eye, moving with confidence & purpose & being decisive;

- speak with confidence & at a relaxed pace, express your needs clearly & directly & be considerate of others;

3) Craft assertive statements:

When someone says or does something that offends you, the assertive option is the following 3-step formula:

i) offer a non-judgemental description of the offending behaviour;

ii) state your feelings;

iii) describe the consequences of the behaviour;

These steps are easier said than done, but nevertheless worth exploring. I reckon it takes a little bit of practice to make it work naturally.

[to be continued in the Next Post]

TECHNOLOGY OF THE FUTURE: UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN

A couple of weeks ago, the Science page of the Straits Times carried a feature article on the grand challenges of engineering.

Its common theme of 14 top engineering challenges set out this year by an expert panel is:

The technology of the future, especially in health care, travel & information, will be made personal.

The panel consists of thought leaders from the American National Academy of Engineering & American Academy of Science, & also technopreneur Ray Kurzweil, biologist Craig Venter, inventor Dean Kamen & Google co-founder Larry Page.

Prof Jackie Ying, head of the Institute of Bio-engineering & Nanotechnology in Singapore, is one of only two Asians in the expert panel.

According to her, the panel's choices fell under four themes essential for humanity to flourish:

- sustainability;
- health;
- reducing vulnerability;
- the joy of living;

I am most glad to note than 'Understanding the Brain' has been listed as one of the 14 grand challenges.

Looks like there will be excellent job opportunities & career prospects for engineers.

[More information is available at this link.]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MARKETING SUCCESS TO THE WORLD OF SCHOOLING

I have come to perceive that purveyors of motivational camps to create student success are gradually churning out their own publications to enhance their marketing results in Singapore.

Is it a trend or just a tactical manoeuvre to capture greater market share in a hotly contested marketplace? Remember, Singapore has only slightly more than 4 million people, including one million foreign talent.

'Learning Mastery Pte Ltd.', the company behind the SuperTeen Holiday Camps, has just released its latest publication, 'The Joys & Pains of Growing Up: 17 Principles Every Youth Must Know', written by one of their SuperTeen graduates, Peter Lau.

I have already reviewed this book in my other weblog, 'The Study Smart Smorgasbord'.

To my surprise, this new book has yet to hit the stores.

I am sure that most folks are already familiar with the earlier best-selling book, 'I am Gifted, So Are You', written by Adam Khoo, an earlier SuperTeen graduate, during the late nineties.

I have already reviewed this book in an earlier post.

This particular book has in fact helped Adam Khoo to launch his own training outfit, under the trade name of 'Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Pte Ltd'. The launch actually happened during 2002 0r 2003, immediately after he broke ranks with his mentor, Dr Ernest Wong, who currently runs the SuperTeen Holiday Camps.

Drawing on his entrepreneurial flair, & riding on his earlier success, Adam Khoo has moved on to write & publish a few other books to promote his other training business interests, e.g. neuro-linguistic programming or NLP, wealth creation & Internet marketing.

For a short while, these two smart guys have been the undisputed kingpins in the marketplace, until MindChamps from Australia came into the scene during the early 21st century.

Fueled by the financial muscle of local business tycoon, Quek Leng Beng of the Hong Leong Group in 2007, plus the collaboration of two local stalwart educators, MindChamps have in recent months carved a sizeable niche in the competitive marketplace.

[Please read my earlier post.]

In fact, early this year, MindChamps have released their debut book, 'Deeper than the Ocean: How the Learning Brain is Formed', written by their two founders, David Chiem & Brian Caswell.

I understand this debut book has been designated as the forerunner, Volume I, of a series of other books to be released in due course, which includes:

- Volume II: 'The Art of Communicating with Your Child';
- Volume III: 'The Art of Learning How to Learn';
- Volume IV: 'The Art of Creative Thinking';

I have already read the first book - great stuff! - & will review it shortly in my weblog.

Meanwhile, the competition intensity among the three foregoing purveyors is getting apparently very intense, judging from the extremely high frequency of their respective testimonial ads in the daily newspapers.

Free gifts are being generously offered to attract people just to sign up for their weekend previews, which have also been turned into some sort of mini-seminars for parents.

One purveyor is even offering S$300/- cash for each referral upon signing up for the camp.

Worst still, the intense competition is gradually revealing its ugly head.

For example, MindChamps, writing in the 'Deeper than the Ocean' book (on page 64), have warned parents to "beware of programs built around the work of one guru - often these people develop a cult following among their employees & presenters, who blindly repeat the 'wisdom' of their mentor & unsubstantiated claims, without ever questioning its scientific basis."

They are obviously targeting at the two other entrenched competitors.

On the other hand, a trainer in the SuperTeen Holiday Camp, writing in his personal weblog, under the dateline of 25th April 2008, has asked readers to specifically check out a particular but unnamed competitor's "Advertisements that made Big Claims . . . Who Should You Trust?".

In my mind, a discerning reader/observer can definitely tell that such a exhortation runs smack of the pot calling the kettle black.

Quietly in their own way, 'Quantum Learning Network Pte Ltd.', has also made successful inroads into the hotly contested marketplace.

They run the internationally known SuperCamp programs from the United States, which had first entered Singapore during the early nineties, under the auspices of other marketing companies.

Bobbi dePorter, the founder of the SuperCamp programs (with Eric Jensen), has in fact written 18 great books for businesspeople, parents & teens.

Her first book was 'Quantum Learning: Unleashing the Genius in You', published in mid-1992, in which she shared many of SuperCamp's student success secrets.

Readers can go to Amazon.com website to check out all her books, a few of which has been remodeled for business &/or teaching applications.

I have also learned that two of her former master trainers, Mark Reardon & Rich Allen, have also written their own training books.

In fact, the success of the SuperCamp programs had also been featured in the best-selling book, 'Learning Revolution', by Jeannette Vos & Gordon Dryden, published a few years just after 'Quantum Learning'.

Interestingly, the author, Jeannette Vos, has earned her doctorate in education (Northern Arizona University) after a 7-year empirical research study into the world's most effective method of rapid, fun-filled learning, based on the perceptions of 6,042 SuperCamp graduates age 12-22 during the early nineties.

This is a slice of the results from her research:

- 68% showed increased motivation;

- 73% showed improved grades;

- 81% showed more confidence;

- 84% showed increase self-esteem;

- 96% retained positive attention toward SuperCamp;

- 98% continued to use the skills learned;

As a bookstore owner before, I am most aware of this development:

When come to learning books that are associated with the respective motivational camps, most parents of camp graduates are very generous in their purchase requisitions. As long as their children want to have them as mementos, money is no object.

So, self-published books are big business in their own way. Their retail sales definitely add on to the gross marketing revenue of the purveyors, on top of contributing additionally to the marketing success of their motivational camps.

My best wishes to all the purveyors out there!

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true."

(attributed to Buddha)

RAMBLING THOUGHTS: ROAD BLOCKS ON THE HIGHWAY OF LIFE

I am sure most of us have been been confronted by the following questions at some point in life during the pursuit of success & happiness:

1) Do you know what are the stumbling blocks that are holding you back from being as successful as you would truly like to be?

2) Do you know what are the positive actions that you need to do to actually change your life from where you are now?

Well, I thought it would be quite interesting & useful too to take a close look at some of the stumbling blocks that often hold us back.

Here are my selection, in a quick burst of rambling thoughts, drawn specifically from my personal experiences:

i) Relationships;

ii) Goals;

iii) Plans;

iv) Paradigms;

v) Decisions;

vi) Timing;

vii) Boundaries;

Readers may not necessarily agree with my quick selection, but that's OK.

From my personal perspective, I reckon, with the aid of ingenuity & imagination, these 'stumbling blocks' can easily be converted into 'positive actions' to help us change our life.

Please stay tuned while I compose my rambling thoughts.

[to be continued]

SELLING YOUR IDEAS


"You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere."

This bold statement was made by Lee Iaccoca, former CEO of Ford Motor Co., who got kicked out of the company, & subsequently became famous after turning around the competitive Chrysler brand during the eighties.

I fully concur with what he had said.

Coming up with ideas is not a difficult task, but selling your ideas takes a lot of hard work, from thinking & planning to gaining acceptance, finding support & final execution.

Having worked in the corporate world for twenty-four years, going through myriad job functions & responsibilities from draftsman, trainee executive to deputy first & Divisional Manager later on, & progressing all the way to General Manager & Executive Director in the last ten years of corporate life, & finally, running my own small strategy consulting outfit for almost two decades, I certainly had lived at & through both ends of the baton, so to speak, as far as selling my ideas are concerned.

I therefore like to share some of my proven, field-tested tools & strategies, for immediate application within an organisational context:

Firstly, do your homework. In other words, be prepared.

Formulate your selling proposition by exploring every feature, attribute & benefit of your ideas.

Remember, besides the positive & negative aspects, you got also to look at the interesting aspects.

Get some initial feedback from important people who are likely to be involved &/or the decision makers.

If possible, talk to your financial & accounting colleagues & get their viewpoints.

From my experience, they may be pea counters, but their viewpoints can invariably open up your eyes, as they often have peculiar ways of looking & assessing at some body's ideas.

Understand as much as possible about the political climate of your organisation. You certainly don't want to step on some body's toes.

Of course, sometimes you need to do just that in order to get your ideas across, but having prior knowledge certainly boost your survival repertoire.

It will be more helpful if you can get to know one or two of the decision makers. You can then lobby some initial support from him or her. They may even throw you some success hints.

In a nutshell, all these pertain to the significance of knowing your cultural taboos or outbound markers, so to speak.

Coming back to your ideas, you got to make sure that you are familiar with all the important evaluation criteria.

Besides the positive, negative as well as interesting aspects of your ideas, as mentioned earlier, you have also to consider:

- market attractiveness;

- economic viability;

- technical feasibility;

- strategic fit;

- investment returns;

- timeliness;

- pioneer or first mover advantages;

- cost benefits;

- competition intensity;

- entry & exit parameters, if any;

If you are conversant with strategic tools like the Nine Block Matrix, use it readily as part of your presentation arsenal.

You also have to think like your boss &/or the CEO:

"What's in it for the company?"

"Where's the money?"

In presenting your ideas, explore all possible scenarios: '

- optimistic case;

- worst case;

- realistic case;

Naturally, you should include your personal comments or preferences. With a little bit of ingenuity, & I hate to say this, you can of course skew the proposition to your position.

Nevertheless, I am confident that this scenario thinking will give your boss or the CEO the impression that you must have seriously thought through the viability of your ideas.

Probably, you can also solicit help from your financial & accounting colleagues to help you to conduct a sensitivity analysis on paper for your ideas.

From experience, this gives you an added advantage when the boss or the CEO or other decision makers may want to talk about dollars & cents.

It will also be useful if you can conduct what I like to call a creative walkabout of your ideas.

That is, develop a multiple perspective of your ideas by assessing your ideas from many vantage points:

- bottom-line view;

- detailed procedural view;

- big-picture view;

- value-added view (from the customer's perspective);

- people-oriented view;

With all the above-mentioned analyses at your command, you actually have acquired all the necessary knowledge to work out Plan B.

Last, but not least, be positive & more importantly, be passionate about your ideas.

FUN PIX #14 FROM AROUND THE WORLD




FUN PIX #13 FROM AROUND THE WORLD


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What do my wife & I need to cultivate to reach our potential?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Every person is really three people: The person they think they are. The person others think they are. The person they really are. We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are."
(Max DePree, author of 'Leadership is an Art' & 'Leadership Jazz'; also former chairman of the board of directors of Herman Miller, Inc., for very many years; he has the rare honor of having been elected to the National Business Hall of Fame;)

THE WORLD'S BEST QUOTATIONS IN 1-10 WORDS

William S Frank, founder of the career strategy, leadership development & executive coaching outfit, known as CareerLab, in Denver, Colorado, has taken the trouble to collect thousands of inspirational quotes.

Best of all, he had collated the world's best quotes in one to ten words.

According to him, "It seems that nearly everything that can be said, has been said, simply & eloquently, in a way that can seldom be improved.

Winston Churchill wrote, "Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, & the old words best of all."

Here's the link to his collection, plus his expert comments.

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Change is a do-it-yourself proposition . . . No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal."

(Marilyn Ferguson, author of best-selling books, 'The Aquarian Conspiracy' & 'The Brain Revolution', & also publisher/editor of the now-defunct 'Brain/Mind Bulletin'; her thoughts resonate with the insights of management experts, like Peter Drucker, Peter Senge, & Joel Arthur Barker, &/or great minds, like Mahatma Gandhi & R Buckminster Fuller;)

GEODESIC DOME

Monday, May 12, 2008

LEADERSHIP PRINICPLES OF BUCKMINSTER FULLER

I have found the following very fascinating & inspiring article, entitled 'Leadership By Design: How One Individual Can Change The World', by Medard Gabel & Jim Walker.
Their article has specifically drawn numerous inspirations from the intellectual works of R Buckminster Fuller, often recognised as planet Earth's friendly genius.

[Bucky, as he was often affectionately called, was the inventor of the geodesic dome, among many other notable contributions to planet Earth.]

The end result for the reader is the 'Ten Leadership Principles of Buckminster Fuller', based on Bucky's concept of “comprehensive anticipatory design science”, as follows:

1. Think Comprehensively

2. Anticipate The Future

3. Respect Gestation Rates

4. Envision The Best Possible Future

5. Be A “Trimtab”

6. Take Individual Initiative

7. Ask The Obvious And “Naïve” Questions

8. Do More With Less

9. Seek To Reform The Environment, Not Man

10. Solve Problems Through Action

Readers can go to this link to read the article in its entirety.

[Medard Gabel is the founder of BigPictureSmallWorld.com in Philadelphia, PA , as well as former president of the World Game Institute. He spent several years working in conjunction with R Buckminster Fuller.

Jim Walker is an Internet developer and entrepreneur in Philadelphia. Early in his career, he was a workshop facilitator with the World Game Institute.]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

"It is not for me to change you. The question is, how can I be of service to you without diminishing your degrees of freedom?

R Buckminster Fuller

[I have spotted this inspiring quote on the website of C J Fearnley, who wrote to me recently & also pointed out to many other interesting resources on &/or from planet earth's friendly genius;]

INGENUITY WELCOME

This morning, as I was walking from my apartment block in Jurong West to the Jurong East Sports Centre, I spotted a white-coloured commercial van on the car park drive-way with the corporate name of 'Johnson Controls' on the body.

Just below the name, there was this catchphrase:

"Ingenuity Welcome"

I understand that Johnson Controls is one of the world's leading provider of systems & equipments for smart homes, smart buildings as well as smart cars.

It seems that "Ingenuity Welcome" is fully embraced in their daily practices as a good corporate citizen to make the world a better place to work, live & enjoy, as follows:

- continually look out for new ideas;

- stay motivated to make something better &/or continuously improve;

I reckon that this mindset should also be the personal philosophy of each & every one of us on planet earth.

If you just look around, whether it is at home, in a car or a public vehicle, or in an office or workplace, ingenuity is everywhere.

What I mean is that the things that are around us & all the stuff over the place - appropriately called modern conveniences - are the physical manifestations of human ingenuity.

The "Ingenuity Welcome" mindset as expressed on the Johnson Controls' commercial vehicle I saw this morning, nonetheless reminds me of my globe-trotting days with Catherine to unusual places to witness human ingenuity at work.

We had traversed the northern edges of the Sahara Desert on four-wheelers, while touring Tunisia, & also the southern edges of the Gobi Desert by small coach, while travelling along the ancient Silk Road.

Despite the hostile environments & harsh conditions in these two geographical locations, we were amazed to note that the forefathers of these people could survive & thrive happily by using only their sheer human ingenuity to develop innovative irrigation methods & unique plantation methodologies to sustain life.

Imagine that many families of the desert people could live happily in specially built earthen dwellings that seemed to be naturally air-conditioned.

They grew date palms, where the abundant leaves could provide adequate sun shade to the growing of vegetables on the ground just beneath them. What an ingenuity?

In Iceland as well as Greenland, near the Arctic Circle, where the weather conditions are on the opposite spectrum, we had also noted that human ingenuity had prevailed to ensure that the people could carry on with their lives, in spite of the hostile environments.

For example, Iceland was created as an island from volcanic ash sprucing out of the seas centuries ago. All over the island, earth was black in colour everywhere, entrenched on plenty of barren ground with rocky surfaces, just like the moon surface.

[In fact, I had read that the first batch of Apollo astronauts before their moon landing endeavour were actually trained in moon walk on Iceland.]

Plant life could not grow at all, so the Icelandic people import their trees &/or plants from Scandinavia to grow under controlled conditions.

As a matter of fact, most of the food items, with the exception of some seafood, on the island had to be imported from Scandinavia.

To their great delight, they could utilise the vast amounts of natural thermal energy from the ground to power the island & build industries with or around it to create employment for the people. Hot springs were turned into viable tourist spots.

On the southern part of Greenland, we could sometimes experience four seasons in a given day as weather conditions could be unpredictable. How do you like that?

Our most memorable experiences in Greenland were riding the dog sledges across the glaciers on two occasions. On another occasion, we had the chance to try out powered ski bikes.

To me, the Inuit natives on the island were very resilient people, considering the harsh weather conditions they had to face everyday.

Following the visits, Catherine & I felt that we had been really lucky to be born in Singapore.

I must add that it was also the human ingenuity - plus the sheer determination - of our pioneering leaders that had made our small island for what it is today.

They were the true practitioners of Johnson Controls' corporate motto: "Ingenuity Welcome"

All of us should do likewise in all our life pursuits.

LEARNING FROM THE MOVIES: 'NACHO LIBRE', starring Jack Black

Last night, while channel surfing on my StarHub Cable Television, I finally settled down to watch 'Nacho Libre', starring Jack Black.

It was a very funny & yet entertaining, almost to the point of being hysterical, movie. Best of all, it had Jack Black - just imagine him playing a Mexican friar - in the lead role.

Fatso Jack Black has impressed me with his earlier movies, like 'Enemy of the State', 'Shallow Hal', 'The School of Rock' (he was really great!) & 'King Kong'.

The story plot of this movie was very simple:

A young cook, Ignacio (played by Jack Black), grew up as an orphan in a monastery somewhere in Mexico. He was often overlooked by the monastery seniors, despite the fact that he had conscientiously cooked & fed all the teenaged orphans.

He often dreamed of becoming a wrestler in the local tag team wrestling events as he thought that champion wrestlers often got seemingly true respect from the town folks. To his chagrin, wresting was considered by the monastery as a 'sinful' activity.

One day, out of sheer frustration, he donned a mask & cape, used the nickname of 'Nacho', & then hooked up with a skinny street urchin with lightning moves, Esqueleto (Spanish for 'skeleton'; played by Hector Jimenez) to wrestle as a tag team in the ring.

They didn't win, but managed to earn some spare cash as consolation prize. With the money, they bought better food for the teenaged orphans at the monastery.

More wrestling matches ensured, but they always seemed to win only the consolation prize.

Frankly, the wrestling matches were quite fun to watch, even though they were choreographed.

So, more spare cash meant more happy faces at the monastery.

Then, came a young nun, Sister Encarnacion (played by the beautiful Mexican actress, Ana de la Riguera) as a new teacher to the teenaged orphans.

Naturally, our hero was smitten, but his vowed celibacy literally drove him nuts as his wooing tactics & love poem routines got funnier as days went by. In fact, these were the funniest moments in the movie.

One day, accidentally, his wrestling endeavours came to the notice of the monastery seniors.

Feeling indignant, he chose to leave the monastery & disappeared into the Mexican wilderness.

The self-enforced isolation did not last too long, as Esqueleto came to look for him in the wilderness.

For me, I reckon the brief conversation at this point between Ignacio & Esqueleto was really warm & touching.

Ignacio was adamant of staying out of the monastery as well as forgetting his dreams of becoming a wrestler. He did not want to end up just like all those wrestlers at the losing end.

Esqueleto wanted Ignacio to return to the ring for a battle royal tournament with the #1, known as Ramses, the Silver King. The prize money was US$200/-. He told Ignacio that he was very different from the rest of the wrestlers.

He pointed out that Ignacio had a heart, unlike all the other wrestlers, a heart for the orphans.

That remark sort of woke him up, & now, with renewed vigour & the moral support of the nun he loved & the teenaged orphans he cherished, & he finally returned to the wrestling ring to beat the hell out of the reigning King.

With the prize money of US200/-, he bought a ramshackled bus to bring all the teenaged orphans out one day to visit the Mayan pyramids.

In the last closing scene, with all the orphans enjoying the panoramic view, Ignacio & the beautiful nun turned to look expressively at each other, without any spoken words. I just could not help seeing the cheeky grin on his face.

The movie then set me thinking about life.

In pursuing our fondest dreams, we often need to be true to ourself & follow our heart. By doing so, our true purpose in life will surface & sustain our life eventually.

In the movie, as a learning point, Ignacio actually enjoyed carrying out his menial tasks in the monastery, even though he often dreamed of becoming a wrestler, but all the while, his true purpose was to help the disadvantaged orphans.

Sometimes, to get the ball rolling, we also need a little nudge from people who care about us, just as Esqueleto had cajoled Ignacio into taking one last shot in the ring.

In nature, even baby eagle gets a little nudge from mother eagle on its maiden flight.

In other words, support from our spouse or family or even close friends, especially those who demand more of us, is certainly helpful in our life pursuits.

BOOK REVIEW: '3 SECONDS: THE POWER OF THINKING TWICE'

I have just finished reading the foregoing book by Dr Les Parrott. Quite an entertaining book, I must say, despite the fact that I have to go through all the seemingly endless anecdotes & stories.

In a nut shell, the whole book is all about the significance of a 'momentary pause', just 3 seconds, which can elevate one's entire life.

According to the book, 33 studies over 70 years have suggested that sticking to your first instinctual response (to any event, person or object) is not a smart approach.

It is the second impulse i.e. 3 seconds only, that reveals our freedom to excel - to move from 'whatever' to 'whatever it takes'. This epitomises what the authur calls the 'power of thinking twice'.

The author has very artfully as well as skilfully unpacked his book by outlining the six initial instincts which could sabotage our lives:

1) give up before trying;

2) shun a challenge;

3) settle for the status quo;

4) shirk responsibility;

5) do the mere minimum;

6) avoid taking action;

Reading this book reminds me in some ways of the fun book, '212: The Extra Degree', by Sam Parker. According to this book, when water is at 211 degrees F, it is hot, but when water is at 212 degrees F (equivalent to 100 degrees C), it boils!

The one small extra degree can make the big difference.

In other words, one small extra effort on your personal part can change your entire life!

I can't help bringing up the strategy of the '3 second rule', originally concocted by success coach, Patricia Fripp, as a self-enforced quiet - & yet very powerful prologue, acting just like a statute mime in the street corners of touristic cities - to an opening speech.

If you are a public speaker, you will truly appreciate the potency of the '3 second rule'.

Naturally, I am very sure all the gentlemen out there are already familiar with the '3 second rule' as a potential dating initiation opportunity.

Wow! 3 seconds, that's all we need. To think. To reflect. To realise. To resolve.

The 3-second book is very easy to read because of the succinct writing. What I also like about the book is the 'Questions for Personal Reflection' at the end of each chapter, which helps the reader to unpack the illustrated tools & strategies for immediate application in your life.

On the whole, this book may not be truly great or ground-breaking stuff, so to speak, but it has some strong learning points for the reader.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"People say that the only constant in the world is change . . . There's another constant in the world: Your own internal creativity. That's always there for you."
(Michael Ray, CEO of Insight Out Collaborations, & principal author of the classic, 'Creativity in Business', which was based on the famed long-running course he created for the Stanford University's Graduate School of Business during the eighties & nineties;)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?

inspired by Debbie Ford, writing in her book, 'The Right Questions';

MAKING DISTINCTIONS: WORD EXPERIENCE vs WORLD EXPERIENCE

I have first realised the clear distinction between a 'word experience' & a 'world experience', after attending the 9-day Avatar training under an Avatar Master from Melbourne, Australia, during the early nineties.

In a nutshell, Avatar training is a self-evolvement course, using a synergy of disciplined exercises, drills & procedures, that equips people with the sustainable tools & strategies to discreate disempowering beliefs & behaviours, & to create empowering opportunities & possibilities for change & growth.

The course has been created & refined by a teacher, named Harry Palmer, since the mid-eighties. Today, there are quite a handful of Avatar Masters in Singapore.

In fact, at least from my personal perspective, my eventual understanding of the distinction has allowed me to put many important ideas learned from the Avatar course to work in my work & my life.

A 'word experience' generally refers to a personal effort to convey a lesson via spoken or written symbols.

A good example is just talking about something after reading a book or attending a seminar.

A 'world experience' is something we live through it in a concerted manner.

At the simplest level, practising or putting a technique which we have learned from our reading or attending a seminar to work is a good example.

I reckon the university of hard knocks is a better way to describe it.

The baptism of fire, so to speak, is a little bit more high-powered way to describe the experience.

Harry Palmer said it best, "there is a profound difference between reading about an apple & the experience of eating an apple".

I like to use my own personal experiences to illustrate what I have just described.

A lot of people knows about mind-mapping, especially when seminars & books by Tony Buzan & other experts touching on the subject are flooding the marketplace, but not many people, at least from my personal observations, actually apply it consistently in their work.

Some may have made vain attempts to try it.

As a result, the same group of people often like to criticise the ineffectiveness of mind-mapping.

As for me, I have used mind-mapping in myriad ways for almost three decades. In the past ten years, I have even used the software technology of MindManager Pro & also VisiMap Pro to expedite my work.

In my case, I have actually gone far beyond mind-mapping by exploring & experimenting with a whole gamut of other visual tools & graphic organisers, like concept mapping, causal loop diagramming, flow charts, 2x2 matrix, timelines, transitive order, & rich pictures, often with the aid of software technology like SmartDraw & Inspiration.

I have also explored & experimented with graphic facilitation or vision works (many thanks to Jim Channon, my teacher, & David Sibbet, my inspiration), as well as compression planning (many thanks to Jerry McNellis who had provided me with the tools & strategies) with post-it notes of various designs & sizes.

Best of all, besides client-based projects, I have also coached many professionals as well as students in my workshops along the way.

So, I am in a vantage position to truly appreciate what works & what doesn't work in the field of visual thinking & brainstorming.

That's to say, I have the 'world experience'.

It's not easy to touch someone with the 'world experience', whereas you can easily sees through someone with just the 'word experience'.

[More information about the Avatar training is available at this link or another link. Please approach the technology with an open mind. Don't reject their ideas prejudicially. Play, explore & experiment with them!

You can even download some free mini-lessons to test-drive the technology on your own.

A good book to read is 'Before You Think Another Thought: An Illustrated Guide to Understanding How Your Thoughts & Beliefs Create Your Life', by Bruce Doyle. I had reviewed this book in an earlier post.

Readers can also access &/or download the electronic version of 'Living Deliberately: The Discovery & Development of Avatar', written by Harry Palmer, with the slant of a sales pitch, at this link. I had also reviewed this book in an earlier post.

My personal preference is always the earlier book.]

TIME IS LUXURY

I will probably pop into the Time & Luxury watch exhibition at the Paragon Atrium early this week with my wife to gawk at some of the world's most exquisite watches, worth some S$20 million. It's open till May 18th.

I read that visitors can look at two precision-engineered watches from one of the most exclusive brands in the world, Jean Dunand.

Only 50 Jean Dunand watches exist today, with each timepiece costing an average of S$1 million.

According to the President of Jean Dunand: "Every watch I make is one of a kind . . . The dial of each watch is different because I want each of my customers to have a watch that nobody else in the world owns."

Well, I always thought each of us is already born unique, just like every one else. I am pretty sure that there isn't another one exactly like us somewhere else on planet Earth.

One thing I am quite sure, wearing this watch is certainly going to make you look gorgeous, notwithstanding its potential effect in boosting your personal confidence. Of course, you have first to make sure you have the surplus cash - remember, almost a cool million - in your wallet.

Whether it's a wastage of money, it's up to you.

For me, I am very happy with my current Ellesse sports watch, costing about S$250/- (actually bought on special offer), which I have already considered my most expensive watch, as all my earlier watches had been Timex & Seiko.

SPARE THE ROD & SPOIL THE CHILD

About a month ago or so, I read that a secondary school student was kicked out of school because he challenged - & even uttered expletives to - the teacher for confiscating his hand phone in class.

This week, I read that a 10-year old boy was kicked out of the childcare centre for his unruly behaviour.

To me, their parents are only to be blamed. Parents are the children's first teachers.

From my personal perspective, I recognise a more systemic problem: lack of communication.

I reckon many parents today, because of the two-income & maid-dependence phenomenon, don't really spend much time with their children.

They are also too soft with their own children. They pamper their children from young in the wrong way. They simply believe that their generous provision of materials things like branded clothes, latest hand phones, MP3 devices, Game Boys & other electronic gadjets to their children demonstrates their true love.

I have noticed on many occasions with my own eyes, when the children had done something wrong or were impolite in the public, some parents didn't even blink their eyes.

Once, I was training in one of the neighbourhood secondary schools, a teacher related a fascinating but true story to me.

A student was caught many times with long hair, & was asked to cut his hair. He refused, & was asked to bring his parents to school for a meeting with the disciplinary master. His father turned up with his son. The disciplinary master was shocked to find that the father had tattoos all over the body, & worst still, he had long hair too, just like his own son.

I later learned that the son was eventually expelled from the school.

When I look back at my own life, growing up with twelve other siblings in a big family, under a strict & disciplined businessman father, whose words simply spelt law, & a full-time mother, who never seemed to be tired with swinging the rod, I now realised that maybe that should be the way for today's children to be brought up.

Once I had observed a professional couple, good friends of mine, who had brought up three wonderful kids, two girls & one boy.

During one outing together, the boy, then about 4 years old, wanted to be hand-carried as he was too lazy to walk. The mother said 'No' & didn't bulge an inch, while he threw his tantrums. She stood her ground, & the boy finally had to walk on his own. The mother may seemed mean, but that's the way it should be.

'No' means 'No'. In other words, no secondaries.

It is always at this point that parents often waver when come to family discipline, & the children know very well that this is an opportunity for them to test water & take advantage.

When parents become soft to the core, their children have found one stratagem up their sleeves, & that's where the problem starts.

I often have two young distant nieces from overseas coming to stay with me for short visiting periods.

The first time they came to my place, they threw tantrums for no apparent reason, just out of habit, I guess, in their own homes. They got whacked by me, to the chagrin of their mothers.

They thought they were pocket Rambos, until I showed them who was the hot-shot commanding officer.

After that, & since then, I have had no problems with them whenever they come to visit me.

My gym buddy, now a grandfather of two, thought I was too mean to the children.

To me, the adage is true: Spare the rod & spoil the child!