Saturday, January 17, 2009

REMINISCENCES OF GREAT SPY MOVIES FROM THE SIXTIES I

As I had mentioned earlier, the sixties represented the best times of my life, as far as movie entertainment is concerned. That era was the craze of spy movies & television series from America & Europe.

For me, the 'Dangerman' television series about the adventurous exploits of super secret agent, John Drake, starring the late Patrick McGoohan, probably started it all.

Or was it 'Dr No' with secret agent James Bond entrusted with the double-o licence to kill?

For 'Dangerman' & others that came along, I often got myself glued to the goggle box, unfortunately in black & white in those days.

Before I move on to talk about all those favourite American & European spy movies & television series of mine, I would like to take the opportunity to jog readers' memories for a change.

I reckon if you were the Y Generation, you probably would not have any inkling, but if you were my contemporary, most likely you could recall the local Malay movie, which traced the fun exploits of Singapore's version of James Bond during the sixties.

[In the late fifties & early sixties, as a teenager growing up in a kampong (village), I often spent a lot of time watching Malay movies, in addition to English movies, especially those starring singer/composer/actor P Ramlee & comedian/actor Wahid Satay.

That was also the crazy time when the local folklore of Orang Minyak (oily man) & Pontianak (she-devil) was captured in several great Malay movies.]

The spy movie, in black & white, was made in Singapore, entitled 'Gerak Kilat', & starring a local Malay actor, Jins Shamsuddin, as secret agent Jefri Zain.

He worked for some sort of unnamed spy agency housed in a terraced building with a underground access somewhere in Serangoon Gardens. He drove a 1950s Mercedes Benz sports coupe, with a gull-wing design & a fancy number plate that read JZ1.

To be frank, at least to me, the movie was more of comedy. The nonsensical plot resembled the movie story of 'Dr No' to some extent, & amusingly, there were plenty of multi-racial characters &/or extras in it.

The so-called bad guys looked so confused in the movie that they spent more time running circles around our hero in their underground hideout.

Naturally, there was also a host of crazy gadgets, plus all the beautiful damsels, but to my dismay more appropriately clothed to meet then censorship laws.

All I could remember in nostalgia were some old scenes of Singapore around that period - Changi Beach, Clifford Pier, Capitol Cinema & Serangoon Gardens.

For Mandarin speaking spy movies, around the same time, I am not sure whether readers could recall one starring the voluptuous Diana Chang, better known as Zhang Zhongwen, & often acknowledged in movie circles as "planet Earth's most beautiful animal" & Paul Chang.

That Chinese movie from Hongkong was 'Kiss & Kill' (in the Chinese Language, it read 'Feng Lui Tie Han'; in the Cantonese dialect, 'Fung Lau Tit Hon' - translated literally, it means "flamboyant big guy";)

Actually, the Chinese movie was an adaption of an exciting European spy movie entitled 'Agent 3S3: Passport to Hell', starring Georgio Ardisson, which I had also watched in the cinema a few years earlier.

All I can say is that the debonair Paul Chang was certainly not a good fighter, when compared to Georgio Ardisson, even though Paul had acted in several swashbuckler movies.

In the movie, the character of Diana Chang was more of an eye candy.

[to be continued in the Next Post]

WHAT'S THIS?

It's actually a public seat for the tired shopper. I had spotted it at the IMM Jurong East shopping mall on Friday.

BOOK REVIEW: 'JEWELS IN OUR BACKYARD: Finding Life & Business in Singapore', by Ong Eng Jit

I had stumbled upon this locally published book one day at the Harris Bookstore in Jurong Point. I was there actually on the last day of my 25% discount vouchers. So I was in quite a hurry, & just grabbed three books including this one.

The other books: 'A Class with Drucker' & 'Inside Drucker's Brain', which I will review shortly & separately.

The title, 'Jewels in Our Backyard', is a spoof of an age-old classic, entitled 'Acres of Diamonds' by educator & minister Russell Conway, which I had read in the late sixties or early seventies.

The story of a guy who left his home to a place far far away in search of a treasure, not realising that it was actually buried beneath his home, as appropriately used in the Prologue of the earlier book, is the same story with the classic, except for a small twist to the place & time.

That sets the right tone for this book, which in a nut shell, is all about entrepreneurial pursuits in the little red dot on the map, called Singapore.

The author is a Singaporean thoroughbred, in his late forties, with almost a quarter of a century experience in running his own small entrepreneurial business. He is obviously a voracious reader, & draws a lot of "hard-knock" experiences from his Army stint, business ventures, early schooling & daily life encounters.

As I read, his book is more of a large collection of his philosophical musings, interspersed with witty stories, inspiring quotes, & wise catchphrases, even though he has taken the trouble to provide readers with useful checklists & expert tips in crafting out an entrepreneurial pursuit from your hobbies or insights.

At a deeper level, I can sense that he is targetting his book at the poor salaried employees - I like to call them people who work diligently in quiet desperation - who are going through the mid-life transition.

So, I reckon, if you are still struggling with any of the following challenges:

- income plateau;

- job promotion ceiling;

- professional obsolescence;

- right ladder, wrong building;

- low pay, love work;

- high pay, hate work;

this interesting book can probably guide you to eternal bliss.

For easy reading, the author has deliberately broken down the book in six major parts:

- Part 1: Brave New World;

- Part 2: How to Make $ in Singapore;

- Part 3: Finding Jewels;

- Part 4: How to Employ Smart $;

- Part 5: Jewels for the Soul;

- Part 6: The Pearl of Great Price;

For me, Part 2, 3 & 4 contain really great - actionable - stuff for the aspiring entrepreneur, or anyone out looking for a second stream of income.


What I like most is that the author generously shares many interesting insights about recognising an opportunity & finding your dream business.

My only reservation about the book is the author's staunch Christian beliefs & convictions, which seem to permeate subtly throughout the entire book, especially in the last two parts. I would have preferred his book to remain completely secular, even though he has a valid spiritual point that money isn't everything.

But I must say I certainly like to salute his independence streak, which is one of the hallmarks of a savvy entrepreneur, & which also happens to be exemplified in what he wrote:

". . . as an entrepreneur, I didn't wield a pen; I yield profits. If what I have to say seems radical, it is because I trot a different path from the salaried man. I don't play it safe. I play to win."

Nevertheless, I like to extract another pertinent passage from his book as a parting shot of my review:

"Live your passion, build your dreams, create the work you love, turn hobbies into profits, & you'll never have to work another day."

On the whole, the book's principal message can be summed up, just like Russell Conway's 'Acres of Diamonds', in one nice sentence:

"All the wealth you could ever dream of, search for, or yearn after — in whatever form you wish for — exists right beneath your own feet."

I therefore like to say that this book is definitely worth reading, despite the religious or spiritual distractions.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“There is a Japanese proverb that literally goes ‘Raise the sail with your stronger hand,' meaning you must go after the opportunities that arise in life that you are best equipped to do.”
~ Soichiro Honda, 1906–1991, Japanese engineer & industrialist, who created a motor vehicle industry when it should have been impossible through his passion for motorcycle & automobile racing; he was the founder of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.;

A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO PATRICK McGOOHAN

Yesterday's Life Page of the Straits Times had reported the passing away of British TV actor Patrick McGoohan in Los Angeles after a short illness. He was 80.

He played one of my favourite action heroes from the sixties, super secret agent, John Drake, in the 'Dangerman' television series.

The sixties actually represented the best periods of my life, especially from the standpoint of movie & television entertainment. The era was in fact the craze of both European & American spy movies & television series. I will probably write a separate blog on the them.

Coming back to John Drake, he was always the smart thinking secret agent.

The 'Dangerman' spy series, in black & white, had originally started with half-hour episodes, & later revamped into one-hour episodes with fast-paced action, intriguing story lines, exotic locations & quick dialogue.

As a secret agent, John Drake had remarkable traits:

- like James Bond, he was always dressed elegantly, with the sophisticated flair of a English gentleman;

- he didn't even carry a gun; his fists often spelt trouble for his assailants, even though he had a handful of fancy gadgets to assist him;

- he was very focused on his mission's objectives, despite occasional interference or rather machinations from his bosses;

- he wasn't easily distracted, especially by beautiful damsels in distress - he always seemed to have that moral high ground;

- he always had a nose for trouble, & was able to out-think & out-manoeuvre his enemies when caught in dicey or precarious situations, even though once in a blue moon he got clobbered;

Although these may the product of the reel world, how I wished we could also easily adopt them in the real-world as life skills.

He had subsequently played a retired secret agent #6 in the short-lived but captivating 'The Prisoner' television series.

I am not surprised that this particular series had unwittingly sparked the action adventure movie, 'Double Team', starring Jean-Claude van Damme with bad boy Dennis Rodman, & Mickey Rourke as the terrorist Stavros. The movie director was Tsui Hark from Hongkong.

Interestingly, I last saw Patrick McGoohan in several action adventure movies, namely, 'Ice Station Zebra', 'Braveheart' (opposite Mel Gibson), & 'Escape from Alcatraz' (opposite Sylvester Stallone) on StarHub cable television.

I also remember him from the sci-fi fantasy movie, 'Scanners'.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

In difficult times, do I know what helps me to stand out from the crowd?

What can help me become a vital part of my clients' success?

Can I beat the recession by becoming my clients' most preferred option?

HOW TO CHANGE A MIND, YOURS & OTHERS

I have stumbled upon a great piece of writing, though belated but worthwhile to read, on why is it so hard to change people's minds.

It draws on the work of Chris Argyris (Overcoming Organizational Defenses) & William Bridges (Transitions).

Here's the link to the article.

Friday, January 16, 2009

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"All human beings have an innate propensity for denial, self-deception & rationalisation. Some of us are at war with this
dangerous proclivity, & some of us are trying to get a PhD."

~ Douglas Bell, an entrepreneur who has lived a lifelong personal development commitment, according to Robert White, writing in his Amazon weblog; the latter is also the author of 'Living an Extraordinary Life';

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What do I wish I had said or done?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Your beliefs about change have a lot of impact on what you do. Therefore, beliefs are often more important in change than techniques. Techniques work when you think to use them. They operate situation by situation. Beliefs, on the other hand, influence your entire life & choices - what you see & don't see. They affect whether you even think to or want to use techniques."

~ Patricia McLagan, writing in her book, 'Change is Everybody's Business'; she is the Chairman/CEO of McLagan International & publisher of theRITEStuff Best Practice Reports; she has consulted & taught at organizations such as GE, NASA, & Citibank;

MAKING NAPKINO SKETCHES

I reckon, if you are very fond of scrawling all those little drawings or sketches on cocktail napkins, envelope backs, scratch paper &/or whiteboards, just like me, the follow rules originated by a Don Moyer may serve as useful tips for you:

1. Realize ugly is beautiful:

– Crude, ugly and wobbly are okay. If the idea captured is valid, you’ll have time later to make it beautiful.

2. Master the basics:

– If you can draw a half-dozen simple shapes you’re ready to take on almost any topic.

3. Use labels:

– Include lots of labels and notes so things will make sense to you when reviewed at a later date.

4. Keep it simple:

- In general, leave out any detail that will not be missed.

5. Be consistent:

– Avoid variations that don’t mean anything.

6. Break some rules:

– Don’t worry about keeping things in the “right” scale.

7. Let your arrows speak:

– Pointing arrows are the verbs in a napkin sketch.

8. Use the right tools:

– Use whatever surface is available – paper, whiteboard, small note-paper etc.

9. Don’t keep the napkin on your lap:

– Don’t hide your sketches in a file folder. Make them visible and share them with teammates.

[Source: “Napkin Sketches 101” by Don Moyer;]

WHAT'S THIS?

In between reading, blogging & watching the goggle box, I just grabbed my Canon IXUS digital camera to capture some snapshots of selected everyday objects I have on or near my workstation. Or am I just goofing around?



OLD BUDDIES

Last night, I just happened to watched an episode from a rerun of the 1980's television series, 'Fall Guy' on Channel 5.

The fun action series traced the crazy adventures of a stuntman, Colt Seavers, who often moonlighted as a bounty hunter, whenever he was out of work or when his film schedule was slow.

Driving a huge GM truck with a large eagle painted on its hood, he was always assisted by a naive sidekick & a beautiful chick, whose functions were seemingly to keep the series entertaining to watch.

Also, the series' theme song, 'The Unknown Stuntman', was always great for my ears.

In that particular episode, it was nostalgic for me to see several other great TV characters from the sixties & seventies as well as the eighties play-acting with our hero:

- Cameron Mitchell, as a tough rancher, from the western adventure series, 'High Chaparral', from the late sixties;

- Mike Connors, as Joe Mannix, from the private detective series, 'Mannix', from the late sixties; he also played a FBI agent in 'Today's FBI' television series during the early eighties;

- fatso William Conrad, as Frank Cannon & Nero Wolfe respectively in the two private detective series, 'Cannon' in the seventies, & 'Nero Wolfe' in the early eighties;

- Barry Newman, as a smart city lawyer with a penchant for driving an old beat-up pick-up truck, from the legal drama series, 'Petrocelli' from the seventies;

Seeing them all together in a comradely banter like old buddies during the episode already made me feel good.

To be frank, I just love to watch television series, or movies, where there are plenty of action & drama, even if some of them might be 'no-brainers'.

I just want to be entertained.

Best of all, I often retain good memories of them all. For me, I reckon good or rather sweet memories help to keep my brain in ship-shape conditions.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Am I really ready for change or am I really ready to change?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order the continuous thread of revelation."

~ Eudora Welty, 1909 – 2001, award-winning American author & photographer;

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: 'STRATEGIC ALLIANCES - THREE WAYS TO MAKE THEM WORK', by Steve Steinhilber

From what I have read in the newspapers & online magazines, strategic alliances seem to be pervasive throughout today's business landscape, & they certainly have big impacts on the way business is now conducted across the globe.

First, the realities, according to the book:

- more than 2,000 strategic alliances are launched worldwide each year, with an annual growth rate of 15%;

- slightly more than half of them fail;

- more than one-third of them struggle in alliances;

- only 9% consistently build alliances well;

- 15 most successful alliances added US$72 billion in shareholder value over 2 years but that the same number of bad alliances cost companies US$43 billion;

Rather depressing news, isn't it?

This book is a timely attempt to do them right.

I wish to say that, from the strategic thinking standpoint, this is an excellent piece of writing on the development & management of strategic alliances.

The impeccable track record of the esteemed author, as VP of Strategic Alliances at Cisco Systems, with a portfolio of alliances that crosses multiple industry sectors, technologies, & geographies, that has attained cumulative value of more than US$4.5 billion annually in business impact to Cisco & much more than that to the alliance partners, certainly makes the book credible & compelling.

In a nut shell, this book is truly an "insider report", with a "down in the trenches" perspective, so to speak.

It's a very thoughtful, masterfully written, intellectually rich, experience-based exploration & assessment of strategic alliances as an increasingly important way of competing, or more specifically, a competitive weapon, in a globalising world.

I reckon, for the reader, it covers most of the specific managerial challenges often involved in establishing & operating alliances, from initial setup & throughout the life cycle, right down to exit strategy.

The way I read it, I also reckon that the esteemed author has done a marvellous job of capturing all the foreseeable subtleties & nuances that must be addressed when entering into alliance relationships.

What I like best about this book is that, besides talking about the "what" & "how" to go about the game plan, the author has patiently explained the "why" of each & every step through the six stages of the alliance life cycle (illustrated on page 18 of the book):

- evaluating a strategy & potential partners;

- forming a relationship;

- incubating the partnership;

- operating the alliance;

- transitioning to the next level;

- retiring the alliance when it no longer meets mutual goals i.e. the exit strategy;


(comprising 30 best practices that address the key deliverables across the six stages)

which hinges on three essential building blocks (by the way, each aspect is featured in detail separately in a chapter on its own):

1) the right framework;

2) the right organisation;

3) the right relationships;


in addition to the five basic criteria to identify & characterise possible alliance relationships.

The esteemed author makes it very clear that doing your due diligence & following a systematic process is critical at the onset. He asserts that having a truly repeatable disciplined process can cut the failure rate by more than half.

The book therefore offers readers real-world takeaways in the form of valuable perspectives, useful advice & practical checklists/questions.

The end result is a powerful framework for anyone or any company who wishes to conceive, develop, & execute an enduring partnership &/or networks of partnership.

For me, the most valuable chapters are the ones in which the author gives a fascinating account of the soft social dynamics underlying most alliances (under 'Building the Right Relationships'), & an absorbing account of thinking strategically & creatively in the areas of IP management, portfolio management, competition dynamics, globalisation & metrics (under 'Managing Complexity').

In contrast to a similar book which I had read about ten years or so ago, entitled 'Smart Alliances: A Practical Guide to Repeatable Success' by two consultants from Booz Allen & Hamilton, this book has surpassed my personal expectations with its nuts & bolts of implementation, as well as its road map of the various pitfalls, roadblocks & landmines.

Here are my takeaways in terms of valuable insights - they are not meant to be exhaustive:

- start with a strategy, not a partner;

- your approach needs to look at the big picture rather than short terms payoffs;

- the right way to think about partnering revolves around negotiating win-win agreements & growing the market for everyone;

- start with a clear strategic focus: what are you trying to do;

- any partnership must satisfy a market need, address customer demand, & meet defined business goals;

- expect to make trade-offs with every alliance;

- an early step is to jointly create your operating plan; start with a focused set of balanced initiatives, meaning you have short term & some long term wins for both companies;

- one of your biggest challenges is staying focused;

- the right people are your most important assets; this is a team based approach;

- you can manage relationships with the right blend of art & science: with first rate people skills & a systematic process for strengthening connections;

- strategic alliances are more than just legal contracts - they're living, dynamic relationships between real people;

- think in terms of win-win negotiations, & what's on it for "we" vs "me';

- you must take the time to learn your partner's real goals & ambitions, & to understand what really makes them tick, philosophically & culturally;

- you got to push beyond the other side's stated positions to uncover that company's unexpressed, deeply held fears & interests;

- you have to be accountable to your partners for relationships to endure - actions are all that count;

- when it comes to relationships, you have to be reasonable - keep your eye on the endgame;

- managing IP is a challenge that continues through the life of any relationship;

- make sure everyone understand the rules of engagement with regard to IP assets;;

- you must have a metrics framework that you can apply consistently across all your alliances;

- remember, it's all about leverage;

- alliances are art & science, people & process; it's a "both/and" way of thinking rather than an "either/or";

To conclude my review, I must reiterate that this book is a true field guide to show you how to avoid the troubles that plague so many alliance efforts & how to forge a collaborative link that adds value to all partners in the alliance.

SPOTLIGHT: LANTERN DISPLAY AT JURONG POINT 2

While visiting the new Jurong Point 2 shopping mall last night, I was somewhat captivated by the stalactitically arranged display of red-coloured lanterns from the central atrium ceiling.

This digital snapshot captured only one small section of the display.

As the Chinese saying goes, spring is in the air.

In twelve more days, the auspicious Year of the Ox will take its place on the lunar calendar.

Chinese folks strongly believe that people who are born in the Year of the Ox are likely to face tough hurdles ahead, in addition to having to work much harder in order to keep going.

I reckon, with the ongoing adverse impact from the global economic & financial meltdown, all others or rather all of us in Singapore are not going to fare any much better.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Future-seeing is divided from futurology by two mutual misunderstandings. It is popularly believed that psychics can automatically see the future without recourse to mundane forms of help. This sometimes appears to be the case, but it is not true generally. Futurologists popularly believe they can extrapolate the future without recourse to psychic insights. This likewise appears to be the case sometimes, but is not true generally."

~ Ingo Swann, who often describes himself as a "consciousness researcher"; also, author of several books, including 'Your Nostradamus Factor'; best known for his work in the field of remote viewing;

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: 'MAKING STRATEGY WORK (LESSONS LEARNED: Straight Talk from the World's Top Business Leaders)'

In a nut shell, 'Making Strategy Work' is actually what I would call a small booklet, just under 100 pages. It has been created as part of a new book series by Harvard Business Press in partnership with Fifty Lessons, a leading provider of digital media content.

The series showcases the accumulated wisdom of some of the world's best known experts &/or CEOs, with insights into how they think, approach new challenges & use hard-won lessons from experience to shape their leadership philosophies.

Interestingly, each book draws from the Fifty Lessons' extensive video library of interviews with the experts &/or CEOs.

From what I have gathered, there are now ten books in the current series. 'Making Strategy Work' is one.

The others being:

- 'Leading by Example';
- 'Managing Change';
- 'Managing Your Career';
- 'Managing Conflict';
- 'Starting a Business';
- 'Hiring & Firing';
- 'Making the Sale';
- 'Executing for Results';
- 'Sparking Innovation';

Reading 'Making Strategy Work' reminds me of the bi-weekly digest known as 'Boardroom Reports', which I had subscribed faithfully during the seventies & eighties.

In those days, 'Boardroom Reports' offered the then-novel notion that simple insider information on how to run a business more effectively would be helpful to businesspeople.

Today, 'Boardroom Reports' doesn't exist anymore, but had splintered into other print periodicals, online newsletters & dozen of books. For more information, please visit this link.

Unfortunately, I regret to point out that 'Making Strategy Work' is only a small fraction of the 'Boardroom Reports'.

Frankly, I thought that it would have made more sense for the publisher to combine all the ten volumes into one large book, just like what 'Boardroom Reports' had done with their 'Book of Business Knowledge' &/or 'Book of Insider Information', which contained all the greatest hits from their bi-weekly digests.

In fact, the reader, like me, would have been more appreciative, in addition to enjoying substantial savings from the economics standpoint.

As it stands, 'Making Strategy Work' contains the powerful stories, in brisk format, from Sanjiv Ahuja, Jay Conger, Roger Parry, David Brandon, Philip Kotler, Clayton Christensen, Lynda Cratton, Mary Cantando, Prof Robert Sutton, Prof Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stuart Grief, Domenico De Sole, Sir John Egan, & John Whybrow.

I particularly like the first story from Sanjiv Ahuja, Chairman, Orange UK, one of the world's leading communications companies, in which he remarked beautifully:

". . .The way I look at it, if you can articulate your strategy in a one-minute elevator ride or put it on a single piece of paper - & that too without a lot of commas or semicolons in how you describe it - then you have a strategy that can be executed & worked upon. . ."

This really sets the appropriate tone for the rest of the entire book or booklet.

What the publisher has done in this book - I presume it also applies in the nine remaining books of the series - is great, especially for the reader:

At the end of each story, the key insights are captured in 'Takeaways'. In principle, a business reader can just read the 'Takeaways' of each story, without losing much substance.

Hence, reading is really a breeze! In fact, it is specifically for this reason that I feel that the publisher should have make a big book covering all the ten volumes in the first instance.

Nonetheless, I also have one complaint to make:

At the end of the book, there is a given code for the reader to gain exclusive free access to watch some bonus videos on the Fifty Lessons website. Mine didn't work.

The only good point about the videos is that they are inexpensive to pay to watch.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Of the vast oceans of data & seas filled with information; of the roaring rivers of meanings & thundering streams filled with interpretations; there is but one small cup of wisdom.
Wisdom by itself does not guarantee enlightenment however; for true enlightenment does require us to strive for the tiny drop that contains the essence."

~ Lee Peh Long, 38, perennial learner from Malaysia & a web visitor to the World Future Society;

QUICK LUBRICATION SERVICE FOR THE MIND & BODY

Early this morning, I have sent my car to the Peugeot Service Centre at Alexandra Road for its factory-recommended preventative maintenance routine. I was there very early, at 7.15am - the Centre opens only at 8.00am - as I have wanted to avoid the morning traffic on the AYE.

The last time I was there, it was exactly a year ago.

Nowadays, I hardly use my car, a 8-year-old Peugeot 406; maybe once a week or so; so, my mileage was pretty low - about 5,000km in one year. The mileage counter on my car currently read about 113,000km. By right, according to the Centre, I should have sent in my car once every six months under low mileage conditions.

Nonetheless, I have kept my car in more or less pristine condition.

Fortunately at the Centre, hot beverages & finger food - looked like they came from Delifrance - were available at the reception area, which was opened to customers, while I waited for the service staff to turn up.

Two large posters on the wall in the reception area somehow caught my attention. One has advertised the centre's Quick Lubrication Service for customer's car in the afternoon with one hour's notice in advance; the other, the centre's promised turn-around time of 2 hours.

Great customer service, I thought.

Interestingly, a thought just crosses my mind.

Shouldn't we, as hard-working human beings, also go for some sort of regular preventative maintenance routine, like a 'Quick Lubrication Service'?

Come to think of it, when I was still working in the corporate world, I often go for my 'Quick Lubrication Service' in the form of short as well as long vacation breaks - about four times a year, with Catherine:

- two long ones, of 2 to 3 weeks' duration, between April-June & October-December respectively;

- two short ones, usually 5 to 10 days' duration around the Chinese New Year holidays & somewhere in between those mentioned periods respectively;

In those days, as I was in senior management, my annual leave amounted to 28 days. Catherine was always the travel planner with a knack for maximising the use of public holidays.

As a corporate rat, I often found vacation breaks to be excellent opportunities to recharge "old batteries", so to speak.

In real terms, they really could rejuvenate the mind & body, especially when one could visit faraway places where they offer panoramic views of large natural landscapes like mountains, valleys, streams & waterfalls or snowscapes during winter time.

Besides these natural places, my personal favourites seem to be open deserts with their majestic sand dunes.

To rejuvenate the mind & body, especially without leaving the home or office, I have found practising disciplined relaxation routines to be a good alternative.

Whether it is yoga or otherwise, the most important thing is not so much the ritual, hence my personal preference for using the term "relaxation" instead of "meditative", but rather that you can adopt a simple way, coupled with appropriate diaphragmatic breathing, to gradually let your mind settle down to some quiet moments for yourself.

For me, I have adopted two simple ways:

- one is imagine myself taking a slow walk through a 7 sectioned corridor, each with one colour of the rainbow for the walls;

- the other, taking a descending elevator from the 21st floor of a building, while observing the indicator panel;


During the nineties for a number of years, as part of my own exploration, I had even experimented with what was then known as "high-tech relaxation", through the use of brain synthesisers or better known as light & sound machines.

In essence, this is the lazy man's way to sustaining relaxation sequences. Personally, they worked, but I would not recommend to the faint-hearted.

Naturally, there are also other ways to find & sustain quiet moments,

For example:

- taking a morning or evening stroll through a nature's park or flower garden;
- spending some time in the library, just browsing;
- walking the shopping mall during low-traffic periods;
- climbing a hillock like Bukit Timah Hill to watch the sunrise;
- commuting on the MRT or a double-decker from one end to the other of its scheduled route, during off-peak hours;
- hanging out on a deserted beach;
- just listening to Baroque, Classical &/or New Age music on extended play;
- even exercising, like walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike, in a gym during off-peak hours;

Monday, January 12, 2009

20 QUESTIONS FOR WEEKLY REFLECTION

What follows is a slightly different spin in maximising the benefits of self-reflection.

It's a list of '20 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Sunday'.

Here's the link.

75 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF

Here's a link to a list of 75 questions you should ask yourself & try to answer.

You can ask yourself these questions right now & over the course of your life.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1. Who do I love, & what am I doing about it?

2. Am I pursuing my dream, or is fear stopping me?

3. Am I doing something that matters?

4. What am I doing to help others?

5. Am I as good a person as I want to be?

6. What am I doing to live life with passion, health & energy?

~ from the zenhabits weblog;

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"One can survive without understanding, but not thrive. Without understanding one cannot control causes; only treat effect, suppress symptoms. With understanding one can design & create the future . . . people in an age of accelerating change, increasing uncertainty, & growing complexity often respond by acquiring more information & knowledge, but not understanding."

~ Dr Russell Ackoff, organisational theorist, consultant, & a pioneer in the field of operations research, systems thinking & management science; he is currentlythe Anheuser Busch Professor Emeritus of management science at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; he has authored over 20 books, including 'Re-Creating the Corporation';

THE OLDEST PROFESSION

A doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, & a computer programmer were waiting for a bus, when they got to discussing which had to be the oldest profession.

"Obviously it was law", said the lawyer. "Moses gave the 10 commandments over 3,000 years ago, & that's older than either of our jobs."

"Not so fast", says the doctor. "Before that, God created Eve out of Adam's rib, & that was a surgical procedure at least, so mine is older than all of yours!"

"Hey, that's pretty good", said the engineer, "but even before that, God created the universe out of chaos, which was the first engineering job ever, & before any of those other things."

They all turned and looked smugly at the programmer, whose tools of the trade were well known to be only a few decades old. He smiled back & said: "Ah, but where do you think the chaos came from?".

WIT OR WISDOM?

A bus station is where a bus stops.
A train station is where train stops.
On my desk, I have a work station.
What more can I say?

The more you learn, the more you know;
The more you know, the more you forget;
The more you forget, the less you know.
So, why learn?!

Practice makes perfect;
But nobody's perfect,
So, why practise?

Hard work never kill anybody,
But why take the risk!

Work fascinates me.
I can look at it for hours!

Your future depends on your dreams.
So go to sleep!

Success is a relative term.
It brings so many relatives.

Since light travels faster than sound, people appear bright until you hear them speak.

PASSION & PRIDE

I was certainly very impressed when I read about cab driver Victor Woo's work philosophy in yesterday's Sunday Times:

"I believe in PAP - living with passion & serving with pride."

Not only he loved good food - he knew some of the best hawker stalls as well as the best dining hub in town - he also took pride in serving his customers, by bringing them to his favourite food joints.

For me, passion is like fire, fire in the belly, so to speak.

As a matter of fact, I like the amusing analogy from Swiss psychiatrist & influential thinker on psychology Carl Jung, who once related geniuses - remember, they are very passionate people - to Genie & the Aladdin Lamp.

For geniuses - read: passionate people - the light is always flickering in the wind.

For others - read: people who pursue their lives day in & day out with no purpose in mind i.e. no passion - it becomes a constant struggle for them to keep rubbing their lamps.

Just imagine a working professional, with no purpose or passion in life, & in his forties today with twenty years of experience: I would rate him with only one year's working experience, but repeated twenty times!

For me, pride is self-worth, & it encompasses self-esteem, self-confidence & self-image.

In simplest terms, it means the feeling of being lovable & capable, as exemplified in Victor Woo's parting shot: "I'm sweet enough, so I don't need any more sweet dishes."

By the way, Victor Woo is 59, a father of 3 kids & has been a London Cab driver with transport company SMRT for 13 years. He is one of the 8 recent winners of the Singapore Tourism Award for Best Tourism Host in the taxi category.

[More information about Victor Woo & his work ethic can be found at this link.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Even though life might seem complicated, it boils down to simple terms: your thoughts determine your decisions; your decisions determine your actions; your actions determine your behavior; your behavior determines your results; your results determine your reactions, which leads you back to your thoughts! Only you determine your future!"

~ Dean Williams, 32, medical representative, South Africa;

BELIEVE NOTHING

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;

Sunday, January 11, 2009

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love; and something to hope for."

~ Joseph Addison, 1672 – 1719; English essayist & poet;