Saturday, March 14, 2009

LESSONS FROM THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE

The other day, my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, & I had afternoon tea in my neighbourhood coffee shop. We were having our usual pow-wow!

I was sharing with him how he could explore using action movies as part of his training props to motivate under-achieving students to pursue their fondest dreams.

We talked at length about 'Rocky III', with the character of Sylvester Stallone regaining his fight - using the 'Eye of the Tiger' - against the menacing character of Mr T, as the loud-mouthed Clubber Lang.

Our conversation also went into 'The Rumble in the Jungle'.

In a nut shell, 'The Rumble in The Jungle' was a historic boxing event that took place on 30 October 1974, in the Mai 20 Stadium in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo).

It had pitted the then world heavyweight champion George Foreman against former world champion & challenger Muhammad Ali.

As we all knew by then that Ali had been suspended from the boxing sport for 3-1/2 years following his refusal to obey his army draft.

The boxing world also knew that the younger Foreman was obviously an overwhelming favorite against an aging Ali.

Also, Foreman was greatly feared for his punching power, physical size, & sheer ring dominance.

Dilip told me that Foreman & Ali had in fact spent much of the summer of 1974 training in Zaire, getting their bodies used to the weather in the tropical African country.

However, unknown to the Foreman's camp, Ali was actually training his physical body to take on horrendous punches from his sparring partners during the training. He knew that the only way for him to beat Foreman was his newly hardened body against Foreman's formidable punches.

Interestingly, according to Dilip, Ali also had somehow mentally psyched the Foreman' camp that he would probably stay on course with his conventional strategy of amazing speed & maneuvering skills.

Ali started off the first round by attacking Foreman. While this openly aggressive tactic may have surprised Foreman, it failed to significantly hurt him, despite getting a few solid punches from Ali.

Before the end of the first round, Foreman caught up to Ali, & began landing a few punches of his own. Foreman had also been trained to cut off the ring, preventing escape. Ali realized that he would easily tire if Foreman could keep making one step to Ali's two, so he changed strategy immediately.

Almost right away in the second round, Ali started lying on the ropes, in his classic pose & allowing Foreman to keep punching him, without any attempt to counter-attack Foreman (a strategy Ali later dubbed as the 'rope-a-dope').

As a result, Foreman spent all his brute force by throwing punches (remember, in oven-like heat), that either did not hit Ali or were deflected in a way that made it difficult for Foreman to hit Ali's head, while sapping his own strength.

This loss of physical energy on the sad part of Foreman was essentially the key to Ali's 'rope-a-dope' technique.

After several rounds, this really caused Foreman to be somewhat disoriented. Worst still, his stamina looked to be gradually draining from him.

So, after the fifth round Foreman was really very clumsy, & he looked increasingly exhausted too.

Ali, in his usual classic provocative self, continued to taunt Foreman by saying "They told me you could punch, George!" & "They told me you could punch as hard as Joe Louis."

Finally, in the eighth round, Ali landed the final combination, a left hook that brought Foreman's head up into position so Ali could smash him with a hard right, straight to the face.

Foreman staggered for a while, then twirled across half the ring before landing on his back. He finally managed to get up, but it was already too late.

Dilip & I concurred that this is the greatest demonstration of strategic anticipation & tactical execution ever displayed in a heavyweight fight.

[Dilip has also revealed that fight was also analysed as a case study by Harvard Business School.

By the way, the events before & during the fight were captured in the Academy Award winning documentary, 'When We Were Kings'.]

Ali came into the fight with a brilliant strategy, executed it beautifully, & achieved a great triumph.

The fight also revealed just how great Ali was at taking punches, & also highlights the different, perhaps dangerous, mid-ring strategy change that Ali had made in his fighting style, by adopting the 'rope-a-dope', instead of his former style that emphasized speed & movement.

This fight has since become one of the most famous fights of all time, because it resulted in Ali, against all the odds, regaining the title against a younger & stronger Foreman.

After this fight Ali once again told the world that he was the greatest.

[Incidentally, Dilip also revealed that when Ali was defeated in his fight with Ken Norton, & while still lying on the floor with all the reporters hanging around & waiting for his comments as a loser, Ali, grabbing one of the microphones, blurted out to the effect:

"He may be the champ, but look at me (apparently pointing at all the reporters around him), I am still the greatest!".

To me, this guy has really true mental strength.]

Amazingly, Foreman & Ali became great pals after the fight.

As I have always said, everything is possible in life or business; it's just a question of strategy & discipline, as exemplified by Muhammad Ali in 'The Rumble in the Jungle'.

[If you had watched 'Rocky III', you would certainly recall the movie segment near the tail-end when Clubber Lang was interviewed by a reporter prior to the final fight, He was asked about his strategy to defend his title against Rocky. In response, he just arrogantly blurted out 'PAIN!'. He got it, man!]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)


"Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill."
~ Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers of all time, famous for his "sting like a bee, float like a butterfly" maneuvers & fancy footwork in the ring;

Friday, March 13, 2009

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What would I do if God gave me the power & the knowledge for making the world a much better place?

THINK CLEARLY WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

Here's the link to an interesting newsletter article from the THINKERGY Ltd's Idea Factory based in Thailand & Hongkong. The mastermind behind this outfit is Detlef Reis, aka "Dr D", who also serves as the Founding Director & Chief Ideator of THINKERGY Ltd.

It outlines ten tips to show you ways to master the current economic turbulence by making you understand the essence of all ambiguous and situations that you and your business are going to face, so that you can respond with winning value propositions and effective actions.

In a nut shell, they are:

1. Do stream-of-consciousness writing in the morning;

2. Pay attention to your first thoughts;

3. Focus on your breath;

4. Meditate;

5. Indulge in your favorite 'idea breeder' activity;

6. Talk to business outsiders about your challenges;

7. Regularly do aerobic exercise;

8. Be grateful — and serve;

9. Simplify your life and business;

10. Work less, think more;

INSIGHT DEFINED

"Insight is the understanding, wisdom & intuition you bring to a situation. It is the result of your experience, your ability & willingness to consider alternative ways of viewing the world,
& exploring the deepest, enlightened levels of your thoughts."

~ Sherrin Ross Ingram, author of 'Wealth Mentality: Program Yourself to Get & Keep the Wealth You Want';

[More information about the author & his work is available at this link.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity."

~ Christopher Morley, 1890-1957, American journalist, novelist & poet; he was one of the founders & long-time contributing editor of the 'Saturday Review of Literature';

Thursday, March 12, 2009

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating & noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, & adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good."

~ Dr Richard Wiseman, psychologist at the University & of Hertfordshire & a CSICOP fellow; also author of 'The Luck Factor' (2003);

[Here's the link to an article by the author, from which the foregoing insight has been extracted.]

SYNTOPIC REVIEW: ROGER VON OECH'S CREATIVITY STUFF

I am a raving fan of Roger von Oech's creative work as embodied in his books & card decks, namely:

Books:

- 'A Whack on the Side of the Head';

- 'A Kick in the Seat of the Pants';

- 'Expect the Unexpected';

Card Decks:

- 'Creative Whack Pack';

- 'Innovative Whack Pack';

- 'Ancient Whacks of Heraclitus';

I have used all his creativity stuff ever since I started my own strategy consulting (& book store) business in late 1991.

From my personal & professional experience, I would like to say that the entire collection of Roger von Oech's creative work has been designed to serve three strategic purposes:

- understanding - & removing - your mental blocks;

- breaking your habitual patterns;

- shifting your focus & changing your paradigms;

As a matter of fact, once you appreciate & commit to these three strategic purposes in your life, you will soon realise that there is nothing in this world to stop you from getting rid of old ideas & getting new & fresh ideas.

Allow me to quote creativity guru Edward de Bono:

"...the mind is habitually uncreative - it is usually preoccupied with organising masses of incoming data into convenient patterns. Once this pattern is established, then the mind tends to rely upon that pattern in future situations, in order to facilitate decision making & action in an otherwise complex world..."

(The Use of Lateral Thinking)

Breaking old habitual patterns is definitely the first & foremost priority in your journey to creativity!

Once your shift your focus, you begin to change your paradigms or the way you look at the world around you.

Always remember this:

Your brain follows the direction of your current dominant thought.

Once you focus on something, that thing becomes the foreground. Everything else around it will fall into the background.

Most opportunties are unfortunately hidden in the background.

The moment you begin to shift your focus, you are pushing the 'foreground' into the 'background', & pulling the 'background' into the 'foreground'. Get it?

'A Whack on the Side of the Head' will help you to break through your mental blocks. They will open up your mind for innovation. This book is filled with provocative puzzles, exercises, stories & helpful tips.

'A Kick in the Seat of the Pants' takes you on a guided tour through the four stereotype roles of the creative process:

- Explorer;

- Artist;

- Judge;

- Warrior;

Understanding - & applying - these roles will fire up your personal & professional creativity.

Tactically, they will change your mental focus as you change to play each of the four roles.

I would like to add one more role from what I have learned from the Japanese creativity experts: Antique Dealer. This singular role will allow you to combine all the four roles into one.

'Expect the Unexpected' uses thirty of Heraclitus' (the world's first creativity master) epigrams as creative springboards. It has intriguing questions designed to topple old habits of thought & fire up your imagination.

All the three card decks are basically extensions of the three books, to allow convenient usage during brainstorming sessions.

From my strategy consulting experience, these three card decks have proven to be inexhaustible sources of inspirations.

In fact, the 'Innovative Whack Pack' combines the creative power of both the 'Creative Whacks' & 'Ancient Whacks of Heraclitus'.

I strongly urge readers to seriously consider having the entire collection of Roger von Oech's creative work added to your Creativity & Innovation Library, & all the three card decks placed permanently on your desk top at all times.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1. What do I find myself doing, & enjoying even in a busy week?

2. What do others tell me that I do exceptionally well?

3. What would I like to do, if I were able to do more of it?

4. What do I sense that I could improve if I had the opportunity?

5. What would give me the most satisfaction as a lifetime work?

SAGE ADVICE FROM THE GURU

"Knowledge is inherent in man; no knowledge comes from outside; it is all inside. We say Newton discovered gravitation. Was it sitting anywhere waiting for him? It was in his own mind; the time came & he found it out. All knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in our own mind. The external world is simply the suggestion, the occasion, which sets you to study your own mind."

~ Swami Vivekananda;

MAKING DISTINCTIONS: CREATING vs PROBLEM SOLVING

Here's the link to a great, but rather belated, blog post from George Ambler of 'The Practice of Leadership' weblog, which gives an excellent distinction between creating & problem solving, drawing on insights from Peter Senge & Robert Fritz.

In a nut shell:

“The fundamental difference between creating and problem solving is simple. In problem solving we seek to make something we do not like go away. In creating, we seek to make what we truly care about exist.”

~ Peter Senge, Senior Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Founding Chair, Society for Organisational Learning;

“What determines your orientation is where you spend most of your time. For many people, much of their life is organized around the circumstances in their lives. For others, much of their lives are organized around creating what they want to create…. Their is a dramatic difference between the two orientations. In the first, you are always subject to the whims of circumstances. In the other, you are the predominant creative force in your own life, and circumstances are one of the forces you use in the creative process.”

~ Robert Fritz, musician, filmmaker, & organizational consultant;

A GREAT WAY TO START MY MORNING, PHYSICALLY & INTELLECTUALLY

As I have mentioned before, the first thing I always do in the morning is to grab hold of my morning papers (only 'Straits Times') at the front door, & then proceed to answer Nature's urgent morning call.

Normally, I will just skim through the headlines, browse the editorials, & selectively zero into what I feel really worth reading about.

Most of the economic analyses, political commentaries & insight pages are left to the late evenings for deeper readings. Occasionally, I may tear them out as clippings to be read at a later date or time.

Upon completion of Nature's morning call, I will proceed to jot down some key information or ideas in my scratchpad.

Oftentimes, I will spend some time to browse through my scratchpad.

I call it my scratchpad because all the stuff I have read, observed, thought about, dreamed about, remembered about, or even doodled while having phone conversations with some one else, are always recorded.

Interestingly, it works like a journal, & yet it's not a journal.

Immediately after that, I am all dressed up for my morning gym practice. Most of the time, I will have my morning breakfast in the neighbourhood coffee shop with my wife.

For both of us, breakfast is always light; also my wife & I will often share a bowl of porridge or noodle soup or a plate of fried bee-hoon (rice vermicelli).

We will usually hit the gym in Jurong East just around 8.45am, after a slow walk of about 20-25 minutes from our apartment in Jurong West.

In the gym, I often use the time of about an hour or more, while running on the treadmill, riding the stationary bicycle, or working on the elliptical machine, to think through what I have jot down earlier in my scratchpad.

Well, in a nut shell, that's my gel time!

Interestingly as well as amazingly, it is pertinent for me to mention that imagination truly transcends space & time!

Between short breaks while changing over machines, I often like to get hold of my pocket notebook in my gym pouch to transcribe my thoughts or ideas.

I find the dual-usage time period as described very useful, as I can kill two birds with one stone!

Also, I always enjoy the thinking, even though it's an unconscious process. Best of all, at least for me, my exercise time passes very quickly.

Naturally, if my gym buddy happens to do his physical exercise next to me, then we probably will spend the time to chit chat with each other while we exercise.

Sometimes, without realising it, the chit chat also adds some spice to the thinking gel!

For me, I generally spend about an hour to 1-1/2 hours in the gym. My wife likes to spend about 3 hours there, as sometimes she stays back to play badminton or just hang-out with her friends.

Sometimes, I will hang out in the rest area for a very short while, just to browse some old magazines. Sometimes, I may just wait for my wife, on occasions when she may decide to go off early.

If not, I will walk back alone to my apartment. That takes about 20-25 minutes.

My intellectually active mind of course doesn't stop working. Churning thoughts or ideas inside the head, round & round, is a really fascinating endeavour, even though it operates at the subconscious level.

Does that explain why our heads are round? Just kidding!

By the way, what are thoughts & what are ideas?

To me, thoughts are generally first impressions or preliminary interpretations from the information we have processed from reading or observation. They are pretty raw in form, but they prime the mind.

It is pertinent to mention that there always exists a lot of inter-mingling of the information from what I have read or observed with what I have already stored in my memory banks. That's to say, my prior knowledge & past experiences also play a significant part in the initial processing. I reckon that's also the nature of the mind.

To me, ideas are generally the fresh insights from the interpretations. They are still not final, but I would say, in some way, they are readily workable, so to speak.

Naturally, more thinking - plus imagination & intelligence as catalysts, & fueled by passion & enthusiasm on my part - is needed to make them implementable tasks.

I reckon that's what productive thinking is all about. In the end analysis, I see creativity as the igniter in the whole endeavour.

By the time, I hit home after the slow walk, it's about 11am. After a quick bath, I will turn on my broad-band & desktop.

It's my blogging as well as net surfing time.

By 12.30 pm, I will meet up with my wife on her way back from the gym for our lunch together, again at the neighbourhood coffee shop.

This is generally my daily morning routine, from Mondays to Fridays. As described, it's also a great way to start my morning, which help to keep me physically as well as intellectually active.

BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND

As most readers are already aware, the foregoing post title is also the #2 Habit from the '7 Habits' of productivity strategist Stephen Covey.

Somehow, it resonates very well with the following quote from Haharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced the Transcendental Meditation technique & practice to the world:

"No action can be performed successfully without a clear result in view."

Since the eighties, because of my deep interest in developing personal mastery, I have learned that everything we do in life, especially from the standpoint of strategy formulation right up to its real-world execution, always happens at least thrice:

1) as a mental construct in the mind;

2) as a workable strategy on paper, especially when one needs to crystallise one's thoughts before putting it to work;

3) as a physical action;

This is generally not a linear process as it may appear. It's more a iterative & recursive process, but the three "happenings" remain unchanged.

Hence, from my personal experience, the more crystal-clear is our thought process, the more elegant is the executed task.

That's to say, Clarity is Power!

Put in in another way, the "image of achievement" - drawing on the cues from Dr Karl Pribram of Stanford University, who coined this term as part of the intellectual extension of his 'Holographic Brain Model' - must be very clear - to be more precise, sensory-rich, in vivid details - in our heads.

As a matter of fact, while having lunch with my buddy, David Tang, at the Singapore Recreation Club on Monday afternoon, one of his golfing partners happened to pop in, & our joint conversation somehow strayed into the playing of golf.

It so happened that I also brought up the name of Jack Nicklaus.

According to Jack Nicklaus, in golf, these best players regularly say that at their level of competition, the game is 20% physical & 80% mental self-programming.

He & many other top golf pros use a ritual before each shot of relaxing through deep breathing & visualising the perfect swing.

Jack Nicklaus said:

"I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture in my head . . ."

That really sums up very well what I wanted to talk about the image of achievement.

In the wonderful video, 'The Power of Vision', change & innovation strategist/futurist Joel Arthur Barker draws on the great work & the influences of Fred Polak, Viktor Frankl, Benjamin Singer, James Collins & Martin Seligman to talk about the power of having a positive image of the future, irrespective of nations, societies, children, companies & individuals.

I certainly like to urge readers to get hold of this great video to watch & learn from it.

Interestingly, during the years when I was actively involved in residential camps for teens & kids, I was often amazed at how they had to learn the hard way in understanding how to make use of the image of achievement to excel in their academic pursuits.

Every teen or kid in the camps had to participate in several structured & orchestrated outdoor events, similar to those in 'Project Adventure'.

One of the outdoor events was the 'Swinging Log', where each of them had to cross without any physical aid, except with their own stretched-out hands to balance as they walked the swinging log.

Naturally, their helpful camp mates would be standing at either side of the log to cheer him or her - actually to support in the event of a fall - to complete the walk.

As I often doubled up as the camp photographer, I could see - & captured on camera - the fear in the eyes of many participants as they made their first attempt to cross the swinging log.

Luckily, each participant was taught to look at a large placard with a bull's-eye diagram placed at the other end of the log.

To enable each of them to complete the walk, the bull's-eye served as the prime focus of the participant's mind during the entire process, & not the swinging log, which often spelt "falling angel" effect for many of them.

Teens or kids who crossed the finishing line on the swinging log often had the "eye of the tiger" focus, drawing an apt analogy from Rocky III.

In other words, when one begins with the end in mind, success is naturally in your hands!

DO MOTIVATIONAL TRAINERS WALK THEIR TALK? A RESPONSE

While surfing the net, I have stumbled upon a response to my earlier blogpost entitled 'Do Motivational Trainers Walk Their Talk?'.

According to the responder, hijacking other people's intellectual creation is seemingly cool.

I am not surprised by his response. He is a NLP trainer from Thailand. The guy who stole my intellectual creation as mentioned in my earlier blogpost is also a NLP trainer.

I rest my case.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Creativity is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility. Effective leaders are able to shake up their thinking as though their brains are kaleidoscopes, permitting an array of different patterns out of the same bits of reality."

~ Rosabeth Moss Kanter, 66, a tenured professor in business at Harvard Business School & author of 'The Change Masters' (1983);

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SAGE ADVICE FROM THE GURU

"What makes one luckier is the good that he has done to others. It comes back to him. A man doesn't become lucky by doing wrong. He becomes lucky because he has done good to others & that good comes back to him. And now he is lucky."

~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1918–2008; introduced the Transcendental Meditation technique & practice to the world;

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"New insights fail to get put into practice because they conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world works . . . images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking & acting. That is why the discipline of managing mental models - surfacing, testing, & improving our internal pictures of how the world works - promises to be a major breakthrough for learning organizations [as well as individuals]."

~ Peter Senge, 62, director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management; also author of the book, 'The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization' (1990);

PAYING ATTENTION ISN'T A SIMPLE ACT OF SELF-DISCIPLINE . . .

Here's the link to a recent interview article, entitled 'Digital Overload Is Frying Our Brains', about the book, 'Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age', by award-winning journalist Maggie Jackson, in 'Wired Science'.

I find it fascinating to read, especially from the standpoint of understanding the current net generation, with its near-religious allegiance to a constant state of motion & addiction to multi-tasking, notwithstanding the Internet, emails, blogging, instant messaging, interactive virtual life & hyper-realistic video games.

Despite its brevity, I also get to understand better the neurological roots of the attention phenomenon, & also how one still can exercise better & intelligent choices to lead a more meaningful & purposeful life, amid today's abundance of technological tools & scientific advances.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1. Where do I want to be?

2. How will I know when I finally get there?

3. Where am I right now?

4. How do I get there quickly?

5. What will/may change in my environment in the near future?

~ inspired by Dr Stephen Haines' 'The ABCs of Strategic & Systems Thinking';

[Dr Stephen Haines is the author of 'The Systems Thinking Approach to Strategic Planning & Management' (2000). It's a reasonably good book to read, even though my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, thinks otherwise.]

THE SHIFTING OF PERSPECTIVES

On Monday afternoon, my wife & I were invited for lunch at the Singapore Recreation Club, located on the edge of the Padang, by one of my Polytechnic buddies from the sixties, & his wife, Mr & Mrs Tang.

We had in fact met each other three weeks earlier over lunch at the Crystal Jade Kitchen Restaurant in the Jurong Point 1 shopping mall.

For my wife & Mrs Tang, yesterday's meeting was the second time. Apparently, they had clicked with each other the last time - Mrs Tang is China-born, while my wife is from Vietnam.

While my buddy & I talked about the world & Singapore economy in general, the two home-making ladies continued to share & exchange personal perspectives about living in Singapore as expatriates.

Eventually we also talked about vacations in Vietnam, since the June school holidays would be here shortly. Mrs Tang has a 11-year old daughter.

My wife & I are already scheduled to visit Ho Chin Minh city in late May, & have also invited Mr & Mrs Tang to join us in Vietnam for a short holiday.

From my personal observations, I always note that meetings in a social setting with buddies & friends often allow each other to share, exchange & compare different perspectives about the world in general.

In a nut shell, we often see the world through our own coloured eyes, so to speak. When we interact with people, say in social (as well as business) settings, we often find that, despite living (& doing business) more or less in the same world, our views about the world can be somewhat different.

This diversity of viewpoints often can create inter-personal problems, but it is through open-mindedness & readiness to appreciate other people's viewpoints - we may not necessary agree with each other on everything - help to understand people better, socially & culturally.

It is the shifting of perspectives in one's mind, or more precisely in each other's mind, that makes the meeting dialogue between two or more persons in a social (or business) setting more meaningful & productive.

My wife attends her even English Language classes (based on the Berlitz system) in Jurong East twice a week. All her classmates are China-born professionals working in Singapore. Even the language instructor is China-born, but married to a Singaporean.

As my wife is by nature very gregarious, she interacts with them very well.

From my wife, I find her instructor rather innovative, as she often gets each of the participants in class, to role play & express their views about real life situations, using English as the medium of expression.

Accordingly, my wife's Chinese classmates as well as her instructor are always curious to hear my wife's viewpoints. My wife is never afraid to speak her mind, which I always appreciate.

Like-wise, my wife has also learned a lot about the Chinese people through her class association.

With the opportunity to use English in class, as well as through interaction with her own gym buddies, mostly Singaporeans, her conversational English has improved substantially.

What impresses me most is that my wife has now developed a broad understanding about life in general, beyond what she already knows about life in Vietnam.

As a matter of fact, when my wife & I first got together after a whirlwind courtship five years ago, we have had tremendous misunderstandings initially, mostly arising from social & cultural idiosyncrasies.

We managed to shift our mental perspectives about embracing each other from different cultural backgrounds for a better, long-term future, which eventually resolved many of our inter-personal problems.

To me, life, like nature, is essentially diversity. I reckon the shifting of perspectives makes it more exciting & more importantly, worth living.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Action is a great restorer & builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all."

~ Norman Vincent Peale, 1898–1993, Protestant preacher & progenitor of the theory of "positive thinking"; also, author, most notably of 'The Power of Positive Thinking';

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

10 WARNING SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging - it's a progressive & fatal disease.

It's the most common form of dementia, a general term for the loss of memory & other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.

Sad to say, it has no current cure. But treatments for early symptoms, combined with the right services & support, can make life better.

According to the US-based Alzheimer's Association, there are 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Along with the advice of a doctor, these signs are critical to detecting Alzheimer's.

1) Memory loss:

Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later.

What's normal? Forgetting names or appointments occasionally.

2) Difficulty performing familiar tasks:

Often finding it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. Individuals may lose track of the steps to prepare a meal, place a telephone call or play a game.

What's normal? Occasionally forgetting why you came into a room or what you planned to say.

3) Problems with language:

Often forgetting simple words or substituting unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. They may be unable to find their toothbrush, for example, and instead ask for "that thing for my mouth."

What's normal? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

4) Disorientation to time and place:

Becoming lost in their own neighborhoods, forgetting where they are and how they got there, and not knowing how to get back home.

What's normal? Forgetting the day of the week or where you were going.

5) Poor or decreased judgment:

Dressing inappropriately, wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show poor judgment about money, like giving away large sums to telemarketers.

What's normal? Making a questionable or debatable decision from time to time.

6) Problems with abstract thinking:

Having unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are and how they should be used.

What's normal? Finding it challenging to balance a checkbook.

7) Misplacing things:

Putting things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

What's normal? Misplacing keys or a wallet temporarily.

8) Changes in mood or behavior:

Showing rapid mood swings – from calm to tears to anger – for no apparent reason.

What's normal? Occasionally feeling sad or moody.

9) Changes in personality:

The personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member.

What's normal? People’s personalities do change somewhat with age.

10) Loss of initiative:

Becoming very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities.

What's normal? Sometimes feeling weary of work or social obligations.

BECOMING A STRATEGIC THINKER

Here's the link to a worthwhile article on strategic thinking by Dr Stephen Haines, Founder & CEO of the Centre for Strategic Management®.

[Dr Stephen Haines is the author of 'The Systems Thinking Approach to Strategic Planning & Management' (2000). It's a reasonably good book to read, even though my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, thinks otherwise.]

FANATIC DEFINED

"A fanatic is a person who can’t change his mind & won’t change the subject."

~ Sir Winston Churchill;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Do I have a creative dream I’ve been meaning to start work on ‘one day’?

What would be the very first – maybe very small – step that would get it under way?

When am I going to take that step?

SAGE ADVICE FROM THE GURU

"It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from you action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result."
~ Mahatma Gandhi;

THE CREATIVITY BLUES, A Poem by Dr Jennifer Webster

I try to be creative in the work that I do
But the madness at work is crazy…it’s like working in a zoo

I cannot seem to find the time to think of new ideas
It seems like I have been doing the same thing for years

The day starts out and off I go running
Doing my tasks that I know are not even stunning

Oh to have time to be more creative in my work
To get out of my box and starting giving things a torque

I am not encouraged by my boss or current leadership
To take the time to just start letting my brain rip

Creativity takes time and an environment that supports it
Without those elements, new ideas you will not hit

Step back and think about what you can do right now
To change your workplace and give it some pow

This will not happen by just telling people to do so
It will take constant feedback and letting people go

To quiet places to reflect on their work process
To think about ways to do more with less

Or to change the way something operates
This time and thought will open the thinking floodgates

For you see creativity does not come from a dictated order
It comes from a workplace that has loosened up its border

From constraints and frustrations that shut the brain down
And makes everyone walk around wearing a frown

This does not promote new ideas and solutions you see
For ideas come from within and need to be let free


Create mini-sabbaticals to process new thoughts
Let people debrief a project after it has been bought

Instead of jumping right into the next project
Let those who worked on it take time to agree or object

To things that went well or fell apart along the way
Give them an opportunity to speak their mind and have their say

Find ways to promote this within your organization
And you will find you have a whole new operation!


[Source: Dr Jennifer Webster, Business Strategies, Inc.]

KEEP YOUR MIND INTELLECTUALLY ACTIVE!

I like to share with the reader the following extract from a belated Washington Post new report:

According to a large study, researchers at Harvard University compared the brains of young adults and senior citizens.

As expected, the scientists found consistent differences between the two groups. The most significant occurred in a brain system known as the "default network," which is active when people turn their attention inward, as when they're trying to remember a name.

The default network is defined by a series of pathways between the front of the brain -- this includes areas of the prefrontal cortex -- and the "back" of the brain, such as the cingulate cortex.

Under normal circumstances, the default network ensures that these two brain areas work in perfect sync. "When the front of the brain fires, you want to see the back of the brain fire right back," says Jessica Andrews-Hanna, the study's lead author.

"Unfortunately, this connection seems to weaken with age, so that older people can end up with a rather disconnected brain." Andrews-Hanna suggests that deficits in the default network might be responsible for many of the classic symptoms of old age, such as an inability to focus and problems with memory retrieval.

So far, so depressing. The aging process is a biological wrecking crew. But buried in all the bad news are some optimistic data.

It turned out that nearly half of the older subjects exhibited brain activity that appeared indistinguishable from that of the young adults: Their default system was nearly as synchronized as those of people in their 20s.

Furthermore, these differences in brain activity were correlated with performance on a battery of tests that measured short-term memory, abstract reasoning powers and processing speed. "There really was tremendous individual variation," Andrews-Hanna says, "and this variation was evident both in the brain and in observed behavior."

The question, of course, is what causes this variation. How do some people manage to maintain such a spry cortex?

Some scientists argue that the secret to thinking like a young person is cognitive exercise.

"The brain is a learning machine, and like all machines it needs to be continually maintained," says Michael Merzenich, a professor emeritus at the University of California at San Francisco.

"If you stop exercising the brain - and this is what often happens during retirement - then you shouldn't be surprised when it starts to die off."

My point: KEEP YOUR MIND INTELLECTUALLY ACTIVE!

For me, MM Lee Kuan Yew is a really great example!

Actually, staying intellectual active is no big deal!


For me, reading books, especially covering a broad spectrum of subjects is one good way to go about it. I find annotating in the margins helps me to keep my mind focused & alert while reading.

Talking to people about what you have read about is even better. In my case, I do a lot of reviewing as well as blogging, as part of my reading endeavours.

Constantly challenge yourself by doing common things uncommonly, or anything that offers novelty for a change. Learn a new language, memorise a song, play with a new instrumen, put together a jig saw puzzle, or indulge in Scrabble or Word Juxtapoz or cross-word puzzles.

Hanging out with kids or grandkids is also another excellent way to jazz up your mental acuity.

Even interacting with people, e.g. just go out of your house & meet your neighbours to chit-chat, is just as effective.

FINDING OUT HOW YOUNG YOU ARE

Drawing cues from Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers of all time, who has once declared that age is basically mind over body, I like to share with readers some of the known tools that can help you calculate how young you are:

1) Your REAL AGE or the biological age of your body based on how well you've maintained it;

2) Your LIFE EXPECTANCY CALCULATOR;

3) Your VITALITY COMPASS, with 36 easy questions to compute your chronological age; your body's age, given your current habits; years you are expected to live; number of years you have gained/lost, given your curent habits;

Go for it, just for the fun of it!

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)


"I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That's were the fun is."


~ Donald Trump, Chairman & CEO of the Trump Organization; his extravagant lifestyle & outspoken manner have made him a celebrity for years, a status which was only amplified by the success of his own reality show, 'The Apprentice', where he serves as host & executive producer;

SPOTLIGHT: NUTS ABOUT LIFE

It was drizzling this afternoon, while I was driving my car back to Jurong West from the city.

On the Jurong Town Hall Road, I had spotted this pink-coloured van right in front of my car.

Something on the van body - nutty cartoons from Tong Gardens, a whole-saler of nuts, all kinds of nuts - caught my fancy.

By the way, I love to eat nuts, especially cashew nuts.

So, I took a quick snap shot of the van with my Nokia N93 handphone camera.

If you have a craving for bigger, crunchier & tastier nuts - with over 300 deliciously different flavours to choose from - you can pop into this link for more information.

Monday, March 9, 2009

SPOTLIGHT: EQ:IQ

I have spotted this new fashion boutique with an apt trade name, EQ:IQ, at the Raffles City shopping mall in the Central Business District, while window-shopping with my wife this afternoon.

According to Jonah Lehrer, who ingeniously weaves neuroscience, sports, war, psychology, & politics into a fascinating tale of human decision making in his new book, 'How We Decide' (2009), the brain’s reasoning centers are easily fooled, often making judgments based on nonrational factors like presentation (a sales pitch or packaging).

He highlights:

"A recent experiment, led by researchers at Stanford University & Carnegie Mellon, sheds light on what happens inside the brain when people make shopping decisions.

While economists have long assumed that consumers are rational agents & purchase goods based on calculations of utility, that assumption turns out to be false.

In reality, every shopping decision is an emotional tug-of-war, as the pleasure of getting something new competes with the pain of spending money."

All I know is that, when it comes to a shopping decision, we are often irrational, even though we try to be logical about it, immediately after the purchase has been done.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.”

~ John Naisbitt, futurist & author of the 'MegaTrends' series of books;

Sunday, March 8, 2009

INNOVATING IN HARD TIMES, with Futurist Joel Arthur Barker

Great News!

Readers can join in on an online dialogue with host Debbe Kennedy, author of 'Putting Our Differences to Work', & presenter Joel Arthur Barker, futurist, film-maker & author of 'Future Edge' at the Global Dialogue Center ONLINE Conference Center.

It is entitled "A Conversation with Futurist Joel Arthur Barker: INNOVATING in Hard Times", scheduled on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 from 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. PT (1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. ET)

To REGISTER to attend: just click here.

Allow a few seconds for the link to come up. No fees, but registration is required, so that the host can send you the necessary login information.

In preparation for your conversation, readers can watch the following video trailer at this link.

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH . . . WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Debbe Kennedy, author of 'Putting Our Differences to Work', offers some great advice for negotiating harsh times:

Here's the gist. You can read the entire piece at this link.

1) Strengthen relationships;

2) Re-Package or Re-invent Yourselves;

3) Upgrade Your skills;

4) Get Everyone involved;

5) Do something with what you have;

6) Renew your organization - make things better;

7) Anticipate the future & use your ingenuity to build your future;

8) Cross-Train;

9) Help Yourselves by Helping Others;

10) Step into the NEW FUTURE;


The parting shot with an apt quote from Joel Arthur Barker, futurist, filmmaker, & author is great:


“It is one thing to sit in your easy chair and watch the future being created in the distance. It is quite another, to roll up your sleeves and labor in its birth.”
So, to end the foregoing advisory, here's my two-cents:

11) Move your butts NOW! & Just Do It!


[Debbe Kennedy is also the author of 'Breakthrough! The Problem Solving Advantage' (1998) & 'Diversity Breakthrough! Strategic Action Series' (2000). All great & potent stuff, I must say. She is also the Founder of the Global Dialogue Center, a virtual gathering place for people around the world. Readers can drop in to explore her 24/7 Conversations, live dialogues & innovative knowledge gallery. ]

EVERYTHING YOU NEED . . . IT'S ALL AVAILABLE!

"Everything you need for your better future & success has already been written. And guess what? It's all available."

This statement actually came from master motivator Jim Rohn in an email. Jim Rohn has often been acknowledged by celebrated peak performance coach Anthony Robbins as the latter's mentor.

In today's context, especially with the availability of the Internet as well as all the intelligent Google stuff, the foregoing statement is very true.

In fact, the big problem is the avalanche of written or published information.

Futurist John Naisbitt has been right since the late eighties when he wrote in his debut book, 'MegaTrends', as follows:

"We are drowning in information. How much information are you absorbing? Without a structure, a frame of reference, the vast amount of data that comes your way each day will probably whiz right by you."

In the light of what he said, the first thing you must do is to decide what you really, really want.

From my experience, the fastest & easiest way to get started is to look at the few things you want to do, to have, to change & to improve.

Then, work out a strategy & a game plan.

In the case of knowledge acquisition, go & identify the masters from whom you want to learn from, & also all the resources - books, magazines, newsletters, audios, videos, etc. - you would need along the way.

That's how I got started on my personal journey in the pursuit of personal mastery starting from the early eighties.

To catch up with reading & studying, I recommend readers to take up a speed reading course.

For me, I took up PhotoReading (under Patricia Danielson, co-developer of the technology) during the early nineties, & also fully embraced the techniques & tips from the book, 'How to Ready a Book', by Mortimer Adler.

Prior to that, I had already mastered the 'clustering' technique from Gabriele Rico's book, as well as the 'mind-mapping' technique from Tony Buzan's books. They definitely helped me in my information organisation, in addition to idea generation during those years.

Today, one can even have ready personal access to a broad variety of technology-enabled tools to expedite learning & kowledge acquisition e.g. Smart Manager Pro.

Initially, you can make use of the store repertoire of Nightingale-Conant, often recognised as a World Leader in Personal Development Since 1961, as a useful guide to categorise your search for knowledge:

- Personal Development;
- Business Strategy;
- Wealth Building;
- Mind & Body;
- Spiritual Development;
- Sales & Training;

You can of course add in your own personalised categories.

As part of your evolving inventory of resources, you can also identify institutions or organisations related to your area of interest.

For example, during the late seventies & throughout the eighties, & because of my deep burning interest in learning & creativity, as well as the technologies to augment learning & creativity, I had actually hunted down all the known institutions & organisations, which I thought could offer me more information resources in one way or another. They became my springboards, so to speak.

Just imagine those were the days of snail mail, followed by fax machines which came in very much latter.

The bibliographies, footnotes & appendices of books I had enjoyed reading often provided most of the initial sources. The others came from subsciption magazines & newsletters.

Even authors & other experts were not spared in my relentless search during those years. Most had responded generously, only with a handful who didn't bother.

Once you have the resources in hand, the next thing is to embark on a systematic process of reading & studying, which naturally should reconcile with your ultimate strategic objectives.

Along the way, you can also identify all the seminars, workshops, &/or conferences, locally as well as overseas, to help you get a better picture.

Another possibility is to find & network with like-minded people. For me, I had started a newsletter. In fact, many of the early subscribers became my buddies with more or less similar pursuits.

Nowadays, with the power of the Internet, & its attendant tools like YouTube, SlideShare, podcasts, weblogs, etc., you don't even have to attend any live seminars or workshops.

Social networking on the net is also a powerful source.

Having said that, I must warn that it is important to have & also to stick to a properly defined strategy, so as not to get overwhelmed as well as side-tracked.

You should always focus on your strategy, but, of course, you can stay flexible in your approach.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

How can I improve my human qualities?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
~ Dale Carnegie, 1888–1955, American writer & lecturer; also master motivator, well-known for his best-seller classic, 'How to Win Friends & Influence People' (1936);