Saturday, September 12, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: SINGAPORE, A FUNKY CITY


Time magazine was right. Singapore is now a funky city.

To make it more cosmopolitan & also to attract more international tourists to the little red dot on the map, Singapore has made concerted efforts in recent years to become a 'fun' city, after some three decades of, well, being a 'fine' city.

Straits Times journalist Cherian George once called Singapore, 'airconditioned nation'.

Today, bars & pubs in entertainment zones can stay open till dawn. Bar top dancing is allowed.

Rub joints are everywhere.

The ban on the movie, 'Sex in the City', was lifted. In fact, with the revamped movie classifications, we now have more exotic choices.

However, if you can find a nice place to park your car in the city for free, you can be absolutely sure that there will still be a fine to go with it.

Yes, we can have more fun, albeit within sober limits.

As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong once remarked during a National Day speech, you can paint your hair blue, green & purple, but when National Service comes, please cut your hair.



The foregoing digital snapshots, showing a partial glimpse of Singapore's funkiness, were captured at Orchard Road, Singapore's premier shopping district.

INSIGHT DEFINED

"Insight, I believe, refers to the depth of understanding that comes by setting experiences, yours & mine, familiar & exotic, new & old, side by side, learning by letting them speak to one another."

~ Mary Catherine Bateson, 70, cultural anthropologist & distinguished author;

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: HUMAN INGENUITY AT WORK


While window-shopping at Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road the other day, I noticed a really creative display of human ingenuity, on the part of French luxury goods boutique Hermes, in embellishing the mundane frontage, while construction works were going on behind the scenes to renovate its existing large store, as captured by me in the foregoing & following digital snapshots.

Kudos to the management of Hermes!



TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If the rate of change is exponential, what would it mean to live, learn & work exponentially?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Change is hard. Change is hardest on those caught by surprise. Change is hardest on those who have difficulties changing too. But change is natural; change is not new; change is important."

~ David Schlesinger, head of Reuters America;

WORLDVIEW CHANGING IS THE NEW GAME IN TOWN!


Personally, I reckon the most profound as well as most potent learning points I have picked up from thinkologist Dudley Lynch of Brain Me Up aka BrainTechnologies Corporation, through his many published thoughtwares since the late seventies/early eighties, are his timely call for urgent attention to the need, firstly, to explore our home thinking base if we are to make any significant improvements in our lives.

Secondly, we need to immensely transform the way we utilise our brains, if we really care to match the accelerating pace of change in the 21st century.

Here's a quick round-up from my personal collection of his (as well as together with Paul Kordis) wonderful offering of experiential axioms:

"Change your worldview, & you change the world! Not just the world at large but also your own personal world, writ large!"

"You don't see the world the way it is. You see the world the way you think."

"You can't fix what has failed with a new improved version of what isn't working."

"Just keep moving, keep learning, stay hopeful . . . Life is mostly about not missing the cues & about acting on the clues."

"If you argue for your limits, you get to keep them."

"When something needs to be done, the pain is in not doing it."

"There are good reasons to accept responsibility even if you don't deserve it."

"Asking 'what if?' helps reminds us that we probably created the reality in question to begin with."

"People tend to resist fundamental change because the ego of the individual fears that changing what she does is a threat to who she is & whether she will continue to exist."

"By stupidity, I mean the inability of the brain or any part of nature to accept useful information, learn from it, & act intelligently on it."


I have deliberately prefaced the foregoing blogpost with the photoshot of a leaping dolphin.

Why do dolphins leap?

To get a superior worldview.

I trust readers understand my salient point in appreciating the 'Strategy of the Dolphin'.

[For the uninitiated, a quick introductory way to grasp the author's thoughtwares is to grab his trilogy of works:

1. 'Strategy of the Dolphin';

2. 'DolphinThink Workbook', with accompanying assessments (BrainMap, MindMaker6 & mCircle Instrument);

3. 'Your Dolphin High Performance Business Brain';]

Proud to say, the materials are well ahead of their times, as far as developing insight, agility, flexibility & competence in today's fast-changing times are concerned.]

Friday, September 11, 2009

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Do I feel like I am really enjoying my life right now? How so?

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"The fluidity of your thoughts is based on the flexibility of your beliefs and the boundaries you've set around them."

"All thought is created, therefore we are all creators of whatever world we live in."

"Who you think you are is only a thought."

"Failure does not exist. Everything is a process of learning, experiences we are entitled to live. If you can learn something positive, you have success."

"The way you think either stands in your way or assists you in achieving your goals."

"When you can line all your thoughts up for potential, you will succeed."

"Changing how you think costs you no money and it takes no special talent. It does take a commitment on your part to learn and use tools that will assist you to effectively design your thoughts."

"You have the free will to excel or inhibit your thoughts. You've designed them. You’ve decided at some level or another which ones you agree with and which ones you choose to ignore. Realizing this is a step towards self empowerment."

"Adversity strips away the masks we hide behind, revealing other sides of ourselves we do not want the world to see. It is why we dislike adversity, because we have to face what we don’t like about ourselves."

"Every problem offers an opportunity for a solution. The trick is being in the right frame of mind to find it."

- Dr Michael Arndt, life coach & founder of Designed Thinking;

TODAY IS A GIFT, THAT IS WHY IT IS CALLED THE PRESENT.

I have found this wonderful story on the net. Probably, it has been retold thousand of times.

Nonetheless, at least from my personal standpoint, it offers terrific lessons for understanding what life is all about.

"Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.

His bed was next to the room's only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.

They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.

Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band - he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside.

He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, 'Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.'

Epilogue:

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.

'Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present.'

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: REAL & AUTHENTIC FOOD


I am always intrigued by the phrase 'authentic food' or the so-called 'real stuff' which some advertisers, as shown as examples in the digital snapshots above & below, often use in their marketing messages to attract customers.

What do they mean by 'authentic food'?

Is there a way to tell the real difference, except for whether it tastes delicious or not?

Personally, I have come across several local food reviews, in which two or more reviewers didn't eventually agree with each other on the food from the same restaurant, at least from the gastronomical standpoint.

I recall the 'Straits Times' newspaper had done an interesting food survey not to long ago, in which five well-known food reviewers could not even discern from a control experiment, except for some mundane aspects.

Two years ago, I was in Italy for the third time. I had the opportunity to travel by coach from Rome to Milan over eleven days under the auspices of Singapore Airlines. So, many meals were on our own, but I had a wonderful time exploring Italian cuisine with my wife.

Since I was in Italy, I had thought that the food should be authentic, technically speaking.

Frankly speaking, given the opportunity, I definitely prefer the Italian food in Singapore anytime. Maybe, I am already used to the local style of cooking, or maybe I am already spoiled by the variety of choices in their local recipes.

Also, what do you mean by 'real stuff'?

Sometimes, I just wonder how does the 'imitation stuff' taste like.

As far I am concerned, my point of contention, when it comes to food, is this simple: does it taste yummilicious & appetising for me?

Nonetheless, these are just my gastronomical ruminations.

DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY: SOME SUGGESTIONS

Here are some suggestions from the experts [unfortunately, I have forgotten to record the source] for seeing as well as doing things differently, starting today:

- Drive to work using a different route each day, & drive home a different route in the evening than in the morning;

- Eat lunch in a different place each day;


- Experiment with food that you have never eaten before;


- Invite people that are not in your "usual" lunch bunch;


- Go shopping in a different store than you usually do;

- Go to a different movie theater or rent something from a different place than usual;


- Buy a few books that are totally different from your normal pattern & actually read them;


- Watch a television program that you have never seen before;

- Rearrange the furniture in your office or a room in your house;


- Buy some clothes that you would have never chosen before (different color, style or material);


- Go to a store and buy something completely childish - for yourself. And then play with it!


- Go the library and look up a subject that you think is really strange or weird;


- Find a way to learn something that will help you break your existing thought patterns;

- Explore changing a few of your habitual routines - start or stop work at a different time, take an afternoon off & go play (a movie, golfing, a ball game, the beach);

- If you always write formal letters, try writing a hand-written note to someone;

- If you never include charts or graphs in your memos, add some color charts to spice up the documents;

- If you always let your secretary answer your calls, try answering the phone yourself;

- If you never let salespeople into your office, let those that call this week have an appointment. See what you can learn from them that will help you see things differently;

- Enlist the support of your family & friends. Let them know that you are trying to change some of your patterns and learn to think differently. Many of them will help you or let you know when you are stuck in old patterns;


- When dealing with charts, pictures or visual things, turn them upside down or sideways. See what new ideas you get from that perspective;

- Talk to children - your own or someone else's. Ask them what ideas they have for any problem you may be facing. Really listen to their response;

- If you normally solve problems by thinking, try drawing your problem and pictures of several possible solutions;

- Do something different that is not on our list;

After a week or so of doing things differently, you should be able to realize that you have learned something new, or that you are beginning to see things a bit differently.

To keep improving your ability to break out of your habitual domain, consciously explore new things, especially when you are feeling frustrated because imagination isn't coming to you.

Notice the sense of exhilaration & excitement that you feel when you are about to do something very different than you have done before.

Even when dealing with your routine tasks & usual responsibilities, see if you can find a way to see the situation or the challenge differently.

Ask yourself, "if I could look at this from a different perspective, what better things might I see that I could use?"

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"...What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."

~ Nicholas Carr, in an essay, entitled 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?', for The Atlantic Monthly, in which he explains just how widespread information affects his ability to think; he is also the author of 'The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google';

Thursday, September 10, 2009

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Am I learning from my life experiences?

Am I gaining insights from other people's experiences?

SEEKING THE BIG PICTURE FIRST

I have found the following story, from a William Murray as posted in the 'EzineSeeker, An Online Article Directory', interesting:

"Here is a true story about the importance of seeking the big picture.

In a chemical plant, the night operations manager discovered that the end product had changed from a vanilla color to pitch black. This was terrible. They could never sell this stuff.


He ran around checking all the gauges to discover the problem. They were all OK. He scooped up some of the black product and analyzed it in the lab. There were no significant results.

In desperation he called the plant manager at home. The plant manager jumped out of bed, into his car and raced to the plant.


He said to himself, I had better try to get the big picture here. So instead of racing in to talk with the night manager, he decided to take a drive around the plant on the outside first.

Then he spotted it. A locomotive was parked on a siding right next to the plant building. It was belching black smoke into the air intake opening of the plant. That air went directly into the chemical process.

He then told the night manager that the problem was the locomotive outside their building, not in the chemical process. They called the railroad company and got the locomotive moved immediately. The next day they set procedures in place so this could never happen again.

Think of this story as a metaphor.

Where in your life do you need to seek the big picture, to drive around the building or problem before diving into the details and maybe getting stuck there?

Where do you need strategic thinking?

In these cases, seek the big picture first."


In a nut shell, this 'big picture thinking' allows one to step back, adopt a broader view, & not to get stuck with a focus on narrow pieces of information, which may engender a fragmented approach to the problem.

For me, I reckon another way to describe 'big picture thinking' is to adopt a viewpoint from an altitude of say 10,000 metres.

At that altitude, patterns emerge & solutions come to focus, as exemplified in the foregoing story.

Our Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew once called it, the "helicopter ability", which is among the four requisite traits [the other three: analytical ability, imagination & realism] he expected out of all government ministers.

[Here's the link to the original story.]

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: MAKING STRATEGIC CONNECTIONS


The mind has a very interesting feature. It is constantly making associations - random as well as deliberate, depending on expectations & moods - with what one sees in the immediate surroundings.

In reality, it's our innate ability. Making associations is the starting point of idea generation.

In fact, an oft-quoted American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) once said:

"All thought is a feat of association; having what's in front of you bring up something in your mind that you almost didn't know you knew."

In my case, when I saw this big poster at the shopfront display of a sports goods boutique in Tanglin Mall, I am somehow reminded of the following story:

"Two hikers in the woods came upon a resting bear and accidently woke it up. The bear immediately gave chase to the two hikers.

After a few moments of running for their lives, one hiker turned to ther other and said "I don't think I can out run that bear, do you?

The second hiker starts running even faster and turns for a moment to respond, I don't have to run faster than the bear, just faster than you."

How about that?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"I am learning to understand rather than immediately judge or to be judged. I cannot blindly follow the crowd and accept their approach. I will not allow myself to indulge in the usual manipulating game of role creation. Fortunately for me, my self-knowledge has transcended that and I have come to understand that life is best to be lived and not to be conceptualized. I am happy because I am growing daily and I am honestly not knowing where the limit lies. To be certain, every day there can be a revelation or a new discovery. I treasure the memory of the past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude."

~ Bruce Lee, (1940-1973): martiat artist, actor, director & author;

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A QUICK GUIDE TO THINKING ABOUT INFORMATION

Here's a quick guide to thinking about information, from Sherrin Ross Ingram, author of the 'Wealth Mentality Insights Newsletter':

1. How can someone make money now with this information?

2. Who (a type of existing company or a type of person) can make money now with this information?

3. Who (a type of existing company or a type of person) will be hurt by not having this information?

4. How can someone position himself or herself to make money in the future with this information?

5. What assumptions are you making?

6. What would be a better solution/product for the identified market/person?

7. What would be necessary to bring about the better solution/product for the potential market/person?

8. How can you take advantage of this information and the insights you’ve developed about it?

9. Is there a "lesson" or "model" that can be applied to another type of business or situation?

10. Other observations/comments, if any;


[Sherrin Ross Ingram is also the author of the book, 'Wealth Mentality: Program Yourself to Get & Keep the Wealth You Want'; More information about his stuff & work is available at this link.]

NOVELTY, VARIETY & CHALLENGE

In the book, 'The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness', the two brilliant authors, Alvaro Fernandez (co-founder & CEO of SharpBrains, a leading market research firm covering applications of neuroscience & cognitive science in education & healthcare) & Dr Elkhonon Goldberg (co-founder & Chief Scientific Advisor of SharpBrains; also, a Clinical Professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine) bring up an interesting point, as follows:

"The most common enemies of novelty, variety & challenge are routine & doing things inside our comfort zones.

This is true for both physical & mental exercise."

Then, they also highlight an interesting illustration, taxi drivers vs bus drivers:

- every new ride for the taxi driver requires a complex mental task to decide the most effective route to complete the continually novel challenge at hand;

- day after day, a bus driver just follows a precise itinerary;


Extrapolating the foregoing assertion into a personal application, I always believe that we should constantly inject novelty, variety & challenge in our daily habitual routines, in order to sustain our cognitive health across the lifespan.

In reality, it is not difficult to do that. All it takes are some concerted planning efforts & a real desire to execute it on our part.

For example, in recent weeks, I have initiated a new ball game of physical exercise.

Instead of going to the air-conditioned gym at the Jurong East Sports Centre in the morning, I have now adopted a physical walkabout in the sun, to enjoy all the natural elements so to speak, starting first in my Jurong West/Jurong East neighbourhood.

I have since then extended it to cover the Chinese Gardens, & even up to Jurong Point.

To add novelty & variety, I have taken an express bus down to Orchard Road, alighting at the first stop in front of Orchard Delphi, & then walking all the way down to Beach Road.

In fact, I have also replicated it, in reverse mode on a separate day, by walking back from Beach Road, via Stamford Road, all the way to Scotts Road, via Penang Road/Somerset Road/Patterson Road.

To make my physical walk enjoyable, I have brought along my digital camera as well as pocket notebook, to record anything that pique my curiosity or interest along the way.

Many of the recordings have already been translated into 'Random Spotlights' in my weblog.

Others are still gelling & percolating inside my head, which is good as they help to keep my brain physically active & intellectually alive.

I have found thinking about & writing the relevant blog posts in response to the recordings, especially approaching them from a new angle or with a new twist, very demanding as well as challenging, intellectually speaking.

More importantly, in real terms, I have also discovered many aspects of the Singapore geographical & topographical landscape - so far I have covered only a small fraction - which I have not seen or realised before.

From another perspective, beside walking carefully, I also have to be observant & mindful of my immediate surroundings.

Well, that's my personal way of putting novelty, variety & challenge - which my brain loves very much anyway - to work in my own life.

The following digital snapshot has captured yours truly, in full jogging wear, in the reflection of the picture, during one of my physical walkabouts.


RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: THE ANSWER IS NO


This digital snapshot was captured in the Jurong Point shopping mall, at the shopfront display of a wallet boutique, during my usual window-shopping spree with my wife.

The affirmative message on the bag suddenly struck a memory recall of what I actually saw - a small framed poster - in the men's toilet of a cosy cocktail lounge in Bangkok, almost three decades ago when I was stationed there:

It read:

"When a lady says NO, she means MAYBE;

When she says MAYBE, she means YES;

When she says YES, she is no lady."

No pun intended. No offence either.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If you want to live life on your own terms; you gotta be willing to crash & burn."

~ sign on a tee shirt; author unknown;

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

60 CRAZY THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE

Here's the link to '60 Crazy Things to Do Before You Die', from extreme sports like volcano boarding to adventure travel experiences like yak skiing and tightrope walking between skyscrapers.

Are you ready to man up?

WALKING DOWN MEMORY LANE: 13A TRENGGANU STREET, CHINATOWN


I must say that Chinatown has a very special place in my heart.

This was the place my beloved & late first wife Catherine was born & brought up by her parents. Her father was a TCM practitioner & her mother a librarian in the National Library.

During my early years of courtship with Catherine - that was the tail end of sixties - I often visited this particular place of residence, designated as 13A Trengganu Street, as captured in my foregoing snapshots, to visit her & also her parents.

Their residence was located on the second floor. Access to the upper floor was through a small & narrow staircase at the rear end of the building.

From the standpoint of geographical landscape, Trengganu Street has one very unique feature: it connects four popular streets of Chinatown: Pagoda Street/Temple Street/Smith Street/Sago Street.

I remember clearly the first time I had met her parents, - to be frank, it was also the first time I had stepped into the heart of Chinatown - her father told me, in no uncertain terms, that should I be accosted by any unruly characters in the Chinatown area during any of my visits, I should just mention his name. Naturally, I felt very reassured.

Apparently, her father, Dr Liang Siang, was well-known in the area because of his traditional medical practice, & also owing to the fact that her grandfather ran a popular roasted pork outlet on the ground floor premises in the early 1900's.



Of course, today, Trengganu Street, & in fact the whole of Chinatown, is radically different from the Chinatown I once knew in the late sixties.

The premises on the ground floor of 13A Trengganu Street is now occupied by a small departmental store, while upstairs, there is a small bar/lounge.

Sad to say, in a way, Trengganu Street & its surrounding streets are now occupied predominantly by the tourist trade. The streets are really crammed.

There is also the Chinatown MRT Station, with access from Pagoda Street, plus a relatively large landscaped overhead pedestrian bridge to the People's Park Complex.

To me, in some ways, the Chinatown Conservation Project had done a lot of damage to its original glamour.

One of my social buddies, James, has once remarked that Chinatown has lost its soul character.

I recall during my early visits to Chinatown, particularly Trengganu Street, the area was bustling with shopkeepers retailing a myriad of household knick-knacks, as they jostled with street hawkers pedaling fresh seafood, raw meat, fresh fruits, vegetables, & flowers.

There were also numerous food hawkers with their exotic & specialty recipes, like brewed tonic soup from a concoction of tortoises, turtles, snakes & lizards.

I also remember, right below 13A Trengganu Street, there was a fish ball noodle stall as well as a poultry stall, which were often patronised by Catherine & her parents, plus yours truly.

There was also an elderly guy who often used a block of wood to clobber live cat fishes prior to cooking for waiting customers.

Amusingly, during those courtship days in Chinatown, Catherine did not have a phone at home. So, sometimes, she had to go downstairs to use the poultry seller's phone for communication.

Unwittingly, the poor guy had to act as my "relay station" when I needed to call Catherine, & vice versa.

About two years later, Catherine & her parents relocated to Queenstown.


On a historical note, Chinatown actually dates back to about the time when Stamford Raffles landed on the island to explore a strategic outpost for the East India Company.

It was also about the time the first Chinese junk had arrived from Xiamen, Fujian province of China. All the passengers onboard were apparently men, who came to Singapore to set up home around the south end of the Singapore River, which is known as Telok Ayer Basin today.

To the local residents, Chinatown is Niu Che Shui (literally translated from Mandarin, bullock cart water). In those days of the early Chinese immigrants living in Chinatown, the only fresh water was available from the nearby Ann Siang Hill. Each household had to collect the fresh water in bullock drawn carts.





The following snapshots show the access to the Chinatown MRT Station & a viewpoint of Pagoda Street from the overhead pedestrian bridge that connects to the People's Park Complex.



The following snapshots show the entry views of Temple Street from South Bridge Road. Part of the Hindu temple, one of Singapore's oldest temples, can be seen in the snapshot.



The following snapshots show the entry views of Temple Street from New Bridge Road.




The following snapshots show Smith Street as well as Pagoda Street from New Bridge Road.



A snapshot of the street map of Chinatown.

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: THE ULTIMATE MAN


While passing through the Tang's departmental store on Orchard Road one day with my wife on our usual weekly window-shopping spree, this new range of personal grooming products on display, with the catchy label, 'The Ultimate Man', suddenly caught my personal attention.

As you can read from the display, it related an interesting story about climbing Mount Everest.

I know very well that the determination to climb Mount Everest has grown out of the ordinary impulse man has to climb that small hill in his backyard.

This is probably the secret in the heart of the idea of climbing the tallest mountain in the world.

For those who have climbed it, it means very much, the pinnacle, the ultimate manifestation of man's eternal quest to conquer the natural elements, especially in a hostile environment.

Since it was first successfully scaled by New Zealander mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008) with his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986), in 1953, scores of adventure seekers, even both young men & women from Singapore, have flocked to this climbing Mecca, intent on reaching its towering summit.

The trouble is that Mount Everest is a cruel & ruthless master, & the prospect of imminent death becomes increasingly real as each expedition edges higher up its treacherous mountain slopes.

I have read that each climb is unique & cannot be duplicated.

No one can really predict the outcome because of the numerous factors involved, like the abruptly changing weather, physiological reactions in the body to extreme cold, psychological fears, timing, altitude, etc.

Nonetheless, I like to leave this beautiful quote from James Ramsey Ullman (1907-1971), a small-time mountaineer as well as a writer on mountaineering, to serve as food for thought:

"It is the ultimate wisdom of the mountains that a man is never more than when he is striving for what is beyond his grasp."

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1) How happy am I in my life & work?

2) How do I feel about my life path?

3) Do I feel that I am following my passion & purpose?

4) How can ideas from the personal development field be brought out into my life & work?

5) Does meditation, attitude of gratitude, positive thinking, creative visualisation, intuition, etc., have a place in my life & work?

6) What is the #1 thing I want to see, changed in my life & work when it comes to my passion, & purpose?


~ inspired by the work of Dr Srikumar Rao, professor of Columbia University's Graduate School of Business, consultant & author of 'Are You Ready to Succeed? Unconventional Strategies to Achieving Personal Mastery in Business & Life';

THE WINNING STRATEGY, according to THE BOOK OF FIVE RINGS

As I have mentioned before, 'The Book of Five Rings' by Japan's legendary combat strategist of the 16th century, Miyamoto Musashi, happens to be one of the very first few books on Japanese business culture introduced to me.

I had read it, together with Richard Tanner Pascale's 'The Art of Japanese Management', during the early eighties when I joined the United Motor Works (UMW) Group, whose principal product agency portfolio came mainly from Japan, e.g. Toyota (forklifts), Komatsu (heavy & construction equipment), Mitsubishi (marine engines), Isuzu (dump trucks), to name a few.

Naturally, the copy I had was a English translation by a Japanese scholar, Thomas Cleary.

'The Book of Five Rings' or 'Go Rin No Sho' to the Japanese, is supposedly a leadership & strategy guide, just like the Chinese 'Art of War' by Sun Tzu.

In a nut shell, the book analyzes the process of struggle & mastery over conflict that underlies every level of human interaction.

What follows, based on notes from my scratchpad, is actually a quick snapshot of the broad principles of Musashi's strategy as embodied in his classic, often considerd by most Japanese businessmen as the winning strategy:

1) Do not harbour sinister designs i.e do not think dishonestly;

2) Diligently pursue the path of Two Swords as One i.e the way is in the training;

3) Cultivate a wide range of interests in the arts;

4) Be knowledgeable in a variety of occupations or professions;

5) Be discrete regarding one's commercial dealings;

6) Nurture the ability to see the truth in all matters i.e intuitive judegement & understanding for everything;

7) Perceive those things which cannot be seen with the eye;

8) Do not be negligent, even in trifling matters;

9) Do not engage in useless activities;

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If you think about that from the perspective of human evolution, our great capacity is not just that we learn about the world. The thing that really makes us distinctive is that we can imagine other ways that the world could be. That's really where our enormous evolutionary juice comes from. We understand the world, but that also let us imagine other ways the world could be & actually make those other worlds come true. That's what innovation, technology & science are all about."

~ Dr Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology; also thought leader in the study of children's learning & development;

Monday, September 7, 2009

GASTRONOMICAL RUMINATIONS: FROG LEG PORRIDGE


My wife loves to eat frog legs, claypot style, & this is actually her favourite frog leg porridge stall in Chinatown.

The stall name, literally translated from Chinese, is 'Sin Ma Claypot Live Frogs' It's located on the ground floor of the large food court, adjacent to the People's Park Complex.

Both my wife & I have visited the stall only this afternoon, after taking an MRT train from Lake Gardens Station to Chinatown Station.

Price is S$8/- per frog; if you order two frogs, you get one frog for free - that's real value for money, especially in today's hard-pressed times.

The fresh frog legs are normally cooked with the oyster & dark soy sauces, sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, plus dried chillies, spring onions, slices of ginger & chives, which make them sweet & succulent for the palate.

Nonetheless, mine is always without chillies. To be frank, the kick actually comes from the dried chillies, but to my chagrin, I have this almost zero tolerance.

Porridge is an additional S$3/- per claypot, enough for two persons. With a spoonful of the so-called 'kungpao' sauce concoction, the steaming-hot porridge is really yummilicious on its own!

There is actually another stall, located just diagonally opposite of the foregoing stall, which serves equally delicious frog leg porridge. The only difference is that you are not going to get an extra frog for free at that stall.

Prior to finding the current stall, I often drive all the way from Jurong West to Lorong 9 in Geylang to savour the well-known frog leg porridge over there.

Unfortunately, it is quite a long distance to travel & car parking is always a big problem over there, especially during the peak evening/night hours.

Incidentally, that entire Geylang area with all the other food joints is predominantly active only for night owls & other nocturnal creatures, which apparently contribute to the daily conjestion.

So, my wife & I are glad to have found this place in Chinatown, following a tip from one of my elder sisters, who also happens to be a foodie.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SOFT SKILLS

Just saw this recruitment ad on the net for a Project Director.

Besides the usual qualifications, experience & skills required, the ad has additionally specified the following, under 'Competency Profile':

■ Energetic, Responsive & Pro-creative Work Ethic;
■ Political Savvy, Strategic agility, Ethics & Values, Command Skills, Interpersonal Savvy;
■ Ability to deal with ambiguity, Integrity & Trust, Leadership skills;

These are essentially soft skills, which do not come with your university education. They are developed - by making mindful efforts on your part to learn & master them - as you walk through the real-world out there.

I reckon, with the proliferation of project teams working across international borders & with the attendant global diversity of different cultures in today's business landscape, an early requisition of soft skills is critical to one's personal as well as professional success.

Unlike hard skills, e.g. writing a business plan, which can be acquired in a classroom or workshop setting, soft skills necessitate real-world interpersonal interactions to hone the skills.

Sometimes, soft skills may even require what I call the "fire test" or the "baptism of fire" to truly get them into your system.

Times have really changed, in today's rapidly-evolving world, running at accelerating pace & with increasing complexity.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Do I know my place in the future of the human race?

~ inspired by Stephan A Schwartz, one of the world's leading remote viewing experts;

[In the early nineties, following my relentless seach for personal mastery, I had actually approached him to come to Singapore to deliver a workshop on "developing intuitive-sensing capabilities" for corporate executives. It eventually fizzled out on my part, on account of unexpected bad publicity following the controversy arising from a local newspaper report on "fire-walking".

Nonetheless, I have always remembered what he once said:

"Each & everyone of us was born interlocked, interdependent, & with the ability not only to recall the past & observe the present - but to foresee the future." ]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The world is saying look you have a choice; you can either fix it or I can fix it, & if I fix it you are not going to like it because I'm going to throw everything away, & everything means most of us."

~ Derrick Jensen, activist, philosopher, teacher, & leading voice of uncompromising dissent; also author of 'Endgame', a two-volume manifesto, which contains provocative premises;

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: THE ENTREPRENEUR

Here are some of my brisk notes pertaining to the requisite entrepreneurial traits &/or competencies outlined by William Heinecke, founder of the Minor Group in Thailand during the late sixties, in his book, entitled 'The Entrepreneur: 21 Golden Rules for the Global Business Manager'.

1) find a vacuum & fill it;

2) do your homework;

3) you won't be committed if you're not having fun;

4) work hard, play hard;

5) work with other people's brains;

6) set goals;

7) trust your intuition;

8) reach for the sky at least once;

9) learn to sell;

10) become a leader;

11) recognise a failure & move on;

12) make the most of lucky breaks;

13) embrace change as a way of life;

14) develop your contacts;

15) use your time wisely;

16) measure for measure;

17) don't put up with mediocrity;

18) chase quality, not dollars;

19) act quickly in a crisis;

20) after a fall, get back in the saddle quickly;

21) be content;

All entrepreneur wannabes out there, please take note!

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: DRAGON-RIDING BODHISATTVA



I am no art lover, & neither have I a real fancy for art aesthetics, but when I see something nice i.e. visually appealing to my eyes, I certainly like to pause & take a closer look.

For example, whenever I am in the shopping malls, I often like to go & gawk at the exquisitely hand-made Lladro porcelain figurines, if available. I have a relatively large collection of them at home, which were selected & bought by my late first wife, Catherine, during the nineties.

The foregoing beautiful outdoor bronze sculpture as captured in my digital snapshot - actually, Li Chen's Dragon Riding Bodhisattva - at the seemingly posh St Regis Hotel on Tanglin Road has caught my personal attention while doing my morning walkabout in the Tanglin area one day.

Upon checking on the net upon returning home, I have learned that Li Chen, 46, is a well-known Taiwanese sculptor, who has this penchant for fusing traditional Buddhist or rather Zen styles with contemporary art practices in his masterpieces.

Nonetheless, what has originally caught my eyes is the flow of geometry of the two distinct characters within the singular sculpture - in fact, I am still intrigued by the dragon figure, which doesn't look like one to me -, which by the way, carries a price tag of some US$185,000.

[More information about Li Chen & his work can be found at his corporate website &/or the Asia Art Center. Also, the ArtZine, A Chinese Contemporary Art Portal.]



TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

Would I want to hang out with me?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: TRUST


Somehow, this digital snapshot of the shopfront slogan - "Nothing is quite as precious as trust" - of the Poh Heng goldsmith shop on Orchard Road immediately reminds me of Stephen Covey's wonderful book, 'The Speed of Trust: The One That Changes Everything', in which he shares 13 critical behaviours of trust-inspiring leaders:

1) Talk Straight;

2) Demonstrate Respect;

3) Create Transparency;

4) Right Wrongs;

5) Show Loyalty;

6) Deliver Results;

7) Get Better;

8) Confront Reality;

9) Clarify Expectations;

10) Practise Accountability;

11) Listen First;

12) Keep Commitments;

13) Extend Trust;

Come to think of it, the world out there, certainly gives me numerous opportunities to recap my readings & learnings.

I can now truly understand why learning guru Ron Gross, also author of 'Peak Learning' (which I have already reviewed in an earlier post), calls it the 'Invisible University'.

INSPIRING EXCELLENCE: FROM ALPHA TO OMEGA

The following crisp but wonderful piece of writing comes from the 'Goals Guy' on the net, Gary Ryan Blair, & also author of 'Everything Counts: 52 Remarkable Ways to Inspire Excellence & Drive Results':

"Let’s cut right to the chase, you make hundreds of decisions every day. Some matter more than others. But committing to excellence is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in terms of your life’s success.

Excellence is a quality, a standard, and it will become the expected norm once you embrace excellence as a core value.

A commitment to excellence is best represented by the words Alpha to Omega. From beginning to end, first to last, and from start to finish-excellence always!

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In our world it has come to signify a beginning, the first step on the path to a goal. Alpha may be a plan, an action, or intention, but without it, one can never reach any goal.

Omega is the twenty-fourth and last letter of the Greek alphabet. Reaching it means you have gone through all the steps and reached your goal. You have accomplished what you set out to do, and demonstrated excellence throughout the journey.

But when it comes to excellence and getting results, omega does not mean the end. The reaching of one goal, frees you to set another, much more challenging goal.

So, while omega marks an accomplishment, it is the link between accomplishing one thing, and setting a new challenge. It is the link that completes and expands the circle of ever-increasing success and excellence.

Excellence is not a relative term. It is the standard by which you judge what you do, and it’s a form of currency that helps you both capture material wealth and realize the inherent value of your potential."

[Source: Everything Counts!]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What are my dominant thoughts each & every day?

Are they holding me back or propelling me forward?

CAUTION: FUNNY SIGNBOARD AHEAD!


This funny signboard with the catchy slogan - "If Nothing Happens in this Bed, Don't Blame Us!" - was spotted on top of a two-storey shophouse, adjacent to the Centrepoint shopping mall on Orchard Road.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The way you activate the seeds of your creation is by making choices about results you want to create. When you make a choice, you mobilize vast human energies & resources which otherwise go untapped. All too often people fail to focus their choices upon results & therefore their choices are ineffective. If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, & all that is left is a compromise."

~ Robert Fritz, composer, film-maker, author;