Saturday, October 31, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: PEDAL AWAY


While waiting for my air-conditioned express bus service #502 on Orchard Road to return to Jurong West, I spotted a bus with the foregoing eye-catching ad.

The ad is part of the OCBC Cycle Singapore 2010 event scheduled from 6-7 March 2010.

[More information about the event is available at this link.]

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: GROGGY T-SHIRT


I found the design of the foregoing T-shirt rather groggy, but I was told by the sales girl that it was popular with young people.

I reckon this is just one of the perception gaps between the younger Y Gen & the older Baby Boomers, like me. I prefer a plain T-shirt.

THE ART OF JUNK: CREATIVE APPROACHES TO TRASH USE


Here are some of my digital snapshots of the art of recycled clothing at the basement 2 atrium of Ngee Ann City shopping mall during my window shopping spree on Friday afternoon!

What a wonderful way to conserve resources & to enhance the concept of a green environment, by using readily available resources, in this case, recycled jeans from Levi's, to serve as beautiful art creations.











Glad to know that Levi is doing a small part in preventing post consumer textile trash from entering the waste stream. In fact, Levi is already manufacturing & marketing environmentally-friendly jeans under its Premium Eco label.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"We have a "strategic" plan. It's called doing things."

~ Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines;

Friday, October 30, 2009

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What would my life look like if I could stay motivated to achieve whatever I wanted?

IS AN OVER-ABUNDANCE OF CHOICES DEPLETING YOUR DAY?

Here's the link to an old, but still worthwhile-to-be-read advisory, from life & work balance expert Jeff Davidson. He is also the author of the now classic, 'Breathing Space', which I had already reviewed in an earlier post.

Some interesting points raised by the author:

1) I certainly recall the old movie, 'Moscow on the Hudson', with Robin Williams playing a visiting Russian musician, who defected in New York city, & his fearful encounter one day at the supermarket, with the dazzling array of coffee choices.

2) In his 1969 book, 'Future Shock', futurist Alvin Toffler predicted that we would become slaves to an overabundance of choices. He described how more choices inhibit action, resulting in greater anxiety & the per­cep­­tion of less freedom &less time.

3) Toffler had also advocated that we should not engage in daily low-level decisions­.

Example, buying a toothbrush. If it is available with a red, blue, yellow, or white handle, & it is all the same to you, grab the one that is closest or take the one that the clerk hands to you.

4) Whenever you catch yourself making a low-level decision, consider this question, "Does this make a dif­fer­ence?"

Get into the habit of making only a few decisions a day - the ones that count.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"... The earth needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, & we need it within a few decades... You are brilliant & the earth is hiring... Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich... "

~ Paul Hawken, visionary environmental activist, entrepreneur & author of many books, in his 'Commencement Address' at the University of Portland, on 3rd May 2009;

[as reported in large-scale graphic facilitation guru David Sibbet's weblog; here's the link.]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

THE ART & DISCIPLINE OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

As a movie buff, reading the book, 'Riches Among the Ruins: Adventures in the Dark Corners of the Global Economy', invariably reminds me of vivid memories of three great movies during the eighties, 'The Year of Living Dangerously' (starring Mel Gibson), 'Under Fire' (starring Nick Nolte, Ed Harris & Gene Hackman) & 'Salvador' (directed by Oliver Stone; starring James Woods) in some ways.

For me, this book is basically "part-adventure, part-memoirs" of the enterprising author, Robert Smith, lawyer-debt-collector-turned economic mercenary & financial entrepreneur, who has been acknowledged as the 'Indiana Jones of International Finance', especially the more interesting & dangerous parts.

The book also traced his adventurous global exploits - stretching over three decades across five continents - in the risky world of trading in emerging & submerging markets' sovereign debt & evaluating creditor claims against foreign governments in the most remote, & sometimes hostile, areas of the world.

What had motivated him most was, like he said, "I'm restless & I love to travel... I crave adventure in exotic places... Living by my wits in an unpredictable environment is a thrill I seek over & over... I love the thrill of the deal, & I love making money!"

As a matter of fact, what had really stood out in this book, especially in terms of personal traits, were his astute power of observation, knack for improvisational creativity, & propensity for instinctive (intuitive) decision making.

For me, even though finance is not my cup of tea, this book has been quite an enjoyable read.

Luckily for me, it is not about lessons in global finance, although it does provide numerous snapshots of intriguing financial transactions that go on in the murky fringes of the global economy. To illustrate the magnitude of the wheeling & dealing: The author lost US$15 million on a single day in 1998 pertaining to the ruins of the Russian economy.

I am in fact rather keen to glean street-smart insights from a man on the spot, so to speak (cold calling was a staple of his business), in the remote frontiers of globalisation: El Salvador, jungles & streets of Vietnam, Turkey, Guatemala/Panama, Nigeria, Russia, & post-Saddam Iraq.

Sad for him, his trading days are now over. The globalisation of the market & the availability of information rapidly transmitted electronically has made the business much less lucrative than it used to be.

Nonetheless, I fully agree with him that there are valuable lessons to be learned from his book in terms of understanding human nature, & also about the complex new world in which we live.

The following are my personal takeaways from his book:

- "... sometimes, you have to fake it in order to make it.";

- "... learn to listen critically & discern whether people are telling the truth; learn to weigh people's motives & sometimes hidden agendas; learn how to be at ease & operate in unfamiliar territory; learn how not to behave in a foreign country, when you wanted to get things done.";

- "... find someone you trust who speaks the language & lives in the culture; also, while you handle the business, always find a local partner to handle the politics.";

- "The Vietnamese were, generally speaking, very patient people who listened carefully to everything you had to say, even if they had no intention of cooperating."; [This is an interesting observation.]

- "... to get things done, keep your own dignity & the dignity of others, intact; treat people well & they will follow you to the ends of the earth... ";

- "Psychology is all important if you want to make money speculating in currencies... We are creatures prone to excesses of both pessimism & optimism. We are emotional. And emotions, especially contagious emotions like excessive pessimism & excessive optimism move markets all the time...";

- "Don't get discouraged when things ain't working out. Why? Because circumstances are going to change. All you have to do is be open to new opportunity when it arrives.";

- "... always follow a lead, because you never ever know if there might be a pot of gold at the end.";

- "Timing can be everything in business & in life.";

- "... most positively brilliant ideas are born on hotel balconies in the middle of the night under the influence of alcohol."; [For me, the alcohol part is questionable; maybe I am not a drinker.]

- "... in finance, every financial problem has a solution - or, more likely, a thousand of them. Financial creativity, too, is an organic process, & if there is a way to make money at something, someone will inevitably find it.";

- "(in negotiation)... always let the other party go first... You should never be the first to state a price. By waiting the other guy out, you let him establish the floor. It may be higher than you expected it. If it's lower, you lose nothing... You learn a lot about their thinking that way without selling yourself short.";

- "Things change. There's always another train coming into the station."; [I recall maverick billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson had also thought likewise.]

- appreciate "the extraordinary value of circumspection. Even today, when there is so much financial information readily available in real time on computer screens throughout the world, circumspection is essential in business...";

- "Play your cards close to your vest or you will lose your leverage. Always suggest your need is limited, not infinite...";

- "You can learn about a country from its airport when you first arrive; continuing in the cab while you pick the brains of the cab driver about local conditions, while scanning the view for more clues; next, from the viewpoint of your hotel window, which gives more clues about the state of the economy.";

- "Countries don't have permanent alliances, only permanent interests (attributed to George Washington). So it is in business, one doesn't necessarily have permanent enemies, either. When mutual self-interest is involved, even former enemies will bury the past to make millions of dollars in the future.";

- "... make investment decisions based on the reading of politics, not economics.";

- Pottery Barn rule: if you break it, you own it;

- "... find the right lawyer for the right job.";

- "... learn that trust should not be dispensed too easily, that you can travel a long way on a good bluff, & that business is largely about shaping perception.";

- "... people's imagination will let them believe what they want to believe.";

- "Things don't always break your way, & to thrive you have to be a survivor. You have to take your knocks & get up to fight again another day.";

- "... to be successful in the global economy you need, first & foremost, to understand people.";

- "... at the end of the day, it's about doing well & doing good, & in my view everyone who has done well has an obligation to do good." [referring to his charitable work in recent years];

In the end analysis, all I can say is that this book has been a rare treat, at least from my personal perspective: an entertaining broad-brush view of the dark corners of the global economy, & a penetrating observation of human nature under dicey circumstances.

[Disclosure: The book came from the author's publicist. Payment: FREE]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What would I do, become, learn, experience & contribute to this world if I just found out that I only had 12 months to live?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"It's simple: they should be reading outside their field. They will always have the latest information about their own industries. But, so often that is not where the revolution comes from. Look at Apple & iPod: it should have been Sony that introduced that product, but it came from outside. So I tell my executive clients, go to the edge of your business & look beyond. That is where your future will be found."

~ futurist, film maker & author Joel Arthur Barker;

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

JOBS OF THE FUTURE

What follows is actually a rather belated, but still relevant & interesting, analysis by Forbes.com Magazine of the jobs of the future.

In a nut shell:

Want to see how the working world will change? Here are the ten jobs that will be new in 20 years' time:

- gene splicer;
- quarantine enforcer;
- drowned city specialist;
- teleport specialist;
- robot mechanic;

- animal guardian;
- dirigible pilot;
- Hollywood holographer;
- space tour guide;
- hydrogen fuel station manager;

Worried about your job security? Here are the ten jobs that won't exist in 20 years' time:

- grocery store cashier;
- film processor;
- CD store manager;
- union organiser;
- encyclopedia writer;
- miner;
- construction worker;
- fighter pilot;
- call centre representative;
- oil wildcatter;

Some jobs will always be in demand. Here are the ten jobs that won't change in 20 years' time:

- politician;
- prostitute;
- mortician;
- tax collector;
- barber;
- artist;
- religious leader;
- criminal;
- parent;
- soldier;

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

Futurist Joel Arthur Barker, & also author of the classic, 'Future Edge', shared his brilliant thoughts on the following important issue, as interviewed by leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith:

"If I were going back to school to get more training so I could feel that I would be valuable in multiple areas in the next 15 to 20 years, what would I focus on?"

First, I would get a lot more math, especially in statistics but also in systems theory and the math that goes along with it. Math is what runs the world of the 21st century and if you don't understand the math, you will be living in a Black Box world where you will have to trust systems that you don't understand.

Second, I would spend a lot of time on the whole process of innovation because only through innovation can you create monopoly advantage Only when you have monopoly advantage do you get to call the shots. So if you want to play in the next 15 to 20 years, especially if you're an American, but this goes worldwide, you want to be good at the process of innovation; both the generation of the idea, but equally important, the assessment of the idea. The implications wheel, by the way, is a wonderful tool for the assessment of the innovation

Third, I would learn strategic exploration tools because they offer a better way to find out what is coming toward me from the future. That's important at the personal level, the family level, the career level, every level.

Fourth, I would make sure that I am well grounded in science and technology. I think your Masters Program should have everybody take a intensive, one-month, 8 hour a day science and technology program, where the key ideas of physics, the key ideas of chemistry and the key ideas of biology are gone over, so that at least you understand the fundamentals and have the language. If you can't think in scientific terms, you will not be able to access the largest arena for wealth development in the 21st century.

Fifth are collaboration skills, skills of getting along with one another, skills of leading a team, skills of being a good follower on a team, skills of setting up a team, skills of running a team remotely over the internet, which is a totally different experience than if you were with your team in the same room.

And then lastly, a focus on integrity and character. One of the things I love Marshall Goldsmith for is that he has really brought back to the senior offices of world corporations, the importance of integrity and character. He actually worked with me on one situation where we were having trouble with the CEO.

Marshall asked me a very simple question: 'Joel, is this a questions of his skills or of his character?' I said it's a question of his character. He said it's not fixable - fire him. That's what we did.

Here is the point; we need to get really serious about how important integrity and character are in leadership positions in organizations. Integrity and character are the cornerstones of a healthy society. If you don't have a healthy society, every else begins to fail.

[Source: Marshall Goldsmith's Library]

[More brilliant insights from Joel Arthur Barker can be assessed at this link.]

WALKING AS A WAY OF LIFE

My wife & I always enjoy walking after an evening meal in the Jurong West neighbourhood. We generally feel good after a walk, even though the time is often short. About 20 minutes or so.

On Saturday evening, we took a brisk walk to the Jurong Point shopping mall. We took along a water bottle. After a brief window-shopping spree at the mall, we took another brisk walk back home. That was then close to 9pm at night. The weather was cool, though humid.

Either way, the walkabout took about 35 minutes.

On Monday afternoon, at about 3.30pm, while the sun was still hot out in the sky, we took an air-conditioned express bus, Service #502, to the IMM Jurong East shopping mall.

After a brief window-shopping spree, plus a hearty evening meal at the mall, we decided to walk back home. It was then about 6pm.

The brisk walkabout took about 50 minutes, as the distance was greater than that to Jurong Point from home. The weather was warm & humid.

Nonetheless, we felt exhilarating after the sojourn.

Both of us have agreed that we should do the brisk walking at least 3 times a week just for the fun of it, beside building our aerobic fitness.

Research studies have proven that brisk walking brings about extensive health benefits.

We should all make brisk walking as a way of life.

One of the reasons while we enjoy our regular window shopping sprees is that we create the opportunity to walk, even though it is more of a leisurely stroll.

Nonetheless, the rough idea of achieving 10,000 steps daily is there. Thanks to Adrian Yeo (or better known as our former Cabinet Minister Yeo Ning Hong) who wrote the book, 'T.H.E A2Z Diet'.

Just to recap quickly from Adrian Yeo:

T = Ten glass of water daily;

H = Halve your daily food intake;

E = Exercise, by walking at least 10,000 steps a day;

My wife even suggested that we should walk to Orchard Road. Well, that's something to be explored.

I told her that we should first start walking to the Jurong East shopping mall, & then back home.

Then, we should extend it the next time by walking to Bukit Batok, which is even further than Jurong East, & back.

Clementi should then be our further target. Orchard Road would then be the final stretch.

Come to think of it, there's another interesting element to the walking exercise, as in our case. It's also bonding time with a life partner.

Here are some digital snapshots captured on our way to Jurong Point.




TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"You cannot tailor-make the situations in life, but you can tailor-made the attitudes to fit those situations."

~ master motivator Zig Ziglar;

THE CHANGE LEADER OF TOMORROW

According to Melissa Dertmers, principal of Riverfork Consulting:

The change leader of tomorrow will:

- be a savvy guide;

- be integrated, connected;

- understand the implications of human behaviour;

- be exploratory designers;

- be intuitive, empathetic & good listener;

- be anthropologist-like;

- use creative tools to experiment, explore, learn, prototype;

- be a compelling storyteller & understand the power of engaging others;

- understand the power & implications of technology to engage others;

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

20 IDEAS FOR THINKING DIFFERENTLY

Here's the link to a brief guide to 20 ideas for thinking differently from Matthew Homann, founder of LexThink & the author of the '[non]billable hour' weblog.

The guide has been written from the standpoint of a law practice, but I am sure you can tweak the many ideas to suit your own application.

RAPID RECAP: CREATING PERSONAL BRILLIANCE IN YOUR LIFE

According Jim Canterucci, writing in his book, 'Personal Brilliance: Mastering the Everyday Habits That Create a Lifetime of Success', which I have already reviewed in an earlier post in this weblog, we can create spectacular success in our life by simply applying consistently the following four 'habits of mind':

1) Awareness;

2) Curiosity;

3) Focus;

4) Initiative;

The foregoing 'habits of mind' essentially will act as catalysts to keep us going.

According to the author, all of us already have what it takes to be successful. We just have to put them to work consistently & persistently!

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

In a change readiness assessment, what particular insights am I trying to glean?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The only time you ever have in which to learn anything or see anything or feel anything, or express any feeling or emotions, or respond to an event, or grow, or heal, is this moment, because this is the only moment any of us ever gets. You're only here now; you're only alive in this moment."

~ Marianne Williamson, 57, spiritual activist, lecturer & author of several books, including 'A Return to Love';

Monday, October 26, 2009

ARE YOU IN DENIAL?

As some people say, denial is a well-known river in Egypt. Maybe so, but I contend that denial is also running wild in the everyday lives of some, if not most, of us.

I’m not referring to the kind of stuff you need to see a psychologist for. I’m talking about something far more subtle & wily, a kind of denial that strikes at the very heart of how we manage our everyday experiences.

Everyone talks about change these days. But if you are observant, it’s easy to see that many people have yet to acknowledge just how pervasively our everyday world is changing.

Consequently, they have yet to come to terms with how incessant change is affecting the way we live, work & play. And this is where so many people get into trouble.

When our external environment changes drastically, as it has always done, we need to adapt & respond quickly.

To draw lessons from William Ross Ashby (1903-1972), an English psychiatrist & a pioneer in cybernetics, if the external rate of change overwhelms us, we are likely to end up in deep shit - pardon the expression.

As a matter of fact, he had affirmed that our internal rate of change must always be equal, if not be greater than, the external rate of change, which became the basis of the 'Law of Requisite Variety'.

Not surprisingly, the same phenomenon applies to businesspeople as well, not just ordinary folks.

For most of all, denial often involves thinking that most of what we know about our everyday world is still true, & believing that what made us successful so far will continue to make us successful in the near future.

The harsh reality is this: the past does not equal the future.

I hate to kick someone in the butt.

A trainer associate of mine during the early 21st century was doing very well with residential camps for teens in the prior 15 years or so. He talked about change, but was slow to change, until one of his proteges turned the table to become a renegade as well as a competitor, taking away a big chunk of his market share in the business. That's to say, he had unwittingly created his own competition.

A social buddy of mine, now in his Third Age, continues to hang on to his seven-year old hand phone, just because he realises he has to relearn a myriad of new command features of the latest devices. That's to say, he rather focuses on the fear of relearning, than to wonder about the many benefits he could have with a new gadget.

A casual friend of mine, a widower in his Fourth Age, couldn't get over his overseas-graduate son's disregard for filial piety. Despite many friends' encouragement to him to forget about the things he couldn't change, & moved on with his own life (he is financially independent), he went into manic depression, resulting in several mandatory stays at the Woodbridge Hospital.

Here’s the real problem with denial — it is both an attitude & a behavior. Which means that tackling the problem requires more than just retracting our head from the sand & taking an occasional glance at what is going on in the world around us.

In order to make everlasting behavioural changes, we must first change the attitudes & beliefs that drive our daily motivations.

From what I have observed, many people are either unwilling or unable to commit the time & effort into adjusting their attitudes & beliefs.

Or maybe they just don’t know how.

In reality, the cure for denial is relatively simple.

Cutting through denial requires confronting & questioning our attitudes, beliefs, & assumptions on a regular basis.

As a matter of fact, challenging everything we think we know about our world must become a way of life.

Overcoming denial also requires a focus not just on thinking in the short-term, but playing with various scenarios - possible, probable & plausible - in the longer term. In short, to think strategically.

To survive - & thrive - in today's rapidly-changing, turbulent & chaotic world, we need to become agile, flexible & quick to respond immediately to changing conditions in the workplace, as well in the marketplace, especially if we are running a business.

This may require a paradigm shift in how we think, & how we go about managing our everyday experiences, which is not easy. But the alternative scenario is even worse.

So, I have two questions:

- Are you in denial?

- If so, what are going to do about it?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Marketing is really theatre. It's like staging a performance."

~ John Scully, 70, former CEO, Apple;

ENHANCING PRODUCTIVITY WITH YOUR MOBILE HANDPHONES

My younger brother, a techno-geek, has recently sent me this link, though belatedly, to some creative & productive uses of your camera mobile phones (& digital cameras).

IN HOW MANY WAYS CAN YOU MAKE USE OF APPLES?

Personal creativity can be measured simply by assessing one's fluency, flexibility, originality & elaboration in idea generation as well as idea evolution.

So, in how many ways can you make use of apples?

I have found the following answers interesting:

1. Roast a juicy chicken

If your roasted chicken tends to emerge from the oven as dry as a snow boot on a summer's day, don't fret. The next time you roast a chicken, stuff an apple inside the bird before placing it in the roasting pan. When it's done cooking, toss the fruit in the trash, & get ready to sit down to a delicious - & juicy - main course.

2. Keep cakes fresh

Want a simple & effective way to extend the shelf life of your home-made or store-bought cakes? Store them with a half an apple. It helps the cake maintain its moisture considerably longer than merely popping it in the fridge.

3. Ripen green tomatoes

How's that? You just became the proud owner of a bunch of green tomatoes? No sweat. You can quickly ripen them up by placing them - along with an already-ripe apple - in a paper bag for a couple of days. For best results, maintain a ratio of about five or six tomatoes per apple.

4. Fluff up hardened brown sugar

Brown sugar has the irritating habit of hardening up when exposed to humidity. Fortunately, it doesn't take much to make this a temporary condition. Simply place an apple wedge in a self-sealing plastic bag with the chunk of hardened brown sugar. Tightly seal the bag & put it in a dry place for a day or two. Your sugar will once again be soft enough to use.

5. Absorb salt in soups and stews

Salting to taste is one thing, but it is possible to overdo it. When you find yourself getting heavy-handed with the saltshaker, simply drop a few apple (or potato) wedges in your pot. After cooking for another 10 minutes or so, remove the wedges - along with the excess salt.

6. Use as decorative candleholders

Add a cozy, country feel to your table setting by creating a natural candleholder. Use an apple corer to carve a hole three-quarters of the way down into a pair of large apples, insert a tall decorative candle into each hole, surround the apples with a few leaves, branches, or flowers, & voilá! You have a lovely centerpiece.

[Source: Reader Digest's 'Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things'.]

A QUICK LESSON IN LATERAL THINKING

My younger brother, a techno-geek, has recent sent me a collection of interesting stuff, as usual.

The following comparison is meant to be just that: a scientist (purist) vs engineer (pragmatist), but I thought it illustrates lateral thinking.

A scientist & an engineer are led into a room, & instructed to stand on one side.

On the opposite side is a piece of treasure.

They are told they may have the prize if they can reach it but they may never go more than half the distance between them and it.

The scientist balks, claiming it is obviously impossible as he can NEVER reach the prize & leaves the room.

The engineer shrugs, & walks halfway to the prize 10 times or so, says “close enough” & takes it.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: NATURE'S WAY


Undisputedly & undoubtedly.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good."

~ Malcolm Gladwell, 46, journalist & pop sociologist, best known as the author of the books 'The Tipping Point', 'Blink' & 'Outliers';

LIFE BEFORE PERSONAL COMPUTERS

An Application was for employment,
A program was a TV show.
A cursor used profanity,
A keyboard was a piano!

Compress was something you did to garbage,
Not something you did to a file.
And if you unzipped anything in public,
You'd be in jail for a while!

Log on was adding wood to a fire,
Hard drive was a long trip on the road.
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived,
And a backup happened to your commode!

Cut - you did with a pocket knife,
Paste - you did with glue.
A web was a spider's home,
And a virus was the flu!

[Source: PhD Comics]

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"The most undeniable truth of the new economy is that there is a surplus of exciting, challenging, & worthwhile work to be done - & a deficit of change insurgents to do it.

If you're a smart, hardworking, talented change insurgent, & your company can't change, won't change, or doesn't even recognize the need to change, you may simply be in the wrong place - at the right time.

Look for a company that genuinely appreciates the need for constant change & challenge. Or launch your own company - & and find other change insurgents who will run with you.

Business is constantly changing. Competition is constantly changing. Technology is constantly changing. Face it: There's no better time to be a change insurgent."

~ Robert Reich, author of the article, 'Your Job is Change', in Fast Company;