Saturday, August 18, 2007


What am I really good at?

What do I love doing?

What does the world need that I can get paid to do?

What do I feel I should do?

BOOK REVIEW: ‘YOU DON’T NEED A TITLE TO BE A LEADER: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can make a Positive Difference’, by Mark Sanborn

Many years ago, I watched Mark Sanborn's three-volume video seminar entitled 'High Impact Leadership'. I was very impressed by the author.

In the high-content video seminar, the author explains very eloquently the significant differences between a manager & a leader. He shares what motivates a leader & how he projects personal power. Plus, he relates how a leader sells his vision & ideas to the people around him.

I had enjoyed learning from the seminar very much. In fact, I had assimilated & internalised many of his principles in my own personal leadership.

I have recently read the author's latest book. Somehow, I get this funny feeling - the book is a broad & loose transcript version of the video seminar, but it does not do justice to the author, especially when I compare it to the video seminar.

Six principal strands pertaining to high impact leadership characteristics are covered in the book, as follows:

- The Power of Self Mastery;
- The Power of Focus;
- The Power with People;
- The Power of Persuasive Communications;
- The Power of Execution;
- The Power of Giving;

In the video seminar, I could discern some twenty four characteristics of high impact leaders.

One of the vital characteristics, among others, is the Power of Anticipation, which is not captured in the book.

I reckon it is better to watch the author's video seminar in order to capture the full flavour of high impact leadership, as originally envisioned by the author, who is dedicated to developing leaders in business & in life.

[The author's corporate website is worth exploring, if you are interested in leadership resources.]


by Jess Stearn

I recall that it was towards the late 80's that I began to pursue a gradual interest in meditation.

The first book on mediation that came into my hands was this paperback book, written in the late seventies. The author, Jess Stearn, was a former editor & prize-winning reporter of Newsweek & The New York Daily News (a tabloid). He was also an author of more than thirty books, nine of which were bestsellers. Apparently, he had a burning interest in the psychic as well as the occult.

As far as I was concerned, this book gave me a pretty good introduction to the art & practice of meditation.

Best of all, the book was also packed with useful anecdotes about the Alpha-State of Consciousness.

I particularly liked the author's many techniques of ‘going to level’ or using that state constructively, as well as exploring the powers of the mind within it. I was really intrigued by the conditioned response of just simply holding the thumb & forefinger together for entering the Alpha-State.

[For the uninitiated: During normal waking hours, our brains function at a brain wave frequency range of from 12 to 14 cycles per second to the low twenties, the Beta level. If we become excited or stimulated for whatever reason, the frequency may momentarily rise into the thirties.

During periods of relaxation, physically & mentally, we will drift down into the Alpha-State, between 7 & 14 cps.

"Going to Level" simply means learning how to access this state intentionally & learning to maintain ourselves at the Alpha level.

Practice will enable us to access & maintain ourselves at the 7-8 cps level, which is the level we will use for programming our mind.

The Theta level, usually in the 5 to 7 cps range, is that state where we are bordering on sleep, but still mentally alert. This is the optimum level for programming our subconscious mind, usually achieved only under deep hypnosis, although some of us after long practice in going to level, have learned to achieve it. The trick is to maintain it, without either going to sleep or drifting back into Alpha.

The Delta level, 4 cps & below, is the unconscious level. During normal sleep activity, we will drift between periods in Delta, up to mid-range Alpha & back again.]

As a result of the book’s introduction, I even participated in a guided meditation retreat, which stretched over three & a half days.

I recalled vividly that, as soon as I had finished the guided session on a Sunday evening, I took a taxi to the airport, flew to Stockholm, Sweden, to attend a board meeting on Monday morning, flew back to Singapore on Monday night, & went back to the office on Wednesday morning.

Amazingly, I was able to perform my professional duties without the attendant effects of jet lag, because I had put what I had learned experientially from the meditation retreat to work.

In the ensuing years, & besides the relaxation sequences, the most productive learning experiences I got out of the book was the 'Workshop of the Mind'. In practice, & for me, this was the progenitor to personal scenario planning.

Additionally, the foregoing book had, in many ways, led me to discover a lot of other good books in the genre, which included:

- 'Creative Visualisation' by Shakti Gawain;
- 'Moon Over Water: The Path of Meditation' by Jessica MacBeth;
- 'Sun Over Mountain: A Course in Creative Imagination' by Jessica MacBeth;
- ‘The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration & Meditation: Ancient Skills for Modern Minds’ by Joel Levey;
- ‘The High Performance Mind’ by Anna Wise;

just to name a few of my personal favourites.


"The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out. Every mind is a room packed with archaic furniture. Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, & creativity will instantly fill it."

(Dee Hock)

Friday, August 17, 2007


by Janet Goodrich

I have owned this wonderful book since the late eighties, when I started to have an ardent desire to learn more about the eye-brain connection. I have deliberately bought it despite its new agey connotations.

I have learned that, whatever we learn in a lifetime, as much as 90% will enter us through our eyes.

Our brains are stimulated more by visual cues than any other senses. Our eyes also form a very significant part of our brains, some two-thirds of which are fully dedicated to vision & associated visual processing.

Jokes aside, sexual attraction also relies greatly on vision!

Despite its comparative size, each eye ball has more significant moving parts than the Columbia space shuttle!

I love to read & I am an avid as well as a voracious reader.

(From early '92 to mid-2005, I actually owned a small bookstore, aptly called 'The Brain Resource'. It fueled & bankrolled my reading pursuits.)

Naturally, I want to keep my eye balls in peak condition.

I was introduced to the book by chance. I did not buy the book on the grounds that I had wanted to get rid of my glasses. Today, I still wear my glasses, only when I drive or watch action movies on TV or in the theatre.

When I read or work on my laptop, I don't need my glasses at all. This is inspite of the fact that my laptop screen display has been configured with small font size, especially my Internet Explorer, which allows me to read large chunks of information at one glance.

The most productive learning experiences I got out of this book are the 'natural vision improvement' exercises introduced by the author.

They are:

- Palming exercise;
- Sunning exercise;
- Near/Far Focus exercise;
- Peripheral Vision exercise;

I have done these exercises for more than fifteen years. Oftentimes, I could amaze myself - & my friends - particularly when I could read relatively small prints on distant sign-boards or posters.

I have also combined the vision exercises with some of the 'Brain Gym' exercises, namely, Drink Water, The Owl, Neck Roll, Cross Crawl & Brain Buttons. Additionally, I do a lot of diaphragmatic breathing exercises. I find all these exercises very useful in maintaining my active physiological frame of mind as well as my sharp mental focus when I read.

I have also taught these exercises to professional adults in my creativity classes, as well as to students in the schools. I have also shared them with my own friends. The feedback from them has always been positive.

Of course, from the book, I have also achieved a much better understanding of the eye-brain connection. If you are interested in this book, my suggestion is to read it with an open mind!

Frankly, if you want to keep your eye balls in peak condition, learn & practise the natural vision improvement exercises in this wonderful book! They have been field tested by me for more than fifteen years!



By Paul Dennison & Gail Dennison

I have bought these two books in the late eighties with the objective of finding out how they work & how I can make use of them in my own life.

Don't worry, I am not brain-injured or learning-disabled as the technologies in the two books have been formulated originally by the authors to help those unfortunate people.

In a nutshell, Brain Gym is part of a field of knowledge known as Educational Kinesiology (or Edu-K for short).

To explain how Brain Gym works, the authors (a psychologist & dancer team) describe the basic brain performance in terms of three learning dimensions:

- Laterality;
- Focus;
- Centering;

Optimum brain performance requires efficient connections across the neural pathways located throughout the brain. Stress inhibits these connections, while the Brain Gym movements stimulate a flow of information along these networks, restoring the innate ability to learn & function with curiosity & joy.

The Laterality Dimension pertains to the relationship between the two sides of the brain - especially in the midfield, where the two sides must integrate. Laterality skills are fundamental to reading, writing, listening, or speaking. They are essential for the patterning of whole-body movement, & for the ability to move & think at the same time.

The Focus Dimension describes the relationship between the back & front areas of the brain. Focus affects comprehension - the ability to blend context & details into a full personal meaning & to understand new information in terms of previous experience.

The Centering Dimension concerns the connection between the top & bottom structures of the brain. Centering enables us to harmonize emotion with rational thought. Stress can disturb centering & equilibrium, leaving us tense & out of sorts. When we're centered, we feel more grounded & organized.

To paraphrase the authors: “Movement is the door to learning.”

Although there are more than twenty of the Brain Gym exercises introduced, I only use a handful for my own purpose, especially when I read. The exercises I have specifically selected are:

- Drink Water;
- The Owl;
- The Neck Roll;
- Brain Buttons;
- Cross-Crawl;
- Belly or Diaphragmatic Breathing;

I find them very useful in maintaining an active physiological frame of mind & sharp mental focus when I read.

I have been using these Brain Gym exercises on my own for more than fifteen years.

I have also taught them to professional adults as well as to students in the schools. The feedback from them has always been positive.

The first book, with its bright orange cover, is just a summary of the exercises. You need the second book, which is the Teacher Edition, to get a foundational understanding of the exercises.

My only adverse comment about these two books is that the text printing & visual design are comparatively of poor quality, especially after so many years in print.

[For readers who are keen to explore further the significance of physical movements in learning processes, I would recommend strongly 'Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head' by Dr Carla Hannaford, a neuro-physiologist by training. In her book, she reinforces the practical usefulness of Brain Gym exercises, among other innovative insights about learning & the brain.

More information about Brain Gym is available from the Official Brain Gym Website.]

Thursday, August 16, 2007


What can I be grateful for right now?

How can I serve?

What can I give?


“Life is like dancing. If we have a big floor, many people will dance. Some will get angry when the rhythm changes. But life is changing all the time.”

(Don Miguel Ruiz)


Your body is about 70% water. It carries nutrients to your cells and helps you eliminate toxins and the waste products from normal metabolism. Without it, you simply couldn't live.

What does this have to do with aging? Lots.

For one thing, drinking this pure natural liquid can help with inflammation. And if you've read some of the other pages on this site, you know that inflammation is a big problem associated with aging. Think about it... inflammation = fire. What better to put out a fire?

It's also crucial for brain function. Without adequate hydration your brain simply can't function at peak efficiency.

Also, when you quench your thirst with other beverages, you are often actually dehydrating yourself. Certain drinks, such as coffee, tea and other caffeine-containing beverages, actually dehydrate you. In other words, you end up with less healthy fluids in your body.

How Much is Enough?

Most experts recommend between 2 and 3 quarts of water daily. If you're not used to drinking this much it sounds like a lot. It's especially a lot if you are drinking other liquids like coffee, pop or sports drinks.

[Source: Dr Bruce Eichelberger's Natural Anti-Aging Solutions]


THE COMPLEAT COCKROACH: A Comprehensive Guide to the Most Despised (& Least Understood) Creature on Earth
By David Gordon

Recently, I conducted a spring cleaning of my personal library & found a number of interesting books (some seemingly trivia, some really nonsensical) which I have totally forgotten about.

This is one of those books, seemingly trivial in content & yet educational in scope.

Here, from this one amazing volume, I did not realise that I could learn so much about what I have always considered to be Planet Earth's most hated creature! Frankly speaking, I hate cockroaches. My Baygon from Johnson is always on 24/7 standby!

The author of this book, a biologist by training, thinks otherwise & sets out to change my belief.

According to him, cockroaches are intelligent, hard-working, & well-groomed (Can you believe that?), as well as being one of the oldest & most successful beings on Planet Earth (340 millions old, & able to withstand a nuclear blast!).

I have even learned from the author that they have made appearances on the Apollo XII command vehicle.

This book really tells it all:

- the life history of the cockroach, including what they eat (just about anything), where they live (everywhere from tropical caves to microwave ovens), & the steamy details of their sex lives (antenna fencing, anyone?);
- cockroaches in human culture
- from La Cucaracha to Joe's Apartment (the song & dance routines in the fun movie), & even cuisine (they are three times as protein rich as chicken & taste like shrimp (Can you believe that?);
- home cockroach control - what works, what doesn't, & why;

& much, much more...

Since young, I have always been fascinated by nature history as I grew up in a 'kampong' (a local term for village) on the southern end of the Malaysian peninsula, heavily surrounded by forests and grasslands. Catching - & playing with spiders - constituted one of my favourite boyhood past times.

[In the 1950's, these were the notorious battlegrounds of the communist insurgents against British & Malaysian security forces during the Emergency.]

I recall it was the subtitle of the book, which goes like this 'Step into a World That Until Now You've Only Stepped on' that finally sealed my decision to buy the book during the mid-90s.

I have really enjoyed reading this book again!

On the whole, & in conclusion, I would like to rate this book to be an excellent comprehensive guide to the 'Most Despised (And Least Understood) Creature on Earth'!


1) 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life
by David Riklan

2) Self-Improvement: The Top 101 Experts Who Help Us Improve Our Lives
by David Riklan

I have deliberately bought these two works to be used as a complementary intellectual resource on self-improvement & peak performance technologies.

Combined them with my earlier acquisition of Tom Butler-Bowdon's trilogy of books (which I have already reviewed in an earlier post), namely:

- 50 Self Help Classics;
- 50 Success Classics;
- 50 Spiritual Classics;

& my impending requisition of the author's latest '50 Psychology Classics', I now have, in my hands, more than 2,000 pages of well-researched & systematically organised information nuggets on self-improvement & peak performance.

The author is certainly well-known from his corporate website, known as The Online Self-Improvement Encyclopedia, which provides ready internet access to the world’s top experts on success skills, relationships, health & fitness, money & careers, mental health, spirituality & diet & nutrition. It has been voted the '#1 Self Improvement Site on the Web' by Google & Yahoo.

The experts shown in the book include familiar names like Anthony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard, Brian Tracy, Jim Collins, Dr. Phil McGraw, Deepak Chopra, Caroline Myss, Robert Allen, Robert Kiyosaki, Bruce Wilkinson, John Gray, Barbara De Angelis, Sylvia Browne as well as the Dalai Lama.

I have browsed the foregoing two works very quickly, & I generally concur with most of the positive reviews by other reviewers on, especially Donald Mitchell.

All I want to say is this: What a formidable intellectual resource on self-improvement & peak performance technologies!

For readers who are still scouting for various self-improvement & peak performance technologies, please go no further.

Just follow my personal example: Get hold of this book!

If you already owned the classics by Tom Butler-Bowdon, it is pertinent for me to warn readers that there will naturally be some overlap of materials between the two authors’ works.


1) 50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life, From Timeless Sages to Contemporary Gurus
by Tom Butler-Bowdon

2) 50 Success Classics: Winning Wisdom for Life and Work from 50 Landmark Books
by Tom Butler-Bowdon

3) 50 Spiritual Classics: Timeless Wisdom from 50 Great Books on Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose
by Tom Butler-Bowdon

In the first instance, I have bought these three books in one go because I have been fascinated by what the author had done: He has practised what is known as the highest level of reading. Mortimer Adler, in his classic book, 'How to Read a Book', written in the forties, had called it 'syntopical reading'. It's actually reading a number of books of the same genre, more or less simultaneously & then synthesising the key points.

Secondly, the author, who is a graduate of the London School of Economics, somehow impresses me with his ability to synthesise the big picture of each of the books that made up the entire collection. For apparently a left-brain thinker i.e. economist by training, this has been a very remarkable feat, as his synthesising endeavour has been essentially more of a right-brain activity. Well, I must compliment him for a job well done.

Before my final decision on buying the three books, I have been thrilled by the prospect of reading three books, which in turn will give me access to one hundred & fifty books.

For each book, the author has very artfully as well as skillfully selected fifty books to made up one collection. I may not agree with his selection, but I must admit that I can't default him at all.

Take the first book, '50 Self Help Classics', with timeless wisdom, as an example. Out of the fifty books he has selected, I have read only seventeen of them. I have those books in my personal library.

For the second book, '50 Success Classics', I have read & still own sixteen of the landmark books on winning wisdom selected by the author.

For the third & final book, '50 Spiritual Classics', covering timeless sages & contemporary gurus, I have read only & still own three of them, namely 'The Tao of Physics', 'The Way of the Peaceful Warrior' & 'Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'.

For those books I have read previously, totalling thirty-six of them (probably stretching over three decades of my life), & upon revisiting them again in the trilogy, which actually took me one whole weekend to complete, starting on Friday evening & finishing on Sunday night, I must say that the seemingly marathon reading experience has been very refreshing & uplifting. It has also given me the opportunity to check & verify whether the author has captured the key ideas or essence of those books. I don't think I can find fault with the author in this respect.

Not only that, in the first book, I am very impressed that the author has cut through the bewildering array of choices to bring the essential ideas, insights, and techniques from the `literature of possibilities'. In works that span the world's religions, cultures, philosophies, & centuries, he summarizes each work's key ideas & finally makes clear how these legendary classics can educate, affirm, & motivate anyone searching for the inspiration to make a meaningful life change.

In the second book, the author is back with his wide-ranging collection of enduring works from pioneering thinkers, philosophers, & powerful leaders, like Napoleon Hill, Stephen Covey, Kenneth Blanchard, Baltasar Gracian & Christopher Maurer; from the inspirational rags to riches stories of such entrepreneurs, like Andrew Carnegie, Warren Buffet & Sam Walton to the leadership lessons of Sir Ernest Shackleton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln & Nelson Mandela, just to name a few.

In the third book, I believe the author has captured the very best in spiritual writing: They include personal diaries & compelling biographies of such diverse figures as Gandhi, Malcolm X, & Black Elk & Eastern philosophers & gurus including Krishnamurti, Yogananda, Chögyam Trungpa & Suzuki; & Western saints & mystics such as St. Francis of Assisi, Herman Hesse & Simone Weil. For each book in this volume, the author offers insightful commentary on how these classics can help spiritual seekers everywhere bring personal beliefs, values & practices squarely into the center of their every day lives.

Reading the three foregoing books has been quite a breeze because the meaning of each work is initially captured 'in a nut shell' at the onset, coupled with a representative quote as well as cross-referencing to similar work. In each work, appropriate sectional headings in bold print make it really easy for the reader to follow the author's train of thoughts over some six pages. There is also a short biographical sketch of the author of the respective work.

I must admit that the third book in the trilogy has been the most challenging for me to read as I normally do not go for such stuff. To put it bluntly, it's not my cup of tea. On the other hand, the curiosity streak in me has been too overwhelming, since I relish the thought that I could read fifty spiritual classics in just one book!

Overall, & for all those books I have not yet read at all (some of which I have not even heard of), I really enjoyed digesting the author's bite-sized summaries (in actuality, they are only the main ideas, context & impact of each title, to give a taste of the literature, so to speak) in the three collections or volumes, even though some of the titles are relatively esoteric for me.

The entire reading journey has been enlightening, inspirational & yet humbling in some areas. Best of all, there are useful tools & practical techniques to take away from each collection!

For the first & last book in the trilogy, namely, '50 Self Help Classics' & '50 Spiritual Classics', the author has respectively provide a list of additional 50 books. The titles are certainly enticing! Well, all I can say is this: I wish the author will repeat his syntopical reading exercise covering these books & add two more volumes, which together will make a quintuplet, for all the readers out there, including me!

As usual, all my three books are now scribbled with my own hand-written marginal annotations as well as my fancy colour marker symbols. Additionally, there are also colourful sticky notes in between selected pages. My next personal assignment is to transfer all these notations into mind-maps with MindManager Pro.

To end my review, I have one last humble comment to make. Out of the one hundred & fifty bite-sized summaries, I still don't quite get it from 'The Bhagavad-Gita' as outlined in the author's '50 Self Help Classics'. I have not read this work before although I have heard about it.

[J Y Pillay, former Chairman of Singapore Airlines, who is credited for building the airline to what it is today, A Great Way to Fly, has vouched for this ancient Hindu scripture as an inspiration for his leadership success during an interview.]

However, in the same vein, I found that I could relate quickly to Deepak Chopra's 'The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success' but simply not this one! I may have to explore other print avenues.

In spite of the above minor short-coming, I strongly believe that the three books in the author's trilogy are really an intellectual treasure on self-improvement & peak performance!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Three frogs sat on a log in the swamp. One decided to jump in the water, how many were left on-the log?

The answer is three.

Most of us would have answered two of course, but the fact is the frog only decided to jump in the water.

There is a difference between making a decision to do something and actually doing it.


It is fascinating to read in the Straits Times today that Matt Damon is currently Hollywood's most profitable star, according to, which calculated that the actor had brought in US$29 of gross income for every US$1 invested on him.

Matt Damon reprised his role of the amnesiac assassin again in the 'The Bourne Ultimatum', which I had seen very recently.

I had also seen the two earlier Bourne movies, 'The Bourne Identity' & 'The Bourne Supremacy', which I had also reviewed in my earlier posts.

Personally, I have enjoyed watching the latest movie.

Once again, Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon) demonstrated his uncanny ability to smell trouble, to anticipate his enemies' every move & his fighting prowess, especially the tactical self defense manoeuvres, within close quarters.

The plot was very simple:

It was all started by a nosy British reporter, who wrote an intriguing article about Jason Bourne. Following a good tip from someone in a CIA section operating in Madrid, Spain, the reporter pursued further & somehow drew sudden attention from the CIA Deep Cover Anti-Terrorism Unit in New York. That sparked off a chain of surprising & yet engaging events, which got Jason Bourne involved, as the latter was still trying to sort out his enigmatic past.

So our hero returned once again for a showdown with a new bunch of rogue CIA elements, with dubious links all the way to the top echelon, known as the 'Blackbriar Project' [supposedly a program upgrade of the disbanded Treadstone Project at the end of the first movie].

I am glad that the story plot in the latest movie has provided some sort of psychological & emotional closure for Jason Bourne, when he returned to the place where he unwittingly volunteered to be trained as a cold-blooded assassin under the earlier Treadstone Project.

To paraphrase the director, Paul Greengrass, "by the end of the movie, you have got to understand how Jason Bourne became Jason Bourne."

The many action sequences were really amazing, running from Tangiers in Morroco to London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin & of course, New York City, where it all started.

The breathtaking roof top sequences in Madrid were very well orchestrated. It was fun watching Bourne jumping out from one window to enter the next (in the opposite apartment) as he dodged his pursuers.

My only complaint was that the jerky camera movements during the action sequences & the many flash backs were quite annoying, to some extent.

Also, there was one particular dialogue scene which seemed rather intriguing to me.

It suggested a probable past relationship between Jason Bourne & Nicky Parsons (played by Julia Stiles). Nicky was Bourne's CIA case officer during the botched Treadstone project.

Although she had unwittingly helped Bourne in escaping from his pursuers in all the three movies, what had actually happened between them remained a mystery, as illustrated in this exchange:

Jason Bourne: "Why are you helping me?
Nicky Parsons: "It was difficult... for me... with you. You... really don't remember, do you?"
Jason Bourne: "No."

To watch 'The Bourne Ultimatum', I reckon one needs to have watched the earlier two movies in order to attain some prior knowledge of what had transpired earlier. My gym buddy who was with me during the recent movie was somewhat bewildered as he had not seen the earlier two movies. He preferred 'Die Hard IV", which we had watched together a few weeks ago.

I generally agree that the 'The Bourne Ultimatum' is the best action thriller of the year.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Is my future given or is it under perpetual construction?

(Inspired by Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine)


"The basic goal reaching principle is to understand that you go as far as you can see, & when you get there you will always be able to see further."

(Zig Ziglar)


For a relatively concise format, with only 70 odd pages, this wonderful book is packed with fresh insights as well as valuable practical guidelines for the pursuit of creativity & innovation within an industrial &/or technological landscape.

It offers a more holistic model for creative discovery, with a dynamic balance of aesthetics, scientific method & serendipity. This model adds two stages to the classic model: knowledge gain prior to preparation, & stimulation co-active with incubation, as illustrated below:

- Knowledge gain;
- Preparation;
- Incubation;
- Stimulation;
- Illumination;
- Verification & Commercialisation;

The author contends that creativity will not happen without knowledge gain, which is the first stage in the model.

This model resonates relatively well with the Japanese model envisaged by Dr Yoshiro Nakamatsu, or Dr NakaMats as he is better known, the world 's most prolific inventor with over 3,300 inventions to his credit. He invented the floppy disk (for which a licence was sold to IBM), compact disk & digital watch. He calls it the Five Tier Pagoda Approach to Inventions (The author readily admits that the Japanese are geniuses in making incremental advances, & they make great improvements in profitability by this means.):

from the top:

- Leap of the Mind;
- Experience;
- Knowledge;
- Mind Body/Connection;
- Spirit;

According to Dr NakaMats, the most critical stages are the top three, & of those stages the fifth could not exist without the third & fourth stages. In other words, one must have a broad exposure to knowledge & experience before attempting creative solutions & applications.

He argues that his process of invention depends on two basic skills:

- applying the requisite knowledge to bring a product concept to the prototype stage where it can be tested for feasibility, practicality & marketability, & eventually patented;

- understanding the needs of the users;

The author of this book holds exactly the same line of thought.

For stimulation co-active with incubation, the author provides three general kinds of mental actions that can help in the stimulation step of discovery:

- basic research;
- external stimuli;
- specialised thought processes;

Obviously, the author's approach in this respect takes a more or less structured & conventional route. In contrast, Dr NakaMats takes a more radical approach to incubation & stimulation. He uses a planned sequence of provocative techniques, from spending time in a 'calm room', then, to a 'dynamic room' & finally, to 'underwater brainstorming'. However, this approach is definitely not suitable for the faint-hearted!

Nevertheless, in this book, the author outlines the various modes of thinking that can lead to discovery, in the form of Chapter II from page 27 to 46. I like this particular chapter because of its broad coverage.

On page 50 of the book, as part of Chapter III, the author also outlines a series of helpful sequential steps to be taken against the five key steps of the model. Figure 13 on page 54 shows an schematic of the model.

The last chapter, Chapter IV, pertains to the Technically Creative Enterprise. Despite its brevity, it contains enough good information to allow readers to get the day's work done & still stay informed on a good variety of concepts.

On the whole, 'The Art of Discovery', has been a good book to read. If you are a R & D engineer, GO FOR IT!


This is quite an interesting book for today's busy professionals. Its primary focus is simply a smorgasbord of strategies & tools for developing a higher level of increased personal effectiveness, flexibility, durability & resilience.

The author uses the term 'independent capability' to denote the new range of skills needed to survive in the 21st Century. His metaphor of 'Titanium' is just to reinforce the concept of resilience & inner strength.

According to the author, these are the five keys to independent capability:

- self control & self management;
- initiative & pro-activity;
- empathy & perception;
- effective team skills;
- analytical thinking;

As the author has admitted, he draws most of the inspiration from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits for Highly Effective People & Daniel Coleman's EQ series of books.

The presentation of strategies & tools in the book is not ground breaking, but I want to compliment the author for synthesising practical insights from HR management with career pursuits & changes in today's constantly changing world. He even adds his own experiences, case studies & interviews with thoughtful review & analysis. As such, it is a practically readable & highly relevant book for busy professionals.

My favourite chapter of the book is Chapter 3: Anticipating the Future. It looks at the six major influences on the nature or work as the 21st Century commences:

- globalisation;
- technology;
- communications;
- the changing expectations of workers;
- changes in organisations;
- the increasing velocity of change itself;

In fact, my personal interest in the book is drawn particularly to this specific chapter in the first place.

To sum up my review, I enthusiastically recommend this book to all busy professionals who want to achieve career satisfaction & financial success in the 21st Century.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I love to collect insightful as well as interesting quotations from my readings & observations.

In fact, when I was running The Brain Resource, from early 1992 to mid-2005, my office walls were completely spruced up with quotations, which had been specially laminated & framed up in a multitude of A2, A3 & even A4 sized prints, in addition to other visual paraphernalia.

Here are some of my personal favourites on 'Opportunity':

"Business opportunities are like buses; there's always another one coming."

(Richard Branson)

"In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity."

(Albert Einstein)

"In the field of observation, chance favours the prepared mind."

(Louis Pasteur)

"To hell with circumstances. I create opportunities."

(Bruce Lee)

"The reason that many opportunities pass us by is a perceptual one: we do not recognise an opportunity for what it is. An opportunity exists only when we see it."

(Edward de bono)

"If a window of opportunity appears, don't pull down the shades."

(Tom Peters)

"The greatest thing a man can do in this world is to make the most possible out of the stuff that has been given him. This is success, & there is no other."

(Orison Swett Marden)

"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."

(Milton Berle)

"Opportunities are never lost; some one will take the one you miss."

(Author Unknown)

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls & looks like work."

(Thomas Edison)

"When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters - one represents 'danger' & the other represents 'opportunity'."

(John F Kennedy)

"When one door closes, another door opens; but we often look so long & so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

(Alexander Graham Bell)

"No man who is enthusiastic about his work has anything to fear from life. All the opportunities in the world are waiting to be grasped by people who are in love with what they're doing."

(Samuel Goldwyn)

"You cannot afford to wait for perfect conditions. Goal setting is often a matter of balancing timing against available resources. Opportunities are easily lost while waiting for perfect conditions."

(Gary Ryan Blair, The Goal Guy)

"The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone."

(Orison Swett Marden)

"Everyone is surrounded by opportunities. But they only exist once they have been seen. And they will only be seen if they are looked for."

(Edward de bono)

"Take a lesson from the mosquito. She never waits for an opening - she makes one!"

(Kirk Kirkpatrick)

"Failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently."

(Henry Ford)


What am I busy about?

It is important enough to be so busy?

Is there something else more important?

[Source: Kevin Eikenberry,]


"We're moving too fast these days. So, it's important that you pause for a while & ask yourself: Who am I? What do I want in life? Do I know myself well enough?. These are things I always tell people."

(Venerable Shi Ming Yi, CEO, Ren Ci Hospital & Medical Centre, Singapore)

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in Your Organization's Enduring Success’, by Richard Hughes & Katherine Beatty

Most of the publications that come out of CCL (or Centre for Creative Leadership), which I have acquired for my personal library, are seemingly well-supported by research findings & concisely written by the respective authors, who apparently hold impeccable track records in their fields.

This particular book is one of them. (CCL has earned its #1 Rank in Leadership Education by Business Week).

My primary interest in strategic leadership stems from my relentless search for better understanding of the thinking processes that go inside the heads of leaders. To be more precise, the strategy formulation processes! This has been by burning passion for more than two decades.

In this book, the authors have artfully as well as logically demonstrated how readers can exercise effective strategic leadership through their distinctive & systematic approach:

- strategic thinking (Chapter 2);
- strategic acting (Chapter 3);
- strategic influencing (Chapter 4);

These serve as the synergistic driving forces. In the authors' own words: Driving strategy as a learning process.

(I am actually quite tempted to use the term, `syn-vergent' instead of `synergistic' [driving forces] as the former term was originally coined by Michael Gelb, in 'Thinking for a Change', which means `the art of balancing convergent and divergent thinking modes, logic and imagination, reason and intuition.' In the current book under review, the authors contend that strategic thinking engages the heart as well as the head.)

With an excellent introduction in Chapter 1, Chapter 6 shows how readers can apply the above approach in the broader organizational context.

I reckon Chapter 7 really sums up the whole book, using surfing as a metaphorical platform (I like it!) - keeping your balance while learning the best path to follow amid constantly changing conditions.

Throughout the book, the authors discuss in depth the specific competencies & perspectives related to each of the above driving forces, as well as their interdependency in producing a more wholistic (or more appropriately, `syn-vergent', as explained above) & meaningful strategy.

In conclusion as a whole from the standpoint of reader friendliness & action-packed learning, I rate this wonderful book a 10/10.

So, readers, please add this book to your Strategic Thinker's Bookshelf.

Attention Readers: To complement as well as to reinforce your understanding of Chapter 2 of this book, please read `Choosing the Future: The Power of Strategic Thinking', by Stuart Wells.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Art and Discipline of Strategic Leadership’, by Mike Freedman

I have always been impressed by the work of the Kepner-Tregoe team because their methodologies really work.

My first encounter with their work was the mastering - and application - of their Problem Solving & Decision Making (PSDM)strategies in the late 70's/early 80's, while I was a practising engineer.

Subsequent fruitful encounters include reading - and assimilating - Tregoe's 'Vision at Work' and 'Top Management Strategy' (both of which are great works, too) when I was a General Manager.

This book should have been available when I was still working in the corporate world.

Anyway, I am very pleased to have bought and perused this wonderful book, which I will now add to my Strategic Thinking and Strategic Leadership bookshelf.

I particularly enjoyed digesting the authors' practical approach to strategy formulation, which has been extensively covered in the book. The attendant case studies - field-tested - have been well selected and the process of working out their integrated model to help readers to understand - and eventually apply - has also been well crafted.

I also like their way of posing pertinent questions to think through some of the process steps.

All practising managers must get hold of this book. In terms of depth and breadth in the strategic thinking process, as well as the clarity in writing and presentation, I would rate this book in the same genre as Michel Robert's strategic thinking books.

Across the board, the authors' writing in the book is crisp and succinct, and I really appreciate authors who write this way.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Ahead of the Curve: A Guide to Applied Strategic Thinking’, by Steven Stowell

In the marketplace, there isn't much good books written from the personal strategic thinking standpoint. I can only recall one really good one, & that is, ‘Choosing the Future: The Power of Strategic Thinking’ by Stuart Wells.

This particular one, by the founders of Centre for Management Organisation Effectiveness, is one I have just recently come across. (The book is apparently based on their Applied Strategic Thinking workshop.)

After perusing it, I find it to be an excellent guide/resource, which any interested reader can add to their Strategic Thinking Bookshelf.

Most strategic thinking books focus at the corporate planning &/or boardroom level. Big strategy. The grand plan. Nothing wrong with that.

This particular one brings the concept & philosophy of strategic thinking down to the individually applied level, as well as the immediate team, at the front lines. The authors offer an interesting application model which combines 'strategic landscape' with 'strategic dashboard.' This one model is definitely worth exploring.

Unlike most strategic thinking books, the authors don't waste time dwelling into the historical perspectives.

I also like their contextual premise: Effective strategic thinkers focus not on what can't be done, but finding a way to do what must be done.

I really appreciate the authors' strategic way of interspersing the chapters with appropriate graphic icons & provoking quotations as they share real-life experiences, illustrated examples & straight-forward activities & practical tools. These make the reading a quick & easy breeze!

In a nutshell, these are the key chapters:

- Introduction to Strategic Thinking;
- Strategic Landscape;
- Strategic Thinking: An Overview of the Fin Art of Practical;
- Tame the Beast;
- Acquire the Target;
- Gather Intelligence;
- Analyse Forces;
- Define Scenarios;
- Chart Course;
- Mobilise & Sustain;
- The Future;

Surprisingly, the authors did not include a bibliography or references at the end of the book. However, they did mention a few other pertinent books in the various chapters.

If you like this book, please feel free to explore the principal author's other books.


I remember that I had begun to take a growing interest in developing personal as well as professional skills after I had taken up my second career appointment as a trainee executive in a German trading firm (Behn, Meyer & Co.,) with engineering interests during the late sixties.

In fact, my first career appointment was a mechanical draftsman with Buhler Brothers Engineering Works, Switzerland, which operated a Design & Drafting Office in Singapore. The latter lasted two years.

As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, my first encounter with developing personal skills actually started with reading the works of Napoleon Hill & others.

It was also around this period of time, I had also read the earlier works by Tony Buzan, Edward de bono, & Paul Getty.

In retrospect, that began my long journey in search of what I would now term as 'personal mastery'.

From the very beginning, I was certainly impressed by Napoleon Hill. He had devoted twenty years of his prime life to studying & analysing the success of more than 500 of the 20th Century's greatest achievers. They included Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison & Henry Ford, just to name a few.

His exhaustive research proved that the essence of success centred within seventeen simple principles that when used together served as an infallible formula for personal achievement.

Today, the seventeen key principles constitute the foundation of the science of personal achievement, as embodied in the five books I have reviewed earlier, in particular, the 'Law of Success'.

I am not going to repeat the seventeen principles here, but will highlight only those that had impacted me the most.

There are:

- everything starts with a thought - whatever I can conceive & believe in my mind, I can achieve it physically;

- always focus my thoughts with a clear plan of action (interestingly & subsequently, I had learned that vision without action is daydreaming; action without vision is random activity; with vision & action, you can change the world!);

- maintain self-discipline in all my pursuits;

- develop strong personal initiative;

- exercise personal integrity when dealing with people at all levels;

- challenge & overcome fear at all costs (interestingly & subsequently, I had learned that fear is 'false evidence appearing real');

These became my personal character traits throughout my career advancement from the late sixties to the early nineties. As a matter of fact, when I left Behn, Meyer & Co after eleven years as Divisional Manager, the then Managing Director, the late Mr Heinz Waetke, wrote me an unprecended two-page testimonial, highlighting many of the traits I had adopted from Napoleon Hill's findings. Till today, I am still keeping this valuable testimonial.

In subsequent posts, I intend to share with readers my personal milestones as I continued in my search of personal mastery.

For this purpose, I will designate the foregoing learning experience as my first milestone in the search for personal mastery.

This planned personal endeavour would give me a good opportunity to reflect - & reminisce - on what I have learned over the last four decades of my life.

Roughly, - I must admit that I did not consciously plan it that way from the very beginning -, I would like to categorise my search for personal mastery under these six areas:

- Personal Development - understanding how the brain works; brain dominance; learning styles; intelligence building; accelerated learning; brain fitness;
- Sales Training - communication with people;
- Mind & Body - sound health; wellness; life extension;
- Career & Wealth Building - career advancement; financial intelligence; wealth creation;
- Strategy & Business - creative & critical thinking; paradigm shifting; entrepreneurial thinking; opportunity discovery; strategic epxloration;
- Spiritual Growth - enlightenment;


Sunday, August 12, 2007


What long-term accomplishments do I want to see come to pass?

What short-term actions will I need to do over time to see them come to pass?

What will I do today to begin seeing my dreams come true?

What will I do this week to see them come true?

ULTIMATE SUCCESS FORMULA: Take a leaf from the 42nd President of the United States

Five years ago, I attended the National Achievers Congress at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, during which Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States, was a keynote speaker.

He shared with the audience an illuminating & poignant illustration of what I would call the true 'Ultimate Success Formula' (USF).

I have always remembered his wonderful personal insight till this day.

"One of the most moving moments in my life was visiting Rwanda, Africa, in 1998. My wife & I went there & saw the survivors of the 1994 genocide between the Hutu & Tutsi tribes, which left 500,000 people dead in less than a month.

Those survivors were really handsome men & lovely women, who were trying to put their country back together.

Most have had their hands & legs cut off in the tragedy. My wife & I were sad to see one-armed men who were once strong, now made frail by their sudden disabilities.

Among those Rwandans was a beautiful African woman in a long, flowing dress. She had all her limbs intact & there did not seem to me any cause why she should belong with them.

She must have read my thoughts, because she smiled & explained: "My marks are on my back. My attackers tried to break my neck. They hacked at it & left me to bleed to death."

She added that it was her neighbours who had betrayed her family. They had lived side by side with her for sixteen years before the genocide erupted.

She then told me: 'When I woke up, I found that my husband & six children had been hacked to death.

"I screamed to God then, Why am I still here?'"

She realised later that she must be here for some purpose. As she put it: "My life can't be for something as unnecessary as vengeance."

So, the next time you feel sorry for yourselves & the problem you have, think of that woman.

Don't run from your troubles. Like her, decide what you can do with life & that will help you find a way to deal with your problems.

If you are in pain, that's good, because that means you are still alive. I've found that it's very important not to forget that.

You see, getting what you want is not really success.

Doing the right thing with what you have is.

True success is about relating to other people until your time runs out on this earth.

So, I've learned that the most important thing in life is just being a human being."


"There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love to do, there is only scarcity of resolve to make it happen."
(Wayne Dyer)