Thursday, October 25, 2007


Perfect Practice Makes Perfect, not Practice Makes Perfect.

The only place one can practise perfectly is inside our head.

As I have mentioned before, everything we do in life often happens thrice:

- Firstly, in the brain as a concept or idea or strategy;

- Secondly, as a formulated plan of action, most often will be put on paper where the strategy takes final shape;

- Thirdly, as an executed physical reality in the real world;

Neurologically, the brain cannot tell the difference between a real or reel (imagined) experience.

They both stimulate the brain through the same neural pathways.

The brain & body will act upon sensory input when real or reel (imagined).

That's why creative visualisation &/or mental rehearsal give(s) one the enhanced mental ability to do perfect practice.


1) Awareness of the need to change;

2) Desire to participate in & support the change;

3) Knowledge on how to change & what the change looks like;

4) Ability to implement required skills & behaviours on a day-to-day basis;

5) Reinforcement to keep & sustain the change;

Questions to Ask:

i) what is the nature of the change?

ii) why is the change needed?

iii) what are the risks if not changing?

iv) what's in it for me?

Implementation Exercise:

Briefly describe the personal change you want to implement.

1. Awareness.
List the reasons you believe the intended change is necessary.

2. Desire.
List the motivating factors or consequences (good & bad) for the intended change to take place.

3. Knowledge.
List the skills & knowledge needed to support the intended change, including if you have a clear picture of what the intended change looks like.

4. Ability.
Considering the skills & knowledge identified in the previous question, evaluate your ability to perform these skills or act on this knowledge.

5. Reinforcement.
List the reinforcements that will help to retain & sustain the change. Are incentives in place to reinforce the intended change and make it stick?

[The ADKAR model is an excellent model for personal change management. The model shows the phases that individuals go through in any kind of change - personal or professional. The ADKAR model was first published by Prosci (considered to be the world's largest provider of change management & reengineering toolkits) in 1998 after research with more than 300 major change projects. In 2006, Prosci released the first complete text on the ADKAR model in Jeff Hiatt's book, 'ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government & Our Community'. More information is available from the Change Management Learning Centre.]


Interestingly, your brain follows the direction of your dominant thought.

In an earlier post, I wrote about what you choose to see becomes the foreground & what you do not choose to see falls into the background. Possibilities - & opportunities - often reside in the background.

To observe the world around us with all its beauty, one must always learn to switch perception.

Switching perception involves pushing the 'foreground' into the background & pulling the 'background' into the foreground.

Some experts like to call this process 'paradigm shifting'.

Not only that, one must also learn to exercise fluidity of perception. This will provide you space for multiple perceptions.

When observing an object, it is necessary to ask yourself:

- what do you choose to see?

- where do you direct your attention?

Let's do a simple observation test.

Take a look at the picture below. It shows a Fedex delivery truck.

Besides the conspicuous fedex logo on the truck, what else do you see?

[to be continued]


I am taking a short break from the night of 25th October to the evening of 4th November 2007.

As I have mentioned earlier, I will be holidaying in Italy with my wife.

I will resume blogging from 5th November 2007.


My wife & I will be leaving Singapore tonight for Italy on a Tradewinds tour covering Rome, Naples, Capri island, Sorrento, Assisi, Pisa, Florence, Venice & Milan.

Globe-trotting is one of my favourite hobbies, but I have slowed down in recent years.

In my hey days, from the early eighties to the early nineties, I often got caught by the travel bug at least four times a year.

My late first wife (Catherine) & I had covered quite a fair bit of the globe, covering much of Asia (except the Central Asian region), the whole of Western & Eastern Europe (including Scandinavia, Iceland & Greenland), the former USSR, North America (Canada, USA & Mexico), Australia, New Zealand & some parts of Africa, particularly Tunisia & South Africa.

The only yet-to-visit places are the remaining parts of Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Central & South America, & the Antartica.

For me, this will be my third trip to Italy, but it will be the first time for my wife.

Last year, at about this time of the year, my wife & I visited Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, & Wuxi in China. We had a great time.

Our itinenary in Italy has already been scheduled as follows:

Day 01: Singapore

Assemble at Changi Airport.

Day 02: Singapore -> Rome

Depart on Singapore Airlines to Rome, gateway to Italy. Upon arrival, embark on a city tour of Rome with our locall guide. Discovering the many amazing facets of the eternal city. First stop is church of St Peters in Chain that houses the Chains that imprison the first Pope, St Peter. Also the famous statue of Moses by Michelcangelo. Next to Fontaina di Trevi & the Spanish Steps for some great shopping. An opportunity for those interested to join an optional tour to visit the Vatican Museum & the fame Sistine Chapel.

Day 03: Rome - Naples

We journey to Naples, which includes the historic centre fearuring the palazzo Reale & San Carlo Opera House.

Day 04: Naples - Capri island - Sorrento

Visit the beautiful island of Capri. After lunch, continue the beautiful southern resort of Sorrento. Some time is given for shopping & photo taking before we go back to Naples.

Day 05: Naples - Assisi - Perugia

This morning a scenic drive to the famous walled city of Assisi where there will be free time to walk around this medieval town. Perched halfway up Mt Subasio, the visual impact of its shimmering white marble buildings is magnificent.

Day 06: Perugia - Pisa - Tuscany Region

Drive to Pisa for a visit to the Square of Miracles where the famous Leaning Tower is located. Continue in the afternoon to Tuscany where we will enjoy a sumptious Florentine Steak Dinner complete with wine.

Day 07: Tuscany - Florence - Venice (Mestre)

Enjoy a nice walking tour of Florence. Some free time for shopping or photo taking before proceeding to Venice arae for overnight.

Day 08: Venice - Veronica - Milan (Mestre)

Transfer by private motor boat ride to St Mark's Square. Explore this exciting city on foot. Weather permitting, you may like to experience a gondola ride (optional). Afternoon, continue to Verona. Photo stop at Juliet's Balcony. Continue to Milan, home of Italian fashion gurus.

Day 09: Milan

Start Milan sightseeing with a visit to the Duomo Square & Victor Emmanuel Galaria. Afternoon, some free time for shopping or more photos.

Day 10: Milan -> Singapore

Spend a lazy morning near the hotel before transferring to the airport for your scheduled flight back to Singapore.

Day 11: Singapore

Arrive to Singapore.

8 Breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners (including a 5-course Florentine Steak Dinner with wine);

Tourist Class Standard

Naples - 2 nights
Perugia - 1 night
Milan - 2 nights
Venice - 1 night
Tuscany - 1 night
Rome - 1 night

The entire Tradewinds tour package to Italy costs us about S$6,800. We probably have to fork out about 1,000 Euros to cover optional tours, additional lunches & dinners on our own, & tips for hotel porters, tour guides & coach driver, plus miscellaneous expenses. Shopping in Rome & Milan may cost a bomb!


"Love yourself first & everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world."

~Lucille Ball, the five-time Emmy-winning, wise-cracking redhead, who virtually ruled the airwaves for the next twenty five years in a series of situation comedies from her first television program, I Love Lucy, premiered 15 October 1951 & designed to exploit her elastic expressions, slapstick abilities & distinct verbal talents~

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


"Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought."

This is attributed to Albert Einstein, who often referred to his thinking process as "combinatory play".

He constantly combined & recombined ideas, images, & other various thoughts into millions of different combinations.

Consider Einstein's equation, E=mc2:

He did not invent the concepts of energy, mass, or speed of light; rather, he combined these concepts in a novel way which restructured the way he looked at the universe.

But, long before Einstein discussed it, Gutenberg used combinatory play in practice, combining the ideas of a wine press, coin punch, & die stamps to invent the printing press.

On a basic level, combinatory play involves combining 2 or more concepts together to form new connections & innovative ideas.

I am confident that readers can actively use combinatory play to generate new, useful ideas.


Do you grok?

Actually, it means 'do you get it?'.

'To grok' is to 'understand something so well that it is fully absorbed into oneself.'

Metaphorically, it is 'to take it all in"; 'to understand fully'; 'to be one with'.

Sometimes, it is used to include acceptance as well as comprehension - 'to dig' or appreciate as well as to know thoroughly.


Katsumoto (played by Ken Watanabe):

"You believe a man can change his destiny?"
Nathan Algren (played by Tom Cruise):

"I think a man does what he can, until his destiny is revealed."
in the action movie. 'The Last Samurai', set in Japan during the 1870's, which tells the story of Capt. Nathan Algren, a respected American military officer hired by the Emperor of Japan to train the country's first army in the art of modern warfare. As the Emperor attempts to eradicate the ancient Imperial Samurai warriors in preparation for a more Westernized world, Algren finds himself unwittingly influenced by his encounters with the Samurai, which places him at the center of a struggle between two eras & two worlds, with only his own sense of honor to guide him.


1. Retire the word "retirement" from your vocabulary. Look it up: it means to "withdraw" or "retreat." Words can shape reality, and it's time for this one to go. Doesn't "renaissance" or "graduation" better describe your post-career life?

2. Realize that retirement is a relatively new concept in human evolution. A few generations ago, before social security and full-time leisure became culturally embedded as the "norm," elders remained productive members of of society, relied upon for their insight, wisdom and skills.

3. Restructure your priorities around what is most important to you, like deepening relationships with family and friends, community service, or the arts. Now is the time to bring your professional life into line with your deeper values.

4. Renew your zest for education. The learning cells of your brain are hungry for new and stimulating challenges, and the welcome mat is out at many schools and universities.

5. Revitalize your energy by finding a community of people who embrace growth and change. Don't get stuck with the "been there, done that" crowd.

6. Rekindle your spirit for risk taking. "Do not fear mistakes," says jazz immortal, Miles Davis, "There are none." If not you, then who? If not now, when?

7. Respond to new opportunities. Remain open to the infinite possibilities the world has to offer. Your full potential may lie ahead.

8. Recharge your system by moving your body regularly. Walk, dance, swim, do yoga, take up hiking or biking. Find something you really enjoy and make it a part of your daily wellness program.

9. Revisit your childhood dreams. It's never too late to be who you might have been. Go for it!

10. Remember that the wisdom to discover and act on your deepest passion is within you.

Enjoy the journey!

[Source: Howard & Marika Stone, who founded the 2young2retire outfit. The Stones are also joint authors of 'Too Young To Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life'. Their website contains a list of must reads in the great adventure called the rest of your life. Just click on the link.]


Do I procrastinate?

Am I fighting fires on a daily basis?

What fires am I putting out today?


“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. And what do you get at the end of it? A death. What's that, a bonus?

I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should start out dead & get it out of the way. Then you wake up in a nursing home, feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, then, when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day. You work 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You drink alcohol, you party, go to college & get ready for high school. You go to primary school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a baby, then, you spend your last 9 months floating peacefully with luxuries like central heating, spa, room service on tap, larger quarters everyday, & finally you finish off as an orgasm.”

(Sean Morey, 'The Funniest Comedy Song Writer in America')

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


What is the word or phrase I would like people to think of when they think of me?

What would it be?

(Inspired by Tim O' Brien, a personal branding expert; also the author of 'The Power of Personal Branding: Creating Celebrity Status with Your Target Audience'; Tim is also the President/CEO of The Personal Branding Group, Inc.; Readers can check out his blog at, which is a warehouse of techniques, strategies & tools for crystallizing & marketing your personal brand better than your competition.)


The Sunday Times, October 21st 2007 issue, carried a full page feature article, entitled ' Revving Up Brain Power', on the Pulse page.

These are what I had gleaned from it:

1) Just do it - exercise. Brain specialists say that's still the best answer if you want to stay mentally fit as you age;

2) Simple physical exercises seem to do the brain as much good as the body, whatever your age;

3) People with higher education, more challenging occupations & enriched social lives are able to build more cognitive reserve than couch potatoes (this is in line with the 'use it or lose it' theory);

4) Everything from doing crossword puzzles to various brain-training programs has been touted but not yet proven - I guess there is no harm in trying;

5) Also, the more you learn new things, the more neural connections can form, even for older brains - I guess this is the best defence against periodic memory lapses;


Just do it! was actually one of the most famous & easily recognised slogan in advertising history.

It reflected Nike's 'can do attitude' during the end eighties, when fierce competition came from many others, particularly Reebok.

The campaign was designed to capture the corporate philosophy of grit, determination, & passion, plus a little bit of humour. The campaign was so successful to the point that Nike eventually did not even bother to display the word “Nike” in commercials — the swoosh was enough!

To my pleasant surprise, the 'can do attitude' in country leadership was revealed by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew during the recent dialogue at the Insead Leadership Summit.

What he saw & what he went through - watching the British succumb to the Japanese, surviving the Japanese occupation, having to compete with the communists & being kicked out of Malaysia - laid the foundation for MM Lee's approach to leadership as well as his deep sense of responsibility to Singapore.

"When you go into politics in that situation, it's not a vocation, it's a crusade."

"You either do it or die. And we just had to do it. That's that."

When he was asked what was his driving ambition when he entered politics, MM Lee's answer: He didn't have time for one.

Without that 'can do attitude' in our leaders during the tough early years, all of us Singaporeans would not have been able to enjoy what Singapore is today!

[Source: The Straits Times, Home page, October 20, 2007]


The following anecdote is taken directly from the book: 'Healing Anger: The Power Of Patience From A Buddhist Perspective', by The Dalai Lama.

A hermit was living alone in the mountains.

One day, a herdsman happened to pass by his cave. Intrigued, the herdsman shouted at the hermit & asked, "What are you doing alone in the middle of nowhere?"

The hermit replied, "I'm meditating."

"What are you meditating on?" asked the herdsman.

"On patience," said the hermit.

There was a moment of silence.

After a while, the herdsman decided to leave. Just as he turned to go, he looked back at the hermit & shouted, "By the way, you go to hell!"

"What do you mean? You go to hell!" came flying back.

The herdsman laughed & reminded the hermit that he was supposed to be practising patience!

This simple anecdote wonderfully illustrates the key challenge for someone who wishes to practice patience: in a situation which would ordinarily give rise to an outburst of anger, how can we maintain spontaneity & yet remain calm in our response?

This challenge is not restricted to religious practitioners alone. It is a challenge each of us faces as we try to live our lives with a degree of human dignity & decency.

At every turn we are confronted with situations that test the limits of our patience & tolerance.

[In the book, the Dalai Lama discusses the subject of patience, drawing on a chapter from an important Buddhist classic, Shantideva's "Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life." He helps readers examine how anger arises to destroy much that is positive & good, proposing that gentleness is fundamental to human nature. Through active self-discipline, & not meekness as is commonly misunderstood, we can transform anger through compassion & to be reconciled with ourselves & others.]


"We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is more important than the eye . . .The hand is the cutting edge of the mind."

(Jacob Bronowski, 1908-1974, Polish-born British mathematician & man of letters who eloquently presented the case for the humanistic aspects of science; was also the presenter of the BBC documentary series, 'The Ascent of Mind', which inspired Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' series.)

Monday, October 22, 2007


I visited my hair-dresser this afternoon after my gym routines. I visit him once every 2-3 weeks to cut my hair & once every 6-8 weeks to dye my hair. Today was cut & dye.

He passed me a magazine, Her World, October 2007 issue, to pass away the time. A feature article, entitled, 'Self-Help or All Hype?', caught my eye.

Textually, it was a 2-page broad brush about the self-improvement industry in Singapore. The article broke down the industry into four sectors: self-help books, corporate training, life coaching & motivational workshops.

It mentioned that the corporate training market alone in Singapore was worth S$500 million annually, by conservative estimate. (According to the article, the self -improvement industry in the United States is worth US$21.4 billion annually up to 2010.)

From my personal as well as professional experiences, the value of a self-improvement book or program or workshop does not come from the author, or the trainer, or the coach or the presenter.

I strongly believe that the return of investment lies in the reader or the attendee in terms of what & how much he can take away & put it to work consistently in his own life.

For me, I adopt a relatively simple approach to formulating a game plan to take away interesting stuff, or more precisely, practical insights, from a book or a workshop:

I use the acronym 'SMART' as in goal setting but with a slight twist:


Firstly, I work out the specific goals or objectives I want to achieve.

Then, I set out the specific tasks I need to do in order to attain each goal or objective.


I establish some measurements to use as checkpoints.

I ask myself: How do I know I have completed this task? How do I measure the completion of each task?


Especially in an organisational setting, some tasks require the collaboration of the boss, colleagues or even subordinates. In a project team, there are team members.

You just have to apportion the accountability accordingly.

In a personal or home setting, there is always the spouse &/or children to play their role, if one is married.

Taking such accountability into account gives one precise control & influence.


What are the resources (e.g. methods, money, manpower, materials, machines, etc.) I need to have in order to attain the goal or objective?


This is very important.

What are the tasks I need to complete immediately or now?

Next 7 days?

Next 30 days?

Next 60 days?

Next 90 days?

Next 12 months?

Next 3 years?

With 'SMART' in place, it becomes easier to monitor one's progress.

More precisely, one becomes more aware of what's going on, & ultimately, of what will work & what doesn't work.

Naturally, I must add that the game plan as formulated must in essence dove-tail with the overall life plan of the end-user.


"All of the riches that you have not recognised or claimed in the past are still available to you."
[Peggy McColl, goal achievement expert & author of the New York Times Bestseller, 'Your Destiny Switch' (Master Your Key Emotions, & Attract the Life of Your Dreams)]

Sunday, October 21, 2007


"History seems to indicate that breakthroughs are usually the result of a small group of capable people fending off a larger group of equally capable people with a stake in the status quo."

(Dr George Heilmeier, engineer & entrepreneur, perhaps best known for his pioneering contributions to the development of liquid crystal displays)


1) What am I trying to do?
2) How is it done today, & what are the limits of my current practice?
3) What's new in my approach, & why do I think it will be successful?
4) Who cares? If I am successful, what difference will it make?
5) What are the risks & the payoffs?
6) How much will it cost? How long will it take?
7) What are the mid-term & final checkpoints for success?

(Inspired by Dr George Heilmeier)


1) Positioning & repositioning;
- ability to find & sort out ideas to meet customers' needs & to make money;

2) Pinpointing external change:
- ability to identify patterns in the environment;

3) Leading the social system;
- ability to recruit the right people;

4) Judging people:
- ability to calibrate & develop people;

5) Molding a team:
- ability to coordinate activities;

6) Setting right goals:
- ability to balance goals;

7) Setting priorities:
- ability to define path & direct resources, action & energy;

8) Dealing with forces beyond the market:
- ability to deal with external pressures;

[Source: 'Know-How: The 8 Skills that Separate People Who Perform from those Who don't', by Ram Chandran]


"Wealth is determined not by the supply of physical resources, which are supposedly limited but by human ingenuity, which constantly redefines what counts as a resource in the first place. Wealth is as unlimited as the power of our minds."

(Paul Zane Pilzer, author of 'Unlimited Wealth')