Saturday, January 19, 2008


I believed this is a term coined originally by Peter Lynch, the greatest mutual fund manager of all times, to describe the lack of focus.

Most people, & by extension, most companies, are terribly unfocused. They have too many loves to satisfy, & too few commitments.

They dabble here, dally there, & fail to master anything.

This is the phenomenon described by the term, 'di-worse-ification'.


Old minds think: " If it didn't work last year, let's do more of it this year.'

New minds think: " If it didn't work last year, let's do something else this year."

New minds think: "How do we stop these bad things from happening?"

New minds think: "How do we make things the way we want them to be?"

[Source: Daniel Quinn's 'Beyond Civilisation: Humanity's Next Great Adventure')


Just imagine one can find an Eiffel Tower in the city of Dalat, even though it is a quarter-sized replica. It really stands out from the city centre, as it is located not too far away from the Sofitel Dalat Palace.

I reckon it symbolises the legacy of the French who ruled the country, at that time it was known as Cochin China, for some two hundred years.

It is essentially a telecommunications tower.

I recall vividly that the night view of the city landscape, with the elegantly illuminated tower structure in the background, was very beautiful.


This grand old place, located on Tran Phu Street, on a hilly slope, was originally built between 1916 & 1922.

Major renovation work has restored it to its former grandeur as well as turned it into a premier luxury accommodation in the city of Dalat.

With carpeted corridors, the walls are hung with a hodgepodge of reproduction medieval tapestries & facsimiles of Cézannes, Dufy aquarelles, Renoirs, Manets, Matisses & Monets (produced by talented Vietnamese copycats).

Frankly, no other hotels in the city can match its elegant architecture, boutique style decor, & more importantly, its stunning location on a hilly slope.

There is a 18-hole golf course nearby, which belongs to the hotel.

I recently read that this delightful destination, with only 43 luxuriously appointed rooms, has been arguably considered the best hotel in Vietnam. Each room is believed to have its own private fire-place.

From the hotel, one can have panoramic views of Xuan Huong Lake, while enjoying a sip of green tea in the the expansive ground floor public areas.

For fine dining, I read that the Le Rabelais gourmet restaurant in the hotel is apparently unbeatable.

I had already mentioned about my embarrassing episode at this wonderful hotel in an earlier post.


I always have this inspiring quotation at the back of my mind:

"If I have seen further, it's by standing on the shoulders of giants,"

attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, the brain who gave the world a working understanding of gravitational laws. More precisely, physics!

Newton apparently drew much of his inspiration & learning from the pioneering explorations & teachings of many brilliant people well before his time e.g. Ptolemy, Aristotle, Copernicus, Galileo & Kepler. I am glad he had this attitude of gratitude.

For me, as an knowledge adventurer & technology explorer, I feel exactly the same way.

Till today, I am really fortunate, & certainly grateful, to be able to come across so much knowledge stuff in the world out there.

First, I must thank my childhood curiosity. More importantly, I should thank my initial thirst for reading comics, & going to the movies, which had fueled my insatiable curiosity further as a young teenager. I had already written a few posts on my early exposures in this respect.

Next, came my deep passion for reading nonfictions. The world began to open up further for me.

Besides the self-improvement books, e.g. 'Think & Grow Rich' & 'Law of Success', & personal develpment programs, e.g. from Success Motivation Institute, Nightingale-Conant & Sybervision Systems, to name a few, I now recall that one of the most exciting developments along the way was my accidental stumble on to a part-newsletter part-catalog published by now-defunct Knowledge Systems Inc.

From the newsletter & many of its subsequent issues, I was introduced to a lot of eye-opening ideas. I had also picked up a lot of good reading stuff, which expanded my understanding about personal mastery & peak performance. I even spinned off a photostated newsletter to friends about my forays into the emerging field of personal development.

From there, it triggered off a seemingly endless journey through many wonderful books, audios, videos & other resources. I even joined many of the institutions & organisations, including those with new-agey agendas. A few of them even had sort of 'out-of-this-world' thinking. They didn't bother me very much, although I had enjoyed reading their published stuff.

I also participated in some weekend retreats to get the experiential learning - world experience vs word experience.

In the early nineties, I took up Photo-Reading & a host of other accelerated learning technologies.

Technology-enabled, I started my little bookstore, aptly called 'The Brain Resource' in the Central Business District. Not only it had served as a watering hole for meeting like-minded professionals, it empowered & of course bankrolled, me to scout for & devour more books & related stuff.

Along the way, I had also attended seminars & workshops, mostly on a highly selective basis, so as to avoid junk.

I also became fascinated by the 'Invisible University' as propounded by Ronald Gross, the learning guru, as well as the 'Automobile University', as conceived by Zig Ziglar. To my surprise, after putting them to work, my reading & learning moved exponentially. Is that warp speed? Yes, definitely!

After much personal research & practical experimentation in my own life & work, all the way from the late seventies to the early nineties, I also began my own strategy consulting to independent professionals & small businesses, using many of the tools & strategies I had learned along the way, against the backdrop of my own prior corporate experience, to form my initial skill repertoire.

I then moved on, as part of my own evolution, to start designing & running workshops for corporate as well as individual entities. I even ventured into public schools.

For almost four decades till today, I have artfully inter-weaved much of what I had learned from competent others, who were well before my time, plus many contemporary experts, into my own disciplined learning expeditions & exploratory journeys.

Coupled with my own personal insights, & extrapolating from what I had found most useful, I had invariably incorporated the masterful teachings of all the giants I had encountered into my personal productivity as well as professional competencies. In reality, I had built on other people's bright ideas.

I began to share my learning experiences with readers on the amazon website through my numerous book reviews. I even created myriad listmanias to guide readers. The never-ending feedback from readers has been most encouraging. To my great delight, I have recently been awarded the 'Top 1000 Reviewer' by amazon website.

Since June last year, I have been writing my own personal weblogs to share further with the world all my learning experiences & exploratory journeys, with 'Optimum Performance Technologies' blog taking the lead, for the moment.

"Ideas build on ideas."

Today, I even own a small glass-panelled, wall-mounted poster bearing the foregoing inspiring phrase, with a sketched portrait of Leonardo da vinci, in my home office. Now, I truly understand what it means.


What exactly am I worry about?

What is the worst possible thing that can happen as a result of this change?

What are the things I can do to make sure that the worst does not occur?

What can I do to minimise the maximum damage that can occur from an unexpected change or setback?

(inspired by Brian Tracy's '4 Step Method to Dealing with Change' article)


"More than anything else, I believe its our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny."

(Anthony Robbins)

I have always been inspired by Anthony Robbins, ever since I had read & digested his 'Unlimited Power' & 'Awaken the Giant Within' books during the late eighties & early nineties.

Surprisingly, I have not attended any of his live programs, Singapore or elsewhere, (as I am not a seminar junkie) & but I have ready access to many of his other published thoughtwares.

Despite the fact that there are a lot people out there who like to throw spanners at him, he has been honoured

- by Accenture as one of the 'Top 50 Business Intellectuals in the World';
- by Harvard Business School as one of the 'Top 200 Business Gurus';
- by American Express as one of the 'Top 6 Business Leaders in the World';

Many of his inspiring quotations, in fact seven of them, stand out for me, especially for their profundity:

"All personal breakthroughs begin with a change in beliefs."

"The only thing that's keeping you from getting what you want is the stories you keep telling yourself."

"If we don't see failure as a challenge to modify our approach, but rather as a problem with ourselves, as a personality defect, we will immediately feel overwhelmed."

"Most people fail in life because they major in minor things."

"You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people do what they know. Knowing is not enough. You must take action."

"Questions provide the key to unlocking our unlimited potential. Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, & as a result, they get better answers."

"Nothing has any power over me other than that which I give it through conscious thoughts."

If you visit his corporate website, he offers freely 'The 3 Pillars of Progress', which, in my personal view, more or less sums up his powerful tool-kit for personal mastery:


- get a clear & compelling vision;
- have strong reasons to follow through;
- have total honesty about when you are;


- get a proven map;
- model experts;
- get high standards;
- get a peer group that will hold you accountable;
- take daily actions & consistently measure your progress;


- ask yourself what beliefs, goals or values may be in conflict;
- realign your psychology so you naturally take the direction you want most;
- celebrate your achievements & pay it forward;

To conclude this post, I like to say this: We all have the ability to make a positive impact on the world, & it's up to us as individuals, to overcome our fears & foibles to attain that potential.


"What you are, so is your world. Everything in the universe is resolved into your own inward experience. It matters little what is without, for it is all a reflection of your own state of consciousness. It matters everything what you are within, for everything without will be mirrored and colored accordingly."

(James Allen)

Friday, January 18, 2008


Based on my own reading, exploration & teaching, there are ten principal areas of concern in accelerated learning.

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that a good working understanding of these ten areas will enable one to practise accelerated learning effectively & efficiently.











[Next: Accelerated Learning III]


In this particular instance, I use 'LEAD' as an acronym for:


- the key to success is not what you know, but how fast you can learn;
- embrace life-long, self-directed learning;
- the Invisible University (from Ronald Gross) as well as the Automobile University (from Zig Ziglar) are completely at your disposal;
- Einstein once said: "The most important thing is to keep asking questions.";
- Charles Handy's 'Wheel of Learning' (comprising 4 key quadrants - questions, ideas, experiments, & reflections) is worth exploring;


- embrace novelty & welcome change by always trying out new ways of doing things;
- life is a 'do-it-yourself' project;
- you can always start with baby steps i.e. the kaizen way;
- experiments come in two forms: mental constructs & physical manifestations - so, fine tune your mental form first i.e. think strategically before you act;


- Charles Darwin once said: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change."
- in reality, the sustainable ability to change is much more important than the ability to create change in the first place;
- you don't have to re-invent the wheel, you can always juxtapose successful methods from other fields or disciplines - all you need is just a little bit of ingenuity & adaptation;


- winners don't do different things; they just do things differently;
- differentiation is just a mind game - how the world sees you - so, learn how to leverage on the perception;
- sometimes, you don't have to be different, you just have to be the only one really good in what you do;


According to Bob Howell, success coach & sales trainer:

1) Identify what matters most;

2) Plan your life better;

3) Set & keep goals;

4) Manage your time better;

5) Take control of your life;

6) Focus on your best asset;

7) Learn leadership skills;

8) Improve your relationships;

9) Gain financial independence;

10) Overcome career roadblocks;

11) Stick to health/fitness plan;

12) Put value on your character;


'Inverse paranoid' is a term originally coined by W Clement Stone, the guy who was often associated with Napoleon Hill.

According to him, when you adopt the attitude of being an 'inverse paranoid', you tend to look at everything that has happened to you as some sort of a conspiracy to help you become more successful.

From his own personal experience, whenever something unexpected occurred, he would respond: "That's good!", & moved on to look at the situation to find out exactly "What's good?".


"If it feels so good to be creative, why do we all have so many ways to avoid it?"

(from Rosanne Bane, author of 'Dancing in the Dragon's Den)


'Sticktoitivity' is a term orginally coined by Walt Disney to mean persistence & determination.





The Doi Mong Mo is city of Dalat's latest tourist attraction. It is essentially a huge open-air amusement park. There are designated plots of flower gardens inside the area.

It has an imitation or rather a miniature version of 'Great Wall of China'.

There is also an open theatre, but no shows were scheduled during the time of our visit.

There is also an ethnic minority village, which we had visited to watch a traditional tribal dance, & a myriad display of musical instruments of its culture. Anyway, my buddies seemingly had a great time dancing with the tribal damsels.

Nearby, there is an fenced-up open yard with a live collection of strange & weird animals e.g. multi-horn cow, triple-legged dog & chicken, etc. More strange & weird animals were captured in black & white photographs, which were hung on display for public viewing. This is the Sinh Vat La, in Vietnamese.

Frankly speaking, it was not an exciting place to visit.


Personally, I have my fair share of failures in life, fortunately nothing of catastrophic nature, but I believe I have learned a lot from those failures of mine. Naturally, I have also learned a lot from the failures of others.

For that reason, I have captured the following anecdotes pertaining to failures in my scratchpad, to serve as inspirational gems:

1) Decca Records rejected the Beatles claiming they didn’t like their sound and guitar music was on the way out.

2) Fred Smith the founder of Federal Express received a grade of 'C' on his senior thesis outlining the concept for Federal Express. The professor claimed the idea was not feasible.

3) When Thomas Edison was a boy his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything. As an inventor, he reportedly went through some 10,000 experiments before he found the filament that could help to light up the world.

4) F.W. Woolworth got a job in a dry goods store when he was 21, but his employer would not let him wait on customers because he "didn't have enough good sense."

5) Western Union rejected the telephone when Alexander Graham Bell offered them the rights of manufacture and distribution. They considered the technology as having too many shortcomings.

6) Dr. Seuss was rejected by numerous publishers who claimed that verse and fantasy would not sell.

7) A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had no good ideas. As a matter of fact, Walt Disney went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. The proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff.

8) Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade. He was also defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister at the age of 62.

9) Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school in his sophomore year. He was persuaded to come back and placed in a learning disabled class. He lasted a month and dropped out of school forever.

10) Albert Einstein spoke haltingly for the first nine years of his life. His grades in school were so poor that a teacher asked him to quit, saying, 'Einstein, you will never amount to anything.'"

11) Abraham Lincoln endured a steady stream of failures, frustrations & dissent from 1832 all the way to 1860, before he finally made it to the US Presidency;

12) After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the testing director of MGM commented: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” He went on to become Hollywood's best screen legend.

13) "Fall seven times; stand up eight!" - that's how the Japanese looks at failures;

I like what Buckminister Fuller once said about failures: "There's no failed experiments; only unexpected results!"

Likewise, NLP groupies often like to use this catchphrase: "There's no failure; only feedback!"

In summing up, I reckon the only failure is not learning anything from the experience.


Is or can ambition be a roadblock on the highway of life?

From my personal perspective, there are two viewpoints:

Firstly, the 'lack of ambition' is a roadblock. It signifies 'direction-less'.

Without a direction, any road can lead you 'there', but sometimes, the problem is that you prefer to be 'somewhere' else in mind.

Without an ambition or an aim in life, how do you to reach it, or more precisely, how do you focus & stay on course in the first place?

You can't hit the target when there is none. Even with a moving target, you may still get a chance of hitting it.

On the other hand, if you have an ambition, & you go into over-drive, i.e. becoming obsessed with it, resulting in probably stepping on or pushing other people along the way, getting drown in distress mode all day long, then ambition in this respect, is more of a roadblock.

Looking back at my own personal life, I had in my head the ambition to become an engineer, when I was a young teenager during the early sixties.

In those days, immediately after school, I often hanged out at a workshop/garage for transport vehicles, located next to my parents' home in Yong Peng, Johore. I was often intrigued by those 'grease monkeys' working on the dismantled engine blocks & crankshafts. Oftentimes, I jumped in to help them, to the chargin of my parents, who never ceased to wave the rod.

Among my schoolwork, I was already pretty good with drawing & sketching, & that certainly helped to fuel my ambition, since technical drawing was an important skill set for an engineer.

Subsequently, I went firstly to Sekolah Menengah Teknik (Technical Institute) in Kuala Lumpur, & later, to the Singapore Polytechnic, to pursue my studies. The rest was history.

Many many years ago, after being influenced by Joel Barker's acclaimed video, 'The Power of Vision', I went on to trace an article in 'Learning for Tomorrow: The Role of the Future in Education' edited by the famed futurist, Alvin Toffler.

In that article, sociologist Benjamin Singer had suggested that a person's educational & social development was heavily contingent upon his future-focused role image.

More specifically, he had argued that children's image of their own future influenced their performance in school, & that their behaviour made a big difference in whether or not they would be successful.

In the end analysis, he concluded that successful students had long time horizons as well as multiple options for their future.

In layman terms, all these conclusions meant that a person's projected self, in this case, we call it 'ambition', although some prefer to call it 'vision', formed a critical part of the person's eventual success in life.

The same phenomenon applies to corporate entities as well as developing nations, as proven & documented in the research work of Jim Collins ('Built to Last') & Fred Polak ('The Image of the Future').

So, Mums & Dads out there, talk to your kids: What do you want to be when you grow up?


I have owned the following planning tool-kit in my tool-box for quite a long time.

My first real-world exposure to strategic planning happened when I had just joined the Singapore subsidiary of the United Motor Works (UMW) during the early eighties. At that time, the UMW Group was one of the largest industrial & engineering conglomerates in Malaysia.

The then CEO & Chairman, Datuk Eric Chia, had returned not too long from the Harvard Business School in USA, after attending its Advanced Management Program. Upon his return, the company embraced the strategic planning system he had learned. The company leap-frogged to a billion dollar company.

I remember vividly the strategic planning session with Datuk & his entire panel of some twenty top-ranked executives in the boardroom, at the company headquarters in Shah Alam, Malaysia.

I had earlier relinquished my decade of engineering work, & had started work as Marketing Manager for one of their trading subsidiaries in Singapore. I had to present the business plan on behalf of my General Manager, who had earlier been scheduled for a sabbatical in Switzerland.

For almost three & a half hours, facing him & the gloom-faced panel, I was bombarded left-right-&-centre by Datuk (with his towering physique & booming voice, he was really mean when he was angry, especially after having to go through every nook & corner of the plan; nobody in the room dared to speak up, & in fact, when the Director of Operations - Mr Chong, a name I still can recall today - made a spurious remark, he got chewed up!).

The business plan was eventually torn to shreds, in the literal sense. At the end, Datuk flung the business plan at me & asked me to go back to Singapore to redo it.

That was a terrific memorable learning experience for me!

[Later on, I had learned from my senior colleagues that, since I was the first one on the line-up to meet the board panel, I had to go through the fiery baptism of fire with Datuk.]

On hindsight, I had actually learned a lot from Datuk. I had met him, in less formal settings, a few times in Bangkok, Thailand, when I was stationed there, & once by chance in Tokyo, Japan, while on a separate business trip. I truly admired his entrepreneurial flair, 'impossible is nothing' attitude, & more importantly, his ability to think strategically, which probably explains why I am still nuts about strategic thinking.

[What happened much later with the company, as some readers in Malaysia may be familiar, especially following the global recession in the mid-eighties, was another story.]

On that note, I would like to share with readers the critical components of a good strategic business plan:

1) Purpose: Why are we here? (A long term broad guiding focus that does not change)

2) Mission: What do we do?

3) Vision: What do we want to become?

4) Values: What are our beliefs & principles?

5) Critical Issues: What are our greatest strategic challenges?

6) Environment Scanning: What is really going on out there? What are the opportunities? How do we exploit them? What are the threats? How do we reduce their impact? What are the unknowns? How do we deal with them?

7) Scenario Generation: What are the probable scenarios? best-case? worst-case? realistic case? Are we prepared? (A view of possible alternative futures with an evaluation of strategies)

8) Driving Forces: What are our most fundamental focus & basis for competitive advantage? What are our scope of products & services?

9) Internal Audit: What are our strengths? How do we amplify & build on them? What are our weaknesses? How do we reduce their impact? What are our potential problems? How do we deal with them?

10) Core Competencies: What are we really good at? What have been our critical success factors so far?

11) Big Hairy & Audacious Goals (BHAGs):

12) Strategic Objectives & Major Actions: What is our gameplan? What do we have to do specifically in order to get our BHAGs? What are the major milestones? What are our performance metrics?

13) Vivid Description: What will it be like if we achieve our BHAGs? What are the benefits & rewards?

14) Manpower Plan: What are the human resources we need? Who is accountable for what?

15) Financial Projections: What is our budget? What are the expected returns?

16) Strategic Communication Plan: Who needs to know our plan & conclusions?


"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live."

(Norman Cousins, 1912-1990, American journalist, author & citizen diplomat)

Thursday, January 17, 2008


While surfing the net, I came into the website of Ruth Tearle, a change management consultant operating out of South Africa.

She offers the following '10 Steps to Lead Your Own Life', which impresses me & also make pragmatic sense:

1) Know yourself;

2) Be yourself;

4) Dream a little;

5) Believe in yourself;

6) Take a step towards your dream every day;

7) Do what you can;

8) Keep learning;

9) Treat yourself as though you were your best friend;

10) Live your life; Have fun!

Also an accomplished author, Ruth Tearle can be reached at or her corporate website at Change Designs. Publications &other tools can be bought from her personal website.


The world today is characterised by CHANGE, COMPLEXITY & COMPETITION.

It takes a change master to be able to deal with the phenomenon.

What are the skill sets of a change master?

I have been looking at this question for quite some time.

Here are what I have gathered & understood so far:

1) know thyself;

2) seek to understand, then to be understood;

3) search for other points of view;

4) go into the root causes of things or events;

5) get outsider's perspective;

6) develop helicopter's view;

7) embrace ambiguity;

8) adopt whole systems perspective;

9) pursue life-long learning;

10) seek congruency & alignment;

11) understand rhythm & timing;

12) sustain relationships & networks;

13) shift focus;

14) accept uncertainty;

15) push the envelope & get out of comfort zone;

16) possess inner drive & determination;

17) attain capacity for paradox;

18) acquire market sense or opportunity sensing;

19) love novelty & innovation;

20) exercise sense of humour;

In compiling these skill sets, I have been substantially influenced by the thoughtwares of Joe Flower, founder & CEO of Imagine What If, Inc., as well as Price Pritchett, Founder & CEO of Pritchett & Associates.

I plan to write about &/or share my personal thoughts on each of them in subsequent posts


According to Sedrik Pet, a stress management expert, you can manage stress just by paying personal attention to the following twelve key factors:










10) FEAR;



Frankly speaking, I don't need to elaborate on them as readers should be clever enough to understand & appreciate each & every one of them in their own way.

If you are curious, you are welcome to drop into the author's website or the author's weblog.


CBA stands for:

C = Clarify what you want;

B = Believe in yourself & your dreams;

C = Act on what you believe;

I would like expand on the CBA:

- clarify what you want;

- prioritise, so as to focus on high-payoff activities;

- manage your time effectively by tackling the Big Rocks first;

- think & act strategically: long-term; medium-term & short-term; be positive about the future;

- take actions, preferably constructive & consistent actions; there's a world of difference between mere action & constructive action!

- prepare to pay the price;

- be persistent;

To consider what you want, please pay attention to the following steps:

- assessing your needs, by asking 'which needs are going unfulfilled in my life?'; also, check out your strengths & weaknesses;

- determining your values, by asking 'what do I value most in my life?';

- clarifying your goals, by asking 'why do i want it?';

- planning your course of action & acquiring tools & strategies to achieve the desired results;

- analysing potential obstacles & designing solutions;

- making changes quickly, if needed;


The life story of Steve Jobs has always been an inspiration for me, ever since I first read Jeffrey Young's 'Steve Jobs: The Journey is the Reward' during the late eighties.

I have kept & treasured the following twelve rules for success attributed to him, which I thought would be worthwhile for reproduction here:

1) Do what you love to do. Find your true passion. Do what you love to do a make a difference! The only way to do great work is to love what you do.

2) Be different. Think different. “Better be a pirate than to join the navy.”

3) Do your best. Do your best at every job. No sleep! Success generates more success. So be hungry for it. Hire good people with passion for excellence.

4) Make SWOT analysis. As soon as you join/start a company, make a list of strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your company on a piece of paper. Don’t hesitate in throwing bad apples out of the company.

5) Be entrepreneurial. Look for the next big thing. Find a set of ideas that need to be quickly and decisively acted upon and jump through that window. Sometimes the first step is the hardest one. Just take it! Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

6) Start small, think big. Don’t worry about too many things at once. Take a handful of simple things to begin with, and then progress to more complex ones. Think about not just tomorrow, but the future. “I want to put a ding in the universe,” reveal Steve Jobs his dream.

7) Strive to become a market leader. Own and control the primary technology in everything you do. If there’s a better technology available, use it no matter if anyone else is not using it. Be the first, and make it an industry standard.

8) Focus on the outcome. People judge you by your performance, so focus on the outcome. Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
Advertise. If they don’t know it, they won’t buy your product.

9) Ask for feedback. Ask for feedback from people with diverse backgrounds. Each one will tell you one useful thing. If you’re at the top of the chain, sometimes people won’t give you honest feedback because they’re afraid. In this case, disguise yourself, or get feedback from other sources. Focus on those who will use your product – listen to your customers first.

10) Innovate. Innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower. Delegate, let other top executives do 50% of your routine work to be able to spend 50% your time on the new stuff. Say no to 1,000 things to make sure you don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. Concentrate on really important creations and radical innovation. Hire people who want to make the best things in the world. You need a very product-oriented culture, even in a technology company. Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together.

11) Learn from failures. Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.

12) Learn continually. There’s always “one more thing” to learn! Cross-pollinate ideas with others both within and outside your company. Learn from customers, competitors and partners. If you partner with someone whom you don’t like, learn to like them – praise them and benefit from them. Learn to criticize your enemies openly, but honestly.

Readers of this weblog may recall that I had, in fact, reproduced his Commencement Address at the Stanford University, delivered on June 12 2005, during which he shared three poignant stories from his personal life. His parting words, which I will always remember, were:

'Stay hungry! Stay foolish!'

Steve Jobs has been officially listed as one of the world's grestest business thinkers for 2007.


1) Goals - are they clear? Are they still valid? Do I have any?

2) How did I progress my goals this week?

3) What am I enjoying/not enjoying?

4) What went right this week?

5) What went wrong?

6) What mistakes have I made?

7) How have I get on with my customers?

8) Where was I negative?

9) What annoyed or stressed me this week?



I have copied the following list of entrepreneurial traits from somewhere in my scratchpad, but I can't remember where:

1) An eye for opportunity;

2) Independence;

3) Appetite for hardwork;

4) Self confidence;

5) Discipline;

6) Judgement;

7) Ability to accept change;

8) Make stress work for you;

9) Need to achieve;

10) Focus on profits;

Any way, here are some of my seemingly rambling personal thoughts on the whole lot:

To me, & in the first instance, the same traits also apply in developing personal mastery.

The first one is undoubtedly the most important. It does not have to be an opportunity to start an entrepreneurial business. Just an opportunity to grow & learn is good enough.

I always hold the view that 'opportunity finding' is an inborn ability. Our forefathers were hunters & gatherers. That yearning to search & hunt is always inside us.

Oftentimes, we just have to open our eyes. Real wide to see the world around us. Opportunities abound. Othertimes, we just have to have fresh eyes, to see old stuff in new ways.

Firstly, I equate 'independence' with 'self-direction'. In this case, taking personal responsibility for your own life. Taking charge.

Finding your own pathway is another aspect of independence. Marshalling all available personal resources is another.

I reckon having the 'independence' streak allows you to stay tuned to following your bliss: Loving what you do & doing what you love.

Thinking is hard work. I believe it was Henry Ford who made this powerful statement.

Without hard work, nothing works. To be more precise, nothing moves. No action. No results.

Energy must be expended to get work done.

In fact, the single largest risk is the risk of inaction.

Likiewise, the most successful people are those who are good at Plan B.

So, thinking pays. Thinking strategically gives you three or more steps ahead of the competition. Always remember, your competition never sleeps!

Self-confidence has to do with self-image, self-respect as well as self-esteem. All these sum up to self-worth, which is the central ingredient to having self-confidence.

You must love yourself first, before you can have self-confidence. Feeling lovable, follow by feeling capable, builds up your self-esteem.

Having an image of achievement in your mind is a good way to get started in this direction. That's where goal setting really helps!

I always tell people, everything is possible; it's just a question of strategy & discipline.

Having a strategy is useless, if you don't have the discipline to put it to work. To stay on track. To make corrections, when needed.

I believe it was Anthony Robbins who said something to this effect: Making bad judgements creates learning experiences!

I think the important thing is not to make the same stupid mistake!

Judgement is, of course, weighing the pros & cons.

We should not get too entrenched with the positives & the negatives. We should also consider what are the interesting aspects.

This wonderful saying sums up my thoughts on the aspect of 'ability to accept change':

'God gives me the courage to change the things I can; the serenity to accept the things I can't change; & the wisdom to know the difference'

Change is absolutely important if we want to grow & learn. Just think of CEO. Change Equals Opportunity.

Anthony Robbins once said:

Personal breakthroughs come from change in personal beliefs.

Believe it is possible, & change happens!

If I did not have the courage to change the second half of my life during the early nineties, I would have remained a corporate rat today, working in quiet desperation, looking good, but going nowhere!

Strategically as well as tactically, I consider 'stress' as just a problem of perception & communication.

Change the way you look at the world & also change the stories you often tell yourself.

Stress as itself is OK, e.g. eustress keeps you going because achieving your goals is challenging; it's the distress that kills you, when things spiral out of control.

Always remember this, distress kills brain cells; distress is, therefore, not a good idea!

When things get out of control, just relax. Keep cool. Think & analyse. Where's the gap? What's missing? What's next?

Achievement-orientation is a good trait to have, because it gives you the impetus as well as momentum to keep going.

Brain research has shown that an image of achievement in your mind makes hell of a difference. It keeps you focused on the outcome.

Remember, the 'eye of the Tiger'?

In the context of personal mastery, I read 'focus on profits' as 'focus on value'.

I look at it in terms of continual self-improvement, or CANI, to paraphrase Anthony Robbins.

I also look at it from the perspective of sustaining your ability to help others & society as a whole.

Prioritisation is part & parcel of 'focus on value'. The 80/20 Rule readily applies: high-pay off activities pay the best dividends.

In summing up, personal mastery is, in reality, becoming a CEO of your own life! After all, your life is also your own business!


On Tuesday evening, I went to the Jurong Entertainment Centre to watch the above action movie with my gym buddy. Both of us had watched the first 'Alien vs Predator' (AvP1) movie on cable television separately.

We had really enjoyed watching the first movie.

Unfortunately, both of us have concurred that the second movie (AvP2) was quite a disappointment.

The story plot was quite simple, but I reckon it got complicated by too many sub-plots, as well as having too many characters (especially with B-list actors/actresses, it's was hard to know who was who) running around in the movie setting. Worst of all, the dark cinematography, probably due to many action sequences being filmed within confined spaces, e.g. in the sewerage, aggravated the viewing.

In a nut shell, & nevertheless, the story continued from AvP1.

During an expedition on the Antarctica, in search of an ancient pyramid buried deep in ice, a team of archaeologists & scientists found themselves caught in a deadly battle for supremacy between two unknown alien species. Midway, they realised that only one species could probably get out alive.

The movie ended with the destruction of the Aliens on Antarctica by the Predator with the aid of the last surviving member of the archaeological team, a woman, & the return of the dead Predator body with fellow Predators on board their space ship. En route, an Alien creature bursted out of the chest cavity of the dead Predator body.

AvP2 apparently continued from the ending segment of AvP1, just before the closing credits.

There was a fire fight between the two alien species on board the spaceship.

Unfortunately, the spaceship spinned out of control & crashed on to Earth, somewhere in the woods of Colorado, within the vicinity of the tranqui town of Gunnison. Some nosy town folks on a hunting trip were eaten up by the face-hugging, chest-bursting Aliens.

Meanwhile, another Predator left its home-base to search & destroy the hybrid Alien (or 'Pred-Alien') creatures on a rampage on Earth.

In a nut shell, AvP2 centred on a ragtag group of town folks, who unwittingly banded together to fight the hybrid Aliens & also the vengeful Predator. Most of them actually got killed during the deadly mayhem.

The movie ended with a nuclear bomb been dispatched by the conniving US military, which blasted the whole town, including the two alien creatures still locked in combat, into splintering ashes, while some remaining members of the ragtag group managed to escape in a helicopter.

Of course, it was quite fun to watch much of the action sequences, even though they were not as exciting as those in the first movie.

Frankly speaking, I like to watch sci-fi action movies.

I really appreciate the human ingenuity that goes into such movies.

In the two AVP movies, it was fun time just seeing movie producers bringing two different iconic villains together, concocting amazing story plots, developing a vast repertoire of futuristic combat weaponry (in this case, shoulder-mounted laser cannons, wrist-ejected rotating blades, heat signature imaging, wrist-mounted self-destruct mechanisms, laser-beam trip mines, magnetic pulse hand-guns, etc.) & creating adrenalin-pulsating action sequences to wow audiences.

For the uninitiated, the face-hugging, chest-bursting, saliva-drooling Alien creature has its origins from the first 'Alien' movie, starring Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, during the late seventies. It was followed by three continuing sequels, with the last one, 'Alien Resurrection', in the late nineties. Personally, I like watching the first two Alien movies for the solid story plots.

On the other hand, the ugly-looking Predator (without the protective face mask) has its origins in 'Predator' (P1), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, during the late eighties.

In P1, our hero led a team of commandos to rescue a team of US soldiers, who went missing during an earlier covert mission, deep inside the Central American jungle. They soon found themselves being hunted one-by-one by a highly-sophisticated, almost invisible alien warrior/hunter, with a distasteful penchant for human skulls as well as human skins.

Of course, our hero managed to single-handedly out-smart & out-manoeuvre the alien creature at the end.

The second movie, Predator II (P2) more or less continued from the first movie, with a slight twist of the movie setting, which was now, Los Angeles.

This time, the Predator had somehow escaped to the mean streets of Los Angeles, where outnumbered police officers often clashed with heavily-armed drug lords.

In the opening scene, during one of those street clashes, many of the drug-lords were unsuspectedly & systematically skinned alive by the Predator. They were then hung up from the ceiling like trophies.

The police were really puzzled, but unknowingly, a team of US military personnel were actually hunting the Predator for a closer study. To their dismay, they were also systematically wiped out by the smarter Predator.

Our hero in P2 was a maverick police lieutenant, Mike Harrigan, played by Danny Glover. The rest of the movie had our hero chasing, fighting & eventually, neutralising the Predator.

Frankly, I had really enjoyed watching both P1 & P2. In fact, I had watched both movies several times on cable television.

It was certainly a marvellous idea to put the two alien creatures together in the first place. This is again human ingenuity at work.

Interestingly, at the closing scene of AvP2, the US military handed over the captured magnetic pulse hand-gun to probably the first woman US President.

Looks like we have AvP3 coming up soon!

In the end analysis, from the standpoint of story plot & action sequences, I still like AvP1 the most.


"Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes!"
(Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1823-1911, an American minister, reformer & abolitionist)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The artichoke tea is a specialty from Dalat. The tea is produced from the flowers, stems & leaves of globe artichoke.

The artichoke plant is considered one of the world's oldest medicinal plant.

The ancient Egyptians placed great value on the plant because of its medicinal properties. The ancient Greeks & Romans used it as a digestive aid. It was favoured by royalty in the 16th century.

Because of the biologically active ingredient, cynarin, in globe artichokes, especially with high concentrations in the leaves, the resultant tea is known to protect the liver against toxins.

In the 1970s, European scientists first documented cynarin's ability to lower cholesterol in humans. Its choleretic (bile stimulating) action has been well documented & has led to the popular use of artichoke extract in Europe for treating mild dyspepsia & indigestion - particularly following a meal high in fat.

Naturally, most of us bought some of the artichoke tea, available in small tea-bags, just like Lipton tea, for convenient brewing in a tea pot. The tea has a somewhat smoky taste.

According to the vendor, the artichoke tea can be enjoyed at any time, but particularly, at bedtime.


"Do something that challenges & engages your mind, not because it's difficult, but because it's different from what you normally do."
(Dr Lawrence Katz, professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Centre; also author of 'Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises';)

From his book, I have extracted the following secret to keeping your mind sharp & your memory strong:

Working your brain in new, challenging ways stimulates the production of neurotrophins, which are nutrients that make brain cells more resistant to the effects of aging.

To boost your mental fitness, try these "neurobic" exercises:

In the morning:

Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand, including opening the tube & dispensing the toothpaste. You can adapt this technique to any morning activity, such as styling your hair, applying makeup, buttoning clothes, or eating.

In the car:

Close your eyes and use only your sense of touch and spatial memory to find your car key on your key chain, unlock the car door, slide into the seat, buckle your seat-belt, insert the key into the ignition, & locate familiar controls like the radio, heater, or windshield wipers. (But open your eyes before you hit the road!)

At work:

Scramble the location of familiar objects on your desk that you normally reach for without thinking.

Have fun with the above exercises!


I have found the above interesting article by Steve Duncan of the Montana State University Extension Service.

According to the article, a group of 16 scientists, led by Dr. John Rowe, President of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, & Dr. Robert Kahn of the University of Michigan, have spent 10 years seeking to answer this question.

The three essential ingredients they have identified are:

- good health;
- functional capacity;
- an active engagement with life;

Read the rest of the article here.


Located 6 km south-west of the city of Dalat is the emerald Tuyen Lam lake, sitting on the Langbian Plateau.

It was originally the Quang Trung reservoir, which was created in 1982 from the waters of Song Da Tam & Suoi Tia.

Fragrant pine tree forests, interspersed with extensive cleared areas supporting agricultural plots, & crashing water falls, surround the lake.

The scenic Elephant Mountains (Nui Voi) & Phoenix Mountains (Nui Phung Hoang) are located within hiking distance from the shores.

The wooded area around the Tuyen Lam Lake is believed to hold many bird sanctuaries.

After putting on our brightly coloured life-jackets, we took a long-tail boat to traverse the relatively tranquil waters of the beautiful lake, for almost half an hour, to reach the other end of the lake.

That landing point is known as the Golden Valley (Thung Lung Vang) of the Langbian Plateau.

[Next: Feast of Wild Game at the Golden Valley of the Langbian Plateau]


MM Lee Kuan Yew certainly hits the bull's eye when he gave the above frank advice during the recent Silver Industry Conference.

According to Nobel Laureate James Watson, "the most important long-term medical challenge now facing advanced human civilizations may not be to stop cancer or Alzheimer's disease. Rather, it may be to slow down the rate at which we lose the ability to generate new adult nerve cells."

He also cites research that shows that when mice use treadmills to run long distances each day, they make new nerve cells at double the rate of their sedentary peers.

So, physical exercise may also provide a type of resistance to mental decline in humans, as it appears to do in mice.

"I hope science will show that the same holds true for humans. I may still be on full salary because I still regularly play tennis with young pros who jump & lunge — & force me to do the same," says Watson.

According to an ongoing study at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, having close friends and staying in contact with family members offers a protective effect against the damaging effects of Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. David Bennett, one of the researchers heading the study, concludes:

"Many elderly people who have the tangles & plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease don't clinically experience cognitive impairment or dementia. Our findings suggest that social networks are related to something that offers a 'protective reserve' capacity that spares them the clinical manifestations of Alzheimer's disease."


I have found this interesting & insightful article on the net.

The end summary of the article resonates with my personal thoughts:

"In conclusion, observation is a major key to success. The observation of the passing scene is proof against boredom; every day brings new sensations, new things to enjoy and to think about. And by providing constant mental and emotional stimulation, observation lets people know what it means to be truly alive -- to live life to its full potential. Whatever other successes one may have, the leading of a vibrant and fulfilling life is the highest success."


In a nut shell, the power of observation refers to the competency of observing any body, activity, process or phenomenon in all its details, using all our physical senses.

I reckon it is dependent upon a few variables:

- depends heavily on your personal motivation;

- demands an eye for fine details;

- calls for a healthy learner's curiosity;

- requires a willingness to suspend judgement;

- demands a ruthless realism about facts;

- requires knowing what to look for;

In reality, the difference for the big issues is often a trivial detail - it's simply the alertness to detail of one who is trained to look & really see.

If you have watched any of the action movies from the 'Bourne' movie trilogy, you will notice how the power of observation had helped to keep the super-spy, Jason Bourne (play by Matt Damon), alive to deal systematically with his deadly enemies.

From personal as well as professional experiences, I strongly believe that the power of observation is a prerequisite for creative thinking.

Remember from my earlier posts:

- what do you choose to see?

- where do you direct your attention?

I reckon, in the context of personal creativity, the basic secret of effective observation is just learning to change one's point of view as many times as possible.


I reckon this is a good word to describe the 'Law of Requisite Variety' in action. Readers will recall from my earlier posts that the law was conceived by Ross Ashby.

In simple terms, & as far as I understand, 'polytechnicity' entails a combination of mental agility & situational responsiveness.

To put in a practical perspective, the individual with the greatest flexibility of thought & behaviour can, & generally will, control the outcome of any interaction.

In short, & as embedded in the 'Law of Requisite Variety', this means being able to respond to a variety of events with an equal or more variety of counter-actions.

So, how do you flex your 'muscles'?

In an organisational setting, the following aspects are important as power sources for enabled flexibility:

- organisational position;

- resources available: money, time, access to people;

- social connections;

- expertise;

- personal charisma, to some extent;

- access to information, both tacit & formal;

The same probably applies in a personal setting, but I must say that continuous learning increases the variety of options & responses in dealing with complexity.