Saturday, March 29, 2008


"God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, & the wisdom to know it's me."

(Author Unknown)


I am very sad to learn that Richard Widmark, one of my favourite action movie stars from the sixties had recently passed away.

I always can remember him as the actor with a craggy face & piercing eyes.

For me, seven of his action movies stood out in my memory of this fine actor:

1) Shoot Out at Warlock (playing a deputy sheriff, opposite the characters of Henry Fonda & Anthony Quinn);

2) The Last Wagon;

3) Death of a Gunfighter;

4) Alamo (as Jim Bowie);

5) Cheyenne Autumn;

6) The Bedford Incident (playing a loose-cannon US Navy commander, in hot pursuit of a Soviet submarine in the North Atlantic during the Cold War);

7) Madigan (a police story with realism & grit);

In fact, I also saw him reprising the role of the street-smart hot-shot Det. Madigan in the short-time TV series bearing the same name during the early seventies.

I had read that this detective character of his was in fact the precursor to the character of Inspector Callahan in the 'Dirty Harry' movies.


According to Dr Gary Small, Director of the UCLA Center on Aging & one of the world's leading physician/scientists in the fields of memory & longevity, the following simple strategies can help to improve your memory performance:

1) LOOK:

Actively Observe What You Want to Learn First - actively look & make a conscious effort to pay attention while you take in the information.

2) SNAP:

Create Mental Snapshots of Memories - create a detailed mental snapshot of the information you wish to remember.

The more vividly & creatively you visualize new information for yourselves, the more effectively it will stick in your mind.


Link Your Mental Snapshots Together - make a conscious effort to connect the mental snapshots together in your mind.

By creating an association between mental snaps with a brand-new snap, it will be easier to remember the connections later.

The most effective associations are those you create ourselves, so try developing your own acronyms, stories or unique imageries to connect your mental snapshots.

[Dr Small is also the author of 'The Memory Bible: An Innovative Strategy for Keeping Your Brain Young' & 'The Memory Prescription'.]


One of the most relentless pursuits I have today is actually understanding & pursuing brain health.

I can safely say that optimum brain health can be summed up with the following simple words:

"Lose it or Use More of It!”

I recall reading a brief report about an address to the American Society on Aging by Dr Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist who specialises in aging:

“The secret to successful aging is ongoing mental stimulation.”

It is accepted fact that our memory slips the moment we cross 50 years of age. We generally refer to it as “having a senior moment.” While not an entirely accurate description, it does imply a relationship between our growing age & cognitive decline.

Our physical bodies require exercise to remain healthy & toned; the same is true for the brain & our cognitive health.

A 20-year study conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, several years ago, found that seniors who had regularly engaged in cognitively stimulating leisure activities – like playing cross-word puzzles, playing chess, learning a new language, or playing a musical instrument, had a 63% reduced risk of dementia compared to those who did not.

Today, it is widely accepted that performing cognitive exercises certainly benefits our mental acuity.

In Singapore, recent research has shown that playing a game of Chinese mahjong with friends &/or relatives, either at home or in the community centres, is a good shot for the brains for senior citizens.

For me, I have found that even a good physical workout in the gym on a reguar basis is helpful for my brain health.

[According to Dr Nussbaum, there are five critical factors to optimising brain health. He wrote about them in a brief article in the 'Aging Today: The Bi-Monthly Newspaper of the American Society on Aging', Sep-Oct 2007.]


I find it very encouraging to glean the following interesting findings about the power of older brains from the book, entitled 'The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain' by Dr Gene Cohen, a renowned psychiatrist & gerontologist.

In a nut shell:

1) The brain is continuing resculpting itself in response to new experiences & relearning - this resonates with the work of Dr Marian Diamond & Dr Ellen Langer;

2) New brain cells do form throughout life - the more we use our brains, the more & merrier they grow;

3) The brain's emotional circuitry matures & becomes more balanced with age;

4) The brain's two hemispheres are more equally used by older brains - balancing logic & imagination; analysis & gut feel, work & leisure; seriousness & fun;

5) The brain has no known limits for memory storage - in other words, just because you're old, that doesn't mean you've "used up" your brain's memory capacity; this also resonates with the work of Dr Karl Pribram;

6) The memory limits are logistical, not fundamental - that is to say, the brain is limited only by the time we have in life for learning new things;

7) The aging brain is more nimble & flexible than a younger one - in terms of a myriad of intellectual tasks, especially when a judgment call is needed;

I certainly like the author's wonderful concept of developmental intelligence, a "maturing synergy of cognition, emotional intelligence, judgment, social skills, life experience, & consciousness."

The author also postulates that there are four phases of psychological development in older brains:

- midlife re-evaluation: "a time of exploration & transition";
- liberation: a desire to experiment;
- the summing-up phase of "recapitulation, resolution, & review"; &
- "encore," the desire to go on;

I fully concur with the author as I have gone through - & am still surfing - the four phases in my own personal journey, after I had left the corporate world during the early nineties.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Here are some valuable tips from Dr Tal Ben-Shahar, known as the Happiness Professor, who runs the seemingly popular 'Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness' course at Harvard University:

[He is also the author of 'Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy & Lasting Fulfillment'.}

1) Give yourself permission to be human. When we accept emotions -- such as fear, sadness, or anxiety -- as natural, we are more likely to overcome them. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness.

2) Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. When this is not feasible, make sure you have happiness boosters, moments throughout the week that provide you with both pleasure and meaning.

3) Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?

4) Simplify! We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much.

5) Remember the mind-body connection. What we do -- or don't do -- with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.

6) Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.

SOURCE: The Boston Globe's Local News


What do I want?

If I know my imagination & focus create my future reality, what should I be focusing on right this moment?


"There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences."

(P J O'Rourke, who is considered America's leading political satirist; now Research Fellow at Cato Institute, a non-profit public policy research foundation headquartered in Washington, D.C.;)


Many readers may recall the the TV series known as 'Kids Say the Darndest Things' about ten years ago, hosted principally by Bill Crosby & often with Art Linkletter as a special guest.

In the TV show, the kids often traded witticisms with the two adults.

In the case of 'Kids Say the Darndest Things', I recently came across one good one in a magazine while browsing:

A kid, asking an elder: "Do you know why Cinderella was such a lousy football player?"

The elder was dumb folded.

The kid gave his answer: "She got a pumpkin for a coach."

[Art Linkletter was the principal host of two earlier black & white TV series, 'House Party' & 'People are Funny' during the sixties or so. In fact, he also wrote two books, 'Kids Sure Rite Funny' & 'Kids Say the Darnest Things'.]


[Continue from the Last Post]

In addition to the perspective &/or viewpoint, explanation, elaboration, & chapter/global summary of key points in a book, I always go for the anecdotes as well as examples, which an author would often use to illustrate or enliven the writing.

Oftentimes, the anecdotes & examples can help to clarify the author's thought patterns, especially when the introduced concept or idea is more complex to understand.

More importantly, & especially for me, they help me to make finer distinctions of the author's perspective &/or viewpoint of the book.

Allow me to use an example from my own reading.

There is a common thread - the power of habits as the foundation for success - in the following three books:

1) 'Million Dollar Habits', by Robert Ringer (RR);

2) 'Million Dollar Habits', by Brian Tracy (BT);

3) '7 Habits of Highly Effective People', by Stephen Covey (SC);

Despite the common thread, each author has approached his own writing quite differently. That is to say, each author has outlined his own perspective &/or viewpoint in slightly different ways.

RR has outlined ten "habits", while SC has narrowed down to seven, even though there are some obvious similarities in their focused approaches. I am talking about the perception of reality & the orientation toward action.

For me, I feel that RR has a more 'human relations' slant, whereas 'principle-centredness' is more applicable to SC's. Nonetheless, both are very focused.

BT, on the other hand, concentrates more on developing 'the traits of millionaires' or, to put it in more precise terms, 'creating wealth'. He has more or less narrowed them down to a dozen of "habits" or "practices", so to speak. His approach throughout the writing is much more broad-based.

I reckon the foregoing analysis becomes much more apparent once you start to read & digest carefully the stories or anecdotes as well as the examples as given in each author's books.

I find the anecdotes & examples given by each author very illuminating in terms of understanding the fine distinctions between each author's perspective &/or viewpoint, especially when each of them has drawn specifically from own personal experience to illustate a point.

One last point:

I always find that the anecdotes & examples of an author often allow me, the reader, to relate more easily as well as readily the reading to personal application or immediate utilisation of learned concepts & ideas in daily life.

[to be continued in the Next Post]

Thursday, March 27, 2008


One of the things that slows down personal or professional productivity is 'dilly dallying'.

The other is allowing external distractions to stop you from giving 100% focus on the task at hand.

To avoid these problems, the smart solution to all your productivity problems when you get into the office is pursue the '3 GETS':

Get in.

Get things done.

Get out.

[inspired by Robert Ringer]


"If you aspire to play in the big leagues, you must be prepared to play every point as though it were match point. In other words, you have to be consistently focused. Dabblers are rarely, if ever, successful. It’s when you focus totally, intensely, and consistently on one project — a project that has the potential to yield a worthwhile payoff — that you have the greatest chance of success."

(Frederick Mann, entrepreneur & founder of Terra Libra Holdings, which own the Free World Order/Build Freedom information websites; also, drawing inspiration from Robert Ringer's 'Million Dollar Habits';)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


From the ZenHabits weblog:

1) Your focus determines your reality;

"If you wake up in the morning & think about the miserable things you need to do later in the day, you’ll have a miserable day. If you wake up & focus instead on what a wonderful gift your life is, you’ll have a great day.

If you let our attention jump from one thing to another, you will have a busy, fractured & probably unproductive day. If you focus entirely on one job, you may lose yourselves in that job, & it will not only be the most productive thing you do all day, but it’ll be very enjoyable.

If you focus on being tired & wanting to veg out in front of the TV, you will get a lot of television watching done. If, however, you focus on being healthy & fit, you will become healthy & fit through exercise & proper eating."

2) Here are some of the ways you can use focus to improve different aspects of your life:

i) Focus on your goals;

ii) Focus on the now;

iii) Focus on the task at hand;

iv) Focus on the positive;


Today, EQ is seemingly a hot topic in success literature. Much of what has been printed is still relatively abstract.

So, how does one go about developing a greater sense of EQ?

From the ZenHabits weblog, I came across what Eugene Yiga, a post-graduate student at the University of Cape Town, South Africa & the editor of Varsity Blah, had shared in an interesting post.

In the article, he had outlined, in reasonably good detail, on how to go about developing your EQ:

1) Awareness:

Recognising individual emotions as they occur, understanding why they occur, and understanding the effects (both good and bad) they have on you;

2) Control:

Resisting impulses and urges (delaying gratification), remaining calm even as chaos ensues, and always thinking clearly when those around you can’t;

3) Assessment:

Knowing strengths and weaknesses, learning from mistakes, and constantly striving to build on what you have in an attempt to make yourself better;

4) Vision:

Creating a sense of direction in your life, having the foresight to anticipate problems/needs before they arise, and paying attention to the details;

5) Creativity:

Thinking outside the box, developing a tolerance for ambiguity, and maintaining an openness to change;

6) Innovation:

Seeking out unconventional solutions to problems, keeping an open mind to novelty in the world, and applying creativity in practical ways;

7) Ambition:

Setting tough but attainable goals, constantly raising the bar in pursuit of excellence, and feeding the need for achievement whenever you can;

8) Initiative:

Taking the first step when opportunity arises, never sitting back because it’s not in your “job description”, and bending the rules (occasionally) when it comes to making progress;

9) Conscientiousness:

Accepting responsibility for personal performance, adopting a focused approach in your work, and understanding that nobody else is to blame for your shortcomings;

10) Adaptability:

Admitting when you’ve failed, remaining flexible in the face of obstacles, and never being too stubborn to change;

11) Independence:

Living with an unshakable sense of who you are, making your own decisions in the face of peer pressure, and acting despite tremendous risk and doubt;

12) Optimism:

Understanding we all make mistakes, choosing to persist no matter how many times you’ve failed, and always remaining hopeful that success is just around the corner;


Several years ago, Gary Kasparov, who has been the number-one-ranked chess player in the world (since he won the world championship from Anatoly Karpov in 1985), wrote a very interesting piece, 'The Unthinkable & the Mundane', in Fast Company.

In the article, he has shared some very revealing insights about the significance of thinking strategically in business, drawing an appropriate analogy from the perspective of playing chess at grandmaster level.

Here is the link.


Here is a belated link to a broad array of the best business books of 2007, from Michael Fitzerald, writing under the byline, 'BIG THINK: Game changing ideas from new business books & other sources of inspiration' in the BNET Insight.


"For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much - if he lives & uses that in hand day by day - shall be full to running over."

(Edgar Cayce, often considered the most documented psychic of all time)


How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?


Here is a link to the above article, by Geoffrey James, writing in his Sales Machine weblog, & drawing inspiration from Omar Periu, who is apparently acknowledged by the latter's peers as "The Master Motivational Teacher."

Nothing really spectacular or new, but, to paraphrase the author, "If you’ll take this list seriously, & make living it into part of your daily routine, I can practically guarantee that you’ll quickly push your . . . ability . . . to the next level."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


"Reflect upon your present blessings - of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."

(Charles Dickens, 1812-187; the foremost English novelist of the Victorian era, as well as a vigorous social campaigner; considered one of the English language's greatest writers, he was acclaimed for his rich storytelling & memorable characters, & also achieved massive worldwide popularity in his lifetime;)


"If you can't lead yourself, you won't be effective at leading others. Self-leadership precedes strategic leadership."

Michael Slaughter, 'Momentum for Life: Sustaining Personal Health, Integrity & Strategic Forces as a Leader';

Although I find that his self-leadership model is deeply rooted in scripture, I am nonetheless impressed by his five life practices, which form the acronym D-R-I-V-E:

- Devotion to God;
- Readiness for lifelong learning;
- Investing in key relationships;
- Visioning for the future;
- Eating & Exercise for life;

Taken together, they shape life as an upward momentum.

They remind us that leadership is not about entitlement, but example.

[The author is the lead pastor & chief visionary at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church.]

Monday, March 24, 2008


"Living at risk is jumping off the cliff & building your wings on the way down."

(Ray Bradbury; he is one of those rare individuals whose writing has changed the way people think; his more than five hundred published works - short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television scripts, & verse - exemplify the American imagination at its most creative;)


How do you develop focus?

According to Saleem Rana, a prolific writer on the net with a background in psychotherapy:

"Pick one goal and see it to completion. It can be as complex as building a million dollars or reading a book in such a way that you fully understand the information in it. Then practice focus, over and over again, until you get good at it.

Success is a series of small focused acts coming together to create a huge outcome. And every act is complete in itself. Over time, the accumulation of these complete acts is what will create for you a life that will make others shake their heads in astonishment at what you have accomplished."


Here is a rough sampling of some of the most effective & powerful product taglines ever written, which, to me, reflect the power of focus vested in so few words:

We try harder: Avis

Think different: Apple

Just do it: Nike

The art of performance: Jaguar

Don't leave home without it: American Express

The ultimate driving machine: BMW

Absolutely, positively overnight: Fedex

The choice of a new generation: Pepsi

We bring good things to life: GE

The happiest place on earth: Disneyland

Innovation: 3M

We love to see you smile: McDonalds

It's the real thing: Coca Cola

Let your finger do the walking: Yellow Pages

Good to the last drop: Maxwell House

A diamond is forever: De Beers

Breakfast of champions: Wheaties


Here is a link to an interesting article, entitled 'The Aging Eye — See into Your Future', from which you can learn what's normal for aging eyes, what may be a sign of disease, & how to compensate for changes.

Interestingly, once you are inside the website, you can also find out your "real" age, & receive a personalized health plan.


I went to Borders at Wheelock Place yesterday afternoon just after brunch at Dan Ryan's with one of my other buddies who lives at One Tree Hill.

I found some interesting business books in the store.

This was one quite fascinating:

'Tycoon: How to Turn Dreams into Millions', by Peter Jones, the entrepreneurial mind behind the 'Dragon's Den' television series. His business interests range from telecoms, leisure, publishing as well as TV & media.

The book did not offer anything spectacular, but the author shared ten golden rules for success:

1) Have a vision;

2) Use your influence;

3) Build your confidence;

4) Make a commitment;

5) Take action;

6) Aim for results;

7) Get your timing right;

8) Persevere;

9) Be caring;

10) Use your intuition;

It seems to me that both timing & intuition are often quoted by entrepreneurs as some sort of prerequisites to their business success.

I remember our banker-entrepreneur Wee Cho Yaw said the same thing some time ago.

Anyway, I left Borders happily with two new books, 'Turnaround CEO' by Dr J Konrad Hole & 'Breakthrough Business Development' by Duncan MacPherson & David Miller.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


According to the book, 'Defy Aging: Develop the Mental & Emotional Vitality to Live Longer, Healthier, & Happier Than You Ever Imagined', by Dr Michael Brickey, a psychologist & life makeover coach:

1) Today’s centenarians tend to be fairly ordinary people with an extraordinary psychological edge;

2) They have only three things in common physically:

i) they are physically active people;

ii) few smoke; &

iii) they have maintained a fairly constant weight all of their lives;

3) Today’s centenarians:

i) are active mentally;

ii) are self-reliant & independent;

iii) are optimistic;

iv) have a good sense of humor;

v) have good coping skills;

vi) don’t hold on to losses or resentments;

4) Living long & living well doesn’t require extreme diets or extreme lifestyles;

5) If you are physically active, eat reasonably, & are not terribly overweight, mental factors are far more important to vital longevity than finding the perfect pill, diet, or workout;

6) Challenges to longevity require continually renewing your sense of purpose, having good friends all your life, dealing with the deaths of family members & friends, having resilient coping skills, & dealing with massive change;

7) Ultimately, your beliefs, attitudes, coping skills & lifestyle make the difference;

[More information about Dr Michael Brickey & his work can be found at The Ageless Lifestyles Institute, which is a goldmine of information nuggets. Learn more about his Anti-Aging ABC's or take the 'Defy Aging Quiz' just for the fun of it.]


"He who joyfully marches to music in rank & file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice."
(Albert Einstein)


It just crosses my mind - an AHA, so to speak - that Michael Michalko, the author of two books, 'Thinkertoys', 'Cracking Creativity' & the 'Thinkpak' toolkit, & Morgan Jones, the author of 'The Thinker's Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving', had previously served as CIA & NATO intelligence analysts respectively.

From what I can gather so far, both authors had apparently drawn inspirations from the secret world of military intelligence, an arena where problem solving probably takes a more acute flavour.

Interestingly, I also note that Andrei (Andy) Aleinikov, who wrote the book, 'Mega-Creativity: 5 Steps to Thinking like a Genius', has once served in the former Russian military with the rank of a Colonel. He also co-authored the book, 'Creating Creativity: 101 Definitions'.

It is pertinent for me to point out that, in comparison, Morgan's book takes a more mathematical & analytical approach to problem solving.

Both Andy's & Michael's books can be put togther more or less on the same scale, creativity-wise, while I would still consider the latter's book a rich compendium of useful problem solving techniques.