Saturday, May 3, 2008


After a little bit of surfing on the net, & with the aid of my faithful guide, Copernic Agent Pro, I have managed to locate an interactive fun game to test your natural blind spot.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, each of your eye balls contains a tiny area at the back end that has no photoreceptors, because it is occupied by the optic nerve that connects to your brain.

Hence, you may not realise the fact that you are likely to miss a certain amount of visual information. How does your brain cope with this?

Try the interactive fun game to help you find your own blind spots, & see how your own brain interprets the missing visual information.

Here's the link, which leads you to the Project Lite website of the Boston University. The site is also an atlas of visual phenomena.

Enjoy your exploration.


"We cannot look at the future as a continuation of the past . . . The things that got you where you are, are
seldom the things that keep you there."

(Charles Handy, who is widely recognised as Europe's best known & most influential management thinker; also author of several classics, including 'The Age of Reason';)


The foregoing title refers to an interesting article, which was originally published in the 'New Scientist' magazine on 15th September 2006. It was written by David Hobbs.

What piqued my personal interest was these "findings" in the article:

". . . as the American inventor Thomas Edison said, genius is 99 per cent perspiration - or, to be truer to the data, perhaps 1 per cent inspiration, 29 per cent good instruction and encouragement, and 70 per cent perspiration. Examine closely even the most extreme examples - Mozart, Newton, Einstein, Stravinsky - and you find more hard-won mastery than gift. Geniuses are made, not born . . . And the one thing they always have is this incredible investment of effort . . . Genius must be built . . . genius is not looking so smart. You want to play the big stage, you got to put in the time."

Here's the link to the original article.


How would a child look at my life & its various people, situations & problems?

Friday, May 2, 2008


"I've learned that there's only one word that you need to keep any relationship going: Sorry."

from Mr & Mrs Fernandez, who celebrated their golden wedding anniversary on Jan 16 last year. They have been happily married for 51 years, & have 3 children & 5 grandchildren, the oldest of whom is 21.

[Source: 'Mind Your Body'/Straits Times dated 23rd April 2008]


"Change happens, that is for sure, & not just in our modern, 21st century era. It seems that the stress of
the new affects most people in every age. So the trick is not to resist it, but to go with it. The real problem for the creative person is getting over the resistance of those who don’t want to change."

(Author Unknown)


Judging from what I had read from the recent 'Mind Your Body' issue of the Straits Times, it seemed that two scientists, Dr Dan Negoianu & Dr Stanley Goldfarb, at the University of Pennsylvania, had found no evidence that downing 8 glasses of water a day would be good for our health.

They had reviewed medical literature dating back to the early 1970's.

They nonetheless advised that, apart from athletes and people living in hot, dry climates, the average healthy person does not need to drink 8 glasses of water daily.

However, I also noted that our dietitians & doctors interviewed by the Straits Times somehow did not seem to concur with each other.

Dr Stanley Liew, consultant endocrinologist at Raffles Hospital apparently concurred with the findings, but I was intrigued by the response of nutritionist Benjamin Lee from the Singapore Health Promotion Board.

He maintained that we should consume between 6 to 8 glasses of fluid daily, including soup or porridge broth.

The body uses between 1 & 1-1/2 litres of water every day on average & more in high temperatures or when you are exercising. That's why you need water.

The human body is 70% water & there is water in its circulatory system, interstitial space - spaces between the cells - & within the cells, said Dr Tan.

The electrolytes and enzymes that are in solution in the body need to be kept within a tight concentration range in order for it to function properly, he added.

Water is a major component of blood, which is in charge of supplying oxygen & nutrients to the organs. Water also assists daily bodily functions like regulating body temperature & lubricating joints for ease of movement.

Dr Liew added: "Our kidneys rely on huge amounts of water being filtered daily to excrete toxic substances from our bodies. Deprived of water, we can survive only for days."

A person can generally survive without water for a period of between two & seven days.

Of course, I fully agree that drinking too much water is no good for the body. Anyway, I always believe that our body is the best judge for that, especially when one has learned how to trust one's instincts.

I remember as a kid growing up in Yong Peng, Johor, Malaysia, my late aunt, who was then in her sixties, often reminded me to drink a lot of water, with the first glass of warm water upon getting up from bed. That was her daily ritual in the morning.

Surprisingly, my late Dad also had the same daily ritual in the morning.

Of course, at that time, I really did not know exactly the significance or purpose, but I have not stopped following the same old routine every morning from that day. Sometimes, I even squeeze in some fresh lime juice to get that kick.

I had first learned about the significance of drinking water to the body functioning when I started to learn & dabble in 'Brain Gym' practices from the work of Dr Paul Dennison, a psychologist & educator, & Gayle Dennison, a dancer, during the eighties.

Brain Gym advocates drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.

It was also about that time that I had read the two classic 'Fit for Life' books by Marilyn & Harvey Diamond.

They had advised readers to avoid drinking water during meals, except for soup or broth. Their argument: interference with the digestive process.

According to them, drinking water, say an hour before meals or an hour later after meals, was OK.

Later on, I came across 'Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head' by Dr Carla Hannaford, a neurophysiologist & educator. In a nut shell, the book was all about the connection between physical movements & brain functions.

In one of her book chapters, she talked about the significance of water & oxygen. There was a schematic diagram which illustrated the various roles of water & oxygen in terms of vital brain & body functions.

In that diagram, I was piqued immediately by her mention of one particular aspect, pertaining to the role of water & oxygen in terms of brain functioning: enhancing cellular polarity.

That really made my day.

All I can say is that I have continued to practise 'Brain Gym' routines for the last two decades.

I often find that the 'Brain Gym' exercises [in particular, 'drink water', 'neck roll', 'the owl', 'brain buttons', 'thinking cap'], coupled with diaphragmatic breathing, are very useful for attaining a resourceful state of mind for reading & writing.

In the same vein, I still drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.


I have found an interesting write-up about the importance of planning while browsing the Amazon website.

I always believe that planning is a very important skill set to master for both business as well as personal success.

When I looked back at my twenty four years of corporate world experience, prior to starting my own strategy consulting business in the early nineties, I had actually posed myself a pertinent question:

What did I learned from my experience so far that I could make ready use of to chart out the second half of my life?

The answer was: Strategic Planning.

It was my stint at the United Motor Works (UMW) Group during the early eighties that I was fully exposed to the advanced strategic planning model envisaged by the Group Chairman/CEO, Datuk Eric Chia, after he had returned from attending the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University in the United States.

Till today, I could never forget my personal encounter – a fiery one - with Datuk Eric Chia, during one memorable strategic planning session with the planning committee, which I had talked about in an earlier post.

Whatever I do today, whether it is just a business meeting or a training endeavour or just an outing, it always begins with planning.

For me, planning allows me to put my anticipatory thoughts - & ballistic prowess (thanks to Dr William Calvin) - to work.

Coming back to the interesting write-up:

What’s the #1 factor that separates top performers from average performers?

According to extensive research, by Dr. Peter Gollwitzer, author of ‘The Psychology of Action: Linking Cognition & Motivation to Behaviour’, the answer is Superior Preparation!

[His research interests focus on aspects of the wilful pursuit of goals e.g., identity goals, mindsets, implementation intentions.]

Dr. Gollwitzer conducted several studies that demonstrate the benefits of making specific plans that outline when, where, and how to perform an action. Dr. Gollwitzer argues that plans allow people to more easily remember specifically what to do.

Here are the payoffs:

First, they don’t waste time trying to recall what it is they are going to do.

Since, they’ve already made the commitment and decided what to do, and in what situation, beforehand, & when put to the test, they have little trouble following that plan.

Second, people act more quickly when they have a plan to follow.

Third, when people have a plan, they can more easily ignore interruptions and distractions. They are able to more easily focus on the task at hand. In short, proper preparation empowers you to control your destiny and improve results.

Think about golf as an analogy.

Every hole in golf is assigned a minimum standard called “par.” That stands for the “average performance results.” So shooting par is being average. Not bad, but of course you can’t become a successful golfer (or anything) by merely shooting par.

How do the best golfers ensure they consistently perform above par?

They prepare!

How do they prepare?

They practice!

Practice Improves Performance

Anybody who is a master at any endeavour understands that practice improves performance.

Master golfers have learned to expect a significant return on their investment – the investment of their preparation time. They know the difference between winning and losing is often only one or two strokes. And the lack of practice can easily cost you one or two strokes.

This is true in sales and leadership as well.

You don’t need to beat your competition by 10 strokes. You just need to win by one or two strokes. Small improvements can produce big results.

You don’t win in the game. You win in the preparation.

I believe that success is preparation, because opportunity is going to knock on the door sooner or later. The question is: Are you prepared to answer that?

Interestingly, Anthony Robbins once said: "The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck."

Hence, I wish to say that the adage “People don’t plan to fail . . . they fail to plan” rings very true in real life.

Many years ago, I had read that Japan’s Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI) often planned 100 to 200 years ahead for the country.

My homeland, Singapore, with her efficient planning of the Mass Rapid Transit system & the Changi International Airport from T1 to T2 to T3, is another great example.

This is also reflected in a recent statement by MM Lee Kuan Yew, Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) who said that GIC had to “think in terms of the next 10, 20 or 30 years. We are buying into something which we intend to keep for the next two, three decades & grow with them.” [He was referring to buying more quality bank assets on top of the stakes that GIC purchased in UBS & Citigroup recently.]

In fact, when I had started work with the Swedish Business Development Centre in mid-1987, as a Senior Consultant to introduce Scandinavian high-tech products & services into Singapore & the region, Singapore’s First National Information Technology Plan, originally conceived in the seventies, was already in full swing.

For the record, I understand that the National Scenario Planning outfit is currently attached to the Singapore Prime Minister’s Office.

Besides that, Singapore has additional policy planning think tanks affiliated to the National University of Singapore & Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Singapore takes planning, especially long term, very seriously. So do I.

I wish to leave this inspiring quotation from Jim Rohn as food for thought:

"If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much."

[Source: Daniel Grissom’s inspirational book, ‘Step Up!: How to Win More and Lose Less in Business.]

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I was visibly moved after watching the movie, ‘October Sky’ on Star Movies Channel a short while ago.

Frankly, the movie wasn’t my preferred choice. In fact, I was channel surfing with my remote controller, while loafing on the sofa in front of the television. Since I had watched many of the other available movies, I then decided to settle on this one.

After watching, I must admit that it was a great movie, & would highly recommend parents to watch it with their kids or teens.

The movie was based on a true story about a young American boy, Homer Hickam (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) , who persisted - & persevered against almost insurmountable odds - in pursuing his fondest dreams of becoming a rocket engineer. He eventually became a NASA engineer working on the space shuttle missions.

As a young boy growing up in the coal mining town, known as Coalwood, in West Virginia, Homer apparently had only one future in sight: to work in the mines, i.e. follow in his father’s footsteps.

However, in October 1957, everything changed when the Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik from the Soviet Union, was hurled into space. With that event, Homer became inspired to learn how to build rockets.

With three of his nerdy high school buddies, Quentin, Roy & O’Dell, they set out to experiment with home-made rockets through trial & error. They were known as the ‘Rocket Boys’ in the town.

Unfortunately, most of the town folks & especially his father (played by Chris Cooper) had thought that the four youngsters were simply wasting their time.

Only one teacher, Miss Riley (played by Laura Dern) in their high school, in spite of sheer indifference from the school principal, understood their ardent desires & encouraged them to participate in the national science fair, with college scholarships being the prize.

Homer even had a signed photo from Werner von Braun to serve as his inspiring hero. He eventually went on to win the national science fair at Indianapolis, with the eventual warm support of the town folks & more importantly, from his father.

I particularly like the many meaningful dialogues, including a heated exchange, between the hard-headed father & the son with a dream. Here’s one good example:

Homer to his father: “Dad, I may not be the best, but I come to believe that I got it in me to be somebody in this world. And it's not because I'm so different from you either, it's because I'm the same. I mean, I can be just as hard-headed, and just as tough. I only hope I can be as good a man as you. Sure, Werner von Braun is a great scientist? but he isn't my hero.” [The father never realised that the son had always looked up to him as a hero.]

As an epilogue, all four youngsters eventually completed their college education. All three of them, Quentin, Roy & O’Dell, became successful in their own chosen careers, with Homer ultimately becoming a key member of the space exploration team of NASA.

[According to real events, Homer’s father had eventually died of Black Lung disease. Sadly, Miss Riley had succumbed to Hodgkin's disease. The coal mining operations were totally shut down in the following decade.]

I reckon the movie’s tagline “Sometimes one dream is enough to light up the whole sky” certainly sums up my sentiments about this movie.

From my personal perspective, the principal message from the movie was blatantly clear:

“Follow your bliss & pursue your passion.”


Frankly, this is just a quick snapshot of my rambling thoughts on the strategies one need to have or acquire in dealing with the coming turbulent times:

1) Cut down unnecessary expenses;

2) Increase business development:

3) Re-examine work processes;

4) Leverage on existing clientele;

5) Expand the business & social network;

6) Keep fit & stay healthy, physically as well as mentally;

7) Prepare for contingency;


"Remember, what you do does not define who you are. We all have tremendous potential, and there are a lot of areas in which we can be effective. And whether or not we reach our potential, our value remains the same - because it comes from being human."

(Jim Hackett, President & CEO, Steelcase Inc., which provides a portfolio of solutions covering the three core elements of an office environment: interior architecture, furniture & technology from manufacturing facilities in over 30 locations & more than 800 dealer locations around the world;)


Frankly, I could never imagine Robert Downey Jr., playing a superhero. This probably had to do with the initial impression I had from what I had read so much about him - faltering years as a drug addict & jail bird in real life.

I last saw him as the conniving Dr Kovak in 'The Shaggy Dog', & also as the rogue special agent, John Royce, opposite the characters of Tommy Lee Jones & Wesney Snipes in the thriller action movie, 'US Marshalls', on cable television.

With the last movie, 'The Forbidden Kingdom', in the same movie theatre, my gym buddy & I saw a brief trailer of 'Iron Man', which had sort of piqued our personal interest.

Yesterday, my gym buddy & decided to go for a movie in the late afternoon, & we chose 'Iron Man' at Jurong Point.

In a nut shell, 'Iron Man' was more of a CGI-boosted special effects extravaganza. I read from the papers that the movie costed US$165 million to make.

The movie was based on a superhero character from Marvel Comics, creators of 'Spiderman', 'Fantastic Four' & 'X-men'.

Story-wise, it had a relatively simple plot.

Robert Downey Jr., played Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist & also an inventor extraordinaire in designing & building high tech weaponry of mass destruction for the US Army.

His company was known as Stark Industries, founded by his late father, Howard Stark, who was involved with the Manhattan Project.

While traveling in Afghanistan on a business trip, his convoy was ambushed in a war zone - he was injured, ironically by a shrapnel from one of his own rockets - & was kidnapped by a group of militants, headed by a lunatic who wanted to control the entire Middle East.

Kept alive by a make-shift electro-magnet embedded above his heart, apparently designed to prevent the shrapnel from puncturing his heart, Tony was forced by his captors to build a missile with metal scraps & electronic leftovers in a cave-enclosed prison.

Instead our hero, with his usual cool arrogance & drawing on his inventive genius, hatched an escape plan revolving around a crude metallic armoured suit -the advent of the prototype, 'Iron Man'.

Of course, he managed to escape - with the electro-magnet over his heart intact - & eventually returned to America, seemingly a changed man after seeing the death & destruction caused by his company's weapons.

With that, he decided arbitrarily that Stark Industries would stop producing military weapons, much to the chagrin of his mentor & associate, Obadiah Stane (played by Jeff Bridges), who somehow had other sneaky ideas of his own.

Meanwhile, Tony began experimenting with the electro-magnet imbedded over his heart & exchanging it with a miniaturised Arc Reactor – apparently a power-yielding generator that could emit enough juice to keep his heart shrapnel-free, & at the same time, could provide adequate power to a new armoured suit he had in mind.

So, while our hero was cranking his new armoured suit, Stane was secretly conniving with the militants in Afghanistan, who apparently had managed to salvage the original work plans of the armoured suit built in the cave during Tony's captivity.

It was during this movie segment that I realised that Tony's unfortunate ambush in Afghanistan was all the while being set up by Stane in a futile attempt to take over Stack Industries.

With the original work plans secured from Afghanistan, Stane managed to assemble a team of specialists to build a modified version of the metallic armoured suit, nicknamed 'Iron Monger'.

The remaining segment of the movie - in fact, for all the excitement we were waiting for - displayed the power struggle between Tony & Stane, eventually culminating into a violent clash - with CGI special effects, of course - between the two heavy metal behemoths, 'Iron Man' & 'Iron Monger'.

[We must accord our thanks to the ingenuity & inventiveness of the team from Stan Wilson Studios.]

If you have the opportunity to watch the sci-fi action movie, 'Transformers', you would quickly get a good idea of the resultant rampant havoc, when two heavy metal behemoths danced, while humans & vehicles got caught beneath their fancy footwork.

When compared with 'Spiderman', 'Fantastic Four' & 'X-men', I had this notion that 'Iron Man' was more like a slapstick comedy to me.

The two actresses, one playing Tony's Girl Friday (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) & the perky television reporter, were primarily eye candies. I reckon they were there just to show Tony's flamboyance.

In fact, the most fascinating gadget in the movie, to me at least, was the flash-drive-sized sonic paralysis emitter, which Stane used to harmlessly knock out his opponents. I would love to have one of that.

Did I enjoy watching the movie at the end? I sure did. Was it entertaining? Yes, especially the action sequences & witty dialogue. Was it worth spending the two hours in the movie theatre? Yes. My gym buddy felt likewise.

At least, I now have a different impression about Robert Downey Jr.


I like what David Simpson, director of Team Building Asia, wrote recently in the CATS Recruit Page under the foregoing title, 'Dare to be Different'.

His qualification of "Some people are born creative, others can learn to innovate" was interesting.

He then suggested that we should look less at creativity & more at innovative actions by shifting our focus to the need to adapt & work a bit harder on our behaviour.

The first step was to ramp up our experimenting attitude, & accelerate our willingness to try new things or find new ways of doing old things.

Next, we must persist in our path.

Meanwhile, be eager & excited at we want to achieve at the end. He even suggested reframing all our perceptions into positive beliefs to engender enthusiastic behaviour.

Last, but not least, keep doing it & remain optimistic, by focusing on the results we need to create. He argued that this attitude of taking initiative & practice of experimenting would eventually improve our overall innovative behaviour.

Well done, David. You have clearly illuminated the fine distinction between 'Creativity' & 'Innovation'. That is, 'Coming up with an idea' & 'Putting the idea to work', but more precisely, 'Thinking' & 'Doing'.

'Dare to be different' will naturally & intuitively come from the 'Doing'.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


"To be considered an "expert", one needs a large amount of knowledge of only a relatively few variety. In contrast, an ordinary person's "common-sense" involves a much larger variety of different types of knowledge - & this requires more complicated management systems. It is easier to acquire specialized knowledge than common-sense knowledge."

(Marvin Minsky, mathematician & computer scientist at MIT; in recent years, he has worked chiefly on imparting to machines the human capacity for common-sense reasoning; his conception of human intellectual structure & function is presented in the classic, 'The Society of Mind', which is also the title of the course he teaches at MIT;)


Although reframing may have its origins in neuro-linguistics programming or NLP, it is actually just a simple process of changing the context or representation of a problem or issue at hand.

In reality, it is "shifting the meaning of" or "changing the way we think about" the problem or issue at hand.

That is to say, the meaning of anything is found essentially in the mental frame within which we view it.

According to NLP experts, when we perceive something as a problem, that's the message we send to our brain.

Then, the brain produces states in our body that make it a reality.

When we change our frame of reference by looking at the same problem from a different viewpoint, we can change our response to it.

More precisely, we can change our perception &/or representation about anything – object, event or process, situation, circumstance, people, idea – by according it a different meaning, & thus, allowing us to take a different approach & giving us new possibilities for the actions that we might take & the responses we might execute.

This is what reframing is all about.

For a better understanding, I like to point out that reframing is about changing perception.

However, since I am not an NLP junkie, I will approach reframing from a slightly different perspective.

I want to use reframing as a strategy for problem solving & opportunity discovery.

Over the years, I have learned more than a dozen possible ways – remember, I rode on the shoulders of giants before me - to reframe a problem or challenge, & would like to share them with readers:

1) Personality Frame:

- Just imagine that you are the problem i.e. adopt the personality, & explore how you feel & act exactly like the problem;

- In Synectics, we call this the 'personal analogy' approach;

2) Opposite Frame:

- Look at contrasting possibilities of the problem;

- Our mind tend to look at only "similarities", & often "contrasts" can add another dimension to our viewpoint;

3) Flex Frame:

- Change the attributes of the problem to see how you can flex it at will, say with the help of SCAMPER;

- Explore the problem by shifting from pessimistic to optimistic, & then back to neutral, standpoints;

4) Future Frame:

- Play with futuristic scenarios to see how the problem can be addressed, especially when you can own unlimited power, money, time, & resources;

- Your futuristic scenarios can take the form of global, regional, industry, market, product, organisational or personal levels;

5) Failure Frame:

- Approach the problem from the standpoint of “failing forward faster”, by viewing the potential consequences as "opportunities";

- Our mind tend to look at "success" only, whereas looking at "failure" brings many possibilities to the problem, often not recognised from looking the other way;

6) Fun Frame:

- Approach the problem from the standpoint of a curious child, with joy of play at your disposal;

7) Friends Frame:

- Get as many viewpoints as possible about the problem from your friends, especially those who aren't afraid to be honest with you, or even family members or colleagues;

- This approach will certainly help to remove some of your own blind spots;

8) Fame Frame:

- Imagine you are Einstein or Edison or Tesla, & explore how your new self would solve the problem;

- You can also include celebrities &/or renowned thought leaders like Peter Drucker or even MM Lee Kuan Yew;

9) Fiction Frame:

- Imagine your are Sherlock Holmes or Dick Tracy or Columbo, & then explore how they would
tackle the problem;

- Try MacGyver;

10) Fantasy Frame:

- Go to the extremes, or out of this world, into 'Fantasyland', to explore the problem;

- Just imagine how 'Alien' &/or 'Predator' would tackle the problem & come up with a solution;

11) Flip-side Frame:

- Look at the upside & the downside or reverse side of the problem;

12) Whole-Brain Frame:

- Explore the problem by walking around the 'rational bottom-line', 'conservative procedural', 'emotional people-oriented', & 'intuitive big-picture', viewpoints;

13) Five Senses Frame:

- Explore the problem using all the five physical senses, e.g. seeing, listening, smelling, tasting & touching;


The foregoing is the title of another interesting article about blind pots, originally published in the July 2007 issue of the 'Training+Development' magazine of the ASTD.

It has been written by Claudia Shelton, President of The Hopewell Group & author of 'Blind Spots: Achieve Success by Seeing What You Can't See'.

In the article, the author had identified 5 common blind spots in the workplace, which could derail your career, if left unchecked.

Here's the link.

The author has also provided an opportunity for readers to test drive 'The Blind Spots Snap Shot' on her corporate website.

It gives you the opportunity to quickly identify your free preliminary blind spots profile through answering their 18 questions.

At the end of the free preliminary snap shot, you’ll have the option to upgrade to the detailed 15 page 'Blind Spots Profile Plus' for only US$34.95.

According to the website, the 'Profile Plus' not only helps you see what you can't see, but provides detailed actions that will help you overcome the negative effects of blind spots in your life & career.

Here's the link.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


This rare black & white photo, probably taken in 1967 or 1968, brought back sweet memories of my first professional job.

I was then a mechanical draftsman, working with the Singapore-based design & drafting office of Buhler Brothers Engineering Works, Uzwil, Switzerland. Also, I was then 19 or 20 years old.

The gentleman standing next to me was my fellow draftsman, Robert Koh. The photo was probably taken by another fellow draftsman, Alfonso Gomez.

We were checking the erection site on top of the grain silo structure of Prima Flour Mills on Keppel Road. We were then working on the extension mill project for the existing flour mill.

The design & drafting office was then located at the aluminum factory premises of Diethem & Co., on Alexandra Road.

In the office, there were four of us draftsmen reporting to a fatso Chief Draftsman, Mr Thomsen, from Switzerland. He was a nice guy, chubby & friendly. He in turn reported to three other senior Swiss managers, one of whom was the Managing Director, Mr Hans Rey.

Mr Rey was the one who recruited me. At the time of my recruitment, I had just completed my first year of the full-time mechanical engineering course at the Singapore Polytechnic. As I was hungry for real-world industrial experience, I had applied for the job of draftsman in the company.

Mr Rey was kind enough to welcome me on board the company with the mutually-agreed provision that I was allowed to take one paid day off, every working week, to attend my appropriately converted third year of the day-release mechanical engineering course at the Singapore Polytechnic.

For four of us draftsman, it was a great time working together under Swiss bosses, who were generally results-oriented. So, they often left us alone to do our drafting jobs & erection site inspections. As long as the drafting jobs were completed according to project specifications, they were happy.

Personally, I had truly learned a lot of good stuff about physical ergonomics & flour & feed milling processes, in addition to fine layout design & precision erection drafting, at Buhler Brothers. They were in fact the largest manufacturers of flour & feed milling machinery in the world, & Prima Flour Mills was one of their major projects in this part of the world.


From what I had learned, the following life-changing ideas, culminating into 'The Four Agreements', which formed an inspirational code for life, had been put together in the late nineties by shaman Don Miguel Ruiz, who drew his inspiration from the ancient Toltec wisdom of the native people of Southern Mexico.

Agreement 1:

Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Agreement 2:

Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Agreement 3:

Don’t make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Agreement 4:

Always do your best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

[I have taken the liberty of extracting the foregoing summary from the free personal & organizational development website.]


According to Dr Cherie Carter-Scott, writing in her classic book, 'If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules':

Rule One - You will receive a body.

Whether you love it or hate it, it's yours for life, so accept it. What counts is what's inside.

Rule Two - You will be presented with lessons.

Life is a constant learning experience, which every day provides opportunities for you to learn more. These lessons specific to you, and learning them 'is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life'.

Rule Three - There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Your development towards wisdom is a process of experimentation, trial and error, so it's inevitable things will not always go to plan or turn out how you'd want.

Compassion is the remedy for harsh judgement - of ourselves and others.

Forgiveness is not only divine - it's also 'the act of erasing an emotional debt'.

Behaving ethically, with integrity, and with humour - especially the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mishaps - are central to the perspective that 'mistakes' are simply lessons we must learn.

Rule Four - The lesson is repeated until learned.

Lessons repeat until learned. What manifest as problems and challenges, irritations and frustrations are more lessons - they will repeat until you see them as such and learn from them.

Your own awareness and your ability to change are requisites of executing this rule. Also fundamental is the acceptance that you are not a victim of fate or circumstance - 'causality' must be acknowledged; that is to say: things happen to you because of how you are and what you do.

To blame anyone or anything else for your misfortunes is an escape and a denial; you yourself are responsible for you, and what happens to you.

Patience is required - change doesn't happen overnight, so give change time to happen.

Rule Five - Learning does not end.

While you are alive there are always lessons to be learned. Surrender to the 'rhythm of life', don't struggle against it.

Commit to the process of constant learning and change - be humble enough to always acknowledge your own weaknesses, and be flexible enough to adapt from what you may be accustomed to, because rigidity will deny you the freedom of new possibilities.

Rule Six - "There" is no better than "here".

The other side of the hill may be greener than your own, but being there is not the key to endless happiness. Be grateful for and enjoy what you have, and where you are on your journey.

Appreciate the abundance of what's good in your life, rather than measure and amass things that do not actually lead to happiness. Living in the present helps you attain peace.

Rule Seven - Others are only mirrors of you.

You love or hate something about another person according to what love or hate about yourself.

Be tolerant; accept others as they are, and strive for clarity of self-awareness; strive to truly understand and have an objective perception of your own self, your thoughts and feelings.

Negative experiences are opportunities to heal the wounds that you carry.

Support others, and by doing so you support yourself. Where you are unable to support others it is a sign that you are not adequately attending to your own needs.

Rule Eight - What you make of your life is up to you.

You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. Take responsibility for yourself.

Learn to let go when you cannot change things. Don't get angry about things - bitter memories clutter your mind.

Courage resides in all of us - use it when you need to do what's right for you.

We all possess a strong natural power and adventurous spirit, which you should draw on to embrace what lies ahead.

Rule Nine - Your answers lie inside of you.

Trust your instincts and your innermost feelings, whether you hear them as a little voice or a flash of inspiration. Listen to feelings as well as sounds. Look, listen, and trust. Draw on your natural inspiration.

Rule Ten - You will forget all this at birth.

We are all born with all of these capabilities - our early experiences lead us into a physical world, away from our spiritual selves, so that we become doubtful, cynical and lacking belief and confidence.

The ten Rules are not commandments, they are universal truths that apply to us all. When you lose your way, call upon them. Have faith in the strength of your spirit. Aspire to be wise - wisdom the ultimate path of your life, and it knows no limits other than those you impose on yourself.

[I have taken the liberty of extracting the foregoing summary from the free personal & organizational development website.]


"Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch & grow, & reach new heights."
(Pauline R. Kezer, CEO of KezerConsulting;)

Monday, April 28, 2008


According to learning experts, more than 80% of what we learn from a presentation, or even from a reading, is lost within 24 hours.

Also, we tend to remember whatever information at the beginning of the presentation or reading (known as the primacy effect), at the end (known as the recency effect) & whatever information with emotional content in between the two periods.

How do you address this dilemma?

There are a couple of simple strategies, drawn from my own experience.

Firstly, get hold of an agenda of the presentation or synopsis of the reading. In most instances, this can be done.

With the agenda or synopsis, we can quickly develop what is known as "prior knowledge". In other words, we can have an advanced idea about how the presentation or reading will proceed.

If you know mind-mapping or familiar with the use of graphic organisers & visual tools, draw a rough mind map or idea map of the key points from the agenda or synopsis.

You can use that to jot down whatever questions you have in mind or may want to ask the presenter.

During the presentation or reading, you can use the mind map or idea map as a road map.

The road map helps you to navigate the presentation or reading with ease, since your attention is always focused on capturing what is presented or read as you progress.

In other words, the key ideas on your mind map or idea will serve roughly as navigational guide posts.

As you pay attention to the presentation or reading, react mindfully to incoming information with questions:

- what does this mean?

- what does this reminds me of?

- what's interesting here?

- what's the applicability in my life or my work?

Remember, your mind works at very high speeds. Even in a presentation, as you listen, your mind works many times faster than the presenter's speech delivery. More importantly, there will always be pauses in between the presenter's speech.

As a tactical manoeuvre, you can always raise your hands to ask intentional questions.

Hence, you can always make use of the intermittent time lags to ponder over the foregoing questions.

Just jot down whatever comes to mind. This response helps you to stay on track, too.

In the case of reading, just pause say every 10 minutes or so to reflect on what you have already read earlier.

If you use a mind or an idea map, just fill in the information gaps in it.

At the end of the presentation or reading, create a mental summary of all the key ideas of the entire event. This helps you to consolidate what you have gone through.

If you hold a mind map or idea map, this can be done quickly, by simply writing the consolidated summary on the flip side.

You can also use the whole consolidation process as an opportunity to add in or assimilate other ideas or examples from your own personal experience, which have not been covered by the presenter or the author.

Better still, think of say 3 important actions from the ideas of the presentation or reading you can start off & put to work immediately. Jot them down, too.

Last but not least, set up a review cycle, say every 7, 30, 60, 90 days. This is absolutely necessary especially when you are preparing for examination as part of your certification or MBA program.

Best of all, make full use of the information you have learned, internalise & assimilate them into your life or your work, through presentation, project, writing or social communication with others.

Use more of it or lose it.


According to Susan J Bethanis, Founder/CEO of San Francisco-based Mariposa Leadership, Inc., a provider of leadership coaching, "instead of viewing your blind spots as weaknesses that need to be changed, you can approach your blind spots as doors to possibility—each door you open holds opportunity behind it."

She offers three ways which leaders can identify their own blind spots:

1. Ask yourself:

- Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. What do you see & hear? What would you change about you?

2. Ask others:

- Great leaders seek feedback and then act on it. One on one or in a group, ask others what they think are your leadership strengths & what areas need improvement or change.

3. Ask a coach:

- Leadership coaching is a highly effective way to locate blind spots. Coaches serve as confidential sounding boards, can interview others, & also offer valuable feedback.

"Every leader has blind spots. Those that accept the challenge to locate them and then make proper adjustments, are the ones that will raise their game and achieve their maximum leadership potential.

They’re the ones who refuse to be blindsided by their blind spots!"

[Susan J Bethanis is also the author of 'Leadership Chronicles of a Corporate Sage: Five Keys to Becoming a More Effective Leader'. More information about the author & her work can be found at her corporate website, or weblog, which are gold mines of valuable insights on leadership & peak performance.]


Yesterday was a Sunday.

My wife & I decided that we should visit VivoCity, after realising that there had been a lapse of at least six months since the last visit.

We took a SBS Transit ride all the way from Jurong West to Harbour Front via the Outram Park interchange. Upon arrival, we had a light breakfast in the basement Kopitiam outlet, & then began our stroll, starting from the ground level, just after 11am.

The shopper traffic was very light at that time.

As usual, as we walked by each shopping unit, my wife would pop in & out of mostly fashion or sportswear stores, while I liked to hang out at the front entrance to admire the surroundings from the vantage point.

The wide & abundant variety of shops was certainly staggering.

I was also amazed by some of the shops' names. Of course, there were plenty of branded names, which most people were already familiar from their mass advertising.

However, I had noted that many of the smaller shops or boutiques had strange names that bore no relationship to their business.

For example, if I were to list down some of the names that piqued my attention during my visit, would you be able to tell what business they were in?

In other words, what's my line?

- Corduroy?

- Freshbox?

- Hypnosis?

- Principles?

- Pull & Bear?

- Thirtysevendegrees?

- Utopia?

- Zinc?

Naturally, there were also many smaller but unique shops or specialist boutiques with fancy & yet appropriate names:

- Beauty Language (cosmetics)

- Carnivore (Brazilian beef restaurant)

- Doc Green's (gourmet salads)

- Egg (maternity wear);

- Fre(n)sh (cafe)

- Inner Affairs (lingerie);

- Insight (optical)

- Sheer Romance (lingerie);

- Sub-chrono (watches)

- Unique (fine pearls & gems)

Frankly, Vivocity was one huge shopping complex.

By 2pm, we had realised that we still had not yet completed the walk-around of the entire complex. Meanwhile, we noticed that the shopping crowd had more or less reached critical mass on a typical Sunday afternoon.

We then decided to stop for a quick lunch. Most of the fast-food joints we passed by were packed with apparently hungry crowds. We saw a Sushi Tei outlet, but there was a long queue.

So, we decided to walked further up & found a Japanese restaurant, Shin Kushiya, which was almost half-empty. A quick & simple sushi lunch, with Japanese tea, in the restaurant nonetheless had set us back S$55/-.

After the meal, we continued our slow stroll through the complex.

We popped into a shop unit with the name "New Urban Male". There was a free-standing company recruitment display ad for 'retail ambassadors' at the entrance. I didn't realised that nowadays 'sales assistants' had been 'remodeled' to keep up with the times.

I was also naturally piqued by a catchy phrase in the ad: "Should Cows Wear Bras?". It seemed that the company had claimed to be very different from their competition.

Eventually, my wife had ended up buying two t-shirts from Bossini & a sports blouse from Adidas. As for me, I didn't buy anything, as I had already owned too much clothing stuff at home.

It was then about 6pm. We were quite tired & decided to call it a day, but first we thought we should have our early dinner before hitting home.

We went back to the Kopitiam outlet in the basement & chose to have, for once, Korean cuisine of the garden variety. Not exactly great stuff, to say the least.

After that, we took the SBS Transit back to Jurong West. It was almost 7pm when we touched the front door.

[The answers to 'What's My Line?': Freshbox, Hypnosis, Principles, Pull & Bear, Thirtysevendegrees, Utopia are fashion boutiques, whereas Zinc deals with all kinds of bags & Corduroy deals with coffee & candy.]


I have found this wonderful link to all the funny pictures doing the rounds via email & on the web.

Enjoy your exploration!


What does the truly intelligent person want above everything else?


According to Yahoo! Answers, the best answer to the foregoing question:

1) Intellectual Curiosity;

2) Empathetic Listening;

3) Open Mind;

Well, to be frank, I can't default the best answer.

However, I have also found a humourous answer from the net:

"A truly intelligent person is one who can pretend to be a fool in front of a fool who thinks he is intelligent."

For me, I would describe a truly intelligent person as one who can learn fast & then readily adapt to any given or new situation.


"The Truly Intelligent Person Is Not The One Who Knows All The Answers, But The One Who Knows Where To Find The Answers."

(as a corporate philosophy of 'The Answer People, Inc.,' a Microsoft Small Business Specialist Certified & a Microsoft Registered Partner; there is another version of the quote, which goes likes this: "The truly intelligent person is not the person who knows everything. Rather, it is the person who can find out anything." This version is attributed to the MindChamps' corporate website.)


As usual, after our regular gym practice, my gym buddy & I took a slow walk back to Jurong West from the Jurong East Sports Centre.

[My buddy did not drive today, & so we could not go to the the Yuhua Village Market in Jurong East for my favourite fish porridge & his favourite ice cream.]

On the way, at Block 491 on Jurong West Avenue 1, we stopped at the Lian Huat Lee coffee shop.

As I was sitting at one of the tables facing a television set suspended from the ceiling, I could not help noticing a small signboard pasted on the front panel. It carried this message:

"Be alert to your surroundings!"

Actually, it was a public warning from the Jurong West Neighbourhood Police Centre to draw public attention to the prevention of snatch thefts.

To me, I thought it could serve as an exhortation to all of us to be alert to our surroundings, not just from the security standpoint, but also in terms of creativity & entrepreneurship.

Creative people &/or people with entrepreneurial flair are generally very alert to their surroundings.

They are able to connect or maybe juxtapose seemingly unrelated objects, events, people or ideas from their surroundings to come up with an innovation.

Let me give a good example.

During the early 90's, Alvin Lee, a factory manager & also a parent, was frustrated & bored with building plain sand castles, using only bare hands, together with his son & niece on the sandy beach, off the East Coast of Singapore.

Suddenly, from his own observation, a brilliant idea struck him.

After going through some 150 prototypes, plus a few trips to the United States, his sand casting building tools began to turn into a big business for him. He even wrote a book about his entrepreneurial adventures, 'Castles Can Fly!'

[His ultimate product went on to win the 'US Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award' in 1997.]

Today, his big business consists of:

- 'Castle Beach', an active social enterprise that encourages family bonding through building sand castles, &

- 'Beautiful Minds', a corporate event training outfit that encourages team building through building sand castles;

Alvin Lee has demonstrated a common vital trait in all successful entrepreneurs: alert to their surroundings.

I like to call it "perceptual sensitivity to the environment".

[More information about Alvin Lee & his consulting work can be found at his corporate websites, Castle Beach & Beautiful Minds. For the record, I am not related to him in any way, although I had met him once in a networking event.]

Sunday, April 27, 2008


"Clear mind is like the full moon in the sky. Sometimes clouds come & cover it, but the moon is always behind them. Clouds go away, then the moon shines brightly. So don't worry about clear mind: it is always there. When thinking comes, behind it is clear mind. When thinking goes, there is only clear mind. Thinking comes & goes, comes & goes, You must not be attached to the coming or the going."
(Zen Master Seung Sahn, 1924-2004, who was the founder of the international Kwan Um School of Zen, in the United States; reportedly the largest Zen school in the western world; his books include 'Ten Gates', 'The Compass of Zen', 'Dropping Ashes on the Buddha', 'Only Don't Know' & 'The Whole World is a Single Flower';)


I was intrigued by the recent findings from a national survey (Customer Satisfaction Index) which had revealed that only 6% of people in Singapore would lodge a formal complaint to seek redress, say, after experiencing below-par customer service.

The rest would prefer to whine privately.

I, for one, will never accept bad service & remain quiet about it. I will call for the service supervisor or manager immediately to register a point.

Failing that, I will often call up & even write in to the general manager to lodge my complaint, which I had done so on many occasions.

Personally, I don't think we should tolerate bad service, & think that we would look bad or "lose face". Worst still, to believe that complaining in public is against our cultural norms.

Otherwise, I reckon service providers would be emboldened to offer bad service as a norm in business.


I have recently gathered some interesting notes from selected articles in the CATS Recruit Page of the Straits Times:

1) 'Vision of Success', by Alan Fairweather, the Motivation Doctor:

- to be successful, find out what you are hungry & thirsty for, & what you really want to achieve, before moving towards your goals;

[I fully concur, as I also firmly believe that your image of achievement must always be compelling & engaging.]

2) 'Develop a Winning Attitude', by Steve Murphy, associate director of Training Edge International:

- in formulating a career strategy, your first challenge is to do a reality check:

i) how much am I doing to keep abreast of developments in my field?
ii) how much am I investing in my own development?
iii) how competent am I when engaging with others?
iv) when is my overall attitude to those whom I serve, work with & report to?

- look for employment that forces you to swim against the tide, make you think, & allows you the opportunity to engage with others who are different & even difficult;

- write down a 3-year plan how you want to develop your career, but understand that not everything will work according to plan, but at least you have a blueprint that tells you when you are going off course;

- understand the distinction between a career & a job:

i) a career is viewed from a long term perspective; it involves making an investment that over time is expected to yield rewards;

ii) a job is more transient & refers to the role you currently occupy; it's driven by "wiifm" attitude;

3) 'Relax, Don't get Stress', by Mike Hourigan, author of 'Riding the Waves without Getting Wet':

- changing your perception of the stressor is all it takes;

[Mike, you are absolutely right; for my personal experience, stress is always a problem of perception (interpretation & response), as well as a problem of communication (self-talk).]