Saturday, May 10, 2008


National Geographic explorer, Dan Buettner, in his new book, 'The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest', offers the following tips for longer life:

1) Move naturally. Be active without having to think about it;

2) Painlessly cut calories;

3) Avoid meat & processed food;

4) Drink red wine in moderation;

5) Take time to see the big picture;

6) Down shift. Take time to relieve stress;

7) Participate in a spiritual community;

8) Make family a priority;

9) Be surrounded by like-minded people from the Blue Zones;

The foregoing so-called Power Nine is based on his extensive globetrotting to uncover the best strategies for longevity found in the Blue Zones: places in the world where higher percentages of people enjoy remarkably long, full lives:

i) In the Barbagia region of the Italian island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea. In one village of 2,500, there were seven people 100 years or older;

ii) The Japanese islands of Okinawa, site of one of the bloodiest battles in World War II;

iii) Loma Linda, California where the people who make it a Blue Zone are Seventh Day Adventists;

iv) An area of Costa Rica in Central America;

In reality, a closer look at the Power Nine reveals that the nine factors are not totally new to anyone who pays attention to the practice of a healthy lifestyle.

I believe, eating in moderation, relieving stress, exercise regularly, maintaining relationships & network socially are the principal ingredients to a long & healthy life, & that's true inside as well as outside the Blue Zones.

[Source: The Sunday Times; in the above photo, Madam Ushi Okushima is a 106-year-old, who lives in the village of Ogimi, in Japan's southern island of Okinawa;]


In writing this particular post, I am inspired by the following masters of motivation: Dale Carnegie, Bob Conklin (Adventures in Attitudes), Steve DeVore (Sybervision Systems), Napoleon Hill, Paul J Meyer (Success Motivation Institute), Anthony Robbins & Denis Waitley.

Their own life stories & published thoughtwares had impacted me in many ways.

Over the years, I have come to realise that the most important personal choice I have ever made is to accept personal responsibility for everything I am & everything I will ever be.

For me, the acceptance of personal responsibility for my life means that:

- I refuse to whine;

- I refuse to justify;

- I refuse to lay blame;

With these three empowering statements, I automatically eliminate all my "if only" & "Yes, but" & start to focus on what I really want & where I want to go.

If I am not happy with something, I will do something about it.

The most interesting thing is this: When I accept personal responsibility, I feel personally powerful.

The acceptance of personal responsibility gives me a tremendous sense of control over myself & my life.

I reckon this acceptance of personal responsibility is one of the most significant breakthroughs in my relentless search for personal mastery.


"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle & shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."

(Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Psychiatrist)


Looking back at my own life, professionally & personally, I realised that it was my exploration of the fringes from the late seventies & throughout the eighties that had given me the impetus to become a knowledge adventurer & technology explorer.

When I talk about the fringes, I am referring to the periphery or edges where exciting things are already happening, but have yet to be recognised or accepted by the mainstream. Many of these exciting things can be weird or even esoteric.

The news media &/or church people often like to equate the fringes with the 'new age movement'.

Futurists from the mainstream like Peter Schwartz, Joel Arthur Barker & Faith Popcorn had touched on the significance of, particularly in terms of scanning & paying attention to early signals from, the fringes in their respective books.

Retrospectively, I would consider the late seventies & the eighties as my most purposeful, meaningful & productive times in terms of learning & acquiring knowledge from exploring the fringes.

How did I get started in the first place?

Firstly, I reckon I have to give some deserving credit to quite a handful of fascinating but influential books I had perused during that period.

They include:

- 'Psychic Discoveries behind the Iron Curtain' & 'Superlearning', by Sheila Ostrander & Lynn Schroeder;

- 'Psychic Explorations: A Challenge for Science', by Apollo astronaut, Edgar Mitchell - subsequently I went on to join the 'Institute of Noetic Sciences' (IONS), founded by the author;

- 'Megabrain: New Tools and Techniques for Brain Growth & Mind Expansion', by Michael Hutchison - subsequently I went on to subscribe to his 'MegaBrain Report';

- 'Megatrends: 10 New Directions Transforming Our Lives', by John Naisbitt - subsequently I went on to subscribe to the author's newsletter;

- 'Future Shock' & 'Third Wave', by Alvin Toffler;

- 'The Brain Revolution' & "The Aquarian Conspiracy', by Marilyn Ferguson - subsequently, I went on to subscribe to the author's 'Brain/Mind Bulletin';

- 'How to Increase Your Intelligence', by Win Wenger;

- 'Mind Games' by Robert Masters & Jean Houston;

- 'Sound Health', by Steven Halpern - subsequently I went on to acquire his anti-frantic music collections e.g. Spectrum Suite, Crystal Suite, just to name a few;

- 'The Power of Alpha Thinking', by Jess Stearn - subsequently I went on to attend a weekend meditation retreat based on the author's methods;

- 'Creative Visualisation', by Shakti Gawain;

- 'The Right Brain Experience', by Marilee Zdenek;

- 'Are You a Transhuman: Monitoring & Stimulating Your Personal Rate of Growth in a Rapidly Changing World', by FM2030; [Here's a link to the Transhuman Web Alliance.]

- 'Actualisations: You Don't Have to Rehearse to be Yourself,' by Stewart Emery - subsequently I went on to attend workshops based on the author's model;

- 'The Rapids of Change', by Robert Theobald;

- 'An Incomplete Guide to the Future', 'Higher Creativity' & 'Global Mind Change', (+ 2 audios, 'Insight into the New Age' & 'Create Your Future'), by Willis Harman;

- 'Creativity in Business', by Michael Ray;

- 'Your High Performance Business Brain', by Dudley Lynch;

- 'Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich', by Duane Elgin;

- 'Critical Path', by R Buckminster Fuller;

- 'Mechanism of Mind', & 'Lateral Thinking for Management', by Edward de bono;

Naturally, along the way, I had also stumbled on to the esoteric writings of Robert Anton Wilson & Timothy Leary at one end of the spectrum, & the unconventional writings of Fritjof Capra, James Lovelock & Rupert Sheldrake at the other end. I must admit that their intellectual materials were not easy stuff to digest.

Besides the foregoing books (of course, there were many other influential books), I had also read & subscribed to many magazines, like 'Body Mind Spirit', 'East-West Journal', 'Yoga Journal', 'NaPRA Review', 'New Age' (now renamed as 'Body & Soul'), 'OMNI Magazine', & 'Utne Reader', as well as zines like 'Fact Sheet Five', 'Boing Boing'.

I had also got hold of the many series of the inspiring 'Whole Earth Catalog' as well as the wild 'Loompanics Catalog', which gave me ready access to a whole lot of other interesting stuff.

I had also procured many excellent audio/video resources from the 'New Dimensions Network' (associated with Michael Toms) & 'Thinking Allowed Productions' (associated with Jeffrey Mishlove).

Besides IONS, I had also joined several other institutions, among others, like the 'Association for Research & Enlightenment' (ARE), the 'Context Institute', the 'Intuition Network', the 'Monroe Institute' (pioneer in Hemi-Sync technology), the 'Society for Accelerated Learning & Teaching' (SALT, now known as the 'International Alliance for Learning' or IAL), the 'Society for Effective & Affective Learning' (SEAL) in UK, & the 'World Future Society' (WFS) to pursue my personal interests fueled ardently by my curiosity streak.

I had often used their many resource guides &/or catalogs as further wayfinding tools.

To ensure that I stayed sane all the time & that I didn't go berserk, I had even subscribed to newsletters from the 'Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal' or 'CSICOP'. Despite their seemingly controversial investigation methods, I had also in fact acquired & read many of the books written by CSICOP founding members, e.g. James Randi, Michael Shermer, just to name a few.

I had even experimented with a gamut of different light & sound machines, or better known as brain synthesisers, among many other devices.

'Tools for Explorations' was my regular haunt, on paper of course.

As a matter of fact, I had learned tremendously from the foregoing myriad resources, which later gave me the wonderful opportunity to set up my own small, but unique, retail store, aptly called 'The Brain Resource' at Beach Road during the early nineties.

This was followed, at the same time, by establishing a small strategy consulting business, under the trade name of 'Optimum Performance Technologies'.

Under this umbrella, I had also designed, developed & conducted many training workshops for managers, professionals & managers as well as even kids & teens.

I had even published & edited a 16-page newsletter, 'Left Brain/Right Newsletter', which went on circulation, without any advertising, for about two years.

I was then well aware that many people, mostly out of ignorance, just loved to throw spanners at the various new-agey stuff from the fringes.

For me, even though I read about them; that didn't mean I would fully subscribe to the beliefs or teachings associated with them. My principal concern was what would work for me & what would add value to my life, professionally & personally.

In terms of learning &/or knowledge acquisition, I would consider my indulgences from the late seventies & throughout the eighties as exploratory excursions into the fringes.

In the same vein, I would consider my exploits throughout the nineties as idea syntheses & project experimentations, with all the knowledge I had gained from exploring the fringes.

My training workshops were, in reality, my test beds or prototyping trials.

The 21st century, from my personal perspective, is my time for consolidation & reflection.

Writing this weblog allows me to consolidate, reflect on & share with readers what I had learned.


Friday, May 9, 2008


What is my best & how do I know when I am at my best?


I found this interesting information nugget on the net while surfing the net today.

"After studying scores of great thinkers like Leonardo Da Vinci, I think I've stumbled upon what really set them apart from the rest of the folks living (& thinking) at the same time.

It's remarkably simple. They learned how to entertain a thought.

Aristotle said:

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

Hmmm. To entertain a thought without accepting it . . . "

Go to this link to get hold of the nugget. It's actually a superb article.

It has been written by Maya Talisman Frost, known as 'The Mind Masseuse' in Portland, Oregon. She runs the Real-World Mindfulness Training outfit as well as teaches fun & effective eyes-wide-open alternatives to meditation.


“When you CHANGE your THINKING, you CHANGE your BELIEFS.
When you CHANGE your PERFORMANCE, you CHANGE your LIFE.”

(John Maxwell)


As usual today, my gym buddy & I, after our regular gym practice at the Jurong East Sports Centre, popped into the Yuhua Village Market in Jurong East for our drinks & snacks.

In addition to celebrating life, paraphrasing my gym buddy, we always take the opportunity to talk about a gamut of worthwhile stuff, like health, longevity, optimum nutrition & peak performance.

Our conversation somehow strayed into the subject of idle brains.

My gym buddy has a full schedule to keep himself busy for the whole week.

Every morning from Mondays to Fridays is spent in the gym with me. Besides this disciplined routine, he has scheduled strength training sessions with his personal trainer at the Singapore Recreation Club (SRC), twice a week.

After the gym, followed by drinks &/or snacks with me, he then returns home to take a short nap, before starting his electrical installation licensing rounds between 2 & 4.30 pm roughly.

[Much of the project work in his electrical consulting business has already been taken care of by his eldest son.]

In the evenings, seven days a week, ranging from 1 to sometimes 3 hours, he has scheduled dancing routines in several community clubs as well as at SRC. His latest craze is fine-tuning his body techniques as well as rock & roll footwork.

His balance waking hours are spent in reading (he is an avid reader like me), watching movies (about once a week with me), & talking shop in the neighbourhood coffee shops, again with me. Occasionally, he goes karaoke with his own group of buddies.

As for me, my regular routine is gym practice in the morning hours, from Mondays to Fridays; blogging, reading, reviewing books, & surfing the net in the afternoons &/or evenings; watching selected news &/or movies &/or documentaries on cable television at night; social networking on the net as well as with the Wednesday Club; occasionally, window shopping with my wife at Jurong Point or IMM Jurong East during weekends.

Since I am out of the active consulting/training circuit, I only handle selected projects on a case-to-case or referral basis.

Whenever my gym buddy & I meet, we often talk about stuff we have read or come across or just simply exchanging ideas of mutual interest.

We often find our meetings useful, at least from the intellectual standpoint, as each of us come to share one idea, but leave the meeting with several hybrid ideas.

In fact, many of the exchanged ideas have been turned into interesting posts in my weblog.

We realise that, it is because we have something meaningful & productive to do with our lives that our brains are kept intellectually & physically alive.

My gym buddy also thinks that such regular disciplined routines & pow-wow help to keep him out of potential mischief.

Both of us have mutual & other friends around the same age. Unfortunately, to our dismay, we have found them to be in poor health or weak physical constitution, arising principally from their lethargic lifestyles.

One particular friend of ours, already retired for some years, wakes up only at about 2pm every day. He has his breakfast at 3pm; lunch around 7pm, & dinner at close to midnight.

He spends his time reading the papers & watching the stock market movements on television. Two or three times a week, he hangs out in karaoke lounges during the evenings.

In the past, he used to play badminton, but has since stopped because of physical weakness problems. Worst of all, he has a host of other medical symptoms.

To aggravate matters, he does not even own a hobby.

Whenever we meet up together, my gym buddy & I often feel very lucky that both of us are making intelligent choices with our own lifestyles.

We both know instinctively that the moment we stop pursuing a meaningful & productive lifestyle, our brains will gradually go into entropy.

The worst scenario is this: the idle brain becomes the devil's workshop!

I have read about the work of Dr Deepak Chopra, an Ayurvedic doctor, & Dr David Ingvar, a neuro-biologist, from the University of Lund in Sweden.

According to Dr Chopra, our brains process something like 60,000 thoughts on a daily basis during waking hours. Frankly, I don't know how he has come to conclude with this number. He added that much of these thoughts, about 95%, are generally about the same ones as yesterday's.

On the other hand, & according to Dr Ingvar, our brains often like to indulge in playing with mental scenarios inside our heads (more precisely, in our prefrontal lobes), when faced with a challenge or decision, to which we need to respond. His scientific term for the scenarios: 'memories of the future'. He gave a favourable-to-unfavourable-scenario ratio of 60:40 for a normal person.

Just imagine if you do not have something meaningful & productive to do in your life pursuits, your brains would be filled with idle thoughts or jam-packed with unfavourable scenarios.

According to Richard Bandler, the progenitor of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) technology, your brains follow the direction of your current dominant thoughts. The thoughts are then manifested into your physical actions.

It is pertinent for me to say this: in the tactical perspective, idle thoughts always produce idle results.

In other words, if you keep thinking the same idle thoughts over & over, you will keep getting the same idle results over & over, even though consciously that's not what you want.

Worst still, the idle thoughts may gradually degenerate into negative or even self-destructive, if this protracted affair is left unchecked.

Now, I really appreciate why MM Lee Kuan Yew believes so strongly about the dangers of retirement. He once said he did not want to spend the rest of his life staring at the four walls.

The adage, 'an idle brain becomes the devil's workshop', has some truth in reality.



Thursday, May 8, 2008


I recall the following sad story about 'The Wallenda Factor'.

About thirty years go, Karl Wallenda, patriarch of 'The Flying Wallendas', best-known high wire walkers in history, fell about 25m to his death while walking a cable strung between two hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In reflecting on the time around his death, his widow explained that during the months preceding the event, Karl transitioned from an attitude of confidence & courage, to one of fear & paranoia.

He morphed from being an aerial artist who lived to fly across the wire to a hesitant high-wire actor who was more concerned about the fear of falling.

This fear of falling or failing is today known as 'The Wallenda Factor'.

It refers to situations where the fear of failure overwhelms the joy of success.

For me, in an experiential way, fear is 'false evidence appearing real'.

Unfortunately, once we have started to adopt this frame of mind, the brain can't tell the difference. The brain treats the perceived belief as if it is real. The body then manifests the fear. Finally, everything stops because of the perceived fear.

I know of a lot of professional people, working in quiet desperation in the corporate world, & yearning to venture out, often hold back their dreams, purely on the account of the fear of having to leave their secured paycheck & fancy perks.

Conquering fear is one of the most important steps one can take in pursuing & realising one's dream.

When I first stepped out of the corporate world during the early nineties, after having spent twenty-four years in it, & ventured out on my own, fear was frankly with me, but I faced it head-on.

I didn't allow fear to hold me back from pursuing my dreams.

Not only the lingering fear I had to face, but also the incessant ridicule from associates & friends who thought I was really crazy to give up a well-paid job, & a company car with a chauffeur. Even my Catherine thought likewise.

I gave myself three years to make it on my own & didn't look back at all.

In fact, I was focusing more on what I needed to do to get my project running at full steam, then to sit down & worry about the lingering fear.

Of course, the first three years were horrendous, financially & emotionally, but I stood my ground, with the help & support of my Catherine eventually of course, & finally pulled through.

Likewise, just about five years before I ventured out of the corporate world, I was a slipped disc patient under Dr Chacha of the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre. I was scheduled to go for surgery on National Day in 1987.

I had to face up to my fears, especially when I realised that part of my central nervous system had to be turned into a playground for the orthopedic surgeon's scalpel.

You know what, luckily, I was more concerned about what I needed to do after I got out of the hospital. The surgery was the least of my worry. Please read my earlier post.

In retrospect, I reckon fear is also the key to personal success, provided you know how to use it constructively.

In my two personal cases, it had forced me to develop a counter-move by switching my perception to what was important or matterful.

[Incidentally, 'Fear is the Key' is also the title of one of my favourite thrillers from Alistair MacLean. It was made into a movie during the seventies bearing the same title & starring Barry Newman, John Vernon & Ben Kingsley.]


1) what is the best thing that can happen if I do this?

2) what is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?

3) what is the best thing that can happen if I don't do this?

4) what is the worst thing that can happen if I don't do this?

inspired by Dr Ben Carson, one of the world's top pediatric neurosurgeons & author of 'Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, & Live with Acceptable Risk';


Readers can go to this link to access the interactive computer module covering the 7 simulations which are linked to the contents of the classic book, 'Strategies for Creative Problem Solving', by Scott Fogler & Steve LeBlanc.

The simulations are designed to deepen your expertise with every stage of the problem-solving process.

In addition, there are Summary Notes, which tie in to important points in each chapter of the book.


According to Lisa M. Gables, CPA, Executive Director of the ASCP (American Society for Consultant Pharmacists) Foundation, writing in the 2005 Annual Report, there is no secret formula for success.

However, she believed there would be some common characteristics that, when considered together, contribute to success:

- Vision
- Passion
- Determination
- Discipline
- Courage
- Humility
- Patience
- Perspective


"Some measure their lives by days & years, Others by heart throbs, passion & tears; But the surest measure under the sun, Is what in your lifetime for others you have done."
(Ruth Smeltzer, who is a school nurse at Abraham Lincoln Elementary in Washington State; also an author & poet;)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


To answer the foregoing question, I like to draw readers' attention to an article, written by Carol Tice, a business & finance reporter, under the byline of 'Entrepreneur StartUps' in the website.

In the article, she offers expert advice on the thirty steps to get going in less than a month.

Here's the link to the full article.

[Prior to starting up my own small strategy consulting & retail store business, & right up to the early years of running the business during the nineties, I was a regular subscriber to the Entrepreneur magazine. I had often found their articles to be very relevant & highly informative.]


"You don't get results by solving problems, but by exploiting opportunities."

from John Naisbitt, one of the world's leading social forecasters & international best-selling author of books on megatrends; this particular mindset comes from his latest book, 'Mindset! Reset Your Thinking & See the Future'.

I particularly like his analogical story about 'the elephant in the boa constrictor'. In a nut shell, the 'Little Prince' was able to look at a child's drawing & see it for what it was, but adults were only able to interpret it as a drawing of a hat.

That's another excellent way to portray paradigms at work.

In his above-mentioned book, the author has hailed China as a shining example of where the foregoing mindset is being applied with astonishing effect.

"China has become a nation of opportunity seekers, trusting that any problem can be solved along the way. The competitive advantage of today's China, as a nation & as a people, is their willingness to adapt to what is necessary & beneficial," he added.


The following article on leading change initiatives, by Dr Stephen Harper, was written almost ten years ago & had first appeared in the May-June 1998 issue of 'Industrial Management'.

I have found a copy on the website.

To my personal delight, I thought its exhortations are still very relevant today.

Although it was written from an organisational perspective, the realities & guidelines are applicable, with a little bit of ingenuity & imagination, in the personal context.

In fact, I particularly like the author's metaphor of the toll booth at the entrance to the on ram of the 21st century. According to him, not all of us would be able to pass through the toll booth because it required a new type of currency - change leadership!

I am reproducing the gist on realities & guidelines in this post as follow:

1) Change isn't just a set of tools and techniques; it's a state of mind;

2) Change isn't just about fixing yesterday's mistakes; it's about preparing for a new tomorrow;

3) Change isn't about surviving; it's about thriving;

4) Change isn't just about the bottom line; it also means focusing on the "top line";

5) Change isn't just about putting out fires; it's about blazing new trails;

6) Change need not be the enemy; it can be an ally;

7) Change isn't about creating fuzzy mission statements; it's about creating a compelling vision;

8) Change isn't about developing detailed plans; it's about "futuring";

9) Change isn't about competing in the future; it's about creating the future;

10) Change isn't about incrementalism; it's about quantum advances;

11) Leading change must be a way of life;

12) Leading change can't be commanded; it requires commitment from all involved;

13) Leading change involves avoiding the "here today, gone tomorrow" syndrome;

14) Leading change is a three-step process;

15) Leading change involves avoiding the "boiled frog" syndrome;

16) Leading change must establish relevance;

17) Leading change means asking the right questions;

18) Leading change means casting off the 20th century;

19) Leading change means creating early victories;

20) Leading change means building coalitions;

21) Leading change means recognizing the "paradox of success";

22) Leading change involves creating a learning organization;

23) Leading change must recognize the political side of organizational transformation;

24) Leading change is about changing oneself;

Readers can go to this link to read the article in its entirety.


"We used to think that the manager's job was to know all the answers. But the new manager ought to know the
questions, to be concerned about them & involve others in finding answers. Today's manager needs to be more of a facilitator - someone skilled in eliciting answers from others - sometimes from people who do not even know what they know."

(John Naisbitt & Patricia Aburdene; considered among the world's leading social forecasters; & also, international best-selling authors of books on megatrends;)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008




The black & white photo in this post was most probably taken in 1965.

It captured all my room-mates, while we were staying at the nearby all-boy hostel of the Sekolah Menengah Teknik (Technical Institute) in Kuala Lumpur. It was often known as T.I. for short.

The institute was located on Jalan Kolam Ayer, off the 3rd mile, Jalan Ipoh in the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

That area just outside the institute was a notorious hangout for gangsters as well as pickpockets.

In the photo, the tallest guy standing in the back row is yours truly.

The bespectacled guy sitting in the front row, on the right-hand side, is now my gym buddy, Yeo Chin Yin.

I was then doing the mechanical engineering craft practice, while he was doing the electrical engineering craft practice.

Both my gym buddy & I had apparently lost touch with all the other room-mates.

All of us were in the express stream. The course was meant to be three years, but those students who did well in the first year exam were allowed to enter the express stream, which automatically cut short the curriculum by one year.

We really had a great time staying & studying together, despite the fact that four, including my gym buddy, (all from Chinese schools) came from the town of Malacca; one from Kuala Lumpur; yours truly from Yong Peng, Johor.

Of course, we had our fair share of childish pranks & petty quarrels, just like most teenagers, & generally over inconsequential matters.

All hostelites were provided with three hearty meals daily in a central dining area, served by Muslim caterers. So, pork was forbidden, but there were always a few jokers who simply loved to break the rules. Of course, they got caught & then whacked by the hostel master.

Likewise, bath was also communal. So, some of the guys who were less endowed for some reasons often chose to take their baths at midnight or later.

Practically, twice or thrice a week, we often sneaked out of the hostel at late night to satisfy our craving for 'cha kway teow' (a colloquial term for fried white noodles) at the hawker stall along Jalan Ipoh.

One of the sweetest memories from my T.I. days, other than the practice-oriented studies & craft work, was the opportunity to hitch-hike during some of the semester holidays to & fro home i.e. Kuala Lumpur/Yong Peng/Kuala Lumpur.

It was quite fun most of the time, especially when luck was on my side, but required a lot of legwork under the natural elements on the highway at other unlucky times.

At other normal times, I reluctantly took the slow coach: Malaysian Railways.


As I was reading the book, '8 Keys to Self Leadership: From Awareness to Action' by Dario Nardi, I was intrigued by a very simple viewing exercise in the first chapter.

There was this picture showing some apples in the foreground, a basket of apples & an apple tree in the background.

This simple exercise suddenly reaffirmed something in my mind about creativity. More precisely, our daily mental agenda.

When we look around at the world around us, especially when we pay attention to the physical environment, we tend to look at what is there.

In other words, our mental agenda is "What is?".

In this case, we see the apples, the apples in the basket & the apple tree as shown in their entirety in the picture.

We may even get down to specific details, & start to look at attributes of each item in the picture.

However, if we switch our mental agenda from "What is?" to "What might be?", we are likely to move further & start looking at the larger picture beyond what is in the picture.

More specifically, we start to look at some form of patterns or maybe even inter-relationships in the picture.

We are mostly likely to get on with imagining & linking ideas to other possible situations.

Along the way, we may even ask some questions, like 'what does this represents or that means?', 'What does this leads me to?' 'What's the point here?'

Cognitively speaking, there are two worlds in all of us: the external world & the internal world.

The external world consists of what we can sense: things, people, events, situations, ideas, actions, etc., out there.

The internal world consists of our thoughts, feelings, memories & of course, imagination, which also go along with our biases, expectations, fears, etc.

The way I see it, our mental agenda determines how we can link up our internal world more efficiently with the external world & vice versa.

Creative people or people with entrepreneurial flair tend to have this propensity to do fast linkages or connections. More importantly, juxtapositions.

They always think of 'what might be'?

Best of all, they always play with their imagination.

My point is this: by switching our mental agenda, from 'what is?' to 'what might be?', we can readily open up ourselves to new innovative possibilities.

So, the secret of creativity is actually no secret: we just have to be flexible & nimble in our mental agenda. Got it?


"Life is the only act that we are required to practise without preparation; & without being allowed the preliminary trials, the failures & botches, that are essential for training."

(Lewis Mumford, 1895-1990, an American architectural critic, urban planner, & historian who analyzed the effects of technology & urbanization on human societies throughout history; often considered as one of the great minds of the twentieth century;)


Today, while hanging out around the counter of the receptionist in the ClubFitt Gym of the Jurong East Sports Centre, I just happened to pick up a post card.

It advertised the Adidas Sundown Marathon 2008 scheduled for 31st May 2008 at 8.30pm till midnight.

It has been promoted as Singapore's first unique night running event.

Probably, the card had been there for quite a while, but I had not noticed it earlier.

Since I was not a marathon runner, something else on the card piqued my personal interest.

It was this inspiring quotation from a Fabian William:

"The person to beat is not in front, but inside."
I reckon this pertinent quote applies not only to all marathon runners, but is readily applicable to all of us running in the marathon of life.

In the marathon of life, we don't have to better than any one else; we just have to be better than our self.

[More information about the night running event can be found at this link.]

Monday, May 5, 2008


What do I mean by inner beauty?

For me, inner beauty refers to the intrinsic features or internal qualities inside a person.

Something of which one can sense or feel only during or from a personal interaction with the particular person.

Some good examples of such features or qualities are: kindness, frankness, sense of humour, intelligence, honesty, to name a few.

Outer beauty, in contrast, refers to, in the simplest terms, the physical appearance or attractiveness of a person.

Unlike outer beauty, which is immediately apparent to the casual observer, inner beauty can only be fully appreciated through a social interaction.

Generally, it takes some time for the inner beauty of a person to make an impact. But when it does, its effects are wide reaching.

Often, when we have come to appreciate some one's inner beauty, we begin to see the person through new eyes.

I had met my late first wife, Catherine, under such circumstances, so to speak.

She was a young stenographer on a temporary assignment from a local employment agency to work at the Singapore Design & Drafting Office in Buhler Brothers Engineering Works, Switzerland, where I was working as a mechanical draftsman.

That was 1967 or 1968. We were both 19 or 20.

She had to transcribe oral readings of my Swiss bosses from a recording machine, which somehow did not work properly. Also, the recordings weren't too clear for her because of a whole gamut of technical terms. She was struggling with it, & noticing her, I went forward to help her.

Naturally, I plucked some courage to ask her for a date a few times, but was unsuccessful.

It was about a few weeks after she had completed her assignment that I finally managed to secure a date with her.

We went for our first date: an afternoon show, 'The Mercenaries', starring Robert Taylor & Jim Brown, at the old Orchard Cinema. We had some soft drinks at the nearby hawker stalls along the old Koek Lane.

Frankly speaking, at that time, I would consider myself quite a socially inept young professional.

I was often dressed in light but plain-coloured, short-sleeved cotton shirts, with dark-coloured relatively baggy pants. The shirts were most of the time tucked out.

In those days, my favourite shirt brands were Lifting or Crocodile or 3Rifles from Chinatown; shoe brand, Bata, available from the Panasonic Gallery near the old Capitol Cinema.

After a few dates later, I learned from Catherine that her first impression of me was that I had looked relatively "kayu" (a colloquial term for "a piece of wood").

According to her, I had also dressed up more like a country pumpkin. [She was absolutely right. Although I was born in Singapore, I grew up in Yong Peng, Johor, Malaysia. During the fifties, my home-town was, in fact, designated as a fortified village, during the peak of the communist insurgency in Malaysia. My third elder brother was recruited into the Home Guards, under the British counter-insurgency forces.]

I also learned that my fellow colleagues in the office had made unsuccessful attempts to date her.
At that time, there were four draftsmen in the office, & three of us, including yours truly, were bachelors. From my perspective, my other two unmarried colleagues were a few years my senior; physically more handsome; & socially more chatty than me.

I then asked her what had given me that extra edge: she said that I had looked much older - she had in fact make a guesstimate of my age at 29 or 30; I also had a very serious disposition - the sober-minded, no-nonsense type, with sort of an honest face;

Looking back, I reckon she had sensed or felt [generally, most women possess this intuitive sense] my inner beauty from the beginning.


"Take what you do in this life seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously."

(Mark Sanborn, President of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business & in life; also internationally known speaker & best selling author of 'High Impact Leadership' training videos;)


I am adding a link here to my recent book review of a newly released book, entitled 'The Joys & Pains of Growing Up', by a young author, Peter Lau, in my other weblog, 'The StudySmart Smorgasbord'.

In the review, I had taken the opportunity to make a brief comparison with Adam Khoo's 'I'm Gifted, so Are You!', which I had reviewed earlier in this weblog.

Both Peter Lau & Adam Khoo had been graduates from the SuperTeen Holiday Camp, under the personal tutelage of Dr Ernest Wong, the pioneer of accelerated learning & peak performance in this part of the world.

I would strongly urge parents & guardians to buy this book as a gift for their growing &/or teenaged children.

If you &/or your children have already read Adam's book, this book will be an excellent complementary reading.


Good News!

According to Frank Hu, epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, the single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong benefits of physical & emotional well being, is exercise, even for people beset with chronic health problems.

This reaffirms the knowledge that exercise can lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, dementia, osteoporosis, gallstones, falls, erectile dysfunction, peripheral vascular disease & 12 kinds of cancer.

According to Marilyn Moffat, a professor of physical therapy at New York University & co-author of the book, 'Age Defying Fitness', even for people who are always tired or in pain or have trouble breathing as in the case of suffering from chronic ailments like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, congestive heart failure or osteoarthritis, learning how to exercise safely can also improve their health & quality of life.

"The goal is to do as much physical activity as your body lets you do & rest when you need to rest," she said.

It isn't just the body that benefits from exercise. Breaking a sweat helps the mind overcome problems such as depression & low self-esteem, too.

According to Natalie Digate Muth, dietitian & personal trainer, mastering a new skill increases one's sense of worth - the social contact that exercise often brings improves mood & endorphins released during exercise improve well-being.

No wonder, to my gym buddy, every physical workout in the gym is like having a quick endorphin boost!

[Source: New York Times]

Sunday, May 4, 2008


The following reading list is actually a reproduction of my latest listmania on the Amazon website.

I have specifically selected the books to help readers develop a working understanding about our acquired blind spots, & also to develop the necessary skill sets to detect & remove them through awareness, experimenting, analysis & feedback.

1. 'Business Blindspots: Replacing Your Company's Entrenched & Outdated Myths, Beliefs & Assumptions With the Realities of Today's Markets', by Benjamin Gilad;

2. 'Discover Your Blind Spots: How to Stop Repeating Everyday Business Mistakes', by Bob Smith;

3. 'BlindSpots: Stop Repeating Mistakes That Mess Up Your Love Life, Career, Finances, Marriage, & Happiness', by Steven Simring;

4. 'Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, & Hurtful Acts', by Carol Tavris;

5. 'Blind Spots: Achieve Success by Seeing What You Can't See', by Claudia Shelton;

6. 'The Thing in the Bushes : Turning Organizational Blind Spots into Competitive Advantage', by Kevin Graham Ford;

7. 'Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking', by Thomas Kida;

8. 'Blindsided: How to Spot the Next Breakthrough That Will Change Your Business', by Jim Harris;

9. 'Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas', by James Adams;

10. 'Wide-Angle Vision: Beat Your Competition by Focusing on Fringe Competitors, Lost Customers, & Rogue Employees', by Wayne Burkan;

11. 'Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future', by Joel Arthur Barker;

12. 'Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company', by George Day;

13. 'Leadership Blind Spots & What To Do About Them', by Karen Blakeley;

14. 'Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges', by C otto Scharmer;

The foregoing reading list is essentially a quick update of my earlier listmania entitled 'Business Blindspots, Illusions, Mindsets & Paradigms' on the Amazon website.


"It's not what you don't know that hurts you, it's what you know that just ain't so."

(Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910, better known by the pen name of 'Mark Twain'; he was an American writer, most noted for his great novels, 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn', & 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'; also known for his many inspiring quotations;)


I have been inspired to write this post after reading a newly published business book, entitled 'Secrets to Dominate Your Niche', by Thomas Fernandez & Sant Qui.

Essentially, the book traced the entrepreneurial success of a local Singapore company, PestBusters Pte Ltd.

At the same time, it shared the many differentiating ideas, which the company had practised or put to work to enable it to dominate 95% of the highly competitive high-end market of the pest control industry.

For me, the real-world anecdotes & examples from the book were priceless, not necessary for marketers & entrepreneurs, but for professionals & managers who plan to outwit, outsell & outperform the competition.

I strongly recommend reading the book.

Nevertheless, I am writing this post on the same aspect, but from my own perspective & in a different vein.

During the fifties & early sixties, when I was growing up in Yong Peng, Johor, Malaysia, I was pretty good in drawing & sketching in my school work as well as part of my recreational activities.

For some strange reasons, I had possessed the knack for the quick visualisation of objects, people & nature on my drawing blocks.

Upon finishing my Form III, & partly due to my early impressionable influences from the motor repair garage located next to my home, I dreamed of becoming an engineer.

So, I chose to enrol myself, after seeing an advertisement at my school, in a 3-year mechanical engineering craft practice course at the Sekolah Menengak Teknik (Technical Institute) in Kuala Lumpur.

My parents, were worried like hell, as that would be the first time I would be away from home on my own. They reluctantly agreed to my new academic venture.

Fortunately, I was able to convince three of my hometown classmates to join me.

Besides practical work in machine tooling, sheet metal work & welding, & also theodolite surveying, I excelled in technical drawing & drafting.

After the first year, I was transferred to the Express class, which to my personal delight, actually cut off one year from the original three year course. I even scored a Distinction during my final year graduating examination, equivalent to the 'O' Levels in Singapore.

I was then faced with two study choices: to proceed to the Technical Institute in Penang to do the mandatory two years at Form 6 level, or to the Technical College in Kuala Lumpur.

It was around this time, that Malaysia & Singapore were at logger-heads with each other.

Since I was born in Singapore but brought up in Malaysia, I was encouraged by my elder brothers & sisters to - firstly, to relinquish my pink identity card in Malaysia & secondly, to opt for the pink identity card in Singapore.

Looking back, I am sure glad of my eventual decision to return to Singapore to join the Singapore Polytechnic to continue my engineering education: a 3-year full-time technician mechanical engineering course, diploma level.

During my first year, I was fully exempted from all technical drawing & drafting classes by my Polytechnic lecturer, Mr Nagalingam, who was very impressed with my initial output in class from day one.

After the first year, I was already yearning to get some real-world experience in technical drawing & drafting. I saw an ad - & immediately applied - for a mechanical draftsman from Buhler Brothers Engineering Works.

Despite the total lack of professional working experience, but armed with a good testimonial from Mr Nagalingam (many thanks to you, once again!), I managed to clinch the job. I had already talked about it in an earlier post.

After two years, I felt the itch to move on to explore some sales & marketing exposure. I saw an ad from the long-established German trading firm, Behn Meyer & Co Pte Ltd. They were looking for a trainee Chemical Executive.

I applied for the job, but I was recruited to work in the Engineering Division as a trainee executive. Apparently, the then Managing Director, the late Mr Heinz Waetcke, had spotted something in my resume.

The late Mr Waetcke had appointed me to be responsible for the design, sales & marketing of mobile storage systems for offices, banks, factories & warehouses. The product was the Brownbuilt Compactus systems from Australia.

My job involved the designing & supervising of site erection, in addition to sales & marketing.

I did very well in my new job as I was able to demonstrate my design & drafting prowess. Selling & marketing skills were picked up on the job, along the way.

In most instances, I had also to work closely with architects & structural engineers to ensure that structural floor loading was adequate to support the mobile storage systems.

A few years into the job, & more specifically, for a job well done, I was sent to Melbourne & Sydney for 4-weeks' factory training with Brownbuilt Ltd., a subsidiary of the BHP (Broken Hill Proprietary) Group.

The Australian principals were often very impressed with my meticulously prepared layout drawings as the mobile storage systems were custom-engineered to fit into given floor spaces of my clients.

Towards the end of the seventies, I was given added responsibility to take care of the sales & marketing, as well as supervising of erection & servicing of escalators from O & K Orenstein & Koppel AG, West Germany.

As with most M & E works in commercial buildings, I had to work closely with architects on project planning & scheduling.

To my personal delight, I was also sent to the German factory in Hattingen & Dortmund for 4-weeks' training in site erection & after-sales support.

Upon my return, I was promoted to Deputy Divisional Manager of the Engineering Division.

I certainly recall my first few escalator erection jobs: the now-defunct Sea View Hotel in Katong, Peninsula Plaza (outdoor escalators), & a shopping complex in Surabaya, Indonesia.

One year later, I assumed full control of the division as Divisional Manager after much ambivalence, because I had always thought I was more of a "specialist" rather than a "manager". The late Mr Waetcke had thought otherwise. I was then only thirty years old.

I spent a total of eleven years at Behn Meyer & Co Pte Ltd. I had learned a lot from the late Mr Waetcke, a very disciplined, sharp-minded, no-nonsense, results-oriented professional.

I left the company during the early eighties to join the UMW group as Marketing Manager. The late Mr Waetcke had even wrote me a two-page testimonial - unparalleled in the company history, according to his secretary, Ms Helen Boey - which was instrumental in convincing Mr Denis Chia, then Managing Director of UMW Group in Singapore, to bring me on board.

Looking back at all the years that I have just described, I now realised that I had unconsciously dominated my niche or niche craft from a young age - visualising, drawing, design & drafting, which had paved the way for my professional success.

[to be continued]


According to the book, 'The Prepared Mind of a Leader : Eight Skills Leaders Use to Innovate, Make Decisions, & Solve Problems' by Bill Welter & Jean Egmon, there are 8 fundamental skills that define the leader with a prepared mind:

1) Observing:

- seeing beyond the obvious;

- searching out confirming & more importantly, non-confirming information about our world view;

- scanning for environmental trends & anticipating changes to our business;

- learning the early warning signs for our operation & looking out for them;

2) Reasoning:

- moving from the known to the undetermined;

- clearly explaining why we are following a course of action;

- challenging & testing all our assumptions;

- drawing cause & effect diagrams;

3) Imagining:

- envisioning the future before it arrives;

- visualising new ideas for our company's policies & practices;

- thinking of our product or service in a new category;

- thinking of new combinations;

4) Challenging:

- pushing for higher & deeper thinking;

- questioning our organization's assumptions & testing their validity;

- having a "devil's advocate" on our team;

- practising asking "Why?" five times when told we need to do something;

5) Deciding:

- Choosing with consequences in mind;

- making or influencing decisions that will propel our action to progress;

- using checklists (like an airline pilot);

- keeping a scorecard of our decisions & looking for ways to improve;

6) Learning:

- keeping a developmental or growth mindset;

- mastering the information we need to keep us moving forward;

- reading widely, including those covering the fringes;

- always having a "personal research question" to keep us engaged;

7) Enabling:

- exercising leadership from the outside in;

- offering the people around us the knowledge, means, & opportunities to progress;

- teaching or coaching others across all levels;

- providing learning opportunities for others;

8) Reflecting:

- looking backward, forward, & inward;

- investing time thinking about trade-offs & the consequences of those trade-offs that result from our decisions;

- writing journals on a regular basis;

- performing after-action reviews with our team;

The two authors argued that mastering these 8 skills sets will equip us with the mental preparedness or readiness to deal with the four essential components in our job during turbulent times:

1) to sense the changes happening around us & our organization;

2) to make sense of those changes;

3) to decide on a course of action; &

4) to get the entire organization to act proactively;

The often-quoted response from Louis Pasteur:

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”

seems apt for our purpose.

[More information about the book is available at this link.]