Saturday, May 31, 2008


"Granting yourself the opportunity of a fresh perspective on a regular basis is fundamental to your creative health."

Mary McNeil, a life coach, with her own coaching outfit, 'Create a Space', in UK;

According to her, "the most straightforward way to get a different perspective . . . is to go somewhere that’s not part of your normal, everyday routine.

By positioning yourself physically & geographically in a different place, you can access different mental & emotional perspectives too.

This is often what happens when you go on holiday – after a day or two you begin to see the challenges you had when you left home as somehow separate from your holiday self.

The physical distance enables you to gain an emotional distance too. And with the emotional distance comes the opportunity to see the whole situation from a new mental perspective, offering the opportunity to come up with innovatively different possibilities."

She offers a surprisingly effective & very simple exercise you can experiment with . . .

"Sometime in the next few days when you're in your car on an everyday journey that you know well, stop the car in the middle of the route.

Stop somewhere you wouldn't normally stop, making sure it's a safe place to park the car, of course!

Then get out of your car & look. Really look.

What do you notice from your new, stationary perspective?

And what happens when you bring more than just your sense of sight into play?

Use all your senses. Now what do you notice?"

She sums up:

"So . . . granting yourself a fresh perspective can be engineered very simply in an environmental context.

All that's required is that you either position yourself somewhere entirely new, somewhere you've never set foot before.

Or that you take the time to be consciously alive in a place you know so well that you've stopped being truly aware of it."

My own experience is this: by granting yourself the opportunity of a fresh perspective on a regular basis, you are injecting yourself the zest for mindfulness.

In line with the adage, as well as in resonance with the brilliant work of two scientists, Dr Ellen Langer & Dr Marian Diamond, once your mind is mindful & expansive, it is less likely to return to its original dimensions.


I have just thought of highlighting one pragmatic concept from the work of Robert Ringer, who happens to be one of my favourite authors on personal mastery.

He is an acclaimed author of 7 books, but I have acquired & read only three of them (no specific reasons as to why), namely:

- Winning Through Intimidation;

- Looking Out for #1;

- Million Dollar Habits;

One of the most productive learning experience I get out of reading his works is putting his profound insights, drawn mostly from first-hand accounts of his own trials & tribulations as a professional, to work in my own life.

I have actually read the first book during the late seventies or maybe early eighties. In fact, I have reread the book several times.

In that book, he has introduced an interesting & yet pragmatic concept called the Leapfrog Theory.

According to him, the Leapfrog Theory states that "a person has no legal or moral obligation, or for that matter, logical reason to work his way up through the ranks."

"It says, in fact, that every person has the inherent right to "self-proclaim" - to announce, at any time he chooses, that he is on any level he chooses to be."

"The quickest way to the top is not by fighting your way through the pack; the quickest way is to leapfrog over the pack & simply take it upon yourself to proclaim that you're above it.

Regardless of what any one tells you, you do have the right to self proclamation."

Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

At the time I had read it, I took it to mean that I could make a quantum leap in my life by cutting short the learning curve, as long as I still strongly believe in my intention or aspiration.

My thinking about this theory hasn't changed. In fact, it has worked for me in many ways.

What I am doing today - doing what I love & loving what I do - is the physical manifestation of this theory.

Going back to the meaning I have entertained earlier, I wish to add that sustaining my intention calls for, firstly:

- a positive mindset: believing in myself & trusting myself i.e. my abilities, talents, & skills;

& secondly:

- a proactive mentality: it's taking charge of my life & doing what it takes to bring my original intention to fruition;

What follows then is a determined & concerted effort to build up the necessary knowledge & competencies to sustain my final approach to making the dreams come true.

Frankly, it's hard work.


“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day & night to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; & never stop fighting.”

(E.E. Cummings, 1894-1962, an American poet, painter, essayist, author, & playwright; his body of work encompasses more than 900 poems, on top of several plays, essays, drawings, sketches, & paintings, as well as two novels;)


With the help of the Amazon Online Reader, I have jotted down the following tools from the book, 'The Top 10 Everyday Tools for Strategic Thinking-Strategic Thinking Handbook', by Stephen Haines. I haven't read the book.

The tools are:

#1 Desired Outcomes;

#2 Environmental Scanning;

#3 Backwards Thinking;

#4 Feedback or Regular Check-ups;

#5 Helicopter View;

#6 Booster Shots;

#7 Operational Flexibility;

#8 A Web of Relationships;

#9 Root Causes;

#10 Simplicity;

Like me, I am sure readers can easily figure out the operating aspects of the foregoing strategic thinking tools without any further elaboration.

Of course, if you want to, you can always get hold of the book to read.

There's another alternative: You can use the Amazon Online Reader to get what you need. It's cumbersome, but maybe worth your while!

[Readers can also visit this link for more information about the author, his consulting work & other stuff.]

Friday, May 30, 2008


I like to define an 'eureka moment' as a 'sudden flash of insight' - especially it comes when I am in the most relaxed state of mind, arising from probably doing nothing or something unrelated to work.

Most readers are probably familiar with the well-told story about Archimedes & his bath tub, while pondering over the authenticity of the king's new crown.

The moment he got his 'eureka moment', he ran around naked through the public streets, according to the story.

I don't think we need to emulate his antics.

I often get my 'eureka moment' while taking a afternoon shower after my gym work, & just exercising on the treadmill or elliptical machine in the gym.

From my personal experience, I reckon I can pin down, for the purpose of deliberation, at least five conditions that are necessary in order to help one in engendering more opportunities for 'eureka moment'.

Just to inject a little bit of excitment here, I like to call them 'secrets of eureka moments'.

I remember Edward de bono often likes to use the term 'provoking insight' to signify a deliberate action on our part to get new insights, because he doesn't really believe in 'sudden insight';

In a nut shell, the five conditions are:

1) Scouting the World:

- this means, moving my butts & keeping my eyes wide open;

- having an open mind to the world around me;

- taking in all the information, as they come into my consciousness, without any prejudging;

- looking at what's out there as well as what's changing in the landscape;

- exploring what's missing out there - smelling out the opportunities, so to speak;

- constantly maintaining a helicopter view, to gain a better & broader perspective;

2) Cultivating Interest:

- having an personal interest about the world at large - things, people, events, happenings, conversations, ideas, etc.;

- developing a curiosity streak;

- becoming inquisitive in all my pursuits;

- exploring daily conversations with people, especially strangers, to find out what they are thinking or worrying about;

- checking out the internet &/or reading widely as a means to sustaining one's interest about the world;

- paying attention to the big picture as well as the small details without getting stuck;

- in a way, this is priming my brain for active learning;

3) Playing with Possibilities:

- thinking or reflecting at the back of my mind about what I am looking at &/or what's already inside my head;

- playing with new possibilities or approaches from my observations;

- asking: what's interesting here? what's possible right now? how does this apply to me? what can I do with it? where's the money? what's next?

- looking at the web of relationships between things, people, events, happenings, conversations, ideas, with the view to explore further connections or other possibilities;

4) Venturing into the Unknown:

- for me, an 'unknown' is just something I haven't tried yet - this is as good as moving out of my comfort zone to explore what's possible in the stretch zone;

- so, preparing to explore untried as well as weird ideas;

- thinking about what I want to do, not about what I fear most;

- experimenting with new as well as raw or unrefined ideas;

- having the willingness & gumption to take calculated risks;

- thinking about worst-case, optimistic-case & realistic-case scenarios;

- challenging my status quo & assumptions;

- constantly seeking out new answers & solutions;

5) Harvesting Ideas:

- having a good system to capture ideas as well as to refine or develop them further for commercialisation;

- building an ideas bank - it's continually evolving & it readily serves as a jump point for further exploration;

- journalling for further deliberation - this is a good way to think critically about new ideas;

For me, having these five conditions in place, I am really creating a conducive environment for keeping my senior brain continually stimulated as well as intellectually enriched.

More 'eureka moments' in exchange for 'senior moments', how do you like that?


The rare black & white photo in this post captured a smiling pose during my pre-teen days in Yong Peng, Johor, West Malaysia. Most likely, I was 10 years old then, & chronologically, that was part of the fifties.

The small black vehicle I sat on was a Morris Minor, which probably belonged to my late father.

In the background, you could see the workshop/garage where I often hanged out after school &/or weekends.

It was this workshop/garage that actually inspired me to be an engineer. I was probably influenced in some way by all the grease monkeys, who were busy dismantling, cleaning & reassembling the crankshafts of transport lorries at the workshop/garage.

Interestingly, the foreman eventually married my fourth elder sister.

The photo was taken right in front of my house, or rather my late father's house.

It was quite a big house. The entire fenced-up area around my house was about the size of a foot ball field.

Sibling-wise, especially during Chinese New Year reunions, there were twelve of us. [Actually, there should be 13 of us, as my eldest brother, whom I had never met, was found missing during WWII.] At other times, my late eldest sister was based in Kuala Lumpur; three other elder sisters & one elder brother were based in Singapore.

The house was hand-built out of wooden beams & planks, with a zinc roof at the main section [one hall, 4 bedrooms], & an attap roof (made from dried leaves of coconut trees) in the annexe section [1 large bedroom, plus separate dining & kitchen areas]. There was also a common bathroom, plus a toilet with the old-fashioned bucket system at the rear of the annexe.

Part of the annexe section was used as a small warehouse.

Additionally, there was also a larger warehouse building next to my house.

[My late father was a rubber trader as well as a dealer in plantation & building materials. Other than the shop-house in the town area, most of the stocks were kept in the two warehouses. In fact, part of the workshop/garage was also used as a warehouse. My late father was also a shareholder in a transport company, which owned the workshop/garage.]

A small part of the warehouse was actually a living quarter, with two bedrooms & a dining/kitchen area in the rear. One of my uncles & his wife, & another elderly aunt were staying in it.

In retrospect, I had a scary memory of the warehouse. Once, my mum had locked me in it - in almost total darkness - because of my mischief.

Nonetheless, I have had very fond memories of my days of growing fun, plus some pains, in Yong Peng.

Besides hanging out in the workshop/garage, I had often spent my weekends & school holidays catching spiders in the neighbourhood, fashioning catapults out of Jambu tree branches, as well as hand-guns out of wood (that could fired burning matches, powered by rubber bands), playing hide-&-seek games &/or playing with a wide variety of fun stuff, including wooden sticks, swinging tops, granite &/or glass balls, &/or just hopping around on fancy squares drawn on earth surface.

My play buddies were mostly my younger siblings as well as nieces or nephews. Sometimes, kids from the neighbourhood also chipped in to share the fun.

Best of all, another favourite activity of mine was reading comics, mainly Beano & Dandy. Please read my earlier post.

During those days, it was actually the peak of the communist insurgency in Malaysia, & Yong Peng, my home town, was classified as a protected village.

I recall that regular house search by Fijian soldiers under the British security forces was a common phenomenon. In fact, my third brother was recruited into the Home Guards, who worked closely with them.

Food rationing was the order of the day. I recall I had to go to a designated rationing station every week with a metal pail to queue & pick up rice rations for my family. It went on for quite a while.

During those rather difficult years, I would say that most of the village constituents were rubber tappers, traders, mum-&-pop retailers, & government officials. The security authorities had used rationing as tool to curb food supplies to communist insurgents lurking in the nearby jungles from their communist sympathisers in the village.]

My primary school was only about 20-25 minutes' walk from home.

My first school, Yong Peng English School, was a mission school. During the first one or two years, the school was actually converted from a shop house, while the actual school was being built on a piece of land nearby. There was a small church located next to the school compound, separated by a road.

To me, the early years spent in school were really great time for learning as well as fun.

My first teacher was Mr Cherian, a fatso Indian guy, who later became the headmaster of the school.

To my dismay, he had some nasty habits: he loved to pinch mischievous students in the armpits, throw chalk dusters at students not paying attention in class, & swinging his cane at the butts of recalcitrant students. Personally, I had been the receiving end of all of his antics.

I recall it was in the later years, probably from Form I to III, that I had cycled to school, after my late father had given me a brand-new Raleigh bike. I consider that period as one of my happiest moments of growing up. I could cycle all over the village to visit my friends & classmates.

For me, even though I had hated tests & exams, I thought school was indeed pivotal in my life.

A few times a week, together with my school mates, we had our regular physical education sessions during the morning hours in a nearby foot ball field. That's the place, I sometimes hanged out with my classmates after school to dabble in foot ball or hockey.

Once a year, my school, in collaboration with a local Chinese school, organised a joint sports competition on the foot ball field. I recall I had participated in some of the athletic events.

Frankly, I wasn't good in sports. I have already written about my personal experiences in an earlier post.

Near the football field, there was the local theatre. That's the place I had really enjoyed going to watch the movies.

For a number of years, my late father had sent me & my younger brother to the English school in the morning, & to the Chinese school in the afternoon. This scheduling went on till the timing of both schools had clashed, & I later chose to stay with the English school till Form III.

I reckon my late father's primary objective was to keep both of us out of mischief.

Come to think of it, it was probably because of this schooling arrangement that I am bilingual today in English & Chinese.

For the second happiest moment, I believe it was when my late father gave me a watch, a Titus, with a mechanical winding mechanism.

The third happiest moment was when I was promoted to Head Prefect during the last two years in school.

The fourth & final happiest moment during my growing years was when I left Yong Peng to study at the Technical Institute (Sekolah Menengah Teknik), in Kuala Lumpur, in pursuit of my dreams to become an engineer. Please read my earlier post.


"The world belongs to those who cross many bridges in their imagination before others see even a single bridge."

~ Chinese proverb

Thursday, May 29, 2008


This afternoon I had an appointment at 2.30 pm with my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, at the National Library Board (NLB) Building on North Bridge Road.

We had often liked to meet at the ground floor cafe of the NLB Building, at least once in a blue moon, to touch base, since both of us are knowledge explorers.

Since I was an hour early, I naturally popped into the Kinokuniya Bookstore at Bugis Junction to browse at some new business books. The store was quite crowded as it was still lunchtime.

Whenever I am in the city area or any shopping malls, I simply love to pop into book stores, because I love books. I could never exit a book store without buying some books. Hence, I would call it an obsession of mine.

Today, in terms of new books, I was glad that I had a pretty good harvest. On top of that, I was given a 10% discount as I am also a privileged card holder.

Here is a list of the books I had bought today:

1) '2011 Trendspotting for the Next Decade', by Richard Laermer:

- I had read his earlier book, 'Trendspotting', a few years ago. Great stuff!

- For a quick snapshot, this book shows you the way to: read the signs; influence the trends; embrace new & reject stodgy; anticipate change; ask experts the right questions; seek out visionaries & snub fakers; separate trends from fads; use technology - for everything; cash in on being ahead of the competition;

2) 'The Rules of Victory: How to Transform Chaos & Conflict', by James Gimian & Barry Boyce;

- in a nut shell, it covers thinking about strategies from the Chinese art of war;

- what attracted me during the browsing was actually 'Chapter 3: The Big View - How the Sun Tzu teaches us to see the world';

3) 'Business Genius', by Peter Fisk;

- read about the author's earlier work, 'Marketing Genius', but has yet to acquire & read it;

- I am actually attracted by one single line from the back cover: "Seeing things differently is the foundation of genius."

4) 'What Got You Here Won't Get You There', by Marshall Goldsmith;

- this is my first book from this author, who seems to be highly revelled;

- I am actually attracted by by Section II & III of the book: 'The 20 habits that hold you back from the top' & 'How we can change for the better';

5) 'Increase Your Financial IQ: Get Smarter with Your Money', by Robert Kiyosaki;

- just curious to find what this maverick has to say in his latest book, even though this guy tends to possess a propensity for hyperboles;

The next two books are the works of local authors. Personally, I like to support local authors.

6) 'Success Secrets: Real Life Stories to Inspire & Motivate', by George Tan;

- on the surface, no ground-breaking or novel stuff, but his life skill model seems interesting;

7) 'Nurturing the Winner & Genius in Your Child', by Adam Khoo & Gary Lee;

- both authors are SuperTeen graduates & master trainers under the 'I am Gifted, So Are You' program;

- just curious to find out what new things they have to say about parenting as well as teen success;

I plan to write my reviews after reading the books. Please stay tuned!


I reckon it's quite easy to be a motivational trainer in Singapore. All it takes is reading a handful of motivational books &/or attend a couple of motivational seminars, locally or overseas, with some professional affiliations or accreditation.

Like what one motivational trainer once said: all you need is substance, sequencing & a lot of showmanship or theatrics.

On the other hand, to be a great or good motivational trainer is a totally different ball game. It takes concerted efforts to learn the game & also master the game in order to stay in the game.

Not only that, it also takes a strong dosage of personal integrity & self discipline on the part of the trainer to maintain a congruent position at all times.

When I first started my book store, aptly called The Brain Resource, during the early nineties, I did not envisaged that one of my immediate fringe benefits was the initiation of an informal "watering hole", so to speak, for trainers, managers & other professionals, who were my store customers, to meet.

My little shop was like a "one-stop place" for hanging out by trainers, besides offering them the wonderful opportunities of acquiring excellent reading materials & other resources on the brain, learning, creativity, innovation & peak performance.

In fact, I would add that more than half of my regular store customers were trainers as well as their participants.

The unintended "watering hole" eventually became my listening & observational post of conversational & behavioural patterns of these trainers.

From my personal observations over the years, I have noted that a lot of young people who dabble in neuro-linguistics or neuro-semantics often end up as certified trainers, rather than applying the soft skills in their own personal &/or professional lives in a consistent & congruent manner.

Training others is seemingly a quick way to generate lucrative revenue, with no or very low capital investment costs, & hence, the preferred choice.

There 's nothing inherently wrong with that end approach, except that many of these so-called NLP trainers, whom I know personally, apparently have a lot of psychological as well as emotional baggage, which they themselves are unable or maybe unwilling to resolve.

In other words, or to put it bluntly, these motivational trainers do their talk, but don't walk their talk.

There are also many others who simply prefer to pull a fast one on their unsuspecting customers.

Once a money-broker-turned-trainer, who had just completed the beginning phase of NLP training, started a 'How to be a Millionaire-in-Training' program with a few others in the loop.

He even advertised it with a small display stall in the annual book festival at the then World Trade Centre. As far as I know, he didn't get any hits.

In fact, something else, of a very strange nature, happened along the way: He had apparently been going round trying to borrow money from some of my other store customers.

The same guy had also enrolled in the 4-day PhotoReading program marketed & promoted by my company. After attending it, & without going through the requisite intensive instructor training in the United States, he started his own version of the accelerated reading program.

Many of his disgruntled participants came to me to complain about his program. As far as I knew then, he could not even apply the techniques he had learned in his own life.

A cocky young man in his late twenties, who had just got graduated as a barrister in UK, had started to moonshine as a trainer in creative thinking for real estate people.

One day, he came to me to discuss some joint business possibilities, & I suggested the idea of showcasing some of my books in his workshops. He suddenly retorted: what had my books to do with creativity?

I just realised to my dismay that he actually had not understood one of the most important principles of creativity - connecting disparate elements.

An accountant by training, & also one of the early Buzan-certified trainers in Singapore, ran a mind-mapping training as well as a software consultancy outfit dealing with modular accounting systems.

From some of his professional clients, who also happened to be my store customers, I had learned that he did not even apply mind mapping in his own professional work, & yet he went round teaching professionals as well as kids in the craft. This surprising information was later corroborated by another Buzan-certified Master Trainer.

There was also a young lady, who claimed to be a high-powered trainer in productivity circles, & yet she had never heard of accelerated learning, &/or using of Baroque/Classical music in training, as well as SCAMPER techniques.

Interestingly, I was attending an evening preview at one of the major hotels in town, in connection with a "trainerpreneur" program. The purveyor, also a store customer of mine at one point in time, was promoting his program in one of the function rooms.

In the adjacent function room of the same hotel, three young men in smart suits were also promoting their new "effective study skills" program to parents of young school kids.

Incidentally, I was told that the three young men (one of whom, a government scholar, also happened to be a store customer of mine at one point in time) had only recently graduated from the "trainerpreneur" program.

Not to my surprise, the three young men had disappeared from the marketplace after a very short stint, although the purveyor is still actively promoting his ware.

Once, my strategic partner wanted to recruit a few of the "trainerpreneur" graduates for his after-school projects. To his chagrin, he was appalled by the quality of their training, after a brief honeymoon period.

Once, I had a friend, a Master Trainer in neuro-linguistics, who seemingly had incessant communication problems with members of his own family.

I just wonder: Where's the rapport building, which is one of the hallmarks of neuro-linguistics?

There was also a Master Trainer in '7 Habits', who reportedly did not practise what she was trained for, e.g. how to balance her roles as a wife, a daughter-in-law, a mother & a working professional.

A cocky young trainer went on to make a great name for himself as one of Asia's top learning experts & success coaches.

In his personal weblog, he talked about three things he would help school teens to transform their lives by focusing on Learning Mastery, Personal Mastery & Relationship & Communication Mastery;

Under the third skill set, he outlined that he would teach the teens some very important values like respect, gratitude & responsibility.

I almost fell off the chair when I read what he wrote, because from my personal encounters with him, based on several specific events attestable by witnesses, he obviously did not walk his talk, primarily on account of his poor attitude of gratitude.

There were also a few unscrupulous Master Trainers from overseas who came to Singapore to set up "success academy" &/or "disciplined income acceleration" programs that eventually turned out to be dubious scams. Many of my good store customers, despite my frank advice, had ended up as wandering losers.

Interestingly, readers may also recall two recent court cases as reported in the local newspapers about two specific Master Trainers, one dabbling in "wealth creation", & the other in "stealth marketing", being sued by their participants &/or graduates for not delivering what they had promised at the beginning.

One last point: There are also so-called Master Trainers that blatantly hijack other people's intellectual creations without giving due credit.

For example, I have created a proprietary visual planning tool, drawing inspiration from the PERT Chart [from my corporate experience in project management], to help teens to chart out their life design & time-path.

It has come to my personal attention that this planning tool has been widely copied by two Master Trainers, without according the due credit to me.

In fact, one of them even had the audacity to show off the copied work with participants in the gallery of photos displayed on his corporate website.

I reckon my vantage point as explained earlier had given me the rare opportunity to be able to observe &/or to come across the greenhorns & black sheep in the training business.

It is pertinent to point out there are indeed many great & good motivational trainers out there, especially those who do their talk & walk their talk. I also have the opportunity to meet a few of them.

Unfortunately, the upbeat market dynamics are such that there will always be a bunch of greenhorns & black sheep which somehow will spoil the game, through the total lack of exercising personal integrity & congruency on their part & in their own lives, & sad to say, I have already met many of them.

On the other hand, if it is of any consolation, the old song, 'It's the Singer, not the Song', by the Rolling Stones, continues to reverberate in my mind as a constant reminder.


"With practice & focus, you can extend yourself far more than you ever believed possible. It's not the
mountain we conquer, but ourselves."

(Sir Edmund Hillary, 1919-2008, famed mountaineer from New Zealand, who was the first man to conquer Mount Everest, with his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay; his books include the Everest memoir 'High Adventure', & his autobiography, 'Nothing Venture, Nothing Win';)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008



The following two unique terms had been specifically coined by R Buckminster Fuller, or Bucky as he was affectionately known & often recognised as planet Earth's friendly genius:

1) Livingry:

It is juxtaposed to weaponry & killingry, & means that which is in support of all human, plant, & Earth life.

"The architectural profession - civil, naval, aeronautical, & astronautica — has always been the place where the most competent thinking is conducted regarding livingry, as opposed to weaponry."

from the book, Critical Path, page xxv;

2) Tensegrity:

It is a contraction of tensional integrity.

"Tensegrity describes a structural-relationship principle in which structural shape is guaranteed by the finitely closed, comprehensively continuous, tensional behaviors of the system & not by the discontinuous & exclusively local compressional member behaviors.

Tensegrity provides the ability to yield increasingly without ultimately breaking or coming asunder"

from the book, Synergetics, page 372;

Fuller was most famous for his geodesic domes, which can be seen as part of today's military radar stations, civic buildings, environmental protection camps & exhibition attractions.

More than 500,000 geodesic domes have been built around the world. Some notable ones include the 80.8 m wide Epcot Center at Disney World in Florida.

Another notable invention from Bucky is the Dymaxion map of the Earth.

It is a projection of a global map onto the surface of a polyhedron, which can then be unfolded to a net in many different ways & flattened to form a two-dimensional map, which retains most of the relative proportional integrity of the globe map, unlike the conventional version, known as the Mercator projection, which all of us had been taught in schools.

When I was still running my own retail store, The Brain Resource, in the Central Business District, I had one large Dymaxion map of the earth framed up on the wall.

In addition, I even had a smaller Dymaxion map of the earth folded into an icosahedron & suspended from the ceiling.

[More information about Bucky & his works as well as publications is available at this link.]


What forces am I fighting today?

Which of these forces can I use them for my own advantage?


"I believe everybody is creative, & everybody is talented. I just don't think that everybody is disciplined. I think that's a rare commodity."

(Al Hirschfield, 1903 – 2003, a Jewish American caricaturist, best known for his simple black & white satirical portraits of celebrities & Broadway stars;)


"Learning to explain phenomena such that one continues to be fascinated by the failure of one's explanations creates a continuing cycle of thinking, that is the crux of intelligence. It isn't that one person knows more than another, then. In as sense, it is important to know less than the next person, or at least to be certain of less, thus enabling more curiosity and less explaining away because one has again encountered a well-known phenomenon. The less you know the more you can find out about, and finding out for oneself is what intelligence is all about."

(Roger Schank, computer scientist, cognitive psychologist & education expert; founding director of Institute of Learning Sciences at Northwestern University;)

I fully concur with Roger Schank.

I remember once Edward de bono has used the term "intelligence trap " to describe this common phenomenon among so-called smart people who often think that they are smarter than the rest.

Instead of learning new things they don't know about, they prefer to take the position of defending what they already know.

Even Albert Einstein had often denied that he was a genius, but insisted that he was always more curious & inquisitive than ordinary folks.

Another physicist, also a Nobel laureate, that comes to my mind was Richard Feynman.

He was always admired for his wit, intelligence, independence & a never-ending curiosity. He was never satisfied with what he knew & always continued to question science. His curiosity was not restricted to science only.

Anything that puzzled him became a challenge to be solved for him. He once mused that "people are 'entertained' enormously by being allowed to understand a little bit of something they never understood before."

It is obvious that curiosity & inquisitiveness drive discovery & learning, as well as the quest for a better understanding of the world around us.

In fact, an open mind invariably expedites the discovery & learning process.

At the personal level, & on hindsight, it was my curiosity & inquisitiveness, against the backdrop of my disciplined engineering training, that drove me to find out more - & learn more - about the power of the human mind, & how to harness its innate potential to create a new adventure in the second half of my life during the early nineties.

[Among many of Roger Schank's books, my personal favourites are:

- 'The Creative Attitude: Learning to Ask & Answer the Right Questions';
- 'The Connoisseur's Guide to the Mind: How We Think, How We Learn, & What It Means to be Intelligent';
- 'Colouring Outside the Lines';
- 'Virtual Learning: A Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce';]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


1) How has the past shaped my future?

2) Does my YES always come with a BUT?

3) Does a lack of space limit my dreams?

inspired by the Singapore Discovery Centre's "hands-on, minds-on" edutainment experience under its 'Hear the Past/See the Present/Touch the Future' resource;


The Read! Campaign in Singapore has just been launched last Wednesday by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, our Community Development, Youth & Sports Minister.

I just don't know why Singapore must launch reading campaigns year after year.

Reading books should automatically be a good daily habit for everyone, young & old.

Jean Karl (1927-2000), author of 'America Alive', which traces the history of the United States from the first settlers to the early 1990s, once said:

"A real book is something like a seed.

A seed lives as it falls from the tree, but it is only a capsule, a small shell that contains the germ of what the tree is.

Under the proper conditions, however, the seed will germinate and grow, and what grows will be like, though perhaps not exactly like, the parent plant.

Similarly the author takes life as he sees it (a seed), fertilizes it with his imagination and his vision of truth, and produces a book, which physically bears no resemblance to the event or the people pictured, but instead is itself a seed with the power to grow once it is planted in the mind of the proper reader.

The mind of the reader lets the ideas and vision of the author grow and flourish into something that is almost, but not quite, like the author's concept, because the soil of the reader's mind, his environment, and heredity help make the finished product for him."

I read regularly. I read both hard & electronic copy. In fact, my reading is voracious, even though it is confined mostly to business books.

Recently, I came across an interesting post about reading by Seth Godin, a prolific author of books about developing business acumen, in his personal weblog.

In a nut shell, Seth Godin’s post, How to read a Business Book, offers these three tips for reading purposefully, meaningfully & productively:

1) Make a decision to create at least three new changes in your life, after your reading;

2) Instead of writing notes, create T2D (Things to Do) Lists as you read;

3) When you have finished reading, give the book away as a gift, so someone else can learn from it;

What do you think? I think they are great tips, & worth exploring.


Just like the 'Law of Success' as outlined by Napoleon Hill, which is a blueprint for developing prosperity in one's life, the 'Habits of Mind' which are based on the work of Arthur Costa & Bella Kallick, in my personal view, form a brilliant blueprint for developing intelligent solutions, when confronted by life's problems, where there are no immediate answers.

The 16 Habits of Mind identified by the two authors, who are highly respected educator stalwarts, include:

1) Persisting;

2) Thinking & communicating with clarity & precision;

3) Managing impulsivity;

4) Gathering data through all senses;

5) Listening with understanding & empathy;

6) Creating, imagining, innovating;

7) Thinking flexibly;

8) Responding with wonderment & awe;

9) Thinking about thinking (metacognition);

10) Taking responsible risks;

11) Striving for accuracy;

12) Finding humor;

13) Questioning & posing problems;

14) Thinking interdependently;

15) Applying past knowledge to new situations;

16) Remaining open to continuous learning;

Here's a link to a brief article, downloadable in .pdf format, which describes the 16 Habits of Mind.

For more detailed information about the 16 Habits of Mind, please get hold of the following publications from the online shop of the Association for Supervision & Curriculum Design (ASCD):

Book I: Discovering & Exploring Habits of Mind

Book II: Activating & Engaging Habits of Mind

Book III: Assessing & Reporting on Habits of Mind

Book IV: Integrating & Sustaining Habits of Mind

Alternatively, you can also visit the author's corporate website at this link.

I wish to add that, although the 16 Habits of Mind have been originally targeted at the educational arena, they are readily applicable in the business, home & community landscapes.


On Sunday, the US$420 million, 3-legged Phoenix Mars lander has landed on the Martian Arctic plains.

It has traversed more than 675 million km from planet Earth, & the journey has taken almost 10 months, since August 4th last year.

From what I have read, the Phoenix Mars Mission has a collaborative approach to space exploration.

As the very first of NASA's Mars Scout missions, the Phoenix combines legacy & innovation in a framework of a true partnership: government, academia, & industry.

The mission is led by the University of Arizona, but managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A quick one: The Phoenix is designed to study the history of water & habitability potential in the Martian arctic's ice-rich soil.

To me, this has been a remarkable scientific endeavour as well as a superb engineering feat.

Just imagine that the Phoenix Mars Lander has traversed more than 675 million km, & yet it could still land on the planned spot with pinpoint accuracy & perfect timing.

Interestingly, I have read this news report on the day of the blast off at Cape Canaveral in Florida:

Peter Smith, the mission's principal scientist from the University of Arizona, ran out of the control center just before blast off to watch from outside & took Mars' visibility as an auspicious sign for the spacecraft.

"It seemed to kind of get the scent there, you know, it was on its way," Smith said with a laugh.

"Sort of like a bloodhound, it's going to find Mars."

Wow! the navigation system on board the Phoenix Mars lander has really done a marvellous job.
Come to think of it, all of us are also equipped with a similar navigational system inside our heads since the day we were born.

It's called the Reticular Activating System, or RAS in short. It's located inside the brain stem, at the lower regions of our brain structures. Please read my earlier post regarding the RAS.

To function effectively & efficiently, the RAS requires precise command instructions, & they generally come in the form of our life goals or strategic objectives.

Suffice to say, goal setting or personal strategic planning is critical to the success of our mission in life.


“Every time you lose, you think that life’s unfair. You think of the bad breaks. But when you’re winning & playing well, you still get those bad breaks, only you overcome them. It just depends on how strong your mind is.”

(Greg Norman, world-renown professional golfer from Down Under; often nicknamed "The Great White Shark," a reference to his physical size & aggressive golfing style; also, a successful entrepreneur & golf course designer; "Sharks never sleep. You must be willing to do the hard work it takes to stay on top!" is seemingly his personal motto, from his book, 'The Way of the Shark: Lessons on Golf, Business, & Life';)

Monday, May 26, 2008


A recent brief report in the New York Times, entitled 'Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain', provides some real comfort to senior citizens, especially those who still continue to stimulate their minds.

Here's the link.

There is also another interesting report, entitled 'For a Sharp Brain, Stimulation', in the same newspaper.

One aspect I fully concur with the findings is that, older brains with sharp mental acuity are those elders who tend to be socially connected, with strong ties to relatives, friends & community. They are often both physically healthy & physically active. They also tend to be engaged in stimulating or intellectually challenging activities.

Here's the link.


1) What is my Personal Mission?

2) Who is my Customer?

3) What does my Customer Value?

4) What are my Results?

5) What is my Plan of Action?

inspired by 'The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization' from Peter F Drucker;


"Every morning is a fresh beginning. Every day is the world made new. Today is a new day. Today is my world made new. I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day. This moment - this day - is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day - each moment of this day - a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity."
(Dan Custer, author of 'The Miracle of Mind Power' & founder of the Institute of Religious Science & Philosophy International in 1948;)


One of my blog readers, William Anthony, has recently passed me this story, which apparently has its origins from the aftermath of the 911 event:

One company invited the remaining members of other companies who had been decimated by the attack on the Twin Towers to share their available office space.

At a morning meeting, the head of security told stories of why these people were alive . . . and all the stories were just:

the 'L I T T L E' things.

As you might know, the head of the company survived that day because his son started kindergarten.

Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike because of an auto accident.

One of them missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.

One's car wouldn't start.

One went back to answer the telephone.

One had a child that dawdled and didn't get ready as soon as he should have.

One couldn't get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning, took the various means to get to work but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.

Now when I am stuck in traffic, miss an elevator, turn back to answer a ringing telephone . . . all the little things that annoy me.

I think to myself, this is exactly where God wants me to be at this very moment . . .

Next time your morning seems to be going wrong, the children are slow getting dressed, you can't seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light, don't get mad or frustrated;

God is at work watching over you!

May God continue to bless you with all those annoying little things and may you remember their possible purpose.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


I reckon it has partly to do with my horoscope reading under 'Your Stars' in today's issue of the Sunday Times:

"You find that it's much easier now to reach for goals that you had thought were unattainable before. They could be in any area of your life, as long as you're willing to go all out & take chances."

So, out of serendipity as well as curiosity, I just happen to pick out Brian Tracy's 'Goals! How to Get Everything You Want Faster than You Ever Thought Possible' while browsing at the website today.

The book has been published five years ago, & to be frank, I have not read it.

In a way, I have been quite intrigued by what I have read about the book via the Amazon Online Reader:

- 7 key elements of goal setting;
- 12 necessary steps to set out the goal process;
- 21 strategies for achieving goals;
- 20 years of refinement by the author;

Looking purely at the chapter titles in the book, which correspond to the 21 strategies as outlined by the author, it seems to me that nothing much has actually changed - I am talking in terms of new ideas or developments - in the last thirty years or so.

In the late seventies, I had my first encounter with the systematic goal setting system from the Success Motivation Institute, through their proprietary 'Dynamics of Personal Motivation' self-study system. Please read my earlier post.

When I compared what I had already learned & gone through thirty years ago, with what Brian Tracy had spent in the last twenty years of refinement, the same key concepts apparently still apply today:

Let me outlined the author's 21 key concepts, using my personal choice of key words or phrases:

1) Potentiality;

2) Take Charge;

3) Future Creation;

4) Clarity of Values;

5) True Goals;

6) Major Definite Purpose;

7) Beliefs;

8) Beginning Steps;

9) Measurement;

10) Road Blocks;

11) Develop Expertise;

12) Right Connections;

13) Action Plan;

14) Time Management

15) Daily Review;

16) Visualisation;

17) Power of the Mind;

18) Flexibility;

19) Creativity;

20) Daily Execution;

21) Persistence;

Frankly, all the foregoing key concepts need no elaboration at all, as most people are quite familiar with the mechanics.

Come to think of it, & drawing on my own personal experience, it is not the hard skills that make goal setting work.

It's actually all the soft skills, & that takes concerted personal efforts on the part of the goal setter.

That is to say, strategy is important, but self-discipline is more, if not, equally important. In fact, I would say they should go together as a dynamic duo.

Here's a broad brush of the soft skills & the self-discipline that I think are necessary to make goal setting work effectively & efficiently.

In fact, I am very sure Brian Tracy would fully agree with me on the following perspectives on soft skills:

1) First & foremost, you have to TAKE CHARGE of your own life. Life is a do-it-yourself project. So, is life design, in the form of goal setting.

2) You have to be very CLEAR about what you want in life, especially the things that matter to you the most. Clarity applies to what you want to be, to do, to have, to change & to improve.

3) The first few BEGINNING STEPS in the plan are always the hardest. Strategically, they are also the most important. You have to keep cranking on them. The adage: A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first few steps, is very true.

4) A DAILY REVIEW of the progress towards your goals is absolutely necessary. This is to ensure that you stay on track.

5) You have to execute your goal-oriented TASKS on a DAILY basis, conscientiously & consistently.

6) Your predetermined outcome or preferred vision stays put, but you can always be FLEXIBLE in your approach in attaining your objectives or goals.

7) You have to PERSIST to follow through all the daily goal-oriented tasks in your entire endeavour.

In summing up my post, I would like to say that GOAL GETTING is only a question of strategy as well as self-discipline.


"They should be very versatile. Versatility is what's going to give them the longevity. The world is opening up & a lot more stories & a lot more interesting scenes to portray in film. Versatility will help them. They must be able to see the world, learn the world, & bring it to their craft."

(Wesley Snipes, Hollywood action movie star, famous for the 'Blade' vampire hunter trilogy, as he was asked to share some valuable insights to aspiring actors/actresses; he is also one of my personal favourites, & his other notable action movies include 'Passenger 57', 'Rising Sun' (opposite Sean Connery), 'Drop Zone', 'Murder at 1600', 'US Marshalls', 'The Art of War', 'Unstoppable', '7 Seconds', 'Marksman' & 'The Detonator';)


A few days ago, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has revealed an ambitious blueprint to make Singapore a great place to work, live & have fun in.

Under its Leisure Plan, 900 ha of new park space & 260 km of park connectors will be added in the next 10 to 15 years.

The plan also includes an uninterrupted 150 km round-island cycling & jogging route.

Here's a quick snapshot of the earmarked areas:

1) Lim Chu Kang & Kranji - providing a countryside retreats for urban dwellers, with kayak & water sports (on top of the existing Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve & Kranji Nature Trail);

2) Mandai with nature & freshwater themed attractions (on top of the existing Singapore Zoo & Night Safari);

3) Changi Point, with motor racing circuit (on top of the existing coastal boardwalks, beach park & ferry terminal);

4) City Centre & Marina Bay, with the new Sports Hub at Kallang, Marina Bay Integrated Resort & Gardens by the Bay, & night festival (on top of the existing shopping districts & trendy hangouts);

5) Southern Ridges & Waterfront, with Sentosa Integrated Resort, coastal boardwalks at Labrador (on top of the existing Mount Faber & 9 km sky trail);

6) Jurong Lake District, with lakeside hotels/shops, motor cross racing in Tuas, Olympic-sized ice skating rink (on top of the existing Chinese & Japanese Gardens, Singapore Science Center); [Please read my earlier post regarding this area.]

7) Round-island cycling & jogging route;

With all these new amenities, coupled with the existing ones, Singaporeans can no longer complain that there's nothing to do in Singapore.

For me & my wife, we are contemplating of procuring two new bikes for some weekend prowls.

My gym buddy likes the idea too, since he already owns two mountain bikes.

Nevertheless, I am looking at the overall Leisure Plan from a different perspective, especially in terms of creativity & innovation.

That is to say, we are going to have a lot of novel places for eye-fests, so to speak, as well as recreational joints for body relaxation.

I believe that all the new & old leisure hot spots will definitely create more wonderful opportunities to spark off or ignite creativity from Singaporeans in their most resourceful body/mind states.

We all know that great ideas often come when we are are really enjoying ourselves or spending time in leisure activities.

So, innovation nation, here we come!