Saturday, August 30, 2008


"If we work with the grains of our brains, then creativity is inevitable."

~ Patrick Mayfield, a business/project coach, writing in 'Changing Times: Creativity in Managing Change';


[continue from the Last Post]

Out of curiosity, I went back to re-read Tony Buzan (with Raymond Keene)'s classic 'Book of Genius & How to Unleash Your Own', which I had originally read in the nineties.

For me, the most interesting & rewarding part of the book is the well-crafted list of twenty characteristic traits of geniuses as identified by the two authors.

I certainly concur with the two authors that one can readily make use of it to gauge & score - at least for the fun of it - one's own genius potential.

To recap from the book:

1) Vision of the Future:

- an unambiguous goal, that is imaginatively seen, precisely formulated, clearly stated, & comprehensively understood definition of one’s life ambition.

2) Desire:

- the degree of the passion or wish to accomplish one’s visions, goals, & mission;

3) Faith in Self:

- unwavering belief in themselves & their vision;

4) Commitment to Act:

- an agreement to act on the visions, desire, & faith;

5) Planning:

- clear & definite short-, medium-, & long-term plans for accomplishing the overall vision;

6) Persistence:

- continuing the pursuit of one’s goals in face of adversity & when other would give up;

7) Learning from mistakes & failures:

- ability to consider each & every “mistake” no mater how unpleasant, & an experience that could be a useful stepping stone towards the next success;

8) Subject knowledge:

- a vast & fundamental knowledge-base in the field you wish to pursue. The basis of great new thoughts;

9) Mental literacy:

- knowledge of the physical structure & nature of the brain. Understanding the brain’s behavioral skills—memory, creativity, learning, & general thinking skills;

10) Creative Imagination:

- the ability to create internal images, to ‘see thought’, and to visualize plans & goals;

11) Positive mental attitude:

- an attitude of enthusiastic, optimistic, up-beat, “can-do” and open to every opportunity for getting the best out of any situation;

2) Positive auto-suggestion:

- positive “self-talk” directed towards the accomplishment of one’s goals;

3) Intuitive sensing:

- the ability to accurately ‘sense’ or ‘feel’ the correct answer or direction in all situations;

4) Masterminding (real, coaches & mentors):

- those individuals that make up the immediate ‘circle of advisers and influencers” who assist in the achievement of the vision & goals;

15) Masterminding (internal, role models &/or heroes)

- the study of other great geniuses (i.e. models or heroes) from history;

16) Truth / honesty:

- the characteristic of a person to be true to themselves, friends and the concept of truth.

17) Facing fears / courage:

- the ability to overcome fears of the obstacles to their vision or goals;

18) Creativity / flexibility:

- the ability to generate new ideas; see things from different perspectives (i.e. ‘thinking outside the box’); solve problems in original ways; & to maintain an open, quick, curious, & exploring mind;

19) Love of one's own work:

- The all-consuming passion & enthusiasm for the vision;

0) Physical energy:

- the physical stamina to keep going;

Not surprisingly, the traditional concept of 'intelligence' - the one that is often tied to the elitist Mensa test - somehow does not figure in the list of characteristic traits in geniuses.

In a nut shell, this book, together with a host of other books in the same genre [I will talk more about the findings from those books in subsequent posts] tells us to forget the notion that intelligence or any other innate qualities create the greats we call geniuses.

Incidentally, this book contained a Hall of Fame, where our history's top 100 geniuses, including Leonardo da vinci & Albert Einstein, had been ranked by the two authors. If you are interested in their rankings, I suggest browsing the book.

[to be continued in the Next Post]


What follows is a simple decision making framework which I have often used in addition to the Kepner-Tregor methodology. I have picked it up from somewhere many years ago, & regrettably, I have forgotten to record the source.

According to management guru Peter Drucker:

"A decision is a choice between alternatives. It is rarely a choice between right & wrong. It is at best a choice between ‘almost right’ & ‘probably wrong."

What I like about this simple framework is that it incorporates a step-by step process that guides the sequence of my questions & answers in a way that helps separate creative idea generation from critical evaluation of alternatives.

1) What is the decision to be made?

- State the decision clearly;
- State your short-term goals as well as long-term objectives;
- Limit the scope of the decision to its essentials;

2) On what criteria will the decision be made?

- List all of the criteria you think are essential.
- Refine the criteria. Group similar criteria, restate others for clarity;
- Rank the criteria in order of importance;

3) What alternative courses of action exist?

- List several alternatives, but do not evaluate them;
- Refine the alternatives;
- Review the list of criteria & the proposed alternativs;

4) What is the expected effect of each alternative on each criterion?

- For each alternative, go through the list of criteria;
- Exlore the likely impact of each alternative on every criterion;
- Record your opinions;

5) Which is the best alternative for each criterion?

- List each criterion;
- Identify the preferred alternative from the perspective of each criterion;
- Record your conclusions;

6) Which is the best overall alternative?

- Does one alternative meet all of the criteria?
- Does one alternative meet the highest ranked criterion?
- Is there a new alternative that can emerge from a short list of alternatives?

Friday, August 29, 2008


"The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense."

~ Thomas Edison, 1847–1931, American inventor & businessman; also, one of history's greatest inventors;


Would I still choose to do what I am doing today?


"Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes & continues the

"Success is a process, a quality of mind & way of being, an outgoing affirmation of life."
~ Alfred Noble;

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I reckon one of the best ways to maintain our brain fitness in the long run is to adopt a brain savings account.

In scientific terms, this is known as our "cognitive reserves", which I have briefly mentioned in earlier posts.

According to many research studies as reported in the press, keeping & maintaining our brains in pro-active mode helps to build & maintain our brain savings account.

Our brains are already hard-wired to create new neural pathways & connections through active usage. In scientific terms, they are called dendrite spiny protuberances (DSP). They are intended as deposits in our brain savings account, allowing us to draw on the account during our subsequent & later years.

Further research studies support the fact that we can continue to operate at a high performance level throughout our lives by maintaining rich brain savings accounts.

Before I move on, let's take a look at the five key cognitive functions of our brains that enable us to carry out our daily tasks.

They are organised as follows:

1) Memory:

- the ability to learn: encode, retain & recall new information;

2) Language:

- the ability to communicate & connect with the world;

3) Attention & Concentration:

- the ability to focus, process & integrate information;

4) Executive Functions:

- the ability to to organize, plan, & execute;

5) Visual & Spatial Functions:

- the ability to navigate in the neighbourhood & the world at large;

First, the bad news:

Our brains, in terms of brain potential, start to slow down the moment we pass our 21st birthday.

With aging comes changes, which are usually associated with mental decline in the foregoing cognitive functions, & debilitating diseases, such as dementia, or worst still, Alzheimer's.

To my relief & delight, there are good news:

We can keep our brains running on all four cylinders, & even make sustainable improvements at any age.

So, in a way, "use it or lose it" now makes good sense.

Most of us have to come to accept that lifestyle changes form the principal factor in determining our brain fitness.

That's to say, our brain savings account.

The following five lifestyle areas have been identified by brain experts as very important to our brain fitness - I have already covered these in my earlier posts:

- Mental Stimulation;

- Physical Activities;

- Social Interactions;

- Healthy Diet & Nutrition;

- Spiritual Activities;

More importantly, according to brain experts, is a balanced approach in exercising the brain across all of the five key cognitive functions, which I have mentioned earlier.

In more specific terms, a balanced approach also requires the following considerations in order to keep our brains entertained, challenged, & stimulated:

1) Diversity:

- an array of novel & unique activities;

2) Complexity:

- different levels of complexity;

3) Variety:

- a comprehensive & varied work-out [variety is the spice of life];

I really subscribe to what I have written here.

That's why as you can see from my portfolio & also from my various posts, I am fully engrossed in a wide variety of intellectual, physical as well as social activities, in addition to my predominant business interests.

Keeping my mind intellectually alive & my body physically active have always been my current dominant focus.

This also applies to my wife, as she has been learning to speak, read & write the English Language, with me as her coach for quite a while.

Over the last four years, she has made many new friends in Singapore, which provide ample opportunities for her to apply her newly acquired language skills. She also enjoys reading (at the moment confining herself to only Vietnamese novels) & surfing the net.

As she also enjoys cooking (at the moment, only Vietnamese cuisine), she is eagerly learning to experiment, from time to time, with the many ethnic cuisines in Singapore, with my encouragement of course.

Best of all, I have my own bunch of social buddies, & so does my wife.

It my fervent belief that adopting a joint brain savings account, as in my case, & coupling with diversity, complexity & variety in terms of configuring the deposits will bear excellent returns in the long run.


"Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep & swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain & overlook the old."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, American philosopher; also most widely known man of letters;

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


According to the wonderful classic, 'How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World', by Harry Browne, which I had read during the late seventies:

"You are the sovereign authority for your life. You are the ruler who makes the decisions regarding how you will act, what information you will accept. You do it anyway — but if you recognize that you do it, you can gain much greater control over your future . . .

But whether or not you accept it, you are sovereign. You rule one life — and you rule it totally.

You decide which information you will accept or reject. You decide what your next action will be. You decide what moral code you’ll live by . . .

To be free, you have only to make the decision to be free. Freedom is waiting for you — anytime you’re ready for it."

With regard to selecting information for personal decision making, the author shared five useful principles:

1) Popularity of information isn’t adequate proof. The fact that "everybody knows about it" could mean little or nothing;

2) It's OK to be skeptical about new information;

3) We can't expect to have an explanation for everything. To some extent, we always have to act in the dark;

4) We can’t see everything out there; we just got to recognize the fact that we can see only a small part of the picture [at least from the standpoint of physics: the visible light spectrum];

5) Every action always involves consequences & risks;

For me, what the author had expounded is timeless wisdom.


"All human beings, all persons who reach adulthood in the world today are programmed biocomputers. None of us can escape our own nature as programmable entities. Literally, each of us may be our programs, nothing more, nothing less."

"In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially & experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits."

~ John C. Lilly, 1915-2001, American physician and psychoanalyst specializing in biophysics, neurophysiology, electronics, computer theory, & neuroanatomy; author of 'Programming & Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer';


Here's an interesting anecdote:

There is a legend of a man who was lost in the desert, dying of thirst. He dragged himself on until he came to an abandoned house.

Outside of the dilapidated, windowless weather-beaten shack was a pump. "Water, at last!" he thought. He stumbled forwards and began pumping furiously, but nothing came out of the well.

As his heart raced he noticed a small jug with a cork at the top & a note scribbled on the side:

"You have to prime the pump with water, my friend. P.S. And fill the jug again before you leave."

He pulled out the cork & saw that the jug was full of water.

He weighed his options.

Should he pour the water down the pump? What if it didn't work? All the water would be gone. If he drank the water from the jug, he could be sure he wouldn't die of thirst. But to pour it down the rusty pump on the flimsy instructions written on the outside of the jug?

Sweating profusely, he listened to his heart & chose the risky decision. He proceeded to pour the entire jug of water down the rusty old pump & furiously pumped up and down.

Sure enough, the water gushed out! He had all he needed to drink. With a thankful heart he turned his thoughts upwards. He filled the jug again, corked it, & added his own testimony to the words on the bottle:

Believe me, it really works. BUT YOU MUST HAVE FAITH!

The learning point from this anecdote:

The people who really succeed are those who dare to risk, who challenge the status quo & push themselves beyond their normal limits. No person ever fully discovers & develops all the potential within himself until he expresses his faith.

~ from 'Think & Grow Rich: A Black Choice', 1992, by Dennis Kimbro & Napoleon Hill;


Whenever I talk or write about the subject of "genius", the vivid images of Leonardo da vinci, Albert Einstein, R Buckminster Fuller often come quickly to my mind.

Why is it that we call them geniuses & yet we don't call ourselves the same way?

In fact, according to sages, each & every one of us is born a genius. In our own individual ways.

I recall an interesting anecdote from Carl Jung, who had contributed a lot of brilliant insights about imagination & fantasy, among other stuff, to the world of learning, in which he had described "the genius in all of us" through the analogy of the Genie & the Aladdin Lamp.

He said, for geniuses, they always have their Aladdin Lamps with their flames flickering incessantly in the wind.

For others or all the rest, we have to keep rubbing our Aladdin Lamps a little longer.

This implies that genius is 1% inspiration & 99% perspiration, to paraphrase Thomas Edison, the man who gave the world the lightbulb.

I have read about the reportedly truer data: 1% inspiration, 29% good instruction & encouragement, & 70% inspiration.

That is to say, a heavy investment of effort, among others, is absolutely necessary.

A lot of stuff has already been written about geniuses & also about how to become one.

Most readers are probably familiar with the published works of brilliant authors/researchers like Andy Aleinokov, Robert Dilts, Michael Gelb, Michael Michalko, Todd Siler, & Win Wenger, just to name a few.

In subsequent posts, I will endeavour to share with readers about what I have learned - particularly the distinctive daily habits of geniuses - from these great authors & others.

Most people like to associate a genius with increased or enhanced intelligence.

What is intelligence, anyway?

Over the years, I have come across many interpretations &/or viewpoints. Quite a lot of people prefer to associate them to the Mensa test.

As far as I am concerned, I always like to define "intelligence" this way:

It's the ability to learn, to create (ideas), to adapt, & to apply - what one has learned, created, & adapted - for one's own betterment as well as the common good.

So, for me, there are four critical elements here, in order of priority:

- learning;

- creating ideas;

- adaptation;

- application;

I consider learning as the most important, especially learning new things. Not only learning, but also learning intelligently & fast, especially in today's context.

I always envy the younger generation of today. In schools & at home, they have the timely Internet, as well as the ready availability of a whole gamut of technological & networking appliances to assist them. Unfortunately, many are easily distracted.

The Internet never ceases to amaze me with its virtually unlimited access to learning about the world.

Practically every day, after my gym work, & with the aid of the Internet Explorer & Copernic Agent Pro, I have the whole world at my fingertips.

To my amazement, I now truly understand why learning is fun, & also what it means by "the more I know, the more I really don't know".

Of course, there are also a lot of junk or trash. That's where intelligence [also read: discernment] comes to play its part.

Besides the Internet, there are also other learning avenues.

'Invisible University' & 'Automobile University', which I have talked about in earlier posts, are some of the options available for learning pursuits.

Not all the stuff on the Internet, or even the 'Invisible University' &/or the 'Automobile University' are readily downloadable & installable for easy use, so to speak, into your brain.

We need to create ideas from all our learning pursuits.

All the information pumping into the head will serve no purpose if we don't create ideas.

It is ideas in our heads that make or shape meaning out of the information.

It is pertinent for me to point out that everybody can download & install information from the Internet, but it is ideas, & thus the ingenuity that give us the distinctive capability [also, read 'competitive advantage'] of what to do with the information.

With ideas, we can then proceed to adapt all the available information for immediate usability.

Also, with ideas, we can then seek out more relevant information.

Always remember, ideas must come first!

I have come to the conclusion that the ability to adapt comes from one's learning experiences. Also, in some way, from other people's learning experiences.

It's more or a trial & experimentation process.

Experimentation always involves error spotting & correction.

So, a willingness to learn, to play, to explore & to experiment is paramount to what I like to call "intelligence amplification".

Last but not least, application - putting to work - of what one has learned & adapted.

Nothing will make sense & create value until one applies what has been learned & adapted to one's daily routines. In the real world, in concrete terms, so to speak.

They can be solving problems or exploiting opportunities. It doesn't matter, as long as application takes place. The hand is mightier than the mind, as one expert puts it.

Only with application, one can truly understand what worked & what didn't worked.

Interestingly, application always spurs the learning cycle.

From the way I always see it, the four critical elements as outlined above - learning, creating ideas, adapting & applying - are the vital routes to intelligence amplification, leading to making our lives purposeful, meaningful & productive in the long term.

[to be continued in the Next Post]

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


"Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education."

~ Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, British philosopher & author; also Nobel laureate (1950, Literature, "in recognition of his varied & significant writings in which he championed humanitarian ideals & freedom of thought.");


[continue from the Last Post]

The next axiom I want to talk about is:

My past does not guarantee my future.

What it simply means is this: My past history is not a predictor of my future progress.

For me, there are two viewpoints: one "macro", the other, "micro".

At the "macro" level, the larger picture is that, what I had been in the past did not determine what I would be in the future.

A case in point: I was a corporate rat for twenty four years. I thought I would remain one until I retire.

In the early 90's, I had a sudden awakening, & eventually decided to pursue my own dreams. I became a small entrepreneur & struck out on my own to build a new future for myself by converting my favourite hobbies into viable ventures.

At the "micro" level, the smaller picture needs a little bit of elaboration.

If I had failed or encountered just a setback in the past, it didn't mean that I would fail again, & that I could not succeed in the future.

In the same vein, if I had succeeded in the past, it also didn't mean that I would not fail in the future.

For me, I have learned to accept both failures or even successes as just results. NLP practitioners like to call them "feedback".

I like what R Buckminister Fuller, famed inventor of the geodesic dome, once said:

"There is no such thing as a failed experiment; only experiments with unexpected outcomes."

How about that?

If there were failures or setbacks in life, & we didn't learn from them & make the necessary corrections, then the same mistakes would likely continue.

On the other hand, if there were successes in our life, & we got carried away in our heads & became complacent or, worst still, arrogant, then trouble would definitely find its way on to our future path.

The most important thing, based on my personal experience, is what I could honestly learn from the past & what I would be doing right at this moment - using the lessons learned today - to move forward with my life - into the future.

What matters most is today. We can't change the past, but we can learn from it, & start to plot the future we want from today.

To follow the adage:

Today is the first day of the rest of our life.

Interestingly, whether we like it or not, the past invariably offers valuable lessons in a grand mix - positive events, negative events as well as interesting events.

The lessons in a nutshell: What had worked? What didn't worked?

Our choice - the forward focus, so to speak is to build on & amplify what had worked; figure out what didn't work with the view of extracting learning points;

The harsh reality is this, personal success always works on the principle of error correction.

I reckon the next appropriate step is to consider the more important questions for the future:

- what do I want out of life? what are my wants? what are my needs?

- what do I want to do with my life from now on?

- what do I love doing more than anything else in the world?

- what excites me most about life?

It is my personal view that the honest answers to these questions, & the attendant execution, will eventually form the guarantee for one's success.

In other words, & to sum up this post, my life is what I make of it. That's my guarantee!

[to be continued in the Next Post]


According to Jonathan Hancock, youngest ever World Memory Champion, writing in his book, 'How to be a Genius', each & everyone of us can be a genius by just following four simple but powerful rules:

1) start thinking creatively;

2) improve your memory;

3) boost your senses & coordination;

4) seize new opportunities for learning;

Additionally, we must develop & embrace the following habits:

- having unlimited interest in our chosen subjects & pursuits;

- the persistence to succeed, despite any obstacles;

- an ability to work with others;

- the bravery to challenge even the experts, & to go farther than anyone has gone before;

Monday, August 25, 2008


"People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don't realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world."

~ Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes)

Sunday, August 24, 2008


The battles in business [as well as in life] are waged with one weapon . . . the mind.

How sharp is yours?

~ from Rich Horwath, business strategist & author of a quartet of strategic thinking books, namely, 'Deep Dive', 'Strategy Espresso', 'Sculpting Air', & 'Storm Rider';

[Readers can visit the author's corporate website, which is a goldmine of information nuggets on strategic thinking & strategy formulation.]