Saturday, November 1, 2008


1) Always have a book around. Carry one with you always;

2) Establish a reading goal;

3) Make a list of stuff you want to read;

4) Turn off the television & read a book;

5) Listen when you can't read. Can you get it on audio/CD/DVD/podcast version?

6) Join a book club or reading group;

7) Visit the local library or bookstore often;

8) Build your own reading strategy. Determine what works for you.

9) Drop everything & read;

10) Just read it!


"The only constant is change. Learn to love it. As the rate of change accelerates, the result will appear chaotic to the uninitiated. But there is elegant order in chaos. Few so far have learned to recognise & profit from it. This is where the future lies."

~ Frank Ogden, futurist & electronic evangelist, often known as 'Dr Tomorrow', who runs his trend tracking business from a high-tech house boat in Vancouver, Canada; also author of 'Navigating in Cyberspace: Roadmaps to the New Millennium' & 'The Last Book You'll Ever Read: Lessons from the Future';

Friday, October 31, 2008


I am really glad that I have picked up a lot of wonderful gems from Steve Leveen's book, 'The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life'.

Steve Leveen is the CEO of Levenger, the company known to many for its catalogue of 'tools for serious readers'.

In the book, he shares with readers the true power of reading: its ability to help us live richer lives.

According to him, a well-read life has little to do with reading the classics, or with how many books or even which books you read. Rather, he emphasises that it has everything to do with a life well-lived.

Being well-read is all about being in book love today, tomorrow, next week & always. I like that distinction very much.

He offers the following guidelines:

1) Read with yourself in mind: Actively choose your favourite books, or select out the best books to fill your interests, passions & desires;

2) Draw up a List of Candidates rather than a reading list;

(According to him, there's a difference:

A reading list carries a sense of obligation, like those lists we were assigned as students. A List of Candidates carries this important difference: you have the freedom of never having to read the book.)

3) From your List of Candidates, create a physical Library of Candidates of books you may decide to read, e.g. Biography, etc.;

4) Draw up a Bookography, which is a list of books you have already read, & so they become sort of a diary of your reading life;

5) Be an active reader, by feeling free to write your own thoughts & comments in the margins or to make marginal annotations - he calls this reading endeavour, being a Footprint Leaver, & I am one too, whenever I read;

[Here's a link to a brief article from Levenger about 'How to Leave Masterly Marginalia'.]

6) Don't rush to put back a completed book on to the shelf after reading - review it in a day, a week, or a month;

[In my case, I write about the books I have enjoyed reading in my weblog or on Amazon.]

7) Give yourself permission to read your way;

8) Don't be afraid to give up on a book if you find that it doesn't speak to your interests;

9) Don't be afraid to experiment with reading more than one book at a time;

[Mortimer Adler called it 'syntopical reading' in his classic, 'How to Read a Book'.]

10) Explore audio books - the author calls it 'reading with your ears';

[Zig Ziglar calls it 'Automobile University'.]

11) Form reading groups;

12) Draw up a 'For When I Go There', which is a list of books about special places you want to visit, saved to be read when you are finally there - this is certainly an interesting suggestion from the author;


I have stumbled upon the following link to 'How to Read a Book (Analytically), which has been extracted & adapted from Mortimer Adler's superb classic, 'How to Read a Book'.

Of particular interest to readers, at least from my standpoint as a fast reader, are the 15 rules for analysing text, originally conceived by Mortimer Adler, in case you have not yet read his book.

Enjoy your exploration & assimilation!


I have taken the liberty to extract & adapt the following formula for 'How to Become a Millionaire' from the book, 'The Wellness Journey', by Vance Romane:

1. Choose what you love to do that fulfills people's wants, not necessarily their needs. Hopefully, you will fulfill both a want & a need;

2. Spend your money on knowledge & education;

3. Spend your time with successful people;

4. Secure employment to work directly with highly successful people;

5. Read books & listen to lectures, cassettes, & videos of leaders in their field. Take their seminars too;

6. Put your imagination to work;

7. Persist. Never give up;

Here's the link to Chapter 3 of the above-mentioned book.


"I've made the most important discovery of my life. It's only in the mysterious equation of love that any logical reasons can be found. I'm only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am . . . you are all my reasons."

~ from the award-winning movie, 'A Beautiful Mind', starring Russell Crowe as the troubled mathematical genius John Forbes Nash Jr., who went through a painful & harrowing journey of self-discovery, & eventually trumphed, after many years of struggle, & won - late in life - the Nobel Prize;


"Happiness is not about being perfect, but about seeing beyond the imperfections."

~ Author Unknown;


"I am no one special, just a common man with common thoughts. I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me, and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect, I've succeeded as gloriously as anyone who ever lived. I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and for me, that has always been enough."

~ narrated (voice-over) by the character Duke, played by James Garner of '8 Simple Rules' & 'The Rockford Files', in the heart-warming award-winning movie, 'The Notebook'; The movie starts in a nursing home with Duke reading to an older woman, whose memory is slipping from her more & more everyday . . .

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I find it gratifying to re-read [I have received an earlier alert from New York Times] from today's issue of the 'Mind Your Body' that a simple, everyday task like surfing the net can stimulate & even improve brain functions in senior citizens.

According to scientists, led by principal investigator Dr Gary Small at the University of California, Los Angeles, surfing the net:

- triggers key centres in the brain that control decision making & complex reasoning;

- engages a greater extent of neural activity that is not activated in reading;

Besides reading & blogging, I also like to surf the net everyday. Copernic Agent Pro is my constant companion, while Google Alert serves as my pathfinder or frontier scout.

For books, I also surf the Amazon's website, with the aid of its online reader.

From my perspective, I find surfing the net a fun & easy task, but collating & synthesising the information from daily surfing endeavours, especially when they come from many disparate sources, into useful or workable insights for action or implementation necessitate a lot of "decision making & complex reasoning".

That probably explains the high level of voxel sparks - the tiniest measurable unit of brain activity which is capable of being captured by the MRI.

[Gary Small is the author of 'The Longevity Bible: 8 Essential Strategies for Keeping Your Mind Sharp & Your Body Young ' as well as 'iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind'. They are now in my shopping cart with Amazon.]


Here's the link to a great & timely article from Eric Jensen, whom I have always regarded as a 'teacher of teachers' as far as the field of accelerated learning is concerned.

His work, 'SuperTeaching', among twenty over other wonderful books, is a real classic.

If you are an educator, I suggest you read it.

IF . . . a poem from Rudyard Kipling

A friend of mine has mailed me today this beautiful poem from Rudyard Kipling:


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

~ Rudyard Kipling, 1865 - 1936, English author & poet; he is best known for his work, 'The Jungle Book' which was made into one of my favourite cartoon movies of the sixties bearing the same name;


"Only in the absence of certainty can we have open-mindedness, mental flexibility & willingness to contemplate alternative ideas."

~ Robert Burton, neurologist & author of 'On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not';


I love to read business books.

I have started reading business books ever since I ventured into sales & marketing as a professional during the early seventies. I had probably progessed up to that stage after having indulged earlier in reading self-improvement books during the late sixties.

Today, I have amassed a huge personal library. Sometimes, I even reread some of the business books I had read before, just to appreciate what worked & what didn't worked.

My objectives of reading business books are very simple:

- firstly, to find out what the experts are thinking about the world of business, so as to pick up some fresh perspectives or approaches to doing things;

- to adapt & apply other people's innovative ideas for coaching & guiding my clients though my own strategy consulting business;

- lastly, to enliven my brain, by keeping me intellectually alive, through writing of my own weblog & of book reviews on Amazon, as well as maintaining regular 'pow-wow' with my business associates & social buddies;

For me, I don't read business books from cover to cover, unless I am doing a book review. I only read what I need.

Interestingly, marketing wizard Seth Godin has shared some very useful perspectives in his weblog.

According to him, 5% of business books contain the 'magic recipes'; 95% motivational stuff to get the reader to do something differently with the 'magic recipes' at work;

Also, to extract maximum value from a business book, he has suggested this great routine:

1) Decide on 3 things to do after reading;

2) Set out a game plan to do the 3 things;

3) Share it with or teach it to someone;

I also recall from one of his weblog readers, who wrote in to say that a business book is more 5% really important stuff; 45% motivational stuff; & 50% filler stuff.

To some extent, I tend to agree with the latter, which probably explains why I don't read a business books from cover to cover.

Many years ago, I came across a research finding which concluded that only 4 to 11% of most common reading text contains the key ideas or concepts, depending on the intellectual intensity.

That is to say, quite safely, an average business book of 200 pages will generally have about 14 pages of really important stuff (assuming 7%), i.e. the 'magic recipes', so to speak.

That's why it is very important to train our mind to seek out important stuff while reading.

From my personal experience, pre-reading or surveying in advance, & recognising authors' text organisational patterns as well as their signal or transition words are part of a fast reader's strategy repertoire.

Whenever I pick up a business book for reading, I will first skim the credit titles on front & back flaps, the table of contents, the preface or introductory chapter, & then proceed to read from the back, starting with the concluding chapter &/or appendices.

I may even browse the bibliography & index - that's why I always get annoyed when the author doesn't share his. (Incidentally, Edward de bono is one of them.)

Using them as an intellectual springboard, I then choose what I want to read in the preceding chapters, to expand on what I have found interesting or intriguing.

Oftentimes, I have adopted this reading practice, with the aid of the Amazon or Google online reader, to select the business books I want to acquire for a deeper reading.

Also, I always read business books with a fine-tipped colour marker, usually orange which is my favourite, so that I can highlight the good stuff or write notes in the margins.

After that, I often use MindManager Pro (mind-mapping) or SmartDraw (rich picture, supported by superb templates & wonderful clip-arts) or even Inspiration (concept mapping) to set out my own thoughts & actions with all the stuff I have learned.

Reading business books can be a breeze, if you know how to follow simple proven practices, just as I have described them in the above.


I always remember the following wonderful quote from the maverick Doug Hall in his fun book, 'Jump Start Your Brain', which I had read during the mid-nineties:

"Brain cells create ideas. Stress kills brain cells. Stress is therefore not a good idea."

According to researcher Dr Bruce McEven from the Lab of Neuroendocrinology of Rochester University, there are generally 3 types of stress:

1) positive stress, for which we always feel recognised or rewarded by a surmountable challenge - this is the 'eustress' we often talk about, & this is the good stress we need in our daily lives to keep us going - with that wonderful jolt of adrenalin;

2) tolerable stress, which commonly results from serious life events e.g. divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job, but where we get good support e.g. family, friends, etc.;

3) toxic or chronic stress, which involves the same type of serious life events, as well as the accumulation of daily struggles, but we get no support; this is what I call the 'distress', which often can push us into a downward spiral;

Interestingly, the researcher has used the term 'allostatic load' to describe the burden of toxic or chronic stress. Well, a new term to learn, at least for me.

I also remember, during the mid-nineties I had learned from the Institute of HeartMath, whose publications I once sold in my small retail outlet during that period, that stress is essentially an issue of:

i) Problem with Perception:

- to me, I often like to interpret this as an inability on our part to see the world in grey areas, i.e. to say, we are thus stucked in only black & white. As a result, we just can't let go of that overwhelming single perspective, & learn to explore & accept another perspective of the issue;

- I also reckon that this issue has also got to do with the fact that we often waste our time thinking about certain stuff that we cannot change, rather than spending our thinking about some stuff that we can change;

- just think about it, as a good example, we are all born without our permission, explicit or implicit, which is a certainty that we cannot change at all, & yet some of us like to blame our parents &/or the home environment, instead of exploring ways to attain a better life with who we are & what we have;

- as creativity guru Edward de bono has taught me, changing our perception & having multiple perceptions as well as maintaining fluidity of perception, give us the great power to come up with more & better solutions;

ii) Problem with Communication:

- this is self-talk, when one talks or tells stories to oneself. It's an inborn mechanism. Some of us can tell good stories, but - unfortunately - most of us like to hang on to the same old or worst still, bad stories. Naturally, this has got to do with our perception in the first place;

- so, come to think of it, we have choices, & we can choose to talk to ourselves differently or choose to spin new stories for our own consumption;

I reckon, looking at the world differently - Dr Ellen Langer of Harvard University calls it 'mindfulness - & spinning new stories to ourselves certainly reinforce what Dr Ellen Weber of the Brainbased Business weblog has taught me, that more serotonin hormones are pumped up by our brain to keep us young & healthy, so to speak.

As a matter of fact, science has proven that serotonin puts us in a more resourceful state of mind. Remember, serotonin fires synapses in the brain. So, we can think & reflect better in dealing with a challenging world out there.

Coupled with simple relaxation routines, like walking in the park, practising meditation, yakking with close friends, singing & laughing, vacationing to nowhere, & even playing with young kids, serotonin generation is just a matter of choice.

Stressed-out brain, with all that damaging cortisol hormones? It's your choice!


Thinking is a journey. Do I have the right fuel?


Lucky mean who get the opportunity
Brilliant means who create the opportunity
Winner means who use the opportunity
Be a winner always


Wednesday, October 29, 2008


"You are not a product of what happens to you or what others have said about you. You are the sum total of what
is in you & who is in you."

~ Paula White, New York Times best selling author of 'Simple Suggestions for a Sensational Life';


As I have already mentioned several times in my earlier posts, life is a do-it-yourself project.

In that respect, life is always filled with pressures that force us to make constant & immediate choices as we move on.

According to success coach David Cottrell, author of '12 Choices . . . that Lead to Success', there are 12 important choices for us to make in life, if we ever want to succeed in life.

The first four are what he likes to call the 'Character Choices', that will help you to build the foundation for success:

1) Choose not to be a victim, i.e. choose to be totally responsible for your own life design; as he says, "don't let the past eat up your future";

2) Choose to become your very best through commitment & passion;

3) Choose your personal values correctly;

4) Choose to exercise your integrity i.e. to do the right thing;

The next four are what he likes to call the 'Action Choices', that will help you to move to success:

5) Choose to do something & get things done, & do not let life happens to you;

6) Choose to be persistent in your efforts, i.e. stick to your objectives long enough to win, & more importantly, don't give up easily, but learn from your setbacks & failures;

7) Choose your mental attitude, especially an enthusiastic approach to work & life;

8) Choose to overcome adversity by attacking & conquering difficult issues as they come your way;

The last four are what he likes to call the 'Investment Choices', that will allow you to profit from success:

9) Choose to build, renew & repair relationships, if necessary, with people you care about;

10) Choose to accept criticism as part of your learning process;

11) Choose to accept reality, i.e. be prepared to face the truth at all times; also, be realistic about your strengths & weaknesses;

12) Choose to leave a legacy for your next generation &/or for others to follow;

He concludes that "Success is ultimately realised by people who make more right choices & recover from their bad choices."

As far as I am concerned, he certainly makes a lot of good sense.

I have extracted the following quotation by the magnificent Zig Ziglar from his book to serve as food for your thoughts:

"You are free to choose, but the choices you make today will determine what you will have, be & do in the tomorrow of your life."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


"We live in a world that emphasises realistic expectations & clear successes. (Don) Quixote had neither. But through failure after failure, he persists in his vision & his commitment. He persists because he knows who he is."

~ Prof Emeritus James March, of Stanford University School of Business, & producer of the television movie, 'Passion & Discipline: Don Quixote's Lessons for Leadership';


Frankly speaking, I just can't imagine that the quirky character of Spanish origins from the 16th century could be a role model for today's leadership.

The character is Don Quixote.

I certainly recall reading about him & his crazy exploits during my Form III studies at a missionary school in Yong Peng, Johor, Malaysia, as part of my English Literature pursuit during the early sixties.

To be honest, all I can remember about him today is some aspects of his weird adventures, together with his side-kick, especially the one when he took up a challenge with a windmill to a duel.

Incidentally, I had also watched the movie version, 'The Man of La Mancha', starring Peter O'Toole & Sophia Loren, during the seventies.

I understand that the movie was based on the longest running Broadway Musical of the 1960’s, bearing the same title, which had won 5 Tony Awards.

Nevertheless, the spirit of Don Quixote is perhaps best captured in the theme song of both the musical & the movie, 'The Impossible Dream'.

"To dream, the impossible dream.
To fight, the unbeatable foe.
To bear, with unbearable sorrow.
To run, where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong…"

Why do I want to write about him in this post?

Here's the fun part.

Prior to the above, I happened to stumble upon business strategist Joe Murtagh's, known as the Dream Speaker, with his many interesting stuff about change & innovation on the net.

Here's the link. Many of his dated articles on his corporate website are still worth reading.

He has apparently created & produced a myriad of learning programs for business professionals, with catchy titles like:

- 'Dare to be different . . . change or innovate';
- 'Competitors are always out to eat your lunch';
- 'Market or die in the 21st century';
- 'Embrace the future or be left behind';
- 'Empowering people to do their best';
- 'Keep your customers coming back for more';
- 'Managers develop people, not direct things';

As I prowled further through his corporate website, I have come to know about one of his pet projects, the Don Quixote Society.

Out of curiosity & since the entrance fee for life-time membership is only US$10/-, I just signed up immediately.

The life-time membership entitles me as follows:

"In doing so, it confirms he is always proud to admit to:

. . . being a dreamer
. . . being unrealistic
. . . being idealistic

. . . refusing to accept the world as he finds it & dedicated to making it what he believes it should be.

. . .exhibiting behavior pursuing the above even at the risk of failing, being laughed at or considered a fool."

I am still waiting for my password access to more interesting stuff from the society. Please stay tuned.

Nevertheless, I have proceeded to do a little bit of web search on "Don Quixote".

Hey! Presto! I have found that Prof Emeritus James March of the Stanford University School of Business has actually created an acclaimed course, entitled 'Passion & Discipline: Don Quixote's Lessons for Leadership'.

As a matter of fact, he has also created a television movie bearing the same title in 2003, in which he has creatively examined how our unlikely hero's kind of imagination, joy & self-knowledge might save modern leadership.

He has apparently drawn parallels from Quixote's quirky adventures with illustrative examples in the modern world - from former President Richard Nixon & Martin Luther King to Bill Gates & Hewlett Packard.

To me, that's interesting!

You can read more about it at this link.

I will write more about it after I have acquired a DVD version of the television movie. Please stay tuned, if you are still as curious & intrigued as I am.


I have recently watched a great, also award winning, movie on StarHub Cable Television, entitled, 'Good Will Hunting', which tells the poignant story of a janitor with a gift for mathematics, Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon) & his counseller, Sean Macquire (played by Robin Williams), when they have eventually come to terms with the blows life has dealt both of them, & with the questions that lie in the future.

There is a particular quote from Sean which somehow continues to strikes my fancy :

"You're not perfect, sport, & let me save you the suspense: this girl you've met, she's not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you're perfect for each other."

I reckon what he means is this:

It doesn't matter if the guy is perfect or the girl is perfect, as long as they are perfect for each other.


Monday, October 27, 2008


I note that success coach Richard Israel, a collaborator of Tony Buzan, shares quite an interesting, but generally broad idea, about how to become an expert in his book, 'Grass Roots Leaders: The Brain Smart Revolution in Business':

1) Pick a topic that interests you, an area in which you would like to become an expert;

2) Then, identify, collate, read & mind-map two books a week on that topic;

3) Review your completed mind-maps frequently to optimise your memory retention;

4) By the end of one year, you would have digested the expertise of at least 100 books, & know more about your chosen topic that almost anyone else in the world;

5) With all the knowledge, you can begin speaking & writing on the chosen topic;

In his book, he has used my good friend & fellow explorer Dilip Mukerjea as a case example.

Dilip had met Richard Israel (also Tony Buzan) in the mid-nineties during which the latter had personally shared his expert strategy.

At that time, Dilip was a marine engineer, who often spent long periods on the sea. Dilip needed a career change.

So, he applied the expert strategy by studying & mind-mapping many books on creativity, leadership & strategy during those long periods on the sea.

The foregoing episode probably explains why Dilip is so good in what he does today as a innovation strategist, in addition to becoming an accomplished author with so far 8 great books to his credit.

Currently, Dilip runs his own strategy consultancy outfit known as 'Brain Dancing International'. He has been highly acknowledged by Tony Buzan.

To be very frank, I dare to say that Dilip has today surpassed his mentor, who is apparently still dabbling with his old stuff.

I would like to throw in a couple of valuable suggestions, drawn from my own personal & professional experiences, to enhance the foregoing expert strategy:

1) Identify a small number of knowledgeable persons or experts in the field of your chosen topic, & discuss with them about what you have found in your reading pursuits;

[That's how I met Patricia Danielson, co-developer of the 'PhotoReading' technology, after I had brought her to Singapore to teach me & others during the early nineties.]

2) Contribute some interesting articles on your chosen topic to newspapers &/or magazines;

[I was a regular contributor of articles to the Straits Times as well as Business Times during the nineties, in addition to magazines.]

3) Publish & edit a newsletter on your chosen topic;

[I had also published & edited my own subscription newsletter for two years during the nineties.]

4) Set up a training consultancy to share what you have learned with others;

[That's how I started my strategy consultancy & training development outfit, under the trade name of 'Optimum Performance Technologies', as well as a small retail outlet, aptly called 'The Brain Resource', which provided a smorgasbord of books, audios, videos, tool-kits, & other resources "for the other 90% of the brain".]

I would also like to take this opportunity to share another powerful method to help you to enhance your acquisition of expertise.

I had learned this wonderful method from Patricia Danielson as part of my 'PhotoReading' instruction from her during the early nineties.

It's called syntopical reading, which had originally been conceived by educator Mortimer Adler in his classics, 'How To Read a Book' as wells as 'The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World', during the 50s or so.

As a result, it's sometimes called the 'Syntopicon Method'.

Very briefly, it works like this:

1) Inspection:

- round-up a large quantity of books covering a subject or topic of your interest; I often use the bibliography of my favourite books as a starting point;

- you may even include books, audios, videos, webcasts, podcasts, etc., that are remotely connected to your subject or topic, but you want them to be included as a eclectic mix, just for the purpose of stimulating your creativity - the idea is to stimulate the brain from both the difference/similarity of seemingly unrelated pieces of information or ideas;

- you may also include newspaper clippings &/or magazine articles &/or newsletters;

- quickly scan or skim through the books, resources, etc., & do your best to locate relevant passages in the books or other resources that are most germane to your needs;

[Now, you know why I love 'PhotoReading' so much; According to Mortimer Adler, it is you & your concerns that are primarily to be served, not the books that you are reading.]

2) Assimilation:

- jot down all those relevant passages that pique your immediate interest or curiosity;

- as you read further, develop your own terms of reference;

- make an attempt to bring as many selected author's passages to terms with each other, hopefully meeting your own terms of reference;

- this often involves not only finding the important words &/or vocabulary to the subject or topic, but also finding a common vocabulary among the many authors;

- according to learning experts, sometimes this can only be done by inventing new words or vocabulary by yourself

[Edward de bono & R Buckminster Fuller have been well-known to be great creators in this respect];

- the whole purpose of this exercise is to create a new synthesis of ideas or concepts from your varied reading, instead of just an analysis of the topic from a single book; also, to push & engage yourself in active exploration of the subject or topic by considering a myriad of inputs from many different authors;

3) Question(s):

- identify or formulate the key question(s) that come to mind, as your probe further with the view of extracting important insights to the subject or topic you are pursuing;

- you can use the journalist's questions as a starting point;

- sometimes they can come from those questions that often bug you at night while you are sleeping;

4) Issues:

- with your terms of reference, selected passages & key question(s) in place, make an attempt to define the major issues or salient aspects of the subject or topic;

- from my personal experience, the objective here is to find all the relevant issues, according to your own point of view, which will gradually takes shape as your probe further;

5) Conversation:

- sit back & analyse the discussion or conversation in your head, as you probe the many authors based on what you have found in your exploration;

- this is, in fact, the most important aspect of the syntopical reading process;

- also, for me, this exercise actually serves as an awakening experience, because you are bringing the key question(s) to the books to be answered;

- your job is essentially to find, hopefully, all the answers from the many author's works, in relationship to your key question(s);

- come to think of it, the answers are in the books somewhere, & all those authors are acting as your consultants, in away, to help in your search for the answers;

For me, the best way to do this 'Syntopical Reading' exercise is to get a large sheet of mahjong paper or butcher paper, & then lay it on the floor, together with all your selected books & resources.

You can start immediately with each author's principal premise, which you can readily find in the prefare or introduction or end-of-book summary or even back cover of each book. Use it as a springboard to build your own terms of reference, & proceed with your systematic probe from there.

Create a large map with the selected authors' principal premises as idea triggers along the outer edges of the paper. Jot down the selected passages as you find them against these triggers.

Gradually write down your key question(s) &/or major issues as you formulate them or as they come to mind in the centre of the paper.

Just be willing to explore, experiment & play with the information & ideas you have gathered along the way as you probe. Nothing is sacred.

For me, spontaneous juxtaposition is the key to this wonderful reading & exploration exercise.

With hindsight, & over the years, I have unconsciously applied Richard's expert strategy without his personal instruction, but I have combined it with the syntopical reading method as described to generate what I am doing today.

They have worked for me, & I am sure they will work for you. All it takes is some hard work from you, plus a little bit of self-discipline.

Thanks to the unknown wise guy who once said this:

"In business or life, everything is possible; it's only a question of strategy & discipline."


"You are all unique. By definition, no one else is like you, & so each of you has something that is different from everyone else. Therefore, if you develop that, then you will, by definition, have this extraordinary thing. So wham! celebrate that!"

~ Prof Allan Synder, Director of the Centre for the Mind in Australia; also, creator of 'What Makes a Champion?' or the 'Champion Mindset' philosophy;


How am I making the world a better place?


Imagine you are enjoying the cool breeze while sipping tea with your good friends on a 1,500m mountain-top facility, which is some four to five hours drive away from where you are living.

Next, imagine there is a similar mountain, even higher at 1,800m, located about 58km away from where you are living.

Now, picture yourself as a hard-working contractor, but you are now in your 50s, with some money from your previous building projects.

Next, think about conceptualising & building a beautiful holiday resort on the mountain-top.

Experts from the Public Works Department confirms in writing that it would take 15 years just to build the access road to the mountain-top, because the mountain is surrounded with dense virgin jungle & inaccessible rugged terrain.

One more thing: you have got to go back to the sixties, where construction machinery & equipment were not what they are built today. Worst still, you speak no English.

Can you do it?

In reality, many Malaysian entrepreneurs could only see total madness & extreme foolery in undertaking such a risky endeavour, but one simple man, already in his 50s, eventually took on the arduous initiative of executing his dream project during the late sixties.

Cheating death six times along the way, & functioning as project manager, engineer, financial controller, labourer & trouble shooter, all rolled into one, he almost single-handedly built the access road to the mountain-top facility (on Gunung Ulu Kali, Genting Sempah) in less than four years, with all his own money, & without any financial aid from the Malaysian Government, except for their nod of official approval. The first phase of the project with the hotel was eventually completed in the early seventies.

Today, the mountain-top facility is Genting Highlands, Asia's Best International Casino Resort.

The man who took on the almost insurmountable challenge during the lates sixties was the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, founder of the diversified Genting Group, which today has a combined market capitalisation of US$14 billion as of 30th September 2008.

For me, his acumen was beautifully exemplified in his acute power of observation as well as his keen nose for smelling good opportunities. These are often the critical attributes of successful creators or entrepreneurs.

This book, which I am now actually re-reading (I have read it four years ago when it was first released; I have chosen to re-read it because I needed to verify some facts, while reviewing another book by a Malaysian author), has captured Tan Sri's humble journey, starting with only US$175 in his pocket while coming to Malaysia as a young man from Anxi, China.

Written in the form of an autobiography, in a straight-forward, succinct & yet refreshingly original way, this book has documented:

- his early struggles during the Japanese occupation;
- his early business ventures during the post-war years;
- his friendships & relationships with people he cared about;
- his successful attainment & brilliant execution of government building & construction contracts;
- his perilous endeavour in building the Genting Highlands from scratch;
- his responsiveness, decisiveness & ingenuity in problem solving, at both strategic & tactical level, over the years;
- all the way to his diversifying of the group into other businesses during the later years, e.g. Star Cruises;
- until his final handing over of the controlling reins to his second son, Kok Thay, in late 2002;

In a nut shell, this book offers many valuable entrepreneurship lessons, not so much from the 'high-tech/IQ' perspectives, which one would normally find in other books, but a lot from the 'high-touch/EQ' perspectives, which are more akin to Chinese entrepreneurs.

There is an ostensibly clear emphasis on building 'guanxi' (relationship), which is typical of most if not all Chinese entrepreneurs.

In fact, another useful entrepreneurial trait from Tan Sri is what the Chinese calls 'dan da xin xi', be bold but cautious. In fact, his pragmatism & steadiness were often seen by his peers as liabilities.

Another powerful trait is the power of conviction. Tan Sri said it best:

"When I make a decision & believe strongly that it is the right one, I will go head on with it, no matter what odds I am up against . . . Once a decision is made with sound reasoning, the rest is hard work, determination & perseverance to see it through to fruition."

You just got to read this book to get to know all about the author's entrepreneurship insights from the university of hard knocks.

Nevertheless, for the benefit of readers, I definitely like to pull out one last one from his book, which said it all, truly reflecting his power of vision:

"The Genting project basically fitted my idea of an ideal business: no one was interested in it, which meant no competition".

As Tun Dr Mahathir, former Malaysian Prime Minister, has confirmed in his Foreword:

"Tan Sri's struggle can be considered part & parcel of Malaysia's (economic) development experience."

I fully concur.

Tan Sri's story is a very inspiring one for all of us: beginning with nothing to his name, turning adversities into opportunities, maximising his brain-power, taking calculated risks & confronting naysayers & skeptics through sheer audacity, tenacity, perseverance & more importantly, simplicity & humility.

I salute you, Tan Sri!

[This book was released in 2004 to coincide with the 40th birthday of the Genting Group. This book is still available in local bookstores. Otherwise, try Amazon.]


I have taken the following truncated snapshots of a large & long poster (co-sponsored by Adidas) at the exit from Vivocity into the Harbourfront MRT Station today, with my Nokia N93.

I have yet to figure out what is a runspirator. Can he or she be a spectator, whom with just his or her presence at the event, gives inspiration to the runner(s)?

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Today, being Sunday, I broke my own self-imposed rule of not visiting Vivocity on a weekend.

As you can see from my snapshots, the shopping mall was jam-packed with weekend shoppers.

Whether the retail outlets were having a gala time with their cash registers rolling, I am still not too sure.

But one thing I did know: the food-courts & fast-food restaurants were crowded with customers. There were long queues, & I could see smiling faces on all the food & drink vendors as they punched their cash registers.

Despite seemingly unpredictable financial & economic crises looming in the horizon, Singaporeans, like me & my wife, were apparently all out enjoying their favourite past-time: window-shopping.

I reckon this happening could be considered naturally good, especially with the spirit of joy in the face of difficult times ahead.


I have spotted this poster at the OSIM health & wellness equipment promotional stand in Vivocity today.

To be frank, it is certainly a grim reminder of an obviously tough living & working environment in Singapore.


I have spotted this poster at the Harbourfront MRT Station today. It's actually an ad for Brand's Essence of Chicken, a popular herbal concoction for rejuvenation of the mind & body.

It's Singaporean students' favourite drink during their annual exam preparation.


I have spotted this poster at the Harbourfront MRT Station today. It's actually an ad for Planet Fitness.

With Singaporeans now apparently living much longer than yesteryear's, I reckon this is certainly an apt reminder.


"Multi-tasking is dead. It never worked & it never will. Intelligent people love to sing its praises because it gives them permission to avoid the much more challenging alternative: focusing on one thing."

~ Timothy Ferris, a serial entrepreneur & ultravagabond; also, author of 'The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, & Join the New Rich'; he defines the 'New Rich' as he puts it, a fast-growing subculture, who has abandoned the “deferred-life plan” & instead mastered the new currencies—time & mobility—to create luxury lifestyles in the here & now.


I am often intrigued by this question:

"How much have you wasted on books, tapes, CD’s, DVD’s, videos, seminars & training that have not brought about the performance results you are looking for?"

This is in fact a very pertinent question, considering the fact that a lot of people invest in learning.

First, let's take a look at the backdrop with regard to training seminars & workshops:

According to Indiana University, people only retain:

- 10% of what they read;

- 20% of what they hear;

- 30% of what they see;

- 50% of what they see & hear; &

- 60% of what they write;

The research has further confirmed that people tend to remember:

- 70% of what they discuss;

- 80% of what they experience; &

- 90% of what they teach;

In most training programs, which are nowadays conducted with great fun, plenty exercises as well as energising music, the entire class of participants is often broken down into smaller breakout groups, so they can enjoy many opportunities for interactive discussions.

As group interaction/discussion is taking place, participants are in fact sharing & gaining experience as well as teaching each other.

In spite of these deliberate endeavours on the good part of the organisers, a lot of the motivated & inspired graduates upon completion of the training often find themselves falling back to square one.

What's the problem? How do we overcome it?

According to innovative educator Dr Ellen Weber, writing in her enlightening 'Brain-Based Business' weblog, which I have been following earnestly in recent weeks, there are several ways to overcoming the inertia as well as producing better results.

I like to read her weblog, because she has this unusual knack for breaking down the latest neuroscience research findings into executable ideas for quick & easy implementation.

Coupled with some of my own personal insights, I like to outline the counter-strategy as follows:

1) Question Possibilities:

- our mind works very much faster as you listen to the presenter talking in class, & so you can actually use the "lead time" to question the incoming information & think interactively about various application possibilities;

- consider how you can make use of the information: what does it means to me? how can I apply it in my work or my life? what are the plus, minus as well as interesting points about it?

- jot them down quickly on paper, as your working memory can only handle 7+/-2 chunks of information [Dr Weber calls this outsourcing details to free up your brainpower!];

- don't hesitate to ask questions of the presenter in class to seek further elaboration or clarification, as questions always put you in active learning mode;

- as Dr Weber says, take nothing for granted, & she adds that a sense of wonder & curiosity is always good for the brain during the learning process;

- it's also very important to consolidate & review all the information & ideas from class upon the end of the day, otherwise 80% is lost within 24 hours, follow by the next 7/30/60/90 days;

[Actually, the foregoing is a very good habit to embrace, because your working memory is constantly being stretched during & after class, & more importantly, you don't have time to think about negative thoughts or other mental distractions. Also, I reckon regular reviewing of your game plan also puts your working memory in agile mode.]

2) Target Improvements:

- see the bigger picture with regard to the incoming information as they fit into your work or your life;

- consider: 'what do I want or need to do?'; 'what do I want or need to change?'; 'what do I want or need to improve?';

- next, set out a game plan with stated objectives, & also, determine all the necessary tactical initiatives or daily tasks to be executed in order to meet those stated objectives accordingly, with all the pertinent completion dates in place;

- it's very important to consider & work out your game plan within the context of short-term/medium-term/long-term perspectives, so that you don't cram everything into the immediate future;

[According to Dr Weber, thinking along this way puts your brain in active learning as well as execution mode:

~ to create sustainable change, all incoming information are processed by your prefrontal cortex, & then assimilated into your basal ganglia, a group of nuclei in the brain inter-connected with the cerebral cortex (thinking & reasoning), thalamus (sensory regulation) & brain stem (instinctual behaviours & habitual patterns);

Tactically, the basal ganglia receives direct inputs from most regions of the cortex & limbic structures, & additionally indirect inputs from your sensorimotor & motivational regions of the brain stem via relays in the thalamus;

In a nut shell, the basal ganglia has two primary functions:

i) reinforcement learning: learning by interacting with your environment;

ii) action selection: choosing what tasks to do next;]

3) Expect Quality:

- it is important to realise that all the things you are going to do will boil down to one quality issue: what do you want in your life?

- one word of advice: always hook on new performances on to the natural talents you already possess, &/or the skills you already do well;

- be prepared to step out of your comfort zone & habitual routines, as you ponder over these issues;

4) Move &/or Activate Resources:

- as Dr Howard Gardner says, we are all born with multiple intelligences, most probably in varying degrees, & so, get going fast with the pursuit of your dreams, by drawing upon your innate intelligences:

i) visuo-spatial intelligence: draw a map of possibilities; sketch out your vision; visualise success, &/or mentally rehearse the journey to success;

ii) logical-mathematical intelligence: think of & then set out all proper sequences in your actionable plan; calculate the consequences in the form of metrics;

iii) verbal/linguistic intelligence: talk to yourself; discuss your actionable plan with your spouse or mentor; sell your ideas or plan to whom they may concern;

iv) body-kinesthetic intelligence: move your butt & get going;

v) musical/rhythmic intelligence: put soft soothing background music while you think; start with small steps, one step at a time consistently;

vi) intra-personal intelligence: focus on your goals/objectives; write journals; reflect on your trajectory from the past, through the present & to the future;

vii) intra-personal intelligence: get support from people around you who cared; brainstorm with your buddies e.g. fellow participants; masterminding or expanding your network;

[I have found that masterminding generally helps one in maintaining inspired guidance as well as motivated pursuit of one's dreams. However, it takes effort & time to locate & build rapport with good minders.]

viii) naturalist intelligence: go out there & embrace the world, as nature is a superb teacher; go for a walk or jog in the park regularly, as the natural elements are good for the brain as well; don't forget to smell the flowers along the way;

[According to Dr Weber, today's fast-paced, rapidly-changing world, coupled with a highly-pressurised workplace, is constantly putting all of us in 'distressed' mode, resulting in the generation of the high-energy hormones, Cortisol, in your body system.

In the short-term, Cortisol is good for the body, because it puts you in fighting mode, ready to take on any challenges that come your way, but with prolonged exposure, our thinking & reasoning eventually slow down, among other negative bodily reactions.

With direct involvements in relaxation sequences like meditation, laughing, joking about ourselves, hangout with friends, walking in nature, or even listening to soft soothing background music, your brain readily goes into 'de-stressed' mode, resulting in a continuous jolt of the pleasure hormones, Serotonin, in your body system.

A steady flow of Serotonin helps to fire regular synapses in the brain, firing on all cylinders so to speak, besides keeping you in good mood all the time.

According to Dr Weber, Serotonin functions as part of a complex network of neurotransmitters that can boost or damage brain power.]

5) Reflect for Growth Possibilities:

- constantly monitor & review your personal progress;

- look at what worked? what didn't work? what corrections do you want or need to take?

- ask 'what if?' questions;

- question 'what would it take me to generate or attain a better performance result?', & your brain will quickly enter solution mode;

- inquire 'how could the new information alter what I do everyday?'

- Dr Weber also insists that you should start & end your day with 'where do I go from here?';

- best of all, think about how you can share your learning with others, with the view of maybe even teaching others, if necessary - remember, teaching others enhances your own learning, like what I do;

[I have found that asking questions often helps one to clarify thoughts & crystallise thinking.

More importantly, it's often not only the many questions you ask, but also the few questions you haven't asked or dare not ask. Give some thoughts.]

I trust the foregoing ideas & suggestions from both Dr Weber & me will help you generate better returns on your learning adventures.

In summing up, I like to point out that the ultimate success of your learning & training depends essentially on your bias for action & your operational execution of tactical initiatives, as envisaged in your game plan.

[Here's the link to Dr Ellen Weber's weblog.]


I would recommend readers to go to this link - for a limited period only - to download a 200-page e-book, entitled 'Shifting Gears: How You Can Succeed & Lead in the New Workplace', by success coaches, Susan Ford Collins & Richard Israel, who run the 'Technology of Success' training consultancy.

The book, packed with relevant case studies, provides some interesting perspectives on how you can succeed & lead in the New Economy.

Independently, Susan Ford Collins is the author of 'The Joy of Success' & Richard Israel is the author of 'Grass Roots Leaders: The BrainSmart Revolution in Business'. I haven't yet read their books, but I thought some of their ideas as outlined in their synopses are quite interesting.