Saturday, February 14, 2009


Buying books in Singapore is really an expensive affair. It's great pain in the pockets. This is principally because our local book stores, in apparent collusion with major publishers' agents, always charge an unreasonably inflated conversion rate for US Dollars.

In Singapore, the major bookstores, from the standpoint of retailing business books, are:

- Kinokuniya (biggest);
- Borders;
- Harris;
- Page One;
- MPH;
- Times;
- Popular;

Fortunately, they offer 10% discount cards, but even then, most of the times they are still more expensive than buying from Amazon, after taking into consideration the shipping costs from United States.

The only times when the local prices are generally comparable to Amazon's prices are when they throw special offers of 20 to 25% discounts for short durations, a few times a year.

For me, I hold discount cards from Kinokuniya, Times & Popular. In terms of store repertoire, Kinokuniya is still the best choice.

This afternoon, I have signed up for a 15% discount card, costing S$25/-, from Harris bookstore located at the newly opened Jurong Point 2 shopping mall. I have been attracted to it because of 6 recently released business books, which I am very eager to read. In total, they would have costed me slightly more than S$280/-.

Since the purchase has exceeded S$100/-, the store has automatically increased the discount to 20%.

In that respect, the savings for me have been worthwhile.

In reality, on account of the price advantage, Amazon is still my principal source of business books. Kinokuniya Bookweb is often my next choice, subject to price comparison with Amazon.

From time to time, I do pop into the physical stores to make sporadic purchases, depending on the spur of the moment & subject to how urgently I need to read the books.


What is the most important thing that I need to do right now?

What will make the biggest difference right now?


"Just because something has always been done in a certain way is never a sufficient reason for continuing to do it that way."

~ Clarence Birdseye, 1886-1956, American businessman & inventor, who is considered the founder of the modern frozen food industry;

Friday, February 13, 2009


"Every organisation must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive the future. You can't manage change . . . you can only be ahead of it."

~ management guru Peter Drucker;

I reckon this also applies readily to the individual.

Change is always a fascinating phenomenon, especially when it comes to you as an external impact.

It's also frightening to some extent. No wonder most people resist it as much as they can.

I can now truly understand why a wet baby really appreciates change.

In today's context as a professional, working & living in an era of accelerating change, rising uncertainty & increasing complexity, as compared to the experiences of our forefathers, it seems that the more things change, the more we can't afford not to change.

Come to think of it, changing is a choice, but to choose not to change is also a choice, & often turns out to be a fatal one.

Actually, the hardest thing to change is the hardening of one's personal attitude. Nothing kills personal change faster than personal attitude that resist change.

That's why it is important to realise & accept that personal change begins with awareness.

Awareness of what's going on around your immediate environment, & then beyond.

Awareness of what you want out of life - to be, to do, to change, to improve, whatever.

Awareness of your strategic capabilities - abilities, talents, natural gifts, strengths, weaknesses, problems, threats, & of course, all the opportunities that are out there waiting for you to see & grasp.

Also, awareness of your personal interests, hobbies, & favourite recreational routines.

Next, a strong belief in that personal change can be planned & executed at will, as long as it is your ardent desire to do so.

That's to say, you truly believe in yourself, & also in your personal as well as professional ability to take charge of your own life.

Just remember, life is a continuing do-it-yourself project.

Also, one got to get rid of outdated, or rather disempowering, beliefs in one's personal value system, especially those handed down to you through your parents, your siblings, your schools, your colleagues & friends at your place of work.

Peak performance coach Anthony Robbins was absolutely right:

"All personal breakthroughs begin with a change in personal beliefs."

Next, clarity of thought. That's to say, you need to embrace a good understanding of all the issues that bug you . . . that keep you awake at night!

For me, the best thing to do is conduct what I like to call a SPOT Analysis, by sorting out & exploring your personal strengths, problems, opportunities & threats.

[It's actually a traditional SWOT Analysis, but, from a psychological perspective, I deliberately avoid using the term "weaknesses", as they imply that they are inherent & thus difficult to solve, wheres "problems" are much more easier to deal with.]

Then, think about, as many ways as possible, how you can amplify your strengths, minimise your problems, exploit your opportunities & reduce your threats.

A completed SPOT Analysis gives you the global perspectives & a detailed roadmap to evaluate & match all you have got with whatever are out there for you to grab.

Next, gather & collate all the available information resources that you think can contribute tools, techniques, tactics, tips, & templates, to help in your learning & understanding about change.

More importantly, to help in your staying ahead of change.

They naturally include seminars, workshops, conferences, books, magazines, newsletters, audios, videos, webcasts, podcasts, etc.

After you have done that, extract &/or benchmark operational practices, & then put them to work in your own life, by first setting up an action plan.

Your action plan should have these vital elements in place:

- Specific Objectives to Achieve - expressed in executable tasks, on a daily/weekly/monthly basis;

- Measurable Metrics - this is one is critical, so that you can use them to monitor your personal progress & keep track of any deviations;

- Accountability for Tasks to be Undertaken - sometimes, for certain objectives/tasks, accountability has to be shared, e.g. with your spouse, but you need to define it, etc;

- Resources & Tools to Draw Upon - these include people (mentors &/or masterminds), materials, systems, methodologies, money, etc.;

- Time-Schedule for Completion;

culminating to the acronym, SMART.

With such a powerful implementation system in place, it is difficult for fear, especially the fear of stepping out of the comfort zone & now entering a stretch zone, where uncertainty & ambiguity are just part & parcel of life's game, to surface & bother you.

It is important to recognise that fear is just a natural body response. It is often based on "false evidence appearing real".

Next, stay focused on your plan, but remain flexible in your approach.

Last, but not least, pay attention to results.

Results - it's feedback - allow you to consolidate & evaluate what has worked & what didn't, so that you can take corrective action.

Always remember this, success in personal change is always a function of corrections & adjustments.

I trust the foregoing suggestions, drawn from my personal & professional experiences, will serve as a practical strategy for developing change readiness, to help you stay ahead of change!

[to be continued in the Next Post.]


"Spectacular achievement is preceded by unspectacular preparation."

~ Robert Schuller, 83, evangelist, pastor & author;


Is the inability to achieve the goals, whether business, professional or personal, due to the lack of knowledge or skills, or because of some poor attitudes and habits?

Either way, how can I resolve it?

Thursday, February 12, 2009


What’s going on in my future?

Based on where I am now, what does my future looks like?

What am I doing about it?

How would I like things to be different?

How can I make things different?

What is my “map” to my new world?

~ inspired by the work of futurist Frank Feather;


"If you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life."

~ Confucius, 551BC-479BC, Chinese scholar & philosopher, whose teachings have deeply influenced Asian thoughts & lifestyle;


Recently, a trainer friend of mine dropped me an urgent email note to assist him in designing a response to an invitation to run a mock seminar on English for Chinese students, as part of a job interview.

He was given 45 minutes to present a story about an important cultural figure in Singapore history.

After evaluating the given material, I told him that the best response was to use a 'Story Grid'.

A 'Story Grid' is just a simple information processing tool for breaking down a story into its principal constituents.

This is how it works:

"Take an A3 size sheet of blank paper. Fold it down 3 times to 1/8 of its original size.

Open it up, & draw pencil lines along the creases. You can see a 8 box matrix.

Mark out the boxes as follows, starting from the left, top down;

# 1) Setting of the Story: (just add names of places, dates, era or period, ambience, etc.;)

# 2) Principal Character, his Character Traits & Relationships, if any;

# 3) Theme of the Story;

# 4) Sequence of Major Events in the Principal Character's Life : (add details about his learnings, motivations, inspirations, work ethic, etc;)

Now, we move to the right, starting from the top;

# 5) Important Events or Actions in the Story;

# 6) New Vocabulary;

# 7) Imagery & Symbols Used in the Story;

# 8) Learning Points from the Story &/or Personal Impressions;"

I then told him to use the 'Story Grid' as a hand-holding exercise in the class with the mock students.

I also took the opportunity to explain to my trainer friend the basic difference of the 'Story Grid' from the 'Storyboard'.

A 'Storyboard', which is basically a different information processing tool, is more approrpiate for organising the sequence of the story (or plot), like in a movie or animation production.

This is my personal elaboration to him:

"It's actually very simple to do a 'Storyboard'.

Have a stack of index cards ready. Think of a story, e.g. your eldest son, from the day he was born till today.

Capture each single event of his life on to one card.

Draw a rich picture on one side & describe some salient aspects on the flipside. [On second thoughts, & as an alternative, draw a rich picture on one card & describe the salient aspects on another card.]

Continue with the next event in his life.

By the time you have finished with his life story, you probably have a whole stack of completed cards.

Lay them out sequentially on to a table. [As an alternative to what has been illustrated earlier, one can arrange the 'picture' card on top with the corresponding 'text' card just below.] You now have your storyboard right in front of you.

Just add any missing event onto a new card & slot it into the sequence.

If you want to do a video production, just follow the storyboard."

This is a simple variation of the storyboard as originally conceived & practised by the legendary Walt Disney.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


How does management deal with the fact that it doesn't own its assets - it only rents them for a period of the day?

~ Bob Boldt;


"Those unable to change themselves cannot change what goes on around them."
~ Prof. Reg Revans, 1907-2003, management consultant & the founding father of 'Action Learning';


". . . This tape shall self-destruct in five seconds . . ."

For readers who have lived through the sixties, & who loved watching movies on the goggle box, like me, I am sure you are familiar with the above mandatory opening line in every episode of the black & white spy thriller television series known as 'Mission Impossible'.

[It was about a team of highly-skilled covert operatives led by Dan Briggs (played by Steven Hill) & later by Jim Phelps (played by Peter Graves), who were assigned by a top-secret government agency to deal with or neutralise rogue regimes or trouble makers all around the world. If their often dangerous exploits failed, the Secretary of State would disavowed any knowledge of their existence.]

For the younger generation, I am confident you have probably seen Tom Cruise's modern rendition in MI:I, MI:II & MI:III in recent years, & to keep to the original format, the same mandatory opening line has more or less remained intact.

[In the modern version, Tom Cruise played agent Ethan Hunt, although Jon Voight reprised the original character of Jim Phelps in the first remake. The latter was eventually killed at the end of the movie as he turned out to be a rogue agent.]

For many years, the image of the 'self-destruct mechanism' has stayed in my memory.

I have recently been reminded of it, but with a twist.

I am referring to the scary idea of a 'self-destruct' diploma, first broached by the futurist & education reform advocate [also visionary president of the Whitworth College, Spokane, Washington, during the seventies] Dr Edward Lindaman, as related by another futurist, Jennifer James, in an article during the early nineties.

Dr Lindaman spoke about the need for a 'self-destruct' diploma: a diploma that would be invalid ten years after it was issued, unless some proof of continued learning was offered.

I reckon Dr Lindaman's assertion seems more relevant today, considering the fact we now live in an era when the growth of unstructured information is phenomenal, reportedly doubling every 3 months, according to the Gartner Group.

According to predictions by Forbes Magazine, by 2020, new technical information is likely to double every 72 hours!

Worst still, half of what we study in the university during the first year will be out of date by the 3rd year, & the top twenty jobs in 2020 do not exist today!

Change is happening at exponential speeds, & we can't possibly begin to read all of even a small fraction of what is published about countless specialised subjects.

No wonder the economist & futurist Robert Theobald (1929-1999), who wrote 'The Rapids of Change' during the late eighties, once said:

"When information doubles, knowledge halves, & wisdom quarters!"

Our ability to learn faster & adapt quickly become more important than ever.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Where is the wisdom that we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge that we have lost in information?

Where is the information that we have lost in data?

~ in a 1910 poem by T. S. Elliott (1888–1965, American-born English poet & literary critic; he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948), long before computers, the Internet & all of the sophisticated information tools that we have available today;


"Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end up by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning."

~ Mahatma Ghandi, 1869–1948; father of the Indian nation;

Monday, February 9, 2009


I have stumbled upon this belated article by Bernard Harrison, more populary known as Singapore's 'Zoo Man'. He was the brain behind the Singapore Zoological Gardens as well as its unique Night Safari.

Today, he runs a master planning consultancy outfit, Bernard Harrison & Friends.

The article has been published in two parts, Part I & Part II, on the LEXEAN current affairs publication website.

What he talked about creativity or more precisely creativeness within the context of our Singapore environment makes a lot of sense.


“I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my 25 years of teaching – that schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet . . . Two institutions at
present control our children’s lives – television and schooling, in that order.”

~ John Gatto, award-winning teacher, education reform advocate, & author of 'A Different Kind Of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling';


"I'm like my mother: buay si eh, cannot die. She won't sit there & wait for opportunities to come to her. Because we didn't have much of an education, we treasure every opportunity."

~ Jack Neo, 49, Singapore's funniest comedian & money-making film-maker, as quoted in 'The Monday Interview' of today's issue of the 'Straits Times';

[I certainly admired his work ethic: Whether it is acting, hosting, scriptwriting or film-making, he learnt by practice, practice & more practice.

That is best summed up by the phrase he uses to describe his own ad hoc training: "agak-agak".

To me, that means, constant experimentation or trial & error, which can also reflect his continual improvisation to deal with problems & challenges from the real-world as well as in the reel-world.

I can well understand his sentiments about movie critics. [To me, their command of the English language is horrendous!!!]

I think he should take comfort from the fact that, even MM Lee Kuan Yew, despite his impeccable thirty-year track record of building Singapore to what it is today, still gets his fair share of critics, especially journalists from the West.

I always remember MM Lee's superb rebuttal to those annoying journalists: "Have you ever run a country?"

So, Jack Neo should follow likewise in dealing with those arm-chair movie critics: "Have you ever make a movie?"]

Sunday, February 8, 2009


What follows happens to be one of those not-so-annoying-&-yet-still-has-some-goodies chain emails that goes round in cyberspace.

A buddy of mine from 'The Wednesday Club' has sent one to me.

Instead of emailing it out again as suggested, I thought I might as well post it here for everybody to read.

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.

3. Buy a DVR and tape your late night shows and get more sleep.

4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, 'My purpose is to __________ today.'

5. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.

6. Play more games and read more books than you did in 2008.

7. Make time to practice meditation, and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.

8. Spend time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.

9. Dream more while you are awake.

10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.

11. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.

12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

13. Clear clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new and flowing energy into your life.

14. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, OR issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

17.. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the NEGATIVE BLUES away.

18. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

20. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

21. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

22. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

23. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

24. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

26. Forgive everyone for everything.

27. What other people think of you is none of your business.

28. REMEMBER GOD heals everything.

29. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

30. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

31. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

32. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

33. The best is yet to come.

34. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

35. Do the right thing!

36. Call your family often. (Or email them to death!)

37. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________.

38. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

39. Enjoy the ride. Remember this is not Disney World and you certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

40. Please Forward this to everyone you care about.

May your Troubles be less, May your Blessings be more, May nothing but Happiness come!


While surfing the net, I have stumbled upon an interesting book entitled '150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs', by Dr Laurence Shatkin.

In his book, Dr Shatkin has identified the following most recession-proof skills:

1) Social perceptiveness;

2) Writing;

3) Reading comprehension;

4) Service orientation;

5) Persuasion;

6) Active listening;

7) Critical thinking;

8) Speaking;

9) Learning strategies;

10) Instructing;

He urges individuals to concentrate on enhancing these areas so as to become more valuable to employers in tough economic times.


"The more you are like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique."

~ the legendary Walt Disney, who gave the world a series of memorable characters, endearing animation movies & entertaining theme parks;