Saturday, March 21, 2009


I have found the following fascinating quotes attributed to the American journalist Sydney J Harris (1917-1986) on the net, which somehow offer interesting distinctions:

1) "An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run."

2) "As we grow older, we should learn that these are two quite different things.

Character is something you forge for yourself; temperament is something you are born with and can only slightly modify. Some people have easy temperaments and weak characters; others have difficult temperaments and strong characters.

We are all prone to confuse the two in assessing people we associate with. Those with easy temperaments and weak characters are more likable than admirable; those with difficult temperaments and strong characters are more admirable than likable."

"The principal difference between love and hate is that love is an irradiation, and hate is a concentration. Love makes everything lovely; hate concentrates itself on the object of its hatred."

3) "The difference between faith and superstition is that the first uses reason to go as far as it can, and then makes the jump; the second shuns reason entirely — which is why superstition is not the ally, but the enemy, of true religion."

4) "The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war."


I have picked up the above idea, 'Vu ja de: Seeing Old Things in New Ways', from the wonderful book, 'Weird Ideas That Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, & Sustaining Innovation', by Robert Sutton.

According to him, "vu ja de" is seeing the same old thing in new ways; if "dé jà vu" is the feeling that you have had an experience before even though it is brand new, then "vu ja de" is what happens when you feel and act as if an experience (or an object) is brand-new even if you have had it (or seen it) hundreds of times.

In the book, he highlighted a number of fascinating stories to illustrate the "vu ja de" mentality, but I have deliberately chosen the following two cases for this post:

1) During the Second World War, the British and U.S. air forces were concerned because many of their planes were being shot down. They wanted to use more armor, but were not quite sure where to put it.

One of the statistics guys Abraham Wald planned to put a mark on every bullet hole in the airplanes that returned from battle. He found that two major sections of the fuselage — one between the wings and the other between the tails — had far fewer bullet holes.

He decided to put the armor in these places, where he saw fewer, not more, holes. Why?

Because it stood to reason that the planes were hit randomly. The planes he analyzed had not been shot down! So it was the holes he wasn't seeing — in the planes that weren't returning — that needed extra protection.

2) BrightHouse, is an "ideation company" that charges clients like Coca-Cola, Hardee's, & Georgia Pacific US$500,000 to US$1,000,000 for a single idea.

Its founder Joey Reiman rejects the taken-for-granted assumption that doing things faster is always better. He brags that BrightHouse does "business at the speed of molasses."

He emphasizes that you can't rush great ideas. "I tell our clients that we're the slowest company they'll ever meet — and that we're the most expensive."

So, BrightHouse works on only one idea at a time, with everyone in the small company (about 20 people) devoting two to three months to creative approaches for the single client they are serving.

Reiman developed this way of working after running a conventional advertising firm for many years, which led him to believe that most of the work done was so rushed and there were so many different clients to keep happy that creativity was stifled.

BrightHouse has had impressive results. Reiman and his team helped the giant fragrance house Coty Inc. to create "ghost myst," the first perfume to embrace values and spirituality ("inner beauty" rather than physical beauty) as the focus of its market positioning.

Ghost myst became the best-selling fragrance of 1995, and it launched a spirituality-in-beauty movement that many other fragrance and cosmetics companies have rushed to join.

BrightHouse's competitive advantage is that they are a thoughtful tortoise in a world filled with speedy hares.

When you move more slowly than everyone else,the same old things look different to you, and you can think about them in different ways.

The author concludes in his book:

No matter how it is accomplished, the "vu ja de" mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception.

1) It means shifting our focus from objects or patterns that are in the foreground to those in the background,between what psychologists call "figure" versus "ground."

2) It means thinking of things that are usually assumed to be negative as positive, and vice versa.

3) It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect, or what matters most versus least.

4) It means not traveling through life on automatic pilot.

Interestingly, after reading about the "vu ja de" mentality, I like to share a personal experience of mine, with a slight twist:

Prior to marrying my Amay, who is hailed from Vietnam, I have always been eating one of my favourite vegetables, kangkong (water spinach), with stems (only the upper sections) & leaves all together, often stir-fried with blachan, a local prawn paste concoction, plus some cuttlefish, irrespective of whether it is home-cooked or eating out.

In fact, I have been eating always that way for at least half a century.

As most Vietnamese people prefers to eat their vegetables raw or maybe steamed at best - that's why their damsels are always so slim & dainty - my wife cooks it differently.

She slices the entire stems of the kangkong into long thin treads, & mixes them into boiling hot soups, either with noodles or vermicelli. The leaves are discarded.

I would never have realised that old-fashioned kangkong - I mean, the entire stems - could be eaten in this radically new, & still almost raw, form. Best of all, it tastes so good!


"Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does Nature, because in her inventions, nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

In dealing with a scientific problem, I first arrange several experiments, and then show with reasons why such an experiment must necessarily operate in this and in no other way. This is the method which must be followed in all research upon the phenomenon of nature.

We must consult experience in the variety of cases and circumstances until we can draw from them a general rule that is contained in them. And for what purposes are these rules good?

They lead us to further investigations of nature and to creations of art.

They prevent us from deceiving ourselves and others by promising results which are not obtainable."

~ Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 – 1519, Italian Renaissance architect, musician, anatomist, inventor, engineer, sculptor, geometer, painter (also, a very cool talented artistic creative scientist / philosopher!);


"My old grand daddy used to say 'The less a man makes declarative statements, the less apt he is to look foolish in retrospect.'"

~ Chester, played by Quentin Tarantino, in one of the four segments ('The Man from Hollywood') of the comedy movie, 'Four Rooms';


"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable."

~ Sydney Harris, 1917–1986; American journalist for the Chicago Daily News & later the Chicago Sun-Times; his column, “Strictly Personal”, was syndicated in many newspapers throughout the United States & Canada;


I have just received this email with sensible & yet thought-provoking advice from an old buddy of mine:

Time is like a river

You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again.

Enjoy every moment of life . . .

For those that are already 50, start practicing.

For those almost 50, get ready.

For those where 50 is a long way off, help your parents do it.

For Those Over 50 Years Old:

1. Focus on enjoying people, not on indulging in or accumulating material things.

2. Plan to spend whatever you have saved. You deserve to enjoy it and the few healthy years you have left. Travel if you can afford it.

3. Don't leave anything for your children or loved ones to quarrel about. By leaving something, you may even cause more trouble when you are gone.

4. Live in the here and now, not in the yesterdays and tomorrows. It is only today that you can handle. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not even happen.

5. Enjoy your grandchildren (if blessed with any) but don't be their full time baby sitter. You have no moral obligation to take care of them. Don't have any guilt about refusing to baby sit anyone's kids, including your own grand kids. Your parental obligation is to your children.

6. After you have raised them into responsible adults, your duties of child-rearing and babysitting are finished. Let your children raise their own off-springs.

7. Accept physical weakness, sickness and other physical pains. It is a part of the ageing process. Enjoy whatever your health can allow.

8. Enjoy what you are and what you have right now. Stop working hard for what you do not have. If you don't have them, it's probably too late.

9. Enjoy your life with your spouse, children, grandchildren and friends. People, who truly love you, love you for yourself, not for what you have. Anyone who loves you for what you have will just give you misery. And you'd probably know that by now.

10. Forgive and accept forgiveness. Forgive yourself and others. Enjoy peace of mind and peace of soul.

11. Not trying to be morbid, but befriend death. It's a natural part of the life cycle. Don't be afraid of it. Just make sure you can say on your last breath that you have had a good life and are at peace with yourself and the world.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Paradigms are rules that define boundaries & how to be successful within those boundaries.

They tell us there is a game, what the game is, & how to play the game successfully.

A paradigm shift is a new set of rules.

When a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero.

Paradigm paralysis results from paradigms too strongly held.

Here are some conclusions about paradigms:

1. Paradigms are common;

2. Paradigms are functional;

3. The paradigm effect reverses the commonsense relationship between seeing and believing;

4. There is almost always more than one right answer;

5. Paradigms too strongly held can lead to paradigm paralysis, a terminal disease of certainty;

6. Paradigm pliancy is the best strategy in turbulent times;

7. Human beings can choose to change their paradigms;

Paradigm pliancy is purposefully seeking new & better ways of doing things fight the tendency to explain why things are impossible.

It's also an active behaviour in which we constantly challenge our prevailing paradigms by asking the 'Paradigm Shift' question:

"What do I believe is important to do in my field or discipline today, but if it could be done, would fundamentally change my way of doing it for the better?"

Ask the question often. Listen to the answers. It will keep us in touch with that strange space on the other side of our boundaries where we could be put back to zero.


"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us."

~ Marcel Proust, 1871-1922, French novelist;

Thursday, March 19, 2009


What can I do to avoid running head-long into the ‘same old, same old’ thinking processes & belief structures?

~ inspired by Dudley Lynch's 'The Mother of All Minds: Leaping Free of an Outdated Huamn Nature';


Although I love to go window-shopping with my wife, both my wife & myself are not shopaholics in the true sense of the word.

Actually, I have picked up my window-shopping habit from my first wife, Catherine.

In those heydays up to the end of 2001, Orchard Road was our regular hang-out. Most of the front line staff at major fashion boutiques on Orchard Road knew Catherine by her first name.

When Catherine passed away eight years ago, I didn't know what to do with her stuff - all the branded clothes, shoes, handbags, purses, belts, real & costume jewelry.

They were in fact systematically kept in their original packaging, where applicable, in the cupboards at home, practically untouched by me or anybody else, but still in mint condition, as Catherine was always extremely meticulous in the handling & storage of her favourite possessions.

Anyway, three years later, I met my current wife, Amay, & I was sure glad that I could eventually hand over all Catherine's favourite possessions to her.

The most miraculous thing that has happened is that most of the clothes & shoes could fit my current wife. So, in a way, Amay has benefited with a lot of wonderful & prized goodies, so to speak.

Likewise, during my heydays, I have also amassed a lot of branded clothes - mostly vests, covering the four seasons - & other stuff from my overseas holidays.

As a result, both Amay & myself have decided that we have too much good stuff in our hands.

So , whenever we go window-shopping, we only go for stuff that we really need at home.

Oftentimes, we come home empty-handed from our window-shopping sprees. That happens 9 times out of ten. This is partly attributed to the fact that Amay doesn't fancy expensive or branded stuff. Also, she is more conscious of the fact that I am retired.

Amay & I truly enjoy our window-shopping sprees. Amay often has this knack for spotting great bargains.

As for me, I like to use my window-shopping routines as random stimuli for the mind. I find it stimulating.

By the way, according to learning guru Ronald Gross, also author of the classic 'Peak Learning' book, interacting with the world out there is a vital aspect of the self-directed 'Invisible University' curriculum.

Nonetheless, for both of us, window-shopping offers an opportunity to get out of the four walls of the house.

Next, just to gawk at the people & also the world out there for a change.

Today, we happen to hang out in Bugis Junction as well as Bugis Village across the main road.

The digital snapshot in this post has been taken at Bugis Junction.


"A person who cares about what he sees & does is a person who's bound to have some characteristics of quality."

~ Robert Pirsig, in his acclaimed book, 'Zen & the Art of Motor-cycle Maintenance';

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Dare to . . .

Ask for what you want.

Believe in yourself.

Count your blessings.

Do what you love.

Enjoy every day.

Find your path.

Give to others.

Have a sense of humor.

Initiate friendships.

Judge less.

Kiss and make up.

Love and be loved.

Make a difference.

Nurture your spirit.

Overcome adversity.

Play & laugh more.

Question conformity.

Reach for the stars.

Speak your truth.

Take personal responsibility.

Understand more.

Volunteer your gifts.

Walk through fear.

Xperience the moment.

Yearn for grace.

Be Zany.

~ attributed to Meiji Stewart;


"We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed.

The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous.

The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode.

Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful. If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies. When you charge the enemy machine-gun post, don't waste energy trying to see the funny side of it. Do it in the "closed" mode.

But the moment the action is over, try to return to the "open" mode—to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is need to improve on what we have done.

In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent."

— John Cleese, 70, award-winning English actor, comedian, writer, film producer & singer, who is well-known as being a member of 'Monty Python Flying Circus'; he also played the techno-gizmo side-kick in the two James Bond films, 'The World Is Not Enough' & 'Die Another Day';


"A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done."
~ Vince Lombardi, 1913 – 1970, legendary American football coach;

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


1) Thinking globally;

2) Appreciating cultural diversity;

3) Demonstrating technological savvy;

4) Building partnerships;

5) Sharing leadership;

6) Developing personal mastery;

7) Communicating vision;

8) Demonstrating integrity;

9) Focusing on results;

10) Ensuring customer satisfaction;

[Source: 'New Competencies for Tomorrow's Global Leader', an article by Marshall Goldsmith in CMA Management.]


Passion is a very personal thing. It comes from - deep down of - your heart.

For me, it’s pursuing your fondest dreams or following your bliss - doing what you love & loving what you do.

In a nut shell, all the little (as well as big) things that excite you the most are the tell-tale signs of what you are passionate about.

Unfortunately, many people choose to ignore those signs. I reckon it is because they lack the courage to pursue their true passion.

In reality, most people prefer to stay within what change strategist James O'Toole calls "the ideology of comfort & tyranny of custom", & never really ever live their true passion.

From my personal experience, if you want to know where to find your passion, you don't have to look elsewhere. Because it's already deep inside you.

Passion, as I have said earlier, is about all those little (as well as big) things that excite you, ignite you, fire you up, energise you. Make your eye wide open. Give you that WOW feeling all the time.

In my personal case, reading is my true passion. In fact, it has been my burning passion since the sixties, when I had started initially with comics (Dandy & Beano) & Reader's Digest.

During the early eighties, my passion even extended to playing with technology.

I bought my first computer, a portable Otrona Attache 8:16, built to military specifications. It came with an Epson Dot Matrix Printer LQ1500. You know what? The whole package costed me S$12,000, & I had to take up a personal loan from my employer.

Throughout the early nineties, because of my deep interest in optimum performance technologies, I even invested in brain synthesisers, or better known as light & sound machines. I believed I had spent no less than S$10,000 on those fancy stuff, not counting all the high-tech meditation audios.

Later on, in the ensuing years, my passion drove me to explore & play with a whole gamut of creativity & innovation tool kits, including construction kits from Googolplex, K'Nex, Tensegrity, & Zometools.

As a matter of fact, cyberspace with the advent of the Internet in the mid-nineties became my marketplace of ideas & tools for further exploration.

I do realise that, once you have a passion for something, you will go all out to get it. That's the beauty of having passion in your life!

That's how, in a way, I became a knowledge adventurer & technology explorer.

As I have already mentioned in many of my earlier posts, I left the corporate world - after twenty four years - for good during the early nineties just to pursue my dreams - & follow my bliss - by setting up, among a few other ventures, a small bookstore, in an attempt to bankroll my reading pursuits & learning adventures.

Frankly speaking, as I can see it, passion is deep inside everybody. There are as many passions as there are human beings.

All you need to do is step out of your comfort zone, follow your heart, work out a plan, take consistent action, & pursue it relentlessly.

Don’t hold back because you fear what people will say. Do what your heart tells you.

When I told my big boss in my last job about my dreams & passions, he thought I was crazy.

To find your passion, all I can say is that, just be you.

Following reading & reviewing, blogging is now my new passion. I have been blogging actively for the last 18 months, & I am enjoying every minute of it. It also works very well with my reading pursuits.

Best of all, it keeps me intellectually active!

Today, for most people, I reckon the Internet is really a good place to start researching what you are passionate about.

On hindsight, I can say that passion generally starts with your personal hobbies, your favourite past times, your personal interests that fall outside the normal sphere of work activities or prescribed lifestyles.

Your pursuits are not driven by money or any expectations of rewards, except psychic satisfaction.

And always remember, finding your true passion is not rocket science: it all begins in your heart.

Actually, come to think of it, it involves your mind & your spirit, too.

To conclude this post, I like to leave the following apt quote from educator & psychologist Dr Marsha Sinetar as food for thought:

"Do what you love, the money will follow..."


What great challenges must I tackle today to reinvent myself, & make my mind, body & spirit more agile & resilient to a volatile world?


Readers can download a free 99-page ebook, which provides the full answer to the intriguing question "What is it that makes some people so successful, & others not so?",

Here's the link.


“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.”

~ Wayne Dyer, 69, popular American self-help advocate & author; his 'Your Erroneous Zones' (1976) is said to have brought humanistic ideas to the masses;


"It is more important to become a work of art than to merely produce one."

~ from the corporate website of Barry Sharplin, accomplished multi-media visual artist & art teacher, based in Frenchtown, New Jersey, USA;

Monday, March 16, 2009


Today's 'Monday Interview' in the Straits Times, which features Ms Veronica Tan, 51, one of the founding partners of the Peach Garden restaurant chain in Singapore, catches my personal attention.

She shares two great management insights, as expressed in her remarks to the reporter during the interview:

1) "I always tell my upper management staff that they need to be like a hawk & an octopus. They need to be able to see everything that's happening in the restaurant & multi-task as a manager."

2) "I don't need a chef who can cook only abalone & sharks' fin. When I do food tastings (to hire chefs), I ask for fried rice, sweet & sour pork & lightly stir-fried greens. these may be simple dishes, but they are not easy to get right."

Gee Whiz! She is truly a graduate of the Corridor, or more appropriately known as the 'University of Hard Knocks', where management methods & operational tactics are always put through the baptism of fire.

To me, her tips about the helicopter ability, ambidextrous agility & excellence mindset are great reminders for all the entrepreneur wannabes out there!


The following valuable checklist comes from management guru Robert Heller's Management Intelligence:

"A millionaire reader once told me that he had built up his eminently successful business by following these dozen points from my book, 'The Business of Winning' (1980):

IMPROVE basic EFFICIENCY – all the time

THINK as simply and directly as possible about what you’re doing and why

BEHAVE towards others as you wish them to behave towards you

EVALUATE each business and business opportunity with all the objective facts and logic you can muster

CONCENTRATE on what you do well

ASK QUESTIONS ceaselessly about your performance, your markets, your objectives

MAKE MONEY; if you don’t you can’t do anything else

ECONOMISE, because doing the most with the least is the name of the game

FLATTEN the company, so authority is spread over many people

ADMIT to your failings and shortcomings, because only then will you be able to improve on them

SHARE the benefits of success widely among those who helped to achieve it

TIGHTEN up the organisation wherever and whenever you can – because success tends to breed slackness

You’ll see that the Clean Dozen form an acronym – IT BECAME FAST.

And even after a quarter of a century I wouldn’t change a word or a thought. Follow these precepts, and you have every hope of becoming a fast-moving leader. But I’ve added three more and more modern:

ENABLE EVERYBODY in the business to use their individual powers to the fullest possible extent

SERVE your CUSTOMERS with all their requirements and desires to standards of perceived excellence in quality

TRANSFORM performance by constantly innovating in products and processes – including the ways in which the business is managed

That makes a new acronym: IT BECAME FASTEST. There’s no substitute for being best. Best is simply best. So, do it - FASTEST!"


"Everyone can think of the one thing that would make life better for them. But people are not so quick to answer the second question: 'What are you doing to make that change come true?'."
~ Catherine Pulsifer, author & writer; she is one of the editors of Words of Wisdom 4 U! - a collection of inspirational poems, thoughts, stories, quotes, smiles, & proverbs;


What would make something better for me?

What in my usual sphere of knowledge would work with what I am trying to accomplish?

What do I think would be an interesting change?

Sunday, March 15, 2009


While browsing the Amazon website, I happen to bump into a book by Steven Scott, entitled 'Simple Steps to Impossible Dreams: The 15 Power Secrets of the World's Most Successful People'.

One particular line in Part I of the book catches my immediate attention:

You've got the Power . . . but you're stuck on the Launching Pad!

Intrigued, & with the aid of the amazing Amazon online reader, I manage to read the book selectively.

Here's what I have found:

The author uses the apt analogy of a rocket flight, in what he calls 'the art of Dream Conversion', to help us in pursuing & attaining our fondest dreams, & then reveals the six chains which often hold us back:

1) our programming for mediocrity from youth;

2) our fear of failure;

3) our avoidance of criticism;

4) our lack of clear & precise vision of our destination & a precise map to get there;

5) our lack of know-how;

6) our lack of resources;

Next, he outlines the 7 booster engines in our rocket system, which are critical to our mission:

1) productivity or doing more with less;

2) power to dream & achieve impossible dreams;

3) partnering with others, especially mentors;

4) positiveness as a frame of mind;

5) persuasiveness in communicating with others;

6) persistence, as a discipline in winning;

7) laser-focused priority planning;

Lastly & most importantly, he concludes that we need the vital fuel for all 7 booster engines: passion, plus bliss & motivation from our heart to flip the power switch, in order to ignite all the 7 engines, so to speak!

Throughout the book, the author apparently draws inspirations as well as profiles from many successful people, like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Lee Iaccoca, Steven Spielberg & Oprah Winfrey.

Steven Scott is obviously a great story teller!


"To think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself, it will spiral down into every increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that discipline - training - is about."

~ James Clavell, 1924–1994, British novelist, screen-writer & director; best known for his epic Asian Saga series of novels & their movie as well as television adaptations, e.g. 'The Great Escape', 'To Sir, with Love', 'Shogun', & 'Noble House', among other great works;


What if there's a way that I can generate a list of money-making opportunities that I can exploit for myself?

What changes then can I make to happen to my life?


"Always dream & shoot higher than you know how to. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."

~ William Faulkner, 1889-1981, American author & publisher;