Saturday, June 20, 2009


How can I get the highest exponential return from my cognitive capital?

What's the most obvious, compelling thing to zero in on here?

What do I want to focus on right now?

~ inspired initially by some interesting stuff from the new book, 'Rapt: Attention & the Focused Life', by science writer Winifred Gallagher, which I am ordering from Amazon;


While I was enjoying my recent holidays in Vietnam, I was saddened to hear about the sudden death of one of my favourite actors, David Carradine, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Like everyone else, I remember him very well from his role as the wandering philosophical Shaolin monk travelling across the wild wild west of America in the television series of the early seventies known as 'Kung Fu'.

His name was Kwan Chang Caine, or 'Grasshopper' to his sifu, Master Po.

Although he wasn't a true martial artist like Bruce Lee, I thought he really played his role very well.

Every time he got into a fight - reluctantly of course - with trouble makers, he would reflect on what his sifu had taught him.

For me, true to authentic Shaolin philosophies & teachings, he effectively inspired the Kung Fu character with grace, patience, inner strength, self-control, agility, nimbleness, tenacity & power.

Despite the fact he was casted in many different action characters - bad guy as well as good guy - in the movies over the years, including the Kill Bill series, my fond memory of him stays stuck with the Kung Fu series.

Rest in peace, my hero.

By the way, here's one of my favourite quotes by him:

"There's an alternative. There's always a third way, & it's not a combination of the other two ways. It's a different way."


"A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner, neither do uninterrupted prosperity & success qualify for usefulness
happiness. The storms of adversity, like those of the ocean, rouse the faculties, & excite the invention, prudence, skill & fortitude of the voyager."

~ Author Unknown;


So many times we get caught up in what is going on around us that we fail to think about other people and how much we depend on each other or even what we're missing in our own lives... sometimes, we forget how grateful we should be for who, how, what, and especially, where we are in our present life.

Let's make the most of out of it.

Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day.

What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course!

Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME.

Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose.

It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day.

If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow."

You must live in the present on today's deposits.

Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success! The clock is running. Make the most of today!

To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.

To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.

To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realize the value of ONE DAY, ask a daily wage laborer with kids to feed.

To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.

To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who wrongfully ended his best relationship.

To realize the value of ONE MILLI-SECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.

Treasure every moment that you have! Treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time.

Remember that time waits for no one. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present!

[Source: Ripples of Inspiration from Lizswwworld]


[continue from the Last Post.]

My third response via email to the lady professional as mentioned in the earlier blog post went as follows:

"First, my apologies for this delay in response as I am still figuring out how to help you.

I am going to take a radical approach. Instead of giving you straight advice, I want you to think through & do two things for me.

1) I am sure you are familiar with the '30-second elevator pitch'.

In writing, that works out to about 7 short lines.

Can you tell me, in writing, with only 7 short lines, why I, as a prospective employer, should employ you, say as a change agent, in my company?

2) I own a 10-year old Chinese mixed cuisine restaurant, with half a dozen branches in town. I also own a production outfit to serve my needs, & employ about 250 people, with 20% of them foreigners. Business is getting bad, because of the economic slowdown, resulting in many customers gradually down-grading to foodcourts.

Competition is also getting very stiff, as other restaurants are throwing freebies to attract customers. To my amazement, new restaurants are also coming up. They have secretly been talking to some of my key people.

Worst still, staff morale is getting low, as all employees have to take substantial paycuts to allow the business to stay afloat.

I am engaging you as a consultant to solve my immediate probems, & to revamp my operations, if necessary.

Can you give me a one-page concept proposal what I should do? say in the next 30 days/90days/180 days?

In the first exercise, I want to see how you can create distinctiveness & novelty in selling yourself.

In the second exercise, I want to see how you are able to put all the stuff you know about e.g. change management, project management, problem analysis, ideation on possibility, to work in the real world out there.

Let me be upfront: This is not a test of your intelligence. I just want to know how resourceful & anticipatory you are.

Upon your response, I will then have a better idea of how to help you."

Sad to say, I didn't get the response I wanted from her, thus reinforcing my long-held belief that a gap between "knowing & "doing" is real.

Naturally, there is also the issue of the personal ego factor, which is always the stumbling block to personal breakthrough.

My advsiory or approach may seem unconventional, but I have gone through this critical path, when I had decided to leave the corporate world for good during the early nineties, after having spent almost a quarter of a century working in quiet desperation.

Navigating a mid-life transition is always a tough personal decision.

It takes a resourceful mind state, crystal clarity in thinking, a thoroughness in deliberating one's capabilities & competencies, an ardent desire for personal change, a willingess to get out of the comfort zone, a firm commitment towards a new personal future, & determination as well as steadfastness in pursuing one's bliss.

Friday, June 19, 2009


According to CareerBuilder, a global leader in human capital solutions, job seekers in the United States are really stretching their personal creativity to stand out among the crowd:

Some of the most memorable tactics identified by hiring managers include:

• Candidate sent a shoe with a resume to "get my foot in the door."

• Candidate staged a sit-in in the lobby to get a meeting with a director.

• Candidate washed cars in the parking lot.

• Candidate sent a resume wrapped as a present and said his skills were a "gift to the company."

• Candidate handed out resumes at stoplights.

• Candidate sent a cake designed as a business card with the candidate’s picture.

• Candidate went to the same barber as the Chairman of the Board and had the barber speak on his behalf.

• Candidate handed out personalized coffee cups.

• Candidate came dressed in a bunny suit because it was near Easter.

• Candidate told the receptionist he had an interview with the manager. When he met the manager, he confessed that he was driving by and decided to stop in on a chance.

Some of those ideas are really cute ... but I wonder if they're actually effective.

[Source: CareerBuilder]


[continue from the Last Post.]

Following the meek reply from the lady professional as mentioned in an earlier post, I had actually responded with the following:

"Glad to know that you are still positive. That's good!

It's best to spend some quiet time to reflect.

The most important thing is to think through, explore all possibilities, & not to be afraid of pursuing what is closest to your heart.

Venturing into the stretch zone is always uncomfortable. On the other hand, life's greatest opportunities often lurk in that zone.

No matter what happens, just be true to yourself.

In the interim, if you are reworking your cv, why don't you read my
blog post [Here's the link to it]:

"Crafting a Personal Portfolio vs Writing a Resume" ;

Think about it, with the view of extracting new learning.

To me, the new approaches offer great ways for you to know yourself more thoroughly, to allow you to put your skills & competencies in a marketable perspective, & as a result, it will make your cv stands out."

I wanted to impress on her the critical significance of creating distinctiveness in her cv, realising that her chosen priority was hunting for a new job, rather than reappraising the second half of her life.

[to be continued in the Next Post.]


"The reality of life is that your perceptions - right or wrong - influence everything else you do. When you get a proper
perspective of your perceptions, you may be surprised how many other things fall into place."

- Roger Birkman, 90, one of the first American organizational psychologists & creator of the Birkman Method, a personality & occupational assessment management tool that is non-judgmental & emphasizes personal strengths; also, the founder & Chairman of the Board of Birkman International, Inc.;

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Here's the link to an article, 'Six ways to boost your brain power'.

Although it offers no new ideas, I reckon it serves more as an useful reminder.

In a nut shell, to maintain brain fitness, the key aspects are seeking novelty, looking out for challenges, mental as well as physical, getting regular physical workouts, & taking good care of yourself in areas of rest, sleep, diet & stress.

By the way, here's the link to another article, 'Ten Quick & Easy Ways to Destress Your Brain'.

In a nut shell, they are:

1) Get regular physical workouts;

2) Go for a dose of Nature;

3) Expose to some sunlight;

4) Take a power nap;

5) Breathe deeply;

6) Write a daily journal;

7) Do a relaxation sequence or meditate;

8) Get some brainwave entrainment, especially Alpha waves;

9) Reduce daily clutter;

10 Smile;


A few weeks ago, a lady professional, a university graduate in her forties or so, who had earlier left a statutory board after almost 20 years' of employment service, finally approached me via email for my inputs. She had also attached a copy of her cv.

After one quick look at her cv, I responded via email:

"Glad to hear from you.

Since you have known me, I will cut out the pleasantries.

I can see a very clear problem in your case.

You have got to be very clear - crystal clear - as to what you want to do with the second half of your life. This is lacking, based on what you are now doing.

Sad to say, you are only fire fighting.

At best, you are just another new job hunter in the marketspace, but even that, you are not doing a good job.

A case in point: In your cv, you have listed a lot of mundane organisational stuff you have done over the years.

Assuming I am a prospective employer, I will only ask you a few simple questions: what is the productivity value of or the value you have created from your contributions to the organisation? how can you translate them into my organisation's prosperity?

There's no point mentioning your skill sets like "change management:, "project management", etc., to jazz up your cv, if you can't expressed them in terms of productivity values.

Also, if I were you, I don't even want to mention "19 years in an investment marketing stat board". It spells "danger in the comfort zone".

It's a very harsh world out there. With the global economic slowdown, employers are getting more discerning as well as demanding. Not only that, your "competitors" never sleep!

So, my ultimate point is this: unless you start from your authentic self, & truly embrace what you want to do with the second half of your life, all the little things you are now doing . . . will not be meaningful, productive & purposeful.

I have walked my talk. I have also entered the stretch zone, so to speak.

Accepting your kind invitation for dinner is not an issue here. We can do it any other time. The crux is you: what do you want to do with the second half of your life?

Until you are ready in this respect, I can't really help you.

I trust I have not offended you in any way."

She came back with a meek reply, but apparently didn't address the critical issues I had pointed out to her. She had however shrunk her cv down to 3 pages, which still looked muddled with mundane stuff.

To me, she seemed resigned to job hunting, & didn't reapprraise the second half of her life as I had suggested.

This is an interesting case study.

One may claim to "know" - unfortunately it's only in the head - a lot of organisational stuff (or fads?) in the course of one's career path, especially in a statutory board - I like to designate that as a "protected environment", but the ability to "do" i.e. put that knowledge to work in real terms, as in the private sector - I like to designate that as "the real world" - is a totally different ball game.

That's to say, knowledge is always measured by your productivity.

Having spent almost twenty years in a workplace may look great on one's cv, but to me, if you can't qualify as well as quantify your real contributions in productivity values, & evolve them in the real world, it's just having only replicated each year of work, over twenty years.

As I have always said, regrettably, you are looking good, but going nowhere.

[to be continued in the Next Post.]


"Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."

~ General Colin Powell;


The following recent blog post by Dudley Lynch, author of the classic 'Strategy of the Dolphin', in his 'Thinkologist: The Dudley Lynch Blog' is definitely worth pondering about:

"One puzzle has confronted wise people almost from the very first philosophical discussion: Why is there something rather than nothing?

In other words, how has so much complexity managed to appear in the world? Complex things like people, for example. You’d think that with the world like it is, chaos would always triumph over order, old stuff would always smother new stuff, complexity would always lose out to ponderous stupidity and inertia.

But it doesn’t. And therein lies the reason, mysterious as its workings are, why the best thing we can do for ourselves in almost every instance is simply to try something. Send up an idea. Initiate a movement. And see how the world reacts.

Or as I’ve pictured it in my mind a couple of hundred times, throw the life ring out in front of yourself and swim to it.

Amazing as it is, when you offer the world something, as often as not, it takes it and runs with it. In your behalf and to your advantage.

Early in my career as a writer and thinker, I decided to be what people in the media still call a free lance. No job, no salary, no safety net. Just you, the marketplace and a world teaming with things to be discovered, explained, portrayed.

As a young journalist in the 1970s, my family and I wanted to live in Texas. The challenge was that the big media centers were in New York and Illinois, among other places. So, throwing the life ring out in front of things, I got on an airplane. Flew to Manhattan and Chicago and made cold calls all over town. And came home with a brief case full of assignments and new relationships with editors who purchased my work for years afterwards.

That’s happened to me more than a few times. It’s nearly always better to offer the world something rather than nothing.

When things are as dicey and uncertain as they are today, it is understandable to think that this may not be possible. You may think that there are simply no resources, no energy, no opportunity available to you. And that may, in fact, be true. But to allow yourself to assume this, you are cutting yourself off from this mysterious force available in the world that has since the beginning of things, excelled at taking little of nothing and making it into something more.

The universe really can’t make something for you if you haven’t offered it anything.

Make the offer, though, and it can be a wonder to behold. It may be just the smallest toehold. And then there may be a little movement here. Or a door you hadn’t noticed before opening there. An ally appearing unexpectedly. An opportunity that exists only because you offered up a reason for it to materialize.

I can’t guarantee you a good outcome. There will be failures and forays that don’t produce so much as a flutter of progress or possibility.

But I can personally attest to this: There is more often something there rather than nothing when you offer the universe something to work with. Offer it an idea, an opening, a movement, a plan, a design, a surprise, all matched by a good faith effort and the kind of sensible judgment that pays attention to what’s happening, learns quickly from its mistakes and seizes its opportunities.

These are tough times. It’s important that you and I not let the times leave us with nothing. The way forward is to think as diligently as we ever have about what we can give the universe to work with in our behalf. We always need to be scheming to give it something."

By the way, here the link to the original post.

For me, what Dudley has talked about is analogous to the law of attraction, or simply 'give first, get later' mindset.

As an essential marketing concept, before you get something from someone, you need to first give them a reason for them to give it to you.

That's to say, give a little back & get something in return.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


"The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials."

— Chinese Proverb


Is my mind keeping me from doing what I should?

What am I not doing what I know I should do?

I know what to do, so why don't I do it?


Today, I had lunch with two of my Polytechnic classmates from the sixties, David & John. There were supposed to be four of us, but one, Mike, had to leave for China.

We had a quick lunch at Chin Chin on Purvis Street. Sad to say, the food quality had deteriorated from the very old days when they had operated from Seah Street, opposite the rear podium of the Raffles Hotel. I would say that this state of affairs had to do with the apparent loss of their old Hainanese cooks.

After lunch, we had adjourned to the Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) for coffee/tea.

John had just returned from UK after spending four months there to accompany his second son who had been admitted to a hospital for a relatively rare ulcerative colitis. His son was a first-year A*star scholar at Cambridge University, majoring in Mathematics.

Both had returned to Singapore together only recently. His son, now recuperating at home with a full array of drugs, would probably return to UK to continue his studies.

What had apparently irked John & his wife most was that the doctors in UK could not offer an exact explanation as to the origins of his son's inadvertent medical problem.

I can really understand the anguish & predicament of John, who had only retired in recent years, & his wife, a full-time housewife. They seemed resigned to the fact that they might have to pay particular attention to his second son for the rest of their lives.

My sense is that, despite so much technological advancements in contemporary times, like putting a man on the moon, sending deep probes into outer space & reaching the deepest ocean depths, we are still at a loss as to fully understanding our own bodies, especially the defence system against diseases.

I could not help recalling the sudden departure of my beloved Catherine at the University Teaching Hospital on 31st December 2001, after a week's stay to seek expert medical assistance to arrest her persistently high body temperatures. The death certificate read "heart failure", but I allowed the hospital doctors to do a cut-through surgery.

The full report came back to say that she had fourth stage T-cell lymphoma. How could that be, I had thought, because Catherine always had regular detailed medical checkups.

What had irked me most was that the same doctors did not offer me a good explanation as to the origins of the problem.

To my chagrin, as I had thought then, how come the annual medical tests - expensive though - did not pick up the early warning signals?

After the sad loss of Catherine, & out of skepticism at one point, I didn't bother to go for my annual medical checkup for two consecutive years. I only did it early this year.

The report did not turn up any abnormalities in my body. Is that good news or bad news? I really don't know, but one thing I am very sure: I am still skeptical.

Both David & John have had their own fair share of medical problems, like high cholesterol plus heart bypass surgery, to say the least. Me too, with high blood pressure, on top of a slipped disc surgery in 1987, resulting in a weak right leg.

In fact, John also shared with us his fearful encounters with "momentary or transient blackouts", while driving & walking into the office many years ago. Fortunately, his doctors managed to diagnose them as "short circuits of the nerves in the body", which was followed with a simple procedure to rectify the problem, but offered no proper explanation as to their origins.

It was a gene problem, they said.

In retrospect, I can only say that life is dicey, sometimes. We just got to live life to the fullest, & enjoy every day as if it is our last.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


"The most dramatic innovation introduced with the rollout of our species is not the prowess of individual minds, but the ability to harness that power across many individuals."

~ neuroscientist at Harvard University (Social Cognitve Affective Neuroscience Lab), Jason Mitchell;

Monday, June 15, 2009


"Your brain is no dummy! It pays to do everything you can to give it a chance to do its thing well. You'll likely be surprised. You may even be amazed. In nearly every instance, you'll stand to benefit, & so will those around you."

~ Dudley Lynch, thinkologist & CEO of Brain Me Up! aka Brain Technologies Corporation;


"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!"

~ Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa;


What follows is a quick test - only 30 questions - on your professionalism.

The purpose is to stimulate your thinking about the importance of professionalism & identify any quick & easy steps you can take to polish your professional image & behavior.

It comes from The Goals Institute.


"In this business, you have to learn quickly & react quickly. In some cases, the concept just doesn't have staying power. You just have to step up your game & come up with ideas for places that can stand the test of time.

. . . It's still a passion.

For me, it's all about the rush of creating concepts for people to enjoy. When I see a crowd having a great time, I think: This is why I do what I do."

~ Singapore-based restaurateur Michael Lu, 40, who owns the stylish River Valley lounge Lush; Marine Bay superclub Centro, Aussie style bistro cafe Superfamous; waterfront bar & bakery Cafe Prive on Keppel Island; chic garden bar Hacienda on Dempsey Road;

[Source: Tiger Airways' 'Tiger Tales', May/June 2009]

Sunday, June 14, 2009


"I really enjoy books on so many levels, not just what is in them but the aesthetics of books. There needs to be a connection between the reader & the book, you connect with the text & also the physicality of the book...

... Browsing in a bookshop is a very, very pleasurable thing. There is something mysterious & alluring about books, what they contain & the way they look, & I think that will endure."

~ London-based Malaysian author, Tash Aw; also author of 'Map of the The Invisible World';

[Source: Today's issue of the 'Sunday Times'.]


If there is an Almighty out there and if I ever get to have a one-on-one conversation with him, what will be my first question?