Saturday, October 10, 2009


Here's the link to an interesting 'Quality of Life Model' as conceived by the Center for Health Promotion at the University of Toronto.

The model is an examination of factors that contribute to the goodness & meaning of life, as well as people's happiness.

It divides life into 'Being', 'Belonging' & 'Becoming' categories.

Each of the foregoing categories has three sub-categories, as follows:

1) Being:

Being relates to who one is. This category is divided into Physical, Psychological and Spiritual Being.

i) Physical Being:

- 'Physical Being' concerns such things as physical health, personal hygiene, nutrition, exercise, grooming and clothing, and general physical appearance.

ii) Psychological Being:

- 'Psychological Being' concerns such things as psychological health and adjustment, cognition, feelings, self-esteem, self-concept and self-control.

iii) Spiritual Being:

- 'Spiritual Being' concerns such things as personal values, personal standards of conduct, and spiritual beliefs.

2) Belonging:

Belonging relates to connections with one's environments. This category is divided into Physical, Social and Community Belonging.

i) Physical Belonging:

- 'Physical Belonging' concerns such places as in the home, workplace, school, neighborhood and community.

ii) Social Belonging:

- 'Social Belonging' concerns relationships with intimate others, family, friends, co-workers, neighborhood and community.

iii) Community Belonging:

- 'Community Belonging' concerns having an adequate income, health and social services, employment, educational programs, recreational programs, community events and activities.

3) Becoming:

Becoming relates to achieving personal goals, hopes and aspirations. This category is divided into Practical, Leisure and Growth areas.

i) Practical Becoming:

- 'Practical Becoming' concerns domestic activities, paid work, school or volunteer activities, seeing to health or social needs.

ii) Leisure Becoming:

- 'Leisure Becoming' concerns activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction.

iii) Growth Becoming:

- 'Growth Becoming' concerns activities that promote the maintenance or improvement of knowledge and skills, as well as adapting to change.


“Is there any knowledge in the world that is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?”

~ Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), English philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, & social critic, writing in his book, 'The Problems of Philosophy' (1912); in 1950, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "in recognition of his varied & significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals & freedom of thought.";


"A great discovery solves a great problem but there is a grain of discovery in the solution of any problem. Your problem may be modest; but if it challenges your curiosity & brings into play your inventive faculties, & if you solve it by your own means, you may experience the tension & enjoy the triumph of discovery. Such experiences at a susceptible age may create a taste for mental work & leave their imprint on mind & character for a lifetime."

~ Hungarian mathematician George Pólya (1887-1985), who conceptualised the problem solving process & captured it in the famous book “How To Solve It”;

[In his book, Pólya enumerates four phases a problem solver has to go through:

- First, we need to understand the problem, and clarify any doubts about the problem statement if necessary;

- Second, we need to find the connection between the data and the unknown, to make out a plan for the solution. Auxiliary problems might be created in the process;

- Third, we are to carry out our plan, checking the validity of each step;

- Finally, we have to review the solution;]


"First, draw a birdcage & leave the door open. Then wait & wait & wait. After a while, if you're lucky, a beautiful bird will fly through the door. Erase the cage."

~ attributed to French poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867), in response to an inquiry about how to write a poem, according to Amazon top reviewer Robert Morris;

Friday, October 9, 2009


[continued from the Last Post.]

The location of the Singapore Art Museum on Bras Basah Road.

The layout of Li Chen's outdoor exhibits in the courtyard of the Singapore Art Museum & Campus Green of the Singapore Management University, fronting Bras Basah Road.

The legend to the outdoor exhibits, to be read in conjunction with the layout.

The 'Wisdom Bodhisattva' (left) & the 'Fulfillment Bodhisattva' (right).

'Wisdom Bodhisattva'

'Fulfillment Bodhisattva'

'All in One'

'Floating Heavenly Palace'

'Float to Sukhavati'


'Landscape in Heaven'

'Clear Soul'

I like to share this wonderful quote from the sculptor, as mentioned in a recent Straits Times report:

"To me, art is about losing myself. When I am working on a sculpture, I sometimes do not step out for weeks. Creating an artwork is almost like a spiritual experience for me. I lose sense of time, space & often even myself. I treasure every moment of it."

[For more information, please go to this weblink of the organiser, Singapore Art Museum, or this weblink of the co-organiser, Asia Art Center.]


I am not a true art lover. My rudimentary understanding of art is that it's just a creative expression in visual form, & of course, I like to look at it, & admire it, if it just happens to strike a chord with my curiosity in some way.

However, I am definitely fascinated by the masterpieces of Taiwanese sculptor Li Chen, especially the 'Dragon-Riding Bodhisattva', when I first saw it at the foregrounds of the seemingly luxurious St Regis Hotel on Tanglin Road.

Please refer to my earlier post in this weblog.

Two weeks ago, the Straits Times had a feature story about the Taiwanese sculptor as well as the official launch of his solo outdoor exhibition, entitled 'Li Chen: Mind Body Spirit', at the Singapore Art Museum, scheduled from 17th September till 9th December 2009.

Last week, I actually visited some of the exhibits, especially those sited on the front courtyard of the Singapore Art Museum & Campus Green of the Singapore Management University, on the way during my morning walkabout from Orchard Road to Bugis Village.

Frankly, I was attracted by the fluidic geometry of the seemingly powerful, large-scale bronze sculptures, reportedly painted with black Chinese lacquer, the ostensibly rotund yet cherubic features, & particularly, the subtle way they supposedly displayed the illusion of weightlessness.

To paraphrase Li Chen:

"Black represents weight, but when you are meditating or sleeping, it represents lightness of being... When you see the black mass fused with natural elements, it creates an illusion of weightlessness."

From the creativity standpoint, it was fascinating for me to see the inspiration of all his works from the fusion of Eastern philosophy with Western contemporary art practices.

There were apparent intersectional confluences of Chinese history, celestial beings, Mother Nature, images of Buddha, as well as the spiritual concepts of Buddhism & Taoism.

As an engineer, I must admit that the somewhat oppositional merging or juxtaposition of physical concrete materials & abstract spiritual themes of weightlessness, void & emptiness in the works on display continued to amaze me.

The location of the Singapore Art Museum on Bras Basah Road.

The layout of Li Chen's outdoor exhibits in the courtyard of the Singapore Art Museum & Campus Green of the Singapore Management University, fronting Bras Basah Road.

The legend to the outdoor exhibits, to be read in conjunction with the layout.

What follows are my digital snapshots of the outdoor exhibits.

Firstly, here's a perspective view of the front courtyard of the Singapore Art Museum, with the 'Dragon-Riding Bodhisattva'.

'Dragon-Riding Bodhisattva'

'Lord of Fire'

'Lord of Wind'

[To be continued in the Next Post.

For more information, please go to this weblink of the organiser, Singapore Art Museum, or this weblink of the co-organiser, Asia Art Center.]


"All of us are watchers – of television, of time clocks, of traffic on the freeway – but few are observers. Everyone is looking, not many are seeing."

~ Peter M. Leschak, firefighter in both wildland & municipal settings for more than twenty years; also, author of several acclaimed works of nonfiction, including 'Ghosts of the Fireground', which gives a firefighter's remarkable first–hand account of the lessons of tragedy, courage & faith in the epic struggle between man & fire;

OPEN YOUR EYES, A Poem by Emma Boge Whisenand

Open your eye that you may see
The beauty that around you lies,
The misty loveliness of the dawn,
The glowing colors of the skies;
The Child's bright eager eyes of blue,
The gnarled and wrinkled face of age,
The bird with crimson on his wing
Whose spirit never knew a cage;
The roadsides blooming goldenrod
So brave through summer's wind and heat,
The brook that rushes to the sea
With courage that naught may defeat.

Open your eyes that you may see
The wonder that around you lies;
It will enrich your every day
And make you glad and kind and wise.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


"The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches & leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together."

~ Kurdish folk wisdom;


The highest-rated chess player in the world for over 20 years, & widely considered the greatest player that ever lived until his retirement in 2005, Garry Kasparov, shares some valuable tools of chess to help us become more successful in business & in life, in his book, 'How Life Imitates Life: Making the Right Moves from Board to the Boardroom':

1) Losing can persuade you to change what doesn't need to be changed, & winning can convince you that everything is fine even if you are on the brink of disaster. Only when the environment shifts radically should you consider a change in fundamentals.

2) Rote memorisation is far less important than the ability to recognise meaningful patterns.

3) Opposite pairs working in harmony: This is a key theme in the quest to implement decision making. Calculation & evaluation. Patience & opportunism. Intuition & analysis. Style & objectivity. Success comes from balancing these forces & harnessing their inherent power. The only consistent method for achieving such a balance is to studiously avoid your comfort zone.

4) The things we usually think of as advantages - having more time to think & analyse, having more information at our disposal - can short-circuit what matters even more: our intuition.

5) Attacking requires perfect timing as well as nerve. Pushing the action gives us more options & a greater ability to control our fate. That in turn creates positive energy & confidence.

6) Psychological muscles atrophy form disuse just as physical ones do.

7) Every enterprise has an opening, a middle game, & an end game. Knowing where you are lets you hone your strategy - be it attacking, manoeuvring, or negotiating - & enables you to identify & eliminate weakness.


I saw this slipcase for a laptop, with the intriguing advice for today's hard-pressed techno-savvy generation, on display at the Takashimaya departmental store inside Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road yesterday.


What things motivate me to get up every morning?

How am I of greatest service to others?

What functions, talents, & skills do I use (or have used) that provide the most fulfillment in my job/family/relationships/duties/spiritual life/personal interests/hobbies?

How would I spend my time & attention if I didn't have to work?

[Source: The Brainzooming Book, 'Taking the NO out of InNOvation', by branding & marketing strategist Mike Brown, available for viewing on slideshare.]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

SURVIVAL, A Poem By Mrs Elizabeth Dozier

"My main focus was the early leaving.
All these things happened
As I went along.

Cells rotten, decaying,
Being removed, washed away with water.

Waiting for the bus
On the street.
Wind blowing leaves in the air.

Look for any change of body feelings
Waiting for the results of tests.

Long wait for public transportation.
Time schedules
Not known.

Nurses. Friendly temperature takers.
Speak with soft voices.

I met a lady on the bus,
And we talked the whole trip.
"Are you going where I'm going?"

Survivors conversing.
"Are you a survivor?"

Bus stops. Picks up passengers.
Deposit fare. Tokens, bills, change.
Walk the aisle. Sit. Stand. No seats.

Hospital stay not long -- two days.
Like the quietness of sleep.

Rain, rain, rain. Standing in large puddles.
Wet feet, wet clothes. Umbrellas up. Wind strong.
Rain like many teardrops.

Sitting in the chair
Watching the drip, drip, drip of medicine.

Patience. Wait for the next moment.
Enjoy now."

[Source: Swarthmore Last Collection Address May 2006, by Diane Downer Anderson, Assistant Professor for Educational Studies at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, USA; as a self-directed life-long learner myself, I strongly feel that the entire contents of her beautiful address are worth reading carefully! The poem was integral to the address;]


Getting an idea or ideas is actually a piece of cake. All of us can do it pretty well.

On the other hand, putting them to work or converting them into reality - my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, likes to use the term: moving ideas to ca$h - takes a lot of hardwork.

It requires deliberate efforts on our part, in addition to decision making as well as planning.

Not only planning & scheduling the tactics to put the ideas into action, but also planning for possible consequences, as actions have dire consequences.

Maybe, that's why very few people like to engage in it.

I reckon another way to look at the whole endeavour is understanding that ideas alone don't create success. Breakthrough or good ideas may give you the euphoria for a short while. That's about it.

I certainly recall my hectic days in the corporate world.

My bosses - Swiss, German, Chinese, Swedish, Indonesian - were not interested at all in - of course they listened to (or maybe, they just pretended to listen to) - my fancy "theories to work", whenever I did my presentations to the board.

All they were interested - or should I say obsessed with - were the performance results... the bottom line, to be more precise. Ultimately, actions spoke louder than words.

I also recall a very simple but valuable quote - actually, more of a lesson - that goes back to the 80's from the late Sim Kee Boon (1929-2007), at one time Head of the Singapore Civil Service (1979-1984) & best known for his pivotal role in building the Changi International Airport - making it the best in the world - & also turning around the loss-making Keppel Shipyard:

"The secret to success... is getting things done!"

So, how does one get things done?

How to develop action-mindedness, so to speak?

I like to share some ideas from my own experiences.

I reckon the first thing is to deal with fear, be it real or imagined.

The fear of the lack of ability. The fear of failure. The fear of looking stupid when our ideas don't work. The fear of ridicule from others. The fear of the unknown, because actions require a change in our status quo.

Worst still, we want to wait for the perfect conditions. We want more information for decision making.

The harsh reality is that, in today's turbulent world, where change is often exponential, how to wait for perfect conditions or more information? We just got to trust our own instincts.

Moving out of our comfort zone is always uncomfortable. I had gone through that journey myself. As a result, for many of us, we prefer to stay put.

The resultant problem with this choice is that a host of other problems start to ensue, like procrastination, inertia, etc., which aggravates the situation.

Interestingly, most peak performance experts - so do I - believe that action conquers fear.

All it takes is essentially the first step. Baby step, as they say. Once we take that first step, all fears dissipate. This fact drives home the point:

Fear = False evidence appearing real!

In fact, I like the way Michael Jordan, probably the greatest basketball player of all time, puts it:

"Any fear is an illusion. You think something is standing in your way, but nothing is really there."

I reckon another good way to deal with fear is to consider the pleasure/pain equation, as postulated by celebrity coach, Anthony Robbins.

What gives you pleasure? What excites you? What gives you pain? What bugs you?

Focus on the pleasure or excitement side. It will automatically takes good care of the pain or bug side.

So, to go with NIKE's most enduring marketing message over the years: JUST DO IT!

I would suggest, as a first step, sit down & write out a simple plan of action, with a number of important objectives you wish to achieve.

I often use the acronym, S-M-A-R-T, to think about my plan of action:

S = specific tasks to achieve your objectives: list out all the steps, with priority, from beginning to end;

M = metrics: define how you would like to measure the tasks, so that you know immediately when you have completed them; in a way, it's your feedback mechanism;

A = accountability: sometimes, your tasks may involve other people, e.g. your spouse, your boss, your colleagues, your subordinates, etc.; so, you need to apportion for better control & monitoring;

R = resources: you need to identify all the stuff, like manpower, money, materials, machines, methods, etc., you would need to get work done;

T = time for completion of specific tasks: by next week; next 30 days; next 90 days; short-term, medium-term, long-term;

Once you have the plan of action in place, all you have to do is follow through.

In a nut shell, I would like to add that action-mindedness boils down to revving up our ingenuity engine. Luckily, each & every one of us is born with one.

To understand the engine metaphor further, it's our delivered horse-power that measures how powerful we are.

To end this post, I like to quote Albert Einstein:

"Nothing changes until something moves!"


"We all do it every day, the difference is that it takes discipline to become aware of it... consider all the significant decisions you made... You don’t have to be a chess player or an executive to benefit from improving your decision- making process. We make hundreds of decisions just to get through each day. A handful are important enough to keep track of, to look back on critically. Were they successful? Why or why not? We can train ourselves, which is really the only way."

~ Garry Kasparov, [with 22-year reign as Grandmaster; retired in 2005] when asked to recommend some good ways to practise strategic thinking, in an interview by, in conjunction with his book, 'How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves from Board to the Boardroom';


What comes out of me when I am pressured, challenged or staring defeat in the face?


"Of all the things that can have an effect on your future, I believe personal growth is the greatest. We can talk about sales growth, profit growth, asset growth, but all of this probably will not happen without personal growth."

~ Jim Rohn, author & motivational speaker;

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


"Einstein's theory of relativity.

Grab hold of a hot pan, second can seem like an hour.

Put your hands on a hot woman, an hour can seem like a second.

It's all relative."

~ from the cook, 'Preacher' (played by L L Cool J) to Caltech-educated technician 'Scoggs' (played by Michael Rapaport), who acknowedged that it was the best physics explanation he ever heard, in the exciting sci-fi thriller, 'Deep Blue Sea', which I have just watched a short while ago on StarHub cable television; in a nut shell, the movie centred on a group of scientists on an isolated research facility, which become the live bait as a trio of intelligent, ocean predators, with genetically-enlarged brains, fought back;


This is a digital snapshot of a five way way at the Raffles Hotel annexe along Bras Basah Road.

I had taken the shot because I was fascinated by the apparent illusion of depth when I first saw it. At one point, it seemed endless to me. The image of an imaginary pathway into or through the twilight zone did cross my imaginative mind.

Actually, a "five foot way" ("kaki lima" in Malay, literally translated as "five feet") is a pedestrian walkway indented into the ground floor of a building from the road, so that the overhanging upper floors can provide a cover to shield pedestrians from the natural elements.


"Our survival, the vitality of the planet depends on mental flexibility & emotional acuity. Hands raised. Hands put to work. We can improvise. We can create without a map. And we don't have to live in isolation. The gift of an attentive life is the ability to recognize patterns & find our way toward a unity built on empathy. Empathy becomes the path that leads us from the margins to the center of concern."

~ Terry Tempest Williams, 54, an American author, naturalist, & environmental activist;


Here's the link to an interesting article in 'Psychology Today' about understanding as well as managing our daily distractions, from David Rock, a leadership coach, who has written a new book, just released, entitled 'Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, & Working Smarter All Day Long'.

An interesting point: watch out your default network in the brain!


Here are some of my quick salient learning points from the book, 'The Riddle: Where Ideas Come From & How to Have Better Ones', by Andrew Razeghi:

- truly understand the 3 key words: innovation, failure & success;

- don't innovate, solve problems; [I would certainly add finding problems to solve!]

- when you think you are not creative, just ask: when was the last time I solved a problem? how did I solve it?;

- become a problem solver [& problem finder], not an innovator;

- what is most important to understand about failure is the attribution to failure: why did it fail?

- when things go wrong, stop & ask: why?

- when things go right, ask: where did the idea come from? what was I doing just prior to having the big idea?

- based on the answers, ask: what can I do in the future to recreate the conditons for creativity to flourish?

- be mindful of what happens almost immediately after success;

- when you succeed in innovations, it doesn't mean your ideas are the best ideas;

- it only means your ideas were the best at the moment; [certainly resonates very well with de bono's First Law!]

- sustainable success, like democracy, is not a destination; it's an aspiration;

- think of success as a process;

- don't forget to look in the rear-view mirror now & then. It has been done before;

- the author's parting quote:

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. It has been here already, long ago; it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow."

- and so it is with all things new! [certainly drives home the point of 'Ideas Build On Ideas!']


"There are three ingredients in the good life: learning, earning, & yearning."

~ Christopher Morley (1890-1957); American journalist, novelist & poet; he was one of the founders & long-time contributing editor of the 'Saturday Review of Literature';


I can understand the advertised product in the intended marketing message, as captured in the foregoing digital snapshots, but I just can't figure out the subtlety of the accompanying image in each case. Am I square or is there something I don't get it?

Monday, October 5, 2009


What if it was possible to just download all the powerful strategies & pragmatic tools (e.g. creativity, decision making, problem solving, leadership, risk management, etc.) in the form of softwares or wetware into my brain so that I could gain ready access at the snap of my fingers?

~ inspired by the sci-fi fantasy movie, 'The Matrix';


This is a digital snapshot of the North Bridge Centre at 420 North Bridge Road.

Mapwise, the building is bounded by North Bridge Road at the front; with Middle Road on its right & Purvis Street on its left, plus a narrow back alley behind the building.

This was the place where I had my larger office/store on the 3rd floor under 'Optimum Performance Technologies' / 'The Brain Resource' for ten years, from April 1994 to April 2005, after I had relocated from the now-demolished shophouse at 121 Beach Road.

Today, the National Library (opened in 2005) stands right in front of the building, just across the North Bridge Road. Prior to that, the site was partially occupied by a public car park.

Diagonally across on the right is the Hotel Intercontinental as well as Bugis Junction shopping mall (opened in 1995), sitting on top of the Bugis MRT Station. Likewise, on the left is the old Bras Basah Complex, popularly known to most students as 'Book City'.

According to Singapore Infopedia of the National Library, North Bridge Road is one of the earliest & oldest roads in Singapore.

As a matter of fact, historical records revealed that North Bridge Road, Hill Street & High Street were the first three streets carved out of the jungle during the 1820's with the help of convict labourers, under Lt. Henry Ralfe, Royal Navy Gunnery Officer on one of the escort vessels that accompanied Sir Stamford Raffles when he had first arrived on the island.

So, the road or track-path then, though not properly made up, was already in use long before 1833, when George Coleman, Superintendent of Public Works, headed the major construction of North Bridge & South Bridge Roads, again with the help of convict labourers.

During the early colonial era, it was a major road which for a long time was the only link road connecting the East Coast with the town, known in Hokkien as "Seoh Poh" (meaning "small town") in contrast to South Bridge Road, known as "Tua Poh" ("big town").

So, North Bridge Road was thus known in Hokkien as "Seoh Poh Tua Beh Lor" or "main road of the small town".

During the ten years when my office was located at the North Bridge Centre [my car was conveniently parked in the basement] my regular hangouts, together with Catherine, included:

- Bras Basah Complex, for office & stationery supplies, mostly from Popular;

- Bugis Junction, for food & entertainment as well as shopping;

- Raffles City Tower, for food & shopping [incidentally, one of my major corporate clients was located at this building];

- Raffles Hotel, for food [at the time, I often brought my workshop participants to the Seah's Deli & Empire Cafe for lunch];

- Shaw Tower, for food & entertainment;

- Suntec City Convention Centre, for book exhibitions [once a year, I had a small stand, but it was a great place to showcase my books & workshops; during earlier years, it was held at the now-defunct World Trade Centre, when an arrogant Punjabi guy was running the show;];

Looking back, I reckon one of the major reasons why I had chosen the North Bridge Centre for my relocation from Beach Road was the easy access - public car parks, public buses, MRT - for my existing/new customers as well as convenient locality for my logistics, e.g. printing, binding, eating places for my workshop participants, etc.

The other reason was the relatively attractive office/store rentals at that time. To be frank, the building at that time was a bit run-down, but I wasn't perturbed, as long as rentals were within my affordable limits.

In fact, because of the Asian financial crisis during the late nineties, rentals were reduced progressively - & substantially - by the landlord, Mr Kwee, with whom I had an amicable business relationship - actually, to my pleasant delight - up to the time I had closed down my office/store operations.

He was sad that I had to relinguish my office/store, as he told me that I had been a very good paymaster over the years.

Naturally, I was sad to leave the place, as I had also made many friends among the fellow tenants.


When it comes to reading, Times happens to one of my favourite "brick & mortar" stores, besides Borders, Harris & Kinokuniya, even though I hang out more often in the last two.

Harris & Kinokuniya are conveniently located within my regular window-shopping walkabout circuit, i.e. Jurong Point & Ngee Ann City.

Occasionally, I do pop into Popular, but its range of business books is rather limited.