Saturday, July 24, 2010


1) What are you going to change?

2) Why do you want to do this?

3) What steps do you need to take to accomplish this change?

4) What obstacles do you foresee that must be expected & prepared for?

5) What resources will you need to make this happen?

6) How will you deal with setbacks?

7) How will you reward yourself for succeeding?

[Source: 'Navigating the Winds of Change: Staying on Course in Business & in Life'. by Andy Kaufman;]


"... Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognise that it is he who is asked... Each man is questioned by life; & he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Thus... responsibleness (is) the very essence of human existence...

This emphasis on responsibleness is reflected in... 'Live as if you were living already for the second time & as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!'..."

~ Dr Viktor Frankl, famed Austrian psychiatrist & holocaust survivor & author of the classic, 'Man's Search for Meaning';

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Have I really used my skills, knowledge, and experiences to their fullest potential?

Is the world a better place given my personal efforts?

Have I done as much as I could with what I've been given?


A social buddy of mine had sent me the following '5-Minute Management Course' quite some time ago, but I have forgotten about it, until recently when I just happen to screen through my emailbox, while doing some spring cleaning:

Anyway go & have a good laugh, & maybe learn something useful:

Lesson 1:

A man is getting into the shower, just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings.

The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.

When she opens the door, there stands David, the next-door neighbor.

Before she says a word, David says, 'I'll give you $800 to drop that towel.'

After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of David.

After a few seconds, David hands her $800 and leaves.

The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.

When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, ' Who was that?'

'It was David, the next door neighbor,' she replies.

'Great,' the husband says, 'did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?'

Moral of the story:

If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Lesson 2:

A priest offered a Nun a lift.

She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg.

The priest nearly had an accident.

After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.

The nun said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'

The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again. The nun once again said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'

The priest apologized 'Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.'

Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.

On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, 'Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.'

Moral of the story:

If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Lesson 3:

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.

They rub it and a Genie comes out. The Genie says, 'I'll give each of you just one wish.'

'Me first! Me first!' says the admin clerk.. 'I want to be in the Bahamas , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.' Poof! She's gone.

'Me next! Me next!' says the sales rep. 'I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas, and the love of my life.' Poof! He's gone.

'OK, you're up,' the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, 'I want those two back in the office after lunch.'

Moral of the story:

Always let your boss have the first say.

Lesson 4:

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.

A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, 'Can I also sit like you and do nothing?' The eagle answered: 'Sure, why not.'

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story:

To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up

Lesson 5:

A turkey was chatting with a bull. 'I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree' sighed the turkey, 'but I haven't got the energy.'

'Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?' replied the bull. 'It's full of nutrients.'

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree.

The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch

Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree.

He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Moral of the story:

Bull Shit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there...

Lesson 6:

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field.

While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.

As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was.

The dung was actually thawing him out!

He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate.

Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Moral of the story:

(1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.

(2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend.

(3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!




"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive!"

~ Howard Thurman, (1899–1981), influential author, philosopher, theologian, educator, & civil rights leader, who found the first racially integrated, multicultural church in the United States;


Here's the link to an interesting quiz that roughly measures your success profile against the 'Seventeen Principles of Personal Achievement' - more popularly known as the 'Law of Success' - as formulated by Napoleon Hill, based on his extensive field research.

The research was originally sanctioned by the famed steel magnate Andrew Carnegie during the 1930's.

Looking back, the 'Law of Success' was essentially the first practical book I had read about the "secrets of success" during the late seventies or so. That was about time I was thrust into my first managerial position in the corporate world.

By the way, the original seventeen principles are:

1. Definiteness of Purpose

2. Mastermind Alliance

3. Applied Faith

4. Going the Extra Mile

5. Pleasing Personality

6. Personal Initiative

7. Positive Mental Attitude

8. Enthusiasm

9. Self-Discipline

10. Accurate Thinking

11. Controlled Attention

12. Teamwork

13. Learning from Adversity and Defeat

14. Creative Vision

15. Maintain Sound Health

16. Budgeting Time and Money

17. Cosmic Habitforce

Over the years, many of these principles had already been spinned off in different variations - but still retaining the original integrity - by many other subsequently successful authors/coaches who claimed to be offering the 'Ultimate Success Formula'. Anthony Robbins & Stephen Covey come to my mind as the most celebrated ones.

As a matter of fact, & interestingly, even the first of the "fourteen proven management principles" of famed quality guru Edwards Deming, i.e. 'Constancy of Purpose', somehow dovetails with the first 'Law of Success', i.e. 'Definiteness of Purpose'.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

LESSONS FROM THE MOVIE: Anticipatory Prowess

I love to watch spy thrillers primarily because they are always entertaining, at least for about two hours of "mental downtime" in one go. Their story plots - & action sequences - often keep me at the edge of the seat. Best of all, I often can pick up a lot of pointers about life in general.

I recently watched 'Taken' on StarHub cable television, starring Liam Neeson [Readers may recall him: Col 'Hannibal' in the recent spectacular war action movie, 'A-Team' showing in the theatres] as a retired intelligence operative, Bryan, who wanted to spend more time with his estranged daughter.

By the way, the movie story was helmed by the French master taleblazer, Luc Besson, who was also behind great crime movies like 'Nikita', 'The Professional', 'Wasabi', 'Kiss of the Dragon' (with Jet Li) & 'The Transporter' trilogy.

I was fascinated when Bryan's daughter asked about his "work with the government". He said he was a preventer - "I prevent bad things from happening". I like that.

The entire movie centred on his relentless personal search & rescue of his only daughter from the hands of ruthless Albanian human traffickers (naturally with links to a dirty French cop), who had accosted her when she was visiting Paris with a girlfriend & staying at an apartment over there.

The damsels' biggest mistake was that they were too friendly at the airport with a handsome young man, who had offered to share a taxi to go into town. He was the spotter.

According to intelligence sources, Bryan only had a time window of about 96 hours, before his daughter would disappear across the borders.

Originally, he was reluctant to let the daughter go to Paris, but finally gave in because of the pampering mother. However, he did insist that the daughter should call the father every day to keep him posted of her exact whereabouts.

[Come to think of it, the overbearingness of the father eventually paid off, because he had anticipated potential problems.]

Using "a particular set of skills he had acquired over a long career" in intelligence operations, & also drawing upon his personal network of intelligence connections, he succeeded eventually.

From the moment he had received the last phone-call from his poor daughter during the heat of the kidnap attempt, his mind was already on the ball. His handphone was immediately plugged to a tape recorder. He told her calmly that she would be taken soon, but cautioned her to stay focused so that she could relate exactly what was happening from the time they had arrived at the airport to that point in time at the apartment, & of course, till the very last moment when the call was finally interrupted by one of the kidnappers.

Byran had the opportunity to warn one of the kidnappers, who apparently was listening to his daughter's handphone. He told him in no uncertain terms to release his daughter, failing which he would give them nightmares. The mysterious kidnapper said 'Good Luck' to him just before cutting off. That was his biggest mistake, because Bryan remembered his voice.

Worst still, during the tape recording, the name of Marko was yelled by one of the kidnappers.

With the sketchy but definitely vital information from the daughter, & from the recording, & plus additional inputs from his seemingly reluctant intelligence sources in Paris, Bryan was able to connect all the dots by following leads & to zero on to the exact whereabouts of the kidnappers eventually.

I like the part where he stood in the apartment at various positions to observe clues & to visualise the whole kidnap sequence from all the available information he had gathered. He managed to locate the daughter's handphone.

[The spotter had unwittingly helped the daughter to capture a digital snapshot of the two damsels on the handphone while waiting for a taxi. His reflection was unsuspectingly caught in the glass panel behind them. That was also his biggest mistake, as he served as the first lead for Bryan in the hunt.]

More importantly, Bryan had very timely anticipated unwelcome interventions from the dirty French cop, who was more determined to steamroll him.

Fortunately, with his cool presence of mind, despite feeling the total anguish of a desperate father, & luckily, coupled with precision - but deadly - unarmed combat skills which he had acquired as a 'preventor', Bryan was able to anticipate every enemy move, & to neutralise the bad guys - I reckon more than three dozen dead counts - who stood in his way.

Well, I am not going to give away any more details about the remaining story sequence. Go & watch it for yourself!

Nonetheless, it was truly an entertaining & exciting movie for me. Even my wife had enjoyed watching the movie with me.

To be frank, Mums & Dads should watch the movie. 'Don't talk to strangers' will then make a lot of more sense ~ I reckon at least from a 'street survival' perspective.


"To fears, excuses & insecurities.
If it weren't for you, I would be out of a job.
Be forewarned though - I plan on eradicating you from this planet.
Your days are numbered."

~ psychotherapist & success coach Sean Stephenson, writing in his part-autobiography, 'Get Off Your "But": How to End Self-Sabotage & Stand Up for Yourself';

[He shares six valuable lessons:

1. Start Connecting;
2. Watch What You Say to Yourself;
3. Master Your Physical Confidence;
4. Focus Your Focus;
5. Choose Your Friends Wisely;
6. Take Full Responsibility;]


"What the hell am I doing here?

What is it that will make you happy?

What is it you have not done that you will regret not doing?"

~ actor Tim Robbins, 51, talking about his mid-life crisis & launch of his new music CD on BBC Radio 4;

[Source: Today's issue of the Life Page with 'Straits Times', & Huffington Post]


The following interesting piece came into my email box from today, as I am a subscriber:

Just double-click on the foregoing image to get to the exploded view for easy reading.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I reckon most readers are already familiar with the concept that everything we do, especially the more elaborate endeavours, always happens three times.

First, in our mind as a mental construct. A thought. An idea.

Second, as a written plan on paper, as we organise our thoughts to formulate our strategy ~ to put it to work in some way.

Third & finally, as a physical reality, when we are executing our plan in the real world, business or otherwise.

From my personal as well as professional experiences (as a task commander & trouble shooter in the corporate world), all three parts are critical components in the entire strategy formulation & execution process. I am sure my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, concurs with me.

The first part involves the ability to see the whole thing in one's mind's eye, so to speak. Not only that, catching a soft glimpse of it in the first place counts too.

Therefore, suffice to say, if we don't see it, we don't get it.

Dilip & I have come to the conclusion from our many recent encounters that there are actually people out there - supposedly intellectual ones, holding MBA's - who don't get it at all, despite the fact that we have done our best to paint the scenarios for them.

Oftentimes, they like to ask for more "information", thinking that more "information" will help in decision making. They don't realise that, as long as they don't know how to use the given "information", i.e. how to draw pertinent insights or "connect the dots", so to speak, the given "information" is just "data".

As a result, they end up unwittingly in data-smog.

At this juncture, I like to make a distinction:

- "data" is raw & neutral to everyone;

- "information" is what you have made sense of the given "data";

- interpreting "data" requires imagination as well as ingenuity, because you need to see the "form" first, which is a root in "in-form-ation".

Seeing can seemingly be a tough problem for many people, especially those who have low default setting. Dilip likes to use the analogy of the thermostat.

With low settings, they can only see ahead all within the scope of their own self-imposed limits.

"Closed minds" is another category of people in similar fashion. "A frog in the well" comes to mind too.

Worst still, there is another category - those with "truncated perspectives".

Creativity guru Edward de bono has spent his entire professional life talking about this critical issue, which he calls "the perceptual phase of thinking".

Other experts have taken a different & creative spin to the phenomenon. They include: Mark Brown, Joel Arthur Barker, Wayne Burkan, Jay Abraham, John Hagel, John Seely Brown, & Erich Joachimsthaler, just to name a few.

I have in fact written at length on their observations in this weblog.

To me, seeing clearly is always driven - & fueled - by our curiosity or inquisitiveness ~ our sense of wonder & sense of discovery. Our passion as a whole.

That's why most experts maintain that we should continue to be child-like as we move into our adulthood, but remember, don't be childish.

You can pose yourself a couple of self-check questions to help you see better:

- what do I choose to see?

- where do I direct my attention?

I am confident by doing this regular self-check on your own, you can get out of what I call the 'Tetris Effect'.

The second part involves clarity of thought.

To me, clarity comes from seeing - & understanding - the big picture, as well as figuring out all the specific tasks, big & small, that are needed to be done in order to attain the results we want.

That is, seeing the forest & the trees.

To use an interesting analogy from Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, we must have the "analytical ability", "helicopter ability", "imagination" as well as "realism" ~ having a good feel of the pulse on the ground.

Without sounding too arrogant, some people are just too muddle-headed when it comes down to planning. Sad to say, they like to go in all directions.

"Multi-tasking", they say in defence of what they are doing. As a result, nothing works.

Worst still, unintended delays always come to play.

To me, this is primarily a problem of attentional focus on priorities. What matters most, so to speak.

Productivity guru Stephen Covey has done a lot of work here. Go & digest his potent stuff, especially understanding his 'Four Quadrants'.

Once we can stay focused on our priorities & objectives, it is very easy for us to be flexible in our approach with problems or challenges that pop up along the way. More importantly, to deal with the major issue at hand.

I reckon the following self-check questions can help in developing your power of clarity:

- what do I really want?

- what do I believe?

The third & final part involves action-mindedness. Move it, as the four characters in the Magadascar movies love to sing along, to be more precise.

Some people often get stuck with too much logical thinking, & often find themselves hard to move their butts. So, they stay put, & create unnecessary inconvenience to others who happen to be their collaborators.

Do these people - I like to call them, bench warmers & fence sitters - fear the unknown? Maybe so, or more likely, they just love to stay in the comfort zone.

Others are too focused on the "negatives", & as a result of which, they can't seem to see the "positives" &/or "interesting aspects" at all, resulting in inaction on their part.

One particular sage advice I have always followed all these years is that "Action has Consequences".

The consequences can go either way, good or bad. What we can learn from the consequences of completed actions are:

- what works?

- what doesn't work? Why?

- what can we do now to make it work better next time?

Without action, nothing moves. I believe Einstein once said that too.

It is pertinent for me to highlight that moving - or getting things done - is just one thing, finishing what we have started in the first place is significant too.

In other words, successful endeavours depend on the initial move, as well as the next one, & all subsequent moves.

More explicitly, success in any endeavours is always a function of correction. It is natural to stay off course, even for a rocket that goes to the moon. Hence, making corrections & adjustments along the way is part & parcel of the long haul.

There is another interesting perspective to this phenomenon.

To draw an analogy: you are either at 211 or 212. For the uninitiated: water is hot at 211 degrees, but boils at 212 degrees. And with boiling water, comes steam... steam can power a locomotive. The one extra degree makes the difference.

I reckon Sam Parker & Mac Anderson, who initiated this concept of '212: The Extra Degree', said it best:

"212° is not only a message of action - it's a message of persistent and additional action - the continual application of heat (effort) to whatever task or activity you undertake in order to achieve not only the primary objective you seek, but to reap the exponential rewards that are possible by applying one extra degree of effort."

In other words, staying on course with persistence & perseverance really counts at the end of the day.

It is pertinent for me to highlight that, sometimes, we need to channel our concerted efforts on the small, manageable tasks first, prior to gaining sustainable leverage to gradually conquer the larger ones.

Peak performance experts call this the 'Zorro's Circle'.

Have you watched the entertaining swashbuckling movie, 'The Mask of Zorro'?

In the movie, Anthony Hopkins, who played Don Diego de la Vega, aka "Zorro Senior", took under his personal tutelage a drunken convict, Alejandro, played by Antonio Banderas, who had once saved his life.

Both had a common agenda: revenge against the Spanish governor & his henchmen, but the older "Zorro Senior" wanted to train Alejandro as his replacement, "Zorro Junior", so that both could achieve their aims together.

Unfortunately, Alejandro was obsessed by personal vengeance & was really out of control.

That's when "Zorro Senior" taught "Zorro Junior" the reality of "what is the point of power when there is no control". In the movie, he called it the Training Circle, the... Master's Wheel.

I recommend readers to go & watch - or rewatch - the movie.

Unfortunately, there are also some people out there who like to stick to the old way of doing things, despite knowing the fact that the novel approach produces more benefits.

They choose to hold the dogged view that the past = the future.

So, they like to go out there to do what they have done before, & yet expect to get new results.

Einstein once illustrated this as "temporary insanity".

Professor Don Sull of the London Business School calls it "active inertia".

I trust readers can draw some useful lessons from my foregoing rambling musing about our propensity to see, to move & to finish.

TOP 10 TIPS FOR A HEALTHY BRAIN, by Dr Paul Nussbaum

Here are my quick takeaways from an interesting article - not groundbreaking, but nonetheless, definitely useful to be reminded - by Dr Paul Nussbaum [a neuropsychologist & an adjunct associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine] in Reader's Digest:

1) Engage yourself in the Complex & Novel;

2) Exercise Regularly;

3) Socialise & Have Fun!

4) Be Health Conscious;

5) Slow Down & Appreciate the Silence;

6) Do Not Retire from Life;

7) Reduce & Eliminate Smoking, Drinking & Other Drugs;

8) Set Financial Goals;

9) Adopt a Nutrient-Rich Diet;

10) Maintain Strong Connections;

Readers can go to this link to read the original article in its entirety.


Can't remember where you put your glasses?

Blanked on your new colleague's name?

According to Zaldy Tan, director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, "Forgetting these types of things is a sign of how busy we are... When we're not paying good attention, the memories we form aren't very robust, and we have a problem retrieving the information later."

The key, according to Harry Lorayne, author of 'Ageless Memory: Simple Secrets for Keeping Your Brain Young', is to strengthen your brain.

So, try these expert-recommended strategies to help you remember better. Here's the link.


And, what do you lack to touch the sky?

~ from the inspiring life story of Jessica Cox [please refer to my earlier post];


"Sometimes fear starts from the lack of knowledge about the unknown. As soon as I started flying, I realised that my fear came because I knew too much about the subject. There is a universal fear, that of the lack of confidence in yourself..."

~ Jessica Cox, 26, who became the first lady in aviation history to pilot a plane without arms; she was born without arms as a result of a rare congenital disease;

[More information about Jessica Cox can be found here.

She immediately reminds me of another fellow in similar fashion, Nick Vujicic of Australia, whose inspiring story can be found here.]

Monday, July 19, 2010


Which three metaphors as shown below accurately describe my outlook on life?

Life is a game.
Life is a bowl of blueberries.
Life is the pits.
Life is a test.
Life is a competition.
Life is a gift.
Life is a dance.
Life is a movie.
Life is cycle of four seasons.
Life is a struggle.
Life is like a school.
Life is a challenge.
Life ia sprint.
Life is a marathon.
Life is a gamble.

What would I like to see written on my tombstone?

If I could write my own eulogy, what would I want it to say?


"Education is the 'you' that emerges from the learning you do... My education is the mind I have constructed & my process of constructing it. Knowledge is part of my education only if it changes me. Knowledge does not improve my education unless it changes me for the better. It might make me more powerful, more insightful, more engaged with life. But I must become more interesting or useful to myself in some way or there's no improvement..."

~ James Marcus Bach, writing in his debut book, 'Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education & the Pursuit of Passion can lead to a Lifetime of Success', which chronicles how he has acquired a great education & a good job without classroom instruction; at age 20, he became the youngest technical manager at Apple Computer without a degree; now in the 40's, he runs a successful technical consulting business;

[He defines a buccaneer-scholar as "anyone whose love of learning is not muzzled or shackled by any institution , or any authority; whose mind is driven to wander & find its own place in the world."]

Sunday, July 18, 2010


If I accept the fact that I am in charge of my personal destiny, what then are my personal measures for success?


[Shawn Achor from Harvard University speaks on “Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness & Potential.” He is the author of 'The Happiness Advantage', which has the following interesting premises:

- happiness fuels success, not the other way around;
- when we are positive, our brains become engaged, creative, motivated, ennergetic, resilient & productive at work

He shares four simple exercises to help train your brain for happiness:

1. Three Gratitudes

Before you go to bed each night, write down three things that you're grateful for. Try to do this every night for at least a week. The more specific your list is, the better. For instance, if you are grateful for your children, write down something specific they did today that made you smile.

2. Maximizing Strengths

First, go here to take the VIA Strengths survey and find out what your Signature Strengths are. Now try to use one of these strengths in a new and different way every day for a week. Try to shape a normally boring daily task into one that uses your strength in a creative way.

3. Journaling

A few times in the coming week, take 20 minutes to write in your journal about a recent positive experience. Try to be as specific as you can about the experience and why it made you happy.

4. Meditation

Every day, take 5 minutes to sit quietly and watch your breath go in and out. Try to clear your mind of other thoughts and just think about your breathing.

More information is available at his corporate website;]


“The sculptor will chip off all unnecessary material to set free the angel. Nature will chip and pound us remorsefully to bring out our possibilities. She will strip us of wealth, humble our pride, humiliate our ambition, let us down from the ladder of fame, will discipline us in a thousand ways, if she can develop a little character. Everything must give way to that. Wealth is nothing. Position is nothing. Fame is nothing. Character is everything.”

~ Orison Swett Marden, success pioneer during the 19th century;