Saturday, 13 December 2008

Sense of urgency - a critical asset in career and life

On the fateful day of 25 January 1990, Avianca Flight 52 crashed into Long Island, New York after ran out of fuel, killing 73 of the 158 people on board. The plane was put on hold from landing by Air Traffic Control several times on its way to New York due to bad weather. After on hold for more than one and a half hour, the crew asked for "priority" landing, which at their critical level of fuel shortage, they should have declared an emergency. The delays, a failed landing attempt at the about 10 minutes from the crash, and communication failure between the crew and air traffic controllers; all these caused the disaster where we all have so much to learn from.

The Avianca Flight 52 is a story of catastrophic result due to poor sense of urgency. There are several things we would find ourselves asking:

Why the crew failed to use the word "fuel emergency" to declare the extreme seriousness of their situation instead of asking for "priority landing"?

Shouldn't the sound of fear and urgency in the pilot and co-pilot's voices have been enough to show to the air controllers they are facing an emergency despite the culture and language barriers, had it been there?

Shouldn't the crew be more forceful and insist on being given immediate landing when they were redirected elsewhere, such as using some forceful words like "NOW" and "We can NO LONGER WAIT"?

A true sense of urgency is an exceptionally important asset for one to become successful in career and life. A true sense of urgency is not about being impatient on everything; it is not about rushing around energetically, running from meeting to meeting and screaming at people to execute. No; that is a false sense of urgency.

True urgency, according to John Kotter, a famous author, focuses on critical issues, which is needed now, not eventually, not when it fits easily into a schedule. True urgency is driven by a deep determination to win, not anxiety about losing. Now means making real progress every single day, not leaving ourselves with a heart-attack-producing task of running one thousand miles in the last week of the race.

With an attitude of true urgency, you try to accomplish something important each day, never leaving yourself with a heart-attack-producing task of running one thousand miles in the last week of the race. Critically important means challenges that are central to success or survival, winning or losing. A sense of urgency is not an attitude that I must have the project team meeting today, but that the meeting must accomplish something important today.

I still have a lot to learn on having a real sense of urgency, because I have always been a procrastinator on a lot of things. But slowly, I am improving; starting by doing the right thing and planning ahead. (Actually, to be honest, it is largely driven by working with a bunch of people with super sense of urgency. Haha....Ahem....).

In my previous blog post, I also mentioned that the lack of urgency caused an innocent girl to die of abuse because no one responded to the situations before it got critical. In Avianca Flight 52, it caused the death of 73 people. Although, not all things are matters of life and death, but I am sure we have a lot of things to learn from the past disasters caused by simple lack of urgency.

A week ago, I was absent from a special occasion; a wedding dinner of a wonderful couple, whom I personally get to know both of them really well. Earlier in the week, I made plan to work with my co-worker (also my partner) on the same weekend as the wedding dinner. My co-worker was working with me on part-time basis so the only available full days for us to work together is only during weekends and holidays. I had casually suggested to her that we need to work on certain outstanding issues, which seems quite important but not so urgent. She said she was busy but she might be free on coming weekend. I thought to myself then "I have a wedding dinner to attend on the same weekend" , but I did not say anything about that to her. Few days later, she confirmed she can meet on the weekend.

I know it will be marvelous for us we work together full day on the weekend because we can really make good progress with one whole day without interruptions. Unfortunately, this also means I could not go to the wedding dinner. So, I made a choice; to work on something that are important to me but relatively not so urgent; not because I have to but because I want to make good better progress in my work and maybe have the rest of following week free to do other things.! In fact, on that day, we worked from 1 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next day, on something that was totally not urgent! But we really did achieve something important because we have completed what we set up to do, and we are satisfied to know that we might be able to use our new-found knowledge anytime in the future.

So, if anyone of my friends ask me now or in the future why I do not show up at certain occasions, my general answer will be:
There are always a lot of choices we can make in our life. It is up to individuals to evaluate the priority and urgency of any of their choices. Since I want to be a business owner, having a sense of urgency in my work is very critical now.

I believe a sense of urgency is more than making the right choices, it has to be synchronized with our thoughts, feelings and actions; our attitude altogether. It should not only be used in work, but also in our everyday life. It is not rushing through things like I used to do last time; it is doing important things NOW instead of LATER.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Human Crime Today

I watched a quite disturbing movie last week that left me pondering on a lot of things about life. The reason why the movie is disturbing is because it is based on a true story and it shockingly reveals how cruel and uncaring people can be. Unlike most of the true stories with inspiring theme, this one does not have a happy ending; and the good does not always triumph over the evil.

The movie is called “An American Crime”. It is about an innocent teenage girl, named Sylvia Likens, who was tortured violently to death by a group of abusers. The abuse, triggered by a struggling woman with health problem and huge stress of taking care of seven children with virtually no money, eventually joined by her children and a whole neighborhood of youngsters.

Though Ginia said in her very excellent review on the movie, that the victim had the bad luck to grow up in a time and a place where “ignorance was understood as its own brand of wisdom”; somehow I feel, ironically, that statement still applies today. Thus, the title of this post is "Human Crime Today".

With a close examination, we can see the same things happening in societies today, although largely with less severity than brutally torturing a girl.


The neighbors did not take any actions when they heard heart-wrenching screams on many occasions. They choose to ignore so they do not have any troubles.

Sylvia’s father did not bother to check out the condition of house where he was going to put his two daughters to live there. He was afraid to be prying even though this will concern his daughters’ safety and comfort! If he had, he would have found that the household had no stove, only three spoons in the kitchen drawers and there were fewer beds than were needed for those already living there. And, how he could completely trust a woman he had just known for a day to take care of his daughters is beyond understanding.


The children followed what their parent do or ask them to do without thinking whether the actions are right.

The neighborhood youngsters joined the crowd to torture Sylvia and decided since everyone was torturing and hating her, she must have done something really bad to deserve this. No one question what Sylvia had really done; whether she deserved these; whether the accusations upon her were all true.

Even Sylvia’s sister was forced to follow the crowd so that she would not be receiving the same condemnation or injustice done to Sylvia.


Sylvia and her sister had not done enough to stop the abuse, for e.g. by making police report.
In fact, when probing into the inaction on Sylvia’s part, investigators were wondering whether Sylvia is masochist. But they arrived at the conclusion that Sylvia was too young to know what was done to her was incorrect. After all, how could an adult and bunch of kids be so wrong?

Maybe Sylvia and her sister were waiting for the time when the abusers would have mercy and stop the torturing. In fact, in many occasions, it seemed the torture would end and Sylvia was given back the normal treatment. But very soon, the Sylvia would somehow engage the wrath of her’s abusers and the tortures started again. Some evil people just would not change.


It seems like the abusers never anticipated Sylvia would die from all the tortures and inhuman treatment done to her.

Neither did they think they would go to jail for that and that would all change their life enormously.


Somehow, until the Sylvia’s death, no one had done anything to help her in time; else; fate would be reversed. In one part of the scenes in “An American Crime” (WARNING, some spoiler here.), the director wanted us to believe there would be a happy ending if someone would have done the right thing then. We hope very much that was what happened.

But the neighbors, the children or the youngsters, the parents of the youngsters, Sylvia’s family and even the reverend, and more countless people; all failed to do the right things on time to save her. When they found Sylvia was dead, then only the youngsters tried to resuscitate her, called the police and the sister finally revealed the whole story to the police.


A lot of people mourn Sylvia after so long, especially when "An American Crime" shows the world, some parts of how it happened.

I guess the compassion and sadness are also due to the fact that most of us experience or see something similar in the world where we live in (most probably in smaller scale); not just the injustice, but also the rest of the people that do nothing to help. Indeed, human crime today in that part is very abundant.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Five effective actions for solving a corporate conflict

In a corporate world, there are bound to be conflicts and miscommunication between different parties or organizations. When problems occur, finger pointing is not the logical response of solving the problems itself.

However, most resort to such behavior, often overwhelmed by emotions such as anger, frustration, distrust, prideful, and so on. This results in bad feeling in the air for both parties and keep people away from solving the issues at hand which are the objectives.

Recently, I am able to witness a corporate conflict involving a vendor and a dealer. Jeffrey’s help was engaged to solve this conflict. Thus, I have a valuable chance to see and learn how to solve this problem in an efficient manner. Since this is a real incident for corporate environment, I would use fictitious names to preserve the anonymity of the parties involved.

Johnny, the dealer, gets a project to supply products and services, consisting of software and hardware, as well as training and support services to a customer. The customer gives the project to Johnny because of his good experience and reputation in the industry. However, Johnny does not produces the products himself so he sources the products from a vendor company XXX whom he was previously working for. Johnny has some rough experiences with the vendor company before, especially with Eddie, the superior of the sales manager who is managing his deal. Eddie was also his ex superior in XXX.

He was dealing very well with the vendor so far in getting the products and services delivered to the customers. However, in the third purchase, the vendor not only raises the price of the products but also decides to not supply to Johnny anymore. Hence, Johnny faces the risk of not fulfilling his customer’s orders, breaking the customer trust and also ruining his reputation in the industry. In summary, he is in dire state.

When dealing with conflicts, it is important that we keep the following five actions in mind:

1. Stay focus on the subject. Do not deviate. Do not get clouded by emotion.

Since Johnny has some bad experiences with Eddie before, he is filled with frustration and anger. Instead of trying to understanding the other side of the stories and solving the problems, he keeps on thinking that Eddie is making things hard for him on purpose to get back at him.

When Jeffrey talks to Eddie, it is found that the reason why Eddie does not supply to Johnny is that Johnny has not settled the earlier two payments. Johnny argues that he cannot settle the payment yet because the customer does not want to pay him until the implementation is fully completed. The customer complains some features are not in the system and the last training cause their staffs to enter wrong data into the system. Thus to the customers, the implementation is not fully completed yet.

Eddie argues on his side, he has delivered fully and should get the payment. Due to his company policy, Eddie cannot continue to supply to Johnny if he cannot clear the payment. To Eddie, he is only dealing with Johnny and not Johnny’s customer, so Johnny needs to settle the payment regardless whether the customer has paid him or not. Eddie also admits his subordinate has previously given the wrong quotation and which cause him to re-adjust the pricing on the third purchase.

Thus, in staying focus on the subject, on business ground instead of personal matters, we now know the only way to solve the problem is to pay Eddie and quickly get him to fulfill the third orders. The other matters are histories.

2. Present things in a pleasant manner.

When Jeffrey presents the issues and prompts both parties to talk, he avoids having both parties finger-pointing at each other. Instead of focusing on “me” and “you”, he focus on the powerful word – “WE”. In many cases, he emphasizes that “WE” are doing business here and the deals are beneficial to both parties. So, “WE” should solve the problems together instead of harping on who is at fault or on the past issues like bad services, wrong pricing, etc. “WE” is A VERY POWERFUL WORD.

3. Keep a non-tempered and cool composure.

Confronting the problem on hand, Johnny is very frustrated and angry since the beginning. To him, Eddie and his teams have not delivered a very good service to him and his customers. And this is the cause that the customer is not paying him. Thus, he is unable to pay Eddie’s company. On the other hand, Jeffrey tries to keep the situation in a cool manner by not delving too much into these issues. He asks Johnny to calm down and remind him being angry does not serve any purpose. Several times, when Johnny gets into an angry tone when talking about his pain, Jeffrey asked him to pause and talk slowly to keep him in a cool composure.

4. Discuss on problem-solving and future co-operation issues and also channels of communication.

After understanding the issue, it is obvious that the most important issue to attend to is to continue to provide the customers with the products and then prompt the customer to make payment. Although Johnny has not get the payment from the customers, he must pay Eddie for his company to continue provide the products first. In the future, Johnny needs to be careful in managing the customer expectations and also service delivery by the vendors. Johnny may also take over the training and support services from Eddie’s team so that he can provides better support to the customer if he wants to.

Johnny, being the middle man and consultants in the deal has to bear the responsibilities in keeping both parties (vendors and customers) happy at all times.

(Up until now, I always think being a dealer is a simple job of getting the supplies and delivering to the customers. But the fact is a dealer has to take the double pains from both the vendors and the customers. He also has to bear any risks of any parties not doing their jobs well enough)

Since Eddie admits one of his sub-ordinates has made the mistake in the quotation and thus creates all the confusion, he agrees to remove him from the future correspondence. Eddie will assign another sales manager to handle this deal in the future.

5. Provide a compromising situation for both parties for future collaboration.

After getting each parties to understand what needs to be done immediately to solve the issue, Jeffrey goes on to discuss what it is like for future collaboration to prevent the same problems from happening again. There may be more deals between both parties in the future and they need to learn how to work closely.

What I know is Johnny certainly has a lot to learn from his mistakes in this conflict. He need to start by practicing the 3 principles in doing everything in life.

And you know what? Jeffrey bought some of Johnny’s share in his company and the deal was sealed. Eddie was very surprised that Jeffrey, who actually owned the company, was logical and not single sided in handling the matter.

Thus, what we have learned today? Ask yourself….

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The hardest question to ask your spouse (and even yourself)

The question: If your mother (or father) and I fall into the sea and both of us cannot swim, who will you save first?

I always wonder if I am nuts to think of asking my spouse such a difficult question. I think I learnt this question from a movie. I wonder if any of you readers have the same question lingering in your mind that you want to ask your spouse. Or if it is just me. Or maybe you have similar question which I hope you would share.

One day, I got into this funny mood (which I cannot really remember why and how funny my mood was) and asked Jeffrey this question. His answer blew me out of the water. Of course, since I have toyed with the questions multiple times in my head, I have, very much, anticipated what kind of answers I would get. And I have also formulated my response to each possible answer and maybe another question to ask in addition to that.

If you have this question in your mind before, I recommend you to stop reading for now. Go and think about how you would answer if you are asked this question. And then go and ask you spouse. I hope you can share your answers. :)

Honestly speaking, I anticipate everyone would choose his mother first. I have not really collected any statistic on this. I never ask this to anyone before, including my ex, whom I have been with for six long years.

That is because I think I already knew what his answer would be. So, I never thought about the questions much when I was with him. Most probably he would not answer and say I am too childish to ask such kind of question. Or, he would say he can choose me but that would make him a very bad son. This will make me feel very guilty because I make him leave his mother to die for me. In fact, I felt guilty even without asking him. Thus, I already reached a conclusion about this question long ago. He should save his mother and I would be totally supportive of his decision. I will even make sure he would choose his mother because I do not want to feel guilty. And I am prepared to brace myself and keep myself afloat, for maybe he would have the chance to save me after he saves his mother. Maybe that is why when I was in my previous relationship; I am always independent, tough and strong. At least, I pretended to be even if I was not.

I assumed everyone, especially sensible, logical and unselfish girls or boys should think like I did then. When you do the math - a young woman certainly has a better chance of surviving and can stand longer in the sea than an old woman. So, logically, when a person save an old woman first and then get back to the young woman, the total chance of survival for both increase. I never get to question my assumption until Jeffrey’s answer.

And I am glad for his answer and the way it completely changed my view of things, particularly make me question how I used to view things in conventional ways, or in my own assumption, oblivious to the world.

This is his paradox (or, is it?) answer:

“Since you are my wife and the mother of our children, I will definitely choose you to save first. I do not want to lose you and I do not want our children to lose a mother.
My mother is old and already been through most of her life. She would want happiness for her son and grandchildren too.”

Even though Jeffrey and I do not have children yet and we are not officially married, I always like the way when Jeffrey think of us in the future context.

On the other spectrum, if I am the mother and my son give such an answer, would I be jealous? My answer will be no because I already have my husband who chooses to save me over his mother so I would be happy that my son wants to do the same thing.

But, what if on a baffling twist of fate, my husband chooses to save his mother, would I expect my son to do the same? I think I would then. If my son chooses his wife and my husband chooses his mother, wouldn’t I be a miserable mother and wife then? What would become of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"?

Isn’t life full of puzzles and wonders?

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Growing up through the Quarter-Life Crisis

The other day while I was chatting with my best friend, we both conceded our lives had changed a lot during the past one year. Break-ups, new love relationships, re-prioritization between work and love life, relationships with family, moving places, new career, new directions in life - either already been through or under way.

We both heaved the sigh of relief that our worst may already passed. But at the same time, we know there are more for us to go through while recovering.

"Hey, you know what?" I exclaimed to her. "I read about this. It is called Quarter-Life Crisis. It means now we have really grown up." I did not get to see her expression, but I knew she concurred vehemently.

"After coming out from college and working, we thought we were grown-ups but we were still very much like teenagers, having no idea of our future and hardship that we need to endure." I added. "So now, we are officially a grown-up."

In fact, it is not just me and my friend. I know most of my twenty-somethings or approaching-thirty friends (and new acquaintances) are going through the same quarter-life crisis. Some learn from it and become better. Some are still in denials and unable to accept why these happen to them. Some may have totally given up. In fact, I begin to meet more and more people who are in the midst of quarter-life crisis because Jeffrey has a way of attracting them. Most came to him to ask for helps and advices. Others (like the first time I met him) were drawn to him because there are things we want to know about this world, about ourselves and we know he can provide that knowledge since he been through a lot (crisis, failures, success, etc.) in life.

According to him, there are 5 main problems with us:

1. We never do the things that we should do
2. We do not take good care of ourselves
3. We are not making enough money because we work the wrong way.
4. We have not cared for others and nobody care about us.
5. We have not learnt well because nobody is teaching us.

I do not think I need to delve into what is quarter-life crisis as there are already 2 excellents posts about it: One from my favourite blogger, Penelope Trunk and another one from Holly, a member of Brazen Careerist.

Marrying the two posts, it means:

We're all just growing up. Finally. Let us take some risks now to achieve our dreams, because we do not want to be eighty and regret not taking these risks.

Growing up involves being able to reflect back on the past and understand more about my own self, where I come from and where I want to be.

I like this photo of myself - the way I happily climbed on the gates to take this photo with my brothers, who looked cute themselves too.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Maybe what you need is a Paradigm Shift

Dr. Stephen R. Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, speaks of Paradigm shift. Here, I adapted his illustration to my version of what it means to shift our paradigm.

Let's say you need to go to a town called, “Growing Journey” to receive a very important award at a place called “Success” in the fine Sunday evening. Since you never been to the town, you ask the organizer to send you a map for directions to “Success”. Happy to oblige, the organizer photocopy a map and send it to you, along with some directions. The only problem is it gets mixed up and the map of another town is sent to you instead. Unfortunately also, the map’s title gets cut off during the copy and you don’t realize it is the wrong map.

On Sunday morning, you get on you car and head to the town. Once arriving in the town, you follow the directions as in your map. Soon you are hopelessly lost. You give the organizer a call.

"I got your directions," you say, "but I can't find any of the roads you mention on the map."

"It's really easy to find," the organizer reply. "It's right in the end of the town from where you come! You need to try a little harder."

"Okay, I'll try harder," you reply, and you're off and running. You are driving twice as fast and getting twice as lost. After lost for more than an hour and getting discouraged, you call the organizer again. Sensing your sinking spirit, the organizer says "It sounds like trying harder wasn't the answer. What you really need is a positive mental attitude."

Well! That wise suggestion strikes you like a bolt of lightning, and your mental attitude is instantly transformed. You get back in that car and you start driving, and everything is wonderful. You're still completely lost, but that doesn't matter. You are happy being just where you are, wherever you end up in.

The problem is, you are still lost and you might never going to make it to “Success” in time to receive your award.

You first try to change your behavior by trying harder. Then you try to change your attitude by looking at the positive side of things. But what really you need to change is your road map. Trying harder is good. Having a positive attitude is good. But if you are following the wrong map, changing your behavior and your attitude won't do much good. You need to change the map you are following. You need a paradigm shift.

Mostly, people struggle to find their maps. Sometimes, they have the maps, but they do not know they are holding the wrong maps. And they are lost because they start their journey even without the right map.

Let me take this adaptation from Steven’s illustration further. Let’s say you get smarter and know something is wrong. You think you should seek help from another person. So, you stop to ask a young man you run into for direction to “Success”. He looks trendy and seems to be doing nothing in the middle of the day, unlike other passer-bys who rush by.

"Success"? You mean "Success-In-Progress" right?” he asks. “Cause I just know the latter. I have been there for a couple of times. I could not stand the heat there; it is very hot at that side of the town.” he adds.

Unsure, you answer “Hmm, I guess it is the same. Can you show me the direction to get there?”

“If you are touring around, I think you should go to a place called "Being-Content" because there are some nice parks there.” the young man offers his suggestion unsolicitedly.

“Oh, I am not here for fun. I come to receive an award.”

“It is pity that you have no time for fun.” he replies smugly, for he clearly knows what fun is all about. But he also wants to show that he knows the way around this town very well, so he continues to give your a detailed direction.

Thanking him, you get on your journey again. You miss some turns and get lost a couple of times but finally you reach the place in about an hour later. Well, it IS really hot and uncomfortable there. You call the organizer and say you have reached “Success-In-Progress”.

“What? No!” the organizer exclaims. “"Success-In-Progress" is different place from "Success". But you are getting nearer. It is just another hour drive from there. Just continue on south. And do get here fast cause time is running out.”

“South? I wish I have a compass with me. ” you think to yourself. But, you don’t.

Then, an old man walks towards your direction. You decide to ask him for direction. Fortunately for you, he knows the place and has been there before.

“That area is the best in town. Great scenery and refreshing air. Not much people there. Quiet and tranquil places for relaxing. You can just do anything you like there..........." The old man rattle on as if he just get so happy thinking about that place called "Success".

"You have to go uphill to reach there." He continues. "But the road there is very misleading and has a lot of ups and downs. It is quite difficult for me to give you the exact direction. If you miss a turn, you will probably end up somewhere else but only realize it couple of hours later. If that happens, you will never make it in time to receive your award. I wish I can go together with you, but I have things to settle here. " He pauses for a second, then he continues. "Young man, why don’t you get yourself a map?”

“I do have a map! Give me one sec. Let me get it”. You take out the map given by the organizer from your car and show it to the old man. After looking at the map for about a minute, the old man said, “Young man, I pretty sure you have a wrong map. I have gone to almost every places in this town, even the most grisly place. But I do not think it is near to any of that in this map.”

“No wonder I cannot find the place no matter how hard I try. Finally, I know what the source of the problem is. Thank God I met you.”

“You got it, man! So, you know now what you should do. I am sure you will reach your destination in no time after you get a right map. The bookstore is just right at the corner of that building over there. You won’t miss it. Remember to check for the “Success” place in the map. It should be at the north of the town.”

“Wow, thanks. I am glad to meet you. Just hope I have met you earlier, so that I won’t have to travel to all the lost worlds, making time so pack now.”

“Yeah, you better get running, young man. I hope you reach "Success" in time.”

In the first meeting with the young man, you learn that:

- There are people who will mislead your goals with their own.
- Some people have given up on success and be contented with wherever they are.
- Everyone has their own definition of success. Other people's definition of success might not be same as yours.
- You have to clearly know your goal and your definition of success in order not to be misled or influenced.

In the second meeting with the old man, you learn that:
- you are not aware that you have the wrong map until someone point it to you because you are not clear-minded and easily influenced by the wrong people.
- you most probably travel to all the wrong places before you realize your map is wrong. In some case, you might not want to accept you have the wrong map. Maybe you continue to work hard and have positive attitude but still ended up nowhere.
- if you have spent a long times getting lost, it is harder for you to reach success for you cannot afford a lot of mistakes or wrong turns.
- someone can point to you on how to get the right map in life, but they cannot just "bring" you to success. You have to make the journey yourself. With your own copy of map.

So, ask yourself this. Do you need a Paradigm Shift?

Sunday, 17 August 2008

It is not just what you do; it is how you do it

Imagine that you are a superhero who can fly, deflect bullets and sharp objects, does what a superhero generally can do and save lives. Don’t you think you will have millions of fans, clamoring for your attention, trusting and dependant on you to save them when major crises hit them?

But that did not happen to John Hancock in the movie Hancock (2008), the non-typical superhero whom everybody disdained. Why this particular superhero suffers bad public image although he is actually saving people lives?

That comes to the moral of the story: It is not just what you do; it is how you do it.

What did Hancock try to do?
He saved lives and fought crimes with his superpower.

How did he do it?
He had no regards for damaging anything that gets in his way of getting the job done.
He caused damaged to public property, costing the city millions of dollars. He was rude to everyone who gets near him. He was depressed, drunk and looked filthy like a homeless person.

The result ?
He was universally despised among humanity.

Fortunately, a public relations man named Ray came to his rescue by teaching him HOW to do this job well. Here are the few things that Ray taught him:

1. Teamwork and giving credits to others: To work with the police and fire personnel and say “Good job” to them.

2. Control of Power: Land without leaving a giant crater. Do not damage properties.

3. Responsible, Own up to one mistakes: Serve jail time for his various misdemeanors, attend the anger management course.

4. Better Outward Appearance: Have a clean look and wear a good outfit (which Hancock described jokingly as “homo” but this is not the point I am trying to make).

Overall, Hancock is not a very great movie, but I guess some movies do give us something to learn. And I appreciate this lesson from my mentor.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Do you want to become a Hero or a Zero?

I am not going to compare between Batman and The Joker (the villain, in the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight). I would not say heroes as just those people who are noted for courageous and noble purpose, especially those who risked and sacrificed their lives. And I would not say a zero is a nonentity, one having no influence or importance. I think everyone would have some sort of influences or importance.

I mean the heroes and zeroes whom we meet daily, even the hero and zero entities that are both inside us depending on how and when we want to use it.

In life, I do not think hero and zero are easily identified as Batman and The Joker. That is why my most unforgettable hero and zero from the movies are not the conventional iconic figures. To me, a hero or zero emerges when one is in danger. A hero will rise to the occasion and do the right things regardless of how afraid he is in the painful situation. A zero will flunk or run away when there are pressures and crisis.

In the popular Saving Private Ryan (1998) movie, I always remember this character, Upham. Upham is a translator who had never seen any fighting and killing action before the mission. He was supposed to carry ammunition to his comrades. But he lost his nerve amidst the shooting. Frozen on a stairway just beyond the reach from his comrades, he did nothing when one of his comrades was brutally killed by a German solder just a few steps away. It was the most excruciating scene as the German soldier slowly drove his bayonet into the heart of one of his comrades. At that split second, we all know Upham would have save his comrade just by being there and maybe just as much as given the German a kick. And we all wanted so much to shoot Upham himself at that moment for his cowardice. When the German left and approached Upham, he was so in shock that he took his hand off his rifle’s trigger. Surprisingly, the German left him alive; maybe thinking a coward like that is not worth the time to kill him. In the final twist of fate, when the Germans surrendered, Upham pointed his rifle at the group as if he was a “brave” soldier. He even went further to shoot at one of them, when he realized he was the one who killed his comrades, the comrades who would not be dead if he had done something. The stinging realization that really beat me every time I think about this is that Upham would return to his home, not only alive even though he caused the death of his comrades, but he would also be celebrated as a hero. It is something that I really do not want to accept. My epiphany from this story is no matter how “pure” or “innocent” one might be, that does not allow him to be irresponsible, be a coward and have a bad judgment especially when the situation is critical and calls for him to act.

I certainly would not go near Upham, least become his comrade. To me, Upham is the ZERO, real total ZERO. He did not act when he was most needed to.

Ironically, in the movie Hero (1992), a cynical and amoral man, named Bernie, did a noble thing by rescuing the passengers from a crashed airliner, only to see someone else take credit and have no one believing he was the true hero. Although, Bernie was not really likeable in generals, but he took the right action when he was required to do it, even though at that time, he did not really seem to know or care what he was doing.

To me, Bernie is a hero even though he is not a nice guy.

I learnt from my experience that Mr. Nice Guy can be more evil and he usually hurts us behind our backs while Mr. Bad Guy can be the one who comes to help and save us when we most need it.

How do you know if you act like a Zero?

Through my own experiences and observations as well as experiences of others which are mostly painful, the following behaviors are found in the zeroes:

1. They do not want to admit their own mistakes, either because they are too prideful or they are afraid to face the consequences or punishment. Or, maybe they are scared of how other people will view them when their mistakes are known.

These are the few variation of the behaviors:
a. They do not apologize.
b. They may apologize when they are pressurized into doing it even though they do not realize or admit their mistakes.
c. When they apologize, they never commit to improve or prevent the same things from happening again.
d. They only apologize to the person who confront them about their mistake(s), but not to the rest who also deserve the same apology.
e. Even when they apologize, they make some excuses to try to put the blame to someone else, some other things or circumstances, maybe like the wind, the rain, etc.

2. They tend to play stupid games behind the back and appear to be innocent and nice at the front. They do not dare to compete head-on because they are usually incapable and stupid. Moreover, they are easily threatened by people, who are smarter and more capable than them, especially if the smarter guys are younger too.

3. They always want to avoid conflict. This is also driven by the fact they do not want to admit their mistakes (point #1) and cannot compete head-on (point #2). Instead of trying to resolve the conflict by open talks, they pretend to be fine but keep the revenge or judgment at heart.

4. They do not face their lives and take action. They always give themselves excuses not to act. They always want to wait for something to happen, and then only they act. They want to wait when the path is totally cleared from the mist, and then only they can start walking their life. For most of them, they are still waiting until the final breath of their lives.

5. They always want to play it safe. They do not want to take risks. They always have thousands of reasons why the risks are not worth taking at all, especially when they try to take care of all the people and their opinions in the world.

6. They do not want to get out of their comfort zones. It is always same paths, same mistakes, same faces and same stories over and over again.

7. They are doubtful when good things happen to them or when people offer them good things. So, sometimes, they just reject the good things or people. They continue to push them further and further away from them.

8. They feel embarrassed and ashamed more easily. They always avoid being open. They are usually not assertive because they usually say things in a vague way and like to drop hints. This is intended to create the leeway in case they say something wrong.

9. They always give up on things. They start things without knowing the goals or objectives they want to achieve. They are not persistent enough to pull through until they reach the finishing line. Sometimes, they just give up even though they are only just an inch to getting what they want.

10. They like to follow the crowds. Instead of following the successful people or people who have made it, they use the failures of others as a reference to limit themselves. For e.g., Andy sees a lot of sales person in his group of friends who are not doing very well and come to a conclusion that he should not go into sales.
On the other hand, they might follow the crowds to do something even without knowing what are their strengths and weaknesses. In the “Saving Private Ryan” movie, Upham should not have taken the job. Do not take the fighter job if you are not a fighter.

Of course, there are a lot of ways to overcome the Zero in us to emerge as a hero. This is done not for all the people in this world, but mostly for ourselves. The measures are, of course, to avoid all those that have been said above.

"Live as brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts." - Cicero

Captain Miller famous quotes From Saving Private Ryan: "Ryan...I don't know anything about Ryan. I don't care. Man means nothin' to me. It's just a name. But know....if going to Ramel and finding him so he can go home, if that earns me the right to get back to my wife....well, then, then that's my mission."

Thursday, 24 July 2008

I’m a home-based consultant

After reading Milena Thomas post “I’m Staying Home From Now On. Will you Still Respect Me Tomorrow?”, I am tempted to write about my own stay-at-home experience.

I have “stayed at home” for almost 4 months now since I left my last company. I feel I really deserve this break since I have been working non-stop for almost 9 years except for some small vacations each year, which are usually shorter than 5 days. I am grateful to Jeffrey for making this experience possible for me.

You might imagine me lazing around. I hate to break your imagination but I have to tell you I am not. It is just like Dogbert’s saying: “I’m not unemployed, I’m a consultant.” So you see, I am training myself to be a consultant!

Why? First of all, being a consultant requires one to be organized and have great time management skills. It requires me to plan my day and do the things I need to do for the day. Here, I am practicing these skills to perfection each day. Practice does make perfect and after four months, I think I have graduated. So, I will be moving on to the next level. ( I will talk about this in later post)

Of course, I have gone through problems and overcome them.

Sometimes, I feel good because I have all the times in the world to do things and that is usually in the morning. At night, I feel that “time really flies” and I usually do not finish what I set to do for the day. Sometimes, I do not even wake up until afternoon due to my “late” nights (I really mean wee hours in the morning). I really like staying up late.

Sometimes I can be very relaxed. Other times, I can be quite agitated because I am afraid I will turn into a lazy bum and enjoy being that.

Staying-at-home is not hard and it is not easy either. In fact, I find it to be harder than working because it requires much more discipline and “keeping to the flow”. I can be washing the bathroom, cooking, blogging, reading books, doing laundry, reading online news, going to gym - all in one day and keeping the flow going. It is most probably not in one day because I have all “the motivation” to take things very slowly.

I know I should focus on fewer activities than that, but I am adamant that even though I am not working, that does not mean I cannot learn new things, keep up-to-date to what is happening, and improving my knowledge.

In Chinese saying, there are "big woman" and “small woman”. “Big woman” is someone capable, strong, and independent. She is the type that can either put guys off because she is too smart and powerful or she can get a lot of respect for being assertive and successful in the place prevalently dominated by male. And "small woman" is someone who whines and feeds the ego of guys, with guys taking care of her and being pampered. “Small woman” also stay at the “castle”, taking care of it and the family while the man fight the outside world. The man, who "bring home the bacon" also expected to be cared tenderly by the “small woman”. That is where the “small woman” cooks the bacon, feed the man and show tender-loving care.

I used to focus my energy so much in being a big woman, until I totally feel out of the planet when doing housework, cooking and so on. I even have problem keeping my desk tidy. Jeffrey gave me a sound advice – if you want to be a great big woman, you need to be a damn good small woman first. I am true-blue about this. If I hold a prominent position in a company and managing a large team of people, what pride do I have if I cannot even take care of my children, my husband and our home? Yes, I can hire maid, but I cannot be fully dependant on her.

So, I aspire to be both - small and big woman.

I think I am getting near it. I am much better at cooking and keeping the house in order now. And I am still reading and learning new skills every day.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Being responsive is critical for better communication

Imagine you speak passionately to a group of audiences on a topic, “How to double your income in a year”. You exuberate such an excitement that your eyes glow and you feel like your spirit is almost going to spring out from your body as you feverishly share what it takes you almost a lifetime to learn and months to prepare. At the end of your speech, to your amazement, no one have any questions to ask. This is the tenth speech you have delivered and in all the previous speeches, you received a lot of questions and even heated arguments. Now, the reaction of your audiences is not even a subtle acknowledgement of the effort you have put in the speech. It cannot be any worse than having this non-responsiveness to what you have just earnestly and sincerely shared. You begin to wonder whether you have delivered to the wrong audiences. Maybe they do not like or need money at all, you think. But all people need and like more money, the more the better. You feel the sudden impulse of hitting them on their head and see if they can respond. “Oh”, you thought, “what the hell!”. You grab a stick (don’t ask me why there is a stick there) and hit one of the audience nearest to you. (Let me digress here, if you are a non-responsive person, I advise you not to sit near the speaker next time). That it is - no response as well! At the end, you actually find out you have gone to the wrong room. Your audiences are autistic patients and you will record that speaking experience as your worst.

Yes, it is a definitely a heart-wrenching and stomach grueling feeling of speaking to people are non-responsive.

Imagine you as a leader, who has sincerely shared your negative feedback with one of your team member, who fall short of your expectation. You even write a one-thousand-words email to explain the behaviors you observed from the person and suggested few ways for him to change. Though there is some amount of criticism, but you honestly want to help the person to improve. How would you feel if you do not even receive a single email or phone call or message in response? Not even a thank-you note. No agreement or disagreement with you. You most probably will not feel so inclined to share more advices or feedbacks with the same person anymore.

I once heard from a CEO of a company who felt so impressed with an employee in the company who wrote him a thank-you email. The good CEO was making tremendous effort to get to know each of his employees by scheduling some small but prestigious dinners with them, each time with only three to four employees to allow better interaction. Out of the thirty to forty employees, only one wrote back to say thank you, not just for the gourmet and the CEO’s time but also for the insights shared by the CEO. And you are pretty sure that person, who is also, fortunately, able to deliver good job quality, has gone far in the company.

If you are not convinced until now that responsiveness is critical for better communication and also building better relationship, please try this. Try to smell whether unresponsiveness is there in the air around you. Probably, you have lived with it for so long you are driving most people away, especially those smart and experienced people who have not much time for everyone, much less the non-responsive one.

Get this right. Responsiveness is VERY IMPORTANT to good communication. It requires not only listening skills, empathy, and paying attentions but also involves actions. It requires one to understand and act on the understanding to the best of one’s abilities.

Take for example, a trainer or mentor who advise his students to undergo a makeover with specifics given to which parts to improve. Let’s say Johnny has his hair too long for a sales person to portray the right image to the customers and Johnny’s mentor and also superior, Edmund advised him to cut his hair. Weeks after weeks, Johnny went around with his long hair, making sales call. He failed to close any sales after weeks. He may not have the right skills but his look which is non-professional may aggravated the situation for him. But Johnny believes no one should judge him by his look. But the truth is, everyone judges others by their looks. So, in the end, Edmund has no choice but to give up on him.

Failure to take action based on sound advices has shown that Johnny is not responsive and not valuing himself and people who spend times to teach him. Yes, Johnny might respect and have listened attentively to Edmund, but responsiveness includes action(s). And actions speak much louder than words. This is always the case. You can be very smart, very loyal, and very creative but as long as you do not put that into actions, you will fail miserably.

Sometimes, it is our culture and background that cause us to be unresponsive in most of the situation. It also maybe due to our lack of confidence that we are afraid to respond for fear that people may think we are stupid if we ask silly questions or say something that reveals our lack of knowledge. Of course, do not just simply ask questions without understanding what is being communicated. Responsiveness requires understanding as well as actions.

I still remember in my secondary school, there was one girl in our class that we all found it hard to mix with her. She was the one who always asked teachers a lot of questions; however, the questions she asked had already been covered or taught by the teachers just a while ago. That was quite annoying as it prolonged the lectures and prevented the teachers from moving on to the next topics. While responsiveness is good, I certainly do not hope to call for responsiveness without a good cause.

A logical and favorable level of responsiveness can be cultivated. Through trainings and practices, you will soon find it to be part of your daily interaction. You will become responsive without any great efforts or even without you noticing it.

So, remember the followings:

1. Listen attentively. Do not interrupt unnecessarily. Nod your head or something to show that you are following the conversation.

2. Understand what is being communicated.

3. Most importantly, Act!!

a. Ask questions if you are not clear about something. It is also advisable to do some research on your own first, if you have the time.

b. Say thank you to show your appreciation. If it is an email, reply the email saying thank you. If you need to approach the good speaker in the crowd of hundreds of people, do it. Showing appreciation does require some effort. And greater the effort, the appreciation shown is much greater.

c. Give your feedback - how you feel and what you think. Be careful whether you are being defensive, which you should not.

d. Act on the person’s request or advices if they are good ones. If unsure, check again with the sender of the messages on what actions are required.

e. If you come across some blog entries or articles that you like, leave some comments, even just a short one. You should know how much it means to the writer to get some sort of responses, even disagreement is most welcomed.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

The other side of Grandma

My grandma passed away peacefully last Friday, 13 June 2008.

Few days earlier, she was already bedridden and doctor had warned us her "time" was approaching. Jeffrey (my darling) and I were on the way back to my hometown, hoping to be able to see her while she was still around. We did not anticipate that we would be attending a funeral. (Made me recall the two things that we should do without hesitation because there might not be second chance - 1) Visit those who are sick and 2) Attend funeral (or wake))

I was sad when I heard of the bad news. I started to think about Grandma, her presence and influences in my life. I hate myself for saying this, it was not a lot. The memory about her is frail. You see, I was not really close with Grandma since I was young. This included the rest of my family. Somehow, we just were not her favourites.

However, with her death, I let myself wonder why this could have happened instead of just accepting that it was Grandma's fault. My grandma and my mum had not been able to get along very well since they first met each other. My father, on the other hand, treated his second sister, who looked after him when he was young, more like his mother. I gathered my Grandma was busy helping her husband on their business then. It is also obvious to everyone that Grandma care for her youngest son the most.

According to my mother, when we were babies, my grandma did not help to look after us. It would be also my father's second sister who bathed us and looked after us when my mother was busy or sick. But Grandma had helped her daughters to take care of their children. All these always made us think her love was one-sided and it embittered us. That was why we were never really close to her. At times, I even thought Grandma was not a generally likable person.

I have not been offering Grandma any justice. Although Grandma may have been very forceful, deep inside, she is very likable and gentle. She often went out and spend times with her friends while most of the other grandma of her ages opt to stay at home at most of the times. Jeffrey met Grandma once, about few months ago. Surprisingly, they talked for a long time, even in different languages and dialects. They seemed to be able to understand each other very much, especially when they talked about God and karma. Jeffrey said to me he had taken a liking to her immediately then. When he said that again after Grandma passed away, I cried because I knew I was so wrong about her.

I also realize Grandma had lived her life very successfully. She was an orphan and adopted into a doctor family. She married and have 2 daughters and 2 sons. But her husband died shortly when the youngest son was just 3 years old. That youngest son was my father. She remarried again and had four more children, youngest being a son. She helped her new husband to start a business selling hardware/steel. Because of her excellent English, she was able to communicate well with the British back then. Their business thrived, and most people said she had contributed to sixty percent of the business success. She was also a very resilient and assertive woman. In fact, while she was sick, I never heard her complain about her predicaments at all. She had so many success attributes. She always told us that she wished to be cremated after her death, and her ashes to be thrown into the sea. She said she wanted to be free. She also did not want to create hassle for the people to visit and pray on her grave. She was really one unique lady!

At first when I heard about her death, I prayed for her and told her I would forgive whatever she had not done for me and I was just glad to be her granddaughter.
But afterwards, I prayed for her forgiveness for what I had not done for her. For I had not made the efforts to really get to know her. I was the one who failed to do things for her.

In my previous post, I wrote about how our parents shaped our characters. I feel in a lot of ways my mum had a lot of influences in me and my brothers being not close to Grandma. I could not blame my mum though because I know she just wanted to share her frustrations with her children since my Grandma did not like her. Unfortunately, I was too young to be able to see from multiple sides of the stories. I guess I also held some frustrations towards Grandma.

But, once I let go of my frustrations, the revelation came to me. I felt I just twisted 180 degree and suddenly, I was on the other side of the story.

I heard of this past incident from my mum last Friday. It just came out as a normal discussion between us about some topics that I could not recall. My mum said because she was protective of her children, at one time, she did not allow my elder brother to go on a cruise vacation with Grandma. Grandma wanted to bring my brother and my other cousin brother. But my mum could not trust Grandma of being able to look after two boys at the same time and worried that my brother may fall off the ship. So, it ended with just Grandma and my cousin brother going on the vacation. Although I could not settle on whether my mum had done the right thing, I surely felt it was a misfortune for my brother to be denied a chance to enjoy himself on a vacation as well as a chance to spend time and build a closer relationship with Grandma. To a greater extent, I gather the same misfortunes might have happened to me and my younger brother until eventually Grandma just could not bother with us anymore.

So, I have to admit that I had my head in the clouds for so long. It is actually not just on Grandma, but with everything else around me. But I am starting to feel the clouds are clearing, because I am surely seeing a lot more things than I used to see.

And finally, for the first time in my life, I see the other side of the story of Grandma.

Grandma, my siblings and me (in the younger years) -
**Only can find this photo with Grandma in my photo album**

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The child in us

When we were growing as a child…

I used to hug and kiss my dad whenever he came back from work. At around 3 to 4 years old, I was daddy’s sweet little girl. Time passed very fast and I grew up. Somehow I have forgotten when I stopped hugging and kissing my dad. I guess it was a gradual process, like I did it lesser and lesser until one day I just stopped doing that altogether. Or maybe, he scolded me real bad and I got mad and just stopped being close to him.

Now, whenever I have the chance, I would open the door for him and greet him at the doorstep when he came back from work. It was not often because I no longer lived with my parents. However, at those moments, deep inside me, I would remember how it feels to hug and kiss him like his little girl again.

I realized these.

Sometimes, no matter how we grow up, there is still this little child inside us that never want to grow up. And, that child guides and affects us in a lot of ways more than we can understand.

When we were growing as an adult...
When we stop growing and become lost...

Being grown-ups, we are always expected to behave in certain ways. We are supposed to know more things than the children. We should act mature. We have seen more things in the world , so that also make us more correct in our thinking. We know how to do our jobs well. We know how to plan for ourselves, our families and our futures.

Sometimes, unfortunately, we are so totally wrong and illusional about what we have achieved and what we think we know.

I realized these.

Somewhere in our life, we stop growing. We stop asking for help and advices. We stop wondering whether we do things correctly. We do not like to accept criticism. We hate to have someone set the rules for us. We do not want to follow sound advices, but choose to follow stupid advices. That is where we made our gravest mistake sometimes.

Pride is also part of the culprit. We hate to admit that we do not know how to do certain things in life. That is why, instead of asking people how to do something; we do not want to look bad, so we have to find out by ourselves. Sometimes this is good because it seems that we have initiative and are not dependent on people. But sometimes we waste so much time on trials and error. We can be much more productive if we can just ask from the person who has done it successfully and then we can just follow and get the result right away.

But of course, there are not a lot of smart people around that we can ask and who can help us. But there still are someone out there, and that depends on where you look and how hard you look for them. If you find someone smart, stay close to them.

When we changed and grow again…

It has been ages since someone really pointed to me what were the underlying problems with me and how I could change that. And, how it could have been my funeral if I choose not to change.
At first, I was very defensive and did not really want to look like a defective person. Eventually, I have changed. It was a gradual and painstaking process and I am still changing.

If you read a lot of articles and books out there, most of them said it is hard for people to change, especially their characters. It is hard for people to improve on their non-talents. Like we would never be a good fashion designer because we do not have a good fashion sense or I would never be an organized and tidy person because organization skill is one of my non-talents.

I realized these.

That is just partially true. Sometimes, it is not because we do not have talents in things. It is just, somewhere in our life, we encountered something that made us believe we cannot do it and we just give up trying. And when we are pushed to try sometimes, in the back of our mind, we would tell ourselves there is no use trying and we will fail. So, we fail and we prove ourselves right by failing.

To key is to overcome the negative thinking and fears of failing to step beyond our comfortable zone and start doing things diffferently while believing we can achieve what we set out to do.

When we continue to grow while reflecting on our past, what matters to us and who we want to become...

Try to think back about your life, especially those incidents you never seemed to be able to forget.

I realized these.

There are some parts in our childhood, where somethings happened and then we just decided to be who we are today. Like why I did not like to do housework is not because I was not capable of doing it or did not have talent for it. It is just during my childhood, at some points, I gave up doing the housework and decided I just want to focus on my study and get a good result.

For some of you, maybe when your parents always do not seem to understand and scold you for things you tell them, then you decide it is better to keep things for yourself and that is where you start to close up yourself. Or when you get cheated by your loved one and you decide you do not want to commit your heart to anyone anymore and start to cheat other people the way you are cheated.

But, no matter what happened in the past, sometimes, it is good to remember what our childhood was like. Remember what are our basics, what shape us. Things are always so pure and innocent during our childhoods. It is not at all like what we need to face today.

As an exercise, my mentor asked me and his other students to write 1000 words about ourselves. Anything that we feel like writing about ourselves and it should be handwritten. I wrote mostly about my childhood, how I was brought up and what changed me along the way. That was where I realized my values have not changed that much. I am still the sweet little girl inside. The objectives of the exercise is to remember who we were, and to constantly reflect on our past on the journey to become who we want to be.

Try this exercise yourself if you want. I bet you will have tears welling in your eyes halfway through what you have written.

For those of you who are good now and want to be someone great, let us not forget how we grow until now and like Google's mantra - "Don't be evil".

For those of you who are doing bad things to others, even to your defense, to survive in this world, hope you can remember your childhoods, your roots and remind yourself that you do not need to survive by cheating and hurting other people.

Let’s not forget the child in us. Let the child be our guide now.

When we become parents and growing our children...

My mentor mentioned this:
If you are a human being, you would not want your children to go through worse or have less than what you have gone through. Thus, it is your responsibility to provide better for your children than what your parents have provided for you.

When my mentor was young, he aspired to become a police officer or a mechanical engineer, both of which were disapproved relentlessly by his father. Eventually, he became a salesman and would then continue to hold senior managerial roles in corporate environment. His life would be pretty much different if his father allowed him to be who he wanted to become then. Maybe it would be much better or much worse, or maybe there is no different. Maybe he would end up to be a corrupted police officer or maybe he would become a well-respected police officer who save many lives. Maybe he would be an outstanding mechanical engineer who design a new generation of affordable cars that do not use fuels (due to the recent fuel hikes, this is very very much welcomed) or maybe he would be the director of Toyota today.

For me, my parents never disapproved of my ambitions , although at most time, they did not know what were my ambitions. I was not even clear about my ambitions back then. There was one time when I was in primary school, I wrote "Typist" as one of my ambition because I like typing. Luckily, I did not just become a mere typist, but I did earn my living through "typing" programming codes, reports, and book (yeah, when my book can really sell next time or when I really can finish it in the first place).

I realized these.

We largely determine who our children are going to be. In fact, we play a major role in shaping their characters and values of life. We can literally change their lives forever.

So, let's strive to be great parents to our kids. What our parents have done for us, we can only do better.

A handsome man and a cute girl.
Photo of me and my dad when I was 2+ years old.

Monday, 2 June 2008

What you don’t know will make the difference

"It is not what you know. It is what you don’t know that will make the difference."

That phrase hanged on my mind for a very long time when I heard it from my mentor last Saturday.

That is exactly what made me dare to change in about half year ago.

Being a manager in a small software company at the age of 26, I thought I could do well in my life by slowly moving up the career ladder. But life and work were constantly a struggle and firefighting against one problem after another. There were always not enough time for everything. I had to do some of the things that I did not know how to do. So were the people in the company, even my boss at that time. I learnt from books and website and implemented many of my newly learnt skills. I learnt from my mistakes. I learnt things from my subordinates and colleagues as well. But somehow, things were not improving significantly and pressure was mounting. I knew 2 problems:

  1. I was not doing some of the things right.
  2. I was not doing the right things. Something was missing, something that I could not grasp.

Yes, there is always Google but when I typed the search “What is wrong with me?”, it directed me to see some psychiatrists, therapists or some other forms of medical help. I do not think they really can help in my case.

But when I typed “What is wrong with my job?”, it pointed me straight to my boss (Okay, I am just making this up just to please myself).

Finally, I yelled Mayday. Striving to restore order to my life, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and gave up my job. From there, life is a constant surprise to me because of the new things I discover and learn each day. I found I was largely ignorant of a lot of things in work and life.

So, I got the answer to my problems, generally speaking.

The cause to my problems was the things that I did not know. Of course, there are millions and billions things that I do not know. But most importantly, I did not even know what I do not know that would make the difference in my life.

That is why I am very grateful to my mentor. It has been a long time (since I was in my teens) that someone really teaches me things and corrects my mistakes in a way that substantially changes me. Sometimes, the subject of the teaching can be something simple yet need to be taught in details and broken into steps. For examples, groceries shopping involves one to maintain some sort of groceries list and check the inventories every week. I mean real efficient groceries shopping where there is always enough stock for everything. For examples, I do not need to run to the nearest convenient shop urgently or borrow from the neighbors when I do not have enough salt, because there should be enough stock for salt in the first place. Wait a minute, I do not really know my neighbours enough to borrow salts from them. On top of that, I do not need to wander aimlessly in the hypermarket or supermarket, wondering at what I should buy because I do not have a list. Hell yes, I am still perfecting the groceries shopping system after months and I am not joking about this.

But changing oneself is really not easy. I received quite a number of slaps on my head for making mistakes and when I did not listen to sound advices.

Anyway, I am expected to make a lot of mistakes and get corrected along the way. That is how I am supposed to learn. But the caveat is I am NOT supposed to repeat the same mistakes. So, that is where I got the slaps on my head. The only consolation is that I received a lot of pats on my head too. :)

So, ask yourself this - what you do not know that may make the difference in your life? If you do not know, ask someone who knows.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Starbucks, please control yourself

I am writing again in response to Bert Hart, The Genuis of Starbucks' New Wi-Fi Strategy. I also would like to announce that I am officially a member of Brazen Careerist (look right). Clap clap clap! Although it is not a-million-dollar deal or something, but I guess big things happen one step at a time.

Bert said:
Starbucks has announced that it will be providing 2 free hours of consecutive wireless internet use per day to customers who use their Starbucks cards at least once a month. Translation: if you have a Starbucks card, which is free, and you drink at least one cup of coffee per month, you can go into any Starbucks in the world (by the end of 2008) and use the internet for 2 straight hours without being hassled by baristas or blocked out of the network.

I always go to Starbucks because I like to write and do works on my laptop outside. I would easily drink a cup of coffee per month and can afford the Starbucks card (anyway, it is free..LOL)

But I really hate it when they want to limit only 2 hours for the Internet use. So, if I drink 2 cup of coffees per month, am I eligible for 4 hours use? And is it like redemption thingy, like after I use the 2 hours connection, I have to drink another coffee to redeem 2 hours more the next day? I just wonder at what kind of stunt they are pulling. Kind of like Strategy A: we can get sales of 10 cup of coffee more per month, Strategy B: we can get each of the stupid people (I really do not know how many) to buy 1 more cup of coffee per month.

I really hope they would not implement that kind of control. I love Starbuck for the environment and the fact they are everywhere as I would not want to drive 10 km to get coffee. The coffee is great, but not the best so far. I prefer San Francisco’s actually.

Anyway, why they do this maybe due to 2 reasons:

First, from what I read in “The Undercover Economist” book, we are actually paying premium price for our coffees at places like Starbucks because of they are providing us with the environment. It does not cost them very much to make the coffee actually. So, I guess they are trying to say to us that we are not paying enough for the coffee because the coffee price actually includes the place where we are sitting (up to how many square feet we occupy), air-conditioning, the nice music and most of all, the Wifi-connection, which was introduced much later. So, it is another way of saying, we should pay for the Wifi connection because when they calculated and came out with the price for the coffee, they have not taken wifi-connection into consideration. So, assuming I am Starbucks top executive, I would think, how do we make our customers pay for the Wifi? If we increase the price for the coffee when the coffee price worldwide is not increasing, customers will f**k us. So, we have to be “creative”.

Second, I think it is a strategy from preventing people like me who usually hang out in Starbucks for more than 4 hours with just one cup of coffee (yes, I am cheapskate but at least I buy at least one cup. Size of Venti some more, what do they want?). Of course, by being there for more than 2 hours, the only thing they lose is another customer who can order a cup of coffee (yes, 1 more cup in sales) and sit at the place I am sitting. Place rental is always not cheap.

And remember the letter the Starbucks chairman, Howard Schultz sent out to warn of “the commoditization of the Starbucks experience”. He mentioned about “Push for innovation and do the things necessary to once again differentiate Starbucks from all others.”

Now, what an innovation Starbucks comes out with.

On additional notes, I just realize Starbucks is called Starbucks and not Starbuck, without the s behind. It really means that they are out not just to make one dollar or just an amount of money from you. They want lots and lots of money from you, your parents, your kids, your friends and whoever you know.

Getting Things Done Using iGoogle

Erik Folgate from Brazen Careerist shared a useful tip on Getting Things Done Using iGoogle. I found it to be really useful after trying it for more than a week. You have to believe me as I have used all sort of tools to keep track of my task lists ever since I read the Getting Things Done book but to no avail. So here am I again, giving another shot to keep things organized and tracked properly.

Here is a funny product tour for iGoogle. I really love Google products!!!!!

I manage to improvise a little bit on Erik's suggestion. Here are my suggestion.

1. For the "Get Things Done" tab, include also "Gmail" widget, "Yahoo Mail" widget or whatever mail you are using. Email usually serves as the inbox for tasks also, so it is right to put them in that tab.

2. You can also add "Quotes of the Day" widget also. This can cheer you up a little while you are gazing at the task lists each day and wondering how can you complete all of those. Hakuna Matata!

3. "Remember the Milk" and "Google Calendar" widgets are pretty useful but I found "Google Notes" to be dissappointing. I hate the structure of the notes and the fact that the display is bad. I need to literally scroll up and down each time to see all the notes. For that, I substituted it with a "To-do List" to keep the list of the notes. I use notes only to put some reminders like what I am waiting for and what I need to buy.

4. I also added a "Reading" tab where I have all the widgets for reading RSS feeds from local newspapers. Try to keep the reading list to the minimal so that you would not be too overwhelmed.

5. Lastly, you may also find the "Beauty Tip of the Day" widget to be quite inspirational. Example: "Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them." William Stone

It is always good to feel beautiful each day.

Hope you find this to be useful.

Monday, 19 May 2008

My Profile

I recently came across this wonderful site, Brazen Careerist , a network for young and vibrant bloggers who have the following tag line:

A Brazen Careerist knows that defining your own career, finding the right field, and pursuing it are key ingredients to a fulfilling life. Like the tag line suggests, when you define your career on your own terms first, you control your life.

Great and sound like what I am doing, I thought to myself. After reading through some postings and enjoying them, I decided to join the Brazen Careerist Network (***I am really getting more serious in writing***).

In no less than a week, Ryan Paugh, a community relations coordinator for Brazen Careerist and also a co-founder wrote to me. He said he recently checked out my blog and is very impressed. He thinks I would make an excellent addition to the community. ( Clap Clap Clap!!!)

Then, came the part where he inquired about my age. He explained that the community consists of twentysomething professionals. Because they are trying to keep that niche, they only allow twentysomethings into the community.

Oops, I did not know that is the one of the criteria to join the community. It makes me feel very old. It is not Ryan's fault anyway because I always feel old. Anyway, I just turned 29 this year. I am not sure whether I can still consider myself a "twentysomething". I still remembered an episode in Ally Mcbeal where she said turning 30 is “worse than death”. I got to like Ally Mcbeal show because I kind of connected to her in a very weird and age phobic way. I do not know why I understand the age-phobia thingy back then when I was still in my "early twenties". But I think most of the Brazen Careerists would not understand that. Also, I doubt they have watched Ally Mcbeal before (not really in their era).

The website did say it is an online career center aimed at Generation Y . Call me stupid but I just got to know from wiki that Gen Y are individuals born from 1983 to 1997. So, that does not include me, sadly. Anyway, since it is "aiming" at Gen Y and not really "originating" from Gen Y, I guess I may still stand a chance to become part of the writers community. Or, I am consoling myself and trying to numb the sadness of approaching thirties. Or, maybe I should just start a new community for thirtysomething people.

Anyway, I decided to give it a try and wrote a reply to Ryan. Since he also said he would like to hear more about myself and ask me to share anything I like, I took the opportunity to write my profile. I hope to sell myself a bit there (***see, I am really getting more serious in writing***) . I also updated my profile in this blog. It is a bit different from the profile I sent to Ryan because this blog only allow up to 1200 characters so I have to amend it. A bit stupid but I am still grateful to this blogging tool anyway.

Oh, by the way, I cannot help to highlight all the age-specific details in this posting. But please do not be afraid, I welcome people from all age to comment in my blog. Gen X, Gen XXX, Gen Y , Gen Z or even people with no gen are truly welcomed.

Anyway, here is my reply to Ryan.

Hi Ryan,

I just turned 29 on April this year. I hope I am still qualified to join Brazen Careerist. I am very impressed by the articles and bloggers in Brazen Careerist community. It will do me proud to be part of the team too.

I think I have a lot of things to offer to the readers in career, life, personal development and relationship. Let me put in it a more dramatic way about me. I have gone through hell to find heaven. That is also a statement I started with in the current book I am authoring. The book is about relationship and I expect it to be published in a year from now.

In career, I have much to share. I started my career as a programmer and I managed to climb the ladder and become an IT Manager within 6 years. Thus, I have almost 3 years of management experience now.

Surprisingly, my biggest change in life happened within the recent 6 months. In the span of 3 months since November last year, I gave up my job at the local IT firm and my relationship with my boyfriend, both which wear out 6 years of my life.

Finally, I decided I had enough of the 9-5 job, the off-balance and unorganized life, dealing with office politics and hypocrites as well as living my life struggling to make ends meet. So, I quitted my most recent job and remain employed for almost 3 months now. I am going to start my own business in IT very soon. At the same time, I am also looking to start my career as a writer, expanding myself from being just a blogger. I am also fed up with mixing with the wrong crowds who are negative and do not have the right mindsets to be successful in life. So, I also have major changes in friendship and most importantly, my mindsets and habits.

I am embarking on a new journey to chase my dreams, so to speak. But the greatest thing of all, I already found my greatest dream – love. I am planning to start my family soon with a man who taught me about unconditional love and who has changed my life forever. He is also my ex-boss in my last company, my mentor as well as my walking dictionary and wikipedia. He is the smartest and craziest person I ever see in my life.

With enough said, I really think I have a lot of things to offer to the fellow readers. It is also a path that I passionately and relentlessly pursue.

My review and reflection for The Garden of Words

I just watched this short animation work from Makoto Shinkai. I had previously watched his grand hit 'Your Name' and absolutely fel...