Chip Conley: Measuring what makes life worthwhile

22 06 2010

I saw this video this morning, and found the thought behind this talk really meaningful.

View the video – Chip Conley – Measuring what makes life worthwhile
View transcript of the video

I wanna be work for that employer or be that employer in time to come 😉
Measure GNH (Gross National Happiness) instead of GDP (Gross Domestic Product)

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Energising conversations

6 06 2010

I had a few great chats with friends recently.

We shared our ideas, experiences. Situations that we were facing at the work place, how each of us can do better.

We motivate each other, to try another approach of doing things, having another perspective. Bouncing off ideas from each other, then thinking of collaboration, a peer motivation.

After those conversations, I feel alive. Always.

Sometimes it’s an energy booster, giving me the boost to do something positively. Other times, I’m the energy booster, in some ways, communicating the exact message that is required by that individual at that certain point in time.

What works in such conversations? How does a conversation become energising?

Being open to listen to another perspective, and having that mutual trust in each other. The trust that whatever this person is saying is in the highest good, not for their ego, or to be condescending.

It’s also about appreciation. The appreciation of the openness, to listen and to give.

Chemistry. Sometimes people just click. We have the same frequency, values and mindset. In our own ways, to make things better.

A motivation and positivity that we want to offer to the other person. Many times, I’m my worst enemy, but it’s through these type of conversations, I reflect and accept that I don’t have to be so hard on myself. My thoughts, point of view, my value as an individual is as worthy as the next person. I offer that booster to friends who I believe are capable of doing more, and in other situations, I get the booster from other friends who believe the same of me.

I try to surround myself with people who are true and honest. Those who don’t take everything for granted, those who are appreciative and those who respect others. In seeking  those, I aim to have those qualities. To do better in listening.

I pray that most conversations I have, can be energising — either to myself, mutually or for the other person.

What’s the last conversation you had that energises you?





The Leader Who Had No Title – by Robin Sharma

26 05 2010

A new book by Robin Sharma, the author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.

As with his other books, the author uses a story and delivers his leadership messages, lessons through the characters in the story.

In this book, we meet Blake Davis, his mento Tommy Flinn and 4 leaders who imparts the leadership lessons on how we can lead without a title.

In summary, the 4 lessons are:

1. You Need No Title to Be a Leader

2. Turbulent Times Build Great Leaders

3. The Deeper Your Relationships, the Stronger Your Leadership

4. To be a Great Leader, First become a Great Person

Every chapter in this book, has lots of quotes and lines which are thought provoking to me.

One example was, the mentor, Tommy Flinn’s name card:

TOMMY FLINN

Human Being

Imagine if all of us had this job title, remembering that we were “born awesome”, that we are first humans, not “CEOs, directors, managers” — What a way to introduce ourselves!

The author does share that titles are relevant in an organisation, to give it structure. The key is not to get too attached to the title, and forget that if we strip off the title, who are we then? Have we worked within ourselves to stand for what we believe, to do what we want to do, to be our best?

Another quote “It’s impossible to build a tribute to success on a foundation of excuses”

This paragraph strike me:

“Work offers you a daily platform to discover the leader within. It’s a chance, every day, to reclaim more of the potential you’ve buried and to awaken the dormant relationship between the current you and your absolute best. It’s an opportunity to express more of your latent creativity and a whole lot more of your precious humanity.”

With each leadership lesson, were acronyms of rules that accompany each lesson:

IMAGE (Innovation, Mastery, Authenticity, Guts, Ethics),

SPARK (Speak with Candor, Prioritize, Adversity Breeds Opportunity, Respond versus React, Kudos for Everyone),

HUMAN (Helpfulness, Understanding, Mingle, Amuse, Nurture),

SHINE (See Clearly, Health is Wealth, Inspiration Matters, Neglect Not Your Family, Elevate Your Lifestyle)

Why this is a good read:

Most of the knowledge in there is nothing new. Yet the way all these are weaved into the story so that one can feel for the characters is a clever way of engaging the reader.

The message of this book also came at the right time for me, where I’m feeling overwhelmed by negativity, so much so, I’m becoming negative myself. It set me thinking, how each and every one of us is born to shine, but through conditioning and society, we conform, become mediocre – do things to get by.

Having the courage to stand for what we believe, to do our best everyday is not always easy, but if we don’t do this for ourselves, then who would?

This book is relevant now, as we are all pushed to be our true self, to shine and spark as a real human being. Nothing less than our best.





A great speech – Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

29 04 2010

A friend forwarded me this speech by Adrian Tan, the author of the Teenage Textbook (1988), at NTU’s convocation ceremony in 2008.

This message is just so timely for me, as I’m in the pensive, reflective mood.

Apparently, this speech has been making its rounds in other blogs, but I’ll just reproduce the transcript of the speech here:

Written by Adrian Tan, author of The Teenage Textbook (1988), who was the guest-of-honour at a recent NTU convocation ceremony. This was his speech to the graduating class of 2008.


I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.

My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.

On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.

Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.

And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.

Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.

The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning.

You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong process” and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.

The good news is that they’re wrong.

The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.

I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.

You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.

Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.

So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.

Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.

I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.

After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.

Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.

That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.

If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.

What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.

Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.

What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.

Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free.

The most important is this: do not work.

Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable.

Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.

There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”. No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.

People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.

Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.

I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.

So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.

Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.

Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth. I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.

In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.

I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth. I now say this to you: be hated.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.

One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.

The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.

I didn’t say “be loved”. That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone.

Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work – the only kind of work that I find palatable.

Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the true worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul.

Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn’t happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm.

You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart.

You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you.

Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don’t, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

‘he had been groping and grabbing after certainty, as if it were something he could possess.  he had been demanding a security, a guarantee, which is not granted: and which, if granted, would become a prison.’
—-ursula le guin, ‘the dispossessed’





First time parents and purchases

29 04 2010

———— This was a post that I forgot to publish last year! 😛  ——————

Went to an exhibition for mothers recently.

Being an experienced mother, I get less excited over all the exhibits and booths. I just zoom into what I need, and head on. Even then, I would be distracted by some products but more aware of what are good deals, and those that are just nice to look at, but not very practical.

Pregnancy, motherhood, and a new baby can be daunting. What to buy, which to buy — decisions that are often not easy to make when you have zero experience. Most of the time, we would rely on magazines/internet/books or recommendations from friends and family.

Guides in magazines are good, but they are sometimes obligated to advertise or do a good advertorial for the client so as to meet their targets. Even with recommendations from friends or relatives, it can get all too confusing for the parent-to-be. Cost is a major factor, and as first timers,  it’s all too easy to go overboard (especially when one is expecting a baby girl).

Here’s a list of purchases that one should consider:

Diapers

Parents need to decide: cloth or disposables?

Cost is an issue with disposables, but they are readily available and there’s no washing required. Cloth nappies would be technically more cost-effective and also more environmentally friendly, but take into consideration of the washing required. Parents with multiples? Disposables may be a better option.

The hospitals would generally provide 1 pack of disposable diapers (newborn sizes, up to 5 kg), and newborns can go up to 8 diaper changes in a day. Though some brands may have better absorbancy, parents may want to weigh the costs, because with the frequent diaper changes, sometimes the diapers doesn’t become full before you have to change it again. I have tried a lot of brands and supermarket house brands may not be a bad idea. Try not to buy in bulk yet. Try and test first.

Clothes

100% cotton. Front button tops worked better for me than wraps. The strings are too much to handle 😛

At least 6sets of clothes for a start for a singleton, double that for twins. More are welcome. With the baby outgrowing clothing really quickly, it would be best to get hand me downs where possible.

Nappy rash cream

There are a few options in the market: Drapolene, Desitin, Mustela etc. Drapolene is good for daily use, Desitin has the most raves for getting rid of nappy rash. Mustela Vitamin barrier cream is good as well.

Prams

I have wrote about this in a previous entry

Baby carriers/Slings

I swear by the sarong slings. If you plan to have more than 1 child, it just gives so much leverage.

There are places that aren’t exactly pram/stroller friendly, so the baby carrier/sling do help to offset some of the pressure with carrying the child, and it just makes one more mobile without worrying about another piece of equipment.

Especially true when you don’t drive or you rely on public transport.

Breastfeeding equipment/related accessories

I was a “100% breastpump mom”. For all my kids, I express my breastmilk 100% for various reasons. Therefore it was very important that I got a good breastpump that is heavy duty, and is able to allow me to achieve letdown quickly. It should also be a dual electric pump, just for efficiency and less stress on the fingers (Try using the manual pump for 30mins, and you will understand what I mean).

I started using the dual electric pump in the hospital once I delivered, to stimulate the milk flow. Obviously, this is going to be contradicting to what lactation consultants would advise if you plan to latch on. Totally understand, but some milk is better than no milk when you are trying the best to learn latching with the baby, and sometimes, it’s just impossible to latch.

There are many good pumps in the market, but for heavy duty usage, I like the Medela Pump in Style Advance. It was a life-saver, and the good piece of equipment has lasted me 2 pregnancies, fed my 3 kids, and it’s been loaned to a few friends. ROI definitely has been achieved.

Another accessory I would recommend is a hands-free bottle/funnel holder that you wear around the neck during expressing. I only got it in my 2nd pregnancy, and it was like the 2nd best thing I had. Hands free during expression, it allowed me to read, surf the web and more. I hear some mums even catch a nap, or drive when expressing in car.

Bottles and milk bags

Once you start breastfeeding, and plan to continue doing it when it’s time to return to work, it’s impossible to not have a breastpump. Next up would be bottles/milk bags for storage, and if the supply is abundant, be prepared to spend on bottles/milk bags. For milk bags, I think the zip lock type of sterilised milk bags are the best. Easy to store, easy to pour the defrost milk out with little mess. It’s slightly more expensive than milk bags that do not have the zip lock feature, but imagine trying to use a rubber band or some other device to seal the milk bag. That’s another cost.

Preferred generic bottles vs using a specific brand with a customised size like Avent because those bottles can fit to any regular size teats, and can be used for feeding. Of course, if one is using the entire series from a certain brand, than sticking to that brand may make sense. I used Pigeon bottles and milk bags for storage, on top of collecting glass bottles (and then buying separate bottle covers as sometimes they throw away the bottle cap) at the hospital where possible.

Always stack milk bags flat in the freezer. Sort by date, first in last out (so that you always give the baby the freshest milk). I used plastic boxes to hold the milk bags in the freezer, just for easy sorting.

Nursing balm/nipple cream

Very important to have these on hand because during the early stages, and sometimes, the nipple may crack and it’s not going to be comfortable expressing/breastfeeding the baby. Some people like Lanolin, I prefer the texture of nipple creams (e.g. Mustela) for regular use, and Lanolin for the very serious condition 😛 The other best cream: Your own breastmilk. Just spread all over after you are done with feeding/expressing. Worked for many people.

Breast pads

Leaky breasts that show through your clothes is no fun. Either choose disposable breast pads or buy washable ones. One may not leak all the time, but if you are out of the house, it’s not fun to see wet spots on your top.

This is not the most exhaustive list of items to purchase, but I think it covers the basics.

Hope this helps some of you out there!





Another cab drove off

6 04 2010

Yet another encounter of a cab driving off, after seeing our family size.

3 adults, 2 toddlers and 1 baby in hand. That’s too many?!

Legally, the current family size is still ok. Obviously as the kids grow older, there’s no way we can fit all into one cab. So here’s the deal with the govt. campaign of encouraging people to have more kids. On one hand, they give parents tax rebates when you have more kids, a co-savings child development account (with a cap of course) depending on the birth order.

The other hand, we have logistics issues —

  • MRTs that do not always have lifts, so better practice that escalator technique with prams/strollers. Try pushing in 2 prams and manage the stares from other passengers.
  • Buses that aren’t really friendly to prams/strollers, plus the steps that you have to manage with prams in one hand, kid in the other.
  • And then, we come to taxis, who decide that there’s too many of us. Let’s not even try to be environmentally friendly with CNG cabs — NO boot space for 2 prams!

Buy a car?

Sure. Start with a 7-seater if we want to fit in 3 child seats. And no one else can travel with us.

The cost? Try 70K minimum, not sure about the cost for a used car.

This is on top of trying to save for the kids, managing the daily costs of diapers and milk + other costs/childcare costs.

I am happy with having 3 kids, but if the govt wants to encourage couples to have more kids, I think the dynamics of the society would need to change. We need to be more considerate to others, public transport would have to cater for people with various needs (with the handicapped). Slopes and wheelchair/pram friendly entrances and exits at MRT stations should be more inclusive (not just at selected exits, and with some exits being 50m apart, how do you expect the wheelchair bound people to push through the roads just to get to an entrance/exit to their destination?)

So much for public transport.





Healthy kids

19 05 2009

Everyone wants a healthy kid, and parents do what they can to ensure that the children are in the pink of health.

From conception to pregnancy, some mummies would up their vitamin intake/folic acid, change their diet, avoid seafood etc, to make sure that they are in good shape for the baby, and all the good nutrients would go to the one in the womb.

Post-delivery, mummies will try to breastfeed, with the belief that breastmilk is the best. There has been a change of tide, from the push to feed formula milk, to now pro-breastfeeding.

I bottle feed with breast milk for 8 months, and I like to believe that it has helped to make the twins strong.

But nothing prepared us for the time when they first start childcare. The frequency of the girls visiting the doctor was scary. Every other week or 2, we went to the GP to get medication. They had coughs, fever, runny nose. Thank god they were nothing major, yet, when the frequency was so high, I got really worried.

Questions and guilt came: Did I do my part to watch my diet when I was breastfeeding? Maybe I was too lax with giving them vitamins and minerals that they need? How about their intake of food and milk?

There is no direct answer. In an attempt to improve their health, we decided to try Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The physician advised that their bodies are “weak and cooling”. When I heard this, my heart sank and the guilt factor rose. I could feel that subconsciously, there were comments and thoughts that blamed me for it.

A friend said to me, “Exposing them to the outside environment is also a way of building up their health by maturing their immunity system.”

“You have done what you can, and it is up to the child’s body to adapt to the environment.”

That last statement eased my guilt. I am sure many parents, especially mummies, face such situations once a while.

Take the advice and comments from others with a pinch of salt, observing and paying attention to the child plus doing what is possible to treat each symptom or illness as they come, while improving their diet and health through food and keeping them happy goes a long way into ensuring the optimal health of a child.

I’m still on the learning curve, I’ve come to accept that there’s only so much we can do for prevention.

So don’t feel guilty. Do your best, and God will take care of the rest.