Time – The Difference between Urgent Vs Important

Time is the most valuable resource we will ever possess. Among so many resources that we can have as human, what is the single resource that can create everything else? Knowledge? Money? Friends? Imagine this. If you have all the money in the world, can you buy time? And yet, with lots of time, we can build up our knowledge, we can accumulate all the money we want & build as much relationship/friendship that we want. Indisputable, time has always been & will always remain the most valuable resource human can have. Yet, it never fails to baffles me whenever I see young people wasting this precious ‘time’ away.

When I was in my undergraduate years, I have read a very famous book “7 habits of Highly Effective People”. This book opens up my understanding for many things but I would like to highlight my main take-away from this incredibly practical book – “The difference between urgent & important issue”. You see, it’s easy to agree to my saying “time is the most valuable resource”, yet, how do we put it into action? How can we visualize what to do in-line with the understanding of this saying? An easy way would be “O, I will study very hard to make full use of my time”. Seriously? Define study hard. Read for 8 hours daily? Nah, this is too vague & to be honest, nobody will be able to adhere to this more than 3 days. This is where this book I read (7 habits of highly effective people) helps.

This book highlights 7 different habits & one of those habits is for us to realize the difference between ‘urgent’ issues versus ‘important’ issues. And a good habit is then to always focus on the ‘important’ issues. Let me try to use my own words to explain this difference. You see, ‘urgent’ issues are things that we need to dealt with immediately. It has a very short time-frame & you have got to do it either now, or within this few days. You cannot delay it longer than 1 week, otherwise, the consequences will be severe. Example of ‘urgent’ issues include:-

–          Doing your homework.

–          Submit report for your boss.

–          Paying your monthly phone bills.

–          Sending money to your parents.

–          Fixing that broken toilet.

If you read the issues above, you could be thinking, “Hey, that sounds like something I must do. Why did you say we should not do it?” Actually, I didn’t say that. What I am saying is, in terms of priority, the issues above should be less prioritized. Why? Because there are other issues which are much more important than the above. And these are the ‘important’ issues. ‘Important’ issues are something that have a much longer & deeper impact on us, if we choose not to do it. ‘Important’ issues usually have a much longer term time-frame, which makes us think that we can delay doing it. Some people just kept delaying to do ‘important’ issues, that they don’t even care after! I list down some examples of ‘important’ issues below:-

–          Household finance budgeting.

–          Study to get ready for that university entrance examination.

–          Read books to increase one’s knowledge on any particular subject.

–          Learn about investments.

–          Set aside money for monthly savings/retirement/child education fund.

–          Think about long term career goals.

Being able to work on the ‘important’ issues will change our lives for the better. If you notice the trend, ‘important’ issues usually have got to do with planning, strategizing and long term goals. In fact, I honestly believe that if anyone can constantly plan well, there will not be much ‘urgent’ issues at hand. Have you met anyone in your life that is forever rushing for the next thing to do? Forever busy & everything seemed urgent for him/her? Why is that so? Most of the time, it is because he/she fails to plan before-hand. That’s why they are always trying to ‘save fire’. You see, if you never anticipate ‘fire’ in your house & did nothing to prevent it, of course a ‘fire’ will break out one day & when it does, for sure you will be rushing to extinguish it. How about the opposite? Have you met anyone who is usually calm, steady & always seemed to be in control of his life? He is usually free to meet you (if he wants) & ever ready to spend his time to listen/help you. How can he do that? That is because he is able to handle his own matters well. He planned before-hand and most times, able to anticipate many things before it gets to a ‘fire’ situation. The easiest scenario to describe this is a student studying to prepare for his final examination. Student A never really prepare for his exams and during the last month before the date, he will stay up late & give up everything in his life to study very hard for it. Student B has always been keeping up with his studies & constantly revising his homework, thus during his last month, he will still be able to sleep early, do sports & watch tv for a more balanced lifestyle. In the end, Student B will always come out the winner, whether it’s the exam grades or in life. Now, my question is, what is Student A doing with all his free time months before the examination?

We have must have come across many Student A in our life. Some Student A chose to waste their time away during those free days to have fun, play, enjoy life etc. Yet, we do know that some Student A used those time on other priorities in their life such as helping parents, working part-time, doing housework, etc etc. Yes, these are the less-fortunate Student A & life circumstances forces them to spend their time doing something else instead of studying for exams. It could be because their family is poor, or perhaps the parents don’t care for their studies or they want more money as they are greedy. Whatever the reason is, the fact is, they have spent their time on ‘urgent’ issues & thus, have neglected the ‘important’ issue – to study for exam. Sometimes, in life, we do not have a choice but for most times, we make our own choices. If our parents are so poor that we must work part-time after school to get that extra money for food on table, ok fine. Do it because otherwise, everyone starve & without food, what is the point of studying. Yet, there are many cases where we can actually make a hard choice. If you are born in a family that is ok but the parents do not believe in studying & they force you to help out in their small business after school. You can make a hard choice to go against your parents & insist you want to stay at home to study. Must you listen to your parents if you know that they are wrong? No. In fact, I did that when I was 16 years old to my 2nd uncle. My 2nd uncle has my interest at heart & he wanted me to help out at his electrical shop after school. He thinks it is good training for a young boy to help out at shop, to meet people & to understand business. All is fine until I realized that my grades are falling. Thus, one day, I confronted my uncle & told him that I could no longer help him after school. When he asked why, I explained to him that I needed to focus on my study. He was stumped for a while & must be thinking that I made up this reason so that I can relax after school. Fortunately, he was not my father & he knew that he has to show some leniency. So, in the end, he countered by saying that he is sure I will not be studying all the time after school. He proposed that I help at his shop for 3 hours after school & then I can go to study after. I agreed because I want to show him my determination to study. And he is right that I will not be studying from 1pm to 3pm, since I was planning to nap. Anyway, in the end, I stick to my schedule of working few hours & studied from 3pm onwards religiously everyday for more than 1 year. I ended up being the top student in my school in 1999. With that result, I was admitted to a local university. And this changed my life for the better.

The moral of this story is, go against ANYTHING if you know that it is not right. I knew immediately that helping my uncle at his shop is just not important & it is mostly ‘urgent’ because he needed extra helpers. Is that my problem? No, because it is not my business. My business is to study hard & get good results to go into university. That is ‘important’ to me. Thus, I focus on that & pushed the ‘urgent’ business back to my uncle. He was not happy, but I knew I was right, so it doesn’t matter to me whether he is happy or not.

When you are doing something everyday and it doesn’t change your life for the better, you know that it is not ‘important’. If someone told you that it is ‘urgent’ & you must do it (cannot miss), you know it’s time you re-focus & think about your priority to do the ‘important’. We must always be brave to challenge anything that is not right. And we can use this concept in every aspect of our life from our relationship with parents, going against moral authority, planning for our future (like in Leip Ho case), planning for our children (like my mum’s case), etc etc.

Heaty & Cooling Food Part 2 – Human Body Internal Heat Storage.

Have you ever wondered this before? Both your & your friend went to KFC and had the same amount of fried chicken but your friend ended up with a sore throat almost immediately (or within a few hours) after eating KFC, while you felt fine. My colleague, R, talked about a similar incident that happened to her & bf a few days ago. R & her bf went for some spicy noodles and after finishing the meal, her bf immediately complain of itchy/sore throat but R felt absolutely fine herself. What is the cause for this?

The simple explanation is that R’s bf is weaker than R. But this is too simplistic and there is a better way to explain this. The best explanation that I could think of is using the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) concept of human internal heat storage. Think of it like this. Every human has an internal heat storage tank within them. If you can imagine, think of everyone having a bowl within their body (in the stomach, a place we call dan tian). However, this bowl comes with a different size for everyone. Some people has a bigger bowl (a soup bowl), while others has a medium size bowl (a rice bowl) and some has only a tiny cup, instead of a bowl. The idea is, everytime you eat something ‘heaty’, the heat will be stored into this bowl. And when the bowl (or cup) is filled up to the brim, any additional heat you put in will spill out into the body causing symptoms that we termed “heaty symptoms”. Heaty symptoms includes sore throat, acne break-out, skin rashes, neck pain, nerve pain, nose bleed, chest pain, heart palpitation, mouth ulcer, lip swelling causing you to bite them accidentally, etc. Basically, the extra ‘heat’ that you have cannot be stored anywhere in your ‘bowl’ causing it to run amok & tries to ‘get-out’ from your body. These heats will usually go into your nerve stream causing stiffness (chest pain, neck pain, nerve pain, etc) or into your blood stream causing swelling to your blood vessel (lip swelling, nose bleed, acne break-out, heart palpitation, mouth ulcer, etc).

Now, the next question you might have is, why do some people have a bigger bowl size than others? To be honest, I am not sure of this myself but from my observation of those close to me, I do notice one thing. Those who have a bigger heat-bowl size tend to be ‘healthier’ than those who have a smaller heat-bowl size. When I say ‘healthier’, it’s because I noticed they tend not to easily fall sick to minor infection such as fever, seasonal flu, sore throat, etc. When they do get sick, you know that it is a major infection caused by a strong bug. Typically, these are the people that you rarely hear of them complaining “o, I have fever today but I still come to work” and when they do fall sick, it will be a major one (they can’t work), happens very rarely, perhaps only once a year. I think as with our general knowledge of health & immunity, the heat-bowl size has got to do with a couple of reasons below:-

–          DNA. We are born with it.

–          Exercise and a good lifestyle habit (sleeping early, avoiding bad food, no smoking, etc)

–          Building up a tolerance towards good ‘heaty’ food which includes ginger, spices, chilly, herbs, ginseng, etc. And that’s why ancient Chinese & Indian texts advocate the frequent consumption of spices & certain herbs, supposedly to build up our health. On this same reason, I do notice that community that frequently eat chilly (Indonesians) & spices (Indians), somewhat has a bigger heat-bowl than others. And I do believe that generally, they are healthier than Chinese, for example.

I do hope this makes sense to you & helps to explain why seemingly the same amount of ‘heaty’ food (fried chicken, satay, fried rice, durian, potato chips, Chinese heaty herbal soup, etc) affects two people differently. And btw, enough of this crap about the other guy could have had bacteria/pathogen infection while eating the fried chicken, while the bacteria didn’t attack you. I don’t subscribe to this bullshit given by any typical clinic doctor. To them, the only logical explanation to sore throat is bacteria/pathogen infection. How naïve. If you are a doctor & you are reading this, I suggest you build up your knowledge in TCM and incorporate it into the medicine science that you have been taught.

How to Effectively Raise a Child

Yay – I’m legally married. Congratulations to both of us, W! That was a relief. Now, it’s time to start thinking about the next step in family planning. Raising our children. I recalled I have once asked someone about how she wants to raise her children. She told me that she would want her child to be raised to be exactly like me. I ended up marrying her, mostly because I think that her children are going to be brilliant (hehe).

Anyway, I took my time to pen down a few important priorities when it comes to raising kids. I have my fair share of educating children. I was a summer camp counselor in US for 3 months. The experience has been wonderful although it has its fair share of ups & downs. Mostly, I was grateful for this opportunity to interact & teach these young American kids (age 8 to 15), and had my first hand experience in learning how to teach, interact, lead & instill good values in them. As an Asian, I have also noticed how very different Americans raise their kids. Have you ever noticed the difference between an American (or Westerners) kid versus an Asian kid? American kid tend to be much more confident, independent, social & curious whilst Asian kid tend to be very shy, insecure, talk only if they are asked question & timid? This has definitely got to do with upbringing & the values that American focused in raising their kids. Time & again, facts has shown us that kids with these better attributes (American kids) will do much better in life & will have an easier time adapting to changes in their life. Also, my time in this US summer camp shown me that most decent Americans parents are not much different from us, W. They only want to raise a family, to be happy & be a good parent to their kid. Yes, I have my share of talking & interacting with American parents when they drop by to send their kid to the camp & to pick them up from camp.

Below I list down few of the more important points to effectively raise a child:-

1)      You are who your parents tell you.

So, to be a good parent, you must always praise them (not too much) and tell them that they are good person. Convince them on all the values you want to have in them. For example, both of you saw on TV that a boy cheated in his exam. You can take this chance to tell him that he will not do that in future. “Son, that boy is lazy & he is cheating in his exam. This is wrong but I know my son will never do such thing. You are hardworking, smart & even if you don’t know the answer to the test, you will not cheat because you know it is not right”.

Or if you are watching TV with your kid & it was showing a man being unfaithful to his wife (e.g. kissing his secretary), you can take this opportunity to tell your kid that you believe he will not be that man. You believe that he will be faithful to marriage & strong against sexual urges. “Son, I know in future you will be a man in control of your temptations. You will not be distracted by sexual urges like this weak man on TV. Your dad can control himself all the time & he has never cheat on mum. You will be like him son”.

2)      Teach them to be critical. Question everything.

One of the pre-requisite to raise an intellectually-smart child, is to encourage them to ask questions. Never stop them from asking any questions including what you deemed sensitive ones such as sex or religion. When they do ask, encourage them to ask further by guiding them along the line of critical thinking. Don’t just simply give them an easy answer to end the question. For example;

Son : Mum, why do that person on TV grab the auntie’s purse?

Mum : What do you think babe?

Son : Erm…maybe he like the flower purse?

Mum : But babe, he is a man just like you. Do you like flower purse for woman?

Son : No. Ok, maybe he wants money.

Mum : Yes, I think so too boy. Why do you think he wants the money?

Son : Maybe he is greedy mum. He wants to buy new toy gun to play.

Mum : Yes boy. But did you notice his shirt babe? It is torn & dirty.

Son : Ah yes mum. Why is his shirt torn & dirty?

Mum : Usually people who are poor & have no money to eat wear torn cloth.

Son : O….maybe he is poor & he wants money to eat mum.

Mum : Good guess, my boy.

3)      Between love & fear, always choose love to control.

As a parent, we must maintain control of our kid, until they are 18 years old at least. How do we effectively do that if you get rebellious kid that will question everything you do. Well, the easy way is to instill fear in them. This includes scolding them harshly, beating them or telling them that God will punish them if they don’t listen. Based on psychological point, statistic has shown that fear tends to work initially but in the long run, it will trigger a backlash. Kids that are succumbed to fear tend to lose confidence in themselves & will have a more negative outlook in life. Without confidence, they will not dare to think of anything better for themselves & will always settle for status quo (everything stays as they are). W, I think you can probably relate to this outlook in life. In fact, most of my 3rd uncle daughters are succumbed to this same fear-control technique. My grandpa almost never fails to shout at them & scold them when they are younger, for anything that went wrong. There is no speech freedom (they can’t say anything they want) & they should only follow instruction (whatever my grandpa says).

A better way is to instill love in them. Care for them, love them. Also, teach them to love others (neighbors, other races, their friends, teachers, etc). If you genuinely love them, kids will subconsciously know that whatever you restrict them, it is for their own good. Even if they cannot understand why you don’t let them play the knife or fire, they will listen to you. But do remember to take time to explain to them (point no. 5) no matter how young they are. If you assume they can understand what you explain, in time, they will be able to understand it (point no. 1). My mum used the same love-control technique on myself. Even though she was not always at home due to work, whenever she is, she makes an effort to cook for us good food or bring us out for fun. Eventually it dawned on me that she too was tired during her day-off, so my mum truly love us because she neglect her own rest time to make us happy. She loves us in her own way & everytime she restrict myself from doing anything (e.g. don’t go out during weekend), I will follow because I know it is for my own good. And now, I turn out to be optimistic, striving for a better future & never took the wrong path (although I did gamble for a bit, hihi).

4)      Freedom to choose. Let them explore everything but with guidance.

Freedom is a very important thing. We must always not be confused with the wrong choices people make on taking drugs, abusing alcohol, visiting prostitute, etc. Yes, these people are free but they were not guided properly & thus succumbed to addiction & eventually ruin their own life. Without freedom, kids tend to be withdrawn from society & if they are given any choices, more often than not, kids will not be able to take the suitable choice for themselves. Take your daughter dating for example. An unguided dating would be to allow daughter to start dating at 13 years old. But a good parent will hold on until their daughter display maturity (probably after 17 years old). Consider this. A girl whom have dated a few boys versus a girl whom have never dated & she marry her first boyfriend after dating a few months. Which do you think would make a better, more informed choice of her life-partner? Definitely the one who has a few choices. Yes, you can argue that maybe the one without choice will turn up happier in the end but these are things out-of our control. As a parent, our responsibility is to do our best in things that ARE within our control. In this case, we have to give them choice & teach them the benefit of having more choices in life.

The same goes for education subjects, choices of learning musical instruments, dancing, sports & even food (if you have never tried sushi, how do you know you don’t like it). Faith/religion freedom is very important W. As a good parent, we must not force it upon the child. The best is to explain to them a couple of different religion concepts & when they are matured enough to think for themselves, they will choose themselves. That’s why for most Chinese kids, even though they go to temple to pray etc, the kid might eventually end up as Christians/Buddhist/Taoist (mostly).

5)      Always take time to explain to them everything that we need them to do. Give logical explanations, examples & comparisons (choices).

As much as we are cool parents, give them freedom etc, there will be some things we will have to force them to do (they are still kids who don’t understand a lot). For these, always take time to explain to them why we want them to do it. For example, you want your 8 years old to start eating everything you served on the table for dinner. He is only willing to eat the eggs & chicken. Tell him he must eat the vegetable & take time to explain to him why. Ask him if he has been sick before. Ask him if he knows why. Explain to him about the benefit of vegetable & how it can prevent sickness with its vitamin & minerals. Tell him to explain his reason of not eating vege & try to counter that reason. If he say it taste weird, explain to him that’s because he is not used to it yet. “Will it help if I cook this everyday so that you can get use to the taste?” Smart kid will just quietly finish his share as he wouldn’t want you to cook that daily. Now, if he really hated that one type of vege, you should of course offer him a couple of choices for him to choose. Kids should eat all types of vege really but if he is young, it should be ok to give him choices until he gets older.

The Tiny Island, Singapore

My fiancé is coming to Singapore for the first time next Saturday, so I’m hoping to bring her around Orchard road shopping area. It will be fun for both of us, I’m sure. She has never really been SG & never took MRT before so it will be many firsts for her. A virgin experience. For me, I just enjoyed her company during holidays. I feel relaxed & happy when she’s around me.

So, what is SG really? Well, it’s a small country, made up of an island. I have been working in SG for more than 5 years now, so I do know a bit about this country. SG is an exciting place to come to for holiday, I think. Not so much when you are working here, haha. All my 5 years, I have predominantly stayed around the West & South area. I try to stay near to MRT station for my convenience to go to work. However, houses for rent near to MRT stations are highly-sought after (for the same reason as mine), therefore rental is high & good ones are not easily found. In SG, you will find that the MRT lines are color-coded. It has green line, which transport people from East to West (or vice versa). The red line, which connects the North to South. The purple line (South to Northwest) & orange line (South to central, in a circle). All of these will make more sense when you see the MRT chart.

Places to go in SG include many shopping areas such as Orchard Road, Bugis & Vivocity, the Marina Bay (famous for its casino, the gardens by the bay, merlion by the lake & the SG flyer), Sentosa Island (famous for Universal studios, underwater world, cable cars, genting resort, etc) and the SG Zoo. Where are these places located? Well, Orchard road is sort of in the middle of the SG Island, Marina Bay is at the south of SG & Sentosa Island is on a different island but connected to SG. This is just a brief introduction to some of the famous places in SG. I’m not really good at describing them & if there is any error, please forgive me. As you can tell, I’m not really good at blogging on holiday places. I have been to most, if not all of the places mentioned, just not great at talking about them. W, since we are staying so near to SG, you will have all the time in the world to explore all these places in future.

Of course, how can I talk about SG if I do not talk about its people. Singapore is a very fast-pace country & 80% Chinese-populated. So, to me, it’s a mix of Chinese dynamism plus western materialism, convoluted & in-play. Singapore, like most of the South East Asia countries, are mostly inhabited by Chinese people from the Southern side of China. The clans are mostly Hakka, Hokkien, Cantonese and Foochow. The traits that I noticed about Southern Chinese are that they are much more practical and have a tendency to place less importance on relationship & courtesy. Family ties are at most luke-warm. Friendship will never top practicality such as career & material gains. So, generally, when you reach Singapore, you will feel that people are much less courteous here & idle chat with stranger is a no-no. Also, do bear in mind that Singapore is a small country, thus space is limited. Therefore, if you are here, you must always have that sense of space around you. That meaning, you should always step aside to ensure you are not blocking anyone, when you are on the escalator (always be on the left side), going to the toilet, queuing up at cashier, walking on a pathway, etc. The key is to be considerate. If you are enjoying a slow walk on a pathway in a garden, you will still have to keep a lookout & give way to others whom might want to overtake you. If you do need to ask someone for help, do make it quick & straight to the point. This applies for everything from asking for directions, at a boutique buying clothes & even ordering your food. Singaporeans generally do not tolerate indecisive behavior (especially when you order food) and questions that is answered on the displayed board (you can just read it). At times, it creates a very efficient but a stressful day-out. I always pity first-timers that are alone to SG. They don’t know much but what ‘they don’t know’ is not very well-tolerated by Singaporeans. Damn if you don’t ask any question & damn if you do ask the wrong questions. But don’t worry W, you have your hubby with you…

Listen, Try to Understand & Do your Research – Always Ask Questions.

Ah alas…It has been a while since I last penned my thoughts down. I have been busy preparing my marriage to W. Things have been going well, thank god.

I am keen to explore the topic on how humans actually learn. The process is as my title says – we must always listen first, attempt to understand the logic behind it & we must always do our research. Throughout this process, if we do use our brain (and we are obligated to use it because god created it to be use), we must have questions for us to ask. This is the same process, over & over again in whatever we are learning and it includes everything in this world. I repeat – everything from personal issues such as baking a cake, learning a new language to major issues such as politic & religion. The only time you stop asking questions is the time you have lost interest in the topic.

Now let’s start with politics. Have you heard of these great men – Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong & Joseph Stalin? Each & everyone of them are great dictators, orators and was able to persuade millions to do what they wish, even to the extent of killing others. Adolf Hitler made use of race. He convinced all Germans that they are from the great Aryan race & they should strive to keep their race pure-blood. Aryan race should never mixed with another race & thus all Jews should be exterminated. How does this sound to you? Extremely absurd but the fact is Hitler managed to motivate & convinced the whole Germany to kill the Jews. We are talking about extreme crimes yet the mass approves of doing this. How is this possible?

How about Mao Zedong? After he gained power, he started the ‘Cultural Revolution’ and single-handedly unites every China people by creating one common object to worship – the Communist party. ‘Cultural Revolution’ is a campaign that attempts to destroy all the cultural heritage such as paintings, antique, places of worships & even religions. Yes, religions. During this period of cultural revolution, no one is allowed to pray to Jesus, Buddha, Allah or any other gods you can think of. Everything from bible, crucifixes, Quran and gods statues were confiscated and destroyed. Mao Zedong replaced those with one little red book. His government printed a ‘little red book’ and distributes it to everyone as a replacement to religion. In this red book, it details out what you should do as a citizen of China. Mao Zedong is only short of claiming himself as god because everyone is worshipping his little red book. What can this part of history tells us? With power, anyone can control a country & proclaim himself as god, if he wants to. This was repeated over & over throughout the history of China & all around the world. Many emperors of ancient China attempted to deceived/brain-wash the public into thinking that the emperor is a god, or the son-of-god. Some have successfully done that, while others not so successful.

So, what has this got to do with learning & doing research? Well, I am setting the background in trying to make my point about the learning process. Imagine yourself as one of the Chinese people during the cultural revolution. And Mao proclaims himself as a god. And he launches a series of campaigns & stories about his godly power. Newspapers publishing his miracle stories about him flying & curing people of sickness or receiving revelations. He can also build temples with his statues or established certain praying rituals that everyone must adhere too. It is easier to convince someone when they keep thinking about you or doing a daily routine established by you. With a wide-spread campaign, everyone will slowly start to believe he is a god. Is that not possible? In fact, they are doing it in North Korea right now. The governments are spreading rumors that the current leader, Kim Jong Il was born on top of the mountain & was send to earth by rainbow (I read this somewhere). So, what is the point of this? To make everyone believe you are a god. This is so that it is easier to control everyone. When the whole country believes (or semi-believe) you are a god, they will become submissive (penurut) and it will be very easy to control & manage the country. In fact, you can leave legacy that will last for ages.

So what’s your point? Are you saying that all the gods are made-up? No. I am not an atheist. I believe god exist & the more I study science (for example), I more I am convinced that there must be a higher power that created everything. My point is god, can also be made up. Please open up your mind to that fact. Why is this fact? Because it has happened so many times throughout human history & it will continue to happen now. We live in a modern, digital world. We are now being exposed to a wealth of information that was not available to us before. Remember how it was 10 years ago? We cannot even find a job vacancy online easily. So now, with all these information, we do not have to be a university graduate to be smart/knowledgeable. Anyone can read into information & do some research online.

Why do we pray? To be strong, to have faith, to be at peace and to look for that role model that we can follow. As a Chinese, we have many gods. There are god of war (god that only fight wars), god of mercy (god that is benevolent & merciful), god of knowledge, god of happiness, god of wealth, etc etc. Do I pray to all of them? Yes, but I only follow a good role model – Dewi Kwan Yin. Why? I don’t want to follow Dewa Guan Yu (e.g.) because he is only good at killing. Or the God of Wealth, because then I will only think about accumulating wealth. I do not know exactly who is Dewi Kwan Yin but I did my research to at least know what she did to be a god of my role model. I know she doesn’t kill, she doesn’t rob and she doesn’t wage war. Is this true? I don’t know but from all the internet research that I did, there is never any bad article about her. Dewi Kwan Yin also has sutra (similar to the Quran or bible) which people like me can pray & chant too.

Even with my own god, I have faith & do research to understand better what is it about her. It follows the same process. First, I listen to what others are saying about her. Then I tried to understand and see if it fits me. I research about her life & what extraordinary miracles she has done and lastly when I have questions, I asked those who know more. If I have not done this, how do I know if I am praying to something that doesn’t really fit me? Worse….the devil.

If you do not have the courage to step out of your ‘comfort zone’ & start questioning, that only mean that you have not live up to what god has set out for you. We have brain. It is time to read, think & research.

The Psychology of Other’s Tough Times

A wise woman once taught me this before; on advising others during their tough times. She said, more often than not, it is better to advice others to keep on plodding and continue with the hard work, instead of giving up and move on. I think there are certain truth & logic behind this reason.

A friend/wife/son/loved ones came up to you and complain about his/her work difficulty and how much suffering it is at those long work hours etc. What do you do? The general rule is this. If he/she does not have much responsibilities or commitments, you can probably advise him/her to start looking for better opportunities. But if he/she has huge commitments/family responsibility/etc, and will have not much option but to continue doing the job, you should always advise him/her to hang tough and continue to work hard. No matter how bad the situation is. Your advice should always be depending on their personal condition rather than the job condition. Below is the logic for this theory:-

–          The definitions of tough times vary from individual to individual. A Chinese worker can work 10 hours non-stop but someone from US would say that is inhumane. In Southeast Asia, many companies still practice working on Saturday (full or half-day), yet in the developed countries, there are rules in place to allow employees work 4 days a week.

–          Your life experience varies significantly from the person you are advising. You could be well-off and your parents are still providing for you (or giving you allowance) even though you are already working. His situation could be vastly different whereby he earns just enough to pay for bills and has to provide for 4 kids. Stop work essentially means no food/school for his kids.

–          Willpower & determination. You advising him/her to stop working are not helping him/her to develop his determination. We will all have to understand that nothing comes easy in life. In times, if he/she was advised too many times on quitting, he will become weak willed.

There is nothing worse than having hear from friends how bad your work condition is comparatively & nothing you can do about it. Imagine that you are talking to someone with no specialty in work and do not have any certifications. Telling him to quit his job, just because he told you that his work environment is tough, is indeed a big risk. The risk is that he might not find another job, or one that pays equivalent to this. You should obviously advise him to diligently keep a lookout or actively search the internet for better opportunities (since he dislike his job), but you must advise him to continue working hard. And you must do so in a matter-of-fact manner (this means you cannot show any pity & just assume that this is normal work, not tough at all). Anytime you show any compassionate, he will assumed you agreed that he is being ill-treated, while he can’t do anything about it. In terms of psychology, this puts him in a passive situation. The only active thing he can do, is to be lazy and un-motivated for his current job. When that happens, he is truly slogging along.

I worked on the oil rig once. For slightly more than 2 years, in fact. I can tell you that the work life is tough and the situation is inhumane. I have a 3 months schedule to work and only 1 month off. During those 3 months, I have to travel from rig to rig, whenever there are jobs to be done. Every time I set my foot on a rig, the job has to be done, regardless of the hours I have worked. Working for 24 hours straight is a normal thing and I have worked even up to 40 hours without sleep. On top of that, my work is very physical, involving carrying bulky & heavy equipments (2 persons carrying) and climbing up the rig (on steps) of up to 7 stories building high. One time, due to insufficient sleep, I am not standing stable and had an impression that I could almost fell over the railings into the deep sea. During that 2 years long period, there was never a week gone by where I did not think seriously think about quitting my job. Yet, I am no quitter by character. I want to learn as much as I can since I opted to take up this job. Whenever I go home during the one month holiday, I would talk to the wise woman about this. My mum (yes, she is the wise woman) would listen attentively to my side of the story, gets concern about my safety but would encourage me to continue. She would discuss with me on how certain dangerous situation can be avoided. You see, the company would not want me to get into dangerous situation as well, but bad management has caused some to arise from time to time. Mostly, this is due to insufficient staffing, so I have to work many many extra hours. My mum never once suggested I should quit immediately. She did tell me that I should carefully plan and if I want to quit, I can do that because I do not have any commitment.

Because of my mum’s appropriate responses, I would always go back and take on the ‘hardship’. I persisted on and did indeed learn many things & gain the experience for my next better career. During those times, I never felt that I was short-changed or bullied by my company because my mum never encourages me to think that way. In fact, she said it out matter-of-factly that I should try to adjust my expectations and to the schedule & work-life of an oil rig worker. In the end, after a year & a half of adjusting & getting used to the oil rig worker work life, I managed to secure myself a good job in Singapore. I slowly made plans for my exit and completed my 2 years stint as an oil rig worker. That felt good. Thinking back, I would not have done it another way. Yes, it was tough but I survived. And with that, I can survive even worse things to come (although I am not hoping for it to come). Or, on an optimistic tone, since I have survived the worse, only better things will come into my life 🙂

I asked my mum nowadays, why didn’t you pity me or encourage me to quit when I was going through those tough times? My mum told me that by pitying me, it will soften my heart & will. By encouraging me to quit, that will deprive me of my pre-destined suffering/experience and took away my ability to make my own decision. She did however, made sure that I am aware that I can quit anytime since I do not have any commitment & she is not entirely dependent on my salary to live. My mum admitted to me that as a mother, she was really worried inside and emotionally would want me to quit & come back to her side immediately. But she refrain herself from doing that because that would not help me grow. I appreciate her wisdom on this.

Now what would you do if your son comes to you and complains that his schooling hours are too long and he cannot cope with his studies? Your husband comes to complain that he cannot continue his job & his colleagues are bullying him? Your gf comes to you telling you that her work hours are too long & she is over-worked?

The 3 type of friends we should avoid – Analects

I have recently been reading a lot of books in association with Confucius & his teachings, especially the “Analects”. Confucius is a very famous Chinese sage (and teacher), whom lives during the 500 BCE (that is around 2500 years ago). His most famous contributions to the world is a book called “The Analects”. I have always wondered what it contains and have only had the opportunity to learn a little bit of it now.

To the little that I know of this book, I had an impression that it comprises of a series of events and happenings throughout Confucius life. Certain teachings make a whole lot of sense (more blowing) and are definitely applicable in today’s world but there are some which are kind of weird and perhaps even contradicts what we know of today. Hell, it even contradicts Confucius earlier story in earlier chapters. Anyway, I came upon this book by Prof Yudan. I really liked the book titled “Confucius from the Heart”. It is Prof Yudan’s interpretation of “The Analects”. The Analects is a series of books with many volumes. What Prof Yudan did was summarizing The Analects and focused on the essence of it.

Today, I am going to talk about what Confucius teaches with regards to choosing your friends. Ok, for those of you, who have never heard of this before, allow me to tell you this. Generally, Chinese believes in choosing their friends carefully. Friends that you mix with can aid or ruin you. So what are Confucius thoughts on this?

The 3 harmful friends found in The Analects of Confucius are flattering friends, two-faced friends and big-talking friends. On no account make friends with this 3 sort of person, or else you will end up paying a painful price. The first type is flattering friends (ingratiating in action type). Confucius meant flatterers & fawners – shameless toads. We often encounter this sort of person in our lives. No matter what you say, they will say, “That’s so brilliant”; whatever you do, they will always say: “That’s amazing”. This kind of friend has a talent for weighing your words and watching your expressions. They trim their sail to suit the wind, making sure they never do anything that they sense might displease you. They are the absolute opposite to the good straight friend. The hearts of these people are neither straight-forward nor honest, and they have no sense of right and wrong. Their aim is to make you happy, but only so that they can get something out of it. Of course, if you haven’t met any of this type, that is because you are not in the position to meet someone like that yet. As you climb higher in the social hierarchy, trust me, they will appear. And when they do, keep a lookout and keep away from them.

The second harmful friend is the two-faced type, or what Confucius called “the pleasant in appearance”. They will be all smiles and sweetness to your face, dishing out compliments and flattery to you. But behind your back they will spread rumors and malicious slander. We often hear people complain: “That friend of mine seemed so kind and loving, his speech was so gentle, his behavior very thoughtful, I believed he is my closest friend. I was genuine to helping him and pour out my heart to him, told him my innermost secrets. But he betrayed me, abusing my trust, started rumors about me, spread my secrets & destroy my character”. This kind of person is false and hypocritical, the opposite of honest & loyal friends. The danger is, such people often wear a mask of goodness. Because they have ulterior motive, they will be very friendly towards you; ten times more than someone without agenda. Therefore, be very careful when someone treats you extra nice, because they could be the two-faced type of friend.

The third kind is big-talking friend, or Confucius called them “plausible in speech”. We also know them as ‘fast-talkers’. There is nothing this kind of person doesn’t know, and no argument they don’t understand. They talk in endless stream, carrying you along with their momentum until you cant help but to believe them. But in actual fact, apart from the gift of gab, they have nothing else at all. Confucius was always suspicious of glib people and their sweet words. A junzi (gentleman) should speak less and do more. Confucius believed that it is not what a person says that matters, but what they do. Of course, in modern society there has been a change in attitudes and values. If people with real talent and true scholarship cannot communicate effectively and do not get their meaning across, it will obstruct their careers & lives. However, if someone can only talk and has no real skill, it is something far more harmful.

Speech – Destiny Research

One of my Toastmasters speech…

 

Last week, I went to a fortune teller by the roadside in Chinatown. Anyone wants to know what he said about me and my fortune?

For years, I’ve tried to seek the truth of life. I want to know if life is pre-determined or u can make it how u wan it to be? Heaven knows.

Fellow TM, Dear Guest.

In my quest to find the answer, I have read many books, talk to people, did numerous researches and even pay to learn this intriguing subject called destiny. The art of predicting future. Although it sounds incomprehensible to some, destiny research is one of the oldest study in the world and its different version can be found in all great civilizations, from Greece to India, Arabic to China. Today, I shall guide u through my research using this acronym – HISTS

HI for History. It is worth to note that the earliest study on destiny started as early as year 2000 BC in the Xia Dynasty. Those days, people who study destiny were recognized as distinguished scholars. In fact, government hired them as astronomers to chart stars & their movements & record its effect on human or earth. It is just in recent times that these functions are separated. Those who chart stars work for NASA, and those who try to record its effect are known as astrologist or fortune-tellers. Many real historical Chinese figures are said to have knowledge of this art. For instance, Zhuge Liang from the Romance of the 3 kingdom, Jiang Ziya the first PM of Zhou dynasty, Liu Bowen, a minister in the Ming Dynasty and of course, the great Confucius himself.

S for Science. It is believed that human are governed by unknown forces all around us. Notably, it is the sun, moon and 5 major planets surrounding Earth. Modern science has already proved the effect of these bodies on Earth. E.g. moon gravitional pull affect our ocean tides and solar flare from the sun affect our radio frequency. There are also studies on affects of other planets on earth and natural disasters, though it is still inconclusive. Now, if the moon is able to pull mass ocean towards it, what makes you think that it couldn’t do the same thing on the fluid in your body, thus affecting your hormonal secretion, emotions, personality, etc. Also, radio waves, brain waves and synapses in your joints. They are all electrical in nature. Solar flares can disrupt radio waves. It can also disrupt your brain waves and synapses affecting the way u think and act.

Unfortunately, these are still theories. Even with advanced technology, we are unable to measure the exact magnitude of these influences and how and when. During ancient times, when these theories are formed, lacking all the technologies we have now, researchers resort to observation and records. And in time, it evolved into a social statistical study on people and civilizations. Statistical method these days; 10 people smoking, 7 die of lung cancer. So, smoking caused lung cancer. Those days, 10 people born at 10am on the 8th of March 1523, 8 became wealthy. So, if u r born at this time & date, very likely, u will be wealthy. Same approach, just different subject. Now, researchers mark down the star chart pattern and extrapolate it to a future date. If u happen to be born at the particular time & date with this same pattern, u are very likely to be rich.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If you have been through all the research I have been, u will start to appreciate how in-depth this study can get and not everyone can get this right. Remember how this whole research has changed from a group of government funded full-time scholars to one guy with a stall by the roadside.

Destiny research is at best, what it is. A probabilistic study. There nothing superstitious, religious or mystified about it, no matter what they tell u.

Having higher chance of getting it, doesn’t mean that it is cast in stone. Even if you are supposed to be promoted, u will still need to work hard at getting it. O, the fortune teller told me that I will be promoted in 2011, and he is right. But I really did very work hard for it.

Bang Li Bu Bang Ching – To side with logic and not family

There is a more recent Chinese saying “Bang Li Bu Bang Ching”, literally translated word-by-word as “support logic, do not support relatives”. This idiom wants to bring out the importance of siding with logic and what is right. Being Asian (or Chinese), we tend to have the culture of siding and helping our own family members first. Everyone else is considered outsiders. This is quite prevalent in Asia and brings about the whole cronyism issue. Cronyism promotes mediocrity and devalues capability. Truly capably, smart and experienced personnel are always second-tier as oppose to kinsmen of the boss/king.

Right at the root of cronyism, is this saying. To be truly rid of it, we have got to practice and live-up to the idiom. If someone is logical and right, we must support him/her. And along the same line, we must stand up and oppose if he/she is wrong, no matter how close they are to us. Even if they are a relative, your father, your husband and even your child. For example, if your father kills someone and he did it out of anger, he is in the wrong. Thus, you cannot side with him even if you love him. Why is that so? Because you have to think about others. If you side with him and try to hide him, what if he kills another person in future? So, at this example, there is no grey area. Once you have found out the truth and you are sure that your father did kill someone out of anger, he is wrong. And you will have no reason to side with him.

That is a drastic example, so let us look at a more suitable example for our day-to-day life. I have a lousy 5th uncle and he borrowed from loan shark. He managed to borrow money from them by telling them that he has an elder brother (my 3rd uncle) that runs a successful restaurant. So, I think before the loan shark gave my 5th uncle the money, the loan shark dropped by my 3rd uncle restaurant and had a quick look to check this. Usually, if you do not have a stable job (like my 5th uncle), loan shark will not easily borrow you money because they know you will not be able to pay them back. So, they need collateral. Borrowing money from the bank has the same process. Anyway, to shorten the long story, my 5th uncle was unable to pay back the money and he ran off to another city. Thus the loan shark came to my 3rd uncle restaurant and demanded money from 3rd uncle. But my 3rd uncle wasn’t planning to pay on 5th uncle behalf so the loan shark had to threaten my 3rd uncle. They pour red paint all over the front porch of his restaurant. And many Chinese people in the community saw and start gossiping about it.

One of them (Ah Boy) posted on facebook stating the obvious. Ah Boy mentioned that this must be the work of loan shark and the owner (my 3rd uncle) must have borrowed money or in some ways associated with the loan shark. Otherwise, they would not have disturbed him. When my 4th auntie read the posting on facebook, she became very angry at Ah Boy. So, my 4th auntie wrote on Ah Boy’s facebook and scolded him. She lied by saying that the loan shark made a mistake and poured red paint at the wrong restaurant. She scolded Ah Boy for being nosy and saying things that he didn’t know, and accusing the good name of others. End of story.

Now think about this example. Who is at fault? Who is wrong? My 4th auntie scolded a stranger to side with my 3rd uncle. The stranger (Ah Boy) had just stated the obvious and made no malicious accusation on 3rd uncle. Although it is none of his concern but he was scolded for stating the fact. And to make it so that she appears right, my 4th auntie lied and say that the red paint has nothing to do with my 3rd uncle. It has because my 3rd uncle is stupid enough not to make a clean break with my 5th uncle. So, it is his own fault to get associated with 5th uncle. If your own brother is doing all the wrong things, you have to advice him and make him stop. But if he never listens, then you will have to get away from him. My 4th auntie obviously pities my 3rd uncle for working so hard but get red paint splashed all over his shop front but she was trying to hide the facts because 3rd uncle is his brother.

So what is a better approach to this? For me, I will comment on Ah Boy’s facebook but I will not scold him for his observation. I will probably say something like “My 3rd uncle worked very hard and he is not the type to borrow money from loan shark. I’m sure there is more to this than just your observation”. Well, this is just one example. I shall list out other examples in life below and you be the judge which side should you side…

–          Your best friend ‘A’ competes with her classmate for the ‘class beauty’ award. ‘A’ lost and she started to say bad words about her classmate, saying that she flirted with the teachers etc.

–          Your mother argues with your neighbor. She claims that your neighbor purposely sweeps all the leaves over to your porch, and then your mum tries to sweep over the leaves to your neighbor porch daily.

–          Your husband was driving and he knocked at someone’s car when he was reversing. You noticed that he was careless and didn’t bother looking over the back mirror when he reversed. Then, your husband got out of the car very mad and started scolding the other driver saying that it’s her fault.

–          Your son got into a fight with his classmate. According to him, the other boy tried to take his food. But according to the other boy’s parents, your son was throwing food at him. You are not sure who is right or wrong.

I think from most of the example, you have to admit that, sometimes, its just grey area and you are unsure who is right or wrong.  You should know your close relatives (best friend, mother, husband & son) best since they are always by your side. Thus, when something happens, you should know intuitively if he/she is lying. You have to judge correctly. Well, what happen after you have determine who is right & wrong? Should you stood up and just scold your husband? No. You have to be tactful and do it at the right time. In most times, your relatives are not stupid. They are just emotional and being in the heat of moment, they took the wrong action. During those heated times, if its not the right time, there is no point for you to stood up or go against him/her even if he is wrong. But you must remember to remind him/her after. This is very very important because if you don’t, you will turn him/her into a monster.

Let’s take the last example about your son. Since you do not know who is right or wrong, you have to take the correct approach for any situation. And that means, you should make your son apologize because no matter what, getting into a fight is bad in the first place. Bang Li Bu Bang Ching is emotion VS rationality. We always try to be on the rational side, and not emotional. There is something about making the correct judgment by being rational + a bit of emotion, and this is call intuition. But I shall elaborate on this the next time.

The Problem with Saying Sorry

As Asian, we pride ourselves with being polite. As a cultured society, we try to treat everyone nice and be polite to everyone we meet. Some of us nod our head, some of us smile, some of us speak in a soft tone, some of us bow. And yet, we forgot that such gestures are not always understood by people not of the same culture. We now live in a modern and multi-national society. A global village. If we meet a stranger and we bow, is that ok? This really depends on who you are. If you are Asian, most likely you think that it’s ok. But if you are from the west side of the world (bule), you probably don’t think this is ok. It’s weird to you. Same goes for being apologetic.

Truth be told, a certain group of westerners do think that saying ‘sorry’ is a sign of weakness. I think this mostly boils down to being egoistic. Yet, after so long, it has become a norm not to admit your mistake and apologize. So, it is ok to say sorry? I would say, being balanced on this would be the best. And use it according to situation. Let us take being in the office as an example.

The workplace is professional and formal environment. Being so, it is NOT the place for employees/colleagues to share gossips, talk about their love life, describe how awful their mother-in-law is, how bright your son is, etc. All of these are not relevant to work and would be at best kept outside of office. Although, we all talk about certain aspects of our personal life with our colleagues, always keep in mind the general rule. Personal feelings and issues are not to be freely shared in office. Thus applies to saying sorry. You see, everytime you apologize, there is an aspect of personal touch/feeling involve. “Sorry” is a personal word which portrays that you are regretful on the action you did earlier. And the worse thing is, ‘sorry’ is not quantifiable. E.g. forgetting to type the report VS approaching your busy boss to ask him a question. Which is less ‘sorry’ than the other? You forgot your job to type the report? Or you want to interrupt your boss to ask him something about work? The fact is, forgetting to type your report is a big ‘sorry’ while approaching your boss is not so much ‘sorry’. So, can you say, “I’m a little sorry. Can I ask you a question boss?” No.

Now using the example above, clearly, you have to apologize for neglecting your work and forgot to type the report. So, perhaps during meeting, when this is brought up, apologize by saying sorry and give a reason why have you forgotten. And then give a solution to prevent this from happening again. Now this whole process is the process of saying ‘sorry’. Sorry ->Reason ->Prevention.  Yes, it has to follow this structure in any time and situation. Saying sorry is an elaborated process and cannot be easily done. You cannot just simply say ‘sorry’ and look down. People want to hear more on why it happened and are hoping you can give a solution how you will prevent this in future. Have you wondered why some people continue to be angry even after you apologize and they kept asking you if you have anything else to say? I am one of such person. This is because; they are generally waiting for you to complete this process of saying sorry. They want to hear, if nothing else, a solution to prevent this again.

Having explained the process of saying sorry, let us look at the second example, where you approach your busy boss to ask him a question. Before you even approach him, ask yourself this question. Is it so urgent that you must disturb him when he is busy? Can it wait until boss is less busy? Ok, if it cannot wait, let’s go to his office. Knock knock. “I’m sorry boss (sorry for what?). I have to ask you a quick question (fine). I promise this will be quick and it will not happen again (are you sure?).”

You see, the whole process is lengthy and waste even more of your boss time. Bosses are usually intelligent and efficient people. Being efficient, they HATE wasting time. And if you disturb them to waste their time, they will be annoyed. So, here is a solution. Instead of saying sorry, why don’t you try getting straight into what you want? Saying sorry confuses your boss because at the first sentence (I’m sorry), they will immediately think, “O shit, what have you screw up again?”. Let us try to disturb our boss by saying this. “Boss, do you have 5 minutes? I have something to ask you about conference hall B”. This approach is much better. By avoiding the ‘sorry’, you are also slowly building up an image of strength and confidence to your boss.

I had a similar incident of the example above. In my office, there is a muslim mail lady, in charge of mailroom. Occasionally, she will come over to my corner and put mail into our mail tray. Usually, when she comes over, I would just ignore her because she will just put some mail into the tray and walk off. One day, she walked over and I was busy working at my report. She approached me and say, “I’m sorry ya alex. Please don’t be angry ya.” The first thing that came to my mind was “what mistake she made?” Then she continued, “Alex, I want to ask you if this mail is for your department”. Omg. That really wastes my time & attention. To me, that’s really bad because it interrupted my focus on my work, took my mind of my report for something so trivial. So, I just put on a fake smile and reply her saying that it not ours. Then she walked off. Her image just dropped to me. I look at her now as weak, no-confidence, scared and kind of useless to do anything important. Why? All because she apologized for doing her job. If you are doing your job, others should be helping you. You cannot apologize for doing your job. Also, it’s not like she don’t know me. We have talked and know each other for 1 year now. When she comes in, I was busy at work. Why did she need to apologized? I hated that. Totally waste my time because she says ‘sorry’.

A better way is saying “Hi Alex. Is this mail for your department?” By being direct and confident, I do not need to think about other things. I just need to reply you and get back to my work. And that is how most non-muslim thinks. We prefer to focus on our work and do not place feelings above our task. When you are given a task, doing it should be above everything else. Of course, you do not offend others but you do not need to feel ‘sorry’ for doing it. I will list down situations where you should NOT say sorry below:-

–          You are busy typing and your colleague/boss wants to chit-chat/genit with you.

–          Approaching someone when he/she is busy typing in the office.   (Look, nobody will be sitting free in the office. So, if you want to talk to anyone in the office, does that mean, you have to say sorry to everyone?)

–          When you want to ask for permission. You do not need to say sorry if you want to ask permission. E.g. when a waitress wants to set your cutlery, she does not say sorry. She says “May I?”

–          When your boss is angry with you but you do not think that is correct. Do not argue immediately, but do not apologize because you think you have not made mistake. Only say sorry when you are sure it is your own mistake.

–          Excuse me is not the same as sorry. Please get this clear and do not be confused with the both of these.