Counting the money of another person & using others money.

By and large, I do not quite agree to people whom are forever curious to know what another person is earning. Yes, we are curious and it is good to have a benchmark of how we are doing as compared to someone we know. But when a society has become so materialistic, you can feel so when almost everyone you meet, wants a piece of info on how much was your last salary. This country is the richest country in Southeast Asia (I hope you can guess correctly). To be always curious of others income, to the point that you have to put a number on someone before you even get to know him, is just wrong & disgusting. That is what I term, “counting the money of another person”.

Now back to home, I have a couple of such relatives myself. To them, counting other’s money is practical. Since we are relatives, the benefit of keeping track of other’s money is so that you can estimate how much to borrow in near future. My uncles are doing just that with me. These days, they are not doing too well, so it is important for them to know how much salary I am drawing. Because, if hypothetically I am earning rm 10k a monthly, they can easily ask for rm 3k from me, no problem. So, I am always defensive when my uncles/aunties asked me of my income. Well, they don’t always do that, but trust me when I say they are very curious to know. Thus, the general rule is, do not reveal your income to your relatives unless they are doing well themselves. Why? Why do I have such negative thoughts on relatives? Because experience tells me so. People are generally unethical and greedy. It goes the same for everyone, relatives & siblings included. That’s why the ability to judge someone is very important.

Back to my relatives. The problem with them is, not only they count your money, they borrow them and some decided never to return the money they borrow. This is really bad because it brings about an imbalance flow of money. Firstly, it brings illogical sense to the lender. Why should someone, whom save and work long & hard, give you money which you will never return? The borrower gets into such situation mostly (not all) are because they never plan & save in the first place. So, since they have been enjoying themselves (some unknowingly) all along, and you haven’t (cause you have been saving money), then it doesn’t make sense to give them your money. Secondly, it cripples the borrower. You see, by offering them easy money from relative (one that you do not need to return), it gives an impression that money can come easy (from relative) and there isn’t much consequences. So, theoretically, you don’t need to try very hard to make money yourself because you are well-covered by relatives. That is a crippling and dependent mentality. I have many relatives whom are so. They are so used to middle-class lifestyle, that when their household financial situation turns bad, they still hang on to the same lifestyle, unable to change. Grocery shopping with budgeting, going out for meal instead of cooking at home, buying so-called ‘necessary furniture’ such as tv and sofa, unable to cancel internet & satellite tv because it is also a necessity, etc etc. The fact is, they are unable to get it in their head that their financial circumstances have changed and they need to adapt to change.

Now although I sounded harsh, in reality, I have helped out my relatives many times by giving them financial aid. I never gotten any returned borrowings yet. From my experience in giving out money to relatives, I can say that it has to be judged case-by-case. But the general rule is “teach your relative to fish and not feed them fish unless they will die tomorrow”. For example, my uncle has to move out of his foreclosed home recently and he wanted me to bail him out. Meaning, buy his house so that he can continue to live there. That sounds like a plan except, in my opinion, it is depriving him of the opportunity to learn how to rent outside on his own. And knowing his character, I can almost swear that he will be comfortable in his own house (once I bought it) and will never need to pay me a single cent ever. That will put his mind at ease and he will subsequently choose not to work very hard. Isn’t this feeding him fish? Thus I choose to offer him no assistance and let him sort out his own issue. By so, he will be forced to move out, perhaps look for a place to rent and be responsible to pay for his monthly dues, just like all of us. That teaches him to fish (to work hard). Anyway for this particular case, I have heard of his previous experiences of borrowing money from other relatives and never put it as priority to return their money. Instead, he uses his extra money to buy golf club membership and luxury car. This is just appalling. He reaps what he sow (this means that he is getting what he planted in the past. Since he planted bad karma, he is getting bad karma now).

Liao Fan’s 4 Lessons

Below is another one of the speeches that I delivered during my Toastmasters days. I love this Liao Fan’s life story and understanding it really gave life (and destiny) a whole new meaning…

 

Recently, I have been reading philosophy books. From all my readings, I realized that there are 2 school of thoughts about life. One school believed that everything that has occurred or will occurred, happened by chance. Purely coincidental. Much similar to the big bang theory. First, there was nothing. Then, coincidentally gas appeared, gets compressed, and bang, there’s our universe.

Ladies & gentlemen, Dear guests.

Today, I’m going to focus about the other school of thoughts. This school believed that nothing happened by chance. Everything is planned and follows a system of natural law. Much like how the season cycle is. First come spring, then summer, autumn, winter and the cycle repeats itself. As the idea evolved, it slowly became destiny. That everything in life is pre-determined for us. Perhaps this is not so-true, perhaps it is. We can relate this to the story I’m about to tell. It’s from a famous book called, “Liao-Fan’s 4 Lessons”.

The book was written by Mr. Yuan Liao Fan of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to his only son, Yuan Tien-Chi, to teach him how to recognize the true face of destiny and change it for the better. Through his own life experience, Liao Fan advocates that we should form our own fate rather than being bound by it. Liao Fan himself was a living embodiment of his teachings.

Liao Fan father passed away when he was young and his mother persuaded him to learn medicine to become a Chinese physician. She thinks that this would be a good way to support himself and to help others. One day, when Liao Fan was 20 years old, he met an old man who looked like a sage. He had a long beard. Liao Fan paid his respect to this old man.

Old Man : You are destined to become a government official. You can attain the first rank in public scholar exam next year, why aren’t you studying for the exam?

It turned out that the old sage was Mr. Kong, whom was among the pioneer of the art of prediction. Using a combination technique of physical characteristic, external influences such as landforms and stars alignment, Mr Kong was able to accurately predict and know many things about Liao Fan past & future. Awestruck by Mr Kong’s ability, Liao-Fan was left with no choice but to believe and follow Mr Kong’s advice.

Mr Kong : You will rank 14th in the country examination & 9th place in the provincial exam next year.

Mr Kong was always right. Then, he mapped out Liao Fan’s entire life.

Mr Kong : You will passed such such test in that year, you will become a civil servant in this year, and at that year, you will get a promotion. Finally, you will be appointed a magistrate in SzechuanProvince. After holding that post for 3 years, you will resign and return home. At the age of 53, you will die and you will not have any children to mourn for you.

Liao Fan recorded all that Mr Kong’s said and at each particular year, he always checks his records and Mr Kong’s words never fail to come true. “Slowly, I began to view everything in a more detached manner and ceased to seek gain or profit”. Liao Fan lost interest in books and became interested in meditation. At 25 years old, while he was studying in Nanjing, he paid a visit to the enlightened master Yun-Gu in the monastery. Liao Fan sat facing the master in the Zen hall for 3 days and nights, without ever falling asleep.

Yun Gu : Mundane people are unable to focus because they have too many wandering thoughts in their mind. For the past 3 days, I have not observed the slightest distractions in you. Why is this so?

Liao Fan : Mr Kong has clearly predicted the entire outcome of my life. I have seen that the time of life, death, promotion & failure are all destined. There is no need for me to think about it or to desire anything, Master Yun.

To this, Master Yun Gu replied, “I thought you were someone of remarkable capabilities, but now I realized that you are nothing but a common mundane person”. Feeling confused by what Master Yun said, Liao Fan asked the Master to explain.

Yun Gu : An average person’s mind is forever occupied by his wandering and imaginary thoughts, so naturally their lives are bounded by the energy of fate. We cannot deny that fate exists, but only ordinary people are bound by it. Fate cannot bind those who cultivate great deeds. The merits accrued can change destiny from suffering to happiness, poverty to prosperity and short lives to longevity.

Yun Gu continued, “Similarly, fate cannot bind those who commit great evils. When a person’s evil deeds are so great, they will cancel out the pre-determined fortune, transforming life from good to bad.

Yun Gu : For the past 20 years, you have lived your life according to predictions and did nothing to change it. If you are not considered a mundane mortal, no one is.

Ladies & gentlemen,

The second part of this classic book, explained how Liao Fan applied his revelation on destiny and managed to change Mr Kong’s life prediction on him. His ranking in exam improved and he attained his promotions years earlier than originally predicted. His life got a lot better materially and so has his inner cultivation. While he was destined to die by 53 years old and childless, he managed to live up to 70 and got himself a son, whom he personally wrote this book for.

Ladies & gentlemen, I wonder how your life will be? This was the same question Liao Fan asked his son in the book. Please remember that whatever is sought for, can be attained. The seeking is in oneself. This refers to inner qualities such as virtue, kindness and morality. When these qualities are ingrained, it will be reflected outside, and thus, wealth, fame and prestige shall follow. So, do the right things, even if we lose out in the short term. After all, all of us want to improve on what was originally destined for us, whether it’s a life of a pauper, a middle class or a king.

Life Lessons from Office Toilet

This is one of the speech I made during my Toastmasters days a year ago. Enjoy~

 

A quick raise of hands. Who got stuck in your office toilet before? No one? Ok, it’s just me. Now I can tell u, that was not a fun experience.

Fellow Toastmasters, dear guest.

I work in an office environment, like most of you here. People always lament that the typical 9 to 5 office life is boring. I tend to disagree. My office life can be very interesting and there are so many things I can learn from. Even from a toilet incident, that happened last month.

One fine day, at around 10am, I went to my office toilet. There are 3 cubicles. I went into the 2nd cubicle and saw that the toilet bowl wasn’t flushed and it was full of human excrement. I was annoyed, but I press on the flush button anyway, not knowing that it was clogged. Can you guess what happen next? Almost immediately, the water starts to overflow bringing along all the excrement with it. By then I was safely few steps away staring at the mess I caused. The smell was pungent. I also noticed that someone was using the cubicle beside it. Poor guy, I thought. Well, nothing I can do, and no point staying around. So, I just took off and went back to work.

The next day, I went to the toilet at about the same time. And again, the 2nd toilet was clogged. So as not to repeat my mistake, I close the lid on the 2nd toilet and went to use the 3rd toilet, right beside it. After I had taken off my pants and seated comfortably on my throne, I hear 2 ladies talking from the 2nd cubicle. I’m not sure what they did, the next thing I hear was the flushing sound and one of the lady crying out ‘o, shit…’ (literally). And then I hear toilet water overflowing and within seconds, it has found its way to my side of the cubicle. Now, I had quick reflex, by then, my both legs was already raised and straight, with my pants at the far end of my foot. I was very angry. I cursed at the 2 cleaner ladies, but they just went out.

Ladies & gentlemen.

Can you imagine the predicament I was in? Stuck on a toilet seat with my pants down. Human feces everywhere and the smell, horrendous. It was a disaster! I had my both legs straight up, and yelling for help wouldn’t do me any good. I was cursing away. That was my worst day ever.

Eventually, I managed to slowly pull my pants up while keeping my legs hanging in the air. Now I show you how I did that. Ok I can’t. My adrenaline was rushing at that time, and when adrenaline rush, human can achieve amazing feat. Being alert, I saw an area about this size at my far right corner, that is still clean, unpolluted. Just the right size for 2 foot. Quickly but steadily, I stretched one leg and put it on the spot. And with that, I open the toilet latch and got out, unscathed.

So, that was my toilet incident. It was a traumatic 15 minutes for me, but I did manage to learn 3 very valuable life lessons from it. KFC. K for Karma. Karma is real. And sometimes it doesn’t take years to hit you back, just one day later. Remember how I flushed the toilet and caused so much distress to the guy using the next cubicle? I became the poor guy the next day. So, never misuse the privilege you have now and hurt those who have-not. Because in split second, you can be in an even worse situation. F for Flexible. It takes a lot of limb twisting for me to put on my pants in that small cubicle. Same in life, if you are flexible, you will be able to maneuver your way out of any tight situation. This is definitely better than just lamenting about what you are given. And lastly, C for Chance. In life, we are given chances. Is that short window of opportunity that pop by, once in a while. When you see it, you must immediately grab hold of it, without hesitation. If u miss it, you will be stuck in a shit hole for a while before the next window come. My ticket out was that small patch of area, which I immediately step on and got away.

I took KFC out of my office toilet. If you can take KFC and incorporate it into your own life, I don’t think you will do that bad in life at all. Now, trust me. Even though my office toilet stinks, KFC certainly doesn’t. If you apply it well, I bet it will surely unclog all the bottlenecks you have in your life. Back to you.

Procrastination – I will do it, tomorrow…

I first heard to the term ‘procrastination’ when I was in middle school. I was pleasantly surprised to hear of it because I never knew it existed. That there is a word to describe something that I quite often do when I was younger. All along, I am not sure if ‘procrastinating’ something is a good thing or a bad thing.

Procrastinate is to delay doing something at a much later time. It is in human’s nature to procrastinate. We all tend to want to delay doing something indefinitely. In fact, if we do not need to do it at all, all the better. But, is procrastinating a bad thing? Actually, procrastination does often has a negative connotation to it. If we are being logical, everytime we delay doing something, we risk abandoning the task altogether. Think of the many things you gave up trying because you procrastinate? E.g. dieting, exercising, reading that book, learning that new recipe, learn to cook, etc etc. I myself have gave up writing that diary I wanted to, the hobby of drawing, cycling, exercising, writing a daily budget list, etc, all thanks to procrastination.

Yet, procrastination is also just a way for us to prioritize things-to-do in our daily life. We have limited time everyday and if we take away our sleeping time & working time, effectively, we probably have less than a few hours daily. Most of our weekends, we spend resting and running errands (buying groceries, paying bills, washing clothes, etc). So whenever we promise ourselves or someone else that we will do something, we have to prioritize. In fact, we have to prioritize first before we commit to saying “I will do it”.

Prioritizing is something very hard to do, but everyone MUST do it well for a happy & well-balanced life. Prioritizing also differs from individuals to individuals and it is influenced by culture as well. For example, a husband may focus more on his career but his wife would put her priority on her children. So, if a child took part in a competition and he expects both his parents to be there, and only the mother went, perhaps the father prioritize his career over the kid. Is this such a bad thing? Maybe not, in considering that he supports the whole family by having a good career. Also, Asian culture tends to focus more on family and gives high priority to more senior members of the family, yet Western values self-interest and achievement. To this, I have the perfect example of Asian culture versus Western value. I have a cousin, studying high-school in a far away state from his home town. At least 3 hours journey away. He stays to study from Monday to Friday but he is free on his weekends. His parents (my relatives) therefore expect him to return home every weekend since there is no school anyway. He did so initially but soon find that it is quite tiring for him to do that on a weekly basis. On Saturday morning, he would take 3 to 4 hours (depending on traffic) to get back to his hometown. And on Sunday evening, he will have to brave the traffic and spend another 3 to 4 hours to get back to his campus. On average, he loses close to 8 hours to go back home. Is this ok? Yes, it is probably ok if he has nothing to do or if he is already working like myself. But he is still a student and he is attempting to pass his exams for his university entrance. So, he has something to achieve and he has to work hard for it. Travelling and spending his time on bus every weekend is surely going against his target of studying hard to achieve good grades. His parents were typical Asian family and do not understand how competitive and difficult it is to get good grades for university entrance. They were adamant that he comes back on weekends and argue that he could study at home. If he didn’t, that is because he is lazy. Not true. Travelling for such long hours already tires my poor cousin out and upon reaching home, he will probably has to take a few hours to recuperate and rest. And not to mention spending some time with family to chat and hang-out. All of these affected his studies and wasted his precious time. In the end, he failed his first university entrance exam. When he asked me for my advice, I literally told him to go against his parents wish and stay back during the weekend. In fact, I told him to block out all unnecessary time-wasting activity and put his focus on studying. When he is bored of studying, he should take time to rest and maybe do some exercise. In fact, even playing video games for a short while to relax. As long as he is not travelling 8 hours on the weekend, he will be gaining precious time to study. Asian culture versus self-achievement. Sometimes, there need to be a balance. Sometimes, Asian value has to wait. Even if that is our parents. Of course, his parents hate me for it but hey, when he re-took his exam a year later, he passed.

Back to procrastination. If you promise someone to do something, you must do it. However, you can choose to procrastinate up to a certain extend. This depends on priority. If its your boss, I think you have better do it as soon as possible. If it’s a distant friend, you can probably let him/her wait a bit. One thing I want to highlight though. If it’s for your own interest & it is important, I feel that you must never procrastinate because doing so will only harm yourself in future. For example, things such as finishing your homework, studying, writing that essay, reading that book, learning a new chapter, signing up for that course, etc. Improving oneself should always top any priority that you have, no matter what culture or belief you possess.

Why do we fall sick?

Recently, I was down with an infection. My eyes were bloodshot and both my knees & feet were swollen. I was unable to walk properly for the whole 3 weeks. Even as I am typing now, my knees still feel weak and not normal. But I could walk and move about at the start of this week. I was able to get back to work after 3 weeks of mc, thank god.

Well, what happened to me? I was diagnosed with poly-arthritis and was confirmed to have had inflammation in my joints. Blood tests were unable to reveal the exact virus/bacteria that cause this and I was perplexed for a while. Yet, I soon learn to let go and as I was recovering, I thought it is ok not to know the exact cause. Even the specialist was advising that there seemed to be no point in trying to determine the exact pathogens (virus or bacteria) since very likely my body has slowly got rid of them. As long as the symptom of another infection never re-occur.

So, from a medical perspective, how does one falls sick? Ever since the discovery of bacteria, the western medical community has agreed that human fall sick due to outside pathogens. And these pathogens can be virus, bacteria or fungus. A perfectly healthy human can fall sick the next day if some virus got into his body. The crux is how this particular virus got into our body. For normal sickness, e.g. common flu, the virus is air-born and thus can easily spread when someone with the virus sneeze into the air. If you are nearby and took a deep breath, then it is likely that the virus will get into your body through your nose. This is usually how ‘flu’ virus gets into our body. That’s why when we are outside, we must always stay away from people with flu, and if we have flu, we must do our best not to spread the virus to everyone, i.e. by covering our mouth when we sneeze. However, we shouldn’t be too paranoid with normal flu virus because they are always around and are not life-threatening. A more powerful ‘flu’ virus that can kill is the H1N1. That was what causes the epidemic in Hong Kong & Singapore. The bird-flu H1N1.

Perhaps you might ask, why can’t we kill the virus with medicine? The fact is, there is no medicine to kill virus. The only thing that can kill a virus, is our antibody. If so, what are the medicine that we have been taking all along? Well, most medicines given are only to relieve the symptoms that we get. For example, if you have flu, what do the doctor usually prescribed you? Panadol (or Aspirin), flu medicine & probably lozenges. Panadol is to relieve the headache you have. Flu medicine is to relieve the bad running nose and to reduce your phlegm congestion. Lozenges is to make your throat feels better. Most of the time, if I do have flu, I don’t take any medication because I can live with these symptoms. However, sometimes the running nose & phlegm can get so bad that it is advisable to take some flu medicine to help you get past the day.

What about antibiotics? What are these? Antibiotics are created specifically to kill bacteria or fungus. So, if you have a sickness which is caused by bacteria infection, it is ok to take antibiotics to kill them. However, I have to stress this. Antibiotics are harmful to human’s health. Everytime we take antibiotics, we sort of set a fire to burn everything inside us. And that includes all the good antibody & bacteria inside us. This weakens us and we will have to take a couple of weeks to nurse our health back. The last time I took antibiotics was 6 years ago. I do not believe in them and will avoid them if necessary. However, for life threatening bacteria infection, we have to take antibiotics. So, we must be rational about this. If you know your body and am very sure that it is just a simple infection, choose not to take antibiotics. The fact is, the antibody in our body will kill anything from virus to bacteria if you gave it a couple of days.

So, in the end, I never knew what infection I had but I did strongly suspect that it could be chikungunya. However, blood testing shows negative on that. My inflamed & swollen knees and feet are almost ok now, so I just hope this never happen again. This is a very strong virus/bacteria and it causes victims (like myself) unable to walk. It took a while for my antibody to fight it off (around one month), but as soon as they start to fight, I was slowly able to walk. So, the key is to have a very strong immune system, strong antibodies. There are many factors that we can rely on to have a strong immune system such as the food we eat, regular exercise, Qi flowing and good sleep. To be honest, as long as we are discipline and takes health as a priority, we should be healthy, most of the time…

To Judge Or Not To Judge

To Judge Or Not To Judge.

I have to be honest. Since young, I have been taught to judge people based on their outlook. My mum, relatives and even friends would easily gives out comment such as “he looks like a crook, keep away from him” or “stay away from those dark-skinned Bangladeshi worker”. I think Chinese generally likes to judge others. Wise Chinese sages from the past have passed down numerous quotes to tell us the importance on judging people. For example, “mian you xing sheng” (physical appearance stems from thinking), “fang ren zhi xin bu ke wu” (we must always guard ourselves against others), “zhi ren zhi lian bu zhi xin” (we might know a person and his looks, but not the heart). All of these famous quotes have instilled a sense of paranoia and suspiciousness in most Chinese.

*Chinese – I use this term loosely and of course I am generalizing. China is now so big and there are millions of Chinese in different parts of the world now. Some are brought up in an environment that they have lost touch completely with Chinese teachings. I personally know ABC (American born Chinese), Indonesian Chinese that are completely integrated with where they are born and thus does not fall into this category of my generalization. Also, even in China, I think my generalization applies mostly to Southern China ethnic group. The Northern Chinese thinks very differently.

So is this constant sense of paranoia a good thing? No. That is because we are mostly using such judging to protect ourselves and we think the worst of others. Do I still agree to the Chinese way of judging others? Yes. We must and in fact, we must bring it one level higher. Over the years, I started to realize what was the missing ingredient in judging others. The ability to know someone. Let me go to the different level of judging others. The basic level is purely based on physical appearances. What they wear, how they talk and their actions in public. One example would be to distant ourselves from people who spit in public, those who are dirty and dressed sloppily & those who smells. I guess it is logical to assume that someone whom is dressed in dirty, tattered clothes is extremely poor and unhygienic. So to protect ourselves from disease, we keep away from them. This basic level of judging is important but we shouldn’t stop at this. The 2nd level of judging requires a bit of observation & wisdom. We judge others based on their actions and our own past experiences. This is much more specific and not necessarily true but it gives us extra advantages. For example, if you ran into a molester and you remembered his face. In future, if you happened to came upon someone who look very similar to his feature, don’t you think you should put some precaution at this guy? I think so, yes. Even if he will not be a molester, he could possess similar level of desire of a molester. Chinese have established an in-depth study of facial analysis and even if we do not have such knowledge, we must trust that to a certain degree, it is practical. Else, such knowledge would not have been around for more than 2000 years. That’s why I sometimes look into newspaper for face-shot of molesters, rapist, serial killers etc. This is to ensure that I know their features and if I came upon someone like that in future, I will be extra careful with them. For female, if you recognize such feature, my advice is to run away immediately. Also, at this same level, we need to do a bit of observation. If you were sitting in a bus and you notice one guy behaving sneakily. Perhaps he seemed edgy and always looking to his left & right and kept his head low, afraid to be seen. What should you be thinking? You must assume that he is a bad person, trying to do harm to others. If you think of this logically, what is it that he is doing that he is ashamed to be seen? Perhaps he is hiding a bomb? Or maybe he is trying to steal someone’s wallet? That is why it is very important that we stay alert and keep our eyes open all the time. We could be missing out important information that could save our life. We also try to observe the actions of those around us all the time, but don’t do this openly. People get annoyed if they know someone is observing them.

Now this brings us to the 3rd level of judging. The ability to know someone before we judge someone. Most of us will have the opportunity to utilize this 3rd level of judging but we can only use this on people we have close interaction with. We cannot be using such high level of judging on the sneaky guy on the bus, can we? That is because the 3rd level of judging requires wisdom, observation & time. We can use this on our colleagues, family members, friends and generally everyone whom we will have more than twice interaction. As much as I would like to live in an ideal world where all our close friends & families are bonded nicely and will never hurt us, the reality is not the case. In our world, colleague back-stab us for promotion, wife has affair with the neighbor, our son steals the family money, friends spread rumors to bring us down and relatives will take our land if they get a chance. So, how do we prevent this? By being paranoia to everyone and push all our close ones away? No. By judging each & every one of them to split out the bad weed. I do that all the time as I live in a hostile extended family environment. I have an uncle whom has cheated money from many relatives. Some of his tactic includes; buying car for them as discounted price, buying computer, ask them to invest to set up a coffee shop, lie to them saying that money lenders are after him, etc. I have another uncle who seemed a lot better but once you get to know him, you will realized that he too are using similar tactic to solicit money from relatives. He will make use of his close relationship with him and during emergency he will not be abashed to borrow money from you. However, once his emergency is over, he will never make an effort to return the money to you. From my observation of these two uncles, their promises rarely amount to anything. Although they talk big, they never walk the talk.

*Walk the talk = actually doing what they claimed.

I have a colleague named L. When I joined my current company, he was my mentor and I looked up upon him as he was teaching me many things I was supposed to learn, as part of my job. I am grateful to him for that. Due to working with him, I got to know him a lot better. He always tries to maintain a distance with me as he believes in a distance between professional & personal relationship. Yet, slowly I got to know of his personal beliefs. And then everything makes sense to me. Apparently, his personal beliefs conflicted with what he is supposed to do at work. L is extremely competitive to an extend that it is selfish. We should be selfish to think for ourselves but yet as with everything else, there need to be a balance. When we are working in group, the group’s interest should also be prioritized. Selfish is defined as taking the only apple on the table for yourself because there is only one. This action is correct but yet, we must look into the situation before we take. I don’t think anyone should have any qualms in taking this apple if everything else is equal. Yet, should you be taking this apple if your competitor has been starving for 5 days? By taking this, you will kill the man. Have you considered that the apple itself is rotten or not suitable for your stomach? To me, L is completely ruthless because when it comes to competition, he assumed everyone is in a fair state. And the sad truth is, he treats almost everything as a competition. Finding a girlfriend, getting a new job, buying an expensive watch, salary increment, etc. He always wants to be viewed as number 1 and getting all that he wants. I utterly despise that and I think I have to keep my distance from him. I do not believe in a personal nor business relationship with him as from my 3rd level judging, I believe he will crush me completely if he had the chance. His word will mean nothing if a better deal appears. Although in the business world these days is all about writing it down in black & white, I can tell you, this is not always the case. I still believe in the good old business method of honoring one words and keeping the trust in others. Even before coming to a contract, we will still need to confirm verbally to proceed, true? Based on this, we must thoroughly understand & completely judge someone correctly before we even think about working a business deal with him.

Some quick tip about 3rd level judging. Observe the person daily behavior. If he talks, does he takes action on what he claims? If no, that tells you a bit about his personal commitment. He talks & agree before he really thinks it through. Take note of hidden issues such as ego problem, self-esteem problem & value system. If someone has huge inflated ego & will almost never take critism, do you think it is wise to marry him? If someone do not feel confident and happy with his/her situation, do you think he be able to think & talk rationally over personal topic such as money management? I notice the low self-esteem problem with L when he exhibit behavior of over lifting himself. He likes to put himself at a higher position by comparing things that he does better than everyone else. So much, that he exaggerates what he has/achieved and belittle/demean what others has. When someone tries to step down on others to appear higher himself, you know he has self-esteem problem. What about value-system? Well, in a practical world these days, we can’t always be talking about sympathy for the poor and giving to charity. You will likely put others off and create a distance with everyone. Also, truly smart & charitable people understood that you will be able to give more to others once you achieve success yourself. For example, a poor person donating money to another poor person is just a bad cycle. Both of them will never get out of the poor cycle themselves. Yet, if a wealthy person decided to give back to society, he understood how economy works and how education & knowledge will help to get these poor people out of the poor cycle. If so, this wealthy person really did make a change in the society and helped many poor people. You will notice most truly rich people never really like giving money to the poor. That is because they know that such money will not help. Rich people usually help by setting up homes, free education, give clothes etc etc. Back to the topic. How do we judge someone based on value-system then? Same thing, through observation. For example, my boss has good value-system internally although he can be very ruthless doing business. In business, he will try to completely destroy someone’s else business yet I am aware he will gives out his extra things to poor people by the street. He also donated to causes such as cancer and diabetic. I am happy to be working under such a boss although I still don’t like him 😉 On the other hand, L will never do such act in his personal life and he openly admit he does not believe in charity. When I asked him why, he said he donated a bit to a live TV charity and it turns out that the CEO of the charity is living luxuriously. If you ask me, L did not donate out of his sympathy in the first place. It is just the ‘cool’ thing to do during that TV charity hype, so he donated. Also, he is just jealous of the CEO. But the main thing is his ego is bruised because he was cheated. How he comes to the conclusion that charity is a scam, is mostly due to his selfish, egoistic nature. Nothing more. And thus, I concluded that his value-system is purely based in his own self interest and he has no guideline whatsoever. I am lucky because slowly, our common business associate feel the same about him too these days. Yes, I am trying to bring him down because I know when someone like him is on top, many below will suffer.

As a summary, judging is very important and should be practiced at all times. Come to think of it, aren’t girls judging their boyfriend all the time? They need to do that because they have to be sure of the man soon-to-be their husband. We try to screen out bad ones using first level judging. Of course we don’t want to be marrying someone with a crooked mouth or with hair coming out of their nose daily. Once we have that special feel, we go on dates with him/her. During dates, we use the 2nd level of judging to observe his habit & behavior. If the guy has no confidence to even order food for you, I don’t think he will not have the ability to lead a family. If he has bad temper and scold the waiter very badly for spilling his coffee, what would he do to you at home when you spilled his coffee? And finally when you are really close and even stayed together, observed his daily behavior. Try to lookout if there are any character problems such as ego, self-esteem & value-system. Guys with ego problem will never help you take handbag even for a minute (when you go toilet). Guys with self-esteem problem will probably talk down on you and convince you that you are worthless, because they want to feel higher than you. Guys with value-system problem are probably only interested in your money (if you are rich), and if you are not, they won’t be around for long anyway.

Fellow bosses, use this in-depth judging method to evaluate and I can assure you the best employees working for you, by screening out the bad ones.

Money

What is money?

In school, we were never taught on the subject of money. Nobody taught us what is money and how we should use it. Have you ever thought about this? How could something be so important yet totally being neglected by almost every education system in the world? If you happen to be smart and able to get into university, you are being taught Economics 101 – the basics of money. Can you imagine? Money revolves around you every minute of the day and yet, you are only taught ‘what it is’ in your university year. After that, you are on your own. Thus it is no surprise that many do not know how to value money, and even worse, how to use money.

Money is of special importance to me, and so I make it a life mission to truly understand what it is and how to use it well. Although I am still not very good at it, I do know one or 2 things about it due to my years of reading & research. For those close to me, should realize that I can see the future value of money. Basically I understood that, money not spend now, will/can be double in future. It is like growing a banana tree. Everytime you plant a banana tree you need to wait for it to bear fruit. And the moment it bears fruit, you go & cut the fruit to eat the banana. You kept doing that because you are impatient and you thought of eating bananas as akin to living a good life. Others kept telling you that if you don’t eat the banana now, it will rot and you will waste it. Others kept telling you that if you cut the bananas now, you will get more banana in future. The tree will continue to grow bananas, non-stop. Others also tell you that you should enjoy your fruit immediately because you worked very hard to grow the tree. In fact, others are so convincing that they can even tell you different remedies to cook your bananas. So delicious bananas oh bananas.

Yet, the others are usually people who will do more harm to you than help you in the long run. Since they tell you one million ways of cooking & eating the bananas, they must have been consistently eating their own bananas for a long time. Let me ask you, if you ran out of bananas to eat, will they give you their bananas to eat? I don’t think so. Everytime, they have bananas, they will eat it immediately, so what makes you think that they have spare to give/borrow you? All of us have such ‘others’ around us. In fact, almost everyone around us is the ‘others’. Grandparents, father, mother, wife, cousins, colleagues, best friend even that nice neighbor auntie. I am always caution with such people (the others) because knowingly, they will poison you with their ‘banana-cutting’ thinking.

My new home backyard has a couple of banana trees (yay!). I personally do not like banana trees but I do think they give good representation as money. You see, if you cut your banana fruit a few times and then you get bored of cutting it, you let it grow more. Banana fruit is a funny fruit. If you leave it and let it grow, you can see how the fruit actually multiplies on its own. And in time, you can see that, banana fruit is a big big fruit with many many bananas. To me, only when you get to see that many bananas, you can cut & eat your banana fruit at ease J

So, my objective in life is to grow many banana trees & see each of them grow big big banana fruits. This will take years, but the day will come when I have my chance to cut the fruit. By then, I will prove all the ‘others’ that my knowledge and thoughts about money is right. But till then, I will have to stick to my way. I hope my wife will be supportive of me all the way till then.

The Karma’s perspective

Happy Good Friday. Coincidentally an incident happened this week that allows me to think deeper into this issue of fundamental religious differences with others. This happened in my office with my colleague.

I have a very kind Indonesian colleague, Y. She is so kind, that sometimes a bit too much & I tend to think that she overdoes it. So, here is what happened. She was buying food with another colleague and the other girl asked for extra vege but it was sold out. When they got back to their seat, Y immediately put her portion of vege on the other colleague’s plate. I saw it and quickly dismissed it as an act of not liking her vege. It is very common among spoilt girl (roll my eyes). I tend to be a control freak and do not really tolerate things like this cause I will never understand why anyone should be so picky for their food (this goes to u too, W). If u have seen poor people (I was poor once), they don’t even have enough food, much alone choices of veges…

Anyway, I was curious on what did she not like about that type of vege that she gave it up. After a bit of prompting, Y revealed that she was actually giving it up because the other colleague wanted it more than her (as she ordered more but couldn’t get). In private, I told her what I think. I think that her act of giving up her own food to someone who didn’t even ask her for it was naive and cannot be considered as kind. She is being considerate and think of others, yes, but in a bigger picture, she is being naive and doing more harm than good. Unexpectedly, she stubbornly disagree and even started going offensive when I elaborate more. She is usually never this way so I backed-down and apologize. I have no right and shouldn’t have started on commenting on my colleague behavior in the first place.

Later, I reflected on why she reacted so strongly against my comment. Then, my mum reminded me that it could be due to fundamental religious differences. U see, I told her about karma. Karma is about the final intention and not so much on the initial intention. For Karma, even if the initial intention seemed well, if it is not suitable and causes bad outcome, it will be a bad karma. For example, if a fat kid wants your food and u gave him. He took a bite and he threw it away. What is that? Bad karma for u, because u indulged him and taught him that it is ok to over-eat and throw away food that he doesn’t like. Because he can get food easily. Now think about it. Over time, if everyone continues to give this kid food anytime he ask, his behaviour will become even worse. So, the initial intention to make the kid happy or to kindly give him what he wants seemed easy in the grand scheme of things. It is easier to give it to him because it makes the giver feels good in the short-term. Also, it gives good impression to yourself (not to-be labelled as bad person) and you don’t need to deal with rejections & confrontations, etc. Karma applies to every cases below:-

–          That lazy uncle that kept asking for easy money from you.

–          Over-indulging your son and causing him to become a spoil brat.

–          Not standing up to your supervisor who kept bullying everyone.

Basically, it is easy to give someone a fish but a good karma is to teach him how to fish. Yet, my colleague will not accept this thought of mine and to a certain extent, she thinks I am corrupting her mind to go against her religious belief. What she believes (I am guessing this), is that, as long as her initial intention is kind & well, it doesn’t matter what happens later. Also, God will probably salvage things as long as you do kind things. Not that, there is much bad karma to giving up your veges to someone, but I am against the idea of over-indulging someone to the extent of giving up your own food. That is not kind gesture, and u will make her think that it is ok to be served and taken care all the time. It takes courage to teach someone right because you have to be labelled as bad person. Nobody likes to be labelled as a bad person but someone’s got to do what is right. If a parent will not buy that expensive toy to his son, will the son hate him then? Of course he will. In fact, he will cry and be mad at his parent for days. But the parent will have taught him the importance of controlling what you desire. And that, is more important than anything else.

For Asians, it is easy to compromise and go along with what others want. So, it takes courage to go against the flow sometimes and I often do that. My mum taught me this. She refused to follow my grandparents and relatives request to let us stay with grandparents because she thinks they will teach me the wrong values. It takes enormous courage to do that. Can you imagine? All the relatives frowning, talk behind your back and trying to persuade you to fit-in? Now that I have grown-up, I knew she made the right decision. I know because of several incidents that happened in the extended family and how they deal with issues.

To raise a family, To bring up a child. A legacy.

More recently, there has been talk about how the Chinese brought up their kids. The term “Tiger mum” is coined together by the media. Basically “Tiger mum” means that the mum is very strict to their kids in hoping that the kids will grow up to be a successful person in life. A Tiger mum will consider that practical love is much more important than giving the child a happy childhood. A Tiger mum will be very discipline & strict with the child. Setting him a time-table, arranging for extra classes and make sure that the child is working hard during his childhood. Sometimes, it is quite extreme because maybe the child cannot take it.

So, I ask myself, how prevalent is this “Tiger mum” phenomena? It happens in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia and even US. Basically this is very common in Eastern Asia community. Eastern Asia community means community that has a strong Chinese culture and roots. Countries such as Japan & Korea has strong historical roots with Chinese. A lot of their culture is similar, if not the same as Chinese culture. My mum is not a “Tiger mum”. I know because she worked long hours and don’t really have the time to set strict rules for me to follow. So, I wonder why some of these Chinese wants to be a “Tiger mum”? Is it because of pride? Is it because of true love for their child?

Although my mum was not a “Tiger mum”, she did a couple of things which are similar in intentions. For example, when I was 9, she started to set rules for me to finish one short article in Bahasa and another in English daily. Then on Saturday, I will have to stand in front of her to read out the article. This is to train my writing and speaking skill. Also, when I was 10, she started to enroll me for extra classes such as Taekwondo and drawing class. When I was 14, I also enroll for mental arithmetic class. When I was 16, I went for piano class. Do you think at any stage, I love going for such classes? For a kid, of course, it is good to rest and play the whole day. So, my mum made sure I didn’t. All these things that I did and classes I went made who I am today. I am grateful that she enforced those on me.

One day, we will all be parent. And all parents want the best for their kids. Yet, different cultures have different ways to bring up their kids. American way of bringing kids up (which I am intimately familiar with, having spent a good 6 months in a summer camp) is to allow free play and treat them as adults. When I was in the states, it is very common for parents to formally introduce their 7 years-old kid to me. And then I shake hand with the kid. In the same setting, a 7 years-old Asian kid would probably hide behind their father’s leg. If you treat them as adults and let them understand that they have to be responsible for their action, they would turn out that way. I digressed. This is not about American way of bringing up kids.

So, why do you think Chinese parents want to be “Tiger mums”? I believe this comes from the deeply rooted Chinese culture on the importance of family and the defined relationship between parent and child. For the Chinese, family is the foundation of a bigger thing – the country. Many families will make up a country. So, if a family is right and just, a country will be strong. Thus, everyone in the community will expect you to bring up a kid right, because this is a country issue and everyone should be involved in it. That is why, in a Chinese community, if there is a bad kid, the parents will be shamed. It is shameful to have a bad kid. It is the parent’s responsibility to bring up the kids right and if they don’t turned out right, it is a shameful thing. In smaller cities, whenever someone did anything wrong, people will always ask, “Who are the parents?”

That is why, for Chinese families, you will never see them letting their kid run around like wild & dirty kids all over the place. These days, if you see such wild kids, you can almost always assume that these kids are improperly taught or are from poorer family. Also, properly-taught Chinese kids will be respectful to the elders and will greet people. Because bad kids are reflected poorly on parents, good & successful kids are also a reflection of the parents. That is why, it is important for Chinese parents to give their best to lead their kids to success. For Chinese, when we know of someone being very successful, we will want to know who their parents are and what method they used to bring up this successful kid. I do agree with this line of thoughts because it builds strong family and community. However, due to ego, many Chinese parents abused this and bring it to the extreme causing much pain to their kid. I am aware that in Singapore, there are many “Tiger mums” whom forces their kids to go for extra classes from 1pm until 8pm and continued into the weekends. If they claimed it is for their kid’s future, I say it is more of an ego & pride thing.

The Chinese also put strong emphasis on legacy. A legacy is something significant you leave behind after you die. For example, when Steve Jobs die, he leaves behind his legacy – Apple. And when Bill Gates die, his legacy will be Microsoft. Because most of us will never be able to build an Apple or Microsoft, we will have to leave behind something too. This something has an imprint of our DNA and will continue to propagate our thoughts & beliefs to the world. Can you imagine how powerful that is? If you believe that “Honesty is the best policy”, even after you die, there will be someone whom will continue to believe and live your way. Now, that is legacy. Something bigger than yourself.

Want Vs Need – The Power of Marketing

Do you know the difference between ‘want’ & ‘need’?

Want – Is something that we desire. It is usually intense and it comes about internally. Yet, we ourselves are not sure what is the cause of such desire. It is normally mixed & convoluted with other feelings such as ego, self-esteem, vanity, etc.

Need – Something practical that we will use or benefit from. Usually quite detached from internal feelings (ego, vanity, etc) and mostly driven by external factors. e.g. I need a car to drive to work because I have to wait 2 hours for bus.

In any written books about financial management, the ‘want’ vs ‘need’ will surely be brought up. You will not be able to manage your money if you can’t manage your own ‘want’ (desire). A good management on personal finance will ensure a stable and happy life for you & your family. And the happiness I talk about is not the mere joy of getting a blackberry from your elder sister or your father giving you a new video game. It is the joy of knowing that you are secured & stable, living in a home that will never be taken away (fully paid off loan) and buying grocery (necessity) without worrying that you might not be able to buy it next week as you have run out of money. I used to date a girl who did just that. She signed up for expensive gym package with monthly installment as high as USD 50 but yet, am not able to pay for next month electrical bill. Which is more important? Gym or electric? I am sure you can guess why we broke up. This woman will bankrupt me if we get together!

In our modern world, the perils of ‘want’ is everywhere. It’s like a devil just lurking by the next billboard or the next advertisement. Yes, the power of marketing. Marketing has this magical influencing power to create a desire out of anyone’s targeted. Can you remember the last time you wanted to buy something, and yet that gadget is really something totally useless? What do you feel after you see an advertisement showing beautiful faces running down the beach and being happy together with friends, only to sit down and took out an iPAD 2 to call their mum? This is the power of association. Can you see that the advertisement is trying to associate a happy & carefree life (running at beach with friends) and being a good daughter (calling mother) to the product iPAD 2? What would you feel after watching this commercial? You will like iPAD 2 because the action of being happy and being a good daughter resonates with you. The advertisement is trying to trick you into believing that if you owned an iPAD 2, you will have a happy life & will be a good daughter. How stupid does that sound? Yet, so many are being tricked daily. Marketing has this powerful ability to associate the product with that your heart wants. Very very smart people have done countless research to come up with such campaign. Such advertisement campaign will definitely create a desire within you to purchase the product. Sometimes so powerful, that we lost the sense of value in us. For example, how much can a simple bag, which sole purpose is to carry items cost? Well, a Louis Vutton can cost up to USD 4000. Isn’t that ridiculous? Well, it is an accumulation of advertisement and endorsement by celebrities and royalties over many many years that give LV the esteem today.

Now having said all these, I am not saying that advertisements are useless. It has its purpose and I myself go for branded stuff sometimes. I am just saying that we have to be rational if we are to make a wise purchasing decision. I think our buying impulse must first be driven by ‘need’ (practicality), followed by budget (cost) and lastly ‘want’ (desire). For example, I have recently bought a house. First of all, I need a house to build my planned family (practical). Then I put up a budget of around RM 400k in my mind (cost). Lastly, with this budget, I look at a few branded developers and decided I shall go for Bukit Indah.

I could imagine it going the wrong way. First, I need a house. Then, I want to buy the famous ‘Horizon Hills’ by Gamuda Land. Then I check that their price is RM 600k. Because I have set my want before my budget, my desire to own Horizon Hill will be so strong that it will overcome my budget rational. I would have wasted RM 200k more on my first house purchase. And if I did that, I would have never been able to purchase a second house within a short time.

As smart consumer, we must be constantly aware of what advertising is doing to us. Our decision should be rational and not emotionally driven by what the advertisement potrays to us. If an iPAD is not much use to you, you must decide that it will never be useful to you, no matter what the advertisement say. Sometimes, if you put too much emphasis on your desire (want), you will totally forgot about your budget (cost) and this is very dangerous. I was once very angry with W for wanting to video call with me so much that she irrationally forgot about her own living expense. If this happened in a family, can you imagine how the kids will suffer without food? Anyway, to sum up, I prepared a list of ‘wants’ vs ‘needs’ below:-

Wants – video games, shopping, new phone, eating outside, watch movie, camera, branded shoes, bags, cosmetics, perfume, car, new clothes, mp3 player, extra tv, speaker set, home renovation, traveling, etc…

Needs – basic phone, basic computer, education, books, work clothes, bag, shoes, grocery, food, home, savings, etc etc