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.

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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.

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.