Saturday, February 13, 2016


I lay on a swimming deck chair. A small coconut tree shields me from the glare of the tropical sun. I can still feel the warmth of the sun on my face. Its warmth is just nice. Not too hot, and not too cold. The occasional breeze caresses my face. 

I can hear the sound of the waters from the nearby Jacuzzi pools. Laughter from kids far away punctuate the warm air from time to time. My own daughter is swimming happily under the careful guidance of an experienced swimming coach. 

I have no where that I need to go at the moment. No need to nag at my kids to brush their teeth. No errands to run. I can totally relax.

I ask myself to relax even more. Relax my facial muscles. Feel my cheeks and jaws slacking. Relax my hands and legs. Take deep and natural breathes. Total relaxation.

It feels so wonderful to be able to relax like this. Once in a while, we should take the time to be with ourselves. No need to rush, or compete, or achieve. Just be.

This is bliss.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How to turn a group of strangers into a community

Last year has been a tough year for my team. A few colleagues left us for greener pastures, and the remainder of the group struggled with the workload that we had to cover. 

This year, we are going to rebuild the team, one person by one person. 

As the leader of this small group, I feel that I have the personal responsibility to ensure that we have this group up and running as soon as possible. If you think about it positively, this is also a (mostly) fresh chance for me to build up a new team all over again. So how do I make the best use of this opportunity to build the best performing team? 

What is a dream team, anyway?

For me, I think that a dream team is:

  • Close – We spend lots of time together, so we have lots of shared memories. We are good friends who laugh together, and understand each other well.
  • Positive and Energetic – We understand that our work is difficult, but we also understand that there is meaning behind the work. As such, even through the tough times, we are positive and energetic all the time.
  • Able to Value-add to one another – All of us have different skillsets, knowledge and temperament. However, as a team, we value-add to one another. Maybe one person loves numbers crunching and all the “techie” stuff, and another person is good at presentations and “salesmanship”. Let us all work together in the areas that we are best at, and help one another out as well. 

In practice, how do you achieve that?

  • All business all the time makes you a weak employee. This is something that I read in the book “The Best Place to Work” by Ron Friedman. As Friedman said, workplace friendships don’t happen when you’re buried in a spreadsheet. They emerge in the spaces between work, before and after a meeting. To build workplace friendships, we have to chat about non-work things during our working hours. Strangely enough, this is one area that I am really weak at. I am a true “worker’s bee”, and am very happy to talk about work all the time. However, to build my dream team, I will work on this weakness of mine, and deliberately open up myself to share more about personal stuff.
  • Create lots of time together. Lunches are an obvious opportunity. However, I have a colleague who is a “hermit crab”, who either doesn’t lunch out or eat at odd times of the day. Another colleague has a lunch clique with another division as his wife works there. So lunch ends up not being a good time. Still, I will try to get the team to lunch together more often. Another thing I realized is that sometimes, it is good for a colleague who is not directly involved in a project to join in a meeting for the project. In that way, we get to understand what the other team mates are doing.
  • Use humour and positive language. Again, this is an area which I struggle. I think I am getting better at loosening up at work. Still, I have to deliberately remind myself to use the power of humour. As Mark Twain said, “Humour is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritation and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.” Be the person who lights up the room! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Langston Hughes

I have never had the privilege of studying poetry in school. I find poetry intimidating, and a bit headache-inducing. However, once in a while, I will chance upon words with such beauty that I literally feel my heart ache.

One of the poets that I love is Langston Hughes. He writes in such simple terms that everyone understands. Consider this poem that I came across.

Island: Langston Hughes

Wave of sorrow,

Do not drown me now:
I see the island

Still ahead somehow.

I see the island

And its sands are fair:
Wave of sorrow,

Take me there.

–The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, p. 376

Sometimes I find life to be a dreary long road. Yes, there are moments of happiness and ecstasies, and there are moments of sweetness and joy. But beneath it all, it is years of grind, sweat and mundane. So there are moments where I experience a “wave of sorrow”. 

This poem reminds me to stay hopeful. To just clench my teeth and bear with it, and keep the image of the beautiful island in my head. 

Of course, I can’t compare myself to Langston. I am sure that his life experiences are way worse than me, and he still managed to keep his humour and wit. I really love that his poems has a lot of grit in it, and always manages to have that optimism. See another of his poem that I love.

Mother to Son

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor -

But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.

So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now -
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Can you see the vivid image of a black mother talking to her son, maybe with one hand on her hip and the other hand pointing to him? It makes for a funny image, somehow. 

Yet, the words have such meaning and power. Who are we to complain, when our older generations have seen worse things than us? They have gone through terrible hardships, and still managed to keep on climbing. 

So let’s keep our complaints to ourselves. Keep smiling. Take risks. And row your way to the island!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How to Sustain Your New Year Resolution

It is the beginning of a fresh new year! As with all other years, I cannot help but start to make new year resolutions. There is something about the beginning of a new year that begs us to re-think our lives. It is as if we have been given a fresh new piece of paper to re-draw our lives. So we make so many grand promises to ourselves. The challenge is, how to we sustain our efforts in them?

For this new year, my resolution is to write a 250-word blog post every week. It does not sound like a big resolution, right? I have been faithfully keeping to this resolution for the past few weeks now, but I can feel my resolve faltering at times. Here are my own thoughts on how to sustain my own efforts at starting a new habit. 

Tip 1: Remind yourself why you are doing it

If you have a very strong “why”, you do not need to worry about the “what”. You have to have a strong reason why you are making such a promise to yourself. When you know the reason clearly in your mind, then you will find ways to do it. 

For me, starting the writing habit has been a long-term wish of mine. I wish that I have the discipline to just continue writing, and maybe, someday, I will make use of my writing skills to become a writer. As the saying goes, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”. I am planting my little acorn now, and watering it lovingly every week. Hopefully, it will grow up to become a big oak tree some day! 

Tip 2: Start Small 

For me, I am beginning in a very small way. I use a free platform (blogspot) to start a blog. I commit to myself to write only once a week (and not like every day or 3 times a week). And each time I write only a 250 word article. For a start, I also commit to only do this for a month. 

By starting small like this, I know that the success rates are much higher. Every week when I achieve my goal, I feel good at myself, and that sustains my efforts. I learnt this tip from reading the Scott Adams book, “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big”. 

Tip 3: Celebrate Success! 

Next week will be the fourth time I achieve my goal of writing at least once a week. I promised myself that if I do this consecutively for 4 weeks, I will reward myself. 

I am looking forward to treating myself with something nice. Haha, it tickles me that this little trick that I use on my kids work on myself too. It helps to have something to look forward to.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Thoughts on reading "The Magic of Thinking Big"

Recently, I stumbled on a classic book, called “The Magic of Thinking Big”. It was a book written by David Schwartz, an American motivational writer and coach.

When I started reading this book, I did not know that it was written in 1959. Imagine! 1959! I wasn’t even born at that time. That was a completely different era. It was a world without computers, social media and smartphones.

I started guessing that this was a very old book when the author used certain terms in his book that clearly showed he was from a different era. For example, he mentioned the occupation “stenographer” in one of his chapters. This was someone whose occupation is to transcribe spoken words into written form. It was more common in the past when people do not usually have personal computers, and had secretaries to transcribe what they said into documents.

For a book that was more than half a century old (older even than I am!), I marvel at how many of the things the author said was still so relevant even in today’s times. I guess human nature has not changed that much over the years.

I also marvel at how his words still had the power to motivate, to make one feel better and more confident. That was why I love motivational books so much. They make one feel good just reading the books, and make one feel like striving to achieve and do one’s best.

I really love this inspirational book. It provides so many useful tips for you to get the most out of your job and your life.

PS. I took a quick look at the comments on Goodreads, and many readers gave it a 5-star!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Hello 2016!

This is my first post of the year. Let me do a reflection and “report-card” of sorts.

I look back to the year 2015 with gratitude and thankfulness. I feel that I have grown stronger, both mentally and physically.

In the key areas that are important to me:


I am more and more aware of the need to take care of my health nowadays. I take concrete steps to maintain my health. I started an exercise habit a year back and I am proud to say that I am still achieving it. My system was to try to exercise 3 times a week, and record whether I am achieving this KPI by drawing a smiley face on my table top calendar, which I place prominently near my door. I must say this method works wonders! 

Personal Development

I joined a Toastmasters’ Club in 2015. I am really glad I did. I met so many new-found friends, and I really enjoy its supportive and friendly environment. So far, I have managed to perservere in my Toastmaster’s journey. My fervent wish for 2016 is that I will complete all the 10 speech projects required. Gambatte!

Family and Friends

As usual, I am thankful for my family and friends. For my family, I include my younger sister, whom we are still trying to help to get back on her feet. I hope that in the new year, she will be able to find a firm footing back to a normal life, whatever is the life that she wishes to lead. For my friends, l will proactively arrange meetups with my close friends so that we continue to maintain our friendship!

Career and Finance

As usual, my career remains my bugbear. In the new year to come, I hope that I can continue to sustain my energy throughout the whole 2016. Do not worry too much about the future. Do my best and get stronger!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Writing Challenge: Post 1

Oh boy, this is harder than it sounds. My New Year resolution is to start a writing habit. I will wake up at 6 am every Tuesday to write at least 250 words. As a start, I committed to only do this for the next four Tuesdays.

Today is the first Tuesday. Although I knew that I had to wake up earlier today, I still slept pretty late yesterday. I know, I know. Curse my lack of discipline! To compound the issue, my 3-year old boy woke up in the middle of the night asking for Mama. So of course I had a problem waking up early this morning.

So as the alarm started ringing at 5:45 am, it was with Herculean efforts that I managed to wake up. By the time I woke up, it was 6:45 am! That leaves me only 15 minutes to write! ‘Cos by 7 am I need to get ready for the day, so that I can call my kids up to get ready for their day by 7:30 am.

Just as I was ready to write… my little boy woke up again! This time to ask for milk. Why oh why is it so hard to even ask for a little time to do this!

So I made milk for him and scrambled to start writing on my laptop. Thankfully I only made a commitment to write 250 words every week. So I am now at at 243th word. It is still going to be a success!

Lessons learnt from this episode:

  • Have the discipline to sleep early if you need to wake up early
  • Be prepared for anything that can happen
  • Start small! By committing to only write 250 words a week, I managed to create a success for myself! Small successes will sustain me to the next successes.