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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 -
Bare.

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:

Health

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!