Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fabulous Family Fun During Term Break

Today was the last day of the one-week school holiday. The Lim family has a tradition of fabulous fun with the children and this holiday was no exception.

Jolly Doodling

A firm believer of holistic learning, their very innovative mother, that's me has included creative doodling sessions which won much "wows" from my boys. It has also ignited their interest in drawing, especially my younger boy, R. He would be busy drawing once he was done with his dinner after school. Not to mention, it gave me the much needed "me-time" to do my other interest - e.g. reading up and writing my latest blogpost :) That was definitely a big win-win.

This new session was a success and I will continue with it even during school term as all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Movie Treat

Next was a movie treat "Race to Witch Mountain". We brought R to the big screen as P was out of action at his grand aunt's place. In any case, he watched the show with his friends at the student care. R was thrilled but very soon he was exhausted from all the excitement and felt asleep in the cinema. Nonetheless, his parents enjoyed the movie which had a family-appeal, not just for children.

Stupendous Sentosa

Our family had just spent about six hours of action-packed day in Sentosa from 11 am to 5 pm. It had been quite some time since we last visited Sentosa. So long that I could not remember when was the last time we went. But Sentosa has undergone a metamorphosis. As a matter-of-fact, the makeover was still in progress with the very visible hoarding of construction sites of the Resorts World.

Many new activities were added in the island. We tried the "Luge and Skyride". A luge was a part go-cart, part-toboggan ride with a unique steering and braking system - we braked it by pulling the handrail and accelerated by lifting it up. There was a minimum height restriction of 110 cm which R met. Hooray! After we parked the luge, we have to take the skyride back to the starting position. Read this - though the skyride was similar to a cable car as it traveled on a wire, there was no protection from the elements of nature. Feel the breeze when you are at the top of the world but don't look below....

Good old nature activities remained. We explored the jungle trail at Mount Imbiah and Palawan Beach where we crossed the suspension bridge to the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia. Here we enjoyed nature's beauty with modern facilities.

The Pink Dolphin show did not disappoint. Though this was the upteenth time we have watched the show, it was the first time, we allowed P and R to touch the pink dolphin. And boy, they were elated by the experience. They were also more able to appreciate the vast variety of deep water fish at the Underwater World. Each step was punctuated with their many probing questions about the origins of the sea creatures.

Despite that we have visited the beautiful island quite a few times when we departed, we learnt something new about the isle - not just from new adventures but the bulk from the old attractions. Children are wonderful as they make us do and see things we would otherwise not have so.

And yes, I am looking forward to the next school holiday. But before then, the boys and the parents have to work hard to learn our next trip together.

Friday, March 20, 2009

You are Even Better Looking than You were Yesterday

Quiz : How can you know that you are in an all-girls' territory?
Ans : When the office mirror is splashed with the words "You are even better looking than you were yesterday!"

This relates to a very interesting company which I have just read about and hence this blog entry.

The Company - Cosmetic Benefit

The year was 1976 when the statuesque twin sisters - Jean and Jane Ford founded The Face Place in San Francisco. The candy store for face drew women in droves, catapulted into cult status and was renamed Cosmetic Benefits in 1990. Its corporate culture exudes girlishness, intimacy and most important of all, fabulous fun.

Creative talent aside, staff are hired on their ability to have fun. Employees have a free rein to decorate their workstation. Jean even has a "wall word" in her office where her employees could doodle their ideas on.

The twins, who are on the brink of 60 but look not a day older than 40, rattle off a list of terrific things they have done in the name of work. Beauty bingo - where an employee can win a pot of cash when Benefits hits its sales targets, surprise birthday parties are the norm and company functions.

Chaos in Creativity with Sporadic Crooning

Much of Benefit's creative processs take place in a spacious conference room know as the "The Brains and Beauty Room". Discussions over the brand's unique product designs and marketing approach are often roundtable, jovial affairs. The twins have been know to burst into song when tossing around ideas.

Secrets of their Success

In this austere time, it is crass to suggest to be paid to have fun. Hence I delved in deeper to see the secrets of Benefits' success. Benefit's cosmetic are definitely more than skin deep, they are known for their ease of use and ability to deliver on their promises.

For your benefit, I have distilled three key learning points which we can all take home from Benefits' success.

Lesson 1: Failure is the Mother of Success
We all celebrate Mother's day. And failure is the mother of success. That's why we should celebrate failure. The quirkiness of Benefits' culture provides the ideal environment for innovations to thrive as mistakes not chastised but celebrated.

Lesson 2: There is a Silver Lining in Every Dark Cloud
Every situation has the opportunity to lead to a product name or creation. For example, Jane was once pulled over for a speeding ticket and ended up naming a lipstick "But Officer." Such is the quick wit and creative flair of the founders.

Lesson 3: Not NO but Now and How
Instead of the word "No", add a "w" behind to make it "now" or change the "n" to "h" and ask "how".

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Toastmaster Project 8: Get Comfortable with Visual Aids

Visual aids help an audience understand and remember what they hear; they are a valuable tool for speakers. The most popular visual aids are computer-based visuals, overhead transparencies, flip charts, whiteboards and props.

The type of visual aid you choose depends on several factors, including the information you wish to display and the size of the audience. Visuals must be appropriate for your message and the audience, and be displayed correctly with ease and confidence.

- Select visual aids that are appropriate for your message and the audience.
- Use visual aids correctly with ease and confidence.

Time: Five to Seven minutes.

P8: It has to be Tiger

(To hold a can of "Tiger" beer.) No I am not talking about Tiger Beer even though everyone of us here is above 18 of age to join the Toastmaster Club. And we are not toasting at least not now. (Smile and pause.)

Good afternoon Toastmaster of the Day, District Officers, fellow toastmasters, friends and guests, This is Tiger Woods - the most successful golfer on earth today. Borne on December 30, 1975, Tiger Woods is an American professional golfer whose achievements to date rank him among the most successful golfers of all time. Currently the World No. 1, he was the highest-paid professional athlete in 2007, having earned an estimated $122 million from winnings and endorsements - a cool amount.

About a year ago, I picked up the game of bent sticks. Golf is a very tough game. Of course, I bet all other sportsmen will lay claim that their choice sport is the toughest of them all. For one, marathon runners will point to their well-developed leg muscles. Table tennis players will assert that the trajectory of the ping pong balls could even teach expert geometer Euclid a lesson or two about geometry. But with golf, a typical game of 18 holes will take around 5 - 6 hours - very, very much longer than a game of ping-pong balls. Unlike runners who need no mastery over any instruments, we need supremacy over a range of disparate clubs - so marathon runners, please put your hands down.

Why am I telling you about Tiger and golf? There are three takeaways which we could use in the current economic downturn.

The first is belief drives action. How many a times have you heard of people lamenting that they are too old to learn something. Golf is a difficult sport to start with. In my initial few golf lessons, I could not even hit the ball. My eyes would be fixated on the ball, my body positioned in the golf stance, then I swung and shouted "BALL!!" - That was a precautionary measure so that people nearby could scramble for cover. And I was peering over the fairway, trying to catch a sight of the ball. There it was, still at ground zero. It was so near and yet so far - the ball was so elusive, I could not even hit it. But if you believe that you can do it, you will ultimately be able to do so one day. Just like, now I am able to drive the ball.

So the point is if we can change our belief, we can do wonders. This does not always mean seismic change but just a little tweak in the way we see things. For example, this phrase is "Opportunities nowhere!", now if I were to add a space, it becomes "Opportunities now Here!" [Need visual here].

The second is the exponential power of compounding. There are 18 holes in a golf course. So if you were to bet 10 cent for hole 1, doubling it to 20 cent for hole 2, doubling again to 40 cent for hole 3 and so on. Guess what is the amount of the bet at hole 18. [Show a slide of the increasing amount.] It is an astronomical sum of $13,107.20! So the lesson is we just need to target little but consistent improvement to make a BIG change.

So what about Tiger? All golfers, including myself love Tiger Woods - the way he played golf. With a club in his hand, he would gaze down the fairway. His face was devoid of emotion while his mind was busily calibrating the shot. Then like a skilled technician, he executed that perfect swing. Yes, he may be a prodigy. But he is also known for putting more practice than the most golfers. It is his perseverance that give him the greatness he has today.

In Geoff Colvin's "Talent is Overrated", Colvin purported that greatness is NOT in the genes or some natural ability given by God, but a result of deliberate practice, feedback and time. It takes roughly 10 years to find excellence. I see this in Tiger. He started to learn golf at a young and tender age of two but the older he got, the harder he worked with one idea alive in his head with crystal-clear clarity "Greatness is in no one's hands but his".

Ladies and gentlemen, I have shared with you three things which we can takeaway from golf. 1. Belief drives action "Opportunities Nowhere!" to "Opportunities Now Here!". 2. Compounding Effect. A 10 cent bet at hole 1 ballooning to a whopping $13,107.20 at hole 18. And the most important point here is if you want to be great like Tiger Woods, you will need perservance. There is no other way.

Toastmaster of the Day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Toastmaster Project 7: Research Your Topic

Project 7: Research Your Topic

- Collect information about your topic from numerous sources
- Carefully support your points and opinions with specific facts, examples and illustrations gathered through research

Time: Five to Seven minutes

P7: Fermat’s Last Theorem

No, it can’t be. Fermat’s Last Theorem cannot be proved. Who is Fermat? Pierre de Fermat was a 17th century French jurist who was also an amateur mathematician. Wait did I just say “amateur”? Now, Fermat was a part-time mathematician and definitely not an amateur. If you were to recall your Secondary School level Mathematics, we have statistics, algebra, calculus (dy/dx), integration (not about people coming together but a curve and you want to find the area under the curve) and etc, these are the different branches of Mathematics. Usually in each branch of Mathematics, you have a very well-known mathematician who had done a lot of research and contributed much to the development of Mathematics. It is just like a toastmaster club, where everyone in the club will know the Club President.

Good afternoon Club President, District Officers, fellow toastmasters, friends and guests,

I was at Borders as I looked in disbelief at the tiny little book entitled “Fermat’s Last Theorem” on the nondescript book shelf of Borders. It had been years since I graduated from university with my degree in Mathematics. Like many mathematicians, I believed that Fermat’s Last Theorem will never be proven in our era.

E.T. Bell, the leading historian of mathematics aptly called Fermat the “Prince of Amateur”. And Bell believed Fermat to have achieved more important mathematical results than most “professionally” mathematicians of his days. Fermat was an all-rounded, a prodigy, a genius.

Fermat had a full-time job as an important jurist, but his passion was Mathematics. He would study the works of ancients in every spare moment. In particular, Fermat was smitten by the charm of numbers, 1,2,3 and etc. The study of numbers is a branch of Mathematics known as Number Theory. In them, Fermat found beauty and meaning. He once said “I have found a great number of exceedingly beautiful theorems.” In Mathematics, a theorem is a statement that has been proven to be true. E.g. Pythagorean theorem which states that for a right-angle triangle, the square of the longest side is the sum of the square of the two shorter sides.

A conjecture is a statement which has not been proven. Fermat would jot down what he believed he had proven in the margins of the ancient books that he possessed.

Many of Fermat’s statements have been either proved or disproved by the early 1800s. All except one, and mathematicians called this “Fermat’s Last Theorem”.

In disbelief, I grabbed the little book and hastily paid for it before heading to the nearby coffee joint to savor my find with a fortifying cuppa of coffee. On the cover of the book, it further printed “unlocking the secret of an ancient mathematical problem.”

As I sipped my iced coffee, I was all engrossed in the book and refreshed my memory on what was Fermat’s Last Theorem. It said that you would never find numbers, x, y and z so that x^3 + y^3 = z^3. No matter how hard you tried, you will never ever find such number. And it said that the same was true for x^4 + y^4 = z^4, and for x^5 +y^5 = z^5 and so on. It seemed so simple. And yet, no one had ever found a proof for this for over 300 years.

When I first encountered Fermat’s Last Theorem in my first year of university life, I did not think much about the theorem. How difficult was it to prove it, just run numbers using the computer to find the solution. But, I forgot that though numbers are countable, there are infinitely many so we can never exhaust all numbers.

Now alongside with Fermat – a 17th century mathematician, a new name, a 21st century mathematician has made it to the hall of honor. His name was Professor Andrew Wiles. A determined man, he spent seven long year to prove the theorem. But the accolades belong to others as much, for Wiles had used the work of many current day as well as earlier mathematicians. So the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem was really the achievement of a large number of mathematicians living today.

One question lingered in my mind after I finished reading the book. Did Fermat actually have a proof when he wrote his famous note in the margin? Fermat lived another 28 years after he wrote his theorem on the margin. And he never said anything about it. But I supposed it did not really matter. What I learnt from the book was the collective power of many individuals help to conquer the seemingly impossible. As in the case of the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, the Holy Grail of Mathematics. And I knew that we can all be Wiles, with hard work and the support from the Toastmaster Club, we can also conquer our fear of public speaking.

Toastmaster of the day.