Saturday, April 25, 2009

Peace of Mind in Uncertain Times

The cauldron over unscrupulous bankers who preyed on the gullibility of our seniors to buy the high-risk DBS high notes linked to Lehman Brothers is still resonating in my head. How can I forget especially when the world continues to reel from the effects of the financial meltdown since Sep 08?

It was in this backdrop that I recently attended a talk which was highly geared towards gaining customers to go into land investment in other countries - such as USA, Canada. The speaker informed that this exotic investment instrument used to be the play thing of the rich, multi-millionaries whose wealth has now been whittled down by the global financial meltdown.

But I am not convinced. In this austere times, I am wary, very wary to leave my hard-earned money to some self-acclaimed "expertise". And frankly speaking, the short less than one hour session did little justice to his experience. The speaker made some predictions which were not in my language. And hey, did we not read that the current downturn was caused by financial derviatives shrouded under layers and layers of secrey, I would need this guy to give me a better education on how this investment work. But his continued repeat of his achievements were a little put-off to me. It reminded me of Bernie Madoff - "Hey, I am a busy man. There are scores of people waiting to see me."

I have read countless self-help financial books that I need to do my homework. Until now, I have yet to find little pockets of time to do so and hence have been engaging the help of financial planners. As my friends recently told me, this does not make any sense, we are paying someone to lose money.

Until I make time to educate myself, I will have to be content with the zero interest rate given out by banks....

Friday, April 24, 2009

There is no coincidence, only inevitiablity

This is the haiku about writing by a fellow toastmaster which I have the privilege to read about.

The pain of writing,
Like a mother in labour,
Proud delivery.

How apt! Writing can be quite pain. But if we persevere and go through the excruciating pain, we can cuddle our beautiful baby - our writing, in our arms.

Recently, I came across a phrase in a story, "there is no coincidence in this world, only inevitability." One of the reasons of why I took up Mathematics in varsity was my poor grade for English and I wanted to steer as far away from it as possible.

Yet look at me today, I love to write ... not in symbols but English! If not for my early struggles with the subject, I will not have known so many wonderful people to help me along the way - not just in my language but also in the way I should lead my life.

These are not coincidences, they are the inevitabilities that life has laid out for me. With each hurdle that I have crossed, I am more confident of myself. And yes, I firmly believe that human potential is limitless.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Toastmaster Project 9: Persuade with Power

- Persuade listeners to adopt your viewpoint or ideas or to take some action
- Appeal to the audience's interests
- Use logic and emotion to support your position
- Avoid using notes

Time: 5 - 7 minutes

P 9: Follow your heart

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

One day, the heart and the head had an argument over who was mightier. The head said "I could help you weigh the pros and cons and you will be able to make the best decision." The heart replied "If I were to stop working, you would too."

Many a time, we are at a dilemma whether should appeal to our emotions or our intellectual knowledge when making a choice. Four years ago, I was faced with the decision of putting my career on hold and uprooting my entire family to the United States. If I were to follow my head, I would have stayed in Singapore. But it was the heart that I followed, the love for my family brought me to experience a very different life and unleash the giant within me.

Before my stay in the States, I used to have a domestic helper. Even then, I always felt inadequate. Today, I am a full-time working mother with no maid and I cook dinner everyday for my family. Even though it is not very tasty, it is definitely a much healthier choice. I am glad that I followed my heart.

There is no shortage of examples of how ordinary men and women can perform extraordinary feat. We have Mother Theresa who for 45 years, ministered to the poor, sick, orphan and dying. Her passion is to care. Cliff Young – who in 1983 beat world-class athletes and broke the record for the 875 km Sydney Melbourne ultra marathon, even though, he was then a 61-year old farmer. Professor Andrew Wiles - who solved the 300-year old Mathematics problem known as Fermat’s Last Theorem. All this is only possible with passion.

Moving home, let me share with the story of David Lim, a professional mountain climber. While working in a law firm in London, David fell in love with mountain climbing. His heart was in the mountains when he returned to Singapore in a newspaper job. He dreamt to scale Mount Everest - with a summit of 8,848 metre - a vast difference from Singapore's highest point at Bukit Timah - a wooded hillock of only 164 metre above sea level.

He followed his heart and made his head work for his dream. For five long years from 1994 to 1998, he planned painstakingly for the eventual Mount Everest climb. Success he found in 1998 which was only after a series of nail-biting setbacks and mishaps.

But life dealt a hard blow on him shortly. He was inflicted with the rare and mysterious nerve disorder, "Gullain-Barre" Syndrome. His body literally wasted away as the disorder shut down all his limbs and respiratory system. He was paralysed for 6 months and had to re-learn simple tasks such as writing, dressing and walking.

The syndrome had left an indelible mark on him. He now walks and climbs with a limp. But his love for mountain climbing spurs him on. Today, he is a renowned mountain climber and a much sought after motivational speaker.

I heard him speak a few months back and I am really glad he has branched out into public speaking. For otherwise, I would not have known such a great man. I am inspired by his tenacity to stage a comeback in mountain climbing despite the permanent disability that the syndrome has left behind. Mountain climbing is a strenuous sport even for the well-bodied let alone the physically-challenged. For David, what goads him is his love, his passion for the sport. This is what David once wrote on what drives mountain climbers to scale greater heights. "It is the unknown in our hearts that drives us to the next peak. It is the need to know what our limits are."

Ladies and gentlemen, I will like to ask you why do you join the Toastmasters' Club? Many will say they want to improve their public speaking skills. But that is not the underlying reason. To use a metaphor, that is only the rocket. Passion is the fuel that propels the rocket. For me, my fuel is my love for my children. I want to be a better story teller and to be a good role model to them.

Passion is like a light that will guide us out of darkness. This is especially important with the state of the current world economy. When you follow your passion, one door will lead to another and you will never know where life will take you to. Just like David, who would have thought that someone in the city-state Singapore could eke out a living from mountain climbing. What could have given David the strength to defy all odds to climb again? It is passion.

I will urge you to look into your heart and ask yourself what you really enjoy doing. For when you follow your passion, you will be able to give your best. And you will not need to work a single day in your life.

Life is fragile, life is unpredictable. That makes it even more important for us to follow our heart, to live life to the fullest.

Toastmaster of the Evening.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Delightfully Good Friday

There are many ways to learn. I have read in a book on Sun Tze Art of War that the 5 "I"s of Japan's phenominal rise in the world stage included:
1. I - Imitate
2. I - Improvise
3. I - Improve
4. I - Innovate
5. I - Invent

So before we become proficient in anything, we have to imitate. This is somewhat like a "leapfrog" technique as one can avoid the pitfalls of his predecessors. Hence, I am trying out to write from the eyes of my elder son, to interest him to pick up a pen and well, imitate. In the process, he could improve on the writing and develop his own writing style in time to come.

A Delightfully Good Friday

There was no school on Friday, 10 April. It was good as the name suggested "Good Friday", which was a public holiday. So it was not just no school for me but also no work for daddy and mommy.

Just as all work and no fun made Jack a dull boy, good fun on Good Friday brought sparks to my otherwise monotonous day. I lived my dream on Friday without the loud, commanding voice of my daddy to wake up before the break of dawn. It was only close to 8 am when I opened my eyes with a smile in my face after a satisfying long sleep. My brother, Ryan was awakened also. After our morning routine, we played our toys for two terrific hours before our rumbling stomachs groaned for food.

We headed to Marina Square to indulge in the delights of New Zealand right here in Singapore. Jack's Place was promoting their special main courses centered around New Zealand cuisine. My parents ordered the Kiwi Feast Combo while my brother and I settled for the kids' meal. While waiting for our food, we had fun reading the promotional flyer on the table. My eyes widened as I read that New Zealand's population was about 4.2 mil, slightly smaller than 4.8 mil in Singapore. But its land area was about 270,000 square kilometers. That was close to a whopping 40 times bigger than Singapore's land area at 710 square kilometers. Another fascinating fact, New Zealand has more sheeps - 70 mil, than people!

After loading up with sustenance, it was time for some action. We proceeded to fourth level at Suntec City where we had some open space to ourselves complete with air-conditioning. Here, we fold our paper aeroplanes and had a flying aeroplane competition. After some flying fun, we came up gliding seaplane contest. This was how the game was to be played. Our paper aeroplanes now took on the role of seaplanes and each was placed on the starting line. Each player then sprinted from behind before giving a kick to the seaplane which would then glide on the floor. The seaplane which travelled the farthest would be the winner. Everyone was a winner as we had so much fun and laughter.

When perspiration ran down our heads and fatigue crept in, it was time to go home. I loved Good Friday for the sheer good old fun of running around and playing with my family.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Yesterday, I learnt a secret to success - habituation. As easily evidenced, the root word is "habit".

In psychology, habituation is the psychological process in humans and animals in which there is a decrease in behavioral response to a stimulus after repeated exposure to that stimulus over a duration of time.

Many people want to be successful, they wish to be successful, they hope to be successful. But more often than not, they did not succeed. The reason is very simple - they gave up in the process of trying. And they become convinced that they are never meant to be those super beings.

One of the main reasons of the cause is that they probably have not tried hard enough. When I was young, Mathematics seemed to be the impossible. I had my fair share of struggle with the subject but managed to gain supremacy of the subject in my upper primary. I progressed further to graduate with an Honours Degree in the subject.

Next is English. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself to eke out a career having much ado with English - I am an analyst and I write analysis paper/report, lest having a blog.

Last but not least is my public speaking skills. Though not as polished and elegant as many professional speakers, I have come a long way compared to my former self just a year ago. Much of the improvements could be attributed to me joining a toastmaster club.

In all these challenges, I manage to emerge victorious in my own right as I dutifully force myself to practise. The initial stage is the most tortuous but as I improve, things become easier and enjoyable. I suppose that is the power of habituation.

Now I realise that there is no secret to success. As Thomas Edison once said genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. We can all be genius if we are prepared to sweat it out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

100th Chapter Meeting

Time flew. My club has recently held its 100th chapter meeting! And me? I delivered my P7 Research Your Topic. Just three more to go before I am conferred "Competent Communicator" under the Toastmaster's ambit. At the meeting, I have made some mistakes by trying too hard to recall from memory. No thanks to the insufficient practice. This was one learning point.

Besides learning from my own mistake, I have also learnt a lot from my fellow toastmasters, especially from a visiting toastmaster, ACG/CL Kam Choo Choo. Choo Choo was our language evaluator for the night. I have tried very hard to capture what she has commented (on the speeches made by toastmasters from my club and other visiting toastmasters) as follows:

- It is to reproach...
- He was smitten by the charm of ...
- ... transcended all...
- ... refreshed my memory
- ... atmosphere of ...
- ... elicit ....
- ... logical tells, emotion sells
- ... success will not elude you...
- Some rhythm in English language - wishy-washy, topsy-turvy, knick-knack
- Some root words in English - bio___ (life), sym__ (similar), a___ (opposite)
- Have fun learning English - to remember how to spell/pronounce words like gargantuan (note the similarity to "orangutan"), ameliorate ("emily")

She has also shared with us the website for us to check on words which we are not sure with pronunciation thrown in. All these for free. Another tip - get a little notebook to jot down difficult words and find time - eg. when waiting for the bus/MRT to read.

Life is wonderful because wonderful people like her exist. They are so generous to share their knowledge - for free. I am very lucky to encounter them and I think subconsciously I am also trying in my own way to be nice. Guess that is why I earnt the nickname "kind soul". For those who are inspired, read her blog

I also like her favorite quote "Life is not about falling down; it's about getting up again" by Vince Lombardi. Now, it's time for me to spend more time and effort to focus on my next project.