Ancient Wisdom & Beauty in the Malay Peribahasa

I have always been fascinated by Malay peribahasa or proverbs. They are even more fascinating to me than pantun which is darn right cool and one of it’s kind prose in the world.

Practically all is cryptic yet there are ones that are more than others. These really cryptic ones are the ones I love most. These one are the ones that on the surface is saying something uncomprehensible yet it is actually referring to a certain context in a totally different world than what was being said. For example, Sudah Gaharu Cendana Pula. The crytic-ness of it is amazing. We need to understand what is Gaharu and what is Cendana. That is not enough. We also need to know what are the similarities between this two wood. Once we know that we then need to figure what these two type of wood is being pitted together. It is almost like a Dan Brown short story.

Imagine this being so confusing to those that are not familiar with these type of saying. I read somewhere once that the English when they first encountered these peribahasa being used in a conversation was perplex and astounded to the point that they thought the people were communicating in some form of a code which if you think about it is actually some what true. Yet, it is a code that can be deciphered by every Malay at that time which means it is not a secret.

Two things that fascinated me as I dwell into this. There is so much wisdom in coming out and using it. Once, you need to be an astute observer of all things. Two you have to be darn good at sythesizing the context of what you see with that of the real meaning you are trying to convey. These are not easy tasks. That is why for me peribahasa is ancient wisdoms handed down through generations.

And the beauty of why it exist makes it even more fascinating to me. It is used to not only teach moral lessons but is also used to be gentle in communicating feedback, advice and point of views. As we know, the Malays are famous in being gentle in their comments and criticism. We are not very good at being direct therefore, peribahasa is a perfect tool.

So, next time you hear a peribahass, stop and admire the words, the way it is structured and imagine how all that concept and context came about. Also remember what you are hearing is oral ancient wisdom being passed down in the most beautiful of ways.

Desire to Change, What Gets in the Way and How to Overcome it

Human beings don’t resist change, they resist being changed!

In the course of our life, as human beings, we always strive to be a better version of ourself. Abraham Maslow saw this as a serious enough need for human kind that he puts it into his theory of human needs. As you analyse further his hierarchy of needs, you will begin to see this innate need to better ourself, to be a better version of self is implied in the lower needs and spelled out clearly in the higher needs.

Embedded is our

  • desire to love,
  • be loved,
  • possess self esteem,
  • understanding,
  • knowledge, and
  • beauty

is our need to be more than who we are. To go beyond the ordinary of what we call self. To be transformed, ultimately to be a better version of ourself.

While at the higher part of the pyramid, actualisation and transcendence spells clearly our need to improve and change.

If this is so, wouldn’t we as human beings, will continuously strive and not let anything get in our way of change?

Yet reality says otherwise. In fact we resist change, we oppose it, we create imaginary obstacles, we even enrol others not to change. All these despite our innate longing for change.

Why is this so? Well, human being are a complex creature. For every forward movement system there is one that operates alongside it that holds you back; like a counter-balance. We actually have a lot of counter balance systems existing in our psych. The counter-balance system to a forward moving one is called the comfort & safety system.

Our desire to change must move us ultimately into a phase that is safe and comfortable. This is the default mode of our psych. This system is the overlord system. It sometimes defies logic and rational. It is so powerful that it overrides all other systems. It is an efficient system honed by years of practice from when we were born (the need to keep babies coddled) to adulthood. Besides being efficient it is not always effective. The reason for this comes from the fact that this system is lazy. It goes into auto mode to make things easy. It uses generalisation to do just this. It indiscriminate between the concrete and the abstract; the physical and non-physical world.

It seems like a tussle of systems yet majority of the time it is a one sided fight with the comfort and safety system winning.

So, naturally the question to ask is how do we win in this tussle? There are many answers to this question; some are harsh while some are subtle. Not one is better than the other; only different. Personally, I prefer the subtle approach because I believe the subtle way is evolution while the harsh way is a revolution; one lasts the other might last, one is gradual while the other is brutal, one is responsive while the other is reactive, one comes from the context of thriving while the other comes from the context of surviving, one is of confidence while the other is of desperation.

Well, the secret for the subtle way can be found in strongest trait of the system. It is true that in our strength lies our weakness. Remember that it generalises and seeks comfort and safety? Well, the secret is to play into that.

Start off with something non-threatening, small not big and a little bit outside yet besides the edge of our comfort. I call this place The experimentation space. This space is a space that the system will tolerate. The other things about the system is that it operates on proof. So make sure while you are in the experimentation space you create a result that the system likes. Then keep creating the result a few times (because the systems loves consistency) to entice the system to adopts the experimentation space as a part of the system thus making it no more an experimentation space but a comfy and safe space. You keep creating, easing, consisting and pushing the experimentation space until the desired change happens 😉

The only downside to this subtle way is that is requires a tremendous amount of patience and persistence!

But wait, maybe we should not look at it as a downside but as a bonus! How to do this, that is for another story that deals with another system of ours. 😉

Stay tuned.

Key to designing Personal Mastery Impact into Trainings

Recently, I was in Colombo conducting a Training of Trainer program for 40 odd trainers of UNDP HackaDev Social Innovation Camp; a 5 days intensive nationwide Social Innovation bootcamp. The bootcamp was designed with some elements of personal growth weaved into the technical subjects making it uniquely different that other such camps. This tweak was necessary to add the soul of innovation and entrepreneurship into the participants.

The 40 odd trainers were divided into two batches. In the second batch, I was posed a question on the effectiveness of training especially trainings on personal mastery and growth. Usually, what the trainer noticed was that at the end of such trainings, participants are euphoric and motivated with high-energy. Upon seeing this, we assume they got value and the training is a success. However, once they get back to the real world, the euphoria, motivation and high energy disintegrate and reality kicks-in. Upon seeing this, we now assume the training doesn’t actually work because all that “feel good – look good” factors have all died down.

This is actually a very common thing that happens with such training. The biggest reason is the fact that during the training, the space is safe and conducive for exploration. However, that kind of space diminishes quickly once we are out of the training i.e. real life.

However, if a training is well designed to take this into consideration, the outcome will be different. The impact can be designed. We need to have faith. But what is the secret sauce to designing this? Well, read on. The secret sauce will be revealed below.

To continue, it is important to first touch on the faith i mentioned above. My mentor, once reminded me to have faith because the work we do as personal growth practitioners is like planting time bombs. Some will “explode” fast, some takes time, some requires a specific condition/situation to explode.

I understood this because I truly believe that as human beings, we are a sum of all our experiences. It is in this quotation that lies the design secret to ensure impact for learners.

The key in the design of an impactful personal mastery initiative is EXPERIENCE. The more intense the experience, the bigger the time-bomb is. Experience is the fuse of the time-bombs we plant in our learners. If the element of experience is not designed into the training or workshop, chances is that we will have the same result as the training the trainer mentioned earlier in the article. This usually happens when the training is done impacting only the cognitive domain and not the affective domain of learning.

Once the affective domain is impacted, a human being can’t undo it. It becomes a part of them. Once an experience is embedded into a human being, it will affect their worldview and this is where the impact will start. Therefore, experience is the secret sauce to an impactful personal mastery trainings.

However, the appreciation of the experience might not be immediate. This is what we refer to as being time-bombs. For some, the appreciation comes almost instantly while other takes time and certain condition. Which ever way it is, the impact will happen. Have faith.

Note: Since as human beings we are a sum of all our experiences, we are all a new being every single moment. Our experience colours our worldview-glasses. We see the world through these glasses. So as the glasses tint differently, so do the world we see. The same world now looks different. For example, in the ‘same’ learning event we will see different things due to our ‘new’ glasses. (The tinted worldview are the glasses we wear to see the world around us)

The Opposite of a Victim

What is the opposite of a Victim being?

Since I started my journey in personal growth, one of the most intriguing concepts I have come across is the state of being called “Victim Mindset”; its characteristics, its damaging consequences and how to overcome it. When I first encountered it exactly 20 years ago, it made a significant impact in my life, so much so that it helped me get through the darkest period of my life. It was the one single personal growth ‘tool’ that I have utilised the most.

However much I am in love with this tool, there has always been an aspect of it that I have not been able to settle until now and that is “What do you call someone who has an opposite mindset of a victim?”

Throughout my journey in supporting others to appreciate and apply this wonderful valuable concept, I have come across and used various terms to describe the opposite state of a victim. Words such as responsible, empowered and driven. I have also encountered other words use to describe the opposite that I don’t fully embrace for specific reasons such as creative, active and forward.

Still, I feel all these words doesn’t truly embodies the true context of the opposite state of a victim. I struggled to find one, until recently. In this article, I offer you the word and why I feel it fits the context.

One of the biggest characteristic and consequence of a victim mindset, which is also my pet peeve, is the fact that a victim relinquish the power to determine his fate. This power is given to others, circumstances or even a set of conditions coming together. He doesn’t own his destiny anymore. He is like a boat in a middle of storm without a rudder, engine or sail. He is in a waiting mode. It reminds me of the Waiting Place in Dr. Seuss’s book “Oh, the places you’ll go”. A victim has no drive, no forward movement, passive, always complaining and doing nothing.

In this context, I am proposing that the opposite of a Victim Mindset is the Owner Mindset. Inherent in ownership is commitment and responsibility. This two drives action and moves us forward. In this mindset, we own up to what we have contributed into the game and not come from blame. An owner is fully aware of what he has done and what he wants and most importantly OWN it fully.

I also feel the word OWNER provides me with a positive mood. Somehow I find myself perk up, proud when I say the word to myself. Don’t you?

The Power of Redha and Syukur from a Human Potential Perspective

Redha & Syukur – Two Orbiting Values

As I grow older, I notice during my birthdays, I tend to be more reflective and melancholy. I use to remember (see I told you… reflective) in my younger years, the day bring along with it fun and frolic; a celebration of what might be, forward looking, a day to celebrate what is possible, one of the future.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not reminiscing of what is lost. I find both type of celebration exciting in the same way but from a different context. What do I mean? Let me explain.

Even though in, let’s call it, the younger celebration there seem to be an emphasis on the future it doesn’t mean in, let’s call it, the older celebration there is no future element. There is. That is what makes both exciting. The difference is that in the younger celebration there is very little or none at all elements of reflection. This could be due to the ‘invincibility of youthfulness’. Therefore, what is exciting about the future state is that it is unbridled, unbounded, carefree, air-like. On the other hand, in the older celebration, the future element is founded on reflection which makes it more grounded, realistic and achievable, earth-like. There is a sense of certainty. That is why I feel we accomplished more of what we set out to do in our older self than in our younger self. Both exciting from different context.

The other thing about the trajectory of celebration over time is that as the fun & frolic reduces over the years, joy & reverence increases. I believe this is due to the factor of reflection that also increases during these trajectory.

Why joy and reverence springs out of our reflection?

I contribute to two concept called Redha & Syukur. This two words or concept is what I call an orbiting value; one exist because of the other and both revolves around each other; can’t be separated. Tearing apart one will also tear apart the other.

So what is Redha and why is it one of the most powerful concept in Personal Growth?

First let is distinguish what it is not before we see what it is.

The word Redha is not the same as Pasrah. Pasrah is surrender to what has and might happen to me. It is a mindset. It is has a passive taste to it. It also has a static feel because it anchors to the past. It is a default mood. This mindset is powerful on its own because it is a pre-requisite to acceptance. How can I accept something if I do not surrender to whatever is happening? Yet, I find this is not enough for it is missing the element of action. This is where Rehda comes in.

Redha to me is a pre-requisite to taking action. In it there is pasrah with a few other elements in it. Redha is not only surrendering, accepting what has happened but it is has an element of nothingness to it. There is ownership of the event and a perfect contentment of it; means a state of happiness and satisfaction even. This is where Syukur comes in. That is why it is one and the same; an orbiting twin.

In Redha there is no attachment to the event anymore. There is no thread to the past or the event anymore; there is no energy there. All this comes from you wanting something different in the future. It is here that the essence of action is in Redha.

As I truly reflect my life during this older celebration, I find myself swimming in a vortex of Redha and Syukur of what I had and have, what I was and am and what the lies in my future; excitement of a different kind.

Alhamdullilah for my 52nd birthday on the 5th of Feb 2020.

Tweaks of Opportunities

Open or closed is what makes all the difference.

We have all heard and read the quote that says, “When opportunity knocks, open the door.” But wait. Why the need to open the door? Why not just let the door be open? Maybe what it should say is “Always open the door so that opportunity walks in”.

I feel the former statement is one of responsiveness while the later is one of pro-activeness. Both are good but one is better than the other. This little tweak actually is critical in creating a new reality.

A slight tweak in how we see things makes a lot of difference in what happens to us. Just like adjusting the dial on the radio. At one frequency the voice is muddled but with a slight adjustment of even 0.1, the clarity of the voice is so much more; multifold, exponential even. So how can we today tweak our thoughts, POV, mood, language, story or even our body such that our result is multifold?

Let’s take for example the quote “When opportunity knocks, open the door.” The vision of this quote sees someone in a room waiting for something to happen. He might be doing something in the room to occupy his time while waiting for opportunity to knock so that he can open the door for opportunity. He is not passive. He is active; doing other things while waiting. We can even say he is actively waiting; get it actively waiting. At the same time, opportunity is out there wandering around trying to decide which door to knock because she doesn’t know who is in the rooms, what condition is the room in etc. She is fully aware that she need to do the extra effort of knocking, entering, scanning and deciding. Opportunity also wonders how many door she needs to knock before she can find someone worthy of her. Opportunity must be wondering if there is an easier or more effective way to do her job. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with this scene. The question is would we want to be in this scene or is there something we can do to make this scene more desirable?

Well, it so happens that what it needs is just a little tweak.

The tweak is to just open the door. There is no need for opportunity to knock, wait for the door to open, come in, scan the room and the person in the room and then decide. Now all she needs is to look inside, scan and decide. If she finds a worthy receiver, she will just need to now tap the person in the room. As the person in the room, I now just need to go about my business and be ready for the tap on the shoulder by opportunity. Isn’t this a better scene? Well, this scene is called “Always open the door so that opportunity walks in”.

Maybe this musing of mine will be be morsels of thoughts for you this weekend; what does it take to be able to keep the door open, the room and me ready to receive opportunity? My thoughts on that will be in another arty.

The Nature of Feedback and its relevancy

In essence, feedback is just information. This is the first nature of feedback. There is no such thing as good or bad feedback. It is just information about you at a particular point in time. Sometimes it takes the form of a result you achieved or someone’s point of view of you.

The second nature of feedback is that it represent just a slice of time. Therefore, it doesn’t define who you are. It can contribute to who you are but it doesn’t define you. Therefore, we shouldn’t be slighted by it. Most people that consider feedback as a personal attack or criticism, sadly forgot about the above fact. Now that you know, it is a choice by you to be hurt by it or not.

Once we can have the mindset of feedback is just information about you at a particular moment in time, we can now proceed to ‘listen’ to our feedback intently. We will consider all feedback. This doesn’t mean we have to take or accept all of it.

We still have a choice to choose which ones do we act on and which ones to put aside.

Now, in choosing which to act on and which to put aside, we once again can’t go back to what I like and what I don’t as a criteria. If the feedback hurts me or bathe me in a negative light, I shall put aside. If the feedback speaks well of me and I enjoy it, I shall pick it up. This is where we once again fall into the trap of good and bad feedback; negative and positive.

Again, there is no such thing as good or bad if we truly believe feedback is just information. If we truly believe feedback is just information, that means all feedbacks need to be considered.

If so, after we take in and consider all the feedback, the question that is still unanswered is “How do I decide which one to act on and which ones to put aside?” The answer lies in the third nature of feedback which is “Not all feedbacks are equal.”

The fidelity of a feedback is determined by two factors and these two components have to be present for the feedback to be considered.

The first factor is whether the feedback is qualified or not. In order for a feedback to be qualified, it must come from a source that holds the same context and distinction as the subject of the feedback. For example, if I am a trainer, the feedback of another trainer about my training is more qualified than if the feedback came from a chef. It is important that the feedback is given in consideration of a particular context.

The second factor is the frequency of the feedback. If I am receiving the same feedback from a few different sources that are qualified, then that particular feedback has more fidelity than others that I am not getting any or less frequency. Therefore, seek as may qualified feedback as you can to increase the fidelity of your feedback.

The gist list of this article:

  1. Feedback is only information about a moment of your life
  2. It doesn’t define who you are
  3. Take in every feedback
  4. Take action on those feedback that is high in fidelity – qualified and frequent.