Talent Blindness

We in neOOne have a yearly ritual that we religiously do way before we even started the company formally. This has been our standard practice as a company since 2010. The yearly event is called Plan The Year. We started with just the two of us (the founders) and it grew to include our associates and now it is a public and in-house program benefitting more than 200 entrepreneurs yearly. Yes, the number are small yet we are truly proud of this program because it was home-grown with our very own experience embedded into the design. It has benefitted us tremendously and has been responsible for our average yearly growth of 40%.

One of the exercises we do in the session is a reflection exercise on free-style journaling about our year which leads to a visual representation using a graph line timeline called The Life Graph. This graph allows us to see patterns and acknowledge the ups and downs of events in the year and how it has effected us emotionally. Through crafting this graph, wisdom of the year comes up.

Reflecting 2017 using this method, one of my biggest learning for the year came up. I must admit, this could be the biggest lesson for me over the past 5 years. That was how profound it is.

The learning has to do with what I call Talent Blindness. It came about from the departure of a talented associate whom we have supported and nurtured for many years. Upon drawing wisdom from the incident, I am able to flipped the event from Sad Departure to a Good Riddance because of the positiveness that eventually resulted from the departure.

I realised that my blindness is the result of complacency and comfort. It is true what people say that these two are the worst enemy an entrepreneur can ever have.

Due to his talent and all the effort we put into supporting him all these year, we were nulled into putting all our expectation onto him. We started to believe that he is the answer to our prayer and we inadvertently stopped noticing new talents. We became oblivious of the abundance of talent in our very own eco-system. Complacency set it. We operated as if all has been settled. The search has ended. We put all our eggs into one basket. He becomes indispensable to our organization.

This situation worsens because we started to be comfortable with the situation. How can we not be when no energy is exerted, no decision or deliberation need to be made; a sense of settlement cropped in. We look no more; we suddenly developed Talent Blindness.

When the unexpected departure happen, frustration and fear emerged. We panicked. We operated from scarcity because we felt a sense of loss. We didn’t realise of what our eco-system has to offer. This initial reaction is understandable considering the mindset we have and the blindness we are in.

As the dust settled and the real demands of work kicks in, we capitalist on our uncomfortable situation and our unwavering promise to our clients and started being in action to make things work. We begin to gain clarity from our blindness and look at our nearest circle of associates. We went back to having faith in our associates, take risk on them and develop what’s needed.

Suddenly, possibilities emerged. New talents discovered and shining. What’s Broken is mended, What’s lost is replaced. We are no more blind to talents around us.

A new strategy we will be adopting from now on is to continuously populate the talent pool; hatch new talents, nurture up-coming talent and empower mature talents.

As I stand seeing with clarity, I am reminded to always be uncomfortable and always be on the look out for talents.

Of judgement, judging and being judged – a lesson from an art historian.

Many aeons ago at the start of my working life, I was thrust into quite an awkward position. I entered a so-called ‘old’ man industry; publishing. My contemporaries were my dad’s age and are his peers. Many an event, awkwardness is the name of the game when there were me and my dad attended the same event. As peers, I would call his friends by name while as a friend of my dad, I should attach a prefix such as “uncle” or “auntie” before their name. There was never a perfect formula I can apply when it comes to this. Therefore, I decided to call his friends that I knew when I was growing up and are my peers by uncle or auntie; even in formal settings while the rest by their name.

One such luminary that I call uncle every time and everywhere we met was the late Redza Piyadasa. He was an artist, a collector, a gallery owner, a writer, an art critic, a steadfast friend and an art historian. He is a very thoughtful man with very strong opinions on many things. It is always interesting to have conversations with him. I have always considered our chats to be a privilege. Many an afternoon went by just sitting in his living room chatting away from one topic to another for he has many interests. Even though he was much, much older than me plus my dad’s friend, he has always had time for me and treated me as a friend. For that, I am truly appreciative, even to this day.

On one such afternoon chat, a gem of a life lesson was imparted to me. I don’t think he ever knew how significant that chat was. He died in hospital and I never managed to say goodbye for the day I visited him was also the day he passed away quietly with my dad beside him reading the Yassin to him. It was the first time that I truly remembered my dad shedding tears.

Uncle Piya (as I call him) said this to me, “Jo, in life we are always defining, be it things, relationships, situation and even people. In the act of defining say, someone, we inadvertently define our self. The very act of defining others defines us.” I think this came up as we were discussing art criticism or something similar, in the context of opinions, point-of-view etc.

That statement has stuck with me all these years. I find it intriguing yet I am unable to truly appreciate it because I have not truly delved into it. Only when I started my personal development journey did I the statement unravelled itself.

As an art critic, Uncle Piya is known for his sharp opinion backed by numerous references and examples. He loves doing it and he knows very well the perils of this love of his. By nature, opinions are judgements made based on certain criteria and knowledge. This knowledge and criteria is not universally available or agreed upon thus the opinion based on them suffers the same fate. Therefore, in every opinion, there will be detractors. Saying all that, does that mean these opinions matter not? Of course, they matter because the very nature that the criteria and knowledge they are base upon are not universal, that means they offer a different perspective. Therefore, judgements (this includes opinions, point-of-view, thoughts etc – which are versions of judgements) are a useful tool if used with the best of intentions (again a judgement. Lol). Just as an art critic provides perspective, so does all of our judgements and opinions about anything. Therefore, if it is taken in that context, judgements are in fact quite useful. Neutral is the only context in which it will be useful.

Trouble ensues when we impose our judgement on others. We make our judgement the only right one; to make other views wrong. And those that we impose this on retaliates by doing exactly what we did. When this happens, we in return intensifies our effort; not willing to be judged as we have done other. This creates another spiral, so on and so forth till something gives. Wars have started because of this.

Therefore, as we judge or give our opinion to others, we better have the maturity to know and accept that we in return will be judged because our action judging other have given permission for others to judge us.

In judging and being judged, we need maturity for it to not have negative consequences.

In addition, it only takes one of the parties concern to make any situation better. Therefore, when someone defines or judge us and we don’t like it, we can always make the situation better by not articulating our judgement of him. Rest assured our so-called inaction is not a futile resignation because as Uncle Piya says, the other person has already redefined himself by his action. The job is done.

Change and Culling are two different things – Confusion in times of great upheaval

In the wake of PH winning the election and forming the Government, there is a rush for change to be done because it is way overdue. Of course, there is a case to be made for why changes need to be done asap, especially with a 100 days promise hanging like the Sword of Damocles. This is what the Rakyat want and the mandate was given because of the promise that change will happen. Therefore, it is understandable the mood that has caught the nation is one of cleaning up and repairing.

However, I also notice a very worrying trend. People are becoming overzealous with the cleaning and repairing spirit that culling is becoming the mode of the day. By definition, culling is the reduction of a population by selective slaughter. It is not by nature or by the rule of law but by selection. It begs then the answer to the question ”Selection by whom?” The simple answer is of course by the powerful and in this climate of ours, it is the Rakyat.

The danger now is that the culling is masked by the notion of cleaning and repairing when in actual fact it is not. We now hear of people ‘exposing’ this and that and it has begun to be the trend of the day. And more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. In this euphoria, we need to be extra wary of the intention of the expose. Some could be true but some might not. Just because an expose is done at the time of this huge call for change doesn’t mean it is the truth. We must be extra cautious that right now, in this climate of eagerness for cleaning and repairing, rumours can become reality, fable can become facts, gossips can become gospel and accusations can become accuracy.

Case in point is the recent HRDF townhall where claims upon claims were made about HRDF unfair and questionable practices as well as certain irregularities. I for one am privy to the personality of a few of those that have been accused as well as the accusers. Yes, we don’t really know everything about anyone yet once we know someone for some length of time, we do have a resemblance of their principles and values. If there is indeed a case to be made, let the rule of law takes its course. In saying this, the accuser should also follow the rule of law and use the proper channels and procedure. An accusation made in a public forum in the climate of cleaning and repairing that we are in can be more damaging than previous times just as Steve Young says  “Perception is the reality. If you are perceived to be something, you might as well be it because that’s the truth in people’s minds.” Therefore, in this case, I am also curious to investigate what is the motive of the accusers such that the claims are made in a public forum with such fervour. Could there be another story that is hidden and yet to be told? There are always two sides to a story, at least.

I take stock of what Nietzsche said about interpretation, “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” Calm and level-headedness are needed at this time of great change.

Therefore, let us take a cautionary approach to cleaning and repairing so that in our overzealousness we do not become the very essence of what causes us to need to clean and repair in the first place because of the power we have and have forgotten the truth that we seek.

In The Case of Making A Choice

Imagine this scenario. In front of you, there are two items A and B. You are told to make a choice. How many choices are there in front of you?

The most common immediate response I’ve heard all these years are two, A or B. Upon some thoughts, most will come back with three; A or B or both. This is followed immediately by four choices; A or B or both or neither.

What is interesting is not the fact that the choices increase over time. What is interesting is the immediate response. What can we learn from this? Well, for one, this is an indication how our mind is lazy. It usually only chooses the obvious because it is the safest of choices; there is no risk in the obvious, the common, the predictable and the mundane. The mind doesn’t have to pause and think. That is way too time-consuming and might produce an uncommon situation that might put us in danger. This goes against what our mind is designed to do; to keep us safe. The other choices are not part of the protocol the mind is built with. This is also the protocol that has made us believe we are not creative (outside the norm), need to conform and follow the true and tested.

The other interesting perspective about choice is the fact that we choose based on two very distinct protocol.

The first protocol is what I call Situational Focus. This protocol makes us choose based on what I don’t want to happen to me or what will I lose if I choose. This is the most common protocol we use because it evaluates the risk and increases the safety quotient. This protocol is the most obvious, ‘predicts’ risk to increase safety & security and doesn’t expose the human to the unknown. The mind is unwilling to pay the unknown prices that might come. It is for all this that the mind loves it and makes it the default protocol.  The downside to this protocol is that the choices made have an aftertaste of compromising or making do. It is safe and generates rather low energy. Often, this protocol produces a victim mindset (victim point-of-view) because the human feels it is not the choice that he or she really wants but rather a compromise.

The second protocol is not as common as the first protocol and I call this Future Focus. This protocol makes us choose based on what you desire or what you can gain rather than what you might lose. It is indeed an opposite protocol from the first one. It allows the human to take a risk and to be responsible for overcoming unseen challenges that might come. This protocol has taken into consideration that risk will be there and will be overcome. The protocol generates high energy and a lot of uncertainty, therefore, it also generates fear and excitement too; excited of the what the unknown will throw in. Within this protocol, the human has decided to take responsibility.

The first protocol looks at the external factors while the second protocol looks at the internal factors. These two factors are also choices the mind makes.

There is also the question of choice (pilihan) and choosing (memilih) – making a choice.

The question is do we choose first than be a victim or because we are already a victim that is why we choose what will emphasize our victim-ness.

People become a victim of the challenges they face.

In regards to regret, we only regret something based on what we know now and not what we know then. This is because, if I know the now back then, I would choose differently.