An ending is truly a beginning

Lessons from a trip to Borobudur as reminders for 2019.

As I end my 2018, a few very powerful lessons presented itself to me as a beginning for 2019. How ironic it is as nostalgia sets in, euphoria comes with it too! That is the nature of duality; just like what I learnt today from a tour guide at Borobudur (by the name of Pak Agus) that the Añjali Mudrā (namaste) hand gesture symbolises two haves coming together – Mon & Sun, Day & Nite, Male & Female – besides the normal sign of respect. This is the first lesson/reminder for me as I embark into my 2019; to embrace the duality of things for both are one. One is not better than the other. One makes the other better.

The second lesson that will influence my 2019 is another lesson that was imparted by the same Pak Agus about the one of Buddha’s Mudras (hand gestures); the Vitarka. It is the hand gesture that evokes the energy of teaching and intellectual discussion or argument. It is made with the palm facing outward at chest level, with the tip of the thumb touching the tip of the index finer. The three fingers denotes the three steps to learning/teaching/understanding – 1st listen, then observe only than speak! How appropriate to what I have decided to do more of in 2019 – facilitating and coaching. So, the principles of coaching is not new at all. They are rooted centuries ago!

The third lesson that will accompany me into 2019 is the three platforms of Borobudor. The first is Karma. At this level, we gather knowledge. Here we learn about the knowledge of life such as good and evil, cause and effect, life and death, happiness and sadness etc. The second is Dharma. At this level, we reflect. This is the reflection stage. Reflecting on life; what we have done and what is being done. With reflection, wisdom is attained. The third and last level if Nirwana or enlightenment. Here is where we are introduced to the concept of Nothing & Everything; we as human being are truly nothing and at the same time we are everything there is! In 2019, I shall continue to seek knowledge and embark on learning journeys, constantly and deliberately practice reflection in my quest for enlightenment. I shall also design these phases into my training design.

The forth lesson that will affect my 2019 is this article itself! By writing and publishing this article, I have completed the last of my 2018 personal goals. It is a personal proof and reminder that new year resolutions to come true contrary to the many cynical POV that new year resolutions are hopeless and a waste of time.

What a day to end 2018… and begin my 2019.

Does practice really make perfect?

Wax-On, Wax-Off from “The Karate Kid”, 1984

I have always had an uneasy relationship with the phrase “Practice Makes Perfect”. On one hand it makes sense while on the other there is something I feel missing in the statement.

I am not alone in this based on the different iteration on this phrase because there is common wisdom that says there is no such thing as perfect and that perfection is so, so arbitrary. This school of though produces modified versions of the phrase such as “Practice makes Good” or “Practice makes Progress”.

Personally, I find the word perfect in the phrase must be read within the context of there is no perfection such that what the phrase now means is that we need to keep on practicing towards perfection even though perfection will never be attained. This fits well into the concept of Mastery where the attained level is never based on the practitioner but is the determined by factors outside of him, especially by his peers. If that is the case, the practitioners concern is never the attainment of perfection but the recognition by his peers. In this scenario, the phrase can be written as “Practice Makes Masters” or “Practice Produces Masters”or “Practice Path to Mastery”

Another modification to the popular phrase that I also enjoy is that there is a second part to the phrase that is seldom mentioned. In this case, the phrase is “Practice makes perfect therefore, be careful what you practice!” This particular one is a favourite of mine because it surfaces awareness of what we are practicing and suddenly we become selective in what we want to practice.

This leads to another favourite addition of mine. This time the phrase is modified to become “Deliberate practice makes masters”. I find this to be the one that encompasses the best of all the concepts. In addition to all the goodness of all the above, it also add onto it an element of reflective learning where the practice is deliberately looked at so that learning and wisdom can be extracted so that the progress towards mastery is more effective.

This chain of thought is an example of that wonderful learning I call spiral learning; where you take a concept and start adding onto it other concept and context so that clarity, wisdom, realisation and understanding is achieved.

Lessons from Monopoly Deal on Investments & Conversions in Life

Lessons from Monopoly Deal

I love playing games, be it board games, card games or online games. They are not just good to past time and create bonding, games are also great way to learn and reflect because of its immersion factor.

In Monopoly Deal, there are 3 places where cards can be played during a turn:

  1. A player can place money cards or action cards (rent, house, hotel, force deal, pass go, etc) face up in their bank.
  2. A player can play property cards face up in front of them in their property section.
  3. A player can play action cards in the middle discard pile.

No.1 and No.2 are basically investments you make while No.3 is action that you can take to realise your investment or increase it.

Money can be put into the bank for later use (as an investment) by using the money card or by converting the action card into money. This is also true in life. We can withdraw what we put in and it doesn’t have to be just money. We can also put in our own life action card as an investment that we can withdraw later. Our life action cards can be help or favour or advice that we give to others. These kind of actions will increase our deposit into our emotional bank account. This kind of investment is usually overlooked because it is intangible. However, many a times, this is the kind of investment that produces the biggest profit in life. These kind of investment produces interests in terms of trust, credibility, closeness, reliability, dependability, love, care and many more powerful connectors.

Another investment you can make is by putting the property card into your property pile to be used later. This is again a straight forward reminder to us all that what we put in will be paid in kind.

However, in Monopoly Deal, any cards you have in your hand can’t be used. It is considered inactive. Just like life, anything you have that is inactive (no energy is put into it) it becomes dormant and is of little use except as a reminder to the fact that you have it and yet are not doing anything with it.

Maybe we should start looking at investment in more than just one way, a lesson learnt from Monopoly Deal.

A mistake is not learning

Mistakes are not learning… yet 🙂

We have heard the old adage of “Mistakes are learning” being banded around especially in trainings and workshops. This adage is what I call a half-truth; it is only true with certain conditions being met first. In fact, this particular adage about mistake is a classic example of a half-truth.

Mistakes can only produce learning or become learning only when it has gone through a few stages.

The crucial first step after a mistake is done is admitting to the mistake. Without admission, the mistake has not being recognised as a mistake; it is just an event that has produced an undesirable result or outcome.

The second step is the reflection phase where we need to relook back what what happened; what actions were taken or not taken, what was said or not said, what was present or missing. This needs to be done in all neutrality. There shouldn’t be any fear or favour. Brutally honesty and openness is needed in this phase.

The third step is the making sense phase where we will need to start connecting the reflection bits to previously held beliefs, past patterns, usual actions, the effectiveness of those actions, how efficient were we etc so that we can derive to a conclusion or wisdom starts to emerge from the reflected bits. This is where the mistake finally becomes a learning.

There is a forth step that will make the mistake an effective learning. Because at this juncture, the learning is just a learning still left in the intellectual domain. Making a decision on the learning and applying the learning is the step that will take the learning to the level of effective learning.

Fallacy of Faith in Achieving a Goal

What kind of faith that is crucial in achieving one’s goal?

Faith is a dangerous thing to have in achieving a goal! I know. It is a brave statement to make because it flies on the face of conventional wisdom that puts faith as an integral part in affirming a goal.

Let me explain myself 🙂

Let’s set the record straight. I personally am a great believer that faith is so, so, important in achieving a goal. Without faith, doubt will creep in (as how doubt usually do) and is like a cancer that will destroy a goal; slowly but surely. Therefore, the faith that is needed in achieving a goal is what I called an ‘Unwavering Faith’. This is only one kind of faith. There are many kind of faith out there. The kind of faith that I am talking about that destroys the path to achieving a goal, which coincidently is even more dangerous than doubt is what I call ‘Blind Faith’!

Blind faith is the kind of faith that occurs when someone puts their faith into something without any evidence. It is unsubstantiated overconfidence that is oblivious of influential factors. This can be dangerous in achieving an goal since it will put the person striving for the goal into a lull; a somewhat daydream-denial state that the goal will be accomplished despite all else. This kind of faith can be induced by the notions that once a goal is set, the universe will conspire to get you there, your RAS will get you there or your will vacuum and attract the goal once it is visualised or affirmed! This will lead to inaction, at worst and at best nonchalant actions; lame or indifferent actions (read: ineffective & doing for the sake of doing). You can also have an ‘Unwavering Blind Faith’ which is even more dangerous since this kind of faith is set in stone; can’t be changed.

Now, the best kind of faith to accompany a goal is what I call ‘Grounded Faith’; a faith that things will work out, that a goal will be and I will do whatever it takes to get it done by taking into considerations the numerous influential factors and handling them along the way. This is the kind of faith that is active and generative as oppose to Blind Faith that is passive and lethargic. It is the kind of certainty that allows you to have energy which is needed to be creative and innovative along the path to achieving the goal. Of course the best form is an ‘Unwavering Grounded Faith’ which constantly seek feedback and iterate what is needed to achieve the desired goal.

In a nutshell, it is not faith that matters in achieving one’s goal but the kind of faith that we have that truly matters.

Sincerity In Setting a Goal

Be sincere about the goal

The time of the year has come again when people with fiery motivation start thinking and planning for new year resolutions and goals. Many a time, we think what would be nice to have or achieve, what I have always wanted, what is my desire for my future etc. We begin to dream of what is possible.

This is a good thing yet at the same time we can get carried away in the euphoria of it and forget one of the most important factor in setting a goal which is sincerity. Sincere in choosing a goal that is not steeped with what I call nicety. Our desire to look good will taint what we want to achieve. We have to be real careful of this nice-to-think goals; goals that sounds sexy to the ears, goals that will make us look good, goals that makes us feel good about ourself.

Instead, we should choose to accomplish goals that truly matters to us and hell care if it looks great or a good one! Choose goals that are truly important to us regardless of how it appears to others; how sexy it is.

There is nothing sexy, topic of conversation, wow, ground breaking about a goal to drinking 8 glasses water a day! Yet, if it is meaningful and is important to you, so be it.

Many a times I notice the goals that I declared and I didn’t achieve are those look-hear good ones.

So this coming 2019, I vow to be aware if the goal I choose is because it is sexy to come up with it or is it truly what I want. I hope you do the same too.

The importance of a goal set is always determined by the one going for the goal, never those standing and watching it being achieved!

4 hours, 2 cups of coffee and 1 joy – the art of conversation

dedicated to Maverick Foo

(I have always been a sucker for an enriching conversation; a conversation that adds value to the conversationalist involved. I do miss the likes of arwah Piya and Taya (Al-fatihah) whom have indulged me in many an enriching conversation in their life time. I miss them both very much as I am writing this. I enjoy both of them because each of them have their favourite topics to converse in. Piya with the fine art world and Taya with the topic of Malay dilemmas.

At the same time, I am thankful to still have a few individuals that are still ‘bebal’ enough to indulge me in this dying art of a conversation. And one of these people is my dear friend Maverick (yes his name is that and he lives up to it in his endeavours, be it personal or professional).

We deliberately slotted a time yesterday to chill and have a conversation. I am so thankful for it especially at this time of the year when we are entering into a news year which coincidently is also the time I will be entering a new phase of my business. I needed to just unwind and explore new ideas and perspective. It was a conversation that was bound to be enjoyable because we had to adjust a few things on both our ends to meet up. Divinity made it so that it happens 🙂

Usually, we will start by catching up on things like family, travel, “what are you up to”, “How’s Will (his son) doing”, “How’s biz?” those normal stuff people talk about. And without fail, every single time, the conversation will move into ‘deep’ stuff we both are passionate about like entrepreneurship, innovation, marketing (he more than me but I love learning from him) and the training industry. And again without fail, lo and behold it will lead to something wonderful. Besides the usual promised profound learning and A-Has there will always be some practical and innovative ideas/solution, for us to take away and execute (on my end at least).

The 4 hours of conversation over two cups of coffee was not only an enjoyable act of passing time but also a relationship builder, a learning opportunity, a mentoring session, a coaching session, a consultation, an entertainment event and a brainstorming session; all rolled into one. That was how valuable conversations can be.

How I wish people and even organisations schedule time outs for conversation; free flowing conversations, unobstructed conversation, unmoderated conversation… just pure conversation.

At the same time, holding a conversation is an art form. Like any art form, the principles can be taught but the mastery is always in the practice. In an enriching conversation, certain values must exist for it to truly be enriching. There must be openness, desire to contribute, curiosity, mutual respect and admiration for one another. The skills needed are listening and enquiring, among others. Some tips to make it enriching are be solution focus, talk about ideas, hold a vision of what could be as oppose to what it has become, be future focus not past centric, be moving and not be stuck, make suggestions not criticism etc.

Like any art form, the principles can be taught but the mastery is always in the practice.

Maybe, I and Mav could device a workshop on the art of enriching conversation and advocate this art form as means for people and organisation to interact and grow.

p.s See. By just writing this reflection on a conversation produces an idea worth exploring. The power of a conversation goes beyond the mere moment it is held; it ripples through time.

What of validation & recognition?

The true value of a medal lies in how you got it not in the receiving of it.

This piece is inspired by a fellow entrepreneur that I consider to be one of the best networkers I have ever met. She also embodies the notion of continuous learning in a big way. 

Recently, she shared with me her experience on being selected to be one of only 45 women entrepreneurs from all over the world that will be going for a study visit to Washington, USA. The program that she was selected to go is not the 1st program of similar nature she has gone to, yet her satisfaction being selected this time around is extra; more profound, more heightened.

The difference this time around is that she needed to compete with 20K other applicants. The fact that she is going based on merit, is what makes all the difference.

This conversation led us to explore this subject of validation and recognition (V&R). Why is it important and how so important are they. In this conversation we shared experiences that we had around the context of V&R and made some conclusions.

In essence, V&R is actually a feedback of your effort and competency by a group of people that holds the same context as you do. It is perceived to be the method that proofs whether you are good or bad. The natural progression of this perception is that V&R is used to benchmark you against others (a status determinant).  Due to this, V&R has economical and ego-centric benefits. That is why a lot of people are truly hot and bothered by it. 

However important V&R is, the value of the V&R actually depends on how it is achieved, not so much as getting it. For example, the least valuable one (in fact, for some out there, it is of no value at all) is one that is achieved by buying or paying for it. There is even an industry around this. In L&D this is prevalent. There are local organisations that will contact you under the pretext of awarding you an industry award and all you need to do is send them a one pager introduction and ‘sponsor’ (read: buy) a table or two during the award night for you to invite you staff, family and friends . For those that want this but are also conscious of the stigma it carries, they legitimises it by paying for an international award (Yes! There are organisations worldwide doing this too. It is a global trend) as if it is more prestigious and ‘kosher’ compared to local ones. What is even sadder, these trainers, facilitators and coaches (my industry that stands on integrity) advertise and promote their bought V&R.

Next, there are V&R that is the product of recommendations. This is one notch higher because there is somewhat a filtering process. The one recommending will be more discerning who to recommend. However, there is still room for favouritism and bias. Case in point is when people use their invitation to a certain program via recommendation as an authentic foolproof V&R which isn’t so.

Next there is V&R that comes from competitions where aspiring recipients apply and provide proof which will then go through a stringent process of selection, verification, qualification and investigation. This category of V&R is credible and should be a badge of honour for those that receive it.

The last category is when the V&R is given without any fear or favour. It is awarded by nomination of the public or the industry players or peers. This kind of V&R is presented when the recipient is not even expecting or coveting it. To both of us, this kind of V&R is the most desirable.

So, to my fellow tradesmen, the industry knows what kind of V&R are there. Paying for one in an effort to hoodwink clients and peers might work but rarely so especially in the long run. The short sightedness of people that buy such V&R is that it will reduce the credibility of the very industry you are in. It will also hurt your credibility.

For my friend, AJ that was selected among the top 45 from 20K applicants, I salute you for willing to stand scrutiny and being in integrity when it comes to your V&R. Congratulation on your trip to Washington. You deserve every V&R you have gotten so far because you do not take the short-cut.