Eight Glimmer of Optimism & Hope in a Field Plenty of P.A.I.N (Pessimism, Anger, Insecurity and Negativity)

-My experience of being vaccinated-

We can’t ignore that the 3rd MCO has brought much PAIN (Pessimism, Anger, Insecurity and Negativity) to all of us, so much so that we find ourselves in a toxic soup. There is no blame here. The situation does warrant such a reaction. Our reaction is indeed predictable based on how we see things. This is the good news and this is also the bad news.

No one is at fault for not being able to see something that is meant to be transparent. We see through our situation because we are in it fully. The is no opportunity for us to step out and neutrally look at our situation from afar. More often than not it is due to practical reasons such as don’t know-how, not enough time, no support system to allow such a thing or simple an ecosystem that doesn’t allow or even worst perpetuate this habit in looking inward.

There are many ways for us to be able to step back, look neutrally at our situation and re-evaluate it. Besides a support system or ecosystem that allows it, one other potent facto to install this stepping back is having new experiences. This was exactly what happened to me recently when I went for my Covid 19 vaccination.

The whole experience was perspective-changing so much so that I left with a general sense of optimism and hope with a generous dash of gratefulness. These feelings are not only the direct result of the vaccine itself but a lot to do with the result of my experience of getting the vaccine.

Firstly the organization and management of the whole experience is not only smooth and well organised but was also pleasant at the same time.

Secondly, the mySejahtera apps is a gem and whoever was involved in developing it must be commended. It created the perfect support for the whole experience. Who says we don’t create great things?

Thirdly, the volunteers were well trained. They were pleasant, empathetic and caring. They see me as a human being who needed support and not as just a number. Who says we don’t have great customer service?

Fourthly, the volunteers were from all walks of life, age groups, profession, race etc. There were represent various branches of the civil service and security forces as well as civilians. Just name a variable, there will be a fit. They work side by side and know what needs to be done. The spirit of Muhibbah and professionalism does exist.

Fifth is the timing is spot on. I arrived at 9.20am for my 9.30am appointment and went through various stations with a 15 mins self-observation at the very end and left the centre at 10.30am. Who says Malaysians are always are sloppy when it comes to time and are always late?

Sixth, Malaysian can queue!!!!! Everyone was patient, courteous and followed instructions to the tee.

Seventh, the instructions were clear and not only the verbal instructions but also the signages and the AV instructions. Who says Malaysians don’t know how to give great instructions?

The eighth glimmer of positivity from the whole experience is the sense of pride that can be felt from everyone in the space; from the police officers outside directing the flow, to the volunteers manning the interviews and briefing, to the medical staff that administer the all-important dose, to the various personalities on the video screens and to the people that came to be vaccinated. This can be seen especially so at the exit with people helping each other to take photos of at the photo opportunity booths; everyone smiling and light.

These are the eight glimmer of optimism and hope that I badly need in this time of P.A.I.N.

I choose to step back and reassess my situation and count my blessings. This doesn’t mean I negate my situation or ignore or even dismiss it or even in denial of it. Actually, I am doing the opposite; I am embracing it fully. Just like cooking; salt and sugar go hand in hand to balance each other.

Let us not be unbalanced and only see and feel the P.A.I.N of situation we are in but also taper it and make it more realistic by also seeking, searching and celebrating those glimmer of optimism and hope in the P.A.I.N of things.

ps: oh yes! The vaccination is FOC. Who says nothing is for free?

“It is not the WHAT. It is the HOW that matters.”

– My sense-making of a current unsavoury issue –

“It is not the WHAT. It is the HOW that matters.” is a saying that I have heard throughout my life, becoming more and more frequent when I got into training. But what does it really mean? How does this simple enough saying can make sense of what just happened recently with the debacle of one particular politician cum non-executive chairman of a local GLC?

This particular situation, the unfolding of events in this unpleasant issue is in fact the perfect backdrop to appreciate the above saying. Let’s first examine what it really means?

The WHAT in this saying refers to the message, the intent or let’s generalize it as the content of what is to be said or done. The HOW in this saying refers to the mechanism, the way or what was done to deliver the message, the intent or the content.

Let’s take communication as an example. The WHAT could be apologizing while the HOW is what was said to convey the apology. In training, the WHAT is the intent to make improvement and the HOW is the way the feedback is given. In parenting, the WHAT is to make the child realise it is a dangerous act while the HOW is the way it was delivered.

For me, contextually, the WHAT is the transaction while the HOW is the transformation.

Now, is it true the WHAT matters less than the HOW? This question has bugged me for a long time. Isn’t the message important? How can the HOW be more important when the HOW doesn’t exist if the WHAT is not there in the first place? Well, to me, inherent in the saying is an assumption that the WHAT has been determined and now the time has come to ensure the HOW carries the WHAT. That is why the HOW now matters since the WHAT is handled. What is not being said is that, just because your WHAT is handled, you don’t need to care about the HOW.

Now let’s examine the HOW of the WHAT. Remember, that the WHAT has been determined since without the WHAT handled, the HOW does not come into play.

So, why is the HOW so important to the WHAT? Well, remember about the WHAT being transformational? That is why the HOW is so important. It is because the HOW is the conduit or tool that affects the receiver of the WHAT. Without an effective HOW, the WHAT doesn’t land of effects the receiver the way the WHAT is intended.

Another factor is that the HOW is directly connected to the attitude, being, worldview and mindset of the source. It is through the HOW that people are affected or transformed.

People as the receiver gets the WHAT pretty straightforward because it is transactional in nature. However, the characteristic and personality of the WHAT is determined by the HOW it was delivered (the transformational part of the equation).

Let’s take an apology as an example of a WHAT. We get the message that it is an apology yet because of the HOW the apology is delivered, we feel (the transformed bit) it is not sincere or even serious because the apology is done (the HOW) nonchalant, as a matter of fact, condescending and comical. To make it even worst, the HOW reflects the character of the person delivering the apology. IT speak about him being insincere, indifferent and void of empathy because a person that is sincere and empathetic doesn’t behave in such a way thus will deliver the apology in an empathetic and sincere way.

When there is incongruence between the WHAT and the HOW the WHAT suffers; the message doesn’t come across well and the intent is not reached. That is why the HOW matters once the WHAT has been determined.

Therefore, to now be specific, the termination of his Chairmanship is not about the message he delivered but his character is not befitting of the situation and of leadership. I dare say, the way he delivered the apology has demonstrated his truest character; an arrogant-unempathetic person. He is terminated for being bongkak; that is actually what it was, nothing more, nothing less.

It is a reminder for me to be wary of not only WHAT I am delivering but also HOW I am delivering it since the people are affected not just by the WHAT but also by the HOW. The congruency of the HOW to the WHAT is important.

Choosing A Client

Doing presentations to potential clients is part and parcel of being a freelance trainer. The conventional view says that it is at this occasion that the client will evaluate or assess your training proposal. I beg to differ. I believe there is no way a training proposal can be assessed well on that occasion and I believe the client know this too. This is done and should be done before the presentation. In that case, why the presentation?

The occasion is actually an opportunity to size you up; to have a feel of who you are and what you are all about. It is to assess and evaluate you as the provider. The technicality of the training is already done prior to the presentation.

Because the context of the presentation is assessment or evaluation of you, it is no wonder that it can be nerve-wracking especially when we are in need of work.

Intuitively, I have always felt there is more to this for us trainers.

As time goes by, I realised that these occasions are not only an opportunity for us to be assessed but also for us to assess the client! Yes. It is also our right as much as the client’s to do our due diligence whether the client is someone we want to work with or not.

I notice that this context changes my level of confidence and certainty as a solution provider during these sessions. Automatically, the nerve wrecking-ness of the situation disappears and a new sense of purpose emerges. At the same time, I see these sessions as a sharing session to look for a certain type of client that we want to work with.

This new situation immediately begs an answer to the question “What are the various types of clients to choose from?”.

Based on our experience, we came up with a matrix describing various types of clients.
On the x-axis is L&D Practitioner. The L&D Practitioner label indicates how much of an L&D practitioner is the client. This includes the client’s depth of knowledge, competency and practice in L&D. The further to the right, the more of a practitioner the client is.

On the y-axis is Autonomy. This alludes to how much autonomy does the client give us to design, develop and deliver the work. Does the client allow us, as a solution provider, the freedom to advise and suggest the most appropriate and effective solution for their needs? This particular element has a direct correlation to other elements such as trust, certainty and vulnerability level of the client.
This matrix gives us 4 types of clients. All the quadrants are eligible to be chosen; not one is better than the other. It all depends on your preference.

Each quadrant has its very own personality. The key for us as a provider is to be aware of what we are getting into when we choose a certain type of client because each one has their very own expectation of us.

My favourite clients are the partners; MUTUAL partners and TRANSFORMATIONAL partners.

A MUTUAL partner is a partner-client that adds value to what you are doing. They are committed to co-create with you. Both your and the clients enrich one another throughout the relationship. For me, these partner clients are a joy to work with.

A TRANSFORMATIONAL partner is a partner-client that have a high level of trust in your ability to lead the project. They are also hungry to learn and transform from the relationship they have with you. They are there throughout the journey learning and contributing as we go along. For me, these partner clients are the most rewarding to work with. In the long run, eventually, they will become a MUTUAL partner.

A COMMENSAL client that knows what they want and that is all there is to it. You as a provider is just there to carry out their agenda the way they want it. There is no room for innovation or creativity what more experimentation in the work. This would be the ideal client for trainers that provides off the shelf solutions; a one fit all type.

A TRANSACTIONAL client more often than not has a lower level of commitment to the effectiveness of the solution. They are more interested in you conducting the program and finishing it. As long as you do what is deem to be needed is all that they care about. They are all about getting it done. Again, this would be ideal for trainers who are not really focused on learning impact and are looking for one-off gigs.

The question “How do you choose a job?” has been asked of me a couple of times. My answer has always been “Depends on whether we like the job and the client or not.” For us in neOOne, being selective of our clientele and the job is fundamental. It is important for us to be vested in the work more than just delivering it. We want to be able to create an impact and feel proud of what we are doing. However lucrative or easy the job is, if it is not going to create impact and leave a sense of pride, we will not take it. We also want a client that can be a partner to us; enriching each other along the way in all aspects of the work.

Each to his own is what I would say. Choose your job and client wisely because we do not have endless work to do. There is only so much work we can handle. Therefore, isn’t it prudent for us to be selective in what we spend our time with?

If a human is a sum of all his experience, then a training provider is a sum of all his work and clientele.

Criteria in Choosing Trainers

How to Choose A Trainer?

A perspective of a practitioner.

Recently, I have gone through an intense period of mentoring trainers from various level of experience. Many of the newer ones have one thing in common, which is the curiosity on how to position themselves and what game to play in the L&D eco-system.

These curiosities, for me, point to the desire to know what it takes for clients to choose them over another. The simple question that needs to be asked is “How do people choose trainers?” This question was a fundamental question Yasmin & I asked ourselves at the inception of neOOne. It is also a topic that I have always wanted to share.

This question of “How to choose a trainer?” was pivotal for us because the answer will lead us to know how to design ourselves so that we become the best choice for our learners. We came up with these criteria based on our own experience, understanding of the landscape and feedbacks from stakeholders. Albeit all these inputs were rather limited at that time because we were new, yet we knew we had to start somewhere. The criteria were rather short and over the year has been edited it as we grow in the industry as providers as well as a consumer.

The latest criteria we came up with has grown over the years. One of the main input to the criteria was our own experience as learners attending various training and workshops. We become a good consumer of our own industry for a couple of reasons namely:

  • Practicing integrity – how can our conscience be clear if we promote people to learn and preach people to learn and benefit from people learning when we ourselves are not?
  • Staying ahead of the curve – with the fast pace of L&D, staying relevant what more staying at the tip of the spear, a passion for life-long learning for us to acquire more knowledge, new insight and competencies.
  • To be a server of value to our learners – how can we serve left-over learnings? Just like food, should we be serving fresh and healthy food? In L&D to truly be in service of learning, we need to constantly learn and innovate our offerings. Our mentor, Gail Heidenhain, is fond to remind all of us, Accelerated Learning practitioner, that we are running the same content 2 years in a row, we are not doing justice to our learners. This trend we also see in many of our idols such as David Sibbett, Kelvy Bird, Capt. Dr. Shan etc.
  • To support our peers – we feel as a collective, the best way to support one another in this industry is to be the best learner for our peers. As the saying goes, treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • To benchmarking ourselves – being scrutinized is a good thing. Unfortunately, there are not outlets we can utilise to scrutinize our very own training. That is why it is important to have a community of practice that can do this for us. Another easier way is to attend other training & workshop to self-benchmark ourselves in terms of content, design, delivery and engagement.

In addition to our own experience as learners of our industry, a few months back, I made a small survey among my peers in L&D to find out their criteria in choosing a trainer to learn from. The finding validates what we have suspected and at the same time game a delightful surprise that many practitioners out that also share most of our view.

Below are the criteria for choosing a trainer and we have abbreviated them to 6Ps. Mind you, these 6Ps are not arranged in any particular order of importance. In fact, to us, all the 6Ps weigh the same; they have to be considered in choosing process.

6Ps in Choosing a Trainer

  1. Pedigree of Learning – This goes beyond just the qualification of the trainer. It also involves the origin of their learning. As a personal choice, I would want to learn from the authority or the original source of the learning. For example, in the subject of presencing, The Presencing Institute or Otto Sharma is recognised as an authority. I would want to learn from him or from someone who has leant it from him. If I can’t get to the source, I would learn from a person that is as near to the authority as possible. For me the purity of the learning is important; how genuine is it. In my bucket list, there are a few more people I want to learn from such as David Kolb for Experiential Learning, Peter Senge for Organizational Learning & Systems Thinking, Otto Sharma/The Presencing Institute for Presencing etc.
  2. Practitioner – I would draw the line and not attend training that is not conducted by a practitioner. I want to learn from people who have practised what they preach. There are two types of practitioners; a past practitioner and a present practitioner. A lot of us put emphasis on past experience but thinking slightly more, a present practitioner is a better candidate, especially if the past practitioner has left practice for some time. Learning leadership from someone who has not lead is a big NO NO. Given the choice learning leadership from someone who used to be a leader is far different from learning from someone who is currently leading a team. Therefore, my preference is for a current practitioner.
  3. Process of Learning – This is pertaining to the design of the workshop or training course. If the training is to provide certification yet there is no robust assessment process, this is to me is highly dubious. I am also rather suspicious of training that promises loads of content in the shortest time possible. Again this will reflect what type of learning design is being used which might lead to the notion that it is not effective due to maybe too much downloading and too little wisdom & practicum. A training course that offers multiple certifications in a short period of time is another example of a process of learning that warrants a further investigation on the quality of the training. Mind you, learning is not just base on the content delivered but also equally important is the mechanism or process of learning that infused the content within the learner.
  4. Perceived Value – Common convention will dictate that we look at pricing as one of the criteria. I must admit that pricing was a criterion that we looked at, in the beginning of our journey. However, along the years as well as through the survey that I did, it is actually not pricing that people look for but the perceived value of what you are offering. Perceived Value is defined as the customers’ evaluation of the merits of a product or service, and its ability to meet their needs and expectations, especially in comparison with its peers. This is actually what matters. Don’t just automatically go for a cheaper option and dismiss the more expensive offering. Ask yourself why is the price low? Choosing the cheaper one over the more expensive one will only work with the assumption that what is offered is of equal standing. However, we know very well that it seldom happens. I find asking what is missing such that the cheaper one is cheaper help my decision making. This is a better way of thinking versus the assumption that the cheap and the expensive have the same offering. There must be a reason why they are priced differently. Could it be because the trainer is not familiar with the topic, not enough experience and wisdom in training or subject, dated content, not a practitioner, the learning process is outdated, no customization of training design etc?
  5. Performance – In this case, a track record of training is important and I am not even eluding to just the number of training they have done but also who and how many their clientele. Again in terms of clientele, more doesn’t necessarily be better. This is an age-old argument of quantity vs quality. Let take an example of a trainer that has been engaged by a few clients multiple times for over 3 years versus a trainer that has trained a lot of clients but only once? Which might indicate quality? Well, some might argue this is not possible for all subject matter because of certain subject matter is just impossible to have repeat roll-out. Granted. This is the precise reason why just looking at clientele as a gauge of performance is not the best approach. References are a great way to overcome this. Scrutinizing the trainer’s track record is also another excellent way. One other way that I would caution about is the trainers rating based on feedback as an indication of performance. This is because it all depends on the feedback matrix used. If the rating is based on feelings – we call it a smiley sheet (Kirkpatrick Level 1) – then it is a poor indicator of performance.
  6. Personality – This might be trivial to some but not to me. The trainer’s values and demeanour are also important to assess. Is he someone respected by his peers, does he contribute back to the learning community, is he easy to work with, how is he conducts himself etc. all this indicates if I can work with the trainer or not. Doing some research in social media can provide you with some indication of his personality such as his activities in the social space, his point of view of current affairs, his philosophy about learning etc. Increasingly, I find clients mined social media such as Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram to understand the trainer better. I personally find my learning is better and deeper when I have a trainer that has similar values as I do. The spirit of the subject is easier to be understood and examples give sync with me.

These criteria of course will only kick in once we are clear we want to learn a particular subject. That is why I did not include the subject as one of the criteria because this condition is a prerequisite. If we are not out the learn something, then this criteria is irrelevant.

For some of us that read this article might find the criteria rather daunting and I must admit it is because the seriousness of growth warrants it. These criteria can be seen as a barrier or as a challenge to aspiring us. Even at this level itself, we already can distinguish a serious practitioner that is committed to his craft or otherwise. Are there ways to hack these criteria? There is and that will be the topic of a future article J. Regardless of whether we are applying a hack or not, the game is still a marathon, not a sprint.

It is my wish to be able to write more in-depth on each of the criteria to give us L&D practitioner more distinction in designing ourselves to be the best nurturer of people’s growth. Maybe the day will come when we are truly seen to be an unconditional nurturer of learners where we put them at the front and centre of our being.

Mistakes Are Not Learning

We hear this very often; Mistake is an opportunity to learn. However, this quote is incomplete because as you read it, the automatic understanding is when we make a mistake, we actually learn. It is as if the act of making mistake makes us learn. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. There is actually a process that we need to take the mistake through in order for it to be a learning. This is why a lot of our mistakes goes wasted because we don’t take those mistakes through the process needed for learning to emerge.

The process can be remembered by its acronym M.A.R.A.A. The pronunciation of this acronym sound similar to the Malay word mara which means moving forward; how appropriate J So, what does this acronym stands for? The poster below gives you the answer.

Let us now unpack each step of the process to appreciate this process.

ADMISSION is the second step and it is a crucial step because this is also the hardest step. Plenty a time we feel we have made a mistake yet we do not admit it. We brush it aside, sweep it under the carpet in hope we are not reminded of the mistake so that we can go on. This could be because of ego, shyness etc. Without us admitting that it was a mistake, we would not acknowledge its existence and more importantly we might not surrender to the fact that it was a mistake. This eliminates our ownership of the mistake such that we will be reluctant to embrace and study it which is needed in the third step.

MISTAKE is the start of this process. What is a mistake? A mistake is an act or judgement that didn’t produce the desired result. The mistake is not immediate a learning yet if we do not take it to the next step. 

REFLECTION is the third step. In this step, we will need to have the strength to look back at the mistake, however painful it is. That is why we need to admit it first. Here, we look at the event or series of events leading to the mistake. In a nutshell reliving it. That is why courage is needed in this process. It is important to stay neutral during this reflection so that we see the whole picture. Again admission helps in doing this. As we reflect neutrally, new data points will emerge to give us better all-round sense of what has happened. It is important for us to scan this mistake for us to be able to move onto the next step.

ANALYSIS is the fourth step in this process. What analysis? Analysis is a detailed examination of the elements or structure of something. Taking the data points available from the reflection, we now look at a couple of elements such as:

  • what elements were ‘right’ or effective and why it was so
  • what elements were ‘wrong’ or ineffective and why it was so
  • why did it happen the way it happened
  • what were the underlying factors that made it the way it was.

The above can also be called sense making. With these analysis we will than make some conclusions. This fourth step is where the learning emerges. However, it is still not truly a learning until we do something about it which is the last step in the process.

ACTIONING is the fifth and last step in the process. We than need to create some action to rectify or create a new path to result from the conclusion.  When this is done and we get the desired result we were aiming for, only then can we truly say the mistake is a learning for us based on the new result that we have created which is one that we desire.

In conclusion, mistakes are only learning if we embrace it, make sense of it and create a new reality from it. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat it and not be able to create a new reality; a desired one.

IT IS A MATTER OF CLARITY IN IDENTITY

“If you want to create clarity and be more empathetic, engage in a conversation.” This was exactly what I did yesterday in a Clubhouse conversation concerning the recent issue embroiling the L&D fraternity. Thank you Johan Irwan Kamarozaman, Bavani Periasamy, Jegatheeswaran Manoharan, Capt Shan Moorthi, Datuk Vicks dan Rajesh Shivanand Wadhwani (those that I know) that were there sharing authentically their POV.

As I listen to the other speakers and myself share, it suddenly dawned on me that our identity dictates our action and how others respond to us. If we are not clear of our identity or the identity of the person we are engaging with, this is where the breakdown happens. On the surface, the breakdown seems to be the result of actions taken. However, I see the breakdown happens so much earlier because the actions that are taken and the reactions resulting from those actions are just a manifestation of an earlier breakdown; unaware or refusal or confusion of identity.

Let’s take the recent ruckus of HRDF charging a service fee of 4%. The unhappiness came from two fronts; the charging itself and the ‘haste’ or unilateral decision HRDF made in implementing it. Now to some, this is unfair. How can they charge us 4%? Are they not thinking about us? So unfair. Why do they need 4% anyway, etc, etc,etc? The actions of HRDF is incomprehensible to some because their actions are contradicting their identity and anytime this happens, even in our natural life, confusion happens, emotions go haywire.

Let’s take a step back and examine what identity are they operating from such that they ‘sampai hati’ took the actions and decisions. If their identity is that of a Government agency, then I would say YES, their actions and decision are not aligned to a Government agency that is meant to ‘jaga rakyat’, develop the eco-system in a manner that is collaborative and empathetic. However, this is not the case. This has been highlighted by the COO of HRDF himself, within their ‘akta’ and last night was again pointed out by ex-HRDF CEO Datuk Vicks. This is nothing new. It has been there all the while.

HRDF is a company limited by guarantee. They are to operate like any company. The main differences are that they can’t make a ‘profit’ and their shareholder is the government. The salary and operations of HRDF are not paid by the Government. Their staff are not Government Servants therefore not the Rakyat’s employee. Within this identity, they have every right to do what they did. Imagine your company, own by you, decides to increase your rates or charge a fee for a certain service. Isn’t it within your right to do so without the need to consult others? Of course. Now, is that prudent and good practice? I would say no. But that is beside the point. The point is, it is the right of a company to do so.

The confusion of this identity stems from the fact that HRDF as a company, have decided to engage the training providers in their conversations. This is nothing new. This has been done even during the time of Datuk Amiruddin. His time being the CE was my entry point dealing with HRDF. Therefore, that is my earliest reference. This practice has continued over the years with other CE such as Datuk Vicks and the current CEO, Datuk Shahul. This is where we as L&D practitioners ‘kena sedar diri’. This practice is not a must. It is a courtesy they have decided to support the eco-system. We the L&D practitioners have to realise we are what is called secondary stakeholders. This is another breakdown in identity on our part. I have heard personally from HRDF years ago and from then on have repeated it many a time to others that HRDF priority is to the employer who is their main stakeholders not to us the trainers. Their loyalty lies with the employers; they take care of the interest of the employers. Again this is understandable given their identity as a company. Again is this prudent practice? And again this is not the issue. “What is a right? “and “What is the best practice?” are mutually exclusive. This is just like “What is legal?” and “What is ethical?” are two different things.

Now, why is the clarity of their identity and our identity is important? Well, it is important because this clarity allows us to respond accordingly. We can now respond to HRDF as we respond to any company. Let’s be clear and treat them like a company. If we feel they are not transparent, treat them as a company. If we think what they are doing is not legal, treat them as a company. Can we dialogue with them as a company, of course, we can but don’t expect the same result of having a dialogue with the government. A case in point. It is my practice that when a government agency makes a request for training or a speaking engagement, I will lower my fee or even give it for free because the nation-building agenda is heavy with them. Now since HRDF is a company, I shall charge my corporate rate. I will not budge. Why must I? It is within my right to do so. If they disagree, well, they have every right to look for another trainer or speaker.

The same principle should be applied TO HRDF just like when we are dealing with companies out there. If I feel McDonald’s is not giving me what I want, I can complain or make a request for a dialogue with them but I am clear that the outcome is not the same as me having a dialogue with the government or my employees. If I am not bothered to do so, I stop going to McDonald and go to Burger King instead. This is our right to respond to another company. It is that simple.

Imagine I am not happy with my paper supplier because he hiked his price, I can complain and request for the old price, knowing full well that my supplier has every right to not grant my request. If that is so, I can now decide to stay with that company or choose another one. It is my supplier’s right to not reduce his price and it is my right to look elsewhere for a better deal. Is it prudent of my supplier to do so? I say no because eventually, he will lose a lot of credibility and business. However, if my supplier is the only supplier of paper, he will not care and I need to live with it and be creative to deal with the hike in price that he decided to do.

So in that case, what can I do? A few things I can suggest:

  1. Don’t use paper; go paperless
  2. Use less paper
  3. Complain to the power-that-be that this needs to be looked at
  4. Find an alternative to paper so that I can continue doing what. I am doing as effective as not having paper. Meaning the absence of paper doesn’t disrupt me
  5. Be a paper supplier

My parting words are, as we are clear of each other’s identity, empathy comes in and our response moving forward is also clear. No more being a victim of the situation. What a relief.

The Tale of Two Bananas

Deep in the jungles of Borneo, there is a pristine valley. The valley is surrounded by high mountains inaccessible to other animals of the jungle what more humans. That is why this valley is unexplored by humankind. It is so secluded that it has its own micro-climate and flora and fauna. In this valley, the most dominant of the animals were the monkeys. There were two types of monkeys in this micro-ecosystem; the brown-faced monkey and the pale-butt monkey.

In terms of population, the pale-butt monkeys are eight times more than the brown-faced monkeys. Character-wise, the brown-faced monkey is quiet, thoughtful, observant and industrious while the pale-butt monkey is the showman of the valley – flamboyant, convincing, highly energetic and always in a hurry. With such contrasting characteristics, there is bound to be one that is admired above the other; albeit slightly.

The pale-butt monkey is the life of the party; everyone loves them. They are great public speakers and showmen. A natural entertainer, the valley animal folks love them. They are popular while the brown-faced monkey is revered silently by the valley animal folks.

The monkeys’ favourite staple was yellow bananas. They are tasty, easy to find and in abundance; in fact overflowing. That is why it is their favourite especially for the pale-butt monkeys. Since they are very busy strutting around, they have very little time to be bothered to look elsewhere for food.

In the valley, there was only one place that the bananas grew; in a piece of land between the waterfall and the rapids. This is where you will be able to meet all the pale-butt monkeys, especially during meal times.

This is not so for the brown-faced monkeys. Even though some of them do eat the yellow bananas, the majority of them prefer to travel a little bit further up a hill where there are delicious red bananas. These red bananas are definitely more tasty than the yellow ones however takes slightly more effort to peel. This factor added to the travel time to get up the hill makes the red bananas undesirable to the pale-butt monkeys.

As the story goes, one fine day, without warning, without fanfare, a terrible foul-smelling mustard coloured haze swept down the mountains and engulfed the whole valley. No one knows where it came from. It is the first time ever such a haze descended upon the pristine valley. For two days and two nights, the valley was wrapped in this terrible mustard haze.

Even though it is unpleasant to the nose, it did not bring with it an obvious side effect; so we thought. However, the animal folks of the valley decided to keep themselves indoor fearing that being exposed to such a haze might jeopardise their health.

After two days, the haze lifted and the valley once again was back to its normal pristine, fresh and green self. Once the haze has gone, the monkeys came out and made a rush to their favourite yellow bananas. Once there, they ate till their heart content and enjoyed the chance to play along the riverbank.

Things were the same the next week. On the eight days of the departure of the haze, the monkeys notice that the banana trees are not flowering and bearing fruit fast enough.

Among the pale-butt monkey, this did not raise any concern. However, the brown-faced monkey saw a similar trend among the red bananas as well and this concerned them. They tried to warn the pale-butt monkeys about being more concern about the situation and start making plans in case the yellow bananas cease to bear fruits.

The pale-butt monkeys decided that the situation is temporary. Why panic? Chill and let’s wait and see what happens. Most probably, things will return to normal. That was the strategy the pale-butt monkey settled upon.

The brown-faced monkey didn’t subscribe to that strategy. They begin to look around by sending scouting parties all over the valley observing what was happening elsewhere. Upon the return of the scouting parties, the brown-faced monkey decided to seek a more stable source of food.

One of the scouting party has reported that they heard that a new breed of red bananas is growing at the top of the mountain. This was reported by the doves because they were the ones who saw it flying over the mountain into the valley.

The brown-faced monkey shared this finding to the pale-butt monkeys yet it fell on deft ears. Excuses they hear from the pale-butt monkeys are like it takes too much effort for just a banana, even though it is a red delicious banana. Another popular excuse is that it takes too long to climb the mountain just to eat. Might as well wait at the yellow bananas. There is also the excuse that they don’t know how to get there and that they are monkeys and are not equipped to hike up mountains. And the most famous excuse of all; why would I spend the energy from the yellow banana to go find a red banana. Many of the pale-faced monkeys even laughed at the brown-faced monkeys for wanting to harvest the red bananas up the mountain.

With that snub, the brown-faced monkey set in motion their plan to increase their food resource. They started by gathering intelligence and confirming the existence of the red bananas on top of the mountain. The search yielded proof that not only red bananas were up the mountain, but they are also of a hybrid that is resilient to the mustard-haze, full of nutrients, easy to grow and very delicious!

The brown-faced monkeys seek the help of the mountain goats to teach them how to hike up the mountain, the dove for navigation lessons, the wild boar for trail building and the buffalo for stamina and strength lessons.

They also hired the beaves, paying them with red bananas to relocate their home from the hills of the red bananas to a place nearer to the mountain so that they are ready to hike the mountain anytime they need to.

In the meantime, the pale-butt monkeys looked at the efforts of the brown-faced monkeys and continued mocking the idea of going for the red bananas on the mountain.

Days go by and weeks goes by. Suddenly, one day, a heavy downpour descends onto the valley. This is indeed a rare occasion because even though it rains in the valley, but the rain is always small; can also be described as drizzles.

Right after the rain, the yellow bananas grew in abundance to the delight of the pale-butt monkeys. This became the brunt of the teasing of the brown-faced monkeys by the pale-butt monkeys. The brown-faced monkeys were not deterred. They kept to their plan.

Alas, the false fortune of the pale-butt monkeys did not last. After two months, the yellow banana yield decreases tremendously, almost to a nought.

By now, the brown-faced monkeys have established their home in between the hill and the mountain; enjoying the red bananas of the mountain.

I wonder what will happen to the pale-butt monkeys in the months to come?

Current news: Till today, the pale-butt monkeys are still waiting at the yellow banana trees hoping, praying and waiting for the heavy rain to come again or the yield of the yellow banana trees will return to normal.

Winners Do Quit

Path to Quitting

I have always been fascinated by the quotation attributed to Vince Lombardi, the American Football coach, that goes like this “Winners Never Quits and Quitters Never Win”. When I was younger, it is a quotation that fuels me because it is one of those quotes that is very romantic because it is idealistic. That was how I read it.

As I grew older my idealism is slowly intermixed with pragmatism and this quotation begins to disturb me. On one hand I want it to be true on the other hand there is a feeling that the quotation might need to be examined because it seem a harsh, unrealistic and unforgiving dogma. Nothing can be that absolute because it seems unwavering and pushes you unrealistically to stick to something you started without any option of a recourse. At this age, I didn’t have the insight neither the life experience to make sense of it. Yes on one hand it is true that you shouldn’t quit but on the other hand, really there is no quitting even for a good cause?

As I enter into midlife, with life insights from numerous unsavoury experiences which are too many to bother to count, this quotation takes a new light. It now sits within a context that makes more sense. Its meaning becomes all the more clear.

I do believe that quitting is an option to be considered and taken but not one that should be taken lightly. It must come with the upmost scrutiny and deliberation. It has to be one done with deliberateness and with the most clear of intent. It being an option is where the problem lies with quitting. It can becomes the first choice we take when hit with an situation. If that is the case, truly the quotation in its most obvious sense is true especially when it becomes a habit. In this instance, the quotation is a dire warning to us all.

However, if alternative actions preceding to the action of quitting has been taken and the intent of the quit is clear, then quitting is a must for us to eventually win. The win is bigger than the quit. The quitting could just be a mile stone in the journey to win. What you don’t quit on is the journey. Sometimes in order to continue on the journey to a win, quitting something is a must because the consequence of not quitting might just lead you to losing the whole race. At best, not quitting could delay the win. A case in point is your dream. Not quitting your dream is a must but along the way, there will be times you will be called to quit.

Let us take a popular example of Thomas Edison, the poster boy of not quitting. He is famously accredited with the quotations “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”. Yes he did not quit on his dream of inventing a light bulb. However, I am sure he must have had certain theories or believes that he had to give-up or quit on in order for him to move forward in realising his dream? If not he won’t not have tested and failed so many times. What was he failing on? Certain hypothesis. Quitting those hypothesis is important for him to move forward. This is not the only true life example of how quitting does make winners. You hear loads of stories in the entrepreneurship world about this too.

So now that quitting is an option towards an eventual win, what are the criteria that makes quitting a necessity? Base on my own life experience and the coaching I have gotten, there are four consecutive questions that must be answered before taking the action to quit. If the answers is a YES at every stage, then by all means quit. If any of the answer is a NO, than don’t quit. The answer that matters in each of this question is yours and not anyone else’s. This is because you are the main actor of your life. It also requires your

The first question is “Have you done and be all that you can?” If the unequivocal

 answer is a YES you can move onto the next question. If there is hesitation or a NO, don’t quit. Be creative, go find more ways and solutions.

The subsequent question is “Are you not willing anymore?” ?” If the unequivocal

 answer is a YES that means you want to quit. Therefore, you can move onto the next question.

The third question is “Does quitting gets you to move forward & be better?” If the unequivocal answer is a YES that means you have thought of the consequences of the future.

The last question is “Are you clear of the reason why you are quitting?” If the unequivocal answer is a YES that means you have the clarity of your intent to quit. If so, now go quit quickly so that you don’t have to suffer further.

So back to the quotation by Vince Lombardi, I would still take inspiration from it with an added clause that says “Winner do quit with a clear intent and deliberateness to win”

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.