When People Around You Keep On Killing Your Passion And Dream

Peter is twelve years old. He enjoys playing basketball. In fact, he is pretty good at it. A star no less. Peter loves the sport partly due to his passion, partly due to a wonderful coach he has that recognizes his talent, knows his weaknesses, and has a good gauge of his potential. Peter likes his teammates too. When all the positive ingredients come together, Peter has a dream. To play leagues and who knows, one day Peter may represent his country in an international arena doing what he loves to do the most, with people whom he enjoys hanging out with, and with people who believe in him.

All these set to change when a new coach comes on board together with new teammates. The chemistry is not quite there. Instead of being guided to where he excels, Peter’s weaknesses get amplified. It is suffocating. Everywhere he goes, Peter meets with obstacles. Every challenge unconquered dims his passion a little bit. Soon, Peter has become a liability to his basketball team. There is only that much Peter can do to keep himself motivated, to practice day after day. But basketball is a team sport. Ultimately, the entire ordeal kills his dream. It is time to move on.

Does this sound familiar to you? In life, be blessed when you are surrounded by people who are willing to groom you to be better. People who are supportive of your passion and dream. People who believe in you. We can’t change the world. And when we fail to influence the people around us to work with our passion and dream – no fault of either party – moving on could be a good option. In fact, in life, it could well be the only option.

Watching F1 – A Survival Guide (That Gets You Thinking)

F1 Singapore (from official wallpaper)

Formula One is coming to Singapore.  Are you someone who thinks that it is boring to watch cars going around in circle?  Excitement comes only when some cars crash?  You are not alone.  Many of my friends think that way too.

As an avid viewer of the sport, I have put together a small survivor guide in layman terms aiming to enhance your viewing experience.  It is not everyday you get to see cars racing in the streets of Singapore in neck breaking speed.  Trust me, with some basic understanding, you too can enjoy watching the sport, from the first lap to the checker flag.  And if you too are an avid F1 viewer, feel free to drop in some comments for sharing.

To continue reading, please click here.

Creating Your Own Digital Jukebox From You CD Collection

My beloved digital jukebox

I have promised some of my friends to write a little guide on my journey of digitizing my CD collection and here you are.  Some tips on which format to use and how to go about performing the task.  Now, why should you care?

  1. The condition of your CD deteriorates over time.  You know that, don’t you?
  2. Ripping your entire collection could be a huge time investment.  It took me 6 months on and off to rip 12,500 songs (900 hours of play time!).
  3. And hence, you may wish to choose the right audio format and be done with it.
  4. Of course, lossless encoding doesn’t mean that you will have the highest possible quality.  It is a digital copy as good as the way music is read by your machine.  The good news is, you can do better than what the common tools offer.

Today, my digital jukebox plays CD quality music directly into my hi-fi system.  I am loving it.  And if you too wish to do that some time in the future.  You are at the right place.  Click here to continue reading.

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PS. Some ask if they could bring along their portable hard disks and copy the entire collection over.  I would not have bought all my CDs had I had no respect to Intellectual Property (IP).  And since I do respect IP, my response of decline I hope is understandable.  Having said that, how one views IP is no business of mine.  It is a personal choice like not eating pork, beef, or meat.  I thank you for your understanding.

So I Conduct Global Training Over The Internet And I Look Inside My Stomach Hard for The Butterflies

WebEx Screenshot

I am not trained as a trainer but the training opportunities find their ways to me, over the years, since I have started my humble career.  It’s always a full circle, from one end to another, from another end to the same one I have started from.  You strategize, you design a new business process, you put in place a piece of technology, you create a communication and marketing pack, and then you train.  It is because ultimately it is human who is going to be trained on how to use that shinny new piece of technology to enable a new business process that is aligned to a strategy.  That pretty much summarize what I do for a living.

Over the years, I have learned much on the art of training, from my peers, the people below and above me, and my audience.  Over the years, I have trained a small classroom of people to a crowd that filled a hotel ballroom.  I love to train.  Especially those that have a dose of uncertainties like the breakout groups.  Time and time again, people pull me aside and ask if I find talking about the same topic boring.

Not at all.

Each group is different.  The rapport and the effort put in to build the rapport is different.  Each group has its own challenge.  And in as much as my objective is to impart knowledge, my personal goal is to learn from my audience, through group sharing, through the questions they ask, and through the observation on what works for them.  I love the accumulation of war stories and confidence and success as I maneuver from one group to another.

One good friend of mine used to tell me that if we can feel the butterflies on our stomachs, it is a good sign.  It shows that success matters.  It keeps us on our toes.  She told me that each of us has a personal ritual to go through prior to the conduct of the training.  I have not shared mine with her.  I used to pray in the toilet prior to showtime.  Yes, I too used to feel the butterflies.  It’s a feeling that can be unsettling.  What if I couldn’t deliver the speech that has been written and rewritten a thousand times?  What if I couldn’t connect to the audience?  What if they see what I don’t know instead of what I do know?  What if …

Though I dreaded the butterflies, thank God most of the sessions I came out OK (some with good recognition).  These days, I am at that one end of the cycle again: It’s training time.  What is different today from the past is that due to the duration and depth of this global initiative that I have been working on, I am very comfortable in conducting the training.  And after all the local classroom training I helped to conduct, the next step is to reach out to the rest of the world.

Since I am not that keen to travel – love Singapore too much! – I am happy to conduct training over the Internet (we use WebEx just in case some of you may be able to relate).  It is a whole new experience.  At my laptop, I can see who have dialed in, I can punch in a telephone number inside the software and it will make the necessary call to the participants who can’t get connected, I can mute individual phone lines (you’ll be amazed at how many people accidentally put their phones on hold and all of a sudden, everyone logged in hear some music played), I can present a document, share an application, see the Q&A window gets populated, chat room that keeps the private and public messages popping.  Wow … very funky!

Initial excitement aside, it can be hard.  At times I feel like I was a DJ talking to myself.  Imagine this: you are in a meeting room, alone, in front of you a laptop and a speaker phone.  Everyone is on mute.  And you keep talking, no faces to be seen, no responses to be heard, just you and your voice hoping that someone is awake on the other side of the telephone line.  Do they like the pace?  Can they understand me?  Do they get my lighthearted comments?  Are there VIPs in the call?  No idea.  Silence.  Just me and my voice and the speaker phone.  All the way from “Welcome to our today’s training session” to “Thank you for your time and you may disconnect now”, do people get fired for delivering a lousy training over the Internet?

No idea.

At times I wish there were a few butterflies in my stomach, to get me in the mood with heightened alert.  Sessions after sessions, I look forward to the online Q&A the most.  Because that is the only variation I encounter.  Oh gosh, wouldn’t that become really … boring?

Well, you know me, I can’t stand boredom.  So, each web training I conduct, I always tried to crack a totally different set of jokes (like instead of meeting Bill Gate for lunch, for the same scenario, I golf with Steve Jobs … and then, I drop this scenario altogether and crack another joke on a different situation), share a different set of stories, deliver the same message in a slightly different way, rearrange things just a little bit – do something that keep my sanity.

I am not trained as a trainer but I love to train.  And no, I am not a full time trainer.  I just step into a role available while having another role to play.

Recession and You Think You See the Axe Coming … So What? Practical Ways to Stay Happy

Lovely picture isn’t it?  When I retire, I want to live somewhere that I can see this view every end of day.  But between then and now, I reckon I still need to make just enough money to get there.  And I reckon I will probably see a few rounds of bull and bear runs between now and then.

These days, increasingly I have friends at my workplace, outside of my workplace who share with me their concerns about losing their jobs during this downturn.  I know that feeling of anxiety.  I have been there, seen that, during my more than a decade hanging onto the corporate ladder, like many of you.  This blog entry is my wish to share my humble thoughts on how to stay happy based on my very own experience.  And I am happy to hear yours too!

My strategy here is simple.  It is not about how to survive not being axed.  That is hard because of so many moving parts that are beyond your control and influence.  But rather how to excel in your workplace amidst all the uncertainties that affect everyone around you, but you.  And it comes down to one word: Preparation.  A happier you makes you perform better at work.

1. Your Mentality Towards Work

Look around you and you can easily see those who are so committed to work and you wonder: do they have a life at all?  To some, work is more than an entity.  Take the job away from them and they will collapse, don’t know what to do.

Sure, most of us need to earn a living.  I love one quote from my ex-colleague: Day job is to pay my bills, what I do at night feeds my ego.  So true.  When I started my career, I worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week.  One day, I read somewhere that I shall begin with an end in mind (back to that image) and I asked myself: Do I want to leave this world being remembered as a good employee who has contributed this much top line sales or bottom line savings to this organization?  Or do I want to be remembered as …

And it struck me there and then: work is just an entity.  That memo I wrote today at work, or that conference call I participated, sure they are important.  But are they that important to me?

At work, I have a role to play, to be responsible for a certain set of items that are important to the organization.  To me, there are more important things in life.  I want to excel while I am at work.  And I want to excel after I step out of my office at sane hours as well.

Take a moment to reflect what is important to you.  Are you sacrificing too much for your career?  What if you let go of your job today?

2. Build Your (Genuine) Network (Early)

Genuine network takes time to build.  You can’t build one right now when you suddenly realize that how nice if you have one.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not here to ask you to befriend only those who are of value to you.  Quite the opposite.  I believe in give and take, give before take, give without thinking of what to take in the future.  That is genuine network.  I enjoy reaching out to friends because I genuinely want to get in touch with them.  If they need my help, I am more than happy to lend a pair of helping hands if I can.  And I don’t hesitate to ask for help if I need one.  Most people prefer not to bother others.  To me, it is give and take.  You give others the opportunity to help you hoping that one day, others will ask the same from you.

Unless you don’t want the latter case to happen.  

When you step out of your job for good, it is good to know that you have support out there and you are not alone.  Don’t you think?

3. How Long Can You Hold?

When time is good, it is easy not to think about affordability on your spendings.  Different people have different philosophy in life when it comes to managing personal finance.  I respect that.  I am a simple person.  My main objective in terms of personal finance is to keep the loan commitment low.  In fact, I often joke with Cynthia that she manages assets while I manage liabilities.  I enjoy reducing the principle sum of my mortgage whenever I have a lump sum of money.  When I bought my first car, I took minimum amount of loan.  When I bought my second car, I paid by cash.  I reckon if I save hard enough, I shall be able to repay the entire mortgage in 3 to 5 years’ time.  By then, I will be debt free.

The question remains: how long can you hold when you stop working right now?  Hence to me – since I am a simple guy – I love to hold cash (and let Cynthia manage investments).  I am not saying that mine is the best strategy for you.  Quite the opposite, I think my friends who are into investment have been doing really well.  But since I suck at that, I prefer to save hard and know that if I am, touch wood, to live without my monthly pay check, I can vegetate for a couple of years while looking for something else to earn a living.

Do you know your average monthly expenses?  Good.  Now, do you know your average monthly expenses should you trim down your lifestyle if the worst is to come?  Divide your total cash savings with that and that is the number of months you can last without the constant flow of pay checks.  Every dollar you now save will lengthen that period that you can afford to take a career break.  Think about that.  Once you build a comfortable buffer, taking a long career break is no longer such a scary concept, is it?

Axe?  So what?  What’s there to be fear of?

4. What’s the Worst That Can Happen?  (What’s Next?)

At times I don’t know which is a better situation.  Struggle to survive in an environment that is collapsing with people around you losing their jobs or to head out and look for better opportunities out there.  Imagine you are one of the penguins out there trying so hard to hunt for fish that is diminishing by day due to overfishing, global warming.  Should you starve with your mates and hope that you will outlast them?  Or shall you go somewhere else like a Singapore Zoo and get fed every day?

I saw the axe coming before and looking back, I agree with the butcher.  That was the best day of my life.  What’s next turns out to be way better than where I was.  In fact, it is good to give ourselves time to self-reflect, to re-evaluate our key strengths, and to look for an environment that we can perform well.  Both external and internal environments change all the time.  That is an universal rule.  Go ride with that.

5. The Ingredients for Longevity

Thank you for reading such a long post and I hope your career is as wonderful as it can be within the boundary of work life balance that you define.  If I could leave you with one last thing to ponder, you can only work well and live well with a health body, mind, and soul.  I have a glass of orange juice each morning, stay out of excess stress, and I rarely visit the doctor or take medical leave for quite a number of years.  I am blessed to have great friends and lovely family.  And I believe in doing the right things in work and life will get me far.

In Summary

You too can stay happy during recession by getting prepared.  You may not become instantly happy today after reading this post but I am confident that in time to come, you will.  Life is really not only about work, is it?  A lovely quote to share.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

PS. Picture taken at East Coast Park using my Nokia N95 phone.