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The Silent Majority

A leader must  do the right thing and to keep their subordinate in check to win the hearts and minds of her followers. There are many kinds of people, some are outspoken, some are not. And sometimes, due to the situation and culture at hand, there may be some who do not speak up, but instead silently observe what is happening. This group of people, when they do not speak up, it does not mean that nothing is wrong. Silence should never be taken for consent. Rather, it may be that they do not want to involve themselves as this may get them into trouble, or perhaps it is because of certain rules in place that they are not able to speak up.

Yet, when the times comes for them to make a decision, they may not make a decision to support the status quo. Or endorse whoever we think that they are expected to endorse, even when they have been silent. This is where things can result in an unexpected ending.

Hence, it is important that as a leader, we take every critic seriously and address them. It is important that we do the right thing even when unquestioned or when we have the upper hand. It is also important that we are open to listening to others and their honest opinion of us. It is not for granted that every word that we hear is sincere, but we still need to ask and discern for ourselves. And at the same time, the voices of our worst critics may not be hundred percent true, but part of it may resonate with some of our supporters who do not speak out even as they have the same question in mind.

A leader is there to serve the people, not the other way round. But neither a leader is there to be a slave to the people. They are equals, each needing the other in order for progress for all. And this balance should not be upset.

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Face Shield and Tactfulness

So what do the two items have in common? Usually nothing. Being tactful is something which I have been trying to learn. Someone who is able to get her point across very subtlety without offending someone always amazes me. It is something that we learn after many years of interacting in society. And from the way one speaks, you can have a sense of how refined this person is and how much of social experience she has.

Recently, I have been wearing a face shield in some circumstances, ever since I know that it is allowed under MOH guideline in replacement of a face mask. It can be more comfortable during times which my vision is not that important since it introduces glare at certain angles.

However, because this information is not well known to the public, I am often subjected to questioning by some. There are some who don’t even question, rather, they take a photo of you which I presume will be used for some online shaming.

Of all the people I have met, one particular interaction impressed me. It was a staff working at a coffee shop. A middle-aged lady. Nothing impressive about her. She doesn’t speak fluent English either. The first question she asked me was: Not hot ah, you wear this. Obviously it wasn’t about the hotness but a prelude to whatever she is going to ask me next.

The way she handled the conversation impresses me. I was able to know where she is leading towards without her directly asking and provided her with the answer that she is looking for. Sometimes, it is not years of education but years of life experiences that teach one who to manage tacky issues like this.

Meanwhile, I just went over to a stationary car and told him to turn off his engine when it is parked, without any tactfulness on my part.

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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – Einstein

So recently, I commented on a Facebook post about a Private Hire Driver who had to drive 12 hours to make ends meet while having kidney failure. Due to COVID 19, demand for private hire business has been very low and drivers often have to wait a long time before getting a booking.

I suggested that drivers make use of free time while waiting for passengers. Because unlike a taxi, private hire does not get to do street hail. Driving around will only increase fuel cost and waste energy. However, if you are at an area which you are quite certain there will not be any passengers, then perhaps driving out will be a better option.

Unfortunately, I was soon faced with a wave of criticism for my comment. Such as Mr Lee Loong

I am not sure why advocating that someone try to make good use of his/her time is a bad suggestion. Indeed there are some who are from an earlier generation will face more difficulty in handling computers and gadgets. However, we have to start somewhere no? 

Previously, I spoke to another Private Hire driver. He was complaining about his drop in income and how he is suffering. I tried to suggest to him the same thing I said. And what he shared with me was that he believes in his experience as a taxi driver for the past years. Well, if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, and you keep getting the same results, then shouldn’t you try something else?

Perhaps to people like Mr Lee, I do not know the ground well enough. But do they know me well enough? I have enough reasons to believe that I know what it is like to be a private hire driver during this period.

It worries me because as society shifts towards asking for more support from the government, we are slowly pushing our self-reliance and determination to survive elsewhere. I am not talking about the driver in question, but the fact that some members of the public are advocating reliance and denouncing suggestion for one to take productive steps to improve one’s life.

I am not saying that people should not seek help from the government. I am saying that while we seek help, there are other things which we can do to help ourselves too.

Lastly, I want to talk about the privilege of attending university. Indeed, I agree that those who have the chance to attend college do have an edge over others. And it is with society’s support that we are able to attend college at a subsidised rate. Hence no doubt it is a privilege. But I think we also need to recognise that it requires one’s hard work and merit to be able to enter one. When one chooses to spend his time and money elsewhere, then claiming that he or she does not have the privilege to attend college, I think it is just nonsensical.

By the way, I just want to add that private hire industry during good times earn quite a bit of money. I have a friend who makes 10k a month just driving alone. Hence, in good times, we should save up for rainy days. Furthermore, there are some drivers who complain that they do not have a single call the whole day now. I find it quite unbelievable. Based on reliable personal sources, a call will come in at least every two hours. I do understand that it is a tough time for drivers. But we should not exaggerate the situation. There are actually many other industries who are suffering as well. And if one really doesn’t have calls for the whole day, it also could be a case of bad records, meaning that the driver might have cherry-picked in the past hence the completion rate is low.

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Being Professional

Recently, I have been thinking about this topic. What does it mean to be professional?

Does being professional means that we must always be nice? Must I always be prim and proper even when I am acting in my personal capacity? I do understand that we will definitely have doubts over someone who displayed one type of behaviour at work and another when in private. But being someone who can “code switch”, my mannerism may change, but my values don’t.

I always find it intriguing that politicians always seem to answer questions in a very cordial, professional manner. Even when the questioner sometimes needs to be woken up. It is becoming so common these days that it is like becoming a rule. But just going back a few decades, you will know that the de facto leader in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, do not behave like that. Try asking him a stupid question.

Sometimes, people assume that just because someone is acting in a professional capacity, they can go all out and push their luck. Because they know that professionals must always be professional. For example, some parents when they speak to teachers. Or some members of the public when they speak to public servants. They assume that they can say all kinds of nonsense just because the other party is bounded by professionalism. Until a sharp rebuttal is made, then they claim that it is unprofessionalism.

Professionalism doesn’t mean that I must tolerate all your nonscience.

On the flip side, I do agree that we should always try our best to be nice and keep composed. I do agree that we should always be professional, especially towards those whom we serve.

I remember my professionalism being questioned when I asked someone why is it so difficult to find my location when I can do it myself using Google Map. I was trying to understand the situation because I cannot imagine any reason why would there be such a limitation. I have provided the name of the building I was at and I have verified that it can be found with a simple search before. Most importantly, it was an emergency. I was simply perplexed but I did not pursue the matter. But when the person arrived to question me again, it escalated the matter. Later I was told that I could have done better. Instead of questioning the capability and basic competency of the questioner, my professionalism was being questioned. Sometimes, I cannot help but feel that we are trapped and tied down because of the title that we hold.

Recently, I have some interactions with some kids online. They were throwing insults, and I reacted with sarcasm. At the back of my head, I do feel a little childish doing that. But somehow, I felt that it could be a better lesson than to preach at them not to do such things online. Rather than I telling you not to run, maybe you need to fall a little to learn it yourself. At least that is how I was brought up. It is called Experiential Learning. But of course, it has to be done in a safe environment. The kid can feel hurt but he/she cannot be permanently traumatised because of the event. It is the same philosophy that I adopt during my work, although I am cautious not to overdo it. When someone is already dying of obesity, more sugar doesn’t help. Some of these kids are exactly going wayward because there is a lack of guidance and people giving them a reality check. This brings to mind that when I was younger, I had a friend who challenged a teacher to a fight. Of course, the teacher “dare not” fight him, and we all thought he is so brave to have challenged an adult when he is outsized. It is only when I grew up that I realised that it is because the teacher is bounded by his professionalism. In a real fight, my friend would have been beaten up badly. But the teacher’s “professional” way of managing the incident lead everyone to think that he is scared and he is weak. That resulted in even lesser respect and reverence to whatever teaching he is going to do. Ironically, his professionalism interfered with his profession.

But am I advocating that he fight the student? Of course, I am not. All I am saying is that sometimes, to do our job and to perform our duties, we cannot always be on the safe side. There are some people I see at work who is too safe, then there are some who are way too out. It is really a very fine line and this is why it is important to train people well, to debate about such issues and come to a common understanding and agreement.

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An entrepreneurial mindset

Recently during work, I spoke about having an entrepreneurial mindset. I strongly believe that this mindset is what sets people apart when doing work for a company, regardless of whether you are an entrepreneur or not. This is also something which I have been advocating since the days which I was running my startup back in 2014. I remember having 10 other partners with me running the show. But sadly, out of this 10, there are some who act just like an employee instead of a partner, which is how this topic came up when I spoke to them.

So what do I mean by that? Entrepreneurship mindset can involve many things. For one, when one demonstrates taking ownership in the organisation and seeing the organisation’s resources as your own, it is also a form of entrepreneurship mindset, because you see company’s money as your money. You are working as though you own the company and you ask yourself if it makes sense to be spending money for certain expenses, even when it does not come out of your own pockets or when it results in certain discomfort of your own.

For example, you may be given approval to take a taxi home. But because you live nearby, you decided not to, even when it does not cost you anything personally to take it and you are in a more comfortable position to just take a taxi. This is a shift from an employee to a stakeholder. Because you understand that we are all part of an ecosystem and every action that we take will influence one another. I believe that when only one or two people adopt such a mindset in a company, it might result in burn out for the minority. But if the majority of an organisation thinks like this, it will result in efficiency and culture that is tremendously impactful. However, it also requires a balance and being able to see things from a bigger perspective. For instance, overdoing it might result in more manhour cost which outweighs the cost of taking a taxi home. Hence, it involves considering between taking a taxi home, not taking it or sharing a taxi home when no explicit order was given from the top (as well as all the creative variants in between). To choose the best option that will benefit the organisation.

Having this paradigm shift influences every action of yours when you are working and allows you to have that “helicopter view” advocated in one of the Public Service appraisal components.

Another aspect of this entrepreneurship mindset is really the mindset to make things happen. When we go to work, sometimes, we expect things to be done for us in order for us to do our job. For example, some of us may feel disgruntled that the airconditioning is not working, or that there isn’t sufficient stationaries provided for us. Of course, I agree that these things should be provided for in most circumstances. Yet, if we are running a business and the airconditioning malfunctioned, I am sure many of us will take ownership of the problem and try to fix it instead of calling a repair service, to help save cost and solve the problem to our fullest extent. We will not blame someone else for the problem. It is not the company’s aircon failed again. Rather, it is the aircon malfunctioned again. Somehow, airconditioning that malfunctioned seems to be more acceptable when the air-conditioner belongs to us.

But again, one must be able to think holistically. If you spend your whole day trying to fix a problem and you are being paid $50 an hour, then perhaps it might be a better idea to get a repair service to get it done.

Some of you may be thinking that this is just another thing conceived by the managers and bosses to make people work hard. But I believe that if you think like a “staff”, you will forever just be a staff. But if you are able to think like a stakeholder, perhaps it will help you actually become one.

Last but not least, to cultivate such culture, organisations must also share the fruits of its labour with the people. This is so that the people know that their hard work is not wasted and that it will come back to them eventually. The organisation must also reward people fairly, to prevent those who are not putting in the same effort to reap the benefit derived by the collective effort of those who do so. Fairness is extremely important because people would rather abstain themselves in an unfair environment even if they are better off involving themselves.

These are just two examples that I have brought up. There are also other examples which are relevant, such as acts to promote the goodwill of the company, not expecting that business and demands for your service will always be there and taking action to help bring businesses even when you are not in a Business Development role. It also involves the mindset of making things happen, creating demand for your product or service; not simply performing a role or a service that plugs into an existing void but sometimes, creating value and solving a pain point. I am sure there are many other examples as well.

To conclude, I think sometimes, it is not easy for us to always adopt this mindset. Sometimes, we do slip into the mindset of an employee from time to time, I myself guilty of it. And that is why we need our friends and colleagues to be our check and balance, to remind us when it is needed and the purpose of this article. =)

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Questioning our “knowledge”

Recently, I saw this post online about the murder case at Punggol. I am hesitant to even use the word “murder” since murder comes with an intention and I have no background of what has happened that has resulted in the death of one man. But since the case is currently classified so, I guess it will be the most appropriate descriptor. Despite that it seems like an unprovoked incident from the news reporting, investigations are ongoing and perhaps there is more to be seen from the case.

I have no slightest doubt that the family will be going through hell due to what happened. And it is absolutely necessary for justice to be served if the suspect is found guilty.

What I want to write about is a different matter.

Throughout the post that I have seen, there are many calling for the harshest punishment, even when investigations and facts are not known fully. Some claim that this is the nature of the youths today, and I take offence to the statement; just because of some cases seen is sufficient to make a sweeping statement to all the youths today? We often think that whatever we see or hear is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But like what I have told my colleague some time ago: Just because you have only seen white swans doesn’t make all swans white. Having studied a little of philosophy (epistemology) before trains me to question my “knowledge”. What do we really know anyway…

Then there was another comment, which labelled the suspect “terrorist who can never change and useless to society”. How do we even know that he is someone who can never change? How do we know that he is useless to society? We don’t even know the suspect! As quoted from Justin Bieber (oh gosh, I can’t believe I quoted him): Never say never… 

So me being me, commented on the post but eventually I decided to rest my case.

What disturbs me is that the person who made this comment was some advisor and director of various firms. It really makes me wonder how did someone with such intellect make it to such a position. Then again, Tan Kin Lian was the CEO of NTUC back then as well.

I strongly urge two things from the youths today: 

  1. Do not grow up to be an adult like that
  2. Don’t assume that people have brains just because they have a big position

Oh wells.

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The nuances of human relationship

I was waiting for someone at a parking lot. And I opened my car doors to ventilate the interior as it was just too hot. In the meanwhile, I was using my laptop, not noticing that someone was trying to park at the lot beside me. He sounded his honk and I was irritated, even as he has every right to park beside me. There was another lot but liked I have said, he had every right to park beside me.

Still, I was a little irritated.

He finished parking, then he came out of the car and apologise. He didn’t have to. He has every right to park beside me.

But somehow, the apology made me felt better. It made me felt good.

The lot he is occupying is a loading and unloading lot and it got me thinking. Suppose he left for a short while and the parking attendant arrives. Would I have spoken up for him if he had not apologised (even as he is not in any wrong at all)? And now that he has made an apology, I would think that it greatly increases the odds that I will speak up for him if any parking attendant arrives.

Such is the intricacies of human relationship that I am still trying to learn.

I remember expecting that people be professional during the polytechnic education and I suffered badly. Because I failed to take into account of people’s emotions when I criticised their presentations. I am supposed to do that and there is completely nothing wrong with my criticising their slides because that is how we are supposed to learn. But it got people upset. I learned a lesson from there. And I am still learning.

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About being an employer, manager, leadership and organisation development

Today, I gave WiFi access to my domestic helper. I was delighted that she asked me for the YouTube channel that I have played for her while she was ironing clothes that day; it teaches her English from her native language. Managing this domestic helper somehow brings many thoughts about management. For example, giving her WiFi access does not really incur much of a cost to me. However, there were concerns about her unrestricted access might result in her being deprived of sleep due to over engagement with her mobile phone. And if we were to relate this to how we manage our employees, it is the same thing. There are often times which we want to provide certain benefits, but we are very cautious about it as it could result in wrong expectation setting and erode the discipline which we so tirelessly set up.

Why would I even bother letting her learn English? If we go according to Maslow, there are more needs that a human requires instead of just the basic needs like food and water. But oftentimes as an employer for an FDW, people forget that they are humans too. They too need opportunities to grow and to move up society, to self actualise. As their employer, it is our responsibility to make sure that our employees have opportunities to grow and become better. And someone who is more educated will definitely improve in her day to day job hence it is a win-win. Seven habits right?

What if we train them and they leave? What if we don’t and they stay? – Unknown

There was also a period of time which she had issues with my parents due to a series of miscommunications. It impacted me to the extend that I considered letting her go, and I was frank about my considerations to her because there is no way that I can replace my parents. I do know that there is a bit of unfairness in this, however sometimes, due to the nature of things, it cannot result in a perfect solution, hence one party has to suffer more, much like what I have experienced myself before. I can only replace her as my employee if things were to deteriorate further. Hence, while I will try to manage my parents, she has to make an effort to learn how to work with them and I do not believe that she is entirely innocent as well. My experience as a young executive back then reinforced the impression on me that we must always try to be fair as an employer. It was an unpleasant experience for me, hence I didn’t want to pass that on. As an employer, I think it is important for us to have empathy for someone who is working for us. Not simply breaking someone’s rice bowl just because we can. Thankfully, when I spoke to my parents about this, that it is soon becoming the last straw, they also took a step back. And I am proud as a son that they too had that empathy for someone unrelated to them, not wanting to jeopardise someone’s career because of petty issues.

As we move up the corporate ladders, and more people become under our charge, every word that we speak or don’t speak, and every action that we take or don’t take, has an impact on the culture and on someone else’s life. It is funny how people are often able to feel your sincerity in you, regardless of the actual words that come out of your mouth. Whether you are doing something genuine or you are just putting up an act with another agenda. Management or not, staff or non-staff. But to be honest, there are times which we misunderstand someone else either, so always leave a percentage that you might be wrong. Case in point of impacting people under our charge: A simple decision of giving my FDW internet access may eventually change her life’s trajectory by opening up a channel of opportunities and learning. And for myself, if my superior had not allowed me to take an unplanned day leave to accompany my wife for her routine pregnancy check, I would not be able to be there with her when the doctor suddenly discovered that there are some issues with the baby and recommended an emergency cesarean on that day itself. And not being there to make a joint decision might have resulted in a different life trajectory for my family and myself as well. Not to mention that my impression of my superior and the organisation might have been impacted. Hence as a leader, it is imperative for us to consider carefully about the things that we are doing or not doing. Sometimes, the latter being more important. People who do not understand the impact that they have as a leader, simply put, should not be a leader. Leadership is not to be taken lightly.

Someone beneath you may want to speak up, but seeing you as a leader who chose to be silent, she may no longer feel empowered to do so. After all, the boss didn’t say anything, right?

Lee Kuan Yew once said that he have not known someone who became a leader as a result of a leadership course. I am not sure what is the context of his statement but reading on the surface, I agree with him. I recently came across this leadership theory called “Great Man Theory” as well but I have not investigated it properly as of now. I have met many leaders who are uninspiring and it really makes me wonder what put them there in the first place. Is it years of service that warrants the position? Or were they once a leader and somehow lost the fire? Sometimes it frustrates me because, with that kind of leverage from their position, I felt that much more can be done. They are there preventing others from moving up and they are not doing their job as a leader. You can’t slap the title “Leader” onto someone and they miraculously become able to lead. Then there are those which you wonder why are they still serving in a “smaller than you think they ought to be” capacity.

Criminology, in general, tells me that there is fifty percent coming from genetics that determines if you are a criminal, and another fifty percent coming from your environment. Hence putting people in leadership training only constitute half of the picture. Are we putting people in the right position in the first place?

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.” – George S. Patton

With that said, perhaps one reflecting thought is that I may not know some of the constraints since I am not there in their position. I agree that there is some truth to that. But leadership is also about effective communication and it is important for whoever that is under your charge to feel that they are being led well and that would mean communicating the constraints that you have. Unless you are telling me that it involves strategic information or national security that you are unable to be upfront with your constraints, else I really can’t think of any reason why communication will be unhelpful. Having led my own team during my entrepreneurial journey do give me a glimpse into top management, the considerations and constraints, although we can always argue that it is not the same. Is leadership generic in which the same essence is required be it running a large corporation or small? It would be naive to say that it is the same. But I do believe that many of the basic essences remain the same.

Turning back to the quote by Lee, I believe that it is important for an organisation to recognise the right people who function well as a leader, then put them through leadership courses, instead of putting the wrong people into leadership position then sending them for courses and hoping that they will become a leader. There are some who believe that leaders can be made. I beg to differ. I believe that leaders are born, then made great through training and experience. There are some who are great workers. They are hardworking, they do their job well and they are the top of the line when it comes to working on the ground. But it doesn’t mean that they will make good managers or leaders. On the other hand, it is hard for someone to be made a leader if she is unable to gain the recognition of the people on the ground due to the quality of her groundwork. There must be some qualities that allow this person to gain the respect of the people that she is leading. Mike Tyson’s coach does not necessarily box very well, but he must have some qualities that people are able to believe in him.

Must we be a manager or a leader to illustrate that we are successful in our career? I think this is a misconception in our society. There are some who are good at managing and leading, then there are some who are just excellent in their line of operational work. However, because the overall impact will be much greater if there is scalability, hence managers and leaders who are able to produce more leaders and managers will generally be seen as more impactful and hence paid more. But what about someone who is so good with her groundwork that she is able to create a process to magnify her output for example? This should also be recognised at the same level as a manager who is able to produce more managers. After all, humans are not the only scalable resources that we can build.

Because of this bias, people want to move up the line and be leaders and managers, since this is the only way that they can increase their paycheck. If they don’t, they move on from the organisation. Hence organisations are forced to artificially create leadership roles to satisfy such demands. Yet, would it be better if some thoughts are put into creating a good career path for specialist, instead of forcing them to become generalist so as to “move up the line”? I certainly think so.

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A sincere intention

Some time ago, I had some thoughts when I heard someone asked a question during a conference which I felt that somehow the question wasn’t genuine, but an attempt to “score points”. Perhaps I am wrong, but regardless, this is not my main concern here.

My main concern is that I started asking myself if I have been guilty of the same myself and the answer is yes. There are times which I have used questions to bring attention to topics which I care about. There are also times which I wanted to be seen, to have a bit of visibility. There are times which I know that it is my intention and I went ahead, and there are times which I felt that I should not be doing it too often and I didn’t.

I think many times, we are the only ones who can tell if our intentions are genuine or not. This relates to all aspects of our lives, be it helping someone or raising a question. Deep down inside, our ourselves will know if we are being true to what we appear to be.

Sometimes, people may make a correct guess. Sometimes they made not. Sometimes, a genuine intention can be interpreted as being strategic. Sometimes, an innocent face may be hiding an agenda. At the end of the day, no one can really tell from the outside, much like how I reminded myself about my thoughts arising from the question. But within ourselves, I think it is very important for us to keep this in check, and this is a reminder to myself as well. I think it is natural that everyone wants to be seen in good light and that we want to move up the ladder. But we should always try to be sincere in what we do because you can only pretend to be someone you are not for a limited period of time and being caught once will discredit you significantly for all the good work that you have done in the past. There are also situations where people changed along the way and because of that, we assume that they were not sincere in the past, which is not the case. Or that they were caught being unsincere for one instance and we discredit them for all that they did in the past.

In an ancient Chinese writing, there is a well-known piece called The Great Learning. In this piece of article, it spoke about having a pure intention results in your heart being in the right place, and with your heart being in the right place, it results in your character being cultivated (意誠而后心正,心正而后身修).

How can we be more sincere in our thoughts and intention? The article mentioned that to do so, we must expand our knowledge to all subjects. Hence perhaps by investigating topics like psychology, mindfulness and other disciplines, we can then find out more on how to ensure that our intentions are genuine.

I have no idea how can I ensure that I am always on track. But perhaps for a start, let’s try mindfulness and catch ourselves in the act.

See you at my next post.

 

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Is increasing gender and ethnic diversity in arbitral tribunals a valid concern and should arbitral institution play a greater role in ensuring diversity?

Something I wrote a long time ago to take part in a writing competition.


When we talk about gender and ethnic diversity, what we are concerned about, I reckon, is not really about gender or ethnic, but the diversity of the mind and perspective. But because we are unable to define what is diversity of mind and perspective, especially on how our gender and ethnicity influences it, gender and ethnicity seem to be a starting point. However, what we are truly concerned about is how one would be inclined to think in a certain manner when one belongs to a particular gender group or ethnic group, and how that would impact one’s judgement. Hence, the matter at hand is not about gender or ethnicity, but of the mental framework in which one operates and the perspective that one holds, due to influences from one’s background. It is important to clarify this as the world is becoming more complicated. It is no longer an issue of having both males and females in the tribunal, since there are now non-binary genders recognised in some parts of the world. At the same time, sub cultures being formed due to globalisation where one may be born within a certain culture then migrating elsewhere or perhaps an embodiment of two or more ethnicity since it is very common for one to be having parents from different ethnicity, growing up with an influence from a diverse pool of culture. Hence, to solve the real issue of diversity, it is not having a checklist in which we tick off the requirement of having representatives from different sectors then closing the book and proceeding with the case, but an on-going approach in which we ask ourselves if we are being fair in our judgement or if there is any way that we could have done better to ensure that the process and outcome is fair and just.

Apart from the “real” impact of the delivery of justice, having diversity in the tribunal also has an impact on the perception of how justice is delivered and whether substantial processes are put in place to ensure that the outcome is delivered as fairly and as just as possible, whether or not such processes are truly beneficial or simply negligible to the judgement process. This is because such perception will determine if one were to partake in arbitration, or to seek alternatives, since if the process is pre-determined to be unjust or unfair, one may simply choose to abstain or to look elsewhere. This has two key impact. One being that the lesser one chooses to partake in arbitration, the smaller the market will be for arbitration, hence affect the overall income and development of the sector. The other being a more crucial one, in which one seeks resolution that falls outside of the legal framework, which promotes a bad moral outlook globally.

Judgement is crucial when it comes to arbitration since it involves justice. And justice is a universal value that humans seek to achieve. Despite that there is no present perfect system or implementation, it remains an ideal in which we strive for, so as to achieve peace and prosperity. There can be no peace nor prosperity without justice. We know it when something unjust happens, when our emotion rises, and it signals to us deep inside our guts that injustice have occurred. And this emotion is what drives revolutions throughout history. Despite that we have since moved on (for most part of the world) to seek the ideal value of justice through more peaceful means, it remains a strong driving force for our actions, compelling us to fight for what we think is right. Hence, it is of utmost importance that arbitration delivers the most ideal outcome that is as close as possible to the ideals of justice. For injustice often leads to undesirable outcomes as proven time and time throughout history.

If we agree that justice is a universal value of mankind, then we have to agree that it cannot, therefore, be on extreme ends when it falls under different culture. Hence, to deliver justice, we have to ensure that we are able to interpret it under different cultures and perspective, and after consideration, to deliver the most appropriate judgement. We have to take a moderate approach, in which moderation occurs through consultation from different angles. A virtue is a mean between extremes, as aptly put across by Aristotle. Without diversity in the tribunal, how can we deliver justice? Without diversity, or the extremes, how can we determine the “mean”?

Taking a more statistical approach, world trade has been increasing exponentially for the past two hundred years1. According to the World Trade Statistical Review 2019, world merchandise trade volume has increased for the past 10 years every year except for 20192. The world is trading more than ever, and e-commerce, advancement in transportation have made the world a smaller place. United States being one of the major players in the world makes an impact with every shift in her policies and approach. Despite that under the lead of President Donald Trump’s protectionist approach, global trade has taken a hit. It is not expected that global trade will cease to grow in the long term, especially when Donald Trump is limited by two terms in the office. This is evident by the fact that even as United States abstained from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it was still completed by 11 other countries which accounted for more than 13 percent of the world’s GDP5. Furthermore, other major economies are initiating their own version of global trade initiative, such as China’s One Belt One Road Initiative and African Continental Free Trade Agreement inked just this year. Even within Singapore itself, free trade continues to be the focus, with Singapore signing an agreement with the European Union to remove nearly all custom duties between the two jurisdiction6. All these are signs that despite that there is a new wave of protectionism exacerbated by the United States, global trade remains likely to be the trend moving forward. With a diverse pool of organisations interacting with one another, do we not expect to see an increase in arbitration?

Since it is likely that arbitration is likely to increase, let us go back to the fundamentals of why arbitration is often chosen to resolve disputes as compared to other means. One of the key strengths of arbitration is that decisions by international arbitrators are recognized by more than 150 countries that have signed the convention on international arbitration; unlike courts, whose rulings apply only within national boundaries7. It is clear that arbitration is designed for an international audience, although it might not always be used for such purposes. When we do not ensure diversity in the tribunal, aren’t we going against the fundamental reason of why our clients seek this route of dispute resolution, where there is greater respect for an international profile? Without ensuring diversity in the tribunal, how can we convince our international audience that arbitration is the way to go for resolving disputes, for them to willingly partake in the process of arbitration? It is clear that without diversity in the tribunal, the difference between seeking arbitration and resolution in a domestic court may be diminished, hence reducing the competitive edge of arbitration over traditional dispute resolution means.

Furthermore, when it comes to gender diversity, with a more educated (and perhaps sensitive) population, people around the world are recognising the impact of gender issues in previously unnoticed areas. Even in our day to day use of languages, people are pointing up the fact that women are often unrepresented sufficiently, such as using words like “mankind”. By ignoring the diversity of gender in the tribunal is to open up a potential loophole in which can be exploited to critic the judgement. However, one main concern that I have would be that if the world is going to progress towards the stage where non-binary genders are the norm, must we then include representative from all different kinds of gender? However, this issue may not be a crucial one to address, at least at this point in time.

In conclusion, I believe that at this point in time, it is not a question of whether there is a diversity of ethnicity and gender, but rather diversity itself in general to ensure that the process of arbitration can be convincing to our clients and potential clients that it is a process in which a fair outcome can be achieved. Such concerns are real considering the background of our clients, since more than 64 percent of our cases in 2018 are international cases as compiled from 8 arbitration centres4. More importantly, it is crucial because ensuring diversity in the tribunal is a necessary step in ensuring that the judgment made is justified, since justice is a universal value of mankind with each inclusion of differing culture, we can align it more closely to the ideals of justice, even as it may not be something that is achievable perfectly. This is to ensure that individuals and organisations are able to believe in and partake in a process that is more aligned to good morals, rather than to seek alternative means to resolve disputes which may be more immoral, so as to achieve greater progress for humanity as a whole.

 

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Two conversations

This week, I am fortunate enough to have a conversation with two strangers. One is a 55 year old man who is currently serving his sentence for rioting. The other is a 27 year old man, currently on “tagging” due to possession of drugs.

To be honest, when I met them and got to know their history, I was a bit worried. However, both of them turned out to be really nice people. Even someone as open minded as me have some form of reservations before knowing them, I wonder how would society in general treat them should they know about their history. This is why it is very important to constantly fight stigma against ex-offenders. By the way, do you know that Yellow Ribbon is no longer a project?

Through my past experiences, I was able to speak in their lingo and to have a great conversation with them. However, one thing that I am constantly trying to balance is to not be judgmental but at the same time, not to “normalise” whatever that they have did. I struggle to stop myself from preaching and spoke to them normally without any sort of advice, but at the same time, I didn’t want to appear too causal and indirectly seem like I approve of such behaviour. And I think this is a dedicate balance to make.

Sometimes, it is at the spur of the moment. Sometimes, it is being with the wrong company and being part of a wrong ecosystem. And sometimes, it is because people don’t understand the impact of their actions for what they did. During our conversation, the recent slashing case at Orchard was brought up. It was the one which left someone dead. I wonder if the offender were made to see the kind of impact they left on the family members of the victim, would they have think twice?

Crime and law is not a simple topic. It is not just about punishment and retribution. In fact, there are many reasons for a criminal system – retribution, deterrent, inhibitation, rehabiliation, restorative. What are your thoughts on our current stand on ex-offenders?

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Working from home

Abraham Lincoln once said that nearly every men can withstand adversity. But if you want to see a man’s true character, give him power.

So what is power? I don’t read power the same way as people conventionally do. I read power as having a choice. During this COVID-19 situation, there are some people who have a choice, and some who doesn’t. Hence, there are some who are more powerful than the others, which means it exposes their character even more.

Out the whole spectrum, there are those on one end who suffers badly. These are the people who have lost their love ones due to the virus. They are those who have family members in the hospital and they couldn’t visit them. They are those who suffers from mental illnesses but they cannot do much other than stay at home. There are those who suffer from domestic violence but they cannot go elsewhere.

Then there are those who suffer financially. They are the ones who have to lose their jobs, get into debt as they continue to pay rent, salary for their employees. There are those who continue to work 12 or more hours a day but getting paid less than half of what they used to earn.

After them, there are those who because of this virus, gets overworked. These are those who are providing the essential services. They are those who have to take over the work from their colleagues as they are under quarantined.

And after them, we have those who are not affected financially and because of this situation, they get lesser work to do since work can only be done from home, probably because the organisation they belong to is big enough to cater for their welfare but couldn’t operate nonetheless. Or they are students. 

Last but not least, we have those who because of this Covid situation, strikes gold. Such as those that sells medical equipment.

This post is about the second last group because they have the most powerful resource out of the rest: Time

To the second group of people: This is a golden opportunity. You have your responsibility and work lighten because you are now working and studying at home without much supervision. How are you spending your time? Are you wasting it on shows and games? Are you pretending to work at home but in actual fact getting nothing done? Do you turn on your webcam and pretend to be up and working, then diving back to your bed once it is off?

I started this post by stating the quote by Abraham Lincoln. Now that you have the power of choosing what to do with your time, are you going to show that you are someone who cannot be trusted to do work without someone watching, someone who cannot control his or her temptation and disciplined? Are you telling your boss that she is right all along when you requested to work from home and it was rejected in the past?

This period of time reminded me of the time when I was setting up my social enterprise. There is no one watching. And you are free to do whatever you want. I work from home during that time, splitting my room into half with one side as the office. In the morning, I wake up, dress in my office attire then I “go to work” just like how I would if I have a separate office. It is hard. Every morning I struggle with the temptation to sleep in, to not dress up, to declare a day off.

But like what I have quoted: if you want to see someone’s true character, give him power.

So my question to you is: What’s your character?

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Biopsychosocial Criminology Research Paper

This is something that I have written in relation to my studies in criminology. It is about hiring former youth delinquents into the public sector, how much risk does it involved and what are the causes of delinquency.

I am sharing this here because I think at some point in our career, we will be involved in recruitment. And we will come in contact with someone who has walked a different path. Furthermore, it allows us to better understand their youths who display antisocial behaviour.

Please feel free to critique the paper or share any insights. Please feel free to distribute as well or quote with credits as well.

Biopsychosocial Criminology Research Paper

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Because it is not important

I once conducted a high element activity and I had trouble motivating a young girl to climb up. She was barely one meter off the ground and she gave up…

Right at the start of every course that I take, I always make it a point to participants: It is about your basics. Your ABCs – Attitude, Behaviour and Character. I don’t care how well they do in school or how fast they complete the challenge course. They come as a clean slate and this is an opportunity for them to discover another side of them that they may not have seen before; if they are good, try to be better. If they had never been good in school then perhaps now in a new environment, let’s try it out and see how it works out for them. Who knows that they might like the role and learn something about themselves.

One beauty about outdoor education is that participants and youths are in a different environment where different skillset thrive. Perhaps they are always too loud in class. Well, now out at sea they can use their loud voice to lead the group. Perhaps they are too physically active. Well now, let’s put that energy to good use. It allows those who are so-called at the bottom to rise to the top. And I value that, because I was once at the bottom before, being labelled as a troublemaker and “problem pax”. I have a strong belief that there is no “wrong person”. Rather, it is about putting the right skills in the right context.

Then there is something called universal values. Punctuality is important, regardless if you are a drug dealer or if you are anti-narcotics. Loyalty is important, regardless if you are a gang leader or if you are a law enforcer. And since it requires the same values, why not use it for a greater good? I always believe that human nature in its purest form, tend to be good. Else the human race would not have progressed so far in the first place.

Anyway, the conversation went on and her nonchalant attitude started to get me a little concerned. I asked her: Why are you not trying hard?

“Because it is not important.” She said.

Then I asked her: So what’s important?

Her: Studying hard, graduating, getting a good job and taking care of your family.

It seems that the usual mantra of our education system has got into her head which is not really a bad thing. Still…

During my debrief, I shared these thoughts in the group. I asked the group what are their values and what is important to them in their lives? Many answers came out. Then I asked them how many of them took the activity seriously? Some raised their hands, some did not. I ended the debrief with some questions:

“What if I tell you now that in order to graduate, you have to complete this high element within the timing of 10 minutes?”

“What if now, within the economy, there are no jobs that are related to your subjects. And the top paying career is to be a bird nest harvester, where you have to scale up trees and caves to collect these and sell them?”

“Of course, all these are hypothetical questions. But if you were to think about it a little deeper, aren’t all the requirements that we need to fulfil today given arbitrarily? You are born in this world, and you are told that you must excel in math, science and other subjects in school. What if we are born in some other world, where perhaps there is no science or math but some other topics that are important and our value are being judged upon how well we do on it? Then we will have to find ways to excel in these topics regardless if we are interested in it or not.

Now, some of you are doing well in school because you happen to be good at and interested in these topics. But what if now the roles are switched? If today, you are being told that the climb will determine your career and you are neither good in it nor are you interested in it, will you still strive? Is your academic success today because of your personal value or is it just because you are born in the right “market” where your inherent skills and inclinations happen to be in demand? And what if one day the world shifts in perspective?

One more thing to think about: At the end of the day, there is no one judging you about your climb. I mean, people may still pass silent judgement, but it doesn’t really affect you anyway. And if you really think about it, there is no one judging your life either. Even if they do, it doesn’t really matter. You can choose to lead a good life, an easy life or a life with purpose or a life that is tough. You can choose to be selfish or generous, to be kind or evil. At the end of the day, you choose who you want to be. There is nothing that others can do to force you to become what you don’t want to become. Yes, perhaps there is punishment. But if you are bent on doing something, even if I were to take a gun to your head, I still cannot force you to do something that you don’t want to do.

It is just like the climb. I can try to motivate you, I can say that I punish you if you don’t make it to the top. But at the end of the day, you are the one climbing. And I cannot do anything to make you go to the top or to climb. Whether you have done it well or not, at the end of the day, when you leave this place, you don’t take away anything. Much like how you will eventually leave this world without taking anything in the end.

But at the end of the climb, or at the end of your life, what will be your answer if you asked yourself this question:

How was the climb?

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Singapore PESTLE Analysis 2020

Background: This is done for the Minor in Entrepreneurship course that I have to complete as part of my undergraduate studies. In particular, I think the PESTLE analysis that I did on Singapore will be pretty insightful for someone who wants to know more about the Singapore market today. However, do note that this is from my perspective despite that all facts that I have cited in the document remain verifiable; there is a portion which may constitute as personal opinion. Posting this on my blog as I think it adds value to the internet. Hopefully, it will not trigger any plagiarism checks since this website is own by me as well.

PESTLE Analysis

Political

Singapore’s political environment is stable considering that the ruling party has been in power for decades. It is not expected that the next election will be any different. The current party is supportive of entrepreneurship, technology and productivity, hence it will help the current business proposal. In the case that there is any change in governmental leadership, it is also not expected that any other opposition taking power will change the direction drastically immediately after taking power. However, there is a need to note that there is an increased focus on the gig economy today as more people engage themselves in this nature of work. Hence, more regulations may come in to enable a sustainable model in Singapore.

Economical

Singapore is a strong economy which is highly dependent on the international market due to its open policy. Among Southeast Asia, it is ranked top in terms of per capita income. However, in terms of sheer size, it ranked fifth, which is still rather impressive considering the population of sub six million. One thing to note however is that the country has a moderate income disparity due to policy to woo rich investors into the country in order to allow trickle-down effect, hence despite that, it is a cash-rich nation, most of the population are ordinary citizens who are making perhaps even lesser than the average salary which hovers around five thousand dollars. Furthermore, 20 percent of the income has to be allocated into a mandatory retirement fund which can only be used for selected expenses such as mortgage and education, which supports the fact that ordinary Singaporeans may not be as cash-rich as it seems, which may support the business. One another thing to note is that during the COVID-19 period, the country has tapped into past reserves in unprecedented amounts. Hence, governmental support and taxation are likely to go up to make up for the drawing of the past reserve. This can be achieved in increased GST which is likely since governmental leaders have been floating the idea for quite a long period. Business taxation may or may not go up as Singapore has always been pro-business. The support for entrepreneurial activities may well remain strong as SMEs remains a key component to keep most of the population employed. However, there may be more scrutiny in regard to how monetary support is disbursed and approved which is a prudent move to take considering increased scrutiny in how the government manages public funding and increased demand for accountability and transparency from the public. At the same time, past experiences have taught the government that part of the population still do not have proper self control in applying for grants, in particular IRAS Productivity and Innovation Credit which was abused during early stages and today, a small group of people abusing the grant for the COVID-19 cash grant. Hence, should TNM decide to depend on grants for the early stage, it may require a backup plan.

Social

Singapore is a socially diverse community with various races and culture within. A significant portion of the society is well adjusted to the idea of the gig economy, thanks to the introduction of the private hire industry and an initial light-touch approach by the government. The population values work-life balance as Singapore is constantly one of the most sleep-deprived nations, hence the attractiveness of being able to work at a flexible schedule. Furthermore, due to the inherent and unavoidable frictional unemployment caused by the mismatching University semestral period and National Service completion, there is a significant group of people who will be looking for opportunities in the market. Another mismatch will be between e graduation of secondary school period and the starting of polytechnic diploma courses.

Technological

Singapore is well placed technologically to incubate the business due to its comprehensive network of IT infrastructure and adoption of mobile technology by the people, which stands at close to 150% two years ago. Furthermore, the people are technologically savvy enough to make use of simple mobile phone applications and are well adjusted to the procurement of services through mobile phones such as ordering food. However, in recent years, there have been significant cases of breaches due to cybersecurity lapses, which resulted in the government putting more focus on this area, introducing measures to segregate its internal network with external computers. Many of these lapses are due to poor personal cyber hygiene. For example, the Singpass (a governmental access platform for various administrative tasks) breach is due to many users using their NRIC as their login and the Singhealth incident which leaked the Prime Minister’s health records started from an outdated unpatched computer within the government sector. Hence, the web platform associated with the business has to ensure that proper cybersecurity measures are in place as the country now penalises businesses for a lack of cybersecurity measures and Singapore is increasingly being targeted by Advanced Persistent Threat due to its prominence on the global stage.

Legal

Singapore was originally thought to eventually become more litigious as the nation progressed, however, there is no obvious indication that this has already happened. Apart from a few cases where the party remains persistent in their pursuit of private law disputes, the general public remains unsophisticated and unaware of basic law and legal matters despite that some may assume that they are well-read in this area due to technological advancement which allows one to access written law and legislation in Singapore, threatening to sue but in actual fact never really does. This is evident in social media where cases as such are plentiful. In terms of corporate law, there is a strong adherence and unlawful business practices such as corruption have been known throughout the world that it is strictly intolerable in Singapore. There is also strong support for Intellectual Property with Singapore being part of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). In fact, Singapore’s representative, Mr Darren Tang is currently the head of the organisation, taking the post as Director-General.

 

Environmental

Singapore is becoming more environmentally conscious in recent years due to the fact that the country is very much threatened by a rising sea level. In the recent budget announcement, a significant portion will be spent to counter the effects of the rising sea. Within the community, there is a moderate level of environmental consciousness hence any corporate strategies that are related to the environment is likely to be supported by both the government and the people. However, Singapore remains moderate in her environmental pursuits as compared to regions like Taiwan and Japan where there is a significant amount of effort being placed on the environment and strong culture within the community. In terms of per capita, Singapore’s carbon footprint is ranked 27th in the world. However, it is likely to be negligible considering the small amount of population.

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Song with Baby Kaelyn =)

So basically I cannot do anything without carrying Baby Kaelyn, since I am the only one who can stop her crying most of the time (*proud look*). Well then might as well try one song recording with her and I shall dedicate the song to my favourite baby in the world =) Trying out this app introduced by my boss. Might sound a little laggish at times because I think the app cannot seem to handle the load of the condenser microphone. Enjoy the video =)

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Importance of Economy

The Singapore government is sometimes a victim of its own success. Being able to bring the country from a state of poverty to the highest GPD per capita today in Southeast Asia, its performance is often pegged to the economy. Not only so, because of its pursuit of economic success and a practical approach to governance, but the government has also been criticised in the past for being overly concerned about the economy.

“You’re talking about Rwanda or Bangladesh, or Cambodia, or the Philippines. They’ve got democracy … But have you got a civilized life to lead? People want economic development first and foremost. The leaders may talk something else. You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools.”
— Lee Kuan Yew, The Man and His Ideas, 1997

The recent COVID-19 situation has shown that they may not be too far off after all. Travelling around the city area now will show you an almost deserted CBD area. The retail stores are quiet and sparsely filled with people. Businesses are struggling to survive due to a lack of customers. It is as though our wish to work less got answered, as well as a less dense population in Singapore; I remember the 6.9 million white paper being hotly debated on.

As I walk in the empty shopping mall, I cannot help but to wonder that perhaps this is how Singapore will look like if we are no longer competitive, that our ports are no longer attractive and our country no longer inviting. More importantly, the only relief that we can have amidst this chaos is that we have a strong reserve to support us so that we do not have to beg, borrow or steal from other countries.

I hope that this episode will remind our people that the economy is important. It is what put food on the table while we eat and chat about lofty ideologies like democracy and free speech, which are important as well. Just don’t forget that Maslow Hierarchy starts from the bottom.

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Essential Workers Meals Location during Covid-19 Circuit Breaker (And a bigger problem behind all these)

Thankfully, the government have announced that it is allowed for essential workers to eat in public areas if it is not feasible for them to have their meals at home. Imagine sitting under the hot sun inside your car to have your meals, then having the car smell like the food you have just ate and risk toppling everything over in the confined space.

However, this has not stopped some Singaporeans taking things into their own hands and snapping photos without knowing the background. This is also one sad fact of Singapore today. We have a group waiting to pounce and police on matter which are best left to appropriate authorities, and when things really matter, bystander effect sets in. I think there is a thin line between active citizenry and taking matters into your own hands + putting the cart before the horse. Safe Distancing Ambassadors (SDAs) are trained to do their job. They know the law well enough and are empowered to carry out enforcement the right way. Most member of public aren’t. And perhaps some are not aware of their inadequacies. 

So today, I decided to drive for private hiring in the morning before I return home to take over the care taking shift from my wife for my newborn baby girl. I ended up in Orchard area. Having a KFC voucher, I went to pack food for lunch at Far East Plaza after parking my car. I wanted to find a discrete place to eat, but I am in the middle of Orchard. There isn’t any void decks around. I could eat at the bus stop, but human traffic is higher there. Alternatively I would have to sit at the kerb side or stairs.

Among my limited choices, I decided that the table outside the KFC should be the most suitable. Inside the store is air-conditioned and hence unsuitable and inappropriate despite being more comfortable. I showed my card to the staff and told her I will be having a quick meal there and I proceeded, with my license card in clear view on the table.

I finished my meals within 10 minutes. But within this 10 minutes, I had weird stares and people taking photos of me. Perhaps in some WhatsApp chat or Facebook page, I would have been shamed without me knowing. Finally, security guards and SDAs coming to me. It is not their fault; it is their job. And they too agree that there isn’t any suitable place around after I shared with them my thoughts and consideration prior to sitting down.

I left without finishing my drink, coleslaw and mash potato. For me, it’s fine. I don’t do this every day.

What is sad about this whole episode is that drivers on the roads will be facing issues like this on a daily basis. They are told to eat in public places, but most public places have been cordoned off. And you have public harassing you when you are just trying to have a quick meal. On second thoughts, I find it hard to blame the public. They are trying to do their part in this whole Covid situation. But like I have said, it is a fine balance. This can only be balanced if more people are educated about the situation. 

On a macro level, what’s troubling is that some citizens seem to not know the world of other professions. Because their environment allows them a nice office and comfy chair, they forget that there are jobs out there that keeps the country running, rain or shine. This is also one of the reason why I drive from time to time. It is to stay in touch with reality, to understand the ground and interact with people from all walks of life. How else can I educate youths or serve the public if I am out of touch with the ground?Before I learnt to ride a motorcycle, I didn’t know why they lane split all the time. Today I know. Sometimes you really have to get to the ground and do it yourself. It is important for us to expose ourselves to different segments of society, to talk to people from all walks of life so that we can be all rounded individuals with an open mind. Social stratification is one of the big challenge of our time, no longer racial alone.

I hope that with this post, Singaporeans can be more sensitive to the needs of others and work together to resolve this pandemic. If you agree with this article, please share it. The Covid situation will blow over eventually, but social issues will be impacting us for an even longer time. Hopefully we can learn something from this. 🙂 

 

 

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Weekly Gratitude Journal 11

(Wrote this by mistake as it is no longer required since classes ended prematurely, but I decided to post this anyway)

This week, finally my baby is back at home after two weeks at the ICU. I think for some parents, it may be a pain to always hear their baby cry, and indeed, I agree that it can be frustrating at times. However, I always remind myself that it is a relief to hear her cry because I could be in a situation where I can never hear it again. Being a parent makes me think about the hardship my parents have to go through to bring me up. It just takes so much effort, care and resilience. With that said, I hope that everyone will have the chance to experience this significant life stage for themselves. I was not ready to be a dad. In fact, I wonder if one will ever be ready. I guess sometimes this is the forces of life, something that is out of your control whether it comes or go.

Life for the past decade had been volatile. And now, with the Covid-19 situation, it is even more. But when I look back and think about my past experiences, I cannot help but to feel grateful that I am alive and I have every opportunity to make the lives of myself and others better. There is just so much to be grateful about if you were to pay a little more attention.

Sometimes, it takes hardship for us to appreciate what we have, and for us to better appreciate every little bit of life experience. When you have lost something, like in this case, the freedom to roam, you tend to appreciate it a bit more. When you have a world class healthcare system in place, you cannot help but to feel a little more assured. Of course, nothing about life is perfect. If there is a choice, we would not have want to go through this episode of widespread disease. But it is through this that we are able to see things a little clearer.

One thing that I am very looking forward to is my next phase of life. My contract with Outward Bound is ending very soon, and it would likely mean a new chapter, be it with OBS or not. I look forward to a new stage of life, a new chapter and a new height. Even with the tons of responsibilities now on my shoulders, having to fulfill my financial obligation as a father, husband and a son, finish up my degree and chart new chapters in my career, I feel that there is more that I can do. And I hope that I will be given the opportunities that I am looking for. The next five years is a crucial window for me to achieve what I want to achieve; if I were to stay in an office environment, I think it would be a waste as I am pretty sure my brains would still be as sharp but I wonder if my body will be as fit. Hence I consider it probably the last few years that I can make my mark on the ground and out in the field. If I am lucky, I might be able to squeeze out a few more but that is if I am lucky. Interestingly, just a few months ago, I was considering a role in the office as I was feeling the fatigue from field work. I guess this is how life is – full of ups and downs, twists and turns.

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The Best Polytechnic

OK, to be fair this is the only one that I have attended. Back then, I had a score good enough for JC. I came to RP open house and I liked what I saw. I entered with it as my first choice even when there were so many rumours about it being unrecognised and low University entry rate. I thought about it and felt that it doesn’t make sense, and I eventually made my way to NTU post graduation. It was the unique teaching style which I enjoyed and learned well. If it is a lecture based system, I probably wouldn’t do well.

Coming to RP always brings back a lot of nostalgia. I remember the times which I entered with a bang, making my mark into the honours roll in my first year when I was fresh out of the delinquency phase in secondary school. Then having my GPA dropped tremendously during year two when I had interpersonal issues with my class as I was very sharp and outspoken. I remember having my first FYP sabotaged by a team mate, resulting in one of the rare Cs on my transcript, then bouncing back to the second highest grade of B+ on my second FYP. I am proud of my grades but prouder because none of my teammates had a grade far from mine. A team is successful when the members are all successful. I remember my last semester with a GPA of 3.98 of straight As except for the second FYP, even as I was overloading to enter Monash Advanced Pathway, which I was offered eventually but declined due to cost. I remember going to Starhub as an Intern, learning some of the most important lessons that I remember until today about customer service. I remember getting verbally abused over the phone then having to call and apologise. I remember being one of the top call stats analyst. I remember fighting in my first competition and getting silver, regretting that I gave up too easily when I eventually know that the media were there. I remember the three overseas study trips and the crazy times onboard Star Cruise Virgo representing RP in Polytechnic Forum. I remember coming back as an alumni to give a talk to an entire lecture hall to inspire them how they can do as well, if not better. There are just so many things that I remember.

Today, perhaps my life is no longer that bullish as what I have experienced back during the younger days. Life always present you with greater challenges so that you will grow. But I am confident that I will come back bullish and finish up with a 3.98; not a perfect score but pretty god damn near. I remain hopeful that I will hit another peak if I continue to strive. And that pretty much sums up why I am back here today taking another course to better myself.

To lead, to excel, to overcome.

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Weekly Gratitude Journal 10

Perhaps due to the influence of this module, I have already written a post on my blog about being grateful. Although a little part of me is trying to be lazy and wanted to reuse the post, I decided to write something else. After all, I am sure that there are many things in life that we can be grateful about.

This week I am grateful because I have received some opportunities to prove myself, no doubt nothing is confirmed at the moment. Due to my history, I think I am being scrutinised for my future ability to perform. However, I would like to think that I will be able to perform better exactly because of the past choices that I have made. I didn’t walk a path that is within the norm. I made my call according to the situation at that time, with the best of my knowledge, and I trust in that decision even when it is not a well-worn path. Sometimes, these decisions work well for me now, sometimes it works well for me in the future, simply because a bad choice makes you learn from it and prevent a bigger mistake down the line. You can call this consoling yourself, but I truly believe in making mistakes young when the cost is lower as compared to making it later. Life is meant to be lived and experienced, not going through the tested and proven way just to get it over and done with. I am an Outward Bound Instructor, and the word Outward Bound itself signifies human’s nobility in committing itself to the open seas for its rewards, despite its risk. It signifies that we are constantly seeking improvement and we dare to expose ourselves to some risk in order to lead a better life. After all, if we are satisfied with what we have, the human race would not have improved since ancient times.

In fact, I think that there are so many people who dare not walk out of the path of norm simply because our society are not open minded enough. I do not think that being overly liberal is the way to go and I think it is for good reason for us to take a careful and prudent approach whenever an important decision has to be made – be it policy or choosing someone for a certain role. As a small country, we do not have a margin for error as large as the bigger countries. Any mistake can be critical to our survival. Hence, the Singapore approach has always been the prudent, careful and highly considered way, which has allowed us to survive until now. Yet, because of this, we have also missed out on some opportunities. Sometimes, we take a bit of time to recognise when it is time to take that leap of faith. Rules to me points towards an intended purpose. We should follow it in most cases, but we need to know when it is time to break it in order to achieve the purpose that the rules are set for. It is a dangerous path, because there will be people who make silly judgement calls or to abuse such culture, hence a balance has to be struck. But we should not confuse ourselves to think that rules are always all-encompassing, and we can retire our brains.

Instead of blaming the world for not giving me opportunity, I should be doing what I can to prove myself in every opportunity. And if you choose to look close enough, you realised that there are plentiful of opportunities around. Somehow, seeing theses opportunities makes you grateful but you cannot see it unless you learn how to be grateful.

I remember a quote saying that if we cannot do great things then start by doing small things in a great way. The world doesn’t change overnight. But what we can do is to shape it a little by a little over time. And hence I choose to publicise my thoughts online, to influence and to be influenced. And I hope that more people can do the same.

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Covid-19 and being grateful

Recently, I met a teacher. She was complaining that she now have to take on extra work because her colleague is on LOA. I can empathise with her, since it is not really fair that she have to take on an extra load when her colleague is paid to stay at home. I think the management should ensure that teachers who are made to take on extra load are given task which cannot be done by those on LOA. For marking of papers or setting of lesson plans, this should still be done by those on LOA. And as a colleague who have inconvenient others, I think it is only apt to volunteer for more task in return. But while I listen to her complain, I can’t help but to wonder if she understands what’s going on with others who are not in a stable job like hers.

Then I have met another executive who was complaining that he got a pay cut due to the virus. And a taxi driver who was complaining about the drop in income and how the little subsidy from the government isn’t doing much help.

I can truly empathise with these people because jobs have been affected, and lives have been disrupted. But I think it is also very important to be grateful for a few things in life, and here are those:

1. We still have a job

Many businesses around the world are forced to shut down. I cannot imagine how they can survive if the government does not give aid or if they do not have savings.

2. We have one of the best healthcare in the world

If there is, by any chance that you contracted the virus, Singapore is one of the best place to be. In fact, treatment cost is even subsidised by the government. Do you even know how much a day in ICU cost? It’s about 700 dollars for a neonatal ICU just for room charges which I just found out recently.

3. We have one of the best government in the world

This is debatable I guess depending on who you ask. But you cannot deny for a fact that we remain one of the top countries in the world in terms of the lowest corruption. Imagine that government aid have to go though several level of corruption before it reaches the people.

4. We are alive and healthy

I think some of us simply forget that there are so many people dying around the world that we are fortunate to be healthy and alive, not lying around in a hospital waiting for cure.

5. We have a healthy reserve

Singapore is able to fight this well because we have stored enough bullets. We literately ran out of bullets during WWII and I think we are determined not to let this happen again. But this does not mean we should indiscriminately break the piggy bank this time round. In fact, we don’t know how long this will last. Hence, only with a continued and sustained prudence can we ensure that we survive perpetually.

 

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Weekly Gratitude Journal #9

My gratitude journal this week.

This week, what I am most grateful for is the development of my daughter’s health incident. During a routine scan last Friday, the doctor discovered that there was some fluid accumulation in my daughter’s lungs. A decision was made immediately to take out the baby, and we are very lucky that it is nearing full term. It was a stressful time because we were not expecting the baby until late March. Furthermore, I was not allowed into the operating theatre for good reasons despite that initially I would be able to, so my wife have to face it alone. This particular scan was initially planned to be done by my wife herself, because I have been requesting for leave to accompany my wife for her appointments and I suppose it is disruptive to work, especially when I sometimes take leave for attending school, hence I did not take leave this time round. After all, what could go wrong right? Thankfully, it was not a busy period and I took initiative to check in with my boss at my colleague’s encouragement. She approved the leave and we went as per usual, unaware of what’s going to happen next.

 

The baby was soon admitted to the ICU and until today, she remains there. It was heartbreaking to see so many tubes connected to her at such a young age. We were not able to hold her or touch her. But thankfully, over the past few days, she had made tremendous improvement. Now, she is no longer dependent on the ventilator and can breathe on her own. We also managed to down class our ward to C instead of A, reducing the cost by more than 500 dollars a day. We are grateful for the government subsidy else the cost would be unimaginable. The Nurses and Doctor at NUH were professional and effective, not forgetting all the other staff who made the experience more bearable, such as the one who served our meals and the Janitor who made the room so clean. Overnight, I became conversationally proficient in medical terms and read more than 5 papers on my daughter’s condition; it is only with good education I was able to do that. Somehow, when we talk about education today, it is almost always about securing the pay check. But education in itself is a fulfilment of needs, self actualisation, esteem, social, etc.; it also provides so many fringe benefits that we often forget, case in point. Hence, since this assignment is for my education, I think it is apt to remind myself that with greater power comes greater responsibilities. I should make good use of the education that I have been privileged enough to participate in. And we are more powerful than we think we are.

 

“There is more in us than we know. If we are made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less.” – Kurt Hahn (Founder of Outward Bound)

 

Till next time!

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My precious baby girl

Baby still in ICU. Slim down a lot but thanks to the medical professionals and God’s grace she is better now. I really hope she grows up well considering how hard it is for her just to live. A lot of thoughts goes on in my mind these few days, for example, just imagine that we spent so much money on her lungs and when she grows up and starts smoking. Then I reflected on my part of how I was as a teenager. Luckily I think I turn out okay now as an adult. Still many flaws but nothing’s broken, just bent.

I am also trying not to expose her too much to social media since she may grow up to be a private person unlike me. Hence not much update.

Right now, the bills are already in the five figures, but we will focus on getting her health on track and worry about the money later. A lot of people have shown their concern and I truly appreciate it.

I was talking to my wife that perhaps sometimes we don’t need to take life too seriously. Previously we were debating over everything, from having a confinement nanny to when we should sell our house, to whether should we try for natural birth to deciding when we want let her see the world if we decide to C-sec. Now apparently, my daughter have decided it all for us. Life is precious, life is short. Life is beautiful. Cherish it.

There is just so much that we took for granted. The odds are 1:10000 and we happen to encounter this. I didn’t even strike 4D in my life before.

Thank you to the team at NUH for their wonderful work, especially during this challenging time with the Covid-19. And I mean from the Janitors to the Surgeons, as they all play a part in shaping the safe environment for my precious baby girl. Lastly, thanks to the Singapore government for subsidising the medical bills to a huge portion. Nothing out of the ordinary from the subsidy for ordinary citizen but just changing from Class A ward to Class C will save us $500 a day.

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Weekly Gratitude Journal #8

Part of a series of journals that I have to write for an assignment for school under the Positive Psychology module.


This week, I feel grateful to be surrounded by supportive people. Recently, because of some interactions with some very senior people, I realized that perhaps it is time for me to step out of my comfort zone and try to be more active in shaping my workplace culture. Also, because of my recent realization about my own perspective that is limiting me, I found new energy to charge ahead at work. Part of me is worried inside that I will be offending people, or just appearing to be someone that is annoying, self-righteous or moralistic. I don’t want to appear as the person who is always critical of others when I myself have plenty to work on as well. But I cannot remain silent because the world is evil not because of those who do evil but the good ones who look on and did nothing (A. Einstein). So far the experience seems to be rather okay. Although I cannot say for sure if all of them are okay with me becoming increasingly vocal since sometimes, we don’t say what we mean; I still found support from many people.

Today, I also had a chat with a colleague who told me that, just being in this job alone means that we are very blessed. And indeed, I think it is true because this job requires one to be sharp in the mind and able in the body. By the fact that we are able to take up this job already meant that we are given more than many others which we should use our potential to do good. Being an Outward Bound Instructor requires so many different skillsets built into one person, so much that sometimes, it is hard for recruitment to happen. We need to be first responders, rock climbers, facilitators, counsellor, lifeguard, boat captain, cook, sports coaches and many more. I have never ever imagined that I will one day become an Outward Bound Instructor. In fact, I didn’t even attend outward bound course when I was younger and my first interaction was during the NTU Minor in Entrepreneurship programme which I thought they were crazy to make us kayak the whole day, without any physical conditioning. Even the army does not do something like that without proper conditioning (which reemphasize that the quality and judgement of the Instructors are of utmost importance to ensure safety).

Even today, I still struggle with the notion that I am an outdoor person, maybe because I am also proficient and perfectly comfortable indoors; I am majoring in Computer Engineering (so I am somewhat a geek). Yet, somehow my experiences during my younger days seem to be preparing me for this job. I learned how to cook when I was very young, I was a rebellious, sometimes angry and often playful youth. I used to sneak out in the middle of the night going on my own cycling expeditions, sleeping in front of shopping malls with my bicycle saddle as my pillow. I climbed up my school clock tower (could have died) and led a group of youths to do stupid things together. Today, it is somewhat similar but different. I have to cook for my own meals in the outdoor, sometimes for my participants. I have to understand the rebellious, angry and playful youths that I once part of. I have to lead cycling expeditions across the island, braving through the rain and shine. I have to climb up high elements to demonstrate how to safely conquer the element, even though I was pretty scared of heights and chickened out once when I was still dating my wife on a trip to a high element theme part. And instead of leading youths to do stupid things, I now lead them on expeditions so that they can better discover themselves and the capacity for them to care for the world. Yet with all that, I still wonder – Is this my destiny? Am I meant to be here?

I guess life is a constant stream of new discoveries. And the fact that I am breathing now leaves me an opportunity to continue discovering.

Feedback from Peer:

It’s great to know that you are surrounded by those wise and helpful seniors. We do sometimes tend to the quiet in the workplace, avoiding being too salient and sharp. But sometimes we also need to be a unique individual with our own thoughts and attitudes. There will be a trade-off, but I wish that you can eventually find a balance between them. It’s also good to know that you would like to share your life events in a very sincere manner. Life indeed is a constant stream of new discoveries, and it’s the surprises in our life that make us feel alive.

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Integrity and Ownself Check Ownself

Integrity is the utmost important at work. Even more so when you are in the public sector. It means that we should not cut corners even when there is no one watching. It means that we must hold ourselves accountable to the public in whatever things that we do. We should not wait for things to be discovered and governed, because we ought to have a good character and moral courage to speak up when something goes wrong. Speaking up may impact your popularity. I would love to be popular, but my principles and values are more important to me.

“I have never been over concerned or obsessed with opinion polls or popularity polls. I think a leader who is, is a weak leader. Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless.” – Lee Kuan Yew

Culture is something that is hard to change when it sets in. For some countries which I do not wish to mention, I reckon that it is hard for someone to want to change the corruption culture even if she wants to. When your ministers are all used to corruption, it is almost like an addiction. When you take them off their opium, they no longer support you. And without their support, you cannot be the government. Hence it is extremely crucial to not let such culture take a foothold in the first place.

Our founding fathers were courageous. They took a radical approach unseen before in this region, that we must be absolutely intolerant to any form of corruption. This sometimes is seen to be taken to a level not demanded by some of the public, like when the public service say that teachers, like all employees, must adhere to the clean wage principle hence they must be charged for parking. Although some of the public thinks that it is not needed, personally I think it is important that initiative is taken by the public sector, and not the other way round where we wait for the public to tell us what we should do and govern our actions. More importantly, it is also because there may also some who find that it is not reasonable but chose not to voice out because they do not want to be seen as calculative. Hence, every approach that we take must be principled and within proper structures and processes.

Hence, do I believe in “ownself check ownself“? It is only possible if we ourselves as a body knows how to govern ourselves before others step in to govern us. It is the same as many other things, be it within your department, your company or even within the country. For example, the government wanted to take a light approach towards many things in my opinion. But it is how the people reacted that tells us that we cannot govern ourselves. There are so many examples: PIC Credit, PMD issue, and now, the Covid-19 matter. If I am the government, I wouldn’t want to meddle in people’s life. I wouldn’t want to micromanage. But if we choose to behave like children, then we cannot blame it when we are being handled like one.

“If Singapore is a nanny state, then I am proud to have fostered one” – Lee Kuan Yew

It is year 2020. Our people are educated. I think it is time we do better.

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Taking things for granted

One of the thing that I hate is when people take things for granted. Perhaps it has to do with the way that I was brought up. My parents made it a point to me that they owe me nothing since I was young, not even my pocket money. Yes, you read that right.

I am not sure why by having a car, it automatically means that you are obligated to give someone a ride. It doesn’t mean that if someone is driving and proceeding in the same direction, the driver has to give you a ride. I don’t even ask because I don’t like to put someone in a position where they feel obligated. And there are some people who will only talk to you when they need something.

It is worst when organisations behave the same way as well. For example, halfway during the way when you have to attend another meeting elsewhere and somehow, people started to do their own computation and proclaim that thankfully, there is enough space for everybody because they have assumed that your private vehicle is a public one.

The common saying is that with greater power comes with greater responsibility. But is this statement true? Are the rich more morally obligated to contribute their money? Personally I don’t think so. If they want to do so, it is fantastic on their part. But they do not owe the world a living just because they are rich. It is for them to feel obligaed, not for us to feel entitled.

Hence, is it our responsibility to offer our vehicle just because we decide to spend a bigger proportion of our income on it? If you do not do it, are you being uncompassionate and calculative? I wonder. ..

But being expected and compelled to do something means I will never get to find out if it is out of my own freewill or not. Till next time.

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What I think about Work Ethics

Today I was having a chat with a friend. And the topic of work ethics came out. Sometimes, we blend in with the company culture. In fact, most people do; for better or for worse. We wait for discipline to be enforced, for checks to be done before we learn to do the right thing. I have seen this many times, of things being swept under the carpet until something happens.

Why do we have to behave as though we have no morals, no standards, no integrity when we should be doing better? I always tell my participant that one important thing that I want them to learn is that they always have a choice. And being an adult means to make your choices and answer for it. At the end of the day, you choose who you want to be in life. And nobody can force you to do what you don’t want to do. Even with a knife on your neck. I want them to learn that when you grow up, most of the time people would not tell you that they think that you are wrong. Because you are an adult and they expect you to know. Furthermore, they wouldn’t want to offend you. The higher you climb in life, the lesser you will hear about people tell you that you are wrong.

Hence I try to expose my thoughts. And hopefully be corrected if I am wrong, as with this post.

Some of us think that it is a matter of whether they get caught or not. If the chances are that they will be unlikely to be caught by a superior, they will probably take their chances.

However, I see it differently.

I feel that every action of yours is making a statement of your character and your brand. Today, your coworker may not be voicing out because she is not your direct superior and hence, chooses not to offend you when such disciplinary actions do not fall under her purview, but things can always change. For example, one day, this person might be your superior. Or a client. And whatever shortcuts that you have taken in the past is known to this person, even when it was done at a time where your actions may not threaten her interest.

Every action of yours is making a statement of your character and your brand.

In fact, this person may even tell you that it is okay. Because at this point in time, your actions be it good or bad, has no impact on her. And it is a good chance to see where your integrity lies.

Most importantly, it is about being able to answer to yourself. It is not just about maximising your opportunities or maintaining your reputation. But to be able to hold your head up high when questions are raised. Not to argue your way through because you can and beliving in the bull**** that you are saying. But to really know, deep down in your heart that you have nothing to hide.

Do the right thing even when nobody is watching. That’s integrity and it is priceless. It is worth more than a few minutes or hours you gained by lying or cheating. It is worth more than the rest that you get by hiding somewhere. It is worth more than the convenience you enjoy by skipping the due process. And that is one important underlying factor of work ethics.

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Weekly Gratitude Journal #7

 

Part of a series of journals that I have to write for an assignment for school under the Positive Psychology module.


This week is one that I have gained an important realisation. For many years, I have been wanting to go back to the army to finish what I have left undone, which is to be commissioned. I don’t think it is so much of wanting the rank because, to be honest, it does not really matter at this stage of my life but of righting a wrong that I have made in the past, and doing something that I think I should be doing since there is no other reason for me to not do so as it is within my ability to. It is about closing the loop and finishing what I have started. I have mentioned back then that I have left because I have failed to see the meaning in it, and should one day I realise the meaning, then I should chase it. It should not be the other way around where I do not see the meaning, but I just remain to cruise along because I happen to be on that bus. Now I have alighted, and I have realised that the bus is heading towards where I want to go. Unfortunately, it has left and now I am running after it.

I have left the service back then as I have lost the genuine intention of wanting to serve and began to think about other self-serving matters. I felt that it is necessary for an officer to first believe in what he is doing before he even asks others to do what he wants them to do. If an officer does not even have the conviction in his service, how can he demand the best out of others? This is not a game of cards; it is your life and mine (LKY). In the midst of the service, I started to doubt everything about the system and I did not want to continue being in the training as I felt that even if I were to end up being commissioned, I will still be a mediocre officer.

Regardless, fast forward 9 years, I am now in a job that I have always felt was a stepping stone to get what I want. In fact, perhaps of this mentality, I have not focused too much in my career. I was always looking out for the opportunity to do what I want to do next, but I realised that in fact, my current role is already an opportunity. Perhaps because of the mistake that I have made in the past, I will not even be considered for returning to the service. In fact, it could be the case that I should not even get my current job, considering that it is somewhat similar in nature and involves the same employer. Yet, I was selected for this job. Perhaps this is the closest that I can ever get, considering my past action. Yet, as I kept my eyes out for the next opportunity, I have failed to look at the one that I am holding.

With this realisation, it really changes my attitude at work. I wonder how many times do we continue to look out for what’s next instead of focusing on what’s now.

I shall conclude this week’s reflection with a quote:

Tomorrow is a mystery. Yesterday is history. Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present. – Bill Keane

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My Weekly Gratitude Journal #6

This week, the excitement (and worries) of the arrival of my baby girl starts to hit me. I have been dreaming that she is already born. And at the same time, my wife is getting more difficult to move around by the day. Somehow I just hope that she will come out soon, mostly because I feel for my wife. Not that I am not looking forward to her arrival, but the accompanied responsibility and weight is going to set in once she does.

I don’t know if I am going to be a good father. But I know I will do what I can to guide her. I am never the kind who would tell people what to do. But I will explain the considerations and hopefully, lead them to the right path. I hope that she will grow up to be someone who contributes to society. Some say that gender doesn’t matter, it’s health. I say it all doesn’t matter. It’s character. At the end of the day, health is a gift from the heavens to you. But character is a gift from you to the world.

I wrote a short Instagram story this week. I spoke about suffering. Somehow I have realised that perhaps I should embrace suffering more than I should. Because suffering means that it is an opportunity for me to grow. Most importantly, it means that I am alive. For many years, even now, I used to think back on my NS journey. That I have prematurely terminated my affinity with my Officership. To be honest, being an Officer does not mean a big deal. It is what you make out of it. I have seen individuals without rank performing better than an Officer. But to me, it is just something left undone. Something that I owe to the nation. Something that I should have went through. I left the service because I felt that my motivation was wrong. I didn’t do it because I wanted to serve. Today, if you were to ask me why I want to do it, I would tell you because I can do more and I want to do more.

And it is only because of my regrettable decision back then, that I cherish opportunities today when it is presented to me. Maybe that is also why I have not given up on my education when I wanted to do it a long time ago. Perhaps I don’t want to have another event that I will look back and wished that I have done better.

I remember back then, I said to myself that if this is going to be a mistake then so be it. Because I know that it is going to prevent me from making another mistake if it is one. Sometimes things are regrettable but not a regret.

Reply from peer:

 

“Hey!

I really enjoyed reading you reflections life. You seem to be a very considerate and thoughtful individual.

If I were to add anything, I’d suggest a slightly alternate view on suffering as a concept and an occurrence.

 

(Un)fortunately, suffering might well be one of our most consistent companions in life. At times, it seems that there exists nothing that could alleviate our suffering (and sometimes there isn’t), despite the best of our efforts.

I agree with you that you ought to embrace suffering more than you did so far. I feel that is a very mature thing of you to say. However, apart from viewing it as an opportunity to grow (which it undisputedly is), I believe there’s more to it.

Once we are able to look at suffering from a state of acceptance and calmness, rather than perpetual conflict, we can start to learn more about who we are as individuals.

Whatever might be causing you suffering is valid and legitimate. Therefore, the next step could be approaching it with curiosity and compassion. Where does this suffering come from? Are there any parts of me that are in conflict? What do I need at this moment (that I might not be aware of)?

 

The better you know yourself, the more you’ll be able to help and those around you.

 

On a different note, I truly believe that the fact you were “never the kind who would tell people what to do” will be one of your many fatherly virtues. At the end of the day, our children are their own individuals and they ought to live they want to. Our duty as parents is to be there for them, to teach them about the world and to ensure there exists a safe haven for them to return to at all times.

 

There’s a handy technique I learned in therapy that you might find useful when concerns regarding your baby girl appear.

 

If there is a future situation that worries you, it helps to envision it and to see how you would react at the given moment. Once you become aware of your emotional and cognitive response, you’ll be able to move your focus towards soothing yourself and consequently, you’ll be able to help the ones around you in the most productive and compassionate (usually it’s one and the same) way possible.

 

However, either way, I’m sure you will do great as a father,

 

I hope I’ll get to read more of your journal inputs😊

 

P.S.

Stay open to learning from your daughter as much as she will be learning from you. More often than not, the wisdom they possess might surprise us.”

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Thoughts 28022020

So here I am, back at Starbucks again to pen down my thoughts. A lot of things are on my mind, because of some things that have happened recently. Somehow, I question myself if I am doing something wrong. Indeed, there will always a better way of doing things. There are always ways to scrutinise a decision, an action or a person. Somehow, I question the legitimacy of the proposals made to me. I question because I wonder if it could be just a question of management style. For example, for someone who is cordial and conflict avoidant, it is always better to let things slide even when a stand should be made. Is it always better to be cordial? Somehow I feel that if Lee Kuan Yew was an agreeable man, Singapore would not have made such progress today. If he had decided not to offend the mighty United States with his disclosure of the attempted bribery by CIA, would we have been able to stand on our two feet today, proudly?

Stand For Something or Fall For Anything – Malcolm X

Sometimes, it feels like asking me to use a butter knife to slaughter a cow when I can kill it with one quick swipe. Yes, perhaps the blood will splatter. Perhaps it will be ugly. But I just don’t have the time and patience to slowly explain and coach you on things which I think should be expected, especially when it stems from an attitude and mindset issue, not because of anything else. Perhaps it would be more efficient if it is a lesson that you will never forget, I just have to do it once and do it well.


And the higher in position, or the more qualified you should be; it decreases my patience for you. I have seen lowly educated or ranked people performing better. So I cannot accept that a call centre manager cannot speak a complete sentence without pausing every few seconds. I cannot accept that an undergraduate doesn’t understand the word “Liquid Detergent” and poured powder inside the compartment and leaving it choked. I cannot accept that a first world emergency line requires me to provide a full address when given the name of a building and all it takes is a google search.

I can accept human errors. I can even accept that someone is lazy and be forthcoming with it. But what I cannot accept is that when I do not confront you with your inadequacies and you chose to confront me instead.

There was one instance which I spoke to a manager why he cancelled my card without asking if I would want to utilise the remaining credit balance. It was following a cancellation request as they refused to waive off the late charge despite that I was just three days late and has generally been prompt with my payment, so it was already with a negative overtone. He promptly replied that it is not within his responsibility to ask. Which I then replied that while I understand it is not within his responsibility, is it not within common sense that someone would want to utilise it before cancelling the card? Clearly, it was an oversight and a sorry would suffice. But he had to give his smart reply.

I used to work in a call centre. I understand fully well how it feels to be on the other end of the call. And while I may sometimes speak with a serious tone during a dispute, I seldom get into trouble with customers. And I would like to think that it is because I know when the customer is being unreasonable and I am able to call him/her out on that, and when it is really the organisation’s fault and I should just shut up and apologise, then doing what I can, to the best of my ability to make up for it. There should not be pride involved. If you are wrong, then apologise. Don’t try to wiggle your way out because it makes me want to bring out the hammer.

Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless. ― Lee Kuan Yew

Of course, there was once which I did fail to perform professionally and thought I have won the case. But in the end, I reflected and I called back to apologise to the client. I was just too caught up with winning.

So why should I adopt a different style when it had served me well for the past 3 decades? Then I went deeper and asked myself if it had really served me well. After all, my style of management and character have gotten me into trouble before. For example, once it took my job. But I ask myself what is the point of slogging off for a company that has such a culture, making decisions based on a one-sided story, without any form of support system in place.

There are other times which was more victorious. For example, I was brushed aside and blatantly ignored by someone holding the title of a director when I was just a student trying to seek redress. It took me months and it eventually cost someone his job. My purpose is not to make anyone lose their job and I said it time and time again, but I need to send a message across that perhaps no one should ever treat someone with such disrespect and contempt, even when they are much lower down the status ladder. The thought that it could be someone who is much more powerless was the driving force that made me went through so much effort to gather all the evidence. That no one should ever be brushed aside like an insignificant piece of dirt when there are grievances.

Then there was the other significant one which, for the first time of my life, I spoke to a lawyer, being threatened with a defamation suit; yes, also as a student. Someone collaborated with my mentor and took her credit. I pulled out of the project, only asking to have all the materials that I have contributed back. It was refused. And I have to make it happen, again to teach someone a lesson. I managed to bend him into shape and the lawyer got schooled on the difference between a film interview and a filmed interview.

But these are old stories. And me today really tries to be nice and let things slide as and when I can. It is tiring, and I don’t want to fight all the battles. In fact, I don’t want to fight. I want to be nice and popular, well-liked by everyone. But between popularity and my values, I choose the latter.

I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f— with me, I’ll kill you all. – Jim Mattis

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Thoughts and Reflection 26 Feb 2020

Lunch – Always something to be bothered about. It is always so troublesome to think about what to eat. Hence I always choose to go to the place that I am familiar with until I get sick of it. Back then when I was still working at CBD, I would go to the Golden Shoe Complex to have my usual chicken rice. I would finish it in 15 minutes time and do other things. Lunch during a working day is usually not something that I indulge in, unless when I am in the mood. For some people, it is time to socialise. For me, I usually only intentionally join a group for lunch when I want to socialise. It is not that I am unfriendly. But I would like to take time to be with myself and reflect, something that I find important. It allows me to know what I am doing and to correct my thoughts and keep myself in check. Of course, I don’t spend every lunch typing a journal. Sometimes, it is clearing emails. Sometimes, it is reading online. Let’s just say that socialising isn’t top of the list. In fact, I find that it is almost a crime to eat alone these days. So much that Mothership has to write a post on it. I remember that some time back during class, I was told to spend 15 minutes eating a raisin. Yes, you read that right. It was one raisin and I was asked to take 15 minutes to appreciate it. It was a lesson on mindfulness, that we should take time to appreciate the simple things that we overlook. But for me, I like the saying: I eat to live. I don’t live to eat.

But for me, I like the saying: I eat to live. I don’t live to eat.

I don’t know what others think about me. I got the feeling that I am not unusually close with anyone. I do have some friends whom consider closer but I would still want to be independent. Maybe it is how I was brought up. I was told to not depend on anyone. Not even my parents. I guess there is always the fear of being so dependent on someone then he/she leaves. And with closeness comes expectation. I usually keep that expectation in check.

But I am not a bad guy. I am kinda individualistic but I do not harbour any sinister thoughts in my head to harm people. Unless there is a reason to come together, I would choose to do it myself. But many people usually stick together to feel safe. Somehow, if you are stupid and you are in a group, it doesn’t make you feel that stupid. I think sometimes, people feel that I am critical and cold. And perhaps a little bit of an asshole at times. But I am the kind of guy who will be the one to help when you truly need help. Not the kind who would make you feel good by sending you to lunch using my car. But that kind who will stand by your side if you are facing a bunch of robbers and you really have no means to help yourself. To me, people should learn to be independent and not expect anything from others. So what if my colleague is staying at the same place? It doesn’t mean that he/she owes you a ride. And I usually won’t ask unless it is offered or unless I really need one.

Do I enjoy a close warm relationship with people? Yes. The genuine ones. I find that there are many people who are nice because of political reasons. Some because they just want to be seen to be nice. Of course, you can say that I am cynical. But just ask yourself how many of your close friends at work or at school make an effort to keep in touch after you have left the same ecosystem. Ask yourself how many of them ask how are you doing to validate their own lives? Humans are not always accurate on this but I believe that people can feel how sincere you are. That being said, sometimes, we get misunderstood. For example, sometimes when I randomly chat up an old friend, he/she might think that I want something from him/her.

At this point in time, if you are still reading, well done. These days, everything has to be made bite-size. People have issues watching long videos and reading long articles. But I am doing to stop here. Till next time.

 

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Weekly Gratitude Journal #5

Part of a series of journals that I have to write for an assignment for school under the Positive Psychology module.


This week has been rather unproductive for me. I was offered two days MC by my doctor because of my foot, and I took it although I know that I can still force myself to go to work if I want to. I was contemplating while waiting for payment, and I went to the counter to tell the nurse that perhaps I don’t need it. But they told me it has been issued and it would be a hassle to have it cancelled, so I took it in the end. Rejected an offer of Light Duty and visit to a specialist (because I know it would mean an extension of LD), as this would mean that I will not be able to do a lot of things at work.

In the end, I spent two days sleeping away. What I am grateful for, is that my wife was understanding enough to not nag at me for being a bum. Somehow, I am frustrated with myself. I have tons of work to do but I am just so unmotivated to do anything, sleeping for more than 10 hours a day. I just felt so tired and I went to search on “burn out” to see if I am burning out.

On a positive note, this week I also went to the hospital with my wife and managed to see my soon to be born baby girl in the pre-natal scan. One more month and she will be out, then I guess my life will change again.

I am soon reaching a juncture which I have to decide if I am to leave my current job which I have been with for three years or to stay. Despite that the past few years has been volatile, I did manage to achieve some significant life goals for myself. For example, I got married, got myself a car and a condominium, something that I did not expect to accomplish by 30, especially when I do not have much parental support and do not come from a rich family. Of course, all these could not have been achieved if I do not have a capable wife. Not that she is paying for everything but at least she pulls her own weight, or perhaps a little more at times. On the other hand, having a capable wife puts pressure as well, since traditionally speaking, a man should take care of the finances. My take on this is that I try at least to take on half of it, even as my salary is significantly lesser and I still have my degree to complete.

It seems that there are two sides to everything.

By common logic, I should feel very successful. Yet I don’t feel so. And the fact that I find it necessary to think about my achievements perhaps points to the fact that I am trying to convince myself more than anyone else, that I feel compelled to say something to make myself feel better. In fact, I feel lousy because I don’t feel that I am self-actualising. I do a pretty good job at instructing, which is my core role now but I don’t feel that I am very exceptional. I feel at times that I am doing a job that can be done by someone who is a decade younger than me and I ask myself where have the 10 years gone? I still feel that there is much more that I can do. Somehow, I feel stagnant in my life. Unlike during schooling years in which you feel some sort of increment every year, working life isn’t like this. I know that perhaps if I want to do well, I must step up for more things. Volunteer or something; to do more for the organisation. But I have more than enough on my plate and if I am just taking up the role to score points, I rather not. I will, however, not reject a role or appointment if I am deemed to be needed or projected to be contributive. Hence, it may seem as though that I am just being passive. But I guess that’s the strategy for now.

Indeed, this reflection is supposed to be positive and grateful. While I am grateful for some things, there remain unsatisfaction for other aspects of my life, namely, my own self-actualisation.

“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question.”
John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (1863)

Feedback from peer: Thank you for your open and vulnerable sharing. It is heartening and encouraging to see that you still are grateful for certain things despite your current circumstances in life. In fact, in times of trials and difficulties, i feel a greater gratitude for the people around me as they support and strengthen me to overcome these tough circumstances. Self-actualisation does not come easily and i hope that you do press on as you aim and work for it. The human spirit is truly resilient and i know that you will be able to pull through! Congrats on your baby girl! I believe that though parenthood will be incredibly tough and challenging, it will definitely be worth it 🙂

 

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My Gratitude Journal Entry #4

Part of a series of journals that I have to write for an assignment for school under the Positive Psychology module.


This week, I am grateful for my experience during a training program. I was asked to attend a sailing training programme. To be honest, the first half of the day, I was having trouble recalling the techniques to sail my own dingy (a one-person sailboat) and it was getting frustrating. Then during the second half of the day, I finally got the technique right a little but I was asked to change the way I handle the rudder. To me, I was just getting the hang of it and was trying to familiarise myself. But I complied. I remember that when I was first assigned to attend a sailing training, I did not enjoy myself. But later in the day, I really enjoyed myself when I gain control of the boat. This time around, I was hoping for the same. Although it was not as exhilarating as before, I think I am very lucky to have a job that seems like play. To anyone else, I think this could be the dream job. But the only problem is my mentality. Somehow, when I come to work, even as the task is supposed to be enjoyable, I really come to work with a working mentality. And I think this is very relevant to this course because a lot of how we view certain things depends on our perspective. To me, I feel like I am here to work, and I am afraid of letting loose because I don’t know how far I will go. But for others, they perhaps don’t think too much and enjoy themselves much more in the process. I guess this brings to mind that if you find work that you enjoy, you don’t have to work a single day in your life. I really don’t know what my struggle is.

Another thing that made me happy was the Outward Bound philosophy workshop that I attended. Philosophy is something that I really like and enjoy. I think it gives meaning to our lives and it guides our action. Perhaps some may think that it is out of touch with reality, but I believe that the people who truly know philosophy will know that it has an impact on every aspect of our lives. From our justice system to how we treat one another. I also discovered that the word itself meant “a love for wisdom”. And indeed, like what Socrates has said, that a life unexamined is one that’s not worth living. But how many people I know truly gets excited about such topics? Somehow, I feel that there is a certain culture of “don’t think too much” and “just move along with life” in some groups of people I meet. When I read certain articles or participate in certain civil discourse, it really excites me and sometimes, even move me deep inside. I think we are blessed in a certain way because we can understand deeper theories and ideologies. If we want to move along with life then I guess it is true of the statement that some people are dead at 30, only buried when they are 80. What do you think?

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Anonymous Review by Peer:

It’s okay to worry about letting loose on the job because you feel you are supposed to be serious. But keep in mind that you have just started the job and as time goes on you will navigate just how much to let loose and how much to be serious. Also, you’re absolutely right about not really living without examining one’s life but also bear in mind that the extent to which one examines their life depends on what they value in life, what they want for themselves and how they want these things to come together in their lives. Don’t be ashamed of your love for philosophy because it feeds your soul. I think the world needs more people like you who love knowledge and wisdom.

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My sharing this week

This semester, I am taking a course on Positive Psychology. It speaks about resilience, mindfulness and other aspects of psychology which are, for a lack of sufficient vocabulary, positive. Psychology is usually about problems and issues. I remember when I first joined OBS, during ISP, I was asked this question: Why do I want to join OBS. I said that I wanted to help the youths, and ISP being ISP, I was told to join social service instead, and my reply at that point in time was that social services are problem-focused. I am potential focused. I remember amongst the audience was someone vigorously shaking her head. I cannot recall who it was, and I do not know if the shaking was done because my point was not agreed upon or was it done to add pressure to the session. As little as I know about OBS back then, looking back today, there is indeed an aspect of Outward Bound movement that is potential focused.

“There is more in you than you know. If you are made to see it, perhaps for the rest of your life, you will be unwilling to settle for less.” – Kurt Hahn

Fast forward two years, my leave of absence from the University have lapsed. Without an exception given, I will have to drop out. I am already in my final year. Thankfully, OBS is kind enough to support me as and when possible to continue my pursuit of education. And this is one way that I try to give back, by trying to share some of the things which I have learnt back to the organisation.

The first thing that I want to share is an activity conducted in class. This activity involves pasting an unknown label onto your head and carry on with a discussion as per usual. During the activity, I proposed some solutions. However, I was rejected. I didn’t think much about it and thought that perhaps my suggestion was bad and hence it was rejected. At the end of the conversation, I was asked to take down the label. This was what I saw:

I felt that this could perhaps be one of the activities that we can conduct during course. After all, the mixing of different schools with different culture inevitably results in some labels being made, at least at the very beginning. I don’t think it is necessary to reinforce these labels, be it true or not. What is more important about this activity is that it allows us to see how such labels affect us regardless of what we propose. What I thought was a genuine rejection due to the quality of feedback have now been understood to be because of my label. And should such sentiments become ingrained, I will probably not want to share any more of my opinion, because it is likely to be shot down regardless. This not only affects our youths but we ourselves. How many of us have already labelled the people that we are working with, throwing a shade of colour over them which influences whatever that they put forth, without considering the merits of the contribution itself? I think it is something for us to ponder about as well.

My second sharing is the diagram which I have come across during lesson as well.

Source: The Positive Youth Development Perspective, Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, Oxford University Press

I felt that this is something which can be valuable to share with youths as well. I am not sure how many of them know about the 5Cs of our generation indicating success – Condominiums, Country Clubs Membership, Cash, Credit Card and Car. By sharing with them that this used to be the 5Cs and then sharing with them the other version of the 5Cs, I believe that it will set a deeper impact. The topic of facilitation could be asking them which 5Cs are more important and why? Of course, children being children will often give us the textbook answers. But what we can do is to challenge them further. For example: Why is care important? Why can’t we just be selfish and take care of ourselves? This is to challenge them further to think for themselves. Not simply regurgitating the mantra that we must care for one another without believing it themselves. Like I have always shared with my participants; I used to be a very individualistic person. In fact, my favourite quote was: Eagles don’t flock (Ross Perot). But there is one thing that I have learnt, that no matter how good you are, you can never overcome this one thing. And I let them spend time thinking about what it is.

So what do you think it is?

Finally, I think this is a model which we can use to relate to our course objective. For example, under competence, instead of academic competence, it could be craftsmanship competence, addressing the 6 declines. For connection, it could be connection with people from different schools? (I always illustrate this point to my participants that it is important to network with people from all walks of life. For example, if I am in a lawless foreign country and I only know lawyers, they probably couldn’t help. I need to know people who roam the streets and have knowledge about the culture. But if I accidentally got into trouble with some aristocrats and they want to sue me, my friends on the streets probably can’t help me either, and I will have to call my lawyer friends).

Last but not least, care, because above all, compassion.

#youthdevelopment #youth #obs #outwardbound #education #positivepsychology #psychology #6declines, #compassion, #service, #label #socialstigma #workplace #networking #culture

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My Weekly Gratitude Journal #3

Part of a series of journals that I have to write for an assignment for school under the Positive Psychology module.


This week, I am thankful because I was able to get time off to attend class. Although most of the time I came in late, I was able to quickly join the class and the discussion as well. We had a mini-debate in my other class and it got me really excited. Although I am very interest in the debate, I never had a chance to really take part in one. It really excites me and it stretches my mind, to the extent that I posted something on social media on my reflection. We also celebrated the birthdays of people in my working team and it includes my direct superior’s superior. I wrote in his card that I am happy to have him as a superior because he has been really supportive in my request to cater for the demands in the other aspect of my life. For example, my work is a three-year employment contract and it definitely doesn’t cater for one to take on studies, let alone a full time one. Knowing that I will have to drop out since NTU did not extend my LOA, he assured me that he will support the pursuit of my studies even as they did not account for that when they offered me the contract. On my part, knowing all that, I try my best not to incur more trouble for them and at the same time, try to bring back whatever I learn to benefit the organisation. Based on this arrangement, I have already completed two semesters, and this is my third. I am grateful to them also because despite that I don’t really blend in rather well, my superior assured me that in his decade long relationship with the organisation, he had seen people from all walks of life and that I can be who I am without fear of not being accepted. This organisation consists of a very demanding job, but it is really the people who make it bearable. This is Outward Bound. And I am grateful because it was really fate or destiny that brought me here since I have no former affinity with outdoor education.


Anonymous Review by Peer:

It is so great that the people you work with are supportive in your education. I understand how hard it can be to strike a balance, as I have always worked while going to school and this is the first semester I am not. I am so glad that you did not have to leave NTU, and you get to continue stimulating your mind. It is truly the people you surround yourself with that make or break situations, and it seems like you have found an amazing place to be with people who want the best for you.
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My weekly gratitude journal #2

Part of a series of journals that I have to write for an assignment for school under the Positive Psychology module.


I think one thing that I am grateful about this week is that all turned out fine in the 32rd Week baby scan for my upcoming baby girl. Health is something that we take for granted so much, but right from the start of our birth, it is already the topic of concern for someone, maybe not us, but our parents. By the time we are concerned about our own health, it is also time for us to be concerned about someone else’s health, namely our parents.

Recently, I have been facing more health issues than before, especially for my right lower leg and it is affecting my job as an Outward Bound Instructor. And it is only because of my abled body and mind that I am able to take up this job and earn a good living even though I only entered with the highest qualification of diploma; I was able to command a relatively comfortable salary. Another thing that I am grateful for is the family support I have during this period. Although I have never been allowed to rely on my family, the occasional support that I get from them do help. Such as during the Chinese New Year period, even though I am already married, I still received a red packet from my mother in law and my parents. These little things add up to help me cope with the expenses related to my upcoming baby girl and house. Writing this journal allows me to really reflect upon my life and be grateful for some of the little things that I might have overlooked.


Peer Feedback:
Congratulations! It is always such wonderful news to know that someone’s little precious one is doing well. You are strong and brave for pushing forward in this life filled with challenges and you seize them with such zest and courage; I just wanna commend you on that. Gratefulness and reflection on the moments that may have passed us by really are enlightening and I find your sharing to just brighten my day because of how much human love and connection is poured out from you and your family. I pray and wish for you a smooth and safe delivery and that your baby girl grow strong and healthy.

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Character Strengths Survey Results

https://www.viacharacter.org

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Change of Command – A reminder for me to change to command

Today, I went to witness the change of command of Colonel Foong in the evening, handing over the ship to his colleague after successfully taking the helm of NDU for some years. I almost wanted to give it a miss because I was down with a really bad viral infection and was sick for the past few days. But I am glad that I went. I managed to see many of the leaders whom I worked under during my NS days and they remained very nurturing, warm and supportive. Some of them have left the service, some are still serving, but seeing them once again reminds me of the support that they have given me, even as I was a lowly ranked clerk. And this is the kind of feeling that you leave someone with when you are an exceptional leader.

My NS journey was a turbulent one. I went in with a sense of purpose and that got me to become the best trainee during the 4 months BMT. However, when I entered OCS, there were many things that I did not understand and soon, it came to a point that I decided not to continue the Officer course. Not until I know what I am doing. “This is not a game of cards. This is your life and my life.” -LKY Things just went downhill after that and after moving from place to place, I ended up in Mids Wing OCS, which Colonel Foong was the Commanding Officer. Colonel Foong was an intimidating man, but that is if you do not know him personally. I always believe that a soldier must have that aura in him/her. You must have that commanding presence. And he did. But most importantly, my respect for him is because he is also a loving husband, a caring father and most importantly, a commander who goes out of his way to build the people under his charge and have the courage to fight for the things he believes in. Of all the people I have met in the force, I would say he is likely to be one of the best.

Just when I was lying in bed, thinking back about my NS days. I realised that it was good times. But I also realised that back then, my intentions were pure. I wanted to serve. And at the same time, with the support of my Officers, I was able to create the changes I wanted to see in the organisation. I realised that I did not shun any jobs and I was positive, eager to do more and I didn’t think too much. I was just focused on giving my best to Mids Wing, because they have done a lot for me. Perhaps today I do not have the same amount of political power as I had back then, having the level of support and empowerment behind my back. But I think there is always a factor that I can change – me.

Today, I question if I am still the same. Perhaps today I have to worry about more things, about my wife, my upcoming baby girl, my bills, my studies and what I am going to do next. But I am sure I had my worries back then as well. Perhaps 2020 will be a good time for me to realign myself and my attitude and to bring out that star that has always resided in me. Perhaps it is a good time for me to ask myself, what else can I be doing better instead of expecting better things to happen to me.

I am still waiting for my chance to soar. I felt that ever since I have dropped out of OCS, things haven’t been that smooth for me. And I cannot wait to spread my wings. I really can’t wait anymore.

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My Weekly Gratitude Journal #1

Part of a series of journals that I have to write for an assignment for school under the Positive Psychology module.


This week happens to be Chinese New Year and it has always been a reflective period for me. Last week was a course break for me, meaning to say that I do not have to conduct any Outward Bound courses. For the uninitiated, I am currently a full-time OBS instructor, while studying full time due to my LOA extension being rejected. I remember that on Wednesday, I was attending a compulsory dragon boat event for my company. It ended early at 4 pm and I was delighted because it would mean that I can catch 2/3 of the class. I drove to school after taking a quick rinse and came into class really late. For most of the students in the class, perhaps they were wondering that this guy had the cheek to come in one hour late and yet not an ounce of guilt. But inside, I was just happy that I managed to catch the class. I remember that school was a chore. But today, when I hardly have a choice to come to school even when I want to, it became something that I cherish. Right from the start, I have been trying to switch to psychology major. Although this has failed after several attempts and I have to make do with a major that I am not the most passionate about, I am still grateful that at this age, I am still able to partake in education. And even though I am not graduating with a psychology major, a minor doesn’t sound too bad either.


Peer Review:

I really like that you chose to talk about how grateful you are for your education, which is something a lot of people take for granted and indeed see as a “chore”. Additionally, I think it is really admirable that you are making the best of your situation, hopefully you can study psychology in the future!

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Back from a trip

Didn’t drive my car for some time and I expected the battery to be dead cos I set the voltage cut off to be too low… What I didn’t expect was that the door didn’t even open because it was so flat and I left my spare key at home. In the end have to borrow a car to drive home and get the keys, then jump start my car using the device you see in the picture. This tool have saved me three times this year already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes people make fun of me because I am always prepared for almost all kind of shit. But it has served me well so far in my life. We are all shaped by our experiences. But that does not mean we can generalise whatever we have learnt onto other’s life.Take for example you cross a river at high tide and you don’t know about tide. It felt high and dangerous. Then you tell others not to do it because it is based on experience. However, your experience is something that is unqiue to a situation and time and may not be applicable all the time. Hence it should only be taken as a reference. I think it is a reminder for me as well, to understand that what have worked for me may not work for someone else. But what’s most important to me is to be self sufficient, to be independent and not be a burden. You can only take care of others if you learn how to take care of yourself.

I really enjoyed this trip. Although it is not really a vocation so as to speak but it’s been some time since I let go of work and the daily hustle of life. Had some meaningful conversation and interaction as well.

Some conversations brought back some thoughts about the past. I think it is okay to think about it. But I think it’s time to move on. I am looking forward to the future as I have enough time thinking about the past. There are some challenges in the past. But I refuse to believe that I have some inherent problem. I do have flaws like everyone else. And I can only seek acceptance while I try to perfect myself. Even if I don’t get it, I think its fine. At the end of the day, if there are billions of people, each with their own character able to survive, I am sure I can. Hence if I cannot find acceptance in a place then I will move on and continue looking. I guess such is life. I wonder if Jack Ma have asked himself if there is any problem with him when he got rejected at KFC. I guess people will question how many Jack Ma is there in the world. And my answer to that is one, but one is enough.

It often just take us one example to know that something can be done. Like how Sir Roger Bannister did. It goes without saying that we will fail many things, but that should not stop us from trying. Humans are noble because of their dreams (Chinese proverb). I am young. I am supposed to be idealistic.

Next year will be the last year in my contract with Outward Bound. And it remains unknown if I am going to be asked to stay and if I am going to. I have been told that I am good at what I am doing here. But that said, I have some flaws as well. And I think it is up to the organisation to decide if they want someone like me in the organisation. While for me, to think about whether whatever the organisation can offer fit into my needs. It is no doubt a place full of positive energy and I have learnt quite a lot which I can take away. Perhaps the next question is what I will be leaving behind when I am gone.

The past is history. The future is unknown. I cannot tell what is going to happen in the future. But I am going to take every step with hope and faith and good values. Then I just let fate or destiny decide. Just do the next right thing I guess, like what they say in Frozen .

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A really disturbing act

Yesterday, when I went to Jurong SAFRA for swimming, I noticed that there is no hot water when I was showering. At the same time, I was puzzled why the sound of the water is so loud in the shower room.

I decided to go out and have a look. The door of the shower room is not lockable but it is frosted glass. It doesn’t seem like there is anyone inside and I jumped a bit just to see if I see any heads. No heads. So I knocked and pushed open the door. The tap was left full on and the door closed. So I turned off the shower tap.

But there is still the sound of water running. Then I went to the next. And the next. And all of these shower rooms were with the water fully on, and the doors closed. Approximately ten of them at least.

I am very disturbed by this. Water is such a previous resource for us and God knows how long the tap has been running. And this is why we cannot have good things like a normal tap for showering instead of those push mechanism type.

To the person, I hope that you will be identified and arrested. This has been informed to the management.

 

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Being afraid of failures

More than 7 in 10 of 15-year-old students in S’pore are fearful of failure: OECD PISA study

A lot has to do with education, not just at schools but at home as well, for kids to realise that they can grow and change. Sometimes, when we engineer too much success, even when the results are obviously not successful, we seem to imply that it is not okay to fail. We celebrate the product, but we need to celebrate the process too. If a mistake can prevent you from making a bigger one later, then perhaps it is worthwhile after all. And the earlier you make your mistakes, the less painful it will be. And greater will be the return on investment.

Perhaps we need to celebrate failures as much as we celebrate success. But let’s not kid ourselves when we don’t put in enough effort. It is important for us to know where we are lacking, but also to know that it is within us to change. Greatness is within all of us. Doing something bad does not mean that we are inherently bad people. It means that we have screwed up, and the next question to ask is what are we going to do about it.

Perhaps, if I haven’t dropped to normal academic, I wouldn’t have topped my cohort and might even flunk my O levels. If I haven’t left Officer School because of my lack of foresight and idealistic views, I might have dropped out of college a long time ago. It is precisely because I have failed, that I have learned important life lessons. And precisely why I have so many stories to share as an Instructor and inspire my participants. And I deeply remember that during my assessment to become an Instructor, I closed the sea expedition with a failure. It freaked everybody out because it is so uncommon. Our generation have grew to become soft that they cannot take criticism. That they need external affirmation to tell them that they are good or not good enough. True confidence comes from within. And it is the exact quote from Winston Churchill that I shared with them which you can find at the end of the page.

I shared with them a story of a man, who first discovered that the earth is round. He went around and was mocked. And he wasn’t recognised for his entire life and he died pitifully. And I asked them if his life was a failure. Most said no.

I told them if they have evaluated their success for the sea expedition, perhaps it is a failure. But if they use this lesson on their land expedition tomorrow, and it result in a success, then in totality, wouldn’t their whole course be a success? And even if the whole course is a failure, but because they learn and improve, then in their respective life it helped them, then in an even greater scale of things, would it be a success then? So what about the man who first discovered that the earth is round? He did not receive any validation even after he died. So where does his success lies?

Sometimes, we may be ahead of our time. Sometimes, things can just not end up our way. Sometimes, in all matters of probabilities, things can go wrong. If we were to base our evaluation of success on outcome, which always contains an external factor, then success will always be elusive and undefined. The more important question is: have we lived true to our values? Have we stretched to our limits? Have we reached our ideals? If no, then get up and work towards it. Because you are a living, breathing creature. And that means you  are capable of change.

As the saying goes, a knight in a shining armour, is one who haven’t had his metal truly tested.

And like a pencil, it is easy to look sharp and clean when you haven’t done any work.

But at the end of the day, like what Winston Churchill said, that success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.

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My Sunday

 

 

 

 

My #Sunday.

Every time I ask my participants about their dreams, I think about mine. Somehow along the way, I have also stopped dreaming. Somehow a part of me have died along the way. The drive I used to have, the confidence and energy that nothing can bring me down.

I told my participants that they can change the world. Somehow, in my appeal to them, I have also reminded myself.

I once told someone that I will only consider my life as a successful one if I one day be a minister or member of Parliament. It is not for the recognition, but I truly believe that with my background and experienced, I will be able to represent a diverse group of people. To challenge the status quo and dogmas.

Once I finish this Computer Engineering degree, something that has bugged me for the past 7 years, I will pursue a law degree if I can. I still wish to complete my Officer course, something that I have given up in a moment of folly, thinking that I could do more without the rank, as idealistic as I had been. But as time goes by, the window to do many things starts to get slimmer. Hence with youth and young age, there is always a greater opportunity, which is why I always look at my students and all I see are people full of hope and opportunities.

We all have our battles. And we all choose our fights. I don’t need anyone to agree with my life choices because I am very clear about what I am doing, be it in the past, present or future. You cannot extrapolate your life onto mine.

Your servant,
Benjamin Alexander Cai, or SgBen as I am now known as.

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Some thoughts

Conflicts – some of us are avoidant towards it. But I think we should not. Constructive conflicts allow us to improve and grow. It allow us to pit one idea against the other and see which stands. But there must come a point in time which we come together and make a decision. Where is the point is the key question.

Some humans are emotional. But that it is not an excuse for us to allow our emotions to run over our heads when there are bigger things at stake. There are bigger things than just us. And we need to be able to see the big picture, so that humanity can move on. I don’t care if you are right. I care about what is right. There may even be a picture so big that humanity doesn’t even matter. Or perhaps it all doesn’t matter in the first place because the universe actually doesn’t care. But not being able to find the answer doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek. Life is a process in which we try to make sense of it all. Maybe that is why we are born sentient.

 

We educate ourselves so as to express ourselves better. To reason. And to do that, we must understand a lot of things. So that we are able to make better decisions. It is quite sad when you feel that there is some form of injustice, but you are unable to express yourself because of a lack of education. And you later become that incoherent, unjustified citizen that others in governance have to please. Just because you have that vote in your hand. You feel entitled that others have to serve you, and I am not sure where that entitlement come from. But perhaps it is a cycle of power, and maybe it is the best structure that we can come out with for now. This might be why Lee Kuan Yew felt that democracy only works when we have an educated population. And I don’t think education means being good in maths and science. It means that you have a mind capable of rigour processing and thoughts, able to weigh consequence, project possible outcomes and decide well.

 

Emotions are not a bad thing. For example, anger may give us the energy we require to correct a wrong and resolve an injustice. Emotions help us at times. But it can also get in the way. And it is important to put aside our ego and pride. This is a reminder to myself as well.

 

It is important for us to present our thoughts in the open to allow others to critique. Because if we were to remain quiet, no one will know what we are actually thinking. And hence, it does not allow our thoughts to be reinforced if it is right or struck down when it is wrong. Something that is right must be able to be able to stand up to criticism. And we must expose it to different people. It is not just about you, it is about the greater welfare of the world. Because if we don’t build such a culture, there will be a bigger problem later in time.

 

Selection is important. Having the right people do the right job is crucial so that you don’t have a much bigger problem later. But we need to find the balance between growing them and terminating them. No one is a perfect match but they cannot be too far off. You have to decide between the resource spent to correct one as compared to being used to optimise another. Or anywhere else. But sometimes, the trajectory of things may surprise us. So try not to give up too easily on that one burning tree.

 

I have met quite a few who are dumb. And they are vocal. And it is so hard to converse because their beliefs are so far off that to have a meaningful conversation. You need to go through a lot of clarification and coaching. And the problem is that they cannot see that they have a problem. But some that seem to be dumb may surprise you. Talk to people. There is often a lot more to learn from them than what it seem to be on the surface. The people who are the most sure about their ideas, especially when it comes to contentious issues, are usually simpleton. They think that what they think is correct and they are justified. And they believe that the world is such just because they perceive it as such. They seldom question their beliefs. Or maybe they are the smarter one wit a different agenda in mind. But I highly doubt so because some really does seem dumb.

 

Then there are those who don’t bother thinking. They engage themselves in meaningless activities related and does not concern themselves with deeper issue. In the end, they lived like they have never lived. They have never examined their lives. To each his own. Maybe I am the dumb one after all. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

 

It is hard to have deep engaging conversation these days.

 

Perhaps shaping one’s character after a certain stage is no longer like chopping off big blocks of wood. But like sculpting  it. It is more of refining and fine tuning. And it is a slow and painful process.

 

Criticise my post so that I can learn. I have yet to examine what I have wrote above in every detail.

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Blind

It’s been quite some time since I thought about things. Or so I thought. Tonight I had a closing with my participants. And I wonder about how can I make the course more impactful for them, and how can I teach them about life when I don’t fully understand life yet. We seem to teach many things, but unlike maths and science, the philosophy of life is something that cannot be proven nor measured. And it truly depends on each and every individual.

Do they really understand the things that I am sharing with them? How can I share with them my past when it is to caution them without exposing too much of myself and unintentionally glorifying it or normalising it. And if they are to make some mistakes in life that would make them look at life in a different angle, to gain wisdom to guide them forward, then what would these mistakes be then? Yet, despite us knowing that the worse mistake often brings out the deepest reflection and learning, we do not want them to make such mistakes. Because we try to prevent what we can. But if it really turns out that they walk that path, then we can only hope that it will steer them away from future follies even more. I have a lot of realisation and maturity, simply because I was once foolish and probably still am. But not everyone is able to get out of it unharmed. And I don’t even dare to say I am completely fine. There are still some holes in me that I am trying to fill up.

Sometimes, I feel like the blind leading the blind. I may know a little better. But I am still blind. And how many more blind ones there are? Some may not even know that they are blind.

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Success

Yesterday night, I was asking some of my participants to write in their journal – What does a successful life means to them?

I didn’t have much thought until today, I saw one of the post from someone close to me on Facebook. This person isn’t the best when it comes to academics. Neither did she earn the most within our social group, at the start. Throughout her life, I have seen her struggle, because of health issues and psychological issues like bouts of emotional outbreaks. She would cry whenever there is a major exam and it seems that she cannot take that stress. Amongst us, she seem to be the weakest in terms of character. But I guess that’s where I am wrong.

Over the years, despite not having a degree, she worked her way up to obtain one. She started working after polytechnic, and even as I seem to have a greater start, she seems to be doing much better than I am. When I went to her office, it seems that all her colleagues loved her.

More importantly, it is her quiet dedication, especially when it comes to her children. I saw her post on how she manages her kid with that kind of quiet dedication, in a principled manner. And somehow, I wonder how can I ever be a more successful parent than her.

Of course, there are always ways to criticise how she bring up her kid, like how we can criticise almost everything in the world. But in general, I think she is doing great.

So what determines a successful life? Sometimes it is not a loud roar of determination or drive. Sometimes it is the quiet determination that you will just keep going at what you believe in, no matter what it takes and how many times you have fallen.

Thank you for inspiring me.

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Unconditional Positive Regard

I was reading the lecture notes from my Psychology minor and it spoke on the topic of self-determination and self-actualisation, which happened to be the closing theme for my course earlier this week.

I ended my course in a circle and I told my participant –

“I accept you as my participant, with all the flaws you have and all the strengths that you bring to the team.”

I spoke about how the word “family” is being abused sometimes. That family to me is a strong word. It means that one will not be forsaken no matter one’s flaw and will always be loved, despite that sometimes one can walk the wrong path. I told my participants that I am in no position to say if this is family or not and it is up to them. But I accept them fully as my participants. I thank them for the privilege and if I may say, honour, for them to accept me as the one who leads their course because I am well aware that they could have chosen not to be here or to drop out halfway. I am not sure how much they understand with their level of maturity but perhaps like how I recollect some of the things that were said to me 15 years ago and seeing them with a new perspective, perhaps they will as well.

There are so many of us who just want to seek acceptance of who we are. Yet, often we are unwilling to accept others for who they are. It is one thing to display a bad behaviour. But it does not automatically make a person bad. Being educators, we need to distinguish the act from the person.

Recently, on the internet, I can see full of judgments. People being critical of the actions of others, as if they themselves were free of sins. Then committing the same act themselves, albeit in a different manner. Somehow it felt that these people were just unlucky that their acts were recorded on camera, when in fact, many of us may do the same. Sometimes, seeing the comments on the internet makes me wonder where have all the rational people went. The constant criticism, the pretentious, moralistic and judgemental words. On one hand, you see oppositions making extreme, biased and comments that are “far off”. Then you see comments by pro-government speaking in the same manner. The only difference is that they are fighting for different causes. Where has the rational, well thought out, balanced perspective went? Sadly, it is the exaggerating, sensationalising articles that get shared. And it is those who are ignorant, naive and simple-minded who constantly blast their loud hailers online.

But as I comment about such things, perhaps I am seen exactly the same way by others as well.

I used to think that we are full of educated individuals. People who are able to put out balanced, well thought out perspectives. But I guess I am wrong. At least not on the internet. Even some of the top leaders whom I expect to be busy with meaningful work seem preoccupied with sharing simple-minded articles, comments and post. Almost as if the whole day is spent just browsing on Facebook. Perhaps power and social-economical status is not such an accurate judgement of one’s capacity and capability after all. Or perhaps one can still finish the “meaningful work” fast enough to find time to engage in senseless activities.

 

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To clarify. To unify. To intensify.

This year’s Staff Expedition have concluded. 6 days in total, 3 nights in the wild. Close to a hundred kilometres in paddling. I came here with a mindset of getting it over and done with. I was prepared to simply get screwed for three nights and get it done. It was a job to do and I have to get it done. Hence, this expedition, I didn’t bring much. Not even my beloved things that I always bring along, such as my field chair, my sleeping mat and bag, my insect trapper and many more. I was prepared to rough it out and get it through. Three days. They can’t kill me in three days and I won’t die even if I were to sleep butt naked in the wild. I will suffer, but I won’t die. That’s for sure. Right?

Last year expedition was an attempt to get everyone to understand me a little better. This time round, I didn’t really know what’s the agenda for me. If you ask me, perhaps it is to clarify, to unify and to intensify – a nice way to put across what I think it is about.

To clarify – to seek clarity for ourselves, our goals, our thoughts and feelings, and our purpose in doing what we do.

To unify – to unify our department – to being alignment to the different moving parts of the organisation so that there will be better efficiency nd cohesion at work.

To intensify – to intensify the feelings, values and culture for the organisation. And of course, the technical expertise that we pass on to our participants.

Haven’t been sleeping much for the past few days hence my thoughts may be muffled. But one important agenda of this post I remember is to give thanks. I do not want to be excessive with my words just to create goodwill, but I really do appreciate the kindness that has been shown to me during this trip. And I really mean EACH AND EVERYONE in the team.
Each brought their own colors to the team. And I tried to bring my contribution to the team as well. Me being a joker doesn’t mean I enjoy being a clown, but because I know sometimes people just need something to laugh at. I don’t know how others judge me, but I am very clear inside of what I am trying to achieve and what I am trying to do. And I don’t have to explain myself all the time.

I remember when I first join, during the interview, I said that I am really looking for meaning. I was so eager to serve, to give all I have just to serve. But honestly today, I have other things pulling me back and I have a lot more considerations and things to focus my energy on. I question if I have went back on my words. And I always remind myself of how I got started.

As for meaning; have I found it? It is evasive. Sometimes I think I have found part of it. But oftentimes I find that there is still something lacking. Whatever it is, this commitment is for three years and as promised, I will give three years of my life doing this. Perhaps it is what I owe the world for being so problematic when I was younger. Or perhaps I am here just to shift perspectives a little and be the voice of the kinds of youths I know.

To serve. To strive. And not to yield.

-sgBen

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The Poor in Singapore – On Social Mobility and the Unfair Advantage

The recent haze has triggered some reflection. As I don on my HEPA mask, one that I have purchased years ago for commuting on a bicycle while attracting weird stares at the same time, I can’t help but notice those who are wearing a mask and those who are not.

My observation so far (don’t take my word for it) are that people who are usually less well to do are those without sufficient protection from the haze, yet having to work outdoors most of the time. These are the cleaners, construction workers and many more. On the other hand, those who are wearing a mask, are usually those who are more health-conscious, probably due to their higher educational level. And these are usually the ones who spend their time mostly in the office without exposure to the elements. The rich ones who work outdoor on the other hand can well afford a mask.

If the haze can be such a polarising factor, imagine how many other aspects of life are the poor disadvantaged.

Ask the youth in Singapore who do they want to help and I believe that many will mention overseas service-learning trip. It seems that we have forgotten that there are poor people in this rich nation.

Singapore has one of the highest social mobility in the world. But let us not kid ourselves by telling ourselves that it is an ideal situation here. It is true that if you are good enough to enter a local University, you not be denied entry because you are poor, due to the wide-ranging financial support that we have for students. But what if you are not good enough, just simply missing the mark by a little? Someone from a poor family scoring mediocre grade will have to convince him/herself that it is time to start working. While a child from a rich family can then look for plans to study overseas. At the same time, rich families can always pump in money to hire the best tutors, provide a nice environment free of worries. Even pigs can fly with the wind strong enough.

But that being said, should we blame the rich? Or do we discount the success of the kids born in rich family? We shouldn’t. No matter how much investment one puts into a child, it is up to the child to act as a factor for the multiplier effect. If the child puts in zero effort, then anything multiplied with zero is zero. And ask yourself if you would do the same as a parent. Most would want the best for their child. And the rich families have their own set of problems not faced by those from middle or low-income families.

What we need to do perhaps, is to always question if there are ways to better the situation and constantly work against the system so that we are able to prevent people getting stuck in a vicious cycle. It takes just one tragedy for one to sink into poverty, like what my family have encountered. But it may take many miracles to lift one from it.

 

 

 

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The Hypocrisy of our Society

If I have to choose between a well-mannered kid who can speak well, dress well and carry himself well, yet with ill intentions, as compared to one who is rowdy and full of expletives, yet with a good heart; I will choose the latter any time. A lot of times, society have failed to look inside someone and see what is really inside. They choose to look at the packaging and make their judgement, based on whatever narrow mind that they have. Then when they pre-judge these people, and they behave according to what they expect, they will say they told you so.

 

But in the first place, have you ever considered if your actions and pre-judgements have an impact on someone in the first place? The words that we choose to use, the reaction that we give when someone made a mistake, etc. If one is convinced that he/she is already judged even before any action done on his/her part, then why would anyone want to waste any more energy on proving themselves otherwise, especially for a kid?

 

Perhaps that is the reason why my very immature childhood dream is to cover myself up with tattoos and receive my bachelor’s degree. Because I find that there is no correlation between the two. Then the question is can you be both? Can you be civilized and have a good heart? Of course, you can. But not everyone is born the same way. Not everyone has a good temper. Not everyone has a high need for social affiliation. Not everyone desires to conform. We are all born differently. So why can’t we give each other the space that we need to grow? Why can’t we just accept difference and diversity without making fun of each other and freely criticizing others? We teach our children to accept differences, but when we walk right back into the office, we make fun of our own colleagues, our bosses and our friends. How hypocritical is that?

 

We place so much expectations on our educators. That they are supposed to be good at all times. That we are not supposed to drink, even in moderation. That we should pretend to not have anger, or jealousy or fear. But is that possible? It is not. So at the end of the day, we expect our educators to be hypocrites. And we act surprised when our generation grows up to be one. We place so much expectations on the people doing the job, but we refuse to do the job ourselves. And when they screw up, it is their fault because they are lousy.

 

Perhaps that is the reason why many of us do not want to share our profession with the public. It is not because we are not proud, but because of the unrealistic expectation that comes with it. My mannerism and conduct may not be ideal when I am not in a professional setting, but that does not change my values by a single bit.

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Law and Culture

There are some people who think that law should not be prescriptive. They feel that when the law is too prescriptive, it reduces the boundary for people to act. I disagree.

A good set of law will set the tone and direction of an organisation. It allows people to know if they are doing something that is wrong and hence allow them the opportunity for them to align themselves to what the organisation wants to achieve. It has to be comprehensive because we want the management to be able to take action when necessary. If it is not written, you cannot fault me for not following. And how would I know if you are being biased? When you write it down, I would know it applies to everyone, and hence, fair.

What we need, however, is to know when to “break the law”.

Rules are meant to be broken?

Not exactly. Rules are meant to be followed, that is the exact reason why they are there. However, we need to understand that rules are made by humans and since humans are imperfect, I do not expect rules to be perfect as well. Hence, we need to understand, fundamentally what are we trying to achieve by having certain law in place. In exceptional cases, we need to be able to know when is a good time for us not to punish someone for breaking a rule and instead, even reward this person. For example, parking along a double zig-zag line is wrong. But if someone is laying on the ground wounded and I have no other place to park, after considering all my options and taking necessary care to prevent another accident from happening, I have decided to park it there. Would it be reasonable for me to be penalised for that? We all know the answer. Hence there should always be an appeal system. Not blindly sticking to the rule.

(Case in point, I wrote to NTU recently in regard to extending my leave of absence because of the circumstances that I am in and they replied that it is rejected because it is their policy. Isn’t that exactly why I wrote it? If it wasn’t their policy, an exception wouldn’t be necessary? Nonetheless, this is not a post on my personal matters. Sorry I digressed.)

Rules are not a silver bullet

However useful rules are, we need to understand that they are not a silver bullet. Rules are how we make people do something. Culture is how we make them want to do it. People have choices. And if you have a set of rules that has no buy-in from the crowd, you will have trouble enforcing it. And when you cannot enforce a rule, then what is the point of having it? We need to first set up a comprehensive and fair set of policies, then we need to educate and communicate with the ground on why are we having this set of rules. Along with feedback from the ground and mutual understanding, we can fine-tune it.

A flag is just a piece of coloured cloth. But we know that we should respect it. Not because of what it is, but because of what it symbolises. This is the same with rules. Once people understand what the rules symbolise, and the deeper meaning that goes behind a policy, they will be more disposed to follow it.

In conclusion, the rules are the framework and scaffold. The culture is the material that fills up the rest. Without a good set of rules and policies, the culture has nothing to hinge on. But with only the framework, what you now have, is a system full of holes and gaps, where people constantly find loopholes in the system. Only when you have the framework and the material working together, then can we achieve what we want to achieve as an organisation.

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Thoughts about this week

When our participants are good, it makes our job easy. When they are not, it makes our job important. This week was easier but it was no less important. There are no weeks which are less important. ~ sgBen

Some sharing that I thought was worth mentioning this week.

Does society “normalise” people?

I had a discussion with a fellow colleague. His belief and teaching are for participants to think about what others would think of them if they did certain things. His belief is that society normalises people and bring them towards good. And by framing the teaching via what the larger community/society would think about them, people will be more aligned towards norms of society and hence goodness. For example, when participants choose not to clean up after themselves, he would educate them by asking them what would others think about them if they were to behave like this. Likewise, for other actions that they take. This, I believe, may be effective due to the profile of individuals that we deal with, but in my opinion, short-term and un-enduring. But I have to say, having read a topic on Moral Philosophy during my unfinished degree only taught me that it is not a topic which can be easily solved or understood.

I believe that there is an innate good nature in people and it has to be brought out. People have to reflect, reach down deep inside them and ask themselves what kind of person they want to be. As illustrated by Maslow, the highest tier of needs is self-actualisation. And like what the Chinese proverb goes, water flows towards the lower arena, while humans seek higher grounds to conquer. I believe that all typical humans want to be good (but what is good is debatable). But I do not believe that norms and communities will naturally tend towards goodness. It was accepted as a norm that blacks are to be slaves. It takes a few to lead the change that this should not be the case. It was considered a norm for men in ancient Roman to be sexually attracted to teen-aged males and females, but we all know today that perhaps that’s not the most morally sound idea. The counter-argument to this is that didn’t we realise it later and tend towards “goodness” as we know now? But my question would be how would did that took? And what makes one think that it is good considering that it was once thought to be “good and normal” for the extremes that we know now. All in all, I think culture is something that has to be managed and can swing from one extreme end to another. It may work when one is being drawn out from extreme groups and placed in a “normalising tank” as what we are doing now, but it has to be done intentionally and hence, not “normal and natural” since people are usually attracted to their own kinds. Furthermore, when these people return back to their own communities from the “normalising tank”, would I be more bothered with someone’s opinion from a distant past? Or would I be more concerned about the ones that I interact with daily? Hence as such, it is not sustainable for one to be taught to align their moral compass to whatever the masses think, but rather, the ability to think for themselves and decide what is good and what is bad. It does not mean to simply do what you think is right, but to be open to feedback, while reflecting on it yourself, reasoning it yourself and finally making a decision. The ability to think independently.

I always tell my participants that regardless of what they do, it must be driven from inside. For example, some of them want to achieve good results to please their parents. Then what if one day their parents die? Do they cease to be good? Perhaps that resulted in the invention of a transcendent life, where your parents who are no longer existing are still watching you, to compelling one to be good. Some of them choose to be good because they want to be accepted by their friends. In that case, if they were to be placed in the wrong group, then wouldn’t them cease to be good as well? So if one day, their parents encourage them to do bad, then will they simply follow suit? I believe that we all have this moral compass inside us that tells us what is right and what is wrong. However, this compass has to be aligned and cleaned from time to time through reflection.

“There are three ways in which we gain wisdom. The bitterest is via experience. The easiest is by imitation. And the noblest is by reflection.” – Confucius

 

“Missing out a checkpoint and mistakes in life”

My participants were on a mission to find some checkpoints. But as they walked, they missed out on one. I allowed them to continue walking until they realised it themselves. When they realised it, some were quick to say that it is okay and we should move on, even as they were earlier motivated to find it as it contains a place of interest.

I asked my participants if they felt that it was a mistake to have missed out the checkpoint. Many raised their hands. I asked them why did it happen. They said they weren’t paying attention. I asked them to relate this to life. And they told me that if they do not pay attention to the things that are happening around them, they will miss out in life. I asked them to illustrate what are some of the things that they could miss out. They mentioned about spending time with loved ones and opportunities. It was exactly what I wanted to teach them, but they taught themselves.

I asked them how many of them were more careful after missing out that checkpoint. Some raised their hands. I asked them why. They said it is because they did not want to miss out the next checkpoint. Then I asked them if in that case, are all outcomes from mistakes bad? They said no. I concluded with affirming that indeed like what they say, not all outcomes are bad. But some can be serious, and I shared some stories of how some of my acquaintances made some serious mistakes that have impacted them for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, some mistakes can prevent us from making bigger ones later in life, as they have discovered for themselves.

Like what Aristotle said about the golden mean – a virtue is a mean between extremes (i.e. being too generous is extravagant, being not generous enough is stinginess). And it is up to us to determine the balance.

There are more to share, but it would be too much for one post. I was more inspired this week. Hence I was able to inspire some of them. But in actual fact, it is they who have inspired me.

Thank you for the birthday card.