Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Sweetest Sound of All Time

As I walked towards the gate of my office after work, I saw this guy also walking towards the same direction with his friend. He’s my friend but his name seemed to vanish from my mind for a temporal moment, so for one whole minute I walked behind their back quietly. I hoped he never spotted me because I was ashamed of my wonky memory. When I finally managed to recall his name, he spotted me walking behind him and his friend. I couldn’t call out his name on time, so I just addressed him as “bro”. Hey Bro! How’s it going? The rest remain history.

I believe I am not alone in this.

I KNOW! I know. It sounds trivial. Not remembering other people’s names is a small matter and everyone does it, right? To be honest, yes it is. But if you come to think about it from a larger picture, this seemingly trivial matter has the capability to trickle into larger issues, and could be the one mammoth factor in determining one’s success in everything. Many business leaders and politicians knew this golden key and it helps them to manage people. It weaved its magic in the past, and will continue to do so in future.

After one week of barely reading a proper book (I read mostly random articles from websites and blogs), I resumed the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Again the insight I’ve gained was proved to be extremely relevant and practically real. Yes I know you are pretty good at guessing, and you guessed it right. It is remembering names.

I have to admit, I was (am) not very good at remembering other people’s names. In fact, this is one of my weaknesses I have been trying to work on. Where are the places and events you will get to meet a lot of new people? Networking events, church, conferences and during transitional periods. When you meet new people in church after service and during prayer meeting. When you just started working, you have hundreds of names to remember but everyone else has only one name to add into their mind. Unfair right?! We will get there.

"Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language." – Dale Carnegie

Consider this one CEO working in a company with the same group of employees, but under two very different scenarios. In Scenario A, this CEO can only recall the names of the top 10 names working closest to him. As you might have guessed correctly (again!), they are other top executives, heads of various functions and the general manager. On top of that, no one else.

Then in Scenario B, the same CEO acts very differently. He knows everyone by names, from the cleaners to the cafeteria workers, from junior executives up to the Board of Directors. Who do you think will be able to perform better, leading the company to the right direction and achieve targets within the shortest period of time? You knew the answer again, don’t you? Smarty pant.

Now that we know it’s important to remember names and just by doing this can have an immense impact in getting others to put us more favourably against everyone else, what can we do to remember names? It’s not really of our intention to forget their names though! Blame our short term memory and for some people, like me, our brains just work this way! Maybe there are some little tricks to remember?  

Repeat. Repeat. REPEAT. One thing about our brain is when we say out a name repetitively, we tend to remember it easier and better. You won’t notice it, but your brain knows what it is doing. By repeating something, you are emitting signal to your brain saying this is important, MUST REMEMBER! The magic works this way. If you tell your brain to remember this, it will. Conversely, when you don’t value this person highly enough, you are essentially saying “This is a waste of time! Can I go home now?” and then by the time you ended the conversation with the person, you don’t even remember his/her name. Chances are, he/she will be extremely glad to know you still remember his/her name the next time you guys meet each other.

Keywords also work wonders in helping you to remember names. It is critical to link their hobbies, careers and anything else you can think of to the person’s name and voila! You are well on your way to remember him for eternity. I’m joking, you don’t have to remember his name for eternity if you don’t want to. But in case you WANT, remembering keywords is going to help. I tend to categorise people I know into few categories. Previously, based on what they study; now based on their departments/companies or what they do for a living.

Because I am feeling good today, here is one personal tip for you – SOCIAL MEDIA! We all know how much social media has transformed the world, making it a more well-connected community. Through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you will remember someone’s name almost instantly. I don’t know about you, but it works for me.

That’s why when I meet new people anywhere I go, I will tend to search them up on Facebook or LinkedIn (for professional contacts) and add them right away, otherwise I will forget them by the next morning. So folks, don’t freak out when I suddenly add you on Facebook. I just want to be your friend and it helps me to remember you also. Unless of course, you don’t want me to remember you, then it’s fine. =/

Let’s practice this new skill today – try to remember as many names as possible. It will help you develop your vivid lifelong impression in other people’s minds. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

Target Driven Life

The past weekend has been physically exacting for me, because I was irrational bold enough to join the Sports Day organized by my employer Bank Negara, knowing I was/am not much fitter than the majority population. Still I challenged myself. I knew the chance for me to win anything was extremely slim – close to 0%. I took the first step and stepped out of my comfort zone. I made an impulsive decision to sign up for 800m and 4x400m even before I had time to regret over my decision. I took the risk of embarrassing myself.

The result? I managed to clock 2 minutes 47 seconds for my 800m run, attaining fourth place out of 6 runners. The runner who got third was not too far ahead of me, yet I had ran out of energy to sprint in my last 100m. Even more encouragingly, the other two runners in 5th and 6th places were physically fitter than me. For the first time in my life, I did not book the last spot in an athletic competition. It was a personal victory for me. I was extremely thankful, and definitely delighted.

As a consolation prize, I managed to get third place in an impromptu event I joined that day itself. I participated in the Tug of War event due to my slightly fine physique, and despite my team lost to the champion, we still got a medal. It was probably the first medal I have ever attained despite not winning the match LOL! But because there were only three houses in the Bank (Sasana, Tunas and Lanai), only three teams were sent, thus the medals – gold, silver and bronze. For some reason my team got a bronze, despite never get beaten by the first runner-up. I reckon we could have beaten them, but a medal is still a medal. I’m glad!

What’s next? I have been receiving a number of comments stating I am still young, so I have a lot more opportunities to join various sports events. I concur. Participating in this annual athletic event organized by my employer was just the first step. I am currently controlling my diet and taking my weight seriously. I have been weighing 80kg for a few months now and I don’t feel comfortable about it despite my general fitness level shows otherwise. I am feeling better than ever and I have no plan on backing down.

Last week I spoke to a senior colleague who has been fairly active in running especially in the recent past two years. He has been participating in various marathons and ran half marathons a few times. Half marathon covers 21km, in case you don’t know. I didn’t know, thinking it was just 10km. He gave me some advices on running. Apparently running is not all but just the first step. Knee injuries are real and will eventually come as one progresses further in running.

It is not surprising that many footballers tend to encounter knee injuries once in a while as they compete weekly league fixtures throughout their entire career. Is there any way to prevent knee injuries? Fret not, of course there are! There are plenty of exercises to strengthen the hips, adductors and core muscles. Strong relevant muscles will help absorb the impact rather than it going straight down to the knees. Even the running techniques matter, all to protect our athletic knees.

Setting realistic targets is not easy as it requires courage and strength to pull through every temptation not to keep up to the target. We have every reason to be lazy and let the passion die off gradually, but persistence will keep us afloat. I am not someone who will settle for things, because once I start settling in, I will start being complacent. I hope you will keep on improving every area of your life too, setting seemingly unattainable targets to push yourself to the next level.

Above was only my target on my physical health. One major issue about setting target though is the fear of failure. If you can overcome this fear, you are bound to achieve success in areas you wish to see breakthroughs. Opportunities are limitless, so one failure should and would never determine your fate and destiny. Giving up upon encountering one failure only shows our weakness on our desperation to succeed. 

Of course the magnitude of failures varies, so it will be foolish of me to deny its emotional impacts on each person. But the underlying principle behind every failure is always the same, regardless of its magnitude. Never ever stop to give it another try, because the next try may be the key to getting the qualification. Key to your dream job. Key to your dream relationship.  

My personal career progress currently revolves around actuarial professional papers. The most commonly taken Specialist Technical papers are Life Insurance (ST2) and Corporate Finance (ST5). Whenever I heard of someone taking Enterprise Risk Management (ST9), I will be utterly impressed because insofar I have yet to hear any success story regarding this paper. My dream of taking ST9 paper was recently revived all thanks to my senior colleague who has passed ST9 paper, thereby proving it is not impossible to pass this paper. Thanks HS! 

Indeed, setting targets not only sprinkles more flavors into your life, but also propels you forward as you hit those targets one at a time. Try it! I promise it’s going to be fun! You will discover a different side of you, something I reckon you would never regret. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Why Procrastination Kills and Four Ways to Avoid It

Each time I thought of a great idea, it would daunt on me that the next challenging thing to do is starting the first step. Because starting first step is always the hardest, the urge to procrastinate kicks in. So there is this Rational Decision Maker who is extremely energetic and keen to start doing the work and complete the task on time, driven by dogged determination and passion, living within everyone. He is downright boring, but he as a perfectionist gets things done rather efficiently. But there is another partner in crime, an Instant Gratification Monkey.

This Instant Gratification (IG) Monkey is directly opposite of the Rational Decision Maker. He loves all the fun and at all costs avoids challenging problems. He indulges in instant gratifications (as his name suggested) and persuade the Rational Decision Maker to doing the same. On a normal occasion, the Rational Decision Maker will steer the direction of what I will be doing and the course of my actions for the day, but there is a problem. The Rational Decision Maker tends to be tempted by the cuteness and carefree attitude of the Pet Monkey, and always sometimes gets carried away by his pet monkey to join in the fun.

Come to think of it, the Rational Decision Maker is in a pretty messed up position. He couldn’t control what the IG Monkey is doing, yet he is enticed by the monkey’s uninspiring ideology of fun and convenient mediocrity. Thankfully there is this Panic Monster who will appear and shriek at both Rational Decision Maker and monkey, and the monkey will always be the first to run up the tree in horror. Sometimes the Rational Thinker gets scared and escapes together with the IG Monkey up the tree, but most of the times he will start doing what he was supposed to do a millennium ago.

Whilst the task would eventually get completed on time all credit to the appearance of Panic Monster, the result will be of subpar standard. That is how we always manage to complete 3-month worth of project in the span of burning one midnight oil, but never failed to complain at the mediocre result we obtained thereafter. Bosses publicly berate procrastinators and sometimes the paychecks they rely heavily on vanish into the thin air.

Why though? These are three of the many reasons:

1) It’s challenging and too complex to begin with, daunting to even think of.
2) Underestimated time commitments, by thinking this particular task can be done in one week when in actual it requires two, leading to delay.
3) Plain laziness. 

What can we do to obliterate procrastination once and for all? Come to think of it, I am not the most qualified person to advise you and my suggestions may even be flawed in some ways I couldn’t think of at the moment, but I will give my best shot!

A) Start Breaking Big Complicated Projects Into Multiple Little Parts
Most projects are complicated in a glance, but when you start breaking the big picture into many smaller parts, you will realize it is actually pretty manageable. This is uncannily similar to the definition of simplicity. You may give each of these little tasks an individual deadline too to make it more fun. The feeling of seeing one by one items being crossed off is profoundly satisfying too.

B) Celebrate every little victory
I love this one! Every little feat we have achieved shall be rewarded with a celebration. Never short change yourself by being awfully frugal, because you deserve every bit of it. Give yourself a nice holiday, or dine at a nice restaurant. The “nice” here means an exquisitely posh restaurant with 5-star Michelin rating of some sorts. Even crazier rewards can involve skydiving, scuba diving, bungee jumping and many other extreme adventures. It is essential that our brains are incentivized before starting a project.
C) Sleep with your To-Do’s list ready for the next day
Preparing a list is what I have been doing for the past two or three years and I found it extremely effective in improving my productivity level, at the same time helped me to remember things I need to remember. Because our brain memory is limited. I like to resemble my brain power with a pen-drive with limited space capacity, although the truth is our human brain is one of the most powerful weapons we can utilize on. But better be safe than sorry!

Also, your To-Do’s items should never be too long to the extent of making your list intimidating, and it should be arranged according to their respective deadlines. I personally use a Google extension called Momentum to write my To-Do list. Whenever I click to open a new tab on Google Chrome, Momentum page will appear with its scenic background refreshed every day. And it’s nice to have a little quote at the bottom to inspire me daily. Today’s quote is “It’s time to start living the life you’ve only imagined.”

D) Partner with a “Procrastinating Buddy”  
If you started thinking “where is this person?” chances are they are everywhere. He/she can be your close friend who have the same goals. Maybe your wife. Maybe your colleague. Maybe your study buddy. Show each other the To-Do’s list and start holding each other accountable. At least this will give you a little push to get things done. Imagine you are having an appointment with your buddy to exercise in the gym every morning, you wouldn’t want to miss the appointment, lest you seem like a jerk.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Vicious Trap Of Complacency

If you are a regular visitor of this blog, you may have noticed the reduced frequency of my post entries. Let me clarify, I have been writing an entry every weekday for the past 2.5 months, and it is my joy and privilege every time I write. But just last week, I realised this is not sustainable. I have a full time job but because I was still new and my team was pretty busy with their year-end project, I ended up having nothing much to do. Now work started to pile up and you can see where I might be heading next.

Not only my time allocated for blogging will be significantly reduced, my one big concern is writer’s block. My friends have asked me how did I managed to get inspiration daily, to update a blog entry every weekday. My only answer is to spend about 2 hours to read, daily. Read books, blogs and email subscriptions. Read 200 books, 50 books is equivalent to having one mentor. Check out the books that can take your breaths away. Read books that can keep your attention span for the longest period of time. 1 hour. 10 hours. 3 days. One week. Then write. Now I have cut down my weekly posts to 2-3 posts, in hope that I will come out with better quality posts. It is more viably sustainable this way. 

Could this be a vicious trap of complacency for me? A few weeks back I wrote about my fears, one of which is the fear of complacency. I am afraid once I get comfortable with something, complacency will start creeping in and eat me alive. Are you being comfortable with your finance at the moment? Are you living a carefree and enjoyable life, not having to worry about where is the next meal going to come from, OR you are worrying about not having enough money to pay your bills by the end of this month?

Not actively managing one’s financial health is the biggest mistake one can possibly fall into, sprung from the trap of complacency. One may be thinking one’s salary is sufficient enough to pay for everything, until one gets oneself into deep hole of debt, most commonly credit card and hire purchase. Many people opt to spend on short term gratifications than saving and investing. We buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. It doesn’t make much sense but it’s true for many of us. Now I don’t know about you, but being complacent with my finance is the last position I will want to place myself in.

What about your job if you are working? Are you getting comfortable settling into your workplace, and start thinking what’s next? Is your job giving you the highest level of satisfaction, if not what can be done to boost the satisfaction level? A change of job perhaps? Maybe a shift to other department of the same company you are working at? If we start getting complacent of where we are, we risk setting ourselves into a stagnant mode. Nothing in your workplace will be more interesting than waiting for the arrival of this upcoming weekend.

Recently I read about one way to increase productivity in everything you do, at the same time keep your motivation and satisfaction level at the peak. Perhaps, this could be the key to combat the trap of complacency. 

Overpromise over-deliver

When we overpromise something, we tend to set the bar one notch higher than what we would have set on an ordinary basis. Many people (me) tend to be afraid in setting difficult goals and overpromise things simply because of fear of failures. Failures that will lead to public embarrassment and put our venerable reputation at stake. Admit it, we loathe public humiliation. Nobody is dumb enough to step out of their shell to do that, which may explain the reason behind most members of top management level and leaders being a conversative bunch of people. 

Most people who have built their careers from the scratch would do everything to preserve their career empires, but only a few would be bold enough to come out with radical ideas and overpromise things. As we climb up the golden ladder of success, our capacity to dream somehow shrinks. However when we overpromise things, we position ourselves in an uncomfortable state of mind, and it is this exact state of mind that will lead us to over-delivering.

Last weekend I went to this property showroom and the agent told me the completion period of this project is early 2019. When we asked why, the agent told us the project will most likely be completed by mid-2018, but because they do not want to overpromise the customers, they added a buffer period of 6 months which may seem perfectly plausible. But it reminded me that overpromise things is not necessarily a bad thing, if we can deliver the final result way earlier than the expected time without compromising the work quality.

What if we can’t deliver on time? Not likely, simply because our reputation will be at stake. It takes one or two decades to establish our name, but only one day is enough to obliterate our reputation. By overpromising and over-delivering, we leave no room for complacency. 

Napolean Hill’s Thought For The Day was sent to my email 5 days ago and it stated this: 

Friday, 13 November 2015

The Power of Leverage

Motivational quotes are ubiquitous. Whilst I myself am an avid reader of motivational quotes, they may not be sufficient to pull someone back on track, assuming the person has access to it. Many people are not that fortunate. Imagine someone so dreadful of life or fell so deeply in financial debt, waiting for time to pass. No purpose of life whatsoever, time is just ticking before that person drifts into extreme depression and eventually jumps off the window of a city skyline, or one of the cliffs in Zermatt. 

Why such pessimism? People who really need to be heard can't be heard, people who need help can't get one. The sad truth is they may not even have access to such motivational edification as they are engulfed by the horrendous reality of life, day in day out. People around them are too obsessed with themselves and barely able to notice their peculiar behaviour. Perhaps if we could practice a little more empathy, things could have been turned out differently. Lives could have been saved and transformed for the better.

Introspectively I am privileged to have gained easy access to the motivational sources as I am sure many of us do, and whenever someone comes to me with his/her problems faced in life, I will always try my best to listen and encourage. But I am weak myself. My voice is meagre. That’s why I chose to write blog post. Not for myself but to serve others. To encourage others. To brighten up someone’s life a little amidst all the looming negativity. My end goal has always been and will always be to help others, add values into people’s life.

To me, blogging is a form of leverage, but is not the only way. It is just one of many ways I personally embarked on simply because of its convenience. Perhaps you have your personal touch of encouraging others. Be kind to people, even strangers. One thing I realised about kindness is it would naturally be reciprocated to touch more people’s day, just like water ripple effect. Why not give it a try today? Even a simple smile would brighten someone’s life. It is contagious anyway, and people would generally be drawn to the person who smile rather than the one pulling a long face.

What is the form of leverage that can improve our life tremendously? Reading. Most successful people and world leaders, if not all, are avid readers. I dreaded of reading when I was much younger and I never failed to fall asleep if I were to be shoved a book right on my face. I was never able to appreciate the magic this reading habit can do in my life. It changes life! It certainly has changed mine ever since I started picking up a book of my personal interest and delve into the world of author’s dreamland and thoughts, coupled with his/her rich experiences.

I don’t think I would ever regret picking up reading habit. If there was one single thing I am thankful of this year, it is myself having picked up reading as my hobby. It allows myself to detach from callous reality. Not that reality has been harsh on me because everything has been falling in place for me conveniently and I am thankful for that. This is certainly not the case for many people. Reading is probably the one and only reality simulator, providing access to millenniums of events and human history. 

That was probably one of the reasons I enjoyed reading history books even back in high school, when most of my peers loathe reading them but were forced to. There is an adage “History repeats itself”, so if I am able to leverage on the knowledge of past events, I would be able to stand on the shoulder of a giant. History is my giant. I will stand a higher chance of surviving today with a smile, and brace myself for a tougher battle tomorrow.

One of my favourite authors, James Altucher, can’t emphasise enough how reading has impacted his life tremendously. He is probably the staunchest reader I have ever come to know. His reason for such dedication? “I read because it lets me re-live the lives of all of the authors, curated by them into a compact form so I can re-live that life in days instead of decades. Reading has saved my life more than once. It’s taught me to rob banks, it’s taught me to love better. It’s taught me how to be good and competent at things.”

Needless to say, reading is currently my ultimate leveraged weapon. It is one of the best and cheapest avenues for me to equip myself with an arsenal of knowledge I yearn for, be it property, financial, economics, motivational and personal development. Nothing by far even comes close to it. Take away my time off reading and you are taking away my life.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Why Not Me?

When I was relatively younger, I used to doubt myself. I had poor self-esteem purely out of the thought of myself being untalented. I was raw and inexperienced in whatever came my way. In everything I encountered at school, I stood by the sideline and watched the high flyers performed to their best abilities and won tournaments, one after another. Then I would envy them. I wished I could be just a little bit like them, being outstanding in fields of their choices. 

And I bumped into this quote out of the blue, saying: "If others can do it, why can't I?" I paused. If others can do it, why can't you? There are so many people who have made histories, success stories are everywhere if you bother to look around. So many people have succeeded, why not myself? Many excellent students had attained straight A1's, what is stopping me from achieving the similar feat? What a powerful revelation! From that moment onwards, I started to gain courage, aim higher and strive for the best I could possibly achieve. 

That led me to the field of actuarial science, a field traditionally deemed as one of the toughest any sane homosapien can pursue in the world, because of its long grueling series of professional papers one has to endure in order to be qualified. I dared to challenge myself mentally, albeit having heard many failures occured in both past and present. There is no easy path, each professional paper exacts several hundred hours of discipline efforts allocated on revisions. Am I ready for it, both physically and mentally? At least at the end of the day, I can say I have attempted. 

These past two weeks I have been looking actively at properties, then I realised I have so much more to learn. I am just an inexperienced newbie. One thing I am extremely thankful of is the number of seniors available at my disposal to share with me their personal tips and opinions on property investing. As a starter, I need to make a few major decisions myself such as: 

i) What is my investment goal and the purpose of buying property (for own stay or passive income)? 
ii) Do I want a positive (sub-sale completed old building) or negative cash flow (new project)? 
iii) If negative cash flow, am I ready for such a huge financial obligation (which can be seen as a massive hurdle in times to come, bearing in mind I would have increasing commitments)? 

It may seem daunting at first as it did to me, but as long as I keep my mind open, I will be able to master it one day. Not only helpful seniors are everywhere within my reach, there are property blogs and websites that are freely available too. Only if you are willing and take your own initiative to spend some time on doing adequate research before committing yourself to huge financial obligation, you will improve over time. So far I am willing and hopeful to keep this level of enthusiasm high. I am still learning and will persist on equipping myself with knowledge.  

As soon as we are comfortable with our level of understanding on a certain topic, there is where the danger comes. Why do I say that? Because we feel complacent and thought we knew everything. We deluded ourselves into thinking we were on top of summit when we were barely at the base. We thought we had nothing else to fear. It is all innately entrenched in our mind and it is inevitable at one point we will feel this way. Maybe if we keep ourselves open to new ideas and always think we are just beginners, we shall never settle for ourselves, and we will keep moving forward! 

Another important point is we dare not step out beyond our comfort zones because of our fear of failures. As human beings it is natural for us to be afraid of uncertainty. Any venture demanding the stretch of our mental capacity and technical prowess daunts us back to our caves. It requires extra time and efforts, which means less time for something else – opportunity cost. There will be a complete shift in our priority list. But it has got to start somewhere. Perhaps this is a good beginning. 

Maybe we should just stop doubting ourselves, depriving ourselves of true potentials. When our minds and mental capacities are tough, nothing external can truly hurt us. Failures? Sure. Rejections? Bring it on! Not that I am already immune to all these, I know the sure-fire ways to climb back up stronger. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 

Favourite Music! =)