Friday, 30 October 2015

Selective Speaking

This coming Saturday, my mom is going to this talk to find out more about the job offer she found out recently from God-knows-where. This job offer seems quite promising, attractive and enticing (imagine five figure monthly salary around 40+k by just managing a newly set up company by a local tycoon). The problem is it's too good to be true. Whenever there is an offer you think it is too good to be true, it probably is. RUN THE OTHER WAY, don't walk!

The hard truth with this world is this is an extremely realistic world we live in. Everyone tries to take advantage on everyone else, where only the strongest (read: trickiest and most cunning) people thrive with the most greedy blokes being the easiest victims.

But my mom would beg to differ. This is weird but for some reasons women are easier to fall prey to unscrupulous conmen with a myriad of cunning yet intricate scams, all for the sake of easy money. She has fallen into a trap before, forcing her to be financially stretched for a certain period. She was greedy and she had to pay for the consequences but I don't blame her. Who isn't? To a certain degree all of us possess greed, but our ability (or rather, inability) to control our greed would ultimately determine our financial decisions and thus, financial position.

She has not learnt the lesson. Or perhaps she has learnt the lesson and is a little smarter now, but still the fact that she decided to attend this talk shows the direct opposite. To me, it is a waste of time. It is just too good to be true, there's no free lunch in this world. People can promise the whole world as the reward if you decided to join in, but you really ought to discern whether it is realistic. Again, there's never a free lunch in this world.

Yesterday night when my dad was warning my mom not to make any foolish decision, the situation was not pleasant. She said "I'm going there just to check out, nothing more! I want to check out what's the catch!" In my mind I was saying: "But really, if you are smart enough, you will never consider wasting your two to three hours travelling all the way to KL and listen to such superfluous nonsense." And indeed if the reward was so rich, they wouldn't use such naive approach to hire the management. Multiple interviews of systematic approach would have been carried out to hire the best candidates.

As much as I hate to admit, I was rather tempted to blast out all the reasons why she shouldn't waste her three hours time and unnecessary expenses on petrol. I thought it was doltish! But what would have happened? You see, everyone has pride and no one in this world is happy to see one's pride being smashed on the ground. Whenever one is met with harsh feedback and critics in front of the whole world, it is not a nice scene to behold. Even a conversation between two people, this rule still holds true.

So I was in the car with my mom this morning. Again we spoke about this topic, but I decided not to hurt her pride. She probably has had enough of those from my dad. Hurtful and embarrasing remarks. Had I not managed my words properly, it would have not only hurt her pride but it may also inflict unintended consequences on her thinking. This may result in this: "Now he is all grown up and he doesn't need me anymore. He has full grown wings now that he is ready to fly!". She would have felt disappointed and betrayed.

That is the last thing I want her to feel. Over time, I have learnt that whenever I yelled at her with my utmost honest opinions, even if they make every perfect sense, they would be rebuked with total revulsion. So what I did was I chose my words very meticulously. I said to her with a nice tone, "You may have become smarter after the last incident, but you must be very careful with this ad. It doesn't sound right and most likely it is not going to be true".  The way I spoke to her changed her reaction.

So here's the key, the only suitable way to get my message across and ensure she accepts the message is through selective speaking with soft tone. It is not uncommon that the way you speak would be reciprocated, and that was what happened. I just hope she would finally understand our underlying concern, the reasons why all of us (my family members) are sending such strong signal to her, hope that she won't fall prey to the cunning and deceitful people again.

Where else can you practice selective speaking? Everywhere, really. Say, if your colleague has just received a bad scolding from his boss, would you go forward and say something sensitive to him? I hope you wouldn't. Rather, practice selective speaking and speak words of encouragement into his life. I promise you will instantly get a lifelong friend. Words of encouragement are getting scarce nowadays, speak more of these will help you to be more emphathetic.

So remember, whenever you are tempted to criticise someone, think of all possible consequences. Weighing the pros and cons before speaking are far more effective than saying it blatantly and yield negative returns and repugnance. And always practice selective speaking with soft tone. It wins the conversation.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Intertwining of Two Greatest Desires

This morning I read about something that saddened me deeply: a recent American horror story on Elisa Lam's death in Cecil Hotel (L.A.) which had spurred multiple conspiracy theories. It began as one of the greatest mysteries because the story was so perplexing with incomplete information. The infamous history of Cecil Hotel definitely made the case worse. You may find the full story here. It eventually turned out to be a doleful tragedy that hit me.

She was a young 21 year old Canadian of Chinese descent hailed from Vancouver who suffered from depression, but her depression and fear eventually took over. She was so paranoid and wanted to hide from the callous world, and she had found the perfect place in the hotel: water tank. There you can imagine how the story ended: She was drowned and only to be found naked at the bottom of the water tank after missing for 2 weeks. Elisa's death has many uncanny and eerie similarities with the movie Dark Water, a Japanese horror film released in year 2005. 

I remember that movie. That was one of very few horror movies I have watched throughout my entire lifetime simply because I am not a big fan of horror movies. And because I am scared. But Jesus told me He will be walking with me every day, so I eventually thought those horror movies were ridiculous. 

But Elisa's death struck me in two ways: she only wanted to be loved, AND to be understood

Indeed these two things are the greatest desires every human being yearns for, on top of our basic necessities and needs. We all want to be loved and to be understood. That's why we are living in a community. That's why we have friends and family members. If you do not have a friend, find one! If you can't find, I am here for you. Because so often even your own family members do not really understand you due to lack of communication and busyness. 

More often than not, your family members love you, but they may not understand you truly. Shallow conversation may be the dominating component in your family communicative sphere. What truly breaks the cold relationship is heart-to-heart pillow talk. Okay it doesn't have to be pillow talk but a sincere and open discussion will do as well. I am personally having a hard time at home. I don't get the privilege to talk heart-to-heart with my parents, because I was not confident I would be able to seek wise advices. I would rather seek advices from some other friends. 

But I was sometimes proven wrong. 

Only when I am willing to open my heart and discuss about an issue whether to parents or trustable friends, I am able to discern the advices given. Although many of the advices may not be wise and appropriate, I have the liberty to choose carefully whether to follow. But many people are not able to open up their heart and share their issues with friends and family. What if the person does not trust others enough? What if he/she was facing depression, just like Elisa?

If you can do this one key, it would almost immediately make you multiple times more likeable: Get genuinely interested in other people. Many people don't. We are selfish creatures who only care about our own well-being and happiness. Maybe today is the day we can start changing. The best antidote to solving anything that we have no power to control over is by changing ourselves. Adapting ourselves to an evolving environment requires immence efforts, offering ourselves to genuinely care for one another doesn't. 

It can be as simple as asking a genuine "How are you doing today?", or as troublesome as sacrificing your time and effort to understand and listen to other people. The Golden Rule is a famous maxim stating "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself." Imagine if you genuinely care about someone. While you are not supposed to expect the same return, more often than not the same amount of kindness would be reciprocated to you manifold. 

What if you can't exhibit the same level of warmth and get genuinely interested in other people? You may be telling me, "I have enough problems of my own and I don't even have time for myself. What more other people?!" Maybe you need to start downsizing your responsibility portfolio and realign your priorities. If you do not have the time for other people, it is not going to be sustainable in the long run. We are emotional beings and we need supports in times of crisis. 

What if you are just as moody as I often get and don't feel like asking other people on how are they doing? I don't know about you, but I am pretty sure I had this thought before: "I am getting more and more depressed by days, and I can't see the light at the end of tunnel. It's all dark and gloomy. Everything that seems so easy to other people seems 1000 times harder to me. People can make friends so easily, laugh and live as if it was their second nature. I can't. I am an utter failure I wish I could sleep myself to death. I hate myself. " 

Maybe it is about time you join a community. I am glad I have found a community that truly and genuinely care about me, and in turn it nudged me to bless other members within the community too. It is really not a rocket science. My community is where I call my second home. My church community. My cell group community. We are all binded by the common core values and belief with Jesus being the centre of it all. 

It is not difficult to find a community. When I just finished my high school national examination, I joined ReCom (a student forum served as a platform for information exchange) and I found a community of like minded young people who were just like me. Maybe you can form a work community at your workplace as well. Or if there is already one that suits you, even better! Join them! You will never regret joining a community because of potential unlimited upside. More true friends. We are emotional beings after all, no matter how logical you may think you are. 

I'm glad I have found mine. Have you? 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Changes Start Today!

Is there anything in life you want to take action, only to find yourself keep procrastinating? Or maybe you really want to do that one thing but has been giving yourself tonnes of excuses? Out of plain laziness or maybe fear and lack of confidence? Maybe you haven't been liking your job for years and you still stuck with the same old boring job? On a lighter note, maybe you have been telling yourself to go exercise but you always get bogged down by last minute "unexpected events". Then the sense of guilt crawls in.

The thing is, if we don't start doing it now, we will never start. It's true that the first step is always the hardest, but if only you take the leap of faith and take the first baby step, you will start seeing breakthroughs. The key here is TAKE ACTION!

The change does not have to be significant, in fact many changes have a humble start, aligned with my 1% improvement every day. I have been telling myself to eat more heathily, but I have been giving myself excuses! I still love eating the cholesterol-rich nasi lemak (coconut rice) for breakfast, or Mocha ice blended after lunch meal. I have been telling myself to start preparing my own lunch, because the food sold in my workplace's cafetaria are not that healthy.

But what happened? I still continued to eat half rice with a portion of meat (usually lamb) and another portion of vegetables (long beans or spinach), for lunch. I still continue to indulge in Nescafe Milo drink (instead of a more expensive Mocha ice blended). For breakfast, I still continued to eat fried rice or fried mihun, and an egg or scrambled eggs. Rich in carbs and proteins, but oily.

Just yesterday there was a number of health booths set up to offer the Bank staffs free checkup on blood glucose level, blood pressure, cholesterol level, fat percentage, BMI and so on. I went and checked up, and here're the results!

Thank God my cholesterol level, blood pressure and blood glucose level are all normal. But I'm still fat. Average muscle mass but above average fat level. Maybe the machine was faulty. I tried to give myself one thousand excuses. I even tried to argue with the girl who interpreted the figure, saying the possibility of the muscles being mistaken as fats. Eventually I concurred. There's no point feeling bad about it because this is the fact. Feeling discouraged doesn't help, taking action does!

One comforting thing about the result was that my fitness level scored 72%, 2% above the benchmark. If one's score is above 70%, one is considered fit. This didn't come as a surprise to me because I have been frequenting gym for the past two months. So what is the change I can start implementing to improve my fitness level even more?

Reducing weight is definitely one way! Controlling what I eat and reduce the portion of food intake. In fact, if you use a small plate/bowl for meals, you will eat lesser. This morning, I ate differently. Instead of fried rice/fried mihun I normally eat, I ate scrambled eggs together with baked beans. Result: I did not feel as bloated as I would have had I eaten fried rice. Maybe I should try eating oats instead tomorrow, or congee.

Maybe it is your personal finance you need take control on. You may not have created balance sheet to track every expense, and your money seems to go missing by the end of month. You know you should create a balance sheet, but you keep procrastinating. A small change here is this: JUST DO IT!

Create a balance sheet doesn't take you more than 10 minutes. You can start by writing what you have spent on this week alone, and start keeping track of your cash outflow today! By the end of the month you will have more clarity on where you spend most of your money on, and from there trim down your unnecessary expenses. One way to start having savings is by paying yourself first. Set aside the amount of saving from your paycheck first and never to touch it.

Maybe you have been having an issue with your relationship matters. Relationship with your friends and family may be deteriorating as you get busy with work or life in general. Why not take some quality family time to bond with each other? Or why not catch up with a dear friend whom you have not been keeping in touch for some time? Meet up with them and have a coffee. You will be glad you do all these at the end of the day, to know how are your friends doing or issues bothering your family members.

Maybe you have been feeling very stressful these days due to workloads that can't seem to stop piling up, and you don't know what you can do to alleviate stress. But it doesn't have to be that way. How you start your day would define the rest of your day, sounds familiar? If you start your day right, you will have sufficient energy to complete the tasks of the day.

Here are three keys I personally practice every day when I wake up, and I hope you will be able to benefit from it:

1. Feeling Thankful 

Instead of thinking how much more work awaiting you in the office, take 5 minutes off from the moment you open your eyes to be grateful! Of your loved ones, family, job, your ability to wake up and live another day, your warfree nation and everything you can think of. Just spend 5 minutes to think of things to be thankful of, and you will have a very different start of the day. You will appreciate things more, than taking them for granted.

2. Read Quotes of Encouragement 

Feeling depressed when you wake up? Don't worry, I do too! I am not the kind of person who wake
up feeling all bubbly and talkative. I tend to wake up being grumpy and quiet. And I do this one thing: read quotes. Any quote that can encourage and edify you! It can be Bible verses, inspiring quotes, or quotes specifically catered to your personal interests. Quotes that can make you think and reflect. Quotes from some famous people. I do my devotion every morning, spend time reading Bible verses and speak to God. Maybe you have a different way, do it!

3. Reflect 

Reflect on your goals and motivations. Reflect on why you are doing what you are doing, and what initially motivated you to do so. This would realign your goals and pull you back from possible deviations to the right track. You can be driving to work or commuting via different means of transport, and reflect on things you don't normally take time to ponder on. Reflect on the purpose of life, for instance. Let your reflections run wild! You wouldn't know what are the things your mind will subsconciously tell you in reflection.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Mastering Our Fears

I don't even know where to start. If I were to list out things I fear, events or objects or people who I fear, I simply have no clue on the numbers. I have lost count. But I, along with other cell members, were asked this question by our cell leader yesterday during my church's cell group meeting. I kept quiet the whole time, didn't know what to say because I have too many fears. But I have been thinking.

Fears can be categorised into a four main types: controllable and uncontrollable external, controllable and uncontrollable internal. But even fears that were controllable would seem uncontrollable in times of encountering it. For instance, I feared of lizard and I would have only one thought in mind: RUN! Some people are afraid of cockroaches, especially ladies. I used to be scared of cockroaches but after a few times of killing roaches operations with smashing skill acquired from playing badminton, I've learned to overcome it. These are the examples of controllable external fears

Controllable internal fear is the one fear currently engulfing me. I am fearful of my own tendency to fall into the trap of complacency, which will lead to me living a life of mediocrity. I do not want to live a mediocrity life, and the only way not to live a mediocrity life is consistently stretch out beyond my comfort zone. At the moment I have settled in pretty well in my workplace. I have finally been assigned to a team. The job may not sound very exciting and it is more than ideal to pull me into the state of complacency, I know it is entirely up to me if I want to be complacent. I can settle for this, or I can take this opportunity to learn even more things, not necessarily from work but personal development such as external skills. 

Uncontrollable external fears comprises much wider areas of our life simply because we have no control over so many things. Every time we come out from our safe haven at home, we risk getting into accidents. Every time we board on a flight, we risk losing our dear lives due to plane crash. When we cross the roads or even walking by the side of the roads, we risk being knocked down by a reckless rules-breaking car driver. We are afraid of the harmful effects from the haze that has been engulfing our Malaysian air at this time of writing. Most of us get worried over things we have no control on. 

It may not be fear of our own safety, but other people's. We may be worried of our family members and loved ones' safety. Or maybe our parents who are getting older and older by days, who will depart from the world any time soon. Maybe the fear of finance is currently engulfing you. Maybe you are living paycheck to paycheck, not having anything left for savings. Maybe you are fearful of your own deteriorating health. The risk of getting diagnosed with cancer seems to increase over time, and there is no minimum age of getting diagnosed with cancer. In short, uncontrollable external fear is the fear of uncertainty

I don't think I am the only one facing these fears daily, everyone does. Not even insurance policies can cover you from the risk of death. What about our career in future? Nobody can guarantee our jobs to be retained in the next 10-20 years because retrenchments seem rife these days. Think you are shielded from retrenchment as you climb up the corperation ladder? Think again. You are being paid fat bonuses and high salary. In times of crisis, you may be the first one to be retrenched as your company struggles to cut cost; unless you are a specialist and the company's business operation relies heavily on your expertise. 

But what can we do with the fear of uncertainty? The truth is this: everything is uncertain. I only listed a few examples and there are plenteous more. Only one thing is constant in our lives: GOD. God has been here, from the beginning until now, and will always be here until the end of the days. Only God has seen through everything that is happening and about to happen, He knows our future because He is the Creator, the Planner and the Provider. He calls each one of us by names and He knew our destinies. He has gone through that and we are currently going through what He has planned in advance. 

Luke 12:22-34 encourages us not to be fearful and anxious because God is in control of everything. Seek God's Kingdom first and everything shall be added unto you. Ever wondering why there are people who are so successful yet they are not believers? Not all good things are God's things. They can get very successful but they find it difficult to live a happy life and they are dissatisfied. They can have billions in their bank accounts, but still miserly enough to argue over RM1 accidentally charged extra by a food hawker. 
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  
This particular verse (Luke 12:34) triggered my alarm. Where is my treasure? Where I build my treasures depends on my decisions on places to put my time and efforts in. Are my decisions being influenced by fears or faith? I am ashamed. I knew for all this while, many of my decisions were made out of fear. If you were fearful of failure, you are seeking success. 

Fear of not having enough money for retirement. Fear of not having enough money to impress people I don't even care about. Fear of being homeless. Fear of taking up responsibility. Fear of growing up. Fear of losing. Fear of death. Fear of not being approved by my community. Fear of being rejected. Fear of trusting people. Fear of being judged. Fear of being backstabbed by unsuspicious "friends". Fear of what other people have been talking behind my back. Fear of insecurity. Fear of being alone going into my 30s, 40s, 50s and old age. So much fears and to a certain extent each of these has led me astray from living God's true purpose and calling in my life. 

This is not to be construed with not having fear at all. Having a healthy dose of fear is good because it helps us to prepare with our best knowledge and capability. Because of all these fears listed above, I did what I did, saving for the rainy days and focus on growing my wealth through investments. But optimum balance must be striked so that we would not focus all our energy on preparing for the uncontrollable fears, leaving no space for God to wave His magic wand. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. 

1 John 4:18 says perfect love casts out fear. Really, by focusing on adding values into people's lives and caring for people around you (even strangers) can be thousand times more satisfying than material possessions. I am a simple man, and a simple smile from someone I care for can make my day. 

Which brings me to the last category of fear: uncontrollable internal fear. And it is the hardest fear to be comprehended. Uncontrollable internal fear speaks about fear capable enough to draw me away from God's calling in my life. Fear I have no control over but only incessant prayer and intimate relationship with God can help to overcome. Fear that my sinful nature would prevail if not because of the good work of the Holy Spirit in my life, giving me self control and wisdom. 

There is always an inner voice that speaks to us, whether we realise it or not, that will determine our thoughts, actions and behaviours. Without God, this inner voice would be either my soul or Devil. My soul is sinful by nature, I was sly and selfish. Devil is evil. He is here only to steal, kill and destroy. If God has not worked in my life, my life would have been engulfed entirely by Devil or my own soul.

I thank God for His wisdom and guidance over my life. 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Running is Addictive!

I hated running. I'm sure you know I was fat and every run was dreadful to me. Ask my younger self to run even 500 metres and I will be complaining. But I was challenged to improve 1% every day, in one area of my liking. I was challenged by myself.

So I decided to change a little on my usual routine last Wednesday. Instead of playing badminton in the evening after work (there was a volleyball match going on at the same venue), I decided to do something similar - running. Just like badminton, running is a type of cardio but was deemed as a more boring type of cardio, so I thought. But I was proved wrong later. 

What I normally do with my workout session is to run for 10 minutes then proceed to free weight training. Last Wednesday I decided to push myself and try to run my first ever quarter marathon (5km). Big deal, because I don't even do 2km on a usual basis, more like 1.5km. So the first time I touched 5km line, I clocked 33 minutes 45 seconds. I was on top of the world. I thought I was invincible for a moment. Then I realised later that night, I was actually quite slow. You would have thought I will be discouraged. Some people will. 

But here's the thing: Time was not my main concern. I just wanted to finish the race. I just wanted to touch 5km mark. 

Now I knew 5km is doable, I decided to push myself a little bit more. This morning I pushed myself for a shorter time. And I assure you I had never felt so good before. I SUCCEEDED to clock 28 minutes 55 seconds, 1 minute 5 seconds below the 30 minutes benchmark. Here's a great opening to a journey I won't regret myself embarking. I know I will push myself even more and I won't settle. When there is a first time, there will be second and third time, only if it makes you feel good. 

I am then reminded this quote from Initial D movie many years back casted by Jay Chou: “你不需要与别人比较,要赢的是你自己。” which directly translated into: 
You don't have to beat anyone else, but only yourself. 
So true. I just have to beat my own record, over and over again. Set a new personal record, and celebrate for a moment. But never settle for that. Always push myself for much better record. Because it would be pointless if you compare yourself with anyone else. There will always be people better than you. You just have to run your own race, not other people's. Beating your own record is always more addictive and encouraging than trying to beat someone else's record. 

Same thing goes to every other areas in life. Some people took 2 years to qualify as a certified professional, some people 3 or 4 years. Some people have been doing it for 8 years and they are still attempting. Many extreme cases go up to over 20 years. You just have to settle for the fact that everyone is different. Everyone has different priorities and commitments. But you will eventually get there if you never give up. Do the right thing, persist on and you will reach the destination! You will eventually succeed! Don't give up! Ever. 

I somehow think running is like drinking coffee. Drinking coffee the first time may give you a repulsive feeling. Your heartbeat runs faster and you feel like your heart is pumping too much. You can't contain its excitement. You feel like you are going to have heart attack anytime soon. You vow to never ever try it again. But something pulls you back in and the next thing you know, you are drinking coffee again. It is getting more and more addictive. You start to enjoy the aroma of the fresh percolated coffee, every sip excites you. You are energised and pumped up, ready to take on all challenges the world is to throw at you. 

Same thing goes to running. 

Every drip of my sweat is a testament of victory over myself. I managed to beat myself but I know this is just a short term victory. I will only keep improving, trying to beat my own record every time I run. This feeling is not entirely new though. Just like playing Flappy Bird about a year ago. Everyone was so hyped up about Flappy Bird, because of its difficulty to thrive in the game. It seemed so easy, yet it was challenging. But one thing is for sure, everything challenging can beat you unless you decided to beat yourself first. Then you will forever be in front of the pack. 

In last Friday's Homes (my church's cell group) we were asked to write down our greatest fear and our greatest dream. My greatest fear was: To be complacent and stagnant in life. To do nothing more than a routine and settle for mediocrity. I hope I will never ever settle for mediocrity in life. I want to emerge victorious in all areas of my life, and I reckon it is only possible if God is in the picture. Not to be confused with ungratefulness, not settling for mediocrity is indeed a way to receive God's best. Only then God can pour out more and more even bigger blessings into your life. 

I hope you will never settle for mediocrity too. Always push harder to beat yourself and you will find yourself on top of the world. I found myself on top of the world.  

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Utimate Key to Handle People

Handling people is never easy. Because of mismanagement or rather lack of the ability to properly manage people, businesses go tumbling and talents move to the rivals. It all comes from the top to bottom. If only every boss knows this key, no employee working under him/her will ever complain again. Not a single successful CEO can retain his/her top position without mastering this key.

Firstly, what makes me qualify to talk about this? I am not a boss after all and I definitely have no practical experience to handle people, I just started working two months ago. But I have an indirect mentor. This mentor is called book. That's why when you read a book, you start to think in the author's mind. You have an uncanny ability to delve into the author's perception and knowledge. It is like a superpower I strongly encourage you to leverage on. Highly accessable. 

Few days ago I started reading "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Cargenie. A very bold title but I knew right from the beginning it would change my life. It certainly did changed Warren Buffett's life. From the introduction, Cargenie promised you will take away at least one valuable lesson just by reading the first three chapters, else you may drop the book. It certainly did not take three chapters to teach me one fundamental principle. 

'He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.' 

Do what? Handle people. Difficult people. Toxic people. Any kind of people you can think of. If you can do this, you are a champion. Now, nobody in this world does what one is doing without wanting to do it. Everybody does something that he/she wants, even when you were a baby. You want to get attention from your papa and mama and make them proud. You want to. Nobody is pointing a gun on your head and force you to do what you do (at least not on a daily basis). 

Even if you are being generous and have been giving your time/effort/money to others, you do it for a purpose of feeling good, or because you love and/or care for the person. And you WANT to do it. You want to give your time, and your life to the person. Animals also act the same way. Cows stay on the grass field because they want to. There's almost no way you can lure them over forcefully when their food is right in front of them. But so often, people act in the exact opposite way. Everyone is born selfish, regardless whether you realise it or not. We tend to focus on what we want, not what other people want. 

Now, nobody likes to be told what to do. Personally I don't. Nobody cares about your success and what your company wants, regardless how much you boast about it. Seriously nobody gives a damn if you want something, everyone has enough problems of their own to take care of. When you instruct someone to do something, there are two possible reactions to your instruction depending on the way you convey your message. 

Say your son is about to enter kindergarten but he is afraid of going. There are two actions you can deploy, but with very different outcomes. You can either force him to go and say he has got no other choice, which will definitely work but it will result on him not having the best frame of mind to start his kindergarten; or you can do something different that will arouse his desire to start his kindergarten. 

You can come out with something fun kids do these days in kindergarten and allure him but in order to join the fun, he has to go to the kindergarten happily. He will eventually get to understand how much fun kindergarten really is, with lots of singing and new kids to play with, even before starting his kindergarten. He will be more than happy to oblige because he wants to have the same kind of fun. Win-win situation. 

Yesterday, one of my friends asked me how to apply for jobs. He is currently preparing for CFA Level 1 paper, but he has almost zero knowledge on how to apply for a job. He did not know to get into his dream job at Morgan Stanley, he will need to apply for their job openings and even then there is no guarantee he will receive the job because ultimately it is up to the employer to give him the lucrative offer. So what is the best way to apply for your dream job? 

You can either boast of how good you are at what you are doing and how much salary you want, or you can write a letter to the CEO on how you can be of benefits to him and his corporation should you become part of his arsenal of talents at his disposal. You will most likely get a reply from the CEO and get called up for an interview, rather than your letter being thrown into a trash basket because he is too busy with finalising his company's annual report he can't be bothered of what you want. 

Or maybe you are a salesperson, and you have this new product to be introduced to your existing client. You know this new product will definitely benefit him but you still don't have the full brochure on the description of this product because it is still fresh from the oven. The senior management has just approved it yesterday and it is going to be launched later this evening. 

You have two choices: One is to briefly notify your client on the new product and wait until you get the brochure then only start approaching him to sell him this product; Alternatively, you can be very enthusiastic about it and excitedly tell him about this product and arrange immediately a meeting later when you get the brochure, saying he is the first client you can think of when it comes to this new product because it will surely benefit him. 

What do you think the outcome will be? You're right, the latter choice will most likely to seal the deal than the prior, simply because it aroused in the other person an eager want. He wants to know more about the product! He got curious on what the product is and how it can benefit him in the long run. Both of you win in this case. 

Owen D. Young, a great American business leader once said: "People who can put themselves in the place of other people, who can understand the workings of their minds, need never worry about what the future has in store for them." 

So here it is, the ultimate key to handle people: Arouse in the other person an eager want. 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

How Learning to Say "No" Changes Everything

For the past one month or so, I have met five insurance agents to check out the quotes offered by different insurance companies. The first trigger point that caught my attention was the realisation on my need to be covered financially should anything undesirable happens to me in future.

We champion the liberty to choose. The more choices we are given, the more freedom we have. But the truth is this: the more choices we are given, the more we are unable to make the best decision. I don't know about you, but I get confused by many choices opened to me. This can applies to everything under the Sun: insurance policies (which in Malaysia are almost identical all credit to strict regulation set by my beloved employer), credit cards, unit trusts etc. You get the point.

Then mental block kicks in. I can't choose. All insurance policies offered to me were almost identical. They can't deviate too much from one another, else my employer will start sending letters to warn them. I'm joking. The thing is, insurance industry in Malaysia is fairly stable as compared to the banking industry, and if one insurance company doesn't do well, it will immediately catch the attention from our fellow frontlines.

After talking to five insurance agents and a few other friends, I realised some interesting facts about the insurance agents. Insurance agents are generally salesmen/saleswomen. They want to leave good impressions for their prospectus clients. So they would try to sweet talk the clients. Offering the "best" quotes and sealing the deal is one thing, becoming a responsible agent is another. I had difficulties in trusting people, so I took extra precautions.

I was being skeptical 60% of the time.

What truly matters were the quotes, I thought. Perhaps the first one or two agents were truly important when they were explaining about the policies, but the subsequent ones started to get more and more familiar, identical and boring. Then I got troubled. I had to reject some agents. Still I waited for some extended period of time to reject because I am afraid to break people's expectation and hope. One month later.

I chose by elimination. Just like a boy who walks into a cornfield trying to pick the biggest and most juicy corn, but with only one condition - no turning back. I am the boy who have been offered some big and juicy insurance policies, and I have rejected some, thinking there may be a better one out there. Then something struck me: It is the agent that matters. Everything else is secondary.

So I have rejected some big names and one not-so-big name. I don't trust the agents enough to seal the deal. What if the agent bails out later? What if he/she just went disappear and I can only deal with the insurance company myself? Some of them are professional actors trying to emit an impression that they care for their clients. Then all types of strategies come out.

"Oh my client's baby fall sick. I have to postpone this appointment, I'm sorry." or "I have to go to the hospital now for my client who has just got diagnosed with cancer...".

I felt miserable. But then I felt liberated. I am free once again, not having to think which one to choose.

When you don't think the offer suits you, just say "No". It is way better than saying "yes" and sign something you might regret it in future. Buying insurance policy is a long-term commitment, same goes to buying a house. Help yourself to say "No".

Now I have to learn how to say "No" to a friend. She has proposed a really nice insurance plan for me. She took her time out over dinner to explain to me the offer, and was extremely patient in explaining every random question I threw at her. She has done a really good job. I was sold. I wanted her to be my agent. Except one thing... she doesn't trust me enough to reveal the insurance company's name.

"You're going to reject the offer, else why did you ask?"

Should I trust her? I don't know. Maybe I should. Maybe not. I am still beating myself for it. Whatsapp messages got ignored. Calls went unanswered. I don't know what to do. Maybe then the issue will go away. Was she not confident of herself? Or not confident of the insurance company she's selling the policy for? Actually I asked about the insurance company because then I would be able to at least tell my parents what I have subscribed myself to. It seems simple, but she doesn't trust me enough. The more she doesn't want to tell me, the more skeptical I got.

I think I will say "No". 

How often do you find yourself having to say "No"? It may not be easy for you, but you just have to do it. I once watched a video on a Korean mother trying to teach her cute baby daughter on saying "No" to random strangers when she is offered something. As easy as it sounds, it really is not. Yet it is part and parcel of life. "Just take it and go!", Russell Peters said. 

People will get disappointed, their hopes held high yet get smashed into pieces. There will be irremediable cracks. Consider yourself helping them to train their ability to accept rejections. Life is full of rejections anyway. I just got rejected for my Actuarial Unit Opening application but I accepted it gracefully. There are so much more I can look forward to. Do I feel disappointed? Yes. But I know this is not the only way. 

When one door is closed, two doors are wide opened. The door that was closed may not be right for you at this point of time, but no one knows if it will be reopened in future. Maybe it will, maybe not. Maybe something even better is in store for me. But if only we keep seeking, we will see opportunities. Opportunities are everywhere for people who never give up. I will never give up. I am still searching myself. I am open to everything comes my way. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Trinity to Breed or Break Success

I am still extremely happy and excited for my favourite team Arsenal who managed to beat Bayern Munich 2-0. I woke up at 2:40am (Malaysia time) just to watch the match and to be honest, I did not know if Gunners will win. They had to win. They were beaten by Dynamo Zagreb and Olympiakos in the first two opening games of Champions League Group Stage F, so if they were to survive at least the Group Stage, by hook or by crook, they must win! I was not confident but given that Arsenal had beaten Watford, Manchester United and Leicester convincingly in the past 3 weeks, I was hopeful. Again, Bayern Munich is one of the best teams in the world right now, if not the best. It was almost a mission impossible.

Expectantly Bayern completely dominated the Gunners, but Arsenal kept their cool and defended well. They were patient and they made a few attempts to break the deadlock when the chances came. The closest attempt in the first half was an amazing header by Theo Walcott but the world's best goalkeeper from Bayern is called the best for a reason. Manuel Neuer managed to reflexively save the electric header from Walcott, leaving Walcott in utter disbelief. He was celebrating for a few seconds right after heading the ball goalward, not expecting Neuer to save it. 

Eventually Walcott was subbed off by Wenger (Arsenal manger) and Giroud came on at 73rd minute for a change in dynamic. Unlike Walcott whose pace was as fast as lightning, Giroud was much taller and possessed greater physical strength. Three minutes later, he headed home the first goal from Cazorla (the Spanish magician)'s free kick, amidst a fatally rare error made by Neuer who somehow failed to grab hold of the ball. Arsenal was in front, I was still in disbelief. 

It is not to say Bayern played miserably. They were able to boast a 73% possession with over 600 passess, but statistics lied here. Despite a few attempts made by Bayern midfielders and strikers, it remained futile all credits to the composed back four of the home side (Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal and Mertesaker). They succeeded at keeping Bayern at bay. And of course, our world class goalkeeper Petr Cech who has contributed massively at goal. Thank you! 

Just 1 minute before the end of four extra minutes, Bellerin intercepted brilliantly a ball passed between Bayern defenders and with his electric pace, he stormed up the right flank and with an accurate cross in front of goal, Ozil fired the ball! GOAL!!! What a perfect icing on the cake! Look who was with the wider smile! Arsene Wenger.

Full time: Arsenal 2, Bayern Munich 0. 

Indeed, without confidence, patience and persistence/perseverance, the North London side would not have beaten the best team in the world. Admittedly I don't think Arsenal is the best team in the world, yet I love them! Purely because of the these qualities they have been able to portray, particularly against world class teams. With sheer discipline, they can beat any football team in the world. I was still in shock. I couldn't go back to sleep afterwards and I needed to wake up at 7am for work.

1) Confidence 

Arsenal went into the game with three straight wins against Watford, Manchester United and Leicester City. Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott were given high praises even by Pep Guardiola (the Bayern Munich manager). Despite boasting 12 consecutive wins this season with 40 goals and only 5 goals conceded from Bayern, the Gunners still remained confident and appeared vibrant during training sessions. 

Really, only with confidence that we can bring out our full potential. The Gunners were not intimidated by the splendid result of Bayern and their vast collection of world class strikers such as Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller. Not to say the Gunners are not quality players, in fact many of them are world class footballers. But many times they were not in high spirit and their morale was not as high as they wished it to be. They have proven otherwise on that one Tuesday night at the Emirates Stadium. 

I couldn't imagine Koscielny to singlehandedly mark Robert Lewandowski when the top striker was roaming freely in front of the Gunners' goal and about to shoot the ball, yet he was more than capable to dance around with Lewandowski and deviated the ball away for a Bayern's corner. His confidence with his defending skills and experience was more than commendable and admirable. I wish I can be more like him in this aspect. 

2) Patience

Many times we are overwhelmed by things surrounding us. Works, career, family, friends, relationships and finances. We even feel incompetent sometimes. Then frustration ensues. Frustrated at the circumstances, everyone around us and ourselves. We feel that it's taking forever for the breakthrough to come. But imagine if we have a little patience while doing the right thing? Given sufficient time, breakthrough will come! 

Without patience, we get discouraged and give up in whatever we are doing. Just because we could not see the result now, we deduce the current gameplan is not working. We give up on continuing the mission. The moment we start giving up, we have already been defeated. 

Yesterday's game was the football version of "Fast and Furious". The time flew by so quickly I didn't even realise, because it was just too exciting! Too exhilarating! At about 20th minute into the first half, I thought to myself, where and how is the goal going to come from? Where is the breakthrough for Arsenal? Given that Arsenal was completely dominated and Bayern were so good at keeping the ball, there was almost no way. Patience. 

Similarly it goes to every single issue you are facing right now. If you are already doing the right thing and have the best system in place, just wait patiently. Don't give up! Breakthrough will come. In fact it is already on its way! 

3) Persistence and Perseverance 

Persistence and persevarance are also indispendable in determining our pathway. Without persistence, we get frustrated and change our strategic gameplan, only to realise that we were so close to achieving breakthrough with the previous one. Just if we had sticked to the original gameplan, we would have been quicker and more efficient in attaining success. The Gunners have again showed they can stick to the original gameplan – stay within their own half patiently, hold on to their dear lives defending and counter-attack when the opportunities come. It was a joyful night to be remembered. 

Naysayers may try to discourage us and pull us down, but only if we continuously remind ourselves the initial purpose of us doing what we are doing, we will witness breakthrough. Persevere through despite being taunted by foolish people. That's why they would never succeed and they don't want you to succeed. Arsenal was deemed the lesser team in the game, yet they proved everyone wrong. 

Olivier Giroud was criticised and jeered over and over again even by Arsenal fans, yet he managed to score against a top team. He kept them silent. This has proven his strong character of never giving up and perseverance. Despite being criticised heavily in the past, he strived to make the difference that forever changed the game's outcome.

(Correction: Giroud didn't really score the first goal, he just placed himself there at the danger zone inside the box and without him even realising, the ball went in upon sliding down his arm. And the referee made an error for not seeing it. But to be fair, at least he placed himself there and it worked! Very fortuitous goal!) 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

How I Dropped 10kgs in 6 Months with Diet

I was fat (still a little now haha!) but compared to last time, I was a giant! Low stamina, low self-confidence, low metabolic rate. I did not know how to take care of myself. What I meant by taking care of myself is first and foremost taking care of my own body health. I exercised but only occasionally. Being a fatty was not fun, definitely not attractive as well. I got bullied everywhere I went. I got teased in classes. One bad thing led to another. Fat -> Being bullied -> Low self-confidence -> Resentment -> Revenge? Joking! I have forgiven those who bullied me.

But the moment came when I finally decided to sign up a one year subscription of Fitness First, the nearest gym to where I was staying -- Casa Subang, at that time in August 2011. I had a personal trainer, Cheryl, who coached me on the proper ways of lifting weights and a few basic steps on free style training. And off I went! The first six months went by without me seeing any tangible result. No weight loss, just slight change in my body shape. I became slightly more muscular, but my body fat was still around 27.5% and body weight at 85kgs.

Then realisation came. I had to control what I eat. It never dawned on me that food is one of the most important parts in shaping my body weight. So here comes a change in lifestyle and complete overhaul in my diet. I had consumed too much junk food and all sorts of "rubbish" into my body. I formulated my own diet strategy and I followed it religiously every day. Before I knew it, it worked!

Basically, these are the food with high protein, high fibre and low fat. Ideally I ate lots of vegetables and fruits and drank lots of water. Most importantly but often neglected is sufficient amount of sleep, at least 7 hours every day. 

So here are my few tips on the kind of food I eat and don't eat:

1) Breakfast: 2 slices of wholemeal bread filled with peanut butter spread, 1 banana, 1 cup of semi-skimmed fresh milk, 2 half-boiled eggs. 

Peanut butter?! If you think peanut butter is bad for you, think again. Your body needs good fats to burn off bad fats. Food that contain good fats are peanut butter, avocado, sunflower oil, olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil and so on. Banana is plenteous in minerals, vitamins and potassium (can help to control blood pressure and heart rate, the top rival of sodium i.e. salt). Fresh milk is full of calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Eggs are vital source of protein and good fat as well. Wouldn't 2 eggs for breakfast a little too excessive on my cholesterol level? Not really. Study has shown that, despite being high in cholesterol content, eggs do not contribute much to raising your cholesterol level. The belief that if you eat cholesterol, it would raise your cholesterol level in the blood and increase your risk of heart diseases, is simply a myth and wrong misconception. In short, it will increase your good cholesterol (HDL) and it helps remove bad cholesterol.

2) Lunch: Half rice, preferably the size of my fist that will form a quarter of my plate, another quarter portion of meat, another quarter of vegetable or tofu. 

There are plenty of restaurants nearby Taylor's College, and many of my classmates liked to eat at some mixed rice (or economy rice) restaurants. The key here is HALF RICE. The portion is extremely important because it's the intake that will unintendedly cause excessive eating. The Japanese practice "hara hachi bu" means eat until you are 80% full. Obviously at first I got hungry easily, but soon my stomach got used to it and I felt satiated fairly quicker.

I love meat! I am carnivorous but there were certain things I refrained myself from. I literally removed every single tangible fat from chicken skins and pork belly meat. What about KFC? I still ate KFC but I removed fat layers underneath the crispy chicken skin. A bit tedious but it was worth every single effort. I got paranoid of the fat at that time. I thought the tangible fat would be directly converted into my own body fat. I knew it was wrong but I didn't care. It worked for me.

3) Dinner: Proper meal just like lunch (before 7:30pm), or an apple, a banana and a cup of milk or yoghurt (after 7:30pm). 

It was for obvious reason I chose to eat before 7:30pm, so that I would have allocated enough time for complete digestion. I tried to eat light food for dinner because there is no need to consume so much calories and barely use it thereafter.

Above are the things I have consumed daily for the first six months of 2012, but there were also a list of food I had refrained from eating and its alternatives throughout that period:

- White rice and Noodles (Alternatives: Brown rice, Mihun, Oat and Grains)
- Junk food (Alternatives: All types of nuts such as peanuts, cashew nuts, walnuts etc) 
- White and Milk Chocolates (Alternatives: Dark Chocolates)
- Soft drink (Alternatives: Milk, chocolate milk is fine post-workout, soya milk, honey lemon, green tea)
- Fried food (Alternatives: Steamed food, grilled food, stir-fried food) 
- Ice Cream (Alternatives: Greek yoghurt with honey currently tops my list of favourite food along with salmon). 

It certainly was not easy, but when I first seen the result, it became an addiction. I did not want to go back to the stage where I was fat and ugly. It involved a change of lifestyle altogether. Not that I no longer indulge myself in the food I have listed above, but I still consume some of them in moderation, while the rest I have completely stopped eating them. I was told I can eat everything, but in moderation. Anything excessive is not good.

Six months later, I dropped 10kgs to 75kgs. Of course weight is just one of the many indicators to gauge if one is healthy, and it may not be the most accurate one. Because one may be heavy but is made up of low body fat and mainly muscles. Or one can be very skinny but because he/she barely exercises, the body contains lots of "skinny fat". So weight on its own can be misleading. But I kept believing and I succeeded!

Dropping 10kgs may not be a big deal, the true difficulty lies with maintaining the weight. I had been tempted several times to eat slightly more since I am thinner now, but I always tried my best to hold on to my conviction.

Going Forward 

I am currently 80kg but that doesn't mean I am unhealthy, despite still being slightly overweight. I have stopped drinking soft drink altogether for 4 months now and I am feeling better than ever! I try to attend gym every morning on weekdays, at the same time play badminton every Sunday evening. I jog around my neighbourhood on Saturday for at least 3 rounds too.

I am slightly more muscular now compared to 3 years ago when I first dropped to 75kgs, but I am aiming to reduce my body fat percentage further. I must do more cardio exercises and control the amount of my food intake, at the same time not neglecting the free weight training. It would be ideal if I could drop my weight back to 75, and ultimately 73.

Regarding my diet, currently sugary drink is the one evil culprit I am trying to refrain from. So if you caught me red-handed for drinking something sweet, you are allowed to tell me off and you will be rewarded RM1. A few exceptions are honey, green tea (it's not even sweet!) and fresh fruit juice. Chocolate milk and soya milk are to be consumed with extra care and moderation.

I am also looking to prepare my own lunch box soon, so I can eat healthier. I am impressed by my friends who can prepare their own lunch the day before, and it is actually easier than what I thought. Once I start buying my own groceries, I will cook my own healthy meals.

What about you? I hope you are healthy too, because really the best insurance you can buy is by taking some time off to exercise and eating right. Nothing else comes close to it.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Emotional Bank Account

This term emotional bank account is tossed by Stephen Covey in one of his best selling books "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and I came to know about it from I attended two months ago during my On-Boarding Programme with my employer. Although the course has been very helpful in exposing the new employees to a structured way of living more effectively, the implementation of it hasn't been particularly effective. I regret to say I myself haven't been living up to most of the book's teachings. But this term sticked to me: Emotional Bank Account (EBA). 

In every relationship, be it with your family members, friends, colleagues or business partners, there is an EBA and it is entirely up to us to nourish, maintain or deplete the account. Every time we meet a new person, we open a new bank account with the person. Emotional bank account. While many people's private bank accounts may be loaded with cash, their emotional bank accounts may be empty.

I don't think I am good with my emotional bank accounts, hence the urgency to write this post. 

I need to learn to nourish my EBAs with many people, especially my family members. No matter how much I tried to be patient and develop understanding with them, the efforts almost always went futile. Maybe I hadn't tried hard enough. I can't recall of any day at home that was quiet, free of arguments and shoutings. I wrote in The Apples of My Eyes that I adore my parents, but my true intention does not always go aligned with what actually happened at home, no matter how much I wish it to.

I wished I was still living alone inside my room in President House, back in London. That was possibly the best time of my life so far. Not only I was surrounded by lovely people, I enjoyed every bit of my private quiet moments. I derived energy from the atmosphere and it fueled me day in day out. After all, I am an introvert. Now every single thing back home irks me. What can I do to enhance the emotional bank accounts with my family members, my parents especially? And how can I possibly do anything with each EBA within my family? 

With every shouting and sense of annoyance from everyone with everyone in my family, it drains my energy and hikes up my stress level. Again, it can be argued that since I grew up in this family, I actually contribute massively to the dynamic of the family. I may be the one who cause all the unnecessary stress. Whenever I enter the door of the house, the atmosphere changes from peace to tension. I am part of the family and I shall take responsibility of it. I can take all the blames. But what can I actually do?

Maybe it was impression. An impression formed long ago by my family members and they are still anchoring to it. Maybe the impression my family members have formed towards me was a bad one. I admit I was a terrible person and I probably still am. From what I have gathered, here are probably the impression my family members have on my character: hot tempered, arrogant, ridiculous, reckless, inconsiderate, overconfident, lazy and carefree. I don't think any of my family members sees me as a good person. In their eyes, I am bad and will always be. Or maybe I was just being pessimistic. I don't know.

There are so many occasions I felt like giving up. I thought it was no way I could salvage the mess. My EBAs with most of my family members are probably zero or even negative. I am in heavy debt I find it difficult to break free from. Emotional debt. But the thing about EBA is we can do whatever we want with it. The end result of happiness and satisfaction level will come from your EBA with the person. What can I do, in this circumstance I'm facing now, to nourish my EBA?

Here are five ways I can probably do to improve my EBAs with my family members, and maybe you can apply too if you were in my shoes:

1) Be more understanding

I shall probably get over the fact that no one is identical and everyone is unique. I can list out 10,000 weaknesses of my parents but if I only focus on their weaknesses, it will bring me no benefit in the long run. Identify their weaknesses and start adapting!

My mom is working hard for the family but she needs to work more on her stress management skill. She never failed to radiate stress to everyone at home. And because she's almost always so stressed up (even little things can bring her stress), everyone else gets stressed up too. I don't know if she ever relax herself.

She also always assume things. She doesn't wait for one to finish his/her sentence to start bombarding the person, when he/she could well be talking about other things. Based on her own limited knowledge, she judges and starts throwing remarks before one finishes his/her sentences. She doesn't wait to understand the whole picture before starting to act and then get annoyed when things turn out to be different from what she expected. Typical traits of a bad listener.

My dad on the other hand is more layback but strict to me. Although we occasionally spark some arguments here and there, I respect my dad. Our arguments won't normally last for days. Not that my arguments with mom will last for days, but the stress levels are just different. I get so stressed up because of all insignificant petty things my mom can bring up. Even if I just lie on the couch reading, my mom can out of nowhere bring something random up and yell at me. I am amazed.

But I can start adapting! I just came back from abroad after all. Start by being more tolerant towards my parents' behaviours. They are old anyway and I am young. I should be able to adapt much easier than them trying to reverse their bad habits. Understand that their underlying intentions are all for our own good and never malicious ones. Even if they never asked me things at appropriate times, they hoped the best for me.

2) Smile more frequently

I can count the number of times I smile at home. More often than not, I don't smile because I am who I am. But again how to smile in a stressful environment? It is a challenge to me but only if I can smile more, maybe it will bring some positive impact on lightening the tension a little at home? My face is ugly when I don't smile. Then they get stressed up and start assuming I am being arrogant and don't like talking.

But really, I was just being depressed or at times, riding on my deep thoughts. They don't know what depressed means anyway, they wouldn't. They never asked "what's wrong?" or "is everything ok?". I learnt it from people around me. Maybe I should smile more, even if I am having a bad day. 

3) Communicate better 

So often communication breaks down and almost everyday there is a miscommunication in my family. We don't communicate properly and start assuming things. It's our family tradition. When things go wrong (for instance, my mom bought dinner back home even when my dad has clearly told her he was going to cook), argument erupts and blaming game commences. Just this morning, I told my mom I've put the house key on top of the sofa and she "acknowledged" it, but moments later she shouted "WHERE'S THE KEY?!". Again she assumed I sticked the key at the door knob, and she got all agitated for the next 30 mins until I went off at Seri Petaling LRT station. Just if I had communicated clearer, I could have avoided all these.

4) Ask "How's your day going?" 

As awkward as it seems, "how's your day going?" may be the last question I want to ask. I may not feel like asking my mom of how her day goes because it is likely to be filled with many random things, many of which are none of her business. But maybe, just maybe, by asking this question, it could fuel her curiosity to ask me about my day. Or maybe she had asked me before but I responded badly because I was having a bad day. I was immature but I can't remember it anyway. Ask me again, please?

5) Make a surprise every week

I don't know how to go about this, but this is what I have thought of. Be a little kind-er and surprise my family members once a week. A few weeks ago when my family was eating out (we sometimes eat out for dinner during weekends), I offered to pay for the meal. Yesterday on my way back from badminton session, I refilled petrol in my mom's car without letting her know, even when I had no money left in my wallet after pumping it. 

Maybe I can take them to somewhere this weekend for a family day out. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

A Short Summary on "The Art Of Hearing God" (Part 1)

Yesterday I attended a crash course organised by my church on "The Art Of Hearing God" by Greg Abel. A little Googling told me Greg Abel is the current CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, one of the two most likely successor of Berkhire Hathaway, the next Oracle of Omaha after Warren Buffett. But no, not that Greg Abel. This Greg Abel is a man of God with a big vision and mission to spread what he has learnt over the years, on the Art of Hearing God (I will get to it shortly why is it an Art, not Science). So here is a short summary of my findings through the first part:

God wants us to speak to Him, even if He already knew everything in us (our mind and thoughts, our desires, our circumstances). 

God demands our attention and the same intimacy that you will give to your spouse. He is also very talkative. He speaks all the time. If there is one major hindrance that stops us from solving every world problem, it is language. We communicate through the fast growing Internet and social networks, but still the majority of the world population have no access to the Internet. So what language does God speak?

He doesn't use any language. He just need to THINK! 

God thinks of things and they manifest themselves. God speaks and is thinking into your heart and mind. Wow. This is a powerful word and I've never thought of it. A perfectly logical explanation. He doesn't need to use language at all because then it will be a hindrance. Not everyone will understand English or Chinese language. But God just thinks into minds of the people He wants to speak to.

Does God speak only through the Bible? This is a real question, because sometimes Christians tend to refer only to Scriptures in the Bible to hear from God. Not that it's wrong, but if you have been a Christian long enough, you know God can speak through various ways. By saying God can only speak through the Bible verses is like putting a limitation on God's omnipotent nature. Of course Bible is one way of hearing from God, but not the only way.

God's Word in my mouth is God's voice through my mouth, and when God speaks, everything must change. So if we speak what He says, it must change everything around us. Because in the beginning, God said "Let there be light" and there was light. What happened here? The light just came forth. Because God's voice contains power! But sometimes you may think if God speaks in an audible fashion. I myself always imagine God speaks to me audibly.

In the Bible, there has been a fair share of records on God speaking audibly to people He has chosen to speak to. But He doesn't need to speak in audible fashion. Imagine if He does speak audibly to everyone. You will no longer need faith. But here's the thing: Without faith, it is impossible to please God. So you may hear God loud and clear, but you will not please Him.

But when was the first time God spoke? Did He speak before the light moment? My answer was yes and indeed it is. He spoke even before creating the Earth and human. He created Celestial space and angels first, and He spoke to them. But again God doesn't speak in language, God speaks in THOUGHTS. So God can put a picture into someone's mind and speak a thousand words just from that one image. A picture worths a thousand words, and it's true for God too. That's why Instagram is gaining more and more popularity.

Ensure that You do not disregard God who IS speaking. 


God dwells in eternity (past, present and future). He was there, He is here and will always be in future. But God sees the best of you now. When God speaks, He speaks once. He already had the conversation that you will only going to hear it in future. So whatever is going to happen in future, He has already done it with you (He has already been there), and now you are going to get there. 

So why does God speak? 

To Create (Genesis 1:3), Command (Genesis 1:28), Relate (Revelation 3:20), Chastize (Genesis 3:16-17), Rebuke (Acts 3:21), Covenant (Numbers 23:19). 

What happen when God speak? 

When God speaks, certain things begin to transpire. Things in the spirit world begin to move, and things at the outside world begin to manifest. Spirit world causes things to change naturally. When God speaks, everything connected to the hearer or recipient changes! But sadly, our generation wants instantaneous gratification.

Who can hear God speak? 

Anyone. It's all about where your antenna is tuned to, not who you are. If I am God's sheep, I can hear Him. In order to hear God, it is the ability to receive, not the ability to speak.


Then Greg mentioned about the silent voice of God. Here are his takes:

The silent voice of God is not the distinction of volume but an issue of clarity. 

So it is not how loud God can speak to you, but how clearly. If you somehow think God has spoken to you regarding an issue, try speaking to another person (preferably pastor), to confirm it. Out of the mouth of two is Confirming, out of the mouth of three is Established (and witness). God can speak into your soul a little. If we dwell in His Word, He will give us more.

The silent voice is as loud as most of us might ever hear God speak!

Here is a very cool thing I have learnt about breathing. I actually read this a few days ago from a blog I'm following, on breathing. What?! What is there on breathing that I need to learn? I know how to breathe, and I have been breathing all this while! I should know the proper technique of breathing. But listen! Most of us don't realise this, there are pauses in between every inhale and exhale. God speaks through these pauses. 

This is the Hebrew tradition of breathing meditation: Breathe. Pause. Connect. 

Through the story of Elijah in the Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8-13), Elijah heard a still small voice when he was meditating and producing subtle breath sound. It is when you meditate on the pauses between each breath, you will hear a sound of sheer silence.  

Maybe we can try focusing more on the pauses in between inhaling and exchaling breaths during meditation.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

10 Hacks that Help Improve My Life!

I did not have a good lifestyle, I was in bad shape and it felt horrible. My confidence level slumped to a rock bottom level I thought I would never be able to recover. Financially I was blessed enough to have had received the prestigious scholarship from my current employer, but being blessed with this amount of money doesn't mean I knew how to manage them. Imagine shoving RM470 to an eighteen-year-old kid and let him/her manage the money.

But here I am. Having lived my three years of undergraduate study in London and shed off 10kg from my all time high of 85kg, concurrently able to accummulate some savings, here are 10 life hacks that have helped me, and I hope can help you as well to live better physically, mentally and financially.

1) Drink Water when you wake up 

I am not going into too much technicality of how drinking water can help you once you wake up, but this is what I have been doing and it felt great! Not only it helps me to regain my consciousness quickly upon waking up, it boosts my metabolism rate. Because I am a lazy person, I tend to prepare a bottle of water just before I go to bed, so the first thing I will see when I wake up is my water bottle. No excuse for skipping this!

2) Sleep at least 7 hours a day

I used to suffer from insomnia, and it was not surprising for me to sleep at 2-3am and wake up at 8am the next day. While 6 hours may be enough for me, I always aim to sleep at least 7 hours. Anything less would make my next day feel like a zombie. Now I am feeling like a zombie because I slept too much yesterday (it was a public holiday), making me difficult to fall asleep yesterday night. For me to continue my morning gym session today, I had to sleep by 11pm yet I was still wide awake at 12:30am. Time management is important here. Sleep well and your next day won't feel like a hangover!

3) Exercises at least 3 times a week, 30 minutes per session 

Some people I know don't even exercise once a month, and this is a real problem for some of us. I used to be so lazy that I did not bother to walk. All these laziness had to change when I first went to the UK, where I had to walk a lot even in London. Although the nearest Tube station or bus stops are pretty much accessible within 10-15 minutes of walking time, but can you imagine my reaction the first time I heard about it? Thank God the weather was not hot like in Malaysia.

I lost 10kg the first year I was in the UK, all credit to my annual subscription to the Barclays Cycle Hire. With only £45 per year, I gained access to the Barclays bike which I can easily get it from the nearby docking stations and cycle everywhere within Zone 1 of London. If you think Zone 1 of London is small, think again. Anyone been to London will tell you how big London city is, although it may not seem so considering the efficient public transport system.

But even by spending only 3 sessions per week, it will make your life a few times heathier than those who barely move at all. When you are heathier, you will feel better and happier too. 3 sessions are just the minimum. I always try to exercise at least 5 times a week, with each time lasting at least an hour. Weight, cardio, sports, yoga. Whatever, even climbing the stairs instead of using elevator works! Just move!

4) Eat Better Each Day

Exercise is essential but eating the right food is even more fundamental! I used to frequent gym for 6 months but couldn't see any positive impact. I was still fat no matter how hard I tried. Maybe I wasn't trying enough, but that's a different story. I figured out it was my diet. Fix your diet and you will see wonders on your body! Even for those who don't exercise frequently, just by eating right (and sleeping well) will make you look good. I started to see massive difference in the next 6 months to come.

I now focus more on eating protein rich, low carb and low fat diet. Eggs and meats (especially fish and chicken breasts) are rich in protein, but never forsake vegetables and plenty of fruits. Vegetables like brocolli and brussel sprouts are gems. Mixed nuts and seeds can be healthy snacks as well. I personally love Greek yoghurt with honey (and milk with honey!), salmon and tuna. Fruits wise, avocado and bananas are my favourites. Always eat half rice (for Asians since rice is our staple food) instead of a bowl of full rice.

5) Meditate (for Christians like me, it's our devotion time)

Ever heard how yoga can help you to alleviate stress? Meditation. And the right way of breathing. Deep breathes will help calm you down. Stressful people have fast and short breathing style, but it is not the end. A deliberate effort to practice deep breathes will trick your body into slowing down, eliminating the stress at the same time.

On meditation, you will be able to clear your mind off work and things that are bothering you for a moment. Close your eyes and meditate for at least 5 minutes. Don't think of anything. In fact the best thing most guys are able to master, is to think of NOTHING! Just think of nothing for a moment. It will help you to recharge your energy, redirect you back to the right track.

For Christians, our devotion time is our time spent with God each day. It doesn't have to be fixed. Some people tend to fix their devotion time to 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, but by fixing the time, you are already making it an activity on your busy schedule just to be ticked off daily. Make it flexible! Be open to the Holy Spirit's nudge, and be attentive to His voice. It can be as short as 5 minute, or as long as half an hour or one hour. God's timing is always the best!

6) Be Thankful 

Not many people are thankful and contented with what they have. They may be making millions, but still complain on the little things. What I do daily when I wake up, is to be thankful. Just spend 5 minutes thinking of 10 things that you are thankful about, and your day will be different! You will find yourself wearing a different lens, seeing the world as a much better place. You will find sufficient energy to complete tasks that seem insurmountable before, and even have plenteous energy left to spend.

7) Think Positively  

Positive mindset radiates positive vibe, and it attracts positive people. Good things seem to happen around positive people. Does that sound familiar? Thinking positively also helps you to focus on the good side of everything and place less emphasis on the bad side. When we meet new people, it is our nature to judge and place our first impression on the new person. But if you are the one who focus on the negative side of the person, you will find plenty of things that are not up to your expectation. On the other hand, if you focus on the good things and strengths of the person, you will be able to bring the best out of that person.

Being optimistic also helps me to focus on what can be done better. Think again. It's normal if you think they are contradictory, but a closer introspection led me to a different conclusion. Because I am optimistic on the things that are not performing up to my expectation, it helped me to focus more on those areas and turn them into a self fulfilling cycle; instead of being all negative about things that disappointing.

8) Speak Positively 

The power of declaration is real! If you speak negative words, it brings down the people around you. Unless you are evil, which I hope not. It becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. Even if you are not optimistic about something and you feel bothered and distressed about some issues happening around you, speaking them out loud is like declaring death into those areas. Instead, you will find yourself thinking and feeling better if you forced yourself to speak good about it.

This is closely related to the previous point of thinking positively. But when you speak the good things, you are declaring the good things! You are hopeful that the good will come to pass. Recently, Goods & Services Tax of 6% has been implemented all over the country. Many people have complained about it, and many more are tempted to do so, me included. But I restrained myself. Not that I am not spending any money, but there is nothing good that you can get out of it from complaining and all whiny about it. Speak good thing and then, DO something!

9) Prepare a budget 

Budget is probably something many people have trouble coping with. It may be easy to prepare but it can be difficult to follow through. It requires immense discipline. For me, once I get my credit card from Maybank, I will start spending on petrol, some groceries and dining. Now that my dad has booked a new car, the old Myvi will be my daily car, therefore the petrol expenses. But if I am able to take into account my new expenses and keep track of all other expenses such as food, tolls and entertainment, I am in a good track to achieve financial freedom.

At least I know where my money goes! I have started preparing budget ever since college days, but only strictly followed it since university time. Everything was in GBP, so that ignited the urgency to keep track of my own finances even more. Things I normally spent on was on rental, groceries, commuting cost, entertainment and offerings. By knowing all my monthly expenses, I was able to gauge my monthly savings. I'm sure you can too!

10) Read, and Write Down 10 Ideas Daily 

I can't emphasise enough reading as my newly adopted habit! And so far so good! I read at least 7 pages every day and I am trying to improve day by day. Reading will take up your time, but it is beneficial for you. I am sure you are aware of how reading can help you, as you are already doing it now by reading this blog. And then comes writing.

Writing is difficult. It is difficult for me. I used to hate reading and writing. Every day the same blank space appears. Every day I have to think of something to write. But I love the initiative, I love the idea of doing it. And I definitely love the commitment. This has become my daily challenge for me to conquer.

Inspired by James Altucher, he actively advocates his readers to write down 10 ideas every day. This is to exercise our "idea muscle". The idea muscle atrophies within days if you don't use it, and it will take much longer time to get it back in shape. I am still trying to start writing ideas every day. 10 ways to improve your revision, if you are a student. 20 productive things you have done yesterday. 10 different ways you can bless someone today. Anything.

The ideas can be bad at first, it doesn't matter! They will only get better as time goes. Just start thinking!

Favourite Music! =)