Nee Sern is...

really really sleepy

Friday, September 30, 2005

Do you need to be a good swimmer in order to be an excellent swim instructor?

Do you need to be a good swimmer in order to be an excellent swim instructor?

Think about the statement above. Does a badminton coach have to be a good badminton player?
Does a manager of the procurement team have to be well versed in the procurement softwares and procedures?

Does the CEO of a major multinational airline have to have the working experience in the airline industry?

Top management frequently deals with concepts and ideas rather than the actual details of each segment of the organization. For that they have their managers to ensure that their vision is cascaded downstream to the working level.

But in order for the top management to succeed in the arena, he needs to have a sound conceptual view of his own industry. For example, Tony Fernandez knows nuts about operating an aircraft, let alone an airline business! He came from a background operating a radio station business. And yet today he is one of the most successful entrepeneurs in Malaysia. He may not know the intricacies of the business, but he has enough savvy to translate time-tested principles of business and management into any industry.

Back to the original question. If a swim instructor does not know how to swim, will you trust your children with him? He may have the conceptual knowledge of how to swim, the theoretical background of each swimming style, the technicalities of treading water, etc. But will you prefer that over someone who has actual experience of swimming in water, actually practicing all the techniques rather than keeping it all in his head?

The new CEO of Malaysia Airlines comes from the Oil and Gas industry. Will he be able to adapt to the airline industry? Again, if the time-tested principles are the same in both industries, he will be able to adapt to the business and generate revenue and profit, at the same time maximizing the EBIT and minimizing OPEX, providing maximum returns to shareholders and investors.

So, do I have to be very good in GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/WIMAX before stepping up the ladder to become a manager?

I read in one book (THE RULES OF WORK) that before becoming too ambitious, one must be good at what one does first. Only with the proper credentials can one then move on. I tend to agree with this statement, because although it's true that managers do not need to know the technicalities, but it is an advantage for managers to know the technical aspects of the business because it provides him with first hand knowledge of the potential issues that may arise in the team that he manages.

Comparing a manager who is strictly about managing people, and a manager who additionally possesses the technical know-how, I feel that it's the latter that has the advantage when it comes to effective management of situations.

Alex, thanks for the trigger.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A night of Double Take!

I now have the highest respect to the gentleman named Roger Wang, the guitar maestro of the energetic and highly talented jazz duo Double Take. With the lovely Mia helming the vocals, displaying the superb mastery of the art of light jazz, Double Take enthralled us in the Cotton Club in Maju Junction.

Thanks Daniel for the invite!

(Mia and Roger Wang - Double Take - 3rd and 4th from the left)

Incidentally, it was also the night of Malaysian Idol results. Despite that, the club was packed with fans and music lovers of all ages. Double Take performed a wonderful collection of songs from around the world, and also several instrumental pieces that really jive up the spirit of music making.

Roger's mastery of the instrument is astounding. His deft fingers slid across the fretboard with much fluidity and grace, and his right hand displayed the amazing control and improvisation to realize the most unique guitar sounds ever produced on a standard 6-string!

It's amazing, that a six-stringed instrument can be used to do so many things. And it's the joy of discovering these hidden potentials of the guitar that make it such an interesting instrument to learn.

Double Take, made in Malaysia, all the best to you!

Friday, September 23, 2005

The story of 24IDC logo

This is one of the drafts of the logo for the 24th INCOVAR Dhamma Camp

This is an optical illusion known as the Hermann Grid. It is a repeating pattern of bright criss-cross lines over a black background, with prominent dots at the crossing points. As you view the illusion, you notice that the dots will alternate between dark and bright.

The Hermann Grid is used to illustrate how worldly stimuli can cause you to form wrong perceptions about the world. Although the reality is just a pattern of lines and dots, the net effect on your eyes is that it "shimmers", and therefore causes much discomfort and uneasiness.

To better appreciate the pattern, it is important to be able to tap into the greater consciousness through mindful practice and meditation. Hence, by closing the outer eye, the inner eye (i.e. the mind) is opened, allowing the true nature of things to be seen.

The distorted section of the logo on the bottom right corner illustrates the power of the mind in reshaping preset perceptions and wrong views. The dot in the middle of the O in OPEN MIND represents the awakening of the inner eye.

Closed Eyes, Open Mind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Planned spontaneousness

Have you ever attended any seminars where the speakers are so eloquent and confident in their presentation, they seem to be able to pluck ideas from the sky whenever they need it in their speech?

You will be amazed at how spontaneous they seem to be on stage, as if they are making things up as they go along.

But have you ever considered that perhaps the speaker planned in advance to look and sound spontaneous?

When I attended the NLP training, initially I was very overwhelmed by how spontenously the trainer was able to bring up relevant stories and anecdotes to support his arguments and points. The various jokes, examples and games that he presented seemed to have been thought of at that moment itself when he was presenting the points.

Then, later on, I caught up to his tactics. He was trying to manipulate the psychology of the participants. By presenting himself as someone confident who knows anything and everything from the back of his hand, the participants are more willing to accept his point of view. And he is able to drive through the message that the mind is greater than the body, with his pre-planned set of games, messages and phrases.

To be able to speak spontaneously is a valuable asset especially when it comes to initiating conversations with clients, presenting key points in your business case (in this example, you will come across as someone who is very familiar with your product or service, and hence the best possible person to deal with). In fact, impromptu speaking is given the name of Table Topics in the well-known Toastmasters International club.

By practicing the art of planned spontaneousness, you will need to reach an awareness level of 4 (unconscious competence), where you do not need to search your memory banks for the answers. If someone asks you your name, you do not need to pause and think how to answer; instead, you immediately provide your name.

This is the spontaneous response that should be honed by a presenter or speaker to be able to drive your message through more effectively and convincingly.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Good morning!

Have you ever listened to a speech, attended a seminar, or participated in a lecture, where the speaker mistakenly greets his audience "Good morning" in the middle of the afternoon or night?

You begin to wonder if the speaker's credentials are waning, or if his awareness in his surroundings are fading. You begin to wonder how could such an intellectually sound person allow such a simple mistake to happen.

And the speaker has succeeded...

Succeeded in what?

He has successfully captured your attention.

Have you ever thought that maybe the speaker deliberately chose to use "Good morning" instead of "Good evening" or "Good afternoon"? By hearing something unexpected, the audience experiences a moment of truth, where they are able to connect with the speaker. The speaker, fully utilizing this moment, builds immediate rapport with his audience, and thus whatever contents of his presentation will be well received by his audience.

So, the next time you are required to speak to a crowd, try this "surprise" technique to build rapport with your audience and establish a comfortable and informal atmosphere throughout your speech. You will be well remembered as a confident and friendly speaker.

What are your thoughts?

*Gary, thanks for this trigger.

Thursday, September 15, 2005




What are you thinking of now?

The power of negativity

How often do you tell yourself every day:

  • I am so tired
  • I have no strength
  • I am so lazy
  • I don't feel like working
  • I feel sick
Have you ever considered the power of negativity?

Negative energy has a way of creeping into your life. No matter how many positive things you do or say, all it takes is one negative statement to ruin your day.

Why is this?

In simple arithmetical illustration:
(+1) x (-1) = (-1)
(+100) x (-1) = (-100)
(+10000) x (-1) = (-10000)

If you allow negativity to invade your life, you will begin to feel the negative energy slowly filling up to the brim of your body and mind. And because this negativity is so destructive, it outweighs all the positive energy that you've accumulated in your life.

So we should try to get rid of all our negative energy. How? By the power of double negatives!

(-1) x (-1) = (+1)

Does it work?

i-GemZ updates

Well, well, what happened to the over promised i-GemZ album? Delayed for 1 whole year!

Firstly, we targetted last year to launch, but due to some difficulties in arranging recording studios, we postponed our efforts.

When we got a studio to record in, we targetted Wesak Day to launch. Then, we found out that the schedule of the Producer was quite packed, and so we postponed again to Mooncake Festival.

Then, some studio problems cropped up, and we were out of commission for about 2 months! And so we had to postpone again.

But things are looking promising now! The studio is up and running, and there are only 2 more songs to do major recording. After some final touches, the album should be completed by this month. Following printing and distribution, we might be able to make it for the Kathina crowd!

And so, the story of i-GemZ will come to a new chapter with the launching of the album. It's packed with the best selections of songs to come from the talented songwriters, the wonderful musicians and vocalists, and the inspirational quality of music that is i-GemZ.

we inspire through music

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Customer Service Encounters (part 2)

This article by Ron Kaufman gives better explanation on the service encounters of the third kind.

Expectations (part 2)

In my earlier post, I illustrated how customer expectations are always rising, and the challenge for service providers is to keep up with the increasingly demanding customer expectations. I showed an example of how a beach resort can outperform your expectations by such a great extent, that the next time you revisit the beach resort, you will have much higher expectations, and thus the beach resort will have a hard time trying to exceed your expectations.

Ron Kaufman describes how to manage customer expectations in this way:

  • Under Promise
  • Over Deliver

Friday, September 09, 2005

What car defines you?

I've been triggered to think... what car best represents me?

I thought about that for a while, but I guess the answer is pretty obvious:


Unique - stylish and sleek form (some call it "futuristic")

Practical - large boot space, ultra seats, superb fuel consumption, driver and passenger friendly

Mysterious - black colour (even the name of the colour is so yau-yeng)

Forward looking - aerodynamic lines, future technology (CVT)

Down-to-earth - affordable price

So, what car defines you?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Customer Service Encounters

There are three kinds of customer service encounters, which will be illustrated with an example of a customer who wants to buy watermelons from a fruit seller.

Customer Service Encounter of the First Kind
(What do you want?)

Fruit Seller: What do you want?
Customer: I want 20 watermelons.
Fruit Seller: Here you go.


The fruit seller is basically fulfilling the customer's base need to buy watermelons. He closes a sale. End of story. Nothing spectacular. Let's see how the situation can be improved further.

Customer Service Encounter of the Second Kind
(How do you want it?)

Fruit Seller: What do you want?
Customer: I want 20 watermelons.
Fruit Seller: Do you want red or yellow watermelons?
Customer: Red will be fine.
Fruit Seller: Seedless or non-seedless?
Customer: I think seedless will be better.
Fruit Seller: What about these long shaped ones? They're sweeter than the normal watermelons.
Customer: Hmm. OK, why don't I get 20 normal watermelons, and 20 long shaped watermelons?
Fruit Seller: Here you go!


Instead of just selling 20 watermelons, the fruit seller managed to sell twice that amount, and probably get a satisfied customer in the process, due to his sincere interest in providing the best service to his customer. He not only closes the sale, but he also manages to ensure that that customer will be his regular.

Customer Service Encounter of the Third Kind
(What do you want to become?)

Fruit Seller: Hello. How can I be of service?
Customer: I want 20 watermelons.
Fruit Seller: OK. Do you prefer red or yellow, seedless or normal?
Customer: Red seedless will be fine.
Fruit Seller: Alright. Well, if you don't mind me asking, it's not always that I see people buying so many watermelons at the same time. I wonder, are you holding a party?
Customer: (laughs) No, no, actually I'm making watermelon juice.
Fruit Seller: Oh, I see. Well, I also have very fresh starfruit, apple, honey melon and other fruits. I suppose you make other fruit juices too.
Customer: Hmm, I suppose so. My specialty is watermelon juice, but I'm looking to venture into other fruit juices too.
Fruit Seller: Well, why don't you come to my special plantation and I'll show you some of my finest collection to make the best juice in town.
Customer: I'm interested!


The fruit seller chose not to focus on "closing the sale" or even getting returning customers. Instead, the fruit seller chose to become the customer's business partner, ensuring long term cooperation and a wonderful working relationship with the customer.

This example may be a tad simplistic, so think of the relevance of the 3 kinds of customer service encounters in your life.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Opportunity - A favorable or advantageous circumstance
Action - The state or process of acting or doing
Luck - The chance happening of fortunate or adverse events
(definitions from

Another way of defining luck is:

Opportunity + Action = Luck
An illustration follows.

Suppose there is a contest that offers a brand new car for the grand prize, several smaller cash prizes, and 1000 consolation prizes. And suppose that you submit your entry forms for this contest. You stand a chance among the other contestants who submit their forms as well. And if you win any of the prizes, you will be considered "lucky" by your friends.

What had happened?

An opportunity was presented. A contest offering over a thousand prizes is open to you. You take action. You join the contest with diligence, submitting several entry forms to maximize your chance of winning. You win. Luck? Yes!

How about another example?

The NLP training that I attended was an opportunity presented to me. A colleague who registered for it initially could not make it for the training. Therefore, I took the action of registering for it and making sure my boss will approve it. I got enrolled into the training. Was I lucky? Yes!

Can you think of the times when you felt "lucky", and could it be translated into Opportunity + Action?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Can you sell ice to eskimos?

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

How many times have we, in our keenness to display our wealth of knowledge, forgotten to ackowledge our audience, our counterparts who are actually listening to us?

We have to remember that we always deal with human beings. And human beings have the need to feel important. For instance, why do we bestow honorific titles upon ourselves, such as "your honour", "doctor", "your excellancy", "datuk"? We constantly search for the recognition and respect because we want to feel important.

So, you may be a walking encyclopedia with tons of knowledge stored within you. But if you want to make other people like you, you have to sincerely like other people first. This means building a relationship based on friendship, respect and trust. And if that can be done, the rest will be smooth sailing.

People don't want to listen to a sales pitch from a stranger, but will gladly purchase things they don't really need from their friends.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Aggressive vs Passive

How do you handle a situation where your boss is an aggressive person? If he always bullies you into doing all his work, do you fight back aggressively, or do you accept it unwillingly, passively?

Being aggressive - violating other people's rights
Being passive - sacrificing your own rights
Assume that you respond aggressively, shouting at him and scolding him for passing on his own responsibilities to you. Your boss would subsequently be angry for being shouted at, and you will probably be in his bad books for a long time.

OK, then suppose that you respond passively, quietly accepting his bullying, completing all the tasks thoroughly. You sacrifice many nights of well deserved sleep in the name of completing his job! The next day, your boss will probably give you more to do!

Either way, you are at the losing end.

So what can you do?

Be assertive.

Being assertive is being neither aggressive nor passive. You are not violating other people's rights, nor are you sacrificing your own. Sounds ideal, right?

How do you deal with an aggressive boss assertively?

1) Respect him as an individual.
2) Thank him for the opportunity.
3) Assertively decline the offer, stating your reasons.

Chances are, your boss will see that you are not somebody who can be bullied easily. Nor are you the type of person who will flare up and create a mess out of the situation.

Chances are, in the future, you will be well respected by your boss, and you may end up with good opportunities to be noticed and rewarded for your principle-centered approach towards the working world.

Of course, easier said than done, right? Which is why, we need to find some avenues to practice all this theory. Being a theoretical master is good, but being a master of practice will bring you great respect and personal satisfaction.

So, go find an aggressive person to talk with today!

Are passion and strength mutually exclusive? (part 3)

I just thought of something:

Takumi (in Initial D) is one good example of someone with the strength, but not the passion (at least, not initially). He has been driving the mountain roads for 5 years that not only does he feel bored of driving, he finds it a chore! Mentally, driving the roads fast means getting the job done faster, and hence getting home faster for some much needed sleep.

Driving the car has become a negative anchor for him. He does not find driving exhilirating, nor does he find cars very interesting. All he knows about cars is that it is used as a mode of transportation to do his job of transporting tauhu.

Which leads me to the question:

Can passion be instilled in a person who has the strength?

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Imagine the following situation. You are visiting a beach resort for your holidays. Your expectations are normal, as you have been to other beach resorts before. You would expect the rooms to be clean, the facilities to be working, the beach to be crowded but peaceful, the swimming pool to be clean of leaves, and the receptionist to get your room reservation right.

Imagine now, that as you arrive at the beach resort in your taxi, the door porter immediately comes up and opens your door, welcoming you with a warm greeting. Then, as you walk towards the reception counter, you are offered upgrades for your chalets. Without asking, you are offered complementary welcome drinks to soothe your thirst. When you enter your room, you are wonderfully surprised by a fruit basket specially prepared for you. You open the drapes, wonderful sunshine warms your feet, and the smell of the sea breeze invites you to take a dip in the crystal clear water.

Not only are the facilities functional, they are also in tip-top condition, well-maintained and new! When you check out of the resort, you are delighted to note that you are given a VIP member card, a 25% discount, and complementary taxi service to the airport.

If your initial expectations, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best), were somewhere around 5, the beach resort would have given you an experience that scored somewhere around 8! The beach resort has exceeded your expectations!

The wonderful world of customer service: always exceed your customer's expectations.

But, this can turn out to be a double-edged sword.

Imagine, now, you are returning for your second visit to the same beach resort. Pampered by the service you received, your expectations have now soared from a mere 5 to a solid 8. You arrive at the beach resort, you receive the same service of complementary drinks, fruit basket, tip-top facilities, discount.


The beach resort offers you an experience score of 8. The beach resort has only met your expectations.

What had happened?

Your expectations have increased, naturally. Hence, when you receive the same experience, it seems routine, nothing special. So herein lies the difficulty of satisfying customers. The beach resort, having been such a wonderful service provider in the beginning, is now considered "normal" by you.

So the beach resort has to constantly improve their service in order to improve the customer's experience. But there is always a limit to how much one can give. Sooner or later, discounts will amount to 99%, everyone will have a VIP member card, and your equipment will fall apart.

What can be done?

Instead of striving to always exceed the customer's expectations, one should think about managing the customer's expectations. What does this mean? A good example is given here:

Disneyland manages the customer's expectations for queueing for their roller coaster ride. At a certain point in the queue, there is a signage that says "20 minutes more". You look at your watch, mentally add 20 minutes to the time, and wait. When it is your turn to board the roller coaster, you steal a glance at your watch. Wow! Only 15 minutes have passed! You feel happy. Disneyland has exceeded your expectations......

Or have they?

Disneyland has timed the queue, and they know very well that it is only 15 minutes from the point where the signage is placed. And yet, they proclaim 20 minutes of waiting time for the customer standing at that point.

How can the beach resort manage your expectations?



Following from the earlier posts regarding Unconscious/Conscious Competence/Incompetence, here's some food for thought:

What you don't understand, is magic.
Do you believe in this statement? Think about it.

Thousands of years ago, if you were to show the earliest cavemen how to start a fire, they will exclaim in disbelief and proclaim you to be an evil warlock.

Hundreds of years ago, people were put into jail for finding that the sun does not revolve around the earth.

Decades ago, embryo cloning was deemed impossible and immoral.

Look at where we are today! Imagine, if you are at an awareness level of (3) or (4), preaching to a person at the awareness level of (1) or (2), you will be perceived as someone who can wield magic!

This is how master illusionists perform acts of magic that bewilder their audiences. The reason? The illusionist is at level (4), while the audience is still in level (2).

So, think about it the next time you wish to perform "magic" on unsuspecting smart alecks!

unconscious/conscious competence/incompetence (part 2)

In NLP, there are 4 levels of awareness in learning:

1) Unconscious Incompetence - you don't know what you don't know
2) Conscious Incompetence - you know what you don't know
3) Conscious Competence - you know what you know
4) Unconscious Competence - you don't need to know what you know

What this means is that, as a person is learning something new, he would most likely progress from (1) to (2) to (3) to (4). According to the Competence Learning Model, Level (4) of awareness is the highest level, where the knowledge and skill you learn is already internalized and becomes part of your habits and subsequently your behaviours.

If we take an example of learning how to drive, for someone who doesn't even know what driving a car is or feels like, he is in level (1). The moment he tries to operate the car, and realizes that he doesn't know how to drive one, he progresses to level (2). By taking driving lessons, practicing and constant driving, he progresses to level (3). After 1 year of driving, he will be in level (4).

The argument here is whether or not level (4) of awareness is in fact the highest level. Some argue that this is not very Buddhistic, i.e. that you are not mindful of your actions. And sometimes because of this, people become lax. Continuing from the driving example, more often than not people who have been driving for 20-30 years will feel complacent, comfortable that their driving is flawless. And when they begin to let their guard down, that's when accidents can potentially happen.

That's why there is an additional level of awareness, let's call it level (5):

Conscious Unconscious Competence
What it means is that you know that you don't need to know what you know.

You are aware that you don't need to consciously operate the clutch, the steering wheel, the gear shifts, the balance between the gas pedal and the clutch, the hand brakes, the mirrors. Because all this is already internalized in your mind, you don't need to think about it. But you are aware that you don't need to think about it, hence it is not mindless actions, but more of "reflex actions" that bring your awareness to the greatest height.