Sunday, July 19, 2009

Persevere in Humility

An hour ago, a strong gust of wind blew my neighbour's front gate off it's rail. That's the first time I saw something like that in my life. The bamboo forest in front of my house was quite a spectacle, too (darn I didn't get my camera!) They looked like rockets that were ready to be launched at any moment! At the end of the 30 minute bashing by the strong wind, the bamboos prevailed. On the other hand my neighbour's gate was derailed.

We all face the occasional 'strong wind' blowing in our life. Very often, we are tempted to throw in the towel and give up. However, if we look at nature, no wind lasts forever. No matter how severe the storm is, it will always be replaced by sunny days afterward. Mother nature has a very unique way of teaching us precious lessons in life. When facing the 'strong wind', yield to it and learn from it and we will be like the bamboo, triumphing in the end. That's what I call persevering in humility.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I still remember what started me off on the journey of learning to speak and write in English. The year was 1987 and I was in Primary 3. My English was mediocre because I hardly speak it at home and school. Both my parents don't know English so it is their aspiration for their children to master the language. Thus I was sent for English tuition classes.

It was at the tuition center that I met Mrs. Dass. Mrs. Dass was a strict, no nonsense teacher. One fine day for English composition, she gave me a 'B'. I was elated. It was the best 'B' I've ever gotten because that afternoon, I got myself an exercise book and started writing by myself. It was not even homework. All of a sudden, English became interesting. Before long, I fell in love with the language. That's the power of a small dose of encouragement.

Recently, I saw this happening again, this time on my 4 year old son, Jordan. We notice that he prefers reading to writing. As a result, his teacher has commented that he needs to work harder on writing. Then, one fine day, something amazing happened. My mum told me that after Jordan's afternoon nap, he took his drawing pad and his chair to the living room table and sat there and started writing the letter 'g' all by himself. He wrote hundreds of 'g' for more than 1 hour non-stop. I asked Jordan what got him so excited. This was his reply (in mandarin) "Teacher says I'm very good." Now, he can write the alphabets already. Heh! Heh! I'm so proud.

We all need encouragement to move on. Like petrol is the fuel for the automobile, encouragement is the fuel for the human spirit. John C. Maxwell shared the following about encouragement.

  • People want to do the right thing. STAND WITH THEM.
  • People want to find better ways of doing things. EMPOWER THEM.
  • People want to achieve things they can be proud of. MOTIVATE THEM.
  • People want to belong to a group that achieves the extraordinary. INVITE THEM.
  • People want to earn recognition for who they are and what they achive. HONOUR THEM.
Encourage someone today. When we give, we receive even more.

God Bless!

Luke Bong

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Team

Nowadays it's very common for organizations to send their people to team building training. The objectives are to instill teamwork and trust among team members so that they can function more cohesively back in their workplace. But is an off-site team building event effective in building team spirit? What do you think?

Just yesterday I was in a team building event which I organized for my company. Everyone had a lot of fun and were able to work in a team. Despite coming from different work teams, everyone worked together throughout the obstacle course cohesively. I was very impressed.

However something got me thinking. One of our members fell down and twisted her knee. Initially we all thought she might have broken her knee bone. I personally heard a loud cracking sound! We stopped all activities momentarily to make sure she got treated. A few members were on hand to make sure she was comfortable (despite being in great pain). A majority of the members couldn't be bothered and went on to do other things like sitting under a tree, making joke of the situation, analyzing how the accident took place, etc. What was disappointing to me was the injured member's superior didn't even volunteer to accompany her to the hospital for treatment. Since I was the organizer I decided to go to the hospital together. At the hospital we found out that she only sprained her knee. Thank God.

The final event was a game called 'big foot' where 10 people have to tie their feet to a giant ski and walk a distance. 2 teams managed to finish quickly while 1 team was clearly struggling. The ideal scenario would be the 2 winning teams quickly came forward to cheer and rally the struggling team to finish the race. But the reality was the 2 winning teams gathered around the water station and sat there watching the struggling team and waiting for them to finish. Leaders must lead by example, right? I ran towards them and cheered them on to the finishing line. But none seated at the water station followed. Sigh! More work needed to build team spirit.

After the team building, almost instantaneously people fell back to their old habits of hanging out with the same group of people during lunch and each having their own private discussions. It was as if the teamwork and comradeship experienced earlier has become history. I hope I am wrong here. Perhaps the lessons from the team building have been ingrained in their subconscious mind already. Am I ever the optimist, eh?

My reflection from this event? A team building event is a useful tool to show management's intent to build team spirit and teamwork in the organization. However, don't over rely on it and assume that after the team building everyone will be able to work as a cohesive team. So my action plan after this?

  1. Immediately follow up on the participants of the team building by broadcasting the pictures and experience to ride on the 'afterglow' effect.
  2. Continue to send positive messages regarding teamwork and follow up with positive reinforcement actions such as broadcasting good examples of teamwork among the colleagues.
  3. Plan for the next team building session. I'm a firm believer that team building is a year round thing.
Have you been to any team building events lately? Do share your views.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Goal Setting

I was inspired by a quote I read somewhere.

"Failure doesn't happen when you plan big goals and don't achieve them. Failure happens when you plan little goals and hit them."

Now, I don't know who said this but this person sure made sense. Often times we limit ourselves to how much we can achieve because there is always the 'voice' at the back of our mind reminding us 'Can-meh?' And when we listen to that 'voice' we naturally set ourselves a goal that is attainable, something small, 'organic growth' and comforting. Something we know we will not fail to achieve.

But honestly, if we can't fail to achieve it, then it's not a goal anymore, right? It should be called something else. Maybe a task, a chore, etc... but certainly not a goal. A goal should excite you, sets your adrenaline pumping and there must always be the risk of 'what if we fall short?'

Dato' Idris Jala, the boss of MAS said this, "Play the game of the impossible." When humans are faced with something impossible, it's amazing what creative solutions we can come up with. It was once impossible for humans to fly, right? Richard Branson has just launched Virgin Galactic, an airline that will bring you to space and back for just USD$200K per person. :P And the best part is this: They have already secured USD$40 million in bookings!

Here is a suggestion how we can set 'impossible' goals. Hope it helps you.

1) Write down your goal - it must be quantifiable so that it is measurable (for e.g. losing weight is not very clear. However, losing 10 kg will be quantifiable)
2) Now set yourself a growth rate (or in the case of losing weight 'negative growth' rate). E.g. 10%, 20%, or 50%. Be sensible.
3) This is your goal, right? Wrong! This is something which we are comfortable to write down.
4) To play the 'game of the impossible' set yourself another growth rate. E.g. 30%, etc...
5) Do you feel your heart beating, your inner voice saying 'can-meh?', your sweat starts dropping? Congratulations! You are ready to play the 'game of the impossible'.

Dream big, think big and achieve big!