“Momentum” in Finlayson Green, Singapore, by Israeli scupltor David Gerstein. “The 18.5-metre tall painted metal sculpture depicts an upward cycle of progress, symbolising the energy and momentum of the district, Singapore and its people.” Somehow it reminds me of the tower of babel in Genesis.

Photo taken by me, one car-free Sunday morning in 2017, riding my bicycle.

Sometimes the context and the environment matters. Reading Laura Vanderkam’s “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast—to jump-start the day productively” travelling through Japan’s very efficient JR train system put me in the right mindset to track my time and wake up early.

It is not so much the what I can do.
Laura Vanderkam suggests that we can nurture self, relationships and career with the extra time.

1) Discovering that I am actually a “morning” person. I just need to sleep early.

2) My important chores can be done

3) I have time for meditation and reading the Bible which clears up my mind and thoughts. I am less angry.

4) More conscious of time wastage as I can plan my logistics. And mindless surfing at night.

5) Read books I have been putting off because I have more energy.

6) My bowel movements have improved.

7) More conscious of my goals.

Its a thin book and I highly recommend reading it as well as planning a holiday in Japan using the public transport system. It makes you track your time more consciously.


Tracking through Matsumoto’s padi fields and mountain range.


The art of confession – renewing yourself through the practice of honesty” by Paul Wilkes.


Photo entitled “Reflections” taken in Nagoya, 2018 by me.

My first confession is that I never thought highly of confessions. I was searching for a book on Stoics for my workshop on diary writing and journaling when I chanced upon it.

“Confession is self examination, an honest conversation with ourselves, stripping away the veil over our actions and thoughts, so that we see more clearly and act more justly” writes Wilkes.

Today we complain about stress, rages and provocations, but where is the problem? Perhaps it is our lack of self worth or nagging guilt. Did we lose ourselves somewhere?

One of my favourite techniques in the book is “praying backward through the day“.

The first step is to confess to the God of your faith. Repent of your sin and ask God to be gracious and merciful.

1. Observe, Judge, Act
Observe: Be specific about what you want to change

Judge: consider the consequences of your action

Act: Do something to rectify your situation

2. Consolations and Desolations
Spend a few moments to recall moments when you feel most alive and worthwhile and when you felt the opposite.

What did I do that made me happiest?
Where did I feel ashamed of myself?
What habits worked for or against me?

3. Praying backwards through the day
Jesuit priest Dennis Hamm recommends LT3F approach – light, thanks, feelings, focus, future based on the examen of St Ignatius.

What is helpful when listening to a confession?
Wilkes quotes Dr Thomas Mathew:
In psychotherapy, we can treat outward symptoms – depression, anxiety, ennui – with medication, which sometimes is very effective in itself.

In therapy, time allows a person to go deeper. Don’t judge, or jump in with a solution. Just listen.

Why am I interested in journalling?
An unexamined life is not worth living. -Socrates


I recently bought a bag of wing beans from the market with the intention of replicating a dish I ate at Betel Nut, a peranakan restaurant. I found a recipe on the internet. It was an easy stir fry dish. A few days later, the wing beans turned black and had to be thrown away.

What happened? Inertia. I just could not get started.

What was I afraid of, that I could not start a project that took only 30 mins, including prep time?

If I failed, who would know? Just open the dustbin and throw away the evidence.


I signed up for a class, Cookery Magic.

Being in a class with hands on and a patient teacher certainly helped.

It made me think of Kurt Lewin’s Change Process. What prevents people from changing?

The first stage is unfreezing our old habits that are no longer effective.

That prevents unfreezing?
1) Inertia
2) Mistrust
3) Lack of Information

I am on a quest to improve my craft. It all started with a clipboard and a piece of paper and asking myself:

What are my goals?
Whats stopping me ?

Truth be told, my colleagues gave me a voucher for the Cookery Magic course in 2008 when I left INSEAD.

10 years to use the voucher. Bless Roxanna for still honouring the voucher as most organisations would only have a 8 mth validity.


Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
– Lewis Carroll


What’s your cure for overcoming inertia?


zǐ yuē:“wú shí yǒu wǔ ér zhì yú xué,sān shí ér lì,sì shí ér bú huò,wǔ shí ér zhī tiān mìng,liù shí ér ěr shùn,qī shí ér cóng xīn suǒ yù,bù yú jǔ。”《lùn yǔ》


Humans go through physiological life stages from baby to child to teenager then to old age. What about psychological life stages?

Here, I would like to share the life stages presented by Confucius, and it puts into perspective the advice given by Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba.

The best interpretation, or one that helped me make sense of Confucius’ saying is this post on the following site:
(I do not vouch for the site)

Confucius says,

“When I was fifteen, I started on my pursuit of life’s path/ career (being open to questioning and devote in finding my path);

(After many years of hard work)
when I was thirty, my understanding of life, my path was set firmly;

when I was forty, I no longer doubt my life decisions (my career path is set);

when I was fifty, my inner and outer world finds alignment. I have found (act out) my mission in life. I practice what I preach (No mid life crisis here) 五十而知天命.

when I was sixty, I realised that life is complex and I begin to accept – the positive and the negative views – and not be upset;

when I was seventy, I had the freedom to do whatever my heart desires, within the rules of this world [that I have observed throughout all of my life].”

Examining Confucius, I realised that Jack Ma’s sayings are built on philosophical foundations, just like in the Western world if you quote Socrates.

What Jack Ma says (probably building on the sayings of Confuscius) :

“When you are 20 to 30 years old, you should follow a good boss [and] join a good company to learn how to do things properly,” Ma said. (Learn as much as you can.)

“When you are 30 to 40 years old, if you want to do something yourself, just do it. You still can afford to lose, to fail,”

“When you’re 40 to 50 years old, my suggestion is you should do things you are good at.” Instead of diving into a new field or subject toward the later years in your career.

“When you are 50 to 60 years old, spend time training and developing young people, the next generation,” Ma added.

“When you are over 60 years old, you better stay with your grandchildren.”


How 7 days in Okinawa pondering its secret of longevity change my view of the future.


1. Keep active
Many in their 60s and above are still working, selling simple essentials with low margin. Perhaps out of necessity and certainly the opportunity for social interaction, out and about, walking and driving.


Outside of hotels, shopping belt of Kokusai Street (and international brands) most of the service staff by local outlets are above 50 yrs old. In the exceptions above, where ability to speak a foreign language to cater to tourists is a must, young people are employed.


In the supermarket near my hotel, 60 yr olds were serving as cooks in the takeout counter or cashiers/packers at the checkout.

In “Making a living without a job” by Barabara Winter, she wrote about a tiny restaurant, the Milky Way ran for 25 yrs by Leah Adler, mother of Steven Spielberg, who at the time of the writing was 81 yrs old. She was at the restaurant from 830am till closing and seemed to have a good time making her customers happy and chatting with everyone. Adler recently passed away this year at 97.

2. Simple living
Simple needs, simple food and vegetables. Practicising hara hachi bo or 80 percent full.


3. Outdoors island living with fresh air and sun


4. Slow pace of life
Lights out by 7pm. No street lamp, not much electronic entertainment. Sloooow.


First world amenities of Japan without too much social restraints. Less outwardly polite than Tokyo which may be less stressful


I chanced this write up at Brightside. #What $1 brings you#. A snicker bar in Japan, a bowl of chicken rice in Indonesia, a can of coca cola in a hawker centre in Singapore.

This year I am inspired to do more. My students in SMU inspire me. Many of them genuinely want a career in helping profession.

Watch Corine Tiah’s documentary on an Inspiration Asian Ken who trekked the hills to bring light to the villagers.

Incidentally, Corine is a journalist whose documentaries are about #people who bring hope to others#.

#Fragrance lingers on the hand that gives flowers#

#CNA#, #InspirAsian#, #$1#

As a lecturer, I have realised that a “problem” kid/person may be going through personal issues at home. I am reluctant to whitewash the behaviour.

Similarly, an person may be so fixated with how unkind others have been to him/her that pointing out their behaviour may have worse consequences.

If the person is not under your authority, and the remark is not targeted at you, let it pass. (If bullying is involved, get someone of higher authority – like the School Administrator in the loop. Sometimes the bully can accuse you of bullying. )

Videos on Kindversations

How to be kind? Dave Kerpen offers some suggestions.

1. Never give out criticism in front of other people. It never works. (Only leads to shame and fear.)

2. Instead, set up a time for one on one private discussion with the person with whom you want to share feedback.

3. Offer up a “praise sandwich”: start with something you like about the person and/ or the job he’s doing, continue with the negative feedback, and close by affirming how much you value the person and how confident you are in him.

4. Make sure to offer positive solutions to the issues at hand and get alignment on the solution of choice.

5. Don’t dwell on the negative and look for future opportunities to publicly praise the positive about the person as soon and as much as you can.

1. Make a list of five kind authentic things you can say about each person you encounter on a regular basis.
2. Practice doling out praise publicly and increase praise you give out each day. Remember it’s free and powerful.
3. When you have to deliver criticism do it privately and try doing it with a praise sandwich : praise , criticism and then deep praise.

Dave Kerpen, “The Art of People”