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Personal Change

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“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.

https://www.fastcompany.com/1839987/what-most-successful-people-do-breakfast

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Tracking through Matsumoto’s padi fields and mountain range.

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

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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.
https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/rummaging-for-god-praying-backward-through-your-day

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

临渊羡鱼,不如退而结网;
扬汤止沸,不如釜底抽薪

1. 临渊羡鱼,不如退而结网。
lín yuān xiàn yú,bù rú tuì ér jié wǎng
《汉书·董仲书传》《han shū · dǒng zhòng shū zhuàn 》

Rather than admire the abundance of fish [opportunities in front] of the lake, why not retreat to sew your net [to catch the fish].

This proverb was used as a parable from 董仲舒, a politician and a philosopher, who warned the emperor to use systematic manner to govern a country.

Does having a grandeur vision or goal justify the means/process? While having a grand goal is important, the “how to” accomplish is equally important.
Otherwise, is it not like “building castles in the air”, an illusion.

This proverb is a useful reminder not to fixate too much on our goals but work also on strategies. Strategies need to be revised, irrelevant ones discarded and opportune ones devised to adapt to changing trends.

《汉书·董仲舒传》,书中说:“故汉得天下以来,常欲治而至今不可善治者,失之于当更化而不更化也。

古人有言曰:‘临渊羡鱼,不如退而结网。’”意思是说,汉朝希望国家能得到很好的治理,却没有达到这个目的,原因在于“当更化而不更化”,也就是没有在观念上、制度上做出必要的改革和调整,于是他借“临渊羡鱼,不如退而结网”这句古训,来告诫统治者,要治理好国家,必须抓住观念、制度这个根本。

“临渊羡鱼,不如退而结网”这一典故,也告诫人们,在目的与手段之间,有明确的目的固然重要,但如果没有实现这一目的的必要手段,目的将是空幻而不切实际的。
Source of Chinese meaning from
https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/1302103067889920139.html

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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.

Inertia.

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.

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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

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What’s your cure for overcoming inertia?

子曰:“吾十有五而志于学,三十而立,四十而不惑,五十而知天命,六十而耳顺,七十而从心所欲,不逾矩。”《论语》

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》

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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:
https://m.ruiwen.com/news/64708.htm
(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.”

Source:
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/30/jack-ma-dont-fear-making-mistakes-in-your-20s-and-30s.html

With the increasing interest in Asia and globalisation of the world economy, cracking the cultural code has become important.

Beyond handing namecards with both hands and bowing, what are some of the differences in East and West. Both Hofstede and Trompenaars are very insightful in outlining some challenges to watch out for.

I came across a very practical book on cracking the cultural code. However it involves observation. India is different from China from South Korea from Indonesia from Malaysia.

Where are some of your challenges?

1. Making small talk with colleagues
2. Asking a favour from a colleague
3. Promoting myself at networking events
4. Receiving compliment from colleagues
5. Telling a joke at lunch
6. Giving feedback to my boss
7. Giving a formal presentation at a meeting
8. Pitching my idea to investors
9. Interviewing for a job

In the section on “You can be a Cultural Detective”, Prof Molinsky suggests to use a series of diagnostic questions, using the 6 dimensions of the cultural code he coined.

1. Brevity and en pointe:
Do people tend to be succinct in what they say and get right to the point – often with as few words as possible?

Or do they use words more general, or ambiguous poetic language, hinting at what they mean without being too direct? Senior Chinese government officials tend to favour reference to Tang poems for instance.

There are regional differences in that regard.

2. Energy
When something positive has happened, do people express emotions openly through facial expressions, body language and tone of voice eg Mediterranean cultures. Or do they tend to hide or suppress the outward expression of positive emotions despite their feelings, example British stiff up lip.

3. Formality
Do people dress conservatively, make official appointments to speak with each other and use titles such as “Doctor” or “CEO” . Or do they dress casually, drop by casually for a chat or first name basis. Do not be deceived by outward appearances though. Sometimes people may want to be addressed by first name but they are very formal.

4. Assertiveness
Do people express views strongly and forcefully. Is conflict encouraged? Do people express different view points in meetings? Or do they express opinions in a cautious manner and public display of conflict or disagreement is frowned?

Here, there is a difference in hierarchy. Those at the top tend to be more forceful.

5. Self promotion
Do people tend to highlight or draw attention to their personal accomplishments or tend to minimise, underplay their achievements?

6. Personal disclosure
Do people keep conversations strictly about business or do they discuss details of their personal lives with colleagues at work? In Asian cultures, people do discuss details of family life.

How much to ask depends on the seniority. Do not be surprised if an older colleague were to ask how much you earn, and your age. Such invasion of privacy may be uncomfortable for an American, who although comfortable with small talk will consider such topics taboo. A German boss on the other extreme will unlikely ask questions about your family as this would be considered too personal.

Global Dexterity , how to adapt your behaviour across cultures without losing yourself in the process” by Andy Molinsky
395.52 MOL (NLB)

SMU Associate Professor Tan Hwee Hoon is investigating on how trust is influenced by culture. In a cross-culture longitudinal study, the research team is examining dimensions of trust depending on 1. Ability 2. Benevolence 3. Integrity.

In American culture, trust is highest when the imdividual is deemed to have high ability. Whereas in Asian culture, benevolence or whether a person has consistently shown that he/she watches your back is more important.

Stay tuned as she prepares to publish her report.

Hilarious look at cultural differences between East and West
https://www.boredpanda.com/comics-chinese-western-culture-comparison-tinyeyescomics/