Your mind cannot hold two thoughts at once.
That means that a single thought can occupy your entire mind
Whether good or bad, everything stems from a single thought
If we are careful with that first thought, even tragedies can be prevented.

Catching the sunset in Hawke’s Bay, NZ 2016.

Dream big but start small
A small adjustment can have a big effect on your life
If you want to be healthier, start by going to bed half an hour earlier

Haemin Sunim, “The Things You Can See Only when You Slow Down”
Translated by Chi-Young Kim

Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive, because your words become your behaviour
Keep your behaviour positive, because your behaviour become your habits
Keep your habits positive, because your   habits become your values
Keep your values positive, because your
values become your destiny
-Mahatma Gandhi

Have you given this answer when asked “Tell me about your weakness”. That you are a perfectionist.

According to Sharon Begley, author of books such as “The Mind and the Brain”, “The Plastic Mind” and “Can’t. Just. Stop. An Investigation of Compulsions“, many of the creative types have traces of OCD and anxiety in them.

Her book begins with a story of blind John Milton who wrote the epic 10,000 plus lines of “Paradise Lost” by dictating his lines crafted at night and memorised until daylight broke, to one of his three daughters. Milton had a palpable need to be unburdened of the memorised lines of verse that filled him with anxiety until he could be “milked”. Hemingway described himself the same way “When I don’t write, I feel like shit”. Vincent Van Fogh produced more than 200 paintings of sunflower in a short span of time equivalent to one painting every 34hrs.

Begley observed that these geniuses’ work sprang from a “deep creative impulse and genius” that also came from something “deeper, darker, more tortured”. Driven to keep the psychic pain away. Compulsions so desperate and tortured.

Who exactly is a perfectionist?

Begley cites Caroline Meyer of Loughborough University in a 2011 study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders discovered a link between perfectionism and compulsive exercise. The falling short of perfection provokes anxiety which only the compulsive behavior can quiet – the result is a compulsion to work out to a self destructive extreme.

Is there a difference between addiction and compulsion?

Addiction begins with a flash of pleasure overlaid by an itch if danger. It’s fun to gamble or drink and puts you at risk. You like how you feel when you win.

Compulsion in contrast is about avoiding unpleasant outcomes. They are born in anxiety and remain strangers to joy. Such behavior is repeated to relief the angst brought about by negative consequences. “If I don’t do this, something terrible will happen.”

Note: Perfectionists have the potential to self destruct. Not a good answer in a job interview.

Begley cites another creative type, Joan Rivers who was working very hard just before she died in 2014. Rivers worked as compulsively as a kid trying to break into show business.

Begley went on to observe that the compulsion to do good in the world can “emanate from as many sources as a river of snow melt water “. Positive such as seeing one’s work make an impact in the lives of others, or a sense of connectedness. Or negative forces such as a repulsive force of anxiety.

Drive to work can come from the anxiety that no one will do a job as competently as you will. Or an anxiety that comes from contemplating one’s own mortality or the existence of suffering in the world and saying “not on my watch”? What compels people to do good?

What compels people to create?
According to Marcy Seaham, who advises corporations on creativity there are 4 temperaments that drives people to create.
1. Artisan/ improviser – restlessness from feeling “Ive had enough” of this way of doing things or imperfect device
2. Catalysts/ idealists are restless as long as things dont change. Impelled by curiosity.
3. Creativity comes from enjoyment of mastery and accomplishment. “Incompetence and stupidity makes them restless.” Perception of themselves as not accomplishing.
4. Guardians/ Stabilisers feel restless when things are not going smoothly.


A very well written book, except that what’s amiss in my view is any attempt to help those of us who suspect we may have some secret compulsive behavior. Her aim is to create a “realization that there is no bright line between mental illness and mental normality”.

You’ve succeeded Ms Begley. Now every colleague looks suspiciously having OCD traits. Including myself.

Next time you describe yourself as a perfectionist in an interview, think again. You may be revealing more than you should.


The Japanese are masters in creativity. Here leveraging on tradition of Kabuki tradition, entertainment for common folk and make performance as part of your beauty care. Beauty face masks with Japanese stage makeup printed.

Kumadori is the stage makeup worn by Kabuki actors. Its designed to reveal the personality of a character at a glance. Red depicts a good character, those coloured blue, black and brown are wicked.

Himself gifted me this pack wrapped origami style with the wrapper doubling up as information pamphlet that is at once informative as well as functional and great marketing. No doubt a winner of a Tokyo Midtown Award.

To lend credibility, a Kabuki actor born into a family of Kabuki actors served as Pack supervisors.

Marketing as play. Get into character with a Kabuki Face Pack and transform your mood with a special play time.

Do not let other’s opinions of you determine who you are.
Instead of worrying about what others think,
Devote yourself to your dreams


When someone doesnt like us
It is not our problem but theirs.
Not everyone will like us.
This is a problem only if we let it bother us

By complaining that something we have to do is too hard,
We add another layer of difficulty.
Take a deep breath, and then just do it.

Haemin Sunim, “The Things You Can See Only when You Slow Down
Translated by Chi-Young Kim

Note to self: Haemin Sunim is a Monk from South Korea educated in Havard, Princeton, UC Berkley. Think less of yourself. Be less preoccupied with self. When you are happy, you will try to make the world a happier place. Many of us do things for others, actually we are doing it for ourselves.

“The Tao of Charlie Munger” with commentary by David Clark

“It is waiting that helps you as an investor and a lot of people just can’t stand to wait.”

“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up, and boy, does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.

Blaise Pascal, 17th century French mathematician ” All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Every other day, Twitter and Facebook has someone posting that robots are replacing me.

Should I face this with fear ? When I was young, we were told the neighbouring countries are going to eat our lunch. Especially Penang. After all we have no resources. Then I learnt that the “Chinese and Indians are eating my lunch”. Now it’s the robots.

Let’s face it. Someone is always going to eat my lunch. I say this, not to underestimate the enemy. But to plan a strategy. What did I learn from the past which can set me better for the future.

Last week, my 12 year old nephew told me with all seriousness of a very cute and “voice not broken” that 10 million jobs will be wiped out in 10 years time. He learnt this while watching TV.

While we throw these words around, how then are we preparing the next generation? With a doomsday, Armageddon mentality or competitive steak?

I do not have the answer.

Machines replacing the jobs of humans is not a new story. When I first joined the Foreign Service, we had typists in a typing pool. When we tried to lobby countries in the UN to support us for a seat in some UN Council, 185 letters or Third Part Notes had to be typed – such jobs were essential. I could only type all alphabets with one finger. The body of the letters were printed but the typists typed out the names of the countries in 4 places in super human speed. Good luck if the names were typed wrongly. So proof reading was essential because humans make mistakes. We had to beg the typists to prioritise our work and bribed them with gifts and praises. There were never enough typists for the stuff that required typing.

Imagine our elation, when computers, mail merge and excel were introduced. The typists’ jobs were replaced but many of them moved on to other jobs in the organisation. The total number of employees did not go down. In fact more work was created.

Change is part of life. Seasons change, winds change. One of the key skills we need is to embrace change. Mindset of an adventure.

That’s the excuse I gave myself to acquire the Samsung S8+. I was very excited, the day I decided to buy the new phone, fiddling the model in the Samsung concept store and confirming with my telecom provider that stock was available. My preferred color: Orchid Grey.

On the actual day of the purchase, I was first in queue. But when the phone was in my hands. Dread overtook me. Inertia. Why did I buy a new phone with a new contract for 2 years. My Note 4 is excellent, why pay $438 (after the various discounts) just for a curved screen and a better camera.

Every action seemed insurmountable.
The transfer of data and learning how to use the new functions. You can learn everything yourself from YouTube, my friend said.

Well, I paid $38 for the Samsung Concierge and a kind lady walked me through the steps at the Samsung store in Plaza Singapura.

It’s ok. No matter how many phones I’ve changed, I’m still afraid and reluctant.

Mel Robbins calls it the 5 Sec rule. When you decide on a new challenge, take action within the first 5 secs or your frontal cortex will kick in. So I went straight to the Samsung Concierge and transfered everything.

My friend told me the story of his father, a former senior official (ie educated and highly respected) who refused to use a smart phone. Why is that an issue? Singapore is moving over to 3G soon and the network will not support 2G. My parents who were not university educated have long since moved to smart phone and WhatsApp. How did they learn? By asking people around them. Because they had to depend on their wits for survival, asking for help has become a skill.

Sun Tzu says it’s important to get a local guide who will show you the way.

In “Humility is the New Smart.” , the authors argue that Humility by “learning and unlearning” and asking questions are the new skills of the Smart Machine Age. Never being afraid to tear down old assumptions and ask those around us who know the way. Although beware of the blind leading the blind.


That’s why I bought the Samsung S8+ and the Samsung Concierge service. Learning something new destabilises me and makes me humble. And more empathetic to those who struggle to make sense of this new age.

Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age

Last night at my Chinese class presentation, I introduced a Chinese poem by 陆游《游山西村》


Photo taken at the 2017 Singapore Gardens by the Bay Cherry Blossoms exhibition.

Shānqióngshuǐjìn yǐ wú lù, Liǔ àn huā míng yòu yī cūn

Only to be told by the instructor that this poem had been commonly misquoted over the years. The first part of the phrase should read:

Shān chóng shuǐ fù yí wú lù


The poem means that sometimes, you may see only layers of mountains and rivers (ie face confusion and dangers, uncertainty). If you persist, soon you will see the beautiful shade of willow trees and cherry blossoms of the next village in sight.

An encouraging word to the disheartened and confused especially given the constant reminders that robots are taking away our jobs.

He went on to recite other poems we think we know, but got it half right. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. One of them which I will write about is

人不为己 天诛地灭
Rén bù wéi jǐ tiānzhūdìmiè

In this Chinese proverb, the third word “为” or wéi is pronounced in the second tone and means “self cultivation” or “self reflection” “自修”. Pronounced in the fourth tone, the same word “为”changes meaning of the phrase to “everyone for himself “.

For me and nearly everyone in the room, indeed, we have always read or heard this word read in the fourth tone. Meaning every man for himself. But the real phrase meant if everyone does not practice self reflection, you will be destroyed.

A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing. I have since checked on what he said and realised that he is right.

When I read Adam Smith in university as an Economics major, we were taught the invisible hand of free market forces, the evils of government intervention and the pursuit of self interest above all.

I’ve since realised that the context Smith had written about was very different from the one he had been credited with. Adam Smith was a Christian pastor and also wrote about the importance of moral justice. (I thought I first read about the misinterpretation of Adam Smith in Adam Grant’s book, “Give and Take” but cannot find my notes now.) I shall re-read what I know about Adam Smith.

Recall that was how the serpent tricked Eve. Did God really say that you cannot eat from the tree and that you will surely die?

With the threat of robots replacing me, I shall start with unlearning what I know which ain’t so. Practice the humility of Sun Tzu Art of War, which by the way is not about war. Sun Tzu recommended avoiding war at all cost.

Know yourself and your enemy

Knowing what you dont know is more useful than being brilliant. “The Tao of Charlie Munger” with commentary by David Clark

But do you really know?