Sunday, January 30, 2011

The reason behind inaction

Do note that the following sharing is a standard I expect of myself, and does not represent the standard I expect of others.

I had an interesting conversation with Alex and Fred form NTU-Ventures today, they posed a couple of questions that led me to believe that I have not entirely been as self-driven as I could be.

When asked about how many times I have had achieved first-place in various aspects of my life (That is to be "number one" whether is it in my studies, CCAs or work performance), I surprisingly wasn't able to provide many instances and observed that I was pretty much second place most of the time in terms of CCAs or academic achievements (If I ever were a leading individual in those aspects).

When provoked to think deeper unto why was that so, I came up with a whole lot of reasons to provide self-justification to reinforce my self-concept, not realizing that self-justification will only lead to the attitudes that supports complacency. Therefore, I realized that in order for us to truly hunger for achievements or success, tolerance for what is mediocre is truly unacceptable.

In order for us to move away from inaction, it is crucial that we:
1. Not be afraid of success or failure

- We have commonly heard people telling us not to fear failures, and that it is often through failure itself that we discover the areas we should work on. However, it is a refreshing thought that since we tend to fail more often than we succeed (In order for us to eventually succeed), we have grown to be comfortable with failure. Thus, we often play down our original goals and objectives, whenever we fall short of them, so that we can remain comfortable with what is mediocre or be contented with what we have invested.

We should therefore, not be afraid to succeed. This being said, refers to identifying and countering our personal resistance to "hope", "dream", and "strive" for the best. It is understood deep inside us that to achieve successes beyond which we are capable of, requires that much greater efforts than what we are capable of giving. Therefore, we often lose the courage to take on "impossible"challenges. However, this "impossible challenges" may not be truly impossible, but was deemed so due to preconceived assumptions. Therefore it is critical that we be able to identify these presumptions, test them and eventually discover that we will always have the potential for greater things.

2. Just do it

This being said, resistance do still come very naturally whenever you attempt to step out of your personal comfort zones (change), all the way till you have gotten comfortable with that change.

Therefore, at times, one great advise would be to simply "Just do it". Take action and have the faith that along the way, there will always be rewards which are worth the risk.


Each of us have achievements which we are and should be proud of. These achievements are meaningful experiences which are often associated with "life changing events" that contributes to the development of our personal identity. They form the foundations of our self-esteem, giving us the confidence that we are of or can be of value to those we love and care about.

However, pride can be a double edged sword, as it is regrettable that the source of all conflicts is also pride itself. The believe that we are more intelligent, hardworking, richer or happier than others, often lead us to possess the assumptions that others are inferior in some way and should/would somehow benefit from our inputs.

This effectively blinds us from truly empathizing with those around us (preventing us from effectively putting ourselves in the shoes of others). To ensure that we are able to see value in the propositions made by others during times of conflict, it is paramount that we take on a humble spirit, so to truly "listen" to what others have in mind, instead of having the attitude of, "Whatever the other guy propose, mine will definitely be better!" 
This effectively requires us to "Empty our mug", by cleansing ourselves of all preconceived assumptions, before we may be effective in working together towards mutual gains.

Nevertheless, it would be natural that not all conflicts can effectively lead to a solution which has mutual benefits. In such situations, it is alright for one to humbly and respectfully "agree to disagree".

From a practical stand-point, it would wise to apply such principles in situations where you expect the opposing party to have the intentions to work towards mutual gains. Otherwise, you should wisely consider taking the best alternative response, which commonly includes walking away, fostering closer ties before engaging into formal negotiations, or giving in for the sake of long-term relationships, etc.

A humble spirit is also required for us to identify what are the real problems faced by communities we wish to aid, and to guide us in developing an effective approach in educating our beneficiaries of the need we have identified. A need which we identified the beneficiaries may have, may not be a need which the beneficiaries themselves see as true or of sufficient priority to address. In such circumstances, education has to be considered to ensure effective buy-in by the beneficiaries, so to ensure that they put the proposed solution into practice.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What is the difference between people on a cruise ship and people on a battleship?

A successful organization requires their members to be self-driven and to be fervent in their service to one another. Here lies two extreme attitudes which people take.

Which do you belong to?

Battle Ship

Cruise Ship


Mission oriented

Relaxation oriented

Stay focus and work towards a goal

Everyone has a station

Few serving many

Everyone has an area of responsibility


No training

Self-improvement and training is required

Team approach

No team

Strive to achieve as a team

Ready for action


Be on the ball

Common goal

Individual goal

Aligned to a single unified goal

“What can I do to help?”

“I am not getting anything out of this.”

Be proactive in aiding one another

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do not underestimate the significance of any individual

Quoted from the Movie "Shaolin"

Senior Monk: "Which is more useful? A gold bar or a pile of Mud?"

Junior Monk: "Definitely the gold bar?"

Senior Monk: "What if you are answering this question from the perspective of a seed?"

Moral of the analogy: Every living being has a purpose in life, more specifically every member of society has an important part to play in each others' life. The significance of which is not to be underestimated.

From the bible: 1 Corinthian 12
12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?
18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.
23 And those membersof the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty,
24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it,
25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Officially on leave and a Conversation with Mr Anthony Teo

Today I had the fortune to converse with Mr Anthony Teo the advisor for special projects to NTU's presidential office. He showed great depths in knowledge and fervent passion for society. It was truly inspirational and encouraging that a person of his stature would be so willing to provide wise guidance to student leaders of SIFE.

My key takeaway from his sharing was how critical it is for us to be able to find purpose in everything we do. Specifically for entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship, the key to success is not only the ability to identify the right problem, but also the purpose of our attempt to resolve that problem. "Purpose" is what truly drives us to bleed and sweat for all our efforts and excel in what we do.

He also added that this process of identifying the problem and the purpose may not be necessarily sequential. Some people find a purpose before the problem, and some people find the problem before uncovering the purpose. However, the key is to eventually be able to identify/uncover both, and the worst possible scenario is to be investing effort in something which has no purpose and where no problem existed in the first place.

This key takeaway truly made me contemplate on the invested efforts I have made in the past and present, to analyze if what I have done or is currently doing, are motivated by a purpose to resolve a real problem.

I have personalized the rule to "uncover the key problems faced by society, so as to develop solutions for them and to find a purpose in everything I do". Otherwise, I would rather not be wasting my efforts in such endeavours."