Friday, January 20, 2017

Wear Your Badge With Pride - Inside

Who doesn't love recognition?

This can be a compliment, praise, handshake, or a high-5. A physical memento would include a medal, finisher t-shirt, trophy, 'potential winner' card, and the like. To complement your achievement with something physical enhances the experience of completion or competition. These 'badges of honour' remind us of what we have earned - and most times, hard-earned - and may motivate us to go even further the next time.

However, when these badges become more than 'bragging rights', then they present a social concern. If awards and badges result in an 'elitist mindset' or a 'cocky attitude' towards others, then the badge ceases to represent more than its abstract meaning. Every boy-scout knows that for each badge that he earns, it was born of knowledge and skilfulness. He had to demonstrate a competency or skill-set before he could be presented with a new badge, which he wears with pride. Each badge is a milestone of one's 'success', and it is part of a journey of self-discovery and exploration.

My drawerful of race t-shirts and extended merchandise alerts me of the following:

1) I really need more closet space (remind me to go to IKEA).
2) I need more real-world clothes.
3) I need to reduce my credit-card expenditure for travel, race-fees, and merchandise.
4) I should be confident of my abilities and capabilities.
5) I may have to give away some of these clothes, or wear them out (like on 'Survivor', the reality TV series).
6) Review my priorities in my life.
7) Will a race-tattoo replace these material benefits? (if so, which design and location on my body?).
8) Participate in eco-friendly, shirtless, races?

Will my madness end? Which other motivations will I reveal? Which new 'mountains' can I summit? What will I learn from these future adventures. 

If you have 'been there, and done that', then the continuous pursuit of the same process or activities can mean a lifestyle, demonstration of self-discipline, or the pursuit of excellence. Whatever your reasons or motivations are, be mindful that a badge is temporal than the 'badge we wear inside'. A shoe-box filled with medals is just a receptacle for these beautiful bits of metal and wood, and we should not be weighed down by past glories or a vainglorious past. Instead, we can look ahead of us, determine new goals and experiences, and live them. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Leadership Lessons From Films: What Will Be Your Line?

I love films.

I spent my childhood watching films. In my formative years as a pre-teenager, my Mom was generous to ensure that my brother and I saw our fair share of films. I recall, watching back-to-back James Bond films almost everyday. We lived across the Hoover theatre/cinema, and student-priced tickets made it gladly affordable.

My most memorable film was, probably, Cecil B. DeMille’s grand spectacle ‘The Ten Commandments’. It was about 220 minutes long (I clocked it at 3:36), and my Mom brought lunch in for my brother and I during the intermission. That was a film that influenced me about religion and movie magic.

Every decade secures itself vividly with iconic films, music, special effects and directors. In the 1970’s, films like ‘ET-The Extra-Terrestrial’, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘Grease’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’, Jaws’ and ‘Star Wars’ ushered in a new era of filmmakers.

When I secured a job as a feature-writer, I recalled replacing my colleague (a UCLA film and music graduate) as the resident reviewer. I was mildly ‘lost’ until I found the language to describe film. I honed my reviewer’s eye through monthly reviews of videotaped films of the latest Hollywood releases.

I still love films.

The art and business of filmmaking has progressed from ‘silver-screen’ to ‘talkies’ to ‘digital film’. Cinemas have been transformed into ‘sensory environments’ where the filmgoer experience is strongly enhanced with Dolby-Surround audio and CGI-enhanced visuals. 3-D and IMAX Experience continue to be important, and supplemented with Virtual Reality (VR) mobile devices. I fear the day I ‘awake’ and find a paler shade of me plugged into a connector cable, and discover my life was one major ‘download’ from the Matrix.

Cinemas cost more, however they are cleaner, have more comfortable seats, and exquisite audio-visual systems. From $0.50 to $12.50 per ticket is a reflection of the times, as an average Hollywood blockbuster costs upwards of US$100 million. Film studios struggle to keep above water (even for a film about a sinking ship), as they face competition from other studios, a discerning film audience and piracy (even Captain Sparrow got ripped off).

As long as films and television (as this medium is growing rapidly in interest in the past decade) continue to entertain, educate, engage (and, occasionally, misinform us), we will still flock to the ‘big-screen’ to partake in the next installment of Star Wars, trilogies, and Marvel Studios/DC Universe franchises. After all, who doesn’t like a good storyline? Stories matter, and so writers will spin their latest yarn, and filmmakers will weave their web of fantasies to send us off on our own flights of fancy.

As biopics and docudramas feed our need to be skeptical and feed the distrusting conspiracy theorists, so we, too, indulge in our coffee chatter to, hopefully question the status quo, choose to be educated and informed, and get involved in humankind. Nothing is more persuasive than human thought – mild, militant or mesmerizing – for that is the flame that sustains the torch of progress and purpose.

Start the collective voice of reason by writing your first line of intent. As Walt Whitman wrote:

Oh me! Oh life! Of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! So sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.’

What will be your line?

Meanwhile, write your script, produce your film, direct it well, and ensure a stunning performance!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

10 Nutritional & Training Hacks for Endurance Athletes

In the last few years, I have earned these bites of wisdom, having applied them and observed the results and impact on my body before, during and after training/racing. Some of these are worth repeating and for your consideration.
1)   In the off-season, focus on building a strong base of endurance.
2)   Using Dr Phil Maffetone’s approach, train within your Maximum Heart-Rate Zone (180 MINUS AGE). If you have not been sick for 6 months, ADD 5 more beats per minutes.
3)   SLEEP is key to recovery and reducing hunger pangs (and thus, unnecessary snacking and weight gains). 7.5 hours minimum per night is expected on a heavy training schedule. Tart cherry juice helps you sleep better an reduces muscle soreness after an intense exercise session/race.
4)   Learn to be less Insulin-Resistance by reducing overall carbohydrate intake, mainly from fructose and high Glycemic Index (GI) foods. Consider training on a Bulletproof Coffee (coffee with coconut oil and butter) and train with just that on some workouts. Learn to utilize fat efficiently, and rely less on sports-gels during races.
5)   Include more Good Fats and Essential Fatty Acids from a variety sources – mono-unsaturated, poly-unsatured, and saturated fats – butter, coconut oil, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and eggs. Many commercial oils are 'blended' with mixtures of oils as it is cheaper.
6)   Have EASY, MEDIUM, and HARD days for training. Two sessions of intense HARD training per week is adequate. Seek the expertise of coaches for your weakest discipline and for a Race Preparation Program.
7)   Add an additional day of rest should you feel fatigued. Learn to be intuitive and alert to how you FEEL. Perform self-massage daily, and have a deep-tissue massage once a month to knead away kinks and knots from excessive scar tissue buildup.
8)   Hydrate, and hydrate more. Get a filter for your tap-water. Reduce fluoridated water consumption. It is harmful in large amounts. Add lemon-juice to flavour your water during exercise and outside.
9)   Since we suffer oxidative stress from endurance training and racing, include more natural foods with high antioxidants (including phyto-phenols, Omega-3 fatty acids, lauric acid, DHA and EPA, astaxanthin). Consume high-staining fruits and vegetables in the colours of the traffic-lights (RED, GREEN, YELLOW), krill oil and deep-water fish (salmon). Farm-bred fish are not your best source of protein and fish-oil.
10) Monitor your stress levels with a Heart-Rate Monitor (Garmin watches have wrist-sensors that measure our HR quite accurately), check your body-fat levels in the mirror, use the Pinch-Test for excess body-fat, energy levels, and monitor any sudden mood changes.

For more clarification, direct your questions to me. Have a great training and race season!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


 Qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships 2017 (In Cebu, The Philippines).
Completing Boston Marathon (2016) for the second time.
Lots of clich├ęs abound, such as: Another year older, another year wiser! I don’t know about that, however these are what I have Iearnt about aging up.

1)   I am in another age group for triathlons and marathons (50-54 years). I am in the younger side of the spectrum, so I have a psychological edge. My performance in 2016 have ascertained that I can achieve much more, when I commit deeper to a cause or challenge.
2)   I have earned another batch of tacit experience and wisdom to accompany me for the next few years. It is fascinating to note how my opinions have changed, and how these have influenced my lifestyle changes.
3)   I thought I’d be more patient as I grow older, however I find that I am – with new staff and newbies – but no so much with staff I expect to have the experience. I am impatient and annoyed with mediocrity when most of us have so much more to offer and promote.
4)   I prefer people who are ambitious about challenges, and take these on with less complaints and gripes. I have also become more competitive in sports and my profession, aiming for more ambitious projects and goals.
5)   I continue to set goals for myself, and I encourage those who write resolutions for 2017, to do likewise. Goals are more purposeful than ‘wishful’ thinking. Thus, I continue to update my Bucket List.
6)   A major motivator for me is developing personal mastery: be it my profession, passions and pastimes. How do I get better? How can I develop further my expertise in my field? How do I continue to build credibility? These questions occupy my psyche constantly.
7)   I enjoy traveling and visiting places and meeting people. I deliberately coincide with my vacation with my athletic and hobby pursuits.
8)   I feel a strong need to reconnect with my friends, family and places. I am likely to spend the next decade visiting friends abroad – just to hang out, drink coffee and engage in conversation.
9)   I sense a need to align my mental, physical and spiritual dimensions. I feel that I have a ‘Renaissance Man’ waiting to emerge from a cocoon of distractions.
10) I am driven by my appreciation for laughter, humour, and the lighter side of things. My perspectives do shift, and reduce judgement.
Meeting my favourite actor, Keifer Sutherland from TV series '24' after Boston Marathon.
So far, it has been very good! Correction: It has been better despite a rougher year in my business. However, these challenges have served to make me tougher and stronger.

I remain optimistic and look forward to a brand new year of grand possibilities, new collaborations and wisdom.

I wish you a brilliant year ahead, and may you be nearer to your potential!

Friday, December 23, 2016

8 Tips For Mastering A Secondary Language

I graduated from English-speaking schools all my life. English was my lingua franca (and cause of some of my fracas, too). In kindergarten (5 years old), I spent a year learning both English and some Mandarin. I learnt Malay as a third language until I was in primary 3, and my geography and history was Mandarin until primary 4. Strange, but true; however, it was very useful. Unfortunately, I spoke not a word of Portuguese although my ethnicity was half-Portuguese. My Chinese mother exposed us to Malay and Hokkien (a Chinese dialect) since we were young. Thus, my sibling and I developed confidence in verbal communication.

I studied English as my first language, and Mandarin as my second. When I was in secondary 1, I was offered the choice of French, German or Japanese as my third language. As much as I adored the French language – and as much as a teenager undergoing puberty with grand plans about meeting French-speaking girls would – I dropped out of the program after two years. I could not find a single student in my immediate community to practice with.

I could mimic well – and I was a darn good imitator of phonetics – however, failed to convert these foreign sounds into palatable conversation when I was interviewed. Comprehension became my Achilles Heel, which encouraged me to become a journalist and become a competent interviewer.

I focused on my Mandarin instead; a good decision on my part, but a far greater decision on my Mom’s part as she was a visionary in our education. Her decision to have both her children study Mandarin, and do reasonably well in this language was a major turning point in my life. My versatility with this language (and English, too) led me to involve myself in work assignments in The People’s Republic of China in 1994. Since then, I have delivered my leadership workshops bilingually in several countries where my confidence in four Chinese dialects mattered. My biggest pride was to teach classes of 40 students in Mandarin (or, more correctly, PutongHua)! 

I only learnt the term ‘polyglot’ last year. I mistook it for a part of the voice-box, mainly the epiglottis and glottis. I always fancied my ability as a multi-lingual speaker, and put these languages to extensive use. I suspect and believe that my career would have turned out much differently if I did not pay heed to my linguistic intelligence – one of my most developed in the Multiple Intelligences model (by Howard Gardner).

Like all abilities and skills, without constant practice the skills can deteriorate. Before you can develop competency as a translator or interpreter, you would need to study at least two languages deeply. By regularly using these languages, you can then develop the fluidity and ease to use them at your will and pleasure. 

I would urge you to practice your arsenal of languages regularly, receive honest feedback, and make corrections. Expand your vocabulary by speaking, reading and writing these unique languages.

My learning tips for supporting languages are:

1)   Listen to the radio and imitate the pronunciation.
2)   Watch the news on television and appreciate how foreign countries and names are read.
3)   Read publications or online posts with such languages.
4)   Use as a resource for word definition and pronunciation.
5)   Write when you can, as often as you can. Use it for texting of messages, e-mails and on social media platforms.
6)   Speak the language with a native speaker of that language.
7)   Elect mentors or coaches who can correct you and provide invaluable feedback on grammar, and structure of language.
8)   Travel to these countries or localities where you can apply it in daily situations.