Monday, November 30, 2009

Give Yourself Your Daily High Five

I was reading Donald Trump’s blog on Trump University. Talk about personal branding! Trump is a master. Whenever and wherever he can, he will put his brand Trump on anything.

One writer on the TrumpU Faculty, Thomas M. Schmitz wrote that these were five things that he did everyday:

What are the five things you do everyday? My hand is:

1) Teach or share my experience

2) Challenge myself

3) Do something that requires my discipline

4) Lead in a process

5) Engage in Productive Conversations

These five things (and you can expand it to seven if you wish) are things that matter to you. You do them because they develop your value, and value-add to other things that you are already doing. What do you do to develop your leadership? Which values do you engage every day?

You can do you Daily High Five without having too many irons in the fire. I was watching Pirates of The Caribbean and was reminded of this saying when sword-maker, William was heating his steel blades in the furnace. You need not be overwhelmed with the mundane things, and still integrate these Daily High Five.

Write me and let me know yours. Have a great week!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rounding Up A Wet and Wild Week

It has been a rainy week, now that we are smack inside the monsoon period. It is a month away from 2010 (and nine months from the Singapore Youth Olympic Games), and I was alerted by the blog, LEADERSHIP NOW about an article on the 10 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2010. You may have the foresight to have predicted a few of these signs of the times. For the readers who have plunged wholeheartedly into their new businesses, I believe this piece is useful. Best of luck and leadership to you!

I am pleased to announce that our interview with the inspirational Sports Medicine Doctor and Author, Dr Ben Tan will receive a wider readership on Red Sports Singapore. It comes appropriately a week before the Singapore Marathon.

I survived the grueling challenge of the National Novel Writing Month. I managed to recover about nine days of lost writing. The past week has been fast and furious, hoping the words will flow and have a semblance of a story. I finally completed it yesterday, two days before the dateline of 30 November. For that I got my badge and certificate, and join a few thousand writers worldwide who charged forth in this personal quest. Thank you Writing Buddies, Chen Munn and Rudy Zung for the kickstart. You wrote valiantly while I wrote violently. I hope that readers will take part in next year’s NaNoWriMo or Script Frenzy (30 days to write a 100-page script, play or screenplay) challenge.

I am looking forward to my interviews with Deca-Ironman Dr KUA HARN WEI and Founder of Red Sports Singapore, LESLIE TAN. Meanwhile, have a good week ahead and race safe for the marathon on 6 December.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Integrating and the Power of Integration

I was quite behind in writing my novel, but I caught up rapidly with some focused priorities and creative writing. I also used a principle of sales and influence called integration. It is about connecting, blending and making sense of what you have.

I utilized extracts of writing I had made in my newsletter editorials over the year. With some creative editing and restructuring, I was able to salvage and reuse these past writing. Professional freelance writers know how to syndicate their writing, that is, spin it in different ways and sell the same article about 6-12 times over the next two years. You stay employable that way as a freelancer.

As a leader, you integrate by involving people on your team. You can also integrate by having diverse team members. You can integrate outsiders by inviting them into your projects and working space. In charity work, integration allows a cross-pollination of ideas, expertise, and competencies. Competencies are your skill sets; knowledge, experience, attitude and mindset that make you competitive enough to compete on a different platform and level. Integrate so that you are in rapport with others, and express yourself meaningfully to others. Involve others in your conversations, so that they can express their thoughts and themselves.

[With integration, I took 10 minutes to write this piece.]

Friday, November 27, 2009

Run Up to The Big Run on the Small Island

I ran a fast 21km last night, and clocked about 1 hour 46 minutes. It was my first long run since the 70.3 World Championships. Since that race a fortnight ago, I have been resting up, opting to put on some body mass. My race weight was about 75kg at a body fat measure of 7.3 percent. I suspected my loss of 3kg bodyweight before the race cost me significant power on my riding (I had performed better in 2008). It was a vicious compromise: lose weight and run faster, but lose out on speed on the bike. I would have to review my tapering schedule for Aviva Singapore 70.3 Triathlon and Ironman New Zealand in March next year.

I was not alone, and saw many runners clocking their mileage, probably investing in their last long run as part of their taper to the Big Race on 6 December. Some couples ran in tandem, with the lady leading the run. A couple of mature runners ran opposite me and gave me the nod; I overtook a few, plodding on when I could to simulate race conditions.

At intervals of 3-4km, I drank copiously at the public tap. This consumed about a minute as I ensured hydration, or my energy would surely wane; I also took a power-gel at the 11km mark. I had curious stares from runners who had finished their run; I suspected they also wondered who I was since I was in my triathlon gear. Could he be preparing for Ironman Western Australia? I just feel more comfortable in my racing tights and top.

I believe that these runners showed their dedication or was it their desperation? There is dedication in desperation. It should be interesting to observe the packs of runners this weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Making Haste: My Writing Status

Will I make it in time for the 30 November dateline? Will a sense of urgency and purpose be enough to sustain me in my quest? Which beliefs and values will be useful? I should Tweet this.

Promoting a Cause

Next weekend on 6 December, I will race in the Singapore Marathon. It will be my fifth race in this series. It tends to clash with the Ironman Western Australia triathlon, so I elected to do the integrated race for 2006: a marathon after 3.8km of swimming along the Busselton Jetty (Perth) and 180km of riding on a pancake-flat course.

A week after the marathon, I will race in the inaugural Triathlon Family Beer Run. This is a fun run that will take place over a short circuit, with the requirement that after each loop you gaff a can of beer. As of now, it may be 4-5 cans of cans in total. No, it does not sound particularly healthy to drink beer and run, however it will be a controlled race. The pace (of running and drinking) is to be carefully regulated by each runner. The results should be interesting considering that many are casual beer drinkers, who are not short race specialists, and who will be recovering from the grueling marathon distance.

There are at least twenty runners signed up for this race. Free beer is attractive and attention grabbing. Alongside this fun run, one of our members suggested that we use this event to support a charity. Thus, our support is two-fold: support a fun cause, and a serious cause.

When do you know when to support a cause? Are all causes serious? Can we take a fun approach to raising funds or initiate a charity drive?

What may be more useful is how we drive home the message about having a cause, and supporting it. Our personal values can ensure the success of our efforts and strategies. Are we reminded of relevance of our cause as we participate in a fun event? There were many ‘fun runs’ on the calendar of charity drives this year.

Which cause do you support? Seiously.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Achieving Mastery and Mastering Yourself

What are your core competencies in your profession? Which skills and expertise do you take pride in?

Personal Mastery is one the five dimensions of the Learning Organisation (Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline). It is the ability to attain excellence in a field that you excel in. What do you excel in? If you excel in sports, how do you attain a high standard of performance?

I share this observation when I teach juggling to my students. I tell them that my fastest student took 20 minutes to learn it. My slowest students took forever! Why? They simply gave up. They got frustrated and deferred their learning. Most were happy with two-ball juggling. Some attempted three balls, and succeeded; they continue to practise and improve their techniques. Some have begun challenging themselves to juggle with three different objects.

Personal mastery is about a commitment to one’s learning, and towards improving their skill. It is also about training yourself to perform at a higher state of confidence, competence and clarity.

When was the last time you developed mastery for a field?

[My reference source for a systemic facilitation for juggling is Michael Gelb’s Lessons from the Art of Juggling. My system for teaching juggling is my own discovery.]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jet Lag and Lagging Behind

It took nearly three days for me to get over my recent jet lag. Most people say that it is much harder to get over jet lag when you come back. I can agree with that observation.

What was most challenging about being away for some time is that your priorities shift, and work can pile up and upset your equilibrium. Vacation is a time to slow down, if not shut down completely from work. It’s a little harder when you are self-employed and run your own business.

On returning, I found out that I had enquiries for projects; I had to complete writing some manuals; update my blog, and finish writing my book. It has been an exciting 72 hours since I arrived home.

You can experience lag, but you may not want to lag behind in important things. We have life-work choice, or work-life choice depending on your priority. In life-work choice, you choose life before work. So, your lifestyle takes precedence over work. Turning down work is a luxury I afford myself sometimes. There is an opportunity cost, and financial loss for each of this business decisions. However, these are based on intellectual and emotional considerations.

Leaders lead regardless of their conditions and consequence. Avoid being a laggard and slowing other people down. If you are slow, speed things up and you’ll get back to normalcy soon. Adopt a sense of urgency and reset your sense of timing for your tasks, projects and relationships.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What is Your Coat of Arms?

I learnt this exercise years ago, and the idea of doing it was revived by this:

Essentially, a coat of arms signifies your family shield. On each quadrant of the shield, you draw a symbol that best represents you. In the coat of arms of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), what do you identify?

Once you have designed your (artistic abilities are unimportant, as you can delegate) departments or personal coat of arms, consider the following:

How do I live up to these values?

What can I do to identify with these dimensions?

How can I be identified with these guideposts?

Bear your coat of arms, and charge forth in your lead!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What Sort of Super-Hero Leader Are You?

In one episode of Season 3 of Heroes, the cheerleader is asked: ‘What sort of superhero are you?’ She was auditioning for a job at a comic-book store.

I thought: That is a good question! If you were a leader, what sort of superhero leader would you be?

Let’s steer away from the simplistic and superficial response of good and bad. Few would unhesitatingly claim ‘bad’. If you were a martinet or dictator you would still be effective. You may not like me for making tough decisions, yet somebody has to make them. Since nobody is willing to step up to the plate – I will. In making painful and tough decisions that affect others, the leader has to decide and act. Think about letting a team-member go, or holding a staff back from promotion because you felt that they were not ready yet.

If you chose to be the nice leader, how would you demonstrate your style? What would be your approach? The leader who is revered?

In comic-book hero term, what would your special power be? If you could heal fast, then you may be leader who resolves conflict. If you could read minds, then you may be skillful in empathy and active listening. If you could move fast between places, then you may be a leader who has a sense of urgency and multi-tasks effectively. If you could move through time, you may be a strategist who links the past and present with future, possible outcomes. You may also make the link between history and tradition, with future-orientated innovation.

What sort of powers would you like to possess?

Powerful Branding & Brand Leaders

One of the most enduring and top-of-mind brands in the world has to be the Olympic Games. Revived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1896, the Summer Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece was the first installment in this series of once-in-four-years, international games that fondly honours the Greek Games – today known as the Olympic Movement.

Brand extensions came about with the Olympics Winter Games, Paralympics and now, the Youth Olympic Games. The latter coincides with the Winter Olympic Games that has taken place in Calgary, Lake Placid, Nagano, Torino, and Vancouver in 2010.

Singapore won the bid to host the inaugural Singapore Youth Olympic Games (SYOG) from 14-26 August 2010. The athletes will range from 14-18 years and participate in 26 sports. The core values that athletes will imbibe and imbue are Excellence, Respect and Friendship.

Leadership Lessons: Baron Coubertin was an initiator of the Games. He gathered a tribe large enough to sustain his legacy for another 110 years. He was also an unsung brand leader for conceptualizing the Olympic brand: logo, ideals, and values. Brand extension was an obvious derivative of the successful brand, and brand following.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Communications iPod Style

I was reading Reeves' blog again, and I was focused on the iPod navigation click system. In particular, I noticed the clock-based configuration of the buttons, namely Pause, Forward, Rewind, and Play. Just four purposeful buttons that pretty much holds the fabric of micro-technology together.

I was reminded also of conversations where players led their dialogue with words like 'let's rewind', 'fast forward', 'play that back' and 'let pause for a while'. I sensed that these words refer to our internal clock (chronological as well as circadian timing), frameworks of time/place, and pacing.

Now, how can we apply this 'buttons' and navigate with primed purpose our conversations of worth?

Fast Forward: When considering the future, imagination, strategy and outcomes. Use the 'as if' frame to orientate others to their future. 'As if you could relive this pleasant experience again, what would you do to ensure this?' 'What would your future look like when everything goes well and smooth?'

Rewind: Going back in our time, allows us to recall and remember. It allows us to reflect and genuflect what we have done. Looking inside our past, we can gather useful information that we can use to reconfigure our present. We can gain insights and the wisdom of hindsight. Celebration is about rewinding to happy moments and the journey to our achievements.

Pause: Have a break. Stop and take stock. Get your bearings right. Check your map once in a while. There is no harm pinpointing your exact location, within your relationship with others and in the stages of the conversation. Pausing allows us to enjoy the moment, immerse in the experience and let it wash over us.

Play: This is what life is about. This is about allowing things to keep going. When things are in play, it is more exciting to watch or participate. Sports is more fun when the game is in play. Let things continue and create is own momentum. Success generates its own momentum.

Give these buttons a click.

Tribal Networking Is An Active Process

Social/Tribal networking is different from business networking. Nevertheless, they share commonalities.

I continue to review the power and potential of social media tools when I was on vacation. My friend, Marco was working on different time-zones with his electronic mails, Blackberry and phone-calls. Facebook is a pleasant complement in this digital compendium of connectivity. I just connected with my ex-colleague, Edward who is now based in Seattle. From my small tribe of friends on Facebook alone, I received useful advice and recommendations when I was in the Big Apple this week. I also traced the nexus of our common friends, so that we can thread together a future, 'larger conversation' - what I like to call 'Productive Conversations'.

Regardless of your choice of social media tools, your networks can only come alive if you activate it regularly. Stay high-tech, yet high-touch. Otherwise, our friendships and acquaintances become stale and stagnant. How do you enhance your relationships? Relationships do matter in our future. The next time you are overseas, who do you contact when in town? Who wants to meet up with you when you are there?

My cousin, Dennis has been posting interesting and humorous vignettes and anecdotes of his recent adventures while on vacation. As he writes very well (he regards himself a closet-author), he posts useful information. He is a curious and investigative person with a flair for the narrative, and his commentaries speak volumes. His photographs are captivating, and arouses your curiosity. From his reports, I know what he is up to and he influences me to consider possibilities in travel.

When Facebook gently prompts us to reconnect with somebody, it is suggesting that we stay active in touch, the same way that we remain physically active in our lifestyle. Keep things simple. Send a thoughtful e-mail to a friend overseas. Send a text message to a friend locally. Organise a Skype video-conferencing session with a new contact, former colleague or student. Call a few friends to do an evening run. Drop off your gifts to friends personally. It is the thought that counts.

Go on - connect with a friend, and family. Build your tribe.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jump-Start Your Engine

I was really behind on my writing, and some work assignments until this afternoon. I needed a bright spark for my plug to re-engage my routine and rituals (see previous posting on Rituals).

Our readers may know by now that I intend to make one daily posting for the next three years (thanks to Seth). It is my attempt at creating a leadership Purple Cow and applying unconventional wisdom. 10 days of travel has led me to postpone (not procrastinate) and re-pace my commitment; however, I have taken notes, made observations and researched my topics in my low-tech, lined, notebook (I abandoned the yellow legal pad because it looked too jaundiced).

Earlier this evening, I continued work on my NaNoWriMo novel. I have written about 15,000 words and on cue to my 50,000-word target. One of my two writing buddies may have abandoned his quest; another is about 25,600-word deep. This weekend, I will aim for about 10,000 words at least. The dateline draws near: 30 November. The attempt is simple: Whack out 50,000 words, and disregard censorship, editing and concern for punctuation. That was the advice of our two local moderators from their motivational e-mails. Write furiously – leave the novel intact, warts and all. Our local writers meet once a week for two hours to draw inspiration from the furiousness and ferocity of writing electricity in the café.

My strategy: Just write. Initiate with the first sentence that comes to mind. Each word leads another. Draw upon my experiences. Recall conversations and the ideas that excite me. Stick to a timeline: Be it 10 minutes, 30 minutes or 60 minutes. Breathe deeply. Enjoy the emotional surf. It is, after all, a process – a means to an interesting end.

The title was inspired by Matthew’s recent blog about his marathon training, and creativity author, Roger von Oech.

Total Recall

Déjà vu is about a sense of familiarity. It is the feeling of ‘Have I been here before?’ It is an intuition about something that you feel connected with. It could be based on a place, time, person or occasion.

Denzel Washington acted in a film called Déjà Vu. It was about residual memories - implanted information. How much of your childhood to you remember? If the use of a tool feels familiar in your hands, could you have learnt how to use it previously? How did you develop your ball sense?

Some cognitive scientists and neuroscientists believe that déjà vu is no more than installed memories. If you are a fan of the city of Paris, and you are very well read (in the Lonely Planet and Wikipedia sense), then your trip to Paris may yield a sense of familiarity. It is, as if, you experienced astral projection in your sleep and travelled across time and space – which is not that bizarre an idea if you buy into the time-space continuum theory. Einstein imagined riding on a moonbeam…and induced one of his Theories of Relativity.

In branding, what is top-of-mind branding? Messrs. Trout and Ries wrote about ‘Positioning: Battle of the Minds’.

With rapport, it may feel like you may have met that person before. A handshake and a smile may trigger that sense of familiarity. Sharing the same tone of voice and rhythm may also create this connection.

Familiar things comfort humans. It is one of our core instincts. How can you incite déjà vu with your people? Can this be a leadership outcome that you can invoke, at will and by design? Which are déjà vu moments that you would consider engaging? In dysfunctional relationships, we can use déjà vu to reduce conflict and predict inevitable outcomes. Habits are déjà vu in appearance and characteristics.

By the same token, if things are too predictable and eliminates creativity then this déjà vu becomes useless. This applies to television and film with repetitive plots and formulaic (like reality TV series). Even publications like tabloid newspapers and magazines create a readership of an arrested development. That is why, be careful of what you read and feed your mind with.

Lost in Yonkers

Have you gotten lost before? How did you feel? Did you experience confusion?

‘Lost in Yonkers’ is the title of a 1991 play by famous American playwright, Neil Simon.

I have gotten lost on many occasions, especially on vacation. Just this week, I travelled alone in the city of New York. I visited my friends over several localities in NYC, mainly at Union Square, Bleecher Street, and 57th Street. In some cases, I walked the straight line. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. In others, I took the subway. Admittedly, there were times where I felt a little lost since I dismissed the use of a tourist map. I decided to rely on my memory, and my local knowledge of main roads (streets and avenues) in this superb metropolis in the East Coast.

The subway is a labyrinth of serpentine routes that traces the viscera of the city. If you take the train on the wrong platform, you will need to backtrack. Like all train systems, knowing its end-point is vital to your orientation and direction. Sometimes, it pays to ask the locals if you are correct. And, you will need to intuitively ask yourself if you trust their directions. Have you directed a tourist to the wrong direction?

Travel is a great way to engage your leadership. You learn to be both independent and independent. How do you stay calm in the face of your confusion? How long can you stay lost? What do you do if you think you are lost? Stay still? Ask for directions? It has been said: It is better to ask for directions once, then not to ask and be lost forever.

When were you last lost?

Doing That Ritual Thing

I was reading Reeves Leong's blog, and his latest post triggered this barrage of thoughts. He described how rituals create a sense of brand loyalty with products and services.

The traditional meaning of rituals include behaviors and practices that support the religious, spiritual and customary. Birth, life and death involve rituals. Think of christening of a baby, wedding, birthdays, anniversaries, convocation, meals, and celebrations - these have distinct rituals built into the event or occasion. Do you toss salt over your shoulder when you cook? Do you have your daily cuppa? Is reading e-mails the first major thing you do each morning?

What are the daily rituals that we do that lead others through the day? Which rituals can we engage others in so that they have a day worth remembering and reflecting on?

Greet somebody. Show your respect and recognition for them. Call a friend on the telephone (or Skype) and remake that connection. Invite and treat a colleague to lunch. Shop for a gift for somebody that you care for. Ask for permission before you use somebody's office stationery. Fill a guest's glass when it is near empty. Offer your guests a cup of tea or coffee. Stand up when your client enters the meeting room. Open the door, and hold it for others to pass.

Rituals build relationships, enhances our interactions with others, and build experiences of worth for others to endear ourselves to. Lead with your behaviors, and respect for other people's rituals.

It's Great to Be Back

I touched down about 6.40am this morning. I had sat on two flights, with a cumulative time of 19 hours. Sitting in compression tights (Skins) does help minimise stiffness in my legs, and the likelihood of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). The cold and crispy air in New York City feels like a shadow now in this warm and humid environment. That was what I experienced the moment I left Terminal 3, of our spanking new Changi International Airport.

On board, I wrote a fair bit in my diary. These were mostly ideas for my novel, blog, my travel experiences, and a few magical illusions I have been playing with in my head. I spent an evening with New York's finest magicians at the longest-running, off-Broadway, Monday Night Magic show. My friend, Prakash Puru has been working there as a full-time close-up magician for the past six years. I was glad to catch up with him, and a few other New York friends.

Status check: I have to post a week's worth of blogs (based on my observations on my travels), go on a writer's marathon (behind on my NaNoWriMo novel), write a few training manuals, and plan for a teaching gig in Taipeh next month. Plus, the Standard Chartered Marathon will take place in a fortnight's time.

It is great to be back! Routine, habits and mundaneness can be assuring. Leading in your time and making decisions will jump-start any sloth-like behavior. Plus, the local gastronomic delights comprising spicy food, rice and noodles are what I have been yearning. You can't take the Asian out of the international traveller.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lessons in Humility: Meeting the Champions

I was on Super Shuttle ride to my motel for the Ironman 70.3 race in Clearwater, Florida. Interestingly, former-world 70.3 champion Mirinda Carfrae was seated next to me; a Canadian participant in our vehicle hinted to me who she was. I have read much about Carfrae, and true to race reports, she was very nice, amiable and chatted with us throughout the, otherwise, unspectacular journey. Carfrae is petite, yet do not let her appearance fool you. She is a very powerful 28-year-old athlete, who took second at the World Championships at Kona a month ago.

Kenneth Tan and I met Craig 'Crowie' Alexander at the race-fair. We got his autograph and took photographs (an achievement for me) with him. Like Carfrae, he is a nice athlete who takes time to chat with you. I hope the Kona champion (two in a row) will race again at the Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore in March 2010. In fact, it would be great if both Australians do race in sunny and humid Singapore; they will add colour and positive racing energies to this world-class event.

I also had the pleasure to say 'hello' to Sister Madonna Budder on both the bike and run legs. She is awesome! At 79 years, she is as energetic and enthusiastic as ever. I hope to see her soon.

All athletes mentioned demonstrated humility - a key quality of people who are likable, and respected by others. If service people add humility to their daily approach, it will raise the level of service delivery. More about service soon. Have a good day everyone.

Reflections & Decisions

I just arrived in New York City. It has been a year since I visited. It is getting colder,about 15 degrees Celcius at about 6.00pm this evening.

It was a hard morning, travelling from Tampa, Florida to NYC. My muscles are stiff and am experiencing mild post-race fatigue. A flight delay due to plane mechanical issues grounded us for an hour. Fortunately, we connected with our next flight and made it on schedule. I enjoyed the drive through the Tunnel from Newark Airport. I have fond memories of New York. I expect to meet old friends and new acquaintances in the next few days. I had my rice-bowl meal at my favourite restaurant, and enjoying two glasses of beers at a sports bar while watching the American football match between Green Bay Packers and San Diego.

It was a good race at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships at Tampa. The Singaporean team did well, including my new friend Joseph Ong, who edged me out; he is 62-years-young, and we featured him a month ago on this blog. My travelling companions, Craig Slattery and Marco Dittrich performed very well despite the changes in swim venue, and strong headwinds. We are recovering, and enjoying our short break. I also had the pleasure of staying with and learning from my friend, Kenneth Tan who did very well at the world championships. I've learnt more about bicycles and triathlon training from him in those three days. Thanks, mate!

I will catch up on my posts shortly; I realise I am behind in my challenge of daily postings (for the next two years). I will have to resume writing my 50,000-word novel, too. I will expect much progress based on a leap of faith - I will accomplish it, rest assured. I am now researching and interviewing my subjects.

I am looking forward to meeting some amazing leaders on Monday evening. I will share my stories with you then.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Onward Bound For the World Champ's

I am a few hours away from my midnight flight to Tampa, Florida. I will go via New York City.

I am still packing, ensuring I don't miss out anything. I also squeezed in a short swim drill session. It will be a LONG flight, and compression tights will be in order. My buddy, Marco will share this flight with me so it will not be so discomforting after all.

Thanks to Barney Tee for his bike-box. I had a few issues with my bike and that has been sorted out with my bike mechanics, fortunately. It was a costly exercise, yet better safe and sound than to fret, and be frenetic later.

Thank you all for you kind words and encouragement on FaceBook and mobile text messages. I will carry these with me. Fingers crossed! Mind centred.

Celebrate Life

There is a lot in our lives we can be thankful for. There is much we can give thanks and praise to. Appreciation is about knowing what we already have.

Celebrations are events that engage our emotions, usually happy and positive experiences. They are best served with other people. Celebration is the sharing of things, emotions and experiences.

Celebrate your friends: My close friend, Catherine M. has made full remission from cancer. I am so grateful and happy that she has fully recovered; I get to spend more time with her in the future. I intend to make a trip to the south of France to enjoy a few bottles of wine with her next year.

Celebrate the birth of a new one. Remember the cake and red-coloured eggs that your colleagues brought to the office. How about a wedding? It is a time of celebration of one couple and their close friends. Be happy for them. Stop griping and whining about having to give a gift, or a red packet. Go only if you want to.

Celebrate your achievements. These are part of your Personal Branding 2.0. What have you done that you were proud of recently? Which awards have you earned? What was your last physical achievement? Celebrate your successful weight loss, increased strength, or lower heart rate. Celebrate your successful driving test, and valid licence. Celebrate learning how to inline skate. Celebrate having completed a marathon (it didn’t matter if you walked part of the way – you completed it). Share your first cake you baked, so that you may celebrate the taste of accomplishment. When my triathlon buddy, Roger and his wife Jennifer baked their first few sponge cakes they had us do a taste test. It was splendid for a first attempt; I look forward to their subsequent baking creations.

Celebrate your health, family and home.

When was the last time you celebrated with somebody, or yourself? Enjoy life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Personal Branding: How Do You Project Your Leadership Self?

Branding 2.0 is about using strategic marketing to promote yourself, your causes and your leadership style and orientation.

Go beyond the 4 P’s of Philip Kotler: Price, Positioning, Place and Product. Some include divine Providence (i.e. pray!). Instead, also consider your leadership Personality, Positioning, Presence and Purple Cow (Seth Godin). Branding consultant, Reeves addresses the notion of Purple Cows on his blog.

When you build you personal branding as a leader, you enhance what my research has revealed years ago: Commitment, Clarity and Confidence. Do you need these qualities with your leader?

How do you stand out from the rest? What are your signature pieces? What are you best known for?

Here are some questions that may address some of your questions:

What do you do to add value?

How do you stand out from the others?

What makes you outstanding?

What do you stand for?

What is your reputation?

Which is your mastery?

What effect do you have on people?

How do you create confidence when around people?

I will discuss with you some interesting interventions that will have you enhance your personal branding to the next level.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tapering: The Big Easy Before The Big Tough

This morning, I ran the 15km race in the New Balance Real Run. It took place at the Changi Exhibition Centre – a venue for the large-scale international aerospace show.

The dual-format event, comprising the 10km and the 15km runs, took place over a diverse menu of sandy trail, tar road, and sandy beach. There were adequate water-points, and it was tempting to skip them if you were on the ‘fast track yet I did not dare. I had to meander around runners in front, since I started way back behind the front, faster pack. Slowly, but surely I took advantage of every opportunity to overtake. I took it when I could take it (in terms of pace intensity).

I was pleased to hold a 4:30 pace for most of the distance, until I hit the 12km mark that brought us to a stretch of beach. Thus, I had to work harder on the soft sand (and the ambitious temperature) for a short distance – it was designed to fatigue us more. Fortunately, I was alert to notice and acknowledge familiar faces, and even ‘leave some in the tank’ to finish with a determined sprint. It was a rewarding morning despite the 7.30am start-off, and I secured personal best (PB) times in my 10km, 11km and 15km. It has been a good week of tapering and unofficial PBs. Thanks Reeves and SK for keeping me company, and for our minor celebration afterwards.

Read this article on Forbes about the parallels between great athletes and executives.

Leadership Lessons: Know how to taper, as it helps you fine-tune your performance. Learning to do less is to appreciate doing more. In Systems Thinking, less can be more; slow can be fast. Live and learn.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

9 Wild and Whacky Races to Consider

I have observed the increased racing activity on almost every weekend. New events like the SAFRA Quadthlon, which integrates a rollerblading leg within a triathlon, have increased the difficulty level; especially if you do not do too well standing on a razor’s edge. Other races like the Sundown Marathon occurs in the evening and runs (literally) through the night, and even late morning (if you punish yourself by not training for the 84km ultra-marathon, which suggests a death-wish on your part).

Here are some propositions; hopefully, we can find brave and innovative sponsors to realize these events and articulate their importance to the endurance sporting community.

1. The Unreal Run (occurs on tar, mud, water, pebbles, sand, grass, escalators, stairs, back-lanes, forests, and slopes)

2. The Umbrella Run (same as Unreal Run except you carry an open umbrella)

3. The Snorkeling Race (swim with a snorkel in a reservoir or sea)

4. Real Man’s Run (all-men, chauvinistic race – we’ll show them for having a Woman’s Run!)

5. Penthlon (like the Quadthlon and we add another near-impossible phase, like 3-ball juggling, sushi-rolling or beer-drinking)

6. Panty-thlon (run in your undies and T-shirt, just like the Underwear Run in Kona, Hawaii)

7. Mad Hatters (inspired by the on-going run Hash House Harriers for decades, except this time we race and wear tall-hats)

8. Triathlon Family Beer Run (an actual race that will be carried out – details on the Triathlon Family Forum page)

9. Parathon (dressed in runner’s kit and we pub crawl over 42km by foot, over a dozen pubs – winners buy coffee and toast)

I have run with the Singapore Hash House Harriers in 1990. The quenching of thirsts after the fun run, as parched throats are sloughed off with Tiger Beer was memorable, as was the company. But, that's another story!

Nota bene [note well]: This piece was done, tongue in cheek, while writing my 50,000-word novel.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dropping Out of the Race

It is nearing the monsoon season; the rain has been persistent and prolonged. Although it makes sleeping at night better, it also makes outdoor training challenging. It is so easy to make excuses for staying in, and recuperating at home.

A day, or two later, you may have experienced the symptoms of guilt. Or, were those withdrawal symptoms founded on your frequent endorphin fixes? You got to get high, naturally. Naturally, you may find ways to creatively exercise and sustain your physical and mental fitness.

Your personal leadership should kick in when you recognize these signals of malaise and laziness. It is as tempting as indulging in your urge to walk when your running pace begins to diminish. Perhaps you were dehydrated, under-nourished, or just uncomfortable with the harder pace, albeit too early in the race?

Now, do you drop out because your body tells you, or when your mind caves in to pain, doubt, worry and concern? Do you continue the crawl pace, or surrender early so as to save face from being noticed at the finishing line? Come on – the pros also drop out of the race due to a punctured tyre, mechanical faults, or when their bodies go into over-drive! Should you just drop out?

Certainly, if you are unwell the best (and tough thing) to do is rest: complete, uninterrupted rest. Sleep! Fuel up. Nourish your body. Keep your mind still. After all, you did advise the newbie last week to listen to their body, and to take that compulsory rest…walk the talk. Walk to the pit stop. Be a spectator for the day instead of racing.

Leadership lessons: How do you ensure that you do not drop out of the race prematurely? Which values (qualities) do you engage when doubt and fatigue pique you? What activates your motivation to stay on, and stay in the game?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nine Ways to Increase your Value as Employee 2.0

Employee 2.0 is the revised, reviewed and reloaded version of staff in this decade. This is the staff that detests coercive power, and leadership by fear. He/she is of Generation Y: highly mobile, very technology-minded, highly sociable, and focused on their future needs, and current lifestyle.

Employee 2.0 focuses on being employable. They are mindful about the parameters of being valued and valuable. They navigate from being worthy to worthwhile to creating worthiness. They continue to reinvent themselves to stay fresh and attractive to their organisations.

Here are ways to consider how to enhance your value:

1. Learn new skills

2. Apply existing skills and aim for excellence

3. Ensure that you have unique, potable, and marketable skills

4. Actively network across different industries

5. Use social media tools to stay informed and in-touch with the world

6. Focus on Personal Branding 2.0

7. Focus on Personal Leadership 2.0

8. Take up leadership positions

9. Be an expert in your field

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Challenging Conversations

‘Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.’ ~ ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH

Have you been seized by a great idea recently? You know, an idea that captivated you to study it from different perspectives, and even propose solutions. Has there been a dialogue that captured your attention and demanded your full attention?

When was the last time you engaged in a challenging conversation? This IS not, necessarily, an argument yet you would propose your argument in a non-argumentative sort of way. It can mean being assertive, and expressing what your concerns are. If you think something is important, share it with somebody and get him to relate to it. Supporters can sustain an idea, cause or movement.

Skillful coaches and mentors know when to invoke the best from their charges, with purposeful questioning. Deeper levels of comprehension and thinking come from compound questions (two questions in one). How do you know that you have what it takes to conduct a meaningful conversation?

As long as you maintain your sense of respect, recognition and reassurance for others you can challenge somebody’s thinking, and encourage the best out of them.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Can You Be Indispensable?

There is a prevailing belief, propagated and promulgated in large part by the management machinery. Nobody is indispensable! How true is that? Can you become indispensable?

Of course you can! The questions you need to consider are: how, and for how long?

Be a valued staff, and make yourself valuable. What can you offer beyond the achievements of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Key Results Areas (KRAs)? What do you do to add value? How do you multiply your value throughout your organization? How do you share value? Seriously give much thought into these value propositions.

Have you been asked to postpone your annual leave? Have you been told how the workplace was busier without you? If you returned after a hiatus, back to your job, then you are still valuable.

1. Have unique skills (be rare)

2. Be competent (so that you can compete)

3. Update your Job Description/Job Scope (scare the next person coming in!)

4. Do tasks that are not popular (writing minutes of meetings; editing; conversations with staff/management)

5. Lead, and be in leadership positions (include temporary ones)

6. Assume ‘acting’ roles (standing for a manager in their relative absence)

7. Reinvent yourself, and reduce your predictability

8. Shift that sense of dependability on you from a few days to a few weeks in a year (go from there)!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Book Review: Run For Your Life!

Book Review: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE – The Complete Marathon Guide

Author: Dr Ben Tan

Pages: 215, glossy paper, with colour photographs and reference-charts

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Editions

Price: SING$28.00

Available at major bookstores, as well as online

The cover on this book is simple, yet captures your attention. An orange, tank-top with a race-bib that screams the title of Dr Ben Tan’s third book, as well as a collar label that hints ‘Marathon – Gear up for your race’.

Dr Tan’s credibility and reputation is undisputed. As a leading sports-medicine specialist and local sporting personality with multiple awards, regional champion, and once the Top-50 sailor in the world, Dr Tan breasts the tape a winner in his third book. His first book was on yachting and his second, on weight management.

20 notable contributors grace this wonderfully collaborative work, which succeeds on many levels of relevance as a manual for both sports student and the weekend warrior. They include physiotherapists, sports physicians, running coaches, podiatrists, kinesiologists, nutritionists, surgeons, and sports scientists. To be able to align all these expertise into a clear and coherent flow must have been a colossal challenge – this book is highly readable. The foreword is by Murugiah Rameshon (our former-national marathoner who continues to hold the 2:24 record) who obviously recognizes and respects Dr Tan’s athletic brilliance.

The book is highly readable. The style is almost conversational, yet scientific and exact in its approach. The book avoids sticking points like a predictable format. Instead, it is analogous to running cross-country with a varied literary terrain that includes charts, short bios of runners, instructional photographs (by actual runners as models), tables of tips, and effective use of graphics – spread over 11 distinct chapters.

The three appendices at the end of this book, literally, cover all the ground for effective run training. In short, this book covers the A to Z of preparing for a marathon with the sensibility and caution that one cannot take for granted – it is hard work, however it is worth it. And, YOU CAN DO IT!

I liked the layout of the book. It has the feel of a triathlon guidebook by Joe Friel, the philosophy of Dr George Sheehan (Running and Being: The Total Experience), and the man-in-the-street appeal of Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running. The latter book was my manual when I started running track in school. I suspect that Tan’s book may establish its importance as a manual for current and future runners. The aging endurance runner will take solace with the fact that 40-somethings can still achieve sub-4 hour completion times, if they train safely and specifically. Tan and M. Rameshon do sub-3 hour marathons, and they are in their forties! I was inspired and assured by the encouraging words injected throughout this book, especially in the all-important Introduction.

Above all, peppered anecdotally in this book are useful leadership values like collaboration, recognition, discipline, teamwork, gratitude, respect, resolve, resilience and determination. You may be able to access many of these core values from the single and simple act of running, whether you lead or follow in a run session.

Highly recommended for neophytes to seasoned runners. Don’t walk to the bookstore for it – run!

Here is our recent interview with Ben Tan.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

10 Ways to be High Tech, High-Touch in Social Communications

Consider this scene:

Staff 1: Shall we go for lunch?

Staff 2: Okay? Where?

Staff 1: Up to you.

Staff 2: Then, we will go to the Café Del Sol. When?

Staff 1: 12.00pm?

Staff 2: Fine. Who will drive?

Staff 1: I will. My turn.

Staff 2: Okay. See you then.

The conversation you just heard occurred online, via e-mail. These two are colleagues seated in cubicles, next to each other.

When mobile phones manufacturers tout ‘connectivity’ as the new tagline, and users opt to send text-messages instead of calling, isn’t there an issue? Where is the human touch? What happened to calling somebody and hearing their voice? Perhaps this is why we insist that people listen more attentively and actively to us?

We may have begun losing the human connection. Our signatures are digital, and we are not leaving our personal touches – only electronic imprints. These imprints may not leave a deep or indelible impression on others anymore. First impression count - this means face-to-face communication and contact. Here are some ways to connect, with more impact, with another:

1) Go shake somebody’s hand

2) Give your parents, spouse and children a hug

3) Write in full sentences on text messages

4) Write with clarity and thought on each e-mail, tweet and text message you send

5) Call somebody on Skype

6) Update your blog regularly, and respond to comments

7) Give a verbal compliment

8) Send handwritten notes (Jack Welch used to do it)

9) Send out cards with additional words (Hallmark ones, not electronic)

10)Meet up for coffee and a conversation

As simple or mundane as these may sound, do it. I challenge you to do one of each this week. You may just surprise yourself for your personal touch.

Send us your thoughts, comments and opinions about this.