Saturday, July 31, 2010

Putting the ‘F’ in Focus

Focus can be a pinpoint; it can be sharp, it can be blurry. Our eyes put things into view, while our internal ‘sights’ give us perspectives: insight, hindsight and foresight.

We need focus if we are to succeed in what we do. It brings things into sharp clarity. Focus is about singularity of purpose, and fixation on the results; it is not about obsession or addiction (those are issues caused by lack of discipline and control). It can also bring things in contrast. What we faithfully focus on, at any one time, becomes important.

When practising yoga, we deliberately focus on our breathing or posture or sensations in our body. When we swim, we focus on our strokes, the way we glide through the water, and our target. When we lead we focus on the task, people, process, style or strategy. When appraising our people, do we focus on track record, performance, attitude or relationship?

What do we focus on each day? A better question would be: What do I choose to focus on today?

Sport has much to teach us about focus. At any one time, we can focus on one thing at a time (unless you chew gum, listen to your iPod, and walk – which is superficial multi-tasking). We can only focus on the moment, at what is happening in the here and now. If we have too much going on in our head, it becomes distracting. Focus on the uncontrollable and it becomes worrying. Focus on positives and you will can channel your energy elsewhere more relevant.

In the last few weeks, I shifted my focus from injuries to running more gracefully, focusing on economy of movements, movements in my running posture/gait that provided more comfort, ease of breathing and more speed. Instead of focusing on the certain wear and tear of my body, I focused on minimizing the negative impacts of endurance sports on my body. It is a calculated risk I choose to take, that is outweighed by the numerous benefits I gain from exercise and socializing in the endurance sports community.

Focus can be brought about with: finesse, ferocity of purpose, and fervour.

Do a SWOT analysis of your personal branding. Find out your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on the opportunities and threats that may emerge due to your abilities and capabilities, deficiencies and shortcomings. You choose to de-emphasise your weakness or enhance the potential of this area of less non-preference.

In triathlons, the triad of disciplines requires that we focus on strengthening our least performing area. If you are a weak swimmer, swim more and more purposefully. Seek a swim coach to correct your techniques, prescribe drills, and focus on your areas of greatest opportunity.

Shift your focus today. Focus on what is most relevant and important now.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Seriously Keeping In Touch With Your Team

I have been reviewing my use of Social Media 2.0 and have made some recent and salient observations. These are:

1)    Twitter is more immediate and forgettable, so unless you repost your tweets somebody has to access your tweets by accessing your homepage. The multiple and enthusiastic postings of friends in your community can be overwhelming, especially if they are Internet marketers. It is so easy to scroll over the many quotations and links.
2)    Facebook reminds us of friend’s birthdays and to connect with them – this is useful, unless you have 1,000 friends that you don’t really know well. It is useful to filter through your ‘fan club’; you may want consider de-listing inactive accounts. I never enjoyed the APPS. Now that Hotmail has integrated Facebook reminders, it has been useful to track your series of feed forward/fedback.
3)    Blogs are useful journal entries until they become a medium of self-indulgence, especially if you are upset by bad service or disappointments. I enjoy reading my friends’ activities and expert thoughts.
4)    Skype is useful as a business and social tool only if you activate it while you are online. It is great for private coaching and business discussions – more face-to-face communication.
5)    Chats and instant messaging functions are akin to ‘real-time’ text-messages; it would be more useful to call the local person if you have to text incessantly over a major discussion.

Regardless of your communication preferences, do make a committed effort to maintain the relationships you have initiated. There is an investment – intellectual and emotional – for each of our human connections. Ensure that your connectivity is current, contemporary and consistent despite the fact that things in life, invariably, crop up at times of inconvenience. Ignoring a request is like calling your own bluff. For a team leader, these tools are essential to staying in close touch with your members. You can acknowledge them, praise them, and reassure them in one fell swoop/technology. Your members are your most precious members of your tribe.
Yesterday, I put a deposit down for my new triathlon bicycle. I elected to have one customized made bike by Elite Bicycles. I interviewed David Greenfield a few months ago, and had my road-bike custom-fitted by him. That positive experience led to my strong recommendation to other cyclists and triathletes and I am glad to report my friends are pleased for it. They are riding comfortably and with strength and purpose after their visit to Elite Bicycles Asia at 3 Duxton Hill, Singapore.

I take my recommendations seriously; people can act on your advice, so I have refrained from giving it. Recommendations are different. Coincidentally, my neighbour who owns a single-gear bike asked me about bike fitting yesterday and I directed him to Elite Bicycles. This reminds us that tribes spread the word through positive word of mouth – one spoke on the marketing wheel that cannot be underestimated even if it takes time.

The process of getting my bike ordered and delivered involved conversations with David via Twitter and Skype. As he is serious about taking care of me, he posted a Twitter message to me to check my colour choice first. I chose the model, a full carbon Elite Razor (as in accompanying photograph)  – a smashing-looking iron horse that is a popular model with pros and elite age-groupers at Elite. My initial choice of colour is maroon, as it was my secondary school colour and that of my corporate logo. I am designing my graffiti on its body, although fellow-riders have suggested a magic wand and a rabbit-in-a-hat - I prefer a Playboy bunny (although that is a trademark/copyright).

I have been supporting charities related to Cystic Fibrosis, and they were my motivating project for Ironman New Zealand this year. Here is a story of a record-breaking 11 marathons over 11 days for fund-raising. Incidentally, Singaporean Marathon Mohan will be doing his 100th marathon shortly. All the best to this popular Team Fatbird member.

Keep moving everyone!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is There A Geek Behind The Leader?

Barry Buchanan is a satirist and cartoonist. His artistic expressions draw a smile to my face, however his observations are his strength. I think satire is the bridge between reality and the theatrical. There are humorous moments in our daily vignettes as can be read in the cynical comic strip, Dilbert.

I admit I am an ignoramus when it comes to techie things – writing this phrase is a dead giveaway about my technological incompetence. It took a long while before I could put my bike together on away-races. I was motivated to do it myself after my powers of influence and favours ran out. Talk about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (or skillful)!

I am a geek, and so are you. When you consider the profundity of your knowledge within the ambit of your hobby and pastime, you are a geek! We are experts in our leisurely pursuits, for we chase after it. When we start speaking in the tongue of a technophile, we are expressing our brighter side. Who isn’t fascinated with talking about their passions? If you are passionate about your profession and are knowledgeable about it, you are a geek.

A geek is an enthusiast. If you enjoy working with customers, you are a geek. If you enjoy bicycles (and are into bike porn), you are a geek. Ozzie Osbourne bit off the head of a bat (by accident?) during a 'live' performance, so he is a geek (in the carnival sense). If you are familiar with geeks and all things geeky, you are indeed a geek!

Geeks spend hours on their hobbies; does that make work a hobby? Are we suckers for punishment? Sounds like a masochist’s slogan. I still hear cries of dismay when I announce to my colleagues that I’ll be doing yet another Ironman race; my family has resigned (and redesigned) itself to the fact that it is part of my neurosis. I am a neurotic with my abundant share of idiosyncracies and idiotic behavior. Within the triathlon community, I feel normal. Among the blind the one-eyed is king. Hey! I was influenced by idiots!  And I graduated with first-class honours for being an idiot – I just don’t know when to stop (or at least, I pretend I don’t).

Want to track your triathlon races worldwide? Go to AthLinks. It has your race records and history for you to claim. Quite a few fellow bloggers are already on its free membership.

Endurance sports are hard things. Mastering an instrument is a hard thing. Doing my chores is a harder thing. When was the last time you attempted hard things? Michael Ray Hopkin (incidentally, a 3:30 marathoner) blogged about doing hard things and the relevance of supporters, and I actually set my marathon PB as a result of our conversation.

Are you a geek or meek? I suppose that we have a bit of both in our composition. Who shall inherit the earth?


Illustration of DontFeedTheGeek.com by: Krishna Sadasivam the cartoonist behind the excellent www.pcweenies.com

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back On Track

My joints are somewhat noisy – snap, crackle and pop – a reflection of my body’s response to endurance sports. Plus, I have been clocking at least 65km per week of running, more mileage than training for an Ironman. The salient injuries I experienced a few weeks ago have diminished, and I hope healing fast. Tonight, I posted a reasonably quick 11km time (distance from my home to a designated end-point along the beach). I am very close to cracking my personal best time. It should be soon, although patience would be better for me. I have exactly two months before to peak for the 42.195km in Berlin.

I have been studying how my body responds to running and the FITT model. Here is my summary on Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time:

1)    To increase my speed, I have found that Fartlek, interval training and tempo running to be highly useful. However, I found that doing it alternate days helps my body recover.
2)    Leaning forward, and running on my forefoot and mid-sole keeps me injury-free.
3)    System check: I close my eyes for 6-8 steps as it allows me to focus on my proprioception: This is my internal sense of balance. Our eyes de-emphasise our reliance on this biological gyroscope we all have.
4)    I continue doing my core stability exercise: I do them before or after my run. Before the run, these exercises activate my glutes, hamstrings and lower back – all essential for comfortable run.
5)    Have a cold sports drink, one mainly with carbohydrates (such as malto-dextrin) and electrolytes half an hour before physical activity. Cold water or chilled drinks are easier for body to absorb.
6)    I conduct one time trial a week, either on my 10km or 21km. These give a strong gauge on my progress.
7)    I find a strong runner and stick closely to him/her for a certain distance. This is to align my sense of competition, especially if I choose a younger runner. I condition my mind to racing because that is precisely what I will be doing in Berlin.

I have a less stressful two weeks before the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, with a sneak preview of the Opening Ceremony on 7 August. My sports association has a Venue Exercise on Sunday with 600 volunteers, and the Indoor Hall at Toa Payoh looks ready to go. It should be a great experience for our young athletes, youth commentators, youthful volunteers, seasoned officials and new spectators. We really hope that weightlifting will get major boost from this landmark event held from 14-26 August.

Hooray to Chrissy Wellington as she gets her fifth sub-9 hour Ironman win, and earns an MBE and an interview with BBC Sports.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Staying Safe and Sane in Senseless Situations

I was closely monitoring my team-mates’ performance at Ironman Switzerland yesterday. Some of them scored PBs, and a few did not finish. As much as I was disappointed for them, I was however assured of the fact that they would not have dropped out except with good reason. One fell of his bike, another had difficulty in the water, and a few succumbed to the flu.

It was, certainly, not easy for them to call it quits. These are mates I train with, and I have profiled them for their tenacity, persistence, perseverance and determination – they would not have chickened out were it not for more serious issues. Plus, their individual investment into the race amounted to more than just money; it included training time, sacrifices, and mental pressure. Nonetheless, I wish them all well and a great vacation ahead.

I had this conversation a week ago. It revolved around the fact that one does not know what to expect in their first Ironman race. It is akin to parachuting off a plane – there is no reference to one’s fear until the second jump! Likewise, after one 226km race, one’s body may dread the next endurance experience. After nine such races, and completing them all, I cannot imagine have a disqualification (DQ) or Did Not Finish (DNF). Giving up due to discomfort is not in my DNA coding. Perhaps that is why I hobble like a cripple/crab the days after an Ironman. I think that my pain and discomfort exceeds all the teasing and criticism I get for indulging in such an extreme sport.

Chrissy Wellington blogs about her recent, earth-shattering, Ironman triathlon finish at Roth.

Hot on the heels of the TdF, have you considered Tour De Bintan? It is a 3-stage race that spans 168km in total (56km, 74km, 38km respectively). It will take place on 16-17 October on Bintan Island, Indonesia.

Monday, July 26, 2010

On Opposite Sides of the Lore

Congratulations to Team Singapore for its Ironman Switzerland attempt! I am glad that all of them returned safe and sound. I would like to consider this event in 2012, as one of my buddies who was fished out of the water (registered faster than the leading male professional and eventually got a DQ) has unfinished business. My racing calendar is quite full with several A-races till June 2011.

I have been thinking about opposing thoughts, inspired by Newtonian physics as well as through recent observations. ‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’ stated Sir Isaac Newton as part of this triad of physical laws. In law, we have the role of opposing counsel. It is almost a truism to hear that ‘Opposites attract!’ Instead of agreeing all the time, consider disagreeing and propose an alternative idea.

Too often, disagreeing can be construed as opposing, being antagonistic and being difficult. However, thinking can be contrarian and creative. Taking a 180-degrees shift from the usual can yield new perspectives and purpose.

How can you apply opposite thinking and opposing action?

1)    Give feed forward instead of feedback.
2)    Catch people doing right, instead of wrong.
3)    Focus on the future, not the past (as you can’t change this).
4)    Do more instead of less.
5)    Do less, instead of more.
6)    Focus on ‘why not?’ instead of ‘why?’ in problem solving.
7)    Agree once (or twice) with the one whom you tend to disagree with, most of the time.
8)    Do more chores, and less of your hobbies.
9)    Go faster instead or slower, and vice versa.
10) Show some interest in what may be unimportant or boring to you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Weekend of Fast Riders, Ironman Swimmers, and Rabid Running in the Heat

Today is the Port Dickson Triathlon, as well as Ironman Switzerland; a sizeable team has gone up to compete, including several Ironman finishers. It is also Stage 20 of the Tour de France. Although Andy Schleck performed admirably well, it looks like Alberto Contador (with a 39-second lead) is destined to wear yellow again after a powerful showing on the time trial yesterday.


As I write this, Team Singapore is safely out of the water. I am pleased for them, and wish them a good race. There is competition with the Usual Suspects (from ENR) and I how this spurs them on to do their personal best times. The occasional bets can disrupt one’s train of thought if not taken too well. There is enough undue stress in the race preparation to accommodate more defocusing distractions. Tune in to IronmanLive.com for real-time coverage of the leaders and your friends.


I ran about 24km (at 160bpm) and just under 6 min/km pace, along the beach in the heat, hitting the midday sun in my face with full fury. I decided to call it a day after I decided that it was a tad too hot. Also, I did not carry enough carbs (in my bidon) to sustain me for another 6-8 kilometres. My body decided to push its heart rate up another 12 beats due to the heat and so I called myself in. I hydrated with water, and once home, I took 5 grams of L-glutamine to reduce muscular breakdown and boost my immune system.


A large group of shoppers huddled at a demonstration table at my local Mac Store. I am keen on getting the iPad 64GB model with 3G capabilities. Until I learn more about this device, will I then make the purchase! A MacBook Pro is also tempting, so I better consider thoroughly before I make my informed buying decision.


My interview in Mandarin in the new program New Kids on The Block (Channel U, 9.30pm, Wednesday) enjoyed positive comments, mainly for my competency in the Chinese language.  I had quite a few re-takes, mainly for my constipated pauses (I intended them to be dramatic pauses), licking of my dry lips and tongue-twisting phrases. There were a total of three broadcasts, and the producers aired only one of my coin magic routines called Shadow Coins: with a cast of shadow, coins mysteriously teleport themselves to one corner of the matrix pattern. The other - my signature piece - last seen on Mondo Magic Singapore (on AXN) was edited out. C'est la vie!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Precious Seconds While Waiting

Watching the Tour De France has reminded me of the essence of holding on to one’s lead. When the leading rider holds an eight-second lead, it would be hard to get it back at the latter stages of the race. These elite cyclists and their teams spend the great part of their work-year training their behinds off to earn those valuable seconds on the three, grueling weeks in the beautiful French scenery.

If you are ever ahead in your meeting agenda, keep on plowing until you reach its termination. We are so fashionably intent on running a meeting past the hour. Granted that some meetings require more time for team decisions, most routine meetings can be accomplished within the hour, thus, the notion of the poor Secretary recording the [60] minutes of the meeting. What an awesome and awful task!

I am reminded of the CBS news programme, 60 Minutes. The producers of this highly-rate programme attempt to capture features stories within an hour, with depth, insight and clarity. There is certainly much to be decided within those 60 minutes of your company or volunteer’s time. Having appeared on television interviews, I value the director’s vision to compress the relevant content within seconds – that is one of the challenges!

Team leaders should be mindful and purposeful about how to deliver themselves at meeting. It would be pointless to lead in a meeting intuitively without discipline, respect, direction and outcome. It would be more useful that between meetings that the so-called Chairperson learns to lead meetings, through productive conversations with those competent in leading meetings.

To reiterate, three major reported outcomes of the 60-minute meeting are:
1)    What was discussed
2)    What was agreed
3)    Who will take action, and the dateline

We do not manage meetings; we lead them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Training For Triathlons in the Heat

This contribution came from my friend, David Chambers, who completed Ironman New Zealand in about 11:30 this year. He also raised a significant amount for the Cystic Fibrosis For Kids charity, as part of his Ironman quest at Lake Taupo, New Zealand. Thank you, David!

The following suggestions came from a female professional:

Preparation
·      I train in weather that has the least systemic stress which means I often start at 6 a.m.!
·      Two weeks out from my race, I start training later to end my training day in the heat.
·      I hydrate throughout the day and strive for the “hint of yellow” in my nature breaks.
·      I pick clothing that will provide maximal coverage and the least heat absorption.
·      I practice my implementation in training. Repeatedly.

Implementation
·      If it’s a cloudy day, I wear a visor.
·      If it’s a sunny day I wear some sort of white hat to reflect the sun.
·      On the ride I frequently douse my head and body with water.
·      I have a small cooler in transition filled with ice.
·      Before I start the race I place my hat in it upside down and full of ice.
·      When I start the run, I take the hat full of ice and place it on my head.
·      I frequently toss water over my body on the run.
·      I refresh ice in hat and may place some in bra, back and even shorts.
·      I wear shoes and socks that will drain easily to protect my feet.
·      When all else fails I improvise.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ironman Switzerland Team Send-Off

Tonight, we had a send-off of our team of Ironman participants at Terminal 3, Changi International Airport. I was utterly surprised to see more familiar faces at our informal gathering. The team was decked in specially printed cotton tees with the words ‘Ironman Switzerland’. The usual suspects included: Roger, David, Khina, Edward, Reeves, Aristol, Jerry and Danny. We should see some serious action on the ride and run this year, as my training mates are primed and ready. Tune in to IronmanLive.com for a real-time commentary and results. With the Athlete Tracking function, you can a blow-by-blow account of each athlete’s performance including split-times.

I was, somewhat, disappointed as I would have enjoyed racing in this event, as I have not done it yet. With my duties at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, I could not take this trip let alone train for it without interruption from my obligations.

Getting ready for a trip such as this, with the main event being a 226km triathlon race, demands thorough preparation. The most debilitating item that you would have to transport would be the bike-case. With excess baggage being a luxury afforded only by those with gold card (frequent flyer) status, a bike case poses a huge liability with its expensive burden. Even carbon frames and wheels still weigh significantly in their dismantled state. Rule of thumb: first in, last out.

Having a list of things to bring is critical. A missing item can easily upset your equilibrium, as sourcing for it can be a hassle. The prepared athlete leaves nothing to chance, opting to bring their own nutritional system on their trip. I recall I could not buy Gatorade on one race and paid for my carelessness with the official sports drink. I did not agree with its concentration and paid for it with gastrointestinal (GI) issues, which drained my energy before the marathon. Ensure that you have more than enough for your race, plus additional for the days leading to the race.

Bring along your tools for assembling your bike; have spare tubes or tyres, and a mini-pump. Gas canisters are banned on airlines so get them early at the race-exposition. Ensure you have your race-helmet (hand-carry them if you must), race-belt, shades, bike shoes/cleats, and running shoes. Bring warm attire like arm-warmers and compression tights if you are racing in cold weather. You can toss them aside if the temperature rises. A wetsuit is a must if the water is within specifications, as you may risk hypothermia if are not used to the cold water. Swimmers who emerge from the swim leg of Escape from Alcatraz without a wetsuit have been known to risk plunging body temperatures. A friend was fished out of the drink in Ironman Frankfurt when he swam sans wetsuit. His body temperature plunged by five precious degrees; fortunately, he recovered and is well now.

The little things do matter, too: drinking tube for a drop bottle, Vaseline (anti-chaffing), cable-tie, masking-tape, Ziploc bag, chain lubricant, and rags to clean your post-race bike as well as to degrease the crusty chain.

We wish the Eastern Night Riders (ENR) the very best for the weekend. May they race safe and well!


Photo credit: Lee Junior

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don’t Run Unless You’re Being Chased

This evening, I ran 19km in a light drizzle. I thought it was important that I did, because I had rested for three days due to the monsoon season. It was a cool but humid night, and I fueled up with an SIS sports drink in a water bottle. I was glad I did as I got my second wind towards the last 3km of my easy run. I overtook two runners: the first one let me off, and the second stuff with me like super-glue for the remaining 2.5km. He was already huffing and puffing when I overtook him at the lagoon, and was relentless. He gave chase and I could hear him pounding the path as I increased my cadence.

He continued in his pursuit as I attempted to drop him. Something instinctive in me wanted to drop him like a hot potato. Because he decided to stick to his guns and give chase, I committed to holding on to my purpose: all or nothing! It was either he or I. Not a hard choice, really! When I was taking a well-deserved cool-down walk, he passed me without acknowledging him and he continued running. Maybe he was testing himself…

As I sit here, writing this blog and nursing a mildly strained inner thigh I reflect on my personal challenge (and Armstrong’s tough sixth placing at today’s stage of the Tour De France). The leader lost his lead on the last 1km mark, and it must have been devastating! Armstrong is not known for his sprint prowess, and so he had to contend with sixth; he could have started his sprint too soon. This hilly Pyrenees Stage 16 of the Tour was supposed to have yielded him his single win; we have to wait till Thursday to find out. Perhaps I should have let the guy overtake me earlier…
My interview on episode two of New Kids on the Block - in Mandarin - will be on Channel U, 9.30pm tonight (Wednesday, 21 July 2010). It features two professional hobbies every week, including Drifters in Car Drifting, Flamenco Dancers , Mixed Martial Arts, Magicians, Flash Mobers, Lomographers, Vertical Marathoners, Cosplay, and Lego lovers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Free Your Mind

The concept of having an ‘Empty Mind’ is attributed to Zen practices. Recall the Zen parable where the older and wise monk requested the young and impulsive monk: ‘Before you can fill the cup, you must first empty your cup!’

Working life poses challenges and problems of many dimensions. It is also a wellspring of stress. Dysfunctional relationships are part of the revelations of stressful work activities, unusual demands and a need to perform well constantly. Thus, we may be of two minds at times - and that may present difficulties in getting through to us.

There is a limit to how much we can contain in our present mind. Our mindset, at one moment, will be relevant for certain needs. Another mindset may accommodate and entertain other knowledge and seeds of influence. In the new film Inception, mind-spies attempt to infiltrate the subconscious mind of a target, and extract information from a vault. The film also alludes to planting seeds of thought into that deeply protected vault where secrets should remain buried in the dark recess of one's mind.
Too often, our mind suffers an endless clutter of attractions and distractions. Occasionally, we experience confusion and we hope that clarity replaces it soon. So, when our leader tells us to sort things out it refers to our internal processes of categorizing things and prioritizing them. We look for ways to agree as we do easily disagree. Agreeing to agree may be easier than disagreeing to disagree – whatever that means.

When facilitating a discussion or strategic session, we need to be mindful of the dynamics of the audience, their preferences and prejudices, beliefs and values. These ‘filters’ can be exceedingly hard to negotiate around if we have a filled cup, that is, we are blind-sided by our pre-judgements, paradigms and other mental models. With an empty mind, we can navigate across the common objectives and head for intended outcomes, sooner than later. High-level facilitation calls upon your sense of confidence, curiosity and discipline. Sometimes, you coach your team; other times, you coach them along. Your position and pre-position matters if you intend to achieve the ideals of faster, stronger and higher.

How do you free up your mind? When do you experience a state of ‘no burden’? How do you stay focused on the outcomes? How do you separate process from content?

Poster credit: Wikipedia, Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures

Monday, July 19, 2010

Incredible, Credibility and Being Incredulous

I recall watching Donald Trump’s television series ‘The Apprentice’, where his piece de resistance is when he utters his infamous last words ‘You’re fired!’ He is fond of comparing apprentices who are either book smart or street smart although he would, inevitably, lean towards a balanced approach since he is highly educated businessman and entrepreneur.

In our personal branding, our reputation, credibility and honour truly matter. If we are to face others, on a professional level, then we have to consider our many faces. Consulting expert Peter Block refers to the many masks we wear everyday.

Your credibility is based on how skillful and experienced you are, and how your clients relate to you. Thus, rapport is part of the process of engagement with others. Your credibility is enhanced by how knowledgeable you are, and how one’s tacit wisdom can be used to assist your clients in their strategies and tactics in business.

If you think that textbook knowledge alone can build your reputation outside of the business arena, you may be highly confident and lucky. For the many of us, it requires that we do the hard yards – do the time, and pay our dues. For instance, if you are working with seasoned corporate leaders about business matters, it would be highly useful and relevant to have had similar experience as a corporate leader, entrepreneur or business owner. Otherwise, it would make little sense to, quote by rote, case studies and strategems from textbook research.

Those new to self-employment or are building their own business, would benefit most by sheer hard work. This requires time, persistence, optimism, determination and patience. Many things in life don’t come easy. If you want to complete a marathon, you will have to diligently do the distance. If you want to excel in endurance sports, you will have to smartly train harder, eat well, rest adequately and stay injury-free. That is how you build a robust reputation in the event, and even enhance your overall ranking.

If we are to start a new profession or career, we need to return to our roots: go back to a foundational level, focus on competencies, and be hungry. Hunger is a major motivator towards learning, and getting things done. It sustains our sparks of ambition and provides us with reasons to stay committed to our personal cause. Disappointments come with the territory of attempts, even in a new career or business. Every new venture and adventure is an emotional process that alters our attitude and mindset. That is why, at times, we may unfairly conclude that the client is ignorant, stubborn or apathetic.

What are you doing to build your credibility as a professional and leader? How do you become incredible? How do you make the mundane and ordinary moments become incredulous?  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Multiple Streams

I was reviewing videos of my Ironman New Zealand 2010 race, and I was amused by my look of delight as I exited the swim, mounted my bike, dismounted, ran and did a zig zag finish (I was giving high fives) in the chute. Despite a tough day, and a compromised race performance (after being hit by a taxi the month before), I was pleased that I completed my ninth foray in the 226km triathlon format. In almost every one of my race-finishes, I end with a smile. I think that it is a mixture of emotions, including a sense of relief, accomplishment, achievement and importance.

The swim start is my most satisfying leg of the triathlon, as I feel stoked when I exit the water. I have swum in lakes, the sea, and a river (Vineman 2007). Each water body poses it set of risks and challenges, and I just soak in the experience. Keep my eyes on the buoys, following the bubbles ahead of me, and be wary of kickers.

How do you start off a conversation? How do you initiate a process or intervention? How do you start a meeting?

Some leaders begin a meeting with small talk, or an icebreaker. Others plunge neatly into it with no fuss and no frills. Extraverts may have an advantage yet conversations need a trigger, and your topic and content matters. Above all, pay close attention to your subject – the person you are conversing with – as they matter as much. There is a truism that people are interested in them self and they do know more about this subject than anything else.

I have been plundering my personal library and discovered a few books. One of them is Robert Allen’s Multiple Streams of Income. What I was keen on was not merely the wealth-building strategies he offered, but the concept of multiple streams.

Applying that to our purpose, what are our multiple streams for the following?

1)    Leadership
2)    Employability
3)    Relationships
4)    Relevance
5)    Living and lifestyle

Just a thought – and moving ahead…
*****
Another rainy morning, and I slept in. I ditched my plan for riding and opted for an extended recovery sleep. I feel much better and my injuries are healing. I will do my core stability exercises shortly, as that is a vital link to my sporting progress. It is less than nine weeks to Berlin and it will be a varied log of hills, intervals, Fartlek and mileage. I am looking forward to watching Inception this afternoon, and I intend to review it for its rave reviews.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Runaway Thoughts


The Chinese have a saying: The journey of a thousand li [miles] begins with the first step.

Tonight’s 21km medium run caps this week’s run to 51km. I will decide on how far and hard to run on Sunday morning, as I teach my last workshop for volunteer leaders of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games on Saturday.

Running offers an opportunity for epiphanies. Towards my last four kilometres, I was thinking of the story ‘Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. I made the connection that in old English, ‘y’ could substitute for ‘i’. Thus, the title of the split personality case could have been ‘Doctor Jack Kill and Mr Hide’. This story makes me wonder about pharmaceutical assistance in sports, and how prolonged use upsets your body’s equilibrium and affirms your status as a cheat. It is amazing how athletes can progress from nutrition to attrition in one decisive swallow. Other than this wandering thought, I was focused on my running gait, landing and discomfort on my body.

I am reading Dr Ben Tan’s book ‘Run For Your Life’ again, and applying his recommendations for training towards a marathon PB. There are lots of useful information and wisdom to be gleaned from this well-written and thoroughly researched book. With 10 weeks to go, I have a diet of core stability work, flexibility, hills, intervals and tempo training to get my body strengthened for my next marathon.

Starting a business is akin to running. You are either in it for the long run, or not. You have a learning curve that may start with a jog, than opens up into a full sprint. You need to stay focused on your goals, never losing sight of the markers along the way. You may need to remind yourself to stay nourished with productive conversations from seasoned players, experts and supporters. The first year is the tough year, and when you survive that, it gets tougher. However, toughness equates itself with resilience and robustness. You will develop stamina, smartness, and substance. Alongside a cumulative knowledge would be tacit wisdom, skill-sets and valuable relationships.

One foot forward at a time…

Friday, July 16, 2010

Volunteers and Volunteerism


Volunteerism is a mindset and attitude. You choose to volunteer if you feel that it does you personal good. When your core values include care, consideration, generosity, loyalty and helpfulness, then volunteering for a cause can be most rewarding.

Just in case you are wondering: Volunteers do not get paid. Volunteering may be a thankless job. You may be stretched on occasions, perhaps feel exploited. However, what sustain us are our motivations: relationships, ability to influence, and getting the job done.

Can you be volunteered? Not really. You may be nominated, or the task delegated by your manager. However, how well you achieve the goals and outcomes is dependent on your interest in the area assigned to you. Volunteerism is voluntary, and you cannot mandate people become volunteers.

You can engage your spirit of volunteerism by:

1)    Deciding on a cause, and helping in ways to support the cause.
2)    Taking a short stint as a volunteer.
3)    Adopt a charity as your pet project for 6-12 months.
4)    Be a volunteer as public sports event.
5)    Helping out as a tutor for students at an association.
6)    Be part of a larger experience like the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

As a volunteer for a corporate project, charity or cause you may be establishing yourself as a lynch pin. You may be a Purple Cow for doing so. Being a volunteer may be a luxury, or even a charity depending on your stage in your career or business. Leaders will do the right thing when they strongly feel or intuit it is the right thing to do. The success of this blog is due to many generous people who offered their time and thoughts to engage us.

Volunteer. Never be volunteered by anyone. You call your shots. Do it because you want to.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reviewing Skills & Standards


When was the last time you measured your competencies?

If sales professionals do not sell enough, they may get careless and lose some degree of their confidence. If adventure-training instructors do not regularly practise and rig up climbing lines, they may make some risky decisions. If chefs do not cook regularly, they may lose their tastes and touch. If teachers do not teach or tutor enough, they may lose sight of their purpose. If you have a driving licence and not drive for a while, you may cause others to be nervous when you take the wheel.

Many endurance athletes I spoke to confided in me that they tend to lose that competitive edge if they do not train enough, or race enough. Training is not exactly racing, unless you include some time trials, aim for your personal best timings, or simulate racing with your training mates.

If you do not practise your second language, you may struggle when you next have to communicate with it. For instance, there is a difference between speaking, reading and writing Mandarin – which has now surpassed all others as being the most widely spoken language in the world.

Writers need to constantly write and read. You can only get better by putting pen to paper; keyboard to screen. Bruce Lee said, ‘If you want to learn to swim, jump into the water. On dry land, no frame of mind is ever going to help you.’

Likewise, for leaders – lead! You need to express yourself through leadership opportunities. You create them if these are not prevalent. There is always a chance to lead; just take the lead when you are not following. You can start a conversation with someone onboard a plane even if you are introverted. You can start a discussion thread on an online forum. You can encourage participation of an online vote for charity. Lead your department in a weekly jogging session.

Go on – measure up! Lead with your competencies.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Kids On The Block

I am not making reference to Marky Mark and the infamous boy-band NKOTB. The aforementioned rapper of the 1990’s pop band is, now, an Academy-award nominated actor. Mark Wahlberg has played the leading man in films like The Lovely Bones and Boogie Nights and is executive producer of the seven-season Entourage (which was based loosely on his early life as an actor in Hollywood).

Tonight on Channel U, 9.30pm, New Kids on The Block will feature a half-hour documentary and interview on professionals and their serious hobbies. Two hobbies will be featured on each episode. Joyce of the large and leading local cycling group, Joy Riders will be featured in the inaugural episode.

I will be interviewed and featured on Episode 2, on 21 July. Secondary school teacher, Soo Chan Hua will perform his card magic, while I will demonstrate sleight of hand magic with coins. Soo's students will also be featured for their ability to perform card magic, too. I hope that you will enjoy our short presentation of our passion – close-up magic. At the time of filming, I don't think the producers were aware of my pursuits in marathons and triathlons.

Triathlete S K Lim, a member of Triathlon Family Singapore who runs a few restaurants, was interviewed on Buffetlicious Episode 6 (Mediacorp 5). He owns and manages the Halal-certified Korean steamboat-BBQ buffet restaurant called Han River.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Seven Strategies for Shifting Paradigms

‘But you're not a writer until someone publishes you.’ ~ JULIE POWELL

Share and write about your passions. My friend, Bernadette writes about her love for cooking and baking. She is the equivalent of a Julie and Julia (imagine a journalist whipping up 524 meals in 365 days based on recipes from a celebrity chef!). And she writes very well, and she is a journalist and feature writer.
My Twitter friend wrote about her lifelong relationship with food, mainly about raw foods and vegetarianism. It is a fascinating read as it not always what proponents tout it to be, yet that does mean we should not consider it.

We have our mindsets and attitudes about food, cooking or relationships. We have our paradigms. Even in exercise, we have our paradigms about exercising, or not at all. We question whether three times a week is too much. Aerobic workouts versus strength training; specific training or cross training; once a day versus twice a day; 10 or 25 hours a week. My paradigm for endurance sports shifted when my Coach, Craig ‘Fox’ Holland had me run my first 10km, and then my second. He gently taught me invaluable lessons, upon which I share with you on this blog.

What are our paradigms of learning? Does having an education equate into employability? Which life skills would be relevant for the future? What should we teach our youths?

The formula of ‘study hard, go to university, get a good job’ may be passé, considering that is a sad and significant number of graduates who are either unemployed or struggling in unpleasant jobs post-economic woes of 2009.

Perhaps, the fundamental paradigm-shifting questions to be asked in enhancing our perceived and potential value would be:

1)    Learning to ask questions: Be curious. Be inquisitive. The Chinese phrase for learned is ‘learning to ask’ or ‘xue wen’.
2)    What are our passions? What are we passionate about?
3)    What do we value most in our life?
4)    Which skills do we have that are unique and add value to yourself and others?
5)    How do I want to live my life, and my lifestyle?
6)    What are you doing to exceed your perceived limits? How are you challenging yourself?
7) Which new things have your done lately?
8)    Thoroughly apply your education, learnedness, skills and knowledge.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Of Learned Pigs, Fireproof Women & One Psychic Octopus Called Paul

Ricky Jay is an accomplished actor, author, and sleight-of-hand magician. You may recognize him as Gupta in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Die.
Jay, who is an expert card thrower and magic historian, wrote several books including ‘Cards As Weapons’ and ‘Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women’. He also wrote ‘Jay's Journal of Anomalies: Conjurers, Cheats, Hustlers, Hoaxsters, Pranksters, Jokesters, Imposters, Pretenders, Side-Show Showmen, Armless Calligraphers, Mechanical Marvels, Popular Entertainments’. Jay is seriously passionate about these pointlessly talented, almost forgotten, entertainers in history over the last two centuries. The facts he includes may be anecdotal (from playbills and posters), yet if Jay did not write about these people, we would not have known about them. His action of writing the books and having them published, led to our knowledge about these people.
So, the psychic octopus Paul predicted that Spain would win, and he was spot on! How did he do it? Pure fluke? Statistical odds? Probability? It is, after, all either/or: Fifty, fifty. Or, was it weighted in favour of one prediction over the other?

I just watched the film ‘21’ (with the talented but straight-faced, actor Kevin Spacy) that is about card-counting students from MIT taking on Las Vegas casinos. Their actions are not without consequences, as there are rules for playing with money in that town. Their system of gambling is based on cheating the system, so as to gain advantage play (in gambling parlance) over the house. The house, eventually, wins and ‘things are not what they seem to be’.

As leaders, it is relevant that we explore systems thinking - one of five pillars proposed by Peter Senge in his book The Fifth Discipline. Systems thinking allow us to access our predictions. When you determine the connections, implication and relationships between things then we can extrapolate possibilities. When you use cause and effect, we can attribute a nexus between action and result. Decision-making, whether via a decision-making tree or algorithm, determines your outcome. There is systemic impact for our actions and inactions. When Shakespeare wrote in his case study, Hamlet 'To be, or not be - that is the question' he may have alluded to systems.

I watched the first half of the World Cup Final, and decided that it would head nowhere until later this morning. Spain won at extra time. I know a few of my friends will cash in on their bets today. Good on them. I wonder how they made their accurate prediction? By influence, intuition or through their own systemic thinking…


*6th in my age group, and 26th overall at yesterday's Tri-Factor RUN. My run splits were fading. Note to self: pace and be patient.