Thursday, August 6, 2020

CARD GAMES & HOUSE OF CARDS

Recently, I posted on how playing cards and card-games mattered in my life.When I was a child, I played ‘Happy Family’, ‘Snap and ‘Old Maid’. I played enthusiastically, seriously, passionately (when I won), and sometimes, frustratingly and angrily (when I lost or made a wrong move). I progressed (and matured) by learning the game of Gin Rummy, through observing adults at play. I assure you that other than shuffling (on the floor) and cutting the cards, I wasn’t allowed to play however I was encouraged to ask about the rules. I learnt early that rules mattered in games.‘Uno’ was the official commercial game sold and kids were allowed to play it in school. The other cards I regularly touched were those on ‘Community Chest’ and ‘Take A Chance’ strategically positioned on the Monopoly board. Monopoly is one of the best board-games that disguised the concepts of real estate and property.In the 1990’s, I was fascinated by magic and I began learning card magic. I read an old instructional textbook called ‘The Expert At The Card Table’ (1902) that revealed a chapter on ‘legerdermain’ or magic in this obscure small book on crooked gambling. I was smitten by the creativity of the card-cheat at the poker table. 30 years later, I am still practicing these illegal moves (read: false shuffling, false cutting and false dealing), however, I use them purely for creating illusions with cards.

About eight years ago, Teambuilding Facilitator Zaccheus Goh introduced me to the Marshmallow Challenge. I watched the TED Talk about facilitating this game, and began integrating it into my workshops on creativity and innovation. It reminded me of the Tower-Building Game, which was based on building a House of Cards.I tend to use playing-cards for games in standard and non-standard ways. For ice-breakers, we can use playing-cards to pair up participants/students randomly. We can use mathematical variations to group team-members (example, sorting by suits, colours, forming the best Poker hand, and forming a collective hand for ‘21’).‘Batty’ is a unique card puzzle-game designed by an amazing and inspiring card-magician, Richard Turner (an actor, entertainer and card-man). It is FUN, CHALLENGING, and EDUCATIONAL. The Logic Round is a mind-stimulating game similar to Solitaire. The Q & A Matching Round combines the challenges of matching cards and answering academic questions. It can be used for 3rd-8th graders, yet will drive you nuts (thus ‘batty’). Batty-designer Turner while legally-blind (and he does not reveal it), holds many interesting jobs and he is one of the best card-cheats/consultants in the world. He invented Batty when he was 11 years old, and it has 11 levels of difficulty.

In the past decade, I have used the Value Cards (created by Gary Yardley, Jan Kelly & Sally Rundle) to facilitate sessions on cascading Core Values in organisations. These are playing cards with values (and supporting values) on each of the 56 cards. These 142 values were identified through extensive study of 1000 leading organisations across industries. These values have been identified as Ideal Values, Shared Values, Expressive Values, Value Disciplines, and Activating Values. Through the use of these cards, we create a cognitive and emotional relationship with- Our personal and professional values- How we connect with and address values- How we associate with Bridging Values (that rapidly connects us with others)- Core Values & how these can be cascaded widely throughout the organizationWe use these cards in games, and relate to the value ‘at hand’. We then use the various metaphors related to cards, such as ‘ace in the hole’, ‘ace up the sleeve’, ‘full house’, ‘playing with a full hand’, ‘You play the hand that life deals you’, and more.If you feel uncomfortable with playing cards, you can always use cards made for younger children (6-12 years). These are based on popular animated characters or motion-picture characters (Disney characters, Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, and the like). These trademarked and heavily copyrighted cards will cost more, and I would not be generous in giving them away.The rich history of cards has established its relevance and popularity even after nearly-1,400 years later (Tang Dynasty); the modern European version arrived near 1400 A.D. The creative possibilities with playing-cards in gamification leaves much to our imagination.Do give these beautiful firm pieces of paper a go when you are facilitating a conversation. It has served the soothsayers and fortune-tellers of earlier days in storytelling and cold-reading, and the foretelling of events.In these challenging times, going back to basics with card-games may provide us with a sense of clarity through its simplicity. Just shuffle, cut, and deal. Let’s play!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

State Management & Managing Your States

No, this is not an essay on how to run a country.

By ‘states’, I am referring to ‘bodily states’. How your body feels and senses at any one time, can be described as your ‘state’. You may be familiar with the song ‘New York State of Mind’, and the term ‘mind over matter’. In cases of legality, one may have to prove ‘the state of mind’.

I learnt about ‘managing my states’ in 1995. I attended a workshop on ‘An Introduction to NLP’, and my mind became aware of what my five senses afforded me at that time. I learnt to play with the voices in my head, feelings, memories, imagination, and other sensations. Certainly, these were all private, internal, processes that I had no working manual to refer to. So, I wrote an operating-manual for it, which has since undergone multiple revisions and versions.

Two-and-half decades later, I am still raising my bar in my sporting aspirations. I began with competitive bodybuilding, and then shifted to racing in marathons and triathlons. Every year, I attempt to complete successfully at least one marathon (42.2km) and Ironman triathlon (3.8km swim, 180km cycling, 42.2km run). For each event, I have to be as well-prepared and mentally-conditioned to face the race-day, whatever the weather and terrain conditions would be.

For each of my fellow participant, their goals can be vary from completion to competition. My hopeful results are based on living and demonstrating the credo of the Olympic Games, namely, ‘Faster, Stronger and Higher’.

My 18-years of tacit experience and wisdom in racing in endurance, multi-sports, events has taught me to manage my physiological (bodily) states on several levels. These include:

1)   Manage my level and tolerance of pain (braving extreme cold and heat, cramps, injuries, painful stings, gut disorders)
2)   Manage my sensory level of discomfort (conditions of water, waves, currents, taste of the water I swim in, sweatiness, dirt, windiness, heat, cold, flies, and much more)
3)   Doing ‘damage control’, especially when my results start to slip away, as my fatigue level increases (deciding to stop and rest, feeding my body, and walking when I have to)
4)   Dealing with disappointments, especially when the results were expected/unexpected
5)   Dealing with distractions, confusion, uncertainty and changes to my plan (consider this: The race distance was modified for safety reasons; or cancelled due to extreme weather)

Managing my states is one of my motivations to racing. Sometimes, it hurts even more when you want something badly enough. In competitive racing, we call this ‘digging deep’. That is, we harness on our resources (limited) and our RESOURCELFULNESS (a useful value to tap on in times of crises). I am sue many entrepreneurs can relate strongly to the string of challenges that may be laid out in their quest for their business dreams. The successful ones keep rising incessantly when they fall. Even skillful cyclists still fall off their bicycles.

When I earned my qualification spots in the Boston Marathon, or the Ironman world championships, they were ‘painful joyfulness’. In managing my states to get there, I had to learn to stay focused, patient and calm (on the inside).

With the current global pandemic, millions of people are affected physically and psychologically by the stress(ors) of a personal viral threat: its impending infection, spread, fear, concern, anxiety, and other equally virulent impact from it (economic, financial, self-esteem, well-being). How can we strengthen our mental and physiological resolve (physical and emotional) to deal with it? How do we manage our responses and reactions to these stressors? What can we do to alter our attitude and behaviors, in managing ourselves and those we are entrusted with?

Only when we actively manage how we think and feel (internal factors) in the face of external factors, can we then sensibly and sensitively manage our people. We won’t be effective in leading others if we are ‘headless chickens’. Meanwhile, stay focused while re-building our teams, and encourage and embolden them for future discomforts and distractions.

Monday, June 15, 2020

How Do We Live With Rigour In A Time of Pandemic? (Part 1)

Caveat: These opinions are entirely my own, and I share my perspectives with those with a sense of optimism and adventure. If we can't be hopeful, what's the point?

Over the weeks, I have been collecting perspectives from senior managers, entrepreneurs, and employees. The common thread is: Everyone is struggling in their own way and braving their private battles. We are faced with threats to our way of life, both work-wise and leisure-wise. The disruptions and chaos that has ensued may lead many to and review and revise the way we think. Here are three key areas to ponder over, and we will go into detail, shortly.

1) Working From Home (WFH): This is inevitable, and the flexibility of working one-day-weekly from home has expanded into a lengthy period of home-based work. This is no different where educators have to, occasionally, teach from their homes via webinars, and the like. WFH may be the ‘New Norm’ as we have to figure out how we can work best in-separation. In my interviews, many managers believe that their staff are, probably, working more productively in this situation. There seems to be more focus and concentration when employees are at their desk, whether conducting a project meeting, or attending an online workshop. When you exclude traveling time to/from work, and ‘water-cooler conversations’, the working day is better spent.

2) Competencies and Skill-sets: It would be opportune to begin planning strategically (firstly for yourself, then for your team) what your career options are. How much of your Job Description and Job Scope will change? Which skills may become obsolete? Which skills will be valued more? Which new skills will you need to adopt? If your profession and vocation runs the risk of becoming obsolete, or easily replaceable with digitalisation then which parallel professions do your current abilities and capabilities allow you to migrate to? If you were, unfortunately, subject to furlough and were laid off, what can you do to pitch yourself for your next job opportunties? Rest assured that if you have specific and endearing skills and are unafraid to venture into new pastures, you may shorten your incubation time before your next employ. Skills like selling, influencing, instructing, relationship, counseling, communication (reading, writing and mathematics, however up-sized and expanded) and negotiating, may still augur well for most industries and businesses. Now, if you are open to the ‘dirtiest and deadliest’ types of work, these will require specific training and an aptitude/appetite for such labour. You will also need to ‘fit’, and ‘fit-for-duty’.

3) Activating Your Values: What does this mean? You, often-times, hear the need to be resilient, enduring, agile, and creative. What do these values entail? Which knowledge, skills, behaviors and mindsets will you need to develop to keep you valued as an employee? Our DNA – core values – when aligned with a company’s can open doors of opportunity for us. In relationships, we need to build mutual trust and respect. We need to develop the tacit experiences and wisdom to work in/with teams? Our ability to manage conflict, confusion, distortions of the important messages, and rising expectations are points of consideration. Applying your knowledge is more valuable than gathering data and information. Almost anyone with access to the Internet can source information, but connecting to sources and resources require more than touching the keypad. We will need to remain connected with customers, partners, and collaborators and be able to appreciate the myriad ‘touch points’ that connect us with purpose and poise towards our collective future.  

I leave you with these considerations. Meanwhile, stay safe, be healthy, and decide to be diligent and discerning.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

HOW DO WE LIVE WITH VIGOUR IN A TIME OF VIRULENCE?

The past 6 months has been challenging, to say the least. Most of us may still be Working-From-Home (WFH), and figuring out what our future holds for us. A viral pandemic of such epic proportions has hit us - hard - and with such unfamiliarity and ferocity that it boggles our minds, and shakes our hearts.
Yes, we are living in a time of fear (personal and even, shared), mired with confusion, misinformation, prejudices, ignorance and emotional turmoil. We may be resetting our compasses as others may be running about like 'headless chickens'. And, we cannot blame anyone, specifically, for we have to deal with the matter at hand. What can we do, individually and collectively, to reset and/or recalibrate our lives?
In the next few days and weeks, I will share with you my tacit experiences and wisdom on how we may manage our attitudes and actions towards the prevailing situation. Instead of dreading and complaining, we can take small steps towards regaining our 'personal power' and 'empower' others in the process of creating a global' New Norm'.
Meanwhile, let us move away from 'waiting and hating', and focus on 'moving and appreciating'. Let us be grateful for what we already have, and figure out ways to move towards a more promising future. Let us consider 3 relevant and pragmatic approaches that we can [now] take:
1)    KEEP MOVING: Movement is life. Biology is based on 'moving'. Work. Keep busy with activity. Small actions add up. Talk to smarter people. Bounce ideas off Subject-Matter Experts. Write letters. Pitch a proposal. Apply for a job. Create a new job description (scope). Sell your abilities and capabilities. Exercise. Exercise your options.
2) HAVE CLARITY OF FOCUS: Focus is how we amplify our 'light', so that it becomes intense. Possessing and harnessing on 'laser-like clarity' can illuminate on new opportunities and options. Focus can be enhanced by doing ONE THING AT A TIME. If you ever juggled, you would have learnt that juggling is a complex activity that teaches us to SHIFT OUR FOCUS. This can helps us engage our DECISIVENESS. (Scroll back to my hundreds of posts over the past 12 years of this blog, and you will find my acquired wisdom on DECISION-MAKING and CALCULATED RISK-TAKING).
3) BUILD ON YOUR POTENTIAL: Now is the best time to integrate as much learning, and building of skills and wisdom as you can. Enrol in an online course. Begin with a short-course. Many courses are FREE. Go to EDX to find out more. Many universities are providing modules that are free, affordable, and that may lead to a certificate, diploma, degree (and post-graduate level). Learn new skills. Learn to fix things. Learn to use an online platform or tool (Zoom is popular). Read. Watch documentaries. Write. Apply for an online scholarship, or entry to an institution of your dream. Acquire a new hobby. The results of your Continuous Learning can SAVE YOU ON EXPENSES.  
I will share more, shortly.
Meanwhile, keep safe and be healthy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

HOW ARE YOU KEEPING ENGAGED DURING THE ‘DOWN TIME’?

In these worrying times, mired with confusion and a sense of dread, we can do more than just play the Victim to our circumstances. We can stand to attention, decide to change our conditions, and take charge of our own lives. What are you doing to shrug off these Weapons of Mass Distractions (WMD)? How do you treat these symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? How can we support mental health wellness? What can we do to shift from Mental Illness towards Mental Wellness? 

1) Stay fit. Move around, even if it means at home or within the vicinity of your residence.

2) Eat better. You need not spend on costly, organic, foods. Just ensure your get a complement of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, herbs, water, protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates).

3) Keep your mind alive, alert, and appreciative. Mental health illness is more widespread than we tend to believe. Spread good cheer. Immerse yourself in positive language.

4) Stop sending out videos without discernment (distinguishing right from wrong, fact from fiction. The road to sadness is paved with good intentions. Without clearly and cleverly validating authenticity of content of online videos, we may be promoting a legion of fear-mongers and haters. Stop this unintended infection of non-discerning minds.

5) Be responsible for your responses, reactions and emotions. Entitle yourself to ‘feel’, yet ensure you experience different range of emotions. Feeling down, depressed, helpless, useless, are signs that we need to do something different.

6) Change your ‘state’, and change how you feel. By doing something different, moving about, engaging in conversation, learning, having a healthy argument, doing chores, can lead us out of our ‘loop of being stuck’.

7) Be inspired by the actions and abilities of others. Read about the achievements of others. I am inspired by physically-challenged athletes, entrepreneurs (who failed and succeeded later), outliers who accomplished much, and people who are just ‘hungry’ to be better.

8) Write. Write about anything. You can review the contents of a book, TV series, restaurant or film. You can write a short poem. It doesn’t matter if it does not rhyme. The goal is to start something intellectual.

9) Practise cleanliness and personal hygiene. This cannot be over-emphasised. Cleanliness is next to staying healthy.

10) Read more. Read an actual book, and dust the pages of our sullied minds.

11) Stay curious. Ask questions. The worst questions are those never asked. There are few stupid questions. There are responses of stupidity: Being insensitive, inconsiderate and impatient.

12) Engage with others – online, and face-to-face. Conversations can be directed towards being educating and uplifting.

13) Stay away from ‘toxic’, paranoid and fear-mongering people. They can poison the best of intentions. Play Devil’s Advocate, however avoid being typecast in this role for too long.

14) Fear is a bodily response. Acknowledge your fear. Question it. Direct your fear into alertness and consideration for others. FEAR can be interpreted as ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’.

15) Keep yourself busy by learning a new skill. Learning activates and awakens the brain to make new connections. Fire off your neurons. Making mistakes if part of growing new neural connections, and subsequently, you become more ‘intelligent’.

16) Keep racial and discriminatory remarks to yourself. It spreads faster than wildfire and infections.

17) Love all. Serve them all.

18) Caveat: Practise your discernment, diligence and decisiveness. You don’t have to agree with everything someone says.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

24 REASONS WHY YOU CALL YOURSELF A MULTISPORT ENDURANCE ATHLETE


More and more newbies are plunging headlong into triathlons, duathlons,and combined-disciplines endurance sport. Just as in other hobbies and recreation, tri-geeks exist and abound. They are passionate to insane levels, and you can applaud their motives and motivations to train ‘long and alone’. Here are some reasons on why we geeks persist vaingloriously in a sport that is ‘painfully rewarding’. This was inspired by an essay written by the irreverent Ironman (yet refreshingly honest) Hawaii champion 1982 and 1985, Scott Tinley.
1)   You enjoying wearing spandex, and few will bat an eyelid when you do wear it when you training it. You also learn very early why you don’t wear underwear underneath your cycling-tights.
2)   Swim in open-water (sea, lake or river) ever wondering what lies in the murky water below. It doesn’t help that you seen ‘Jaws’ and ‘Mega-Shark’ recently, again.
3)   We wear a ‘first-time worn yet funky-smelling’ finisher-tee with pride a week after the cessation of the race. The slogan on the tee has a way of inciting the question ‘Oh, you did an Ironman?’ It was actually a ’70.3’ but the interviewer cannot tell the difference, so we don’t interrupt the perception.
4)   It sounds cool when you give yourself a nickname with ‘Iron’ , ‘Tri’, or something related to swimming, riding, and running. Why do you call yourself #RamRod69?
5)   You enjoy wearing a wetsuit because it makes you feel like a superhero. Some of us cleverly dodge or avoid side-view shots. That Yamamoto neoprene has that innate physical property of compressing us to look like Aquaman.
6)   Have a ‘default excuse’ to avoid family meals and office events. Your reason: ‘I have to train for a marathon’, or ‘I’ll be doing my A-race triathlon this weekend’, or ‘I’m recovering from my 32km LSD run’.
7)   Spout off exotic geographical locations where you will be doing your next race. And, you seem to know the race-course better than the existence of renowned regional landmarks. Plus, you counted the number of aid-stations, measured the gradient of climbs, and overall elevation of the ride course.
8)   You can create amazing hashtags like #triknob or #speedpost on your race-related IG (Instagram), related to this obsession of yours. I mean, ‘passion’.
9)   You can eat all you like, and people actually share food with you at dinner. They suspect you have a ‘dis-eating order’ and need extreme amounts of calories. ‘You can eat a lot more!’ and ‘Your body will burn it off at your next workout’ are commonly heard. So, you ‘tuck in’ in the ‘non-aero’ sense. Still, some quietly think you are a glutton, not just for punishment.
10)                 You can call yourself a ‘wine-drinker with a running problem’, and account for your strangely skinny condition. You also justify the wine as a source of carbohydrates, and that ‘beer is technically vegetarian-friendly’.
11)                 People regard you as an authority in exercise and nutrition. You learn useful stuff like you have to drink when you are thirsty, and that the ketones are not part of the musical scale. Plus, you may be able to create a training program on-the-spot.
12)                 You get away with wearing triathlon attire with a plethora of sponsors’ logos. This ‘human billboard’ is justified by calling yourself an ‘Ambassador’. Those with rotund physiques or Clydesdales, seem more suited to the advertising as they have more fabric per square inch.
13)                 That your very first thing you check when you fall off your bike is, check your bike. Then you check it again, although your body requires immediate medical attention.
14)                 You buy an expensive bike, and it's the latest model, and you feel really good when your spouse says ‘It completes you.’ And, you can’y wait to go riding with your friends as soon as you can.
15)                 You have Mark Allen’s number on speed-dial, and you talk to each other on WhatsApp regularly.
16)                 You have ‘fan boy’ moments when you meet elite athletes. You fawn over them like luminaries, and after that precious ‘we-fie’ shot, you have to reapply more sunscreen.
17)                 Buy race-photos of only those races where you did well. Those ‘bad races’ never happened without photographic evidence, or when you partially hide your race-bib midway on a bad race. Or, blame it on poor shots and they being expensive.
18)                   Pee on your bike during a race, and not raise the alarm by your friends for doing so. And, this includes your training buddies. They tell you they would not buy your bike. You reply that you will not be selling it, anyway.
19)                 Pee at an aid-station during a running race, and both volunteers and spectators are non-the-wiser. After all, you spilled your water on yourself while drinking. Or, was it a sticky sports-drink that you poured onto your groin area by mistake?
20)                 Any label with ‘endurance’ suggests that you will outlast your colleagues, companions and competitors. At almost anything.
21)                 Your fancy sports-watch is GPS-enabled, is a smart-watch, recites your heart-rate and blood pressure and bio-rhythms, racing-pace, and more. It, however, doesn’t give you the time.
22)                 Spout and tested the latest dietary trend, with names like LCHF, Keto-Diet, and ‘eat clean’. After a race, we polish off a fast-food meal because we deserve it. We name it as ‘Comfort food as reward’.
23)                 Correct your friends, relatives and colleagues that you do more than ‘just running’, since you are a well-known ‘triathlete’. You take pride in carefully explaining to them the specific distances and disciplines involved. Until, you have to explain again to the next guy.
24)                 Wear cool gear most of the time, even when you are not training. You consistently check your very low Resting Heart Rate. You get alarmed when your watch tells you to ‘Start Moving’. And you shift your sunglasses from your nose to your scalp like a head-band once evening arrives.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

DO YOU HAVE AN OFF-SEASON? (Part 1 of 2)


[This was based on the first essay I wrote on this blog on 31 December 2009; This is my update of it 10 years later.]
Triathletes, marathoners and other endurance athletes have asked me if I have I taken time off from training. Yes, I do. Don’t I rest? Yes. Do I have a season off from racing? No.
Why do I persistently race and train constantly?
I have been alleged to be rich, unencumbered by children, and having a ‘good life’. As insensitive as the those who voiced these remarks were, I mainly do them because my fitness has been hard-earned. It took me about 17 patient years to build my fitness to this optimal point. Why discharge and dismiss it by having an over-extended rest and recovery period? I reason that I commit to this pursuit because sports is PART of my lifestyle, so it is integrated and ingrained into my curiously complex and convoluted life. [I do have other pleasant distractions called hobbies, and I make time for them.]
On occasions, my friends announce to me that they envied me for my active lifestyle of racing; I had to correct them. I don’t race wantonly and impulsively. Every race was predetermined, planned and pursued according to a timeline. I just injected more of such challenges and vacations in a year than most people do.
One example I can cite would be completing the Boston Marathon. In 2011, when I marginally earned a Boston Qualifier (BQ) at the Hong Kong Marathon I decided to give myself a challenge. After having a few short conversations with Singapore’s octogenarian Kor Hong Fatt, I decided to earn my second BQ. I signed for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) in Brisbane, Australia and earned a PB/BQ of 3:16, and subsequently earned a spot at the starting line of the Boston Marathon 2014. Two more BQs followed in 2015 (GCAM) and 2016 (Osaka Marathon), and I completed the Boston Marathon 2016 and 2018. Having committed and achieved the goal thrice, I am mildly fatigued from the intensive preparation, yet I am glad I can report this 10 years later. Yes, financially I could have spent my money elsewhere or saved it for my rainy day, however I would not trade these precious memories and tacit wisdom earned.
As a self-employed professional, I decide on my lifestyle patterns, so I can have my life choices, instead of ascribing to a ‘work-life balance/harmony’. Priorities make it challenging to have balance; I experience and engineer dynamic balance. This reminds me that the childhood game of see-saw sitting is not about achieving static balance – it is a highly energetic activity, and requires strong core muscles and lower-limbs to execute that perceived sense of ‘immobility’.
When you do something consistently, you develop ‘muscle memory’ from the repetition. You refine what you have defined. Does a concert musician have an off-season from practice? Does a Michelin-rated chef stop cooking a few weeks in a year? Do teachers stop teaching? Does a yoga-master stop stretching through her limits? Does an opera-singer stop singing? Writer Stephen King locks himself in his room 3 hours everyday. It doesn’t matter if he writes a word, sentence, paragraph or page. There is little in the way of ‘force of habit’ when you enjoy your craft, profession, hobby, and learning.
LEADERSHIP LESSONS LEARNT: Martial artist Bruce Lee said: ‘Beware the man who practices the SAME KICK 10,000 times.’ Persistence, consistency of correct action, and perseverance can get us to our goal. By keeping the habit up, despite the ‘down period’ or ‘stagnant economy’ may elicit opportunties to SHARPEN THE SAW. We can use the ‘off-season’ to work on our deficiencies, shortcomings and frailties. In that way, we can sharpen our mental, physical and spiritual faculties and possess facility of effort.
[This was the first of a series of blog posts I made on this website, where I blogged daily for three years as an indirect challenge by marketing guru, Seth Godin.]