Saturday, October 31, 2009

Unleashing Writer’s Blog

The Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) is on from 24 October-1 November 2009. You have two more days to stir the muse from the cobwebs of your mind.

The SWF is Singapore’s only national literary festival, and one of Singapore’s major literary events. To date, it remains one of the few literary festivals in Asia that is multi-lingual, focusing on four languages - English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil.

The vision of SWF is: A city where writing empowers and transforms lives.

Central to the SWF is the belief that the literary arts, is one of Singapore’s major cultural expressions, and one that contributes to the collective identity of Singaporeans.

Attend a few such events and you may be inspired to start writing. The calendar of events, for the next two days is found here.

In response to my query to my friend, Rudy Zung I just signed up for a 30-day challenge call NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month. In 30 days, I will join thousands (including a few hundred from Singapore) around the world to write my first raw novel. The expected delivered product – warts and all – is 50,000 words. The emphasis is on quantity, not quality. Well, editing begins in December.

Do me a favour. Beginning 1 November, drop me an e-mail or comment to give me the proverbial kick in my posterior, in case I do procrastinate. Thanks, readers!

Friday, October 30, 2009


I recall that I interviewed Dr. Ben Tan in 1991 for 8 Days magazine. I made a prediction that he would be part of a group of national athletes that would win gold in the SEA Games. True to his hard work and performance, he delivered the goods. He made a big splash, and continued to leave a wake of achievements. After he retired from competitive sailing, he left a prominent trail of personal records in the marathon. Who would imagine that he was amphibious in nature!

Dr Ben Tan is a three-time Sportsperson of the Year, and one of Singapore’s fastest long-distance runners. He is author of the recently published Run for Your Life! – The Complete Marathon Guide (Marshall Cavendish).

Dr. Tan is currently the Head & Senior Consultant Sports Physician at the Changi Sports Medicine Centre, and the Medical Director of the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre. He is also a published author in peer-reviewed Sports Medicine and Sports Science journals. He also wrote Fight the Fat – What you Must Know and Do to Lose Weight (Times Edition, 2007).

LLFT interviewed Dr Ben Tan prior to his official book launch, and it was an educational process. He makes it sound simple, and practical. As part of book campaign, he will be doing book-signing events this weekend at Kinokuniya Bookstores. Do drop by and say hello to the friendly doctor. And, buy the book, too.

Enrico: How much do you sail today?
Ben: As the Deputy President of Singapore Sailing and the one responsible for Singapore Sailing's High Performance Systems, I spend a lot of time with the sailing community - unfortunately, most of that is administrative and strategic work, rather than sailing on the water.

Enrico: Will you be involved in the SYOG?
Ben: I serve on the Board of the SYOG Organizing Committee. I'm also involved with the SYOG as a member of the Singapore Sports Council, member of the Singapore National Olympic Committee, Chairman of the SNOC Athletes' Commission, Deputy President of Singapore Sailing, and vice-chairman of the Football Association of Singapore Medical Committee.

Enrico: You have established a strong reputation as a sports medicine specialist. Did your sporting background influence you?
Ben: Yes, certainly. Because of my sports background, Sports Medicine is the discipline in Medicine that is closest to my comfort zone. It helps me to better relate to my patients and better manage their problems. To be a Sports Physician, you need to be exposed to various sports, from soccer to skiing.

Enrico: What are some of the roles you assume in your practice/business?
Ben: Head and Senior Consultant Sports Physician, Changi Sports Medicine Centre; and concurrently Medical Director, Singapore Sports Medicine Centre.

Enrico: You also have a remarkable reputation as a marathoner. What made you move to long distance running?
Ben: When I retired from competitive (i.e. international-level sailing) sailing after the 1996 Olympics, I wanted to stay fit and disciplined. And to challenge myself, I chose marathon running as it is diametrically opposite to sailing. While sailing is a very technical and tactical strength sport, marathon running is relatively simple (technically and tactically) but a lot more aerobic. Apart from my systematic approach to training (or to anything that I do), I did not carry over any advantage when I switched to running. I practically started from scratch. My physique was not made for running - for example, the ideal weight for Laser sailing is 78-82 kg (I was 78 kg) but that is far too heavy for a marathoner. I had to 'morph' my body from that of a 78 kg strength athlete to a lean 64 kg distance runner. I increased my aerobic capacity from 56 ml/min/kg (ideal for Laser sailors) to 70 ml/min/kg currently.

Enrico: What have been some of your best running achievements? Boston Marathon?
Ben: The memorable marathons that I've done are Boston, Ohtawara, Berlin, Prague, and Melbourne - in fact, I've never regretted going for any of my previous marathons. Each year, I usually do StanChart Singapore Marathon plus one overseas marathon. I've registered for London Marathon next year, and with that, I would have completed three of the five Marathon Majors (comprising Boston, Berlin, London, New York and Chicago), leaving me with two more to go. I would also like to try some of the 'exotic' marathons like the Outer Mongolia Marathon and Antarctica Marathon later on.

Enrico: Will you consider doing ultra-marathons, or even the Ironman triathlon? If you do, which ones are on your cards?
Ben: Will stick to marathons and a little bit of sailing for now. I also snow-ski (annually), wakeboard, scuba dive, do inline-skating, play tennis, do weight training, etc. So, there is more than enough to do already.

Enrico: How much of endurance sports influences your leadership?
Ben: Sports in general (rather than just endurance sports) influences my leadership. In team sports (e.g. two-man boats), the importance of leadership is obvious. However, many do not realize that in individual sports such as Laser racing (i.e. one-man boat) and running, leadership is critical as well. In individual sports, you do much better when you train as a team.
When I was sailing, I had a strong and large team of sparring partners that propelled me to a higher level - each had their respective forte (e.g. tactics, wind shift-reading, light wind skills, strong wind boat handling, etc.), and collectively, they provided me with the challenge I needed for every aspect of sailing.
In running, Rameshon, Daniel Ling, and I trained together prior to the StanChart Singapore Marathon 2008 - as a result, we finished 1-2-3 in that order. To keep a team working effectively together, there must be leadership. A good leader also knows how to be a follower, be able to switch roles, and adapt his/her leadership style, depending on what is best for each situation. The leadership skills I picked up from sports are all very portable - I apply them at work too, managing a team with a wide spectrum of professional and cultural backgrounds.

Enrico: Which qualities (including values and beliefs) can you extract from running into your leadership?
Ben: The discipline (leading by example), and managing of team dynamics.

Enrico: Tell us more about your book. What is it about? Who is your publisher?
Ben: "Run for Your Life! - The Complete Marathon Guide", published by Marshall Cavendish, brings together expertise including Sports Physicians, Exercise Physiologists, Sports Trainers, Sports Dietitians, Sports Podiatrists, Sports Physiotherapists, coaches, and accomplished runners. The result is a comprehensive training manual that will help you train systematically and effectively, so that you can fast-rack your progress and reach your goals earlier, with fewer or no injuries. The book is well-organized and easy to read, with clear illustrations. There are training and practical tips by the who's who of Singapore's running community.

Enrico How did you decide to write this book?
Ben: I realized that we have lots of individual expertise in Singapore, but till now no one has brought them together. We believe that with an effective training plan, you can enhance your performance while avoiding injuries - and this is exactly what my patients and the running community needs. This is a book by the sports medicine, sports science, coaching, and running community, for the running community.

Enrico: What do you hope to achieve from this book?
Ben: With this book, I would like to see many more Singaporeans achieving their personal goals, more Singaporeans joining the sub-3 hour club, runners having fun during training and competition, and fewer running injuries.

Enrico: What were the challenges you faced, writing this book?
Ben: Run for Your Life! has over 46 contributors from various disciplines. The challenge was in putting all that expertise together in a coherent book that flows smoothly. It was also challenging to explain scientific concepts in layman's terms, but we achieved that because we were fortunate enough to have Stephanie Pee as our editor and Lock Hong Liang, a passionate runner, as our graphic designer.

Enrico: Thank you, Doctor. You are a splendid runner. I have my work cut out for me to shave my 3:50 PB. I am inspired.
Ben: All the best with your training!

Biodata About Dr. Ben Tan:
Name: Dr Ben Tan
Age: 41
Marital Status: Married
Profession: Sports Physician
Years as practicing doctor: 18 years
Hobbies: Running, sailing, snow-skiing, scuba diving, wakeboarding, tennis, inline-skating
Greatest sporting achievements: Asian Games Gold (1994, Laser), SEA Games Golds (1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, Laser), 1996 Olympian, 3-time Sportsman of the Year, StanChart Singapore Marathon 3rd (Singapore Men’s), Marathon PB 2:56 hours.
Pet Peeves: Waste of time thinking about pet peeves - think positive!
Photographs of Dr Ben Tan courtesy of Changi General Hospital, and Book Cover courtesy of Marshall Cavendish.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Future Will Set You Free

Here is a challenge on your creativity. What do you think of the following idioms?

The best things in life are free. It is better to give than to receive.

Chris Anderson’s book, FREE may have caused a stir for its radical thesis on a new price index: free. He proposes a fairly strong argument for giving things away, literally, for free.

Here is recent evidence of a free-orientated approach to business and branding: Irish pop band, U2 ‘live streaming’ concert on 26 October 2009 was watched by nearly 7,000,000 fans. The concert at California’ Pasadena Rose Bowl was posted on the Internet via YouTube. U2 was one of the first major bands to stream a concert live for free of their 360 Degrees Tour. When the concert concluded, thousands of fans left messages of support on the video-sharing website. The entire show will be repeated on YouTube at a later date.

Free webinars (web seminars) by software companies. For example, Mind Manager 8 for designing mind maps.

Sports drink company, Infinit, offers an online design of your preferred sports drink profile. You design the composition of nutrients that goes to your ‘one custom’ drink, flavour, and taste. You then have an option to buy a sample of this at an affordable cost.

Traditional, yet effective are the provision of free samples. Who doesn’t love a freebie, now and then? As long as there is no catch. Filling a short form may be the price you pay. A few minutes of your time, and a little information about yourself and your buying preferences: that is what is involved for you – the freebie receiver. We may have participated, as freeware users, in the beta testing of new and emerging software. Subsequently, you may be approached for an upgrade to a better version, should you intend to pay a small fee.

Is nothing for free? Microsoft Windows Vista, automatically, downloads ‘patches’ for its end-users at no charge. Likewise, anti-virus software from Norton and McAfee also notify us of updates for innoculating our PCs from a virulent and infectious world of spam, Trojans, viruses and worms.

Anderson provides many examples, from small businesses to mega-corporations. He also describes how larger corporations took the lead from small businesses and online businesses, to review how free can free up their businesses from the encumbrances of more discerning consumers.

In a nutshell, free can enhance your brand with the release of values called generosity, reciprocation, appreciation, care and loyalty. Some may actually pay for a better version for your product, while others may be satisfied with your free version, and others will pay premium for your best. So, free may not be absolutely free. There are terms and conditions to consider. The small print, however lengthy and thorough, is still binding.

So, is free silly? You can still receive a copy of my e-book THE SUCCESS STRATEGIES OF WORLD-CHAMPIONS. It is free.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Time to Rethink Time Management

Have you ever attended a workshop on time management?

What did you learn from it? Did you consider why you attended that session? Are time management workshops for people who cannot manage their time?

Time management is more than scheduling and prioritizing. Are we expected to do more in a day? Time is a finite measure. There are only 24 hours in a day, and how we utilize each moment is dependent on what we decide as important. I have always been concerned that some trainers of time management workshops do not adequately demonstrate their teaching. If your trainer did not make time to exercise, or decide to eat and sleep properly then I would question their ability to optimize their waking hours. Time to walk the talk about their prescriptions!

The reality is: we can make time for whatever we want to accommodate into our day, and our lifestyle. Our quality of life corresponds to our quality of time invested into our tasks, relationships and thinking.

According to recent research, the concept of managing time is about managing your energy. Managing energy means being fit, well rested and focused in our use of energy.

When we are energetic, we are capable of doing more things. We can more effectively shift our perspectives and positions. Recall when you are sick, how did you feel about your energy? Did you experience lethargy and a general disinterest in unimportant things? Movement took a colossal effort, and it left you spent and over-extended; energy was siphoned from your resources.

Motivation is about movement, motility and motive. It engages us to do things we like, or dislike. We are motivated by pain or pleasure. Humans tend to move away from our prejudices and move towards our preferences.

Energy comes from our food. Nutrients from our food give us our source of bio-chemicals to create energy. Vitamins, minerals, water, carbohydrates, fats and protein are what our body needs to repair, fuel and grow itself. Rest and recuperation allows our body to heal, get stronger through a process of adaptation.

Having been an endurance athlete for the last five years, I have learnt to appreciate what it has been like to train for marathons (42km) and Ironman triathlons (226km). I have also applied this mindset and lifestyle of an amateur triathlete into my profession. Working longer hours and training about 15-20 hours per week parallels each other. You have to decide on how you use your time, have adequate rest/sleep, and recover fully from each day. You put out what you put into your body.

By becoming fit, we can:

1. Sleep less, and function at a high level

2. Do more things per unit time (be productive)

3. Stay alert (at the most critical moments)

4. Lead others to more purposeful things

5. Become more “centred” and “focused”

6. Be less prone to panic during crisis

7. Make sense of the confusing, and consider multiple perspectives

If you lack the energy, strength and fitness you will be limited in your actions as a leader. So, manage your time by managing your energy, and achieve a whole lot more! It is our source of sustenance and motivation, and our continued interests in others, and ourselves.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time As An Indicator of Value

Time and tide wait for no man. He who hesitates is late.

Time is money. Time flies. Therefore, by logic money flies! Okay – maybe the theory is sound, but the logic is flawed.

Time is finite. Once the time is past, you cannot recapture it, just as we cannot recapture our youth. We can only sustain our youthfulness for as long as Mother Nature allows us (unless you disrupt it with cosmetic science). There are exactly 24 hours in a day. What you do with it is how you spend and value your time. Other than sleep and work that occupy most of our time, we still have enough left to pursue our pastimes, develop meaningful relationships, exercising, travelling, and to experience life. Our quality of life is how we choose to value our time.

Can you save time? Can you hoard time? Buy time? Apparently not! Time is not tangible and it keeps moving forward. Yet, people can afford to waste time. They while it away with idle pursuits, incessant chatter, or with mundane or mindless activities. A terminally ill patient may choose to compress their limited time with doing as much as they can; they value every moment, and every minute.

Time is a measure of duration, frequency and intensity. Remember Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? He explained it, simply, as spending time with a beautiful woman, or sitting on a hot plate. Which would you choose?

There is much we can do in a day. You can stay in touch with friends through social media tools. Write a blog. Submit an article to an online magazine. Study something new on Wikipedia. Meet a group of friends for dinner and good conversation. Volunteer at a family centre. Attend night-class. Join a hobby club. Exercise outdoors. Read a book (biography or bestseller). Cook a meal. The list of possibilities is endless.

How do you value your time? How will you invest your time today?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Is Generation Y the Sporty Generation?

I ran at the Nike Human Race on Saturday (24 October 2009); Singapore was the only Southeast Asian country to host this event amongst 23 others worldwide. There were about 7,877 participants (of the registered 10,000 for this sold-out event) who ran the 10km route. What was significant about the profile of the group was, there were many women and about 80 percent of the population was Generation Y. Both emcees were MTV hosts and fit the Gen Y profile and preferences.

Generation Y are those who are about 15-30 years old. So, is Generation Y a more sporty generation than Generation X and the Baby Boomer?

In this fast-paced, iPod-connected, rollerblading era I have observed that many sports events sell out fast. There is almost one sporting event every weekend. The combinations of multi-sport events are also getting creative. The recent Quadrathlon, organised by SAFRA was a triathlon that included a rollerblading leg. For those of us rollerblade-challenged athletes, that curbed our interest to participate.

Whether triathlons, marathons, cycling or road-runs the participation numbers and rates are increasing. This contrasts with community-level activities that are highly subsidized and deliberately integrates all social levels and age.

By the way, Generation Y included seasoned and elite runners who did the North Face 100, an ultra-marathon event that routed harsh and hilly terrain. Hey, those over-35-year-olds did very well, and survived a longer and hotter day! More mature athletes seem attracted by the longer formats, instead of the faster-paced, shorter format events. Due to an upcoming A-race, I ran the 10km as a tune-up and, gratefully, earned a personal record (PR) and an overall 97th placing. I can't help being a slow-twitch sort of runner.

So, who do you think is the more sporty generation: X or Y? Let us know your opinion and reason.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Onomatopoeia: Rings a Bell?

What is an onomatopoeia? It is a literary device that involves words that, actually, mimics or sounds like the real thing. Common occurrences of onomatopoeias include animal noises, such as "oink" or "meow" or "roar". Onomatopoeias are not universally the same across all languages, and there are variations of words. Examples of onomatopoeia include:

Common: hiccup, zoom, bang, beep, and splash

Animals: quack, bark, cluck, chirp, cheep, and roar

Machines: honk-honk, beep, vroom, screech and zap

So, when the dogs go woof, cats go meow and frogs croak what do you do? When your fingers are stiff, don’t you crack them to release the fluid in the joints? Your chiropractor will crack your vertebrae as part of subluxation. Accountants crunch numbers, which is different in sound to the bite our teeth make on a crispy apple.

In electronic trading, it has been about blips. Traditionally, on the Net we use point and click. Now, we can ping or tweet each other. With Microsoft’s new BING, I wonder if it was an attempt to use a non-onomatopoeia word to make it easy to remember?

Relevance to leaders: In the area of influence, one’s conversation or presentation carries more impact when we include onomatopoeia. It makes the communication carry more audio-density. It is analogous to putting music to lyrics, which is akin to reciting rap, or poetry with a melody. In sales, it enhances how we are able to pitch the sale. How you sound, and what you say has relevance to your ability to influence.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Tao of Innovation

I have been watching the complete, 50-episode, CCTV production of The Legend of Brue Lee. It is an introspective look into the lives of Lee and his wife, Linda Caldwell. Their daughter Shannon was closely involved in the production (as executive producer) that enhances the authenticity of this television bio-epic (screening on Sundays, 11.00am-1.00pm, MediaCorp 8, Singapore).

The Tao of Jeet Kune Do was martial-artist and actor, Bruce Lee’s only book he authored. He co-wrote it while he was recovering from a severe injury that left him almost paralysed. He experimented with electro-muscle stimulation (EMS), which is widely used today for rehabilitative purposes. He diligently performed his rehabilitative exercises, and more. His wife, Linda supported him – physically and mentally – through his personal ordeal as his voice of conscience and shadow.

Lee’s daily routine involved a 10km morning run. He followed this with drills that worked on his whole body. He would analyse, review, reflect and synthesise his evolving thesis of Jeet Kune Do (JKD). He would bounce ideas off his close aide, a Japanese academic on martial arts.

Lee studied various martial art forms, and adapted the philosophy and essence of each martial art form, and formulated his philosophy of JKD, the way of Intercepting Fist. His teacher, Ip Man who taught him the Weng Chun style also misunderstood Lee as being insubordinate. Lee convinced the wise Ip Man that his intentions were pure and genuine, and that he did not mean to upsurp Ip Man as his teacher. Like most martial art teachers at that time, the prevailing paradigm was to not teach martial arts to foreigners. Lee challenged that thought as he felt that extinction was the inevitable pathway to martial arts if it was hoarded and taught selectively.

Leadership Lessons: Invention is the mother of necessity. Innovative practices come from constant experimentation and research. Be knowledgeable, and add on to the body of knowledge. Test existing theories. Test your own theories.

[Photograph from CCTV set of pre-release stills]

Friday, October 23, 2009

What Are You Looking At?

There are many degrees of looking: glimpse, glance, glare, gaze, glaze, peer, stare and squint.

Eidectic movements refer to the way our eyes move (unconsciously) as we think. It is proposed that the way our eyes move, corresponding to activity in specific parts of our brain. Now, if we were to freeze our eyes (at a particular point in space) and actively figure out what we are thinking (at that moment), perhaps we may have a ‘map’ to how we engage our brain: imagination, recall, being emotional, ‘self talk’, and other emotional-cognitive response.

Rene Descartes wrote: ‘I think. Therefore, I am.’

A state of hopefulness is a physiological response triggered by our thinking and feeling. The parameters of hope are being hopeful and hopeless. Hopeful may mean ‘full of hope’; hopeless may mean ‘less hope’. It is vastly different from no hope at all.

How do you get hopeful? Look upwards to the ceiling. That’s where we place our hopes, dreams and aspirations. We look up to others – those we respect and recognise. We look on the bright side of life. This suggests that we may have a portion of our internal pictures (inside our heads) that appears brighter (think of a scenery with both sunlight and shade). Optimise on your optimism.

Look downwards. That’s getting in touch with our emotions, doubts, and worries. When somebody is ‘feeling down’, they may look downwards. They cast their heads (downcast) in shame, remorse or regret. When we have conversations in our heads, we may be reciting a prayer, running through a list, ‘walking through procedures’, questioning ourselves, or sorting out our concerns.

‘Look before you leap’ may be reframed with ‘Be aware, where you look before you leap’. Be aware where you’re looking. It may determine how you feel, or think.

Leadership Lessons: How do you stay hopeful when things do not seem promising or hopeful? What can we say to others so that we remain hopeful when things don’t seem to go our way? What is the difference between ‘being hopeful’ and ‘wishful thinking’?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Singtel Mio versus Starhub: Is There Brand Loyalty?

This branding piece was contributed by the generous, Dr.Lau Kong Cheen. As an expert in branding, one expresses one's leadership through knowledge, opinions, and provocative thoughts. Here, he provides contrastive and comparative analyses about two distinct brands (in Singapore) and their leading marketing strategies:

In the beginning, there was one, now there are two! I’m referring to pay-for-view TV services. One of the biggest, talk of the town is the successful bid by Singtel in winning the exclusive rights for reselling EPL matches through Sintel Mio. Starhub not only lost the bid, but is anticipating losing part of its customer base. It is projected that quite a substantial number of Starhub customers may, either, be crossing over to Singtel or subscribe to both providers. Thus, is there any brand loyalty from among Starhub’s customers? Doesn’t the Starhub brand mean anything to them after all these years? Let’s take a closer look at this and examine the situation.

Firstly, let’s look at what the Starhub brand mean to customers from the perspective of relationship. What is the basis of this relationship? To many football enthusiasts, the relationship was based on Starhub’s ability to offer them EPL soccer. It is this mutual interest in EPL that kept the relationship going. The brand loyalty towards Starhub was manifested with customers staying on despite the rise in prices for EPL TV packages over the years. In other words, EPL was the basis of the relationship for this large pool of football fans. What happens now is that Starhub cannot offer EPL football to this group of customers starting next year. Thus, the common interest that anchors the relationship is broken. It is akin to your good friend whom you used to play football with everyday, telling you that he is no longer interested in the game. As such, you will not be spending time together anymore (given that friendship time is spent over a game of football). Now, here comes along an acquaintance (Singtel Mio) who develops an interest in football and offers to play together with you daily. A new relationship develops. This is exactly the case for Singtel Mio. They know what Starhub’s football customers want and they are able to exclusively offer it at a lower price!

Secondly, it may not be two brands that we are looking at here, but THREE. It’s the EPL brand. It could likely be that for most football fans, their brand loyalty is to the EPL brand. Not Singtel Mio, not Starhub! So, there was never a loss in brand loyalty. To these football fans, Starhub and Singtel Mio are only channels for them to stay and cultivate their relationship with the EPL brand. To some, they may see these two brands as entities that stand between them and the EPL brand. That is, possibly, the reason why they are often upset when the prices for football channel subscription increase. This is because they perceive these brands as introducing more obstacles (i.e. cost) between their “love” relationship with the EPL brand.

In conclusion, if Starhub or Singtel Mio wants to develop brand loyalty, it needs to revisit the basis of its relationship with its customers. If they are just perceived as providing a functional means to a greater emotional experience linked to EPL, then they have failed in building their brand. They have to elevate themselves from just being mere providers of content to being a provider of an entertainment experience that appeals to its different segment of customers.

Dr Lau Kong Cheen is a Branding Consultant at Temporal Brand Consulting (

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Art Driven by Passion

This story comes from D. Varella who with his trusty lens and eye for the extraordinary delivered this piece. Enjoy!

There are quite a number of buskers in Orchard Road, but the more popular act is the Woodballs Hula. The busker, Mr. Oh, is a rather elderly man but seems to be in the trim of health. Some say that this hula is a form of exercise - not surprising! I caught him performing his hula enthusiastically on a hot afternoon, without a break, for more than an hour - what stamina!

He was especially keen, upon seeing a person with a camera, ever willing to increase his pace with a mischievous grin and bright sparkle in his eyes. He was looking for good publicity.

I dropped a few dollars in appreciation for the photo taking, and glanced at his money tray. I was surprised - in it was quite a tidy sum. Yes! With some relevant skills and lots of 'balls', one can actually make a decent living.

Photo credits: D. Varella

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Horse Whisperer

My bike had a flat today. Not a big bang, just a subtle hiss throughout the 20km premature ride. A hapless Ironman staring at his flaccid immobilized iron horse. After removing my punctured tyre, I realized I did not have the correct tools to revive my tyre, temporarily. It took me a while, before a kind, taxi-driver helped me load my injured bike into the boot. As truth be told, Mr Zainal was a mountain-biker, who owned three bikes. He could relate to my plight of being overlooked by previous cabs.

The iron horse, or bicycle, is modern day’s reply to the concrete warrior: From horseback to bicycle seat. Horse riding, or equestrian is an Olympic sport. There is also a series of equestrian sports dubbed the Equine Olympics 2009.

Is horse riding dangerous? The late-Christopher Reeve (of the Superman series of films) was paralysed from his neck down after a riding tragedy. Accidents do happen, as nature is fraught with surprises and the majestic animal can be easily startled. The horse is a very sensitive and intelligent animal.

Robert Redford acted in the film ‘The Horse Whisperer (1998)’ by author, Nick Evans. A horse whisperer is a horse trainer who adopts a sympathetic view of the motives, needs, and desires of the horse, based on natural horsemanship and modern equine psychology. The modern method of ‘joining up’ with an untamed horse is based on contracting with the animal with kindness and compassion.

Check out this blog: Lessons Secrets Whispered by Horses. Author, Jay Koch offers an e-book of his discoveries while riding with his horses. Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Are Comedians Serious?

Doing standup comedy is a challenging proposition. You either get the laughs or the barfs. Comedy can sicken, and it can be sickening. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Many of today’s serious, heavyweight actors, started out as comedians. These include Jamie Fox, Eric Bana, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and John Cho. John Cho has a serious role as an FBI agent in the television series ‘Flash Forward’ (an Armageddon-type plot). Robin Williams did ‘Awakenings’ and ‘Good Will Hunting’, playing psychotherapists. Fox and Williams won Academy Awards. Crystal was serial host for the Oscars.

In comedy, you touch on a universe of issues – some of which are anathema. Controversial issues are approached and broached on, at the comedian’s judgment and risk. If the jokes offend too many people (and audiences do get offended at segments of a stage performance), then the traditional boos of disapproval gets triggered. Yet, comedy is an entertaining way of getting strong and serious messages across. In a humorous way, messages do get across with more influence when audiences relate to the funny perspectives offered. Comedians have a plethora of subjects to select from: politics, social issues, relationships, food, education, parents, and more.

Talk-show hosts like David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres, Conan O’Brien, and Jay Leno have wide followings in television and on Twitter. Like them or not, they are surely influential. The more popular a comedian is, the more their social commentary are heard through their jokes. Even comedians take out their own kind.

Tickle your funny bone - tickle your thoughts. Love them, or hate them. Thus, comedy is serious business!

Here’s Canadian Russell Peters, at his impressionable best.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Laughter: Reset Your Emotional Bank

By the time you are in your 40’s, your face may become a roadmap of pain. That is why those, deep crevasses on your face are known as laughter lines, crows feet, wrinkles and other cosmetic unmentionables. Face the facts: we age. But, can we age gracefully? [Read this blog: Age Before Beauty]

If only we can turn back time…[We cannot]. If only there was a reset button, like the one you find when your PC or mobile phone ‘hangs’. The reset button restores things back to order. Reeves Leong also talks about the ‘reset button’ for the economy and branding.

I can relate to a reset button, having spent the past year considering and configuring my personal branding. In the business of presentation, you will need to define, and refine yourself. What are your differentiators? What makes you more relevant than others? You need to mark yourself out differently. What is your signature? Reset yourself, and reconfigure your value for tomorrow. What are you doing to reinvent yourself so as to stay relevant.

For some of us, it is that reset button called the ‘panic button’ or ‘belly button’. For others, it is laughter. Yes, good, plain old, ‘ha ha’ laughter. Laughter may be the best medicine, as Dr Norman Cousins wrote when he healed himself back into good health. A laugh a day keeps the doctor away. Laughter is a whole body, physiological experience where major muscles like your abdomen, lungs and heart get a physical workout.

Want a good laugh – it is a point and click away. Go to Watch comedians like Richard Pryor, Russell Peters, Katt Williams, Chris Rock, and many others.

Upset? Reset your button. Have a good laugh.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Too Good To Be True

My friend, Dr Lennart Green is from Sweden. He is a physician turned professional magician. His expertise is with playing cards. When he was younger, and doing the late shift at the hospital, he used to amuse himself with card magic. He learnt some basic card moves from only one magic book – that was it. What spewed forth from his fertile and creative mind was unorthodox, original and impressive.

Every three years, the international magic community organizes FISM – the equivalent of the Olympics of magic. In 1985, he was disqualified despite a dazzling performance. Stumped by his amazing performance, the judges incorrectly concluded that the spectators who helped shuffle his cards were stooges. The gentleman he was, he did not create a fuss. Six years later, he won the competition (in the Close Up Card Magic category) hands-down, and tossed the deck to the judges to inspect. He has not looked back ever since.

Described as the uncle who asks you to ‘pick a card’, Lennart can create near-miracles from his, apparently, clumsy handling of the cards. He talks about chaos theory, fractals and statistics and the deck re-orders itself. His Laser Deal is bizarre, as dealt cards vanish instantly in the beam of light.

Here is a lecture he did for the TED network. TED is an annual symposium for Technology, Entertainment and Design. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Is Free Really For Real?

Are you attracted by things free? Seriously.

Chris Andersen, editor of Wired magazine proposes a challenging argument for business and commerce in FREE. He proposes that free is the way to go with digital products and services.

Guy Kawasaki points us Andersen’s video presentation organised by Guy’s Garage Technology Ventures bootcamp here:

I will post more, shortly on my thoughts about free, pricing, value and perceptions about free.

It’s free - I assure you. No catch.

From Stunt Double to Stunning Second Feature

New Zealand stuntwoman-turned-actress, Zoe Bell first appeared on the disturbingly exciting, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. She was Urma Thurman’s stunt-double for Kill Bill. Now, she stars in Angel of Death (Unrated & Unedited), moving from playing second fiddle to first violin.

Now, in Angel of Death Bell plays a hit-woman (a.k.a assassin), Eve who suffers a near-fatal knife stab to her head. This causes Eve to be delusional and experience bipolar personality. Nutshell plot: ‘Very bad girl’ turns ‘good. The blade may have hit her amygdalla as she hunts down and eliminates the bad guys.

Shot in the genre of B-movies, it is a predictable take on a medley of classic cult-films like Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, Sin City and La Femme Nikita. I will warn viewers that there is explicit violence and heavy language.

Award-winning comic book writer, Ed Brubaker (Daredevil) borrows openly the style of Tarantino and Robert Rodigruez in latter's cult-film collaboration, Death Proof that introduced Bell to the forefront film world. In Death Proof, Bell is strapped to a waist-belt on the hood of the car travelling at breakneck speed.

There is no doubt that the attractive Bell can act and she is certainly athletic, dominating most of the screen-time. Fellow Kiwi, Lucy Lawless (Xena: Princess Warrior) plays a small guest role as the neighbour who meets an untimely demise in Eve’s abundant closet. Ted Raimi (Spiderman 3) son of horror/zombie flicks, Sam Raimi (Army of the Dead) has a cameo role, albeit with a sad ending. This film plays tribute to its predecessors, and director Paul Etheredge pays homage to the leading directors of our time. Incidentally, Tarantino worked in a DVD-store before he produced the landmark Pulp Fiction. Therefore, it pays to have a vision, and delivering on that vision. The commentary by both Bell and Brubaker are definitely worth listening. The bonus features include Eve’s Tip for Killing that plays on a dark sense of humour. More importantly, we get an inside look at Bell’s audition.

Leadership Lesson: None. Can’t we just take an occasional break from the serious stuff? Head for your nearby DVD store. Check under the expensive imported section. Or, buy direct from

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Living Up to Expectations

Service fails when we do not meet our customer’s expectations. Thus, we learn about how to ‘under-promise, and over-deliver’. I believe that most customers (including ourselves) already know of this strategy, where we are short-changed as a customer, so that we can we be over-charged eventually. Talk about uneven compromises!

After watching the Ironman Triathlon World Championships two days ago, I was thinking about what goes through the minds of the professional and amateur athletes after the race.

For the defending champion, Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander (AUS) winning twice in a row must be heady with excitement and euphoria (as far as I can imagine). Chrissy Wellington (UK), not only successfully defended her title for the second time, she also broke the long-standing course record (by one minute) set by her predecessor, Paula Newby-Fraser. Interestingly, several male professionals did not expect the superlative English triathlete to overtake them during the race. Chrissy needed a boost of motivation, so she went after the boys. I am sure that they were not expecting that!

For those professional who did not win, or make it to the top-3 positions, how do they feel? Do you think that they felt that they had disappointed their fans? Did they feel terrible because they did not meet expectations? I believe that to some extent, they did as professionals have a degree of obligation to their sponsors, family, fans, and themselves. This included former-world champions who wanted another shot at glory. To win once at Kona makes you a great athlete; to win twice, that makes you a legend. Some legends attempted a hat trick, and who can fault them for their enormous efforts on mercilessly hot day.

20-year-old, Rudy Garcia-Tolson (of Bloomington, California) did not meet the 9.5 hours deadline to complete his ride. To be fair, he is a double-amputee, above the knees, and he ran purely on his gluteal muscles (buttocks). He was severely disadvantaged, yet he made enormous ground by completing the 180km of sheer heat and harsh side-winds of Kona-Kailua, Hawaii. Kudos to Rudy for showing courage and true grit! In 2007, Scott Rigsby became the first double leg amputee to finish the Ironman. Both Rudy and Rudy have relentless determination and fiery willpower to attempt such a challenge, and boldy defy expectation. They defied (the odds) and defined who they are.

Congratulations to entrepreneur, Mitch Thrower for his 18th Ironman finish! [Sigh]. I have my work cut out for me.