Wednesday, June 30, 2010

10 Ways To Express Your Influence On Others

Influence is an essential aspect of leadership. We lead in our communication, arguments, ideas, decisions, creativity, and actions.

Here are some ways to enhance your influence on others:

1)    Be assertive: say what you feel, speak your mind, and express your concerns.
2)    Demonstrate your competencies, and apply them.
3)    Use well-formed language, and words with semantic density.
4)    Lead by example: walk your talk.
5)    Take on challenges; do something different or hard.
6)    Work on your presentation skills (think like Steve Jobs).
7)    Solve a problem, and propose at least three solutions.
8)    Develop mastery in one area of your expertise (it can be a hobby or discipline).
9)    Teach, coach or mentor others.
10) Live with values that others can connect with. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Lure of Designated and Self-Proclaimed Gurus

1) Hindu or Sikh religious teacher: in Hinduism and Sikhism, a religious leader or teacher
2) Leader of religious group: a spiritual leader or intellectual guide for a religious group or movement, especially one not considered mainstream.
3) Influential expert: somebody who has a reputation as an expert leader, teacher, or practitioner in a particular field.
4) Revered teacher and counsellor: a person's revered guide, mentor, or adviser in spiritual or intellectual matters
~ Encarta World English Dictionary

I have never been comfortable with the term ‘guru’ in business, management and leadership. In Asia, a guru is a ‘teacher’. In the western context, guru connotes an expert and one who is successful in a field of endeavour. Here is an explanation of guru through a spiritual guru, who questions the validity of a car guru, political guru, computer guru, and more. The use of the term has become blasé and diminished, although it is a great word with enormous gravity of meaning.

I think that it is time to review terminology and definitions. Just because something is accepted does not make it contemporary and precise. For instance, the word entrepreneur means more than a small business. Many mistake business for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is more than started a home-based business or a solo operation.

It is so easy to buy into the influence of a guru. That is why self-help junkies buy the latest offerings of their favourite author or motivational speaker. It does not help much if the book is promoted by somebody as influential as Oprah Winfrey in her Oprah’s Book Club. Granted that the occasional psychological ‘jab in the arm’ works its motivational magic on us, it is not sustainable. The most effective motivation comes from self-motivation, encouragement and feedback.

You have a lot to live up to if you proclaim and accept yourself as a guru. You are expected to live up to your code of ethics, and core values becoming of a leader. You have to be consistent, and match word for action. You will need to appear to have all the answers, or at least, the clever questions. You will want to offer both abstract as well as concrete responses. You cannot hide behind a curtain of mystery, without the substance. You must demonstrate behaviors of worth that are substantial and solidifies your reputation and personal branding.

Review what you believe. Stop accepting everything without question, or critical thinking – even if it stems from the wisdom of the gurus. If you seek a guru, ensure that he/she brings out the best of your natural talents and potential you can realize.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rainy Sundays and Memorable Mondays

The Carpenters’ song never goes out of date. Shall we say that it is ‘timeless’?

Yesterday, my training plans were disrupted by a lack of sleep and heavy rain. I had to jettison my ride as I decided that it was unsafe. I missed my ride and my attempts to watch the Triathlon Family Sprint yesterday. It is our annual club affair that seems to attract the best of the shorter-distance triathletes. Sadly, I missed out on the action.

Having become more intuitive with my training, I know more now when my body needs more sleep. The additional hours in my sleep diet has expressed itself with a healthy weight gain, more muscle tone, a stronger core and more energy. My dietary supplementation of beta-carotene, L-glutamine, and more vegetables (red, green and yellow), and the Placebo Effect seems to be yielding positive results. Some endurance athletes are struggling with losing weight although I do not think it should be a battle. As long as we work within the energy expenditure equation, we should weigh as much as we should, due to our exercise-calories-sleep investment.

Mondays: what does today conjure for you? Traditionally, Mondays are coloured blue or black, like some sort of bruise or contusion. I like to christen today as Memorable Mondays as I get to rewind the events of the week, and focus on its highlights.

Congratulations, Tobias Frenz on his spectacular 3:09 Kuala Lumpur Marathon yesterday! He placed fourth in his category. Despite being retired from triathlons, he has amazing residual fitness and has evolved into a long-distance swimmer including free diving. According to unofficial measures, Singapore’s top national triathlete Mok Ying Ren may have placed second overall in the half-marathon category. We are proud of his achievements!

I am stoked from their achievements. I am looking forward to my half-marathon on 11 July; keeping my fingers crossed for a strategically-clever race.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Staying Afloat

This evening’s gentle swim session with two motivated members of my Ironman team yielded some reflections for me. As I swam, after a lengthy hiatus after my last foray into the 226km format and an ultra-marathon to boot, I was focused on staying afloat. I reminded myself to stay ‘long’, glide more, and stay near the surface of the water. I reflected on how unique a situation I was in: a body denser than water, staying buoyant and mobile.

During tough economic times, how do you stay employable? How do you sustain your business? How do you stay current in your business?

Our density will determine whether we sink or swim during difficult times. If you are burdened by over-spending and ambitious budgets, you may sink in the depths of despair. If you are a dense person and refuse to consider suggestions and recommendations, you may fall under the weight of your ignorance and arrogance.

Swimming is an analogy we can adopt in our professional and personal lives. How do we swim with the sharks without being eaten alive, wrote Harvey Mackay about two decades ago. Swim or sink, so goes the cliché. Have you found yourself in the deep end of the pool? Have you plumbed the depths of your potential? Even the stock market talks about flotation. These are things worth considering.

As leaders, how do we navigate through rough waters? How do we stay steady and sane when the currents of change wash over us? How do you deal with the undercurrents of consequence, impact and cause/effect? How do you stay current in your general knowledge, skill sets, mindset and expertise in these turbulent times?

My coach, Fox is surfing in Sumatra over the past two weeks. He chose the location because of the challenge of the waves. I trust he is keeping well and look forward to chatting with him about his escapes with the wake and waves. He knows a few things about taking the hits from large waves!

Here is a very good resource by Kevin Koskella on swimming techniques and coaching. This a website for First-Time Triathletes with Kevin's swimming tips.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Leadership Lessons From The Olympics Games

The countdown to the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games continues. We are about less than 50 days away from this inaugural event. If you are a volunteer to any of our 26 sports, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your generosity of spirit! Volunteers are an indelible and strong backbone of the Games.

In the spirit of the Games, I have extracted some leadership references and relevance from the Olympic credo and ideals.

1)    Perform better in your profession or business by being Faster, Higher and Stronger!
2)    Create networks of worth: make it five levels (rings) deep and wide. Reduce your connectivity to less than five degrees of separation.
3)    Does your Flame of passion, inspiration and ambition burn strongly in your heart?
4)    Apply thoroughly the core values of Excellence, Respect and Friendship in your life.
5)    Observe and perceive the world through different coloured lenses: red, yellow, blue, black and green.

Friday, June 25, 2010

How Much Do You Believe in Leadership?

How much does leadership matter to you? Sure, we are surrounded by a plethora of managers and supervisors yet how many of them exhibit and express their leadership effectively?

Leadership may be too easy a thing to discard because cynicism and skepticism permeates it. When our leadership disappoints us through their failed promises, inaction and indecisiveness it makes us question our faith in them.

Most leaders plunge into their role as part of ascending to a higher position. However few are thoroughly prepared for their journey into leadership; much of it is by mimicry (of their manager), and trial and error. Without adequate mental models, the neophyte or lost leader may not know how to navigate and orientate themselves through their teams. In the worst cases, the leader loses whatever is left of their credibility as a leader. In the hopeful cases, the leader meanders through his career relying on his charismatic power, authoritative power and expert power. Thus, a flamboyant personality brimming with education and backed by strong references can help an incompetent leader stay buoyant through the good times. In tough business and financial times, the leader cuts away the troublemakers, the doubtful and the antagonistic.

Occasionally, and sporadically a leader emerges who breaks all the rules of convention. He delivers his leadership with decisiveness, diligence and distinction. He builds close relationships with respect, recognition and reassurance. He can work his influence across a wide reach of Generation X and Y, as well as the baby-boomers.

Leadership is about influence. How you influence others at work and at play matters. Leaders guide followers; without followers the leader is hopeless and helpless. That’s the systemic connection: leader and follower. When Seth Godin wrote about Tribes, he was referring to followers who are willing to rally together for a shared cause, and support it. A cause is an abstract thing, yet we can sustain it through our collective beliefs and values.

There are many models of leadership in business, entertainment, sports, education and community. Seize the opportunity to model excellent leaders. They need not be celebrities and entrepreneurs written up in the latest management top-10 bestselling list. Leaders are ubiquitous, if we know where to seek them and be aware and alert to identify them. The wisdom of leaders is found in quotations, documentaries, film and anecdotes. Be an A-student: research exhaustively and be assiduous in your study. Build you tacit knowledge and tacit wisdom. Think, do, act, learn and apply.

So, is the question: Where do we find the best leader? Perhaps the better question would be: how much do you believe in your leadership?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

10 Things I Learnt in My Run Up to the Real Race

Racing keeps us sharp – mentally and physically. Training hard can be challenging if you do not have an upcoming race; it is the impetus and motivation for having more focus and doing more. We train hard and work harder so that we do not become soft or sloth-like. These strategically-placed races are intended to be my measurements of my progress. My upcoming races in the next three months will be:

Tri-Factor Run 21km 11 July 2010 (21km)
Yellow Ribbon Project Run 5 September 2010 (10km)
Singapore Bay Run 12 September 2010 (21km)
REAL Berlin Marathon 26 September 2010* (Boston qualifier)
Ironman Western Australia (5 December 2010)

My key indicators so far has been:

Passion Run 25km Men’s Solo (22 May 2010): 56th out of 2410 = top-2%, 5th in my age group
Sundown Ultra-Marathon 84km (29 May 2010): 49th out of 600 (top-12%); 3rd in age group; 13th overall Veteran Men’s Open
Mizuno Mount Faber Run Men’s Open June 2010 (13 June 2010): 67th overall

What did I learn so far from my strategically positioned races?
1)    Take the start point with the elite runners (so I do not have to be blocked by less ambitious runners)
2)    Ensure proper rest and recuperation (recovery)
3)    Be mindful of changes in running posture, potential injuries and weak muscle groups
4)    Have at least 8 hours of sleep a night when I am training and racing hard
5)    Build my speed alongside my endurance maintenance
6)    Nutritional assistance for races longer than 10km is necessary
7)    Speed training and threshold-level training is necessary for running faster and holding the race pace
8)    My commitment to a 3-month cycle before the next A-marathon begins now
9)    Review my plan for a sub-3 hour 20 minute marathon finish in a cooler racing climate
10) Enjoy the process, and celebrate the small wins (personal best timings)
Photographs of adidas Sundown Marathon: from Marathon Photos.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leaders of the Board

Lords of Dogtown is a film that was inspired by real people, namely the motley crew that revolutionized skateboarding in Venice, California in the 1970’s. Written by Stacy Peralta, who was one of the original three young aspiring surfers turned skateboarders, this film plays tribute to the birth of skateboarding as a worldwide phenomenon. The other two skateboarders who also shot to fame were Tony Alva and Jay Adams; the latter was jailed for misdemeanors, and is believed to have invented some of the more radical moves in this extreme sport. The late-Heath Ledger plays Skip - the unceremoniously and constantly inebriated co-owner of the retail shop, Zephyr. The cast is excellent with enough testosterone-infused scenes to get you all worked up. Catherine Hardwicke, known for her successful box-office Twilight, directed this film with her spot-on appreciation of teenagers and their needs. You need not be a fan to enjoy this well-made film, which should be a lively and lovely compendium to Dogtown and Z Boys (an award-winning documentary narrated by actor Sean Penn).

The shift between surfing waves to skateboarding may have its origins in the boys’ ingenious idea to skate in empty swimming pools; there was a drought on, in California when they discovered this novel way to get hang time, and dry simulation of waves. In addition, the invention of the petroleum-derived (urethane) wheel allowed wanton, wall-griping manoeuvres. The anger-driven, Jay Adams was instrumental in coming up with some of the standard moves used today in competitions when he skated on almost everything including concrete pipes, dry swimming pools (as half-pipes), hilly roads and even straight off the pier. 

The film also illustrates the observation that one is more creative within one’s area of competence and passion. Also, it underscores that necessity is the mother of invention. The three skaters eventually found fame and fortune as world champions and entrepreneurs, as well as the traps involved in such shortcuts. The special features are worth watching, especially the director's commentary and interviews with the original Z-Boys who were featured in cameo roles or as consultants. Most commendable were the lead actors who learnt to skate competently after an intensive 2.5-months boot-camp.

Both films are available on DVD and available at

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Respecting Another Person’s Time

Thank you for making time to read this blog! I appreciate the fact that you might have something else better to do; your list of possibilities and priorities may be a lengthy scroll. I have, hopefully, kept my daily posts to manageable morsels that maximize your reading investment.

Too often, colleagues, customers and the public may not appreciate the value of your time. We hear ‘time is money’, ‘save time’, ‘make time’, ‘invest in the time’ and the like, yet time vanishes with each second. The time came and went, a moment ago. Time is an abstract that we attempt to measure in absolute terms like rate and speed, yet we cannot seem to capture it, like we wish we could our [fast] fading youth.

When you make time, for somebody, you have created an opportunity cost. The value of your time is determined by how you value your time, as well as the person who is receiving your time. Until your time is respected, and you are respected, then people will continue to exploit your time for their ignorant and selfish reasons.

Consider which are the professionals that we tend to respect their time? If time is money, then, consultants, lawyers and medical specialists are highly respected. The ones who charge by the minute is, probably, the ones few would waste time with. When you charge by the month (salary), some people may exploit that. Which is sad, as that’s what people do when they push their luck with you, complain incessantly and verbally, and insist seeing you with pale intentions and barely an agenda, except rant and rave.

I get annoyed when teachers have to constantly bring work home. I do not think that they should be overworked, emotionally bludgeoned with parents’ concerns, and sacrifice their personal time in the name of student/school grades. I’d rather have a fresh, courageous and alert teacher in school in the morning than a subjugated one.

What will you do to respect somebody’s time? How do you get others to recognize your time? How do you make your time valuable for your clients? How would a professional treat another professional’s time?

If you want anyone to respect your time, respect his time, too, unless you want to be charged for it!

In case you’d like to spend your time writing your journal, spreading the good news of your passions, or being inspired by others, here is a useful article of a social entrepreneur, Blake Mycoskie of Toms Shoes. For every pair of shoes he sells, he gives one pair of shoes to a child who needs it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Amplifying Your Influence with Words of Semantic Density

I have, on occasions, alluded to the relevance of enhancing our language abilities. After all, humans possess the ability for higher order language. As is widely attributed to Albert Mehrabian, face-to-face communication comprises body language (55%), words (38%) and tone (7%). This certainly applies to Social Media 2.0 like Skype and video-conferencing.

A few days ago, management guru Tom Peters posted a short piece on Language Excellence. He touted the improvement of words by adding key words. He thoughtfully suggests that we use energetic words if you want an energetic pace. In the study of linguistics, this process is known as semantic density. I am sure that it will annoyingly stimulate your thoughts, and perhaps have you review your impeccable impact on others through your speech and writing.

To wit, I add that we can enormously empower our language with suitable tones (of voice). Emotional words can only be fully appreciated when we feel them first-hand. When you are happy, your spoken word ‘happy’ will resonate with different shades of your happiness. When you show empathy, empathise with similar emotions. Share your sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

Leaders influence with their control of total communication. Lose your control and you lose your audience, and therefore your leadership. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Choose your words carefully: mean, or demean.

Have an insanely awesome week ahead!

Afterthoughts: I had a wildly gorgeous evening at the Air Supply 35th Anniversary Concert at the Resort World on Sentosa Island. The original duo -of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock - was backed up by an energetic band. I grew up with the band’s music in my teens, with the band’s first concert in Singapore in 1981. Air Supply is enjoying its first top-20 hit from its new album; talk about resounding resilience!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ode to the Underdog

Hail the Underdog!

It may be a dog’s life. It may be a dog eat dog world. Top dogs lead companies. Sometimes, we may bark up the wrong tree. A well-read book tends to be dog-eared. It’s a hard day’s night, and I’ll be working like a dog…so goes the popular Beatles song.

People inspire me! Their lives inspire me. I have repeatedly watched the YouTube videos of Susan Boyle, Paul Potts, The Hoyts, John Blaise (Blazeman), Julie Moss, Chrissy Wellington, Graeme Obree and numerous underdogs and I get jazzed up. My attitude shifts for the better, towards positive emotions, thoughts and actions. Out attitudes (and we have many) are formed from our likes and dislikes. Our attitudes are formed through the modalities of ABC: Affective Behavioral and Cognitive.

The Underdog tends to be overlooked as scant attention is paid to them. One reputation is only as good as our last great performance: thus, currency and contemporaries matter as much. The Underdog may experience less pressure, as there is less expectation for them to succeed. Even so-called, has-beens may be ushered out of contention because of poor performance, age and poor PR. Scot cyclist, Graeme Obree broke the world record for most distance covered in an hour, beating his predecessor’s Francesco Moser by 450 metres. His riding posture was unconventional, his second attempt at the record within 24 hours, and his homemade bike made him the underdog that was not to be taken seriously until he ‘slowed down time’.
 I get inspired through:

1)    Reading biographies of successful athletes, celebrities and professionals (read for extracts and reviewers’ comments).
2)    Enjoyable conversations.
3)    Watching YouTube videos.
4)    Reading announcements of achievements of friends on Facebook.
5)    The achievements of my friends and fellow professionals.
6)    Inspiring speeches and stories.
7)    Watching athletes compete, and completing sporting events.
8)    My progress and improvements in my pursuits.

Hail the Underdog? Every dog has its day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Switching Lanes

What did you do differently today?

Life can become predictable. Routine can affect your flow. It can create stagnancy and sloth, and smother spontaneity. That is why our habits have to be monitored or they can consume us totally. Habits that are coupled with discipline are another matter entirely. For this weekend, do consider adjusting your schedule and train of thoughts.

1)    Sleep in without the clock, because you can.
2)    Stretch for 10 minutes your major muscle groups.
3)    Do a different sport or physical activity.
4)    Shop for a gift for a friend (in advance).
5)    Read a chapter of a book that you abandoned.
6)    Write a blog, review or comment (on a website/blog).
7)    Have coffee with friends who you have not seen for some time.
8)    Go to the botanical gardens, museum, art gallery or concert.
9)    Help out with a charity, nursing home, or hospice.
10) Teach youths about life skills.

This afternoon, after cleaning a friend’s car (on loan to us for three weeks), I meet triathlon bloggers Matthew Wong and Teo Hui Koon at an endurance sports retail outlet. We met Hui Koon’s lovely wife and two daughters, and exchanged news. I suggested to Hui Koon and his wife that our coach, Craig ‘Fox’ Holland looks like the actor Mel Gibson – they unanimously agreed! Seems that I have a few friends who are dead-ringers of celebrities. Thereafter, I collected my rarely-seen-these-days ZIPPS 202 wheels from the shop – my possible wheels for Ironman Lanzarote 2011. By today’s count, there are already 1446 participants!

Then, it was another trip to my first bike shop where I purchased my first Orbea (Vitesse) bike. I met up with the owners and staff, and traded stories. Matt and I then had tea and chatted about bike fitting, bike mechanics and training methodologies. It was certainly an unusual way for me to spend an afternoon, as I would normally submerge myself in my library of books and films. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So, what did you do differently today?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Do You Wish You Could Have Visions of the Future?

Most established companies have vision statements. How is this vision shared with the staff? How is this vision cascaded to staff and customers? How often do you indulge in crystal ball gazing and act on these indicators? Some vision statements include abstract ones like 'A better everyday life for the people' to concrete ones like 'A computer in every home.'

Vision without technique is blind, said world-class photojournalist Dewitt Jones. How do you realize your vision (and dreams)? How do you back up your company and team visions to achieve your goals?

I am halfway through the Complete Second Season (final season) of Eli Stone. Actor Jonny Lee Miller (who brilliantly acted as Scottish cyclist, Graeme Obree in The Flying Scotsman*, 2007) plays the accidental prophet cum bro bono lawyer with the unfortunate case of a brain aneurysm. Despite the producers’ failure to sustain this series to the third season, it has enough entertainment value to engage the viewer: quirky characters, full-scale musical interludes, special effects, and intelligent scripting to allow for suspension of disbelief.

Eli is the reluctant messenger of future tidings; his duty is to right the wrongs based on his glimpses into the future. He does not always get it right as sometimes these visions are confusing. He makes personal sacrifices so as to accentuate the results of his interventions. Of course, he has a homeopathic guide who believes in his gift and respectfully assists him on his personal journey by helping make sense of these visions-cum-hallucinations.

How do you realize your vision of your company, business goals and corporate culture? How do you align your people with the corporate core values? How do you make sense of the writings on the wall?

Make your vision large, vivid, colourful and contrast sharply with your mission and targets. Your vision has to be shared by a tribe of followers, who will collaborate with you on your collective quest. The vision has to be brought into distinct focus, so that we concentrate our efforts into realizing it. Share your vision, as a selfish approach may lead to obsession and indulgence. A vision is a beacon that lights the way in the darkness of minor attractions and major distractions. Keep reaching for your personal goals and personal bests whether in sports, profession or hobbies. Set your bar high, and challenge yourself and your ambitions.

*Graeme Obree broke the one-hour world record for cycling, with a bicycle called ‘Old Faithful’ made from washing machine parts. He also suffered from manic depression that sadly plagued him throughout his life. Utilizing a revolutionary position for his bike, Obree set the world distance record for one hour in 1993 and 1994, along with capturing a world championship in individual pursuit. The film focuses on the singular vision of Obree in developing new riding techniques (handlebar and aero-bar designs) and its consequences when he becomes a sensation on the international stage.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Leadership of Compromised Values

Ding dong - traditional leadership is dead!

After an assault of our senses and sensibility by maverick leaders in the early- and late-2000’s, I am less confident and hopeful of traditional contemporary leadership styles. Most of these styles are based on western models; believed to be the way to go in effective leadership. However, the reality may not be the case as leadership evolves or revolves to the next level.

Leadership based on compromised values has left a trail of failed business and the failure of such compromises. The past year has not been assuring with a re-emergence of the greed model. Greed is good may have been the mantra of a Gordon Gecko in a Wall Street obsessed 1980’s. While we await the sequel to Good to Great, which approaches can we adopt and adapt? Great companies are commendable until the leadership implodes, practices get compromised, and the next crisis triggers off wanton panic. Too often, the PR team with its language-splicing spin-doctors magically transforms a mountain into a molehill. How do the staff and shareholders allow it to happen? Passive disagreement, indifference, fear for their job security, and strategic recognition practices serves to silence the critics. What a shame! The blind leads the blind, while the one-eyed is still king.

Consider Asian companies, as well as multinationals based in Asia. How does each leader lead his company? Chin-Ning Chu suggested in her book ‘Thick Face, Black Heart’ approach that you never compromise your values, as you live the life you want. You can be ruthlessly uncompromising in your core values when leading your team and organization.

Do model after successful leaders on a wider scale so as to gain more perspective. Study their values assiduously. Integrate what you think and feel is relevant and useful. We need to review our personal and professional values constantly. Be discerning, decisive and diligent (© Yardley & Kelly, PIPS). Compromise our values and we lose a part of ourselves that may be critical to our personal value and our self-worth. Instead, share your promises with others; be true and truthful with yourself.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Preserving Peak Performance

How do you stay in shape? How do leaders stay fit for their positions? You may have heard that a manager may not be fit to serve.

While reading the blogs of fellow endurance athletes, I noticed a recent pattern. In the face of deprivation or deficiency, some have expressed their need to salvage their fitness or sustain it. When you perform badly, you want to regain it. When you cannot race, you want to hold on to it for the next event.

Staying in peak condition is a transient state. You can peak for a race, or a few times a year. However, it would be highly challenging to stay in peak shape throughout the year. Now, how true is this paradigm? Can you continue in a heightened state of performance and fitness?

You can maintain your base fitness; base is vital to future peak performance. Your long runs, swims and rides allow you to go faster eventually when you focus on speed and power on the shorter distances. The long mileage builds your endurance for the races you may participate in. However, the long duration work also saps your body of resources, and fatigues it. If you work long hours without adequate rest, you may experience burnout, dysfunctional relationships and erratic behaviors. That is a price to pay for working for an organization focused on its business and developmental goals.

After a promotion or a delegation of new role and responsibilities, how do you stay in peak performance? Naturally, candidates slated for promotion tend to perform well leading to, and right after the promotion. Then, their performance slides to a new, homeostatic state until the next round of possibilities emerges. How do you stay true to yourself? Do you continue to push the threshold of your abilities and engage your capabilities? Do you adopt the wait and see, as a strategic approach?

My next three-month cycle begins this week as I prepare for the Berlin Marathon. I have both confident and realistic targets. Between the race and today, I will have intermediate goals and races: two half-marathons and a buildup of my swim and riding fitness. I will experience bodily discomfort as I build up my racing fitness. My road ahead will be tough, but a joyful one. Reading about Steve Prefontaine and Coach Bill Bowerman (co-founder of Nike), I know I can race with my head and my heart. Effort matters as much as strategy. Only specific and intense training, a focused mind and a razor-sharp vision will lead me to my results.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Conversations of Leaders

How does a leader speak? What would he/she say? How does he/she command attention? How would influence be expressed and impressed?

Leaders influence with their confidence, commitment and clarity. With their decisiveness, they can lead with a sense of purpose towards productive conversations that are worthwhile and worth their while. They infuse concern and consideration for others.

Leaders can lead by fear or by fare. They speak encouragingly. They ask provocative questions. They listen. They offer points of consideration. They respectfully provoke thinking. They replace barefaced arrogance with humility and attentiveness. They lead by engineering their influence: charisma, character, expertise, skillfulness, knowledge, courage, values, and energy.

If you intend to challenge the leader, do so with good intention. Refrain from being a know-it-all. Empty your glass, before you can fill it up again. It would be pointless to pursue another point of view when you have made up your mind. That is the trouble with knowledge, or the possession of it – you have sentenced your thinking to a full stop. Your thoughts become vestigial appendages, without function, and at most aesthetic in appeal. That is akin to small talk that is performed with no intent, and lacks artistry and meaning. It is no different to a noisy traffic jam; with lots of blaring horns and impotent impatience.

One can only visit an online forum of choice, and study the patterns of responses and pick out the mundane from the relevant, ignorant from the studied and knowledgeable. A leader’s moves and motives are calculated, and measured for results and impact. Study the best athletes and dancers, and you will learn how they perform with an economy of moves. Less can be more. There is gracefulness through withholding. The unorthodox can just be as safe and reassuring as the tried-and-true and predictable.

Conversations with leaders can be edifying as it is educating. You just need to know how to initiate it, with little expectations. Start your next conversation with a sense of curiosity and playfulness; it is certainly more useful than suspicion and distrust .

Monday, June 14, 2010

Running Freely and Free From Running

My result for the Mizuno Mount Faber 10km Run yesterday was 49:04 for the 10km. I think I placed in the top-3 percent of the 2,900-strong field of runners with my 67th position. This was my first race two week since my ultra attempt, so my recovery has been on-track.

What was different about this year’s race? I attacked it harder physically, engaging my sense of competition. However, I ran with more joy and a sense of freedom. I pumped my arms, swung it more and allowed physics to lead me. I embraced the race with a ‘so what’s the worst that could happen?’ attitude. I think it worked as I mounted Singapore’s second highest hill less distraught than last year’s. My friend ‘Muay Thai’ said that some of his friends saw me blast off at the 4km; I wanted to experience running with the elite age-groupers, and it was tough keeping up. My 46-year-old friend Melvin Ow saw a podium finish, and I congratulate him for his excellent effort.

It may be premature to say this, but I think I am on track with my three-month plan for a sub-3’20” timing in Berlin, and also for a PB in my next Ironman triathlon. Patience is a value worth considering, as it is all a waiting game. I took my post-race meal of electrolyte drinks and a potassium-filled banana, enjoyed my chat with some runners who were from my graduating class of young officers. It was a joyful morning of connecting with people, my body and my sense of child-like abandonment. I freed myself from the vestiges of self-imposed running, and chose to run freely with few attachments. I breathed as deeply as I could, taking each thankful breath with appreciation and respect for nature.

Last night, I was on the panel of judges at the Singapore Magic Circle’s (SMC) annual magic competition, Legerdemain (French for sleight of hand). Five contestants each vied for a top-three placing in the Parlour and Close-Up categories. It was tough judging the group, especially the one’s doing intimate magic with cards and coins. I was also given the honour to present magic wands to the top-three winners of the Close-Up category, a branch of magic that I have a soft spot for. It was an evening well spent with fellow magicians (including professional illusionists Nique Tan and Jeremy Pei) and magic fans. Just another moment worth reflecting on…

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How Do You Fill Your Moments?

How do you fill your moments? I’m not referring to your free time alone, but the time within your time? You can direct your time and life with what you consider as your needs, charity and luxuries. Whitney Houston sang ‘One Moment in Time’ and Kodak branded the slogan ‘A Kodak Moment’. What do you mean when you tell someone ‘Just a moment’?

I've heard that some trainers claim to be able to bend spoons - in private – after being certified in NLP. Now, that’s unscientific and delusional as test conditions are preferred when you make claims. A claim is a good as your word, and that needs to be verified. Which begs the question: If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to see or hear it, did the tree fall?

I am concerned with the hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo mixed in a blended, learning environment. As an educator, I am alarmed with what these self-proclaimed trainers are teaching in class. I have met quite a few professional metal mutilators, and I think they are brilliant entertainers.

Feel free to entertain yourself, in private. However, I think it is bad influence to make fastidious claims that you cannot back upon convincingly with skill. If you have powers, do something useful with it like shrink a tumour, encourage a child, or make somebody feel happy instead of committing self-indulgent acts.

Endurance sports can create meditative states. Marathon runners claim to get into states of serenity and serendipity when they do long runs. This can be attributed to the release of neurotransmitters in the brain such as endorphins and serotonin. The runner’s high is the sense of euphoria you enjoy during or after strenuous physical activity. If you had to run as a way of life, how would each moment feel like?

What do you mean by killing time? What about filling your time? We can only embrace the moments of our time, for it passes without notice or attention. How do you get in the moment? Some people live for the moment; other live for the next moment.

Renowned professional photojournalist, Dewitt Jones describes creativity as ‘a moment when the ordinary meets the extraordinary’. Dan Millman wrote in the Peaceful Warrior: ‘There are no ordinary moments.’

Photo courtesy of MexOnline.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Adaptation & Coping With Adversity

I watched a Discovery Channel program last night; it was on the special forces. I watched how one former-Navy SEAL and another ex-Israeli special force trainer endure crippling conditions and tested for their alertness. The scientists featured were impressed, and so was I.

The history of Ironman triathlon was initiated by former Navy SEALS officers; thus, I was attracted by the program's content and extent of the experiments. The Navy SEAL was tested under ice-cold conditions and, amazingly, he did not suffer severe hypothermia - enough to perform the exact obstacle course and shooting test. The other specialist lost 6 pounds of sweat, about 3 percent of his bodyweight, and he performed splendidly in his shooting test while dehydrated. The bottomline of the program was that training plays a major part in the physical and mental conditioning of elite military forces. We can control how our body response to extreme conditions when we train specifically for it. 

Our body adapts to specific training, especially if this is repeated often enough. Muscle learning occurs when we perform bodily tasks that engage both fine and gross muscle movements. Playing the guitar and shuffling cards are fine motor actions; running up a hill and riding a bicycle involve gross or large muscle groups. According to the Specificity of Sports, we are what we train ourselves. If you swim more, and spend more time refining your techniques, your fitness in the water will show clearly. If you spend more time preparing for the marathon, you will run better than you will swim or cycle, if the latter two comprise a small proportion of your total training time. Therefore, a sprinter should train more powerfully for the short, anaerobic burst of effort than a marathoner who will focus on endurance and sustainability.

I am intrigued with how some endurance athlete can train for years, without injury, defying convincing scientific explanation. How is it that barefoot runners may not get injured while protected runners still injured with the best shoes money can buy! Why is it the Tarahumara runners of Mexico can run like gazelles over rugged terrain with minimal nourishment and scanty footwear? I am very curious.

I am doing extensive research on myself and hope it will bear more insight towards my appreciation and understanding of my body. I have undergone Chi Running workshops and corrected my running gait. I am working hard at my long overlooked core stability, and I am activating my weak major muscles like my glutes, abductors and Transverse Abdominus (TVA). I see the assistance of partners like my coach, chiropractor and massage therapist to ensure I develop capability and reduce the chances of injury. I hope that my race performances will indicate clear directions for my future endurance goals.

At 7.30am tomorrow, I will run a 10km race that involves a climb over a hill. I hope I will improve over last year with my enhanced running base; it will be exactly two weeks after my last race - my first 84km venture. I hope for the best, and intend to embrace the race with a sense of joy, abandonment and curiosity. Come what may!