Work Hacks Wednesdays – Ditch Networking

Ditch networking. Just focus on building 2-3 solid working relationships every year. You don’t have to do anything special – just work hard, be nice, care and be yourself. That’s the real strength of a network – it’s not about the 100 but about the 2 or 3 who really care.

That doesn’t mean the 100 do not matter. Stay in touch and add value to the 100 but don’t do it to ‘network’. Do it because you would like to add value to them. And if you can’t “reach” them by adding value to them, then work hard on building a reputation that does. Networking assumes that all that matters is getting your name out and having connections everywhere.

It missed an important fact – it’s never about who you know, it’s all about who knows you..well enough to vouch for you.

7 Reasons to Invest in the iPad

I waited for a long time to buy an iPad. I am not a first generation adopter of anything and the first iPad (2) I got was the one for my Grandmother. I always thought of the iPad as a luxury device and always found reasons not to buy it. I still feel it’s a luxury device in that you can do without it. That said, I also feel it’s a device that is well worth the investment. Here’s why –

1. Commute and Flight friendly. The iPad is built for commutes and flights. I love the fact that it is light weight, sleek and enables me to get a lot done without any cumbersome booting process (yes, I am a Windows user). And it’s battery last longer than all 3 laptops I use.

2. iBooks, Reeder and The Economist. I can’t think of a better device to read books, feeds, blogs and magazines. Thanks to my Singapore credit card, I don’t have access to Kindle yet but it’s a problem I plan to fix as soon as I find a bit of bandwidth. The large screen makes it SO much better than any phone.

3. Forced Single Tasking. The nature of iOS makes you single task simply because distracting yourself is a very obvious act. Unlike a laptop where you can minimize whatever you are working and surf the web for “just 2 minutes”, the iPad makes it obvious you are switching. Brilliant for those on the attention deficit side of the spectrum.

4. The Logitech Keyboard. I do a fair bit of typing thanks to above average use of email and writing for blogging. And here, the Logitech keyboard for the iPad has been a blessing. Aside from it’s convenience, it also makes for a brilliant stand that works well even if I’m not using the keyboard.

Image Source (Not a Creative Commons photo but Logitech dare not sue me for free marketing :-))

5. High Quality FaceTime and Skype. If you have close family, friends located elsewhere, this is a big win.

6. A Portable Whiteboard. One of the biggest uses for my iPad is using it as a portable whiteboard or thinking tool. It is easy enough to store ideas in the Notes application, easy to write out emails and blogposts

7. Looks SO damn good. Sorry, but this just had to be in.

Things I miss: A great Blogger/Windows Live Writer app and a seamless OneNote app would make it near perfect!

Of course, this is purely a view of my usage and in addition, big attractions of the iPad in general are Games, YouTube and the numerous other apps that provide some version of online television.

Overall, I’ve been absolutely loving my iPad and it’s replaced my laptop as the ‘must have’ device in my bag. And my back, for starters, is very grateful…

Basic Chords + a Strumming Pattern

7 months into learning the guitar, I am getting re-acquainted to a simple truth, most great songs comprise of the same group of very repeatable chords. Yes, some of them involve a wonderful finger picked solo but for the most part, the verses involve some combination of A, B, C, D, E, F or G chords. The only difference is the style of the strumming and even this is generally your choice as a guitarist unless, of course, the song has a distinct strumming pattern.

Image by Vernon Hyde

I don’t find life all that different. When interviewing successful folk, we find that the traits we often find are predictable – persistence, integrity, dedication, determination. The same applies for successful companies as well. The magic sauce, like in music, is some unique mix of these time tested traits with a dose of personality (i.e. the strumming pattern).

Learning the combination of a song until it is part of our sub conscious is, of course, hard work. But, is life any different?

Time tested basics + a strong dose of personality. It’s that simple. In theory, at least..

On Reading Body Language I

This week’s Book Learning is from ‘What Every Body is Saying’ by Joe Navarro –

As Book Learnings of late are threatening to become a course of Psychology :), I thought we would take a break this week and the next and look at the principles I took away from an interesting book on Body Language by an ex CIA agent. In many ways, these 2 learnings are the summary of everything I took away from the book. First up, we will look at 2 underlying principles to get us started..

1. Bottom to Top = True to Maybe not True: The truest indicator of a person’s mood is his legs. As we move from bottom to top, we are increasingly able to mask our true feelings with our faces taking the cake! So, if you want to really know how a person is feeling or how two people feel about each other, look at their legs.

E.g. 1: If two people are in a conversation, you can tell if they like it by seeing if their legs are pointed to each other, or away.

E.g. 2: If a couple are having dinner at a table, a leg lock is a sign that things are great!

2. Covering any part of the body = Lymbic reaction: As human beings, we are built for survival and built to cover our most precious organs. So, when we are threatened, we always cover some part of our body.

E.g. 1: Observe a soccer player’s first reaction on seeing danger – covering his groin!

E.g. 2: Notice how, on the first day of college, more freshman girls cover their chests with books than as they move through the semesters..

E.g. 3: Now you know why folding arms are seen as a sign of low confidence. Aside from our sexual organs, our chests cover some of the most vital organs (heart, lungs etc) and folding arms is a sign that we aren’t comfortable

Image by Alasdair Middleton

While this book doesn’t fall into the ‘read it now!’ category in my case, I found the underlying principles very interesting and have, of late, been increasingly observant and find myself drawing insights thanks to these principles.. More to follow next week!

Here’s to keeping a look out for lymbic reactions this week!

Belief in Abundance

One of the biggest ‘aha’ moments I had in the past few years was a note from Covey’s 7 Habits book that spoke of Abundance. His reasoning was simple – you can only seek ‘win win’ outcomes if you believe there is enough out there for all of us.

As a very competitive, fairly insecure youngster growing up, there was always very little out there and getting anything was a competition. As one of the big reasons for the creation of this blog was to build a ‘secure’ core, I remember this insight being a big step and I remember creating a Google Doc sheet with all the links to the various places I was applying to, and sharing it with all my friends. Until that moment, I had kept this closely guarded (the naiveity of the act only struck me later)…

That small act of sharing that list of (publicly known) links was a big step. Believing in abundance took much longer.

I had started my ‘Good Morning’ quotes initiative just a weeks prior to this moment and for almost a year, I used to always wonder if I would “run out”. I remember even saving quotes for future weeks because I wondered if I’d be able to find good quality quotes. I am also always on the look out for great stories thanks to a couple of learning initiatives like the ‘Book Learning’ initiative and again, the same pattern repeated. I was wary of running out..

801 quotes, 143 book learnings, 300+ Monday Learning stories and 2,525 posts later, I have learnt that abundance is real and you have to want to believe in it. Of course, some days, weeks are better than others but when you do something every day, you tend to accept that. What matters is to believe that it’s not one great spike that defines you, and to keep plugging away and hopefully, keep getting better..


I don’t quite know if all of this has indeed resulted in me becoming a much better writer, for instance. This week, I realized my shortcomings as a writer more clearly than ever. But, I can say with certainty that learning, getting inspired and sharing the inspiration has made me happier.

And, I tend to believe there are few other things that matter..

Staring Out of the Window

Staring out of the window is my way of ‘smelling the roses’. It could be out of the window of a public bus or a train or staring into space on the Tube. The place doesn’t matter, the act does.

It’s a sign that there is enough in life at the moment to keep me engaged and thinking, that I’m either overwhelmed enough to want to space out or feeling good about things and choosing to space out and let my mind wander.

With devices at our fingertips that have apps like Gmail, Facebook and Twitter that scream for our attention all the time, it’s easy to forget the joys of staring out of the window. I practically had to take email apps out of my first 3 screens and ban Twitter and the like on my phone to build a habit of resisting that impulse. These past months, I stare out of the window and take in life that bit more.

Image by Roger Geach

And I am loving it.

Defying Reaction

As human beings with primal survival mechanisms, our natural reaction to external stimulus is one that promotes survival. If all we do is give in to these reactions, then all we do is ensure we “survive”.

The gap, of course, lies in the fact that times have evolved so much that, unless you live in the forests of the Amazon or in the heart of the drug mob, a basic amount of security is guaranteed. Just like attempting to repeatedly sterilize a clean house that is inhabited is futile, actions with the sole objective of survival are useless.

But, our heart and the emotional/elephant part of our brain still react with these primal instincts. Have somebody challenging a fact in your presentation? Freeze/fight/flight are the obvious reactions. Face somebody unhappy with a decision? Blame it on someone else and run. The productive response in both cases would be to stand your ground, understand the other side’s point of view, express your own point of view and accept responsibility for any consequences, if any.

Some term this “guts” or “balls” and make it sound like it’s a rare asset some fortunate folk are born with. Bullshit. It just involves defying our instinctive reaction to take cover and protect ourselves and that, in turn, takes a bit of self awareness to catch ourselves when we do this and a bit of determination to make a habit out of responding instead of reacting.

Funnily and paradoxically, in an increasingly secure (in terms of physical threat to life) and transparent word, security and safety in terms of the things we say and the stands we take are merely superstition.

Work Hacks Wednesday: Promote Yourself

Whether you are an entrepreneur, a big corporation person or an employee of a mid sized company, you only go as far as you decide to promote yourself. (Promote as in advance in rank vs promotion in the marketing sense of the word)

If you are the small business CEO, you only make the leap into the CEO of that big business when you promote yourself. Let’s make no mistake – It happens first in the mind, and then in reality. When you make that decision to be the visionary CEO of a big CEO, your prioritize and see things differently. When you are an analyst working directly with very senior folk in your organization versus crunching numbers in the background, you have to make a switch in your mind set and promote yourself. If your behaviour and manner of engagement with people does not change, good luck being invited back into that important room. And yes, the quality of your work is a part of it but it is about being ready and willing to perform in the big stage.

There are many talented footballers who have not been able to cut it in the big leagues. They are stars of their small teams but just don’t seem to be “with it” on the big stage. They have the skill. It’s the mental switch that’s missing. And then you have the big game players..

Image Source

If there’s a big lesson I’ve taken away in the last year, it’s that you have to be ready and willing to promote yourself and take a shot at playing in the big league. Because nobody else will.

Thanks to a wiser friend for point this lesson out as amongst the best lessons he’d observed from a book he’d read. It immediately struck a chord.. or should I say GONG!


I find life has a tendency to respond to our behaviour. If we genuinely ask for difficulty and challenges, we typically get difficulty and challenges. If we ask for simplicity and contentment, we typically get that as well. The interesting thing is that if we ask for nothing and just go with the flow, well, we face trials of some sort anyway.

The question, then, is not whether we go through trials or challenges, because, we all do. The question is if we ask for and push for trials just slightly above our current level of ability i.e. if we are attempting to box slightly above our weight category.

At the end of the day, if trials, like problems, are a certainty, we might as well be proactive and ensure we are working on problems we do want to solve.. and hopefully, problems we learn and grow from.

Yes, we don’t control everything that happens to us but then again, we often tend to understate the amount of control we really have.

Md Shariff Abdullah, Professional Athlete, Singapore – Real Leader Interview #26

I was talking to my friend Jun Wei about Real Leaders and he thought I should definitely meet Shariff. Md Shariff Abdullah, nicknamed as Singapore Blade Runner(SBR) is an athlete by profession. Read on to be inspired by change from within.
Every interview teaches us something new! We have usually stuck to a Q & A format. This time around it’s more of a story. It is a story of a man who was born without his left foot. It is a story of a man who changed his life!
As he narrates..
I was born without a left foot to a Malaysian woman and a Eurasian man. They separated after my birth and I was left with my father. My father got married to an Indian woman after that. My stepmother took care of me till 1977. She has her own story by the way. She was born a man as Govindaswamy. She underwent an operation to become a woman – Govindama. I have been to a lot of temples and took part in Hindu traditions with her even though I was an Eurasian.
People were very uninformed those days in a village. They liked to throw stones at me and call me by names whenever I walked down the street. They loved to make fun of me whenever I fell down. Somehow as a child though it did not seem big. I ignored their comments and went on with life.
In 1977 my father passed away and my mother had to take care of me by herself. It was a very tough phase because the next year my mother passed away as well. I had to perform her final rites as her only son. It was an experience I will never forget.
I was passed on from one family to another, as people did not want to keep me for long. It was a superstitious belief that you would bring bad luck to the family as a handicap.
In 1980 I found my biological mother. She was married to a man and they had two kids by then. She agreed to take care of me. I was left some money by my father and stepmother. Grabbing that money was a motive for some people who agreed to take care of me.
I stopped schooling that year and had to earn some bucks even though I was living with my mother. I used to sell curry-puffs to make some money. There were times when people used to steal my food. I was 13-14 years old and I was fed up with everything that was going on. I decided to run away from home.
The best place to go to, when you are lost is Changi Airport! It was built in 1981. It has air-conditioning and you can see a lot of different people all day. I learnt to go to Pulau Ubin after a while. I was at this for a while before the police found me and took me home. I did this 4 times! I could not get along with the family.
I was 16 and I took up my first job at Changi Airport. I left the airport job soon and went on security jobs in and around Singapore. I wore long pants to hide my handicap. When they would ask me questions about my fitness and why I was limping, I would lie about how I played soccer the previous night and hurt myself.
That lie has helped me get CPF and get a house. I kept switching jobs as well. I could not stay in one place for too long else they would find out about my leg. I have been a bouncer, site security specialist and a salesperson. I was ignorant of the sports world those days.
In 1992 I decided to get married. I have been married for 19 years now. I have an 18-year-old daughter and two others – 15 years and 12 years old. I kept at my routine of job jumping. I needed to survive and help my family.
In 2008, I was working on a construction site. My leg was hurting with a pricking sensation. I went to see a doctor. After a lot of tests, he said that my stump was infected and that it should be amputated. I went ahead with the operation but I felt like ending my life after that. Nobody would hire me after that.
I did not even know how to kill myself. I tried Dettol and a lot of Panadol. Nothing worked. I decided to try YouTube to see if they can help me. Somehow thought the first video I saw was that of Oscar Pistorius. He does not have two legs but he sprints. My mind started following this train of thought.
I researched more and found a lot of people like me who were athletes. I only saw Ang-Mohs. I did not see any Asian men who were at this. There were sprinters but no marathon runners. I decided to do it!
I wrote to the Singapore Disability Organisations for help. Three weeks after my operation I went to the stadium to try and run. I was only wearing the standard prosthetic leg. At the Yishun stadium I ran a little bit and wounded my stump. It started bleeding and the officials there told me off.
I started going to the gym to take care of my fitness after three months of recovery. I prepared for my first 2.5 km charity run. I understood the pain of a runner after that run. I decided to start a blog!
I wrote to a lot of bodies like NCSSin Singapore for funding for a proper blade leg. NCSS gave a certain amount and my donor, Madam Beatrice Tan helped with the rest. She just offered to help without knowing who I was!
I got my blade leg together with a lot of help and I completed my first marathon. I went crazy over running and completed 157 kms in running in 2009. In 2010, I ran 315 kms just in race. In 2011 I finishes 417 kms. This year I am still counting.
I have another mission now – I want to be the first disabled Asian to climb the Everest. I have learnt to start pushing beyond my borders. I ordered a prosthetic leg for climbing purposes. I have also set up a gym called ‘Gym Singapura Everest’. I want to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2015. I also want to inspire people around the world and show that it is possible! I went to climb Mount Kinabalu with a team. After that trip I decided to quit training with able men. The schedule is completely different for someone with a disability.
I went to climb a mountain in Malaysia. Right behind me there were two Indonesian blinded men climbing. When we reached the vertical climb portion, I instructed them both to hold the rope tight as there were crocodiles below. They believed me and climbed all the way. After they completed though, I told them that there were no crocodiles but that they would have taken a very fatal fall.
I went to Boston this year to participate in the marathon! You must have a very good timing and also must be invited to participate. It was also my first time in the US. From the beginning to the ending of the race, there were people cheering you up.I am going to continue with this running until my Everest mission.
I am planning to climb a couple of mountains next year. I also cover Manali in India. I have made a budget and it seems like a lot of money. 165 000 in 2015, 88 000 in 2014, 65 000 in 2013 and this year I am spending 8 500. I am looking for sponsors to raise some money.
I have taken little initiatives to encourage the sponsorship. I am giving inspiration talks to people/corporate. I am working with ex-offenders as well.
When asked about his initiative to inspire others..
I believe in myself and in focusing on my task. I don’t like to give up. From my childhood I have been grooming to ignore others remarks. I want to educate the young generation about positive thinking!
I simply like to share. I also want to help other disabled people. On Saturday the 22nd of September I am running 100 kms for that cause. Please come down and support!
When asked for a message for our Real Leader audience..
Keep at what ever you are doing. Don’t ever give up. Never encourage negative thoughts or the people who talk so. If it’s your dream and your wish, you can make it happen. If it does not come now it will come in later. I don’t use the word difficulties; I think it is more like challenges!
Please feel free to contact Shariff @ if you want to help him or want him to help you. I have not met a more friendly man!
Thank you Shariff for an absolutely inspiring story. We often forget what we are capable of doing if we set our will on it. You are a living example for that truth!
Thank you Jun Wei for the idea!
From the Real Leader team