Meeting Dean Shams - Communication Strategist - Again

I first met Dean at an APTS meeting in July last year, when he was the speaker.

I wrote about what he taught us here:

At the end of that evening, I got his book - Speak Smart, Make Your Mark - and found it very useful. It presents the process of getting your mindset right about communication before going into the details and methods of making your communication more impactful and effective.

We've been in contact since then and I met him again as a speaker at the Up Your Game Conference late last year.

Dean - UYG 2017

His topic was 'Up Your Profile', for which he taught the audience how to raise their profiles and build credibility and trust with others.

He spoke as a Communication Strategist, shared his experience in the industry of PR, and reminded the audience that the media doesn't necessarily improve a person's image or brand. It merely amplifies it. 

What that means is that we are responsible for improving our own images / brands.

He gave 4 Key Points:

1) Know your message
2) Know your audience
3) Know your space
4) Know your style

One of the memorable points he made was 'Don't Be Humble'. Specifically, it means to stay away from false humility and to have confidence in your own ability and expertise - a point that I definitely agree with (a topic for another post, I imagine).

At the end of his presentation, he reminded us that a great public profile begins with us managing ourselves.

Dean's style of communication is direct and practical. We share a common belief that substance doesn't need to be fluffed up to be appealing, and I unhesitatingly recommend his expertise to anyone looking to improve their or their company's public profile.

You can look him up here:
 

Speak Smart Make Your Mark.jpg
With Dean Shams at APTS

Meeting Vivek Iyyani - Millennial Consultant & Coach

I first met Vivek last December at the Up Your Game Conference. He was one of the speakers and introduced himself as a Millennial Consultant when he took the stage.

Vivek Iyyani

He proceeded to share his thoughts and how, despite the negative perceptions surrounding them, millennials are creative, resilient and a driving force for change.

Briefly explaining how we got to this ‘era’, he gave insights into a millennial’s point of view, the better to understand the thoughts and behaviours of these up and coming movers and shakers of the world.

Being a millennial and a bit of an info junkie, I was familiar with some of the things that were shared but it had disparate bits and pieces of information. Vivek had taken all of that and clicked them together into a coherent, easy-to-follow flow.

I got a copy of his book: Empowering Millennials and couldn’t help myself thinking, “If only I had all of this information 10 years ago.”

Well, no time for ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. My time will be better spent digesting the numerous nuggets of wisdom and answering the thought-provoking questions that Vivek has sprinkled copiously throughout the book.

Empowering Millennials

Fast forward a few weeks, I got an e-mail from Vivek asking how I’d been and expressing his wish to know more about what I do, owing to the too-short time we had at the conference to converse.

So, we arranged a meet-up, during which, we shared about what we do and discussed numerous things.

I learned that Vivek had started as a trainer in a similar way to me and that he moved on to building up his own company – a path that I intend to follow.

I told him that I had been wandering a bit since my book launch, not quite sure about what to do next. To that, he advised me to focus on one aspect of what I’m doing at a time – advice that I sorely needed to hear – and he very kindly offered to help me get going on this.

It isn’t every day that you meet someone so willing to spend time and energy to build up a near-total stranger.  Thank you, Vivek, for your generosity and for offering your advice and experience despite your busy schedule. I look forward to our next meet-up.

If you’re looking for a excellent speaker on practically any aspect of the millennials, Vivek is your guy. I unreservedly recommend his expertise on the subject.

You can look him up on: www.vivekiyyani.com

Because I know that quite a number of you who are reading this (especially you who are my ex-students) are millennials, if you’re looking for someone to show you the ropes of entrepreneurship and designing a life that you seek, connect with Vivek through:


Facebook: www.facebook.com/millennialexpertasia

or

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/millennialexpertasia

With Vivek

An Interview with STYLEGUIDE

A couple of weeks ago, I met Timothy and Carol at Central (Clarke Quay) for a media interview with STYLEGUIDE.

After some introductions, during which we realised we knew a few of the same people (Eugene and Maarten, you guys are clearly influencers), we talked about our respective industries, they in media and I in education. 

It turns out that Timothy has a vast array of experience in various aspects of business and marketing. Carol had joined him in STYLEGUIDE not too long ago and told me that she had already learned a great deal from him. 

Sounds like Timothy is a good teacher!

After a drink (non-alcoholic, of course), we went to a coffee place at Capitol Piazza to record a video for the interview article.

Halfway through, however, a rather large family arrived and they (along with their children) weren't exactly the quietest people around. They also, for some reason, decided to sit well within the frame of the video.

We decided to go somewhere else and ended up at SMU (Victoria St), where we shot the rest of the video in relative short order.

It was quite an experience and, though I'm still not too comfortable standing in front of a camera, it has at least shown me that there is less to fear about it than I originally thought.

Thank you, Timothy and Carol from STYLEGUIDE for the excellent conversation and the opportunity to get my story out there! I look forward to working on our next project together.

StyleGuide Media Interview Picture.jpg

2018: A Year of ...?

Every Dec 31 for the past 3 years, I sit in Killiney Kopitiam in Siglap and plan the direction of the coming year with my now-wife.

The Dec 31 that just passed was no different, although it had been a little rushed as we had been in church the entire morning and afternoon.

It took me another day to finish planning my direction and habits for the new year. Though I haven't fully reflected on every aspect of the plan yet, I will continue to do so in the coming days, the past few having been taken up with training (schools are starting really early this year!)

So what do I plan for? Six aspects of my life - 3 goals and 3 habits per aspect.

1) Financial

2) Family / Relationships

3) Business

4) Health

5) Personal Development

6) Spiritual

Generally, I'm not much of a planner. I like to take things as they come, when they come. However, I have found that having an overall direction really helps in using my time and resources more efficiently and effectively.

There are many things that I intend to accomplish by the end of 2018 and I will be reviewing my goals once every quarter, making changes and updating them as necessary.

I hope that this will inspire you to reflect on the past year and map a direction for this coming one. I wish you a fruitful and eventful 2018!

Happy 2018

Thank You For Being Part of My 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, I would like to thank all the incredible people I've met this past year.

SG100 Meeting

Whether it was at a Trainers' Synergy gathering, a SG100 meet-up, an APTS meeting, an Introverts' Network get-together, or the numerous workshops, conferences and events I attended or participated in this year, I was glad to meet you.

Thank you for sharing your experience and for being so generous with your time.

SuperBrand Me - 18 Sep 2017
Yangon PDC 2017
Last APTS Meeting of 2017

Some of you I met during mission trips, church events (especially our recently concluded stage production - Close Quarters) and church services.

Thank you for demonstrating the love and grace of our Lord, for doing what you do in God's service, and for being a part of the body of Christ. 

Cambodia Mission Team - 30 Jun - 03 July 2017
Close Quarters Cast

I would like to specially thank you who were at my wedding, my speaking engagements, as well as my book launch. 

Wedding - BC Peeps.jpg
Wedding - SAC People
Book Launch with Trainers

Thank you for being there to show your support, love and care.

To you whom I have known for years, thank you for your friendship. We may not have been able to meet as often as we'd like, but know that you hold a place in my heart.

As we dive into 2018, I wish you clear direction, excellent opportunities and endless delights.

Thank you for being part of my 2017. I look forward to journeying with you in 2018.

Happy 2018

A Successful Book Launch!

The Book Launch of The Introvert Teacher was a success!

A culmination of weeks of planning, coordination and organisation, the event truly came together a mere 2 - 3 days before it happened.

The vision of the Book Launch was for it to be a bazaar of connections and learning points. There were timeslots for focused, value-adding networking as well as mini-workshops for experiential learning.

To run the activities, I got the assistance of my fellow trainers to set up spaces where they will conduct sessions of their speciality topics and guests would come and learn something from them.

The reason behind this unusual move was to make this a different, more memorable launch event. A typical launch event consisted of an emcee coming up to introduce the 'main character', who will then give a speech, including some thank-you's. After the speech, there will be little else going on as the guests hang around until they get an opportunity to talk to the 'main character'.

I didn't want that unproductive downtime. It made much more sense to use that time wisely for learning and networking instead of wasting it doing nothing useful.

As it turned out, my guests had nothing but high praise for this decision. Many of them told me that they learned a lot and that the event was well-thought-out and executed.

I can only thank the others who came alongside me to help me make the event what it was.

Apart from booking the venue (at MOX), we had to order catering (from Liang Food Caterer), make arrangements to see the space and plan the allocation of activity spaces, get the books and other stuff there on the day itself, as well as make sure that all the finances were properly handled.

There was no way that I could have done all that on my own.

Thank you, each one of you, for helping me out. I am deeply appreciative of what you've done.

Book Signing
With Fellow Trainers

Nature Nurtured - Listening to Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai

On Monday night, at the SG100 Foundation Meeting, our speaker was Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai, a lifelong naturalist and a wildlife consultant. Honestly, I can think of very few professions cooler than that.

When he took the platform, I could feel the passion behind his words as he told us about his humble beginnings and the immense work he had done to push for the conversation of what we now know as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, amongst other little-known but no-less-massive efforts to preserve Singapore's wildlife and its habitats.

He highlighted some of his favourite animals and showed us that Singapore, despite being a tiny country, has some of the richest biodiversity in the world due both to our geographical location (close to the equator) and the age of our rainforests (older than even the majestic Amazon).

When he came to the topic of rapid development and urbanisation of Singapore, he emphasised that he saw this as a necessary part of Singapore's growth, though he was firm in his belief that it needs to be done in a responsible manner and with respect to the natural environment.

To this day, he works in his favourite classroom - The Great Outdoors - both as a teacher and as a student. He gives guided tours, conducts nature programmes, and does field surveys alongside other researchers and nature enthusiasts.

Mr. Subaraj is a man I highly respect. He lives his life in the pursuit of learning and passing on what he has learned, and he encourages others to do the same.

He reminds us that we cannot live apart from our natural environment, that if we care for nature, nature takes care of us.

Thank you for sharing your life and your passion, Mr. Subaraj. Through your words, I am inspired.

Mr Subaraj

Almost Ready With The Book Launch

Now that The Introvert Teacher is printed, it's time to get copies out the door and into the hands of readers.

There have been a number of pre-orders already and we have already gotten some of them to friends and family. 

Of course, we aren't stopping there. So, there is going to be a...

BOOK LAUNCH!

We are in the midst of confirming the venue and the time, so stay tuned!

Launch

Accomplishing Stuff in the First 10 Months of 2017

10 months of 2017 have passed. We are now in the final 2 months of the year.

As with the years prior to 2017, I ask myself,

"What have you accomplished this year that you have not before?" (Yes, I talk to myself all the time in this way)

So here we go:

1) Married my One and Only, met so many familiar faces at our wedding AND got the keys to our new home in April

Looking Out

2) First Church Camp as a married couple in June

3) First overseas mission trip in end June - early July

Cambodia (113).jpg

4) Spoke for the first time at the Association of Professional Speakers Singapore (APTS) in end August

APTS - With President David

5) Did my first assembly talk in a school in mid September

6) Incorporated my first company in mid - end September

7) Presented at my first overseas conference (Professional Development Conference 2017 in Yangon) in end September

Presenting in Yangon

8) Held the first physical copy of The Introvert Teacher in early October

Books Arrived 01.jpg

9) Exhibited in my first Gem Fair, gave 4 talks related to gemstones, and met many new people in end October

Loupin Jewels Booth G114.jpg

All in all, I'd say this is a pretty hard year to beat in terms of accomplishments. And the best part? There are still two whole months to go, to get more things done.

Right now, I'm planning the book launch for The Introvert Teacher as well as workshops for Loupin Jewels, apart from an overseas trip, all before the year is out!

Very exciting stuff! I am thankful for all that has happened this year and all that is about to happen soon. Thank you for being a part of it!

Speaking at SJGF2017 02

Advice on Becoming a Public Speaker from Dr. Andrew Goh

A little over a week ago, I had an opportunity to speak to Dr. Andrew Goh. 

I told him,

"Dr. Andrew, you may not remember me. A few years ago, I asked you for advice on becoming a public speaker. Today, I am well on my way. Thank you for your advice."

I then gave him two copies of The Introvert Teacher, one addressed to him and the other to pass on to anyone he wants.

This was the advice he gave to me. The elaboration is my own:

1) Volunteer to Speak and Practise

At the start, the only way to get known and gain recognition is to speak whenever you have an opportunity.

Also, you are going to need the practice and volunteering yourself will help you to figure out your niche topic, which brings us to...

2) Have a Specific Topic

It's all too easy to take on any and all projects that come your way. 

However, being a generalist can be confusing, especially for those who are looking for speakers on a particular subject. It also makes you less memorable to those who have already heard you if you tell them that you can do 'any topic you need'.

People look to experts. Establish yourself as one.

3) Once Established, Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Speaking Fees

At some point, you are going to have to be paid if you intend to embark on speaking as a career.

This can and does happen organically but the surest way is to ask.

Start by getting the organisers to cover your travel expenses, even if it's just a taxi ride.

From there, as you gain confidence, ask for more. Be reasonable. You probably shouldn't ask for 10 thousand dollars per hour if you only started speaking 2 months ago (unless you're already some sort of celebrity) but, hey! If you get it, that'd be quite an achievement.

Still, be firm in your requests. If you give in too easily, you are only shortchanging yourself.

Thank you, Dr. Andrew, for being a teacher I look up to and for taking the time to advise me.

With Dr. Andrew Goh

An Introvert's Impressions of the People and Business Practices in Yangon

Before September, I had never been to Myanmar (Burma).

The only contact I had with the country was through the gemstone sellers I met in the gem fairs here in Singapore (which I will be a part of later this month of October - more on this later).

Sule Pagoda - Yangon

I had read stories and watched documentaries and news reports about Myanmar and I wondered what it was really like. Was it truly what the media had portrayed it to be?

So, when I was presented with an opportunity to be a part of the Professional Development Conference 2017 in Yangon, I jumped on board as soon as I could. Let me say here that it was an excellent decision.

Granted that Yangon is a major commercial centre and a large city and, thus, not an accurate representation of a country with more than 900 times the land area of Singapore and nearly 10 times as many inhabitants, it was still quite an experience to have met and conversed with the locals there.

I found them to be friendly and approachable, welcoming and ever-willing to lend a helping hand. Their culture is one of resourcefulness and I experienced a deep hunger in them to connect and to learn. I hope to be of service to them in the near future and onward.

I decided to expound on some of the observations I had while on this trip. Here they are:

1) Respect for the Buyer is Important

Walking through Bogyoke Market, there were hardly any touts or loud callers. It was nothing like the noisy 'fish markets' my primary school teachers used to compare my class to. The business practice seemed to be one where the buyer approached the seller only when he/she was ready to browse or buy, and only when the buyer was close will the seller start promoting his/her wares.

Many of the sellers I met had also invited me to return even when I was merely browsing. Those that I had bought from made it a point to remind me that I was always welcome to visit them again. There was an open-ness in their invitations and many even offered bottles of water and chairs to sit on while I was at their stalls.

This spoke to me of a respect that the seller had for the buyer, especially in terms of comfort and personal space. It was one of the reasons I so enjoyed the markets and street stalls in Yangon. I didn't feel the pressure of having to repeatedly decline sales-y advances and persistent offers to be of assistance when I didn't want any because there was always a respectful distance between buyer and seller that the seller did not close unless the buyer desires it.

2) Polite and Indirect Speech Works

Before my trip to Myanmar, I had heard that the locals use a lot of word play and indirect allusions to meanings in their conversations. Though I hardly understand the language, I see this 'indirect-ness' in many ways. 

When talking to many of the business owners I met, though they are glad and willing to talk about their business dealings, they rarely speak of their connections, no matter how impressive they may be, unless asked directly or the conversation obviously veers in that direction. 

This reminds me of the very British trait of indirect, polite speech, where the hearer is expected to listen carefully and deduce the meaning of the words spoken. It makes for high formality and a certain amount of rigid-ness (both are still stereotypical traits of the British even today) but it produces a culture of sophisticated social skills and less in-your-face confrontations.

Perhaps, being an ex-British colony, Myanmar has assimilated some of this into her own culture. Though I have to wonder why Singapore, also an ex-British colony, has lost all traces of this subtlety and social grace.

3) Communications Take Time

Being in a fast-paced modern society means that everything needs to happen 2 minutes ago.

In Yangon, though Wi-Fi and Internet services are as commonplace as honking vehicles (quite an annoyance, really), there is still a certain slow-ness of pace.

I found that e-mails aren't read and replied at the feverish pace most of us in Singapore are used to, messages are hardly acknowledged, let alone replied to, and even phone calls take repeated tries to get through.

It gets a little frustrating sometimes but, through prior experience, things eventually fall into place. Not always the way we wanted or expected them to, but they do work out somehow. 

This reflects the inventive-ness of the locals and it highlights their need to come up with unusual solutions in order to survive in a somewhat chaotic environment.

Things really do take time in Myanmar and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. If anything, we need to learn to slow down and smell the roses rather than expect everyone else to speed up. It will make for a more interesting life.

Busy Street - Yangon

My First Overseas Conference - PDC 2017 in Yangon

Late last month, I was in Yangon for the Professional Development Conference (PDC) 2017. It was held at the historic, beautiful Sule Shangri-La (previously known as Traders Hotel) in the heart of commercial activity in Yangon.

The conference brought professionals from various industries together to learn from the expertise of over 30 trainers from Singapore. I numbered one amongst them.

Educators of the Future - EOS

The style of the conference was such that there were five concurrent Executive Overview Sessions (EOS) occurring at any one time, excepting timeslots for breaks and lunch. Each attendee to the conference was free to attend any of these sessions, according to the areas of their interest. It was inevitable that some wished to attend sessions that have timing clashes. Nevertheless, feedback regarding this style of conference was positive.

Trainers who weren't training during a timeslot were free to attend other EOS's or network / mingle with other attendees.

Over the first 2 days of the conference, I got to meet a number of locals who were either currently part of the private education sector or intending to be part of it. In the following days, I learned that many of the other attendees were also interested in setting up training centres, pre-schools and/or tuition centres in the city.

It is heartening that the private education sector in Myanmar is taking the leap and spearheading changes in the way education is done there. 

I will follow up with some of the contacts I made and see how I may be of assistance to them. Who knows? I may be there for longer periods of time in the coming months.

At PDC2017

Celebrating Teachers' Day at the 132nd APTS Meeting

On 31st Aug 2017, I presented The Trainer's Toolbox at the 132nd APTS Meeting. 

Though it was targeted at newer trainers, the veteran trainers affirmed that they learned something as well. Now, before you think that they were just 'being nice', allow me to explain how the meeting went.

As a new initiative suggested by the committee of APTS, member speakers will give a presentation that will be subject to evaluation. Feedback will be given at the end of the presentation so that the speaker can be alerted to any possible blind spots and areas of improvement. This was all explained beforehand so the member speakers will know what they are getting themselves into.

I started my presentation by expounding on apples as fruit associated with knowledge. With that information in mind, I had a small gift for each trainer present. As they, too, are teachers, I gave each of them apple-flavoured candy. I had considered actual apples but I found candy to be more portable and less perishable.

The presentation proper continued, as I covered points on how to make any training session impactful by utilising specific techniques and taking certain actions.

Though my presentation went slightly overtime, it was well-received and I was applauded for keeping a consistent, polished delivery.

This was deemed worthy of comment as most of my fellow trainers agreed that, should they have known that they were being evaluated, they would have been more than a little distracted.

In turn, I assured them that it wasn't anything close to natural talent but a result of constant, dedicated practice over many years and that they, too, can achieve similar results.

The areas of improvement mainly revolved around the content I was using - how certain areas could be clarified further, certain parts could be more concise and other parts could be expanded. 

There was also a very useful bit of feedback on providing more audience-related examples. As the audience that evening would be trainers, the examples and stories to be presented could be more related to training and improving oneself as a trainer.

All in all, it was a fruitful (pardon the pun) evening and I am glad that many of the trainers took something useful back with them. If possible, I'd love to give another presentation.

After all, one can never get too much practice.

With David Lee

Meeting (and Shooting) Wesley

A few times in your life, you meet someone who inspires you to become a better version of yourself.

A few days ago, in the Google office here in Singapore, celebrating the launch of his book 'Finding Happiness', I met just such a person - Wesley.

Just prior to his book launch, there had been media stories about Wesley and quite a bit of fanfare surrounding this event, especially on social media. Nevertheless, being intentionally blind to the large amounts of information bombarding my news feeds on social media, I would not have paid much attention to it if not for my contact with a friend - one of the many people who wanted to help Wesley. Through him, I got a chance to know a little bit more about Wesley, his book and this event.

It was also through this friend that I volunteered to help during the event - as a photographer.

Through my own eyes and the lens of my camera, I saw the many people who were brought together with a common cause - to become a support and help to Wesley and his wife.

During the book launch, Wesley thanked everyone for their help, especially those who had come beside him since many years before. At numerous times, many were moved, some to tears, at the stories that were related on stage.

Through the event, his story, and by observing him and his interactions with others, there is no doubt that Wesley is a man of immense grit and determination. He has a great sense of humour and a charming personality. Though he is not always able to express it easily, all you have to do is look into his eyes and see how they sparkle with a light that has helped him overcome so very many difficulties that, for a weaker man, would have been insurmountable.

I will not relate Wesley's story here. He does it incredibly well on his own and there is no need or place for my take on it. If you haven't read or heard his story, I strongly encourage you to. There are numerous articles and other forms of media already online about him.

Most of all, I encourage you to get a copy of his book. You can do so here:

www.wesleycan.com/book

Wesley, thank you for showing us that, with dedication and resolve, we, too, can cross hurdles that once seemed too high for us. Thank you for sharing your story with us, that we may learn compassion and how important it is to show love and be of assistance to others who are in need. Most of all, thank you for being you, that we are able to draw inspiration from you and your faith in God.

Wesley and Lorena

Gen X? Millennial? Caught in the Middle?

Am I a Gen X or am I a Millennial?

According to Wikipedia, 

There are no precise dates for when this cohort (referring to Millennials) starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.

Being born in the early 1980s, by this definition, I could be considered an early Millennial. At the same time, I may be a late Gen X instead. Again, according to Wikipedia,

There are no precise dates for when Generation X starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use starting birth years ranging from the early-to-mid 1960s and ending birth years ranging from the late 1970s to early 1980s.

Of course, the truth is that neither group is truly defined by their age. It has always been more of a set of characteristics and behaviours.

That said, there is likely no such person who embodies every single trait (and stereotype) of either group. Humans being humans, we are mixed bags.

I wondered about this when I noticed my reluctance to adopt now-popular social media platforms when they first started out. I knew of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like almost as soon as they became available to the general public but I was never among the first to use them.

Perhaps this has nothing to do with whether I am Gen X or a Millennial and more of me being a bit of a laggard (as opposed to the early adopters).

Even today, I am apprehensive of hiring transportation from private cars, much preferring to get to my destinations by regular taxis (even if I have to book them).

At the same time, I am no slouch when it comes to technology. I have been customising, upgrading and/or fixing up my own computers since I was a teenager, I trawl the Internet for information on maximising my use of computer programs or fixing technological issues that I face (usually very successfully), and I insist on being able to customise my own technological devices - a core reason for my refusal to use a particular brand associated with the fruiting body of the Malus genus.

I recognise some stereotypical Millennial behaviours in myself, such as:

1) Researching product information on the Internet before making a purchase

2) Insisting on finding meaningful work

3) Disliking other people taking up unnecessary amounts of my time

Yet, I hardly exhibit other stereotypical Millennial behaviours, such as:

a) Viewing social media 'influencers' with large followings as celebrities

b) Embracing the Sharing Economy

c) Desiring a workplace that is social and 'fun'

It got me thinking: Aren't behaviour molded by cultures? Since the Millennials are the ones growing up with all this technology around them, is it any wonder that the behaviours forged by technology are picked up most quickly by those who are most deeply immersed in those same technologies?

With high Internet speeds, we become less patient. With mass production, we find blending in easy. With ready information anytime anywhere, we become less easily satisfied and more skeptical of what is presented before us.

The behaviours of a stereotypical Millennial, then, aren't so much to do with when the individual was born but, more likely, how readily they he/she has taken to the available technology. After all, there are 'aunties' and 'uncles' who exhibit the very same behaviours we ascribe to Millennials, and who embrace the fast-paced, high-tech lifestyle of the 'young people'.

So, am I a Gen X or a Millennial? 

I guess it doesn't really matter, does it? 

Smartphone

There are No 'Talented' Photographers. There are Only Disciplined Ones.

Photography is not about how good the camera is. It's about how good the photographer is. 

This has been my belief since I started snapping pictures with a simple film camera when I was in Secondary One.

I didn't realise it then but the pictures I took of my Secondary School are priceless treasures today, especially since CCHMS now looks very different after the numerous 'upgrades' it has gone through.

From that simple film camera, which I believe I still have somewhere, I moved on into the digital age with a digital point-and-shoot camera. At that time, a 2-megapixel camera was about the best that a typical person could get without spending thousands of dollars. That's what I got.

As technology sped forward, cameras became loaded with more and more features as well as more and more megapixels, which, as it turns out, don't really matter when it comes to image quality unless you are printing movie poster sizes.

That's right, all those camera salespeople you've been listening to? They've been selling you what is effectively a useless feature.

I traded up into the prosumer level of cameras in the late 2000s. I got myself a Panasonic FZ28, which resides in my dry cabinet to this day. The reason I didn't go straight into the world of DSLR was that I didn't feel it was necessary to do so and that I didn't have that much disposable income at the time. The image quality of my Panasonic was pretty good as it was, the camera was light and fairly compact, and I was still learning the art.

It was only after a few more years that I felt ready to shoot with a DSLR. By this time, I had learned a few things:

1) To see the shot before making it

2) To follow the rules before breaking them

3) Above all, to be patient

To make use of what I've learned, I bought a second-hand Nikon D90 and have been using it for the past 6 years. In that time, I learned:

4) To work with light before manipulating it

5) To change settings according to the scene

6) To post-process photos without over-processing them

On Friday, after more than 6 years, I made my latest upgrade. I got a second-hand (though still new enough to have more than 10 months of warranty left) Nikon D7500 - a model that was just released in June this year.

In the few days that I've used it, I was able to tell why many people make constant upgrades to their camera bodies. My newest camera made it much easier to capture what I wanted to capture without having to constantly change settings or manipulate light and the surroundings. 

That said, an advanced camera can only produce results that are as good as the eye behind it. Without the years of conditioning and training to make better pictures, I would only have a great camera that produced pictures that were a little above average at best.

I still have a long way to go in learning photography and I hope that, some time soon, I'll be able to add another 3 points to the list of things that I've learned.

Curving Lamp

To My Pioneer Group of Students from Chung Cheng High (Main)

A decade has passed since first we were introduced in a smallish but, thankfully, air-conditioned room on the 2nd floor of the new(er) study block in CCHMS.

You were new to life in Secondary School and I was new to the world of training.

A number of you knew (or came to knew later) that Chung Cheng High (Main) was my Secondary School. As such, I was elated to have been offered an opportunity to give something back to my alma mater. I am glad that you were the ones I could render this service to.

There were times of boring instruction, times of necessary discipline and times of intense focus. Above all, there were times of fun and sessions of learning.

Though some of you have professed to me in recent years that you had forgotten almost everything I had taught you in the DNA Hub, I know that there were moments that you remembered. I hope that they will always have a place in your memory.

In the past weeks, many of you have graduated from University - my heartiest Congratulations to you! - and had arranged for photoshoots in your now-alma mater. Clearly, CCHMS is dear to you. I hope that she will always be, as she is to me.

We no longer share a teacher-student relationship and I will not be presumptuous enough to assume that we are now friends, though I have at least one colleague amongst you and fairly regular correspondence with others. For that, I am thankful.

Wherever life takes you from this moment on, know that you can always count on your family and friends to support you. Though there will be down times, never feel embarrassed to reach out for help. And, of course, when times are good, share your joys with others.

To reach your goals, be resilient and always remember that a situation may fail, but that does not make you a failure. Look up and carry on. That is how success is made.

If you are able to, find a mentor, perhaps even different ones for different aspects of your life. It is true that information is readily available at your fingertips today. Nevertheless, it can never substitute real-life experience that your mentor(s) can bring.

You may not know it, but I learned from you, perhaps more than I ever taught you in return. In that vein, realise that you are an influence to the people around you and that you have an impact on them. Strive to be a positive one.

I wish you the brightest of futures, the richest of experiences and the deepest of relationships. May you discover your path early, may you find favour with those with whom you interact and may your future endeavours leave a legacy that will swell your heart when you look back upon what you've accomplished.

Here's to your journey ahead and the many adventures you will embark upon! Oh, what adventures they will be.

CCHMS Lake View

Hosting the 131st APTS Meeting and Meeting Dean Shams

On Thursday night, I was privileged to have hosted the 131st APTS meeting. 

Our VP, Eugene Seah, shared about ensuring that we are always bettering ourselves so that we can be ready to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves. He also advocated the use of self-recorded videos of our presentations, that clients can have a preview of what we offer before they decide if we are suitable for their training requirements.

These are excellent reminders and I shall record a more recent video of my training. The last one was taken quite a few years ago and has been lying dormant in a folder in my computer.

Next, we had Dean Shams to take the platform. Dean has an impressive skillset, one that many of us would be proud to have. He regularly writes articles of 400 words or more in 30 minutes or less.

As an author myself, I know how difficult it is. I had much to learn.

The first thing he told us was that Writers' Block was imaginary. It appears only because we believe we have it.

He had only 3 main steps, which all sound all-too-easy:

Step One: Plan

Step Two: Write

Step Three: Edit

That's it? Well, not quite. He was quick to add that each step has to stand alone and that mixing them is a sure way of slowing down your progress.

What that means is: When you're planning, don't write or edit. When you're writing, don't edit or plan. When you're editing, stop planning or adding content.

Next, he broke it down for us:

1) Write to one person

2) Have an opinion, starting from your emotions

3) Write your main message in 10 words or less so you'll know if you're going off course

4) Focus on at least 1 of 3 outcomes: Think, Feel, Do

5) Start with the conclusion (in 3 sentences)

6) Write 3 points you want to make, then elaborate on them

7) Finish writing, then edit

Dean then got all of us to get down to do each step in a minute (yes, he kept time) each (though he gave us 2 minutes each for points 5 and 6). 

He then gave us 15 minutes to write our 400-word article and many of us managed to do so. I actually finished with a couple of minutes to spare and I was very impressed at how systematic the whole thing was. I then resolved to use this system to produce more articles.

Finally, Dean ended off by letting us know how we can connect with him and made copies of his book - Speak Smart, Make Your Mark - available to us. Needless to say, I got myself a copy. He also informed us of a 1-day workshop that he regularly conducts on writing to influence. The next upcoming one is on 26 August.

Thank you, Dean, for your valuable insight, and for making this session a powerful, highly practical one. I hope to learn much more from you in the near future.

With Dean Shams

Especially For Authors: Getting Your Message Out There!

It is never enough to merely write and publish a book. The next step is to get it into the hands of others. That's where it gets tricky. Thankfully, I'm getting guidance and advice from the best in the business.

1) Design Graphics for use in social media

Whether your book is published by a mainstream publisher or you're a self-published author, it needs to be seen by other people, and there is no wider audience than on social media

Weeks to months before printing, the cover of the book has to be finalised and it should be designed to catch the eye. Thus, unless you're a designer yourself, get one to come up with a custom design for you.

Yes, sites like Canva are very useful for putting your own graphics together and I highly recommend them for your regular posts on social media. However, this isn't just any typical graphic. 

A professionally designed book cover allows you to stand out from the thousands of uninspiring book covers out there. When people see your cover, they will associate it with you and what you represent - your brand. Do you really want them to come away with a poor impression of you?

Once your book cover is finalised, use its colour scheme for graphics associated with the book (and, by extension, you as the author). These graphics may include social media banners, profile pictures, marketing materials and so on. Keeping things consistent is the key here. Again, I recommend that you get a designer to do these things for you, at least for the first run. You can do your tweaks and changes on your own later.

These graphics will make your book more visible over social media and invariably lead to increased interest in what you have written, which leads to more people reading your book. 

2) Tell Others about your book

Along with the appropriate graphics, write an introduction for your book. Tell others what it's about and what they can learn from it. Show them how this book will improve their lives / make them happier / allow them to do things they didn't know they could etc.

A side-effect of telling others about your book is that you have now publicly committed to this project. This makes you much more likely to complete it, especially since others will keep asking when they can get a copy of it.

Another useful side-effect is the attention those outside of your circle will start to pay towards you and your book. One of these people may be linked to media outlets and help you gain yet more publicity. 

With regard to publicity, look for opportunities to share what you've written about - be it through workshops, speaking engagements, media appearances and so on. While you are keeping a lookout, continue to update your captive audience via social media.

You aren't expecting every single person who hears about your book to get a copy but the more people hear about it, the more people will want one. Don't keep such a great work to yourself. Share it with others and let them benefit from your book.

3) Give Copies of your book away

What? Really?

Yes. Give them to people who helped you on your book-writing journey, to your clients (current and potential), and, of course, to your loved ones.

Run contests on social media where you give a copy away as a prize. Give one to that brave soul who first stands up to answer your question when you are giving a talk. Give extra copies to people who know others who may benefit from your book.

You are trying to get your book into as many hands as possible. Though it may seem like an expensive way to do so, giving the book away works. Very well.

Throughout my journey as an author, I was constantly reminded that book sales aren't what I should focus on. They will come and they are important in keeping authors writing (otherwise, we'll have to find other paying professions), but my main priority should be in getting my message out there.

After all, that's why I wrote the book in the first place.