A Grey December - Looking Towards A Brighter January

December for many is a month of celebration, gatherings, parties, feasting, and all-around cheer.

Especially considering the weather this December is unusually cool, apparently even going to drop to 22°C in the first half of the month, I’d say it’s a fair use of the last month of the year.

I have to say, though, that this was not a great year for me.

Professionally, it has been exceedingly slow. Although there is certainly some movement in the right direction, most things seem to either be at a standstill or appear to be going backwards. It’s hard to explain what happened exactly, but I imagine that 2019 will almost definitely be an improvement.

Although I do feel like I’m slightly stuck, things will get better.

Goals-wise, I’ve missed a few, I don’t mind admitting. Though I could come up with all sorts of excuses, I’m pretty much responsible for not following through on them. I’ll have to do some tweaking of these goals for next year.

One thing I’ve learned about goal-setting is that it takes a lot of effort to stay on track. As such, I’m going to make fewer ‘big picture’ goals and more ‘step-by-step’ ones. Also, I’m going to have to make ‘review and update’ a step in and of itself.

In a few weeks, I’ll be sitting in a familiar spot planning goals for the year of 2019, coming up with another Word of the Year, and looking forward to a brighter January.

Until then, it’ll be a Grey December.

Sunrise On a Rocky Beach

How an Introvert Can Become a Master of Social Interactions

In our busy world, we often feel that we may let others down if we take a break. If we do not attend social events, we may fear being viewed negatively, either as an arrogant snob or as a sad loner.

We know that the social world is astoundingly complex and that we, the introverts, have a part to play. While we may not be socially awkward, we generally prefer not to be overly-social, sometimes in order not to end up having to entertain the same person for days after the event has ended at which we met that person.

Introverts Are Social Creatures Too and the social dance is a lifelong one, and the sooner we master it, the better.

Benefits of Mastering The Social Dance

Imagine having a life where you have exactly the degree of stimulation you need from social events, never feeling guilty for leaving early if you need to.

Imagine having friends who understand your need to have time on your own. They let you be when you need them to, and you know that you can still call them up anytime.

Imagine having the energy to go about your daily activities without constantly feeling like you need to get away from it all.

Yes, you can have all of that once you master the dance. So let’s start with the first one:

Letting Others Know

Have you ever wondered why other people cannot be more understanding and stop making so many demands of you?

This usually happens when you are tired. Thus, when you need Alone Time, you have to make this known and come to an understanding with the people you are with. Holding in this need will make you feel like a martyr, and resentment can build over time, harming your relationships.

The quickest way to forge understanding is to share information and express expectations. However, being introverts, it can sometimes be difficult to voice our thoughts and give our opinions. We often feel like we are intruding on another person when we do so.

Overcome this feeling by reminding yourself that what you wish to share is valuable to the other person as well. As long as you are polite and respectful when conveying your message, you will generally be well-received.

Let others know of your needs, especially when you need them.

Remember that the biggest favour you can do for the people you love is to be at your best for them. If you are to be at your best, your needs have to be met.

Suggestions for Letting Others Know:

1) Arrange a meeting and sit them down.

2) Explain that you are an introvert and that you need recharges from time to time so that you can be on top form for them.

3) Elaborate that your recharges need to be on your own.

4) If you have kryptonite (something you are adversely sensitive to, such as loud noises, bright lights, etc.) and you know what it is, let them know.

5) Assure them that you are not pushing them away when you tell them you need time alone.

6) Thank them for their understanding.

You will inevitably come across people who either cannot understand or simply do not want to acknowledge who you are or why you need time on your own, and will continue to make demands of you.

Unless these are immediate family members, your only course of action is to minimise your interactions with them. If at all possible, stop spending your energy on them.

Anyone who cannot respect your legitimate needs should not be given the privilege of your attention. Conserve your energy and give it to those who are more deserving.

Dancing

The Gig Economy ISN'T Going to Change the Future of Work

'The Gig Economy is going to change the future of work.'

If you've been reading articles online (and offline), you will likely come across statements related to this.

You may agree, disagree, or be completely indifferent to it. Yet, it is worth thinking about.

To the above statement, I’d say ‘yes, in a way, but, mainly, no.’

The Gig Economy has been around since work became a means to support oneself and one’s family. There have always been informal work arrangements or contracts exchanged between those with desired products / services and those who desire them.

Think of the ancient scribes and, later, notaries, who were paid to put contracts and legal documents in writing.

Think of the independent travelling salesmen, who had to go from door to door or market to market to sell their wares, which may have come from different suppliers.

Think of the young, enterprising children who act as tour guides and offer to take tourists around for a small fee, to show them the sights, the sounds, and the smells of their local cultures.

Perhaps at some point, a group of scribes came together to form a ‘company’ of scribes, to take on larger, more elaborate projects and share the earnings.

Maybe it was an ambitious travelling salesman who took on a deal that needed practitioners of other trades and decided to permanently keep them together, the better to negotiate future deals of similar nature.

It may also have been a group of young unofficial tour guides deciding to team up to divide up the work, some attracting the tourists, others making deals with local businesses to bring tourists to them for a commission, and still others doing the actual tour guiding. The extra benefit to them? Each one gets a day off work per week.

Now, even with the formation of these ‘companies’, there will still be independent workers in each of these trades. They are still going from gig to gig, with no intention to be part of any one group. They may occasionally work with some of these groups for a season, or all of them, but never ‘settle’ down with any of them.

What was true then is still true today, and it will hold true in the future.

There will always be independent workers – Giggers – and some of them will come together to form ‘companies’ or join existing ones, and some in ‘companies’ will want to strike out on their own.

With technology, information flows more rapidly and easily. This makes it much easier and cheaper for Giggers to do what they do, and for them to sustain their lifestyles. As such, it’s easy to see how the number of Giggers will likely increase in the coming years.

That said, there has always been an ebb and flow of labour supply. When the number of independent workers goes past a certain threshold, competition may force them to band together and, once again, form ‘companies’. This trend will then take root again, until it hits its own threshold, when the opposite effect occurs.

Since this has always been the case, it’s hard to imagine that the future of work will really change from what it has always been, with or without technology.

That said, to those who aren’t yet on board with the Gig Economy, I can only say that it’s better to start learning how you can take advantage of this move before you are forced down the wrong end of its inevitable movement into your sector.

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I am Not a Toastmaster

I am not a Toastmaster.

I had considered joining a Toastmasters Club many, many years ago. I just couldn’t find one that fit my odd work schedule or be close enough to home that I would actually not mind travelling to.

It turns out that it didn’t matter.

I learned the hard way, through the cleansing fires of non-friendly, sometimes even hostile, audiences. In my opinion, that’s the fastest, surest way to learn.

Let me qualify that. Toastmasters clubs can be very helpful for someone who wishes to overcome his/her fear of public speaking. I have a fair number of friends who are Toastmasters, and I have seen them grow in confidence as they take the stage.

In the friendlier spaces of their respective clubs, there is greater safety, as well as the presence of potential mentors who can help. These are valuable. No doubt about that.

That said, the usefulness of these things stops once the speaker is past a certain point. Things start to go a little awry. I have listened to hundreds of speakers, both in-person and through the Internet, and I have come to notice certain traits that quite a number of them, who happen to be Toastmasters, have:

1) They have unnaturally exaggerated facial expressions and body language, all the while over-enunciating and placing too much emphasis on their words, often in a slightly off-beat manner that’s very difficult to listen to without getting distracted.

Nobody talks like that in real life. If they did, people around them would either raise incredulous eyebrows, politely excuse themselves, or run.

2) The content of their speeches is lacklustre.

I have heard from a few sources that Toastmasters are judged more on delivery than they are on content.

If that is true, I can only surmise that, in order to win contests and/or titles, they have no choice but to sacrifice substance for form. I certainly cannot speak for others, but that is a sacrifice I am unwilling to make.

Yes, there is a place for pretty speeches, but if the audience learns nothing from the encounter, what’s the point?

3) There seems to be an emphasis on telling personal stories that borders on idolatry.

Personal stories can be powerful and moving. IF they are used appropriately and for the right reasons.

I have lost count of the number of times I had to sit through an unnecessarily long, over-dramatised, poorly-executed narration of an inconsequential incident in the life of a speaker I happened to be sitting in front of.

For some reason, telling a personal story has become a ‘must’ and ‘the only way to start a speech / presentation’. It is not.

The audience doesn’t care about the speaker’s life more than they care about their own.

With that in mind, wouldn’t it make more sense to relate to the audience first, and then tell a personal story that they can relate to, in order to cement that bond?

No, I don’t hate the Toastmasters, nor do I think that they should dissolve. I simply believe that it’s time for them to update themselves.

Story-telling has no shortcuts. It is an art and a science, and needs to be respected, taught, and practised as such.

Cheesy Toast.jpg

Attending the 142nd Meeting of the Association of Professional Trainers (APTS)

The 142nd Association of Professional Trainers (APTS) meeting 2 days ago was quite a blast.

We had, for the 1st time, two emcees - Eugene Seah and Jude Lim - who decided to adopt a cross-talk style, to a... rather interesting effect.

Our President, Mr. David Lee, shared his experiences and thoughts with us during his opening address - something I always look forward to.

Then, we had our first speaker - Alvin Lim, who taught us about Risk Management.

He took us through the types of risks that we, as trainers, often come across:

Strategic Risks, Compliance Risks, Operational Risks, Financial Risks, and Reputation Risks

After that, he reminded us that we could do 5 things when it comes to risks:

1) Accept them
2) Reduce them
3) Share them
4) Transfer them
5) Avoid them

(5) is a common response, but never a long-term solution.

After a short break, we had Mike Li sharing what he suggested is The World's Biggest Problem.

Through an audience poll, and some research he had done, many people think that global warming is The World's Biggest Problem.

Well, it certainly keeps me up at night, especially during the past few sweltering days.

Without spoiling what I thought was an excellent TED-style talk, I will share just one key takeaway from it:

The Mediocre Are Always At Their Best.

Now, that's a statement for the ages.

Thank you, Alvin and Mike, for sharing some truly thought-provoking points.

I look forward to your next events!

APTS 142nd Meeting
Alvin Lim at APTS
Mike Li at APTS