thoughts

'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Thoughts Came.

Christmas has become something rather different from what I remember as a younger version of myself.

I remember it to be celebratory, joyous, and a relaxing time.

Though I never really had a family tradition to celebrate the season, my mom would sometimes buy honey baked ham and log cake (chocolate!). We didn’t really do presents, though we did when I was much younger, or have a Christmas tree, but this simple gesture was enough to remind me that it was a time to indulge in a little food and have a little fun.

As a teenager, I remember attending gatherings, going to Orchard Road to see the lights, and enjoying the days leading up to it with friends. We would brave the crowds and sit somewhere to talk about the simple things that teenagers talk about.

As the years went by, I felt the vice of commercialisation tighten. I started to notice the ‘SALE’ signs everywhere, the advertisements for Christmas-sy products, and the promotions for ‘Christmas lunches and Christmas dinners’ at restaurants.

I started to resent ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchanges, the mad rushes to find something vaguely suitable, and the near-useless ‘gifts’ that ended up in everybody’s laps.

It was no longer about spending time with people I cared about. It had become a sideshow, about showboating, about who got the biggest, brightest present and how ‘lucky’ some people were to win the office prizes.

After a few years of this, I made a decision. I would no longer participate in these pointless gift exchanges and I would either spend my Christmas Day’s where I want to or stay at home.

As it turns out, this was one of my favourite decisions. Some may argue that I’m being oversensitive about the whole thing and others have tried to cajole me into joining in their versions of ‘celebrations’. I never caved.

Christmases in the most recent years are nothing like the ones I had when I was younger. They certainly don’t look as laugh-out-loud fun, but they are less meaningless to me now.

I take the time to think about the year that passed, and the one that is to come.

And, in case you wonder about my faith, Jesus was not born on the 25th of December, and I have very strong views about the christianisation of this ‘holiday’. I am not completely against the celebration of this day, but only if it is done with careful consideration, with the knowledge and understanding that this is a substitute celebration, and not a ‘holy day’ as it were.

You are free to do on this day as you please, just as you are on all the other days of the year.

As am I.

Winter


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