What I’m reading

Mastering Adulthood” by Lara Fielding, PsyD.

Mind Warps: Can our brains distort reality or as Dr Fielding calls them “thinking errors”.

Do you trust your thoughts? One of my clients is going through a “Nobody cares! Im alone in the world” moment. Dr Fielding recommends a Mindful Mastery practice to Validate, Check and Change.

Skill 1: Notice: mind warps (examples below), catastrophizing.

Skill 2: Ask: is the thought 100% true?

Skill 3: Compassionately reframe.

1. All or none, black and white thinking – She always gets all the rewards.

2. Blaming – Hold others responsible for something that went wrong. If not for you, I would have… its all your fault. You screwed up my life. My mom wont let me…

3. Catastrophizing – assume the worst that can happen. I recall a client who thinks the plane will crash when he’s queuing at the visa office.

4. Emotional reasoning – mistake feelings for facts. If I feel nervous, it must be bad.

5. Mind reading – assuming others are upset about you when you see them frowning. She thinks Im stupid.

6. Minimization or Magnification – That doesnt count. My parents taught me not to boast or show off. Afterawhile every time I get a “compliment” or positive feedback from a student, I think they want something out of me. I disregard all the compliments I get from my students. Result – burnout. I magnify all the negative comments from 1 student of a class of 45 or a cohort of 120 students each semester. Lol.

7. Overgeneralizing and time travelling – if it happened in the past, it will happen again. One of my clients who is in her 70s talks about being bullied by her mother in law who died 20 years ago. She talks about this everyday if she has nothing dramatic to complain.

8. Personalizing – why is this happening to me? Eg. When something breaks and needs repair. Rather than thinking, all things break.

Any of these mind warps are common traps for you?

Do pick up this very practical book. Dr Fielding has QR codes for more videos on the topic.

Reflect + Reset + Results

A children’s book about the global economy and the future of work — Quartz

Quartz’s Dan Kopf and Bárbara Abbês, Alphabet for the Next Global Economy

A is for Automation,
That great destroyer of jobs,
In the olden days,
It brought out the mobs
It can also be great,
Something people can dig,
The agricultural revolution for example,
Farming was a really hard gig
The effect is complicated,
It creates and it ends,
Is it going to hurt you?
Hard to know, it depends

This is what I call creativity. Combining two simple ideas and creating a fabulous and essential product. References to American companies like Uber which may confuse some.

Whats better, the words rhyme and comes as an audiobook. Three simple ideas into another outstanding product.

Im definitely trying to buy some as gifts for Christmas. Useful not only for children but for most of us trying to learn the vocabulary of the new normal.

A will be Agile or Adapt to the changing trends. With change, we certainly see no end.

If you were to recreate your own alphabet set, what’s A for you?

“Virtues and vices – like carpets and hats – obey the law of fashion, and at different times, society with infuriating inconsistency punishes or rewards the same trait.

What characteristic in Churchill, won him adulation and honors? The same characteristic that earned him censure: his love of war. He never changed, but the values of the world did.

And if the years before 1940 were a prelude, the years after the war were a long decline. In the 1945 election, even before Japan surrendered, Churchill was ejected from office. The public sensed in him the permanent relish for battle, and they wanted no more of it.

Ch13 Churchill’s Bellligerence, His Defining Characteristic from “Forty ways of looking at Churchill” by Gretchen Rubin.

Can our weakness be our strengths?

Is there such a thing as strength or weakness? Gretchen Rubin concluded Ch 12 with this observation “Churchill didn’t care what anyone else thought. He never shut up, he was rude, he was undignified. Churchill’s greatest fault was the fault of his greatest virtue. His disdain for other’s opinions gave him his own clear vision, and he saw what others missed. Willingness to consider all points of view can be a source of weakness as well as strength; in 1940, Churchill knew the true course and led the way without listening to anyone.”

Forty ways of looking at Churchill” by Gretchen Rubin.

My initial reaction to the PM’s announcement that the “circuit breaker” will be extended till 1 June 2020, was one of despondence. Failing to queue for my favourite bubble tea, I went to Chinatown to buy a box of plum wine roast chicken and Chinese roast duck. The food surprisingly tasted bland. The mind plays tricks on our desires.

Instead of mopping if an L shaped or W shaped recession awaits round the corner, what if I use the next 10 days as entering a meditative retreat, in my own home. Minus tv or news. Minus noise. Minus activity. Just deep breathing. Simple food. But

allowed to read and write.

allowed to walk.

allowed to listen

to me

Not judge.

  1. Always make your future bigger than your past.
  2. Always make your learning greater than your experience.
  3. Always make your contribution bigger than your reward.
  4. Always make your performance greater than your applause.
  5. Always make your gratitude greater than your success.
  6. Always make your enjoyment greater than your effort.
  7. Always make your cooperation greater than your status.
  8. Always make your confidence greater than your comfort.
  9. Always make your purpose greater than your money.
  10. Always make your questions bigger than your answers.

I recently chanced upon the writings of strategic coach Dan Sullivan whose 10 laws of growth are so inspiring if you, like me struggle with how opportunistic networking can be.

If we know that networking is necessary, whats holding us back? Fear of rejection.

1. Courage to step out. Curiosity to acquire diversity of experiences.

2. Commitment to change

3. Capability – deep work

4. Confidence

Adapted fron the 4Cs of Dan Sullivan.


In this digital age of selfies where narcissism is all time high, it is critical for self and employers to sieve through who is a real asset, and those who have a sense of self entitlement. 

Coupled with a talent to tell a good story, the blur becomes greater. It is not unusual for someone who is only a novice, yet feel s/he is entitled. Or someone who has more experience and yet feel that they are not as competent. 

Just sifting through the amount of “self-help” materials on resume writing and career coaching by people who have not much success themselves in searching for a job, the Dunning-Kruger effect becomes a good depiction. 

Everyone can give career advice. Check the credentials of the person giving you his.

But are you getting advice from a mentor who has broad exposure to all industries, especially yours? Someone who is constantly being in touch with understanding the different professions? Or someone who has great success in a very narrow scope?

Referring to advice given by Financial analysts in banks, Warren Buffet once commented, “Wall Street is the only place where people who ride to work in a Rolls Royce take advice from someone who takes a subway”.


Measure how much time you talk about:
(a) how smart, special or wonderful you are – or listening while someone does this, plus
(b) how stupid, inept, or bad someone else is – or listening while someone does this

From Marshall Goldsmith, “MOJO – How to get it, How to Keep it, How to Get it Back if you lose it”.

Actually, its Tool#11 in his book. But I like it so much, I put it as #1.

Goldsmith asked his research subjects to guess. Some people estimate 100%, because they believe that all workplace communication serve only these two purposes.

In his view, whether we’re boasting about ourselves or criticizing someone else, such chatter is pointless. We learn nothing and its not good for your MOJO.

Measure yourself and Reduce this number.


Photo: L

As is a tale, so is life
Not how long it is
But how good it is,
Is what matters
– Seneca

In her commencement address at Havard University in 2008;  JK Rowling spoke to the graduating class about:
(i) Benefits of failure and
(ii) Importance of imagination

Having failed at marriage and her job, what’s failure?

“Failure was a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.

Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believed I truly belonged.

I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom was the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means you are ever after secure in your ability to survive.”

The speech was recently published (2015) in a think book, beautifully illustrated in red, white and black.

If you have a chance to travel back in time to meet you at 21, what advice would you give you?


Recently, I did a mental count on how many young adult students I interact with, in a week, during my intense teaching period. Close to 600. In a year, it comes to 1,000.  Like many leaders, lecturers and people in the customer service business interact with different personalities.

In a book, GEN Y NOW, Millenials and the Evolution of Leadership by Buddy Hobart and Herb Sendek, the authors believe that most organisations are broken down into three types of folks: Teamers (20%), Fence-Sitters (60%), and Lottery Winners (20%).

“Teamers are loyal and dedicated employees who always give their best. They to be positive folks who trust their leaders and strive to do their best. Unfortunately, as they are low maintenance, managers and leaders tend to ignore them and not give them much time or energy.

Fence-sitters make up the majority and tend to be silent, neither overtly negative or positive. Managers also do not spend much time with them either.

The final group “Lottery Ticket winners” are the squeaky wheels. To them, nothing is ever right. They think (and say) they are smarter, more qualified and more talented than their bosses ( or anyone else).Seldom do they offer proactive ideas, but always first to point out the negatives. Usually, they are the most vocal and demanding of attention, and managers spend overwhelming  majority of their time and energy with this group.

Teamers tend to just shrug the lack of attention off, while the fence-sitters quickly learn that in order to be noticed, you need to be negative. Managers convince themselves, that, if they could just win over these negative folks, everyone else will follow.  Therefore, managers waste countless hours and enormous amounts of energy trying to motivate employees who are frequently a lost cause.”

Powerful. Do you have employees, volunteers or students like that?

The authors tell a “Lottery Ticket” Story. [Incidentally, the $13.9 million lottery ticket was claimed last night!]

A husband and wife woke up one Sunday morning, check the newspaper, and discovered that they have just won the lottery, a $45 million jackpot. The paper says there are two other winners, so their take will be $15 million.

The couple was overjoyed.  However, as they reflected further, both were afraid the windfall will change everything. But not for the better. They have read countless stories of how lives were ruined after just such a lottery windfall.  Already, happy and healthy, there’s nothing else they need.

So both decided, after hours of soul searching to give up the ticket. They decided who should bring the ticket to office, flipped a coin, and it was the husband who wins the toss. On Monday, the husband walks into work, and will have to hand the ticket to the first person he sees.

On Monday morning, our generous husband sees Joe, the office naysayer and cynic. True to the agreement, the husband approaches Joe, explains the situation, and hands him the one (of three) winning $45 million lottery ticket.

Joe takes the ticket, puts it in his pocket and says “Tough luck, you give me the ticket, but I have to split it with two other tickets” and walks away.

That’s a “Lottery Ticket Winner.

The authors’ advice is that, for some folks, even being given a winning lottery ticket is not enough. Yet it is just this type of person who demands our time and energy. The regrettable mistake is, we give it to them.  We are ignoring the “Teamers’ and teaching the “Fence-sitters” that inappropriate attitudes are rewarded with time and attention. Your goal for the Lottery Ticket winners is simple. They can:

  • start pretending to be positive
  • Start being positive
  • Shut up altogether or
  • Leave

Are there negative people you interact with?    If you interact with a lot of people, its natural.  Where do you focus your energy?   On the 5% negative ones or the rest?

Focus on the “Teamers”, the authors suggest. They deserve it and you will be teaching the “Fence-sitters” the correct leadership lesson.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Give us this day our daily bread.

the daily reader/strong>, 365 selections of great prose and poetry to inspire a productive and meaningful writing life. By Fred White

I have a ton of assignments to mark, but everything else seems more interesting. Especially this book which surely is a cure for a writer’s block. Each page is divided into 3 parts: summary of a book, points for further reflection and “try this” – suggestions on what you can practice writing about.

Example, the entry on Jan 8 is about “Alexandria: City of the Western Mind” by Theodore Vrettos. White invites you, the reader to reflect on how a city like Alexandria, can prepare you in writing your own story, and describing the setting, the people and how life is organised. In “try this”, White suggests that the reader describes a scene based on Vrettos’s reference to Julius Caesar strolling with Cleopatra through the streets of Alexandria. Describe the citizens and try to capture as many sensory impressions as possible.

At other parts, White invites you to try writing a story in which individuals from two vastly different cultures or time-periods come together such as “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain. And if you think that time traveller stories are passe, recall “The Time Traveller’s Wife”.

All together, if you are searching for suggestions on what to read next, there are 365 ideas, from “The story of Jazz” by Marshall Stearns to “The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance” by Henry Petroski.

Did you know that a lead pencil while seemingly simple by today’s standards, involves an “exacting process employing a multiplicity of raw materials. And the materials depends on the most modern and cosmopolitan of political, economic and technological systems. The lead might be a mixture of two kinds of graphite, from Sri Lanka and Mexico, clay from Mississippi, gums from the Orient and water from Pennsylvania and the wooden case from western incense cedar from California.

From St Augustine to Nero, from “Coffee” to “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”, there’s a good selection of genres ending with “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers” by Christopher Vogler.

The stages of a hero’s journey can be traced to all kinds of stories. The book ends with Vogler’s depiction of story patterns as described by Joseph Campbell in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, how writers can construct a story using the 12 stages of the hero’s journey, including the call to adventure, crossing the first threshold, facing enemies, suffering ordeals and setbacks, and coming home.

How about writing your own, 100 stories that changed your life.