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Tibetan man with his yak  at Yangpachen, Namtso

Tibetan man with his yak at Yangpachen, Namtso

Gift #4:   April Showers bring May flowers

Everything has a season, Everything has a reason

Had Steve Jobs not been fired from Apple, he would not have met his wife, and bought Pixar, which made him a billionaire. [This is according to his commencement address.]

In Chinese, there’s an expression that comes close to the English idiom, every cloud has a silver lining. In every terrible circumstance, there’s a tiny sliver of hope of something good that may come as a result.

塞翁失马 [sai weng si ma, yan zi feifu]

The expression 塞翁失马 literally means Sai Weng lost his horse and comes from 《淮南子》written by Liu An in the Western Han Dynasty. An old man called Sai Weng lost his horse, but when others came to comfort him, he said, “I have only lost a horse, and this is not a big loss. Maybe something good will come of it in future.” And so it came to pass – a few days later, his horse returned followed by another good horse.

Although from the story my mom told me, it continues that one day, his son sat on the new horse and was thrown off this wild horse. His son became a cripple. When neighbours came to console him, how is he going to start his own family? No one will want a husband like that?  The man said, its not a big loss. Perhaps something good will come of it. Several years later, the country went to war with a neighbouring country, and all the able-bodied men in the village were enlisted. But because his son was a cripple, he was spared and able to marry a young woman of his dreams. Perhaps the story has other twists and turns.

Tibetan yak

Tibetan yak

The Chinese saying, is usually twined with a question “Is this good or bad?”

Was colonialism good or bad for Singapore?

When World War II came, and the British came, and the Japanese occupied Singapore, was it good or bad?

When Singapore was expelled from the merger, was it good or bad?

When the British withdrew from Singapore in 1971, was it good or bad?

As I looked back at my own life, whenever I face a setback, fear crept in. At times, I was even paralyzed with fear and depression. Be positive, pull yourself by your boot-straps, friends tell me. They are not wrong. But somehow I couldn’t muster the courage to positive thinking.

I’ve come to learn that adverse situations are pivotal circumstances and contain seeds of new growth = turning points. Life-changing experiences take place, when I’m not preoccupied with grumbling. I’m not trying to justify the works of evil people. They will be judged in their own time.  Whatever man meant for evil, God can turn it to good.

My response to such adverse circumstances in future?

Ask: What is the lesson that I am supposed to learn from this situation?  What is my responsibility? Did I contribute to this problem? What can I do differently? [Which leads me to Gift #5 – Learn something new.]
What do I have to mourn and move on?
10 years later, when I look back, what can I give thanks for now?
Are there qualities, growth that I have gained?

Having a routine helps in adversity. And friends.

What are the lessons adversity has taught you? Let me hear from you.

Don’t judge each day by your harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.  – Robert Louis Steveson

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Absorbed in his drawing

Absorbed in his drawing

Photo credit: Mr Khenghuai

July 2014 was an eventful month for me. I visited Furano flower fields of Hokkaido, contracted dengue and met Steven Wiltshire. All within the same week.

Despite my extremely low platelet count, I made my way to the Paragon, where Mr Wiltshire was finishing his last strokes of the 4m Singapore skyline.

The drawing, commissioned by SPH as a gift to Singapore on the company’s 30th birthday and Singapore’s 50th birthday, will be displayed at the URA Singapore City Gallery for public viewing as of today. Admission is free.

Even as a youth, Mr Wiltshire could sketch architectural scenes from memory after seeing it on a helicopter ride. He performed the same feat in Singapore, although he could not register circular objects such as the upcoming Sports Hub.  Nonetheless, an amazing feat.

As the late Chinese painter Qi Baishi would say, “paintings must be something between likeness and unlikeness”.

Mr Wiltshire’s story is very inspiring. Diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 yrs old, he was also mute. Source: Wiki.  Given his interest in art, his teacher in the Special School would take away his art supplies – to get him to utter words like “paper”.  It was only at 7 yrs old during a class outing that his human camera talent was triggered. [Hurray for the teachers and their dedication.]

Diagnosing your talent from your interest

The ancient wealthy Chinese families too have an interesting custom of helping one year olds choose their careers.  Items such as “stamp seal”, calligraphy brush, bow,  abacus, monastery beads are laid out, and baby put in the centre.

If he chooses a calligraphy brush or book, he has an inclination towards being a scholar. Abacus – business. Bow- warrior and general. Stamp seal – government official.

http://www.cits.net/china-guide/china-traditions/zhuazhou.html

It appears that Tibetan Buddhism follows a similar custom of finding their reincarnated Dalai Lama by presenting these items to a young child (after divine narrowing to the village) to select items belonging to the late Dalai Lama. [As told to me by our Tibetan guide who also lectures at a university in Lhasa.]

Do you do what you love or love what you do?

Sometimes, too much choice may not be a good thing. Steve Jobs famously said, “Follow your passion”, do what you love.  He followed that statement with an unsexy “Love what you do” – although he’ll always be remembered for “Do what you love”.  But Mr Jobs’s real love seemed to be in Eastern mysticism. After he dropped out of college, he joined Atari because he needed money to survive and fund his trip to India. Born in San Francisco, being involved in electronics, having friends who toyed with electronics in their garage and in school clubs seemed like fish to water, something in his environment. Read: http://allaboutstevejobs.com/bio/longbio/longbio_01.php

After he was asked to leave Apple, he continued in this field. I believe that his famous quote “Do what you love” applied to this second cross-road of his life.  Should he do something else, or continue in the field he had earlier chosen.

Those of us still struggling with our career choices:

(a) Expose yourself to different fields
(b) Find a home-base to focus your enthusiasm [Sometimes its the only door opened for you.]
(c) Deepen skills
(d) Persist and don’t regret closed doors
(d) Experiment, cross fertilise and update with trends.

We all start off as amateurs. Even the talented Mr Wiltshire.

Eventually, do what you love. The reason we love something is because we become good at it. For some of us who’ve not found our passion, it may be the world is not ready. Timing is everything. In “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell observed that many titans in Silicon Valley were born around the same age e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. No coincidence because technology had to be available for the mini computer in mass production.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”