On a hectic lifestyle

I’m at that point of exhaustion…I have a very stressful and hectic lifestyle. What are some daily practices that you can recommend for me?

– I have found that life has a way of correcting our imbalances.  So we may have illnessess or other painful incidents feeling imposed on us to “force” us to rest, exercise and take care of ourselves. Sadly many of us may only learn and grow from such painful encounters. If we choose to learn our lessons in easier ways, then hopefully some of these suggestions can help.

 – Is this the life you really want? Regardless of how much you may love your work, how about balance? Time for play, family, friends, exercise, rest, learning?  Get some perspective on balance. Try to minimise regrets on your deathbed on not having spent enough time on what mattered most. Watch Click.

– A mind training/stillness practice such as what Matthieu Ricard recommends has different names and modifications. Researchers have found immense benefits of meditation such as its ability to help you think more sharply. There are many meditation techniques; take time to discover what works for you.

My Christian friends – I know “meditation” has sometimes been linked to certain religions so I can understand your hesitation. The local Christian Meditation Community can be found here.   If that doesn’t resonate with you, look at examples of other practices in the Tree below (click to enlarge), especially the branches on Stillness, Movement, and Contemplative Arts .

Resources in Singapore include mindfulness training by the The Potential Project, Joanna Tan’s work with art therapy (does NOT require you to be artistic) or if you’re inclined to Ignatian Spirituality, the people who facilitate labyrinth walking at the Centre of Ignatian Spirituality.

© The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society Concept & design by Maia Duerr; illustration by Carrie Bergman

– I would always recommend setting aside time, each night, for self-reflection and “cleaning” up emotional business for the day. What were you grateful? What did you appreciate about yourself? What did you appreciate about others in your life? Where do you need to forgive yourself or someone else? What lessons did you learn to become a better person?

These help you go to bed with less unfinished business and start really afresh the next day.

(Here’s an app you can use for counting your blessings each day.)

I would also recommend taking a mid-day break to do something similar so you can make the second half of the day better.

(This is part of an interview I did with Matthieu Ricard. These are my thoughts to the questions I posed to him. They complement his responses. Please click here for his responses. )

Eulogy of Malcolm Forbes

Thanks to Cyrus H.Copeland for kindly giving me permission to re-publish the eulogy for billionaire Malcolm Forbes by his son, Steve Forbes, which was published in “A Wonderful Life: 50 Eulogies to Lift the Spirit”. Here are some excerpts of it.

My grandfather wrote in the first issue of Forbes: “Business was originated to produce happiness, not to pile up millions.” By that criterion, my father was truly a rich man. As he once wrote, “I’ll be the saddest one at my funeral.”

What made his happiness so precious and unique, so contagious and convincing, was that he knew all too well the hurts and disappointments of life….

He was no stranger to physical pain. A machine gunner during World War II, he was seriously wounded and spent almost a year recovering in various military hospitals. When he talked about this, which was rare, it was with jocular anecdotes about various ways he tried to scratch his back when in a cast. …

Nor was he a stranger to adversity and setbacks, personal and professional. His divorce from Mother after thirty-nine years of marriage almost shattered him…. 

He was also no stranger to the underside of human nature. No one who served in combat as he did could escape it. There were numerous times when his trust in others was no reciprocated. 

Yet for all this, which so often sours so many of us as we get older, he never lost his almost childlike capacity to wonder, to be curious, to dream, and to do. His buoyant, infectious spirit of openness, of genersoity, of let’s-try-it was always with him. 

He was incapable of ill will of or pining for what might have been. Grudges and grievances were never a part of this man’s makeup. He genuinely believed that things turned out for the best…. 

He never hoarded his power like a miser. He took delight in delegating authority to those he felt had earned it. To him, that was smart business – their success meant more success for the company.

He loved people. People sensed this and were quickly at ease with him. He never tried to make himself look bigger by making others feel smaller. …

No matter what he did, no matter how impressive the achivements in business, ballooning, writing, motorcycling, entertaining, and collecting, we knew that as long as he lived, the best was always yet to come. Now he is gone. But in a larger, truer sense, death has not triumphed, and if he follow, as he did, the better angels of our nature, it never will.


What would you like for those left behind – friend, family, employees, colleagues – to say about you when you have gone?


When Leaders Fall…

We have been rocked by scandals involving people in leadership positions in Singapore.

Here are some of the recent cases:

  • The ex-director of the Singapore Civil Defence Force  allegedly obtained sexual favours from high-ranking women from companies involved in securing contracts with the SCDF.
  • Others in leadership positions, including a school principal, having sex with an underaged sex worker. 

Although these individuals have allegedly/committed crimes and been involved in acts which look extreme, I hope we don’t just stop, point our fingers at them, shake our heads and “tse tse”.

1. Let’s use these cases as a call for us to live in greater integrity ourselves

All of us have some level of incongruence between our inner compass (comprising virtues that are important to us) and our actions.  It’s human. We are not perfect. These cases just serve to remind us to narrow the gap as much as we can in our own lives….And also to take a closer look at our inner compass. Are we clear of what it comprises?

Where could you bring greater integrity into your life?

How do you stay in touch with your inner compass?

2. Let’s create spaces in workplaces where we give attention to who we are, and not only what we do.

It was particularly disturbing to read in The Straits Times on 8 June 2012 that “In the IT and technology industry, it is not unheard of for sales people to pull out all the stops when trying to win projects, said those in the industry.”

We speak of character development for children in school. I think we need to also look at character development in the workplace. We are role-models for our children and we ourselves need reminders to live with greater integrity and wisdom.

What could we do?

  • Reflect on what virtues we strive to live by in our workplace.
  • Reflect on what legacy we want to leave not just when we die but every day. Are we leaving a positive impact on others? Can we be at peace with ourselves?
  • Communicate with our colleagues that the process matters, not just the destination. How do we land that contract? That matters.
  • Use time during meetings to discuss these issues. We could use the SCDF ex-director case to start important conversations at the office on integrity.
  • Use tools such as The Virtues Cards at work to remind people of virtues to incorporate into their work
  • Encourage people to have a mid-day break of silence where they reflect on what virtues they have lived out that morning and what they haven’t, then set intentions for the next half of the day to amplify what’s working and make amends or correct any mistakes.
  • Screen inspiring and thought-provoking movies for employees, and facilitate a discussion later.  (You need a licence from the Motion Picture Licencing Company (Singapore) Pte. Ltd if screening movies outside your home.)
  • Are your leaders role-modelling wisdom, compassion, integrity and other key virtues? Start there first.

What else could we do to bring character development into our workplaces? Any ideas? 

Which policies and systems at your workplace make it easier or difficult for employees to live out certain virtues? How could you create spaces for employees to discuss such important issues? (Cards are by The Virtues Project International.)


3. Let’s remember where integrity inspires us.

When we see leaders act out of integrity, it could lead to disillusionment, and cynicism. Let us not forget that these very people may practise integrity and other virtues in other ways, in other spheres of their lives.

We are not heros and villians. We all have light and shadow within us.  

Let us remember other examples where we have witnessed people living in integrity with their highest values.

For example, when a motorcyclist had his leg severed on the Pan Island Expressway recently, a few Singaporeans came to his help. When a lorry carrying foreign workers met with an accident at the East Coast Parkway recently, nearby residents came to help with their first-aid kits.

We very well could have seen the bystander-effect effect (where people may not come forward to help because they think someone else will) but we didn’t. We saw people living out kindness, resourcefulness and initiative. Let’s celebrate that!

Where, recently, have you witnessed or practised integrity? Celebrate it! (Card by The Virtues Project International)
Let’s use cases such as these sex scandals to grow as individuals and as a nation.


Video: Validation

Validation is an inspiring and creative video on what happens when we see clearly and share with people about what’s beautiful and good about them.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

Video: Inner Work and the Life of a Teacher

“My life is my message” ~ Gandhi

This video captures what I hold very dear…that the inner work of teachers (and by that I mean all who are in a position to educate and facilitate the transformation of others) affects their contribution in the world.

In this video, kindergarten teacher Dr. Debbie Dewitt says, “I teach who I am”. She asks, “Are the children happy? Are they whole? Am I happy? Am I whole?”

If more teachers, leaders, parents and others in the helping professions were aligned with such thinking, I believe we’d see a supremely more powerful positive transformation in the world.

One of the greatest inihibitors of such a difference is when we try to help others without doing sufficient inner work. I did that for many years as a social change advocate and count that as one of my biggest mistakes and am thankful I am more conscious of this now.

Learn more at the website of the Center for Courage and Renewal.

Video: Steve Jobs on How to Live Before You Die

I’m sorry to hear that Apple’s co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs has died. Here’s an inspiring video by him. He found the awareness of death to be a very important tool in his life. How could you incorporate death awareness into your own life so you can live a life of greatness, purpose and joy?


Excerpts from the video:

“You’ve got to find what you love and that is as true for work as it is for your lovers…Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it, keep looking…don’t settle…as with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it..”

Jobs describes how for over 30 years, he would look at himself in the mirror in the morning and ask, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?

When there were many days with a “no”, he knew it was time to change things.

“Remembering that I will be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in my life.”

“Your time is limited so don’t waste it on living someone else’s life…don’t be trapped by dogma…don’t let the voice of other people’s opinion drown out your own inner voice..the most importantantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition…They somehow already know what you want to become…everything else is secondary….”

 Related: Top 5 deathbed regrets, Leaving a Trail of Light, Martin Luther King on his death , What dying can teach us about living

Cooking with Love

I was in Kuala Lumpur a few months ago, being trained to become a facilitator for The Transformation Game, a board game focusing on self development. There were six of us and the training was held in an apartment. The organisers had kindly arranged for our meals to be catered in.

I didn’t really expect what we got. It tasted like gourmet food. And each day I saw Ong Beng Chung, one of the owners of the restaurant come in personally, plate the food, lovingly top them with garnishing and walk out quietly while we were in training.

Beng Chung lovingly preparing our food

I also learned that he hadn’t created vegan food before but had taken on the challenge of doing it for me.

These hand-written notes from Beng Chung about our food were another way in which we experienced his care and warmth.

I was intrigued. Who was this man who would drive a long distance to cater food for six people with so much care?

So when we visited his restaurant, Zest Cafe, at Bangsar, we had a little chat.

Beng Chung had been in the corporate sector for 19 years before starting this restaurant venture. Four to five years of deep personal transformation planted seeds for Beng Chung’s professional transformation.  I enjoyed witnessing how the inner work he had done was manifested at the restaurant. I witnessed care, appreciation, authentic connection, humour, a real sense of joy in creating a space for people to connect and grow in.

Here are some highlights from our chat….

Food as a connector

I love to entertain people at my house so much so that my friends call my house a “coffeeshop”.  I find it very joyful to prepare food…I like it when people come, eat and talk together when we’re stressed out at work.

His vision for what he would like the restaurant to be…

~ I would like it to be a “social business”. A social business is where the investors themselves don’t just enrich themselves financially. They use wealth to enrich others, first their staff then the neighbourhood….for example, we buy our staff rice…

~ I want to make this a place where people can pursue their hobbies. I am trying to work with a photographer friend on how I can hold a photo-contest for example.

~ We serve nutritious food as much as possible.

Turning points

I was in sales, in the corporate sector for 19 years. Four years ago, the thought started that I can do more… something that is more related to touching humans. So I initially thought of running a retirement home. This was the time when my mum got into a stroke. But I took no action for three years. Then we thought of doing something all of us liked but then it took me another two years.

So I didn’t have a  sudden transformation. It was gradual…I moved away from the limitations I had set for myself. Many things happened in 2005. My mum had a stroke. I was in my late thirties and knew something needed to be done but did not know what….Now I see alot of possibilities.

About the day he was signing the tenancy agreement for the restaurant

I remember the day when I went to sign the contract…I still had fear…then I did the Ho’oponopono …I did it all the way from my office. Then my mood changed. I was signing with joy! I only realised the change after the incident happened on my way back to the office..

(Note: Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian practice marked by four phrases- “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”)

What he wants customers to feel when they leave

Refreshed. Quite a lot of my customers come from the office and I see them rushing through. I tell them, “Don’t rush. enjoy your meal…”

Having been in the corporate sector for almost 20 years, Beng Chung's "Don't rush. Enjoy your meal" to rushing customers seems especially heartfelt.

On my observation that he seems to love people and that the food is secondary

In marketing, there is a word called “touchpoint” which is where a business connects with the customer. To me food is another touchpoint in my interaction with people.


I noticed Beng Chung sit next to children and speak playfully to them. He carried one. A few customers spoke to him when they were leaving. He noticed I was really hungry so got me some bread before the food arrived. I felt like I was in someone’s house, instead of a restaurant.

He said, “When people go to your house, you entertain your guests. I don’t call them “customers”. I call them guests.”

Beng Chung offered extraordinary service…there was a sense of intimacy, authenticity and a kind of heartful and soulful offering that honoured us as important and worthy of being cared for so well.

Beng Chung found his touchpoint in food. What’s yours? What could you create with love and authenticity?

Movie: 3 idiots

Really enjoyed this! At the core of “3 idiots” is the courage and creativity of a young man who questions an education system that promotes memorising and regurgitating and lacks compassion.  Would be especially useful for teachers and leaders of educational institutions as well as other leaders who would like to encourage new ways of thinking.

In Hindi with English subtitles, available from Video Ezy for rent and for sale from Mustafa Centre.

Thanks to Doug O’Loughlin for recommending it! Doug’s workshop is coming up. :)



You don’t get the best ideas in front of the PC!”

I just lit up when Angela Koch of Invitro Innovation said this. It certainly looks like we’re productive when we sit for long hours in front of the computer. I used to think so and feel guilty when I was away from my computer till I started getting great ideas when I was away traveling/reading/relaxing/walking etc. You could call it play time because it certainly doesn’t look like work! We need a paradigm shift to identify where magic happens for work.

Angela Koch, sharing her ideas, which she has captured visually on her ipad.

Angela is an innovation consultant and this is what we spoke about. We often think play is the opposite of work, Angela says, when in fact, they go together. We also leave play behind in childhood when play is necessary, she says. Here are some highlights from our chat….

Why is play important at work?

Angela believes that play is linked with the ability to be creative and innovate. Angela says some companies are “engineered for misery”, for robots which have no emotion or creativity; where relationships don’t flourish.

What kind of culture allows for play? One with trust. People feel diminished when they are watched over closely and “put on a short leash” and managers are quick to point out when they have made mistakes. Companies that get it right treat each employee as an individual.

In play-restricting and trust-lacking cultures, no stars are born, according to Angela. People don’t often go beyond the call of duty.

Who are the stars at your workplace waiting to be unleashed to play, dream and create something extraordinary? (FableVision artwork on this website copyright by Peter H. Reynolds, www.fablevisionlearning.com)

A Question for Leaders by Angela – Is my company helping people be the best they can be? Or are we working against people?

What does play at work look like? How can one practise it? Here are some tips from Angela…

–        How do you relate to others during breaks? Jokes and banter help relax people. You have a choice in how you interact with people.

–        Use lunch-breaks to restore and bring balance back.  If you’ve had a busy morning, you could have some peace and tranquility during lunch.  If you’ve had a quiet morning, why not jazz it up during lunch? Connect more with people.

–        Use the Creative Whack Pack (I love this too!) which is available as cards and also as an app.  Innovation tools says, “The Creative Whack Pack is still the most impressive brainstorming tool in the AppStore, hands down.”

The Creative Whack Pack

–        Experiment with Lego as a brainstorming and creativity tool. Angela recommends it as a prototyping tool as well. Here’s an example of how it’s used in the workplace.

–        Introduce some randomness by rolling dice for certain activities. Try Story Cubes.

Throw a cube. Get an idea. Tell a story.

–        Have an inspiration wall/whiteboard at the office for people to share inspiring ideas. She introduced me to IdeaPaint – interesting..and environmentally-friendly…

IdeaPaint makes walls come alive. (Image credit: IdeaPaint)

–        Allow for people to be silly and for distractions (when you can). Angela says: “Detours may get you to your destination faster!” Sometimes in very outcome-oriented settings, there’s little room for deviation.

How do you practise this idea of play at work?

Angela shared this photo of an inspirational wall she’s created at home where she works from. She doodles on it, puts up inspiring ideas, allows visitors to draw on it etc.

Angela's walls speak!


IdeaPaint at home (Image credit: IdeaPaint)

Angela also doodles on her ipad.  (If you’re not an ipad user like me, simple sketch-pad and coloured markers work!!)

What resources do you recommend?

TED talk by Tim Brown

“Beyond Love and Work: Why Adults Need to Play” by Lenore Terr.

Inspiring offices designed for play:

10 seeeeeriosly cool workplaces – tons of great pictures to give you ideas

Innovation firm, IDEO’s office

Scrabble inspired bench

Thanks to Angela for sharing her ideas with me!

PS: I love Angela’s idea of using lunch-breaks to restore balance. So if you’ve had a noisy morning, a quiet and restorative break could help. My personal tip is that if there’s a park or place of workship near your office, why not step in for a while and sit and enjoy the peace or say a prayer. It could really shift the rest of the day to new heights.

PPS: IdeaPaint is sold in Singapore by Prospec Surfaces.  Alan Lee – (65)-67777 888 ext.29

alan[at] prospecsurfaces.com






Thanks for Serving Me!

I like to receive positive feedback when I have done a good job. If you do too, can we give to others what we want ourselves?

Did a waiter/someone in the service line serve you well? Why not fill out a feedback form with some positive feedback and spread some happiness? Or drop a quick note to the company? There’s certainly a time to point out poor service constructively but how could we shift more attention to what we want more of?

Father Bruno Saint Girons and I filled out the above feedback form together at a cafe. He said Alex, the waiter,  gave him a big smile after reading the feedback. :) I asked him about gratitude in the Catholic faith and he said “Eucharist” which is the word they use for the mass means “thanksgiving” in Greek. He encourages people to give thanks in their prayers. What does your faith say about gratitude and how do you practise it everyday?

We don’t have to die to leave our legacy. We leave it everyday in many ways, which impact others. What is your legacy when you leave a place?