The Reunion

August 21, 2014 Leave a comment

In the hotel ball room,  I’m wearing my favourite suit, appeared confident and successful. On the buffet table lies all the mouthwatering food: sashimi, fresh oysters. It was the 10 year reunion of my university graduation class.   In this occasion, we all want to show we have big changes after starting our career.

I cannot wait to meet up with my classmates.  Immediately, I recognised some faces. A man spoke so loudly that I don’t think it’s appropriate in such a fine ballroom atmosphere.  That was Sean, who I could recall, graduated with first class honour in business school.

I joined the crowd then Sean continued his speech. This firm I am working with is an awesome company.  It produces Tabasco and sells it to more than 165 countries and is packaged in 22 languages. Everyday, we produce 720 thousand bottles of Tabasco sauce. Over the last couple years, we came up with some aggressive strategies, and conducted field studies, we concluded that it’s the best to keep the hole of the bottle the same size, maybe even a little bit smaller.

Even a small hole than this? Every time when my eyes feel itch and I took off my glasses and reach out for eye drops, I would imagine reaching out a Tabasco bottle by mistake and drop some of this spicy sauce into my eyes! Ouch!

As Sean continued boasting about his highly successful career, I sneaked out in order to get more sashimi.

Standing right next to the sushi bar was David. He looked more humble, with the jacket but without a tie. David also graduated in the business school.  We shoke hands and we talked about our jobs.  He has been working with a not-for-profit organization. Over the last couple years he went to several African villages. This is what he did.  He helped to give out micro loans: that is, loans that are smaller in amount.

In one case, he lent money to a group of very poor women and they had enough money to buy sewing machines to start a business.  They produced some fine clothes and sold to other villages. By doing that, the women were helping themselves to get out of poverty.

At that moment, I saw Morgan Freeman playing the role of god, dressed in white suit, shining so bright that I could hardly open my eyes. He is like a saint who is saving the world.

Fellow toastmasters and guests, this made me so ashamed. Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than HKD20 a day. 22 thousand children die each day due to poverty. WHAT ON EARTH HAVE I DONE TO HELP THEM?

1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water. 870 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. WHAT ON EARTH HAVE I DONE TO HELP THEM?

A quarter of all humans, or 1.6 billion people, live without electricity. WHAT ON EARTH HAVE I DONE TO HELP THEM?

We all have seen these footages of very skinny and dying kids, yet we feel that we are living in a different world. When we go to Christmas buffet, we have unlimited supply of food. Our babies here never lack of food, instead we are worried that they don’t have enough DHA and Omega 3.

Why are there so many people who desperately need help, yet so many of us spend a majority of time making our life just marginally better, such as researching on the size of the Tobasco bottle hole?

Just to be fair, many of us have done our share to make the world better. I do it by making donations. I buy flag stickers every weekend. Even If I don’t, my company will donote money for me once a while. Reality told us that I need a full time job, I have a family to feed. I would be stupid to fly to Africa and start managing their businesses. In fact I probably make more money by adjusting the font size on my PowerPoint presentation.

Ladies and Gentleman, although that is the reality I encourage you do to a little bit more, be a little more proactive. Instead of being asked to donate money, volunteer to fund raise. Instead of participating in a charity, ask to join the leadership team. Instead of visiting an elderly home, be a regular volunteer there to help organizing events. The point is, don’t only get involved, but be committed to something.

The fact is, there are people who deserve to be helped, don’t usually ask for help.  They would actually refuse help. For many times I saw an old man getting onto a bus packed with people, yet refusing a seat we gave him. He would say he is getting off in the next station, but the next station is on the other side of the cross harbour tunnel! We need to really reach out to help them before being asked.

My reunion with my university classmates has changed the view of my daily life. I have been rethinking what I have spent 8 hours a day doing. I am productive, but am I helping the world to become a better place. David, who is working with the Not for profit organisation, reminded me that there are people who are suffering, and he could actually use the same business skills to alleviate poverty, to stop people from dying of hunger, making a difference in the world.

It is important that we re-union our world with their world.  We have already won a lottery to live in this part of the world.  we should step up and go an extra mile. On making the world a better place, don’t only get involved, be more committed, help people before they ask for help. It would just mean so much more than doing research on the size of the hole on the Tobasco sauce bottle.

Luck, Demystified

April 17, 2014 Leave a comment

A month ago my team’s office moved from one floor to another floor. I was given an additional washroom key, which I hanged along with my staff badge. Since then I just randomly picked a key everytime going to the washroom. For eight times in a row I got the correct key. That was quite a phenomeno.  If I have the same luck in my work, wouldn’t this make my career more successful, more easily?

How do I make myself luckier? Here is the business school definition:

LUCK = OPPORTUNITIES + PREPARATION

If you don’t know this definition, you may think our table topic champions are just lucky.  However, our champions are always among those few people.  They cannot just be the lucky few every single time.  If you make use of this formula, they were “lucky” because they value every opportunties to speak, participate in every contests, speak in other clubs, start conversations with girls, doesn’t matter if they are hot or not.  They have also prepared by memorizing some of the good stories, have a bank of punch lines, keep abreast of current events to broaden their general knowledge. Their luck on the stage materialized after all these behind-the-scene hardwork.

Wait a minute, HARD WORK!  If I’m a lazy guy, how can I increase my luck? 

The key is to be superstitious.

The three companies I worked with in Asia are crazily superstitious.  We did go an extra mile to improve our luck.  We had firework and bai sun ceremony at the start of the year. We chose the right numbers, avoiding 4 and embracing anything with the number 8 including phone extensions.  We also put red banners on the cubicals to keep reminding us to have good luck and become wealthy.

Superstition is not here with no merit.  All of these superstitious activities fill ourselves with positive thoughts. In the western society, to your surprise, people do almost exactly the same thing, and this is well documented in this well-known classic literature by Naponean Hill, “Think and Grow Rich”.

Note that what’s sexy about this is that this book is called Think and Grow Rich, not “work hard and feel mentally rich”.  He really meant being wealthy by having tons of money.

One of the key ideas of the book is called Auto Suggestion.  Auto Suggestion is to write down your wish, repeating your wish mentally, and verbally with emotion. What you need to do is to meditate, and visualize your wish being fulfilled. If you desire money and attractive women, visualize physical money flying onto your face from all directions, visualize attractive women kissing all over you. Write down your wish, and say it out loud with emotion, repeatedly, after you wake up, before you sleep, when you are sleeping, before, during and after your meals.

Naponean Hill said your wish will come true, because you have take control of your subcontious mind Your subcontious mind will make you more sentitive to opportunities, and build up more courage and help you more persistently work towards your goal.  Indeed, you end up seeing more opportunities and have more persistence with preparations, which is exactly the business school definition of LUCK we talked about earlier.

Recalling my lucky washroom keys, my subconscious mind was driven by my bladder so I knew I had to open the door as quickly as possible.  My subcontious mind memorized the right gesture to hold my badge a certain way in order to use the right key.  Sounds insane, but makes perfect sense.  Anyway, get more luck by finding more opportunities and preparing more, or by Auto Suggestion/being Superstitious to take control of your own mind.  I am sure either way will improve your luck.

My Obituary

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

I went to a wedding a couple weeks ago, and bumped into a high school friend who I have not seen in 10 years. We talked about everything, from our teachers and classmates. Then, we talked about one of the cutest Taiwanese girls, and I got to know that she has passed away several years ago, due to failure of her immune system

That was disturbing. I remember when I was about 15 years old, I was not good in English. She was about the same, but very outgoing, already mingling with the native speaking group. She was known to every single guy in our grade.

I once talked to her, I could feel my face getting red, and my whole body was sweating, and I could not stop doing weird gestures
After we graduated, she went to UCLA in the states, since then, I never heard about her.

Knowing that she has passed away, I googled about her, but found nothing, absolutely nothing. This gave me one striking message: Is anyone going to write anything about me if I am no longer living tomorrow? In other words, is anyone going to write an obituary for me?

Obituaries don’t necessary make you sad. They don’t always highlight achievements, because, sooner or later, none of those matters.

I read a dozen obituaries, and found one common pattern of a good obituary, as follows:

This person believes that ___________ so he did something.

Beliefs, what are your beliefs? Beliefs are the only thing that’s left behind after we are gone. Have you made them obvious enough such that people around you know about them?

Frankly, I have a very difficult time coming up with my beliefs. In fact, that is exactly my problem. If I am not clear about my very own believes, how do I expect people around me to know about them, and remember them after I’m gone. So I’m going to share my believes with people around me, here, right now.

I got three beliefs:

I do belief that saying good morning cheerfully to people can save lives.

During one of the my depressed days, when someone said good morning to me, that did feel like my life is still worth living. You don’t lose much but you gave hope. You only need to say good morning half a second earlier than the other person. Next time, be the first person saying good morning when you bump into someone in an elevator, or in the coffee room.

I do believe in ET and UFO, but don’t believe in god or ghosts: God and ghosts were created to scare people, to align people thoughts. They just don’t make sense, do they wear clothes, what brands are their clothes, if we are to burn them a paper mobile phone, do we also need to burn more for their friends so they can call each other. On the other hand, it’s such a huge universe, if such a small planet, our Mother Earth, can have living creatures, it would be a very bold statement to say that there is not another planet with living creatures in the universe. Because of this, I’m not afraid of walking in the dark in the city, but I’m afraid of walking alone in the forest. According to movies, UFOs always land into the forests.

I also believe that almost all the worries are unnecessary. Everything will be alright. It turns out I’m almost always correct, maybe I was just too lucky. From getting into college, finding my jobs, getting married, having kids, getting my son into school, everything just magically turned out alright. This is probably because I am a believer that the world around us is created by our own mind. If you think the city is dying, then the city “around you” is dying. In contrast, if you think it’s a wonderful world, then congratulations, you live in a wonderful world.

To wrap, after I heard about the tragic news of my high school classmate, that comes a strong message that anyone, including you and me, will be forgotten one day. What left behind are only the our beliefs.

I believe that saying good morning cheerfully can save lives, so I am always say good morning half a second faster than the other person.

I believe in ET/UFOs, but I don’t believe in god and ghosts. So I spend time reading science magazine, but I don’t waste time on fortune telling magazines.

I believe that almost all worries are no necessary, so I don’t spend much time thinking about “what-ifs”, but always look boldly into the future.

What are your beliefs? You don’t have to tell me, but you’d better share them with your friends early in case they will be the one writing an obituary for you.

My Unique New Year Resolutions

December 19, 2013 Leave a comment

My forth toastmasters speech on “how to say it”, enjoy!

Christmas Day is coming is 6 days, and there are only 13 days left until the New Year!

It is always the count down that is fun.. Go shopping, go have big meals, go parties!

But at the same time, have you come up with your New Year Resolutions?

A New Year Resolution is some promises you want to make and keep for the coming year. Usually something that takes up courage and persistence.

Some common resolutions are to do more exercises, to watch less TV, or to call up friends instead of Facebook.

I will share with you my New Year Resolutions. They can help you to get richer, get smarter, and get more famous. These will be my public declaration of my promises to myself, and hopefully they can give you some inspiration when you want to have your own ones. Consider them as some food for thought.

1. Memorize something crazy

In the old time, people memorized things, because if they didn’t they would have to look it up on the bookshelves, in the library or in the encyclopedia.

Nowadays, we found everything online, such as which bus to get on to get to places.
We don’t memorize phone numbers because everything sync with each other. I don’t even remember my home phone number.

But, memory is important.

Here is one quiz to test your memory, try reading a newspaper in the morning, and then close the newspaper and recall how many stories you have read. I can do no more than 5.

Here are some exercise to train your brain. For example, my goal is to memorize A to Z backward, so as to impress my 2 year old son. Some people like to train themselves by memorize decimal numbers Pi. These are techniques to train your brain.

2. Put 5 into a piggy bank every day

I want to see if my little box on my desk can hold 365 $5 coins.

Or yet, I want to see whether I can save 1,820 with absolutely no effort at all, saving money like a snowball. Warren Buffet said that to make a snowball, you only need a little bit of wet snow and a long slope. Same idea here. You need little effort and 365 days.

The key is to determine what to buy with the 1,820 to give myself more motivation. Do I spend on buying a new digital camera? Clothes? Or next years Xmas buffet?

These I’m not sure yet, let me know if you have good ideas. Maybe next year I found that I can afford $10 each day!

3. Last but not least is to get my name onto a newspaper not for bad reasons

Get out and work towards it. Make a difference, Find editors of smaller newspaper.

Think about for what reason I should be shown. Maybe I can submit an article, I can do something crazy and write a story about it. The point is not to get famous, but to do something that I have never done before.

Now, these are my New Year Resolutions. You may find that these are pretty silly. Memorize A-Z backward? Save $5 a day? Make your name appear on Newspaper?

But think about it, We don’t have to do everything with a serious purpose. During year end many of us have been doing year end performance evaluation, in which we have to set goals and stuffs like that.

Lets take a break! Our childhood disappeared along the way when we started to think everything too realistically. New Year Resolutions are really for fun, so you can make things up just because you feel like it!

By the way, when i told a wise man about my New Year Resolutions, he asked me why not start today? If I cannot start today, I cannot start after the new year. If you are like me and will come up with your New Year Resoltuions, I strongly suggest that you start today. Today is already the tomorrow of yesterday.

Because of this advice, I have already $35 in my piggy bank!

Good luck and have a Merry Christmas.

How to Keep Yourself Motivated after Temporary Defeat

November 22, 2013 Leave a comment

This is my third speech delivered at a Toastmasters meeting. There you go!

Recently, I did some research hoping to find ways to keep myself going after a series of failures. And it worked. So I want to share with you three tips to keep you motivated when you are faced with failures.

First, the single most effective way to cheer yourself up is to do exercise.

Failure causes depression, and it reduces the ability of a brain chemical called neurotransmitter. This neurotransmitter fosters communication throughout the brain. Without it, you brain loses its ability to adapt to new situations. The depressed brain locked into a negative loop of self-hate, and it also loses the flexibility to work its way out of the hole.

Exercise counters that by boosting the production of a protein that helps neurotransmitters perform their function. So it helps you to adapt to new environment and feel more comfortable, and get out of the depression loop.

When you are depressed, think about when was the last time you do exercise. For me, I spent 30 minutes in the gym every two days and I suddenly felt myself a lot happier. Trust me, doing exercise works.

Second, doing something good for others will also cheer you up. You felt depressed because you lost all your self-confidence, so you felt like you are the most useless person in the world. That’s not true. To prove this you can do something for people.

For example, you can do volunteer work. You may join some communities to sell flags, or you can go donate money. For me, since I’m very lazy and I’m very stingy, I choose to go donate blood. Yesterday I donated blood the 4th time this year and I still feel very happy about it. I could just lie down and watch TV. Therefore, find a comfortable way for yourself to do something good for others, that helps to regain confidence.

Third, read some motivation quotes. They do help.

Winston Churchill, one of the greatest wartime leaders in recent history, has this quote: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” He basically said that the word failure is actually part of the definition of success.

Thomas Edison, who invented light bulb, says that “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” So as long as you continue doing what you do, success is not far away.

Christopher Gardner, a character played by Will Smith in the movie, the Pursuit of Happyness, sad: You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.

After reading this, I simply found out that quitting is not an option. I decided to get back on my feet and continue working hard. So as long as you continue doing what you do, success is not far away.

Over the last month, I was devastated because I bumped into so many failures. Everyone fails and feels depressed once a while in their life time. When you faced with failure again, consider it as a temporary defeat. Don’t quit. Do some exercise, do something good for others, and read some motivational quotes. These will cheer you up, then you can try again towards your goal.

The Secrets of Winning Gamblers in Horse Racing

October 17, 2013 Leave a comment

The following is my second speech delivered to the Toastmasters meeting. Good things to share.

[Disclaimer: Most points are emphasized to make dramatic effects. It's fictional]

Tonight I’m going to reveal to you the untold secrets of horse racing. All gamblers want to win, those say the gamble for fun are lying to themselves. But I’m sorry to tell winning in horse racing is very rare. Let me tell you some mathematical background about betting on horse racing in HK. In average, every time you bet $100, the club gives back $80 as dividends. So if you are an average gambler, you lose $20 the moment you put down your $100 note, versus about losing $5 when you bet in a casino in Macau. Since the Club always charge the commission, if you win money, that means another gambler lose money. Therefore, you need to be a damn good gambler to get more than the original $100 you put down.

After burning the mid night oil for countless evenings, I found three types of people who consistently beat the odds and actually are making money in horse racing.

The first type is the professional gamblers. They have super computers running complex statistical models. These people hire a team to do the last minute number crunching. The models will process large amount of data, and buy a humongous number of tickets over a high bandwidth network just seconds before the race starts. They will buy many combinations of different horses, different bet types and allocate different amount so as to minimize risks and maximize return, like an investment portfolio. Their operations are highly secretive so if I tell you more they will probably kill me. So the first secret is, you can beat the odds if you are really good on maths.

The second type of people who always win are those who are the experienced. They are in their 80s, and literally grew up with horses. When I talked to this old women who said she had been living in Happy Valley since five year old. For two times a week, she would kneel at the street and watch the horses strolling from Shan Kwong Road stable to the racecourse. After 50 years of watching horses she would know whether the horses are having a flu, whether they had diarrhea, or even whether they had a good night sleep. It is also very common for horses not having perfect conditions. Think about it. If there are 10 horses in a race and by observations these people know 5 of the horses have no chance to win, this has immediately become an unfair game and these people have much higher chances than we do. So the second secret is that you have to accumulate at least 50 years of horse watching experience.

The third kind of people who made money in horse racing are those big families of horse owners. I have known people whose parents, grandparents and great grand parents are all horse owners. They would pay the costly membership fee for their kids to groom their racing interests. When their horses have a race, they personally know the owners and trainers of other horses in the same race. This has become their own game! They are in the inner circle to share insider news. Not only do they win from betting on the horses of their close friends and uncles, but they also win the prize money if their horses win the race. So these people living around this horse racing sport are also frequent winners. Therefore, the third secret is to start grooming your kids in horse racing, but build your network around this sport. After three generations you will become a winner.

If the above three are the winners, who are the losers then?
Those people kneeling outside the jockey club branches, wishing to get some quick money.
Those people who buy solely because they read some tips from newspapers or heard tip from the radio.
Those working class who decided to go to the happy valley for a beer after a busy day on Wednesday nights.
These people pay the price for those winners.

To summarize, next time, before you place a bet and if you want to make some quick profit, here are the secrets:
Are you super good in maths and have a team of analysts working full time making bets for you?
Do you grow up living next to horses and have a wealth of experience so you can feel the horses conditions?
Does your family have generations of horse owner so you can own the game?

If not, let me tell you, you don’t have a chance making money in horse racing.

So, these are the secrets of winning in horse racing. I wish you good luck in horse racing.

The Grammarian First Attempt

October 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Speaking in front of people is getting more fun after more practices. Today I for the first time played the role of the grammarian and learned much.

1. It’s tiring to stay attentive throughout the speeches. That also implies that I need improvement in this. For times I found myself doing something else so I missed some parts of the presentations. e.g. I looked up the dictionary, I went to find a blank piece of papers. These are distractions that weakened my listening skills. So I should avoid doing this in real life.

2. It’s easier to find people’s mistakes than strengths. Common mistakes are “provide people (with) tips”, play (with) balls and toys but play a role. Give this to someone is better rephrased to giving someone something. And the general evaluator gave me this comment: mention names only on good observations, don’t mention names for bad things. Such valuable comments!

3. The word I chose for Word of the Day was “trivial”. It looks like people forgot to use this word after the first few speakers. I should make the word larger on the board next time.

4. One speaker said a woman’s beauty depreciates… Depreciate means decrease in value. The word should be deteriorates, which means getting worse. We can tear paper into pieces, but it’s better “shredding” them. I always forgot to mention the best points during the speech. Does this happen to all speakers?

5. People reacted much when I said “women are like wine, they just got better when they age.” They thought this is philosophical. I thought that’s a fairly common saying.

Oh I like being the grammarian. I probably should do this again.

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