Archive for the ‘Stories Retold’ Category

Circle of Hope – Stories Retold

Sep 10, 2015 // No Comments » // Conversational Circles | Stories Retold


“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness” – Desmond Tutu


A circle was called on the 3rd day of September – an invitation to connect and share stories of hope. We gathered at 10 Square Orchard Road on the late afternoon.

All invitees were encouraged to bring along a personal item in which signify hope for them.

I reminded everyone (including myself) that the conversation may take us on a journey that we may not be aware…mystery. Circle-Hope5

A check-in ensued after an informal introduction to the work of circle…I sensed that they truly were unsure what was expected.

Like in the past as circle host, I trusted the circle worked its energy within the group and enabling respectful listening and intentional speaking.

As the speaking-piece was being passed around, the circle provides a safe space for stories that lay deep in the hearts to be retold…


Hope of Rest – A time to let go of work.

Hope of Dignity – A gift to completeness

Hope of Encouragement – An honor to remember

Hope of Arts – A memory to cherish

Hope of Perseverance – A book to encourage

Hope of Success – A journey to learning

Hope of Friendship – A crystallize reminder


As we listened, we were honored by each and everyone’s story in which connected with our very own stories and memories. I picked up a poem in the midst and honored one of the story retold…

Flawless - Margaret Wheatley
For far too many years
I have wanted to be flawless,
Perfecting my pursuits, I bargained all for love.
For all these many years
I've made masks of my own doing,
Pursuing my perfection, I found I was pursued.
And then one day I fell, sprawled, flattened, lost,
on the fertile ground of self.
Naked in dirt
no mask, no bargains
I raised my soiled face
and then, you were.
I struggled to stand.
Dirt from my body clouded your eyes.
Your hand reached for me.
Blinded, your hand reached me.
There is, in all of us, a place for pure perfection.
We discover its geography together.

We checked out…grateful to be called into the circle with hope in our heart.

From Certainty to Curiosity

Aug 13, 2015 // No Comments » // Conversational Circles | Stories Retold




Consider the story.

Leonie: I resented the way you reacted in front of our friends at dinner.

Rachel: The way I reacted? What are you talking about?

Leonie: About the extra-toppings on my dessert. You acted like you are my mother or something. You have this need to control me or put me down.

Rachel: Leonie, I wasn’t trying to make you look bad. You said you were on a diet, and I’m just trying to remind you stick to it. You’re so defensive. You hear everything as negative even when I’m trying to help.

Leonie: Help? Humiliating me in front of my friends is your idea of helping?

Rachel: You know, I will never win with you. I am so tired of this. Sometime I wonder you do start these fights on purpose…

The conversation left both Leonie and Rachel both hurt, angry and misunderstood.

They are engaged in a classic battle of intentions.

Leonie accused Rachel of hurting her on purpose, and Rachel denies it. They are caught in a cycle they don’t understand and don’t know how to break.

The two crucial mistakes in this conversation make it infinitely more difficult than it needs to be – by both of them.

Mistake 1

When Leonie says “You have this need to control me or put me down.” she is saying about Rachel’s intentions. Her mistake is to assume she knows what Rachel’s intentions are, when in fact she doesn’t. It’s an easy – and deliberating mistake to make. And we do it all the time without noticing it.

Mistake 2

The second mistake is Rachel assuming that once she clarifies that her intentions were good, Leonie is no longer justified in being upset. She explains that she “wasn’t trying to make Leonie look bad,” and in fact she was trying to help.

Here’s the problem.

While we care deeply about other people’s intention toward us, we don’t actually know what their intentions are. We can’t. Other people’s intention exist only in their minds and hearts. They are oblivion to us. However real and right our assumptions about other people’s intentions may seem to us, they are often incomplete or just plain wrong. Here’s why:

  • We Assume Intentions from the Impact on Us
  • We Assume the Worst
  • We Treat Ourselves More Charitably

One more thing. Getting other people intentions wrong can be costly. We usually assume bad intentions mean bad character. We go from “they have bad intentions” to “they are a bad person” in a whim. Accusing others of bad intentions creates defensiveness in us.

Here’s my learning in how to avoid the mistakes.

Disentangle Impact from Intent

Separating impact from intentions need you to be aware of the unconscious leap from “I was hurt” to “You intended to hurt me.” Below are three questions to help you:

  1. Actions: “What did the person actually say or do?”
  2. Impact: “What was the impact of this on me?”
  3. Assumptions: “Based on this impact, what assumption am I making about what the other person intended?”

“Once you have clearly answered these three questions, the next step is to make absolutely certain we recognize that your assumption about other people’s intentions are just as it is – assumption. It is a guess, a hypothesis.”

The next step is to share the impact it had on you and then inquire about their intentions. Saying something like

“I want you to know that the things you say and do have make me feel embarrassed.”

“I wonder you did say it on purpose to hurt me? I don’t know why you would want to do that?”

The conversation is only beginning, but it is off to a good start, usually.

An Unaccountable Responsibility

Feb 05, 2015 // No Comments » // HR Insights | Stories Retold

accountability (1)

“But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” – 1 Peter 4:5 (NIV)

Where’s your sense of Responsibility?

For sure you can’t leave this to fluffy sensing and feeling…especially so if livelihood of people, organisation survival and perhaps nation building are at stake.

Not long ago I wrote a piece on Responsibility – “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility…Really?” and that sets me thinking deeper into the difference between responsibility and accountability.

You see, responsibility without accountability is like knowing What but not knowing How; knowing What is your role (title/position) and perhaps What to do but not knowing How your role and action really matters.


I would like to share a story that may help us further understand why without accountability, responsibility just isn’t enough…

I spent 6 years as a technician in the Singapore Armed Forces. In one of my overseas posting, I was leading a team of mechanics that support the maintenance, repair and inspection of a fleet of military vehicles to ensure combat readiness. One summer, before a major infantry exercise my team worked their socks off through two weekends (without day-offs) ensuring that the vehicles will be ready for the exercise. A day prior to the action when the infantry unit assigned drivers were moving out the vehicles from the garage park, one of the utility transportation truck has it’s front-left wheel almost completely disengaged from the wheel-hub causing major damaged to its rim. The maintenance logged indicated that two of my men were “responsible” for the wheel changed. Upon investigation, they were charged for negligence of duty and required to sign “extras” (a form of punishment that remove the entitlement of weekends off to perform guard duty).


Many years later, upon reflection I felt a sense of being responsible because as their team leader I am supposed to ensure their work are duly completed to the standard required. Hence without clearly indicated the standard of outcome and performance (accountable result) expected of them could have caused them to misplaced their sense of responsibilities.

Simply put it, accountability should be tangible and quantifiable. With accountability, responsibility make sense and help one another towards achieving results.

The term “holding one another accountable” indicated that without a set of tangible and quantifiable outcome-oriented deliverables, responsibility by title and position often leads to more misunderstanding  and confusion; worst if being abused or even a misplaced sense of responsibility which may lead to blame.

What and who are you responsible for today and how are you going to be accountable?

One Last Christmas

Dec 20, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Stories Retold

I was holding my three year old daughter Isis while watching this video clip and she asked: “Why cry daddy?”

The ordeal that the Locke family went through reminded me of the time my wife and I went through when my eldest boy Timothy was born in August 1999.

Tim was diagnosed with heart murmur when he was born. He had a 2mm vertical hole on the upper-right ventricle of his heart chamber but fortunately no immediate danger to his young life. We were told to observe the condition and given hope that there is a 35% chance that it may healed before he turns five…but it didn’t. The size of the hole grew with him and eventually took its toll when he had a severe bronchitis when he was 16 months old. Doctor revealed that kids with heart problems are susceptible to respiratory infection hence an open heart surgery would be the sensible next step before more lung problem arises.

We were reluctant when briefed with the procedure but trusted our good Lord’s healing hand in this and prayed for successful operation and speedy healing. After a nearly 12 hours procedure and another 6 in intensive care, we finally saw his tiny body with several tubes jutting out of his fragile chest and pale lip. Miraculously, Tim wake up from his GA in the wee hours the next morning and the first word from him was “Ne Ne” (which means milk in our local dialect). As we continue to imagine the pains and suffering he would possibly experience the next few days, he surprised us with only a few uncomfortable groans and whimpers and nothing more…He began to walk with some tubes still attached to his major veins on the third day and discharged exactly a week after his admission. Timothy was declared fully discharged by the senior cardiologist consultant from KK hospital in 2005 after twice yearly follow up checks and assurance of no leakage on the patched hole. He now weighs a healthy 38kg and I still complains about him over-weight for his age!!

This Christmas, let us count our blessed moments for the year.

Merry Christmas!

How far would you go for a conversation?

Nov 30, 2010 // No Comments » // Conversational Circles | Stories Retold

Friends of ConversationCircles. Kit and Kimberly (on my left)

Friends of ConversationCircles. Kit and Kimberly (on my left)

Approximately 700 kilometers, 10 1/2 hours of travelling time, and waking up at the wee hours to catch an early train to the coach-bus station at Novena Square. That’s how far I went recently to have a conversation and thought I would like to share this story with you.

Last Friday, I travelled north on a coach-bus from Singapore to KL to meet with Kimberly Ong, the Learning & Development manager of Fuji Xerox Malaysia. It all started from a friendship forged with Paul Lim, whom I have never met, he is the husband of a friend based in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. He also happens to be the General Manager – HR of Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific Pte Ltd (Malaysia Operations). He is one of the biggest supporter of ConversationCircles in the past year. He subscribed and followed  CC Touchpoint since June this year, reading and commenting on my blog posting and sending encouraging emails periodically. In September, I wrote to thank him for his support and encouragement and began a conversation. Paul asked how ConversationCircles might help in his organisation training plan for next year and a meeting was duly set up for November.

When the meeting date draws near, Kimberly – who has since taken over the training matters wanted to know the agenda and specific outcomes of the meeting. She asked to have a call three days before to confirm some details of the meeting and here’s my respond:

“My intention is to have a conversation and meet with your good self and of course Paul if his schedules permit…”. I responded to Kimberly’s well intentioned.

“That’s nice but we wanted your trip to be useful so if we can have some sort of agenda that will help…”. Kim seeks my approval.

“Kim, the agenda evolves with the conversation. Trust that process and we will enjoy each others company.” I thank and assured her.

After an almost 6 hours bus ride and 350km later, I was at the technology and industrial corridor of Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur. A 15 minutes taxi ride took me to the spanking office cum product showroom amidst many industrial giants such as Honda, Honeywell and Colgate. I was met with a beaming Kimberly and quickly led me to a boardroom style meeting room and was soon joined by Paul. He is a stoutly build man with a attention gripping voice, proudly wearing his company colors on his sleeve with the latest slogan on ‘green technology’. Our conversation quickly went from brief introduction of ourselves to overview of organisation setting…and much more.

Paul spent about 30 minutes with us and left for another meeting. Kimberly and I continue the conversation for more than an hour and a half and we both end with some plans and intention to help the people.

I am grateful to be embraced as a friend and confident in the challenges that is facing the organisation. The conversation did not entail promises and solutions but useful questions that help us to be careful in taking the next step. I could be back again soon to have another conversation – and hopefully this time with a larger group than before.

In my six hours bus trip up north, I met a Singaporean businessman whom is going to KL to attend a wedding reception. When he realized that I am taking this trip without any promises of economics or business benefits, he was surprised. But after we shared and learned about the intention of conversation itself can be richly rewarding, I sensed that he understood my purposed and wishes me well.

Once again, a big thank you to Paul, Kimberly and Kit (whom has assist in my travel plan).

See you all again soon!

PS: I returned on the same evening after dinner with a friend also based in KL – to my sleepy family at 2am the next morning.

Our Circle in Daylesford Melbourne, Australia.

Nov 29, 2010 // 6 Comments » // Conversational Circles | Stories Retold

Friends of ConversationCircles

Friends of ConversationCircles

A circle was called from 12th to 17th of November at a beautiful country side of Victoria, Daylesford. Together with Christina and Ann, we were called to be in a circle, listen, responded and reflected at a deep level that is beyond the description of words. For me, the five days has open my hearts to the meaning of conversation…

I wrote this just a few days before my 7 1/2 hours flight to Melbourne, Australia.

To end, we must have a beginning.

But there is no end to the circle.

How can there be if there is no beginning?

But we can pause, adjourn, stop or even digress…

We don’t need an agenda, objectives or even so often prized ‘outcome’ to help us start and end a conversational circle.

We do need intention, choice, respect, curiosity; and the ability to embrace and celebrate differences.

Indifference among us will deplete the energy within the circle that holds the wisdom of those called to the circle.

Our circle

I am still not sure what I actually meant but I did wrote to help me raise a question;

How can the circle help those who are indifference?


I got a glimpse of what’s install for the rest of the five days when we came together in a circle on the first evening on Friday, 12th November. A beautiful setting of 22 chairs in a room full of arts and decors, awaits us all amidst the green surrounding of gump trees, ponds, birds and bees…a sight to behold for a city dweller like me indeed. This was what’s written on the first page of my note book that accompanied me throughout the five days:

We do not ask what others may speak…until we inform them how they will be listen to.

What are the conditions that allow the soul to show up?

I held my breath…and the only reminder of my being was to be opened.

That night I couldn’t sleep (in fact, for the rest of the nights). I wrote this;

The Courage to try; is the Courage to fail.

The Courage to express feeling; is the Courage to be vulnerable.

The Courage to think; is the Courage to be thoughtful.

The Courage to ask; is the Courage to seek.

The Courage to respond; is the Courage to be responsible.

The Courage to love; is the Courage to give.

When I checked-in my luggage at 6kg on the day of my departing flight from Singapore, the smile from the counter staff seems to suggest that I am in for a cold chilling trip to Melbourne. I thought I know my geography and its supposed to be end Spring and sunny Summer…how wrong I was and the second day was getting chiller. But warmth was my experienced in the circle when jumpers and winter cover were offered even before I asked for…More warmths were being felt throughout the few days with Story Councils, Appreciative Circle and role-plays of actual life-cases. These interactions were given new life not just in the act but in our hearts. This was what I wrote on my third sleepless night:

The intricacy of the circle is limitless. Every details of its processes have such great impact on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of all those presence in the circle.

Therefore, it is of utmost care and responsibility of the circle host to make caring choices in inviting, involving and evolving the process for the greater being of the whole.

I suddenly felt that I am truly honored to be called a steward but at the same time burden with responsibility.

I also felt a sensed of being born into the circle family – that I can and I will hold its rim, learn, practice and evolve this art form so that someday it will ‘live’ unto the social fabric of our cultures and values.

Centering our Intention

Centering our Intention

Like a story shared; “If you start the fire, others will come.”

More practicum from the third day onwards. The circle continue its charm with simplicity and beauty. The value of sharing and learning from others continue to hold the rim together. I was constantly reminded of the very quote that caught my eyes on the first night when I walked into the room:

In every journey there is a secret destination of which the journeyer is unaware…

Welcome to the mystery!


It spoke right into my heart from day one. It still do till now…

We were given a glimpse of The Art of Hosting which comprises of social processes such as the PeerSpirit Circle Way, Appreciative Inquiry, Word Cafe and Open Space; which all has a common archetype of gathering and having conversation in circles. As the days of sharing coming to end soon, the question in me continue to cry out silently:

“How can the circle help us in Asia which is so culturally diverse?”

“Aren’t we have enough of the ‘western’ medicine that so often promised to cure all but actually created many ills amongst us?”

“Is there a circle way that is principly-centered to our own value system?”.

I did not get answers to all above…

But I know where to find the answers…within the hearts of those that will heed the call of circle.

Christina Baldwin

Christina Baldwin

It seems a long time I have known Christina and Ann. Having read their books, visited their website, heard their stories and followed their work, I was taking in their friendships in the way I am fond of – quite, demure and unassuming, I supposed. In the five days we spent time together, the close encountered has given me a glimpse to their passion, wisdom and above all humanity. We shared intimate conversations, spoke with our eyes and hearts, felt the energetics of love, walked the Australian bush and went for Kangaroo sightings at a nearby golf park with charming child-likeness – Thank you.

Ann Linnea

Ann Linnea

Here’s our little conversation we had periodically throughout the five days:

“I am unsure when to sound the bell as a guardian…would I undermined the intention of the circle host if I did so?”. I asked.

“Allen, I want to thank you for your wisdom in asking the question.”. Ann assured.

“I am burdened with responsibility to carry the work of circle…”. I shared in the story council.

“We want you to know that we are a team now. You are now a steward of the PeerSpirit Circle and we will support in the work that you do in Asia…and beyond”. Christina whispered with conviction.

See you both in Asia in 2012!

Is Leadership all about Performance?

Oct 30, 2010 // 6 Comments » // Leadership Infusion | Stories Retold

Picture source: pigskinliquor via Flickr

Picture source: pigskinliquor via Flickr

A friend (let’s call him John) who’s a Sales VP of a MNC organized a sales retreat conference for his team of 20 staff members. I was engaged as a facilitator to provide teambuilding workshop on the second day after the first day of long presentation amid the hill top of a luxurious golf resort in the southern part of Johor, West Malaysia.

Like always, the teambuilding ended in high spirit. During dinner, John seems troubled as he was unusually tranquil.

“How do you think the day went?” I asked.

“Oh, I think it went well…the folks seems charged up for the year ahead…but…” His tone was tapering to a whimper.

“But you think…?” I sensed a great concern lurking.

“Every year’s the same…we end up highly motivated, charged-up but it don’t seems to last the race…” He lamented.

“But you know the problem?”

“I don’t know…I mean I know but not sure if it’s true…” John was getting hype up in confiding…

“Try me. I am keen to know what you are not sure about…” saying while staying with him at eye level.

We took our drinks and walked towards the balcony over-looking the golf course, we leaned against the edge of the balcony ledge; as if we are afraid of anyone might eavesdrop on our conversation, John said:

“Allen, frankly, I am not sure whether all these teambuilding works for my people anymore…Don’t get me wrong, I think we need such motivation and coming together from time to time, moreover, my guys enjoyed it and it’s good to reinforce the importance of mutually supportive relationship. But I am sensing that we are missing something…some critical intervention…maybe something to do with our sales leader.. . ” He was referring to his six sales directors who work very closely with the sales managers and associates that are accountable to about 15% of their group revenue.

“I am keen to learn about your observation…” I realized the opportunity to have him tell me more of what he does know.

He look over his shoulder twice as if to make sure that no one was behind us, he went on to said: “Having work with them for more than 3-4 years, accept for Paul who joined us early this year, I can confidently say that they are good with driving numbers and making sure that the folks perform to expectation.” Referring to the sales directors who eventually will step up to take his mettle.

“So what’s your concern?” I threaded carefully and continue to look into his eyes…

“My concern?! Yes, I am not sure this is a concern but I am in fact less worry of them performing in terms of driving numbers per se but more worried for them relating and leading their direct report and people…” He was fiddling with beer mug on his right hand while sharing…

“Is that truly your concern?” I took risk in probing deeper.

“I am quite sure…in fact, many of my second tier managers had threaten to walk out just a few months ago…and the HR report shows that compensation wasn’t the main culprit.” John’s tone turn from serious to flat deadpan.

“So how do you intend to address this?” I somehow knew he might have an idea.

“That’s where I am not sure…you?” somehow he thought the same.

We spent sometime talking about coaching and leading people. We thought may be it would be timely to help the key leaders to identify their critical roles in leading the people to not just perform to their maximum potential but learning to lead others.

“Let’s organize a morning jog tomorrow before the nine-hole outing.” I suggested but to John’s amusement.

“Morning run?! What for?” he responded with suspicion.

“Trust me, you guys are going to enjoy the golf game afterwards…” I said confidently.

I remembered we spoke further on the idea and he still wasn’t sure the potential of bringing the message across to his people, but relented anyway. The next morning, we gathered as planned. The team was grouped in 3 with a fair-mixed of sales director and managers. A planned route of about 1.5km bordering the scenic view of the course garden wing. After some stretching and warming-up, the team was briefed on the route and I said:

“Go ENJOY the run TOGETHER and we shall gather for breakfast after this…” with tonal emphasis on the bolded.

As they set-off, John and I was heading toward the cafe set amid the garden wing awaiting their return. Not to my surprised, an athletic-looking sales associate arrived under 10 minutes followed by others in ones or pairs. Paul’s group was the only group of three that stayed together throughout the course. After some quick warm-down and water to quench thirst, we sat down in circle to have a debrief.

“Damien, you came in first. Tell us how was it for you.” I guessed Damien would be the most ready to share.

“I enjoyed the run. The air’s fresh, cool, nice surrounding and 1.5km is no problem for me, you know.” Damien professed with a wide grin.

“I am sure you do, thanks Damien. Who’s with Damien’s group?” I turn the attention back to the group.

“We couldn’t catch up with him…he’s too fast!” a lady by the name of Steff half-protested…”Luckily, Tony wasn’t!” referring to a senior sales director perhaps in his early 50s in the same group.

“I am an old man you know…” Tony followed-up with much laughter from the team and some nodding of heads…

“How about you Paul? Your group came in last but seems to be having fun and not breaking a sweat…” I turn to Paul’s direction.

Paul, looking rather embarrassed, responded: “I actually asked Steven and Judy to go ahead without me so that they finish the run early. But they decided to keep with me and we really ENJOY the run TOGETHER.”

“Did you?” Now facing the group to garner their response.

“WE did. It was fun running at an easy pace and being supportive of each other. We chatted along the way and enjoyed the company. In fact, we did so with much ease that the distance seems too short when we arrived…” Judy shared with obvious agreement from Tony and Steven.

“Yeah, for someone who’s hardly out in her jogging shoes…” Steven was jibbing at Judy pointing at her very new looking bright yellow sneakers.

“Thanks for the insight Judy and Steven. I would now like to invite you to note down three questions for your reflection later during your nine-holes…” I urged the team to take note.

“Firstly, what could we miss-out when Personal Performance took precedence?”

“Secondly, what else is important besides Performance?”

“And not least important, is Leading meant just Performing? If so, why? If not, how?”

John told me later they have one of the most enjoyable round of nine-holes that morning after a hearty breakfast. The folks continued to stay with the same group during their golf rounds and some of them even skip golf just to continue their sharing after breakfast. He wanted me to continue the work that we have just started with the sales leaders. As for the team, I was told that they organized bi-monthly run every alternate Friday evening – Together.

Points to Ponder:

1. Leading from behind, the view can be quite astonishing.

2. Guiding from the wing, the conversation can be quite engaging.

3. Coaching from within, the sense can be quite satisfying.

Take care of yourself first…is that selfish?

Sep 15, 2010 // 5 Comments » // Stories Retold

Charity BnB 2010

Charity BnB 2010

On 4-5 September, 98 cyclists handling some of the most exotic road bikes (and one lone mountain bike too) I have ever seen; and with the support of 32 volunteers which comprises of road marshall, masseurs, drivers, logistic helpers and many others taking on albeit small but important role, raise funds for charity by riding from Kota Tinggi town in the South-eastern part of Malaysia, state of Johor to Rompin – a fishing town 70km north of Mersing – total 320km.

The organizing committee chairman, Albert Yeo – a lay leader with Trinity Methodist Church who is also a good friend since my days at Hewlett Packard, suggested having me in the organizing committee for this year fund raising, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I did not hesitate when knowing that this is for a good cause – to raise fund for St. Luke Elder’s Care new centre at it’s Serangoon North centre. The event, which we started meeting and organizing since April went well and ended with the two days ride to Rompin as finale.

Here’s my learning:

I once heard a story shared by Margaret Wheatley, author of “Leadership and the New Science”, “Turning to one another”.

An elementary school has three rules to manage the children especially during school assembly, where teacher to students ratio were overwhelming. The three rules are:

  • Take Care of Self
  • Take Care of Others
  • Take Care of the School

One stormy Monday morning with gutsy winds and pouring rains. The school workers were bracing themselves with anticipation that it will be a long day cleaning up the school hall after the hour long school assembly, what happened next was a total pleasant surprised to them.

1. The students arrived at the main school assembly hall all deck-out with their drenched rain-coats and muddied boots [Take Care of Self].

2. Without much instruction and coaxing, the students help one another to remove the rain-coats and muddied boots [Take Care of Others].

3. In almost unison, the students deck out their rain-coats at a given area and line up their boots uniformly in rows outside of the school hall and step into the hall barefooted; so that the hall will stay dry and clean [Take Care of the School].

These three simple rules enable the school to manage and organize chaotic nature of school children without  rigid instructions. The three rules have also build in the school children a sense of belongingness and responsibility for self, others and school.

I have since apply the three rules to some of my programs, I called it “The Principle of Care“:

1. Take Care of Self – so that you may have the capability and resources to apply the second principle.

2. Take Care of Others – so that others may have the capability and resources to apply the third principle.

3. Take Care of All – so that people do not form ‘groups’ or ‘clicks’ which may jeopardize the greater whole.

Helping out

Two days before we headed off for the charity ride up to Rompin, Malaysia. One of the cyclist fractured her collerbone and ribs while riding casually at East Coast Park, Singapore. We visited her briefly at the hospital ward where she was recuperating after surgery and she uttered the two words that gave me the greatest of impression; “TAKE CARE”.

I am a total novice to road cycling, but I have also witnessed how the cyclist almost has an unwritten rule of the above principles; Take Care of Self, Others and All.

Points to Ponder:

To Take Care of Self so that you can Take Care of Others to Take Care of the Whole. Though the act starts with Taking Care of Self, but the intention in the end should be of Taking Care of ALL (includes team, organization, institution and environment etc.)

If you are not good enough – Volunteer!

Aug 28, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Leadership Infusion | Stories Retold

Picture source: ConversationCircles

Picture source: ConversationCircles

Voluntary – of Latin origins voluntarius “of one’s free will”, of voluntas “will”. Originally of feelings, later also includes action. I became interested in the meaning of voluntarism and seeing many volunteers coming from all walks of life committing their time and energy to the recently concluded Youth Olympic Games (YOG).

A conversation sometime last year with a group of friends on volunteering for YOG…

“I have submitted my name as a volunteer for the inaugural YOG next year.” I shared excitingly.

“Oh..good for you. Our organization has also been invited to propose some of our members as volunteers…but it is very difficult for us because the actual event are still so far ahead, we don’t know what and how they want us to volunteer…” a friend lamented.

“What do you meant by don’t know what and how?” I asked.

“The organizing body wanted a list of volunteers but did not tell us what are we volunteering for, how long must the volunteers commit their time…and not even the duration of period we are suppose to commit!” he explained matter-of-factly.

Hearing this I asked: “Wouldn’t voluntary mean giving willingly without precedented knowing?”

I would not elaborate on the rest of the conversation but it did set me thinking deeper into the meaning of voluntarism…

I still vaguely remember when I first volunteered; I was eager to join my classmates in a favorite school-recess game call ‘One-Legged-Chase’ which they have already started before I arrived. I “willingly volunteered” as I wanted to be in the game, I was told to be the ‘One-Legged-Chaser’ (usually the disadvantage role in that game) for me to be in the game; that’s my first sensed that volunteering entails some form of ‘sacrifice’…I was about 9 years old.

Since then, I would suppose that I have ‘volunteered’ countless time in school, home, at church and workplace; for friends, family, organizations and for the nation. But I have not learn about the meaning of volunteering until now. I am begining to understand that the true meaning of voluntarism. Briefly, they are:

  • Giving my time, resource and expertise to causes that benefit the receiving.
  • Doing something that not necessarily I am good at but I might be weak on.
  • Serving the needs and wants of others that may not necessarily satisfy my needs and wants.
  • Attending to the needs of others without attaining the need of self.
  • Ultimately, a calling to serve with a belief of one’s own FAITH.

It took me some time of reflection and realization to come to the above learning. The biggest hurdle for me is about “PERFORMANCE“. I was humbled to learn that volunteering is less of what I can give but what I am willing to give even I am not good at giving. The humbling help me to learn that by willingly giving what I am weak at is a way to learn how selfish I can be in those things that I perceived I am strong, good or of abundance. If I am only giving what I am good, strong or of abundance of, then I am most of the time choose how and when I can give, why I should give and even who should I give to…then I think that is not of WILL but WANT.

The six days and approximately 36 hours of volunteering at Youth Olympic Village enable me:

- to be vulnerable (not knowing what to expect from youth around the world),

- to be youthful again (promoting games and events for youth),

- to be managed by people half my age (leaders are mostly young adults),

- to be humbled by the experiences (the job could be mundane but necessary, total distance traveled about 480km in public transport).

Points to Ponder:

  • In which area of your life that you are good, strong and in abundance of? Start giving…
  • In which area of your life that you are not so good, weak and less of? Try giving…

Giving and Receiving

Aug 15, 2010 // No Comments » // Stories Retold

Picture source: h.koppdelaney via Flickr

Picture source: h.koppdelaney via Flickr

Growing up in the 70s, I wonder how many kids receive home tuition outside of school curriculum. It wasn’t common to have home tuition during those days. In fact, it would consider a luxury to have ‘outside-of-school’ lessons and materials where school is the primary place where you get your education.

I was exposed to an entirely Chinese environment at my paternal grandmother home (where my primary school is about 3 minutes walk away) in my childhood days; from the news and entertainment  from the “Rediffusion” (a public wired-radio) to daily Chinese newspaper 星洲日报 and listening to my uncles and aunties speaking in fluent dialects and mandarin. I was even dubbed the ‘future singing star’ entertaining the adults with many Chinese songs that I learned by listening and reading the lyrics from my third-uncle proud collection of Mandarin pop records of the 60s and 70s.

I moved back to my family home at Marine Parade when I enter secondary school. Unknown to my parents and I, my weakness in the English subject began to tell when I struggled even to conjured up three decent paragraphs of composition titled “My Dream” – I was thirteen then. With my poor command of the English language, other subjects took its toll except for Chinese where I continued to excel; even representing my class for the school “汉语拼音” competition which I remembered came in 3rd overall. As I continued to be a favorite student of my Chinese teacher; the opposite holds truth for all my English teachers, they somehow given up hope on me as the school system then would have their attention focus on the better students…but not for an angel God sent.

My family of six lives in a single bed-room rented flat with 1.5 meter wide common corridor lining 20 units in a row. At that time, neighbors were closely knitted and keeping each other house-door key was a common practice in case of emergency. Two units away to our right was an Eurasian family of Catholic faith – the Rodrigues family. Their youngest son Paul who at that time was serving the Armed Forces; used to challenge me to a game of ‘carom’ which I apparently am pretty good at it. One day after one such game, as I was still smarting away from loosing three sets in a row, he took notice of my agitation and asked:

“You seem troubled…What happen?”

“No lah…I am ok. Today I not so good…one more game ok?” with my halting spoken English my eyes were wondering and trying to rearrange the “carom pieces” for a new game.

“Are you free tomorrow evening from 7-8pm” he asked gently.


“Every evening 7-8pm?” he probed further.

“Depending lah…what is it?” I began to worry what he has in mind…

“I would like to spend an hour every evening tutor you on English language, sharing with you what I know. Are you keen?”

“Tuition…You mean you want to teach me English huh…wow…but…I can’t pay you…” I replied, embarrassed of my family poverty.

“When I was young like you, I was given tuition by my uncle. He said I should pay for it someday by giving tuition to others in need.” he shared compassionately and I still remembered his keen eyes through his thinly-framed glasses.

He continued: “So you see, the tuition fees were paid long time ago!”

As I was still wondering how he knows I need English language tuition, and more importantly how I can repay his kindness…

He said: ”Someday you will share what you know with others…”


Picture source: h.koppdelaney via Flickr

He saw me as a giver. He made me responsible and believed that I might have something to offer to someone in future…

Today, I realized that I was not a recipient of charity, but as a trusted courier.

Are you a Receiver today? Or a Giver tomorrow?