Posts Tagged ‘Thinking’

Practical Wisdom

Jan 10, 2011 // No Comments » // From The Inside Out

My mentor and probably the greatest critic in my life Francis recently told me again; “You think too much!”

I supposed this is not the first and the last time he is going to remind me about my favorite pass-time…(kind of).

But why? Why is it so that I always going into deep thoughts and reflection? Even in casual conversation?

Then it struck me one day. The reason most likely is my need to be RIGHT!

You see, I am afraid to be WRONG. I am brought up in a system and environment that being RIGHT is the right way to be.

But here’s a more scarier thought; the need to be RIGHT could also meant that when I am WRONG I think I am still RIGHT… I will garner all reasons, resources, rules and guidelines and so on to justify that I am not WRONG. Yes, I have been there and done that…have you?

The stories Barry Schwartz related in the presentation were both inspiring and practical. I would encourage you to ask these questions after viewing the video:

  • Are there current situation in my life and at work I am inflexible about?
  • Have I been bogged down by system and processes in my life and at work? If so, what are they?
  • Do I conveniently allow rules and guidelines to dictate my decision making in doing what’s RIGHT? Or…
  • Have I dwell deep into my practical wisdom (virtue, love, moral skills etc) to learn of what might be wrong?

NOTE: Barry Schwartz is one of my favorite speaker in the TED network. His idea and thoughts about practical wisdom though not an original concept but he has put it in way that is easy to understand. If you would spend 23 minutes this month on a video I would strongly recommend you to check it out.

Last note

Now, there is a long distance cousin of being RIGHT; that is to be GOOD! Since young I have always strived to be GOOD at what I am tasked to do. Be it a game of football, a talent competition or a task in my workplace. Not that there’s anything wrong for us to pursue excellence, but in the expense of…?

Francis once reminded me.

“When you are GOOD, you PERFORM.”

“When you are NOT GOOD, you …..!” (try filling in the blanks!)

The problem for needing to be good and performing all the time is that it might take away the element of learning in the process.

I learnt of this experience the most recently in my running. I used to set performance (how fast and far) as an outcome that far superseded any other less tangible experience I got in the running process – such as the sensation on my steps, the sound of my breathing and heartbeats etc. When I switch to paying more attention to my experiences and sensation of the run, I began to learn a far greater deal of my performance than previously. The result – I run further and more consistently, and thouroughly enjoyed most of previously considered mundane runs.

I wish this year can be a year of great learning for you!


Be Still – from Conformity to Mobility

Oct 21, 2010 // 4 Comments » // Change Initiation | From The Inside Out

One of the many miracles Jesus’ performed during His ministry; “Calming the Storm” incidentally is one of the favorite story my kids like in their bed-time story. There seems to be this recurring theme about casting our worries unto His care in the Bible – I think this is more than a promise from God but a command He desires from us.

Be Still – a simple posture of not acting seems to go against the grain of our need to do, act and perform; to think useful, to feel valuable and to be justified.

In my career as a trainer and facilitator, I was privileged to meet with some like-minded people and great thinkers from around the world. One of them is Timothy Gallwey – a pioneer in sports motivation and psychology. Tim wrote the first book “The Inner Game of Tennis” in 1972 and follow-up with a series of Inner Game series in the last four decades. It was his “Inner Game of Work” that brought his theory of human potential to main stream business coaching in 1998 and to Singapore in 2002 during the association’s inaugural Human Capital conference; In which Tim and I met and became friend partly due to our love for the game of tennis. I met with him again five years later in Los Angeles and continue to be amazed with his thinking that has transcend from sports to business to communities-at-large.

One of his conceptual idea about learning is mobility – from Conformity to Mobility; the ability to learn and be aware without being paralyzed by doing and external pressure of producing result. Many of us always think that to perform is to produce, hence there is a great need to act and do. Tim has argued that in order to gain mobility is having the ability to STOP – an acronym he shared to debunk the myth of ‘performance momentum‘ – a term he argued that most of us have habitual actions we do in the course of the day without a moment’s thought of why we do them.

Step Back – to step back means to put distance between yourself and whatever you are involved with at the moment. Step back from the momentum of action, thinking and emotion. Find a place of poise and balance – a place where you can think clearly, creatively and independently.

Think – to stop thinking momentarily in order to think may sound like a paradox, but it is not. Here Tim expounded that there is a shift in the thinking gears, a disengagement of thought in order to either rest or engage in a different level of thinking. Here’s where you begin to ask thoughtful questions.

Organize your Thoughts – Thinking may not usually occur in a perfectly organized fashion. Especially in longer STOPs where there has been creative thinking about problem solving or strategic planning. ‘Organize’ is your chance to pull your thinking together, bring coherence to your plan, consider priorities, and provide a sequence for actions.

Proceed – You don’t stay on the mountaintop if you want to take action. There is definitely a right time to descend from your thinking space, and that should be when things has been refresh and clarified. When the goals and the next steps are clear, and you have been connected to your motivations and surrounding, you are ready to get back to work.

Again, do not hesitate to STOP once clarity fades. The biggest resistance to using the STOP tool is the habitual comfort of ‘performance momentum’, our inherent way of doing and ‘performing’ that may gets in our way of learning and enjoyment.

Points to Ponder:

  • STOP at the beginning and end of each workday or project.
  • STOP to make an conscious change.
  • STOP to address a mistake, ask a question.
  • STOP to correct miscommunication and to check how your performance momentum have impacted on others.
  • STOP to listen, learn, coach and encourage.
  • STOP to rest.

Have you ever Complain?

Sep 29, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Change Initiation

I once read an observation that our (Singaporeans) favorite national pastime is to complain – an act of expressing dissatisfaction, uneasiness, censure or resentment. It went on to comment that we are so superior and advance in its practice that if it is inducted as an Olympic sport we would be at the medal podium every four years…Hahaha, I kind of supported that observation as I realized that I am quite competent at this art form but might not be any where near the level of many other ‘national athletes’ in our midst.

I was at the train station 2 weeks ago and heard a pleasant (depending on your taste) jingles that remind commuters about the on-coming train towards the platform. The jingles is easy to remember and has a nice rhythem to it but maybe due to the quality of the audio system, I was desperately trying to understand the words…but I think it goes like this:

Train is coming, train is coming, train is coming,

Please start queuing,

and Love your ride!

Just a few days after the jingles went public, complainers in all national and age groups scrambling for platform to showcase their prowess. From press to cyberspaces, workplaces to food-courts, many were performing at the highest level in complaining about the jingles without any hint that they need stretching or warm-ups before launching into a 9.0 difficulty of maneuver…I was unimpressed.

Like any sports, complains does attract its fare share of commentaries. I must say that some commentaries does bothered the line of becoming the complainers of the complain depending on the commentary objectivity and purpose. But I guess this is where the eco-system of the public forum feeds itself;

  • The complainers requires something to complain,
  • and they will need a place to exercise the complains.
  • The public media provide the space for the complains,
  • because it is in the public domain, it also invites commentaries about the complains.
  • The complainers read the commentaries that was fed by their own complains,
  • and the media generates interest and eventually business activities.

Interesting. But it sets me thinking about our innate desire to complain; why would we do that? I would like to share with you about my thoughts here:

  • I complain because I am dissatisfied with someone or something.
  • I complain because I am uneasy with someone or something.
  • I complain because I want to call attention to what I am thinking and feeling.

We can perpetuate from the above and dwell deeper into this national sports. Any complains?

Point to Ponder:

1. What are we really complaining when we do just that?

2. What if we turn ourselves to the subject of the complains first…will the complain even materialize?

Harvard’s Lecture

Mar 11, 2010 // No Comments » // Conversational Circles

I would like to invite you to join me at Harvard for a series of lectures by Michael Sandel. Michael is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980. His books include Democracy’s Discontent, Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics, The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, and, most recently, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? His writings have been translated into eleven foreign languages and have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, and the New York Times.

The 12 lectures focuses on wide variety of topics ranging from Moral, Life and Pleasure, Freedom of Choice, Action and Purpose etc. Topics are mainly philosophical and at best epitomized human wisdom. Though I am into only the third lecture myself (about 55mins/lecture), what I find useful is Michael’s ability to capture the large audiences attention through his questioning techniques and creating powerful dialogue amongst the students. Here’s what others said about his lecture series:

“(Sandel) is able to conduct remarkably effective dialogues in those large classes, like a conductor picking out a wind here, a brass there. He poses moral dilemmas so acute one could escape the agony only by thinking.” – Kathleen Sullivan, former JUSTICE teaching fellow, now a professor at Stanford Law School

“He is the greatest teacher I have ever seen. He is able, without visible effort, to make a lecture to students seem like an intimate, Socratic dialogue.” – Jed Rubenfeld, former JUSTICE teaching fellow, now the Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law, Yale Law School

And there is more…do visit JusticeHarvard to watch the 12 episode videos, episode summary, discussion guide, addition readings and many more. You can even join a discussion circle or start your own discussion group.

A point to note, I am recommending the Harvard’s lecture series for its method of discussion, the challenging questions and methods of inviting conversation that we can learn from as facilitator and less so for its philosophical contents.

Have fun!