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Same and different

There is a time and season for everything, I suppose.

A time to like watching movies, where people act larger than life, and a time to relate to reality shows or documentaries, where people behave the way they do in the off-screen world.

The human nature and condition remains the same. There is something about the teachings of ancient wise people such as Buddha that endures over many lifetimes and generations, such as the teachings on impermanence and suffering.

Yes, I have gripes about the modern world, and I do vent every now and then.

But if I were born in early BC or AD, I suppose there would still be problems in the world. Power struggles, inequality, injustice and so on.

Maybe due to technological advances and Internet, we become more informed about the problems.

Environmental destruction and pollution and extinction of animal and plant series are increasing at an unprecedented rate.

How can we not despair?

But on the other side of the coin, we do see some improvements in terms of literacy, convenience of travelling, material comfort, infrastructure, and so on.

Is the cost of “development” worth it?

I don’t know because how do we quantify or qualify the costs and benefits accurately?

Furthermore, it may benefit some but not others, at any point in time.

And sometimes it might seem to benefit at first, but the cost seems to outweigh the benefits later on, and vice versa.

Perhaps life is as abstract or as concrete as we make it out to be. Simple or complex? We choose.

Duality and singularity seems to go hand in hand, for there cannot be one without the other.

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Dark night of the soul

Honesty, courage and authenticity.

These are the things that get to the heart of everything. Emotions become intensely and keenly felt as one revisits the pains, wounds and traumas that one has gone through in the past that have been buried and repressed over the years, which, if ignored or dismissed or not dealt with, may resurface surreptitiously in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected times.

The dark night of the soul is painful but necessary. It brings rain that cleanses. A sense of relief follows.

On the other hand, being in a public platform, whether it be a workshop or chat group, seems different, based on my experience in attending workshops on how to be successful. The sense of positivity seems predictable after a while, even manufactured. Maybe there is a place for such positivity, even if it appears trite and formulaic. Who wants to be sitting in a seminar room and be faced with awkward silence and forced smiles when learning about how to be successful and wealthy? (But being in a mindfulness meditation session is another thing altogether, for cultivating silent contemplation is encouraged, but that’s probably another story for another day.) Thus, I can imagine that the speaker would have to gather the inspiration within in order to carry out the workshop in such positive and empowering manner. In addition, by expressing positivity and gratitude, they egg one another on to go further in life. We all have to start somewhere, even if it looks obligatory and formulaic.

Still, there is something about the dark night of the soul that grabs the heart in a way that no amount of positive thinking seminars can do –  it enables the soul to feel and express its sheer rawness, its unedited feelings, its primal cry to be heard and acknowledged in the universe. I believe that the psalmists took to writing precisely to experience such catharsis.

Perhaps Henri Nouwen said it best:

“What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.”

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Can a nerd love himself and be successful in life?

I came across an ad on my Facebook newsfeed this morning, and decided to read it. It was liked by my mentor’s mentor, and I usually respect her views. The ad contains a link to a blog, in which the writer wrote:

“I grew up a bully victim…

….

Believe it or not, I was a bully victim during my younger days, and I’m always laughed at for my dreams for being who I want to be. I must thank the bullies from those days, without them, I might have entered their “clique” and might have never become the person I am today, helping my students create such radical results for their business and freedom in their lives, build long lasting relationship with their loved ones and take their life to the next level year after year.”

(How One Discovery Turn Me from a Broke Consultant To Charge 20K Per Client)

I could certainly relate to that – especially the fact that he looked like a nerd in his profile photo, bespectacled and all. I was and am still a nerdy nerd.

Indeed, growing up as a nerd, I have come to see that in society’s eyes, a nerd is usually seen as an oddball, a reject, a misfit, a nobody, a loser, often dismissed as someone who is socially inept, awkward looking and unattractive. For a nerd to rise to become someone who is respected, influential and wealthy is nothing short of a miraculous transformation.

“If a nerd can un-nerd (and unnerve) himself and be a successful speaker and influencer, so can I,” was my thought.

It brings me back to the lesson on self-love and self-acceptance. Maybe I should write a book called “I love myself – the quietest, simplest and most powerful revolution ever”.

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts on workshops

So far, in three of the workshops that I attended, the speaker asked the people in the audience to be the first one to come up and take the money or trade it. The result is people rushing forward to take the money. 

I understand that they want to bring across the point “successful people take action”, but it seems a rather crude way to bring home this point. In fact, the speakers may be indirectly shaming those who decided to not come up to take the money. 

There are a number of reasons why some choose not to take action in this scenario:

  • Having to scramble to get money can be rather demeaning and insulting. 
  • We choose to give chance to others who want the money, and we trust that there are other ways or opportunities to get money. 
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Searching for the financial elixir

Be it an elixir or windfall or golden goose, it is a miracle that I am seeking, in order to increase my cashflow so that I can clear debts, meet my family needs and build a sustainable future, which can enable me to stay afloat in the face of rising costs of living, economic crises, etc. Nothing fancy or overly ambitious, as I am not seeking to be wealthy and famous for its own sake. I basically want to make ends meet, and along the way, be a greater blessing to others as well.

In recent months, I have been attending one seminar after another in seek of solutions. I learn about new ways of looking at things, new opportunities to make extra income, and so on. I also learn about the importance of knowing myself, developing a resilient mindset and setting realistic goals.

Which seminars have I found most helpful so far?

First and foremost, I understand that every opportunity to make money has its strengths and challenges, and every seminar speaker has their strengths and limitations. One of the traits I look for in them is compassion and empathy. At first, I thought that those who had faced poverty or bankruptcy or huge debts in the past would be more emphatic and helpful. Indeed, during their workshop, they would share about the difficult times they went through, and how they felt grateful to their mentors for having helped them pull through and break through to become the success that they are today. But it seems that most of them do not really intend to reach out to the ones who are struggling financially, as they expect people to pay a fair bit of money in order to attend their intensive workshops.

Fair enough, I understand that renting workshop spaces, marketing their workshops and hiring event management personnel to handle the administrative aspects of their workshops do cost a fair bit of money as well. Still, I have my own reservations. I would want to look at how these speakers are living their lives on a daily basis. Are they actively seeking to help people achieving financial breakthroughs or mentor them to become more successful, or are they getting carried away by their own success and posting on social media about their next dream vacation or their hobnobbing with the who’s who in the celebrity circles?

In addition, after doing some soul searching, I am coming to realise that my passion has to be involved in the venture instead of merely following the strategies to make money because otherwise, I might as well continue to do a 9-to-5 job. For example, do I really like the idea of selling ebooks without having to write my own books? While it is possible to hire a ghost writer to do the job for me, the satisfaction of selling the book wouldn’t be the same as that of selling my own self-written book. The same question can be asked if I want to consider other ways of making money, whether it be property investment, internet marketing, email marketing, affiliate marketing, value investing, online business, and so on.

At this point, therefore, I have narrowed down my options to the areas in which I am passionate and knowledgeable about: namely, online tea business and education business (specifically, Genius IQ Smart Parenting Seminar).

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Yes and No

We live in a world of duality, and sometimes, things aren’t really black and white. Most of the time, we live in a grey zone, or perhaps more interestingly, a multicoloured zone that is as brilliant as a rainbow.

Ever lived in a world where someone pointed out a mistake you made at the workplace and you thought to yourself, “Oh gosh, how could I have missed that?” Sometimes, our peers or colleagues or supervisors or big boss aren’t so gracious, or sometimes, we ourselves are our own harshest critics. We may tend to pick on ourselves apart to bits and pieces, and we wonder why the world looks so bleak and bleary at times, or why we even exist for being such a failure.

Why are we sometimes harsh on ourselves? We need to ask ourselves this question. Is it because we imagine others will come down hard on us if we don’t shape up according to their expectations, so we choose to be harsh on ourselves first to save ourselves from possible criticisms from others? Is it because we grew up in a largely unforgiving culture where we are punished or penalised for the slightest error we made? Or is it because we have a perfectionist attitude, which may well be a sign of not wanting to deal with our inner insecurities and anxieties?

Today, we are going to talk about mistakes we commonly make in editing, or in publishing in general. As long as we are human, we are bound to make mistakes here and there. We are not machines. Even if we are, machines are finite or limited too, and are subject to an odd malfunction or two, no matter how well designed or maintained they are.

In publishing, we are encouraged to minimise mistakes or produce error-free materials. To put it in another way, we are discouraged from making mistakes. In this world we live in, where capitalism runs the world, where meritocracy runs the gauntlet (this expression came to mind, though I don’t really know what it means), and where our value and worth and earning potential is (are?) often tied to how well we perform, there seems little or no room for errors or weaknesses in the workplace.

In this session, we are going to talk about mistakes and confess that each of us makes mistakes. We are going to learn to embrace mistakes as part of our human existence, and accept imperfections as part of our whole being.

Does that mean that I am encouraging you to make more mistakes in editing and publishing? The answer is: neither yes nor no, or yes and no, depending on how you look at it. Yes, only by acknowledging we make mistakes can we learn from them and be responsible for doing better next time. No, we know that making mistakes – whether one mistake or many mistakes – can have less than positive consequences, such as being graded poorly in performance appraisal, or not leaving a good impression on readers who buy our materials, and so on.

But the way to deal with mistakes and maintain a high quality of materials in a healthy way is not to stress ourselves out trying to avoid making mistakes or to deny our imperfections or hide our imperfections. Because one, we will continue to struggle with a sense of insecurity, inferiority (which is superiority on the flip side of the coin) and low self-esteem. Two, it can lead to a blame and denial culture. We need to learn to take ownership of ourselves – the good and the bad. Three, blaming invariably leads to shaming, whether others or ourselves. It may become a vicious cycle of blaming and shaming, and the way out is to deal with mistakes at the root.

You see, many workshops and training sessions focus on the effects rather than the root causes. They focus on “do this” and “don’t do that”. There is a place for that, but we are mostly dealing with the issue on the surface or on a superficial level. It causes us to forget who we really are and put us on a stressful treadmill to become something or someone whom we already are.

For example, the system or mindset of the world tells us “If you do this, you will become someone. If you produce zero-error materials, you will become a world-class editor.”

Let me tell you who you are already. You are already a world-class editor. This is your true identity. Now, live and work based on who you really are. Yes, you will still make mistakes but it doesn’t change the fact that you are a world-class editor. The more you believe and remember this is who you are, the more your thinking and actions will align based on your self-belief.

 

 

Posted in Equality, Racism, Uncategorized

Embracing diversity in skin colours

A colleague happened to share about National Geographic’s article “Being Black in China“, which opens up new perspectives. She commented that we ourselves can become a “tourist attraction” when we visit countries where we are considered a rarity, just as we find tourists who visit Singapore who don’t look like us to be a novelty.
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I find that race is becoming more openly discussed nowadays, which is a good thing because it helps people to understand each other’s differences and accept the fact that we are all different and we are all the same. For example, I came across a recent article in which racism and racial privilege (such as Chinese privilege in Singapore) are highlighted, which hopefully will encourage an ongoing conversation among people about such issues, in order for justice and equality to manifest more fully through conscious awareness.
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I learnt that in the West, White people have been challenging themselves to deal with anti-Black racism, and this video is an attempt to open up conversations about such racial issues and how parents can educate their kids to embrace differences and diversity in skin colours. Though the way the mother in the above video educates her child may not be wholly appropriate or scientific, and her perspectives about Black people as a White privileged person may be considered offensive to some in spite of her good intentions, the efforts of the video makers in fostering a positive perception of People of Colour in order to combat racism that has been taught from generation to generation are noteworthy.
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Ultimately, we are all in this together as one humanity, and as this article noted, we all originated from the same Motherland – the cradle of humanity – once upon a time, and through evolutionary adaptations to climate and environment, we have been developing shades of colour alongside with our unique cultures and languages, and may we all continue to stay united as one.
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Tennis inspirations

​I am inspired and moved to tears by how Venus Williams supports her younger sister to succeed. 

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-28/australian-open-serena-williams-beats-venus-in-final/8220242

http://elitedaily.com/sports/venus-williams-speech-losing-serena/1770859/
The above story of the Williams sisters and how they succeed together to become world champions in tennis is the reason I have been following their news whenever I get a chance because the love and support they have for each other and the dreams they hold on to in spite of challenges are mind-blowing and inspirational. For too long, competitive sports have been marred by rivalry and jealousy, but it is thanks to such gracious and big-hearted sportswomen and sportsmen such as the Williams sister, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that makes tennis so refreshing and compelling to watch and follow. In the Australian Open women’s tennis final, Venus Williams could have chosen to seek her own glory but I believe she chose to let her little sister win and fulfil her dream of getting a world record of 23 Grand Slam titles in open competition era, and that speaks volumes of her graciousness and love. Like she said, Serena’s win has always been her win. Similarly, to my beloved: your success is my success, and your joy is my joy. I truly want you to flourish and prosper in the areas you find fulfilment to do so. 

Posted in Equality, Freedom, Uncategorized

What is freedom? Are meritocracy and citizenship necessary?

When I was a trainee undergoing Leadership Training Camp in Pulau Ubin in my first year of junior college, I looked at some of the seniors with wistfulness when they were rowing a wooden raft and enjoying themselves while we trainees were suffering from physical exhaustion. I longed to experience freedom like they do. Maybe when I become an adult, I will have that kind of freedom to do what I enjoy, or so I had thought. But years later, I still find myself grappling with the notion of freedom – for some reasons, I don’t feel completely free to be myself or to be fully at peace with myself and the world around me.

It has been said that “no one is free until (or unless) all are free.” Is that why I don’t really feel completely free? How to be really happy when I am aware that there are others out there still suffering from injustice or discrimination? Then again, will that day ever happen when all are free? Will I always have to postpone my happiness indefinitely? I know Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to live in the present moment and be thankful for that moment. Maybe I have to give myself permission to be truly happy so that it sends peaceful, healing energetic vibrations to those who are still struggling.

I am coming to think that when Buddha attains enlightenment or Nirvana, it is not only for himself or herself. Maybe Buddha knows that by liberating ourselves first, we can liberate others. Maybe the concept of merit-based karma isn’t completely selfish – maybe we do good to ourselves and others not so much to accumulate good karma and better rebirth for ourselves but also to show others that a better way and a better world is possible, and we ourselves can make it happen. Maybe our motivation for helping others can come from the understanding that we are all interconnected, hence when we help others, we are helping ourselves, and when we help ourselves, we are also helping others because we are all one.

…..

Speaking of motivation, I am reticent to subscribe (wholly) to the national approach to “meritocracy” and “citizenship”.

Regarding meritocracy, do we necessarily get motivated to do things or to work hard in order to get rewards? Isn’t this an ableist approach to try to compete in a system that says “survival of the fittest”? Wouldn’t meritocracy result in people thinking they are more deserving than others because they are more able to do something? Wouldn’t it lead to elitism, classism, arrogance and snobbishness and cause us to look down on others who  have done less or achieved less than us, or to feel inferior if we think we don’t measure up to others who have done more or achieved more than us? I would also venture to say that meritocracy can lead to repression when we feel shamed or compelled to hide our inherent human weaknesses from the society or from public view in an attempt to look good, moral and “incorruptible”.

Regarding citizenship, I understand that this concept may arise from our fundamental need to belong to something or some group or tribe. I can understand and relate to the need for belonging as it may be hardwired in our genes the moment we are born to want to have a sense of belonging. However, as much as it is a valid need to belong to a community, do we need to have a formal citizenship in order to consider ourselves as belonging to a particular nation or country? Do we as human beings only have access to basic rights such as shelter or housing, healthcare and so on only when we are considered citizens of a nation? Wouldn’t a stateless person have the same human rights as a citizen in any land or country to have access to these rights?

In essence, if a government’s definition of citizenship is borrowed or adapted from imperialism, it implies that the indigenous people usually have less rights than those who are considered citizens who conform to the system, and their indigenous lifestyle and habitats are often being infringed upon or sacrificed whenever the government wants to clear their land and resettle them in the name of “development”, on the pretext of “doing what is good for the society”.