Explore more on the Ground

Explore more on the Ground

Dear Boys,

Sometimes, everyday chore can expose us to a better way of doing things, even when we have been doing the same thing everyday.

This happens to me when I was cycling to work. Yes, since your dad’s office is a scant 11km away, I will try to cycle to work, as much as practicable and the weather allows.

The Beauty of Google Maps

Of course, there is a plethora of mapping technologies on the web these days, we can plot till we foam in the mouth before we embark on our journey. While this level of planning is great, this is also why we have an entire generation of armchair critics. Knowledge you get from mapping helps you plan, knowing if your plan will work or not, depends on the people who have actually been there, and walked the ground.

Nothing beats putting your foot on the ground

In my context, put the pedal to the ground.

Looking at these 2 maps, they look discernably indifferent, with only a 30m between the 2, while on the ground, the experience is another story altogether. If you look between the 5km and 7km part between the 2 maps, lies the difference.

My default route is the 11.246km one, and while I have used it many many times, there is more complexities to overcome, not a big deal, but more.

There is 2 T-junctions (uncontrolled) I have to look out for, many bus stops with pedestrian traffic as Hougang Ave 3 is a major road with many bus plying this route. As this is the official park connector route, there are also more cyclists, like me, using it. Oh not to mention a petrol station along this road, which vehicles I have to be careful of.

My new route the 11.213km, however, is a unused gem. Defu Ave 1 is not as crowded, there are 2 T Junctions, one which has a traffic light. Less pedestrian traffic, since less bus ply this road. It has a clean gentle uphill (towards work) and the ride is generally more pleasant. the incline is reversed when I head home and it does help makes the ride faster, and I don’t have a petrol station to contend with.

It is even more defined when I am using the left side of the pavement, and not the right side, which will put you in the path of 6 T junctions, one of them is the main gate of SBST Hougang Bus depot, with buses turning in and out. Gnarly.

Not many people can tell you the difference in using these few choices and pick the best one out any given day.

Walk the walk, the talk the walk

You really need to walk the ground in whatever you do, this level of knowledge and detail beats any kind of hypothesis hands down. So while you boys go on to attain knowledge in your respective field, nothing beats hands-on, hard work. This level of experience cannot be attained the easy way.

No Augmented Reality, simulation, reading up, map plotting can get you there by actually walking, and for my case, pedaling. The Direct Feedback you get being there gives you the first hand knowledge which you can rely on, and others can count on, instead of just depending on Google map.

The Einstellung effect

The Einstellung effect

I recently learned a new word call ‘Einstellung’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstellung_effect) Generally it means how we will use the most efficient method solution to problem solving, even when it appears that there is another more efficient methods available.

I think we can understand it as ‘ When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail to you.‘ cliché. This is very true to Aikido practitioners, because we train so hard in a specific discipline that we get confined by what we define. How many of us can see the inter-connectedness between sentient beings when we train? All we want to do is to neutralize the ‘attack’. Not every ‘attack’ looks like an ‘attack’ and not every ‘attack’ is an ‘attack’. We need to be aware of The Einstellung effect every time we train.

Which is why we train in the first place! so that we can consciously discern the minutiae of life! No one single moment in life is the same! Once it has pass, it is passed! As valuable as The Einstellung effect is in helping us mechanized our life, so that we can deal with the larger issues on hand, we need to know not to over rely on The Einstellung effect. It will happen and it happens all the time, we just have to be mindful to exercise discretion if what we are doing is actually the best way or is there a less best way, but a more efficient way? Not all best ways are the best ways, some less best ways are sometimes just as good as the best ways. This is what it means to be human, and this is why we go to an Aikido dojo for training.

Published: July 13, 2013 

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Dear Ian,

One thing we learned in our planning is that we need a lot of communication, constant talk, and making sure that we communicate our expectations, goals, obstacles, challenges, adversaries and friends. This kind of communication is important all round, because it helps you keep close, tactical, on the ground tab on what is happening and if you would be able to meet your goals as planned.

This communication is starts with yourself!

Self talk has a lot of taboo. People thinks that people who talks to themselves, sometimes a bit too loudly, are crazy people. Well, your dad is one of those crazy people. When I was younger, I would break out into a crazy dance when I’m in the mood with a song.

Then again, I learned that self talk can bring out a different creature in you!

I used to scold myself, and belittle myself, with a lot of profanities and vulgarities. Constantly playing the role of a ‘Drill Sergeant’ to myself, nothing I did for myself was good enough, and everything I did was bad enough for a string of profanities, all aimed at myself.

Then as I grew older, I learned to love myself more, accept me for who I am and the things I can do and cannot do. Well you call that maturity, I call that meeting reality once too many times!

The bottom line is this, you have to have constant objective feedback to yourself, is your plans working, is your goals achievable and is what you are currently doing helping you work your ways towards your goals? you have a chance to learn and get exposed to many things I only learned in my twenties. You have a head start, and you need to tell yourself that you have an advantage over your dad’s generation and you need to work hard to make sure that you use that edge!

Please talk to yourself more, make yourself your own best friend, and learn to negotiate with your own expectations. And make sure that you talk to yourself in the best possible language.

Published: December 30, 2014

Perspective Taking

Perspective Taking

Dear boys,

You get what you focus on, period.

I wanted to write about this because one evening, we were talking, and Wayne said ‘Tomorrow is going to be a good day.’ Yet, knowing him, there is always a caveat.

Of course during the day, somethings might turn up, screw up our ‘good day’. We might meet an obnoxious person who piss us off, and mess up our ‘good day’. We might get our results back to find out that it is a ‘fail’, that is not going to be a good day.

It is all in the perspective, boys. What we focus on gets magnified. even things we ‘don’t want’. This is the classic law of attraction, and it has happened to me so many times. especially when I’m riding trails, the more you tell yourself, ‘don’t slam into that tree, don’t slam into that tree, don’t slam into that tree,’ what happens, you end up slamming into the tree!

don’t slam into that tree!

So I will train myself to look ahead and plan the route to take, usually it is quite a successful endeavor but being on a mountain biking trail is anything but predictable neither ‘successful’.

Law of attraction

Which is why we need to be very conscious about what we think about. It’s fine to say ‘Tomorrow is going to be a good day.’ and leave it as that. BUT, adding, ‘I hope nothing bad is going to happen!’, and you can be sure something ‘bad’ will happen and you will be fixated over it instead of what other good stuff that has happened.

It will happen especially when we don’t want something. The more we don’t want, the more we select reasons to justify our don’t want-ness, and we look around for more situations to put ourselves in, just to say: ‘You see lah, everytime like this one! I always get what I don’t want!” Just truly and earnestly think about what you want then, and let the magic happens!

Boxing yourself in thinking about dying.

Wayne, there was a period of time when the argument or scolding isn’t going your way, you will think of dying. or killing yourself.

So during one of those heated scolding, you brought this up again, as you sense that you are cornered, boxed in and everything is your fault. So you say that you might as well kill yourself. And I gladly entertained that thought, let go into killing ourselves. We imagined a few scenarios, how sad we will feel if you die, and how people needs tremendous amount of energy, focus and will power just to kill themselves, or throw themselves off a building. Why not, focus all that energy, on being good? Save yourself and not kill yourself?

We explored focusing on living, the wonderful gift of having a chance to better ourselves, despite of making mistakes, despite of losing, despite of looking stupid, we have life and another chance to try again. By focusing on death, once you are dead, you are dead, there is no more chance to try again, make a better day, or simply enjoy being loved by your brother, mom and dad. No more mummy tiger to hug, or smell patchie boy again.

The elephant in the room

It is a taboo, I want to address it with you boys, while we grow up, we need to be very careful what thoughts we bring into our mind. Some of these thoughts, we brought them in, some others, people planted it there. So by talking about death and suicide, we properly addressed the matter instead of treating it like a taboo, because the more we don’t want to talk about it, the more it will surface and the larger it will become, so much so that it will be too powerless for us to talk about it. So now we got such zero sum game out of our mind, we can focus on growth, focus on the good day, magnify the awesome, and build on the phenomenal.

Our negativities will not go away, being upbeat and cheery isn’t a façade, thinking and focusing on good stuffs means when we are hit with bad stuff, we know how go to a resourceful and open state to handle a rough patch well and emerge from such episodes no worse for wear.

Easy being difficult

Dear Boys,

You will come to a point in time, where you have to decide, with discipline on proceeding to do something worthwhile on a long consistent basis.

The difficulty in such an endeavor is how deceptively easy it will look, and you will be lulled into thinking at easily said, easily done. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is the easy things that will trick you into the difficult.

Nothing is really hard to do, if we put our mind to it, we can break hard things down into easy parts and do them. But sometimes, doing exactly that is the most counter productive thing.

When things seem easy to do, ironically, we have lesser motivations to do them. Simply because they are easy to do!

There is, (pun intended) no easy way out of this. You have to remain ever vigilant for the easy stuffs. and do them, condition your mind to do them, do things, accomplish things, irrespective if they are easy or not. Try not to brand things, as ‘easy’ or ‘hard’. Things are never ‘easy’ and never very ‘hard’. you just need to stay focused and get them done.

First posted February 26, 2014

5 Advantages of Being Married

5 Advantages of Being Married

Dear Boys,

I’m married, of course I ‘sell’ and advocate marriage. We are all our own product ambassadors, if I’m not happily married, I won’t sell it. If I like being single, then I’ll find every damn reason there is to justify my single-ness.

Anyway here is my 5 advantages of being married.

1-You build a bigger network of extended relatives.

Humans like all organisms, are network-centric. We need to continue to grow and develop our high trust network. The easiest quickest way is to get married, suddenly all your spouse’s relatives becomes your in-laws, and obligated by the by-laws to help you, and make your aspirations successful.Think medieval times, why kings and warlords marry off their children to secure lands and power.

Who knows, your spouse might have a rich multi-billionaire uncle with a couple of million to spare for you to do business get rich?

2- You can be safe with members of the opposite gender.

Sometimes you need to work with really smart people and really beautiful people to do really smart and beautiful things, and in order to avoid mixing pleasure with business; your wedding band, spouse photo in your wallet, are ideal shields against such unwanted solicitation, attractions and distractions.

Sure some singles out there consider married individuals as fair game or even premium, then you need to hold true to your marriage oath ‘forsaking all others’. If you don’t, then you are just another two timing scum.

3- You get economies of scale

Sometimes, produce and products are better consumed in large quantities. A quart of ice-cream, shared, are calories halved. You can also go into restaurants and order 2 different items off the menu and then share, so that both gets a varied taste of the eatery.

Or if you’re too full to eat, you can always get your significant other to finish off the meal.

4-You can do crazy stupid things, without the fear of being seen as crazy and stupid

Who says only singles do crazy stupid things? Married folks can also do crazier, stupider things, all without having to seek attention. You’re married, you no longer have to seek attention, you do crazy stupid things, because you simply love doing crazy stupid things, without having to get anyone’s acceptance, other than that of your spouse.

5- You get instant maturity.

This is not funny. Choosing to spend the rest of your life with just one person, when there are more than 6 billion other alternative human beings; that takes courage or sheer idiocy (or both). And living with another human being by choice, warts and all takes a certain level of perspective, personal growth and growing up.

Taking care of another person for life, and having another person taking care of you for life is not a joke. There are responsibilities beyond that of an individual in the single-hood realm. When you tell people you are married, you get instantly upgraded up the social ladder, people will think that you have the maturity to be some kind of marriage expert and elevate you to be one. Your opinions will carry weight and what you say as a married person will be generally considered to be worth something.

First posted Dec 13 2015

Attack the Day!

Attack the Day!

Dear Boys,

It happens to all of us, at any given time. We can be lost, demotivated, felt like we have lost a sense of drive, purpose or even belonging. We might feel like a fraud, and even though ‘Fake it till you make it’ sounds like a decent comping mechanism, often we do feel like the faking it seems fake!

What do we do?

Especially when we are swamped with work, or even at times where we don’t have much to do and feels listless.

Recently with my new job, I was struggling to get traction, working very hard touching all the bases but invariably losing some, and of course, missing tasks happens often and being the responsible guy I am, I can be very unforgiving to myself and this self-reprimand can affect our sense of self worth. Maybe I am not good enough?

Eventually I thought about my time Mountain Biking.

On the trails with my buddy

On the trails, you have no time to think, or you eat dirt. You cannot be afraid and you really need to process your information in a flow. There is no judgment nor time to be critical, on the bike, you work one root, one stone, one curve, uphill, downslope at a time, one by one, you cannot think too far, nor look back and gloat at the nasty boulder you just hopped over. You must be in the moment.

Be afraid and worry about the next root, and surely you will get caught, and fall. This happened to me once at the Bukit Timah Mountain bike trail back in 2019. I had 2 bad falls and damn near broke my left shoulder. The impact was so hard it left a permanent bump on my left shoulder, I think my bones has shifted permanently, but there was no broken bones or dislocation.

The Really Bad Fall

Attack, attack, and attack

Sometimes you have to be aggressive in life and attack the tasks at hand vehemently. This is one way to deal with procrastination, take yourself, your ego, personality and self-talk out of the equation, take the task at hand and deal with it one at a time, never judge which is more ‘difficult’, or which is the one that will make you happier. Treat each tasks the same, and take them one at a time, build speed, velocity and efficiency in getting s**t done.

After a while, you will get a sense of how many tasks you have ‘killed’ off and then you an quickly add more complex tasks to your work. Think of the outstanding work you need to do in a clinical, objective manner, and struck them off your list without getting to emotionally involved. There is no need to get angry, happy, sad or whatever. Just objectively get them done one by one.

Don’t wait

Don’t get fixated at how ‘tough’ a task is, or how you dread talking to a difficult person, just get on the call and talk to the person, use whatever you already know, it might not be much but it is a start. You might be mocked, or ridiculed, but keep going, keep clearing tasks. You know what you know and you will learn what you don’t know, as you go along. Never wait for information to be given to you, go out there and get it.

Waiting means you will lose the initiative, and get a curve ball in your face. Standing still means that something unexpected and unprepared that will knock you off your momentum; so keep moving, keep working, keep attacking the day and before you know it, you would have gone through the hour with a lot of things done and time to spare.

This is a tactically efficient way to get the busy out of the busyness, and it does summon your energy in the right channel and focus. Doing this day to day means you will build an energy and a can-do work ethics puts you in a very productive state of mind.

Of course once you are done with the day, don’t look back too much and look forward, use what you have accomplished to move forward, into another position and start the attack again, consolidate what you have gained the past days and use it to remove more tasks at hand. There is a time and space for reflection, and do not mix this up with an action based attack day.

Everyone’s an Uke

Everyone’s an Uke

‘Hold my hands’

No, this is not a line from a romantic movie, this phrase is most often used to indoctrinate anyone who is looking to join Aikido. Everyone starts Aikido holding someone’s hands, that connection is established the moment we step into the dojo.

What is an Uke?

Well this is a theme I’ve been toying in my head for a while, Uke (受け) in Japanese, literally means the person who “receives” a technique. And it is commonly mistaken as the ‘attacker’ in a dualistic sense, because the uke often ‘initiates’ the technique with a ‘strike’ or a ‘punch’ or something else.

As we get closer to the dynamics between a nage (The Thrower)and uke, you can see that the line is very, very fine. Well let’s not go there yet.

Back to being an uke on your very first day learning Aikido. Let’s rewind that back a bit more.

Back to being an uke on your very first day sucking on a milk bottle.

Back to being an uke on your very first day you learn to ride a bike, becoming a Dad, becoming a teacher, learning to lose your loved ones, opening a restaurant, looking at a business problem for the very first time, your first day being a doctor.

Every step of the way, we are in the path of reception, every baby will reach out and receive milk and food when they are hungry. There is no naturally born expert Dad, every dad is a student to their children, and the kids are teaching their parents valuable lessons about parenting.

My baby son holding my hand for the first time

We are constantly receiving

There is no way about it, the moment we are born, we receive our first breath, without it, we will be receiving our first bacteria, coming to rot our dead body back to nature. The irony is, when we think we are becoming remotely good at something, we begin to dish out lessons, and hide behind a thin façade of competency, when we are best receiving.

Even a doctor, or a business consultant, armed with years of medical knowledge, or years of management experience, will have to receive their problem or ailments at the get go, and will continue to receive these problems and issues. Only when you can fully comprehend, and accept what the problem really is, then a medical solution or business proposition will work. A doctor cannot simply give panadol for a runny nose, without properly receiving information from the patient. so the doctor works best being an uke, constantly receiving and not judging, not putting his years of medical knowledge in front and masquerade as an expert.

Refusing

You can only become unhappy when you refuse to accept an outcome and decision, and feels that it is unfair to you. Refusing to accept is not receiving wholeheartedly; of course life can be unkind, and despite of your best efforts, you don’t get what you want, but you will always get something, and when you open your heart to receive, you will realize that you have so much more to learn from something as disappointing as not getting what you got.

Essentially Aikido is the fine art of reception, it is only when we can openly receive what the universe has for us, come what may, then we are ready for more. Fighting for more, hoarding, selfish egotistical pursuits of shallow meaningless material possessions is futile, is unnatural. We are endowed to receive, the more we are open, the more we will get, it’s only natural!

Systems… They are Everywhere

Systems… They are Everywhere

Dear Boys,

Things don’t happen by default, there is a process, system, flow that we might not understand. There is no such thing as a ‘simple’ thing. Situations, issues and problems are all linked and doesn’t happen in isolation. even when it looks like the last straw that broke the camel’s back, it usually isn’t that one last straw, dig deeper.

For you to better survive and thrive, a keen understanding and appreciation of ‘The System’ is necessary so that you do not break yourself against something seemingly random and abstract. It will also help you work with The System, analyze the root cause and come to a better more holistic understanding of how things work around the world.

A Home

Even at home, your dad runs a system that is unique (and yet not quite) that keeps the house a home. As mentioned in my earlier post on Adulting, even mundane things takes time to build and I have to think of end to end. Even changing a simple light bulb, once it is blown, I have to know the size, cost, brand, and where to get it. How to change it and discarding the blown fluorescent tube. While my part of the deal ends when I thrown it into the bin, the ‘rubbish’ has its own systems that makes it way to where ever it might become. Even before I buy the new tube, there is also a manufacturing system at the backend that make sure the replacement tube reaches me, the consumer, the dad/ electrician at home.

Source: Karla Hernandez-Unsplash

Watch and learn

The challenge for me as a dad is to make you boys see beyond the simple day to day chores. How to ignite that investigative and curious seeking nature that is latent in all of us? Going in depth and asking the questions that matters.

Why? How? What? When? Which? and Who?

Is there a risk of overthinking even for something as simple as a household chore? Quite the contrary, in our world right how, we lack thinkers, no need to overthink the overthinking, it is over worrying that we need to worry about. When we bother to think critically, long and deep, we will find that ‘solutions’ are not really solutions, rather they are compromised outcome. There are still problems in solutions and there are also solutions hiding in the problems. So these solutions might cause minor inconveniences, but it keeps the greater larger systems wheel going.

When we go back to the tube replacement example. You boys flip the switch and the light is turned on, or not. If you do not understand that it is The Dad that changes the tube, you might go whining to the Mom, which is not the right contact point. Or you can understand how The Dad goes about replacing the tube, and do it yourself.

From there, you might trigger a thought:

“Why do we keep replacing the tubes?”

“Can I improve it?”

“Make a tube that don’t need replacement, ever.”

Then you’ll need to work The Systems to see how, if that is possible. Improvements which seems to come in leaps and bounds is often supported by unknown and unseen minor constructions which is done by countless of people who are keeping The System going.

Without getting a clarity for how The System works, it will be difficult for you to make a difference in this world, in fact, you will be blinded, and indifferent to the realities and inconveniences in this world. You will end up whining and complaining about how things are unfair to you and you will make an issue out of every single things that don’t go your way.

The System don’t Care

The world really don’t care about us, our plans and our whiny, puny thoughts. The System won’t respects us, until we respect The System. That said, The System isn’t a big huge machine that we are powerless against, work The System, and find out the pros and cons, and what you can do to make the pros work in your favour while you circumvent the cons. Not everything will go your way, so when things does, appreciate it, don’t gloat, and when things don’t it just means that there’s issues in The System you didn’t learn or understand.

Waking up to a different World

Everyday might seems like a Groundhog Day, the movie is a very good analogy for our cyclical life where, if we are not careful, will fall into a trap that grinds us, and we become de-personalized. The ever talented Bill Murray, trapped in an endless Groundhog Day, finally took his time to learn, appreciate and fully dive into that very one day, only when he can get to the grind of things, he is able to break free from the repetitive wheel and do something different.

But it is never so dramatic, work small and don’t let the larger, seemingly insurmountable big machine of The System makes a mockery out of the ingenuity, authenticity and originality you both are endowed with. If The Systems seems too big, always remember the Navy SEAL saying:

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Who would you hurt?

Imagine, you are the most skilled martial artist in the world, you have mastered Karate, MMA, Judo, Boxing, Muay Thai, and other lethal martial arts. You certain can kill someone with your moves!

Who is the first person you’ll end up hurting first, other than yourself?

Chances are, you will end up hitting and hurting your loved ones. People you care about, your wife, your husband, you kid, your training partner, your sparring partner, your colleague, your drinking friends. Almost towards the last of your list, are strangers, criminals, mafia, Jason Bourne, James Bond, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise and the neighborhood cat.

“We need to be the centre of calm in a very volatile situation.”

It happened to me and I will never forget it. My elder brother and I got in to a very heat argument when we were very young then. If I remembered correctly I was in my early twenties. I was so pissed that I wanted to leave home, the anger was simmering and I wasn’t really out to hurt anyone, I just want to get away, for good.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My elder brother, another extremely hot headed and irrational guy, held me back as I reached for the gates. He restrained me from getting away, and I snapped; turned around and punched him, once, hard, on his chest. I will never forget the sound he made, when his brother, me, hit him. The sound of the hurt I inflicted on him, made me very very reluctant to hit another person like that.

Okay, call me a softie, that’s fine. I really didn’t like him, much less love him. I still don’t. But that served a reminder to me, that I will hurt the people closest to me. It is a statistically given fact, we interact more and on a higher level with people we know than with people we don’t know. well, duh. So people close to us will see us, good, bad and the ugly, warts and all. they will rub us the wrong way and we might end up fighting them.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Isn’t that ironic? We always know our loved ones deeply, we often use that intimate knowledge to hurt them, instead of using it to love them more. Or they might have unwittingly done something that hurt us, and we instinctively want to hurt them back.

Take another hypothetical example. Your very very drunk and emotionally unstable friend, who got aggressive, and take a swing towards anything, anyone close enough. You are that person, will you block the punch and snap a front kick to take him out, or will you enter (irimi) to his side, control him with an Ikkyo, and assert authority over him, and make sure he do not embarrass himself further? Use a circular motion to diffuse the tension, to dissipate the anger. We need to be the centre of calm in a very volatile situation.

Aikido gives us that skill to end a very violent situation peacefully. More important, it cultivates the wisdom in us to help us see beyond violence, the violent person has a very good nature, and when he or she has sufficiently calmed down, the person is actually a very reasonable person.  Well, under duress, we are all dumbassess. But in a stressful situation, we only need one dumbass, the other person has to have some good sense to stop the dumbass from becoming a bigger dumbass.

First Published: October 1, 2015