ignorantsoup Talks

Journey Towards Success

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Trying out a new routine & The need to feel Hungry

Since yesterday, I made it a point to try to sleep at 11:20pm. This is because I wake up daily at 06:20am. This arrangement would allow me to sleep for 7 hours a day, which many different online sources seem to say is the minimum required. I have been feeling tired for the past few months as I sleep at 12 and wake up at 6:20.

When I woke up today as a result of the additional 40 minutes, I feel more refreshed and energetic. There seems to be a spring to tell me it is time to wake up and “Sieze The Day!”. I shall see how this continues for the next few days.

Apart from the new sleep routine, I have also tried to cut down on unnecessary wastage of time spent on the internet doing nothing fruitful. Perhaps this conscious effort helped in ensuring that I am writing a post instead of surfing forums and re-watching YouTube videos. I hope I can continue though. I have also continued to read a book which I bought previously on Six Sigma, and perhaps it would be the book of the month for May.

The previous book that I read was about Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). I believe in NLP as many of the changes I experienced in my life that led to my academic successes seemed in-line with NLP principles. Part of it is the living “at cause” as opposed to “at effect” which I mentioned briefly in my previous two posts. I was also more optimistic in the period where I started to work harder for my studies.

But that is not the main reason why I needed to mention it in this post. The reason lies with the final chapter in the book that asks “How much do you want it”, or as I always say “How hungry are you”? There is a book called “The Secret” which said “Anything that you want from the Universe will be given to you”. But I think we need to justify that because there can be many wants, but only a select few in which you are hungry enough to do what it takes to get there. As with goal setting, we have to identify on how much we want it, lest it becomes a dying flame and all we have at the end of our lives is the memory of the smoke.

With that, I am going to re-do my mind map of the legacy I want to leave behind as a new way to reaffirm my personal goals.

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Recently, I tried engaging someone online. The engagement started because I got reminded of how I should change one person at a go (starting from myself), if I want to shape the world. The person posted a long analogy online which is actually a pessimistic analogy of what is happening in Singapore, with the minimum sum increment, foreigners living in our midst and new Integrated Resorts (read: Casinos). The writer ended with “Are my children happy?”, which in the non-analogy world (actual world), is “Are Singaporeans Happy”.

To me, nobody could answer this question outright as a yes or no. Just think about it, if I change the question as “Are Singaporeans Vegetarians”, could anyone answer it with a yes or no? The answers could be “No, not ALL Singaporeans are vegetarians”, or “Some Singaporeans are vegetarians”. Similarly, we cannot generalise and say that Singaporeans are happy/unhappy. There are happy people and there are unhappy people both living on this island.

Next, I thought the question was weird when he kept insisting that I commit to a yes/no answer. I thought it was masking the issue. The issue should be why are some Singaporeans unhappy and not giving him what he wanted: “Yes Singaporeans are unhappy”. The conversation ended amicably with my offer to take it privately as a discussion, but I thought I should write my opinion down.

I find that happiness is from within. People who are rich can be happy, or unhappy. People who are poor can be happy, or unhappy too. Happiness has nothing to do with wealth, social status, your ability to buy a car etc. Happiness is something that everyone can have, even in the face of great difficulty and a tough life.

I mentioned this in the previous post but I have to reiterate. This has to do with how you are living your life, “at effect” or “at cause”. Do you blame yourself or the system for your individual failures? People who are interested and want to take a step forward in your life can start reading books on Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). Or you can just leave a comment and we can discuss. But if we live life “at effect”, we blame everyone else but ourself and it feels bad because when others are at fault, we feel powerless to change things. We feel vulnerable. We feel unhappy about the situation. But when you blame yourself and you find out what went wrong, we can change things the next time and that is hope. There is positivity and we have a chance for something better. Notice how up-lifting the mood then becomes?

In life we always have a choice in our circumstance.

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Spirit of Competition

Recently at my workplace we had an inaugural competition among the various operational squadrons as a way to test our proficiency. Being the maintenance team, my colleagues and I were split to join the operational squadrons which we work for. At the beginning, it feels as though the competition was a distraction from the work that we have to do. We are already so busy, yet there is a competition to distract us. As per usual, once we reserve our judgement, we actually found out that it was better than expected.

Mid-way into the competition, the camaraderie built up between my maintenance team and the operational squadron. We worked together for a common goal and accepted responsibility for the outcome of the tests that we had to undertake. It was fun to see everyone work hard together and the joy we had when we learnt that we were consistently ranked second and hence was in the running for the champions.

At the same time, I was delighted to see that my team felt disappointed in losing certain categories of the competition which we were responsible for (we got 2nd). I saw the personal pride in my team and every member actually owns the competition instead of labeling it as someone else’s responsibility to win it. This ownership is commendable and wouldn’t be brought out under normal circumstance. In the spirit of competition lies the desire to improve and excel. This is what will make future competitions even more exciting and bring up our capabilities.

In the end we got 2nd. All of us were disappointed I guess, especially when we heard we lost by a narrow margin. However, there was no finger pointing. Everyone was in the team and as a team. Instead, each party took it upon themselves that they could have done better and thus win the championship. I feel extremely proud to be in this team where everyone is responsible and have a good fighting spirit.

On the other hand, there were comments (disclaimer: hearsay) from other units that the competition mechanism was “kelong” and that since they are organising it next year, they will structure it to win it. I put a disclaimer because I did not hear it myself, but I chose to talk about this as I wanted to talk about the words as a whole and not put blame on any party. In any competition, there will definitely be teams who lose. However, what matters is to lose graciously. Somehow, at every competition, there will be sore losers who blame others instead of themselves. They are living in denial. For starters, competition rules have been set and agreed upon by all parties, so we should respect that.

People who live by blaming themselves before others will tend to find success. This is because they recognise their fault in any matter and hence will take active steps to change themselves for the better. People who blame the system will continue their path as they do not see where they have gone wrong. It is the system’s fault and not their own, hence there is no requirement to change what they have been doing.

This is termed as living “at effect” as opposed to living “at cause” which refers to accepting responsibility for our results. This is one of the things I have learnt from an NLP book that I was reading for my April book.

Are you living “at effect” or “at cause”?

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Excel Programming: Creating a Manpower Monitoring Program

I have been spending most of my free time on one single project in the past few days. With the knowledge I learnt from the Excel Programming book I purchased a few weeks back, I sought to create a VBA program that could help me monitor my manpower on a weekly basis.

The program would help me in the following areas:

  1. Present an overview of the manpower availability in the next 5 working days (for manpower planning)
  2. Monitor the outstanding leave status (so that I can get people to take more leave instead of waiting to clear it all at the end of the year)
  3. Monitor the number of MCs taken (from a purely care-for-soldiers perspective as multiple MCs for the same condition might highlight the need for some in depth tests)
  4. Allow input of manpower movement through a small Graphic User Interface (GUI)
  5. Allow the generation of calendar databases by inputting the Year required
  6. Allow automatic generation of the daily HR report for submission to higher HQ

Many of the subsidiary functions are not automated by VBA though. Some require the user to do input directly into the databases.

The main aim is still to improve efficiency where possible and waste less time. At the same time, to make sure that manpower is monitored properly to avoid cases where I have a lack of trained people to do work.

So far so good, hopefully I can use it at work within the next week!

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Make a Conscious Effort

For those who are out there seeking improvement to yourself, you might be doing it through a few different possible methods. Examples range from reading self help books, browsing self help articles on the internet, watching videos on YouTube and reading other people’s blogs etc. However, we can read and learn the content that is available to us and yet nothing has changed. We are still the same person that we once were, with nothing to show for the hours we put in to learn new materials.

Something that my colleague shared with me made much sense. There has to be a conscious effort to do something. There has to be a decision within yourself to say “I want to do this today”. We were talking about being in meetings that do not affect us much and hence were boring and dull. He said that he made it a point to learn 1 new thing which he wasn’t aware of, so he actually spent the effort to pay attention to something new, write it down and think about it. Or it could be a conscious effort to raise a point in a meeting for the benefit of others. This could help those who always have ideas but are afraid to raise them. Force yourself to contribute just one during the meeting and slowly you will get used to contributing more.

The Conscious Effort has got to do with part of habit forming. Forming habits are really difficult; good habits, that is. For example, you might have a grand goal of keeping fit. The execution part requires you to don your exercise gear and go out there to do some exercise. You would also have to do it diligently without fail at a pre-determined frequency. In short, forming a habit to exercise. The Conscious Effort is just a mechanism to get that first step out of the way. Your Conscious Effort might be to run 2km at least once a week. It will slowly transform and upgrade to include other exercises. Once the habit is formed, it is very easy to continue!

The other thing to note about The Conscious Effort is that it is something that we have to keep reminding ourselves about. Every time we go to a meeting, or meet new people, we have to set a conscious effort to improve beyond what we currently am. For example, introverts might decide that you want to start a conversation with the stranger sitting next to you instead of waiting for others to introduce themselves. No matter what it is, if you have identified a weakness you need to change, set a Conscious Effort goal today and make sure you go out there and do it.

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Getting a First Class: Consistency

I haven’t been writing in my “Getting a First Class” series of posts for a long time. In short, I wasn’t consistent and people couldn’t get the knowledge and tips that I have in my head. This meant that I couldn’t achieve my goal of sharing information so that others could learn. While this is a lousy example of how inconsistency meant that you don’t achieve your goals, sadly it is an important rule that could result in your GPA dropping.

A university semester is about 13 weeks long in Singapore. It is broken down into two terms of about 7 and 6 weeks respectively. You need to be consistent near the start of the semester so that you are able to achieve results with minimal effort – and you don’t need to spend extra hours cramming at the end of the semester.

It is difficult to write about how to be consistent in your studying. This is something that you have to be conscious about to do. Most people, however, have subconsciously grown used to having the bad habit of not being consistent and leaving all the work to the end. Hence I am just going to give examples of the type of consistency I have grown used to in university.

I start my semester relaxed and but consistency kicks in about a week into the semester. As I mentioned previously, the tutorials on the subsequent weeks depend on the material learnt in the lectures. It is important to be able to grasp the concepts in the lectures and validate it during the tutorials. This also means that you can understand better in subsequent lectures as you are aware of the fundamentals. Compare this to an inconsistent student; he will not know what is going on at week 5, and has to spend 5 weeks of effort crammed into one week to be able to catch up. Chances are, you need more than 5 times of effort – the effort increases exponentially.

I am also consistent in the timeline I use to prepare for exams. During the final month (about 3-4 weeks prior to examinations), I would start doing my revision and download all the exam papers. I would do my planning to clear about 1 paper a day at the onset and do more papers as it progresses into the reading week before the examinations. If I have any questions, I ask them on the school forums or meet up with the professors to ask them questions.

It is such level of consistency that makes it easier to achieve your goals as compared to when you are not consistent. If you add up the amount of effort required, you might find that you are achieving much more with less effort. And that’s the smarter way to study.

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A reflection on self improvement

I wanted to write in order to talk about self improvement. Recently I was toying around with an idea of forming a group with like minded individuals who are passionate about self-improvement and sharing of knowledge. The group will also be a form of peer support, providing advice when needed. It is like a mentor program, except it will be by peers. Perhaps in the future the group could evolve to include much younger members (when we are all older), when it will transit to a mentor support group. However, other than a like-minded colleague, I have yet to met anyone who would be even interested in this.

Over the past 3 months, I have read or have begun reading 3 different books. In January, I read “The First Time Manager in Asia” and wrote a post about it.. In February, I read “The 5 Levels of Leadership”. I did not complete it though. I finished reading Level 3: Production and figured that I had some improvement to go in this aspect before I should proceed to the next level. However, someone I met told me that it is always good to be aware of what the next level is even if you are not in the position to understand and appreciate the level itself.

This month’s book is “The Fine Art Of Small Talk – How to start a conversation in any situation” by Debra Fine. I have began reading and taking down notes; however I have yet to apply it even though I had situations to. This is an area which I had identified as a weakness of mine and I have to do something to minimise the weakness. That is essentially what self improvement is about, improving strengths and reducing weaknesses.

To conclude, I have been diligently reading one book a month and occasionally I take a look at my mind maps in order to refresh my memory on the concepts learnt. I am glad to have taken a good start to keeping my goals for the new year and look forward to completing the year 2014 as a much improved person. I am also hopeful to influence others to set such goals for themselves as well.


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