My Grandfather’s Death

My Grandfather passed away at the start of this week, on 25 June 17. The funeral was completed today. My Grandfather’s death taught me two things, (1) Regret and (2) Appreciation.

When I was young, my parents brought me to my grandparent’s house weekly. My grandfather would never fail to buy my cousins and I a tube of mentos sweets each and we would happily finish the entire tube in the day. As I grew older, we grew more and more distant. ¬†Weekends became precious time to do what I want to do, to go on dates and hangouts with friends. Eventually, I only saw my grandparents during Chinese New Year and special family occasions like weddings or first month of new born babies.

When my grandfather was in ICU, I was very sad and I felt like I should have visited him more. Especially after having a baby and seeing how my parents and my wife’s parents, who are my baby’s grandparents, dote on him. I begin to realise how excited my grandparents were at my birth, and that they probably loved me as much as my parents loved my baby. I told my grandfather that once he has recovered and got back home, I would bring my son to visit him. Sadly, he didn’t make it. My grandfather’s death made me realise the amount of regret I have within me for not spending more time with him and not bringing my son to visit him more.

When my parents told me that the doctor asked for a meeting between my grandfather’s children, and that my grandfather might not make it, I felt terrible. It was unexpected. The first day when I visited him in the ICU, he was all smiles to see me. He raised his hand up and I took it. He spoke a lot, but I didn’t understand anything as he has difficulty articulating his words from the radiation therapy for cancer sometime back. But he was happy to see me. The second time I went, he was in a foul mood as the doctors had tied him up as he was trying to remove the breathing apparatus. He was delirious and probably didn’t know I was there. The third time I went, it was after we knew he might not make it after all. He had been given painkillers and he was sleeping peacefully with his mouth wide open to breathe. He didn’t wake up enough to know who was around. We spent the whole afternoon with him.

That evening, I went to see my son, who was with my in-laws in this difficult period. After dinner, I got a text that my grandfather might not make it. I rushed down in my car, praying and tearing. I wished I can make it in time. When I reached, my parents asked me to hold his hand and tell him I was here. His eyes were closed, seemingly not conscious. Yet after hearing that I was there, he grabbed my hand. That was the last piece of love that he gave me, and I would remember it for the rest of my life. It was fortunate that almost the whole family came. His daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren. We all came to see him one last time. After some time, he seemed to be sleeping peacefully, and his children went to the lounge to rest. My eldest cousin noticed that his breathing was more than ten seconds apart. The nurses came to take his heartbeat, nothing. They brought the ECG machine in and it was recording 40+ beats per minute. Then 0, and we were bracing for the worse, and then it went back to 40. But it was not to be. Everyone rushed back to his bedside as the number dropped to the 30s, 20s and finally 0. The doctor came and pronounced him dead.

It was a peaceful death, and he passed away with most of his family beside him. I begin to appreciate the importance of family, and felt comforted that we all were there with him till the end. In some sense, it was his good fortune to have a huge family of people who all care for him and would drop what they were doing just to return to his deathbed.

For the past five days, the family united together. My grandfather had opted for a simple funeral ceremony based on his religion. While not everyone in the family belonged to the religion, most of us came together to conduct the daily prayers from 8 to 9pm. We chanted to give him the blessings and good karma, in the hope that he would be re-born into a good family. It was then I started to pay more attention to his religion, which my parents also were in due to my grandfather. But the main thing was that everyone came together, united in the belief that our prayers would bring him towards a good rebirth. The one hour prayer session wasn’t easy. It was long, but no one complained.

In the middle of the five day funeral, we also decided to reminisce the past. We got mentos for each of his grandchildren. Mine still sits next to me untouched, keeping it as a way to remember my grandfather a little more before I start to eat it.

The funeral had been completed and my grandfather cremated. We will not be able to see him anymore, but I took heart that he has taught me more in his death. I will spend more time with my grandmother and bring my son to see her more. I will also appreciate the family moments that I have, knowing that we cannot anticipate when the shared memory will be the last. I will also teach my son about his great grandfather and hope that he will value family and his own grandparents more than I had, so that he will not have any regrets.

Gong gong, thanks for the love. I love you, and I will always remember you.

A Letter to my Son

Son,

Today is the day that you are born. Your mother and I have been taking careful steps to reach this point, from the moment you are a fertilised egg to this moment ten months down. We tried our best to make sure that you will be safe, and whenever the elders advised for your mother not to consume certain food, we will obey. This meant that your mother couldn’t eat many of her favourite food.

In the first trimester, you didn’t seem to like vegetables or fish. Both were mummy’s favourite but she started dreading eating them during this time. As the months go on, your mummy’s appetite improved, and during the last few weeks prior to your birth, her appetite wasn’t good.

She also had to carry you everywhere she worked. As you grew heavier, she too felt the difficulty in taking every step. People on the train and buses pretended not to see her, and some aunty and uncles even stole her seat when a kind person gracefully offered their seat to your mother. You must not be so ungracious. As the days went by, your mother had to buy a waistband to help lessen the strain you placed on her back. It was difficult, and Daddy tried where possible to pick her up from work to bring her home.

We anticipated your arrival like any excited parent. We went to baby fairs to carefully select the cot that you would sleep in. We consulted our friends to see which stroller made the most sense, and which car seat was the most comfortable. We bought small toys thinking that you would like them, and bought your cute tiny clothes so that you would be our handsome son.

This week, when we visited Dr Kenneth, we discovered that your amniotic fluid had decreased. While not critical yet, we were worried that it would affect you. We monitored for a few days, and when the level of fluid further dropped during the Thursday check up, we made a decision to induce labour at Friday 0000H.

We checked into the delivery suite in the wee hours on Friday. I waited to submit the admission forms while having running nose and feeling sick. The nurses helped your mother to put medicine to induce labour. As the time passes, your mother’s cramps got worse and she was afraid that her cervix would not dilate adequately if she is not relaxed. As a result she took the epidural that she didn’t want to initially.

We waited for many hours for your mother to dilate first to 3cm, then to 7cm. The doctor predicted that you would be out about 3-4pm. Your mother continued to have contractions; luckily she couldn’t feel it due to the epidural. Near to 2pm, the nurse declared that your mother is ready and Dr Kenneth was called. Your mother worked hard to push you out. For forty minutes, she breathed in deeply and pushed multiple times during each contraction. Eventually, your head came out and Dr Kenneth pulled you out and placed you on top of mummy’s belly.

Words could not adequately describe my emotions when the scene unfolded before my very eyes. I could still feel like tearing as I write this letter. It felt surreal, and it was a wonderful thing that you were born. I was finally a dad. I was worried whether I was ready, but I am very excited to be your dad.

I followed you around as the nurses used a rubber tube to suck our the amniotic fluid from your nose and mouth. They weighed you and showed me every inch of your body. I counted your fingers and toes, and looked as they measured your head circumference and your height. I was still crying inside with tears of joy. I still couldn’t believe you were born.

We sent you to the nursery and Dr Watt visited you. The nurses cleaned you up and Daddy went to pick you up to meet your grandparents and aunts who have come to see you. Turn by turn, they carried you. Your paternal grandfather and I weren’t feeling well due to the cold/flu bug, so we got masks to cover our faces. When I finished my dinner (after not eating properly since the beginning of the 15 hour labour), it was my turn to carry you. You slept soundly in my arms. No words could express the pride I had of being your father. I now realise what your paternal grandfather meant when he said he loved me and that he would die for me. For that is how I felt. I loved you and you are now my life. I would do everything in my means for your mother and you to live well, safely and happily.

Soon you would grow up. You would go the path that I had gone. You would go into puberty, start becoming rebellious, and maybe we will slowly grow apart. But that is not what I want. I will try my best to be your friend and to understand you as an individual. I hope that you would always be close to your mother and I. No matter what we do for you in future to discipline you and guide you along in your life, we do it with the best intentions.

Your mother and I love you, my son, and maybe one day, when you become a father yourself, you would realise that too.

Love,

Papa

Getting Back to Speed

Recently, I purchased a bluetooth keyboard online, for the purpose of connecting to either my iPad or my iPhone. I am using it right now on my iPad to type this post. The purchase of this keyboard brought me some benefits and I consider it well spent considering that it wasn’t too expensive for a portable keyboard. But I use it mainly for my iPhone at work. It helps me type out quick replies to messages, and key in my to do list as I think of items.

As I was evaluating the purchase, I recalled how I had modified my style of working in the hopes of reaching a productive state. To do that, I had alternated between hard copy notebooks and phone apps to key in my to do list. Both had it merits but I tended to gravitate towards notebooks. The problem is that notebooks tend to become messy after a while when many items had already been crossed off the list. With the purchase of the bluetooth keyboard, we shall see if I will stick to an apps based list.

Today, I had also taken leave as part of the effort to clear my entitlement before it lapses at the end of the year. This morning, I loaded the saved links on Facebook and I realized that I had amassed a huge amount of links. Previously, I always clear the links after a few days. Now, I let it sit until I had no idea that it had become a mountain waiting to be cleared. Upon, reflection, there is much to do in terms of my own productivity. Work productivity is fine, but I am not managing my own private tasks well.

I had also gone for a quick run at the gym. Something about exercise helps in productivity as well. As I was clearing the old saved links, I realized many of them were about the top things successful people do in the morning and a consistent ritual was exercise. I agree, as exercise helps in raising productivity by making me more focused and alert. However, I realize that it tends to make me tired as well, so I suppose there must be a trick, or a balance in order to get the mental alertness but still not make you sufficiently tired to want to sleep.

All these boils down to one major reflection for today. I had successful systems in the past which I stuck to. For some reason I stopped. It is time to go back to it again and get the things I want done.

Leadership Through Respect

Today, I am inspired to blog because recent events at work have taught me that reputation spreads far and wide; no matter whether it is good reputation or bad reputation. Leaders should be mindful of their own reputation as it affects how subordinates perceives you; it also affects how other people perceives you.

Sometimes, one may have the best of intentions, but the wrong method of voicing out could mean a total loss; people lose respect the moment you open your mouth, and you might have won the battle, but overall, you might have lost the war. The same intentions, when led by different people, have different results.

While I won’t go into details of the events that had happened, generally, there were some disagreements on how to carry things out. These are common, natural occuring situations in any organisation as people have different views. I thought, it is important to convince others, and it is key to win the respect of those who initially oppose your ideas.

If as leaders, we insist on our way without according proper respect to the other individual, your counterpart may feel wounded, as though his views do not matter and only yours does. However, sometimes if you sit down and ponder, both persons come with good intentions, and sometimes it just may be that they both are looking at the same thing with different lens. With different lens, there is a different focus and that means the considerations to evaluate a situation is different as well. Naturally, the decision made is not the same. But that is not to say that the other person’s idea is worthless.

Even if we disagree, the minimum we could do as leaders is to acknowledge the other person’s stance and seek to understand. Respect the individuals thoughts and guide him through your own mental model. This way, if you manage to convince him, he will work according to your demands, no questions asked. However, if you belittle him and adopt a “I know all” approach, he would still follow you, albeit grudgingly. At the end of the event, your reputation is in tatters as someone who is hard to work with and doesn’t listen to alternative opinions.

Reputation and respect matters. Both, when lost, is hard to regain. Sometimes as leaders, we must accept that we can still learn from others. Show that you are a team player that is helping them, and they will be willing to accept your leadership. Show that you are a tyrant, and you will only get the lip service but not respect.

Mid Year Review

I have wanted to write something about my goals for quite some time, but I have never gotten myself down to actually doing it. Today, I looked back at my notes in Evernote, and I saw that I had listed many books which I wanted to read but I didn’t. I had also stumbled upon the 2014 and 2015 list of books I read. I clocked my monthly book goal in 2015 and failed miserably in 2015. What is worse is that I did not record anything for 2016, and it was hard trying to figure out what I had actually read.

So it’s the month of July and it is timely to review what I had promised, sort of, at the start of the year. So here are the goals:

  1. One book a month
  2. Sit ups and push ups daily
  3. Continue to read The Edge magazine and read up on companies

First, the one book a month. I completed a book, “Smarter, Better, Faster” by Charles Duhigg during my honeymoon. It was the perfect time to relax and read books. I made use of my time well. I had also recorded key snippets, though I have yet to do my review to refresh myself of its contents. I had also begun reading two books, one on networking for introverts and the second titled “Superbosses”. I am not sure whether I did read anything in the first few months of the year, though I recall giving myself a break for Jan and Feb as I had to read extensively for an essay. Well, not books but still reading materials. I should really be more consistent. I think my goals were measurable (part of the SMART goal methodology) as I specifically said to read 20 mins a day. The problem was, I wrote it and forgot about it. There must be an accessible way to have a daily reminder of my goals.

The second, I failed. There is nothing to explain. I was lazy. I did abs exercises enthusiastically but I did not continue. Shame on me.

The third, I did. I missed a few copies of The Edge when I was on holiday as I focused on reading my books. But other than that, I read the weekly magazine about 95% of the time. I had also read up more on companies this year. I had set up a template last year to record down financial information whenever I go through the five year annual reports, and I stuck to it. So far, I had read up on Capitaland, a little on Keppel Corp, Cogent Holdings and started on Dairy Farm.I have a list of stocks to read up on but it wasn’t being clocked as consistently as I would have.

As a whole, there are two key mistakes. First, not having daily reminders of what I need to do. Second, not planning my time well. I might have been setting myself up for failures when I bunch too many things together.

Aside from my 2016 goals, I also thought about the goals I had in previous years. One of which that stuck on me was my desire to write a book. I had begun writing a chapter but that’s about it. And that was a year or two ago. The plan was to write a book and try to sell it online. Then I thought about making it into a platform for people to come together and share ideas on several important topics such as Productivity, Leadership etc. It was all very appealing to me, but I need to take the first step.

And I need to be more exact.

Daily Goals

  1. Read my book (End Goal: One book a month)
  2. Exercise (Sit Ups and Push Ups)
  3. Clear my Financial News emails

Weekly Goals

  1. One++ annual report (End Goal: One company with five years worth of annual report a month)
  2. Read The Edge
  3. One chapter of the book (End Goal: to have a rough draft by end year)

And I will do a weekly review to see my progress.

I hope that I would have more favourable things to report at the end of the year.

 

Feeling Appreciated through a Farewell Dinner

Today, I went for a farewell dinner that was arranged to bid farewell to a few personnel who had left the unit and taken up other positions within the company. It was a little overdue for me as I had left seven months ago. A few years ago, I was the one who arranged for such farewell sessions, and being me, I was looking forward to my turn at the receiving end.

At the end of the dinner, I received my token of appreciation – a nice frame with kind words written by my colleagues in the department. I made a small speech which I had tried to prepare, but the result was miserable as I had not remembered the exact words which I wanted to say. I got nervous and the words came out badly.

Thinking back, I am indeed fortunate to have had supportive bosses. When I was a new person in the department, my first boss helped identify key tasking for me to gain exposure to. It has build me up significantly and I received guidance from him. He has also planned my career for me, encouraging me to take up tasks that would build my career.

I also had the opportunity to spearhead reliability engineering in my unit. I didn’t manage to articulate this in my speech as I wasn’t concentrating very well, but it has piqued my interest in the topic. Currently, I am looking to pursue two reliability-related courses, one from the Singapore Quality Institute and the other from UniSIM. Hopefully both courses give me sufficient knowledge to bring to the unit when I return in the future.

All in all, the farewell dinner gave me much to think about. I am grateful for all the assistance and kindness that people have shown me over the years, and as I reflect, I should strive to nurture the next generation.

Managing Self-perceived High Profile People

I was watching Hell’s Kitchen Season 4 on YouTube these few days and one common recurring issue with the men’s team is that there is no teamwork and everyone’s ego is too big for their own good. During the episode, one of them realizes communication is an issue and tries to get everyone to think of how to improve communication. Yet nobody needs him, and some were so fixated over the comments that others had made about themselves that they only cared about trashing it out.

After the episode, I resumed my daily book reading. The current book I am on now is “Leadership lessons from West Point”. The chapter that I started reading today was on managing high profile people, and one point stood out. The chapter described how high profile people would work in a team typically: when they feel that they are doing more than their fair share of work, they reduce commitment and might even act out in destructive ways.

To me, that sums up my learning beautifully. The chefs who made it to the show probably had lots of confidence and ego. Each of them think they are the best and deserve to win Hell’s Kitchen. However the thing is, not all of them have that level of capability. Some might be just average. Their perceived high performance might have led them into thinking that they are the contributing more than anyone else; that they tried more than others and despite making mistakes, put in more effort to recover than others. That led to a dysfunctional team where communication breakdown and no one reaps the efficiencies derived from teamwork. That is why the men’s team kept losing their challenges.

This made me do some self reflection too. Sometimes I do think that I am doing more than my fair share of work. However today’s lesson made it clear that sometimes I perceived that I do more than my fair share. That might not be the case in real life and I must be self aware. In addition, others whom I think are not pulling their weight might feel that they are contributing more than their capacity. This is a good lesson in management that I will do well to remember.

“The map is not the territory”