Book Review: Kevin Tsai’s Way Of Speaking (蔡康永的说话之道) Part 1.3

Kevin Tsai book

This is the final post regarding my review of Kevin Tsai’s book ‘说话之道’ (Book One). (Read Part 1.0 and Part 1.2). If you have yet to read his book, I highly recommend that you get your hands on a copy soon. I love the illustrations (actually short comic strips) within, and the anecdotes that Kevin shares. Each chapter makes one good point, and each chapter is short (possibly 3 to 4 pages only). Even if you’re not a fan of reading Chinese books, just one chapter a day before you go to bed should not be too difficult.

And no, I have yet to figure out the rationale for using an umbrella as a prop for the book’s cover shoot. Would you have any idea as to why he did that? (>_<)

Anyway, here are the rest of my learning points from Book One…

  1. Be involved and interested in conversation with your elders.
  2. Self-deprecating humor helps break down barriers. Don’t attack someone just to butter someone (else) up.
  3. Choose topics that everyone can participate in.
  4. Exit quietly.
  5. Don’t say “I understand” when you don’t / can’t.
  6. Go for win-win situations when asking for help.
  7. Be ready to apologize when you are in the wrong.
  8. Read between the lines.
  9. Return praise.
  10. Personalize messages.
  11. Look for clues regarding the person’s character.
  12. Learn to care for others.
  13. Make sure they can feel your ‘care’ for them.
  14. Avoid jargon. Have your own speaking style.
  15. Communication: more than words.

And I’m moving on to Book Two.😀 There’s just so much to learn from this man that I’m glad he found the motivation to write book two. He had previously shared (on TV) that he was most reluctant to write book one. He probably thought no one would want to buy his books. (Hurhur) But the illustrator (likely a friend) had told him that the money he would receive for the artwork was money he needed to pay for his studies abroad. And so, that ‘pushed’ Kevin to quickly get the manuscript done so his friend’s plans would not have to be shelved indefinitely. All’s well that ends well, I guess.:)

Book Review: Kevin Tsai’s Way Of Speaking (蔡康永的说话之道) Part 1.2

Kevin Tsai book

Perhaps you’ve read my earlier post about Kevin Tsai’s popular book ‘说话之道’, or perhaps you haven’t but that’s fine. Reading Chinese books is not exactly a hobby of mine so good luck to the Government in wanting to promote literature in our mother tongue languages when many in this country don’t even like reading to begin with. LOL!

This book is really good though, and I think there should be an English translation, if there isn’t such a version already.

Anyway, here are more of the learning points from Book One…

  1. Remove the ‘sharp edge’ in your questions.
  2. Ask questions that will elicit a variety of responses from your audience.
  3. Avoid the (many) landmines: finances, illness(es), relationships, kids’ grades, politics, sports, hated celebs, religion, vegetarians vs meat eaters, etc.
  4. Numbers are more memorable if you link them to events. DO NOT ask about how much a person makes when you’ve only just met him/her!
  5. Pauses are important. Let your voice be a mental massage for others, not a verbal lashing.
  6. Insert a ‘hook’ in your conversation so people follow.
  7. Don’t wait too long before revealing the ‘climax’ in your story.
  8. Avoid canned jokes. Good jokes should prompt conversation after.
  9. Ask questions which prompt the speaker to continue.
  10. Be outstanding without sabotaging yourself.
  11. Don’t be in a hurry to answer. Keep quiet if you’ve heard that joke before.
  12. Be the first to state your name.
  13. Give praise that is desired.
  14. Don’t answer your own question, and don’t set traps for people to fall into.
  15. When on stage, make a good point every 15 minutes.

I’m not done with the book yet. Yes, it’s frustrating because I usually do speed-reading for books written in English. Gah! So I’ll have to update this blog again later. But don’t hold your breath. It’ll take a while.😀

Book Review: Smarter Faster Better – The Secrets of Being Productive – by Charles Duhigg

Smarter Faster Better Charles Duhigg

The title of this book ‘Smarter Faster Better’ seems to be a slogan that one of our ministers in Singapore will be fond of (hehe). This book has a great layout which makes it easier and faster to read – the font size is pretty big, and one quarter of the book actually contains the appendix / notes (which I didn’t read). But this 266-page book is still full of interesting anecdotes, insightful analyses and illuminating ideas.:)

I love the author’s definition of productivity on pages 4 and 5: “Productivity, put simply, is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort.”

I’d highly recommend you purchase a copy of this book and read those interesting anecdotes. It’ll certainly help you think about Productivity differently. The notes that follow are little summaries for myself. They won’t necessarily make any sense to you if you haven’t already read the book, so go buy a copy, ok?😀

  1. Motivation: Can be learned. We prefer choice and control. Link something hard to a choice you care about.
  2. Teams: Manage the how of teams, not the who. Give everyone an equal voice, encourage social sensitivity among teammates.
  3. Focus: Especially important in this age of automation. Create mental models. Visualization. Force yourself to think.
  4. Goal setting: Commit to stretch goals. Pair stretch goals and SMART goals.
  5. Managing others: Take pride in your work. Commitment culture in companies is best. Empower staff.
  6. Decision making: Get trained in how to think “probabilistically”. Accurate forecasting requires exposing ourselves to as many successes and disappointments as possible”.
  7. Innovation: Take proven, conventional ideas from other settings and combine them in new ways. Use our lives as raw material, our emotions as creative material. Don’t get overly attached to your creation. Critique what we’ve already done.
  8. Absorbing data: Increase your understanding of data. Use a new word in a sentence, write it down. Use the scientific method to isolate and test variables. Framing is important. Write > type.

Book Review: Elon Musk – How The Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Is Shaping Our Future

Elon Musk book

Before reading this book, I had no idea who Elon Musk is. Apparently he is very, very famous. If you know who Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are, you’d have to know Elon. But to borrow a line from Rui En, that is, if Elon asked me “Do you know who I am?”, I’d definitely say I have no clue.😀 But I’m already a fan of one of his companies, even though I didn’t know he’s a co-founder! Haha!

Long story short, he’s actually a co-founder of PayPal, among other companies. He has a net worth of approximately USD13.5 billion. And what is probably his most radical idea is the one about having a human colony on the planet Mars. Like, seriously, men are from Mars? He has had two wives. He had six sons with his first wife; his very first child died not long after being born. As for the second wife, they got married, then divorced, then got married again, and yes, got divorced again. Simply put, Elon Musk is not your average guy.

After reading this book, anyone who had wanted to compare Elon with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates will have other ideas, because Elon is clearly in a league of his own.

Here’s how he is very different from most of us:

  1. He was likely born a genius. He could concentrate intensely on a single task, had a “compulsion to read” and had a photographic memory. (However, he was also bullied relentlessly in school.)
  2. He has a maniacal work ethic. He thinks that if there’s a way of getting nutrients without sitting down for a meal, he’d take it, so he would not have to waste any time that he could otherwise use on work. He even pees quickly.
  3. He doesn’t necessarily believe in crafting a career out of your passion. Even though he has a huge interest in video games, he wanted to pursue a career in an area he could have a “big impact”, i.e. something that would change the world. He challenges us to think about ‘What industry can you disrupt?’
  4. While most people struggle to build up one successful business, he’s had many successes. Among them are Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity.
  5. He turns conventional wisdom on its head. In 2014, Tesla announced that it would open-source all its patents. The company was essentially encouraging more competition.
  6. He believes in lowering costs by making everything in-house if possible. Yes, that includes even building rockets themselves!
  7. He’s been through a lot. Besides bullying in school, there’s also his tough upbringing, a coup in one of his companies, he nearly died from malaria, his first son’s sudden death at ten weeks old, his first wife’s blog which became a PR nightmare for him, and how his companies had once been on the brink of bankruptcy and he had to sell prized possessions to generate cash.
  8. He’d rather die than fail. He told one venture capitalist: “My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku than fail.”
  9. He’s an unusual boss. He would play video games with employees and trash them at it.
  10. He eliminates obstacles. If you’re his employee and if your glasses keep getting in the way of your work, he’ll pay for your Lasik treatment.
  11. He redefines “micro-management”. You are in real danger of losing your job, when your boss takes over for a week or two just to see if you are as indispensable to the company as you say, and then you realize he can do your job better than you can.
  12. He’s REALLY hands-on. He interviews just about everyone, from the janitors to the technicians. I wonder if he has just 24 hours a day, like the rest of us.
  13. He uses more of his brain. Co-workers marvel at “his abilities to absorb incredible quantities of information with near-flawless recall.”
  14. He comes up with jaw-dropping ideas, e.g. reuseable rockets, electric cars that can be recharged for free (and even having robots replace battery packs, and autopilot functions for your car).


To me, it seems like Elon Musk has led the lives of multiple men, not just one. The way he manages large companies at the same time is just incredible. Without discounting Steve Jobs’ awesome creations, I’d have to say that Elon’s mission is just mind-blowing. And based on what he’s doing, I do think we have a very real chance of exploring other planets even before we are done with exploring Earth. And with global warming and its horrendous effects, I have to admit that yes, Earth might one day not be conducive for human life. And we’ll have no choice but to check out other planets if we want to survive.

I highly recommend that you check out this book by Ashlee Vance. He must have done so much work to put together this 382-page book about Elon Musk, especially since the latter had refused to cooperate at the start. LOL. Before I read the book, I knew nothing about Elon. Now, I’m in awe.😀

Book Review: Kevin Tsai’s Way Of Speaking (蔡康永的说话之道)

Kevin Tsai book

I’ve enjoyed Kevin Tsai’s and Dee Hsu’s hosting of 康熙來了(Kang Xi Lai Le) – too bad the show has ended after more than a decade on television. As Dee has frequently referred to Kevin’s book, I decided to locate a copy and attempt to read all those traditional Chinese characters. If you know of the existence of a version in simplified Mandarin or better yet, a translated version in English, please let me know. My speed-reading skills have been severely hampered by the way the book is presented – just like Chinese comics, back to front, and read from right to left, the exact opposite of what I’m used to.

In this post, I’ll share some of the learning points I’ve acquired from (slowly) reading his book. I’m reading slowly not by choice, obviously. Haha! Do note that some phrases and thoughts just lose much of their original intended meaning when translated into English. Take the title of the book, for instance, <蔡康永的说话之道>, which can only loosely and inaccurately be translated into ‘Kevin Tsai’s Way Of Speaking’ (which I found on

Also, how does one explain what Kevin meant by “说话之道” versus “说话之術”, which he claims has very different connotations? In any case, I’ll do my best here. Apologies in advance if my interpretations of his work fall short. Mandarin’s not exactly my strong suit but I do love the language – it’s actually quite beautiful.:)

By the way, this (speaking skills) book has made Kevin one of the richest Chinese writers, and according to the website, helped him earn over US$700,000 in royalty income. Can you say “WOW”?😀 Not that he needs the money, obviously, because the talkshow already pays very well, and Kevin is from a rich (elite) family. I respect him a fair bit because he’s not just learned, but he’s also courageous. He has come out of the closet years ago and said he is gay. I think more gay people should follow in his footsteps. If you want society to accept who you are, and the lifestyle you lead, and not discriminate against gay people, then you’ll have to OWN this fact (that you are gay), and just proudly state it as a matter of fact and show you have nothing to hide. Step out and say “I’m gay. So?” and you’ll find that people (even the critics) will have to just start minding their own business.

And I might be wrong, but I think that Kevin’s sexuality allows him the freedom of understanding both ‘worlds’ – the male worldview, and the more feminine / emotional / sensitive ‘world’ that is usually associated with women. Thus, he seems to always know what are the right things to say. For instance, when a woman asks a man whether she is looking fatter these days, the man might have to pause and wonder if she’s asking him a trick question, what her response might be if he’s honest with her, and what he’ll have to say in order to get away with lying. For someone like Kevin, the answer is almost always very prompt and a straightforward denial “Of course not. You’re so slim! Why would you even ask that question?!” and the woman ends up feeling really happy. Yes, we’re superficial like that. Most of us just want to hear only the good things.😀

Here are some learning points from the book (It’s Book One. There’s a Book Two out as well)…

  1. Consider what the listener wants to hear, not what you wish to say.
  2. You are what you say.
  3. Dee Hsu: “There’s a fine line between being yourself and being rude. Give genuine praise, not unwelcome criticism”.
  4. Pass on praise from other people, instead of trying too hard yourself.
  5. Your words define you. For instance, would you rather be seen as a naggy housewife or a kawaii girlfriend?
  6. Likeability is more important than looks. For instance, what would you do if you are invited to a gathering with friends and dinner involves Japanese food which you do not enjoy? Remember: the reason for your friends’ existence is not to serve you.
  7. Music is better than forced conversation, and it also changes the mood.
  8. Know how to “lose” and hand unnecessary victories to others. It is better to lose an argument than to be hated for winning one. Don’t force an apology or admittance of defeat from someone. Maintain love between the couple; don’t make a fuss over winning or losing an argument.
  9. See people as equals.
  10. Maintain eye contact in moderation.
  11. Don’t obsess over the meal; have a good conversation.
  12. Get unstuck; change the topic.
  13. Concrete questions lead to effortless answers. Be specific in your questioning. Ask about a topic that you have something interesting to share about too.
  14. People want to find others who understand them.
  15. Everyone wants to talk about themselves. Be a good listener. See if you can avoid using “I” and “me” in your conversation. Indulge your friends – let them say all that they want to.

I’m not done with the book yet. So I’ll update this blog again later. It’s so much easier to blog in English than to read a book in Chinese. Muahaha!:)

*p/s: I’m not sure why Kevin uses an umbrella as a prop for his book cover shoot. Perhaps the answer will be revealed later in the book.😉

Booktique: That Citylink Mall Bookstore You May Have Visited Before


Recently, I shared a Facebook post regarding a bookstore owner’s plea for help to survive the “trying times” of “dismal” sales figures. I don’t really know if it was the wise thing to do – asking for help via Facebook – but I admire Anthony’s guts for doing it. His FB post got some 197 shares, and hopefully, did bring his bookstore more customers. I’ve actually visited his bookstore before (‘cos I love walking into bookstores and checking them out) but didn’t buy anything on my previous visits. I popped by the store yesterday during lunch hour. It was rather quiet, museum-like. And since I was there to show my support, I browsed through most of the titles, and eventually bought two books: Judy Sharp’s ‘A Double Shot of Happiness’ (S$33) and ‘Teach A Life, For Life’ by Eileen Chai (S$24).

Booktique Citylink Mall

I managed to complete reading Eileen’s book on the train ride home. LOL. Speed-reading rocks!😀 And I also sent her a message to tell her I loved reading her book. I do think S$24 for her full-color book makes it quite a steal. And I marvel at how this GENIUS (she deserves the title) can be so good at so many things: gymnastics, springboard diving, athletics, violin, etc. (She has represented Singapore in the Southeast Asian Games!) And oh, she has a degree in Microbiology from NUS, and is now a violin teacher and performer. How did that even happen?! It would be a real treat to meet her in person and interview her.😀😀

The other book is about “Tim Sharp’s extraordinary journey from being diagnosed with autism to becoming an internationally renowned artist”. I’ve not read it yet, but I will soon.:)

Here are a couple of other books I found very interesting. Ok, they have really cool book covers. And yes, I totally judge books by their covers. Especially since they come all lovingly wrapped up in plastic at Booktique and I cannot read the contents till I’ve bought the books:

‘The Doll Scene’ has an AMAZINGLY eye-catching cover:

Booktique The Doll Scene

‘The Red Riding Hood Lah’ will amuse speakers of Singlish, for sure:

Booktique The Red Riding Hood Lah

By the way, I LOVE that Boutique supports local authors. As a local author, you get your books placed in prominent position, with supporting newspaper features, etc.

I do hope Booktique survives the quiet months and that sales will pick up soon. My personal gut feel is that the space in the bookstore could be ‘maximized’ (is that the right word to use, I wonder) further. I’m not sure about this (as I didn’t actually count them all), but it seemed to me that there were probably less than 200 titles in the store when I visited yesterday. I’d probably have bought more if there was more to choose from.

One question that came to mind yesterday was what I’d do if I was running a bookstore like Booktique:

  1. This idea isn’t mine; I read about it online – Have a book subscription service. For a fee of e.g. S$50 a month, subscribers receive a specially curated selection of perhaps, three(?) books that Anthony picks out for them based on their preferences. I would sign up for this, seeing as how I’ve already spent S$57 on two books. And subscribers can either pick up the package at the store (free) or get it delivered (at extra charge).
  2. Have a membership card to encourage repeat buying. I like going back to stores like Popular, Times and Kinokuniya when I have their membership cards. So if I see a book I want to buy in another store, I’ll wait for member-only 20% off days at Kinokuniya, for instance. Yesterday’s purchase at Booktique was an out-of-the-norm one for me.😀
  3. Increase the time every walk-in potential customer spends in the store. For instance, I’d have a little coffee corner with an espresso machine and some tables and chairs for customers to get a coffee (ka-ching!) and browse through some titles. My rationale is that the more time they spend in the store, the more likely they are to buy something, or to buy more. [If you spill coffee on the book, you buy it! :P]
  4. Figure out what the people who go to Citylink Mall actually want. This is something I’ve learnt from Andrew who manages the Red House at Upper Thomson coffeeshop. If there is a group of executives who just want a chill-out place where they can read a book in peace during their lunch hour, I’ll probably have a corner with some beanbags or recliners where they can read the books bought from my store.

Hopefully, when I next visit Citylink Mall (which may be in a few months’ time), Booktique will still be there, and will be thriving. I do encourage everyone reading this to pop by Booktique and show them some love.:)

I did also visit another store at Citylink Mall yesterday. It was selling handicrafts and other knick-knacks for charity. I bought these two greeting cards (at S$1 each) as they are oh-so-cute!😀

Cat Greeting Cards


Booktique is located at Citylink Mall #01-17A, 1 Raffles Link.

Ladies, Meet Randi Zuckerberg This Weekend At MBS! :D

Women of Wealth And Abundance

I’m very excited about meeting Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, this weekend at Marina Bay Sands!😀 I’ve been told that Randi has a net worth of $100 million (like… WOW?!) and she’s the former Director of Marketing at Facebook. Most of the seats have been snapped up already (‘cos tickets are FREE!) so hurry and register here if you want to grab one of the last few seats available:

But wait… WHAT IF you already have other plans for this weekend?! 

Well, it’s the first time this event is being organized, and if you miss it, I really have no idea when the next run will be. So if you like the lineup of speakers, and believe that you will learn something of value that will change your life for the better, then do whatever it takes to be there this weekend at MBS.:) Here’s what you can expect from the speakers…

A Sneak Peak At The Speakers’ & Topics:

Randi Zuckerberg – “Finding the Balance, how to be a three-dimensional woman in today’s digital age”
Former head of Marketing at Facebook and sister of Mark Zuckerberg (CEO & Founder of Facebook). Randi is an entrepreneur, best selling author, investor, public speaker, and media personality, passionate advocate for women in entrepreneurship and leadership. Net worth over $100 Million.

Yassmin Abdel-Magedi – “Making a Difference, Being the Change”
Top TED Talk speaker, best selling author, mechanical engineer, social advocate.

Brenda Tan – “Regain Your Power”
Best selling author, event host, women’s relationship coach, entrepreneur.

Alexi Panos – “Woman’s Secret To Happiness”
Author, TV presenter (HGTV, MTV), actress, philanthropist… the “IT” girl in the personal development world.

Emma Tiebens – “Relationships = Success”
Author, relational marketing branding expert, network to success, entrepreneur.

Linda Hollander – “Fund Your Cause, Charity or Passion Project”
Author, passion project funding and sponsorship acquisition expert.

Lynn Rose – “Speak From the Heart & Reach Your Goals”
Author, founder of the WOW Factor for speaking & communicating,
connecting to your authentic self.

Suria Mohd – “Positive Parenting – Pays Big Dividends”
Author, positive parenting speaker, women’s empowerment trainer.

There are many fringe activities (lucky draws, fashion show, yoga session, etc) so I know this weekend is going to be pretty exciting! But what I’m looking forward to THE MOST is getting to hear from all these amazing women. Lots of love to the organizers for putting this event together, and OH MY GOODNESS for bringing Randi Zuckerberg here to meet us all. It’s incredible!😀

Ladies, do whatever it takes (I know you can do it) to make sure you secure a seat at this event. It’s free for you to attend, and there’s so much value the speakers will be bringing to us. I’ll see you there!:)


12 – 13 Mar 2016
9am – 6pm
Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, Level 4, Roselle Grand Ballroom

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Book Review: ‘Better Than Before’ by Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before

“Whether you want to start eating healthier, lose some weight, or replace an unproductive habit with a more useful one, this is the book for you! :D” – ME

‘Better Than Before’ is the latest book from Gretchen Rubin, the author of the international bestseller ‘The Happiness Project’.:) When I read books written by two of my favorite female authors, Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Gilbert, my heart just wants to burst with gratefulness that there are wonderful authors such as these two ladies, who almost consistently put out great works which blow my mind.😀 This book sets out to help us in “mastering the habits of our everyday lives”, and what it actually does is to help me discover which of the Four Tendencies I’m most inclined towards (am I an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or a Rebel?) and how we can avoid self-sabotage, but instead support ourselves in creating and maintaining habits which help us lead lives which are happier and better than before.

“Progress, not perfection, is the goal.”

I love how Gretchen keeps emphasizing that it’s not perfection she is seeking, just an improvement from a previous self.:) It’s exactly what I tell my blogging students too – it’s not about a massive overhaul of your blog, but just working on a 1% improvement every day and see where you get to in a year’s time.:)

In this 7th book of hers, Gretchen inspires once again. This 394-page book is full of enlightening anecdotes, helpful suggestions, and mindblowing revelations. I found myself underlining and highlighting furiously as I read this book. Hehe!

Another important point Gretchen makes is that everyone is different (DUH!) but we often try to force someone (of a different Tendency) to do things according to the way we do them. I’m the sort of person who thinks there’s absolutely no need to make my bed in the morning because I’m gonna fall back into it in about 12 hours’ time. And no amount of nagging from my mother will make me feel HAPPY about straightening my pillows or folding my blanket in the morning… UNTIL the day I realized that it’s a useful morning ritual to have, especially for someone who works from home, in her bedroom.

Once my bed’s tidied, it means I’m up for the day, and I can go straight to work. Otherwise I’m lured back so often by its siren call.😀

And because every one of us is different, some need to start small while others require a big change. Some need to be held accountable while others will always resist accountability. And some people need to take occasional breaks while others must never break a habit. To find out more about yourself (and your loved ones), go read this book.

Meanwhile, here are my top takeaways from reading this book:

*These takeaways are not so you can forego purchasing or reading the book. They are just here as helpful jolts for my memory😛 They might not make sense to you if you don’t read the book. Ha!

  1. Habits help free up mental energy.
  2. I have to shape my habits to suit me.
  3. I’m a familiarity lover while other people may love novelty.
  4. Interesting question to ask: If I had $500 to spend on fun, how would I spend it?
  5. Avoid self-sabotage: don’t raise the bar when starting a new habit.
  6. A habit can take anything from 21 days to 66 days (or more) to form. But everyone is different, therefore it is not useful to have “averages”.
  7. The less we indulge in something, the less we want it.
  8. Have planned exceptions. (For me, it’ll involve cake, and fast food)
  9. If 100% is not possible, anything more than 0% is good.
  10. Distraction as a powerful strategy.
  11. Avoid using rewards. Find the reward within the habit.
  12. “What change would add more happiness to my life?”

To find out which of the 4 Tendencies would best describe you, take the quiz on page 391 to 394:)

If you are ready to become Better Than Before, go grab a copy of this awesome book.

Leadership Dialogue with Lim Siong Guan, Group President of GIC

Lim Siong Guan

[ Mr Lim Siong Guan in the middle, flanked by Alvin and John ]

Bleary-eyed and still sleepy, I made my way to the National Library this morning, arriving at the building at approximately 8.15am. Good grief! I shouldn’t have been awake at 6am, but since I’d received a ticket for a leadership dialogue with Mr Lim Siong Guan (who is he?) from my blogging student, I decided to show up and learn something new. It was probably the best decision I made today, and after the event, I even purchased a book authored by Mr Lim. He used to work closely with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and is currently the Group President of GIC, which manages over US$100 billion in assets. As you’ve probably guessed by now, Mr Lim definitely has a thing or two to share with us, even IF it was early in the morning on a Saturday!😀

Some background info. regarding the gentleman first:

Mr Lim has had an illustrious career in the civil service. Before heading GIC, Mr Lim was Chairman of the Singapore Economic Development Board from Oct 2006 to June 2009, Head of the Singapore Civil Service from Sept 1999 to Mar 2005, first Principal Private Secretary to Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, from May 1978 to June 1981, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Finance. And oh, he did so well in his studies that he was awarded the President’s Scholarship too!

Here are the highlights of the leadership dialogue this morning:

  1. The majority of our current jobs will no longer exist in 10 or 20 years’ time, thanks to technology. With our set of values as our compass, we have to constantly be at the forefront of this change because #2 is a precarious position to be in. If your job doesn’t require you to exercise judgement, does not require your wisdom, insights or instinct, you can be replaced by a computer.
  2. According to Mr Lim, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was “completely paranoid about the survival and success of Singapore”. From being convinced, back in 1959, that Singapore would not be able to survive on its own and required merger with Malaya, to being determined, in 1965, that we would not “crawl back to Malaysia”, Mr Lee was adamant that no one owes Singapore a living and we would have to figure out our own way, without asking any country for aid or handouts. On his first day of work, Mr Lim was told by LKY to “never look down on the ground” and to always look (foreign) officials in the eye.
  3. Singapore succeeded because of the Singapore BRAND – it was trustworthiness and how we always delivered on our promises. The young people of today need to keep up this ‘spirit’ of wanting to fight, never giving up, being responsive and flexible, and in honoring their word.
  4. When faced with corruption, insist on having a 5* business. Serve customers who are willing to pay for quality, reliability, excellence and trustworthiness. Don’t make yours a 1* business which gives bribes in order to get business.
  5. There are 3 big problems with today’s world: Lack of leadership, Lack of ideas, and the Rise of Relativist Secularism. The last one is the most interesting – about how Man decides to do not what is right, but what is “less wrong” to do / convenient to do.
  6. While we can boast of a first world economy, we are not a first world society, and there is “no first world society worthy of our emulation.” This presents a “wonderful opportunity” to us to be the model for the world. In less than 5 sentences, try to describe what is the Singapore you’d like to see in SG100. Mr Lim would like to see a Singapore in which the children are proud of their parents, instead of the parents being proud of their children, as is the case now.
  7. How do we help our children to become confident about the future? Mr Lim was posed a question at another dialogue session by a mother who has a 12-year-old daughter. Mr Lim mentioned the unfortunate incident in which children were killed on Mount Kinabalu due to the earthquake last year. He asked the mother if she would allow her daughter to climb the mountain if the little girl so wished to. The mother was quick in replying “of course not” and Mr Lim said that doing so would be “undermining her future”, to which the mother replied that she wished she had not asked him that question.😀 LOL.
  8. The young people these days lack a sense of adventure, curiosity, learning new stuff… this leads to insecurity regarding the future. Those who went to Brunei for their NS training would know that in the dense, dark jungles is where courage and self-confidence is built. In Taiwan, even the drinks sellers know the route that the NSFs would take, and set up their stalls alongside. When things are predictable and safe, it is near impossible to instill confidence, and you most certainly cannot lecture people into becoming confident.
  9. Think People, Think Future, Think Excellence. Help people realize their fullest potential, not just your own. Many know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – there are 5 of them. But in reality, there should be 3 more: Cognitive, Aesthetic, Transcendence.

Another two points really resonated with me, so I’ll share them with you here:

  1. Many workers say they don’t want to do a certain task because they are “not paid” to do it. But from the boss’ perspective, you are paid to do only what they know you can do. And if that’s not known yet, then how can you be paid for it? Take it as an opportunity to learn, and to gain a new experience.
  2. The train is leaving the station. You can choose not to stay behind. Or you can join as a full participant. But whatever you do, don’t get in front of the train.😀


It was a really meaningful and insightful dialogue this morning. (*Thank you, Fauzi, for the ticket!) I’m definitely looking forward to reading Mr Lim Siong Guan’s book ‘The Leader, The Teacher & You’, which I paid S$25 for.😀 This book won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2014 *gulp* so… hats off to this man. I didn’t know who he was before I attended today’s session, but now I do.😀😉😛

Book Review: ‘Larger Than Life’ by Belinda Lee

Larger Than Life by Belinda Lee

I was at Popular bookstore yesterday and noticed that this book – ‘Larger Than Life’ by Belinda Lee – was ranked #3 on the Non-Fiction bestsellers list! Not bad eh? It was just behind Lee Wei Ling’s ‘A Hakka Woman’s Singapore Stories’ and Subhas Anandan’s ‘It’s Easy To Cry’. Having read this book from cover to cover in just two sittings, I can assure you it’s worth both your time and money to get a copy.:)

Through ‘Larger Than Life’ I got to know more about Belinda Lee. Before reading this book, I actually knew very little about her, beyond the fact that she seems perfectly okay with having tanned skin, versus those Mediacorp actresses who hide behind massive sunglasses and scarfs and take cover under umbrellas whenever there’s a break in filming. LOL.

Belinda reveals quite a few things in this book, which took her two years to put together. For one, she shares that she was fostered out as a baby and only returned to her parents when she was either 3 or 4 years old. She even harbored “thoughts of ending (her) life” at one point, and she had to remain professional before the camera even after a devastating end to a 6-year relationship “that had almost led to marriage”.

While reading, I found myself envying her for the adventures she went on while filming travelogues like ‘Find Me A Singaporean’, which gave her the stories to share in this book. Since 2006, she’s gone all over the world, filmed in exotic locations (even a cemetery!) and experienced so many things that others can only dream of.

And this book was so sensitively and thoughtfully put together that I found myself close to tears at one point in reading. This doesn’t usually happen – not with a book, at least.

‘Larger Than Life’ is a full-color 228-page book that is FILLED with pictures and well-crafted accounts of the places she visited, the people she met, and the lessons she learnt.

“…whether you are a cemetery caretaker… a teacher, a CEO, a cleaner or a karang guni rag-and-bone man, fulfilment is not about how much you earn but how much value you see in what you do. And value is not determined by profession but by how much you respect yourself and your job.”

In this book, Belinda features some of the Singaporeans who are leaving a dent in the universe by their selfless ways: saving street kids in India, helping the mentally ill in China, giving hope to the poor in Kenya, teaching about bee-farming in Uganda, feeding the hungry in Mongolia, caring for landmine victims in Cambodia, counseling the youths in Vietnam, and so much more! Without her travelogue series, and without this book, I guess a lot of people (just like me) will continue thinking that Singaporeans are materialistic, arrogant, selfish, unemotional, and pampered individuals. Thankfully, there are some of us who are larger than life.:)


Go grab a copy of this book anywhere books are sold!😀