Interview with Swati Joshi, Author and CEO of Influenshine

Swati Joshi Influenshine

1) You are an engineer by training so how did you discover your passion lies in business and marketing? What prompted you to start your digital marketing firm, Influenshine?

I like to think of myself as a versatile person, and that I can become whatever I want to be. As a teenager from a small town in India trying to decide my future career path, I could only think of engineering as a profession that could lead to a feasible career and my desired lifestyle. I got into the best engineering university in India (Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur) through a lot of hard work and then joined a big corporation which allowed me to travel the world. Throughout my corporate journey, I felt I had much untapped potential. I knew I had more to give to the world. After meeting my husband, I found myself drawn further into his expertise areas of business and marketing.

While I was pregnant in 2015, I thought about the direction in which my life was going and the legacy I was going to leave. That’s when I first thought of taking matters into my own hands and starting my own company. Influenshine serves several businesses based in Asia and helps them enhance their digital presence. It is my way of starting to make an impact on the world.

2) What were the main challenges you faced in starting your company, and now in growing it?

The most challenging thing when I started the company was wearing multiple hats at the same time. It was daunting and time-consuming. But as the founder I wanted to get my hands dirty and be involved in every aspect of the company. I have now formed a team which can take care of many aspects of the business. Now the main challenge for me is find the best people who will take the company and the practice of digital marketing to the next level.

3) Which are your most memorable experiences of working with clients on their digital strategy? 

I love the part when clients are amazed at the reach they can get through digital campaigns. Traditionally, you could take out an ad in a magazine or newspaper for a few thousand dollars and hope for the best. But with digital ads, you can measure exactly how many people saw your campaign, clicked on it or took action. Clients are often pleasantly surprised at how much more cost effective this strategy is. It feels great to be able to craft campaigns that perform better than their expectations.

4) As a wife, mother, author and entrepreneur, what are your top time management tips?

Firstly, prioritize and delegate. If somebody else can do a task better than you can, give it to them. I try to get as much help as possible (that I can afford!) to help me both at home and at work. I try to focus on the ‘quality’ part instead of trying to do it all. It helps me keep my sanity!

Secondly, learn to use technology to help you. I list down my daily, weekly and long-term tasks and priorities, and save everything on my online calendar. I dedicate time slots for my work, and for my personal life. Everything from my client meetings, brainstorming for my next blog post to my daughter’s swim class is on my calendar. That way I don’t miss anything.

Thirdly, learn to say ‘No’ without being sorry about it. Saying ‘No’ to certain things means you are prioritizing and taking control of your time. Don’t let others waste your time if you can help it. Meetings can be a big time-sucker too – replace one with a phone call if it isn’t necessary.

5) You are also a blogger and you contribute articles to sites such as The Huffington Post. How did you get started with writing for The Huffington Post and which articles have gotten the most support from the online community?

Earlier this year, I decided to write more. I have always loved writing – I used to write and edit for my school and college publications. I started writing on LinkedIn, and to reach a bigger audience, I also decided to submit an article to the editors at The Huffington Post. They liked my article and set me up as a Contributor. I have written about 8 articles for them so far, and have always been amazed at the response I get and the number of tweets and mentions after each article. It has helped me reach a wider audience and I love publishing on their platform. The article that was ‘shared’ the most is about Video marketing, and I guess it really echoed the sentiments of the online community which is beginning to realize the potential of videos as a marketing tool.

6) Which are the books, people and/or movies that have made the biggest impact on your life?

I think there are too many to list! I learn so much from the books I read and the people I meet. I grew up reading a lot of science fiction, so technology has always been an area of interest. Of late I have been reading books about business and marketing – a few books which have stayed with me are: Good to Great, Made to Stick, Purple Cow and Zero to One.

7) You wrote the book ‘Untangling the Web: Developing a blueprint for Digital Marketing‘. Who should read it, and what edge does this book have over other existing books on Digital Marketing?

I got my understanding of digital marketing from many different sources. There’s a lot of information out there, yet it’s all scattered and fragmented, and isn’t structured well for the brain to process at one go. My book aims to give readers a concise overview of digital marketing, and help them derive the understanding and confidence needed to make decisions regarding business growth and strategy using digital marketing techniques. I try to take away some of the mystery behind the jargon, and help people gain a quick understanding of online marketing. So the book is ideal for owners of small and medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs, and new marketing executives who want to grasp the fundamentals of digital marketing to enable them to make better decisions.

8) Which top (possibly international) brand would you like to have as your client, and how would you assist the company in doing even better?

I would love to work with a company like Unilever. They have an amazing leader in Paul Polman who believes in purpose and sustainability. He also has goals of increasing the company’s social impact, and I find that admirable. I would love to craft more stories around the company’s efforts in minimizing its environmental footprint and doing social good. We need more of such corporate stories!

9) You help companies craft their brand story. What is your personal brand story?

My personal brand story is about creating an impact, driven by passion and determination. Even since my childhood, I have always been passionate about stories and ideas, i.e. content, and how it influences minds and changes the world. I am determined to create top notch content that inspires and moves people. I believe I can empower business-owners and professionals, especially women like myself, to achieve greater success through the use of technology and powerful content. I would like to create more success stories through the knowledge I have acquired and through my wonderful team at Influenshine!

~

For a limited period starting from 3rd September 2016, you can download Swati’s new book for FREE here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LB07VCM

Review: Paulo Coelho’s ‘Adultery’ and Lauren Manning’s ‘Unmeasured Strength’

Book Review Singapore

Completed reading 2 of the books I got at the recent Books Warehouse Sale, which is still ON till this Sunday by the way. I’m not sure how YOU pick out books (maybe read a chapter first?) but I chose these two simply because one was written by “Paulo Coelho” and the other was also a “New York Times Bestseller”. Turns out I hit literary gold with them.😀 And yes, these are available for the box sale for S$50. So you can stuff a box full of books (maybe 20+ titles?) and each copy will only cost about S$2 or less. It’s ridiculously cheap. As an author myself, my heart bleeds a little. As a reader, I’m over the moon.

Anyway…

Here’s my (short) review of the two books:

Adultery by Paulo Coelho

It’s quite interesting how a male author writes from the point of view of a married woman committing adultery. Strangely enough, it’s rather convincing. I think this book might speak to many people. How come some people seem to have it all (an awesome spouse and I mean nothing sexual by this, a beautiful family, a great career, etc) and yet feel “depressed” or sad without having a legit reason to feel that way? And how many can resist the urge of keeping BOTH a stable, loving relationship AND a thrilling, sexually-satisfying affair by the side? Variety is the spice of life, no? And what causes women to lose their senses when they think they’re in love with a guy (whom, on hindsight, appears to be the kind you should flee from, and not run towards)? How can you live with the guilt of having NOT confessed to your husband about the affair you were involved in, simply because he seems to know (and he seemingly says so) and tells you he still loves you the same? After ten years of marriage, how does one keep the spark (or dying embers) alive? Are couples simply staying together for the sake of the children, and nothing else? This book makes readers think, question, and also face up to their own myriad temptations, desires, fears, and expectations. A short book but it’s a thought-provoking one, for sure.

Also, did you note that there are three cherries on the cover? Cute.😉 Two are ‘facing’ each other, with a third party off to the side.

Unmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning

I didn’t actually pay much attention to the cover picture when I picked out this book. But if you’ll look closely, you’ll see that Lauren’s left hand is hidden behind her back, and there’s uneven coloration of her skin. The fact that she’s in a red dress and heels doesn’t seem out of the ordinary until you read her story and realize that this woman nearly lost her life during the Sept 11 terror attacks. She suffered burns on 82% of her body. And it took many years, an immeasurable amount of pain and equal parts courage for her to get her life back on track. This book made me cry… and cry again. It’s not just a recollection of what happened during that fateful day, it’s also her memoir. She got married once, and got divorced when the first marriage didn’t work out. And when she finally found Greg, the marriage wasn’t going as smoothly as they’d wanted. A heated quarrel, and a neighbor’s (unrelated) phonecall stopped Greg from being in the same building that morning. A situation involving missing keys at their weekend home caused Lauren to head to her office later than usual, hence she had not yet taken the lift up to her office when the terrorists struck. If she had been upstairs, she’d most certainly have perished like the 658 colleagues in her company who died that day. If Greg had also been at an event he wanted to go to, their ten-month-old child would have become an orphan.

Likewise, she recounts an incident from her childhood in which she was ahead of her sister running (accidentally) into a wasp nest. She got stung everywhere but some calamine lotion managed to do the trick. Her sister didn’t get even a single sting. Later on, it was discovered that her sister was highly allergic to bee stings, and if Lauren had not pushed ahead of her sister (to show who’s the eldest, i.e. the ‘boss’), Gigi might have been in serious trouble.

What I take away from this book is that when God’s hand is over your life, it doesn’t mean there will be no suffering. In fact, there might be tons of it. You might be stung from head to toe, but it means your sister’s life is spared and your family remains intact. It might also mean that you get burnt beyond recognition, yet you get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect with family and long-lost-yet-treasured friends. Lauren once thought she had it all and could do it all. Then the terrorists struck and she almost lost it all. Only after that could she truly begin to understand what it means to have it all. Her husband’s love for her is really commendable. Lauren herself writes that other men might have bolted, but Greg remained steadfast.

I’ve always wanted to ask God why good people suffer while bad people seem to thrive. But now I am beginning to understand. Sometimes that suffering happens for one’s own good, for God’s purpose in your life to be fulfilled. Without going through all that unimaginable and horrific pain and suffering, and not witnessing Greg’s steadfast presence and committed love through it all, Lauren’s (second) marriage might not be as strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended in divorce, assuming the terrorist attack on 9/11 never happened. Indeed, everything happens for a reason and it’s only by looking back that we can begin to connect the dots.

Read this book, but prepare some tissue first.

Back By Popular Demand: Books Warehouse Sale 5 to 14 August

Books Warehouse Sale

If you don’t already know, the books warehouse sale is back!🙂 I was BLOWN AWAY by the selection of books – everything from children’s books to business titles to cookbooks. I got my hands on 30+ titles! LOL!😀

If you want to know the opening hours for each day of the sale, head over to SG Book Deals’ facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sgbookdeals/?fref=nf (I recommend that you check the FB page often to know when they’re all sold out, as I’m sure they’ll be before the actual end date ‘cos the sale is wayyyy too awesome!)

*TIP: The warehouse sale is at 438 Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 1. Do not key in ‘438 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10’ into your GPS / Google Maps or you’ll end up at HDB Blk 438.

Books Warehouse Sale location

5 – 14 Aug 2016

Mon-Fri : 1pm to 6pm, Weekends and PH : 10am to 6pm

No. 438 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, Industrial Park 1, Singapore 569619

~

Books are going at 1 for $8, 3 for $20, and box sale at S$50 each!

Some books at the main hall may have price tags; ignore the price tags.

*TIP: GRAB a box as it’ll give you the best deal. You can easily stuff it with 20+ books, and pay just S$50. Each book will cost you just S$2 maybe? (@_@)

 

Range:

Quality books, mostly brand new – Fiction, Baby and Toddler, Readers, Young Adult, Professional and IT, Business, Lifestyle, Cookbooks, Crafts and Hobbies, Travel, Christian.

~

Take public transport as parking lots are limited; get to the sale by bus/MRT from Bishan.

*Do not queue overnight as the facilities will not be open till operational hours the next morning.

*Bring your own trolleys as the books can get quite heavy.

*Please leave the children at home if you can as the warehouse can get pretty crowded!

SG Lit Prize Winner: ‘The Sound Of Sch: A Mental Breakdown, A Life Journey’ by Danielle Lim

The Sound Of Sch by Danielle Lim

The Singapore Literature Prize handed out 22 awards recently, and a co-winner of the English Non-Fiction Prize is Danielle Lim. I borrowed her book from the library, and I found it really deserving of the award. ‘The Sound of Sch’ is the true story of Danielle’s uncle Seng, who suffered from schizophrenia, and how her mother, Chu, became caregiver to both Seng and their mother.

Danielle has both an M.A. and B.A. from Oxford yet she writes in such a way that ordinary folk like myself can appreciate her recollections – Singapore between 1961 and 1994, the Singlish, the dialects spoken, the irrational fear people have towards those they deem mentally ill (‘siao’).

This 165-page book is indeed one of those rare literary gems that may be fully devoured in one sitting. I was close to tears reading about how the Ah Ma (the author’s maternal grandmother) tried to kill herself twice, succeeding on the second attempt. What would prompt an old lady to drink detergent?! Is it the daily agony of severe rheumatoid arthritis? Is it the guilt of delaying her son’s medical treatment at Woodbridge Hospital (now IMH), preferring to go to bomohs based on other people’s ill advice? Is it seeing her son daily and feeling this inextinguishable anguish at how this former top student could have had a bright future (career, wife, family) but ended up as a sweeper at the Police Academy? What (literally) pushed her over the edge when she threw herself out of the flat? If her main concern was about who would take care of her mentally ill son when she’s gone, and who would remind him to take his medication daily, why would she kill herself?

This book deals with so many interesting themes, but I’m not sure I’ll want to read it again because there’s so much pain within those pages…

  1. Love and loss: Seng’s would-be wife left him for his friend. I wonder if this was the trigger for his mental ailments. But can we blame this woman for what she did – choosing who she wanted to be with?
  2. Guilt: A mother’s guilt for not giving her son the treatment that might have ‘saved’ him from this terrible illness, and possibly guilt too at burdening her daughter with the need to care for Seng. Also, there’s the author’s own guilt for not spending a bit more time (and a few more loving words) with Ah Ma before heading off to school, which may or may not have changed Ah Ma’s mind about committing suicide.
  3. Desire to escape: The author’s mother ‘left home’ for a few hours but we’ll never know exactly why she did that, where she went, what she did. But it’s clear her love for her family keeps her going, and she says she came back so she can tie her daughter’s hair before school the next day.
  4. Meaning of life: What’s the meaning of life for someone like Seng? Someone who supposedly had a bright future, someone who excelled in school, someone whose classmates came to for advice… who became the one whom people forgot about, who was relegated to being a sweeper, whom people shunned because they think he might be crazy and violent.

It is clear, to me, that this book has helped achieve the author’s aims. I do agree with her now that not all mentally ill patients are violent, and we don’t necessarily have to be afraid of them. I do constantly bump into one weird guy at Hougang Mall. He has a small build, it’s hard to tell how old he is (but he’s probably above 40) and he talks to himself a lot. People generally let him be as he doesn’t cause any trouble. Though sometimes I wonder why he’s carrying so many NTUC FairPrice plastic bags with seemingly empty detergent bottles in them. I do give him a wide berth each time I see him. I know not why. Maybe he’ll hit me with an empty bottle? Hmm.

Perhaps he’s just like Seng. Perhaps something bad happened in his life, just like something bad will happen in all of our lives. But perhaps something changed for him after that. And there’s no real need to be afraid of him. He’s likely someone’s son / brother / uncle who’s just out for a walk. And if our society is to be truly accepting of all peoples, then let’s start at home with the sons and daughters of Singapore.

The Shed That Fed A Million Children by Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow

The Shed That Fed A Million Children by Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow

When I saw this book at Booktique, I knew it would be a really good read. And I guess I must have a gift for picking out books. LOL! This book kept me on the verge of tears as I devoured its pages within 2 days. The author, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, describes himself as someone who is painfully shy, and who would happily take a job that requires him to meet no other human being. In fact, he was a fish farmer. What happens thereafter is nothing short of a miracle. He became the founder of Mary’s Meals, which is providing meals everyday for over a million children in impoverished parts of the world, and he has had to speak in front of countless groups of people to share about the work he does. He has been named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and nominated as a CNN Hero. He got to dine with the Queen, and he and his wife got to meet (and were blessed by) Pope Francis!

Here’s a documentary (‘Child 31’) about Mary’s Meals:

What Mary’s Meals does is to ensure children get at least one good meal a day so they can attend school with full stomachs. Parents are thus more likely to let their children go to school (as there’s the promise of a meal) instead of having them stay at home to help out.

When reading this book, you’ll be confronted regarding your notions of what “charity”, “volunteer work” and “sustainability” (of such work) mean. And I have learnt so much, just from the 307 pages within the book! Here’s a quick summary:

  1. When God has a plan, your human limitations won’t matter.
  2. The difference between bringing ‘aid’ vs. comfort. Supplies vs. a hug and words of comfort.
  3. See ‘aid’ as gifts, and figure out how they may be accepted and utilized.
  4. The terms “refugees” and “displaced people” conjure up inaccurate stereotypes. Get to know them as people first.
  5. Care for the dignity of the people you are helping. Ensure they don’t face public humiliation when receiving ‘gifts’.
  6. When you do God’s work, He will end up fulfilling your dreams in the process.
  7. Target your values; don’t value your targets.
  8. God will provide.
  9. “Charity, without suffering or sacrifice or even failure, is actually something else. Philanthropy perhaps? Or aid work?”
  10. “All those who have more than they need share with those who lack even the basic things”.
  11. Hunger is usually caused by poverty, not lack of food.
  12. The local community has to ‘own it’.
  13. On photo-taking: “Like others around us who had come to help there, I took photographs. But later, when I looked at them, I felt ashamed that while people screamed for their lost loved ones I had been there taking pictures. I decided then that sometimes, even when you felt pictures were essential to help with the raising of desperately needed money, it is better to leave your camera in your pocket”.
  14. “The average cost of a lunch in the United States could feed a child in a developing country for an entire year” – Annie Lennox.
  15. “Do not let your love be a pretence… Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor” – St Paul

~

This book retails at S$24 at Booktique at Citylink Mall. I love how the books at this indie bookstore are all individually wrapped – I reuse the plastic as book sleeves to protect the cover of the book!😀

Book Review: Kevin Tsai’s Way Of Speaking (蔡康永的说话之道2) Book 2

Kevin Tsai Way Of Speaking 2

Kevin Tsai waited four years before releasing book 2, and I have to say it must have been worth the wait for his fans. I truly appreciate it when authors ensure each book is filled with good stuff, instead of simply publishing ‘fluff’ so as to ride on the success of the first book and keep the cash registers ringing. (Yes there are authors like that)

Kevin hired a different illustrator for Book 2 – someone whom he has brought onto his popular talkshow before (if my memory serves me well). The guest on his show was a gay man, during a particular episode in which gay men voted for their favorite (straight) male celebrities. Awkward or flattering? I don’t know.

Well, here are the learning points I got from Book 2. Please go get a copy as the examples shared within are truly worth reading about:

  1. Monitor your speech like you do your looks.
  2. When saying ‘no’ to someone, blame yourself for your inadequacies so others won’t get offended by your refusal.
  3. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be nice.
  4. The more you say, the higher your chance of failure.
  5. Be careful when chatting with a gossipy person.
  6. Phone etiquette: always ask if it’s a good time to chat.
  7. Don’t embarrass people; give them room for error.
  8. Don’t waste time in meetings.
  9. Let your questions suit the person you are speaking with.
  10. Don’t begin your speech with self-pity.
  11. Laugh at yourself, not others.
  12. Stop talking about yourself. Be mysterious; let people imagine.
  13. State your points clearly.
  14. Avoid clichés and exaggerating when complimenting others.
  15. Be truthful to yourself.
  16. Don’t fear someone because of his/her status. Remember that we are all human.
  17. Use social media to find out more about new acquaintances.
  18. Putting out fires: (1) Point out the main cause for anger, and (2) Highlight the positives.
  19. Some questions don’t make sense when asked. During a job interview, ask about  the company’s directions, not your benefits.
  20. Show consideration for others who are in the same boat, e.g. in the same interview early in the morning.
  21. It’s ok to interrupt with a relevant question.
  22. If in doubt, discuss food.
  23. Listen. Focus.
  24. Be interested even if you cannot be interesting yet.
  25. Give an excuse. Any excuse.
  26. Pick apart their request; try to compromise.
  27. If unsure, ask for an example which would illustrate the other party’s point.
  28. When introducing people at an event, tell them why you are introducing A to B.
  29. Find the edge that sets you apart from others.
  30. When appearing coquettish, praise the other party to the skies.
  31. State the reason for your thanks, on top of just saying “thank you”.
  32. Berate the ‘fault’, not the person.
  33. There’s always a way to get around a tough question w/o offending the other person.
  34. Calibrate the volume of your voice to suit your surroundings.
  35. Don’t forget to praise, after you complain.
  36. Make your conversation interesting with some humor and thoughtful speech.
  37. Don’t be bossed around; add ‘barriers’.
  38. Venting is for one’s own ears.
  39. Don’t ask pointed questions directly. Start from a general standpoint.
  40. Practise speaking well.

~

And yes, I still have no idea why Kevin posed with an umbrella for the book’s cover. (@_@) If you know the reason / rationale, please tell me.🙂

Book Review: Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

This is one book I’ve been waiting for ever since I found out what Jia Jiang was doing with his 100 days of rejection project. I loved what happened with the “Olympic Donuts”!😀 And in my own blogging journey, I’ve encountered numerous rejections as well, without having to put myself out there like Jia Jiang. One story I like to tell friends is about how Starbucks actually rejected me (via email) when I asked if I could take a picture within one of their Starbucks outlets to use on my book cover. I thought my request was polite and most likely to elicit a “yes” from them. I offered to buy drinks and food, and not cause any disturbance to their customers. I’m sure many people take pictures daily within Starbucks outlets (not just in Singapore but all over the world) and never had to seek “permission” but I thought I’ll just do the nice thing and notify them first. After that ‘no’ was delivered, I went over to another cafe (goodbye, Starbucks!) and took a picture there without asking/notifying anyone. LOL! And that got the job done. Perhaps, in Singapore, we have to follow the “do first, apologize later” rule.😉

And in the course of requesting for interviews with celebrities, millionaires and entrepreneurs, sure, there were some no-replies (which is a reply in itself), some yeses, and some rejections. I found it pretty interesting how I’d asked to interview three politicians. I got one ‘yes’ (the politician ended up doing very well; and is still in office), one ‘no’ from the politician himself (he got booted out of office), and another ‘no’ from yet another politician’s aide (he had a medical emergency; I don’t know what happened to him thereafter). Towards the people who rejected my request, I bear no ill will. It has to be a coincidence, right? (@_@) But I certainly have learnt a lot from them regarding how to say no to someone without offending the person. Just as Jia Jiang has, in this really awesome book.

Here are some things I’ve learned from reading this real stunner of a book:

  1. Have an idea that people are shooting down? Good. Go do it. Jia Jiang had an idea for shoes with wheels and unfortunately, his uncle told him it’s not a good idea. So those plans and drafts were abandoned. Two years later, another guy started a company making such shoes (Heelys) and the company was valued at $1billion during the IPO. What do I learn from this? Something I’ve always known: If you have an idea, go execute it, or deal with regret when someone else takes “your idea” and becomes super successful.
  2. When you follow your heart, Life has a way of becoming more awesome than you could have dreamed of. Jia Jiang had a cushy 6-figure job (sounds kinda familiar to me) but he was miserable because he had always wanted to be the kind of entrepreneur who would put a dent in the universe. He quit to start his own app company, sought to gamify ‘promises’ and ended up being rejected by a potential investor. To attempt to become rejection proof, he embarked on his 100 Days Of Rejection project, which received early success – viral videos, interviews, speaking engagements, worldwide fame – and he even ended up being offered a job by Zappos’ Tony Hsieh!
  3. Put in first place those people who always put you first. When Jia Jiang wanted to quit his job, while a new baby was on the way, his wife actually supported his dreams, and gave him 6 months to figure it out. When he wanted to quit halfway, she reminded him that he had to give it a full 6 months. Without her encouragement and selfless support, it is unlikely that Jia Jiang would have gotten where he is today. Nearing the end of his 100 Days challenge, when people were telling him that he should send an interview request to President Obama, as a way of ending this challenge on a ‘high’, he decided to help his wife secure a job at Google instead. It’s his wife’s dream to work at Google, and after numerous failed attempts, she finally got the job just by being nice and demonstrating that she really craved the opportunity to work there. Wow. Thankfully, Jia Jiang’s not the kind of guy who lets success get to his head and then forget about the people who helped him get there.

There’s just so much I love about this book. It’s such an easy read; you can complete reading this in 2 days max! But I love the lessons, examples, open sharing and the inspiration and positivity within. Go get a copy now – I’m sure it’s gonna be a bestseller!

Book Review: ‘A Double Shot Of Happiness’ by Judy Sharp

A Double Shot Of Happiness by Judy Sharp

I bought this book at Booktique mainly because I wanted to support a local indie bookstore that is in a rather precarious situation as it is located within Citylink Mall and the bookstore has had some trouble paying the rent in the past. I guess their situation can’t be helped since Singaporeans are reading less often now, or perhaps they are reading more ebooks instead. So far, the books I’ve bought at Boutique are pretty good. I managed to read ‘A Double Shot Of Happiness’ over the weekend, and I truly enjoyed it.

I don’t know very much about autism. We really don’t hear very much about autistic children in Singapore, even if there are top bloggers with autistic kids. I can’t help but wonder if there is a place for these boys and girls in this country where there’s discrimination based on the color of your skin, the school you go to or that you graduated from, your PSLE scores (good grief!) and when members of the public are always happy to send you stares and glares if your child behaves inappropriately in public.

This book really gives me a double shot of reality and compassion towards people with autism. More importantly, it provides an insight into the life of the carers, the people who are tasked (by God?) to take care of these special individuals usually for the rest of their lives. I cannot help but be awed by Tim Sharp’s unique brand of humor, which has even amused the likes of Cate Blanchett and Wayne Bennett. In a way, individuals like Tim are blessed – they don’t play ‘mind games’ with people, they love and embrace all, and as Tim would say, they are always happy.

Through this book, I got to know more about what Tim and Judy went through, and definitely learned more about autism:

  1. Autistic children might crave routine and certainty (they might even want their toys lined up a certain way).
  2. Toilet-training is a big issue. Judy writes that Tim was not fully toilet-trained even by age 7.
  3. Because of their sensory overload issues, autistic children get affected by certain sounds which can cause them “physical pain”. Even a mother’s heartbeat can upset a baby with autism.
  4. Children with autism CAN learn to behave better.
  5. It is really tough raising an autistic child. Without good family support and a supportive spouse, Judy actually became clinically depressed.
  6. The mother is the only expert on her child. No other experts really matter.

Tim managed to defy the odds largely because of his mother who loves and believes in him. He was the Australian flag-bearer at the Very Special Arts (VSA) Festival in 2004, his Laser Beak Man character is not just on tshirts and cards (it’s also on TV and on stage!) but it’s also on a cover for one of The Ghost Ballerinas’ CDs. As Judy shares in this TEDx talk, Tim was the first person in the world with autism to have his creation turned into an animation series for TV. Click to watch:

I’m really glad I read the book before watching the TEDx video because there’s only so much that Judy can share on stage. Because of her habit of keeping a diary, she’s able to provide so many details and stories, making this book a most illuminating read. I highly recommend all parents who have autistic children to read this book. Judy’s story will provide you comfort while Tim’s success will offer hope. Of course, Tim’s brand of humor will make you smile, chuckle, and laugh out loud!

~

I bought this book from Booktique at S$33. I highly recommend you get a copy whether you know of someone with autism or not, as it’s such an uplifting read about a mother’s love, a child’s struggles, and how the world can be a wonderful place when we stop putting labels on people and just see them as fellow humans, nothing more and nothing less.🙂

Book Review: Going Off Script by Giuliana Rancic

Going Off Script by Giuliana Rancic

This memoir is probably the best one I’ve read so far. No wonder it’s a New York Times bestseller! I picked up this book to read last night, and I’ve given it ‘unputdownable’ status (a word reserved only for the best books). It’s utterly refreshing, absolutely hilarious, and just the right length, I’d say. Didn’t know who Giuliana Rancic was before I read this book, but now I think she’s a really cool human being.

She also ‘liked’ my post on Instagram😀 LOL

Giuliana Rancic book

It’s a mere 263-pages, but this book seems to lay bare all the ups and downs in Giuliana’s life since the time she was “born a celebrity”, how she got up to all sorts of crazy antics in school, how she saw news anchor Barbara Harrison on TV and made journalism her lifelong ambition, how she impressed Johnny Depp and embarrassed herself in front of Leonardo DiCaprio, and how she dated douchebags and rich dudes and eventually married the season one winner of Donald Trump’s reality game show The Apprentice! (And wait till you get to the heart-wrenching bits)

When reading the book, you’ll get the sense that this woman is unstoppable. Life will hit her again and again, and she will rise to meet its challenges. And her sense of humor is amazeballs. I loved the part about how she returned home after an operation (she had scoliosis) and got tormented by the “Terror Toddler”. I laughed so hard! And I was so thankful I was at home, and not out in public where a concerned member of the public would most certainly call the police. Also, because her parents are Italians who are not too fluent in English, there are so many more laughs. You really have to get a copy of this book – it’s a real treat!

At this point, I really do think that Giuliana’s life should be made into a movie. Her life has been quite extraordinary so I think it certainly qualifies as movie material. For one, she can count the late Joan Rivers as her mentor, she had her own reality show ‘Giuliana and Bill’, and there’s her not-too-pleasant experience with artificial insemination and how it led to her cancer diagnosis, that double mastectomy and finally, the birth of her son (Duke) who was conceived via gestational surrogacy.

(I’m still in awe of how she lays her life bare for us to read about, laugh at, and learn from.)

I’m rather envious of her. She’s one of the rare few who KNOW from a young age what they want to be when they grow up, work hard at it, and eventually succeed in the career of their choice. In this book, she calls journalism “the subject that had grabbed me at the age of seven and never let go”. So many of us search, sweat, and succumb (eventually), not finding out what we are meant to be doing on this earth. Lucky her!

And to wrap up, here are some of my favorite lines from this book…

  1. ‘Learning to compromise and not be right all the time is a big lesson for any couple”
  2. “…doctors aren’t gods… they’re human and fallible just like the rest of us”
  3. “…the power of perception and how your attitude toward something can make all the difference in the world”
  4. “You know how you know you’ve lived life to the fullest, and you’ve won? If you can say, I woke up happy most days, and I went to bed happy most nights.”
  5. “I turn forty in triumph. I feel more beautiful than I ever have, gloriously alive in this body that’s been crooked, infertile, cancerous.”

Go get a copy of ‘Going Off Script’. You’ll thank me for it later.🙂

Book Review: Raising The Perfectly Imperfect Child by Boris Vujicic

Raising The Perfectly Imperfect Child by Boris Vujicic

I’ve read so many of motivational speaker Nick Vujicic’s books that this book written by his father comes at the right time, to answer some of the burning questions on any reader’s mind. What was Nick really like as a child? How did his parents actually react when they saw him without any limbs after he was born? How did they cope? How did the couple keep the family together, and why did they decide to have two more kids after Nick was born? This book ‘Raising The Perfectly Imperfect Child’ has all the answers and more.🙂

I also found that the way this book is presented seems familiar. And I realized why when I finally got to the ‘Acknowledgements’ page at the end, in which Boris states that “Nick loaned me his writing partner, Wes Smith”. So if you’ve enjoyed reading Nick’s books, you’ll love this one too as it’s written in the same style.

More than just being an easy-to-read book, it has pearls of wisdom for couples, whether or not they have disabled children. And it deals with a couple of hard truths. For one, Nick’s parents had considered putting him up for adoption. And I can understand why too. Most parents are anxious to know if the baby is healthy when it’s born. Which parent will be able to accept the fact that the newborn doesn’t have arms nor legs?! Social workers at the hospital would have made it clear to the new parents that putting little Nick up for adoption was an option available to them. And yes, this must have been too painful even for Nick to share, I guess. Thankfully, his grandfather is the sort of person who has no doubts that the child would be welcomed into the family and brought up as one of them.

Also, Nick’s parents quickly came round to the idea that whether disabled or not, Nick was their flesh-and-blood and they would bring him up as best they could, and help him reach his fullest potential.

Nick writes in the foreword to the book that “anyone who grows up without loving and supportive parents has far more to overcome than I did”. And that is so true, isn’t it?

There were certain parts of the book which I found especially moving. I’ll share some of them with you here:

~ A Crisis Of Faith ~

“My wife and I were life-long Christians, yet we had each experienced a crisis of faith when Nick was born.” – Boris Vujicic

If you’re not the religious sort, good for you. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself asking (at some point) why a good God would allow good people to suffer all sorts of trials and tribulations, while bad people seem to prosper and have a good time. It’s a question I’ve asked too many times in the past.

But Christians are able to rely on His strength to get them through the toughest of times. Read this book to find out how Nick’s parents managed to overcome their initial fears and worries, especially since Nick’s mom had a bout of postpartum depression after Nick was born.

~ Reject Labels Placed On Your Children ~

“I encourage all parents to reject labels and to look instead into the hearts of their children.” – Boris Vujicic

I love the blog called That Dad Blog, which celebrates the child who has been, in the blogger’s own words, “blessed with Down Syndrome”. Reading his blogposts will make you want to laugh and cry. It’s so funny and so moving all at the same time. I really like blogs like this one which celebrate life, family time, creativity and relationships.

In the book, Boris also notes that “Penn State researchers found that the rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts among autistic children is twenty-eight times greater than for typical children.”

If your child has autism, you’d really have to pay special attention to him/her. Though he doesn’t have autism, Nick himself has also had dark periods in which he contemplated suicide, and had actually attempted it too.

~ What A Relationship Should Be All About ~

“A relationship should not be based on mere physical attraction or the desire for marital status. Both spouses have to share basic beliefs and values, and they need to have an enduring commitment to sustain them through the inevitable and often unexpected challenges that life brings.” – Boris Vujicic

Amen.

~

I think this book is a gem. Fans of Nick Vujicic will certainly enjoy reading Boris’ account of what happened at Nick’s birth, and how that sometimes-bossy child became the God-fearing, world-conquering motivational speaker that he is now. Parents with disabled children will probably find in this book some comfort, and lots of hope.