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



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.

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.