World Champion of Public Speaking 2014: Dananjaya Hettiarachchi (Video and Transcript)

Grace: I thought this was a fantastic speech, so I’m sharing it with you! 😀 Make sure you watch the video…

‘I See Something’

“You and I are not very different from this flower. Just like this flower is unique, you are unique. All of us have something special that makes us as beautiful. Do you know what makes you special?

Now the answer to that can be a little difficult to find, because sometimes life has a cruel way of picking out your petals, breaking you in two and throwing you into the trash. Now when you’re broken, it’s very difficult to feel special.

Mr Contest Chair, my fellow flowers, I can remember the first time I broke. I was seventeen years old. I had already flunked high school and managed to get myself arrested. Now, I wasn’t afraid of the cops, but there was one person I was very afraid of, and that was my mama. Raise your hand if you had an emotional mother. Let me see. Put them all together, you get my mama. I can hear her scream outside the police station. Even the cops were afraid. She came up to me, held the iron bars, looked into my eyes and I saw a tear coming down her face.

Now I’ve seen my mama crying before, but mothers cry three types of tear: tears of joy, tears of sorrow and tears of shame. And when a son sees a mother cry tears of shame, that’s a life-changing moment. She looked at me and said “Son, I want you to be a better man”. That night when I drove home, my dad was waiting for me at home.

Now my dad is a cool dad. Raise your hand if you have a cool dad. Put them all together, you get my dad. My dad came up to me and said “Son, it’s okay. You flunked your exams. You already got arrested. That’s fine. You get that from your mother’s side. I want you to start working immediately”. And I said, “Okay”.

So my dad took me to meet one of his friends called Sam. Now, Sam was an accountant who had an accounting firm and had generously decided to make me his personal assistant and there he was. He looked like a teddy bear, but this man was special.

I looked at him and he looked at me and then he said the most amazing thing. He said “Son, I see something in you, but I don’t know what it is. If you decide to work with me, I can help you find that something”. And I was like, wow, that’s the first time in my whole life somebody has ever told they see something in me and I started working for Sam. And everyday after work he used to tell me stories about the world, about history, about culture, about philosophy and it was much more interesting than what I learned in school. And I discovered I can dream and I started dreaming, ladies and gentlemen. After one year I went back into high school, completed my exams and went into college.

After successfully completing college, I found a great girl, but not a job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Have you ever had that problem? And when you’re lost it’s difficult to feel special. So I went back to my cool dad and I said “Dad, I feel lost”. He said “You are like your mother.” So my dad introduced me to this strange club that had a strange name, with strange people… talking.

On the first meeting they told me to do something called a table topic. I aced it! But while I was speaking I see a strange man seated in the back row; humble, simple, the unfailing quality of kindness in his eyes. As soon I finished he walked up to me, looked me dead straight in the eye and said, “Son, I see something in you, but I don’t know what it is. If you come here twice a month maybe we can find that something.”

And ladies and gentlemen, I discovered I could speak and I love speaking and that led me to become a teacher. I know what it’s like to not have enough money in your bank account. I know what it’s like to worry when the bills start coming in. And sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up my beautiful wife and ask her “Honey, why did you marry me?” She says, “I saw something in you, but I still don’t know what it is!”

Ladies and gentlemen, today I’m a dreamer, I’m a speaker and I learned the unfailing quality of unconditional love from my wife.

I was broken and I’ve been broken, lost and broke many times in my life, but the people in my life were able to reach into the trash can and make me whole again. If it was up to me, I would have never been able to do it. And this is why if you have great people in your life, no matter how broke, how lost or how broken you become they can piece you back again.

Ladies and gentleman, when I look at you I see something in you, but I don’t know what it is? Over to you.”


[Million-Dollar Question] What Does Grace Do In A Day?

I get asked this question rather frequently: “What’s a typical day in your life like?”

Do you get asked such a question too? Or is it just me?

I always end up explaining how each day is just entirely different from the previous day. So, I figured I might as well blog about TODAY and direct people to this blogpost every time the question’s asked! 😀

Yes, I’m a full-time blogger, but I also pride myself on having a full-time LIFE too. Some people I know have either a HALF life or NO life at all (yes, you know the kind, right?). So, today’s supposed to be pretty relaxing (by most people’s standards).

I hit the gym in the morning, trying to shed those extra kilos gained since I-don’t-know-when. And because a lunch appointment was postponed to another day somewhat last minute, I ate lunch on my own (no big deal since I love savoring my meal without being distracted by the conversation going on).  Subway’s my favorite when I’m on a diet. And their $5 combo is such a great deal. I only ever order TUNA and nothing else – no beef pastrami or such nonsense. And I try to resist getting the chocolate chip cookie. 😛

By the way, I get ‘paralyzed’ (metaphorically, of course) when I encounter too many choices – bread and ingredients aside, have you seen the number of SAUCES Subway offers?! It’s like you can have 500 different sandwich combinations!

Hence, I stick to the same order each time: 6-inch Hearty Italian bread, TUNA, with lettuce, onions & MORE tomatoes, topped with a Sweet Onion sauce.

Boring and predictable, you may say, but this makes everything so fuss-free and I’m not complaining. 😀

How do YOU deal with choices when there are just too many of them?

After lunch, I went to FullHouse cafe at Rendezvous Gallery (9 Bras Basah Road) to meet my friend, Sean, who has recently published his 2nd book titled ‘Gone Fishing with Buffett’. It’s a great read, and I even wrote a testimonial for him with regard to this book:



Want to get this book at an amazing price? Click here.

Why did I choose to meet Sean at FullHouse cafe, though? For one, I’d never stepped into the place. And two, I’d gone to the outlet in Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) and liked the concept! 🙂

Their Hi-Tea Promo (3-6pm) is worth a try, in my opinion. For $5.90 (before taxes and all),


Choose from their selection of cakes and get a drink.

The place is great for photo-taking, but here’s just one of Sean and I hijacking the car in FullHouse. XD


It was a most enjoyable tea session with Sean sharing his knowledge about book publication and me eagerly taking notes. One of my goals for 2013: Publish a book! Remember to show your support by getting a copy ok? 🙂

Then I went to shop for a birthday present for a dear girlfriend of mine at Bugis Junction. I can’t tell you what I bought, in case she reads this blogpost. 😀

And finally, I headed to Katong CC for a Toastmasters meeting. You can find out more about the Katong Toastmasters Club here.


My friend, Joni, presented her final project to earn the Distinguished Toastmaster Award. And I’m glad I was there to witness her achievement and take a photo with her:

The new DTM !


Those sweet darlings at her club gave her a (cowgirl) hat and a cake!

It was great being back at Toastmasters – the energy was high, the speakers eloquent and knowledgeable, and the catching up with old pals was priceless.

And there you have it. Mystery solved – this is one of those days in my life. ‘Those days’ are not all the same, but I’m happiest when I learn something new, and I can’t complain about today. 😀

What is a typical day like in YOUR life? 😉

APSS’ Annual Convention 2012 – Passion. Purpose. Progress.

Barely 3 months after the highly successful Raise Your Game 2012, the Asia Professional Speakers – Singapore (APSS) was back yesterday with the APSS Annual Convention 2012! Held at Marina Mandarin Hotel, the Convention featured powerful presenters and passionate speeches. If you’ve missed the event, make a date with them next year at the Annual Convention 2013, slated for 14th May 2013. In the meantime, you will find below some of the nuggets of wisdom I gathered yesterday and the ‘shot & saved’ pictures taken at the event! 🙂

One word to describe yesterday’s speakers:

If your understanding of ‘speakers’ is that they simply speak on stage, you can’t be further from the truth. They are fabulous entertainers too!

We were serenaded at this event by the lovely Jana Stanfield who also shared about the importance of giving back to society a portion of what you earn.

The MC, Scott Friedman, kept the laughs coming throughout the day. *Scott was formerly the President of the National Speakers Association (USA) in 2004-05.

1) Laura Stack spoke about ‘The Mission of the Professional Speaker’. She is America’s productivity expert and was introduced by Scott as having a “legendary ability to get things done”. She shared that we have to remind ourselves about the reason(s) we got into this business in the first place, so as to keep the Passion alive. Also, Progress can be achieved when speakers help make the ‘pie’ bigger so everyone can have a slice, and if 1 person does a good job, the rest look good too.

2) Charles Kovess spoke about ‘Harnessing and Expressing your True Passion as a Speaker into Irresistible Value Propositions for your Clients’. A former international tax lawyer, he is now known for being Australasia’s Passion Provocateur. He was introduced as having 5 children aged between 18 months and 30 years, and it caused quite a stir in the audience! 😀 His eye-catching outfit also made him stand out among the other speakers:

Charles reminded us that we cannot be in great shape physically, mentally, spiritually, etc, without hard work. He also encouraged us to step out of our comfort zones and set goals for ourselves. He said that Hard Work and Discipline are what it takes to be great, and that easy fixes don’t exist.

3) Bernadette T. Vadurro shared about ‘How to get FREE Publicity’. She is the Past President of the New Mexico State Chapter of the National Speakers Association and the Past President of Capitol City Toastmasters.

Bernadette said she once paid US$40,000 to her publicist, only to find that she was capable of doing a better job than the publicist did. She gave very good tips on how to get free publicity and I love that she exhorted the audience to provide people with articles that can help them.

4) Pamela Jett shared about ‘Rock the (Virtual) House – How to Provide High-Content Virtual Events to Enhance Your Bottom Line’. Pamela has been delivering teleseminars and webinars as she is an “early adopter of virtual presentations”.

She reminded us to write marketing copy for the wallet and how offering a series of webinars is very good for the bottom line. What seemed counter-intuitive at first was her suggestion to “Market FIRST, then develop the content”. 🙂

5) Ron Kaufman’s topic was ‘From One-man Business to Global Empire’. Ron told us to pick the strongest guy seated at each table. Then, he created quite a sensation when he announced that each of those selected should proceed to collect copies of his new book (hot off the press) from the stage for everyone.

Here’s Tim Wade handing a copy to a delighted Andrew Chow:

Ron’s new book is titled ‘Uplifting Service’. You can get a copy here.

What impressed me most about Ron is his obsession with detail. At one point, he had hired 8 editors for his new book, and there were many versions of the book cover before he decided on the one you see above.

6) Ed Scannell shared about the ‘Games Speakers and Trainers Play’. Ed was NSA’s National President in 1991-92 and in 1999, he received NSA’s highest individual award – the ‘Cavett Award’. He was named a ‘Legend in the Speaking Profession’ in 2006.

One important takeaway I received was that if I make a person like himself/herself a little better, the person will like me better too. 🙂

7) Alexander Blass spoke about ‘Priceless Strategies from an Innovator’. He is the youngest prize winner of the Daily Record’s Top Innovator of the Year Award.

He shared that innovators know that regret is far worse than failure. He told us to think about that one big idea we have been sitting on and not taking action about. If we don’t do it, we can be sure someone else will! Alexander told us to think about what will make sense tomorrow and to create trends instead of following them.

8) Janelle Barlow shared about the ‘Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – What does it mean and how can you get it?’ Janelle is President of the Global Speakers Federation.

I came to realize what the designation of CSP means for professional speakers and how it opens up even more doors for them. The APSS currently has 7 Certified Speaking Professionals among their 49 Professional Members.

9) Chester Elton was interviewed by Rebecca Morgan about ‘How to Build a Million Dollar Speaking Career’.

I was very amused when I noticed that Chester was wearing orange socks. (I did not find his orange tie unusual but I was surprised to note that his socks were orange in color too!)

He later shared with the audience that he and his team wear orange watches, ties and socks – “hard to find, but always on sale”. 🙂 It’s because of The Carrot Principle, which you can find out more about by clicking here.

10) Patrick Liew’s speech was titled ‘Revolution! A Clarion Call to Rebuild the Business World’. Patrick is the CEO of HSR Global Ltd and a co-founder of Success Resources. You can check out my video interview with Patrick here to find out more about him.

Patrick inspires me as he claims to not be a professional speaker but he has a commanding stage presence and his speeches have resonated with many. I appreciated his candor in sharing how it was so difficult for him to say “I love you” to his employees, even though he wanted to convey this message to them. I think the Business World will be a better place if more employers learn from this Love Evangelist. 🙂

And if I may add just one comment about the Convention, I would like to say that I wish I did not have to miss hearing from certain speakers because some presentations occurred in 2 different ballrooms simultaneously. It was one of those times I wished I could be in 2 different places at once, and not have to make the painful decision of choosing one ballroom to be in. I want to honor the other speakers whom I did not have a chance to hear from: Mike Hancock – Become a Rock Star in your Niche, Raymond Phoon – Five Sure-Fire Ways to Win Long-Term Business Engagements, and Gustav Gous – The Art of Inter-Cultural Presentations.

As everyone has different takeaways despite attending the same convention, here’s what my friend, Richard Gavriel noted (used with permission).

I was pleasantly surprised by the APSS Awards Presentation segment. 3 Spirit of Service Awards were given out to (from left) David Lim, Andrew Chow and Shirley Taylor:

I think it’s great that this recognition is given to honor the unsung heroes – those who give selflessly for the progress of the organization.

Finally, a big thank you to Andrew Chow for the invite and support of what I do. Thank you, Tim Wade, for helpful suggestions for improving my blogging ‘business’. And two thumbs up for Shirley Taylor and her team for putting together the awesome APSS Annual Convention 2012!

*To find out more about the Asia Professional Speakers – Singapore, or to join the APSS, click here.

*To find out more about the individual speakers, simply click on their names above and you will be directed to their websites.

Interview with Apelles Poh, Pastor & Financial Advisor

Apelles Poh

Grace says: I was intrigued by how a Pastor can also be a very successful Financial Advisor. In Apelles’ case, he achieved MDRT for 10 years, COT for 4 years and also TOT for 3 years!

Interesting facts about Apelles:

-Preached his first sermon at age 16

-Signed on with the Air Force for 6 years before he left to join the Financial Planning line

-He was initially anti-insurance till he realized that the products were sound, it was just that the behavior of some agents turned people off

-Wanted to quit insurance three times within his first year. He calls it a humbling process

– Clients now look for him at his office instead of him going to meet them, unless the client’s pregnant or needs to take care of young children

1) How did you become so successful as a financial advisor? 

There are 5 Ps (and their accompanying questions) to Success.

1) Passion – Do you enjoy what you do?

2) Professionalism – Are you good at what you do? Three sets of skills are necessary – Core Skills, Soft Skills, Life skills.

3) Profitability – Will people pay you for what you do?

4) Processes – Are there systems for what you do? Systematize and work ON your business instead of IN your business.

5) Purpose *This is the most important one* – Do you know why you do it?

Life is never smooth, so you’ll need the 5Ps and God. 🙂

2) You mentioned that you focus on your clients (i.e. people) first. Does this mean money naturally follows?

I seek to add value to people and I hope each meeting with me leaves them better than before they met me. For instance, I know most people forget about what they have bought after about a month so I provide a financial summary for them – something they can comprehend at one glance so they won’t forget. I want to give them a big picture, instead of small jigsaw pieces.

I believe in holistic planning. I will advise clients on will writing, debt repayment, CPF nomination, etc. Sometimes, it’s even pro bono work but I am happy to know that I have helped someone.

Don’t care about the commissions. Have a heartbeat for the people.

The proceeds from my first book, ‘Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often’ have gone to charity – $60,000 to the Children’s Cancer Foundation. I’ve donated another $10,000 to the ST Pocket Money Fund.

Money is like fertilizer, hoard it and it stinks, but if you give it away, it will create life.

I’m sponsoring 20 children – 10 in India and 10 in Batam.

I realized these Indian children watch movies and eat meat only about three times a year. But they have no complaints. They do not choose which soft toys they want to accept. Singaporean kids, in contrast, tend to complain a lot. Here, we have a lot but we really don’t have much because we are not grateful.

3) So, how can we “Live Well” and enjoy Life?

Firstly, slow down by choice. Make time to slow down. Don’t go through life without life going through you. Don’t see without observing, don’t eat without tasting, don’t touch without feeling.

We should not be called Singaporeans because we don’t sing a lot. We should be called Rush-ians because we rush a lot. 😀

Secondly, observe Life. We spend thousands to go and see snow. The Swiss spend thousands to come here and see the Botanic Gardens. 😉

We have nice parks so go and walk. Observe the types of green – the different shades are very interesting! New life is always springing forth and we must learn to be like them. Have newness, don’t give up! Observe the different shapes. Listen to the cicada and the crickets. Bring sanity and centering back to your life.

A common objection people have is that of “No Time!”. Make time. Only dead people have no time.

Grace says: I left this interview with many insights – I hope you have gotten at least a few. 😉 You can also grab a copy of Apelles’ book or come by for his talk next week. (Details below) 🙂

Purchase a copy of ‘Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often’ by clicking here

Attend an in-house talk entitled “Asset Preservation and Distribution Strategies – Will Writing” & “Honey, Where Is The Money?”on Thursday, 19th April 2012 at 7.30pm. (Venue: Novena Square) *Indicate your interest by emailing me at and I will send you an invite from Apelles.

*If you’re new to this blog, submit your email address in the Subscription field on your right and get all inspiring interviews delivered to your inbox free-of-charge! Do it NOW! 🙂

Interview with Pradeep Kumar

Pradeep Kumar


1)     Why did you choose to become a lawyer and what do you love most about the work you do?

Unlike many people, I must say I am rather fortunate. It was my ambition as a teenager to grow up to be a lawyer someday. It was a wish come true. Especially considering my father could not afford to send me to law school. I worked part time and slogged the night and weekends away studying for my law degree and then the English Bar exams. I studied for the English Bar exams in Singapore. My father could not raise the money to send me to England to study full time for even 1 year. I worked during the day, studied at night, saved money to pay for my air fare and tuition fees and went over to London just to sit for the exams and return thereafter. I do not consider it as “work” but instead a vocation. I hope I have made a difference to many people’s lives over the last 15 years I have been a lawyer. That is not to say that it’s all plain sailing. It can get emotionally and psychologically draining. What keeps me going is the fact that I am helping someone with a problem that needs to be taken care of.

2)     How do you manage work-related stress?

I read a lot. I enjoy going for long runs with my MP3 player and a good pair of speakers to keep me company. Most importantly, I realise that 15 minutes of silent meditation each morning  keeps me sane.

3)     You have won numerous Toastmasters speech contests. How do you craft and deliver winning speeches? 

I have always said, never “think” your speech but “feel” it. I have always delivered authentic speeches, speeches born out of the deep recesses of my soul. It’s an art and sometimes a performance. If you have passion for what you do as a speaker, it shows. Speaking to a large group of people puts me in the zone, the stage is my castle, the bigger the crowd the more comfortable I am. With a smaller crowd, I do not feel as comfortable. Rather strange don’t you think?

4)     What are the daily Success Habits you practise?

“Success habits”, really, what’s that? I wish I knew. In the movie the Last Emperor, the young celestial King Pu Yi asked his English tutor, “Sir, are you a gentleman?” and he replied “Well, I try to be!”Likewise, I hope I have been living a decent and honest life, if I am on the right track that would be good enough for me. We come to this world alone, we will leave this world alone.

5)     What advice do you have for bloggers who want to avoid being sued (for whatever reason, eg defamation, plagiarism or copyright infringement, etc)?

If you defame someone by way of slander or posting libellous statements against him, her or it, than you deserve your just desserts. If you feel that you have a point to make and stand on moral ground, come down from your high horse and confront the person face to face, eye to eye. Don’t hide behind social media devices. Philosophically, we have to ask ourselves, why do we want to defame anyone to begin with? Treat others the way you want others to treat you. I am not a Christian, but does the good book not say something to that effect?

Grace says: I would hesitate asking lawyers for an interview because they usually talk a lot but don’t say very much, if you know what I mean. 😉

But I had a very good discussion with Pradeep over lunch previously and found that he really does care a lot about his friends and clients. So if you’re looking for a knowledgeable and friendly lawyer, head over to

It’s great that Pradeep is living his dream of being a lawyer. I think all of us should fight for and live our dreams, in spite of the circumstances we are in. 🙂

Come back soon for the next interview. I have so many interviews to share with you so stay tuned for more! -Grace

Interview with Violet Lim, CEO & Review of ‘Lessons From 15,000 First Dates’

Violet Lim (with her husband Jamie & their children)

CEO, LUNCH Actually 

1) Why did you choose your current profession as a matchmaker and entrepreneur and what do you love most about the work you do?

Like most people out there, my childhood dream is NOT to be a matchmaker. Far from it really. I wanted to be either a doctor or a lawyer. 😉

I took a step closer to fulfilling my childhood dream by reading Law at university. Subsequently, I did my Masters in Personnel Management as well. However, during my summer attachments at a law firm, I discovered that as much as I love law, it was not my calling.

I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do, hence when I was offered the position of Management Associate at Citigroup, I promptly took it up. It was there I realised a need which I never noticed before. I was quite surprised to see that many of my colleagues were single and not dating. It wasn’t because they were not attractive or not eligible. They were simply too busy, or ‘married to the bank’.

Hence, when I chanced upon the concept of lunch dating which was then very popular overseas, but never heard of in Singapore, I immediately saw that it could address the need that I saw among my colleagues!

Honestly, my husband Jamie is the more entrepreneurial of us both, as he had very early on knew that he wanted to become an entrepreneur, and he left his job even before knowing what business he was going to do. On the other hand, I was someone who was quite happy with my corporate career until we decided to start Lunch Actually.

What attracted me to this particular industry is knowing that not only is it a good business, it is a business that can do good, a business that can actually make a difference in people’s lives. That’s what I love most about what I do.

2) What is your mission in Life?

My mission in life is to make a difference and to touch as many lives as I can.

3) How do you create a work-life balance for yourself?

A one-word answer would be – Priority.

I travel a lot for business. I make it a point not to travel on weekends unless absolutely necessary. Weekends are reserved for my family. If I absolutely have to travel on weekends, I will spend time with my family on one of the week days. We will just go for a family outing either at the Zoo, Bird Park, or Botanical Gardens. My husband and I also focus on both quantity and quality time. Quantity time during the weekends, and quality time during the weekdays. 🙂

I am also extremely grateful to have very supportive parents and parents-in-law. My helper is also amazing. Many people I know have some challenges dealing with their helpers. Hence, many have asked me, why is it I don’t seem to have too many issues. Again it’s priority. I am very clear with my helper where the priority lies – the kids. Hence, I am ok if my clothes are not ironed as straight as they can be, or the house is not as tidy as it can be. By cultivating a support system, I have less stress and can focus on quality time with the family.

My husband and I make it a point to go on at least one date night a week, without the kids.

And very importantly, we can only give when we ourselves are ‘complete’. Thus, I always have ‘me’ time where I can recharge, reflect and rejuvenate.

4) What are some of Life’s lessons that you would want to share with your children as they are growing up?

There are so many… 🙂 If I have to choose a few, I would say they are:

1)      Always be respectful be it to people who are older or younger than you. When you respect others, others will respect you too.

2)      Create your own culture. You do not need to be a follower, you can be a leader. Just because something is cool does not mean that it’s cool (or right) for you.

3)      Never stop learning. The day you stop learning, is the day you stop growing.

4)      Always give back to society. We have been extremely blessed. Do not forget others who might not have been as blessed.

 5) Which are your top 3 tips for singles who want to find Mr/Ms. Right? 

1)      Like everything in life, it’s all about mind set. Are you open to meeting the right one, are you telling yourself every day that all the good men or good women are taken? If you do not believe that you can actually meet him or her, chances are you won’t. 🙂

2)      As much as we would love for him or her to ‘drop from the sky’ and just appear right in front of us, we know that it’s unlikely to happen. Create opportunities and platforms to meet new people. Dating is a numbers game. If you are not even meeting 10 single men or women a year, what are the chances you will actually meet the one?

3)      Love at first sight usually happens at the movies. After the first date, if you did not experience fireworks and instant chemistry, know that most married couples did not experience that when they first met their soul mate. Go on a second and a third date to get to know each other better. Give your date a chance, give yourself a chance. Give love a chance.

Grace says: Persistence pays off, whether in getting a date, finding your soul mate or getting an interview for this blog. 🙂 I waited 10 months(!) for this interview. So, if your Mr/Ms Right isn’t falling from the sky into your lap, like Violet mentioned, you have gotta start putting in some work!

To help you along, Violet has written a book ‘Lessons From 15,000 First Dates’.

To purchase this book, click here, or read this first…

The book is promising right from the start, with a foreword by Ms Claire Chiang from Banyan Tree Holdings. Claire had me nodding when she wrote “The biggest pitfall in any relationship is to always compare and diminish the person you are dating now”. Guilty as charged, I am. It’s good to have someone point out all the common dating blindspots. And Violet does just that in her book.

Ever got hurt in a relationship and wondering how you can get rid of the emotional baggage? Violet shares her own story of heartbreak and how we can let go of the past too, in chapter 2 of the book. I know many ladies need to read this, and possibly, guys too.

Chapter 8 caught me by surprise – “Why Beautiful And Successful Women Finish Last In Dating”. Want to know how you can identify those who are mere time-wasters, and will not end up as the life partner you so desire? This chapter is a must-read.

I loved the personal sharing, the Quizzes to ensure readers are on the same page (pun intended) as the author, the Learning Points for reinforcement, and the Q&As throughout the book, which often echo the reader’s own questions. 🙂

This book has a wealth of dating wisdom from Asia’s leading matchmaker, and from the looks of it, has been eagerly snatched up by many.

Hesitate no more and banish your dating woes now by getting a copy of Violet’s book here.

Happy Dating! 🙂

p/s: Look out for a special interview coming up in a couple of days’ time: a former beauty queen & image consultant will share tips on how we can look our best.

Interview with Gerald Ong

“I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.” – Robert Brault

Read on to find out why this Mechanical Engineering friend of mine inspires me. 🙂

Gerald Ong

Mechanical Engineering undergraduate, The University of New South Wales, Australia

1) Why did you choose to study Mechanical Engineering?

I am passionate about cars, buses, trains, ships & aeroplanes. I enjoy the calculations and the simulation of graphics of structural stress & dynamics of fluid flow.

As an aside, I am aiming for Professional Certificates in the Wine Industry & Advanced Certificate in Training & Assessment (ACTA) after my graduation. I am a person who believes in life-long learning and will be “upgrading” myself after achieving my key milestones.

2) What is it like to study overseas? After graduation, would you work in Singapore or abroad?

Studying overseas is fun and exciting. Sometimes you go out with friends for drinks and the celebration of birthdays but we also have to do our fair share of work. At the same time, you can explore tourist destinations, i.e. Hunter Valley, Blue Mountains, Sydney Maritime Museum.

Last year, I visited my friend’s vineyard in McLaren Vale, Adelaide and caught up with his family over dinner on a 4D3N trip. Also, I am taking the time to visit friends and relatives within the Australia & New Zealand Region. Looks like I have to cover a lot of ground in a short span of time in Australia!

It is a lot of fun to have visitors from Singapore coming by to visit while on their leisure or business trips and meet up for dinner or sight-seeing.

After graduation, I wouldn’t mind pursuing my Masters or PhD. I haven’t actually decided yet.  I am still deliberating between working in Singapore versus abroad. I prefer working overseas though.

3) Why the passion for Toastmastering?

Toastmasters allows me to speak freely and expressively and make new friends. After all, it is part of a worldwide movement. Eventually, everywhere you travel to, you will at least know somebody in that part of the world. Thus, I have established a network of friends across various countries through the many social events.

Anyway, I enjoy travelling. Now that I am in Sydney, my list of countries to visit is getting longer every year.

“You seem to be doing a PhD in Toastmasters” was a comment made by my UNSW Toastmasters friend over a Friday dinner.

Last year, I started a huge Toastmasters research project, which I will experiment with in Singapore. I am in the midst of testing out the Australian version in Singapore Toastmasters clubs to create a seamless blend.

Eventually, all these experiments will go into my guidebook, which I hope to circulate in electronic form to the Singapore Toastmasters via my second blog.

Since moving into Australia, I have devoted a small percentage of my long vacation periods to Toastmasters Research & Development in a number of areas. Never did I realise that I had heaps to do and write up on.

4) What is on your ‘bucket list’?

  1. Study hard and get my Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering (hopefully Second Class Upper)
  2. Get my Professional Certificates for the Wine Industry
  3. Find a girlfriend and get engaged to her.
  4. Toastmasters – run for the Area Governor & Division Governor
  5. Become an Engineer & Part-time Trainer
  6. Set up a business in Training & Wine Education
  7. Start another blog – already have the URL, no time to upload or prepare the content.
  8. Write a cookbook for students who are preparing to study overseas

5) What is your mission in Life?

Enjoy my time with family, pets & friends as much as I can.

Every time I return to Singapore, I will first spend time with my family & cats before heading off for dinner and supper with different groups of friends.

After staying in Sydney for more than a year, I miss my 2 house cats (Marco & Colin).

After a stressful day, they make you feel very relaxed. Sometimes they sleep once you are home, or they will be waiting somewhere in the house.

Grace says:

Because of Gerald, I came to understand the Chinese saying that “When you are at home, you depend on your parents. When you are out, you depend on your friends.”

Around this time last year, I spent a month travelling overseas – Sydney, Melbourne, Taipei, Bangkok. I had not been to Australia before and was heading there on my own.

It was thus pretty amazing that I have a friend like Gerald, who picked me up from the airport despite his busy schedule and brought me sightseeing, doing all the touristy stuff, and to eat at the best food places. I really loved the Sdyney Fish Market, where the seafood is oh-so-fresh and yummilicious.

You can add me on Facebook and check out the pictures. 🙂

I want to thank Gerald for being an awesome friend who not only showed me around Sydney but ensured I found a great boarding place to stay in. Knowing my sense of direction is appalling, he also took the trouble to send me back to where I stayed after our sightseeing trips, or I would surely have gotten lost in Sydney. It was wintertime, cold and dark at night. I was really thankful he walked me back to where I stayed, which meant he would have a long wait for transport & the journey back too.

Gerald also sent me a concerned SMS after reading my blog post in April (about the CEO wanting to sue me for some lame reason). How many friends do YOU have, who would send you SMSes like this while they are overseas?

So thank you, Gerald. We may not know each other very well. But the care you have for people you deem “friends” is outstanding and really inspires me.

p/s: You sent me this interview end-2010 in fact, knowing I was looking for people to interview for this blog. However, I want to honour you in this special month of July. One year has passed since I did my Aussie travels but I still remember you for being a fabulous friend and a great host. Makan again when you are back!!! 🙂

And lots of thanks to Calvin Fong & Mark Niam too, for making my Melbourne trip a memorable one as well! 🙂

Interview with Samy Rajoo

Samy Rajoo, and 3 of his students

Manager, English Department (Jiang Education Centre)

1) Why did you choose this profession and what do you love most about your job?

I am now 43 and as long as I can recall, I have been involved in teaching, training and coaching for more than half of it either directly or indirectly. But I have come to realise that Life is indeed strange for you need to shuffle the cards you are dealt with.
And even though I have always been keen to share, exchange, and learn from others, it took me the better part of 15 years to arrive at the place I find myself now in – in the interim, I worked in privilege card sales,  insurance sales, the supreme court, a training centre and now a tuition centre 🙂

I have also volunteered extensively in the grassroots, toastmasters where I met you and am an active guidance volunteer counsellor with SANA and the HINDU CENTRE.
So in a sense, I feel that the profession chose me for on hindsight in almost all of my full-time previous jobs, and volunteer stints, I inevitably ended up conducting training and mentoring than in the scope I had been originally recruited for.

2) What is your mission in Life?

Ha ha what a lovely breathtaking question.  But I’ve come over time to realise that it is simply to pass on what I’ve learnt and to have the opportunity to learn from all those I have shared with.  Especially so now that I have a four year old at home, I am chuffed at how many of my students have adopted her as their baby sister.  I think that reflects why once a friend of some 20 years standing once said that I was someone who wanted, “to build people who build people.” That observation from that dear friend made me realise that that in a nutshell was what I had been chasing all along – to be in a position where I could ‘pay it forward’ so to speak 🙂

3) How do you create a work-life balance for yourself?

Ha ha I would be the first to hold up my hands and fess-up that in my opinion there is truly no such thing. I say this because as I truly enjoy what I am doing – it, all sniggers and cliches be darned, what I do really does not feel like work – why do I say this?  Well, Grace, as you well know, I work long week days and full weekends but when I am in class, sharing, teaching, guiding, learning, inspiring, I feel that I am in my element – I am in that space between real and surreal – where I truly feel fulfilled and time truly flies.  How fast?  Well, I teach weekends 9am til 7pm and I can go on all night if needed. In fact, I had an amazing cohort of students last year and the weeks before their “O” Levels, we would pull marathon sessions up to 11pm even.

Whilst I do try to make time for my family, to be completely honest (just in case my wife does read this) I am somewhat too selfish and happy to reduce the hours I spend doing what I love.  Trust me, I love my wify and daughter and family but I realise that I need to be happy before I can spread that joy around.  So at best, it is a compromise.  Not ever truly a balance in my case.

4) What makes you happy?

The simple things.  Being able to wake up completely from sleep.  NTUC marketing with my angel.  Being able to get what my wify wants on that very day.  Sending my mum on holidays. But what truly makes me happy is being able to hang around people who are keen to learn, who have a yearning to improve themselves and who are fearless enough to take that leap of faith – for I warn them – the reward for hard work is more hard work and once you’ve accomplished good results, it is an addiction, a drug that will keep you dragging back for more and more.. hard work.  It is as much blind faith partly in me and partly in them that if they truly try, they’d envision and realise vistas never before imagined.
I must share one of my fondest memories – that of a student who is now himself a teacher in a junior college doing what he loves best.  Teaching.  I first got to know him when he was in Pri 6 but his attendance at the weekend tuition centre (it was a volunteer managed centre) was terrible at best.  His father approached me the following year to assist him in his secondary one work.  As I was then self-employed, I took the effort to accompany him to his school and spoke to his teachers together with his parents.

My student, who had been posted to one of the weaker neighbourhood schools, was shocked when he realised that even amongst such academically modest students, he had the third lowest aggregate in the entire cohort – I used this to shake him up and over the months that followed, we worked together tirelessly on setting, smashing and targeting new accomplishments.
Thanks to his strong work ethic, his family’s support and the mutual partnership we shared in helping him be the best him he could be, over the years he went on to top every exam from Sec 1 onwards.  I was pretty chuffed when during his valedictorian speech at NTU, he mentioned a friend who had inspired him to study.  It was truly a gratifying moment for me.

Apart from all this, my daughter Visalini and wify Lakshmi complete me 🙂

5) How difficult is it to teach English to foreign students, and how do you manage it?

As I have often shared with friends who teach in MOE schools, it is a joy to teach, coach and work with students who come pre-inspired, ever ready to hang on to your every word and who have discovered that one of the secrets of success in life hinges on academic success.

In that aspect, foreign students are no different from local students and I consciously try my best to NOT draw a distinction between students based on school, age nor nationality.  How do you interest teens to read and acquire grammar?  How do you cause them to get interested in language?  What can you do to keep them going?  Well, I leverage on what they like and would read even without my prompting. I allow them to sample flavours of different materials, writing and sources – I distill articles from 8 days, Time magazine, The Straits Times, Today, gossip rags, Yahoo News and the excellent info graphics from The New Paper. I painstakingly highlight, explain and clarify issues, content and vocabulary covered in the materials.

I do offer additional conversation time to all my students outside the class sessions.  And not just the foreign ones so that they have the opportunity to read, answer and clarify issues in a more informal environment.  I do keep in touch with many of my students via facebook, emails and smses – I try and more often than not, it does let them know that I am there – even if it is to verify a word that they came across somewhere and are too lazy to check a dictionary for – I tell them “Ask me – for when you learn, so do I.”

The best lesson I have learnt from my students is this –
“Students don’t really care how much you know,
Students want to know how much you care.”

Which is why in these past five fantastic, fun, fulfilling years, I have taught more than three thousand students at the centre where I coach and during MOE enrichment programs. It is indeed a blessing to be where I am now and I stand guided by these lovely words:

“All human beings have a place inside which is filled with treasures; be still and you will find it. “

Grace says: Samy promised me a masterpiece of an interview. And boy, what an interview! I’m glad I asked him. He’s such an awesome friend that I just HAD to interview him for this blog. THANKS, Samy! 😀

I think his students are all extremely blessed to have him as a teacher.

It’s been an awfully long time since I last met Samy (workaholic *ahem* that he is) but my most vivid memory of him is, and hope this doesn’t embarrass him, of him lugging his purchases of baby diapers and milk powder to Toastmasters meetings, so he can bring them straight home afterward. I think he’s an amazing father, and hope his daughter realises that while he may often be busy with teaching, his heart’s still very much at home with his wife and kid too! 🙂

Come back next week for: The interview with Celest Chong, whom Samy is a fan of. 😉

Interview with Nishant Kasibhatla

Nishant Kasibhatla

Grand Master of Memory & World Record Holder. Trainer, Speaker, Author.

1) Why did you choose your current profession and what do you love most about the work you do?

I became a professional speaker and trainer by a series of ‘happy’ accidents! When I was a teenager in 1996, I read a lot about memory improvement techniques and practiced almost all of these techniques. Very soon I could perform ‘memory feats’ such as memorising a 100 digit number, memorising the sequence of a shuffled deck of cards etc. Later I went ahead and did all these:
(1) Memorised a 1944 digit number.
(2) Memorised a 1200 digit binary number.
(3) Memorised the sequence of 7 decks [364 cards] of shuffled playing cards.
(4) Memorised the sequence of a deck of playing cards in 1 min 50 seconds.
(5) Became the best Asian memoriser at the World Memory Championship 2003.

Everyone was impressed and asked me if I can teach them these techniques. That’s how it started.  Soon, I was conducting memory improvement courses (while still in college) to people from all walks of life. People achieved tremendously positive results and recommended my program to others and it became ‘viral’! This was in my hometown in India (Hyderabad). I moved to New Delhi in 1999 and started doing corporate training. I moved to Singapore in 2006 to set up my training company and have been staying here ever since.

I read somewhere that the best thing that can happen to a person is when his hobby or passion becomes his profession. That’s what happened to me! I was passionate about memory techniques, and today, sharing these techniques to others is my profession. The feeling that I can make a difference in people about the way they use their memory and brain power is really great! I love it when people send me emails after my workshops about the success they had with their ‘new found’ memory skills.

2) Were you born a memory genius or was that trained? Can someone who forgets even 8-digit handphone numbers be trained to memorize 1000-digit numbers like you do?

When people look at the achievements I have in memory, the first thing they ask me is ‘was I a born memory genius?’! The answer is NO. In my workshops, I tell my participants of a story which happened when I was 15 years old when I forgot my bicycle at a shop. After I came back home, I realized what a stupid thing I did and ran back to the shop and the expected thing happened. Someone had stolen my bicycle. That’s how bad my memory was! So, it’s now clear that I was not a born memory genius.

From having a lousy memory to become a world record holder and a Grand Master of memory is purely a result of training. Just like you can learn swimming, cycling or Tennis, you can also learn to improve your memory. It’s like any other skill. Using the right memory techniques and the right amount of practice, any one can remember anything – ANYTHING!

3) Have you ever forgotten anything? 

Oh yes! However, the instances of forgetting things are rare for me. Also, I have NEVER forgotten any important information. The objective of having a good memory is not becoming immune from forgetting. The objective is to ‘remember more and forget less’.

4) You’re someone who’s “passionate… (about) making & breaking memory records”. Which records are you aiming to break or create?

In the last decade, I have created/broken many records. I am planning to break a world record in 2011 and I can’t tell anyone what it is until I do thorough research and practise a lot. You (and everyone) will know about it soon 🙂

5) What tips do you have for people like me who sometimes have trouble remembering people’s names?

First, the good news! It’s not just you who has a problem with remembering names. This is a universal problem. Here’s a simple 3 step solution to instantly see results:

A. Change your mindset: Think that you can remember the person’s name. Actually believe it. It takes the same amount of mental energy to think “I can’t remember” or to think “I can remember”, so why not spend this energy in a positive way. Just tell this to yourself whenever you meet anyone: “I want to remember this person’s name”

B. Say the name: Start the conversation using the name. If I met you, I would say “Hi Grace” and not just “Hi”. This helps you to pay attention to the name. Most people don’t pay attention on the name and expect to remember the name. That’s just not possible.
Here’s a quick video link:

C. Use the name: Use the name once or twice in the conversation. Everyone likes the sound of their own name. Don’t you agree, Grace?

By the way, this is just a simple solution. If you want a more ‘advanced’ technique, I explain that in my books ‘Instant Memory Improvement’ and ‘Maximise Your Memory Power’. More info about these books at:

If you or anyone want more tips on memory and other brain related info, I publish a free monthly online newsletter called “Train Your Brain”. You can sign up for the newsletter here:

Grace says: I have no doubts Nishant has formidable memory power. When I sent him a message asking him whether I can interview him for this blog, I was quite sure he didn’t know who I am. However, he replied saying he remembers that my sister and I had attended a Toastmasters meeting at his club, and that she had won an award then. Which totally blew me away. I sometimes have difficulty recalling what I had for breakfast a day ago, and Nishant can remember people he saw at meetings many months ago. One skill I definitely need to learn. If I remember to, that is. 😉

If you’re wondering, question 5 is one question I’ve always wanted to ask a memory ‘genius’. I seem to forget names instantly. I’ll be checking out those links Nishant has provided, and you musn’t forget to as well! 😀

Look out for: Another interesting interview coming your way very soon. There’s a yummy treat in store for you! 🙂

*Updated* Interview with Eric Feng


Eric Feng

Public Speaking Coach to CEOs & Business Leaders in Asia

1) Why did you choose to become a speech coach and what do you love most about your job?

I wish I could tell you that it has been my ambition since 2. That would have been an easier story to tell. (grins)

Truth is I did not choose to become a speech coach, it chose me.

It all started with my love for public speaking (thanks to Toastmasters specifically Jim Keys). I was so determined to master the skill that I went to the extreme of clocking stage time. Delivered speeches at clubs almost every single day except Sundays (I would if there are clubs running that day). Read almost all the books ever written on public speaking. And even had the chance to meet the world champions of public speaking in United States to learn directly from them. The knowledge, feedback and experience I gained over that three years helped me win several national level speech contests, including one in Philadelphia. This is when I knew for sure that what I have learnt works.

When I came back in 2007 – by a fluke of chance – a stranger (who later became my marketing associate) convinced me to write a book on what else but public speaking! This book eventually sold 8000 copies, became a bestseller and opened up doors for me into the corporate world. DP Architects called me and asked if I am willing to work with them and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, this passion of mine became a profession.

What do I love best about my job? Everything! It’s the best job in the world! I get paid doing what I love. I get to see the world and nothing beats seeing my clients become superstars on the corporate stage.


2) How do you gain the confidence of clients who are older/richer/have had more life experiences than yourself?

The main reason why CEOs and business leaders hire me is because they want to save time, look good and ensure their presentations motivate change and results. This is a function of my know-how in public speaking and my coaching ability, not how old I am or how rich I am. Hence the key in commanding the listening of my clients lies in my proven track record – who I have coached, the specific results I have delivered and value-added services I can provide.

I have to admit that starting out was difficult at first like anything we do. One key success factor that has worked for me (and hopefully will work for you) is to CRAVE FOR FEEDBACK. Do not be shy to ask how you are doing with your client. First, it shows you care enough to ask. Second, it gives your clients a chance to crystallize your value (which in turn creates more buy-in for you). The feedback you gathered is NOT for validation. It is to give you a sense of what has worked for your client so that you can continue doing so. It is also to find out where are the gaps so that you can fill them up and help your client create massive results during the coaching sessions, and not after. With the positive results and their referrals, you will only attract more top-tier clients to yourself.

3) How do you create a work-life balance for yourself?

That is a tough question because it really depends on what balance means to the person. To many people, balance is a time allocation pie chart that dictates an equal proportion of time cut out for a set of politically necessary tasks. And here is the irony – they do not even like some of the tasks they put up there like “going to the gym” or “picking up a new hobby”. It seems more obligatory than anything else.

For me, I prefer to have a portfolio of passions – a set of things I love to do. Things that energizes me. Things that matter to me. I think that is more important than having “balance” in your life.

4) You’re an author. Which are your favorite reads?

Where do I begin? Surprise surprise. I love the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini (his first book was made into a movie titled “Eragon”). It is a coming of age story centering an unwilling hero who has to save the world from evil villains. His weapons – courage, love and hope. A parallel to many of our lives, don’t you think? And the cool thing is the entire series is packed with mythology, magic and dragons!

As for something serious and life changing, I would have to say “Diamond Cutter – The Buddha On Managing Your Business And Your Life”. This book practically changed the way I run my business and my life. I love the garden analogy shared in the book. If you want to have a rose bush, you have to plant rose seeds. So similarly if we want to be successful, we have to start planting seeds of success. And here’s the most crucial part – the only way to do so is to help others become successful first. So in short, for you to get, you have to first give.

The author gave many examples including the premises of his assertions so go check it out. Even if what he said is untrue, his principles have just made the world a better place!

5) Who are the people who inspire you?

 All the unsung heroes that are making a difference to the world right now – in their own ways – and we have no idea who they are. They inspire me tremendously because of their humility and big hearts. They remind me that fame and wealth are transient. Ultimately what will stand against the test of time is the positive impact you have made in this world and the hearts you have touched.

Grace says: I like the notion of having a “portfolio of passions”, and “going to the gym” is likely to be included! 😀 If there’s one thing I’d like to learn from Eric, it’d be to become a charismatic speaker like him. It’d probably take a lot of hard work, what with reading almost all the books ever published on the topic, AND flying off to meet the World Champions. Hmm.. I suppose if something’s worth achieving, it’s worth putting in the superhuman effort for. 🙂

Look out for: The interview with David Yim, Chief Milkman of Udders Ice Cream, on 11th February, 2011. 🙂

*UPDATE!* Eric’s newest book: ‘Unlock Your Personal Charisma – Eight Best Kept Communication Secrets Of The Top Sales Professionals’

(Photo from

Grace says: I would not normally read a Sales book, because the contents are usually rehashed from some other book(s) and may not necessarily be relevant right now. However, having met Eric in person before, I know there’s a certain quality about him that draws people to him, and it is what he calls “Charisma” in this third book of his.

Indeed, this book provides valuable insights into what makes Eric Feng so instantly likeable and I am both delighted and shocked that he has shared these secrets.

This book is the next best thing to interacting with Eric in person. I am privileged to own a copy of ‘Unlock Your Personal Charisma’ and I will certainly be reading it again.

You should get this book if, like me:

– You’d like to learn how to keep people talking, avoid awkward silences, and have them thank you for a great conversation too!

– You want to learn how to own the stage and wow your audience every time

– You want access to the interviews with industry leaders, e.g. Callie Liew of HSR, Aliza Knox of Google Asia Pacific, etc

– You’d love to become instantly likeable like Eric, and have more people help you in whatever you’d like to do simply because they like you enough. 🙂

Get your copy here: