Life isn’t a race.

With less than an hour to 2012 … and the final countdown about to begin, I feel a little anxious about 2011 coming to a close.  The clock is ticking. The heart is beating faster. One final post for the year. What do I have say to you boys?

Families that play together stay together!

Having just spent a wonderful holiday with the family over the last few days, what came to mind is this … Son, I want you to know that life is not a race.  You don’t get extra credit or ‘karma points’ getting from ‘here’ to ‘there’ in the shortest possible time.

Life is a journey to be enjoyed, experienced, and fully lived. So, take time to smell the roses, land a helping hand, smile to your neighbours, do what you love, love what you do, take the road less travelled, do some silly stuffs, have some fun, and above all, enjoy the present moment, especially moments that you share with your loved ones.

Someday, when you have a family of your own, be sure to make time to play with them. Think of the countless moments of fun that we had shared, and remember that “Families that play together stay together.”

Love,

Your Playful Dad

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Blood is thicker than water.

Waterfall in Batu Pahat

As I watched the two of you having fun together over the last two days … trekking to the waterfalls in Batu Pahat, swimming and Sumo wrestling at Port Dickson, it made me think of my relationship with my own brother.

Uncle Kelly (a.k.a. Big Big uncle) and I are nine years apart, and we grew up in two drastically different worlds. He spends most of his life in our hometown, while I have been away for more than half my life, only to return as an occasional visitor.  We are like two distinct species of fish – freshwater vs. saltwater.  But no matter how different we are, once in a while, when we meet again, I could still sense the special bond between us.

Such occasional experiences had me convinced that blood is indeed thicker than water. I hope that someday, you will understand what this old saying means, especially when you grow apart from one another.  And I have faith that the good times you have spent playing and fighting with each other during your younger years will forge the bond that will hold your brotherly ties for good.

Grand Lexis - Port Dickson

Promise me that you will love and care for one another, no matter what, OK?

Love,

Your Brotherly Dad

The Sumo Brothers

The Power of WHY

“He who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

I first came across Nietzche’s words some years back in Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl survived the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust, and later founded Logotherapy – a form of psychotherapy centered on helping people find meaning, especially in difficult situations.  In essence, what struck me the most was the profound simplicity in the relationship between HOW and WHY.

Put in another way, if you could get clear on WHY you want to do what you do, the HOW will naturally follow.  Also, if your WHY is big or strong enough, no obstacle in the HOW can possibly stop you. And if you find yourself losing momentum in what you set out to accomplish, it might be worthwhile to pause and revisit WHY you wanted to do it at the first place.

Keep asking yourself “Why am I doing this?”, “Why does it matter?”, and “Why now?” … and experience the power from gaining clarity on the WHY – the true underlying reason for your actions.

Love,

Your Inquisitive Dad

The Meaning of Christmas

For many years, Christmas had meant different things to me … attending Christmas parties, getting together with friends that I don’t usually meet at other times the year, frantic and almost always last minute search for gifts (both for loved ones as well as for a silly ritual called gift-exchange), etc.

Christmas Midnite Mass @ St Mary of the Angels 2011

But this year is radically different.  Rather than drinking, eating and partying, I opted for something more solemn.  I attended a midnight Christmas mass instead, at St Mary of the Angels – my first since baptism last Easter.  And Christmas took on a whole new meaning.  It reminded me of the true meaning of Christmas, one that is often lost in a world where this special day becomes a festive event that businesses could take advantage of with promotions and specials.

Now, regardless of whether you embrace the Christian faith or not, I think it is vital that you acquaint yourself with the true meaning of Christmas.  Here’s a lovely poem that captures its essence splendidly:

The True Meaning of Christmas by M.S. Lowndes

Jesus Christ was born this day
So many years before
He came a servant to the lost
Though he was Lord of Lords

We celebrate this joyous time
Reflecting on His birth
Not born in a mansion, but a stable
As if He had no worth

He came so He could identify
With the human heart of man
And gave His life as a sacrifice
Offering a better plan

A plan that reconciles us back
To our loving Father God
Bringing hope and redemption from
Sins ruling iron rod

For this is the only reason that we
Should celebrate this day
To become focused on anything else
Would take the meaning away

So let’s arise with joy in our hearts
And share it with everyone
The meaning of Christmas will always be
The birth of Jesus – God’s son

I hope you enjoyed the poem and experience Christmas in a new light from hereon.

Love,

Your Christmassy Dad


What Dad wants you to know about LETTING GO

I spent almost the entire day clearing the storeroom today, something that I had procrastinated for a long time.  My aim is to impress your mother with a storeroom that she could actually walk in and access the things she needs.  Before today, it is so full that the door could hardly be closed.  Now, there is actually leg room (although not a lot) and things are stacked more neatly.

Spring cleaning turned out to be more rewarding than I had expected, although I much prefer to be doing something else.  But I know that ‘doing the mundane’ is also part of life.  The day has been physically draining and mentally relaxing, but emotionally challenging. Conceptually, the process seems simple …

  1. Empty the storeroom
  2. Decide what to keep, i.e. Should I keep, give away, or discard?
  3. Place the items to be kept back into the storeroom, and get rid of the rest
As expected, simple isn’t necessary easy, especially with step 2.  There were several items  which I haven’t used for a long time and unlikely to ever use them again (e.g. the ‘doctor suitcase’ which I bought myself with one of my first pay cheques, old magazines that featured articles I had written, stacks of handwritten notes made as I was conceptualising my businesses, old name cards, etc.).
Eventually, sentimental value prevailed over practical utility. I ended up keeping most of them in a box labelled – memorabilia.  And I learnt that ‘letting go’ is an extremely complex endeavour.  While it is possible to put physical items into a box and store it away, we can’t do the same with memories of our past experiences.  Our memories are accessible anytime, easily triggered by external stimulus.  And when too much of the undesirable experiences are brought back to the present, it can leave us with a heavy heart – one which could benefit from occasional ‘spring cleaning.’
If our brains were functionally normally, we don’t easily forget, especially negative experiences, for they tend to leave a more indelible mark in our mind.  We can’t just empty the mind in the same manner as clearing a storeroom or erasing data from a hard disk. With matters of the heart, we need to practice the ‘art of letting go.’
To let go of something is to release our grasp. The most common ‘thing’ that ought to be let go of is resentment.  Resentment is essentially the result of unexpressed anger. It’s one of the most common barriers to happiness.  Left unaddressed, resentment is highly toxic and causes a strain on our relationship with another.
Is there anyone that you resent, even in a small way?  Try letting go of such feelings by inhaling deeply, holding the resentment in your tightly clenched fists, and letting it go as you exhale gradually while you release the tension in your hands. Repeat it several time and watch your anger or resentment dissipate each time you release your grasp.
Does your heart feel a little lighter now?  You now have a remedy for a heavy heart.  Letting go is a solo exercise, you could do it on you own anytime and anywhere.  Remember to use it when needed.
Love,
Your Lighter Dad

What Dad wants you to know about GIVING

I was thinking about the notion of ‘giving’ during my late night run today.  Perhaps it was triggered by the spirit of Christmas … with images of Santa delivering gifts to kids who are eagerly waiting.  And then I pondered about my attitude towards giving … how selfish or selfless I have been when I give, when I have been generous and when I held back, and how I feel towards professional fundraisers who earn a living by taking a commission out of the donation they collect for charity organisations that otherwise may not have benefitted, who will I give or not give to, how much will I give, etc.

As I kept on running and pondering, a familiar message came to mind: “You can only give what you have.”  How true. Give what we have. It need not always be MONEY (in fact that’s the easiest thing to give away, especially excess money).  Something else that we all have is TIME, except that we get so busy these days that we hardly have enough time for ourselves, let alone to give some away.  But unlike money, time isn’t something we could physically handover to another.  When we dig deeper, it’s  actually ATTENTION that we are giving. When we make time for people whom we care about, we give them attention. And what do we really attend to?

Here’s my conclusion: it all boil down to attending to another’s NEEDS.  In essence, the act of giving becomes truly meaningful and fruitful when in doing so, we attend to the needs of the recipient, and not our own need to be generous or charitable.  If we were to put all these insights back into the context of the earlier message of “You can only give what you have,” one of the most important thing that we do already HAVE is the capacity to attend to another’s needs as well as our own.

Now, I know this may sound a little circular and perplexing … try something out, will you? Look around you and pick someone, think about what this person really need right now, and do something to attend to this need (it could be a hug, a smile, a helping hand, or even a few dollars).

Enjoy the gift of giving … that’s my gift for you today!

Love,

Your Giving Dad

What Dad wants you to know about COMMITMENT

Son, Dad is extremely tired and sleepy tonight … but I didn’t want to go to bed without leaving you a post.  When I set this blog up as ‘Daily Conversations with Dad,’ I really meant daily. And I intend to keep my word, for as long as I could.  That brings to mind something I wanted to you to learn, a quality I find so fundamental to a person’s success – commitment.

Commitment - the Gear Shift

Commitment makes life work. Commitment is the secret ingredient that translates our words and intentions into actions, which in turn bring about the results we experience in life. It’s like the ‘gear shift’ that distinguishes a Ferrari stuck at neutral (roaring loudly but going nowhere), from an engineering wonder fulfilling its potential as intended by its designer.

Without commitment, promises remain unfulfilled, dreams not made real, and life not fully lived out.  Without commitment, projects remain incomplete, goals unmet, and businesses fail.  Without commitment, conflicts remain unresolved, relationships stay broken, and families fall apart.

Commitment enables your mum and I to stick together for over 15 years, through thick and thin, goods times and bad.  And commitment enables her to wake up early every morning to send you to school, even on her worst days.  It is a force that is to be reckoned with, tapped into, and properly harnessed.

I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes on commitment from a passage taken from Scottish explorer W.H. Murray’s book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. Speaking of the beginning of his expedition, he expressed that they hadn’t done anything yet, but then clarifies:

But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money–booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.  I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

Today, I want you to think about something that you dream of doing or becoming, commit yourself fully to realising it, and begin it boldly but taking just one small step towards it. Now, go do it!

Love,

Your Committed Dad