Celebrate the Past, Create the Future

2 more weeks to 2012, and I’m feeling incredibly reflective, as I always do at this time of the year. My mind flips intermittently between looking back to the wonderful events in 2011, and gazing at the future to imagine how the new year shall unfold.

I am truly grateful for a wonderful year – possibly one of the best in recent years.  Spiritually, I took a huge plunge … as you boys witnessed my baptism at the church of St. Mary of the Angels during Easter. Physically, I completed my first half-marathon (and exceeded my original goal of running just 10 km by 100%). Professionally, I became a member of two global firms (Bridge Partnership and Coach in a Box) with an unusual degree of soulfulness and humanness in their approach to doing business.  On the family front, your mother and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary … and I am glad that we managed to spend our Friday evenings learning Aikido together throughout the year.

2011 has been truly spectacular. I thank God for all these blessings, and pray for more good years ahead for all of us.

What about you? How has 2011 been for you? What are you grateful for? Spare some thought on these questions, and jot them down.

What came to mind also, are some thoughts about the future.  I think of the personal changes I wish to make, new goals I set out to achieve, new things I wish to learn, new adventures and experiences we would share as a family … I encourage you to envision what you wish to create, have, and experience in 2012 as well.

Can’t wait to hear from you. When you get back from your vacation, let’s celebrate the past together and share about the future we wish to create in 2012!

Love,

Your Reflective Dad

An Important Distinction

A few days I ago, I touched on how wisdom lies in the ability to ‘see the difference.’  And one of the distinctions to pay attention to, is the difference between what’s important and what’s unimportant.

This is so fundamental and crucial, yet often most easily neglected.  As a result, we get caught up with a frenzy of activities that call for our attention, and ended up with being busy without necessarily being effective. I’m often guilty of doing that too, like checking my emails and updating Facebook frequently when I could have channelled those time and energy to writing, blogging or connecting with people  whom matter most to me (like you boys).

Also, sometimes, even when we KNOW what’s important, we don’t necessarily DO anything about it. We slack off, and pretend that it’s OK. Take health for instance. Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for health, but few make time to exercise … even if it is as simple as taking a brisk walk or using the staircase instead of the elevator.  How absurd?

What gets in the way or causes the gap between knowing and doing?  I suspect the culprit is that we don’t actually know enough of the cost of non-doing, because the effect is usually felt or experienced only further down the road.  People don’t fall sick because of the lack of exercise for one day.  But the prolonged habit of passivity can lead to a decline in the immune system, and makes us more susceptible to fall victim to virus attack.

An Important Reminder

Once you begin to examine carefully the cost of not doing something about what’s important, it will become obvious to you that there is absolutely nothing more important than knowing what’s important and doing something about it.

With that insight in mind, try starting your day by naming the 3 important things that you will attend to that day, and make sure you do something about them all by end of day. I am pretty convinced that developing the discipline of bridging the gap between knowing and doing will bring you some extraordinary success in life.

Love,

Your Insightful Dad

Who am I?

I’m in a playful mode today, and have a riddle for you. See if you could figure this out …

I am patient, I am kind. I don’t envy, I don’t boast, I am not proud.  I am not rude, I am not self-seeking, I am not easily angered, I keep no record of wrongs. I don’t delight in evil, but rejoice with the truth. I always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere.  I never fail.

Who am I? (Hint: I am not a person).

Love,

Your Playful Dad

Simple truths, complex lies.

“The truth shall set you free.” “Truth hurts.” Have you heard these sayings?

Put together, these two aphorism can explain why we sometimes don’t feel as free, liberated or alive as we possibly could.  Often, the truth can really hurt. We don’t wish to face the truth because of the unpleasantness or pain it might bring.

It is human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. In our instinctive urge to avoid pain, we  often shortchange ourselves and forgo the joy, pleasure, or freedom that is otherwise available to us.

Let me confess on a truth that I have been avoiding. I’m good at starting, and poor at finishing. There is a saying in Malay that describes it well – “Hangat hangat tahi ayam.”  It translates literally to “Like the heat of a chicken’s poop” – that remains hot only briefly, and then cools down shortly after.  Clearly, I had issues with sustainability.

Take writing a book for example, I have lost count of the number of unfinished projects that I had started over the past decade.  With the exception of an ebook (A Concise Guide to the NEW RULE of Positive Parenting), which I wrote hurriedly in 2 weeks so as to honor my promise to offer it as a Mother’s Day gift to over 500 participants of a public parenting seminar I conducted, none of my other writings had come close to completion.

I used to give myself excuses like … “I don’t think that’s worth publishing”, “There is a more exciting title”, “I’ll complete it during my next break”, etc.  In truth, these were simply complex lies that the ego had fabricated to justify my incompletion.  The simple truth is – I lacked the discipline to write a book.  Having a brilliant idea, a compelling vision, and even a strong desire to realise the idea, just isn’t enough.

I am convinced now that any endeavor that is worthwhile involves some degree of hard work, persistence, and perseverance.  I have absolutely no problem with working hard, especially when I’m on fire.  However, keeping that up over a sustain period of time is what I struggle with.

In hindsight, I realise why I took up running in early 2011, and eventually ran a half-marathon in December.  It wasn’t about losing weight (shedding 0.1kg in after a full year of regular running is a pathetic achievement). Instead, it’s about finding a way to prove to myself that I’m capable of ‘finishing’ what I had started.

I did it! I survived 21km without much pain.  And more importantly, it was the discipline of adhering to the 16-week training schedule that conditioned my body for the distance.

Honestly, I’m more proud of sticking to the structure, than completing the run. Now, I  strive to apply that newly found discipline to bring my long overdue book projects to completion.

Yes, I was once a poor finisher. Confronting that unpleasant truth liberates me to live more fully.  Son, remember the message at the 5km mark: “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.” Whenever you find yourself caught up with the lies or excuses to justify why you didn’t get the results you deserve, get off it and choose to see the simple truth, even if it hurts.  Let the truth set you free and journey forward with pride!

Love,

Your Liberated Dad

Happiness is just one choice away.

Everybody wants to be happy, and yet there are many unhappy people in the world.  As human beings, being able to experience both happiness and unhappiness is perfectly healthy.  What’s undesirable is getting stuck in the latter for a long time.  Life is too short to be filled with excessive sorrow or unhappiness.

Children are a lot more resilient when it comes to dealing with unhappiness.  Somehow, that ability gradually diminishes as we grow.  I want to share with you a little ‘secret’ that can help you bounce back up more readily … and experience more ups than downs in life.   Whenever you are unhappy with someone, particularly your loved ones, pause to ask yourself this simple question: “Do I rather be happy or be right?”

You see, human beings are inherently ‘wired’ to want to be ‘right,’ as if the survival of our ego depends on being right. We want to be right about our beliefs, judgment, assertions, etc.  and would put up a good fight to defend them when challenged.  However, having observed many unhappy people so far, I noticed something common in them.  They rather be right at the expense of their happiness.  They hang on to unpleasant experiences far longer than they should, hold on to grudges and resentment, secretly wanting to make other people ‘wrong.’  I often wonder what it would be like, if only they are willing to make one simple choice … to give up the need to be right, and let the possibility of happiness unfold again in their lives.

So, next time you get into a conflict or unhappy situation with someone, remember … your happiness is just one choice away.  Imagine Dad standing before you, asking “Son,  do you rather be happy or be right?”  I hope you will make the ‘right’ choice, and attract the butterfly (as Thoreau put it) to come and sit on your shoulder.

Love,

Your Happy Dad

Wisdom to know the difference.

I often hear people say, “These days, kids know a lot” or “Kids are very smart.”  That raises a few questions for me, such as … Are we (the adults) less knowledgeable or dumber compared to our children? Has the human species evolved so rapidly such that today’s children are so drastically different from yesterday’s?

I doubt so.  I attribute it to the ‘information age’ or ‘knowledge-based era’ that we now live in – an exciting time when information is literally at our finger tips (with smart phones, iPad, wi-fi, and internet connection of course).  Much of what was once highly priced ‘specialised knowledge’ is now freely available and accessible on the internet.  Who needs to buy another how-to book when a Google search can bring up, within seconds, more articles than one could possibly read in a life time?

Perhaps very soon, knowledge will cease to be in demand anymore. What is needed more  will be WISDOM. There are those who know a lot, yet remain foolish, and those who know little, but are wise. I urge you to start developing wisdom now … starting with one of my favorites that is featured in the famous Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change; 
COURAGE to change the things I can;
and WISDOM to know the difference.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr

I get on with life with a lot more ease and peace of mind, with that wisdom alone.  And I’m particularly struck by the last line … “wisdom to know the difference.” Could be that the  pathway to wisdom, lies in developing the ability to notice the subtle differences that will make a significant impact in our lives?

What might these distinctions be?  Here are some to get you thinking …

  • What we can control vs. What we can’t control
  • What we need vs. What we want
  • What is important vs. What is unimportant
  • What is morally right vs. What is ethically wrong
  • What is factual vs. What is fictional (fabricated by our interpretation and imaginations)
  • What is undeniably true vs. What is seemingly true (but unvalidated)
  • What is essential vs. What is superficial
  • What is helping or enabling vs. what is hindering or limiting

The list goes on … now, what is the one new ‘wisdom’ that you will develop today that will make a difference in your life?  Tell me, for I’d love to benefit from it too.

Love,

Your Wise Dad

Be good, do good.

At last, I found the answer to the one burning question that your mother has been asking me repeatedly over the past few weeks.  She even stuck a giant post-it note on my desk while you guys are away on vacation in Malaysia.

“What are you teaching your children?”, she wrote. I guess she has always felt that there is a lot that I know which would be beneficial for you both.  And I’m guilty of not spending time to impart them to you.

Alright, let me start with my new found mantra for 2012: BE GOOD, DO GOOD.

“Huh? Be good, do good?” You probably wonder, “Where does that come from?” and “What does it mean?”

I suspect it came from the words I wrote some months back, framed in the cheap IKEA picture holder that has been sitting on my desk all this while.   It’s kinda funny that sometimes, the answer that we hunt high and low for is staring right at our faces (the same thing happened when I found the love of my life – am saving that story for another day).

OK .. it works like this.  I want you to consider this carefully … at some point in your life (may be not at the age of 11 or 13), you will begin to question the purpose of your life, the meaning of your existence, and what on earth are you here for.  These are big questions with no easy answers, and I shall not attempt to answer them for you either. But what I want you to remember is that as you strive to discover what holds true for you, consider the following:

You are here to manifest goodness – possibly in ways that are unique to you.  Who you become, what you do, how you do it, and who you serve, is all up to you. But above all, be guided by a simple principle: be good, and do good.  Being good begins with seeing the GOODNESS in yourself and in others.  Look, and you shall see.  And when you fully embody the goodness you see, you will naturally do good. Who you are being   shapes your doing. It’s as simple as that.

Now, give it a try.  You don’t need to wait till existential crisis hits you.  Be good, and do good to someone today.

Love,

Your Good Dad