Small change, big impact

Day Five into the new year, and the strength of my resolution to lose weight, cut down my cholesterol level, and get sufficient sleep are constantly being put to a test.  Changing one’s daily habits, be it dietary or sleeping pattern, certainly isn’t easy.  This is when the ‘3 P’s for Making Sustainable Change’ are called for – patience to stick to the new routine despite little visible impact in the early days, perseverance in the face of obstacles and temptations that make giving up an attractive way out, and persistence to soldier on, one day at a time, just like how a marathon is completed – one step at a time.

When it comes to fixing the body to regain health and well-being, making drastic changes is seldom desirable or sustainable.  What I’m learning, like how the chiropractor once realigned my spine by making minor yet regular (twice weekly) adjustments over almost a year, the secret of success lies in making small changes in a consistent manner, bit by bit, so long as it is in the desired direction.  It’s the small daily changes that will create the big impact we desire in the long term.  I suppose, this applies to other endeavors as well, especially the worthy ones.  What do you think? What small changes are you making daily?  No matter what it is, remember: You need to put in the work to make life work.


Your Slowly-changing Dad

The Secret to Great Relationships begin with the letter ‘R’

I was watching a video titled “boy slaps his brother with the ipad” that has been showing up in various Facebook posts lately, and couldn’t help thinking of you boys.

While I think it’s perfectly normal for brothers to occasionally get onto each others’s nerves (mum and dad do the same too), the behaviors exhibited by the brothers in the video isn’t OK.  I’m thankful that this hasn’t happened at our home, although it reminds me of the frequent ‘mutual irritation’ that occurs between the two of you.

I want you to know that there is one fundamental ingredient that when missing in a relationship, will most definitely spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.  This applies to all kinds of relationships, be it between siblings, parents and children, couples, friends, neighbours, or colleagues.

What is this secret ingredient that is vital to having great relationships?

Just remember the first letter in ‘relationship’ … ‘R’ for R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Put in another way, without mutual respect, relationship won’t work.  To respect another is to honor his or her dignity and choices.  And when you genuinely respect a person, you will also avoid behaving in disrespectful manners such as criticizing, blaming, complaining, irritating, making fun of, shaming, threatening, and inflicting physical, psychological, or emotional harm.  Are you guilty of any of the above? Simply STOP doing it, BE respectful, and experience the magic that such simple changes can bring to your relationships, especially with people who matter to you.


Your Respectful Dad

Eat your veggie.

Last Sunday, during our annual New Year cum birthday celebration at Uncle Chong Teik’s place, conversations amongst the group of 40 somethings revolved mainly around a hot topic that most people tend to take for granted – HEALTH.  High cholesterol and high blood pressure seem to be the new norm.  It is not surprising that it takes about 4 decades for reasonably intelligent people to fully appreciate the truth behind Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words – “The first wealth is health.”

Uncle Kwang Hui shared about what he did after a shocking discovery – his triglycerides level is almost 3 folds of the ‘very high’ limit, so high that the ‘bad’ cholesterol count cannot be read.  Miraculously, in just a few months, he managed to lower that by two third, way beyond doctor’s expectations. The secret? A strict and steady diet of dal, rice, and oat.  It’s amazing what a man can do when survival is at stake. He had to literally ‘eat to stay alive.’

My cholesterol level isn’t pretty either. 10 years ago, I was told that my ‘good’ cholesterol was too low, and ‘bad’ cholesterol was too high.  The doctor advised that I exercise more regularly and watch my diet. Did I listen? Of course, but only for a few months, before I reverted back to the usual habits – little or irregular exercise and an eat-anything diet.

Last month, the latest medical report revealed that my cholesterol count has now shot above the ‘high’ range, landing me in the zone of ‘high risk’ for heart diseases. The doctor gave me 3 months to bring that down to a manageable level, failing which she will start putting me on medication. What did I learn?

If you don’t change your direction, you are likely to end up where you are heading.  Unknowingly, I was heading towards ill health, despite being fit enough to run a half-marathon.  Fitness and health are two separate things. With a history of diabetes and heart disease in the family, I should have known better.  There is no excuse.

Now that I’m ‘awakened’ to this fact, I will change my direction. I will do what it takes to regain my health.  With half the battle being won (I’m already running 3 times a week), what’s left is to change my diet, before having to settle for a diet of rice, dal and oat, or be put on medication.  Your mother has already started making some double-boiled soup that is good for cholesterol control.  Son, hold me to my words, will you? And meanwhile, listen to your mother when she tells you to eat your veggie or go to bed early.  She knows what’s best for you. And yes, vegetable is good for you, and so is sufficient sleep.  You need to trust her, OK?


Your Health-conscious Dad

Let there be PEACE on earth.

It’s Day One of a brand new year – a rare occasion in which the 1st of January falls on a Sunday.  This year, New Year’s Day takes on a new meaning for me too, as I learnt from today’s mass that the 1st of January is also the day Christians celebrate the naming of Jesus.

I left the service with two things. The first, is the significance of living up to one’s name.  As you grow up, do remember the meaning of your Chinese name, and periodically review if you are living in a manner that is consistent with the name that your mother and I have thoughtfully chosen for you.

The second, is the powerful lyrics of the final hymn that we sang today, which begins with … “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”  Enjoy this beautiful version and may the voice of this little girl inspire you to BE the beginning of Peace on earth!


Your Peaceful Dad

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.”


Your Playful Dad

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?


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.


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.


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.
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!


Your Giving Dad