Review on Start over, Finish Rich by David Bach

I have never read any of David Bach’s books until a friend recommended me to read this one. Apparently it was quite spot on. Exactly what I need since this month, yes, this September 2015, marks my financial freedom. I am going to be free of my education loan, which took me a good three years to finish. Back then, I would have moments whereby I would get anxious and worry about the future, my career prospects and how people would judge me for putting my life on hold. Now, I tell myself, the past is past, it does not mean I can fix things to make it better for myself and possibly, my loved ones.

Start over, finish rich starts and ends with traditional and simple advices, one, it’s never too late to start saving and always give to others. I would say live within your means and give more rather than raising your standard of living. It’s a tough one to follow, I have to admit, I have failed a multiple times as well. While writing this review, I am actually trying to put a plan in place, to get my personal finances right.

Firstly, I have decided to save the monthly expenses that I set aside for my education loans. I am going to split it into three portions, which are for master’s education, life savings and other random expenses such holidays or getting a new laptop or camera. I am lucky that I am not the type of lady who shops every month. Hence, I am able to plan my expenses and rate them according to importance.

So let’s start over. Firstly, we need to know where the money is and where it is going. So what it means right here is that we should keep track of all expenses, maybe in an excel spreadsheet. Depending on our background and circumstances, the folders that each folder one may have differs from another. For me, latter factors, expenditures and savings folders matter the most.

Secondly, one needs to know how to manage his or her’s credit card debt. In my opinion, one needs to be independent and responsible when it comes to paying off the debt on time. I personally do not believe in making a minimum amount instead, one should be disciplined to pay off the full amount. However, if one fails to do so, he or she should pay off as much as possible and finish the remaining amount within the next six months. In Singapore, it is important to maintain a good credit score on all their bank accounts.

Thirdly, the next important thing, at least for myself is to rebuild my emergency savings account. I had a hard time building my cash cushion three years ago as my bank loan was about half of my salary. Now that its over, I am going to save that money into three components, life and emergency savings, my future education funds as well as holiday treats. I will set it to be automatic and grow them separately in three accounts.

Lastly, the one thing that we will never go wrong doing, is giving back to society and charity. It can be in the form of monetary funds (set it to be automatic) or contributing your time. I must admit that I used to teach, but I quit after five years due to lack of time. Now, I guess I need to figure out how exactly I want to give back. It will be nice to spend some time out of your comfort zone, say maybe at a hospital. Oh well, I will figure it out soon.

In the meantime, here’s to a better tomorrow!

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What to do when it’s your turn and it’s always your turn by Seth Godin

You begin your journey not knowing where it will take you. You have plans, dreams, but every now and then you will have to take uncharted roads, face impassable mountains, cross treacherous rivers, blocked by landslides and earthquakes. That’s how life is and how it should be. Otherwise, we will not improve and we will degradingly take things for granted before slowly lose ourselves, our humanity.

Seth Godin makes it sounds pretty easy, isn’t it? Of course, we will encounter fears at the corners of our minds that may tell us to keep our life safe and small, do not disrupt the equilibrium of the comfort zone. I have had people telling me that. People who think that I cannot do better just because they never achieve it. It happens not once, or twice. It has happened every time I made a decision to listen to my guts or decide to change the course of my direction. The big question is, are you going to let the noise distract you or say a firm and hearty YES.

Seth Godin never disappoints. The pointers in the book are not new. We have heard of them before. However, he is able to quietly build a determination inside all of us, that we cannot put the book down or deny the call to get busy, create and ship.

Taking the escalator requires guts, responsibility and sincerity as we have no idea if the step we take will bear fruits or not. However, we need to take our work seriously and get back on our feet regardless of how many times we fall while learning how to make it better.

This book reminds me of two icons in Singapore. One of which is our forefather, the late Lee Kuan Yew. He gave his life to Singapore and did what he had to do to put Singapore on the world stage. A paragraph is not enough to speak of a great man, but he is someone I thought of when I read the book. Secondly, there is a lady who starts a café with the intention of changing the lives of others. She does so by hiring troubled individuals. She motivated them to not give up on themselves and conducted the necessary classes in the café to help them. At the end of the day, it all starts with a sincere intention to make the lives of others better. We may not exactly do the same thing, but at least we can follow their ideals and find our paths.

Two of my favourite sections of the book are ‘You’ve been hacked’ and ‘Hack back’. I believe that most of us have been in the situation before. It can be in various forms, such as at work or shopping. Banks and shops take advantage of impulsive behaviours of their customers. They create an environment to put us in our comfort zone and they make profits or benefit from the situation. So what do we do? Stay firm about your decision. See the world or situation as it is and change it for the better. Be it for yourself or others. Do not let anyone take advantage of you. Decide what is best for you.

Another section that I assume to be practical will be the last section of the book, ‘My book won’t let me’. In my opinion, this section provides the most useful advice as most of us work in organisations.

  • Give credit: Acknowledge the help you receive from others
  • Take blame: Be responsible for your team and yourself. Take your turn more often
  • Don’t listen: Discuss and develop ideas for better processes and improvements
  • Perfectionism: Seek for a better way of doing things or brighter future
  • Steal ideas: Recombine ideas and improve
  • Ship: Plan to deliver the idea
  • Change things quietly and avoid the no-people: Start small with good support
  • Building bridges, not burning them

Refer to the mindmap for more details. I classify the chapters based on my understanding of the book. I hope it’s not too confusing.

I believe that Gen Y and Z are the best equipped for change as we are the ones effecting that ignition for the very reason that it is the best thing for us.  So expect change and respect it as it is the only thing that is constant. Now, don’t just conform to what others expect or dictate to you. Be unique and define your own path and leadership. Manage the ambiguity and embrace all possibilities. Only then, one can do both good and make money.

Now get out there and be awesome.


The element- How finding your passion changes everything by Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica

I stumbled on Ken Robinson’s videos on Ted Talks, as recommended by a good friend. His easy going sense of humor and speaking served the topics of public education and self-discovery well. I must say that I am intrigued by his genuine interest of sharing knowledge and how easy he delivers his speeches. Let’s just say I hope to give speeches like the way he does it.

This book has a few reasonable and fresh pointers for anyone to consider, not just for teachers or parents who are trying to find ways to help children find ‘their elements’, which is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion. It is not exactly an easy self-help manual because Ken Robinson did not exactly state the exact ways to find the element. He does, however, talk about the conditions of this new paradigm shift.

The condition to finding the element is to understand the intimate relationship between the following:

• Diversity of intelligence
• Power of imagination
• Creativity: Doing something about it rather than lying around thinking about it
• Commitment to finding our own capabilities: Strong sense of perseverance

In the fast paced era where technology and innovation rules, it is paramount that we do not just follow the motion of life to the extent we forget to live life the way we want it. We do not just exist to pay the bills and die. Our existence serves far much better purpose than that. Different people achieve that self-satisfaction in their own way. It can be travelling or volunteering.

Often, when I travel, I make it a point to return to nature. It can be for trekking or simply enjoying the beaches or sceneries. That’s the moment when I am truly humbled. They make you feel that the world is so big and you are very small. All other material things and problems do not seem to matter anymore. Sometimes we just need to slow down and ponder about finding our own element for these reasons:

• Personal: Understanding yourself and your own capabilities
• Social: Finding a purpose with your life
• Economical: Balancing your life as a whole (wellbeing and ultimate success), by doing what you like full time, leisure or recreation

By finding your own element and passions, we can then discover ourselves, without having to conform to normalcies. Once we are doing the things what we are good at and what we love, we will then be ‘in the zone’. Figuring such things often take time, often years. After which, we find people of similar interests and opportunities for growth and new development to revitalize latent capacities. For instance, when you have a better direction in life, you may not have to hop from one job to another with hope to find a dream job. In other words, when you choose a job you like, you no longer have to work a single day in your life.

One of my favorite quotes of the book ‘Our best hope for the future is to develop a new paradigm of human capacity to meet a new era of human existence’. This reminds me of Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia. I remembered studying about how he bought the entire of AirAsia at RM1 and transformed the entire aviation industry. It’s because of him, everyone can fly. I believe that he is good at what he is doing and definitely more than sincere when he develops the business. He has proved that even when in crisis, by which, AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed, one can still serve his nation with passion and responsibility.

Lastly,this book teaches us on how to prepare for a completely unpredictable future. The future where human resources and their talents are engaged more fully and embrace them with compassion. As what my teacher used to say, ‘Make the most of yourself, for that is what there is of you’. With this, I hope 2015 will be a better year for all, with a cure for Ebola and world.


Ignore Everybody and 39 ways to creativity by Hugh Macleod

I have to admit that I am not a creative person and I have always struggled to find ways to develop ideas or rather, rescue myself from the boring cycle of mundane process at work. In the corporations that I have worked for before, they would kill the creative process and not take the risks that will improve and enhance the overall end results. (Yes, tell me about political balls and being creative in a non-creative position).

Please do not misunderstand me. I have read and attended courses on how to be creative and take risks. The problem that I have is that, I take a while to grasp the fundamentals. This guy here, has humbly pointed out the key pointers, useful in various aspects of our lives. Boy, I am glad that the author mentions that the whole process take time. Hugh is honest about that and he reminds us that we all have our own Mount Everest to climb. It does not matter whether the outcome is good or bad, because, without trying, we will never learn or gain any new insight.
One thing I like about the book is the sense of humor that comes along with it. It feels as if Hugh is talking right in front of me. While I find my long way towards creativity, here are some key pointers that I personally feel that are useful and I can relate myself to.

• Merit can be bought. Passion can’t. I honestly didn’t know that is all right to be upset about procedures I didn’t know that the negative feeling is actually a primal calling for survival. The sad thing about white collar jobs is that they mostly require us to get things done, with the paths that have been created before. Often enough, people do not have the right mindset to make little changes. They simply go through the motion and they are contented. Maybe we should take a step back, streamline the thoughts and communicate better. That way, people will listen and together, figure out better solution. They do not to be impressive, just simply start with small simple step.That’s why, we should take a moment to ponder about what drives us, instead of aligning our ideas with the money offered. As they say, ‘it’s not just a job. It’s who you are.

Work aside, I feel that we should have hobbies other than working full time, not just to relax and have a change of environment, but for one simple goal to motivate ourselves, to be better individuals.

• Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It will come eventually. I always worry about not contributing in a meeting, and not finding ideas to improve my KPI and productivity. This is regardless of whether it is my fault or not. I won’t deny that I hate it when my bosses place a value of me based on the numbers. It feels like the end of the world at times. But really, I guess at times, we should not take ourselves too seriously. But rather, take it a step at a time, finding something new or improve on the entire cycle, if not a minor process quietly. If it works, share the knowledge with the team gracefully.

• Write from your heart. It is with the love from the God, that I begin blogging, sincerely.

ignore everybody

So good they can’t ignore you by Cal Newport

So good they cant ignore you by Cal Newport

Unproven, young and inexperienced. That what senior employees in any company would describe a fresh graduate. To be honest, that’s what I got from my current client and I am still trying to sharpen at knives (skills) at work. Of course, I did whatever I had to do, stay calm, take critiques in your stride and just learn as you go along. So, this book taught me two things:

1) Stop worrying about how you feel like doing (if I ever know) and what the world owes you. Instead, start creating something meaningful and then gives it to the world.

2) Regardless of how you feel about your job right now, adopting the craftsman mindset will be the foundation on which you’ll build a compelling career.

So based on these two elements, I’m going to write about what I feel will help me, or anyone achieve work satisfaction. Cal mentioned that one should adopt the craftsman mindset and do whatever it takes to be good at it. This includes improving my project coordination skills such as having good computer skills, communication skills and being efficient at multi tasking. Sounds like a mountain of things to do, but I guess they are manageable with little bit of passion. Note that I mention ‘ a little bit of passion’ here.  Don’t get me wrong. I agree that passion is a poor driver to lead the path for a good, satisfying career, at least for most of us. But, at some stage, I hope to wake up and look forward to work everyday.

Cal provided a disciplined framework on how to obtain job satisfaction. So after you have achieved mastery and produce quality work, you leverage this advantage to gain control of your job in order to gain more happiness, fulfillment and engagement. This reminds me of a friend. He is so good in the field of computer security that the bank he is working at makes special arrangement for him to return to Germany and allows him to manage the security for Singapore branch remotely. Sounds cool and mind you, he achieved all these with deliberate practice with a little bit of fun to relax.

Lastly, once you have gained control, you explore the edges of your field to find an overall, unifying goal in your career. It can be anything, from working three days a week instead of five or to work remotely from another country. Either way, it doesn’t come free without being a linchpin, gaining control of your career and having a desire to make a contribution to the world, big or small.

So is passion really a advice to listen to? Honestly, I am not sure. But what I know one thing. People need time to understand how things work.  We need to experience the way time can shape our vision of the world, what needs to be done and our role in it. These experiences will then change our mindsets, perspectives and expectations and hopefully, grow from them.  And for most of us, following our passion and being good at what are doing are equally important starting goals. From there, we travel the long and maybe bumpy road before getting to where we want eventually.

I suspect, my bosses, junior and senior colleagues will agree.

So good they cant ignore you by Cal Newport

Who moved my cheese??- Dealing with change in your work & life

I couldn’t help but agree with some online readers when they commented that the ideas revolved around ‘Who moved my cheese’ was a simple one, perhaps for a toddler or a high school student. However, I had to read this book twice to understand why I was agitated with the concepts the writer was trying to convey. After my second read, I finally understood. You need to be in a crisis first, in order to appreciate the concepts. The concepts so simple yet people tend to forget. It is really embarrassing how, I despite being involved in a couple of competitive sports and holding a leadership roles in university society took a while to realise that I may  and may not have applied these analogies in various occasions.

Anyway, in general, I doubt anyone will apply the concepts unless they are in the situation where they have to deal with change in the shortest possible period of time. It can be in any situation, dealing with corporate world or even personal relationships. Just that, the author, Dr Spencer Johnson was trying to help us understand what type of individual we are, when dealing with the phase of change.

And so, there are four characters: Sniff, Scurry (mice) and two people Hem and Haw. The mice are always on the ball, adapting to change quickly and believe that nothing lasts. The people however, took a while to adapt to change. I think I’m Scurry, always getting into daily routine. My only problem is that I tend to get afraid when I think of the amount of things to learn or do on my plate. Let me give you a scenario. I have been assigned to assist a client in their service migration. Thus, I have to able to use their complex system quickly in order to get my tasks done. I remembered taking two full days learning it manually, without any documentation. This carried on until my client took time off his busy schedule to guide me through the system. Complicated as it seems, things can be made easier if and only if I had stayed calm and think through the objectives.

Other than that, I realised that we should not always complain about how things are not going in our favour. My countrymen are pretty good at the art of complaining. Instead, we should take initiatives or small changes to make our processes or lives easier. For instance, we can always automate our forms and type out the data before printing them out to make data entry easier in terms of identifying the words etc. Yes, that’s what I will do in my current workplace rather than sighing at the amount of things I have to do. I see such behaviour in some of my colleagues. My colleagues who refuse to adapt to change and prioritise. Sometimes, we have to deal with stereotypes and traditional mindsets before change can happen. It all starts with a smile, explaining one’s intentions about the change and how good it will be for everyone. If all else fails, take small steps so people are able to see the impact of the change.

I think I like change. I cannot stay too long in my comfort zone. Otherwise, I will get bored, and become dispensable. The only problem is, I have to learn not to think too much (burden of being a female).  Lastly, we should all constantly do self- reflection in order to become a better individual, in all aspects, especially emotionally. After all, we face setbacks and challenges for a reason, to help us find our purpose and prevent us from making grave mistakes in the future. Whatever it is, it’s all for a good reason I believe.




The Icarus Deception- Taking risk, being brave for the love & passion in everything you do

This review came about too slow. I hope this review will help fresh graduates like myself to integrate into the rat race, stepping into the wet cement and leaving footprints behind. Perhaps after my examinations in June, I shall try completing a book in ten days. It will be a good hobby to rejuvenate and think about life, I’m sure.

This is my second review for 2013, Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception. This book has been my bible ever since I stepped foot into a local telecommunications company for a short six months stint. First of all, I was desperately trying to adapt to the not so- dynamic environment where employees are in their comfort zone. Any disruption to the equilibrium will not be well- received. It was quite a task trying to listen from the management side and the employees as well trying your best to stay neutral.  My review may not be a true reflection of what Godin Seth has been trying to deliver to his readers. But at least it describes my quest or rather journey to the connection economy of discovering things, making things, making art and using it to connect to others, regardless of leisure or work. I am a late bloomer. That is probably the reason I only started to develop interests to pick up new things only recently.  I shall do myself the huge favors of learning salsa, kickboxing and improving my Mandarin and Arabic. (for leisure) These are one of the few things I have been wanting to do for the past one year. Maybe I should stop giving excuses and act upon them. I owe myself that much.

I realized that this year passes by too quickly. Thus, the word ‘busy’ cannot be used as an excuse to make art, take initiatives. Don’t worry about the results. It’s the process that matters. It’s all about confidence and having the right attitude. No more excuses. Just do it.  A reminder to myself, first and foremost.

There is a saying, you will only learn if you leave whatever you have learnt behind. This is so true, especially for people who received their education here, where I was born and raised. This is the where the system trains one to follow, rather than think creatively or at least within the box.

And so, what’s next? Well, for starters, we should every once in a while ‘get away’ from the routine. Pick up a new interest, once in a while. Meet new people and make emotional connections. Sincerely and not expecting anything in return.  Voice out your opinions, even if people laugh at you. This will lead to feedback. Feedback means, you have to start listening and evaluate your current situation. Then decide if you can perform your art, or if you have to shift your comfort or safe zone.

While I try to convince myself to see the world like a clean whiteboard, and use my foresight and guts to make a difference, ie, add colours, diagrams to it, let’s all put aside whatever we have learnt, see the world as it is, without judging. Then contribute. I see this happening in my nation (finally) where citizens are beginning to stand for what’s right for their country and not let foreign talent makes them a second class citizens. Talk about the start of a new revolution.

So,let’s all take risks, once in a while, be sincere and make things happen with passion. Bit by bit. After my initial disappointment of trying to create art, I learnt how to keep my hopes up, despite experiencing uncertainties. As they said, at least when you are heart-broken, you know that you have tried and in that quest, I learnt that it was useful to stay composed and have the foresight to see things in a different light while having that flexible attitude to go with the flow as things change.


Linchpin- By Seth Godin (A must read for all fresh grads)

I have never enjoyed doing book reviews or summary when I was in school. This masterpiece is the first book that motivates me to digitize the main components of the book so I can share with the people I love the most- my friends and family members with hope that they can learn and see things beyond their job manuals.

According to the author, a linchpin is someone who is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen”.  The linchpin does not work to the manual provided by this boss, he invents his own map. He creates an art and gives it as a gift for free without expecting direct compensation. Compensation or rather reward often disguises itself in the form of freedom to perform one’s own tasks, trust and respect shown by people in the organisation.

To become one, a linchpin must fight the resistance of fitting in, adapt to change, stand out, acknowledge a drastic truth about a situation and share with others. Godin, also suggested seven abilities that a linchpin must possess to become one. (See the mindmap below)

My career consultant once told me this synonym:

To be happy for one day, go fishing,

To be happy for a month, get married,

To be happy for a year, inherit a fortune,

To be happy for entire lifetime, LOVE YOUR JOB

In all honesty, being a fresh graduate, I do not understand what he meant by that. However, this book provided me with insights on how to be indispensable and eventually being someone who loves her job throughout her entire career journey, which in most cases may last for about 50 years.

So, the question is, how do we love our job?? Most of us, have good technical knowledge that makes us experts in our own field, be it ICT or finance. What exactly makes us stand out? We have the choice to make art out of our work and enjoy every single process of it. This means, we have to make transactions both personal and emotional:

1) Be passionate and energise so as to see things as it is- Manage stress and SHIP whatever that is necessary during that 8hours

2) Be flexible, calm and resilient in the face of uncertainty

3)  Interact and connect with people, and give gifts by going beyond what your job requires.

4) Make a difference by inventing a future, falling in love with it and abandon it in a moment’s notice if need to in order to move forward

5) Never say ‘NOT MY JOB’: Be helpful to your colleagues and ensure that you can meet professional goals

The rest of the main points pointed out by the Godin are shown in the mindmap. I hope fresh graduates like me, will find a way to route a map, be insightful, be an artist remarkable enough to lead to take risks and make changes and not be a machine in the workforce. I am glad, that in the organisation that I am working at now, I have a good boss who intends to develop linchpins and I see the positive change in my colleagues. Soon, I hope, to see the change in myself.

Feel free to double click on the image to see the main points of the book.

Up next will a review on ‘ The Icarus Deception’ by the same author.