Discussing change and stability

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Much have been discussed about change and stability. Are we able to achieve both?

This is an interesting question and much have been discussed in both academia and the business circles. I will say that this question transcends both areas such that the very choice that we make encompasses life itself.

“To make a choice between change and stability is usually very heavily contextualised within the domain of one’s life circumstances and ever-evolving happenings globally. It also has much to do with the cultural characteristics in which one was engaged in. It also has to do with one’s innate personality. The last factor may be the pivotal point in which one makes a decision between change and stability.”

So, there really isn’t any hard and fast rules on whether it is possible to merely achieve one or both. It’s a blend somewhere between personality, culture and changing circumstances. Currently, TIME magazine has reported on the intrusion of tourists on certain tourist attractions such as Lombard Street in San Francisco. But gradual adjustments have been made to accommodate the influx of tourism while still ensuring minimal disruptions to the residents in the area. Besides striking a balance, I feel that another crucial factor lies in the decisive moments when one makes one’s decision. What’s challenging is that most of us often miss these decisive moments, as well as the fact that the decisions that we make are often relative and subjective.

It seems that there are more people who prefer to be where they are than to make changes. Are there any reasons for this?

It’s primarily psychological.

If you move, you have to deal with changes. And these changes could be as trivial as making room in a corner of your bedroom for a pet, or as drastic as ensuring that there is enough budget for food, accommodations and transport in the event that you choose to accept an overseas posting for a few years.

“Such changes could be social, economical, political, financial, educational or it could a combination of all these – on a national if not global scale. “

The “if it’s aren’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra has a stronger emotional and mental pull on almost anyone. It all comes down to self-preservation. If you make changes, you incur cost in terms of allocating resources and facing any changes that might be disruptive to your lives. If you stay where you are, you are safe – at least for now. It usually takes a whole lot more than a mindset to cause attitudinal or behavioural changes in someone. However, this is not how our forebears survive. They change their habitat, their lifestyle, their preferences, their habits – in the hope of a better life and a better world. You also observe these in animals, in insects. A chameleon is an obvious example.

But there is an interesting aspect to these changes. Humans have always strived to strike a balance between being competitive and collaborative through change. You see this in politics, in office politics, as well as parental and marital relationships. You also see this in carnivorous animals that hunt, such as the wolves.

“The Chinese novel “Wolf Totem” (which had since been translated into English) carries a strong message in its tale: that should the wolves be wiped out by the hunters, their preys will increase in number and the crops will suffer as a result. In a very provocative manner, the themes of change and renewal is prominently brought up in almost every aspects of the book. “

But humans did progress after all, didn’t we?

We did, but often not fast enough. We probably pay a price for this – in the form of a lost job opportunity, maybe. Or maybe something more costly.

What you are saying is probably mankind’s progress on the whole. On that count, yes we are progressing progressively. But if you were to look at the societal or national levels, the progression are of a different pace because people have different views, as well as being born in different circumstances. And in these disparities and differences in progression rate, we see opportunity costs borne by the people.

So, to expedite change, sometimes we have to change the circumstances for the better, which cannot be accomplished by any single individual. Of course, another way is to relocate. Nevertheless, there is no perfect place on Earth and one at times have to make do with things that one is unfavourable about. There is also a cost in relocating oneself. Families and loved ones are left behind.

Yes, you are right. It is often better to regard progression on a wider scale rather than just on an individual level.  Life is relative and the media often aggravates this tendency. It is human nature to want to better one’s life and often, we use others’ materialistic possessions and achievements as yardsticks to measure our own well-being, instead of using our current achievements as benchmarks to do better next time.

To a certain extent, this is human nature – which often does not change.

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at patricktay.wordpress.com. He can be contacted at teachingwithart@gmail.com .

3 reasons why setting DEFINITE goals DON’T work

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1. The only constant in life is change.

There are changes in our lives all the time.

Having goals (or intentions) is important. It’s just that we should not make our goals too definite.

For example, while one of our goals may be to buy a car in six months’ time, there may be other priorities that come up such that we will direct our focus elsewhere out of necessity . For instance, maybe housing prices are better in half a year’s time, and we purchase a new home instead.

We may also want to join a gym club in a month’s time but soon learn that yoga and pilates are more suited for our body types.

Hence, too specific goals do not work most of the time.

We should have general goals, and choose to to go with the flow of life while adjusting our goals accordingly, which is what most successful businesses do.

As what Jon Acuff said in this book “Start”, we know where we start but we do not know where we finish when it comes to accomplishing our goals. Often enough, we end up not where we thought we are going, but somewhere even more fantastic.

2.  You can’t enjoy life’s journey when you are too focused on your goals.

Personally, I do not think that life wants you to go where you want to go. I think life wants you to enjoy the journey more than the destination (which is what you want to achieve).

It is not surprising to see many people defining happiness as a process, and not a destination. It is the same for life.

“The joys of life is savoured along the way, such as spending time with your friends and loved ones. It’s not as if someone reaches a place called Life’s Destination and say, “Oh wow!!  I have reached my goal. Now it’s time to be happy!!”. Nay, it’s not like that. “

In life, it’s human nature to want to achieve things for themselves but that’s not the primary purpose of life.

“Some people just have the knack for understanding life. For these individuals, they also have life goals that they wish to achieve. What makes them different from the rest is that after they have put in their best efforts,  they smile and just be – regardless of the outcome.”

3. Did you accomplish all your new year resolutions?

 If you have friends who have fulfilled all their new year resolutions every single year throughout their lives to date without fail, let me know. Because I have never met one.

One of the most common reasons people say that goal-setting does not work is because we lack passion. And they say that we must develop this passion to accomplish our goals. But think about it. The very fact that we lack passion for certain goals means that our values and beliefs are different from those required to pursue these goals.

Say, for example, buying a car. If we feel that cars are depreciating assets and that taking public transport is a better deal, then we will not be passionate in buying a car and hence this goal of buying a car will probably not be achieved. Do we really want to force ourselves to be more passionate about cars such that we can buy one? Will this really make us happy? Think about it.

We are better changing our goals such that it suits our values and beliefs better.

Then of course, there are other reasons.

Most of us would usually reason some of our goals away by saying that we have no time (because our priorities are not on achieving these goals, which means we know exactly what we want, which is great) or  we set too many goals (which means we know how to prioritise, which is also great).

But do you see the actual reason for our procrastination?

“The ones that we do not do are usually the ones we do not wish to do. Life is telling us something here. When we face resistance in ourselves like this, this means we are moving in the wrong direction. If these are the goals we really want to pursue, find a way around them. If not, drop them. “

For example, if we want to lose weight, we may have set the goal as joining a gym club and exercising 4 times a day. Now, gyms are popular outlets to exercise and we may have wrote it out of habit. But deep down inside, we know that we just want to do a brisk walk.

Then go for a brisk walk! Forget about the gym. We should listen to our bodies.

We know what we want, so don’t let goals stop us. We control our goals, not the other way round.

So ok, you might have a deadline for work. And there’s no way around it. Do you enjoy doing this? Yes, good for you. Then find a way to work around it.  No? Take a second to think about why this is so. Is it that you are someone who prefers  a more flexible working environment with increased autonomy? Or that this job is not for you? Either way, you got to make a change, right?

So, whenever we face resistance in doing what we set out to do, know that we should work on the goal in a way we are comfortable with, or drop the goal entirely for a totally new direction suited for us.

And do not work towards others’ expectations.

“I need to get rich.”

“I need to get a car.”

“I need to get a bigger house.”

“I need to get another house.”

Do you really want to do the above? If so, please do.

If not, are you then working towards what is expected of you by others and society rather than what you want? Don’t.

Work towards what you want and put in your best efforts, but let things that you work towards to come to you at their own time, and you will have a happier life!

Author’s background: Patrick Tay is an English Writing Specialist who lectures in various polytechnics in Singapore, and coaches students in English as a private tutor. His professional services can be found here.

 

Q & A: Increasing the maximum employment age in the workplace

elderly

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There has been an increase in the maximum employment age in some countries. What are your thoughts on this?

Work takes up a large part of our lives, and it gives us the satisfaction of contributing our skills and experiences to society. The older the workers, the more experiences they can share. Furthermore, it is important that regardless of our age, we need to get our bodies moving so that we stay fit to enjoy our quality of life. I feel that these two factors are benefits of work.

I believe that most of us aspire to work as it gives us something to look forward to. Colleagues to chat with. The satisfaction of working towards something. The joy of working in teams. The fulfillment of a hard day’s work. I feel that these are what makes work fulfilling.

You sure have a way of making work look rosy. If this is the case, why are there many unsatisfied employees in the workplace? 

[Laughs] Yes, I do see the positive sides of work. But please do not use the word “rosy” on me. I am both a pragmatist and a realist. And I see reality as it is. I am merely stating the positives to get people hyped up about work because if managed properly, it is one of the primary sources of happiness.

But life is never that simple, is it?

(Laughs) So, what is not so good about work? I have been waiting for your insights on this a long time.

I figure the older you get, the more some of us may come to  dread work due to various factors.  Now, even the young gets tired of work. There are various reasons for this. Most would say that “yeah, they are Gen Ys, so they are rebellious against authority figures, abhor rules and regulations, obsessed with social media rather than work and most significantly, some of them have delusions of grandeur, always wanting to start a business of their own.”

Now, just look at some possible responses from Gen Y themselves:

About rebelling against authority figures:

“We just want to live life our own way. if it doesn’t hurt anybody, why can’t we? Why should we be told to do this and that by our boss in the company? It doesn’t make sense. We create our own destiny. We make our own luck. Furthermore, why should we engage in groupthink and follow someone else’s direction? We want autonomy. We want to be trailblazers, not followers. “

Apparently, the company vision and values often do not gel with Gen Ys. They don’t work for a company. They work for themselves. That’s individualism, not defiance. And they are definitely not rebellious as once they realise their values are not aligned with the organisations they work in, they usually leave.

About detesting rules and regulations:

“We just want work-life balance. That’s what make us adverse to working with the old guards in the company. They love rules and feel that we are obligated to abide by them. Well, we don’t. We prefer to spend time with our families. We also want to spend time with our friends and ourselves.These are priorities. We are sorry if our priorities are different from others, but we make our stand.”

So, it’s life balance that they want, not so much the constant battling against rules and regulations. They do not see the benefits of working longer hours just to please the boss or working unproductively under lethargic conditions.

“Few companies understand that clocking the number of required hours doesn’t mean that everyone will be productive since our energy sapped over time.  And the younger workers are getting tired of exchanging time for money – unlike the older generations.”

About their obsession with social media:

“Obsessed with social media? That sounds wrong! Social media is our life! We chat on WhatsApp. We don’t do emails. We want instant response – in real time. We get news from Facebook posts, not mainstream papers. Most of us do not blog now. We are visual people, and we are used to watching videos rather than reading.”

About delusions of grandeur of starting a great business:

Delusions? That’s our dream! We want to start something we are passionate about. A company’s vision and mission statement? That’s other people’s dreams. We want to chase ours! What’s wrong with starting a F&B if I can afford it? A few of us can get together and we can get things moving. We have seen many of our parents working their entire lives for a single employer but that’s not what we want to do. Nor is it going to happen for us now., as there’s no single lifetime employment guarantees now, is there? So, if there’s no job security, why not take a risk and start a business? You get your own time, and earn your own keeps! Yeah, we might fail. But then again, we might succeed.”

So, that’s how it works for them (laughs). Would you think that under such a..well, what they considered “stifled working environment”, the young would want to work a single, longer day in a company they are unsuited for, not to mention into their old age?

[Laughs] That’s interesting! I am sure some of the older folks will disagree with them but that’s for another story. Anyway, let talk about the older workers. You are not avoiding my questions, are you?

Of course not (laughs). Why would I?

For the older folks, the reason why they are working is not because they are loving it. Well, some of them might but for those who don’t, the primary reason is usually because of fatigue. Our body energy level will drop over time as we age and this is inevitable. Most employers understand these, hence while they are usually attuned to hiring older workers, they also understand that these older workers are unsuited for certain strenuous job positions. But the sad reality is that much as the older workers are given suitable positions, they are working longer hours. Even if the hours stay the same, their energy levels are not.

“Consider food court or hawker centre dish collectors. They usually walk around for continuous periods of time and this tires them out easily. So, do you think they enjoy working in old age? They don’t work out of passion. They work out of necessity. Because they need money to survive. There are cases whereby these older workers are eating leftover food left behind by patrons just to save money.”

So, monetary concern is an issue for older workers, especially for the uneducated. So, it’s not about getting rich anymore. It’s about survival. 

Yes, in fact, their concerns are usually already being addressed through public policies.

However,  there’s still the aspiration that  as one ages, one wants to enjoy one’s life. But if work now takes a priority over leisure in their golden years, they have less time to spend with their spouses and grandchildren (if they have any). They experience high fatigue level due to work, and there’s always the monetary concern that couldn’t put their mind at ease.

“To worry about money in one’s younger days will usually aspire one to greater heights but to be concerned about money in one’s later years is a different story altogether.”

So, fewer people will aspire to work in their later years?

(Laugh) What do you think?

Time will tell.

(Laugh) All right, all right. 

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Q & A: How does one define success in life?

success contement

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In developed countries, it seems that many people are driven towards a financially-free life. Even in developing countries, people are aspiring towards a better life in terms of financial achievements. Is this true success?

Well, I feel that the environment where you live in determines – to a large extent – what you call success. But of course the media plays a large part in this aspect as well.

For most mainstream media, the emphasis is on successful individuals but the basis is almost always financial. Investors. Businessmen. Entrepreneurs. Sportspeople.  It’s a great thing since featuring such individuals aspires us towards greater heights.

Then of course, there are interviews with academic luminaries where their views are sought on issues of current affairs. This is also encouraging since we should all aspire to be lifelong learners and we should always keep ourselves updated on current happenings to stay relevant in the workplace and in life.

However, the issue is that money does not equate to success. If you were to run a check through quotes on sucess online, you would probably have come across quite a number of accomplished individuals who had mentioned this.

You can have money and not feel like you are a success. This is because you might like to want more. And this becomes a virtual cycle.  I figure you know where I am getting at here.

Yeah, right. You meant contentment? 

Right, right.

We should aspire to greater heights whenever we achieve our goals. However, success has no ends since it has no definite definition, so we should be grateful for what we have achieved as well as being content with what we have now.

“Drive is a tricky business and we should strike a balance between achieving and being content.”

Most importantly, we must be happy with who we are. There are some of us who define our self identity with our success. But there are always ups and downs in life. If we are our success, would that make us less of who we are when we fail? And more of who we are when we succeed? This doesn’t make sense.

And when we talk about success, I can’t help but bring in happiness.

This is because some people equate happiness to success but this is not really so. Such individuals will strive and expect to be successful all the time and not some of the time, which is not possible.

“Success does make one happy for a while but if one cannot maintain one’s success or if one constantly strives for greater success, then one’s happiness actually fluctuates over time.”

So, the questions goes back to: do you want to be successful or happy? 

No, of course not.

Let’s not draw a dichotomy between success and happiness, as there are none. In fact, I would like all of us to be both successful and happy, with the latter taking precedence over the former.

It’s a matter of being content and celebrating every small achievements that we had and will have, that makes one happy. So, in this way. we  use success as a platform to create happiness.

But of course, there are more factors contributing to happiness, such as gratitude, contentment, spending time with loved ones, pursuing one’s interests and many more. So, we should not be fixated on success alone. Else, a primary focus on success alone will be detrimental to one’s happiness.

So, contentment rather than success is key to happiness, is this what you are saying?

Yes, absolutely.

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Think Branding: Sasha Strauss

Insights from the presentation:

1. Conflicting points of interests between students and business lecturers

It is not uncommon to find misalignment between lecturers (most of whom are industry practitioners for a good number of years) and Gen Y students (most of whom have their own mindsets on things, and do not take well to having things shoved down their throats so to speak).

The trick is, then, in creating that alignment, else learning do not take place in the classroom.

2. Overlooked segment in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Sasha Strauss highlighted an overlooked segment in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: all of us need something to have faith and to believe in. He labels it as the ‘void’. Strauss suggests finding a common topic to fill that void. Through techniques such as storytelling, make the topics (which could be anything under the sun) to be exciting and interesting to the audience. Then embed a belief system in the form of methodologies (although emotional resonance works just as well, if not better) into the topics. In the words of Strauss, there is now “a void in the belief ecosystem”. I believe that the essence of branding is about filling that void.

According to Strauss, this technique of filling in the void to achieve alignment between lecturers and their students works the same way as branding.

3. Organisations make up an image for branding purposes

Many organisations are endorsing their products and services through the use of celebrities and other entities that are not pertinent to the essence of their brand. This is not really effective branding.

4. Organisation are also using comparative terms to brand themselves

Consumers and customers are desensitised to the use of comparative words employed by organisations such as ‘cheapest’ , ‘longest’, ‘quickest’, ‘brightest’ , and often tune out such suggestive words in advertisements. This is ineffective and in the words of Strauss, he calls it the ‘ war of words’.

5. Organisations need authenticity

Authenticity is the recipe for building powerful and long-term marketing impacts.

6.  Seven practices of authentic branding

i.   Make no assumptions about the marketing environment.

ii.   Empathise with customers and do not treat them as customers.

iii.  Advocate your brand. Relate the brand to a lifestyle.

iv.  The relation between customers and the organisations is a relationship, not
a transaction. So authentic branding is really about building relationships with
customers, not about – in corporate speak –  hitting the Key Performance
Indicator (KPI).

v.  Organisations need to curate and package to customers’ specific lifestyle.
Organisations need to differentiate between different customer segment and
curate to them accordingly.

vi  There must be new learning, understanding and comprehension” in the branding
process. So, organisations have to teach, and not to sell. Business branding now is         about to teach, and organisations are now business schools.

vii. Organisations must exudes and exhibit care as part of their branding process.
When directed inwards, this builds employee morale. When directed outwards,
it increases customers’ loyalty.

Lessons from animals: Asiatic Lions

asiatic lion

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Lessons to be drawn from Asiatic Lions:

1. Asiatic lions usually form strong coalitions to protect shared territories and drive off rivals and predators

“This can usually be observed in business where , through business partnerships, business partners share the risk, thereby reducing all the relevant parties’ risk factors,  and increase their survival chances in the world of globalisation and competition.”

2. Exhibiting Patience

“When a lion is outnumbered, he often chooses to wait rather than attack head-on. This is especially so when age is in his favour. He can afford to wait.

Similarly, in business as in life, patience is often the more determining factor than speed. While the former leaves room for one to strategise and modify one’s plan, the latter – when employed callously – may often prove to be fatal to one’s businesses or plans. “

3. Kills are distributed in a hierarchical structure

“While in current time, hierarchical organsational structures are getting flatter, one cannot deny the importance of an orderly hierarchical structure. The CEO is the CEO, and should not be superseded by anyone in leading the organisation, as long as he or she is holding the reins.

This ensures the orderliness of any structures (organisational, academic, family etc) and holds the unit together for more effective functioning.”

4. Stretching readies lions for dangerous situations

“While the act of stretching may not be limited to lions alone, stretching has been a regular routine among even humans (as exemplified by the various poses of yoga). Any species in the cat family are more attuned to stretching, and such practice prepares anyone who is engaged in such a habit to have an agility of speed and the flexibility of movement – which are, in turn, determining factors for survival.

Similarly, organisations should always provide their employees with realistic and attainable challenges for them to learn and improve further. This readies the organisations for long-term sustainability.”

5. Lions usually do not share kills

“Sharing has a benefit of establishing and maintaining mutual goodwill among the relevant parties but it also inculcates a sense of dependency on others. In the wild, being alert is mandatory to survival, and sharing kills makes one complacent. The Asiatic lions understand this philosophy and choose to follow it, thereby inculcating a sense of independence among their cubs from young.

Partnership has to be established for survival but dependency has to be avoided at all cost. “

6. Unperturbed by human establishments in their habitats

“The Asiatic lions are highly adaptable creatures who adjust  well to the intrusion of human civilizations. Such adaptability is highly admirable as it’s adaptability that enables humans and animals alike to survive through the years. “

John Hattie: The reason why some schools and teachers are so successful

John Hattie is a Professor of Education and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia, since March 2011. He was previously Professor of Education at the University of Auckland.

His research interests include performance indicators and evaluation in education, as well as creativity measurement and models of teaching and learning. He is a proponent of evidence-based quantitative research methodologies on the influences on student achievement.

In this TEDx Talk in Sweden, he states that students’ family background or their personalities, school or class restructuring, learning programs, technology are not attributes contributing to effective learning.

Rather, it’s the following that are determining factors that play a pivotal role in learning:

Factors affecting teachingScreenshot from the video above.

In a nutshell, effective learning arises from:

1. Collaboration among teachers in their teaching approaches

2.  Employment of students’ prior knowledge towards successfully teaching objectives

3. Mutual trust and respect established and maintained between teachers and their students, as well as students accepting errors as opportunities to learn

4. Students’ feedback to teachers such that the latter can modify their teaching approaches to suit the learning styles of the class

5.  Attaining the right degree of balance between surface learning (where students do not understand the subject matter as it is entirely new to them) and deep learning (where students already have existing prior knowledge and where they need something more insightful and challenging to excite their learning enthusiasm)

6. Conducting the lessons in increasing difficulty, and where students are given the opportunities and time to overcome these difficulties