Bald Statement

I finally made the bald statement!*

*Translation: I participated in this year’s Hair for Hope by Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) and had my hair shaved!

It was supposedly my last year’s agenda. But I blur sotong never registered in advance, until that day only realised walk-in would take slightly longer than forever. So I told myself, “Must do it in 2015.” And, I did!

My affinity with CCF goes way back in 2001 during my early days in Singapore. Being new in town, my social circle consisted only the cow-workers. I needed to find something meaningful to do after working hours, so I signed up as volunteer at CCF and was assigned to befriend a P1 kid who was recovering from leukaemia. Since then I started to visit the boy every week and hung out with him. A chirpy Malay boy, whose father was funny, and mother who made super-yummy Rendang!! I had eventually switched my job and started to get busy, then I had to end the assignment and lost touch with the family. If only there was Facebook then…

This is why, I had always wanted to do something for CCF again, though it’s a shame that I took so long… but hey! I did it at last!

The last time I saw myself with really short hair was in my Primary school days, since then, my hair had been… longer than short. So I was half excited, half nervous to see myself with little hair again. I thought to myself: If it turns out the short hair doesn’t work too well for me, I can comfort myself that it was all in the name of charity.

So, about the outcome. Turns out I was actually quite happy with the result! In fact, I wanted it to be even shorter, short as in, totally bald. Skinhead bald! Hmm… imagine that look, coupled with my Doc Mart! But, I scraped that thought very quickly as I started to imagine the itch it may cause. Or will it not?

Funny thing is, now on, each time I looked into the mirror I thought I look like one of the recruits in Ah Boys to Men. It also suddenly dawned on me, why soldiers had to shave their hair — When everyone became look-alike, imagine the confusing look on enemy’s face…

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Pardon me for using this picture, Tom Hanks was definitely not the bad guy, but you get the idea.

Parenthood and Sleep

After you became a parent, the first change you’ll notice in you, is you will start to believe that you may have better chances of seeing a real dragon (or unicorn if you have daughter), than having an uninterrupted sleep.

The Journey Ahead

So I finally gathered enough courage to see the geomancy master the other day. My religion is against such practice. So I’m taking it more as a science + statistics analysis. It’s 5,000 years of wisdom, should be interesting.

I had prepared to ask only one question: Am I heading towards the right direction. The answer that she gave me, isn’t what I had hoped to hear  (with little surprise, actually.)

In gist, though I’m good at what I do, she said, I will have to continue to struggle. Because that’s what I was destined to be. And, if this doesn’t sound bad enough already, I have just entered a new phase of tough years. A tough. 10 years. Ahead.

My choices were to continue doing what I’m doing, and continue to face the challenges. Or, I might have better chances of surviving the tough journey ahead if I just go work for others.

This set me on serious thinking mode.

Am I able to give up all that I have put together all these years with sweat and tears, with so much of heartbreaks and sleepless nights, and just go back to work for someone?

In fact, as I’m typing this, it suddenly dawned on me: I have been working for others all these years anyway! Who were they? My clients!

Each and everyone of them who paid me to build their website, were my bosses! In fact, I have had a pretty good ride, all the way until I started to think about “expanding”, that’s when things started to go south for me.

Yes. I’m still good at what I do. I should continue to work for my bosses. The only thing I need to give up, is stop thinking of becoming a boss. Which, I’m actually fine with it.

So, to all you (and you know who you are) who believed in me, thank you. You can continue to believe in me!

The Night Before Dawn

While standing in line at the ATM queue, my mind kept playing back what my wife has said to me over the phone: “Today is 立春, mommy asked me to remind you to deposit some money to your bank account. For good luck. $50 also can, ok?”

Problem was, I didn’t have much cash in my wallet. Though, I had $77.29 in my savings account. But it won’t make sense for me to withdraw the money then put it back.

Then I remembered a customer has made payment to my personal account couple of days back, for domain name renewal. Just nice I could use the opportunity to transfer the fund from my personal account to company account.

So I transferred deposited $15.99 to my company account that day. Quietly I whispered to myself: “Huat ah…”

Yes. It was that bad. I’m no stranger to the bottom of the pit. I have found myself stuck in much predicaments. But never before had I gone through such low tide the last few months.

I got so broke, I had no money to bring my family back to see my mom during this year’s Chinese New Year. My mom was tremendously understanding. And of course, my father-in-law’s sudden demise did make it easier for me to explain to friends and relatives, why didn’t we go home this year.

Then, three days ago, this message came to my inbox: “Hi Dean, Happy Lunar New Year! Thank you for the quotation. I guess, we can continue with that one…” — from the gentleman whom has just confirmed the biggest project I have ever closed so far.

Looks like what I did on 立春 really worked! Or was it because I didn’t wash my hair on day 1 of CNY?

Or, maybe because, I didn’t give up. That’s right, I did not give up!

Dry. No soup.

There is a Yong Toufu stall in one of the coffeeshops in my neighbourhood that also sells Chee Cheong Fun with curry sauce.

I usually picked couple of Yong Toufu, ordered it dry, together with Chee Cheong Fun with curry sauce poured over.

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I must have had my Yong Toufu with Chee Cheong Fun like this for over a dozen times. However, the same guy who man the stall, whom I have ordered my Yong Toufu, dry, with Chee Cheong Fun and curry sauce poured over, has never failed to ask me everytime, if I wanted soup in my Yong Toufu. Everytime I told him no.

Eventually I found out he is only an employee. He doesn’t own the stall. That’s probably why he doesn’t own what he does too.

This reminds me of the hairdresser who cut my hair when I used to live in Joo Chiat. I patronized him every 3-4 weeks for at least over a year. Everytime he saw me, he greeted me in different languages:  Cantonese, Mandarin, English. Everytime it felt like it was his first time cutting my hair. I stopped letting him cut my hair when he started to talk to me about his financial problem. He doesn’t own the salon. He doesn’t own his work. Heck! He probably doesn’t even own his life.

Back to my current neighbourhood, there is McDonald’s + McCafe. On days I felt like having coffee, if the lady happened to be at the counter, she would know what I wanted. While she was making my coffee, she would ask how were my kids and my wife. She doesn’t own the McDonald’s. I’m pretty sure. But I know for sure she will go places!

That is called taking ownership of one’s job.

Whistle

Jude was impressed when he heard me whistle. First thing he asked was who taught me how to whistle. I thought for a while, I had no idea how did I learn how to whistle. Just to satisfy him, I told him my father taught me. He was ok with the answer.

That left me thinking: Actually how many things had my father taught me.

I realised there wasn’t many, if not none. Not for as far as I could remember. I felt rather… meh.

My father had been the kind of “father” father. You know, the kind who is in charged of bringing home the bacon, who left everything else to the mother.

He did try to get us into fishing. I suppose if I had ever shown any interest, he would tell me everything there was to know about fishing. Sadly I wasn’t. I suppose he would be happy to teach me about writing. Then again, I was never a big fan of one.

At my young age, I was into doodling, video games, music, doing dangerous stuff. None which involved him. It was my mom who taught me how to ride bicycle. Subsequently, I learned to ride motorbike myself. I learned to drive myself.

Obviously, it wasn’t my father who taught me how to whistle.

Realised my mind strayed away for too long, I turned and looked at Jude, I told him I will teach him how to whistle one day when he is ready. He nodded happily.

30kg

It was in the middle of scorching afternoon, my long sleeves were rolled up, my tie was removed. I didn’t bring the trolley as I didn’t expect the internal carpark would be full that day. So I parked at the open carpark, which was like half a soccer field away.

I  carried the 30kg HP LaserJet 4Si, slowly inching my way to the office block of my biggest client at that time — Motorola. To fulfil an order on very short notice, so short I had to deliver it myself.

I was 21. Why I can remember this so well? Because it was that very afternoon I told myself: “Hang in there, Dean. It will get better!”

After several months of trying to please the client, I didn’t win the 500K, 350K, 250K, 150K maintenance contract. So it didn’t get better.

I was shattered, I broke down and cried in that very same, bloody dusty carpark.

I had eventually given up on that job. But I didn’t give up on myself. I continued to try to make things better.

But the more I tried to make things better, the more backfires I got.

They say: The higher you are the harder you fall. I’m having hard time accepting this. Why am I being punished for trying to go further?

It’s in our blood

My grandfather died before I was born, so I don’t know much about him. But I do know about the story of how he got slapped left-right-center, all because he didn’t manage to salute the Japanese officer soon enough when he bumped into him at the street. That was during Japanese occupancy period. Time must be really hard for him, but he made it through and beyond anyway. He never gave up.

My father was a primary school teacher. Due to life circumstances he was made to teach at the school 30km from where we lived. He didn’t have a car, so every morning he had to leave home by 5am, took two buses, traveled two hours to the school. He did that for a good decade until he finally retired. He never gave up.

The year I graduated from secondary school was the year my father retired. He had prepared to give me all his penchant fund for my further study. But I chose not to take it. So I stopped at O Level.

I know full well I will never be able to count on my academic background. So I had to be the person who creates the job for myself. There are a lot of setbacks I have to deal with. A lot of challenges I have to overcome. A lot of odds I have to fight against.

But when I lie in my dying bed many years later, I want to be able to tell both my sons: like my father, and my father’s father, l never gave up too. Because not giving up, is in our blood!

What i have learned through my son about customer service

When it comes to Customer Service, people somehow think it’s all about giving what customers want. I haven’t gone to business school, I don’t know if this is what they teach in school, but I personally feel Customer Service aims to let everybody win at the end of the day.  And I learn about Customer Service through interaction with my son.

#1 Patience

The first and very important ingredient of good customer service is Patience.

In running my business, I haven’t been very good in this department. I’m not saying I don’t provide good customer service. I always did, but I would run out of patience when customer pushed it too far, that was usually when I would call it a day and dropped the customer like hot potato.

But when it comes to dealing with my son, calling quit is not going to, and will never be an option, not at least for as long as I live! When I ran out of patience, I could choose to lose my grip, throw a fit and upset both him and myself — yet still do not get anything done; or I could choose to exercise some patience and strive for win-win.

So what do I do to keep my cool? I sing this song:

(No joke, I really do!)

#2 Negotiation

As mentioned up front, to me, I feel customer service is not just about giving what customer wants, it’s about letting both parties get what they want.

Once again, when it comes to dealing with my son, giving in is never my favorite. Not because I don’t like to, but it is my duty to show him in life, one does not get what one wants all of the time. The sooner he can accept that fact, the happier life he can expect ahead of him.

Nevertheless, telling my son “no” all the time does not cut it either lest I would make him feel more and more oppressed, eventually turns rebellious. Or worse, loses interests to want anything at all. Ultimately, he’ll become an unhappy customer.

In the quest of achieving good customer service, I started to push myself to become more creative in coming up with solutions and better ways to get things done. To give my son what he wants, yet without giving in too much. I have become better negotiator.

#3 Anger Management

Pretty much relevant to first point. There were times I ran out of patience and lost my grip, and negotiation attempt went south.

This is usually when I would either throw in the towel, or unleash hell. But because it is my son I’m talking about, whom I care a lot about. Neither of above choice of actions would do him good.

So whenever I lost my grip, first thing I  did was to acknowledge to him that “Papa is very angry now.”

“… I’m not going to shout at you because you will not like it. It will upset me too. And most importantly, it is because I have promised you that I will not shout at you anymore.”

This is usually when I would get his attention. “Now, can we do this without upsetting anyone. You will do <things I wanted him to do>, and I will do <things I was willing to trade off for him to do his part>, no one will get hurt, everyone will be happy. Can we do that?”

9 out of 10 times, this worked. Both father and son won!