“If you wanna change the world, start off by making your bed.”

To my two boys, this is not Papa say one. This gentleman’s name is Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, BJ ’77, ninth commander of U.S.Special Operations Command. He gave this speech in 2014 during commencement at University of Texas.

P/s: For your information, Papa and Mama so big already, we still make our own bed every single morning.

The original, unedited speech is here: https://youtu.be/pxBQLFLei70

About honesty.

Dearest Jude, on our way to school this morning, as we were riding in the GrabCar, you noticed something on the door handle that didn’t belong there. Apparently it was the “little trash bin” that sits under the armrest between front passenger seats.

Previous passenger must have accidentally knocked the thing off. Then, instead of putting it back, the person left it on the door handle.

You suggested to me that we should tell Uncle (the driver) about it. I said Uncle might have known already. But you weren’t convinced and continue to look unsettled. I thought for a while, I decided to go with your suggestion and told Uncle about it.

Turns out, he wasn’t aware of it at all. He thanked us for letting him know, I was able to help him put the thing back to where it belonged too. Everyone was happy.

Uncle went on and lamented previous passenger who broke the thing chose not to tell him, likely because he or she was trying to avoid being asked to pay for the damage. Which is a valid point. Most people chose to escape from responsibilities.

You, my son, on the other hand, felt compelled to tell Uncle about it because you didn’t want the next passenger, or Uncle himself to think you were the one who broke it. That, is also a valid point. Nobody likes to be thought as a bad person (except for previous passenger.)

But you were too young to consider the possibility of Uncle accusing us for being the ones who broke it and makes us pay for it anyway.

Why had I still gone ahead and told Uncle? I considered two things:

1. If we chose not to tell him and continued to let the “little dust bin” sit on the door handle, the next passenger who boards the car through that door may accidentally drop the thing and it will be gone from the car forever. Imagine the hassle Uncle has to go through to buy the replacement, all because of couple of selfish idiots?

2. The “little dust bin” wasn’t very expensive. If Uncle had decided to make us pay, I can afford it. But I will also make sure to rain fire on him afterwards, both directly and indirectly!

So we took the calculated risk.

This is after all a very trivia matter. I just wanted to take this opportunity to teach you about honesty. Now here’s the bad news: There will be situations in life when honesty doesn’t help. It’s a very lengthy subject that I can write a book about. But I will let you experience them yourself and learn as you grow.

But remember the rule of thumb: if the situation concerns life and death, honesty precedes everything!

There was this news about the little boy who had accidentally locked another boy in a broken fridge while playing hide and seek. He decided to keep quiet about it in fear of being punished. The family found the other boy only the next day — motionless. Which do you think is harder for him to live with? Being punished or causing someone’s death?

Give credit when credit is due

Unless we eventually move to live in the mountains, chances are, we will come across situations when we need other people’s help. Though it is people’s choice whether or not they want to help us, and when they did, we must always acknowledge their help. Whether their help was actually helpful or not, more so, even when you had paid them for their help.

One time, I missed my credit card payment due date (like, by one day!). Because of that I was slapped with late payment penalty of $80. So I did what I did in the past, called up the bank and asked for waiver. Turns out they would no longer honor the request. The customer service whom I spoke to over the phone told me the policy was implemented for some time already (or maybe I never paid attention to the fine prints). I tried to push her a little, but she didn’t barge.

In the end, I surrendered to the fact that I had to serve the penalty. I wasn’t very happy about it. But when the post-call survey came in, I gave her an E (met Expectation, equivalent to 5 stars). Because why, she did perform her duty well by upholding the bank’s policy. Even when I didn’t get what I wanted.

Could I have given her a “B” (Below expectation)? Yes I could. Would giving her a “B” cancel off my penalty? No. But here’s what would happen: it would have affected her score card, probably her year end bonus and salary increment! Just because I made a mistake, lost $80, I had to rain fire on another person. Do I deserve to be such bad guy? Absolutely not!

So, when you be nice to people, you are not being weak, or naive. You are actually doing yourself a big favor. You collect karma points. You are actually being nice back to yourself. Have you been nice today?

Hello to another web design project scam

Just not too long ago, I got tricked into a chargeback scam. Even though I had eventually gotten all my money back (plus more!) I considered it a very useful lesson learned. Little would I expect I could put what I have learned into good use again so soon. Like, now!

I’ll cut to the chase. It started by me receiving this inquiry sent through my contact form:

Your website link: NA
Your budget: “I can commit minimum SGD 600 per month for 12 months”
Your organisation:
Your name: Martins Jefferson
Your email address: [email protected]
Your contact number:
Best time to call:
Your Skype ID:
About your business:

Hello Good day,

How are you doing? Please advice if you do web design? and do you accept credit cards.

Thank you and expecting to read back from you so i can forward more details.

Regards,

Martins Jefferson

Right away, I could raise a few red flags:
1) Suspicious looking name;
2) Even more suspicious looking email address!

Biggest giveaway is the way this person asked the question:

“Please advice if you do web design?”
Really? Couldn’t you tell already from my website?

Then the next question, “do you accept credit cards”.
Straightaway my scam radar got activated!

I wanted to give him the benefit of doubt, so I responded to him:

Hello Martins, thank you for getting in touch.

> How are you doing? Please advice if you do web design? and do you accept credit cards.

I’m well. I do web design. And I accept credit cards.

I would like to hear more about what you need and how can I help. Do tell?

His reply came in about 3 hours later:

Hello Dean,

Thanks for your swift response

Here is the job details

I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so i need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me ?.So i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible http://www.agroamerica.com.… the site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.

Note:

1. I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
2. I want only English language
3. I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as yourtopfarmproduce.com
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. i will be proving the IMAGES, logos and content for the site.
6. i want the site up and running before ending of NEXT month.

My budget is $10,000 to $30,000

Kindly get back to me with:

(1) an estimate
(2) your cell phone number
(3) And will like to know if you are the owner?

Regards,

Martins Jefferson

What’s wrong with this email? The budget! I have received RFQs with higher budget before. But in this case, the quoted budget doesn’t quite commensurate with the work required. Either he is so inexperienced, or he is simply a very generous person!

I decided to give him one more chance before I can safely conclude if he was for real or not:

Hello Martins, thank you for the details.

I had a look through www.agroamerica.com, it’s really not difficult for me to create something as nice (if not better). You can see my past work from my project showcase page: https://deanloh.com/work/

> 3. I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as yourtopfarmproduce.com

yourtopfarmproduce.com is already taken. But you may consider the following (better) alternatives:
yourtopproduce.farm
yourfarmproduce.top

Or you may find check out all the other available domain name extension other than .com at http://store.domainsifu.com/domain-registration

Now allow me to answer your other questions:

> (1) an estimate

I have only one price scheme, which is SGD600 per month (for minimum 12 months). You may read about how it works from this page: https://deanloh.com/how-it-works/

> (2) your cell phone number

+65 xxxxxxxx [sorry guys had to omit this]
May I have yours too?

> (3) And will like to know if you are the owner?

I’m operating under my company name Kaia Pte Ltd, and I’m the sole owner.

In terms of timeline, I have couple of projects in progress, but if you refer to the “How it works” page again, you can see I aim to get the beta site up and running within first month, this gives you more time to come up with more content if you will, while I am able to work on multiple websites concurrently. As long as you continue to pay me $600 per month, I will continue to improve/maintain your website. And yes, I will host the site for you too. Your site will be secure with SSL and top notch server (our hosting partner is WP Engine).

Feel free to give me a call if it’s easier for you. I start my day at 8am each work day till 4pm.

Lo and behold, then came his reply:

Hello Dean,

Thanks for your response and my number is +1 657 222 4807 and will go with yourtopproduce.farm,I am okay with the total cost,everything sounds good and I’m ready to make payment now with my Credit card.

I understand the content for this site would be needed so work can start ASAP but i will need a Little favor from you and the favor is that I will send you my credit card to charge the sum of $16,000.00 plus CC company charges, You will deduct $6,000 for the deposit design of the website and you will send the remaining $10,000 to the project consultant that has been handling all my consultancy and she has the text content and the logo for my website so once she receive the $6,000 she would send the text content,videos and logo needed for my website to you.

I would have love to make the payment directly to her,but she dont have the credit card facility to accommodate.Kindly get back to me so we can proceed with payment as soon as you ready to make a start.

Best Regards,

Martins Jefferson

Once again he made a brutal mistake: Where in my previous email did I say anything about $6,000?! I mentioned “$600 per month”, do some calculations and he will get $7,200 after multiplying it by 12. In my mind I was thinking “Horseh liao! Let the game begins!”

Hi Martins, your instructions sound straightforward enough. Unfortunately I have a little problem here… In Singapore, the monetary authority is very strict on money laundering. I know this is not your intention. I don’t think you are out to scam me either. But if I receive a charge of such big sum, the authority is likely to contact me and I will have to furnish them with details of the transaction and payer’s information. So it will help if you can send me the following details of yours, so I can forward it to the authority in my country it get clearance, then we can move forward with the transaction.

Your full name:
Your passport no.:
Country of issue:

Alternatively, if you want to avoid all these troubles, you may also TT the payment to me. Since TT is done through banks, the banks would have done the legwork for us.

If you insist on paying by credit card, then I will have to hold the payment for 40 days before I can release 10k to your consultant. Then for the same reasons I need your consultants details as above too.

Otherwise there is nothing I can do. By the way I have booked the domain name for you. I can only hold it for 4 days so please tell me your decision.

I purposely emphasised in the last paragraph that I “have” booked the domain name for him, fact is I didn’t. I just wanted to keep him on the hook. Did he take the bite? You bet he did!

Dean,

Thanks for your response. I can’t do a wire transfer due to my present location on the rig and don’t worry because the consultant will send you an invoice before he receives the funds from you.  Holding the payment for 40days will affect us because she will need the funds urgently to release the logos and other things.

Let me know if you can release the funds to her on time to enable me forward the details you requested.

Martins

I was starting to feel playful.

I understand you are on the rig. Do you mean oil rig? How’s oil business these days? Do you need a website for your oil business too? We can use the same strategy if we can make this work!

Back to the payment. Looks like I have to get your full details so I can submit the request to our authority to inform them that you are a legit business and you genuinely want to do business with me.

Actually, there is a loophole but I hesitate to mention. That is if you want to speed things up a little? Let me know and I will show you how.

I intentionally highlight his oil business, just to see if he had forgotten he was suppose to be in, or venturing into agriculture business.

Yes Oil business and i will give you the details of the job after this present one. What loophole is that? Can you show me? what exact details do you need from me to proceed?

By this time I was getting bored. This guy seemed a little amateur for the game. But I eventually replied to him anyway, just to see where would that bring us. Big part of me was hoping he would just quit.

Hi Martins, sorry for the delayed reply. I had to make a few calls to confirm some information.

Since you have been upfront with me, I want to be honest with you too. Actually, I have been having trouble finding a way to move a sum of funds out of Singapore (as you already know our monetary authority here is very strict!)

Now that we have this unique situation, I can take this opportunity to execute it. I need to move SGD250,000 to China, not in one go, but $50,000 at a time. I couldn’t do this without a “legitimate” reason. But now that I know you, and you will send me your contact details that I can submit to authority for clearance. Once approved, I can transfer the 10k + 60k to your consultant. Then I will send him/her the instruction about where to redirect the 40k to. If we can make this work, I will repeat the process until I move the entire SGD1.5 million out!

Seriously, no person in right mind would not think that I was being funny. But guess what?

Dean,

That shouldn’t be a problem and i will help you out. I will talk to my Consultant and hopefully he will do that for you. What are the exact details you need from me for the clearance?

Martins Jefferson

His last reply was 10 hours ago. I kind of ran out of idea. Maybe I can use your help? What should I do next?

Update on 1 Apr 2017

After waited for me for a day, this guy got impatient and sent me a follow up email:

Dean,

I am still waiting for your response. Thanks

Martins

At first I thought of just ignoring him. But as I was waiting for my son to finish school, I thought I could kill some time by replying to him:

Sorry Martin, I meant to write you sooner. There has been some technical issue now.

This has to do with the money deal which I told you about. Someone from Indonesia contacted me via email, told me he is going to send me $1.5 million dollars, in return, all I have to do is transfer $250,000 to his contact in China, then I can keep the rest of the money. At first I thought this is a lousy job, that’s why I thought I could just let your consultant do it. But this morning I did the calculation, it dawned on me $1.5 million is actually a lot of money! If I get this deal, I dont need to make websites anymore! I can move to Thailand right away and open a car workshop. You are in car business right? Is it a good business to invest in?

Then came his final reply:

Please stop all this rubbish..

Martins

I guess this makes the end of it? This guy is such a bad sport!

#projectemptiedbowls

Some of my friends have noticed me been sharing pictures of emptied bowls on my Instagram. In case you wonder why.  Here’s why…

We are not short of people who shared pictures of their food. But ever wonder how many of them actually finished the food? Just like many other things in life, people like to show their best side until the actual delivery. So do you celebrate a decision because of the presentation, or because you truly enjoyed the results?

P/s: Notice I spelled the word as “emptied” not “empty”. There is vast difference between two words.

Doing the right things vs doing things right

Dear Jude, it was raining cats and dogs when I came to pick you up from school the other day. In case you forget, there are two gates to enter your school — one located next to bus stop with shelter all the way in; the other without shelter. I alighted at the gate next to the bus stop  with shelter hoping I could enter your school since I didn’t bring umbrella. Together with me there was an old lady who was also there to pick her grand child.

We found out the hard way that the gate next to the bus stop was locked in the afternoon. We waited awhile hoping someone could come to our “rescue”. Then I saw the school security guard walking towards us from inside. In my mind, I was about to sing the song of praise, until I realised he didn’t come to open the gate for us, but for a vehicle which was leaving the school compound. I asked him nicely, since he had already unlocked the gate, could we enter the school from there in view of the heavy rain. He refused to let us in, citing school policy forbids so. Realising I was fighting the wrong battle, I asked him instead if he would let the old lady in, because it’s only humane to not let an old lady walk in heavy rain. He didn’t barge and continued to close the gate.

Was I angry with the security guard? No I was not. Because he was doing things right!

At another occasion, I went to McDonald’s to meet a friend. I remembered clearly I had a coupon for free coffee that was expiring that day. Right after I launched the app and selected the coupon, I realised the coupon had expired at 12 midnight. The barista saw my predicament, she let me have the coffee for free anyway, although I was happy to pay for it.

Would I be angry with the barista if she didn’t give me the free coffee? No I would not. But was I happy that she did? Heck yes! Because she was doing the right things!

What kind of person will you become? Someone who does things right, or someone who does the right things? Just imagine yourself as the person on the receiving end, you will then find the answer very apparent!

Lesson one: Be independent

This particular blog post goes out to Jude only. But of course, Jacob, if you are reading this, there is something for you to learn here too.

Jude, yesterday was your second day in primary school. After we picked you up from school, while on our way home on the bus, you told me in a very soft voice that you were starting to learn to manage without us being there. I told you that I was glad to hear that, then I had to look away to hold back my tears. Don’t worry, it was mostly the tears of joy, plus a bit of sadness, I’ll admit.

Sad as I imagined as you grow older, you will become more and more capable of taking care of yourself; before we know it, we can only communicate with you via text messages, emails or whatever technology is going to bring as you might become so caught up with your world that you will have little time to sit down with us for a chat. But don’t worry, that’s just the selfish part of me speaking.

Now let’s talk about the joy part. I was obviously too happy to hear you said something like that, it was really comforting, as much as I was also prepared to hear you say “school sucks!”

I definitely know for sure that you said what you said to stop us from worrying about you. Seriously son, for a 6-year-old to say something like that, there could be only one reason — because you are my son 😛

You have the traits of an independent person in you. If I were to give you enough of push, I’m almost certain you can do many things without us. I have stopped taking money from your grandparents since I was 13. I grabbed every opportunity and took up part-time jobs at various places to earn my own pocket money — from petrol kiosk to Chinese restaurant, from t-shirt factory to supermarket. The only exception was I had to borrow RM1,500 from 奶奶 to buy my first motorbike when I was 17 (fully paid for and beyond, hor!)

I take a lot of pride in that, for being able to take care of myself from very young age. Deep inside, I hope you will become like me too. I don’t expect you to start working at 13 — Singapore government will not allow that anyway. But for as soon as you are old enough to understand things better, I will start to impart my knowledge to you, on how to become self-sufficient and be a better person. Oh, wait! What am I talking about? I have already started!

Go see the world

As I wrote this, we just came back from Whistler. Yes it is a very beautiful place. Both you boys were having such great time playing in the snow. I wish I can say the same for myself, only truth is, it was more of a torture for me. Can’t blame me, after living for over four decades, this is the first time I see snow. Before this, the coldest I had ever experienced was the walk-in refrigerator at 7-11 where I used to work part-time. This brings us to the point I want to make today: Don’t wait until you are 40 then go see snow! Well obviously you both have already fulfilled this at such tender age. I should rephrase: Don’t let this be the only time you see snow!

For as long as Papa and Mama are still alive, we will do our best to bring you boys to see as much of the world as we can. But it will be an even greater experience if you can bring yourselves to do that. When I was younger, I only thought about working hard, make more money. The joke is, after working hard for so many years, I still don’t have a lot of money, but I for sure have missed a lot of opportunities to travel. Money used finish can make some more, but time passed already will not come back anymore!

So don’t be like me, be a brave traveller. Go see the world!