About anger

This goes out to both my dearest sons — especially to Jacob!

If both of you had inherited only one thing from me, that would be the temper — a fairly short one! But don’t let this bother you, study has shown short-tempered people are also usually smarter 😉

It is ok to be angry. And I know it is very hard to suppress anger. But guess what? You don’t need to control your anger, you just need to control how you react when you are angry.

For example, someone serves me a cup of very bad coffee, it pisses me off instantly, I can choose to smash the cup on the floor to show the person how bad the coffee is — and make a bloody mess while I do that.

Or, I can tell the person how the bad coffee upsets me, and let the person decide what is he going to do about it. If the person is nice and offers me another cup of coffee, I will let it rest and continue to enjoy my coffee. If the person decides not to be nice and refuses to replace my coffee, I will just walk away and tell myself not to come back to this store again.

You see my point? No one has to clean up any bloody mess!

I'm always angry - Imgur
See how much more powerful Hulk became when he has learned how to manage his anger

I extracted the following story from Dale Carnegie’s book: “How To Win Friends and Influence People” — talks about how someone had decided to not fight anger with anger, and ended up winning more.

One morning years ago, an angry customer stormed into the office of Julian F. Detmer, founder of the Detmer Woolen Company, which later became the world’s largest distributor of woolens to the tailoring trade.

“This man owed us a small sum of money,” Mr. Detmer explained to me. “The customer denied it, but we knew he was wrong. So our credit department had insisted that he pay. After getting a number of letters from our credit department, he packed his grip, made a trip to Chicago, and hurried into my office to inform me not only that he was not going to pay that bill, but that he was never going to buy another dollar’s worth of goods from the Detmer Woolen Company.

“I listened patiently to all he had to say. I was tempted to interrupt, but I realized that would be bad policy. So I let him talk himself out. When he finally simmered down and got in a receptive mood, I said quietly: ‘I want to thank you for coming to Chicago to tell me about this. You have done me a great favor, for if our credit department has annoyed you, it may annoy other good customerjs, and that would be just too bad. Believe me, I am far more eager to hear this than you are to tell it.’

“That was the last thing in the world he expected me to say. I think he was a trifle disappointed, because he had come to Chicago to tell me a thing or two, but here I was thanking him instead of scrapping with him. I assured him we would wipe the charge off the books and forget it, because he was a very careful man with only one account to look after, while our clerks had to look after thousands. Therefore, he was less likely to be wrong than we were.

“I told him that I understood exactly how he felt and that, if I were in his shoes, I should undoubtedly feel precisely as he did. Since he wasn’t going to buy from us anymore, I recommended some other woolen houses.

“In the past, we had usually lunched together when he came to Chicago, so I invited him to have lunch with me this day. He accepted reluctantly, but when we came back to the office he placed a larger order than ever before. He returned home in a softened mood and, wanting to be just as fair with us as we had been with him, looked over his bills, found one that had been mislaid, and sent us a check with his apologies.

“Later, when his wife presented him with a baby boy, he gave his son the middle name of Detmer, and he remained a friend and customer of the house until his death twenty-two years afterwards.”

“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?

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!

Don’t count on trends

Don’t start a business because it’s in the trend. Consumers are flicker-minded! When Apple released first iPhone, everybody rushed to get an iPhone. When Android entered the market, everybody ditched the iPhone and rushed to get an Android phone. Then Apple came up with better iPhone, everybody ditched the Android phone and rushed to get the new iPhone.

When you start a business, it takes time to break-even, if your business depends on trends, chances are, the trend changes before you can break-even, how are you going to pay the rent you have committed for the next 2 or 3 years?

Don’t start a business based on trends. Don’t open a shop to sell iPhone because iPhone is in, or open a shop to sell Android phones because Android phone is in. Start a business because you are damn good at something. Be the Apple! Or be the Android!

Life is unfair, and that’s fair!

On our way home after visited your cousin, you (Jude) asked me why he has so many toys and has so many games on his iPad, and you don’t. I could have given you a very simple (and lazy) answer by saying: Because I think you have enough and stop comparing.

But knowing you are like me, you won’t settle for lazy answers, I have decided to give you a longer one. I asked you when you were there, did you notice your cousin’s father was not home? Did you wonder why his father was not home? It was a Sunday, why wouldn’t anyone’s father be home? Well because his father had to work. His father had to work on most weekends and most public holidays. Which means to say, he hadn’t got to spend most weekends and public holidays with his father. I asked if you would want the same, if it means you would get more toys and more games on iPad. You got quiet. You got the answer yourself. You are a smart kid.

I’m not saying every kid who has a lot of toys and games on iPad also has a father who has to work on weekends. I’ll leave it to you to find out if it was the case. But what I wanted to say is, as you grow older and wiser, you will begin to learn that life is unfair, in a fair way.

From the day both of you were born, I have never been away from you for more than 12 hours; well except once I had to travel to Jakarta to handover a project. Which was the longest so far I was away from both of you — 36 hours or so!

There was another time, I had the opportunity to join one of the telcos in Singapore. The prospects sounded good. I would have jumped for it. But my first question to the person who introduced the job to me was: will I get to work from home?

You don’t need me to tell you what the answer was and why didn’t I take up the opportunity. It is so important for me to be able to be close to both of you. Not just being close, but being able to drop everything at will and give priority to you when you need me (though I must say, too much of both of you actually made me sick, sometimes *tongue in cheek*)

I could have taken up any job that paid me well so I could buy you more things that you wanted. But in return I would have to give more of my time to my employer. Would you be ok with that?

Talk about unfair. From young, I wasn’t getting much of what I wanted as kid too. Friends of my age had computer, had Nintendo, had taken aeroplane to holidays. Damn it I haven’t even had much birthday cakes to cut!

Did I complain? Yes of course I did! But did I eventually get all that I wanted? Yes, I did too! I got all that I wanted by my own effort!

I put together my first computer by using parts I salvaged from other broken computers. It served me so well I had even learned how to create website with it. Best part is, because my computer was so slow and outdated. It forced me to create websites that were compatible with my computer. Results of that? The website I created would run on any computer! Talk about cross platform? My work could cross time!

The reason I’m telling you all these, is to show you how life is unfair: Some kids have more, some don’t. But life is also fair: Those who were not given much, simply had to put in some effort to get it themselves. Trust me, the victory is a lot sweater when you won it by your own effort!

Closing note: By the way, I have no problem buying all the toys you want from Toys “R” Us, really! It happened to be my childhood dream too! But do we have enough space for all of them or not huh? Will you enjoy coming back to a home that you can hardly find space to walk? So, having desire is not wrong, but you must also desire logically. Ok?

Pro tip: Learn how to do business, then you can open a toys store and you can play with any toy you want, while making a living from it!