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!

Do not be sorry

I watched in awe (short of screaming like a high school girl who meets her idol for the first time,) when Sony revealed the gameplay trailer of upcoming God of War for the first time during E3 2016.

Kratos (the good guy in the game, who is also my biggest favorite in the world of Playstation,) was teaching his son how to hunt. After his son missed the shot and apologised to him, he said this to his son: “Do not be sorry. Be better!” A message that, so hit the nail on the head! It’s something I have always believed myself.

Saying sorry is important. It shows that you recognised there is a problem to be fixed. But fixing the problem, is even more important! Especially when you are able to. Do not make the mistake of using “sorry” as the way to get out of a situation. The only way to get out of a situation without having to feel sorry, is to fix it. Period.

Now, I hope you will enjoy the video as much as I did (still feel like screaming like a high school girl who meets her idol for the first time!)

 

Be nice

Imagine for a second: You are the owner of a store. (What you sell doesn’t matter in this story. Just imagine it’s something anyone can buy.)

In came couple of individuals:

  1. A smartly dressed male ― Long sleeves shirt, well-pressed long pants, leather shoes;
  2. A dressed down younger male ― Over-sized t-shirt, Bermuda shorts, sneakers;
  3. A lady ― Elegantly dressed, heavy makeup, wears Prada;
  4. A teenage girl ― Carrying a backpack with her eyes glued on the phone throughout the entire time;
  5. A young lady ― Casually dressed, looking like she has just come out from workout session;
  6. A mid-50 man ― Holding a copy of newspaper under his armpit, short sleeves, shorts and sandals. With visible bulk in his shirt pocket, looking somewhat like a stack of cash.

Question: Which one of them will be your customer?

Answer: The one who puts something at the checkout counter and pays!

Moral of the story: The description of the individuals were there to confuse you. How they look and who they are totally do not matter. Each person who walks up to you can potentially be your customer, but it is the one who ultimately takes action will become your real customer. Until that happens, treat everyone equally nice. Remember: You will never be in one’s debt by being nicer.

Face your fear

Jude, you wont remember this. You told me one time that you dreamed of a monster and you were very scared. My first question back to you was how does the monster look. You told me it has sharp claws. At that point, I believe 50% of what you said, and the rest were probably made up by yourself… But guess what? That was how you have learned to face your fear.

Most people, when faced with fear, they chose to run away. I’m not saying it’s wrong. Fight or flight. Natural instinct. But you have got to at least know what you were afraid of. Once you have recognised your real fear, trust me, you will find the solution and the courage to face it!

“The difference between being a coward and a hero is not whether you’ve scared. It’s what you do while you’re scared.” Says Major Jeff Struecker who was sent to Somalia for an almost suicidal mission.

Everyone has fear. I have had my fair share of fear. My biggest fear is whether I’ll be a good provider for you boys and Mommy. But what do I do to overcome the fear? I find better ways to work. I work with good people! Basically, I work even harder!

I have never run away from my fear. I eat fear for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I hope you will, too!