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Necker Island

Feeling Good

The 60″ screen served up lyrics and a dodgy karoaoke video. The mic was already in my hand.

“I feeeeeeel good!”, I broke into the midnight air with my James Brown number. Fellow entrepreneurs looked up in shock and amusement. Their wives came up to dance, with wild smiles and snapping fingers.

This was my last night at Sir Richard Branson’s home on Necker Island. I had to end it correctly.

The climax unfolded in the “Temple House”. Where hilltop views of surrounding Caribbean islands pampered our sights. Where Sir Richard Branson held meetings with The Elders, with the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Former President Richard Nixon, and Nelson Mandela convening to solve global problems. Where I brought James Brown back to life, for one night only.

To think that only 4 years ago, I had emailed Mike and Vishen,

And 4 years after the email, in the exact week I was off to Necker Island to spend 3 days with SRB himself. My dreams tend to have had a habit of realizing themselves, and this was a good reminder.

How did this happen?

I was dining with Vishen at Vineria. Our catch up dinner was long time coming. I had left MindValley, the company he founded, for more than 3 years now. We had a lot to catch up on.

I was told about an exclusive trip to Necker Island, where Sir Richard Branson wanted a group of adventurous entrepreneurs to ideate how his non-profit Virgin Unite can better solve global challenges. Vishen was going. He nominated me. I wasn’t sure if my credentials were enough for me to get me on this trip, especially after the rest of the group had already been selected.

But I was given a yes in 48 hours, and a list of everyone else in the select group. There was an eclectic mix of founders of market-leading companies in airport logistics, finance, direct-response internet marketing, air-purification, and the world’s best in fundraising, accelerated learning, intuitive healing, and more. I was the youngest, and only representative of the tech startup breed. I had a lot to learn from everyone.

3 Days in a different reality field

From the moment I got off my 30+ hour flight and transit, and got onto my yacht, I knew I was in for one helluva ride.

Vishen and I had chartered a yacht to get from Tortola to Necker Island. The yacht’s name was Aquila, which coincidentally is the name of my 24 year old colleague who leads community relationships at SAYS.com. This yacht was also where we would sleep on, as all spaces on Necker Island were full (half the resort burnt down a year ago, and spaces on Richard’s own yacht, the Necker Belle, was full).

What came next was whirlwind of surreal experiences. Beachside barbecues with glowing torches, Greek-themed toga parties, floating sushi kayak lunches, clubbing on other islands, feeding exotic animals, riding the Virgin Nymph sumbarine. More importantly, a series of mind-blowing conversations, fun, laughs, and peer learning with fellow guests, and Sir Richard Branson himself.

He made himself available to us throughout the day. Walking around the island. Challenging us to tennis. Teaching some of us how to swim. Joining us for every meal. Lounging around, chatting, listening, sharing stories. He was very laid back and took his own sweet time with us…. he was on an island, after all.

Highlights

The Necker Island Staff – World Class!

The staff on Necker Island attended to our every need. Each of them were consistently caring, super fun, happy, very beautiful people, and really good at what they needed to do. They had great cooks, too. I had different concoctions of fruit smoothies brought to me throughout the day. I ate the best steak I’ve ever tasted in the world. Every meal was top notch. Each of the Necker Island Staff were rockstars in their own way, and together, they made our experience unforgettable.

Sailboat racing against the Google family

On the very first day, we were informed that Larry Page (co-founder of Google) had friends and family over on the neighboring island of Eustacia (which Larry owned). They wanted to challenge us (Necker Island guests) to a sailing race! Despite never having sailed before, I wanted to be in this race. I got a Necker Island team member, Gemma, to give me private lessons at noon. That very afternoon, I was on Hobie Cat sailboat with team mates Robert and James, founders of The Elevation Group, and we were off! It was a close match, with my boat swapping lead position throughout the race. The last 50 metres had our sailboat and the brother of Larry Page’s boat neck-to-neck. It got really wild as all of us stretched across our boats trying to shove and push each other’s boats off-course! In Robert’s heroic last ditch effort, he threw half of his body over the boat, pushing our rival in the wrong direction, just enough to fall out of favor with the wind’s direction – and we hit the shores moments after – and won!

Sunset Drinks on the Necker Belle

It’s a pretty neat boat, as you can imagine. I was on the ‘crow’s feet’ with property mogul, Ash, going 100 ft up the stern. Scary! Did 2 different somersault dives into the ocean from off the boat, one of which had me gloriously land face first.

Massage session with Candice

I booked an early morning session with Necker’s resident massage therapist, Candice. We were on a high point in the island, overlooking a cliff. The sounds of birds and waves splashing joined us. She began with a conversation about how I was feeling, and recommended specific oils for me to approve. During the session we chatted about spiritual development, tantra, and I got to learn about her dreams to open a healing center to help women recover from emotional distress. I was inspired by her quest, and offered to make a few helpful introductions. But the big highlight for me, was about how all of the Necker staff were just really stellar people. Richard really hires only the best!

Interacting with Sir Richard Branson

He was really present, and accessible man. Imagine, my first breakfast on the island, noticing a new face, he came over to introduce himself to me. I was in conversation with someone else at the time, and had to look twice as he extended his hand out.

In our first beachside discussion, I probed him on Virgin’s involvement in Silicon Valley type tech innovation. He asked me and Vishen about Malaysia’s progress. On another occasion, I proposed ideas to help him bring his vision of ‘Capitalism 24902’ to life, drawing with coloured pens on paper (I always carry this with me). He looked at my visual interpretation of the idea, still and silent for a while, and told me he loved it! He then invited me to go an a walk with him, as we meandered down to the beachside in the dark, he chatted with me about my journey, my challenges, and gave me encouragement. At the end of the walk, he instructed his top staff to follow up on some of the ideas we discussed, and thanked me for coming to his island.

What I took home

My biggest learning had a lot to do with the relationship between happiness and wealth.

Everyone in the group had different wealth levels. Some gained plenty and lost plenty. Some were on their way up, some were way ahead. However, that didn’t stop each of them from being awesome people. Many of the most happiest ones, I realize were

  • Emotionally connected – One successful entrepreneur, when sharing his vision for his company with me, tear as he spoke. Another readily confided in his current challenges in his love life. This reminded me of Steve Jobs, as his autobiography often told tales about how he never hid his emotions from work, and wasn’t afraid to cry at work when especially passionate. The entrepreneurs here were so emotionally present and powerful.
  • Self-aware and authentic – No one bothered with ‘putting up fronts’, you could feel how each of them are coming from a place of self-acceptance and embrace.
  • Seeing the best in people and situations – They were so good at picking out the best qualities in others or in tough situations, and shining light on it. They were infectiously, constructively positive people.
  • Eager to give and share –  Everyone openly shared their plans and strategies with one another, unafraid of ‘competition’ or ‘stealing ideas’. They were here to give and share. Richard himself mentioned ‘Giving is as interesting as receiving, isn’t it?”
  • Living their life freely and in love (instead of in fear) – seeing Richard walking around in his flip flops without bodyguards, with strangers roaming in and about of his home… this was a free man, not living in fear, but in love of life itself.

I believe everyone has a natural tendency to embody and live the above qualities. I distinctly know I do as well, except that I sometimes forget. It’s like a foundational kind of happiness to fully accept yourself, be yourself, share, see the best in any tough situation, and live freely, doing what you love. This is what success looked like on that island, and from this trip, I can imagine how, practice of the above qualities, coupled with good ideas and relentless execution, can be a great wealth magnet as well.

Next

I left my yacht on a speedboat at 5AM to catch my flight. The stars and faraway lights were made brighter by the pitch black seas as I sped away from Necker Island.

As I write this, I am in a Malaysian Airlines flight, 7 hours away from home. I’m excited to see my team. I was informed that they broke an ‘impossible’ sales target while I was away. Things are looking up – and I know there is more ahead. I was given priceless insight and inspiration, which I can’t wait to put into action, to grow my team, and our company as a vehicle to serve the world in bigger, new ways. After all, we all have our own adventure ahead to create.

//

PS: Special thanks to Joe Polish, Yanik Silver, Kim, Eunice for putting this together!

The Modern Workplace = Spiritual Practice

OK. So, I was on SAYS.com checking out News Remixes when I came across a YouTube video which resonated with me. I’ll embed it for ya in a sec, I’d like lend some context first.

I was in a paddy field in Bali recently, when I thought about the opportunity to use the modern workplace as a place to practice spiritual growth. I thought to myself, that if you spend 90% of your productive life working, you might as well use it as a sparring ground to challenge n grow your spiritual / personal path, too!

That way you don’t need to only rely on a yearly escape in a paddy field to indulge in spiritual pursuit 😛

Example of the insight in action: If you think compassion and kindness are ‘enlightened’ ideas, you can use it with your colleagues and clients etc.

So when I saw minute 28 on the YouTube video I mentioned, I realized that this kid is using basketball / NBA to practice his spirituality too.

Note: Though he may be using a Christian context, I can relate to how he’s approaching his work, and it’s pretty neat. See minute 28.

So, what values, principles and ideas do you live by? How fun would it be, if the modern workplace as a daily 9 to 5 opportunity to live your truth? I’m grateful to have multi-faith colleagues who are already great examples, and knowing that this works for NBA stars too.

11 Personal Highlights of 2011

Experiences, moments, or stuff I feel pretty good looking back on, arranged in chronological order.

1. January. A company I co-founded was acquired by Groupon

Pictured above is my team, building a group buying site (then creatively named Groupsmore) in between ramping up our social advertising business, and moving offices.

One day, we got an email from Groupon. From our customer support contact form.

Yes, you were told customer support was an important part of any business. It’s true.

Next thing you know, we were on our way with what we know now as Groupon Malaysia.

3 weeks to launch Groupsmore, 3 months to race ahead of the other more well-backed group-buying sites, 3 weeks to close the deal w Groupon in January. A great way to start the year.

And thanks to Joel and his team, they have since grown into something a little bit larger than anything we’ve ever imagined!

After transitioning everything, a few of the original pioneer team and I proceeded with our booming social advertising business, determined to push our limits with what we can achieve. We picked a new name, and a new space…

2. March. The new SAYS… and ‘The Secret Hideout’

We rebranded the social-advertising company to a punchier name: SAYS.com

I designed a new work space, for the new journey ahead.

I love designing workspaces. And I’m really proud of the outcome. It’s humble, but just right for the kind of culture have at the team. I look forward to going to my workspace every day, even on some weekends. It makes me feel alive.

A space can really change how you feel about work.

The entire backstory and email correspondence, layouts etc of how it was built is detailed on this blog.

3. June. I finally changed my hairstyle after, like, 5 years.

Ok those who have known me for a while may have accepted the unreasonably impractical lion’s mane on my head. I now maintain half of it. I have even learned what my ears look like.

4. June – July. The IVLP: A monthlong trip to DC, Seattle, Boston,Ohio, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley

I traveled alone for a month. With the help of the US State Government. I had been selected to be part of the IVLP (International Visitor Leadership Program). According to Wikipedia, former world leaders such as Tony Blair and Dr.Mahatir have been on this thing. And then they send Khailee Ng. I hope this is not a sign that Obama is screwing things up.

I’m not complaining, though, it was an all expenses paid affair, where they arranged about 3 meetings a day for me, all geared to help me connect with individuals in the US who would help me in my journey. The whole idea is that they would hope the individuals they send on the IVLP will be doing lots of friendly stuff with the US in the near future.

I met with all sorts of cool startup founders, investors, university deans, new friends, and then more. I also extended my stay in the Silicon Valley.

This is me soaking up the vibe at the BlackBox Mansion.

Overlooking San Francisco on a walk with an old friend.

Chewbacca demo-ing SAYS at the Venture Shift conference. Heck I didn’t need to demo to anyone, but I wanted Chewbacca to shake up the otherwise serious conference. And he sure did…

5. July – August. Got hooked on ‘Imperial’, the board game.

Thanks to my friend, Aslak, the boys at SAYS and I got so hooked on this game… We were playing it almost religiously every week at one point. It’s like Risk and Monopoly, without the dice and luck. Pure strategy. The game was fabled to have taken 20 years to develop and perfect. Read about it here.

Playing games like this really exercises the mind in a different way, and gives me another avenue to share good times with people I love.

6. August. I introduced Bootcamp into my life

At first, all I did was buy a Groupon on impulse to ‘try it’.

Next thing I know, I am waking up before dawn 3 times a week, and aching like hell for the rest of the week.

This Australian franchise  is a essentially a group crossfit class conducted at unholy hours in the morning, in the dirt and grass. I have been at it for close to half a year now, and if I had not gotten addicted to it, I would be far fatter, and less able to run away from predators.

7. September. Closing the financial year at 5X growth vs 2010

When we first invented the product behind SAYS , we believed it was ground breaking approach to engaging social media audiences.

And the market agreed. 370+ campaigns have been run with us by 70+ of the largest advertisers in the country. Many campaigns have won marketing effectiveness awards.

Working with my team towards the revenue growth was an adventure in and of itself. I am so grateful to have such a killer team to work with.

Most of all, with the money we saved up, we’re funding some very bold ventures and new ideas for 2012!

8. October. Geeks On a Plane – Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, HongKong

Either someone up there loves me, or Dave McLure does, as he invited me to one of his legendary trips:

Organized by 500 Startups, Geeks on a Plane (#GOAP) is an invite-only tour for startups, investors, and executives to learn about burgeoning technology markets worldwide. We travel by planes, trains, and automobiles to the most exciting international startup scenes with the sole mission of uniting geeks and exploring cross-border opportunities. The result: a lifelong bond with fellow travelers, a wealth of new friends and business contacts in exploding technology markets, and a stronger appreciation for the cultural and economic ties that bind us globally. ~ GeeksOnaPlane.com

These were the people I traveled with. We visited startup hubs, incubators, pitch nights, had private tours of some fo the world’s largest internet companies, wined, dines, partied, and had found time to stop by the Tokyo cat cafe.

More of my personal pictures of the trip, here.

Needless to say, it changed my life, and supercharged me even more to change the lives of others through technology and business.

9. October. Life Lessons from Delhi, India

I failed to become a yoga teacher and backpack through the slums levitating in meditation. Instead, I flew in for  meeting and left the same day. But what the person I met had said to me, and the advice he gave, came at a really good time in my life. It’s kinda personal, but it had a lot to do with the power of clarity, and bold conviction.

10. October. Dressing up as Cesar (Planet of the Apes) for Halloween

Halloween is my favorite day of the year. Every year I hand-make my costumes and try to outdo my previous costumes.

This year, this was my pride and joy:

I even had stuffed apples in my mouth to disfigure my face for this role.

The only thing that beats creating costumes is probably being in character all night. CESAR IS HOME.

11. November. Back at building new things with my team

This is a picture of me with my team, at a recent Hackweekend we sponsored.

I can be in any country, with anyone, learning and doing anything, but my mind will always be on working with my team on building something new, something better, something that can change everything.

2011 has since been a good step forward in this quest. And now, onto the next…

PS – Big shoutout to all of you who made my 2011 so epic. Let’s rock 2012!

This Independence Day, Let’s Celebrate Independent Thought

Today, as Malaysia celebrates its 54th year of independence, I have a secret wish for all Malaysians. Or rather, a not-so-secret wish, considering the friggin’ blog post title. Well, you guessed it.

My wish, this independence day… is for Malaysia to celebrate (and encourage) independent thought.

And I even have 3 ideas to encourage more independent thought.

But first, why independent thought?

  1. We can no longer rely on a ‘follow-me’ strategy in our careers or as a country. The world is changing too fast. Merely adapting will only leave us a step behind. It’s about time deviate from mediocrity. And it takes independent thought.
  2. Besides, the more Malaysians exercise independent thought in our lives, the more likely we can differentiate and innovate on our contribution in the job market, and potentially create more value and make more money.
  3. Collectively, a country who thinks independently as a whole can better answer the challenges of global competition with a differentiated value proposition. Basically, “How am I different”?

So, how do we inject more independent thought into our country and its people?

Gawd, I don’t know. Sounds like a big task. But I have 3 ideas to share.

#1. Turn the ‘kemahiran hidup’ class into ‘kelas hidup’.

Basically the existing curriculum of soldering and sewing? Um, let’s CHUCK IT for a moment. Instead, imagine every weekly session as SHOW AND TELL.

  • Each student must choose what they personally want to TEACH the rest of the class.
  • Teachers act as coaches to encourage students to explore and acquire new knowledge beyond the classroom.
  • The catch: No two students are allowed to ‘teach’ the same thing…

Now imagine students easing into it… watch them develop pride in their special knowledge, build confidence and identity, and gain experience in public speaking. And best of all, watch them struggle to and think differently from other students. Is that a happy meal or what.

Multiply that by a weekly class for the entire year, a few million students a year,  5 years of secondary education per generation, and we will have ourselves a few new thinkers 😉

What the rakyat can do:

Okay while we wait for the above dream to come true, parents can immediately start their kids on some weird shit. And no, I’m not talking about ballet, or that memory bead whacking thing. Although that’s all good. I’m talking about encouraging kids to go for one less tuition class, and one more exploration of their own unique interests…

The independent pursuit of a kid’s passion = Crazy growth hormones for independent thinking.

#2 – Develop ‘hacking’ as part of Malaysian identity

Disclaimer: I’m not referring to evil credit card scamming type of hacking, it’s like so already part of Malaysian life. I’m talking about summoning an army of very productive Malaysian geeks onto the world to solve the challenges ahead of us.

Hacking, by nature, is an exercise in thinking of a different way to approach a problem.

Imagine if IT’S IN OUR BLOOD.

If only, 80% of iPad apps were created by Malaysians developers. Or Malaysia having the highest concentration of web application developers in the world. I’m not saying it because this kinda thing is my life, but because software is a very immediate and reliable way to product growth and innovation. Look at the US, while their economy tanks, 90% of their job growth comes from tech.

Some might say ‘oh, biotech / clean energy is the future’ I am not an expert in that stuff, but I can tell you now that software will continue to EAT THE WORLD in the next 10 years and there will continue to be a GLOBAL SHORTAGE of software developers who can build USABLE APPS. Read “Why Software is EATING THE WORLD” on WSJ to understand why this is such a good opportunity. So much of modern innovation is brought about by better software. SO if Malaysians become #1 at this shit… we will code faster, better, and cheaper than the rest of the world, the world will pay for our super brain juice n then our geeks can reuse what they learn to in turn EAT THE WORLD.

What the rakyat can do:

It’s now easier than ever in history to teach yourself programming. Try Codecademy, for example. And for the rest of you who don’t want to code, think of something to hack, or an app to build, and find a geek to realize your ideas. Go to work tomorrow and think of HOW TO HACK YOUR WORKPLACE. Hack your job. Hack your finances. Hack your industry. Hack your life. EVERYTHING CAN BE HACKED. And when hack something your shake something up and create space for THE FUTURE.

And perhaps one day, the world will refer to Malaysia as the country where everyone hacks everything – a country who cannot be taken down.

#3 – Get more Malaysians plugged into the internet

Access to information can set our minds free. Free to question, ask, consider different perspectives, and SEE WHAT IS OUT THERE. While people in high places do what they can to get more broadband to more people…

What the rakyat can do:

Give your kids devices and access. Will they spend it all playing games? Sure. Porn? You bet. But ask em a question, they’ll Google it. Don’t know how to fix something, give them a second while the page loads. Whatever the challenges which come with freedom to access information, we’ll deal with it by being smarter than people who don’t have access to information 😉

[ Baby picture source ]

Final Plea

Once upon a time, a few Malayan crazies, fueled by independent thought, wondered what life would be, if broken free from the British rule…

And now, we’ve been ‘independent’ for 54 good years.

Yet, the country is filled with parents who want their children to fit in the mold. Filled with teachers who want students to fit in. And some who do not want citizens to think for themselves. They discourage independent thought, and wonder why the country is not ‘innovative’. NOT COOL.

Give them the 1malaysia finger. We don’t need them to hold us back.

The country can do much better without their stifling, fear-driven recommendations.

New solutions don’t come from conformity. They come from independent thought.

And this is what our country can celebrate more of, this independence day.

[ Is this Merdeka message worth sharing? Do retweet repost and share. ]

Songs I wrote a while ago

Death of the Excel Spreadsheet, 2005

Taken from an old MySpace blog post I made in 2006…

The Story Behind the Song:

Death of the Excel Spreadsheet was written around July 2005, when I was in Bethesda (near Washington D.C). It never had a title till I uploaded it on Myspace.

But the story behind it is pretty straightforward.

I used to live by my Excel Spreadsheets, where my schedule, budget, notes, decision making models, private journals etc were stored on. I woke up to a spreadsheet. I went through them before I slept.

Shortly after completing my studies at San Francisco State, I spent 3 weeks with my good friend Jeff at his place in Bethesda, Maryland.

I never looked at the spreadsheets. I woke up with no plan, and did nothing everyday, but eat, watch MTV2, play guitar, talk nonsense, and maybe go for walks in the neighbourhood, factory outlet shopping.

I didn’t set any goals, and didn’t care about being “organized” or “productive”… and it was quite liberating. I wrote this song on one of those lazy afternoons, while reflecting on what was going on at that point in my life, about the quiet satisfaction of having no plans, and just existing in each moment for what it’s worth…
Lyrics here.

Morning Divide, 2006

Pic of me back when I used to perform, once upon a time.

Of Prosperity Burgers and Morality

Update: Part of this post was featured here in The Malay Mail, thanks Sheila!

image If I knew my brief encounter with the Prosperity Burger at McDonalds would haunt me forever, I would’ve never made that order. But you know how it can be difficult to predict the future right? It’s much easier to blog about the past, and act like you knew it all along.

However, this story plays itself out quite differently.

Some men say that a woman can tear even the strongest man apart.

But with a prosperity burger?

Well, let’s start this story at almost midnight, on a recent Thursday. A very hungry Thursday. My gut suggested grabbing a prosperity burger from McDonalds (yeah I know, I usually avoid McDonalds, but I was in the mood for beef, and there wasn’t many beefy options at the time).

Little did I know what a horrible choice it would be.

Because it led me to “her”. Yes, her. She was standing right there, behind the McDonald’s counter in her clean white headscarf. Innocent. Her pleasant demeanor invited me to approach her, and initiate the conversation that would change everything.

The deadly order

“One double prosperity burger, just the burger, no fries or drink or any of the other stuff”

Damn her. She accepted my money like a pro. Smiling. Clearly, she has done this before, many times. I didn’t think too much of it, after all, I was in McDonalds paying for a burger. I don’t overthink such things.

Upon handing me my receipt, she said “Duduk dulu.”, smiling. Which means “Sit down, first” in Malay. She didn’t give me much of a choice. Firm but friendly. I obeyed.

Moments later, she passed me my Prosperity Burger, still smiling. But my thoughts were only on the burger. For someone on the brink of starvation, everything looked like food. Her headscarf contained beef patties. Her lips were made of ketchup.

And she fulfilled my desires.

Having an actual burger in my mouth, at the time, was like having my daydreams come to life. Oh it was so, so good.

But funnily enough, something felt wrong.

It didn’t taste right.

I looked at the burger. Seemed fine.

I went for my second bite.

Yummy. OK. MM. Yes. Ok. Hmm. OK. Halt.

Something tastes wrong.

Something IS wrong.

Very wrong.

I looked at the burger again.

I knew it.

The edge of reason

What I was holding in my hands completely DISGUSTED ME.

It was actually a SINGLE prosperity burger.

What sort of vilified heartless soul would cheat me of my magic gastronomoment?

Didn’t she know I paid for a DOUBLE prosperity burger?

I was outraged. RM16 for a double burger is silly. Starved senseless boys like me fall for it. But RM16 for a single?

I was back at a counter with a burger in my hand, demanding the additional beef patty I deserved. Deep down, I was hoping she would even let me finish this single AND give me a new double. Then I would have TRIPLE prosperity burger and be a very prosperous guy.

But no. She had other plans.

Smiling of course, she said nothing. Her body language instructed me to instead, give up my single burger. I was hesitant. If I gave her my burger, I would have no burger. What would she want to do with my half eaten burger anyway? I bet she could get plenty of burgers from where she is at.

But after some more of her smiling, and hand gestures, I gave in, and handed her my burger.

I could see her. Holding my burger. Walking behind the trays. She spoke to some dude who I assume is a manager of sorts. Good. She is using my half butchered burger as evidence to give me plenty more burgers. Burgers I deserved. Right? RIGHT? Huh, lady?

But no. Like I said, she had other plans. Involving torture.

The moments which followed happened in slow motion. She would look at me, smiling, then gently look downwards, letting my burger slip out of her hands… I would stretch my arm across the counter shouting “Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakkk….” (“Sister, in Malay. Polite way of referring to “devil woman”)

SLAM DUNK. She friggin threw a PERFECTLY GOOD burger into the bin.

A perfectly good burger HOLY MOTHER.

Sure, it was missing one beef patty. But surely it didn’t deserve the bin? Think about what could’ve been my free burger. Think about the starving African children without prosperity burgers. Wasted. Didn’t she hear me scream? What was she smiling about?

OK. No more Mr.Nice guy.

In perfectly broken Malay I demanded answers:

“Did you just throw the burger away?

Or did you put it in some drawer? Can you take it out? I can still eat it.

It was a good burger. Can you dust it a bit and bring it out for me? You didn’t throw it away, did you? C’mon. Did you throw it away?”

The only response was the same devious smile she so consistently maintained. Mocking me. Her lips no longer reminded me of ketchup. It made me think of blood.

“Duduk dulu”. She ordered me to sit down again, smiling.

Defeated, I went into the corner of McDonals and sulked. She eventually passed me a double prosperity burger (believe me, I checked). I didn’t even look at her, in fear of her safety. Hungry men can do nasty things. I wolfed the burger down and drove off, still grieving over the innocent burger sacrificed at the hands of that… that… heartless beast.

The drive home was a long one.

Between the traffic lights, I fought against my emotions. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. I obeyed, yet I didn’t want to. What’s the point? Why should I listen and obey the social constructs of our ‘civil’ society, when there may be dozens of innocent burgers out there DYING as a result?

Post trauma rationalization

Yes, I know you may be emotionally worked up upon reading this. It is kind of a big deal. That’s OK. I know how you feel. No need to over-react, my dear. Let’s slow down a bit and make sense of the situation.

Times like these are testing.

You question the deeper things.

What’s right and wrong? Was it right for the smiling lady to destroy my burger? Was it wrong for me to feel bad about the incident, despite me getting bonus burger bites at the end of it?

As far as my lawyer friends laughed, there are no statutory laws, landmark cases, or legal implications useful to the situation. Turning our backs against the law, we’re forced to fall back on something equally made-up: our moral compass.

To use this compass, we need to cut our heartstrings from the equation with the reliably sharp broadsword of logic, and invite a special guest onto this episode.

Meet my friend Norman. Normative ethics.

Normative ethics involves arriving at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. In a sense, it is a search for an ideal litmus test of ‘what is proper conduct’ (I stole of all this smart talk from this website, just so you know I am not nearly as smart, or as original as I can sound.)

According to normative ethics, there are 3 ways to (very simplistically) look at, and judge the prosperity burger incident – and who was right and wrong.

1) Virtue Theory

This is where virtues, like values or habits, like wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, generosity, self-respect, etc is called upon to just
ify what is right.

Verdict:

Since

  1. I cannot describe any good virtues to justify the smiling lady’s waste of my burger.
  2. My good virtue is ‘Valuing food and not wasting it’

Hence, by virtue theory, I am morally right.

However, some might argue that the lady was protecting me from having too many prosperity burgers (which are clearly bad for me). Perhaps the lady didn’t want me to smell like pepper and onions for a month, or add too many calories to my diet. We need to look at this objectively.

2) Duty Theories

This suggests that all of us have some sort of duty, or obligation. Such as the Golden Rule: “We should do to others what we would want others to do to us.” For example: I shouldn’t spit at babies and young children, if I don’t like being spitted at myself.

Verdict:

She should not throw away my perfectly good burger, in the same way she wouldn’t want me to meet her at home later and throw away her nasi lemak.

Hence, she is morally wrong.

3) Consequentialist Theories

“An action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable.” Or “the means justifies the ends”.The most popular form is Utilitarianism: Eg. “It is right if it results in the greater good to the most people”.

Verdict:

The disposal of a perfectly good burger benefited NO ONE. Ok?? NO ONE. However, giving the burger to me would have at least benefited me, right, and consequently my loyal support and positive emotions of gratitude will indirectly benefit her.

Hence giving me the perfectly good burger was morally right.

Conculsion

So there you have it.

A partially fictional (of course I’m not worked up about a friggin burger. Though it was a perfectly good one. A good, edible, burger. A prosperous beefy burger.) moral dilemma thoroughly detailed, debated, and demystified, without any tangible effect on what happened.

Looks like you can’t change the past with bitching rhetoric after all 😉

Though you can change how you feel about it. And perhaps how you would feel about the future incidents. Right?

You might even ask, how would I deal with a similar situation in the future?

Since you asked. I thought of ordering a DOUBLE prosperity burger, eat one of the patties, and bring it back to the lady and accuse her of giving me a SINGLE. Ha! Take that! But that wouldn’t be morally right, by any moral measure. Oh no. And it probably won’t get her stop smiling either.

Anyways. I’ve been working so hard lately, this blog post really is an absurd satire thingy to entertain myself. Not to be taken too seriously 😉

Hope 2008 has been a great year for you. Here’s to a prosperous new year!

Rapid learning and getting high: How it looks when you simplify Kolb’s Learning Styles

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Schools are sometimes criticized for too much theory, not enough application. The workplace sometimes gets you too busy to stop, reflect, and learn.

Then you read about people like Tim Ferriss, famous for his ‘intensive learning’ experiences where he breaks Tango records, wins kickboxing championships, and masters multiple languages.

And you meet people like Joel Neoh who wins National Rock Climbing Competitions, engineering competitions, the Malaysian equivalent of “The Apprentice”, and starts a million-ringgit startup… all before age 24!

So how does one become really good at something?

And how do you do it quickly?

Over the past 5 months since I left MindValley to build youth community platforms in this region, my learning and actions were forced to be more focused than it has ever been.

With this, something my friend Janne once shared with me, and Kolb’s learning styles come to mind. I have since re-interpreted what’s going on with my own diagram:

learning 

So how is this picture put to use?

Here’s an example of how I’ve witnessed some programmers get really awesome at what they do, viewed through the picture above:

The best programmers I know:

  • Read up on everything related to the language / problems they are trying to solve – all the time!
  • Experiment with solutions, and actively work with their project.
  • Twitter and blog about what they’ve learnt / solved.
  • Chat, share, comment, and discuss with other passionate programmers, or teach junior programmers.

And they can do all of the above, in multiple cycles, every day of the week. They fulfill all corners of the quadrant.

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Organizations do it too! MindValley, who are Gods at internet marketing, get good at it because its team

  • Sends it’s people out to learn from other internet marketing products and competitors
  • Has weekly sharing and discussion sessions on what they learn
  • Apply new techniques and tweaks to their existing businesses to see what works
  • Synthesize key learning in a discussion session, then on their blog

And they repeat this cycle every week! The energy, learning, and revenue growth was amazing.

The next time you aim to learn something, consider a holistic immersion as pictured above.

Is it as easy as it sounds?

If all I’m doing now is training to be a Jeet-Kun-Do world champion, I can go through a cycle of practicing, watching Bruce Lee videos, chatting with my sensei, beating him up, then blogging about it.

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But no, I’m not training to be a Jeet-Kun-Do world champion.

I’m focused on building a robust, profitable business which people love. This path involves a few moving pieces, requires even more focus, and perhaps the same sort of discipline of a Jeet-Kun-Do master.

It’s also true to say, that today’s careers may demand us to be pretty darn good at more than just one skill.

All the more reason we need to learn faster and smarter.

Here’s how a simplified view of Kolb’s Learning Styles do it for me.

  • I don’t go and learn/ read something unless I can put it to use (after all, there’s always more to learn from everywhere, but I don’t have that luxury right now)
  • Based on stuff I learn from others/ reading/ reflection, I put it to use, see what works, what doesn’t, make my own notes, develop new practices, and re-test on a situation
  • Joel and I have frequent discussions and ‘stop N think’ sessions to make sure our organization is on the right track
  • I have been sharing and learning with all members of my team, at least once a week

And believe me, going through all of it gets you HIGH.

gethigh 

I’m learning and doing a lot more than I used to, and the past 5 months seemed like a whole year.

On the other hand, I also have more to improve, and a long way to go. For example, I wish to blog more about all the stuff I learnt (today I’m taking a real break, and it feels good to whack out a blog post like this, you know, help me tie it up in my head, and to share with you too).

But there’s a whole lot more to execute on. I’ll let you know when all this hard work creates something to show for. Probably February. For now, all I have is this blog post ;p

How applicable is this picture to your life?

Once upon a time, I was all over the place.

I would be reading up on economics. Chatting about the music scene. Doing an internet marketing project. Then blogging about how to style thick hair.

I was doing many things, and sometimes I felt like my entire life was all over the place.

Was it “wrong”? Or “bad”? I loved it! I was very focused on EXPLORING as much as I could. Learning about everything, and testing out and trying everything.

If you’re still in that mode, and haven’t decided to have one singular focus yet, trying a lot of stuff out is a great idea. And the picture above can help you learn stuff faster.

Right now, I’m bent on focus – so I can truly accomplish something more.

If you feel the same, and you’re out to really pick up a new skill, or win a certain battle, then take a closer look at the redrawn and simplified Kolb’s Learning Styles. When you see the need for some focused, intensive learning, this is definitely one way of looking at it.

Read more about Kolb’s learning styles.

Blue picture by sonictk, Matrial arts photo by kaibara87