Monday, September 28, 2009

Know thy style

One of my personal highlights of 2009 was to be invited to speak in a Global Brain Summit in Vail. After the last couple of workshops/talks in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia, I was wondering if God would be stretching me further in this new role. Yet, I know that with every single presentation I present, the amount of pre-work invested was tremendous. Take for example this talk in Vail. As I recalled, the 5 days prior to arriving in Vail, I was up every single night working and re-working on my slides while giving up on a much needed sleep, not to mention overcoming the jetlag from the 24 hours of flight from Spore to Denver. That said, I knew that my hardwork did payoff afterall as the social red brain was gleaming with joy from the feedback of the participants. Yet, I was searching for something deeper, if God will is for me to bless others with the words I speak. I needed to find an alignment: Who am I really onstage and offstage? What do I have to offer- more than inspiring others with my passion and my ideas?

As I was seeking an answer, a friend offered some insights. In an email conversation, we talked about several issues and learning points. Here's an excerpt from my conversation with a dear friend, Edd Brown (thanks EDD!):

You are a great and enjoyable spirit. Your zest for life is infectious.

You have a great presentation style. Let me quickly say that what I liked is that you took who you are in regular life and put it right up on stage. You were not a different person on stage as many presenters are. You have a natural gift that draws people to you off stage- and you were able to carry it with you on stage.

Off stage, you project a joie de vivre while simultaneously projecting confidence, warmth, competence, passion, respectfulness for others, and a belief in what you are doing. You are able to convey that on stage as well. That is so rare!
(Brothers-in-arm: Joshua, Colin, Edd, Perry, and me)

As I continue to ponder on my style, regardless of the format, I always seek to teach creatively. And what is more important to me is to plan my delivery to not only keep the participants' attention but to design in such a way to cause learning and retention of content to take place.

"Don't just throw the seed - grind it, bake it, slice it, and put a little honey on it." - Charles H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A prayer of His Fatherly Protection

Before I left for US, I was very anxious and sad that I will be leaving my wife alone to care for the two kids, especially when my domestic helper was granted her well-deserved Hari Raya leave. Yes, I was the undeserving one actually, but the opportunity to speak in an international conference was too good to resist. Yet, as the days drew closer, I was wondering if I was really irresponsible to have accepted the invitation while leaving my dear wife to fight her own battle.

This prayer was from a fellow sister-in-Christ from MOE. It reminded me that our heavenly Father will be there, in whatever circumstances.

Father, I want to thank you for the Dads out there like John. His heart is for his wife and children. Purify him and deepen his love for them as you so often do for Dads when they are away. May he he be faithful to take the time on the plane, in his hotel room to be still before you and hear Your guidance for him.

Be Vanessa's strength. May there be many joyful moments of extra closeness as she takes over the usual tasks done by their helper. May she and her mum draw closer together as they care for the little ones. May this be a chance for Vanessa to increase in ideas and confidence in caring for the kids as is so often the case when there are stretches of 24/7 with them.

Please protect the little ones. Please, by the power of your Holy Spirit, teach John new ways to pray for them as he thinks about them from far away. Please keep them from illness and injury. Thank you for Joshua's spirit of helpfulness and his parents' wisdom in giving him this washing uniform task. May he and his mei mei grow in wisdom, in stature and in favour with You and with people.

In Jesus' Name,

To Lucy, thank you so much for speaking the prayer straight to my heart. It not only affirmed me then, it also encouraged me to continue to be a good husband and father, for the rest of my life!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Wise words from a poetic friend- Joe Moreira

The following emails from a new friend- Joe Moreira, managing editor of Ocean Geographic, are truly uplifting and amazingly pierced directly into some of my innermost thoughts and emotions. Reading them over and over again somehow mysteriously renewed some aspirations and ignited some of my deepest reflections.

3rd Sept. 09

Hi John!

How lovely to hear from you! Was a tad disappointed when I did not hear from you, for you certainly aren’t from the common ‘civil service’ mould; it’s not flattery bro, it’s the truth and you know it, for you struggle with this ‘mould’ whenever it makes its pass every now and then. Anyway, it was my desire, not your failure and indeed ‘late’ as it were, it is still infinitely better than never. Thank you John

Well you were a refreshing change; no airs, what you see is what you get, full of earnest enthusiasm and not caught in the brownie points syndrome. Well my good man, I’m no sage but perhaps as my dear late mom used to say, ‘like a dog you slog around the clock, but with little to show at the end of it all.’ (in malayalam of course)- and I would respond, ‘for it is not the end yet mom’!

Don’t worry unduly about remembering all the ‘magic’ that we convey with the greatest of sincerity to the world around us. If we do, then we will need to stop at the first ‘magic’. Life I suppose Is about living, not the fear of failing or forgetting. Nature is so kind and well programmed, that when we deviate or falter, she has a way of waking us up or pulling us back, without ever restraining our freedom! Such a wonderful working model given to human kind, but for want of power over another, we keep ignoring or rejecting this natural model of excellence for our own fallible ones of comparatives and competition.

Am in the middle of editing our next issue which must go to print by Saturday – and thus this reply so late in the day. Was working out my talkset for China Airlines which I will record later at 1030 hrs and chanced upon Lou Pearlman, the guy who became the boy band mogul after his success with the Backstreet Boys – responsible for so much ‘success’ and discovering talent that the world would have completely missed; and yet it all started in the evil heart and fraudulent mind of Lou Pearlman! History is littered with such anomalies, but nature judges not. It simply goes on, and evolves. However, humans do.

Being involved now in the ‘environment’ scene I am amused as I’m equally irked sometimes with all these ‘causes and campaigns’ that sprout like mushrooms everywhere. Veiled in goodness, but sourced in mindless fear. Yet to publicly decry this would be equally foolish, which I do declare from personal experience. Being ‘right’ need not necessarily be right. But pragmatism without morals is no better either; then the end will always justify the means however ruthless or cruel. This is not new to you John; I’m merely echoing what I sense in you. We will fail by our own rules; but nature never punishes us; it’s but a perception. She is there to always to redeem us if we will let her; guilt is an alert for the moment inviting us to lift from fear to love, not to live in eternal damnation.

You are good man John with a good head on strong shoulders with a big heart in the right place. Your children will teach you more than you would’ve learnt from scholars and paragons; another one of nature’s quirky gifts. I wish you great joy being the parent.

Cheers mate!


4th Sept 09

My dear John,

Despair not, your very kind words have redeemed you from my earlier disappointment! Ha x3.

Was rather bushed last night and decided to rest my tired and aging body; and awake this morning to a lovely email from you. Thank you John.

That we allow the greatness within each being, human or otherwise to manifest in our lives is perhaps the fundamental secret of the child that escapes the adult; and we were all children sometime in our lives. Fortunate then you are that this secret has not escaped you.

My congratulations on your new post at the NIE. Rick Warren's (Purpose Driven Church/Life) interpretation of Moses' calling to the burning bush, and God bestowing upon him the powers he needed for the given mission through what he held in his hands....the shepherd's staff, comes to mind. Often while we pursue and strive to reach the glittering stars above, sometimes we forget the beautiful flowers at our feet. Well at least that will not be your folly, for you know what you hold in your hands. My best wishes John!

I came with nothing into this world John, and will probably leave with nothing too; i own nothing. You are free to take and use anything as you wish John; that you have found purpose for my rambling thoughts, i'm honoured as i'm humbled. Enjoy the blogging. In his book, The Element, Ken Robinson's interesting observation of the 10000 hrs or more chalked up by the paragons in any given field, does bear some truth. An erstwhile pathway then to your writing endeavour.

Well my dear friend, before i ramble on again, it leaves me to wish you well and enjoy the gift of parenthood, which is no accident. Much awaits, and it starts with the little act of recognising the greatness in everything around us. The great day ahead awaits the great person who chooses to live it. Live it bro!


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Vanessa's 34th Birthday disaster

The cake above looks like it went through quite a bit of knocking and slamming. Thankfully for the plastic wrapper around it, the shape is still pretty much intact.
Vanessa needed to visit her client in KL and attend the client's company function on her 34th Birthday. Joshua and I decided to follow her to KL, to celebrate her birthday. And to give her a surprise. In the end, it was more of a surprise to me than to her really.
While Van was busy meeting her client and preparing for the dinner, Joshua and I were enjoying ourselves in a movie marathon in the cinema beside the hotel. It was definitely much cheaper to watch movie in KL than in Singapore. We watched Harry Potter first followed by Transformers 2. In between we had Kenny Rogers for dinner and my, have the standard dropped so badly in KL that will be my last Kenny Rogers in Malaysia. (interestingly, my first ever Kenny Rogers was in KL more than 10 years ago and I will always remember the first taste of the fantastic corn muffins) After dinner, Joshua and I bought a cake and ordered to a bouquet of flowers for Van. Now, the disaster began when he fell asleep during the second movie and simply refused to wake up. Poor me had to carry him and pick up the cake and the flowers. Alas, luck was not on my side. The door that linked the hotel and the shopping centre was locked after 10pm. Man, I never felt more burdened then that evening where I had to carry both my son as well as the gifts. After walking round and round to find the next shortest route back to the hotel, I even pondered whether I should throw away some of the baggages, yes, even Josh. LOL....
Finally I found the exit and was so thankful for a moment when I saw a cab. However, that idiotic taxi driver simply refused to drive us back to the hotel as he claimed that it was only right behind. Man, who says CASH is KING??? Rubbish! Although deceptively close by, the two buildings are not exactly well connected and I had to make such a big detour. Finally, I was so exhausted I had to halt a car in the middle of the road to beg them to drive us round the corner.
Strangest thing of all was, Joshua throughout my agony refused to wake up and the moment we alighted at the hotel, he opened his eyes. I felt like strangling him in that instance.
Of course, the rest was history. And from the photos, you probably guessed that he was the 'shiokest' of us all.