Thursday, June 29, 2017

5 Lessons on Fatherhood

I had initially planned to write this upon the 1-year anniversary of Baby Michael's birth. But ever since I started the purposeful journey of knowledge sharing, I have decided it is much more beneficial to share as early as possible rather than later.

Baby Michael just became 9-months old. He is a wonderful boy, full of joy and laughter. And the part that I secretly enjoy the most: his unspoken character.

There is very little a 9-month old can do. Michael is not able to walk without assistance. He has barely learnt how to crawl. He has only mastered a couple of words: "Kai kai and 出去" (meaning, to go out for sightseeing), "Nen nen" (milk), "Mama", "Papa", and a few others. And yet, with some honest reflection, this little boy has certainly taught me a few things about life.

1. What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

As an amateur crawler, Michael requires supervision when he crawls as he has yet to experience the dangers the little objects around him can bring. Just the other day, he managed to "quietly" crawl off the edge of the bed, and earned his first bump on the forehead.

The pain and shock caused him to cry, but only for a few minutes. After that, he was back to his usual smiling and laughing nature, almost as if all was forgotten.

The lesson here is quite simply: Life is going to be full of bumps on the forehead. We will fall, inevitably. But with each fall, we become a little bit smarter, a little bit wiser. More importantly, we should focus on the joys that life can bring us. It is easy to dwell on the mistakes that we make. If he was a bit older, perhaps I may have even "blamed" him for behaving so recklessly. But because he quite simply did not understand the consequences of his actions, there was no need for finger-pointing. There is only room to look forward and to reflect on how we can make things better in the future.

2. Dare To Ask For Help

For most of my life, I have lived in a somewhat independent manner, refraining from seeking help for fear of troubling others, and often, for fear of appearing silly. Michael is not a very needy baby. He is almost as independent as I am, but he most certainly isn't afraid to ask (cry) for help when he needs it.

Babies have no imagined fear of troubling others and most certainly do not fear appearing silly. He isn't afraid to ask for a his milk. He isn't afraid to ask to go "kai kai". He isn't afraid to sound the alarm when his diapers need changing.

Michael is a constant reminder that in life, there will definitely be things that are outside of our control. As much as we would like to believe we are in control of our own circumstances, about 80% of the time, we are not in control. We can only control our response to each and every circumstance. We can pretend to be in control of the circumstances, but oftentimes, they are inevitable.

But when things spin out of control, remember that help is around the corner. Pretending to take on the world alone provides a temporary ego boost. But reality will harshly remind us that we need more support than we think. When someone else requests for help, it is very often that we are more than happy to assist. Sometimes it is out of generosity, and others, it is so that we make ourselves feel useful.

By this logic, seeking for assistance ALLOWS others to show their generosity and make themselves useful. This is not to appear self-serving. There is a big difference between feeling entitled to receive help vs. having the courage to seek help when needed. More often than not, we should be more daring when seeking help.

3. Remember To Appreciate

As a consequence of No.2, we must remember to show appreciation when help is given. Michael has yet to learn to verbally show appreciation, but when he is given what he needs, he does not hesitate to share his warm smile and cheeky laugh.

There is no doubt that the last 9 months has been an uphill journey. But it was made so much easier with the support of my family members as well as various fortunate circumstances. Below is a list of things that I am eternally grateful for:

i) Parents and in-laws

While I group our immediate family members together, my mother has played an integral role in supporting Michael's well-being. From the little things like cooking healthy meals to comforting Michael when he refuses to fall asleep. My father is ever-ready to bring Michael on educational expeditions to the park for his evening "stroll". I struggle to imagine how difficult life would have been if we did not have the support of our family members. I attribute the majority of Michael's rapid development in verbal skills to my parents.

ii) My wife

Imagine a good night's sleep. Now, imagine that good sleep being interrupted once every hour. That is what it feels like for the first 3 months for a new mother who is breastfeeding. My wife has persevered through the rough times of hourly wake-up calls of the baby, and we still experience the occasional wake up call as Michael is teething.

Moreover, she has now returned to work and we are continually challenged with interrupted sleep patterns. However, my wife has been solid as a rock and I have to admit that she has done more than her fair share in ensuring that Michael is well taken care of and growing very well!

iii) Pre-loved goods

Everyone knows that raising a baby is expensive. You have to get diapers, the baby cot, stroller, milk bottles, toys, and much much more. Fortunately for us, there is a very supportive community of mothers (and parents) on Facebook that are happy to let go of their pre-loved goodies at a discount from the original retail price. Most of the items that we bought for Michael were pre-loved. Some of the best items that we have were given to us for free! We are still using those items today. Michael really enjoys his walker that was donated by our very kind neighbor.

4. Rome Was Not Built In A Day

I remember the first day when we brought Michael home from Selayang hospital. Within 5 minutes of putting him into the car, he started crying and could not stop. He was crying for help due to the unfamiliar environment. He was a helpless little baby.

Fast-forward to today. Michael is now 9 months old. Usually,  after his nap, he will start crying due to either hunger or just seeking attention. Just the other day, after one of his naps, he woke up but he did not cry. He just kept repeating "抱抱" (Bao bao), which means to carry him.

I also bore witness to his journey of learning how to crawl. He started with supporting himself with his legs, but his arms were not strong enough. Eventually, he could balance himself on all fours, albeit a little wobbly. Then he learnt how to rotate to look around. Subsequently, he started to move, but could only move in reverse. Finally, he actually started moving towards the front. This entire process took almost 2 months.

Something as simple as crawling that we so easily take for granted took us 2 months to learn when we were infants. With that perspective, how long are we prepared to invest to learn the more complex skills in life to succeed? How long are we prepared to invest to learn financial management? How long are we prepared to invest to learn public speaking? Surely, those high-level skills would take more than 2 months.

5. Focus On What Is Important Not Urgent

Going after a crawling infant who is unaware of the dangers surrounding him can lead to a pretty stressful routine. Always chasing after him, panicking unnecessarily. It is also much harder to be punctual for our appointments with friends, families, etc. This is because we are at the mercy of Michael's nap times and we also now have to pack for an extra person before we go out.

Those of you who know me, know that I strive to be punctual for all my meetings/appointments. Having to rely on the readiness of an infant to be on time can be stressful. However, one of the most important lessons that Michael has thought me was to focus on the important things.

For example, it is more important to ensure that we bring his snacks, toys, extra diapers than to be on time for our appointment. It is also more important to ensure that Michael has enough sleep before we go out. Otherwise, he will be very cranky and will end up being very disruptive during our outing.

I have been working on this post for a number of weeks and am finally coming to the end. I am truly appreciative of the opportunity of being a father and a husband. More specifically, I am truly thankful of being Michael's father. While he has certainly added joy to our lives, he has also taught me more than a few lessons. I am really looking forward towards what else he can teach me.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Lessons in Leadership - Part 2

12 Lessons in Leadership

In this part, I will share the quotes and thinking behind Coach Wooden's leadership qualities. I feel it is best learnt quotes as that provides a context for understanding. No point going through theoretical points.

Lesson 1: Good Values Attract Good People

John Wooden built his basketball program a certain way - athletically, ethically, morally - because he believed it would attract a certain type of person, the kind of individual he wanted on the team. He was right.

“Build it and they will come.”

Character—doing the right thing—is fundamental to successful leadership.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” He was referring to character—the habits of our daily behavior that reveal who and what we are. I wanted to create good habits in those under my leadership. Standards, values, and attitudes were important to me. I wanted them to matter to those I taught.

Select people who are seeking you and your organization. Perhaps they recognize shared values, standards, and attitudes.

Lesson 2: Use the most powerful four-letter word (LOVE)

Be more concerned with what you can do for others than what others can do for you. You’ll be surprised at the result.

The smallest good deed is better than the best intention.

Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The individuals on our UCLA teams became true members of my extended family.

“I will not like you all the same, but I will love you all the same. Furthermore, I will try very hard not to let my feelings interfere with my judgment of your performance. You receive the treatment you earn and deserve.”

And while I could have great love in my heart for those under my supervision, I would not tolerate behavior from anyone that was detrimental, or potentially detrimental, to the welfare of our group.

Lesson 3: Call Yourself a Teacher

Each member of your team has the potential for personal greatness; a leader’s job is to teach them how to do it.

In the eyes of many observers, John Wooden’s business card should say “Coach,” but this is not what he would choose. From the earliest years he has called himself a teacher.

Four Laws of Learning: Explanation, Demonstration, Imitation—correction when necessary—and Repetition.

An effective leader is very good at listening. It’s difficult to listen when you are talking.

All won’t follow; some need a push. Some you drive, others you lead. Recognizing the difference requires a knowledge of human nature. That’s where being a good student helps you in your leadership.

Lesson 4: Emotion is Your Enemy

There were four or five games in my career when we started out way behind like, 18–2—just getting killed. I’d look over at Coach Wooden, and there he’d sit on the bench with his program rolled up in his hand—totally unaffected, almost like we were ahead. And I’d think to myself, “Hey, if he’s not worried, why should I be worried?”

  - Fred Slaughter, UCLA 1962-1964.

Emotionalism—temperamental flareups and drop-offs—makes consistent high performance impossible.

If you let your emotions take over, you will be outplayed.

Ideally John Wooden wanted the team to improve during each practice and game—every day, each week—throughout the season until they were at their finest on the final day of the year.

Intensity makes you stronger. Emotionalism makes you weaker.

I came to understand that if my own behavior was filled with outbursts, peaks and valleys of emotion and moods, I was sanctioning it for others. As the leader, my own behavior set the bounds of acceptability.

Lesson 5: It Takes 10 Hands To Score a Basket

Be sure you acknowledge and give credit to a teammate who hits you with a scoring pass or for any fine play he may make.

In basketball, a field goal is scored only after several hands have touched the ball. In business, the “ball” is knowledge, experience, ideas, and information. Whether on the court or off, that “ball” must be shared quickly and efficiently to achieve success.

Have one team, not starters and substitutes. No one feels good being a “substitute.”

Each must feel valued, from the secretary to the salesperson to the senior manager. When they understand that they are contributing members of the team and that their role has value, good things will occur.

No matter how great your product, if one of your departments doesn’t produce, you won’t get the results you want. Everybody must do their job.

I told players that we, as a team, are like a powerful race car. Maybe a Bill Walton or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the big engine, but if one wheel is flat, we’re going no place. And if we have brand new tires but the lug nuts are missing, the wheels come off. What good is the powerful engine then, when the wheels come off? Every part, big or small, on that race car matters. Everything contributes to the running of the race. And, of course, a car needs a driver. I was the driver.

Acquire peace of mind by making the effort to become the best of which you are capable.

Lesson 6: Little Things Make Big Things Happen

There was logic to every move. Details of socks, shoelaces, and hair length led to details of running plays, handling the ball, and scoring points—hundreds of small things done exactly as Coach Wooden wanted them done.

Coach Wooden taught that great things can only be accomplished by doing the little things right. Doing things right became a habit with us. Habits stand up under pressure.

Big things are accomplished only through the perfection of minor details.

High performance is achieved only through the identification and perfection of the small but relevant details, little things done well.

Minor details, like pennies, add up. A good banker isn’t careless with pennies; a good leader isn’t careless with details.

Most observers saw only the trophy. Few comprehended the magnitude of perfected details preceding the trophy.

Talent must be nourished in an environment of high performance standards. Sloppiness breeds sloppiness. When it comes to details, teach good habits.