IIA Magazine Aug 2016 issue

Cybersecurity is an area where it is lacking among major companies. Companies need to step up to beef this area up. Productivity is a main concern for employees. Ethical pressure is greater during organizational change. The COSO framework is expected to be updated in 2017. It will be updated to include the latest risk management thinking and principles. IoT is going to have a big impact moving forward and there needs to be a comprehensive approach to go about doing it.

Analytics-Driven Audits. Before tackling data analytics, internal auditors need to understand the types of data, how it is stored, and how to apply it. Automated audits are the new trend now. It can be applied to many aspects of the audit too. Understand what are qualitative and quantitative data and their measurements. Understand how data is stored and the various formats. Any outliers should be thoroughly investigated. There are 4 types: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive. Learn to gain insight into the business.

The Mind of a Credit Card Hacker. Smart hackers usually lay low. They can steal credit card details and then sell them. Hackers use a vector to steal data, such as phishing. They also need to collect the data quickly and then cover their tracks. The hacker will verify that the cards are valid and start off with transactions of small amounts. If they go undetected, they may get bolder. IA can encourage the company to encrypt the credit card information and monitor access to networks. Access control needs to be checked too. IA is the third line of defence.

Make the Most of Assurance. Assurance maps can enable internal audit to team with other assurance providers to visually convey how risk is managed. IA can work with other assurance providers and depict the results in an assurance map. The map allows one to spot gaps in risk coverage or any overlaps. Assurance maps can enhance and give value to AC too. The map should not be too complex.

Tough Consequences. Adequate contract administration can save organizations a tremendous amount of grief and money. It is important to monitor vendor contracts properly. The contract administrator should be the liaison party and highlight any non-compliance. There needs to be adequate financial controls over the cash receipts and revenue cycles at the vendor’s end.

A World of Connections. The IoT requires IA to confront risks that are not so neatly contained. The impact of this is growing. IoT is about interacting with the environment for business benefit. Emerging risks from IoT must be monitored closely. There are many benefits from using IoT devices too. Management needs to be aware of the risks too. There needs to be a deployment strategy too. A policy needs to be drawn up.

Cyber Resilience. IA should work collaboratively and proactively to address breaches and build resistance to future attacks. Banks need to protect the SWIFT codes. A cyber breach might definitely occur in future. There is increasing use of software to pick up behavioural anomalies. There needs to be both a protective and detective strategy. A response plan is important. Customer data should be given top priority in a cyberattack response. IA needs to understand IT from a technical and controls perspective.

Auditing the Cloud. IA should delve into the complexities and unique risks of moving to a cloud platform. Many companies are making use of the cloud as compared to traditional data center infrastructure. Less manpower is needed to maintain a cloud as well. Servers can be added on demand too. IA needs to verify the security, reliability and availability of the data. No two clouds are the same but the common ones are infrastructure as a service, software as a service, platform as a service etc. It is good to obtain the SSAE 16 report on the vendor as evidence of its controls. It is difficult to track cloud deployment. Cloud assets can keep varying as well and it is difficult to monitor. The data is now stored on the same physical equipment as other organizations and there is a risk of leakage. A security program is still a must. Penetration testing needs to be done periodically to prevent hackers. Relying on the SSAE 16 report is useful, but not sufficient.

Trust but Verify. Control self-assessments can increase audit efficiency and spread control awareness throughout the organization. This is for process owners to self-evaluate the effectiveness of controls. This could be done via workshops/ questionaires etc. Sometimes, it is not possible to deploy a team to perform audits in every area. When CSAs are used, IA needs to explain the rationale to the management. The process owners must be identified clearly. IA needs to independently verify some of their responses. For example, only key controls or only those rated as ineffective may be selected for further testing. Continuous support is a must and training must be provided. The right level of project sponsorship is important too. It can be implemented gradually. CSA enables IA to allocate resources to focus on areas with significant control weaknesses.

Audit Never Sleeps. IA must keep innovating and improving and focus on the organizations that we love. We need to constantly do the right thing and hone our communication skills. Effective communication is the key and getting to know the auditees well is the key. Listening well is crucial too. Nowadays, IA should adopt an integrated mindset. We need to broaden our IT knowledge to meet stakeholder expectations. Applying soft skills are important too. Our work must be guarded by ethics and transparency. We need our approach our work with a strategic focus too. There is also a need to focus on our future.

Optimizing IA. IA are being continually challenged to improve their effectiveness to better meet growing expectations and workloads. IA staffing levels remain relatively constant. IA must be aware of strategy and ensure that procedures align with that strategy. IA should understand what the external risks are. As for operational efficiency, IA should offer cost effective and sustainable solutions. Quality assurance is important to ensure quality and compliance with regulations. IA should identify cost savings, understand business goals, increase collaboration, optimize technologies and strive for continuous monitoring.


Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 2)

Taking Back Joy. When I listened to a happy song from childhood and started dancing, I felt happy. Survivor guilt can rob you of your joy. After his passing, I tried to have fun with my children. We took things that reminded us of Dave and made it part of our lives. Allow yourself to be happy and be kind to yourself. Joy has to come your within yourself and no one else. How you spend each day matters more than only the big moments of joy. Do the small things that make you happy. Write down the moments of joy each day. Happiness does require work. Humans are wired to focus on the negative as compared to the positive. The cool breeze could be a positive moment for gratitude too. Happiness can equate to peacefulness too. Try to engage in something challenging and engrossing that can give you that flow state. Exercise can help you to achieve that flow state quickly. Joy can give us strength too. You can find joy in the small moments that you seize and create for yourself.

Raising Resilient Kids. One way is to respond to embarrassment with humour. It is wise to just announce the sad news to your kids directly. We owe it to our children to make them as happy as possible. Early intervention is critical. The school needs to protect a safe environment for kids. Disadvantaged families should be provided with home visits and counseling. Resilience is a lifelong project. Children must develop these few beliefs: they have some control over their lives; they can bounce back from failure; they matter as human beings; they have real strength. It is important to help them understand that they are in control of their lives. Pre-school has a huge role to play in this. Allow your kids to share their dreams with others. It is important to get an education. Kids should adopt a growth instead of fixed mindset. Sometimes, complimenting too soon doesn’t work. Rather, one should comment ‘I’m glad you tried your hardest’. Adults need to tell the kids that they matter. In Denmark, children are encouraged to share their problems in class. Help your kid identify his strengths by making him pick up skills. For instance, you could encourage the kid to pick up a musical instrument. Respect your feelings and try not to suppress them. Sleep matters even during times of adversity. Learning how to forgive is also extremely important. Do not afraid to ask for help and encourage your kids to do so. Sometimes, I still talk about Dave as it helps to keep Dave’s memory alive. If your kids can have a strong understanding of your family members and their parents, they have been coping skills. Nostalgia is usually good as it reflects a pleasant state most of the time. Make the most out of Option B. Keep photos and videos of your loved ones as these help to create happiness.

Finding Strength Together. Hope is the key to resilience. It is possible to bond over hope and create a shared identity. People can pray together. It is important to change tragedy into a miracle. Keep your faith at all times. There is unity in strength. Collective resilience is also dependent on shared experiences etc. Attending support groups can also help you deeply. It might be wise to join a community after a tragedy. Asking for help is actually not a sign of weakness. Shared narratives can play a big part. It is also useful to be lifted by positive ‘stereotypes’ right at the start. Support circles help to build collect resilience. It can certainly be difficult to forgive a gunman who killed so many people. As a community, we can gather together to tackle the tough problems in life. Empowering communities can be the key sometimes. As a community, we can learn to support vulnerable groups.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. – Martin Luther King Jr

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. – Martin Luther King Jr

Failing and Learning at Work. I took my kids to visit SpaceX. We need to learn from our failures. Often, we are too proud to admit that we made a mistake. The majority of things that people regretted was the actions they failed to take. Move fast and break things. At Facebook, we go for teambuilding and often fail at challenges. Failure must be seen as a learning opportunity. You could ask colleagues what their biggest screw-up is and everyone could compete to see who the biggest screw-up is. Resilience is needed in all organizations of all sizes. We need to all focus on learning from failure. Ask for feedback on how you can improve. Learn to gather and act on negative feedback. We all have our own blind spots but often ignore them. Feedback is hard to take. Sports teams often learn from their mistakes. Learn to take suggestions from a coach too. Try not to treat the feedback personally. People are afraid of criticizing others. Everyone should have at least 1 hard conversation in the past.

The more times a government or company had failed, the more likely they were to put a rocket into orbit successfully on the next try. Also, their chances of success increased after a rocket exploded compared to a smaller failure. – Sheryl Sandberg

When it’s safe to talk about mistakes, people are more likely to report errors and less likely to make them. Yet typical work cultures showcase successes and hide failures. – Sheryl Sandberg

To Love and Laugh Again. Being alone can be an empowering decision indeed. Getting married increases one’s happiness just by a bit. I wanted to find love again after Dave passed on. If you date too soon, people may judge you. Men are more likely to date after their spouse has passed on. The responsibility of caring for children and aged parents seems to fall on the women more. Widows in some parts of the world are cruelly treated. Do not listen to others. When your heart feels like you should date, you should go ahead. However, dating does not erase the grief and that is perfectly fine. When we fall in love, we have a great sense of energy and euphoria. Dating helps brings back the humour. Eventually, one will even learn to joke about death. Joking about Dave now helps to break the tension. Humor makes situations less stressful. It is still very much possible to love someone even after they have died. It is crucial to pay attention to the everyday interaction with our partners. You must turn towards their bid. One way to re-ignite the spark in a relationship is to try new activities. Partners have to be able to overcome conflict. You can’t control whether you fall in love. There is always Option B and we can still find joy.

Resilience in love means finding strength from within that you can share with others. Finding a way to make love last through the highs and lows. – Sheryl Sandberg


Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 1)

Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Introduction. I met Dave Goldberg in the summer of 1996. He was very comforting and lovely. It was love at first sight. He was assuring and very understanding. However, 11 years into our wedding, one day, he suffered from a heart attack while on a treadmill and passed on. I was in utter shock and disgust and didn’t believe that this was happening to me. My kids very truly upset too. I felt like I was in a void. At times, I felt like I could hear Dave calling out to me in my sleep. Ordinary events were painful to go through. I was worried my kids would never be the same again. The songs on the radio weren’t helping too. People encouraged to let grief run its course. Adam Grant gave me advice too. The fact is that many people who have lost parents turn out to be resilient. Time will heal the wounds, or so they said. I have no choice but to get over the shock. This book is about how to build resilience. Adversity is everywhere. I am fortunate for the support I have received throughout. It is possible to find greater meaning. Life is never perfect and sometimes we have live Option B.

Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity – and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone. – Sheryl Sandberg

This book is about the capacity of the human spirit to persevere. We look at the steps people can take, both to help themselves and to help others. We explore the psychology of recovery and the challenges of regaining confidence and rediscovering joy. – Sheryl Sandberg

Breathing Again. A friend I knew was too trusting and gave a co-worker a ride home. However, he raped her in the end. I offered this lady help. If you don’t believe in all 3, you will find it easier to cope. It is never all your fault and there are things which you might not be able to do better. Learn to stop saying ‘sorry’ after a while. Not everything was terrible after all. We had access to grief counsellors. Working also helps with the pervasiveness bit. However, if you return to work too soon, grief can interfere with the performance. Employers should provide flexible arrangements and financial assistance etc. Humans tend to overestimate how long negative events will impact us. I tried to banish the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ from my vocabulary. The pain temporarily eased up after a while. Humans are also wired for grief. Deep breathing helps me to calm down. The second derivative thoughts were not pleasant at all. I learnt from Buddhism that suffering is inevitable. Over time, my kids and I learnt to respect our feelings. Sometimes, it is necessary to take cry breaks. Focusing on worst case scenarios also had me feel better. We also pray before every meal and thank God for the food. Counting the blessings in your life can make you happier and feel satisfied. We are also financially stable and that is very important to us all. Once, I went for a mammogram and I was alarmed. Thankfully, it was a false positive. Even heartache doesn’t last forever. When life kicks you under, learn to breathe again.

3 P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization – the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. – Sheryl Sandberg

Part of every misery, is misery’s shadow… the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. – Sheryl Sandberg

Dealing with grief was like building physical stamina: the more you exercise, the faster your heart rate recovers after it is elevated. And sometimes during especially vigorous physical activity, you discover strength you didn’t know you had. – Sheryl Sandberg

Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room. I went for a college reunion with some of Daves’ friends. Sometimes, asking someone about their illness can comfort them and show that you care. I felt miserable when friends didn’t ask how I was doing after Dave’s passing. People avoid asking because they want to avoid difficult questions. However, the fact is that people who have endured terrible things want to talk about them. Some parents who have lost children also want others to speak about them from time to time. ‘Mum effect’ is when people avoid sharing bad news. By remaining silent in your suffering, you isolate others. It would be good to have friends who ask you difficult questions but do not judge on your answers. People who have been through adversity can connect better with others who are suffering too. Cultural pressure to conceal negative emotions is common. The fact is that most people do not know what to say, especially when it comes to personal matters. I thought that I carrying an elephant around. A month after my husband’s passing, I shared my thoughts openly on Facebook. After that post, I received a lot of love and compassion. Not everyone will be comfortable about talking about personal tragedy. Opening up can improve mental and physical health. Instead of ‘How are you?’; ask ‘How are you today?’. I acknowledged the elephant’s presence and after opening up, many colleagues did reveal that they did not dare to speak up because they were afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I had failed to ask him directly about his health not because I didn’t care, but because I was worried about upsetting him. – Sheryl Sandberg

When life gives you lemons, I won’t tell you a story about my cousin’s friends who died of lemons. – Postcard

When someone is struck ill with cancer, you can ask ‘I know you don’t know yet what will happen – and neither do I. But you won’t go through this alone. I will be there with you every step of the way.’ Or ‘I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you. – Sheryl Sandberg

The Platinum Rule of Friendship. Adam encountered a kid, named Owen. He had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and later took his own life. When you are feeling stressed, you need an outlet. For instance, you can call a counsellor at any time of the day. Sometimes when we feel like reaching out to help, we might suddenly hold back because we fear saying the wrong thing or offending the person. This is like choosing escape over empathy. The trick is just to show up, showing up can make a huge difference in a friend’s life. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you are not the one suffering. Instead of saying ‘I will do anything to help you’, you could say ‘let me get you a burger, let me know what you not take’. Specific acts are more useful for someone in need. Even holding someone’s hand can be a big help too. One can offer comfort to those closest to the tragedy and gain support for those further away from the tragedy. We all grieve differently. It is very rude to suggest that someone should be over their grieving period.

Growing up, I was taught to follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. But when someone is suffering, instead of following the Golden Rule, we need to follow the Platinum Rule: treat others as they want to be treated. Take a cue from the person in distress and respond with understanding – or better yet, action. – Sheryl Sandberg

Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence. Coming to grips with ourselves. Self-compassion is rarely talked about in our society. Everyone makes mistakes. These imperfections make us human. Self-compassion is the key to a faster recovery from trauma. Focus on the mistake and not the person’s character. Guilt and shame are completely 2 different feelings. Learn from your mistakes and own up to them. Writing down your thoughts in a journal might be useful and has much therapeutic effects. The more you acknowledge the negative emotions that you are feeling, the better you can tackle them. Talking into a voice recorder can have a similar effect to writing. Learn to understand that your worth is not tied to your actions. Self-confidence is the key. I am grateful to have a compassionate boss, Mark Zuckerberg. I start journaling and realized that it helped me tremendously. Even when you are really down, you can focus on 3 small wins and write them down daily. Just reminding that something had gone well that day can improve your day instantly. Learn to count your contributions too. Take one extra step even though you are afraid. Learn to treat those who are undergoing a tough time as regular team members and praise their work occasionally. The number of single mums are rising and a lot of them are having a tough time too. Over time, I journaled less. I want to move on and start living again. I am not alone.

Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as offering the same kindness to ourselves that we would give it to a friend. It allows us to respond to our own errors with concern and understanding rather than criticism and shame. – Sheryl Sandberg

This loss of confidence is another symptom of pervasiveness: we are struggling in one area and suddenly we stop believing in our capabilities in other areas. Primary loss triggers secondary losses. – Sheryl Sandberg

Bouncing Forward. The one I become will catch me. When you can’t change a situation, you will have to change yourself. Some people can experience post-traumatic growth. This means bouncing forward. It can take 5 forms: forming deep relationships; discovering meaning in life; gaining appreciation; finding personal strength and seeing possibilities. One can walk away with greater resolve. The little things do not bother you so much anymore. If you can find your why to live, you can find meaning to live. I appreciate my close ones more. If you visit poorer communities, you might start to appreciate life more. Gratitude is the key to happiness. Now, I celebrate birthdays every year. You do not need to wait for special occasions to show your gratitude. One could write thank you notes. Every day is precious and should be lived to the fullest. Going through difficult times together can cause one to forge stronger bonds together. It is also important to find meaning in suffering. One could do so via spirituality and religious beliefs. It is important to stay hopeful in your darkest hours too. Trauma can help to build resilience. Work can provide a source of meaning. You can energize yourself with meaningful work. A brush with death can lead to a new life. Some believe in co-destiny, where bereaved parents view their child’s life in a larger framework. Parents can do good, which becomes part of their child’s impact on the world.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends. – Old Saying


IIA Magazine April 2017 issue

Business Resiliency is about the organization’s ability to quickly adapt to risk events such as these while maintaining continuous operations and safeguarding its employees, assets, and brand equity.

Malware, Ransomware and man-in-the-middle attacks are common security issues for organizations

Some organizations lack a clear risk management program and that is a problem. Lack of resources, complexity and inability to get started are some of the reasons cited.

  1. Communication errors/ misinformation over company performance through channels other than financial reports; 2. Environment, health and safety is an area which is high risk, but not many IA covers this.

Cyber risks are also a main area where IA needs to be concerned about.

Learn to work smart and not harder. Employers should 1) acknowledge the problem; 2) appreciate the employee; 3) identify the root cause; 4) define the roadblock; 5) Devise a solution (training, resource allocation, process improvements); 6) Circle back. Guiding an employee well will result in an increase in productivity and morale.

The Data Museum. IA can compile organizational data in structured exhibits. Auditors need to use data warehousing principles to clean the data and structure it once that it is ready for analysis. Before storing data, consider the following: relevance, reliability; reusability; rarity. For instance, SQL can be used to extract, transform and load the data. Learn to run SQL statements. As for audit tools, auditors can use data visualization and advanced reporting techniques. Use a relational database and start small. Ensure that there are audit trails and logs.

The Many Facets of Risk. Risk is always multi-faceted. Look at the product and market research life cycle. It is important to do the strategy and competitive analysis like via SWOT, Porters’ 5 forces etc. Financial Management like NPV calculations aid in project-making decisions. Operations Management is about maintaining the optimum amount of inventory, like the EOQ method. Forecasting sales and demand is also a risk. Human resource risks and quality management risks are also possible. IA can act to cross-pollinate risks via mathematical or management methods.

Life of Luxury (Embezzlement). When too much power, accounting and budgeting etc, resides with the head, too much risks exists and there is potential fraud risk. There were too many over budgeted accounts in this case. Also, a person spending excessively or leading a lavish lifestyle will arouse suspicion. There are many lessons that the IA can learn: include riskier businesses in the IA plan; question how beneficial is the whistle-blowing hotline; an audit on payroll can detect payment to ficitious persons/ other people; review the acceptable use policy for all corporate-issued credit cards.

Resilience Through Crisis. Organizations all need to overcome crises and emerge stronger. The BP oil-spill PR was handled badly. IA can audit the crisis management plan. A crisis team should be cross-functional and with each goal clearly defined. IA should also be part of the team to ensure that the team is addressing the appropriate issues. The team should identify potential crises and IA can chip in. Next, a comprehensive crisis plan should be developed. Effective communication is the key and there must be a plan to inform stakeholders quickly. It is also important to have a spokesperson to handle the media etc. General templates can be used for media statements. Experts can be used as well. Crisis simulations should be conducted, like table-top exercises etc. IA should be the observer in all simulations. After the crisis, the crisis management team should evaluate the effectiveness and the performance of the plan.

Hit the Ground Running. The trend is to convert interns in IA into the permanent establishment as they already understand some of the company’s operations. One option is to transfer existing staff to IA. Interns who perform well stand to be converted. Interns are also less costly and can be used during peal-periods. There needs to be a significant investment in developing a good internship programme. There needs to be a plan all along. When you plan, it is important to prepare a job description, program budget, hiring plan and schedule. Provide guidelines for the interns to do work and make the audit project interesting for them. Teach them soft skills in the audit. Give them real assignments. Stretch them and ensure that they can contribute and make their internship meaningful.

Climbing the Scale. Turn to maturity models. Maturity models can rank from 1 to 5. They can be expanded into many business areas nowadays. Maturity models can be more meaningful than a simple pass/fail. Using this can convey a more positive collaborative tone too. Acknowledge what the client is doing already to improve processes and controls. A maturity model also focuses more on processes than people and seems more non-threatening. The models you can use are CMMI, C2M2, COBIT, P3M3, RMM, TMMi etc. Develop a dynamic risk assessment approach. IA should provide both assurance and insight. One can use the ISO standardized frameworks to compare the organization’s maturity level against. At times, the highest level of maturity might not be required as a lot of resources will be required. Maturity models can be very judgemental indeed. To succeed, IA needs to choose the correct model and be flexible when applying it. Build the best model and find a project champion if possible.

From the Same Playbook. IA needs to align its work with the organization’s strategy. There are debates as to whether IA should provide assurance around risks affecting company strategy. It depends on the CAE. However, not all top executives will want to discuss strategy with the CAE. There can be a disconnect as IA usually does not audit the latest transformations and developments in the company. Some IA prefer to audit compliance, which they are more familiar with. Two big risks are not having effective strategy or not executing them properly. CAE should think like CEOs and think through different perspectives and figure out how to maximize shareholder value. IA can perform gross profit margin analysis etc. There needs to be a balance between strategic-level audits and compliance based audits. Have discussions with management and the audit committee on strategy. It is for IA to look into strategy risks and the risks of entering any particular strategy.

Three Lines in Harmony. A Centralized testing model will enable the 3 lines of defence to rely on each others’ work. Front-line management is the first line of defense, risk/compliance functions are the second line of defense, internal audit is the third line of defense. It is important to co-ordinate so as to ensure all areas are covered and there are no duplications. Relying on others can also provide an increase in efficiency. Ensure that there are proper service agreements if there is a centralized testing unit. Automatic testing preferred and desired. There is a need to document the risk framework.

Signature Audits. Auditors should try to identify and respond to emerging risks. Most IA confirm concerns already identified by management. IA can do a mystery shopper role, or perform simulations to test controls. IA now need to be more innovative and curious. Signature Audits refer to thinking out of the box to design appropriate test procedures (example: penetration testing or social engineering). IA can identify best practices or try to circumvent processes rather than test them.


How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big Kind of the Story of My Life By Scott Adams (Part 2)

Managing your Attitude. You do better work and enjoy life when your attitude is good. If you do not let your environment affect you, it will be a superpower. Do not let environment factors affect you. Tired people tend to be grumpy. Learn to raise your energy and elevate your attitude. Increase your ratio of happy to disturbing thoughts. Learn to daydream of wonderful things. Imagination will keep you going. Avoid sad movies, books, people etc. Consume feel-good entertainment. Exercise, nutrition and sleep are good to cure bad moods. Work on projects that might change the world. It is very liberating as well. Your imagined success will keep you happy. You will fail sometime, but you will learn. Smiling will make you feel better even if it is fake. Fake it until you make it. Acting confident will also make you more confident. It is a chicken and egg problem. If you are feeling down, try to smile at strangers as this will perk you up after a while. Smiling makes you more attractive to others. If you are not comfortable with smiling, hang around those who are funny. Walk away from the soul suckers. Scott has been good at scrabble, pool, tennis and ping pong. Simply through insane hours of practice, he became good at them. These are minor successes in your life. If you know how many hours it will take to be good at something, you won’t bail out so easily. Winning feels great and it energizes him. Pick the delusion that works. Our brains cannot fully comprehend reality. Very often, reality depends on the observer and can be flawed. We do not fully understand the environment around us. It is important to pick your way of the world and stick to it. This is why people believe in superstition. If the illusion is motivating, it is good enough as it increases your energy in life. If you imagine your book will be read by millions, it serves as a form of motivation.

Your attitude affects everything you do in your quest for success and happiness. A positive attitude is an important tool. It’s important to get it right. – Scott Adams

Don’t worry if your idea is a long shot. That’s not what matters right now. Today you want to daydream of your idea being a huge success so you can enjoy the feeling. Let your ideas for the future fuel your energy today. No matter what you want to do in life, higher energy will help you get there. – Scott Adams

I’ve come to believe that success at anything has a spillover effect on other things. You can take advantage of that effect by becoming good at things that require nothing but practice. – Scott Adams

Once you become good at a few unimportant things, such as hobbies or sports, the habit of success stays with you on more important quests. When you have tasted success, you want more. – Scott Adams

I’m better than 99% of the world in each of those games because I put in more practice time than 99% of the world. – Scott Adams

A great strategy for success in life is to become good at something, anything, and let that feeling propel you to new and better victories. Success can be habit-forming –  Scott Adams

Free yourself from the shackles of an oppressive reality. What’s real to you is what you imagine and what you feel. If you manage your illusions wisely, you might get what you want, but you won’t necessarily understand why it worked. – Scott Adams

It’s Already Working. You want to hang out with people who want to succeed. If you turn professional, it can help unlock your talent. Fake it until it becomes real. When you are placed in a manager position, you start acting like one.

Your decision to read this book is confirmation that you are a person of action who has a desire to be more effective. I’m reinforcing that thought to help lock it in. – Scott Adams

My Pinkie Goes Nuts. His pinkie started having spasms after drawing too much. The doctor suggested that he quit his day job and comics. He had to overcome ‘focal dystonia’. However, he had hope that the situation will improve. He was determined to be the first one to beat the illness. He tried all kind of treatments to cure the illness. Nothing seemed to work and it was getting worse. By conditioning his brain through repetitive exercise, he gradually solved the problem. In 2004, the problem re-surfaced. Scott found a tablet and started drawing. He started drawing on a program called Wacom. Wacom is much easier to use than paper and pen.

My Speaking Career. Scott was invited to give a speech at an organization. He charged the organization $5000. He kept increasing the price, but there was still increasing demand. Learn to overprice your services and see what happened.

It’s a cliché that who you know is helpful for success. What is less obvious is that you don’t need to know CEOs and billionaires. Sometimes you just need a friend who knows different things than you do. And you can always find one of those. – Scott Adams

My Voice Problem Gets a Name. He lost his voice in 2005. 2 separate ideas on the Internet gave an idea on what his condition was. Was the pinkie problem related to the voice problem. He also had spasmodic dysphonia. However, there was no cure for it. You must always believe you can overcome your problems.

The Voice Solution That Didn’t Work. Scott took Botox injections for a few months but soon after it didn’t work.

Recognizing your talents and knowing when to quit. How do you combine your skills to form something great? Observe what you liked to do before you turned 10. Scott loved to doodle in class. Some people are wired for certain preferences in life. To be an expert, one needs to spend 10,000 hours of disciplined practice. Another clue to talent involves tolerance for risk. For instance, the author shared humorous comics to his teachers in school. It was worth the risk. Your risk profile might predict my future. Childhood obsessions and tolerance for risk. Bail out quickly if something doesn’t work. This might conflict with what you have learnt, which is to never give up and overcome obstacles. The author left his email address on his comics so that others could provide feedback on how improve the comics. If you have the X factor early on, it will be more likely to catch on. The X factor may be that the public views it negatively at first. It has to inspire excitement. Watch what customers do about your idea or product and not what they say about it. If your product excites no one, then it’s not worth.

There’s a strong connection between what interests you and what you’re good at. – Scott Adams

People are naturally drawn to the things they feel comfortable doing, and comfort is a marker for talent. – Scott Adams

But my unscientific observation is that people are born wired for certain preferences. Those preferences drive behavior, and that’s what can make a person willing to practice a skill. – Scott Adams

Where there is a tolerance for risk, there is often talent. – Scott Adams

The smartest system for discerning your best path to success involves trying lots of different things – sampling, if you will. – Scott Adams

Should you pursue a career that uses your knowledge of photography and software, or something that uses your public-speaking skills and your gift for writing? There‘s no way to be completely sure which path will be more fruitful. – Scott Adams

Overcoming obstacles is normally an unavoidable part of the process. But you also need to know when to quit. Persistence is useful, but there’s no point in being an idiot about it. – Scott Adams

The pattern I noticed was this: Things that will someday work out well start out well. Things that will never work start out bad and stay that way. – Scott Adams

Don’t be fooled by the opinions of friends and family. They’re all liars. – Scott Adams

Is Practice your thing? Scott was able to coach a kid at 3 on how to hit a tennis ball through repetition. There are kids who like to be alone and practice themselves. There are people who don’t get bored of practicing. Do not practice something that has no economic value (like spinning a book). Craft a life plan based on your natural inclinations. The thing should have economic value as well. You won’t be a concert pianist or an NBA player. You don’t do well in other more creative professions. For those, every class is different.

My observation is that some people are born with a natural impulse to practice things and some people find mindless repetition without immediate reward to be a form of torture. Whichever camp you’re in, it probably won’t change. – Scott Adams

If you don’t like to practice, don’t waste time on a strategy that requires it. You simply need to pick a life strategy that rewards novelty seeking more than mindless repetition. – Scott Adams

Practicing is not living. But when you build your skills through an ever-changing sequence of experiences, you’re alive. – Scott Adams

There’s no denying the importance of practice. The hard part is figuring out what to practice. – Scott Adams

Managing Your Odds for Success. Pick a good system until luck finds you. It helps if you read books about success. There is no formula for success. Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. You don’t need to reach world-class standards. For example, if you are good public speaker + you know powerpoint = good chance of managing your own firm. Good + Good > Excellent. The more skills you have, the better your chances at success. Simplicity trumps accuracy. Trick your brain into thinking that having more skills will be beneficial. Scott made use of the Internet very early. Read the topics that interests you only. Do not spend too much time reading bad news as it will affect your mood. Read to broaden your exposure. Read as a source of energy. Not everyone is rationale. Steve Jobs was not rational in his pricing but people still paid for it. A working knowledge of psychology always helps.

Your market value can be increased by being good (not extraordinary) at more than one skill. – Scott Adams

Successwise, you’re better off being good at two complementary skills than being excellent at one. – Scott Adams

The Success Formula: Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds of Success. – Scott Adams

If I told you that taking a class in Web site design during your evenings might double your odds of career success, the thought would increase the odds that you would act. – Scott Adams

When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality. – Scott Adams

When I combined my meager business skills with my bad art skills and my fairly ordinary writing talent, the mixture was powerful. – Scott Adams

None of my skills are world-class, but when my mediocre skills are combined, they become a powerful market force. – Scott Adams

Another huge advantage of learning as much as you can in different fields is that the more concepts you understand, the easier it is to learn new ones. – Scott Adams

The Knowledge Formula: The More you Know, the More you Can Know. – Scott Adams

A smarter approach is to think of learning as a system in which you continually expose yourself to new topics, primarily the ones you find interesting. – Scott Adams

But I do think a working knowledge of psychology is essential to your success – both personally and professionally. – Scott Adams

The Math of Success. You need to figure out the odds. Are you clear about the odds in your life? Scott kept losing to his friend in tennis. He kept losing to a friend despite his standard of tennis was improving. Scott couldn’t manage the killer shots. Learn to find the blind spots in your life. He learnt to avoid the low-percentage tennis shots. See the world as math and not magic. When you fail, there is usually some pattern that caused it. Learn to figure out what is that pattern. It is important to keep brushing up on your skillset. There is a list of skills which everyone should be good at. They are 1) Public speaking; 2) Psychology; 3) Business writing; 4) Accounting; 5) Design; 6) Conversation; 7) Overcoming shyness; 8) Second language; 9) Golf; 10) Proper grammar; 11) Persuasion; 12) Technology; 13) Proper voice technique. Public speaking à He went for the Dale Carnegie course. During the course, there would be no criticism or corrections. Only positive reinforcement was allowed. Scott volunteered to go first. Everytime you spoke, you received compliments. Learn to be positive. People don’t have an accurate view of our potential. Psychology à most businesses require some knowledge of psychology. It is embedded in everything we do. Salespeople like to manipulate others by using psychology. It pays off if you use psychology in your decision making. A compliment from someone can help you in a long way. The author wanted to turn Dilbert into a feature film. Scott’s second restaurant failed as well. People like to compare your new work with your old work. If it doesn’t match up, you will receive criticism. One shouldn’t compare Dilbert with the Simpsons. They are so different in every aspect. Without Simpsons, Dilbert might have reached a new level. Learn about psychology and cognitive traps. Learn to know what you are vulnerable against. Make psychology your lifelong study. There are over 30 biases that the human mind is susceptible to. Scott did learn about hypnotists. Reasons are one of the factors in which people use to make their decisions. Sometimes, no reasons are necessary and people are irrational. Business writing à Learn to write with clarity and persuasiveness. There was some technique to this. Business writing is all about getting to the chase and getting to the point. Use direct instead of the passive voice. Passive writing adds up and causes reader fatigue. Use clean writing to be persuasive. Accounting à it is the language of business. Learn to create a cash flow projection. Design à We are all expected to know some form of designing. Design is rule based. Everything should conform to a few basic templates. Use the L-shaped layout. Leave one quadrant less busy than the right. Learn a few design tricks if you can. Conversation à Most people are skilled at this. Conversations can occur for many reasons What’s your name? Where do you live? Do you have a family? What do you do for a living? Do you have any hobbies/sports? Do you have any travel plans? Humor is not a good way to meet someone new. Ask people personal questions. Learn to fake social confidence. Look for something in common. Ask questions and don’t complain too much. Let others talk and change topic when you get stuck. Make the other party feel good. Smile and keep your body language open. If you are attractive, you shouldn’t talk too much. Be a master of short stories. It is good to have a backlog of stories in your bag. Learn to tell a funny story. Prepare before sharing a good story. Keep it brief. Fill in the story with characters. Pick stories that readers can relate to. Have a twist in the tale. Avoid topics like food, TV show plots, dreams and medical stories. Overcoming shyness à Some people are more naturally shy than others. Imagine that you are acting instead of interacting. Act like someone else. Fake your way past your shyness. Find out who are the thing people and the people people. You can learn it too. Always think that you can overcome your shyness. Learn to exercise your ego. Suppressing shyness takes practice. The more you put yourself in embarrassing situations, the easier it will become. Second language à It can open up your job opportunities. It is a huge competitive advantage. Golf à It is a good way for men to bond. It is a fairly universal activity. Golf is like a vacation for the mind. It is extraordinary. Golf is a great competitive advantage too. Golf is a great topic as well. Proper Grammar à If your grammar sucks, people will notice. Persuasion à you will use this very often. Keep reading books on persuasion. Some words are more persuasive than others. Use the word ‘because’. ‘Would you mind?’ tends to be well received. ‘I’m not interested.’ Is very good to shut the other party up. There is no need to offer a reason. ‘I don’t do that.’ is a very good conversation ender. ‘I have a Rule’. ‘I just wanted to clarify’. ‘Is there anything you can do for me?’. This is just between you and me. Not everyone is completely decisive. People respond to your energy levels. It is contagious. The craziest person is usually in control. Crazy + Confident people work. Is Persuasion the same as manipulation? No, not really. Technology (Hobby Level) à One needs to understand how the Internet works. Master it at a hobby level. It helps to have different vocal strategies. Learn to speak with proper breath control, tone, and mouth strategies. A commanding voice is highly correlated with success. Your body language etc will show your management potential. Women loved his professional voice. Learn to use a low voice. Breathe from the bottom of your lungs. Your belly button should be the one that is expanding and contracting as you breathe. Pick a tone. Penetrate noisy areas by using a high pitched voice. Posture is important as well. Use silence to substitute the ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’.

You can’t directly control luck, but you can move from a game with low odds of success to a game with better odds. – Scott Adams

The most important is the transformative power of praise versus the corrosive impact of criticism. – Scott Adams

If you see something that impresses you, a decent respect to humanity insists you voice your praise. – Scott Adams

Don’t assume you know how much potential you have. Sometimes the only way to know what you can do is to test yourself. – Scott Adams

You’ve heard the old saying that knowledge is power. But knowledge of psychology is the purest form of that power. – Scott Adams

Accounting is part of the vocabulary of business, and if you don’t understand it on a concept level, the world will be a confusing place. – Scott Adams

You can pay others to do your accounting and cash-flow projections, but that only works if you can check their work in a meaningful way. – Scott Adams

The technique (talking to strangers) is laughably simple and 100% effective. All you do is introduce yourself and ask questions until you find a point of mutual interest. – Scott Adams

I would go so far as to say that 99% of the general public love talking about themselves. – Scott Adams

If you’re unattractive – and this is my area of expertise – your conversation skills (with a stranger) will be especially important. – Scott Adams

But as with swimming, we can learn to overcome shyness with a little practice. – Scott Adams

If you’re a woman looking to increase your buying power in the dating pool, golf is a great competitive advantage. And you might enjoy it too! – Scott Adams

Being a good persuader is like having a magic power. – Scott Adams

Life is messy and you’re going to be right only sometimes. You’ll do everyone in your life a favor by acting decisively, though, even if you have doubts on the inside. – Scott Adams

Pattern Recognition. Continually look for patterns in life. Measure your chances of success. Successful people. Learn to imitate the successful people. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are rather good. 1. Be Proactive; 2. Begin with the end in mind, 3. Put first things first, 4. Think win-win, 5. Seek first to understand then be understood, 6. Synergize, 7. Sharpen the saw by learning. The author came up with a list as well, here goes. 1. Lack of fear of embarrassment, 2. Education (the right kind), 3. Exercise. A lack of fear of embarrassment is what allows one to be proactive. Learn how to handle failure. You improve your psychological bravery. People with the right kind of education have almost no risk of unemployment. Good health is a baseline requirement for success. Sick people can’t get much done. Work brings extra energy and vitality. Learn to exercise 5 to 7 days a week. Success is a learnable skill.

I believe exercise makes people smarter, psychologically braver, more creative, more energetic, and more influential. – Scott Adams

Physical fitness and daily exercise are correlated with success in business and in life. – Scott Adams


The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

A lack of sleep affects my concentration levels. I tend to procrastinate way too often too. Humans like to find meaning in what they do. The author is a researcher by nature and likes to hunt patterns. We all struggle with shame and fear. We are afraid of portraying our true selves. One should consider embracing their imperfections. How can one create a wholehearted life? To live a wholehearted life, we need to love ourselves. Embrace your tenderness and vulnerability. Everyone needs their fair share of heart work. The author worked on changing her life. Often, big events will force us to shake up and wake up. However, most people tend to ignore these signs. After the transformation, the author felt much better than ever before. She was finally comfortable in her own skin. She tried not to be bothered by what others thought of her. This was literally a spiritual awakening moment in her life. Loving yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself. Compassion and connection are important. Learn to cultivate and to let go.

Introduction: Wholehearted Living. Have the courage to say ‘I am enough’. Tell yourself you are worthy of love and belonging. Love with your whole heart. Courage, compassion and connection are the gifts of imperfection. The next chapter will focus on love. How can we cultivate resilience? There are a total of 10 guideposts for this journey. Love can have different definitions, but it is important to find a definition that has meaning to the individual. It helps to slow down and let it all go sometimes. Sometimes, meditation might be useful in this. If you keep forcing yourself to be productive, it can be extremely tiring. Everyone needs their own DIG Deep strategies. One needs to know what is currently getting in their way. Shame and fear are very powerful indeed.

Courage, Compassion and Connection. The key word is practice. Shame doesn’t like it when we are courageous and like to share our story with others. Do not bury your story. You want someone who can empathize with your story and not just sympathize with you. You want to share it with someone who has the right to hear it. I recounted my story to my sister. You can relate to someone if you reveal your vulnerabilities to them. Courage is a very important quality to have. Just ordinary courage will do. This means speaking honestly about how we are and our experiences. It is very brave to say things like ‘I don’t know’ in class. Be honest when you are excited over something and there is no need to downplay the importance of it. Learn to say things like ‘you’re not alone’ to others. Courage can be addictive. Be relaxed towards what actually scares you. Humans have the natural tendency to self-protect. Someone else must be willing to be the darkness with you. Learn to be more boundary-conscious and compassionate. Learn to accept yourself for who you are. We like to finger-point but we don’t like to be accountable for our mistakes. Can we learn to be kinder to others? Do not vent your anger openly in front of your colleagues. Shaming and blaming is completely not effective. Let people know what the consequences of their actions should be. You need to separate the person from the behavior when reprimanding them. Boundaries and accountability is the key. Connection can be very powerful indeed. Connection begets connection. Humans have been wired for connection. Technology can seemingly ‘connect’ people. It is okay to seek help sometimes. Be willing to tell your story and feel the pain of others.

Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough. You must feel that you are worthy of love and belonging. You are worthy of love now and don’t need to change yourself in any way. When was the last time you had a serious conversation with anyone? Belonging is essential too. Fitting in and belonging are completely different. Fitting in means you need to change yourself and seek acceptance. Everything is uncertain in life. Everyone has the need for love and belonging. We are all wired to love. An absence of love might lead to suffering. Belonging is something that is larger than us. Self-love means respecting yourself and treating others with respect. Learn to accept your imperfections. We often spend the bulk of our life trying to gain approval from others. Learn to practice love and belonging. Your behavior is more important than what you say. Professing and practicing love can be very different indeed. Some people might attempt to love their children more than themselves. Sometimes, they might smoke excessively, resulting in ill health. What is holding you back from loving fully?

The Things that Get in the Way. I was terrified when I was asked to speak at a TED talk. My adviser encouraged me to speak from my heart instead of my head. I needed to keep things real and honest. I was a wreck as I had no clue what I was going to say. I was afraid I would ruin everything. I was a shame researcher. Back then, I was always self-conscious and was worried about what others would think about me. Sharing your anxieties with others will make you less nervous. If you own your story, you will feel empowered and find your own voice. Thankfully, the TED talk experience went well. Having a conversation about anxieties is the key. Almost all of us know how to eat, exercise and spend well. However, we do not talk about the things that get in our way. When we chase for approval, we often feel that we are not good enough. Shame is universal and we all have it. The less we talk about it, the more it controls us. Even though it is easier to quiet, you mustn’t be. We all have the ability to develop shame resilience. The key to share experiences with others. There is a difference between shame and guilt. Shame is basically communicating to others that ‘I am bad’. Guilt has a more positive effect than shame. Shame can sneak up on you if you are not aware. It takes massive courage to acknowledge that you are hurt. Most deal with shame by withdrawing from it and hiding it from others. It is important to recognize that you need time to build shame resilience. Cry if you must. If you have someone to share your stories with, you are incredibly blessed.

We don’t need love and belonging and story-catching from everyone in our lives, but we need it from at least one person. – Brene Brown

Cultivating Authenticity. Authenticity is a conscious choice after all. It made seem difficult to achieve from afar. It is about letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. It demands wholehearted living. Some perceive authenticity as selfish or narcissistic. There is a fine line between being honest and making others feel uncomfortable. There is a stigma about women to stay small, quiet and to play it safe. Men should work hard and stop feeling. Cruelty is cheap and it is very easy to criticize someone. It is important to dig deep. Always be deliberate in your actions. Get inspired by famous people who share their work and opinions.

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you really need to do, in order to have what you want. – Margaret Young

Sacrificing who we are for the sake of what other people think just isn’t worth it. – Brene Brown

Cultivating Self-Compassion. Perfectionism and shame are closely linked. If you don’t claim shame, it claims you. Perfectionism is about trying to earn approval from others. It is self-destructive in nature. There is no such thing as being perfect. It is important to develop self-compassion. The author often used to engage in perfectionism self-talk. There are three elements to self-compassion. They are self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. Mindfulness is basically not over-identifying with thoughts and feelings. Perfectionism can be infectious in nature and we can pass it on to others. The same applies with compassion.

Cultivating a Resilient Spirit. It is the ability to overcome adversity. How do people cope with stress and overcome them? They are usually resourceful and want to seek help. They have good social support available and they are connected with others. Practicing spirituality has its benefits. Religion can indeed provide strength. One must see the importance of hope and be critically aware. Hope is a cognitive process. It is important to believe in yourself. Often when people come upon something difficult, they give up or want to stop trying. One needs to develop some form of perseverance and determination. Powerlessness means that you do not feel that things will change. Learn to practice critical awareness. We are all influenced and exposed by the media. Is what I’m seeing real? Advertisements often give you an image of what who you should be. People tend to numb both positive and negative feelings. Often, this means engaging in vices to solve our problems. Do not spend your life outrunning vulnerability and uncertainty. Does drinking affect your authenticity? Are you using it to escape from reality? There is no such thing as selective emotional numbing. Spirituality is a component of resilience. Connection is at the heart of spirituality.

Cultivating Gratitude and Joy. Were all joyful people grateful people? Yes. They were described as spiritual practices. Gratitude requires constant practice. I have a yoga attitude. Keep gratitude journals and do meditations. Joy is more long lasting than happiness and has a lot to do with hope and faith. Happiness is often tied to circumstances while joy is tied to gratitude. We need both happiness and joy in our lives. ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin is certainly a good read. Joy can often come during ordinary moments. Learn to acknowledge how grateful you are. Transform vulnerability and transform it into gratitude. Do not always feel that you are lacking something in your life. Learn to choose a mindset of sufficiency. It is declaration to yourself that you know that there is enough. The most precious memories are forged from ordinary moments.

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. – Marianna Williamson

Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith. How can you cultivate intuition and trust faith? It is a natural impulse. Learn to follow your instincts. We often look for assurances from others. We often do not trust our own instinct because it is too uncertain. Faith and reason are not natural enemies. We need both to make meaning in this world. Faith is essential in this world. Learn to let go of certainty. Read the serenity prayer to give yourself strength.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. – Serenity Prayer

Cultivating Creativity. My childhood involved a lot of creativity. I loved to sew and to make handicrafts. After I was 10, I stopped creating. Things changed once we shifted. We often compare with other families and their traditions. We want to be better than everyone else. Comparison is really the thief of happiness. Most people focus on achieving instead of practicing their craft or focusing on creativity. There is no such thing as creative or non-creative people. If you repress your creativity, it might come back to haunt you. If you want to make a unique contribution to the world, you need to be creative about it. Practising your craft means you are cultivating meaning. You are beautiful and you have to believe that. It is natural to compare. Therefore, you have to be constantly aware that you not want to keep doing that. Creativity is not only for the luxury or those with spare time. Spend some time with like-minded individuals. Take a class and get going. Try something different and step outside your comfort zone.

Cultivating Play and Rest. Exhaustion is not a status symbol. Play is a component of wholehearted living. Play shapes our brain in unique ways. It helps us foster empathy and is at the heart of innovation. It is essential for good functioning. It is not always about productivity all the time. Play should not be seen as a waste of time. You can become depressed if you don’t play enough. Our body also needs rest and the importance of this cannot be underestimated. Lack of sleep is associated with many health problems. We need to recognize that we are stressed and need to rest. You have to cultivate sleep and play. More downtime is great once in a while. I choose to play and rest. Write down the ingredients for joy and meaning.

Yet, somehow many of us still believe that exhaustion is a status symbol of hard work and that sleep is a luxury. The result is that we are so very tired. – Brene Brown

Cultivating Calm and Stillness. Let go of your anxieties and lifestyle. There was a point when I felt dizzy and felt like fainting. Anxiety was a constant in my life. I need to be less anxious. Do not let it become your lifestyle. Calm is to manage emotional reactivity. These are the people who can bring perspective to complicated situations. Being calm can be practiced. The trick is to be slow to respond after you think. Think about things once more. Breathing is the best place to start. Stillness is less complicated than calm. My mind is rarely clear. Stillness is about creating a clearing and opening up emotionally. It requires constant practice. You need to get deliberate. Exercise more and drink less caffeine. Walking and swimming will do wonders for you. Learn to get inspired. You need to find something that works for you.

Cultivating Meaningful Work. Let go of self-doubt. Connections can be elusive in nature. Learn to engage in meaningful work. Everything is linked to meaningful work. Everyone has gifts and talents and should share them with the world. This helps to create a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. If you don’t use your gifts, we struggle. You will tend to feel empty and disappointed. Doing meaningful work requires commitment and sacrifice. What is meaningful is obviously subjective. It is personal and unique to the individual. Do not doubt yourself and your talents. You mustn’t ignore the gremlins. Instead, you must work harder. We struggle to define who we are in an honest way. We often get asked ‘what do you do?’ The trick is not to be defined by a single career. Introduce yourself as your career + your side hobby. Get inspired. There are three criteria to a good job. They are complexity of work, autonomy and a relationship between effort and work. Get going. Ask what brings meaning to you?

Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance. We can easily overlook the importance of laughter and songs. We all want to share our joy. They help to create an emotional connection. Music has the ability to stir up memories and emotions too. It offers connection as well. Dancing is also an important form of self-expression. Dancing has always been in our DNA. There is always a need to be in control and to be cool. There is no need to be self-conscious. There is no need to be seen as cool by others. Do not constantly betray yourself. Life is too precious to pretend that we are cool. Create themed playlists in your iPod.

Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth. – Mark Twain

Final Thoughts. Self-help books can only do that much. Should you let go of how you feel? Learn to cultivate the courage to live. The author never regretted the time used during the Spiritual Awakening. Every individual matters and so do their stories. Be afraid and learn to be alive.




Living the Singapore Story by the Singapore Times Press

This is the story of how Singapore became a modern metropolis even with no natural resources. This book features both ordinary and more well-known Singaporeans from all walks of life. The book is commissioned by NLB and produced by the Straits Times Press. The core focus of the book is on the people of Singapore. A never-give-up and courage is what enables our country to thrive. There are a total of 58 stories. All feature people exhibiting resilience and enduring hardship. Throughout the book, you will see people demonstrating passion in their work and each playing an important role in the building of society. Back during the kampong days, the spirit of ‘gotong royong’ was strong.

<1965 to 1974>

Paul Fernandez was an ex-teacher. He was happy to leave the kampong and move to one of the HDB flats. Back then, life in the kampong was unhygienic because of the nightsoil workers had to come. Later, I stayed in a flat in Queenstown. I have never shifted since.

Liu Thai Ker was Chief Executive of HDB from 1979 to 1989. Back in the early 70s, slums were present and it was filthy. By 1985, 80% of the population lived in flats. Design was the key and HDB spent time working out proportions of windows, facades etc. Eventually, HDB engaged private contractors to come in. To me, quality control was important. I often placed nation above self.

Noor Aishah Md Salim was the wife of the late Yusof Ishak. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew picked Yusof Ishak to be the head of State. I picked up English in the late 1960s. Yusof passed away in 1970 and it was difficult being a widow. Thankfully, I managed to cope after his passing.

Winston Choo was the Chief of Defence from 1974 to 1992. Israel agreed to help provide advise on how to set up an armed forces. In the early 1970s, we bought second-hand tanks from Israel. The people are crucial to the successful running of the Armed Forces. Now, we have our own technology. It was challenging to get the different forces to work together.

Siah Nah Nam trained the army recruits in 1967. It was difficult to control the gangsters back then. Soldiers must learn to be aggressive. My children are my proudest achievements. In total, I spent 26 years in the army. It was important to get the job done. It is crucial to never give up.

When we were doing drills and struggling to carry causalities on a stretch from Lim Chu Kang to SAFTI, four to a stretcher and rotating among sex men, the Israeli trainer scoffed at us. They said that in Israel, it would be just one man carrying a casualty, and in the desert. – Siah Nah Nam

Tan Suan Yong was an ex-engineer who helped pave development in Jurong to form the first industrial estate. There were some leftover bombs on the Jurong hills. Contractors had to cut these hills and flatten them. JTC had to prepare the land for big MNCs to come. In JTC, I learnt a lot about loyalty. We also had to drive some of the farmers who were occupying the hills out.

JY Pillay was the ex-SIA chairman. The SIA staff were experienced and very competent. SIA learned to fend on its own and not rely too much on government support. A lot of the regional airlines were government owned and not very competent. Back then, the advertising and branding was solid. SIA was also daring when it purchased big Boeing 747s in the 1970s. In modern times, SIA has to face stiff competition from budget carriers and Gulf carriers etc.

Ngalirdjo Mungin was a Satay man. I observed from others and gradually picked up the skill. Gradually, I sold Satay on the streets and outside stadiums. It was tough work as I also had a day job at that time. In the 1970s, I had to move off the streets and set up my own store. Later, I handed the stall down to my son, who will continue my legacy.

Teo Kim Swee was an ex-taxi driver. He has been driving for 47 years. Back in the late 1960s, I drove a private taxi and had to be constantly on the lookout for police. Later, I also worked as a hawker. It was common to have 6 passengers in my taxi. In 1971, I got my official taxi license and we moved to metered fares. 75 years is the official retirement age for taxi years. I only had 4 years of primary school education.

Rosie Ang was the first woman’s car salesman. I once sold a car to Benjamin Sheares, our ex-President. I was into cars since young and my dad was working in Borneo Motors. Most of my colleagues were males and they didn’t believe in me. Work was easy as I often had many referrals.

Abdul Rahman Mahbob was a veteran union leader. In 1966, essential services went on strike because of low pay. This prompted me to join the union. We fought to help men keep their jobs and to fight on. Now, times are a lot more peaceful and management and workers can work in tandem.

Kwan Chan Yong has been a domestic worker with the same family for the past 60 years. I was originally from China. After a few families, I finally joined the Yeoh family as a domestic helper. I get to travel with the family for quite a while. My duties include cooking and doing the marketing. My employers now consider me as part of their family!

Lee Khoon Choy was an ex-diplomat. I was an ex-minister. I was LKY’s political secretary from 1963 to 1965 and he sent me to Egypt on a diplomatic mission. I went there to ensure the safety of the embassy after we recognize Israel as a nation and we were afraid that the Arabs were going to cause trouble. Diplomacy always came to me naturally. I was also the ambassador to Indonesia from 1970 to 1974. Diplomatic relations between the two nations was not at an all-time high back then. Whatever I start, I know I must finish it well.

The late-PM Lee Kuan Yew admitted Singapore succeeded because people were determined to do well on their own. Many people believed we could not survive after being kicked out by Malaysia. We knew we didn’t want to be treated as second-class citizens. Confidence was the key to success. The right infrastructure was also important. The grit and determination of the people mattered a lot. It was necessary for us to be extraordinary in order to thrive. The core basics of our success are social cohesion, equal opportunities for all and meritocracy.

<1975 – 1984>

Elizabeth Lim Poh Suan was the highest ranking female bus driver. Back in the day, buses used manual transmission and had no air-conditioning. I started driving since 22. Now, mechanics help us maintain the buses. Long ago, ticket punchers were used. Less bus conductors are being used nowadays. There about 400 female drivers out of 5800. Most bus captains should be familiar with at least 5 routes each. As long as I am healthy, I want to continue working.

Alan Choe was Singapore’s first urban planner. I joined the HDB to plan to build flats. I was in charge of urban renewal. Lower tax was needed to incentivize the private sector to build things here.

Tan Gee Paw is PUB’s chairman since 2001. I was fascinated with the network of drains, canals and rivers. In 1974, the Public Works Department built the first recycling plant at Ulu Pandan. In 1977, I was tasked to clean up the Singapore and Kallang River. Sewers were built to every household. In 1998, the first NEWater plant was built. We could recycle wastewater successfully. Desalting water is currently very expensive.

Abd Rahman Khan Gulap Khan worked for 35 years in the police force and served in the CID. I was shot by the ‘Cop Killer’ in 1974. Some of my memorable incidents are the Greek tanker Spyros explosion in 1978. Another incident was the Hotel New World collapse in 1986.

Wong Yew Kwan served as the Commissioner of Parks from 1976 to 1983. LKY tasked him to help spruce up Singapore’s landscape. After we got his approval, MOF started giving us more funds. Despite urbanization, Mr Lee wanted to plant trees wherever and whenever we could. Mr Lee rarely praised people.

Gopinath Menon was the chief transportation engineer from 1991 to 2001. He was the man behind the introduction of ERP in Singapore. The Area Licensing Scheme went electronic and it was called ERP. The government collects $150 million per year from ERP but it was a necessary measure to cut down congestion in the town areas.

Geraldene Lowe-Ismail has trained tour guides for over 50 years. Back in the 1960s, taxi drivers could not speak proper English. I helped to create the Tourist Guide Training Guide and got tour guides licensed.

Goon Kok Loon was an electrical engineer who worked at PSA and kept the port going despite the strikes that took place. Containerization helped to improve port productivity. We decided to build a container terminal here. We beat HK in containerization. We formed alliances with overseas bodies.

Aziza Ali opened the first fine-dining Malay restaurant ‘Aziza’s’ from 1979 to 1998. By 25, I wanted to start a food business. I helped design the restaurant etc. I felt guilty when I sold wine in my restaurant, which was non-halal. After the recession, I decided to call it a day.

Samuel Lee, 32, was Asia’s first test tube baby. I was popular in the media back then. I was known by my friends as a ‘test-tube’ baby. Life has been ordinary since.

Liew Mun Leong is now the chairman of Changi Airport Group. He used to be the CEO of real estate company CapitaLand. In 1974, we started building Changi airport even as we were designing it. PSA had to reclaim land within 6 years. 66% of the land Changi Airport is sitting on is reclaimed land.

<1985 to 1994>

Lim Suet Kwee was the SG Girl and was a wax figure in the Tussaud’s wax museum. Since then, she has been the face of SIA in the 1980s and 1990s. The commercial ‘Around the World’ was memorable because I had to travel to 7 different locations for over 6 weeks.

Lim Pok Chin is the owner of Scanteak. It is ranked one of Asia’s best businesses. I started off as a painter. My dream was to be the Ikea of Singapore. I went broke twice running the furniture business. We have a 100 stores in Taiwan and about 11 stores in Japan.

Be humble. All that we have today was given to us by our employees, our customers and our suppliers. – Lim Pok Chin, on success

Dr Janwaljit Soin is a champion of national issues and is Singapore’s first female NMP. Back then, she was president at AWARE. It was important to have statistics to back you up in Parliament. I fought for fights for the people and for the government to extend more help to the elderly and the disadvantaged. We can do much more to help the elderly. People should be allowed to work as long as they want to.

Leslie Danker is the longest serving employee at Raffles Hotel. In 1972, I was hired and worked in the maintenance department. In 1989, the hotel was restored but a lot of my previous colleagues were not hired back under the new management. In 2004, I was made the hotel’s first resident historian.

Belinda Charles was hooked on teaching since 18. Teaching taught me to never lose my cool. I served as principal at SAJC. Many students thanked me for the discipline and strict requirements I expected of them. I tried to keep in touch with my students and it has been a very memorable experience.

Dick Lee is a musician and has writing many of the songs that Singaporeans grew to love, such as ‘Home’. I was involved in Michael Chiang’s Army Daze. Mad Chinaman was a hit in Japan. When I was young, I faced a lot of rejection. However, I kept at it and believed in myself. Make the most of what you have and go out and get it. I hope more local musicians step up.

Kenson Kwok started Asian Civilisations Museum and the Peranakan Museum. We had to reach out to international collectors. Back then, the museum scene was very quiet. It was difficult work to build up an artifact. The museum culture has been growing in the past 20 years.

Sister Thomasina Sewell is a nun and together with other nuns, they set up Mount Alvernia Hospital in 1961. She also helped set up the Assisi Hospice. Your presence is comforting to the patients. Now, the practice is to keep patients pain-free by giving them controlled doses of morphine. Our aim is to improve the quality of life for others. Seeing your patients go is tough, but I try my best to cope with it.

Lim Kim Seng is a bird specialist and can identify birds from afar. He joined the Nature Society. I can see as many as 100 species in a day. Now, he acts as a guide. I do not keep birds at home but I love to watch them fly in the wild. I try to learn to recognize bird calls.

Zaibun Siraj is the founding member of Aware. We registered ourselves as a society. The feminist movement was not big in the past.

Kopitiam Investment boss Lim Bee Huat has more than 80 outlets under his belt. In 1970, he worked part time as a coffee stall assistant. I had to do it as my family was poor. I tried to cut labour and I also place a lot of emphasis on selecting good stall locations. Everything is doable if you work hard and slog.

<1995 to 2004>

Shaiful Herman was one of the youngest SCDF officers to head a fire station. I loved CSI since young and I won an SCDF overseas Singapore government scholarship in 2002. It was not easy managing people who are older than you. I let everyone know that I was accessible and approachable. I managed to prevent a suicide attempt when I was working for the Alexandra Fire Station.

Dr Ho Nai Kiong is the head of paediatrics at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. I helped to set up a neonatal department. I had to try to save those premature babies. Now, the mortality rate for such cases are decreasing. Later, with more funding and technology, the infection rate reduced. Some of the premature babies grew up and did great things later on in life.

Peh Sing Woei is the CEO of Shing Lee Publishers and wants to expand his business. We export millions of mathematics textbooks globally. Our education system is very reputable. In Singapore, we teach mathematics using real-life items, pictures and formulas. Now, we rely on consultants and authors to write text-books. Education was a better way to life. I hope more and more countries can adopt the same way of teaching.

Benson Puah helmed the Esplanade Arts Centre. I was approached by the government to start this. I wanted the Esplanade to be a vessel to transform people. Many diverse types of programmes are showcased. Arts is important for our DNA. I was careful not to dilute our culture by copying what London, New York did.

Major Vincent Yeo was part of the advance team that flew in after the 2004 tsunami struck Indonesia. The scale of destruction was incredible. Many people were in a state of shock. The smell of death was overwhelming. You get a lot of exposure from attending to difficult situations. In the defence force, it is important not to take anything for granted.

Dr Tai Hwee Yee took over the management of ICUs in TTSH during the SARS outbreak. It was extremely fearful. It was extremely depressing when you see a colleague contracting SARS and then passing away. We put in preventive measure to reduce the rate of transmission. It was certainly a life altering experience and it was one which I could never forget.

Olivia Lum founded the water treatment company, Hyflux. Life was very difficult when I was young. My neighbourhood was poor. I was almost kicked out of Singapore because none of the schools wanted me as I grew up in Ipoh. Finally, Tiong Bahru Secondary accepted me. Later, I graduated from NUS and worked at Glaxo Pharmaceuticals. I sacrificed a lot to start the business. Now, Hyflux managed to win a lot of PUB’s projects.

Tommy Lim Chee Kiang is a crane operator at PSA. In a day, I can move about 200 containers. I am incentivized to work fast. It is important to communicate with the people on the ground and to ensure safety. The view from the crane is great and controlling the crane is like playing a computer game. I joined PSA 18 year ago. I am now a quay crane operator and also receive a special skills allowance. Although my mum passed away in 2009, I am sure she is proud of my achievements.

Angel Ng has been in and out of jail for drug related offences. However, with the Yellow Ribbon Project, she has turned her life around and now runs 3 call centres. I was rebellious and often engaged in self-destruction. After release from prison, I worked at the Connect Centre’s headquarters. I’m glad that many of the ex-convicts that we hire are doing well in life.

Wong Chen Liong supplies baking and dessert ingredients. He runs Phoon Huat. Dessert fads come and go. Now, more people are willing to spend on desserts. We import different ingredients from various countries. We have done well.

Kelvin Phua’s son, Glenn, is dubbed to be Singapore’s Stephen Wiltshire. His son is autistic but has incredible art talent. He uses pen down for his drawings. The drawings are very detailed and it usually takes him up to 20 hours to complete a piece. He draws from a photograph. He has managed to make money from the drawings and we see hope for him in the arts field in future.

<2005 to 2014>

Dipna Lim Prasad is a national athlete. I refused to give up even when I was too slow back then. In 2013, I broke the women’s 200m national record. Attempting hurdles was good because it would aid my rhythm and strides. I graduated from NTU with a degree in sports science and management. If you suck at something, spend time on it and you will eventually get better.

Carolyn Lim was struck by lightning and is now wheelchair bound. After being struck, I awoke from a 6 week coma. I was depressed because I had lost all motor skills and couldn’t speak. Since my illness, I obtained my masters from NIE and also launched a book. People are gradually more used to being around disabled people. Singaporeans need to be more understandable towards disabled people.

Koh Seng Choon is a social entrepreneur who founded Dignity Kitchen. It was a company to help train people to cook hawker foo. Kindness has no religion. I failed to obtain government grants. I asked professional cooks to help me teach the students. My whole dream is about giving back to society.

But don’t measure me by my profit – measure me by my social impact. – Koh Seng Choon

Kyra Poh is an expert at indoor skydiving. I have 4 Guinness world records attributed to my name. My dream is to continue competing and be better.

Ramesh Meyyappan was born deaf, but is now an internationally recognized theatre practitioner. My wife gave me the courage to pursue my dreams. Performing at NDP was one of the highlights for me.

Louis is an executive director of an animal rights group. Back then, I championed against animal abuse. I started the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society with 9 other Singaporeans. We have lobbied for harsh penalties for illegal wildlife traffickers. Taking care of animals is our moral responsibility.

Isa Kamari is the Deputy Director of commuter infrastructure at LTA. I published my first poem in 1979. It took 2 years for me to write ‘Satu Bumi’. In 2007, I won the Cultural Medallion. Satu Bumi has also been translated into English.

Leonard Tan is the CEO of PurpleClick, a search engine marketing firm. I learnt that that one must fail in order to succeed. It’s easy to start a business, but scaling it is difficult. We have nearly 40 employees now.

Too many young Singaporeans of my generation want a safety net before they are willing to take a risk, but I find that if an entrepreneur is not forced into a corner, the chances of him succeeding are low because he has nothing to lose. In Silicon Valley, it’s the opposite. – Leonard Tan

Juliana Chan’s research on nanoparticles allowed her to score scientific breakthroughs. Science is not for the faint-hearted and others might publish something similar to you before you can. I won awards with my research at MIT.

Adam Maniam is a Tamil-Eurasian-Malay-Pakistani lawyer and is married to a Chinese. We celebrated the various holidays in Singapore, like Deepavali and Chinese New Year. To me, religion should be a free choice. To me, doing good is more important and my wife and I have shared values. Our country is becoming more multiracial.

Jane Lee co-founded and let an expedition to scale Mount Everest in 2009. It was not an ordinary adventure. We trained for 5 years before climbing. I only made it to the summit because of supplementary oxygen. I am glad that I managed to inspire others to pursue mountain climbing as well.