Monday, May 13, 2019

Depression

I have a friend from a well-to-do family background. She is highly educated and doing well in her career. She owns many properties even though she's still quite young. Although she is not an athlete, she is generally healthy. She has what I'd imagine what most other women can only dream of having.

Yet the irony of it all is that she's been suffering from depression for many, many years now. Although I did not discuss the matter with her in detail, I suspect she must have sought professional help to treat her condition. Well, whatever it is, it's obviously not working in terms of totally curing the problem. At best, the doctors have been able to control it.

I was once as poor as a church mouse many years ago—I had practically nothing to my name, no properties, no fat bank account, no university degree and no prospect of ever getting a scholarship or education loan to pursue my tertiary education. During the darkest moments of my life, I worked as a supervisor and was in charge of labourers collecting garbage from house to house. On many occasions, I myself had to be one of them, i.e. being a garbage collector. Quite often, I had to work for up to 14 hours a day. It was hell, and it seemed like there was very little prospect of improving my life beyond that. Those are circumstances which I would consider as good ones to be depressed about. It was very stressful, but I was never depressed.

I've long before that realised that everybody faces challenges in life, and I've learned to count my blessings. I focused mainly on what I had—which, unfortunately, wasn't much back then—and tried to build from that. Because after all, being rich or poor, being healthy or sick, being highly educated or not—all these are relative measurements. If I'm poor, I bet there are many poorer people out there struggling to make ends meet, and to feed their families. If I'm feeling not so healthy, I bet there are many people at the verge of dying of a terminal diseases out there. If I think I'm not so well-educated, I bet there are still people who're unable to read and write out there.

That is basically why I refused to dwell on the negatives. I'd rather focus my energy on whatever's out there that I can potentially acquire. For as long as I keep trying, there is something that I can hope for. If I failed, then that's too bad; I suppose I will keep trying again and again. It's OK, I don't mind trying. There is just no reason for me to be depressed. What I've learned in life is that if I keep trying, sooner or later I'm bound to be successful in at least some of those challenges.

It's OK to be disappointed in something, but don't be depressed about it. Count your blessings and remember that you are still better off than many, many other people. Be happy instead. After all it's much more fun pursuing the dreams of your life feeling happy rather than depressed.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Art of Keeping Secrets

My mother-in-law lived in my house for about 2 years before she died. She had trouble walking, and she would spend her days moving between her bed and my favourite seat in front of the TV, which very quickly became her throne when she moved in. She had an amazing stamina watching TV at least a few hours a day.

As you all probably already know, the shows on Astro would be repeated over and over again throughout the day, and quite often over a period of several weeks. I don't normally spend a lot of time watching TV though, and I would rarely find myself in front of the TV. But sometimes, I would be in the mood to watch old movies which I've missed watching in the cinema.

The only problem was that my mother-in-law had an incurable disease that made her unable to control herself from telling me what's going to happen next in the movie. Even though I told her countless of times not to tell, that could only make her stop for a few minutes. After that she would lose her control again. I'm not sure if it's just a habit or a kind of weakness of the mind. Sometimes, people are born with some sort of inclination, and it would stay with them for the rest of their lives. Such was the case with my mother-in-law as far as having no control of spoiling movies for others.

What I've noticed about people in general is that the vast majority of them can't control themselves from sharing the information that they have, though admittedly perhaps they're not as hopeless as my mother-in-law. Of course then again my mother-in-law was an extreme case, and perhaps not a suitable comparison. 

Especially if it is an important secret—an important information that is absolutely critical not to be shared with others—they would want to share that knowledge even more. The itch to tell, I'd imagine, is overwhelming. And even if they don't tell directly, they'd at least do it indirectly by dropping hints or speak like Jesus, in parables.

That's essentially why for the last several days, whenever I'm on facebook, I would shut my mind from the many, many posts about The Avengers: Endgame. I would simply ignore those posts and moved on to the rest of facebook. Except for a very few of those posts, the majority just couldn't control themselves from dropping hints about the storyline. For the most part, I did not entertain those posts until I have seen the movie myself recently. And only after I'd seen the movie had I revisited the posts on facebook. True enough, what I had known all along about most people is indeed true—they can't control themselves!

Keeping secrets is an art. In fact, it's a skill that very few possess. Most people would be itching to tell others, especially if they're told "not to tell"! It's a skill that some people will never acquire. Not everybody can do it. It takes a very strong, disciplined and patient person to master the art of keeping secrets.



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

ILL INTENTIONS

Some women are very clever—they are resourceful and creative. On numerous occasions they may be even better than men in solving very tough problems. Some of them would become leaders in politics, in big companies or any other organisations. Yet when taken as a whole, female leaders are still substantially far fewer than male leaders. Immediately we ask ourselves—Why?

At the risk of getting bombarded by so many of my women readers, I'm putting my head on the chopping board to share what I think is the main reason. Or if not the main reason, at least one of the most significant reasons.

I'm seeing it in the female members of my family, friends and acquaintances. These range from people having little or no education at all, up to people whom are very highly educated. The vast majority of them have one thing in common‐they have a curious tendency to focus their energy on what other people think of them; they are convinced that other people perpetually have ill intentions on them, especially other women.

In school or at the workplace, or in any place at all, there is always that stumbling block that would hamper the progress of women. Whenever other women do or say something, however petty or without any ill intention, the interpretations that will be drawn will first and foremost be a negative one. That other woman did so-and-so "because she is jealous of me"; or "because she wants to drag me through the mud"; or "because she wants the boss to disfavour me". Something like that.

In due course, leaders will have to make decisions; quite often important decisions which will have an impact on so many other people. And good decisions should be free from personal issues. As a leader I may give a job or responsibility to someone I dislike, if I'm convinced that he's the most suitable candidate for that job. Whatever and however I feel about that candidate on a personal basis is not to influence my decision.

I have a number of women in the office, and I'm seeing the so-called "stabbing" and "back-stabbing" happening almost on a daily basis. A total waste of energy. I'm just looking and amusing myself for the most part, and at times I catch myself shaking my head seeing all these nonsense going on. They are not destined to become leaders even if they are brilliant in their profession.

But some women—although I suspect not very many—are not like that at all. They decide and act without any influence of such petty matters; and quite often arrive at very good decisions too. They would go on to become good leaders. Alas, not so many of them...


Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Flying Car

I enjoy running the so-called long slow distance, otherwise simply referred to as the "LSD", with my friend, Dr Peter Ong, during the weekends. These are very mild workouts at conversational pace. We talk about a wide range of topics, and on a recent run, I was saying to Peter that we don't have very many inventors in Malaysia when compared to the western world. We are merely the consumers of products which have been invented by others. 

I said it is not in our nature to invent things because creativity is not usually developed in our culture and upbringing. Children have the natural curiosity about things they see around them—such as why is it that birds can fly, whereas humans can't—but instead of explaining the reasons, parents have the tendency to tell them to just accept it as a fact of life. I'm not sure if that's because the parents don't know the answers to the questions; or they're just lazy to explain?

At other times, when the children try to be creative by building something, they may even be ridiculed. That would absolutely kill their inclination to make something new. So in the end, it's always much easier to just use what's already available and forget about trying to invent something new.

I can still remember when JJ was still very young, and we were watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes, she was amazed by the apes in the movie. And then asked me an interesting question; she said did the movie maker train all those apes to act in the movie? Instead of ridiculing her question or telling her to just keep quiet and continue watching the movie, I went into a long explanation of how computers were used to digitally change the appearance of humans into apes.

I'm by nature a curious animal, and I''m always wondering about things. If I see something that I don't understand, I would try to learn more about that something. Of course I don't get all the answers all the time, but I keep trying. I sure as hell would encourage my daughter to be like her daddy. I'm convinced that the mere habit of asking questions and searching for explanations, can develop the intellect; and if the child is born with a latent talent for inventions, that, too, can be developed.

But that is not the attitude of the majority in Malaysia. No, far from it; the first reaction is almost always that of ridicule. Many years ago, other famous inventors were ridiculed too. The Wright brothers, for example, were ridiculed when they first propounded the idea of a flying machine. But their people have since outgrown that attitude. 

We in Malaysia are still stuck with the mentality of staying put in our comfort zone. Whenever one of us comes up with the idea of something different from the ordinary, the first reaction of the majority of Malaysians is to ridicule and poke fun at the inventor. We hardly ever encourage our people to be creative. Such is the case of the "point-to-point air transportation system", dubbed the "flying car" as reported here.

Well, this is not the first time I range myself on the side of the minority; I see the Malaysian "flying car" as a beginning. I'd imagine that if I were to have lived in the era of the Wright brothers, I would have viewed their first aeroplane models with the same enthusiasm too even if it had looked like total craps at the time. I mean, if not for that first aeroplane, how would we end up having jumbo jets in the skies today?

Some people are inventors, whereas some are just consumers. It might have something to do with natural talent, of course. Some people think out of the box, whereas some are just text book readers. In my mid fifties now, I don't have much more time, but I hope to see Malaysia inventing something important for humankind one of these days. I know the idea sounds ridiculous, especially since Malaysians have very negative attitude for inventors. But after all, I am a dreamer, and I don't mind being ridiculed too.


Monday, March 18, 2019

The Hobbiton Village

I have seen The Lord of the Rings some years ago, but I've never really been a big fan of the franchise. I know, of course, that it comes in several sequels, but to be honest, I can't remember why it had to be that long. The little that I can still remember was that it had something to do with fighting to acquire the ring, although I can't remember now what was so special about the ring.

I can also remember bits and pieces here and there. For example, I know Gandalf because he had a striking resemblance with a property valuer I once knew; and Gollum, also known as Smeagol, simply because, to me, he looked a lot like Datuk Yong Teck Lee.

There were many other characters in the story of which I know very little about, including the Hobbits. The Lord of the Rings branched out to focus mainly on the Hobbits, but I struggled to stay awake through its first sequel. Sadly, I fell asleep about 20 minutes into the movie, and never had the mental endurance to continue watching up to this day.

Nevertheless, a comment from a friend, Hana Sue Harun, some years ago made me look it up on the internet. You see, I showed Hana a photo of my scale to show my weight. But instead of focusing on the figure on the scale, she was looking at my feet, and then exclaimed that I had big feet like the Hobbits! As you can see, Hana's mind works in a weird way, but of course that is not surprising because she's an ex-St. Franciscan. I mean, most, if not all, St. Franciscans try very hard to be "different" somehow. It's almost expected of them! But that is a separate story to tell, and deserves a post of its own. So, anyway, that made me curious to know more about the Hobbits.

Fate would have it that my wife was keen to visit the Hobbiton Movie Set during our visit to New Zealand recently, and I had to force myself to tag along. Driving to the location in a rented car, I was equipped with the knowledge that the Hobbits had big feet, and hardly anything more than that. For the astronomical cost of about RM200 per pax, the guided tour was about 2-hour long. The tour included a short return bus ride to the actual site and a complimentary drink at a cafe known as the Green Dragon Inn.

Throughout the tour, the guide was throwing out questions to the group, and it was obvious that we had some big fans in the crowd as they knew practically everything about the Hobbits. The specific details on specific locations. The guide would say something like, "This was where Bilbo Baggins uttered the line 'I'm going on an adventure' as he was running down the path", and there was a chorus of acknowledgements and exclamations from the crowd. I pretended to know what she was talking about, of course, but later, she gave an interesting statistic. She said about 40% of the visitors to the set had neither seen the movie nor read the book. So I suppose I'm not too bad, I had at least seen 20 minutes' worth of the movie, and I knew that the Hobbits had big feet!

If you've never been to the Hobbition Movie Set, let me just say that you won't be seeing any Hobbit there. At the back of my mind, I thought it would have been a great idea to hire some tiny people—for example, Mohd Isa Abdul Samad comes to mind—to act as Hobbits, so that the village would feel more convincingly alive. As it were, it had an air of an abandoned village.

The dwellings in the village aren't really dwellings—they're merely doors and windows and tiny yards. There are no rooms or any kind of living space behind those doors. But there was one that had a bit of hollow space behind the door. This was intended for visitors to take photos.

I had, at the time of the tour, very sore legs as I had just raced the Ironman in Taupo two days earlier. So walking up and down the slopes was something of a challenge, albeit a mild one. But you can imagine what a big relief it was for me when we finally adjourned to the Green Dragon Inn where we could quench our thirst and make toilet visits. I'm happy to report that these were modern toilets with modern plumbings; there's no need to instruct Jack and Jill to fetch a pail of water from the well on top of the hill. Of course while resting and waiting for the bus, I had the opportunity to catch up on Candy Crush Soda Saga.

So that concluded the tour. It wasn't as boring as I had expected after all. But I doubt that I will be watching the Hobbit movies any time soon. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Chewable Sizes

A quiet family dinner with Mia and JJ this evening, and JJ was the first to finish everything on her plate. The moment she'd finished, she made the proud announcement, "I'm done!"

I looked at her and said that when she was a little girl, we had trouble "forcing" her to eat almost on a daily basis. It was very difficult to feed her as she had a very small appetite, and we were rather concerned that she was depriving her body of the much needed nutrients for growth and development.

JJ responded that she could still remember whenever she stopped eating after just a few spoonfuls, Mia would take her plate from her and then used the spoon to divide the food into small portions. Mia would then tell JJ to eat just this portion, and then that portion, eventually making her eat a lot more than what she'd thought she was able to eat.

I told JJ that that's essentially what life is all about, really. Every single one of us will have many, many challenges in life, some of which apparently impossible to conquer. But the good news is that it's very possible to conquer many of those challenges.

Additional math or physics, when seen as a whole, can be quite daunting. And losing weight may be something that's impossible to achieve for many people. Racing a marathon, ultra marathon and Ironman may seem like impossible feats for many people. Yet so many people have been successful in conquering those challenges.

I think the main reason for the failures in some people is because those attempting those challenges are taking them as a whole. Looking at additional math as a whole is almost like learning a new language. Trying to lose weight from 90kg to 70kg is just too hard to even imagine. Running 100km seems to require a year to accomplish.

However, those challenges would seem more doable if they're broken up into "chewable sizes". You see, people fail because they expect things to happen overnight. When they want to learn additional math, they'd expect to master the subject after reading the text book a few hours, and attempted some questions successfully. If they want to lose weight, they'd expect to lose something like 2kg to 3kg per week; and some would expect to loose even more than that. When they're racing the 100km foot race, they'd look at the whole 100km, and then come to the conclusion that it's just plain impossible to achieve!

I told JJ that when I learned additional math, I took small steps, one at a time. Never mind how many chapters, how many pages, how many formulas and calculations to learn. Just start with one chapter, learn it well, and then move to the next, and then the next. When there is something that you can't understand, get help from somebody. There's bound to be somebody who'd know the explanation. When wanting to lose 20kg, just focus on losing 1kg or 2kg at a time. Make many, many "pit stops" between the starting point and the final destination, i.e. 20kg. Be patient, and don't try to rush things. When wanting to run 100km, focus on the first 5km only. Finish that first 5km and then embark on the next 5km, and then repeat the process again and again until you cross the finish line.

Whenever I arrive at the start line of an Ironman race, I'd always be worried about having to swim a distance of 3.8km. And because I'm a lousy swimmer, I'd usually swim up to 4km because no matter how hard to try, I can never swim in a straight line. At one time, 4km seemed like an impossible distance for me to swim. But in each race, I'd just focus on the first 500 metres because that feels like a doable distance for me. Just slow and easy, step by step, one at a time; and in the end, 4km is not an impossible distance after all.

Looking at JJ right now, I seriously doubt that she will become as insane as her daddy—I don't think that she will ever attempt even running a marathon in her life. But there will be bound to be many, many challenges—not necessarily physical in nature—which she can conquer by breaking them up into chewable sizes.

So you see folks, valuable lessons and wisdom you can take away from the dining table; precious, life-changing lessons. In conjunction with this Chinese New Year celebration, spend those precious moments with your parents having dinner together. You'd be surprised what you can learn about life from the old folks.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Sharing is Caring

People who know me well would know that I very rarely forward chain mails or Whatsapp messages. Of course I sometimes share funny pictures or quotes through Whatsapp. But there have been many, many occasions when I received unverified or unconfirmed news, pleading me to forward or share with friends, with a special emphasis that if I cared about my friends and loved ones, I'd share the news with them. 

What I have noticed, perhaps 99% of the times, whenever a message tells you to forward or share with others, it is very likely that it is plain rubbish. Recently, I received a message through Whatsapp with an attached photo of what seemed to be a Pakistani man. The message tells the reader that he's a conman who'd go from house to house in the village and would cast spells on people, who'd then give him money. Many people had been tricked that way. The message tells the reader to immediately contact the police if he knocks on the door. The message then pleads to be forwarded to friends and loved ones to warn them.

There are surprisingly many, many gullible people out there. They fall for this sort of messages all the time. They get tricked over and over again, and they will never learn. I did not forward the above message, of course, but instead I asked the person who sent me the message if he had discovered its origin; the identity of the man in the photo; and if the message had been confirmed to be true. His reply—and this is the surprising part—is that he did not even attempt to discover the truth of the matter. He said he simply forwarded the message to everybody "just in case if it's true", because after all, "Sharing is caring".

He's not the first person who'd given me that justification for forwarding unconfirmed messages. Always, "just in case if it's true". Most people would say that they're sharing with others because they care. It's nothing personal.

To be very honest, I'm quite sick of that sentence: It's nothing personal. For what it really means is that it's not personal to them. But one of these days, someone out there will spread lies about them, perhaps spreading those lies in chain mails or Whatsapp messages, and I bet it would then become personal—to them. Always, we don't think that the truth is very important when somebody else is the subject of the allegation. The truth becomes important only when we are the victims of lies. We resent it when people tell lies about ourselves, but we'd readily forward or share messages which we have no clue if they're true or false. It seems harmless to spread lies for the sake of "just in case it's true"; but it only becomes harmful when we are the victims of lies.

Verifying and confirming the truth of what we receive from friends are not generally the habit of most people. It seems much simpler to just immediately share with friends because "sharing is caring". Whether or not we may contribute to cause pain on innocent people by helping to spread lies, that possibility seems not so important; and that is such an irony.

Well, I range myself on the side of the minority—I'm NOT sharing unverified messages because I care. I care about my friends and loved ones; I try my best to prevent them from helping other people to spread (possible) lies.