Picking up again

I can’t believe I let myself stop following through my new habit of writing daily for more than 2 months, a habit which I have only developed at the beginning of the year and thoroughly enjoyed since. Well ok, 2 months is not that long if you think about it but the amount of ideas, thoughts that I may have forgone by letting them just swim in my mind based on my readings, learnings, personal and professional experiences, conversations with various people, could be enormous, as these are the reasons that have kept me busy with over the past 2 months.

I have just finished watching Bill Gates’ latest docu-series on Netflix which have provided me with a dose of inspirations. In the show, there’s one thing he said that triggered me to write again today and that is – you have to pick a pretty finite number of things for your brain to work on. I remember the daily writings helped me to dissect, compartmentalise the thoughts that ran through my mind and expand further the things that I wanted to focus more on.

A couple of days ago, I came across Seth Godin’s blog entry on streaks in conjunction to his 11th year of writing daily and it reminded me of how over the course of 7 months (from Jan to July), I have turned that daily writings into a streak, something which I thought impossible before. I really should continue with this habit again, before the momentum is totally lost and it will take a lot of effort to pick up again.

After all, this is not just for myself, but also to show my son, Aariz, that perseverance is rare nowadays, but highly essential to survive, in life.

Take charge

If there’s one key takeaway for me to document from today’s experience/conversation with people, it is to take charge, of your career, of your life.

I guess it goes back to my life/work motto where I believe that everyone has a choice, in everything they do. We shouldn’t wait for the opportunities to come to us, neither should we let others (be it people, system, culture, stigma) decide for us and ultimately define our success. If you want or believe in something, pursue it and remember to always trust your instincts (no matter how much you love facts 😁, note to self).

Take charge people, take charge.

Where else to travel?

I have always loved travelling. It’s the idea of exploring new places, seeing and learning new things that excites me. More so after I got married 4 years ago as my husband is an avid traveler too and the fact that he has had the opportunity to travel to many places since he was young. So both of us just love traveling together. We’ve been to about 10 different countries together and when we were in the US from June 2016 to June 2017, we managed to explore over 30 states. Whenever we look back, we always wanted to do it again – it’s the most treasured memories we had together as husband and wife so far.

Since we had our first son in late 2017, we have traveled less. It’s a deliberate choice too since our son is still very young so lots of factors to consider such as safety, weather, things/activities to do etc. But we aim to do it just the 3 of us at least once a year. Last year we went to Taiwan. This year we will probably do somewhere near, in fact local, we’ll see.

But personally, I would want to go to China and Hong Kong, perhaps not with my son as it’s probably not safe for him considering the crowd madness we have to go through, but more in a work capacity. I thus far only read about the crazy development in China and Hong Kong, read or watch the news, documentaries etc. But I feel that it doesn’t do justice. I need to go there and see the future for myself. The future of a global superpower. Then only I can make a comparison with the US since I’ve been there.

This video is just on Shenzhen (a Silicon Valley equivalent). But it looks very futuristic.  Can’t wait to go there.

 

 

Why I enjoy going to work

Until today, my husband never gets why I enjoy working. He thinks I want to work forever. He asked me this question before, albeit multiple times:

Given the choice, if you don’t need to work, would you just stay at home and do nothing?

My answer has always been no. Even though I am a mom now. If I’m not working, I will find something to start, a business be it goods or services in the field that I am passionate of – any intersection of data, technology, finance and education.

So here’s the thing. Sure, I enjoy the place where I am working at now – the vision and mission have always attracted me and I have a set of challenges to deal with. But more importantly, the act of waking up, dressing up, putting on my make up and then walk confidently to work gives me a whole lot of positive energy, hope and inspiration to do my very best, to contribute, to engage and feel good about myself. The feeling is indescribable. And that is why you have to choose the type of work over salary.

When intent is right, everything else will prevail.

Setting Expectations

You know how we stress ourselves on daily basis just by our own many little personal expectations? For example, (1) I want to get up by 7am to do some readings ahead of my meeting later, (2) I want to respond to that particular email before anybody else does, (3) I want to get the work done by 5pm so that I can leave on time, (4) I want to post about something I read yesterday, (5) I want to cook my husband’s favourite food today. I could go on, but you get the picture right? Then as you go through the day, the unexpected happens and ruins all your plans. And you get stressed about not meeting all your little personal expectations.

Then we ask ourselves, is it worth it? Is it worth the stress and anger when your own family, spouse and/or child (or children) are the ones that caused you not to meet your expectations? You are after all doing a favour for your loved ones which above anything else, matter most.

We are all wired to be ambitious, to achieve our goals and dreams because it makes us feel good about ourselves, we receive great pleasure from being successful where the successes are all defined by our own self. We are responsible for setting all those expectations. But the psychologist in the “Danish way of Parenting” book highlighted that human beings receive greater pleasure from making other people happy. True, but as human beings we tend to forget, we get so engrossed in our world and our little expectations that we forget what really matters most in our lives. And before you know it, the time is gone.

So let it go. Readjust your expectations according to what is realistic. If you couldn’t meet one or all of your many little expectations today because your loved ones need your attention and help, be happy about it. 10 years down the road when you look back, that’s all that matters. The only regret you will have is not because you couldn’t respond to that email first, but it’s the time lost helping the people that matter that we didn’t treasure today.

Happy Mother’s Day

My son, 18- months old, is still very young to show his appreciation to me. In fact he showed his tantrum over lunch whereby he refused to eat the food I cook. Picky eater this one! Hopefully next year will be worth celebrating Mother’s Day when he is able to say I love you, Mummy!

So I’m going to dedicate this post for my mom, to remind me about all the sacrifices she has made throughout her life, from the moment she held the title, Mummy, in 1982. She is the most selfless human being I’ve ever known. I guess it’s ingrained in her due to her upbringing, as an adopted child, where she had no choice but to put away all her needs and wants every time. I definitely saw that in her. The word “tired” is never in her dictionary.

The most apparent and critical time was when my late dad fell ill in 2012 – lost his eye sight in 2012 and he had to to be on dialysis every day from 9pm to about 8am. As the breadwinner, my mom still had to work during the day and then took care of my dad from evening till night. She even had to wake up early in the morning to prepare lunch and dinner. In early 2015, my mom had to stop working because my dad’s condition had worsened. She took care of him every day and night. My dad’s siblings felt indebted to her because they didn’t think someone would be able to take care of their brother as perfect as my mom. They didn’t even think they could do the same for their spouse.

There were many occasions when my dad had to be hospitalized a couple of nights, sometimes a week, and my mom actually slept on a plastic chair every night. My sisters and I tried to take turns but she refused to. So we helped her during the day instead. But whatever we did, could never commensurate with what and how she took care of my late dad, until the very end of his last breath in late 2015. And the most humbling part of her is that she never had any expectations or rewards from anyone, including her daughters.

I guess you can never separate the word ‘sacrifice’ from a mom’s title. For some people, it came naturally. For some people, they learn the hard way. For some people, they tried to find the balance between being selfless and selfish at the same time. But for my mom, it was never ever about her and that’s something that my sisters and I can never repay her. We hope that God will bless her with Jannah one day, insyaAllah.

Everyday, I pray for my mom’s health and happiness and I remind myself to be a better daughter. But as we all know, we can never be a perfect wife, perfect mom, perfect daughter, perfect daughter in law all at once, every day because life is not perfect as such. In the end, we carry the guilt as if we if we have not done enough. So this post is to remind myself  to take almost every opportunity that I have to be the perfect daughter whenever I’m with her.

Mothersday.jpeg

Happy Mother’s Day Mummy dearest! Love you very much.

Happy 1st Anniversary Malaysia Baharu

That was yesterday though, 9 May 2019. Proud to say that I was one of the 5.7m Malaysians who voted for the change last year. I was ecstatic, I was pleased, I got goose bumps when the results were announced last year.

Little did I know, it has direct implications to the organisation I’m working at.There was a change in leadership, change in mandate (not very different to be honest but clearer) and change in strategy. I was sad because the previous leader was indeed a true leader to me, one that is visionary and always think for the betterment of the organisation. He was able to gather and influence people to rise to achieve a goal that he truly believes in, a concerted effort that is, like in an orchestra.

But, I have faith in the new government and I have faith in the new leadership. Being a realistic optimist that I am, I marched on, helping the organisation to go through the changes in the realm that I am capable of because what I do, think or advocate is always in the interest of the organisation, not myself, not my department only. For someone who gets bored easily, I am always motivated to change, for the purpose of improvement and as part of progress. So change is good. But I have to say that transition is not easy, you have to learn how to adapt, you have to change the way you do and view things, just like in the first few months of marriage, the first few months after having a child and so on. At individual or couple’s level, it is less difficult, but at organisation level, it is difficult. You need the whole organisation to be aligned and move in a concerted manner. It takes time.

So just imagine the difficulty at a country’s level. It’s going to take time to see the positive impact. We have to have faith and patience. Rather than complaining, be part of the solution and think of how you can contribute. I get annoyed when people especially those who voted for the change feel unhappy with the progress made by the new government. Now that it is possible for a government to change, they think that they could do it again the next time in the next election. I hope we will all think rationally and not emotionally when we make decisions, I expect more from the educated ones. If it’s a corrupt government, then of course we should hope for a change. But if it’s not, why change course? At least not in the short period of time. While I believe that change is good, changing too frequently is detrimental to organisations. How many times do you want to change your strategy? How do you expect people to execute if you keep changing your strategy? Think about it.

As what our prime minister said yesterday,

Banyak yang telah kita lalui bersama di dalam negara yang kita panggil Malaysia. Ini negara kita. Kitalah yang akan menentukan nasib kita.

Bangunlah dan berjuanglah untuk mencapai matlamat negara tercinta ini.

Let’s strive together towards achieving Shared Prosperity 2030 shall we?

Happy 1st anniversary Malaysia Baharu!

 

Learning as a way to avoid expertise trap

I don’t know how many times I’ve stressed the importance of learning continuously in my blog. You can type “knowledge” or “learning” or “education” in the search box or read this post – Self-learning Mindset. However, I’ve kept it opened for everyone, be it students, teachers, bosses, workers, parents, rich and poor, young and old etc and even for myself as a reminder. Learning is a must for everybody and it is a lifelong pursuit.

Today, I want to reiterate the importance of learning to people who are already in the workforce. In the recent HBR issue, there’s an article that emphasized the need to “rededicate ourselves to learning and growth” to avoid falling into the expertise trap. I would highly recommend you to read the full article here. When you think you are an expert in an area and you don’t keep an open-mind to other people’s ideas and views, the risk of you overlooking the blind spots is high, which can then lead to poor execution and subpar results, as highlighted in the article.

Here’s an excerpt from the article that describes vividly the impact of falling into the expertise trap:

When we begin to identify as experts, our outlook can narrow, both in daily work and in times of crisis. We become reluctant to admit mistakes and failings, thus hindering our development. We distance ourselves from those “beneath” us, making it harder to earn their affection and trust. And as the dynamics of our businesses change, we risk being bypassed or replaced by colleagues on the rise, outsiders adept at learning new things, or artificial intelligence algorithms that can perform rote tasks faster and better than we can. Over time the very expertise that led to our success can leave us feeling unhappy, unsatisfied, and stuck.

Hope this will encourage you to learn more to stay current in the area of your expertise or even learn new skills. It’s not easy to carve out time for this especially when you are drowned with day-to-day work, meetings, emails, presentations, and by the time you are done for the day you are just mentally tired.

But there is no shortcut to this. I personally find that the only way is to force yourself everyday and intermittently if you have to. If you wait for the right time to do it, wait until you apply for a leave to spend the time learning, something else props up and you will forever lose the time and stuck in the expertise trap.

 

Ramadhan Al Mubarak

I admire those who actually look forward to the fasting month, even more admire those who have specific goals to achieve in this holy month. Unfortunately for me, I feel neutral to be honest. I think partly because I have not been fasting for 2 years in a row – 2017 I was pregnant while 2018 I was breastfeeding. I still am breastfeeding but my milk supply has depleted anyway since my son is already 18 months old. So I believe that fasting will not have any impact to my current milk supply.

Nevertheless, I’m determined to fast this time. What I look forward to is to wake up much earlier than usual for sahur because I usually don’t sleep back after sahur. Hopefully I get to write in the morning back again after not being able to do so for the past few weeks.

As I reflect upon what I just wrote, I realised that I should aim to recite at least 1 page of Quran everyday. If I can blog everyday, why can’t I read the Quran everyday?

Few days ago, someone asked me why I decided to write everyday. I said it is just to create a routine/healthy habit that I actually commit and follow through everyday. The rest is bonus. Secretly, it is also to force myself to wake up in the morning to perform my Subuh prayer.

I guess I could say that by diligently writing everyday, I then ask myself, why can’t I do other important things that I should also be doing everyday? It’s a good check and balance.

Ramadhan Al Mubarak everyone! Let’s be more positive this month and do more good deeds than we usually do! As for me, I really hope I can maintain the positive energy throughout the day. If I could fast for almost 20 hours when I was in MIT in 2016 when the schedule was extremely hectic, why can’t I do it now?

Being Tough vs. Being Compassionate

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee highlighted what his mentor said about his leadership skill in his “My Journey Into AI” book, as below:

I saw you as a compassionate leader, well liked by most people, but sometimes it takes more than being nice to win people’s respect. As a leader, you must effectively execute what’s good for the company and be a good judge on when to put aside your compassion and become a tough manager.

I could totally relate to this as I’m currently facing a similar situation.

The truth is, before I went to MIT in June 2016, my 360 degrees feedback report showed that everyone, i.e. bosses and subordinates rated me highly on execution. The feedback was consistent across all levels, internal and external teams, which means I’m very good at execution, without a doubt. But, at the expense of burning bridges. Not in the extreme case where I created enemies that they refused to talk to me, but they felt that they were just doing the job because I asked them to. When I received the report, I thought to myself, in my defense, there were a lot of ad-hoc requests (back then) and everyday felt like we were fire fighting especially in 2H 2015 when China devalued Yuan causing blood bath in the market. Hence, there was no time to explain, no time to syndicate, no time for consensus-based decision making. You gotta do what you gotta do.

But as I reflected upon the feedback, I realized that in some situations especially when you have to make changes, not incremental changes but transformational changes, you need to build repo with the right people,  you need to create ally, you need to get support from the right people, you need a team to follow you, you need to syndicate earlier on.

Upon returning to the organization after a year at MIT, I tried to practice what I learned in school. Without me realizing, I have more empathy and compassion in me, partly also because I am now a mother, which I thought is good. But, it doesn’t work when I have to make hard changes. Sometimes being compassion slows you down. You forgive other people easily when they did not submit their work on time. You tried to understand their position first before penalizing them. You compromised. As a result, you couldn’t get what you want. Is it your fault or underperforming people’s fault?

Finding the right balance between being tough and being compassionate is never easy. But like I said above, if you want to make effective transformational changes, being tough trumps compassionate. You almost need to be a dictator so that people listen to you. Not ideal but it is what it is.

Excerpts from Kai-Fu Lee’s Journey to AI Book

Just thought of sharing some interesting lines from Kai-Fu Lee’s Journey to AI book which I’m halfway through already. Too good I kept trying to hold one eye on my kindle and the other eye on my son while taking care of him yesterday.

  • Imagine two worlds, one with you and one without you. What’s the difference between the two worlds? Maximize that difference. That’s the meaning of your life. 
  • To live a life is to simply go with the flow, but to lead a life is to actively shape one’s own destiny.
  • Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. 
  • Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, wherever you are, however old or young, and bouncing out of bed because there’s something out there you love to do, that you believe in, that you are good at – something that’s bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again today. 
  • Learning knowledge is shallow; learning the ability to analyze and solve any problem is something to be treasured for a lifetime. 
  • In science, there is no absolute right or wrong and we are all equals. Those with passion can find the best solutions.
  • As a leader, you must effectively execute what’s good for the company, and be a good judge on when to put aside your compassion and become a tough manager. 
  • It is not innovation alone that matters, but innovation that is useful. 

These are essentially life lessons that is applicable to everyone. Hope you find it useful too!

Malaysia Membaca

Our current PM has always preached for us to become a successful nation, even during his old days as our 4th PM and during his tenure of a normal citizen, ie not a PM, basically all his life because he himself is someone who reads a lot and constantly, like he said, chasing knowledge. He is already 93 and yet he is still chasing knowledge. If there’s one thing that the youth need to learn from him, is his tenacity and curiosity to chase knowledge, continuously. It shouldn’t stop after you finish school, or after you graduate from uni. If you stop learning, you will fail miserably at work.

I like the hashtag #malaysiamembaca. Let’s all use it whenever you post on social media about the books you read or just about anything, it doesn’t need to be just books. In conjunction to World Book Day, this book below arrived on my kindle as i pre-ordered the book last week. Can’t wait to read it!