In English, Opinions, Personal Observation

What to Avoid when Making Resumés

I once read an article titled “10 Ways Your Resumé Irks Hiring Managers.” Back then, I had just read through hundreds of resumes myself as I was looking for candidates for vacant positions. Naturally the title is of great interest for me.

The article listed 10 mistakes applicants make in their resumés. I tried to find the article again with no luck. Luckily I had copied the list. After comparing some of the points with my own experience, here’s what I came up with (my comments in brackets):

1. Spelling Mistakes and Grammatical Errors. (This is a big red flag. This could be an indication of the applicant’s lack of attention to work quality and thoroughness in completing a task. There are tons of resources to check anything for grammatical and spelling correctness, such as grammarly.com, or the spell checker in the latest word processing app.)

2. Opening Objective. (Some applicants found it necessary to include an objective in applying for the position. I personally think it is not necessary. Most of the time it is obvious what someone wants to get when applying for a job. Skipping this won’t be a bad idea, because the real chance to put the best foot forward is in the interview.)

3. Personal Attributes. (Recruiters don’t need to know that a person has a black belt in karate. Unless they are looking for a club bouncer.)

4. Interest and Hobbies. (Some interests do add value to a resumé. Some are better to be kept to yourself. I remember one applicant wrote in his interest, “I hate the government.” Yes, you guessed it. I immediately put it on the “reject” pile. A better strategy to display interests and hobbies is to put it on social media or blogs, and list the link in the contact information. Recruiters love it when they can dig out more information about an applicant.)

5. Details of every task you’ve ever performed in every job you’ve ever had. (Some descriptions of past responsibilities do help to illustrate capabilities. But there is no need to use 10 pages to detail them. This is even evident if an applicant held similar jobs in different companies. A better strategy is to list completed challenges in pervious job posts. This would make it easier for the hiring manager to see if the applicant is a good fit with the challenges of the vacant position.)

6. Excessive Bragging.  (Point 5 can escalate to showing off if one is not careful in describing his/her past achievements. For example, listing all the VIPs or celebrities an applicant had previously worked with or the dollar amount of bonuses he/she had won may come across as bragging. Keep the information about job achievements relevant by focusing on what was done in one sentence. The “how” can be discussed in the interview.)

7. Outdated Information. (There is no use to list skills that are no longer in demand just to make a resumé long and impressive. Considering the very small amount a manager can give in reading resumés, it is a better strategy to list the skills that are relevant to the job being applied to, and keep the rest for the interview.)

8. False Information. (One applicant had a suspicious name for his college. I googled it, and I found out the school was banned by the Indonesian Ministry of Education because it sold diplomas. In the era where information is highly accessible anytime, lying on a resumé is downright stupid.)

9. Unexplained gaps in  work history. (Some applicants thought they only need to list impressive past job positions and to skip the three-month job probation that went wrong. This may create gaps in a resumé that would raise questions in the mind of the hiring manager. It is best to be honest and write down job experience as it is.)

10. A lack of professionalism. (I got this a lot, especially from first time applicants. They simply type their resumés with no additional formatting. There are many free templates available online, or in Microsoft Word. Again, hiring managers have to go through piles of applications. A professional look can make one resumé stand out from the rest, and improve its chance of being read in full.

Here are a few things that I would add to the list:

11. E-mailing resume to multiple companies in a single send. As soon as I see addresses other than mine in the “To:” field, I either perceive the applicant as being cocky (it’s like he’s saying, “hey, just  to let you know I’m not applying just to you,”) or simply as being too lazy to send each application in a separate mail. Cocky and Lazy. Those are two things in a person who I am so keen to keep as far away from being part of my company.

12. Wrong addressee. Some applicants sent too many resumes that they forgot to change the name of the recipient in the cover letter. I got that several times. Since it might  be just an honest mistake, I sent a reply pointing out the error, and ask for the applicant to send me another e-mail with the correct name in the address. When the applicant didn’t do what I suggested, I knew the person was just not worth my time.

13. Pictures Not Perfect. In Indonesia, especially in service industry, we do ask for pictures of the applicants. We do not mean to discriminate a person by physical appearance. We can learn about a person’s personality from the way he/she presents himself/herself in a picture. Also, it is a good security measure to know how a person looks like before inviting him in for an interview. Unfortunately, some applicants do not see this as an opportunity to sell themselves. Instead of a well-groomed image, they sent a selfie photo, or a very miniscule graphic representation of themselves, or a photo so blurred it’s hard to identify the person. They took themselves for granted. Why should the hiring managers treat them differently?

14. Too Little Information. This is so true for fresh graduates applying for their first jobs. They thought that resumés can only contain work related experience, when they had none. Since they could not come up with anything they thought worth saying, they simply let their resume to be half a page long. This left very little room for conversation. And even the weather cannot make up for it. I had awkward interview moments when I really did not know what else to ask, and the candidate had nothing else to say! When hiring new graduates, I like to probe for some activities in school that they are particularly good at or at least they love doing. Anything that contributes to work capability discussion is worth noting. If there is little to say in job experience, be more informative on the part of the resumé related to school or social activities.

15. Sending In Multiple Resumés from Different People in a single e-mail. Email accounts are free and very easy to make these days. There is no room for excuse such as “I don’t have an email address so I asked my friend to help send it along with his.”

The way we make our resumés speaks volumes about the way we do our work and, most importantly, about ourselves.

Edited and updated on January 10, 2021

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Current Issues, In English, Lessons, Opinions

Embracing Another “New” Normal

The security guard watched closely as I unhooked my backpack from my shoulders and placed it on the x-ray machine. I was sure I already put my gloves, my cap and my phone in there, and I was about to continue my entrance into the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum when she stopped me. “Your cold pack too, sir,” she said, pointing at my winter jacket. Of course. I could have hidden some dangerous item inside my jacket.

It was December 2002, just shy of 14 months after a group of 19 terrorists hijacked four passenger jets and crashed two them into the World Trace Center towers on September 11, 2001. America was in high alert.

Special scrutiny was given to passengers going to the US or flying on US airlines. Flying on Northwest (now Delta) Airlines from Singapore to DC, we had to go through a screening interview by the airline security at Changi airport. “What is the purpose of your visit to the US? May I see your invitation? Is this your luggage? Who packed your luggage? Have you ever left your luggage out of sight? Has anyone approached you and asked you to bring something for them?” It was pretty jarring to be confronted with those questions at 4 in the morning. No amount of caffeine could ever give you the same jolt.

Post 9/11, there were more attacks by different groups and individuals on various targets in different countries. Some of targets were night clubs in Bali (2002), a school in Beslan, North Ossetia (2004), underground trains in London (2005), a hotel in Mumbai (2008),a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin (2012), a shopping mall in Nairobi (2013), a magazine publisher in Paris (2015), a church in Texas (2017), and a mosque in Christchurch (2019).

As possibility of violent attacks is ever present, nowadays security checkpoints are common sights almost at every public areas: airports, office buildings, music concerts, shopping malls, theatres, theme parks, schools, even in houses of worship. We have accepted security threats as a daily possibility, and security checks as part of our lives. Being subjected to searches, scans, dog sniffs, even body frisks has become routine. We no longer see it as overreaction. It is what our normal has become.

If someone from the 80’s had traveled through time and landed in 2020, they would have been dumbfounded at having to go through security just to stop by a hotel to use the restroom. “What do you mean you need to check my bag? Keep your hands off!” They would have been even more surprised when the security guard pointed a infrared thermometer at their forehead and asked them to sanitize their hands!

But that’s the new reality today. As terrorism and gun violence changed our world, so has Covid-19 pandemic. To stop the virus from infecting more people, governments imposed various rules that affected the way we live and work. Some believe that until  a few of those changes will stay for good. 

As the virus started to widespread, starting on January 23, 2020, authorities issued lockdown on Wuhan and other cities in the Hubei Province, China. People were ordered to stay home. Public transportation, airport and highways were closed. Some non-essential companies were ordered to shutdown. It took the cities nearly 3 months to be declared free of new Covid-19 cases, and finally the lockdown order was lifted on April 8, 2020. 

Bloomberg reported, when Wuhan workers slowly returned to their jobs, they are faced with measures that the companies have put in place to minimize risk of infection. In Lenovo tablet and phone factory in Wuhan, before returning to their work site, staff members had to pass tests proving that they were free from the virus, and they had to wait for the result in a special dormitory. The meeting rooms that used to accommodate six, now could only be used by three people. The cafeteria had partitions put on tables with reminders to avoid conversations during meals. Rooms were disinfected regularly, with the last cleaning date posted on signs. Robots were used to deliver parts to reduce the number of interactions between people. The elevators were shut, and everyone must take the stairs. 

Yes, Wuhan is no longer under lockdown, but infection risk is still present. The way people live there is no longer the same.

As some governments, including ours, begin to completely lift or ease restrictions, either due to its success in controlling transmission of Covid-19 or to economic pressure, the virus is still with us. There is no guarantee that the absence of new cases means that the virus has been completely eradicated. Some people will remain to be carriers although experiencing no symptoms. In turn, they may infect less healthy people in the slightest way possible.  

In 2010, there was an episode of a popular TV show on Discovery Channel called Mythbusters, where the hosts conducted an experiment to see how far snot from a person with a cold could transfer to others in the same room within an hour. Similar experiment was also done by NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster to see how far germs from a sneeze that was covered by hand could be picked up by people eating a buffet on a cruise ship. The answer was grim: in a short time, the germs landed on everyone in the room. Imagine if the sneeze was from a person with Covid-19. 

This realization will change in the way we conduct our day-to-day lives. We must be aware not to touch surfaces with our bare hands. We must keep our faces and hands covered. We must wash our hands often. We must keep a minimum of 6 feet from others. Much of our life will move online. Some of us may have to keep working at home as companies reduce their space. We no longer hold meetings in person, but online. Our children learn at home while the teachers give lessons through the internet. 

For many of us, it will be difficult to accept these changes to our way of life. The bad news is, this won’t be the last time it would change. Some experts predict that there will be other pandemics in the future, and that crisis will be our continuous mode of thinking.

The good news is this is not the first time our normal has changed. We have survived previous changes and we will survive more changes, as long as we have the right mindset. For myself, here are some that I am learning to internalize.

  1. Stop hanging to the past. When my father passed away nearly three years ago, I was having a hard time accepting his absence. I thought of the many things that I could have done with him that I didn’t, and the regret was bearing down on me. One thought that consoled me was my Dad was already happy where he was, and nothing in this world could make him happier.  If we wanted to move on into the new normal, we must stop thinking about how good our lives were in past. Who knows, this new situation can also bring good things.
  2. Accepting the new normal. It wasn’t easy to adapt to working from home. There were things that I could not do from home. But as time went on and my team and I began to find ways to make it work, I realized that it is not that bad. We found that we did not have to print everything on paper. There were resources that we could use to stay in touch and communicate. For me, being apart from the others give me the space to think without feeling pressured. 
  3. Enjoying the new normal. There are things that I could do now that I couldn’t in the past. In the office, I often got invited to meetings where I did not have much to contribute. It was almost always a waste of time. But when it is online, I could move my attendance from my laptop to my phone, put on my earpiece, turn off my microphone and camera, and spend the time doing something else while listening, and making occasional comments. 
  4. Taking advantage of the new normal. Now that many people will spend most of their time online, there are opportunities to exploit. It is now easier to learn anything as there are now many free webinars and online courses. I found it easier now to attend community meetings since many of them are now online. Some people decided to make more social media content since they have so much free time now that they don’t have to fight traffic to work. For me, the opportunity is to expand my online presence by writing articles and blog posts. 

There are challenges in the future, that is a given. We have gone through changes in the past, and we have prevailed. As there are crisis so there are opportunities. Our choice will decide how much better or worse off this situation make us. 

Have a great New Year!

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In English, leadership, Lessons

Don’t Stay In The Dark

Yesterday was the 11th session of our Dale Carnegie Live Online Effective Communication and Human Relations class. In the second part of the session, one participant gave an inspiring talk on how he recovered from depression after an accident. “Everyone said that even if I was able to recover, I would walk with a limp. That crushed me because that could mean I would never be able to work again. I was so dejected I did nothing but stay in bed,” he retold his darkest hours while holding back emotion.

“One day I read a quote that said, ‘Do not stay in the dark, because in darkness even your shadow leaves you.’ That quote snapped me out of my self-pity. I asked for a pair of crutches and started to learn to walk again.” he said. “Finally my legs healed. I was able to finish my school and get back to work. Now I can walk normally.”

The speech won him an Outstanding Performance Award.

The quote he mentioned haunted me. I looked it up, and I found that the actual quote was different:

“Do not depend too much on anyone in this world because even your shadow leaves you when you are in darkness.”

Ibn Taymiyyah

But the essence is there. Sometimes we lock ourselves inside a terrible situation because we either wait for someone to get us out or because we blame it on somebody and refuse to take responsibility to get ourselves out.

Regardless of which way see it, we lose. Nobody benefits from our staying in a rut. We might as well stop relying on and stop blaming others, pick ourselves up, and walk away.

Previously published as a Facebook post.

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In English, Personal Reflection

The Broken Award Trophy

The Friday night award dinner was over. It was time for dancing and fun. We wore Batik, long sleeved dress shirts in Batik patterns which in Indonesia enjoys the same status as a suit. We found it awkward to hit the floor in our Batik, so we decided to go to the mezzanine.

A lot of people were out there as well, to get away from the loud music and the dark room. Some friends came up to us to congratulate us for the Gold Cup award we received this year. In return we also congratulated other award winners that we met.

As we were chatting happily, our CEO Peter Handal emerged from one of the ballroom doors. Jolly and amiable as usual, he was soon surrounded by people who wanted to have their pictures taken with him. He was retiring from his position in Dale Carnegie. For people who came from far ends of the globe like us, this would be our last chance for a photo op with him.

I was holding the box containing the heavy crystal award in my hands. We were just getting ourselves ready for a picture with Peter. Suddenly I felt the box became a lot lighter. There was a loud crash and tinkling. When the surprise was over, all that remained of the trophy was just scattered crystal shards of various sizes.

It took me a few seconds to finally grasp what happened. I broke the award! That was the moment when I felt to be most stupid. How could I be so careless with something so valuable? The appreciation of one year’s hard work from our team, gone!

I was apologizing profusely, I said, “I’m very sorry,” over and over again. With his hand on my shoulder Peter said, “It’s not your fault, Stephen.” And then he lifted his face to everyone and said, “It was my fault. I tapped him on the shoulder and he reacted. I’ll have it replaced. I’m sorry.”

In the middle of the commotion, Dave Wright approached us. He is the President of Dale Carnegie of Austin, and his team won a Silver Cup award tht night. He stretched his neck out to survey the damage, and asked, “What’s that? You broke your award alredy? Is that a Gold or Silver? A Gold? You can use our Silver for your photo. They’re similar, right?” He graciously handed the crystal trophy to us, and the photo took place after all.

On Monday night, we were retiring to our room at the airport transit hotel in Incheon. I habitually took my phone and opened my email. I found one message from Peter. He said that he had arranged for a replacement trophy to be mailed to us, and that I should not let that incident affect me. It was his fault that he tapped me on my shoulder and startled me to drop the award. Before that, he shared, he dropped his watch on the bathroom floor and broke it. “You can say that this is Peter’s curse.”

I imagined that he had a big grin and a big twinkle in his eyes as he wrote that.

I spent a lot of time in our 20 hour trip from Atlanta to Seoul to revisit the incident. I was angry at myself for being such a bungling idiot. It was a simple logic to hold the box at a slanted angle to keep the award from toppling out. Somehow I stupidly held it upright.

After I was done criticizing myself, I began to think about the people that offered their help. About Peter who took the blame and offered to replace the award, even though I was so sure it was wholly my fault. About Dave who offered to loan his team’s award so we could somehow took a group picture with Peter. I have never seen so much kindness in the face of a mistake in my life.

I wrote back to Peter. “If there was a purpose behind this incident, it is so that we could see kindness from others. From you, from Dave. And if anyone ask me what I remember best about you, I would tell them about this incident to illustrate the kind, warm and friendly person you are.”

Instead of a misfortune, this has become a beautiful parting gift from Peter to me. I will never forget that day.

Thank you Peter for being a great leader for us. Have a wonderful journey ahead.

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In English, Observation, Soul Searching

Talents and Career Choice: Should They Match?

My best friend is a dance fanatic. He loves to dance so much that he took dance lessons, performed on stage on occasions, and took part in competitions. He read biographies of Nureyev and other ballet dancers, and took to learn ballet on his own. On top of that he is also into drawing and music. Immersed in 80’s music in his childhood, it became part of his identity as an artist.

For his career, he chose to be an accountant.

Nevertheless, he struggles with the question of whether he should keep his day job or pursue a career in performing arts. He longs to spend his days doing what he loves. He already holds a comfortable position in the accounting firm, and leaving that to start anew in a very different career seems to be very risky.

So he decided to audition for a televised talent competition to showcase his dance prowess. He’s hoping that by appearing on TV he could share his talent with a wider audience, and it turn that might open new doors for him to jump careers.

Unfortunately, in the second round, the jury voted against him.

What struck me was the question he keeps asking himself. What is the purpose of his having all this talent if he could not put them to use?

Which is exactly the question I have been asking myself.

A few months ago I watched a biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. As a young prince, His Majesty found love in arts. He enjoys jazz, and in school he used to play in a band. He loves photography, and he has a camera hanging around him almost everywhere he goes. He is also a skilled painter.

On 9 June 1946 tragedy struck the royal family. King Ananda Mahidol, the elder brother of Prince Bhumibol, was murdered under circumstances unclear even to this day. The Prince then ascended to the throne to be King Rama IX.

Being King, now all his attention must be given to the governing of the kingdom. With such a big responsibility, it would be understandable if the King ceased his artistic pursuit.

What I found to be inspiring is that His Majesty still makes time for art. He keeps bringing his camera when he is visiting his subjects, and takes photographs of them. And every now and then he entertains his royal audience playing jazz numbers on brass instruments.

Here is one video of his performance.
“Candlelight Blues”, King Bhumibol

If he had been born a commoner instead a royal prince, he might have chosen a career in the arts. But he became king instead. His devotion to his people is well known and well documented. He opened the palace gardens to be used as laboratories for agricultural experiments, resulting in advanced farming for the benefit of the nation. Thailand is now one of the largest rice exporters in Asia. He decreed for education for all. He left his palace and conversed with his subjects to learn of their difficulties and challengea. And he is also known and respected as an accomplished artist and musician.

Being a musician and artist he would have made a name for himself. But by rising to the occasion and ascending the throne, he made a name for his people.

Our talents are part of who we are. If we are lucky, we can make a career doing the things we love. But as human beings we are capable of achieving more than what we might have with our talents alone.

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In English, Observation

The Failing Desklamp and the Total Blackout

I had packed all my bags (there weren’t that many, really) and I took the last check of the room. It was still dark outside. If I hadn’t so keen to get as soon as possible at the airport, I wouldn’t have waken up so early.

Satisfied that I didn’t miss anything, I reached to turned off the table lamp. As I pushed on the button, suddenly there was a flash of white light from the bulb, and the all the lights in the room went dark. As I recovered from the slight shock, I realized that the burnt bulb must have had tripped a fuse.

I considered for a moment whether I should report the incident to the front desk. I was checking out anyway, and there wouldn’t be much harm if I just walked out of the room. I decided to call the hotel staff.

Luckily, I had left the curtains open, so I had some faint light from the window that guided me to the phone. “Hello, the lightbulb in the desk lamp just blew off, and I think it tripped a fuse in the room. Could you send someone up to fix it, please?” I told the front desk staff. He promised an engineering staff would come to take care of the problem.

A few minutes later, there was a knock on my door. The technician quickly worked, and in a short minutes, the lights were back on.

While sitting in the dark waiting for the engineer, a thought crossed my mind. I knew there was something wrong with the desk lamp as soon as I checked in. After dropping my bag, the bellboy proceeded to show me how to turn on all lights in the room. When he clicked the desk lamp button, it stayed off. “The bulb needs changing, huh?” I pointed out. Of course, changing light bulbs was not in the bellboy’s job description. And apparently, neither was the task to report the problem to the proper authority. He simply excused himself and left.

The lighting setup in the room was dim, and missing a desk lamp reduced the brightness quite significantly. Anticipating the possibility of having to work on the desk later, and being left on my own to take care of the desk lamp, I began to tinker with it. I tried to loose the light bulb a bit, and voila! The desk lamp was on!

The next night, it was off again. I called housekeeping to send an engineer up. After putting down the phone, again I tried to tinker with the desk lamp, and behold! It was on again! I quickly cancelled the engineer, and was happy for the night. Until the fateful early morning when the bulb blew.

Doesn’t something like this often happen in an organization? Somebody noticed something that was wrong. He reported the problem through the proper channel, but no action was taken. So he tried to work the problem out himself, but it did not solve the problem at the roots. It keeps happening again and again, until the problem becomes too big and shut down the entire system in the organization.

This is the importance of having an open communication channel in the organization. And on top of that, it must be equipped with sufficiently authorized personnel who can quickly take action once a problem arises. If the personnel is not able to solve it, he or she must have a direct channel to a higher authority who can, and who is quick to make a decision. Otherwise, the problem will stay hidden until it gets to big and brings down the entire organization.

Learning from the colossal failures of giants like Barings and Enron, ethics play an important role when dealing with problems. When there is no ethics, then whatever chain of command or channel of communication in place will not work.

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In English, Personal Reflection, Uncategorized

Life Without Borders

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When in a new place, I make an effort to try something new. For example, when traveling to a new place, I would veer off the familiar, and try local food. This is the reason why I rarely go to a Starbucks, McDonald’s, or any of the well known global brand when visiting a city. I would look for a local restaurant or local coffee house for a different taste.

Like this bowl of ramen that I just had for dinner. I’ve been wanting to try the restaurant for a long time, but didn’t get the opportunity to do so until now. And even then, the reason that I finally chose this ramen house was because other places were full with saturday-nighters. Even then, I was so glad that I ate here because the ramen, especially its broth, was exceptionally rich and delicious.

Trying new food can really widen your horizon. Before I visited Seoul, I had reservations regarding Korean food. I heard about kimchi, bibimbap, and I’ve seen some korean specialty restaurants in Jakarta, but I barely had the interest to try one. And after three bibimbaps in three different occasions (two of them as airline meals), now I look at Korean restaurants with a curious, almost a longing, attitude.

Imagine what trying an entirely different experience and meeting new people can do.

I remember the first time I held a live firework tube in my hand. Before that, whenever I wanted to light a firework, I would put the tube against a solid thing, like a brick or a flower pot, lit the fuse, and ran to safety. Until one new year’s eve someone (I truly forgot who it was, but I must say I’m thankful for the forceful persuasion from the person) told me to lit the fuse, hold it high above my head, and aim it at an empty part of the sky that was free from electric lines and trees. I counted each blast with a racing heart, fearing that the next one would explode in my face. After the final fire, I found that I was still alive and unscathed. I stopped fearing firework since that day.

Mark Twain, the famous author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer once said, “Do the thing that you fear most, and the death of fear is certain.” Dale Carnegie, the bestseller author of How To Win Friends and Influence People said, “If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

I think would count anyone as fortunate if he could spend each day to conquer one thing that he fears. The more fear we defeat, the wider the boundaries of our lives become. And one day, our lives may become simply boundless with possibilities.

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In English, Lessons, Personal Observation

The Importance of Being a Good Person

During Dale Carnegie & Associates 67th Annual International Convention in Honolulu last December, I had a conversation with a colleague from Taiwan. I complimented him on the success of Taiwan team in the past fiscal year. With great enthusiasm I recounted some facts about their achievements (which in retrospect should be something that he already knew).

Of course behind all my excitement I wanted to know how they managed to make it happen. To be honest, I was expecting something in the line of, “Well, our team got together, we drew a strategy, and in the execution everyone chipped in their best effort.” Something that shows camaraderie, team work, hard work, focus, and so on.

Instead, Arthur gave me the biggest smile and said, “We have a good boss.”

At that moment, the doors were opened and everyone in the foyer began pouring into the ballroom for the morning’s General Session. I did not get to ask him what he meant by that. I wish I had pulled him aside and grilled him more on that. Since I didn’t, so I was left to myself to figure it out.

I know his boss. Although John Hei is a popular public figure in Taiwan, the first impression you take on him will not show that. He speaks with a soft voice, and he smiles a lot. One thing that truly leaves a strong impression on me is his humility. He is already in his 70s. In Asian culture, he is considered a senior to whom people pay a great respect. People will understand if he would choose to stand in the sidelines and let the younger generation do the hardwork.

Despite of that, he is not beyond sitting in a classroom with people half his age, to learn from a trainer 20 years his junior, as evident in a program that I had the privilege to be part of in 2011. He did the same exercises as the rest of the class, he took part in small group discussions, and the most amazing thing for me was he was willing to be coached in front of the younger people.

I am sure that is not where the list stops. If I were to interview his team members about him, I think I can get at least 100 more reasons why he is such a good and inspiring boss.

For me, this is where leadership plays an important role in an organization. All the management knowledge remains important to run a successful business. But in the end, what drives people is their leader. What the leader does, what the leader says, how the leader relates with others, will be the driving force behind a great organization.

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In English, Passion, Personal Reflection, Soul Searching

Looking Out

I often think about what it will feel like not having to spend a big chunk of the day working. Or even going to school. I remember when I was in elementary school, I discovered how funny the education system was. I was sitting in my classroom, wondering aimlessly while my class was immersed in some kind of an exciting activity. I could not recall what it was, but it must be exciting or the teacher would have seen me daydreaming and thrown something at me to wake me.

But I remember how beautiful the sun was that day. How bright the morning was. I remember thinking how inviting the schoolyard was. But somehow the teachers and the headmaster and the majority educators in the world think being stuck in a room while listening to a teacher was a better method of learning compared to playing and having fun outside. I wouldn’t say that the education was bad. I was just thinking what a waste it was for God to create such a beautiful world, which was meant for man to enjoy, but instead they chose to stay indoors and did something they which they believed to be more useful.

How come? How can being stuck in a room with two dozens of other kids be better than playing outside in the sun? How can it be that mornings are better spent indoors than outdoors? Is it true that learning can only take place in a classroom?

Thirty years later. When I had the opportunity to teach a class in our training center, I would roll up all blinds and let the sun shone through the glass windows into the room. As the room grew brighter, so did the hearts and the souls of the people. Some other trainers chose to let the blinds rolled down to keep minds from wandering to irrelevant things outside.

But I’m sure there is not a day goes by without us yearning to be free. Free from our cubicles, free from work hours, free to spend the day doing something else than working. That is why we are often tempted to daydream. That is why the one thing we want to do when standing in front of a window is to look outside. That js why we are so keen to escape the city and go to find beautiful sights in the country side.

To be free.

So why keep people from doing what I myself would want to do?

Last Thursday I just could not help myself. The blinds had been down since Wednesday morning because we were using the projector to show visuals. “Are you planning to use the projector today?” I asked my co-trainer. “I want to roll up the blinds.” He gave me a perplexed look and said, “No, I won’t use visuals. But isn’t opening the blinds detrimental to concentration?”

I just chuckled and began pulling on the plastic chain. The blind slowly rolled up and the morning view materialized from behind the thick glass of the ninth floor window.

It was a glorious morning.

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In English, Observation

What Hard Work Means

“Sorry, I’m taking my toilet break,” the hairdresser told her waiting customers as she was sweeping locks of hair away. She just finished the fourth customer since I got there, without stopping. Although it was my turn to have my hair cut, I understandingly nodded to show my agreement to wait.

The barbershop had 6 chairs, but never in my visits have I seen 6 barbers working. The most number I could remember is 4. The last time I was there, I saw only 2. Today, there was only 1 barber on duty. And it was a holiday. Customers never stopped coming, and she had to serve everyone alone. On top of that, she had to clean the shop, answer the telephone, and receive payments. I could imagine she had been on her feet for hours with no break. I could understand if she took her toilet break for somewhere between 5 to 10 minutes.

She politely asked everyone to step outside the shop because she had to lock the doors. A wise precaution since she was alone, and there were considerable amount of money in the shop. I decided to stand near the door, took out my smartphone and began reading my Facebook timeline to kill time. I was ready to give her at least 10 minutes.

It was less than 5 minutes later when she was back to open the doors. I hurriedly pocketed my phone, and take my seat on one of the 6 chairs.

“How would you like your hair done?” she asked me as if I were her first customer.
“Spike, please,” I said.

She began to work. In 10 minutes, she was done. It was a perfect cut. I gave her double the tip that I usually give. Partly because of her doing a great job, and partly because of my admiration of her commitment in giving her best under a tough situation. And partly because I saw the customer before me giving her double of what I gave her, while patting her on the shoulder with a heartfelt thanks.

Up to this day, I had difficulties in defininf hard work. What does it really mean when you say that someone is working hard? Does it mean the person stay at work until late at night? Complete all of the required tasks? Produce more?

From observing my barber today, I could say that work hard is doing everything you can to keep your commitments. Although she never verbally promised anything to her customers, she was aware of the written sign outside the shop that says “10 Minute Haircut” and she strived to keep that regardless of the circumstances. She might be working alone on a holiday, when she could have taken a leave herself. She could take rests between customers if she wanted to. Her limbs and fingers would need them. She could use myriads of excuses to give herself a break. Her customers would have understood.

But she didn’t.

Instead, she ploughed through.

To work hard is to stay committed, no excuses, no complains.

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