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What Christmas means to me

For those of us who do not celebrate Christmas, this season may be a period of gifts exchange and hearty dinners with closed friends and relatives. For those of us who celebrates Christmas, we may just regard it as the day when Jesus was born as a baby in a manger. Yet what is mind-boggling is that while the birth of Jesus is an amazing and a miracle event, the significance of Christmas is in Isaiah 9:6

‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’

But what has Christmas got to do with our daily lives? Many of us understand why we exchange gifts during this season. The birth of the Savior’s son does warrant all of us to be joyful. And God did give us a perfect gift. But let us examine the gift. For the nature of the gift very often gives us the intent of the gift. If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have given us a scientist. Yet God gave us a son to die for our sins.

The gift that was given to us was hope.

As an educator myself as well, this story greatly moved me. There is a self-made millionaire Eugene Land, who greatly changed the lives of a sixth-grade class in East Harlem. Mr. Lang had been asked to speak to a class of 59 sixth-graders. What could he say to inspire these students, most of whom would drop out of school? He wondered how he could get these predominantly black and Puerto Rican children even to look at him. Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart. “Stay in school,” he admonished, “and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.” At that moment the lives of these students changed. For the first time they had hope. One student said, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling.” Nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school (secondary school'”.

And such is the power of hope.

As we continue to celebrate Christmas and march into the New Year, let us all remain confidently expectant of the future that lies ahead!




What are the habits needed for academic excellence?

For both parents and students, the beginning of the year is always filled with excitement and yet, also with a bit of anxiety. Excitement for it marks the start of another academic journey; anxiety for as parents and even students start to think how best to prepare themselves to achieve the most.

As an educator, my focus is to help students acquire core knowledge that prepares them to become skillful thinkers. However, it’s important for us to ask ourselves whether that’s all students need to succeed in school, in careers, and in life.

There are certain habits of the mind which students can all develop which will be of good help as they progress in life.

Habits of Mind
1. Successful students persist. They focus on the task and complete it successfully. They know how to proceed when they get stuck.

  1. Successful students manage impulsivity. They control themselves and act thoughtfully and deliberately in any situation.
  2. Successful students listen with understanding and empathy. They devote their mental attention to others and are able to build rapport easily and quickly. They can identify with another’s point of view while keeping their own.
  3. Successful students think flexibly. They are able to view a situation from many perspectives, and their minds are open to change. Such open-mindedness helps them deal with the novelty and ambiguity often encountered in the study of new material.
  4. Successful students control and execute metacognitive processes, such as problem solving and decision making. They are able to make a mental plan, monitor their thinking, evaluate and modify their processes, determine new ways to proceed, and learn from the experience.
  5. Successful students ask questions and pose problems. They are curious and know how to search for problems to solve. They seek evidence rather than simply accepting any assertion. They analyze conflicting descriptions of an event or issue. They develop and apply multiple strategies to solving both routine and complex problems.
  6. Successful students think and communicate with clarity and precision, both orally and in writing. They are specific in their communications, and they avoid generalizing, dismissing, and distorting ideas.
  7. Successful students create, imagine, and innovate. They look for different ideas and are able to generate original ideas of their own.
  8. Successful students think interdependently. They participate successfully in study groups, know how to work together collegially, and seek opportunities to work with others.
  9. Successful students remain open to continual learning and they apply knowledge to new situations. They can detect patterns and make connections, and they are able to transfer knowledge from one context to another. They admit that they do not know something and are eager to find out. They are continually growing and learning.

Interestingly research by Scott Behrens at Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan, found a significant positive correlation between these habits of mind and college grade (junior college) point average. In fact the habits that were the strongest predictors of academic success in college (junior college) were managing impulsivity, persistence, and metacognition.




Power to Win

Recently, I had the privilege to speak to 43 members of Beckman Coulter (Hong Kong) on the topic of “Power to Win”. They flew me up to inspire their staff and set everyone aligned to the goals for 2016. Naturally I was excited and privilege to have this platform to be at impact to this wonderful group.

The 3 hour session had me sharing with them my life journey from a stroke survivor to inspirational speaker, private educator, author and a mindset coach. And while I was humbled that they felt my story moved them, I am glad the activities we had together helped them realise that indeed, the power to win was in each and every one of them.

For I am of the belief that ‘winning’ is in all of us. The time I spent with them was not in telling them what they do not already know. After all these were individuals who were experts in their own domain. What I helped them was to just let them be aware of 2 fundamental truths about winning.

The first is of mindset. None of us can win if we cannot fathom the reality that we are winners. Take a look at how Usain Bolt swaggers his way into the track or how Ma Long dominates the action around the table tennis table. These people know they are winners and they behave like one. Not out of pride but of a certain assurance of who they are. Without this mindset, all victory is short and all failures are merely temporary setbacks.

The second truth is that it is never about the effort of winning but the effect of winning we should be constantly be reminded of. A relentless pursuit towards the effort of winning ultimately wears down the best of us. On the other hand, the effect of winning is not sustained by the will. In fact it is done by the natural effect of wining. And because dopamine is the major neuro-receptor that is secreted when we win, and it is also additive, it is clear why all of us have an innate desire to win. Therefore, it is vital for us to take every moment, even when we ‘lose’, and view it as a learning opportunity and thereby transforming a lost to a win, and a win to a habit.

When I was ending my workshop at Beckman Coulter, I left everyone with a phrase which I would like to share with all of you here as well. And that is, “The Power To Win Lies In (M)indset).(E)ffect”.




Defining Disability Rather Than Allowing Disability to Define Us

What does it mean to be disabled? Is it different from having a handicap? Is it possible for an able bodies to view themselves as disabled or, vice-versa, a handicapped person to view himself as being abled?

When I had my stroke at the age of 24 in 2000, these questions became very real to me and I had to answer them very authentically to define myself in a rather ‘new’ world which I was in. I speak, vocally, about my experiences as a stroke survivor because I do not want others to define what disability means for me. In fact, it is my belief that it is only I who can defines my disability rather that allowing the disability to define me.

And which is why I often share this thought, “Disability is only in the mind”. I believe that a disability is merely a handicap. But just like in the game of golf, having a high handicap does not necessarily mean we cannot play a good game. Similarly, just because I may be handicapped, it does not mean I cannot live life to the fullest.

Ultimately, a disability refers to a lack of power over one’s life and I hope that today is the day that we seek a deeper definition over our lives!




Taking The Road Less Travelled

March 26, 2016Art of DeterminationEmpowermentHopeNo Comments

MANY people mistakenly believe that any form of vision-setting should be the CEO’s responsibility. That is erroneous thinking and not only limits the growth of any leader, but also makes his career much less exciting.

All leaders in any organisation, community or team are able to effectively manifest their vision (that is, “see” what they want to be) as long as they create specific and achievable goals while initiating positive actions and enlisting the participation of all relevant team members.

Of course, to reap maximum synergy and motivation from his team, a leader’s vision should be congruent with that of the company.

However, there are a few questions that beg to be answered.

As a leader, how important is it to set a vision? How should leaders rally their team behind that vision? What is the role of the leader in communicating and bringing out that vision?


A visionary paints beautiful scenes of the future and articulates them with great enthusiasm.

A visionary leader, on the other hand, brings that vision into reality and, thereby, impacts the space others dwell in.

Even though he was asked to leave the company he helped build, Steve Jobs never threw away his vision of what Apple could be. Instead, he dug deep, persevered and returned to Apple as its leader, impacting the company even more in the process.

As leaders, how ready and enthusiastic are we to share a piece of our dream with our team? More importantly, how determined are we to see our vision bear fruit?


Successful leaders should also be able to get positive “buy-in” from their teams. Therefore, we should concentrate on the various aspects of the buy-in process and manage them accordingly to reach maximum leverage.

As a business leader, I have had to invest time and effort to secure “buy-in” from various stakeholders.

I have come to realise that just because two potential partners have similar visions, it does not necessarily guarantee “buy-in” because the two parties may have different goals, and vice-versa.

It is good for leaders to help their team members “see the big picture” and understand how their involvement will help the team reach goals and also result in the growth of each team member.

After all, leaders are dream makers who know that dreams are made from future probabilities and never from past liabilities. The more we nourish our teams with possible visions of what they can achieve, the more dynamic and motivated they will be.


Step-in and step-up

A successful “buy-in” process will often result in committed relationships within the team.

Engagement (step-in) is the primary product in all fruitful relationships. As leaders, we should steer our teams towards active participation and assimilate everyone into the culture of the company.

A healthy relationship between leaders and the rest of the team ultimately results in empowerment (step-up) of all involved. For empowerment to occur, constant feedback is needed. Gallup research conducted in 2009 shows that teams need constant feedback — not just yearly — from their leaders about how they are performing.

Effective leaders also need to receive feedback and to mentor their teams in a way that increases engagement and commitment.


For teams to be highly motivated, everyone should be speaking about the same vision. It is essential for information to be received and transmitted in a clear and accurate manner.

It is useful to remind ourselves that the success of the team only occurs when everybody wins.

Here are some handy reminders:

* Always take into account your boss’s point of view

* Focus on the solution rather than the problem

* Communicate “upwards”; inspire “downwards”.

Many of us avoid the responsibility of visionary leadership primarily because we are too sensitive to criticism and failure. But all these fears may fade away when we realise the impact our vision has on the organisation.

As American poet Robert Frost once wrote:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Article by Dr Darren Chua, the chief empowering officer of DC Empowerment. He was awarded the Young Outstanding Singaporean 2011 and Successful Entrepreneur Award 2011. For more information, visit www.drdarrenchua.com

from: http://www.stjobs.sg/career-resources/workplace-success/take-the-road-less-travelled/a/85888




Attitude, Aptitude, Altitude

The potential of a man can often be estimated through 3As’; Attitude, Aptitude, Altitude.


Our attitude is the manifestation of our personality as it clashes with the unpredictable circumstances that is our external environment.

Paying careful attention to how we reacts to specific events and circumstances within our environment will reveal our attitude and a plethora of other mysteries that lie hidden in the recesses of their mind.

Often attitude can be liken to a motor that can either be slowed down or helped to move ahead. For in life, it is our attitude that determines how much or what we can do.


Our attitude comes together with our aptitude. Everyone is born with talents and these are skills that can be honed and developed over time. The key in developing our aptitudes or talents lie in our determination in working hard.


How high we soar as an individual or even as a team is then the result of how high we set our dreams. And how long we stay elevated lies in our humility and gratitude towards life.

And so today, let us run our race with thes 3As’’ and be poised for success!




What is Performance made of?

There is a simple equation of performance and it reads somewhat like this:

Our Performance =   Our Can’s      X         Our Want’s    X         Our May’s


Whether or not we can do a task depends on our expertise. The good news is that expertise does not depend on paper qualifications. Rather, our expertise in our work is related to our focus. You see, to be an expert is to build depth around a certain topic or subject.  The very act of focus is like building depth. If we were to take two people of similar intellect and abilities and charge the first with building a business with a broad focus and the second with building a business with a narrow focus, we would find that the second person would build a depth of expertise exponentially greater than the other. He could not help but do so, for when we narrow our field of thought we think deeper. We need not be smarter or more creative than our competition. We just need to be more focused. Focus is powerful.


Whatever we desire, we are motivated to achieve. And one of the better ways I have found to be better motivated is to be purposeful about our goals. Instead of doing things that you feel like you “should” do in 2016, work towards the resolutions that you genuinely care about. When you do this, you tap into a different part of the brain that uses less willpower to take action and make progress.

An inspiring purpose does not need to be an over-the-top goal of curing cancer, solving world hunger, or becoming the CEO of your company. In fact, it can be as simple as changing perspectives.


While our “Can” and “Want” are compelling, our current life conditions play the final leg in propelling us to our peak performance. Making sure that situations are optimal in our environment, emotional state, sociological, psychological and physiological makes it easier for us to reach the performance we desire.




Let’s Play Together

The idea of [social] inclusion lies in the process by which we seek to identify marginalise groups of individuals and actively create opportunities and resources that are normally available to people in the society.

As a national para-athletic in the sport of wheelchair table tennis, I am looking forward to the upcoming GetActive! Singapore which is a week-long sporting bash, designed to have us all celebrating National Day together as One Team Singapore, through sport, from 30 July to 7 August.

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu remarked, “In time to come, Singapore will become a more inclusive society, where people of all abilities can enjoy sports together.”

I believe that time is now. And why shouldn’t it be? Sports, just as in education, is but a celebration of life and what it brings. Sports, just as in education, is meant to bring us closer and not separate us a society. Sure, while we all have various abilities and capabilities and all competition should be weighted according to that, yet our focus must always be on the celebration of our strengths and not the condemnation of our flaws.

And this is the reason why I am looking forward to Everybody Play Ping Pong!. This event which will be played out on 7th August, 10am – 4.23pm, at GetActive by the Bay (event space near MBS) will pit para table-tennis players with the public in a series of friendly matches.

Are you ready to Play?




What is a Disability?

The concept of disability has been evolving over the past few decades and there has been an awakening and a change in the way how people with disability are understood and perceived.

For the longest time, disability has been viewed as a condition residing in the individual resulting in deficits and hence their inability to be fully functional within the society. Viewed in this manner, people with disability are always deemed as people that requires “fixing” and are less than “optimal”.

This view is the cause and the key reason why I was not given the opportunity to carry on with my housemanship (internship) after I graduated my medical school here in Singapore.

Very closely linked to this concept is the close association of disability with charity or other welfare programs.
In recent years however, there has been a paradigm shift. Increasingly, the focus is no longer on “what is wrong with the individual”, but rather, disability is recognised as “the interaction of a person with impairment with an environment that does not accommodate to the individual’s differences which impedes the individual’s full participation within the society on an equal basis with others (UN Convention 2008)”.

This model brings disability forward. This is more than just a healthcare issue. It is more than just a welfare issue. In fact, the very heart of any form of ability lie is of self-empowerment. The emphasis is now on the attitudes and environmental barriers that hinders participation in society and prevents full expression of the individual to whatever extent they are able to.

I have always believed that disability is only in the mind. With boldness we can step into a new era where we are no longer discounted because of what we cannot do, but we celebrate life according to what we can do!




Leadership Essence

Recently in my reading, I came across this quote from Alexandra the Great which reads, “An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep”

Leadership therefore is transformational in nature. For this transformation to happen, leaders need to continually ask ourselves these questions.

Who am I?
Perhaps the most important question to ask ourselves is this question of self-perception, “Who am I?”. Knowing this can lead us closer towards decisions which help us live as we want to and not as others want or feel.

Why am I here?
It was Pablo Picasso that once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away”. For leaders, finding our purpose is essential. It is this process of thinking that helps focus your mind and in turn your actions.

It is through a purpose driven life that lets us wake up every morning with a hope of a better tomorrow.

What can I do?
It is important to note that leaders do not need to be extraordinary, privileged or special to be able to make an impact. What is important is that we should not be intimidated but get be “out there” to connect with others, share knowledge and offer authentic viewpoints and opinions.

Where am I going?
One of the key traits that distinguishes leaders from the flocks is our view of the world around us. In other words, what is our picture of the future?

Concerning leadership, a vision defines a mental image of the future and aspects of direction or goal. Vision provides guidance by articulating what it wishes to attain. It serves as a signpost pointing the way for all who need to understand what the organization is and where it intends to go. By providing a picture, vision not only describes goal, but also the means of accomplishing it. Hence, a vision is a picture of the future for which people are willing to work.

In summary, when leaders invest time and energy to develop the above questions, we provide an inspiration for those around us.