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What Mulu taught me about Leadership

I recently visited the Gunung Mulu Park which many consider to be the most spectacular and the “Jewels in the Crown” of Sarawak’s network of national parks. It is also the largest national park, covering 544 sq km of primary rainforest which houses 3 mountains. Yet, hidden underneath the forested slopes are where Mulu’s attractions lie such as its large limestone caves.

The tropical rainforest provides a prime example of a complex system. The Mulu rainforest contains an almost endless variety of species and the interaction between these species are so varied. Adaption in the Mulu rainforest is an ongoing and rapid process and continually yields new relationships and even new species.

The complexity that lies within the Mulu rainforest is paradoxical. After all, the Mulu rainforest have the poorest of soil because of the rapid and huge rain fall continually. Yet it supports so much biodiversity.

In science, complex systems is used to describe interactions that forces out the existence of new and distinctive group of properties called “emergence” – that the action of the whole is more than the sum of the action of the parts.

In many ways, leadership has many properties of emergence. The following are some pillars that creates successful leadership that makes a difference.

A person with strong character shows passion, energy, determination, discipline, and courage. He sees what he wants and goes after it and in doing so, attracts similar like-minded people.

Care for Others
Genuine care for other people is driven by deep value-based motivations and concerns to make a positive and practical difference to the lives of other people. After all, authentic leadership lies in the heart of service.

Effective communication is motivated by compassion. Compassionate communication helps people remain empathetic with each other, even in situations fraught with anger or frustration. It teaches people to speak to others without blaming and to hear personal criticisms with objectivity.

We can always spot leaders who are focused on collaboration. They are constantly intentional about breaking barriers, crossing borders and building bridges. They know the importance of building relations for the successful execution of activities and effective interpersonal relations. They spot the barriers and break them, and build relations that bring magical results to their organizations.

These pillars are key in creating a culture of leadership that will dictate behavioral norms, shared practices, common attitudes and beliefs. Similar to the rainforest, while each of these species (pillars) may seem unimpressive, building up these pillars collectively will ultimately create the success you envisage for your team.




The 7 Habits of S.S.S (Successful Stroke Survivor) for Victory!

I have been a stroke survivor since 2000. I remember my brain haemorrhage, which occurred when I was 24 years old. It was a life-changing event. Almost instantly, I was reduced from a doctor who had dreams of becoming a topnotch neurosurgeon to someone who could hardly speak (I lost the ability to communicate as a result of my stroke). I also lost my right visual field and was completely paralyzed on the right side of my body. Like many survivors, I asked, “Why must this happen to me?”

In my minibook, The Art of Determination, I share about how I refused to let this incident direct what desires I was able or unable to pursue. I believe as stroke survivors, we are all free to still chase our dreams and, more importantly, continue to expect success to come our way.

My experience with my condition has taught me seven habits that have been pivotal in helping me transform from someone who suffered a major disruption in life, to where I am now: an international inspirational speaker, a mindset leader, an educator, an author and national para-athlete.

Here are my seven habits that I’d like to share with you.

Habit 1: Start the day with visualization
Because I conduct mindset clinics, talks and workshops on leadership and empowerment, I am aware of the awesome power that comes from visualization. In fact, most elite athletes and peak performers in almost all professional fields use it now.

The reason why it is so effective is because of these reasons:
1. It activates our subconscious which will generate creative ideas that will achieve our goals.
2. It builds our internal motivation to take the necessary steps to achieve your goals.
3. It activates the law of attraction and thereby draws into our life the necessary resources that you need to attain your destiny.
4. It programmes your brain to a desired mindset needed to achieve our goals.

Habit 2: Live an inspired life
As stroke survivors, we can still expect and demand success in our life. After all, we are not defined merely by our abilities — or lack of. Rather, we are defined by what we do to each other and how we add value to those around us.

Inspiration is the force that drives things not only forward and upwards; it also elevates us to a newer and better place. It creates positivity, possibilities, and fulfils our purpose. Starting today, let us ask this question to ourselves continually, “How can I make the situation better?”

Habit 3: Be committed to self-respect
When we commit ourselves to have self-respect (and not respect from others), we naturally take pride in what we do and exude an aura of confidence. I believe this is the key commitment we need to have for ourselves. No matter what people may think or feel about the condition and how it has affected us, we must remain steadfast and know that in order to be successful stroke survivors, we must make the commitment to remain at the top of our game in every aspect of life.

Life may have changed. Our road to success may now have a few more detours, but our destination to wherever we want to go can still be reached. We just have to take daily steps to refine what is it that we want to achieve in an effort to be ready for decisions that needs integrity and forethought.

Habit 4: Thanksgiving
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness endures forever” – 1 Chronicles 16:34

As a stroke survivor myself, I know it is easier to lament about what has been robbed from us. Yet it is more beneficial if we focus on what we still have and to give thanks for them.

I find that such a mindset allows us to have a better perspective over our situation. I find that the more I focus on thanksgiving, I have more courage and determination to carry on with life’s journey. And this is because I realise that giving thanks is the fuel that builds up our hope. And I realise that to be successful stroke survivors, all of us need to be “prisoners of hope”.

Habit 5: Organize our priorities
Time management is crucial in achieving our goals. This is especially true for stroke survivors who aim to still catch their dreams. The key to time management is organising, planning, and prioritizing.

Prioritizing our work helps us to identify what things need to be done first. My pace of work has slowed down significantly after 2000, and it is more necesasry than ever that I make this habit of organizing my priorities in order to remain efficient and productive.

Habit 6: Re-education
As stroke survivors, we need to embrace learning. And depending on the extent of neurological damage due to our stroke, a certain degree of re-education is needed.

I have found that with this habit of re-education, the one thing that is necessary is a spirit of humility. As C. S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”.

It is with this spirit that allowed me to ask for more help, expose myself with new experiences and dare to change certain fixed mindsets that I had.

Habit 7: YOLO
You Only Live Once.

While some may view the above catch-phrase as a reflection of a reckless living among the youth of today, I believe as mature adults who understand the value of life, we can use this manta for living a meaningful life after stroke.
By the grace of God, I am given a second chance in life after my near-fatal stroke attack. And rather than living life being overly cautious, I am determined to live life and experience the possibilities that may come my way.

It is with this spirit that I went into wheelchair table tennis. I was never a sporty person in school. Yet after my stroke, I was determined to push myself and test my limits given my physical limitations. And together with all the other habits listed above, I am privileged to have been able to clinch the gold-medal in the 8th ASEAN Games in 2015.

In conclusion, with these 7 habits of starting the day with Visualization, living an Inspired life, being Committed to self-respect, Thanksgiving, Organize our priorities, Re-education and YOLO; we can be confident of living a meaningful life in V.I.C.T.O.R.Y as successful stroke survivors.




Mindset: A matter of Conscious, Subconscious or Unconscious Mind?

Sigmund Freud, the famous Austrian psychologist, was probably the first to popularize the concept of human being having three levels of mind in cognitive psychology into mainstream society as we know it today. According to him, the three different levels of our psyche could be separated into the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind. They work together to create reality as how we perceive it; shaping our thought processes, responses, to reactions.

Broadly speaking, the conscious mind communicates to the outside world and the inner self through speech, pictures, writing, physical movement and thoughts while our subconscious mind, on the other hand, is in charge of our recent memories and is in continuous contact with the unconscious mind.

This unconscious mind is the storehouse of all memories and past experiences and it is from these memories and experiences that our beliefs, habits and behaviors are formed.

A simple representation of these three ties can be seen here.

The human mind fascinates me and this may stem from the fact that I was trained as a doctor. And while it is great that we are aware of these three levels of mind but more importantly, where does our mindset sit in this model?

It was perhaps the Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu who wrote first about the mindset more than 2 500 years ago with these words:

Our mindset impacts the conscious, subconscious and the unconscious as well. It affects the way we think, our opinions and the beliefs we form. Hence, to have dominion over our life requires us to be intentional about protecting our mindset. If we are determined to be better, our new empowered mindset will start producing more driven thoughts, in turn generating positive words with affirmative action and congruent habits that will sharpen our character and propel our destiny forward!

Edited by Ms. Sakeena Tan




Valuable life lessons I have gained as a para-athlete

Winning is great. Having a Gold medal after a tournament is awesome. But the true essence of sports is summed up by this word.


As a businessman, I find the core of what I do is in mindset transformation –prescribing strategies for professionals and individuals to achieve career and business success. As a national athlete in the sport of wheelchair table tennis, I find that the key to sporting success is also our mindset.

I find that a right mindset is fundamental for us to achieve our fulfilment in life. I started training for this competitive sport back in 2011 as a way of showing to myself that life after my stroke can be rewarding and my life can still continue to expand. In time, this sport showed me three valuable life lessons I have gained as a para-athlete.


In my journey as a para-athlete, I have seen many athletes with various limitations in their physical abilities. Yet many of them are still able to pursue sporting excellence at the highest level competitively.

I am sure many of you are familiar with our very own Yip Pin Xiu who is a three-time Paralympic gold medallist backstroke swimming. She tells us that despite her muscular dystrophy, “… that as long as you set your mind on something, regardless of your circumstances, you can find opportunities along the way and you can reach your goal.”

Her condition means that she faces progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles which is the reason why she moved from a classification S4 (better body control) to S2 (poorer body control). Yet, this did not deter her from getting two gold medals for Singapore in the recent Paralympics at Rio 2016.

Pin Xiu was able to adapt despite the progressive nature of the condition and it is this adaptability that enables her to emerge tops continually.

With adaptability, three traits are required and they are positivity, acceptance and confidence.

Positivity: The late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power of Positive Thinking has sold well for more than 40 years because it contains such a universal truth. A positive attitude leads to positive events in your life.

Acceptance: Choose not to judge what happens to us. Instead, believe that everything happens for a reason and that better things will always follow. That is the beginning of true acceptance.

Confidence: Confident people believe in winning. Confident people believe in success. More importantly, confident people believe in their ability to win and succeed in life.


In my minibook, The Art of Determination, I wrote these words which I still believe is true.

“Determination is one of the greatest assets one can ever possess. It is the tool we use to prevent a temporary failure from becoming a permanent defeat. It is also the tool we use to feed our faith and starve our doubts.

Not only that, determination helps build strong character. It makes us more committed to the cause that we believe in.

The Latin word for determination is “termination” which is defined as the “setting of boundaries”.

Putting this in context, determination is fundamentally about how much we are willing to stretch and reach for our dreams, achieve our goals and ultimately, be the person we have envisioned ourselves to be.

Heather Dorniden was favoured to win the gold medal in the 600m sprint in 2008 at the track and field games of University of Minnesota. When she tripped and fell flat during the midpoint of the race, there was an audible gasp throughout the stadium. But her strong determination to finish the race became the defining moment of the game.

If we study her story or the story of any other determined person for that matter; we will discover that determined people are more concerned about who they are as a person (‘be’) than how much they achieve (‘do’) in life.

During one of her interviews after the race, Heather revealed that during the race, she actually did not realize she fell. She simply felt that she had tripped and what she had to do was to keep on running.

This showed her mental strength, which was key to her winning the gold medal despite falling. Determination, therefore, has the ability to bring out the best in all of us. It gives us the will to win in spite of life’s limitations and challenges”


Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” I find that having the right perspectives is crucial for success in life.

As a para-athlete there are many things that I can lament or complain about. That I was never a table tennis player. That I was never athletic in nature. That my body tenses up so badly when game play gets too intense and making it difficult for muscle control. That my stroke caused me to loss my right visual field and hence I am unable to see half of the playing field when I play the game.

But excuses are but excuses.

The fact is I am still able. That I am now a table tennis player. That I am now a national para-athlete. That my body can still move despite the muscles tensing up so badly when game play gets too intense and making it difficult for muscle control. That I can still see over my left visual field despite my stroke causing me to loss my right visual field and hence I am unable to see half of the playing field when I play the game.

As a para-athlete, these lessons of adaptability, determination and perspectives continually remind me that truly, changing our lenses cause changes in our lives!




Mentality Trumps Ability

On 4th Nov, I attended the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme (LED) Symposium 2016 held at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel. With the SMEs in Singapore in mind, LEDS was mooted by Minister Lim Swee Say back in 2015 with the following objectives:
a) be more manpower efficient/lean;
b) develop a strong Singaporean Core and
c) enhance the quality of our workforce.

Mr Lim also spoke in this event and on that day he reminded Singaporeans that “With ageing and low birth rate, our local workforce is growing much slower, and may stagnate in the next decade. So in other words, 10 years from now, the local workforce will stop growing. With foreign manpower growing much slower too, our challenge is to ensure that this sharp drop in our total workforce growth will not become the bottleneck in the future growth of our economy and also for your businesses.”

Many other industry leaders spoke that day and a few common themes seem to stand out. One of which was how we can use technology in increase our work efficiency and efficacy. Another is the need for our workforce to be able to add value in what they are currently doing as tasks become more multi-faceted.

As I listen and lean in to what the speakers have to share, there was one word that was repeated throughout the various presentations.


More than one speaker spoke about it was how they changed the way they look at the problem that caused a change in perspective that finally led to a breakthrough in results generation.

I am convinced that as we move into 2017, one thing will bring us out from the current sluggish economic climate and that is our mental attitude and disposition that will predetermine the interpretation of and the respond to the situations we face.

After all obstacles are but opportunities for us to lean and grow as leaders. What is needful is then a mindset shift that helps us to refocus and look through the same situation but with a different lens.




The Three Choices That Helps Shape My Destiny After Stroke

As stroke survivors, life may seem painfully unfair. For some of us, we may be at the height of our career when the brain attack occurred. For others, we may be celebrating some of life’s treasured blessings like the birth of a new-born or having the keys to a new house. Or perhaps, we are just looking forward to enjoy the fruits of our labour with our partner after retirement.

Regardless the backdrop, stroke is a life-defining moment. For most of us, it will have affected our lives significantly.

But while our life story may define us as stroke survivors, our life destiny can only be determined by the choices that we make. And much of these choices deal primarily with the belief and mind-set we have as stroke survivors. It was the leader of the Indian independence movement during British-rule, Ghandi, who uttered these words:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
 – Mahatma Ghandi (1869 – 1948)

There are three decisions I choose to make daily which reminds me that as stroke survivors, our lives can still be meaningful and impactful.


I choose today to believe that disability is ONLY in the mind.

Our state of ability is the degree of how empowered we are. Henry Ford (1863 – 1947), who founded Ford Motor Company, was absolutely spot-on when he said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right”.

We are as disabled as we think we are. In other words, we are also as abled as we think we are.

My stroke left me with a certain amount of dysphasia – an impairment of the ability to communication resulting from brain injury. I remembered during my acute stay in the hospital, I was unable to talk and I could only recognize the first 13 numbers. This was a huge blow to me as I was always a ferocious reader and I love communicating with the people around me. Hence, regaining my language ability was topmost in my priority.

As a doctor, I understand that our brain in plastic. Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, refers to the brain’s ability to change throughout life. The human brain has the amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells. And I know that despite the brain attack, I am still able to relearn back what I lost.

As a prisoner of hope, I started relearning English and since my stroke, I have under my belt a MSc degree, a few other certificates, run and manage a learning centre for youth (Potter’s Clay Education), and I am a professional inspiration speaker and a mindset transformation coach.


I choose today to focus on having a winning mindset and not on excuses.

Events occur in life that is not our choosing. After all, I believe none of us desired to have a brain attack. But after an event such as stroke, we are responsible for the thought which we choose to dwell upon.

While I am the first to admit that there are many things that I no longer am able to do. I can no longer swim as freely as I used to. Neither am I able to do a 2.4 km run under 10 minutes. But that has never limited me from aiming at goals and reaching them.

As survivors, our dreams can still be realized and we need only to focus on these four keys:
1. Vision that aspires
2. Inspiration that fuels our love for life
3. Passion that anchors devotion
4. Purpose drives meaningful exploits


I choose today to develop the art of determination.

Determination is our strength of pursuit. I have always termed determination as an “art”. Art is referred to as the expression or application of human exploits. Living a meaningful life is therefore an art form as we decide how to best express and apply ourselves in this world while we are in it.

As a stroke survivor, our art becomes even more delicate yet it can still be worthwhile. It all depends on what we are determined to will forth.

Therefore, today, I choose #DisabilityIsOnlyInTheMind. Today, I choose #WinningMindset. Today, I choose #TheArtOfDetermination.

What do you choose?




Pursuing Purpose

Recently I had the pleasure to meet a new friend who is also a stroke survivor. Both of us had our brain attack due to an AVM (arteria-venous malformation). Over coffee in the afternoon, we shared how our lives were affected because of the bleed.

Over the course of our conversation, one theme cropped out often and that was about our life’s purpose. Maybe it is because stroke at our relatively young age makes us realise just how fragile life can be. Or maybe it is because we both appreciate and acknowledge how grateful we are for God’s unmerited favour over our lives. As I relaxed and enjoyed the time with my new acquaintance, it reminded me why it is so important for us to seek out passionately what our purpose in life is.

It was Dr Myles Munroe (1954 – 2014) who was a pastor, inspirational speaker and international author of numerous books that wrote, “The value of life is not in its duration, but in its donation. You are not important because of how long you live, you are important because of how effective you live.

And so I shared over our afternoon coffee why it is so important that we have a duty to live out our life. Paul (5 – 67 AD), the apostle who taught the gospel of Jesus Christ in the first century, had the privilege to complete his life’s destiny when he wrote these words, “My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service… Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you.” – (Phil 2:17)

How absolutely wonderful it must feel to know that we have impacted others through the lives we have touched!
As we go into the final few days of the year and we look forward to 2017, let us ponder as consider the purpose of our lives and how we pursue. it.

One of the best ways to develop a healthy and positive approach towards life is to be intentional about our mindset and the thoughts that we dwell upon.

Again, it was Paul the apostle that reminds us that “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – (Phil 4:8)

To live a life that is meaningful and rewarding, we need to be real and authentic about who we are, what we have done, where we want to go and how are we going to reach there.

One of the most important thing we can do to develop our purpose to be be self-aware of our talents, abilities, gifts and inclinations. And this is what I routinely do for my workshops and talks.

When we are determined to live a life where we are continually giving, we act with respect, care, and mindfulness for the well-being of everyone and not just for our self-serving interests. When we serve others first and be a leader second, we help individuals achieve worthwhile results while keeping the best interest of those we serve before our own.




How to Develop a Successful Mindset for 2017

What is Mindset? The dictionary defines it as “the established set of attitude held by a person”. In other words, our mindset refers to our mental inclination, tendency and habits. It is our way of thinking and opinions. Through our mindset our attitudes, moods and disposition is established. Moreover, this mental frame of mind; which we term mindset; drives our ideas whenever we approach a situation. Mindset is important because it refers to our thought, actions, results and beliefs.

It was perhaps the Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu who first wrote about mindset and its significance more than 2 500 years ago with these words:

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Stephen Covey (1932 – 2012) was an American educator, author and businessman who wrote The Habits Of Highly Effective People; and it was he that coined the idea of abundance mindset contrasting it with scarcity mindset. For Covey, he believes that the emergence of an abundance mindset creates a mentality that gravitates towards enough resources and successes to share with others.

In 2006, Carol Dwerk (1946 – present) published her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success in which she postulates that individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. According to her book, there are those that believes their success is based on innate ability and she termed them as “fixed mindset” vs those who believes that success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness whom she termed as “growth mindset”.

I believe that mindset is the key that unlocks the treasure that is stored within us. As we move into 2017, let us remember together some keys that will open up our possibilities as we position ourselves for a great year ahead!

Why are we doing what we are doing?
One of the most important thing we can know in 2017 for ourselves is what is important to us? As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) so profoundly said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Our purpose drives our reasons and reasoning.

We can accomplish almost anything when what we are trying to accomplish is what we are passionate about. Let us be focused and disciplined to a cause and purpose that connects with who we truly are. All of us bear a unique voice that is longing to be expressed so let us start living sincerely though this expression.

What can we do to achieve transformational results?
All of us have the responsibility to deliver to the world the potential that is trapped in each and every one of us.

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister of Great Britain ran the first sub-four minute mile. In fact, he ran it in 3 minute and 59.4 seconds. Before this feat, it was thought to be impossible to run a mile in under four minutes. Interestingly, two months later, he raced his great rival John Landy of Australia and won that race, with both men going under four minutes, and within three years 16 runners had gone under the barrier.

What can we learn from this? The moral of the story, of course, is that so often our limitations exist only in our minds, and when someone erases the mental limits, performance takes off.

What are we believing today about our performance?

Where are we going as we move into 2017?
How do we reach our destiny? After we discover our purpose and recognized our potential, we have to realize our destiny can only be reached through determination, dedication, persistence and perseverance. In other words, the fulfillment of our destiny is decided by us.

There is currently 7.4 billion people here on planet earth and it is my belief we are all born to do something valuable and be an impact to the environment around. Our existence is proof that there is something important for us to deliver that made our presence necessary.

Fishes are meant to swim. Birds are meant to fly. Seeds are meant to grown. Our destiny is hard-wired into us. Yet, fear and false identity too often robs from us our success and the full expression of what we are capable of.

As we enjoy the last few days of 2016, let us all be committed to a mental frame of mind that will reap the results we are aiming for in 2017!




Setting Up The Right Environment For Success in 2017

Everything in life is meant to function in a certain environment. When we purchase a new hand-phone, the first thing we see is very often NOT the hand-phone itself. In fact, the very first thing we find after opening the box is not the new phone, but an operating manual which tells us how best to use the phone; letting us know what is the environment under which the phone best operates.

Even in nature, as knowledge and understanding of our atmosphere grows, we are starting to realise that there is an environment that nature operates best, and ignoring or violating these natural laws are causing many of the drastic weather changes we are experiencing currently.

From what is evident in the news, we see that if we do not take care of the oceans, fishes die. If we do not take care of our soil, plants die. In fact, ff we take a plant out of the soil or we take fish out of water, they naturally perish. We all needs a certain environment in which we flourish. Outside of that optimal environment, we malfunction.

Therefore, I think we can appreciate that environment is the key to success and I believe it is the same for our mindset as well. For us to be all that we are meant to be, we need the right “environment” – the right mindset.
There are three things we need to consider when we think about the right environment for our mind to take hold of and grow. They are 1) positive mindset2) progressive mindset, and 3) protecting our mindset.

Positive Mindset
Research studies tell us that regularly practicing gratitude can have great positive effects on our mind and body, creating greater health effects than what regular exercise can bring. What these studies show is that energy flows where attention goes, and our mood is often determined by what we recognize and think about in our life.

Our mood not only affects our performance, but it also has significant implications on our health and overall daily effectiveness throughout our lives. Hence it is a good reminder to take time each day to practice gratitude. By doing this, we create opportunities to notice the things that are going right. Such actions is much more than simply saying, “thank you”; it is about truly feeling grateful and appreciative. Being thankful for what you currently have immediately releases any negativity that you might be holding onto. Gratitude instantly puts you in touch with the feeling of love. Where love resides, fear and all other negative emotions cannot.

Progressive Mindset 
Carol Dweck (1946 – present), in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, tells us that people have a growth mindset. People with suc