Saturday, January 30, 2010

To Self-Motivate Requires Optimism

Last week I posted a video titled, "Wear Sunscreen". For me it was a very motivating video as it reminds me what are the things that are most important to us.

But I'm sure some of you were wondering what's with the 'wear sunscreen'?

For me, the whole video was about looking at the brighter side of life. It was about optimism. Like a sunscreen. It blocks the bad cancer causing UV rays of the sun so you can get the benefits the sun has to offer.

Optimism vs pessimism. Basically, I believe it's always better to be optimistic then pessimistic. To be pessimistic means to do nothing, and to do nothing is a sure-way, foolproof 100% certain that nothing good will come from it, because you're doing nothing! But if you do something, you might get positive outcomes. It might be small or a lot, now or later on, but trust me it will. Life has a funny way of giving back what you give to society or the people around you. All you need is sincerity & the right mentaltiy.

There will be many challenges & struggles we will face in the future. How we are able to survive it will depend on how we handle those situations. It is in our hardest times that we Will define ourselves that the easy times.

In that situation, whether we will give up or continue will depend on our ability to motivate ourselves regardless of the external situation. And that depends on how optimistic we are in life.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Prisoner's Dilemma Of Life

Have you heard of the Prisoner's dilemma? In wikipedia it refers to:

the theory that demonstrates why two people might not cooperate even if it is in both their best interests to do so.

The classical prisoner's dilemma can be summarized thus:

Two prisoner's or robbers are interrogated because of the crime they committed together. In order to get at least one of them to confess. The police/interrogator gives an incentive to confess in the form letting the confessor free. A matrix below shows all possible outcome:

Prisoner B
Stays Silent
Prisoner B
Prisoner A
Stays Silent
Each serves 6 months Prisoner A: 10 years
Prisoner B: goes free
Prisoner A
Prisoner A: goes free
Prisoner B: 10 years
Each serves 5 years

In this game, regardless of what the opponent chooses, each player always receives a higher payoff (lesser sentence) by betraying; that is to say that betraying is the strictly dominant strategy. For instance, Prisoner A can accurately say, "No matter what Prisoner B does, I personally am better off betraying than staying silent. Therefore, for my own sake, I should betray." However, if the other player acts similarly, then they both betray and both get a lower payoff than they would get by staying silent. Rational self-interested decisions result in each prisoner being worse off than if each chose to lessen the sentence of the accomplice at the cost of staying a little longer in jail himself (hence the seeming dilemma).

Conclusion: If both prisoners betray each other, they're stupid. If they both keep quite, they're smart.

In life, we are also in a prisoner's dilemma. Have you heard of people saying, "If our corrupted politicians misuse funds & abuse power, why can't I do the same?!", "If everybody doing this bad stuff, why not me?". These are people who I describe as the 'stupid prisoners'.

Allow me to illustrate. Imagine you have a choice to do good or evil. For the sake of this example, to do good means to do things fairly, ethically, legally and morally right. And to do evil is the opposite.

And other people in the world also has that choice: To do Good or Evil. Here is the outcome matrix of the situation:

As you can see above, regardless who chose to do evil, it only brings short term advantage. After all, when you're 'evil' activities are known then people won't trust you. When that happens, no one will want to work with you or support you anymore, whether in business, politics or any other stuff as well. There is a Malay proverb that literally translates, "No matter how high the squirrel jumps, it will eventually fall onto the ground." Which means no matter skillful you are at jumping away in risky business, you always end up back on the ground.

But if everybody do good, everybody trusts each other, everybody respects each other and there will be no paranoia. The world will be at peace.

Conclusion: Our ability to trust each other and do good to each other regardless of who the 'other' person is, will make our world a better place.

I know that sometimes being good is not appreciated by others, you'll end up being exploited and pushed over. But understand that the reason you are doing this is not because of these as$h*les but it is for the other people who are good but became 'evil' because he/she have lost trust in the goodness from others.

Show kindness, love, trust and goodness, to all...

Be. You.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wear Sunscreen!

A video with a very deep meaning, hope you enjoy it and understand it's message.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How Leaders Should Think Critically

Critical thinking is the purposeful and reflective judgement about what to believe or what to do in response to observations, experience, verbal or written expressions, or arguments.

Now, we always hear people complain university students don't have critical thinking skills. But what is it? And how do we get it. Do our country leaders have thinking skills? Would all our country's problem would be solved if this generation's leader's critical thinking skills is better? The fact is everyone says we must have the skill, but no one knows how or really want to.

Look at our yourselves, do you join co-curriculum? If you don't you're not going to get that skill. You're taking strategic management lecture? That's not enough. You think reading text book, doing presentations & do exams will ensure that you can manage a company or a country? Even if you do Arts &Culture, you need to have managerial & leadership roles to expose yourself to this skill. Don't get me wrong, if you're the director, stage manager & etc that's good you're leading people & making decisions as long you don't limit yourself to just dancing & acting. Unless, you want to be a professional dancer 0r singer, that's another story.

I found this blog post from the Harvard Business Review Blog, Read it and continue reading my comparison with Malaysia's current reality.
The post tells us how we can do critical thinking, They are:

Question assumptions

I see very little of this in Malaysia. It is our culture to follow the status quo, never go against it. Always follow the leader even if it's not the best thing to do. Critical thinking is often associated with criticizing. Which is not necessarily so. You're not trying to hurt some one's ego or reputation, we just want to do the right thing so we can reach or objective. But that is what Malaysians think. Unless we throw away this culture than it useless.

See potential

We see potential for the wrong reasons, most of it because of greed. Other times we don't see potential because of laziness. Imagine a friend in your club suggest a great idea, but because you see a lot of effort is needed, you say No to the idea because you're lazy.

Managing ambiguity

Many hard problems in life are ambiguous. Nothing in life is as easy as black & white. It requires knowledge & wisdom to navigate these issues. If you as a leader cannot have the skill to question the status quo, the calm mind to see issues objectively, how can you handle these ambiguous problems successfully?

Like leadership, critical thinking (which I think is a subset of leadership) cannot be learned by reading, only by doing. So be active in good student organizations.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Strategy Versus Tactic

Strategy and Tactics. Not many Student Leaders understand this, thus that's why their planning & their implementation will have an enormous gap.

I was reading a few articles about YES2009 in the Marketing Magazine. In one of them is about Garry Kasparov a chess legend. He was there at the event to talk about strategy and decision making. Two things he said interests me.
Strategy is what to do when there is nothing
Tactics is what to do when there is something

Strategy is what to do when there is nothing

When you do not see anything in front of you, no patterns or trends in you or your competitor’s actions then you should strategize. In other words you prepare for things you cannot foresee or for something that is further down the road.

Tactics is what to do when there is something

But when you do see something happening around you, you need to react accordingly, that, is a tactic. The tactic can be different to the original plan but it must be able to fit with your grand strategy. Tactics change but strategies don’t.

Understand what can you change in your planning and what cannot change. All the planning & the strategizing tools I have thought you is to help you understand this.

The decisions that you make will determine your club’s future. The more long term or visionary you’re thinking the higher the probability of your club’s success. An average person reacts to changes, leaders act before it happens.

Thank you for following my strategy series of articles. I hope it helps you in managing your organization. Look for my next series of articles.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Man Who Closest Matches The Vision I Have For My Blog

Create the leader in you, and you can create change for yourself!

The man who closest matches the ideals I have for what I'm trying to do with my blog. A few quotes to share:

"These institutions were lead by people I call leaders.And those leaders did not appear spontaneously. Somebody trained them..."

Unfortunately, in Malaysia our trainings of leadership is ineffective, unstructured & heavily politicized.

"...I became a parent,I realized the state of the African continent would matter to my children and their children."

Realize the extent of your actions or in-actions towards the future generations. To corrupted leaders, hoarding the wealth of the country will not make the lives of your children better. To students, your inaction to develop yourself will deprive Malaysia of quality leaders to protect Malaysia. Then, don't blame the current leaders when your needs are not met.

"And what Ashesi University is trying to do is to train a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders. We're trying to train leaders of exceptional integrity, who have the ability to confront complex problems, ask the right questions, and come up with workable solutions."

Ethical, integrity leaders in Malaysia? Jet Engines
Ability to confront complex problems? Uni have E-undi, the student leaders agree to admin only, don't know how to even try to debate...
Ask the right questions? Heck, even knowing right issue also epic fail. When, we're talking about e-undi, we're not talking about efficiency, simplicity, technology, environmental friendliness! We're talking about the validity of the results! Wtf!
Come up with Solutions? pfft...

Understand that by instilling yourself with leadership you are giving yourself the power to change the world, or at least the country.

So, if you are so passionate about politics, the country or making change, develop your leadership skills first. If not, shut up and stop whining.

Be. You.

Friday, January 8, 2010

How Do You Know You're In Control?

With so many external factors threatening your student project, how do you make sure you’re in control? Which means you’re project is reaching its deadline. Your people are doing their job correctly. Your finances are in check & etc?

As a leader in the organization, to know that you are in control is these three things below, they are:

  • You Understand
  • You Make Decisions
  • You Solve Problems

You Understand

As a leader you don’t need to know all the small details of your project but you need to at least understand the big picture. But you need to understand the specifics, enough for you to be able to see how the small things work together. Imagine that if a subordinate came up to you and report to you about a problem. If you cannot understand the significance of this problem to other parts of your project, then you can’t make good effective decisions. This brings to my next point:

You Make Decisions

If you can’t make decisions, you’re not in control. It’s maybe because you do not have enough information. It’s maybe because you don’t have enough resources (time, manpower & money). It’s also maybe because you’re not decisive and want to delay your decision because you’re too afraid you’re decision would be wrong. (Like politicians ;P) But the fact is the same, if you can’t make good decisions, regardless the reason; it means you’re not in control. If you have all the things you need to make good decision, you would do it, right? You would solve it...

You Solve problems

Yes, if you really are in control you would be able to solve problems. At the end of the day, if you could, you would want to finish your project as soon as possible. Unless, you’re the lazy a$*h*le*s who do projects just to get merit. Ranting aside, as a leader you want to make sure things is happening so that you have ample time to check and also improve the project compared to its original plan.

So what do you do if you’re not in control?

Relax. Analyse what are things that you’re not in control off, and what are the reasons, whether it’s because you don’t have information or you’re too hesitant. If you don’t understand or do not have enough information, find information. If you’re too indecisive, refer to you planning timeline, can you afford to delay some more? If not, just take the action you think best. People would understand. Only bad team mates don’t understand. Just take one problem at a time. Take it slow. Remember to delegate where you can. The worst thing you can do it’s to panic.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Strategic tools: Strategy Formulation

You’ve done with all the strategic analysis. Now, it’s time for you to choose the right strategy. There are four strategies you can choose from: Aggressive, Defensive, Diversify/Differentiate & Niche/Focus.In the previous article, you should have finished doing your SWOT analysis.

By now, you should have finished listing down the solutions for the four combinations between strength, weakness, opportunity & threats. One of the four inner squares should contain more solutions then others. Refer to example below:

In the example above the combination of Strength & Opportunity have the most solutions compared to the other 4 inner boxes.

This should indicate which kind of strategy you will adopt.
  • Strength + Opportunity = Aggressive
  • Strength + Threat = Diversify/Differentiate
  • Weakness + Opportunity = Niche/Focus
  • Weakness + Threat = Defensive


This strategy means that you can go all out and use your resources to the max. In the student club context do your activities as big and as flashy as you can. Promote your club and it’s activities without worrying too much of your competitors. However, this rarely happen in the student club’s community.


In the corporate context, a company should diversify it’s product offerings. In the student club context, it means you must offer more activities/events or conduct those activities in a unique & different way. For example, if everyone does an entrepreneurship carnival for their club, would you want to do it too? Why don’t you do an investment competition by collaborating with the business faculty?


Find the most compelling, unique aspect of your club and pool ALL your resources to make it as good as possible. This is so that your ‘customers’ (students) will remember you for that compelling reason. In business, there is a term called “Unique Selling Point, (USP)”, that ‘reason’ you want people to remember you for. Forget everything else, just focus on your USPs.


This is the opposite of the Aggressive strategy. Be careful in using your resources. Don’t try to compare your club with other club. Don’t try to start a fight. Just make sure at least this year you are doing as god as last year. Your goal should be to build the foundation for next year so that your successor would be in a better situation to adopt a more aggressive strategy by building your club’s strength.

Find the most suitable strategy for your club's situation and resources. As a student, I feel we are not in a position to stretch our resources so much. Putting to much pressure on students is not wise since we have studies & etc. Next article, I would close the strategic thinking series with a summary and conclusion.



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