Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday Blues - No More

Photo by Vanilla

Today is Monday.

Given a choice, many people would rather call it Moodyday or Monsterday. Basically, to them, it is their most hated day of the week.

If you are one of them, this is how your Monday would typically go:

Photo by Vanilla

You wake up, wishing that the weekend is not over yet. Even before you are fully conscious, you creatively think of all the possible reasons (more like excuses) not to report for work. Thankfully, you are rational most of the time when you think of the bacon you have to bring home.

So, you drag your feet and the journey to work seems like forever. When you finally reach your messy desk, you try to recap what you have left behind last Friday. You start to work on it for a couple of hours and wonder why the day is so long. The rest of the day is just as miserable if not worse.

Photo by Vanilla

Mondays need not be that way. You can consider taking these 10 steps to beat your Monday blues:

1. Have a neat ending on Friday

Wrap up your week nicely. Complete your work on Friday or at least reach a logical milestone if the task is big. Pack up your desk and end the week by putting what you need to do on Monday in an orderly manner.

Photo by Vanilla

2. TGIF but don't be a Weekend Warrior

Your long awaited weekend is finally here. It is alright to have fun but watch your limits. Having fun does not mean you have to drain your battery and leave yourself no time to recuperate before Monday comes.

3. Minimize weekend sleep-ins

Instead of lazing in bed on Saturday or Sunday morning, plan to start your day early. You can fill the day with leisurely itinerary which begins in the morning. Try to wake up at about the same time as your weekdays.

Photo by Vanilla

4. Wrap up your weekend

Give yourself sometime on Sunday to prepare for the next day. Go through quickly what needs to be done on Monday. Be mentally prepared.

5. Don't leave packing till Monday morning

Pack all the things you need to bring by Sunday night. Leave few or nothing to pack on Monday morning. If there is anything that you cannot pack the night before, such as morning papers or sandwich, make a note. Most people are not very good at remembering things on Monday mornings.

6. Decide what to wear

Gentlemen, take note, this is not just a problem for the ladies. Get ready what to wear so that you only have to jump into your suit. You would not want to space-out in front of your wardrobe on Monday mornings.

Photo by Vanilla

7. Recap your routine

This might sound a little silly
but it is helpful. Go through your Monday morning routine the night before. For eg. shower by 6.00 am, breakfast by 6.30 am and hit the road by 7.00 am. This would help your mind adjust to your weekday routine.

Photo by Vanilla

8. Don't sleep in on Monday morning

The urge is strong but lingering in bed will only make your Monday more miserable. Get out of bed the moment you wake up. Try not to draw your curtains. Let the sunlight fill the room as it helps to tune your bio clock.

9. Have some happy thoughts

Think of something happy on Monday morning. Feeling grateful for what you have brings about a positive mood. On the contrary, if you wake up cursing at the day, you are destined to be greeted by a gloomy day ahead.

10. Stay away from the blues

Lastly, if you meet anyone feeling Monday blues, forward this article to them. Helping someone is always a nice way to perk your day. However, if you do not feel like helping anyone, stay away from the 'blue people'. Monday blues can be contagious.

Photo by Vanilla

Common sense, right? Unfortunately, common sense is commonly known but rarely practiced. From now on, just remember that there is nothing evil about Mondays. Between Monday blues and happy hues, the choice is entirely yours.

YOU decide.

You might also want to read:

Perspective of Life
Happiness is a Choice

"I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet."
~ Denis Waitely ~

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Singapore Blog Awards 2010

Again? ~Nice~

For the second time, this blog is one of the finalists for the Singapore Blog Awards (SBA) under the "Most Insightful" category.

I am totally humbled.

Your continuous support has made a great difference and I hope you will give me your encouragement and vote for me. Here are some simple steps:

1. Goto SBA2010 website.

2. Login if you are a member of omy. Otherwise, register as a user first. (omy is by the Singapore Press Holdings)

3. Click on this to see the finalists.

4. Click on the "Most Insightful Blog" category.

5. Click on the word "VOTE" on the blog icon to cast your vote for Vanilla. You should be prompted for a confirmation. You can vote once each day from now till 30 Jun.

6. You stand to win these prizes

7. Thank you for your support and I hope you win something.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

A Home They Call School

I visited a not-so-ordinary school last week.

NorthLight School is a school in Singapore under the care of the Ministry of Education. Yet, it is different from all other mainstream schools here. To get in, you would have to fail PSLE
not once but at least twice (Primary School Leaving Examination taken at age 12).

It is not difficult to understand why people tend to dismiss NorthLight as a school for the failures. Singapore is a meritocracy country. Everyone can fight for the same opportunity and only the best gets it. Given this backdrop, it appears really hopeless for those who are unable to get pass PSLE, repeatedly.

For those who are familiar with the education landscape in Singapore, you would have realized how schools are behaving rather competitively, vying for the best students. NorthLight, in this aspect, is doing exactly the opposite. They swim against the tide and reach out to those at the bottom-most stratum of academic excellence.

Not one kid is to be left behind

NorthLight was established in 2007. At that time, not many were confident of its success. To begin with, not many were interested to do much for a group of failures.

The Minister for Education in his Parliamentary Speech in 2006 noted that the drop-out rate in Singapore has been low. Notwithstanding that, something more could be done to help this small group of students. (report: Latest attrition rate is 1.2%)

The school principal, Mrs Chua Yen Ching was tasked to lead this challenging mission of setting up NorthLight. She was initially not hopeful about getting enough teachers and students to sustain the school. This is understandable. How many teachers would want to teach in a school for failures? How many students would be willing to be admitted and be seen as failures?

She was happily proven wrong when she was greeted with a roomful of applicants who wanted to be part of NorthLight. She had to turn away many. Today, NorthLight has a waiting list of teachers and students.

Reading Materials in NorthLight

Special needs

That was a good start but the rest was not easy. One of the key things NorthLight had to do was to redefine 'success' for their students.

We often relate success in school with academic excellence. This has to change for NorthLight. The kids there have very poor academic records and many come from underprivileged family background. They are often financially poor and have very low self-esteem.

According to NorthLight, "Every student is SPECIAL, has TALENTS, ASPIRATION and RESILIENCE." and they seek "to nurture confident, motivated and morally upright students".

It is clear that the school is not emphasizing the usual academic stuff. Rather, they aim to strengthen the emotional resilience of the kids.

Many kids in Northlight has a reading ability of a 7-year old. What they need is a very customized education approach.

Mock-Up Hotel Room

F&B Training Centre

Mock-Up Grocery Store

School curriculum at NorthLight is practice-based. For example, a mock-up hotel room is used to teach the students practical skills needed in the hotel industry. A cafe and a grocery store are set up to teach them about running small businesses.

Troubled kids

More urgently, the kids need to be unlocked and start to find back themselves. They would need sufficient amount of confidence to face the tough world when they are out three years later.

The kids at NorthLight are often the troubled ones. Here is a story from one of them:

"My biological father did not love me when I am still baby, but at the end god gave me a stepfather. Last time my biological father said to my mother that he did not want to take care of me and he wanted to throw me away... (read more)"
This is but one of the many unhappy stories.

Student Recreation Centre

They care

I toured around the school and it was easy to note little things which say so much about what the school believe in. XBox consoles are placed freely in the school canteen. There was no lock but a gentle note from the school to remind the students that they are "trusted to take care of the gadgets”.

The schools are also well-equipped with CCTV cameras. Most people would be quick to guess that they are there to check these usually-naughty kids. Signs such as the ones above would instantly bring some sense of guilt in our distrusting nature.

NorthLight believe in keeping the students in school after lessons so that they can keep out of trouble on the streets. A games room comes in handy to keep the kids occupied.


NorthLight gets supports from people who come to know about their effort. A bakery volunteered to donate bread in the morning so that the kids with no food at home can have something for breakfast. A doctor in the neighborhood charge the kids a mere S$5 or nothing at all when they are brought there by their teachers.

The Singapore Optometric Association learned about the eyesight problems of many needy students. They helped to check their eyes and provided free eye-wears. (see news article)

It is really heartening to know that there are many more individual and corporate volunteers who at one time or another, chip in to do their part.

School Ground

Always in touch

The school saw their first batch of graduates last year. These kids are out of school but not out of sight. In the following one year, NorthLight will keep in close contact with them and help them cushion the initial shock of the real world. In the following 10 years, their where-about will continue to be tracked.

NorthLight want the kids to feel safe while they are in school. They also want to assure them that after their graduation, the school would still welcome them should they need a place to run to.

To many kids, NorthLight is their home, their first home.

A Note of Encouragement from the PM

Inspiring many

Within a short span time, NorthLight have proven themselves to be a school with a unique and successful formula to help these often neglected and forgotten kids. They strive to turn the "Impossible" in these kids to "I'm Possible".

There has been an endless stream of visitors to the school. Educators from overseas want to learn their education approach and the general public wants to be inspired by their stories.

I am one of those who have been deeply inspired.

See this video for a preview of activities and courses at NorthLight.
Official website

"A bad grade is only one letter in the Essay of life."
~Lee Drake~

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Perspective of Life

Photo by Vanilla

A hectic week has just passed.

I have a busy schedule and I am definitely not alone. Just like many others who are busy, I am often unable to say precisely what has kept me breathless.

This does not sound good.

Many people work on their routine during the work week and look forward to weekends. Their spirits may be temporarily lifted but only to be dampened again when Monday comes. This may go on week after week. They know that they are consumed but accept that life is such.

After sometime, they feel no sense of achievement and wonder why they are even doing whatever they are doing.

Are you experiencing the same?

Photo by Vanilla

The cure is not difficult. What you really need is some perspective of life. Here are some simple things you can do to help you along:

1. Keep a Journal

Writing can be therapeutic and insightful.
Get a habit of penning your thoughts and do it frequently. When you do so, you are actually conducting a self-conversation. You get to recap what you have done for the day and in recent times. It allows you to clear you mind and offer an insight which you otherwise will not gain in the midst of your busy and sometimes, boring routine.

2. Set aside time to think

Some call it 'reflection' but I prefer to look at it simply as 'thinking time'.

Each day, spend some 10 or 20 minutes thinking about what you have accomplished for the day. Ask 'action-driven' questions such as "Could I have resolved that problem differently?" You might just come up with some possible life-enhancing ideas.

Photo by Vanilla

3. Face your fear

Sometimes, you enjoy your routine because it protects you from your fear.

You have your own fear but would rather mask it behind a series of motions you call work. You wear yourself out after a day's work and feel thankful that you have just earned a day avoiding your fear.

Stop kidding yourself. To find your perspective of life, you would need to face your fear with some bravery. You can look forward to the enlightenment at the end of it as your reward.

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you."
(Maori Proverb

4. Do one thing differently

It might be too ambitious to undo your entire routine. However, doing just one thing differently is not too difficult.

You can take a new route to work. You can talk to a colleague whom you rarely work with. You can pick up an unfamiliar magazine and browse an article or two. You can do just one simple new thing and find yourself refreshed with some new perspectives.

Remember: Time passes everyday in exactly the same way but that does not mean that your life has to be a routine.

"Nothing is interesting if you're not interested."
~Helen MacInness~

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Mistakes in Dealing with Mistakes

Photo by Vanilla

I make mistakes. Who doesn't?

Most people brood over mistakes they make. Some of these mistakes keep them awake for many nights. They feel upset and sorry that things turn out that way. They may even find some of these mistakes earth-shattering (at least at that point in time).
However, given the same mistakes, some people may simply shrug them off.

Why the difference?

The answer can't be any simpler: It is the way we focus on the matter.

Things look humongous if we put them right before our eyes. However, moving them away would simply make them look tinier.

Many things that bother us today really won't matter much 10 years from now. If we fuss over them, we would spend much precious energy over things that matter less over time. In other words, our energy goes to waste.

However, if we pour our energy on things that matter now and in 10 years' time (or even after that), the return is more handsome.

Make a list of things that matter now and in time to come. These things are usually related to:

1. Physical and mental health
2. Wellness of loved ones
3. Lifelong learning
4. Making friends and networking

We can have many specific items under each aspect. For example, under "Physical and mental health", we can list down:

1. Exercising at least once a week

2. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables

3. Reading an inspiring story

4. Doing self reflection

The next time you are bothered by a mistake you have made, ask yourself this question:

"Will this matter 10 years from now?"

Most of the time, the answer is 'No'.
Instead of playing self-pity, take out your list and pick an item or two. Work on them for a while. Getting something done, no matter how briefly, would make you feel a sense of achievement. At the same time, while you are working on them, you would take your mind away from what might otherwise bother you.

Learn to look at big pictures. Focus on things that would matter in years to come. Don't fuss over small stuff.

Come on, in 2020, who will remember that you lost that business deal because you missed the deadline?

Go, make your list now.

"A bad day is just a day when you have been thinking more negative thoughts than positive ones."
~ Unknown ~

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Tweeting - One Year On

Exactly a year ago, I posted my first tweet.

On 3 May 2009, I said "I am swimming inside twitter" and I really meant it. I was quite clueless as to what I was supposed to do with Twitter. Many people told me that Twitter is relatively simple compared to other social network websites such as Facebook. It is true. It did not take me long to figure out most of its basic features.

(I shared my initial thoughts in "Let's Do The Tweet" in May last year.
You can also find out how Twitter got its name in "Modern 'Brandology'")

For the less informed, Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that allows you to post text messages of up to 140 characters. You can learn more about Twitter in "The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter".

I am an advocate for continuous learning and I would seize every opportunity to do it. That was the main impetus for me to sign up Twitter. I just had to try it. In the last 12 months, I have learned a great deal from the use of Twitter - much more than any 12-month period in the past since I was out from school.

It was reported that Twitter has about 75 million users and the number is growing at about 8 million per month. Even though many of these users are relatively inactive, the amount of resources from Twitter is not to be ignored.

Twitter is used in different style. Some use it for daily babbling. Some use it to spread their commercial presence. Some use it to share knowledge. Given that, Twitter can be meaningless, annoying or informative. It all depends entirely on who you follow.

I choose who I follow carefully, avoiding spammers, whiners, advertisers and those who are simply rude or crude. It is the same as how you would choose your friends in the real world. Twitter 'friends' can also have an influence on you too. Choose them wisely.

I have benefited from the use of Twitter and here are 10 DOs and DON'Ts I have learned:

1. Do share sensibly

Twitter prompts you at the 'update' box with the question "What's Happening?". Some people take it too far and share the last detail of their lives. Seriously, no one needs to know the texture of your fecal matters or number of exploding zits on your forehead. Having said that, do share a little about yourself. Your followers want and need to know that they are hearing from real people and not some bots.

2. Do be positive and happy

We are how we speak to ourselves and others. If we constantly say positive things and make happy notes, we will in turn feel that way. It is the same with Twitter. You will feel upbeat by your own happy thoughts. What is amazing is that, with Twitter, you are able to spread positive energy to your followers and that same energy can be further passed on to your followers' followers. (Re-tweets)

3. Do share useful resources

We constantly come across useful information on the Internet. In the spirit of sharing, we would want many to benefit from it too. Twitter allows you to do just that.
There are many other users who are doing the same. They tweet about stuff which they find useful. Follow them and you stand to benefit from their sharing too.

4. Do pursue your passion

You can find like-minded people in Twitter. Follow them and get updates, ideas and views in your areas of passion. I get updates on conservation effort and great tips on photography.

5. Do be yourself

Our relationship with others in Twitter is virtual (unless they happen to be friends in the real world too). However, that does not mean that we should behave any differently. Be yourself and be authentic. Your followers would appreciate that.

6. Don't whine

It is not difficult to understand why this is so. We do meet whiners in the real world and they wear us down. In Twitter, it is the same. If you want to get more followers, don't whine.

7. Don't criticize

Be open-minded. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We need not agree with all of them but there is also no need to be overly critical about their point of view. If their opinions get too unacceptable and unbearable, you can always unfollow. However, if you criticize, you are telling your followers that they too will get the same from you one day.

8. Don't hold a private conversation

It is very convenient to 'reply' to a message in Twitter. In any case, you should not use Twitter like an online chat. Your follower may not be interested to know the details of how you get on to a movie date with another Twitter user.

9. Don't forget basic courtesy

We have been taught from a young age that "Please" and "Thank You" are magic words. The magic does not go away just because we interact in a virtual world. Be courteous and respect your followers in the same way as you would in the real world.

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