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Practice by Seth Godin, my early musings

Creativity is a process of practice.

Seth Godin goes beyond doing, beyond publishing, and into a regular habit of practice.

Industrial recipe vs Creative art.

I resonate with this.

One of my strengths is comprehending processes, the big picture, and how it forms into a pipeline of activities. The next strength is to optimize that process workflow for the business function which I review. This optimization could be fully manual, particularly manual and automated, or how online supported workflows gel together, with inputs from functional roles where required.

For the longest time, I was bothered that when I have worked out a systemic process, I get bored with it, and seldom follow it myself. I would train the people to adhere to it, often with exception management things to look out for, and then step back. Far back. And that’s the industrial recipe which Seth describes.

I am more about the art for optimizing. Where I sit to reflect and pull all desired outcomes, workflows and steps leading to the outcome, and then describe a better way to run that, and thereafter, redeploy resources towards that new process. I’ve always tried to work with functional headcount numbers and not on the human personalities themselves – and have actually cut out myself out of various workflows before even.

Here, I made this.

More learnings as President of BNI Crescendo

The Vision we set, gives the direction we collectively run towards. BNI is a referral passing organisation and provides the framework to network effectively. Vision setting gives each chapter the opportunity to evolve and develop their own culture. And this has been a learning journey for me.

As I reflect on my development, this post began here.

6. The Habit to Ask
To foster communication, I developed the habit to ask. At the 1-1 level, I’d ask if the audio and visual cues to spot referrals are working. Also if the qualifying questions make it clearer for the right referrals to come in.

At the Leadership and Support Team level, my questions are frequently, how can we do this better, and how can we do this different?

At the chapters level, I’d be asking, “How’s a larger chapter doing it right?” and “How do they hold it all together?”

At the country level, it’ll be more along “Hey, how do we help your members enter the Singapore market?”

7. Connect to Bigger Circles
And that’s where I look out for opportunities and doorways to connect businesses or help our members reach outside our borders. There’s so much more I can write about networking, so I’ll just place a stub here for future writings.

8. Celebrate the Heroes and the Wins
BNI always had this as a practice and recently Recognition is a defined Core Value. It is through my BNI journey where I learn the value of gratitude and the strength of recognising the heroes around us and the wins in our community.

And I’d be the first to admit that sometimes, the act of celebration happens first, before the joy truly follows. Acknowledging and celebrating wins, keeps the eye on the Vision.

9. Have Fun while Leading
I could not have planned this out to this degree. Through my 2 terms as President, I had special dates which landed on a Thursday, our meeting dates.

I had my birthday – yes we celebrated. Thank you, dear chapter mates!

And I had my anniversary on another meeting day too. We had Family Day theme, where members invited their spouses and children to the meeting. And my wife attended that meeting. Being on the podium, I took the liberty to have our florist present flowers to her as I acknowledged all visitors. It’s great for our families to meet our business family.

10. Own the Stage
This was a big part of self-development. As President, we chair the meetings every week.

The first thing to learn about overcoming stage fright is just keep getting onto the stage. Helping fellow business owners overcome these same fears was a big personal mission for me. And it was about finding ways to get members onto the stage to address the room, often and repeatedly.

The next thing to learn while on the podium was how to read the audience. The meetings have a structured agenda, and it was too easy for one to drift off. I had to learn when energy had to be drummed up, and to carry it from segment to segment. It was just as important to tone down the energy when the fun index was reaching frenzy levels.

If asked what I missed through the lockdown period, that’s the learning opportunity to own the stage.

11. Accountability vs Responsibility
A learning that capped it all for me, was that as the leader and President, you’re never totally in control. You are simply accountable.

A successful meeting requires many hands. A great group working together to grow business requires many more hands and eyes too. The BNI Structure defines the key roles, and as the chapter evolves, more roles are formed to keep folks engaged and supporting each other. Sometimes, we try out new things too. The LT has to mete out the roles and hope that they uphold their responsibilities. On good days, we celebrate together. On not so good ones, well, the President is accountable.

What was also important for me, was to communicate with the team that I was accountable. That gave them the covering to run their roles, and do their best in fulfilling their assigned responsibilities. It gave them space to learn and grow for themselves.

It has been a great journey for my personal growth.

Will I take up the role again? We’ll see..

What I learned as President of BNI Crescendo

When I was appointed to be President of the BNI Crescendo chapter back in 2018, my first thought was, “Hey did they pick wrong? Who am I to lead this sizeable chapter of 70 members?”

While I did accept the honour, the primary thing I noted was that this was not a company in the hierarchical employment sense. This was a gathering of business professionals, company owners, coaches, consultants – in short, leaders in their own space, AND busy with their own business goals. And with the added (mental) burden that I’ve not led a 70-staffed company yet. What do I need to learn, adapt and practice?

I must quickly add that this wasn’t a solo journey. Much of the success and the learnings came together, because of a great Leadership Team and Support Team. And they carried the chapter every week.

1. Set a Vision
Without a vision, the people perish. The Chapter Vision helps rally members to a common destination. It’s like the BHAG that we set for ourselves. If it’s worthy enough a vision, we will not overly focus on the hiccups along the way.

2. How to Influence
Members are not there for you. They are there for themselves. As am I.

The art of the influence is then how are we there for each other, so that we all win together, for ourselves. The Vision helps the Influence conversations. And I find that it was one of the enablers for success.

3. Fill the Gaps
We all have blind spots. We all have collaborations we desire. We all have deferring levels of skill sets. How do we boldly communicate our gaps to each other, and ask for help.

The results show up in the form of bringing the right visitors, qualified referrals and trainings which bring us to the next level of growth.

4. Align Practices to Business
Principles we learn in running a chapter, also work in our own businesses.

In business, when we bring in more clients than we can effectively onboard, we run the risk of not serving them effectively. What’s worse is that a dissatisfied client becomes a negative voice in the market, which then turns into a vicious spiral working against us.

5. Acknowledge Mistakes
We’re humans, and humans err. I’ve decided that life (or the term) is too short to hide mistakes. Fess up to the parties involved, work a solution to get out of the hole caused by the mistake. Bring up the Vision to get everyone into the same direction again.

Thank you for reading thus far. My learning continues on this next post.

Remember to Breathe

Ever had times when you were so busy juggling different pieces of work, calls, project deadlines, interruptions from friends and family, and suddenly just felt short for breath?

That’s probably because you had really forgot to breathe.

I discovered that in the midst of these things, when I take a minute or three to just close my eyes, breathe in deeply and slowly, slowly exhale, I could feel tensions lift, and things take on a new flow.

One mental image that helps me inhale fully – I picture a wet and flat plastic bag. As I blow into it to open it up, I see the insides of the bag slowly become unstuck from each other. Eventually, the bag is puffed to its max capacity, with no more edges or sides sticking together. This is how I see my lungs after a breathing-in stage. And then I’d breathe out.

When I start a breathing cycle, I aimed for 8 deep inhales and exhales per minute. If I finished my 8 breaths below a minute, I tell myself that I’ve not fully reset my self, and would take another 8 breath-minute. I’d usually get into this comfortably by the 3rd round (or minute). And yes, there are days that require 5-rounds.

Additionally, before I get into a work cycle, I’d do my 3 minute breathing cycles and enter into work with a refreshed body and mind.

I’ve recently dived into Breathe : The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. The author expounds much more into the different breath patterns. Some calm you down. Some activate healing for your body. There was one pattern the author used during running, and that even came with a health warning – I’m not sure I’d try that yet. He also warns of the dangers of mouthbreathing, with practices to overcome that. Always breathe through your nose.

If you want to go further to explore breathing patterns and their benefits, I found a free app on Google Playstore called Breathly by Matteo Mazzarolo. The app includes most of the patterns described in the book, and has visuals, bells and voice settings to pace you through them. It also has one custom setting for you to set your own timing.

So whenever you find yourself stressed and short for breath, remember to breathe.

Some people are just good hearted

I was on an MRT train ride home the other day; long journey, uneventful, not too crowded. A rather normal and peaceful journey.

On one of the stops, a young lady boarded, sat across from me, and soon after, fell asleep.

A couple of stops later, she shouted, “Hey!” And everyone turned to look at her. “You dropped this!”, bending forward to pick up the student train pass on the floor in front of her. She handed it over to the schoolgirl who had sat beside her. And then the young lady went back to snooze.

I’m just now reflecting that perhaps the schoolgirl had knocked her with her backpack, or that her card landed on the lady’s thigh. What stuck was that she had the presence of mind to shout out, lean over, pick up the card, and pass it to the school girl. I would not have the same mindfulness coming out from a doze on the train.

The train was gradually emptying out as we moved from station to station, with more single seats here and there. On one of those stops, she looked up to check her destination. A mother with 2 kids came aboard. The lady took stock that there were empty seats on the left and right of her, and waved the mother over as she rose up, giving all 3 seats to them. She then hopped across to an empty one on my side of the row. And at some point of the continuing journey, nodded back to slumber.

I don’t know if I would see her again (its not the usual hour I take that train, nor will I recognise her, masked up and everything) But what stuck is that in between physical tiredness and a journey to somewhere, one can still have the heart for others, and do good.

Password Under Duress

Caught a couple of TV episodes where this was applied and I wondered why this wasn’t a mainstream thing?

The scenario is when a victim is placed under the threat of life, or threat of the loved ones, and is forced to withdraw cash or transfer funds. The victim then meekly obeys, logging in to do the task. The perpetrator is unaware that instead of the normal password, and a specially prearranged password is used.

The platform recognises that this is a duress code and will carry out transactions per normal, but will place a special flag for certain authorities to follow up. While the immediate action makes for good TV viewership, I wonder why this wasn’t more of a service thing?

Duress codes are currently found in home alarm systems, and also in military protocols. But I not looking for such high-geared responses.

In this age where online money transfers are becoming common place, it becomes so easy be harassed into doing something against your will. The special password will then just trigger an online police report, which can be revisited or acted upon later. If nothing else, it becomes documentation for a pattern of abuse.

Of course, many other actions can be spawned off from there. For example, silently capturing audio or video proof from the device in use.

Would you pay for such a service? Or will it some day be covered as a cyberattack insurance?

Who’s in your SHAZAM

We aspire to be better versions of ourselves, and we choose role models and mentors.

They help us see further, set our goals higher and, if we have access to them, may let us stand on their giant shoulders.

We choose them for who they are, what they know and teach, how they live, their values, their eyes of the world, how they create, how they lead their area, their tenacity, their luck, or even what they have or attained.

I constantly remind myself that I’m human. And so are they. They have paid a price, or a sacrifice for their achievements. Or while they have excelled in that area, they still challenges or have failed in others. Take the good, expect the good, and pay heed that I, myself, do not fall into those missteps.

I remind myself about SHAZAM, the DC Comics superhero. Shazam bears the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury”. What makes it a cautionary tale (and a great basis for stories) is what while Billy Batson stands on these giant shoulders, he doesn’t yet bear the maturity to walk in those strengths. And if you study more about the heroes that form up Shazam, they each have their failures and shortcomings too.

Build your SHAZAM list of role models. Know that you can swap them out when you attain your goals, or when your goalposts shift. Understand the price your role models paid for their accolades. Acknowledge their shortcomings and avoid letting those also be a part of you.

Creating Market Tension with the Limited Edition

This week in Singapore, just rounding off the Chinese New Year weekend, we saw the mad rush to get hold of Ikea’s “BYGGLEK” collection, a collaboration with LEGO.

As a dad, I recall my days of pretend-play with my children back when they were toddlers. Armed with (now totally mixed up) boxes of Lego pieces, we’d build our own mini rooms and dioramas, and let our stories unfold. Many times, we’d leave the sets of rooms as is, while we swapped out the fixtures and furniture and the little Lego people. I was wondering why it took this long for the collaboration to happen.

And apparently, it resonates with the public, as seen by the rush, the queues, and yes, the second-market scalping reselling on the online shopping platforms.

What struck me as brilliant, was that Ikea did not explicitly indicate that this range was a Limited Collection.

They do have a #IKEAcollections section on their website. And they do have OTHER Limited Collections for different ranges of products. And then this was launched.

To a marketer, it’s beautiful to see how they understood their audience, to the point where they had quantity-regulated signs ready. “Each customer can only purchase 3 of each product”, thereby applying the scarcity squeeze.

Ikea Lego Collaboration
Sold out in under a week!

Their website now says the next shipment will happen in March. Guess who’s going to Ikea during the March school holidays?

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