Two Key Elements of Trust

[blockquote source=”Proverbs 24:26 (NIV)“]An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.[/blockquote]

How would you know that someone is honest? Sometimes we make a snap judgment based on the person’s appearance. However that, we know, may prove to be inaccurate.

If given time to interact with that person, we would observe how s/he behave and respond to situations as it happen.

Hence, if the person preaches one thing but does another then we might conclude that he is not honest. Or we say that person has double standards.

On the other hand, if this person is not only consistent in her behavior but had also demonstrated resolve even when the situation is trying; she certainly earns our respect.

Everyone gravitates towards the person who is consistent. We respect them. We may even look to them for leadership and inspiration. Simply because we trust them.

So how can we become someone whom others ‎trust? Trust, essentially comes down to being authentic when connecting with others.

There has never been a time where people crave for authenticity more than ever. Perhaps it’s after decades of advertising, where some were persuasive while others deceptive. Perhaps it’s the widespread adoption of social media, where people not only have a voice but they have a megaphone to amplify their opinions and be heard.

Authenticity has become, for some, a comparative advantage.

Who wants to deal with a faceless organization, where their employees are shielded by the many layers of bureaucracy.

To add to authenticity, the ability to connect and engage with the customer turns that comparative advantage into a competitive one.

In fact, increasingly customers are beginning to expect and demand those very two factors in order to trust that you would do a good job.

Because of the interconnectedness, we now expect, and to an extent demand, that we be engaged when we conduct business. Whether that business is buying a book, a carton of milk, or a banking service‎. We simply want to trust so help us trust you.

Father I pray that we learn the truth by knowing and understanding Your word. Father I pray that we live the truth by demonstrating with consistency the principles taught by Your word. And Father I pray that we lead others to do the same by being authentic in our engagement with them. We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.

3 Steps To Eternal Gratitude

[blockquote source=”Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)“]And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.[/blockquote]

It is time of the month again.  Every month when I had to pay my bills, I become pessimistic.  I would be concerned and sometimes overwhelmed by thoughts of whether I would be able to keep up with my expenses in the months ahead.

However, for the last 5 years since I became debt-free, I had never since had an issue with bills.  In fact, when I thought back, I’ve never had an issue with money.  It was only during those foolish years of non-discriminating spending that I began to incur huge debts.  But even then, with discipline as well as God’s blessings, I was able to pay off my debts and even generated some significant savings within a short period of time.

As I reflected on today’s verses, it reinforced what I have set out to do – my mission.  As Christians and as follower of Jesus, we must not only just simply accept Him.  But we must follow Him.

And to follow Him, we must:

  • Learn from Him: John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
  • Live out His command: John 13:34-35 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
  • Lead others: Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

As the truth take root in my life through the “learn, live, and lead” approach, I can then learn to not be overwhelmed by the troubles in the world, as I know that through God, all things are possible.  And hence, I must express gratitude for being able to not only pay my bills but to be able to provide for my family.

Father I thank You for blessing our lives abundantly in every area, not just financially.  I pray that with each day of reading of Your Word, that I will truly lean the truth, live the truth, and to lead others in the truth.  In Jesus name, Amen.

What To Do When Your Toddler Won’t Listen

[blockquote source=”Jeremiah 3:15 (NIV)“]Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.[/blockquote]

What’s the difference between knowing and understanding?  This was the main thing that occupied my mind for a good part of the day.  But as I ponder over it, it began to dawn on me the deep difference.

As quoted by Robert Mills in his blog:

  • I know how to drive a car but I don’t understand how a car works
  • I know what the holographic principle is but I certainly don’t understand it
  • I know you’re upset but I don’t understand why

I think the last one struck me the hardest.

I was to bring my son for a trial music lesson this morning.  For some reasons, I kept thinking the venue was at this place, where in fact it was at another location.  But I only realised after I’ve parked the car and gotten him out of it.

For those of you who are parents, you would know what kind of a struggle it can be just to get the little ones into the car seats.

We were already running late and I had to put him back into the car seat to drive to the correct location.  He not only refused but was also kicking and screaming and crying.  I tried reasoning to him that “Daddy got us to the wrong location, and in order to go for your music lesson, we need to get into the car and drive to our destination”.

Somehow his thirty months old brain does not understand what it meant!

So first I tried the reasoning method.  Explaining to him gently why we need to get back into the car.  It did not work.

Next I tried the threatening method.  Saying that if he does not comply with my requests, this would be the last that we will be going to a music lesson.  It did not work.

Now, I am getting desperate.  Not only were we late, he was visibly agitated and so was I.  Besides, the heat in the car park was getting unbearable for the both of us.

Finally, what worked for me was that I had to be really firm (almost to the point of yelling)!  Only then did he know that his old man was upset.  But did he understand why was I upset?  I doubt it.

Father, sometimes I know what You are saying to me, but I may not necessarily understand, or perhaps I chose to not understand.  Father thank You for your grace and Your unfailing love.  Please give me the courage, strength, and wisdom to help me understand Your word, so that I could act on it.  In Christ’s name, Amen.

What Do You Think About When You Think?

[blockquote source=”Philippians 4:8 (NIV)“]Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.[/blockquote]

Earlier this year (2013), as I was reviewing my goals (short-term, long-term, and life-long) I was getting scared.  For one, to move the business to the next level, I need to scale.  I cannot continue with this trade time for money formula.  It not only placed a false ceiling in terms of my earning capacity, it is also not sustainable.  I was already working 50 to 60 hours a week and now with two children I simply cannot continue to work in this manner.

I need a change of mind-set, I would need a new paradigm, or I would need a change in my business model.  How would I do it?  Do I have the skills?  And do I have the resources?  And what went on was a continuous loop of disempowering thoughts; what if I fail, what if I cannot sustain the same level of income, what if I tried and it did not work and at the same I would drain my reserves?  What if, what if, what if.

And for sometime, these thoughts would haunt my mind in the day and even keep me up at night.  And the more I thought of it, the more negative I get, and the more I hold myself back from taking any form of action.  This would go on for days, then weeks, then months; until there comes a point where the moment I am awake, that’s the first thing on my mind!

I realize I was going down, and was going down fast.  And I knew that if I did not address this, it will sink me.  That was when I decided to not only pray, but pray with an expectant mind-set.  I know that God would provide an answer.  It is not that He had been silent all these while, but it was me that was not listening!

And so I prayed.  Then the answer was revealed to me, that I have been thinking about the wrong things.  My mind was focusing on the wrong things, I am focusing on the very things that will sink me, on the very things that will bring me down.  In fact, I should be focusing on Jesus.

Now, the issue was that I know it intellectually.  But to do it was a different matter altogether.  First, I tried to not think about it.  That just makes matters worse.  It is like when I say, “don’t think of that pink elephant”.  What does your mind think of?  Exactly, the pink elephant.  Then I tried to will it.  Again using willpower is just not possible.  I will just revert to the same old pattern.

What finally worked for me was to use the techniques taught by Tony Robbins in the Ultimate Edge.  The three steps to lasting change are:

  • Get Disturbed: this is where you need to get to the point where you are beyond uncomfortable.  Being uncomfortable is where one would whine about it everyday, but you never getting down to making any changes at all, because it is just uncomfortable.  Getting disturb is where the situation is causing so much pain that you simply cannot ignore it anymore.  It gets to the point where you say, “this MUST change”
  • Interrupt the Pattern: however, getting disturbed is not enough because there will be times where you will revert back to the same thinking habits.  And this happened to me many a times.  I would be thinking positively for most of the day, and then something happens and I will revert back to the same defeating thinking pattern again.  So, this is where you need to deliberately interrupt the pattern.  Every time that self-defeating thought comes about, I would do something dramatic.  I noticed that you have to do something dramatic or it won’t work.  Something dramatic of me would be “clap my hands and say, ah!”, or it would be “uh-ah, and then a loud whistle”.  It is odd, and yes, sometimes I do get the stares, but it worked for me.
  • Find Replacement Thoughts: now, you will need to look for a replacement thought.  You cannot eliminate the self-defeating thought alone, but will need to look for an empowering thought, something that will get you the results you want.  For me, I wanted to get started on my projects, to move on.  And so, my replacement thoughts were simply this (1) Jesus – I would pray, (2) Goal – what I want to achieve, (3) Benefit – how it will not only help me but more importantly help others.

Father I thank You for loving me and for guiding me.  Please help me focus on the things that are excellent or praiseworthy, help me focus on Jesus, help me focus on how I can learn from Your Word to help others lead a more engaged life.  In Jesus name, Amen.

What Will You Start Today?

[blockquote source=”Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)“]Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.[/blockquote]

Many a times I would look at my achievements, status, and material possessions and feel a sense of pride. And then something will happen.  I will begin to fear losing all of it and as a result of this fear, I would indeed lose it.  Not all of it, but lose it I will.

That’s when I come to realise that all that I have is given by God.  My ability to write, my ability to sell, my ability to speak, my ability to synthesise, and my ability to create – all these come from God.

And this brings about a sense of humility.  That whatever I do, have done, or will do is never the reason for salvation.  It is through God’s grace.

Additionally, once having accepted Christ, our past does not matter any more.  But to stay obedient to God, we must focus on what lies ahead.

Today’s tool is this concept that I’ve coined.  It is called “Starting Today”.

  • Question: when is the best time to plant a tree?
  • Answer: 30 years ago.
  • Question: when is the next best time to plant a tree?
  • Answer: Today.

Many a times when I read something useful, like investment for retirement, I would go; “wow, I wish I knew about this 20 years ago.  Now its probably too late”.  And then I would not do anything at all.  Likewise, when I told some people about my ritual of getting up earlier in the morning so that I can have quality time with my kids during breakfast, they would comment, “wow, I wish I could do too.”

But the fact is that they could.

So, starting today, identify one thing that you have putting off for too long and resolve to take some form of action today.

Father I thank You for your grace.  Please give me the strength to carry my own cross everyday as I strive forward to what lies ahead and that is knowing Christ, not just at the intellectual level, but more importantly at the relational level.  In His name, Amen.

Focus on Jesus 365

[blockquote source=”Proverbs 24:14 (NLT)“]In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short.[/blockquote]

In my mission to “Focus on Jesus 365“, the main aim is to identify a passage in the Scripture daily, interpret it, and look for a way to apply it to everyday living.  Sounds simple?  There are two key problems – interpretation and application:

  • Who am I to “interpret” the Scriptures?  Would I contort the Scripture to “fit” my own experiences?  Would I be giving a false interpretation?  What if I was wrong in my interpretation?
  • How do I know what’s the best way to apply what I’ve learned from the Scriptures?  What if I cannot find the tools or techniques to apply what I have learned?  What if those tools were just convenient and not really promoting Biblical principles?

It’s been said here that “interpretation is the bridge between observation and application”.

Here’s how I address this issue:

  • Pray with expectancy and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit: one can pray but don’t expect anything, but what is important here is that the Bible is indeed the Word of God, and we should read it with expectations and not read it passively like a novel;
  • Search for the right interpretation: it is well documented that in order to interpret the Scripture, you need to have Scripture interpret your experiences and not the other way around.  Hence, we need to understand the principles to interpreting Scriptures.  This is well documented here, here, and here; and
  • Look for appropriate tools to facilitate application: here, application does not mean using the most convenient tool available to “live” out the principles taught in the Scriptures, but however to use the most appropriate tool to enable us to live out the principles by submitting to the truth in obedience.

My aim is to learn from the Bible, live it out in my everyday life, and lead others to do the same in order to realise their God-given purpose.

Father I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me to accurately observe, interpret, and apply the Scriptures so that I may learn, live, and lead a highly engaged life.  I pray all these in Jesus name, Amen.

30-Second Rule To Being Humble

[blockquote source=”Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)“]In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross![/blockquote]

During one of the strategic planning sessions with a school, the team wanted to unpack the term “leaders”.  The process was to help them gain greater clarity in terms the interpretation of “leaders”, as well as to have a common understanding of what constitute a leader.

As I was facilitating the discussion, I noticed that their idea of a “leader” was a little skewed.  So I asked them to shout a list of attributes that they feel that a leader must have.

Here are some of the attributes:

  • visionary
  • courageous
  • competent
  • effective communicator
  • skilful
  • integrity
  • trustworthy

When I ran out of space on the flip-chart, I stopped and asked them the following question, “if you have a leader with all these attributes, would you trust him or her?  What’s missing from this list?”

Immediately it struck them that what’s missing from this list are the people element of a leader that would make him great!

For many years I have read many leadership books as I have always wanted to be a leader.  However one of my greatest struggle as a leader is not a lack of performance attributes (of course I can always improve on it, but you get the point), but it was the people skills that I need to work on.

While many of the books provide solutions or suggestions on how to become a better leader, very few speaks about the mind-set and beliefs that a leader must have in order to be a great one.  One of my favourite leadership book is “25 Ways to Win With People” by John Maxwell, as it doesn’t only tells you what to do, it also speaks about changing of your mind-set.

As I read today’s reading of the Scripture, the verses struck me as a reminder that I will need to re-visit my people skills.  And a simple, but profound gem I found in the book was the 30-second rule.  Remember the saying that, “the first impression lasts”, therefore by practicing the 30-second rule, you would not only make a good first impression but also a lasting one.

  • Mind-set: Forget about searching for ways to make yourself look good, instead search for ways to make others look great!  And of course, be sincere.
  • Tool-set: Use the Triple-A Treatment – attention, affirmation, and appreciation.
  • Skill-set: Say something encouraging to the person within 30-second.

Dear God, please help us be more Christ-like in terms of humility when serving others.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Why Do We Do What We Do?

[blockquote source=”Isaiah 58:11 (NLT)“]The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.[/blockquote]

Why do we do what we do when we know what we know?

You have probably heard this before – fake it till you make it.  I for one, do not subscribed to that idea.  I was a firm believer that until you understand it at the intellectual or cognitive level, you can never demonstrate it fully at the behavioural level.

I read an article some time back on the exploration of mathematical concepts and performance of investigative tasks as two key strategies to engage the minds and hearts of students in Singapore.

The premise of engagement in learning is founded on the core assumption that using student-centric learning strategies will enable students to be better engaged, hence leading to better learning.  What was interesting in the research was that while some teachers “found these approaches useful”, others do not see the relevance of it because they were “more concerned about covering the syllabus and preparing their students for tests and examinations.”

This, can be attributed to the mind-set of those teachers.  In fact, I believed that many of them, while research had shown that the approaches were useful, many of them were skeptical because they were still clinging onto their existing belief systems or paradigm.

The researchers concluded that for the “initiative to work, teachers must first believe the value of it. Thus it is very important to change the mind-sets of these teachers before they can teach less so that their students will learn more.”

Sometimes, when it comes to putting God first, my mind-set is just like those teachers described in the research paper.  And sometimes, even when I execute what God has instructed me, I still have that lingering doubtful thoughts.  I did not carry it out in a whole-hearted manner.

Today’s verse serves as a reminder for me that “the LORD will guide me”, even in tough situations.  But in order for me to receive it, I must not “just do it” (insert Nike’s swoosh here) but do it whole-heartedly.  What that means and how to translate that into everyday living, think ABC:

  • Affective: this is defined as having that feeling of belonging to God and of valuing the guidance given by the Word – most importantly it is to be grateful to God for revealing to us the ways forward;
  • Behavioural: this is referred to carrying it out – critical here is to be focused when executing what has been revealed to us, in other words, to be totally present
  • Cognitive: this is to fully invest in seeking the understanding – it is essential that we schedule time to invest in understanding the Word of God

Dear God, we thank You for have never letting us walk alone or leaving us on our own.  Thank you for being faithful God.  Please help us as we seek Your guidance through Your Word at let Your Word work on us at all three levels, cognitive, behavioural, and affective.  We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.

PS: Was listening to Matt Redman – Never Once as I was posting this article.

Who Do I Serve When I Serve?

[blockquote source=”Ephesians 6:7 (ISV)“]Serve willingly, as if you were serving the Lord and not merely people[/blockquote]

Before I was a believer, I could never understand why would businesses openly proclaim their love for the LORD.  I would even boycott some of these establishments as I cannot comprehend why the “need” to mix religion with business.  My thinking was, “keep your religion private, thank you”.

No wonder I was struggling with that very same idea just a couple of weeks ago.

I knew I was called by God to serve Him.  To go into missionary work.  I simply cannot see how my professional work can mix with this missionary work.

It was not until several weeks ago that I finally figured it all out, I think.  God was not asking me to give up my professional practice.  In fact, all the knowledge, skills, and competencies that I have built up over the last ten years are to be put into serving Him.

As mentioned in The Catalyst Leader, following Jesus is not a matter of either doing or being, but both.

To put it simply, following Jesus is not a private matter!  You need to look at how to integrate your love for the LORD into your life, your family, your relationships, and even your work.  You need to figure how by doing what you are doing is not merely to serve people, but it is also serving the LORD.

For some of you, integrating your love for the LORD into the different domains of your life may be easy.  But not so for some of us.  Have you already figured out how you can integrate your love for the LORD into the different domains?  If not, here’s some things you can do:

  • Be intentional: ask God to guide you in finding how you can integrate your love for Him into the different areas of your life – I asked specifically about how I can integrate it into my work
  • Schedule time with God: ideally this would be in the morning, preferably before the children wake especially if you have young children like me – I integrate reading of the Scripture into my morning ritual (I slipped up from time-to-time too, but the main thing is to quickly get back on track)
  • Pray: this does not have to be the “clasp your hands and bow your head”, but it must be your sincere outpouring to God – I just talk to God, like how I would to a friend.

Dear God, thank You for giving us the opportunities to serve others.  Help us integrate our love for You into the different areas of our lives, so that we are not merely serving people, but to serve You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Show Gratitude – In Good Times and In Bad Times

[blockquote source=”Ephesians 5:20 (NLT)“]And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.[/blockquote]

My business is prospering. My wife is happy. My kids are beautiful and well behaved. It’s easy to be grateful.

But what if the business is slowing down. Wife is upset. Children are getting out of hand.

Do we still maintain the same grateful attitude or do we start cursing and swearing? Kick up a big fuss? Slam the door? Fight with coworkers?

It’s easy to maintain one’s integrity when times are good. But when push comes to shove, that’s when the real test begins.

Mark Sanborn wrote in his book, Up, Down, or Sideways, on how we can put gratitude into action.  He suggested three simple action steps:

  • Start with a mind-set of gratitude
  • Schedule gratitude
  • Practice giving as you can

Mind-set of gratitude.  People with this mind-set are those who are grateful for what they already have, rather than what they do not have.  They are always willing to give, rather than to take.  They are always prepared to help, rather than waiting to receive it. They are proactive.  A good way to start is by making a list of all the things that you are grateful for.  As an example, my list starts with areas at the personal level, then spiralling out towards the people level and then the professional level:

Personal

  • Spiritual: I am grateful to God for loving me
  • Physical: I am grateful for this body that is getting healthier everyday
  • Emotional: I am grateful for the empowering emotions that I’ve experienced today
  • Mind: I am grateful for my mind that is creative and innovative
  • Economics: I am grateful for the money that I have
  • Time: I am grateful for the way that I choose to use my time effectively

People

  • Spouse: I am grateful for my wife, Rhea, who is supportive, loving, understanding, and caring
  • Children: I am grateful for my children, Moses and Esther, who are healthy, active, and loving

Professional

  • Work: I am grateful for the work that I get to do with the Schools in helping them become more effective
  • Colleagues: I am grateful for the people that I work with who are supportive, understanding, and encouraging

Schedule gratitude. You see, if it stays at the level of mindset, then when we get busy, we will likely forget about it. Expressing gratitude is one of those quadrant two activities (important but not urgent) that we need to act on it. Hence, “schedule it in your calendar until it becomes second nature”, as suggested by Mark. As an example, I schedule expressing my gratitude into my morning ritual.  This is where I will say it out loud either when I am walking, running, or when I am alone in the room.  I am not there yet, but this is what my ideal schedule of gratitude would look like:

  • Morning ritual: to express gratitude for the different areas of my life first thing in the morning
  • Afternoon ritual: typically after lunch, to express gratitude for one thing that I have experienced thus far – this could be in the form of a Facebook post
  • Evening ritual: typically during my daily review, where one of the item is to express gratitude by penning it in my journal

Practice giving.  This is the real test, where the rubber meets the road.  There are many forms of giving.  It can be in terms of time, effort, money, and know-how.  But the simplest of all, where many of us forget is to give a smile.  There are huge amount of research done on the science of smile.  And really, it does not cost you anything but in fact, it will even bring about great benefits to your health.  Again, this is where I am not there yet, but this is what my ideal act of giving would look like:

  • Tithe: give with a cheerful heart to my home church
  • Know-how: give away valuable information and practical tips (such as this blog) to help people learn, live, and lead an engaged life
  • Time: give and honour family time – we strive for a “no gadget during dinner” rule at home

I’d be most happy to hear and learn from you.  What are your ways to express gratitude?

Father we thank You for everything.  During good times, during not so good times, and during times when nothing seems to be moving.  God we know You only want the best for all of us.  And we thank You for that too.  In Jesus name, Amen.