What Not To Do With An Advice


I broke trend just earlier this week when I decided to write about my impressions and thoughts for the Kenya Mall Massacre, which thankfully ended yesterday. In my last few entries I have written about the word “Answer”, which led me to discuss about the role of asking the right questions in many areas of our life. I read and listened to some podcasts about advice and I immediately thought of something else to write about.

Advice is a word that everyone on the planet can associate with. At some point in our lives we would have received advice, at least once, from someone in our lives. We may welcome the advice and choose to do something about the advice. Or we may choose to ignore them completely. Either way, the choice is ours to make. That’s why it is called an advice, rather than a ‘command’, or an ‘order’. When someone gives an advice, it should be with an understanding that the listener may, or may not accept the advice. Advice is usually easy to give, but difficult to accept and execute. ‘And’, because accepting the advice may not necessarily mean doing something about it.

What I have found while observing people around me is that, often they seem to take the good advice but never made the conscious and intentional decision to do something about it. I pondered why, and several reasons come to mind:

  • It was not what they expected to hear.

When people comes to someone for advice, they often come with the expectation that the advice will make them feel good. A reasonable advice may make you feel good, but a great advice, if executed, will change your life. A good advice is not meant to make you feel comfortable with where you are right now. Not all advice will make us feel good, because of the second reason I will explain below.

  • It points them to their fault / mistakes

There are some who seek for affirmation when they look for advice. In fact, sometimes they are not looking for advice, rather, they are looking for people who agree with them. They seek for  confirmation and agreement with their opinions. However, a good advisor will actually help you see where you need to change and do something different, rather than letting you keep falling into the trap of believing that you are right when you are in fact, not.

  • It requires them to change

There is no such thing as a good advice that will not require you to change. In fact, if you receive an advice that does not require you to change, I believe you may safely ignore the advice. A good advice may tell you to change your behaviour or to change your mindset or your thoughts. In fact, I believe that to change your life on the outside, you need to change on the inside. A lasting change and improvement could only happen when it begin from the inside.

Equally important as getting good advice, is also who you are getting it from. As John Maxwell often said, “It’s not only important what you learn, but who you learn it from.” If I were to ask for advice about traveling to a certain country, I would ask from those who have been there before. If I were to ask about joining a gym, I would ask from the members of the gym itself. If I were to ask about leadership, I would ask from those who have demonstrated great leadership in their lives. I will ask from people that I can trust, people that I know care about my growth and care more about helping me become a better person rather than getting rid of me as soon as possible.


Kenya Mall Massacre

Candle-flame-no-reflection Today most of the world woke up feeling, perhaps, grumpy and resentful that it is Monday again. Perhaps even some might have put in a sick notice after too much partying on the weekends. Some maybe thinking that this is just another boring day, nothing too fancy and nothing worth-mentioning. Few perhaps woke up raring to go and are full of energy with plenty of ideas and plenty of check boxes to tick. There are, however, even fewer who woke up today grateful that they are still alive, like those who survived the deadly killings by masked gunmen in a crowded shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

As I wrote this post, Kenyan military forces are still battling it out with the gunmen, purportedly claiming to hail from Somalia. On a seemingly normal Saturday, as herds of shoppers and tourists spent their weekend in one of the largest and most crowded shopping mall, a reported 10 − 15 terrorists stormed the mall and began throwing grenades and firing on civilians. Westgate Shopping Mall, one of the high end shopping mall in Kenya, became witness to the bloodiest event in the history of Kenya.  The last death toll were at 68, with more than 200 wounded civilians. It is a horrifying day for the usually quiet nation, and perhaps for the world to reflect upon. For those who survived, some may ask, ‘Why me?’ as they breathe the fresh air of freedom, while still wiping their tears, and perhaps even blood of family members or loved ones who died next to them.

Shootings such as this perhaps may have occurred many times in recent times, but still I continued to be shocked beyond belief every time it happened. Nothing, perhaps, will ever prepare me for such cold-blooded killings by fellow human beings on their own kind. Some blamed Islamic extremists, and some pointed their fingers toward Somalian soldiers as a form of bloody revenge towards Kenyan soldiers still stationed within Somalian borders. Whatever was in these soldiers mind as they fired hot bullets upon hot bullets upon innocent people, irrespective of their skin colors, and their native descent? Witnesses admitted that the shooters shouted for Muslims to run away. No matter what reasons they may have, I fail to comprehend the seeming ease with which they fired upon people they have no hatred against. Is there no more room for love in this world so full of hatred and bitterness?

I am not writing to condemn Muslim, nor am I writing to claim for any other religion being better. As a person of faith myself, I witness the lack of love even by people who claim themselves person of faith. I write to remind my readers, and perhaps myself to share the pain with the victims and their family members. Much similar to how we feel numb after repeated physical pain of similar magnitude, it is possible for a person’s heart to feel numb from repeated mental pain. As many people can attest to, pain is much more manageable and bearable when it is “shared” in the sense that, it is not in loneliness. I am writing to encourage those who may have lost family members or loved ones. For those who were not directly or indirectly affected, lets lift up a prayer of gratitude for the peace that we have, and learn to express love, however we can, whenever we can to whomever we can.

Wealth Expo 2013 with Chris Gardner

I attended the Wealth Expo in Jakarta last week and it was quite an exciting experience. I am glad I was able to learn quite a lot from some of the brightest minds in the financial world. I also got to meet some like minded people during the event. I didn’t actually go to the event to find out how to be rich, but I wanted to catch on the spirit and the energy projected by respectable speakers like Merry Riana and Chris Gardner. Chris Gardner, the main highlight of the event was the man behind the acclaimed Hollywood movie “Pursuit of Happyness”.

For the benefit of the readers, I would like to review the event as a whole and also highlight some of my take-away lessons from Chris during the two hours I get to spend listening to him. The Wealth Expo advertised itself with the following tagline “By the end of this 2 day event, you will walk away financially savvy, have a clear and solid plan to achieve your financial goals and more importantly, knowing where and how to invest your money in 2013 and beyond.” I registered myself for this event believing that I will at least learn some inspiration and valuable lessons from some of its various speakers. Many of these speakers were renowned for their achievements as well as their net wealth. As can be expected of an event of this scale, the committee kept tight lip on the order the speakers will appear. It should be easy to guess, however, that Chris Gardner will be the last speaker.

To be honest, the event’s organisers were quite sloppy in their time management. The first day began almost one hour later than the promised time, and ended two hours later than expected. The second day was better, but could be improved a lot. In the foyer, hoards of salesmen and saleswomen tirelessly offering you credit cards and wealth management classes. At the end of the first day, rather than feeling totally inspired, I felt like I have just seen an extended sales pitch by each speakers rather than seeing something value adding. Few of the speakers gave valuable gems for advice, while most spent their time trying to sell their classes. Overall, it did not deliver on its promised tagline. Only Merry Riana and Chris Gardner actually used their entire time adding value and inspiring the audience without selling anything at all and for that, they have my utmost respect.

Chris spoke about Spiritual Genetics, which he defined as “What makes you, you.” He then proceeded, in a very masterful way, to retell the story we’ve seen in the movie, but this time, in a deeper and more personal way while also sharing his life principles he learned since young. He used the letter P to simplify his Principles. The first P is for Promise. He promised himself as a 5 year old that he will not let his future children grow up fatherless. You need to start with a dream in mind. The second P is for Purpose vs Passion. How do you choose between doing what you love, or doing what you have to do? Sometimes, you gotta do both! The third P is for Plan. We need to plan, and our plan should be 5C (clear, concise, compelling, consistent, and committed). The final P is for “Plan B sucks!”. Sometimes we gave up too easily on our dream, our Plan A and went for Plan B. If it was any good, it would be Plan A. Blend all the above P together, and you will get Peace. The final takeaway message is that Time, not money, or people, is our greatest asset. If we can see how truly short our life is, what are we going to do with the remainder of our lives?

To conclude, I have quite enjoyed the Wealth Expo and I am greatly inspired too. I probably wouldn’t attend it again unless I get another free ticket, like I did this year. How about you? Have you ever attended the Wealth Expo? Would you? If not, why not? Please leave it in the comments below.

Asking Question is an Art and Why You Need to Learn How


We are currently living in an age where getting answers are so easy and only within hands reach. As an avid user of technology gadgets, I have thoroughly enjoyed the ease with which I could get the answers that I need. Sites like Google and Wikipedia could answer my question within minutes, and sometimes seconds, depending on which part of the world I am in. I could ask silly questions, which, to my surprise still yields sensible answers. I remember having a slight disagreement with friends recently about the definition of “on time” and “in time”. We googled the meaning using my mobile phone and came to learn the correct answer.

Answers are everywhere around us. We just need to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, not every question can be answered even with the most powerful search engine on the planet. There are questions we need to ask from people, rather than from a machine. As an example, I cannot ask what do I want to (or should) become in the future, or who is the right person to marry for me, or how to nurture young kids the right way.

In my last blog entry I wrote about how I enjoyed giving answers to people who come to me with questions. However, as any good leader will be willing to attest, leaders should enjoy asking questions more than we do giving answers. As a result, I have been learning to improve upon the art of asking questions. I have learned to not take everything at face value but instead to continue being curious and prod further with questions. In fact, in my profession as a coach, I have learned that the best coaches do not give answers. They ask questions! One of my favorite definition of coaching is “someone who comes alongside you to assist you getting where you want to be by asking curiosity-based questions.” A coach is not meant to tell you what to do. They are supposed to help you to extract from the inside what you already know.

Asking good question will get you good answers, but asking great question will give birth to great answers. This is how the great thinkers of past generations as well as current generations came to great fame. They were greatly curious people who were never satisfied in their hunt for answers, and in the process, were willing to ask questions that were rarely asked. In their quest for answers, they were even willing to ask seemingly foolish questions.

I believed that the only foolish questions are those that were never asked. Albert Einstein, considered by many to be one of the greatest minds in the 20th century was once labelled an imbecile due to his hunger for knowledge and annoyed his teachers because he was “asking too many questions.” I am passionate about education and I believed that students who are willing to learn and ask questions are those that will eventually excel in their studies. As leaders, teachers, communicators, parents or mentors, there is great privilege for us to teach others the art of asking questions and instilling the curiosity in them, rather than the old-school style of spoon-fed education.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth was the true master at the art of asking questions. As a person of faith, I cannot write about questions without mentioning the name. Throughout the gospel, Jesus displayed great proficiency at asking the right questions, often to the extent of answering a question with another question. Jesus clearly demonstrated to us that an answer discovered from within are answers that will stay with us the longest. One of my favorite examples of this is when Jesus asked the question, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Just by asking that question, Jesus taught us that worrying, in fact, yields only anxiousness and is a fruitless behaviour. I believe we have a lot to learn from Jesus to ask great questions.

I leave you with the following thought, “Good questions give information, but great questions give transformation.”

What do you think? Have you ever asked what you thought was a foolish question? What was the best questions you have ever asked to others, or to yourself? How do you usually seek for answer? I would love to hear from you, in the comments.

Having a Mindset to Associate Upwards


Young adults
I heard a story told recently about a man trying to enter his mule into a major horse race. The committee looked at the mule and said to the man, “This mule will never win the race, he’s simply no match for the horses.” The man replied saying, “I know, I thought the association will do him some good.”

The story gave a thought in my mind about how much we prefer spending time around people we thought are inferior to us. We enjoyed being the center of attention. We also enjoyed the special feeling when people come to us for answers. Perhaps we even secretly enjoyed being more popular, or earning more, or simply knowing more. We look with envy and contempt towards people we thought are superior in even one aspect than us. Worst, we try to avoid making any kind of association with them. Embarrassingly, I have been in those situations more often than I would like to admit. The problem here is not that being the most popular, or being the go-to guy for answers is bad. The problem is having a mindset to “associate downwards”.

The problem with this kind of mindset is that we fail to notice that no matter how much we know, or how much we can do, it is impossible to be knowledgeable in everything, or to be good in everything we do. That is a reality that we need to accept. I have since learned the value of spending my time around the ‘horses’ in my life. I have adopted the mindset to “associate upwards”. As Steve Jobs so famously said in his now legendary talk at Stanford university, I have made a conscious decision to ‘stay hungry and stay foolish’. I constantly seek to spend time and associate upwards with people who are better leaders, better communicators, have better business sense, or have better abilities in areas that I would like myself to grow in.

It has been said that the level of your success is the average of the level of success of 5 of your closest friends. I do believe there is truth in that statement. I hope reading this will provide you with the motivation to evaluate the people whose company you enjoy. I have heard a funny quote saying, “If you spend enough time with the barbers, you will eventually get a haircut.” Makes great sense, doesn’t it? To learn more about soccer, I would have to spend time with soccer players or coaches to get to know them better. To learn more about leadership, I would have to spend time with experienced and proven leaders. To gain wisdom, I learn from the wise.

That said, I have found that by learning more and growing more, I have found a new sense of achievement and joy while being the center of attention or when people come to me for answers. It is not, however, caused by the pride of being superior, it is knowing that I have found the opportunity to equip others, to lift people up, to add value, knowing that even though it was only by a little, I have made their life better. That realization is truly humbling.

Finally, I leave you with the following thought. “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”

What about you? Who do you usually associate with? Have you had experience of associating with people who have impacted your life positively? Let me know in the comments.