Hi Hackers, Thank You For Helping Me Improve My Website.

I believe that an apology is in order for some of you. If you are some of the unlucky people who visited my blog between Thursday evening and Sunday midnight, then you might have been treated with a healthy dose of weird webpage along with some weird music playing in the background. If that is you, I apologize for confusing you. It must have been quite a horrible experience. I understand (Believe me, I do). If you missed out on it, well, good on you. I am sure you are curious though, WHAT happened?

Here’s the story. When I tried to logon to my website on Sunday morning, I saw that my website was defaced (meaning they changed the home page) by one, or some folks who claimed  to be Iranian hackers. Needless to say, I got panicked for a bit and the only thing I could think of was to email BlueHost. They are my hosting provider. I asked them for assistance to undo the damage by the hackers. I was unable to do anything or think of what to do other than wait for their reply. I had a lot of important appointments that day and I had no choice but to focus on them while waiting for the email. By late evening, the email came (hooray!). It was not exactly what I had expected because it did not have precise instruction. After re-reading the email a few times, I realized that since they do not know how I build my website they couldn’t have provided too much assistance for me. I was a bit disappointed but I got the message. I need to learn to defend myself as they have suggested. This incident also gave me a a slap-in-the-face reminder to actually improve the website cosmetics.

That night I spent the next few hours learning about what might have happened to my website. I went through a few sections of the website and eventually managed to pinpoint where the hackers have attacked and cleaned it subsequently. Along the way, I also learned a few potential security holes or leaks and learned how to plug those holes. After a few hours, I have managed to do a simple cleaning of my website as well as putting in a few important enhancements to hopefully prevent it from happening again, ever. You will notice that the layout of my website has undergone some changes.

I am still working on improving the website all around. Therefore, for my blog readers, I would really appreciate your help with your inputs on the new layout through the comments section below. Feel free to navigate around and test the new layout. If you are having any difficulty at all, especially with the comments section, please kindly contact me using the form below.

By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them

Matthew 15:16a “By their fruit you will recognize them.

A tree is judged according to the fruit it produces. I am not a horticulturist, nor I am a gardener, or a agriculturist.  I cannot always tell what kind of tree is the tree until I’ve seen the fruit that it produces. Imagine walking into a forest or a jungle and given a quiz to name a  tree just by looking at it. I will not hesitate to say that I will fail at it. Terribly. The only way I can name a tree is if I can see the fruits. If I see that next to a tree is some apples, then I’ll know it is an apple tree. If I see some mangoes then I will know it is a mango tree. It is as simple as that! Now imagine yourself walking into a fruit market. It should be too easy to name all the fruits you see there. The reason I am unable to name the trees is simple. It is because I never bothered to find out from guide books, or textbooks or the many helpful resources out there. I believe that’s the way it is for those who do not know God to know Him.

To the uninformed, they usually view God as a being that’s disconnected. They may think that God is amusing Himself sitting in heaven while watching us suffer on earth. Just like me who know nothing about trees until I made a conscious and intentional effort to learn, I can sympathize with them for finding God unfamiliar. One of the way they could find out about God is by observing us, the so-called Christian, who proclaim ourselves children of God. If we are His offsprings and are of Him, surely they can infer a few things about God’s character and qualities from our character and qualities. Surely this is what Jesus was talking about when he said in Matthew 15:17-18 “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

If we behave properly and display good character, then it makes sense for observers to derive God’s character from our behavior. If I display lousy and terrible character, then that’s what they will infer. If I display integrity and good natured character, people will want to find out about God. If a tree began bearing bad fruits, I will definitely stay away from that tree. If a tree always bear good, sweet, juicy and succulent fruits, I will be all over the tree without prompting. Truly, as the old proverb says “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

There is another proverb which yields similar meaning to the above, that is “Like father, like son”. Any parents will be able to tell you that one of their greatest compliments in life is statements like these: “Your son looks so much like you.” Or when their children tried to imitate their every movement and behavior  As a little boy, I can remember how excited my parents were every time I attempted to walk the way they walk, or talk the way they talk, or eat the way they eat.  As I observed people with children, there is an expression of pure joy and laughter even at the slightest hint of imitation. No matter how many times they made mistakes and fail, the parents laugh and lovingly encouraged them to keep trying. The parents never get irritated or annoyed. Parents are also at their happiest moment with pride when their children set as their goal to become like their dads or their moms. Is it any wonder then, that Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 that to “enter the Kingdom of Heaven“, we will have to
become like little children“?

God is looking at us the same way we look at our children imitating us. He wanted us to be like Him. Like His son, Jesus. He knew that the task was impossible, but He wanted us to try anyway. He urged us on when we felt inadequate. He encouraged us to try again when we fail. He is happy even at our slightest attempt for it. At every obstacle, He is always watching our moves. He will never allow us to face an obstacle that is impossible to overcome on our own. Yet He allowed us to take on slightly bigger challenges each time we conquered the previous one, holding our hands along the way. He never get irritated or annoyed, no matter how many times we fail.

On the other hand, it is the greatest insult, or hurt, for the parents when it is said of their children: “He looks nothing like his father”, or “She looks nothing like her mother”. Those are dreaded statements that no one wants to hear. Ever. I am sure that it hurts for the children to hear that too. People look at us, and they judge our God, whom we represent. Whose DNA we are supposed to bear. Whose genes are supposed to be found in our system. Whose blood runs through our veins. When we said the hurting words, did the un-Godly deeds, behave un-lovingly, how is that a true representative of Christ, that is supposed to be in us? Our words are supposed to be a creative power, yet we used it destructively. Our actions are supposed to help people, yet we used it for our own advantage.

We are unable to take back what we have said. It is also impossible to undone what we have done. It is futile to try to hide it and pretend it never happened. A scar will always be left, as a painful reminder of someone’s hurting past. The good news is that God never gave up on us. Not one second, not even a hint of thought. He kept urging us on, believing in us. God is all forgiving and is a God of second chance. God, our Father, faithfully waited on us until we finally arrived at the gates of heaven. He will then say the most beautiful words we have all waited in glorious anticipation, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.

Discussion Question: What kind of “fruit” do you produce? Did you ever give up trying to emulate Jesus? How do you usually handle discouragement from your failure to be like Him? Please share them in the comments.

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn: What I Have Learned

Last week I posted about a free webinar for all of my blog readers. I had the greatest pleasure to join in the webcast hosted by my good friend, John Maxwell. In this webcast he talked about his latest book titled ‘Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn‘. It was one of the best 90 minutes I have ever spent. I learned so much from all three speakers there. John himself was there, along with the author of Life Without Limits, Nick Vujicic.  The popular author of the book Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey also made his appearance.

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn Book Cover

I took copious amount of notes there and I wish I could share it all here, but there would be too much to share. I have summarized the content of the webinar below.

John Maxwell

What if you asked yourselves this question: “What would you attempt to do if failure was not possible?”

Now change that question. “What would you attempt to do if you knew you might fail, but you would learn from it, and grow from it?”

Finally, ask this question: “Since you will lose, since you will fail, what did you learn?”

We all win sometimes and lose sometimes. The question is no longer: “Will you lose?” or “Will you fail?” The question should be “What are you going to learn?”

Three lessons that we can, and should learn from our losses:
1. There is no success without losses and failures.
2. Losses and failures, birth qualities within us that will make us a better person. It gave us the DNA to realize that we need to learn from our inevitable losses before we can become successful.

3. Developing these qualities by learning from our losses will help us become successful.

Here are a sneak-peek of the chapters from the book Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn that he shared during the webinar:
1. Humility: The Spirit of Learning
2. Reality: The Foundation of Learning
3. Responsibility: The First Step of Learning
4. Improvement: The Focus of Learning
5. Hope: The Motivation of Learning
6. Teachability: The Pathway of Learning
7. Adversity: The Catalyst of Learning
8. Bad Experiences: The Perspective for Learning
9. Change: The Price of Learning
10. Maturity: The Value of Learning

In a nutshell, his message was: If you learn from your failure, you will minimize losses. If you do not learn from your losses, you will continue to fail the same way. Therefore, do not try to escape or hide during your loss, your greatest lessons may come from your greatest failure.

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn. You do not always win, yet, you do not always lose either.

Nick Vujicic

During the webinar, Nick Vujicic shared in a special interview with John about what he learned from his past failures:
1. Think about the positive outcomes first.
2. Have the courage to try.
3. Do not be afraid of our failures. Imagine what would happen if we did not take the opportunity (Here Nick spoke about his imagination of how his parents would feel if he committed suicide and gave up on his life. The life which his parents worked so hard to nurture and love. That thought, changed his mind, and his life)
4. “You do not know how far you have to go until you have that breakthrough. But you DO know that if you do not keep going, you will never have that breakthrough.”

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn. Failure is not final. If you learn from it, you will always come out on top.

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey also shared how he learned so much from his greatest failure. This was a big loss for him. He declared bankruptcy at the age of 26. Then and there, he made his life-changing commitment to change. His two greatest lessons: embrace humility and make a decision to grow.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from him:
“Before there is humility, there was humiliation”

“God answers all prayers. Sometimes He says ‘Yes’. Sometimes He says ’No’. Sometimes He says, ‘Grow’

John closed the webinar with the following thought:
Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Learn. The question you always ask after every loss and every failure is: “What did you learn?” Answer that question correctly and you are well on your road to success.

Personally, my own take on failure can be summarized in the following thoughts:
“We need not be afraid of failing. We ought to be afraid of not trying.”

A lot of leaders often said, “Failure is not an option”. I disagree. I believe that “Failure is a necessity.” 

Discussion Questions: We have all failed before. What have you learned from your greatest failure? How have you improved? Please share in the comments.

If you missed the webinar, fret not. John has graciously re-opened the webcast for us to view on demand. Click on the link below to register for the webcast encore

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn Webcast

 

Listening Beyond Your Ears: How To Listen With Your Whole Body

I believe that listening is a learnable skill. A lot of leaders will be first to raise their hand if asked whether listening is an essential part of good leadership qualities. However, many do not understand what it takes to be a great listener. They assumed that listening is just about letting the other person talk all they want before they respond. The truth is that, listening requires more than that. In this post, I will unpack some of the principles that I applied to grow in my listening skills.

I used to believe that listening comes to me rather naturally. I have a reactive personality and thus I tend to listen more than I talk. I have learned, a few years ago, that hearing and listening is an altogether different thing and that just because I am hearing information, it does not mean that I fully comprehend its content. As a result, I began to devour books and articles on effective communication as well as listening skills.

A lot of schools teach reading comprehension but never really teach listening comprehension, although listening is one of the most important skills to master at. After coming to that realization, I began to practice good listening principles and observe from great listeners. I discovered some of my terrible listening habits that took a long time to correct. Eventually, I came up with some sound principles that I use, until today to improve my listening skills. I hope they will be helpful for your leadership needs.

A few weeks ago, I watched a great demonstration by Evelyn Glennie over at TED: How to Truly Listen. Her story and also her message inspired me so greatly that I decided to write about it in this post. In a nutshell, this is her message: When you listen, don’t listen only with your ears. You use your ears to hear, but you can use your entire self to listen. For example: when you receive information through your ears, you don’t really receive the message entirely, because you only hear sound waves. Your brain received the sound waves, which hit your eardrums, as electrical signals, which gets sent to the brain, which is then processed to become the information that you can understand. Your brain, then, is also heavily involved in the process of listening.

How do you listen with your whole body then?

1. Maintain eye contact

I have found that although it seems rather simple and easy to do, maintaining eye contact is crucial while listening. Eye contact signifies interest in the speaker. Allow me to illustrate. I love snowboarding. Good snowboarding coaches will tell you that you must look where you’re going, because your body will unconsciously point / lean towards the direction you are looking at. I believe the same principle applies when listening. If you look at the speaker in the eye, you are projecting your interest and your energy into the person. It makes them feel important. Furthermore, it sends an unspoken message that they are the most important person in the world at the moment. Avoid making excessive eye contact though, as some people may feel uncomfortable with it.

2. Animate your facial expression 

It is usually quite easy to figure out how interested someone is in you and what you are saying just by looking at his or her facial expression. Although it is not always an accurate indication, it can send a relatively clear message as to whether the listener is still “in” the conversation. Before I learn this principle, I found that people often asked me whether I was really listening. Such questions always caught me by surprise, because I surely was giving them my full attention! Apparently, because of my neutral facial expression, they were unable to guess what I think. I thus began to practice adjusting my facial expression. A good rule of thumb is that you should try to mimic the speaker’s expression. If they smiled, smile back. If they frown, frown with them. If they were laughing, laugh with them. This technique comes with an added bonus for the speaker as it gave them the confidence to continue their story.

3. Your body language says a lot even though you are not talking

Even though you are not saying anything, your body language inadvertently says a lot about your current state of mind. It subtly says a lot about your opinion of the person you are conversing with. Some research said that about 55% of communication is body language. If body language is so important, why don’t you use it more? The next time you meet someone, ask yourselves these questions:

  • Are you facing the speaker?
  • Do you lean forward slightly?
  • Do you nod occasionally?
  • Do you acknowledge your understanding with some timely response like “ah”s, or “yes” or “I see”?
  • Where are your hands? Are you spending more time on your mobile phone or do you give 100% full attention to the speaker and show them that you value them and what they have to say?

4. Be interested in them and their interest.

Have you ever heard someone talked about his or her holiday in a certain country? As they were telling you about their experience near a certain landmark that you have visited previously. Unconsciously, you find yourself suddenly saying, “I know that place. I did this and that and so on and so on…” As I pondered back to my own experience, I am ashamed to admit how terrible a listener I had been.

Are you truly interested in listening to the person? Do you really care about the speaker? I found that I needed to hold myself back in plenty of occasions due to a bad habit of mine. , Even though I did all three of the above and applied the principles vigorously, I often interrupted the speaker. I immediately launched into what I wanted to say before he finished. I am not sure why, but perhaps it is due to the own insecurity. I am afraid of forgetting what I wanted to say. Or perhaps I found the topic outside of my range of interest. What I fail to notice was that I have inadvertently shifted the attention to my story. For the next few years, I did everything I could to learn to be interested in the other person’s interest. That made me a better listener and it increased my ‘likeable’ factor too.

5. Put a stop to your brain’s answering machine.

This last principle is one that I have often been so guilty on. I found myself crafting answers in my mind even before the other person finished speaking. This is the point where I often kicked myself for not being attentive enough. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:13:

“Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.”

I have talked to people from various walks of life to find that they too, are guilty of this bad habit. Perhaps the listener wanted to make himself look good by giving the right answer before the speaker finished speaking. I have to admit, this was my hidden motivation. I have since learned to remember that my focus should not be on myself, but to the person I am conversing with. I need to remember the Golden Rule of “Treat others the way you want others to treat you.” If I want them to value my time, and me I need to do the same.

As a leader, often we may be required to make speeches or share some words of encouragement or motivation for our followers. However, much more valuable than what we have to say, are employee satisfaction and the determination to show that we truly care for their well being. Spend time listening to your staff and during the course of the conversation; show them that they are important by listening to their stories and their struggles. When I first started leading a cell group I thought that the prime responsibility of a leader is to say good things all the time. I never listened and as a result, people’s morale is low and nobody is growing. However, when I spent time listening to my group member’s opinion and struggles, I began to see people opening up. They were excited for every weekly gathering. I began to see my influence beginning to grow. As I applied these principles I find it easier to understand people. Is all these effort worth it? Absolutely! Listening is hard work and requires concentration, but the reward goes leaps and bounds beyond my expectations.

Question: What about you? What are your tips to become good listener? How have becoming a good listener helped you in your leadership capacity? Join the discussion below.

Don’t miss out on signing up for the free webinar event featuring John Maxwell, Dave Ramsey and Nick Vujicic coming up in two days. Read my blog post here to find out more and also how to register. 

Free Webcast: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn

Banner for Free Webcast

As a certified member of the John Maxwell Team, I often get the privilege of being sent an advance notice to register for some of John’s teaching videos or webcasts. This week is no exception. In approximately 8 days, John will be debuting his latest book, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn through a free webcast event.

In the webcast, John will be discussing about some of his teachings in the book along with Dave Ramsey and Nick Vujicic, two names that some of you no doubt are familiar with. If you are like me and you have read some of John’s books, then you wouldn’t want to miss this event. John first mentioned about this book when I met him earlier this year. This book’s main ideas, he revealed, came from a very popular book that he also wrote few years ago, titled Failing Forward. John’s humility is already shown very clearly in the first book as he lays out his failures as well as all the stupid things (Yes, he did say that!) he has done previously. To me, it empowers me to no end hearing about such stories and I am glad because he is willing to share. The second book will tell even more failure stories, as he claimed to have “grown” in his ‘level of stupidity’. I am really excited to watch them as I have considered both John and Nick my personal mentors.

Here are a few reasons why you should attend this webcast:

  • It’s free
  • You will learn some of life’s greatest lessons from three of the greatest names in the industry.
  • You will come out of this webcasts with a new perspective in dealing with your failures.

What are you waiting for? With all the benefits you will be getting, as well as not having to pay for almost everything, I don’t see why you wouldn’t hit the Register button now. You will get to spend an entire 90 minutes listening to these great men going all out to serve you and inspire you! I have attended plenty of online webcasts, but none are of a greater scale than these. You probably won’t be able to see these three sharing the same stage again for the next few years.

This event will be held on the 10th October 2013 at 4 PM and 9PM EDT. You can watch the webcast on any computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone. You can sign up to the webcast for free here.

 

Waze – Featuring the Productivity App

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my welcome post a few weeks ago, I wrote about posting useful contents for my blog readers. As a productivity enthusiast, I spend a lot of time scanning the Apple App Store for useful apps that can help improve my productivity and allow me to maximize the effectiveness of my life. Each month, I will regularly post about at least one app or productivity tools that I found useful and helps with my own productivity or makes my life a lot easier. For this month’s featured app, I present Waze

Waze Splash Screen

Waze Splash Screen

Waze is a community based traffic and navigation app providing turn-by-turn guidance. It featured real-time traffic updates as well as few other useful tools commonly not provided by most GPS devices or apps. Waze’s strength comes from its nature as a crowd-sourcing app which meant that it gathers nearly all of its information from users making live reports. Waze also boasts a very strong database of addresses and locations, relying on both Google and Foursquare to provide additional landmarks and addresses. This provides a very welcome extension to its already broad range of addresses. Having Foursquare embedded into it makes it even more appealing as you do not need to know the full address of a place to be able to reach its location.

Waze also provides a unique ability to share your location with friends. This feature is useful, for example, to share pick-up location, or a meeting-point. When you link your Waze account to your social network accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, you will get the extra benefits that sets Waze apart from other GPS applications. They range from the ability to notify your friends of your current location while driving, or that you are currently looking for parking. You can even share your driving paths to get from point A to point B.

Finally, being almost entirely user-driven, Waze allows users to post reports, such as traffic jams, police sightings, accident, road hazard, safety and / or speed cameras, and road closure.  It is, in my opinion, these abilities that made Waze so powerful compared to other maps app which do not give its users such freedom.

Waze Report Options

Waze Report Options

Since I first downloaded the app last year, I have been using it extensively. If you are like me, then you probably are not very good with your directions and often got lost trying to get to a new place. You probably also still drove the longest path to get to places you are familiar with, only because it is the easiest route to remember. I often look with envy at people who just seems to know their way around really well. Furthermore, they are always quick on finding alternative routes if one route is blocked or there is traffic jam ahead. With Waze, that is no longer an impossible task for me.

Waze also adapts to my driving routes, if for example I continued to disregard its driving directions. After a few drives, it eventually learns to provide directions according to my usual paths.

I often have problems remembering the street names of places I have been to. I knew how to get into a location if I started from a familiar place or if i am in the right neighborhood. However, put me in an obscure unknown location and you will find me driving around without directions. Waze, with its Foursquare database search capability, helped me tremendously in immediately getting to that location. I no longer need to worry about spending precious time looking for a destination.

User reports have helped to redirect my driving path to avoid accidents and major traffic jams by using slightly longer, but less condensed routes. Even in developed country like Indonesia, Waze continues to shine and I am still able to navigate my way around with it.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned at all is that Waze provides all of these amazing features at absolutely no cost. It is a free app, and is available across major platforms like iOS, and Android. There is no subscription fee and maps continue to be updated in real-time thanks to more users joining the growing number of fans. I have provided the links to download the app below. Go ahead and give it a try, as you can never go wrong with a free app. For tutorials on how to use it, the in-app tutorial video should get you started in minutes.

Waze

Have you used the Waze app? How have you used it and what do you like / dislike about it? Do you use similar apps? Let me know in the comments.