My One Week Boot Camp to Saying No

Like many people, I struggled saying “No” to people. Therefore, it was not surprising that I’m usually faced with high busyness both at work and with my personal commitments. Busyness is fine in general, but working on things that you don’t feel like working can be unsatisfying.

In the previous week at work, I was forced to say “No” to many additional commitments. It had reached a point where it was just humanly impossible to complete those jobs. The hardest part about saying “No” was how to do so without blowing up. I’m down with flu. I get irritable easily. I’m on the verge to vent my frustration. I managed to keep at least half of my responses nice although the other half were more of the short and emotionless sort of response. Like what my Toastmasters friends has rightly pointed out, I thought that I might come across as arrogant if my response is too short.

It has been annoying. But I can say that I am glad I was put to the test.

Towards the end of the week, I saw an article which may help me say “No” without feeling all the guilt, without making up stories of how people are going to despise me if I said no to them in my mind. It was about Adele saying “No” to performing at the SuperBowl.

The article ended with a common sense that I had never thought in that perspective before:

“Every time you say yes to something you don’t really want, you’re actually saying no to the things you do.”

With the training and the insights, I guess I’ll be more ready to say “No” next time.

Pokemon GO: Perspectives from a Random Lecturer in Singapore

Pokemon GO has been making waves in Singapore since it’s launch just a few days ago.

It has managed to do what Singapore’s Health Promotion Board has been trying to do, get people to exercise! And then there is this awesome Republic Polytechnic lecturer that lays down the rules against playing Pokemon GO in class!

I’m no Pokemon fan. I belong in the age of Doraemon. I’m also one of the curious lecturer who downloaded the app to see what my students are exactly enjoying. Students always seem so surprised that lecturers are also playing Pokemon and gossiping exchanging information about students, doing the things that students do. But hey! Have they forgotten that we are humans too?

In my opinion, every hype and fab that our students are into, there’s usually a positive outcome for teachers and lecturers to dabble into. Pokemon GO is no exception. In fact, it is so big that the rewards are many folds bigger for teachers and lecturers to reap.

(1) Pokemon GO gives me an instant shared experience to connect with my students.

Such rare opportunities provided me with the chance to break the barriers with students, especially those who I may not have connected well with in a class of 20 to 24. “By the way, have you check out the Pokestop at the fountain? Remember to top up your Pokeballs on your way to the MRT”.

Pokestop at NYP

(2) Pokemon GO gives me a language to talk to my students.

Want to go through all the Pokestop in the shortest amount of time to get your refill of Pokewares? Here’s your motivation to learn about the Travelling Salesman Problem. Can’t get my students to understand a theory in class? Whip out a Pokemon metaphor, they might just get it. Pokemon GO is probably doing very well in this aspect. It is complicated enough, in the sense that I can see lots of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics behind the game. An art in every design and a technology to drive every enjoyment.An expressive example for some pretty confusing theories.

A common question I get from some people: You’re a lecturer and an educator, shouldn’t you be frowning upon games in the first place?!

Short answer: Why, whatever for? Everything in moderation. Work hard, play harder. Life’s too short not to have some fun?

TL;DR answer: Taking away the extremes, the fanatical bad publicity that Pokemon GO has accumulated which included trespassing and getting into car crashes, I placed great trust that my students will game on in a moderate manner. No need to discourage, just need to encourage them to get their priorities right if they have not done so.

After all, I am an avid gamer myself, a Level 80 Maplestory Ice Mage (without the use of 2x Exp cards mind you), guilty of playing Maplestory quietly at the back of the lecture theatre and taking photographs of lecture materials in the age when camera phones are still sucky and Nokia still champs (I use a real point and shoot camera with a tripod!). Hey, I still score an A for my AI lecturer~

The world already expects the next generation to be super-humans in many aspects; I think they should just be more human instead.

the run in the rain

I always liked the idea of running in the rain
The feeling of raindrops dripping off my face
The coolness that’s going to seep through my hair
Meeting the skin underneath, all warm up and pumped up because of the run

I enjoy running under the strong tall trees
Among their green leaves the birds went hiding
I listened intently to the birds as they were still singing,
As though a song to the heavens, praying for a rainy day

I listened to the raindrops joining the lake,
Sliding down the leaves of the tree, bouncing off the grass and pavement all around
The chorus of inner peace that envelops the nature that is all around me

I listened carefully to the sound my feet makes as they meet the ground
The beat of the run in the rain
I listened attentively to my breath
The life of the run in the rain

I stopped in front of the lake
Seeking to admire the nature that may not remain…

The rain reciprocated,
Making sure that not a patch of my singlet was left dry
Making sure that I was embraced by its coolness
Making very sure that she would hug and love me with whatever she could

I tried to remembered all of it
The fish in the lake that swims freely
The family of monitor lizards that roams
The squirrels that always runs up a tree, seldom down it

…urbanisation
It was decided that the lake park will be given a big boost, a new lease of life
As to whether that will become an irony, it remains to be seen…

~ Flex Tio ~

A huge area of Jutong Lake Park will be going under renovations from 1st Aug 2016 onwards. I run there once every other week. I’ve kayaked in the lake as well. I was hoping that they don’t have to touch such a large area of the park all at the same time but looks like that’s not going to happen.

I hope all the nature can find its way through this somehow. And yes, don’t make Jurong Lake Park another East Coast Park. Put any Fast Food outlets far far away, thanks.

journey to RIDE IV: indefinite hiatus

My final decision: extend the lifespan of my car. In Singapore, one will need a Certificate of Entitlement (CoE) in order to own a car and such a certificate spans only 10 years. Car owners are allowed one chance to replace their CoE of their old car and hence I did, burning a hole of close to 50 grand in the process. Owning a ride in Singapore is sure expensive!

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Stick Shift of My Car!

On the bright side, I get to keep my manual car. A rare find in Singapore. Some major repair works on the way but I think it will survive. Swifts are simple cars to maintain after all.

With no further reason to ride, my journey has come to an indefinite hiatus, until I meet the CoE problem again years in the future.

It has been a stressful learning experience for me, learning riding and balancing the bike and all my commitments along with it. The ever piling demands of work made it more stressful for me to commit to my journey to ride.

As far back in mid-May, I was so stressed that I fell sick. I wasn’t well for the next four weeks to come.

I was so pressured that I stopped my running regime for 6 weeks.

I was so tired that I met my first accident in years of my driving.That was the last straw! My thoughts then, “Now I’m not even driving safely, how can I expect myself to ride safely?” I was quietly screaming for help inside, waiting to be relieved from the ever increasing expectations placed upon me.

I was so worn out after the accident, I rang up a friend, told him that I’m going to quit biking. He met me that very night to console me, and asked me to pushed on. He even asked a lady who had been unflagging at learning riding for the past 1.5 years to encourage me not to give up. And I took his advice, rest for a week or two.

I went back on the bike, promising myself this would be my last lesson if I’m going to fail again. Heavy rain fell making the roads wet that night, as I donned the bright yellow foul weather gear and throttling through the planks and the slaloms again. I passed. In fact, I did better then ever. So now what am I going to do? I booked for the next lesson in four days time. However, health takes another toll towards the week before my business trip to Finland, and for the first time, I had to forgo a paid lesson, in the interest of health and the trip.

I guess one hard lesson I learnt was that I’m really no superman. I thought I could be. But I guess endurance had to be built over time and I really need to come to terms that I’m not that young anymore?

That’s two really physically and emotionally tough months I went through. I’m just looking forward to July, hoping that it will be a better month than May and June. I think it will be. And I can’t wait for the school term to end towards August and take some leaves for a proper break. The one I have not had in close to 4 years.

Still, I hope to ride one day. It’s probably just not that high a priority now. Now, I need to rest.

My First Self-Authored Paper

It was always a dream for me to share and contribute unique ideas on a world stage. On 13 Jun 2016, I got a little breakthrough at Turku, Finland, through the 12th International CDIO Conference, presenting the first paper which I wrote as a solo author, Industry-Inspired Experiential Learning and Assessment of Teamwork (see Page 469/470).

Perhaps this idea is not that unique unique. Original and fresh perspectives at methods found in real life would probably be how I liked to describe it. It was a small piece of work, considering that a team of psychologists from the Individual and Team Performance Lab, University of Calgary also presented something on teamwork, an excellent piece of work (Please check it out here!) which was practical, structured and on a titanic scale.

Not to mention that I had to rush out of the conference venue immediately after my presentation to meet a collaborator, leaving no time to network with those who are interested in my work.

The very next day, I saw this (see 4th tweet):

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The conference organisers picked up on my research and highlighted it on their Twitter. I’m really excited about it.

Not just that, there were at least three other people at the conference who remembered my face, my name and my research. A Brazilian who worked in the aerospace industry who consulted me on leadership training for their student-trainees, a lecturer from UK who we only met over 20 seconds over the conference dinner complimented my work, and, the psychologists from the University of Calgary, who also remarked that it was a good piece!

In fact, only now, after the conference, checking out from the tweets, it might be because it was the University of Calgary who had first picked up on my research. In an attempt to reach out to me, they tweeted globally. The conference organisers followed up on that tweet and highlighted my research. No matter what the case, it is something that really excites me and I can say I am proud of.

To the ITP Lab team from University of Calgary at CDIO, thank you for reaching out to me.

I’m also glad I attended both the paper presentation and workshop by the University of Calgary too. I really learnt a lot from their experiences; they are after all the experts in this field, backing their methods by strong research. If you are interested to check out their work, I’ve put a link to their website above. The tool is free to use too I believe.

 

At last, a breakthrough, a small win.🙂

journey to RIDE III: Fear, Motivation and Self-Doubt

IMG_4316-editIt was only the first lesson I had on the plank and through the slalom. I fell twice and knocked down the cones five or six times that night alone .

The instructors were very encouraging, despite all the mistakes that I’ve made, still found good things to say about my riding, “Unlike the rest, you can meet all the timing requirements…”.

They also shared success stories of those who did not do as well, like that aunty who passed on her first Traffic Police test attempt but took 132 lessons to complete the entire course.

My biker friends were all very kind to me, sending me messages of concern and videos for inspiration, despite my overly frequent rants on being upset that I couldn’t do well for my lessons.

Yet, my motivation continues to dwindle. Contributing to that was probably a realisation that I’m not going to feel confident to ride on the roads even with a license, even though I have wonderful dreams of riding on my very own bike when I sleep. I’m already in action on getting my car replaced, somehow. The cost of owning a car in Singapore is notorious but as to why I would still want a private transport, I guess that is a story for another day.

The other side of the coin is fear. Even though I manage to clock at least 12 laps through the plank and slalom that night, the more I go through it, the less confident I felt and the more tense I became.

I’m in half the mind to give up. But I’m also reluctant to accept the fact that I’m just not a natural and I probably one of those who needs a lot more training compare to many other people. Calling it quits also means that I accept that I can’t do it and probably can’t improve much.

As an educator who encourage students to persist, not walking the talk would be a terrible sin. Yet, if I continue like this, giving it up will become the only logical thing to do although when is also another question to answer.

What should I do?

journey to RIDE II: Shame, Ego and Reaching Out

It has been a humbling experience being a student again, on a subject which I know I would suck but I never expected myself to suck that much.

IMG_4316-editNo puns intended but it was a fundamental left turn which I couldn’t get it right after 400 minutes of lessons.

I thought I would be fine. I did not clear the stage the first three times but I do see that ever small bit of improvement and I was perky and excited about it.

The fourth time, I lost it all. Everything I did seem terrible and of course, I did not manage to clear it. I walked out of the driving center feeling really discouraged and disappointed at myself.

That was the first time in a long while which I felt that I wanted to give up because I felt that I wasn’t able to go through this. Just thinking about the plank, the shalom, the figure 8 course and the crank course which will come in the next few lessons if I manage to pass this one scares me.

A large part of it was ego, an ego of a man who was afraid of losing and not able to learn as quickly as so many other people, and always having a fear mental block.

I also hate it when I said I wanted to start on something and I didn’t see through to it. During my teenage years, there were too many instances where I just give up on something too soon. In the end, it was a waste in my investment both time and money, amplified by the fact that my family wasn’t well to do; I felt I was wasting away my parents hard-earned money.

The biggest irony is that I’m a lecturer, and I always tell my students not to give up.

It was bitter. Very bitter. It took me lots of courage to being on my lessons and now I felt that I wanted to give up because of ego and fear. Unacceptable. Yurusenai.

I knew I had to reach out. I immediately popped a message to my friend, James, who was also learning riding to explained how I felt. He had been a great inspiration to get me started and keep me going in my journey to ride and he always seems to know exactly the words to say to make me feel better.

“Perhaps this is how your students felt during programming lessons.”

Well, if it is then this would be an important rite of passage for me then. To fail, fail, fail, and try again. Since I’m the almost-always-get-A student, always stump about how best to motivate my students, now I have a story to that I can relate with and share too.

There’s also Ray who openly shared his personal stories with me and expressing lots of empathy. It always help to know that I am not alone in the situation.

I also did a shout out on Twitter and Facebook. I must say I’m surprised at the number of people who responded and left me a reply of encouragement. Some also private message me to find out what’s going on. To everyone, I’m very very thankful that you did what you did. You made me feel safe to dare greatly again.

Let’s see how far I can go. It’s still too soon to call it quits. Yes, got to put that ego aside. Fear everyone has it, just got to manage it. But, there’s no place for ego in a learning environment.

On hindsight, now I know what I felt. It was the warm wash of shame that Brené Brown, my favourite author, often talked about. Empathy rules.