Arena Anthems

One of the most important lessons I learnt from Brené Brown’s “Daring Schools: The Four Pillars of Courage” was to set up a playlist known as the Arena Anthems.

It is a playlist of empowering songs that accompanies you when you want to summon your courage to enter the “Arena”.

I do not have such a playlist yet but I believe I better put what I’ve learnt into action.

I never felt so alone at work.

I never felt so lack of time before.

I never felt so involved in emotions, such that I do not know how to manage it.

I struggled with authenticity, the dilemma of being my pessimistic inconsiderate self, and, just holding back my confabulations and ego, being a bit more encouraging to others and a bit more compassionate towards myself but at the same time, not to overdo it until I’m not myself.

Just a bit more. I think I can tide through this like how I tide through other trials and tribulations.

Just a bit more motivation.

Just a bit more encouragement.

I’m entering the Arena.

And there’s no turning back.


Advanced Presentation Techniques for My Final Year Project Students (Part 2: Make the Final Slide a Powerful Conclusion)

Advanced Technique 2: Make the Final Slide a Powerful Conclusion

I always advocate that the final slide should not be called “Thank You” or “Question and Answer”. In fact, these two slides should not appear in the presentation as they do not present any information about the presentation that you are delivering.

If you want to thank the listeners, you can thank them verbally and sincerely.

If you want to invite the audience to ask questions, just say so.

Leave the final slide as a conclusion to leave a lasting impression of what you want to tell them.

~Flex Tio~

If that is the case, what sort of impression will I leave for the assessors if I were a student you might be asking? I will do this:

  1. Reiterate my contributions (aka summarise)
  2. Relate how my contributions impact my project objectives (aka synthesise)
  3. Resist my urge to provide new information (aka sans as in the Latin word “sans” which means without)

1 and 2 helps remind your assessors to give you marks. Help the assessors recall why you deserve that A, or B. It also helps to influence guide them in asking questions that are relevant to your contributions.

That’s one way to prepare for a Question and Answer session.

3 does exactly the opposite. It encourages the assessors not to ask further questions. This is especially so when you seem to have delivered the perfect presentation so far, only to be thwarted by a new piece of (usually controversial) information delivered at the end that does not gel with the rest of your presentation.

In short, we are trying to create a lasting impression that the assessors can remember well long after the assessment is over. We would like them to say “That student is very capable isn’t it? He/She can do this, this, this and that!”

Rising Early, Finding Excuses

I read in an article some time ago the benefits of rising early. One of the reasons given was that the time in the morning effectively belongs to yourself.

Considering that there’s limited things which I could do after I get home after work, for the fact that I’m just too tired to do anything more productive, I was really eager to give this “rising early” habit a try.

The final target was to wake up at 5am. After all, I am already waking up at 6.30am every other day, what’s so difficult about waking up that early? While I was schooling, waking up at 5.45am is a really common thing to do.

I set an immediate target to wake up at 6am consistently, including weekends, for the next two weeks by winding back my alarm by 2 minutes daily. I will also push myself to sleep earlier at about 10 pm.

And you know it is not going to turn out well.

My body just can’t get used to it! It seems that without the weekends to sleep in till 7.30, without those other days where I just wake up a little bit later and to hit the snooze button, two weeks was all it took to bring my immune system down.

Maybe, I’m growing old.

Maybe, I’m just not meant to wake up that early.

Maybe, I’m living in a place who’s government decide to use the wrong time! Singapore rightfully belongs in the +7 GMT time zone but chooses to align our time with KL, or East Malaysia, or Hong Kong, or Beijing (depending on what your interpretation is). In fact, I’m really already waking up at 5.30am solar time when I wake up at 6.30am! …


A modified image from Wikipedia on the time zones used in South East Asia. The red arrow shows where Singapore is.

… Maybe, I’m just finding excuses.

Personal Retreat 2016 Day 8: GOALS

The earliest record of goal-setting I had dated back to 2007. On top of a small piece of diary paper were the words, Birthday Resolution 2007, written in blue ink.

It has became a tradition for me to set goals twice a year. The New Year resolutions to set new goals and the birthday resolutions to act as a review mechanism.


This year’s resolution spans two pages

As the years gone by, setting resolutions became more sophisticated. I was primarily obsessed to know whether I am setting the correct goals or not. It became a framework, which I built it upon Stephen Covey’s 7th Habit and SMART goals.

However, that is back in 2013.

In 2015, I learnt about a different type of goal setting method, known as HARD goals. I agreed with it in principle, although I’m not quite sure how to apply it. It was only until end-2016, when my life coach, Lusi Lim, shared about her method of goal setting, it became obvious how my new framework is going to look like.

Lusi shared her goal setting methods through her life experience. The key takeaway I got from her sharing was that she removes the A and R from SMART goals as she believes that goals should be difficult to achieve in order to make a breakthrough.

There in lies the secret. That one part which I did not had the answer to. The part on how to fuse the conflicting HARD goals with the SMART goals portion of my framework!

I truly believe this will work and this is the missing piece that is required to fulfill resolutions. In fact, I think I can simplify my framework with this by a fair bit. With this new insight, New Year Resolution 2017 span two full pages and for the first time, there was great clarity in what I intend to achieve.

I will definitely want to share about this again some time in the future; it warrants a separate article! For now, let me try this out for myself first and attempt to achieve a 100% hit with my goals.

PS. Epilogue

This wraps up my 8 days of retreat and it has been a great success!

Aside from the goal setting, meeting up with friends and the experiencing stuff, there were actually two other goals I set for myself.

The first was to get some exercise everyday: I managed to jog at least 2km daily (except for Day 5 which I cycled instead) and even manage to throw in a gym session on the rainy Day 7.

The second was to record all my experiences and thoughts down in the journal. And this is what you have been reading.

For now, lots of work is already piling up on my desk as I write and the year is drawing to a close. 

It’s going to be an exciting 2017. : )

Signing off,
Flex Tio

Personal Retreat 2016 Day 7: Story

Day 7. I didn’t have a theme actually. If I have to give it a theme, it would have to be ‘Story‘.

I spent much of the day writing two stories. One of it was in preparation for a table top game, a story for a half-elf named Ivellios Windrivver.

And so Ivellios was an altered-ego, an arcane trickster and a charlatan who was accused of killing his only love when he was 20. He went on the run, hiding in disguise in the past two years and caught on by the official just recently. The rest of his story will be told in the gaming session early next year.

Make belief stories are always fun and it is a place where you can be whatever you want to be.

The more important story to write, however, was for another gentleman living somewhere in this world in a country called Singapore. This is a story of myself, a story which I need to write for myself. With any luck, I’m only slightly more than a third through it or maybe I’m already halfway through.

As per tradition, I seeked out a hermitage to do my goal setting. The place I been to look like this:


A key landmark of the hermitage I went to this year

Goal setting has always been a very intense moment for me. 2016 has been such a bad and busy year that I’m determined to make it right.

There were many questions I wanted to answer: Do I want to continue with a certain pursuit, why do I want to continue with a certain pursuit, and because of my wide interest (and talent – please allow me to boast just this once, please please please : P) that I am not willing to give up, how do I sustain the passion to keep on going, at the very least in a sustenance mode, is a key.

There’s also Future Reinvention to think about. I really believe that this is the other key to this tangled messy story. Maybe there really isn’t a need to untangle them. Just melt it and mix them together in a cauldron, brewing it till it’s well done and serve it hot.

And there was a breakthrough.

I set ZERO goals for the night.

Well, it was the first time I failed to set any goals in a dedicated personal reflection moment so it is a breakthrough isn’t it?

I did walked out with more clarity.

And I did feel a bit more determined and inspired.

Personal Retreat 2016 Day 6: INSPIRE

There are two types of museums which I really enjoy going. The artsy type that allowed me to peer into the mind of the artist, and the science type that can engage my intellectual mind. To me, the two usually come together quire implicitly. Simplistically speaking, you cannot talk about art without talking about the advancement of technology to produce an art piece, and, you cannot talk about science unless they are delivered in a manner which you can hear it, see it and touch it.

Seldom, they come together explicitly. The “Future World: Where Art Meets Science” and “Journey to Infinity: Escher’s World of Wonder” exhibits at the ArtScience Museum were two exceptional exhibits where science and arts held their hands with each other.

I’m so thankful that my friend, L, called me out to this museum trip. With her membership card, we even got to get in at half the price. This trip left lots of ‘aha’ moments in me which might guide me on my journey.


To Infinity and Beyond~!

I am most impressed with the works of Maurits Cornelis Escher. I am so so so impressed to the point that I put him among the ranks of the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci and Nikolas Tesla.

His biography describes him as a graphic artist. I think the term ‘polymath’ suited him better. A person who uses the law of Mathematics to break the law of nature. I’ve always thought that his works were some optical illusion puzzles. Now, I knew that they were Escher’s trademark ART x mathematics art pieces.

Where this exhibit really shined was that it took me through the different stages in Esher’s career, from his early works that were largely on architecture that help built the foundation to his artwork, to his unflagging experimentation on tessellation, evolving to his meticulous madness commitment to “metamorphosis” art forms and finally, this piece of work that combined all of what he had learnt about over 30 years. Still not quite his vision from what I understand, but close enough to me.

It was all presented in front of my eyes, how knowledge so disparate can be synergised and infused to a state that they became inseparable. In fact, should I say that arts and mathematics are not disparate at all but are one and the same?

His works were hope to me.A hope that someday I will be able to fuse all that knowledge in my mind to create something useful, something thought provoking for mankind too.

Escher showed me that there was a way to do this.

Personal Retreat 2016 Day 5: BIKE x nature

Day 5’s theme was (supposedly) nature. I got away from the busy city life to a place tuck away in an island in the east. Pulau Ubin, aka Singapore’s last kampung, a Malay word which meant ‘village’, an hour’s car journey and a bumboat ride away.

The original plan was to ride into the Ketam Mountain Bike Trail. In fact, now that I am checking my Facebook records, I didn’t realise that it was 7 years since I have visited Pulau Ubin.

You know that things are not going to go as plan don’t you?


$10 rental bikes for the entire day

Anyway, to summarise all in three points:

  • It was seven years since I’ve ride on a bicycle.
  • The trail was wet from the rainy season.
  • I wasn’t confident to go through the trail at all.

And it reminded me about my motorbike lessons.

I really thought that the ride was going to be easier. I struggled through the uphills and worried about the downhills (because what goes down must come up again!). At one point of time, I could have sworn I tried to choose what I wanted to blame this on.

Wet weather for the past few days?

On the bicycle only after seven years?


Getting old?

Or the fact that I’m not good enough for sports that includes everything from terrible hand-eye coordination, almost no ball sense and the case of butter fingers + tangled feet all in one?

I think I really need to get use to the fact that I’m not going to be good in everything and sports is one of them. And this is all fine! And not being good in sports should not mean that I cannot keep fit and I cannot enjoy sports with friends.

Hey, at least I got through the ride without having to push the bike through all the up slopes. That should qualify as an achievement in itself considered the fact that I wanted to give up too many times I supposed?