Wednesday, 31 October 2012

I Have Learnt To Give Others A Fair Chance

Great Expectations

Where I worked, a few years ago, an ex-boss shaped my perceptions of what bosses should be.  A boss should be demanding, detached, uncaring, cold, officious, and not tolerate being talked back to.  Working for him was a nightmare as I had to walk the fine line between being honest, communicative and upfront, versus being subservient, servile and a “yes –woman”.

Friends and family know that I can never be a “yes-woman”.  I govern my life holding on tightly to the precepts of integrity and honesty.  In my case, it’s brutal honesty.

Reshaping Perceptions Of Myself As A Boss

Needless to say, I did not stay long with that company, and went on to join bigger and better organizations which understood the importance of employee engagement and genuine respect for people.

The best outcome from my experience with that previous boss was that I learnt never to be like him as a manager of a team.   Instead,   I learnt to nurture, respect and guide my team with the genuine intent of shaping them to become great managers themselves in the future.

However, my expectations of my own bosses as my career progressed took a little longer to evolve.  As my mind had already been framed from the past, with the notion that bosses are the “hire and fire at whim” type who would prefer “yes-men” to a brazen broad like me, I often maintained a respectful distance, kept my head down and just focused on my work, rather than proactively engaging them in a social setting.

Reshaping My Perceptions Of My Bosses

The best learning curve for me, was not managing change.  I can deal with changes.  Changes in roles, changes in portfolio, changes in scope, project changes, changes in bosses and change in jobs.  Changes happen all the time throughout my career so I am very good at managing and adapting to them.

The best learning curve for me was learning to manage my own perceptions about colleagues, bosses and even friends.  It usually takes a long time to win my trust, and takes even longer to earn my respect. 

I got lucky post working for that previous company. Over these few years, I was fortunate enough to have worked for a few bosses who were fantastic managers.  They guided me with patience, listened with openness and nurtured me as a fellow team member with the genuine intent to goad me towards a bigger goal of achieving success in all my projects.   I must admit that I was wrong about what bosses generally are.  These bosses were not the “hire and fire at whim” types who preferred “yes-men”. They were genuinely appreciative of good work, and treated staff with respect.  In the face of challenging deadlines, they patiently guided and nurtured the team in the right direction.  They encouraged open and honest communication and respected opinions even when they didn’t agree with them. 

Needless to say, my bosses have earned my respect.  I am thankful for the great relationship we’ve got, and the open discussions that we share.

More importantly, I learnt to understand this very important precept of "giving people a fair chance".    All my life I was quick to judge and label people -  colleagues, bosses, and friends alike.  The lesson I learnt is simple.  Besides being mentors and friends, bosses ultimately just want to be another “fellow member of the project team” who can work closely with us to achieve a common goal.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Pride And Prejudice

Are You Anti-Nikon?

Joel had a chat with me last night about the general topic of boundaries set up by people around themselves.  He had suggested hanging out with some friends to take photographs of interesting sights around Singapore.  However, he was told that they weren't keen to hang out with him because they were "anti-Nikon" 

While this is a very small and insignificant incident in Joel's mind, to me, it was a huge bug bear because I was annoyed at the frivolosity of such an excuse, behind the guise of non-acceptance of differences.  Differences exist throughout our lives, we confront differences in opinions, behaviors, personalities, cultures, races, religions, ways of life, on a daily basis, so the difference in brand of camera equipment started me on a tirade about young people being brought up with prejudicial norms that are seen to be acceptable in society.

It is not acceptable.

Prejudice Is Not Acceptable

I live in Singapore with an eclectic mix of races, religions and cultures.  I am so proud of my friends from different walks of life and even prouder to be married to a Caucasian who is often misunderstood but barely accepted in the neighborhood.

My son grew up within 2 homes, with friends who thought when he was younger, that it was quite odd that he had 2 sets of parents.

I am gifted in an uncommon skill, Tarot reading, which was seen as bordering on witchcraft and an un-Christian /occultic craft.

We Are Different, So What?

However, all 3 of us in the family, in spite of the prejudices that we had tolerated  for years due to our respective quirky talents, had never experienced someone saying he can't hang out with us because I used a different brand of Tarot cards, David used a different make of guitar, or Joel played with a different brand of rugby ball.  So when I heard Joel making a remark  about this "anti-Nikon" statement, I was completely horrified and filled with contempt that such a statement can be defended in a public forum.   I will not stand for it, and I will not stand for any prejudices of any kind.

I am still seething with anger about it.  If our young people harbour a prejudice on something as insignificant as a brand of camera, I can't fathom, what prejudices he would be harbouring when he grows up and plays a significant role in our community. 

I don't want our children's children to be tarred with the same prejudicial brush that if one is just slightly different, one can't be accepted into a circle of friends.

I hope this is food for thought particularly for those who have developed apathy for such prejudices over the years. 

Prejudice of any sort, no matter how insignificant, is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

I Found My Wat In Bangkok

The Family Vacation

I hate holidays. I must be crazy right?  But yes, I do hate holidays.  I hate the hassle of having to make decisions about which flight to book, which hotels to stay in, which destination would give me the most fun, beach or city.  I spend 5 days a week making decisions for the business, and 7 days a week making decisions for the family, so why do I have to make decisions just to go on a holiday?  I just didn’t fancy cavorting with the great unwashed at the airport, the hotel and at the shops, and be at one with the tourists.  I was in fact rather annoyed that David and Joel looked every bit the part with their cameras hung round their necks while brandishing a map in one hand, and a bottle of water in the other.

However, I had to put that selfish perspective aside and thought the family did deserve a break.  It was a rare family vacation.  My time spent being bitch boss and ogre mom for 365 days a year must surely warrant at least 5 days of rest for the sake of the sanity of my staff and my family.

So I agreed to organize a wee 5- day vacation with the family in the exciting city of Bangkok.  I do enjoy Bangkok for it’s vibrant atmosphere and ultra friendly people.  Oh, and I forgot the super delicious food.  I actually violated my Paleolithic diet for 5 days by feasting on yummy Pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles with seafood), every day of that vacation.  My personal trainer would have had a fit but hey, I was on a vacation then.  I believed I was allowed to give my diet a wee rest.

No Rest For The Wicked

I think I never understood the word “vacation”.  I am not familiar with the concept of rest and relax. Weeks before the trip, I did a lot of research to locate an organic soy wax candle supplier that could create package and supply candles under the Sun Goddess Tarot brand.  I also did a lot of research about the Tarot community in Bangkok and arranged to meet up with them for an open Tarot reading studio session.  All these research had bridged me with a group of Tarot enthusiasts as well as New Age/Spiritualists groups.
Coincidentally, I bumped into an old colleague whom I haven’t met for years, who was staying at the same hotel. Whilst catching up on old times,  I also did a Tarot reading for her, over what felt like 10 bottles of champagne.  The massive headache next morning did not prevent me from hunting for more candle suppliers and making more calls.

In between these activities, coupled with a shopping marathon and a massage session, I was on my Blackberry responding to work emails.

Definitely no rest for the wicked.

I found My Wat

So I came to Bangkok to eat, shop, get a massage, meet fellow Tarot enthusiasts and buy a truck load of candles. Ok, I perhaps needed to have a bit of rest too.  However, I got more than I bargained for, pardon the pun.   I actually found my Wat ( temple) here.

Let me explain.

We cruised along the Chao Phraya River over the weekend.  I enjoyed that very much because I saw a different perspective of Bangkok, lived by the simple river folk.  Truly, a colorful scene.
 I saw an old man sleeping in a hammock hung precariously from a crooked pillar of his dilapidated home and a dead tree stump.  He was enjoying the idyllic afternoon and oblivious that his hammock was swinging dangerously a few meters off the ground.

I took a sneak peek at a young man fishing using a huge chicken leg at the end of his line as bait.  I did not want to ask what he was fishing for as I wasn’t sure what “monsters” were lurking in the murky waters.  A “Kracken” perhaps.

I greeted a family feeding a shoal of hungry fish from the front porch of their home.  They were laughing and chatting very loudly as the fish were jumping out of the water to grab the food being thrown to them.

I waved at 2 young boys playing with a torn tyre of a truck, using it as a floatie in the water.  They were thrilled by that simple “toy” they had possibly found on some dirt road somewhere.

Even the animal life by the river was soaking in the idyllic river scene.  A giant monitor lizard, the size of a motorbike was sunbathing by the river bank.  A black scruffy dog popped his head out of the steel barriers by the river to have a closer look at what was going on along the river.

That cruise along the river brought a sense of calm in my mind.  I remembered that I was rushing around trying to do multiple things in a short time, but I forgot why I was on holiday.  I was supposed to enjoy every minute with my family, whether we were doing “tourist” things together as a family or just chilling out together over a drink.  When we wanted to have a meal of Pad Thai. I shouldn’t be stressing over how hygienically prepared the dish was or if that eatery had a shelter in case it rained.  When David made a mistake with the flight departure time, I should have realized that by hook or by crook, he was going to get us home anyway, which ever flight or whatever time it was going to be.   Even when the wifi at the hotel was erratic, I should have just put away the Ipad, Blackberry and phone, and enjoyed a glass of gin and tonic with the family at the lounge instead.

Tread My Own Temple Grounds Like A Buddhist Nun

In Bangkok, you might come across many Wats of various sizes. These Buddhist temples are intricately carved, depicting stories that are a few centuries old.  While the architecture of these temples are magnificent, the grounds are so serene. 

A walk around the temple grounds would allow you to meet with worshippers who were praying intently with their joss sticks, either standing or kneeling.  You might meet some monks chanting melodiously as they ran their fingers along their prayer beads.  The air would be filled with the aroma of sweet incense. 

This picture in my head reminded me of the words of an ex-boss and a very good friend L, who once said to me, “ Jo, you will need to learn to treat life like the Buddhist nun, sweeping the leaves one by one slowly as she treads the temple grounds.”

I have been sweating over the small stuff, attempting to  squeeze so many activities in 5 short days, that I realized I was more stressed and harangued than I should be.  I snapped at everyone, and was intolerant to waiters who took my food orders erroneously at the restaurants.  I grunted at the Tuk Tuk driver who took the wrong turn.  I got annoyed with Joel for leaving behind a bag of shopping on the conveyor belt at the airport.  I blamed David for attempting to "ruin my holiday" just because he made a mistake with  the flight departure time.

Actually, if anyone was ruining that holiday, it was me.  The Wat was within me.  I could choose to listen to that melodious chant of the monks in my heart or block my ears if I considered it a cacophony of noise.  I could choose to wonder at the sights and smells of this exciting city from behind the Tuk Tuk, or scold the Tuk Tuk driver for giving me a distended cocyx.  I could choose to savour the delectable flavour of that roadside Pad Thai, or  walk across to the boring Irish bar for a fish and chips.

Ultimately, the Wat was within me.  I could choose to make this 5 days in Bangkok the best vacation I have ever had.  However, for several moments, I forgot that I was on vacation with the family.

Photos used in this blog post were provided courtesy of

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".