Archive for January, 2011

Self-Mockery (Part One)

If the above is what you are witnessing in your work place, call me, and send your colleagues the link of this blog. 

I will surely enjoy my chats with them.

Read Full Post »

No one should ever underestimate the criticality of employee recruitment and retention, and so is the procurement community.  The biggest reason I see people leaving a role in strategic sourcing, other than purely monetary attractions of another role, is job dissatisfaction.  In my early posts of this blog, I wrote quite a lot about the constant struggles, frustrations and challenges of our roles.  The procurement profession is undergoing a transition phase –  transitioning from a back-office operational function to a more strategic business consultative role.  However, if the leader is not in tune with the expectations of the company, or if he or she lacks the vision and stamina to put forward a compelling case in front of top management, there might be a high risk of losing good people.  Since we are advocating strong influencing capabilities and stakeholder management skills, new joiners will consume costly months of time to reestablish connections with business partners, usually not something the organization can afford often.  As I have said before, strategic procurement is a people business.  The deliverables and results of each project varies significantly by the strategies and personalities of the individual project leads.  No negotiations can be cloned.  Results are different in different counties and different time zones.   Unlike what we buy, staffing should never be commoditized.

I recently come across an excellent article on CPO Agenda titled Stars of Tomorrow, written by Helen Gilbert.  Selling the industry as a long-term career choice, is what she advocates.  If everyone thinks that stepping out of the profession is the only way to progress their careers, there is a big problem. 

Raising the awareness of the profession is critical in recruiting and retaining talent.  I wish that I am modestly playing my part in this space.

Read Full Post »

The 5 Stages of Grief

Many people have heard about the 5 stages of the grieving process.  Maybe it’s a lucky thing that I wasn’t aware of it until a year ago when a good friend of mine introduced me to this.  With so much unwanted despair around our personal lives and from what we read on the news, I am revisiting this as well as sharing with my loved ones, all with the intention to look at the light at the end of the tunnel, in this upcoming new year.

Regardless of the nature of the loss it might be, every one of us mourns differently.  According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, there are 5 common stages of grief a person goes through when mourning.  One has to note that we may not necessarily experience these stages in one fluid order.  We may actually go back a stage at one time, or go through some of the stages more than once.  Why?  Because there are triggering incidences everywhere.  It may be another friend’s stories, movies or TVs programs, or finding an old greeting card or an item of clothing stashed somewhere, unexpectedly.

  • Denial

No, this is not me.  It is not happening.  He/she will change his/her mind.  No one is dead, I am expecting him/her to walk through the door anytime soon.

  • Anger / Resentment

Why me?  Why did you do it?  Why are you deliberately hurting me?

  • Bargaining

If I do this, you will do that.  If you’ll stay, I will change.  If you bring him/her back God, I will be a better person.

  • Depression

It’s really happened.  Nothing is going to change.  Acknowledgement brings deep depression.  Often a quiet, withdrawn time.

  • Acceptance

This is what happened.  You can now begin to move forward. 

Speaking from experience, my advice is to really take the much-needed time to go through all 5 of the above stages.  There is no need to rush.  Someone who jumps right into acceptance the next day after a breakup or a loss in the family is only kidding himself or herself.  If we tell ourselves that it is okay to feel unhappy, lost, mad and disillusioned, it will help.  At times of despair, I seriously don’t think one needs to pretend he is a hero.

What my friends told me is so true.  Always, always take care of your own feelings.  Nurture yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  No one else can do it but you.  Eat healthy, exercise and let yourself take time to grieve.  Needless to say, share with your trusted friends and advisers.  Showing signs of vulnerability is the strongest character building ritual everyone should go through, once in a while.



Read Full Post »

The Joy of Laziness

Turns out I don’t need this book to know how to slow down and live longer.  When I buy books I usually keep the cashier’s receipt out of habit.  Tonight when I picked out this unread book from my bookshelf, I shockingly discovered that I bought it in March 2005 – almost 6 years ago!  I am too lazy to read a book I purchased that talks about the joy and benefits of laziness!

The book is an easy read.  The authors Dr. Peter Axt and Dr. Michaela Axt-Gadermann finds a solution to combat our daily demands on our energy, which is hurry, frustration, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, work stress etc..  To feel good we engage in intensive fitness regimes, competitive sports, and radical diets.  These activities actually take a toll on our health, accelerating the ageing process, making us more susceptible to illness, and shortening our lives.   What’s the solution? Laziness.

According to scientific research, the authors list out actions that have a positive effect on our health indicators.  Namely:

  • Moderation in eating (weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol, uric acid)
  • Relaxation and calmness (blood pressure, blood sugar, antibodies, stress-hormone levels)
  • Moderate exercise (weight, stress-hormone levels, blood pressure, antibodies)
  • Warmth and sunlight (blood sugar level, blood pressure, weight)
  • Sufficient sleep (cortisol level, antibodies, blood sugar level)

The authors talk about conserving energy by doing nothing.  Eating less will make us live longer because food costs us energy.  In fact, fasting delays the ageing process and lengthens life.  Relaxing makes us more intelligent.  Laughter is the number one stress fighter.   And we all know that lack of sleep makes us old, stupid, cranky, ill, and fat, so the authors believe that we can all become younger in our sleep, since it affects body temperature, stress level, and metabolism.

It surely doesn’t sound like anything you haven’t heard of before, but think about it, if we can all learn how to manage our stress level  by being more relaxed and composed, that is already a big step towards a younger looking and longer life!

I recommend this book to my ex-colleagues and bosses, for reasons known only to themselves.

Read Full Post »

Paragon Scrapbook

Aside from the super hospitable and friendly people, great cuisine, relatively inexpensive hotels & apartments, natural remedies in terms of herbal products & massages, and gorgeous sunny weather, I have to keep reminding everyone that Bangkok is just beautiful.  No, not only the obvious natural beauties of beaches, landscape, the Palace as well as temples, but Bangkok’s design scene that is both innovative and mind-boggling.  I am no expert in interior design, but I just learn to be thankful and appreciative in everything that brings pleasure and enjoyment to my eyes.

And there is plenty to be thankful for, even if it means confining to one shopping mall for a day.

Read Full Post »

THANN Addict

Ok I just have to write this when I am physically still in heaven.  This afternoon I had my forth massage / spa treatment on my fifth day in Bangkok this week.  Amazingly, the four treatments so far are all focused on different problematic areas, and every single one of them works its wonders.  Some people may think it’s a lame excuse, but I always believe that we need to treat our bodies right, whether it is eating tasty food, or better yet eating the right and nutritious food,  exercising, and relieving all its aches and pains from the daily chores and pressures of life itself.  Without a fit body, even the brightest mind can’t do anything.  Not anyone can be Stephen Hawking, period.

Among a million other reasons, having the luxury and professional resources to pamper my own physical and mental wellbeing is what I love about Thailand.  The Thais truly understand how important it really is to revitalize our bodies using the most basic herbs and the art of natural therapy.   Aside from traditional Thai massages, aroma massages, and healing stone massages, there are tons of personal products containing the best herbs and essential oils you can find on the planet.  Lemongrass, lavender, rosemary, shiso, peppermint, eucalyptus, and the list goes on. 

I have been a fan of the Thann brand for a long time. Every time I am in Thailand I will stock up on supplies.  I know there is now Thann in Hong Kong, but there is just no comparison visiting the holy temple from where this all originates.  Even though I just bought a load in my last trip here in November last year, I still found myself hypnotized to visit its store on my second day in the city.  In the new arrivals section, I found this cutest little electric incense diffuser that I couldn’t say no to.  I haven’t used my incense burner for some time, probably due to the mess of candles and the scary thought of burning my apartment down in the middle of the night.  Now with this unit that diffuses aroma by ultrasonic oscillation without heating or burning the essential oils, it feels safer and also maintains the original effects of the oils at the same time.

Alright, with the new diffuser, comes a replenished supply of large size (50ml) essential oils.  I picked their Flower & Vanilla blend oil (lavender, rosemary, geranium), Enigmar blend oil (rosewood, rosemary, marjoram), Mediterranean Floral oil (lavender and rosemary), Sea Foam oil (peppermint, thyme, rosemary and eucalyptus), and Woody Floral blend oil (orange, cedarwood, ylang ylang, tangerine, bergamot, clove, sandalwood), enough to make my whole apartment floor smell like a spa center.  In addition, I also bought a gift set that contains three small size (10ml) oils of Sea Form, Oriental Essence (lemongrass) and Aromatic Wood with potpourri.  One more Mediterranean Floral Natural Flax Seed eye mask and essential oil that offers heated pressure relief on the eyes, all added up to a huge heavy bag of soothing goodies for me to bring home and indulge in the next few months. 

No that’s not enough.  To thank my apparently generous patronage, the store gave me two huge sets of gift boxes that contains at least a dozen samples of body gel, shampoo, conditioner, lotions and soaps in each.  I don’t think I will ever finish it all, but it will be welcoming gifts for just about everybody.  The storekeeper asked me when I would be leaving Thailand, which was a question I did not expect.  Turned out he gave me two gift vouchers to their renowned Thann Sanctuary which is worth any spa treatment of THB2,200 each.  That is good for a 2-hour spa treatment of just about anything.  I didn’t expect this.  What a pleasant surprise.   For a spa and massage maniac like I am, this is literally like a further 30% off my entire purchase.

It was indeed marketing investment well spent on their part.  After enjoying the 2-hour Thann Sanctuary Signature Massage with my local friend,  I have to admit it is by far the best spa treatments I have ever had, and that includes 5-star hotel spa experiences.   I think aside from the massage techniques, the fact that they couple with their signature oils and products, and that its small establishment provides the coziness that no fancy grand hotel spas can compete with.  While I am wholeheartedly recommending the place to my friends, I hope that it will forever remain to be a small-sized hidden gem that provides individualistic services to its customers.

And I also just found out that they have a Thann  Tea Cafe in both Gaysorn and Paragon, as well as a florist.  What a great lifestyle brand.  If they continue to offer sincere marketing promotions to its customers, I am sure it will convert many more of them, not that they have not already, into loyals, like I do.

A healthy and balanced body brings a healthy mind.  And a healthy mind brings fortune in life.  Not a great saying perhaps, but it’s my saying.


Read Full Post »

Best Reason to Learn Chinese

Chinese President Hu Jintao is in the United States this week and it’s all over the news on CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS.  Many nightly news programs are using the opportunity to present news features comparing the 2 superpowers.  Last night, CBS talked about how few American students  (around 50,000) are learning Chinese at schools while 200 million Chinese are learning English since young. 

That former figure is certainly climbing.  In America, the number of schools offering Chinese as part of their curriculum has climbed from 300 in Year 2000 to over 1,600 in 2010.  An 8-year old boy answered CBS reporter that he believes he might get a better job and a raise when he grows up, knowing Chinese.

I just can’t help but burst out to laughter when the same question was raised to Natalie Love, a student at City Terrace Elementary.  In the most adorable and innocent manner, she replied “I think they (her parents) wanted me to learn Chinese because they like to go to Chinese restaurants“.

How cute is that?  Go Natalie!

Read Full Post »

For many who own a slightly higher tiered credit or charge card in the city, they get to enter the Plaza Premium lounges at the Hong Kong International Airport while waiting for boarding.  Obviously it’s no The Wing, The Pier, The Cabin and The Arrival lounges operated by Cathay Pacific for its loyal customers, but over the years I have seen it revamping into a much improved product since inception. 

The lounge is heavily visited since it began to serve other airlines when CX either closes their doors or is simply too expensive for them.  I don’t know whether it’s mob mentality, but patrons here are generally not paying  hefty buffet charges.  Why are they devouring their food?  Sure there must be starving passengers somewhere who have been stranded for hours, but there is simply no point jamming in all those stale salads and sandwiches.  And what’s the deal with stuffing all those sodas and bottled waters in their carry-ons?

This reminds me, air travel is still considered a chore these days.  Surely it has been glamorized by fancy new seats and upper class cabins, but for the majority, cramming into those 3-4-3 economy seats for 6 to 14 hours is a nightmare.  No elbow room, no leg room, hardly any service, crying babies, rude passengers, smelly neighbors, long lines at the toilets, malfunctioned entertainment units, hardly covers all that to dread for.  Not to mention the multiplied misery if it is a business trip.

That explains why patrons at the airport lounges behave like inmates ready for detention.   To add-on, airports are notorious in charging exorbitant prices on food that is far below mediocre in city’s standards, and travelers just have to make do with anything free.

So this is all about supply and demand.  Since air travel is almost the only mode of transportation internationally (at least for most of Asia), the airlines can pretty much dictate what service levels they will provide or what food they serve.  The airports can make profits from their captive customers, and anything related to air travel including airport limousines, express railways and taxis are all entitled to charge much higher fees.

With that huge demand over limited or even monopolized supply, anyone who believe negotiations over price discounts, bonus offers or upgrades in the travel industry can produce material results, are seriously mistaken.  It’s still better than not doing anything, if the purchasing volume is sizable.  However, the results are not going to help you make any significant numbers. 

That’s why I prefer to leave travel procurement to my capable teammates, while I focus on reviewing the travel policy with our CEO.   Don’t expect miracles to happen there either, because as far as business travel welfare is concerned, I will never see the CEO picking the lounge where I am at today, over the champagne and caviar that he gets to enjoy on board.

Read Full Post »

I was watching NBC’s Nightly News today with a feature on “Tiger Moms”.  Apparently, Amy Chua, a Yale Law School professor and an American-born Chinese, wrote an essay in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.”  The essay was an excerpt from her new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” which will be released Tuesday in the United States.  The essay has striked up very heated debates since Monday, together with over 284,000 “likes” on Facebook so far.

In the essay Chua writes about her personal account of Chinese parenting and to many westerners, the term should be “extreme parenting”.  Chua identifies three key qualities in Chinese parents that enable “success”, namely:

  • a lack of fussing over their children’s self-esteem;
  • a belief that kids owe their parents everything; and
  • an unshakeable belief that the parents know what’s best.

Chua cited examples that her two daughters were never allowed to do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grades less than A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin

According to NBC, “…the article sounds so incredible to Western readers – and many Asian ones, too – that many people thought the whole thing was satire.”

What do I think?  Well I am eternally grateful for the wonderful job that my parents had done raising me and my sister, and honestly I do think my Mom was pretty strict with us.  However I’d like to think that she tried her hardest to ignite that fire and passion within us that triggered ourselves to not take second place as an option, in everything we do.  I do remember I was soon put on autopilot because I myself was worried about my own grades, my performance in school, and how I fared in my extracurricular activities.

Not allowed to be in a school play?  Never, and I really don’t see the relevance here.  My Mom only cared about my grades, and I remember there was only one time in my entire school life that I got an “F” in Math, and I was truly devastated.  I really meant it.  I thought my whole life was coming to an end.  That summer, I worked so hard that I got full marks the next term.  I don’t think it was the pressure from my parents.  Instead, it was me who had been pressuring myself all along.  I could join all the extracurricular activities I wanted, but the few I took already occupied all of my free time other than studying at home.  Again it wasn’t because of my Mom, but rather my school.  The school required every student to pick up a musical instrument, and yes for me it was the violin, picked by my parents.  The school was ambitious to have a strong musical track record in the inter-school open competition every year, and all those who could carry a tune was automatically enrolled to be a chorus member.  Same thing with school orchestras.  It was hard work.  We were required to attend trainings and rehearsals almost every day, after school, including weekends and holidays.  Though for us kids at the time, it was really an honor to be picked to represent the school in the first place.

So in a nutshell I think it was the combined surrounding that made us the way we are now.  My sister and I had been quite mature since we were small, because we had lots of grown-ups coaching us to do “grown-up things” early on.  Getting good grades, enlisted as school prefects, representing the school in open competitions, really got to you in many ways.  What I really appreciate about my parents, in much less superficial ways than no watching TV or not getting straight As, was how they taught us through practicing the very principles themselves.

Don’t you hate it when grown-ups used double standards when they preached?  Not with my parents.  When we were supposed to study, everyone went silent.  No one watched TV or listened to the radio.  When we went out, my parents were polite, courteous and well-mannered to everyone so as to teach us social responsibility.  We were taught about manners and posture like how to stand up straight and  how to eat with others at the dining table.  My parents were not highly educated elites, but they truly made an effort to instill the very best of human values for their children. 

I can’t help to shake my head whenever I see parents yelling at their foreign domestic helpers in front of their kids, screaming at the school teachers that their children are less favorably treated, or barking disrespectful orders at service people in restaurants as teaching material for their 5 year-olds. 

It’s these values training that I would focus on, rather than not getting any extracurricular activities or sleepovers.   For the former, I would opt to bring back the “Tiger Moms” any time!



Read Full Post »

Hell Cab

As I was chatting with friends today over lunch in Macau, my impression of a city is heavily influenced by its cab drivers.  Every single person will have a million (always horror) stories about cab rides somewhere, and it is exactly those 15 to 30 minute 1-on-1 encounter with a stranger that makes our lives so full and eventful. 

Hong Kong cab drivers have improved somewhat over the last 20 years or so.  The SARS period and the economic meltdown played a big part in toning down the temper of a few cab drivers.  The relatively intact public transportation network in the city also means that passengers have slightly more bargaining power when the alternatives are abundant.  I like this kind of co-dependency situation.  Yet I am completely sympathetic over innocent tourists still being gouged just because they look foreign or speak in another language.  I get so worked up over these scumbags tainting the image of our city.

Taipei cab drivers are very chatty.  I see it as a reflection of their friendliness culture.  They often ask me where I am from, what I am doing there and sometimes even comparing price levels of the two cities.  I guess most middle-aged cab drivers there are big fans of the many prime time political talk shows on TV.  I seldom run into cab drivers who don’t know exactly where he is going with the addresses provided.   So that’s good.

Bangkok cabs have plenty of reputation.  I don’t need to be rude at them, I just need to be forceful.  As long as the first 2 minutes of directions, meter pointing and mutual sizing up is past, I am usually relaxed for the 25 minute traffic jam.   Well, they almost never know where I am going other than the major tourist spots.  Apparently, local language instructions from the hotel doesn’t help either.  Great.   I was just lucky that I didn’t end up in Pattaya. 

Kuala Lumpar gave me one of the biggest headaches.  I am really hesitated to go back purely because of the city’s cabs.  I need to bargain, be rejected and almost laughed at.  The public transportation network wasn’t as established the last time I went, and hence I was quite discouraged to go out.   Sorry KL.

Singapore used to be efficient and predictable, but lately I can never hail any cab on the streets.   I was lining up with 10 other people for cabs to go to work from the Grand Hyatt stand, and after a hopeless 20-minute wait, the concierge politely asked me whether I would consider to call for one.  Why not?  Within minutes, an empty, not-for-hire cab who had been waiting by the curb for as long as I was standing there, pulled over to pick me up.  All that for the few dollars surcharge on top of regular fare.  Something is seriously wrong there.

One needs to be extremely fit physically to be in Shanghai.  There are always 50 people anxiously waiting for cabs with you on the same street at all times day and night, and everyone is picking their favorite strategic spots.  If you see one coming, just run along with the others toward it, regardless of whether it is occupied or not.   Just practice your elbow strength, vocabulary and running on heels before you land.  It will come in handy.  You think you will just wait patiently in lines outside hotels and shopping malls?  Tough luck, 49 people are hailing around the corner to make sure you will keep standing there till eternity.  And what’s with the locals always picking the front seat even when they ride alone?  Sorry, I have serious intimacy issues.

How can I leave out Macau?  I hopped on one this afternoon with my friends and we were going to this Portuguese restaurant with only an address.  The driver started driving with zero response.  “Do you know where it is?” No response.  So I asked the second time.  “Only if that is where you are going!”, he responded dismissively without looking at me.  Pardon me?  What have I done to offend you? 

It’s because of cab mentality like this in Macau, that I am glad I played a part in negotiating the city-wide free guest shuttle bus services my company built from scratch for our various properties.  Otherwise, there will not be any customers setting foot in our billion dollar investments.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: