Friday, March 24, 2017

Need a financial tribe?

If you want to be financially literate, you should be immersed in an environment where everyone is talking about it constantly. Some wise men did say that if you want to find out the character of a person, you just need to look at 3 of his closest friends. We're the average of the 3 persons we talk to most frequently.

Being in a group of like minded individuals allows you to be completely immersed in an environment that will saturate your mind with the things you want most to learn about. There are times when I was 'addicted' to games and will devour any and every material related to that game, like the faq guides, the hacks and the secret areas. All of it. This saturation of mind allows maximum absorption of new materials and the constant contact of people who are also like that makes everyone more involved due to the shared activities and interaction.

If you don't have such a group formed offline among people you already know, there is a recent Facebook group formed for such a purpose, titled aptly "BIGS World - Build Wealth, Live a Good Life". Some of the prominent financial bloggers are already in, and you can ask questions, share articles and learn from the comments shared among like minded individuals. After joining the group, my facebook feeds are not longer so saturated with watches, hand bags and food pics, but more about those good hard questions and thought provoking articles that we find awkward to talk to others, and that are specially curated by people who are of the same frequency as me.

However, if you're looking for stocks tips, FA write ups or TA stock charts, this group isn't for such posts. In fact, this group is not solely about money. Wealth encompasses a lot more things than just finance, so expect to see more sharing on healthy living and personal growth as an individual. You want to be in a nice community where there are people who are above your level whom you can emulate, people who are of the same level as you but doing better than you, and people who are below your level but are doing things better than you did when you're at that level. It will be hard not to grow as an individual.

If you're looking for people to talk and discuss about personal finances, or just topics about personal growth that you know will be yawn inducing to your peers or colleagues, consider joining BIGS World. This is the closest thing to a community of financially conscious individuals you can get locally.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Living your life in 2 hr block

There was a remake of Battlestar Galactica. It's a sci fi show about how a group of humans was attacked by a race of robots that they had created (it's a long story) called cylons. Only a few ships made it off the planet and they are wandering in deep space being pursued by the cylons. The attacks on the cylons are relentless, because every 33 mins, they will find out the location of the entire fleet and everyone will have to be battle ready. The pilots have to fly out to meet the cylons in space dog fights, while the commanders and staff at the command center will have to coordinate the hyper space jump of the entire fleet so that they can escape.

Cylons from Battlestar Galactica. They are also known affectionately as toasters.

Every 33 mins for the last 150+ hours it's like that. Relentless. Fatigue sets in and they will make a mistake or two, like leaving a ship behind because of the wrong coordinates for the hyper space jump. Or a pilot gets killed in the dog fight. So every 33 mins, after they had successful accounted for all the ships of the fleet, they will reset the timer and prepare for the next cylon attack, taking whatever rest they can afford.

Why do I tell you this sci-fi series? It's because my life is sort of measured in 2 hours block now.

My baby 'cylon' needs to be 'fended off' almost every 2 hours like clockwork. Each feeding/diaper change cycle presents different difficulties that throws your routine out. Once he starts wailing, then both me and wife will have to figure out what's wrong. Is it because his diapers are soiled? Is it because he needs to feed? Is it because he needs to be carried? It doesn't matter if it's the day or the night, because the baby 'cylon' will come every 2 hours, rain or shine.

This had been our routine since our confinement lady left about a week ago. While we could certainly do with more sleep, I think we're happily taking it in stride. The philosophy of appreciating all experiences, whether they are good or bad, is important for mental strength and fortitude. I guess for me, that's what being a parent is about. I don't want to know the good times only. I want to go through all the bad times too.

It's a cliche but it's very suitable here - Life's rainbow is made up of rainy and sunny days.

Friday, March 03, 2017

T+30 of being a Father

My baby just reached one month recently. In the midst of the showering, feeding, changing diapers routine, I didn't realize that 30 days had just flew past like that. So, how did a first time father feel after a month?

1. Baby is living in blissful zen

I must have mentioned it before. When a baby eat, he eats. When he shits, he shits. When he is uncomfortable, he'll cry. When comforted, he stops crying. I think we can learn a lot from watching how a baby reacts and responds. They are living so much in the present that they are not haunted by the past nor worried about the future. At least not yet.

2. Whoever said "Sleeps like a baby" obviously haven't seen a baby before

I haven't really taken the full load of taking over the care taking part, but my confinement lady is leaving today. D-day! My wife is a little worried over the night duty part. Rightfully, because she is feeding him from the breast at night, so her sleep is disrupted every 2-3 hours if we're lucky. But I think once our short term help is over, it will be suicidal to depend on my wife just for the night duty feeding. I'll have to feed formula milk and do guard duty lol

3. Pain is inevitable, but it need not come with suffering

In the first few weeks, there are short bouts of anger when I couldn't calm the baby. It had arisen out of frustration and perhaps lack of sleep. I recognized it (thank my 100 days meditation!) at the onset and dispersed it. I think after here is where reading Tools of Titan helped. I remembered reading about Tony Robbin's State -> Story -> Strategy. Essentially, it is this: if you encountered a problem, ask yourself if you had enough sleep and food. Settle the biochemical state of mind first. Then you construct a story. For me, the story is that there is meaning behind the pain and frustration of being unable to calm a baby, or waking up in the middle of the night for feeding duties. All these are bonding time. Besides, the baby won't be in this needy state for long, so enjoy it. This story helps tremendously in coping with everything that seems like a chore when I became a father. Lastly, strategy is just the specific hacks that I can utilize, the practice that I had, and the sharing of good habits and routines from experts like my mother and the confinement lady.

The creep in the crib, the nipple nibbler, sleeping comfortably in my laps

4. To build trust, be vulnerable

A baby is so needy and fragile. It depends on you for everything needed to keep it alive and well, and that is precisely why everyone will treat the baby very well and to take care of it. I'm not talking about psychopaths here, just normal well adjusted adults. Can we also accelerate the process of building trust in relationship? When I meet a new student, usually I'll share some of my own story and vulnerabilities, so that rapport is build up fast. In the past I thought I'm wasting their time because I could have taught them more things. How foolish! I'm teaching a person, not force feeding content down their throats, so the more relationship points we get, the more leverage I can use to change my students and make a difference.

A careless mistake admitted by me when doing a math problem is a better relationship builder than a perfectly executed model solution copied from a pre-prepared sheet. It makes me genuine, and human too, so we can close the gap between us. If I'm perceived as a super teacher who can't make mistakes, then they might see my abilities as being too far and out of reach.

5. Expenses shot up like crazy!

Nah, just kidding. Besides the one off, there really isn't much increase. There is a spike in groceries expenses because of all the milk powder and diapers and nappy rash cream, but it's somewhat offset by zero restaurants trip, almost zero carpark charges and fuel, zero cafes trips and so on. What's the actual expense increment? I'll blog about it once I have a 2-3 month average, as it's a bit premature to see the increment now. But it's at most $500 per month increment, and I think I'm pretty generous about it already. We'll see in due time.

6. Work is a relief from care taking

I think it's important to take our minds off our kids regardless of how much we love them. There is caretaker's fatigue to worry about, so that's something that SAHM (stay at home mums) have to think about. For me, a few hours of work where I concentrate on something else is a very welcome break from the caretaking, no matter how much I love spending time with my son.

Are we also working too hard in our jobs? A month or two of a good break in between jobs can clean up all our pent up frustration and negative energy can be a good thing to revitalize our work. That might be all it takes to change from dragging to skipping yourself to work. Thankfully in my line of work I always have 'in-built' 1-2 months slack time, so no complains there lol

7. To have someone sleeping in your arms is such a wonderful thing

Babies are so manipulative. After making them comfortable, they just sleep in your arms. That feeling is better than having a multi bagger, or a job raise, or a promotion at work. For those absent daddies who are not 'into' kids, do not miss out on little things such as these!

If you're ever angry with someone, remember that they are once babies and cute and lovable too :)

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Comfort delgo : Goodbye or good buy?

This is a guest post from Investingnote. It's regarding Comfort delgro and it's mainly about touch and go FA and other industry news. I had already bought it some days ago and my views can be summarised in two pictures:

Comfortdelgro weekly: bullish weekly divergence

Comfortdelgo daily: break out of down trend line and retracing back to trendline

Can ComfortDelGro(C52) regain its customers of taxi service?

Brief Background of ComfortDelGro: 

ComfortDelGro Corporation Limited is a Singapore-based investment holding and management services company. It operates in eight segments:

1) Bus & bus station
2) Rail
3) Taxi
4) car rental and leasing
5) automotive engineering services
6) inspection and testing service
7) driving centre and
8) insurance broking services and outdoor advertising.

Summary of ComfortDelGro’s recent financial performance: 

The group maintains a steady growth of net profit despite a slight revenue decline caused by unfavourable currency translation this year. With the entrance and fierce competition brought by Uber and Grab, ComfortDelGro’s taxi business succeed to keep growing profitability. The five-year lowest P/E ratio indicates it is undervalued in a greater degree by the market. However, ComfortDelGro’s actions and measures towards issue of diesel tax and further competition are vital.

Recent Event: 10 Feb 2017 ComfortDelGro - Full Yearly Results of 2016 

Key Financial & Operating Highlights:

1. ComfortDelGro group had a steady growth of revenue during the period from 2012 to 2015, but experienced a light drop (1.26%) of revenue in 2016, which is mainly caused by unfavourable foreign currency translation, as the Group revenue should have been increased 1.76% by $72.4m. Stable growth of both operating and net revenue can be observed, but the growth rate has been declined after 2014. Also, the group achieved its highest profit margin in 2016.

2. From the perspective of segments operation (the eight segments can be found in the previous part of Brief Background), in the financial year of 2016, more than half (57%) of the group revenue was contributed from the segment of Public Transport Services Business. One third (33%) of the group revenue was driven by the segment of Taxi business, which is also the most discussed segment in recent years because of the competition from Uber and Grab. Approximate 10% of their revenue came from the Automotive engineering services.

The chart represents revenue of the three largest segments of ComfortDelGro. According to the chart, revenue of taxi business managed to maintain slow growth under the competitive pressure of Uber and Grab, especially after the aggressive expansion of Uber in early 2015. ComfortDelGro stated in their financial report that the revenue growth in the Public Transport Services Business, Taxi business, and the Driving centre business was offset by the decrease at Automotive engineering services business, the Inspection and Testing Services Business, the Car Rental and Leasing Business and the Bus Station Business.

3. Compared to the number of 31 Dec 2015, the group burdened less secured and unsecured borrowings and less payables. Total equity had a growth of 5.96%. Net cash generated from operating activities edged up to $702.5m from $600.2m at the same period of last year. However, the amount of free cash flow has a small slide of 1%. Overall, the group maintained a stable financial and cash flow position.

4. Now the group has a P/E ratio of 16.732, lower than that of the Transport industry (33.267), it is also the lowest number observed during the five-year period since 2012. The Earning per share (EPS) is 14.7 cents, with a dividend yield of 4.187%. (source: here)

ComfortDelGro’s Competition with Uber and Grab:

Are entrants of private-hire car threatening the profitability of taxi business?
After Uber and Grab entered the market, the amount of taxi licences issued was indeed affected by the rivalry.

“There are early signs of taxi weakness”, refer to the full article here.

For ComfortDelGro, the quantity of taxi licences were prone to fall since 2014.

However, the group presented positive numbers in both revenue and operating profit of Taxi segment during the recent years.

Hence, during the competition with Uber and Grab in the taxi industry, ComfortDelGro neither suffer from decreasing profit nor from loss. The possible reason could be that certain amount of consumers choose Uber/Grab because of the attractive coupons/Promo code they can use for car services. However, under the circumstance of urgency, they still prefer taxis as they do not have the time to schedule rides in advance and do not wish to waste time waiting for the Uber drivers. ComfortDelGro has witnessed improvement in service quality since they started the competition with Uber and Grab.

Is the Business of Uber and Grab sustainable?

Uber and Grab have proved their success by conquering the Singapore market and becoming well aware by people within a short period of time, but still, they face various obstacles with their operations.

1. How long can they allure customers by using promo code?

2. Private hire cars obey the Road Traffic Act (RTA) that they cannot carry a passenger who is under 1.35m without a booster seat or a child restraint. Taxi do not required to follow this Act because they are public vehicles. Related news here.

3. Singapore's private car hire business including Uber and Gran need to be licensed according to the amendments to the Road Traffic Act (RTA) after 7 February. Related news here.

4. Private-hire scam deteriorate customer’s trust. Related news here.

New threat: increasing diesel cost and new competitor HDT singapore

The Budget 2017 of Singapore announced the levy of diesel tax of 10 cents per litre, thus increase the operating cost of taxi business. Though taxi operators adopt plans to pass on tax reduction savings to drivers by less rental fee, the actual cost will increase according to research.

“Budget 2017: SMRT, ComfortDelGro to pass on diesel tax savings to taxi drivers”, to see the full article here.

“Diesel tax will add to costs, say cabbies”, refer to the full article here.

The new competitor HDT taxi company expand their customer base quickly and adopt a fixed salaries with benefit plan. Refer to the full article here.

Trans-Cab and Premier Taxi adopt new plans to attract cabbies

The 2 taxi operators introduce surge pricing (dynamic fares) and cut their rental fee to deal with competitions from Uber/Grab. But ComfortDelGro, as well as SMRT taxi, has not disclosed any intention towards the new plan.

Related news: “2 taxi firms plan to Grab hold of more customers”, shared in the post of @FGD, refer to the news here.

“Trans-Cab cuts rental fees in bid to attract cabbies” here.

What's the discussion in our community? 

“Ever-increasing challenges for Uber’s profitability”, shared by @alansmith in the post of

“Cab operators urged to offer driver more job options”, shared by @bgting in the post of :

@yjlim queried the opinion that Uber/Grab threat the business of ComfortDelGro in Taxi business, to see further discussion and share you opinion in the post :

@raynersu held the opinion that ComfortDelGro group did not make enough effort in updating their strategy for the latest market trend but rather stay out-of-fashion, while their peer Taxi operators keep improving and acquiring larger share of market gradually. Refer to more discussion in the post:

Our Key Takeaway: 

ComfortDelGro performed well under the fierce competition with private hire services and new entrants in Taxi business. Under the circumstance that Uber or Grab maintain their operating strategy, ComfortDelGro group has a great chance to gradually gain their customers in Taxi services back. However, facing with declining growth of revenue, ComfortDelGro group has to carry out appropriate measures to deal with rising diesel cost and make greater efforts on cost reduction. Additionally, ComfortDelGro’s movement towards the latest plan promoted by Trans-Cab and Premier Taxi is vital.

For ComfortDelGro, and also for the taxi industry, it is the right time to have an innovation now.

Also check out some estimations:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Comprehensive financial cost from pregnancy to birth - Part 3

Finally received the final bill from NUH, so that I can properly blog about the cost of the entire pregnancy and delivery. To be honest, NUH billing is so complex and it's not immediate intuitive to know what the costs are. I received a total of 3 billings, one while in the hospital, one after I've discharged and the last one about 2-3 weeks after we discharged. Why so many bills? I've no idea. From what I observed, the first bill is to let us know the rough figures while the second bill is for us to foot a deposit in cash, because there is a limit to claim from medisave and so the rest had to be footed in cash. Lastly, the final bill received post discharge is after all the medisave claim had been sent, approved (they might not grant you the full medisave claim) and we had to pay the remaining amount due by credit or cheque.


To understand the bills, one would have to understand the events leading to the delivery. There are 3 major stages:

1. Antenatal charges

This is related to the checkups, from the 1st trimester to the 3rd trimester, and includes stuff like consultation with the gynecologist, laboratory screening (for genetical defects etc), ultrasound scanning and swab test. There is also a range of supplements, like essential vitamins, iron, calcium, fish oil and folic acid, to ensure that the mother is well nourished so that the foetus can grow healthily. For new parents, there could be antenatal classes conducted by various hospitals to teach the parents how to prepare for the delivery and also the care taking part.

2. Delivery charges

This is related to the actual delivery cost. Generally there are two ways - natural (or normal) delivery or cesarean delivery, with the latter being much costlier because besides the gynecologist, there is also an anesthetist (that's two doctor fees for you). It takes a longer time for the wound to heal too, so the standard hospital staying duration is 3 days, as opposed to just 1 day or 2 days for normal delivery. Lastly, there are a lot more medications and drugs so there will be more charges on this aspect as well. During antenatal check ups, there is a GSB (group B strep) swap test. If it's tested positive, there will be a need to IV drip antibiotics during delivery. All the charges are also tagged to ward category, but if the father wants to bunk in overnight, it has to be A wards (single bedder).

3. Nursery and laboratory charges

These are charges for the newborn baby to stay at the nursery. On top of that, there is a screening for NENS (I don't know what's that), Galactosemia and Cystic Fibrosis, plus vaccinations (BCG, Hep B etc). There will be daily pediatrician visits to check on the baby too.


It's really hard to make a good judgement of the cost without telling people what we had in the first place. So, here's what we had:

1. 4 consultations with a senior consultant + 1st trimester antenatal screening
2. Antenatal package covering 8 consultations with the doctor and some screening
3. GBS screening
4. Supplements
5. No antenatal classes (about $200)

NUH antenatal package. We opt for the senior consultant, highlighted above

1. Natural birth
2. 1 day hospital stay at A1 ward (single bedder)
3. No painkillers like epidural
4. GBS positive - so antibiotics given
5. 18 hours labour

NUH delivery package. We have a normal delivery @ 1 bedder ward, highlighted above

Nursery and lab:
1. No jaundice
2. All standard vaccinations
3. All screening test (NENS, Galactosemia, Cystic Fibrosis)
3. 2 day nursery

I'll present the final bills here:

The total bill works out to be $6,862.21. (Update on 22nd Feb 2017: I checked my CPF-MA and realised there is another deduction of $361.87. I have no idea where it came from - I told you NUH bills is really confusing) Of the Antenatal and delivery charges, $2100 can be claimed under CPF Medisave account (MA), while the entire sum of $457.97 under the Nursery and lab charges can be claimed under MA. In other words, we paid $3,946.37 in cash. But that's just the final sum after all the claims had been done. What's more important is the cash out flow i.e exactly when do you have to pay this or that fees?

Here's my hand drawn time schedule of all the cash payment:

My hand drawn diagram of the cash outlay schedule. I would like to do this digitally, but nah, time is precious to me these days. Essence is more important than form.

Antenatal charges is spread over the entire pregnancy over 3 trimesters. The entire $2,090.29 is paid by us first, then we can claim from MA after delivery. Supplements is paid throughout the entire 9 months. The first 4 consultations and 1st trimester test (B+C) amounting to $800.70 is paid over 2 trimesters. Thereafter, once the antenatal package of $898.80 is paid in advance, there's not much money to be paid for check ups anymore other than the supplements and some minor tests.

Delivery charges is first paid on the day of discharge. They will calculate how much you paid for the antenatal charges, add in the delivery fees and minus off the medisave claimable amount. You pay in cash/credit immediately. That is $1855.55 straight away for us.

Nursery and lab charges are claimable from medisave straight away, so there's no need for any cash outlay for that one.

After 3-4 weeks, when the final bill is in, we owe them $0.50 (you did not read wrongly). So, either a cheque or a credit card bill statement had to be sent back to them and that will be all.


Is it costly to give birth in Singapore? I think a lot depends on our expectations. With the baby bonus of $14k, $8k of which is paid out in cash over several months, this will more than offset the cash outlay of the entire pregnancy journey. I'm showing both the final bill and the actual cash outlay schedule hoping to reassure new parents that it's not a shocking bill at the end of the whole thing. You'll have 9 months to save up, and even then, all can be paid for by the baby bonus. Of course, care-taking is another big tap where money gets drained out fast.

That is another story, another day. In the meantime, I have a baby boy to cuddle and love :)

Part 1: My fatherhood journey
Part 2: Her motherhood journey

My notes on Tools of Titans

I just finished the big tome of a book, titled "Tools of Titans" by Tim Ferriss. If you're into self help books, you cannot avoid reading his books. This book is a series of summary from all his 200+ podcasts (each 2 hrs+ long) condensed into one big compendium, divided into 3 broad sections of health, wealth and wise. As a financial blogger, you might think I'll dive straight into the wealth part, but I read it from cover to cover. I think I do take in a lot of tips and pointers from the health section, and am currently practicing some of them.

This is the first time I did two rounds of reading plus note taking, because there's so much new information inside that you not only have to read it, but study it. So after every section, I'll re-read again while taking notes. The following are my notes. I'm sharing not because you don't have to read the book, but more to interest and perhaps excite you to read that book for yourself.

I highlighted the ones that resonate with me more strongly. I really really like the last highlight.


1. "I can think, I can wait and I can fast" ~ Siddhartha

2. "I'm not the strongest. I'm not the fastest. But I'm really good at suffering". Using sauna training as a replacement for high altitude simulation tents. 4 times a week - Amelia Boone

3. "When in doubt, work on the deficiencies you're most embarrassed by". Having one single decision to commit yourself to a long term goal and not a series of smaller intermediate goals. Just show up, do the work and go home - blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. - Christopher Sommer

4. Ketosis for health and longevity, fasting (5-day) 2 to 3 times a year for purging precancerous cells - Dominic D'Agostino

5. Cold is a great purifying force - Wim Hof

6. Don't eat breakfast. Be careful of blood test results as they are snapshots in time. If over 40 and don't smoke, there is 80% chance you'll still die from the major 4: heart disease, strokes, cancer and neurodegenerative disease. High intensity heavy strength training is the way to losing weight, not running. - Peter Attia

7. "A good strength coach should get a female, no matter what her body fat is, to be able to do 12 chin ups in 12 weeks. Do increase pull up numbers, start doing half the reps you're capable of in repeated sets throughout the day. Accumulate reps with 15 min between sets. For maximal strength training, do not exceed 5 reps per set. "Calm is contagious" - Charles Poliquin

8. Practice going first - once you start, others will reciprocate, but be the first. Exercise with a group because a lonely place is an unmotivated place. Find your own tribe to exercise. Weighing sacrifices based on individual - the same thing can be a 80% cost to one, yet a 35% cost to another. - Gabby Reece

9. Almost all that you need to know about psychedelic is here - James Fadiman

10. Use of flotation isolation tank as a meditation substitute. Taking Ayahuasca without proper guidance can be like playing psychological Russian roulette. Ibogaine is one of the few psychedelics that can kill you. - Dan Engle

11. For men, whether you have morning boner can be a simple but excellent indicator of sleep quality, hormonal health, circadian rhythm timing and more. Campfire squat test - squatting all the way down to the ground with your feet and knees together - can be an indicator of whether you have full hip/ankle range of motion. Go 'Zero drop' for you kids - meaning get shoes that are flat for them, like kids Vans, Chuck Taylors - so that you don't systematically shorten your kids' heel cords with bad shoes - Kelly Starrett

12. "Kids don't do what you say. They do what they see. How you live your life is their example". To overcome jet lag, do some exercise for 15 mins at any time when you get to the hotel. Dream or a goal - questions to see if you have a plan to convert your dreams to goals. "To develop foresight, you need to practice hindsight."  - Paul Levesque (Triple H)

13. Playing Tetris for 10 mins can help in overwriting negative visualisation, like onset insomnia, flashbacks or post traumatic stress disorder. Never publicly criticise others, or you'll rule out future allies. - Jane McGonigal

14. He hires people based on what gets them excited in the morning, rather than a list of resume check boxes. Adam Gazzaley

15. 5 tools to sleep better - 1) Decompress the spine, 2) Chilipad, 3) Honey + apple cider vinegar, 4) visual overwriting using Tetris (10 min) or short uplifting episodic tv like Escape to river cottage season 1, 5) using sleep mask and white noise machine. 5 morning rituals to help win the day - 1) Make your bed, 2) meditate, 3) Do 5 to 10 reps of something, 4) preparing tea, 5) Gratitude exercise. Meditation - 1) use an app like headspace or calm, 2) transcendental meditation. Need to commit to at least a 7 day cycle of daily meditation with about 10 mins minimally. 99% of meditation time is letting the mud settle, only 1% matters - Tim Ferriss

16. 3 meditation tips: 1) Do it with a buddy, 2) Do less than you can so that it will not be a burden (do 3 mins if you can do 5), 3) Take one mindful breath a day. Two important exercises - "Just note gone" (be aware of something being gone and mentally note that it had gone) and "Joy of loving-kindness" (wishing random people to be happy) - Chade-Meng Tan


1. When the going gets tough, say to yourself that "tonight, I will be in my bed". Cultivate a beginner's mind. Focus on the story, not just the numbers. - Chris Sacca

2. Charge a higher price for your products/services, then work hard to provide that value. Don't fetishize failure. To see your passion, ask yourself what you do in your free time - aka "Nerds at night" test. Set up a 'red team' to argue for the other side of any proposal. Have strong views, but hold them loosely - contradictory statement but the idea is to change when the facts change. Two rules to live by: be so good they can't ignore you and smart people should make things. People who are on pedestals are just like us, don't overestimate them. - Marc Andreesen

3. Don't be there to compete, be there to win. In negotiation, he who cares the least wins. Never audition, create your own unique niche and start your own category - Arnold Schwarzenegger

4. To thrive in an unknowable future, choose the plan with the most options and one that allows you to change your plans. When you start out, say yes to everything, because you never know when the next big break will come from. After you have some success, if it's not a 'hell, yes!', then it's a 'no'. If you're busy, you're out of control. Don't use 100% effort to gain 100% gains at the expense of a more stressful journey. Instead, working at 80% effort makes the journey less stressful, more enjoyable and maybe get 80% of the gains. The extra 20% gains is not worth it. Personalise your website and email and stand out among the rest of the people with bureaucratic and 'professional' responses. - Derek Sivers

5. The bar is set so low that if you give a lot of damns, you'll stand out. Let silence do the work when expressing skepticism - Alexis Ohanian

6. "The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right." - by Neil Gaiman.

7. Busyness is a form of laziness. Being busy is often using as a front to avoid a few important and uncomfortable actions. - Tim Ferriss

8. One push up rule for exercise. Set the bar so low that there's no excuse not to do it. Oftentimes, you'll exceed it - a 'system' way of looking, instead of 'process' based. - Matt Mullengweg

9. Quality of your life is the quality of your questions - questions determine your focus. Too much focus on 'me' results in suffering. State -> story -> strategy: If you're not in prime state, you'll focus on problems not solutions. Prime your state by doing 4-10 push ups or getting 20 mins of sun exposure, or just some more sleep. Sometimes the way out is just to fix your biochemistry, aka changing your state. - Tony Robbins

10. When in doubt about your next creative project, follow what angers you. “You realize that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.” The ultimate quantification of success is not how much time you spend doing what you love, but how little time you spend doing what you hate. - Casey Neistat

11. You can't be afraid to show your scars, because that's who you are and you have to stay true to that - Morgan Spurlock

12. "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world" - Ludwig Wittgenstein. Give the mind an overnight task and let your subconscious work on a problem. To move fast, expect an error rate of 10 to 20%. If you need more time to think and decide, then it should be a better decision by 10 to 20%. Seek a single good reason for doing something, rather than a blended reasons. If there is one single good reason, all the other reasons can fit in between the good one - Reid Hoffman

13. There is no need to wait: if you have a 10 year plan, ask yourself why you can't do it in 6 months. Failure is massively over-rated and failure is always a tragedy. Competition can take you away from actually being successful because you're so mired in the daily fight that you didn't improve on what can bring you to your own success. Don't win the competition but lose your fight. - Peter Thiel

14. Be a meaningful specific rather than a wandering generality - be sure to say no if it doesn't align with your mission. If you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones will have to show you. Don't always look for something to push uphill, even if you can do it. Look for something to push downhill, and you'll use less effort for greater results.- Seth Godin

15. If you can't get 10 good ideas, get 20 ideas. Avoid newspaper - many productive people also do that. You don't owe an explanation to everyone when you say no - James Altucher

16. How to create a real world MBA by deconstructing it first principle - Tim Ferriss

17. 6 elements of humor - 1) Naughty, 2) Clever, 3) Cute, 4) Bizarre, 5) Mean and 6) Recognizable. You need at least 2 dimensions to succeed. Focus on systems not goals. Systems thinking means you're thinking of what skills or relationships you can develop that is transferable. Goals thinking is binary pass/fail with no consolation prize. Practice affirmations, it works. To be extraordinary, either become the best at one specific thing or become very good at two or more things. The latter is easier because not a lot of people have that rare combination of skills. - Scott Adams

18. Saying yes can sometimes lead to wildly unexpected doors to huge payout - Shaun White

19. In the world of ideas, if you can name an issue, you get to own the issue - that's the Law of Category. Create your own category and own that unique niche - Tim Ferriss

20. Creativity is infinite resource - the more you spend the more you have. If someone ever says yes quickly, you didn't ask for enough. Go for premium straight away. Amplify your strengths rather than fixing your weakness. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” by Heinlein - Chase Jarvis

21. Don't be afraid to do what you're not qualified to do. - Dan Carlin

22. Have 1000 true fans who would buy anything you make - they are your source of income and also your chief marketing force. If you understand principles you can create tactics. Give away 98% of your materials for free, but charge 10 to 100 times on ultra premium stuff and over deliver. Ramit Sethi

23. How to raise $100k in 10 day in kickstarter - Tim Ferriss

24. Asking the dumb question can be the smartest thing you can do. How to interview someone properly. - Alex Blumberg

25. What artist do is that they learn to see - Ed Catmull

26. When you complain, nobody wants to help you because you become a source of destruction rather than a source of growth for people. Pick the right audience to suck in front of, so that you can practice for the really important one. We just need 1 good break - Tracy Dinunzio

27. Rule of 3 and 10: everything thing starts to break down every time you triple in size. You start with 1, then at 3, it starts to break down. You adjust and when you grow up to 10, things break down again at 30,then 100, then 300 and so on. - Phil Libin

28. Take the coffee challenge - just ask for 10% off for your next few coffees as a training to put yourself out there and ask for things. Don't find time, schedule time. - Noah Kagan

29. Canvas strategy -Be an anteambulo and clear path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself. Finding the direction that someone successful had already intended to head and help them to pack , freeing them up to focus on their strengths. Make them look better than they are. Be lesser, do more. Don't let your ego prevent you from being humble. Be the canvas that shapes the painting. - Tim Ferriss

30. First edit for yourself, then edit for your fans, and lastly edit for your haters. In interviews, be vulnerable first to get vulnerability from your subjects. - Neil Strauss

31. ‘Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work' by Chuck Close.

32. When 99% of people doubt you, you're either gravely wrong or about to make history. The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people. When 'no' simply means begin again at a higher level. - Peter Diamandis

33. If you find that you are telling yourself you are making so much money, then it's a warning sign that you're doing the wrong thing. Being in a good mood is essential for creative work. - B.J. Novak

34. How to say 'no' when it matters most and overcoming fear of missing out. "The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials" - Lin Yutang. - Tim Ferriss


1. "There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way" - Thich Nhat Hanh

2. Stargazing as a therapy - when you're struggling with anything, just look up and ponder the night sky for a minute. Sometimes we don't need to give advice, people just want to know that you're listening empathically to them. Knowing that you're listening is good enough. - BJ Miller

3. Choose what to focus on. "The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time and does not exaggerate the value of the husk" - Henry David Thoreau. Do not mistake signs of productivity, like a full schedule or being busy, with actual work produced. "Write to please just one person" - Kurt Vonnegut.  - Maria Popova

4. Discipline equals freedom. If you want to be tougher, be tougher - you just immediately make the decision to be tougher. Take extreme ownership. - Jocko Willink

5. There is a calming effect in acting instead of waiting. Disaster though causes casualties and much hurt, can be unifying as well. It flattens and makes men equal. Ask yourself: what would you die for? - Sebastian Junger

6. Creating a 'red' team - ask people who are not wedded to a plan and ask them how they would disrupt and defeat the plan. Always have 3 people you're always watching - one more senior to you that you want to emulate, another is a peer who you think is better than you, and the last is a subordinate doing a better job that you did in the past. This accelerates your learning process. - General Stanley McChrystal and Chris Fussell

7. Work will work when nothing else will work. Memento mori - always remember that you are going to die. -  Shay Carl

8. Don't follow your passion - that's bad advice. The biggest predictor o job satisfaction is mentally engaging, meaningful work. We have 80,000 work hours in our life. Spending 5% - about 2 working years - to think about what we want to do is worth it. - WIll Macaskill

9. Dickens process - a way to examine limiting beliefs. Write down top 2 to 3 limiting beliefs across each tense. What has each belief cost you and your loved ones in the past? What is each belief costing you and your loved ones in the present? What will it cost you and your loved ones in the next 1,3,5 and 10 years? Use affirmations to re-wire beliefs. -  Tim Ferriss

10. Don't care about what the world thinks, then you shift all the weight of the world away from your shoulders to everyone else. They will be the one who will be worried, but no longer you. If you care what the world thinks of you, you are the one who is worried, not them. Then you'll truly be free. - Kevin Costner

11. When talking to people about the future, ask if they have children. The fate of civilisation in the abstract is harder than worrying about what sorts of experiences your children are going to have in the future. Important of self transcendence. - Sam Harriss

12. Pride can be a tool - fear of failure (leading to humiliation and disappointment) can be greater than the fear of doing things. Injury is not that bad; to not do something because of the possibility of getting injured is a terrible excuse -  Caroline Paul

13. To conquer your fear, first define it. Then realise that it is at best temporary. The outcome is permanent but the setbacks is temporary, so the risk reward is in your favour. What we fear doing most is what we most need to do. - Tim Ferriss

14. Sit, sit. Walk, walk. Don't wobble. In a world of distraction, single-tasking is a superpower. Don't get ideas first then write - you write in order to think. Don't always measure productivity - think in terms of extreme performance or extreme satisfaction. - Kevin Kelly

15. “Our life is frittered away by detail. . . . Simplify, simplify. . . . A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden. Live a day in the worst case possible, in order to realise that the worst is nothing to fear about. There is freedom from practicing poverty. Suffer a little regularly and you often cease to suffer - Tim Ferriss.

16. Perfectionism leads to procrastination, which leads to paralysis. Don't aim to please all people, and don't be afraid of people not liking you. Bad decisions make good stories - so look for silver linings. Comedians become comedians so they can control why people laugh at them. Being on stage, the material you had is only 10% - the rest is just how comfortable you are. - Whitney Cummings

17. Don't attribute to malice that which can be explained otherwise. A successful person must ultimately be at peace as well. Learn to appreciate every day that goes by without a major disaster. - Alain De Botton

18. Make lazy your manifesto! Don't let busyness serve as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness. Don't let it cover up some fear or let you excuse yourself for living a meaningful life. Saying you're busy makes you feel important and sought-after. Idleness is indispensable to the brain - for making unexpected connections. Life is too short to be busy - Tim Kreider

19. Aim for the heart, not the head. Once you get the heart, you can go to the head. Once you have both the heart and the head, you gain a pathway to the soul. 'The good shit sticks'. - Cal Fussman

20. Alternating sauna and ice bath works wonder. 20 mins of sun in the morning is good. To get unstuck, make your task laughably small, like write one word in the song by tmr. If you can do one small task, it builds up - so the point is to start. The beginning is 'heart work', not 'head work'. - Rick Rubin

21. To handle procrastination, make yourself feel guilty, then start and never stop. Even if you don't feel inspired, just have the discipline to move on. When writing, you're not there to show how cultivated or intelligent you are. You're writing to show your heart, your soul and to tell your fans and readers that you're not alone - Paulo Coelho

22. Every writer begins with a blank page. There is a bullet list of questions to begin writing something - Cheryl Strayed

23. Just take on the pain and wear it as a shirt. To resolve conflict, just say less.- Amanda Palmer

24. Focus on 2000 to 3000 people - general fame is overrated, you just need to be famous to the 2000 to 3000 people you handpicked. In general, consensus is how we bully people into pretending there's nothing to see. If you change your words, you change your world - come up with your own words and let pop culture catch up to you. Be a high agency person - someone who will get around whoever it is that told you that you can't do something. When doing deep creative work, use a string of vulgarities as a mantra. The theory is that when you say something that is prohibited to us (like spewing vulgarities), your brain goes into a different mode of inhabiting unsafe space, making you  more creative and 'different'. We only talk about learning disabilities, but we have to wonder about teaching disabilities also. - Eric Weinstein

25. Blind belief in yourself - Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

26. Life is a full contact sport. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. 8 ways here to deal with haters - Tim Ferriss

27. Find out why someone would disrupt you. Be curious. Ask questions about them to understand. "Those who are offended easily should be offended more often" - Mae West - Margaret Cho

28. Be yourself - it's much less work just to be so. Hot chillies, shallots and lemon - his 3 building blocks to have in his kitchen. To look for recipes, choose the one that describes even things to the most minute of details - those are the doers, people who had actually gone through it. - Andrew Zimmern

29. Cynicism is a disease that robs people of the gift of life. Believe in yourself and dream bigger. - Rainn Wilson

30. Happiness is a choice you make and a skill you develop. Work at it - it's like muscles. First rule of handling conflict is not to hang around with people who are constantly engaging in conflict. Sooner or later they will come to you. You always have 3 options in life for any situations - change it, accept it or leave it. Do not wish you would change but not change it, wish you would leave but not leave it etc.  5 chimps theory - you can predict the mood and behaviour of any chimps by looking at the 5 chimps they hang out with. Honest is a core foundational value. Tell people what you want to achieve, and be embarrassed into doing it. Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts - be enlightened from moment to moment. All the real benefits in life come from compound interest. Praise specifically, criticize generally. “What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, are far more important than how hard you work.” “Free education is abundant, all over the Internet. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.” “My one repeated learning in life: ‘There are no adults.’ Everyone’s making it up as they go along. Figure it out yourself, and do it.” - Naval Ravikant

31. Be willing to fail or succeed on who you really are. Don't ever try to be anything else. Know what your principles are, not your interest. Even if the world goes over the cliff, you're not going to change your principles. - Glen Beck

32. Inviting Mara to tea - a way to recognise negative emotions and inviting them in, by saying 'I see you', instead of suppressing them away. - Tara Brach

33. 2 rules for the kitchen and life : 1) Set a high standard on everything - don't serve things you wouldn't want to eat. 2) When things get busy, instead of plowing ahead, step back and come up with a plan.. The difference between home cooks and pro is acidity level. Add a bit of lemon and everything is elevated. Passion is over-rated. Passion comes from a combination of being open and curious, and of really going all in when you find something that you're interested in. - Sam Kass

34. If you want to be taken seriously, then take things seriously.- Edward Norton

35. Don't work for the awards, let the awards work for you. Love yourself before you can love others. - Richard Betts

36. In Art, everyone is equal, but in life, they are completely unequal (Art is socialism but life is capitalism). Only emotion endures. When questioning people for answers, sometimes the silence speaks louder than words.  When interviewing people, ask questions that throws them off - ask questions that people are not expecting. Don't bow to the gatekeepers because there are no gatekeepers - you are the gatekeepers. Don't waste time on marketing, just try to get better. - Mike Birbiglia

37. The jar of awesomeness - whenever something good or exciting or joyful happens, jot it down on a slip of paper, and put into a physical jar. You thought you will remember all the good things that happened to you, but you won't. Good for cultivating gratefulness. - Tim Ferriss

38. To start a book or chapter, start in the middle. Once you don't start at the beginning, your life just gets so much simpler. Have zero intellectual insecurities - keep asking dumb questions. - Malcolm Gladwell

39. Don't be afraid to try because you're intimidated or scared - the world cares less about you than you think they do. - Stephen J. Dubner

40. Empty space is a way of life for creative process. Learning the macro from the micro - focus on very small part to internalise powerful macro principles that apply everywhere. Share all the details and don't be afraid of letting your competitors know your secrets - if you're studying my game, you’re entering my game and I'll be better at it than you. Why? It's rarely a zero sum game, and the more you help people with details, the more detailed help you get. Plus, your attention to detail will scare off 50% of people who tried, 40% of those who tried will be worse than me, and 10% will try and be better than me, but they will return and teach you what they've learnt out of gratitude. End training sessions on a good 'rep' and leave your writing sessions half way mid sentence so that you always know where to start and end the session with confidence. Do interval trainings and meditations together to cultivate the art of turning it off and on. Embrace your eccentricity and build on it. For the steepest learning growth, pick the top competitors and learn from your failure. The importance of language - don't have unproductive language about whether something is good or bad before we can do certain things. Otherwise we'll be reliant on external conditions to be perfect in order to work. You can have a beautiful rainy day to work on too - Josh Waitzkin

41. Have a deloading phase - a phase where there is a planned reduction in volume or intensity when exercising so that it prepares the body for increased demand in the future. Works for life as well. Deloading blocks must be scheduled and defended more strongly than your business commitments! Create slack, because no one will give it to you. - Tim Ferriss

42. A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversation he is willing to have. Ask yourself: when i had the opportunity, did I choose courage over comfort? To be trusted, be vulnerable first. - Brene Brown

43. To be jaded is almost like being dead. Nothing impresses you anymore. Be a skeptic, don't be a cynic - Jason SIlva

44. 17 questions that changed your life. Worth a re-read again - Tim Ferriss

45. There's nothing on the other side of fear, so don't be nervous for no reason. You are either great or you don't exist. - Jamie Foxx

46. When you start something new, ask yourself if it's an itch or a burn? If it's just an itch, it's not sufficient. You really have to want it badly for it to work. Beware of self limiting beliefs that is preventing you from getting the things you want, which is just outside your comfort zone. - Bryan Johnson

47. You don't find time, you make time. If it's truly important, schedule it. If it's not in your calendar, it isn't real. -  Brian Koppelman

48. "They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seeds". Practical notes on suicide. - Tim Ferriss

49. Treat everything like an experiment, do it like nobody is ever going to see it. You might free yourself from limitations. Turns weakness into strengths and bugs into features. In the ashes of failure, there is always some lessons you can apply to make your future success, so failure is not durable. Your present failure might be your future success. You don't need to know, but trust that you can perform when you're there. At your best performance, you really don't know what happened. Even the pros don't know. Never be upset about anything, because if you have a positive attitude, you'll ask what you can learn from this set back. If something didn't go according to plan, it might be for a good reason - Robert Rodriguez

50. If bad things happen, say 'Good'. You'll accept the reality and focus on the solution instead of dwelling on the problem. If you can still say 'good', you're still alive and breathing, so get up, recalibrate and re-engage. -  Tim Ferriss

51. You must want to be a butterfly so badly, you are willing to give up being a caterpillar. - Sekou Andrews

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I learnt from 14 years of tutoring

I was filling up some forms for baby bonus and all the other paper work, when I realised that I had worked as a tutor for 14 years! That represents so much of my life, so I think I should reflect and think about some of the things I've seen and learnt from my students and their relationships with their parents and school in general. It'll be a good thing to do less of the wrong stuff and do more of the right stuff. Here it goes:

1. Daddies are mostly absent

Throughout my entire career as a tutor, daddies are mostly absent. I dare to guesstimate that the actual percentage of dads who care is less than 10%. They are not around to fetch their kids, or ask about their homework. I think the ideal stereotypical father is someone who is there to dispense out money or to be a disciplinarian. Some of my students don't even know what their father do for a living. Being a father now, I should also think about the kind of father I want to become. It helps that I'm working at home and I deeply appreciate the sheer amount of time I had with my baby boy. I want to be there around with him to observe all his 'firsts', and not to leave home when he's asleep and come back home to see him sleeping again. That's a promise from me to him.

2. The years that matters are the years before you start formal schooling

I've taught older students and I wondered why their learning abilities and motivational levels are so different. When I taught secondary school students, I thought primary school makes all the different. When I taught primary school, I thought pre school makes all the difference. When I taught pre school, I realised the environment at home makes all the difference. Any thing beyond that will be genetic influences already. If you want to make a difference, spend more time before your kid goes to formal school. Cultivate the right values and the right habits. It'll create a world of difference when he begins formal schooling. It also helps that when kids are younger, they will listen to you. Once they are in secondary school, good luck to you if they listen to whatever you ask them to do.

3. Give your kids responsibilities and duties befitting their age and maturity

I've seen upper secondary school students having their school bags packed by their mothers. I've seen JC students still asking their parents what their schedule is like for the week. I think we should all watch Diana Ser's programme on TV, with the title translated as Child Labour, in mandarin. I watched it today and there's this 10 years old kid from Thailand who has to work as a Muay Thai fighter to win prize money to feed his family. Diana Ser wisely brought his boy along to observe and film it. I think his kid is going to treasure his life back in Singapore. Are we creating chances like that for our kids to empathise and learn not to take things for granted? I think if we hand over the reins to our kids, we shouldn't expect perfections. It's all the little screw ups that will let the kid grow and mature.

I remember a parent whose child is in sec 4 but she always have to chase her child all over the place in order to arrange the child's tuition. I told her that she has to let go and let the child handle it alone. So she agreed and tried it out. For the first few times, the child forgot that we have scheduled lessons and missed it entirely. The mum, in anger, wanted to revert back to the original arrangement but I told her to have faith in the whole process. It's important to screw up and learn to move on from there. So one day, after yet another major screw up, the child finally realised the mistake and apologised to me and her mum. Such incidents dropped to zero afterwards.

I guess if you don't let the child make and own his own mistakes, you will forever be chasing after him. So, let go.

4. A good school might not be good for your child

Most people I know are very anxious when it comes to primary school selection. Some of them even moved to a good prime location near to a prestigious school so that their kids can have a good headstart in life. I haven't even talked about volunteering at the primary school yet. I've seen my fair share of students who went to a supposedly good school, but because they can't handle the stress, they ended up doing very very badly. There are others who strive in neighborhood schools and because of the good conducive environment, grew in confidence and did pretty well in the end.

I think the point is that there are two ways in which children handle stress. They either crumble or they rise to the challenge. It's important not to force a child into a good school. Afterall, a good school is good because of the students who went in, not because of some special geographical location or special syllabus. I do understand the need for parents wanting their child to socialise and mix in with people from better backgrounds so that they have a good network from young. But let's leave this until much much later, perhaps in university or JC.

5. How you do anything is how you do everything

I tend to nag students on little things, like writing the wavy lines underneath a letter when denoting vectors, or putting in the degree symbol after the numbers and so on. Some students obviously find it frustrating, so they will tell me that they would remember do such things only during exams. It doesn't work that way. There are only 4 major exams in a year, but there are countless practice sessions. If you are going to do the right things only during exams, I'll bet that you won't remember to do it during exams as well. It's about the attitude to do the right thing every time also. If you don't practice during peace time, you don't do it during war times. I really think that discipline is the thing that gets you to places, not motivation. Motivation is that single moment where you feel like doing something for the first time, and thereafter you have to reply on just discipline to get you there.

6. Set high standards 

I usually give worksheets that are way harder than what the students perceive themselves capable of. If they are in combined science, I'll give them pure science questions. If they are in NA level, I'll give them combined science questions. This is like wearing iron weights during practice runs, and when the weights are removed, they will literally fly. When done properly, they will experience immediate small success in school based exams and hopefully their confidence and desire for more success will form the next level of motivation to bring them greater success. It's a way to get them 'hooked' with success, hence providing that intrinsic motivation to want to do better.

7. Hardwork beats talent anytime, unless talent becomes hardworking

There are students who grasp new concepts immediately, while others I'll have to explain in a variety of ways. Some students are just more talented in doing math or science. But if I have to bet who will have greater academic success, I'll bet on the kid who is more hardworking. I've seen countless examples of students who beat talented ones through sheer hardwork. Of course, if they are competing against students who are hardworking and have talent, it's not going to be that easy anymore. The good thing about hardwork is that we can always strive to be more hardworking. You just can't say I'm born this way, so it places the blame solely on yourself. This fits in with the growth mindset - that our abilities are like muscles and will grow when we practice more, instead of a fixed mindset where our abilities are based squarely on the roll of the dice on our genes.

8. Be the example that you want your kid to become

I've seen children whose parents wanted them to stop using their handphones, but they themselves uses it all the time. I think children are smart enough to detect double standards, and they will follow what you do instead of what you said. If you want children to do their work, you have to show them how you do yours. If you want children to have a reading habit, you have to show them how you read all the time too. I think children is really just a reflection of yourself. I'm sure your children will hold you to the same standards just like how you exert yours on them.

9. Listen more, judge less. 

This is a reminder to myself. Sometimes we live in the world, we become proficient in the ways of the world, and then forgot that our children are pretty new to it. We tend to judge them using our own yardstick. I'm guilty of getting irritated by my students when I've said the same things over and over again. To them, maybe they had heard it for the first time, but for me, I've said the same things probably a thousand times. I think it's important to listen to what they think, and don't judge prematurely. Don't think about a response while your child talking. Listen actively.

10. In the end, show love

This is also a reminder to myself that no matter how irritated or frustrated I am, at the end of the day, show love. We can't get so absorbed by our own anger and frustrations that it becomes self feeding, treating every little wrong behavior or mistakes done by the child as if it's a big mistake that feeds the anger and frustration even more. I think parenting is the same. There will be times when you feel negative emotions towards the child. Remember to show more love at the end of the day. It can be a little apology to explain why you are so frustrated and show some encouragement. It can be a little pat on the back or a hug, just to tell the child that we still love them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Her motherhood journey - Part 2

This is the second part of our pregnancy journey. The first part is from my perspective as a father to be, titled aptly My fatherhood journey. This is wholly the work of my wife, who had taken time in between rest and her care duties to our son, to write out her reflections to chronicle this milestone event. After reading for the first time in order to post this, I feel that I need to provide a little background information.

The name of our son is Zef, and his chinese character has a 𦊊 inside. It's pronounced as tian1, same as 天. Now that character is so old schooled that the common dictionary does not have it, and it's quite hard to type it out in chinese. Now imagine we face the same issues when registering for the birth certificate at ICA. First, I was told that they couldn't type it in. The very nice officer hinted to me that perhaps I might want to change it to the more commonplace 天, but I firmly refused. Before our son was born, we actually went to the National library at Bugis, reference section, to check out the character. We took pictures of it, and I thought that would be good enough, but it wasn't. The officer went back and fro to consult her supervisors, and I was told that they need to have a cover of the dictionary, as well as the page with the character, in order for them to input that character into their system to process the birth certificate. And so I have to travel to the library again, photocopy the required dictionary cover (thankfully I still remember which!) and go back to ICA again. The officer accepted it, but made no promises that they can input the character into their system.

A few days later, I received a call from them and got the good news that I want. Sometimes in life, we just need to push through the difficulties. Everything is negotiable, and I'm definitely not going to let a little inconvenience get into the way of what I want.

Here's the letter from a mother to her son:

Newborn babies are always photographed either sleeping or smiling. Why should photographs always be about happy memories? Both the good and bad are good memories to have. And so I'm going to take a photo of him crying 

Dear Zef,

In order to know who we are, and who we might be, it is essential to know how we came about into this world. Everyone has an ‘origin myth’, a tale of trials, tribulations and transformation. Before the myth gets muddled by the passing of time, I am going to tell you the legend of Zef, how you came into existence, and what meanings you might infer from it in the future.

You had been a great blessing right from the start. Your father and I had planned for a baby at the beginning of 2016, and we went for a health check to ascertain that we are both healthy and are able to start a family. The interesting thing is, during the health check, the doctor who was examining me advised me to have a child soon due to my age, and said that she’s seen many women who faced difficulties in conceiving. Her words affirmed my conviction, and your father and I began to try for a child. I was fully aware of that natural conception isn’t easy, and was entertaining all sorts of possibilities – ranging from IVF to adoption – if our attempt at natural conception was unsuccessful. However, much to our relief and pleasant surprise, you came along and responded to the ‘vacancy’ and was conceived ‘spontaneously’ without any medical interventions.

Since then, I’ve established a firm belief in the ‘natural’ ways, and when I was expecting, your father and I decided to have a ‘natural’ childbirth – a childbirth that involves minimum medical interventions. However, I soon discovered that the ‘natural’ childbirth that I had envisioned was deemed ‘unnatural’, even radical, in our modern society. In fact, childbirth had been ‘medicalised’, and the ‘medicalisation of childbirth’ was apparent in many aspects – from the ‘experts’ we can consult with, to the processes involved. For instance, I had to go to an obstetrician (OB) instead of a midwife, and that medical interventions pervaded all aspects of the delivery. Also, the delivery ward differs drastically from what is intended in nature. Animals seek out a closed, cosy and dark place to birth their young in seclusion. If you ever step into a delivery ward, you’ll notice that it is not the cosy and comfortable place intended by Nature. Instead, it is a clean, cold, and clinical venue that is marked by constant interference from the medical professionals. At one point in time, the nurse that was attending to me was walking in and out of the room nonchalantly during my contractions to get supplies, and I had to remind her to respect my privacy and knock before coming in. Thus from the very start, it was a battle to have the kind of ‘natural’ childbirth that we envisioned, which consists of the following 6 tenets:

1) Let Labor Begin On Its Own
2) Walk, Move, and Change Positions
3) Have Continuous Support
4) Avoid Unnecessary Interventions
5) Get Upright and Follow Urges to Push
6) Keep Your Baby With You After Birth

The first tenet of ‘natural’ childbirth is to ‘let labour begin on its own’. However, our plan for that was nearly thwarted because you were considered ‘overdue’ by the OB based on the estimated delivery date (EDD) of 24/01/2017, and he suggested that we induced the labour on the 31/01/2017 at 8am. I was rather distressed by the decision, and had even planned to resist it by skipping the appointment. Your father was very supportive of the rebellion, and pointed out that the given EDD is arbitrary, as the original was on the 27/01/2017, but had been revised to 24/01/2017. He even joked that if you don’t arrive on time, you’ll be ‘evicted’ on the 31/01/2017. Thankfully, you did not let us down, and decided to beat the doctor’s timing and announce your impending arrival by breaking the water bag at 6 am on the 31/01/2017. So you have decided that you’ll rather move on your own, than be induced by the OB.

The second tenet is to ‘walk, move, and change positions’. However, once we check into the delivery suite, mobility and movement is heavily restricted. For instance, once we are in the suite, we are not allowed to leave until you are born. So when we went in at 7 am, we were confined to that small space till you came out at 11 pm. Also, the focus of the room is the delivery bed, and is the central piece of equipment for the delivery. The labouring mother is expected to lie in the bed throughout the labour process and her movements are further restrained by the use of foetal and contractions monitoring pads. I had requested that I be allowed to move freely during the labour process and wanted the wireless monitoring pads so that I don’t have to be bed bound. After some difficulties I was finally given the wireless version. I also asked for a birthing ball to help me ease the pain in my birth plan. To my horror, they couldn’t find the copy of my birth plan, and said that they don’t provide the birthing ball due to hygiene. I was flabbergasted, as I’ve been practicing pain relieving techniques on a birthing ball during my entire pregnancy, and now when it’s time to tap on my practice, the key prop is missing! Eventually, I had use the doctor’s stool as a substitute for the birthing ball, and spent most of my time walking around the room, standing up and leaning over the bed and cabinet tops, and rolling from side to side on the stool. I was hardly on the bed throughout the whole process.

The third tenet is to ‘have continuous support’, and in fact this is one of the most crucial point. The irony is that the ‘expert’ I’ve engaged for the delivery was hardly there. The OB only appeared twice during the entire labour: when I first arrived to do a vaginal examination to determine my dilation, and when you are ‘crowning’. In between, I only have the constant support of your father, who was so committed that he even refused to leave my side and go for lunch. He was there all the time, feeding me snippets of snacks (nuts, bread and cream crackers) that we smuggled in and giving me sips of water in between the contractions. It is only when his hunger threatens to overwhelm him that he left for a short while to grab a sandwich and Milo at 4pm from the vending machine outside. Other than that, I have the intermittent support of the nurses that were on shift. I had three nurses due to the duration of the labour, and the last one was extremely supportive. I can still recall her confidence in me – “You can make it”.

The fourth tenet is to ‘avoid unnecessary interventions’, and this is one of the tenets which is the hardest to abide by. The medical interventions are pervasive – and they range from something as innocuous as placing the IV port on my left hand to facilitate the intravenous injection of medication when necessary to the use of ‘oxytocin’ to ‘augment’ the labour by making the contractions faster and harder and even the use of epidural to numb the pain of contractions. I refused to succumb to the use of epidural because I am wary of the impact that it has on you – the greater stress that you have to go through when the contractions becomes artificially stronger and longer. Both of us share the same sensations of the contracting uterus, albeit from different sides – you on the inside, and I on the outside. Although I can escape the pain by opting for epidural, I am determined to stand by you and go through the same discomfort that you have to experience. I will not escape the pain and leave you to face it alone. However, a medical officer came in during the later stage of my labour and attempted to persuade to opt for the epidural by dangling a deadline – the epidural can only be prescribed before the dilation has proceeded too far. Once the dilation reaches 9 cm, I’ll not be able to ask for the epidural. At that point in time when the offer was made, I was already delirious and weakened from the pain of contractions. It was your father, who affirmed my wishes, and declined the use of the epidural on my behalf.

The fifth tenet which is to ‘get upright and follow urges to push’ is also another challenge I’ve to face in the labour process. For instance, in order to have a more reliable reading of the foetal heart rate, I eventually had to swap the wireless monitoring pads for the wired ones, and this curtailed my movements and confined me to the bed. Also, the medical staff advised me against pushing, and wanted me to control the urge till I am fully dilated. However, the waves of contractions become increasing excruciating, and eventually I gave in to my instincts and followed my body’s cue to push. At one point in time, I even have to call the attending doctor to come in before the appointed time to examine me and to ascertain the dilation. However, the doctor was away for an emergency C Section, and it was the nurse who had to do the vaginal examination for me.

The last tenet was the only one which was fulfilled. When you were born, you were placed on my chest for a while before you were whisked away for a battery of tests like the Apgar score and cleaned up. The nurse also started to assist me to breastfeed you, and since then, I’ve been breastfeeding you all the while without the use of any formula milk.

So this is how you came into the world. So what meanings can you infer from such an arduous journey? The first important lesson is this: although there were trials and tribulations, we can overcome any adversities once we were certain of our convictions and made our stand. Once we were convinced that the ‘natural’ childbirth was what we wanted for you, we managed to persist and achieve our aim. Secondly, there will always be at least two people in the world, who loved you more than anything else, and is willing to go through thick and thin with you. When you were still in my belly, your father would often whisper this mantra to you:

“𦊊𦊊, 你还没出世, 但世上已有两个很喜欢你的人喔: 你的爸爸和妈妈!”

When I was in labour, I was determined to go through the pain so that we can go through the furnace together and forge a strong bond. I am honoured to have shared this wonderful journey with worthy companions like your father and you. Lastly, remember that you are a great blessing, and you are a strong boy who can stand by your mother stoically and endure an 18 hour long labour and did not cave in to the countless contractions. There may be pain, but there need not be fear, and I’m happy that you have proven yourself to be pro-bravery.  You rose up to the test and managed to take the stresses and did not develop any signs of foetal distress like meconium in the amniotic fluid or a decrease in the heart rate, for if you do show such signs, then the only viable option would be an emergency C Section. Thank you for standing up to the struggles with me, and if you fight alongside with me, I will fight for you.

So the legend goes:

“Men become warriors through death and destruction; 
Women become warriors through birth and creation.” 

Well met, S/O (mother’s name). Welcome to the world, Zef.

Part 3: Comprehensive financial cost from pregnancy to birth