Saturday, December 24, 2011

A review of my 2011...

This will be my last entry for the year as I am leaving for South America in a few hours time. Year 2011 is a challenging year, and a lot of things did not go as planned. There are periods where it had been an emotional roller-coaster ride. I had to be mentally stronger. The philosophy of "Letting Go" has been very helpful. However, I also acknowledge that my trivial problems are insignificant when I took a few steps back looking at the bigger perspective of life.

Overall, it has been a good year. I am very grateful to be alive.

There are lessons that I have learnt:

1. Fear is the scariest when I chose not to face it.

2. Trusted people are like gems in my life.

3. Dangerous people: highly educated, intelligent, rich and well-connected, but without integrity. Especially those who appear to be friendly and kind.

4. Always ASK. Ask for help. Ask for favour. Ask questions. Ask for your rights.

5. Have a to-do-list and deadline. It instills self-discipline.

6. Learn to say "NO".

7. Simplicity is Beautiful. Less is More.

8. Be a dreamer. Live with No Regrets.

9. Meet more people. It keeps your ego in check. Humility.

10. Letting Go - the antidote to a lot of problems.

11. Be Grateful always.

(Dad & Niece)

I am really grateful for my family and my friends.
Thank You.

Charity: Riverkids Project

"Riverkids works with children and families in danger of abuse and trafficking in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We identify children at high risk because of extreme poverty, drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling, child abuse or other children or family involved in trafficking.
Then, we talk with the families to work out what help they need and what will keep their children safe.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as getting the children enrolled in school. Other times, we need to provide emergency shelter for abused children and urgent medical care to prevent a greater crisis. For our families, selling their children is a desperate solution to complicated long-term problems that can’t be quickly solved, but instead need patience and compassion to find practical solutions like vocational training and family counselling.
Our community centers are within walking distance from the crowded and dangerous slums our families live in. That makes it easy for the families to ask for help during an emergency, and makes our centers part of the local community. We hire staff from the local slums where possible too."

I was born in Southeast Asia like these kids, but I am fortunate to be born in a rich country. Just because I was born in the right place, my future is likely to be better. I might not be as smart or hardworking as these kids, but I was given the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment. Sometimes, it is like a game of tossing coin - born in a poor or rich country. I am just lucky.

I hope to do something more than just donating money in the future.
It's a season of sharing. Let's share our blessings.

One New Experience Each Week - ZoukOut

Lately, I haven't been trying out new experiences, partly because my list is getting shorter, the to-do-things are getting tougher and I am busy with my South America trip planning... 

Finally, I went for my FIRST Zoukout experience (partying from dusk till dawn @ beach). I wanted to go to the first Zoukout back in 2000, but I was in the wilderness of Australia in my army attire serving the nation. In fact, I dropped the idea of going to Zoukout for years, until last year when I realized that if I still did not go for Zoukout, I might be the oldest participant in a few years time.

Last year, Zoukout was a sold-out event as it was celebrating 10 years anniversary. I was at the venue, and I was so desperate that I was willing to pay $180/ticket when someone offered it (however, one of my friends did not want to pay such money, so I dropped the idea).

This year Zoukout was rather boring, but I was glad that I went, as I have no more desire to attend another Zoukout.


Desire (aka Craving) is a very funny animal.
When I did not have something, I wanted it so badly.
I would work really hard to get it.
When I gotten it, it did not bring that kind of happiness that I expect.
Then, I would continue to search for something else.
It was a never ending game...

For example:  The Zoukout experience

I was willing to pay $180 for a ticket last year. But after this year experience, I might think twice even if someone offered me a free ticket.

For example:  The clubbing experience
Recently, my younger cousin was updating her FB that she was clubbing every weekend. I could understand that phase of life, as I used to club every weekend more than 10 years ago. After been there done that, I found it quite pointless to club EVERY weekend. It is a waste of money, time, energy and LIVER. At the same time, I am glad that I went through that phase, and I could understand why people do it.

For example:  The gambling experience
More than 10 years ago, my friend and I went on-board a gambling cruise ship. I gambled and lost all my money, and had a strong desire to fight the odds and win back my money. I thought of borrowing money, but I did not. My friend was in an even worse position, he borrowed money and lost thousands of dollars (that was a lot of money for a 20 year-old dude). Interestingly, he managed to recoup his losses and made some money. I asked him to stop, but he continued gambling as he felt really lucky. As expected, he lost every single cents. 

After this experience, I could understand compulsive gambling and the gambling addict mindset. It was quite a good albeit scary experience - Greed, Fear, Desire, Hope. I am thankful for losing my money, as it was a good lesson.

For example: The Dead Sea experience
Prior to visiting the Dead Sea, I had seen so many photos of people floating on the Dead Sea. I really wanted to experience it badly. When I was floating in the Dead Sea I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was really magical and I have never experienced anything like that before. 

When I left the Dead Sea, I remembered vividly my thought was "So that was it??". I have no more desire to spend more time on the Dead Sea.

*If you haven't experienced it, you should do it at least once in your life* =) 

Desire is both satisfying and frustrating.
I guess, I am just being human.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Charity Water

Millions are deprived of Clean Water.
Let's do something for them.

If we lived a century ago, witnessing clean water flowing out of a tap would be a miracle. 
Have you taken your clean water for granted?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

David Attenborough - Wonderful World (BBC)

What a wonderful world... The World is awesome!!! 
At the same time, i just felt that we should be responsible and stop exploiting it for own benefits. 
Think of other species and the future generation!

The 50 most inspiring travel quotes

Some of my favourite quotes 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

 “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” –John Steinbeck

 “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

″A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

“The journey not the arrival matters.” – T. S. Eliot

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton

"A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why ships were built."

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” – Fitzhugh Mullan

Be comfortable.
Sleep anywhere
(Taken at Indian Train Station)

I do not know a lot of things in life, but at least, I know that traveling is definitely one of the best ways to be ALIVE. I learnt so much while I was traveling. I learnt to be less judgemental as I am more aware of my ignorance and lack of knowledge. I learnt that a simple kindness in a foreign land is heart warming and it could linger in the heart for years. I learnt to appreciate differences between cultures and people, at the same time, realising that deep within, everyone is the same. I am humbled by all the amazing people I met. I learnt to appreciate hiccups as part of the journey, and quite often, it makes the trip memorable and a good conversation topic.

Most importantly, traveling reminded me that I am an insignificant sentient being in this wonderful big world. While my existence does not matter, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate this beautiful world. I am also aware that my time is limited....


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Talk by Ajahn Brahm (Dec'11)

Recently, Ajahn Brahm celebrated his 60th birthday. I really hope that I have the good fortune to listen to him for many years to come. I have been to many talks, and it is rare to find a teacher as good as Ajahn Brahm.

Below are some of my take-ways: 

 - Put the cup (worry) down and be Still

- During meditation:
 Let go of things that make you move -
The Past and The Future.

-We miss out a lot of things in life because we are moving too fast.
Be Still and appreciate the beauty around you.

-Stillness is the medicine we are looking for.

-When people shout at you, give yourself 5 seconds of Silence before you react.

- When surrounded by enemy. Drink a Tea. 
Life is always changing

- In Silence, you see more.

A tribute to an extraordinary lady - Teresa Hsu

(7 July 1898 – 7 December 2011)
Aged 113 years old

Despite her near-celebrity status for her tireless work in caring for the less privileged, Ms Teresa Hsu had shunned the public eye - up until her death last week. 

Ms Hsu died last Wednesday at the age of 113 - she was Singapore's oldest living person - but news of her death only emerged this week in a posting on the website of Heart to Heart Service, a charity which Ms Hsu had set up. 

"In accordance with her wish to depart quietly and peacefully, and her instructions not to make any announcement to the media, as well as not to conduct or perform any rituals or ceremonies that will cause disturbance and inconvenience to others, she was cremated on the same day," said the statement by Mr Sharana Rao, a colleague at Heart to Heart. 

"She has further instructed that no claim be made of her ash by whosoever."

Teresa's mother said 
"We ate yesterday.
They haven't eaten for two days.
They have more right to the food."

After eating grass to satisfy her thought of hunger, Teresa said to herself
"As long as I'm able to
let nobody need to eat grass."

"I will still share my rice bowl.
My bowl of rice with you. 
This is now my life.
to share what I have with those who are hungrier than I.
Even equally hungry, 
we share half a bowl."

"In life there are always problems.
You solve your problems to the best you can
and you accept the rest." 


I remember watching her (100+ years old) on a TV programme where she was still helping people 20-30 years younger than her. I was really amazed by her energy and passion. She really walks the talk. I read that she became a nurse at the age of 47 years old, even the school only accept people below 25 years old. I am glad she persisted.

It is really amazing that she was still thoughtful and humble by requesting for a simple funeral.
She lived a simple & humble lifestyle - Meditation, Yoga, Vegetarianism.

Amazing Lady.
Amazing Life.

Thank you for making this world a better place.

Thank you for inspiring everyone of us.
Thank you for being a role model.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Article "Comfortable with the face I've earned" by Dr Lee Wei Ling

I really like Dr Lee Wei Ling's last few paragraphs on her article on Sunday Times (4th Dec'11). She was talking about being comfortable with her appearance and her general attitude towards life...

"I have not yet developed the ability to be totally detached from life's vicissitudes, but I have learnt to remind myself that desire of and attachment to worldly things bring suffering. I have this become fairly successful in curbing some of my attachments.

If I believed in reincarnation, then I would feel that I had many more lives to struggle through before I attained nirvana. But I don't believe in reincarnation, and I am convinced that I am a transient on this planet.

This means that if I don't want to suffer too much in this life, I must continually remind myself that while I should aspire to help other humans, I must also be willing to be detached when detachment is the only option.

I don't resent the misfortunes that fate has brought me. I accept them as lessons in life that only personal experience can teach. Indeed, I believe I am fortunate rather than unfortunate to have learnt these lessons."

Friday, December 02, 2011

What are your childhood dreams?

After watching the last lecture by Randy, I started to ask myself what are my childhood dreams? Have I fulfilled them?


When I was in primary school, my grades were so bad that my mum told me (I was 9 years old) that I had to complete at least my primary school education so that I could get a job in a factory as a production worker. And because of our very difficult financial situation, my mother had to join the workforce in her mid-thirties as a production worker. For a while, my dream was really to become a production worker.

This dream was never realized. I have never worked in a production line before (fortunately or unfortunately).


When I was in secondary school, my dream was to be admitted to University. It was really a faraway dream for me. And coming from a lousy school, I used to feel inferior when I met students from good reputable schools. I used to think that they knew more than me until I participated in the National Mathematics Olympiad and was ranked 100+ among the top 2000 students in Singapore, which put me in the top 1% percentile nationally for Mathematics. I was the only student in my whole (lousy) school to receive such recognition two years in a row.

This dream was realized when I completed my University education.


When I was in junior college, my dream was to go overseas for university education. I did well for my first year exam and was selected to be part of the Scholars' club in the school. I also did well for my A levels exam (not straight As), but good enough to be invited for Overseas Scholarship Interviews. Unfortunately (fortunately) after receiving all the rejection letters, I sank into mild depression, as I knew I would never have opportunity to study abroad. I was offered a local scholarship, but I did not accept it.

This dream was realized when I spent one year working in the San Francisco Bay Area and was taking courses at Stanford University. That was the best year of my life.


There are still many dreams of mine that I didn't realize (yet).
Working in Wall Street, Living in London, Becoming a Fund Manager, Financial Freedom, Setting up a Charity Foundation, Teaching in a Rural School in Himalayas etc...

My Life is far from perfect, but I come a long way.
From a dream of becoming a production worker to studying at Stanford University.
I am already very fortunate and lucky. 

Sometimes, I was frustrated that my fullest potential was not realized yet.
But looking back, (fortunately, I started from a low base) I am already very thankful and grateful for all the blessings.

I may not fulfill ALL my dreams, but I take solace in the fact that some of my dreams have been fulfilled and I am taking incremental steps towards fulfilling my new dreams. I will never succeed, as new dreams kept surfacing. I may not be successful, but at least I tried. 

Tibetan Kids
(Taken on 2005 at Xiahe, Gansu Province, China)

These adorable kids were collecting recyclable items on the street to sell. When I gave them some sweets, they were really happy and started to pose for me. 

Looking at them, I knew that Life is never fair.
Why are they on the street when they should be school?
What are the dreams of these children? 

The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch

I watched this last lecture in late 2007 when Randy Pausch was still around. I thought that since he was so positive and optimistic, may be a miracle might happen. Despite knowing that his odds was low, I was still saddened by the news of his departure.

I wrote about it in 2009.

I read his book and watched his lecture again, there are still so many lessons to be learnt. Below are my key takeaways:

"The brick wall are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."

"Never lose the childlike wonder"

"People are more important than things"
--> Randy poured coke onto the back seat of his new convertible car, to tell his niece & nephew that it is okay to mess up his things. Later that evening, his nephew vomited in his new convertible. Don't get upset over things.

"Don't complain, just work harder."

"Why do pancakes need to be round?.... We (Randy & his nephew & niece) were always making weirdly shaped animal pancakes."

"Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time & energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won't make us happier."

"It's not how hard you hit. It's how hard you get hit and keep moving forward."

"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer."

"If you want something bad enough, never give up."

" Someone asked Randy 'Wow, you got your tenure early. What's your secret?'
He replied 'It's pretty simple. Call me any friday night in my office at ten o'clock and I'll tell you.'
Hard work is like compounded interest in the bank. The rewards build faster." 

"No regrets, give it the best shot"

"Showing Gratitude is one of simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other."