Monday, April 30, 2012

Surrounding yourself with great people...

A friend of mine invited me to a network marketing session a couple of months ago, and while I'm not interested in these sort of initiatives, what I wanted to find out was how they managed to get my friend on board. As I find that things are not always what they seem, particularly with these sort of ventures.

I knew that word of mouth marketing/ advertising was strong, and could see that my friend simply joined without looking in the fine details of what she was getting into based on a recommendation by a friend.

So I went along and afterwards I tried to understand the reasons behind my friend's decision to head in this direction, and tried to help her to challenge her thoughts and understanding of it. After a while, I knew that her mind could not be changed, and one could understand why. If one had invested money in something that one would want to see a return from, then it would be the typical human reaction. As these ventures often require an investment (normally financial) to participate.

So, given this situation, the only thing I could encourage was for one to set boundaries, by setting stop limits. But one has to set this both ways though, a limit on the amount one be willing to invest and gain. This is when should one stop if such and such was spent, and when should stop if such and such was achievable. Greed and temptation is often pitfalls here, so though there were defensive reactions to my non-evasive suggestions and questions, I'd managed to at least encourage her to set those limits. I'd always advise that it's best to set limits early, as emotions will always play a factor down the track - even I get lost in my emotions at times, so it's best to be aware of this.

Enough about that though, as I know in time my friend will learn from their experience, and really I have done all that I could really. Now something that I really wanted to share with you was some great concepts that I learnt at this network marketing session. Of course, the session itself was more driven towards trying to persuade you by trying to show you how easy it can be to get rich, etc. which wasn't my thing.

What stood out for me were these comments that I've heard before from other sources, but it struck me well this time round:
  • Surround yourself with great people - One should try surround oneself with a core of six people. The analogy of people carrying your coffin during your funeral was used. Essentially surrounding yourself with people who you can trust, who you can share and work with.
  • Opportunities only come once - "When an opportunity comes by. The same one won't come again. You will not get the same opportunity. You may get an opportunity down the track but it won't be the same." This is true, as one philosopher once said that you never jump into the same river twice.
So what I got from the whole experience was that I should surround myself with great people and knowing that while I can't jump into the same river twice, I should understand why and why you didn't choose to jump this time round. As life is full of choices. Indeed I will only live once, but in this one life I may find that I can only jump in the river once and never know where I'll go. So I'd hope that make the right choice when I jump into the river...with my great friends and family...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How we often trade off larger future benefits for much smaller short term ones

I just briefly read through a book in the library the other day titled, "Happiness around the world: the paradox of happy peasants and miserable millionaires" which is written by Carol Graham.

Basically there were research shared on what happiness is and this technical term 'hyperbolic discounting'. It explains the links between happiness and money, happiness and crime and a bunch of other themes.  It goes in-deth and draws these themes more and also offers suggestions on what actions can be done to change and improve happiness. I didn't get a chance to read it all but here were some key sentences caught my attention.

“Individuals often trade off much larger future benefits for much smaller short-term ones (hyperbolic discounting).  Due to this most developed economies have forced savings schemes – whether individuals accounts or pay-as-you go based- which are ultimately institutionalized mechanisms to get citizens to trade-off current consumption to save for their future retirement years"
  • This is one of the reasons countries have superannuation. Australia has superannuation and Singapore has what they call the CPF which follows a similar principle but each with its own benefits.

“[Charles and Anthony Kenny] define happiness as having three separate components: contentment, welfare, and dignity.”
  • Contentment with what we have, our general welfare and our pride/ dignity - having those in tact means we are happy. The example of happy peasants is used where they can be happier than a millionaire as they have these three catered for in their way of life.

“[For developed economies the] challenge is not extreme poverty but relative poverty, vulnerability, and inequality of income and opportunity.”
  • Very true, I don't believe many people are starving to death in a westernised country like Australia however they are struggling to hang in there, some even going by each day one day at a time - with no real personal outlook and feeling that there are opportunities out there for their own future. 
“Happiness literature shows that individuals adapt very quickly to income gains but less quickly to losses, and more to changes in income than to changes in status.”
  • This is true, it is always easy to gain something than to lose it. For a peasant to have an opportunity to experience a new way of life, having that expectation and personal experience of what it is really like having more money. It is much more difficult to stay happy when circumstances require them to live as they were before the change.

“High levels of inequality or low levels of social mobility, and related low expectations, can result in higher discount rates (and therefore more hyperbolic discounting) for those in the lower income ranks. This discounting can apply to areas such as public health as well as in the income realms, and may help explain why phenomena such as obesity are concentrated among lower income cohorts, at least in the developed economies.” 
  • An interesting insight into obesity and even smoking. I wonder if a comment made by an old colleague about chilli rings true here to?
Interesting insights into why some things have been set up the way they are to keep us happy, if only in the short term...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Ladder of Young People's Participation

Someone once shared me some details about Roger Hart's Ladder of Young People's Participation. This is quite interesting model that can be used when you are thinking about young engagement. As it is a model that helps categorise and conceptualise where a particular organisation or community group are in engaging with young people.

The levels vary, and something that catches my attention the most is the notion of the 'Token youth'. This is where a young person may be added to the group for their opinions, but in reality are only there just so the group can say that they had a youth represented there. Or at times they might not feel engaged enough to be a true representative in the group...

This is great for seeing where young people currently fit in within a group and where and how you would like them to be involved. Of course, we can also apply this to other categories of individuals which can be involved such as the elderly involvement in a group.

So here's a copy of the ladder borrowed from, where they detail each of these levels or 'rungs' as they call it in more detail, where:

Rung 8: Young people and adults share decision making
Rung 7: Young people lead and initiate action
Rung 6: Adult-initiated, shared decisions with young people
Rung 5: Young people consulted and informed
Rung 4: Young people assigned and informed
Rung 3: Young people are tokenised*
Rung 2: Young people as decoration*
Rung 1: Young people are manipulated*

*Please note that the last three rungs are non-participation by young people.

This overall is adapted from Hart, R (1992). Children's Participation from Tokenism to Citzenship. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reward efforts than outcomes

I read this article the other day in the Straits Times which I found it an interesting read on motivation and how kids and people in general are motivated, I'd thought I'll share some key points from the article:

  • Autonomy and meaningful goals - We are at our best when we choose to work towards meaningful goals. 
"People focused on rewards miss out on the inner resources of intrinsic motivation and volition. We are most engaged and do our most creative work when we feel that we are acting according to our own will on behalf of goals we find meaningful."

  • Rewards are often given for outcomes rather than valued behaviour. Rewarding individuals does work but what we have to be careful is that individuals can often look towards the final outcome and may undertake unethical approaches to achieve the desired outcome. It's better to reward for efforts than the outcomes of efforts.
"A reward that acknowledges a great effort is more effective than one that is promised upfront for getting an A. Appreciation is always a better motivator than control".
  • Encouraging a child to do his or her best is enough - As this is not only supportive but may also help reduce anxiety which often can compromise performance.

  • Self-determination theory - These points are based on what makes people happy,  and  what makes people happy according to the self-determination theory, is that all humans have three basic psychological needs and these are: 
  1. The need to belong or feel connected
  2. The need to feel competent, and
  3. The need for autonomy or self-determination. 
"When those needs are satisfied, we're motivated, productive and happy. When they are thwarted, our motivation, productivity and happiness plummet"  

"Human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. When these needs are met, the actions of people - be they students or employees - will be rooted not by short-term and inconsistent extrinsic motivation, but by sustaining, ingrained and habitual intrinsic motivation."

The article I read was titled, "Should you reward your child for A grades?" and is written by Sandra Davie on the 1st April 2012. It featured Profession Richard Ryan a clinical psychologist and professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Education at the University of Rochester, New York, US.

You'll find the article here if you're interested in reading it, I'd say it's worth a read. Enjoy!

How children learn

I'd like to share this speech that reminds me of a book I read a while ago about 'How Children Learn', where the book was written by someone who was observing the way kids grow up. Essentially they discussed how children are naturally curious and creative, but what happens is that they are conditioned by society through their parents, school, community to begin to question the very thing that allows easy flow of creativity.

They fear mistakes, believe things that were before possible, now impossible and are educated to think differently than they would have as kids. Think about when you learn another language now, you may get words wrong then you won't try. Whereas kids try and try until they get it right, until they start to fear mistakes, at which point they stop learning as fast and being creative.

Ken Robinson captures this concept really well in this 2006 speech titled, 'Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity'.

How to set up your Ezlink enabled credit card in Singapore

The steps detailed below applies to users of Singapore's public transport system (buses, trains - MRT). It also is for individuals that have a Singapore credit card and is directed towards those with credit cards that can be used as an Ezlink card. This saves you from having to carry two cards with you and to make your wallet that little bit lighter.

I've just set up some basic instructions here as I found myself confused for a while on the Ezlink webpage, so you may find this overview useful. As among the offerings from Ezlink: EZ-Reload, EZ-Online, Top and Tap and a whole bunch of other things, EZ-Reload is the one that applies to turning your credit card into an Ezlink card that you can use in Singapore trains and buses. You can use this process just to setup your normal Ezlink card so it is charged up automatically by your credit card as well.

Some credit cards can also be used as an Ezlink card
Some cards do offer rebates (up to 7%) on charging up as well, and they are currently POSB Everyday Card, Citibank SMRT Card, and HSBC Revolution Card. But I'd say use whichever works best for you.

Before I go through the process though, please just check that you have everything you need:
  1. Confirm that your card is Ezlink enabled - Just quickly before I provide the exact details of the process I went through to set up my card, please just flip the credit card that you think is enabled. Have a look at the very bottom. It should have a CAN number and an Ezlink symbol somewhere. You'll need this CAN number for later.
  2. Check that you have your NRIC/ FIN and personal details ready - NRIC is a National Registration Identity Card and for foreigners can be an Employment Pass (EP), etc.
  3. A valid email address/ mobile number - This is as the application status and collection slip number will be sent to you via email/ sms.
  4. EZ-Reload amount - At the moment you have to go through whole process again (cancel and reapply) if you want to change this amount, so just think about whether you want to reload $20, $30, $40, or $50 for each auto reload. I'd say to help keep track more easily and to factor in the small admin fee that costs $0.25 for each auto reload, the more the better, but this depends on your personal habits. If you often lose things, it may be worth not loading up too much at once or even using this auto reload option at all.
Important note:
  • Any change in top-up amount or credit/debit card number (e.g. When your credit card expires) you need to deactivate the card and apply again. This is noted to take about 2 weeks to process. 
Steps to set up your credit card as the Ezlink card online (follow the term "Ez-Reload")
  1. Visit Ezlink's Ez-Reload webpage, (Right click to open link in a new window)
  2. Click here to apply for EZ-Reload today - Read the terms and conditions to see what applies to you. The main thing here is that only you use your card and you're aware of what to do when it expires.
  3. Click Ez-Reload by card - You'll be at the Ez-Reload page now - and assuming you're using a credit card, select the picture and link with the Ez-Reload by card.
  4. Click on I want to apply - You'll be able to read some more details here about the card. The main information I feel you need to know what is happens after you fill in the form Please feel free to read the FAQ if you want to as well.
  5. Click on I agree - After reading some more details about the card and after clicking I agree you'll get to choose your credit card type and then fill in the details about yourself and your card. The
    EZ-Reload amount you'll need to think about carefully as it'll take 2 weeks to process each time you want to change this one.
  6. Submit your application - It'll ask you to confirm your details with your bank. For my card I was asked to enter in an the OTP (One time authorisation) code that is sent to my phone. Now you wait.
Next steps:
  1. Wait for collection slip number to be sent via email/ sms  - I received a confirmation of my application email but the code via sms.
  2. Find a standard Ezlink card machine and activate - You do this by placing your card on the standard scanner.
  3. Select 'More services' 
  4. Select 'Activate EZReload'
  5. Enter collection slip number details - After entering you'll get a receipt.
  6. Use your card as a normal Ezlink card - Congratulations you've got it all set up now! Now your credit card will be automatically reloaded for you when it gets low. You have added credit card to your Ezlink card.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Even the little things count...

I remember receiving my surprise as I was happily given Christmas cards last Christmas from my fellow Lion club members and feeling the warmth and friendship that came with it. It reminded me of my good old primary school days when we gave these around to our friends and family and even made some cards ourselves.

These days, too often we find ourselves lost in our technology that often aren't able to find the time to do something so simple and memorable for someone else. I've even had a couple of Christmas cards mailed to my house and you don't realise how much of an effect it can have on others. So show your friends you care, perhaps it may be sending that little Christmas card or even a kind message sent in a letter via snail mail (the post) - as even the little things count...

Here's a nice quote I'd like to leave you with as well:
"There are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things." -  Mother Teresa

Quotes on learning

They say you never stop learning - so here's just some great quotes to remind you to continue to do so and where you find you never have time to read. Make some time to read!

"You will demand much of your teachers, but what you get is your responsibility" - William H. Armstrong

"How long do you put off thinking yourself worthy of the best of things... what sort of teacher are you still waiting for, that you put off improving yourself until he comes? You are not a [child] anymore, but already..full grown" -Epicetus

 "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." -Mark Twain

"There is no such thing as an interesting book, there are only interested readers" -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The student who ignores rules and definitions is all too soon overcome by ideas that cannot be understood". - William H. Armstrong

"It matters, if individuals are to retain any capacity to form their own judgments and opinions, that they continue to read for themselves" - Harold Bloom

"Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body" - Joseph Addison