Sunday, October 18, 2009

Everyone holds an important role in society

We seem to live in a world where everyone is free to make their own decisions, own judgements, make their own assessments, and yet, there are times when we can quite critical of ourselves and others, whether we realise it or not. We seem to do this so naturally in our interactions with others. We seem to consciously or unconsciously judge when we should be looking not at what a person may do or may look like but at the individual. The person behind what is presented to you at face value.

Sure, you can tell a lot about someone just by looking at them, how they act or what they do, but it does not mean that we should ever feel the need to judge them in the way that society has encouraged us to judge. It isn’t fair to anyone if that is the case.

In understanding this, I believe the best way someone can learn to be less critical and one way is to experience it for oneself. As I find that my perspective and views on things when I have attempted and tried it something for myself. This is why I would like to endeavour to try some of the various roles and professions that there are in society and am actively looking for ways to do so.

I hope you too will think about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes before making any preconceptions and judgements, and even consider physically trying it for yourself. It is hoped that through that more intimate knowledge will you be able to interact with those individuals, groups or organisations in a more effective manner.

Success means something different to everyone...

Success for some is seen as getting what one desires, while for others it can simply mean to keep hanging in there and trying, never failing to give up, and to keep trying until one gets it right.

Dictionary.com defines it as “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.”

If we had a marathon race, the definitions of success would differ.
As a marathon runner, would define success as completing a marathon in under 2 hours and 10 minutes. While the average joe running the same marathon would say they’re successful at just completing the marathon, with a time of 4-5 hours or maybe no time at all, (i.e. just finishing the marathon).

As you can see in this example, success generally means something different to each and every one of us. It through this understanding that the definition of success does differ from person to person and that it is defined in your own terms that one can know if one is truly ‘successful’.

Are we truly better than everyone else?

An old boss of mine once told me, “we're better than everyone else...that's why we're here today". He made this comment just as we were enjoying a team lunch sponsored by our firm, and then went on about why he thought that – mainly as he believed himself (and us) to be more superior then others... I was speechless after hearing that as I was surprised that someone, particularly someone like himself could make a statement like that...

It’s something that has been on my mind for a while, as how can that truly be? What makes us so special? Sure I can see that we might be more privileged, fortunate and well off at least in society’s terms but are we truly better?

I believe that no one is truly better than everyone else, it’s more that some are luckier or more fortunate than another, and that one is only better than oneself, not better than anybody else. In that, the only person that you need to look at being better is yourself, your ‘inner self’, e.g. rather than being that lazy individual, you become that hardworking individual that you can truly be.

Sure, you may compare yourself to others at times, as that is human nature and only natural, however, you should only do so to allow you to see where humans are capable of pushing themselves. Should you see or believe that those skills, capabilities and/or achievements as something you believe your ‘inner self’ should strive towards then you should work towards bettering yourself to achieve that goal.

This is just in the same way one should look at success, in being able to define success in your own terms, and not in the terms that others within society try define on you. True success lies from within and it is up to you to define that on your own.

The language of the hands

Sign language
At the Youth Parliament and Diversity @ Work events I saw many sign language interpreters translating what we all take for granted, the ability to listen. Now something that I have found through my discussions with a sign language interpreter is that sign language actually varies from country to country, although Australia's Auslan sign language is seen as a quite expressive form of the language.

It is actually something that I have on my to do list to learn one day, although, recently has been bumped up the list a bit and been on my mind for a while. I see it as an important language, I believe as being able to communicate with others is essential and being able to communicate with individuals from all walks of life something that I will be endeavouring to do for all my life...

Finding your vocation...

I recently attended the Diversity @ Work Awards dinner through my involvement with the Australian Computer Society's Young Professionals in IT (ACS YIT) where we were nominated for the 'Today's Youth – The Future of Tomorrow' award.

Presenting on the night was Bill Shorten and Tim Costello, both of whom were captivating and inspiring speakers who each were able to discuss the importance of diversity, not just within the workplace but within our community. As it is important for us to realise that whilst we are all each living healthy and free today, one day, that may change and we will be in need of initiatives that are carried out by each of the participants of the night.

Now that's not to say that we should only do so for our own sake, it's more so that we need to be grateful for we have and don't have, and to also acknowledge that there is more that we can do for those who may not be as fortunate as we are. That we should be looking towards trying to help make their lives easier and to truly 'see the person, not the disability'. As every one of us are special within our society no matter what colour, race, sexual orientiation, disability etc. We are each here today to interact and share our time and resources with all those around us.


Finding one's vocation...
One key thing that I believe Tim Costello pointed out quite strongly, at least to me, is the importance of finding one's vocation - where a vocation is something that you are 'specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained or qualified' (Wikipedia 2009) for.

Now it's one thing to find one's vocation, it is another to combine that with what you are doing for a living. Finding out what it is that you are passionate about ('calling') in life and striving to combine that with your work ('skill set') will always be a challenge, as often there can be significant differences between what our passion is and what our skill set is.

Although for many of us, this will be what seems like an neverending journey to find this 'vocation' whilst judging the everyday elements of life. I believe that with time, effort, an openmind and determination one can achieve at least some aspect of achieving this goal.

Just as one of my favourite quotes by Cicero, an ancient philosopher implies, sometimes, it is only when you look to do more than what is required of you that the answer may find its way to you.

"If we only do what is required of us we are slaves, the moment we do more we are free" - Cicero

YACVic conference and the lost generation?

About the conference
The YACVic ‘Here, Now and Next’ conference was held on the 14-15 October 2009 in Ballarat at the Mercure Hotel and has been organised and managed by the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria. It aims to provide information on youth issues to youth/social workers and volunteers across Victoria, although representatives from across the country and even New Zealand were present.


The effect policies have on our community
One key theme that came up from the YACVic conference was how the policies from Howard's Government had an effect on our community, although the key focus was primarily on the effect of these policies on our youth, where direct comparisons were also made between Australian and Canadian young adults as they made their way through life. This included when they finished university, first started work, got married, had children, etc. It showed how these policies along with socio-economic factors and gender played a role in shaping the lives of our young adults.
Overall, Canadians and those from high socio-economic groups generally fared better and had a happier outlook on life, and Australia was seen behind in many areas, noting that the key factors behind this were the policies and socio-economic environment within Australia compared to Canada.

It was mentioned how the Howard Government’s key focus was on reducing drug usage and while it was indicated that this has indeed reduced drug usage amongst this generation of youth, in its place was alcoholism that has been neglected. Consequently, youth as young as 14-15 years old are already drinking. Not only are they drinking earlier, they’re drinking more often and drinking the ‘hard liquor’ such as spirits. It was mentioned that studies have shown that no one should be drinking before the age of 16, or even under 22-23 years old, but 16 years old is where there would be a more 'realistic' and profound effect on the health of our youth.

The Rudd Government today is now seeking to tackle this with its focus on the area of alcoholism, where they are seeking tackle the consumption of alcopops (or 'ready-to-drink') drinks. This has been a step in the right direction, at least in terms of its focus on the issue, although it has been seen to potentially alienate our youth if they are the one ones targeted in their initiatives. The issue, as pointed out in the conference, was more so at how it (‘alcoholism’) is so well-engrained into our Australian culture, and that is what should be addressed more, as I have seen in some of the advertisements now.


The 'lost' generation
Nevertheless, it was mentioned that we now may have a 'lost' generation (14-25 years olds - including myself) whom we may not or cannot effectively re-educate about the risks of alcohol. Our focus instead can be to mitigate the risks and ensure that the lost generation can at least take care of themselves and their friends. As the youth of this lost generation want to be able to take care of their friends and family, however, are concerned about the implications of drinking at such a young age at least in the eyes of the law. As such, they can put themselves and their friends at risk by not calling that ambulance when they really should, and instead may unintentionally see their friends die (from choking on their own vomit, false remedies causing more harm than good, etc). Things that could easily be avoided with the right knowledge provided to this vulnerable generation of youth.

Initiatives have been mentioned to now be in place to work on gradually phasing out the sports-alcohol related advertising, though it is expected to be phased out over a 10-20 year period, just as cigarettes were.

Let’s hope we can indeed save this ‘lost’ generation, the generation that will be the future leaders of our community...

Here's a excellent clip of where this lost generation will be heading. Enjoy! It's great :)

Beyond the marathon...

"Run the Melbourne marathon every year" was one of my goals, probably like any other runner, until I did my knees in May this year...

While it has set me back and now has meant that I will have to pass on running the Melbourne Marathon and a 50km event later this year. I still want to be involved and so I have volunteered for these events to enabled me to view the event in a different light. (the 50km event is the Upstream Foundation run and will be held in November 2009)

Just as it had back in 2007 where my role was to setup those goodie bags that one gets at the end of the running events on the Melbourne marathon day. Now last year I was able to run, though unfortunately I cramped my legs, nonetheless I finished the event. This year however my role was as a gatekeeper ('Arena Gate Guard' I was called) where my role was to ensure that only authorised individuals were allowed onto the field.

Now it was through this experience that I was able to view the marathon in another dimension, and that is through the eyes of the supporting family and friends. It was on that day, that I was able to share a moment, a special moment, whom I saw were fighting back some of the tears (including some of my own I must admit), as I was able to see and re-live some of the passion, courage, and triumph through that moment.

I saw the legacy, the kindness and the ability of the runner, and I was feeling quite privileged and grateful to experience such a precious moment like it. It meant something very special to them, this running event - the crowd, the MCG and the memories. It will be something that I will always treasure and think about right into the future, especially as I run this event year after year! Melbourne marathon - I will see you next year! :)

My brief insight into a refugee camp

Until recently, I have never been to a refugee camp, although like most of us, I have seen and heard the typical stories and images of refugee camps from TV, movies and the like. It wasn’t until last weekend that I actually saw firsthand what it was like (well, could be like).

I saw the common circumstances that brings people to these camps (wars, natural disasters), the vulnerability of each of them (from the people to the animals, predators, climate and weather), how they found shelter, food, water, medicine, and how even small common illnesses are able to kill them mainly due to their weaker immune systems - attributed to the lifestyle and environment which they lived in.

Nevertheless, all is not lost, as for some it is through organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia (Doctors Without Borders) that they are still alive and living in better conditions today.

Now I didn’t actually visit a real refugee camp in another country, just a simulated version that was held by the MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) where they were staging the "Refugee Camp in Your City" event in Melbourne (held from Saturday 3 October to Sunday 11 October 2009). I went through the tour of the camp as I wanted to gain an understanding of what it would be like as a refugee. This event has been staged around the world and where participants are guided through a simulated environment with an example of a refugee camp and facilities.

Something that I believe I also learnt was the key differences between internally displaced person (IDP), refugee, and asylum seeker, as I saw them primarily as quite similar terms. It wasn’t until attending this camp that I understood the differences and I will quote the differences from their website for you.
  • IDP: People who have fled for safety within the borders of their home countries are officially considered internally displaced persons or IDPs.
  • Refugee: A refugee is someone who: “…owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable to, or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
  • Asylum seeker: An asylum seeker is someone who has fled their own country and applies to the government of another country for protection as a refugee.

The simulated refugee camps were also held in Adelaide although they have packed up now. MSF is working on a great cause and seem to have great strategies and volunteers taking part in addressing this vital issue around the world. Particularly where many of these individuals are displaced as a result of wars rather than natural disasters, as in many of these cases, these situations could have been avoided had man not taken the action man has, due to greed, revenge, etc.

For more information on this program and the organisation that held it, you can visit: http://www.msf.org.au/

Youth Parliament Camp 2009

I have always been quite interested in exploring and discovering the systems and structures in place in society and the role each of them plays in our society. One of these is the Parliament house of Victoria, which I have visited a few times previously, however, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I had the privilege and opportunity to experience and have a glimpse of the life of a Victorian State politician firsthand. It took place in a simulated environment and will always be an experience that I will never forget...

I know most would view Parliament house itself as quite an ordinary place, at least from the outside, yet inside the building you will find that it holds more secrets and history than one may realise. Its role is critical in ensuring that the various mechanisms and agencies of the institution keep up to speed with the current issues of today.


Our bill
Now my team (Ethic Youth Council) and I presented in the Legislative Council chamber, which is the red room, where the main bill that my team were part of the Opposition (there are two sides within the chamber - Government and Opposition), and we were arguing for “Increased security on Victorian trains and stations”, where:

“This Bill proposes that, similar to the system in New York there will be a major increase in the security presence not only at train stations but also on trains. Furthermore the safety at train stations and the vicinity surrounding them will be upgraded to make facilities safer and more accessible.”

The bill was successfully passed through the debates with the Government, with a couple of amendments, nonetheless, it will now be considered by the relevant parties within the Victorian Parliament.


Adjournment speech
We were also all each given the opportunity to present an adjournment speech, i.e. an opportunity to speak about any topic or issue that we believed that a relevant Minister should consider. My speech was on the need to increase the safety and security of cyclist paths across Victoria, for both cyclists and runners.

I choose this because, as a runner, I always find it quite difficult to find those ‘safe’ paths and trails that I am able to run during any time, day or night, since most trails run through parks and secluded areas where it is quite unsafe or risky to ride/ run when it starts to get dark. You can always run on the standard footpaths, however it is not fluid and continuous and as safe if you are going at a fast pace, so the need to connect these trails further, improve the lighting, position and/or distance the paths so that they are safe from cars and trucks is vital.

Given the climate change, health and obesity, and other surrounding and emerging issues and challenges, the significance of ensuring that there are adequate paths for cyclists and runners will be essential to enabling individuals to have an alternative option to vehicles. One in which they can feel safe to ride/ run on, rather than feeling that they have to risk their lives as everyday as many are today. Resulting in those tragic accidents that appear on the news from time to time (e.g. cyclist dies in collision...)


The camp itself
Outside Parliament house, the camp itself was a very vibrant and enjoyable experience. It was hosted by great facilitators where they created an environment where one can feel that one can be oneself and connect with others through the fun activities (to learn about Parliament and ourselves) and the numerous costume parties that were held! We had a jungle, medieval and fantasy party where I was a Viet jungle warrior, musketeer and Captain Cook respectively!


More information
For those interested in the camp or the program, it’s called the YMCA Youth Parliament Camp 2009. It ran from 27th September - 2nd October 2009. It’s a great opportunity to learn and experience the ins and outs of Parliament firsthand and to meet and make new friends! I highly recommend it to those who are curious about society and how one can contribute to it.

ACS Young Professionals in IT conference 2009

The Australian Computer Society Young Professionals in IT (ACS YIT) conference was held in Sydney, 3-4 September 2009. It aimed to provide a forum for young IT professionals to come together and share their views and outlooks on the future of IT and where they can see themselves in the future. It also allows people to connect with other fellow young professionals from across the country.

The presenters at the conference provided some useful and interesting tips and advice which I believe may be quite useful for you all:
  • Always strive to be satisfied and have a passion for the things you do in life. I know it may be challenging to do this but try to put your heart in the work you do and love what you are.
  • If you ask simple questions you will only get a simple answer. Try to be more clear and concise and have a purpose of what you are seeking to know, otherwise what you get may not be exactly what you want or need to know.
  • Hardiest workers tend to be the luckiest. The harder they work the luckier they get. You make your own luck.
  • Always try set goals and objectives in life, and re-evaluate your goal when you have nearly achieved it.
  • It is the services rather than products that will continue to grow more specifically. This is something that IBM, as an example, has been successful at doing.
  • ‘The stewardship the profession requires from tomorrow's leaders to make a difference’ - Mark Lloyd FACS
  • The qualities that an IT professional should strive towards are:

  • Patience – being able to wait and be content when necessary.
  • Courage – being able to be firm, strong and get out there when required.
  • Energy and advice – being enthusiastic and sharing ideas and providing suggestions to others.
  • Organisation positioning skills - knowing where you would like to lead your career within an organisation and finding out how to working towards heading there.
  • Personal/ intrapersonal skills - being able to communicate and share your knowledge with others.
  • Strategic – understanding where you fit in within an organisation
  • Here's another list of great qualities that make up a character of a person, not just a professional. See my article on the six pillars of character
I hope these tips and advice may come of some value to you all.
-Vu
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Six Pillars of Character

The Six Pillars of Character from the Josephson Institute of Ethics is a great listing of the values and qualities that I believe one should hold. Here is a nice summary from them on their six main pillars. I will expand on these and what they say about each of them for you a bit later on.

Trustworthiness
Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends and country

Respect
Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements

Responsibility
Do what you are supposed to do • Persevere: keep on trying! • Always do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act — consider the consequences • Be accountable for your choices

Fairness
Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly

Caring
Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need

Citizenship
Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment

(Source: http://charactercounts.org/sixpillars.html)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's the true intentions that matter...

No one is the same, and although we may share the same interests or experiences, everyone is different in one way or another. We all look, talk, act and relate differently from one another. We all have our own skills, knowledge, lifestyles and have different approaches to the everything in life. We also all make mistakes since no one is perfect. Each of us learn in our own ways, whether that is visually, verbally or kinetically, since each of us has a general tendency to more or sway towards our own preferences on various elements our lives.

When someone makes a mistake one can always be tempted to react so strongly to it - whatever it may be, and in such a way that can make the other person feel bad about what has been done. Yet, looking at what has been done more closely, one can assess whether our reactions may be warranted after all, and whether the type of reaction choosen is truly acceptable for the circumstance at hand.

For example, you're at a bar and a friend of yours goes and gets a drink for you. Although the drink is exactly what you wanted they accidentally spill the drink onto you. Do you:
A) Start yelling in anger at your friend and demand them to find a cloth/tissues quickly to clean the spill.
B) Tell your friend to not worry and to find a cloth/tissues quickly to clean the spill.

Most likely you'll go with action B and tell your friend to not worry and to find a cloth/tissues quickly to clean the spill. As what happened has happened, it's in the past and you can't change that. The only thing you can do now is to clean up the mess.

Now imagine your friend was a stranger? Would you still react the same?

Most likely this would depend but will generally result in the same reaction. Nonetheless, what I'm seeking to point out is that in these situations whilst the actions (i.e. the spill onto you) was unintentional and happened, it is the intention behind the action that should be encouraged. As they had intention to get a drink for you and did not intend to spill it on you (at least you would hope not). The fact that they tried rather than that they failed should be what you 'assess' (if that's the right word for it) or refer to before drawing any conclusions.

As it can sometimes be easy just to get upset or anger at someone for something that do that happens to affect you. Sometimes it's intentional, sometimes not. However, one should always try engage and assess a situation with the view to identify the ''true intentions' of the other involved party. As I'd hate to be really upset or angry at someone when it was truly due to a bit of cluminess or simply an accident.

The same perspective should be placed on the other elements of our life where each of our skills, knowledges, general motors skills will almost always vary. So remember to do the following and you'll find that things in life happen and that it's always best to look at the intentions of others to determine why it happens, in order to react in a way that reflects their true intentions, with these I hope you can unravel the real truth that often can seem quite hidden 'in the moment':
  • Always try look at the true intentions behind the actions of others before reacting.
  • Everyone is not perfect, we all make mistakes. Things happen, always try move forward and identify how to resolve the problem rather than focus on the past.
-Vu