Friday, October 8, 2010

Managing Time

A lot of people seem to always complain that they are ‘too busy’.

However, there is something very strange about this, something that has perplexed me for a very long time. Most of the people who claim to be really 'busy' and are 'occupied completely’ are often not very successful; whilst the highly successful people always seem to have time to do one or two more things, regardless of the thousands of things which they are already doing.

To understand why this is so, it is necessary to discuss the essence of time management.

Let me put it this way – management often defines the success or failure of everything.

Most organizations are successful because they are managed well, just as most centenarians can live up to the ripe old age of 100 because their health is managed well.

Most developed countries prosper and its citizens enjoy wealth and happiness because these countries elect governments that understand and practise sound management.

Management is absolutely crucial in our quest for success. Sound management brings success; poor management results in defeat and failure.

To live a fruitful and productive modern life, you must find a way to comfortably engage yourself in meeting daily demands. And to do this, you need to master one very important skill, time management.

The reason why successful people seem to have more time than less successful ones is not because they work less. Rather, it is because they manage their time in such a way that they become incredibly efficient.

To be a good time manager, you need to have two common practices:

1. You should always have time for meaningful things in life, never say 'no' to engaging yourself in a meaningful cause just because you think you do not have time for it.

2. You should never make time for meaningless and harmful things in life, so never say 'yes' to meaningless causes just because you feel you have time.

Once you are able to religiously adhere to the two philosophies above, you will find yourself a better time manager. This one action alone will improve your time management by 50% without doing anything else yet.

Now let's discuss three more things which will improve your time management by another 50%:

1. Prioritise - Have a priority list (refer to my article, "Priority List").

2. Fill the gaps - Make use of the little gaps that you have daily. Let me put it this way, there are so many time gaps that appear throughout our daily lives, no matter how busy we may think them to be. Say for example - the 5 minutes that we wait for the noodle at a small coffee shop, the 3 minutes that we spend queuing up for the lift, the 30 minutes we are made to wait before the client can meet us, etc. These are all little time gaps which may look very insignificant; however, when they are added up, they represent a huge chunk of time that can be put into very good use. You can read a few pages of a good book, reply to some SMS messages, plan your sales strategy, catch up with a long lost friend, etc.

3.Multi-task - Unlike before, people of today have a very short attention span and may do several at any one time. Therefore, a skill that a modern man needs to develop is multi-tasking. When you multi-task you increase the limited time that you have. For example, I often write my blogs while I am doing my hour-long treadmill exercise. When I finish my walk, my blog article is finished as well. While watching a television programme, I often flip though a magazine that I have not had time to read.

I am not sure if my multitasking strategy is workable for you but it has certainly worked well for me.

Time is the most precious commodity we have in life. Money lost can be earned back; however, the time you lose is lost forever. So maximize your time to the fullest and enjoy a much more productive and fruitful life.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Your First Times

Our first encounters with anything are usually memorable.

Ask yourself if you can still remember these ‘firsts’ in your life:

- Your first interview?
- Your first speech?
- Your first drive?
- Your first flight?
- Your first fight?
- Your first kiss?

Of course you do!

The thrill of doing something you have never done before mixed with the fear of the unknown makes these insignificant events memorable and even life-shaping.

However, after these things have been done repeatedly for a while, the fire burns out and the thrills and excitement experienced earlier disappear. Boredom sets in and it becomes a routine and nothing more.

This is, of course, simply a natural progression.

When a young person just starts out, everything is new to him. He therefore explores, with great curiosity, this world that he is just getting to know. Everything he sees and touches is new, fresh and novel. He tries out everything passionately yet clumsily.

As time passes, the things that were once new and exotic to him, start repeating themselves. As he repeatedly experiences the same things, he soon finds that the experiences that once gave him a tingling in the stomach are no longer exciting for him.

His passion turns into robotic calm as he goes about doing the once-exciting things which he now calls 'daily chores'. He does them as he MUST do them for whatever reason it may be. It might be to put food on the table, to honour the marital vow he pledged or to bring up the children that he has brought into this world.

He laughs at all the funny scenes on the television, but he is not capable of doing so on his own. He never really laughs a hearty laugh as a result of his own fulfilment or contentment of life. All his laughter is triggered by something external.

As he goes about living his life in absolute precision and predictability, he becomes quite skilful at what he does. From initially shivering and barely able to speak during a public presentation, he now speaks fluently and comfortably, regardless of the size of the crowd.

From being absolutely fearful of approaching strangers in a shopping mall to close a sale, he now understands exactly what to do in order to stop an uninterested passer-by dead in their tracks.

From having absolutely no knowledge about child rearing, he has now become the quintessential 'expert-father', specialising in all areas of parenting - feeding, changing diaper, speech therapy, medical care, etc.

Repetition always brings two attributes - one is positive while the other is negative. The positive one is expertise and the negative one is boredom.

To do something really well, we must do it over and over again so that our minds become conditioned in such a way to execute precision. When we reach a stage like this, we become 'experts'.

The first time we do something, however, is when we take it the most seriously and tackle it with excitement. This is actually when we are at our best - we are, at this point, the most alert, observant, humble, open, and willing to adapt and change in order to successfully complete the task.

Now, think about this: What if we combined the two attributes, excitement and expertise, in whatever we did? Wouldn’t we then have the best of both worlds - 'passion' as well as 'expertise' – the two most important qualities for success?

I once read a story that went like this:

A man had inherited a small drugstore business from his father, but he was getting really tired of running it. He opened his little shops in the morning, closed them at night, and repeated the same thing over and over again for years and years.

He was very good at what he did but he was bored to death. He kept thinking, "It is so meaningless to do this 'same old, same old', day in, day out."

Just when he had decided that he should just give up on his business, he suddenly had another thought, "Why don't I try to build the largest pharmacy chain in the world?"

It was a simple yet powerful thought, one that redefined the pharmaceutical retail landscape in the United States.

He plunged into the same game again, but this time, he did so with an absolute passion, the same enthusiasm which brought initial success to his grandfather and father before him. Not only that, he used all of the knowledge and expertise that he had gained over the previous years.

He was now playing the business game at his best. He had the passion of a starter and the skills and expertise of a veteran.

The result - the creation of the largest drugstore chain in the world, Walgreens, with a vast network of 7541 stores spread across the United States alone!

So let me repeat - combine a child-like enthusiasm and laser sharp acumen and expertise in your quest for success. You will get there sooner than you think!

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Importance of Unity


It can be next to impossible for any one individual to accomplish something grand and epic. However, collectively, there is little we cannot do.

Behind all the big names that have dazzled us in the world today, very few are the work of just one man or woman. Behind each and every legendary name or brand, there is most often a group of people working together – in absolute unity.

The great achievers that we know of are seldom loners. There are, of course, genius artists and scientists like Picaso, Eisntein, JK Rowling. These rare individuals may indeed have worked entirely on their own and achieve great success.

However, in the world of business, where products must be manufactured and services rendered, it is a near impossibility to do this.

There are legendary names in every industry. However, the people who have established themselves in their respective industries are almost universally those who were able to attract a group of people to believe in their vision and cause. In short, they were able to unite people.

Why is this so important? Simple - Unity is the only formula for success in business!

A machine is comprised of many parts and components, bolts and nuts. These items are meaningless if they all exist in isolation.

These items, each and every one of them, are essential for the larger machine to function effectively. If one small item is missing or unable to perform, the smooth running of that large machine can be affected; it will likely even break down entirely.

However, when all the items are happy and work together harmoniously, great productivity can be achieved.

It does not matter how great each bolt or nut is, what is most important is the greatness of the collective outcome which is produced.

In an organisation, there is no room for individualism or heroism.

Imagine if everybody in a business simply tried to outshine and outdo one another. Imagine if, in order to achieve this personal objective and agenda, some even resort to measures that are destructive for the whole organisation. You can just imagine the chaos and confusion that would be produced!

The best choir in the world is not the one which has the best solo singers; it is the one which has the best collective singing. Imagine if you had a group of egotistical solo singers who kept trying to 'out-sing' everyone else!

To achieve a superb performance, you must have singers who are willing to act as supporting singers - who will harmonise in the background with an absolute focus on achieving a common interest, and not act in self-interest for glorification.

Imagine if you have a team of football players who do not care about the overall good of the team but are only concerned if they themselves can score that goal? Can you imagine if everybody is trying to be the one who scores the winning goal, and for that reason, nobody passes the ball to anybody else?

If we want to achieve personal success, we need to first achieve collective success.

As employees, we can only be successful if the organisation we work in is successful. Similarly, if you are a business owner, you can only be successful if your employees are successful.

There are NO two ways about it.

Unity is most important for success, be it for an organisation or a country.

And if you want to be more successful in life, learn this one thing - leadership. For without leadership there will be no unity.

Leadership brings unity, and ultimately, success.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Those Busy Children


In this modern world that we live in today, everybody is busy. From children to housewives, workers to professionals, chief executive officers to entrepreneurs, every modern soul multi-tasks in so many ways.

It is not difficult to understand why adults are busy.

But busy children?

The children of today are not like those during our times. These are busy little people. Due to the intense academic competition that exists, children nowadays must learn much more and much faster than their parents and grandparents.

Modern parents understand that in order for their children to excel in this world, they need skills and knowledge; the more skills and knowledge that they can possess, the better of a position they are in to compete with their peers.

These parents understand that the world is a gigantic rat race. You do not join the rat race only after you leave school and start working; you do so way before that - it starts way back in elementary school.

In order to realize your vision of getting accepted to your dream university, and hence achieving your dream career, you must outdo all the competition along the way, year after year.

It is therefore not an uncommon sight to see children moving from one learning centre to another after school in the quest for more knowledge and skills in order to remain competitive.

From English enhancement to mental arithmetic, ballet to piano, computer to right brain training, the children of today are bombarded by tons of learning activities.

Is this 'right' or is it 'wrong'?

Well, it is not about what 'right' or 'wrong'. It is about the necessity to stay competitive and the ability to adapt to the requirements of the 21st century.

You don't get to choose when to be born, you simply find yourself here at this time and in this age. The fact is that you DO exist at a time like this, and you must adapt to the demands of what this era poses. It is a game defined by the rule 'survival of the fittest'.

I am a firm believer in the value of learning. In fact, I hold strongly to the concept of life long learning, be it for adults or children. I believe that as long as you still breathe, then you must still learn. Learning should only stop when life ceases.

Lazy people always fear learning. In fact, they fear any form of learning and frown whenever the word 'learning' is ever mentioned. Because they are lazy, they associate pain with learning and assume that learning of any sort is painful and sad.

Therefore, when these lazy people become parents of their own children, they often think that if they insist that their children learn different skills, it must be painful for their children. And because they frown so much when the word 'learning' is mentioned, their children also pick up the same habit.

These children do not only frown, they cry when they hear the word 'learn' and refuse to learn anything that could potentially add value to their future. A self-fulfilling prophecy in action!

Who says learning is necessarily painful? Why can it not be fun?

I always challenge the lazy buggers who work so hard at trying to convince the world that since they won't learn, the world shouldn't either.

Let's not confine our children just because our own world is confined!

Let's give our children all the necessary tools so that they can be at their best and be properly equipped when they grow up.

Let's say 'yes' to giving our children the best education and the best learning opportunities whenever and wherever possible!

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The world's second richest man, Bill Gates, and his best friend and the third richest, Warren Buffett, used to be busily making money.

Now they are as focused on giving their fortunes away for charitable and humanitarian causes as they once were in making them.

And they have not stopped there - they are now encouraging their billionaire peers to do the same - to give away at least half of their wealth to charity.

The incredible thing is this - many of the richest people actually responded positively to this call. Collectively, they have created the largest philanthropic movement that the world has ever seen.

As a result of this campaign, forty of America’s billionaires have pledged to give more than half of their fortune to charity. These great people, besides Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, include CNN founder Ted Turner, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and Hollywood director George Lucas.

The world is changing. Because of great men like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, many of the high-net-worth's are now inspired and taking a chance to rethink on how they can do more for humanity. The definition of philanthropy will soon change.

Most of us are certainly no billionaires, but are we exempted from giving just because we are not mega rich?

Not in the slightest.

Some people are very generous. Unfortunately, they are only generous toward themselves and not to others. They buy themselves expensive houses, posh cars, branded accessories, and wine and dine in the fanciest restaurants and hotels.

However, whenever these people are asked to help the less fortunate by donating in cash or kind, they become hesitant. Their spirit of generosity vanishes into the thin air; their meanness and miserliness raise their ugly heads.

I know someone just like that - this 'Dato' guy has a multi-million net worth, a huge mansion, a garage filled with exotic cars, watches that cost more than your Proton Sagas - but he will not give a cent when it comes to charity.

He says, "Why should I? It was not I who caused all these problems!"

Selfish! Selfish! Selfish!

One of the most attractive qualities a man or a woman can have is generosity - one that is not towards self but towards others.

Philanthropists are very 'sexy' people to me. I find them most appealing and attractive. They radiate charm that few people possess and few can resist. They are like magnets; wherever they go, they bring blessings and happiness to the people around them.

Yes, generosity makes you a more popular person. However, you do not need to be a big-time philanthropist to be liked. All you need to do is to try some of the following things:

- pay for a meal for someone else
- donate a small amount to the Kidney Foundation (or another such cause)
- help a friend in genuine need

When you are generous towards people, your love and care for them manifests itself.

Newton's Law applies - action and reaction. When you love people, people will love you in return.

And when people like you and love you, many possibilities can open up - you can make new friends, find a special someone or gain new business opportunities.

Your generosity needs not be limited to merely financial. Be generous to others in non-financial ways as well, like praising a subordinate who has done a good job, being forgiving to someone who has trespassed against you and showing sympathy to a friend who has suffered a misfortune.

If you want to be more successful than the current you, learn to be more generous to others.

The more generous you will certainly be a more successful you.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Your Priority List

To be successful we need to manage our lives effectively. And to manage our lives effectively, we need to manage our priorities effectively. Therefore, we need a list - a priority list.

What is a priority list? Simple put - it records all of your priorities. What is a priority? It is simply something which is important to you and therefore deserves your immediate attention.

Why do we need a priority list? That is because many people are confused between urgent matters and important matters.

The urgent matters are things that you need to attend to because the situation warrants it. These matters may or may not make a material difference in your quest for success. They are merely things that you feel compelled to do as there seems to be a tremendous sense of urgency.

The important things, however, may not seem to be urgent at all, but it is the effective completion (or lack of completion) of these things that will make you a success or a failure.

The pace of modern life is fast, so fast in fact that if our ancestors were alive today, they would be dumbfounded by the speed at which things are taking place. I am sure that even if geniuses like Newton and Einstein were still around, they would find it very difficult to adapt themselves to the breathtaking pace of the scientific and technological breakthroughs being made today.

Therefore, in the extremely fast paced environment like the one we live in, it is easy to get lost in all the hustle and bustle. When this happens, we can easily lose focus and may subsequently even lose out in the game. We must therefore have our priorities right. And to have our priorities right, we need a priority list.

Ask yourself these two questions:

1. What is your ultimate goal?
2. What do you think you need to do to make sure you achieve your ultimate goal?

Now that you have answered these two questions, do the following:

Get a blank piece of paper, pick up your pen, take a deep breath, count from one to three, and then start writing down all the things that you must do in order to achieve your vision. Continue to write without stopping for the next three minutes.

Done? Good.

Now take a look at your list. What you are looking at is a list of the important things that you must do in order to achieve your vision. And what you must do now is to do exactly what you listed in your priority list. Make sure you do not move on to the second item if the first one has not yet been acted upon.

You may be amazed at how much you may have to change in order to follow the list that you have drafted for yourself. You will be amazed that, while you have always known what would make you successful, how little you actually put these things into practice in your daily life.

However, if all the things on your list are the exact things that you do on a daily basis, I offer you my sincerest congratulations! I am very sure that you are already a very successful person, or at least satisfied with your current level of achievement.

By now you should understand why you are as successful as you are or why you are not as successful as you could have been. Success is not something complex. Do not complicate it. If you simply practice and follow what I taught you in this article, I can assure you - your success will be imminent.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Monday, August 30, 2010

Women of Today

Women of today are busy people. In fact, many are extremely so.

It used to be that the sole role women played for hundreds, if not thousands, of years was that of the homemaker. They were humbly known as housewives.

'Housewife' is a demeaning term. If you are a 'housewife' it means you: (1) belong only to the house, and (2) are someone else's property (a wife).

To make things worse, housewives were usually deemed the least productive members of the labour hierarchy. Because it was not easy to quantify productivity of something so non-monetary in economic terms, housewives had always been a deprived and under-recognised segment of society.

Having said all that, however, these housewives decades ago were the lucky ones as they were only required to stay home and fulfil the 3C's - Cooking, Cleaning and Caring for the husband and children.

However, today, the world is changing and women are now playing a much more significant role in the productive labour force. It is now a norm to have both the husband and the wife working hard to provide for the family, something which used to be a chauvinistic responsibility.

With more women than men enrolled at institutions of higher learning throughout the world, and more and more women taking top jobs in multinational organisations and governments, it is now clear that the world is experiencing a great power shift - one that is moving gradually from a male-centric society to a more balanced male-female partnership model, or even a female dominant society eventually.

In my honest opinion, women are superior to men in many ways.

There are some virtues in women that are not always found in men; qualities such as perseverance, patience, focus and loyalty (in relative term).

Motherhood is a great training and testing ground for perseverance. The pain and suffering women must go through in the process of child bearing can never be fully understood by men (unless we get an opportunity to experience motherhood ourselves personally, which, unfortunately, is unlikely to happen).

Motherhood develops strength and unleashes the infinite potential in women, for without these qualities it is not easy pull through the process in its entirety.

Child delivery has been described as the most physically painful experience one will ever experience. This develops tolerance for pain in women that men can only envy.

Child rearing requires a tremendous amount of love and patience, and love and patience are the two most important qualities you must have in order to build cohesive teams. Having a cohesive team means half of your corporate battle is won.

Women are somehow much more able to concentrate on the things they pursue. This quality of focus is somehow slightly more difficult to find in men. While many men have demonstrated their ability to stay focused on one thing for a very long time, biologically and genetically women are built much more so for this purpose.

As a result of being more able to stay focused, more women graduate with tertiary qualification than men. And the ability to concentrate forges their ability to manage things in a microscopic manner. Attention to detail is an essential success element which many men, not all of course, lack.

Last but not least, loyalty seems to be another area which women excel in better than their male counterparts.

The fact that men have been given special privileges over the centuries is the reason why many of them feel that by merely being men they deserve special rights - amongst them the right to be disloyal, particularly in the marital sense.

Polygamy is a practice which existed for thousands of years, even within the Chinese context. It was supposedly acceptable for men to marry a few wives, but it was not okay for a woman to marry a few husbands. Of course I know there are reasons why this was or is still so, but this is not an area of discussion within in this article.

There is, however, a blessing in disguise in what the women had to go through historically. It has developed a stronger sense of loyalty to the entity they serve or belong to, be it their spouse, family or organisation.

This stronger sense of loyalty is a virtue that is treasured in the corporate world today, for loyalty forges trust, and trust - in turn - forges leadership.

It is little wonder why women of today are becoming more and more successful, and in many instances, much more so than their male counterparts.

To all the men out there - this is your wake up call, mate!

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Success Habits

We are all beings of habits. How we live and what we do everyday are shaped by certain habits that are formed over the years.

Most successful people are successful not because they have extraordinary luck or work extraordinarily hard, but because they have extraordinary success habits.

On the other hand, many of those who have failed did so, not because they did not try hard enough, but because they had not developed a 'way of life' that would constantly steer them towards the direction of success, i.e. they were not equipped with 'success habits'.

Success Habits is an important concept for serious pursuers of success. It is important because without it, it is extremely difficult to go far in life.

'Why is it so?' You may ask.

The answer is that your ultimate success is usually a result of your consistency in life.

Success is not likely to happen overnight unless, of course, one strikes the lottery or receives a surprise inheritance from a long-lost millionaire uncle who happened to have no children.

Since the probability of one of the above mentioned events happening in real life is extremely low, you must not depend on it. Rather, you must depend on yourself to make it happen. And to make it happen, you cannot merely just 'do the things right' but also 'do the right things'.

In short, you must always 'do the right things right'!

But how can we always do the right things right? The only way for this to happen is if our brain is programmed in such a way that without having to always consciously remind ourselves, we simply will go about doing these 'rights things right’ unknowingly. It, therefore, needs to become habitual!

Anything that is not you or part of your system cannot last. The only things that will last are things you do as a habit or things that you love to do.

Say, for example, you do not like to study but you understand the importance of achieving good results. So you study hard. However, since intrinsically you do not like studying, it is unlikely that you will do so if there is no exam pressure. You will surely study very hard when an important exam is around the corner, but right after that, you will throw all your books away and party day and night until another exam comes again.

And yes, you can still do well academically and achieve good results, but you are unlikely to be a top-notch student. Top-notch students are those who love studying and have developed a habit for reading, learning and excelling. These top guns do not study for exams, they study because this is a habit of theirs - they merely do what they love to do and want to do, without having to constantly remind themselves to do it for better results.

When something is programmed in your brain, it becomes intrinsic. This means that whatever you do comes from your heart, without external forces. This is what we call Success Habits, and it is the most powerful type of success quality one can possibly possess.

Those who force it upon themselves to do the 'right things right' will find it impossible to follow through and achieve 100% consistency. In fact, you are considered fantastic if you are able to achieve 80% consistency.

Since the degree of one's success is a result of how consistently one can do the right things right, the one who achieves 100% consistency will achieve 100% success, and the one who achieves 80% will likely be only 80% successful.

Therefore, do not depend on luck; depend on Success Habits.

Make ‘doing all the right things’ such as working hard, thinking strategically, being passionate and positive, reading substantially, planning meticulously, speaking politely, treating people with sincerity and respect, asking questions, looking for solutions, learning and observing as habitual for you as the many other simple acts such as brushing your teeth in the morning, saying a prayer before you eat, combing your hair before you walk out of your house, and looking left and right before you cross a street.

Your habits in life will make or break you, so try your level best to weed out all of your bad habits and strengthen the good ones.

You will become much more successful in whatever you do before you know it.

So try it out and be amazed!

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Action-packed Procrastinators

One of the biggest evils that often results in either personal or organisational failure is procrastination.

So many people lead a life deprived of achievements and recognition that they might have had if only they had not been haunted by the ghost of procrastination.

If you observe highly successful people in action, you will notice one thing - these guys are action packed and they achieve amazing accomplishments at lightning speed.

The one thing which is unlikely to be detected in these guys is procrastination.

Indeed, no procrastinators can ever achieve phenomenal success. They never will be, and nor are they ever meant to. If any of them ever should become successful, then it is likely to be by accident – that is, an act of God, rather than the act of man.

"But Erican Chong,” you may argue, “some people are slow moving and slow talking, but yet they are successful!"

Hark! Let us not be confused by 'slow moving' and 'slow acting'.

Some guys seem slow alright. They walk slowly and talk slowly but they act fast. The effectiveness of a person should not be measured the speed of his physical movement but by the speed of his execution and achievements.

Do not be fooled by the apparent physical slowness of some people. Some of these fellows can be the most effective and highest-achieving people around. The most effective people may not always be the fastest in moving or talking, but they are always the fastest in THINKING.

Stephen Hawking cannot move very fast; in fact, he cannot move at all. He has been confined to a wheelchair due to a lifelong battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. He is unable to move any part of his body except his facial muscles now, which he uses to control computer input for a voice synthesizer.

Despite the extreme physical challenges Stephen Hawking faces, he is one of the most productive and efficient men alive. Though it takes him many painful hours to get just a simple message across, the inner mind of this great man never rests; rather, it is constantly working at a frenzy pace, theorising, analysing, deducing and discovering.

So do not be misled by an external lack of action. What is important is what goes on inside of our brains.

A prudent and well thought-out idea, once properly executed, may seem overly slow or drawn-out, but it is far more efficient than a half-baked idea which has been hastily or haphazardly executed.

A well thought-out or planned idea always saves time. After all, since it is more likely to be successful, less re-work is involved and hence less time is wasted. A hasty or badly planned idea is unproductive because an untold number of corrections may need to be made along the way.

Some people seem 'action-packed' - they talk fast, walk fast, and do everything fast. However, these seemingly highly productive people may be some of the biggest procrastinators around. They are what I call the ‘Action-packed Procrastinators’.

"Hey, how can one move fast, and yet procrastinate?" You may wonder.

It is very possible. There are two different types of such procrastinators and I call them the Type X & Type Y Action-packed Procrastinators.

Type X Action-packed Procrastinators:

These people move fast; in fact, they move 'too fast'. They do not think carefully, plan properly, or exhaust all possibilities before they act. They implement 'half-baked' ideas in a haphazard manner. When they finally do realise that their ideas will not work due to the many weaknesses and 'holes' in their premature concept, it is usually too late or too costly to fix.

While these guys may feel that they are highly effective, they are actually worse than the real procrastinators. Real procrastinators are simply slow to act and therefore do not achieve; these Type X Procrastinators may incur tremendous financial or opportunity costs in their misguided efforts.

Type Y Action-packed Procrastinators:

These people move fast - they talk fast, walk fast and do everything fast. However, they do not have the patience to get anything done 100%. Due to their hyperactivity, they usually move on to the next thing before the previous thing they were working on was able to be completed.

So these guys work tirelessly, pursuing one goal after another. Unfortunately, however, they simply move on and on, without ever having properly completed anything. Because of this, they can never claim ownership of a successful project or venture.

These guys are stupid; they go round and round the mulberry bush, much like a hamster on a wheel. They think they are working very hard, but without any clear sense of direction, what is the point in them moving so fast?

In fact, if you are moving in the wrong direction, the faster you move the more damage will be done.

So put on your thinking cap and plan properly before you embark on anything. Be an action-packed achiever and say 'NO' to action-packed procrastination.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Acquaintances, Friends and Buddies

'Friends' is actually a generic term; it refers to 'all the people one knows'. This is, of course, an overly simplified definition.

There are actually different levels of friendship. The people that you know can be categorised into three different groups:

1. Acquaintances
2. Friends
3. Buddies

This is the natural progression of friendship development. Since nobody has unlimited amount of time for socialising, it is highly unlikely that anyone can develop friendships indiscriminately.

When you’re just starting out and your circle is still small, you are likely to want to make friends with anybody and everybody that you chance into. Your sole objective at this time would be to simply expand your social contacts.

However, as you grow and become more established, you realise that you need to be more selective about your friends and friendships. You must first decide what type of social circle you want to build, as this determines the kinds of friends you should have.

A friendship always begins with getting acquainted with someone somewhere, such as at a social function, at the workplace, in a bus, on a flight, in school, etc.

Each person you were introduced started off as an acquaintance, and the majority may remain as mere acquaintances.

Your 'social tentacles' are usually hard at work each time you meet someone, whether you know it or not. The minute you shake hands with a person, an impression is formed and you will develop a like or dislike for that individual.

You may be amazed to learn that you are not exactly the fair person you think you are. Most people aren’t. There will be some people that you are naturally able to 'click' with, while there will be some that you may talk to, but it is merely all superficial friendliness. There may even be a few people that you do not wish to ever see again, even though you can’t explain why you feel that way at all.

This is your subconscious mind at work, a higher - yet usually dormant - form of intelligence that you are equipped with. We call this our 'instinct' and it can be quite accurate.

The Pureto Principal usually applies in the process of friendship development - 80% of the people you meet for the first time will be mere acquaintances; these are the people you will nod to or shake hands with politely when you bump into one another again, but that will be it.

Some people claim that they 'know’ a lot of people, but what they really mean is that they have been ‘acquainted’ with a lot of people. This means that most of these people they only know superficially.

Having acquaintances is good, but it is not always good enough. Acquaintances offer breadth but not depth.

To gain depth you need to take an acquaintance to the next level - you need to develop a friendship with someone your 'social tentacle' labels as 'potential friend'.

But nothing will happen and no friendships will develop if you do not take the initiative and reach out to these people.

Friendships can be developed in two different ways - either naturally or intentionally.

Some people will naturally become your friends. You guys are 'on the same wavelength', so to speak. Everything feels right - you have common interests, cultural background, mutual friends, hobbies, life goals, etc.

But if you depend on things to happen naturally then you will have very few friends. A lot of people are like this - they only have a few friends in life.

The type of work you do should determine the size of your required social circle. If you are doing mostly creative and mental work that takes a lot of focus and concentration, you may not need many friends. In fact, having many friends may become a hindrance. Socialising does eat into the time you need for deep thinking and solidarity which is usually required by this type of work.

However, if you are in business or doing sales and marketing, the friends and friendships you possess will have a direct and defining impact on your success or failure. Usually the more friends you have, the better you will do in life. Having more friends means having more possibilities - they can be your potential customers, partners or advisors.

Being ‘friends’ means that a certain level of trust has been built. With trust, many good things can happen. After all, isn't business always built on trust and confidence?

However, being 'merely friends' is not the highest level that a friendship can reach. Some friends become very close to us, so close that we fondly call them 'buddies'.

Buddies are people who will do anything for you and you will do anything for them. Though they are not related to you by blood, they may care about you more than your own siblings do.

It is important for us to have buddies in life but we need to be even more careful in our selection of them. These are the people who will not only define who we are; they may even change our life's destiny.

In true 'buddy hood' there is a lot of sharing. Therefore, our buddies can make or break us!

A buddy who is the richest man in town may help you to become the second richest in town, but a drug-lord buddy can also get you into doing something that may cost you your life or freedom.

If peer pressure exists amongst mere friends, imagine that among buddies. So be highly selective of these people whom you will share your life with.

Do not be content to stay as mere acquaintances with people you know are worthy to become friends. Build those relationships up and make them your friends.

But do not just stay as merely friends either. Nurture friendships; take them to the highest level and turn them into true buddies.

And depending on whom your buddies are… your life may never be the same ever again.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Friends and Friendships

The most Earth shaking news in Malaysia after the World Cup this year was not Anwar's sodomy trial, nor was it the withdrawal of subsidies on sugar and fuel. Rather, the whole country zoomed in on one 28 year old Chinese Malaysian extraordinaire, Taek Jho Low, who was spotted partying with the world's most famous and fun-loving girls, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and the like.

When the photos of Taek Jho and his elite friends got out, international media hyped up the news and paparazzi chased after these people like crazy. Taek Jho became an instant celebrity. His boyish charm enchanted and captured the imagination of millions, especially those of Malaysians, both young and old.

Let's not discuss the morality of the extravagant lifestyle of the rich and famous, or whether partying on private yachts and drinking expensive wine is right. What I want to do is to talk about is the importance of friends and friendships in the journey of our quest for success.

There is a popular Chinese saying that goes like this: "While at home, depend on parents. While away, depend on friends."

Our friends do play a significant role in our lives. They impact not only the quality of our lives, but our overall success or failure as well. It has been said that “Friends are the family that we choose for ourselves.”

As humans we need friends. It is not just a nice thing to have friends, it is essential that we do. These people we call 'friends' are not just people who help us to fulfil our social needs and bring happiness to our lives, they serve a much larger long-term purpose.

There is another famous Chinese saying that goes literally like this: "If you are near a cinnabar, you will become red. If you are near the ink, you will become black."

What this proverb means is that the people you mingle with and call 'friends' are some of the most important people in your life. They will collectively define the kind of person you shall become. You may find this an exaggeration but it is absolutely true.

YOU are indeed who you are as a result of WHO you are with.

If you want to be a good-hearted person, you must surround yourself with good-hearted people. If all your friends are bad-hearted, you will find it impossible to practise your 'good-heartedness'.

For example, if the good deed of your helping an old man to cross the street or giving up your seat to a pregnant woman in the bus is ever 'leaked out' to your bad-hearted social circle, you will immediately be a social outcast. Your acts of kindness will be deemed 'socially unacceptable'.

In life, if you do not conform to the 'social norms', whatever they may be, you will soon find yourself marginalised as you will be unable to fit in.

Let's look at another example. Let’s say you are trying to achieve academic excellence but none of your friends cares about that. All they want to do is to hang around and have a good time. Every time they find out that you actually went to the library or studied at home, they laugh and label you as a 'kiasu bookworm' - the most socially uncool outcast in Lazyland.

How are you ever going to feel motivated if you continue to associate yourself with these lazy buggers?

On the other hand, let's picture this:

You are a good-hearted person and you befriend a group of equally good-hearted people. Due to this common interest, you guys often talk about how you could do more charity work and help more people, something which is very dear to all of your hearts.

When words get out that you helped an elderly man to cross the street or gave up your seat to a pregnant woman, you receive nothing but genuine praise and recognition from these friends of yours, who wish to do the same thing themselves.

Or taking the other example, you aspire to excel academically and you happen to be in a circle of 'academic elites'. These serious and hard working students take their schoolwork very seriously. You guys spend most of your time studying in the library or discussing project assignments after school. Everybody in this 'gang' has a vision of entering the best universities in the world such as Harvard, Yale, Oxford, etc.

Imagine if you are always with friends like these, will you not become one of them?

So you need to choose the right people to be your friends. Taek Jho Low studied in Harrow School, one of the most prestigious private schools in the UK, and subsequently attended one of the best business schools in the US, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The morality of their extravagance and living a life of excess aside, the simple fact is that Taek Jho Loh did go from 'Malaysian Class' to 'World Class' because he associated himself with ‘World Class’ people.

So think about who you want to become and choose your friends carefully. And understand that while you observe and choose, you are also being observed and chosen.

But if you are serious about achieving success in life, you must be more selective about friends than the 'average' people who may not have such a grandiose vision as yours.

No, you do not have to do what Taek Jho Low does or live the high life that he lives. However, you do need to consciously choose to be friends with people who have a positive and winning attitude. And you must distance yourself from those who are negative and think like losers.

So anybody wants to be my friend?

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Most Important Moment

Do you know what the most important moment in your life is?

Was it when you obtained those straight A's in your public exam a few years ago? Or when you got that unexpected promotion or won the Best Achievement Award? Or will it be when you finally walk down the aisle and marry that special person that you have always loved? Or could it be something memorable, like buying your first car, your first house or your first boat?

If you answered 'yes' to any of these, I would humbly beg to differ.

To be honest, the most important moment in your entire life is actually happening right now - with you reading this "Musings with Erican Chong" blog article entitled "The Most Important Moment".

Yes, this very moment is the most important one of your entire life. For no matter what happened yesterday or last year, it has already happened and it will never come back. These past incidents, no matter how glorious, indignified, joyous or sorrowful they may have been, they are just memories now and shall never return.

And moving on to the future, things which may likely (or hopefully) happen tomorrow or next year will not happen any sooner, no matter how much you keep thinking about them. These future incidents, no matter how fearful, exciting, frightening or sad, will happen when they happen and cannot be avoided or skipped.

So why worry about things that have already happened and that you cannot change or bring back? Why worry about things that will happen no matter how much you want or do not want them to happen?

But this particular moment, this very instant that you are reading this article entitled "The Most Important Moment", an act and an article that you think is insignificant, is indeed the most important moment in your life right now.

Why? That's simply because 'this' is the only time period in your life that you can do something about, and 'this' is the only time in your life that you can change.

Since the present is the most important moment in your life, make sure that you live it to the fullest. Make sure that every waking moment becomes the moment that is most exciting, most meaningful, most enjoyable, most effective, most inspiring, and most valued in your entire life.

Is our life not an accumulation of all the millions of present moments added together? Imagine if we always treasure each of the present moments we have and make the best of them! Would our lives be dull, uninteresting or regretful?

So respect every present moment that you have. These present moments will soon pass and become part of our memory. Future moments will soon arrive and will hence form what we call the present.

DO NOT waste a second of your precious present moments doing something meaningless, useless or insignificant.

We are created by God to add value and meaning to this world. Do not go against this law of nature by engaging in the art of nothingness.

I am sure if you savour each and every moment of your life, be it when you are up or down, happy or sad, rich or poor, you will experience a life so full that it leaves you with few if any regrets.

If you are still with me, close your eyes and think about what I have just said. I hope you will fully understand the importance of the Present.

Now, take this moment....and start living!

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Do What Einstein Would...

Curiosity is a very important part of human nature. The modern lifestyle that we enjoy today is as a result of the countless questions that our ancestors asked and were answered over the centuries.

If there was no curiosity, there would be no questions. Curiosity is indeed the mother of innovation. And, questions manifest curiosity.

If you ever feel embarrassed because you always seem to have a lot of questions in your head or worry about bothering people by asking too many questions, stop feeling so. On the contrary, you are doing exactly the right thing. A person not ashamed to ask questions is a person who will grow, rather than one who stagnates.

This world is a quickly changing one. If anyone out there believes he has already understood everything there is to understand, then he is either a rare genius or a complete fool.

If you never engage in thinking, of course, you will never have any questions. The more you think, the more you will find things that you do not understand, and therefore the more questions you will have.

One of the consistent traits of great men and women throughout history is curiosity. Louis Pasteur, Madame Curie, Thomas Edison - none of these people made it to the hall of fame without possessing an intense curiosity.

Albert Einstein is perhaps one of the most famous for his great curiosity. He asked countless questions everyday, to others and especially to himself.

In his famous letter to Otto Juliusburger, Einstein wrote: "People like you and I, though mortal of course like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live...[We] never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born."

When Einstein was interviewed about his secrets of success, he said, "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."

He also added, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

Many adults find it difficult to ask questions as doing so requires tremendous humility. They feel that if they ask questions they are exposing their weaknesses and might be placed in a vulnerable spot. These people, therefore, pretend that they know everything. When people talk about something unfamiliar to them, they will just nod their heads and smile, as if they know exactly what is being discussed.

These people are fools. Little did they know that by being reluctant to ask questions, they are sinking deeper and deeper into the sea of ignorance. The more successful their pretence becomes, the more difficult they find getting out of the mud. In order to not reveal their true identity of naivety, there is nothing they can do but to use another lie to cover the first lie.

These people are doomed. They will never be able to change the inevitable fate that awaits them - to eventually become absolutely irrelevant.

To those who are students - Do not ever be afraid to raise your hand and ask questions in class when you need further explanation. If your teacher is ever unhappy because you 'ask too many questions', do not be discouraged. Not all teachers are right. As long as you do so in good faith and all the questions you ask are intelligent, you will have done your job as a student. Never turn into a quiet student and join the silent majority.

To those who are parents - If you find your child constantly 'disturbing' you with lots of why's and how's, do not be upset; rather be very, very happy about it. This inquisitive child of yours may turn out to be an outstanding person.

To those who are teachers - If your students ask questions in class, do not ever feel that this is a sign of disrespect. In fact, pay particular attention to these ‘troublemakers’. They are most likely the only ones who are genuinely interested in your class and the subject matter.

So do not ever stop asking questions. Be like Einstein - ask your way to success!

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Winners in Life

Alan Lim and I share a few laughs and thoughts together.

I have been fortunate to be involved in a very meaningful industry - education and training. The kind of work we do is of tremendous value to society and transforms lives. This belief keeps me going strong after having been an educator for twenty years.

A few days ago I attended a dinner function, the CEO’s Night, organised by the Malaysian Retail Chain Association, of which Erican has been a member of for many years. The special guest speaker for that night was none other than the incredible and charismatic founder of Air Asia, Dato Seri Tony Fernandes. But it is not he that I want to talk about here. Rather, I wish to write about someone else; someone who touched me deeply that night with his success story.

I had arrived at One World Hotel early that evening so that I could catch up with old friends and meet some new acquaintances.

While I was busily mingling with friends, I was introduced to a man from Termeloh, a man who was described as 'the most successful local property developer', Alan Lim.

Alan shook my hand enthusiastically and thanked me profusely for changing his life and the lives of many others.

When I asked him what he meant, Alan sipped his wine, cleared his throat, and told me his story.

"I was brought up in a very poor family. I worked as a petty trader in the night market and I could not speak a word of English. And you know, Eric, without English I found myself trapped in a very small world; it was difficult for me to reach out and do better things."

"One day, I attended a seminar that changed my life. And you know what? It was a motivational seminar you conducted in Mentakab. I remember that you did not just speak that night; you even sang and danced!" He winked at me.

I was a bit embarrassed about that 'song and dance' bit. When I was younger, I did indeed compose a song entitled 'Let's Learn Good English'. It was the one and only song I have ever composed in my entire life, and the only one I ever will do.

I would do anything to encourage Malaysians to take up the learning of English as I firmly believed that the one thing that Malaysia as a country needed to take in order to move up to the next level was a massive English learning movement.

Yes, I would even sing and dance if that was what it would take to motivate the masses to take up the learning of this important language. That’s how much it mattered to me.

Alan continued to tell his story.

"You really got me fired up. When I heard you say it was never too late to learn English, I made that life changing decision." His eyes glowed as he said that.

As it turned out, Alan could not speak a word of English at all then. Unlike many others, however, he did not just sit around and feel bad for himself; he took action. He signed up with Erican immediately and started learning English, one word at a time.

"Erican was a fantastic language learning centre. I improved really fast. After a while, I was able to communicate with people in simple English. That changed my life and lifted me out of my poverty. I found opportunities that had not been available to me before."

"I saved up some money and eventually got into property development. My life was never the same again - thanks to you." He spoke sincerely to me in decent English and shook my hands passionately yet again.

I was really touched by his story. I told him I would share his story on my blog as I was sure it would inspire others.

Alan is a winner in life. He has become a successful property developer in Termeloh despite all the odds that were piled up against him. He was given nothing to begin with - no proper education, no English, and no money.

Alan is, of course, not alone. There are many other winners in this game of Life out there who have moving stories of their own to tell - how they defied the conventional rules and achieved extraordinary success.

These rags to riches stories should not be treated like fairy tales - something that we simply listen to and forget. These stories are quite real and much can be learned from them. They can be a great source of inspiration for all.

To all the winners out there - I salute you!

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Erican Receives National Mark of Malaysian Brand

Erican Chong receives National Mark from HRH Raja Nazrin Shah

Since the founding of the first Erican Language Centre 20 years ago, Erican has been at the forefront of the promotion of English language learning, whilst faithfully serving the needs of the local community.

I have been very fortunate indeed to have been blessed with a team of great people - loyal and dedicated colleagues whom I passionately call "Ericanites". They have stuck with me through thick and thin, ups and downs, over the last two decades. The oldest serving Centre Manager of Erican, Sally Teh, has been with me for the past 18 years, while the more 'junior' Mr Tan Ban King is at least 10 years into his service.

These Erican champions ensure that we stay on top of our game – they ensure that all language programmes offered meet the stringent international standards of the University of Cambridge ESOL and that effective learning experiences and promised academic outcomes are always delivered.

The hard work and absolute commitment of these great Erican champions, the Ericanites, has paid off handsomely. Over the years, more than 150,000 individuals have depended on Erican to help them to achieve their desired language proficiency. I am proud to say, as the leader of this small yet dynamic organisation, that we have always done our very best to ensure a wonderful learning experience and to see our customers through.

In recent years, Erican has been a 'frequent' recipient of awards and accolades. From the "Golden Bull Award" to the "100 Outstanding SMEs Award" and "MRCA-8TV Entrepreneur of the Year Award", Erican is honoured and blessed to have been nominated and, in many cases, received these great awards. While I, as the founder and the managing director of this organisation, am proud of what we have achieved, I am also humbled by the recognition society has given us. In order to live up to the expectation of these prestigious awards, I pledge to work doubly hard to ensure that we continue to add value to society.

On 15th July, Erican received one particular award that made me especially proud - the National Mark of Malaysian Brand, a quality certification awarded jointly by SME Corp Malaysia and SIRIM. What made me even more proud was that Erican was among the first batch of 14 companies recommended for this certification, which is of the highest standards. The certification is based upon the following criteria: financial performance, management capability, organisational strength, future outlook, and international competitiveness.

His Royal Highness Raja Nazrin Shah, the Regent of Perak, was the Guest of Honour who presented the award to these first fourteen privileged recipients. It was a most uplifting moment for me when I received this incredible honour. Being the eighth company certified in the whole of Malaysia, I quietly vowed to myself: "I must work harder and must never let down those who have supported me tremendously - my employees, my customers and my country."

Thank you all, once again, for all of your support. With the blessings you have bestowed upon us, I am sure Erican will do even better, run even faster and soar even higher in the many years to come.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Friday, July 30, 2010

It's Never Too Late!

Erican Chong meets young Malaysian bloggers over lunch

I just attended a two-day conference - to wit, the "Asian Bloggers and Social Media Conference 2010" which was organised by 'My Events International'. 'My Events' is a brilliant trend-setting organisation led by a very good friend of mine and prolific up-and-coming entrepreneur, Mr Shahul Hameed Dawood.

I must say, it was an excellent conference; my sole response can only be described as ‘simply overwhelmed’. Hundreds of bloggers gathered together (many for the first time ever) in one central location to explore the stunning frontiers of the bloggersphere. To a fresh ‘blogger’ like I, there was simply so much to learn and so many gurus to learn from.

I cannot deny that I found this bloggersphere to be a much different world from the conventional one that I knew. Although I was likely much older than the vast majority of the seasoned participants, I felt like a mere child exploring this exciting new universe, my mind tingling with absolute curiosity and fascination.

The model of modern communication is changing at a breakneck speed. Relationships used to be built solely upon the good old fashioned model of socialising - you get out there, mingle with people face-to-face, talk over lunch, dinner or a drink, and via these methods, get to know people and establish a rapport with them.

However, we are now witnessing a large number of 'highly sociable introverts'. These people are able to predominantly stay in their homes and yet still enjoy a fantastic social life. They are able to meet hundreds if not thousands of friends, people they may or may not have met face-to-face before, all within the confines of their own small four walls.

Can you imagine any other time period where this would have been at all possible? No way!

I actually began to feel alarmed by these startling development some three years ago. I could feel, deep inside, that I was missing out on something, times had changed - and were leaving many of us behind. My 'old school' way of socialising did not seem to be as effective or as exhaustive as it used to be. I knew deep down what was making me feel this way - it was the power of the virtual community.

I didn't react right away - I thought it best to 'wait' and 'observe' first, secretly hoping that this new way of life would just be a fad and go away eventually.

But I realised it was not going away. On the contrary, it was spreading farther and wider and penetrating deeper and deeper into the lives and homes of millions.

I am a firm believer in the saying, "If you can't beat them, join 'em."

Any change process involves the following steps: awareness, resistance, acceptance, embracing.

After 'resisting' change and holding on to my 'old school beliefs' steadfastly for years, I was finally yielding to the stark reality. I decided to not only accept this change but to jump in and embrace this new world, absolutely and unreservedly.

Amongst the first things I did was to start this blog, a place where I can communicate my thoughts with people in a ubiquitous manner.

I must state that I have truly felt liberated through the writing of the articles for this blog. My new role as a 'blogger' has given me a new lease on creativity and writing, a new passion as it were.

I have also picked up an Idiot Guide on Facebook and Twitter. I questioned every young person I ran into about how they would use these tools to maximise their social contacts and online influence. I am amazed how much I can learn from these tech savvy young people. And the more I find out about this world, the more I find myself hopelessly in love with it.

I admit, perhaps this was not love at first sight, but in life it is never too late to learn or too late to change.

We must all accept this - If you refuse to learn something new, the world will just pass you by. Never think that this world owes you a living. It was here before you came, and trust me, it will be here after you go. Life will go on, with or without you.

It is never too late to learn, my friends! Be it acquiring a new language, picking up computer skills, or completing your tertiary education. If a lack of some area of learning has held you back until now, then NOW is the time to correct that!

But this is the clincher - If you do NOT do it now, you will regret your non-action for the rest of your life. However, if you step up to the plate now and make that swing, I know you will thank me for it in the not too distant future.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

YB Chua Tee Yong

The young and dynamic YB Chua Tee Yong

I was recently invited to a dinner hosted by the newly appointed Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, YB Gan Ping Sieu. It was intended to be a function where the Chinese Youth leaders could take part in open dialogue with YB Gan himself.

I arrived slightly late that night, giving the usual Klang Valley excuse of 'traffic jam'. However, after I had settled in, I noticed a quiet gentleman sitting at a table busily writing on a notepad.

I immediately recognised him as the eldest son of MCA President, Dato Seri Chua Soi Lek, the newly appointed Deputy Minister of Agriculture, YB Chua Tee Yong.

I have not been active in politics for many years now, but I used to be quite involved in the MCA Youth about a decade ago. I quit politics when I realised I was more passionate in the pursuit of educating young people than in the pursuit of endless political maneuvering.

But, that's enough about me and my 'political background' - Back to Tee Yong.

Since I had always been sceptical about the emergence of Tee Yong and his 'sudden rise' in politics, I took this opportunity to scrutinise him thoroughly. I studied him carefully whilst he was preoccupied with himself, blissfully unaware of the intense observation by a stranger seated two seats away.

I quietly watched him in action.

After writing on his notepad for a while, he was suddenly approached by a group of young people. He soon became engrossed in conversing with them in Chinese.

"Hmm... his Mandarin is not poor," I thought to myself.

Seconds later his mobile rang. He apologised to them (I thought "And, not a bad mannered young man either.") and then took the call. The young people walked away and let him concentrate on a seemingly important call.

He finished the call, put the mobile on the table and looked around. It was then that he noticed that I was watching him intensely.

I walked over, introduced myself briefly, and then sat back down in my chair and continued to observe him in action.

He next struck up a conversation with Dato Ang Lai Hee, a veteran Chinese youth leader and a highly visible businessman. They were soon engrossed in a discussion of swiftlet farming.

Their conversation was interrupted, however. The dialogue session started and Tee Yong was invited to speak. Having not met him prior to today's encounter, I decidedly wanted to rate him as a politician.

"He is quite good in public speaking," I thought to myself, only seconds after he started his speech. It usually does not take me more than five seconds of observation to tell if someone is a good public speaker or not.

No, he was not the charismatic type, nor did he possess the oratory prowess of Khairy Jamaluddin. What he DID have though, was this accountant-like calm and a great sense of organisation.

He took his time to talk about his priorities as one who was newly appointed to the job and what he had already done in his capacity as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture. He counted some of the inefficiencies in the current system and suggested ways of overcoming them. He cited statistics and numbers confidently. The grasp for numbers is the one area I usually look into when I rate someone, particularly one in the field of politics.

I must say that Tee Yong passed my tests with flying colours. Little did I expect this young man to be so on top of his job.

I found myself murmuring, "It is true that Tee Yong the politician is as a result of circumstances, but this man will go rather far on his own. He has indeed inherited the necessary political qualities from his old man..."

I left before the function ended, as he and YB Gan Ping Sieu were both swamped by the Chinese youth leaders for one photography session after another.

However, I am extremely glad to see these two newly emerging MCA politicians, Ping Sieu and Tee Yong, taking centre stage. They are passionate young leaders who wish to contribute toward nation building.

Though it is usually a tough road ahead for any aspiring politicians, I wish them both well and hope to see them work sincerely to better our country.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Creativity - Your Split Second Advantage

Erican Chong sharing a stage with Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing

Recently, a man who I consider my mentor and one that I greatly respect, Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dato Sri Dr Lim Kok Wing, won an award of significant meaning and impact, the Father of Innovation in Creative Education, given by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Malaysia.

As a friend and admirer of this great man, I am very pleased at his many achievements in the field of higher education. Very few men in Malaysia, indeed, have won more prestigious awards and accolades than Tan Sri Lim himself.

Coming back to creativity. I must be honest with you - this is something that not everyone has the gift to do. Some people try all their lives to be creative but they remain the most boring and predictable entities on Earth.
And yet, while some do not appear to try very hard, their creative and artistic flair just seem to explode out naturally.

Now, I know some of you may be offended by my statement. Don't be too upset yet - allow me to explain.

Our brain is divided into the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. We call these two sides our Left Brain and our Right Brain.

These two brains specialize in vastly different things and are, unfortunately, quite independent of one another.

The Left Brain is said to be one which controls our logical thinking, calculation, memorisation of facts, administrative ability, etc. If you want to be a top student in Asia, it is this side of your brain which must be highly developed, since the Asian concept of education is mainly rote learning and examination oriented.

The Right Brain, however, does something which the Asian education system does not test on and cares little about. It is about art, music, emotions, humour, aesthetics, wild ideas, etc.

Students who have a well-developed left brain are usually rewarded handsomely during their school days. They are the ones branded as "excellent", "top" or "straight-A's" students. Due to their excellent academic results, they usually enter the best universities and become professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers and accountants.

Their right-brain counterparts, on the other hand, are not so lucky. Though they excel in some areas, they sadly find that most of these areas have nothing to do with the exams. Some of them may be able to liven up classes tremendously by making their classmates laugh (and their teachers cry), but this ability is not an exam focus area and therefore it is not recognised as an asset. Some do fantastic graffiti and their reward is public caning rather than praises.

While the highly achieved "left-brainers" are of tremendous value to society and should therefore be rewarded with a "mainstream" social status, the "right-brainers" should not be ignored for their contributions either.

Imagine a world which consisted of only the left-brain people and totally without the right-brain ones. Yes, our lives would still go on but it will be extremely boring.

Don't worry - without the right-brain fashion designers, we would still have clothes to wear. The left-brain garment factories would still manufacture outfits to fit our exact shapes and sizes, providing protection for our body and keeping us sufficiently warm. However, all of us would likely look the same, in fact, boringly the same. Some of us might even look ridiculous as we carelessly dress ourselves in bizarre colours - bright green pants, a red shirt and a yellow tie.

Our world would be without music and entertainment. Nobody would know how to sing and dance or how to put a smile on other's faces.

We would not have movies to watch and abstract arts to appreciate. Our advertising would all be plain announcements and there would not be any funny commercials that would stick in our minds for years to come.

All buildings in the towns and cities would look the same; as they would have all been built to achieve one and only one objective - to provide shelter.

There would not be different brands of cars and several different models. In the world of the left-brainers, cars are cars are cars - as long they run, who cares how they look like. So every car would be the same; they would only be built to run smoothly and efficiently.

So you see, creativity is important, although it is a right brain function. Our world is a better place because not only do we have products that function well, they are also interesting to use and appeal to our senses.

To be creative you need to 'come out of the box' as some like to put it. Yes, while it is true that not everybody is born 'creative' and that without such gifts one will never be a top-notch creativity genius like Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing, everybody can pick up some creative skills through observation and also training.

If you can apply a bit more creativity to what you do, you will be amazed with the extraordinary results produced.

Remember, the champion of a 100 metre race is not the one who can run a few seconds faster than his peers, but the one who is able to, at a crucial moment, become a split second faster for just one short moment. Because of this split second difference, nobody remembers the runner-up, not to mention the one who comes in third.

Creativity will give you that split second advantage. So start engaging your right brain - use it, train it and never allow it to idle.

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits!”
- Erican Chong

Thursday, July 22, 2010


It is the desire of all people to be free. No man or woman wishes to be confined, restrained or bonded.

The desire to free from slavery the African Americans came to a full eruption during the Great American Civil War. This war, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, was fought between the Northern States, who wanted to maintain national unity, and the Southern States, who wished to break free of the Union.

While the war didn't exactly start over the freedom of the oppressed blacks, it certainly became one of the biggest impacts of that war. President Abraham Lincoln has gone down in American history as one of the greatest American Presidents to ever live as a result of his fight to free the Black slaves.

Nelson Mandela opposed apartheid in South Africa and was jailed for thirty years because of it. In order to set his people free, he spoke steadfastly in his devotion to the freedom of his people, even after he was sentenced to life imprisonment and tortured. He was a man who never backed way, no how.

His personal sacrifices paid off. His beloved country, South Africa, finally broke free of apartheid and now the Blacks enjoy the same rights as their White counterparts. The South African society is now based on meritocracy – they can do anything, achieve any goal. All people can now freely contest in public office and even run for President in general election, regardless of race, colour or religion.

Martin Luther King Jr. led a massive movement against discrimination throughout the 60's. To achieve his ideal state of a free America, where there would be no discrimination or unfair treatment, he delivered one of the most impassioned and famous speeches ever made in the history of the world - "I Have a Dream". He has ever since remained as an icon and beacon of the great civil rights movement. His assassination and the assassination of Robert Kennedy soon after, has left a hole in the heart of the world that may never fully heal.

The quest for freedom has indeed inspired many people to do extraordinary things. As long as mankind has ever existed, the desire to be free has always been one of the greatest driving forces behind major events that changed and transformed the world. Even Malaysia has a proud history of its people banding together to fight against foreign insurgents who would take our freedom away. We won our freedom, but many brave Malaysians paid the ultimate price for us to have it.

And yet I would like to add this – while it is a noble cause to pursue freedom, particularly for the larger good, it is not good if our rights to freedom, especially that of our own personal freedom, are abused.

Young people, especially, must understand that this world is not just about freedom. While today we are indeed blessed with many human rights, these rights MUST be respected. Abusing or taking for granted these precious human rights can result in irreversible tragedy.

Yes, while you may have the freedom to not pursue quality education, you do so at your own peril. If you cannot compete as a result of the lack of knowledge and expertise, then who else is to blame?

Yes, if you do not mind the summonses, then you might claim the 'freedom' to continue driving at the top speed of 200km per hour on the expressway. However, there is no guarantee that you will live to see the next World Cup.

Yes, while you may choose not to study hard and do not mind failing every single subject, you will only have yourself to blame when you cannot enter the tertiary institution of your dreams, or indeed, any tertiary institution at all.

Freedom is a beautiful and elegant gem, but we must NEVER take it for granted. We must exercise restraint and control when it comes to our own personal freedom.

Self discipline and an understanding of the do's and don'ts will help us to enjoy a life of health and true freedom and make the sacrifices of those before us all worth while.

And one day...Yes...One day...I too dream that we WILL be able to stand together, and hold hands and sing in one voice, even if that be in different tongues, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty! We are free at last!"

"Life is about constantly going beyond limits!"
- Erican Chong

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Colourful Personalities of the Brand Entrepreneurs Conference 2010

I was recently privileged with the honourable task of organising of the Brand Entrepreneurs Conference for 2010. This incredible event attracted the participation of 600 CEOs and entrepreneurs, which was an overwhelming response indeed. A total of twelve colourful corporate personalities, including my humble self, selflessly shared with the audience their experiences and strategies in branding.

And while they talked, all of the 600 participants listened attentively and busily jotted down notes. In some sessions you could hear a pin drop with all the silence, whilst in other sessions, the audiences would burst into laughter every now and then.

Allow me give a brief introduction to each speaker, in the order that they appeared on stage. Each of them has a sparkling personality. They were invited to speak at this conference because they were either brand icons themselves or highly successful creators and managers of brands.

1. Adj. Prof. Dato' Syed Amin Aljeffri

Dato Syed Amin Aljeffri is a very knowledgeable man. The first time I met him was at a private dinner hosted by a mutual friend. Dato Syed Amin struck me as a guy who knew almost everything. If you talk about business, he will blurt out amazing statistical figures. Even if you wanted to verify these figures' accuracy, it would probably take you a great deal of research to confirm what this man says. If you ask him about health, he will give you excellent 'doctorly' advice - what to do and what not to. And should you even dare touch on the topic of politics, he'll spend the next three hours analysing the political situation of not just Malaysia, but all of the ASEAN region and the world.

He knows everything. Period!

2. Mr Cheong Chia Chieh

CC Cheong is a very old friend of mine. Our friendship dates back 15 years when we were both much younger. We shared many common interests and a strong desire to succeed; and therefore, we became very close friends.

Cheong is a genius businessman who has a typical corporate raider's killer instinct. He has quite a legendary entrepreneurial story. He founded a successful IT company when he was in his early twenties, sold that off after a few years, joined a dot com company and served as the general manager, transformed the business model of that company and led a management buy out, formed an international media conglomerate that became public listed in London - all of this he did within a few short years!

Pretty incredible stuff, eh?

3. Dato' Nancy Yeoh

She is nicknamed the 'PR Queen' of Malaysian high society . She is synonymous with brands - high end brands. Being the President of STYLO, she is always at the forefront of high fashion.

She is truly an iron lady. Stylish and sophisticated, she captures the imagination of both men and women. Whenever she is around, the first thing you will hear is her laughter. About the only thing that does not exist with her presence is boredom.

The day before the conference, Dato Nancy was trapped in the Philippines by Typhoon Conson. All flights were either cancelled or delayed. What really earned my absolute respect was that when she gave us a promise, she honored her word. She arrived in Malaysia that very morning at 3am, quickly set off to attend an important meeting in Putrajaya at 9am and still made it on time to the Palace of the Golden Horses by 11am. And despite all her troubles, she came looking energetic, sharp and like a million bucks. When she took the stage, she blew everybody away with her wit and oratory prowess.

For this reason, and more, I jokingly describe her as one of the most "sexy, spicy & 'actsy'" conference moderators I have ever seen. Her confidence radiates whenever she talks; and her communication skills and linguistic ability put many English teachers, including myself, to shame.

4. Dato' Haji Ameer Ali Mydin

This seemingly simple looking man is someone who helms an enterprise which grosses a whopping RM1.5billion a year!

Underlying his facade of simplicity, Dato Mydin possesses the razor sharp tentacles, the likes of which is equal to the world's best discount king, Mr Sam Walton. I found eerie similarities between these two volume discount giants. When Dato Mydin spoke, I felt like I was listening to the great Sam Walton. According to Mydin's philosophy, why buy something at RM88 when you can get the same thing for RM8.80 at Mydin? So, you want to buy something with a difficult-to-pronounce name just so it sounds more branded? Sure, he'll give that to you too, but still at RM8.80.

Despite all of this business savviness though, it was his great sense of humour that moved the crowd the most.

5. Mr Michael Lai

Michael is one of the most dynamic professional CEOs I have ever seen. He has a great personality; yet, this man who always wears a big smile on his face, is the one who devises so many grand schemes and plans.

The elder brother of a good friend of mine, KK Lai, Michael is constantly on the move. He is someone who could turn around failing companies or start a business from scratch and put it on the world map in a very short period of time.

I am very proud of this friend of mine.

6. Dato' Sri Mohammed Shazalli Bin Ramli

This man is a CEO with a rock star image. Long haired, spectacled, straight talking in a coarse voice, a great sense of humour and a superb oratory ability. These are just a few of the things that come to mind when the name of this great man is mentioned.

There are very few men more charismatic than Dato Sri Shazalli. When he speaks, he draws attention from a crowd, no matter how large the audience may be, and keeps that crowd enraptured.

This is a man who can sell combs to the bald, toothbrush to the toothless, eye glasses to the vision perfect, wine to the non-drinking. he can virtually sell anything with his magical charm.

Under his splendid leadership, Celcom's revenue has been on the rise year after year and this trend does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

7. Dato' Meer Sadik Habib

Habib is a household name. Who can live in Malaysia and not know this name, which is synonymous with fine jewellery? Dato Meer Habib is the gentleman who carries this famous last name.

Dato Habib is one of the humblest multi-millionaires I have ever met. There is always a bright smile on his face. He makes it impossible for people not to like him as a friend.

One of the reasons why Meer is so successful is his commitment to serving in his industry and his ability of staying focused. They say perfection is as a result of repeated successes, done one after another. As a result of such intense focus, Dato Habib has become a world class 'fortune teller' in jewellery.

I remember he once told me that gold prices would go up and so he encouraged me to buy gold. At the time, I thought he was merely promoting his products. But what he said was true - gold prices just kept climbing higher and higher and higher. Now I know I must listen to Dato Habib very carefully, especially when he gives tips on gold, diamonds or any other precious metals and stones.

8. Dato' Nelson Kwok
This incredible man, dubbed 'God Father of JCI Malaysia' and the 'International Corn Man', is the man who broke the following myths:

- The kacang puteh business will forever remain kacang puteh size.
- Malaysian small & medium businesses are never going to be good enough to gain international respect.

Dato Nelson started a small corn stall 25 years ago and grew it 'one kernel at a time'. Today, Nelson's is a truly international concern with more than 800 stalls all over the world.

As the Deputy President of MRCA, this straight talking and stern looking man is a role model for all aspiring entrepreneurs who think they are too small and powerless.

When confronted with questions like 'How much do you make with 800 stalls?', 'Wow! If you make just ten Ringgit a day per stall you are making eight thousand per day!' etc, Dato Nelson will just smile a mysterious smile and sometimes winks, which seems to mean: 'Sorry, I'm not going to tell you that.'

9. Ms Winnie Loo

When you talk about hair - no, let me be more specific - when you talk about the latest hairstyling trends or the glamour and celebrities of the hair fashion industry, Winnie Loo is the name you will hear. People call her the Big Sister (or Tai Che Tai in Cantonese) of her industry. I simply call her the First Lady of Hair Fashion.

This not tall but determined-looking lady is constantly full of energy. When she talks about success in entrepreneurship, her eyes glow and she speaks passionately. In these moments, it's as if she is not the hairstylist genius, but a skilled motivational speaker.

Despite the iconic status she has achieved in her industry, Winnie is hands-on and continues to give personalised service to her VIP clients. Getting a haircut from Winnie means you need to do it her way - you make your appointment and you wait patiently for your turn.

10. Datuk Sheikh Muszaphar

This name is a household name; a Malaysian hero who got selected to go into space from a pool of thousands of applicants. The first time I met him, I said to myself, "Gosh! This is the most handsome astronaut I have ever seen in my life."

The Malaysian youth need role models. I fervently believe that Dato Muszaphar will be a positive influence for all young Malaysians. I believe he can inspire young Malaysians to dare to think big and think far. I hope he will use his success story to inspire young people to pursue greatness in whatever they do in life. Who says it is not possible for Malaysia to, someday, really get involved in creating space technology?

What was a small step for Datuk Sheikh Muszaphar when he stepped into the cabin of the rocket was a big step for Malaysia. I know it sounds old and over-used, but I still feel like saying: Malaysia Boleh!

11. Dato Lewre Lew

Dato Lew is the President of Branding Association of Malaysia and a very good friend of mine. He is a highly sociable person who knows almost half of all notable personalities in this large town.

Starting from nothing nearly 20 years ago, today Dato Lew is the proud founder of a shoe brand that is synonymous with quality and style - the Lewre brand. This brand has been going places all over the world, gaining international fame and recognition.

I have had the privilege of working alongside him as the Deputy President of Branding Association for a few years now, and together, we have been doing our level best to move the Branding Association of Malaysia up an ante.

I must confess it has not always been an easy journey and we have gone through many ups and downs and weathered many storms together. However, we firmly believe that what we are doing is of great social value and will help move Malaysia towards a brighter future. Therefore, no matter how busy we are with our own work, we always make sure that we spend time keeping the association on the right track.

12. The Humble Me - Eric Chong or Erican Chong

Though I was the Organizing Chairman of the conference, I also served as the Moderator for the first session and had the privilege of introducing Dato Syed Amin Aljefferi and Mr Cheong Chia Chieh.

Both of them spoke candidly about what they felt about branding and how it could be done better and more effectively. I wanted to allow the audiences to ask more questions but unfortunately, we ran out of time.

Well, as the old saying goes, “Good things always end too soon.” This was a great session, so it’s no surprise many of the participants felt this saying to be sadly all too true.


There is much that we all can learn from these highly successful people. I hope that those lucky 600 who attended the Brand Entrepreneurs Conference 2010 have benefited from the stories shared by these speakers. If they left feeling so, then the months of hard work in organising the event was more than well worth the effort.

"Life is about constantly going beyond limits!"
- Erican Chong