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

Freedom

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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 down...no 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

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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.


Conclusion

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

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thank You, Thank You and Thank You - BEC 2010


As the Organizing Committee Chairman of Brand Entrepreneurs Conference 2010 which was successfully held and attended by more than 600 on 15/7/2010, I would like register a note of thanks to the incredible people who helped put this great show together, in one way or another.

This conference was a collaborative effort between the Branding Association of Malaysia and SME Corp Malaysia. This marked the second year of a fantastic partnership between SME Corp and BAM.

To organize an event of this scale required a great deal of manpower and resources. I would like to thank SME Corp Malaysia for giving BAM this wonderful opportunity to collaborate.

I feel that we, the SMEs and SMIs in Malaysia are very fortunate. SME Corp, the government agency set up to look after the well-being of small & medium enterprises, is a most incredible organization. Led by its dynamic CEO, YBhg Dato Hafsah Hashim, SME Corp is an energetic and ambitious organization committed to nothing but helping the SMEs and SMIs succeed.

Throughout the preparation of this event, I had the privilege of working with some of the great SME Corp people directly, people such as Puan Fadzilah, Encik Amin, Cik Anis, etc… there were so many of them that it is not possible for me to mention each and every one.

What truly touched me was their absolute sense of commitment and drive. We spent many months together working on this. And the night before the conference, many of them, including the IT, logistics, protocol, secretariat, program people stayed up all night just to make sure that every detail was taken care of. Bravo guys! You have earned my respect.

I would also like to thank the President of Branding Association of Malaysia, Dato Lewre Lew, for his leadership. He was the super promoter of this event and worked tirelessly in order to make BEC 2010 a success. Thank you, sir!

The Branding Association of Malaysia is more than 200 members strong now. Many of our members are well known brands both in Malaysia and abroad. The association is run by a group of dedicated volunteers who form this important committee. And so, allow me to introduce the wonderful people behind the Branding Association of Malaysia who created this and many other great events over the years:

1. Haji Yusra Bin Sabar (Rotocraft) - Our Vice President and a BAM veteran. Haji Yusra is someone who has always been well respected in the committee. Whenever he speaks, 'everybody' listens.

2. Mr Lim Eng Lee (Wood Kare) - Our Vice President; a quiet gentleman who has consistently supported BAM over the years through deeds, rather than mere words.

3. Mr Phang Kar Yew (Great Vision) - A pillar of BAM who assumes two critical portfolios and performs them well: Vice President & Acting Honorary Secretary.

4. Mr Ching Chee Pun (GBC Consulting) - Our Honorary Treasurer; fast talking and no-nonsense, he always gets things done effectively.

5. Mr Raymond Chong (Pitaberry) - This kind soul regularly supplies free Pitaberry drinks to his hard-working (and sometimes exhausted) peers during meetings and events. Bravo!

6. Mr Vincent Chew (Pensonic) - This man represents a brand which needs no introduction, plus he has the deepest and sexiest voice a man can ever dream of.

7. Mr Clement Chen (Lee Huat Plastics) - This young man is incredible. He possesses three key qualities necessary to succeed in today's world: diligence, intelligence and IT savvy.

8. Ms Angeline Tan (Citylink) - This pretty girl is bubbly and chatty. She is always able to liven up our serious and never-ending meetings by just being there.

9. Mr Michael Liew (Marrybrown) - This young man travels 400km from JB to KL every month to attend our committee meetings. I salute his commitment, dedication and driving skills.

10. Ms Sue Chan (Suchan Restaurant) - She bakes the best cakes and pies I've ever tasted. I hope she continues to feed the hungry committee members with her delicious pastries.

11. Mr Brian Ng (Revenue Harvest) - A rugged looking man who resembles John Wayne in the movie, "The Cowboys" from 1972.

12. Mr Ryan Wong (R&R Design) - A highly charged Chinese version of world renowned motivational guru, Anthony Robbins.

13. Mr Azahar (Halagel) - While this committee member was appointed not too long ago, he has already strongly demonstrated his commitment toward the association.

Without the selfless dedication and sacrifice of the above individuals for weeks - in fact, months - this event would not have been possible. Of course, I must not forget the highly dedicated Executive Secretary of BAM, Ms. Mary Anne, who continued to work day and night despite an injury on her finger. Thank you!

I would also like to thank the following sponsors and strategic partners for their generous support:

1. Celcom
2. BizSphere
3. NTV 7
4. Cari.com
5. Malaysia SME
6. Palace of the Golden Horses

However, the distinguished speakers and moderators were the real reason why the 600 participants were there at the conference. They are the best of the best of the business community in Malaysia. Over the course of this conference, they selflessly shared with us stories of how they achieved branding success in their respective fields. These great achievers are:

Distinguished Speakers:

1. Dato Sri Mohammed Shazalli, CEO of Celcom Malaysia Bhd
2. Dato Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, our homegrown astronaut
3. Dato Haji Ameer Ali Mydin, Managing Director of Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd
4. Dato Syed Amin Aljefferi, President of Malay Chamber of Commerce Kuala Lumpur
5. Dato Meer Sadik Habib, Managing Director of Habib Jewel
6. Dato Nelson Kwok, Founder & Managing Director of Nelson's Franchise
7. Mr Michael Lai, CEO of P1 Wimax
8. Mr Cheong Chia Chieh, Group Managing Director of RedHot Media International
9. Ms Winnie Loo, Founder & Senior Creative Director of A Cut Above Salons

Distinguished Moderators:

10. Dato Lewre Lew, Founder & Executive Chairman of Lewre International
11. Dato Nancy Yeoh, President & CEO of STYLO International
12. My humble self, Eric Chong, Founder & Managing Director of Erican Education Group

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank all the supportive participants who stayed until the end. Their presence illuminated the occasion and their encouragement is the fuel we need to take this Brand Entrepreneurs Conference further and higher.

Thank you to all, once again.

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

Monday, July 12, 2010

What is your Dad?


I am not an admirer of Robert Kiyosaki.

I actually once thought I’d become a fan of this guru of investment, but after reading his book, I knew I never would be. While I can’t argue with his financial philosophy, I have a great deal of difficulty swallowing the title of his book that propelled him into worldwide fame – “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”.

In this book, Robert Kiyosaki talked candidly about his two 'dads'.

First, he talked about his biological dad. His biological father was a government employee who served the Hawaii Education Department faithfully his whole life. However, as his father did not retire as a person of high net worth, Robert called his birth father, 'Poor Dad'.

The other 'dad' that Robert referred to in his book was an investor who used his financial finesse to earn a passive income and led a wealthy life. Robert described himself as becoming close to this mysterious man and regarding him as a fatherly figure. Due to his financial prowess, this man was bestowed the title ‘Rich Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki.

Now, I fully understand that ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ is figurative and really about a business concept. As well, I agree it is a great marketing idea to contrast the two ‘dads’; however, I have some serious issues about Robert putting his real father down over and over again throughout his pursuit of success.

Every time I read his book, I found myself extremely disturbed whenever he spoke about how little he had learned from his own father and how wonderful his ‘rich dad’ was. To me, his disrespect for his own parent was shocking and unbelievable.

I won’t make any assumptions about those of you growing up in America. However, I do know that in Malaysia, we were strongly taught the principles of filial piety and respect for the elders.

Most of us, regardless of religion, were brought up believing in this : when we are young, our parents take care of us; when our parents grow old, we take care of them. That’s the cycle, plain and simple.

To show disrespect to our parents is taboo… it’s something that even the most rebellious young people would never think of doing.

What Robert has done over the years is not fair to his very own father. On the cover of every copy of the book, ‘Poor Dad’ is placed on the cover alongside ‘Rich Dad’, ripe for people to do ‘physical comparisons’. In every one of his seminars, he talks about how and why people should not be like his biological father, but rather, they should emulate his ‘better father’.

Imagine the pain and hurt if your own child did this to you… that every time he talked about you, he degraded you and used you as an example of someone who is poor, stupid and unwise.

If I were Robert’s father, I would roll over in my grave if I heard my own own son humiliate me, his old man, and further more, glorify a stranger, calling him his other dad and the better one at that.

I am sorry, Mr. Kiyosaki, if you disagree with what I am saying, but I feel that there are much better ways to name a product, promote an idea, make lots of money and enjoy success than your option was.

We should never, ever seek success through the defamation of our own parents. No matter how little we think our parents have achieved compared to us, we should always make them feel loved, respected and appreciated. This way the years of tender love and care our parents have given to us become justifiable.

By doing so we are also setting good examples for our future generations to emulate.

Love thy parents!

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

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What do you Hear?


I read a news article this morning and it kept me energized for the whole rest of the day. It was the story of Marcelo Iriarte, an Argentinean, and how he became a lawyer after having been a newspaper seller, bus driver and street sweeper all his life.

Marcelo never finished his primary education. When he was three, his parents got divorced. Due to poverty, he started selling newspapers in the streets at the age of eight. He became as a bus driver some years later.

One day, a lady passenger changed his life. Apparently this lady, a passenger in the bus whom he had never met, said to him, "You should really continue your education. I see such potential in you."

What she said struck Marcelo like a bolt of lightning. Nobody had ever told him anything like that. He thought he would end up driving a bus or selling newspapers in the streets for the rest of his life. For the first time in his life, he realized he could actually do something better.

Marcelo decided to heed the advice of this lady, who he now fondly refers to as his 'fairy godmother'. At the age of 35, he picked up his education from where he had left off as a child. After completing his high school education, he went on to study law. After 8 years of gruesome studies, he finally graduated and became a qualified lawyer.

Marcelo's success story has made him a media sensation in Argentina. He is seen as having finally bridged the wide divide between the country's hardcore poor and the societal elites. His story became headline news and he was an instant celebrity.

It had all begun with a single suggestion that he heard uttered in a casual manner by someone he had never met. However, it changed his life forever.

We are given important senses to function effectively as human beings - we have eyes to see, ears to hear, noses to smell, skin to sense and tongues to taste. Our brain interprets all of these sensory signals for us to derive possible meanings out of them.

Perhaps one of the most important organs is our ears. We are impacted by hundreds of thousands of different sounds everyday. While many of these sounds are meaningless noises, some carry meaningful messages and influence the way we think and behave.

Our lives are often changed because of what some people say to us, casually or intentionally. I once read in the news that a lady committed suicide because a fortuneteller had told her that she had a bleak future and would never find a good husband.

There was another story of a man who decided to join the underworld and became a gangster because his father had said to him he was useless and would never succeed in life.

I think it would be dangerous to take whatever we hear and immediately act upon. What we may hear in the run of a single day will consist of things that are good and bad, useful and useless, harmful and harmless, productive and counterproductive, meaningful and meaningless, constructive and destructive. It is imperative that we learn to sieve out the useful things we hear from the harmful ones.

We must therefore pay attention to what we hear. We must learn to analyze good information from the bad, useful advice from the harmful. If we act upon good advice, our lives can be changed positively. However, if we erroneously believe in bad advice and thereupon, act upon it, our future can be permanently destroyed.

Keep in mind though, good advice may not equal the 'safe' path. Just because there is a risk involved in heeding advice, does not mean that we should hide from it. Whenever you hop into your car and drive out into the streets, there is an element of danger involved. And yet, we still must do so, so we just learn to drive carefully and buckle our seatbelts.

On the other hand, to be insured against acting upon bad advice, you must use common sense, knowledge and analytical skill. So when you hear something suggested to you, be open but think about it before you act.

If after much thinking your conclusion is that it is a great advice, then do not hesitate - jump into it! You may never be the same ever again.

Be a Marcelo - have the courage to heed the words of the wise and brave uncertainty.

The question is - What do you hear?

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

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Size is your Picture?

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The size of the picture that one has directly determines the scale of achievement that one will attain.

Some people have big pictures, some people have medium-sized pictures, and some people have small pictures. Sadly, some people have no pictures at all.

Let's begin with those with big pictures.

The "big picture" people understand what is most important for their success. They are usually not wavered by the little things that happen in their lives. Their direction towards their ultimate destination never changes just because one or two unexpected things have happened in their lives.

These people hold fast to their vision and they pursue their calling relentlessly. They seem to be fearless and bold. They do things that defy expectations and the imagination of the common man. Even when a situation gets seriously tough, they are steadfast. These people never give up.

And then, there are the "medium picture" people.

These people also see a picture but their picture is confined to the constraints of their vision. They understand their direction and ultimate calling, but because they are not able to overcome their deepest fear and self-doubt, they restrain their future to a size that they can manage.

To keep themselves safe, medium picture people feel that it is better if the picture is not extraordinary. They want to achieve, but they don't want to risk anything. They want to be successful, but they don't want to go through the agony which comes along with pursuing the path of success.

Therefore, they always opt for second best. A successful picture but, nonetheless, one that is manageable.

These people will, of course, never be the extraordinary or legendary people that are admired by all. They will be reasonably successful and reasonably well to do. Their career will reach a reasonable height. And they will possess reasonable possessions, but nothing in their lives will be extraordinary.

The third type of people is the "small picture" people.

Whatever they do, they think small. If there is a chance to do something which will allow them significant contribution, they are likely to say 'no' to that opportunity because it may take too much effort.

Small picture people cannot see far ahead. To them, the most important thing is to live without pressure, to enjoy life, to avoid pain and to pursue pleasure.

They get up in the morning, go to work, come home in the evening, sit in front of the television, go to bed, and the next morning, get up, go to work, watch television, and go to bed again. They live their life in a most predictable and routine manner. When this routine is not observed, they feel very uncomfortable.

So, they act just like a simple computer programme does. Everything runs the same way for months and years until one day this simple routine becomes impossible for them to continue.

These people constitute the majority of our population. They are, nonetheless, the backbone of our society. They provide the hands - the labour that society needs in order to be productive. These people form the foundation of the pyramid.

Collectively, they are important to our world. And yet, individually, they make very little contribution.

Finally, there are those who have "no picture" at all. They exist without knowing 'why' they exist. They live aimlessly.

Many of these people don't work; they refuse to be engaged productively. They depend mostly on other people for sustenance. Some may even do things that violate the common law of nature. These people usually become the liability of society. They contribute negatively to the betterment of mankind.

These people are the ones that you and I shall teach the future generation not to be like.

In the end, whatever type of person we want to be is a personal choice. You are the one who chooses whether to have a big picture, medium picture, small picture or no picture at all. And whoever you choose to become, it is a personal choice which should be respected by all.

Whatever your choice is, I wish you well.

However, if you do choose to be a big picture person, I hope your picture will be grand indeed. Since you have decided to make your picture a big one, make it as big as possible! Don't hold back. Make the colours bold; make the concept interesting and out of the world; make your picture one-of-a-kind; make it truly extraordinary.

Remember, your picture reflects your life and your value as a person. The way you view the world determines who you really are.

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

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Little Things

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Success is basically an accumulation of all the little right things that we do each day. It is not the one big step that we take that will make us successful. It is the little steps that we take on a daily basis in the right direction that will take us there.

It is unreasonable to get up one fine morning, decide to be successful and expect that success to take place instantly.

Instead, should you wake one morning and decide to be successful, then set realistic expectations, formulate a plan, do little things right every day and work towards your ultimate success.

Along the way, set yourself smaller milestones and achieve several intermediate successes. These will help to keep your ultimate goal within sight.

What do I mean by doing the ‘little things’ every day? What are these ‘little things’?

Those little things, to be honest with you, are nothing that will amaze you. They are not things that you will make you say: “Wow, I never thought about that! No wonder people are successful – after all, they do these amazing things that I have never even heard of.”

So we are not talking about anything new or shocking. We are talking about the normal everyday things that we do as human beings.

These things can be as simple as eating healthily, exercising daily, and setting time aside for reading, learning, thinking and planning. It means sparing enough time for sharing and loving, and at the end of the day to reflect and then to correct.

These are the ‘little things’ that we must do every single day in order to get things right.

It sounds too simple, but it is true. Life isn’t rocket science.

To have a successful life, you just need to follow some very simple principles, so don’t complicate things for no reason.

Use your time to its best and get your ‘little things’ done today!

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

Monday, July 5, 2010

Education - Then & Now

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Fifty years ago, my father was a young teacher teaching at a primary school. When he was posted to the minute town of Bidor, he was an instant celebrity in town. In fact, he was such a big celebrity that he was secretly admired by many young girls, and one of them was my mother. (Lucky me!)

Why was he such a hit? Answer - He was a teacher, period. Decades ago, the teaching profession used to be something everybody admired and looked up to.

Coming from a very poor family, my father had to struggle all his way through as a child. Finishing primary education was considered a luxury to most poor Malaysian children in the forties, so if somebody had a child who could move on to secondary education, it was something to shout about.

Coming from a humble family of seven in the small village of Kampung Simee, my father became the most highly qualified member in the Chong family. He was the only member of his family who 'graduated' from a junior high school at Form Three. Further more, in order to accomplish that, his eldest brother had had to work two jobs in order to support him throughout school.

And having studied ‘all the way’ up to Form Three my father earned a place in the Teacher’s Training College. He fulfilled his lifelong goal of becoming a teacher and gained tremendous respect as a well educated person.

Let's now fast forward to the seventies.

The youngest brother of my mother in a family of eleven was a very bright student. He excelled academically and aspired to go overseas to pursue a bachelor's degree. Now that was truly ‘big’. Going overseas to the West for higher education was a major deal. Only a privileged few ever had the opportunity to pursue higher education. These people were the cream of the crops. The vast majority of the people then would consider themselves as lucky if they were able to finish senior high.

When the news broke out about my uncle, it shook up the entire minute town of Bidor. Well wishers came from all corners of Bidor to congratulate my grandparents. Some expressed great admiration and made my uncle a role model for their own children. The day that he was sent off to Subang International Airport, half the town was in the airport bidding a tearful farewell to my uncle as if he was one of their own family.

And when my uncle finally returned from the UK with a degree in engineering a few years later, he was given a heroic welcome. Bidor was elated as it now could add another illustrious 'university graduate' to the list.

Now, let us return to the present – to the 21st century.

Today, higher education is no longer a luxury; it is a must. Gone are the days when one could be considered a societal elite and enjoyed tremendous advantage just because he had a university qualification. Today, the bar is raised substantially. Going through tertiary education for young people, especially the urban dwellers, is considered an assumed path.

Today, those who say ‘no’ to the pursuit of higher education or fail to gain acceptance into an institution of higher learning due to extremely poor academic performance or a severely inadequate financial situation are becoming rare. With the wide choices of tertiary institutions in the market, as well as the various forms of study loans and academic arrangements available, those who still hold fast to the belief that they can't receive higher education have become very rare, indeed.

The world today is an overwhelmingly literate one. Those who cannot read and write are being so handicapped and deprived of information and opportunity that it is beyond belief. Education then and education now have become poles apart.

Let me do a simple comparison between fifty years ago and now:

Students with Form Five education today are equivalent to those who only completed six years of primary school then. Those who have a basic degree now are just the same as those who finished high school then. And if you have a Master's degree today, you are only a bit better off than most academically. In fact, if you truly want to stand out, you need to pursue a doctorate degree just so you can put a ‘Dr’ in front of your name on your business cards.

I’m joking, of course, but only a bit. All jokes aside, the world today is a vastly different place from fifty years ago.

Parents of today – take heed: Stop thinking about the ‘good old days’. Be bold. Think big. Aim high. Encourage your children to challenge themselves academically. What could be more worthwhile or important that inspiring them to go farther and soar higher in this demanding age?

No, degrees are not ‘everything’, but a good qualification will lay a solid foundation and make success much more achievable for your children.

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

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Education & Qualification

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There is a Chinese saying that states, "No matter how poor you are, your state of poverty must never be at the expense of education".

We all know that education is the one single thing that can change lives. It turns fate around. Nothing can have more major or positive of an impact on a person's life than education and training. And nothing is more devastating on a person's life than the lack of it.

History shows us that great men do not necessarily always graduate from great schools with high academic qualifications. However, history does show us that the individuals who demonstrate elements of greatness are always the most avid learners. They are not necessarily 'graduates', but they are all 'educated'.

"So what is education?" one may ask. "And what about qualification?" another may add.

Well, education certainly differs from qualification.

Education can be either formal or informal. Most people go through formal education in primary and secondary levels as compulsory education. In fact, this is the norm in most countries. Informal education is far more abstract. It is about learning from life's encounters and experiences.

In this day and age everybody needs a qualification; it is no longer merely advantageous to have a diploma or a basic degree. Everybody else has it! It is now considered a basic prerequisite for any career entry, and not an added advantage.

So in order to have an edge over others in the 'paper chase' mania, the young people of today require post graduate qualifications in order to be 'competitive'. And if these qualifications are granted by 'branded' institutions of higher learning, the more 'gold-plated' these young people become.

But let's ask ourselves this: "What is education really about? Why do we need to be educated?"

As far as I am concerned, education is not just about scoring straight A's, though I agree academic performance does measure academic success. Without a scoring system it is difficult to quantify success in education.

However, education is really about an accumulation of experience, wisdom and know-how. So education is supposed to help to make you a better person and live a more successful life.

However, some people are highly qualified yet lowly educated.

They use foul language conveniently and comfortably, despite all the A's they scored in their language papers.

They plant themselves firmly in their seats in the bus while they are aware someone else may need the seats more than they do, despite scoring an A in the moral paper.

They disrespect their parents and treat them like dirt, despite earning a PhD in education.

You see, academic qualification does not necessarily make one educated.

The truly educated manifest their educatedness in ways they may not even be aware of. Some of these people do not have posh degrees and so they are not highly qualified.

However, they respect their elders, love their children, care for the less fortunate, have genuine interest in people's wellbeing, speak gently and politely, volunteer their time to do community work, bless friends who do well, share happiness and sadness with those whom they care about, bring up their children in the most appropriate way possible, give unfaltering love to their wives or husbands, etc.

These people are indeed highly educated people. While some of these highly educated folks are also highly qualified, some of them are not.

So choose to be educated AND qualified, and then, you will be whole.

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