Friday, December 31, 2004

Personality Traits

Personality traits in people are primarily made up of four types of temperaments: sanguine, choleric, melancholy, and phlegmatic. Generally most people fall into one or two main types of temperament, however, there are exceptions where a person may possess hybrid personalities.

Understanding personality traits helps a person understand his or her character, and the character of others. Character concerns our true selves, while "personality is the outward expression of ourselves which may or may not be the same as our character" (LaHaye 1983:6) depending on how genuine we portray ourselves to others. Personality often is just a pleasing facade for an unpleasant or weak character. By learning about our temperaments, we can adjust and change for the better and it is to this end that this article is being written to help readers understand themselves in making changes and planning a course of action for the right career.

Sanguine is what we usually termed as a person with an outgoing personality who likes to mix with everybody. Sanguine often speaks before thinking and is hearty by nature. Extrovert, spontaneous, and often naïve, sanguine tends not to see the big picture of things but lives for the current. Sanguine is good at telling stories and is blessed with the gift of the gap. Weaknesses of sanguine include restlessness, weak-willed, egotistic, and emotional instability. Sanguine make good salespersons, actors, and public speakers.

Choleric is one who commands or likes to command. Often with hot temperament, choleric is strong-willed, self-sufficient, decisive, opinionated, and makes decisions for oneself and for others. Choleric thrives on activities and is not frightened by adversities. Quick to recognize opportunities and diagnosing solutions to problems, choleric possesses a well-organized mind which make them good managers and supervisors, although they may not be the best persons to understand how their staff work to achieve their goals. Weaknesses of choleric include insensitivity to subordinates, domineering, bossy, manipulative, and failure to see areas of potential pitfalls.

Melancholy is analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted, perfectionist, with sensitive emotional nature. Melancholy is prone to be introvert and often gives in to a variety of moods. Mood swings can either lift the melancholy to heights or at times to gloom and depression. When in good mood, the melancholy can become more extrovert in behavior, but when in gloom withdraws oneself and become antagonistic. Melancholy person is a very faithful friend, but does not make friends easily. Melancholy person is dependable and expects very high standards on self and sometimes of others. Experiences of disappointments however tend to make the melancholy reluctant to see people at face value. Melancholy person possesses analytical mind, evaluates, plans and sees far into the future in understanding possible problems and pitfalls that may be encountered. Weaknesses of melancholy include self-centeredness, pessimism, moodiness and revengeful nature. Life vocation chosen by the melancholy tends to involve great personal sacrifice which makes good support staff and the types.

Phlegmatic is described by Hippocrates as one that possesses "calm, cool, slow, easy-going, well-balanced temperament" (cited in LaHaye 1983:21). Circumstances cannot ruffle the phlegmatic who can withhold a high boiling point, seldom exploding in anger or laughter. Emotions of phlegmatic are kept in control. Kind hearted and sympathetic, the phlegmatic seldom conveys his true feelings. Phlegmatic tends to be a spectator in life and tries not to get too involved with the activities of others. When put in a position for action, phlegmatic proves to be capable and efficient person. Weaknesses of phlegmatic include slowness, laziness, stubbornness, indecision, and teasing. Phlegmatic makes good diplomat, accountant, teacher, leader, scientist, or other meticulous-type of work. Now that you understand the four temperaments of the different personality traits, evaluate yourself and discuss at this blog what you think is your type of personality. Plan out actions that can help minimize weaknesses.

LaHaye, Tim (1983), Spirit-Controlled Temperament, Asian Edition. Hong Kong: Tien Dao Publishing House.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Spider Web

Spider WebHave you ever walk through a spider web accidentally because you are unable to see or are not aware of its presence? If you have not, you should try it someday. It is quite an experience, and the feeling of it is really 'great', especially when it is at your face.

Removing the web from your face or body does not exactly come easy, and sometimes if you are not aware, the spider may still be hanging to its line of web silk and eventually reside in your clothes somewhere.

Apart from cobwebs, spiders are actually quite loveable. Most spiders are not harmful creatures. In fact, house spiders can be helpful in getting rid of unwanted insects. In ancient times, the Greeks use cobwebs to apply to wounds, which is an effective way to stop excessive bleeding. Research by 19th-century doctors confirmed that spiders coat their silk with antiseptic agents. It was spider webs that French scientist Rene Reaumur came up with the idea of making paper from wood. In the 19th century, astronomers used spider silk as cross-hairs on their telescopes and in World War II, gunsights and bombsights, range finders and transits, telescopes and microscopes were all using spider silk.

Today, scientists are looking at the amazing structural properties of spider webs to be used in airplanes and bridges, clothing, body armor, and cable.

Berenbaum, M., "Spin Control", The Sciences, Vol. 35, No. 5, September/October 1995, pp. 13-15.
Lienhard, J., "Epidsode 1069: A Spider's Web", The Engines of Our Ingenuity. Houston: University of Houston, 2004.
Preston-Mafham, R., and Preston-Mafham, K., Spiders of the World. New York: Facts On File Publications, 1984.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Problem with Corporate Management

Many of us working in organizations often wonder why the management seems to always make lives difficult for their staff.

We constantly see organizational and departmental restructuring which affects the way we work. We see corporate re-engineering exercise where people get axed. We see and hear things that threaten our livelihood and we feel our supervisors are always picking on us. We suspect and know there are spies for management who are our peers, always lurking around our backs, ready to stab on us at every opportunity.

One of the many ways our management keeps an eye on us is through spies tapping on the grapevines. Grapevines are informal gatherings by colleagues to discuss anything in general, and in general, workers talk about their bosses, their unhappiness at work and the likes. A manager can either directly plant a spy in grapevines or indirectly insinuate to get his or her staff, especially secretaries, to convey messages. For example, the manager can unofficially leak news about possible retrenchment to secretaries who unknowingly hint about it at these informal gatherings, thus motivating staff to work harder, or make them demoralized and then play savior to win support from staff.

Such are the politics working in a corporate world and these by no means are totally the fault of management. The truth is, managers are trained by education to do such things. Attend any business management study and you will find all these written in the textbooks.

Another technique frequently used by management is the reinforcement theory, which takes the view that workers are by nature lazy and must be scrutinized or manipulated constantly in order to yield results expected by management. In short, it means behavior modification. The management may introduce a consequence or change the environment in order to increase or maintain frequency of staff participation. These may include punishment, controlled rewards, psychological segregation, or other methods. For examples, the threat or rumors of possible retrenchments, punishment of a staff to set an example, and the cutting of bonuses. By using such shock or depravity tactics, staff will then modify their behaviors and change attitudes toward work.

Some of us who are reading this article may be supervisors, managers, or bosses in our own companies. As people in a position to determine the behaviors of others, we must constantly be reminded that not all techniques we learnt from books or education are in real life practical. We ought to treat staff as human beings and hence we must use our own brains to decide what is best and not rely on learnt knowledge. Instead of manipulating, we may wish to consider how to increase staff's job satisfaction so that they may willingly sacrifice their time and efforts to go an extra mile.

To workers who are suffering at the hands of the management, know that all these exploitations are not necessary intentional on the part of the supervisors or managers. All these techniques used by them are not new and have been taught in academic schools. It is a flaw of the education system that makes them what they are. If we can make them see their wrongs and 'educate' them through staff consensus and feedback, or even through unions, let us try to make it work. However, if such methods don't work, then use the techniques they use on us to reverse the role, and hopefully in this way get attention from them by getting our message across.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Learning to be Graceful

Few days ago, I wrote on the topic of ‘Branded Culture’. In the story, I mentioned about the unpleasant encounters which resulted from certain unacceptable behaviors. In this article, I will list down ten things you can do to minimize negative opinions and improve your gracefulness.

The first thing to do is to consider others first. For example, by letting others out from the subway train before pushing your way in or before smoking at a bus-stop, consider whether it will affect others’ health.

Second, in every action, ask yourself whether it will hurt others or put others in a disadvantaged position? For example, at a pedestrian walkway, consider whether riding your bicycle there will cause inconvenience to others. What about leaning on the pole in the subway train, will others who need to stand fast on their feet be derived from getting a hold of the pole? Consider whether your shopping trolley will prevent other shoppers or block others from having access to through routes if put in the middle of a lane.

Third, in making plans, consider how you can help others. Example, if building a public place or facility, have you given thought to conveniences for the handicap?

Fourth, quit all non-etiquette behavior, such as spitting and blowing nose in the public, asking for more free gifts when given only one or a few, excessively accumulating free gifts not meant for you, or accumulating massive food on the plate during buffet meals.

Fifth, learn good practices from others and from other cultures. Examples include clearing your own waste after eating at fast food outlets, returning unused spice packs to the counters, and giving up seats to people needing it more than you.

Sixth, Learn to give more than to receive.

Seventh, do not do anything from selfishness or conceit, always thinking to exercise own rights or assuming you deserve more than others.

Eighth, do not be too calculative or expect reciprocal returns from others.

Ninth, do not expect a 100% quality in everything, be it services or products. There is NO perfection on earth.

Tenth, be considerate in all things because you want to, not because you have to or because you are told to. Do it from the heart.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Church Weddings

We often complained about the lengthy hours spent at church weddings, but do we know how much time is spent at a similar wedding in Thailand?

The first time I traveled by air was to Bangkok to attend a church wedding. When the couple arrives at the pulpit before the marriage vows are said, or the ordainment proclaimed by the pastor, it is the time when the couple stand in the presence of close friends and relatives who will one by one or in groups present their words and songs of blessing.

This process of dedications may take hours, depending on the popularity and importance of the ones getting married. This is the time when the couple patiently stand with joy and peace for hours to receive all the words and songs bestowed on them in remembrance of the special day dedicated to the union of two becoming one flesh. Accompanying the swearing of vows and ordainment of marriage is the sense of awe in the presence of God.

So to all of who are attending or getting married in a church wedding, just be thankful and grateful such traditions are not often seen in Singapore!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Service Without Smiles

The first time I went to USA was when my company sent me to a software application manufacturer in San Diego to learn how to service helpdesk in a call centre. What I have learnt from there impressed me as I compare it with the service we provide in Singapore.

In the United States, when the helpdesk support staff picks up a call from a customer, he takes his time to service the customer, providing excellent quality and above all, without rushing or with impatience. When a customer requires an answer to something the support staff is unable to provide immediately, the customer patiently waits 'on hold' for the staff to research and stays on line till the staff gives him a reply. There were no sign of any impatient gesture between the customer and the support staff, and even though the line may be toll free, it is still something we can learn about cultural differences and expectations.

Over here in Singapore, support staff are expected to rush and support as many customers as possible. Before the answers are provided, we either asked the customers to call back again or tell them we will call them back, taking extensively long time to 'research' before an attempt is made to return a call. Customers are expected to pay via 1-900 line and as the cost gets clocked at each tick, so is the growing impatience of the customer. Alternatively, we provide an answering service that is always busy or difficult to get a real person to talk to. Temperament flares up between customers and support staff frequently and eventually neither the customers nor the support staff accomplishes anything.

This is the kind of support service we get in Singapore, and this is the kind of expectations we get from customers. Tell me I am wrong or prove to me otherwise, and I will readily write another article to demonstrate the 'perfect' service a company provides because this is one area I will be glad to see improved.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Branded Culture

When I was in Las Vegas several years ago, I went to a casino and applied for a Player's Card to accumulate points, not so much to gamble but to have the card as a souvenir. When I submit my application at the counter, the attendant on realizing I am from Singapore exclaimed, "Oh no! Not another Singaporean." I was immediately appalled and questioned her what is the problem, but she did not give me a reply, except to apologize.

This occurrence sets me thinking. What is it about Singaporean that turns people off? Is there a problem with our behavior that shocks others? Is it our kiasu-ism, the fear of losing? Or is it because we are always too particular about things that when we ask for something we always expect the best and no less? Is it because we cannot accept anything other than perfection or is it because we lack the spirit of give and take? Is it our lack of gracefulness?

These thoughts that go through my mind remind me of another incident. I was helping a foreign company set up an exhibition in Singapore and while I was mending the booth together with these foreigners, I observed some of the greatest embarrassments I have ever seen as a Singaporean. The booth for the exhibit was intended for selling some software products, but as a form of goodwill, my foreign partners also give away button badges as freebies to attract visitors. A Singaporean carrying a child came by and was given a button badge. Instead of appreciating the gift, the man upon confirming that the button badge is free, grabs all the remainder badges in the container and intends to walk away with them, if not for my foreign partner stopping him from doing so, explaining that they are for giveaways to other visitors too. This incident puts me in a disgraced position as a Singaporean and I had to apologize to my foreign partners for the occurrence.

Although not all Singaporeans behave in the same way as described above, very often we are seen by our foreign counterparts as people of very low dignity and sometimes as deviants, non-etiquette, and nuisance. I don't wish to be ashamed to be called a Singaporean, and I certainly don't wish others to have the impression of us as nuisance. It is for that reason I often stay away from our own people who behave in such mannerism, and when I travel overseas, I always avoid travelling in a big group of Singaporeans. It is not about being ashamed of one's own country, but it is the association of characters like these that spoil our nation's image that concerns me as a citizen.

So, to all Singaporeans who are reading this, I pray that we will all learn more from the cultures overseas that may help us to be more graceful. Let us learn the good things from them and teach others to make our nation a better country, filled with citizens who are considerate, willing to give and take, who detest ungraceful acts and appropriate what is good, wholesome, and culturally refine.

To foreigners who are reading this, our suggestion is not to generalize or brand all Singaporeans as a type of people with particular behaviors. Not all of us are the same and many of us are totally unlike what has been described. Some may have similar traits and many are still learning to be more graceful by the day. Occasionally our ways may not seem rational to you, but it is often societal pressures that make us the way we are and by no means are the fault of our own. So please just view us as individuals, each with a difference, and do not categorize us as a single genre!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Living with Junk

We are always faced with junk everyday, handbills at our doorsteps, junk in our snail and electronic mail boxes, and junk in our bins.

In my blacklist for junk producers, ERA property agents top the list of paper junk. Before mail boxes were modified to refrain from targets of junk, I used to receive an average of fifteen to twenty handbills from ERA per week. These days I still receive junk papers from ERA at my doorsteps, and they serve as reminders not to use them when I need to sell my house. That is the kind of reaction consumers will get as a result of persistent junk marketing. I sometimes wonder whether anyone tells companies like them how many trees they are killing each day to use this form of marketing which is not only ineffective, but also a waste of everybody's time. Is it therefore justifiable for a handful of responses to result in the immense volume of junk being created?

Another kind of junk is the marketing e-mails we receive in our electronic mail boxes. The creators of such junk are the e-Marketers who often use net crawlers to obtain every e-mail addresses available on the Internet in order to send materials of their products or services using spiral marketing that persistent send junk to our e-mail accounts. Attempts to filter all e-mail junk through conditional settings in e-mail systems cannot completely eliminate or place junk into the trash automatically, hence it is quite fruitless to spend too much money on such filtering software applications.

Till this day, there is still no perfect method of eliminating junk in e-mail systems, and despite that, iDA has proposed in their legislation for an opt-out regime in electronic marketing. This means in essence that marketers can now send junk e-mails to anyone in Singapore legally or put anyone's e-mail address in their permanent mailing list for regular spamming, so long as the individual do not opt out from such marketing materials. This idea of opting out or unsubscribe from a mailing list is however impractical, because getting in is easy, but getting out is not. In fact, by sending an unsubscribe request, devious marketers can use the information as a confirmation of e-mail address validity and hence result in more marketing targets.

For more information on the proposed legislation on e-mail marketing and spamming, please read my article to The Straits Times forum page, "
Opt out of proposed law."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Disobedience vs Perseverance

Many of us who are in our youth or teenage years do not like the idea of our parents deciding for our future. Whether it be telling us what to study or what not to, we will always prefer to make our own decisions. Sometimes, we may want to run our lives our own way, and sometimes we prefer to do what our parents did in the past, to justify our actions that if our parents can do it, why can't we.

To follow our parents' footsteps, however, may not always be the correct steps, and because our parents know their past better than we do, they sometimes advise us not to follow their footsteps because they know things we don't. Maybe it is because things have changed with time, or maybe because they find it too dangerous for us, or they have discovered a mistake in their path, it all boils down to the same objective they want for us - to have a brighter future.

Unfortunately, in our youth, we do not always understand our parents' intent, so we sometimes rebel. We do things behind our parents' backs so as to get back at them or so as to make decisions of our own. Superheroes like Spider-Girl did that too. She secretly gets training from Uncle Phil and disappears to play her own 'games', but no matter how she goes against the will of her father, she always looked to the day that he will accept her for what she is.

As a girl in her teenage years, Spider-Girl discovers she possesses capabilities beyond a normal human because she inherited the strength of her father, Spider-Man. Unfortunately, her father who has given up super heroism after losing a leg during his Spider-Man days, cannot quite accept the idea of his daughter following his footsteps. When Spider-Girl begins to 'disappear' to do her superhero stunts and secretly gets training under the guidance of Uncle Phil, Spider-Man eventually gives in and teaches his daughter personally.

It is through patience and perseverance, not disobedience, that Spider-Girl was able to finally convince her father she is doing the right thing. When Spider-Man finally relents, he not only consents to her decision, but also helps her along the journey in carving out her future.

Following the footsteps of Spider-Girl, I think the correct approach to our parents' advice should be to listen, and accept their concerns. However, if we know we have made a right choice, we must persevere to convince them our directions instead of demonstrating our disobedience by disappearing, ignoring, avoiding, or doing what we think is best for ourselves without consulting them. If we can get our parents support, it is always better to do so, because we can then go a long way in doing what we want to do.

So for all of us, we must stand strong, persevere, and do not faint when our parents discipline us. We know it is for our good that they sometimes make decisions on our behalf. Even though these decisions are not always the best, we can use them if we are unclear of our directions. If we discover our own interests and can produce materials that prove our interests will help us pull through our lifelihood for the future, then, make it known to our parents, and let them decide what is best for us.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Fine Prints

There are many things in life that we take for granted because we assume that it is an expected norm. In the real world however there is always the fine print in every norm which we may have overlooked. To assume things is dangerous, because although it may not cost us our lives, it can cost our lifelihood and hurt our pockets!

In advertisements and contracts, we often see the fine print that state "conditions apply" or sometimes, terms that may not be prominently defined. We don't usually pay attention to them, but we often go ahead with the use of whatever the product or service is offered, and before long (sometimes, too long), we realise our bills have accumulated a substantial sum.

Many of us pay the price for assuming. We assume the things that should be bundled with a service or a product, but the providers presume we know that the extras are not included. We assume extras in a service or product are not included, but we later discover premium services we do not ask for come included without our knowledge. A typical example of included extras is the subscription of a mobile phone. By default, voice mail, international line facilities, and other services are included unless we deactivate it from our account. This is called an opt-out service. Unless we opt-out of a service, we are in by default.

Ethical marketing strategy in the selling of a product or service is seldom without fine prints, although there are some exceptions. A responsible marketer should not include services the customers did not request, unless they choose to opt-in. A good example is the chatroom function at This function is NOT automatically activated because it cost money to chat, so users will have to activate their chat account themselves in order to use the service, before billing commence.

Let us take a look at another example to understand the dangers of assumption and its consequence. When I became a user of, I was aware that chatting in moblog via SMS using the mobile phone is NOT free. However, I assumed incorrectly that chatting via web on the other hand is free. With this assumption, I frequently send messages to multiple members of my group blogs and sometimes to all members in the group.
It was yesterday that I soon learnt from moblog's moderator that messages sent online via web cost as much as sending SMS via the phone. This means if my group makes up of 20 members, sending a message to 'all' will cost me 20 SMS messages, and in reality, I have more than these numbers of members in different groups! This is the consequence of missing the fine print.

As can be seen from the described scenario, assumptions in our daily lives are dangerous. While I assumed that chatting web online is free, the service provider presumes I am aware chatting online is not free.
Learn therefore what I have learnt. Read the fine print (if there is any) before you use any service or product, and do not risk your pockets getting burnt.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Age Old Problem

Despite being well known as a nation that emphasise fairness and equality, Singapore still faces age discrimination when it comes to the mature-age seeking jobs.

According to a recruitment consultant, hiring companies usually specify the age requirements for shortlisting candidates, hence if any résumé received does not state the age, the agency will either follow-up with the applicant to verify the information or dispose the application from its shortlisting.

Although employers avoid the use of the word "age" in their advertisements, most companies still indicate their preference for "young and energetic" or for "candidates between 20s and early 30s", even when the job is administrative or does not require any physical ability.

The Work Development Agency and National Trade Union Congress frequently encourage mature-age citizens to be more open to being engaged in domestic related work and even though these bodies encourage people to upgrade themselves through higher education or skills training to gain employability, chances for the mature getting employed are still slim. Many who have been trained said that they still do not get interviews for the same jobs applied by their younger course mates.

According to an article from Bug Cafe by Travel Bug Media, "there is a compulsion to give the young (below 30s) a head start and a chance to be employed, by ignoring the workers who are over 40 years old. The rationale is that the young have a better optimism when starting fresh and are less likely to have debt and mortgage overhangs, unlike the 40 plus who are more prone to heavy mortgage and loan exposure, debts and household liabilibilites."
In this article, an employer of a shipping company said he would "rather train and employ a young school leaver than a slow, over 40 unemployed supervisor" because the mature-age is "burnt out, not agile, and tend to have accidents at the work place".

Unlike countries like the USA or Australia, Singapore does not have anti-discrimination legislation that outlaw ageism. With such laws, governments can end unfair treatment of workers based on age. In Australia, offenders are liable to pay damages up to AUD40,000 under the legislation released by the State Government since 1993.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Human Assets

"I've never realised how important you are until you are not with us anymore," so says a supervisor to an ex-staff.
If you get to hear a statement like this from your ex-employer or a supervisor, you will probably be overwhelmed and be very proud of yourself. But this is seldom the case in Singapore because employers here do not usually appreciate the work of their subordinates.

To a local company, employees are just numbers, and numbers come and go. Supervisors of companies or even the staff of Human Resource seldom attempt to find out the truth why employees leave. Exit interviews are often unheard, and even if there are such interviews, they are just for formalities.

Employers and the management usually do not care how the staff are getting on, so long as the work gets done in time. Staff and subordinates are people whom they only call upon to blame and scold when things go wrong. They do not care how things are done so long as the things get done, simply because they are too busy with their own work in their own world to care about how the staff are coming along.

The truth about employees leaving a company is usually because of people, not work or greener pastures. Junior staff are often the most ill-treated, and some supervisors are good at supervising and delegating work, but they themselves do not do the work. Managers above them are often blind to who are doing the work and relies on the supervisor to tell the story, but here is where the problem lies, because supervisors are usually the ones who do not understand and who abuse their staff and pull rank.

By and by, companies such as these lost more then they care to admit, because human assets are still the key to a corporation's success. If they neglect the juniors, and allow frequent turnovers, the operational work at the bottom gets jammed, and hence whatever decision at the top do not matter, because work can't get done and customers don't get served, simply because of the bottle neck at the bottom, a certainty that spells the end of all business plans.

So the story goes, that people at the top needs to know the things happening at the bottom, and to neglect this aspect is to spell the end of the company.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Time vs Money

When you have the money, you seldom have the time, and when you have the time, you are likely to be short of money. That is the irony of life.

When a person has lots of time at hand, he or she is probably a student, a home maker, a freelancer, a contract worker temporary unengaged for duties, an unemployed, or very rich. For an average adult who are neither rich nor a beggar, he or she is probably without work, awaiting assignment, or in transit.

The best time for a person to relax or engage in doing things he or she really likes, is when he or she is without active work. Unfortunately, things that a person likes are usually hobbies, travelling, or other leisure pleasures, and all these activities cost money. Because the person is not actively engaged in income making work, all these pleasures of life are seldom realizable. Hence, the person labors and works hard to obtain the money so as to fulfill wants, but when the cash rolls in, there is simply no time to take leave to engage in leisure pleasures or hobbies. Even if leave is possible, it is often engaged with a non restful mind, stressed by work that are impending, hence, such leisure becomes non-pleasurable.

The reality of life on earth is such. People work hard to get money so that they can have enough for survival and to spend time on leisure, but time is what they don't have. Forgoing the job to find time to de-stress and engage in pleasure on the other hand may be unwise, because without active work, the mind finds no rest and is pressured to find new avenues for survival.

This is the irony between time and money.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Risk Takers

In a world stricken by natural disasters and chaos from wars and terrorism, there is a real need for superheroes ... but in the real world even superheroes die.

Superheroes in the real world are people whom we esteem as more powerful than ourselves, people who can see us through rough times, disasters, and crises. Superheroes are the signs and signifiers that represent our desires to beat the unbeatable and the strength and energy we lack as ordinary people.
When we hear about the death of Christopher Reeves, a man who was once considered the symbol of Superman, we realise however that in real life even superheroes die. Where and who then are the real superheroes when disasters strike?

The superheroes in the real world are the firemen and the civil defence team who risk their lives to save us in fires and in emergencies. They are the doctors and nurses who risk their lives to help patients with transmittable diseases, such as SARS. Soldiers and police are the ones who risk their lives constantly to provide us a place of security and peace. All these people are the real superheroes … the people who risk their lives for others.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Emotional Dissonance

In the terms of Organizational Behavioural (OB) studies, it is called emotional dissonance - the conflict beween required and true emotions. In our every day-to-day term, it is putting on a false front or a mask.
I am a man with a mask who possesses more than one identity. When I am out playing superhero, I put on my mask and demonstrate my capabilities and superiority, but when I am off my superhero duties, I am just an ordinary person facing the same problems as everyone else faces, just as Spider-Man faces the reality of life in his alter ego as Peter Parker.

When at work (or in the office), I have to put on an invisible mask or a front that demonstrates my authority, so to subdue my subordinates and ensure they do not climb over me. Out of office, I am just another ordinary person facing the same problems as everyone else everyday, struggling to make ends meet, to acquire my basic needs, financially, physically, mentally, and family.

This is the life of a superhero, a man with a 'mask' while at work, and a man without a 'mask' when at home or when with friends. All of us are superheroes, and we constantly play duality of roles. The dual roles we play each day are sometimes 'unreal' because we often put on a false front simply to show, our discipline even when we are struggling, under the pressure of heart-aches surmount by the multitude of needs. We act the role to show a good example to people who look up to us, because we are tasked with the responsibilities to uphold not only our homes, but also the duties at our workplaces. We run faster than we think, and we often breakdown with poor health as we 'swing', to hurry our paces, because we can't wait for the phases, before the processes fall in the right places!

So what is the meaning of life as a superhero? Just our simple lives, to live it meaningful, to do the best we can, living our lives as they are meant, to unmask our pretence, and enjoy the 'real' life till the end.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Being Yourself

The story of The Incredibles is about being true to yourself and about living life according to who you are, not what others expect of you, or trying to be someone you are not.

To try to be someone you are not is to be like the villain in the story, whose end is disastrous. To force a person to work in a regular job is to restrict the person's ability to do something different, just like the way Elastic Girl expects of Mr Incredible. To tell children to conform to what is seemingly a better prospect in the future and not to pursue areas that they perform best is to decide the future for them, leading to possible rebellion or intimidation, similar to what is being faced by the son and daughter of the Incredibles.

In the real world, not everyone is suitable for a regular job in the office. Some work better on their own as entrepreneurs or freelancers. Not every kid can live up to the expectation of the academic school system. Some students are academically inclined and work well with their brains, while others may be better as athletes or at working with their hands.

People are made up of different abilities, different interests, and different motivations. To expect anyone to conform to a certain standard of life is to kill the individual's creativity and sense of purpose in life. Without purpose, there is no life. In a family, it is the task of everyone to discover oneself and others to understand one another, so as not to stifle the interests of the other. It is helping each other in developing the full potentials according to the direction that makes him or her perform at the very best to fulfil the roles each one is accountable for within the family and the society.

The Incredibles is therefore about being yourself, doing the things you do best in fulfilling the dreams of your desire and interest. It means working together with your family to fulfil each other's dreams in life using 'superhuman' energy and strength, with great enthusiasm!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Superhero Tendencies

A superhero is reliable, dependable and responsible at all times, possessing courage and perseverance. He or she abides to ethical principles and possesses a will to help others. A superhero is someone we can look up to and be exemplary in doing good for mankind and nature!

As a superhero possessing great powers, Spider-Man is one such hero who knows with great powers comes great responsbility. Spider-Man possesses courage and perseverance, and fights to the end for the good of mankind. He takes responsibility of saving people even when he is devoid of any energy left, proving to all his reliability and dependablity. Even when society and cops are against him, he abides by ethical principles to do what is right. He is, to the discerning, an example of a great superhero.

All of us to some extent possess similar closet superhero tendencies. Like others, I can be reliable, responsible, and dependable (most of the time). My passion and my will is to help people anyway I can, and I hope to do good to serve the community and preserve the natural environment in the ecosystem. I am therefore a superhero in the making. You can too!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Moments in History

Moments In TimeToday is a special day to me because it is the day my writing forms a part of Singapore history, a day that celebrates the end of a chapter and the opening of a new chapter of yet untold future. It is the day fond memories of the National Library at Stamford Road are crystalized in words and photography in a coffee book entitled, Moments in Time: Memories of the National Library.

The launch which was held in the evening at the library in Esplanade earmarks the untold stories of numerous memories from the public in recalling the days when the National Library at Stamford Road stands in glory. Edited by Philip Lee, the chief editor of Streats newspaper, the book boasts of content written by more than a hundred individuals and contains writings of diverse stories, including love story, ghost story, Christian testimony, reminiscence, humor, and others.

Priced at S$12, the book is available for purchase at the major NLB libraries beginning tomorrow. It is my privilege, therefore, to be one of the article contributors in this book that records the memories of the library in history and in case you wish to know which is my article, you can find it on page 69 under the title, "Home to Writers' Circle."

For details of the launch, please read "
Memories of National Library at Stamford".