084 Getting Started With An Online Store

“Do You Expect Apples To Fall From The Sky?”

After weeks of preparation, the newly set-up online store was at last ready for business. I didn’t tell anyone except a friend, ET who has been helping her family business go online in the midst of COVID-19. I sought ET’s advice,

“Should I promote to my friends about my newly set-up online store? I am hesitant.”

ET replied in humour, “Do you expect apples to fall from the sky? Don’t be shy! Send to all your friends! You need to build a customer base!”

Her advice prompted me to send to you a promotion message out to all my contacts

Is Your Business Sustainable?

Fifteen minutes later, a friend EL texted me, “Bought! 😊”. That’s all she said.

Two hours later, my cousin ST made a purchase. ST told me, “I hope your online business can be sustainable. I paid less than $9 after discounts. I am concerned over how little Cairn can earn after all the discounts and other costs.”

I felt warmed by his concern. ST knew that the online store is an endeavour to help my sixteen-year-old son, Cairn, who is moderately autistic. In two years’ time, Cairn will complete his special-school education and has to look for work, that is, if he can find employment. I am not leaving that to chance. Certainly I do not want him to just stay home in his adult life. I am determined that my son gets ample opportunities to lead a productive life.

Over the next three days, I received four more orders— two orders came from friends whom I had not met for years, and one was from my younger brother. Surprisingly, one order came from an acquaintance who bought without saying a word. I felt thankful! All in all, we received six orders and sold 30 packets of potato chips!

The Work Behind The Scene

In excitement, I retrieved the orders as soon as I received them. But I waited patiently for Cairn to return home from school to do the job together.

We had to package everything within certain size requirements to avoid hefty shipping cost. It was more difficult than I had imagined. Luckily, our domestic helper was dexterous enough to pack the potato chips nicely.  Then she taught Cairn to complete the packaging using bubble wraps. As always, Cairn did his work meticulously.

There was one thing that Cairn could do entirely on his own. He cut the mailing labels to appropriate size before pasting them on each parcel.

The next thing was to wait for the delivery company, Ninjavan to pick up the parcels from our home and deliver to the respective customers. But the Ninjavan delivery man didn’t turn up as scheduled. I was told that it’s probably due to the sharp increase in delivery requests during the nationwide partial lockdown, euphemistically known as the Circuit Breaker in Singapore.

I couldn’t wait. The next day, Cairn and I took a bus to the nearest shopping mall, and deposited the parcels in a collection machine stationed there. Cairn learnt to operate the touchscreen quickly and was able to deposit the parcels independently.  Cairn is a half a head taller than me, which proves to be very useful in certain situations.

The Rewarding Moments

The most rewarding moment was to know that our work brought joy to others.  Cairn’s 12 year-old cousin texted us excitedly when she received the parcel. She behaved as if she had  received a gift.

I didn’t quite understand her euphoric reaction until my friend SK told me, “It’s so beautifully wrapped like a present!”. Another friend, PY also wrote in her review, “Very well-packaged! No damage at all. Immediately, I opened a pack and enjoyed it! Yummy!”  I read all these reviews to Cairn, which made him beam confidently in broad smiles.

Now that we are left with only 2 orders, I wonder when they will be sold out. When the next two orders arrive, I will let Cairn do everything as much as possible. That’ll be another great milestone!

I wonder who our final two customers will be. Will it be you?

Click the link below.

 https://shopee.sg/product/274648190/6538448577?smtt=0.0.9

William Tan

3 July 2020

Afterword

By the time you read this article, the truffle potato chips may be sold out. No worries. Here is one other thing you can do to encourage us.

Click “like” on the heart button, and enter “View Shop” to follow us for future product updates.

I am now sourcing for quality products at better prices. And I am eager to find good “lobang”, a Singlish word that means “good bargains”. Let me know if you know of any good products or you have interesting ideas. I’ve got to make this business work!

Updates as at 04/07/2020 11:00.

At the requests of some very warm-hearted friends who are eager to give their support, I have just uploaded another product, “Best-Selling Mogu Mogu Grape Juice Drink With Nata de Coco”. Check out the link below if you are interested:

https://shopee.sg/product/274648190/5840763043?smtt=0.0.9

053 Five Reasons That Keep You Going At Work With Tremendous Joy

  • Why Is It Difficult To Enjoy A Job?

Do you wake up to a job that you enjoy?

“It’s easier said than done.” A young friend , M, who is in his late twenties responded after reading my previous blogpost.

M added, “While I like the scope of my job, the many day-to-day problems cause me to feel jaded and unmotivated at times.”

I know that feeling. Fire-fighting at work is tiring. And even more tiring is the dogfighting between people. The way to go forward is to find your own reasons to keep going.

  • Five Tips To Keep Happy At Work

Last week, a Japanese Kumon Instructor Ms S offered five reasons that kept her happy at the same job for thirty-five years at an education conference. The Japanese call these reasons “ikigai” 生きがい, which may be translated as “reasons that keep you going in life”.

Tip #1: Joy from discovering self

“My Centre grew steadily to 500 students after 5 years from the day I started. Thereafter, I kept it up for another 30 years. There were turns and twists in the journey. But one thing that amazed me most is that I have held passion to work for so many students and for so long a time. I would like to tell myself today, “You have done a great job! ” Ms S spoke smilingly with a chuckle.

First, ask if the job is making you happy about discovering your possibilities. Ms S marvelled at her own achievement. Interestingly, she found the key to success was passion, not hard work or competence. I think she is spot on. I have seen some people who achieved success through cold calculations, but I have never seen anyone enjoy success without passion.

Tip #2: Joy from enabling others

“I have found joy from the change in my students on a daily basis. And the joy multiplies over the years. I am moved each time former students returned to visit me with their children after they have grown up, married and become parents. It’s a big joy when they asked me to also be their children’s teacher.” Ms S’s face was beaming with pride.

Next, ask if you are making a positive difference to others. Contrary to the belief that people are more driven by self-interest, I observe that people are willing to do a better job for others than for themselves. So, if you are motivated to do more for others, you are probably already in the right job!

Tip #3: Joy from camaraderie

“A big source of joy in this work comes from other Instructors. Over the years, I have gained tremendous amount of energy from every interaction, inspiration and collaboration. You made me feel that I am not alone in the face of difficulties.” Ms S expressed her gratitude to her fellow instructors.

The third source of work happiness comes from the camaraderie of working together. No man is an island. At varying degrees, people seek acceptance from one another, and also need the collaboration of others to flourish. Gaining the respect and understanding from counterparts help people to find strength in companionship.

Tip #4: Joy from learning

“As a student, I did not enjoy learning as much as I do now. Now, I solve worksheets enjoyably daily like the way I want my students to experience. And I even challenged myself to take up an English course in Canada last year. It was so revitalising to learn together with young people.” Ms. S revealed.

Learning naturally occurs when people place their hearts on their work. That’s how people become experts in their work and masters in their trades. Becoming skilful at the things you do is highly satisfying. And the best part is you get to stay young when you keep on learning.

Tip #5: Joy from loved ones

My two children did not enjoy studying at one point or another. My son hid his worksheets in the fridge in a futile attempt to evade homework. My daughter did the front and back covers, and left the pages in between untouched. But many years later, my son thanked me for the Kumon education that helped him to realise his dream job. As for my daughter, she has chosen to become a Kumon Instructor just like us.” Ms S said to the applause and laughter of the audience.

Ms S’s sharing of her family reminded me about the predicament of my former boss JS. He told me,

“I often work late and travel frequently. One day, I was delighted to find my young daughter at the doorstep when I returned home. But I was saddened because she ran away quickly as if she saw a stranger.”

Remember, no amount of joy you get from position and pay can compensate the loss of affection between you and your loved ones. However busy you are, make sure that your loved ones feel your love and presence. In time to come, they will appreciate the value of your job.

May these five reasons help to keep you happy at work. I know it’s a long shot.

A young colleague just told me, “William, I am leaving the company at end of the month.”

It looks like this colleague of mine has yet to find joy at his work.

William W K Tan

19 Feb 2019, Tuesday

052 Would You Work In The Same Job For Fifty Years?

Can you imagine yourself working in the same job for fifty years?

An abrupt outpouring of thunderous applause echoed throughout the auditorium when the emcee announced the recipients for Long Service Award who have contributed 50 years of service.

A deep sense of respect and admiration was seeded in my heart when I first attended the same award ceremony twenty years ago. As the year passes, my respect remains unchanged but some questions emerge,

“Is it a boon or bane to stay in the same job for a long time? And why do some people stay at the same job for so long?”

I have stayed in the same company for 20 years. And perhaps surprising to some people, it was my third job within three years after graduation from University. So I know what it was like to quit a job quickly, as well as what it takes to stay on a job for a long time.

There are advantages and disadvantages to either choice. Contrary to popular views, however, a good decision cannot be determined by simply taking an utilitarian approach of assessing if the pros outweigh the cons.


Needless to say, factors like pay and advancement opportunities are important considerations in order to maintain a decent livelihood. But that is not enough. It matters even more whether you grow to like your job and grow to become really good at what you do. Don’t you agree?

Some of my friends were smooth-sailing in their careers, while others experienced bumps and bruises along the way. Despite their best calculations, it is not uncommon to see people eventually ended up in jobs that they find little meaning to work for. And now at middle age, they are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Fortunately, there are also exceptions.

I recently met an old friend BT who found a job that he enjoys doing only after he turned forty. BT started out as an HR executive in his early twenties. He moved out of his comfort zone into sales and marketing, and then switched to F&B and subsequently retail businesses. For one reason or another, things did not work out for him.

Only after many years of false starts, BT finally succeeded in turning his passion in singing into a job he loves. Now he is a successful voice coach who teaches aspirant singers. BT said thoughtfully,

I could see his eyes glistening when BT spoke about his work. And he even coached me to sing on the plane when I chanced upon him on my same flight to Japan last week. I felt happy for my old friend. I have learnt one precious lesson from him: Never cease to find and do a job that keeps you happy.

So, back to the very first question: “Would you stay in the same job for fifty years?” I think the answer does not lie in the length of your work life, but in the simple joy you find in the job.

In the next blogpost, I will share with you five reasons that may help to keep you happy at a same job for a very very long time.

William W K Tan

15 February, 2019

043 Lessons from a prayer @ Mumbai, India

  • An Eye-Opening Experience

I travelled to Mumbai, India with my boss three days ago. Coincidentally, they arranged a prayer called puja to celebrate the Mumbai office’s relocation to a bigger and newer premise. It was an eye-opening experience.

Do you see the red dot on my forehead? In Hindi, it is called tika, an abbreviation of its original name tilaka in Sanskrit. It was applied on my forehead by a Hindu priest as a customary way of honouring special guests.

The tika is positioned at the space between the eyes just above the eyebrows. This spot is deemed by yoga practitioners to be a crucial spot to focus on during meditation. It is also a “psychic opening” which symbolises a third eye is opened to see beyond ordinary perception. Literally speaking, it was no exaggeration to say that I had an “eye-opening” experience (laughs).

  • Why Do People Pray?

The puja experience set me thinking deeper about the meaning of prayer. In recent years, I have learnt about prayers from my Catholic and Christian friends who encouraged me to seek strength from God in times of needs, sickness or problems. I saw prayer as an act of supplication in needy times. Over time, I have also learnt to say proper prayers for friends in sickness. I am thankful that prayers had brought strength to me and friends.

But that did not seem to be the case for the puja ritual. It was held to celebrate the opening of the new office, which I thought was purely ceremonial in nature. I was wrong.

(Picture on the left: The priest or locally addressed as a pandit, was a Hindu scholar learned in Sanskrit and Hinduism. He was getting ready to commence a one-hour ritual in a small meeting room which was temporarily converted into a prayer room.)

The pandit chanted mantra and sang in Hindi, a language that I did not comprehend. But quickly it became an invaluable learning moment when a colleague translated his instructions. The pandit said, “Keep in mind your parents as you hold these grains in your hands.”

“Also, keep in mind your beloved teachers.”

And of course, he also paid homage to the Hindu gods.

The reverence for elders was unmistakable. The ritual reinforced the values of filial piety for one’s parents and teachers. At that instant, I realised that praying was more than asking for favours and protection. It was also a moment of gratitude for the people who had loved and supported us in our lives. I was touched.

There was, however, just one part about the ritual that I had second thoughts. I always have a weak stomach for Indian food. Still, out of respect, I swallowed the some milky liquid with raw leaves that was supposed to bring me and my family bliss and happiness.

(Video above: The priest insisted that I ate everything on my palm, which was worrying because I had absolutely no idea of what it was. It tasted like a mixture made of condensed milk and peppermint leaves, added with some flowers and pebbles. Luckily, the pebbles were not meant to be eaten (laughs). )

In my mind, I was thinking, ” Oh no… I am going to get the runs later…” Surprisingly, nothing happened. I am all well and healthy. God bless.

William W.K. Tan

04 May 2018

Friday

11:00 pm

042 When You Pushed Yourself Too Hard, Time To Learn How To Do It Right

  • When everything is all about work, work and work…

April was a month all about work, work and work. In the first week, I conducted a 3-day-workshop for participants from various countries. In the second week, I spent an entire week in another country giving on-the-job training to my younger colleagues. In the third week, I participated as an observer in an intensive staff training camp in Indonesia. By the end of these three weeks, I succumbed to viral infection. Fever erupted, throat inflamed and cough persisted. Even so, it was not the time to rest. I had to return to work in order to complete a speech-writing assignment that I promised. The entire month had been spent on rushing to finish one task after another.

  • My Mistake: Pushing Myself At The Expense Of Health

The moment I submitted my final assignment, I felt as if the last ounce of energy in me had been depleted. In the subsequent three days, I slept heavily like a log, turning in as early as 9 pm, and only to wake up at 7 am. I was no longer feeling sickly after three days of medication but my body was phlegmatic and aching. And my energy level dropped to its lowest point in the entire month.

While I had gained tremendous satisfaction from overcoming challenges at work, I knew I was carried away by the adrenaline of work success. My mistake: I had pushed myself at the expense of health. To make things worse, I was not alone to suffer a deterioration of health, my children were not spared from the viral infection. Feeling remorse, I made two rules for myself from now onwards:

Rule One: Stay healthy with adequate sleep, food and exercise no matter how busy it gets.

Rule Two: Stay away from my loved ones at the earliest signs of health problems.

  • Learn to do things in moderation through gardening

Setting rules alone is not sufficient. I know that doing things in moderation is something important that I need to learn quickly. Gardening, a new hobby that I recently picked up, seems to be the ideal hobby to train patience.

The hobby began slightly more than a month ago when I started bringing home flowers that were routinely discarded in the office when a new floral arrangement arrived. This was how it looked when I started in late March.

Three weeks later, I did a little upgrading and this was how it looked in mid April.

Then this afternoon, I took some time to tend to these beautiful orchids, look at how much they have grown!

Little by little, I am beginning to appreciate the beauty of making things work in their natural pace. Neither in accordance to my pace, nor follow the pace set by others.

William W K Tan

28 April 2018

Saturday, 9: 45 pm

041 Seize Every Opportunity To Enjoy The Simple Things In Life @ Bandung, Indonesia

  • An Intensive Training Camp

Last week’s topic was about finding joy from work itself. This week is about finding simple joys of life in between and outside of work.

My work this week: be an observer of a 3-day-2-night staff training camp held in Bandung, the capital of West Java province in Indonesia. Sounds easy to be an observer, eh? Not really, not when the language was foreign and words were sometimes lost in translation. And it was a test of both physical and mental strengths. For two consecutive nights, I had to stay up till 2 a.m.

(Picture on the left: It was already quarter past one am, yet there was no sign of ending…)

The training was designed to broaden the perspectives of nearly 50 education consultants with the aim of enhancing the quality of their consultation to teachers. Focusing on a selected education Centre under our flagship in the area, the participants analysed data ranging from area demographics, classroom management to students’ study situation. Then they visited the Centre and even went to its nearby schools and kindergartens to interview parents. In the evening, they shared and discussed the information gathered till the wee hours. I marvelled at their dedication and enthusiasm.

(Picture on the right: Parents waiting for their children in a school compound…just the right time to make conversations.)

Clearly, the training approach was very successful in broadening perspectives and fostering a strong sense of camaraderie among the participants. That, I think, must be credited to the high level of commitment of their leaders, right from the highest echelons, who were constantly encouraging the participants.

Over the 3 days, I made constant comparisons in my mind between this training which was aimed at broadening perspectives and the training I conducted last week that was aimed at deepening understanding (041: Joy From Work Struggles). I must say, precious lessons were learnt. My conclusion is, whatever the approach, the real measure of success is whether it brings about a real change in the mindset and skills in people to deliver concrete results.

You may be wondering by now, given the hectic training schedule, how did I manage to find time to enjoy the simple things in life? Well, that depends on how much you want to enjoy work and life. Opportunities to discover joy in life abound, as long as you remain curious.

Opportunity (1): Cosplay @ Jalan Asia Afrika

On the first day, on my way to lunch along the street of Jalan Asia Afrika, I chanced upon some interesting cosplay characters: The Incredible Hulk, Transformers and Iron Man.

And if you are not someone who is easily put off by scary characters cosplay, here are some out-of-this-world beings from the horror realms.

I am impressed by the tolerant brand of Islam practised in Indonesia. It allows young people to showcase themselves in such bold expressions. These young people, in turn, are ingenuous enough to turn it into pocket-money earning art that attracts tourists and local people to pay them a nominal fee for taking pictures together. And they don’t take a cent from curious onlookers who are taking pictures from a near distance.

Opportunity (2): Interesting Street Sights

Adding to the charm on the streets of Bandung were the horse carriages picking up passengers on the roads

Also, as I walked along the streets of residential area with the participants, I was drawn by the lively mood of street hawkers and children.

(Picture above: A hawker making surabi, a famous Indonesian pancake that is made from flour and shredded coconut.)

(Picture above: Children bursting out of their classrooms with smiles when the school bell rang.)

Opportunity (3): An Enchanting Villa- Stay Experience

For ease of bonding and late-night discussions, everyone stayed at the Resor Dago Pakar, which is made up of a long thread of beautifully-built villas along the hilly and breezy region of Dago, north of Bandung,

As we had to move out for work from 8 am, I made time by waking up at 6.30 am to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery.

The stay was pleasant with clean, comfortable beds and amenities. Too bad the experience was marred by the intrusion of winged insects that swarmed around the ceiling lights in our bedrooms after a sudden bout of rain on the first night. Strangely, these insects died quickly and fell all over the beds and floor.

We kept all windows and balcony doors tightly shut the next day. Sure enough, these short-lived creatures did not appear because it did not rain on the second night.

Opportunity (4): At The Airport

Even when I was departing at the airport, I did not squander the final opportunity: a picture of me posing in front of the plane.

Being able to capture this shot brought back much nostalgia of the yesteryear before aerobridges appear.

Seize every opportunity to enjoy the simple things in life, my family and friends.

William W.K Tan

22 April 2018, Sunday

8:32 pm

040 The Joy Of Work Struggles

  • Is Your Work Enjoyable Enough That Struggles Become Learning Opportunities?

I am now penning down my thoughts on a return flight from a neighbouring country. After five consecutive days of hectic work, I can feel lethargy slipping into my bones the moment I sit down in the plane. Yet, strangely, I remain high-spirited as I recollect in amazement the emotional dramas that were played out over the week.

  • Opportunities Are Often Dressed Up As Struggles

The work was cut out for me before I arrived on Monday — to show newbies (between 1.5 to 2-year work experience) the ropes of providing effective consultation to teachers who are far more experienced.

Fortunately for me, I have aged with enough maturity to know that it was not a chance to showcase myself, but an opportunity for my younger colleagues to shine at work. Opportunities, however, are often dressed up as struggles. They have no choice but to grow through struggles.

  • A Week Of Tears & Laughters

I knew it would be a gruelling week ahead for them. Sure enough, a serious-minded trainee D became so nervous about meeting my high expectations that her face turned ashen and her body stiffened. Another trainee M, a vivacious gal broke into tears when she started having doubts about her bulldozer’s way of working with her teachers. And the third trainee, Z, a young man with a happy-go-lucky attitude almost buckled under pressure when forced into a “do-or-quit” situation. It was only at the end of the week that they gleefully told me how much they didn’t want me to come initially. Now, they could tell me candidly how they felt.

Different emotions come into play when people are faced with a struggle that they are unsure how to navigate through. And it was my responsibility to make sure that the gain would be worth their pain.

  • A Challenge Is Only A Problem In Our Minds

From the start, I could tell D was having doubts in her capabilities as an education consultant. Despite her best efforts, D had difficulty in helping an amicable teacher, Ms G make sustainable improvements to her classroom situation. Quietly, D was blaming herself for not being good enough in her work. And she assuaged her sense of inadequacy by being more hardworking and self-critical than others.

Unknowingly, D focused mostly on the negatives than positives in her work. Her joy from work was often short-lived, as she quickly turned her attention to more problems.

This week became a major turning point for D when she prepared herself to cleverly use the strengths of both the student and teacher to achieve the outcome she really wanted. Her consultation was so encouraging and student-focused that it motivated Ms. G to share even more with her after the consultation.

D was liberated by the change in the way she viewed her problems. Sometimes, a challenge is nothing more than a problem in our minds. By changing the way we view problem, we can find better answers.

  • The Answer To Our Problems Rests Squarely On Us

M’s challenge was quite the opposite. M knew exactly what she was doing and the fastest way to get things done. She was beaming with confidence even as she spoke about her exasperation in dealing with people who are slower-paced and less goal-oriented. Her confidence was shaken only after she started to realise that the person who seriously needed to change was none other than herself.

This time, M departed from her test-proven approach of “I’ll tell you what to do”, and came up with a new idea of “I’ll ask and you’ll answer”. Before she could try her new idea, M quickly realised that Ms L, a good natured young teacher, was most likely to become tongue-tied. Almost immediately, M modified her approach and focused solely to engage Ms L in a conversation about the students’ before-and-after performance over six months.

The outcome was splendid! Ms L spoke animatedly about her students’ changes, and reflected on how little she shared her joy with students, parents and her work partners. This laid the ground for M to work with Ms L on communication with parents and students from now onwards.

Most crucially, M’s heart melted when Ms L expressed her appreciation for the things M had done for her this far. M reflected, “I know everything about Ms L, but I never understood her: her real feelings towards students. And I felt very touched that she appreciated me because she is not someone who thanks easily.”

Very often, we think we know someone, but we don’t. The answer to our problems with others often rests squarely on ourselves. Do we make enough efforts to feel and understand others who are so different from us?

  • The Precious Lesson Of Learning From Others

It was difficult not to like Z. He is a really nice chap. Even after he felt hurt by my stinging remarks, he came to me saying that he appreciated that I said and did everything for his good.

Yet, time and again, Z could not rise up to the tasks he was given. Whether they were questions on student observations, content expertise or communication skills, things that are expected of any 2-year-staff, Z fumbled in his answers. The only consolation was he did not quit: he just blanked out.

It became clear to me that Z’s brain has a circuit breaker to protect him from being overwhelmed with stress. I decided that Z needed bite-sized, intensive hands-on training in order to learn effectively. And he would grow well with tough love: affection and discipline.

But time was running out. Z had chosen a seemingly impossible task to provide consultation to a veteran and successful teacher, Ms J. Even his more experienced colleagues felt inadequate to support Ms J themselves. What do they have to offer to someone more experienced and competent than themselves?

Well, the consultation session turned out to be an eye-opener for everyone. Ms J was delighted that the discussion centred on helping her students enjoy Math, using real-life video footages to analyse areas of improvement. After the discussion, Ms J enjoyed a teacher-and-student role-play with Z so much that she smiled and said, ” Z, please come to my classroom to do this with me.” Ms. J saw the possibility of Z working with her to refine her preschool instructional skills.

Z had done the impossible! His humility and preparation had paid off.

In that instant, everyone learnt a precious lesson: it is not how much you know, but how genuine you are to learn. An experienced and excellent teacher is willing to work with you with long as the you are genuinely eager to learn together.

*****************************************

Special Thanks

Finally, a big thank you to the three young colleagues who demonstrated how much sincerity and courage were needed to face challenges. I have been much energised by you!

I am also grateful to the more experienced colleagues who stepped up to assist the young ones to meet the challenges. Without you, the results would not be as fruitful. You were role models!

Most importantly, I am most thankful to our wonderful teachers who have shown us how improving ourselves to bring smiles and growth to children is the only way to enjoy our work in the education industry.

And depending on your personal satisfaction level, you should thank or blame your boss for inviting me to conduct this training for you. I hope that I have helped you all to experience work struggles in an enjoyable way. But I’d take no responsibility for any collateral damage done. (laughs)

Just brace yourself for the next training.

William W. K Tan

13-15 April 2018

(Started writing on 13 April, Friday and completed the article on 15 April, Sunday)

038 To Live Longer, Enjoy Work A Little More

I have long discovered that skilful performance at work is a great source of happiness. This week, I would like to share a personal experience about discovering joy from work.

  • Ready Or Not, The Heat Was On!

My voice was broadcast via the FM radio waves four days ago. It was supposedly a 10-minute interview strictly based on pre-determined questions. Nothing to be worried about. I was constantly reassured prior to accepting the interview.

But it turned out to be an exhilarating 20-minute-conversation that was totally un-cuffed from the onset. Just minutes before stepping into the studio, the affable DJ said,

“I am thinking of taking this angle for our conversation. Tell us about the onslaught of technology on education. And how your company stays relevant with all these changes.”

Great questions. The only problem was I had no answers on the spot. Time to think on my feet quickly. Ready or not, the heat was on.

  • A Triumph Over Personal Shortcomings

More questions came fast and furious. Thankfully, my thoughts flowed logically and words came out coherently. At the end of the interview, my mind blanked out like a flattened battery.

Throughout the interview, friends and family were cheering for my better-than-expected performance.

I decided that the clear-headed thing to do was to listen to the recording carefully myself. Be my own critic. Not surprising, I found problems: traces of Chinese accent, pronunciation errors and awkward pauses.

A good friend and the best English teacher I know, Christina Yee who often corrects my English at my request, was delightfully candid in her comments,

“You sounded composed and confident. Diction was clear too. (But) there were grammatical errors. As for pronunciation, since you’re in the education business, there is one word, you must get it right. Children is to be read with a “d” sound, and not to be pronounced as chilren.”

That was exactly the kind of feedback I needed most. I am not someone easily embarrassed by mistakes. I had experienced more embarrassing moments.

Another friend Jessie reminded me of the problems I had with the sounds of “l” and “r”. Seven years ago, when I asked students to clap for others in an award ceremony, it sounded just like I was saying, “Crab, please.” Oh no! (laughs).

Nonetheless, I have found great satisfaction in this triumph over my flawed spoken English. Finally, I did it!

  • Joy At Work Comes From People Who Mattered

Preoccupation with my short-coming, however, created unnecessary anxiety that almost distracted me from focusing on what’s truly important. What mattered most was for who and what I had to say.

That was the sound advice from a friendly neighbour Gillian whom I spoke with at the gym a day before the interview. Citing an example of a pastor who is less-proficient in spoken English but wins over his congregation with clear messages delivered with conviction, Gillian cleared the clouds in my mind.

Taking her advice, I cast my misgivings aside and focused at organising my thoughts in concise words, which paid off handsomely in the end.

A big thank you to my supportive friends and families. Special thanks also go to those at the workplace who have helped make this interview a success! I feel so blessed to be in the company of so many wonderful people! And the feeling of continuous self-improvement because of so many people is simply great!

William W.K. Tan

31 March 2018, Saturday

11:00 pm