3 Business Tips I Learnt From My Kids

There’s a whole lot my kids have taught me, and it’s not just about being more patient, or not yelling or learning to put them first, by sacrificing the last bite of cheesecake (and a gazillion hours of sleep). I’ve found that if I pay enough attention, the lessons I learned are highly applicable to my professional life too.

Tip #1: Accept & Embrace The Mess 

As a working mother, I work my life around my family and try my best to do that sometimes insane juggling act that seriously, sets even the best of us up for failure. And what’s more, I have tried to keep my professional life separate from my family life and try to kinda live my life in separate blocks. This big yellow one is for work. The red one is for my husband. Blue one is for my son. Pink one for daughter #1 and purple one for daughter #2. And none of them touch.

While that works to a certain extent, it doesn’t account for the spillover effect. The Spillover Effect. Yeah, because Life Is Messy and the gods of all that is chaotic tend to like to conspire to make life more interesting.

Just.

For.

Kicks.

So instead of just getting frustrated that my day is not going according to schedule and getting upset that the kids are taking too long to [insert task here], I have decided to accept and embrace the mess instead of fighting it.

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My son loves his blue sneakers (in the photo above) and always wants to wear them. But he takes a really long time (by adult standards) to put them on, well, because he’s 5. Instead of telling him to hurry up and scolding him for his choice of footwear because he is making everyone late, and in the process upsetting him and myself and giving everyone an unpleasant start to the day, I have suggested that he start putting on his shoes 5 minutes before everyone else does.

Because it is in accepting and embracing the situation as is, that I can figure my way out with much better outcomes, with a less stressed out Mummy and a happier kid (because Mummy is not yelling in frustration).

I have found that whether at my job or any venture that I might explore, it is pointless to wish something were a certain way when it is not. Try as I might, I can’t change people, nor can I change some situations. The sooner I accept and embrace the reality, the easier it would be to make a plan and meander through it with the best results possible.

Tip #2: Lego Blocks Should Be Part of Every Job Interview 

If you want to find out the type of person you are hiring, get them to build something out of Lego blocks. The idea is not really in what they end up building, but to observe their thought processes and questions they ask.

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When my kids and I play with Lego, it’s always intriguing to me at how they express themselves with this platform. My son, the fixer, step-by-step doer and perfectionist, would look at the pictures on the Lego box or in the booklet (if there is one) to replicate what he so desires. He is to-the-point and systematic. If he doesn’t know how to fix it, he tries to troubleshoot but gives up sometimes too soon because the perfectionist in him does not like to attempt tasks he thinks he is not good at. He doesn’t like to ask for help.

Daughter #1 on the other hand, is the imaginative and creative one who colours within and outside the lines, sees what she wants to build in her mind and just starts building (because who cares about instructions?!). Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes she screams in frustration because something is not going her way or a Lego block won’t clutch the way she wants it to. But she asks for help and figures it out in the end.

Of course, what and how the interviewee builds may not be an all-conclusive measure of how this person may be a great fit or useful for a particular role in an organisation, but I think it would be a good overview.

Tip #3: Savour the Highs and Use Them To Power Through the Lows 

Life can be Tough. So can parenting, and work.

I love my kids to the moon and back, and being their Mum has brought me through Super Highs and Super Lows. When I watched my babies learn to roll over, or walk, or when they first said “Mama”, or when my two year old does her Happy Dance. It’s like sunshine on my face and warm soup in my tummy. It is heartwarming and nourishing.

Then there’s the yucky part of parenting, when I’m surviving on 2 hours of sleep because someone got sick, or the babies had to be fed in the middle of the night, or all the kids decide to start fighting and yelling when you’re trying to do something. Those are the times when parenting feels like another job that I have to take care of and it feels like absolute drudgery.

I used to think that when good things happen, I shouldn’t celebrate too much, because when bad things happen, then the fall will be so much harder. But I’ve realised that the good and bad are just part of Life, like they are part of work and business.

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The best way isn’t to not celebrate the highs, or to wish the lows away. But to celebrate these highs and remember them as much as possible, to build up a bank of confidence in my own abilities and a positive mindset so that I will be able to take on the lows with decisive action, drive and tenacity.

 

 

 

5 Things I Learned from Randi Zuckerberg

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Randi Zuckerberg is the Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, Creator of Dot Complicated and Former Director of Market Development & Spokesperson of Facebook.

Randi was not at all how I imagined her to be when I met her.

I half expected a professional, hardened, power-talking persona, and maybe she would be a little cold and standoffish, but she was none of those things.

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She’s got to be one of my favourite Supermamapreneurs because she is so down-to-earth and warm. She’s smart and immensely funny, and she doesn’t possess that arrogance that some super successful people have.

Here’s 5 things that I’ve learnt from her:

Lesson 1: Don’t let your height get to your head, and negativity get to your heart

When Mark first started Facebook, he was just 18 years old and people were mean and called him the toddler CEO. Even though he does have a thick skin, (and I guess you would have to develop that if you’re him), sometimes it was hard to not let comments like this get to him. Someone passed some advice to Randi, which she shared with him – You’re never as bad as they say, and never as good as they say, so don’t let your height get to your head, and negativity get to your heart.

Lesson 2: Her Secret to being a Supermamapreneur — Work, Sleep, Fitness, Family, Friends – Pick 3 Only 

To juggle her life and make it work, she gives herself permission to not have to do everything all at once. Each day, just pick 3, and everyday can be different. See, this is actually the secret of being super – we don’t have to try to do everything at once, and I think we have to learn to stop pressuring ourselves to be everything to everyone too. It’s just not sustainable.

Lesson 3: It doesn’t matter if you get 4000 “Nos”. You just need 1 “YES!” 

In 2007,  she wanted to give Facebook some credibility by getting involved in the U.S. Presidential campaigns, and to show that Facebook is also a serious place for discourse. She called so many campaigns and got turned down many, many times. The only one who said “yes” from the start was the Obama campaign (and look how that turned out!).

Lesson 4: Don’t go into business with your best friend.

If you’re best friends, chances are you both are quite alike. Having differences is the only reason why she and Mark could work together so well for so long. They would work on different areas of the business and not step on each others toes. So in business, pick someone opposite of you for best results.

Lesson 5: Money just amplifies what’s already in you. 

When asked how money has changed her life, she says she still lives a very simple life, and lives the way she did before. In her experience, money doesn’t change people. It just amplifies what is already inside of you. So if you are insecure, money will make you crazy insecure. If you’re an asshole, money will make you a crazy asshole!

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Love her yet? 🙂

Millionaire Mentor: George Ross, Trump Organisation, The Apprentice Judge

How To Transition from Law To Business

So I had the pleasure of interviewing George Ross, Donald Trump’s Right Hand Man and Chief Legal Counsel of the Trump Organisation (for 42 years!).

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He was also a judge on The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. Yeah, he’s the guy on the left.

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I can’t imagine how much experience he has, but I thought I’d take the chance to find out his thoughts on transitioning from law to business.

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To all my lawyer friends, don’t say don’t have!

To be honest, he doesn’t say anything groundbreaking, but it’s good to know you’re on the right track if you’re doing what he says you should since he’s done it before.

First steps to transitioning from law to business

Overcoming the fear or apprehension in transitioning from law to business

 

 

 

Getaway: Mama & Allegra Go To Cassia, Bintan, Indonesia

So baby girl no. 1 and I got the chance to try out Banyan Tree’s new hotel, Cassia in Bintan, Indonesia.

It was a chance to relax and bond with each other. I mean, it really isn’t often that I get to spend 3 days with her alone. And she doesn’t get mama all to herself for that long either.

We took the ferry across and luckily she didn’t get seasick. She already got car sick in the taxi on the way to the Tanah Merah ferry terminal and threw up all over herself 😦 I had to wash her in the ladies room at the ferry terminal and was appalled that there was no soap in the soap dispensers. The place was also quite dirty by Singapore standards. (Don’t we usually have better service at checkpoints such as these so we give tourists a good impression? Or we want to force people to buy soap from the overpriced shops just outside the restrooms? A discussion for another post!)

She enjoyed munching on snacks and took a nap. It’s nice to be rocked to sleep sometimes 😀

I didn’t really know what to expect at Cassia. At the time when we went, there wasn’t too much info online about it since it was a new hotel.  Its concept is pretty cool and targeted at a younger audience. It’s tempting to say “Milennials” but that’s not entirely true either. I would say 25-45, young adults and young families, plus the young at heart. Its apartment hotel concept gives it a casual vibe, but true to Banyan Tree standards, it is still immaculately styled to envelope guests a level of luxury that is relatable, welcoming and exciting.

We were greeted by enthusiastic staff who tried to get us to dance our way into the lobby. (Singaporeans are not very excitable. Not without alcohol at least hurhur). When we got there, we were greeted with bright colours, Latin chill music, the view of the infinity pool inhabited by unicorn, flamingo and swan floats and of course, the beach.

 

 

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Pondering unicorns.

Cassia is built right next to the other Banyan Tree hotels. Right next to Cassia is Angsana, which is right next to Banyan Tree so these other properties are just a walk or a buggy ride away. Guests at Cassia are welcomed at Angsana and Banyan Tree too.

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We went to Angsana’s Lotus Cafe for lunch and they served delicious Indonesian food. We loved that we’re served kerupuk (deep fried crackers) before each meal!

We were put in a one-bedroom apartment on the 5th floor. It had a lot of light, and was quite comfortable.

The great thing about Cassia is that there’s an equipped kitchen for you to make your own meals.

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They had all the toiletries you’d need. But at the time we went, they didn’t have combs, so you might have to bring your own. I just used my hands 😀

 

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Queen-sized bed
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View from our balcony.

 

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She only wanted to ride on the “pink one”.
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Little lady

This was essentially how we spent our holiday – at the beach, building sand castles, watching the waves, dipping in the water. Bliss.

Well, until I tried to get Allegra to sit with me in the water. She dropped her sunglasses into the waves and I had to look for it, and in the mean time, she ran all the way back onto the dry sand by herself because she was scared of the waves! Luckily, the water was clear so it didn’t take me long to locate her sunglasses whilst keeping an eye on her as she ran away from the water.

Haiyo.

For some reason, I thought building sandcastles was going to be easy but I was so very wrong. Too much water, and you get a sticky mess. Too little water, nothing stays up. The balance of wet and dry sand has to be perfect.

 

The entrepreneur in me can’t ignore the lesson here. In a lot of things in business, nobody has the answers. You just have to come up with what seems like the most logical and balanced strategy and try it out. If it doesn’t work, tweak and try again. If I had the luxury of time and money to keep a business going while it is still not self-sustaining, then there would be many chances to try until I got it right. But very often, time and money are scarce resources and there are limited chances.

The next day, we went to visit Banyan Tree’s Tree Tops Restaurant and there was a pool there too. The little girl insisted on swimming in this pool once she saw it. Seriously, do you remember the commotion about Marina Bay Sands’ infinity pool when it opened? That’s nothing compared to this ocean view. The OCEAN. This pool might be a lot smaller, but I prefer it. It’s surrounded by the ocean and trees and this combination makes it a lot easier to relax.

 

Also, the food at Tree Tops Restaurant will make you fall in love with Indonesian food. If the food at Lotus Cafe was delicious, the food at Tree Tops knocked it out of the park!

2 types of kerupuk and 6 different sambals for appetizers. Then, satay, nasi goreng, beef ribs, and kueh kueh for dessert. I tried their tasting menu too and it was all. so. good. So good that I had to bring some home for the husband!

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3 going on 13!?

Baby Sea Turtle Send Off

So this was the highlight of our trip: the turtle send off! As part of Banyan Tree’s conservation efforts, they collect sea turtle eggs to prevent predators (including humans) from eating them up. These baby turtles are hatched in their hatchery and released at 3 months old back into the sea to give them a better chance at survival.

 

We were very lucky to be there when Claire was there. After the turtle send off, we had cocktails on the roof of the lobby building, and then went for a barbecue dinner with some of my new entrepreneur friends!

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Cassia is beautiful at night. Notice the apartment blocks are built on a hill? The gentle hill creates a natural amphitheatre. Claire mentioned that they might have performances at the foot of the hill and guests can sit down on the grass to watch or watch from their apartment balconies.
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Thanks Claire for the experience! (or “婆婆 Claire” to Allegra).
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New friends!

My dear Allegra,

I don’t know if you’ll remember this trip, but I do hope you remember some of it at least. We had so much fun and I’m glad I got to know you more. You’re so funny, charming, thoughtful and loving. You love to chat, learn, play and you’re so creative. A natural out-of-the-box thinker.

I hope you’ll always be confident in who you are, even when you don’t exactly fit the mould, especially when it comes to traditional learning methods in school. I already know that the Singapore school system will be tough for you, not because you’re not smart, but because the system is set up in a way that will not bring the best out in someone like you. 

But don’t fret, Mummy and Daddy will always be here for you. We will support you when it is tough and celebrate with you in your triumphs. We will fight to create a better future for you. 

I hope you’ll always feel safe with Mummy and Daddy and that even when we have our epic battles in the future, you can always count on us to be there for you.

I hope I will be a good example for you, as a woman, daughter, wife and mother. And most of all, I hope that by being and believing in who I am, you will also find the courage to be who you are. 

I don’t know when we’ll have a chance to holiday alone like this in the future, but I’m looking forward to it anyway!

Love, 

Mama 

 

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Stay cool with Cassia!

Perhaps if we are lucky enough, both the husband and I will get a chance to holiday with each kid alone at different times in their lives.

After all, they are only small once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017

The Year of Change

 

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Being an entrepreneur is not just about what a person does for a living. It is a mindset and a way of thinking – an approach to life.

And sometimes, while you’re figuring things out, you have to make certain changes to fulfil existing responsibilities because life doesn’t stop.

So this year, I’ve decided to close the door on the health supplement and skin care business that I’ve been in for the past 6 years because a change is long overdue.

I’m getting a job while my entrepreneurial activities take a back seat – for now. The thing about being an entrepreneur is this: your mind never really switches off from it. There are always enterprising ideas and questions you ask yourself when you look at different businesses, like “Is this shop really making money selling just this? I wonder what their margins are? This bubble tea thing is not going away!”

I feel like the past 6 years of my life have been a kind of baptism in business by fire. As a lawyer, your knowledge about business is limited, even if you are a corporate lawyer. Your job is to protect your client’s interests, and to document, document and document.

As a business person, your job is profitability. It doesn’t look like a big word, but in many businesses, it can be illusive, even with huge revenues. You can come up with the most creative ideas, but if your numbers still say you’re in the red after your best perceived marketing efforts, then you have failed.

And yes, it can be extremely brutal.

But this is how you become resilient. And this resilience in business, somehow is transferrable to other areas of life.

While I am focusing on getting a job, I’m still doing the things I like to do like spending time with my family, my new Treaterrific! lifestyle hobby business, contributing to women’s empowerment and volunteering where I can (because everyone needs hobbies!).

I’m keeping my inner circle tight and kicking out the trash.

2017 for me, is about change.

Because how we change is how we succeed.

 

Mr. Lim Siong Guan, Former Group President of Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC)

Interview with an Industry Rockstar

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If you have ever Mr. Lim Siong Guan, you’d be staggered by his *amazing* CV. Click here for his wikipedia page. I got to interview this figurative giant of a man during one of our Intelligent Millionaire Network meetings and I have to say he didn’t disappoint.

It was great to hear insights from someone who used to work closely with the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and to see the world from his perspective, given his vast experience as the top man in verybigcorporations.

Here are 3 videos, enjoy!

Video 1: How To Manage Energy & Overcoming Biggest Challenges

 

Video 2: Quick Tips on How to 1) Establish Rapport with People 2) Quickly Gain Insights on Where an Organisation is and 3) Implement Changes

 

Video 3: Keys to Success for Business and Personal Development

Kids: Kaius & McDonald’s 

Me: OK kids, nap time! Go lie down and I’ll go get my book. 

Kaius: You mean your McDonald’s book? 

Me: (amused) How did you know it’s a McDonald’s book? 

Kaius: Because I saw the McDonald’s sign and I was reading it just now. 

Wow. My son is a lot more observant than I give him credit for and he’s growing up fast. 

How can I not fight to be a good example for him? 

Kaius with Grinding It Out. The Making of McDonald’s by American businessman Ray Kroc. He was responsible for making McDonald’s into the world’s most iconic fast-food brand. 

I Scored 207 for PSLE; I Still Became a Lawyer.

You decide your future.

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I’ll never forget the day I went to collect my PSLE* results.

I walked up to my form teacher nervously. She looked at me with disappointment, shook her head and said,”You could have done so much better.”

Those words burned into my head.

(This is the same teacher who did nothing but tell my whole class that we girls were “so complacent and so conceited” throughout the year. Maybe we were, maybe we weren’t, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the right way to motivate a bunch of 12 year old girls. But I digress…)

Of course, there was the mass comparisons of PSLE results happening around the school hall, but not on a scale as large as now, what with the availability of social media.

I remembered feeling upset, thinking I was stupid.

And I felt worth less.

I carried these feelings with me for a long time. Always an invisible barrier to the success that I wanted.

Ok, let me first take responsibility for my results first. Did I study hard? No, I’ll be the first to admit. But I was busy enjoying my childhood. I was busy playing, learning, asking questions and laughing.

I had a happy childhood.

But my point is – it didn’t matter that I was doing so well in other areas. I was netball captain. I was a school prefect. I did all sorts of creative stuff like putting up the P6 concert and participating in our 150th anniversary concert.

All it came down to was 3 numbers at the end of my primary school endeavours.

I was placed in Express stream in St. Margaret’s Secondary School. Went to Nanyang Polytechnic to get my business diploma. Went to Curtin University and obtained my business degree with distinction. Then completed my education with a law degree from NUS. And finally, got called to the Singapore Bar.

I managed to achieve my dream of becoming a lawyer with sheer determination and my family’s support.

I am married to a wonderful man, and we have 3 beautiful children.

Standing where I am now, I really feel for the kids who are considered “low PSLE scorers” and labeled as such. I feel their own disappointment at their results, and even worse, their parents’ disappointment at their results.

As a kid, the worst thing to me was to disappoint my parents. (I actually don’t remember my parents saying anything, they probably felt sad with me. But I remember my grandmother’s disappointment.)

 

Why do we need to place kids in boxes and categorise them as “high achievers” and “low achievers” at such a young age?

Isn’t it more important to ignite curiosity in a child and to let him/her discover who they are and what they are good at? Isn’t it more important to equip children with the right tools to survive and thrive, which includes a strong sense of self-worth and self-confidence? Isn’t it more important to let the child know that he/she is loved completely whether they do well or badly in school?

Instead of crushing their confidence and dreams so early on and allowing them to think they are not as smart or as good as someone who did better than them when that is complete and utter bullshit.

My children are all under 5 years old at the moment. And I am dreading putting them through the local primary school system because it might not develop all my children to their fullest potentials. They are all different. Some might thrive under this system, some might not.

Don’t get me wrong, as a type A personality, I am all for the spirit of competition and doing well and I encourage it.

But not at the expense of my kid’s self belief in his/her own abilities because I have learnt without self-belief and confidence, there is nothing.

*For my non-Singaporean friends, PSLE stands for “Primary School Leaving Examination”. It’s a huge exam which streams kids into different categories for Secondary School/High School at 12 years old. And their academic talents are nurtured accordingly from then on.

GIRL TALK: Penny Low, Founder, Social Innovation Park

Why CSR and Social Innovation is Everyone’s Business

So in September, I attended the CSR and the Social Innovators Forum.

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I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised when I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Penny Low, founder of Social Innovation Park, an impartial, not-for-profit organisation based in Singapore that incubates social entrepreneurs worldwide to bring positive innovations to lives and societies.

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Excerpt taken from Social Innovation Park’s book Top 50 Social Innovations Changing Our World.

Of course, the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, lent some star power mega star power to the event.

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I had never thought about Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Innovation prior to this, despite being in business for the past 5 years. Mainly because I had always had the impression of it being something that only applied to large corporates because of the extent of their influence.

But, at this forum, I learnt quite the opposite. CSR and Social Innovation is everyone’s responsibility. And to make any significant kind of change, efforts have to be made from the “ground up”. This means the responsibility is yours and mine.

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CSR and Social Innovation can be as simple as participating in Food Bank initiatives.
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Like this Food Bank Project X-pired –  Converting Food into Fashion!
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Me and Penny

Find out more about the inspiration behind Social Innovation Park and what entrepreneurs can do to contribute to this cause, watch my interview with Penny here: