Friday, October 31, 2008

Loghandran Impresses


One of the rewards of teaching is to get to know people. And I have been really fortunate to have taught many, many students, and it is true that many became good friends. This photo (thank you, Kelvin!) shows my University of East London students, who did International Marketing under my tutelage recently, and now, I too, can count on them as friends. Aren’t I blessed?

Pure joy is how I would describe Liverpool’s winning match against Portsmouth (Gerrard’s 76th minute penalty), thereby cementing the former’s top placing in the English Premier League table. The Gunners, however, only managed a 4-4 result against Tottenham; Arsenal's goals coming from Silvestre, Gallas, Adebayor, and Van Persie. I didn't get to watch any of the said matches, but I was praying that my favorite English teams would continue to do well, and they did! The next challenge is when Liverpool plays with Spurs in the wee early hours of Sunday morning (Malaysian time, that is), and Arsenal plays Stoke 2-and-a-half hours earlier. Believe me, Liverpool's fortune this season will be one thrilling rollercoaster ride - I just hope my heart can take it!

DTM Loghandran came to HICT today, and he literally blew me away. His "Domestic Driven World Class" seminar was awesome! He was even better than when I heard him previously at the WIM because he now inspires me! And I am sure he did the same to the small audience that turned up as well. Mark Twain once said that "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover". I think I am going to do just as he advised... And the talk by Loghandran yesterday represents a first step. Didn't Martin Luther King Jr. also ask us to "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step"? My only regret is that not all HICT Toastmasters turned up, which goes to show that they don't know what they are missing! Loghandran has reinforced the message that if we believe in ourselves, we can make it to the top! I believe, and I want to start that journey... and what is more comforting is that I am not alone. At least, I hope not alone!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Aisha's Gift

I was totally glued to the Liverpool-Chelsea encounter that I missed commenting on the Arsenal game as well - the Gunners being the other English team that I am rooting for. Arsenal came through this match with a 2-0 score against West Ham; the goals coming from Adebayor and an own goal by Faubert. And today, the matches pitting Liverpool against Portsmouth, and Arsenal against Tottenham will prove to be interesting too.
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I had a very nice surprise yesterday. Aisha came to see me and presented me with a cute orangey-red-cover book called "The Little Book of One Liners". Great, just what I needed because it contains little gems of what else but one liners, that I will definitely use. Thank you again, Aisha - it was very sweet of you. Like all the books in my collection, I will treasure it!
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I have decided. I will be making my second speech at D'Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club on November 13, and my third speech at HICT Toastmasters Club about 2 weeks after that. And since I sometimes think that I am a wordsmith of sorts, I do hope that I do not become "a sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of (my) own verbosity" - to borrow Benjamin Disraeli's one-liner (of William Gladstone) taken from this book that Aisha gave me. See, how useful this book is?
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This of course reminds me of another quote from Anthony Robbins, which has prompted me to want to complete my 10 speeches before a self-imposed deadline of end-June 2009: "Determination is the wake-up call to the human will". Yes, indeed, Victor Ong has woken up!

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Exciting Weekend of Football


It was a great weekend for football – well, at least, for me, that is. In the Scottish Premier League, Celtic defeated Hibernian 4-2, and in the English Premier League, Liverpool outclassed Chelsea 1-0. I am delighted, I am delirious, I am ecstatic. McManus (32nd minute), Sheridan (36), Loovens (76), and Brown (82) scored for the Bhoys, while Alonso (10) scored for the Reds. In fact, Rafael Benitez described Liverpool’s display as “almost perfect” – and who will dispute this assessment? Both teams are now sitting atop their respective Tables!

Halloween and The Bloody Hell Show

I mentioned last week that this year’s Deepavali is unbelievably quiet. And on Sunday, which is the eve of Deepavali – I made a rather incredible discovery when I dropped by at the One Utama mall, for there was a Halloween display at this popular shopping mall... Obviously, Deepavali has gone AWOL!

Halloween is this Friday, and given my involvement with the American Degree Program students at HICT, there is the “Bloody Hell” show that is being scheduled on this day itself. I am told it will be a grand show, and much credit should be attributed to 3 special people: Pek Kuan, Toh and Brandon (a.k.a. Wee Han) who are the main movers and shakers! Like all these activities, proceeds from ticket sales go to clubs and deserving organizations (in this case, it is MAKNA this time around) – it is very heartening to know that students are indeed, a caring lot. I am really proud of them. My only complaint: HICT staff is not always supportive, although I recognize that there are those who do support the students generously. .Of course, it can also be said that there are students too who don’t give a damn. Sigh. Apathy lurks everywhere… Can I throw them out of the window? Tempting, kan?


As is now the norm, I go through blogs to read up on views expressed by different people on different issues. Today, when we consider the US Government’s bailout of the troubled financial institutions, we too, cannot but think of the Malaysian Government’s bailout antics – MAS and Proton are illuminating examples. Of course, like everybody else, it is easy to conjure up a long list of reasons to justify such foolhardiness, but as I always ask, At what cost?

A blog that caught my attention was one written by Steve Pavlina (http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2008/10/financial-meltdown/), for I find his take on the financial meltdown, very refreshing. I reproduce only one paragraph from his October 02, 2008 posting: “In my opinion it’s best to let some companies crash and burn, even if it creates negative consequences for all of us. It’s better to deal with it now than to put it off to be dealt with another day. A company that bases its operations on something that doesn’t create sustainable value for people might as well crash and burn. It will be best for their employees and stakeholders to find more conscious, fulfilling work anyway. It’s too bad our leaders are such short-term thinkers. Pouring more money into operations that don’t create much value to begin with is a short-term fix that will only lead to a bigger crash later”. It does make sense, does it not?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Wall's Story

Did you know that Friedman (2006:118) wrote that major corporations such as General Electric, monitor and respond daily to what blogs are saying about them? Now, when I read this, it started me thinking, and for some inexplicable reason, my dismal experience with Unilever came to mind. I guess it is something that still rankles and festers in my unforgiving brain.

So, here I am, wondering if Unilever does the same (monitor and respond, I mean) because I have a bone to pick with them. I had ceased to buy and/or consume Wall's products since over 3 years ago because of my unhappy experience with this company. It was a straightforward complaint that I made to this company and over the telephone, their Brand Manager (or at least she claimed to be) volunteered a promise that unfortunately, she did not deliver – much to my chagrin. So, the promise remained unfulfilled, and after a month of waiting, I had resolved to shun Wall's ice cream products, and since that lugubrious day, I had abstained from their products, and instead turned to Nestle, and other brands already available in the Malaysian market. I used the word "lugubrious" because I had been enjoying Wall's products for as long as I can remember – so obviously, to have to give up a familiar brand is not easy at all.

As a customer, a company's promise that is made, is sacrosanct because we are not talking about any other company, but Unilever! In fact, Unilever's corporate purpose (according to its website as at October 23, 2008) mentions about "treating all stakeholders with integrity". And it declares in the same paragraph that "consumers, employees, suppliers, competitors, shareholders… we apply the highest standards of ethics and consideration to all". But of course I beg to differ. Unilever Malaysia, it seems has become so successful that it forgets an individual consumer like me.

I teach Marketing and one concept that I usually introduce right away in my Marketing 101 class is Customer Lifetime Value. To those not acquainted with this concept, simply put, it is "the net present value of the stream of future profits expected over the customer's lifetime purchases" (Kotler & Keller, 2006:142). From a company's point of view, losing a customer means losing more than a single sale. Let me illustrate. My complaint pertains to one box of Wall's Mini Cornetto 12s worth RM6.99 (I purposely went to a hypermarket to check out the price!). Now since I have the habit of buying a box every week, this means that in a year (52 weeks), I would have purchased RM363.48 of Mini Cornettos and if I multiply this by 3 (i.e. 3 years), this value would have shot up to RM1,090.44 - in other words, over a 3 year period, Unilever Malaysia had missed out slightly over RM1,000 because I no longer bought this product. Now, in my lifetime – let's just say, I have another 60 (remaining) years of buying/consuming – then, the total value of my ice cream purchases (assuming that it is just this one ice cream item) comes to a whopping RM21,808.80! For a consumer company, I reckon this is significant, is it not?

Now, I have mentioned earlier that I teach Marketing, so obviously, I am aware too that Unilever has other brands in their impressive stable that includes Clear, Dove, Lipton, and Lady's Choice. These are brands that I have been compelled to give up as well – after all, in today's choice-filled world, we have alternatives such as H&S/Herbal Essences/Kao Merit, Zest/Pears/Camay, Boh/Twinings/Dilmah, and Goober/Smucker/Skippy, just to list 4 varied product categories that I commonly purchase during my monthly shopping adventures. So clearly, Unilever has lost more than just my ice cream custom, and it is evident that this lost business is worth more than just RM21,000. Never mind lah – they are a big and self-important company that will continue to be profitable.

Gosh, I am aware that my readers get to learn Marketing when they peruse my blog – see, this is what I call, a value-added benefit! Now, spread the word, people – for free lessons on Marketing, check out this blog! Honest, this blog is a must-read!

The Art of Blogging

I am still new to this blogging activity, having started just this month. But as I post my reflections, I do feel somehow connected to people everywhere who are blogging. I know this may sound corny, but there is this comforting sense of belonging, knowing that you are part of a blogging community that is vibrant and alive! I am also slowly exploring other blogs and learning much about people out there – it is really engaging and revealing. Blogging is fun, and yes, I am enjoying it!
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I like Friedman's definition of a blog, which he describes as "your own personal virtual soapbox, where you can get up every morning and, in the form of a column or a newsletter or just a screed, tell the world what you think about any subject, upload that content onto your own Web site, and then wait for the world to come check it out" (2006, p 117).
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Just read a text message I received from Chan Siew Peng, who said she enjoyed my Ice Breaker speech! How nice... It makes me feel good inside - I am only human bah. My journey as a Toastmaster has really begun, once I started making my speeches.
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Deepavali is very nearly upon us, but it's kinda strange because it is so quiet, so subdued... There's supposed to be much gaiety and joy to surround us because our Hindu friends are celebrating soon, but... the mood is like the downcast sky that we are seeing every day! No wonder HINDRAF shines brightly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Globalization


Haha, I stumbled upon this photo of me doing my very first Ice Breaker speech, "The Present" when I visited the D'Utama Advanced Toastmasters blog today, and I took the liberty to reproduce the photo of me here! It's not that I am vain or anything but this is for posterity, kan? Anyway, this is the only photo – so be thankful lah! I am!

Lately, I have been reading up on Globalization - after all, it's a very hot topic now. I don't think anyone would disagree that globalization is to be blamed for this scourge that has descended on this unsuspecting(?) world – the financial meltdown that is both crippling and impoverishing companies and people alike. Michel Chossudovsky wrote in http://www.globalresearch.ca/ (posted September 18, 2008) that "the crisis is not limited to the meltdown of financial markets, the real economy at the national and international levels, its institutions, its productive structures are also in jeopardy". How frightening! How shocking! And Globalization as a subject has grown to epic proportions, so much so that there are today so many books on the topic that I have lost count. I used to only hear of Thomas Friedman, Kenichi Ohmae, Naomi Klein, John Tomlinson, Arjun Appadurai and a few others. But now, so many are writing about this subject that it's mind-blowing! Now, just to give you a quick insight into how big this subject has become, I checked Amazon.com to locate books related to Globalization - and guess what? There are 61,547 results!

Last Saturday (October 18, 2008), I attended the Division C District 51 Humorous Speech & Evaluation Contest held at Kolej SEGI, Subang Jaya - it was a humdrum affair because I thought the humor was mostly lame, with the exception of two speakers, Stephen Fernando and Chong Jay Vee - the former an old hand at delivering humor and the latter, a bundle of nerves even though she came up with an original proposition that had funny possibilities! Well, to listen to Stephen Fernando (this is the second time I have heard him - the first time was at a Humor Workshop a while back at the Women's Institute of Management in TTDI, Kuala Lumpur, where he was one of 2 speakers) is itself worth the price of the admission ticket! So, it wasn't a wasted Saturday - besides it made me resolve that next year, we will compete... (And don't ask me who is the "we"? I don't know yet!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Brandon

Today, I am in an appreciative mood. I want to give special thanks to Brandon for being a real gem – he has been giving me a lot of help with this blog, and more so, for being my regular and loyal reader. I bet, his English would also have improved by leaps and bounds, not that he needs to improve, mind you. I am of course being presumptious here about how good my English is; so readers, please excuse me for my audacious yet honest (my opinion only) declaration. But between you and me, my command of the language is just okay lah. As long as you can understand what I have written – I should be grateful. Now, this thing about mouthing quotations is addictive but I cannot help it - one quotation from Anatole France lights up in my brain: "The finest words in the world are only vain sounds, if you cannot comprehend them".

I am now the Executive Producer of the Andy McDonough project - so we will have to quickly organize ourselves and start selling the CDs. It's what you would call a "business" project and it is really for a good cause. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to MAKNA, the National Cancer Council (check out http://www.makna.org.my/) and the rest will go to the designated student clubs at HICT. My involvement here is to teach HICT students how they can apply marketing concepts to a "business" venture, and make it a success. So this is really "applied learning". For those who are still "blurry" about this project - it's an initiative by HICT students to "produce" a CD to raise funds. And Andy has been kind enough to "donate" 13 songs - hence this CD called "Out of the Blues". Brandon has started a blog (http://www.andyblues.blogspot.com/), and Wei Wei is coordinating all sales efforts. So readers, please show your support by buying this CD – you will be helping MAKNA and my students too! Remember Bob Hope, the comedian? He did make the claim that "if you haven't got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble". Now, we wouldn't want that, do we? So, fish out your purses and wallets, and pull out a single RM10 note and go buy that CD! And thank you!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Met a Herbivore!

I had the fortune to be invited to a farewell B-B-Q party yesterday. The occasion? Jai Harpalani is finally leaving us and returning to a sorely-missed place called Dubai. I used the word "fortune" because it was not your typical B-B-Q fare since I had my fill of oyster mushrooms and corn-on-the-cob. And as Jai would have put it, vegetarian food is not only simple, but also nutritious and healthy. I must confess that I am a carnivore (surprisingly, my teeth wasn't gnashing at the thought of meat yesterday evening), but after last night, I must admit too that vegetarian food is alright! So I must thank Jai (he is a herbivore, isn't that right?) for this introduction and especially, his concoction of salt, curry powder, and lemon juice to be had with the common corn-on-the-cob. When I had my first bite, I thought it was "uncommon" (to put it politely), but when I progressed into my second corn-on-the-cob, I could happily describe it as "unique" (this was a tad more positive). And by the time I was into my third corn-on-the-cob, I was (dare I say it?) relishing it even. So, thank you, Jai! And Jai, if you read this, thank you for your friendship, and ahem, keep reading this blog, okay?

Today's mainstream newspapers trumpeted the dip in petrol prices (15 cents for RON97) – the third in so many months, which won't be appreciated much, believe me. After all, other prices have already gone up in tandem with the steep 41% increase in petrol price announced by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi sometime in July 2008, and prices of many essential goods and services are not likely to come down because of this foolhardy act of political myopia. So, the cost of living continues to remain high and Life continues to be very difficult for many people, especially the low-income and average-income wage-earners.

I am currently immersed in two books - the first on Globalization, called The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, and the second, The Fiefdom Syndrome by Robert Herbold . Both are interesting reads, very topical, if I may say so. The former reveals that the world is flattening, but that this 'globalizing' phenomenon can be a force for good - whether for business, the environment, and people everywhere. Well, that's Friedman's perspective, which is predictably ultra-positive. The latter deals with how turf wars and bureaucracy are undermining companies. It's very political because of destructive individuals (The Sun newspaper calls them 'little emperors') who have their own agendas that, for sure, are at odds with their organizations' goals. Reading it made me realize that many Malaysian organizations are afflicted with this syndrome, and I am talking of personal experience here! In fact, this particular book is a real bargain, because this hard-cover was priced at a very affordable RM19 at MPH Subang Jaya - part of a small collection that was on promotion that day.

Anyway, it is nice to know that I am back into an active reading mode, and that I do read other stuff, besides the mandatory textbooks that I must devour because of my teaching interests. Didn't Mortimer Adler once said "Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life"? Now if I can only get to a beach (Teluk Cempedak comes to mind since I did spend 3 years in Kuantan a long time ago) and being able to relax on the gilded sands while reading a book. What bliss! Actually, this is just fanciful thinking on my part - with the sea breeze caressing my sun-tanned frame and the rolling waves breaking into a lullaby, I am more likely to fall asleep in four seconds flat.

Reading and writing - I am rediscovering myself again. I am just so pleased. Ralph Waldo Emerson did say, "Whenever you are sincerely pleased you are nourished". Isn't it great?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ho-hum, I Am Back

Hello there! I am back for my third posting – after a small hiccup was cleared up. This blog was identified as a potential spam blog and I had to be reviewed – which means 2 whole days of inactivity from my keyboard. Sounds silly but I guess, necessary.

Ah, yes, I did my Ice Breaker speech after all at my regular Toastmasters meeting venue (i.e. Damansar Jaya) on a wet, wet night - I arrived nearly two hours late to begin with, since the roads were horribly congested. Even my evaluator, Wei Seong arrived late. So you can imagine my nerves on that day... What's it with KL roads these days? A downpour and every road snaking in and out of the city gets choked with long lines of traffic.

Still, as they say, the show must go on, and when I did my speech - I am well too aware that it wasn't a good speech, sigh! Although I supposedly earned some nice-to-hear comments like Wei Seong's "bold, direct, positive and unconventional" and Sheila's "good conversational style" – I do believe I need to brush up on my public speaking skills. This is where Lim Chooi Peng's Public Speaking class can help me, but dare I? I hear her students are constantly on their toes, and her presence alone cloaks the classroom with a gravity that is both serious and earnest. But I do know she is a great lecturer and better still, she promotes the Toastmasters every chance she gets, which is often! Anyway, I have completed one speech with 9 more to go before I can earn the Competent Communicator title.

Loghandran K who won the hearts of a 1600-strong international audience in Calgary, Canada and emerged as first runner-up in the 2008 World Championship of Public Speaking, is coming to HICT on Thursday, October 30, 2008 – so I will definitely keep this day free. Too bad, Stephen Fernando, who excels in Humor Speeches cannot make it – otherwise, we will get to see two very talented Toastmasters in action. Still, one out of two ain't bad!
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And not forgeting the "Pardon Me, but Your Slip is Showing" workshop organized by HICT, since CP Lim who is the facilitator has promised some serious laughter.
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Well, I have to run given that this is a Saturday... See ya!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Second Posting

I had about 4-and-a-half hours of precious sleep yesterday (or rather this morning, technically-speaking that is), and I am still in a state of awe that I am blogging.

Anyway, I am happy doing this because I can feel my creative writing juices flowing at a stirring pace. And I am writing again.

I am preparing for my maiden Speaking Project 1 this Thursday, at the D'Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club meeting, and I am cool about it. This speech is an ice-breaker - so it'll be interesting to see (or rather, hear) how it will turn out. OMG, finally, I will be speaking, which is not exactly something that is as exciting as writing. But then again... something I had wanted to do, I suppose. Steve Jobs comes to mind: “One can learn to become a great speaker but one needs to have both great content and great delivery. This is not an easy thing to do”. This is precisely why I joined Toastmasters. If the speech is about me - obviously there is content. I mean, I know what to talk about - it's the delivery that I must be able to do with flourish. I want to impress. Didn't Francois de La Rochefoucauld said, "We speak little if not egged on by vanity"? Methinks, it's a rhetorical question - so I won't even attempt to answer it.

I am also trying to fill up all my empty time slots to do additional teaching. It's about the money, y'see. I am seriously contemplating to do another Master's, and since it is a UK qualification - it's going to be darn expensive - but I have set my heart to do it. So now I have to work and work tirelessly to raise money for the fees. At this point in time, I am shaking my head and grinning from ear to ear because I just remembered another quotation that has just popped up in my head: "Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else", said James Matthew Barrie. And so I work but it is not called work, therefore, I am not really working! What a refreshing perspective!

For those who had posted their comments, I say "Thank you" for I am grateful to hear from you. By the simple act of reading my blog and giving me feedback - you have touched me! Terima kasih. Xie xie. Nandri. Merci. Gracias. Dankie. Arigato. Salamat po. Khwap khun. Chezu tinbade.

At 1730 hours, I am signing off... Cherish the peace and quiet for now

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Beginning

After many months of frenzied activities, and with no end in sight - it is time to venture into yet another actvity - something that I had long wanted to do but seemed unwilling to take that first step - until today that is... That's right, blogging. Better late than never, I guess.
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Arnold Bennett once said that "the moment you're born you're done for". As I birth this blog, I have to agree that I am really done for. Why? Because with this blog, I have started a neverending journey of self-discovery, of self-revelation, and opening myself to the world! How transparent I will become, how naked I will be - and as I bare myself, I am feeling vulnerable, even defenseless. It's a bit like dying, but not quite. Well, actually, it is a mixed feeling of uncertainty, maybe even illogical fear, of not knowing where all this blogging will lead to... And simultaneously, I am caught up in this feeling of deja vu because I am now starting to write again after my pen eloped with my writing ambition many, many years ago. I did once enjoyed writing - can I relive that a-long-long-time-ago moment again? Sigh, I am a doubting Thomas! And then realizing too that there are so-o-o-o many bloggers out there - I mean I remember reading from the Blog Herald sometime ago that in Asia alone there are more than 24 million bloggers, that I feel so overwhelmed - each blogger with his or her own take on Life and whatever else, and I am only now starting...
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Ahhh... another quotation sneaks in and pops up in my head: "The most original authors are not so because they advance what is new, but because they put what they have to say as if it had never been said before" - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. These words ring true and like a shot, I feel better already. I am enlivened, exhilarated, elated and even excited at this timely wakefulness, this new vigor, this born-again spirit, this activism that wells inside of me.
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The time now is 1840 hours in Malaysia, and Victor Ong begins life as a blogger. Hooray!