31 January 2014

Some 'Horse'ly Chinese New Year 2014 Wishes

Here is a list of "Horse"-ly New Year Wish to impress your friends and relatives for this season:

Your Vitality & Health: 龙马精神, 人强马壮
Your Courage to be First Mover: 一马当先, 单枪匹马
Your Speed and Hardworkingness: 快马加鞭, 马不停蹄
Your Business Growth that you may: 招兵买马 resulting in 千军万马, 万马奔腾
with such activities 车水马龙
And be Successful:马到功成, 一马平川
That you may have : 香车宝马, 高车驷马
And continue to Innovate without end: 天马行空
That your heart may be filled with joy that you want to run: 走马看花
You may feel rewarded for your hard work: 汗马功劳 and not be a slave 犬马之劳
Your decision can be sharp and not be 心猿意马
but be able to quit the danger in time 悬崖勒马
Have good relationship with your childhood friends: 青梅竹马
and Accumulate lots of wisdom as in 老马识途
to help your younger friends.

After you are successful, hopefully you can:

remain humble and not 指鹿为马,
and not be cheating leaving behind 蛛丝马迹
ending up with 人仰马翻, 人困马乏
and worse 兵荒马乱
becoming the 害群之马

Lastly, 塞翁失马,焉知非福,
So, lift up your head, find the opportunity in the crisis.
There are many factors beyond your control.
God may arrange events and people to help you.

May God bless you richly with Fu 福

Lim Liat (c) 31 Jan 2014

29 January 2014

Strength is More than just Number - Sun Zi tells us how to kill giants

We tend to think that strength comes from number. When we have more staff or more things then we think we are stronger than others. However, Sun Zi tells us that there are five other factors to be considered. Knowing them allows us to overcome others that are bigger than us. This reveals the secrets of how new upstart can topple the established large organization. The true comparative strength come from how you exploit the situational relative factors and enable the seemingly small to overcome the giant.
There is a powerful word in Chinese 势 that captures the essence of strength. This word has no equivalent in English, and we need to use a few words to explain what is it. 势 is translated as power, strength, tendency, potential and momentum. The objective is to create such a big wave or an avalanche that cannot be resist 势不可挡。 The concept of snowballing, a snow ball running down from a high mountain will create such a big destructive force. Such concept is described in Sun Zi Arts of War Chapter 5 Army Strength 兵势。

The mind-map below captures the 6 factors that define Strength and how to exploit them to create the competitive advantages to win every battle.

The Six Factors to Create the Overcoming Momentum
  1. “分数” Number
    1. Chaos or Order comes from number.
    2. To have order, divide the large number to smaller ones for ease of management
    3. The Chinese word for number 分数 is about divide and then count.
    4. A strategy for war is to divide the enemy large number into smaller divisions and then you concentrate your small number to attack the divided small division.
  2. “形名” Formation Shape
    1. Different formation shapes have different power at different directions and also dictate the speed of movement and communications. Sun Zi cited the round formation for all round defense.
    2. In other chapters, Sun Zi warned us that if we cover too large an area or too many directions, then we are also spreading our forces thin.
    3. The principle of war is then all about fit, the right formation for the right task against the particular form of enemy attack or defense.
  3. “奇正” Surprise or Straight-Forward 
    1. Strength comes from surprising the enemy such as at a time he is not ready or expecting, or a path where he is not defending etc. 
    2. Surprise and Direct must be used interchangeably to create endless variations. In business terms, innovations must be endless for sustainable success.
  4. “虚实” Weak or Strong
    1. It is obvious to use one strength to attack other weakness. Hence Sun Zi goes deeper to show us how to create strength and get enemy into weakness! One is to shape it such that enemy will take the path you one. Another is to give in so that enemy will take it. Another is to lure him with profits into our strongholds where we will be waiting for them.
  5. “势” - Tendency, Momentum, Potential Power (势之本义为潜存待发之力)
    1. A key teaching from Sun Zi is that the strength comes not from relying on our men but on the situation - the terrain, weather, timing (day or night, now or later) . The order is to choose the situation that naturally gives us the most advantage and then select and deploy our best men for the task.
  6. “节” - Speed of Decision
    1. The potential strength created in factor 5 must be released or triggered quickly at the right time and in the shortest possible time to get the maximum impact. SunZi uses the stretched bow to shows the large potential energy created and the trigger as the mechanism to release all the stored energy in the shortest possible time to give the maximum fire power. 
    2. In modern air war, OODA Observe, Orient, Decide and Act is proposed by a famous pilot for success in air combat. 
Finally, as we execute our strategies, the situation will change, and we need to constantly learn and renew our strategies. Of course, the speed of change needed depends on the industry we are in. Inductrial Clock-speed is a good concept to grasp.

So, if you are a new start-up, don't be too concern about your small size. Understand the 6 factors that determine the comparative strength and pick the right strategy for your growth. If you are the senior managers for a large corporation, please be aware that your 'largeness' may not be a true strength but a disorderly stumbling block with infighting and sluggishness! Take a new look at the situations and determine your true strengths and weaknesses. 

A Prosperous and Joyful Chinese New Year wish for you, your family and your business.

For more on Sun Zi, see Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Tzu) in One Minute

Lim Liat (c) 29 Jan 2014

25 January 2014

The Best Chinese New Year Wish for You - 福(Fu) And Its Origin

My Chinese New Year wish for you is 福. May you have an abundant of 福 (祝福满满). Looking up the origin of the word reveals the rich meaning of the word 福. It may even surprise you that the best meaning of 福 is the Aaronic Blessing!
The best Chinese New Year wish for anyone is not 财(wealth) but 福 (God's blessings). Wealth is just external material things and could not buy some very important things like true love and relationship, peace, health, and even safety. God's blessings are all-encompassing. Digging into the original formation of the word 福 tells us much much more, and I hope you will be truly blessed in this coming year.

A  large collection of Chinese Characters is pictograms - words that are made up of pictures. They are like icons in today's high-technology terminology. If you do a google on 福 and its origin, you can find many articles and images that describe it. The best one is this http://www.vividict.com/WordInfo.aspx?id=3860.  A bigger and clearer and similar picture is shown below:

(1) Represent the sacrificial 'things' on top of the (2) worship table.  
Some interpretations combine (1) and (2) and say that the picture represents praying or asking God for a blessing by offering a sacrifice. 
(3) shows the cup and (4) the bottle of wine with (5) both hands lifting up the bottle of wine to worship God or heaven.

The progression of the writing is shown with the hands removed and other pictures simplified:

We can learn the following:
  1. Ancient Chinese know and worship the God of Heaven. Other idols or gods were actually created later. (We can be sure of this as we look up other ancient Chinese characters and historical writings that recorded the practices as well).
  2. They prayed and asked God for blessings or forgiveness by offering sacrifices and one of the key ingredients was wine. They recognize God as the source of life and provider for every good thing.
  3. The original meaning is 用美酒祭神,祈求富足安康。to use good wine to worship God and to ask God for abundance and sufficiency in all things, including peace and health. 
  4. Modern dictionary definition: 福,祐也。Fu is God's protection and blessing. If we look at 祐, it is made up of a left half that represents God and the right half of the word right. It is like the Right hand of God, God's strength is helping or covering you.
    Consider this Bible verse  Isa 41:10 fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.
  5. Chinese do not just use the word Fu alone. They tend to use the two-word phrase, XingFu, 幸福 more often. The article cited at the start says 
    1. “幸”* 是临死获赦而活着; Xing is facing death and was forgiven and spared to live! It is like the death-sentenced criminal being forgiven and set free at the last moment. 
    2. “福”是活得富足安康。Fu, as explained above, is abundance, sufficiency, peace, and health.
Ancient Definitions for 福 Fu:
To understand Fu better, we look at how the ancient Chinese defined it.
  1. Everything progressing smoothly (according to one's wishes)
    1. “福者,备也。备者,百顺之名也,无所不顺者谓之备。”——《礼记·祭统》
      Fu is completely prepared or all-ready or fully prepared. “All ready” is the name for a hundred smooth going. Nothing stopping the going is called all-ready or fully prepared.
    2. 宋 张载 《正蒙·至当》:“至当之谓德,百顺之谓福。”
      Attaining righteousness is moral character. All progress is called Fu.
  2. Peace and Profitability
    1. 安利之谓福。——贾谊《道德说》
      Peace or Security and Profitability is called Fu.
  3. Longevity, Wealth, and Honor are called Fu. 全寿富贵之谓福。——《韩非子·解老》
  4. Five Attributes of Fu
    1. Long life.
    2. Great wealth.
    3. Health and Peace.
    4. Good Moral Character
    5. Good Death or Die in peace at home with loved ones around and without accident, sickness, etc. See Life is about Living to Die Well -Ecclesiastes 6

So my Chinese New Year wishes for all is "祝福满满" that you may be abundantly blessed with God's blessings and protection so that you may be in a state of abundance, satisfaction, peace, and good health all through the years.

The meaning of 福 is best captured in the Aaronic Blessing Number 6:22-24 as:
  May the Lord 1 bless you and 2 keep you.
  May He 3 makes His face to shine upon you that you may know his great treasures for you,
                4 be gracious to you putting your life in order and beauty.
  May He 5 turn His face towards you and receive you fully
                6 and give you peace and wholeness of health, wealth, and relationships.
  May His Name and His Kingdom be exalted forever.

Lim Liat (c) 25 Jan 2014

18 January 2014

"Are you proud to be a Singaporean?" - A Reflection

"Are you proud to be a Singapore?" and "Are you proud of Singapore" generated a lot of interests and comments recently. As a Singaporean myself, the consideration for me is, I am firstly a Singaporean and then I will work on making Singapore we all can be proud of. Our nation does not need to earn my loyalty. It is us who need to work on and make our nation proud. "Hey Singapore. are you proud of me?"
"Are you proud to be a Singapore?" and "Are you proud of Singapore" generated a lot of interests and comments recently. If you are a Singaporean, may be your friends will ask you such a question. Do a google search on the questions, and you can find many articles and youtube videos on them. There are the typical for, against and neutral(let them expressed their views) comments.

On a deeper level, may be the question is wrongly worded. Does my nation need to earn my loyalty and respect? Unlike my parents who came from China, I am born and bred in Singapore. My parents have the choice to choose Singapore as their home. I have no choice but just born into it. Whether Singapore does well or bad, I am and will always be a Singaporean. Of course, my life will be affected greatly whether Singapore does well or badly. I am glad and grateful that Singapore did and hopefully will continue to do well in the future. We are all enjoying the leadership, wisdom and hard work of our parent generations and of our own and of our children too. Our main concern will always be, for our present leadership, please don't screw it up.

Chinese has the famous saying that "创业难守业更难" translated, "To start a business is difficult, but to keep it going is more difficult" or, I like this one, "To open a shop is easy, but to keep it opened is difficult".  Not to under-estimate the wisdom and contribution of our first generation government and leaders, the time and situation now a lot tougher than in the 60-70's of our nation building. The present leadership needs greater wisdom, vision and tenacity than the previous generation.

Coming back to my main point, my nation does not need to earn my loyalty. I cannot deny or get away from being a Singaporean no matter what happen in Singapore. Being a Singaporean is my identity. And Singaporean stands for certain values as in our national flag and daily pledges in schools.  For details see Reflections on Our Singapore Conversation and The Kia-Su Kia-X's Uniquely Singaporeans - Mindset.

Then the question of "Are we proud to be a Singaporean?" could be a meaningless one. We are Singaporeans. And to the question, "Are we proud of Singapore?", perhaps have to be reversed as, "Is Singapore proud of us?". The pride of our nation rest solely on our shoulders. It is up to us to make our nation and our fellow Singaporeans proud.

However, I need to make this very clear, that we need not be in Singapore to contribute to Singapore nation building and welfare. The world is our playground. I am glad that Singaporeans is spread everywhere over the globe.  The influence and power comes from the network. Singaporeans who have migrated to other countries like US, Australia, Europe, Africa, South America, China etc are and can still be Singaporeans, because the identity is of the heart and mind, and not of physical location. Will you not be proud of the fact and so-and-so of US won a Nobel prize and who was born and raised up in Singapore? The time will come, and opportunity will arise when they can find ways to help Singapore to become better.

So, whether we be in Singapore or be away in other countries, may be we can ask, "Is Singapore be proud of us?"

Here are some links that will make your proud ....

  1. 20130405 晓说第二季 第一期:"遥远"的新加坡
    From a country without our anything (一穷二白 firstly poor and secondly with nothing) to a developed nation that others envy.
  2. You First Believed (Original) - Thank you Mr Lee #TYMrLee

Lim Liat (c) 18 Jan 2014

The Secrets of Truly Successful Chinese Businessmen

There are many successful overseas Chinese businessmen that contributed much to development and growth of many young nations. They don't just make profits, they engaged in building of schools, infrastructures, charities and war efforts a long time before the western world started the calling for business organizations to go for CSR. The secrets of their success are more than just hardworkingness or thriftiness but in the two simple rules of knowing to do and make no illegal and excessive profits. They are the Confucian Businessmen.
In the Western dominated world of recent times that is soon passing, many young people have forgotten that the success of the 1911 Chinese Revolution, the development of many young nations especially in the South East Asia and even of PRC and Taiwan, were financed by the many successful overseas Chinese businessmen. They not only enriched the countries where they reside, building schools, hospitals, infrastructures, charitable organizations, they also sent back money to finance the Chinese revolution, the 2nd World War efforts etc. They were not just profit-making businessmen, but also men with social and moral responsibilities that precede the recent Western movement of calling business corporations to pursue CSR (Social Responsibilities) and the three bottom lines of economic profit, social contribution and environmental protection.

What are the secrets for their success and longevity? 
Many had characterised the success of the Overseas Chinese Businessmen as "勤俭" hardworking and thrifty. As for hardworking, some even use a more powerful phrase ”刻苦耐劳" overcoming hardship and persevere laboriously. But such are basic attitudes and attributes that are applicable for all who want to succeed in life. There is no wisdom as to what to do or what not to do.  The true Chinese mindset is Yin-Yang Duality in Dynamic Balance. One needs to do both, work hard and smart. Either will not do.

The Two Simple Rules for Success
The key wisdom of Chinese Businessmen, also known as Ru Shang 儒商, or Confucian Businessmen, is best summarized in the following famous saying of:

  1. 儒商不熟不做,Confucian Businessmen do not enter into business that they do not know well.
  2. 君子暴利不取。Gentlemen take not violent & excessive profits.
    Violent profit usually refers using illegal means to make excessive profits.
For any would be entrepreneur or investor, adhering to the above two rules ensure good success and protection from being cheated. Examine your failed business and investments, was there any violation of the rules? Most business looks easy from the surface. Many bold and reckless businessmen will go into them thinking that they are easy without a full understanding of the risks and difficulty involved. Many people are misguided that entrepreneurs are risks taker. Successful entrepreneurs minimize risks. Li Ka Shing said that he only goes into businesses that can still make profits even if the worse happen. If you think any new business is easy to do, then you should think again and find out more. 

How many people are con by the abnormally good profits of certain investments? Some quotation says that If it's too good to be true, then it probably is. Many Ponzi schemes work on the greed of people for excessively great returns on investments. 

For sustainable business success, Confucian businessmen go for legal and fair business practices that bring in fair but sustainable profits over the long run. Illegal, cheating, substandard products or services are not sustainable in the long run. Confucian businessmen follow the philosophies and values taught in I-Ching (易经), the Book of Change.  The very first hexagram, 乾 Qian - Heaven, teaches the four attributes of 元亨利贞 which stands for Creation, Smooth Flow, Benefits/Profits and Fidelity/Integrity. 

Confucius further explained it as
  • 《易·文言》:“利者,义之和也;贞者,事之干也。” 
  • Benefits/Profits comes from following righteousness;
  • Fidelity/Integrity is the core  or way of doing things.
Hence, Confucian businessmen do not cheat to make extra-ordinary profits. They believe in character first before doing business. A person must be able to rule himself before he can rule others, from family to nation to the world.

So, please apply these two simple rules first before you start your new business or make any investments.

Related Posts:

For more on I-Ching and the Philosophies and Values of Confucian Businessmen, see The Essence of Sinology or Chinese Mindset - The Values & Methods for 21st Century. and Ancient Chinese Wisdom.

Lim Liat (c) 17 Jan 2014

13 January 2014

Words of Blessing for Year 2014 - Isa 43:19

The encouraging words of blessings for the New Year 2014 is from Isaiah 43:19. It is about God doing new things through you. Things that seems impossible becomes possible, the roads in the wilderness and rivers in the deserts. It is God who calls us by our names, forgives and saves us out of His own loving character and commissions us to be His testimony. Because of His love, He will discipline us that we may grow up and bring glory to Him. God's glory is revealed to others through us. So, lift up our head with great expectation, with God's enabling power, may we have a breakthrough 2014 to show forth His glory.
This post was mistaken posted in this mind-value blog. It was meant for my Christianity-Rediscovered blog. This post is at Words of Blessing for Year 2014 - Isa 43:19. Since I only discovered it after I tweeted it, I shall leave the abstract here.

09 January 2014

A Successful Leader must has success in His Family too - Learning from Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley's Leadership Podcast in 2014 begins with 'Family Matter'. He has great advices for how to have a successful family as well. Such wisdom must be shared and here is a mind-map summary the podcast. Please heed his advice and live life successfully without any regret.
In Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast by Andy Stanley you can find many useful lessons for developing your leadership skills. The first message in 2014 is on 'Family Matters'. I find them very powerful and wish to popularize it by this blog post. I hope the following mind-map, a summary of his podcast, will cause you to listen to his entire message of just 30 minutes.

Hope you can follow his advice when you are starting to form a family and live a life without regret. Even if you have missed them, it is never too late to start doing it now.

Lim Liat (c) 8 Jan 2014