Peace Should Not Be Taken for Granted

Last week, perhaps the most traumatising video that I have watched on social media will be the Jordanian pilot being burnt to death by ISIS. This video conveys a lot of message to the world, not only a demonstration of power (of what it is capable of doing), but it is also an exposition of their hatred they have with the world. By having the pilot burnt alive, is like a form of revenge (an eye for an eye) for the multiple airstrike/bombing done on their ground. This perhaps explained why, they have chosen this way to terminate this pilot instead of their usual practise of beheading their past hostages.

The world is evolving, human inter-relationship is getting more and more complicated. With technology, the time needed to travel between 2 places is shorten yet the distance of our hearts are made to be further apart.

I am no expert of terrorism nor wise enough to rally a world peace. In my heart, I am grateful for the peace I am having, and definitely it serve as a strong reminder that the peace that we are having should never be taken for granted.

Although I am minor part of human race, I truly hope and pray for world peace. This world belongs to no one, and is to home all of us. I strongly feels that no matter how minute our strength or contribution are, we still should try our best to make this world a better place to live in. Most importantly, we should learn to embrace diversity and treat each other with more respect.

Risk Management in Life and Investment

Dear readers,

Time-off Taken for Personal Commitment

I’m sorry for being away for quite some time. Personal commitments has been filling bulk of my life (and time) since last year September. Hence, I will have to attend to these important and urgent stuff. I have already drafted a few posts to what’s has been happening all these while, and I promise you it is going to be exciting. A sneak to what’s going to roll out: Boracay Review, ROM planning, HDB Reno ID review and many more! I hope these posts will aid you in planning your next trip, and for your big event.

Risk Management

As my life progresses, my responsibility gets a free upsize be it in work and personal commitment. And you possibly inferred from the sneak preview statement that, yes I am legally married (in law), but not in customary (traditional customary). Therefore, being a husband (in law), I have to take care of my beautiful wife, build up our nest, and grow our wealth. In order to have all these dreams and goals to be fulfilled , choices will have to be made in every decision juncture, and it does involves a certain risk (or opportunity cost) for every decision made and also not made.

All of us will probably be used to living with risk. For example, with recent aviation ill-fated events, it will still not stop most of us from flying. But it just goes to show that life cannot be calculated. You can call it a random world, where incident (good or bad) can just happen anytime. But this should not be an excuse for not having a crisis management plan. In other words, we should not be betting on plans to work all the time. There should be contingency plans ready to serve in those “what if” moment.

Therefore, I decided to read up about Risk Management on life and investment. During the learning journey, I came across some ideas and teaching are shared consistently by different mentors. So what are these common strategies?

1.  To Have a Margin of Safety

The concept Margin of safety should not be a stranger to those well versed in the financial world. However, this concept can also be used in many areas of our life. For example, when we are planning a travel trip, we would always carry extra clothes/cash with us, just in case we need it. Similarly, in work, when we engineered something, we always would cater extra allowance to ensure it will runs smoothly, same goes for resource planning.

Although to have a margin of safety involves a certain wastage/opportunity lost, we still need to plan in for this.  For example, in terms of investing, it occurred to me a couple of times for not entering the market even though it looks favourable as it has not reached my safety margin. Next moment, the stock rallies and on a path of no return. However, opportunities are aplenty, it takes discipline to stay on to your pre-defined level.

The advice is to define your safety margin and adhere to it strictly. By not risking too much, you are doing yourself a deed.

2. To Prepare for the Worst and Hope for the Best

Once we have the safety margin created, next we will need to plan for the unexpected. One classical example will be buying life insurance. With life insurance, we can allocate a certain portion of the risk to third party when life crisis struck on us. I believe when you buy insurance to plan for crisis, you will hope not to utilise the policy in the near future. I couldn’t emphasise enough the importance of having adequate coverage for yourself.

The advice is to buy ample insurance policies, within your means, to cater for different undesirable scenarios. 

3. Do Not Place All Your Eggs in One Basket

You would not want to count on just one chance to achieve your goals. In investing terms, investment gurus always indoctrinate diversification in their seminars. You don’t buy into just one asset or sector, and if any headwinds is to affect the sector, it could easily wipe out 20-30% of your portfolio. The same goes for career planning, skills can go obsolete with technological advances.One must continue to learn to stay relevant to the market needs. You cannot just rely on one skill to get far in the fast-paced world.

The advice is to plant your seeds widely by practising diversification in investing. For career building, consistently strive for upgrading to remain useful and avoid the risk of being obsolete.

Conclusion

As one’s life commitment grows, risk management is imperative to manage unforeseen scenarios to safeguard the future. By having a proper safety margin, protection and careful planning of resources, we could mitigate the risk and keep damage to the very minimal.

Last of all, I would like to leave you reader a quote by Warren Buffet,

Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

What makes you stay in a job? – Choice Theory

In the previous post, I shared about just how money cannot bring us true happiness. This is especially true when our basic needs are fulfilled, there is little return when we go beyond our threshold of needs.  Since happiness can’t be bought but only created, ideally we should spend every waking hour to create happiness. It shouldn’t be difficult to figure out where do we exactly spend most of our time in? – Our Job, at least 8 hours a day, 5 days per week.

To put it simply, to achieve everyday happiness, we should be in a job that allows us to create happiness.  But the sad part is that data seemed to show that most employees in Singapore are not happy with their job.

Just How Unhappy Employees in Singapore are?

I believe we will somehow know of someone who is unhappy with their present job. Some of them display their unhappiness more explicitly, through lamenting sessions, whereas some others drop subtle clues, like lack of motivation and the “drag the feet” attitude.

The result from the recent National Workplace Happiness Survey 2014 stressed on this. With a new definition of happiness created, known as ‘under happy’, Singapore employees are regard to be ‘under happy’ with an average score of 59, out of 100.  One interesting finding was that it reported that among 28 factors happiness drivers, salary and benefits ranked to have the least impact on employee’s happiness. This only further emphasised that you cannot buy happiness with money. In fact, I believe that once a person attained a certain threshold in their salary level, any further increment would only result in a marginal increase in his/her happiness index.

source: ST Graphics

Happiness Index of Different Industries. Source: ST Graphics

Clearly, the results show there can be improvements made to make Singapore’s workplace a happier environment to work in. To quote what Erman Tan, president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, “From the HR perspective, there is more that the employer can do to let our employees feel a sense of empowerment.”

The question is then what exactly is the empowerment that an organisation can provide to their employees?  Do the managers know what the employees want? Or do the employees know what they really want from their job?

To discuss on this topic, I would like to introduce you to Dr William Glasser’s Choice Theory.

Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory

Choice theory revolves around the principle that we are motivated internally (intrinsic influence) rather than externally (extrinsic influence). The theory explained what drives our behaviour is developed by what most important to us. All of us have a quality world which we would like things to be and is conceived out based on the following 5 basic needs:

  1. The need to survive (Survival)
  2. The need to belong (Sense of belonging)
  3. The need to gain power (Power)
  4. The need to be free (Freedom)
  5. The need to have fun. (Fun seeking)

Applying Choice Theory To Explain Work Motivation

In terms of applying choice to work, I would say the first point simply refer to the need to put food on the table. But this alone doesn’t make us stay onto our job as any decent job should be able to meet this need. So what make us stay and most importantly motivate us to excel in our job?

This would have to be for points 2 to 4,  which describe the desire to feed our physiological needs.  As we human are emotionally driven, these 4 needs are so powerful that if these needs are met, we tend to more driven and motivated. An ideal organisation should able to fulfil all these.

For sense of belonging, we need to meet our need of establishing meaning relationship. This relationship can be in the form of one to one or with groups at work.  A good organisation will provide opportunities for employees to interact and reduce undesirable competition.

For power, it is not always related to ranks and authority in workplace. On the contrary, we all desire power in certain way. First of all, Glasser’s definition of power doesn’t limit to authority with the ability to command others but it extends to a sense of achievement and gaining personal competence that you can called yourself as professional. Therefore, a good organisation should always provide opportunities for employees to challenge themselves with adequate support.

For freedom, is about the degree of autonomy. It is the idea that one can ‘design’ his own work that give employees a sense of freedom to make choices. Such choices can be in the form of flexible working hours/scheme, career development and a simpler organisation hierarchy system.

Lastly, for the need to have fun, is about how one’s enjoy their job. Everyone will have things they like to do. I would avoid using the word passion as it is a huge topic itself. Organisation can provide the fun in work by creating meaningful role/ work scope for employees. Employees, on the other hand, will need to understand the rationale of the task given, so to brace themselves with the challenge.  Don’t you agree that it is fun to be able to accomplish tasks that are challenging and meaningful?

Conclusion

What Choice Theory can do to help managers, is to explain to managers that money is not the only carrot they could use to motivate staff. Despite our uniqueness, everyone tends to seek to attain at least one of the needs discussed in Choice Theory. Organisation and managers should be aware that there are various way they could employ when discussing motivation.

Of course, with this short blog entry, I won’t be able to cover everything about Choice Theory. If you are interested, you can pick up this book from your nearest bookstore to understand it better. 🙂

choice-theory2

Cheers~

Can you buy happiness with money?

Recently, my colleagues and I had a lunch conversation on his latest discovery of an online store that you can buy practically everything. This conversation experienced a change of topic when someone in our group mentioned “You can’t buy everything as you can’t buy happiness.” The person on the other side, however, think that you can indeed buy happiness in getting things that you truly loves and need.

The idea of happiness  – a matter of spending on basic needs

In my opinion, spending money on basic needs does give you happiness when they are fulfilled. Needs are things like shelter, food, clothes and other daily necessity that you require. Therefore, money does make a difference in the happiness index for poorer countries. No doubt that without food and shelter, most likely discomfort and stress can be felt.  This can be easily explained using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as shown below:

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

As illustrated from the picture above, the bottom two levels require some form of monetary transaction. You need to spend money to buy food and a house to meet your safety and psychological needs. However, as you go up to the higher levels, you will realise that monetary involvement start to decline.

At the highest hierarchy – self-actualisation, is what money can’t buy. You just can’t buy creativity off from the shelves and expect yourself to be creative the very next moment (we are not robots with an upgrading of a chip, we can do wonders).  However, some cheeky readers might argue that with money you can get to sign up for courses that equipped with you with these skills. But do bear in mind that once again it doesn’t happen in an instance. It has to be gained through experience, and most importantly, you must be self-driven to acquire that skill that you have signed up for. If not, the money you spend will just go down to drain, and obviously you won’t be a better person in creativity nor problem solving.

So why are we unhappy even though our basic needs are met?

It is all because of our expectations!

First of all, with our basic needs being met, we tend to focus on the other side, which is the wants. Living in a highly connected world, we get to see how others indulge in luxury through advertisements, TV shows and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We begin to get disillusioned  and created a new category of ‘needs’, which instead it should be more of a want.

For example, with smart phone technology proliferated into our lives, every one will desire to own one smart phone. That’s could be one reason Nokia phones’ popularity declines even though they are really phones of good quality.  If everyone in our social circle has an iPhone, for instance, we will think it is reasonable to expect we can own one too. As you see, our expectation are shaped by what others in social circle do and have.

Secondly, with every pay rise and promotion, we tend to chase over the new things that we can  afford. As a result, there will be an endless amount of things you will like to pursue and, therefore, this make the incremental becomes less significant. Is like running on a consumption treadmill, having the urge to change to the latest smartphone, tablet and computer so as to get the same level of satisfaction.

Lastly, will be a sense of financial insecurity. As we get used to owning good stuff and living in comfort, many of us are afraid that we might lose it all.  Anxiety and fear of what if one day we can’t buy as much as we used to be able to. You can say that we are more adapt to steady rises (for e.g. annual increments) than a sudden fall in income.

When enough is enough

In economics, there is a principle called the law of diminishing returns, which defined as the decrease in the marginal (incremental) output of a production process as the amount of a single factor of production is incrementally increased, while the amounts of all other factors of production stay constant.

Ok, let’s ignore the academia type of explanation and look at a real life example. Imagine you are feeling hungry, eating a hamburger will significantly increase your happiness (utility) for that moment.  However, as you have a bite on the second hamburger, you will not feel as satisfied as having the first burger.  The sense of satisfaction will continue to falter as you continue to have your third and fourth burger till you are so bloated that no longer it gives you any satisfaction (if not pain, for excessive eating).

This law is so applicable to our daily life that it explains why upgrading to bigger homes do not necessary equates to ultimate happiness. You can say that everyone has a threshold to our needs. Beyond the threshold, extra money to our pocket makes very little difference in our level of happiness.

Conclusion

After much being said, the point I am trying to make is simple – Having lots of money doesn’t equate to a person happiness. You cannot just buy happiness simply off shelves.

If there is one way that money can translate to happiness (after your threshold of needs is met), I would suggest that you spend on creating an experience.

– By spending on a holiday trip with your family and friends will certainly bring you happiness. The memories and bond forged, fulfil love & belonging level in the Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid. The value of this experience will not decline but may even grow as you reminiscing about the laughters and joy that you had with your family.

-By signing up for a course to enjoy the process of learning. Stimulating brain with new ideas is always fun. Besides, joining new courses you will also get to network with others with the same interest. From your new friends, you will get to know about their lives (that’s provided they are willingly to share with you), and these ‘lessons’ make you understand about life better.

– Getting a good book and read it. Ask yourself, when is the last time you spend time reading for personal interest? It can be a good novel that touch your heart, a self-improvement book to inspire you, a ‘chicken soup’ series to heal your wound?

After all, money is not something we can bring along with us after death, right?

Happy Birthday Singapore!

Dear Singapore,

This year I will be missing your birthday celebration. I will not be at the moment with fellow citizens while they are singing national anthem out loud when our flag fly pass.

This is because I am on my national service duty to protect the sky of our homeland. Rest assured Singapore, you are well protected by us. Go ahead and celebrate your hearts out, to sing and dance on our behalf.

This year is a special year which I am missing your celebration for a good cause. I hope you can feel our love through our actions.

Happy 49th Birthday Singapore!
You are loved by us.

Cheers

IMG_2788.JPG

2 Types of Innovation Growth

source: timfoundation.org

source: timfoundation.org

In evaluating the performance of the company in our investment portfolio, growth is definitely part of the equation that we want to include. This growth can be attributed by new markets penetration (inorganic growth) or simply improving certain service or product (organic growth) that the company is currently having, so as to increase value in turns hopefully lead to increasing revenue.

To put it simply, innovation is the key essential for a change. Be it reflected in the work processes of the company or in the product/services the company is providing.

However, a change doesn’t always have to be good. I like the way how Clayton M. Christensen describe the 2 types of innovations. Let’s us first understand the 2 types of innovation:

1. Sustaining innovation
2. Disruptive innovation

1. Sustaining Innovation

Sustaining innovation seeks to improve the current state of performance and value in products, processes and services.

Do not have the wrong impression that sustaining connotes boring growth, it can be radical at times. For example, with the Retina display on phones and tablet, Apple successfully improve our viewing experience, and created a brand new standard where pixelated words are ugly.

But of course, sustaining growth can also take place in incremental steps, progressively. For example from a 2gb RAM to a 3gb RAM. It improves speed and performance, but nothing to call it a new standard, more of catching up to meet the needs of consumer demands.

No matter radical or incremental, sustaining growth aims to improve performance of a product that the markets values. Most of the technological advances falls under the sustaining growth

2. Disruptive Innovations

Disruptive innovations create a different value existing products, services and processes can provide.

As described by Clayton Christensen, generally products of disruptive innovation will underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe that customers valued.

Ideally the end product should be cheaper and simpler to use. For example, a notebook computer versus hand-held digital devices such as tablets.

This type of innovation is less often employ by companies as it might result in worse product performance at least in the near term. However, companies with established product serving the mainstream market should take note of disruptive innovation that could affect the company position in the market.

Conclusion

It might be interesting to note that although promising it might sounds for disruptive growth – to be a game changer, it is disruptive technologies that account for most companies failure. Many companies lose their stand as market leaders due to disruptive innovation.

On the other hand, even the most radical sustaining innovation rarely account for failure of leading company.

I hope this short article serve you as a food for thought, be it in your workplace or when you are evaluating your invested company. Make a thought on what is the type of innovation is the management team placing the most resources in? What are the upcoming disruptive technologies which will affect the standing of your company? As this might equates to the future success or even survivability of your company.

Cheers~

My Bali Trip 2014 Part 3 – Review on Spa Saloons series 1of2, W Hotels AWAY Spa

As you would probably have read in Part 1 of my Bali post, that IZE Seminyak hotel does not have an in-house spa saloon. But how can a trip to Bali be completed without a visit to a spa, right?  Therefore, Mrs SOL and I decided to look around for a good spa treatment through internet recommendations and actual ground survey. I would cover the spa saloons that we went to, and I shall provide you with my personal review for each of them.

Let’s start with the very much raved about – AWAY Spa by W Hotels.

AWAY Spa by W Hotels

This spa facility is situated in Bali’s W Retreat & Spa Resort in Seminyak. One of the reasons to visit Away Spa is that it opens for 24 hours, therefore allows you to leave the precious daytime for other activities. You can always visit this spa at wee hours and still get pamper by their much raved about treatment.

Away Spa

Away Spa – What’s your wish?

Away spa can provide you with the ultimate luxury experience. From their lavishly styled reception area, you will know the price for a spa treatment doesn’t come cheap.

Away Spa reception area

Away Spa reception area

Nevertheless, you can also expect the quality of their service is also up to the mark. Staff and therapists are incredibly attentive. Before they start, they will check with you on the strength that you preferred. About a minute into the session, they will check with you again to make sure the pressure just right for you to be comfortable.  This level of attention to detail and their professionalism are commendable.

You are encouraged to arrive early, not just for courtesy sake, but if you are half an hour early, you will be rewarded with the use of the cold pool, hot plunge pool, steam room and oxygen therapy station.

As it was 11pm, and after a long walked from IZE Seminyak to W resort,  Mrs SOL and I were so thirsty and wanted just to sip a drink instead. The receptionist then recommended us to visit their in-house chill bar, which served their own concoction of revitalising juices.

Chill Bar's Menu

Chill Bar’s Menu

 

As for the room, we were given a VIP suite for our Spa session. Their suites are designed with the W hotel’s touched that once you enter your room, you will be greeted by the glow of the light emanating from the messaging beds and along the sides of the white walls.

Below will be some pictures I have taken to illustrate just how exquisite the rooms are. Away Spa features a modern and sophisticated rather than traditional Balinese design. This gives patrons a luxurious and exceptionally “out of the world” feel.

1st segment - Foot Wash

1st segment – Foot washing area

Separate Bed for Body Scrub

2nd Segment – Body Scrubbing

The third segment is one I enjoyed the most. Coupled with smooth dim blue lights and soft music played in the background, it created a great ambience for us to fall asleep! The pressure of the massage was just right with what we requested and no pain was felt. Instead comfort is the only feeling we experienced.

After the 3 hours of rejuvenating massage and spa, we were awake by their soft touch feeling refresh and recharge. It was a truly one of a kind experience.

3rd segment - Full body massage followed by royal honey with coconut skin treatment

3rd segment – Full body massage followed by royal honey with coconut skin treatment

The finale of this package is a visit to the post production where you can help yourself to snacks and drinks. It is thoughtful of them to have such an area, as for a group of friends might sign up for different packages and thus, the treatment duration might be different. Therefore, instead of having to wait at the reception area, the post production provides you a spacious area for you to read papers/magazines while sipping the ‘refuel elixir’ and chewing on snacks.

Post Production Area

Post Production Area

Refuel Elixer

Refuel Elixer

AWAY Spa is indeed more expensive compared to other spa saloons elsewhere in Bali but is worth your money! Everyone who visited Bali should at least try the service at least once.  The AWAY spa experience is truly an unforgettable one!

Overall, I will rate AWAY Spa a perfect score of 5/5!  You can click here to view their extensive list of treatments offered.

Details

Ambience: Sophisticated and Luxurious

Spa Dinning: Light Snacks and Drinks at Chill Bar

Ingredient used: 100% natural

Special facilities: 3 Single Treatment Rooms, Double Treatment Rooms, 2 Spa Suites, Beauty Room, Hair Salon, Oxygen Room

Spa opening hours: 24 hours

IMG_2344

where do you go to hide AWAY?

What’s next? 

Although AWAY Spa is a heavenly experience, it comes with a hefty price tag. I understand that there will be spa-goers who do not fancy sophistication and design. Instead, they prefer a spa saloon that is of no frills that is reasonably priced.

No worries, for you, I have the second part of Spa Saloons review which I will share with you readers, 2 spa saloons that we visited that delivered just what it is needed and yet friendly to one’s wallet.

So do stay tuned.

Cheers~