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Singapore BW

Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew

How many people have the ability to be a talking point on mainstream and social media networks internationally? Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away in the early hours on 23 March 2015. Singaporeans woke up to this piece of sober news. His name floated about in the minds of many, as they go through the day. Few doubted if it is another wave of rumours. Since 2012, news of his death constantly popped up.  With a week of consecutive notices issued, confirming he was in worsening conditions, this piece of news could be a sigh of relief.

Surprisingly, more details of what the late Mr Lee did in his younger days are only made known now than when he was alive. I even came across a plot where Mr Lee challenged the CIA of the United States of America and exposed the bribe that was offered to him. Many leaders and pioneers paid tributes and commented on his achievements. There are others who painted him a tyrant and told of stories on how he had wronged many people when he ruled Singapore with an iron fist. Mr Lee was not just a founding father of Singapore, his wisdom and leadership were scrutinised and even applied in other part of the world. I was told that I can even find a city in China that modelled after Singapore’s infrastructure. Many world leaders look up to him. In the last few years, Mr Lee had spoken little. Each word was carefully hung on to. In many homes in Singapore, a memoir of Mr Lee can be found on their bookshelf. I am sure from now on, that corner will start to be filled with a few more books on the same subject and will almost become an altar for the late Mr Lee.

I grew up knowing Mr Lee as the Prime Minister of Singapore. Even when the subsequent prime ministers succeeded him, I always know that Mr Lee’s invisible hold on the country remains invincible. The tough foundations instigated for the country help set its economy onto an upward trajectory. A barren island which was abandoned and considered a burden is now the most expensive city to live in. All these happened in less than 50 years.  As the nation prepares to celebrate her 50th birthday in August, many Singaporeans hope that the late Mr Lee is able to witness this day and be there to grace the main national day parade. Alas, he left early, before the rehearsals begin.

I have lived in other countries by choice and in Sydney for last 5 years. In 2014, I was back, living in Singapore, as I had to be in Asia more for work. Throughout the year, I attended some national events like the National Day Parade and one of the Formula One Races. In those moments, being absorbed into the celebratory atmosphere, the pride of being a Singaporean ignited in me. The opening verses from We Are Singapore were echoing in my heart. I was fortunate to be travelling internationally for a bit in the last 20 months. Whether I was in big cities or small towns, whenever I mentioned I am a Singaporean, nobody questioned her geographical location. In fact, there were only praises and admirations for Singapore. Quite a few people mentioned Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

There was a time when people said that Singapore won’t make it, but we did.

There was a time when troubles seemed too much for us to take, but we did.

Towards the end of 2014, I was at a cross road and I made the decision to live outside of Singapore. Even when I was only in Singapore for 50% or less time, my heart yearned to be away. I always have my frustrations with Singapore and her ways of life. I fully recognise the accolades Singapore has accumulated and the great number of foreigners would want to live here. Even though I know I will miss some of the conveniences, I was set to return to live in Australia.  I do not despise Singapore. In fact, I am thankful to be a Singaporean. Growing up in elitist Singapore was not easy, but I was trained well. For one who travels, a Singaporean passport eliminates a lot of processes.

As I typed this article in my rented apartment in downtown Sydney, rattling on the successful Singapore, Mr Lee’s efforts has built, I really do not know what my true response should be. From the moment I read the news of the passing of Mr Lee till now, I have been feeling quite indifferent. I did my national duty to join the mourning atmosphere on my Facebook. I recognised the great works done by Mr Lee, yet I want to see a new and relevant management style for Singapore. Mr Lee had brought Singapore from obscurity to a world-renowned modern city. Whether he and his ethics were good, bad or both, he definitely deserves some credits and my respect.

We built a nation, strong and free, reaching out together for peace and harmony.

joy ride

Marrying Your Happiness

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I looked at the groom, standing at the altar, anticipating the crucial cue – the arrival of the bridal party. I wonder what was running through the groom’s – all grooms’ – mind at that moment. I suspect they will ponder, “Do I really want to get married?” and “Do I really want to get married to her?”

When the door finally opens for the bride to take the first step towards the altar and when the whole congregation stands to applaud, the groom should have answers to those million dollar questions. Unfortunately, there is no phone-a-friend option. Once her hand is in his, the qualms should have evaporated; hopefully, there is no residual doubt that may haunt him. After all, marriages are not governed by the Walmart policy: if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one.

I read an article in passing and there was a mention that “marriage isn’t for you”. Apparently, one does not marry to make oneself happy but to make someone else happy. So rather than thinking whether you will become happier after marrying the bride at your wedding, consider if she is the one you want to make her happy every day, after the wedding.

While I grasp the concepts of marriage, I never quite see that as my thing – my calling. Perhaps I have not found the right partner that I want to walk life’s journey together. But I am fine and happily walking, climbing, crawling and flying solo. So what’s wrong with me? Maybe, there is nothing wrong with me.

I have attended my fair share of wedding receptions and I am glad the invitations have slowed down. (Unfortunately, the baby shower invitations are starting to pour; but that is another story for another day.) A lot of time I see that it was really about the wedding; ironically, not the marriage. The preparations for that one big day had consumed the couple’s enormous amount of time, resources and emotions. I wonder what could have remained after.  I suppose – and ideally – all that is to create a void so as to receive the joy that come happily ever after.


Nearing 35

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In my teenage years, whenever I try to imagine what I would be when I grow older, I will always picture a 23 years old bloke driving a convertible down along a coastal road. That to me is an image of a well-accomplished adult. Hence, I cannot really understand or reconcile what became of me since 2002. Not only am I not well-accomplished, I do not own a car and I have yet to learn how to drive.

When I started pre-school, mum and dad were in their late twenties and I thought 30 years old is considered old age. Yet when I celebrated my 30th birthday, I felt like I was still a child. I believe one of the filial piety acts is to let my mum mother me, however old I am.  Her recent chants are “you’re not young anymore” and “you need to seriously plan and prepare for your future”. Yet, that is follow by the “have you eaten” and “don’t stay out too late” chorus. In parents’ hearts, they look forward to their children all grown up; in their eyes, their children will never grow up.

Friends around me have started to get married and I have lost count of the wedding receptions that I have attended the last decade. The ceremonies are pretty much the same (read: unoriginal). Good food and reunions are what I look forward to. These days, it has become impossible to meet up with school mates outside of these heavily-planned events. After all, weddings are still better events to host school reunions than funerals. Of course, there are the baby showers which I am usually and coincidentally out of town.

Having lived in cities outside of Singapore only makes me want to stay away from my own country even more. My first overseas stint was in 2008 when I was seconded to Bangkok. While I was only working full-time in the Bangkok office for half a year, the subsequent year of monthly travel back up, allowed me to nurture my love for this city of angels. Till date, whenever I have a chance to visit Singapore, I will always sneak in a side trip to Bangkok. I have now lived in Sydney for more than two years. Fortunately, there is a good community of Thai people and food here to continuously feed my obsession for things Thai. My best mate is Thai. To me, he is more Aussie than Thai since he lived here for the last decade. But I shall settle.

As much as I want a greater certainty on what is to come in the next few years – specifically if I will and can still stay in Sydney – I do not wish to force out a decision. I have been receiving remarks asking me to return back to Singapore. Yet ironically, these friends will not meet me more often than now even if I would to live in Singapore. Modern telecommunication and social media platforms have allowed me to keep in touch with people whether they are staying miles away or on the move when they travel. My conversations with some close mates never cease whether I am residing in Sydney or travelling in Laos; whether I am at work or in commute.

While I still live in denial and still looking forward to reach my ideal 23; the real me at 34, automatically inherit the mindset that I better start to plan for the future. Defiantly, I shall plan not to have any major plans for the next one year… till I am 35!


Goals, Expectations and Clarifications for XXXXX

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Thank you for sharing your honest expectations and frustrations during our discussion yesterday. I have provided the feedback to XXXXX and XXXXXXX. After digesting through, I decide to clarify some of the points mentioned by listing them down. You’ve again mentioned that you are not given clearer goals. So I’ll also describe them clearer.

I’m copying XXXXX and XXXXXXX so that we can all be on the same page. If my expectations are out of line or insufficient, they can jump in.

Expectations of a Catalogue Manager

– The qualitative goal will be to take ownership of the Merchandise Product Line and make it successful.

— Constantly improve the portfolio of the product offers; that would mean a constant review on their performance.

— Ensure that the stock is sufficient and minimise reduntancies, that would mean to monitor the various campaigns that Merchandise products are featured.

— Improve any practices that can enhance the sales output from product registration to product ordering to supplier negotiations, etc.

— Ensure the promotion materials (DM/eDM formats and catalogues) are good-looking, show images that bring out the best of the products and effective selling copies.

– The quantitative goals are as specified in the XXXXX and to ensure the profitability of the product line.

– Since this a Catalogue Manager position that you’re fulfilling, I’d expect that you have to perform far more than the Assistant Product Managers and Marketing Assitants in the office.

While I know it’s not an easy product line to handle and it’s very hands-on to acquire the products, I believe your previous experience should help you succeed.

Working Hours

You mentioned that you’re paid a 8am-5pm job. I’d like to correct this understanding. You’re paid to be a Catalogue Manager to undertake all the duties and responsibilities to contribute to our corporate goals. There should be some flexibility in the hours. There are times which you may be required to work longer hours or have meetings/calls beyond the prescribed working hours.

At the same time, I will understand that you may need time-offs to rest or to attend to urgent personal matters.

Bringing home artwork to check isn’t a demonstration of your passion for the job. It’s just part of the job to get the task complete on time.


It’s good that you strive to work efficiently. However, efficiency is not just measured by speed. Work smart and not just work fast i.e. zooming to complete the work fast without reaching the satisfied requirements.

You mentioned that there are a lot of difficulty maintaining consistency with the work requirements with the Marketing Services and Operations team. If this is only happening to you, perhaps you might want to have a chat with the rest of the campaign managers on how they dealt with the issues.

Giving the benefit of doubt that this is not only happening to you but to everyone, I’ve already raised this and other issues to XXXXX. While he works with XXXXX and XXXXX to iron out the problems, we will just need to fight through the battles as they come. I would like to suggest that you try to communicate more with them. You may have to even provide leadership to them and have them buy-in to what you’re trying to achieve.

There will always be situations that decisions will need to be make based on insufficient knowledge. When you encounter new projects that you’re not familiar with, start early and think through more. I always welcome discussions. But I aim not to spoon-feed and dish out solutions when you meet any roadblocks. So do come to the discussions with suggestions on how to proceed. I genuinely don’t believe that you’ll be penalised for making mistakes but you will be frowned on for not being proactive.

You shouldn’t aim to have less mistakes by doing less. I believe you can learn from mistakes. No doubt that might mean a lot of work to rectify them. But all these should be the feedbacks to the efficiency equation to allow you to make better decisions in future.


You raised that there are conflicts in ideas and changes. I can only offer a cliche: Change is the only constant thing. While our company and business needs might be changing faster than anywhere else, that would mean to succeed, one has be even more adept.

In fact, I’ve mentioned to you that if you can identify any improvements, you should aim to apply it. If not, you just have to comply to the systems and process complications that we can’t avoid…at least at this point in time.

There are battles here that I’ve been fighting since 6 years ago. Every now and then, I’ll bring it out to give it a good flog. Do not just suggest or propose, see that they are carried out. I’ve heard many good suggestions from you but I’ve yet to see you carry them out.


This is not my biggest concern but it has been brought to my attention. So here goes my two cents. While there isn’t a need to be suit and tie all the time, I’d suggest that you put on a sharper attire for most of the working days. This will help you to assert a better image to co-workers and business partners. Not sure why you switched from the more professional attires you’re in when you first join, to just t-shirt and jeans on a daily basis. My philosophy is not to dress for the position you are in, but to dress for the position you want to be in.

I hope I’ve helped to bring clarity to your goals and the expectations of the position you’re in. It’s not my style to micro-manage you or cramp your working habits. However, I’ll need you to step up from where you currently are to be a more competent Catalogue Manager.

I really need a team mate that can strive to attain excellence and support me to attain the business goals set for the team. Not sure if all what I’ve mentioned is still in line with what you’re looking for in a career here in XX. As XXXXX will be away for three weeks, let’s have a catch-up when he’s back. In the mean time, feel free to talk to me about it.

Best regards,