Monday, November 29, 2010

The Magic Question - What Can I Give?

What is the answer to the question, “Who am I, really?”

We ask different questions at different stages of our lives.

At puberty and early childhood, we are preoccupied with questions of identity. We ask, “Who am I, really?”

This is the mother-lode of all questions about our life. It’s not a question we answer by saying, “I’m an engineer” or “I’m a dad.” It’s a question that requires deeper responses, like what I value, what brings me joy, what motivates me, the way I want to live my life.

Many of us never found the answer in our lifetime. Some which we thought were answers led instead to stress, disease, and even tragedies.

I believe we need to ask another question in order to get the answer to this one. We need a bit of reverse engineering.

In their elder years, people look back and ask themselves, had it all been worthwhile? What have I done with my life? Have I contributed anything of lasting value? What’s my legacy?

People tend not to ask these questions when they are young.

We don’t have to wait until we are old before we ask the question, “What have I given?” The earlier we ask the question, “What can I give?” the earlier we become wise enough to know the answer to the question, “Who am I really?”

Gandhi said that the best way to find ourselves is to lose ourselves in the service of others. The answer to “Who am I, really?” has to be found by answering the call “What can I give?”

Many Americans led fulfilling, purposeful lives by answering President Kennedy’s call to his countrymen to ask not what their country can do for them, but to ask what they can do for their country.

We get the most out of life not by taking what we can for ourselves, but by giving to others. Ask yourself - What have I done lately to help people out? Have I been kind to people? Have I been compassionate? Have I been there for anyone? Listened? Volunteered for those in need?

The magic question “What can I give?” is like a switch.

Our life force flows when we ask what we can give.

When we ask "What can I give?" we will look for our talents and gifts. What we look for, we will find. We will live a life of gratitude with an abundance mindset.

Asking the question, “What can I get” only leads to life sapping busyness. We become frantic go-getters.

When we ask "What can I get?" we will be looking for what is missing in our life. We will live a life of stress with a scarcity mindset.

Change your question from “what can I get” to “what can I give” and change your life.

As Aristotle said, your profession is where your talent and the needs of the world meet.

Find yourself, become a go-giver.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Power of Nicknames

Now that you know the attributes of your authentic self, giving your authentic self a nickname is one of the ways you can stay connected with your true self.

Your nickname is like your super-hero identity.

Your nickname shall have two parts. The first part is an adjective (descriptive word) and the second part a noun.

Nicknames are metaphors that basically say "A is B" e.g. Edmund is a Creative Genius.

A metaphor makes a strong association between A and B. Everything about B is attributed to A. Thus A effectively becomes B i.e. Edmund becomes a Creative Genius. All attributes that a Creative Genius has, Edmund has.

The power of nicknames comes from the way that metaphors changes you by bringing new thinking and ideas, extending and changing the way that you think about yourself. (Click on this link for more on metaphors)

Furthermore, your nickname keeps your authentic self in focus as your nickname constantly reminds you of your authentic self and all its attributes. What you focus on expands and where attention goes energy flows.

This nickname creating exercise is simple, fun, and can literary be life changing.

Step 1 - Choose an adjective that best describes the authentic you. Come up with an adjective of your own choice, as you know yourself best.

Step 2 - Next choose a noun that best describes your authentic self. Again, come up with a noun of your own choice, as you know yourself best.

Step 3 - Now combine the adjective and noun that you have chosen to form your nickname. For example, Soaring Eagle, Resolute Rose, Amazing Star, Genius Artist, etc.

Here are some other examples of nicknames – of famous people.

The giving of nicknames is a powerful thing. To name yourself is to define yourself. To name yourself is to control how you see yourself.

Use this power to empower yourself.

Allow me to end this post on a lighter note with a nickname joke, just for laughs.

Authenticity Exercise

This 3-step exercise lets you see the life you are experiencing now as compared to what it is like when you are your authentic self.

Step 1 - Look at the lists of positive attributes below. Which of these words describe the authentic you? The ideal, best possible you at your fullest potential? Circle all these words. There is no limit on the number of words you circle as the authentic you has no limits of positive attributes. (Click on the image to get the enlarged view.)

Count the words you circled. The total number of positive attributes of the authentic you is                     .

Step 2 - Looking at the same lists of positive attributes again, which of these words describe how you see yourself today? Circle these words. (Click on the image to get the enlarged view.)

Count the words you circled. The total number of positive attributes of you today is                     .

Step 3 - Calculate your authenticity score:

Your score in step 2  ÷ Your score in step 1 x 10 = Your authenticity score

What is your authenticity score out of 10? Now you know how far or how close you are to your fullest potential.

Personal development is one of those things like our health, contribution to our community and family - those things which Stephen Covey calls Important but Not Urgent. People tend to not pay attention to these things until real trouble makes them impossible to ignore. By then, it is often too late.

By finding out your authenticity score, you have just taken a big step in personal development.

Now you know what your best self is, who you really are, I will share with you some tools on how to become your best possible you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wheel of Life

As life is multifaceted, any powerful and lasting approach to personal growth and healing must encompass all aspects of our being.

The Wheel of Life is a simple and powerful tool that allows you to take a visual snapshot of your life as it is in the present moment. The Wheel of Life maps each area of our life on a circle, like the spokes of a wheel. The Wheel of Life encourages us to consider holistically all important aspects of our lives. By capturing all the key aspects of our life on just one page, the Wheel of Life promotes Whole Life Thinking ™ and prompts us to Ask Life Big Questions Now™.

Step 1 – Pick your Areas of Attention. The Wheel of Life has eight spokes, each representing a key facet of your life. First decide which 8 aspects are the most important to you. The list below contains some suggestions to help you choose. You can, of course, also create you own aspects.

Of course you're not limited to 8 aspects - it's just a useful number. Feel free to use fewer aspects or add more.

Step 2 – Decide Where You are Now. The rim of your wheel - outer edge - is 10 (you are totally satisfied), while the centre of the wheel is 0 (not even a little bit satisfied with that aspect of your life). Give each of the eight chosen aspects of your life a score out of 10, and mark a cross on the relevant spoke. Next, draw a line across each segment (or join the crosses) to reflect your score out of 10. (Remember to date your chart, so that you can come back later and assess your progress.)

So if this wheel represents your life right now, is it a bumpy ride?

Step 3 – Set Your Intentions. Now you know where you are at in each segment, the next step is to work out what your perfect 10 would look like. What does a 10 feel like? Write down your thoughts. Make it as vivid as possible. At this stage, think only of what you want and don’t be distracted by the how.

Now you have a clearer picture of where you are now, and where you want to go in the future. I will be sharing with you some tools to take your life forward from here to where you want to be.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

100th Birthday Speech - An Example

Using the Wheel of Life we have a clearer picture of where we are at now in the 8 chosen key aspects of our life. The next step is to get a clearer picture of where we want to be. What must it be before we score a 10 in any of the 8 chosen aspects?

We can get a clearer picture of our desired life by writing our 100th birthday speech now.

Write your 100th birthday speech in the second person i.e. through the eyes of your best friend or your spouse. Imagine her reading out the speech at your 100th birthday.

Craft your speech covering each of the 8 aspects you have chosen to make up your Wheel of Life. For each aspect, write down what you desire. What would score a 10 on the Wheel of Life for you? Write it in as much detail and as vividly as possible. How do you feel? Where are you? What do you see and hear? Focus on the what, never mind the how at this stage. Take a look at the example below. 

Max's 100 Birthday Speech by His Beloved Wife

This beautiful house where we are honouring Max today, has Max’s personality all over it. In it’s over 30 rooms, the privileged young people who are here enjoy Max’s mentorship in a comfortable, safe and conducive environment. From the veranda, we can see and hear the sea, and enjoy the sea breeze. Walk to the back and we find ourselves in the hills and the ancient rainforest. The lawn is lush and Max’s favourite pastime is to watch the fishes play in his pond and reading a good book sitting by the pond. In the cool of the pavilion beside the pond, Max loves the serenity and he writes his books here that lift the spirits of millions. Max also often conducts his life coaching in this idyllic pavilion by the pond.

Look at Max. 100 years old and he still has that spring in his walk. Everyone knows that trekking and walking are Max’s passions. Everyday he walks two hours in the beautiful hills just behind this house. Wherever he goes on his training trips overseas, Max always makes time to explore the city on foot. He will let his curiosity lead him to all the little nooks and crannies around the city, just like he did during his first overseas trip as a teenager to West Malaysia and South Thailand. At 100, Max still has a well toned body, square shoulders, nice legs and abs! Besides looking good, Max’s blood pressure, blood cholesterol and sugar are all in the healthy range. He is still able to enjoy his favourite foods and drinks though not at the same sized portions as before. Oh, I must mention that Max is an expert in herbal remedies. You can ask him about it.

In the last 50 years, Max has travelled to every continent to spread the message of Whole Life Thinking™. Millions of people have benefited from his workshops and from his best selling books. Max derived great satisfaction talking to high school and university students as well as young professionals and anyone who is interested in making the most of their lives. He firmly believes that everyone deserves to raise to her highest potential and he is committed to help as many people as possible achieve it.

The thing I admire most about Max is his passion for learning, knowledge and wisdom. Max has diverse interests and he has the ability to see connections between seemingly unrelated things. At 100, he still devours books at an amazing rate. Himself an acclaimed teacher, Max seeks out the wise men of this world and treasures their wise words and example. To this day, in spite of his own considerable achievements and contributions, Max still humbly sees himself as a student. His humility keeps him growing, and his mind and pen are sharper than ever.

I love my Max and so do his children, grand children, family, friends, and his students. Max dedicates his life to helping people live their lives to its highest potential. He has that special quality to make everyone he meets feel they too can live BIG and that their lives are worth living. At every moment, he does his utmost to live his life, guided by the values of love and compassion. You being here today from around the world to celebrate Max’s birthday is testimony that he has truly touched the lives of many of us.

Max loves me with all his heart. His love is simple and pure. Child like. It is very hard to describe and I know it as I have been blessed with the privilege to feel it - just like it was when we first met. Playful as ever, Max is always making me laugh with his quick wit and unique sense of humour. Max's jokes are side splitting funny. Max always puts me foremost in his mind. He knows me better than I know myself. Max is my lighthouse – shows me the way and protects me. Always there, always upright, standing strong for me.

Max lives a simple life even though his Whole Life Thinking™ business is a global success. Franchisees whom Max had carefully selected share the same ideals and values that energise Max. Max has personally trained more than 1000 franchisees and they are spreading Max’s messages in all the continents across the world. Max is also an accomplished author. He already has 9 books that made it to the New York Times bestsellers list and he is working on another one now!

Though he lives a simple lifestyle, we all know that Max is a wealthy man. Max nurtures his finances wisely but he has never been obsessed with money. Max is sharp and alert to those opportunities that come once every few years to enhance one’s financial position. He has taken those opportunities well. The assets in his holding today are testimony of his outstanding financial stewardship. Max’s wise financial stewardship has blessed him with the financial freedom to dedicate his life to the service of others through Whole Life Thinking™.

May I invite all of you to join me in a toast to Max. To say a big thank you for adding cheer in our lives, empowering us and making a positive difference to our world. You are an inspiration for all of us to live our lives fully committed, passionate, and enlightened.

Happy 100th birthday Max! We all love you!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

LIfe is Easier Once You Acknowledge that it is Hard

Your 100th Birthday Speech

When Alfred Nobel’s brother Emil died in 1864 in an accidental explosion, the newspaper reporters mixed up the brothers and published an obituary of Alfred Nobel. Alfred Nobel read his own “obituary” and was not pleased to be remembered only as the man who invented dynamite so powerful that it could reduce tall buildings to rubble in an instant.

This made Alfred rethink his life purpose and he resolved to leave a legacy other than just being the demolition man. Alfred rewrote his life script rededicating it to the pursuit of peace that eventually led to the Nobel Prize Foundation and the Nobel Prizes.

We too can re-script our life like Alfred Nobel. One of the best ways is to write our own 100th birthday speech, today. As Stephen R. Covey said, we should always "begin with the end in mind". So your 100th birthday speech is the grand vision of your entire life. It is everything you choose to have in your life.

With that purpose, imagine you are attending your 100th birthday bash. Who would be present? Imagine the people you respect and love waiting to listen to your 100th birthday speech in your honour. What would you like your party guests to hear about you?

As you sit back in your favourite rocking chair in the breezy veranda, take a look around your house and its surroundings. This is the house you always wanted. Facing the sea and back to the forest where you take your daily walks. You see people that are familiar to you from around the world. Your best friend steps up and stands at the front of your favourite rose patch in your lush lawn.

"We are gathered here today," your best friend says, "to celebrate the 100th birthday of Troy."

"It is only fitting," your best friend continues, "that those who loved Troy most should share their thoughts. Troy’s wife shall be the first." You see your life partner of many years stand up to speak. You see that she is wide eyed, and smiling, as she shares your life with all present at your 100th birthday bash.

What does she say about your relationship and the kind of partner you are? What do your children say about the kind of father you are? How do your grandchildren describe grand pa? What do your colleagues and business partners say about your work? What do your friends say about the type of friend you've been to them? And finally, what do the organizations you are in say about you?

Why are you’re here? How have you given? How are you still giving? And how will you continue using your gifts for the good of your family, friends and the community.

The 100th birthday speech honours your life's work. Do you like what you hear?

Get a clear picture in your head of how you would like your 100th birthday speech to sound. Take time to actually write that out on paper and revise it regularly. Write it in the third person as your life partner or your best friend.

Live your life as if you already know how your grand 100th birthday bash will be like. Don't be like those who, near the end of their life, regret, "If I could start all over again…" Start it right now. We are never too young or too old to write and live a new life script. Whatever your age, now is a good time to do that.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who’s a hero?

After studying the myths and stories of cultures across the world and through the ages, Joseph Campbell concluded that no matter which culture and what era, the human race shares similar ideas about what is a hero and what heroes go through in their lives.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

By Campbell’s definition a hero is an everyday person who acts beyond her duty to help or save others. We all can be true heroes, if we make the choice.

We accept our Calling, cross the threshold, meet our mentors, face the ordeal, are transformed by it, receive the reward, and return to uplift our community.

The Hero’s Journey is not about drama and fury but love, joy, strength and compassion.

A non-hero is preoccupied with questions of identity, self esteem and self image.

      Who am I? How do I feel?

      How do I look to others? What must I do to look better to others?

A hero who has embarked on his Hero’s Journey to give his life to something bigger than himself, asks – How do others see themselves? What can I do to help them see their best self?

The hero identifies his special gifts, develops them to the genius level, and applies them as the Elixir for his community’s service.

The Hero’s Journey requires a healthy balance of self development and developing others.

A hero who tries to help others without first developing himself will soon find that his enterprise lacks substance and is of little effect.

Everyone wants to be a hero, to hear their own stories. Many are called, but few answered.

What will you do about that?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Terry Fox Story

Terry Fox was 18 years old when he contracted cancer.

The disease started at his right knee and the doctors had to immediately amputate his leg in order to save his life.

This traumatic event was the moment of truth for Terry. Terry found out that the survival rate for cancer patients was very low and the only way to fight it was to find cures through cancer research. Instead of wallowing in self pity and despair, Terry heard his calling. Seeing other patients succumbed to the disease, Terry felt he had to do something for future cancer patients. He was convinced that his calling was to help raise funds for cancer research in order to fight this terrible disease.

From this point, Terry embarked on his Hero’s Journey.

Terry was not particularly athletic but he decided to raise public awareness for cancer research by running across Canada from coast to coast. Terry planned to start his ultra marathon in St. John’s, Newfoundland on the Atlantic coast and finish 8,000 kilometres later in Victoria, British Columbia on the Pacific coast. He would cover the vast distance by painfully hopping and stepping his way through one marathon a day – with an artificial leg! Terry hoped his ordeal would raise $1 each from Canada’s 24 million people. He managed to raise more than $23 million.

On 12 April 1980, Terry dipped his artificial right leg in the Atlantic Ocean and headed west to the Pacific on his Marathon of Hope.

On 1 September 1980, 143 days since he started and 5,373 kilometres into his run, Terry was forced to stop by severe chest pains. He was admitted to hospital and the next day, he tearfully announced that the cancer had spread to his lungs. He vowed to complete his cross country epic but his condition quickly worsened and he died on 28 Jun 1981.

Terry’s inspiring story tells us that any ordinary person can do so much when one finds and is consumed by a worthy purpose.

Terry said: “You don’t have to do what I did – wait until you lose a leg or get some awful disease – before you can take the time to find out what you are made of. Start now.”

We have much more time than Terry had to do something to make a difference.

What will you do to make a difference in others' lives?

Friday, November 5, 2010

United Flight 93 Heroes

On September 11, 2001, Deena Burnett was making breakfast for her three daughters when she received an unexpected call from her husband Tom. It was odd that Tom called at this time as he was on board United Flight 93, flying coast to coast from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco.

What followed were the most horrifying moments of her life.

Tom told Deena that the plane had been hijacked by some men with bombs. The hijackers had taken over the cockpit and had turned the plane towards Washington DC.

By this time, the passengers have already heard about the two hijacked planes that crashed into the twin World Trade Centre towers in New York City and another plane that slammed into the Pentagon. It dawned on them that Flight 93 was part of a grand scheme to crash hijacked airliners into prominent buildings. Knowing that they will be killed, Tom and a group of passengers decided to thwart the hijackers’ plan.

It was their moment of truth.

Tom told Deena: “I know we’re going to die….” And added: “We’re going to do something.”

Another passenger Todd Beamer was heard saying: “LETS ROLL”!

A group of passengers charged the hijackers. In the ensuring struggle, the hijackers were forced to abort their plan to crash the plane in Washington DC and plunged it in an open field in Pennsylvania instead.

Tom and the group of passengers had only minutes between knowing that they were going to die and doing something that would make a difference in others’ lives. And they did.

Many lives were saved that day by the heroic act of the Flight 93 passengers.

As John Maynard Keynes said: “In the long run, we're all dead.”

The passengers of Flight 93 crossed the threshold from their Ordinary Worlds to the Special World of heroes when confronted by death.

Do we need to wait until we face death before we do something about our calling?

We have much more time than Tom and the other Flight 93 passengers had on that fateful day to make a difference.

What will you do to make a difference in others' lives?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Using the Wheel of Life we have a clearer picture of where are at now regarding the key aspects of our life. Using the 100th Birthday Speech we have a clearer picture of where we want to be at regarding the most important aspects of our life. Now we need something that will help us get from where we at now to where we want to be.

There are several tools we that can help us. The Hero's Journey - a method based on the work of famed mythologist Joseph Campbell - is one of my favourites.

After detailed study of hundreds of myths and stories from around the world and through the ages from ancient to modern times, Joseph Campbell found that they all follow a similar pattern. Campbell calls the pattern, the monomyth.

Campbell found that anyone who set out on a journey of self improvement, whether in China, Europe, America, Australia or Africa, whether in medieval or modern times, goes through the Hero's Journey and follow the same stages.

Campbell said: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

The Hero’s Journey is a wondrous tool that serves as a kind of mental road map that focuses your attention on your intention. The Hero’s Journey maps out your original vision (the intention which you set), your destination and the stages in the journey to get there.

The knowledge that our difficulties are not unique, that everyone seeking to upgrade themselves face the same transformational changes and pains is a source of strength.

As these are abstract/ mental milestones - not physical/ tangible milestones – it complements traditional goal setting. The hero’s journey speaks to us at the gut level while traditional goal setting addresses us at the head level.

Your being here to seek self improvement makes you a hero. This is your hero's journey.


The hero in his comfortable but Ordinary World is presented with a problem, opportunity, challenge or adventure.

The Call could be something negative like being passed over for promotion or being retrenched. The Call could also be something positive like an opportunity to be a partner in an established business.

The Call can come in the form of a message, letter, phone call, conversation, dream, or an insight.


The Call to Adventure comes to those who are open to it.

More often than not the Call we hear does not sound logical. It is a feeling that comes from deep inside us. The Call makes us feel ecstatic and yet makes us uncomfortable at the same time.

We have been conditioned not to trust our feelings and intuition, but give more credence to what seems logical, practical, and predictable.

But, think about it, which truly great achievement started as something logical, practical, and predictable?

It is entirely our choice whether to take the risk to change careers, invest our nest egg in a new business, or whether we really want to sacrifice our evenings and weekends to take that degree programme.

If we choose to answer the calling then we are embarked on our Hero's Journey.

What have you being called to do or to become? It is often useful to answer this in the form of a symbol or metaphor. E.g. I am being called to be a lighthouse for my children.


The Hero Crosses the Threshold, to leave his unfulfilling Ordinary World and steps into the Special World.

With one foot in the Special World, the Hero is confronted by new sights and sounds, new learnings, surprises, adventures and experiences.

The Hero feels out of place, uncomfortable, inexperienced.

The Hero’s previous thoughts of the Special World are shaken by its realities.

The Hero begins to doubt himself, “What was I thinking to leave my Ordinary World behind?”

We’ve all been in situations like this.

The first obstacles the Hero meets are the Threshold Guardians.

Threshold Guardians are often emotional obstacles. It might be a feeling, a memory, a nightmare or anything that prevents the Hero from moving forward in his Hero’s Journey.

What is your threshold? What is the unknown territory, outside your comfort zone, that the crisis is forcing you into or you must enter into in order to deal with the challenge?


When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

The Mentor can appear in many forms. It could be a wise person, a good book, a long lost friend, a pet, an insight that comes to you unexpectedly, a traumatic event that is a wake up call.

The Mentor will give the Hero a great gift and this great gift is none other than the treasures that already exist inside the Hero all this time.

These are great gifts which the Hero always has. All that is needed is for a Mentor to make the Hero aware of them.

These gifts are qualities like love, compassion, strength, joy, confidence, persistence, courage, integrity, optimism, and so on.

Once you know your gifts, you can claim them and harness their great power to serve you.

Once you claim your gifts, you have the resources to overcome the demons that stop you like fear of the unknown, uncertainty, and need for security.

Who are your mentors?

What resources do you have or which you need to develop more fully in order to face the challenge?


The way to the hero’s prize is blocked by problems and adversaries that threaten to derail his journey.

This is the hero’s darkest moment. The hero confronts death or his greatest fear.

The hero’s own shortcomings, disadvantage, or lack of knowledge make the demons seem invincible. The cause looked like it was almost lost.

The hero persists, faces up to all his shortcomings courageously, takes on the demons squarely and triumphed.

What are the demons you must face?


Coming through the ordeal transforms the hero into someone wiser, more capable and powerful. In overcoming the ordeal the hero:

     a. develops special skills, or

     b. discovers special resources or tools.


The hero overcome great odds, fought his way through the ordeal, defeated his demons and finally seized the reward - the treasure which he had chosen when he first set his intention, when he accepted the calling that started his hero's journey.


The hero’s journey is not complete until he uplifted the community with what he learned, gained, and accomplished. Success in completing the task which he has been called is not complete until he shared what he gained with the people who need his gifts or with those who helped him to get to where he is.

What does what you share mean to the community?

Where are you on your Hero's Journey?