Lead Yourself

This is a topic i have been studying since 1983 – I have a degree in self managed learning – it is the queen of skills/attitudes. Here are my rules for self-leadership.

1. Be kind – take care of others, nothing illuminates life more than responding to another’s need
2. Be open to possibilities – life gives so much more than we ever take advantage of
3. Be courageous – your heart may be pounding but seize what life gives you even if its scary
4. Be your authentic self – we are put on this earth to become ourselves – know who you are and have the courage to become who you are
5. Focus on happiness no matter the circumstances – even when stuff gets you down look for a reason to celebrate
6. Be discerning – turn away from those who bring you down
7. Remember the big picture – we are born alone and die alone – when you are upset about something ask yourself “in the great scheme of my life does this matter?”
8. Forgive Forgive Forgive – it releases you and sends a message to the world cos it transforms others
9. Celebrate the mystery of life – remember there is a force greater than you that is always on your side bringing you only what is best for you
10. Be humble – give credit to others always before self and be kind when no-one is watching

(c) Philip Merry

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I’m British and have lived in Singapore for 23 years and I think Singapore is one of the best places on earth to live. Yet when in conversation with Singaporean friends about what can be improved in Singapore I am often told “well if you don’t like it you can leave!”  My retort – “I love Singapore – I have lived longer here than I have lived anywhere in my 63 years – but that doesn’t mean I have to forget my critical faculty.” This is similar to the comments from Singaporeans to the recent praise from Canadian Eric Brooks telling him “well if you like it so much why don’t you become a citizen”. What is it about Singaporeans that causes such black and white thinking. For me the sign of a great nation – and a great citizen – is the ability to have pride in your birthplace coupled with the ability to recognise what it needs to improve. I am proud to be a British citizen but that does not blind me to its many faults. Both go hand in hand – its never “either/or”. Too often the debate on Singapore forces people into “hate it” or “love it” camps – which gets us nowhere. In fact I would argue that my love of Singapore (or England) requires that I be critical about aspects of the country that I find difficult.

Having spent the last 23 years here teaching cross-cultural understanding to Singaporeans as they strive to work with other cultures I feel I have a certain license to speak both  as a PR and a friend of Singapore. My key message is this – look at what you love about Singapore and more often than not you will find that there is a shadow side to each of its the strength – below is my list of Singapore’s pros and cons here’s my list – what’s yours?

Singapore Score Card

Pros Cons
Real courtesy of its people Not getting a “no” answer when that is what is needed
Respect shown to the elderly – we Brits have so much to learn from Singapore Blind agreement with seniors, bosses or people in authority
A desire for Consensus minded attitude of groups is highly commendable and promotes a “working together “one team” mentality Lack of questioning “group think” robs is Singapore of some of its greatest ideas
Green environment – trees everywhere There is no wilderness – and sorry but Bukit Timah does not compare with the Matterhorn as one Singaporean tried to convince me
Absolutely the best food in the world No cons
Convenient 24 hour society – I can get up at 3am and get great food at Jalan Kayu No time to smell the roses
A democracy that governs with the best brains and with consensus At times too strong reaction to criticism
Multi-racial and multi-religious harmony and great laws to maintain both punish offendors a tendency to sweep under the carpet of important differences
Secure and safe No cons
Great place to set up a business No cons
Great shopping malls Little time to spend in nature
Striving to make things as good as they can be – constant improvement Obsession with being perfect with no time for the simple, happy pleasures of life
Best airport, best airline, best workforce in the world No cons

Is Singapore is a wonderful place to live? Yes no doubt. Has is it one of the best physical, social and cultural environments in the world to live and work? Certainly no doubt.  But please Singaporeans for the sake of the future of this great nation – don’t lose the critical factor – its never “either-or”.

(C) philip merry

Posted in BLOG


“Things don’t always necessarily happen for the best – but you can always make the best of things that happen.”

There are very few of us who have escaped difficulties of one kind or another. Whether it is the illness of a loved one, losing our wallet missing our bus to work, misfortune has happened to humans since we first started walking. Some of us give in to our problems and some of “bounce back”. What is it that makes the difference – RESILIENCE.

It is our level of RESILIENCE that determines whether we bounce back. We know resilience is important in our personal life, but research in 2010 by global consulting firm Accenture reports that more than two-thirds of global corporate leaders say that “resilience is “very important” or “extremely important” in today’s workplace in determining who to retain.”

When things go wrong – loss of health, job, relationships, savings, or even when we lose hope in a brighter future – it can be an opportunity to learn effective strategies for coping. Difficult times can break us, but they can also make us. Resilience is the key and is defined as the “positive behaviour we show when facing adversity that allows us to bounce back.” Research shows us that focusing on strengths, optimism, gratitude, and a positive perspective can help build self-leadership, engagement, productivity and ultimately – resilience and happiness

Resilience to events has been likened to elasticity in metals. For example, cast iron is hard, brittle, and breaks easily (not resilient), whereas wrought iron is soft, malleable, and bends without breaking (resilient). How can you become soft metal instead of brittle metal?

Research in Positive psychology shows us that cultivating the qualities of optimism, zestfulness, an en­ergetic approach to life, curiosity, openness to new experiences, and focusing on positive emotions can build our resilience. Professor Barbara Frederickson of University of North Carolina has received numerous honours for her research on positive emotions and human flourishing and her “broaden-and-build theory” helps us understand how to build a resilient mindset. She shows us how negative emotions narrow our thought–action repertoire e.g., attack when angry, escape when afraid. In contrast positive emotions (e.g., joy, contentment, interest) broaden our thought–action repertoire, expanding the range of behaviors that build our resilience.

So when you are feeling down because of the colleague’s thoughtlessness or because your boss has just given you extra targets its how you think about what happens which is the key. Once you begin to think negative thoughts it begins a downward spiral that can negatively impact the rest of the day, and even impacts your cardio-vascular system. On the other hand positivity limits negative thoughts and begins the process of “broaden and build” which strengthens resilience.

Probably the most important area where resilience can help is the “hot” topic of Productivity.  An enabling environment, a supportive leader, working with a skilled team are all important for building productivity, but maybe the key factor is a resilient mind-set.

(c) philip merry

Posted in BLOG

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