A Lesson from Bob The Builder

My kids grow up watching the children program – Bob The Builder. The kids and I would sit in front the of the TV singing the show’s theme song as soon as the show comes on.


Can we fix it? Yes! We can!

That was our favourite part of the song.

In the show, Bob has all kind of tools and friends to help him out. No job is too small or too big. He always fixes it. This show teaches kids about family value, moral, courage, and honesty.

Adults too can learn something from Bob the Builder. I find the question and answer positive affirmation more effective than just a simple statement of positive affirmation.

Try the following.

1. Ask yourself whether something can be done.

2. Answer it with a yes.

3. Explain it with a why and how it can be done.

The answer does not need to be complex. Just enough to give yourself the motivation and tasks to get start working. The simple three questions should lay down the first few steps that you need for the journey ahead.

Can you do it?

Your E-Mail Inbox Could Be Killing Your Productivity

I once told a friend, I cannot afford to die. If I die, I don’t know how anyone can help me to manage my E-mail inbox.

On some of my vacation days, I would carry company computer with me. Sometimes, if I do not check my mail box for more than 8 hours, my inbox would be flooded with more than a hundred mails.

I am obsessed with replying emails and trying to get the inbox count down.  While busy replying emails and communicating. I have unknowingly allowed other people to put their priorities and to-do into my inbox. Deleting emails and checking off replies gives me a false sense that I am doing my work. My work is more than just replying emails  and this obsession has killed my productivity.

Here are some tips to try out:

Shut off the E-mail program. I might get strike down by lighting for even suggesting this.  I love checking my Inbox every few minutes. This habit feeds my ADD. By shutting down the E-mail program, it make me mindful that I have to concentrate on my task instead of the inbox.

Shut off the E-mail notification. If shutting down the E-mail program is too heavy handed. Switch off the notification. You do not need to know every time when E-mail goes into your inbox. It is a distraction. Here is how to switch off notification in Outlook. Once you are distracted, you need about 23 minutes to get back into focus.

Designate a time for E-mail. Plan your day ahead and limit the time you spend on E-mails. How you want  to balance our the time spend is your choice. The main intent is not to let answering E-mail taking over your work day. I do it three days a day. Morning, just after lunch and an hour before shutting down for the day.

Don’t get intimidated by the size of your inbox and unread mails.The reason that I keep checking my inbox is because I feel very overwhelmed when I see my ever growing inbox. Little I know that it is an uphill battle in trying to clear my E-mail clutter. The more I reply, the more I get back. Some response may be important but many are not. We should worry about the work that we need to finish and not the keeping the mail box size small.

If in doubt, pick up the phone. Ever experience a session of E-mail ping pong? You write something, you get a reply a few minutes later, you make another reply, and you get another reply almost immediately. Instead of going back and forth, pick up the phone and call. When put down the phone, write down what was discussed and sent to the other person.  This saves you time and effort to get  your work done.

The above are merely suggestions. I am guilty of violating many of my advice, but please do not give up. Working efficiently is like a muscle. You need to train and practice it.

When Your Best Is Not Good Enough

You stayed on at the task long after everyone has gone home or went to bed. You check and triple check the work. You said no to your friends when they ask you to hang out. You want to give whatever that you are doing your best. You believe in hard work and you believe in whatever that you are doing.

The moment of truth has come. You are smiling and feeling confident. Boom! The sponsor said no. The supervisor said no. The manager said you need to re-evaluate your thought process and way of working. They did not see your hard work, they only see where you have fallen short.

You squeeze out a smile and say thanks for the feedback. You go through the list, there are indeed gaps and it is long. You close your eyes, wonder about your future and your self-worthiness.

Welcome to the world. When your best is not good enough. Your energy and your focus have fallen short. You are left stranded.  You wonder how can you survive.

Do not let the incident strip your identity. When we grow up, we seek attention and approval from parents, teachers, and friends. In adult life, we need attention and approval from managers, parents, mentors, colleagues and friends. If they do not approve, you feel that you have failed them. Shake those thoughts away. What you have achieved are far more than you have failed. You are who you are.

Sometimes failure is mother nature’s way of asking how badly you want this? Sometimes, you have to ask yourself. Is this really what you want? This is probably one of the many setbacks that you will encounter in your journey. Michael Jordan missed more than 9000 shots in his career and he became one of the best basketball player in history. He wants it bad enough and willing to endure all the failures to achieve what he wants.

You are not alone in this journey. It is okay to seek help and ask for help. Successful people surround themselves with people who are smarter to them. Study where you have fallen and work on it. A person can only extend their hands out to you. It is up to you to catch that hand and give you a pull. Reach out to your family and friends.

If you do not have family and friends, talk to your colleagues or someone in the senior position. You will be surprised, how many people out there are willing to give you a helping hand. Even if there none, drop me a comment and let’s explore your problems together.

No one can stop you. No one’s opinion of you can be your reality. For now, you may have failed to achieve what you have set to achieve. The setback is not permanent unless you to let it.

Failure is always an option. Make it part of your life. Standing up in the face of setback and uncertainty is a must.

Nowhere or Now Here?

Life is going nowhere. Career is going nowhere. Relationship is going nowhere. We always need to head somewhere, regardless where we are. Even kids would keep asking, “Are we there yet?”

Do we really have to go somewhere?

I used to have a map in my car. Whenever I got lost, I would need to stop my car and check the map. By stopping my car and check the map, I went from nowhere to somewhere.

When we know we are heading nowhere with our life. Maybe it is time to stop and get to know “now here”.

Get to know your environment. Look around and observe in silence without passing any judgment. Sometimes, we need silence to find what we need in life.

Dig deep and explore your network and friends. Do not hesitate to ask for help and feedback. If you are already heading nowhere, what is the worst can happen? There is a difference between a bruised ego and a bruised life. I pick having a bruised ego anytime. Never say No on the other person’s behalf.

Sleep it off. When is the last time you had a good night sleep? When you toss around and could not sleep, what is bothering you? Chances are you already know why. How much space do we need to rest? Probably not much. Lying down or sitting, tell yourself you are now here. It is okay for now that you do not need to go anywhere.

All of us have our own destination, one day we will eventually reach there. But without knowing “now here”, we will not be any nearer to that somewhere.

Stop Pressing Your Nose Against the Window

When I was a kid, I would spend countless hours going through catalogs checking out the latest toys. When my parents take me to the mall, I would press my face against the display windows or counter to check out whatever is on sale.

When I reach secondary school, I have stopped pressing my nose against the windows panels. In turned into another form. I was checking things out on magazines and the internet, in the name of interest and research.

Latest news on gadgets and cars, I read it all. The more I cannot afford the item, the more I want to know about it. Chances are I know more about certain cars and gadgets than the owner themselves.

I complain about prices. I complain about the weak currency of my home country. I grumble about the money that I have to set aside for the family commitments. I dream of cars. I dream of gadgets. I dream of holidays.

Dreams of things has made my life a nightmare.

Many of our sufferings came from wanting things that we cannot have. We come with nothing and we go with nothing.

Look around your surroundings, these are the things that you have bought which you thought it will make you happier. Are you happy now? Or you just want more?

So switch off the computer, put down the phone, walk away from the TV and put the catalog into the recycle bin. Life can be simpler and should be simpler.

We all chase for the tips and tricks to improve life. Maybe it is that simple just by switching things off and contemplate the silence and emptiness.