Random Rarebits 2

Friday, September 29, 2006

Til the fat lady sings

Ever heard that popular adage, "it's never over til the fat lady sings"? Coined by a sportswriter and broadcaster Dan Cook, it was a form of self-assurance (or in denial) in the face of long odd, often muttered when things look grim.

Things did look a little grim today. It shouldn't be, but I couldn't help my tears when I heard that my ex-husband had recently remarried.

I heard he went to Manila in the Phillippines to elope with The Other Woman. From what I know, they've been having an affair since the year before he left me four years ago. He must be in love with her for remaining with her for these many years. His two other extra-marital affairs only lasted a month or two.

Jogging down the memory lane, four years ago I was terribly devastated and deeply hurt by his betrayal. It was my fault that my entire universe revolved around him. When he deserted me without a word, except for a short sms to tell me that our marriage was over, I thought I would die of a broken heart. I didn't. Nonetheless, I still am a little hurt after all these years. Perhaps because he is still very much a part of me. I know that because I cried myself to sleep after hearing the news.

As Sheryl Crow sang, "first love is the deepest, first cut is the deepest..." He was afterall my first love, my first hurt.

I guess I haven't really let go of him. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why I couldn't fully commit to a relationship with another man. I have to let him go.

I thinks things would have been a lot easier for me, if he had given me a proper closure in ending our relationship. He never once told me in person he was sorry for what he did to me. Just saying sorry to me in my face would make a big difference to me. I guess his ego is thicker than The Great Wall of China.

But hey, then again, I don't want to be a sore loser. I may lose in this game, but I did learn great lessons.

Guess what, "it's never over til the fat lady sings"...

Nonetheless, because we were together for a good 14 years and half of that time I was married to him, my love for him has become somewhat unconditional, it cannot be undone. So much so that I am happy that he is happy with his choice.

Like energy, love cannot dissolve, it just evolves...

He wrote in his break-up e-mail to me that his ideal had changed. Suddenly he realised I'm no longer his ideal. Whatever lah!

Nonetheless, I'm happy that he has found his ideal, whatever that means. Honestly, I really am.

Congratulations, Tahir!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Salam Ramadhan!

Assalamualaikum wbt!

Dear bloggers, browsers and surfers,

A blessed month is casting its shadow upon us
A night of this month is better than a thousand months
Bear with patience for the sake of Ar-Rahman
It’s a continuous training to strengthen our Imaan.

Glory be to Allah who sent Ramadan as a mercy to mankind
Its a purification of our soul, our heart, and our mind
With the most sincere devotion and love we fast
To be cleansed and free from sins of the past.

Salam Ramadhan to you, my friends and your family.

Copyright © Random Rarebits 2. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stay hungry, stay foolish

As my best friend Belle of the Party corrected me in my previous blog post, it was Steve Jobs who said, life is about connecting the dots. Not Bill Gates as I thought. So this blog post is an errata to that error.

Steve Jobs also said, "Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

I totally agree with him. Makes me wonder, is that why our long term memory gets better as we grow older? So that it will facilitate our minds in connecting the dots. Hehehe, just exploring that possibility...

If you want to read, here's Steve Jobs'speech from whence that phrase came, shared by Belle of the Party today.

"You've got to find what you love," Steve Jobs says.

This is the text of the Commencement Address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on 12 June 2005.

* * *

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation.

Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl.

So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course."

My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition.

After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it.

And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography.

If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it is likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.

Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky - I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees.

We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started?

Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley.

But something slowly began to dawn on me - I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world.

In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right."

It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it is the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions. Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age.

On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Connecting the dots...

Was it Bill Gates who said, life is about connecting the dots?

Ooopss Belle of the Party said it was Steve Jobs. Eeeps sorry I got my facts wrong there. So, correction, it's Steve Jobs, not Bill Gates.

Irregardless of who said that, I believe he's right about that. When I look back at everything that happened in my life, my experiences were actually to prepare me for things that will come later in life, that would help me overcome.

When I was a student at San Jose State University in California, USA, I worked 40 hours a week, doing three part-time jobs to supplement my measly scholarship and to have some money for my travels. When I was a lot younger, I was a bundle of energy, passion and resilience. Although I'm not as young as I once were, I still am a bundle of energy, passion and resilience. My battery is still ever ready :)

Imagine this. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I would work at the faculty coffee house, which helped me got to know my lecturers better. I would say that was strategic job. Although I was just a cashier on Mondays and making sandwiches on Wednesdays, I developed good rapport with people who determined my grades in class :)

My classes were mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I would study and did my research in between classes and jobs. I would have a quick bite of sandwich or chips, read San Jose Mercury News and Spartan Daily and then study during my lunch breaks. That was a tight schedule, but somehow I managed it well, graduating with a CGPA of over 3.1!

On Friday evenings after my classes, I would work at the campus pub serving pizza, pasta and beer to both the faculty and the students. I would spend 6-8 hours waitressing - running around taking orders, serving food, clearing tables and cleaning the pub before closing. From my job, I made some friends and developed social skills. After finishing work, I walked two miles to get back to my apartment. I was fortunate that my campus provides police escort to walk me home safely. By the time I got home, it was already way past midnight and time for bed.

Most mornings I would spring out of bed, raring to go for the day. Some mornings I woke up thinking, omigod, do I have to work again today? Hehe...I still do that sometimes :) But when I thought about how hard work it was being a waitress and how I've come a long way to what I am today, I would get up and be raring to go again!

Some weekends were spent recuperating, sleeping in half the day. Some weekends were spent studying and doing research. Some weekends were spent socialising with the nine other Malaysians and a number of foreign friends whom i got to know from campus and at the pub. Some weekends were spent working at the campus stadium serving hotdogs, nachos, chips and beer to people watching football or fans watching rock concerts. Some weekends were spent working as a catering staff, serving faculty's guests, politicians and corporate figures. Some weekends were spent bumming around in my apartment watching cable TV.

I remember thinking how nice it would have been to be in the customer's shoes instead of being in a waitress' shoes. Omigod, my feet was killing me! Well, somedays. Now that I am in the customer's shoes, doing a lot of entertaining for my job, it's more like, "omigod, those good food are killing me!"

You know what I hated about being a waitress?

1...Those damned table numbers. I never did remember all of them. It took me weeks on the job to figure out how the numbering system works. In the first month, I managed to screw up one order because of it.

2...That stupid light blue t-shirt, navy blue baseball cap and navy blue apron my supervisors at the stadium made me wear. Memang tak cun langsung lah! Darn! Opportunities lost because there were many cute guys at the stadium...

3...Because I had tan from swimming almost everyday at the campus aquatic centre on my way home from class during spring and summer, I was being repeatedly mistaken for a Mexican by some customers. However, now that I'm back home in Malaysia, and I'm so fair skinned due to the lack of sunlight having worked in the ofice from sun up to sun down everyday, I've always been told I look Chinese or sometimes a Chinese Eurasian (hahaha they must be fooled by my blue contact lenses and blonde highlights that I used to have on me!).

But because I weren't in their shoes, I have learned a great lesson in humility that have stayed with me in life. Ah well, you can say these aren't strategic jobs, but I certainly did learn some good lessons and achieved a thing or two.

1...My biggest achievement of all: not dropping a single plate or drinking glass or piping-hot pizza or pasta on an angry customer or anywhere near.

2...I realised that a tip of a few dollars won't make you rich but it's still something to be happy about. Biggest tip I got was 20 bucks!

3...A hungry man is an angry man indeed. If an order is late or wrong, a customer can become an irritated curse-tomer. You're dealing with hungry people after all.

4...A sincere "thank you" from your customer or your boss makes your day!

5...I learned some Spanish words because some customers keep speaking Spanish to me.

6...I learned from the cook how to make good pasta!

7...I learned how to set a table for a formal dinner and what fork to use for what dish and in which order

8...No greater satisfaction than earning your own hard earned money!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Life is coffee

Was it John Lennon who sang, "life is what happens while you're busy doing other things." Anyways, have you ever sit down and think, how many times have we gotten carried away in life and forgotten the primary purpose of our existence?

Let me just share with you this story that relates to some of things I learned over the last weekend during my premier leadership program:

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the Professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups: porcelain, plastic, glass; some plain-looking and some expensive and exquisite, telling them to help themselves to the hot coffee.

When all the old students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said, "If you noticed, all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the better cups and are eyeing each other's cups."

"Now imagine, if Life is Coffee, then the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, but Quality of Life doesn't change.

"Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee in it."

So friends, don't be a charlie (silly fool) and let the cups drive you... enjoy the coffee instead.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Why Did the Chicken Cross The Road?

What The Experts Had To Say...

Kindergarten teacher: "Because it wanted to get to the other side."

Aristotle: "It is the nature of chickens to cross roads."

Ronald Reagan: "I forget."

Arthur Andersen (consultant): "Deregulation of the chicken's side of the road was threatening its dominant market position. The chicken was faced with significant challenges to create and develop the competences required for the newly competitive market. Andersen, in a partnering relationship with the client, helped the chicken by rethinking its physical distribution strategy and implementation processes. Using the Poultry Integration Model (PIM), Andersen helped the chicken use its skills, methodologies, knowledge, capital and experiences to align the chicken people, processes and technology in support of its overall strategy within a Program Management framework."

Richard M. Nixon: "The chicken did not cross the road. I repeat, the chicken did NOT cross the road."

Computer Programmer: "In order for the chicken to cross the road safely they would need more than one driver to access the server farm, if not they will hang in the middle of the road."

Jerry Seinfeld: "Why does anyone cross a road? I mean, why doesn't anyone ever think to ask "What the heck was this chicken doing walking around all over the place anyway?""

Bill Gates: "I have just released the new Chicken Office 2000, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook."

Dr M: "You know, I am tired of all this...'apa-namaaaa' chicken-chicken bisnes. The foreign powers should stop intervening in our domestic affairs and just leave our chickens alone. If they want to 'apa namaaaa' cross the road, they should be allowed to cross the road. Malaysia is a democratic country; we let our chickens do whatever they want to do, as long as they don't threaten the Malay unity and try to topple the government, and if they plan to do so, we won't hesitate to use the ISA."

Pak Lah: "Ini semua adalah khabar angin sahaja. Jangan percaya khabar-khabar angin ini semua. Biasalah ini adalah taktik pembangkang untuk memecah belahkan perpaduan ayam-ayam semua. Jangan percaya. Jangan percaya."

Sammy Vellu: "Ayyooyoo! Belakang cerita lain kali, kita sude bikin banyak jembatan, itu ayam musti guna jembatan untuk lintas itu jalan lagi pun kalu itu ayam mau pigi jalan-jalan, beritau sama saya juga, saya bolley buat lebbey banyak toll."

Karam Singh Walia: "Seperti yang saudara dapat lihat, kelihatan ayam-ayam itu sedang melintas jalan. Mereka bukan sahaja melintas jalan, malah membuang najis di atas jalan dan ini adalah pencemaran yang paling hebat di maya ini. Bapa-bapa dan ibu-ibu ayam haruslah mengambil inisiatif untuk melatih ayam-ayam agar menahan najis sewaktu melintas jalan, sekian saya sudahi dengan. Ayam di jalan di lintaskan; ayam di reban mati tak makan."

Colonel Sanders: "I missed one?"

Bill Clinton: "I've had so many chicks, I can't remember."

Wan Kamarudin: "Ape kejadahnyer ini semua, KL dah jadik reban ayam, mak bapak ayam asyik menganga saje."

Zainal Ariffin Ismail: "Ada saksi menyatakan yang mereka dapat melihat ayam-ayam ini melintasi jalan-jalan di kampung ini pada waktu malam. Ada yang menyatakan ayam-ayam ini merupakan penyamaran jin. Dan ada juga mengaitkan ia berkaitan dengan peristiwa silam di kampung ini. Apakah sebenarnya maksud tersirat ayam-ayam ini melintas jalan? Oleh itu saya akhiri, "Jangan biarkan hidup anda diselubungi misteri."

Zainal Alam Kadir: "Ayam siapa kalau bukan ayam kita."