Category Archives: Book Review

Hong Kong Movers and Stayers

A research into the mass migration before handover in 1997, many HKgers had either escaped China during the Cultural Revolution or were decendents of those that escaped the famine and oppression.  HKgers are migrants by nature judging from its history so it is not a surprise that many chose to leave HK before the impending change of guard.  They would rather suffer the uncertainties in a new country than live under the rule of a known enemy (Communist China).  The fear was enough to propel many to leave in exodus. 

Between 1984 and 1996, it is estimated that half a million HKgers fled to Canada, Australia, USA and UK in that order.  Canada was the preferred country as its immigration laws allowed HKgers to qualify based on investment, while the other countries imposed streneous conditions such as accepting only professionals or those with kin already in that country.  Immigration is an expensive endeavour and naturally required advance planning.  This planning not only included financial but also psychological, everyone in the family had the same goal, to eventually migrate and settle in a foreign land. 

The book profiled several families that made extensive plans to migrate.  Of these, 3 were granted approval by the Canadian Government to migrate and for these 3 families, the father became a transnational migrant; he travelled to and fro HK to maintain his business/profession while the family remained in Canada.  Migration being an expensive endeavour meant that it was something which mostly professionals or business owners could afford.  The luxury of choice afforded by wealth.  Those without such means had similarly strong opinions about the handover but alas were limited in what they could do.  When speaking to a colleague who did not have the means to migrate, I detected an acceptance of fate, come-what-may this was her home and she was willing to put up with it until she had the means to leave.  She has expressed a desire for her children to migrate to Europe and no doubt has already started planning for this eventuality.  Many of those who could not migrate pin their hopes and purse strings on their offsprings to migrate.  The family takes care of its own, including ensuring long term economic survival and civil liberties.

Insightful read into the psychology of the HK people.


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Success is a culmination of..

  • Hard work (10,000 hours to be precise)
  • What year you were born (in order to be able to partake in the next big thing)
  • Having analytial intelligence and practical intellligence.  Analytical intelligence is IQ, gifted by your DNA, while practical intelligence is as a result of how you were brought up by your parents, i.e. parenting philosophy.  There are 2 philosophies, rich and poor.  If you’re a rich kid, its likely that your parents were well-educated, so that from a young age you will be engaged in meaningful conversations.  It is likely that you will not be short of books, games and activities designed to stimulate your mind.  These are not readily available to someone who grew up poor.  And as a result, someone who grew up rich is likely to have better practical intelligence than someone who grew up poor.   We all know that knowledge learned during formative years deeply impact a person’s belief of the world. 

In short, there are several layers that determine success:

1) Not everyone is given the same opportunities in life. 

2) Not everyone who is given the same opportunities, would recognise and sieze it. 

3) The ones who did recognise and sieze it, may react differently based on their practical intelligence, their work ethics.  This then determines whether the effort pays off.

 These 3 factors have to line up perfectly if you are to be a mega superstar success… according to the book “Outliers”. 

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Hong Kong, according to Chris Patten


I picked up an interesting book from the library two weeks ago, it was “East and West – by Chris Patten“.  Chris was the last governor of HK and in this first book that he wrote soon after the Handover of HK, he shares his opinions about HK and China.  His writings are mostly enjoyable, though it can get quite dry at times.  There were enough witty comments to keep me entertained throughout.  The part that interests me the most was his impression of HK, drawing from history and observations. 

As history goes,  in order to escape the oppression and famine, early settlers came from China to HK, free city of the East.   They would be characterised by their refugee mentality – at the whiff of a threat to their livelihood, they were willing and able to uproot to another place at high speed.  This mentality has changed little over time, case in point – just before the Handover, those who could afford to, migrated to Australia and Canada.  Today, many HKgers hold dual passports as a result of their pre-1997 migration and also Just-in-case they need to flee again.  HKgers were unsure about the stability of HK and were wary about China’s intentions post-Handover and left to escape uncertainties.  Many would return to HK with their Australian and Canadian accents to find that the worst that they had feared had not materialised – it was Business as Usual.   

As refugees who came with almost nothing, these people have managed to prosper through sheer hard work and possibly some short-cuts.  Very early on, they had appreciated the value of a good education as the way out of poverty.  For that reason, HKgers are obsessed with educating their children well.  It is only in HK that faces of tuition teachers are plastered on billboards and on buses, like movie stars.  In fact some of them look like movie star with their styled hair and makeup and surely command more money.   A teacher’s reputation is built on the student pass % rate.  Once a reputation has been established, the teacher will move from centre to centre bringing their adoring fans along.  Spending on educational books and aids though expensive, is considered necessary.  The most ridiculous thing that I’ve come across is parents doing homework for their children.   A friend enrolled her child into this online program, which requires her child to complete homework everyday.  This homework is in addition to school homework.  Instead of the child completing the homework, she completes it for him.  The reason – the online program is too complicated for her child to operate.  When I asked, why then did she continue paying for the online program, she replied that it was because all the kids in her child’s class were enrolled on the same program AND (this is the hilarious part), each completed assignment is scored and the children are ranked.  At this moment, “her” child is ranked 3rd among all the other kids.  It is likely that the other parents are also completing the homework, so the ranking is actually a ranking of the parents!  

Imaging looking at that face, while learning English - you intepret it anyway you like!

The book has given me an insight into why the HKgers are the way they are.  I continue to be intrigued as I learn more about them.

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Book review: The Attitude of Leadership

I recently completed this book by Keith Harrell and found it an interesting read.  Mostly because it contained advice from real-life  business Leaders, who share their background and what they believe a Leader should have.  Each chapter profiles a Leader and each chapter is short and easy to read.  Here are some snippets that caught my eye:

  • Leadership is contagious.  A commitment to be our best and to inspire others to be their best sets up a leadership legacy that motivates others to respond in kind.
  • Hire good people because disciplining or firing employees can be a challenge
  • We must be in a profession that matches our personality, style and skills or we won’t make it to the top
  • If you want to contribute to society and make a difference, figure out your strengths, what you love to do and how you can purposely place yourself in a position to add the most value
  • Avoid thinking negative thoughts that hold you back.  Cancel each negative thought with a positive one.
  • As a leader who wants better results, it starts with good programming – the things you read, the things you watch on TV, the things you say and what others say to you.  This programming creates your belief and your belief creates your attitude.
  • Good habits are hard to develop and easy to live with and bad habits are easy to develop but hard to live with.
  • Leaders need to have positive self-esteem, because when you feel good about yourself, you want to enhance yourself.   When you’re confident, you seek to enrich your soul, heart and brain so you can do and be your best.
  • Transformational Leadership means the lives we touch, people we grow and environment that we nurture. 
  • Passion and Enthusiasm is contagious.
  • Control what you can control.  Don’t sweat the small stuff. 
  • We may not have control over many of the circumstances in our lives but we can control how we respond to them.  Attitude is a choice.
  • A leader’s job is to get results through his or her people, if your staff members are working effectively, autonomously, then you know you’ve succeded as a Leader.
  • Leadership is behaving in a way that engenders trust.  Others trust us when they perceive us acting with integrity.  Integrity is understanding that cutting corners is not an option.  Build trust by respecting others and giving others our Trust by allowing them to make things happen and by delivering on our commitment.
  • True leadership is not about self-achievement, it’s about empowering and motivating others to achieve.
  • The most important responsibility of a leader is to provide strategic direction to the enterprise
  • Turn commands into Requests for Cooperation, turning “You Have to” to “Could you please?”
  • People are motivated by the mission and purpose of the organisation.  And so it is extremely important for an organisation to have a well-defined mission and purpose.  3 excellent objections : (i) To honor GOD in all we do, (ii) To help people develop and (iii) To pursue excellence.
  • PAT Principle of Success= Passion, Approachability, Thoughtfulness.
  • Leaders can develop people skills but it starts with the heart and ends with the heart.  You have to care about people.  You can’t fake or learn that.
  • Listen to those being led, being a servant-leader and not an authoritative leader.
  • The power of love and how to exercise love in challenging situations.  Love finds the pause button, allowing you to gain control of your emotions when you’d rather lose your temper.  Love is coachable, teachable, doesn’t get offended at correction. Love cares more for others than for self.
  • An attitude of Leadership is: A leader is patient, kind and walks in love, A leader is not jealous, conceited or proud, A leader is not illmannered, selfish or irritable, A leader does not keep a record of wrong things done to them, A leader is proactive, not reactive, A leader is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth, honest and integrity, A leader is steadfast, focused and committed to their vision, A leader is ever ready to believe the best of every person, and treats everyone with respect.

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Be Happy NOW

I just flew more than 13 hours, from HK to London.  My entertainment system did not function throughout the trip, so I was basically stuck with no movies to occupy my attention.  It is very torturous when this happens while you’re flying long-haul.  The best thing that happened, was just before boarding the plane I happened to see a book titled: Happiness Now, by Richard Holden in the airport bookshop.  The title attracted my attention and as a bonus, it was on sale…. so I bought it.  This book occupied most of my time on the long flight, together with my trusty Ipod.

I haven’t completed the whole book, I’m about half-way through.  From what I’ve read, the principles of Happiness Now is:

  • we all have 2 selfs: Unconditioned self and the Conditioned self (also known as our ego). The Unconditioned self is the original you, untainted by history, conditioning, fears, doubts, learned limitations, while the conditioned self, is shaped by all our years on earth. 
  • The Unconditioned self knows how to be happy because it is care-free.  While the conditioned self constantly restrains us from being happy, because it is conditioned to fear. 
  • It is our egos that remind us that we’re never good enough, we’re never happy with ourselves, with what we have etc.  and we’re always in a hurry to improve ourselves.  The essence of it is we have a hard time, accepting ourselves as we are. 
  • And because of this lack of self-acceptance, we are constantly searching for what we think will make us happy, postponing our right to be happy now.
  • The book says that happiness is within us, it’s a decision we make.  Sometimes our ego “rules” our way of life that we forget to take the time to be happy / how to be happy / what makes us happy.  Simple things recommended in the book, is to consciously remember something that made us happy today and as we make this conscious effort to remember, we will soon take actions to make ourselves happy.  It can be something simple, like taking the time to smell the coffee that we’re drinking or listening to the wind blow.

I think this book is a gem and a timely reminder to all of us, who are sometimes battered by our expectations of life.  I recently had a chat with a close friend and we were lamenting the fact that some days would pass without us being happy.  Is the pressures of life so great that we cannot find anything in 24 hours to be happy about?  It made sense when I read the book on making the conscious effort to make ourselves happy.  As we go through the daily grind of life, I fear that we may forget what it means to be happy or that our perception of happiness is defined by material things or egostitical pursuits.  These may only give us momentary happiness but probably our yearning for more (driven by ego) will make us dissatisfied and empty.     

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