Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Posting Pictures of Children Online

I read an article in The Star recently about the risks of posting pictures of children online and it inspired me to write this blog post. I have talked about it before in one of my Youtube videos, but I wanted to add something to the whole discussion for my benefit and, hopefully, yours too.

Many people know that I purposefully don't post pictures of my son online. To be more specific, I don't post pictures that show his face. I would take pictures of him from the back, the top, or the side and post them instead.

The reason why I posted those pictures is because I want to share a story. So my focus is the story and not my son. Understanding that people respond best to pictures, I use this method to make the post more alive but without identifying my son.

A win-win situation in my perspective.

On top of that, to the best of my ability, I refuse to share humiliating pictures of my son even though he is "just a baby". I know he's cute but I think certain cuteness shouldn't be publicized. I see my son as a dignified human being and I treat him like I wanted to be treated.

Due to the fact that posting pictures of children is common, I understand that some people don't get this part. A trend can be a powerful thing to reject, and people sometimes question you for doing it. As a father, especially a new father, you are constantly worried about your family.

I worry when I pass by one or two smokers on the street because I don't want my son being exposed to it. I worry when some people around me allow their children to freely play with gadgets because I know my son can easily be influenced. I worry when people take pictures of my son because I don't know what they're going to do with the picture (I usually refuse to allow my son to be photographed, but sometimes people do it without my knowledge).

It can be hard to be consistent with this principle, because social pressure can be overwhelming. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose. But I am doing my best for the love of my child.

I don't judge the people around me. I am just worried, because I am a father. It's my job.

Friday, June 24, 2016

3 Hard Truths You Have to Swallow If You've Ever Been Teased

"I tried to speak in English, but my friends make fun of me. What should I do?"

Simple. You need new friends.

Relax, I'm kidding. Sort of.

Here's the hard truth: No matter how much you try, you can never control what people say about you. You can spend your whole life trying to impress people, but in the end you will only end up with more heartache. Because when you impress one person, there will be five people who aren't impressed.

If you continue running on this hamster wheel, then you will end up exactly where you started, but exhausted.

Here's the harder truth: Nobody said you *have to* continue running on the wheel. You can simply step off of it and walk away. Meaning, nobody said that you have to impress everyone and make everyone happy. That is something that you say to yourself and it is something that you have convinced to yourself that it can be achieved.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Here's the hardest truth: No matter what you do, good or bad, there will always be people who will make fun of you. Or, perhaps hate you. This is the background noise that you're gonna have to deal with.

In life, whatever choice you make will have its own group of haters. The good thing is, you are not judged by what they say. You are judged by what you do. If you are doing the right thing, then ignore them.

The one who is making a positive difference in his/her life is you, while they are laughing in the background. But that's where they belong - in the background.

You, move forward.


To learn more about how to build confidence in yourself and how to improve your English speaking, do join us at SPEAK UP! English Speaking Seminar in July 2016.

We're going to Pahang and Johor!

Details can be found here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Do You Have To Speak English All The Time? Nope.

I was in the bus with my friends and one of them asked me if I speak English at home. I told her, "No, not really." The truth is, I speak more Malay than I do English. She was shocked, because from her observation of my English speaking skills, she assumed that I must speak English all the time.

Nope, you don't have to. So, how did I do it?

A lot of people know me through the videos I uploaded on Youtube. Since 2011, I uploaded videos of me speaking on various topics and yes, I speak in English. I received emails and comments from people wondering how I polished my English speaking to become how it is today.

Without taking away my appreciation for people's good thoughts, I would like to emphasize one important point: Don’t be too mesmerised with what you see, thinking that it magically happened. What you see is a product of years of practise and patience.

Don’t expect to be an expert tomorrow when you only started today. Self-improvement is a process that takes time, so don’t expect things to fall into place all at once. Take it one step at a time. There are no shortcuts to success. You have to be willing to do the work in order to get the result.

English speaking is a skill and a skill can be acquired. Different individuals can acquired a skill differently and can master the skill at different levels of mastery, but the skill can be acquired nonetheless.

Any skill acquisition, to my estimation, follows the same learning pathway. To acquire any skill, you needs two basic things:

  1. Be exposed to the language. Listen, listen, and listen to the language in all its variations and nuances. Pay close attention to pronunciations, abbreviations, slangs, cultural norms, idioms, wordplays, and a myriad of other beautiful things associated with the English language, or any language for that matter. You can only produce what you consumed. 
  2. Put it to practice. Theory alone is not enough. It is never enough. You shouldn't keep the knowledge all bottled up in your head because the benefits of knowledge only manifest through the limbs i.e. you have to apply it. Especially with English speaking, which involves mostly mechanical movements of your mouth, you need to practice, practice, and practice. 

Scared about making mistakes? Don't worry, you will make mistakes. That is a guarantee, but that is not the scariest part of it all. The scariest part is not doing anything at all. The scariest part is to remain in the comfort zone, not growing.

The scariest part is being a coward, and be consumed by overwhelming sense of guilt when you witness other people exploring and trying new things while you stay in your zone with the words "What if..." lingering in your head.

That's scary.


Do you want to master your confidence?

Speak Up! Project focuses on creating a strong foundation of inner confidence. We apply the confidence in practicing essential soft skills: English speaking, public speaking, and debating.

Click here to get updates about our next confidence-upgrading programs.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

4 English Skills Your Emotion is Overlooking

English, like any other languages, consists of four separate skills that are linked to each other in some way. These four skills are reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Any English proficiency tests such as MUET, IELTS, or TOEFL will test the students on each of these four skills.

So, when you say that your English is bad, are you seriously saying that you have no proficiency in any of the four skills? For a typical Malaysian student, I don't think that's the case. For those who went through the basic school curriculum, at the very least, you should be able to read in English, write in English, and listen to English.

Why? Because you have had years of practice in those three skills. In class, you read the texts given by your teacher in English, you listened to your teacher speaking in English, and you wrote your assignments or homework in English. You have been doing that for quite some time now, right? By right, you should be able to at least use those skills to understand and to convey meaning.

When you say "My English is bad", it is very likely that you are referring to your English speaking, which constitutes only one out of the four skills in English language proficiency. It is likely that out of all four, speaking is the skill which received the least practice. Even though you used English in your listening, reading, and writing, perhaps you don't speak English as much as you should in class.

What's my point? I would like for Malaysian students not to generalize their problem and make it worse than it actually is. The way they describe the problem might be the problem in and of itself. When they say things like "My English is bad", that expression put their entire English skill in an all-or-none scenario - either you have it or you don't.

But English skill is not like that. Each of the four skills aforementioned has a spectrum of its own, and in calculating your proficiency, the average of all four spectrums is taken. You can see that clearly manifested when you take your English proficiency test; it averages you out.

Even if on average, you are not doing as well, it doesn't mean that your English skill is bad. Perhaps that is how you feel, but that is not the case in reality. Be careful about allowing emotions to paint the picture of reality for you. Most of the time, emotions will get it wrong. Even when it's right, it might be exaggerating.

If you look closer, you might realize that although you don't do well on average, perhaps you are doing well in some aspects of the overall skill. Perhaps you are good in your listening, or in your reading, or in your writing, or in your speaking, or in a combination of them. If you are good in one of the four skills, that is a good start. At least you are 1/4 proficient in English already.

So you see, you might not be that bad at it after all.


To learn more on how you can improve your English speaking (one of the skills mentioned in this blog post) and how you can improve your confidence in speaking, do join us for our next SPEAK UP! English Speaking Seminar in July 2016.

We are going to Pahang and Johor!

Details can be found here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Think Your English is Bad? Think Again.

"My English is bad."

That is a common thing I hear from many Malaysian students I have met. It is likely that they need some improvements in their English language, but to make a simple conclusion like "My English is bad" might be a bit of an overreaction.

But since it is a common expression among many people, we don't feel like it's out of place. I think we have created a culture around the idea that if you don't speak like a pro English speaker, that means that your English is by definition...bad. If many people believe it to be the case, then it must be true.



Try to examine what you say before you say it and see if it's true, not based on what other people say but based upon an objective standard. English is a language and the purpose of any language is to communicate meaning. If people understand what you mean, then that means you have fulfilled the purpose of language. Lets make that a standard.

Many students I've met actually have a good enough of an English speaking skill to meet this standard. I don't think their English is bad at all. It's good enough. But the thing is, many people think that good enough is not enough. You have to have the "perfect English". Then, and only then, will your English be good and not bad.

Newsflash: There is no such thing as a perfect English-lah!


Do you want to master your confidence?

Speak Up! Project focuses on creating a strong foundation of inner confidence. We apply the confidence in practicing essential soft skills: English speaking, public speaking, and debating.

Click here to get updates about our next confidence-upgrading programs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ramadan: Calm Before the Dawn

I woke up today before dawn for my suhoor (pre-dawn meal) before starting my fast. Unlike previous days, I took some time in between to reflect on the moment. This realization to reflect came to me when I remembered my friend's tweet:

Ramadan Thought: The quiet of the early morning is precious for reflection. Use suhoor to eat with focus, intention and appreciation. - Lee Weissman

Good advice. So I started reflecting. All it takes was for me to focus on the moment. It was quiet. Too quiet, but in a good way. There is a special sense of calm that descends at this moment. I push all away, deconstruct, and I take some of it all in again piece by piece - like a puzzle.

The picture became clearer.

At this moment, the senses are heightened. You could hear the whisper of the wind and the song of the crickets, as if your ears are granted a temporary opening to the slightest of sounds. When the worldly sounds diminish, natural sounds emerge.

In the quiet darkness of the early morning, your eyes opened up. You could the biggest light to the smallest light, from the giants stars above to the tiny fireflies on the earth. When it's dark, the eyes wonder around to see a light - no matter how small.

It is truly a spiritual moment, and it's fleeting.

Not too long, the athan (call to prayer) is called and dawn begins to enter. The birds are awake and soon the cars will too. The world will start over and the noise will take over. But hopefully, the quiet calm of the pre-dawn lingers on and the feeling you experienced then will navigate you during the day.

You walk among the busy, with your own business, but with a different focus. You see things differently, as you are able to distinguish between things and not see them all as the same. You have centered yourself around the essential, not the important or the urgent.

The morning calm has transformed you, but only for a while. The gravity of the world is strong and soon you will be drawn to it again, taking you further and further from your center. Hopefully, the morning calm will come again to revive, to rejuvenate, and to remind.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Is It Possible to Forgive and Forget?

To forgive, although it can be difficult, is not impossible. A person can forgive someone who has done something terrible to him.

But can he forget it?

The idea of forgive and forget sounds nice but is it doable? There are plenty of good-sounding sayings out there that don’t make sense. We shouldn’t be mesmerized by clever wordplay, and become oblivious of its less-than-clever content.

Are we taught to forgive and forget, or are we taught to forgive? Forgive and forget is obviously ideal, but many of us can recall countless examples of when forgetting is very difficult or just downright impossible.

For example, in the cases of trauma, a person can't forget the terrible things that have been done to him. To expect the person to simply forget is to expect the person to do something he is unable to do, and that is unjust.

To give a more specific example, can we realistically expect rape survivors to forget the horrible wrong that has been done to them? Forgiveness is still a possibility, albeit a small one, but it is safe to say that forgetting is impossible in such a situation.

Another question comes to mind: if the person can’t forget, should he forgive?


Forgiveness, although it can be understandably difficult at times, is more for the person who was wronged, than for the person who wronged. Forgiveness enables a person to let go of the past and to allow room for healing.

The person would still remember the wrongdoing, but he wouldn't allow the past to emotionally overwhelm him in the present anymore. By letting go, he is making a courageous decision to take control of his life again and not allowing the experience to dictate his future.

So, is the person responsible off the hook?


The mark of a civilized society is individual and collective responsibility. Being responsible means that we are accountable for what we do, and being accountable means that we will face the consequences of our actions i.e being rewarded for good and being punished for bad.

So if a person has done something wrong, we should reprimand the person to the best of our ability, using wisdom as our foundation. Part of that wisdom is to not take the law into our own hands. We are looking for justice, not vengeance.

Taking the laws into our own hands might open up doors for anarchy, where people will do whatever they want because they feel like it. Unlike vengeance, justice doesn’t follow our feelings. There are times when the just course of action is not the one that we want. But it is just, whether we like it or not.

Justice, without a standard of conduct, is vengeance. In order for justice to play its part, vengeance has to be removed. In order to remove vengeance (or at the very least, put it under control), we should learn to forgive.

Let it go. Move on. Heal.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Using Fear to Control Our Children

Please watch this video first: Intervention Program Exposes Kids to Jail, Raises Questions for Some - Crime Watch Daily

I have watched the video. Like what it is said at the beginning of the video, this program is controversial indeed. There are two sides of this story: the judge's side and the psychologist's side. Both of their opinions have merits.

For instance, from the judge's perspective, there need to be harsh reality check done on these kids because they are now "deaf" to anything their parents say (as evident from what the video described as the kids being disconnected from their parents). I can understand why the parents are on the judge's side, seeing that they are desperate and out of ideas.

At the same time, what the psychologist said has to be taken seriously. Understanding the emotional and psychological trauma of such a situation could help us make an educated guess as to the social trajectory that these kids might follow in the future.

Is it possible that these kids will change for the better? Yes, that possibility is there and an in depth statistical analysis of the data from that social experiment might give us more details (or, the analysis might surprise us).

Looking at it from the emotional perspective, it doesn't make the situation easier.

On one hand, we have to understand the social situation that the parents are going through. Realistically, they wouldn't want their children to be hurt in any way but because the parents are at their wits end, that might be one of the core reasons why they tolerated such an extreme intervention program.

Perhaps they have tried everything else, and they are holding on to the last rope. So we do sympathize with their struggle.

On the other hand, we want the kids to change long term and not change for a few days before returning to their old ways (or worse). Does this intervention program points towards a long lasting, positive change in the kids or is it just a temporary solution to make ourselves feel better?

I don't know.

Personally, I am not a big fan of using fear as a method of control. It is an easy way out for people to restore order in a situation. It is usually temporary, and it doesn't really imprint a positive picture inside the person who is afraid. You might change as the result of fear, but is it a good change? That question is controversial in itself.

Punishments do have a place in a society. People who committed a crime should face the appropriate consequences of their actions, as deterrence to prevent future crimes. However, punishments shouldn't be the norm. They are designed to be exceptional, to deal with exceptional cases in a society.

A longer lasting change can happen through love. Love takes time, effort, and a lot of patience - especially when we talk about young children. Unlike fear, love doesn't control. It influences, by triggering change from the inside and not from the outside.

Love is more difficult to implement than fear. But it is a difficult task that we signed up for, the minute we decided to get married and have children. Therefore, we should be well prepared with the proper skill sets to be able to face it head on.

Love motivates a person to do the action. Fear, on the other hand, motivates the person to run from the things he or she fears, through doing the action. Hence, love is more longer lasting than fear. With fear, the moment the thing you fear disappears, you don't feel the need to do the action anymore.

We want love, not fear, to be the reason our child does something we asked.

It is important to understand that no human beings do something for no reason. Everything we do has a reason. Kids don't develop bad behaviours out of thin air. Bad behaviours have sources and identifying the sources is crucial in order to be good parents to our kids.

Parents have to play the essential role in making sure their children develop good behaviours, because parents are the children's first reference point in life. It is not farfetched to think that perhaps the parents could be one of the main reasons why the children are behaving badly.

In many situations, we are focused on the bad behaviours of the children and thinking that the children are the problem. Yes and no. Of course, children have to take responsibility for their actions but it is premature to blame it all on them. Perhaps what we see in them is the reflection of ourselves.

In no way should we put 100% blame on the parents either, because it is possible that the kids could develop bad behaviours even when they have excellent parents. There is an element of individual choices in this equation that we have to consider if we want to have a more holistic view of the situation.

Each person is responsible for his or her own actions. One wrong doesn't justify another wrong. We have to be fair when analyzing situations such as the one briefly portrayed in the video. It is easy to pick a side and to completely condemn the other side. But sometimes, there are no sides to choose because both are neither completely innocent nor completely guilty.

Perhaps, both should be in an intervention program.