Thursday, August 11, 2016

Noob Husband (Year 3) - When Two Becomes One

This year will be my 3rd year of being married to the woman I love.

I had a deep problem that was bothering me, and I decided to keep it to myself. But somewhere in my mind, I knew that I shouldn't do that and I should express it to someone - especially someone really close, like my wife. I knew it, but I forgot.

Today, I was reminded of it.

When you find yourself a spouse, you are creating a team. In a team, we look out for each other. There is not such thing as winning without the other member of the team on board. When one member wins, the other wins too. When one member loses, the other loses too.

When you are on the same boat, there is no competition. You have the same goal: to keep the boat afloat and to reach your destination. If the boat sinks, it takes everybody with it. That is the analogy that I have to keep reminding myself in this marital relationship I am in.

For a while now, I have been contemplating on some financial matters. I have to make a financial decision that will affect my family. Seeing how big the task is, I intend on taking adequate time to think about it before making my move.

Weeks gone by and I can't make a decision. My wife knew about it but I didn't explicitly ask for her help. I thought that the decision to be made is in my department, so I should handle it myself. Plus, I don't want to burden my wife with this extra task.

That is the kind of thinking that is wrong for a marriage, where you think that you should face a problem alone and that sharing the load would mean "burdening the other". I have said it to myself before: we are a team. When one member of a team suffers, the rest of the team suffers as well.

So today, I decided to break that ego wall that I have erected between my wife and I: I asked for help. I was overwhelmed with the decision making process up to a point where I feel paralyzed. I honestly told my wife that I couldn't make up my mind and I wanted to ask for her input.

My wife, being a cool person that she is, simply said, "Lets eat first."

What a boss!

So we sat down, and we talked while eating. Just by virtue of sharing the problem with someone close to you, you can feel that the weight becomes lighter and lighter. You don't feel like you have to carry it alone anymore. Plus, having an outside perspective might give you an idea you didn't think of before.

After talking it out with my wife, I found a way out and I was relieved. I know what to decide and I know how to move on from there. This is one of the barakah (blessing) of musyawarah (discussion). We often forget that, simply because we feel like we have to face it alone or we don't want to burden the other.

Speaking of burdening, it is more burdening for the other to see you burdened. For people who love you, they would prefer to share the load with you rather than to see you carrying it alone. They care about you and they want to help you when you have problems.

So don't think that you are being selfish if you ask for help. For people who care about you, not asking for help is considered selfish. Perhaps you already knew that, but maybe you forgot like I did. Thankfully, I was reminded.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Confidence, English Speaking, and Malaysian Students

Confidence (or self-confidence) is one of those topics that I love to learn more about. One of the reasons why I love it because I see a need for it today. Many people, especially young people, whom I've interacted with on some level have self-confidence issues.

It is one of those things that you realize after much exposure, like a pattern. Perhaps you are the only one who notice it because you are paying attention to it. Perhaps you attract certain people with certain problems. Whatever it is, I see it happening enough times to draw a safe conclusion that many young people have a confidence problem and it needs to be addressed.

In many cases, people think that confidence is something that you get from the outside: from the clothes you wear, to the people you hang out with, to the jewelries you have on, to the cars you can (or can't) afford to buy, and to the skills that you have.

Undeniably, one can feel more confident by having those external things. But the confidence is temporary; once the external things are gone, they take one's confidence with them. The thing is, confidence is an internal trait.

Take skills as an example.

Many people think that if they have a certain skill, then they should be more confident than they are. But confidence has little to do with the skills that you have. You could have amazing abilities, but you could still be anxious and unsure of yourself.

Lack of confidence has more to do with how you view yourself, and it is more emotional than intellectual.

Despite what reality says, your emotions rule your perception of reality, and your perception of reality rules your life. The key is your emotions. How you feel will colour how you see, and how you see will in return colour how you feel. It's a vicious cycle, beginning with how you see things.

The key to stop the vicious cycle is to take control of your emotions. That doesn't mean that you prevent yourself from feeling, because that is impossible. We're humans. We feel things. What that simply means is that we control how we process what we feel.

If we feel that today is the worst day of our lives, then that becomes our reality. But not necessarily. Reality is, we can choose to process that negative feeling, and come up with a different, more positive conclusion. Take English speaking among Malaysian students as an intimate example.

With English speaking, many students I met have adequate skill. They might not be expert English speakers, but they could speak. They could express what they mean, and isn't that what language is all about?

But despite having the skill, they still lack confidence. One time a woman asked me how to improve her English speaking. She asked me in full English and without grammatical errors. Even her pronunciation was superb!

So, her question didn't make sense. Because she asked me as if she has a bad English. But reality is obviously different. She has a good English, but her emotions have distorted the reality. Despite having the ability, she still lacks confidence.

She is not the only one. I've met others like her. Those instances suggest to me that confidence issues are deeper than having (or not having) the skills. If you think that your self-confidence will automatically improve if you have the English speaking skill, then you might want to think twice about it.

You might cure the symptom, but the disease is still there.

How many people with flawless English speaking who are not confident with themselves? On the other hand, how many people with not-so-flawless English speaking who are completely confident with themselves?

Clearly, English speaking is not the root of the problem.

The root of the problem is how you view yourself. Confidence is the delicate balance between superiority and inferiority. Having superiority could lead to arrogance. That's not good. Having inferiority could lead to self-loathing. That's not good either.

Confidence is somewhere in between, where you don't view yourself as above anyone else and you don't view yourself as worthless compared to anyone else. Confidence means to be comfortable in your own skin and to be comfortable with being yourself.

At the same time, that doesn't mean that we are happy with our flaws. It means that we accept them as a part of ourselves, while having the intention to change ourselves for the better. Confidence is not the same as complacency.

There's more to say and more to do with regards to confidence, especially among students. The reason why I focus so much on students is because they are young adults who are becoming more and more involved with the community, whether they like it or not.

Students and young adults everywhere are glimpses of our future. The world as we know it is throwing at us new problems everyday, and we need people who are able to solve these problems for a better future.

Having confidence is a must for problem-solvers. They need to be able to work under pressure, interact with vastly different people, explore the unpredictable world around them, and be true to who they are as an individual.

Problems exist to shake you, and you can't solve them if you can't stand firmly on your own two feet.


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.

Friday, August 05, 2016

One Thing I Learned From The "Evil" Western Culture

When I hear people say, "The western culture is poisoning our minds!" or something else along the same line, I want to ask them, "Have you ever been to a western country before?" My experience in Canada (a western country) seems different than the rhetoric I usually hear back home.

Perhaps what people say has some truth in it, but it is not the whole truth.

Undeniably, every culture has a good side and a bad side. My culture has it, and western culture has it too. But to generalize an entire culture and label it as "evil" just because you see a few negatives in it, is unjust.

We don't want people to call our culture "evil". But then, we are comfortable calling other culture "evil"? Perhaps The Golden Rule needs more repetition: Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.

I have learned a lot of beautiful practices from my time in a western country. Many of these beautiful practices I find to be Islamic, even though the people who practice them may not be Muslims. One of the practices I learned is a simple restaurant etiquette: clean up after yourself.

The first time I ate in a restaurant there, I learned this simple but often times forgotten etiquette. I observed that after eating, people are taking their plates to empty them in the trash. Then, they stack the plates nicely on a designated counter.

I didn't have a smartphone back then. I would've taken a picture of the scene to show it to the people back home. It's the simplest of good deeds that often get overlooked.

For many of us, we eat in a restaurant, finish eating, and just leave. Even in places where they have a trash bin readily available and a place to put their plates/trays (e.g. KFC, airport food court, etc.), we would still do this.

During my naive years, I always thought that was the way to go. But there is a better way, and it seems common sense. Why don't we clean up after ourselves?

The usual response I hear is, "Well, there are people employed to do the cleaning. So why should I do it? If I do it, then they won't do their job and they get their paycheck for free!" That is what I hear, but between the lines I simply hear, "I am just lazy."

Trust me, even if you clean up after yourself, the workers have plenty of other cleaning jobs that they have to do in the restaurant. Cleaning up tables is probably the easiest of them all, and it won't hurt if we lighten up their burden.

Remember, we are only there for a few minutes but they have to be there for hours. Plus, they have served us food. The least we can do is clean up our table and it doesn't take much energy and time to do it.

Why should we do it? Because that's good mannerisms, and good mannerisms don't need a reason.


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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Interview Tip: Just Be You, The Confident You

I applied for a spot in an international leadership program and I was shortlisted for an interview in KL. So a few days ago, I flew there for an interview I haven't had in a while. Prior to the interview, I was anxious.

From my secondary school years, I was taught to "study" for the interview. So my anxiety has brought me back to my secondary school days and I had a passing thought telling me that I should study.

I find it weird to study for an interview: to anticipate the questions, and to prepare/memorize answers beforehand. Even a simple question such as "Tell us about yourself" is rehearsed. I thought to myself, "If I was the interviewer, do I want that in a candidate?" I would imagine that an interviewer would want to see the real me. At least, that is what I would want if I was the interviewer.

So I didn't study. It's an interview. Not an exam.

Anxiety is still there. But I managed to control it, even while waiting for my turn outside of the interview room. It was a solo interview, not a group interview. So, I was completely alone. I walked in to see two interviewers ready to meet me: a man and a lady. I sat down in front of them, smiling and confident (at least on the outside).

I always feel nervous in the beginning of something. But once I am in the zone, the nervousness seems to melt away. So I just need to get my act together and enter the zone. One question after the other, my confidence slowly grew. My focus is to simply tell them the truth; tell them who I really am. There was no need for pretence, because I can't spend the rest of my life pretending.

If I am good enough for the spot in the program, then they will pick me. If I am not good enough, then I will learn, improve, and move on. When one door closes, another one will open. No need to mourn because of one closed door.

What's important is that I took the opportunity and did my best. That is already a success, whether I get the spot or not.

The only failure is in not trying; to give up before the battle begins.

p/s: I got the spot!


Do you want to master your confidence?

Speak Up! Academy 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.