The Phantom Tollbooth

Thanks to the recommendation from my frenemy, read the book The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster  . 

Despite being a children’s fantasy adventure story book, I enjoy reading the book.  Milo, the protagonist , of the book , visited different places like Dictionopolis, Silent Valley, Expectations and Mountain of Ignorance with Tock and Humbug. During the journey , they met with interesting characters such as Dr Dischord, Ryhmn and Reason and Wordsnatcher.   By just looking at the names, one can draw parallel between the place & characters  in the story and reality.  This is a  fantasy-reality story book and suitable for readers of all ages!

Lots of insights can be gleaned from the book. These serve as  constant remainder to myself that I shall not forget these common sense insights in our daily lives. I will just highlight the two insights that particularly strikes me:

  • Jumping to Conclusion

Milo and company jumped to the Island of Conclusion  and the island was petty crowded. This is a very apt analogy as we have a tendency to  jump to conclusion. I confess  I  jump to conclusion as I have some assumption which might blind my judgement. I guess this is something I need to constantly remind myself not to let my prior experience or assumption  cloud my judgement

  • It is a matter of how you look at things

In the book, Milo met a same man who called himself the Giant, the Midget, the Fat Man and the Thin Man. Why is that possible? It is all matter of perspective. A man much smaller than the Giant will see him as giant. But, if a man is much larger than the Midget, he will see him as Midget.

This is a very simple yet profound logic. There are always two or more sides of a story.  So, one should not jump to conclusion by just hearing one side of the story. Sometimes, the one-side is just your side of story. Have we tried listening to to other sides of story? In a leadership position, I need to have a complete view of the picture before coming to any conclusion.

But easier to be said, as sometimes, I know that I  blinded by my own emotions/feelings. Now, the challenge to myself : How can I make myself free from biases?

I guess why these two insights particularly stuck a chord with me as currently, I am dealing with certain sticky issue.  I need to constantly interrogate myself: Am I jumping to conclusion? Am I being fair by not considering the other perspective? I do admit initially, I tend to jump to conclusion and am blinded by my prior biases/assumption. But, I still stand by what I say. Whatever I choose to say are defensible claims  based on observable evidence.

Sun Tze : The Art Of War

I an trying to read this book. Yes, I use the word “trying” as this is definitely not a easy book to read. This is the English Translation and sometimes, the sentence sounds weird.  It is still reading in progress but  one particular one particular tactic strikes me the most

“To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our hands, but the opportunity of defeating enemy is provided by the enemy himself”


In essence, one can’t prevent one from defeat but this does not mean you will defeat your enemy. Rather, the enemy’s downfall is due to his own weakness/doing.

So, to defense is to attack !  As one awaits the chance to wait for the enemy to make mistake!



I have something to confess.  This book is long overdue. What do I mean by that? I actually bought this book  in the beginning of the year but I only manage to finish reading this book now.  A very though-provoking read as it makes me think how different the world has become. I start wondering to myself: Am I doing enough for the students to prepare them for what is in store with them? I feel that I really need to move faster and get my students to embrace the exciting world. Definitely not by drilling them for PSLE of course. It is more than that. 

The world is changing and if you are not moving (and prefer to remain status quo), you are falling behind. We are living in the era of asymmetry , complexity and uncertainty. It is exciting world we are living in. Let’s embrace it and not be afraid of it.

Here are the major themes that may guide us how we can survive this exciting times:

(1) Emergence over Authority – No more control and command, pls. And definitely no executive order. 

(2) Pull over Push

(3) Compass over Maps – No more guided instructions. Just do it with a compass guiding our ways. 

(4) Risk over safety

(5) Disobedience over Compliance

(6) Practice over theroy . It is practice-theory, thinking-doing.  2 sides of the same coin. We should not be separating them

(7) Diversity over ability – The wisdom of the crowd! 

(8) Resilience over strength

(9) Systems over object



On Making Smart Decision

This book is the HBR’s 10 must read on making smart decisions.

One of the key takeaway is the hidden traps that we may fall into making decision [Article]. These include anchoring trap, status-quo trap, sunk-cost trap, confirming evidence trap , framing trap and estimating and forecasting trap.  As I look through these traps, I guess I am more prone to confirming evidence trap and sunk-cost trap. Guess I really need to be more “open” and look for dis-conforming trap. As for sunk-cost trap,  I need to learn when to let go. Just because I put in lots of efforts, that does not mean that I need to hang on to it. When it is time to let go, just let go!

Another thing that strikes me is the near misses [Link].  These misses make make us fall into the trap of thinking everything is all right. Even a small deviation might mean something terrible in the long run. There is always a need to uncover the root cause and get to the bottom of any deviation. One has to be alert and must learn to ‘smell’ such near miss

In another article on “How (Un)ethical are you”,  one has to be more aware of our unconscious biases such as implicit prejudice, in-group favoritism and overclaiming credit. I think I am more prone to over-claiming credit biases as I always think that I work the hardest. Maybe time for me to rethink this biases.

360-Degree Leader

Currently, I am also reading the 360° Leader by John Maxwell.  It is easy to read as most of the principles are ‘common-sense’. It is all about making the implicit explicit and making one more aware of the way we are doing certain things.

Okay, I admit , I am skeptical as I read the book and I go like “liddat can also write book’.  On reflection, I guess that is because I am actually demonstrating the principles almost all the time.  I am not being egoistic here but I am just being truthful. 🙂

For example, I lead up by becoming a go-to player and be prepared every time you take the leader’ time (I seldom go to my boss’s office without any possible resolution).  I lead across by being avoiding politics and put completing follow leaders ahead of them. I lead down by modelling the behaviour I desire.

Being a humble me, I still have my AFI. Here are things that I need to work on :

(1) Expand your circle of acquaintances

I am basically quite anti-social and do not really like to make small talk and make new friends. Perhaps, I should consider doing this more  . But this is not so ‘me’.  Another way I can look at this is to get to know friends who know more friends. If I need help, I just need to go to them.


(2) Walk slowly through the Halls

I really need to slow down! I am quick and do things fast. Hence, I can be impatient at times when things are not done and I will do it myself. This is something I *must*  stop myself. I cannot use my standard to judge other people. I really need to slow down!



Lean In By Sheryl Sandberg

Chpt 6 : Seek and Speak your Truth

  • I totally agree that there is no such thing as absolute truth. It is only my truth (point of view) and your truth (your point of view). So, with this framing, we can be more emphatic and be more mindful  when communicating with other.
  • We always say that we are open to feedback but do our actions really reflect that? That is the question that I need to constantly interrogate myself.

I always have a tendency to be defensive and try to respond to the critic when someone make a comment on my department.  I really need to step back and listen and stop myself from reacting. That is something I need to constantly remind myself. Some feedback might not be useful and just those typical complaints but I need to learn not to respond first and jump to conclusion. Hear the feedback , detach myself from the feedback (it is about the program and not me), and see if the feedback is valid.  If I do not show that I am willing to listen, how can I expect feedback?  Something for me to work on in 2018

2018 Challenge : Read a book every month

Since I have completed my thesis, I am now ‘more free’. No more writing over the weekend. So, now, I have given myself a new challenge. Read a book every month and blog about it.

For the last month of 2017, I am trying to read 4 books concurrently. So, I will try to blog about these books for Dec! Hope that I can sustain it!