A wedding speech from 2011

Posted on April 11, 2014 
Filed Under Life | Comments Off

Here’s a wedding speech to my niece and her hubby, which I thought was safe to release after three years:

SHEILA AND VELAN, WEDDING SPEECH, May 21, 2011.

I am here on behalf of the bride’s family, my niece Priscilla Sheila Tangaraja. I’ve been to many weddings but I have never seen a more beautiful and radiant bride then tonight. Isn’t she lovely people?

(Pause for applause)

Sheila, that dress, looks amazing on you. Of course, I am biased, and you know why.

(My wife, Anita, wore the same dress 18 years ago at our wedding.)

What a great year to get married. Just remember you married in 2011, the same year there was a grand royal wedding, the No 1 terrorist in the world is dead and Manchester United are league champions!

Velan you’re a really lucky guy. You married Sheila, who is beautiful, smart, warm, loving and caring. She deserves a good husband, so thank god you married her before she found one.

For those of you who don’t know, I am Sheila’s uncle, the youngest brother of bride’s mother. My name is Julian.

By the way, I will be addressing the bride as Sheila – I know some of you know her as Priscilla – I’ve always known her by her middle name Sheila.

On behalf of the bride and groom’s parents, I would like to thank you all for your presence on this auspicious occasion. Some of you here have been to the previous Hindu wedding ceremony and reception. Thank you for your attendance to this 2nd wedding reception and, I understand, there is a 3rd reception tomorrow, also at this venue. I was given a choice to attend all three receptions, but because I am part Ceylonese and part Chinese, I was in a dilemma. One half wanted to go for all three receptions but the other half could only afford one angpow.

Sheila and Velan, I am glad and feel so honoured to have been the witness along with my wife Anita for your church wedding today. My wife and I have been witnesses for a number of weddings over the years. In fact, we are thinking of making it a 2nd career. Sheila and Velan you will be glad to know, all those marriages for which we were witnesses are still intact. Not a single one of those couple are divorced or separated so that bodes well for your marriage.

As in any wedding speech I feel it is incumbent upon me to impart some marital advice to the couple. I know there are many people here who are far more qualified than me in this room because we’ve married only 18 years, barely enough time to get to know each other.

I have a few lessons to impart to the groom and I hope those you who are married can support me with some loud applause.

Firstly, Velan very early in your marriage it is important to set the ground rules and establish who is boss ~ then do everything Sheila says!

Remember when you are unhappy, she’s unhappy, and when she’s unhappy — you’re probably the cause.

When I got married someone told me the best maxim for all good marriages was “Never go to bed angry.” My wife and I never go to bed angry. Instead we stay up all night and argue, until someone gives in.

But jokes aside, that’s the crux of it. Someone “giving in.” Velan, in 18 years of marriage, and I’m sure every husband in this room will agree with me on this – you can never, ever win an argument against a woman. Better to give in and give in early.

There will be days when the wife gets upset about the most trivial of things — like putting the lid down after using the toilet, or squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom up, or leaving laundry on the floor or not taking the garbage out. On days like these, you may go the whole day without talking to each other, and when you retire to that king size bed — sleeping as far away from each other as you possibly can — there will a palpable tension in the bedroom.

It is at this time, you must remember Lesson No 1: Make love, not war.

Velan, I’ll let you in on the secret to successful marriage. But, shhh, don’t tell anyone. You must know the three words that melts every woman’s heart, and has been used my husbands the world over for time immemorial.

You need to turn to Sheila, in that darkness, and say these magical three words: “You’re right dear”.

Then follow-up with another set of three words “I am wrong”, “I am sorry”, “I love you”, and the most important set of three words of all to any woman’s ear. “Let’s go shopping.” Nothing cures a woman’s pain more than the promise of some retail therapy.

Of course try saying those set of three words with more sincerity. Otherwise you’ll sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger. As you know, Arnie used his three words too often: “I’ll be back, I’ll be back, I’ll be back.” Until his wife found out whose room he was coming back from.

By the way, Velan stay away from domestic help of any kind. Especially at 5-star hotels in New York. (One day you may be the IMF chief and a French presidential candidate, next day you are sitting in jail wondering what the hell you were thinking.)

Lesson 2: Dates are very, very important to your wife. Today, for instance, is a very important date. May 21. Write it down. You cannot miss birthdays and anniversaries.

The most effective way to remember your wife’s birthday is to forget it once. Thank god for Facebook that will never happen to me. A sidenote on Facebook, Velan, you need to update your relationship status on Facebook from “it’s complicated” to happily married. Preferably by tonight!

Lesson 3: Be useful around the house. Women love husbands who can fix things. If, like me, you are useless at fixing leaky taps and changing light bulbs, then act like you know what you are doing, and when she leaves the house call a good handyman, electrician or plumber. I hear Raj, Sheila’s dad is really good at fixing things. Velan, once you’re married the level of domesticity must improve. You must find where the kitchen is and what all those mysterious objects in it do. FYI, that wet place where all the dishes end up is called the sink. The more you use it, the more Sheila will love you.

(Cut: The more things you fix around the house, the more likely you’ll get your fix that night.)

Those three lessons should be enough to sustain you for now Velan. For your information, I myself cannot remember a single piece of advice given to me at my wedding.

Okay, now Sheila’s turn. Sheila I believe you know there is someone very dear to all of us who should have been here tonight. Unfortunately, god chose to take him early. I am sure wherever he is now, he is looking down on us all tonight and wishing you the very best. Your grandfather, my father, Melvin Matthews Kanagasabai, passed on last November. You know that he had a very special place in his heart for you Sheila. I know he would be so happy for you today as much as your grandmother, your mum, your dad and all your family are too tonight.

Dad, I know you are looking down and wondering why the hell I haven’t told them your “marriage is a three-ring circus” joke. Everyone here knows it, Dad, so we’ll give it a skip this time shall we?

So here are my three lessons for the bride.

Lesson 1: Have a nice meal together, at least once a week. This may sound very easy to do now, but as time goes by, as work and family and friends and maybe even children take up your time, you will find it increasingly difficult to just find the time to sit down, by yourselves, and have a meal together. It doesn’t matter whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner or supper – just find a quiet place – and just enjoy each other’s company away from all your friends, family and workmates. It is only at these times when you can talk, really talk, and be intimate with each other.

Lesson 2: Go for at least one adventurous holiday every year or so. I suggest tonight, after Velan has fallen asleep, and you have counted all your angpow, use his credit card, get on AirAsia.com and buy some tickets girl.

By the way, don’t go on those crappy, organized tours. Create your own holiday. Go to Nepal and climb Everest, or go Africa on your own safari or take six weeks off like Anita and I did to circumnavigate North and South Island of New Zealand.

There is nothing like being in a foreign country only to get lost and find each other. I repeat, there is nothing like being in a foreign country only to get lost and find each other.

Lesson 3: Create special moments that only you and Velan can call your own. I know about those moments. I live for those moments. I remember when my son Jordan was about to be born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, and it was touch and go for a few moments, and when the doctor finally got him out and uncurled that cord, it was mixture and relief and pure joy when we saw him change from a purplish blue hue to a healthy pink. That was a moment.

But you don’t need to have children yet to have those moments. I’ll give you another moment.

Anita and I, in the early part of our marriage took up scuba diving. For those of you who have never scuba-dived, there is something magical and comforting and incredibly peaceful being underwater among colorful coral and fish and scary moray eels. Down there, the only sounds you hear are that of your own breathing. (breathing sounds close to mike)

Once, Anita and I went for a holiday off Railay Beach in Krabi, Thailand. We wanted to dive so badly, but all the dive trips were fully booked except for a night dive. We had never done this before and it sounded scary, but we thought we’ll give it a try.

When you dive at night, they give you two torches tied around each of your wrists. So it’s quite clumsy, esp. if you have never used it before but in the darkness you are twice as focused as you can see things only by the beam of your torch.

It was a moonlit night, and we reached our divespot by longtail boat and then we dived into the inky darkness. It was really scary at first for Anita and me but we slowly adjusted.

Our divemaster took us down about 20-25 feet and after diving a bit, he turns to us and does this – (hand gesture slicing neck)

That was the sign to cut our torches. We didn’t know what to think, but he was the divemaster, we just followed as instructed.

It was pitch black at first, but then our eyes adjusted and we noticed the silhouette of our divemaster doing something strange. He was swinging his arms and legs furiously. The agitation caused bio-luminiscent plankton to light up around us. It was as if we were surrounded by stars. He then grabbed our arms and partnered us off to do underwater waltzes. It was magical, an unforgettable and very special moment for Anita and me.

Sheila and Velan, find those moments. Or at least throw yourself into situations where such moments are likely to happen. Your marriage will have ups and downs but it’s the ups you will live for, treasure and sustain you. There will be a time, when you have to switch off your torches, leave it to faith and find that you are surrounded by stars.

Lastly, I hope you will forgive for all the teasing and ribbing tonight. I wish Sheila and Velan a long and very fruitful marriage.

So please raise your glasses and say with me “To love, to laughter and to happy ever after.”

The bully in us all

Posted on February 19, 2014 
Filed Under Crisis communications, Reputation management, Social Media | Leave a Comment

On June 5, 2005, a young woman’s dog pooped onboard the Metropolitan Subway, Line 2, near Ahyun Station, Seoul, South Korea.

She was embarrassed and was offered a tissue by a fellow passenger. She cleaned her dog with it but was chastised by passengers later for refusing to do the same for the mess on the floor  – before hastily disembarking.

By then, a passenger named Miss Kim had taken her photo with a mobilephone and soon the posting went viral online.

The meme “dog poop girl”, “dog s**t girl” or 개똥녀 (gae-ttong-nyue) took a life of its own. An online all-points bulletin alert and the firestorm of criticism resulted in identification of her, her relatives, her place of work and apparently her eventually quitting.

dog poo girl
As documented by Jonathan Zittrain in ‘The Future of the Internet’:The summed outrage of many unrelated people viewing a disembodied video may be disproportionate to whatever social norm or law is violated within that video. Lives can be ruined after momentary wrongs, even if merely misdemeanors.”

The case brings to mind several other related incidents well-documented by popular sites such as Know Your Meme and Wikipedia including: Bus Uncle (Hong Kong), Christopher Lao (Philippines), Anton Casey (Singapore) and Sharifah Zohra Jabeen (Listen, listen, listen) (Malaysia).

Each case differs in the degree of the wrong-doing but the backlash of harassment, hate vitriol, ridiculing parodies, even death threats online were common to all.

In a hyper-cammed, super-amped Internet world, an online mob can quickly become judge, jury and executioner. What you say or do in a public space, online or otherwise, can and will be used against you.

Bus Uncle’s infamy may have even resulted in him being beaten up by masked men, Christopher Lao suffered a mental breakdown, Anton Casey lost his job and fled the country, and Sharifah Zohra says she feared for the safety of her family and children.

By all accounts, none of the actions of the five individuals that became online media targets are defensible.

Dog poop girl’s refusal to clean up, Bus Uncle’s profanity-laced tirade, Christopher Lao’s “whiny, obnoxious” interview, Anton Casey’s condescending tweets and Sharifah Zohra’s disparaging inanities all made us uncomfortable when measured against mature, civil society norms.

Anton Caseys offensive tweets

Above: Anton Casey's offensive tweets

We were angry, mad even. But, sadly, their bad behaviours incensed some of us enough to get on moral high-horses and bombard them with derision and death threats – reflecting our own bad behaviours online. Yes they were all wrong and deserved a reprimand but who died and made some of us infallible gods online?   (I shudder to think of the early part of my 50 years of living if a particular moment had been filmed, documented and posted online. How would I have reacted if an intensely-scrutinized single mistake became the defining moment of my entire character, career or life? How would you? )

As a young journalist, I was always worried of writing a story that would result in sources or the subjects of the story losing their rice bowls — or even their lives. Was the story more important than the resulting fallout? Would the uncertified engineers I pointed out lose their jobs? Would the undocumented immigrants I reported on be forced to return to the destitution of their home country? Would the passerby “hero” who came to the rescue of the family in a murder case be later victimized by the assailants? I was never able to reconcile that part of my job by the cliched refrain “I’m just doing my job.”

As media professionals and a community, our actions or inaction can result in a profound impact on society at large. The cliché is worth repeating: freedom of expression does come with great responsibility. If we are to mature as a society, then we have an obligation to speak up and point out what’s right, and what’s wrong — online as well as offline.  We already live in both worlds, whether we like it or not.

In my old age, as a media trainer, I try to provoke my participants into embracing all things Internet. But also, I encourage them to think of the long term implications of everything they do online that is archived in that cloud of posterity. Every post, every comment, every tweet, every photo and every video defines who you are to some future Internet archivist.

The Internet is a messy space and we have a responsibility, nay, an obligation, to bring some level of maturity of discourse in it. Just like the rest of the world. Allowing only the trolls and anonymously nasty to fill this precious resource with hate would be sad.

Everyone of us relishes our privacy to some extent,  but that shouldn’t be the one thing that holds you back from sharing all the value you can add to the conversation. In fact, you should be in it because you care enough to effect the changes you want to see online.

If this knowledge freezes you, makes you stick your head in the sand and stay offline from any social network, then you have chosen to disengage with the very society you are a part of. And that’s a true loss for everyone.

(The caveat: I know for some it can be hard. A woman who was the victim of an abusive marriage told me she could never go online for fear her ex would trace her every move.  “Be yourself” is easy to say — but being yourself in a hyper-documented, super-shareable world calls for real gonads for some. )

So, did the five “victims” survive their 15 minutes of online infamy? Bus Uncle apparently asked to be paid for media interviews and tried to organize a “Bus Uncle Rave” which never happened. No word on Dog Poop Girl, Anton Casey or the Listen, Listen, Listen lady, who are quietly fading away, perhaps to their own relief, into the obscurity they came from.

Christopher Lao, in a 2012 report, finally returned to university to complete his Bar exam, become a lawyer and an advocate against cyberbullying.

In the interview he says:

“The level of bullying that I experienced can affect anyone’s confidence. I was always crying every day and I feared that I could not move on and could not fulfill my duties as a parent, even.”

Lao says his perspective changed, however, when he started to “detach” himself from material comforts and stopped giving excessive value to his reputation. “Reputation is very limiting because it boxes us. We are scared of failure because (of this). I was no longer afraid of failure…I was done with reputation, I was done with that,” said Lao, who went under medication due to the cyber-bullying he endured.

“I asked myself, ‘Why am I not gonna take this Bar? Only because people might again derive joy from my potential failure?’ I’m done with that. They’ve said whatever they want. I just said, ‘It’s time to do things that will make my loved ones proud, myself proud, the Lord proud. I figured that I was able to wake up every day because I felt that I was worth something.”

Links:

  1. Internet trolls really are horrible people
  2. A tale of defeat, resolve and all-out war against bullying

How to play the spin-the-haze game

Posted on June 25, 2013 
Filed Under Haze | Leave a Comment

How corrupt Southeast Asian governments, their cronies and the media play the Spin-The-Haze Game annually:

  1. Roll dice, then blame Indonesian player for cheating.
  2. Indonesian player blames Malaysian and Singaporean players instead and asks them to be “Sent To Jail.”
  3. Malaysian and Singaporean players roll dice, move two steps forward, deny Indonesian claim, instead point fingers at errant nearby farmers and smallholders encroaching on their Rented Property.
  4. Players land on Chance, take card, which reads: “Banker calls to form ASEAN task force to formulate joint-action plans that never work.” (May include trip to Russia for ‘lawatan sambil belajar’ ie. junket)
  5. Players land on Community Chest, take card, which reads: “Close airports, tourism spots and schools; ban open burning.”
  6. After one round, all players then decry loss of tourism dollars; students losing valuable schooling time; and empathise with poor slash-and-burn farmers.
  7. Players land on Community Chest again, take card, which reads: “Distribute masks to motorists, students, street workers, tourists etc in big show just for media coverage.”
  8. Media players join game and covers how haze is affecting children, the elderly, asthmatics, zoo animals, pets, birds, construction workers, window cleaners, etc.
  9. Citizens join game and debate why use of N95 masks is more effective than surgical masks ad infinitum; debate accuracy of API/PSI pollutant readings ad nauseum.
  10. Media players list ten ways to fight haze — always conclude with ‘drink more water’ advice; point to dangers of cancer risk 15 years from now, even though 15 years have passed.
  11. Opposition players join game and calls for haze to be urgently debated in parliament and fines imposed on offending players. Incumbents downplay issues and ignore opposition players.
  12. Two months later, haze lifts, all is forgotten, incumbent players pass Go, collect $200, get more loans from Banker and the next year, they roll the dice again.

Changing tides, faded stars

Posted on June 2, 2012 
Filed Under Journalism, Life | Leave a Comment

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man ~Heraclitus

Sometimes you wake up, lie in bed and wonder ‘Where did the time ago?’ The journey is long and the destination still isn’t clear.

Two nights ago, I met my first editor again and was happy to buy him a drink. He looked younger and was still chugging away at being true to his profession.

He met me as a fresh-faced, somewhat naive 20-year-old struggling to make a minor impact as a reporter. Twenty-eight years had passed by. He was surprised to hear I was now training journalists. It was as if time stood still.

In his eyes I hadn’t changed at all. Like peering thru a telescope and seeing stars the way they looked, unformed and malleable, eons ago. But so much had changed. The river had taken us in divergent streams and we were no longer the same people.

Or were we? That we could still connect and trade old stories suggests some parts of us were frozen in that time-space continuum. Me, the young unripened chiku, he the tall, weathered tree still reaching for an uncorrupted sky.

That we met at pub called The Reef was, perhaps, coincidental. The shores of our lives had been buffeted by the unceasing waves and eroded our memories somewhat but we were still men, older and wiser, perhaps, but still foolishly hoping for change to come and that yellow sunrise to turn the tides against us.

The reef was our last stand. They have to bury us here and return us to the earth that we call home. Or scatter us on the waters awash with a million hopes of a brighter tomorrow.

We lift our glasses and the music and smoke takes us away to another place and for awhile, just a few precious moments, we are on the editorial floor again and the clacking of fingers on the trusty Atex terminals as we churn out the day’s news of grief and gore and blood and sadness.

We were the weeders of growing malfeasance in an overrun garden of temptations. Woe to those who labelled us as lallang. We never were! We were the guardians of better days to come.

A toast, then, to the dreamers still in us. The fellow journeymen who know the course has been arduous and there is always another bend in the river. Let’s make a go of it. Or die trying.

Cheers, Julian.

Awaken journalists, you have nothing to lose but your bylines

Posted on March 28, 2012 
Filed Under Internet, Journalism, Life | 1 Comment

(This was a rant post that sort of morphed into a speech that was never given…yet)

People tend to blame technology for all their problems.

Social networks are causing the rise of _____________ (fill blank space) eg. divorces, rapes, home invasions, suicides, crime, bullying, etc.

Of course, there may be validity to some of these cases. No one wants to belittle an incident that happens to a child, a spouse, a mother, a friend or a partner. When it’s personal, it’s tough not to find the nearest technological scapegoat. What’s worrying is how the “experts” extrapolate cause-and-effect from a small sample, raising fears and feeding the ignorance of technology to the masses.

“Productivity is down, there is lack of focus and no one seems to have an original thought – everything is copy and pasted from the net.” Or so they say.

In truth, there is nothing to suggest that human nature has changed pre- and post-Internet.

The perennial truth about humanity is this: In life there will always be those among us who are deliriously happy and depressingly suicidal and every emotion in between. We already live in both the “real” and “virtual” worlds equally intensely. The virtual can be as real as you want it to be and the real can be as imaginary as you want it to be.

But if you talk to anyone my age, 48, with two school-going children, they have a tendency to get nostalgic about their childhood.

It usually starts with the phrase: “When I was young, we never had these computers lah, Internet lah, sitting in front of the game console all day long lah. We used to go outside, enjoy the sunshine, climb trees, catch fish in the longkang, etc.

Now if you go back into the past, say the 1960s-70s, you can hear people of that time reminiscing about their childhoods. And they say this: “Ayahhh I wish by kids wouldn’t sit in front of the TV all day long. You know when I was young, we used to go outside, enjoy the sunshine, climb trees, catch fish in the rivers…”

Now go further back to this person’s parent’s time in the 1930s-40s-50s, when there was an explosion of recorded music and you hear the same thing. “I wish my kids wouldn’t listen to that music all day long. I wish they would go outside in the sunshine and climb trees and go swimming and catch fish……”

And then you step back into the 1920s and when radio came about…you know the drill.

There is no doubt we are going through one of the biggest explosions in the use of media. People can create, share, spread and distribute information like never before. The ubiquity of media everywhere is driven by falling prices in all things digital.

Nicholas Negroponte equates the net to a library but with a difference. If you go to a regular library you take a book off the shelf and if there is no other copy of that book, no one in the community, that reservoir of people being serviced by that library, can read it. But if you take a digital book of the Internet, anyone can go in there and take another and another and another.

Of course, if millions are accessing a particular site — web servers have limitations too — it can crash. But every time you go to a webpage you are actually downloading a copy onto your machine. Very few sites are live streamed, in the strict sense of the word, although that is changing rapidly even as we speak. So the Internet is actually a giant copying machine.

In the 15th century we had another giant copying machine of that time – it was called the Gutenberg Printing Press. Before that machine came to be, scribes used to sit down and copy everything word for word and so the church and the institutions of that day controlled the information.

When the printing press came about we hear only about the Gutenberg Bible as an early publication was reproduced in large quantities, but in truth there was an explosion of works — many of these secular, naughty, perverse and “mindless”. So much so, that intellectuals of the day were worried that the printing press was making people obsessed with trivia, gossip and the mundane.

But that media explosion eventually did society wonders. It gave us newspapers, it gave us specialized magazines, it gave us fiction and non-fiction, it gave us peer-reviewed scientific journals, it gave us academic books like never before. The entire spectrum of what we knew as “information” and “media” widened and deepened beyond belief.

Fast forward to 2012 and here we are — right at the heart of something wondrous. This is the dopamine injection of truly beautiful awakenings. It’s the eye of the digital storm. It’s raining down on us in bit buckets.

People keep referring to it as information overload. But that debate, as Clay Shirky rightly points out, is over. We cannot afford to take shelter and hide and put umbrellas up and wait for this storm to pass. We must learn how to filter the data, embrace it and become a filter ourselves so that others can make sense of the joys of this liquid, ubiquitous manna.

Journalists are at the heart of this. We have to embrace this. We have to learn these tools and gadgets and “Internet stuff”. We have to become aggregators and filters ourselves. We have to become like curators in a museum. But not in the old, grey-walled definition of a museum but a living, moving and constantly evolving museum and we have to choose what we want to exhibit today, and how the stuff we put out is shared and spread.

Journalism stands at the crossroads. This is the most transitive period in our lives as the “new media” re-define who we are.

Marketing, a dirty word for journalists, and more so personal brandingis a huge chunk of this. Google. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn are all a part of this movement.

We have to play where everyone is playing. We have to get our hands dirty and learn this, so that others who will come after will benefit from our knowledge and not supercede us, just because “they are young lah, so they know all this technical stuff”.

As a former tech journalist, I am a believer in that McLuhan quote: “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” We reported on these devices and now these devices are changing how we capture, edit, produce and tell our stories.

But we mustn’t forget what our roles are.

We are here to ask the questions on behalf of those who have no voice and cannot ask them because their tongues are tied.

We are here to tell the stories of those who cannot tell the stories on their own because they have been silenced.

We are here to uncover the truth and confront the corrupt with that truth so that they can be more accountable and transparent.

We are here to make those responsible measure up to a higher ethical and moral standard.

But we are also here to educate; to entertain; and to engage our communities in things that matter to them.

That’s journalism to me. That’s the journalism I was taught. That’s the journalism we need to continue to practise.

The old way was to produce the stuff and send it out to them as an act of faith.

The new way is to produce the stuff in collaboration with the people, not the faceless readers as we call them or the audience in a darkened theatre but real people who are just like us, yet different in so many ways.

We must set up “conversation platforms” by which they can come and interact with us or among themselves.

But we don’t need to re-invent the wheel. The 800-pound gorillas are already in the room. FLYTBG: Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Blogs, Google. We must go where our readers are and engage with them. We must fish where the fish are.

Journalists are great whiners. We really need to stop whining and get on with understanding, using and leveraging on the tools and apps out there and in here. There really isn’t anymore time to bitch about “those bloody bloggers.” The time now is to dive in and get to know our readers like never before. There really isn’t anymore time to moan the loss of a simpler world.

Just a few years ago, a number of longtime journalists found themselves out of a job. There were tears, real tears shed. People cried because it was the only life they ever knew. Their lives could be summed up in this way: “Hey, I was so arrogant and hard-headed that I thought that I needn’t learn new things. My skills were enough. Now, I am jobless, with bills to pay! Get me a blog, please, and please pay me to keep it updated.”

Wake up fellow journalists. Learn all you can about social media and pick up social media skills. You can learn from your colleagues, peers, children, nephew and nieces. You need to know that these are new journalism skill sets — it is very different and you need to OWN these skills if you are to survive, not only here in your current organisation, but anywhere out there.

I can tell you this, because I have been there and done that. If you do not have a brand behind you, then you better bloody well create that brand around your byline. Who you are and what you do matters. Don’t be insecure about that. It’s much easier to do it now, than there ever has been. Ever.

No trainer is going to turn you into a multimedia journalist overnight. You have take time to learn these skills yourselves. Our role is to provide you the big picture, the guidance, yes. We may handhold you for two or three days through some of rough spots if you need it, and give you a few technical pointers, then set you off in the right direction.

But the commitment to become very good at any of these tools must come from inside. If your current role doesn’t give time and opportunity to learn these skills on the job then you must find time — one hour or two hours a day or one day every weekend to learn it yourself.

There are people who are coming from behind you who will speed past you before you know it. They may not have the journalism mind, the news sense, the writing and grammar skills but that doesn’t matter — this is the new vocabulary and they can shine in ways that will get them ahead. Your competition isn’t even local. Awhile ago, a new Malaysian network player hired 10 content people from — get this –the US. All former journalists!

Think about that. Is their content going to be better than anything you can produce here? No. It’s just they haven’t discovered you yet. You are the gem everyone is looking for. Gleam like the jewel that you are. It is your time to shine.

The Indians and their amazing ideas

Posted on March 22, 2012 
Filed Under India, Invention, Storytelling | Leave a Comment

Open Letter: Daniel Gulati on How Facebook Makes Us Miserable

Posted on December 13, 2011 
Filed Under Life, Social Media | Leave a Comment

Dear Mr Daniel Gulati,

I disagree with your inferences in HBR that Facebook Is Making Us Miserable .

Your three points are:
1) comparison mania
2) time suck
3) less “real-world” relationships.

Naysayers have been providing the same reasons about any new technology for centuries — blaming railways, cars, radio, recorded music, the phone, TV, video, computers, the Internet, mobile phones, Twitter — now even iPads — for supposedly making us all “miserable”.

Let’s face it, we aren’t any more miserable today than we were in the 18th century. (In fact, Steven Pinker goes so far as to argue in The Better Angels of Our Nature that violence has declined and that we have never lived through more peaceful times as we do now).

I doubt if Facebook makes us any more miserable, suicidal, violent, sick or depressed, than we were before 2003 and making that inference by extrapolating from small-sample research is just wrong.

Here are my three counterpoints:
1) Comparison mania: People have been “keeping up with the Joneses” for ages and painting a better picture of your life than it actually is is a human weakness that existed long before the Internet came along.

2) Time suck: Our media diet now includes print, music, photos, videos, movies, email, tweets, social network updates, etc. FB is just another tool we’ll adjust to.

3) Less “real-world” relationships:
A relationship improves only if you work on it. When it’s mediated through screens, it doesn’t make it “unreal” or less “rich” as having “in-person meetings.”

We live in both worlds – online/offline, virtual/real – some us have found the balance, a few of us haven’t. Our relationships have the potential to be more varied in degree and diversity than even before. You make it as rich and as close as you want it to be. How can that possibly make you more miserable?

Julian Matthews

Simon Sinek: Start With Why

Posted on October 21, 2011 
Filed Under Brainfood, Customer Service | Leave a Comment

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” Simon Sinek

Motivational speaker and writer Simon Sinek believes he’s codified the reason why some individuals and organisations are so inspirational. He calls it the world’s simplest idea — The Golden Circle.

It comprises of three rings with WHY in the centre, HOW in the middle ring and WHAT on the outer ring.

“Every single person and organisation on the planet knows WHAT they do, 100 percent. Some know HOW they do it — whether you call it your differentiating proposition, your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organisations know WHY they do what they do.

“And by WHY I don’t mean to make a profit. That’s a result. By WHY I mean ‘What’s your purpose?’, ‘What’s your cause?’ ‘What’s your belief’, ‘Why does your organisation exist?’ Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?

“The way we think, we act, we communicate is from the outside in — from the clearest to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and inspired organisations, regardless of their size or industry — think, act, communicate from the inside out…”

Links:
1. More Sinek videos at his YouTube channel
2. The TEDx talk that kicked it off.
3. His website and blog.

Oprah Winfrey on validation at Facebook Live

Posted on September 14, 2011 
Filed Under Life | Leave a Comment

Oprah Winfrey spoke with Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, at the social network’s live event on Sept 8, 2011.

Here are parts of the transcript of her thoughts on legacy, validation and what it means to touch others after 25 years and 4,561 shows.

“Every person that you encounter in the space of your life — and (if you) impact them or affect them in anyway — that will be your legacy. And when you have a life like me or you (Sandberg) and you have a lot of reach and you impact a lot of people — and as I said on my last show — everybody has their own show.

“And your Facebook page, you get to have as many friends viewing your show as you can. Everybody, every day you are creating the show that is your life and every person you impact you leave a heartprint — or not. And that heartprint for every person that you touch, that is your legacy. So that when you leave the planet, every person that has been touched by you that is your legacy.

“I can’t even wrap my brain around what that is. I don’t know what that effect has been. I am just aware that in every moment and space and in every encounter that I’m making an impact whether negative or positive or indifferent or not.”

Watch live streaming video from facebookguests at livestream.com

“Every time you really SEE somebody…(and) everyone is just looking to be seen.When you see your kid acting out, or if you acted out yourself — and I learnt this on the 7th or 8th year of the Oprah Winfrey show — that everybody is looking for the same thing.

The common denominator in the experience of humanity is that we all want to be seen, we all want to be heard. Every argument is about that. Every argument is about: ‘Did you really hear me?’ You probably said that yourself: ‘You’re not hearing me. (shouts) YOU’RE NOT  HEARING ME!’ Because you want to know – ‘Do you hear me?’ and ‘Does what I say mean anything to you. Does what I say have any value to you? Do I hold this space of meaning for you. Do I matter?  Do I matter to you?’

“So when you’re upset with your husband, your boss, you’re upset with your friends, or your children are upset with you, it’s because what they’re really feeling is — ‘Do I  matter?’ All arguments go down to that base level.

” ‘Does this matter to you? You don’t even care,’ you probably heard someone saying that: ‘You don’t even care. Do I matter?’. In all the years of doing the show, and I have interviewed everybody…Still trying to get OJ. I just want him to tell me that he did it and I’ll be happy. I just want him to say that he did it.

“But anyway, in all the years whether I was interviewing rapists or murderers…I remember interviewing a guy once who…at the prison, I was interviewing him between the bars and he had murdered his twin daughters and at the end of the interview, the guy who murdered his twin daughters said to me: (whispers) ‘Was that okay? How did  I do?’

“At the end of the show I did with Beyonce, Beyonce in all her Beyonce-ness says, ‘Was that okay? How was that? How did I do?’

“That’s what everybody wants to know: ‘Was I okay? Am I okay? Am I okay with you? Is this going well? Is this okay?’

“Everyone wants to know that in your life in one form or another and your ability to give them the validation that says: ‘Yeah this is okay. It’s all right. Yeah, you really matter.’…If you can do that in your personal relationships, particularly with your children and your spouse, the people who are closest to you, you will be a success in your relationships.

” ‘Cause that really is the bottomline. The common bond (knocks fists together) that holds us all together: ‘Do I matter?’ ”

Link: bit.ly/oprahlive

What’s your story?

Posted on September 9, 2011 
Filed Under Brainfood, Social Media, Storytelling | Leave a Comment

Trey Pennington, a popular social media speaker died from his own hand on Sunday morning beneath an oak tree, near his church at Greenville, South Carolina. He was 46, the father of six children and grandfather of two grandchildren.

Understandably, there is an outpouring of tributes online of his sudden loss. (1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 )

I never knew Trey but discovered him only through those tributes. His poignant last tweet resonated with me as it did with many.

Trey’s death coincided this week with the demise of a Malaysian TV journalist, age 41, who was shot dead in Somalia while on a humanitarian mission and the sudden death of a schoolmate from my year who had an apparent heart attack at 48.

Death seems to hover over my professional and social circles, like a dark cloud, a constant reminder of my own mortality. (On Sept 10, 2011, my dad would have been 92, this is the first year we will not be celebrating his birthday.)

Wallowing in my own selfish concerns, I tried this week to stay positive and digest Trey’s spirited philosophy and enthusiastic approach to his profession.  Here’s my attempt to glean something from his numerous videos, blog posts, podcasts and tweets — online artefacts through which his legacy lives on.

By all accounts, Trey was the quintessential Southern gentleman who was passionate about social media, generous with his insights and an influential leader in the online community.

Trey had a respectable 111,000 Twitter followers, he had a blog and an online radio show and was active on Google Plus, Facebook and Linkedin. He was credited with starting or helping start ten Social Media Clubs:  eight in the southeastern United States, one in the United Kingdom, and one in Australia. He also co-founded Like Minds (a social media conference that launched in England and had events planned this year in Milan and Dubai) and the Social Story conference.

In his presentation at Social Slam 2011 in April he said:

“Never before have we had so many ways to make contact with strangers and nurture them into advocates. There is a three-fold human hunger fueling this explosive growth of social media and it is creating the age of opportunity for those willing to embrace it. No 1. We all want to be heard/seen, No 2. We all want to be understood and No 3. We all want to know our lives count.

Trey related how he came to this “beautiful” understanding when he met Amanda, a 11-year-old, at a disability school. Amanda was diagnosed as non-communicative, non-verbal which meant whatever she felt inside — her thoughts, her hopes, whenever she was hungry or afraid — she couldn’t verbalize. One day, Amanda was learning to use an adaptive communications device and she pushed a button and the computer said: “I have something to tell you.” He replied: “Okay, Amanda what do you have to tell me?” Amanda looked down at the device, then up at him again to make sure he was listening, she then pushed a button that said: “I love you.”

“Obviously this was an incredibly rich moment for me to hear her expression of affection,” he relates. “But what was more profound, was what I saw in her face — her entire countenance changed; everything about her being completely changed when she realized, for the first time, somebody else understood what she was feeling. What has this got to do with social media? How ever you are using Facebook, all of us have a bit of Amanda in us. We all have a yearning for somebody to see, someone to hear us and someone to understand us…”

Trey was a consultant for politicians and often times, he said he was faced with a client who was obsessed with  “getting the message out”. Trey’s take was to flip it and get the message IN.

Politicians, he said,  needed to say, ‘I see you and I hear you now.’ They needed to follow people back on Twitter and listen to what they said.  In one example, Trey relates how one politician took his advice, absorbed all the anger and animosity online, accepted and acknowledged his followers’ gripes and, over time, those hate tweets dissipated into friendlier banter.

Trey believed there’s “a world out there engaging on social media, just hoping someone would notice them.” All we need to do is listen.

“Who am I now; why am I here (existentially AND on social media); what do I have to offer are great starting points for engagement.”

Trey often quoted Zig Ziglar on this: “You can have everything in life if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want. It’s not about you, it’s about them.”

Towards the end, Trey distilled the core of his understanding in a devoted exploration of the idea of the social story.

“The story is more powerful than the brand,” Tom Peters.

Trey believed today’s online yearnings are just a reflection  and amplification of  what storytellers have been doing throughout the ages.

“The Storyteller sees Story as a gift that has been given and grows in value as it is given away. He sees the relationship with his Audience as one of doing everything for their benefit. He is totally focused on their experience right now. He sees to minimize himself so that Story and the Audience would have the pre-eminence. When you boil it all down, the Storyteller simple sees the world differently. And there in lies the huge opportunity for us today to challenge the assumptions about the way things are, the way things should be and the way things can be.”

Two books he cited that shaped his thinking were Annette Simmons’ The Story Factor and Doug Lipman’s The Storytelling Coach.

An excerpt from the first chapter of  The Story Factor distillates the idea of the story as core:

“People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith – faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell. It is faith that moves mountains, not facts. Facts do not give birth to faith. Faith needs a story to sustain it – a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas, do indeed, offer what you promise. Genuine influence goes deeper than getting people to do what you want them to do. It means people pick up where you left off because they believe. Faith can overcome any obstacle, achieve any goal. Money, power, authority, political advantage, and brute force have all, at one time or another, been overcome by faith.

“Story is your path to creating faith. Telling a meaningful story means inspiring your listeners — co-workers, leaders, subordinates, family, or a bunch of strangers — to reach the same conclusions you have reached and decide for themselves to believe what you say and do what you want them to do. People value their own conclusions more highly than yours. They will only have faith in a story that has become real for them personally. Once people make your story, their story, you have tapped into the powerful force of faith. Future influence will require very little follow-up energy from you and may even expand as people recall and re-tell your story to others.”

This animation suggests the extreme way in which we are immersed in Information over Story: Red Riding Hood as told via infographics by Tomas Nilsson:

Slagsmålsklubben – Sponsored by destiny from Tomas Nilsson on Vimeo.

In this tweet exchange with Jay Baer, Trey was asked whether social media would be helped or hurt by widespread corporate adoption?

His reply: “Intriguing question. Humanity will be helped by wholesale adoption of a ’social media’ mentality—’My neighbor 1st’ mentality. Don’t know that we need to shield social media. Also don’t know if corporate America can handle social media. Besides, social media will probably get better as more and more people and organizations get on board.”

On the impact of stories on social media, Trey concluded:

“Social media helps shine a spotlight on old-fashioned humanity — we make meaning through stories. A storyteller doesn’t have a ‘point to make,’ nor is he focused on ‘ROI,’ or even his own end-game: he focuses on audience. The storyteller lives to help the audience create their own experience; that IS the reward and that’s enough. Social media swings wide the doorway to co-created experiences that can be easily shared with others.”

Trey Pennington exemplified the life of the selfless storyteller. He gave meaning to many people’s lives, despite his tragic end. Who doesn’t need a little validation in their life every now and then?

Maybe we all need to hear to each other’s story too. So what’s your story? Tell me, I’m listening.


Trey Pennington shared TJ Thyne’s fable called Validation on his June 13, 2010 blog post.

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