Redesigning My Life

by Patrick Liew on June 18, 2011

When I was 17 years old, I made a painful decision. It became one of many turning points in my life.

I decided to take a long leave from a group of friends so as to look for new ones. These are people I met regularly for many reasons – especially for a fun time.

It was a painful decision because friends mattered alot to me. As Abraham Marslow, the prominent psychologist would say, I want to love and be loved.

As a teenager trying to find my place in life, it was an even more difficult decision.

Why did I make this drastic move?

I realized I spent a lot of time with my friends. They exerted a great influence on me – just as I did on them.

After a while, I was none the wiser because of our friendship. We were not helping each other to become a better person.

We were talking about the same stuff, doing the same things, playing the same games… even going after the same type of girls.

I knew if I’m going to change, I need to get out of the loop. I need a breakthrough in my life.

I think it was Albert Einstein who once defined insanity as ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’

In the words of the street, if I keep walking on the same pathway, I will always get to the same destination.

To put it in another way – to change my results, I need to change the things I have always done and the way I did it.

Truth be told, I like to change even for changing sake. It is very easy to get into the rut of ingrained habits and take refuge within my comfort zone.

I challenge myself to change – and learn to enjoy changes – so that I can exercise my ‘change muscles’. It can also help me take even baby steps to achieve constant improvements.

I subscribe to the principle, ‘Even if it ain’t broken, break it anyway.’ It is better to change myself than to be forced to change by the constantly changing environment.

Changing myself constantly is also a good way to stay young.

Obviously, the most powerful change starts from within me.

Let me share a few important drivers for deep changes.

Being Honest

Sun Tzu in his military treatise, ‘Art of War’ posited ‘Know your enemy, know yourself. In a hundred battles, you will have a hundred victories’.

One of the challenges to do so is self-denial – the unwillingness to face up to the truth about myself and the reality of the situation.

The other challenge is aptly phrased by C. S. Lewis who was quoted to have said, We are people of extremes. In other words, I have a tendency to either overestimate or underestimate my capabilities – both of which are not good bases to effect changes.

This lesson was brought home clearly to me during a conversation with an ex-colleague. We were discussing about one of our business failures.

All I wanted to do was to find out why it happened and what we could learn to prevent it from happening again in future.

I spent the whole morning listening to why he was a victim, instead of how to leverage on the failure to be a victor. To him, literally the whole world was at fault and obviously as his CEO, I had to take the blame too.

Sadly, with such an attitude, he could never benefit from the wise counsel of Rahm Emanuel, ‘You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before’.

To manage deep changes, I must be honest with myself.

If I don’t know the real me, I cannot change myself. Any improvement is but an illusion and will certainly not last.

Soliciting Feedback

One of the best tools for understanding myself is based on the Johari Window, a cognitive psychological tool developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham.

There are areas in my life that others understand better than I do. In addition, there are also many areas that I need to discover that are not known to myself and to others.

To understand myself, I developed what I call my Left-Right Brain 360° Feedback. Let me explain this approach by sharing with you an example.

After an important sales meeting, I will ask my customer for feedback about the presentation. I will also ask for feedback from the other attendees.

I will share about it with other credible third parties so that I can learn from their suggestions.

That’s why, to solicit honest and fair feedback, I make sure I’m not surrounded by ‘Yes Men’ When I say, “No”, I expect them to say “No” too.  Just kidding. =)

Jokes aside, I’m proud and happy to have many people who are close to me and have been ‘criticising’ me for many years. Their good intention is to keep me on the straight and narrow path.

I will always be grateful to them.

I will also invest time and effort to review the meeting and, inevitably, I will discover many more lessons. That’s the Left Brain 360° Feedback.

In the Right Brain 360° Feedback, I will find a quiet place after the meeting. I will visualize from my perspective the proceedings of the meeting using all my senses. I aim to see, hear, smell, taste and feel clearly what I have thought, said and done.

Then, I will visualize the presentation from different perspectives – including the customer’s, attendee’s, panoramic and helicopter perspectives.

The objective of this approach is to determine what I have done right; what I have done wrong; and how I can improve the presentation.

Reflecting On Life

All great decisions, plans, and actions were birthed through reflections.

Reflection cannot be replaced by any other virtue if I want to achieve optimal results. I must do it constantly throughout my life.

Peter Drucker, widely known as the father of modern management once commented, ‘Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action’.

That’s why I’m sitting alone at Georgetown Coffee Shop in Petaling Jaya – far away from the maddening crowd – to reflect, write this Love Note, and plan for better actions in the days ahead.

Metaphorically, it is one of my ways to sharpen the axe so that I can chop trees in a more effective and efficient way.

Leveraging On Strengths

As a result of my reflection for deep changes, I must learn to leverage on my strengths and ring fence my weaknesses.

In their landmark survey of 1.7 million employees from 101 companies representing 63 countries, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clinton found that only 20 percent of these people are using their strengths every day.

This is sad because capitalising on strengths is the path of least resistance to success. It is also the basis for finding deeper meaning, happiness and fulfillment at work.

I cannot achieve success in the same way as someone else. I must leverage on my strengths to live, work, learn and play in the best possible way.

In the same way, as much as I want to remove my weaknesses, I know it takes time to do so.

Therefore, I need to find other ways to resolve them and prevent them from standing in my way to success. For example, I can enlist others to help me in areas that I cannot do or do as well.

Mining In Your Backyard

Acres of Diamonds is a story made popular by Russell Conwell. It is apparently a true story about Ali Hafed who left both his family and farm so as to search for diamonds all over the world.

He lived in poverty and finally took his life by jumping into a river. Meanwhile back home, they found one of the largest deposits of diamond – right under his farm.

It is sad but true many people go to work with their mind somewhere else. They look for their diamond mines everywhere else, except in the office and through their work.

Success has to begin from where I am and right now – and not at another place and in another time.


Taking Action

The destiny of my life can be changed in a moment of decision. My future can also be crafted when I take massive action.

The only difference between successful people and unsuccessful ones is just that – Action.

Success is not just about EQ or IQ but DQ – Desperation Quotient. It’s about how desperate I am to change so as to achieve better dreams and goals.

To do so, I need to count the cost, discipline myself, and pay the price for success.          

Nothing in the world – no trainers, trainings or tools – can change me unless I desire the change for myself.

With an honest and burning desire to do well in life, our Creator can help me blaze the way to success.

I am redesigning my life for the better. How about you?


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