As 2013 draws to a close, as part of my annual ritual, I sit down at my desk at home to reflect on the year that is coming to pass.
2013 has been an eventful year. There have been many ups and downs, many joys and disappointments. Perhaps even more, there are so many lessons that I have learnt.
Here are my top 13 lessons this year…
~ Personal ~
1. Stop Working on Sundays. Work will NEVER end. Friends have commented previously that I seem to be online all the time. This year, I realised that no matter how hard I work, work will always be there. The emails will not stop coming in, the projects will not stop streaming in. And hence, this year, I decided to stop working on Sundays. I never thought it was possible. I even felt guilty initially as I thought that work will pile up since I am working one day less. What I have realised is, actually by giving myself fewer working days, it actually forces me to more efficient with my time, and plan my time better!
2. Health is Wealth. I have fallen really sick twice this year. My lower back is giving me problem. My bunions are growing bigger. I am putting on weight. And I am only 33. I need to look after myself better. I need to eat healthier and spend more time exercising. Because, at the rate I am going, I am running down my body. And all the money, accolades and achievements in the world mean nothing, if I cannot live a healthy life. I have to be more disciplined with my personal training as well as my eating habits.
3. It is Important to Reflect and Sharpen My Saw. As much as I try to make time for myself regularly, I find that I do not have a lot of me-time with having to juggle family time with business and other commitments. I started to feel down and my energy being sapped away. This year, I have started the habit of setting aside a day every month to just read, relax and reflect. My PA knows this as my 'Read & Think Day' and does not schedule any appointments on that day. New ideas started to flow freely again, and I come out of it feeling refreshed and recharged.
4. Who am I to Judge? This year, I have been privy to a lot of confidential information. And some of these information have been shocking (and some disturbing) for me. The initial reaction like what most people would do was of course to judge. However, I realised that everybody have gone through different life experiences, and it is really not for me to judge their actions and decisions. And once I learnt to suspend judgments, I started to focus on how these revelations help me know and understand myself better – who I am, what I stand for, what my values are. And how I can make use of these knowledge to make a difference.
~ Family ~
5. Charity Begins at Home. I never really understood what this saying truly means until recently. A lot of us spend a lot of time doing good for the community, for the world. We are willing to donate not just money, but also our time and also our patience. And sometimes, we forget that being kind, generous and compassionate is actually most needed at home. We are usually most critical of the people around us. We are usually most impatient with the people whom we love and love us. This year, I have made a conscious effort to be kinder, more compassionate and more patient with the people closest and dearest to me.
6. Our Children Wants Our 100% Attention when We Spend Time with Them. There has been endless discussions on Quality Time vs. Quantity Time. What I have come to realise is – our children need both. But most importantly, when we are with them, they want our 100% attention. No smartphones, no tablets, no daydreaming. I learnt this when I tried a 'management tool' with my kids after an evening out at the park. I asked them what were their '3 highs and 3 lows' of the day. For the biggest high, Corum said, "When you played ball with me!" and Cara replied, "When you brought me to watch the singing and dancing at the stage area!" This is a good reminder for me that being in the same room or space with them simply does not constitute spending time. It is about 100% engagement, 100% attention.
7. Family Rituals are Important. We started many family rituals this year. Family movie nights where we have pasta and pizza takeaway and watch a movie at home. Family meetings/conferences where we discuss family laws, holiday plans etc. Annual Family Holidays where we spend 24 hours together, just the 4 of us. These rituals have brought us closer as a family. It has also amazed me how much a 4 year old kid is actually capable of understanding and doing. At our final family meeting of the year which has taken place 3 hours ago, Corum and Cara have just set their 2014 Goals.
8. Our Parents are Not Getting Any Younger. Just recently, I brought my dad to get some insoles for his shoes as his feet are aching. He also told me that he cannot see the maps on GPS machine clearly. Like all little girls, while growing up, my daddy is my hero. He carries me on his shoulders when I was a toddler. He ferries me around in his car when I grew older. He has always been and still is looking after me. It is easy to take for granted that our parents will always be young, healthy and energetic. I now make a point to spend time to have lunch, dinner or even supper with my mummy and daddy… to have long and deep conversations with them when they are visiting us in Singapore or when I am back in KL.
~ Business ~
priceless gift. words of encouragement from my associates.
9. 1 to 1 time is Priceless. When we first started Lunch Actually, there were only 4 of us. Now there are 40+ of us. In the past, I would have daily conversations with everybody. Now, everybody is scattered in different offices and countries. Of course I communicate regularly with my direct reports. However, there are some of our associates whom I would have probably just spoken with at orientation and some small talk at company gatherings. After reading a book that says that lunches should be fully utilised, I have decided to have "lunch dates" with my associates. Once a week, I will have a one-to-one lunch with one of my associates where we can talk about anything they want – work, family, personal, goals, life etc. I got to know a lot of my associates a lot better – their aspirations, their family, their passions. I did not realise the impact of this initiative until I recently received a Christmas card from one of our associates. The card read, "You may not be around all the time, but you have no idea how much I do appreciate the 1-1 time spent with you over lunch. A boss who makes the effort to learn and know their associates better. I feel so appreciated and loved."
10. Work CAN be and SHOULD be Fun. Learning from my fellow entrepreneur friends at EO (Entrepreneurs' Organization), I implemented a company wide Daily Huddle where associates will come together to update each other on their daily goals and accomplishments. And we will end off with a Morning Dance. When we first started, my strategy team and I were apprehensive of the associates' reaction to the Morning Dance. Would they think we are crazy? Or would they find it too childish? Well, our team of Cupids & Transformers simply LOVE it!!! Thank God! When I shared with some friends in their 20s that we dance every morning at work… they were stunned for a second. And then, they started to ask, "Do you have openings in your company? Can we join?" This has made me realise that… work does not always have to be serious and uptight. Work CAN be fun, and SHOULD be fun. In fact, I always ask my associates, "Is work still fun?" Because we spend 8-9 hours a day at work, and when it becomes a drag to go to work everyday, maybe it is time to move on.
11. The Power of Empowerment and Autonomy is Simply Amazing. This year, we hived off one of our growing products and put in charge a COO and product manager to run it. They will seek Jamie's and my advice and counsel for major and critical decisions. Other than that, they are mostly on their own. I am personally amazed and astonished by the results that they and their team have produced in the last year. For entrepreneurs and managers out there, what I have learnt is… our people if given the right environment to grow and thrive, have a lot to give and contribute. What we need to do is to make sure that we are a 'multiplier' and not a 'diminisher'. Because under a leader who is a 'multiplier', teams are known to be 2 or more times more effective and productive. But if you have a manager who is a 'diminisher', people will actually 'dumb down' because they feel suppressed and are afraid to try new things and make mistakes.
12. The Danger of Falling into the Trap of Self-Justification and… Complacency. Today, I am thankful that Lunch Actually Group is South East Asia's leading dating company with thousands of successful couples and marriages under our belt. Yet, if you were to compare our revenues to many other businesses out there, we are miniscule. Some people would say, "You cannot compare with others because your industry is a niche industry. You started out in a small region. Actually, you have done very well!" Do not get me wrong. I am all for being happy and contented with what I have been blessed with. However, I also believe that if I fall into the trap of self-justification, I would eventually become complacent and stop pushing myself to become a better businesswoman to improve the business, to extend the reach of our services. Being complacent does not serve me, my family, my associates nor the singles' lives whom we can touch through our company products and services. I have learnt that it is ok to whine and self-pity sometimes, but it is important to differentiate facts from excuses.
And to sum it all up, I have learnt to…
13. Let Go, Let God. There have been many mini-miracles that have happened in 2013 that I know can only be through God's grace. It has not been a year without trials and tribulations. There were times when we were lost, and not sure what to do. I thank God for walking alongside Jamie and I in the last year. I have learnt that we can make plans but our plans will only succeed when we commit them to Him. God has shown us that He has plans for us, and He alone can bring these plans to fruition for His reasons, in His timing.
If you are reading this, I thank YOU for being a part of my life. I have so many people to be thankful for this year.
A BIG thank you to: My hubby Jamie – my rock, my children Corum & Cara – my miracles, my parents – my harbour, my parents-in-law, my helper, my extended family – my amazing support system, my associates at Lunch Actually Group and Prizle.com – my inspiration, my EO forum mates and friends – my council of advisors, my brothers and sisters in Christ – my fellow disciples in Christ, and last but not least, my close friends – my sanity.
To each and every of you, I pray that you and your family will have a blessed year ahead.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
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