I give to you 10 biggest lessons I learned from Inspire.
It’s been hell of a ride.
Funny how there’s a Kung Fu Panda metaphor to almost every lessons from The Journey
Hope you’d enjoy!
I give to you 10 biggest lessons I learned from Inspire.
It’s been hell of a ride.
Funny how there’s a Kung Fu Panda metaphor to almost every lessons from The Journey
Hope you’d enjoy!
What has changed in the World of Media & Publishing?
Smarter, more interactive way of content delivery. Algorithm that reads our mind, information customised to our exact liking.
Choices, Control, Options. These are our God-given entitlements.
The Message to Marketers: Attention is the new currency.
Give customers everything they desire in order to win their attention. With that, you’d be able to sell them anything in return.
What hasn’t changed?
The crave for quality content.
Beauty & The Beast, Cinderella and the Sound of Music.
We are all still yearning for a Great Story.
No matter what medium, which platform.
Our desire to worship Influencers – Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma, Tony Robbins and of course, The Rock…
We do what they preach, we buy what they sell.
No matter what medium, which platform.
And after all these advancement, at the end of the day, we all go back to watching the Stupid Cat humping on the Puppy on Youtube; 14.5 Million views, last I counted.
Does Winning Attention = Winning in the game of Marketing?
Yes, but that’s the wrong premise to start.
As my hero Seth Godin so eloquently puts it: Selfish Marketing Doesn’t Last!
And neither does Attention.
But Relationships Do!
Build Relationship, Build Trust, Build Tribe.
Add Value. Be Generous.
Here’s my attempt to both:
Slides for The Changing Landscape in Media and Publishing, Your’s to grab. Future of Media & Publishing
Here’s the Words, Influence & Power Slides
This is a session about writing. But really, it’s about creativity, communications, art, self discovery and much more.
My goal is to alter the way you look at writing forever.
There are certain things in which, once you learn, it cannot be unlearned. I certainly hope this is one of them.
Here is the Power Point Presentation of The Art of Selling (Click above).
You may not get the entire message by looking at it alone. We will be conducting another session in the near future.
Drop me a note if you are interested.
for other training details see: http://www.YesInspire.com/training
People know Dato Tim Ong (DTO) for many different things; a world-class speaker; an intellect and a leading thinker in economics, politics and current affairs; and non the least, an influential and wealthy businessman from a much respected family in Brunei.
But to me, he is also one of the most underrated salesperson I know. DTO is not given enough credit for his selling ability simply because most people do not regard what he does as selling.
What draw me the most to DTO are his unparalleled storytelling skills and the ability to convince others. With every interaction, it is always a treat to hear great stories and a special learning opportunity. Like many, I am often captivated by every word that is uttered out of his mouth.
I have the good fortune of knowing DTO for over 15 years, and have the distinct privilege of hanging around with him often and hear many of his epic stories first hand. Professionally, I have worked for DTO early on in my career, and have interviewed him periodically for a column on Inspire magazine and have seek many valuable advices from him on life and business.
Here are my 5 observations of what makes DTO such a masterful storyteller / salesperson:
1. The Gift:
Notice how we often dismiss the above attribute as a gift rather than a skill set that we can acquire. Truth is, we can improve our English ability if we work hard at it. We may never be as eloquent as DTO, but we can always become better than before. As for voice- there is such thing as voice coaching if you’re serious about improving your vocal tone. Just pay http://www.YippyTune.com a visit.
2. The Effort / Practice
3. The Sources
Where does DTO get all the content from?
4. The Simplicity
5. The Closer
That’s what makes DTO the master, that’s what separates DTO from even the best salespeople I know…
I will conducting a Masterclass on selling in the near future. You can learn more about it at http://www.YesInspire.com/training
Just yesterday, I picked up where Siena left off with her Duplo set after she went out with her mum. I tried to eliminate as many parts as possible, so that I can use the excess bricks to build more items. In the process, I created a minimalistic structure with elements of vernacular architecture, which I was rather proud of.
Imagine two 3 stories tree house held together by a common rooftop that bears the resemblance of a 16th century castle, supported by two key panels. Yes, it looked wobbly but was strong enough to stand on it’s own, if left untouched. And I had it completed just in time for Siena’s return.
Unfortunately, I trusted Siena to play with my delicate construction and watched the effort collapsed before my eyes. The pain was only amplified by the fact that I had not taken any picture of my proud construction.
As a parent, I should have known better than to leave any delicate possession in the hand of my kids. Was I surprised? No. Heart broken? You bet!
Needless to say, Siena got her punishment with my silent treatment throughout dinner. After that, I made her help in the reconstructing every element of the building exactly the same way – a decision proven to be futile, as she was just as stubborn as me, with a mind of her own when it comes to creative works. I relented by spending the rest of the evening watching her pieced together her own version of the building all by herself.
Right about midnight before I headed to bed, I walked past her finished apartment and decided to give it another go. Hours later, the result was astonishing.
With Siena’s inspiration and a little imagination, I constructed towering Rapunzel castle, a final product that was even more impressive than the earlier version. This would never have been possible if things had fallen into place perfectly earlier in the day. Funny how my Duplo moment is as much a metaphor for life, as it is for play.
The reaction on Siena and Alannah’s face on their new Duplo construction this morning was worth every effort. Before that, I made sure I took plenty of photos, expecting full well that it may return to ground zero the moment I get home.
My eldest daughter Siena is turning Six in a few days time. It is a big deal for our household because she’s been counting down to this day ever since her last birthday.
I remember one of the most stressful periods of my life had been the months leading up to the birth of Siena. With my wife being a Type One Diabetic, I was extremely anxious about the chances of complications to both the mother and child’s health. And then, I worried about how I would ever be able to afford to usher in this insurmountable financial burden into our family. Would I ever be good enough a father? What would happen to all the freedom that I once enjoyed?
So, when I was told that young people are reluctant to get married and have kids, I could totally understand where they are coming from.
After all, why would anyone want to have kids when they cost $250,000 a piece to raise – by the time they graduate from universities? With all the sacrifices that you have to give up on for their wellbeing and happiness, where is the ROI (return on investment)?
As Siena turns Six along with Alannah turning Three in July, if you were to ask me today whether or not I would trade anything for this experience of being a parent, I will tell you in a heartbeat, No.
I know that it would be impossible for you to relate to, until you’ve walked through this journey yourself.
But I will try to give you a glimpse of the joy and reality of parenthood by: Sharing with you the very practical challenges that you are going to face and also tell you how being a father has made me a better person.
Will I lose my freedom when I have kids?
The short answer is, Yes! But what you will gain in return would be immensely more valuable than any freedom you could ever enjoy; it is a new sense of purpose called parenting. Parenting means all of a sudden, you are now directly responsible for someone else’s life. It is scary, but it is also the best motivation guru you will ever need to drive you to work harder and strive to become a better person.
Will I lose all my drinking mates when I have kids?
Truth is, you would already have lost most of them the minute you got married. Having a kid will just put the final nail to the coffin. However, what you are about to gain is a profound sense of connection with an entire new tribe of people from all ages, sex, race and religion that you never knew existed; called parents. The bond you will form with these people stems from a common understanding and empathy for the sleepless nights that you will go through, worried about the time when the fever of your baby hits above 39c; the time it breaks your heart into a million little pieces, when your daughter accidentally knocks off her front tooth while throwing tantrum on the floor. That, along with countless of stories that you will learn to appreciate which had meant absolutely nothing to you before becoming a parent.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have used my “daughters” card to strike a really meaningful conversation and forge a deep relationship with friends who were once stranger.
This connection is not limited to only the people outside your circles, in fact, you will begin to appreciate and relate to your parents on a level that you never knew existed.
Will my work performance decline because of all the distractions that come with having a child?
No doubt, you’re going to have less time for work if you are like most parents. Unless you have a different priority, or that you are able to find a replacement to cook, feed, change, bath, do schools runs and______fill in the blanks. No matter how great a help you may get, there will never be a replacement for doing it yourself.
Back to my work, what I also learned was how much more focused I have become since being a dad. My productivity essentially doubled because of the need to achieve more with the less amount of time spent in the office.
It is incredible how when you need to double your salary for your family, you would figure out a way to make it happen. Human beings are some of the most adaptive and resilient creatures on earth, when push comes to shove, we’d find a solution.
How has being a parent made me a better person?
Parenthood has shifted me from being a self-centered individual to being a more compassionate and inclusive person. I have grown to draw joy from someone else’s happiness other than my own. It has taught me the beauty of giving as opposed to taking. And it has caused me to take the need of the community and the surrounding environment more seriously because it is now in my interest to build a better world that my children and their children can grow up and excel in.
Being a parent has made me a better leader. For nothing else, my kids have trained me to empathize more and be more patient with the people I lead by looking at things from a different point of view. I have a theory for the real test of your leadership skill; if you can successfully get your children to listen to you 80% of the time, you are set as a leader. Sometimes (infact, most of the time) you staff listen to you because they have to. Your kids are not paid to do so (at least they thought).
Above all, being a parent has made me a better husband. Looking into the eyes of my children reminds me to love and cherish my wife more everyday, because of the sacrifices and commitments that she has made to the family and to my precious children.
Granted, with all that our parents have done for us, I often to wondered how I would ever be able to repay them back? I was convinced that it’s impossible until one day I stumbled upon the answer when I witnessed the pure joy on mum and dad’s faces from playing with their grand children.
Just as you are seated on the other side of the fence having difficulties imagining a life tied down with the weight and enormity of parenthood, Deon and I often wondered how it was even possible for us to have lived through our entire youth before our two daughters came along.
This article is adapted from my speech delivered to a group of young people contemplating on the possibility of starting a family in their foreseeable future.
Every business is different. What applied to me may not be applicable to you. Which is why instead of prescribing you with a top 10 formula on what you should do to succeed in your business, I’d share with you some of my personal journey of running Inspire Magazine.
Hopefully you’d be able to draw some lessons that are relevant to your own situation. For nothing else, I hope that the sharing would inspire you to pick up a copy of the magazine, and learn from the stories of other people to inspire your to succeed.
Part 1 (Before Inspire Magazine)
Our dream was never to start a magazine publication.
Because I knew how difficult it was to run a magazine publication first hand, having worked for Asia Inc magazine during the early stage of my career. Truth be told, Inspire magazine was not even my idea to begin with (more on that later).
We started a marketing consulting agency called Catalyst with the idea of being a marketing department outpost for small businesses. We wanted to be the go-to guy for creative ideas to solve problems and improve businesses.
Our motto was to “Spark the economy”, we believe that the economy is made out individual businesses. We were idealistic and bold, thinking we could change the world.
We were wrong.
Few months into the business, we realized that Brunei companies do not pay for ideas. Not to us anyway. Except for when they are engaging foreign consultants, you know, the type who wear the well fitted, tailor-made suits, but that’s a whole other story. Our initial business model almost got our business busted, had it not been our willingness to adapt to what was required for survivor.
I have the bliss of seeing complex situation with a pair of simple lenses and a natural ability to convey the message in a format that everyone can understand. Instead of selling ideas, companies started coming to me to help craft their corporate messages. I started accepting copy-writing jobs from banks and other major corporations, jobs that had nothing to do with the list of items we offered on our service menu.
Our first magazine project was The Brunei SME Bulletin by MIPR. The project wasn’t even ours to start with. We were the sub-contractor who did all the work for a guy who tendered in the project but had no idea how to do it. As the middle guy, he made most of the money while we did most of the work. We saw the opportunity to get ourselves noticed and didn’t mind the hardwork. We published two issues of the SME Bulletin before it was scraped when there was a change in the cabinet.
[ Don’t be afraid of being taken advantage of. In business and in life, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Even if you may seem to be at the short end of the stick, you would have gained some valuable experiences from the encounter. We wouldn’t have started so many magazines, had we been too concerned about our “return on investment” with this subcontracting job.]
With this experience, we had an idea of starting a business magazine of our own called Vision 2035 in the form of an app. We thought it was a brilliant idea for the nation’s development; helping the entire country to fix their eyes on the national agenda through a periodic publication. What a better way keep everyone focused, we thought. We even used this idea to participate in the LEAP Grant competition by the BEDB. We didn’t win the competition, so we fine-tuned the proposal and took it to the corporations for sponsorship support. No one showed any interest neither. Instead, a cement company got back to us with the idea of staring a magazine about homes.
We hated the idea.
First, we did not have any experience in the department of home and lifestyle. Second, none of us in our team had any background in interior design or architecture. But, we needed the money to stay in Business.
Six months after the initial meeting with the cement company, we launched the first home & lifestyle magazine in Brunei and called it BHC magazine. It was a neat and simple publication that focused (instead) on the stories of Bruneian’s lifestyle at home, with photos referencing their beautiful decorations and designs, telling the stories of the homeowners and their family. It was a perfect recipe for the Brunei readers who love their home and build their ecosystem around the family. We never pretended to be what we were not from the start. And the readers appreciated that. The popularity of the publication soared as a result.
[Be like water (Bruce Lee), be like a chameleon (lizard that changes color). What you wrote on the business plan seldom pens out to be what you actually do. Have the humility to adapt to what the real environment demands of. It is always about the customers. Park your ego at the door the moment you decide you want to get into business. You have a team of people depending on your ability to change (your colors) to feed.]
We ran into trouble in only our second issue. Our inexperience in publishing got the better of us. We made a major mistake of publishing images of a magnificent house that turned out to be blurred and unfocused. The entire team was devastated. The magazine looked amateurish and substandard because of that particular article. We felt like we have let the readers, the sponsors and also the home owner down. One of the reasons for such devastation was that, as a new publisher, we were subjected to the judgment of the few projects we did. There were no other ways for us to show for our work. In retrospect, the biggest and harshest critique had probably been myself, all in a quest for perfection.
Looking back, I’m glad we made the mistake early in our publishing career, because we had not allowed the repeat of the same mistake since. What seemed to be the biggest problem of that day looks so trivial in hindsight. Aside from the homeowner, whom we have since apologized to, I bet no one else have the slightest, most remote recollection of the pictures I’m talking about.
[Don’t be too consumed by your mistakes, no matter how great it may seem. Truth is, you will make plenty of mistakes throughout your business endeavor. Mistakes mean that you are trying, making progress and innovating. Mistakes are just a part of your learning. It is ok to grief over a mistake, but don’t lose sleep over it. Don’t let the mistake own you. The best way to own up to a wrongdoing is to not repeat it. I promise, 5 years later, no one would remember it, not even you.]
[Believe in serendipity. Our mission for Catalyst was to “Spark the Economy”. That was our BHAG (Big Hairy and Audacious Goal). Frankly, even if it sounded logical, we didn’t quite believe we could pull it off. We were just a few guys with some ideas, dreaming out the perfect mission statement. Two years after abandoning our dream of “Sparking the Economy, inadvertently, BHC magazine became the indispensable tool for the home industry to communicate and promote their products and services. The home industry is the second most important economic engine in Brunei after the Oil & Gas industry.]
Part 2. The Making of Inspire Magazine
So, how did Inspire Magazine get started?
Back in the second year of BHC magazine, we introduced a small section during Hari Raya and subsequently, during Chinese New Year by reaching out to some of Brunei’s biggest names and personalities to post their greetings on our featured columns. Those postings turned out to be the most read section in our magazine. The amount of feedback, shares and buzz they created were simply unprecedented. It turned out that there was a distinct interest in our community to read about other people’s stories.
Heeding this idea, our previous designer Azeem came up with the brilliant idea of starting a magazine about successful people in Brunei. Through many debates and self-examinations, we decided that we did not want to start a magazine like Tatler or Prestige; that glamourise the rich and famous. We told ourselves that if we were to do it, we wanted to dedicate our time into producing a publication that is meaningful to the society and make a difference.
And hence we started coming up with a series of ideas of what we wanted the magazine to do: to be a vehicle to recognize ordinary people doing extraordinary work; a source of inspiration for other Bruneians to look up to and strive for; a catalyst for change to improve livelihood.
That was how Inspire was born.
[You do not need to be the hero or the person with the best idea. Listen to the people around you. Wisdom lies in the ability to filter out the best advice and apply them into good use. BHC magazine was someone else’s idea, and so was Inspire magazine.]
We started our first issue on Brunei’s Creative Industry, highlighting some of the most outstanding talents in the creative realm, featuring Fakhrul Razi on the cover. Our second issue that featured 50 of Brunei’s Most influential Women held all the newsstand record as the most number of magazines ever sold in the country up until today.
We continued to aspire to break boundaries and push ourselves to outdo our previous publications. We subsequently published Choose Happiness and Ordinary Heroes in the first year; two of my most favorite publications to date. I can spend all day talking about these two issues like I’ve just written them yesterday.
[Never be satisfied with the status quo. Always challenge yourself to become better, always try to outdo your previous record. Be your own best competitor. Do it with zest, do it with plenty of gusto.]
In Choose Happiness, we took the bold step of printing just the two words on the yellow cover with a smiley face at the bottom. The gamble paid off. This became one of the most instantly recognizable publication on the newsstand, and we pride ourselves in coming up with the original idea.
It is still a cover I am most proud of up until today. You need to understand the context before you can appreciate what this simple cover meant to us. We really really believe in the importance of a good cover in reflecting the quality of any publication. The amount of emphasis in choosing the right person, the kind of image to portray and the messages is no joke. At times, my colleague and I would end up not talking to each other for a few days simply because we can’t agree on trivial elements on the cover (it is a miracle that we have not killed each other in the name of love for what we do). So, you can imagine the kind of pressure we set for ourselves when we turned in the unanimous decision to run a cover with a blank sheet of yellow cover and just two simple words.
For nothing else, with this issue I learned about a very important secret in life; Happiness is always a choice, not an endeavor or an aspiration.
In Ordinary Heroes, I had the honour of interviewing Lt Redzki who died 2 weeks after our meeting. It made me realize the meaning and significance of my job, one that I’m proud to call my vocation. That I am not just writing a story, but helping to draft a legacy for the person I am writing about, and for his family.
Of the many people I interviewed for the past few years, three of the most promising, most extraordinary young people have since passed on; Lt Redzki, Wan Krisnadi and recently Shawn Narcis, all of them had a reputation that precedes their name.
[We are all mortal. People die. Not just old people. How do you live your life will have a direct consequence on how you’d be remembered . Be like Shawn (Narcis)]
What happened to BHC Magazine?
After two years of publishing BHC Magazine, we realized that change was inevitable for the continuous growth of our content, our team and the company’s profitability. We were unable to agree on the same direction to move forward, and ended up parting ways with the sponsor.
It was a huge risk departing from BHC, because it meant that we were on our own; no financial backing, no endorsement. We walked away from a place that we poured our heart and soul into for two years.
For the first time in two years, we felt vulnerable and scared. I remembered looking into my colleagues’ eyes, asking each other: what had we gotten ourselves into?
On the other hand, we also felt an undeniable sense of peace. Liberated from the accountability to any particular organization but our own two hands.
[Take Risks! Be ready to walk away from your comfort zone. Draw confidence from your past achievements. Have faith. Know that there will always be better things waiting in-store for you.]
Within a month, we launched the 2.0 version of BHC and called it Inspire Living. We wanted it to uplift people’s life with a fresh new perspective. We figured, if Inspire magazine feeds the mind and soul, Inspire Living would play it’s part of improving one’s wellbeing starting from their home.
That moment on, we asked ourselves two very important questions: What if we could set our own rules? How do we kick our own ass? In no time, we started setting Our-Own-Rules and created one issue after another with boldness, innovation and imagination that surpassed anything we have ever done before.
[Make your own Rules. The greatest gift of being your own boss is the ability to listen to your guts and make decision and be held accountable to yourself. Empower yourself. Write your own set of rules. Do not be held hostage by other people’s perimeters.]
[Never stop asking yourself: How to kick your own ass? As an entrepreneur, it is good question to be asking yourself from time to time. Because if you don’t, sooner or later, someone else would come along ask the question for you. And by the time that happens, it will be too late.]
How did we kick our own ass?
Along that time, I traveled to Bangkok and visited a bookshop. There, I opened up a beautiful architecture book filled with pictures of the most amazing houses in Asia. I started to imagine what it would be like if those mansions were featured on our magazines. What does it take for me to source this kind of photos and editorial content? I thought to myself. I started dreaming about traveling to different countries with our photographer, knocking on doors, taking pictures of the most beautiful houses in this part of the world. That would be a dream come true for me.
I took a picture of the book cover and the publisher’s information on the inside page and walked away from the bookstore, forgetting about it altogether.
Back in my office one afternoon, as I was drifting off at work scrolling through the past photos on my phone, I came across the picture of the architecture book that I once took in Bangkok.
And I had one of those eureka moment!
“Why not try reaching out to the universe and see what happen?” I said to myself.
I put down the phone and googled the publisher and made a proposal for them to share their content with me on Inspire Living magazine. The rest was history. To next to no credit of mine, Inspire Living was graced by the pictures of the best, the most outstanding houses in the whole of Asia on our cover, month after month ever since.
The standard of the magazine improved 100 fold overnight. That, along with a thousand little things we did by asking ourselves to kick our own ass had been a source of inspiration for all of our team in everything we do.
[Travel. The best business ideas often come from travels. Some of the greatest business people I’ve interviewed were successful not because they are any smarter than you. But because they have a wider exposure by observing how others do it outside of their country. And have the courage and determination of bringing it back to make it work. If you think traveling is expensive, try staying put.]
[Reach out to the Universe. Allow yourself to dream. Embrace wishful thinking. But don’t stop there, act on it. Because you’d have zero chance of making it happen if you don’t try. Sometimes you may just get lucky – look at us!]
I was invited by UBD to share my experience on their media advocacy program this morning. Instead of teaching them how to write better or how to be a better media professional one day, I thought it would be more interesting to share with them the behind-the-scene stories that I have not shared in the public. I think the university lecturer can do a much better job teaching the students technical writing skills.
What I’m about to share though, are unique, because these are all my stories. Not even the best professor in the world can duplicate. I have interviewed plenty more outstanding minds and amazing people throughout my career that are not included in this journal. I chose these 10 stories exactly for this particular context.
Going through this experience, I’m personally surprised by some of the new lessons I discovered along the way. I hope you too, would be able to share the joy in my work.