P9: Stay Away From Soft Drinks

Look at this soft drink. It looks colourful, tastes zesty, and appears glamorous. Many of us fall in love with it. I say, we fall victim to it, because it is a money-robbing tool to our wallet; it is an enchantment to our mind; and it is an enemy to our health. And if you want to stay safe and sound, hale and hearty, stay away from soft drinks.

Soft drink is a money-robbing tool to our wallet for businessmen to rob our money easily and quietly. Do you know how much a can of coca-cola actually costs? According to this article at Newsweek, “Belching Out the Devil” by Mark Thomas,  the syrup to make a single cup of Coca-Cola costs $0.0052. How much do we pay for it? 80 cents? $1.5?  $2.5? Well, the price depends on where we buy it. The price we pay is usually a few hundred times the cost of the goods sold. What do we get on earth? Sugar, colourings, preservatives, calories! How much does a proper meal cost in a hawker centre? 3 dollars or 4 dollars? That means, one soft drink actually costs one third, sometimes even more, the price of a proper meal. We are not happy about the chicken rice uncles raising the price of a plate of chicken rice by fifty cents, but we are never reluctant to pay a few dollars for a soft drink that is actually worth only a few cents. More ironically, many people can afford to drive a posh car, can afford to drink plenty of fancy, savoury, fizzy soft drinks but assiduously complain about the one-dollar or two-dollar ERP. Furthermore, how many people bother to offer a one-dollar coin or a two-dollar note to a disabled person in the street?  We complain about the inflation of chicken rice; we hate ERP; we ignore the physically challenged poor people around us; but we never hesitate to pass our hard earned money to soft drinks businessmen who are commanding a huge profit margin quietly!  What a big irony!

Soft drink is also an enchantment to our mind. Do you know how much sugar a can of coca-Cola contains? Let me read out the number for you. The nutrition fact on the can says per 100ml the sugar amount is 10.6 gram. So a can containing 330ml like this contains 30 plus gram of sugar. If we put sugar, artificial sweeteners or flavours or colourings or preservatives separately on a plate, how many of us will eat them voluntarily and happily? I bet nobody. Many of us are actively reducing the intake of sugar or avoiding colourings and preservatives in our diet. Excessive intake will cause health problems. We all know that too well. Can we differentiate sugar and a can of soft drink? Certainly. Can we tell the sugar inside a can of soft drink? We can but more often than not, we lose the awareness when it is camouflaged inside a soft drink.  Isn’t it clear that soft drinks contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, flavours, colourings, and preservatives? Then why do we still voluntarily and happily pay for soft drinks and pour them into our mouth? The answer is simple – in front of a small enchantment like soft drink, we lose our mind to temptation.

More dangerously, soft drink is an insidious enemy to our health. As early as in 1998, the centre for science in the public interest published a research paper titled Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming Americans’ Health. The research paper reported scientific evidence between soft drinks and health problems such as obesity, bone loss, tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, and many others. Imagine, after drinking soft drinks for a period of time, you suddenly find your face bigger, body rounder; you doctor tells you that you are unfortunately going through something called degeneration of bone mass and you are at the high risk of fracture; or your dentist suggests you pay a bigger bill to do something to your teeth because your teeth enamel is being eroded away; or you have to inject insulin on your tummy because you are suffering from diabetes …How will you feel? Do you want a bigger face and a rounder body? Do you want to suffer bone loss? Do you want to experience toothache? Do you want to get connected with diabetes or heart disease? When you shake your head in disbelief and denial, do you know that the culprit for the series of mishaps may be soft drinks?

I am not the only one lobbying against soft drinks. According to Wikipedia, in Jan 2013, a British lobby group called for the price of sugary fizzy drinks to be increased; in March 2013, New York City‘s mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed to ban the sale of non-diet soft drinks larger than 16 ounces.

Ladies and gentlemen, next time when you want to buy soft drinks, think twice and think why. Is it because of the flavour, color, or glamour associated with soft drinks? Is flavour, color and glamour more important than money, mind, and health? Do you want a bigger face and a rounder body? Do you want to get bone loss and toothache? Do you want to contract diseases such as obesity, hypertension, and stroke? If your answer is no to any of the questions, stay away from soft drinks. It is your choice and for your own good!

P2: Good Employees Make Mistakes. Great Leaders Allow Them To

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”  – Meg Cabot


We all make mistakes. Every one of us. Don’t we?

If we are not making mistakes, then likely we are not trying enough new things outside our comfort zone, and that itself is a mistake. That process is the best way to learn and grow as a person. 

Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned. Mistakes are not failures, they are simply the process of eliminating ways that won’t work in order to come closer to the ways that will.

As a business leader, I found that one of the scariest things to do was to give your people the freedom to make mistakes. While mistakes allow individuals to learn and grow, they can also be very costly to any company. Scared as I was, I knew that truly great leaders found ways to allow their people to take these risks, and I genuinely wanted to be a great leader. I wanted to help my employees to grow. So I set out to discover how to accomplish this without placing my company in jeopardy.


I quickly discovered that the first step was to determine the areas of the business where a mistake could take place without causing too much damage. I took careful attention to make sure that any areas where we would damage our clients and the trust they had placed in us were off limits for significant risk without serious executive involvement and oversight. I identified other areas where I could feel more comfortable allowing people the freedom to experiment on new and better ways of doing things.

The second step was to communicate to the employees that we were setting an official company policy:  Making any mistake once was OK, so long as it was an honest mistake made while attempting to do what they felt was the right thing. Making any mistake once was OK, but repeating that same mistake a second time was NOT OK. The hard, fast rule was that if you made any mistake for the first time the entire team would have your back in fixing that mistake if anything went wrong. However, if you ever repeated the mistake a second time, then you were 100 percent on your own to face the consequences.  This rule applied for every first-time occurrence of each new mistake you made.

Great leaders allow their people the freedom to make mistakes. But good employees are those who when mistakes are made 1. Learn from them, 2. Own them, 3. Fix them, and 4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again.

1.       Learn from them:  Good employees recognize that they have, in fact, made an honest mistake.  They do not get defensive about it, rather they are willing to look objectively at their mistake, recognize what they did wrong, and understand why their choice or actions were the wrong thing to do.

2.       Own them:  Good employees take accountability for their mistakes. They admit them readily.  They don’t make excuses for their mistake, rather they acknowledge that yes, they made a mistake and they express openly what lesson they have learned from that mistake. They go on to express steps 3 and 4 below.

3.       Fix them: Good employees do what it takes to rectify their wrongs. They are willing to do whatever they can to fix the problem and make it right. Certainly there are times when the damage is done and recompense cannot be made, but good employees do their very best to repair whatever damage has been done to the best of their ability. They always establish a timeline with follow up for when the problem will be fixed and make sure that progress is communicated throughout the process so everyone feels the urgency and care with which they are correcting the problem.

4.       Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again: This is the most critical step in the learning process. When a mistake has clearly been made, the most important thing anyone can do is figure out what safety nets and roadblocks can be carefully established to ensure that this same mistake will never take place again. Document this step so the lessons learned and the safeguards setup can always go beyond you. Do everything in your power to help others learn from your mistake so they don’t have to experience them on their own to gain the lesson you’ve learned.

The steps to correcting mistakes apply to any area of life. Whether it’s business life or home life or personal life, the principles of apologizing remain the same. Good employees make a lot of mistakes, and truly great employees are those have mastered the art of apologizing for those mistakes:

Great People Practice The Six A’s of a Proper Apology:

  • Admit
  • Apologize
  • Acknowledge
  • Attest – I plan to do the following to fix the mistake on this specific timeline.
  • Assure
  • Abstain

People who implement the Six A’s will find that the level of trust and respect others have for them will grow tenfold. People who implement the Six A’s will find that others will be quicker to forgive them and more likely to extend a second chance. It’s not the making of a mistake that is generally the problem; it’s what you do with it afterward that really counts.


So fellow toastmasters, we all make mistakes. Every one of us. If we are not making mistakes, then likely we are not trying enough new things outside our comfort zone, and that itself is a mistake.


P1: My Past, My Present, My Future

14 Jan 2012

Has anyone here been to Vietnam?

That is where I am from. Fellow toastmasters and guests, today I want to share with you something about me, how I struggle with English language and that’s one of the reasons why I join toastmaster.


I was born in a small town in Vietnam, about 300km from the capital city.

That is a poor area of the country. We were not very poor but certainly not rich – at the time, only rich people in Vietnam were government officials. Since both of my parents are teachers, they truly believe education would help me and my sisters have a better future so we focus a lot on study when we were younger. And to have a better education, I went to a boarding school before I turned 14 and only came home once in every month or two. I had a tough time away from home at such a young age. But I survived the school and for better or worse, those years helped me to grow up and learned how to survive in life. I guess it is like what you guys here go to national service but just a few year younger.



After high school, I had a chance to study overseas when I started university and I chose to go to Australia. That’s when I started learning English – it would be hard to believe, but my first English lesson was only after I finished high school. I spent a year to learn English. But because the objective was to get admitted to University, the focus was actually more on the exam than to learn the language itself. I was pretty good at exam, so I passed my English exam even though my command of English was pretty poor. I still don’t understand how I could survive in an Australian university with that level of English but I guess I did a degree in Computer Science that basically involved in computer programing, mathematics and engineering in general so you did not have to talk much.

My poor communication skill continues to my work life where I started working in banks here in Singapore. I then went back to Australia after working for 4 years in Singapore and it was more challenging to work in Australia with my level of English even though I did improve along the way. I had to read books and learned more English by myself but then luckily, I rarely gave any presentation at those jobs.

Then I joined my current company – where I require to do some presentations; meeting clients so I know that I need to improve my presentation skills, and my friend recommended me to join a Toastmaster club but I kept delaying until now. But this time, I determine to get over my fear, throw away excuses and work on English speaking.

So here I am – and what a better way than to start a new year, first meeting of 2012 with my first project speech. I know it is not something I can complete overnight, not even in a year but rather it is a long journey. That’s what I believe in life – know what you want; take one step at a time; and if I am on the right track, I will get there one day.


Evaluation by Albert Anto, CC


A fabulous afternoon fellow toastmasters, visiting toastmasters, guests and to you Tri! Congratulations for defeating the fear and stepping forward to join the toastmasters and delivering you are maiden speech, “My past, My present and My English”. You have such a wonderful command of language, I could hardly spot any errors in your English!

Your speech followed

  1. An interesting and involved opening, where you described your background.
  2. A strong body, describing your struggle with the English, how you overcame the challenges you faced, the put offs and excuses and the inspiration you got from your kid’s Kindergarten concert.


Strong points of your speech are

  1. You have a sweet and melodious voice that attracts the attention of the audience. The delivery was very smooth, without any show of nervousness, if you had any.
  2. You used a question to open the speech, which is a good technique to get the audience involved.
  3. You did not use any notes, a brave effort!
  4. Your English was almost flawless, except for minor pronunciation errors, which I am sure could be fine-tuned over this toastmasters ‘s journey.


Overall, a very interesting and informative speech, well done!

I look forward to your next speech!

P10: You can do it if you really want

14 Jan 2012

(music and Zainal singing ‘You can do it if you really want’)

To be successful in this life is not easy but not impossible. First you must have a dream which you must believe in, because a dream is born from an idea, a simple idea conceived in the mind, and with a combination of determination, enthusiasm,

perserverence, diligence and patience, you need to step out from your comfort zone and use your god given talent and abilities. God do not have time to make a nobody somebody, you can.


Let me share with you some true stories. When a friend of mine working as Administrative Officer was retrenched at the age of 47 he could not get another job after attending many interviews. He was determined to change vocation and decided to become a taxi driver. He do not have a vocational and driving license and start to enroll in driving classes. He took 21 times to pass his driving test. A true grit and determination.

In 1891 Samuel Langley had a dream to fly. He made model airplanes with whirling arms powered by steam engine. It crashed immediately after being launched. He was disappointed and gave up trying to fly. He died a broken man.

At the same time 2 school dropouts had the same dream. It also crashed after being launched, but every time it crashed they rise up and try again and again. About a dozen trial and error finally they taste sweet success. In 1903 the first plane ever to fly.

The next time you hear or see an airplane or travel on one remember where it all started. A simple idea conceived in the minds of 2 school dropouts who do not finish high school. They did not have a degree, aeronautical engineering, mathematics, physics or any other subjects. They were not scientist in the true sense of the word and yet 2 bicycle mechanics accomplish what they had believed in.

What idea or ideas are you working on. Have you said to yourself you cant do this or that because you are not a scientist. Have you limited yourself in saying you are not smart enough, or have you join the majority in saying that everything has already been invented or discovered.

There are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happen. I leave it to you to decide which category of people you want to belong to. It is your birth right to have anything you want in this life. The choice is yours.


Evaluation by Teh Yun Ling, CTM


Here are the main points of the evaluation:


  1. A song as the opening was attention catching.
  2. Zainal maintained excellent eye contact with the audience.
  3. Loud and clear voice which is magnetic. Both points 2 and 3 displayed his sincerity.
  4. Humour was injected in the speech.
  5. Both positive and negative examples were given.




  1. Avoid swinging hands.
  2. Use one or two personal stories especially how the speaker overcame obstacles and eventually succeeded by beliveing in himself.





To V or Not To V?


DTM, Richard Sng, has yet again wowed us with his dazzling display of rhetorical devices in his Basic P7 speech on the 3 Vs of Communication. To find out what these 3 Vs are, read on……..


To V or Not To V.


That is not the question, not according to the bard, William Shakespeare, who said, “ To Be, or Not To Be.  That is the question.

V ……………. Victory ?   Vitality ?   Visibility ?  None of these.


To V or Not To V. To Vocalise and To Verbalise.


Do you know who created or coined the tagline ‘ The 3 Vs of Communication ‘ ?

Nobody knows ?  Neither do I.  Meanwhile, I’ll take credit for that.


According to studies and research conducted by psychologist Dr Albert Mehrabian of University of California, Los Angeles, 55% of communication is done visually, 38% vocally, and 7% verbally.  A hefty percentage is non-verbal communication, body language.


Are these statistics true ?   reliable ?   correct ?

I have long ago debunked this myth !

True enough, on the front cover of the January 2006 issue of The Toastmaster magazine, and the article on page 25, the headings read ‘ Debunking the 55%, 38%, 7% Rule ‘.

“ Words are more important than you may think. “


Do not believe everything we read and everything we hear.

Analyse for ourselves.  Question the statistics.  Give it some thought.


Within 2 seconds of given a topic to speak impromptu, this guy dropped to the floor, knelt and proposed to the Contest Chair, “ Will you marry ? “

He was dramatic, theatric and very visual.

Is the 55% enough for him ?  Perhaps, more !


The ratio and proportion of the 3Vs vary according to the individual’s character and personality.  To what degree and to what extent is the visual, vocal and verbal aspect.


To V or Not To V


Much of my research on ‘ Vocal & Verbal ‘ image came from attending numerous talks, workshops, presentations, seminars and conventions, observing and listening to the speakers and presenters.

I read books, magazines, newspapers and searched various websites.

Some of them include : “ What to Say & How to Say It “ by David Belson, “ Say It With Power & Confidence “ by Patrick Collins, “ Oxford Guide to Writing & Speaking “ by John Seely,  “ The Toastmaster “ magazine and WritingTips@yahoogroups.com.



To V or Not To V

VISUAL Image :

It has been said that we do not have a second chance to make a first impression.

What first impression ?  The image we portray ?  Which image ?

The 3 Vs !  Visual !  Vocal !  Verbal !

The majority of us will focus on the visual.

We spend the most money and the most time on our dressing, our clothes, our grooming and the accessories, shoes, handbags, perfume ………. to look good, great, gorgeous.

Some would rather be like the wallpaper, the painting or the vase, to be seen, to be looked at, to be admired.


To V or Not To V

VOCAL Image :

It is not about the VPPR ( no, not the Vice President Public Relations ), the volume, pitch, pace or the rate of speaking.

It is about focusing on the 3Ps  …………  being energetic, enthusiastic and emphatic in the tone of our voice when speaking, adding life, and not a lifeless, listless or lethargic voice.


It is also about clarity and coherence in our enunciation.

Would you rather listen to someone at a talk, seminar or conference who speaks sloppily, slovenly or one who speaks succinctly ?

Who comes to  mind as some of the better speakers worth listening to, apart from the speech substance ?  Our local personalities and celebrities ?


To V or Not To V

VERBAL Image :

It is about word usage, the choice and selection, to add colour, flavour and glamour, even splendour or humour, to our message, our speech, our presentation.

It is to use rhetorical devices, language tools to enrich, enliven and enlighten what we say.

It is about using the right word.  Saying “ She is your ‘ protégé ‘, instead of ‘ prodigy ‘ “.

To ‘ alleviate ‘ the pain, instead of ‘ elevate ‘.


To V or not to V.


Remember :

“ The ability to communicate correctly, clearly and creatively, iscritical and crucial.