Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Free lunch?

Last year, we organised a huge dinner getogether party, at almost RMB300 per head - buffet dinner with wine in a posh club in Hong Qiao. One of my young guests, Alina asked if her friend - a university mate, could come for free. The said girl really loved the theme of the party but had little money. 

I said No. 

Sound harsh? Maybe. 

Hang on, why do you think I said No? 

Well, I said No for a number of reasons. 

First, if the girl said she has no money and yet wish to come, and in turn, asked if she could offer to help in some way, I would welcome her. 

Why so?

Because this way, she is not expecting charity. She is working her right to get a seat at the table. And for that, she has my full respect. I have nothing against people with little money, I have something strongly against full bodied adults asking for free lunch. We all know there is no free lunch, yes?

Secondly, some people do not always value receiving the thing they ask for if they get it for nothing. This is especially true for people who ask for free things from complete strangers. In this case, I am the stranger. 

Lastly, this girl's basic values on money, self accountability and respecting others are different from mine and I even dare say, different from my guests'. 

Let's stop for a moment and think. When was the last time we asked for something without expecting to give something back in turn? Maybe we asked a colleague to help on a project but didn't even offer a sincere thank you in return, let alone offer to treat coffee or a small thoughtful gift. Hmmm...makes you think hard right?

Anyway, back to Alina, after listening to my explanation, she shared these wise words, "I understand now, the most important thing is to help others with their thinking and let them know where to go, what and how to do, instead of doing everything for them". 

That's good summary indeed!

Because I believe when charity is offered wrongly; on a long run, it hurts more than help the person we set out to help in the first place. 


Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Difference between being indifferent and being different.

The difference between indifferent and being different

Helping a friend to raise funds for medical treatment for a boy who has gone deaf due to ear infection, I learnt a valuable lesson in life. 

Those who want to help, help. With enough facts, they usually have no or little questions asked. They just chip in. This included a 10 year old boy in my photography class!

Others - they just keep asking more questions - who is this boy, do you know him, can he find cheaper medical help? They keep pressing. How deep is the mud? What colour is the mud? Why did he step into the mud? (And did they help after we answered the questions - I leave you to guess!)

So- when I received this photo - I just have to laugh.....yes, we may go through the same stuff differently. And so, the questions are normal. However, Be thankful that we are blessed not to be deaf due to a ear infection, and let this difference not be our reason to stay indifferent to others.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Star Newspaper - Accountant helps Bhutanese weavers achieve financial independence


Adapted from Star Newspapers:

PETALING JAYA: Despite being a chartered accountant, Quin SQ Thong has proven that she does more than crunching the numbers.

The Malaysian, who has been based in Hong Kong since 1998, started “Ana by Karma”, a project which helps illiterate weavers in Bhutan improve their lives.

Her story began two years ago when she visited Bhutan for the second time and met Karma Yangchi, a weaver whom she had previously encountered during a 2003 visit.

Quin, a woman of compassion, discovered that the weaver was struggling to make ends meet then.

So, she offered US$200 (RM822) to Karma so that she could buy a sewing machine and produce items like bags and pillow cases for sale.

Karma turned her down. Instead, Quin helped Karma to sell her scarves.

Quin posted photographs of the scarves on Facebook and overnight, over 40 orders came in. In two weeks, 100 were sold. This rose to 1,000 within four months.

“When I put the money in Karma’s hands, she burst into tears,” she recounted, Karma being overwhelmed that this is the money she has earned with her own effort

That encounter sparked a social enterprise that transformed the lives of a community of Bhutanese weavers.

Their success put the entire village to work, giving rise to “Ana by Karma”.

In less than18 months after the first batch of scarves were sold, they earned 34 years worth of income for the women, who previously had none.

“Ana by Karma gave them pride and dignity,” said Quin.

(In the eastern Bhutanese language, Ana means sister.)

Quin’s love for the community did not end there.

For many years, the Kuala Lumpur-born accountant volunteered her time to teach financial literacy to children, culminating to publishing a book with Oxford University Press for children to learn wealth management.

She is doing something similar in Bhutan now, for the women to learn financial literacy.

“Our weavers are mostly illiterate. They usually lack the skills and knowledge to manage money. This include learning foreign currency concepts, something that seemed complex to learn but Quin disclosed that she has a special way to teach even 7 year olds understand forex".

“By teaching them financial literacy, whatever money they earn can be used wisely,” said Quin, who works with a UK consulting firm which offers corporate solutions.

Despite her impressive resume, Quin insisted that she was merely a “simple girl” who hoped to encourage others to help the less privileged.

Monday, 7 March 2016

She is made of gold

When we heard the news from our teacher, we all burst into tears. One of our classmate - also 7 years old, Merlin was badly hurt in a fire. 

Few months later, she came back to school, scarred for life from the tragedy. Her face melted by the fire - and after multiple plastic surgery became so very scarred and raw red, her arms' were also severely affected - scarred by fire and the operations. Inside me, I wondered with an ache what pain my little friend must have gone through and what the future holds for her. Yet each time I saw her in school, she was smiling, she was happy.  

Once she even comforted me when I was feeling low. I thought to myself - what a soul. After we left school we lost touch. Often I would think of Merlin. 

Late last year, we reconnected on Facebook. Merlin is happily married, has a great job and is still upbeat and happy as I remember her to be. She takes selfies, lots of photos when on holiday and smiles her big smile. She said that she is able to keep positive because her friends treated her normally. 

Merlin - thank you for being an inspiration. On this women's day, I am glad to share your wonderful story to all ladies. My friends, When you think your problems will eat you alive, think of 7 year old Merlin - who came out of the fire with brilliance and positivity. She must be made of gold. Because there is a chinese saying, real gold is not afraid of fiery fire. 真金不怕紅爐火

Happy women's day

In her own words "The moral of the story is to teach ppl, we hv to stay positive n it is also important that the friends or ppl to always give moral support."

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Can money buy happiness?

It's the age-old question: Can money buy happiness?

Much of the time, our energy and focus is on work and career, which primarily is about the chase for the almighty dollar. Generally, people want more for basic needs, including a roof over their heads, food, clothing and maybe a car.

And we all want more of the fun things money can buy, including vacations, entertainment and the latest high-tech toys

It can be a valuable exercise to take a step back from the daily grind to examine what money means to you and how you spend it. "I think deep down, the brain equates money not so much with happiness as with security and survival. These are nonnegotiable values, primal motivators," says Kenneth Reid, founder of DayTradingPsychology.com.

"Research shows that the greatest psychological stress occurs when one is unable to act in one's own best interest," Reid says. "But when we are able act in accordance with those primal imperatives, we feel a sense of deep satisfaction. Such acts can be as simple as clipping a coupon and saving 25 cents."

Ultimately, the goal of money managementis to provide discipline and a process for doing the things we must do that may not feel good at the time but are crucial to our future success, says Joshua Wilson, chief investment officer at WorthePoint Financial in Fort Worth, Texas. "Money shouldn't be viewed as a score card, but as a ticket to different degrees of freedom. Some people require more to get to the degree of freedom that they need."

Money can have paradoxical effects, Reid says. "We've all heard stories about how sudden wealth, such as lottery winnings, can be disruptive, even devastating, to a person or a family. A phrase comes to mind from complexity theory: 'more is different.' It means that scale brings unique challenges. Too much, too soon can be as bad as too little, too late."

Behavioral economists have identified some ways money could increase levels of happiness.

Neil Krishnaswamy, a certified financial planner for Exencial Wealth Advisors in Plano, Texas, recommends the book "Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending" by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. "This book provided me with great insights, particularly in how we think about our discretionary spending," he says. "Once our essential, or nondiscretionary, expenses are met, how should we think about spending our discretionary dollars in ways that lead to real, lasting fulfillment? If we're more conscious of how our spending is connected to our values and learn from some of the recent scientific research, we might just be able to use money in a way that really does buy happiness."

Science shows that there are several ways we can spend money more effectively to increase life satisfaction.

Read the original article on U.S. News & World Report.  on Twitter.

我们 (Wo Men) help Women

Sitting beautiful in their resplendent colourful Kameez (blouse for Pakistani fashion), my audience literally made me shiver in my shalwar (pants for Pakistani wear). I was expecting wannabe women entrepreneurs, recent graduates looking to start up something and young entrepreneurs. Instead, before me is a roomful of successful Pakistani business women, multi billion enterprises in fashion, culinary, arts, etc and also the first woman to qualify as chartered accountant and first female to lead a Big 4 accounting practice. All VIPS in business. 

And so why am I shaking in my pants? because I was about to talk about the journey of Ana by Karma, a budding social enterprise that warmed hearts and inspired others to contribute their talent - not their money. Ana by Karma is sooooo small compared to their vast achievements. It should be them on the stage sharing. Not me. Shiver shiver. 

However - as I shared our stories, these distinguished ladies smile their knowing smile - yes, they have been there too. Yes. They followed their hearts. And yes, their ideas were copied by others. And oh yes, too many people came to them with too many suggestions how to run their business better. 

That afternoon, we laughed, we commiserated and we cried when I told them I cried when I saw how confident, self assured Karma and the weavers became when we empower them. When we give them hope. When we acknowledge their capabilities. 

I must have taken them back to the early days of their business start up, when things are uncertain, support from others are weak, recognition is sparse. And we all agreed. Taking action is the key to make dreams come true. 

When time came up, we hugged our good byes and promised to keep in touch to help each other. They touched my cheek and said. Keep going forward.

That afternoon. I am the one who received empowerment. Thank you LadiesFund, and OUP. Thank you  

www anabykarma.com


Friday, 4 March 2016

He needs a book...

Cha Cha and The Forest of Wisdom is inspired by a 8 year old boy from Korangi Pakistan- he said to me in 2013, "Miss I want a sweet but need a book." I wonder what book I can give to him to help him build a bright future. The next day, the CEO of a prominent bank in Pakistan came up with the answer. He asked me to write a book on what I taught the children the day before - Wealth Management. He said, This way millions and millions of children can benefit.

"Write a book?" It is as incredulous as asking me to build a rocket.

Then like magic, the best of chartered accountants from Pakistan literally dropped into my email box and a few months later after many whats app, emails and some skype, Malik Mirza and I started to design and build "the rocket" to launch children into the Wealth Management space. 

Last week 26-28 Feb 2016, at the Children's Literacy Festival in Karachi organised by Oxford University Press our publisher and ITA, we launched THE book, the very book to place in the hands of the boy who inspired it all, and many many more children around the world. It is the most wonderful feeling ever.

Want to join Malik and me on this incredible journey? We have prepared teaching aids, PPTs and fun activities. Our photobook to share with you the joy of the children over the weekend. And our joy. #clfkhi2016

"When you follow your heart and do what is right, the whole universe would conspire to make it fantastic"

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Huahin Street photography

Night owl

Eat me now

Colour me healthy

Rows of devotion

Hotel from yonder years

Wow. Sharp teeth

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Happiness by Harvard University

Be Happy New Year 2016 Formula🙏
Harvard University Recommended 20 happy habit

1. Be grateful. 

Slow down, look around you, and pay attention to the little details in your life – the delicate purple flower on the sidewalk, the beautiful sunset, the hot shower that washes away your long day, and the smile in your partner’s eyes…

When you have a grateful heart that is appreciative of life’s beautify, wonder and blessings, you’re automatically filled with happiness.

2. Choose your friends wisely.

According to Harvard, the most important external factors affecting individual happiness are human relationships. So if you want to be happy, choose to be around people who are optimistic, who appreciate you as you are, and who can make your life richer, bigger, more fun, and more meaningful.

3. Cultivate compassion.

When we try to step into other people’s shoes and understand a situation from another’s perspective, we’re more likely to handle the situation with compassion, objectivity and effectiveness. There will be less conflicts and more happiness.

4. Keep learning.

Learning keeps us young and dreams keep us alive. When we engage our brains and put them toward productive uses, we’re less likely to dwell on unhappy thoughts and much more likely to feel happy and fulfilled.

5. Become a problem solver.

Happy people are problem solvers. When they encounter a challenge in life, they don’t beat themselves up and fall into a depressive state. Instead, they face up to the challenge and channel their energies toward finding creative a solution. By becoming a problem solver, you’ll build up your self-confidence and your ability to accomplish whatever it is you set your mind to – and whatever challenges life throws your way.

6. Do what you love.

Since we spend over one-third of our adult life working, loving what we do has a huge impact on our overall happiness. If this is not possible at the moment, then try to find enjoyment and meaning in your current work, or cultivate a hobby that involves doing something you love.

7. Live in the present.

When you feel depressed, you’re living in the past. When you feel worried or anxious, you’re living in the future. But when you feel content, happy and peaceful, you’re living in the present.

8. Laugh often.

Laughter is the most powerful anecdote to anger or depression. Research has shown that the simple act of curving the corners of your mouth can increase your feeling of happiness. So don’t take life too seriously. Try to find humor and laughter in life’s everyday struggles.

9. Practice forgiveness.

Resentment and anger are forms of self-punishment. When you forgive, you’re actually practicing kindness to yourself. And most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s through our mistakes that we learn and grow to become a bigger and better person.

10. Say thanks often. 

Always be appreciative of the blessings in your life. And it’s equally important to express your appreciation to those who’ve made your life better in some way, big or small.

11. Create deeper connections.

Our happiness multiplies when we connect and bond with another human being on a deeper level. And being fully present and listening are two of the most important skills to strengthening that bond and bringing happiness to ourselves, and to others.

12. Keep your agreement.

Our self-esteem is built on the agreements we’ve made with ourselves. And high self-esteem has a direct correlation to happiness. So keep your agreements with others and with yourself.

13. Meditate.

According to Harvard, people who take 8 sessions of mindfulness meditation training are, on average, 20% happier than a control group. Such training can lead to structural brain changes including increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.

14. Focus on what you’re doing.

When you put your mind, heart and soul into what you’re doing, you’re creating a happiness state – called the “flow.” When you’re living in the flow, you’re less likely to care about what others may think of you, and less bothered by things that are not that important. The result? More happiness, of course!

15. Be optimistic. 

For happy people, the glass is always half-full. If your tendency is to imagine the very worst-case scenario every time you face a challenge, then train yourself to reverse that tendency. Ask yourself what good can come out of the situation or what you can learn from it. Optimism surely fuels success and happiness.

16. Love unconditionally.

No one is perfect. Accept yourself for all of your imperfections. And do so for others. Loving someone unconditionally does not mean that you need to spend all your time with them or help them figure out their problems. Unconditional love means accepting people as they are, and allowing them to find their own ways, at their own pace.

17. Don’t give up.

Unfinished projects and repeated defeats inevitably dampen one’s self-esteem. If you’ve made up your mind to do something, see it through. Don’t give up until you succeed. Remember, failure is temporary but defeat is permanent. And defeat only occurs when you give up.

18. Do your best and then let go.

Everyone has limitations, and things don’t always turn out to be what we’d like them to be – despite our efforts. So always give your best, and then let go. Let events run their course. When you’ve done your best, you’ll have no regrets.

19. Take care of yourself. 

A healthy body is the key to happiness. If you have poor health, it’s very difficult to be happy no matter how hard you try. So make sure you eat well, exercise and find time to rest. Take good care of your body, your mind and your spirit.

20. Give back. 

Doing good is one of the surest ways to feel good. According to Harvard, when people do good, their brains becomes active in the very same reward center that is stimulated when they experience other rewards. So it’s not a surprise that people who care more about others are happier than those who care less about others.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Karma of Things

With 2015 fast closing its curtain upon us, I reflected on the year. Well, in fact - on the last one and half years.

I still clearly remember sitting across Karma Yangchi at the restaurant, persuading her to accept my gift. (I failed). And so, I changed track and asked her instead, to weave something and I help her sell. (Hoo..I succeeded).

And then so many things happened. All I know is scarfs followed me home to Hong Kong, followed me to my trip to Shanghai, Malaysia, Singapore as I distributed them around. Just as I thought - phew - I have done my job and about to wipe my brow -  suddenly, more scarfs were ordered. And more. And then more. And still more!!! Even my husband started to ask "Do your friends eat scarf?" (as he saw the boxes of scarfs arrive - one after another, from summer to winter and back to summer)

But you know whats really nice? It is not only scarfs that arrived. The best kind of people turned up to. Be it old friends, friend of friends, new friends, complete strangers - suddenly they appear in my life and say "Lets talk. I want to help".

My reflection? This must be what it feels like to have good Karma come along. Because she brings the best people to you when she appears.

(PS Why I spell Scarves as Scarfs. Simple. When I spelt it Scarves, some people don't know what it is. I am not kidding!!!!!! So I spelt it Scarfs ...an old fashion way to spell. Why not, we are doing things the old fashion way here. Slowly, nicely, lovingly, carefully)

Photo : Karma and me in Thimphu in November 2015 - by Allan Yeung.