Just like in a cafe, we talk about everything. Nothing heavy. Just talk over a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Since we are talking about our life and our future, inevitably and ultimately we have to make certain decisions. Decisions are about making the right choices (Nobody wants to make the wrong choices anyway). No matter how hard pressed we are, we have to know that we have choices. We just have to decide which course to take. Whichever course we choose, there will be consequences waiting for us, be it good or be it bad. The choices we make today will color the spectrum of our life in the future. We may dream of
"flying to the moon and play with the stars" but before we could do that, we need to do certain things first. We certainly could not wait for the moon to fall on our lap. We need to set our dreams, choose the right vehicle to achieve our dreams, transform our dreams into tangible goals and last but not least, we need to act fast as if our life depends on it.

Do I consider myself idealistic? Hmmm … I do not know. First of all, I personally do not think there is anything wrong with being an idealist. When I was a lecturer with one of the local universities, students came to me with their problems. I would counsel them and gave them something to hold on to. They'd leave feeling good about themselves. That made me felt good about myself. Now, distributors in my group come to me, telling me how difficult it is to run the business. After talking to them and let them see things with their heart, they leave with renewed spirit and recharged energy. Those words of encouragement made them feel good and that made me feel good about myself. If that is being idealistic, then I have to succumb to your definition of that very word. I know that things are not perfect and rosy all the time. Things that you want will not fall into your lap without putting up a fight. Winners do not quit, only losers do! One thing that differentiates winners and losers is that winners do not give up.

When the chips are down, I do not to spend too much time finding out why they were down. But I need to know which chips are still standing and make the best of what I have. Learn from the mistakes and claw my way back. Falling down flat on my face is beginning to be a common thing. But picking things up and put the pieces back together, forging forward is a brave thing to do. These are the trademarks of a true champion. And I think this is true in everything that you do. Be it business, working for someone or even relationships!

I appreciate the strength that I have gained over the years being trained at the "HardKnocks University". I agree with you that the underlying conclusion is "survival of the fittest". I can't be living life being a fire fighter all the time. I need to see things from a structural standpoint and to be able to understand what went wrong and what went right. Since, I am not going to live forever, I must be able to tell my successor how to do things right the first time. Isn't that what learning is all about?

Those are not the words of a trainer, but it comes from what I sincerely believe in. Is that being idealistic? I am just being a realist! I say no more …

Sometimes when something "bad" happens, we need to learn and find the strength to resolve and handle the situation in the most immaculate way. But instead, we find ways to build bigger and thicker walls around us. We are not solving the problems but we are shielding the problems from the eyes of others. As long as we are "protected" from the real world and as long as we can hide behind the make believe fortress, we assume to be all right though not realizing that the problems get bigger and bigger like a time bomb waiting to explode, like a volcano waiting to erupt. Sometimes we just need to hold the bull by the horn and face each situation openly, resolving them with care and wisdom. Someone once told me, "do not let the fear of striking out stop you from playing the game".

We are probably looking at and dealing with extreme ends of the scale. And there is no compromise. At one end we see the ray of hope for us to live another day while at the other end we see nothing and not even a flicker of light. At one end we are looking at possibilities and opportunities while on the end we see nothing but fear and threats. At one end we are looking at an uncertain present but a promising future while on the end we have a certain present and an uncertain future. At one end you can see joy and happiness while on the end you see grief and sorrow. At one end we can have honesty and integrity while on the other end we see lies and deceit. At one end we can actually see freedom while at other end we can only see the present. At one end we can actually see love and compassion while at the other end we see hate and resentments. I can go on … It is always difficult to stay in the middle. We have to make a stand and you will have to make that choice and somehow we need to respond and react.

We can't control the inputs and stimulus that come to us but we sure can control how we respond or react to them. For example, we can't control whether or not it will rain today but we can control how we react if it does. We can't control whether or not the air conditioning will breakdown but we can control how we react if it does. This is the 20/80 rule or in statistics it is called the Pareto Rule. Statistically, the rule states that 80% of the problems that we face are often caused by 20% of the population. Practically, applying this concept to real life it simply means that 20% of life is made up of what happen to us while the remaining 80% of life is decided by how we react.

We really have no control over 20% of what happens to us. We cannot stop the car from breaking down. There will be delay in the plane's arrival, which throws our whole schedule off. A driver may curse off in traffic. We have no control over this 20%. The other 80% is different. We determine the other 80%. How? This is interesting … by our reaction and response. Lets look at an example.

You are eating breakfast with your family. Suddenly, your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. At that moment, you have no control over what just happened. What happens next will very much depend on how you react.

You curse and you harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your spouse and criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows.

You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs, you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish breakfast and get ready for school. She misses the bus. Your spouse must leave immediately for work. You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school.

Because you are late, you drive 80 km an hour in a 60 km an hour limit. After a 15-minute delay and throwing RM100 traffic fine, at last you arrive at school. Your daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye.

After arriving at the office 20 minutes late, you find you forgot your briefcase. Your day has started terrible. As it continues seems to get worse and worse.

You look forward to coming home. When you arrive home, you find a small wedge in your relationship with your spouse and daughter. All the emotional mess because of how you reacted in the morning.

So, why did you have a bad day?

a) Did the coffee cause it?
b) Did your daughter cause it?
c) Did the policeman cause it?
d) Did you cause it?
Of course, you know what the answer is. The answer is D.

You had no control over what happened with the coffee. How you reacted in those five seconds is what caused your bad day.

Here is what could have and should have happened.

Coffee splashed over you. Your daughter is about to cry. You gently say, "It's okay honey, you just need to be more careful next time". Grabbing a towel you rush upstairs. After grabbing a new shirt, your briefcase, you come back in time to look through the window to see your child getting on the bus. She turns and waves.

You arrive five minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff. Your boss comments on how good the day is you are having.

Notice the difference? Two different scenarios. Both started the same. But both ended differently. Why? Because of how you REACTED. You really do not have any control over 20% of what happens. The other 80% was determined by your reaction. Here are some ways to apply the 20/80 principle.

If someone says something negative about you, do not let it affect you. Let the attack roll off like water on glass. You do not have to let the negative comments take away the good side of you. React properly and it will not ruin your day. A wrong reaction could result in losing a friend, being fired and getting unnecessarily stressed out.

How do you react if someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you show your temper? Do you pound on the steering wheel (I have heard instances when the steering wheel actually fell off)? Do you curse? Does your blood pressure skyrocket? Do you try to bump them? Let's put things this way, WHO CARES if you arrive ten seconds later at work? Why let the other cars ruin your drive?

Remember the 20/80 principle, and do not worry about it. Your boss called you and said that the Company has to release you. So, you are out of a job. Why lose sleep and get irritated? It just doesn't work that way. Use the worrying energy and time into finding another job.

The plane is late; it is going to mangle your schedule for the day. Why take out your frustration on the flight attendant? She has no control over what is going on. Use your time to study, get to know the passengers. Why get stressed out? It will make things worse.

Now you know the 20/80 principle. Apply it and you will be amazed at the results. You will lose nothing if you try it. You will only have lots to gain. The 20/80 principle is just incredible. We can change the way we see things, the way we react and the way we respond by applying the 20/80 principle. We can be at the right end of the scale.

Copyright © 2006 Azman Taher - [email protected] 

I was born in 2nd October 1962. I currently live in Kuantan, the state capital of Pahang in Malaysia. I am married and blessed with three children. Although my background is in the area of Computer Science but right now I am a Human Resources Consultant for an oil palm plantation company in Kuantan, Pahang. I have conducted motivational seminars for schools and corporate clients. Besides reading, writing is also another favorite hobby of mine. My first book will hopefully be published early of 2007. 

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