Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Planning My Next Lap

A reason for writing these articles is that it is meeting one of my goals set out for this phase of my life.  I started thinking and planning for it some 8 years ago and 2 years before I went into active retirement.  I thought it was as simple as practicing what I have learned.  First list what you want to achieve, then analyzed where you are at and finally chart out how you want to reach your goal.  I turned on my computer and tried listing.  I struggled with what I wanted to achieve.  There were so many things and it was all over.  After some time, I did the next best thing.  I listed what I didn’t want.

I didn’t want be just playing a game or traveling or enjoying a hobby.  I wanted more than that.  I wanted activities that are intellectually challenging.  I wanted to keep my mind active.  I read an article long ago that scared me into action.  In the article it stated that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop and the devil is Alzheimer.  I had personally experienced a loved one going through it and I wanted to delay or prevent this situation for as long as I can.

In 2003, I started plotting the NEXT LAP of my journey. The people who touched my life have taught me a lot.  I knew that I could rely on their wisdom.   So, after much conversations and deep thinking, I finally identified 3 things I wanted.
  1. Firstly, I wanted to continue to do what I did well in my career.  I was told by my managers, peers and staffs that I am good at coaching and developing individuals.  My 32 years of work experiences and targeted trainings have given me the skills to help individuals, who want to, move to a better position.  
  2. The second area is to have a more integrated life.  This is not the elusive work-life balance.  It is not taking time away from one activity to giving it to another.  For me, it is about integrating my own life, my family life, my social life and my community life.  My activities should be integrated as much as possible.  For example, how do I involve my family in my social activities or how do I involve my work in my community activities?
  3. Finally, share my experiences by writing a book.  I thought that I had enough stories from my life’s challenges to fill a book.
In some future stories, I shall write about how I did in each of them.  Since this article is about planning for my Next Lap, I will focus on this.

When I started this plan, I was still working in a corporation.  If I wanted to leave the organization in a good state, I had to ensure that there is a smooth transition.  It meant identifying activities for my functions and what I needed to do for the transition.  I made sure that I included developmental activities for me.  The chart showed a segment of the roadmap I created for my role transition.  I listed all my responsibilities down a column and drew out a time line for 2004, 2005 and Retirement Phase.  I then identified the actions needed for each functional area and the amount of time required.  Since this is a 3-year roadmap, I broke each year into quarters.  You may not be able to read the details on the chart but I am sure you understand the concept.  The dark green blocks were firm activities or plans.  Those shaded yellow were being worked on or negotiated upon.  This roadmap gave all parties involved a clear idea of my transitional plan.  I used this roadmap for my career conversations with my managers, mentors and friends.  After each conversation, some of the actions were modified and all parties concerned were informed of the changes.

This method can be used not only for planning retirement activities but also for any career and role transition.
  • I started with what I like to do in 2 years from now.  Well it was more like what I didn’t like to do.  I chose 2 years as I felt I had sufficient clarity to plan specific activities.  One year is too short for me to take the necessary actions for change.   You should choose a time range that you feel comfortable with to enact the change and transition.
  • Next I reviewed my strengths, skills and weakness to beginning charting my activities required for the plan and the transition.
  • Then I adjusted the length of time required for each activity.
  • Finally, I began my career conversations.  Talk to people that you trust will give you good inputs – as many as you can.  They may be your family, your mentors, the people that you work with and others.  You will know that you have a solid plan when the time comes.  If you don’t, so what?  Plans shouldn’t be locked in concrete.  It should be flexible enough to change with conditions and time.

Although it seemed simple, there were quite a bit of work.  The most important input to the plan is the conversations I had with a number of people.  I was candid in explaining to them what I didn’t want and wanted.  I asked them for their insights and the feedback on both the feasibility and the “feel good” factor.  Usually in such conversations, more questions were raised than answered.  The additional questions gave me new insights whether I could find the answers.

So start your planning your NEXT LAP now.  Talk about your plans frequently.  Be prepared to change them even after you feel you have the best plan.  The only constant is change.  With each change you will need to modify your plan.  Finally, enjoy the process!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Oh! What A Week.

What an exciting week it turned out to be.  At 2:00 pm on Friday, January 14th 2011, the number of views for my articles posted on this site reached 2,100.  This is a great motivation for me.  To some, this number is very small but to me it is an important milestone reached.  It is meeting one of my goals set out for my ACTIVE retirement phase.  To my readers and commenters, thank you for your connection.  I am also thankful to my friends who have forwarded the site to others.  Their support have helped increased the readership.
United States of America
Hong Kong
United Kingdom
Here is a breakdown of the location of readers. The numbers do not add up to 2,100.  These are the data that I could get from the Stats of the site.  I am pleasantly surprise with where my readers are located.  I still have my largest support in Singapore, Malaysia and the USA. My disappointment is that many of my friends in China could not access the site as it is blocked.  I will have to find a way to host a site in China itself.

Thank you for taking time to read my stories.  I will be even happier if you can write more comments on the stories.  If you like to write to me directly, you can reach me at klcheah@starhub.net.sg
Look out for my next story – My Next Lap.  It is a story of how I planned for this phase of my life some 2 years before it happened.  In the meantime, have a great week.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Who Should I Be?

The articles I have posted appeared to be a random selection of my life stories.  I hope that each story has helped you with some ideas or another option on how you can deal with your situation.  I know our situations are never identical but as long as the stories help being a catalyst to an action, I am delighted.

You may have noticed that each article has labels.  There is a structure to these labels.  The website arranges the labels in alphabetical order, but upon rearranging them, the labels look like this
  • Knowing Yourself
  • Aspiration
  • Career Planning
  • Managing Yourself
  • Career Conversations
  • Managing Others

When I started working, I had not figured these out.  I now have the hindsight and hopefully others can benefit from it.  Throughout my journey and until now, I have had the blessing and fortune of meeting people whom I could reach out to for help.  To these people I am thankful.  Many of them are written or will be written in my stories.  With this knowledge I have helped my coachees and those who seek my help with this process.

There are two areas that I have not touched on yet.  These are:
  • Career Execution
  • Constant Review

You may have your own algorithm for a successful career planning and execution.  If you do, congratulation! You are ahead of many that I have spoken to. 

For me, my career journey starts with knowing myself well.  Who am I really?  What am I capable of?  What are my strengths, my weaknesses?  How do I find out?  Knowing myself better will help me articulate my aspiration.  Sometimes a person should have more than one aspiration.  In fact I think everyone should have a plan B.  This will help make the career planning more robust.  Just like a game of chess, you may plan many moves and execute some of them.  The aim is the same – being successful.

Now that you know more about yourself, where you want to go and have made your plans to get there; the next action is to take the first step to begin the journey.  You need to manage yourself so that each step taken is aligned to your competencies and aspirations. Some steps may include gaining additional skills and knowledge. From time to time, during your journey, someone may present you with an opportunity.  How do you evaluate these opportunities?  Will the opportunity move you closer to your aspirations?  Will it help you gain additional competencies?  Opportunities may not always be presented to you.  Sometimes you need to seek them out.  How do you seek them? A good network and great career conversations will help you find out.

There will also be obstacles and derailments in your career paths.  How does you minimize these?  How do you get out of it?  Managing yourself and others well will help.  I think of others as those I come into contact with – my boss, my staff, my peers, my friends, my family members and my network.  The way you interact with them will determine your success in managing yourself and others.

Finally, one needs to get feedback constantly.  You need to know if where you are going have changed and if you have deviated from the planned path.  You must to know if you need additional tools, skills and knowledge to continue.  There are many things you need to know.  To find out, you will need to seek constant feedback and reviews to move forward.

As you read my stories, reflect on the labels (or steps) too.  I hope that both the stories and the steps can help you as you create your own exciting career journey.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Great End To 2010

My year ended with the wedding reception of my youngest daughter in the beautiful island of Penang, Malaysia.  What a wonderful way to complete the year.  The build up to the wedding was exciting and filled with planning and execution.  I had to rely on all the experiences that I gained from work.  The evening had to be a memorable one for her.  I am happy that the reception went well and all the events went like clockwork.  Most importantly, the reception began on time and ended it on time.  I thank my guests for their timeliness and kind attendance.

I have heard horror stories of reception starting as late as an hour.  I didn’t want this to ruin the festive mood of my daughter's wedding.  From the tea ceremony to the bride’s and groom’s grand entrance, the activities occurred as I had planned them.  My guests were a beautiful mosaic of different nationalities, ethnicities and religions.  It is only appropriate to honor them with fun, good food and timeliness.  They started arriving at 6:30 pm.  Cocktails were served.  Family and friends gathered to chat and reminisce.  It was really a sight to enjoy.  There were laughter and surprises from those who haven’t seen each other for some time. 
The wedding guests were seated by 7:30 pm.  Dinner started at 7:50 pm after my wife’s and my welcome speech.  The atmosphere was party-like.  The tables were arranged to provide enough space for dancing.  The bride and groom choreographed their couple dance to cover the dance floor and all my guests had a clear view of the dance.  The Food and Beverage manager at the hotel was impressed that the activities were no more than 5 minutes off the schedule.

For those who were expecting a posting around Friday of last week, I apologize and seek your forgiveness.  I hope you can appreciate the number of things my wife and I had to do.  Life is returning back to normal and so will be my posting.  Be on the lookout for my next posting “Who Should I Be?”