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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Talk with Teacher

I was excited the night before, having completed my part and finished compiling my group's Economics research assignment. I was very pleased with the work that was done, and in the early afternoon of the next day, I walked over to my lecturer's office, Mr. Azhan bin Hassan to hand it over. Usually assignments can be delivered into his 'pigeon box' just outside the office. However, my project that I'd sealed in an envelope didn't seem to fit in to well, and my have ended up a damaged product had I put it in there. So, I decided to hand it to him personally, or slide it under the door of his office room. 

The office door was locked however, and only staff can open them. Hence, I waited around for one of the lecturers to pop by and open the door. The man who would do just that happened to be a lecturer who taught me Corporate Finance last semester. He is definitely my favourite lecturer in UTP, simply because he makes sense, whenever he's talking. It's very interesting, just listening to him teach, because he has had experience in inudstries and is able to bring it home in his teaching. 

Right, so he opened the door for me, and I walked to Mr. Azhan's office but he wasn't in. I didn't slide my project under his door because it was full of things, he'd probably walk over it and not notice it when he came back. I decided to wait outside his office for a while, and this former lecturer of mine, Dr. Azrai passed me on the way to his room. 

Out of the blue, I just called out and asked, "Excuse me sir, I'm just a little curious about your career. Are you a consultant cum lecturer, or something?" I asked that because in his lectures, he'd revealed every now and then, he'd have to do some consultancy work with Petronas or other companies and whatnot.

"Well actually, I'm a lecturer cum consultant see. I've been around in the industry, and now I'm in education. Sometimes people, just want help from me, and well you know, its not free." he said with a chuckle. 

I can't remember what I asked next, but it went along the lines of, "Why are you an educator?"

"Come, come to my office."

That was the beginning of about a 45 minute to an hour long conversation I managed to have with him. It wasn't so much of a conversation, but more of me listening to him, but I really appreciated it. Here, I was, listening the words of a man, who had a good career involving projects such as the North-South highway, Petronas installations in Kerteh, moving on the the finance and banking sector and finally into education. 

There were a few things that I learned, or re-learned from the time I spent with Dr.Azrai. Incidentally, he also happens to be head of deparment, Mr. Azhan is in. To answer my second question of why he became an educator, his answer was quite simple, "Simply to give back to society". He'd been working in Malaysia for quite a while now, doing many things, having his own individual successes and thought it would be a good idea to do good to the country that's done some good to him as well. 

One of the major things was about education for the real industry, teaching for the real life application. Being a industry man, when he teaches, he doesn't focus on students memorising formulas and so forth, but simply understanding the concepts that truly apply in real life, as any calculation today is done by an electronice device called the computer. That's his challenge or struggle in UTP, to be able to teach the things, that aren't found in the traditional textbook so that students may actually learn something useful. He was saying that he's teaching one topic called Oil Economics for the subject, Introduction to Oil & Gas, where he simply talks about the implication of the perfect storm (food shortage, financial crisis, oil price crisis put together) on a global economy. From my personal experience, he definitely gives good insight as to what the real world is really like as opposed to pure academicians who can merely seek examples from a book.

Another thing was about, when you are in a career, how important your morality and integrity can be. He was describing how through several occasions in his time as a land surveyor that he faces difficult scenarios (e.g bribery). Even when he entered the banking sector, when faced with a difficult decision regarding people's jobs, how he chose an alternative that was more difficult to implement even though the outcome would be more 'favourable' to people's job security. His first alternative wouldn't be ethically wrong, but the choice he made was what made people look up and respect him. One of the things he mentioned was how some employers find it difficult to put people in important places is because many have the talent and ability, but look sketchy when it comes to important things such as trust and integrity.

The last thing we talked about, which everybody can relate to, was savings. For some reason or another we were talking about how a lot of Generation X and Y, generally has no clue as to why savings are important. Being someone experienced in the field, Petronas occasionally sends Dr. Azrai to do some things, such as talks and so forth. He did one on personal finance in Sarawak at one of the Petronas offices. During that talk, seminar, he asked all the younger employees in front of everybody, "Do you have savings, how much do you have in your savings account?" Not surprisingly, these young rookies didn't have a lot, they didn't set aside a good amount each month. 

He said, "This is the problem, this generation isn't able to see the importance of savings." The apparent tendency is for younger employees to spend everything they get a month. 

This is what he said people should actually be doing:

"You know, it's ok to spend. But, set something aside! You know some people do it like this. They spend as much as they like in a month, and the balance, they put it back in savings. That's not the way! You need to do it as soon as you get your salary. Set some money aside straight away into your savings. If you can put 10 - 20 % a month, you'll be very well off."

 I said, "I guess one of the reasons younger people are more eager to spend is because we live in a faster paced society, where everything comes quick. So, they too, want to get things quick."

Dr. Azrai replied with the following, "You see, people may spend a lot, and may have enough to get by. However, in the long run, when a financial crisis hits you, and you have no money in the bank, you'll be hit very hard!"

That was probably the last few words where I learnt from him that day. It all ended soon after and I shook his hand and thanked him for his time, before heading back to Mr. Azhan's office to hand in my group research assignment.

For all the conversations I've had this year, this has definitely been the best one. It's one of the very few I've left smiling with enthusiasm. I was really reminded of my priorities when we talke about savings due to the fact I'm challenged with my own personal financial situation at the moment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I was reading an interview with Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of the Manchester United Football Club first team regarding Paul Scholes, who will be playing his 600th first team game for Manchester United when he makes his next appearance on the pitch.

There was one question asked, where the answer caught my attention. It was:

"Presumably there have been a number of enquiries from all the big clubs across Europe for Paul at some stage?" 

Sir Alex replied:

"Funnily enough, we've never had one enquiry for Paul Scholes. You know why? Because they all know he would never leave."

In football, people like Scholes, Neville, Giggsy really do show that quality of loyalty. I myself am a very big fan of that quality. Loyalty is one of those things that is very very important to me. I really respect and admire people who have that quality in them, and admittedly so, sometimes I despise those that blatantly show they cannot show that same kind of commitment to something.

Friday, April 17, 2009


"You have beautiful eyes"

That's the best thing I've heard since.. I don't even know when.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Things into perspective

Warning: This is very long, but if you start reading, read all of it, not part of it. If not, just read another day.

From the last post, everyone would know that myself as part of Seven Sweet Surrender played in a band competition, Euphonious. The main thing was to go out there and put a message across that was: live that awesome life that's more than the cash.

About an hour before heading to the venue, I reminded my bandmates why we were playing. I wanted to make sure that everybody was absolutely sure of what we were doing. It was well worth it because even one of our bandmates had been through a bad week and he'd lost track of what we were doing and even he said that it was good that we did this 'final preparation'.

Playing first always appealed to me, you're given the fullest attention. Everybody can't be bored when you're up there to play, simply because you're first. As they announced our band name, we pulled ourselves on stage and gave what we had. To be frank, everything felt like it went super fast on stage for me. Even thought we played one song, that was relatively slow, it still felt we'd finished really fast. I thought we'd done pretty alright, and I was feeling relatively good about it. Peple clapped us off the stage and we hadn't played too badly, I felt that I hadn't sung badly, things looked good. Getting down off the stage and into the crowd however, was a different matter.

Back on the stage floor, I started hearing things like, "Chris, your mic was muffled, couldn't hear what you were singing". Just with that, my heart already dropped. You see, the main point wasn't so that people would just hear a melody, but to be able to hear and understand the lyrics. Apparently, for whatever reason, the audience couldn't get a good sound, but I thought we were just fine, listening from our monitors on the stage. Obviously, what I heard on the monitors and what the speakers were blasting were two different things. 

I then started to analyse what we may have done wrong. I did notice that some of us did make mistakes, noticeable ones. The volume on Javier's guitar was too loud, while Witton had the opposite problem and so forth. To be honest, the next day I was pretty mad although I didn't show it so much. I started to analyse everything and to be fair, most if not all of the problems were my fault. I'll just give one example, there are more though, but I'll just give one.

Recently, a friend blogged about being part of our band in Euphonious as well. One of the things this band member experienced was a lack of belief, or perhaps a better word is skeptical towards many of the things we were doing. Its not something I didn't see. I always sensed a more than one of my bandmates that didn't seem to be into what we were doing. I did feel the vibe of "Ok, I'm just playing cos' I'm in the band, so I'll just go with it" Its always easy to note, because of a simple fact. When you want to know something is really working, you always have to observe the response. You can tell when people are more agreeable than others. I didn't want to question them though, I shrugged it off, and tried to put it off. 

It was hard for me though, I asked how could we pull this off, if not all of us actually believed what we were doing. I always believe that when you believe in what you do, you always do a lot better. It wasn't just that though, there were other things, but not so major.

On Sunday, I realised what was the biggest mistake made, and that was mine.

You see, Seven Sweet Surrender is a different kind of band. I'm not saying we so awesomely musically distinctive from other bands, but in UTP, I'm sure our goals are quite different. Seven Sweet Surrender is a Christian based band, all of us are Christians. The main thing that we put out there is a postive message through music, and an important part of that, is the integrity of the people in the band.
I only remembered on Sunday, that when I was speaking to the crowd before playing our first song, and I said this short phrase that made all the difference, "Hell yeah".

If the microphone was muffled people wouldn't really have heard it. If it wasn't, people didn't really care about it, and people reading this blog will say, "So what?"

For me, it makes a difference. A small, but important part of being a Christian is simply to be cool with your language, not swearing, cursing and whatnot. When I remembered that I did that, I realised that the very thing that I stand against, was the very thing that I did on stage, in front of perhaps 200 plus people. Very effectively, a public hypocrite I became. 

Now, I believe in God, and he definitely plays a role in our lives, whether we like it or not, believe it or not. Now, remember, people said the problem was that my microphone was muffled. It just made me think that perhaps God just muffled the mic after that as a consequence. I know this sounds CRAZY to the average reader and even Christians too to some extent. I'm not using this as an excuse if any of you think we played badly or whatever. 

The point is this, I believe that things didn't really pan out as well as I hoped because of what I did. For me, swearing/cursing as a Christian, regardless on stage or not isn't exactly Christian-like. It felt dreadful as I'd been telling the band this whole time what we play won't matter if we do not possess the integrity to play it. I was the one to break that rule, and leading the band, it didn't go down well with me at all. To be honest, now I really believe that whatever that went wrong, if it did, that night started with me, and I take full responsibility for it.

However, it wasn't all bad. God is graceful and merciful. I recall that leaving the stage, Sofia, the emcee and my coursemate said, "Hey Christon, well done. That was something quite unique." When I went round back to get my guitar case, three of the backstage guys, asked me, "Nak tanya, lagu tu, awak tulis sendiri ke?" referring to Malaysian Dream. I explained to them, how I'd taken it from Switchfoot's American Dream and how that last bit in Bahasa Malaysia was written by me. They seemed happy to have seen what we did, and they even shook my hand which really surprised me to be honest. On Saturday before they announced the results, the lead singer from Stereopop (I think, not sure if that's his band, but  I think so), who's also in my PCS class asked me the same thing, "Chris did you write that song?" After I explained it to him, I also told him that a number of people had asked, and he said, "Yeah, sure definitely, cos you know, it's really an 'unknown' song."

In spite of what I did, I really thank God that at least someone heard what I had intended in the first place. In fact now, I'm actually angry that I didn't explain to the three guys backstage what was the real reason I'd picked Malaysian Dream and the chorus I wrote, but I suppose I have to contented with what I get. I always said that it doesn't matter if just one person listens and takes notice because it still means you make an impact.

I'll be frank in saying that my mistake is still haunting, because I keep screaming at myself in my head, "HOW COULD YOU DO THAT!!" I'm trying to get through it though. Nonetheless, I'm still happy that at least a few good people heard what I really wanted to say through Euphonious.