Obviously, my blogging has slowed down a bit — my last post was over one year and 10 days ago!
If you are looking for me and want to reach me, go here and have a look at what I am up to now. You will notice that my work is now focused on leadership development and working with family businesses in Malaysia and the Asia Pacific region. If you wish to obtain my services, please contact Rekindle.
While this page has been slow to update, my Facebook page continues to be active, and it’s also public for anyone to follow. Please note that I will only add people as friends if they are people with whom I have had some meaningful interaction, and I may be slow to respond to messages.
In the meantime, you may be interested in hearing my most recent show on BFM radio 89.9, where I talked about the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indictor) and how it applies to couple relationships. Click on the photo below to access BFM’s podcast:
At Rekindle, we’ve been running expat support group meetings for a good part of 2016. It’s the only expat support group of its kind that I know exists in Malaysia. What’s interesting is that it has mostly been attended by trailing expat wives, and typically those who have younger children.
Recently, I have had several clients who are Malaysian versions of “Guy Tais” — trailing expat house husbands whose wives are high level executives. The term Guy Tai was invented by Devin Silloway in Shanghai (video link), a clever play on the term “Tai Tai” which means “wife” in Mandarin.
During a session with one of my Kuala Lumpur Guy Tai clients this week, I got to thinking that maybe some of these men would like to have similar men to hang out with: stay-home men who have a bit more time on their hands than the busy executive, men who spend their time mostly in their roles as husbands and fathers, men who may sometimes struggle with how to present themselves in typical social groups where the majority of couples have husbands as the expat executive.
As a working husband and father, I can only imagine how challenging it must be for some of these men who sometimes may have left good jobs to support their wives’ career moves. And the male ego! It’s not easy for someone like me not to have a career with which to identify myself. So I respect these Guy Tais for their willingness to put their wives’ interests first.
As I discussed more with my client, I realised that there is an opportunity for yet another kind of expat support group: Trailing-Expat Husbands.
I thought of what that might look like. I could not imagine that husbands would appreciate the open-hearted coffee morning discussions once every two weeks that we have been running at Rekindle.
I imagined the gatherings to look more like socials that also have physical activities. I could see fathers coming to spend 2 hours with their kids building a small table. Or a small group of men going on a learning recce to find a safe adventure location for the family to spend in the coming weekend. I could see the men getting to know each other over several gatherings and slowly developing comfort with each other to speak more openly and honestly with each other about some of their challenges being the trailing expat husband.
Unlike the wives groups, I imagine the husbands groups would be a cross-over between something interesting, something physical, and something deeper (real men conversations) at the same time. That right mix to create the opportunity for social support that is really positive and encouraging.
I would like to put this out on the internet and social media to see if there is any interest to start up a Kuala Lumpur Guy Tai support group. If you can relate to this post (even if you may be a local Malaysia who is a house husband), please come to my Facebook Page, and drop me a comment, or message me.
If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting! ~ David Bowie
When I was a young boy of 5 or 6, before I had learned how to swim, my father would stand far out into the ocean (far for a young boy, that is) and usher me to swim out to him. I was deathly afraid of the big waves and the cold water at the bottom of my feet once I could no longer touch the warm sand. I would paddle quickly with my hands and feet until I was able to reach my dad. Then I would grab onto him and hang on for dear life. He would always let out a hearty, bellowing laughter when I reached him.
Today would have been my father’s 80th birthday. But he passed on too early, at the age of 62. Had I not heard David Bowie’s quote, I would not have even remembered it was his birthday.
Three years ago, I had just come out of a phase in my life when I had to let go of all the expectations I believed my father had of me. I called it my year of “double death” — my forty-fourth year (“forty-four” sounds like “die-die” in Chinese). As a result, the launch post of this blog then was all about discovering and following your own passion. It was an important lesson for me then.
Fast forward to last month.
While visiting an old friend I hadn’t seen in over 16 years, I was inspired by how his success and wealth enabled him to do so much good for his family and his community. He had donated millions of dollars towards education and spent a lot of time influencing environmental conservation efforts in his community. I watched my friend spend hours with his two sons — playing, motivating, and mentoring them — because he had the time to do so as a retired multimillionaire in his forties. I also listened to his many stories of pain and challenge as he relayed how he took on one risk after another to get to where he is today.
Coming back to Malaysia inspired, I decided that I would go beyond what I have been doing the last few years and stretch myself to grow new ideas and services. But it has been tough to embrace this change. Every now and then, I’ve had to remind myself not to slip back into my old, comfortable ways. It is as if I keep forgetting where I’m striving to get to and end up sitting down where I am.
Then David Bowie showed up, just days before my father’s birthday. Or perhaps, my father showed up, close to his 80th birthday, to cheer me on from the depths of the water where my feet will not quite touch the bottom. And perhaps he is saying to me, “now that you’ve let go of the weights you felt were my expectations, you can start to swim to new depths of your own.”
I would like to believe that in some mystical, metaphorical nexus where imagination influences reality, close to my father’s 80th birthday, the heavens orchestrated connections to allow me to savour a fresh birthday experience with my father — and to remind me that I am “just about in the right place to do something exciting!”
In the field of psychotherapy, I look up to two types of experts: (1) those who work hard on the science of therapy, creating efficacious treatment models and then taking the models through to empirical validation; (2) those who work hard on themselves in their own development, and integrate personal life experience with clinical skills to become living, breathing therapeutic beings. The former emphasizes brilliance in thinking and the latter emphasizes depth in personal development.
When I meet a therapist who is both brilliant and has great emotional depth, I become an instant fan, and I want to be just like him, or in this case, her!
[UPDATE: Rekindle’s Expat Support Group’s first meeting was a success, and from participant feedback, we will be running meetings twice a month. Click here for the latest brochure information.]
Most people think of the expat life as easy and filled with perks and benefits. What is not seen are the INVISIBLE STRESSORS of expat living:
- Difficulty adjusting to cultures and languages
- Inability to get the right foods for your family’s diet
- Concerns about physical safety
- Changes in lifestyle (e.g. “my husband is hardly ever home now”)
- Grief and loss of relationships with family and friends
I admit it. I suck at updating blogposts. It’s because I can’t stand bad writing — especially my own. And it takes too much time to write well and consistently. So I’ve decided on the next best thing. I’ve created a public Facebook page.
I got this idea when I gave a talk in Hong Kong last month, and one of the co-speakers in the event talked about the Attention Economy.
Now, I can write pithy status updates and link it to real articles on cool topics like:
Marriage & Family Therapy
Systems Thinking & Practice
Spirituality (of any kind), and…
Anything Deep & Awesome
In our new attention economy, there is nothing like short and pithy to cover a lot of new ideas and research. Come like me there ‘cuz… this blog is going to be for long reads. (But I haven’t made my 2016 resolution yet, so no promises.)
As I was leaving for work, my son came running to hug me. I had stayed out late working the last few days and did not see much of him. His eyes misted over while we hugged and a pang of guilt hit me. “I really suck at this work-life balance thing,” I thought myself. For the rest of the day, I mulled over why achieving balance can be so difficult.
When we think of the word “balance,” the picture that comes to mind most often is that of a weighing scale. A weighing scale implies fairness — a static fairness. When one side dips down, it is necessarily unfair to the other side. Balance is a static state that is only achieved when both sides are equal.
With a scale in mind, I find that I need to have balance at all times — just the right amount work and just the right amount of family (or personal) time. When I have an extended time of one or the other (e.g. more than a week away at work, or away on vacation), both can feel “wrong” to me. And so I began to reason that perhaps the problem is not so much with achieving balance but perceiving it.
What if we used a different metaphor? What if, instead of using a scale to think about work-life balance, we thought of it as a wave? After all, real life is not static. We live in continual ebbs and flows, ups and downs, having less and having more. Thinking of work-life balance as a wave opens us to more positive and adaptive reframes – different ways of seeing something.
Here are three work-life balance reframes that have been helpful to me. Continue reading →
Several year ago, when my Singaporean friend was stationed in Kuala Lumpur at Al-Jazeera, I remarked that Malaysia is a very diverse country and that it is quite surprising to me that we lived in such harmony. He then remarked that Malaysians generally live in parallel realities and we don’t fully intermingle culturally. It got me thinking.
He was right. At least for me. I live a subset of a Malaysian culture: westernised Chinese. And a sub-subset of that: westernised Chinese married to a western expat. I don’t know what life is really like for the Malays, the Indians, or the Orang Asli. In fact, I can barely pretend to be fully Chinese as I don’t speak it as well as I do English.
Living in Malaysia, you can’t avoid the month of fasting for Muslims. You hear it everywhere, you see it everywhere, from the closed Malay restaurants to the tired looks of Muslims. Practicing as a therapist in Malaysia for the last 5 years, I have become sensitive not to offer drinks to my Muslim clients during this month. And I am also sensitive to their differing levels of energy throughout the day.
As a non-Muslim, I am not physically affected during this month. Well, except for the increased traffic jams during the late afternoon when Muslims go back early to prepare food for breaking fast. I have the freedom to go about my day regularly. So why am I asking whether I should fast? For one reason: to learn what the experience is like for my Muslim friends and clients. Continue reading →
Want to give your marital blahs a little lift? Try this online dating profile activity for married couples.
My wife and I have been married for more than 15 years. In fact, next month will mark our 16th anniversary together. We have gone through our fair share of ups and downs, and like many couples, after a while of doing regular life, things can get dull.
Lately, I have been helping some clients of mine to find new love on dating websites. With a little bit of advice from my novice copywriting skills, some of my clients have gone from no responses to more responses than they can handle! But that is not the main point of this post.
The main point is that I decided to try online dating profiling as an activity for my wife and I. It was fun and even rekindled a spark of romance between us! But a little caveat: If your relationship is not in a good place, this exercise may backfire, requiring you to seek professional help (which in my biased opinion, is not a bad thing to do).