Malaysia’s richest four poorer by RM13b


Their net worth hit by challenging economic outlook and slump in oil prices

PETALING JAYA: The country’s top four tycoons in the latest Forbes Malaysia Rich List are “poorer” by a total of US$3.6bil (RM12.9bil) with last year’s challenging economic out­­look shrinking their wealth, ­albeit slightly.

Robert Kuok, 91, who controls a business empire which includes palm oil, shipping, media, hotels and real estate, topped the list for the 10th year in a row with an estimated net worth of US$11.3bil (RM40.5bil) as of February, down US$200mil (RM720mil) from 2013.

In second place was telecommunications tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan whose wealth is valued at US$9.7bil (RM35bil), a drop of US$1.6bil (RM5.7bil) from the previous year, with third spot taken by property mogul and Hong Leong Group chairman Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan with a net worth of US$5.6bil (RM20bil), down US$800mil (RM2.8bil).

Genting Malaysia Bhd chairman and chief executive Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, who runs casinos in the Bahamas, London, Singapore, Manila and New York besides the home-grown casino in Genting Highlands, claimed fourth place with a net worth of US$5.5bil (RM19.8bil), down US$1bil (RM3.6bil).

“The wealth of some on the list was affected as the local stock market lost steam and the oil price collapse sent the Malaysian ringgit down 10% against the dollar,” according to a statement issued by the business magazine after the release of its latest rankings.

The statement said Ananda’s net worth decreased partly due to a slump in the shares of Bumi Armada Bhd, his offshore oilfield services provider, while Lim’s wealth was affected as China’s economic moderation affected the region’s casino gaming and entertainment sector.

The statement said tycoons with significant investments and ties to the oil sector also suffered a decline in their net worth.

SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd vice-chairman Tan Sri Mokhzani Ma­­­­ha­­thir was knocked out of the billionaire’s list this year as his estimated net worth fell by US$500mil (RM1.8bil) to US$700mil (RM2.5bil).

The main investors in Sapura­Ken­cana – brothers Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin and Datuk Shahriman – also saw their fortunes drop to US$860mil (RM3.1bil) from a reported US$1.4bil (RM5bil) the year before.

It was not all bad news for some Malaysian tycoons as a weaker ringgit boosted exports.

Tan Sri Lau Cho Kun, who heads Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd, made it to the billionaire ranks with a net worth of US$1.08bil (RM3.8bil) on the back of robust plantation and trading revenues.

Software tycoon Goh Peng Ooi, the founder and executive chairman of Silverlake Group, saw his net worth rise by US$450mil (RM1.6bil) to US$1.55bil (RM5.5bil).

– The Star Asia News Network

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The life force to Koreans: hiking the fabulous Koreas’ mountains


Korea's mountainsMore spell-binding Korean landscapes are found beyond Seoul in the Seoraksan mountain range.

Mountain culture and customs are hot-wired into the lives of each Korean. What better way to get under their skin than to hike together with them?SOUTH Korea lies along a peninsula that is hugely mountainous, with a spinal ridge running for 735 km from the DMZ boundary in the north to the East China Sea down south.

This mountain range has monumental relevance to the people of Korea as it is believed to provide the life force to the nation: its arterial rivers drain seawards, bearing sustenance for the inhabitants living in the lowlands. Many historical events that occurred on these mountains have been documented whilst just as many myths and folklore have been re-told over generations.

For the tourist, hiking the mountains of the Korean peninsula would seem like a natural activity, to immerse in the culture of this dynamic country.

The terrain is not high, the tallest peak being Cheonhwangbong at 1,915m, in Jirisan National Park, at the southern tip of the range. The next highest peak is Daecheongbong, 1,708m in altitude, squatting on Seoraksan National Park diametrically to the north.

The ranges are inter-linked through a series of hiking trails, following the ridge line closely and crisscrossing valleys and rivers. Temples, villages, farms and shelters dot the hills.

Soothing: The scenic mountain ranges of Korea are rich in bio-diversity. The N Seoul Tower is a popular tourist attraction. Go early to avoid the long queues for the cable car.

Such an eco-system has made mountain hiking a national pastime that is likely to overtake taekwando in popularity as a sport. There’s also a whole line of Korean celebrity fashion wear for hikers. Unfortunately, for the tourist, not much promotional information on hiking is available from official tourism literature.

It would take a lifetime to explore the legendary mountains of Korea and we had limited time to spare before our wedding anniversary celebration back in Seoul.

Day trip to Seoraksan

We took a 3-hour bus ride to Sokcho, a tourist town on the north-eastern coast of the Korean peninsula and an entry point into Seoraksan National Park.

The park showcases the Seorak mountain range, and is loved by the locals for its natural beauty and bio-diversity. Hikers come to marvel at the uncanny ruggedness of the “Dinosaur Ridge” and soak up the fables of the mountains’ origins.

There are many trails up picturesque Seoraksan, numerous short ones requiring half-day’s effort and several longer routes that are more than 10km in distance.

A good option for tourists is to hop on the cable car, not far from the Visitor Information Office, and catch a ride up to Gwongeumseong Fortress at a height of about 900 m. This was the option we selected together with a long queue of like-minded tourists. We reached the counter at 10.30am but all tickets were sold out.

Without wasting any more time, we opened the map, picked out what looked like an easy route and headed out to Biseondae Cliff.

It was only 2.3km one-way and took us through a forested area, tracing a path beside a gushing stream. The fresh air and fine drizzle made the pace invigorating.

 Many eateries are found along the trails of the park.

We skirted a pool of crystalline water at the bottom of a huge rock face, which I took to be Biseondae Cliff, and crossed a short bridge whereupon the trail ended abruptly at a locked gate. Beyond laid wilderness that could be experienced only with a permit from the ranger’s office. We clambered up a rocky slope and joined some hikers on a break.

“Where are you from?” queried the ajeossi (middle-aged man). I told him we were from Malaysia, as I shared a chocolate bar with his 10-year old son. I remarked that the scenery here had a mystical and mysterious air.

He nodded, “Ah, as mysterious as the disappearance of your airplane”. I guess he was referring to MH370. We both nodded and sighed. They wished us a good trip and moved on. We stayed a while to admire the view of the distant peaks framed in by the hillside trees. On our way down we stopped by a tea house. Bibimbap downed with a hot bowl of miso soup tasted a lot better here than in the lowlands.

We dozed on the bus back to Seoul. That chilly night in Seoul, we captured our last “high” at the N Seoul Tower, atop Namsan. Standing 236m tall, the tower accords a night scene of the city.

We were feeling pretty tired, but fulfilled. So, I suggested we take the cable car up instead of climbing the stairs. I didn’t hear any objections.

Hiking near Seoul

THE view from Bugaksan might have been more panoramic if not for the faint haze hanging over the “ancient quarters” of Seoul that April morning.

To the south-west, we could just make out the hillock of Inwangsan and the colourful string of hikers inching up its summit trail, while afar north, the rocky peaks of Bukhansan glared in the sun.

Seoul, the 600-year old capital city of South Korea, is encircled by a fortress wall that links four surrounding hills, Bugaksan, Ingwangsan, Namsan and Naksan. Of these, Bugaksan is the tallest at 342m and is located in the neighbourhood of Samcheong-dong, majestically overlooking Cheongwadae (Blue House), the President’s official residence and office.

We had taken the northern route of the fortress wall, entering through Hyehwamun Gate, muddling through a residential area up a steep incline, and, with some orienteering instinct, located the path that followed the ancient stone wall, leading us up a hill of cherry trees.

Due to its proximity with the Blue House, this section of the trail requires foreigners (who are called “aliens” in official documents here) to sign in at Malbawi Station with their passports (or “Alien Registration Card”) and sign-out at Changuimun Station.

Guards are posted at intervals within eye-shot of hikers. One young cadet approached me to view my camera photos and requested some to be deleted. The pictures were mainly landscape shots, mostly bird’s eye views of the city, which didn’t look pretty anyway, back-lit by the morning sun.

It was a quarter past eleven when we arrived at the top of Bugaksan. The guard, more militia than forest ranger, had been monitoring the growing crowd at the plot, and sternly ushered any lingerers to move on. No picnic here, literally, just pictures.

The Koreans are actually a helpful and friendly lot. On the way up we had approached more than a few ajumma (“aunty”) for directions and they were profuse with their assistance; expressive hand gestures and finger pointing, and a continuous barrage of verbal directions, delivered in Korean.

We nodded our gamsa-hamnida (“thank you”) and they gleefully let us off. Still clueless, we were comforted to know that at least we were in hospitable country.

The descent to Changuimun was unexpectedly steep, and the high steps slowed the pace somewhat. Overall, the hike was enjoyable, requiring just three hours, which left us plenty of time to slip back downtown for another helping of sumptuous Korean spicy soup.

By Lee Meng Lai The Star/Asia News Network

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Living life to the fullest


living-life-to-the-fullest
Chan, an avid mountaineer and myelofibrosis patient, with a photo of himself (in red jacket) and fellow climbers at the summit of Mount Kinabalu. Photo: UU BAN/The Star >>

Despite having a rare blood disorder, Tan Sri Chan Choong Tak not only continued his active lifestyle , but also took up mountain-climbing.

FORMER Dewan Negara president Tan Sri Chan Choong Tak’s motto in life is to live it to the fullest.

Not surprising then that among his many accomplishments are two Malaysian Book of Records titles as the oldest Malaysian to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak (on Aug 31, 2003, at the age of 70) and the oldest Malaysian to reach the top of Mount Kinabalu’s King George Peak (on Aug 29, 2004, at the age of 71).

Uhuru Peak is the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world (from sea level) and the tallest mountain in Africa, while King George Peak is located on the more challenging and lessclimbed Eastern Plateau of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah.

What makes these two records more significant – aside from the impressive fact that Chan only took up mountain-climbing in his sixties – is that he was suffering from a rare bone marrow disorder at the same time.

His condition, primary myelofibrosis, is one of a group of diseases called myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are caused by abnormal production of blood cells in the bone marrow.

In the case of myelofibrosis, the problem lies in the abnormally-increased production of megakaryocytes, which are the cells that directly give rise to platelets. This results in an initial increased number of platelets in the body.

Cytokines – protein growth factors that are produced by megakaryocytes – are also correspondingly increased.

And as these cytokines are what stimulate the bone marrow’s fibroblasts to produce collagen, this results in an excessive amount of collagen being made.

The collagen deposits in the bone marrow as webs of fibre – similar to scar tissue on the skin – resulting in the disease’s characteristic fibrosis of the bone marrow.

With the collagen taking up so much space in the bone marrow, regular blood cell production is disrupted.

Red blood cells (RBCs) are usually decreased in number and abnormally formed, resulting in anaemia, while white blood cells (WBCs) are abnormal and immature, resulting in increased infection rates.

With production of blood cells in the bone marrow disrupted, the spleen, which is the body’s secondary supplier of blood cells, steps up to meet the body’s needs.

This extra work usually causes the spleen to enlarge (splenomegaly), resulting in pain or a feeling of fullness below the left rib.

Occurring commonly in those above 50 years of age, myelofibrosis is caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation (i.e. not inherited) in the affected person’s blood stem cells. This is what causes the uncontrolled production of megakaryocytes.

The cause of the mutation itself in primary myelofibrosis is, as yet, unknown.

Accidental discovery

As the symptoms of myelofibrosis, like fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, frequent infections and easy bruising, are quite vague, diagnosis can be quite difficult.

In Chan’s case, he did not notice any signs or symptoms of myelofibrosis prior to his diagnosis.

In fact, it was a combination of a road accident and his wife, Puan Sri Cecelia Chia’s sharp eyes that alerted them to the possibility of a problem.

He shares: “My son gave me a racing bike for my 60th birthday – that was 21 years ago. So, I used to cycle around. Then, I met with a road accident.”

Chan was cycling along the narrow, winding roads of his hillside residential area in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, when he suddenly met an oncoming car.

With no space to avoid the car, he braked hard and was thrown to the ground in a head-first fall.

“My helmet broke and I thought I would be paralysed. My friend, who is a doctor, straightaway rang up the hospital and they sent the ambulance,” he says.

Fortunately, Chan suffered no major injuries from the accident.

However, his cardiologist son insisted that he be checked more thoroughly for brain injuries, which resulted in him seeing a neurologist.

While his brain turned out to be fine, his wife noticed that his platelet count from the blood test were quite high – between 600,000 to 700,000 platelets per cubic millimetre, when the upper limit for normal is 400,000.

His son then sent him to consultant haematologist Dr Ng Soo Chin, who prescribed hydroxyurea to bring down his platelet count.

That seemed to work quite well for Chan, and it was, in fact, shortly after this that he began mountain-climbing with a group of fellow MBA (Masters of Business Administration) alumni from Tenaga Nasional Bhd.

Chan was then a director of the company, and had gone to Ohio University, United States, to study his MBA along with other Tenaga Nasional executives.

“So, as I climbed, I continued to take hydroxyurea and everything was normal.

“But Soo Chin said, hydroxyurea will eventually bring down your red corpuscles (another term for RBCs), and recommended anagrelide,” he says. Anagrelide is a platelet-reducing agent.

Accelerating disease

Chan continued happily with the two medications, until the year 2011, 18 years after his initial diagnosis.

By then, he was seeing consultant haematologist Datuk Dr Chang Kian Meng at Hospital Ampang, Selangor, as Dr Ng had advised him to continue his follow-ups at a public hospital as his medications are quite expensive.

Chan shares that Dr Chang started him on epoetin alfa and pegylated interferon that year as his blood cell levels were fluctuating.

While interferon decreases the production of blood cells in general, epoetin alfa stimulates the production of RBCs to counteract the effects of anaemia.

However, his haemoglobin levels dropped even further, and he started requiring blood transfusions about once every two months.

The transfusions made a big difference as he reports feeling “very energetic” after receiving the first one. (Fatigue is a common symptom of anaemia.)

The following year, it was the WBCs turn to go “completely haywire”, when a blood test revealed that they had dramatically increased to about 56 from the regular range of about 4 to 10.

He also started experiencing profuse night sweats and cramps, along with the occasional itchiness that had started in his seventies – all of which are among the symptoms of myelofibrosis.

“Then, both Dr Chang and Soo Chin agreed that I had entered into myelofibrosis in acceleration,” he says.

The only cure for myelofibrosis is a bone marrow transplant, but aside from the difficulty of finding a suitable donor and the riskiness of the procedure, Chan’s age rendered him unsuitable for such a treatment.

Fortunately for him, a new drug had recently been approved by both the European Commission and the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in myelofibrosis at that time.


A new drug

The drug, ruxolitinib, inhibits certain enzymes in the JAK pathway, which regulates blood cell production. Half of primary myelofibrosis cases are caused by mutations in the JAK genes, which results in the dysfunctional production of blood cells in the bone marrow.

However, the drug was not available in Malaysia then. (It was only launched in the Malaysian market in 2013.)

This is where his political connections as a Gerakan life member and former secretary-general came in useful.

Then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon offered to help pass on the letter Chan had written to the Health Ministry requesting approval to use the drug on compassionate grounds, to the Health secretary-general.

Four days later, Chan received the approval he needed, and received his first dose of ruxolitinib in October 2012.

Since then, after some adjustments in dosage, Chan’s blood cells are back in the normal range and his last transfusion was in December 2013.

He is currently doing well enough for his doctor to lower his dosage of ruxolitinib, while still taking epoetin alfa and interferon.

Life goes on as normal for this active 81-year-old, who still climbs hills, reads newspapers of various languages and blogs daily, works out in the gym and does regular morning calisthenics.

Of his condition, Chan shares that he never felt the need to know about the disease, being only interested in his blood test results.

“I didn’t know what myelofibrosis was all about until I was asked to do this interview. That was the first time I went into Google to see what was myelofibrosis,” he says with a laugh.

“But I knew it was a dangerous disease, but I wasn’t bothered. I continued to carry on with my normal life.”

He adds: “I’m not bothered with what happens because I have full trust in my doctors.

By Tan shiow China The Star/ANN

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Regulating energy flow of a house with Vasthu Sastra principles


Vasthu Sastra_Energy flow_land_house

Cuts or voids in certain quadrants of a property can have negative effects on occupants.

CUTS on a piece of land or on the physical structure of a property can distort the flow of subtle energy, thereby affecting the wellbeing of the occupants of that space.

This is highlighted in Vasthu Sastra, the ancient science of architecture, which urges practitioners to build, design and renovate houses and buildings to be in harmony with their surroundings.

At my talk during The Star Property Fair at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre last Sunday, issues related to irregular shapes of land and buildings dominated questions at my presentation on Vasthu Sastra and pyramids.

Members of the audience were seeking answers as to why they were facing challenges after moving into properties that were not square or rectangular in shape.

The space we occupy, whether permanent or temporary, is actually a representation of a miniature Earth and we must be in harmony with the energies that govern the space to enjoy favourable health, peace, happiness and prosperity.

According to Vasthu principles, the eight compass directions of each property are governed by a planet that has specific influences on the occupants’ health, mood and welfare.

What is vital here is to prevent defects like cuts and extensions in these quadrants because the outcome will be adverse.

The north is ruled by Jupiter and if a property has a void in this quadrant, the occupants will not enjoy good fortune, incurring more expenditure than they receive income.

This is because the powerful planet is associated with prosperity, foreign travel and merrymaking.

North-east is associated with Mercury, which controls the education, spirituality, communication and growth of any individual. A defect in this sacred sector will hinder growth and success.

East is ruled by Venus and disruptions here will impede the dwellers’ beauty, comfort and affection towards people.

1. Vasthu Master Yuvaraj Sowma (right) performing a Vasthu yantra ceremony to correct the irregular shape of a plot of land.
2.Vasthu Master Yuvaraj Sowma (right) performing a Vasthu yantra ceremony to correct the irregular shape of a plot of land.
Vasthu Master Yuvaraj Sowma (right) performing a Vasthu yantra ceremony to correct the irregular shape of a plot of land.

Master Yuvaraj placing a Vasthu yantra on one of the eight corners of a piece of land to correct defective energy flow.

South-east is associated with the Moon which is linked with mood and emotions, and any shortcomings in this sector will result in the occupants having a disturbed character and difficulty in getting along with people.

South is ruled by the aggressive planet Mars and its characteristics are related to the muscular system. Faults in this quadrant can lead to occupants experiencing hypertension and longevity issues.

South-west, a powerful quadrant in Vasthu for married couples, is associated with relationships and is influenced by the celestial planet Rahu (dragon head).

A cut in this area will disrupt the conjugal relationship and passionate impulse that should be enjoyed by the husband and wife.

West is controlled by Saturn and a missing quadrant here will result in the dwellers experiencing financial hardship, and an increased likelihood of bone and bladder problems.

Kethu (dragon head) is responsible for liberation and any imperfection in the north-west sector will upset wisdom and give rise to respiratory problems.

According to my 7th generation Vasthu master Yuvaraj Sowma, the defects can be corrected by acquiring the missing space or realigning the land or structure to make them a perfect shape.

People should be careful when acquiring a property and should avoid irregular-shaped properties because it can sometimes be challenging to bring them into a rectangular or square shape.

For land and buildings that cannot be corrected physically, master Yuvaraj suggested the use of the ancient Vasthu yantra remedy which involves the placement of eight mystical silver diagrams in the eight corners of the property.

The sacred object has the power to negate the inauspicious effects of Vasthu faults in a property.

The rectification ceremony is to appease the planets with the vibrations of the energised objects that have similar qualities to chanted mantras – that is, to restore balance to the energy of a location.

This can be done before construction of the property to correct the irregular land shape, or after occupants have moved in to rectify the structural defects in the respective corners.

Its purpose, says master Yuvaraj, is to regulate the positive vibrations in the living space by Vasthu yantra, which are buried under the soil.

Vasthu yantra have the power to regulate the positive vibrations in a living space by overcoming malefic effects, thereby giving the residents peace, happiness, good health, improved fortune and spiritual development.

TSelvaT. Selva is the author of the Vasthu Sastra Guide and the first disciple of 7th generation Vasthu Sastra master YuvaViewpoints -Ancient Secrets by T. Selva

Vasthu Sastra talks

T. Selva will present a talk on 2015 astrology forecast and Vasthu Sastra for health, peace and prosperity on Jan 3 at 7.30pm at Shirdi Sai Baba Centre, 10 Jalan Trus, Johor Baru. A similar session will be held on Jan 10 at Shirdi Sai Baba Centre at 27 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. Admission is free. To register, call 012-329 9713.

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The best leaders are learners


One year ago, at a youth camp, a student who had been put in charge of his group confided in me that leading his team members wasn’t going as well as he had thought it would. “I’m just not cut out to be a leader,” he said, as he related to me what he thought a leader should have, which he didn’t: humour, confidence, wisdom and courage.

My reply to him, as one still understanding the ropes of what it truly means to lead was, “all these can be learnt, if you put your heart to it”.

It is said that there are approximately 50,000 books on leadership that are published annually – and this number may well be a conservative estimate – but if there is one indication that there is no final “destination” in this journey of becoming a leader, it is the countless number of resources that teach us how to better develop our awareness and management of ourselves and others.

Leadership is a relational endeavour; one cannot claim to be a leader without being able to inspire an action or a reaction in others. And because relationships are complex, one can only lead to the extent that he or she learns.

On the surface, it is painfully obvious that learning is imperative for any human enterprise – but I’d argue that in the long run, learning qualifies you to lead more than anything else (beyond promotions, positions, placement and power).

Here are three reasons why:

1 Learning equalises the years

How often have you heard the Chinese adage (often spoken by the elderly to the young), “I eat more salt than you eat rice”?

What is it about being “older” that makes one a wiser and better decision-maker? I’m convinced that the difference is not a matter of “years”, but a matter of “experience”.

We learn from our experiences, and our past outcomes that resulted in both positive and negative actions inform us as we negotiate between present choices.

But if experiences make us wiser, how do we attain more “experience”? Is “experience” purely a byproduct of the passing years, or can we, in the words of Sir Isaac Newton, see further into the future “by standing on the shoulders of giants”?

When we capitalise on the learnings and lessons of others and apply them in our lives, we are able to short-circuit the common bind of “years equals to experience” and accelerate our growth without wasting the time others have wasted.

Great leaders often ask themselves, “How can I avoid making the same mistakes, or how can I replicate others’ successes and take them further?”

2 Learning keeps you humble

Learning and humility feed off each other. On the other hand, the antithesis of humility, which is pride, has the sinister ability to deceive anyone into believing that he or she has “arrived”, that there is no need to adapt or change further, because he or she is superior and above reproach.

In contrast, great leaders are often the most humble people who are secure in themselves and do not see the need to put others down to elevate themselves.

John F. Kennedy once said “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.

Interestingly, most US Presidents were avid readers who invested much of their time in learning, despite their busy schedules.

It is said that Theodore Roosevelt read two books a day, while Abraham Lincoln, who had only one year of formal education, attributed his successful political career to his habit of reading.

A strong learning posture allows you to see from different perspectives, live in the experiences of others, and most importantly, empathise with other points-of-view.

It is only when a person is an avid learner that he or she is continually challenged in his or her current views, and thus able to grow in convictions. It is only when a cup is empty, that it can be filled.

Maintaining humility allows us to be intellectually curious – and curiosity always precedes discovery and creativity.

3 Learning enables you to give

Somewhere during my college years, an epiphany occurred to me: How much can I learn and grow, if I were to dedicate all my transit and waiting moments to learning something new?

In my frustration of waiting and chasing for buses to get to college, I found a treasure chest.

I had realised that an average Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley resident would spend approximately 10 to 15 hours per week travelling, either by inching through heavy traffic or waiting at bus stops and light rail transit (LRT) stations, and what a waste of time it would be if all that time was given to staring into space or letting one’s thoughts run idle.

I then made a concrete decision to listen to podcasts, audio books (when I would be driving) or to read (when I was waiting for the bus or LRT), in order to redeem that precious time.

I have since listened to over 700 hours of podcasts on topics related to public speaking, general knowledge, story-telling, leadership, faith and personal development.

My greatest learning moments are no longer in the classroom, but in my car, when I am alone and can learn something new.

During the course of the last two years, as a teacher in a high-needs school and a church leader, these moments of learning and reflection allowed me to pass on what I learnt to my students and congregation.

Those opportunities gave me great pleasure, as I was communicating to others what I had learnt and internalised for myself. I never felt “burnt out” because the stream of learning was always flowing.

Leadership may have many faces, but all leaders have the same outstretched hand of giving. And we can only give from what we have learnt. The good news is that leadership can be learnt – if we put our hearts to it.

Contributed by Abel Cheah

Abel Cheah is associate manager in the Talent Acquisition team at Teach For Malaysia. He believes that leadership is something that is nurtured and cultivated. If you are interested in listening to podcasts, he highly recommends Umano (an app that narrates articles). He believes that the best leaders are great lovers of learning. You can get in touch with him at editor@leaderonomics.com

Let the sunshine & natural light in for better health, quality life, more sleep at night


Sunshine_windowsA study has concluded that windows in the workplace could mean up to 173% more white light exposure during the day and an average of 46 minutes more sleep at night. – AFP

A STUDY from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign indicates that all-day exposure to natural light, even by means of a window, leads to longer sleep duration at night, as well as increased physical activity and quality of life.

“There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day, particularly in the morning, is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism,” says senior study author Dr Phyllis Zee, a Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist.

The study was conducted on office workers, and windows in the workplace could mean up to 173% more white light exposure during the day and an average of 46 minutes more sleep at night, researchers concluded.

They also noted a trend of workers with more light exposure being more physically active than their counterparts.

In the study, researchers surveyed 49 day-shift office workers, of which 27 worked in windowless offices and 22 had windows in their offices.

Quality of life and everything health-related was self-reported, whereas sleep was assessed by means of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

A subset of 21 participants was surveyed for light exposure, activity and sleep by means of actigraphy. Ten of these participants worked in windowless environments and 11 hailed from workplaces with windows.

Actigraphy logs ambulatory physiological data, in this case motion and light illuminance, by means of a scientific wearable device.

“Light is the most important synchronizing agent for the brain and body,” says Ivy Cheung, co-lead author and Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience in Zee’s lab at Northwestern. “Proper synchronization of your internal biological rhythms with the earth’s daily rotation has been shown to be essential for health.”

Sunlight is an important source of vitamin D and a CDC report indicates sun exposure is important even for breast-fed babies, despite the high quantities of vitamin D in breast milk.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. – AFP Relaxnews

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A love story like a fairy tale


Love storyHappy together: Li gazing lovingly at Gan as she admires Li’s gift to her for Valentine’s Day.

A Chinese man meets a Malaysian woman online, and romance begins to bloom in a special way.

LI Kangyu has not left his house for 30 years. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, he has been paralysed and bedridden since he was seven.But his life took an unexpected turn for the better when he met a Malaysian woman Gan Suh Eng by chance on QQ, an online instant messaging platform, three years ago.

Despite being physically miles apart, they were drawn to each other.

“She has opened the windows of my soul,” Li, 39, said.

A year ago today, they exchanged wedding vows and began their life together at Li’s hometown, a village in Tangshan, Hebei province.

Li described their love story, which has attracted widespread media attention, as a fairy tale.

To him, Gan is an angel sent from heaven.

Her presence in his life has opened many doors for him.

Lying on a customised wheelchair given by a Good Samaritan, he can now enjoy the sunshine outside his house with Gan by his side.

Together they have travelled to Shanghai and Suzhou, among other cities, where Li has been invited to give motivational talks.

“A Shanghainese enterprise has shown interest in training me to become a motivational speaker.

“A book on my life story, to be penned by a writer, is also in the pipeline,” he said during The Star’s visit to his house, about 45 minutes by car from the city centre of Tangshan.

It is obvious that the love between the inseparable couple is going strong.

For the Chinese Valentine’s Day, qixi, which was celebrated last Saturday, Li presented Gan with a novelty ring that had a hidden clock face, while she surprised him with a blue striped tie.

Wearing a pink top that he had bought on online shopping site Taobao specially for the occasion, Li was delighted when told that the patterns printed on the shirt were that of Malaysia’s national flower, the hibiscus.

“It was a happy coincidence,” he said.

As Li recounted their first year together as husband and wife, Gan sat next to him, stroking his head affectionately.

They were more than happy to oblige when Gan was asked to give a peck on Li’s cheek.

“In the blink of an eye, a year has passed. We are both tolerant of and accommodating to each other’s shortcomings. Our love has grown deeper,” Li said.

Gan, 36, who hails from Selayang, was smitten by Li’s romantic and caring nature.

“Sometimes he will insist on helping me blow-dry my hair,” the former employee of a Malaysian Christian NGO said.

The couple leads a simple life in the village, surviving mostly on Li’s financial assistance from the government.

Although it is a meagre sum, Gan said the cost of living in the village is low, so they are doing fine.

Family members on both sides, who originally objected to their marriage, have now accepted them.

“My mum now cares about Li more than she cares about me,” Gan protested in jest. “She will ask to speak to him every time we talk on the phone, reminding him to take good care of himself and rest more.”

A local reporter who has been following their story since last year noted that Li appeared rosier and more cheerful.

“I am about 5kg heavier now and I have gained more muscle on my thigh,” Li said.

Their bright and neat space, a room in the house of Li’s third sister, is furnished with a double bed and sofa. Adorning the walls are their wedding photos.

A small wooden table sits on the bed for Li to use his laptop. As he cannot move his joints, he operates the laptop with a mouse placed near his right hip.

Looking ahead, Li dreams of having their own house and raising a child.

“We also want to start a charitable foundation to help the less fortunate. It looks like a far-fetched goal but I believe it will come to fruition one day,” he said.

Check In China by Tho Sin Yi The Star Columnists/Asia News Network

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