Category Archives: Lesson in Humility

Character Flaws That Can ‘Kill’ a Coach

One day a coach-student tearfully confided in me that her introductory coaching session with a mentor coach was in shambles.  She said, “I went into the session feeling big and was really looking forward to meet my mentor coach, but I came out, feeling so small with every bit of my confidence destroyed”!

What should have been an uplifting coaching conversation to motivate the coach-student to become a better coach became a demoralising session where she was criticised and talked down for doing the coaching wrongly!  Obviously, a bad experience like this not only harm most people but can be traumatic to the point that it can destroy them for a long time to come.

But an incident like this is not a one-sided affair as it can also harm the coach’s reputation as well, and eventually his coaching career because this bad experience will be shared with many other people.  His future as a coach will be in flames, so to speak.  

Sometimes, coaches forget that their success depends many times more on their character than their skills and knowledge.  They can go on and on to build them but without a good character, nothing is going to work.  Whether it is in upgrading or adding onto their qualifications, clocking in more coaching hours, or exposing themselves in international conventions and seminars, it will all come to nothing if little is done to build their character as coaches. 

Here are five killer character traits that coaches should avoid having. 

The first one is arrogance.  Being a coach does not mean you are above others, especially the ones you are coaching.  Never think you are smarter, luckier and more superior than others.  When you have this attitude, you will likely be talking down on people with an “I-know-it-all” image.  This is not all.  You will also be making lots of judgements, criticisms and telling people what they should do instead of helping them to discover their answers.  Thus, the most fundamental principle of Coaching is being contravened!

The next one is a negative outlook on people.  Instead of supporting their coachees to see the bright side, they get into the “detective” work of furrowing further “holes” in their lives, causing more emotional pains to them. How can they enjoy a coaching session when it is more of a hell ride for them?

Another is the lack of passion for people’s growth. Many a time, coachees often wonder whether their coaches are genuinely helping them, or are after their money. If they are of the latter, you can see through them in their lackadaisical attitude, dull face, lifeless voice and their lack of energy.  A coachee can never be lifted up by coaches with such kind of negative persona.

One other is the lack of integrity and strong self-discipline. They compromise with themselves on quality, give in or give up too easily, lack discipline, tell lies, exaggerate facts and many, many others.

The final character killer is the stress in the coach caused by his own messy personal life either due to financial issues, relationship problems, health challenges and many others.  His life is somewhat in a mess and this is usually manifested in his erratic behaviours, wrong choice of words and disturbed appearances.  Somehow you will know that something is not working well for him.  So how on earth will you have the trust and confidence that this coach can help you?


I still received ‘love letters’ every year from Swee Choo until last year when she was diagnosed with cancer. Every year, this dear friend and old colleague of mine never missed a year to send lovely love letters, a nice soft and crunchy biscuits that we savor during Chinese New Year. This chain of love letters went on for more than 10 to 15 years, even after I left Reliance where we both lived separate lives –she in retirement and I as a Corporate Coach in my own company.  

When many would have regarded me as irrelevant or of no use to them when I resigned from my position of power, this special lady still remembered me for what I am, and not what I could do for her.

Her tin of ‘love letters’ every year before CNY, were expression of a different kind of love- a special, close relationship, kindness and most of all, her gratitude for being her friend when I was her superior when she was a tour manager then. Somehow, she would get it delivered every year, no matter what even though she was in Melaka when I was in Kuala Lumpur. On one occasion, she even took the trouble to attend my birthday here when she was not in the best state of health.

Last week, Swee Choo left us at the age of 77. She may be gone, but her humility, kindness and gratitude will forever be etched in my heart, not only me, but my family and the hundreds of people and fellow tour managers who had a chance to experience her special friendship.

Like it is said, we all have friends or acquaintances, but very few true friends. Swee Choo is definitely one of the few in my world. Indeed, it is so hard to find genuine friends like her.  We all have our hard way of finding out, knowing who is still around you when you are down or when you are of no use to them.

Only true friends stay with you through thick and thin. They have no expectations on others; only memories that never left them no matter for how long.  No wonder, she was a star when she was with her passengers on her Europe tours. They adored her for her demeanor and most of her, her down-to-earth simplicity, and heart of gold.

May the Lord always protect her in His arms …. and I am looking forward to meeting you, Swee Choo, again when my time comes.  

Rank & File Women Power

I can’t help but to highlight 3 admirable women whom I encountered; 2 of them as their customers, and 1 of them as my admirer  in my daily life. They drew a parallel as women who make the best of their lives in doing what they truly believe in.

Ah Pang

Ah Pang is just an ordinary waitress in an ordinary restaurant in KL town. Anyone would have passed her off as just another of the thousands of waiters and waitresses. However, she caught my eyes. Her swift action, alertness and energy got me to observe her. She’s 60 but her demeanour belies her ripened age. Those who are half of her age couldn’t move around like she does.  Another ‘strange’ thing I noticed about her is her occasional practice of kung fu in one corner when the crowd is light. She doesn’t wile away her time but uses this free time to keep fit and healthy even for a few seconds.

The lesson I learn from her is no matter who you are; even a low paying waitress is no deterrent to living purposefully.

Maniwati is the owner of a very unlikely business – kacang putih! She has the most thriving kacang putih buManisiness out of the other 5 in Kampung Kacang Putih in Ipoh.  She sells some of the best kacang putih around. You will surely meet her when you get into her shop. She is part of the welcoming entrance – a nice, warmth and friendly face who is very generous at heart as well. (You can help yourself to the free samples even though you may not show any sign of buying).  The environment in the store truly reflects her personality. 

mani family No wonder, after 4 generations of selling this stuff, they are still around, and stronger and bigger than they were before.

The lesson I learned from her is it always pay to be friendly and humble; wearing a smile always should be part of my wardrobe.

ho ching

Ho Ching, wife of Lee Hsien Long, the Prime Minister of Singapore, could easily be mistakenly taken as an ordinary housewife although she is one of the most powerful women in Singapore. Despite her power, intelligence and position, she is supremely ordinary and humble. I can’t helped but snapped a shot of her in the newspaper the other day when she was attending a very high level function with world leaders. She truly believed in herself so much that she was simply extraordinary by being very ordinary – dressed in an attire that reminded me of my mum in her younger days holding a simple purse that one can easily purchase at any shopping outlet.

The lesson I learnt from her is ‘who cares’; you live for yourself and no one else as long as you don’t cheat, insult or do harm to anyone.

Look around you, and spot someone you can admire and learn from. It’s better than any university can teach you!

Living Out Humility

We all know that certain learning styles work best for some but may not be so for others. That’s how the adage ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ comes into being. 
For some reasons, I learn best when there is ‘pain’ in my lessons. In other words, I learn best after a bad fall. Somehow the learning lessons stay very much longer. Don’t ask me why but that’s the way I’m wired. 
There’s one another guy who also has a ‘strange’ way of learning. He is a jogging friend called Naim. 
Already an accomplished person in his own right, it is hard to understand why he collects used cans and packets from the streets and sells them off for a few ringgits.  So, I asked him why.
His reason for collecting and selling ‘trash’ from the streets teaches him about humility. To him, bending over to collect them requires humility and courage as he has to drop his pride and ego in order to do so. And the more he does it, the greater is the internalization of humility. No wonder he does this act all the time and then sells his collection to the ‘newspaper man’ with the proceeds going to charity. 
He sees doing this as a way to live a purposeful living that fits well with his belief system of ‘we have nothing when we return to our Creator’. For him, this is a good ‘preparation’ before ‘checking out ‘of this planet. 
I am blessed to meet a noble person like Naim who offers me useful learning lessons of life. And the good thing is that I  buy into these learning lessons quickly because they  are so creative as is demonstrated by my friend, Naim.

Who is teaching you an important lesson on life in their own special way? 


Aunty Liew was still a hairdresser until she caught her last breath at the age of 83! I found out about her passing when my wife called her to make an appointment for my next haircut!

What’s so special about Aunty Liew that I should write a blog about her? 
For one, it was her determination to continue with what she had been passionate about her career as a hairdresser of 63 years. In one of my haircut conversations with her, I asked her why she was still on the job.
To this she replied simply and humbly, “I don’t want to resign myself to sitting in a chair when I could still make people happy with I could do for them.”  It wasn’t the  RM6 she could earn from me and the rest. I am sure it was nothing for her. If there was something more, it was definitely the time she spent making herself purposeful and useful.

Being  a simple person with a simple  lifestyle and life philosophy, I could identify myself with her.  That explained why there was easy acceptance of one another. Right from the start, I wanted her to be my full time hairdresser. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for long before  I ‘lose’  this deal.

The other thing I admired about Aunty Liew was her attitude towards customer service. She gave more than a  “5-star” service to her clients. It was hairdressing at your doorstep:  driving her manual Proton Saga to customers’ homes and even cleaning up the “hairy mess” after each haircut !

She was definitely my role model who had few or no self limiting beliefs. While many would use an advanced age as limiting, there was none in her. Positive, exuberant, jovial , courageous, and active.
I will miss you, Aunty Liew, not because it was great savings for me, but more of  listening and learning from you. Seldom one  gets into ‘the zone’ when getting a haircut; I must confess I get into it every time.

One thing for sure I will share your greatness with my clients and students. I’m sure many will be inspired by your life. This is definitely one great way to remember you always.May you rest in peace.

See you when my time comes. Till then……