Wednesday, May 11, 2022

When It Rains It Pours (MY Eng #49)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never', 'storm in a teacup', 'between a rock and a hard place', 'darkest before dawn', 'empty vessels make the most noise', 'birds of a feather flock together', 'separate the wheat from the chaff', 'let sleeping dogs lies', 'open a can of worms', 'light at the end of the tunnel', 'trial and error', 'look before you leap', 'lightning in a bottle', 'on the same page', don't judge a book its cover', 'reinvent the wheel', 'shifting gears', 'throwing in the towel', 'jump on the bandwagon', 'passing the buck', 'breaking the ice' and 'cracking the code'.

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Sunday, May 1, 2022

Cracking The Code (MY Eng #48)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never', 'storm in a teacup', 'between a rock and a hard place', 'darkest before dawn', 'empty vessels make the most noise', 'birds of a feather flock together', 'separate the wheat from the chaff', 'let sleeping dogs lies', 'open a can of worms', 'light at the end of the tunnel', 'trial and error', 'look before you leap', 'lightning in a bottle', 'on the same page', don't judge a book its cover', 'reinvent the wheel', 'shifting gears', 'throwing in the towel', 'jump on the bandwagon', 'passing the buck' and 'breaking the ice'.

Each industry is split into different fields. Each field has its own share of practices, guidelines, and standard operating procedures (SOP).

Within each field, there are countless of organisations being created and growing. Each organisation has their own share of internal policies and processes.

So it can be rather daunting for anyone trying to move between organisations, or across fields. One would think that there should be a certain amount of shared identity and habits within the same industry. But that's far from reality. Each field and organisation tries to be different - too hard, perhaps - and ends up building moats around themselves.

And so, the barrier to entry can be rather high. There are many hoops to pass, and hurdles to jump over. Many of the barriers are purely formalistic - self-made procedures with little connection to core compentencies integral to industrial skill. Did that last sentence sound padded with obfuscating jargon? Don't quite follow? Well, that's the whole point of industrial barriers...

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So if you're ever interested in making a move, the challenge lies in cracking the code. Or to put it more bluntly: knowing how to cut through all the bulls**t.

Understanding how a new system works is always time-consuming. Especially if the system is filled with man-made rules. Mission statement, code of ethics, house rules - the list is endless. Humans never cease to complicate life more than necessary.

That's how life works, and there's not much we can do but to deal with the bulls**t. When you're joining the club at the bottom, that is. Maybe one day, when you've climbed your way to the top, you finally have the power to bring about positive change, by cutting out the bureaucratic red-tape. But that's wistful thinking. More often than not, managers love to add more cogs to the system, so to leave a 'legacy'. No one is bold enough to say: "Know what? A lot of the processes we have are absolutely crap, let's do without them". It takes courage to undo your predecessors' work, to start afresh with a clean slate.

Of course, to each their own. Some people enjoy being shackled by systems. They yearn for certainties. They play by the book. They just want to know the rules of the games, and not stop to think about the logic behind the rules. Some people are happy enough settling with terms set by others.

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But ultimately, you still need to master the code in order to excel in the system that you're in. And be quick to detect when the code changes.

And the best way to be a code-breaker is to be a code-maker. To know how systems work, you need to understand how people design such systems (whether designed well or poorly). And that means figuring out the logic behind the codes, and the motivations of the code-makers.

Sounds rather cryptic, eh? Well, this whole article itself is layered with coded language. Have fun having a crack at it...

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Breaking The Ice (MY Eng #47)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never', 'storm in a teacup', 'between a rock and a hard place', 'darkest before dawn', 'empty vessels make the most noise', 'birds of a feather flock together', 'separate the wheat from the chaff', 'let sleeping dogs lies', 'open a can of worms', 'light at the end of the tunnel', 'trial and error', 'look before you leap', 'lightning in a bottle', 'on the same page', don't judge a book its cover', 'reinvent the wheel', 'shifting gears', 'throwing in the towel', 'jump on the bandwagon' and 'passing the buck'.

New neighbour in town? New kid in class? New colleague in office?

People are on the constant move. The pandemic has hit pause on globalisation, of course. But as normalcy gradually returns, we're seeing an uptick of travelling and migration once again.

We have all been stuck behind screens on Zoom, Meet or Teams talking to people for the last two years or so. Communication done virtually feels very differently from physical interaction. Most of all, it's not easy getting the know someone for the very first time through boxes of our faces.

So that's why now, more than ever, we need to rekindle the spark of friendliness. It's now safer to talk to strangers (but still, keep your distance and mask on). It's time to get out and meet people for real!

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So how do we make a good impression on someone who's never met us before? Introductory formalities is one thing. But to really break through the social barrier, one has to break the ice.

I'm far from being an extrovert. Still, I used to look forward to mass gatherings - conferences, conventions, etc. There's a thrill in meeting new interesting people, and forge new friendships. Speed dating without the romance.

I can't remember the last time I actually exchanged a business card with someone. It's been ages since I've walked into a hall with more than 100 people (vaccination centres excluded). Yes, as much as I feel that most our mundane everyday interactions between work colleagues can be done virtually, meetings with external stakeholders need that extra human touch.

And there's a whole bigger box to unpack, when it comes to physical meetings. Body language. Attire. Yes, I need to start ironing crumpled shirts and pants that has been buried in my wardrobe...

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It's good to go out more and talk to people face-to-face. Who doesn't miss the carefree days where we can just sit back, relax, laugh aloud without worrying about spraying unseen micro-organism into the air?

Yes, it's good to get back out onto the road. The world has been in a freeze for far too long. Time to break the ice, people!