Academic year 2020/2021

Academic year 2020/20212021-08-04T16:46:02+08:00

One academic year has passed so swiftly, with most of us being able to meet each other physically on campus. This is a luxury if we compare to other parts of the world. While we should appreciate how much the Chinese and Macau governments have done to fight against the pandemic in order for us to have relatively more normal lives, we must not forget our peers, your fellow classmates, HCers, and teachers, who are still prohibited from coming back to Macau. We hope HCers and other UM students are doing well, apart from the suboptimal conditions of learning online.

Your examinations are fast approaching. Here are some tips from “The Two Awesome Hours” by Josh Davis:

  • To refresh yourself from fatigue and tense emotion, you can (1) take deep and slow breaths (believe me, it works!), (2) Have a good laugh, (3) Take a short 10-minute nap (longer than that will make you grumpy).
  • (1) Coffee can boost productivity 30 minutes after drinking. But please do not over dose! “Less is more” in this case! (2) High-carb snack (carbohydrates) can help you focus and feel good for about 15 minutes only. If you need longer focus, do not eat carb-rich meals. (3) Moderate exercising (such as fast walking for 20-30 minutes) can amplify positive moods; intense exercise does not boost more.

To wrap up this academic year, I hope you enjoyed the different activities that HC has offered over the past year. We have launched the revised Honours program that is designed with more focused high quality learning goals and activities. The newly renovated HC facilities have been opened. We increased the number of Honours Forums, added Tea with Leaders which include Mr. Grant Bowie’s two teas, and Mr. Carlos Alvares’ lunch next week. We will plan for more forums, seminars and workshops that would cover more topics to suit a wider audience with different interests.

Finally, enjoy your summer break and challenges to come! For returning HCers, see you next academic year! For graduates, see you at the convocation in June, and/or somewhere in Macau or other places in the future!

According to the Mariam- Webster dictionary, disruption means “a break or interruption in the normal course or continuation of some activity, process, etc.” As negative as this term sounds, it has become a very important word in the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it represents “breakthroughs”, “leaving the comfort zone”, “thinking outside the boxes”, all these terms that you always hear from me.

I recently came across a few articles about designs and what design teams in organizations need, prompting me to think that these attributes can be applied by every person in his/her work (including your work as students) from different angles and sides. Some of these are:

  • User-centric strategies
  • Collaboration
  • Balance between quantitative and qualitative angles that links user satisfaction with performance.

They sound like a cliché list. Yet, if you think through, they are just applicable anytime everywhere.

Inventions can be very disruptive, totally changing our world, our habits, and ways of living. Think of how smart phones have disrupted the world. Think of Amazon and Taobao have disrupted how we shop and how the retail business has been affected. Why do they succeed and others don’t? Inventions can disrupt our lives only if they provide very good user experience. Designs can eventually be marketed only when everyone in the organization understand what the designs are, how useful and/or attractive they are, and how efficient they can reach the customers. If you think designs are very distant from mathematics, you can’t be right! Think of how the structure of a piece of music can actually be explained quantitatively. How are the above related to your studies? Use your intelligence, please!

In the nutshell, I hope you can open your mind to incorporate different angles of thoughts into your work rather than following only what you think you are told or taught. Be disruptive once in a while! In the good way, of course!

The term “unintended consequences” is being widely used after the work written by Robert K. Merton, one of the most influential sociologists and also the late father of Robert C. Merton, the 1997 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, also the recipient of the Honorary Degree  (Doctor Honoris Causa) of the University of Macau in 2014 (which means a Nobel Laureate is also an alumnus of your Alma Mater! J).

Post-it Note is an example of unintended GOOD consequence. It was a product when a scientist at 3M meant to invent a very strong adhesive (glue).

Another example is the chocolate lava cake. In 1987, a chef in New York took out a chocolate cake from the oven before it was supposed to be completely baked. He found the warm runny center of the cake tasted good and has since promoted it in the US.

The following is what I think a really bad unintended consequence! Have you heard of George Floyd? Are you aware of the “Black Lives Matter” protest? Last week, on April 20, 2021, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second degree murder after kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for 9 minutes 29 seconds on May 25, 2020. Whether this policeman, Derek Chauvin, just tried to fulfill his duty as a police or took the chance to apply way more force on George Floyd than necessary because he was black, the consequence was really tragic! A life was taken because of what happened in those 9 minutes 29 seconds.

In 1936, Robert K. Merton (Merton, 1996) identified five possible causes of unintended consequences, namely

  • Ignorance (failure to anticipate the outcome)
  • Errors in analysis of the problem; and this includes continuing the practice adopted in the past, without updating the solution for current situation and/or needs
  • Focusing on short-term interests over long-term benefits
  • Some basic values that if actions are taken (in some cases, actions are stopped from being taken) would ultimately lead to unfavorable consequence in the long term, and possibly leading to changes in the basic values
  • Self-defeating prophecy, in which people try to find solutions even before problems occur (and which problems might not even occur) because of fear of some consequences

When you make plans, please think along the above possible causes to avoid unintended bad consequences. Objective thoughts and reasoning, abundant preparation, and thorough analysis and trials will always pay off.

Reference (References should appear at the very end of a paper or article; but I put it here because I am afraid you would have missed it otherwise): Merton, Robert K (1996). On Social Structure and Science. The University of Chicago Press.

Have you imagined about famine? We often hear or see from TV about how kids and babies in several African countries die of hunger. The truth is that even though the world, in the aggregate, produces more food than everyone needs, not everyone has access to food. Worse off, through the journey transiting food from farms to landfills, 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year. A new United Nations environment report, “Wasting food just feeds climate change”, issued on March 4, 2021 warns that a third of all food produced is wasted or lost on farms and in supply chains. Some are lost at the farm because there are not enough people to harvest the crops. Supermarkets have to remove the food from the isles after the “best before” dates arrived. The biggest loss are in homes or restaurants, contributing to wasting 10% of food. Yes, 10% of all food, not 10% of food wasted! In number, this represents more than 930 million tonnes of food sold in 2019.

From “How Food Banks Succeeded and What They Need Now” on the March 31, 2021 issue of New York Times, it is reported that charitable food banks in the US has distributed 50% more food in 2020 than in 2019, which is from roughly 300,000 people per month before the pandemic to nearly 700,000 at its June peak.

The United Nations has started a campaign to achieve the goal of cutting global food waste in half at retail and consumer levels by 2030.

How is this related to you? Even if we all have abundant food around, it does not mean we can bring the food to the needy, such as the kids in Africa. But what you might not know, though, is that reducing food waste can cut greenhouse gas emission! This means that we can help slow down the destruction of nature. If you do not understand why and how, please search for the answers yourselves. I am also happy to discuss with you.

You can help!!! From now on, buy or order only the amount you can finish. Do not have your eyes wide open when ordering, only to find later that you could finish less than half of the food you ordered. Do not stock up food and then forget, and eventually throwing them away because the “best before” date is passed. Please help the Planet Earth!

My topic today is about Catherine Duddy Wood, the founder, CEO and CIO of Ark Invest, which is an investment management firm. I pick her not because I am in Finance, and she is considered as the female version of Warren Buffet, nor because she is one of the richest female in the US, but because of her personality. She founded the Ark Investment Management at the age of 57, an age when many people start planning their retirement. She became very successful since. Here is why.

Her company focuses on investing in Disruptive Innovation, because her personality traits include the following:

  • Firmly believing and be proud of your job is just the minimum. To have good progress, you have to think big and think far.
  • You should innovate like a disruptor (i.e. think without being framed or boxed).
  • Sometimes, being successful is not about how much you win, but how many people you have helped, how much you have shared with others.
  • Manage your time well. Sleep and rest at the right time. Have a routine lifestyle.
  • Always be curious! Be a sponge for learning.

The following is a continuation of the words of wisdom from Mr. Alvares, followed by my interpretations.

  • Throughout your career, you sometimes move forward, sideways, and backwards! Everyone understands forward (i.e. advancement). Sideways? We may change to another job for many reasons. Backwards? It is bad to experience demotion, failure, and bumps! Most people will say, “Who wants moving backward?” WAIT! Who could declare you are moving backward? YOU! If you don’t see moving backward is failure, no one has the right to look down on you! Turn “backward” to an opportunity to review what you have done wrong, not good enough, and learn to become stronger and better for the next step and next opportunity! We do not have to always get promotion to define our success. Success can come from overcoming your failure!
  • Have a broad network! People are important; organizations are all about people! We all know having more friends, knowing more people, building a good network is important. You will never know when one day, a friend or an acquaintance will call you up for a very important job. But, we do not make friends because we want to sow seeds for our future career advancement. Take one step back! You treat people nicely and befriend because you should! And you will feel good when you treat people well! Remember I told you to at least say “Thank you!” whenever you can?!
  • Grab the chance! Opportunities are everywhere. Whether you get one or not have to depend on whether you will grab it, and more importantly, whether you are ready to grab it. To be ready, you will have to learn and explore different aspects of life, various skills, and be innovative! Following the point above, when someone calls you for an important job, you will have the job only if you say yes. But, why would this someone call you? It must be because you have worked hard, learnt, and therefore built up the credentials essential for the job.
  • Be Happy! We all know being happy is important. But that does not mean you should never be sad. We of course will be sad at times. You have the right to shed tears. But, do not drag on in the abyss for long. Gather yourself fast! Learn from your mistakes and mishaps. If the sadness is not from what you did, learn to embrace the fact that you will be stronger after every sadness. Positive attitudes could general intrinsic power for lifting tons of problems and challenges. Stay positive! Stand up and become a more resilient you! You can control how happy you are through your effort of appreciation!
  • Jobs in the future will change! After the pandemic, lives, hobbies, and habits have changed significantly all over the world. As Mr. Alvares mentioned, there are fewer customers at the physical branches of the bank now. On the other hand, customers trading stocks online have increased seven-fold. What can you do to cope with these changes? Will what you currently major in be still useful in the future? Rather than asking these questions and being unsettled, think of your undergraduate learning as training for better and more logical minds, and not just skills. Learn to be resilient and flexible. There are no theories or doctrines that proclaim what you study is what you should do as career. Enjoy your job, whatever it is, even if it does not seem to be linked to what you study in the university. There are always skills and ties that links the two. You just have not seen it yet!

I normally do not write to you on school weeks ended before Friday. But this time is different! Inspired by the views of Mr. Carlos Cid Alvares, CEO of BNU (for those who don’t know, BNU is one of the two quasi-central banks of Macau, the other one being Bank of China), when he spoke at our Honours Forum yesterday, I would like to jot down a few takeaways for you. I will share half this week, and the other half next Friday. Hope you enjoy!

First all of, thanks to those who joined the Forum. Also, thanks to those who informed us that you could not attend the Forum due to some sudden time conflict even though you have registered. We appreciate your understanding of the basic respect that registering to an activity means making a serious promise which you should not easily break; notice that the organizers of the activities have to make a lot of efforts, and the event would be successful only if there is audience.

Now, here are some highlights from Mr. Alvares, followed by my interpretations of each (a lot of which have been shared in my previous emails, which you could review from our HC website):

  • Do not only look for the target; look for the paths! It is true that we need to have goals or targets in order to motivate us to push ourselves to becoming our better selves. Nevertheless, targets are only sources, excuses, or reasons for motivation. How we could learn and improve is always the experience of walking through the path and the process.
  • Life is beautiful! Following the point above, the experience of going through the process can itself be very beautiful, let alone helping you grow. I understand that all of you have to strive for better academic performances. That said, you might sometimes need to pause for a moment, go slow, turn around and breathe in the surrounding to appreciate how beautiful the world is, how fortunate you are to live in this part of the world, how lucky you are to simply be human.
  • Work hard, do everything you can, and you will learn! Alvares shared with us how in some of his jobs, he had to do everything, from the most basic routine task to the most important decision making. This is how you learn the whole idea of the industry or company you are in. Do not always say “Why do I, in this high position, need to do this?”, “I am too good to do this simple work!”, “Why is he/she so important and I am such a small potato? He/she is not as smart as I!”, “I should be served!” etc. Complaining does not help! Comparing does not help! Rather than lingering in this negative attitude, turn it into positive energy by telling yourself that you could do everything, and you know all processes inside out, which will eventually make you a better leader for the company/unit in the future!

I hope you enjoyed these words of wisdom from Mr. Alvares. I will send you the others next Friday. Again, please feel free to share your opinions, or questions, with me like what some of you already did before!

Since the Easter holidays are fast approaching, I would like to share an article on the New York Times with you. Published on December 10, 2019, written by Tarra Parker-Pope, the title of the article is “For the Holidays, the Gift of Self-care”.

The main idea is “to be good to yourself first — then to others”. Haemin Sunim is a Buddhist monk who wrote the book called “Love for Imperfect Things”. How do you care for yourself? It is much more difficult to enact than it sounds. Try the following:

  • Take deep breaths for just a few minutes each day, focusing only on your breathing. No other thoughts in your mind. If you can do it, you will find your mind much fresher and calmer, and more focused afterwards. Try this out when you study for your exam. Don’t even think the few minutes is wasting your time. It can be remarkable!
  • You are not perfect! Accept who you are! Are you chubby? Are you too skinny? Are you not as beautiful as so and so? So what??? Looking in the mirror and comparing to others is not only a waste of time, but affecting your mood. Who you are and what you look like are gifts from your parents and life (and God, in religious sense). You have no right to criticize! You must instead take good care of yourself and lead a healthy life! You should be grateful that you are you!
  • Write down what you are feeling, or the situation that you are in. Writing takes away the heavy weight from your mind. Go to bed without holding these weights in your mind. Then start with the easiest-to-achieve items on that list the next morning. You will find the second task easier than thought. Then try to accomplish the tasks one by one.
  • Talk to someone. You will find yourself listening while you talk, and might realize you have already knowing the answer!
  • Take a walk! Pay attention to the trees and flowers, and any scene that you can capture. You may be stunned by how many colors you have missed all these days, how beautiful the world always is.

Haemin Sunim noted that “even if you feel there are many things in your life that are imperfect, if you look at them in a compassionate way, you discover that imperfection, in and of itself, is beautiful and has meaning.”

Do you consider yourselves good? Do you lend a hand to your friends? Do you find yourselves polite and helpful to your friends, your peers, your teachers, people you met in your days, but speak to your mom rudely, or not speaking at all? If you have not thought about all these questions before, please start observing from today onwards. Do you thank your friend who helps you buy a drink, but not thanking your mom or dad for cooking you dinner? Do you rush to help your teacher, but turn a blind eye to your family member when they need you?

If your answers are “No” to all the last three questions above, CONGRATULATIONS!!! Keep it up! Many of us tend to treat others better than our own family members. Why is that? We tend to take off all the possible invisible masks and protective garments when we go back home. We mistake that family members understand us, and therefore do not need to say extra. We are too close to say “Thank you!”

Have you spent time with your parents lately? I came across a recent piece of news about a primary school boy winning the Japanese national primary student composition competition for writing a passage about what he will never forget – a short white lie from his late father. One day, when he was two years old, his father said, “Son, I have to go to a faraway place to work. You and your mom must take care of yourselves and live happy lives!” A week later, his father died from leukemia. Of course the boy was too young to remember the incident. Luckily, his mom videotaped the moment, so that he could replay unlimited times. The boy wrote in the passage that this white lie from his father is what has encouraged him to live healthily and positively for all the years because he has harbored the hope of seeing his father. Now that he knows that his father will not come back, he promises himself to continue to live a healthy life as what his father asked him to do.

We always tell ourselves that we should meet friends because we can always find time later to spend with our parents. We never do! One day, when you suddenly have the urge to spend time with them, you might find that it is too late. Treasure your family! Treasure your grandparents! Treasure your parents! Sometimes, a light touch on the shoulder, a small hug, or even a soft and short “Thank you” can be magical! Do not give yourselves opportunities to regret!

Last week, I shared some thoughts inspired by an article about LGBTQ+. My aim is to arouse your awareness and adaptation of the wide spectrum of identities that we human beings have. As mentioned at the end of that mail, I am sharing with you a few suggestions on how “we should create, … a fairer world where nobody should be ignored.”

Even though some organizations actually have related policies in place, it is still not enough. We have to “live in”. That means we should create a more pleasant and friendly environment so that nobody feels estranged. I am not saying we have to treat LGBTQ+ specially. Quite on the contrary, ask yourself if you have treated them NORMALLY! How? You can be alert of at least the following:

  1. Be careful not to make assumptions about people’s personal lives, such as asking a girl if she has a husband or boyfriend. A “friend”, “spouse”, or “partner” will be more appropriate. This is to avoid “shaming people for who they authentically are.”
  2. You can set a good example by introducing your LGBTQ friend’s other important half to others by saying “This is Amy’s partner, Mary!” This will avoid embarrassment to Amy, your friend, and her partner, Mary.
  3. Above all, ask yourself if you are avoiding them. If so, change yourself. Remove your discrimination. Learn more about them by approaching them and open yourself to them. Ask yourself if you have actually “opened” yourself.

Studies have found that companies that are inclusive for a diverse workgroup including LGBTQ+ enjoy a lot of benefits. To say the least, they are able to recruit and retain more talents. One can never underestimate the contribution that people can make when they feel being included. LGBTQ+ are particularly resilient and empathetic!

Rather than sharing more from the different studies, I would like to leave this as an open topic for you to think deeper and further. Whether you are an LGBTQ+ or not, please consider whether the society you live in has done enough, and what you can do to help with/in even the slightest changes. Please feel free to share with me your thoughts by writing to me directly. All your comments/criticisms are welcome!

Have you ever thought why going to a washroom is a “binary decision”? That is, why do we have to choose between “female” and “male”? You may puzzle, “What question is this?”

A survey of gender nonconforming people aged 14-25 years old done in the UK in 2016 (done by the Telethon Kids Institute, called the “Trans Pathway project”) showed that 48% of them decided they were “non-binary”. What does that mean? We human beings can be different in race, in complexion, in personality, in nationality. Likewise, we can be different in sex. And I don’t mean only male or female, but LGBTQ+.

Many years ago, the term LGBT started to emerge. LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. It has now been extended to LGBTQ+, which stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, Generqueer, Queer, Intersexed, Agender, Asexual, and Ally community”. Why has the abbreviation become longer? A reason is that people are more open to accept and admit that we can be different, not just the two categories of “male” and “female”. Yet, to date, discrimination is everywhere, causing these group of LGBTQ+ to hide away their true selves. A recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that LGBTQ+ employees face many challenges in the workplace, such as harassment and extra stress. They are often being socially excluded. Because of COVID-19, their work-from-home period has actually allowed them to feel more “freedom to just be able to exist”! Even a physical workplace can be very unfriendly to them. For example, they feel uncomfortable choosing which bathroom to use! Discrimination happens more often with more junior employees, women, and people outside Europe and North American.

Nobody should get left behind! Similarly, no one has the right to discriminate others! We should be given equal opportunities whenever possible. Quoted from the McKinsey survey, “Listening and learning about employees’ lived experiences is the first step business leaders must take to create fairer workplaces.” Similarly, we should create, and strengthen the inclusive culture by listening and learning about the experiences from each other and the nonconforming ones in order to create a fairer world where nobody should be ignored! How do we do that though? I will share with you next time.

Again, inputs and opinion sharing are welcome!

For those who will graduate this year, you might be busy preparing for your job hunting. Others might be preparing for internship interviews, or interviews needed for further studies. In any case, many of you might need to conduct several interviews in the near future. A recent survey done by TopResume (https://www.topresume.com/) revealed that employers and interviewers have put significantly heavier weights on interview thank-you notes than before the pandemic. These thank-you notes have in a way helped recruiters to learn more about the interviewees’ personalities to see if they are fit for the job opportunities. Amanda Augustine, an expert in career advancement, has suggested nine strategies in writing interview follow-up messages:

(Please see https://www.fastcompany.com/90583398/this-is-the-best-way-to-write-that-post-interview-thank-you-note)

  1. Good follow-up starts before the interview ends
    • Take notes during the interview so you could be more engaged in the points to be mentioned about the interview
    • g. anything in common with the interviewers, such as school attended? Any of your qualification that the interviewers were most interested? Any concern from them about your skill gap?
  2. Timing counts – send one thank-you message to each interviewer, addressing their names one by one; no bulk mail; send in a timely manager, such as within 24 hours of your interview
  3. Be grateful – thank them for their time and consideration, even if you decided not to take the job
  4. Reiterate your interest – assuming that you like what you learnt during the interview, make sure you communicate this interest; and this point should be clear and precise; be genuine
  5. Remind them of your rapport – to get them connected to you, you might want to remind them who you are by touching on your (interesting) discussions with them at the interview
  6. Refresh their memory – remind them about the strength you have, or some main points worth emphasizing in your resume (try to remember any points about you that any one of the interviewers seemed interested)
  7. Overcome their objections – try to see if you have any example to prove your capabilities which they have doubts, or explain your sincerity for the job if you think they were concerned you were “too qualified”; never use words like “trust me, I will know what to do if I get the job!”; you do not need their trust, you need to prove to them!
  8. Add something new – this is a chance to add something you forgot to mention at the interview, in a line or two at most (no paragraphs)
  9. Write to influence – proofread, be careful of the use of language, especially noting what you want to convey (e.g. your personality)

Always remember, a note specifically written for a person is way more convincing than a “stereotyped” note for anyone. Show your sincerity! If you cannot have all the nine points, do not exaggerate, do not lie. Be honest!

Last week, I shared with you about WEF. I hope you had a chance to browse through what it is, and are inspired by some of the talks and resources. This week, I would like to continue with this subject by sharing some reports delivered by the McKinsey & Company, an international consulting company. In fact, you will see me citing resources from this Company frequently because it is indeed a very resourceful consulting firm.

Related to “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” suggested by Prof. Klaus Schwab, here are some McKinsey reports about technology, the future of production, and how businesses would be run in the future, particularly the speedy advancement of technology amid the pandemic that has greatly shaken the ways most people on earth live. In other words, these reports will also alert you what you need to know and how you should prepare for your careers.

Hope these reports could inspire you some.

You must have heard “The World is ever changing!” in many occasions. Even a famous British film director, Nicolas Jack Roeg, wrote a book with the same title. It is important for you, HCers, who might have the opportunities to change Macau, if not the world, to be better equipped for such purpose. But how? Being constantly updated with news is not enough. You should keep thinking what could be inspired from the news.

Today is the last day of the five-day World Economic Forum (WEF), Davos 2021. WEF was founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab, a professor in business policy at the University of Geneva. Since then, the very influential politicians, governors, businessmen, innovators, and activists (the youngest being Greta Thunberg who, at the age of 15, had already spoken at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference), have spoken at the WEF, of which holds the mission “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”.

This year, the Davos Agenda focuses on 7 themes: (1) How to save the planet, (2) Fairer Economies, (3) Tech for Good, (4) Society & Future of Work, (5) Better Business, (6) Healthy Futures, and (7) Beyond Geopolitics. All these are because of world inequality (significant income inequality within and across countries), the pandemic, global warming, the need for ethical businesses and industries. All these are responsibilities of mankind, for the betterment of the world in the centuries to come, for our next, next, and next generations. We are obligated to build a better world. It is never “none of our business”!

Even though this is an “Economic” Forum, it is never only targeting audience from business and economics. In fact, Prof. Schwab himself studied engineering, in addition to economics! You will learn a lot about technology, engineering, nature, and social science issues from the Forum. I suggest you to browse the webpages of the WEF to learn from world leaders about their vision, their mission, and the way they convey their messages. Here’s the link in case you are really that lazy not to do a Google search: https://www.weforum.org/events/the-davos-agenda-2021/about

A lot have happened in this third week of the New Year! First, you have finished your exams and are starting the new semester. Some of you have left Macau to go back home, and now back to campus. You were suggested not to leave Macau during the Chinese New Year break which is coming soon, amid the worsening pandemic situation in various parts of China. Last Sunday, UM kicked off the Celebration for its 40th Anniversary at its Open Day. On Wednesday, after months of controversies and interesting episodes, Mr. Joseph Biden took the presidential oath of office as the 46th US President. Yesterday, a flight from Air Macau brought back 109 Macau residents from Tokyo. These residents had spent a lot of time en route back to Macau from wherever they were. The Macau government officials had been planning for the highest health security possible with the expectation that some of them would unavoidably bring back the virus. The breaking news is that one lady was tested positive, a new case after 7 months of record of zero case! To me, one case is already probably the minimum we could expect. We hope there will not be more. But in any case, we should be happy for these residents who could finally come back home. Imagine you are, or your family member is, one of them. You would really hope that, you or your family member, could finally be home safe after the long hours of such stressful journey. Some of them have been stranded abroad for a year or so. Macau has always been a lucky city. Let’s hope all these 109 residents will continue to be healthy, pass the quarantine period, and finally join their family again.

Looks like we will have to continue to live in this unusual pandemic era for some more time. No one could be sure when the “new normal” could officially start. Let’s stay physically, mentally, and psychologically strong for the new days to come!

Hope you will enjoy your new semester! Embrace the opportunity of face-to-face learning when many people all around the world have to learn through online platforms! Please lend your hands to your peers who are less fortunate and have do online lessons from their homes outside of China. Please also empathize your instructors who have to prepare and teach in hybrid mode. They have to spend tons of extra effort to make it work.

Happy New Year! This week, as a new start, I wish all of you a more “normal”, safe, and healthier 2021!

Good luck to your exams! Add Oil! (Guess I mentioned before that “Add Oil!”, a Chinese term for encouragement, has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018).

Hope the following will be of some help if you still have some exams to go. But even if not, it should still be useful for your future.

A guy called Matt Ringel (you can Google his blog) suggested a “15-Minute Rule”, which is “If you’re stuck on a problem, take a solid 15 minutes to bash your brain against it in whatever manner you see fit. However, if you still don’t have an answer after 15 minutes, you must ask someone for help.” This is a useful rule not just for studying, but also for work (Ringel actually referred to work when he wrote it). Notice that sitting there thinking of a problem that you cannot solve for long enough would depress you, and it is a waste of time. What you should do instead, according to Matt Ringel, is:

  • When you get stuck, push yourself to solve the problem for 15 minutes
  • Document everything you do during those 15 minutes so that you can provide the information to the person who helps you later on
  • After the 15 minutes, if you are still stuck, then you MUST ask for help.

When at work, by asking someone, you actually save everyone’s time. This is because even though you are paid to solve problems,  you are wasting your time and that of your team if you keep dragging on the unsolved problem! That’s also an opportunity for you to signal your teammates that you value team spirit.

So, please use your time, and others, wisely!

Great job! Congratulations to us, HC, for winning the “Enthusiasm Award” for the most students and staff joining the Online Walk for a Million! Thank you for your participation!

This will be my last Friday email to you this year. What a year! Fortunately, we survived! As the first attribute in our HC slogan, “Be Empathetic”! We should feel for others in the world who suffered, or is still suffering, physically, mentally, and financially, because of the pandemic! We should feel lucky that we and our families are not prone to much trouble! We should take this opportunity at the end of the year to reflect what we have learnt from this very unusual 2020! Above all, we all must have learnt a lot and become much stronger! We must have become more confident and more resilient!

For those of you in your fourth year, you might be busy applying to Master programs, or trying to find jobs. Just a little reminder about what I shared with you earlier this year. If you go to this URL: https://hc.um.edu.mo/friday-email/, you will find my previous emails about preparing for your personal statements, CVs, how to shake hands properly, which will be useful for interviews, and how to handle anxiety. Hope these notes help you in some ways somehow!

My first Christmas present this year is from the HC Student Association (HCSA), of which you all are members. I was at the Turnover Ceremony on Wednesday early evening to witness the formation of the new association cabinet. My present is the photo of the former HCSA members who, despite the pandemic, had tried their best to contribute to all HCers. They deserved a big round of applause! So are the members of the new cabinet! Please show your strength as HCers by supporting them as much as you can through joining and/or helping their activities! Like I said at the ceremony, think of how much you would wish your peers to join the activities if you were the organizers!

Finally, Merry Christmas! Wish you a great holiday, and ample time to prepare for your final exams! Good luck! And let’s have a much better 2021!

This is the second set of suggestions that might help you study more efficiently and effectively. See if they could inspire you to change your studying habits by at least a little.

From page 62-63 of Davis, Josh (2015). Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done, HarperCollins:

Here are three ways to refresh yourself if you get fatigued or overly emotional and need a quick replenishment:

  1. Breathe deeply and slowly for a bit.
  2. Have a good laugh.
  3. Take a short nap.

For point 3, the author further explained that “short” is really short, like 10 minutes. A 20-30 minutes nap was in some ways less restorative because it would take longer for you to be alert enough after the nap to start benefitting from the nap. So, do NOT give yourself an excuse to nap too long!

Again, hope this helps!

The end of the teaching weeks is fast approaching. I guess I should leave you all to enjoy your Christmas break afterwards, and then try your best to study well for the examinations to come. Hence, I would like to make use of these two Fridays to share some highlights from a book: Davis, Josh (2015). Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done, HarperCollins.

This time, I will share the direct quote on pages 60-62 of the book:

Here are four things to help you avoid mental fatigues that you can try this week:

  1. Complete your most important work first thing in the morning, before your brain has been depleted by hundreds of small decisions.
  2. Consider the tasks on your to-do list for the day, and label each of them as “Important Decisions,” “Creative,” or “Other.” Carve out time late in the day to complete the tasks in the “Other” category.
  3. Try reading and responding to your e-mail messages for only one hour in the afternoon and reflect on whether doing so improved your ability to focus more clearly on tasks that require problem solving or creativity during the rest of the day.
  4. Make a few decisions the night before you have a big day, so you won’t have to make them on the big day.

I do not mean these are absolutely good ways that everyone should follow. Some works, others don’t. Nevertheless, it will help you think deeper what ways will work better for you in your studies, to improve your productivity, decision making, and creativity.

Hope this could help with your study.

Today’s topic is on six steps for making better decisions. This is extracted from a very new book released on October 13, 2020 by Annie Duke and entitled “How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices” published by Portfolio. The following is the direct extract from the book:

When evaluation a past decision or making a new decision, refer to the Six Steps to Better Decision-Making:

Step 1 – Identify the reasonable set of possible outcomes. The outcomes can be general scenarios or be focused on particular aspects of the outcomes that you especially care about.

Step 2 – Identify your preference for each outcome – to what degree do you like or dislike each outcome, given your values? These preferences will be driven by the payoffs associated with each outcome. Gains comprise the upside and losses comprise the downside. Include this information in your decision trees.

Step 3 – Estimate the likelihood of each outcome unfolding. As a start, use common terms that express probabilities. Don’t be afraid to guess.

Step 4 – Assess the relative likelihood of outcomes you like and dislike for the option under consideration.

Step 5 – Repeat Steps 1-4 for other options under consideration.

Step 6 – Compare the options to one another.

My questions are (1) do you think this systematic way of decision making is helpful? (2) Do you make decisions like this? (3) Do you agree with the suggested steps?

I am not telling you this is the right way of making decisions. In fact, by listing these steps out, I would like you to think and critique if the system is good and useful. You might be able to learn something from it.

This week, I would like to start a campaign for all HCers. Assuming you don’t lock yourself up in your room, please count the number of “Thank you”, (including, in Chinese, “多謝”,“謝謝” and “唔該”) you said in one day. See if there are about 20. Or More? Let me know; I am curious! Try using them more often in, for example, the following situations:

  • When someone holds the lift door for you
  • When someone holds the entrance door for you
  • When someone gives way because you are in a hurry walking down the aisle
  • When someone passes something to you (e.g. because you cannot reach, or because you paid to buy it)
  • When a waiter or waitress pours tea/water (even if you are having a conversation with your friend or family members, you might choose to pause to thank the person)
  • When the staff at the Refectory of your College hands you the food
  • When the security guard measures your temperature or open the door for you

Try in occasions that you don’t normally think a “thank you” is necessary.

Many people tend to take for granted that they should be served. But if you appreciate others’ help, and even what you consider as “services”, even if very tiny moves or help or favor, you will feel the magic very soon. The idea is not to expect someone to appreciate your appreciation, but for you to find yourself happier, more relaxed, and feeling lighter in time. You may feel embarrassed or think it is nonsense at the beginning. But trust me, magic happens! You will find that you become less tense every time you thank people, because you will always end with a little smile without yourself realizing. You will find that the world gets more beautiful with a little more smile each day!

So, let’s start counting, and let me know the average number you have in the coming week or so.

According to a latest report issued on November 11, 2020 by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting company based in New York, companies wanting to deliver value in the “new normal” will embed their purpose by following the “5Ps”, which are:

  • Portfolio strategy and products: redefine the portfolio of products, withdrawing some, promoting others and new ones, and revise pricing
  • People and culture: people development and career pathways to enable purpose, and having role-modeled desired individual mindsets and behaviors linked to purpose
  • Processes and systems: adapt operational processes and ensure supplier behaviors could meet the purpose
  • Performance metrics: set performance targets
  • Positions and engagements: review and revise external positions of the company, and engage and communicate these positions to related and relevant parties to fit the purpose

I share the above with you because, if you read the 5Ps carefully, you should notice that it would apply to all organizations, not just profit-making companies that perhaps only those of you from FBA might be interested in. In particular, “people” make up the very important aspect of any organization. How to find good people, and develop people with potential, to fit the purpose will be very important. Their performances will also be evaluated. Are you well prepared for any of the roles that could meet the above 5Ps? For example, if you are from FST, IPAME etc., and even ICMS and FHS, the first and the third Ps might be yours to think of. If you are from FAH or FSS, you might need to be in charge of the first and the last Ps. Everyone, however, might need to consider the second and the fourth Ps. Those of you from FLL will have to ensure all the 5 Ps are ethically and legally implemented. If you are from FED, please do not think you are free. You need to teach the next generation to be ready for their future. Tell you what, actually everyone will encounter all these Ps in life, regardless of your position, your occupation, etc.. So, be prepared!

My topic today is about Communication Skills. I would like to share with you this article: “This is the most in-demand skill on job listings right now” from Fast Company (URL: https://www.fastcompany.com/90556370/this-is-the-most-in-demand-skill-in-job-listings-right-now).

It is fine if you have no intension to read the article, as I am going to share a few highlights here.

Advances in technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), have provided capabilities of replacing many jobs with repetitive tasks that human beings used to be in charge. “AI and machine learning and automation are all about replacing the easy work; soft skills are the part that will be the competitive advantage of humans in the coming years,” was what Martti Kuusanmäki, the founder of Jobbland.se, said.

Do you want to be replaced by AI? If no, you need to strengthen your soft skills. Many employers have voted communication skills to be the most important soft skill. How do you improve your communication skills? The author of the 2003 best-selling book, How to Talk to Anyone, and later How to Talk to Anyone at Work, and How to Be a People Magnet, Leil Lowndes, said, “As I was growing up I began to notice that the people who were the most successful in life, no matter what their field was, there was something about them that just drew people to them,” she says. “Nobody gets to the top alone.”

To draw attention from your “audience” (not necessarily only when you are on stage giving a speech, but anyone you talk to), she suggested showing passion in your tone and how you stand and move, having eye contact (this is surely familiar, right?), talk within the time that your audience has (i.e., keep your message concise, especially if the person is in a hurry), and most importantly, try not to always focus on yourselves. Instead, for example, as Ms. Lowndes said, “If you wanted to take Friday off of work, how you would turn that around is say, ‘Hey boss, can you do without me on Friday?’ ” This is not a trick. This is an act of putting your feet in others’ shoes!

Exercise for you: Please reflect if you are a good communicator. If so, how can you further improve? If not, you’d better start learning, fast!

We finally have a full HC family of this academic year! Let’s welcome the freshmen!

Today, my topic is about promise and punctuality. I have reminded you several times how important it is to respect everyone. And I mean everyone! I have also reminded you of the new slogan, what constitute the letters in ELITE. The slogan is just a very short summary. A decent person should have more than these.

HC has already organized some activities, such as the group project briefings and a seminar organized by the HCSA, and so on. Last but not least, we have just held the new HCers Orientation on this Wednesday and Thursday. All of these activities cannot be started right on time. Do you know why? If the event should start at 3:00pm, we would end up starting at 3:05pm at least because we have barely half the room filled by 3:00pm, and we would always have 80% participants arriving on or before 3:05pm. So, what is going on?

Many capable people always make sure they arrive on time. They also make sure that they keep their promises! This is basic respect to others. This is to show the organizer and/or the host that they care!

HCers, please keep your promise! If you have signed up for events or activities, please make sure you get there on time. If you have unexpected time clash, you should respect the organizers by at least sending a note of apology. If you do go, make sure you arrive early enough! No one is that important to deserve others waiting!

I hope to see you keeping your promise and being punctual from now on.

This is probably the last mail before the 120 Freshmen join us. So, again, I am not going to share any new ideas and thoughts. Instead, I would like to talk about what I have observed from the past semester.

For those of you who joined the seminar organized by the HC Student Association (HCSA) this Wednesday, you know that I have talked about COVID-19 pandemic and global finance. I hope to receive your comments and thoughts about the talk. But in addition to wanting to hear from you about it, I would also like to talk about the pandemic from a smaller angle – the UM angle.

You might have heard from the Rector and Vice Rectors about how challenging the last semester has been for everyone of UM, but that each of you have coped very well! Indeed, I am so proud of you guys and girls! You continue to perform well academically and psychologically. Professors, me included, all think that our students have become more eager to come to class, paid more attention in class, and more enthusiastic to learn. I hope you are, too!

Let’s rewind our history a bit. Have you been very depressed in February when your lives have suddenly turned upside down? You could not do anything as planned. You could only stay at home. For those who have gone abroad to study or on exchange, you might be urged by your families to come back ASAP, only to find that there was no flight tickets. You panicked, you tried, you eventually came back. Have you thought that we have been very lucky living in Macau and China, where either we were not too much affected, or the country recovered fast? People in other countries might not be as lucky. This is the time for us to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses, and how we had to improve ourselves to be stronger, both physically and mentally, for the next big wave to hit us!

So, please alert yourselves time after time not to be too comfortable and take your lives for granted. Instead, keep thinking of what if you choose to, or are forced to, leave your comfort zone. Are you prepared? More importantly, appreciate what you have and own. Do not compare and contrast what you have versus what others have. Instead, offer help. Lend your hands! Be empathetic! Let us all hope the world will be back to a healthy normal, even if a new normal!

I am still waiting for our new Freshmen HCers to join us. Will be soon! Before then, I am going to have a brief review of what THREE topics I have shared last year, instead of sharing new ideas with you.

First is a reminder – our new HC slogan: “Be E.L.I.T.E., Be Part of the Honours College”.

Be Empathetic,  Leading, Intercultural, Trustworthy, Ethical, Be Part of the Honours College

I hope you could put the few attributes of leadership in practice.

Second, to equip yourself for your future leadership, you will have to think/do the following:

Day-dream – Spend some time, even if 5 minutes, every day to day-dream. Think towards what you like, what you want, and what you hope for. Dream of the “impossible”! This is a source of innovation, an origin of experience, whether of success or failure! Gather the courage and pursue for it! Don’t be afraid of tripping or falling! It is whether, and how, you can stand up from falling down that makes you stronger!

Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone – Innovation will never happen if you are too comfortable! A leader is someone who has the courage to step into uncertainty!

Be Engaged, Be Empathetic –You are just one of the billions of people! Try to be sensitive to the world, to the needy, to your peers, to everyone around you! Lend your hands whenever possible!

Finally, please write your emails properly. For example, when you use “Dear HC”, who do you intend to write to? “HC” is not a person. Ask yourself whether you can identify the six colleagues at the HC Office (not including me). If you really don’t know, at least write “Dear Madam/Sir” (Do not ask why “Madam” before “Sir”! Ladies first!). When you end your mail, at least end properly with “Best Regards”, “With best regards”, “Yours sincerely”, and so on, and then, most importantly, your name!!! Sending your mail with your University account does not mean we will know who you are. I am sure your name is not made of numbers, like your student ID number!

In the nutshell, I hope you, HCers, can show that you have leadership potential by at least doing the above, and doing them right!

Welcome back! Please also join me to welcome the new HCers this year.

I am sorry for not writing to you all soon enough, like every Friday last semester. For new HCers, you will be receiving emails from me every Fridays except holidays and breaks. These mails will mostly be my sharing about how to be better future leaders, how to be better and more useful Global citizens, and most of all, how to be connected as HC members. We have kept my previous emails in one of the links on our HC homepage. Feel free to read them, and I hope you will enjoy them!

I thought of waiting for some more new HCers to join us before sending this first mail of the academic year. But because we are still working on the list of new HCers, I have decided to have a “chat” with you all first. This year is a new leap for the Honours College (HC). After a bright 10 years, HC is now welcoming a revised program structure again. The first program structure has been run for 7 years. The last batch of students in the first version of the program has just graduated last July. This year is the first year when the first-time students of the revised program will graduate. Currently this batch of students (Class of 2021) has 153 students. This year also marks the first year of the third version of the HC program (i.e. second revision). You might ask what the changes have to do with you. Just imagine HC being your home. You should be informed about your siblings change schools, right? By the same token, I am here to tell you about the changes.

Unlike the first version of the program which we only have at most 50 students for each intake, the second version, meaning you, consists of a much bigger family each year (50 open applications + 22 recommendations from RCs and Dean of Students + 100+ Golden and Grand Lotus scholarship recipients). This semester, we are welcoming 52 from open application and 20 recommendations from RCs and Dean of Students (i.e. those who applied to HC in their first or second year with UM), and expected 120 from the Freshmen year. This mail will not reach the latter group because they belong to the third version of the program, in which they have to go through interviews before they are admitted to HC. They will join us very soon!

So how is the new program different from what you are having? One word! “Tougher!” They have to be interviewed before coming in. They have to take TOEFL or equivalent by the end of their first year at HC to reach certain scores. Are you lucky not to be in that batch? You should not even think of it as luck! Being members of HC means having leadership potential, which includes your capabilities in both presenting yourselves as future leaders as well as speaking eloquently in English. If you are not, you’d better improve yourselves ASAP! The world is competitive. Get yourselves prepared to excel in your future career!

This semester continues to be a different semester as the pandemic is still sweeping the world, although Macau is lucky enough to be safe so far. Guess we are all coping with the new “normal”! So, be the leaders in the new era!

Look forward writing to you next week! Meanwhile, stay safe and healthy! Buckle up for the new upcoming challenges!