Tak kenal maka tak cinta. Jom Kenali Universiti Awam (UA) Malaysia.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Writing Contest 2014 Winners

Posted by Chong

We organised a writing contest on Malaysia Students blog recently. We are happy to announce that we received 119 entries from our dearest readers! Thank you for your tremendous support! The bad news is we only have 10 X RM100 cash prizes to be given away.

We had a difficult time choosing the winners as most of entries are very well written yet the prizes are limited. All entries will be published on this blog in the coming months. For those who do not win this contest, please do not give up and we hope you learn something during the process. Thanks for your active participation. Perhaps having more than 19000 subscribers and more than 100,000 monthly readers reading your post can be considered as the consolation prizes?

We would like to thank our distinguished sponsors, EasyUni and Hotcourses, for sponsoring this writing contest. Visit EasyUni and Hotcourses now to explore your further study options local or abroad and plan for your pre-university and tertiary education.

EasyUni, the Asia's largest university and college portal, offers comprehensive info of thousands of courses, from 1959 universities and colleges in 27 countries for FREE. You are really lucky that EasyUni exists today as you can get all education info in one portal. We wish we had EasyUni last time.

What we really like about EasyUni is the info on tuition fee, which is really critical for many of us during the decision making on whether it is the right and affordable university for us or not.

Hotcourses provides extensive info on undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses for Malaysian students in Malaysia and overseas. Do not wait, visit Hotcourses today to plan for your further studies!

What we really like about Hotcourses are the helpful student guides on applying to university, visa guides, student finances, career prospects and other relevant topics, offering free and practical advices to those going for undergrad and postgrad studies.

Without further ado, the winners for Malaysia Student Blog 2014 Writing Contest are ... (drum roll please) ...

Writing Contest Winners & Winning Entries (in no particular order)

All winners have been contacted via email for further instructions to receive the cash prizes.

We would suggest you to subscribe to our mailing list to receive all great writing contest entries that we will publish on our blog in the following weeks. We strongly encourage you to leave your comments on the entries to support the writers, share your opinions and discuss your ideas.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cultivating Good Habits: Making the Most of Your Uni-Life

Guest post written by Bernice (Lim Sen Sen)
The Pencil Box
“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” – Stephen Covey.
We’ve all had them at some point; those lectures we receive from well-meaning uncles and aunts, from seasoned cousins - and for those of us lucky enough to have them – our mentors prior to taking that huge leap from high school to university, about the things we should pursue during the course of our tertiary education in addition to our degrees. But how many of us truly stop to think about the significance of taking part in extra-curricular activities? More than that, how many of us stop to consider the significance of our campus life in general?

Having studied in a Chinese independent school myself, where exam results are the priority, it was (admittedly) a little difficult for me to imagine myself making time for activities that didn’t contribute to my CGPA. That didn’t quite stop the notion that my tertiary experience had to be something more worthwhile than what I was used to.

Taking into account the networks and funds available at most tertiary institutions and the possibility of being exposed to various academics and like-minded individuals, our time in university is the most ideal time for experimentation.

And experiment, I did.

Stephen Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People / PicCredit

In my attempt to “test the waters”, I explored the booths during last semester’s Club Expo in my university (Club Expo is where clubs have booths for students to sign up), and soon found myself enlisted in EIGHT organizations! Now, one can imagine the amount of effort it took to maintain active participation in most of these clubs without compromising my grades.

Of course, I am not asking that anyone else try what I did. In all honesty, it wasn’t a very smart thing to do. However, the upside of my escapade was that it allowed me to interact with a whole spectrum of different cliques throughout the campus without bias. Additionally, the packed schedule threw my preceding ideas of “prioritizing” into a new light. The act of deliberating who and what ranked higher on my priority list – which was mostly decided by the order of deadlines I had to meet – became absolutely crucial for maintaining control over my physical, emotional and social well-being.

It was in the midst of living with constant tension that I started seriously thinking up ways to not only help myself to keep up with the heavy load, but also to have a bit of time to do the things that I wanted to do for myself. I discovered that one of the most effective methods is in the cultivation of habits for productivity.

Take for instance, the simple act of picking out one’s outfit either the night before or by picking a few sets out ahead of time can save you the minutes (and I use the word minutes loosely – girls, you know what I mean) you normally spend choosing what to wear every morning. Tired of having to worry about what to do for meals during the week? How about preparing some of them during the weekends? My breakfasts used to involve either toast or pop-tarts, neither of which were very healthy. These days, I alternate between a yogurt or a salad, both of which can be prepared over the weekends. Planning to cook during the week? Garlic and certain other foods can be diced and stored in the fridge for convenient use.

Household tips aside, there are plenty of habits we can cultivate to help us use our time in the university more productively. I make it a point to have a separate file containing all of my material for the week with me at all times. That way, I can get a bit of revision or tutorials done in between lessons and meetings. Another habit of mine is to use the calendar on my phone to keep track of my personal schedule. More often than not, I key in important appointments the moment I agree to attending them. The technology we have at our disposal nowadays is amazing. I’ve also found it helpful to keep a note-taking application so that I can jolt down ideas and impromptu to-dos on-the-go.

Admittedly, all of this does sound like a lot of work. However, the beauty of cultivating habits is that, after a while, they become second nature to you. Once the habits have rooted themselves in your lifestyle, it will take little, if any, effort to maintain them. In essence, they become just “something you do”.

This principle extends beyond the realm of productivity. The concept of keeping good habits can be used to improve your interpersonal skills as well as your character as a whole. Being in an environment which boasts resources in abundance and very few major consequences, our time in university is – at least in my opinion – the most ideal time to cultivate habits that will ultimately shape our lives in future.

Bernice Lim Sen Sen
Bernice is a student studying at Curtin University Sarawak. Having lived through an early onset of quarter-life crisis, this science student, turned business owner, turned aspiring Civil Engineer has dedicated herself to being a lifelong witness to the college of life and the wonders it has to offer. Armed with a ready arsenal of logic and satirical sense of humour, she aims to bring unique insights to conventional topics of communications, leadership and the secrets of the universe. She is a contributing writer at The Pencil Box (www.jclathepencilbox.org), a site that helps students accelerate their learning curve in university by publishing articles on self-development, leadership and creative learning.

► Read more on Cultivating Good Habits: Making the Most of Your Uni-Life

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The 4 F’s that make campus life a little less dull

Guest post written by Hannah Jonas
The Pencil Box
Tertiary level education can be a rather demanding experience – especially since it seems as if being a student instantly qualifies you for the ‘not enough sleep’ club. It constantly feels as if everything is happening at breakneck speed where if you stop to take a breather, somehow you’ve missed a deadline.

Academics aren’t the only things that are worrisome, as relationships play a huge role in a student’s life. Unwittingly angering a lecturer could lead to a very uncomfortable semester for the entire class and a feud could split the class into painfully obvious cliques. In addition to that, I’m sure you’ve felt underappreciated and trodden on at least once throughout your university life which can be very de-motivating.

Between maintaining good grades and trying to please everyone, it’s no wonder students go home at the end of a semester with no other plans besides hibernating for days on end (mom, if you’re reading this, I love you but I’m still not waking up before noon).

However, campus life isn’t really that dismal and here are a few things you can do to beat the monotony of studying:


Famous Popular Traditional Malaysian Food
Top: Roti Canai, Nasi Lemak; Bottom: Satay, Char Kuey Teow / PicCredit

This is Malaysia. We’re known for our food as well as our love for food. It doesn’t matter which part of the country you’re in, there will always be a town or city nearby that has a particular dish it is known for. Got an opening in your weekend? Grab your friends and go try out new dishes or pop into a café you’ve always been curious about but never dared to enter. Read reviews of places with interesting dishes and visit them to see if they live up to the reviews. Craving anything in particular? Make a list of all the places that claim to have the ‘best’ version of it and visit them all! You won’t just enjoy yourself; you’ll be fed and happy too, and this does wonders in improving your mood and may indirectly improve your attitude towards your education as well. I recently went on an all-day-breakfast-food hunt. It’s pretty fulfilling stuffing pancakes, toast, scrambled eggs and various types of bacon and ham down your throat at three in the afternoon.


Friends Forever
Friendship Forever / PicCredit

You don’t need to be the most social or the most popular person on campus, having one good friend is more than enough. Friends are important because social interaction (I don’t mean the virtual kind) and the need to feel like you matter to someone is a connection most people crave. Friends can help fill this void as well as keep you grounded when your studies are stressing you out, and they can offer surprisingly simple solutions to problems that are weighing you down. If you weather the trials and celebrate the triumphs with someone else, you may find that you’ve made a friend for life.


Family Members
Family Members / PicCredit

Yes! Your family is an important factor in keeping away the drudgery of campus life. Do you live at home? Keep them in the know about your day in class. Rant to them when you’re frustrated. Talking to someone who knows you well can be a cathartic experience. Live on campus? Text or call your parents once in a while and remind them that you love them. Even things like “I miss you”, and “How are the dogs?” show them that you care about things going on at home. Parents struggle with their child growing up and they like to know that they are still an important part of their child’s life. You won’t just be helping yourself relax, you help ascertain their significance.


Finances / PicCredit

The daily cry of the college student is, “I’m broke!” followed by calls to the parental unit for reinforcements or subtly pestering bosses for the cheque from the part-time job. Find ways to manage your finances that result in leftovers for the next month; and as much as possible, don’t owe anyone money. Getting a job is a good option as it doesn’t just ease the financial situation, it provides discipline and teaches you the importance of working hard and being responsible. The added bonus is that you have a little guilt-free cash on your hands (want a new phone? Save up from your salary; don’t touch the allowance your parents or your scholarship provides).

Ultimately, the end goal is to have some fun. Whether you’re attending a music festival or pigging out on ice cream or just taking a walk around a flea market, these activities help you kick back and forget about the burdens of your studies for a little while. Taking part in events that bring you to new places and new people is a good experience as it helps you hone your social skills. Not everyone can successfully haggle with a street vendor to bring down the price of a t-shirt from RM35 to RM10 – if you manage to master the art of haggling, what have you got to be afraid of when you go in front and present to the class? You know already know you’re good at arguing and being persuasive!

Activities like these also provide you with fodder for good stories that can be used to build rapport. I accidentally slipped and slid under a bus my first semester in college – it was both painful and embarrassing. Now, I utilise that tale to help break the ice when introducing myself. It makes interactions less stiff when I’m able to get someone to laugh along with me.

The key is to maintain a healthy balance of work and fun.

Hannah is a Journalism student, a tuition teacher and a dreamer of free concert tickets. Despite her young age, she has seen some tough times and has formed her own concept of how the world works. Her principal achievements to date consist of eating too many potato chips and being constantly baffled by university life. She strives to help others perceive how communication can be less complex and intimidating by utilizing the tools of her major. She is an avid fan of Doctor Who and will probably approve of you if you are as well. She occasionally contributes to The Pencil Box (www.jclathepencilbox.org), a website that accelerates the learning curve of students at university through written articles.

► Read more on The 4 F’s that make campus life a little less dull

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI / Malaysian Educators Selection Inventory (MEdSI) Test Sample Questions

Update May 2015: Enter your email address to the form below to join 34,000+ students in Malaysia to get all the latest sample question sets, last-minute test tips and insightful interview experience sharing via email. You cannot afford to miss them! Join our email subscription list now!
Many students are busy preparing for MEdSI test and some request for MEdSI test sample questions. We did some research and found one set of 300 sample questions for MEdSI test widely shared on Facebook. Use this set of sample MEdSI test as reference, practice or exercise to get a feel or what actual MEdSI test might be like. Please note that the written answers might not be correct.
Ujian MEdSI Test

About Malaysian Educators Selection Inventory (MEdSI) Test

What is MEdSI test (Ujian MEdSI)? What is MEdSI and what is the test format? Malaysian Educators Selection Inventory (MEdSI) is a selection test for entry into Education programmes at local public institutions of higher learning (IPTA). It is a psychometric test. There are 300 questions which should be answered within an hour.

MEdSI instruments to measure the intrinsic quality of teacher candidates in terms of personality, Career Interest, Value Integrity and Emotional Intelligence. Information obtained from this measurement is used to select the appropriate teacher candidates for admission to programs in public education.

MEdSI done to all candidates who wish to pursue teaching under the Ministry of Higher Education to ensure that teacher candidates are selected is appropriate in terms of personality, career interests, integrity and emotional intelligence. Only successful candidates will be called for interviews.

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

MEdSI test consists of 300 items in four sections, namely:
  1. Personality (Personaliti)
  2.   Career Interest (Minat Kerjaya)
  3. Value Integrity (Nilai Integriti)
  4. Emotional Intelligence (Kecerdasan Emosi)
(Click on the pictures below to enlarge them for better viewing)
Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI (MEdSI Test Sample Questions as Practices/Exercises)

Reminders for MEdSI Test Candidates

  1. Comply with formal dresscode
  2. Bring stationery
  3. Bring IC / MyKad
  4. Bring Fitness Test Slip MEdSI
Read the detailed reminders for MEdSI test candidates here.

Ujian MEdSI: Panduan dan Contoh Soalan

MUST-READ: Rahsia Lulus Ujian MEdSI Test

► Read more on Contoh Soalan Ujian MEdSI / Malaysian Educators Selection Inventory (MEdSI) Test Sample Questions

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Passion Versus Practicality: Do What You Love

Guest post written by Daniel Oon Wei Rhen
The Pencil Box
We’ve all been hearing this advice with alarming frequency, be it on buzzfeed, personal blogs, collegehumor.com, the radio, popular TV series etc. – which is “you should always do what you love in life.” This advice has become so ubiquitous that it has gone on to take the form of a catchy one-liner, do what you love (usually abbreviated as DWYL or #DWYL).

Personally, I find this advice to be potentially disastrous. It is easy to misconstrue the message as a simple case of “finding one’s passion,” as if each one of us have this pre-existing passion waiting to be found, and once found, money and success will naturally follow suit. Real life is a lot more complicated than that, and most of us do not have this “passion” to begin with. We have interests and hobbies, yes, but the passion that we feel when we are doing something we like is different from the deep passion that accomplished individuals feel after devoting their entire life into perfecting their craft and building a formidable career.

I think what Steve Jobs meant when he said “you’ve got to find what you love […] don’t settle” during his Stanford commencement address is not simply to find one’s passion or to follow one’s passion. It is a lot more nuanced than that. I think it means that one should decide on an interest/passion and devote an incredible amount of time and energy into cultivating that passion. Steve Jobs did not suddenly discover his true passion in the Apple computer. He stumbled upon it by accident when he was trying to think of a clever scheme to earn $1000. At that time, he was actually “passionate” about eastern mysticism. But even then, he knew about the astounding potential of the Apple computer, so he made a conscious decision to devote all of his time and effort (with his buddies in his parent’s garage) into developing the iconic Apple computer that we know of today.

This is not to say that we should not invest in our passions or that our career trajectories should be decided solely upon monetary gains. All said and done, life is not a zero-sum game. We are, after all, human, with all of the complexities, emotions, passion, zest and hunger for fulfillment that comes with being human.

Do What You Love What You Do

That being said, what is implicit in the mantra “do what you love” is the idea that when one is working on something that one loves; it is a lot easier to devote a lot of time and energy into being the best at it. I think most people misinterpret this message and end up living a life of perpetual job hopping, never finding that one true passion that will bring in all the money, fame and success. What comes with pursuing one’s passion is a lot of hard work, discipline, tenacity, perseverance and grit. It is not easy to spend 60-80 hours a week working as a sous-chef at a 5-star restaurant under a verbally abusive boss all the while being paid a pittance, nor is it easy to spend countless caffeine-induced, sleepless nights writing a thesis on Heidegger’s conception of intersubjectivity.

There is no such thing as discovering a deep-seated passion lying dormant within oneself. The secret lies in cultivating a passion that you have consciously decided upon, and putting in the hours and hard labor into it. Once you are really, really good at what you do, monetizing your passion wouldn’t be difficult. Then you would experience true passion, which comes with having gained the respect and autonomy as a leader in your chosen field. It is easy to focus on the successes of others, but not acknowledge the countless hours that these highly accomplished and driven individuals have put into cultivating their passion.

Daniel is a first-year student at Curtin Sarawak who has a penchant for all things related to Sociology, Government and Analytical Philosophy. He spent two years in a boarding school in India and four years in America. Daniel has traveled widely and is always down for a spontaneous trip to an obscure part of the world. He loves cooking and treasures the company of good friends. Daniel enjoys writing and has contributed to The Pencil Box (www.jclathepencilbox.org), a community of high performing college students who are interested in spending their time away from classes to develop world-changing ideas.

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

You are not an ordinary student. This is not an ordinary writing contest.

Posted by Chong

If you do not find the 10 X RM100 cash prizes attractive enough, we give you 10 more solid reasons why you should join our writing contest immediately. Remember, the deadline for submission is 18 May 2014.

10 Reasons Why You Should Join Our Writing Contest

10 X RM100 cash prizes

You are not an ordinary student.

1. You think you are just an ordinary student attending the same national secondary schools (S.M.K.) like hundreds of thousands others, sitting for the same SPM examinations like tens of thousands of SPM candidates every year, going through the same education like your elder siblings did. Yet you are not an ordinary student. Your favourite teacher and subject are different from your best friends, you get different grades compared to your classmates for different subjects, you all do not have the same hobbies or same talents, different topics of news interest you to click and read and like and share on Facebook... and the list can go on and on. Our point is, you are truly special, uncommon, exotic, extraordinary and amazingly-limited edition (only one YOU in the whole world). Those who make you to believe otherwise are nincompoops who love to belittle you and give you foolish ideas of who you actually are. Stop believing those morons!

2. Your education experience is unique. What you have experienced throughout your education, from the formal learning in classes, in tuitions, your own hard work during exam revision and test preparation, are truly unique and personal. You face different challenges and obstacles in your education journey first-hand, you need to tackle specific difficulties to comprehend a particular subject because you have little interest at it, you cannot focus in your studies during a particular period because you are having family problems... All these especially your individual learnings are good topics to be shared with all students in Malaysia.

This is not an ordinary writing contest.

3. We value ideas much more than English writing skills. Judging criteria: 90% on the insightfulness/usefulness/practicalness of the ideas you share in your writing and only 10% on English grammar, spelling, word choice and sentence structure. No need to use those bombastic words that many of us need to check dictionary many times just to understand one paragraph of your writing. If you have good vocabulary, use it! However, please do not feel pressured to fake your vocabulary.

4. No topic set. We do not want to limit the creative YOU! Feel free to write on any topics as long as it is relevant to students in Malaysia. In fact, remember to brainstorm a catchy and creative title for your entry.

5. No minimum length and no word limit. As long as you are able to convey your main ideas or messages clearly and concisely, any length will do.

6. Extremely high chance of winning. We received entries from less than 10 participants in the first two weeks since the announcement of this writing contest. If our writing contest were to open for two weeks only (like we did in 2008), all of them are winners automatically. During our last writing contest held in 2008, the winning rate was 25% which mean one out of every four who took part won the prizes.

7. Get your ideas or stories read by monthly 100,000 students who visit our blog and 20,000 readers who subscribe by email. We try to publish all entries we receive on our blog, regardless winning or not. Where else can you find an easier way to get your writing read by so many real students like you? Newspaper huh? Newspaper is so out nowadays, who care what is published there except maybe your grandfather and grandmother who have no other choice due to Internet-illiteracy, in fact why get your hands dirty flipping through yesterday 'news'? Your personal blog huh? Tell us how many years do you need to get your article read by 1000 real humans, unless if you are a super famous blogger.

8. Mention that you took part in this writing contest in your resume; national level participation for sure, and if you win, it is a national level achievement; ask your school teacher to give mark in your co-curricular assessment. While we cannot guarantee the participation or winning achievement will earn you any mark in your co-curricular assessment, we can say for sure that you can definitely put this as participation in your resume. We are the most popular education blog in Malaysia, featured by daily newspapers numerous times. As a result, a lot of employers know us.

9. Browse through our archives for ideas and inspirations. We have hundreds of quality writing that you can refer for ideas. If fact, feel free to write a much better, updated and improved version of any existing articles we have. Analyse what articles get most likes, most comments because those are the ones that give the most impact and add the most values to the readers who share them on social media and discuss them in comment section actively.

10. Two most reputable and highly similar education portals in Malaysia co-sponsoring our writing contest. Have you ever seen Coca-cola and Pepsi sponsoring the same event? Nike and Adidas? McDonald and KFC? Well, you witness this extraordinary phenomenon happening in our writing contest. It is co-sponsored by Hotcourses Malaysia and EasyUni!

Bonus: If you miss this year's World Cup, you will definitely feel bad and regret as you need to wait for another four years for the next one. Our first writing contest was held in 2008, this year is our second writing contest, if you miss this one, please be early when the next writing contest opens in 2020!

Convinced? Take action now: read the contest rules and send us your entry now. It won't take you more than 30 minutes - remember how much time you took to finish writing an essay for SPM continuous writing or MUET essay? It's that easy.

► Read more on You are not an ordinary student. This is not an ordinary writing contest.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Being a Team Worker is Not Enough!

Guest post written by Bernice Lim Sen Sen
The Pencil Box
Teamwork; we’ve all heard of it, whether from our extra-curricular societies or formal leadership training camps. We’ve even seen it in movies. But my experience is that it was never something formally taught in school until I came to university. Despite that, I’ve found that by the time most of us arrive at tertiary institutes, we’re already experts when it comes to maintaining the harmony within the teams which we are assigned.

Belbin Test Team Worker
Enter “the Team Worker”. It’s one of nine roles depicted in the Belbin Test – a personality test used to identify a person’s idealized role in a team. By definition, Team Workers are mild mannered, submissive, supportive and generally prioritize the overall relationship (read as ‘feelings’) between each member of their teams over everything else. If that sounds like you, fret not. Most Asians I know in score very well as a Team Worker. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Certainly not.

The better question would be, “is that enough?” But before we get into that, let’s examine the whys of this phenomenon.

Sizing up.

Malaysian Kids

A very big factor is culture. Asian culture leans heavily on the adherence towards hierarchy and the conformity towards authority figures. As children, we are taught to obey and not challenge others. As we grew and began interacting more with our peers, we are taught to play nice. As young adults, we are asked to integrate ourselves into the status quo.

We Malaysians take this a bit further. As a multi-racial and multi-cultural society, it is a given that we are expected to respect the differences of our fellows. It is a taboo to speak of sensitive (some more sensitive than others) issues publicly. Some of us are even forbidden by law to utter or write certain words or phrases that might result in civil unrest. With all these constraints, it’s no surprise that the adults living within the society teach meekness as a virtue to their young. Conformity and submissiveness then become the inadvertent traits we pass on from one to another.

Stepping back.

It isn’t so much that a team comprising of mostly (read as “all”) Team Workers cannot function effectively. However, a team for any project can be so much more than just a group of people trying to get along. Meredith Belbin, the creator of this method found that teams comprising of too many Team Workers had a tendency to become indecisive whenever tough decisions had to be made.

Belbin Test Team Roles

While Team Workers have a tendency towards being passive, the other eight profiles possess are naturally aggressive towards their respective strengths. These profiles are Plant, Shaper, Monitor Evaluator, Resource Instigator, Complete Finisher, Implementer and Specialist. Plants are progressive individuals – among the rarest in number – who value innovation and creativity. These are individuals who are not afraid to question what is generally perceived as “right” and “normal” and “true”. Shapers are identified by their tenacity towards driving their teams and getting things done. Resource instigators are experts when it comes to making and utilizing contacts; something that is frequently frowned upon in the context of friendship but is nevertheless a necessary component in any team.

Wising up.

Belbin Test Shaper

To clarify, I am not saying that any one role is more valuable or “better” in any way than the others. There are two lessons I have come to learn when taking Belbin Tests. One, for every strength that a given personality has there is an allowable weakness. For example, the Team Worker is supportive but that also causes him or her to be indecisive. Knowing this allows us to be a little more forgiving towards ourselves. Shapers possess a strong sense of assertiveness but they also tend to become bad tempered very quickly. In addition, being aware of these allowable weaknesses and being able to spot them as we go about our project also gives us the ability to do something about it.

This leads me to lesson number two: Belbin roles may change with time and according to projects and this change isn’t random. What this means is that we have the ability to shape ourselves into any role. What that means is that each of us has the ability to understand the characteristics that are lacking in our teams and adapt ourselves to compensate for them.

Wrapping up.

The reason I believe being Team Worker is not enough is that we have a much greater capacity then to simply get along. We can strive to make things better. In the context of our family unit and our society – which can, to a certain extent, be viewed as teams which we are a part of – there is so much more we can contribute than just conform and keep the peace. If only we are willing to step away from the temptation to conform whenever the need arises.

Bernice Lim Sen Sen
Bernice is a student studying at Curtin University Sarawak. Having lived through an early onset of quarter-life crisis, this science student, turned business owner, turned aspiring Civil Engineer has dedicated herself to being a lifelong witness to the college of life and the wonders it has to offer. Armed with a ready arsenal of logic and satirical sense of humour, she aims to bring unique insights to conventional topics of communications, leadership and the secrets of the universe. She is a contributing writer at The Pencil Box (www.jclathepencilbox.org), a site that helps students accelerate their learning curve in university by publishing articles on self-development, leadership and creative learning.

► Read more on Being a Team Worker is Not Enough!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

From Idea to Global Phenomenon: Lessons From John Wood's Room To Read

Guest post written by Nelson David Bassey
The Pencil Box
“John Wood is the founder and CEO of Room to Read. Room to Read is a global award-winning nonprofit that provides educational opportunities to children in Asia and Africa by establishing libraries and schools, supporting girls’ education and publishing local language children’s books. In 1999, Room To Read established its first library in a little Himalayan village of Bahundanda, Nepal. Today, Room To Read has opened over 6060 libraries in over 50 countries around the world, and has benefitted over 8,8000,000 (8.8 million) children.”

This article has literally taken me months to put together. I wrote, and rewrote over and over again, just to make sure you get the best which you always deserve (Thanks to everyone who has been following my writing and supporting me). It is a long post. So, I have divided it into sections to give you a better reading experience and easy comprehension. The article breaks into a prologue (which sets the foundation for the entire content), the meat and the epilogue. I have bolded some key texts within each section which encapsulates the main ideas for a quick read.

PS: Total read time is 9 minutes. (3 minutes for bolded texts)

John Wood Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

Are you an aspiring change agent? Have you started a project (perhaps, in your campus), business or cause lately, and feel the need or impulse to grow? Would you care enough to learn how to grow your ideas from hunches into a global force? Do you want to see your vision grow into reality, from good to great? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then, this is for you. My goal, in this article, is to show you “How” John Wood grew Room To Read from an idea into a global force impacting millions of lives, and show you “How” you can do it too in 5 steps. So, let’s get started!

Prologue:: The Growth Anatomy

Like all plants, a tree begins first as a seed that is carried by wind, water, or animals to a fertile soil where it can grow.

With the proper conditions, the seed puts down roots into the soil.

Next, it grows its first few leaves so it can begin to gather energy from the sunlight via photosynthesis.

After the tree has sprouted, the seedling is generally weak and must spend a large amount of its energy growing thicker stems and deeper roots. During this phase, it develops more cells to form bark which protect the trunks, while other cells become types of wood within the tree that help carry sap, water and rich nutrients from the ground (through its developing roots) to the tips of the leaves. The seedling lasts in this phase until it is fully developed.

Then only does major upward development begins. With underdeveloped root, stems and bark, the tree would not last long until it dies off.

In the heyday of the technology boom (From 1991 until 1999), John Wood was on the fast track at Microsoft. He was responsible for significant sectors of Microsoft’s international business and, was on the road constantly. He loved his job, but was often burnt out. During a much-needed three week vacation trekking through the Himalayas in Nepal, Wood met a man who escorted him to a local Nepalese school that was a two day walk from the nearest road (nestled amongst snow-capped mountains). This short tour became a life-altering event for him. Wood was shocked to learn that the 450 students did not have a functioning library or even a collection of children’s books.

“How could this be?” He asked the headmaster.
“In Nepal,” replied the man, “we are too poor to afford education. But until we have education, we will always be poor.”

The headmaster then turned to Wood and uttered the nine words that would change his life forever; “Perhaps Sir, you will someday come back with books.”

This, my friend, was the birth of Room To Read which have gone on to change the world as we know it today!

Room to Read World Change Starts with Educated Children

The Meat:: The 5 Growth Steps

John Wood’s journey growing ROOM TO READ from a little idea into a global phenomenon is largely synonymous to the steps of how a small acorn seed grows into a humongous tree as illustrated in the ‘Growth Anatomy’ above. If you would go back and read it again, you will be well advised to do so. Because hidden in those texts are the timeless secrets of a true growth process from hunches to revolutions, from good to great, from mediocre to outstanding, and from the doom loop to the flywheel.

As you read the following 5 steps of growth, reflect and see what stage you are currently at. This will give you an idea of your next possible move and prevent you from shooting yourself on the foot by jumping the gun to achieve quick success.

Step 1. Begin First: Look for a fertile environment for your idea.

In this age of global connectivity; we say the world is becoming a global village. We know that success is connected to exposure, who knows you and what they think about you. Often times, we have this huge vision in our minds, and we want to succeed at taking it onto a global level. Consequently, because we have read of Stacey Ferreira, a budding entrepreneur who turned a tweet from business tycoon, Richard Branson into $1 million, we too feel the urge to want to spin our way to the top, quickly.

We are tempted to want to tell the next big name we come across about an idea we have barely tested out. We want to take our ideas to WallStreet quickly. We want it to be highlighted in every major newspaper and articles everywhere in the world. We want to amass 1 million followers on twitter. We create a Fan Page for the untested idea etc. And this causes us to lose focus on what’s most important – Looking for a fertile environment for our idea, and planting our seeds there. I hear you say, “how do I look for a fertile environment?” My response is, you will sense it, if only you take some time to listen to that inner voice within.

For your idea perhaps, the Newspaper may not be the fertile ground, WallStreet may not be that fertile environment, neither may Facebook, Twitter or social media in general be that good ground. It could be that secondary school in the middle of ‘Behundanda’, that small farm land, that orphanage home, that village in Africa or perhaps in the middle or New York City. For John Wood, the little village of Bahundanda in Nepal was his fertile ground. He identified it, and immediately planted his seeds there.

As a vision driven young leader, take some time today to reflect, where/what exactly is the right environment or fertile ground for your idea to thrive? Is it a secondary school, a university, a small rural community in Africa, Asia or America etc? Or is it on Twitter or on Facebook, a blog or a website? Once you have identified this environment in which your idea could thrive, start there, and your next bet is to… start small!

Step 2. Grow your first few leaves: Start Small.

Often times, starting big is the mistake people make. ‘Starting small and then expanding from there’ is evaporating from our culture. There’s nothing wrong with starting big. However, in this adrenaline rush in pursuit of our dreams, we despise the humble beginning and ignore the fundamentals.

Here is John Wood, among the pedestals at Microsoft in those years, having the power to perhaps contact any big name in the world, and would not be ignored. Wood had the option of starting big. He had the liberty to write the largest charity organizations in America, UNESCO or the UN to give him some millions of dollars to go build libraries all around Nepal, and in every remote village in the world. But he chose to start small. Despite having a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to reach 10 million children across the developing world by 2020, he believed in the power of starting small. He started with one small school. He began first by, bringing books on his back to the small school. And from one school, he went to two, and then to three. Eventually, to 16,060 and before he knew it, he was already changing the world.

John Wood Room to Read

Starting small might mean starting alone first, or with group of friends. Starting small can mean focusing on your test environment. It can also mean focusing on the basics and on the fundamentals of what you do. Spend some time to evaluate what starting small would mean to you.

Step 3. Grow thicker stems and deeper roots: Get local support and focus on the fundamentals

Henry Thoreau said “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” In other words, it’s perfectly fine to build castles in the air, so long as you work to put foundations under them.

Often times, the first few steps many people take after conceiving an exciting and workable idea (sometimes after growing their first few leaves), is to contact the big names in the given industry; sometimes for collaboration, and sometimes as a way to campaign their idea to rally support. They build their castles in the air, without foundations, and want to fly from there. I admire the great leap of faith, but at the moment your idea lacks tap root or a solid foundation. Learn from the bamboo trees. While the roots of the average plant only go a few feet under, the root of the palm tree go deep in search for water.  Its depth always exceeds its height.

Other times, after the idea has proven results for a short period of time, they shoot an email to people miles and light years away from them, or to people with lots of money and potential to invest a lot into their cause, demanding (not asking) for some sort of collaboration or come-and-work-with-me kind of emails. This is not wrong, because as a matter of fact, we now live in a collaborative age where individuals and organizations collaborate to bring about positive change, growth and development. However, before you shoot any one of those emails, pause and remember this:

Most of the successful people who have achieved sustainable successes through their careers/professions, began by looking for a fertile soil/environment where they can kick their ideas or plans off, and often did so independently or as a group of passionate and interested individuals. With proper local conditions that supported their endeavor, they put down their roots. They mastered the basics of what they do. They did it over and over again. They focused on the fundamentals, and became masters of it. Then they pull their shoot.

This was exactly what Wood did when he returned to America. Given his profile at Microsoft, he possibly could have written emails to Bill Gates or other large organizations to get support and collaborations. He didn’t do that. He understood the power of planting himself into his vision and rallying local support. So, he walked from door to door, knocked on neighbors’ doors, rang friends’ and family’s’ phones, wrote email to close acquaintances to support his new adventure and idea. And he got support. Can you do the same?

You are building a castle my friend, an empire, a magnificent structure, and I believe in you! Focus on the quality of your foundation and on the quality of each block/brick which forms the structure. “The goal is not to get to the top, but to remain at the top. The goal is not to make it, but to keep it” says, Keith Cunningham (Rich Dad). For sustainability to be insured there is need to master the fundamentals and focus on the basics, begin first, start small, run your tap roots deep enough, build a solid foundation, master the fundamentals and then grow and expand. Our increasing exposure to great and exceptional people, in a good way, increases our chances to achieve big. However, it can be the principal catalyst to our failure if we haven’t put our roots down, deep enough. Success only happens when opportunity meets preparedness. By putting your roots down and starting with local support (friends, family, university, church, community, etc.) you obtain the preparedness required to attract sustainable success.

Step 4. Protect your Trunks: Develop your core values, working culture, and other aspects (cells) of the enterprise

With this initial growth of rallying support from close relatives or friends to gather momentum, you see your idea sprout and is beginning to produce results (not necessarily profits, but the objectives are being met), the next possible bet is to spend a large amount of your time developing your internal structure and organization culture, building your core values, ‘develop more cells which protects your trunks, and carry more sap and nutrients from the root to the tip of the leaves’ (these could mean stronger teams, stronger relationships and influence in your current environment). John Wood stayed in this phase for quite some time. Not surprisingly, it is during this phase, more than 75 percent of the lessons required to sustain the cause or enterprise are learnt. So, the number one question to ask yourself here is this: What are the values I want to build my cause, business or enterprise upon?

I believe growing a business or an enterprise is like jumping on a river. Sadly, most people jump on the river without really deciding what their core values are, what culture they want to build, etc. So, in a short period of time, experiencing an outburst of growth, and the surging current of opportunities, finances and responsibilities coming at them, they get caught up in the current: current sly practices, current unnecessary events, current fears, current quick-success-schemes and current challenges. When they come to forks in the river, they don’t consciously decide where they want to go, or which is the right direction for them. In the words of Anthony Robbins, “They merely go with the flow.” They become a part of the mass of entrepreneurs who are directed by the environment instead of by their own values and vision. As a result they feel out of control. They remain in this unconscious state until one day the sound of the raging water awakens them, and they discover that they’re five feet from Niagara Falls in a boat with no oars. At this point, they say “Oh shoot!” But by then it’s too late. They’re going to take a fall. Sometimes it’s an emotional fall. Sometimes it’s a physical fall. Sometimes it’s a financial fall, and ultimately the fall of their vision.

To avoid this, take some time in this phase to develop your core values, your working principles and internal systems. Learn how you can replicate your model over and over again, efficiently well. Be good at it, so much so that you know what to say ‘Yes’ to, and what to say ‘No’ to. This doesn’t mean that you must learn everything about your enterprise here. There is so much to learn along the journey, but this way, you have established a solid foundation and are not shaken by currents in the river. A million dollar donation will not disrupt your vision, but take you closer to your goals. You should strive to get here!

Step 5. Sprout: Expand, get the exposure you’ve always craved for

As you continuously grow and improve in terms of internal stability, and achieve your objectives, then only will the proper exposure facilitate your upward mobility and further growth. At this stage, exposure will not be harmful, but will serve as a catalyst to greater success. Shooting an email to a big name person in the same industry makes more sense then, and you stand more chances to strike a deal or a mutual working relationship. Now, you can shoot as much emails as you want to the big names in your industry! But… perhaps, by this time you’re already a big name, too, and changing the world already ⎯ who knows?

Epilogue:: Conclusion

Now, I have shown you the steps/stages involved in growing your ideas into a strong global force from John Wood’s story, and from the Growth Anatomy of a seed. Success doesn’t come overnight, or in a miracle moment. It takes time of beating into your craft. It takes persistence, commitment, dedication, and hard work.

“The good-to-great [idea to global phenomenon] transformations never happened in one fell swoop. There is no …solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant heavy flywheel in one direction, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond…” says Jim Collins in his legendary book “Good to Great”. I hope these lessons will save you many trouble and disappointments, prevent you from shooting yourself on the foot, and ultimately guide you as you grow and expand.

Great leaders, do any of these steps resonate with you? Or, have you found other ways to grow ideas into a global phenomenon? Please share your thoughts here.

I love to hear from readers. Please email us at [email protected]. You can also follow me on Twitter, and on Facebook. Let us grow together!

Nelson David Bassey
Note from the author:
The reader has unlimited right to print the article and to distribute it electronically (via email, your website, or any other means). However, full copyright belongs to the author, and the content may not be altered in any way, and may not be charged for.

About the author:
A B. Eng. (Hons) Mechanical Engineering student in Malaysia, born and raised in Nigeria, Nelson David Bassey helps young students adapt themselves for success in our fast-changing society today. He is the co-founder of Leaders of Tomorrow a club and pioneer of I Am A Winner Student Program. David is also a writer at The Pencil Box (www.jclathepencilbox.org), and he has authored a book 'The New Generation of Leadership' while still studying at INTI International University.

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