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Category Archive for 'Great People'

In 2005, Alicia Parlette, a copy editor who had just started her career at the San Francisco Chronicle, was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable cancer at age 23. Some people might have chosen to deal with a cancer diagnosis and treatment privately, but from those early days of testing and diagnosis, Alicia had an opportunity to write about her experiences. She embraced that opportunity fully, and as a result, touched thousands upon thousands of lives.

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Growing up in Singapore, I spent most Chinese New Years basking in the carefree banter of a huge extended family, soaking in the vibrant festivities, collecting Ang Paos (red envelops with money!) and wolfing down bak kwa (jerky), pineapple tarts and candy.

We went from relative’s house to relative’s house in a convoy of cars – parents, uncles and aunts with screaming, gleeful kids in tow. I played and ate at every stop, not realizing those were precious familial moments I would come to miss as I moved to the United States years later.

Well, it’s been too many years since I spent Chinese New Year in Singapore. I have gotten used to simply celebrating as a little family, and have grudgingly accepted that this day is a regular work day this side of the Pacific Ocean.

But thankfully this year, my spirits lifted with a “shot of inspiration” from the Singapore America Business Association (SABA).

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I haven’t stop thinking about 94-year-old Carmen Herrera ever since I read about her in The New York Times. Her story is such a shot of inspiration that I just have to write about it here.

The story goes that Carmen has a deep love for painting. It was a compulsion, something she simply couldn’t stop doing. She started painting back in the 1930s, when she was in her ’20s. Her paintings focused mostly on geometrical shapes and lines, forms and colors, and were considered “ahead of her time.”

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I have heard much about Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison and his eventual release and election as South Africa’s first president in a representative democratic election. But I didn’t know how he survive those long, drawn-out years in a tiny prison cell on Robben Island, until I saw the movie Invictus.

In a conversation on the big screen with Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon, the captain of South Africa’s rugby team), Mandela (Morgan Freeman) shared with Pienaar that during his darkest moments in prison, his spirit was lifted and sustained by the poem Invictus (below) by William Ernest Henley, and that he would not have made it through prison if not for the words of this English poet who lived from 1849 to 1903.

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One of the most uplifting, paradigm-shifting quotations I have read is an eloquent reflection on success, failure, but mostly about courage, by Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States.

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I had a boss once. His name was Fred Hoar. He taught me in small spades, and made me laugh in big spades. These were some of his famous lines on PR:

* “In advertising, you pay for play. In public relations, you pray for play!”
* “Public relations has seven times the reach of advertising. Advertising costs seven times more than public relations.”

Even after I left my old company and started my own public relations firm, he stayed in my life as my mentor and my firm’s advisory board member.

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