Face the Fear
Swimming with the Dolphins

Looking Professional
What to wear if the Dress Code clashes with your wardrobe?


Face the Fear
By Pang Li Kin
(This article also appeared in our E-zine “In Retrospect”, Vol.1.2013)

During World War II, my mother, who was about 14 years old, was living with her foster parents in Muar, Malaysia. Her parents owned a little shop making metal pieces from scrap and this had kept them alive during the war.

One quiet morning, she heard a thunderous roar of military trucks outside their home. She had heard that the soldiers were looking for rebels and women, whichever they fancied, and would take them by the truckloads; never to return.

She wanted to run and hide, but her father said to his family, “Do not hide, or they will find you and take you away”. Her heart was pounding, her knees were shaking, and her head was telling her to run, but she remembered her father’s words. 

With fear completely overpowering her, she stood motionless as the soldiers came and ordered everyone in the village to come out to the street and squat in a row.  As she made her way out with her parents, a voice inside her kept repeating, “Do not run. Do not run.” 

That one thought was what actually saved their lives, as those who ran were quickly taken. 

If it were not for my mother who did not flee, I wouldn’t be here today! …and there is more…

Fast forward to the time when I was 14 years old, living in Singapore. I was attending a church camp in Port Dickson, Malaysia. Interestingly, the camp venue is about 2 hours drive from Muar, which was and still is home to military camps.  We stayed at a beach resort, in self-contained little cottages with the bathrooms opening out to the backyard.

One evening, as we were gathered in the main hall, I heard the pitter-patter of raindrops and remembered we had laundry in the backyard. In a flash, I got up and ran to my chalet to save the laundry. As the best way to get to the backyard was through the bathroom, I unlocked the front door and ran to the bathroom.

As I pushed open the bathroom door, standing there before me was….no, not a soldier…but a young man who looked startled.

I was terrified (looking back, I think he was more terrified than I); my heart was pounding and my knees shaking.  In my head, thoughts swirled. “Does he have a weapon? Will he hurt me? Run!”
But a voice inside me told me not to run.  Instead, I looked him in the eye and asked him calmly (even though I was a nervous wreck), “How did you get in here?” Now, that sounds like a silly question, but at that time it probably saved my life as he sheepishly admitted he climbed through the bathroom window!

He thought I knew he was there to steal but I had no idea. I then told him, “Show me what you took” and he handed me the cash and valuables he had just taken from our room. By now, I could tell he was shaking more than I.

Without hesitation, and sounding like a mother (he was taller, bigger and older), I said, “Come with me” and he shamefully followed me (he didn’t run either) to the main hall, and I could tell in my heart that he would never steal again.

What happened here?  Some may say it’s a coincidence that I experienced terror at the same age my mother did, and in a location close to where she lived (even though I was born and raised in Singapore).  Why then, did it rain at that precise moment, and why did I (not any of my roommates) run out to save our laundry? Some others might say that God had a message for me and that I was given the courage.

Whatever the explanation, there was a lesson in life for me and I never connected these two stories until recently. 

The lesson was and still is for me: When you experience fear, don’t run. Instead face it. There is courage, in all of us, that surfaces when you look at FEAR in the eye.

Have you ever experienced fear so overpowering that you wanted to run? It could be worse than what my mother or I experienced. Have you ever run from fear?  And, if so, did that make the fear go away?

Do you fear public speaking for example? Have you avoided it because of stage-fright?

The only way to overcome this is to speak more often in public. I’m not saying the fear will go away, as I still do get ‘butterflies in my tummy’ before a presentation, but I face it with a belief that it’s going to be alright.

Whatever happens, there will always be a lesson in the experience that will make you a better speaker.

Do you avoid getting an image makeover for fear that your friends or loved ones will laugh at you?

Or, worse still, that they might leave you because you are no longer like them?

Have you ever feared asking for something you desire? Like approaching that man or woman you are attracted to? How about asking a prospective client to buy your products or services? 

In the end, it is up to each of us to look at ourselves in the mirror, and ask, “Do I fear rejection, or do I want miracles in my life?”

If you want miracles in your life, face the fear and do what you’ve always feared to do!



Swimming with the Dolphins: How to Stay Ahead with the Competition
By Pang Li Kin AICI CIP
(This article also appeared in our E-zine “In Retrospect”, Vol.1.2013)

I had the pleasure of swimming with the dolphins on a trip to Hawaii last year. It was my most amazing experience with nature and was the one occasion I had been closest to dolphins in the deep, wide ocean.  For them, life seems beautiful, fun and carefree!

Wait a minute. Where were the sharks?

This had been my deepest fear whenever I took the plunge into the ocean, and yet this time, the thought of meeting a shark never occurred to me.  Why?

I learnt that where dolphins are, there are no sharks. Isn’t that neat? You see, the dolphins are highly intelligent mammals and they stay and hunt together in social groups.  In fact, it is known that sharks are afraid of dolphins as these seemingly gentle mammals can kill a shark to protect their family.

We can certainly learn a lesson from the dolphins on how to stay ahead of competition.  Whatever industry you are in, it is a very competitive market – like when you are thrown into the ocean and you need to survive.  You need a plan to survive/swim or sink. You can also decide to swim with the dolphins or fight the sharks alone.

If you were to see the corporate market as an ocean – do you think there’s enough fish for everyone, including you, the dolphins and the sharks?


Here are three points on how to survive and swim in this ocean:

  1. Think big: if your mind is small and you think this market is over-saturated, and there are just too many competitors out there, you will most surely be eaten by the sharks. There is enough fish out there if you know where to swim.
  2. Know what fish you want to catch: if you go after the sharks’ favourite meal, you had better be prepared to put up a good fight! Know your fish, and what bait they like. Then you can woo them and not be eaten up by your very own catch.
  3. Have a clear strategy. Like the dolphins whose strategy is to stay together when a shark appears, your strategy may include your positioning (where to swim), your market (what fish you want), or who you collaborate with (who swims with you).

You have a choice when it comes to saying ahead of competition: either swim with the dolphins or be prepared when you swim with the sharks.



Looking Professional
By Li-Kin Pang AICI CIP

Who says looking professional is stiff and boring? When it comes to professional dressing, it is about projecting your best qualities through your visual appearance. It’s not about just putting on a formal suit, and it’s not just for the corporate world.

You need to look professional no matter what job you hold and what position you are in. When you look professional, you convey a message of competence, trust and personal power. When this message is conveyed through your appearance, people are drawn to you and they are more attracted to hire you, buy from you or get to know you better.

There are three elements in professional dressing:

  1. Authority
  2. Approachability
  3. Individuality


If your work requires you to convey authority, then you can add this element in your dressing. Authoritative dressing includes jackets and suits, formal tops and bottoms, classic accessories and darker, solid colours.


If you are not required to be very formal at work, and you want to convey a message of approachability, you can add some elements of approachability in your dressing.  This means a softer look that may include a light jacket or sweater, less-tailored clothes, softer colours, some print, and softer fabrics.


If your personality or work allows you to bring out your uniqueness or creativity, you can add some elements of individuality in your dressing. This may include anything that makes a statement for you, and it can be in the style, colour, fabric or accessories.

Stand out but stay appropriate

By combining any of these elements in your dressing, you create a look that is professional and that represents you. You can have more of one element depending on your work and environment, and this may also vary according to the occasion. 

The important thing is to convey the message that will make you stand out and at the same time is appropriate for your work and environment.



What to wear if the Dress Code for an event clashes
with your wardrobe?
By Li-Kin Pang

What do you do when you receive an invitation card to an important event that says 'National Dress' and you have
nothing in your wardrobe that looks like a country you belong to? Will 'red and white' do for Singapore or must it be
a 'racial harmony day' kind of attire? Do you ignore the dress code or dash to Chinatown or Little India to buy
something you would probably never wear again?

First, try your utmost to adhere to the dress code and make it work for you and your host:

Imagine your host or organiser who has painstakingly planned and organised the event and decided on a 'theme'
and dress code. The whole idea is to create an ambience or atmosphere that reflects the mood and purpose of the
event. How would they feel if everyone comes in their 'usual nobody-cares-what-I-wear' attire? The truth is they do
and they will feel that you really did not care that this event is special enough for you to dress accordingly.

Tip : Don't do a last-minute shopping as you may end up buying something you will never wear again! Start your
planning as soon as you receive the invitation - you may need to do some alterations or find a matching accessory
so it's never too early!

Next, your plan should start in your wardrobe to see what you can use to match the occasion:

You never know what gems you could have hidden in your closet and have been long forgotten - could be a top or
bottom which you wore once for a theme party! If it still fits and looks great, create a new look around this piece.
Start looking for complementary accessories which matches this piece and the theme. Could be a scarf, tie,
jewellery, shoes, bags, etc. At the end of the search, you may end up with a full outfit and your search ends here!
Most likely, you will have to make a list of 'missing' items you may need to borrow or purchase.

Tip : It is easier to start with a basic piece you like and work around it to create the ultimate look you want. Do the
same with your partner if you are going with one so you look compatible (but not alike!).

Borrow or Buy?

If you do not have the budget to invest too much on this event, then 'borrowing' is a wise move. I once went to a 
theme party where one whole table of 'peranakan' ladies wore sarong kebayas (beautiful ones too) from one lady's
entire wardrobe!

Think of someone about your size who may have hidden in their closet the kinds of clothes/accessories you are
looking for. You never know unless you ask!

Tip : To find the right 'lender', visualise the personality of your friends to match the theme you are dressing for.
For example, if it was for 'National Dress', perhaps one particular friend wears the 'quipao' (or cheongsam) almost
everyday - ask her first! And most likely, her partner (if any) would have matching ones as well!

Set aside one day to shop for everything you need:

You achieve the best results when you plan your shopping with a list and do some research on the kind of shops
 that stock what you need and decide what budget you need. If it is a specialty shop (eg costume party shop), look
them up or call first to check if they have what you are looking for. Take along with you the basic piece you are using
(if any) to get the best match. If possible, pick all the items you need and try them altogether for the complete look.
If not, you need to try everything together each time you buy an item.

Tip : If you have time, try surfing the net for any good online buys. Again, you never know something may be waiting
there for you to grab! If you prefer shopping, choose a good hair day and wear comfortable shoes! You buy mistakes
when you are moody or tired!

Try tailoring if you feel you can splurge on this one:

Look up or ask around for some good tailors who can create the look you want. This would have to be important
enough for you to want to stand out and be different! Remember, if you buy any item from a department store or from
a shop with stacks of the same items on the rack, there is a chance that you could meet someone wearing the same
thing! If you are paranoid about this, note the look of the design you like, and get a tailor to adapt it with a different fabric
or cut.

Tip: To stretch the shelf-life of your tailored outfit, it is best to go for a two-piece so you can mix and match for other
occasions. This way, you can use the items for another 'similar' theme party without looking exactly the same!

Match the hairdo:

If you have a great look from the neck downwards, and your hairdo is totally not in line with your theme, you have a
disaster on your hands! For example, don't wear a 'retro' theme dress with a hairstyle you wear to work! So, give
yourself enough time to get your hair done. If you are going to the hairdresser, tell them in advance what the theme is
and what you are wearing - they will be most delighted to help you complete the look! On the day itself, bring the
outfit along to show them and if there is time, put it on after the hairdo for a final touch!

Tip: If your outfit requires slipping through the head, and you don't want to mess your hairdo, you will have to put on
that item before doing up your hair. Otherwise, warn your hairdresser and go for a style that makes it easier to slip
on your clothes after that.

The grand entrance!

Finally, the day has arrived! Keep the mood up by preparing yourself with appropriate mannerisms and 'style' when
you make the grand entrance! Your host/hostess will not only notice you, but also remember you as someone who
took the effort to help make his event a successful and memorable one!



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