The DNA of Leadership

Is leadership about owning ten Bentleys? Or is it about being a good human being? In this age of ‘alternative facts’, it’s honourable to stick to what we’ve been taught about man’s fundamental goodness. That goodness is the DNA of leadership.

 

There are many good leaders, but for you to be a great one, you have to abide by these four pillars of leadership.

 

Sacrifice

In the past, the noblest thing a person could say to another is “I’ll die for you.”  As a leader, you must be willing to sacrifice – give up a number of things for the betterment of yourself and your team or community. You have to give up habits and addictions that are slowly destroying you and the people around you. You have to be strong enough to keep tempting indulgences at bay. And, you must be willing to take a bullet for your comrades. Leadership comes with ownership and accountability.
Mercy

Mercy does not wander far from sacrifice. It’s about being compassionate – the inability to bear the suffering of others. It’s innate for a leader to be mindful of the pain someone carries and to offer to take on some of that burden. Without hesitation, you would do this for someone you value, someone you love. Same goes for leading a team. You don’t treat your teammates as your subjects; you treat them as your partners. You nurture your relationship with them, develop them into better individuals, redeem them from their troubles, and praise and celebrate their successes. Leaders are not defined by titles, but by character.

 

Cleanliness

As a leader, you must ensure that you are clean in heart and habit. Be disciplined enough to take control of your senses. Don’t allow yourself to get swallowed by worldliness. Be benevolent in your actions. Be worthy of your followers’ emulation. Ensure that your decisions benefit each and every one within your reach.

 

Taste before you eat, hear before you listen, look before you see, touch before you feel, and smell before you breathe in. As intelligent beings, we have these amazing abilities; let’s always put them to good use.

 

Truthfulness

A leader must know ‘the truth’ – this entails knowing and understanding your identity and basing your decisions and actions upon it. This is not an easy feat, though. The person you lie to the most every day, is yourself. You tend to misidentify yourself with worldly labels, forgetting the basic truth that you’re limitless only in the spiritual realm. Going back to this truth and anchoring your life on it takes a lot of humility. And, humility is a leader’s best quality.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”– Sun Tzu, The Art Of War.

 

Leadership is not an accident. You’re not born with it. It’s something that you truly work hard on. You practise to become a good leader by serving others. You become an example to yourself first, and then to others. It’s all about what you practise daily. What you practise not only makes you perfect, it also makes you who you are.  So, ask yourself, “What do I practise daily?” It’s what makes your destiny.

How I Keep My Family Healthy

(Originally published in aspIRe magazine, Issue 21)

Joseph Bismark Vegetarian
Keeping your family on desirable levels of health and wellness, today, can be a challenge. The downside to the advancement of science and technology is the myriad of new causes of stress in our daily living, and the drastic change in our food nutrients within the last half century. Food we eat today is in stark contrast to what our grandparents ate. Given this, how do you keep your family healthy?

This is how I do it – you might pick up a thing or two from this list.

Eating right should be their fundamental education 

Children eat what they see you eat. I’m a vegetarian and so is my wife, and therefore so are my kids. I’ve educated my kids early in their lives on the importance of eating real food and respecting life and the environment. They emulate my eating habits. My diet consists of organic salads, fruits, and grains cooked naturally. They may indulge in sweet snacks and desserts once in a while but their staple diet consists of nutrient-packed meals. They say no to drinks stuffed with unnatural elements – soft drinks and energy drinks – as they know that those are nothing but poison.

Let them discover the joy of exercise 

An active lifestyle is not something you can impose on your family but I’ve always encouraged my kids to be physically active; me being a living example to them. I walk the talk by doing my regular exercises – bodyweight workout, biking, as well as practicing and teaching yoga. I’ve had many light conversations with them, as they were growing up, about the natural high you get from exercising, the different levels of health consciousness, about what kind of food and physical activities are best for which body types, and what kind of danger unnatural, useless, and senseless vices like smoking pose to our health and well-being.

Allow them to indulge themselves once in a while but keep reminding them

Children, as they grow up, may try unhealthy ways but they always go back to the fundamental good that you’ve taught them. My kids, as I’ve mentioned, enjoy eating cheesecakes and ice cream from time to time, but indulgences like these do not form part of their daily habits. Re-education is key. Constantly reminding them of the benefits of good health does not hurt at all. You as a parent should be the steadfast anchor that keeps them from wandering off the right path.

Teach them how to create balance

Give your family a strong spiritual foundation. Teach them ways to manage stress. Never get tired of spending time with them and having long enlightening conversations about living and loving. Encourage them to engage in activities that alleviate psychological and emotional strain, and help strengthen their mental health. You can never go wrong with getting them into studying and practicing yoga, enrolling them in a mindfulness programme or pepping them up to commit to volunteering regularly in their favourite charity or being a vocal and visible champion of the cause they feel passionate about.

Living absolutely is a habit one creates or picks up, but you can always educate and inspire your family to make the right choice. If you get every member to make that choice then your family becomes a small ecosystem of health, wellness, and happiness.

 

Read more: Consistency and Flexibility: My Everyday Life

Consistency and Flexibility: My Everyday Life

(Originally published in aspIRe magazine, Issue 20)

joseph bismark gems of wisdom

Just like you, I like spending my days productively, and engaging in activities that not only make me feel better, but actually make me a better person. If you’re wondering how I typically spend an ordinary day, read on. Welcome to my everyday life!

I usually wake up at 05:30 Singapore Time, and after a shower, I meditate for one hour.

Meditation is my prayer. It connects the soul to the spiritual world, the realm of the Supreme Person. It is through this disciplined practice that we get to the point where we constantly think of the Supreme Person and find ourselves perpetually immersed in that frame of consciousness. As soon as I’m done meditating, I do my yoga asanas for 30 minutes and read a book for another 30 minutes or an hour.

After this, I sit back, relax and enjoy my protein drink. You see, protein is not just used by bodybuilders for the production of muscles; it’s also consumed by physically active people to help produce life-enhancing hormones, enzymes, and immune-system components.

Around 08:30 or 09:00, I start working – I read and respond to my emails and WhatsApp messages, check my social media pages, and make a few calls.

At 11:00, I eat my lunch – my first meal of the day. I’m strictly vegetarian so it’s usually brown rice and steamed greens and leafy vegetables.

In the afternoon, I continue my work on various projects. I get on a call with my partner, Vijay Eswaran and/or with the other Directors of the QI Group. I meet with my Executive Assistant for at least an hour to get updates on projects and to sign documents. I also do my banking activities in the afternoon.

There’s always one day in a week, at 16:00, when I either engage in a body-weight workout called Rip 60 with a personal trainer, or do some indoor climbing – rock climbing performed on artificial structures built indoors that tries to mimic the experience of an outdoor climb but in a controlled and safe environment.

I dedicate a few hours on a weekend, usually Saturday, to playing golf. I like golf because it’s an individual sport where the result is down to me alone – it’s me, on my own, against the course. It’s a great reminder for me that I am my greatest competitor.

At 18:30, I have my dinner, my second and last meal for the day. It’s usually something light like a bowl of soup or salad.

After dinner, I spend quality time with my wife and kids, ask them how their day has been and have a conversation with them about various topics that are near and dear to us.

Between 20:00 and 21:00, I sip on a relaxing cup of chamomile or saffron tea.

There are evenings when I get to swim a few laps or do some cycling. When I have more free time available in the day, I login to my account on Lumosity for some brain training exercises – it’s one great programme that keeps my mind and memory sharp.

I usually go to bed around 22:00 or 22:30.

And that’s a typical day at home, but my daily schedule is not written in stone. It gets jumbled up from time to time, especially when I’m entertaining guests or travelling or attending big corporate meetings or events. However, I don’t make any of these an excuse to break my healthy eating habits and my fitness and wellness routine. It’s a must that you stick with the activities that give you sound mind, body, and spirit, no matter what variables are thrown into your days.

There shouldn’t be any conflict between consistency and flexibility; they should complement each other. Apply this principle to how you spend every day and you’ll soon feel the difference of living a full, healthy and well-balanced life. Now, that’s what we call Absolute Living!

 
READ ALSO: Urgent vs Important: Know The Difference

Urgent vs Important: Know the Difference

(Originally published in aspIRe magazine, Issue 19)

joseph bismark on urgent vs important

Sometimes, we say something we don’t really mean. We don’t even rethink it.

If I ask, ‘Is life important to you?’, you will say ‘yes’. If so, health would be too, right? And if health is important, then so are diet and exercise; but only few of us eat and exercise properly every day.

Many of us consume processed and fast foods that are convenient for life on the go, or because we perceive them as delicious. We don’t exercise because there are more important tasks, errands and obligations that require our time, or simply because exercising requires too much effort. Our list of reasons is endless.

This is where we should apply the Eisenhower Principle. In his 1954 speech, former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” This is the principle that enabled him to organise his workload and priorities.

According to the website differencebetween.net, the urgency of a task is largely governed by deadlines whereas the importance of a task is decided by the impact or significant change created. Urgency is driven by external factors like deadlines whereas importance is a more introspective exercise. What you consider important can differ from what others consider as important.

What we find difficult to grasp is that things that are most important are not urgent.

Proper diet and exercise are not “urgent” things to do, but you know they’re the most important in your life. We can always postpone our exercise routine or not do it at all. The next thing we know, we’re gaining weight and falling sick because of our sedentary lifestyle. Spending quality time with our loved ones is of utmost importance but other so-called urgent activities get in the way – and they are always going to be there anyway. The next thing we know, our loved ones start to drift away from us and relationships suffer.

We suffer because we don’t prioritise health and relationships. We prioritise activities that we think are urgent, like being competitive at work, paying bills on time, giving in to peer pressure and influences and cultivating habits that make us feel good for the moment but don’t help us in the long run.

We get caught up in things that are urgent but not important because we always fail to plan – time is the biggest factor here. While it’s true that managing time is difficult, it’s easy to manage the events and activities that make up our time by asking ourselves, ‘what is important?’ The more we plan, the less urgent matters we have to deal with and we can focus on what’s important.

It always pays to be truthful to ourselves. What is urgent? What is important? We should strive to schedule our tasks and activities based on their importance and urgency. This is how we can achieve a well-balanced life.

 

READ ALSO: My Health and Wellness Tools 

My Health and Wellness Tools

(Originally published in aspIRe magazine Issue 18)

Image: www.canastotacsd.org

Image: www.canastotacsd.org

Aside from being a strict vegetarian, I am a staunch advocate of holistic health and wellness. And I walk my talk! I work out, do my yoga asanas (poses), go cycling and I swim. I make it a point to do at least one physical activity every day and I want to share with you some of the tools that I use to maintain a sound mind and body.

Fitness Programme: The Rip 60
I like working out and I have been using the Rip 60 for a while now. It uses your bodyweight along with the Rip 60 equipment for a well-rounded workout covering flexibility, strength, stability and balance.

Weights: Kettlebells
I use kettlebells in my workout at least once a week. It is a cast-iron or cast steel weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle. In the 1700s it was a tool to weigh crops but now, it is used as equipment for exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.

Application: MapMyRide
When I’m cycling, I use the MapMyRide mobile app. It uses the built-in GPS of your mobile device to track all your fitness activities. It’s got route tracking, social media sharing, site integration (stores all your historical workout data) and training log (records duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation and calories burned data for each workout).

Book: Anatomy of Yoga
Yoga is my way of life; it is the intrinsic and instinctive essence of my being. I live it and teach it. I’m now a yoga master at the Singapore School of Mediation and Yoga and for me to be an effective teacher, it’s essential that I continue learning. One of the books I’m reading is Anatomy of Yoga: An Instructor’s Inside Guide to Improving Your Poses by Dr Abigail Ellsworth. It helps me know more about the physiology of yoga asanas – the muscles that are engaged by specific poses, how to maximise the benefits of each pose and how to design a yoga routine to focus on problem areas.

Application: SoundCloud
Synonymous with prayer, meditation is actual practice of yoga. It connects the soul to the spiritual world, the realm of the Supreme Person. I upload mantras and bhajans chanting recordings of mine with friends and family on my SoundCloud page. To listen to some new tracks of meditative chanting, please visit www.soundcloud.com/japa16108.

Brain Training Programme: Lumosity
I use Lumosity to ensure that my brain remains sharp and healthy. It is scientifically designed and personalised and works out all aspects of the brain using fun scientific games that can be played on any device. It is backed by a team of research scientists with 40+ years of combined experience. I’m on it at least 15 minutes every day.
I believe in the importance of immersing ourselves in as many physical and mental activities as we can. Aside from the fact that activities keep us active and fit, they also help us conquer self-doubts and fears, to achieve the best version of ourselves.

 

READ ALSO: Stop Hammering Your Thumb

The Road to Long Life

 

Longevity by Joseph Bismark

 

It is no secret that longevity is achieved through a healthy, happy lifestyle – better eating habits, more exercise, less intoxicants, less stress. This is a topic that has been widely covered and often brings us to the regions of Nagano and Okinawa in Japan, where people have the longest life expectancy in the world. A well-balanced diet, regular physical activity, and extended work years have helped these people not only live very long lives, but do so while remaining healthy and productive.

We can achieve this kind of life too if we change our mindset on how we live our daily life. How we spend our every day is how we spend our life. If we allow ourselves to always partake in the abusive excesses of modernisation, our health, which is supposed to be our wealth, suffers and eventually gets depleted. But if we engage in a paradigm shift and commit to taking care of all aspects of our health, we can enjoy a life similar to that of the Okinawans.

Your lifestyle is key to enjoying a long, fulfilling life with your loved ones. Ensure that all aspects of your health – physical, mental, spiritual – are taken care of at all times. It could be as simple as choosing organic over processed foods, meditating in the morning, communing with nature, dedicating a few minutes everyday to simple exercises, and complementing these little efforts with regular consumption of natural health supplements that you can consider as top-ups for your life. This is how you embrace a lifestyle that will help you cope with the stresses brought about by modern living.

Kenta is a delicious natural-formula beverage inspired by the aforementioned Okinawan Diet, which is famed for bringing longevity and youth. It contains extracts of some of the most nutritious ingredients, which modulate hormones and supply vital nutrients to the body to increase its cell production.

Kenta is also proudly vegan. Its formula contains no animal derivatives, and no animal testing has been done for this product. It contains no artificial flavours and colouring, and no preservatives, and no GMO ingredients.

So, if you want to take the road to long life, drink Kenta!

 

Kenta

 

Stop Hammering Your Thumb

An advice on taking care of your health
(Originally published in aspIRe magazine Issue 17)

Photo: theweeklysticky.com

Photo: theweeklysticky.com

A man pounded his thumb with a hammer and went to see a doctor to get it treated. The thumb became purple and swollen, and blood oozed out from the wound. The doctor, without even establishing a rapport with the man, cleaned his thumb, bandaged it, wrote him a prescription and sent him home. A few weeks later, the man came back to see the same doctor for the same reason. The nonchalant doctor gave him the same treatment and did not check why the same thing happened.

Many of us are like the man in this story. We take our health for granted and indulge in activities that take a toll on our well-being. When we get sick, we spend on medicine and therapy and when we get well, we do the very same things that make us sick over and over again – eating unhealthy food, not getting enough sleep, drinking alcohol, smoking and so on. We hammer our body with poison and subject it to continuous abuse.

How do you take care of your car? You make sure the engine is in top shape, put premium grade engine oil additives in it, and get it tuned up and washed regularly. Now think of your body as your car. Shouldn’t you be taking care of it the same way you’re taking care of your car if not better? The premium oil that you put in your car is like the food that you eat and the exercise that you do. The premium oil diminishes the friction in your car engine, improves its performance and prolongs its life. The food that you eat produces the same results in your body – well-performing organs and a well-functioning brain. Physical exercise gives you strong bones and muscles and increased stamina to get you through the rigours of everyday life.

If you find yourself getting sick often, you should address the problem by zeroing in on its roots. Spend time on quiet introspection. Make an honest self-assessment to find out what’s making you sick. Chances are you’ll find that what gives you a temporary feeling of goodness is what makes you sick. If you’re hanging out with people that influence you to binge drink or smoke, you have the option to either cut ties with them or influence them to commit to a lifestyle change. If your weight has come to a point where it’s giving you problems physically and emotionally, you have the option to either live with it like a walking time bomb or deal with it by losing weight by exercising, cutting down on food portions, and keeping oily, fatty foods and carbonated drinks at bay. If you have relationships that bring you mental and emotional abuse, you either allow them to continue hurting you or choose to say goodbye and live a happy, stress-free life. The decision to live a life of health and wellness really comes from no one but you. Your well-being is not served on a silver platter. You are responsible for your own health. You drive your own life.

Editor of naturalnews.com Mike Adams, in his article entitled ‘Good Health is no accident’, wrote “The person believes health is something that happens TO them rather than something that happens THROUGH them. And so, they remain stuck, floundering in a pattern of self-inflicted sickness and disease while hoping that some other organisation, government or health care plan will somehow save them.

“Those who seek answers for their health outside the realm of their own decisions are looking in the wrong place. Health is no accident. Lasting health can only appear as the result of a lifetime of informed, deliberate decisions aligned with nature’s principles of health, not the distorted version of health promoted by our backward system of mainstream medicine.

Health is a mindset. How you value your life is directly correlated to how you take care of your health. So, for your sake, make the choice to stop beating up your body. Stop hammering your thumb!

READ ALSO: The Essence of Meditation

The Essence of Meditation

Essence of Meditation

(Originally published in aspIRe Magazine Issue 16)

Why should meditation be part of our lives?

Each of us is a sponge of sensory enjoyment. Our common thoughts are centred on the animal propensities of eating, sleeping, mating and defense. But, what makes us fundamentally different from animals is a fifth faculty: intelligence.

We have the ability to ask questions about the truth of our existence. We ask questions like “Who am I?”, “What is my purpose in life?”, “Why am I suffering?” and “How can I get out of this suffering?”. This intelligence is what enables us to meditate – to contemplate on the needs of the soul. The soul is perfect by nature but we all live in a temporary body that is basically flawed and so we tend to look for perfection. And, we can achieve perfection through the practice of meditation.

Meditation is synonymous with prayer. It connects the soul to the spiritual world, the realm of the Supreme Person. Through this disciplined practice, we get to the point where we constantly think of the Supreme Person. We find ourselves perpetually immersed in that frame of consciousness.

Mantra comes from the Sanskrit word Mana (mind) and the suffix -tra (instrument of thought). Mantras are spiritual sound vibrations. The basic meditation mantra Omkara (ॐ) is the sound representation of the Supreme Person. It is transcendental. It liberates mankind and all living entities from material sound vibrations. It purifies the soul of sinful, karmic activities that bind the soul in the repeated cycle of birth, disease, old age and death.

Meditation is also a process to develop real love – love for the Supreme Person that translates into love for humanity and all living beings. Love is the very essence of the soul, just like the wetness of water and the heat of fire. Love is inseparable from the soul. When love comes in contact with the modes of nature – ignorance, passion and goodness, it turns into lust. It becomes contaminated with worldly desires. It becomes the perversion of love. Material gratification does not satisfy love. When the soul is hungry and thirsty, we feed it by going inside ourselves and meditating.

The side benefit of meditation is to experience peace and tranquillity and to achieve the states of Atmarama (self-satisfaction) and Dhira (being sober). Being sober means not easily intoxicated or agitated. When we are spiritually sober, we are able to control the demands of our mind and the urges of our tongue, belly and genitals. It’s only when we’re sober that we become truly happy.

Meditation cleanses our hearts and makes us see the absolute truth more clearly. The ultimate goal of meditation is self-realisation. It means understanding that ‘I am a spirit soul in essence and I’m an eternal servant of the Supreme Person. I am not God. My eternal dharma (duty) is loving, devotional service to the Supreme Person.”

—–

Many of you have seen me carry around my Japa beads. Over the years, I have received numerous curious questions that I have only been very happy to answer. To those of you who have been asking me questions on the process of meditation, I have created a page on SoundCloud where I have uploaded some recordings of myself chanting mantras and bhajans. In the near future, I plan to also upload new tracks of my family and friends chanting. Thank you for letting me share with you what I’ve learnt from my Guru during my early life in the Ashram. I hope you all enjoy and take these Holy Names with you and chant always… Haribol!

https://soundcloud.com/japa16108 

 

READ ALSOTaking Care of the Material Body and the Person Inside

Taking Care of the Material Body and the Person Inside

Taking Care of Body & Mind
(Originally published in aspIRe Magazine Issue 15)

I would like to share with you all my thoughts on a subject that’s very close to my heart – how to achieve overall soundness of body and soul.

We all have ego. The real meaning of ego is the self – I am. But sometimes, we put on a false ego. This false ego takes on many shapes and forms. For instance, if you identify yourself as a doctor and that’s what you call yourself, that’s a false ego. You are using a label to describe yourself; it’s not who you really are. You were not always a doctor or may not even be a doctor for the rest of your life. This goes for any other label you may give yourself. The false ego is the conditioning of a person to his/her environment. It is influenced by factors such as occupation, religion, nationality and name, among others. This false ego becomes your identity. This false identity then makes up who you are. Your success or happiness will be based on who you think you are. If you have misidentified yourself as a material body, false identity equals false goals. If I identify myself with my material body, I would automatically think that the more I indulge or gratify my senses, the happier I will be. I’ll associate my happiness with food or buy all the latest fashion just to keep myself happy.

If you think you’re the material body, you become the senses that comprise the body. So what would be your goal in life? Sense gratification. However, that should not be the case. You are doing that only to fill up your emptiness inside.

You have to understand that you’re not just the material body. There’s a person inside that you’re forgetting. Let me use a birdcage as an analogy. A cage is not just a cage. There’s usually a bird living in it. If you don’t feed the bird everyday, it will die. If you’re just cleaning the cage and neglecting the bird inside, it will without a doubt die. What’s the point of having a nice, shiny cage if it’s empty?

Similarly, what’s the point of taking good care of your body but neglecting the person inside? If you speak of success, what is it to you? Is it having a lot of money but ending up destroying your body by drinking, smoking and eating junk food? Does that equal success? Do you work so hard to make money only to engage in activities that would end up harming your body? Or, can success be something else? Such as, using that money to become a better person, a better citizen of the world. Do we not all want to be better people?

The real ego is you – the self, spirit-soul. The spirit-soul is the consciousness that sustains the whole body. Without my consciousness or awareness, I would not be able to type this message. When the soul leaves the body, the body dies. When the body is unable to function properly due to a disease or old age, the soul has to leave. Essentially, death only pertains to the material body because the soul is eternal.

So, take good care of yourself. Feed yourself with food for the mind, body and spirit. Eat healthy. Exercise. Spend time with yourself by communing with nature and meditating. Read books that give you spiritual enrichment and enhance your understanding of the human experience. Love and respect all living beings. Contribute to the betterment of the society.

Happy International Day of Yoga!

Photo: www.xtremerain.com

Photo: www.xtremerain.com

Namaste! Happy International Day of Yoga!

Yoga today is practiced by more than 2.4 billion people and everyone in the world has heard of the word ‘Yoga’ one way or another. Yoga means ‘to unite’ or ‘to reconnect with our true self and the Supreme Self’. Yoga is the goal of every living soul whether they realise it or not, because everyone seeks union, immortality, peace, love and freedom from pain and suffering, all of which can only be attained through the practice of Yoga.

In yoga, one begins to understand the difference between two distinct energies, matter and spirit. The real self separate from the physical body.

Again, Happy Yoga Day, and may all of you find your Yoga.

———-

June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly on 11 December 2014. (Wikipedia)