My New Big Boss

Dear readers,

When I wrote my previous blog post on “Leadership & Followership” back in August, Khairy Jamaluddin was not yet appointed as our Minister of Health. If he was, I would have already made him as the prime example of someone with natural leadership skills (unlike our previous Minister of Health).

This is my point when I wrote that despite the general idea that leadership is a skill that anyone can learn, but someone who is natural at it will leave others far behind in execution and style! So leadership should be given to someone who is natural at it, good at it and enjoys it!

Most of my doctor friends in my circle are really grateful that he is our Health Minister now. He actually came to Kedah recently with the DG and my friends who got to meet them told me that “Even the DG looked much happier now.” Hahaha. You can interpret her sentence however you like. Enough said.

I was among the ones who were grateful to have YB KJ as my big boss now. When he was the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and was in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination program, I had watched one of his FB Live when he talked about the various vaccination options that would be administered to Malaysians. I was impressed that someone with no medical background can talk about vaccination the way he had. Our previous minister of health, even with his medical background, could not have spoken the way he had. With Facts! And data! He knew his stuff because he studied for it, grasped it (despite having no medical background) and able to deliver his explanation to the audience convincingly well.

What made me even more impressed with his leadership skill was because he had said on the FB Live that he himself would take the Sinovac vaccine because he knew at that point in time that everybody wanted Pfizer and as a leader, he should lead by example and show his confidence in Sinovac so that other Malaysians would follow suit! THAT is leadership! You don’t leave all the undesirable stuff/work/tasks to others. Instead you take your fair share of it too! Jangan pandai bagi arahan saja!

And my FB newsfeed went wild when it was viralled that YB KJ had done a spontaneous visit to Hospital Ampang in one of the weekends, wearing casual clothes and going around the hospital without any red carpet treatment. This is exactly what we want from our leaders! For them to go impromptu to the site and investigate things on the ground themselves.

Because it was still fresh in our mind how our previous Minister of Health had said “Frontliners buat lagak ngeri” after he had made a planned visit to Hospital Klang. Kurang asam betul! Netizens were so angry when the administration of the hospital seemed to be covering up all the mess that frontliners had had to deal with day in and day out just because some VVIPs were coming for a visit. (Which kind of defeat the purpose of the visit, isn’t it?)

YB KJ had shown that he did things smartly and efficiently! Effectiveness over protocol! Substance over form!

And this is not new if you are a leader in the UK or in Australia. The people there don’t idolize leaders to the point that they would abandon their daily routine just because some VVIPs are coming for a visit! Why should your visit inconvenienced us who are doing the real work on the ground? As a leader, you should NOT want your visit to unduly affect our efficiency in doing our daily work especially if you are there for the specific purpose of investigating matters and solving problems!

I would like to quote the words of a teacher by the name of Kayra regarding why we love it when leaders make unplanned visit. As a teacher, she is so used to the headaches, the waste of time and the work inefficiency that are involved when entertaining VVIPs that came for a school visit. In her own words:

Dalam situasi Menteri Kesihatan Khairy Jamaluddin (KJ) melawat Hospital Kajang ini. Mengapa sikap KJ diterima baik oleh masyarakat awam?

Jawapannya kerana rakyat marhain tidak perlu membuang masa hanya untuk menyambut seorang Menteri yang datang untuk membuat kerja-nya sendiri sebagai Menteri. Turun padang. Lihat sendiri. Nilai sendiri. Bukan hanya menunggu laporan di kerusi empuk sahaja dengan alasan sudah tua dan tidak larat.

Jika di sekolah, kehadiran Menteri akan menyebabkan “murid tidak belajar” selama dua minggu kerana berlatih tarian menyambut tetamu, manakala murid-murid lain keluar dari kelas berhari-hari hanya untuk memastikan boleh membawa bunga manggar dengan baik atau sekadar berkumpul-kumpul di dewan kerana cikgu-cikgu diarahkan menghias pentas ucapan untuk Menteri.

Kehadiran Seorang Menteri yang “sengaja” dimaklumkan awal “bagai sebuah kenduri” di sebuah sekolah. Pahit bukan? Tetapi itulah kenyataannya.

Itu yang kita ajar kepada generasi muda Malaysia untuk “mensantuni” Menteri hingga mengabaikan pembelajaran mereka.

Jika KJ bawa wartawan, itu adalah usaha dia tanpa membabitkan Kakitangan Awam. Dia yang buat kerja panggil wartawan tanpa perlu orang lain meninggalkan kerja sendiri hanya untuk sambut seorang Menteri.

See? This is why we want leaders! Not bosses! Leaders should solve our problems! Not making work even harder for the people under their leadership.

So this post is just to share with you guys that FOR NOW, YB KJ is definitely rising up in my estimation. I hope he could inspire other leaders to follow his footsteps.

September And October Are The Months For Mental Health Promotions

Every year, on the 10th of September, those who work in Psychiatry and Mental Health will celebrate Suicide Prevention Awareness Day. And on the 10th of October every year, we will subsequently celebrate World Mental Health Day.

So September and October have always been such a busy period for us, psychiatry doctors.

For the first time in my career as a doctor, I had to give a 30 minutes radio interview on Kedah F.M about Suicide Prevention.  I thought that 30 minutes were quite long, guys. But it turned out that there was so much I wanted to cover that we barely touched the surface in that 30 minutes. According to the DJ, they had planned 5 questions with 5 songs for the session (1 song in between each question). But because I had so much to say, they ended up playing 1 song only for the entire slot hahah.

Being an introvert, I always feel like talking to anyone for 30 minutes is too long already. In most cases, I certainly feel drained after talking to strangers for 15 minutes, let alone 30 minutes. But it turns out that when I REALLY have something to say, I act like an extrovert and dominate the conversation shamelessly LOL.  I barely paused because I didn’t want to give the DJ the opportunity to cut me off before I could finish delivering all my points hahha.

My siblings who were also listening to my radio talk had said “Kak Ngah ni memang tak bagi peluang DJ mencelah langsung!” hahhah. Oopsss!

Yes, guys! When I REALLY have something to say, I want to say it until I am done. I won’t stop until I am good and ready, LOL. And thus, out of the 5 songs they had planned to play (and all of them were really good songs that I personally love! Songs like Semangat Yang Hilang by XPDC and Ku Bahagia by Melly Goeslow, for example) they only ended up playing the song Terang by Siti Nurhaliza (which I also enjoyed, guys! Siti Nurhaliza is my favourite local singer as well as Aina Abdul).

So, yeah… that was my 30 minutes modest experience of inconsequential fame as a doctor, guys.

Kedah F.M was also kind enough to create a digital poster about my talk and posted it in their FB page which I am going to share it with you guys here for the sake of memory. I look a bit too fair in the poster when in reality my skin is not that fair. My siblings were like “Wow they did a good job of editing your picture and making it looks nicer than you really are” Haha. (Sisters are created for the sole purpose of insulting us, guys! Take it from me. Luckily, that means I can insult them right back when the occasion arise.)

Other than my radio talk, we also organized other activities for the Suicide Prevention Month including webinars, colouring contests, and Tik Tok videos in 3 languages talking about Suicide Prevention. If you want to listen to the lovely 3 minutes talk by my fellow colleagues on Suicide Prevention, do visit our Jabatan Psikiatri Dan Kesihatan Mental HSAH Facebook Page. We updated our activities quite regularly on FB.

Books Of The Month

Since I last updated my blog, I had read 1 non-fiction and 3 fictions.

The non-fiction that I had read was titled Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of Good Society, authored by Nicholas A. Christakis. In this book, the author discussed why some societies prosper and why some societies disintegrate. He had studied real cases of Unintentional Communities, Intentional Communities and Artificial Communites and how members of those communities behaved that had helped or hindered their survival.

For example, in the case of survivors of shipwrecks, all of them did not intend to become a community but they unintentionally became one when they were stranded in an uninhibited island after being involved in a shipwreck. So, why did some survivors of shipwrecks end up forming a good community that then increased their chance of survival whereas some ended up forming corrupt societies that fought with each other and thus decreasing their chance of survival? Is it because of limitations of resources within the society, causing them to fight with each other? What are the ingredients for a good society? What kind of leaders do we need in a good society that would increase the chance of survival of the community, regardless of the amount of resources you have?

In the case of Unintentional Communities, the groups that typically fared best were those that had good leadership in the form of mild hierarchy without any brutality, friendships among the survivors, and evidence of cooperation and altruism. A significant number of them survive when they have those elements in their groups! Whereas with another case of shipwreck, the majority of the members in the group had the attitude of “every man for himself” and as a result, the group ended up with very high mortality.

(This part of the book reminded me of the popular reality TV show, Survivor! I used to love watching Survivor as a kid. I stopped watching the series after I went to Australia to study medicine but I still remember the format of the show; how strangers from different background have to come together and cooperate with one another to survive in some remote island with very limited resources. Disagreement, fight, sabotage, cronyism and dramas between the members are what make the whole show entertaining. And usually, the person who won in the end was always the one with the best leadership, the best attitude, the most likeable, the most strategic etc. etc etc. Well, at least that was how I remembered it.)

And in the case of Intentional Communities, he had studied the cases of those who lived in a cult society. What made certain cult prosper for many years and what made others crumble within a few years? Why kindness matters and how much kindness is needed to sustain the society?

Have you guys watched Squid Game on Netflix? It is wildly popular now that even I had actually spent some substantial hours of my weekend watching the series. (In general I don’t like watching series especially if there are multiple seasons of it. I just cannot commit to finishing those episodes and always end up watching most series halfway, which makes me think that I really should not have begun in the first place. So after a few times of not finishing the first few series I had bothered watching on Netflix, I simply stopped watching series because I really hate not finishing what I had started. Why begin when there is a very high chance I’m not gonna finish it and will never know the ending? That’s why I was never a K-Drama fan. However, I can bring myself to commit to limited series which consist of only 8-10 episodes such as The Queen’s Gambit, and Squid Game) Intentional Communites are like the scenario in the Squid Game… they intentionally came together for a particular purpose. And how each member behave with one another, how they form groups, how they choose their leader, how they ration their resources and how kind and cooperative they are with each other will determine their survival. Maybe Gi Hun (the hero in the series) ended up becoming the winner of the game because he embodied the value of kindness and altruism the most compared to other players.

The author also wrote about artificial communities such as the ones we see in Online Games. He discussed how reciprocity is good and how it helps with your networking and hence, your survival online. (I am not a gamer, online or otherwise. So I only have a very vague idea about the sort of online games that involve forming a community and cooperating with one another. But apparently, such games exist and sociologists go around studying those online communities. Interesting!)

This book made me reflect something about myself. I don’t think I am a bad or a cruel person… but I don’t go out of my way to be nice and kind either. I am not anybody’s ray of sunshine, frankly speaking. I do my responsibility as best as I can as a daughter, as a sister, as a doctor… and I feel that is enough. I do what I can to help others when they ask for my help but I am not very sensitive to other people’s needs when they don’t communicate it to me directly. Because I assume, if they need my help, they would ask for it without me having to offer it. Sometimes it just didn’t occur to me to offer help because I just thought maybe they could handle it and do not want help. So since they don’t need my help (because they don’t ask for it, so how would I know?) it is more efficient for me to spend my time doing something else rather than helping them with something they could handle themselves, right? You see, that is my logic. So in general, I feel like I am decent enough even though I am not a sweet do-gooder like most protagonists in films. I don’t simply offer favours right, left and center to everyone because I am just not sweet like that. With my own tasks, I almost always prefer not to ask people to help if I could handle it myself because in the first place, I prefer working alone and I always feel like I could do it faster alone. And if I work alone, I have more freedom to do it in my own time without having to wait for other people’s convenience. So I always assume that other people also might prefer to work alone and therefore it just rarely occurs to me to offer help when not directly asked.  But I have known some people who just offer help to everyone right, left and center…and part of me feel like “What is it that makes you such a people pleaser? Why do you allow yourself to be taken advantage of like that?” But another part of me feel like “Wow, she is so nice. Insya Allah, a lot of pahala for her.” I guess, some people are sweet and thoughtful like that and they are the gems in the community. They organize makan-makan, they organize birthday parties in the department, they start crowd-funding for people in need, they always come up with fun activities for get-together, they give sweet heartwarming speeches.  Amazing people they are!  Whereas me? I would go “Okay, you organize makan-makan/ birthday party/ get together… let me know how much I have to contribute.” Because I don’t want to have to plan it, but I am willing to go along with it and pay my fair share of it. I just don’t want to have to be in-charge of planning all these social activities. Because I am just not good at it and I don’t have the patience for it. When it comes to using my brain to PLAN stuff, I prefer planning my study, my career, my work and serious stuff like that. I don’t like taxing my brain for something that seem trivial to me. But when I think about it… maybe I got my values all skewed. Is making people happy and feel welcomed and appreciated a trivial thing?

Maybe I have been wrong all these while. Sure I don’t bully people or scold people unnecessarily like some malignant specialists I have met throughout my medical career (and to me, that is good and decent enough, right?) but I also don’t make people feel good and appreciated either (beyond the usual expression of thanking them for their service.) At work, I keep relationships transactional with me fulfilling my duties and expecting others to do the same. Only with my family and close friends do I feel somewhat obligated to tax my brain planning for parties, gifts etc etc. But I notice the existence of such kind-hearted people who just love to do all these nice gestures regardless of whether or not they are close to that person. Because I have been the recipient of such gestures from people who I don’t think I was even that close with… and it made me feel bad that I ‘d never thought to do similar nice gestures like that before they started it. The problem with me is that.. because I consider such things as trivial, I reserve my effort for such things only to certain people… like my parents, my siblings or my good friends. So when people who are not in that category were so nice to me, I was just amazed that they would put in that effort for me, someone who is not close to them. And it made me think… why was I so stingy with nice gestures to strangers when others were so generous?

I remember one of my colleagues (she is a celebrity counselor now) had said to me after 1 year of already knowing me “When I first came into the department, I thought you were a snob. You barely even smile in my direction and simply walk away so fast without looking at me. Initially, you only talk to me when you want to refer a patient for counselling session. Only after knowing you for quite some time that I know you are actually friendly and can be talkative.” Whatever she said about me not smiling and simply walking away without looking at her… I swear I didn’t remember doing that to her or anyone. But apparently that’s what I did without even realizing. I was just being myself, preoccupied with my own task. I never thought that would be viewed as snobbish. Now, she is one of my close friends and we always meet up when the opportunity arises. (So guys, don’t hold on to your first impression of people. It is almost always wrong!) And when my neighbours gave me food (like all normal neighbours would do), I used to feel so stressed because it meant I was gonna have to return their food container with something of my own cooking and I really don’t cook worth a damn. I usually just ended up giving them a box of Secret Recipe cake and returning their food container empty Hahha. And when people gave me gifts for no reason, I just feel like “Oh God… now I am gonna have to reciprocate, don’t I? What am I gonna give? How would I know what is the right gift to give?” That means I have to actually make an effort to think about a suitable gift, and then go shopping for it, and then I have to make the time to approach them and make conversation a little bit while giving them the reciprocal gift. That’s just too much social work for an introvert. It feels so much like WORK rather than fun. Haha.

But now, I have actually learned to make all those effort because I know other people need them to feel good and appreciated. And to motivate myself to do these things, I tell myself that Islam taught us to make an effort with social niceties, regardless of how we really feel. Not everything is about us and our feelings. We do things because that is the right thing to do, regardless of how uncomfortable we feel.

Whenever I feel stressed out about certain things involving some people or whenever I don’t have the mood to attend a get-together or a kenduri, I reminded myself of this hadeeth:

So, I remind myself that this is not about me. It is about what is the recommended thing to do. Because if something is recommended by Islam, then it must be good for me. So, I make myself go to that kenduri or that social event. Haha.

Whenever I feel like, “Adoi, malasnya nak balas makanan jiran ni,” or feeling like I really don’t have the mood to greet my neighbours (because I know it will be a start to a conversation that might become a bit too long than I am willing to spend the time for), I reminded myself about this hadeeth:

We are commanded to give food to others and greet each other nicely, whether or not we feel like doing it. And I have always believed that what Islam told you to do, it must be good for you even if you don’t like it. And giving food IS good… food is the best ice-breaker to any relationship. People immediately warm up to those who treat them with good food. I certainly warm up to the drug reps who come to my clinic and will willingly hear their presentation when they provide me with lunch. Haha. So in the case of drug reps all over Malaysia, this hadeeth certainly rings true. They get to achieve their goal of getting the doctors’ attention while they were presenting about their drug because they give doctors food. Hence, my point that giving people food is a pro-social behavior that is beneficial not just to the recipient of the food but also to the giver!

All studies and books in sociology (and this book included) talk about the advantage of people displaying pro-social behavior!

According to this book, kindness, altruism, reciprocity and general pro-social behaviours are pre-wired in humans because those traits directly affect our survival. Survival of the fittest is also survival of the most social (survival of the kindest, the most altruistic, the most fair!) For example, extroverts always fare better than introverts in the workplace and they are given higher marks in their work appraisal (because extroverts seem more approachable, they are not shy to ask for help when they need it, and people love to help them because they themselves are quick to help others in the past, and hence their work efficiency also increases. They communicate well, they smile readily, they have charming conversation, and they make people feel good and welcomed. That’s why introverts have learned to fake extroversion in their workplace after some time because extroversion is an advantageous trait!).

To demonstrate the point of how kindness and altruism are pre-wired in humans, in one experiment related in this book, toddlers spontaneously and without any prompting helped adults who were pretending to struggle with opening a cabinet. “In short, at a very young age, humans appear prewired (in the sense of having a strong, innate proclivity) to interact in positive ways, with insight into the intentions of others and with a tendency to care about being fair. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that, although details vary from place to place, every society value kindness and cooperation, defines acts of cruelty, and categorizes people as either virtuous or nasty.”

So I guess, we have to make an effort to be social, within reason… even if it is not in our nature to do so. I have always believed that we can always learn, unlearn and relearn ANYTHING including our own habit. Eventually, we will learn to be comfortable doing things we used to feel uncomfortable doing if we practice often enough.

And these are the things I’ve always shared with my patients who have social anxiety disorder. I have had about 4 such patients throughout my career in Psychiatry. I feel so bad for them. I might dislike social activities with people I am not close to, but at least I do not FEAR those activities. I know that should any social interaction become too tiresome or too irritating for some reason, I can simply assert my point forcefully or withdraw from it. But patients with social anxiety disorder are paralyzed with fear in social situations and getting them to even practice gradual exposure to socializing is so hard, guys. So I always begin by asking them, is socializing important? Why do you think we need to socialize? They must understand why socializing is something they need to do and why overcoming the anxiety is worth the effort. Otherwise, why would they even bother (just like I wouldn’t have bothered with any socializing effort if I didn’t know about the hadeeth on Islamic social etiquette or if I didn’t read sociology books like this about how socializing is equivalent to surviving. Knowing why in doing anything is important!) I will discuss with my patients the correlation between socializing and survival. And true enough, isn’t it? If you cannot socialize to the point that it affects your function at work, you will lose your job and therefore, your livelihood as well ! My patients need to know that!

All in all, there are a lot of interesting anecdotes and sociological facts that I had never come across before reading this book. So, I give this book: ¾ star for content, ¾ star for clarity of thought, ½ star for language, ¾ star for subjective enjoyment, 1 star for credibility of author (he is an American sociologist, and the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale Univerity where he directs the Human Nature Lab). So altogether, this book earns 3.75 stars out of 5. Not bad! I certainly recommend it for those interested in Sociology.

Now, moving on to the 3 fictions that I had read since I last updated this blog…

The fictions that I had read for the past 2 months were all about Hercule Poirot. I am on a Hercule Poirot binge, guys, Lol.

I had bought an e-book of The Collection of Hercule Poirot from Amazon at just $1.99 (so, when converted to Malaysian Ringgit it was around RM8) so I had binged on them since then. The Collection contained 28 Hercule Poirot novels and short stories in one collection.  Below was my excited expression on Instagram story after I had purchased this e-book online via the Kindle app. I just HAD to promote to my friends to buy it because it was so cheap and you would get 28 stories with that price! So worth it!

Another 2 books that I had read were also about Hercule Poirot but they were not written by Agatha Christie. Instead the books Killings In Kingfisher Hill and Closed Casket that feature the famous Hercule Poirot were both written by Hannah Sophie, a British poet and novelist.

I was hesitant to read an Hercule Poirot mystery written by someone other than Agatha Christie, but my younger sister, Izati, had convinced me that the books were as good as those written by Agatha Christie . So I took the plunge and read them. Yup, they were quite good. I gave both of these books 3 stars based on AFBRS.

So until next time, my dear readers.

Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

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