On a hill I live

On a hill I live
Not too high above a busy street
The sounds of tin cans
Rattle my soul
When the day breaks
When the night falls
Silence eludes
Where trees once stood

On a hill I live
Not too high above a busy street
The gentle breeze teases me
In this sweltering tropical heat
There is no reprieve
Not amongst the grey and cold

An occasional chirp
A distant bark
The faint scent
Of freshly cut grass
It’s open fields I see
When the shades are down

Drilling, hacking
Whirling, rumbling
Knocking, slamming
The green turns to grey
On a hill where I live
Not too high above a busy street

Step up, Singapore!

Now that election fever is way, way, way over, the hard stuff begins for the SG government. And boy is the work hard. Neither the issues nor sentiment towards the ruling party have abated. In fact, they’ve probably escalated over the past few weeks with reports about all things foreigners, record pricing for public housing, problems in the health care sector and floods; all of this not helped by perception that the PAP is back to its old ways.

I wasn’t expecting an overnight change in the system, but I believed that as Singaporeans experienced political awakening and discovered alternative points of view, we’d see ideas, debates on ideology and positive movement. Instead of considered points of views and constructive feedback and suggestions, a good number of posts and comments on Temasek Review and occasionally The Online Citizen are now angry rants and dribble that fuel negativity on already sensitive topics.

Reading those sites, you’d think Singaporeans are racist and xenophobic, and the country is on the verge of a violent revolution against the government and foreigners (the source of all SG’s problems, so it seems). I guess access, truth and online anonymity set people free; unfortunately a lot of them aren’t mature enough to handle it nor understand that freedom still comes with responsibility.

Much is to be desired with the system and the ruling party. Their policies haven’t worked for a long time contrary to what SG looks like to a visitor. It’s fair to blame the government, it’s right to feel angry, but where does it stop? Heaping complete responsibility onto them and not taking any is tantamount to agreeing with what they’re doing no matter how much you complain online.

Recently, a newly elected MP paraphrased JFK’s famous line: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. That he should’ve delivered it in a better manner shouldn’t detract from the fact that it’s a good wake-up call. Singaporeans need to start doing things for themselves. Only then, will SG become the place they want to live in. In case you’re in doubt that you need to take responsibility and can make things happen, here’s a post by Robin Sharma, one of the world’s top success coaches.

Do Your Part

Big question for you: “What are you doing to help build a new and better world?” Don’t blame the politicians. Don’t blame those around you. Don’t blame your parents or your background. Doing so is playing the victim and this world has far too many people playing the victim when they could be sharing their brilliance and making a profound difference. Mother Teresa said it so much better than I ever could: “If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.”

Blaming others is excusing yourself. Telling yourself that you – as an army of one – cannot have an impact is giving away your power. After a hurricane a while ago, a couple of college kids got their hands on empty school buses and drove them into the ravaged area when everybody else said the city was impenetrable. A little man in a loincloth named Mahatma Gandhi freed an entire nation. A woman named Rosa Parks sparked a civil rights movement because she refused to sit at the back of a bus. Ordinary people really can do extraordinary things. I love what Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, once said: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”

Live by what I call the Jennifer Aniston Rule. In an issue of Vanity Fair, Aniston said that she gives herself one day to play victim after experiencing a challenging event. After that day of feeling powerless and sorry for herself, she wakes up and takes ownership for the way her life looks. She takes personal responsibility for her part in the problem – even if that only amounted to 1%. That’s personal leadership in action. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from. “The ability to triumph begins with you. Always,” offered entertainment superstar Oprah Winfrey.

What don’t you like about your life or the organization you work for or the country you live in? Make a list. Write it down. Shout it out. And then do something to improve things. Anything. Start small or go big. Just do something. As you experience your power to choose, guess what? Your power grows. And as you work within your sphere of influence to make things better, guess what? Your sphere of influence expands. So do your part. Today. Now. The world will be better for it.

I’m dreaming of a new Singapore

Since I have no voting power in the upcoming elections, I thought I’d indulge in some fantasies, imagining how my one vote, when counted, would change everything.

It’s 02:35 on 8th May. A nation is gathered around their TVs, eyes glued to the screens; sleep forgotten. The roads are eerily quiet for a city that is constantly on the move. Clouds have been building since dusk and the night sky grows increasingly white. The air is thick with anticipation and not a single leaf rustles. The ruling political party has lost 40 seats. History has already been made but it isn’t done yet. There’s one last vote and this would either give opposition parties half the seats or PAP the majority, albeit a much smaller one. A huge bolt of lightning strikes and its light is seen across the island. The faces of crestfallen PAP members are momentarily lit and many break into a small smile; it’s a good sign surely. Seconds later, the stillness of the night is broken by the sound of rumbling thunder. It reverberates as it gathers momentum rising to a crescendo. The last vote – mine – is in the hands of the vote counter. As he prepares to read it, the explosive clap hammers home the final verdict.

In an instant, the sky opens up and a torrential downpour falls upon the citystate. In an instant, everything changes.

Better General Elections management

There are several points here and we know why things are the way they are. It’s not right; and I think all these tactics have made SG a highly immature and unsophisticated nation.

  1. Fix the boundaries/constituencies once and for all. It’s absurd that the lines are redrawn so drastically each election, and most of all, they don’t make sense.
  2. Change it all back to single member constituency. This group thing is complete groupthink. Absolutely rubbish policy
  3. Fair notice for voter registration. This is a result of what I’ve just experienced. The Elections Department should issue a letter to all eligible Singaporeans a month before the closing date. This is to ensure all Singaporeans, especially the ones who have been away for a while, can check the register and update the records accordingly.
  4. Lower the nomination fee. In 2006, the fee was S$13,500. This time, it’s $16,000. That’s an increment of 18.5% (I hope my math is right!) just for the nomination fee. A little bit steep, isn’t it? To truly appreciate the meteoric rise of the fee, look here. On what basis did the fees increase? Why even? I don’t know what the party line is. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with ensuring only people who are serious / qualified run. But why is there a need to? The results would speak for themselves anyway.

This cartoonish system needs to end soon. It makes a fool out of all Singaporeans.

Shorten NS to 4 months or do away with it

I believe something’s wrong when more money is spent on defence than education and healthcare, and I don’t buy the reason it’s ‘cos we’re a small country surrounded by large neighbours. That’s essentially saying we don’t trust our neighbours; and makes it easy for us to disregard them. So who’s antagonising whom?

But let’s go one step back. Why is it that SG feels threatened? Historically, we’ve never had conflicts with each other on the war scale – we’re not in the same boat as Pakistan/India or Palestine/Israel. I think our neighbours have better things to focus on than SG. In the unlikely scenario of escalating tensions, I’m pretty sure other countries would step in to mediate before allowing for a war to break out. I mean, this is the 21st century.

On the subject of tensions, why not work on building strong interdependent relationships with our neighbours? This would minimise tensions, and should WWIII break out ever, we’re more likely to have their protection.

Low danger doesn’t mean no danger, of course. We could have a military academy to recruit those who want to serve, and train all citizens in first aid, handling weapons and other back end stuff. Four months is plenty of time for that or it could be incorporated into school even so no need for NS. So I’m not advocating zero defense. I just don’t think we need a force that is so large or advanced. Not when the resources can be better spent on more important things such as aid for the poor, education, healthcare, and:

Land for urban farmers and artists

Now that more land is available ‘cos SG has done away with a lot of NS camps, space can be put aside for urban farmers and artists. SG could have vertical vegetable farms, 60 storey high. Plots can be rented out or sold. There are so many benefits to this. It’d be a great escape for many people, families can grow their own vegetables or fruits and trade, gardening’s an excellent stress reliever, connection to nature revitalises the soul; queue tourism and also creation of a new industry and SG can lead the way in city farming and rurban (rural/urban) development.

If I’m not wrong, Japan already has such a building underway. But times have been hard on that country, and if there’s one thing the SG government is good at, it’s making industries sprout overnight.

Other sites would be for artists with mix live/work spaces. We can finally develop and nurture highly skilled craftspeople. There’d be pottery studios, welding workshops, glassmakers, bespoke furniture designers, multi-media studios, etc. A SG art form or style may emerge that would finally anchor us in a unique culture we can proudly promote.

These won’t bring massive economic growth but life isn’t about economic growth. We need to feed the artist in all of us, in whatever shape and form, to lead healthier, more holistic lives. We need space that lets us breathe, that lets our imagination and handiwork go wild. That is living.

On Education

  1. Schools will be merged from primary through to higher education. Only at 18 will students have to apply for tertiary education.
  2. Reduce classroom sizes to 25 at most.
  3. Introduce subjects such as political science and law from the get go so that all Singaporeans understand our constitution and law, and develop an interest in shaping SG.
  4. Fewer exams and tests. Assessments in the style of The Apprentice with good rewards. After all, that’s real life – real issues, real pressure, real lessons, real results.

We’ve had years of nation building and have achieved first world status. Yet, our education system hasn’t improved. Classroom sizes are still at 40 kids per class, almost every child now goes for tuition, and from conversations I’ve had with parents, the system only seems to be getting worse ‘cos teachers now don’t even know how to teach the syllabus as it’s changing so often. Incredible! In the worst way possible.

These changes would require more schools, more teachers, more people in the education sector. As Tan Jee Say said, these are good jobs for Singaporeans, fit for a nation of well-educated people. Why is that bad?

Cut dependence on public housing

I think SG should really aim for 70% (I’m being arbitrary here; a smart urban planning person should come up with the magic number) true home ownership. Why do 70% of Singaporeans still live in public housing? Not that public housing is bad. The quality is good and there’s nothing wrong with an HDB flat per se. I’m just saying that the government shouldn’t be the majority home/landowner. I don’t see why they need to be, and I think having all that ownership has allowed them to control supply of land and manipulate cost. Left in the hands of private developers, together with better controls over foreign ownership, we’ll see a different boom in property development, and prices will reflect what Singaporeans can afford. They will finally really own their property, HDB flats will finally be for those who most need it and we can finally rid ourselves off this property obsession.

Comprehensive public transport services

To control the car population, why not have more taxis, and mini buses that go around estates frequently? Make it so convenient, there’s no need to buy a car.

Taxi fares should also be cheaper and exempted from ERP charges. From conversations with taxi uncles, it’s implied the high fare is needed to cover the high rental fee. But if the government is able to view taxis as a good form of alternative transport, then taxes to bring in taxis should be very, very low, thereby reducing cost of the vehicles too, which should translate to lower operating cost, lower rental charges and cheaper fares. Right? The same could be done for mini buses too.

By flooding the island with a more comprehensive network of public transport services, there’d be less need for people to buy a car, thus reducing the number of private cars on the road and therefore clearing the road congestion. Easy, no?

Constitutional amendments

  1. Ministers should not earn more than the US President. I don’t have a figure in mind, but it definitely shouldn’t be more than the man who has the most difficult public service job on earth. To constantly link SG’s ministerial pay to that in the private sector and saying no one will do the job and be incorruptible if it isn’t well paying is to completely miss the point about jobs in the public service AND display a lack of morality. What of NZ and Denmark that shares the same spot as SG, and other top countries on Corruption Perception Index list?
  2. Make the President work harder; give him more to do! For f*** sake, he’s earning $4million.
  3. Include an Information of Freedom Act.
  4. Restore our rights to freedom of speech and expression; the right to assemble peaceably and without arms; and the right to form associations.
  5. Ensure no one can be sued, arrested or fined by the government for their opinions and findings on Singapore. We need healthy debates and discussions to grow. Not lawsuits and fear. This would also enable SG to become a real media centre, creating a new industry with good jobs. (And while we’re creating a new media industry, fold Mediacorp and SPH. We don’t want PAP mouth pieces. Let’s start over.)

New national anthem and pledge

No disrespect to Mr Zubir Said for composing the current anthem and whoever came up with the pledge, but I think there’s an emptiness to both the anthem and pledge. The words have no heart and are not grounded in values – progress, wealth, prosperity, onward, success. These are all very driven, material words. I know wealth and prosperity can mean other forms of riches, but let’s not pretend. When a person says someone is wealthy or prosperous, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? And let’s tone down the pledge for a democratic society since…well…it’s not really happening.

We need an anthem and pledge that encompasses ‘soft’ values. It should unite the people to defend the land, to love the country, to seek a righteous path and various other emotionally heart stirring words. This is the stuff that’ll give meaning to SG. Not this wealth and prosperity malarkey.

I could go on, but all fantasies come to an end when the real world calls. So excuse me while I get on with things. I hope it’ll give Singaporeans food for thought though ‘cos there are alternatives. Policies can be changed when they’re not working. It doesn’t have to be this way.

AAAaaaarrrrrggghhh!! I can’t vote!!!

I found out yesterday that I won’t be able to vote in the upcoming elections as my name isn’t on the register; and it’s too late to register now as the cut-off date was some time in January. When I asked the Customer Service Officer (CSO) at the Elections Department if a letter of notification was sent out about the deadline, I was told there wasn’t such a thing. I was angry and I was upset. I am angry and I am upset.

Right now, I feel completely cheated. I’ve only voted once in my life, a long time ago. Subsequently, I lived in a walkover constituency, thanks to the creation of GRCs. I know I lost interest in the system along the way, as time after time, I couldn’t vote. My area was finally contested in 2006, but it was too late for me. I was away and had been living overseas for five years. I had no idea my name was struck off the register, as I didn’t vote.

For the last 4 years, 4 months and 27 days that I’ve been back, I’ve never received any notification of my voter status. Perhaps it’s my duty to figure this out – I’ll take some blame. But I’d have thought that the efficient SG government, ever so good at reminder bills and issuing fines, would be equally good at reminding citizens of their law abiding duties.

From the little that I know of elections in other world-class countries, citizens are reminded to register. I think we’re all quite familiar with the US elections where volunteers, candidates and anyone who’s involved constantly encourage citizens to register to vote. I believe in the UK, a letter is sent out yearly, as people may move and their electorate changes. They are also able to register up to 11 days before the elections. Yet, here we are in a country, with perhaps the most advanced e-government services, and not only are notification letters non-existent, I’m told registration closes four months before elections.

How would anyone know, when the election date is such a huge secret? How would someone who has been away for a while, and lost track, get back on? Like I said, I’ll take some blame, but why isn’t anyone reaching out to me? It’s in the interest of a country that citizens are engaged, and those who have nothing to fear will encourage that. Those who do, well…this is what it looks like, isn’t it?

The CSO who was talking to me tried her best to comfort me. “It’s OK you don’t vote this time. Anyway, you also don’t know whether your area contested or not.”

Everything about that statement is wrong. It’s not OK that I don’t vote. It’s not OK that the reason it’s OK is that 11 days before the election, who knows if my area will be contested.

I’m tired of this silly 3rd world political system, that’s possibly the laughing stock of the world. I’ve grown up, SG has grown up. The only people who don’t realise this is the PAP. They’re so caught up in their teeny, tiny little world and their riches, they’ve failed to see the issues truly affecting the growth of Singapore and Singaporeans. I don’t need to repeat them here. What I want to say is that I’ve lost my chance to vote. You haven’t. You can still make a decision on the Singapore you want to live in. Use your vote wisely this coming GE and know that you can make a difference.

The funny side of GE2011

This morning, I read two articles related to General Elections 2011 that made me chuckle. Thought I’d share it as the mood on news sites and even FB has gotten pretty serious. As someone famous once said, “Life is not that serious. Let’s take humour more seriously.” Enjoy!

Minister’s ‘town hall’ visit to condo disappoints

A little tale

Business ideas for the ordinary Singaporean

I have a few business ideas for all the Singaporeans out there who are jobless, caught in dead-end jobs or jobs that they hate. Please take a look to see if you could implement or expand on any of these and live a more fulfilling life as an innovator, change agent or entrepreneur.

I’ve categorised them into two broad categories so it’s easier to zoom in on your area of interest or expertise

If you’re a people person

1. Start a charity to specifically help the aunties and uncles who are picking up trash/cans/cardboard boxes

Most people feel bad when they see the elderly bent over, working their butts off when they should be enjoying their golden years. I can’t say I know why they are working – I’ve never spoken to any one of them. The general opinion is that they work because they have to, in order to support themselves or their family; and there’s a considerable amount of anger that the government isn’t helping.

My take is: Forget the PAP (and PLEASE learn that maxim). If you look at a number of developed countries, organizations and individuals step in where the government won’t or can’t; and it’s time more Singaporeans take up social causes and turn this nation around, especially when cracks are appearing in society. You would be seen as a hero, a positive contributor to society. You’d be doing a whole lot of good and SG will be a much more pleasant place to live in.

2. Operate a personal concierge service that focuses on the key pain points of Singaporeans. Keep it to a short list of services that you know Singaporeans would need and do those few things in the most amazing way possible.

In order for this to work well, I believe the other thing to focus on is your immediate surroundings. I keep hearing about the loss of kampong spirit so bring it back. Community or togetherness invigorates the human spirit and it could lead to possibly less social ills. One more benefit about concentrating on your neighbourhood is that it means zero travel for you, which translates to a variety of savings.

The areas, which I think most useful are:

  • Child-sitting. With the increase in maid levy or maid problems, more people may find it difficult to employ a maid. Many more do not have the means as well. It seems like parents with primary school children are most squeezed. They want someone to watch over the kids at home and guide them, but a maid isn’t necessarily qualified; yet both parents need to work. What then? Wouldn’t they find a child-sitting service for a reasonable fee beneficial?
  • Project managing home renovations and smaller home services such as aircon servicing, plumbing, etc.
  • Catering service. Provide nutritious, home cooked meals, which your neighbours can easily pick up.

The long-term benefit of this is that Singaporeans would be able to rely less and less on maids; and this is a good thing. Singaporeans need to wean themselves off this dependence on foreign domestic help.

If you are more technically inclined

3. Invent and manufacture dry and breathable or cool apparel and footwear

Why is it that Dri-Fit or Geox was invented in a place with four seasons, relatively low humidity even in summer and not a huge amount of rainfall? What do they know about living in hot, humid environments 365 days of the year with seasonal monsoons? But you do. Market size: not sure, but definitely more than a billion. Think about that!

4. Build lightweight carriers

In the Dec10/Jan11 issue of Monocle, there’s an article about Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin’s exoskeletons that got me really excited! It says that the frames would “give wearers the ability to carry up to 90kg with little effort while remaining limber enough to kick a football”. This would greatly help infantrymen. But imagine the possibilities for consumers!!

A backpack would be obvious, but how about a carrier that would help folks, especially the older ones with their heavy load? Considering there’s a rapidly ageing population around the world and many cities/towns with cobbled streets and unforgiving stairs, it’d be fantastic. Baby carriers. Luggage. A frame that can be assembled/disassembled around an item to assist with any heavy object. Can you see the potential??

5. Create a more environmentally friendly packaging for supermarkets to replace styrofoam and plastic containers.

6. Invent a cool mist (or sorts) system in MRT / buses to combat bad smells, reportedly one of the top reasons why Singaporeans feel stressed while on their way to work. This ranks at #3 and is even above rude behaviour!

7. Create a crowd-sourcing site for non-profit organizations

With scandals in SG over misuse of funds in charity organizations as well as a common gripe about not being sure where monetary donations go, perhaps it’s time for someone to create a crowd-sourcing site that is not centered around raising funds.

Chartiy orgs can put up their request for paint jobs, books, beds, equipment, etc, and volunteers would need to get these things done; they’re not able to simply donate the money. This makes charity work more meaningful and you would know exactly what you’ve donated towards.

8. Provide personal cloud computing solutions

Digitise someone’s library – photos, books, CDs, DVDs, LCD, VCDs – the whole lot. This is becoming a very popular service in Japan as homes are small. Any Singaporean would agree that most living spaces in SG are getting smaller and we are seeing the rise of tablets. Cloud computing may not be on the minds of most people and it may not be cheap right now but there’s a market for someone who can offer a reasonable solution.

Tips to stop Singaporean navel gazing

I’ve said previously that I would try to help Singaporeans. Therefore over some of my next few blogs, I’ll point the way to thinking big and different, which I hope would encourage Singaporeans to break out of the Singaporean mentality. Before I’m accused of being elitist or something worse, I urge Singaporeans to take a long, hard objective look at SG blog comments.

If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see most of it – I hate to say this – make Singaporeans sound like a bunch of losers. While more Singaporeans are wising up to PAP’s tactics and rallying for opposition support, I think a fair number are trapped in the very pit hole that PAP’s rule and brainwashing have created. It’s the mentality that only the PAP has the power to do anything in and for Singapore. How else to explain all that complaining?

So enough. Nothing will change for you if you continue down this path, even when the chains are eventually off. I’ve already stated the two main areas in which the Singaporean psyche needs a make-over. Here are my top tips on how to do that.

1. Eliminate “foreign talent”, “FT”, “FW”, “foreign worker”, “elite”, citizenship status and racial identifiers from your language.

Language shapes our view of the world and how we respond to it. There’s a very interesting article about it in the New York Times here. You need to read it. But if you can’t, here’s its main point:

When your language routinely obliges you to specify certain types of information, it forces you to be attentive to certain details in the world and to certain aspects of experience that speakers of other languages may not be required to think about all the time. And since such habits of speech are cultivated from the earliest age, it is only natural that they can settle into habits of mind that go beyond language itself, affecting your experiences, perceptions, associations, feelings, memories and orientation in the world

By constantly identifying people negatively by class, status, race and/or citizenship you’re not only creating an unnecessary divide but a hostile one that breeds xenophobia, racism and classism. When you carry around a ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mindset, you’re actually putting blinders on yourself and denying yourself a world of potential opportunities and rich experiences.

This was evident when I read an article in the Straits Times a few weeks ago about PRs who resigned from the PMET jobs they came here for, to set up retail shops and restaurants because they saw the opportunity available from serving their growing community.

Now why didn’t Singaporeans, who are whining about jobs being taken by foreigners, see this and act on it? Because they are so consumed with prejudice and so busy making derogatory comments they failed to embrace non-Singaporeans. Imagine how different things would be if they had taken them into the SG community. What could they have learnt and benefited from the foreigners’ presence?

2. Walk away from low value conversations.

These would be negative conversations about foreign talent and the like, conversations about property, COE, ERP, food, overcrowding, HDB, PAP per se. If this means you’ll be alienating your friends from time to time, so be it. Find or create a social gathering of people who’ll be able to engage you differently. It won’t be easy but staying with grumblers and complainers will only drive your energy and mindset southwards.

3. Stop reading or consuming local news, even if it’s free.

Your time and money are precious, and your mind is the most powerful tool you’ll ever own. So why waste time and money on low-grade fuel?

If you’re worried about missing out on important local news, check with your colleagues or friends every few days to see what you’re missing out on. And only if it’s something that’ll affect you and you absolutely need to know the details, borrow a copy.

Make it a principle never to waste time or money on crap.

4. Read foreign publications such as Financial Times Weekend, Monocle, Guardian, The New York Times; watch TED talks online.

These cover a wide range of topics and will offer you a fresh perspective on the world around you. Your horizon will expand as you discover new things and ideas, and different points of view; you’ll be amazed at what it sparks in you.

And it’s more affordable than you think. Monocle’s $15.30 per month when you subscribe. That’s cheaper than a month of Straits Times. You can read a significant amount of the other publications online for free. If you like newspapers per se, FT Weekend costs $22.80 for four weekends. That’s still cheaper than ST. Pair it with Monocle for greater variety and that’s $38.10; not much more than ST.

If you have to cut corners to pay for these publications, do it. Buy cheaper quality household products, forgo outings with friends, wear old clothes for CNY, eat homemade sandwiches for lunch for two weeks…

You deserve the highest grade of fuel to feed your mind.

5. Learn to pay more for services and value the person providing it.

This may be the hardest. I’ve seen loads of comments from Singaporeans crying foul over “Cheaper, Faster, Better”.  They say this is the very reason they’ve lost their jobs to foreigners. Yet on the flip side, this is what they expect.

Singaporeans love a good bargain and they’ll go out of their way to push a supplier to the wall or source for the cheapest item / provider. How can anyone survive in such an environment?

Take for example a skilled Singaporean who enjoys home renovations. He gives you a quote and guarantees that he and his buddy will personally work on refitting your entire bathroom and it’ll take four days. Naturally, you’d have gotten another quotation. Contractor Lim has a team of foreign workers and can complete the job in two days for 30% less. I’m pretty sure most will pick cheaper, faster, better.

Multiply that choice across all the different service industries and you’ll see how Singaporeans have actually limited their own futures by restricting where and how fellow Singaporeans can earn a living.

SG is a developed country and that means labour costs should be higher. Don’t drive a hard bargain. Learn to accept and respect someone else’s expertise and understand they’re trying to survive too.