2012Hellagood, marked my first foray of doing creative projects, one blog post at a time. I was incredibly lucky to have met Linda and Philipp, who loved this blog into existence. With penned up creative tension, I cooked, I crafted, I took photos and most importantly, I published. Unbeknownst to me, my life was on a trajectory.

2013 – A one-way ticket to the US. I began a year of solo-travelling and exploring. I met my wedding heroes – Troy, Heather, Rani, Joy, Tiffany, Christine, Mary, Kate, Caroline and Audrey. Despite being a Chinese boy from an unknown country, I was welcomed with utmost generosity. It opened my eyes and my heart. On a tight budget, I slept on couches, living rooms and buses. It cemented how little I need and how much I can create. More blog posts and craft projects were done.

2014Little Free Library, was an idea I saw in Berkeley. Gathering help from Yadin and Rafie, it got planted outside the house (still standing). Wander is a folded map of my favourite spots in Chinatown, hand-painted by Peixuan. It failed in crowd-funding and taught me about product-market fit. I printed it anyway and gave it as presents.

I had no luck landing a wedding internship in Singapore. I forged ahead.

2015Beautiful Gatherings, a wedding planning and design studio. My first business. So much fraud, I did it anyway and left the goatee to look older. The styled shoot was a hit and couples took a chance. Many weddings planned. I got on the list of top 10 wedding stylists in Singapore.

2016Misfits, the interview series launched. An effort to capture stories of possibilities, challenges and lessons along the journey. It hit the ground running with 12 interviews from Netflix comedians to the Number 1 beatboxer in the world.

Dinner at 335, a Supperclub where strangers gathered and cooked. I was grateful to have been invited to co-host with Norman. Those were lovely evenings.

2017 – Nudged by the remote lifestyle, Sage Animation, a 2D animation studio was launched. I learnt an enormous amount about lean startup, working online and the good kind of sales. 18 Misfit interviews shipped.

2018 – Sage Animation took off, new logo and website. I made videos for Scoot, SPH, UOB and others. I gifted Beautiful Gatherings to Wan Qi. From the Nevada desert, I converted a camper van and drove it to California. It should have been delightful to live my dream life, but wasn’t. Betting on retirement was a bad idea. 4 Misfits interviews published.

2019Curious Cargo, a bi-weekly newsletter launched. I took on a weekly publishing practice, 38 articles ship. I took Sage Animation off of the growth trap. I learnt about hiring, partnership and firing. Misfits entered the fourth year—more than 38 interviews.

2020 – In the pandemic, the blog got re-designed. 52 articles ship. Interviewed Derek Sivers along with 5 other Misfits. Newsletter continues. Sage Animation continues to provide.

[Updating this its goes…]

Looking back, I realised that most people think of their careers in terms of industry or professions. “I’m going to be a creative director.” “I’m going to be in finance.”

Somehow, my career has never been that. It is a series of projects… things to be invented, built and delivered. Things I think can be done better, or things that should have existed. Sometimes they took on a life on their own and lasted, other times, they flare and fade.

The stages of a project — an idea, sharing a vision, being stuck, seeing a path, committing, finding a home, building it, launching it, editing it—I’m grateful it’s a cycle I’ve been able to repeat over the years. There’s a thrill in each of them and something to learn.

The hard part used to be gain skills or resources. Over time, I took on bigger and more complex projects. At the same time, information became abundant, the tools got cheaper and distribution got easier. Instead of being limited by scarcity, it became a paradox of choices. The hard part has shifted internally, to dig in and to find a compass. To figure out the projects that combine my idiosyncrasy with maximum generosity.

Here are a handful of the projects I’ve created over the years – not my favourites, necessarily, or the biggest, but ones that indicate where I was when I was doing them. Thanks for letting me create.

What an opportunity for us now to create a project that we are proud of.

3

It has been 3 years, I went from smoking to completely not smoking. I couldn’t believe how simple it could be. I’ll tell you the main tricks here so you won’t have to waste your time.

If I were to do it again, here's what I'd do.

1) Have a plan. There is no point starting until you do this. Prepare to throw everything at it for 6 months. False starts can slide you back into the habit. You will start having negative self-talk and then it’s turtles all the way down.

2) Do a stocktake of your smoker friends. You need to leave them for 3 months. Let them know this beforehand. Tell them that you're going to die soon if you don't quit smoking and they'll usually understand. If they don't, you might want to reconsider your friends.

3) Spend a week to find out where and when you are triggered to smoke. Take notes. For me, it was due to stress and availability. Availability is when you are in situations where smoking is abundant, like a bar. Stress is when you are doing something hard, then you need to take a break, then you go to smoking.

Availability is easy. Stop going to those places for a while. The problem is staying at home is boring and going to a bar is fun.

The more interesting question is why am I doing it? For me, that basically boils down to I was doing it to survive longer in a social environment that I wasn’t particularly happy in. While I’m bored, I had to find activities to do and essentially stun my brain into submission. There are better ways to do that. One of those is to do things or hang around people that I enjoy and I don’t have to smoke to be around them.

Stress is harder. You basically need to re-learn new habits for dealing with stress. There are a whole bunch of things like sports, meditation or orgasm. The easiest way is to predict stressful situations, plan ahead and avoid them.

4) Travel. Go somewhere new for 2 weeks. Better, 4 weeks. A nice beach or somewhere with nature. I find travelling to be the best way to change the environment. When you are in a new place, you are hyper-aware of your surroundings. You actively choose things to do. Instead of working to break the habit, you are working not to start it. And not starting a habit is much easier than breaking one.

After being away, coming back have the same effect as going somewhere new. The same benefit follows.

5) Tell everyone you've already quit smoking. Use consistency bais to work for you. Then if you smoke, your friend will look at you all weird “Didn't you already quit smoking?" Then you are forced to be consistent with your words. Then you become what you say.

6) Use the carrot and the stick. Create a punishment for yourself. I have a friend, Spencer who cuts a $50 note as a punishment. Another friend, Gun who cuts his top-of-the-line Bose noise-cancellation headphones. It needs to be painful.

On the flip side, reward yourself. I don't think I need to give examples in that department.

7) Find an exercise that you enjoy. What you do it’s not as important that you just do it. Do something every day and make that a habit. Do it with a group of good looking healthy people. Use peer influence.

When you exercise, your body will tell you what it needs. Chances are, it wouldn't be to smoke more.

8) This is a little extreme. So, use it at your own risk. Smoke a ton, like 3 packets in a day and get really sick. Nothing will give you a bigger push for a new habit than your body screaming at you.

All of that said, quitting smoking is breaking a habit that has been hammered for many years. You need to be prepared to throw everything at it. You decide it’s important to you and you work at it. You create a plan. You prioritize it above everything else. It’s just like learning calculus. It’s just like losing weight. It’s just like succeeding at your job. It's a skill that you develop and a choice you make.

Once you master how to break the smoking habits, you are free to smoke again. And you would know how to break the habit again. Smoking would not have a grip on you. That is the day that you too, am a master of smoking, not the other way around.

5

Turned out to be a more complicated question than it seems. 

Seth Godin describes himself as a teacher. He’s also an entrepreneur, non-profit school builder, best-selling author, vegetarian and father. 

Aaron Maniam might be a civil servant. He’s also a poet, a scholar,  documentary producer, researcher and leads the SG birthday book (a great project).

Chris Guilbeau likes to be cheeky. His email sign off is “founder and janitor”. He produces a world-class event (WDS), is a best-seller author and probably have more projects up his sleeves. 

It’s no surprise when we try to answer this innocent question, we stumble. On one hand, we want to encapsulate all that we do into three succinct sentences. On the other side, the CEO of Nike is waiting for your elevator pitch. You don’t want to blow it up. 

So, Emily Wapnick cleverly coined the word multipotentialite. It rhymes with generalist, polymath, mutli-hypnate, renaissance man and multi passionate. The thing is when you introduce yourself as that, most people would look at you, confused. And as you explain the term and list out all your passions and vocations, you miss an opportunity to connect. 

It’s tempting to advocate for your mission, sound smart, explain the truth and nuance of who you are, and at the same time, connect with someone.

That rarely works. 

The realisation is that you don’t need to share everything, in one instance. What if instead, we begin with two, just two of the most interesting things about you. Explain with words that a twelve years old could understand. Start a conversation. 

You might find out that it is a more enjoyable (and probably the most effective) way to achieve all of the above.

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Goals are a pain.

If you have goals (fitness goals, financial goals, career goals, or impact goals) and achieve them, you’ll be happy for a while, until you get used to it. Then you’ll set a new one and you’re back at a state of dissatisfaction.

Conversely, if you don’t have a goal, you can just do your best. You can take what comes. You can reprioritize on a regular basis. You never have to worry about missing it.

Not having a goal lets you have more fun, or spend time doing what matters right now, which is, after all, the moment in which you are living.

Living without goals is a lot more fun, in the short run.

And as James Clear points out, it’s really systems and habits that help us achieve our goals anyway.

But guess what, it’s also goals that give meaning to systems and habits. Goal sets the destination. The goals of health, financial resilience, peace of mind or a house full of love. Those are goals.

In fact, goals and happiness are not exclusive. It can add to happiness. One trick is simply to prevent negative self-talk and see failure as learning opportunities. Creating a practice of self-acceptance (while striving for goals).

The way I see it, there are 2 options. One option is to set meaningful goals, get more tension, achieve them (or maybe not), and die. The other option is to go with the flow, achieve what you achieve, and die.

It seems to me, though, that the people who are doing work they are proud of, who lead, and who make an impact (and have fun)… those people have goals.

[Ali Abdaal video on goals inspired this post]

2

But what if the…
Clothes you buy
Food you eat
Jobs you take
Money you earn
Freedom that you designed
Games you play
Exercise you do
Habits you change
Cities you visit
People you surround yourself with
Goals you set
Boundaries you draw
Books you read
Meditations you ponder upon
Love you give
Legacies you leave behind
Meaning you assign

It’s all about emotions, long-term sustainable positive emotions. Your emotions.

What if time, options, love, learning, growing, living to your potential is all in support of emotions.

Of course,
Some of them are in conflict (because of colliding desires)
Some of them cause short-term pain (in flavour for long-term happiness)
Some of them you’re running away from (pain or fear or uncertainty)
And others you’re working towards (love, play or flow)

How would you choose what you do differently?

2

I’m not talking about the emotion that is generated by perfection, or someone who is beautiful or exciting. I’m talking about the emotion that you use on what is flawed and what is imperfect. It is empathy and emotional labour and it will wear you out.

Issn't a man for himself, why bother?

Because it’s a privilege? Because it’s fuel that keeps you going? Or because it feels good to love someone?

Or maybe just maybe, you want to be loved. To be missed when you’re gone. To be seen and to be understood.

It turns out, the only way to get love is to give love. It’s not something you can buy. No amount of logic, money or power will bring you true, unconditional love. But it’s free to give. Give the kind that wears you out, give it to yourself, give it to others.

On a long enough time scale, the universe will send it back your way.

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For most people, the holidays are more about present exchange than the selfless act of actually giving a gift.

A present exchange is a beginning of a transaction while you anticipate something in return. I give you, you give me. We're even.

If you want to show that you care, the worst time is when it's being lumped it together as a cultural act. And the best time is when there are no other reasons, but only that you care.

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Think about the gifts that you remembered long past you should. The ones that you treasured and thought about fondly. 

Chances are, they are not expensive. They are meaningful.

It's as simple as a kind note sent spontaneously. A book at the right time or dinner delivered to you. Someone saw you for who you are, where you’re going and what you need.

What makes the difference is empathy. When we extend our heart and our feelings to another, when we imagine what it must be like to be them, it will wear you out.

It's not easy. But it’s precisely what makes the best gifts, not the price tag.  

[HT: The letter from Jim Collins to his dean is still resonating with me.]

1

One way to appreciate the day is to accept that we’re going to die, and it might be today.  That’s the truth. We are all going to die. We are all decaying. 

You can choose to be depressed or you can choose to see it as a gift. It can bring you happiness or great sadness. The good news is that it is a skill, not a talent. Let’s call it gratitude. A skill, not a talent, to look at difficult situations and treating it as a gift. 

It’s easy to be grateful for the things that are going your way. But the opportunity is to figure out how to be grateful for the difficult things. 

This year I’m grateful for the pandemic. This has affected many companies and the livelihood of many. Many companies have shut down. Many people have lost their jobs, their plans vanished and are forced to work from home. I also think this has given myself and others, an opportunity to look inward and get to know ourselves. We can’t run away from the relationships we have at home, and most importantly, our relationship with ourselves. This has got me to re-look at my values, hire an integral coach and try to align my views of life. I got to learn about the emotions that I didn’t know I have and how best to use them. 

Many people blame the government for the poor execution of the covid plan, especially the foreign workers’ dorm situation. This could also be the tipping point that could cause a lasting change. It is amazing to see Singaporeans band together, self-organise and launches initiatives to help the community. It shows that we, Singaporeans are powerful leaders, who don't need to follow the rules and achieve amazing things. 

I’m grateful for my parents. Despite our differences which led to many disagreements, they are really brave to join me for family therapy. And show up weekly to improve our communication together. They have provided a nourishing space for me to rest and recuperate. 

I’m grateful for health. This year, the lower back has given up a few times which has caused me to be bedridden for a few days. This also led me to look into my health. I changed my relationship with food and developed new eating habits. This has resulted in me getting to the lowest weight in my adult life. I look way better and feel so too. 

My wrist has also got some problems. It was easily inflamed which prevented me from using the Vespa, a few days at a time. I pay a lot more attention to it now and know when to rest it. Being more attune to my wrist and stretching it more, the flexibility has improved and I don’t need to rest my wrist for more than a day at a time. 

The more we practice gratitude, the happier we will be. It is not to ignore the problem. But instead of a state of panic and anxiety, we go about solving these problems in a clear and calm fashion. Which might just be the most effective way. 

If the journey is the destination, would you like to enjoy it? 

[Thanks Tynan for inspiring this post]

1

One way to deal with difficult problems is to insist on thinking through, with intense focus, all possible outcomes, investigate each fears, and draw possible connections.

Holding all that in your brain, start brainstorming on novel solutions to solve the multiple downstream problems and upstream causes. This back and forth feels efficient, but it fails to deliver on a few fronts.
1) By the time, you go from problem A to problem D, you forget problem B. Then jump back and forth
2) What might be 6 problems feels like an infinite death spiral
3) The initial anxiety leads to a looming darkness

The alternative is to list it out. Problems, upstream causes and downstream effects. Brainstorm solutions for each problems.

You can rank these ideas by expense, by urgency, by importance. You can estimate on timelines and say, “what do I do now?” An elegant solution might just present itself.

First thing to know, it is 6 problems, not a looming death spiral.

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