The Broccoli test

Would you eat a plate of broccoli instead?

No salt, no sauce, just boiled broccolis.

If a plate is not enough, have one more. But no cheating, just broccoli.

If what you want are burger, fries, and a bad day cure, it is perhaps easier to admit that. And use it as a compass on the journey to a healthy lifestyle.

The work might be to avoid bad days or to find delicious and healthy alternatives. But it all starts with a plate of broccoli.

The 34-Year-Old Vodien Internet Millionaire Who Sold Everything Away, Alvin Poh

Photo by Rice Media

Alvin Poh is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Vodien, a cloud hosting company.

Vodien was founded in 2002. It was later acquired by Dreamscape in 2017, and was valued for S$ 30million. Shortly after being a millionaire at 33 years old, he sold most of his belongings (including his Lamborghini) and embraced minimalism.

Alvin holds a masters degree in Information Systems from Carnegie Mellon.

He is now traveling and snowboarding around the world.

In this conversation, we spoke about:

  • Why Alvin sold his Lamborghini and embraced minimalism
  • The evolution of Alvin’s fitness routine
  • How does Alvin apply the 80/20 principle to business
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Click “continue reading” for the link and show notes…

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Yes, I Would Show Up

That is a dangerous promise. You have put yourself together with the possibilities of failure. You are on the hook to uphold your promise.

Consider the opposite. Don’t tell anyone before you solved the problem.

You get all credit without the risk. All the upside without the downside.

Authors don’t announce their book until it’s 90% done. Apple doesn’t reveal its new products until all the patents are filed.

Create a tension within yourself that propels action.

The next time you find a problem (or a complaint), that might be your treasure map, keep that a secret and start chipping away. Once ready, delight others with your solution. Soon, you would indispensable and don’t blame me when you are invited to the next secret ‘save the world’ gathering.

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The photo was taken at the interview with the amazing Khailee Ng. We chatted about his visit to Necker island.

Hiding in Plain Sight

That would be you.

Last week, I went to a documentary film screening of Dieter Rams, a famous product designer. It was followed by a panel discussion with difficult questions that touch the nerves of the audience.

How do you balance minimalism and capitalism? How do you persuade the client to embrace minimalism? How do you implement these design philosophy in the real world?

There was no straight easy answer from the people on stage.

The ones who should be seeing this documentary were not here.

Social media is so addictive. Lawmakers are not acting fast enough. The takeaway packaging is still plastic.

We broke into smaller groups and continued the discussion over drinks.

I threw around some ideas. Should we delete our apps? Should we start a petition? Can we buy your friend a Spork?

The more ideas I gave, the more problems I received.  My roommate accepted being slapped in the face by her boyfriend. The small town people in India don’t watch enough TED videos. Coconuts are wrapped in plastic film.   

Well, perhaps you don’t really want to solve these problems. Perhaps we just want to talk about them.

Because perhaps the answer starts with you. Not someone else, you. You need to put yourself on the hook. Each one of us needs to.

Do you really care enough about the problems to sacrifice your money, your wit and your convenience to claim those problems and take ownership of them? 

Because the alternative is easy. It is to hide. It is to blow up these problems, so big that it doesn’t involve us. It is to blame other people. It is to find more fault than solutions.

It is perhaps harder, and more generous when we change ourselves before telling the world how they should act. To change one person then change the world. And because real change happens only when you decide to take the first step. Not them, it’s you.

Consider when we noticed ourselves faulting the world, perhaps it is better for everyone if we use that momentum and be a part of the solution.

Thanks Roshni and Roslyn for editing help.

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The photo was taken at Ban Heng Long Trading, a local wood shop where I go to replace the door of the Little Free Libary.

Free isn’t free

Here is a free newsletter. It’s free. You should sign up for it.
But what about the email that you give in exchange?
But what about receiving junk that you don’t need?
But what about the spending everyday deleting that email?

There is a free ice-cream giveaway. It’s free. You should go get it.
But what about the calories you will gain?
But what about the time you spent waiting in line?
But what about the uncomfortableness when someone comes to harass you about their latest product?

On the contrary, air is free. It’s everywhere. You use it every day. You can’t pay for it even if you want to.

Just because something is free doesn’t mean it’s worth it. It is our job to understand the people you seek to change. The calculation that people make in their head. This is what it means to empathise. The seductive of free might be an easy way to get people to consider but it’s never a way to delight them.

Before demanding that people should do it because it’s free, ask yourself if it’s worth it. For you and for them.

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The photo was taken at the Wonderland exhibition, ArtScience Museum Singapore.