The forgotten remote control.

Remember when your family had to fight over the remote control? Or at least, seen the same on American sitcoms? Ever wondered why we don’t care anymore?

It’s not because we can simply download the latest episode of Game of Thrones and whine about it on Facebook; well partially though.

It’s because we are slowly starting to live in our own individual shells.

Picture the typical family out on a nice Sunday dinner. Yup, they’re all glued to their phones. When they get home, they just get to use bigger screens: tablets and computers.

This happens when friends hang out too, even between couples. It’s sad if you sit opposite your “loved one”, Instagram your dinner and hashtag dinnerwithbaby when you’re better off doing it alone since you aren’t talking 90% of the time.

Are we truly “connected”?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting the blame on technology. My Master Sergeant in the army once told me: A good carpenter never blames his own tools.

I think there’s a shift (at least from what I’m seeing in Singapore) to more individuality; narcissism if you will. Everyone is looking out for number one: themselves.

Apparently, there is an inane need to entertain every possible second of your life, despite being in the company of loved ones. Or the desire to drown yourself in… well, yourself; either in selfies or Whatsapp group chats.

When was the last time you asked your parents how work is treating them? Or checked on your siblings’ school or career? How about your friend’s new horrible boss that came in just last week? Or your other friend’s wedding preparations?

Perhaps I sit on the tree of social interaction, the forgotten cousin of the now-hip social media. I believe that meals in company were meant to spark conversation and nostalgia. I believe advertisement breaks served to let everyone have a say as to what they think is about to happen next. I believe the best moments in life are shared in person, not on Facebook.

Normally, I’d leave a “Share on Facebook” button after every post, but this time, if you really want to, tell your friends in person.

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Are you settling?

When was the last time you had a dream?

A deliberate daydream, to be exact. A dream fashioned purely from the pairing of ambition and imagination. A dream about surpassing your boss and being an industry heavyweight. One that is unfazed by car loan repayments and future home down-payments.

Perhaps you haven’t let go of those aspirations, but are you still steadfast in your beliefs? That you will succeed, whatever your definition of that coveted term may be. That you will persevere despite the odds, against the odds.

Or are you settling?

“The job industry is getting tighter.” “The economy is slowing down.” “Upper management doesn’t understand how I feel or help me towards my goals.” “I’m getting too old for this.” “I have responsibilities to my family and partner to fulfil.” “I’m too busy.” “Cost of living is increasing.”

Approaching the big 30, I’ve noticed many engaged or married couples at my age group starting to settle, becoming “realistic”. Money is exchanged for hours of their lives, which is exchanged for personal consumption, tiding over “bad weeks”. Long weekends would be worshipped, although Sunday nights would be painful revisits to decisions on quitting the current job.

Sooner or later, a baby will be make his/her into the world, alongside lost hours and money. “Maybe we shouldn’t have gotten the Mercedes, but we didn’t know nursery fees are so high!” “Better keep my job for the stability and be content with what I have.”

Whatever happened to your dreams? That youthful exuberance during university? That insatiable hunger to succeed? That determination to never just be a faceless cog in the behemoth that is your company?

Ah, success.

Easy on the lips, isn’t it?

Were you naive? Were you unrealistic? I would like to think not.

Success is never delivered on a silver platter, when you’re waking up on a late Sunday afternoon, post-Saturday night drinks. Not a single successful person was granted the status of immortality in his/her field by virtue of procrastinating, complaining or “settling”.

Ironically, there are many who were given the platform and tools for success, but appreciated them the least.

Want the key to success? Grit.

Work hard, but spend your hours wisely; work not for money, but for yourself and your skills. Work is never meant to be tiring, if you like what you do. Never be content with your current lifestyle. Never settle.

So, stay true to your dreams, and make strides only matched by hunger and ambition.

As a person whom I held high esteem for once said:

Stay hungry, stay foolish. – Steve Jobs

 

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7 Things A Man Can Do To Level Up

Hi guys, I’ve been invited as a weekly blogger/columnist for my friend’s dating app Love Out Loud Asia, check them out. This is my third post and you can read it here as well. 

If there’s one thing Final Fantasy and Diablo taught me when I was growing up, it would be the importance of Leveling Up. (And epic loot of course, but who’s going to find an Ultima Weapon in real life?) 

It’s a simple process really: Find weak enemies to kill for experience first, rest up to heal, then find stronger enemies to defeat. Rinse, lather, repeat.

How different is this from real life though? Finding a more difficult song to master or a more delicate dish to cook; it’s just like a tougher boss fight. Many practical skills and impressive feats are thoroughly achievable through hard work and patience, much like Mephisto runs.

While we can’t offer skill trees and stat distribution, here are 7 ways you can Level Up:

1. Playing a Musical Instrument

Most of us are absorbed in careers governed by efficiency and industry, but what ever happened to creativity, self expression and personal fulfillment? One of the true joys of life is creating something that you can share and people can relate to, for example a personal blog or musical cover of a song you love. So pick up that moldy guitar in the storeroom or start Googling “piano lessons”. I’ll even help out with guitar lessons, just ask!

Resources: ultimate-guitar.com, youtube.com/user/martyzsongs

2. Speaking a third Language

duolingo-or-memrise

There is no disadvantage if you can speak a third language on top of English and your mother tongue. Firstly, there’s the obvious advantage when travelling to that country. It adds a dimension on the C.V. and impresses at the restaurant. Learning a new language also expands networking opportunities and allows immersion in another culture, another world almost. With free online resources, that world is only a step away.

Language learning websites: duolingo.com, memrise.com

3Hittin’ the Gym

Photo credit: bodybuilding.com

Photo credit: bodybuilding.com

If you haven’t started lifting weights, here are the facts: it prevents heart disease, helps with sleep, improves posture, regulates testosterone levels, boosts self confidence and enhances your image. There are a ton of free resources available at your fingertips and with the convenience and low entrance fees of public gyms, there really is no excuse.

Resources: bodybuilding.comreddit.com/r/fitness/wiki/getting_started

4. Take up a Team Sport

Photo credit: Tiger Street Football

Photo credit: Tiger Street Football

Besides obvious health benefits, taking up a new team sport can improve communication and problem solving, sharpen decision making, develop personal patience and for others and foster bonds with old and new friends. Also, you are more likely to commit to weekly sessions with friends rather than a gym session that can always be put off.

5. Dressing Up

I quote from my previous blog post: “I’m in the opinion that a fashionably dressed man will leave a better impression than a lady with good fashion sense.” It’s not difficult to start: just visit male fashion websites with regularity. Some tips from another of my previous post: Fit > Quality > Brand, get a nice pair of loafers/boat shoes, belt must match your shoes and invest in a tailored suit.

Resources: dappered.comaskmen.com/fashionmensfashionmagazine.co.ukvaletmag.com

6. Cultivate EQ and Compassion

If there is one thing severely lacking in Singapore, it’s compassion. Start by volunteering for a cause and making it a weekly commitment. Too much? Bring your younger siblings out for a movie and get to know them better. No younger siblings? Your cute nephews and nieces. Visit your grandparents and talk to them.

You could also raise your EQ, which I personally value more than IQ. A higher EQ would  improve your relationships with your families, friends, prospective girlfriends and bosses. An excellent article by Karla Jennings on lifehack.org defines the Six Pillars of Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness, Empathy, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Social Skills and Happiness.

7. Cooking

I used to be impressed by guys who can cook, until I went to Melbourne for my Bachelor’s and realised how easy it is. Start with breakfast if you haven’t already. Scrambled eggs are a quick and easy fix in the mornings, and a great start to cooking. Move yourself up to pasta and sauce, before doing meats and vegetables.

It’s not going to taste nice on the first try, but Kurt Cobain didn’t compose a song on his first try either. A social aspect of being able to cook is sharing your dishes with friends; organise a potluck! Want a recipe? Google knows.

________________________________________________

This guide serves to add dimensions and diversity to enrich your life. Do not partake in this leveling up to impress your friends or with ladies; do it for yourself and your well being.

Ultimately, a man should never be content with himself physically, mentally, socially or spiritually; this drive and fighting spirit should test his limits and go beyond them. Only then, he would know he lived a full life, not one of just dreams and goals.

We foolishly believe that our own limitations are the proper measure of limitations.

– Napoleon Hill

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Hope.

Hope can be the most powerful force known to mankind.

Hope is the essence of dreams; it keeps us going every single day. We live for our dreams to come true. What dreams do you have?

Hope is nothing without action.

Hope is taking the leap and risking it all for a better future, be it your job security or your heart.

Hope is belief: Self-belief and believing in others.

Hope is the foundation of innovation, the catalyst for change and improvement: flying airplanes, a millions apps in your palm and rising cancer survival rates.

Hope is the absence of realism. Realistic people never have hope. They work within the boundaries of what they believe is possible and thus limiting themselves to such.

Hope is taking a new musical instrument, sport or language and practising day in day out.

Hope is watching your team play every week, even though they’ve been playing really badly lately. Because Hope is knowing that your team will have its day.

Hope is watching your younger siblings or kids grow up to be upright and compassionate people in society who can stand on their own feet.

Hope is asking her out for dinner, even though she might not seem to be interested in you. 

Hope is opening the door not just in your head, but in your heart.

Hope is changing the world into a better place, one small gesture of kindness at a time.

Hope banishes fear. Hope is saying no to that irrelevant word “impossible”.

Hope is not giving up, not surrendering.

Hope defies logic and reasoning. 

Hope trumps all.

Never lose Hope.

tumblr_mckdekGmK21rtptbso1_1280

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For the love of all creation.

I like to start this blog post by saying a heartfelt Thank You to all who have visited this blog and complimented that I write well. Compliments are hard to come by nowadays. Whether I really write well or not is besides the point; I’m happy you enjoyed reading my posts.

I’ve had the occasional good-natured feedback about my blogging style and direction. Actually, I am more than happy to produce content that would have a positive impact on others’ lives and/or create a community for discussion on relevant topics. In a selfish sense, I’m not trying for mass appeal; Fame and money are bonuses.

I think our society (or Asian societies, in general) share this deeply embedded notion about life: making money. “Go to university, so that you can secure a well-paying job”. What happens after? You work for a company for a cause you may not believe in, only to be oppressed by old management, but to what end?

Now now, I hear you. Increased cost of living is making life tough nowadays. You only want to earn enough. But when has anyone looked at their bank account and said: “Yeah that’s enough?”

Credit: Stephan Pastis, “Pearls Before Swine” comic

So where does all this lead to? What gives life its flavour? To me personally, it’s about creating something that the world can enjoy. That’s where true fulfillment lies, being able to share your creation with the world reciprocating back.

Its also about being true to yourself. To produce something borne of your love for that subject. By creating something, setting your own rules and boundaries, I think there’s a lot of much-needed soul searching to be done.

This realisation hit me a couple of years back; I was performing with my friend Ryan Teh in front of 200 people, singing and playing the guitar, to raucous applause. That brief moment when you know someone is enjoying something you created, that feeling of connecting with the audience, is quite indescribable.

To borrow a top comment from a YouTube video:

“…that they have touched people and people touched them … just love, simple plain love. The moment when you feel that you are part of something beautiful and big, you belong. Just love.”

I always thought that artists have a better measure of life than others. Musicians, script writers, bloggers, authors, comic artists, game designers, chefs, fashion designers: all of them have a single common purpose: to create something that the world can appreciate, experience and associate with.

You can start! Write a blog (or book), compose a song, form a network, pursue painting or photography, learn to cook, to name a few. For those who abhor rules, shouldn’t you have started already, instead of complaining? Personally, I have two things I want to accomplish within a year from now:

  1. Performing weekly acoustic sessions at a pub. Hopefully I can perform enough songs on my guitar for a place to accept me!
  2. Writing, filming and producing my own YouTube mini-series, based on a love story where I aim for my audience can connect with and understand what the characters are going through, as opposed to a fantasy love story that will never happen in real life.

I decided to include my personal “creation” goals in this blog post for accountability, instead of just dreaming but never doing.

After being rampant consumers for most of our lives, when was the last time you did something that had a positive impact on a stranger’s life?

Once again, thank you for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed this post. If this post, or any post, made you think a little, smile a little, or just pushed you towards happiness a little, then you’ve made my day.

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9 things I like to tell my brother on his 18th birthday.

To my little brother of 18 years,

Happy Birthday. June 30th will always be a special day for me.

I remember 18 years ago, on this day, I was running around the hospital announcing to all our relatives I’ve become a big brother (大哥). I was nine, oblivious to the responsibility that title would carry in the years to come. That was the least of my worries; a new member has joined the happy family.

I always smile to myself when I recall your kindergarten years; you were always so cheerful and chatty. Extremely chatty. Telling the whole family what happened in the day and although none of us were really listening, your infectious liveliness sparked cheer in all of us.

Did I forget to include your insatiable appetite?

Did I forget to include your insatiable appetite?

So much more to say: movies with 二哥 during the school holidays, the school bus bully, “your friend” reliably giving things for you that you weren’t allowed to buy, the box of pineapple tarts you unknowingly finished in an hour. I hate to say it, but it happened so fast. Sometimes I wish I had all those moments on camera, so I can relive them one more time.

Bros over hos.

Bros over hos.

So here you are now, on the cusp (I know you like the word ‘cusp’) of adulthood, the peak of your youth (they’ll tell you that again on your 21st). Your future, albeit hazy (too soon?), seems bright and yours for the taking. And rightfully so.

And yet, the journey’s just beginning. You’ve a lot to learn, still. I might just be a little ahead in this journey, and instead of being the reliably naggy 大哥 you’ve come to love, I decided to pen it down and hopefully you’ll come to this page from time to time.

Here’s 9 things you should always keep close to your heart:

  1. Follow your dreams. Wake up every day looking forward to working at your goals and dreams. Don’t live a life of “should’ve”; live a life of “could’ve and would’ve”.
  2. Communicate. Pride can sometimes be unnecessarily crippling. Speak out your feelings and thoughts, remove imaginary barriers and engage in honest discussion. If you don’t agree, ask and point out why. Most of the time, you can learn from the other side of the coin.
  3. Be proud of making mistakes. Mistakes are learning points, and you can only get better after making one.
  4. Learn to adapt. Sometimes, we are thrust into situations we can’t avoid. Embrace the surroundings and make the best of it.
  5. Spend more time with the family. No, looking at your phone whilst at the dining table doesn’t count. Soon enough, you’ll be doing National Service followed by attending university. When that’s done, I might already have started my own family, with the two of you bound to follow suit. Let’s treasure the time we have with Papa, Mama and 二哥 now.
  6. Play hard, work hard. I didn’t need to tell you the play hard bit actually.
  7. Never crumble under pressure. They say people are like teabags, you never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water. Perform under YOUR best circumstances. So what if you fail? Refer to point 3.
  8. Never forget the family is proud of you. We will always support you in whatever you want to do. And we’ll always be here if you have a question or just need a resting place.
  9. Love yourself, more than you can love anyone else.

Life beckons. But you’ll always been my little brother, who always happily tells me how his day went, in the cutest way possible.

Love,

Your 大哥

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The negativity of it all.

We Singaporeans are an unhappy lot.

No, it was not the Gallup survey that jolted me to write this post; I am not one to believe in labels. A partial yes to because I listen to my family’s, friends’ and fellow Singaporeans complaints on a daily basis.

I was inspired after seeing how a blog post complaining about Singaporeans complaining was the most shared-about link on Facebook during the recent haze situation (read: “Dumb and Dumber Singaporeans Reactions to the Haze“). I want to believe the author’s good intention was to hold a self-reflecting mirror against the ugly side of Singaporeans, but I fear he/she was just ranting against the ranters. Just look at his/her choice for a title.

Photo credit: 9GAG Singapore

Photo credit: 9GAG Singapore

Are we really unhappy? Sure, we complain a lot. But I think everyone needs a stress outlet. An emotional unload is much better than plotting someone’s death. But are we complaining too much?

I read an article in The Straits Times many years ago on the complain culture in Singapore. The author theorises that it is the deeply ingrained Asian teaching of humility that causes us to complain so much. Makes a bit of sense: You’re better off showing your shortcomings than flaunting your achievements… right?

If your company finally recognises the hard work you put in with a fat 10-month bonus, you’d hardly be taking a photo of your bank statement and sharing it on Facebook. What if the reverse were to happen? Coming in on hard times, your company decides to cut your salary by 10%. Your reaction? I’m sure the world will be the first to know, for at least a week.

But what does all of this unconsciously do to you? You guessed it: you’ll undoubtedly be miserable. All you’re exuding is unhappiness, I can’t see how you can be happy. You are what you speak. Somehow, humility can be a double edged sword.

Grumpy Cat.

Here’s my theory: A large number of Singaporeans react more strongly to bad news than to good news. Watch:

  • COE prices hit record highs: National uproar.
  • COE prices experience sharp declines across the board: *no reaction*
  • ERP raises by prices by $1: A death curse to the gahmen every time you hear the beep.
  • ERP slashes rates during school holidays: *no reaction*
  • Boss comments on your mistakes: Your boss doesn’t know anything and doesn’t deserve to be where he/she is.
  • Boss compliments your work: *no reaction*
  • Someone cuts you in traffic: Every fiber in your body wants to cut him back.
  • Someone gives way for you to cut him: *no reaction*

True story right?

So here’s my proposal: Reverse that. Over-react when something good happens; shouldn’t you be doing that? Good news doesn’t come by as often as anyone wants.

Bad news? Well, you could a) cast it aside and focus on the better things in your life, or b) try to make the best of a bad situation and learn from it. It’s a win-win situation, I’m telling you.

Examples you say?

The recent haze situation made me fall ill, but I didn’t go blaming neighbours and being miserable. Instead, I reveled in 9GAG Singapore‘s reliably good antics on the haze, proposed for friends to crash over at my place to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals (every cloud has a silver lining) if gahmen were to issue a stop work order and warmed my heart when I saw this video.

COE prices went up? Good, take some of that saved up money to go to the Maldives. MRT delayed? Good, more time to complete level 4,830 on Candy Crush. Phone ran out of juice? Good, your boss can’t contact you for a valid reason.

Photo credit: hungrygowhere.com

Photo credit: hungrygowhere.com

Also, never forget the everyday, small things in life that make YOU happy. Your mom cooking your favourite dishes. Having a drink or two with your friends. Watching your favourite team win. Being able to listen to your favourite music. The trains arriving every 2 minutes. That cute guy/girl checking you out more than once. Being able to have all these at your doorstep: Ba Chor Mee/Ba Kut Teh/Chicken Rice/Char Kway Teow/Roti Prata/Nasi Lemak. A round of DoTA. A KTV session. Sunday brunch. An episode of The Noose. Saturday badminton sessions. A good glass of wine in good company. I could go on forever.

You will only have a bad day if you let it.

Happiness is a choice. Choose happy.

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Acceptance of others.

I had a recent conversation with my friends recently, over mahjong (’cause great ideas are formed at a mahjong table, said No One Ever).

We were talking about marriage (’cause that’s what everyone my age is talking about now, whatever happened to DoTA?!), and I brought up the unspoken “market guideline” of the engagement ring being 3 times the last drawn salary of the lucky groom. Yes, I can almost hear the silent uproar of the Singaporean male community with how money could be better spent on housing or exorbitant COE prices.

And as a professional shit stirrer, I felt it was my duty to inform my male comrades about how a Hermes bag can set you back by more than $20,000 (and I wasn’t even talking about the limited editions).

You cannot imagine the amount of bias the room could contain.

Of course, there are also one-sided views on how certain professions are looked down upon, or “cosplaying” is a waste of money, or cricket is dumb.

“Everyone is entitled to their own set of beliefs and preferences”, but I think some folks neglect to view that statement in its entirety. They think: “Yeah I’m entitled to my opinion”, but forget that others have their tastes and priorities too!

I think I bashed a couple of Singaporean males for not dressing well in a previous post, but hey, if external appearance isn’t high on their priority list, so be it! I think comfort trumps all in fashion and I just tend to be more comfortable with a better appearance. But that doesn’t mean everyone has to conform to my beliefs. I was just giving some advice and trying to help my boys out.

What I’m calling for is mutual respect. I prefer tea and you prefer coffee. Don’t put down someone’s hobbies or interests, or draw negative conclusions from it. Have an open mind and see both sides of the coin.

Learn to understand others’ interests and find out what hooked them in the first place. Unearth the complexities and passion behind their craft. It’s actually very simple? Well some people like it simple and minimalistic! You’ll be surprised at how close-minded you were, not to mention childish too! (Remember how at 10 years old, kissing the opposite gender was disgusting? Well, look who’s the horny one now! Haha!)

Like your mind, the world will open up if you choose to let it open. The world is a more beautiful place once you learn to accept.

P.S. I have a secret admiration for cosplayers, enjoy cricket once in a while (especially when I’m watching with my Indian friends) and strongly believe that every profession (yes, even the bloody summon aunties) deserve some respect.

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