I will sit with you in the dark


This is a story of a boy and his best friend—one of whom is me. A story that was only one sided until now.


I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.
—For Good, by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, written by Stephen Schwartz.

This song had been playing in his head for the past few months, but only on that day—a Tuesday—did he talk to me about this song. He asked me, “You know why I like this song?” I expected an answer like “the singers and the musical”, but he told me it was because this song reminded him to appreciate the people he has met.

I was not sure what he meant, so I asked him and he countered by asking if I know the quote “Always see the bright side of life”. He, then, went on to share his experience in his childhood.

He was one of the brightest in his class. Once the brightest, according to him, but he felt that the implicit expectation, and the unspoken recognition, from his closest ones and his teachers had, somehow, created a person that was not capable of sharing his personal opinions. He added, “You know, the kind that make you think twice, that maybe you are wrong and that you shouldn’t be careless! That you do not deserve recognition. Not before you come out on top of the world.”

I know about impostor syndrome now, but I didn’t back then. So, I didn’t really give a useful response to him.

“…But the reason I asked if you know the quote ‘Always see the bright side of life’ is that life won’t always seem sunny, but even if it’s cloudy or raining like it’s gonna drown you, you are actually living through it all. That only when you know pain that you appreciate the joy, and that only when you know what it feels to be alive can you appreciate the death.

He added that he didn’t hate the people he had come across in his life. Those people were the ones that helped him being who he was. And that the people he would meet would be the ones help shaping him as a person.


I wished that I had told him that it was ok for him to sit in the dark when he couldn’t see the bright side of his life, and that I would—still will—sit with him, even if the whole world would say otherwise.

Real Life La La Land II: To Those who Wants to Dream

Real Life La La Land II: To Those who Wants to Dream

The first part of what I learnt from La La Land can be found here.

If you have watched the movie La La Land, then you must have been familiar with Mia and Sebastian. Mia, being an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, being a jazz musician with no clear prospect, depict common themes happening in our life, especially to those in their quarter-life crisis, aged between 20 and 30.

This second part is dedicated to those of us who might have dreams somewhere in our years of living, but — just as flame flickers and die without being fuelled — have let their dreams burnt into nothingness, or at least into ashes.

But, who might the dreamers be?

  • Ones who know how they measure their life
  • Ones who dare trying and failing

Ones who know how they measure their life?

In his book How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton M. Christensen emphasized that when we find ourselves stuck in unhappy careers or unhappy lives — just like the broke Jazz musician Sebastian stuck in his new high-end gig — it is often the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of what really motivates us.

In my post 7 thoughts worthy of being pursued in 2017, one topic that has come by my touched the topic of how creating an eulogy for our future self is a good way to align our resolutions in 2017 to our long-term goals. However, how do we know it — the things that make us tick?

A quick check that we can do: ask ourselves whether we are motivated by external or internal factors. While Jensen and Meckling, with their incentive theory, say that we can pay people to want what we want — over and over again, while Frederick Herzberg, with his two-factor theory, differentiate between hygiene and motivation factors. While Jensen and Meckling’s might work in some settings, true motivations doesn’t necessarily stem out of external motivators — in this case: incentives.

So, do your exercise and know what motivate(s) you.

Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies. — Albert Camus

Ones who dare trying and failing?

And even when the answer’s “no”
Or when my money’s running low
The dusty mic and neon glow
Are all I need…
… Climb these hills
I’m reaching for the heights
And chasing all the lights that shine
And when they let you down
You’ll get up off the ground
’Cause morning rolls around
And it’s another day of sun

— Another Day of Sun, La La Land

How many of us are worthy of this song Another Day of Sun performed in La La Land: of having nothing more than essential pieces needed for living and of getting back up every time we are being turned down?

I am skeptical, but let’s say most of us dares trying and failing. Instead of following the “proven” conventional path of living (study, get an internship, then a steady job and promotions, and so on) with hope that this track is bullet-proof, we realize that success comes at a price, and only for those who dares pursuing their dreams relentlessly.

In the movie, Mia broke her heart many times in numerous unsuccessful auditions — despite those being auditions that are organized by people who pay no respect to talents, just like those organizations where the ill-mannered ass-kissers are promoted over those with genuine interest for the organizations — and almost dismiss her chance to that final audition that propels her to fame.

But, then, how do we know that we should keep on trying or to stop when it hasn’t worked out for quite some time? 2 years ago, I wrote this short post and argue that: (1) we should know how bad we want it, (2) we should reflect, (3) we should ask for genuine feedback.

Maybe, the answer is have a bit of madness!

“The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”—Steve Jobs


Let’s meet on the comment section below!

photo credits: Dreaming — http://b-a-l-a-n-c-e.deviantart.com/art/Dreaming-167163357

7 Thoughts Worthy of Following-Up in 2017

7 Thoughts Worthy of Following-Up in 2017

I’ve spent one week sitting on this post and was still thinking to put it off, until I came across two conversations over the course of this week. One started heavy, with the question “What’s next?”, and the other with slightly lighter “Many founders start their business while they were in their mid 20s”. Those conversations pushed me to finish this post and publish it today.


It was one day into 2017. People I know had begun asking each others what their resolutions would be even before Christmas. Some had very specific answers “I want to change job”, “I wanna lose those extra weight” or a simple “I might wanna get married soon”. Well, thanks goodness that some others still hadn’t really though about it—how Schadenfreude I was!

However, it caused me to spend some time thinking about what I thought would be good addition for those who have set their resolutions in motion, and as starting point for those who haven’t planned one.

Note: Resolutions doesn’t need to be material!

Here it goes!

 

A. Thinking of making new year resolutions? (and a bit sad of last years’ missed achievements?)

You are not alone. While those showcased by the media are admirable, they are not the common. Not everyone is on that top 0.xxx% of the population. Breathe. Don’t be depressed or jealous.

It doesn’t mean that we should not create our own resolution for 2017 though, but I think we need to understand that resolution means nothing if we create a list just for the sake of having one.

She says, “Listen Laura, everything I do, every minute I spend, is my choice.” And rather than say, “I don’t have time to do x, y or z,” she’d say, “I don’t do x, y or z because it’s not a priority.”

—Laura Vanderkam, in How to Gain Control of Your Free Time

The bulls**t that we don’t have enough time, that something came up leaving us no time and / or choice, made no sense. As Lauran Vanderkam—a time management expert—puts it, We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.” Laura illustrated how a super busy woman made time available when her basement was flooded with water from her broken water heater. So, why can’t we find time to what really matters to us, right?

To create meaningful resolutions, these are 2 exercises I think would be useful:

  • The extreme “Create an eulogy for yourself to be read on your funeral”
    A milder approach is to write a letter to yourself —meant to read on the New Year’s Eve of 2018— about those amazing achievements you have made in 2017.
  • Fall in love with systems
    In my conversation today with an ex-colleague, I was made aware that I approach my life bottom-to-top while he is the one with a top-to-bottom approach. Whichever our approach is, James Clear suggests that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress. Have some goals, and then focus on the systems.

So, think about what we really want out of our life, however distant or near it may be. And start making those priorities.

 

B. Thinking of disconnecting from the social media? and from work?

Don’t even think about it—just do it, if it means more time for ourselves and things that matter to us. This video from The School of Life explains why it is so hard to live in the present.

This post in LinkedIn “From the Ritz to a Padded Cell: A Workaholic’s Lesson on Love and Loss” shows us that work —for most of us who do not deal with life-and-death situation— does not necessarily be the sole focus of our lives.

If not even work should be our sole focus, why do we let ourselves attached to social media? Un-attaching ourselves from social media is surely one way to live in the present. As Dr. Cal Newport suggests, social media is an entertainment, designed to be as addictive as possible.

So, proceed with caution!

 

C. Thinking of being nice?

In this video, The School of Life explains that the reason we don’t really want to be nice is because our memory of niceness has been suppressed by a culture that makes us feel unintelligent for lending niceness or approval.

Opposed to the view that being nice means being weak or unsuccessful, boring, moneyless, and unsexy, being truly nice requires being kind at heart. It breeds trust, companionship, cooperation, safe haven, among many others, that actually prove that we can be nice and successful, nice and exciting, nice and wealthy, and nice and sexy.

In this TED Talk, Adam Grant shared that the nice, kind givers are actually among the best performers. It’s just that the preconceived notion that being nice means being unable to thrive has caused organizations to view human as mere resources to be depleted, be it consciously or unconsciously. As a test, check out what your connections in LinkedIn are talking about, and you’ll realize that niceness has no place in our workplace.

Or, does it?

 

D. Thinking of standing up for others, and for ourselves?

Standing up for ourselves and for others might seem like two different actions, but it requires one same principle, which is to be courageous.

Being courageous is a challenge many of us have, for the following reasons:

  1. Our bad inner voices, growing from our exposures to bad experiences, tells us that we are not worthy. Thus, our opinions matter not.
  2. We simply do not care about others. We must live, but not necessarily the same for other people —which might or might not stem from our view of being nice meaning being weak.

In the movie “A Wish for Christmas”, after being treated unfairly and being silent many times, Sara was gifted with courage for 48 hours. She gained the courage to speak up, for herself and for others. Soon, she realized that courage is something we could give ourselves.

The ingredient that differentiates standing up for ourselves and for others, you ask? Empathy. Empathy is the essential ingredient in love, compassion, and meaningful communication. It requires us to:

  • Do something different. Something we’ve seen others do, but we’ve never tried.
  • Be open and listen. Really listen to what others say and try to understand their emotional state and needs. Be there! Not in our clouds of ‘what-to-say-next’ or our prejudice.
  • Be curious. Not ignorant.
  • Do something good. Commit to help someone in need and see our commitment through.

 

E. Thinking of Doing Regular Self-Introspection —but, without beating ourselves up?

It can be hard not to inflict harms to ourselves and others when we don’t have an accurate handle of our sufferings. Our stream of consciousness contains a reservoirs of muddled hints about our woes, which need to be gathered and decoded for us to avoid hurting ourselves and others.

In this interesting poster, James Altucher suggests that when we label our thoughts, we can steer ourselves away from not-useful and leave more space for useful thought.

That being said, I would like to suggest that we improvise by naming what our thought is, seeing it as it is, but not thinking that we are only what we think at the moment—this video shows why we shouldn’t always trust our feelings. And that we are more than our achievement. We are more than our actions. We are more than our mistakes.

 

F. Thinking of being a better listener?

Listen, or your tongue will keep you deaf.
—Native North American proverb

Being a good listener is one of the most important and enchanting life skills anyone can have. While most people will agree to it, being a good listener is difficult for some, if not most people.

One case suggesting that listening is important is mentioned in Ron Friedman, Ph.D.’s The Best Place to Work. In 1994, a team of medical researchers began investigating: Why do patients sue their doctors? To the question “Why are you suing?”, one theme was mentioned by nearly 3/4 of all plaintiffs: they tended to believe that their physicians didn’t understand them. They felt ignored, devalued, and even deserted. Those who brought up their concerns were met with condescension.

What good listeners do:

  1. They encourage us to elaborate further
  2. They urge clarification with the ambition to getting to underlying issues
  3. They don’t moralize
  4. They separate disagreement from criticism

 

G. Thinking of finding a fulfilling work? or fulfilment in general?

Many people spend most of their waking hours at work or thinking about work. In the dim chill of a Monday morning in January, the prospect of another year at a job that fails to satisfy can be daunting, if not downright depressing.
– Kevin Granville, NYTimes

As this post on nytimes.com suggests, the best time to retune your career is probably right now, in January, be it planning to ask for a pay raise, look for a new job, or simply be happy at work.

Let me add to the NYTimes post, some key points in finding fulfilling work we’ve been craving for so long, as suggested by Roman Krznaric, in his How to Find Fulfilling Work.

  • Scrap away the ancient ‘grin and bear it’ mentality. Work might not always have to be only means to an end, a ‘day job’ only to pay the bills.
  • Understand the sources of our confusion and fears about leaving our old jobs behind us. Are we concerned about the ‘sunk costs’ – resources we have spent so far in our education and work? Or, do we have no clue on what makes us tick?
  • The three essential ingredients making our work fulfilling are meaning, flow, and freedom.
  • Reject the myth that there is a single perfect job waiting for us. Instead, identify our ‘multiple selves’
  • Act first, reflect later. Sometimes, we need to take a leap of faith and the courage to try out new things which may or may not work for us.

All being said, maybe we just need to disconnect for a while and to recharge 🙂


What are your resolutions in 2017?  What will you add to this list that might be of interest of others?

 

*photo credits: Northern Lights, Norway, by Matthew Savage – https://www.flickr.com/photos/msavagephotography/15508852628/

Before The Fire


There was no fear
There was no hate
There was no pain

But, one day, the fire lit
You burnt, you hurt
Yet you didn’t die
You remember
You just forgot how to let go

Years later, you were reminded
By strangers you don’t know
“How could they be so kind?” you think
And you cry, you feel again

That day, you become you again
Before the fire was lit

Control Your Attention Deficit Traits!

Control Your Attention Deficit Traits!

Have you ever felt restless, stressed, exhausted, disengaged, distracted, frenzied, or, perhaps, sick? And you have ever thought that you might be incompetent, not growing, or are going crazy?

Don’t worry yet. You are definitely not alone. And, there might be an antidote to it.


In an article Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform for HBR, Edward Hallowell mentioned that Attention Deficit Trait (or ADT), a very real but unrecognized neurological phenomenon, has become epidemic in organizations (familiar with increased responsibility and added work load?) Its symptoms are similar to the negative ones of ADD (ADHD), but without being rooted in the genetics. ADT is a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live.

Take the example of David below:
David drums his fingers on his desk as he scans the e-mail on his computer screen. At the same time, he’s talking on the phone to an executive halfway around the world. His knee bounces up and down like a jackhammer. He intermittently bites his lip and reaches for his constant companion, the coffee cup. He’s so deeply involved in multitasking that he has forgotten the appointment his Outlook calendar reminded him of 15 minutes ago.

People with ADT have symptoms similar to the negative ones of ADD (ADHD), e.g.:

  1. They have a tendency to procrastinate and miss deadline.
  2. They struggle with disorganization and tardiness; they can be forgetful and drift away mentally in the midst of a conversation or while reading.
  3. Their performance can be inconsistent: brilliant one moment and unsatisfactory the next.
  4. They tend to demonstrate impatience and lose focus unless, oddly enough, they are under stress or handling multiple inputs. (This is because stress leads to the production of adrenaline, which is chemically similar to the medications used to treat ADD.)
  5. Finally, people with ADD sometimes also self- medicate with excessive alcohol or other substances.

However, since ADT is not genetically caused, we can do these actions below to help us control ADT:

In general: Listen to your body!

  1. Get adequate sleep!
    (adequate = you feel fresh waking up, and, hopefully, in time.)
  2. Eat what’s good for our body!
    (although I’ve read somewhere else that it’s ok to eat what pleases you once in a while.)
  3. Exercise regularly, 30 mins every other day!
    (Is deep breathing an exercise? Yes, but try to do something that involves more movements.)

At Work: Check on your emotions! and thoughts!

  1. Create a trusting, fear-free, connected work environment
    (Emotion is the switch for our brain’s Executive Functioning.)
  2. Have a friendly, face-to-face talk with a person you like every 4-6 hours
    (Like = as in you like to talk or discuss with them because they energize you.)
  3. Break large tasks into smaller ones
    (It’ll look more manageable.)
  4. Act on, file, or toss every document you touch!
    (No clutters on your desk!)
  5. Each day, reserve some “think-time” and “planning time”!
    (Don’t forget to short-listed tomorrow’s priorities. And only attend to emails after more important tasks.)
  6. Do whatever it takes to stay focused
    (You love music because it helps you focus, but you think it’s disturbing others? Get a nice headphone!)

Feeling overwhelmed? Stop the clock, and look around!

  1. Slow. it. down.
    (Yes. Read. slowly. Just. a. tad. faster. than. Sloth.)
  2. Do an easy rote task
    (Reset your watch? Do short crossword puzzle? Read an HBR article?)
  3. Move around!
    (every 60-90 mins – Ultradian Rhythm?)
  4. Finally, do not worry alone
    (Ask for help: delegate, discuss, brainstorm with a colleague)

Thanks for reading!

Check out some of my other posts at:
1. On Psychological Well-being
2. Ignorance (A Bliss or A Speech of Hollow Soul?)
3. Incivility in Life

And feel free to connect with my LinkedIn

~Dave~

 

On Psychological Well-being

On Psychological Well-being

Out drinking with a few best friends, I threw a topic about our goals – what we want to be doing in the next 5 years. Everyone seemed to know where they were going, except for me.

So when it was my turn, I had to pause and think whether I should answer it diplomatically (I had a vague idea of what I want to do in the long run, but I didn’t know how to get there yet).

The question that struck me was: Why was I reluctant to talk honestly about my condition to some of my closest?


In a TED Talk, Guy Winch, a psychologist and an author, shared that we are practicing favouritism towards the body over the mind. We started caring about our gum health since we were children. We know that we have to cover that cut we have on our body so it doesn’t become infected. Continue reading “On Psychological Well-being”

Incivility in Life

Incivility in Life

Rudeness in work is rampant, and it’s on the rise.

As I read this opening line in “The Price of Incivility: Lack of Respect Hurts Morale – and the bottom line” by Porath and Pearson in HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence, I paused breathing for a moment.

It was shared in this research-based article that incivility can present itself in many forms, from insults, blame, belittlement, rudeness, door slamming, side conversation, exclusion, blatant disregards of people’s time, to a short check on your phone when someone else is presenting to you.

I couldn’t agree more. The conversations I had had with others, the incidents I had seen, the stories I had heard from many others, and the lessons I had learnt from my own experience suddenly hit me hard. They point me to the conclusion that rudeness in work – sorry, I meant, in life – is rampant, like the flowers blooming in the spring (except that one is not as favourable as the other – well, both are not favourable if you’re allergic to pollen or if you are a lonely hopeless romantic guy/girl).

Why would I say so?

Continue reading “Incivility in Life”