Pushing Through

Why we push through even though we hate it.

We hate to persevere, to push through and get our hands dirty because it’s infinitely more difficult than giving up.

Pushing through requires willpower and doesn’t reward us instantly.

Pushing through is our least favourite option because it takes us effort, and time, and blood, and sweat, and tears.

Worst of all, we never seem to know when the end is near.

On the other hand, giving up is easy because it requires zero effort.

Giving up is instant. It’s quick and easy.

The problem is, giving up ruins us.

We wouldn’t have lightbulbs today, if Edison gave up after his 200th experiment.

The same can be said for flight, the telephone, and many other things that exist in the world today.

So even though we hate it, we push through because it’s our way of telling life that we’re trying. It’s our way of giving life that one more shot before calling it quits. It’s our way of leaving an impact on the world.

Because after all, it doesn’t matter how slowly we go, as long as we don’t stop*.

*Confucious

But

Our favourite word in the whole world.

“I love the idea, and can totally imagine how it would improve the way we do things. But…”

“That’s fantastic. It sounds like something people would love. But…”

“I desperately need to go on a holiday. But…”

Sound familiar?

It’s because but is our favourite word in the whole world.

But makes us feel comfortable.

But makes us feel smart.

But helps us feel in control.

But is three letters, one syllable, and especially easy to say.

It’s also very likely the worst possible fucking word in the english language.

Why?

It’s because but is almost always followed by something negative. Be it feedback, an excuse, or a complaint.

What if we tried using “what if?”

What if is our door to the world of endless possibilities.

What if frames our brains to think positively and creatively.

What if makes us feel like superheroes.

What if is six letters, two syllables, and is worth every extra breath saying.

Now, let’s go back to the first three quotes.

“I love your idea, and can totally imagine how it would improve the way we do things. What if you could…”

“That’s fantastic. This sounds like something people would love. What if we could… ”

“I desperately need to go on a holiday. What if I could…”

The worst thing in the world, is to let our brains be governed by but.

What if we could make that change, today?

Impossible Decisions

It’s always tough making decisions.

We’re faced with so many of them to make in life. Some easier, some tougher, and others impossible.

Most of us don’t realise when we’re making easy decisions because they happen subconsciously, like the batting of an eyelid.

Tougher decisions tend to require more willpower. They sap our energy and make us tired. They ask more from our conscious minds, and more often than not, have us wasting time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

The worst decisions, however, are impossible decisions. We call them life-changing and they keep us up at night, causing what we like to call stress. They’re like mosquitos. Just bigger, and meaner. Fleeting around us mostly, and flying in with the occasional irritating bite.

Of course, the worst thing to do with these impossible decisions, is to leave them hanging there. Because they’ll never go away, just like how mosquitos that don’t get killed continue to fly, bite and irritate the heck out of us.

Naturally, the best thing to do then, is to face these impossible decisions. Spend time thinking about them. Spend time talking to others about them. Even if it’s just a little bit. Just like how killing mosquitos take practice.

Then slowly, we’ll see impossible decisions becoming more possible and tougher decisions becoming easier. Until one day, a bigger, meaner, and faster mosquito comes along. But by then, we’ll know that all we need is more practice.

And then the cycle starts again. The key is, to never let it stop.

Buying books

Too often do we buy books and leave them sitting on shelves collecting dust.

We do it because we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that the act of buying is equal to the act of reading.

The truth is, books don’t read themselves.

The same can be said for many more things in life.

Exercising is another great example. We seek inspirational quotes, purchase fitness magazines, read fitness blogs in the hope of becoming fitter. But we fail to do the one thing that matters. That is, to exercise.

Fooling ourselves only gets us nowhere. Doing gets us to where we want to go.

Here Comes Act Two

Shutting a door to open another.

I started Sialah Co. in the middle of 2014 on a just do it whim to test out an idea. It turned out to be a great learning experience and a successful proof of concept.

Most importantly, running Sialah Co. over the last half a year helped me to discover insights and identify blind spots I would otherwise have missed.

I’ve since been spending my time working on the actual business. From finding a new name for the brand, to thinking about the brand persona, identity and graphic assets, and am really excited with how things are going.

I’ll be shutting Sialah Co. from today to focus on getting things prepped and ready for the launch. To those who have been there every step of the way, thank you so much for the support.

Great while it lasted

Great while it lasted

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get cracking.

4 Lessons from 2014

As 2014 has just come to a close, I thought that this would be the perfect time to reflect on 4 big lessons I’ve learnt. It’s a good self-reflection exercise and I hope it’ll go on to inspire you.

Here they are:

1. Do what you want

I started my life in university studying Economics. Of course this was in line with my then dream of graduating top of the class (yeah right), securing a coveted job at a bank, earning big bucks, and retiring early.

This dream took a turn after I enrolled in a design thinking class in my second year at SMU. The class opened my eyes to the world of human-centered design and got me thinking about what I really wanted to do after graduating.

To cut the long story short, the class inspired me enough to embark on a long journey of soul searching. It was a painful process, but boy was it useful. I came out of it with a much better understanding of what I wanted to do and achieve in life.

I wanted to do impactful work that would help create value for society and the people I worked with. I wanted to learn more about human-centered design. More importantly, I wanted to look forward to going to work everyday.

This lead to me looking for internships and eventually a job that involved design thinking. Today, I’m happily working at Savant Degrees, a Digital Innovation Studio. Granted, while there are definitely days when I wonder if I’m really on the right path, I can safely say that I have no regrets.

Here’s the takeaway. Don’t fret if you find yourself unsure about what you want to do or achieve in life. Don’t pull your hair out or kill yourself for it. More often than not, the answer lies within you. Be brave enough to sit yourself down and find that answer. It might take time, but it’ll be worth your while.

2. Do what you love

I’ve always wanted to be a successful entrepreneur. In 2014, I took a leap of faith and started Sialah, a proof of concept for a lifestyle brand that I would be launching this year. The journey, though small, was scary, tiring and amazing at the same time.

I love the idea of sustaining myself financially while being in control of my own time. I love the idea of making a difference in the world. I love the uncertainty, the late nights, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with every sale.

Lorna always tells me that I have it easy because I’ve got things figured out. But really, things weren’t always that simple. Knowing what I wanted and loved to do only came to me after quite a bit of soul searching. I was also lucky to have been inspired by my Mum who was a successful entrepreneur herself.

What I’m trying to get at is this. Do what you love. We only get one shot at life. We only get one shot at being young. One shot at being old. One shot at living and dying.

Why live your life doing something you dread everyday, when you could be doing something you love? Remember, we always have a choice.

3. Learn from haters

Sialah was my first proper entrepreneurial venture and I started it in the middle of 2014. While the journey has been an amazing one so far, there were definitely some low moments.

I remember receiving a live chat message from a customer who was visiting the store and it went something like:

Why is everything so expensive? You offer free shipping but you think we’re stupid? You’re hiding your shipping costs.

The customer closed the chat window before I could respond. While it may seem trivial, it’s definitely not nice being in such a situation as a business owner.

I’ve since learnt that it always helps to look at such situations objectively. That customer was probably upset because my prices weren’t transparent enough. I took that as a learning lesson and tweaked the copy on my page to make things clearer.

Lesson learnt. Instead of being affected by haters, learn from the valuable feedback they’re actually providing. Haters are everywhere and they’re only here to stay. Make the best out of them.

4. Supporters rock!

The one thing that really made the year of 2014 for me was the immense amount of support and encouragement that I got from my family, friends, acquaintances and strangers when I launched Sialah.

It was heartwarming , mind-blowing, yet extremely humbling at the same time.

I never once expected to receive that amount of love. The big lesson here is that we all have more supporters than we think we have.

So if the lack of support from the people around you is something that has been stopping you from doing what you want or love, you’re needlessly worrying. Make that change and quit worrying. Heck, if no one sends you a note of encouragement, I will.


So in summary, 2014 was a pleasant year with meaningful takeaways. I hope that this reflection was helpful and will go on to inspire some of you.

That’s about it for now. Godspeed.

My Goals for 2015

I’ve never really had a thing for setting New Year’s resolutions. Because I think 2015’s going to be a special year, I’ve decided to sit my ass down and properly think through my goals for the year ahead.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Spending more time with my family

If there’s one thing that has been constant throughout my life, it would be the love, care and support that I’ve always been getting from my family.

We live in a world of uncertainty, and with time passing by so quickly, I don’t want to live my life regretting not having spent enough time with the people who love me the most.

2015 is dedicated to my Mum, Dad and two sisters. I’ll make an effort to spend more time with them.

2. Cherishing my relationship with Lorna

Lorna has been the best thing that has happened to me and I feel our relationship getting stronger day by day. While we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs, we always make it a point to talk things through and not go to bed being unhappy with each other.

I want to be the pillar of strength for Lorna, just like how she has been for me all this while. We started going to church together more regularly the later half of 2014, and I want that to continue this year.

I’ll also make an extra effort to love and care for her to the best of my ability and not take her love for granted.

3. Spending and saving wisely

After having worked for more than a year and a half, I’ve learnt that it’s true how one’s spending increases with one’s income. I made several big purchases last year and probably also made it onto Amazon’s list of highest spending customers. Not a good thing just so it’s clear.

This year, I want to manage my finances better by spending and saving wisely. I’m using OCBC’s brilliant Frank account to compartmentalise and budget my money and it has been working out well so far.

Specifically, I want to save at least 60% of my monthly income.

4. Launching my lifestyle brand

For the benefit of those who’re new, I started a curated lifestyle goods store, Sialah, last year. Sialah was a proof of concept, and it went really well.

I’ve since been doing a lot of work in the background and am pleased to announce that I’m aiming to launch the real brand will by the first quarter of 2015. Be sure to stay tuned for updates.

5. Writing consistently

I’m guilty of being an inconsistent blogger. I’ve no idea why, but my enthusiasm for writing online comes in phases.

This time round, I’m adamant about writing more consistently through 2015. I’m doing it not only to become a better writer, but because I see writing consistently as a way to document my life, the way I think, and how I see the world.

I’ve just redesigned danl.im for 2015, and my aim is to publish at least 1 article every fortnight for the whole year, no matter rain or shine.

6. Traveling more with family and Lorna

Last year was a busy year and I only managed to squeeze out a holiday with Lorna. We went on a short trip to Phuket and had a really good break.

It’s been too long since we’ve gone on a holiday together as a family (Lorna is as good as family). My family almost went on one the end of 2014, but I had to cancel on them because of my dance commitments.

This year, I want to go on at least 3 holidays, with Lorna and my family.

7. Managing my time

I’m currently working full time at Savant Degrees, dancing 2 to 3 times a week, working on my lifestyle brand, gaming (a lot), sleeping (too much for my own good), the list doesn’t end there. On top of that, there are many things that I would love to do, like learn how to code, play soccer, read more, meet up with old friends, etc.

In order to squeeze in more things for the year, I want to manage my time and commitments better for 2015. I’ll do my best to plan out my week every monday and find time for the things I want to do.

8. Reading more wisely

It’s not that I haven’t been reading enough. I’ve actually been reading a lot. Problem is that I’ve been reading too much nonsense and it distracts me and occupies my mind space. This quote below scares and inspires me at the same time.

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.
― Charlie Jones

This year, I aim to read at least 1 quality book every month. For the month of January, I’m re-reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.


That’s it for now. 8 goals for 2015 will be a massive challenge to achieve. I hope to look back at the end of the year and be able to tell myself that I’ve accomplished every single one of them.

Having said that, I hope your goals for 2015 are big, scary and awesome. If you haven’t set them, you know what to do.

Socially Distributing Works That Work

Acting on inspiration is high up on my list of New Year’s resolutions for 2015. After being inspired by my first copy of Offscreen Magazine, I went on a mad hunt for similar quality publications documenting creativity and passion, and found Works That Work by chance.

Issue No.4 of Works That Work explores extreme environments and how they can spark innovation

Issue No.4 of Works That Work explores extreme environments and how they can spark innovation

Works That Work is an international magazine for the curious mind, intending to surprise its readers with a rich mix of diverse subjects connected by the theme of unexpected creativity that improved our lives.

– Peter Bilak, Editor of Works That Work.

I placed my order of Works That Work No.4 yesterday and can’t wait for its arrival. I’ve also decided to play a part in sharing creative inspiration by socially distributing the magazine in Singapore.

If you’re stuck in a creative rut and are seeking a fresh dose of creative inspiration for 2015, you can place an orders by either leaving a comment below or sending me an email. I’ll reach out to you individually. Order details are below the break.

Works That Work No. 4

Works That Work No.4

Works That Work No.4

Works That Work No.4

Works That Work No.4

Works That Work No.4 – Photo Credits: Works That Work

 

 


25 SGD/Issue + 2 SGD delivery (Singapore)
Only 7 copies available, order by leaving a comment below or sending an email.
Orders close on 11th January.

Redesigned for 2015

I started this blog a few years ago hoping to force myself to write, to blog, to document my thoughts and make myself a better storyteller. I’ve since learnt that blogging requires discipline. A lot of it.

Fast forward to today, having been inspired by the works of of Julie Zhuo, Oliver Emberton and Elle Luna who’re all great writers, blogging’s back on my list of new year resolutions.

And so, I set some time aside the last few days of 2014 to redesign danl.im for the upcoming year, in hope that having a more pleasant looking blog would motivate me to blog more often.

Before starting, I knew my limited knowledge of HTML and CSS wasn’t going to get me very far in terms of blog customisation, so I set out looking for a theme that would match what I was looking out for out of the box.

What you see now is largely the work of an awesome developer, Raam. He built the Independent Publisher theme for WordPress, from which I conveniently customised. If you’re looking for a great looking, content-centric WordPress theme, look no further . Stop what you’re doing and download his theme.

Back to the Redesign

This is the blog’s fourth iteration in as many years. For inspiration, I looked to successful blogging platforms available today. My notes are summarised below.

Medium really surprised me with how they merged lovely typography with beautifully laid out pages to give their readers an immersive reading experience.

Ghost amazed with speed, speed and more speed. Blog pages loaded lightning fast and with people having increasingly short attention spans nowadays, I knew speed was going to be a big one.

Svbtle was another one I liked because of how simple the pages looked and how the lack of clutter allowed readers to focus on reading.

With these notes and lessons I learnt from previous redesigns in mind, I decided to focus on designing for clarity and speed.

Clarity

While researching, I chanced upon an article that did a really good job of explaining typographic clarity. Here’s an excerpt:

Typographic clarity comes in two flavors: legibility and readability. What’s the difference? Legibility is a function of typeface design. It’s an informal measure of how easy it is to distinguish one letter from another in a particular typeface. Readability, on the other hand, is dependent upon how the typeface is used. Readability is about typography. It is a gauge of how easily words, phrases and blocks of copy can be read.
Allan Halley

To address legibility, I decided to go with a sans serif this time round to give the blog a cleaner and more modern edge. Ended up being really happy with the font of choice – Freight Sans Pro. I played around with weights and sizes for the blog headers and body text and really like how the font reads in different sizes.

Next up, readability. I used Pearsonified’s Golden Ratio Typography Calculator to determine the best line-height for optimal readability. Simple but brilliant tool. Just enter your desired font size, content width and desired characters per line and the tool churns out everything you need for supposedly perfect readability.

If you’re interested, the values I’m using are:

  • Font Size – 19px
  • Content Width – 700px
  • Line Height – 29px
Speed

Let’s talk speed.

Silly me hosted danl.im on a server in the United States several years ago as I thought that most of my traffic would be coming from that region. However, after several years of unnecessarily long page load times and traffic data showing otherwise. I’ve decided to move to a server closer to home – Singapore.

I’m now happily hosting danl.im on a Digital Ocean plan that only costs me a fraction of what I used to pay, at $5/mo now. Setting up was extremely easy and if you’re reading this from Singapore, you’re probably getting lightning quick page load times. This for me, is extremely important. Especially on mobile devices. I’ve closed more pages not because of boring content, but because of slow page load times.

If you’re looking to set up a lightning fast self-hosted WordPress blog, I’d definitely recommend it. Use this referral code below to get $10 in credit.

 


With that said, I hope this inspires you to start blogging. I sincerely hope to continue writing through 2015. If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Thank you for reading.

Have a blessed 2015 everyone.

The Best Writing Advice You Can Ever Receive

“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”

– Gary Provost

Chanced upon this beautifully written paragraph on Quora today. Amazing example on how the right sentence structures and lengths can have such a great impact on a reader’s experience.