Wants

So many things I want right now…

  1. 15″ Macbook Pro with Touchbar
  2. Boosted Board
  3. GoPro Hero5 Black
  4. IPhone 7 256GB
  5. Bose Quiet Comfort 35

Why are they all gadgets?

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.

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.

How I Wrote My About Page

I’ve just finished doing up the About page for danl.im. Thing is, I really dread writing about myself. About pages have never been fun to write for me, and I can’t figure out whether it’s because I just don’t feel comfortable writing about myself, or because I don’t know myself well enough.

Anyway, I tried keeping things simple this time. It’s really amusing when you come across blogs that have About pages that look like dating site profiles, not that I know how one looks like, you get what I mean. I really didn’t want to give off the dating site profile vibe on the About page, and hope I managed to accomplish it this time.

I’d imagine that good and interesting about pages should have at least most of these things:

  1. Brief introduction of oneself
  2. A photo at least
  3. Some trivia that would make the page seem more personal (e.g. family info, background)
  4. Aim of the blog
  5. Contact

What do you think?

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Never Giving Up Pays Off

I know I ended off last week with an emphatic “Blog design complete!”, but truth be told, I wasn’t happy with what I saw. Having come across a really good article written by Pearsonified on how readability on the web can be optimized for readers by following the ancient Golden Ratio, I became really inspired and wanted to keep this in mind for the design of danl.im.

My ideal style setting was to have a single column, 650px wide post area, with 650px wide photos. Using Pearsonified’s typography calculator, such a width would’ve needed a font-size of 20px.

However, after spending many hours pouring through the style sheets and code of Standard 3.0, I just couldn’t find a way to bring the max-width of the blog down from 940px to 650px without breaking the responsiveness of the theme (Standard 3.0 is awesomely built on Twitter Bootstrap).

So if you’ve visited my site during the last two weeks, you would’ve seen a very ugly interim version of it with a 940px wide post area, 940px wide photos and 27px sized font. It was horrible.

Thankfully, Jason Bradley came to the rescue again. The article that he shared got me thinking and wondering how else I could shrink the site’s width down to 650px, and after a while of tweaking, I finally got it!

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Blog Design Complete

After 2 weeks of tweaking, I think I’ve finally completed designing danl.im. The design this time was much more challenging and time consuming than before because of the the Twitter Bootstrap framework that Standard Theme 3.0 was built upon.

These key principles guided me throughout the design of danl.im:

  1. Clutter-free
  2. Content focused
  3. Readability
  4. Responsive

I’m really happy with what the site looks like now, and want to extend a big thank you to Jason Bradley from 8bit. Jason was an immense resource and help and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to make the many changes to the theme without his kindness and patience. Thank you Jason!

With Jason’s help, I also managed to style the different post formats that Standard 3.0 has to offer. The theme has a strong suite of different post formats such as Image, Video, Status and Normal post formats that I previously didn’t manage to utilize because I didn’t know how to style them to fit the overall look of the site. That isn’t a problem any more.

One more key implementation for danl.im is that of embedded Disqus comments. I’ve always been against the use of embedded third-party non-wordpress native comments, but I must say that the Disqus comment installation process was quick, easy and painless. They’ve really outdone themselves with regards to making the whole transition as seamless as possible for people who wanted Disqus comments installed.

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