Of Shortcuts and U-Turns

Being human we often do what comes most easily to us.
Call it human nature. Call it being lazy. Call it a character flaw.

via GIPHY

Just 3 weeks ago I thought of doing just that.

Updating my blog with a book review / read through since I am reading the book / going through the courses in any case.
But unfortunately the direction took a nose dive.

Why?

Suddenly I am no longer taking the courses or reading the book as I normally would.
Suddenly reading a book / course is an “event”.

I find this true to when I am working out, meditating and most other habits / rituals in life.
When I make too big a deal out of it – nothing good comes out of it.

I simply drop out of doing it.

Once again – confronted by what seems to be the shortest point between two dots – this turned out to be a dud.

I would still update the blog with my book review but not as a grand big-ass project.

 

Where Is This Blog Heading To?

I believe its true when they say good writing is a function of clear thinking.
I have been mulling about on the best way to structure my current blog / content.
Do I go more personal? Or maybe a bit more on my interests? Or just pure marketing / startup related content?I think it’s both the misgiving of my part of not being able to pen my thoughts in a linear / concise fashion and also not wanting to give too many comments on some of the things I see / do due to private and professional reasons. Call me chicken shit. I don’t care. LOL.I have also been looking to explore different mediums including Medium and YouTube.
I might consider doing videos instead of writing as I have been told I have the gift of the gap. Go figure.I have recently been playing about with Snapchat – if you are there do add me up, my UserID is sidneyng.

Speaking of communications – I have come to believe that everything we do – how we communicate, what we do everyday, what we create is really just an extension of ourselves and our reality.

 


via GIPHY

 

Sounds very meta and out there. I know. But bear with me for a bit.

But back to marketing and startups:.
I would like to think that your product / service / solution is there to make the world a better place.

And a job of the marketer is to paint that ideal world scenario picture and how using the product or service – your reality and worldview will change for the better.
I digress.
So – I decided to use my blog primarily to document what I read / learn from sites / blogs related to marketing / startups etc.
I will put in my own comments and thoughts in the post as well.
This is a 2 prong approach to keep myself accountable to finish books (or at least learn what I need to) and to share what I learn / my thoughts to the three of you who come to my blog.
It’s a book review + commentary + self accountability tool. I tried Goodreads – which just made me end up buying more unread books.
Just a note: I read a few books at once. – For variety and to deal with ADHD. sic.
These posts will be “live” posts – I will constantly update as and when I read.
I will do summaries of 5 key take-aways (or more) and put them on Medium.
Let’s see where do we go from here.
Here’s to starting the middle of the year as a Creator 😉

The Trickster

I really enjoyed this article about “Tricksters” who “bend reality”.

The Trickster has appeared in Jungian archtypes and also in Joseph Cambell’s work.
It appears in playing cards as The Joker card and in Tarot as The Fool.

 

Few interesting excerpts

.. “Trickster is the emotional body, our Inner Child or wounded soul, who evolves in our lifetimes as it spirals back to higher light.

The concept of the Trickster is as much a part of humanity’s history as the concept of God. All creational myths deal with polarity, good god vs. bad god, the duality of our nature and with each of us. To be emotionally challenged, is to listen to the voice of the trickster and live in a space of drama and negative emotions. To create balance is to live in the so-called ‘god aspect’ of who we are.

Physical reality is a game in which the Trickster challenges us at every turn. That is his role in the duality of this bio-genetic experiment in liner tome and emotion.

Trickster is the teacher, when you attract lessons into one’s life. With his lessons, he awakens us to who we are and allows us to explore the true purpose of our soul’s journey in the holographic experience through which we experience consciously at this level of awareness.

His energy allows us to break out of old stereotypes, whether they’ve been imposed by ourselves, our families, our culture, or circumstance. This is the energy that opens the world of limitless possibilities and it behooves us all to work with it before it destroys us, to touch the Trickster as he touches us.

Trickster is a teacher, survivor, hero, always traveling, outrageous and cunning, foolish and wise, mischievous and often doing good despite himself. He is a metaphor for the evolution of consciousness in the alchemy of time…”

 

“Trickster is at the same time, creator and destroyer, giver and negator, he who dupes others and who is always duped himself. He possesses no values, moral or social, is at the mercy of his passions and appetites, yet through his actions all values come into being. Many of the Trickster’s traits were perpetuated in the medieval jester, and have survived in the Punch-and-Judy plays and in the clown.

Few mythological figures have such a remote origin in time and broad distribution among cultures as the one called Trickster. This character has long puzzled its commentators, largely because Trickster defies any purely rational or intellectual analysis. In fact, anyone who has studied any particular trickster story can testify to its disturbing undertones of perplexity and provocation.

Trickster contains a transcendent nature whose epic qualities are truly awesome. We can think, for example, of when Maui, the Polynesian Trickster, snares nothing less than the sun. Yet with all his enormous power he is enormously stupid, the fool of the ages, the epitome or personification of human absurdity.

In world mythologies Trickster’s guises are legion; so much so that Joseph Campbell, has called him The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

This outlandish, yet remarkable being in human form, learns, grows in understanding, changes, and at a certain point in his adventuresome blunders, is transformed. Until that moment, however, Trickster keeps changing shape and experimenting with a thousand identities, including shifts in sex, in a seemingly never-ending search for himself.

During all this he inflicts great damage on those around him and also suffers innumerable blows, defeats, indignities, and dangers resulting from his thoughtless, reckless forays. On entering upon existence he is first seen as a blurred, chaotic, hardly unified being, having no self-knowledge or life-knowledge, despite his divine parenthood. It is only later on in his travels that Trickster emerges as a culture hero, demigod, and savior of peoples. But this occurs only after his transformation or self-integration takes place, and brings to the fore the great and epic qualities initially given him by his divine progenitor.”

The 2 Hidden Currencies

There are 2 hidden currencies that are worth much more than money.

Because come to think of it – you cannot eat money and in different countries for the most part- you can’t port over currencies.
With that logic, why do we value something that has just conceptual value?
Sure we need it to pay the bills – but that’s just an exchange of transaction rather than real value.
If it was real – MYR1 can be used anywhere in the world with the same value as USD1.

Currency. Taken from flickr image - https://www.flickr.com/photos/bradipo/1435739708

Currency. Taken from flickr image – https://www.flickr.com/photos/bradipo/1435739708

Cryptocurrency is currently the new in thing to “hack the system” – but its use is still not mass yet to make it universal or real in the true sense.

So, what are 2 hidden currencies that everybody has – but has been hidden from plain sight?

Time and Attention.

Looking at the English language – you “spend time” and “pay attention”

Attention and time is universal.
Whatever you spend more time in and pay attention to – becomes your reality.

Want more physical money? – then spend time and pay attention to opportunities out there.
Want better physical health? – spend more time in the gym and pay attention to what you consume.
Want better relationships? – spend more time with your loved ones and pay attention to what they have to say.

I honestly feel that the world is caught up by design to ensuring that individuals spend time and attention on the wrong things.

We spend our time trying to own things that end up owning us.
I remembered buying the Playstation 3 – and ended up spending so much time on the device and paying so much attention on new games coming out.
I ended up spending so much more money on games than actually enriching my own life.

When you stop to ask yourself why the sudden desire
– you find that often its misdirected by the media, by friends (who don’t know any better), by stresses of life (that drives you to want all the wrong things).

Notice – how this relates back to WHO you are paying attention to.

I believe ultimately – everyone wants just one thing: FREEDOM.

May it be financially or any other form.
But it has always been to be free.

We seek freedom in so many forms only to be imprisoned by what we were lead to believe as a path to freedom.

Thus, I have come to realize that we should seek 2 things: TRUTH and FREEDOM.

Freedom cannot come about without Truth.
We have been brought up in society to believe that Truth is difficult and / or subjective.
But rather – its perception of the Truth that is subjective.
Truth is universal.

As long as we exist in this physical world – we are bound by physical and the universal law of nature.
No escaping gravity unless you have an airplane – which is bound by the Law of Lift.

So – who are you paying attention to and what are you spending your time on?

Why Some Startups Are DOA

Some business ideas are just BAD.

Even the word bad is an understatement.
It is almost doomed to begin with.

Sure – some are uncommon successes that some might have thought they were crazy to even begin.
But I truly believe all successful startups have one thing in common.

They knew exactly who they were serving.

I don’t just use the word “KNOW EXACTLY” in passing.
But really know:

  • What their concerns were.
  • What keeps them up awake at night.
  • What makes them go “I wished they had X….”
  • What their interests were
  • Where they usually hang out
  • What are their political leanings like
  • How much they are willing to pay for a product / service
  • Why do they feel strongly over certain issues
  • Did their dog / cat really ate their homework

OK – so the last one was a stretch.

Without knowing (or at least having an idea) on who you are selling to – selling to everybody has always been a bad idea.

Your solutions would not be as targeted as they should be.
Your marketing message and value proposition would not be even remotely attractive.
Your prospect might not even feel that they need / would pay for what you are selling.

I always believe in sales or a business: You won’t make a sale when you are not selling to the right person or have the clarity of what you have to offer.

But notice – the entire thread still has elements of value creation.
Without value creation. You are not contributing to a better world and making a true difference.

So before you strut off a “really good startup idea” – would be good to first outline who you are selling to and how you can simplify / add value to their lives.
The execution usually falls in place when you get the basics right.

As Bruce Lee said

– “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

New Year & A Thousand Appologies

2015 just flew by without even batting an eyelid.

As much as I wished I spent the eve of New Year hailing UFO’s with a lighter – it has been a very mellow end to such an eventful year.
2016 was pretty much a rush of new challenges and a sudden torrental rush of getting things done.

Thus the neglected blog.

With that – I am truly sorry – but I promise to make it up for the next few weeks with good content.

Five quick reflections from the missing weeks:

  1. Everybody is human. The more you understand that and take on more perspectives and point of views – life gets a bit easier to get by. By identifying frameworks of the different perceptions of the truth
  2. Living in fear of change, bolder visions and even the past is a very “heavy” burden to carry – there is a feeling of “lightness” vs “heaviness” – and the distinctions are quite telling.
  3. Truth is absolute – perspectives / interpretation of the truth is relative – but we often confuse the two. Either by thinking we can bend the truth to our wills or that truth is something we will never know.
  4. Chlorophyll is really amazing. Been drinking it consistently for the past week – it really helps me regulate my sleep patterns, bowel movement and even to a certain extent diet- I find myself no longer craving for fried and savory foods.
  5. The fine balance of letting go and being rigid – still trying to grapple with that.

 

 

Kung Fu Master Pawns Jedi Master

There I said it.

Ip Man 3 was a better movie than Star Wars.

I can see Star Wars fans starting to stone me 😉

Don’t get me wrong. I am a Star Wars fan all that – and it was a good movie. Definitely a redemption for Episodes 1-3. Combined.
The new Star Wars definitely left me wanting more – pretty sure these are just breadcrumbs to a larger story arc.
It has revived the entire franchise (and given Disney more channels of making money – look at the insane number of merchandise / tie up’s. Viva La Licencing)

 

Yet – in my honest (and almost always correct) opinion – I thought Ip Man 3 was a better movie.
Now some of you may be thinking – “different genres!” “how can you compare?” “are you sure you are a fan?”

Sure there are plot holes and a seemingly inconsistent story progression – and over the top action – but I took more out of Ip Man 3 than Star Wars VII.
Here’s a trailer – so apparently it opens in the US in January.

And there’s also Muay Thai and Western Boxing thrown in the mix as well – with none other than Mike Tyson!

I digress.

Here are a few themes I took away from the movie:

Principles

Storytelling and movie making have gone through an evolution of sorts.

If you look at John Wayne movies of the 60’s – there was a true line drawn between good and evil.
From the 90’s – you start seeing more morally ambiguous characters.

I think modern society has somehow forgotten upright principles such as honor, respect and doing the right thing.

Instead we are lead to believe that the end justifies the means.
A twisted form of utilitarianism is introduced.

So what if there are casualties when it is for the greater good.
To be honest for the longest time – I agreed with this philosophy.

We were introduced to shady characters that seemingly resemble real wold characters.
People who have their hearts in the right place but due to circumstances are forced to act differently.

In reality – this causes a conflict within a person – when what you think, feel and ultimately act does not sync – you will feel torn.
It’s that shred of compassion that makes us human (obviously a bigger discussion in terms of the 3 parts of the brain – which is out of the scope of this blog post).

Ip Man although critically you may call him hypocrite but he lives with a certain conduct and principles – that if you notice earns him the respect of the people around him (and even his enemies).

I liked the scene when he mentioned that the world does not belong to the rich but rather to the people with heart (roughly translated to that – correct me if I am wrong).

Nowadays there are so few films that put honor as a central theme. Having an upright character – knowing – and acting based on what is right – rather than what is easy.

 

Compassion

True hero-ism lies not in the suit (although a cool one would definitely not hurt) or superpowers (although an awesome one would sell more movie tickets).

But in compassion.
Having the capacity to look beyond your own needs but living for the greater good.

The winning combination is obviously having compassion and principles together.
This is what the Tibetan Buddhists call “boddhicitta” – the pre-requisite of enlightenment.

Developing compassion for every Sentient Being.
Let me be the first to say – I am not the most compassionate of beings around – but I am working on it 😉

In the movie – Ip Man tirelessly forgets his wife to stand guard at a school – not for himself or for praise (there was a scene where that was seen as disgraceful for a Kung Fu Master to spend his time guarding a school) – but its for the future generation.

Ip Man clearly pointed out that the children in the school learn from actions that adults take and they look for cues on how do adults handle difficult situations.
There were many moments where the themes of caring for others is very prominently valued in the movie.

Mastery

This is something I have been striving to learn as well.

Bruce Lee said it best:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

Mastery is not just knowing the moves and how to apply it.
That is just the beginning of mastery.

Mastery is knowing every small nuance in the application of simple principles.
It’s just one kick – but mastering – really mastering that one kick – and being so good apply it in any circumstances even with your eyes shut or in pain – is a totally different level.

In the movie – there was this cool scene (0ver the top obviously) where Ip Man was temporarily blinded – but he really mastered the craft and was able to feel and strike at a critical point.

Mastery can be in a skill – or – in my case in learning the best way of living – the best Operating Software of life and mastering that.

And the true masters use expressions from a simple principle.
Look at big brands like Apple – their UX and product usually just stays clear on simple principles in design and engineering – but are crafted to perfection.
Minus too many bells and whistles.

Speaking of which the book Mastery by Robert Greene comes to mind. I have heard so many good things about it – it’s one of my list of “To Reads”

Credit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13589182-mastery

 

Priorities

Once again – this a grey area – as for the 1st half of the film his priorities seem to be too skewed towards the community rather than his home – and he turns 180 when tragedy strikes.

Some might say he was hypocritical to care for his wife when deep inside he wanted to challenge his opponent.

But I will let is slide and say this – Ip Man actually put aside pride (the humiliation of not showing up for an important fight – that is I would assume in the society context seen as defeat) to tend to what matters most.

There was a scene when he mentioned – Winning or losing doesn’t matter – what really matters is the people around you who care for you.

So really setting up your life priorities of what really matters is vital.

 

Being Present

This is a really cool trait that you will notice most great people have.

Their ability to be in the present moment.
When interacting, people often take cues from the person they are interacting with.

Usually to amuse myself – while interacting – I will just consciously space out to the background – and true enough – people immediately look behind even when there is nothing behind. This is also a good gauge to see how much attention you have with the person you are speaking with. Often enough if you invest “presence” in your interactions – you will tend to have the upper hand in the interaction as you are leading the conversation.

The key to being charismatic / likable / respected – is being 100% with the person you are interacting with.
Being “present”. Not the Xmas present but putting “presence”.

I admit I fall into the trap of looking at my phone in the middle of conversations at times – but I am becoming more self aware to spend my attention (undivided to a person).

There is a difference between listening to someone and being present and REALLY listening to someone.
Some people often remark that I can remember the weirdest facts about people of what they spoke previously.

No – its not photographic memory. I hardly can remember what I had for dinner yesterday.

Rather it’s because I really care for the person enough to pay attention to these small little facts.
And I felt this has really helped me a lot in my life.

If you look at Ip Man – he is really focused at one thing at one time.
When he is seen practicing with the wooden board – the whole world seems to fade away – and what exists at that current time is just him and the board.
It’s amazing how present he is.

You can see it in his eyes – Kudos Donnie Yen for portraying that to a “T” – when he is fighting, when he is with his wife, when he with his kid – you can definitely tell he has 100% attention to the situation / person at hand. Even when he could be worried about losing his Grandmaster title and everything else – he is one with the moment.

In ancient Hindu / Buddhist teachings – this is called samadhi or modern psychology “State of Flow”.

 

Humility / Genuine Character

Like all wushu flicks – the element of humility is always present.

Some say its false humility but I think Donnie Yen is really in character in portraying Ip Man as a very genuine person.
And it works to his favor.
He gains respect from the people around him as people can sense his genuine intentions.

Once again – when your thoughts, feelings and actions are aligned – people can tell.

But I always like to think that different people have different “styles”.
You need to have self knowledge to know what sort of person you are. So that you are in line with your character.

Some people are loud. Some are more mellow. Others fall in between.

So knowing and actually aligning your actions and thoughts towards the personality type would make you stand out.
Being very candid and sincere helps- and as usual people can smell that off you.

 

Final Verdict?

So I guess the verdict is out – some may disagree that Star Wars was inferior.
But I personally gained more lessons in Ip Man 3 than Star Wars. I hope this post sort of clarifies what I meant before you use a “Force Choke” on me 😉

And for the record – I played almost all Star Wars games that have come out (including LEGO Star Wars!) to really consider myself as a fan.

 

 

Startup Notes – Product Fit / Viability

I attended Infinite Venture’s Demo Day yesterday.

A few startup’s were presenting their case and requested for funding.
Without naming names – here are just a few observations and opinions that I have on starting a startup.

Before everything else – it is so vital to identify product fit.

For a moment – just forget growth hacking, forget being the next Uber, forget what they teach you in MBA.

It is so vital to identify:

  1. Is there a market for your startup? If so – quantifying the number (it can be households, users within the industry etc).
  2. Do you have a niche offer – if you are marketing to everyone – chances are nobody will be using it. Let’s take Uber – Uber caters to mid / high end consumers who don’t drive / find driving a hassle / are sick with cabs.
  3. Is the problem worth paying for? Or rather would your customers pay (and how much are they willing to pay to solve the problem?) to have the problem solved.
  4. Is your startup a pain killer or a vitamin? – i.e. Solves an immediate need vs a nice to have

Once you can correctly articulate the above and it seems possible that there would be a market that would gladly pay for the service / product. You would need to ask yourself:

  1. Is this easy to scale? To grow – would I need to incur a higher cost to hire more people? Or can I use technology to automate?
  2. What is the barrier to entry like? – what’s so special about my product / service that is difficult to emulate. If it’s easy to start something – can big corporates just do it and move much faster with more capital?
  3. Can this be grown to other countries within the region? – sure hyperlocal is cool – but from what I observed – most investors are looking for something that is easily to replicate in other countries.
  4. Are margins good enough? If not – what is the tipping point for you to start breaking even / profit.
  5. Is it labor intensive?
  6. What is your acquisition cost per customer and lifetime value per customer?
  7. What is your customer retention strategy like? – and no, discounts isn’t the answer – the product / service must serve a real purpose besides just solely relying on discounts.

 

I met an investor a few months back and he offered me a very good piece of advice. He said (and I am paraphrasing here) – “With new technology, it’s almost unlimited what you can do – the key thing that people are looking at is how do you monetize it – and how sustainable it would be”

Personally – I take another factor into consideration – “Is your product / service actually serving the community and the world at large? Are you actually making a difference in the lives of others?”

 

Because if all your business does is feed people with sugared drinks and junk food – regardless of profits – I personally think you are doing a disservice to the clients that you serve. Would you feed your own child what you peddle on a daily basis?

As Simon Sinek puts it – ““People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”

Failings of the Feeble Mind / Body / Soul

It must be the end of the year where you feel more reflective over life.

I must admit that this year has been quite a ride.
Sure – we are not out of the woods yet – it’s just mid December.

I personally do my best to reflect every day and at the end/beginning of each week.
Everyday I try to write down things I am grateful for (and trust me – if you look – no matter how bleak the circumstances – there will be things that we usually take for granted) along with priorities I have and goals that I have set for myself.

Every week – I run an audit on what worked well, what didn’t, what can be improved, and what I want to achieve for the week ahead.

Sounds very fine and dandy.

The only thing I seem to neglect is that this model is too achievement driven.

Is there such a thing as that?

I think there is.

For the longest time – I have been swaying between two extremes of the achievement complex (Social Darwinism) and spiritualism (altruism).

It all stems from who we regard to as heroes in our lives and where our priority lies in what we want to achieve. Especially for Social Darwinism – for the longest time – I have been festering the notion of being and staying Alpha. Sure, it helped for a bit – but somehow deep inside I felt it was wrong.

Are these people whom I would consider role models for the future?

To a certain extent it’s also bad influence from the wrong crowd and media.
These outside influences color your perception of what “should be” right or wrong.
And if you don’t stay mindful – you find that it takes over how you respond to life and ultimately clouds your judgement.

So – what’s the solution?
Quite simply it’s the fundamentals:

  1. Are you getting enough sleep each day?
  2. Are you getting enough water?
  3. Are you getting enough of fresh air and exercise?
  4. Are you fueling yourself well enough (good nutrition)?
  5. Are you giving your best in whatever you do?
  6. Are you in alignment with yourself – what you feel (deep down inside – not what everyone says you should feel) – think – and act?
  7. Are you being mindful of yourself and the world at large? (i.e. Are you making a difference in the world at large or are you just making a difference in your own life?)

Let me be the first to admit – I struggle with all 7 and it’s a different goal that slips out each week.

I found your outward stance to the world is deeply rooted with your inner being.
And it all starts with being brutally honest with yourself.

Honesty brings about clarity.
Clarity is vital to bring you peace – when you are clear about yourself, who you are and what your mission is in life – it helps bring life to a more stable equilibrium.

So I am making it a point to also include these 7 items into my weekly and daily checklist to ensure that I am at least reminded of the fundamentals.

Here’s wishing to end the year strong and begin next year stronger…

Back From My (Very Distant) Ancestor Land

If you have been curious to static silence.

I have been away for 2 reasons:

1. Started work with a new venture – which is somewhat related to last mile delivery (yeah – I know you are probably rolling your eyes by now.

2. Went to Japan – I believe I have ancestors there. How else can you explain the love affair of tech, kaiju’s, kamen riders, and manga?

The Illusive Mount Fuji

All jokes aside.

Few things I learnt from Japan.

  1. During the cold weather – the best seat in town is the the toilet bowl.
  2. I really should have planned the trip better – there’s just too many things to see and too little time. Probably should have also met up with someone who has been there to give me a better lowdown of the place and things to do / how best to optimize the time there. As a result – some things aren’t optimized as well as it should.
    Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy myself – its just like that itch that you can’t scratch.
  3. People there seem to have pride in whatever they did – no matter how small the task. Its amazing! Imagine the bus driver thanks every passenger as the passenger goes down. That’s something almost unheard of in these parts of Asia.
  4. If you think KL or Singapore is packed with people – wait till you see Japan during peak hour – they even need a “Person Conductor” to manage human traffic! Speaking of which – I really wonder how do they create so many jobs to sustain this!
  5. Akihabara is like my version of Disneyland! Remind me to book an AirBnB there the next time.
  6. 7Eleven is quite a cool place to be in Japan – even a simple onigiri there taste good!
  7. Departmental stores and food markets there – OMG! You can get lost in wanting to try everything there.
  8. Japanese place a huge emphasis on packaging – everything they sell looks premium – with thought put into the whole experience. It’s amazing really how they sell things there.
  9. iPhone is winning the mobile race there. Brands like NEC still exists. Samsung is like an extinct creature. Google phones are also quite popular. People still use flip phones (seriously!)
  10. It gets dark really early – by 4pm – the sun goes down. And most shops close at 8pm!
  11. A good break is sometimes really what is needed. I really needed the “Reset” button to not think about work and things blowing up back home.
  12. Did not spot weird people and did not experience the “Harajuku moment” – then again we arrived at 10pm!

 

The famous Shibuya crossing / Hachiko Station.

The famous Shibuya crossing / Hachiko Station.

 

Was a good trip and I will definitely return!