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…