The One Thing More Important Than Persistence…

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

– Calvin Coolidge –

 

I remembered this was the point made for the movie “The Founder”.

Ray Kroc was depicted telling himself this at the start and at the end of the movie.
Sure – this seems like common sense and jives very much with “hustle”.

via GIPHY

 

But I have come to realize, just like jiujitsu and the art of living well – its all about efficiency.
Just like nature – efficiency comes from being efficient in how you operate – to minimize energy exerted and maximize energy conserved.

I remembered someone telling me – “What’s worst than an idiot is a motivated idiot”

So, what is more important than persistence?

Is being very clear on what to persist in.
Being very objective and selective in your goals, activities and charting the strategies to get there.

Often times – we are not clear on the direction we are heading.
As a result, we keep stabbing at all directions and pursuing all the wrong things.

This will mean – being totally OK not doing everything and knowing everything and being very aware of this.
For example, I am currently focused on getting good (or at least able to grapple with a gameplan well enough) at jiujitsu.
This means knowing my trade-off’s – I will be having less 1 hour ++ for most days for training and perhaps even not doing weights / skipping as often as I would like to.

Taking a step back – looking at the syllabus and focusing my time and efforts on the right techniques and getting good at the 20% that will get me to an acceptable level. In this case – good defenses & escapes in the different positions – guard, mount, side mount, turtle, sweeps from the various positions and basic attacks from the different positions. Just focus on mastering these and getting good at it that I can operate on sub conscious before I move on to the next cool technique.

The Bright Shiny Object Trap

I find myself in my younger days (heck even sometimes nowadays) falling prey for the “Bright Shiny Object Syndrome” by pursuing many things and not having the “Mastery” mindset to get good at something.
I ended up being pursuer of “Hacks” and “Techniques” rather than being a Master.

This is a subtle and yet very big difference between an Adept and a Master.
As Bruce Lee famously 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”

I came across a really good framework – that seems to be working – on this.
I have come to the conclusion that self management at its essence is management of attention / Presence, time, energy and Emotions.
But the core of it is time.

Its the one thing that is limited to everyone – young or old, rich or poor.

Sure money can buy you convenience (and some time) – but the total hours you have in a day would be the same.
So – the question is – how best you can utilize the time given.

I am currently testing this framework out and will share more as I progress.
I have been jumping from one system to another – but I think this is a great end-all-be-all of all systems that unilaterally develops my “self management” muscle at the same time.

It combines a few things I have been picking up from different books, systems and what seems to work well for me.
Short circuiting habit, presence and self awareness.

Notes from Evergreen by Noah Flemming

Evergreen businesses look at long term sustainability.

There are 5 metrics for growth:

Acquisition,  Activation (conversion), Retention , Revenue, Referral

As a Growth Marketer – my job is to optimize these funnels to ensure maximum ROI (Return on Investment) and ROE (Return on Effort). I do this via mini experiments carried out with sufficient data points.

So according to Noah, how does a company become Evergreen?

It all comes back to the relationship between the company and the customer. Great companies go above and beyond to nurture their relationship with their customers. This is the kind of company that becomes Evergreen.

Your business can eternally provide life, growth and regeneration. Becoming Evergreen will create a better, richer and more fulfilling experience for your customers. And you’ll gain customers faster.

 

Customers should not just be rotating heads

Leaky Bucket Theory

Most businesses think that new customers are the way to go for growth.

This is quite far from the truth.

Leaky Bucket Theory is an analogy that suggests that most business operate like a leaky bucket. Your business is the bucket and your customers are the water. The holes in the bucket represent the various areas where you lose your customers. Most businesses tend to focus on adding more water instead of repairing the holes.

So what happens when you focus on having more water in a leaky bucket – you get a flood that you cannot control.

Most businesses have no idea of the cost of acquisition of customers or even lifetime value of customers. Having clarity on acquisition costs is vital to know how much you can spend on marketing.

The cost of ongoing customer engagement is nothing compared to the cost of acquiring new customers. If you want to experience dramatic growth within your organization, you must truly understand the relationship between profit, growth, longevity, customer relationships, employee empowerment and customer service.

The term customer-centric is a strategy that aligns a company’s development and delivery of its products with the current and future needs of a select set of customers in order to maximize their long-term financial value to the firm. Customer-centricity is crucial to be Evergreen.

Use data to monitor, measure and track customer consumption and usage and estimate likelihood of future profitability. Then market to ensure they receive the most value from the company.

 

The Three Cs (increasing conversion):

For an organization to thrive in our rapidly changing economy, it must embrace the Three C’s: character, community and content.

Character is the first thing that comes to customers’ minds when they think about your business. The principle of character is about defining, crafting, and presenting the character traits that you want customers to associate with your organisation. Modern brands that targets the millennials emphasizes a lot on having character – it gives a voice and personality to the brand.

Human beings are prone to seek out others who share similar interests, values and beliefs. People are attracted to brand communities because they help them find others who enjoy the same products or services. Companies that recognize this need for connection and create structures that allow communities to form have significant advantages when it comes to retaining customers, building customer loyalty, and maximizing customer value.
The same is true for repulsion marketing – pushing out people who will most likely not get your brand.
You don’t want to target everyone – if your target is everyone – its most often nobody.

Content is the core “thing” the customer receives in exchange for money. It is necessary for a successful business. Without content, there is no business. However, only having excellent content is no guarantee of success.

If you want to be Evergreen, you need all three Cs to be working together. Examples of this are great social media – with awesome character, helpful and value adding blog posts and landing pages with an attitude.

Character

To create a compelling company character, you must first develop your origin story and communicate it to your customers. Then, define your superhero. People want to do business with people and companies they like and trust, but also who fascinate them. And superheroes fascinate us. The personality of your character must be perpetuated though every piece of marketing and every bit of customer communication. Step three is to build purpose for your character’s actions. Understand your company’s purpose for doing what it does. Then, create an avatar of your character. Imagine that your company’s character and your ideal customer met today for the first time. Create a fictional conversation between them. Good examples of these: Middle Finger Project,  Eat 24 etc.

Community

Organisations that successfully build customer communities experience remarkable benefits from their efforts. It will take time and money but it is well worth it. To build a customer community, you must first develop a community strategy. Once you have defined your vision, choose your tools. The Web offers great tools, but look beyond that too. Then, cultivate your community. Put the right tools and systems in place to allow shared interests, values and beliefs to spread from one member of your community to another. Then, take a step back. Let it grow organically. Good examples of these: Xiomi, Android Community etc.

Content

Your company’s content is only one small part of your customer’s overall experience. Content is valuable, but it is important to provide an excellent customer experience too. Customers want more than just your content. They want to have an emotionally engaging experience that makes them feel good. Having a very clear customer avatar to know how your product / service best serves your customer.

Evergreen Diagnostic 

The Evergreen Diagnostic features four quadrants that represent different types of companies:

Deciduous companies lose many customers each year and are constantly trying to gain new customers. This describes the “Leaky Bucket” concept described earlier.

Barren companies have no customer relationship and because of that, no longevity. Most traditional companies operate this way – in a very transactional level.

Wilting companies can retain its customers, but they do little to establish customer relationships. Most typical companies operate in this level – with the occasional eDM’s, SMS-es, etc.

Evergreen companies have great relationships with their customers and keep them coming back. With relationship building emails, knowing exactly what customers want, doing customer proper segmentation and sending targeted and specific marketing messages to customers. Also providing as much value where possible.

Your goal should be to look at every customer transaction as an opportunity to create a long-term relationship with a lot of value.

Rethinking Loyalty (focusing on retention)

There are three distinct objectives of your loyalty program:

  • To increase customer retention and increase the frequency of purchases and the size of each transaction
  • To gain a better understanding of your customers, including actionable insights
  • To generate authentic, segmented and individualised communication and messaging

Design your loyalty program so there is a ladder that customers can climb. There should be multiple rungs that your customers can climb. This will keep your customer coming back and increase his or her emotional commitment to your brand.

Customer loyalty is created not just through a single program, but also through consistent marketing and actions. However, a good loyalty program can increase the revenues from your best customers and increase loyalty from your less-profitable customers.

To build an Evergreen Ladder of Loyalty, you’ll need to follow six steps.

Step One: Define your objectives.

Step Two: Determine what you want to learn about your customers.

Step Three: Design your loyalty program.

Step Four: Identify how you will measure success.

Step Five: Construct your program.

Step Six: Constantly surprise your customers with added perks.

 

 

Growth Hacks and The Illusive Silver Bullet…

We live in the age of instant noodles.

We look for ‘instant’ hockey stick exponential growth.
Hoping that this new widget / tool / hire / service will be the silver bullet for growth.

Its probably quite counter-intuitive for me as a Growth Marketer to call BS on that – but hey I have always been honest and the first to call out BS when I see it.

I think there are many different stages to a business – not all stages are ‘growth hack-able’ or meant to even be ‘growth hacked’.

I remember telling restaurants back when we launched foodpanda – “We are just a delivery platform – we can help in facilitating convenience and improving distribution of your food. We can’t help you if your food sucks”.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so blunt.

The early days of any venture is to get the basics right.
To understand your product, service and most importantly regular paying customers.
I emphasize – regular paying customers.

Not all customers are created equal unfortunately.
The ones that really matter are the ones that are regular and that would pay full price for your product / service. The rest are just noise.
If you don’t have enough of regular paying customers – you are either barking up the wrong tree or the problem that you are solving isn’t worth solving (or so your customers think).

Once you have the basics down to pat.
Its about looking at which channels bring you the most results.
Most often for entirely new products it would be offline or ancillary online.

Back when we started foodpanda – the search volume for food delivery wasn’t great.
As I recalled it was less than 1K searches per month on Google.
So it was almost like educating the market that there are other alternatives besides pizza and fast food that can be delivered.
We had to start with food bloggers and e-commerce partners – these are ancillary online partners.
Food bloggers would get us foodies who wished that the restaurant was closer to their homes / can be delivered and e-commerce folks are people comfortable parting with their cash (or credit card information) based on picture descriptions on a screen while waiting for the item to be delivered (extra difficulty when they are hungry).

The education and mindset shift took some time – the way we brought the message across wasn’t always clear – we struggled for a bit trying to communicate our value proposition. But we learnt along the way that what we were selling besides just food delivery service was convenience and time saved.

All this while trying to fix the product (last mile delivery, customer service, product features) while balancing company morale, expectations from HQ and obviously competition.

As much as others would say focus on your own race – the reality is that unless you are doing something 10X, you should never underestimate your competition.

The fancy growth hacks are more experiments based on hypothesis built on the product, UI/UX, customer experience from a proven (or at very least clearly defined) product / customer base.
Else – it will be just as good as buying a WSO and building a short game IM scheme.

Growth hacks are by no means a silver bullet – rather calculated optimizations to improve customer acquisition, activation, retention, revenue and referral.

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.

 

 

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…

In Defense of Rocket Internet

The startup (and startup wannabes) world is divided into three groups.
At least here in Malaysia.

Those who hate Rocket Internet – 70%
Those who tolerate Rocket Internet – 20%
Those who work for Rocket Internet and are not in liberty to say much – 10%

OK – so the percentages may be a bit wayyyy off.

But my point is – there is a lot of Rocket Internet hate.

Some are ex-employees who may have been laid off.
Some are insecure Co-Founders
Others are just arm chair tech hobbyist (yes I use the term hobbyist because they don’t exactly really do much for the industry – kinda like how everyone suddenly becomes Economists when the Ringgit drops another basis point).

Since I have officially left Rocket Internet / foodpanda – so I am writing this as an impartial party who has worked for them for 3 years (which kinda puts me in a better authority to comment about this versus hobbyists).

As much as I disagree on the way some things are run – lack of culture, pro-European management (being yellow wasn’t easy but hey 3 years – go Sidney!), not perfect products (so where did the money go again?) to name a few things.

I think Rocket Internet has done quite a bit of good that goes un-noticed.

But They Are F**king Clones!

For those not in the know, Rocket Internet brings e-commerce ideas that works in Europe / Western World to Asia (except China and Japan) or to countries with minimal competition to be the “market leader” (since nobody is there or the competition is weak).

Some label them as a “clone factory”

But really – what else is new except for Tesla and Google?

Newsflash – isn’t Facebook actually MySpace and Friendster 2.0
Too far? What about GrabTaxi? Taxi hailing apps aren’t all that new.

But just because it’s local – it’s hailed as a local champion.
This is what the Malays call “Jaguh Kampung” (Villageside Hero).

Heck – don’t go far – look at the so called “tech websites” that we have – are they even original?

No.

And I truly believe that Rocket Internet looks at speed and execution (hmm sounds familiar?) – do a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with minimal cost (EUR vs MYR!) and push the “Co-Founders” / local team to make it successful. If it fails – wrap it up (remember Office Fab, Price Panda, Easy Taxi?) – else pump in huge marketing budget until it becomes the go-to product / service online.

So They Think With All The Cash They Have – They Can Bully The Small Players?

Another argument stems from Rocket having a huge war chest of money to push local / true-blue startups.

Well – have you ever heard of capitalism?

The market rewards the best products and services.
And if one comes with a mentality that money can buy anything – then one should not even be in the startup space.

Because – isn’t that what a startup is all about?

Operating a business in near extreme conditions and going where no corporate has ever (or will ever) go?

That being said – there are multiple Rocket startups that have failed in the battle with local startups.
The answer to this is really execution and coming up with better products / services.

Money buys awareness – but does not buy quality and in most cases agility.
Most Rocket startups have central product teams – with a long list of JIRA tickets.
Where else local startups are small and agile – thus being able to do really cool growth hacking strategies that would fit the local landscape.

In fact – Rocket Internet is doing local startups a favor because awareness and behaviour hacking is very expensive.

3 years ago – nobody would have thought of ordering bubble tea online or buying clothes online.

In fact – they would have said we were crazy to even attempt this.
Awareness will definitely lead to an increase in search volume and SEO if done right – will ensure that you are on the 1st page of Google alongside a Rocket venture.

People are always game to try new things.
Novelty activates endorphines in the brain – so in this regard I think Rocket is actually doing a huge favor.
And c’mon honestly – Rocket’s products aren’t the best – just look around – so I really don’t get why people are getting their panties wrapped up in this.

Why So Many White People?

Racist jokes aside.

Most ventures you will see a lot of expats sitting in the management positions.
You also hear horror stories of these expats not understanding the local market, etc. etc.

To be fair – there is some merit to the argument.
But looking at the greater picture – Rocket provides employment and on ground training to many locals (myself included).

Most of the more entrepreneural ones have gone ahead and started ventures of their own.

The rest?

I have always believed that human potential / assets are like shares.
There is a market value (what you are being paid at the moment) versus a par value (what you are worth based on your experience).

The trick is really to shuffle the deck to your favor.

Learn what you need to learn to increase your par value.
So that when it’s time to “sell” (i.e. move) – you have a much higher par value compared to your peers.

I have seen so many who have been paid really good money in Rocket finding it hard to leave because nobody else in the market is willing to even match the person’s pay – simply because there is a gap between asking price and the par value.

In fact – if you are really entrepreneural – you should capitalize on the situation and be the most valuable employee / entrepreneur employee.
Rocket really celebrates people willing to do more, learn more, and add more value.

I always believe – the individual is in control of his / her career. Not circumstances or the company.

If They Are So Perfect – Why Move On?

Well – I did not mention they were perfect by any stretch of imagination.

Even when they might be ruthless – they are not evil.
And it’s purely business at the end of the day.

I have always believed employees of the future to be “Mercenary Agents”.
Loyalty lasts as far as there is an opportunity to grow and fertile ground to experiment, express yourself and have fun.

And if there is one big thing that Rocket lacks – it’s a right culture.

I hope to inculcate that culture of growth, fun and positivity in my next venture.
If you are already spending 70% – 80% of your time in your job – its best spent doing fun things with people you don’t mind getting stuck in an airplane.

Which – if we were stuck in an airplane and you are going to spend that time bitching about Rocket (and how unfair the world is – well newsflash – nobody said it was going to be fair) – then that person sure isn’t you.

Past Present Future – How It Relates To Us

As some of you know I used to work in the Bank.

I just love this disclaimer.

And there are so many different ways the Bank actually spins it around:

Past performance does not necessarily predict future results
Past Performance Is Not A Guarantee Of Future Returns
Past performance is no guarantee of future results

Well they all mean the same thing.
In common speak: “We might be lucky in the past – but we might not be so lucky in the future and we will not shoulder that responsibility of being right all the time – even if we might already used up all your retirement funds

OK – so the last bit is a bit of an exaggeration.

I digress.

Anyway – I find that we (myself included) usually have this fascination of looking back at past victories (usually victories) and thinking we can replicate the same in the future.

Think of it.

Job interviews – they ask you for your past experience and past success in the companies.
Dates – we always look at who the person is today from what the person did in the past.
Relationships – need I say more – the girlfriend / wife has almost photographic memory of EVERYTHING you did / wore in the past (while I struggle to recall what I had for dinner a week ago).

That being said – we put so much emphasis on the past as a solid marker for what is to come in the future.

This is both dangerous and irresponsible – I got to side the Bank with this one.

Most startup factories do the same (I shall not name which – but it’s really an open secret – no?) – just because something does well in Europe / Western World – it MUST definitely do well here in Asia.

And yes – let’s just give the top seat to a European instead of the Asian savages.
They know better – besides they spent most of their formative years in more civilized Europe.

Unfortunately – as much as I believe in unicorns and yetis – it does not work this way.
Life / startups / relationships / marketing campaigns are often much more complex than that.

Sure – there are some principles that stay true – we are after all humans – with more or less the same needs and same “Lizard Brain” that makes us tick.
But the real key here is improvisation.

I view past success as just milestones from what we do on a day to day basis.

There is no such thing as an “overnight success” – rather repeated patterns, rituals, behaviors, habits and mindset – and crafting that to perfection.
So a success or award or <insert ego stroking boost> is just that – a milestone.

Future performance is entirely dependent on current actions.
And like most things in the current – it has to have a degree of fluidity.
Sure – you need to have a clear destination or goal – but the means of execution (eg. marketing campaigns, growth hacking strategies, operational execution) is solely dependent on what you have to work with.

I think we also dangerously discount past failures.
Its usually with failures (at least for me) – that we learn and grow the most.

Pain (a healthy does of it at least) promotes growth.

So does this mean to stop buying all bank products, freeze hiring and stop what was working before?
On the contrary – this means – looking beyond what is currently working, looking at a bigger landscape and raising your standards to stay ahead of the curve and over-exceed “past performance”.

Screw past performance.

The past is just a reminder of what was before – just be grateful and don’t use that as a crutch for the future.

My Advice To My 20 Year Old & 25 Year Old Self

So I turn to the BIG 3-0 today.

The dreaded 30.
So did I achieve all the goals that I set out to achieve?

Not all of them.

Income levels – pretty much checked.
Nett worth – not even close (will get to that later).
Experiences – not where I want to be.
Health – didn’t quite get the 6 pack that I was aiming for.
Spirituality – not where I want it to be as well.
Relationships – can be better.

So – what do I want to achieve for the next 5 years?

More travelling – actually seeing and experiencing the world. More diverse destinations – Note to self: purchase flight tickets WAY in advance so that I don’t give myself any excuses.
Great physique – this is huge – I have always talked about it – but falter halfway due to time and diet constraints. Looking at sub 15% body fat and more muscle mass vs fat.
Freedom – something I truly value and wished I had more of. Great advice I got today – “The More Disciplined You Are the More Freedom You Get” – seems counter-intuitive but probably will elaborate in another blog post.
Philanthropy – getting more involved in causes I truly care about and playing a greater role both in the community and world at large to leave the world better than when I found it.
Growth – to learn and explore more things in personal development, spirituality, marketing, entrepreneurship & actual technical skills.
Tribe – I remember what it used to be when I was 21 and wanted a good role model to follow. I believe that we are put to this world to not only grow personally but to grow others in the process.
Taking Better Care Of Myself – I think this is huge – especially sleep, fresh air, good diet and consistent workouts.
Greater Contribution – My current life direction and focus is using technology to simplify lives. I am a firm believer that humans are not meant to do hard work that they hate (done plenty of that myself). I also believe in awesome work environments where people can grow and are happy to come to work.
I hope I can contribute (significantly I hope) a startup / success of startups I work with in this direction.

I am a bit too old for celebrations I feel – I gave a new phone to my mum so that she would be able to keep in touch with me when I travel in the future, took my family out for a meal and got nothing much but fresher perspectives of living.

So in the spirit of Tim Ferriss’s podcast, I would like to give some advice to both my 20 Year Old Self and 25 Year Old Self.

Just to give you some context – when I was 20 – I was still studying my BSc. (Hons) Biotechnology degree at UTAR. Not the best student, I was mostly feeling lost, had very little confidence that I would amount to anything, was constantly worried about the future (without even taking care of my present – READ: better grades).

When I was 25 – I was in transition of working for the Bank and starting out foodpanda.my.
It was quite a scary and weirdly confident time for me. Part of me felt as if I knew everything – another just felt I can’t make it happen. It was self conflicting yet it was most certainly an interesting period of time for me.

 

My Advice To My 20 Year Old Self

  1. Don’t fret, just focus on what you enjoy – not what pays the most money – there is truth in the old adage – follow your bliss.
  2. Live within your means – set a budget to how much you should be spending.
  3. Start learning internet marketing and start something on the side – it was the wild wild west – keyword stuffed affiliate site could have afforded me much cooler stuff.
  4. Make better use of the internet – the Internet really isn’t just about downloading movies, music, porn and coursework. There’s so many more cool things to learn online.
  5. Learn copywriting & the art / science of conversions.
  6. Learn how to hack social communications / social hierachy – read “The Game” by Neil Strauss and “48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene.
  7. Start looking for people who are more successful than you – study them – what are their habits, influences, books, and practices that they did to be where they want to be.
  8. Get a gym membership & start working out. Good place to start 5×5 Stronglifts.
  9. Get an internship with MindValley – don’t worry about the salary – just learn and absorb marketing / direct response / culture hacking.
  10. Read more widely – don’t just limit your horizon to self help – but autobiographies, spirituality, business, marketing, game theory.
  11. Network with people outside UTAR – seek out other entrepreneurial individuals and start some side gig.
  12. Join Toastmasters & start meeting people older than yourself.
  13. Join a MLM group to learn the basics of selling. Sales isn’t a dirty work – it’s essentially part of what the best entrepreneurs / linchpins have to do: sell their ideas, their products, their personality, etc.
  14. Learn Finance and how does money work – the various instruments where money is made and invested.
  15. Don’t waste time on well time wasters – actually use the time to study damn it!
  16. Invest in modafinil.
  17. Experiment – not just in labs. But with experiences, mind altering herbs, etc.
  18. Get a proper haircut and invest in a good set of clothes – first impression counts.
  19. Start looking at how to actually apply of what you learn outside the classroom.
  20. Don’t buy CD’s – it takes up space and most of them end up as junk.
  21. Buy Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane and the Battlestar Galattica series!

 

My Advice to My 25 Year Old Self

  1. Set every activity (even phone calls) with a specific outcome – if there is no outcome – don’t do it.
  2. Attend more personal development programs – invest more in yourself.
  3. Be very cautious to your time – spend it in things that really matter and make a difference.
  4. Be more consistent about gym time and actually go.
  5. Read / learn and practice – there is a difference between just knowing and actually doing.
  6. You don’t know everything – stop deluding yourself that you do – because it’s as simple as ‘Are You OK With The Results That You Currently Have’ – if the answer is no – then you are still not getting it right.
  7. Take “EXTREME RESPONSIBILITY” of your life – your current state financially, physically, mentally, emotionally is your fault – there is nobody else to be blamed for your success / failures.
  8. Stop thinking as a consumer – look at the world as a builder / creator.
  9. Plan your weeks ahead. Give yourself 5 Missions Daily in the morning – check back if all missions are accomplished at night – the missions must tie in with your annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals.
  10. Start drinking bulletproof coffee in the mornings to clear mind fog.
  11. Spend more time with people more successful than yourself, stop worrying about those that can’t keep up with your ambition – they will always be small and weak – there is no use to convince them to change their ways. Unfortunately that’s how the world works – and that’s why there’s so few successful people – they are just not willing to do ‘crazy things’ that you do.
  12. Keep learning diligently and keep asking yourself every month – “What Should I Upskill Myself With To Achieve My End Goal?”
  13. Limit the purchase of gadgets – I am looking at you – Blackberry Playbook.
  14. Look at your goals daily and keep asking yourself what can I do today to get me there. Remember: small imperfect actions.
  15. Start saving up money to invest in property – learn how to make money using property.
  16. Some movies are really not worth watching – those movies are truly a waste of time and film reels.
  17. Learn to say “No” to more things that don’t align with your goals and say “Yes” to more things that allows you to grow.  I am looking at courses that I ended up not following and not even redeeming the 30 Day Money Back Guarantee.
  18. Seek out more entrepreneurs (and not the ones from Rocket – but real true blue ones) and add value to their ventures. There’s always ways you can contribute.
  19. Travel more – do more than just sight-see but see what you can learn / bring back / contribute.
  20. Find time every month to feed the homeless.
  21. Try to get your ass to Singapore sooner – the Ringgit will fall – oh wait – you already knew that.

 

Those are pretty much the tactical stuff, but I guess on a more strategic side – I would just give these 3 main advice:

  1. Choose Your Battles – Know your odds – fight only battles you know you will win, have a failsafe option and fight a good fight.
  2. Do What Is Right – It’s Not Always What’s Easy or Convenient (Unfortunately) – but trust me, its more sustainable and will get you less heartaches.
  3. Add Immense Value In Everything That You Do / Every Interaction You Have – the world and its denizens do not orbit around you (although it would be cool if it did).

 

Here’s hoping I don’t repeat the above advice to myself when I hit 40!