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!

I Cringe Everytime People Ask Me This…

These past few days I have been a busy bee (literally).

I have come out of my narcissistic introverted cocoon to do the mingle.
Networking. Meetups. Social Gatherings.

Call it what you want.

I always get butterflies in my stomach before these events.

I have been told I am good at this.
But honestly I don’t think I can work the room as well as I should.

Being a Type-A (read: kiasu) worthy of a full citizenship in Singapore, I have always wished I could outsource this part of life to a smoother operator.

But just like most good things in life.
If you want to do it right – better do it yourself – and use this as an opportunity to improve myself.

Back to topic. I digress.
I always cringe when people ask me “So What Do You Do?”

This question comes in all shapes and forms:

“Do a quick introduction of yourself”
“What do you do for a day job”
“So how do you pay the bills” – OK so nobody asked that before.

You get the point.

It’s quite hard to actually describe what does a Jack of All Trades do.
Doesn’t really help when you are between jobs and not at liberty to disclose the next coolest thing you want to do to change the universe (at least in my own worldview).

I have always prided myself in having a mixed bag of talents.
As they say in Malaysia – “rojak”

Sometimes I get real lost when people ask me “What exactly do you do?”

There are so many moving parts that make what I do difficult to properly explain.
As much as I like to say I am a Marketer – I also do other miscellaneous stuff in other parts of the business to ensure that the engines are firing in all cylinders.

Honest truth is there are no 2 days that are the same.
And it’s this variety that has always made me enjoy what I do.

I guess plainly put – I solve problems on a daily basis.

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!

A Marketer Should Have 9 Lives…

I was just sharing this with my team today.

Remove all the fancy trappings, ninja techniques that comes with marketing.
Take away A-B Testing.
Take away SEO, SEO, CPC – and other 3 letter buzzwords.
Take away copywriting tricks.
Take away sales funnels.

A marketer is a strategic salesperson.
Strategic because as convincing as he is – the marketer is aware of how best to use different channels to multiply his efforts – think door to door Mormons evolving to click bait webinars online.

OK – weird example.

The aim of a marketer is after all to influence, persuade and to illicit an action or thought.
And great writers and speakers also do the same.

It can be to influence someone to start using Macs (trust me – I am trying to be a convert myself – but I still love typing on my Thinkpad), persuading the girl that you are the Alpha Man she should open her legs for, or to get someone to re-think about how much their time is worth and to start ordering food online.

But a marketer is first of all a person who is curious about humans and their idiosyncrasies.
Thus like a curious cat – they should also have 9 lives.

What makes individuals tick?

What are their cognitive bias are?

What is the tipping point for someone to say “Yes” to something?

Where do “Early Adopters” hang out? – Yes I mean you over there who keeps checking on Windows 10 update on your computer

What makes people reluctant to pull the trigger? – Yes, the other camp who still has not clicked on the “Get Windows 10” icon.

Where and how do people place value on items? – The curious case of people complaining that the economy is bad yet still wait in line for the overpriced new iPhone

It’s an interesting brew of both art and science.

Art is making ideas, products and services come alive – hell really good marketers can even make tissue papers the best piece of paper.
Science in having measurable outcomes and perimeters to test against.

And I feel blessed that we live in a digital age where we can track down to the precision of what works and how do we make things better.

With so many data points – we can accurately pin point the exact customers to target.

After all – its all about finding the relevant audience – else it’s as good as selling Windows to a die hard Mac fanatic who is sold on the idea that minor hardware tweaks “changes everything”.

Back to my point.

Whenever I go out – I always observe people, buying patterns, how do people choose items off shopping shelves (do they read the copy? or are they sold with really cool packaging?), what do people talk about, and what their main concerns are.

Simply because – complementing a curious marketer is an entrepreneur – that solves problems for fun and profit.