Sunday, May 24, 2015

Time Pte Ltd

My days have been sort of "opening" up months after my break up. When we revolve so much of our lives around our other half, inevitably, we forget to also spend time with ourselves, or worse still, our friends.

Recently, my social life has been packed - happily so. I've made so many new friends, some whom I've grown very fond of. I've also taken the time to catch up with my past.

Gradually so, I find my time increasingly blocked out (a term I learnt at work), and booked up. I had to turn down appointments, schedule my social life a month in advance. I apologetically have to turn away last minute call-ups, or even sheepishly suggest we meet for an hour when others have already cleared the whole day ahead for me.

It's not that I'm in high demand, or have a super fantastic social life. Neither am I popular (oh heaven forbid). However, it's kind of a snowball effect when you start meeting people, and before you know it, people want to meet you. How do we prioritise? I find myself in a position where I would love to meet everyone, but have very little time. I wish my pockets are as deep as time and I wished time was as plentiful as my will.

I also have to constantly remind myself to give time to myself - my "me" time to replenish and recharge. Usually when I feel obligated to meet someone, it's usually a sign that I need time out. It's not necessarily a sign that the person is a bore or a chore, just that I don't have the emotional and mental capacity to deal with him/her today. Battery at 20% doesn't function well.

Time is private and limited, more so if we treat time as currency, to selfishly hoard and traded, we will become more mindful of the things we do and who we do them with. Recently I choose my time with those that rejuvenate me, rather than those that drain.

"Where got time?"

In Mandarin, we say time is "dug out" (抽出来). It's true, time is given, blocked out, offered up because we value something that grows within the time spent with each other. It makes no sense to spend it on people who demand all of it but give nothing in return.

That's what I call a bad investment.

Monday, May 4, 2015

What is a bad choice?

Yesterday's conversation got me thinking about choices, namely bad ones, that we see our friends make that we know will adversely affect their lives.

What's a choice? For me, it's a decision we make where there's more than 1 outcome. So that's the objective definition, but when we add judgement, good/bad, the normative value measure becomes harder to define.

To the person making the choice, it may seem good while to opinion of others, they see nothing but disaster coming. This may be proven true, at the same time, there's a chance that the "bad" choice turns out to be admirable foresight with the benefit of hindsight.

At the heart of the issue, the very core of it, is information. Any good business decision is made with having credible information translated into usable knowledge. It is the same with our personal lives as well, how do we know that our choices will most likely turn out well, is the kind of credible and reliable information from people around us who have themselves gone through similar experiences, or have friends who had, and are also sincere in sharing their knowledge without the necessary exaggerations.

We hear of stories of people who "despite all" went with "their gut" and did the thing they wanted anyway. There's an incredible amount of (*cough defensive) people who use this as an excuse to ignore the wise counsel of their loved ones (people like me actually). I never for a moment these successful people were that wise and far sighted to have made it on their own. It is human to be insecure and doubt, and I am convinced that they must have a close circle of friends or family whom they trust to have affirmed or advised them along the way. "Despite all", I feel refers to the group of haters-gotta-be-haters who delight from the failure of others. I mean, honestly I could hardly acknowledge that as proper advice.

So if it's knowledge and information (wisdom and knowledge) that allows us to make choices, and with the best possible outcome, then why do so many of us resist the advice of (wiser) others?

What makes us so damn defensive?

Off the top of my head? The truth hurts. It stings in a special place that reminds us we are human and we actually don't really know any better. In this society where knowledge is just a Google away, where instagram and facebook tells us we're awesome with a couple of likes, arrogance is at an all time high. We cannot relent to the fact that we are weak, stumbling and sometimes need others to pick ourselves up.

So we rather make bad choices and hope for a good outcome so we can be comfortable in the ostrich-sized hole we dug for ourselves. It's the very definition of insanity, doing something over and over again in hopes of a different outcome.

The second reason I fear why people reject good advice to make good choices, is simply that we think our thoughts are more 'correct' than others. This is especially prevalent in people who have done well in life and continue to do so in spite of their own mistakes. It's again, arrogance that gives us this false cocoon. Friends who give advice suddenly find themselves devalued, because their ideas, which may be perfectly sound, are drowned out by the person who out-reason, out-articulate them. Of course, our friends can always speak better, have better logic, but the concern and their partial experience should nevertheless be respected enough for us to give some measure of thought.

We often make choices at critical cross roads, and I've believed for a long time (blame it on Marvel) that in the long run, those choices make who we are. We don't necessarily have all the information, nor wisdom, to make choices that we can be sure if. Sometimes people on the outside see it clearer because they have critical distance, and being less emotionally vested allows for clarity of a unique kind. The kind that see things for what they are, and may even offer other insights hidden from us due to our cloud if passion and self-centeredness.

At the end of the day, while we walk alone in this path, we are not alone in the forest. Seek counsel of the trees, at least listen and consider, for they are there to shelter you. Those trees are our friends, concerned colleagues and family. And they are tall in experience to know what's ahead, or at least know what's above your head. It is true there are falsehoods amongst those who stand with you, the only way we know is to gain lessons from mistakes moving forward and gradually we can tell the trees apart, from the young saplings who know little, to the wise knores of willows who can and will guide.

Try not to let a couple of bad trees dissuade you from making the best choices to the best possible outcome, even when the outcome may not be immediately apparent. Don't miss the forest for the trees, don't mistake and blame the messenger for the message.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

What keeps you going today?

Good morning fellow salaried citizens,

As I ride the train to work, between the impossible squeeze and torrid weather, I ask myself, what drags me out of bed every morning at 6.30am?

Is it the endless bills and debts I've accrued, or the nagging worry that I might not have enough for my old age? Or is it my aging parents whom I have to support, or the pride in being part of the "working force"?

What keeps us going?

I have long doubted the career I'm in, and I thought I was alone. And then I spoke to many of my peers and many don't seem to know what they are going about either. We seem to bumble along, finding the next opportunity to skip and hop, until we finally find the sweet spot we could then finally settle - if we're lucky.

Many of my peers express a reluctance to go to work in the morning, and display a similar degree of joy when there's a public holiday or when a long leave break is coming up.

We work for survival, we work to keep ourselves financially afloat - our eyes shine when we see the monthly paycheck come in, only to also have it shine in tears when it flows down the drain within the same month.

So back to my question, what keeps us going?

For some, it's their family and children, the exchange of money to bring their families comfort gives them a sense of pride and responsibility. The insurmountable fulfilment you can give. Yet others are content with the material pleasures their money brings, the occasional pamperings and having freedom to be able to buy almost anything they'll like. Those that work for peanuts, and also asked to perform like monkeys who see themselvew work for a higher cause. They plough through the dirty and demeaning because they know their work holds purpose. It is duty that carries them through.

What do I work for? Honestly I don't know. Most times, it's auto-pilot that I wake up 6.30am, collect my paycheck on the 23 of every month, and pay my bills shortly a week after. Other times I relish in the warm companionship of my colleagues, and think "life isn't so bad". Some times I walk down the CBD feeling lucky to have a full time position here where it all happens. On rare instances, when shit hits the fan and there's no cover, I am filled with doubts if this brittle façade is really something that brings me joy and happiness.

A job, in all intents and purposes, does not bring joy. What does bring us fulfilment, is knowing who we are working for, who we are working with, and ultimately it's all about the people you meet and care for. I find it exceedingly idealistic when someone said "find a job you're passionate in". Yes, nonetheless it's true, we should find a job we are at least somewhat passionate in, but not because the job will make you happy, but because you'll join a community of like-minded individuals. People who speak and listen like you, they may even dress like you, or see things the same way. You will never have to work another day, if your work is surrounded by supportive individuals who make the workplace home as much as your own family does. It is a feeling of belonging we crave when we work in an industry that we're passionate in.

I wake up every morning because there's something to solve, a goal to work towards to. I push through the fog of sleep because I know there are people at work who understands the difficulties I'm facing, who have the same wavelength as I. Some days are harder than most, and until the day when most days are harder than some, I see myself keeping calm and carrying on.

It's the little things that get to you, the alarm in in the morning, the tough times in the office. But hang in there, and soldier on, you are not alone. We are all in this huge foreign world together.