Goodbye Russia 18

World Cup is over. Russia 18 is touted by many as one of the best FIFA World Cup ever, if not the best among all the World Cups.

All the fears of hooligans, poor stadiums and doping were unfounded. Heck, even the Russians – who were considered the worst team in this world cup – captivated fans and neutrals by exceeding expectations.

But a World Cup without the traditional big-hitters like Italy and Netherlands felt strange. A slightly subdue tournament punctuated by the emergence of smaller countries like Iceland. And thrill us these emerging nations did. Croatia, who overcame three gruelling knock-out matches involving extra time, went all the way to the final and finished runners up.

In the final, they (unfairly) lost to France. They might have lost the game but in return, they won the hearts of the world. They are champion for their indomitable spirit, for they gave hope to people around the world. That if you combine talent with hard work and ambition, you can go far. Far further than anyone would imagine. They missed out on the trophy but it made people dream.

The scene of Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović hugging both sets of players as they received their medals will long stay in my memory. In the driving rain, she stood with pride in her Croatian jersey, smiling and embracing every one of them. It’s remarkable to witness such humanity. Her actions are an iconic showcase of soft-power at work, one that would propel her and Croatia to greater recognition in the global stage.

The kickoff times for this world cup were favourable to us Asians too. For the last world cup in Brazil, I remember the matches were screened in wee hours of the morning or just before daybreak. Waking up was a chore – almost a grind. I couldn’t wake up to watch and even when I did, I fell asleep during the game. And the following day, it was a struggle to stay awake in the office.

The timings in Russia were perfect. Even after finishing the last game, I could get some eye-shut before heading off to work. This year’s special too because it’s the first major tournament I’m watching in our new home. With our young son tucked in bed, my wife sometimes joined me to watch some of the games. She did an awesome job keeping me awake in dull games by sprouting funny stuffs – like (mis)pronouncing player’s name, questioning the VAR and celebrating goals. It’s different watching with her and I enjoy every bit of the experience.

See you in Qatar in 4 years time!

Connecting Brands with Purpose

The most important brands in the world make us feel something. Something within us. They have a purpose, and this purpose is reflected in everything they do. They stand for something. As customer, if we believe what they believe, we want to stand with them.

These brands exist because they have something they want to let the world know. They are here not just to sell products, they are here to share their purpose. And purpose is a powerful tool. In this world of mostly undifferentiated offerings, the most powerful thing to distinguish between brands is purpose. We love and respect brands which are singular on their never-wavering purpose and stood the test of time.

Getting Things Done In A WorldWhere All The Things Will Never Be Done

“When you want to get things done, give it to a busy person”.

I struggle to understand this in the past. Why would busy people get things done when they are already so occupied? Wouldn’t someone less busy do better? Not necessary as I’ve learn from first-hand experience lately.

You see, for the past 9 months I’ve been in new jobs (two, in fact). These roles compresses time and shrink the hours down. I can never have ample time during the day to complete the tasks. When I was making headroom for something, more tasks get added to my ever-expanding list. It’s like a mountain that grows bigger and higher with the lava coming in from all directions.

I was overwhelmed initially. Never before have I felt so out of control. Faced with this situation, I froze momentarily on several occasions. It’s like there are so many things to do – all equally important; where-do-I-start-with kind of thoughts. Of course, some things are more important than others. I’ve to accept the fact that given our limited time, it’s impossible to get everything done, let alone doing them all well in unrealistic time frame.

But what I’ve learned from being really busy is that in order to get things done, I needed to be very efficient and productive. How to maximise my time and which tasks to do from a mountainous list. No more procrastination. A moment or two of overthinking and not acting means I’m going to be behind even further. Be direct and decisive. Move the needle forward.

For emails, I realize that if I don’t reply them in the first few minutes, I tend to never answer them again even though I’ve flagged them. Some emails require more thoughtful reply and answers but for most of them, it’s better to just reply immediately rather than leave it lingering. The cognitive load is forever there unless we process them – in this case – to either reply or trash them away.

I wrote this article in the little pockets of time I’ve after work, when I was flat-out shagged and in need of time alone to unwind. What I found was writing is one of the best way to decompress – the other being running. Writing clarifies thinking and clears out a space in my mind to tackle problems.

So to this, I’m grateful I took the time to write this post here. With grit and the motivation, I’m sure the worries of yesterday and the obstacles of tomorrow can be conquered.

And like the famous words of SEAL: the only easy day is yesterday.

Shoe Polishing Is An Art

So therapeutic, so mesmerising. I never expect myself to be so drawn to shoe polishing. Watching a master shine shoe is fascinating to me.

Every action is measured, each motion precise and intentional. Like most Japanese, you can sense that Yuya Hasegawa takes pride in what he’s doing. The respect Japanese have for craftsmanship is amazing.

To others, watching a 8 minute clip on shoe shining is not unlike watching the paint dry. Then again, I’ve always been interested in the subtle part of a gentleman’s outfit and having a polished shoe is certainly an integral element.

Adding on to a fitting suit, a sleek tie, a versatile cuff link and an understated watch. Perfect for the everyday gentleman.

Planet or Plastic?

It’s one of the best cover magazine, ever.

Like many others, I’m floored by the ingenuity of Nat Geo magazine June’s cover. It’s simple yet profound. It’s piques our curiosity in excessive usage of plastic and deeper issues like climate change. Yet, we only need a glance to understand what the picture depicts.

Here are some words from Nat Geo:

Can it really be true that half the plastic ever made was produced in the past 15 years? That a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, with an average “working life” of just 15 minutes? That some nine million tons of plastic waste go into the oceans every year? And that estimates for how long plastic endures range from 450 years to forever?

[…] we have created a plastic apocalypse. Developed nations off-load waste from our convenient lifestyle and foist the cleanup on some of the planet’s most vulnerable people. Our Planet or Plastic? campaign is a call to take responsibility for the messes we’ve already made, and act to prevent more.

My First Solo Trip To The Cinema

As the lights dimmed, my anticipation heightened. It would be the first time I’m doing this. As with every first experience – there’s a sense of anxiety, uncertainty and excitement.

Cinema is a social venue, though the act of watching the film is a solitary process. As kids, we were brought here by our parents. As we grow older, it’s probably the place where we went on an awkward first date. As our circle of friends grew, it became the gathering venue for groups. The choice of show is secondary – usually a blockbuster to satisfy most tastes. Convenience takes precedence over the film that you’d really like to watch. We sacrifice our interest for the greater good of social conformity and friendship.

I always wondered how is it like to watch a movie alone in the cinema. As a teenager, it puzzled me why would anyone watch a show by themselves. Did they not have friends? Were they an outcast? What drove them to sit alone in the sea of movie-goers that came in pairs and groups.

I was about to find that out myself.

I’ve always enjoy spending time alone. I like being in the company of people but yet, I longed for time of my own. 4 days of lunching out with colleagues and 1 day alone. Comes weekends, half a day reserved for myself. That would be ideal – a wonderful way to gather my thoughts.

But watching a movie alone is something I’ve never consider doing. Primarily because I thought how would others perceive me. I don’t want the box office guy to think I’m a loner when I walk up to buy just one ticket. I don’t want to be surrounded by chirpy audience when I’m sitting there alone.

Those fears are unfounded.

These days, one can easily purchase movie tickets online. I wouldn’t have to queue in line and be subjected to judgement. Self ticketing ksioks are readily stationed in the cinema these days, and it’s really easy to skip the line and buy tickets. I bought mine using this niffy machine.

Inside the theatre, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe it was a weekday afternoon, but there were plenty of solo guys watching the show. I didn’t feel out of place among them. In fact, I relish the opportunity to be one of them, to finally experience watching a film in the cinema all by myself.

It’s appropriate that the movie I was watching is named “A Quiet Place”. It has gotten rave reviews from viewers and critics. I thought how nice it would be to watch this alone.

It was a tense, atmospheric movie with almost no dialogue. All the more enjoyable watched alone. At the end of the show, I thought to myself – it wasn’t too bad at all. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

I crave solitude. In this hyper connected world of ours, it’s a privilege to be able to carve out “me time”. In spending time with us ourselves, we are able to look within us, form our opinion and be less influenced by the people around us.

I’m already yawning for my next solo adventure to the cinema. It can’t come soon enough.

Confidence

Confidence has a powerful impact in our actions.

Confidence, they alter our perspective and affect the outcome. Like it or not, we need them.

How do one define confidence then? Does confidence comes from within, or is it through external validation?

Confidence is fragile. It takes time to build it up but when it crumble, it’s like a falling stone. And then it takes courage, time and effort to rebuild it up.

I’m in the stage of extreme low confidence. I can’t see light at the end of tunnel. But it’s nothing new – I’ve experienced it countless times before. Haven’t we all experienced a dip of confidence and we don’t know when will it ever return?

Eventually, we just have to ride through this tough journey. It’s not going to be easy but that’s what navigating life is all about.

Drink to Write, Write to Drink

While showering, I had a strong urge to down a can of beer. Not just any beer – it would be chilled and light flavoured – just nice to quench my thirst for alcohol.

I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t think so. It’s comforting to lean back with a beer in hand and just watch the world go by. Coffee has the same effect, albeit at different time of the day. They calm my nerves and lift my spirit.

But more than anything, I hope a dose of alcohol would do me good for writing. That’s what we are told, right? That famous writers are hard drinkers, alcoholic, and incapable of maintaining a relationship with their spouse and family.

And then I remember reading an article today, that not all writers are alcohol abusers. Some have perfectly normal families and lead a happy life.

Are they the outliners among the trove of famous writers who really can’t live without alcohol? I don’t know. But I wrote this without any sip of beer. I’d love to have a can (or two), but just not tonight.

At least I’m done writing here. Let’s cheers to that, with an imagery can of beer in hand.

Why Is Email So Enduring?

A few days back, I received a newsletter from Quartz Obsession in the inbox.  It’s a fantastic newsletter by the way – packed full of knowledge in a digestible way – perfect for a short read during commute. It’s brief but not shallow, and you walk away with a better understanding of the world and stuffs around you.

On that day, the topic happened to be email. We all have a love-hate relationship with it. Many of us know we are spending too much time on it yet we remain hooked. Despite other tools like Slack claiming they’re shaving hours off worker’s day, email is still going strong. In fact it’s growing year after year.

I’ll quote directly from Quartz:

The data speaks for itself. The number of emails sent is steadily growing 3% year over year, and as of 2018, almost 3 billion humans have at least one email account. (The average is 1.8 email addresses per person.) And the answer is really pretty simple: Even if they complain about it, pretty much everybody actually really likes email.

Publishers like it because it’s a way to directly connect to readers. It’s not beholden to an opaque algorithm, that when tinkered with can cut content off from the reading swathes of your audience: In the inbox, you can connect with the people who like your publication directly. (Hi, again!) It’s great for writers and other creatives for these same reasons, as evidenced by the outcry over the rumored shuttering of MailChimp’s wonky, lo-fi TinyLetter platform earlier this year.

Marketers like it because it’s segmentable: For example, you can customize messaging to different clients based on what they’ve bought from you in the past. And plain old humans like it because, unlike the ubiquitous social media streams cascading in from all directions, it can be managed, customized, and … even … ignored. Email is still relatively intimate by digital standards. And it’s polite: It enables communication without the expectation of an immediate response.

When we rely entirely on platform like Facebook for traffic and contention distribution, we are at their mercy. A slight tweak on the news feed can have tremendous impact. Many brands are producing awesome content, but it’s just not showing up on the follower’s feed. It’s a shift towards “if you want your brand post to be seen, pay.”

Email doesn’t have this problem. It’s always there in the inbox. Legitimate emails may get identified as spam, but at least they’re delivered. It’s not like there’s a tweak to the algorithm and comes the next day, there’s a high possibility of your mail not getting through to the receiver.

But that’s what happening to social networks. And that’s why email is such a powerful and underrated tool in today’s context. Many see social media as a must-have platform and don’t give enough attention to email. But those who done it right reap rewards from it. My personal favourites include those that blends personal touch, whimsical approach and interesting information. Tattly and Hiut Denim are two of my favourite newsletters.

Unlike instant messaging, we don’t have a moral obligation to respond within a short span of time. And for us workers who rely on emails for communication, the last paragraph sums it up nicely – it enables communication without the expectation of an immediate response.

Email really is the ubiquitous tool that is so enduring.