Building Company Culture

“He will be away for a week”, my HR told us, “better get hold of him before he leaves”.

My boss is overseas for a week. That’s one week without supervision, and that means one week of slacking. Right?

But it never happened. The company still functions as it’s supposed to. Sales still come in and shipment still went ahead. People still report to work and knock off on time. My assumption about slacking is way off the truth.

Why exactly didn’t it happen?

Strong company culture and having the right people.

If we are able to instil a strong culture in the company, one where people know their roles well and also how others work, everything runs smoother. People come and go, they go on vacation or take sick leave, but we can still function. We will be able to cover for one another and function as a unit.

A strong company culture cannot be achieved without having the right people. The right people make things so much easier. They don’t grumble (much) because they just get on with it. Such people are fun to be with. Attitude matters more than attribute. Attitude is tough to correct whereas attributes can be picked up.

I’m glad that I work in a company with a great culture, surrounded with awesome colleagues.

Brilliant Bag From Nissin and LEGO

Witty, funny, and well executed, these bags by LEGO and Nissin are full of character.


The actual straps are smartly hidden within the bag so if you hold it up, the iconic yellow handle gives the illusion that it’s been carried by a LEGO person.

Another similarly bag is by Nissin.


Threading The Gaming Addiction

Last night, I laid on the bed, thinking about the game I just bought. The titled is called Pro Evolution Soccer 2017.

The thought of making a wrongful purchase flooded my mind repeatedly. Buyer’s remorse sets in. It’s the feeling of regret one gets after buying an expensive item. I tossed around, knowing that wasting money is one thing, but trying to justify the purchase by investing more time and effort into it will just compound the remorse.

It’s part impulse purchase (a healthy discount over the retail price) and partly because I want to wind down after a long day of work. The problem is, I found myself tensed, stressed and anxious. I felt tensed become of the adrenaline rush from playing. Even after the game has ended, it will often keep me alert for several hours afterwards. I felt stressed and anxious because I spent more time than I allocated for. After the whirlwind of games, I asked myself why have I neglected doing activities that truly makes me relax.

That is the story of my life with games.

To counter this, I’ve set aside a maximum of 45 minutes daily for games. Restraint is always the hardest, especially when the novelty of a new game hasn’t wear off. Still, it’s vital to instil the discipline to do the “real” routines that feels relaxing and peps me for bed. Routines like reading, writing, sketching and talking to my wife – these are what makes me feel fulfilled. I find that if I game all the way just before bedtime, I tend to have extremely troubled sleep. The following day would be a horrible one to endure.

With everything in life, moderation is key. Just like a glass of red wine nightly boosts health benefits, a game (or two) after work can take my mind off the mundane chore.

Let’s hope when I do get a good night’s sleep, I will quietly mumble ‘goooal’ in my dream.



It’s a simple word, one that’s getting overused by the free souls touting their new found freedom.

It’s a romantic word to use – chase after your dreams, do what your passion brings you. But how far can it bring us? How long can it sustain us before the reality sets in? Can passion withstand the inevitable obstacles and challenges as we move along?

I’ve a deep passion for technology, especially consumer electronics. I love reading reviews on gadgets, and I once haboured the thought of making a living reviewing gadgets. That would be so cool – trying and using things that interest me, and getting paid for it at the same time. My angle and opinion would influence the readers. My writing matters. It would be a dream job marrying two of my favourite passion – consumer electronics and writing.

But not everyone can be a tech journalist or supporting themselves with a blog. That’s the reason why I’m still holding on to a full time job that has no resemblance to my interest.

Because there’s something above passion gets us through life.

It’s purpose.

Not everyone can fulfil their passion. But everyone can achieve their purpose.

The pump attendant in the gas station, do you think it’s his passion standing there, waiting for cars to drive in and top up petrol for them? The cleaner that collects our soiled dishes, wash them and then clean them. Do you think it’s her passion to perform this role? Unlikely. But people do this for a reason. That pump attendant may be building up his saving so he can eventually go on a long fishing trip with his friends. The cleaner may be saving up for her children to go university.

The clearer our sense of purpose is, the more resilient we are to hardships.

Stop Using “Very”

‘Very’ is the most useless word in English, said Florence King. It invariably weakens what it intends to strengthen.

Now, whenever I want to use the word “very”, I would refer to this handy chart.


How Traffic Jam Comes About And How To Resolve It

Fascinating short clip on how traffic jam comes about.

I’ve always wonder what causes the traffic to pile up – especially when there’s no accident and the congestion eases up after a certain point.

Clue: it’s not the car that causes traffic to jam. It’s the driver, and that’s us. We are susceptible to poor judgement and reaction amongst other factors.

Self-driving vehicles could function at peak capabilities and coordination would be perfect (once the fine-tuning and communication between them are ironed out).

In the future, there would be no need for traffic lights. Because cars could talk to one another and process these information instantaneously, we would get smoother traffic condition.

That leaves us humans with one thing – to enjoy the ride.

New Passport Design for Japan




As a country known for its attention to detail, Japan has taken this trait to a new level. What a fantastic ambassador this passport will be, as it travels around the world collecting stamps from various countries.

As it introduces iconic artworks and culture to custom officers, it also reminds its citizen what a rich history and heritage Japan has. If all else fails, it would make a great conversation starter when the immigration queue gets long.

This lovely new passport design is set to launch in 2019, in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,


Extracted from Shawn Blanc’s topics on Margin:

Margin in your finances means you’re living within your means and even have a rainy day fund.

Margin in your schedule means you have time to do the things you need to do as well as the things you want to do.

Margin in your emotions means you don’t live constantly on the edge — losing your temper or your patience at the drop of a hat.

Margin for your thoughts means you have the wherewithal to make clear decisions and focus on your most important work.

All of these areas overlap with one another — they’re not isolated. Which is why, when a household lacks margin in its finances it can erode at margin in the marriage. Or when we lack margin in our schedule, it can erode the margin in our emotions.

Look at it this way: when you know you have rainy day fund saved up, you’re safe in thought that should you get retrenched, you have enough savings to tide you over this tough period. Or, should any mishap happens, you don’t have to go on a mad scramble to find money.

On the other hand, if you live pay cheque to pay cheque, it’s a state of constant worry. Cash flow is often an issue. You may not like your job, but you have to stay because it’s the only way the money is going to come in. It erodes decision-making. We cannot make rationale and long-term decision when we live in such less-than-ideal environment.

I know it’s not a nice position to be in.

And I certainly agree that margin doesn’t stand on its own. It overlaps into many aspects in our lives. When I feel I’m starved for time, it affects me emotionally. I rush through things. The feeling of not having enough time makes me anxious. When I’m anxious, I tend to be distracted doing everything except the task I’m supposed to do. When the thoughts of unfinished work lingers in my mind, I get disturb sleep. I eat more and those tend to be unhealthy food.

It’s a cycle: our emotional, physical and financial are interlinked. Margin in one area gives momentum to create margin in the other two areas.

To create margin, the first step is to be intentional.

Take for example, myself.

While I always wanted to read but find myself never having the time to do so, I schedule for it. Everyday, I shall read 20 pages. I used to set aside 30 minutes before bedtime to do so, and it works too. The idea is to build small wins like this – 20 pages daily isn’t hard, the hard thing is to start and not be distracted – so we can build a routine. Once a routine is in place, it develops into a habit. With habit, the things we do are second nature.

Just like brushing teeth daily, we don’t think about how tired or groggy we are in the morning, we instinctively know we need to brush up. It has taken me a year to develop a habit to brush my teeth before bed, but the impact has been tremendous. Dentist said my teeth are cleaner, gum is stronger, and I spend less on dental visits.

When it comes to reading, I know I’ve to read whenever and wherever I’ve time to hit the 20 page mark. So, instead of constantly and mindless scrolling through social feeds, I fire up the Kindle app on my phone and read a book instead. On the 2 hours commute, I have hit the target for the day. 20 pages a day, 140 pages a week. For most books, I can finish them in less than 2 weeks. That’s within my goal of reading 24 books in a year.

That’s a good start for me. Once I’ve build up a routine for reading, I’ll move on to other areas – like building a rainy day fund – to create margin in my financial.

My Books in 2016

This year, I have bought over 10 books.

That is on top of the magazines I regularly purchase off the local magazine shop. Titles like Drift, Kinfolk, Monocle, Offscreen, Thisispaper, Popeye and Cereal. Also busy catching up on some of the unfinished chapters in Monocle’s publications like Guide to Good Business and Guide to Cosy Homes.. That’s a lot to read, but I’m OK with that.

Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Finishing Them

I once wrote about how I hoard books and felt guilty about not reading them all. I buy more than I read and that was worrying. I read more than ever, but the rate of my acquisition of books have sped up too. Where I once spent my commute scrolling through social feeds, I now mostly read on the Kindle app in my iPhone. I resume the reading on my browser in the office (when I’ve spare time), and pick it back up at home with the Paperwhite. It’s what makes reading so fun – the sync is seamless and instantaneous.

Gradually, I’ve learned not to worry about not finishing a book I don’t like. It’s like an album. There are plenty of tracks in the album, and there are some songs you like more than the others. What do you do with the songs you don’t like? You move on. If I chanced on a chapter I don’t have interest in, I either skim through them, or skip the chapter altogether. No big deal. There are many other valuable lessons to be learned in the book. I look at it this way: reading something I don’t like isn’t just not enjoyable, but the time could be spent on reading other stuffs I’m more interested in. Doris Lessing advice readers to drop the books when they bore them, skip the parts that drag, and never read anything they feel ought to, because it’s part of a trend.

Borrowing from Shawn Blanc, I care about learning one idea from the book. Just one idea. And put the idea into practice. If I were to just take one proven idea or practice and implement it into my life, the book would be worth the cover price alone.

Take Notes and Share Them

It happens all the time to me: once I reached the end of the book, I wonder what 95% of the book is about. It’s fine for fictions, but it’s not too great for those business or self-help books which I want to learn some pointers off. While I used to worry about keeping things in its pristine condition, I now highlight them, make notes in them, and basically just do whatever I want to it. Not only do I find it more personal, it allows me to understand book is merely a medium to share knowledge. Not worrying about the condition of the book is such a liberating feel. What’s more, books grow better with use and age. A brand-new book has no character to speak.

I recently read an article in Medium that touched on the power of writing about things we read. A particularly intriguing idea stood out – passive or active review. Passive review is highlighting, rereading and memorizing content. Active review is understanding the material and being able to recreate it. In my schooling years, I’m the former. In exams where the questions asked “In your own words…”, I typically struggled. I simply didn’t understand the materials enough to recreate them. I found that those subjects I’m deeply interested in – like geography – I’m able to recall some of the concepts even though it’s been so long since I last read about them. The power of creating using our own words and style cannot be undermined. When we recreate contents we learn and connect the dots together. And the best way to learn is to teach. No longer are we just passively absorbing, we are involved in spreading the knowledge too. This is invaluable in the mastery of a subject.

A Book I Recently Read

Last week, I was done reading the book called “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss. I highlighted the book (digitally, because I bought the e-pub version), extracted them into Simplenote and revisited them several times. Though it straddles on a dry topic, it’s an easy and smooth book to read as the author always opens with a personal story when he was with FBI.

Among the concepts I like is our tone of voice matters. If we use the right tone, we are able to trigger certain emotions in our listeners. The author said it’s like reaching into their mind and flipping an emotional switch. Also, confident people tend to speak slowly and deliberately. They seem to be in control. What you say is not as important as how you say them. We tend to portray those who speak slower and intentional as someone who has higher authority, as opposed to someone who speaks faster and stuttering. This is akin to a phase that always stays in my mind “people will not remember what you say, but people will remember how you make them feel”.

Two days back, I was shopping in a department chain with my wife when I chanced upon a sale of a brand I’ve been eyeing for a long time. côte&ciel was having a 20% sale, and the shop also has an members’ only sale for additional discount. It’s definitely a bargain, I thought. But the only stumbling block was, it didn’t come in the size or color I like. What attracted me to it was the subtle (but delightful) grey color and the unique style. If I were to buy it in another color which I didn’t fancy, or in a size that didn’t complement me, what’s the point? Instead of saving $130, I would be wasting $310. No deal is better than a bad deal, the book advocates. Looking at it this way not only saves me money, but also saving me the sense of guilt of buying something I never really wanted in the first place.

In any negotiation, we should be aware of where we stand. Who will lose out more should the deal collapse? If we can convince the other party that he has something real to lose, we will have an upper hand in the negotiation. Given an option, always let the other party open with a figure. (if he opens with an extremely low number, you can counter it by learning more of that in the book). If pressured to name a figure, start with a range. Say, I understand people pay “$48,000 – $53,000” for this car on the used market. Mine is well-taken care of, regularly serviced, low mileage and accident-free.

There are many other good advice in the book. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we are making deals throughout the day. Sometimes we are making deals with ourselves, like should we splurge on the camera we’ve been eyeing for, or should we save it up for our emergency nest. Delaying gratification requires mental fortitude and this book investigates a little of it as well, like our ability to take a punch when confronted with an unrealistic offer. Our mental resilience when we are prepared will allow us to stay cool-headed. Because under pressured, we don’t rise to the occasion. We default to our highest level of preparation.

That’s all for now. I didn’t plan to write this much, but the more I share, the more I have to share. But these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Read Never Split The Difference to find out more about the book yourself.

Google + Monotype = Noto

5 years in the making, Google and Monotype have launch their open-source typeface named Noto (short for no tofu, where little square appears on the screen when the font is not supported).

The span of this assignment is extensive – researchers, designers, linguists and cultural experts were involved and consulted. The result is a harmonious look and feel, with over 800 languages and 100 written scripts. Numbers, symbols, musical notations and even emoji haven’t been neglected too.

The project is an initiative from Google to create an unified font where there would be no unknown character. For lesser used languages, like those carved on stones, it’s even more important to preserve them.

Kamal Mansour, linguistic typographer at Monotype, sums it up, “So to me, the aim is to serve that human community that would otherwise be deprived of the ability to have a digital heritage.”

Google and Monotype can give themselves a pat on the back. But there’s still work to be done. While the sans serif family is done, the serif is still being developed.