Spark Your Creativity With Unfinished Notebook

Unfinished is a collaboration between design guru Khoi Vinh and Baron Fig, maker of one of the most respected notebooks.

To make the blank page less intimidating, Unfinished offers a playground to have fun and stoke your creativity.

I’d love to doodle in them – though my sketches and drawings are really questionable.

It’s the kind of notebook that makes it unique. You can just about do anything you want with it.

It seems like the unfinished drawings are there to give a gentle nudge to kindle the creativity in you.

What’s more, I like the blue cover, the quality of the paper, and the fact that it opens flat.

It’s something I can see myself using, and then looking over the net to see what creations others have come up with.

Is Dark Chocolate A Health Food?

Dark chocolate is a health food.

Chocolate is a health food.

Cocoa is a health food.

Wait, since when cocoa is a health food?

We have decades of condition to thank for, with the biggest chocolate producers in the world like Nestle, Mars and Hershey’s funding the scientific studies and research.

Growing steadily over the years, the chocolate industry is now a $19B playground. Naturally, nobody wants to be looked upon as eating sinful treats like chocolate. But if you could cite reports backed by studies and journalist proving that dark chocolate is beneficial to our health, we can readily and happily indulge in the dark bar with less guilt.

In the article by Vox, it says “Mars and [other chocolate companies] made a conscious decision to invest in science to transform the image of their product from a treat to a health food,”

Findings may be skewed or biased in favour of these food companies. Indeed. “By spending a lot of money on one topic but not another, [it] can sort of create a publication bias,” said Richard Bazinet, a University of Toronto nutrition researcher. In other words, companies pouring money into studying a certain food and a specific set of questions about that food pushes the research agenda in a particular direction — one that the food companies favor.”

I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but this article confirms what we knew all along – that those in power controls how things are perceived. They can exercise their influence to manipulate news and alter our state of mind.

So there, as with most things, consume in moderation and life will be happier and healthier.

Clocking In A Good Work Day

How do you define a good day’s of work?

To me, it’s ending the day feeling a little drained, yet beaming inside knowing that you’ve make good ground towards the goal.

Productivity can be a false gauge – we can be really productive doing the wrong things. What truly matters is making progress towards the vision. Measuring the day’s worth of progress is not meaningful. Some things need space and time to grow.

If you feel you’re not making progress on that particular day, check back again in one week. Are you making progress? Are you on the right track?

I’m delighted if my involvement have positive an impact for the company and its customers. I’m happy with an environment that fosters trust and enables the people to grow.

These are things that matter to me in the bigger context of job satisfaction.

A New Job That Compresses Time

It’s been two months since I last wrote here.

Time just whizzed by. I got a new job that’s closer to my home. Now, my commute is halved. What was once a 1.30 hours journey is now a manageable 45 minutes bus ride. A huge relief.

The workload in my new role is mind-blowing. Most days, the hours in the day ain’t enough for me. I hardly have time to take a breather before the next commitment washes me over. To say I’m overwhelmed is an understatement. I’m completely swarmed and struggling to stay afloat.

8 weeks in, I’m slowly coming to terms with it. This position gives me the opportunity to be exposed to the full (almost) spectrum of marketing. Though work can be stressful and my boss is a demanding (sometimes unreasonable) person, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by supporting colleagues and understanding partners. They make life much interesting and bearable as I find my footing in this new company.

Like what I told the ex-colleague I was replacing: there’s no bedding in period here – I’m being thrown into the deep sea and survival is uncertain. The tide is against me as I joined in the peak season. Everything comes gushing in from all directions.

It’s hard to keep a clear head as things get so crazy at times. I’m longing for the day where I can really sit down, plan and execute on the marketing stuffs I was hired for in the first place.

Bitcoin on a napkin: The Illustrated Book

I only have the vaguest idea of what Bitcoin is. Though I’ve never been interested in knowing the full details, it’s always nice to understand more about the movement in currency and technology.

What’s more, illustrations always break down complex concepts into easy-to-understand bits.

So what’s this book about?

Bitcoin on a napkin is an illustrated book that will teach you what is Bitcoin and how it works, its uses and even a bit of history about digital money. We will walk you through the Bitcoin and blockchain concepts, explaining step by step how they may have started a revolution almost as big as the Internet.

Reminds me of a little about The Back of The Napkin in my bookshelf (which I’ve yet to finish).

Now on Kickstarter with less than 60 hours to go.

Going Full Circle Back To iPhone SE

Several generations ago, Apple referred to this device as the best phone they’ve ever made.

They have since repeated this mantra for all their iPhone launches. It’s not a dishonest statement. Truth is – the newer product is almost always better than the previous one. Some are minor improvements, under the hood refinements that few notices. Some are features that benefits the mass, like the addition of OIS when taking pictures. Speaking of camera, portrait mode debuted in iPhone 7 Plus is amazing. Sure, it’s not perfect but as a first release, I thought it’s pretty great. Using software to do what a conventional hardware would, the effects are brilliant.

That’s the sole feature that drew me to a gigantic phone. But that’s not enough to keep me in the realm of the giants. I traded it off for a iPhone 7, a phone I’m convinced strikes an ideal balance between not having to squirm looking at the screen, and the right size to hold in my palm.

I was never comfortable with the Plus size phone from the first moment. I kept convincing myself I’d give it a week, then another week and so forth. But it never felt natural. Holding it using one hand felt awkward, though I don’t have the biggest hands. Tried using both hands and it didn’t feel right, too. I couldn’t find a comfortable position to wrap my palms and fingers.

While I found the big screen alluring for pictures viewing – especially for the likes of Instagram and reviewing the photos in my album – I felt the tradeoff is too much. Slotting it in my denim pocket, it was like a rectangular object alien to me. It’s super slim, but the size didn’t feel suitable to me.

I’ve heard statements like when you’ve used a bigger phone, there’s no way you’ll be able to go back to a smaller one. Certainly doesn’t apply to me. In fact, I’ve gone from a 5.5-inch phone to a 4.7-inch, and eventually back to 4-inch one. I’ve gone a full circle to where I am now.

One of the reasons why I wanted to use an iPhone SE is because I’m spending too much time glued to the screen. I figure having a smaller screen would limit my usage, since it’s not as enjoyable looking at them compared to a bigger phone. It’s a self-imposed way of saying “That’s enough, I’m going to restrict myself to a smaller and controlled diet to curb my appetite.”

The first few days were about accustoming myself back to a smaller screen. I’ve used an iPhone 5 before so it’s not altogether foreign to me. Looking at the arrays of plus-sized phones around me, mine felt like a midget, an odd device that stood out.

The transition hasn’t been too bad. It does everything an iPhone 7 would, albeit with a smaller screen. Sure, I miss the OIS on the camera, and low-light pictures aren’t as fantastic compared to the 7, but that’s about it. I don’t feel I’ve missed out by having a smaller screen.

In fact, I felt this form factor is the best of all the phones Apple have made. The industrial design is stunning. The feel in my hand is excellent – the gripe is terrific (considering starting from iPhone 6, the phones are as slippery as an eel), and the Space Grey color is elegant (they don’t make this color in this manner anymore). Everything about this is top-notch in my eyes. I’ve been hunting an iPhone SE in Space Grey for some time already. So when a good condition one like this got listed, I snapped it up.

Away went the iPhone 7, in came the iPhone SE.

In many ways, it’s indeed the best phone they’ve ever made.

One Word After The Other

I’m excited by the prospect of a blank canvas before me. It can be intimidating, but it’s also full of potentials ready to be harnessed.

Shawn Blanc shares he schedules a time in the morning for writing. That’s when he’s the freshest and most energetic. And since he writes for a living, that’s the most important thing to do.

So every day, he’ll sit in front of his machine for an hour and write. Coffee within reach, the aroma filled his room. I used to imagine that writing comes easily to people like him, especially when they’ve been writing for a long time. It’s anything but the case. Sure, writing continuously for a long time does make things easier, but there will be days (and they’re plenty) when the work feels daft and shallow, ugly and awkward. That’s OK, because the most crucial thing is getting the words down. You’ll never know when the weird piece of writing will come in handy in the future.

Again, writing – or any form of exercise – requires constant practice. Like running, the more you run the easier it gets. You realise it’s not so bad after all, and you can actually go further. So each time you go running, the feet feel lighter and the heart feels stronger. One lamp post after the other, you tell yourself.

I used to think that ideas can be produced on demand. That’s true to a certain extend. Brainstorming ideas regularly can activate the area of the brain to generate ideas on short notice. But that requires practice too. Take a notebook and start writing down 10 ideas every day. Doesn’t matter what they are. It’s personal and true to you. So every day, you follow this same routine of writing down your ideas. When the notebook is filled and you flip through the pages, you wonder woah, did I really think about this? Some ideas will make you chuckle, some will make you wonder why you didn’t execute on them. Dwelling helps no one – continue writing down those fragile ideas down on the nifty notebook.

We generate as much bad ideas as the good ones, but the more ideas you have, the more you can weed out the bad ones. So you build up a collection of good ideas within you that you can maybe reproduced on demand. If not, the practice of generating ideas will serve you good. You can sit down and come up with ideas. Unlike your peers, you won’t be held back by judgement at this stage. You won’t evaluate their feasibility. You know it’s important to get it down first and scan through later. While they are cautiously putting one idea after the other, you are done.

So what happens when the writing gets tough? Sure, they will be days like this. Shawn Blanc said he will just sit through the entire hour he put aside for his writing. It’s uncomfortable, but too bad. A commitment is a commitment. Build this into a routine and routine turns into a habit. Routine reduces mental activation so comes the next time you sit down before the machine, you already know what to do – write. There’s no other option. At the scheduled time, you write.

Our habits make us who we are and who we will be.

I want to develop a habit of constantly writing. Therefore, I schedule the morning for this. Before the flurry of demands come rushing in, I’m afforded the quiet and serene 30 minutes to unload my mind. Ideally, I’ll be in such fine form that I can write farther. But I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. It’s good enough to get the words down. For now, what’s important is developing a routine of writing every weekday, without fail.

Yesterday I wrote after a long lay-off and it felt good. I’m hoping the momentum gathers steam as I push one word after the other.

Ideas Drained, Words Dried

I dread the feeling of helplessness.

The feeling of not knowing what to do, or if help will ever arrive. The sinking feeling.

I’m familiar with this feeling. It has happened many times before and I’m sure it will come again. It’s not pleasant. I detest this feeling.

It’s like going on a run after a long hiatus – your mind tells you to move forward but your legs or lungs (or both?) are unwilling. In this situation, the only way is to run more. It sucks not being able to cover the distance you used to run with ease. But that’s what you get from not doing this activity for a prolonged period of time. Your body and mind gets accustomed to this break. Getting them to resume to where they once were isn’t like a flick of the switch. Sometimes, you have to caress them and trust that things will eventually work out.

Putting one foot in front of the other, that’s how marathons get completed.

Writing one word after another. That’s what I’m doing now.

It’s really a struggle to type the opening paragraphs. It really feels like a ton of steel weighing down on my fingers as I typed. Deprived of ideas, the sense of free-flowing writing deserted me. In actual fact, they didn’t left me. I left them. I stopped writing – first daily, then weekly, and then abandoning this site altogether. Where I once have more ideas than time to write, I now can’t string two sentences together without feeling awkward. I had the entire week to me but I didn’t have any interest to write at all.

Looking at my earliest writings, I wondered if I really wrote those pieces. They won’t win any awards or get into any publications, but I felt great re-reading them. Honest, full of character and must importantly, they’re a reflection of me.

I had a voice and I was happy to share with the world.(Even if the world isn’t listening)

The two most beautiful sensations 5 years ago were running and writing. They’re still attractive, but their beauties have diminished tremendously in place of others. I seek to rediscover this feeling by running more and writing more.

Not rocket science, I know. This post serves as an accountability keepsake. So the future me will look back and say “Yes! This is the post that reignite his interest in reviving this site.” Or he could think “Man, he really should’ve given up and dig a hole and never see anyone in the eye.”

I still hold on to the belief that to write clearly is to think clearly. My head has been muddled for some time now. I felt it’s starting to clear up, ever so slightly. Maybe, I’ll have a chance to surface up for fresh air and take in new perspective.

So, Hola! It’s nice getting this out of my head and chest.

The Whimsical Chimp

For a brand that doesn’t take itself seriously, MailChimp could be in any business. They make the mundane fun, and they happen to be in the business of email automation.

They live to their values of being approachable and easy-to-use. Most importantly, MailChimp feels like a service with human touch – friendly (sometimes a little too much), and it the chimp seems like someone you’d grab a drink with (not that I would).

Misspelling or typos are not uncommon, even for a name as unique as MailChimp. The section Did You Mean is their take on what their business could be like if you misspelled their name.

And it’s not just this, most of their marketing campaigns are awesome too.

David Hieatt on Do One Thing Well

Recently, I’m obsessed with listening to talks by Hiut founder David Hieatt. When the Do Open book arrived 2 weeks back, I gobbled it down in record time.

Titbits of wisdom that are actionable. On the whole, making an awesome newsletter isn’t too different from making an awesome jeans – show that you care.

In the latest episode on Monocle, he shares the secrets of building brands that last and being involved in purpose-driven businesses.

Listen to it here: The Entrepreneurs on Monocle