Something To Succeed In

I was looking through my Day One journal and 2 years ago, I closed the entry by writing this:

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is someone special. I proposed to my wife in the cinema after watching the show “The theory of everything”. He was witty, intelligent, compassionate and funny, all the traits I inspired to have.

Life hasn’t gotten any easier now as compared to years back. But I know people around me have my back and I’m really grateful.

When life throws you a lemon, hopefully you don’t slip and never recover from there.

Being Employed

Being employed is a blissful thing.

Your days are structured. You look forward to the off days. 

If the job is tough, you look forward to the end of the day. If the job is boring or repetitive, you will find ways to entertain yourself. 

If the job is not what you want, you will keep a glance out there for (potentially) better opportunities. 

Most importantly, being employed means you’re paid. The assurance and security, knowing that there will be money in, is such a comforting feeling. 

I’m jobless. For 38 days and counting, I’m unemployed. 

My savings are long depleted. I’m in debt. Having applied for countless positions, I’ve only gotten 2 interviews, without success. 

For many – especially men – not having a job plays on the mind. We are supposed to be the breadwinner, the primary source of income to support the family. 

My wife is now shouldering this responsibility alone. I feel inferior. With each passing day, I’m sinking deeper. 

I suffered panic attacks. I’ve had sleepless nights. They kept me up, and I wondered if I’ll ever be able to get out of this slump. 

Now, I’ve resorted to applying for positions which I probably wouldn’t go for if given a choice.

In 2 weeks, we will be heading to New Zealand. I’m grateful (but also sorry) that my wife has taken up the bulk of the expenses for this trip. 

But with the uncertainty surrounding my future, it’s tough to truly enjoy my time there.

I’d love to secure a job before we leave. I thought of calling my former boss, a gentleman I’d gladly work for again. 

But something’s holding me back. Deep down, I’m feeling ashamed to be in this plight. I’m worried how others would see me. And I’m afraid of being rejected. 

But what’s there to lose?

Welcome Back, MacBook

The MacBook Pro I’m typing on is a 2013, 13″ model with the lowest end specs – 128gig of SSD, 8gig of ram, and the slowest processor (but still blazing fast for most tasks even today).

It’s a superbly built machine. I remember when I first opened it up from the pristine box and holding it for the first time, it was a surreal sensation. How can a laptop be so strikingly beautiful?

When I opened up the lid and the screen came to live, words appeared so sharp, pictures so vivid, that I was totally blown away. Doing everything on it just became that bit more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, it went bonkers when I updated the MacOS a year ago. Just after the update was completed (or did it not?), it did the customary reboot with the black screen. And it has remained that way since.

The orange indicator flickered when I plugged the charger in. After a while, it disappeared altogether. I was wondering if the charger, the cable, or the battery has failed. When I switched it on again, the fan started spinning so loudly I thought the machine was going to take off. Still nothing on screen, pitch black.

I casted it aside. By then, it has became a good-to-have-device. I never needed it to do serious work. Most of my needs were already well served with the combination of iPad and iPhone anyway.

The MacBook has remained in the cupboard, neglected. A few months back, I decided to resurrect it. To send it for diagnosis, to understand the actual problem. Not too sure what prompted me to do so, but it turned out to be a wise decision after all.

I popped by a repair shop with raved reviews near my home, where the friendly technician concluded it was motherboard failure, a common occurrence for this model. Changing it would cost $350. I weighed the value of getting a new model against changing the motherboard. Or if I’d get along fine without the laptop. Eventually, I decided to go ahead with the motherboard replacement.

Seeing a previously unusable device come to life before me was gratifying.

It’s not just a laptop. It’s a loyal companion that witnesses several life events with me. It has been a constant when all the gadgets around – iPhones, iPad, and the likes – changed.

It has been with me through my move to a new home, marriage, and having a kid. I reminisce the days when my wife (then girlfriend) would play Dungeon Defenders late into the night.

While others have wax lyrical about how tablets are the future of computing, I’m happy with my laptop. Touch screen may seem natural to most, but I’m content with using a trackpad, especially on a trackpad as precise as the MacBook’s.

While the keyboard of recent years MacBook played out like a nightmare, typing on this keyboard is a pleasure. They keyboard on this MacBook is everything the current models aren’t – the key travel, tactility and durability – it’s perfect.

And this laptop has all the ports I need – 2 USB ports and SD card slot. Dongles not needed!

It has also reignite one thing: the invitation to write.

Since typing is such a joy on this machine, I just open iA Writer and punch the words away. Writing no longer feels like a chore, something forced. It feels like old time again, where I’d write and share at every opportunity.

Thank you and welcome back, my MacBook.

Getting Rid of “Too Much”

Too much time = procrastination

Too many choices = inability to decide

Too much money = squandering on stuffs that are non-essentials

Too many stuffs = cluttering of physical and mental spaces

Constrains can be good. Giving boundaries to things are important. Without proper framing, we are scattered all over the place, unsure of how to proceed and what to do.

Restoring Film Camera

Intriguing.

I love all things vintage. There’s character and story behind things that are well used.

To find a young chap restoring and repairing stuff like film camera – it’s not something you’ll see everyday.

The man behind this is Pierro Pozella. His demure, dedication, patience and background seems to fit this trade perfectly.

He didn’t wake up suddenly and realise god as bestow him the ability to restore film cameras. It’s more like the trade chose him.

It started when he was volunteering and people were discarding stuffs. He took things apart and try to savage what’s useable.

As he progresses, he got better and people were knocking on his door. Organic growth through positive word-of-mouth.

That’s how PPP (the name could be better, but at least it’s memorable) becomes what they are today.

And the fact that he’s so keen in training apprentices to preserve this art heartens me.

A Walk In The Park On A Friday Morning

An uncle with a head of silver hair stopped by the side of the pathway. He balanced on his bicycle full of groceries bags, looking intently up the sky and fully absorbed by what’s happening above him.

Fighter jets thundered by, leaving a trail of echo that broke the silence on this tranquil park. A typical Friday morning scene, perhaps?

I looked down, my toes feeling a little edgy and uncomfortable. Not the best choice of footwear – a pair of flip flops. 30 minutes ago, I convinced myself it wouldn’t take long and for convenience sake, it’s the quickest solution to get me out the house.

I would never make the same mistake again.

Walking and nature. Therapeutic to mind and body. Now that I’m getting more accustomed to the rhythms of walking, I yearn to do more. Longer and further. Walk the parks, observe the happenings. Walking hightens my scenes, it opens up the world.

I’d love to do more of it.

Never Gets Easier Applying For Jobs

It’s never easy looking for a job. And it never gets easier.

I can’t help but feeling jaded after multiple applications. Some job descriptions are so wordy and precise that I wonder if there’s one single candidate that’s able to fulfil every requirement.

Some friends around me go round spamming their resumes. I doubt they read the job opening clearly enough, and they have a one-size-fits-all resume they readily dump everywhere. They nonchalantly declare the “if you don’t try, you’ll never know” mindset.

Well, purely relying on sending out mass resumes and hope that one hits, that’s what some would do. I’m incline to doing this because after 3 weeks, I’ve only heard back from 3 companies and attended one interview.

DHH sums the process of job application up best:

“Applying for a job is hard. Every time you don’t hear back, you can lose a tiny bit of yourself.”

Good Writing

What constitutes good writing?

Good writing is a pleasure to read.

Short sentences, concise expression, unpretentious words. And honesty.

I’m drawn to people (and brands) who write this way.

Jason Fried. Shawn Blanc. John Grubber. Hiut Denim.

Jason Fried said rhythm is the most important element of great writing. Great writing has momentum, it has bounce, it propels you along. It’s like gently jumping from one trampoline to another, never slamming onto hard ground. And by the end, you feel better for having read it.

My favourite writers use clear language that are easily understood. That’s the appeal. Beautiful language is simplicity.

Taking this a step farther, Gary Prostov advocates writing akin to music.

Start with short sentences. And draw the readers in. When the readers are rested, engage them with longer sentences – filled with vigour and poise. Write with short, medium, and long sentences. Create rhythm and harmony. Don’t just write. Write music.

Insanely Simple

I’m halfway through Ken Segall’s book Insanely Simple. It’s a page-turner, distilling the concept to its essence. The writing is clear and free of fillers, akin to the title of the book.

One doesn’t have to be a marketer or in the creative sector to appreciate this book. The idea of simplicity can be applied to our lives – par down our choices and learn to live simple.

Obama is the famous example where he wears the same outfit everyday, so he could conserve his limited cognitive energy for more important matters.

Likewise, I’m looking likewise to simplify in my life. What are the areas I could simplify? Last night, I did a quick cleaning and sorting of my wardrobe. Donating away the clothing I almost never wear (about 10% of my outfit), the space appears more spacious and neat.

Is simplicity the same as minimalism? I reckon they share similar traits and could be used interchangeably. Minimalism sometimes gives the vibe of stylish and effortless dudes. Same plain t-shirts in multiple quantities, same color socks so they could lose one and the world wouldn’t end. Their apartment are white-washed, their gadgets are all single colored.

I like the idea but I’m not sure if I’ll ever live this way. Imagine a minimalism gathering where all the other guys are in almost the same outfit. That would be so cool. Wait, cool? Well, isn’t that the kind of uniform for minimalist dudes?

I was in the police force a decade ago and during those years, we wore the same shirt, same pants, same sleeping wear everyday. It sure was liberating because you don’t even give much thought to what you should wear. They’re all the same. I just have to ensure they’re cleaned and ironed.

Essentialism, less but more, simplicity, minimalism.

The concept – that we must be deliberate with our choices – is more important than the words used to describe it.

Pushing Up Good Habits

20 push-ups and sit-ups. Every night, without fail. Did it for 9 straight days. No matter how tired I was, I made sure it was done.

It’s my first 30-day challenge. For 30 straight days, I have to do
20 push-ups and sit-ups. I chose this as I’ve a fitness test coming up in 2 month’s time. My body is also terribly out of shape, the fats protruding out unsightly at my despair and to others’ disgust. Every little bit of toning helps.

Striking out the days is satisfying. It becomes the
Seinfeld’s hack of “don’t break the chain”. For the past 4 days, I was down with tummy upset. Balancing and using my core was tough, and sitting up repeatedly was painful.

So I broke the chain.

The first day after I stopped, I was eager to regain the momentum and get back into action. Second day, less so. By the third day, I was not even bothered.

It shows that building good habits take time. Break the chain and it becomes harder to gain the momentum.