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.

Going Cashless

It’s not far-fetched to imagine first-world countries adopting the methodology of going totally cashless. The drive for cashless payment – led by government’s initiative – is going full steam ahead. Why bother dispensing with cash when cashless is much better. It is trackable, eliminates human error, fast and convenient.

I’ve heard that in China, the adoption rate for cashless payment is so high that some people just do without their cash altogether. It’s so common to pay using an app or e-wallet because the acceptance rate is so high among merchants.

As with anything that brings convenient, what once requires thought and consideration gets cast away. Take for example, an in-app purchase. Once we’ve linked our credit or debit card to the account, purchase any app or in-app stuffs is just a click away. And when you’re so hooked and engrossed in the game, you don’t make rationale decision. You end up paying for something you might never have if you had to pay with cash.

Likewise, adding items into online marketplaces is super easy. In Amazon, you can turn on one-click purchase feature and with a single tap, the order is made and the items are on way to you. The allure is always there. Businesses are making the process seamless and easy. But who’s really benefiting here?

When we spend without using cash, it feels as though we are not spending any actual money. We don’t feel the pinch. We will only feel it when the card statement arrives. It’s only there when we scan through and realise how effortlessly we part with our hard-earned money. We promise ourselves to monitor our purchases more prudently and never succumb to temptations. Does it work? I’ve failed more often than not.

When the bills arrive, I sometimes struggle to recall what transactions they were, and for what purpose they serve. Considering that I liberally pay using multiple cards, they do get confusing. I’ve 5 credit cards, signed for various perks like points accumulation, discounts and rewards. It’s one too many and I’d like to trim it down. Not only will my statements be more manageable, it get rid of the clutter of redundant cards in my wallet. One good card from Visa, Mastercard and Amex will cover all occasion. Maybe 3 is also overkill, but at least I’m eliminating those that I rarely use. That’s for another topic – finance management – one that I really need to practice more deliberately on.

We can choose not to save a default credit card, having to re-enter the information each time we want to purchase. This added step serves as a (minor) deterrence for mindless spending.

Without paying with cash, it’s easy to lose sight of the expenses. A few apps here and there don’t seem like a lot, but they all add up. Cashless is an intangible way of transaction, unlike paying with cash, where you intentionally and consciously know that you are parting with your money. It’s easy for people to think they are not really spending that much when the reality is far from this assumption. It becomes frictionless to spend money we can’t see. That’s the danger we have to accept, especially for people like me, who often give it to impulses.

While going cashless brings about a world of convenience, it also opens up a path to a slippery slope.


A $10,000 watch tells time, so does a $10 watch. Its purpose is to tell time. So long as they are accurate, they serve the same purpose, right?

For some men, a watch is much more than that. It’s a timepiece that reference history, witness milestones, celebrate victories, survive hardships, and brings intangible sense of esteem. It’s an accessory that completes their outfit.

When I was 13, my father got me a watch. It’s a special Citizen watch. I say it’s special because it’s not the conventional kind of watch a growing teen would wear. It’s an all-black stainless steel watch that looked out of place on the wrist of a not-boy-not-yet-man. For some reason, I’ve came to like it. I didn’t buy it because I like it though, I urged my dad to buy because it didn’t look like any run of the mill watches – like the colourful arrays of Swatch that lined the shop window.

I adore its sophisticated way of telling time. I wish I still have this first proper watch with me. Foolishly, I discarded this timepiece a few years back when I was moving away from my previous home. Gone with it are the memories of my school days – the goods and bads. Writing about this jolts back memories of my friends – almost all of them I don’t keep in touch with anymore. We were indispensable during that period. But as we grow, we drifted apart. As we are all occupied with our career, family and hobbies, friendships take a backseat.

I read that in our 50s, we get a second wind in our relationship with friends. That’s the age where our children grow up and no longer need us that much – financially and physically. Hopefully I don’t have to wait that long to rekindle with some old buddies.

Carnival Games Are Borderline Scam

The bottomline is, if you win carnival games, you lose. Even if you win on the first attempt, the cost of getting the toy is much lesser than the price you paid to play the game.

You could just buy it off Amazon if the toy is what you’re interested in. But nobody really plays carnival games for just the reward, right? It’s the thrill of winning, especially when you know the odds are stack against you.

But most people overestimate what they could do and underestimate that for some games, the odds are heavily stacked against them to the extend it’s almost impossible to win.


The feeling of having unfinished tasks made me anxious. 

I’d feel swarmed by them, and they often paralyse me momentarily. These occurrences are getting more frequent year by year. 

Instead of processing them in my mind, I find that writing them down on paper helps tremendously. Not only I get them off my head, the process of writing is a deliberate action that separates the essential tasks against those less-important-yet-niggling things.

Once I get them down, the list of what’s needed to be done becomes clearer. And here’s also where my struggles surface. With so many tasks that need my attention right now – all of equal importance – what should I do? Do a few tasks at once and the quality of work suffers. No matter what the job description states, multitasking is for computers, not humans.

I’ve tried several approach in the past like dividing my time between the tasks. Upload a category of the products here, brainstorm something over there, draft a press release, and then going back to upload the products. It seems like I’m making progress on multiple things concurrently but in actual fact, none of the progress are anything significant. They are superficial in the sense that I can go to my boss and say, hey, I’m working all 3 things at once and I’m making ground. Given a choice, I’d rather spend all my energy working on just one task, give it my best shot, and then move on.

The problem is having an environment and boss that respects this approach. I understand not everyone has this privilege. Some jobs really do require you to be all over the place and manage multiple projects at once.

I’m saying if deep, meaningful and good work is to be done, sufficient time and space must be allocated to them.

IKEA: Pee Ad

IKEA is no stranger to ads that gets people talking and garners plenty of attention.

In their print campaign that says “Peeing on this ad may change your life”, expectant mothers are urged to urinate on the advertisement. If they’re pregnant, a new price (50% off) will appear.

Witty, eye-catching and memorable.


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.