One a Day Banana

Selling to the lazy person or marketing genius?

Some people have this dilemma when shopping for a bunch of banana. Do I get a ripe or unripe bunch? Can I find just the right bunch to see me through the week? With this “one a day banana” idea, it solves the problem of buying a ripe or unripe bunch. Why choose when you get have the best of both world?

By including bananas of different ripeness in the same pack, they’ve moved away from selling bananas to selling convenience.

It’s not just a novel idea with no substance. I can see people who are starved for time and interested in quality of life picking them up.

Source: T.K. of AAK!

Happy 53rd Birthday, Singapore

I’m proud to be a Singaporean.

This year, Singapore celebrate its 53rd birthday – an infant age compare to the long heritage of other countries. But what we lack in terms of history, we made it up in foresight and drive. In the short span of time, we have come a long way from a city-state with no natural resources to becoming a case-study for others around the globe.

We have the most powerful passport in the world. To many of us here, Visa is a form of payment – like Master or AMEX or Diners. As a Singaporean, most wouldn’t think of Visa as something we need to apply when visiting foreign countries. Because everything is already taken care of, thanks to our good ties with many nations. Just last week, my boss had to take a day off to apply visa. When she was there, she realised she had left out a document and had to retrieve it back home, then return back there again. Such a hassle, I thought. We Singaporeans have been so pampered all along that we never understand how valuable our passport is.

Our Changi Airport is routinely voted as one of the best airports in the world. I think it’s a truly fantastic hub. Not just a place for transit, or to take off. Housed within the amazing premises, it has spacious aisles, play area for children, excellent wayfinding, clear display for flight information, a comfortable environment, and an efficient tax rebate counter. If one is bored, they can shop around merrily in the airport – it’s just like any of the big shopping malls in Orchard Road. There are plenty of local brands mixed with internationally renowned labels. I know some people travel all the way here to see shop around, dine here, watch the planes take off, and keep the children occupied with many kids-friendly activities. Not many airports can boost this kind of attraction. I for one, used to come here to study and to clear my mind. It’s quiet and calming. And watching the planes take off ignites my wanderlust spirit and get me excited to plan my next trip.

There are many other things to be grateful for too. We are always diplomatically neutral. With that, we have played a pivotal role in the global stage supporting or advocating on several key issues. Most recently, we played host to Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un for the meeting in Sentosa. Who would have thought these two nutheads would actually come together for a meet up? During the tour-around one night, I wondered what went through Kim’s mind. Is he smiling because he really enjoyed the beauty of our city? I hope he picked up a few pointers to transform North Korea into a better place. Everyone stands to gain if they stays off nuclear and starts to open up. If they do so, Singapore would’ve played an important role in this success.

I know there are significant voices echoing around that our ministers are being paid too high. The ministers’ side of arguments are, if the party needs to attract top talents, they must be compensated on par with the top salary elsewhere. If not, it’s difficult to convince them to drop what they’re holding and join politics. On the contrary, many people countered that serving should be from the heart, not because of how much one would get paid. I’ve had my reservation on this and I see both sides of the coin. Putting that aside, I’m of the strong belief that for any party to see progress, there must be continuation. Since our independence, one party has been ruling the nation. Some are not happy, some want change. Some want change for the sake of change, to shake things up. Is this for the better? Just change la, don’t change never know. But look at how constant chopping and changing effects long-term stability. It’s like a slippery slope.

There are of course many things to improve, like accountability and keeping the party in check through constant reviewing. But in general, this is not a decision to be made in haste. It affects the future of Singapore, and our children’s future.

But things don’t work this way, not in national building anyway. Things take time to see result. You can’t measure the impact a venue like Esplanade can have immediately after its opening. A decade later, it’s now the place for arts and cultures. Its unique architecture has also become an icon and is recognisable worldwide as a symbol of our country.

Before that, people questioned its importance and if we’re throwing money into the drain by building something not many can appreciate. But foresight doesn’t come cheap. I remember once attending a workshop and this guy called Andy told the class, if you can see 10, 20 years into the future, you can shape it. And if you can shape it, paying you a handsome salary is worth it. Our leaders had the vision 53 years ago to build our nation.

And when I’m overseas for more than a week, what I miss is the food. Local food is a big part of Singaporeans and I get food-sick if I don’t have my fix of local delights like bak chor mee, carrot cake and nanyang kopi. Our hawker centre is one of its kind, serving inexpensive and tasty food that fills our tummy and warms our heart.

For our pioneer generation, we had them to thank for creating what we have now. The torch is now with us to carry the nation into the future. Happy 53rd Birthday, Singapore!

The Ideal Weekend

  • Wake up naturally
  • 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep
  • Hearty breakfast with a perfect coffee
  • Read Sunday papers
  • Dip in the pool. Read a book
  • Read a magazine
  • Play smoothing music in the background
  • Bring kid to playground
  • Walk along the beach
  • Picnic by the sea
  • Enjoy the sea breeze
  • Cycle and stop by for light supper
  • Catching Liverpool game on TV
  • Gather with family
  • Meet up with friends
  • Read bedtime story to kid
  • Doodle
  • Have a couple-date with wife
  • Dining in a nice, non-crowded venue
  • Watch the sunset
  • Fly a kite
  • Plenty of laughters
  • Making home-cooked food
  • Doing Nothing

The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

Watching Eat Pray Love on Netflix, I’m struck by an awesome phase – Dolce far Niente. You know in some languages, certain words cannot be translated without losing its essence. Dolce far Niente is one of of them.

When Liz went to Italy, she made breakfast and sat down to eat. As she was doing that, she said Dolce far Niente. It wonderfully encapsulates the scene – streaks of light seeping through the window, plate of hearty breakfast. Sitting on the floor, slowly enjoying the food. Unhurried, a quint way to start the day.

Dolce far Niente now becomes my favourite Italian phase. It means the sweetness of doing nothing. It to the pleasure one gets from being idle. Dolce far Niente is something Italians embrace.

It also resonates with a memorable quote from a scene in Christopher Robin. Sitting together and looking over the horizon, a young Christopher Robin said to Pooh bear: “Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.”

Showing Up

I didn’t sleep well lately. I was kept awake by my son, who has been waking up frequently for the past weeks. He’s growing three new teeth from what we can see. As any parent would tell you, growing teeth is an uncomfortable experience and a painful process for both the kid and parents.

In my mind, I was cooking up excuses for myself. Poor concentration? Blame it on the lack of sleep. Didn’t have energy to run? Blame it on insufficient rest.

But Monday is different – it’s my stipulated running day. It has always been the night where I run. Once weekly, I look forward to striding forward in the park. Why Monday? The start of the week is usually hectic and one of the best ways to decompress is running. Running empties my mind, just like writing. I love the feeling of running. As a foodie, running maintains my fitness and keeps my waistline from ballooning out of control.

I felt a strong urge to stay home and idle. To relax. To skip a day. In my mind, I was thinking to postpone the run. Tomorrow would be equally good. I could get a good night’s rest and tomorrow I’d have more energy. But things don’t always work this way. I could have another rough night of interrupted sleep. Tomorrow’s work could wear me down even more. If I tell myself I could cheat today, it implies I could cheat on other days and other things too. Small action leads to big consequence.

So, I decided to carry on running. My goal isn’t to run. My goal is to change into my running gear and get out of the house. By then, my subconscious would take over and I’d be pounding the pavement. By starting small, I’m not faced with running 2.4km. All I needed was to change and step out of the door.

And completed the run I did. It felt even sweeter.

Bouncing Back From Retrechment

Exactly a year ago, I was retrenched.

It was a terrible feeling but it didn’t sink in immediately. I remember this scene like it was yesterday. When everyone left the office, I was told to pack up and leave with immediate effect. I didn’t even have a chance to bid goodbye to my colleagues. I realised later that some others in the company got retrenched as well. I was the first to set the curveball rolling.

A year on, things have changed. I’ve moved on to do what I’ve always wanted – marketing. From barely given anything to work on previously to given a six-digit budget for advertising & promotion, the difference is day and night. Now my work days are more fulfilling, I get to meet with more people. I could leave the office and visit outlets, I have a nice boss and best of all, my commute time is halved. All this comes with a pay raise too. I couldn’t have imagined this a year back, where everything appeared bleak and depressing.

Though I wish some things could be better – like having better colleagues to work with, longer vacation days, and the opportunity to work from home etc, I’ve plenty to be grateful for as well. It’s far more than I asked for and I’m treasuring every minute of it.

Hello Writing

Writing comes naturally to me. That was my assumption 6 years ago. At that time, I couldn’t wait to write. Everywhere I went, I saw things to write about. I had more ideas than time.

Some of these topics still live somewhere – Simplenote, Field Notes, Moleksine, Workflowy, iA Writer and elsewhere I probably lost track of. They’re literally scattered all over the place. Some are drafts yet to be refined, some are half-baked ideas weren’t worth perusing.

The point is, I really love to write. At the height of this obsession, I’d have rolled out a thousand-word draft without breaking much sweat. I relished the challenging of knocking the words in a fairly short time. Yes, the content would still be raw and the structure would require multiple revisions. But it was a joy to write. It was never a chore. I enjoyed the process of writing much like I enjoyed the feeling of having written.

Writing clears my mind. Makes my argument stronger. It’s a gauge of how much I understand about a topic. And nothing compares to how much mental space writing provides. It’s like lifting a heavy load from my brain, dumping it away so I can have the space to process other information. It creates margin. It gives me a much clearer picture holistically than if I had just process it mentally.

Writing requires dedication, space and constant practices. I haven’t been writing here regularly for the past 2 years. Tt shows. I pretty much struggle to string together a dozen words before stumbling. I had promised myself I’d set aside time and space at least twice a week to write. But after the initial optimism died down, I never followed through.

As with most things, it’s about starting small. I want to make a commitment here that I will publish 2 posts every week. And the post would’ve to be at least 100 words. Not too hard, right? I want to find my rhythm for writing and develop this as a habit again.

I know it wouldn’t be easy. As I’m typing this, I went to Fantastical and scheduled the calendar to include writing at 10pm to 10.30pm every Tuesday to Friday. Tuesday night would be the first draft, Wednesday night would be editing and then publishing. The process will start again on Thursday and then I’ll publish it Friday night. Monday is reserved for my weekly run. Weekends are for me to catch up on family and generally doing nothing. I figure as a start, having 4 nights of writing should suffice.

It’s all about getting started. Seems like I’ve gone beyond the 100-word target. It’s an encouraging start and I can’t wait to get more writing done.

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.