Unachievable goals: Why we all need them

Life’s a chore; Life’s a bore.

In the midst of doing something tedious, I’m sure most of us had on of those “Why the heck am I doing this?” moments. In that instant, we are lost and wonder what is our motivation for doing the task at hand. Heck, our minds drifts further off and decide to extend that scrutinising lens onto our lives. What is driving me to wake up every morning? What am I living, or not dying, for?

We hit a mini existentialist crisis as we recognise the lack of a self-constructed purpose. The multitude of explanations may vary. We could be living a life we had never properly thought through. We could be living a life that our parents’ wished for us. We could be living a life that we had no courage to break out of. The absence of a personal motivation to carry on is glaring. Strange as it sounds, this is where I believe unachievable goals come into play.

Let me ask you this, does the journey or the attainment of a goal bring more satisfaction? The answer was evident to me a few years back. It had always been my dream to win a championship when I first picked up basketball. To say that this had been my greatest goal thus far would not be an understatement. Six years of chasing this elusive dream and my team had done it. But what ensued was not a lasting feeling of that initial euphoria, but rather a sudden void.

Initially, I was sad and I did not know why. No answers could offer any solace. Left defeated, my mind drifted as I started to reminisce about those days. Peculiarly, I realised that the times when my teammates and I suffered the most were actually my fondest memories. Then, it hit me. The chase of it all was much more gratifying than finally attaining it. Isn’t it always more rewarding when we struggle harder to achieve something?

If each of us have our own personal unachievable goals, we will always be on this struggle to achieve it. This not only becomes our oasis for motivation, but an additional source of happiness as each progress in the process inevitably brings joy. And soon, we might even forget that the state of perfection can never be achieved.

But then again, as Einstein said,

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

So go forth and find that unachievable goal you need in your life.






Why you need to read this clickbait article now

Seen this article before? Read it here. (short 2 mins read)

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 4.04.39 PM.pngSurprised? I was too.

Growing up in the information age, we are bombarded by messages left, right and center, whether we want to or not. With vast amounts of data to be processed, we exploit well written article headlines by skimming over them without ever reading the article itself.

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Traditional articles, especially those in the print media, have long practised writing titles or headers that summarise an entire article into one line. Without reading the full article, one is able to comprehend the gist of the news without boring oneself with unnecessary details that he or she will probably forget anyway. Journalists have perfected this skill and write near perfect headlines that have ironically led to the downfall of engaged readership. People no longer bother to read beyond the first line.

Less and less americans are resorting to print media as their source for news. In 2012, only 23% of people said they still read print newspapers. Since then, Snapchat, founded in 2011, has become the tech giant that had just IPO-ed almost two months ago. This popular social media app, along with Twitter and Facebook, has become youths’ primary source for news. Imagine how print media viewership have further declined since then.

With news being abundant and easily accessible, we are drowned in a sea of content that all seem too important to miss. Readers have since been conditioned to skim through the list of headlines and yet be able to roughly grasp what was being reported; And this is deeply worrying.

Many experts came out to blame tech giants like Facebook for the spread of misinformation that allegedly lead to the election of President Donald Trump. However, I believe the real issue lies in our apathy to understand the details of news. The Bernie Sanders loophole article was precisely written as a critique to this condition.

In parallel, a new wave of writing headlines have emerged; As you’ve guessed it, the clickbait headlines.

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screenshot taken from: facebook social feed, click on image to go to the original article

This style of headlines are found predominantly in news reports written by alternative media or opinion pieces by individuals. When I used to come across such articles, it greatly frustrated me. This seemingly coy way of baiting me to visit their website made me defensive. A mental barrier arises within me as I adamantly refuse to fall for this “trap”.

But then, it occurred to me that this way of writing headlines might be a better alternative instead.

For example, instead of this headline on NYtimes posted today,

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what if is was rephrased to be

“Trump is drastically changing the tax system. Here’s how.”

What if all news headlines were written this way as well? A slight abstraction of details can lead to drastic changes in behaviour on whether one bothers to read the article. While not a perfect solution, it becomes a natural selection of information of sorts. If you’re not willing to even read and understand the full article, you’re not deserving of the information it bears. In this manner, we can no longer proclaim to be “experts” of current affairs just because we have read every headline there is. People will no longer unknowingly share articles of false information.

If the spread of information is empowerment, then the spread of misinformation is self-depreciation. This is a problem we must face now for ignorance is the trace of our societal issues, ranging from racism to misogyny. Nevertheless, you as an individual have the power to change this by reflecting on your tendencies.

If there is something that can be improved on, do it.

The truth about birthdays; How we all celebrate it wrongly

Fundamentally, the philosophy of celebrating a birthday began as a celebration of life brought onto earth. Deconstructing it, we celebrate an individual’s birthday because that person has lived a certain period of time and their loved ones want to show their appreciation for their presences in their lives. These heartwarming gestures reaffirm the affection of our loved ones to us.

But as we grow older, birthdays ironically become all about the individual. Think of all the lavish parties people throw for themselves or others prepare for them. Think of all the presents and cakes that one receives or treats themselves to. Think of all the food and cake one stuff themselves on that day. Think of all the luxurious yachts or ballrooms one rents for the day, just to make it memorable. It is no wonder that we all look forward to birthdays so much. It is a guilt-free, entitled ticket to a day of self-indulgence. One need not justify the amount of money spent on the day because, well heck, it is their birthday.

Back in school when I was 18 years old, a seemingly meaningless conversation became a life changing moment for me.

My classmate’s birthday was approaching soon and we asked her how she was celebrating it. Suddenly, her eyebrows furrowed, and a pensive look emerged on her face. She paused for a moment before speaking. Y’know did we get birthdays all wrong? Shouldn’t birthdays not be about us but rather our parents? 

I opened my mouth instinctively to verbalise a reply but nothing came out. I was caught completely aback. I had expected something along the lines of a well planned itinerary that one would usually have. In those jaw-dropping moments, I couldn’t help but wonder as well, have we got it all wrong?

But this begs the question, why our parents?

Well, they were the ones who brought us into this world. Needless to say, without them, we wouldn’t even have a birthday to celebrate. Since young, they showered us with unconditional love and brought us up to be who we are today. They celebrated our birthdays when we didn’t even know what it was, because it brought them joy to see the smiles on our faces.

Then, shouldn’t it be our obligation on our birthdays to appreciate their efforts of bringing us up instead of pampering ourselves for the day? Ever since that day, I wanted my birthdays to be a commemoration of my parents’ accomplishment of raising a healthy young boy, that they know is grateful to them.

A few weeks ago on my own birthday, I wrote another short message to my parents. I thanked them for all they’ve done for the past 22 years, conveying to them that I recognize and appreciate their efforts.

Because maybe, this is what birthdays should truly be about.




Why Facebook or Snapchat is killing your social life

Let’s have a bet. The next time when you’re out in a restaurant or any dining area, I am more than certain that at least one person at any table around you will be constantly staring down at their phone, not paying attention to the rest of those around him or her. If you’re lucky, you might even see groups of people who sit together but all choose to stare at their phones. It upsets me when I see this happening and at times, I might even take it too personally.

Case in point. A few years back, my parents and I were on vacation in Hokkaido and we were waiting for our meals to be served. Almost instinctively, my dad took off his glasses, whipped out his phone and began replying furiously to tons of email he had received. Following in his lead, my mum pulled out her phone as well and started going through her photos that she had just took. This wouldn’t last that long, I told myself. But soon, seconds turned to minutes and like a ticking time bomb I exploded. What’s the point of having a meal together on vacation if we are going to sit here and stare at our own phones? We might as well just eat by ourselves or even text each other through the phone, that way at least we are talking. In hindsight, those words, although filled with good intentions, were delivered in the worst possible way. My parents were left speechless and an awkward tension filled the air.

Building on that, it is immensely disrespectful to another human being when one chooses to scroll meaninglessly down their social feed and not engage in a conversation with those around them. By opting to look at your phone, you’re essentially conveying the message to those you are “with” that you’re not worth my attention even when we are sitting centimeters across each other. This mini shield acts as one’s mental barrier, secluding one from his or her friends. I’m not putting forward that it is a hard and fast rule that phones are not even allowed to see daylight when you’re in the presence of someone; What I’m arguing is that unless your looking for something in particular to share with your friends, which helps to enrich the conversation, your phone should be kept, even from plain sight. In fact, just the mere sight of one’s phone unconsciously makes other parties view you less positively.

This led me thinking, what is it that is so important that people have to check their phones every few minutes? Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, what do these all help the user achieve at the end? The mode of being in the loop due to the FOMO, aka. fear of missing out. Once an army friend of mine was scrolling through my Instagram and was shocked to see few pictures of people I know but rather photos by professional photographers or about basketball. That’s because I only choose to know about the friends that matter to me and not every single person I could possibly find on Instagram. I absolutely love stunning photos. In fact, I utilise Instagram to view beautiful yet easily accessible photos. I will admit that I used to mindlessly scroll through my Facebook feed, just for the sake of being in the know. But it soon struck me that this stalking behaviour is toxic and a great waste of my time. (If you’re recognise this is an issue for you, check this article out written by TIME magazine)

An interesting thing I’ve noticed as well is how the quality of conversations have degraded. Often, I’ve seen people engage in online conversations purely with emojis or gifs with no substantial content at all. The trading of images back and forth seems like a psychological warfare of getting the last reply so as not to appear rude for not answering. Youths often reply in Snapchat by taking a photo of whatever their camera is pointing at, just as to reply in one short sentence. I empathise with the feeling that it is much easier to do so then to use Snapchat’s poor messaging system. However, these fleeting dialogues are categorised by their short-lived nature as they disappear without a trace after being viewed. This negatively conditions us to treat our own face-to-face interactions as both mundane and temporal.

That’s why, I’ve made an effort to check less of my social feeds by deleting the apps of my phone. When it is not within a thumb’s reach, the temptations will naturally fade away. Accurately captured in a catch phrase once said by my brother, we need to disconnect to reconnect.

Let’s put away our phones when we are with others unless it’s an emergency. Let’s not rely on social networks to create misleading ideas of interpersonal connections. Let’s bring conversations back to basics where we simply talked about anything under the sun and if not sit in silence and submerse ourselves in each other’s presence.


Resumes are failing us; Write a blog instead

During my internship last year at Vertex Ventures SEA, I got the chance to sit in and observe the notoriously intimidating job application process that everyone has to go through. (Well maybe not everybody, if you’re an entrepreneur or self-employed…) Think of the immense pressure of conveying as much information as possible in a clear and concise manner that allows the interviewer to understand you better as a person. Even if executed brilliantly, employers might still be sceptical about you which could just kill your chances of being hired. Imagine what if you lacked personal marketing skills but yet was more than competent for the job; Is this fair? In all likelihood you as the interviewee fails to impress the employer and you fall short at yet another opportunity, only to be left feeling dejected and discouraged. The system is biased against those who fail to make the first good impression, right? Shouldn’t it be less ruthless? Shouldn’t interviews be done over extended period of time where employers and potential employees meet in all forms of different social settings? Shouldn’t interviews be similar to the process of befriending someone where you get to know every perks and quirks of someone else?

Maybe, or maybe not. Yet, this is too idealistic and impractical as well. If a company is hiring, they’re probably in a quick, if not dire, need to fill a position in the company. Investments into slow and gradual interviewing processes breed much inefficiency. How then could we alleviate this?

Maybe, just maybe, with a blog.

Wait what? Are you crazy? Sharing your personal blog with future potential employers? 

Yup, that’s right. It isn’t stipulated that you have to possess the caliber of famous bloggers such as Ben Horowitz to be able to write down your thoughts. What could be more insightful into you as a person than bearing your soul naked to those whom you’ll spend most of your hours in a week with? (Trust me, that just stumbled upon me as well) Recently, I read Originals by Adam Grant which talked about The Sarick Effect. In essence, Adam talks about how counter-intuitively, entrepreneurs who pitched on reasons why investors should not invest in them were eventually more likely to receive investments. One of the main reasons is that by admitting one’s shortcomings, the other party lowers their barriers and conversations become more trusting. Extending this example, if employers saw another side of you, be it good or bad, less is left to the imagination of what the heck is wrong with you. Honesty builds connection, and connection fosters trust.

Nowadays, countless of hours are spent to produce ‘perfect’ user generated content. Nothing lies beyond that sentimental Facebook post as people do not share their true feelings face to face with their loved ones.Behind an Instagram photo is countless of hours of posing and applied filters that did not capture the concluding disappointment of not receiving enough likes. That seemingly well-timed Snapchat is probably a well rehearsed video that prevented one from truly immersing in and enjoying the moment.

Isn’t it refreshing to see something new once in awhile? To admit to one’s flaws of one without being self-degrading; to be able to admire another for their imperfections; to let oneself be vulnerable to those who should matter. Aren’t these the fundamentals of a great relationship?

Ironically, this could be my valiant PR effort to portray myself as a saint in the eyes of the public, but that’s okay. At the very end, at least I know I am being honest with myself.

So here’s my pitch to you, write and share your unfiltered opinions publicly to capture the lesser known parts of you. Fill it with your thoughts and ideas that you would probably not have shared with others. Be brave enough to expose yourself to the scrutiny of the world’s unforgiving judgments but know that ultimately these will only serve to help you grow. Let the world fully know and appreciate the hidden gems inside your mind.

(Besides, isn’t it exhilarating to create something worthwhile?)