I’ve had a few people asking if there’s a copy of that speech I gave at NUS. Actually yes, but I left the script somewhere in the changing room. Thankfully, there’s a copy I saved on Evernote. So… here it is. (If you’re not one for reading, the video stream is available here – look for the 8 July afternoon session. Not mac-friendly.)
Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, NUS President, Distinguished Guests, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was seated where you are, looking up at your lecturers who are today dressed unlike any other time you’ve seen them. Welcome to Hogwarts for a day, and yes, there is that magic in the air.
I’m extremely honoured to be the first Communications & New Media alumnus to be invited back to stand up here to rally the troops before you go forth and conquer the world.
But after the initial thrill of being invited to give this speech, I did some intense soul searching. So intense that I ended up with 2 days of MC at home, wondering what sagely advice I could possible give. For those of you who’ve continually aced it through your academic lives and have jobs lined up after graduation, maybe you can tune out, go shopping on Gmarket, or whatever it is that overachievers like you do in your spare time. My speech is for everyone else that is somewhereabouts average, to tell you that there is hope for being in the bulge of the Bell curve.
For the record, I scored 2 A*s, 2As with an aggregate of 255 for my PSLE, a smattering of As and Bs for my O levels, and a B, E and D for my A-levels. Finished off with a second lower honours in 2003 with the economy is in the dumps. So after my decent start, I barely scraped into NUS by the skin of my teeth. Then, through a combination of hard work, smart work and some good fortune in the last 15 years, I’ve managed to do well enough to be deemed worthy of standing before you. So let me share with you the ingredients of my secret sauce in a series of 10 “L”s
With NUS constantly ranked amongst the world’s top universities, it looks like you guys have everything you need to go out there and succeed. But that can’t be farther from the truth. Kudos to your lecturers who’ve given you the solid foundation on which to build on, but really, there’s much more that you’re not going to learn in a classroom or lecturer theatre. Henceforth, cherish every scolding, failure, bad experience, because there’s nothing like learning first hand for something to be seared into your memory.
Case in point: When I started in my stint at AsiaOne, i clearly recall the first story I wrote being ripped to shreds by a very senior writer named Philip Lee. This was just after I had left as manager/editor of a website called Youth.SG where I called the shots. Now I felt less qualified than some of the interns around me. I had to swallow my pride and try again. And again. And again. Until one day, one of the stories that I filed came back from Philip untouched, with just 2 words on it – “Good story”. That’s when I knew that there was hope for me.
In the classes you’ve attended, or for the guys who’ve been through NS, what’s the standard reaction when someone asks for a volunteer? Everyone looks down and pretends they have something better to do.
When I was offered the role of Head of New Media at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, I felt unsure of myself, and really didn’t know if I had the chops to do it. I eventually took the plunge, and I think I did pretty well, leading more than 100 staff and volunteers during the Games. Not something I would have thought I’d be able to do.
If you’re offered a job that requires that you do exactly what you’ve been comfortable doing before, then maybe it’s not worth your while. I’ve been lucky because each of my jobs has been a progression upward, where I’ve been given new responsibilities beyond what I’m used to doing, thus forcing me out of my comfort zone.
Too often, we think we’re inadequate for some of the mammoth tasks that are thrust upon us. Sometimes, the opportunity stares us in the face but we are too scared to even try. Why? Maybe we’ve been told we’re not good enough. Stop being afraid. Stop being the chao recruit and look up.
Sometimes it’s not guts that we lack, but we doubt ourselves because of the naysayers around who whisper doubts in our ears. You know what “trolls” are, right? The people who live online with nothing better to do in life apart from declaring that everything sucks. Don’t feed the trolls, online and offline – Don’t entertain them, don’t give them more attention. They are the ones who will tell you it can’t be done, that it’s better to be mediocre. “Haters gonna hate”. Leave them, or else you’ll end up being one of them.
4 LET IT GO
Like that song from Frozen that you’ve probably heard a million times, learn to let go. Too often we are held back by our the past. Whether it’s the boss who unfairly blamed you for something, or that boyfriend/girlfriend who tells you “It’s not you, it’s me”, you need to let go. If you keep holding on to the past, you won’t have the hands to grab on to what’s coming.
As Asians, maybe we were brought up as kids to not speak until spoken to. Then we came to university and the lecturers tried to get us to speak up. After that, some of us just won’t shut up. It’s confusing, right? Well I’m telling you today that it helps to “listen” more. You don’t need to take a vow of silence or anything, but when you listen more, people are more likely to want to listen when you have something to say. And to those of you who can’t stop talking, you’ll eventually be treated like background noise and filtered out. There’s a reason why we’ve been given 2 ears and only 1 mouth – Listen twice as much as you speak.
Also, as Singapore gets more crowded, it’s important that you learn to be comfortable in your own skin, comfortable sitting in silence detached from Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and whatever it is that has you perpetually plugged into your mobile phone. Take time to sit with your thoughts, to achieve clarity. You’ll be amazed at how many people are uncomfortable with this. They may just talk so they don’t have to sit in silence, and that’s when you can find out some interesting insights.
It’s a very powerful tool in your arsenal if you can put a smile on someone’s face. Even more powerful if you can make them laugh. This doesn’t mean you should always be the clown because then nobody will take you seriously, but it’s an important social skill to be able to read a room and know how to get them on your side with a self-depracating comment or witticism. And for all the single guys, you’ll see that most ladies will always say they want someone who can make them laugh. So yes, it’s important.
I have had colleagues who may have decided to marry their jobs. It’s not uncommon to hear of people working insane hours at work, and then posting their “humble brags” on Facebook. Is it really that cool to be working 12-16 hours every day? Sometimes we say we don’t have a choice, but often we do. It’s a matter of prioritising, and it really helps if you can find something else to focus on outside of work.
It could be a hobby, a sport, a new language, a love interest. Anything that takes you away from your work emails and your desk. As I’ve told some of my younger colleagues, “if nobody dies or loses their job because you haven’t done it, it’s really not that important.” For me, shooting pool has always been a good way to unwind. Recently I’ve also taken to swimming, cycling and running and lost more than 10 kg in the process. Looking forward to my first triathlon in a couple of months too, so wish me luck.
Here’s one very practical tip from me today. Go start your LinkedIn profile if you don’t have one already. If you do have one, keep it updated and differentiated. Go kaypo and see what your peers have in their profiles, and improve on yours. Make sure you have a decent photo up there too. I’ve LinkedIn to thank for my current job, and I still get calls every once in awhile from headhunters. Nowadays, when people ask me for my CV, I just send them the link to my LinkedIn profile.
9 LIVE YOUR OWN LIFE
Parents, great job getting your kids here and I think you can rest easy now. Now’s the time for them to find their path and thrive.
Lecturers, I hope you continue to leave your doors open to your ex-students. I’ve had the benefit of good counsel from Professors like Dr Lim Sun Sun, and Dr Millie Rivera who went from being my teachers to being my friends after graduation. Thank you for all the good advice!
Graduates, give thanks to your parents and your teachers. Go give them a hug right after this. Know that some of you are going to find your feet quickly, while some of you may take longer to what you want out of life, which brings me to the last “L”.
10 LEAN ON ME
Support each other, be there for each other. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And certainly don’t be afraid to offer it. One of my most important mentors, Dr Francis Chong, former Dy CEO at the Youth Olympic Games once shared that in the event that we find ourselves in despair and helpless situations, go look for someone to help. And it doesn’t need to be a Noble prize winning act, just something simple. Could be the cleaning lady, your neighbour, or even a stranger. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel afterward.
So, in summary, keep LEARNing, don’t be afraid to LEAD, stay away from LOSERS, learn to LET IT GO, remember to LISTEN, it helps if you can make people LAUGH, find LOVE outside of work, get on LINKEDIN, LIVE YOUR OWN LIFE, and LEAN ON ME.
Congratulations, Class of 2014.
Time to go out there and find your own secret sauce…. but first, let me take a selfie.
How Apple, Microsoft, Google and HTML community can save the dying Urdu Nastaliq script from the hegemony of the Western alphabet and an…
One of the smaller “museums” – if you can call it one – is the one along Ma May (almost opposite the famous “New Day” restaurant – review coming up) called the Heritage House.
It’s got an entrance fee 10 – 30,000VND (can’t quite recall), but that works out to about S$1.80 at most, which is really a steal.
Once you wander past the “main lobby”, chances are you might spot this old man. He offered to draw me, but I didn’t want to waste his ink. :p
If you like taking photos, this is a nice place to shoot. It’s been designed to maximise airflow and lets in plenty of natural light. Combined with dust and time, the house and its contents have aged gracefully.
There’s more stuff upstairs, so don’t forget to make your way up the narrow stairs…
Unfortunately, it seems as if the proprietors are eager (maybe too eager) to squeeze their VND from every nook and cranny available. What happens is that nearly everything on display is on sale. From small knick knacks and snacks, to paintings and opium pipes!
I feel the folks in Penang who also have their own UNESCO World Heritage site, have a better idea of how to earn money from curious tourists, but are conscious in preventing things from getting over-commercialised. i.e. sustainable heritage tourism. Here’s hoping the Vietnamese people latch on to these ideas before all that’s left are crunky souvenirs in an oversized giftshop. Lots more photos in my Hanoi Flickr album.
There are spring rolls and there’s pho… but you really haven’t been to Hanoi / Vietnam if you haven’t had Bun Cha.
This was the first place we tried for Bun Cha, and frustratingly, everyone else I’ve asked subsequently points me to this same joint. It’s not that the food wasn’t good (it was GREAT!), but it did feel as if we were being charged “tourist” prices at 100,000VND per person, which is about 3 times the price at less famous roadside joints. To be fair, we did try alternatives and they were all lesser incarnations, so maybe Dac Kim knows they’ve got the market cornered. To be more specific, the lesser incarnations are likely to only come with the meat patties in broth (which still tends to be dry) and without the spring rolls.
There’s no need to stress about what to order. Just tell them how many people are eating and they haul out the corresponding motherload of meat. The meats and sauces are just FAB. BEW. LUSS. One of the staff came over to point at what goes with what, but frankly every combo – no matter how strange it may seem to a Hanoian – tastes amazing. The crispy Nem Cua Be (Crab Springrolls) go perfectly with the bowl of sauce that you flavour accordingly (depending on your heat and bad breath tolerance) with chili padi and garlic. You can then dunk chopstickfuls (did I just invent a new word?) of white noodles into that bowl of porky paradise. The broth is flavourful without being overpowering, containing slices of meat that live in harmony with mini patties of ground meat wrapped in a little green leaf. They didn’t live very long.
Hygiene tip: There’s a wise saying that if you want to eat good street food, try not to see how it’s prepared. Unfortunately, I was curious enough to see what happened to the mountain of assorted greens that comes with each Bun Cha portion. Most people are unlikely to get even half-way through. Turns out that the leftovers go back into the central pile of vegetables to be dished out to the next customer. I’m already not a fan of coriander, so this moment of “enlightenment” made sure I never had raw vegetables again in Hanoi – especially when they come in generous piles.
Next door is a interesting distraction while you’re chomping down with god knows how many musical instruments stuffed into a store. Meat + Music = Yumm… And don’t forget the beer (or “bia” as the Vietnamese say…)
Dac Kim Bun Cha
1 Hang Manh
We were looking for Nguyen Sinh along Ly Quoc Su after a recommendation by smittenbyfood when we came across this place.
Didn’t think much of it the first time we passed it in the day time, but when the crowd picked up in the evening, it looked like something we had to try.
Think there might be some minimum order thing going on as they didn’t seem too pleased when the Indonesian (I think) couple ahead of me ordered a few items. Being the greedy Singaporean, I didn’t face any problem. Hur hur. I think the staff may be more forgiving if you’re ordering only a few pieces for take-away, as we did on our second visit.
What to eat: Ordering is a challenge as I had no idea what each item was, but pointing works and the boss lady knows her English well enough to tell you how much it all costs. The skinny long thing (1st item on the left on the plate) is some fried seafood item that’s my personal favourite. The fried spring roll (middle on the plate) is pretty good too – suspect this is the Nem Cua Be (or Crab Springroll). The thing that looks like a curry puff has mushrooms in it. Not bad either! Tell me if you know their real names!
Quan Goc Da
52 Ly Quoc Su
Hoan Kiem District
Another trip and I haven’t finished posting about the last one. What’s new. :p
Made my maiden visit to Vietnam, and here are a couple of tips on hooking up to the internet while in Hanoi.
When you arrive at Noi Bai airport, exit customs and turn right.
You might come across an information counter along the way and if you ask, they’ll point you in the same direction, telling you to look for the “Post Office”.
Nobody was around when I got to the Post Office, so I got directed to the minimart next door.
The tricky thing is they sell full-sized SIM cards here, and if you’re using something that requires a microSIM that most of us take for granted these days (like an iPhone or Samsung S3), it’s going to be a gamble. The first SIM card that they
massacred cut didn’t work when slot into my S3 – No SIM detected. They then went on to snip another one which worked. Unfortunately, I tried removing the SIM card a few days later (long story… ) and it didn’t work after I put it back. From the looks of it, the ladies at the airport cut too close to the shiny gold portion on the SIM card. (sorry, no photo!) I looked around for a shop that could slice up a new microSIM for me, but couldn’t find one in time before we headed to Halong Bay, where I assumed reception would be rubbish anyway.
When I got back, I recalled seeing a shop that wouldn’t look out of place in Sim Lim along Hang Bac street. Turns out I was right! Think the shop’s called “Cua Hang“
The great thing is that the dude in the shop speaks decent English and could tell me exactly how much each minute and kb of data would cost, though I’ve completely forgotten now.
Both times (at the airport and at Hang Bac), I was offered a prepaid mobifone SIM card which apparently gives better value than competitors Vina and Viettel (can’t even find their websites, actually!). The standard starter pack costs 150,000VND. On average, I ran out of 100,000VND (approx S$6) value every day with fairly heavy usage. Even with double the load (200,000 VND or S$12), it’s still cheaper than the S$20/day I would have had to pay SingTel for their Bridge Dataroam, but granted the SingTel deal is for unlimited data. At the moment, SingTel charges more for data in Vietnam than places like Thailand and Malaysia which cost S$15/day.
Or if you really don’t want to bother, wifi seems widely available in most cafes and restaurants though I think some are heavily overloaded (e.g. Highlands Cafe along Nhà Thờ) and the connection really crawls. Free wifi in hotels is more widely available than many other places I’ve visited!
I heard a lot about Goods Of Desire (G.O.D.) before I made my virgin trip up to Hong Kong. Waayyyyy back in 2010, it was a great place to shop for kitschy, unconventional, quirky stuff for the home. They’ve since set up shop in Singapore too, but sadly I find the selection here not quite as happening as what I seem to remember in HK.
During this latest trip, I made a lucky find while having lunch at Sing Heung Yuen. The Foursquare entry for this hole-in-the-wall eatery had a tip that suggested shopping at “Homeless” across the street.
That neon sign + industrial material is eye-catching, and you can’t help but wander into the warmly-lit store with your wallet open.
There’s really quite a lot to see, and I really took my time looking through everything to make sure I didn’t miss any of the little gems everywhere.
There are stores in Singapore that carry some of these items like Molecule, Totally Hot Stuff, and other smaller players who I can’t remember. But I don’t think any of them have the sheer concentration of “I-want-to-buy-this!!!” items that Homeless carries.
The address for the Central Flagship store(s) i.e. the one described above:
28 & 29 Gough Street, Central, Hong Kong (It’s actually 2 stores facing each other!)
Tel: +852 2581 1880
Opening hours: 11.30 – 21.30hrs (mon – sat), 12.00 – 18.00hrs (sun & holidays)
Also visited the Tsim Sha Tsui Flagship store, which I felt was more mall-ish, and hence more sterile than the Central store. And for good measure, checked out the Causeway Bay Store too. This one is up a few flights of stairs and is cramped. Careful when you make any sudden movements with your backpacks & shopping bags! Didn’t spot the sign, but “You break, you buy” likely applies here too.
Tsim Sha Tsui Flagship store
L8, The One, 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2997 8192
Opening hours: 12.00 – 22.00hrs (sun – thu), 12.00 – 22.30 (fri & sat)
Causeway Bay store
1 – 3/F, 19 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2890 8789
Opening hours: 12.00 – 21.30 (mon – sat), 13.00 – 21.00 (sun & holidays)
Visit their website (www.homeless.hk) for more information (there’s one other store in Shatin and they operate F&B outlets too apparently)
Now to back to G.O.D.
The rate at which Hong Kong moves is brutal, and it was quite sad to see the G.O.D. at Silvercord having a “removal sale”. Remember getting quite a few things there during my last trip. There wasn’t very much stuff left by the time we got there. This was a potential candidate for purchase, but even it didn’t work out.
Darwinism applies to retail too, I guess.
The U2 anthem is perfect when describing many flawed implementations of Site Search. You know the kind where you go to a website (usually with a frantic front page covered in buttons and links) and key in a search term resulting in a gazillion results? Most of them irrelevant, or worse still… ridiculous?
Worked on a project where some stakeholders were asking for “Site Search” functionality on a website. The argument against that was that it wasn’t feasible to put in the function if we couldn’t get it to deliver quality results when matched up against grand-daddy Google. Had a conversation with a Google guy a few weeks back and he also backed up our stance for “No Search” being better than “Bad Search”. Have to give it to the guys at Google for coming up with some hilarious content to explain how Site Search can go so painfully wrong.
And to cap it all off, why not sing along to Bono and the boys if horrid Site Searches aren’t turning up what you’re searching for?
Stuffing your face, and taking the stuffing out of your wallet. Fortunately (or unfortunately). there are apps to help you for both.
Google Maps: This is a pain in the a$$ when you have lots of places listed on one map and need to scroll up and down. Workaround for me is to go into “Edit” mode, but then it’s easy to accidentally move location pins and the lag is just awful. Doesn’t work well at all on the iPhone and iPad. If you have access to a proper computer during your visit, I recommend moving the places you intend to visit for the day at the top of the list (left column). Still looking for a zoom-able itinerary mapping that can be stored offline (i.e. no internet connection required to access), but until I find a better solution, here’s a rudimentary map for Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau.
Open Rice: Just like Singapore’s Hungrygowhere, it pulls up the name, location and reviews (if any) of eateries around you. Not as many reviews in English as there are in Chinese/Cantonese. Pronounced “Hoi Fan” in Cantonese. (Available for iOS, Android and Window Phone)
Foursquare: The grand-daddy of location services works well in HK too, especially if you can’t find reviews in English for Open Rice. (Available for iOS – no dedicated iPad version, but iPhone version blown up works too, and Android)
Price.com.hk: Great guide to have if you’re looking for electronics (cameras, phones, A/V, appliances, video games) and strangely, kids stuff too. It’s essentially a listing of the best prices being offered by various merchants. Of course, it’s susceptible to being used by scammers who bait and switch, e.g. you go to a store because of a product being advertised as HK$XXX but the store says it’s out of stock and offers you a “similar” product, or just say that the price isn’t updated and quote you a higher price. My suggestion is that you use your local SIM card to call up the shops before making any trips. If the stores/sellers don’t list a number or shop address, I wouldn’t waste my time. Best to use the app as a rough guide. No English version, so hopefully you know some Chinese. Otherwise, it’s fairly intuitive based on the icons/graphics used. Do we have a Singaporean version of this? If not, maybe I should quit my job and get it done. (Available for iOS, Android)
Got any other apps to recommend?