The difference in not knowing, and not trying.

Everyone kicks off on common ground – plain ignorance. None of us are born knowing, we acquire what we need through experience and lessons learnt. Painful experiences, learning curves, you know the drill.

The one thing about work people do not realise, is that experience is the key. No one can take away what you know (barring a solid hammer blow to the head), and your value is tied to your knowledge and experience.

The workplace is a harsh place at times, and there is a constant reminder to the savvy, yet jaded employee about “only doing what you are responsible for”. If it’s got nothing to do with you, you had best keep your hands clean. A safe approach no doubt, but it curtails our opportunities to grow.

We only gain and learn from what we do. By doing less, we learn little. Who do you think benefits in the end? I’m a strong advocate of learning beyond your role, because that is the only way you can keep growing and moving beyond what you do right now. Take advantage of every opportunity, never let go of any chances to sink your fangs into a colleague’s (figurative) fountain of wisdom.

Not knowing something is never a sin. Never be afraid to admit your lack of knowledge. Not trying however, speaks about the level of effort. So never let it be said that you did not try, but rather that you did your best to learn but failed.

Keep learning, keep growing and keep moving.

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Hitting the pause button.

Ten days of being overseas, and everything is back to what it was before once more. Slipping back into the routine hasn’t proved difficult. Moving around is a trifle annoying though, with the ankle the way it is.

Back to the latest “holiday”.

I’m very thankful for these annual trips. They allow me to recharge, to hit the pause button and forget about my existence in Melbourne for a while.

It might sound strange, but I think of my lives in Singapore and Melbourne as being quite discrete. Singapore was the ordinary route, the cookie cutter life. It was just being another guy on the street doing a job and living the Singaporean life cycle, period.

Melbourne was the beginning of another life altogether, one that went right off the relative tangent. I had to start from ground zero all over again. New country, new environment and culture, and most of all?
Blazing a new trail without the support of friends and family. It didn’t feel that way but on hindsight, it sure was a tough road back then.

Coming home is is like a regression to who I was. Same old home, same old room, same old everything else. Just the same old self, doing his usual shit and living the unfettered life of a dude without worries once more. Nothing about the other half, the kid, the home, just wandering around and enjoying my bullshit with good friends. Just getting home late and crashing into bed, the way it always was. It’s about returning to who I was, and in a way, reliving the old memories once more.

Time never stops moving, and everyone has moved on with their lives. Coming back feels like I’m picking up from where I left off. It feels like I’ve come out of stasis and returned to living the old me for a few days. It’s obviously self-denial because it’s never exactly the same, but I treasure the days at home much more with every year that passes.

Just for a few days, I’m free to forget about everything else and remember only me.

Cracking routine: staying open and breaking out.

People are creatures of habit, and I’m no exception. Visit a place often enough, and I develop a pattern, a set routine. There’ll be a default cubicle, a default food option, a default travel route, many other defaults. It keeps the mind from thinking too much, but routine breeds monotony, and in turn boredom.

What should we do?

Breaking out. These days, I remind myself to experiment. Order something new from the menu, taking another turn on a usual route. Do something you usually don’t, try something different and see beyond what routine has confined us to. Move beyond that mental sloth, and ask yourself: “Why the hell not?” For all you know, it might be fun.

The same goes for knowledge and belief. Hiding in one’s mental fortress is never the way to self-improvement. The lack of a constant desire to learn leads to a stagnant mind and a stubborn unwillingness to accept new ideas.

One should also maintain a receptive mind to criticism. It takes an open mind to move beyond negativity and to accept feedback for what it is. This mindset is sadly, lost the moment a defensive approach is taken. All too often, we hear this stance: “Who are you to judge me?”

What should we be doing then?

Staying open. Nothing is worse than blinding oneself to everything else, and being set in one’s ways. Confidence is good, but no one is ever right all the time. Keep your mind open and receptive to ideas. Not everything new is good, but it’s worth sifting through suggestions to find something that works for you.

So stop being being that bigoted old stick-in-the-mud today, and start living. Never stop learning, never stop experimenting.

How staying connected makes us less connected.

These days, having a smartphone is less of a luxury and more of an everyday carry. The smartphone is less of a phone and more of an ultra portable computer. We call less, but do everything else more.

The smartphone keeps us online all the time now, but is this a good thing? We get instant and real-time access to information and news. We’re able to reach out to friends all the time with handy tools like Facebook, Twitter and most especially the reigning IM tool of the day: WhatsApp.

Without realising it, we are constantly connected and unable to go offline. This pattern has happened before in the form of Blackberry phones and the constant urge to check and respond to emails. With the increased popularity of the smartphone (iPhone, Android and other OSes), things can only get worse.

This phenomenon detracts from our real quality of life. There is an inability to focus on what is around us, and the constant flow of alerts and messages distracts us from what is at hand. We stay glued to our phones during mealtimes, being less able to engage in conversation with friends and family. Not only is this a loss on quality of life, it is rude. How would you feel if your dinner partner mumbled perfunctory replies and tapped on his phone incessantly throughout dinner? Pretty annoyed I bet.

Never forget that technology is but a tool. It is important to exercise discipline and not let technology blind us to what is truly important – human relationships.

Rain in Bangkok.

Today marks the first time I’ve ever been rained on in Bangkok. Not that fun apparently, since mosquitoes get an open invitation to the party and feast on my legs for all they’re worth. That, and the fact that dreary weather makes all that trudging around Chatuchak a little less fun. Interesting fact: every subsequent trip to the weekend market takes less time, because I’m less and less inclined to cover the entire area as I get older. Of course, having a sprained ankle doesn’t help in the least.

(A few other interesting blurps for the archives.)

The super cabby who got us to our destination in record time, weaving through the streets and Sois with unflappable calm. When faced with a jam, he gave a half-smile and promptly turned into the next lane. Watching him on my phone’s GPS felt like I was witnessing some computer AI easily traversing a level 0 maze – bah, too easy.

Not forgetting the thorough Thai massage at Health Land, professionalism at its peak. Where else do you find a masseur performing remedial massage on a sprained ankle with no prior notice? Full marks seriously.

And it’s the last night of my holiday at last. Good things come to an end, bad things never last forever, and time flows with the unceasing pace of an unhurried man. I’ve had a pretty good break, and may the next one be better than this.

Aside from over-whistling, constantly losing my way, an incessant refusal to use the big notes before the smaller ones, being overly focused on slipper shopping and an avid burper after meals, I think I’ve been a pretty good travel companion.

Not forgetting: thanks to the FG for not complaining (too much), her good humour and temper (most of the time) is what makes her a great friend and travel mate. I doubt we’ll get another stab at something like this ever again, so this will probably be our last trip together. May the memories last forever.

A midnight swim.

How often does one get twenty-effing-four access to a pool? Plus it’s good old sweltering Thailand, not bloody Melbourne in wintertime. So yeah, it’s just one of those little things I had to check off the bucket list: a midnight swim.

Unsurprisingly peaceful, and very surprisingly, not cold. Good time to study the stars while floating in the pool. To meditate and let the awareness expand, and to enjoy the welcome solitude.

The only three downsides to the entire brief episode:

  • A couple horsing around in the pool and disrupting the peace somewhat.
  • The dimly lit pool made it a little difficult to swim properly.
  • Mozzies.

Just another one of those little pockets of peace I’ll always hold close to my heart in years to come.