Why Do Bad Things Always Happen To Me?!

Remember that this moment is not your life, it's just a moment in your life. Focus on what is in front of you, right now. Ignore what it 'represents' or it 'means' or 'why it happened to you.' 
- The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Do you ever catch yourself ruminating on why bad things happen to you? It started out as a simple mistake, then you keep thinking about it. Thinking of how worst it could have been. How it would ruin your future. What it means in your life.

You could have worked really hard for your exams, but you didn't get the results you wanted. 

You asked yourself, "Why is it that when i work hard i don't get good results? Does it mean that I am stupid? It could be my parents are stupid, or the teacher wasn't good enough. Maybe i was too lazy. I will never be able to do well academically. Maybe i should just start working early instead..."

That is normally how we think isn't it? When something bad happens to us, the first thing we do is we start thinking obsessively of our mistake. Figuring out the never-ending causes. Figuring out what are the implications in the present and the future. Figuring out what it means to you. You can almost do a thesis on "why bad things always happen to me?" at this point.

Recently, I was pretty stressed up. I was stuck with writers block and i was worrying about my uni applications. So i ended up reading books on how to overcome problems in life. Then i came across this quote that perfectly explains our tendency to obsess over our mistakes. The quote provided a good reminder that the only way to overcome our problems is to think of ways to solve it, not harp on the irrelevant meanings that doesn't help you solve the problem.

The Secret to Learning Anything in Life

So i was reading a book about overcoming adversity and i came across a sentence that jolted my memory of a conversation i had at a Christmas party. 

"the brain is a muscle like any other active tissue. It can be built up and toned through the right exercises"

I was talking to this guy in his late 20s and unlike the peers of his age he wasn't studying in university. He didn't even have a job. He told me that he was learning how to play the piano and he's gonna take the grade 8 piano test, despite the lack of a music background. And in my teenage judgmental self, i thought he obviously gonna fail because he wasn't very smart or hardworking, since he didn't have a job or wasn't in uni.

So i asked him "Wouldn't it be difficult for you since you are almost 30 already? I heard that the best time to pick up any music instrument is before you are 18. It just gets more and more difficult after that."

"As long as you are willing to put in the time and hard work you will be able to achieve it. It's not a matter of age", he replied. 

At that time his words seems a bit bull crap and sounded pretty much like what every slacker would say, plagiarized from those "how to be successful" articles on the web.

And to my surprise, he really did pass his grade 8 exams! Something about this incident changed my perception of intelligence. Intelligence wasn't fixed like what i thought, but it is fluid and could be changed and improved upon through sheer hard work.

Img source: tumblr

How to Avoid a Bad Haircut?

Have you ever felt frustrated that every visit is always a bad haircut? It's like a persistent suitor that will never go away despite you saying that you are not interested at all. The issue with haircuts is your instructions are not definite like 1 + 1 is always 2.

How short is short? How thin is thin? The subjective instructions coupled with the carelessness of some hairstylists is the cause of a bad haircut.

The solution to avoid a bad haircut is quite similar to finding a soulmate and talking to a foreigner. How is it similar, you ask?

Finding your soulmate. The price, the brand and the appearance of the hairstylist are not determinant of the quality. What you should be looking for is someone that understands you well. Someone you could communicate with without any fear or hesitation. If the current hairstylist is not the right one, continue searching till you find the perfect one.

Talking to a foreigner. I believe majority of us have traveled to a country that doesn't speak our language. So how do you communicate with them? You speak in the most concise and simple English while utilizing hand gestures. In the context of the salon, if you want to cut your hair short, you would display with your fingers how short you want them to be and you would tell the hairstylist to "cut this short". This way the hairstylist would roughly know how short you want it to be.

How To Achieve Your New Year's Resolution?

Did you achieve your new year's resolution? It's so frustrating isn't it? Not being able to achieve your resolution. The difficult part about new year's resolution is committing consistently for an entire year. Most of us would quit after a month and it just becomes an endless cycle of disappointment every year.

You set a resolution. You get hyped. You commit for a month. You become too busy. You forgot about it. And when the year ends, you are disappointed for not doing it. Then the cycle repeats.

Sounds familiar right?

Maybe it's time to consider that perhaps your method for achieving your resolution is not working. First we have to answer why we lose our will to persevere? The problem is there are countless distractions and responsibilities, and sometimes our resolution requires us to endure emotional or physical discomfort which we hate. For example, running requires us to endure physical discomfort in order to be fit and healthy.

Habit Loop
So how exactly do we overcome all these hurdles? We make use of habits. Habits are hard to break and are immune to any distractions. You will be compelled to carry out your desired action on an almost subconscious level with minimal dread and effort needed. It's like going home everyday on the same route. You are practically on auto-pilot the whole time. And you would realize how difficult it is to suddenly change your direction and go to the supermarket because you remembered you have to buy something. Same goes for running, although it is tiring and there is work to be finished, you will still run because it is already a habit for you to run 3 times a week.

The key to creating a habit are three components: cue, routine and reward. First, you must determine a cue for the desired action. The cue could be a specific time or an object that reminds you to carry out the action. For example, you could set an alarm or you could put your workout clothes next to your bed.

Next is the routine, which is the desired action you will be doing e.g. running. Before that you will have to set a reward to motivate yourself to perform the routine consistently. It could be having a piece of chocolate or watching your favorite TV show after running. It could be anything you like. You would carry out the routine for a month, which is the time needed to form a habit. It is important that you do it consistently for the first month, otherwise the habit would not form.

Additional article on New Year's Resolution:

Do Grades Matter?

Do grades matter at all? I believe is the second most popular existential question behind "What is the purpose of my life?" By now you would have read and heard many answers to this question. Many answers leaning toward grades does not matter at all in the future, mostly because in twenty years time nobody would care about your grades, only your experience and skill sets matter. Also, you should enjoy the process of learning and not let the rat race to distinction dampen your intellectual curiosity.

That is true but not entirely correct!

Good grades matter because it is a requirement for entering into recognized universities. And getting into a good university would give you the extra leverage to get into a company you are passionate to work for.

As we become more influenced by western culture, more and more people are talking about embarking on the so called "glorified path" of dropping out of school to chase their dreams and striking it big. All these success stories on the news that are all too similar were sometimes used as an excuse to do badly in school. But the reality is down that path are enormous hurdles you will have to overcome. We are still entrenched in the traditional education route of going to uni then to work. Your parents expects it, society expects it and our education system supports it. If you really want to chase your dream by all means more power to you. But most of us won't, that's why grades do matter. And it matters because it's between working a shitty job for the rest of your life or a job you love and don't mind doing way past your retirement age.

Good grades is also a direct reflection of your work ethic. You can say that I'm not interested that's why i didn't work hard. I will definitely work hard if it's something I'm interested in. But not everything is as interesting as you think. Just like a coin have two sides, there is always a flip side to the interesting things you want to do. Behind those interesting things are failures, tons of grinding and boring menial work. If you can't put in the hard work to study some simple subjects, you can be sure that your attitude is the same when it comes to the flip side and other things in life.

All things said, it is important that you figure out what you want to do in life. If you have no idea, then there is no harm taking the common option. If the common route is not to your taste, then you should dig deep and ask yourself what you are truly interested in. Do you really need a degree to do well in your job? Professions like accountants and doctors need a degree but there are others that do not need one, such as tourism and hospitality where many who work in the front lines are valued for their experience not the degree they have. You don't need to be certified to give good service right?

Eating Here or Takeaway?

The auntie asks, "Eat here or takeaway?" It's dinner time and you are strolling through the food court wandering what to have for dinner. You decided to have Korean food since the weather is quite cold today.

The thought of "eating here" may not have crossed our minds before, but if it had, it felt odd and somewhat uncomfortable. There's this constant fear of being judged when you eat alone in food courts. It's like a social taboo that nobody dares to infringe upon. And in our minds, people who break those rules are the eccentric kids in school that nobody talks to.

Maybe it's time to shed those negative stereotypes of eating alone in public spaces, after all, we are not in secondary school anymore. Eating alone is not just for eccentric kids, it is for anyone who is looking for some alone time away from any stresses or distractions.

Eating here is about disconnecting and re-connecting with yourself. In this day and age we spend a lot of our time cooped up in our home or office with our devices. We live in an information age where we are constantly processing information. Enormous gigabytes of content are constantly uploaded online. Think about how much information we process each day? It is roughly 34gb according to the New York Times article in 2009 on the data consumption of Americans. It could have grown even more since half a decade has passed!

Source: Aci.info

When you are eating alone at the food court you are away from distraction and stresses, like your computer, your boss or family members. You may want to turn off your phone as well. By disconnecting from technology, you create a distraction-free time to organize your thoughts and reflect on your life or work. You will find that there is greater clarity during this time. Many great ideas and important decisions will come from these thinking sessions and it's a common strategy used by famous people like Beyonce, Roger Federer and Richard Branson.

It's about being courageous as well. It takes courage to overcome the fear of eating alone. Dinner has traditionally been a communal activity since centuries ago, but eating is an individual experience. As humans are social beings, we built social experiences around simple activities such as eating. That's why it takes immense courage to break past the social norm to eat alone.

If you want to read more on eating alone you can check out the sites below:

How to Celebrate Christmas Alone?

I've always been fond of Christmas. As a kid, the thought of receiving presents were so exciting. TV channels would constantly be airing Christmas movies. And when i walked down, Orchard Road i could see Christmas lights strewn across the street lights. Starbucks would be playing Christmas carols incessantly when i was working as a barista. The most exciting part about Christmas beside the presents was the Christmas dinner where family and friends get together to enjoy a wonderful evening.

I feel that the barrage of Christmas movies and decorations have made me desperate to celebrate Christmas. The whole idea of shopping for gifts, preparing dinner and dinning with your family is such a fun and novel experience for me. Sadly my family and friends doesn't celebrate Christmas. Nevertheless that does not mean i can't celebrate Christmas alone!

Christmas Carols
Listening to Christmas music is the perfect way to get into the festive mood. For me, Michael Buble is the gold standard when it comes to Christmas music. The album features a rendition of multiple Christmas classics and some of Michael's own Christmas music. I always start out the month of December by listening to his album wherever i go.

Christmas Treats
With Christmas around the corner, you would find all sorts of Christmas treats in abundance. I'm not much of a fan of candy canes but I sure love a Toffee Nut Latte from Starbucks! Sometimes when i'm free i would drop by Starbucks on a Saturday morning to grab a cup of Toffee Nut Latte and listen to the Christmas music in Starbucks while reading a book.

Christmas Movies
I'm not sure about you but Home Alone will always be my definitive Christmas movie. I think it is because channel 5 always run it during Christmas? Nevertheless it is still a fun and exciting movie to watch and it never fails to bring out those christmasy feels.

This may be breaking the rules a bit because it involves your friends or family. My group of friends doesn't celebrate Christmas, but occasionally we have a friend that will buy gifts for us. It feels nice to receive presents from your friend and it feels even better when you are giving presents to your friends. There was once when he give us a calendar with comic book covers on it. Although it didn't cost much but i really liked it since i love superhero comics.
Decked the Halls
Decorate your room with Christmas lights and bed sheets. Switch your phone wallpaper into a picture of a giant Christmas tree! Paint reindeer on your nails!

5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Entered Poly

Source: Tumblr
It has been more than a year since I graduated from poly. I feel that as time passes there is greater clarity of what happened in the past. Looking back, it was a turbulent time. I've changed so much since then. I became quieter and more thoughtful almost to the point of rumination. My confidence took a big dive due to my poor grades and in year 3 i started to have massive anxiety. Thankfully, relationships with my classmates were great which made it easy for me to find group members.

Despite all these upheavals, I do miss the fun times i had with my friends where we will chill at the canteen on Friday evening talking through the night, and the days where we stay back till late in the evening doing project work and getting chased out by the security guards.

Having been through thick and thin i thought i would share with you some things i wish i knew before i entered poly which could have made poly less difficult.

1. Cumulative GPA
The whole cumulative thing came as a surprise for me, perhaps not much of a surprise, because i was oblivious of how it works. It was only in year 3 when everyone began to fret about their grades, then i realized it was almost impossible to make those hail mary comebacks that i did in O levels with only one month of cramming. My grades pretty much boils down to the cumulative grades of those 3 years. Consistency is very important when it comes to cumulative GPA which is difficult for me because i lacked a lot of discipline at that time.

2. Grades Matter but Learning is More Important
I'm not going to bombard you with the usual cliche about grades don't matter. Truth is it does matter if you want to go to uni, which is the majority of our educational goal. However your entire poly experience does not boil down to your grades alone. You may have good grades but if you forget everything after your exams, you still end up learning nothing. That's what happened to me. If you asked me what are the psychological theories I've learnt, i can tell you that i don't remember anything except for some popular ones that appeared on Big Bang Theory.

3. Group Work
Many assignments in poly are group work. My diploma (Applied Drama and Psychology) was very heavy on group work. I had about 6 group assignments a sem. Group work is one of most detested part about poly. It turn friends into enemies. It forces you to choose your grades or your friends. It was politics in school even before we are legal to vote and despite that, we were already voting for which 'A' student to put into our group and which idiot to reject. 

It took me awhile to figure out how to deal with this madness. I feel that one of the biggest problems is grouping with friends. If it works for you then great, but more often then not it doesn't, at least for me. There are too many social landmines to avoid when you partner with your friends. I have to avoid criticizing my friend's ideas excessively. I have to avoid heated discussion for the fear of damaging our friendship.

The takeaway for me is to separate friendship from school assignments. It's better to group with classmates that have the same interest as you and works well with you. I know it sounds pretty ironic because, by nature, my friends should have the same interest and should work well together with me but it isn't always true. We are all unique individuals that are different but have intersecting interests. That's why it's important to find those that complements your work style and have intersecting interests when forming your group.

First year student getting dressed
4. Appearance
This may resonate with most people, especially the arts and business students. I feel that many of us go through a vanity phase in poly. You know it when you see the year 1 students dressing up and slowly degenerating into not caring about their outfits by final year. I think dressing appropriately for school is important but when you start worrying about your appearance excessively it becomes a problem. I certainly have experienced it before and it is extremely depressing to be chasing these imaginary vanity points. The best is to, at the start, ignore it and focus on enjoying poly rather than worry about this frivolous issue that won't matter when you leave poly.
5. Free Time
It is true that poly could be as busy as JC but only at certain periods of the year which leave you plenty of free time. I started to realize how much time i've wasted when i began to meet new friends who had done a lot of meaningful work outside of poly. They were chasing their dreams during their free time in school. One of them have a sunglasses company and he is the sole retailer of a well-known brand in U.S and also another friend started a theater company while studying. What i'm trying to say is that i could have make use of the free time to do something meaningful rather than wasting it on countless hours of FB stalking.


I think overall what is is most important is that you enjoy your time in poly. Many of my seniors who are in university complained about how much they missed poly life. In poly you have your own classmates and there is more camaraderie. But in uni you are all alone, you pick your own lesson timings, you have to make new friends every time and it is more cutthroat when it comes to group work. If you suck at your work you are out.