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Month: May, 2012

Fight for what you love and believe in

So some of you may have heard, simplehoney, the startup I’ve been working for, launched a couple of days ago.

It was an emotional event for the team because we’ve poured in blood, sweat and love but particularly for me, I saw my entire life flash through in my mind.

From the five year old wondering about the meaning of life, to the misunderstood 15 year old flunking her exams because she was too busy making websites, to the angry teen who dropped out of school, to the jaded adult who once gave up on design to work as an adminstrative assistant, to the independent designer who worked purely remotely because she was afraid to meet new people, to the person I am now – watching our twitter stream seeing users tweet about how much they loved our site.

I have come a long way. A long, uncomfortable, painful way actually. Between those past events you have absolutely no idea who much I had to endure having to withstand silent gazes of disappointment and disapproval (because I refused to have a stable job or life, actually) or the teachers who destroyed my self-esteem telling me I was going to be a waste to society (just by having bad grades). 

The point of this post, before any misunderstanding, is not to complain about how much I went through, but it is for those of you who know I am talking about, the struggle to grow into your true self, for those young kids who have dreams but have people telling them to stop dreaming – I am writing to all of you out there, hey, it is very much possible to be yourself and still find joy in life.

People say that I am lucky, I tell them I had to break many hearts including my own, I had to be firm on my own beliefs, I had to go through periods of extreme discomfort, to put myself in a position where luck may find me.

You have got to fight for what you want in life, because really, nobody is going to fight for you. You have to be the one believing in your own dream, because if you’re skeptical yourself, how do you ask of someone else to believe in you?

I know whatever we have built has a long way to go, I know this is just the beginning of more blood, tears and sweat, I know this is nowhere remotely near to success, but for someone like me, allow me this moment to take pride in the work I do, in my team and in the product we worked so hard to build.

Allow me this moment to feel the pride when I see our users noticing the little details we have put in, allow me to feel very encouraged because our users seem to understand the problem we’re trying to solve, allow me to indulge in the positive feedback that our users have been sending to us.

All of these is just going to motivate my team and me to do even better, work even harder.

From a personal perspective, I continue to trudge on my long journey, this is a baby step in the overall big picture in my mind – I so desparately want to be the change that I want.

I hope that one day kids like me would have different avenues of learning and not be put down based on their grades, that they will no longer have to go through long periods of their life feeling that they have to pretend to be someone else, that some of my friends who are brilliantly talented will no longer feel like they have to hang on to their jobs which make them dread every single monday morning.

I never thought it was possible, but I feel so alive being in love with my work, my team, my product, my users. It seems like all these blog posts that I used to read with famous people telling us, you got to find what you love to do, and me cynically going yeah, right – I finally understood what these people are talking about.

It wasn’t enough for me to be a designer, I was struggling to find true joy just being a designer, but being a designer working with a team sharing the same vision and values + a product that may be potentially disruptive and at the same time make people happy – I don’t know what else can I ask for, in fact I think this is way beyond my own dreams.

I used to write everywhere in my online profiles that I’m a designer with nomadic tendencies because traveling is not only a hobby, it feels like a lifetime’s calling for me. I have had so many turning points in my life and so many moments of epiphanies on my travels. It makes me feel very blessed and grateful to have this opportunity to work on a product that would aim to bring more smiles to fellow travelers.

Let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude, to my team, my friends and peers who have been very supportive, users who take the time to write feedback for us, and of course my family – they had to smile encouragingly for me when I left even though it was hard for them to have me away. 

So many times I had to remind myself that I have to make tradeoffs for the bigger picture in mind, if you were to ask me again, I’ll do it over and over again, because the joy that I feel when I see our users appreciating what we’ve built – priceless.

Thank you, all of you, especially those of you who are long-time readers of my blog, you have been with me through my ups and downs so you would know how much this means to me. 😉

I end this post with a beautiful quote:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain


when the going gets tough, remember your sense of purpose

When I started to blog I promised myself that I would write about both the ups and downs. I’ve always wanted to maintain an authentic online persona and I cannot be authentic if I only write about the ups in my life.

I think I didn’t want anyone to worry about me if I wrote about the downs, but then I realized I could be honest about the downs and yet write about how I try to react positively to them. I say try, because I am only human.

I mentioned in previous posts that the past year has been a rollercoaster ride so far. I have gone so high on top of that ride that when my precious macbook pro got stolen in SF last year I didn’t even feel upset about it. I knew I was getting a lot of good in my life, so losing a material possession wasn’t a big of a deal.

The caveat with such positive thinking is that it requires strength and positivity – the ability to process thoughts in a logical manner. When you’re down and out, the ability to have clear logical thoughts is impaired. They ain’t kidding when they say everything starts to go wrong when you’re down and out. I have only realized recently this is because we lack the cognitive ability to make good decisions when we feel like shit. Thus we spawn a vicious cycle of one bad decision after another. So during a time when you need positive thinking the most, it probably fails – probably what one gets instead is thought after thought of fear-induced paranoia.

The key to snapping out of bad cycles is awareness. It starts with the awareness that my thoughts are not me. Actually, even prior to that, it starts with a deep understanding of one’s self. Who is my one true self? After 31 years of life, I can safely say though I am always evolving, when it comes to crunch time I have never been scared to make a tough decision. My true self always wanted to be true, free and living life to the max. I have never, ever wanted a mundane life.

So when the going gets tough, I ask myself, what would my true self want? The other morbid version would be, if I were to die tomorrow, how would I make this decision? When one’s mortality is concerned, most people will tend to realize a lot of things fall away in terms of perceived importance.

I don’t care what I do in this life as long as I am proud on my deathbed. I do not want to die thinking, “I could have been more fearless”. Given a choice of a safe,comfortable existence vs a tiring life full of adventure – the choice is obvious.

I say my paranoid thoughs are not me – because I know these thoughts resulted from years of fear-conditioning externally. Years of “no you cannot do this”, “you’re such a disappointment”, “no this is not possible”, “no this is not realistic”, “you need this, this and this in order to survive”, coupled with people giving me sympathetic looks because I chose to live my life differently from them.  

I had never known fear when I was a little kid, I had never known how it feels like to have your soul crushed repeatedly, I had never known the pain I brought to people I love because I didn’t subscribe to the mainstream ideals of chasing a “stable” life. Yet the older I grew, the more obvious it was that I was causing pain to people around me by just being me, so I grew fearful of everything. 

I was scared to be myself, I didn’t even like the idea of life itself. Why would life be meaningful when I cannot even be myself?

It took me a long while, of examining my self, my true values, that I realized the painful existence of my fearful self was not really me. 

If I didn’t have any expectations of people to meet, I would be a nomad or a vagabond. I wouldn’t be concerned about how much money I have in the bank or whether I can ever make enough money to buy a house. I would never be afraid of being homeless because if I am all by myself I don’t really mind being homeless. And nobody will be hurt to see me homeless.

But now I have a different set of expectations. I have expectations of myself to meet. I want to be proud of my life when I die.

For this stage of my life, that means I want to work on something I will be incredibly proud of, and I want to be in a position whereby I can have more impact on the change that I want in this world. 

And when the going gets tough, when I feel down and out, this is what I repeatedly tell myself. Whatever I am going through is nothing compared to the bigger picture I am fighting for.

When everything goes wrong there is only one thing we can fall back upon. That is – our sense of purpose. Nothing to me is greater than my sense of purpose. Nothing is more motivating than remembering that I would rather choose to have my current circumstances than to have a safe, comfortable, mundane existence. 

This is what keeps me sane, keeps me breathing, keeps me believing. That even at the moment whereby every inch of my soul feels fatigued, I will not give up on my sense of purpose. I refuse to give up my dream of being proud at my deathbed. 

I hope whoever out there who is still reading this long, rambling post, that you would feel somewhat similar. That we can be tired, we can feel like shit, but that sense of purpose will never fade away. Together we can be the change we want. I really believe so, from the core of my heart.