Tag Archives: work

The Art of (Not) Giving Up.

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My six-year scholarship bond with my company ended 11 days ago, on 31st March 2017. I looked back at the past six years with fond memories: of new found friendships, of self-discoveries, and of surprising achievements. There were several painful experiences, of course, but as with all wisdom of hindsight, I am now able to focus on the benefits of those unpleasant moments. I finally understand how it truly feels to run a marathon and see through it from start till the finishing line.

Now that it is over, I can finally admit how I almost surrendered, several times in fact, and was determined to break the bond. You will find the following account of my biggest meltdown, rather amusing, but I assure you that at those moments in time, it felt like the end of the world. And there was no way out, but to give up.

Breakdown #1/100:

2013, with slightly more than three years to the end of the bond. I drove to work in tears. I arrived, carried my two heavy bags, and instead of walking towards my office, I marched (tears streaming down my face) in the direction of our legal office. I knocked on the glass door of the Head of Legal, and sobbingly I said, ” I want to break my bond. Please calculate the penalty I need to pay please”.

Frankly if I were her I would have burst out laughing at this pitiful sight of an adult woman clutching on to her two seemingly overweight bags filled with documents, files, rubbish and a laptop, mascara streaks down her morning puffy face. I would have sent this baby to a doctor.

But she did not. She replied calmly, in a neutral tone, careful not to show too much concern, that she would check on the terms and conditions of my bond agreement and would get back to me within the day.

I thanked her, with the tiny bit of dignity left, and walked back towards my office, feeling even more wretched. I was really disappointed in myself for surrendering the white flag at the half-way mark. But I could no longer lie to myself that I was happy in a corporate environment. I am a free spirit, I should fly. Well, at least that was what I strongly believed in then.

Later in the day, I was told of the amount I was liable for breaking the bond. It was slightly around $600K. I immediately embarked on a quest to raise this sum. I was going to:

  1. Sell my studio apartment.
  2. Sell my car.
  3. Empty my savings.
  4. Take up a loan.

I would be left with nothing, only debts. But at least I would be free. Freedom is priceless.

It was a good plan.

It was a terrible plan.

What do you think? What would you do?

Well, you know what I did.

I walked shamefully into the legal office a second time, all my shreds of pride down the drain, and I apologized to the same Head of Legal for creating a scene that morning, and for wasting her time. “I don’t have the money to pay the bond. So sorry. I will continue to work till the bond ends”, I said, looking even more pathetic than ever.

I gave up twice in a day. First time, on my job. Second time on my gungho declaration to break free.

Epic failure, one would say.

Fast forward to current status. Bond is over. And I did not leave my company. I actually do enjoy chasing targets, building a team, having something to wake up for. I am proud that I have a job that gives me satisfaction in all its victories and defeats. Work is still (very) tough, but I am grateful for the many character-building opportunities I have been given. And all this, is priceless too.

It is ok to give up, you know? We are too hard on ourselves. A wise man told me that the usual “I must prove myself” pressure should no longer be that urgent at my age of 42. Moral of the story, things do get exponentially better. Allow yourself to be surprised. And once you’ve scaled a mountain, no one can take that away from you.

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Show Me The Money

Charity auction on https://shop.stylexstyle.com/sxsturns4 from 6-30 Oct. All proceeds go to the charity of each celeb’s choice. I pledge my portrait to http://www.scwo.org.sg/index.php/star-shelter the only secular crisis centre for abused women and children.

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Peace and War.

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This picture was snapped 9 years ago summer school in Salamanca. The importance of education, Spanish, making friends from all over the globe and annoying authorities (see Professor’s face). Te echo de menos mis amigas. Even more so now when the adult working world I am in is rather disappointing. Nothing in school prepared me for the. type. of. people. I. face. in. the. course. of. work. Maybe on top of Maths and Science, we should make Philosophy a mandatory course of study. And everyone should learn 2 or more foreign languages. People should have a chance to study or live or work overseas for a considerable period of time in our life. It should be drilled into our brain that being kind is more important than being wealthy. And extending an olive branch is more gracious than screaming at each other. Everyone should read War and Peace. I am not any better. I don’t like myself either when I am in Singapore. That is the truth. I should not blame the city. I should ask myself why instead. My team looks up to me. They watch my every step and so I have to do the right thing. A good leader has to be a bigger person and look at the forest instead of focusing on a tree. So I can’t get mad. I can’t get even either. I just have to pray that each email I read will not break my morale further. Sometimes a good bottle of red wine help. Sometimes looking up from my laptop at the seaview in front of me helps. Sometimes taking a long hot shower helps. Whatever works. 

I hope WordPress auto deletes post like this after 24hrs like Snapchat. Everyone always feels much better after 24hrs.

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I Am No Boss.

 

By virtue of International Women’s Day, we have celebrated our fair share of female bosses and the empowerment of women in the month of March. I was approached by several marketing managers to front their campaigns as a woman in power, or #GirlBoss, as they called it. I was flattered, but turned them all down, politely and humbly. The reason is simple: I am not a boss. I work for an organization. I work for my boss. My boss (Ms Jessie Sng, Head of Women, Men, and Parenting) is the boss you should look out for instead. And she works for her boss. And her boss is the CEO of Mediacorp. You get the gist.

In a sea of inspiring women, some of whom I am in absolute awe of, I am a nobody. Rather, I’ve been working towards my goal of becoming someone respectable like them one day. But I am nowhere near yet, and it is too premature to pat myself on the back over a few minor successes.

However, as with all constructive online publications, I would like to share three things I do care about as the Head of styleXstyle. And if there is anything here that resonates with you, I will be heartened.

1. PROFITABILITY

It sounds romantic to pursue one’s passion and to become the “masters of our own destiny”. However, a business cannot lose money for too long. It is as simple as ABC. How else can I pay my  staff who slog day and night with me? How do I pay myself? How do I pay for office rental, electricity, overheads, and all other running costs and burn-rate? I am not a well-to-do #girlboss working from the comfort of my balcony, writing about the things I love, with or without a viable business plan. That’s an ideal lifestyle even I dream about from time to time. Alas, it takes good contribution margined- P&Ls to realize all the fabulous plans you have for yourselves, and your society. You want to be able to give back. Not indulge.

2. EMPOWERMENT AND GROWTH

The watchword: succession planning. I want to build a business that will last even after I am gone. And the only way to achieve that is to groom and nurture right-hand men who will and who must eventually take over the reign. However, it is easier said than done. Like most mediocre leaders, I tend to micro-manage and breathe down my staff’s neck. Nothing seems to be good enough for me. I am tough and have often made unpopular decisions. In recent months, however, I have learnt to “hire well, manage little”. Empowerment is a win-win. And watching your colleagues grow and flourish is a beautiful experience.

3. PLAY

There were times when I have dreaded going to work. It was so bad, I would lay in bed depressed on Sunday nights, wallowing in self-pity and praying for strength to persevere. The office environment was hostile then, and there was a lack of effective communication. There was just too much gossiping, and colleagues did not see eye-to-eye. It does not take rocket science to gather it must have been awful for everyone. As a leader, I bear full responsibility for such outcomes. And I have come to realize that work will always have its rough times. However, it does not need to be miserable.  It can be challenging AND flexible. It can be serious, with sudden bursts of infectious laughter. A fun, free and constructive atmosphere, where work and play comes hand-in-hand will yield better results, or any results, for that matter. And now, I jump out of bed to start each day, because I know I am on my way to play.

 

There you go. Pursue your passion and live your life. And do it with kindness, generosity, and good vibes. You will be fine.

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Find Your Steel

When I was 19, a fortune-teller told me I would be a businessman when I grew old. I laughed in his face and replied “that’s why I never believed in fortune-telling you are hilarious. I only want to be an artiste. Always and forever.” If you are reading this uncle please know that I am sorry. Your prediction was spot on.


  

One more year to go. Enjoying the ride so much I do not want this to end. 21 years of service including my stint overseas. My friends did warn me that I would get too emotionally attached to places. Well I thought: “what you call chaos I call opportunity”–no need to search any further cos I found me. #LastYearToKickSomeAss #回忆总是美

VIBES cafe #styleXstyle opening soon at 1 Stars Avenue #03-01 Media Gallery. See you there.

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Fight.

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 Photo credit : Jeff Chang for M Lifestyle Magazine.

(Get a copy of December issue now)

It is fine to be underestimated and misunderstood. Emerge to their surprise.

I will persevere. Swiftly, relentlessly and without compromise.

It is indeed lonely at the top.

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styleXstyle.com turns 2

styleXstyle is a business, not a personal blog. I have to make tough, unpopular decisions all the time. If it’s all self-indulgent fun and games, then I don’t need to be here do I ?

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