Impossible…Really?

I don’t remember exactly when I started to believe that dreams do, and can come true. I think when I was around 20 I thought that there would be more to life than just growing into adulthood, finishing school, getting a decent job, gaining financial independence, getting married, having children, slogging to put them through school, watching them grow up and repeat what I did, and in the end…grow old and die.

Then, in my final year in university, I became the editor for the Students’ Council Women’s Affairs Committee magazine. My friends and I somehow decided to interview our Media Studies lecturer, and that interview confirmed that what I had thought about life actually made sense. I guess when you were young and about to start out, it helped to discover that someone more experienced and successful shared the same beliefs. And what more, this was someone who at the age of 20 left her home country for Paris with just USD 7 in her pocket – so that she could pursue her dream of becoming a writer! Joanna is still writing now, with more books getting published. (You may check out her website here). I hope she knows how many young people she has inspired, and how many dreams are being realized because she set an amazing example.

So I guess that was one key encounter that fueled the idealism in me. And the romance, too. Dreams do come true. Indeed. But we must know what choices to make, and there will certainly be some things to give up along the way. So, armed with that belief, and DESPITE self-doubt and fears, I forged ahead and sought for the thing that would make my heart sing. It took me five years, and after some fine tuning, trials and errors, I found my path, and I have been walking it till today.

And I have discovered that the more things I try, the more hits and misses I experience, the bolder I become! There’s nothing personal in failures and rejections, they are just lessons and experiences to embrace! Like how I submitted a story on women’s rights and it did not get published, and how I took part in the Miss Malaysia/World beauty pageant one year and got so disappointed when I only made it to the Top 9. And then how I was cheered up when my agent called and told me they wanted to send me to Germany for another beauty contest – not as prestigious as Miss World but still an international pageant with 35 countries participating! And then…only to have my leave application rejected by my then employer, and realize that I wouldn’t give up my teaching job for that chance which some people told me was a ‘once in a lifetime’ thing.

And how I got a call for interview with the President of a renowned local institution, and then turned it down because I had, at that time, just resigned from another job to become a freelance copywriter, having decided that I would pursue what I really liked to do, instead of forcing myself to build a career the conventional way – no matter how glamorous the opportunity sounded.

So here I am today, doing the things that make my heart sing. I have just kick started another adventure …so I will be posting updates on that one. Can’t wait!

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/ready-set-done-6/

The Five Cs: How is Success Defined?

Another old post, from 2007. This was written after my friends jokingly teased me about the kind of guy I should go for – someone who has all the “5C’s” and therefore fits society’s shallow definition of success. This is a prevalent joke in Malaysia and Singapore about materialism – that in order to be deemed “successful” one must have all five Cs’ – career, car, credit card, condominium, and cash. So I wrote a counter perspective, a Christian perspective, albeit one I am sure anyone can relate to, Christian or not.

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1. Career or Christ?

Career – you love what you do (or you may not), you are good at it, it gives you status and money, albeit often at a price. You have to work at keeping it, you need to please your bosses and customers, and for many of us our careers dictate our lives and the major decisions that we make.

Christ promises:

Freedom – free to be all you can be according to His blueprint for your life, free because you seek to please only Him, free because no matter where you go you know it is Jesus you are following therefore ultimately you can never go wrong.

2.Condominium or confidence?

Condominium – nice, classy unit in a nice, classy skyscraper you make your abode.

But you part with a huge chunk of your earnings per month to pay for it (unless you own the developing company or the banks that finance these guys) and there is still no guarantee that your condo would be there forever! (Remember Highland Towers, anyone? And have you bought a leasehold or freehold property?)

Confidence in Christ promises:

Certainty – knowing that there are things that belong to you that will not pass away. Like the dwelling that He has gone to prepare for you in heaven, and the eternal investment bank where your treasures will neither depreciate nor perish.

3. Cash or contentment?

Cash – who would say ‘no’ to this one? It lets you buy that Tag Heuer timepiece without interest-laden monthly installments, it can give you a comfortable retirement. Or at least, if you do not like your nose, with some cash you can still get that fixed (hopefully).

But what if the bank suddenly gets into trouble? Or no thanks to inflation, by the time you’re sixty the money you have is still not quite enough to take you to your dream destinations because AirAsia does not fly there.

Contentment with godliness promises:

Joy – the capacity to enjoy everything life has to offer regardless of circumstances, and how your nose looks. When you lack, you thank God because you know it helps you to appreciate abundance when it comes (and you know it will come because of the God in whom you trust). You are happy visiting relatives in Ulu Selangor although you really wanted to travel to the United States – because you know that ultimately, what matters most is not where you spend your vacations, but where you spend eternity.

4. A flashy car or compassion?

Car – guys, if you pull up the driveway of your date’s home in a gleaming Jaguar, I can almost guarantee that her heart will skip a beat (but I cannot guarantee that she will fall in love with you) and her dad would probably look up from his newspaper to peer at you from behind his glasses.

A fancy car takes you from Point A to Point B very comfortably and stylishly, and the sound system is so good that you forget you’re sharing the road with others. But it also contributes to mountain-high debts (for most people, at least), traffic jams and pollution.

Compassion – it has the power to take you into people’s lives where you really make a difference.

It took a little Macedonian lady to the dirty streets of Calcutta (now Kolkata). It took a princess from the gilded confines of Kensington Palace into the company of landmine victims in war-torn countries. It has taken countless missionaries from privileged countries to reach out to the poor and needy in the Third World.

And ultimately, it took Jesus, the Son of God to Calvary to die for our sins.

5. Credit card or character?

Credit card – something which, I am sure, most of us flash more often than our National Registration Identification Card (I mean the IC). It’s nice to have – just one swipe and you have that Prada bag hanging on your arm. Hey, let’s worry about the bill later because that’s exactly when it’s coming – later.

And the best thing is, you can pay the bill even later than later, that is, if you do not mind paying the interest as well. If the amount you end up owing becomes a little bit too high, just refinance. You might even get a ‘free gift’ from the nice bank.

Life is great – till you have collected seven free mugs from refinancing, and are still closer to bankruptcy than becoming debt-free!

Character promises:

Strength – the strength to choose wisdom over compulsion so that you do not do something with long-term consequences which you will regret. It develops self-confidence because you know that you can trust yourself not to get into trouble in the face of temptations. And you do not give up in the face of discouragement.

And ultimately, it leads you to true success because a person with character will choose to walk in the Spirit even when it is much easier and more pleasurable to choose the works of the flesh.

So, which set of Five C’s do you think you want? Jesus says that if we choose the Godly C’s we will come to have the rest of the C’s as well.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (NKJV, Thomas Nelson).

A super-duper offer – that’s simply too good to resist.

Embracing Contentment…For Once

Contentment is like a magnifying glass that spots only the good in people and situations. It is so powerful that it causes a ripple effect of happiness and sets the stage for pleasant surprises because when you are content, you don’t go around expecting too much. Rather, contented people are able to freely give and freely receive.

But is contentment really about not complaining about having no shoes till we see someone without legs? Such a comparison renders our contentment subject to other people’s misery, and it can also promote discontent when applied against another person’s better fortune. So let contentment be a sovereign state in which our heart dwells, let it be subject only to our free decision to be contented or discontented. Let contentment be a seed that we choose to sow – and from that seed, will come the fruits of joy, thankfulness, and freedom.

Why Me?

This is a very old piece I wrote 7, 8 years ago after visiting a soup kitchen and then joining the other volunteers to hit the streets and distribute food packets to the homeless people. That experience caused me to ponder how people (including myself) most commonly ask “Why me?” when undesirable things happen to them, but not so much when they get the better end of the deal in life. So I thought a paradigm shift might do myself good, and I should start asking “Why me?” when good things happen instead.

This post has been pre-scheduled. But looks like I will be having wifi connection quite regularly during my trip! 🙂

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It was raining heavily the other night. I was pleased because that meant a cool night at home, curled up under cosy comforters with a good book and music running from my computer till my eyelids decided it was time to call it a day. Concrete walls filtered the roar of the thunder and rain, making it sound like a distant calamity from which I was sheltered so well, cocooned in the haven called home.

Why me?

The nasi lemak (rice cooked with coconut milk served with hot, spicy, and sweet sauce, anchovies, hard-boiled egg, and cucumber) seller at the street corner outside had to be content with his makeshift stall, and at times the wind threatened to blow the flimsy plastic roof off. He had not anticipated the rain and storm and was therefore clad only in a thin T-shirt and pants. It must have been pretty cold out there for him.

And what about the homeless mentally-challenged woman I used to see wandering around the suburb where I live? Where would she be seeking shelter?

Down in the heart of Georgetown, the elderly trisha riders would be sleeping in their vehicles as for many of them, that was what they called their homes. They probably had to find some spot where the wind would not feel so harsh. What about those suffering from rheumatism, surely the chill and moisture in the air would aggravate their pain?

Why them, and not me?

I was having dinner the other day with my cousin. My aunt had prepared a sumptuous meal for us, and the portions were so big I found myself thinking of whom I should invite over. There were huge assam (tamarind) prawns, a baked eggplant to be savoured with authentic kampong-style sambal belacan (a hot and spicy dip made by pounding or blending chillis, tamarind juice, sugar, salt, and shrimp paste), cuttlefish and hard-boiled eggs in hot and spicy sauce, stir-fried vegetables with a generous sprinkling of fresh tiny prawns, and a fried fresh water fish so huge, it had to be cut in two.

We did not manage to invite anyone over, and had such leftovers I decided to bring a lunchbox to work the next day. My generous uncle had also sent a 5 kg packet of rice over from his rice mill.


Why me?

One woman from the drought-stricken Hebei province in China wrote that the weather decided where from or how their next meal was going to come. More often than not, they reaped less than what they had sown.

Closer to home, under-privileged families from the squatter areas downtown make do with simple meals of mostly vegetables as meat would be too expensive. Their rice has to be rationed carefully to make it last as long as possible. One teenage girl shared that she only has two meals a day – there is no breakfast for her as she is not attending school, her siblings eat at school under the food subsidy program for the poor.

In a world full of extremes, why do I keep finding myself on the better side when we are all basically the same?

I shake my head and feel pangs of emotions at the suffering of others. But the person at the other end of the spectrum of life could have well been me.

I do not know why God has chosen to shower such grace, mercy and favour on me. One day I will get to thank Him face to face, and I will probably ask Him why.

In the meantime, I hope that the next time that limping beggar with the gaping wound on his leg approaches my table at my favourite eatery, I will remember the simple fact.

That the person at the other end of the spectrum of life – could have well been me.

Into the Future

The most widely accepted wisdom is the one that espouses living in the now, appreciating our present. I subscribe to that passionately and even as I write this I am aware of the gentle sound of the fan spinning over my head, water running from the tap, and pungent wafts of durian in the air. The moment to moment bliss.

And yet living in the present does not mean careless abandonment, or a ‘que, sera sera’ attitude. Being fully present in the moment, to me, also means that I cherish the present so much, I honor this gift by making choices that I would, say in a year’s time, look back and be glad about.

I embrace the present, knowing that it is powerful because what I do in it determines what I would be and have in the future.

I will make the right choices now because one day I will look back and be glad that I did. I will…

1. Exercise and take care of my health
2. Choose my words
3. Spend and invest my money wisely
4. Reach out and invest in people that matter
5. Run after my dreams with abandonment and ask for the right things from the right people

I don’t see how I can one day look back and not be glad that I did all this 😊

Six Questions to Ask Ourselves Everyday, According to Brendon Burchard

Having seen Brendon Burchard’s Facebook ads, I clicked on the link and the positive comments on his training video led me to click the Play button. I wasn’t disappointed! I didn’t take notes so here from memory, in my own words, are the 6 questions he says we should be asking ourselves a few times a day if we want to “live, love and matter”.

1. Am I rested and well hydrated? (Physical)

2. What is my mission today? (Productivity)

3. What is the level of my presence, in terms of physical presence and emotional vibrancy with whatever I am doing? (Presence)

4. Am I living my truth today? (Psychological)

5. Am I demonstrating bold enthusiasm? (Persuasion)

6. How can I serve greatly? (Purpose)

So far I have done pretty well with question 1 – remembering to get sufficient sleep and drink more water than I usually do. Will be working on the rest for sure, and his video is definitely worth watching more than just once.

The June Post: Life is short, so make it sweet

I woke up to a beautiful morning here in Penang, Malaysia – sunshine streaming through my window, birds chirping and water running in the fish pond – and realized, hey it’s already June!

I did a quick mental review of my 2014 thus far and noted that some of the things I wrote down in my prayer journal on New Year’s Eve are already coming true. Some have come true.

I’ve always believed there is power in writing things down. Clarity is so important – I am not an expert on how the mind works but I think when we make some things clear and specific to ourselves an imprint is made on our subconscious that will somehow steer us towards the right decisions and away from the wrong ones. Maybe that’s how we our instincts come about.

My guiding mantra for this year which I am so conscious of and take so seriously, is that I am where I am today because of the choices I made in the past. Some choices I applaud myself for and some I regret – so the biggest motivation and drive this year is to be mindful that what I do today will lead to where I will be tomorrow. This would be the advice I tell my younger self too if I could travel back in time.

So clarity and making conscious choices have made out pretty well for me so far. I decided to cut out people and habits that were toxic to me and made no apologies for that.

I feel purposeful, and there’s always this sense of urgency that comes from the gratitude of knowing that each day brings with it the opportunity to make the right choices to get to where I want to be. This way I am fully engaged in the present, even as I take steps that will lead to the future I want.

Carpe diem! Life is short so we’d better make it sweet.