When Passion Isn’t Practical

Reblogging this post to respond to today’s prompt, “Passionate” 

People, Places, and Perspectives.

It’s great to have passion. Fiery ideas that change the world often start burning in someone’s belly. Passion turns hard work into fun and challenges into adrenaline-fueled adventures. When you have passion it suddenly becomes easy to do the right thing and to fight. Character becomes effortless.

But what do you do when the thing that makes you tick and the thing that gives you your paycheck are no longer one and the same?

It takes uncomfortable effort and difficulty to force fit a square peg into a round hole and then keep it there. But when the right fit is still elusive life as it is goes on, so that has to be done.

You’re square. Your heart does not beat for the round hole. Your angular match has yet to be found.

This is when you summon your character in order to deliver in the midst of…

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When Passion Isn’t Practical

It’s great to have passion. Fiery ideas that change the world often start burning in someone’s belly. Passion turns hard work into fun and challenges into adrenaline-fueled adventures. When you have passion it suddenly becomes easy to do the right thing and to fight. Character becomes effortless.

But what do you do when the thing that makes you tick and the thing that gives you your paycheck are no longer one and the same?

It takes uncomfortable effort and difficulty to force fit a square peg into a round hole and then keep it there. But when the right fit is still elusive life as it is goes on, so that has to be done.

You’re square. Your heart does not beat for the round hole. Your angular match has yet to be found.

This is when you summon your character in order to deliver in the midst of drudgery. You have responsibilities to discharge and you need to restrain your free spirit no matter how it squirms and struggles.

You may not do any life changing things for now. Everything is grey and mundane. You endure by the moment so everything is dealt with in bite-sized bearables.

Be still, oh heart. When the right time comes, the fuel lying dormant inside you will be free to catch fire and burn forevermore.

For now, it is you and what you are made of, against the cold sleepy winter and rain.

Swimming with Giants

At my parents’ house, there is a pond where tiny fishes barely the length of my thumbs happily co-exist with bulky koi fatter than my arms. 

The tiny ones look carefree while their gigantic pondmates seem unperturbed. 

And therein lies the allusion to yet another paradox. That it is actually, albeit counterintuitively more pleasant to swim among giants than those smaller than you.

True giants invoke feelings of awe and inspiration – but instead of making you feel small they make you feel like you want to and that you can get to their stature if you would put in the giant-sized beliefs and effort that they do. They do not belittle anything or anyone because it is just not in their DNA to dabble in smallness! They do not respond to big dreams with a joke, they respond with excitement because they have been there and know that dreams are worth chasing even if you have to die trying. Dreams are only a joke to those who do not believe in their own. 

They do not respond to ideas with sarcasm – subtle or overt – because people who believe in themselves always believe in others. The way they see you is simply a reflection of how they see themselves. 

When you reflect on a mistake with a giant, the giant will remark on the lessons you have gained and get excited about your way forward. The dwarf will at best shrug or at worst slap a label on what you did and remind you not to do it again, probably thinking that they are being helpful or maybe because they were not even thinking at all. 

So I would rather spend my time in the company of giants. Dwarfed in stature, but have my limits stretched to the point of growth. 

I would rather feel humbled and inspired by greatness, than feel insulted and frustrated by smallness. Because while successful people find joy in encouraging and challenging others to pursue their dreams, small minded people crave the comfort of hanging out with the ones who want to stay the same. That is why when you want change you would find people who would crack jokes or cast doubts.

Shrug off the smallness, and look for some Giants to look up to and to look up with. Because here’s the paradox: true Giants inspire greatness and growth in those who dare to dream. They may look intimidating from afar but their spirits are kind and nurturing. Dwarfs look humble but are in fact too proud to fail. They will not bother to see beyond their eye level because it is just too uncomfortable and unfamiliar – so if you find yourself feeling small, get away from dwarfs for they embrace you only if you stay the same. 

Ooh La La

So if I am given unlimited funds to plan one day of luxuries, what would I do? Without question, the first thing I would do is to book first class return air tickets for my trip to New York in November next year for the New York City Marathon (if it is possible to book air tickets so much in advance). Since I am going to travel half the world to have a lazy, relaxing holiday…not! I can’t imagine flying economy, arriving in a state of jet lag, and then run a crowded full marathon in the cold just two days later. A flight in the first class cabin would be a dream come true. And next, since hotel rooms are so expensive in the peak tourism season, I would also use the funds to book 14 nights in a luxury hotel in New York City so that I have ample time for sightseeing after the marathon is over.

I would also make some investments — maybe get a property that would hopefully be a diligent cash cow for me in the long term. And then buy a nice little island that I can maybe someday retire to, and get a nifty hybrid car that would save fuel and be kinder to the environment in the long run.

So my first purchases are made with the long-term future in mind. Now that I have taken care of the practical things, I can move on to splurge on whatever I fancy. I would buy gifts for my friends and loved ones, get some Louis Vuitton, Prada, Celine, Birkin and Chanel bags for myself, lots of chocolates, clothes, running gear, winter clothing, and ah maybe some insurance policies for my loved ones (there goes the practical side again), and some blue chip stocks.

Looks like my long-term thinking does come into play quite a lot. This is an interesting prompt that gets me thinking about money–and it’s good to remember that money can be a friend or foe depending on how we manage it. Mindless splurging might just lead to slavery to materialism and temporary satisfaction. On the other hand, money can be the key to lifelong freedom if invested wisely.



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!


The Shape of Things to Come

Badge by Doobster @ Mindful Digressions

Badge by Doobster @ Mindful Digressions

Here I am today
In my own little pad
And computer
Typing away
Making my living doing what I love.

So this is my shape today
A shape full of hope
Of some dreams that have come to pass
So this is why I believe
To a good extent we can
See the shape of things to come
Envision, predict, foresee
Draw the blueprint
With the power of our dreams
And the hard work that follows the dreams
Egged on by the heart’s desires
The reasons to jump out of bed every morning
Knowing that every single day
The future is taking shape.

If the present is like clay
Take it, mould it, shape it well
Because every day
Every thing we do
Goes into the shape of things to come.

I want mine to be all pretty and lovely
Jewel encrusted, teeming with life and laughter
Solid like a century-old oak tree
Yet fluid like water
Full of freedom like leaves that dance all they like in the wind
And fall to the ground
Only when their service to nature
Is done.

This post is part of SoCS:

Up Close and Uncommon: Engineer Turned Origami Florist Unfolds His Journey

Thanks to Jerry and his origami florist start up, roses are now forever.

I’ve always wanted to write about the inspiring people I am blessed to have in my life — specifically the ones who defy the ordinariness of being human to chase after dreams that make life extraordinary. So when my friend Jerry gave me one of his origami roses as a birthday present recently, the idea of featuring his experience starting his own origami florist, Epicure Online, on my blog dawned on me. I am especially amazed that Jerry is now even using his origami skills to teach Math to some autistic children. Talk about making money and making a difference with our hobbies!

Me: So, tell us how it happened, this shift from semiconductor engineering at one of the world’s largest companies, to paper art start up.

J: When I first left  engineering I wasn’t planning to start a paper art start up. It was more like I was tired and felt that I was going through the mundane. I felt that there had to be more to life than going through the typical routine. So I decided I wasn’t getting any younger and decide to take a plunge and try something on my own.

How did I start an origami florist? Well that was by chance. I was always a fan of origami. Always loved folding. It’s something I believe everyone can do. It’s an art that is systematical. If I follow the crease lines correctly I will get the desired pattern. The hard part is to decipher the crease lines.

So one Christmas I decided to give a loved one something special. A handmade bouquet of 24 roses. She was quite impressed with it and that started the whole idea of an origami florist. We believe that there would be many people out there that would like to have something special and personal to make important occasions more memorable.

One of Epicure Online's latest bouquet designs.

One of Epicure Online’s latest bouquet designs.

Me: What’s the best thing about leaving your steady job for something as different and uncertain as origami?

 J: I gradually develop a sense of tolerance for uncertainty. To a certain extent I am a control freak. I don’t really handle unforeseen circumstances well. Coming out on my own in more ways than one has humbled me to accept my limitations. I learned that while disappointments are part of life, you can not let that be the defining moment of your life. I learned to redefine my core believes and strengthen my faith. For me that is the most important learning so far.

Origami roses with inscriptions for special occasions.

Origami roses with inscriptions for special occasions.

Me: What’s the worst, or most difficult thing?

J: Ironically the hardest thing for me right now to deal with is also the uncertainty. While it gives me a new perspective in life. There is always the lingering question of “What if ?”.Peer pressure compounds this effect. While I understand that I am taking a minor step back to launch myself further it’s always test of will when people close to you ask if you are sane. That’s where your belief system comes in.

Me: What drives you to do what you do?

J: Time really goes by quickly if we don’t number our days. When I look at it there is only a limited time frame in life where we get to do the things we want in life. I believe there is a season for everything. For example, for me to take the risk to come out on my own to pursue  my passion would not have been possible if I was younger as personally I would have not been confident enough, and if I was older I might not be able to tolerate the risk.  Knowing that there is a season for everything I remind myself that this season too will pass and I must make the most out of it. Muhammad Ali said it best: “Don’t count your days, make your days count.”


The 24-rose bouquet that started it all.

The 24-rose bouquet that started it all.

Me: If you could pick one, which piece of origami are you the proudest of? Why?

J: Easy – the first rose bouquet I made. It started all of this!

Me: Describe your journey in three words.
J: Unbelievable, Spiritual, and Exciting.

This interview is conducted as part of the Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge:

and also because of my interest in delving into the thoughts of inspiring people who are living and chasing their dreams.

The Three Fs’ That Hold Us Back

I am certain that everyone has desires, ideals, and dreams. But most would end up settling for “what I could learn to be happy with” instead of going after “what I would really love to have”. Why? Why is it that people who live their dreams are such a minority?

For the masses who are still dreaming instead of chasing and ‘doing’ their dreams, what are the things that hold them back?

I did some reflection on the human nature (as I know it), drew on the common sentiments and laments I have heard throughout my life, and concluded that these are probably the three main factors holding us back from doing what we really want to do.

1. Finances
Money – it can never be a neutral or easy topic. We are cautioned not to love money and yet it is money that makes the world go round. If we do not have a healthy relationship with money, we will end up enslaved and entrapped — in the rat race, or simply the endless marathon to keep making ends meet. Tiring.

If we do not control our finances, they will end up controlling our lives, dictating and limiting our choices. I always believe that proper money management–saving, spending below our means, and investing wisely–is a major key to a life of freedom, where one has the financial liberty to do what they really love instead of being stuck in a job just to make ends meet.

I know of people who are enjoying early retirement, pursuing their passion just because all through their lives they have been prudent financially.

2. Fear
This comes in many forms. From my observation, people hold back from running with their dreams because they fear:

– what might go wrong
– what other people would think
– what difficulties may lie ahead, and along with these the sacrifices they would have to make
– what they may not know and discover that they are not competent enough at

These are all the negative “what ifs” and they probably stem from a lack of confidence and may I suggest, a lack of humility that may render the idea of being a novice all over again unappealing. When it comes to fear, I think the best way to cope is to just calculate the risks the best we can, do whatever homework that is necessary… And then just take the plunge by faith and be prepared for the ride ahead.

3. Family
Please don’t get me wrong–this is not about family bashing. Our loved ones care about us and sometimes with their concern and opinion of what they think is best, they unwittingly clip our wings.

So we get discouraged because lacking moral and emotional support does make change a lot harder than it already is.

Or in other instances it could be family obligations holding us back from attempting something new and risky.

I guess if I were to face family as an obstacle, the best approach would be to communicate openly, and if there are obligations involved then some adjustments and compromise may be required. For example, I may have to start by taking smaller steps than I would have liked to.

What do you think of these three factors holding many of us back from pursuing our hearts’ desires, and what would your coping strategies be?