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.

From How I Feel to Who I Am: A Paradigm Shift

According to my MBTI profile, I am an INFP. And the problem is I scored 80 on the F (for feeler) and only 20 on the T (for thinker). So I used to joke that I didn’t use my head much. 

Joke aside, Myers-Briggs was spot on about me. I am just wired to be driven by emotions, even in school some friends observed that my grades seemed to fluctuate according to my mood! 

But over the years, as my responsibilities in life grew and my aspirations grew along, the yo-yo started to get tiring. My emotions were great when they swinged towards the positive: I had signed up for law school, a marathon and fund raising, beauty pageant, volunteer work, written heartfelt letters, quit a job to pursue my dream career, cooked for my grandma when I felt great about myself and that there was nothing that could stop me. (Right now I am feeling pretty jolly and am contemplating returning to law school, but oops, that’s another subject altogether). 

But when they took a nose dive for whatever reason or trigger – an argument with a loved one, or some disappointment – I got hit pretty hard – words just wouldn’t flow when I had to write, I would want to hide at home and not face the world when there were people I had to meet, and there would be a sense of frustration standing like a wall between me and all that I wanted to do and be, the feeling that “if I could just get over this sadness and heaviness, then my heart would be light again and I could chase after life again.” It was frustrating, exasperating, and depressing – until I got out of it and snap back into my happy self. It felt like a vicious cycle I had little control over – not serious enough to cause a dysfunction, but bad enough to cause a lot of frustration and opportunities. 

Until I finally got a revelation this morning. 

(To be continued) 

Heritage Hotel Stay at 23 Love Lane for Mother’s Day – My First Post on this Blog

23 Love Lane Hotel Penang

The hotel courtyard proves a tranquil spot despite the building itself being right smack in the middle of Georgetown City.

When I decided to resume blogging (and try to be consistent this time around), I was rather excited that a blogworthy event would be coming up – my family’s short getaway to this highly acclaimed 5-star heritage hotel at the Penang Heritage area – a treat from me, my brother and sister-in-law to mom to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Just like mom, I love mini getaways even if it’s just to our very own backyard! Around 10.30 am last Saturday, I received a surprise call from the hotel staff telling me that my room was ready for check-in. It turned out that this pleasant gesture was the first of more to come – like offering to make me a cup of coffee when I was sitting at the hall reading and the simple nods and smiles of acknowledgement from the hotel staff.


No problem dozing off on a strange bed when it is as plush as this one

So I went to the hotel and took a nap on the plush bed in that airy high-ceilinged room, typical of any colonial era building before my parents and sister arrived. I even had time to explore the nearby heritage area briefly on my own when I got hungry and had to go out to look for my lunch because the hotel’s Steak Frites restaurant serves only, well, steak. Shortly after they did, I happily bagged the Crabtree and Evelyn lotion and L’occitane toiletries before leaving to let my parents enjoy the stay on their own, casually asking mom to request another set from the hotel.

23 love lane hotel c

The afternoon tea – an experience enhanced by the warm hospitality of the hotel staff

The hotel serves complimentary afternoon tea to their guests at 4.30 pm everyday, and dad sent me photos of what they had over Whatsapp – which appeared to be a modest and yet pleasant mix of local and western fare.

But the best part of this entire getaway was when I received Whatsapp messages from my mom, and then dad – saying ‘thank you’ for booking the stay for them. It was Mother’s Day, and for all my parents had done for me and my siblings, the least we could do for them in return was to come up with simple gestures like this to put a smile on their faces. Like typical parents they complained that the room rate was too high, but it was still apparent that they enjoyed themselves. And this, to me, is the whole point of it all – and the mini milestone worthy of a blog post.



Life sans Facebook

I logged out of Facebook and stayed out for a month. During that time, I discovered that I had more mental clarity, focus, and could actually get more things done.  I enjoyed that so much that I went one step further to deactivate my Facebook account – though I must admit I am curious as to how that will affect the views on this blog because I was using the Publicize feature, connecting my blog to my Facebook account. But I will see.

So here’s a summary of how I found life without Facebook:

1. I realized I benefited from the absence of all the ‘noise’ on Facebook

Social media is like a noisy market, full of people peddling all kinds of things — their opinions, their favourite songs and movies, quotes, their rants, photos, achievements – from what they cooked for dinner to where they went for vacation. I did all those things too when I was using Facebook actively. Scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed felt like walking down the street where there were so many things on display, and I made many stops to take a look at them without getting much takeaway in the end.

2.  I felt more peace and freedom to just be, instead of feeling pressured to keep doing and achieving

On a public forum we will tend to only disclose the positive side of our lives, at the majority of the time at least. It’s easy to have our minds be influenced by that illusion of perfection and before we know it we start to feel discontented with what we have. On Facebook, everyone’s life is not only awesome, but picture perfect.

3. I don’t miss out on my regular dose of helpful and necessary information

Brendon Burchard, for example, maybe among the most followed public figures on Facebook, but I am able to stay updated with his latest videos and books by subscribing to his email newsletters. I used to read Forbes articles via Facebook, but what’s so difficult about typing http://www.forbes.com on my browser?

4. I felt more present in my daily life and work

Aside from getting more things done at work, I also became more motivated to nurture real-life connections, especially at work, where I spend most of my time. Before going off Facebook, the sense of belonging (whether false or real) I had from chatting, posting updates, and exchanging comments online, even if they were with people I hardly met up with caused me to be lazy and complacent to the extent that I would eat lunch at my desk. I thought it was because I wanted to finish my work faster to go home earlier, but looking back, the real reason was probably that I had consumed a lot of my social energy online till I didn’t have much left to be present with people in the flesh. I have since started to engage more with the people at work – and it has certainly been enriching!

So after my first Facebook post in one month, I suddenly felt my mind getting cluttered with noise again. And somehow online bantering just did not feel so meaningful anymore. I dropped a private message with my phone number for a  former university classmate whom I had not seen in many years since we mentioned possibly meeting up, and another one for a friend who is organizing an event I am interested to attend. And then I deactivated my account.

Can you feel the zen? 😀

The Beauty of an Empty Hard Disk

I am writing this on an old yet ‘new’ laptop–thanks to dad who helped me get my 6-year-old (gasp it’s been 6 years since I bought this Compaq laptop as a freelance copywriter!) repaired. Turned out that the hard disk had crashed so he got it replaced with a new 500-GB Western Digital storage,  and my old data remains in the previous one, well beyond my access without professional help.

So this is rather symbolic. My life over the last six years has been quite a ride–ups and downs, so many changes along the way, walking and refining the path I  had discovered, looking forward all the way though there had been some station of regret I kept looking back at. But it’s all good, the past is over (and locked up in that konked out HDD), the present is teeming with life, and every time some zealous fellow Christian comes and talks to me about how they believe Jesus is coming back again soon and that we will all be taken up to Heaven with Him, my answer is still: “But I am still having fun here!”

There are thousands of songs in that old drive, countless photos, journal entries where I wrote down my thoughts, experiences, angst, and everything, articles I kept for “future” references, my portfolio as a freelance copywriter, one-page Word documents where I typed down random ideas for “future” action…and many more. When dad walked through the door and announced “your old data could not be backed up because the hard disk has crashed”, I was slightly aghast but when I found out that I still had the option of getting everything retrieved by the experts the first thought I had was, “Well I may not need to do that after all.”

So tonight I start anew with an empty hard disk–I guess spring cleaning always feels good–without the weight of accumulated information. The old hard disk is sitting on my desk, looking kind of antiquated.

Like the past. It will be there for retrieval if I need to consult any wisdom of old, but for now, it is not going to slow down my ‘new’ and fast laptop.



Foray into Art Collection?

Last night I bought this piece of painting which I know close to nothing about. One that I am still trying to figure out.

I had been getting a little impatient with the plain walls at my dining and living halls so when I saw this hanging by a roadside stall at the touristy Batu Feringghi Night Market I decided to haggle for it. I am no art aficionado so I didn’t know what value to place on it but in the end MYR 120 (about USD 40) felt reasonable. It required no framing so I could have it hung and displayed right away.

I just realized there was no artist signature. All I know from the foreign worker manning the stall was that it came from Cambodia. I do not know what sort of paint was used, and the material it was painted on (definitely not canvas, though).

But it looks good to me. And it evokes a sense of relaxation in what seemed a rather grand setting — perhaps a cafe in an old, refurbished palatial mansion. There’s also an aura of mystery…this place seems to be out of bounds to the crowd depicted at the top portion of the painting. There also seems to be a suggestion of a contrast between the upper and middle class, the haves and have nots.

But I am still trying to make sense of the colourful ground, and the strokes of yellow which seem like rays of light. And the straight white-coloured line that started from the deck where the tables and chairs are placed. Viewed from a distance there is a three-dimensional effect to the painting.

I spent about 20 minutes looking at it after bringing it home, trying to make sense of it. Perhaps this could be the start of an interest in art.

Meanwhile if anyone could enlighten me as to what this painting is about that would be great.

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.


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.

Idealism vs. naivete (in my humble opinion)

How does one draw the line between idealism and naivete? Idealism is probably holding on to certain principles fully aware of their place in the real world. Idealism entails conscious, calculated decisions to take risks and go against the tide for the sake of asserting certain principles. Naivete is when one can only see in black and white, totally unable to navigate the grey areas in order to find a place to make their ideals work in the real world.

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.

Why I love The Royale Chulan Damansara

I thanked the friendly cab driver and was promptly welcomed by the hotel doorman who opened the car door for me. Two more doormen greeted me as I entered the The Royale Chulan Damansara (then Royale Bintang Damansara) for the first time. After returning the warmth and courtesy with smiles and ‘thank you’s’ I finally had the chance to take in my surroundings – and I was taken aback.

I had gone to the Klang Valley looking forward to attending a workshop cum brainstorming session on creating flexible work environments – and while I had expected a decent, upmarket venue I wasn’t prepared for the grandness that greeted me at the hotel.

A white and cream colour scheme with occasional strokes of navy blue worked with the lobby’s high ceiling and generous space to result in a setting that was awe inspiring and yet welcoming. The term ‘cheerful cathedral’ came to mind.

And like a royalty who was clearly in a class of their own but would still welcome you to tea anytime, the Royale Chulan Damansara lived up to its name and made anyone stepping into its understated grandeur feel…good.

So when I had to travel to the Klang Valley again this year for a dear friend’s wedding, I happily decided to stay at this beautiful hotel.

20140530-212426.jpgTired after a long day marked by a flight delay and traffic jams, walking into my white and cream colored room was a delightful relief. In the warm yellow lighting, the neutral tones and plush carpet made the entire space so warm and inviting that despite the size of the room it felt like a cocoon. I felt pampered!

20140530-212904.jpgFrom the luxurious bathroom and plush bed and pillows, to the armchair with foot rest by the window and extra touches like the fruit platter in the room, The Royale Chulan Damansara was everything one would expect of a 5-star establishment.

20140530-212614.jpgBreakfast was also a delight – standard hotel buffet fare, but generous in terms of spread and quality. The cafe was bright and airy and I had coffee served to me just because the manager noticed I was looking for it. Royal indeed!

This was definitely one of the best hotel stays I have experienced – because all that was described above was the perfect setting in which the truly meaningful took place. Having the luxurious cocoon to return to after attending Celine’s wedding, during which I had a chance to catch up with Phay Phay and see her children, and then meeting up with Monica for coffee and coming back to the hotel room with her to chat somemore! And on my last day, Sarah dropped by to join me for the buffet breakfast and our usual long chat, then we both went up to my room to nap before I checked out.

It was the simple pleasure of spending time with the important people in my life, and having the luxury to enjoy their company in elegant surroundings makes the experience even more memorable. Perhaps the next time we could plan a backpacking trip together to some remote places in the world for a different kind of bonding experience!