10 Things I Learn In 2011

It’s just a couple of days to end of 2011. Something I like to do around this time is to reflect my entire year. Maybe you have did it already, so this post will be my last one in 2011, and the 10 things I have learned this year.

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1. I didn’t set any new year resolutions

At the start of every year, people will make new year resolutions. But at the beginning of 2011, I didn’t set any. This is the first time of me doing so, with the aim of trying out something new and see how my year will turn out without any new year resolutions.

Instead, I set my own little targets, or small achievable goals for 2011 only. Then, when I achieve them, I write a few more down. And I can say I achieve most of them, and feel quite good about  it.

The reason I tried this because many people say setting new year resolutions is useless, because they doesn’t help. And sure enough, it doesn’t help. Haha. It’s mostly because we set in new year, hide it throughout the year, then reveal it again at the end of the year. Nothing changed in between.

I will continue to set my own little targets for year 2012

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2. Sharpen the saw first

I learned this from a conversation with my friend. He told me a story about this guy called David. He saw a friend who saws wood everyday. David sees that his friend only manage to saw a few wood a day, so he approaches his friend and see how he saw the wood.

When David met his friend, he sees that his friend’s saw is blunt. Then he advises his friend to stop sawing, and go and sharpen his saw first. But his friend tells him “I have no time to sharpen the saw, I need to saw wood!”

So did you catch the moral of the story? David’s friend didn’t put time to sharpen his saw, because he has to saw wood with his blunt saw. It’s kind of like an irony.

So for me in 2011, I stopped a few things I am doing to sharpen my own skills (sharpen the saw), instead of continuing to do works which are of mediocre quality.

One is my studies. I took 6 core modules in the first half of 2011, and aim to finish my entire course in 3.5 years, instead of 4 years. But i screwed up my results. Second half of the year, I decided to slow down my pace, build my subject foundations again, and took 3 core modules only. I did much better then.

This goes the same for my Toastmasters Project. Instead of rushing to give speeches every week, I tried to improve myself a little here and there, so to make my speech much more better than the previous one.

This is one good lesson for me in 2011. Like what Abraham Lincoln says, “If you give him 6 hours to saw a wood, he will use 4 hours to sharpen the saw”.

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3. Can you really do what you like? Is there something really called passion?

This is one question that gets debated a lot. I’m someone who do things I like, and also tells other people to do things they like, but people always question if this is possible. The word ‘passion’ also get thrown about. Some even says ‘passion’ doesn’t exist in this costly Singapore.

I realized how important this thing called ‘passion’ is when Steve Jobs passes on. I forgot the whole quote, but there are many things he said about doing what you want, and what you like, instead of living a someone else’s life.

He also said that if you do not know what you like, then keep on finding. You’ll find it one day.

One question you can ask is “Is there something I will do even if i’m not paid?”

Doing things not for monetary sake will give you a higher purpose than money. Sometimes, it can just be for fun, or for something more meaningful and purposeful.

You know I like to play with videos. I like to create, edit, and effects…etc. In 2011, I created quite a few videos to keep them as memories. One is for my favorite course in NTU – Cultural Intelligence, a class with awesome people from different countries.  You can watch the video here.

If you haven’t watch the cultural film, which I acted as an Indian Dad, then, you can watch it here too. I couldn’t act like a real one, but its really fun. Haha!

Another is me trying out playing violin music covers – like playing tunes of those pop songs. I listened to some incredibly beautiful music played by some, I transcribed out their notes, then played it myself. Sounds still okay, but what I love is that my music actually touches someone else (online who I doesn’t know).

You can watch the music violin cover – You Raise Me Up  here.

The latest video I did is the Christmas Message for 2011. This Christmas is meaningful to me, to be able to spend time with loved ones, and so I created this message to share with all. Spend like 2 full days to take, but it feel so good when you see people get your message and spending time with their loved ones.

You can also watch the video here.

In 2012, I will do meaningful and purposeful stuffs that will give add more energy to my life, and hopefully others too.

Talking about passion in your work? To me, that’s still possible. Just keep on finding, just like what Steve Jobs says.

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4. Achieve something by putting in time

I learn this after a talk from my NTU professor. I have blogged the whole conversation here. One of the important things I learn from him is about putting time in whatever you want to achieve.

Basically, he wants me to put more time in Math, so I can do better in my math grades. And so after his conversation, I put more time into my math. I downloaded YouTube video on Math and watch it on my way to school everyday. I study more per week for my math than I used to.

So when the results are out, I’m quite delighted that I get my math grades back to ‘pre-crisis’ period. I did better than the previous disastrous semester.

However, if you look at it , this is not a really big discovery. People become very good at games because they spend lots of time playing it. Football players become skillful because they play regularly. Hence, if you score good grades, it’s just because you study a lot.

But it’s one thing I have long forgotten with all the distractions around me. Fortunately, I remembered it now.

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5. Time is really important

I don’t know about you, but I started doing this after my grandmother passed away in 2008: I counted how many funerals I attended every year. Funerals of people who are close to me, my friends, my relatives.

I know it’s quite crazy, but I did count how many i attended. In 2009, I attended 3, 2010, there’s 4, & 2011, there’s 3. I don’t know how many I will attend in 2012, but hopefully its zero.

Furthermore, in these funerals I attended, I was puzzled by one thing. These funerals will bring together lots of people from everywhere, even friends or relatives  whom they have not met for decades. If you attended a funeral before, you will see this.

You will see old friends of the deceased, long-lost relatives whom they never seen in years. But its kind of awkward because what brought all the long-lost friends or relatives together is the passing of someone they know.

It can be heartening to see your old friends back after many years, but I just don’t feel right about it seeing them in a funeral. I rather see them during Chinese New Year celebrations or meet them any other days out for coffee.

In 2011, I have tuned my focus on spending more time with family and building stronger relationships with people around me. I try to give as much as I can and to have as much beautiful memories together as possible.

This is because I don’t really want to have regrets like “I should have done this, should have done that’ when the person is not around anymore. Instead, I would prefer to say that “I’m glad I’ve done ….”

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6. Be in control of your life as much as you can

One of the biggest highlights of 2011 is the Singapore General Election. What makes it more exciting is the power of Facebook and other online media, which caused the whole Singapore, even those secondary school kids on your Facebook friends list to be suddenly so interested in politics.

You can call that ‘election excitement’, but at least they know something more about their country than I was during their age.

Also during this election is the time when critiques are born everywhere, blaming this and that party, for this and that problems or results. I am quite a critique also, but if I want to blame, I prefer to blame things that are beyond our control.

Many blame the old government for overcrowded-ness in public transport, foreign competition, HDB prices…etc. Fair enough, these decisions of overcrowded-ness in public transport, bringing in foreign workers/talents or skyrocketing HDB prices, all lies in the policies of the government.

As I wrote in a Facebook article that time, we couldn’t really get rid of foreigners on our own (can you kick them out of your country?) and we also cannot want our HDB prices just to drop like that. For these issues, hence we hear cries from the people to ask the government to implement policies to curb those problems.

But for some other reasons, I don’t want to point the blame on the government on any other people, because I think it’s pointless.

I can tell you my grades are really average in school, but I will never say its because NTU allows a lot of foreign students into it. This is because I know i didn’t study as much and as hard as they did! Hence, the problem lies with me, so its under my control.

Then there’s another part that if employers are not employing you, then you blame the government. If the employer is discriminating against you because of sensitive issues like race, nationality, religion or sex, then you have the right to complain. But if the employer don’t employ you because he just doesn’t need your services, then what’s the point of complaining.

I see some people just want to complain and blame government or other people because of the poor decisions they made in life.

“If you blame, you become lame”

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7. Getting a wholesome and complete life in school & out of school

The beginning of 2011 is quite difficult for me, mostly because I tried to juggle many things together. I’m just so busy. I’m just rushing here and there and try to complete as much things as possible. My mind is in a mess.

In the second half of 2011, I dropped many things I did to slow my my pace. I learn to be a minimalist, and clear all the clutter in my mind. And then I get back my life!

Since my university education started, I never liked it and always aimed to finish it as soon as possible. My course is catered for 4 years, but I aimed to complete in 3.5 years. That’s explains why I rushed my first half of 2011, by taking 6 core modules.

But when I got my worst results ever in mid-2011, I redesign my study plan in NTU. I plan to take 4 years to study again. As such, in the later part of 2011, I took only 3 core modules and an elective, which is probably my favorite subject in NTU.

In the end, my results fared a lot better than the one in mid-2011.

Also, before my exams in November 2011, I embarked on an exchange trip to China with council members from National Youth Council, and some young journalists. The trip took 7 days, and its just 1 week from my exams… and I STILL GO!

Some people think I’m crazy and taking a risk to go overseas so near my exams, but I thought that I took a right gamble. I sacrificed my study time for this
‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience. Furthermore, the people in this trip made it so exciting that I felt that I have made the right decision to leave for China.

This trip also gave me a well-deserved break from the daily grind of books and notes.

In 2012, I’m not sure if there’s any trip for me to go in the middle of my studies, but if there is, I will definitely hop onto this opportunity again. It will make me a wholesome student, who is not just about books and grades.

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8. The most important purpose in life is not collecting achievements but building relationships

I got enlightened about this from LifeUnited Church. We all want achievements, who doesn’t? But coming to hear this quote changed my thinking about my purpose in life.

Our meritocratic system has developed a kind of culture that makes us go for more and more achievements – higher grades, higher honors, higher positions of authority. There’s nothing wrong with this. But something is wrong if we attain all these by neglecting the relationships we have with people around us. Or worse, we attain by making use of the people around us.

I have experienced this myself where people are just your friends because they need project group grades. They are not your friends anymore when there’s nothing about grades. Same like some people become your friends when you’re rich, and left when you’re not.

I don’t know how these people have friends, but I think their friends are very much superficial like them too.

There are many theories that say “your income is the average of your 5 closest friends”. When some people heard of this, they immediately abandoned their current (not-so-rich) friends, and go find new (and richer) friends, so they can richer themselves.

Kick that out.

Why not you and your 5 closest friends be rich TOGETHER? If that’s what you want, isn’t that a better way?

In 2012, other than just building relationships with more people, I also plan to create more long-lasting memories with many people. They are just so fun to talk about after a few years, and they are really more meaningful than just achieving and collecting grades and certificates.

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9. Winners are Quitters!

As you have read above, I have dropped many things I did in the second half of 2011. Yes, I QUIT on many things. And thanks that I quit to do so many things, i think I’m a winner now.

“Winners never Quit, and Quitters never Win”.

This is one quote we heard since young, but it has been busted by Seth Godin in his book, The Dip. Winners do Quit, and sometimes you fail by not quitting.

If there’s one thing I quit doing on this blog, is about giving it more time, and less time.

I blogged less frequent, but with more stuffs in each post (just like this one). I don’t have that much things to talk about like other bloggers everyday, so I chose to spend time doing other things, then come back and share my reflections and lessons. This way I also make my post more meaningful and worthwhile to read, than just daily rants.

But another thing I didn’t quit is to use my blog to collect memories. I didn’t know if you do that as well. It’s just like writing a diary and paste them with photos. After a period of time, like 4 years, when you look back at your own photos and writing, you can see how much you have changed.

It can also bring you back to those days 4 years ago.

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10. There’s more life outside Facebook and Twitter

Actually more about this lesson can be read in this post during my trip to China.

In 2010, I get hanged onto Facebook/Twitter. Till 2011, i’m still addicted to it. In 2012, I will continue to hang on to it, but I aim not to do it as much, at least not to rely it to spend my time.

I believe the world outside of Facebook and Twitter can be very beautiful, its just waiting for us to explore. Sometimes Facebook and Twitter is filled with so much negativity and criticism that just pollute your mind and restrict your imagination.

It’s time to live outside the world!

I’m gonna spend more time looking at the sky, observing insects or seeing leaves falling of trees. In 2012, I will plan to go AWOL from Facebook and Twitter again, just like what I did in China. Maybe not to travel to China again, but just to shut off all channels of communication – not even Whatsapp or email.

That’s my 10 lessons in 2011. Of course, there’s a lot more lessons I learn, but somehow these 10 taught me the most. Thanks to all the people who impart such valuable lessons to me in 2011. You may not have taught me directly. Sometimes I just pick up these lessons and thoughts by myself, via you 🙂

Plans for 2012?

I will continue the plans I have drawn up in the second half of 2011. Nothing Big. Just a continuation of living a meaningful and purposeful life which I am living now.

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