To create, You Have to Face the Blank Page.

Blank Page
Blank Page

I have been staring at the blank page for at least 10 minutes. I do not know what to write. My mind is blank. I procrastinate by reading more. I do not dare to face the blank page. A blank page is a perfection. There is nothing to edit.  

Before you can create, you have to face the blank page. The is a page that challenges us to dig deep. It urges us to create. To put out our work and show to the world. 

We all now living in the age of information abundance. We have no more excuse for the need to know more before we start working on a project. 

“The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.

The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.” ― J.K. Rowling

We cannot wait for inspiration to come. Every day, we have to show up to create. It does not matter how you feel, you have to show up. The process of creation is scary. You go from nothing to something. You are the creator of your world.

To face down the blank page, you have to sit down and do the work. What happens if you are not inspired or do not feel like doing the work? You still sit down and face that page. You are allowed not to do any work but you are not allowed to do other things. It is boredom or creation. The choice is yours. 

“…she (the artist, the writer) doesn’t wait for inspiration, she acts in the anticipation of its apparition.”

― Steven Pressfield

Start small. We dream of big dreams. Each journey starts with a small first step. Start putting one word on the page. Repeat the process until the page is filled with your words. 

Know your energy. When do you feel best and most creative? The hour belongs to you. It the hour is in the morning. You have to protect it with your life. The world can have the rest of the 23 hours but the hour of creativity is yours. 

It is not the tool it is you. My dream pen is the Pilot 823. I have never tried that pen but I want to own it. It is recommended by Neil Gaiman as his workhorse pen. I know I will not buy it. Having that pen does not make me a better writer. That pen will not give me the courage to face the blank page. I have to face the empty page. Do not blame the tools. It is never the tools. It is us who has to find the courage to start writing down the words. 

The journey is lonely. You can sign up for the mastermind group. A group of people who will encourage you to start work and keep going until you are done. They can lead you to the blank page but they cannot write it for you. You have to pick up the pen and start writing on the blank page. The journey of creativity can be lonely. The people around you can only be your cheerleader. Let the solitude help you to know yourself better. 

“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.” ― Audrey Hepburn

It is all on you. The blank page, the work and the results, it is all on you. You have to be responsible for your work. It is scary. There is no one to blame but yourself. Take ownership of your work. Give your best effort. Most importantly, sign off with your name. 

Everything starts with facing the blank page. 

Start Small to Chase Your Dream

Start Small
Start Small to Chase Your Dream

I have big dreams. Many of us have big dreams. The dream of living the life that we want. The dream of quitting a dead-end job and start a business. 

We are encouraged to dream big. We are encouraged to aim for the moon. When we miss, we can be among the stars. Well said. 

For myself, aiming for the moon is scary. I am never fully prepared for it. I want to know more. There is always one more book to read. One more detail to plan out. 

I did not take any action. I want to chase that dream but I am overwhelmed by it. I did not wake up from that dream to make it into reality. 

 “Stop thinking about it. Stop Dreaming about it. Stop researching every aspect of it…Start doing it. Take that first step and make it happen. GET AFTER IT.” – Jocko Willink

We just need to start small. 

“A thousand miles starts with a single step.” – Tao Te Ching

Stop the research. Do not use the excuse of needing to know more to start. We are in a world of information overload. If perfect knowledge is what need, we all would be billionaires. The need to get collect more information is just an excuse.

Sketch it out. Get a piece of paper and sketch your dream. Let your finger do the talking. Do not edit your dream. There is no thinking here. Nothing is too big or unrealistic. When you finish, look at the paper, ask yourself if this is what you want? Is this your dream? 

Chances are that it is not what you want. You have to start over. 

Do not feel deflated when you have to start over. At least, you know you will not be chasing the wrong dream. You have to dream the right dream; wake up and do the right things. 

Start without being told. The Internet has even out the playing field. There are no more gatekeepers. If you want to publish your book. You can publish without engaging any publishers. 

If you want to sing and perform. You can perform in front of a camera and publish onto the internet. You do not need to speak to any record label. Start now. You have my permission. Now, you must permit yourself to chase your dream.

 “Reject the tyranny of being picked: pick yourself” – Seth Godin. 

Do the simplest task. Did I skip a step on breaking down the dream into a list of tasks? No. I did not skip that step. Instead of planning your dream to death. I want you to start with the simplest task. 

If you dream of writing the novel, start by writing a blog. Andy Weir published his work – The Martian on his blog for free. It was due to the reader’s request for an e-book where he self-publishes the book through Amazon. Andy started small. He started with one blog post followed by another and another.

Do you have a business idea that might make you millions? Start small by having only one paying customer. Use the simplest tools. Do it manually and get as much feedback as possible. When you are ready, start to acquire your second customer. Invest the money back into your idea when you confirm your second customer. 

Do you have an app idea that you might change the world? Sketch out your ideas and post in on a bidding site. You will receive feedback and questions from bidders. You will know whether you should continue to pursue your idea. 

Use the 80/20 rule. This is the Pareto principle. 20% of your task will determine 80% of your results. An aspiring writer should just focus on writing and publishing quality work. Activities such as marketing and SEO is important, but it is not as important as writing. 

If you are developing an app. Focus on 20% of the functions that are most important to your users. 

When I started this blog I kept the design simple. I used the standard template. I did not spend too much time thinking about its design. To me, I just want to write. I want my writing to engage the readers and have them to come back regularly. 

“Ninety-nine per cent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time-and energy-consuming.”

Timothy Ferriss

Learn what you need to know. I get it, there are many things that you need to know to make your dream into reality. Instead of learning it all in one sitting. You should learn as and when the need arises. There are many free contents available on the Internet. If you prefer to learn through visual and audio. You can try YouTube. YouTube is the second-largest search engine. If you require something more structured, there are many online courses available. The online courses can be either free or paid. The important thing is not to overspend in pursuing your dreams. For every dollar that you put in, the dollar has to give you the maximum return. Be it knowledge or profitability.

Publish it. Start small. It is a fact, your first release is not going to good. You have given it your best. Time to push the publish button. Publish first your first blog. Release your first piece of music. Deploy the first version of your application. By putting yourself out there you will find immediate feedback. It is through feedback you know what you need to improve.  

 “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” –Reid Hoffman

Today, take the first step to reach out for your dream. Start small. It should not cost you a lot of time and money. The journey to realise your dream may be still far away. At least, you are one step closer. 

Never Outsource Your Self-esteem

Self-esteem
Self-esteem

I have been programmed to outsource my self-esteem. I can create the ugliest drawing, the kindergarten teacher would shower me with praises. I get praises by doing household choirs without being told. As long as I do what I have been told, I will not get into trouble and I will get recognition. I have outsourced my self-esteem down to an art form. 

Since childhood, we yearn for recognition and praises. I know I still do. 

I turn to Facebook likes and Instagram likes for perk up my self-esteem. 

Put up a beautiful picture and get some likes. Boom, I already feel better about myself. Put up a smart quote and have someone share it. I feel even better about myself. If the post did not have the likes and shares that I expect, I get uneasy and nervous. Was I not good enough? I look at my feed every 10 minutes, are there any more likes and any more shares?

I am addicted to the numbers. A set of numbers that has no real meaning. Some people call it gamification. It is all a game. I win by having people to tell me that I am good even though deep down I know I am a fraud. If the numbers are low, I feel sad even though I have given it all I could. I am chained to the numbers. My happiness depends on the numbers. 

To get more likes. I have to create content that resonates with many people. Yet. Do I resonate with those content? I do not know. I just want more likes! Where is my self-esteem? I need my self-esteem. Give me more likes. 

Those likes and shares are nothing but plaster over deep knife wound. Likes and shares give me temporarily relieve. Deep down, I am never full filled and satisfied. 

Take back your self-esteem. Never outsource your self-esteem. You do not earn your self-esteem from other’s recognition. As it is, other’s are already having difficulty managing theirs. 

Do hard work. Self-esteem comes from hard work. We may want to avoid hard work. It is through hard work that you feel good about yourself. Do something different. Do something that you have never done but always wanted to do. Today, make your life slightly harder. 

From the Daily Stoic.

Confragosa in fastigium dignitatis via est. “It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness,” – Seneca 

Self-awareness. Take time to reflect your day. Take 10 minutes to ponder over your day. What have you done well? What can you do better? 

“I will keep constant watch over myself and – most usefully – will put each day up for review… Let us balance life’s books each day…” – Seneca

It is only through reflection, you will know how far you have come. Balance life’s books each day. 

Express gratitude. You may have a tough day. There are still many things that you can be grateful. Write down three things that went well from the past 24 hours. You learn to see the positive side of life by being grateful. Things are just not as bad as you imagined.

Hate your job? Someone just lost their job and wonders how to put food on the table. 

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus 

Watch your own words. Negative self-talk is not a form of motivation. It will never motivate yourself to do better. It is a negative growth mindset. Made a mistake? Screwed up? Good. You can find ways to perform better. You learn from it and keep going. Blaming yourself without any constructive criticism brings you to nowhere. 

Cut back on social media. Social media has its usefulness. Trying to gain likes and shares so that you feel good about yourself is not one of it. Limit your time on social media. What you see is only the highlight reels of others, but never their struggle. So what is there to feel jealous about other people’s post? What other sees in you is only your highlight reels. They do not know the real you. Never measure your self-esteem through likes and shares. 

Embrace winning and losing. In life, you win some and lose some. Neither state of winning and losing is permanent. Your self-esteem should not be measured by your wins. You should not deduct your self-esteem for losing. Life is a game. It is a game of effort and hard work. Winning and losing is merely a side effect and feedback. 

Your self-esteem is for yours to keep. As you move through life. You have to embrace hard work and accept things that you cannot change or influence. Be ready to get defeated by life. It is not a question of if but a question of when. Never outsource your self-esteem. 

I try to Kick My Phone Addiction And This Happened

I am suffering from phone addiction. I use my phone to do most of my communications, listening to podcast, banking, note-taking and readings. I sleep with the phone and it follows me wherever I go.

A colleague once remarked that I would be fidgeting with my phone even though the screen is off. She called me I am suffering from handphone sick.

I never knew how much time I spent on screen. Or how much time I spent on the phone.

To fix a problem. I must acknowledge that I have a problem. To check my handphone usage, I installed the app Stay Focused.

As soon as I installed the app, I immediately become very mindful of my usage. There are a timer and a clicker to track both screen time and numbers of time I switch on the screen.

With that knowledge in the back of my head, I only switch on my phone screen when it is necessary. Here is what happened.

Time Spend on Phone
Time Spent on Phone

I have more time. For every hour I spent five minutes mindlessly scrolling through news portal or Instagram, I would have wasted 60 minutes after 12 hours.

I am less anxious. Every Monday, I would stay away from the news. With this app, I am consciously staying away from the news at all times. I feel better. I do not need to keep track of all the latest news. Looking back, none of the news that I have been following has been life-changing.

The phone battery last longer. I do not need to carry a battery bank with me. To keep my phone charged, I have to charge it twice a day. My bag feels lighter.

No phone at the dining table. Whether I am outside or at home, as soon as I sit down I would either busy finishing a message or reading a post. With the app tracking my usage, I made an effort not to use my phone at the dining table. I have more time talking to my dining partner and observe the crowd around me.

Limit social media usage. Every day, I allow myself 30 minutes on both Instagram and Facebook. I can only access social media between 830 pm until 830 am. Other times, the app would block my access. I do not have any withdrawal symptoms after cutting back on Social Media.

Sleeping better. I normally stay away from screens when is near bedtime. I find that I sleep better since I make a conscious effort to cut back on phone usage. It could be because of less news and Social Media.

Number of Launches
Number of Launches

From the captured data from the last 4 days, I have spent nearly six hours on the phone. Majority of the time spent on WhatsApp and reading on Google Play Books.

App usage
App usage Stay Focused

I could have used the hours to do something that is far more productive and creative.

My time sink is on WhatsApp and not Facebook or Instagram. I will have to review my time on WhatsApp and see what can I cut out.

I have only used the app for about four days. I am looking forward to seeing my stats on day 30.

As I am suffering from phone addiction. This is my story. If I cannot measure it, I cannot manage it. I cannot recommend enough of Stay Focused. Without the stats report, I would not have known how time I have wasted on the phone. I cannot gain back the time that I have lost. But I will make sure I will not waste any more time on the phone.

You may check out my reading list.

How to Prepare for Tomorrow, Today

tomorrow
tomorrow

One day gone is one day less to live. Our life is like a bus ride. The bus of life keeps moving forward and will not turn back. Everyone has a designated stop. One day, we all will reach our stop. No one can stay on the bus forever. We do not know when is our stop. We have to make every day count because it will never come back. Prepare for tomorrow, today. 

To be ready for tomorrow, you have to sleep well. Life can be cruel and uncertain. A well-rested body and mind will get you ready for anything. 

Before you go to bed. Do a brain dump. Write down everything that is bothering you. The brain dump helps you to sleep. Many of us have tons of thoughts buzzing nearing bedtime. These thoughts can affect your sleep quality. So, it is best to put it all out on a paper

Here are some guidelines.

  • What is the one must-do item? This item has to be both urgent and important. For example, putting petrol into your vehicle. The car does not negotiate with you. When he runs out of fuel it stops, no exception. What is your must-do? You cannot procrastinate, you cannot negotiate with it.
  • What are the three important items? The items may not be urgent but important enough that you need to get it done. For example, a report that is due next week or the medical check-up that you have been putting off. Put it all down on your to-do list.
  • What else is bothering you? Write down what is in your mind. The purpose is not about finding a solution. It is about putting things into perspective. Chances are the things that are bothering you are not real issues. This exercise is to help you to have better sleep.

Bonus tip — Do a check-in before meals. Before you have your lunch or dinner. Go through your list. Are you progressing as expected? If you are on the track, maintain the momentum. If you are behind schedule, did you waste time or your expectation is unreasonable? Recalibrate, reload and keep going.

If you are interested in my reading. Please check out my reading list.

There is no Excuse. Chase Your Dream Now

I took part in the 2019 Kuala Lumpur Standard Chartered Marathon run. During the event, I noticed a limbless gentleman overtook me. He was on a skateboard paddling away. In my mind, he was chasing his own dream. There is no excuse. Chase your dream now.

Chris Koch
Chris Koch

The gentleman’s name is Chris Koch. He was born without any limbs. This did not limit him from doing things that is larger than life. He is a motivational speaker, surfer, farmer and kayaker. I am ashamed to say I am nowhere close to his achievement.

Besides taking part in the full marathon, he was also giving talks at a few schools located in Kuala Lumpur.

Chris Koch
Chris Koch

From the news, he comes off as someone energetic, funny and positive. Yes! He starts his life with a great disability. And he has done far more than someone who did in a lifetime.

He grew up in a family filled with love and support. Love conquers all. Including physical disability. His family did not write him off. He was given all the encouragement that he needs to be successful.

Mr Koch is like a modern-day swordsman Musashi who is seeking to improve himself and not afraid of hardships.

Please test the lowly Musashi with hardship. Let him become the greatest swordsman in the land, or let him die.

Mr Koch may not be as extreme as Musashi. Nevertheless, the intensity is similar to the great swordsman.

Many of us are luckier and abler compared to Mr Koch. Yet, we did not reach the full potential as he did. We have far more capability within us and we have squandered away. So what is your excuse?

It is essential to go through hardship and suffering to find our true callings. By going outside of our comfort zone, we will only know our new limits.

Life is a journey that we cannot u-turn. We have to keep moving. Do not waste your life. Mr Koch has achieved greatness. You too can achieve greatness. Chase your dream now.

Can You Sacrifice for the Greater Good?

To be a hero, we have to make choices that many are not willing to make. We have to make the sacrifice that many are unwilling to do.

In the 90s, Dr Shuping Wang has sacrifice job, her marriage, her happiness and her home to expose an HIV scandal in China.

Dr Shuping_Wang
Dr Shuping Wang

The local blood bank of Henan was trying to hide the epidemic of HIV cases. She found that as high as 13% of the donated blood was HIV positive. She reported the case to the central government. Due to the crack-down by the government, her colleagues were not happy. Eventually, her marriage broke down due to her husband was also ostracised by his colleague in the Ministry of Health.

In 2001, she left for the US and never went back to China. She left everything back in China. Her action has saved thousands of lives, especially the poor and those who are at risk.

Dr Wang died on 21 September during a hike with her friends. She was 59 years of age.

The measurement of life is not through time but how we have lived life. For Dr Wang, she may have died young. Her action has helped more people than many of us do in a lifetime.

She took the most difficult path of her life. She did the right thing at the cost of her everything. Not many can do what she did. She is not famous in her home country. The people who were saved by her action will never know her. They will never know her sacrifice.

Are you willing to do the right thing and sacrifice everything? And you probably be forgotten by history.

We may not have the chance to do something as great as dr Wang. We can live a life of truth, kindness and justice. Listen to your heart and you will know what you need to do. Start today and is a life that is worth living.

Gain More By Sharing

For those who want to have a quality network or quality audience. LinkedIn is the perfect platform to get connected with professionals who are like you.
How do you stand out from a noisy and large crowd? In fact, how do you attract the correct group of people’s attention?

The keyword is “sharing”.

In LinkedIn, I would share technology news, productivity ideas and lifehacks that I find interesting.

I would use a tool called Buffer to schedule my postings. This tool helps me to stay engaged with my audience, especially on days where I am busy and could not do any postings.

Lately, I have participated in LinkedIn’s Daily Rundown. The editors share a daily writeup that made up of three pieces of news and a quote from a business leader.

I would take part in the discussion and share comments that I believe I can contribute to the writeup. I have been contributing to the writeup for four days.

Linkedin view
Linkedin view

The result is obvious. The number of views of my profile increased by 25%. I have also gained two new connections.

Does the increase in views and connections bring me immediate rewards? Probably not. However, by keeping myself relevant and taking part in the discussion, it helps me to keep studying and stay relevant to the industry.

If I never needed help or contact. I know I can to rely on my LinkedIn connections.

Does sharing work outside of LinkedIn? Yes! The act of sharing is the greatest gift. You can share your time by helping out at the local community hall. You can share your expertise on Quora. You can share knowledge with colleagues or classmates.

Through sharing, you know your knowledge gaps and you can improve on it.

The world does not owe anyone anything. We have to fight for what we want. Before we can receive what we want. We got to share it. Through sharing, we get recognition. We become the go-to person. By being the go-to person, opportunities will come our way.

See the world in abundance, and you will receive far more than you gave.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Amor Fati
Amor Fati

Hundred years from today, who will remember us? Probably no one. A rude driver cuts into your lane, does it matter one year from today?

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Life will frustrate you. Life will throw a curveball at you during the most inconvenient time. If you get upset with everything that is not going well in your life, you live a miserable life. 

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche used the term “Amor fati“. In Latin, it means “love of one’s fate”. To love life is to accept life in its entirety. Loving life means accepting all the suffering and challenges. 

Human life is not short, nor is long. It is about how we manage life, to be productive, to be mindful, to live a life of loving-kindness. 

If you ever feel challenged or frustrated. Ask yourself, is it preventing you from living your full potential? If not, let it be. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 

Stop The Negative Labelling

label
label

Do you ever call yourself a procrastinator?
Do you ever call yourself a cheater?
The self-talk and labelling have prevented you from moving ahead in life.
You may have procrastinated but you are NOT a procrastinator.
You may have cheated but you are NOT a cheater.
By recognizing the labelling that you put on yourself. You will be on your way to recovery and change.
You are a go-getter. You are an honest person.