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. 

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.

Your Life is like a Bus Ride

Bus ride
Bus ride

Imagine yourself boarding a bus. You do not know where you are heading. There is no driver.

In the bus, you meet people who care about you. You will also meet people who behave badly towards you.

You cannot get off the bus.

The bus will go through traffic jam and breakdown. The bus will also go through beautiful places.

The bus only travels at a constant speed. It will not go faster or slower.

During the journey, the passengers will board the bus and get off the bus. Every passenger has their stops. You have your stop.

Welcome to the bus of life.

In this journey, you will face life’s challenges. Those challenges will come and go. Be assured, none of it is permanent.

You will also face good times and happiness. These are not permanent as well.

The bus will just keep going. When it reaches your stop, you will have to get off the bus. The bus will continue its journey without you.

During this journey, you will learn that life is not permanent. Besides your action and thoughts. Nothing is under your control.

Whatever life throws at you. Manage each moment with your best effort. Surrender to life but never take each moment for granted. If you have to play, play hard. If you have to work, work hard. If you have to rest, rest hard.

Let your action fill the world with loving-kindness. Then, it is a life that is worth living.

How to Kill Time

Hour Glass
Stop killing time, hour glass

There are moments in a day where you have too much time to waste but too little time to do anything productive. So some ask, “How to kill time?”.

The short answer is never to kill time. Time is a resource that is not renewable. You may think that you have all the time in the world. Time is never enough and it is not predictable.

If you find yourself wanting to kill time. Ask yourself what you can do to make yourself better or the world better?

Here are some quick ideas. Here is a hint, checking social media is not on the list.

Meditate. Take a moment and be aware of your breathing. Imagine yourself carrying to huge bags. One of the bags is called “Past”, the other bag is called “Future”. Put down the two bags and be aware of your breath. You are now in the present moment.

Nap. There are 70 million adults in the United States suffered one or several kinds of sleep disorder. For myself, I do not get enough sleep. If there is time, I will nap for 20 minutes. It helps the body to rest and to stay focused. This is far better than drinking coffee.

Get moving. Get down and start doing some push-ups. If push-ups are too difficult, do some stretching. Simple exercise gets the blood flowing. It also brings attention to your body and breathing.

Call someone. When is the last time you talk to your loved ones? Give that person a call. There is no such thing as spending too much time with someone that you care.

Journal. When is the last time you had a chat with yourself? Sit down and quietly reflect on your life. Write down whatever that comes to your mind. Let your finger do the talking. The purpose is just to put down your thoughts on paper. Magically, you will soon gain insight into yourself.

Killing time is killing yourself. There is always something worthwhile to do.

When You are Not Detail Oriented

Work
Work

Anyone who has held a job would go through an annual evaluation. It is a time where the manager would evaluate the employee’s annual performance.

What scares me the most is the feedback for being “not detail-oriented”. By being not detail-oriented means getting send for more training on processes. There will be quick hacks such as using check-list. The work would be under constant scrutiny in the name of compliance and audit. Maybe, the person can produce work that has sufficient details.

Not being detailed oriented is not a process problem. It is a problem in mindset. It is a problem where a person is not interested in the given work.

A person who claims that he is bad with numbers but can remember all the stats of his favourite sports. Is the person really bad at numbers? Or merely an excuse for not having the interest?

If the person shows passion and interest, the person would be detailed-oriented.

When you find yourself not having the depth that you supposed to have in your work or any task. It is time for you to evaluate whether the work is still important to you? If the answer is no, it is time for you to move on. Life is too short for anyone to work in anything that does not give us any inspiration.

Are You the Cheapest Most Qualified Employee?

Cheapest Most Qualified
Cheapest Most Qualified

How does a business make money? They maximise profit and minimize cost. To a business, an employee would be considered as a cost. Employees who are not aligned with the business strategy will be let go.

Cruel? That’s the reality of life.

As an employee, we are paid to be compliant and play to the tune of the organization. Nothing wrong with that choice. You got to ask yourself whether it is the life that you want? To be a cog of a huge organization. Exchange 5 days of prison for 2 days of freedom. You can be creative but not too creative because many of us are not paid to be creative.

If you still have a job or you are being hired. Chances are you are the cheapest of most the qualified employee.

You can live life on your own term. The door of your prison is not locked. If you enjoy writing. Write. If you enjoy going to the great outdoors. Go to the great outdoors. Document your work. Share your work and create value that truly belongs to you.

When you have enough reach. Enough people who notice your work. You will no more be the cheapest most qualified employee. You will be fully valued and appreciated.

Why You Cannot Change Even if You are Miserable

If you touch a red hot metal rod, you would immediately pull your hand back. If you touch a warm metal rod, you might be able to hold on longer.

Miserable
Are you in enough pain?

To make a change in our life, we would need a kick in the bottom. The kick has to be so hard that it wakes us up and decide to make a change.

Sometimes, we got used to the pain and have surrendered to it. It can be a toxic relationship where we have this self-belief that we do not deserve a better relationship. We can be working in a job that we hate, but not enough for us to take action. We use five days of our life to exchange 2 days of freedom. Look around. How many of us are already dead in the inside and a breathing corpse? We have accepted the pain. We have gotten used to the pain.

Pain can be our friend. It tells us that something is not right and we have to take action.

Ask yourself. Are you in pain? If yes. It is time to take action.