Still Finding My Shoreline

We have been told to find interest and passion in the work we do, bla bla bla… (Sounds easy but actually NOT)

When some interviewer asked if I am a driven and motivated individual, I gave an honest answer. “It depends if I can see the shoreline.” Companies may help you see that shoreline but most of time we need to manage on our own.

Who defines this shoreline? Most of the time is us, but we may take a while or will never find it. Lucky for some, it may be their successful parents or some high-society mentors.

This morning, I have been trying to convince myself that no matter what job I will take up while finding my shoreline, I must find my own interest and passion for the present job and I should be grateful I have a decent paying job. What I like to do may not be directly tied to my KPI but at least it’s something I can be a reputation for.

Instead of planning and thinking where that shoreline is, I would like to think that

  • “Any work experience is still a life experience”.
  • And with a home and family to sustain, I should keep swimming knowing every stroke I pull is every cent I make to sustain my life.
  • For those with children, I believe they are even more resilient in their lives because they have a new purpose in life.

The above two thoughts should comfort most of us when it comes to finding our Job-Fit or “Shoreline”.

I wish everyone luck in finding their life’s purpose – which also mean your work’s purpose.

How I view fulfilling work:

  • Able to fight and extinguish “workplace fires” periodically on your own abilities. This makes us feel we are valuable.
  • Knowing you have been occupied working towards something and achieve Bedgasm and the “Weekend Euphoria”. Be it a presentation, preparing for a pitch, making 20 sales calls, or complete a course, etc.
  • You have a good personal/working relationship with people within and without your company.

My Encounter With A Network Marketing Recruiter

Does the majority of us feel the same way about certain business models relating to  network marketing and multi-level marketing? A good read on NM versus MLM.

My experience below with a representative of a company called “BWW” isn’t about judging their business legality or business model. Personally, there is nothing wrong with such business models but I am not interested as a fully employed person. These business models are more suited for people looking for extra income or with more free time.

These companies will naturally appeal to your greed if you are not objective about time and money – introducing the idea you are like a “man on a mission” to earn your millions and an effective way to do it is to get support from mentors and peers which likely result you in buying their training materials and spending more time in their business community. Combing through LinkedIn profiles and blogs of these people, I feel their passion. Frankly, it can be very charismatic and contagious. BWW’s Singapore website showed an introductory video, the music employed taps on a harmonious frequency meant to lower our guard and the narratives were about “dreams”, “seed”, “success” related. It taps on our innate desire to be someone important. Wow!

However, I caution against being swayed by these people easily. Make an informed choice before committing.

A year ago, I was approached by someone on LinkedIn wanting to talk about some business opportunity. I thought it was a start-up and was not ready to make the move from my current job.

Recently, I have made contact with this person, wanting to explore start-ups, especially if their products have major disruptive potential. When I asked does his business has a website for my reference, he said in today’s e-commerce age, there is no need for an official website. He wanted to explain to me his business face-to-face and I agreed to meet up with him.

During the meet up, he asked a lot of “what is your ambition” questions which made me felt he was trying to prime my mind and to assess my potential in joining his business. So, his e-commerce business is a referral program where we draw purchasers to a group of manufacturer’s purchase portal and we earn commission based on these referrals. I got excited and thought it was a decent business model (In fact it is the essence of network marketing).

Manufacturers need not spend top marketing dollar but employ the word-of-mouth tactic through consumers like us. I was beginning to think about creating websites and use my content to drive sales for the various brands his business is carrying. From color pencils to apparels, why not? I am a lifestyle person, I can make some passive income and get to hone my marketing techniques!

To convince me his business works, he told me his business mentor (William Anthony) did a master’s thesis on the company’s business model and found it to be sound and effective. When I asked him what is the company’s name, he could not answer me and said it was a community. When I asked what does “XYZ Worldwide” means on your LinkedIn? He says it was just a name for his so-called independent business. No business registration was done.

I probed further by asking if he is in a network marketing or some multi-level marketing model and will he gain profits from me joining? He said no, and his reason was convincing, “I am recruiting more people to refer more purchases to our manufacturers so they would be incentivized to pay out more commission to our community”

Wow! Although I felt he was dodgy to my questions, his answers sounded somewhat reasonable so far. I was also at a mind-state of exploring start-ups and other businesses.

After we had our conversation, he invited me to a business seminar. I was open to understand how this business works so I accepted his invitation.

The day came and I was feeling lazy to get out of my house plus my country was plagued with haze from Indonesia. I asked my “recruiter” what is the agenda of the seminar and he screen shot a pamphlet advertising the seminar. I asked why didn’t he send me the pamphlet earlier he said, “Better late than never”.

Feeling extremely reluctant to step out of my house, I began to suspect about his “business”. I  checked out the speakers’ names and managed to find those names linked to an organization titled “BWW – Britt Worldwide” claiming to be a business and an entrepreneurial training school.

In my limited capacity, I only knew of Amway and Sunway as one of the largest MLM companies in my country. I never knew BWW! I did an Internet search and found BWW is affiliated to Amway.

Reasons why it did not appealed to me:

Money is just an instrument we use to participate in today’s common economy. Remember the user of this instrument is still a human being. Do not let the tool use you, instead make good use of the tool and be clear on what it means to you.

Reading a blog from someone who went through the BWW’s seminars and the recruitment process, I felt the time and money invested does not give me the returns I am looking for. If I am only earning few hundreds a month, I rather spend my time with my family and with my hobbies.

I wish to remind my readers to be masters of their time and money.

Trying To Deal With My Quarter-Life Crisis

For the past week, I have been reading articles on the habits of successful people. This leaves me with two take-away.

First, I question how article writers qualify “successful people”. Because they are popular? They are wealthy? Most of the names mentioned were either wealthy or popular in the world scene. Only a handful names were known for their kindness and philantrophy. But to a certain extent, to be famous or wealthy, you do need to have success traits and habits we can learn from.

Second, in one of the articles about successful people, it mentioned, “They delay their gratification”. I agree. When I failed a  major national exam at the age of 17, I knew I have to work harder to get back into my country’s mainstream educational path. I stopped playing video games on weekdays (and some weekends) and I even studied after school hours.

Result? I had stellar academic performance (Not good enough to be very famous though).

Now, closing to 3 years of my working life, I felt the breather to relax after work and it became a habit. Relating to people meeting their quarter-life crisis, it has not been easy for me to nail down on a career goal so I can “delay my gratification“!

My introspection: we need to know our short-term and long-term career goals so we live like “men and women on a mission“. It really works. For the past 10 years in my long-term education, I have not deviated from my goal of obtaining scholarships for my college.

It was pretty easy to achieve that goal:

  • get the best grades you can,
  • be active in a school interest group,
  • have a global view on things. (Useful for scholarship interviews)

But as we step into our careers, it is extremely difficult to set a clear goal and a clear path. I have been trying to find out my career goals and I will be using Warren Buffet’s 5/25 elimination technique. Wish me luck!

You can read about how it works here:

Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Whatever decision you make in your life, assess whether it makes a good or unique story. You will be most remembered by your stories over your “successes”.

Everybody likes to hear a story or a personal testimony. To me, seeking first-hand experiences is the key to grow oneself quickly without being easily influenced by herding mentalities. It might be boring to hear someone having a smooth-sailing life versus someone who had failed but was resilient.

In whatever I do, as a guiding principle, I will decide which decision gives me a challenge and whether if it will become another worthy story in my life.

Here’s what I learned and gained by not herding with conventional wisdom in a modern society.

1. Winners are those who never give up, not those who never fail

I was a rebellious teenager was disinterested in my studies. I ended up as an academic failure and had to enter a technical institute which was publicly known “for school rejects”. Some of my friends and family members despised me as a failure in life. But instead of feeling beaten down, I was not broken. I never believed I was a stupid person (no one is!). I worked extra hard and was the first person in the entire history of my course to earn “Top Graduate” (Highest academic rank) in the entire institute. I was on local media because people wanted to hear a story of how a rebellious boy turned from his old ways.

My parents and I kept a secret from everyone including other family members about my enrolment into a “school reject” institute until I was featured on a television programme. What a way to come back from a school reject!

“it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” (Rocky Balboa)

2. Forget the prestige! Enjoy the learning!

Moving forward from point 1, I was accepted into a well-known local university. Received a scholarship which pays for my entire degree course. The only catch is I needed to maintain a cumulative grade score of 3.5. As a previous school reject, I was exposed to more practical training over theoretical training. In a local university, the courses are more theoretically structured and assessed. My first semester was a flop, managing only 2.56 score, I was given my first warning. The next semester, I managed a score of 3.08.

My scholarship was suspended as a second warning. By then, I told myself to forget about the scholarship and enjoy learning by taking modules I like. You need to know that many asians would take modules they are confident at to pull their cumulative scores.

The result of letting go of the scholarship and freeing myself of this “scrutiny”? A grade score of 3.59. My scholarship was reinstated. Why should I take modules just for a cosmetic score and actually learned a lot less?

After I gained that confidence managing my university studies, I begun my challenge to take on cross-faculty modules because I like to have different perspectives to my learning journey. Surprisingly, I scored no less than a B+ for these modules. Interest can really help in our learning process. No stress about exams, just apply what you learned. Why should there be even a right or wrong answer to a question?

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over. (Richard Branson)

3. Life experiences are more valuable than academic achievements

After reinstating my scholarship, I now can aim for a better degree classification (British’s classification). That would make a good story – “an undergraduate with a lowly grade score graduated with 2nd class upper division”

However, I failed to achieved that by 2%. What could have happened?

As an undergraduate, we all have opportunities to do student exchanges in universities overseas. However, any module you mapped over to that curricular system will only be seen as “Pass” or “Fail” with no impact to your own grade score. I did my math and found it very challenging to obtain 2nd class upper division if I were to go for a student exchange. I convinced myself that I can do it and always thought new experiences are more valuable in my life than paper grades.

I enjoyed myself in Sydney and learned a great deal about living alone overseas. When I interact people, I have stories to relate to if they ever talked about snow skiing, wild dolphins, marijuana, etc. Compared to achieving a 2nd class upper division, which do you think has a better story?

I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes. (Edna St. Vincent Millay)



Writing was first posted on LinkedIn:

Li, D. (2014, June 15). Challenging Conventional Wisdom. Retrieved September 9, 2015, from

Personal Experiences with Eustress and What To Do with My Ambition?

Eustress, no matter how one can accurately define it. I would like to define it as euphoria-stress.

I was reminded of this feeling and word while reading an article comparing distress and eustress. During my Pre-U and University days, I often get excited whenever I see exam questions. The fact that I knew what the question was asking and my mind had already been churning out answers made my bowels excited. Yes, that’s not a good thing for someone who needs to go to the toilet whenever he is very excited. Bowels aside, I believe this is the feeling of eustress.

At work recently, I encountered delays with my IT Infrastructure setup like being given the wrong devices, human miscommunications, etc. While most people feel distress, I feel eustress. It’s the excitement of solving a challenge that made me positive about difficulties in life. When I first experienced my major academic failure at 17 years old (Cambridge ‘O’ Levels), I was lost, I have no backup plans, I have no vision. Thankfully, I got my feet back up and then got addicted with the satisfaction of achieving the less-possible.

Everything to me is solvable whether by time, by money, by finding help, or by being calm. The whole world wouldn’t stop or be destroyed because of the mistakes we face.

I am currently in the transition to a new job away from my government job. To be honest, government jobs are really more secure in terms of financial stability but slow in career/salary advancement. But, the ambitious me will never settle. One night, while thinking about my already-made resignation, I asked what am I trying to achieve by being ambitious? This is no longer in school where I have a clear path to obtain a college degree or a targeted Grade Point Average! Everything in the working world is undefined and no one can tell you sure ways.

It my ambition for glory? Money? Fame? What’s the point in pursuing all these? I told myself I want to leave a legacy. Legacy? How long will my legacy last? Even if it lasts centuries through place after my name or be mentioned in the textbooks, would people know it was me? Would people know who am I as a person?

We are all but just a breath on earth, a tiny fleeting speck in the universe. Stop thinking you are that important.

I am still searching where my ambition is leading me. However, I don’t want to leave a legacy, I want to make a difference right here right now when I am alive.

Be it making my love ones feel they are important and cherished, be it seeing my friends and their families grow old and have led a blissful life, or using my hard-earned money to help people around me, I want to be in the moment making a difference.

How winning is done

“it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” (Rocky Balboa)

It has been a year since I written my thoughts. I like to record things down, had a habit of recording every nitty gritty monetary transaction on my Toshl finance app. I like the way I can review my actions and transactions. 

My 2014 resolution is not to buy any new video games while I clear my backlog. At the same time, I track the game prices I wish to purchase and see what’s the pricing trends for 2014. This is to help me understand the lowest price point and never buy that particular game higher than that price point – I have time, I can wait it out. 

We live in a hyper- and over-marketed world. It’s good discipline to tune our human brains and senses not to respond to certain marketing triggers: For example, the scarcity trigger, “Last day of sale!”. Btw, I am a marketing skeptic but not cynical. I do have empathy but I am also well aware of how people can use emotions against us. I am quite proud to be a versatile person, when I need to be nice and gentle, I can do so. When I need to fight for my rights, I gladly take up the call.

Was thinking a lot about moving on in my career after a short 1 year in my current company. I am thinking of growing faster and stronger. I need a big jump in my career growth.

The thoughts of having a stable job plagued my dynamic personality in seeking out a more rewarding career path. I realized I have been fighting hard through my academic days and done very well to my astonishment. However, when I finally made it to a local university, I felt I have reached my destination. Yes, I gotten a scholarship but that’s more of a financial relief, I am not the smartest in class, I had a rough first year in College and nearly got my scholarship renounced. That feeling of “show hand” seems to turned the tide. I told myself, “Forget about the scholarship, I want to enjoy learning!” If I fail, whatever, why should I feel I am stupid just because I couldn’t attain a certain grade point to maintain my scholarship? 

What happened? During a crucial semester, I relaxed myself, I even dated for a partner. I studied the best I could, I MADE it (Scholarship maintained).. the rest is history… I am gunning for a better Honours grade.. 

I made another gamble but it didn’t worked out too well. Instead of using one of my semesters to attain a better Honours grade, I chose student exchange in Sydney. I felt an overseas experience and life experience is 100x better than absolute grading numbers. I thought if I were to fight harder with my remaining semesters, I could attain my desired Honours grade.
(I am not a gambler actually, I maintain an excel sheet to predict and target grades I needed)

Oh well, I was just 2% away from my targeted final grade score!

In my recent introspection, I was thinking what made me want to stay in my current job and not move out for better opportunities. It’s stability and comfort.  I was afraid to fight again, and this time it involves money and my livelihood. Perhaps I have been fighting a lot during my academic years, I was tired. I thought I have arrived – gotten a stable job.

Success is not a destination, it is a journey. I garnered my courage and fighting spirit and am ready to fight for my big career. I refuse to stay comfortable, I refuse to bury my potential, I refuse to let small thinking dictate the rest of my life. I am moving on.

What I learned from working life

After the first month being a Systems Engineer had taught me a lot. No, I am not sharing about Solaris, UNIX or Bash scripting learning experiences. I am talking about life experiences.

Here are my thoughts:

#1 Your exam starts everyday

#2 There is no fixed path to your desired career destination or living condition, in fact you may not even have a clear path. You either lead yourself and create your own or you follow someone else’s footsteps, the latter, I highly do not recommend.

Yes, I do draw advice and experience from other people’s career footsteps, but these are purely for reference and thought.

You just need to go where the wind blows, that makes life more exciting albeit tougher due to circumstances and unknown unknowns.

#3 Yes, bell curve and performance-grade quota still apply to the corporate world. Despite all competition, remember to have fun and relate to people. Oh, you cannot submit appeal application forms. Because your performance grade translates into your performance bonus($$$).

#4 Enjoy your pay cheque and count your blessings, even if you are not in your dream job. Not everybody lands into their own corporate paradise the first try. If for one day you do not feel stretched, you are NOT growing. I once heard saying, “Why do we work? For the pay cheque and for weekends.” This is a very simple and primitive motivation behind all our work motivation. Hey, we are way beyond primitive thinking yes? Always find value and impact you create at work. If your work has no impact to the organization or creates value to the economy, why are you hired? 

#5 Every word, statement, action and consequences in the corporate world has two meaning. You need to be “street smart” to understand what it is. Which means to say, nothing is at face value. Do not be discouraged or be complacent based on what you hear and say. In the working world, result is the only visible differentiator. In order to perform even better, use your social intelligence. It’s important, I emphasize.