Categories
Thoughts

Dealing with emotions

In the past couple of weeks, I feel that I’ve been in an extraordinary amount of stress and emotional turmoil. There has been… 7 stress generators and I’ve honestly felt overwhelmed every single day.

Thankfully at this point of writing, it has been reduced to 4.

I’m going to write about how I’ve dealt with all these things happening all at once; for me to reference in the future, and for the random reader that might find this useful. It’s a combination of thoughts, ideas, phrases that has helped me.

  1. Feelings are real but not reality; acknowledge that whatever that I’m feeling is real, then let it go. Just because it feels like the world is burning doesn’t mean that it really is.
  2. The english language identifies emotion as part of yourself; “I am sad”, implies that you are sadness. I like the Irish phrase of “ta bron orm”, which translates to “sadness is on me”. It’s just an emotion that is on you for the time being.
  3. This too shall pass; Winter always turns to spring; The darker the night, the nearer the dawn
  4. Focus on being present, if you focus on the present, there are very little things that is a problem right now. If you are sheltered and well fed, there are no problems that exist in the now. Most of our modern problems exists in the future.
  5. Anxiety and fear are emotions that are future-oriented, sadness is past oriented. Recognise that these emotions exists to help me make better decisions in the present.
  6. Do the next and most necessary thing, it is all, and the only thing that I can do.
  7. Suffering only exist because I care about it, and caring about anything gives it meaning. Trying to avoid suffering is to care less, which makes it less meaningful, which is just running away. Thus, I accept the suffering because it’s the only way for me to find meaning in life.
  8. Regardless of how it looks in retrospective, I believe that I always make the best decision given what I know at the moment. Therefore, if what I know changes, have the courage to make a different decision.
  9. Write 3 things that I’m grateful for everyday because honestly, it could’ve been worse
  10. Choose to be kind, if it’s all the same then might as well
Categories
Books Learning Thoughts

Self-help books reflection

Thoughts from this year’s reservice, unlike one of the past years where I was focused on being a mobile warrior; this time I was more focused on reading and catching up on all the books that I’ve loaded into my kindle but I haven’t made time for.

Naturally, my army mates saw the kindle got curious about what books I’ve been reading, so I started sharing some of the things I’ve learnt over the past couple of months, and also shamelessly plugging some of the reflection that I’ve written previously.

This was when I got the feedback of: “I’ve always thought that self-help books are useless because the things they say are pretty much common sense, what’s the point of reading it?”. I absolutely agreed with that sentiment because that was exactly how I felt when I started reading these type of books. However, the more I read, the less skeptical I became about this whole idea of self-help.

What I’ve learnt from these self-help books is mainly about building distinctions. What are distinctions? It is the ability to distinguish one thing from another. e.g. how do you distinguish an apple from an orange? Or harder distinctions like fuscia vs hot pink colors. It’s about how we see the world very differently from one another, even if we are looking at exactly the same thing. For example, what I am able to distinguish from looking at a fish is very different from what a sushi chef. It’s because the chef has built distinctions that I just couldn’t see; i.e. the intricate breakdown of the fish parts, whether it’s tasty or not.

Similarly, as long as all the “common sense” remain as concepts or thoughts in my head without actualizing into tangible forms like words, it remains a fleeting idea that I would have a really hard time distinguishing in real life. This is a huge part of why I enjoy writing. Writing has always helped to organize the thoughts in my head, because what makes sense in my headspace is ephemeral. If I’m not able to communicate that to anyone else, it remains as this abstract cloud of energy in my head. Consequently, being able to form words that can translate sensibly in someone else’s head is a whole other challenge on it’s own.

I have found that many of these self-help books have concepts that are extremely similar to one another, twins in some cases, cousins in others, but they are definitely in the same family. In my private reflections, I often find myself referencing similar key points from various books. This drives home the point that when the same concepts are communicated with a different choice of words, it gives the concept a slightly different meaning. I believe that there really is a subtle difference in how the authors understood these concepts from one another. Thus when I attempt to explain it to others, I will probably form a different string of words due my own (and slightly different) understanding of the concept.

Another enlightening moment came when I was explaining the books to my friend. It is the old adage “teaching someone else is the best way to learn“. Yes, the adage makes intuitive sense. Yes, I’ve experienced this phenomenon before. But this is the first time I’ve felt as if I’ve understood it. The examples I’ve written above is a direct result of my attempts to explain the books to my friend. It seems only through the act of actually teaching others over and over that you tangible-lized these concepts into something that only you yourself can access. It’s really one of those “you’ll get it once you do it” type of situations.

And now I have reached the part where I have no idea how to end this post off because I am writing this in a spur of inspiration. So, I’ll summarize with the few points I was trying to make

  1. Give self-help books a open-minded shot even though it might seem like common sense, it’s not that I doubt you are a perfectly well-adjusted human being, but.. where’s the harm in trying to be better?
  2. Communication is hard, you’re essentially trying to use a tangible medium to relay your intangible thoughts
  3. Forming distinctions is how we can differentiate things, so form as many as you can
  4. Teaching others is really the best way to learn
Categories
Books Productivity Reviews

10 things I learnt from Four Thousand Weeks

I’ve been into self-help books recently, and I’ve just finished reading Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. I really enjoyed it, so I’ve compiled a list of learnings that was super helpful for me and wanted to share about it.

1. You won’t have time to do everything that you want to do

On average you only have 4000 weeks on earth, you cannot possibly do everything that you want to do. Many of us imagine time as a conveyor belt that is constantly passing us by, each hour or week is like a container carried on the belt, which we feel compelled to fill up as it passes if we were to feel that we’re making good use of our time. When there are too many things to fit in the container, we feel unpleasantly busy, when there are too few, we feel bored. If we keep pace with the passing containers, we congratulate ourselves for “staying on top of things” and feel like we’ve justified our existence; if we let too many pass by unfilled, we feel we’ve wasted them.

The more we attempt mastery over time, to attain the feeling of total control over your time, the more we face the inevitable constraints of being human. Embrace your limitations as a human, that you will most definitely not have the time for everything that you want to do — “and so, at the very least, you can stop beating yourself up for failing”.

2. Eigenzeit – Proper Time

time inherent to a process itself

Meaningful productivity: not hurrying things but for letting things take the time that they should. We often feel busy because we try to do more in less time. But many things/processes has a set amount of time defined by the nature of it, rushing it only frustrates you.

Farmers don’t feel idle when they are not working because they know that they cannot hurry the earth

However long it takes for harvest is however long it is going to take. Just like you can’t rush a pregnancy, there are many things in life where we need to learn to let things run its course and stop rushing.

(cue the math question about how long giving birth will take with 1 versus 9 women)

3. Freedom through commitments; Joy of missing out

When you commit, you foreclose the possibility of the future; who could say if that possibility is any better? But it is this act of commitment that makes the choice meaningful. Choosing the right things to commit to frees you up to do things that truly matters to you.

Joy of missing out, the opposite of FOMO. If you don’t choose what to miss out on, then your choices can’t mean anything.

4. We don’t feel like doing things that are truly important to us

It sounds paradoxical, but because important things matter to us, therefore:

  • We are forced to face our limits
  • We experience discomfort because we value the task at hand
  • We use distractions to seek relief from confronting our limitations

Antidote is to submit to this unpleasantness, this is what it feels like for finite humans to commit to valuable tasks. (e.g. I find it somewhat unpleasant writing this reflection even though this is valuable to me)

5. Rest for the sake of resting ⭐

Increasingly, “we are the kind of people who don’t actually want to rest”, who find it seriously unpleasant to pause in our efforts to get things done, and get anxious when we don’t feel like we’re sufficiently productive.

The purpose of rest is not to recover so that you can work harder tomorrow. Rest for the sake of resting, enjoy the moment.

(consider) the possibility that today, at least, there might be nothing more you need to do in order to justify your existence.

It is not wasteful to rest. Not every moment spent awake should be put towards personal growth.

This resonated deeply with me.

6. Work expands so as to fill time available for its completion

There is no reason to believe you’ll ever feel “on top of things”. The more you try to get done, the more there will be to do.

when housewife get access to washing machines and vacuum cleaners, they didn’t save time cleaning because society’s standards of cleanliness simply rose to offset the benefits

It’s not that you never get through your email, it’s the process of “getting through your email” actually generates more email. This relates to “maximisers vs satisficers”. It’s near impossible to get maximise 100% on anything, so you’ll always feel like you fall short, but if you learn to accept things at satisfactory level, you’ll find life to be a lot more pleasant.

7. Learn to say “no”, the hard kind of no

We all know about saying “no”. It’s easy to say no to the things you don’t want to do, but it’s much harder to say “no” to the things that you actually want to do. Just like how spending the time writing right now means that I am forgoing spending time with my family, or any other things that I would like to do.

the core challenge of managing our limited time isn’t about how to get everything done—that’s never going to happen—but how to decide most wisely what not to do, and how to feel at peace about not doing it

8. Limit your work in progress

If you have too many different things to work on, you end up finishing none of it, feel bad about it, and the cycle goes on.

Since you only have finite time, prioritise your tasks. Consciously choose to forgo the things that you want to do, to make space for the truly important ones.

Personally, I’ve chosen to limit my active projects to only 3 items. It’s the whole reason why I was able to write this entry at all.

9. Do the next and most necessary thing

This relates to the “fog of the future” idea that you can only choose the best possible option given what you know at the moment. So don’t be too hard on yourself when you realised that you’ve made the wrong choice in retrospect, it was the best you could do given what you knew.

Honestly the “next and most necessary thing” is all that any of us can aspire to do in any moment. “And we must do it despite not having any objective way to be sure what the right course of action even is.”

10. Embrace your limitations

Embracing your limits means giving up hope that with the right techniques, and a bit more effort, you’d be able to meet other people’s limitless demands, realise your every ambition, excel in every role, or give every good cause or humanitarian crisis the attention it seems like it deserves. It means giving up hope of ever feeling totally in control, or certain that acutely painful experiences aren’t coming your way. And it means giving up, as far as possible, the master hope that lurks beneath all this, the hope that somehow this isn’t really it—that this is just a dress rehearsal, and that one day you’ll feel truly confident that you have what it takes.

The author summarised the book a lot better than I could ever hope to.


I’ve had a great time reading this book because so many of the ideologies and examples are highly relatable for me. I highly recommend reading this book because it has actually influenced how I think and affected how I approach productivity, and learning to embrace my limits as a human.

Categories
Reviews

Apple Magic Trackpad 2 in 2022

I just bought the Apple Magic Trackpad 2 in 2022, a 7 year old product. Why? Justifications aside, because I can; also cause someone was setting it 2nd hand (2 months old) at 35% discount ヽ(´▽`)/

I’ve always been curious (for the past 4 years) about using a trackpad in a desktop setting, the gesture controls just seems like a nice thing to have.

What I like about it ❤️

  • Navigation
    • Extremely useful for moving around in large diagrams: something I do quite often in my job
    • Very useful for excel sheets
    • Web browsing with gestures is awesome, especially the 2 finger swipe to go back to previous page
    • 2 finger double tap zoom to fill screen
  • 3 finger drag (enabled in accessibility): less fatigue on my finger since I don’t have to click and hold
    • moving windows
    • highlighting text
    • moving browser tabs
    • moving files
    • basically anything that needs click and hold
  • battery life seems pretty good; should be able to last a month per charge
  • works flawlessly with universal control (what’s this?)

What I don’t like about it 💔

  • Scrolling long pages/documents, more actions needed: too used to the freewheel scrolling features on MX Master 3
  • not as comfortable; still figuring out the ergonomics
  • no middle-click? what the f?
    • there are apps that can replicate this behaviour but they are paid 🤮

Conclusion 📕

Would I recommend it? Well… no. I’m not against it, but unless you’re very clear what you want to use it for, there really isn’t a strong use case for it. It’s definitely a nice-to-have gadget if you do see it on a huge discount!

Some people have complained that it’s not as accurate as a mouse for daily tasks, I didn’t face any issues. I will be using it as my primary pointer device and see how it goes. When I get a bigger desk, I believe I would switch to a mouse + trackpad combo and use whichever makes sense for the task at hand.

Categories
Thoughts

Theme for 2022 – Improving relations & healthier diet

Last year I switched from having new year resolutions to new year theme instead. The theme for last year was Health and Progress, and before we jump into this year’s theme, I would like to reflect upon how the past year has been with respect to the theme.

Health (2021 review)

Overall, I think I’ve made good strides for my health. Starting with more regular exercise, primarily cycling, I’ve recently hit 2,000km 2 months ago: What have I learnt from cycling 2,000 kilometres, and as of this writing, I’ve just touched 2,500km.


To combat what I could only describe as chronic fatigue, I brought awareness about my sleeping cycles and amount of rest that I’m actually getting. I built the habit of wearing my apple watch to sleep to get some basic tracking, then I bought this app called AutoSleep to get better stats on my sleep quality, and how much sleep debt I actually have. It has made a significant difference in how I felt in the day; but I still have trouble keeping to the correct bedtime, so this is still something that I’m working on.

In terms of weight/diet, this hasn’t been going on as well as the other aspects. I did lose some weight, but it fell far short of the goal that I initially had. Of course, if I were to plot a straight line from the start of the year to the end of the year, it was a positive trend in both weight and choice of diet. So in hindsight, I’m really glad to have this theme in mind because it definitely saved me from making more bad choices.

Progress (2021 review)

Getting that sweet job promotion is definitely progress 🎉 . And I’ve learnt so much in the past year, mostly from struggling to keep up with all the new tech stacks that my new team was using.

My second brain has also seen some good growth in the past year, but I haven’t been grooming it as much as I wanted, so there are quite a lot of unlinked notes/thoughts scattered throughout.

fancy graph eyecandy

Unfortunately, I have not dedicated enough time to the side projects that I wish to work on. Mostly caught up in the grand current of life and mostly reacting to events instead of specifically carving out time to work on these projects. As much as I want to continue working on it this year, my experience in the past year have opened my eyes to things that are more important to me right now.

Which brings me to…

Improving relationships (2022)

Over the past 2 years, I’ve sought and received feedback on how am I as a colleague; some repeated feedback stood out to me. While people have found me generally pleasant to work with, it seems like they have problems forming a more personal connection with me. This makes completely sense as I’ve learnt to “bring my work self” whenever I’m in a work setting. Personally I do not see any issues with it, but neglecting this aspect of human relationships feels like will cause some friction eventually.

One of my senior colleagues likes to call this “good will points”. Generally you want to gather good will points day to day because humans will fuck up eventually, and it would be very tough for you to call in any favors when you really need it. Note that there’s an important distinction between helpful and ass-kisser so I would be careful not to fall into the latter category.

I’ve also noticed that I’ve not been a particularly great friend to many of my old friends. Well, I’d like to think that I’ve not been a bad friend per se, but the recent years have enlightened me on the lack of effort I’ve put in to keep things “great”. I’m hoping that this theme will guide me to do things that helps me to strengthen relationships with all the poeple in my life that I care about. It goes without saying that this applies to my partner too (in case you’re reading this).

Healthier diet (2022)

Yes, I’ve built a pretty good cycling habit, but I’m having difficulty choosing the healthier diet option far more frequently than I’d like to admit. This is a very straight forward theme. Whenever I’m faced with a dietary choice, lean towards the healthier option without depriving myself.

Summary

Looking back, I am content with how 2021 has treated me. I’m looking forward to 2022, hoping that the travel restrictions ease up a little and we can finally get a decent getaway trip.

Just realised that I’ve only written 10 posts on my blog in 2021. I guess ever since I’ve started the habit of journaling this space has became more “formal”, which increases the friction of writing here. Well… let’s just see how this goes 👀

Categories
Learning Thoughts

What have I learnt from cycling 2,000 kilometres

30th Oct 2021, I finally hit my personal milestone of cycling 2,000 kilometers in this year alone. It’s inconceivable that I would be cycling this much after getting my first road bike late last year.

It started out as a way for me to exercise, to lose some weight and to regained some of that lost fitness; but it very quickly evolved into a lifestyle. This evolution is intentional, because I’ve noticed over the years that simply relying on motivation or discipline doesn’t work for me.

  • Motivation: only works from time to time, and once time gets scarce it will be quickly discarded.
  • Disicipline: there’s only so much emotional energy and willpower in me to push through and do things I’m not a fan of.

The consistency of taking the bike out for a ride regularly happened once I’ve embraced the idea that I’m a cyclist, and I find myself looking forward to the next ride. It has done wonders for my mental health. So here’s the list of things that I’ve learnt in the past 2,000 km in no particular order.

  1. getting fresh air is amazing especially with the covid situation
  2. flowers smell great when they bloom
  3. listening to music for hours on end gets boring after awhile
  4. podcasts are a great way to learn on the go
  5. pump your tires: it makes a huge difference
  6. maintenance is important: clean your bike, lube the parts that needs lubing
  7. there’s always someone faster than you: stop competing
  8. there’s always someone not paying attention: so YOU have to pay attention
  9. road bikes really fast compared to normal bikes
  10. don’t start a long journey hungry
  11. it’s important to stretch before and after exercise
  12. iike any long journey, companionship makes a huge difference
  13. singapore is a lot smaller than I’ve realized
  14. sometimes it’s faster to cycle than to take a bus
  15. singapore’s roads are not very friendly for cyclists
  16. tour de france cyclists are out of this world
  17. road bikes are rabbit holes that will drain your wallet dry if you fall into them
  18. exercise is good for your physical and mental health
  19. climbing bridges shouldn’t feel like death

The day after hitting my milestone, I sent my bike in for servicing. No idea if it was required but I just want to get it checked out, to make sure that I can carry on the next 2,000 km safely. It’s also a good couple of days break from cycling while I focus on other tasks!

Note: I’m riding a Van Rysel RCR 900 AF bike for anyone curious.

Note: it took 7 days for Decathlon to service my bike so I’ll go to a third party bike shop for future servicing (7 days is too long)

Categories
Thoughts

Breath for one minute

Breathe for one minute.

It sounds extremely easy to do; but when was the last time that you deliberately took a minute to breathe? When you are feeling overwhelmed with work, relationships or external events beyond your control, has it crossed your mind to take a minute to breathe and re-assess your current mental state?

Well up until the past month, these thoughts has never crossed my mind.

I’ve been trying to write more but I’ve been stuck in the cycle of procrastination and self-doubt; looking at the 5 articles that was stuck in my drafts for the longest time. The effects of imposter syndrome hitting me when I least expect it, when I’m deep in the middle of my sprints convincing others why my solution is the “right” one, when I’m a thousand words deep in a tech article. When it feels like I’m on the verge of drowning. When I open my blog and realized it has been 4 months since I’ve posted anything.

Breathe.

It’s okay. That’s okay. Nothing’s on fire. 🔥

One minute of respite from the chaos of the world has been doing wonders for my mental health. It has been far more effective than the 5-15 mins break I used to take, scrolling through social media, or watching a Youtube video. I literally have a post-it stuck on my monitor that says “breathe for 1 min“, cause that’s how much I trust my brain.

So give it a try, oh and also exercise regularly. Who would’ve thought that breathing and exercising helps you feel better huh.

Categories
Learning Thoughts

10 things I learned from working in MyCareersFuture team

Last Friday was my last day at MyCareersFuture team. I have learned way more things than I can keep count of, but here are some lessons that the team have taught me over the course of my stay.

I was able to come up with this list is because I have failed these items in one way or another and had these flaws unearthed from the depths of my shame; but hey, at least there are 10 things that I’m slowly getting better at. /shrug

  1. Give space for others to speak
    • A silent room doesn’t necessary require you to fill it up
    • People need some time to process speech and ideas
    • Especially for important topics, people don’t want to come across as mindless so it’s normal for the pace to slow down
    • Prompt for response instead of glossing over and moving on
  2. Know your audience, change your approach accordingly
    • e.g. for some vendors, instruct instead of prompting
  3. Don’t be quick to judge others (i.e. Practicing mindful openness)
    • it could be an idea or their behavior
    • 99.99% of people do not work with the intention to harm, if they do something that opposes you, consider what are the factors that pushes them to the action
  4. Be mindfully aware of the Curse of knowledge bias
    • don’t assume everyone has the same context as you, it doesn’t hurt to spare a few seconds to check at the beginning of each discussion
    • this is true even if you are working on the same task together
  5. The 7 elements of a complete request; we often make an incomplete request, which explains why many requests are often not fulfilled to satisfaction
  6. Don’t be afraid to speak up; even if you think you might be wrong
    • raise your concerns if there’s anything that damages the team or product
  7. Don’t be afraid to be wrong; but do your own due diligence
  8. Don’t be afraid of admitting that you’re wrong; i.e. growth vs fixed mindset
  9. Don’t punish others for being wrong; this is where learning happens. (podcast – rethinking your position: "that was wonderful! I was wrong" )
  10. Opening discussions to anyone who is interested instead of selected few
    • helps build feeling of inclusiveness
    • helps people to take ownership of decisions made

It has been a great 15 months learning and growing with the team and I’m glad to have been a part of this amazing journey. 🎉

Categories
Deployment DevOps Docker Learning Productivity

Miniflux: self-hosted RSS reader

In an attempt to stay more updated with the things that are happening online, I’ve recently started following the top stories on Hackernews via the Telegram channel. But I’ve very quickly realized that it is just not part of my routine to check news via telegram.

What about RSS readers? I remember using Google Reader donkey’s years ago before it was abruptly shut down and I never did get back to RSS readers from then on; probably something to do with the trauma of losing all my news feed suddenly without a good alternative.

In my search for something that just “works”, Dickson hooked me up again with another recommendation that does exactly what I ask for: works.

TLDR; it’s a very simple and opinionated RSS reader that has a self-hosted option.

Setup

It was so simple that I got the docker up and running on my Synology NAS within minutes. Here’s the docker-compose.yml file that I used to get up and running. Docs on configurable parameters

Categories
Books Thoughts

Practicing mindful openness

Prologue

As I grow older and learn more about the world around me; I noticed that a contradictory process has been happening at the same time. As I figure out more of what’s right and what’s wrong, what are things supposed to be, the more I become closed off to other possibilities. I wish to grow with an open mind; how can I do that?

Let me start from the beginning of my thought process.

Inception

I’ve recently started to read more books as a response to: "hmm, I haven’t been utilizing my Kindle much, it’s such a waste to leave it sitting there". Hence I started my journey of crossing out books that has been sitting on my Todo list for the longest time (e.g. The War of Art).

That was followed by "Atomic Habits" (re-reading it before my reflection) and "Your Money or Your Life" (WIP). I was introduced ideas of how to continuously achieve more; and consumerism: about how we have all fallen into the idea of more is always better. These are conflicting ideologies in my opinion but yet I fully agree with both of them. The acceptance towards this dichotomy of ideologies is giving me a lot of internal conflict because it’s messing up with my value system.

Awareness

When I thought deeper into it, I realized that it is only possible for me to accept both of them at once because this is something new to me. I haven’t formed my own belief of what is right or wrong for me yet. This led me to think about: "how many times have I rejected an idea/solution just because I already have my own pre-conceived notion of what is right?". The answer is probably a lot more than I’m willing to admit, which scares me more than I’m willing to show.

Action

Thankfully, awareness and consciousness is usually always the first step to breaking out of being oblivious to my own biasness. My current proposed solution for such short-sightedness is…

  • keep reading a variety of books
  • keep communicating with people who have different ideas and perspectives on life
  • don’t live in an echo chamber/bubble
  • don’t be quick to judge opposing ideas
  • accept that moderate internal conflict is good for growth
  • accept that almost everything is a spectrum instead of binary

Closing thoughts

It’s not often that I feel this level of revelation, and it does make me feel like I’ve been living my life "wrong". But hey, better late than never right? I still have another 2/3rds of my life to make the changes and reap the benefits.

Also I just thought it would be funny to have a section called "Closing thoughts" when this post is about openness.

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