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A friend in his late twenties is hesitant about starting a relationship. He has way too many commitments and (he thinks) his situation is unstable (I don't understand, in what sense?!). He makes a table of pros and cons. He anticipates the pros but fears the cons.

Seriously, can everything be calculated and predicted this way?

When there are too many things to consider and decide, just remember that you either "win some, lose some, or wreck some".

So don't try to mitigate all risks in an attempt to choose the best outcome. Perfection does not exist.

Just take the leap. Sometimes losing and wrecking are better than staying idle and hesitant.

Go for it!

Auntie Eve

"I'll put my hand around my face to pretend that my face is that small."
In a recent Chinese New Year gathering, a relative in her 50s told us that she got a face-lift after spending a fortune. Her skin looked firm and glowy. Her wrinkles were gone. The other women in the bunch gasped at her reclaimed youth and started wondering if they should do the same. Sitting next to them was a group of uncles between the age of 30-70. They were wearing slippers, talking and laughing loudly with their beer bellies shaking. They talked about the government and the economy like all uncles do. None of them gave a shit about botox. Some of them are getting bald but they probably think they look like Jason Statham.

Then somebody proposed to take a group photograph, the women started taking out their mirrors, busy applying lipstick and checking their hair.

None of them wanted to stand on the front row. "My face is prettier on the left side so I will stand here." "Lift your arm like this so it won't look fat." "Wait, is my hair okay?" etc etc. Of course I was one of them. I care a lot about how I look.

Then we looked at the photos. The women started saying, "Gosh I look fat." "My hair should have been this way." etc etc. And the men? They didn't care. My dad, as always, thought he is the most handsome man in the world.

As most of my girlfriends are entering the big 3-0, I could feel the stress and insecurity among us. One specific example is they refuse to be called Auntie, because it makes them feel old and anxious. But rationally speaking, what else do you call a woman in her 30s? Jie jie? Leng lui?

Note: Adult + female friend.
Age is not just a number, especially for women. It defines a woman's worth and success. The commercials, dramas and social media are all trying to tell you how you should look and behave.

And then there is the concern of fertility. If you do not produce babies when you are 28-30, apparently you miss the golden opportunity of your lifetime. Of course this concept is supported by science, but in 2018, giving birth at this age is not super realistic. We might be busy building our careers, saving up for houses or some of us haven't even met the right guy yet. So what's the expectation for?

Three years ago, I wrote a post about feeling insecure in my mid-twenties. As you can see, I haven't fully figured out how to deal with it yet. But one thing I do realize is that the insecurity about aging will NEVER go away, the only thing we can do is to dance and make peace with the feelings. 

The balance comes from knowing that we do get old, and humans aren't meant to be flawless.

You might want to repeat this to yourself until you are hypnotized and convinced: 😂

I am good enough. I am perfect as I am. I am beautiful. I love myself.

29 and 92 years old.
The only woman I know who isn't insecure about her look is my 92-year-old grandma. She doesn't care if her arms look fat in photos. She can't remember her name. She doesn't even know if she's a man or a woman. Seriously, do we need to wait until then only we feel good about ourselves?

Some questions for you: Do you worry about getting older? Do you feel you are good enough? How much is enough?

I need to end this post here because I've got things to do. I'll be busy checking my face in the mirror and worrying about my pimples.

Have a good week!

Be careful what you wish for…

(From left) Me, Grace, Yiing Yee and Yu He
Grace, Yiing Yee, Yu He and I knew each other for nearly a decade. We are geeky researchers. We like to wander in the city. We like to read and think. We like topics that other girls might think boring and serious. We are introverts...

... and we have another thing in common - we had a difficult 2017.

Grace was struggling to graduate from her Master’s degree due to some ridiculous problems. Her admin job was challenging and repetitive. While sorting piles of papers and letters seem like a good job, what she truly love is art and design.

Yu He was juggling a million things. She’s a scientist who studies one of the rarest subjects in the country. Her husband Ronald, a passionate fitness trainer, just started a gym business. Entrepreneurship, marriage, money, career, family, and science - you can imagine how many things she had on her to-do list.

Yiing Yee was experiencing a bottleneck in her research project. Her health and financial status were at stakes too. We would sigh and feel anxious when we met up for lunch and shared our problems. The stress was enormous.

As for myself, I was hit by a financial crisis. To add salt to the wound, I was grieving for a broken relationship, literally with my then-partner, but honestly, a broken relationship with myself. I felt distressed and lost, constantly questioning myself, my future and my value. 

At that time, we were desperate to get out of the rut. It wasn't fun. 

Fast forward one year later, guess what? All the big problems seem to work out pretty well.

Grace graduated from her Master’s degree. She is working on a new job that allows her artistic-cum-creative side to flourish. Yu He’s life is still hectic as ever, but she's adapting. Her husband’s new gym business is taking off and she surprised us with good news - she is expecting a baby! 

Yiing Yee’s PhD project is coming to an end. She met a brilliant mentor for her project, and her health is improving. My own research is fine, I got to be involved in exciting writing projects, and I am in a relationship with a good guy. 

Amazing, huh? I feel unreal. 

Of course we work very hard to solve problems and reach our goals. We strive and hustle. But when I hear the girls talking, there is always one or two points in the stories that seem illogical, sometimes almost miraculous. I'm thinking, "What...? Is this magic, sorcery or what?" 

Sometimes it's an opportunity, sometimes it's a person or an idea - as if somebody knows you need something and send it. It's like a door just open, and then magic happens.

Grace made me this dreamcatcher years ago for my birthday, maybe it does... work?
When I heard about The Secret, Law of Attractions, Manifestation, Positive Thinking... I thought it was purely bullshit. Come on, I’m a rational scientist, but a researcher needs to find proof to make a conclusion. 

After reading some scientific reports and psychological analyses, I understand that what we think will indeed affect our action and hence the outcome. 

"Apparently our mind is busy processing millions of information each day, but most of them aren’t particularly useful. The part of your brain in charge of what gets in is the reticular activating system (RAS). Affirmations allow you to hack into your RAS and turn your brain’s focus to your dreams and aspirations." For more detailed explanation on why affirmations work, check out this post.

The theory seemed legit, I was determined to do an experiment myself. 

My method is simple. I have a red notebook that I bring with me everywhere I go. I draw, sketch and scribble all my ideas and wishes, no matter big or small, in this notebook. For example, I wrote that I want to work for premium clients for my writing projects. I wrote that I want to have a healthy and stable relationship. I wrote that I want to pay off my car loan. 

I look at my notes occasionally. Some ideas are ridiculous, some are hilarious, some are interesting, but I give them space to flourish in my notebook without any judgement, fear or doubt. The worst thing you can do to your vision is to second guess yourself, telling yourself a million reasons why this or that will not work. Believe it or not, some of them came true within a year.

“As time passes and life unfolds, things you initially swatted away like a distraction can reveal depth and become unimaginably important.

That cliché you ignored like a throwaway fortune cookie? Suddenly it makes sense and moves mountains.” 

That's how I feel.

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” - another popular line from the wildly successful book "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coehlo. After a series of experiments and active discussion, my skeptic friends and I conclude that this line is true. The universe is indeed listening to us. And it will send us the right opportunity at the right time. 

Cool and weird at the same time, right? Why don’t you try it yourself? There are many methods to do this. 

The famous cartoonist Scott Adams called his method the affirmations practice, “The idea behind affirmations is that you simply write down your goals 15 times a day and somehow, as if by magic, coincidences start to build until you achieve your objective against all odds.” Some people swear by the vision board method. I personally use this one by Debbie Millman. Some people talk to themselves in the mirror. Some people associate this with religion, the idea of "God" and other higher power. They perform specific rituals to convey their dreams. Any method is fine, just do it and see what happens.

Make a wish, you just might get it.

Have a good week! 

Good stuffs (videos, links and books)


One night I accidentally clicked on one Keeping Up with the Kardashian video and YouTube started to assume that I needed to know every bit of their lives. One video played automatically after another. After an hour of uninvited YouTube suggestions, I thought, "Wait a minute, what am I doing? What does their favourite cake flavour having to do with me?" 

I stopped watching their dramas and started digging for good stuffs to watch and read.

After a tough 2017, my goals for this year are to be more financially-savvy, focused and disciplined. Here are some resources that I find extremely useful:

This YouTube channel is a gem. I was illiterate when it came to money and accounts, but typical finance books bore me to death. This channel covers multiple topics from budgeting, managing your debts, to practical steps for lifestyle changes. I like that the information they share are very simple and actionable. If you are a newbie like me, you will enjoy their videos.

On focus and discipline 
If there is one man I really want to hang out with, it's Tim Ferriss. I love this guy. He is a prolific writer and speaker, and he produces excellent podcast. I listen to his interviews every time I feel like scrolling Facebook infinitely instead of working. In this episode with the tennis queen, Maria Sharapova, they talk about how important it is to stay focused and disciplined. I write notes about this podcast to remind myself to stay focused whenever I start watching random cat videos.

Goal setting 
I don't know about you but I'm not good in making plans and thinking ahead. Plans can be pretty daunting and abstract to me. What I do is I imagine what I want to achieve and start drawing the map backwards. Most of the time whiel I'm making plans, I'll start to doubt myself if I can really achieve them and think if I'm too unrealistic. Fear paralyses me. 
Then I heard about this Ten-Year Plan exercise from Tim Ferriss. I guess you’ve heard of vision board, this exercise is similar to that. It's pretty simple and straightforward. Basically you picture your life in ten years' time and write down every single detail of that vision, without holding back and any fear. Once you have the ideas on paper, they are less imaginary and more plausible. And you are more likely to reach those goals.
I totally agree with this concept. You will naturally navigate towards what you want, so it is better to get that picture crystal clear.

These books are very helpful too.

Personal Development

The Magic of Thinking Big – David J. Schwartz
This book encourages you to think beyond your current status quo, and it guides you on how to rethink your life and strive for excellence. One part I find extremely useful is the three failure diseases: procrastination, excuse-itis and detail-itis. I am guilty of all three. Now I tend to catch myself in the midst of them and think "Gotcha! Stop that."
Good quote: “The thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than how much intelligence you have.”

Living the 80/20 Way – Richard Koch
I guess you've heard of the Pareto Law or the 80/20 principle, I find it interesting but not exactly sure how to apply this into my daily life. This book gives you clear examples and tactics on how to design a life that you enjoy. What I like about this book is how easy it is to read and understand.

Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandberg
A friend recommended me this book because she knows that I'm a quiet and non-confrontational introvert, with the hope that Sandberg's stories and career path will inspire me to think far and aim high. Conventional social expectations on women are still very common, but the dynamic is shifting. This popular book deserves all the attention it gets. I see myself in some of the cases in the book where women are afraid to speak up and defend themselves.
Good quote: “What would you do if you weren't afraid?” I think I'll be a cool kid.


Paths of Glory – Jeffrey Archer
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed
These two books are the best of the bunch. They talk about two incredible journeys - one to the Mount Everest and another one to the Pacific Crest Trail in the US. Both authors are incredible story-tellers, so the readers are instantly drawn to follow them to the wild nature, adventures, and the most impressive of all, the inner struggles along the way. The two books are so different in their plots, but essentially they talk about the journey of conquering a challenge and the determination to complete their quests. I highly recommend these books to anyone who is battling a long fight, such as paying the house loan or attending graduate school. 


Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable – Seth Godin
Seth Godin is one of my mentors, though I've never met him before. His views on business, education and management are so in-depth and realistic. This is a short book which you can finish in an afternoon, without much business principles or complicated hacks in it, but his arguments got you thinking, "What makes something impressive and another mediocre? What makes a person unique and another average?" Think of a purple cow in the midst of brown cows - it's remarkable.

Most of these books have audio books that you can download on Audible or YouTube. In addition to that, I wrote a post about my favourite podcasts – I still listen to them when I am driving or working. Hope you find this post useful. Have a productive year ahead!

Beijing Photo Diary


Seventeen years ago I boarded my first flight to the capital of China. Everything in Beijing fascinated me as a child: the large Tiananmen Square, the grand Forbidden City, the infinite Great Wall, the people who hadn't heard about Malaysian Chinese, and the public toilets with no doors.

Fast forward 17 years later, there I was again, standing at the Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan) and feeling ecstatic because this was my favourite place.

Her magnificent scenery and incredible history never cease to amaze me. But what amaze me even more is how much Beijing has developed over the last two decades. China has risen indeed.

On the last day of our trip, I looked at my parents, my siblings, and suddenly thought, life's good.

My parents are both alive and well. My siblings are close together. We laughed a lot. We managed to save money and travel together. We loved Beijing. We had a good time. I'm aware that this does not happen to many families.

I shared this grateful sentiment with Frederick and he said I'm a lucky person. His last family trip was 20 years ago when he was a child. Although he really wish to travel with his whole family again, it's almost impossible.

Beijing was amazing, but spending time with my family was even better, especially when we snuggled together, trying to keep warm at -7°C. 

May you spend more time with your family.

Little me at the Great Wall, 31st of May 2001

Trying to look at the good sides and laugh... 2017 rewind


What better day to look back at your year than the midnight of Christmas Eve? The night is peaceful at 3 a.m., I'm scribbling my random thoughts, good and bad moments of the year on my notebook. Some of these notes are funny and stupid, some sound smart, some are shitty, and some should never be seen by anyone else.

I do this every year to recap what I have, or have not accomplished, what I'd done, and what I wish that I'd done differently. And then I try to reflect on them and plan for the new year. If you've never tried this before, I suggest that you get a piece of paper and pen, and doodle whatever comes to your mind about 2017. You'll be amazed by your own stories. This exercise is useful because it tells you so much about yourself. I can't describe my emotions now. I'm feeling entertained, surprised, regretful, sorry, happy,  and funny. 

Then I decide to distill my pages of notes into something useful and shareable.

Three things I've learned in 2017:

1. Know your money.

I think you don't grow up until the defining moment when you smack your forehead after looking at your bank accounts. I was (and still am) financially illiterate, so when terms like "loans", "savings", "bills" hit me like a tsunami this year, I felt more motivated than ever to look at the numbers and understand them. My income as a grad student was indeed minimal, but honestly the main problem was because I didn't make wise decisions for my finances.

If I were to do ONE thing differently since the beginning of 2017, it'd be to educate myself more about money.  I'm starting slow by reading more about the topic now.

2. You need to clean your own mess.

Sometimes you get into troubles where nobody can help you except yourself. This might happen to your career, family, finance, or relationship. I think I wasn't mature enough realize that I have to take full responsibility for every choice I make. Every single decision you make will come back to you. So make your decision wisely.

3. Are you really suffering? In your imagination or reality?

I made a full list of my current problems, what might be the worst scenario and what I could do to minimize the consequence. The results were shocking. I see that I have the tendency to overthink, over-worry and over-commit. I worry all the time about scenarios that will not happen. (Reference: Tim Ferriss' TED talk).

Taking my financial problem as an example, I was worried that my scholarship would be delayed and I might need to work as a tuition teacher, a job that I really dreaded. I was thinking all these problems with students, my time management, tedious preparation, expectations and transport. Once I listed down all these problems on paper, I was able to analyze them and come up with better ideas to solve the problems.


While these points may seem blandly obvious to the clever people, it took me nearly three decades to see what I had done wrong. I guess a good lesson is better late than never.

Okay, enough of the grandmother's story. Since everybody only shares his or her best moments on the internet, here are some of my best moments this year:

Stuck in the toilet because the lock was broken. Luckily I was agile enough to magically climb up and move to another cubicle. Although I wish you never have to go through this physical challenge, I think we should all be prepared for unexpected circumstances because you just never know. I can' stop laughing hahahaha. Documentation by Poh Kheng.
Midnight picnic on the grass in Dataran Merdeka to celebrate Yiing Yee's birthday. Not fancy but very romantic and memorable.
Completed several projects with this guy. I don't know how we managed to do those things despite our crazy schedule. By the way, Avoon is single and he can bake delicious cakes.
Worked with a new group of people for Heartbiz, a platform which promotes virtuous businesses. It's an eye-opening experience. Photo by Kuar Photography.
Foster relationship that's worth my time, especially my family.

You cannot make everyone happy. Care less and relax.

Kluang Railway Station. Didn't know that Fred is good in taking my photos. One brownie point for him.

I'm Einstein's little experiment. This was in a 3D art museum in Langkawi. Rethinking the purpose of doing research and pursuing scientific knowledge, and my career path.

Tried to look into the beauty of full concentration and artistry in science. This was a corner of my friend's geology laboratory.

It says "The real perfection includes accepting your own weakness and dark side." Learned to accept that perfection will never exist. And, the process is the result.

A huge rain tree in Melaka. Got healed from a really desolate relationship, but I know I had to go through it to learn and break some of my die-hard insecurities.

Started to think that bathing and cleaning my grandma's diaper are easy-peasy. She has Alzheimer's disease and couldn't remember anything or take care of herself.

Learned a lot of unexpected new skills, such as playing with a glass prism to create rainbow and selling them on e-commerce.

MRT started its operation. This was taken at the station right at my housing area. The world is changing, am I?

Sekeping Jugra. Later that day I jumped into the pool to chill after a few glasses of wine. Photo by Qiu Ying.

7 a.m. in Putrajaya, just magical. Photo by Fred.

Chilled at The Andaman Resort in Langkawi. That was probably the most relaxed moment I had in the entire year. Photo by Fred.

Seeing your old friends unlocking a milestone is a strange feeling. You keep wondering "Where did the time go?" "What have I done?" and feeling ecstatic for them at the same time.

Good friends, good times, good food and wine. And a film camera. No extra word needed. Photo by Pei Han.

Witnessed my childhood best friend's wedding. Seriously I did not realize I am not young anymore until that exact moment when she said "I do".

Work in an environment that expands my horizons and trains me in so many ways. Photo by Kok Keong.

Probably one of my favourite shots of the year. There is no need for excessive display of intimacy in one photo to show the bond between two human beings. Photo by me.

Learning new skills is a must. You might need it one day. 

Always look at the good side of things with a pinch of humour. Being angry and revengeful will not solve any problem, ever.

Drinking white wine at the Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore. This seems to be extremely romantic, but the truth is I'd been hiding inside a hotel room writing all day for a deadline, pulling my hair, and feeling overwhelmed. Everyone is struggling a struggle you have no idea about, there is no need to compare. This realization, I think, is the most important one I had this year.

All in all, my year was incredibly busy and amazing. It wasn't easy at all, but it was a year of growth and incredible memories.

I am always curious who actually read this blog. I want to say thank you for dropping by, and I hope you continue to learn, grow, and have a fruitful year ahead.

With my very best wishes,

Growth and comfort... can I have both?


I don’t usually go for outdoor challenges, but when I do, I crawled into a pitch-black million-year-old cave and looked for fossil (pictured above). It was fascinating.

My friend was recently dismissed by her company. She was heartbroken. Five long years of loyalty, endurance and midnight oil didn’t help to secure the job after all. She thought if she worked hard enough, she’d stay and work in the same company until retirement, she’d climb the career ladder and become the retail manager.

The company that she desperately wanted to stay is a family-owned (not her family) business. Based on her description, the business has a complicated but vague organizational structure which consisted mainly of family members (Hint: relentless family dramas). The business also doesn’t seem to expand in the near future. Benefits, salaries and opportunities were average. 

So why does she want to stay? She feels that she understands the company and its daily operation. She knows all her colleagues. She could pay the bills and save up to travel abroad every year. She feels secure. 

“It’s been five years and you’re doing the same job day after day, and you've been mingling with the same group of people all the time. Of course you’ll move to a new job!” another friend said. He was trying to put things in a bigger perspective and convince her that this is a good chance, not an unfortunate event, to explore better opportunities. 

“I know, but where can I go? It’s difficult to get a new job AND adapt to a new environment. I am already 30 years old, you know?!” she sighed. Honestly, I don’t know - is age really the limiting factor? If she were to retire at 60 years old, she still has thirty years ahead of her. Thirty years of possibilities, think about that.

"Are you really okay with what you're doing? Is that what you really want?" he asked. She did not answer.

After crawling inch by inch on the muddy floor, we were covered with sweat and marveled at a small water pond inside the cave.
I am filled with one thousand insecurities, I like shortcuts and I don't like to change too, but life has taught me this lesson in a hard way: a comfortable decision is almost always, not the right decision. Option A might bring you a sense of predictability and security, but it doesn’t mean that this is the right thing to do, both in short-term and long-term. You might want to go for option B which makes you feel slightly uncomfortable but produce a better outcome. 

To change and grow doesn't mean that we need to shift your life course entirely - migrate to Europe, learn German and dye our hair blonde. What I mean is don't be rigid, define and limit ourselves too early. The best thing usually happen when you do something out of your usual habit, maybe some random act, you'll  pleasantly surprised by the new perspective that you gain. What if you eat lunch alone? Take a new route back home? Chat with the cashier when you pay? Walk into Starbucks and ask for a cup of free water? You can’t suddenly have the courage to make a big change if you don’t practice small changes frequently. Step out of your comfort zone, one small step at a time.

My workplace is filled with government servants who have been working in the same department or position for decades. They have very stable income and secure retirement plan, which is great especially for parents who have mouths to feed and debts to pay off. They face little to no career adversities so they seem pretty happy. This sounds great, but I can't help but wonder if this lifelong commitment to one paycheck is worth it.

When you decide to stay in the status quo and avoid all risks, you’re already taking the greatest risk. At the grand scheme of the world, everything is changing - technology, culture, job prospect, finance, economy. At the personal level, we face money, relationship, health, emotions and physical environment issues. If you don’t change and grow, how can you possibly adapt?

Alice in the Wonderland is a good metaphorical and philosophical story that I really like. She was curious enough to jump down the rabbit hole, and the adventure began. If we could just be a tiny bit more curious, maybe our lives will be a tiny bit more interesting?

Further reading:

1. Never be comfortable:
2. 3 Reasons Your Comfort Zone is Killing You (and How to Beat It):
3. 100 Weird, Easy and Interesting Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone:
4. Growth and comfort, they don’t co-exist

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