The ‘Artic 30’ were brave. But can they be effective?

At first I was indifferent. Then I was against them. But now I realize that I should be supporting people like them. The people of the ‘Artic 30’ were amazingly heroic. They were willing to go all in on an environmental poker game where the odds were stacked against them.

This whole saga also shows how a country will interpret the law in their favour in order to get what they want when something is getting in the way of their national interest. Russia isn’t the first and neither will they be the last country to do that. And while we can debate on whether Russia should or should not be allowing a pipeline in the artic, I think we can all agree on one thing. The ‘Artic 30’ had their fates decided for them the moment they decided to do what they did.

So what happens now after majority of the members have been bailed? Well I don’t think anything with a significant impact will be done to change the outcome of the pipeline plans in the artic. Because when the power belongs to the people who do not see your cause as a legitimate one, your impact will often be minimal. And that is why those who believe in the (Artic 30) cause should do what we can to support them. Because numbers also matter in the battle of power. Countries, corporations and the leaders themselves will wake up to the issue when it becomes a legitimate economic issue (not an environmental one).

And only by forming a large enough opposition can we create enough economic uncertainty that the people in power will have to re-evaluate their decisions, actions and goals.

Only when enough people believe in a cause and fight for it together can we actually make an impact.

If not, it all becomes another wasted attempt by good people who tried to do a good thing without the support of people like us who actually believe in their cause but were too afraid to do something about it ourselves.

As the mother of one of the ‘Artic 30’ said, “A person who only does good for the planet, like my daughter, must be recognised by their actions, not unjustly accused. This is the only way we can keep the faith in the future.”

And we should do what we can to help them so that the sacrifices they made for our sake will not be in vain.

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It’s interesting what you can learn during IPPT

Today I took my IPPT. For my non-Singaporean friends, IPPT is the physical fitness test the men in our country have to take every year after our national service. It is to ensure that we maintain our fitness for when we get called back for our reservist training. And boy does it get harder and harder to do as each year passes!

Gone are the days when we didn’t need to train for the IPPT. Our youthful athleticism was enough for us to achieve at least a silver standard if not gold. I know i’m still young. I’m only 25 years old. But I can slowly feel my knees hurting and my breathing becoming more laboured as I muster every bit of energy to complete the test. 2 years ago I was laughing at the idea of having a paramedic during this test. Now I’m complaining that just the one paramedic isn’t enough to carry me to the ambulance should anything happen to me. That natural physical fitness we all have during our teenage years is leaving me and I have to resign to the fact that I have to start training.

But that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this to tell you all about this guy I made friends with while I was at the test. His name is Joel. Like every other guy, he didn’t want to be at this damn test. But unlike every other guy, he was extremely cheery about the situation.

Joel had been living in Australia for 10 years. He was enjoying his work and life there. However, like most Singaporeans who have lived abroad, he ended up coming back to Singapore because his parents were getting really old and he wanted to make sure he was close enough should they need him. Safe to say, working and living in Singapore is less than ideal once you get used to the quality of life in a country like Australia. But just like his attitude towards the IPPT, he was cool about it. He said it took some time to adjust and get use to life in Singapore but he eventually got there and he is more than happy with his decision.

Joel was a timely reminder to me. You don’t have control over your external environment. You only do your best to make it favourable to you. The difference between people like Joel and people like me is that he consciously makes an effort to be at peace internally.

Happiness can only be achieved from within. Your desire to make your external environment favourable towards you should only be an extension of your passion to become better and achieve great things. But it should not be the source of your happiness. In fact I shouldn’t even say that. What I meant to say is that it can’t be your source of happiness. Because if that were the case, every time your external environment crumbles, so will you. And that is unhealthy for both you and the people around you.

So let’s take a lesson from people like Joel. He is happy to be Joel and he finds peace internally so that he can succeed externally. Let’s all do the same.

What is the hardest thing about being in a long distance relationship?

The hardest thing about being in a long distance relationship is the waiting

and to control yourself so you don’t drop everything you’ve worked for to be with that person.

So we settle by constantly counting down the days through our virtual dating

and use every other aspect of your life as a temporary distraction.

 

It’s when we are not physically there when the other needs us the most

because those are the times you are willing to give everything to make them feel alright again.

So you do the next best thing, a gesture that is grandiose

like write a rap song about how much she means to you, courtesy of your left brain.

 

Now you probably want to know if I think it is worth it.

I don’t think I can definitively give you an answer.

But if nothing else there is something I must admit.

I love her. And with her, everything is just so much better.

 

 

The real tragedy of a natural disaster such as typhoon Haiyan

I may be a big supporter against climate change but let’s calm down on that debate right now. Yes I’m sure climate change must’ve played some part in the typhoon that hit the Philippines recently. But in the aftermath, we can see more pressing issues that need to be settled first.

To me, it is a big RED FLAG when we give money only after a disaster has struck. Why the sympathy now? Prior to this, we knew that Tacloban was an area that has always been prone to mother nature’s wrath. But when all is calm, there is no urgency to help build infrastructure that would better protect them against disaster’s such as this. Because why does an impoverished area need protection? They are not valuable enough to warrant our help.

That may not be our intention but it is certainly the message we are giving.

We needed to see the children crying and begging for food and water on a plot of land that was once their home to feel bad enough to want to help them. And all the while trying to forget the real tragedy of the situation, which was that while we could not have prevented this natural disaster, we could have prevented the severity of the destruction and suffering that it caused.

Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake that hit Haiti and now typhoon Haiyan. Their wrath was unavoidable. But the magnitude of its impact could have been lessened.

So the real question I think we all need to ask ourselves now is how valuable must someone’s life be before it becomes imperative for us to help them? Is it more important to fortify an area that generates economic value before we fortify an area that doesn’t? Because if so, we might as well put up a billboard in places such has Tacloban that says “We don’t really give a f**k about you, but in times of tragedy we will help you to rid us of our guilt.”

It’ll be interesting to see how the area affected would be rebuilt moving forward. Because if nothing is done to improve the situation, I think people from impoverished places all around the world will have a definitive answer as to how much the world really cares about them.

3 Simple Reminders

The last class of the semester is always my favourite class. Not because of the fact that it’s the last class, or the fact that it signifies the winding down of the semester but because it always ends with a class reflection. And during this class reflection, you get this short 3 minute window into another individuals life. It is that wonderful moment where they open up a part of themselves you wouldn’t see any other time during the school year. Today was no exception. And it moved me. It moved me to the point where I felt compelled to write about it.

So on behalf on the professor and my classmates  who opened up their hearts today, I would like to pay it forward because I really benefitted from hearing it. And I think everyone needs to hear it.

So here are 3 important reminders you need in your life to keep going strong.

Reminder #1: The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. And if it is, it isn’t.

So many times we question our choices. We ask ourselves if the choice we made was the right one. We imagine how “wonderful” our life might have been if we had chosen another path. And we begin to break down if the choice we made isn’t working out for us.

However, we need to remind ourselves that time spent contemplating on an alternative life path prevents you from making progress in the path you have taken. Remember, it is not about the choices you make or didn’t make. It is how you choose to fully utilize the path you have chosen for yourself and to deal with the consequences of that choice.

We always picture the grass greener on the other side. And maybe it is. But that path has come and gone and the time you spend thinking about it is wasted energy. Instead, make the grass greener on your side. Water it everyday with an action plan, an open heart and a positive mindset. Give your grass the opportunity to be as green as it possibly can. But more importantly, believe that you are strong enough to handle the challenges of your choice. And never be afraid to ask for help.

Reminder #2: You are not as irreplaceable as the job market makes you out to be

It’s unnerving the number of times I hear professors tell us that in the real world, we are replaceable. There is always another fresh grad who can take our place or someone who is willing to work for cheaper or that one day our job could and most probably would be replaced by technology. And they mean well because that in fact is the reality of the world we live in. But that is only one aspect of your life. But because we are constantly worried about our livelihood, it is easy to forget that our resume does not exclusively define us. There are so many other aspects of our life that make up our character and who we are. And we as individuals are not replaceable.

I have a friend who is a painter. And during a reflective night-cap, he shared with me something that his mentor told him.

Art is subjective. But any piece in the world is always valuable to someone. Because of its beauty or what it means or the fact that it can never be perfectly replicated. Life is our canvas, the experiences we have are the materials that we use to paint on that canvas. And thus you are valuable to someone. You are beautiful. You mean something to someone whether you believe it or not. And you can never be perfectly replicated.

You are irreplaceable. And don’t ever forget that. The question is, what are you going to put on your canvas in order for you to feel proud of yourself.

Reminder #3: Success is easily attainable when you set your own goals

When you set your own goals, you automatically make your goals more realistic compared to if you followed someone else’s goal. Furthermore, when the goal is yours, you find more meaning in working towards it. You become more hardworking, determined and motivated, which is half the battle.

And sometimes you might not reach your goal. We’ve all been there. But while we may feel disappointed, we won’t have any regrets. Because firstly, this was a conscious choice you made for yourself. Secondly, you feel a sense of accomplishment because of the hard work you put in and no one can take that achievement away from you.

A classmate of mine said it perfectly.

“Success is a pattern you create from within”

So don’t let external factors define your success.

These were 3 important reminders for me personally. It was a summary of all the experiences shared by my classmates.

There is so much we can learn from one another. We don’t need to look far for advise. We don’t need guru’s, life coaches or motivational books. Sure they help. But if we took the time to listen to each other, we will realize the best advice always come for those around you because more often then not, they are going through some of the same issues as you.

Don’t be afraid to share your story. You never know who it’ll help.

I would like to leave you with 2 great videos that was shared by our professor. Enjoy.

A Business Student’s Dilemma

Being in a business school has made me wiser. But it has also made me critical of the kind of culture we are encouraging. In the midst of all the jargon, politics and business fundamentals that we learn, lies an underlying problem that nibbles at our feet. And that is the idea of more. It is the main ingredient of our capitalist culture. And I think people forget just how dangerous it can be.

The clearest example for me is this phrase that comes up in almost every class I attend in University.

What is the need that this business is trying to satisfy?

We really get carried away with the word “need” don’t we? Because in reality there is very little we need. Everything else is simply a want. And as we become more affluent, our list of wants become longer. But we don’t stop to think about who pays the price for our greed.

When we use money, we automatically have a degree of separation from the actual opportunity cost. We think that if we spend $50 on this, we lose out on the opportunity to buy something else. No. The real opportunity cost is far worse than that. Because if we are willing to spend on something we want, the demand for it will increase. And this results in either a decrease in the opportunity to use our limited resources for the people who need it or to preserve our fragile environment or both.

This has been the predominant debate I have with myself since I started University. Because like everyone else, I want to live comfortably, have nice things and provide a great life for my family. But I also know that in a small way, I am contributing to this big and dangerous problem.

I actually had a debate with a friend from Ecuador regarding this topic. And he mentioned something to me that could either be seen as wise or foolish. He said,

“My friend, you may see this as greed. But others see this as an opportunity to try and make the best life for themselves now because no one is promised tomorrow. Think about the people who come from nothing and now have everything. To them, they deserve this luxury. They don’t see it as greed. They see it as a reward for their hard work. And who are we to question that?”

Hard to disagree with that. But I still do. Because if we are so cavalier with our choices, how can we bring future generations into this world and think they would have a good life if we strip our earth of its sustainability now?

I don’t think anyone has the answer to this. I definitely don’t. I just have a very strong opinion about it. But I would encourage all of us to spend some time thinking about this and what is required of us to keep our world and the people who live in it going for generations to come.

Also published in TRS.