Sunday, March 11, 2018

A New Hope Awakens

I'm not one who lets failure get me down.

Whenever I trip and fall, I'm back up and running in no time. What's the point moping around for days, licking my wounds and reflecting about the injustices of life? Instead, I'm always looking forward for the new big challenge... and bracing myself for the next epic failure.

And as I've said last week - and will say again - failure isn't the end of the world.

In every failure, awakens a new hope.

"Good stuff, Master Yoda - but they're all going to die horribly in Episode III, y'know?"

Different Faces, Same Goal

So right after leading a team of students into epic failure, I'm supposed to guide another team to glory.

But this time, it was a team of fresh faces. So I delegated most of the heavy lifting to my senior students to mentor them.

It's good training for the seniors to be future trainers. Eases my burden training everyone on my own. And besides, I wouldn't want to pass on my bad luck to them, and maybe they're even better teachers than I am.

The team was heading into a novice competition in Singapore. The stakes weren't that high. There was room for trial and error. Learning, not winning, was in the forefront of their minds.

Still, a competition is a competition. And the best way for us to learn is striving to win.

To Infinity And Beyond

So how did we fare in Singapore?

Not too bad. Given their inexperience and preparation time constraints, they performed well. The problem (which I had designed with much deliberation) was way above their level, so they were punching above their weight.

Plenty of room for improvement, of course. But more importantly, plenty of reason for optimism.

They're a bright bunch of students. Rough diamonds. Stars in the making.

In short, they gave me great hopes for the future. I'm excited to continue their training.

Their limits? What limits? Batman has no limits, and neither should they. Setting limits for them would be limiting how far and fast they can go.

They have the potential to soar higher than any of us have reached before.

Fashion fail: short tie, unbuttoned jacket

Hope Wins

Even when we fail, we should never give up hope.

It's only when we give up hope, do we truly give in to failure.

As long as we have hope, we can never fail.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Failure Is The Greatest Teacher

Somewhere midway through the latest episode of Star Wars, the ghost of Yoda appears to Laidback Luke and says "The greatest teacher, failure is."

Yes, The Last Jedi is all about failure.

(The movie itself is an epic failure, but let's not go there or I'll be dragged further into the Dark Side.)

How prescient that quote proved to be.

Last weekend, I had an epic failure. Yes, I failed big time. The kind of fail that keeps evoking another stronger kind of four-letter F-word in my head.

(Maybe it's the Force punishing me for my lack of faith in the sequels...)

The greatest failure, Disney is

The Greatest Failure

It was mind-numbing. It was soul-crushing. It was life-shattering.

That's how failure goes.

It makes you want to run away and hide yourself on an isolated swamp or island in a faraway part of the universe. It makes you question your values and goals. It makes you feel like giving up on life altogether.

The worst thing is, I didn't just fail myself.

I failed my friends. I failed my students. I failed all those who put their trust in me.

The greatest failure is failing other people.

The Greatest Teacher

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Maybe I shouldn't feel so sad. Maybe I shouldn't had expected success.

After all, failure runs through my veins. In fact, I failed same time last year, at the very same hurdle. Yes, I did make some small steps of progress lately, but that now seems like a false dawn. Such a long resume of failures, I have.

And since failure is the greatest teacher, it should mean that I'm on the way to be a great teacher. Right? RIGHT?

Funny logic, but it does make sense.

I can tell you when to speed up and slow down. I can point out if a shimmering horizon is but a mirage. I know which paths lead to the Dark Side.

After all, there's more to learn from our failures than our successes. The bright lights of success often blind us from our flaws. The misery of defeat instead forces us to gaze ourselves in the mirror.

"I have failed you, friends... I have failed you all..."
Failure Is A Great Friend

To fail over and over again is a horrible feeling. But I'm not about to give up just yet. And thankfully, there are some of you out there who haven't given up on me as well.

And perhaps that's the greatest thing about failure.

Failure teaches us to trust each other.

Failure teaches us to never give up on each other.

Failure teaches us to pick each other up to fight another day.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

May You Live In Interesting Times (A CNY Curse)

There's an ancient saying in China: "May you live in interesting times".

Apparently, it's both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing, because hey, it's fun and exciting to be living in fast-moving times. Our phones can book cabs. We can watch our favourite TV series without annoying ads. The day our fridge restocks itself is not too far away.

A curse, because change brings chaos. We replace our phones every 2 years. It's hard to tell the difference between real news and fake news, between journalistic opinions and sponsored content. The day AI robots enslave humans and take over the world is not so crazy after all.

No surprise then that there are many people who prefer things to stay the same, for traditions to be followed unquestioningly, and for the world to be as uninteresting as possible.

Chinese people, for instance.

Just recently, supermodel Liu Wen faced the fury of Chinese netizens for wishing "Happy Lunar New Year" instead of "Happy Chinese New Year" on Instagram. Now, who says we Chinese ain't got no passion, yo?

"Happy Lunar... um, I mean... Happy CHINESE New Year!"

Chinese New Same Old Year

Chinese New Year (CNY) came and went. Whew! Good thing it's over.

This year, we didn't have reunion dinner on the eve. Being stuck in traffic for 6 hours just wasn't worth the effort.

This year, I didn't go around meeting friends. I had urgent work to do, and it's not like we live on different planets that we can't see each other any other time of the year.

This year, I didn't gamble. Again, it's not like there's some rule in the universe that gambling can only be done during CNY.

I did enjoy catching up with some distant relatives, and munching away on Chinese New Year cookies. That's as interesting as my CNY goes.

It's not a new revelation that I'm come up with. For years, I haven't bothered keeping up with Chinese traditions. (Admittedly, last year, I tried to see the positive side of things).

I don't wear new clothes during CNY (instead, I ditch and recycle my old clothes).

I don't send people greeting cards (and wish people I've never talked for the whole year would stop spamming me with e-cards on Whatsapp).

My yummy solo CNY eve dinner (hey, at least the chicken is red!)

Change Over Custom

Do I have something against CNY? Sort of, but it's nothing personal. I'm also against Christmas for much the same reason.

That custom entrenches ill-founded and purposeless dogma.

That custom makes us complacent and resistant to change.

That custom sets society back from creating and innovating new habits.

Why do we keep doing the same thing over and over again? To beat the mad traffic rush, we speed on the highway in the dark of night and put our lives at risk. To get new clothes, we splurge unnecessarily.

Why are we such sticklers to custom? Would we really be cursed with bad luck if we wear black for CNY? Would we be swamped by demons and ghosts if we don't let loose noisy fire-crackers?

Out with the old

Interesting Times Are Coming

I don't see any sense in doing things just because that's the way it's always been done.

Most Chinese are stuck in the past.

Well, not me. I want to live in interesting times.

Time moves on, technology propels us forward.

Next year, hopefully, I will be able to teleport back home through a quantum portal. And if that's not possible, I'll just beam my holograph from where I'm at. Ang-pow? No problem, just send them over through blockchain, thank you very much.

It's going to be a great year ahead. And may we all live in interesting times!