Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Karma's A Pitch

In my last article celebrating the spirit of CNY, I touched on karma and feng shui.

Whilst I'm quite open to the first idea, I'm not sold on the second.

That's because I find the idea that my life is controlled by external forces like the movement of the stars and moons or the placement of miniature animal artifacts on my cabinet rather... unappealing.

Since karma is also closely akin to mystical forces, why am I more accepting of karma rather than feng shui?

That's because the fundamental logic behind karma (at least to my limited understanding) is causality.

I'm so lucky, I'm a star

* * *

If you be good to people, people will be good to you.

They may not necessarily be the same people.

Nor will the reciprocity come immediately, tomorrow or even within the same year.

Nor will you receive goodness in the same amount as you provided - you may receive even more!

For karma isn't an exact science. The chain of causation is seldom linear. Karma is still subject to margin of uncertainty.

Some people do good things because they believe doing so will be rewarded. But karma isn't like religion. Karma happens whether you believe in it or not. Karma doesn't need your faith to happen.

* * *

Here's a brief story how karma works in mysterious and unexpected ways.

Years ago, in my early years of practice, I was assisting on a defamation case. As is the nature of defamation, parties were rather hostile with each other. And naturally, the hostility passes on to their lawyers.

We struck the first blow - liability established. But the opposing lawyer kept giving us a hard time at appeal. Fortunately, parties reached a settlement. And towards the end, the opposing lawyer and I got along fairly well. As she was a senior practitioner from a different city miles away, we were merely acquaintances.

Few months later, the lawyer forwarded a job advertisement to me on email. The lawyer was doing a favour for a friend working at the company in passing the word around. Not thinking too much, I applied for the job, more to test myself and out of curiosity. I was quite happy where I was, and wasn't looking for a move.

About four grueling interview sessions later, I got the job at Shell Malaysia.

Good times at Shell

* * *

Moral of story? Be nice to people. And nice things will happen to you in a roundabout manner.

If I had been extra mean to the lawyer, she would not have thought well of me and forwarded over the job advertisement, and I would never had applied for and got into Shell.

Funny how karma works, eh?

Ultimately, karma is not something to be loved or feared. Karma doesn't require prayers and gifts. Karma doesn't give a damn what you feel about it.

But karma is real.

Every action has a reaction. Things happen for a reason (even though we may never understand why). What you do today will affect what happens tomorrow.

Yes, karma can be a bitch. But only if you act as one yourself.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Get Lucky (Year Of The Rat)

It's the Year of the Rat, according to the Chinese Lunar calendar.

I was born in the Year of the Rat, many moons ago.

Whoops! Guess I just gave my age away there. But that's not the point I wish to make.

Such convergence means fortune will smile upon me more favourably this year. Supposedly. According to Chinese tradition. It's written in the stars. Or the gravitational force of the moon. Whatever.

Anyway, point is, I'm going to get really, really lucky in Year 2020. Hooray!

No, wait, what's that word again...



* * *

I'm not a superstitious person.

The closest Oriental mystical belief I subscribe is karma. Cause and effect. What goes around, comes around. Heaven and hell? Hah! You wish! Use too much plastic, and you'll be reborn as a fish!

Astrology? Not my cup of tea. The idea that our lives are controlled by external forces beyond our control doesn't fit quite well with the idea that our actions carry consequences.

Feng-shui? Bullshit. The reason why it appears to work is because of a placebo effect. The power of belief. Self-fulfilling prophecies. There's no harm decorating your home or office with tortoises and dragons, of course. But ultimately, whether you fail or succeed in life is all dependent on YOU - and not because you place them too close together at the wrong angles that the dragon didn't catch enough of the sunlight, got jealous and ate the tortoise.

But I must say, this zodiac thing is really working hard in convincing me otherwise. It's just pass January, and I'm already seeing a lot of luck falling my way...

* * *

Ang pow - I got two ang pows from the same aunty - one containing RM20, another with RM100. I suspected there was a mistake, and told my Mom who told my aunty. True enough, it was a mistake. Thanks to my honesty, I'm poorer by a few red notes (hopefully, richer in spirit - karma, take note!)

Gambling - There's a slight generational gap in my family. The adults are over 30, whilst the kids scream and run around the house to chase down imaginary enemies (or invisible evil spirits, perhaps). So Uncle Raphael became the 'house' for blackjack (minimum bet: 10 cents). Despite my best efforts, my cards just didn't let me to 'fong sui' by drawing more cards in 'risky' spots - I kept hitting 21 (even AA once - triple!) from my initial two cards. So I pocketed most of their money within an hour. Sorry, kids!

Pay - In my line of work, I'm used to getting delayed payment. Well, that's the nature of bureaucracy and the service industry. So it's quite a surprise I received two timely payments in January (one being an advance deposit being work was even done). Best thing is, I wasn't expecting such early payment nor asked for it.

Health check - We Chinese are not purely money-minded, of course. Health is wealth. Prosperity doesn't mean much if we can't live long enough to enjoy the fruits of our fortune. So I just received the report of a medical check-up - no negative signs! My cholesterol was slightly on the high side during my last check-up - now it's back to normal. Step aside, Kon Marie, for the real expert on Zen minimalism is here...

Thanks for the ang-pow money, kids!

* * *

It's still early days, of course.

Maybe it's all a coincidence. Maybe it's a confirmation bias - I'm finding patterns just because I'm subconsciously looking for them. Maybe my luck will fall away as the year progresses.

Still, true winners make their own luck. Fortune favours the brave.

After all, rats are tenacious buggers. They're quick as lightning. They'll chew and wriggle their way through any barrier.

So no matter the year, I'm still bound to get lucky.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Simple Tasks First, Life Goals Later

Why is it so bloody hard to fulfill our life goals?

Well, here's a simple experiment. Close your eyes. Imagine your life in 10 years' time.

Boss of your own business? Married with two kids? Sun-bathing in the Caribbeans?

Dream on! Chances are, you'll end up way off the mark. Maybe getting closer, but need more time.

Now, here's another experiment. Just look back at last week. Did you complete the routine tasks you set out to do?

Got into office/class on time every morning? Stopped fiddling with your phone while driving? Cut down to one boba milk tea per week?

Such easy-peasy goals But we didn't quite keep to them, right? RIGHT?!

 Study Goal Week #1: Read a chapter of Jurisprudence without dozzz...

* * *

That's the irony of life right there. We have such grandiose plans about our distant future. And yet, we fail miserably to keep to the simple promises we make on a daily basis.

Worse still, we never fail to come up with a million and one excuses.

Overslept and miss the rush hour by 5 minutes (you snoozed your phone alarm 3 times!). Mom called (she just wanted to triple-confirm what time you'll be dropping by Aunty Helen to pick up CNY cookies). Free vouchers expiring this week (if you stopped buying so much tea, you won't have free vouchers to redeem).

If you can make up excuses for trivial failings, imagine how imaginative you can be to justify your major failures.

Truth is, there's a strong correlation between completing simple tasks and fulfilling your BIG goals. Efficiency is a habit. It's a matter of discipline. Commitment requires consistency. If you break a single link in the chain, eventually the entire chain will collapse. Likewise, if you compromise on the small stuff, eventually you'll compromise the BIG stuff too.

* * *

So what's the solution? Well, for a start, make a list of simple tasks to complete each week. And keep to them.

No exceptions, no excuses.

Just do it, no matter what happens. Start with the simplest tasks (making sure no dirty laundry piles up more than a week). A task that can be easily achievable if you set flexible goals (wash your clothes every 4-5 days). A task that won't be unmet even if some unexpected event turns up (if you got caught up with work on the 5th day, there's still 1-2 days of allowance).

Often times, we fail to complete even the simplest tasks because we set up rigid goals (wash laundry every Sunday). Not only does rigidity encourages procrastination (no need to think about laundry for six days - yay!), but it also increases the risk of being unraveled by a single unforeseen event (oh no - best friend's wedding this Sunday!). Sounds silly, but look back and be honest with yourself - we fail to meet most of our goals simply because we set them up for failure.

Goals should be flexible. Or rather, goals must be specific (no unwashed laundry more than a week), but the methods to achieving such goals can be flexible (get rich enough to hire a full-time maid).

Once you've completed a task, then move on to another. Build towards harder and harder goals. Eventually, once you get your short-term goals right, your long-term goals will fall into place too.