Monday, February 11, 2019

Get To Know People Through Answers, Not Assumptions

People are prone to misunderstand each other.

And often enough, it's due to our mistake of not asking the right questions, and not getting enough information to form a complete picture of someone.

Yes, we can shift the blame on social media - for taxing our attention span, extending our circle of acquaintances faster than we can properly get to know them, and facilitating the spread of gossips far and wide.

But ultimately, the fault lies in ourselves. We've lost touch with the basic human skill of getting to know someone, truly and deeply.

How we truly feel about our classmates and colleagues
* * *

How do you get to know someone? That's easy. You ask them questions about their background.

It's not possible to frame a picture perfect of someone, especially early on. But you shouldn't settle with an inaccurate portrayal either.

Misunderstanding arises when we only focus on making assumptions, not getting answers. We're too excited firing away a template questionnaire, and not pausing enough in between each question to ask deeper, follow-up questions.

If you stop digging deeper after getting an answer, two things happen:

First, the answer is incomplete. You don't fully understand the rationale, the thinking, the philosophy behind the answer.

Second - and more worryingly - you are lazily filling in the gaps with your own preconceptions. You resort to stereotyping. You are judging. You make assumptions.

Everything you think you know about me is wrong.
* * *

I'm easily misunderstood.

"Oh, you're a lawyer, you must enjoy talking a lot!" Not really, I'm more of an introvert.

"Oh, you're a lawyer, you must be quite liberal!" Not really, I'm more of a positivist.

"Oh, you're a lawyer, who's your favourite character in 'Suits'?" None. I have never watched the show, nor do I ever plan to.

Such questions don't leave me frustrated and annoyed, but fascinated and amused. Once they know I'm a lawyer, people tend to make all kinds of assumptions of me. And they usually get me wrong.

If you truly wish to get to know me, you should always dig deeper, and ask questions like:

"Why did you decide to study law? To defend justice and the rule of law... Nah, just kidding, I didn't even know what those terms meant back in high school....

"What's a positivist?" It's the opposite of naturalism, as Jeremy Bentham sums it up best: "Hunger is not bread, want is not supply".

"Which lawyer inspires you, real or fictional? None, I am inspired by visionaries, like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Peter Thiel (ex-lawyer), who look towards the future, as opposed to lawyers who are trained to look into the past.

That's just scratching the surface. In time, you'll realise that I'm not really a typical 'lawyer'. Call me a 'fake' lawyer. Whatever.

And that's only because you presume that since I'm a lawyer, I must act and think like a lawyer. But why should I? Being a lawyer doesn't define who I am.

Definitely a catchier slogan than 'Rule of Law' and 'Constitution is Supreme'
* * *

Forget about me being a 'lawyer'. Seriously, you can know much more about me by asking general questions revolving everyday topics, like sports, music and movies.

"Which football team do you support, and why?" None. I used to, but stopped because being a die-hard fan is a waste of time and emotional investment.

"What song are you spamming on your playlist right now?" Thunderclouds by LSD (Labrinth, Sia and Diplo). So unique in every aspect: title, vocals, lyrics, composition, and music video.

"Who's your favourite Star Wars character, and why?" Obi-wan Kenobi. Service above self. Stoic. Doesn't allow emotions interfere with principles. Plus a dry sense of humour. 

See? That's so much you can learn about my personality and beliefs, just by asking pretty simple everyday questions.

'Failure' is my middle name too
* * *

Don't assume too much about people without enough information.

Always dig deeper. Always seek for more answers.

So that you avoid having misconceptions about people.

And to fully know them for who they truly are.

Friday, February 1, 2019

My Chinese New Year Will Spark Joy - How About Yours?

Chinese New Year is just a few days away. 

And it's going to spark joy like never before!

I haven't felt this excited at such time of the year since childhood. Instead of dreading its coming like in previous years, I'm truly looking forward to CNY. I can barely contain myself - my heart's beating like a drum, my head's floating in the clouds. Last year was special enough, but this year is even more special.

This CNY sparks so much joy, for one very good reason:

I'm not coming home this CNY.

Question to self: Which part of CNY spark joy?

What makes that special, one may wonder? Let me count the ways...

1. I won't be stuck in traffic jams - on the contrary, will be enjoying a long stretch of peace and quiet in my neighbourhood as everyone else leaves the city to join the mad rush

2. I won't be stuffing my body with overpriced and unhealthy food - I'll happily settle with a nasi lemak than dine in a jam-packed, rowdy Chinese restaurant serving the same dishes that it serves all round the year

3. I won't need to dress up in nice fancy clothes - instead, I'll probably make time to declutter my wardrobe and donate away my old clothes to charity

4. I won't need to rush my work before CNY - unnecessary long vacations only serve to squeeze work deadlines and build up stress

5. I won't need to present an annual report of my life - here's my blog, feel free to read and comment, PM please for any further inquiries...

6. I won't be wasting time being stuck in traffic, downing food I don't particularly enjoy, shopping for clothes I don't need, avoiding work and telling my life stories over and over again to different people - instead, I could have more personal space and time for more purposeful pursuits (and maybe if I'm really bored and curious, check out how Marie Kondo's tips on minimalism compares to mine...)

I'm sure I'm not the only who feels this way about CNY, deep inside. That's why so many families are fleeing the country during CNY nowadays. A long-awaited family vacation? Nonsense. We're just finding excuses to escape reunions and relatives.

Ultimately, as Chinese, we need to ask ourselves one fundamental question:

Does your CNY truly spark joy?

For me, staying back in the city sparks the brightest of joy this CNY.

Monday, January 21, 2019

What A Difference 10 Years Make

10 years ago is a long time ago.

I had just started working.

This blog didn't exist yet.

And yet, I'm not that different today as I was back then. There's still hair on top of my head. My skin still glows pearly white. My face breaks into full smile as often as the night sky breaks into full moon.

Of course, there's a simple reason for it. I'm not so young that puberty hit me just recently. Nor am I so old that aging has rendered me unrecognisable from my past photos.

And speaking about photos - yes, this post is largely inspired by Facebook's #10YearsChallenge. But no, I'm not going to bite to the challenge because, well, my Facebook Photos is just a chaotic collage of snapshots mostly uploaded by my friends which do not really represent my life trajectory.

10 years ago

* * *

I still remember how my life was 10 years ago.

The best moments of my life, back then as well as now, is firmly imprinted into my memory.

Fresh out of law school, I was struggling to make sense of the real world. Like a caveman out in the light for the very first time, facing new monsters and new companions at every turn.

In 2009, I became my own man. Fighting my own battles. Paying my own rent. Charting my own destiny.

And 10 years later, I'm still alive and healthy. Maybe I've lost a spring in my step or two. But my mind's as sharp as ever. Mind you, it's not a humble brag but a plain fact. Wisdom, after all, builds over time.

* * *

Of course, bad habits also build up as we age.

Have I grown more cynical? Critical? Cantankerous?

Maybe. It's a jungle out there. Humans, as civilised as they try to be, still tend to pick up fights and dominate each other. The struggle to reach the sunlight invariably requires climbing over each other. There's only so much room at the top.

That's life for most people, and mine in my early years.

The last 5 years of my life has taken an unexpected turn. I've abandoned the corporate jungle, to wander through the desert, into uncharted territory.

Along the way, I've discovered pockets of oases here and there, and bumped into hopeful explorers like myself. The desert is not as terrible as people say. Once you make proper provisions for the journey, and keep an open mind - you're good to go!

But on many days, I get lost and lonely. The merciless glare of the sun saps away your energy. The cold of night paralyses you mind with fear.

I wouldn't recommend trekking through the desert to everyone. It takes a fair dose of patience, faith, and yes, insanity.


* * *

Whether you're a kid or adult, 10 years is a long time.

Especially in a dynamic world with technology and culture rapidly evolving. Blink a moment, and you'll miss the hottest trends on social media. Stray too long in the wrong part of the jungle or desert, and you'll be left behind in the darkness.

It's both exciting and scary for us to think of the next 10 years that lie ahead of us.

For me? I face that feeling every day. In the desert, every day is a new adventure. A lion can suddenly spring out from a bush. The shimmering light in the horizon can turn out to be only a mirage, not an oasis.

Again, I don't recommend living in perpetual uncertainty to everyone. I'm not advocating you give up your entire career. But you can - and you should - make little adjustments in your life. Learn new stuff. Take new challenges. Meet new people.

Make every day worth looking forward to, and remembering once it's passed.

Make every moment count.

And in the end, you should look back fondly at your life not in a matter of years, but of days and the precious little moments within each day.