Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Trial And Error (MY Eng #37)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never', 'storm in a teacup', 'between a rock and a hard place', 'darkest before dawn', 'empty vessels make the most noise', 'birds of a feather flock together', 'separate the wheat from the chaff', 'let sleeping dogs lies', 'open a can of worms' and 'light at the end of the tunnel'.

It's good to set lofty goals. Nothing wrong being ambitious. Progression is part of life. We've all keep on moving to bigger things.

But often times, things don't work out according with our best-laid plans. Unforeseen circumstances. Personal miscalculation. Someone else dropped the ball.

So don't panic if something goes horribly wrong. Mistakes are bound to happen. Nobody is perfect.

Keep your cool, stay the course. Don't stop shooting for the stars just because your rockets fail to flare during the first launch.

* * *

A simple message, but a timely one. The pandemic has disrupted all our lives in many unexpected ways. Now, more than ever, it's important to keep in mind that living is all about trial and error.

Of course, being in error is never easy to stomach. It's a crushing blow to our ego. Unsettles our pre-conceived notions of our own competence. Makes us question about our choices in life. Failure is a deep pit that test the resolve of even the most resilient of us to hang on and keep climbing.

I've slipped up, countless of times, in 2021. Sometimes over spots that I expected smooth sailing. Being blindsided by hidden traps. Stumbling, falling, and bruising.

When we take a shot at a distant target, we're prone to have as many misses as hits. The harder the goal, the harder the fall. One can't lay claim to major success without facing few bouts of epic failure.

* * *

Should we be honest with our mistakes? Of course. There's no sense in covering up and hiding behind a mask without flaws. Don'r airbrush our imperfections. Don't sugarcoat the truth. Don't shy away from our inner demons.

Indeed, we often learn more from our failures than successes. Post-mortem is more rigorous when we're left licking our wounds. We're hesitant to fix things unless they're truly broken.

Embrace your errors. Experiment, explore. Expand your horizons.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Light At The End Of The Tunnel (MY Eng #36)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never', 'storm in a teacup', 'between a rock and a hard place', 'darkest before dawn', 'empty vessels make the most noise', 'birds of a feather flock together', 'separate the wheat from the chaff', 'let sleeping dogs lies' and 'open a can of worms'.

Another wretched year, another wasted chance.

The COVID pandemic has been hard to most of us. Work disrupted. Health on a knife's edge. Cut off from our loved ones. Opportunities missed. Hopes dashed.

Yet, the worst seems to be behind us. Vaccination keeps infections low. Lockdown has lifted. Borders are reopening. Life, slowly but surely, has found a way.

Of course, we're not out of the woods just yet (another idiom!). Variants keep emerging and striking back. Fear still lingers in the air.

* * *

As the curtain closes on 2021, we're left waiting and wanting on the perennial question: when can we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel?

No one knows for sure. Even our best scientists can't quite figure out the end-game just yet. It's perhaps too optimistic thinking that COVID will be conquered by 2022. But most of us are getting back on our feet, ready to adjust to the new normal, come what may.

Personally, fate has been kind to me. I'm fortunate enough not to suffer as much as others, whether physically or mentally, economically or socially. A large part of my work has gone virtual - for better and for worse. The experience is not the same as before. But I'm learning to make do with what I have, and where I am.

Life could be better, but life is still good.

* * *

I don't know exactly what 2022 will look like. Uncertainties could drag on indefinitely. The night is always darkest before drawn (covered this idiom before).

I may not be at my best in 2021. But I'm changing my ways, finding new drives, and above all, hopeful for better things to come.

The tunnel is still dark, twisting and full of terrors. But look hard enough, and there's light brightening and beckoning us forward to a new exciting world in 2022. Cheers, people!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Open A Can Of Worms (MY Eng #35)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never', 'storm in a teacup', 'between a rock and a hard place', 'darkest before dawn', 'empty vessels make the most noise', 'birds of a feather flock together', 'separate the wheat from the chaff' and 'let sleeping dogs lies'.

Humans are social creatures. Camaraderie are built by conversation. We warm up to people who bear open their souls to us.

The principle applies across the board. Interviews are aimed at testing our communication skills. Outspoken folks tend to impress the higher-ups.

Yet, danger lies in speaking too loudly, saying too much. The more thoughts we voice out, the more chances we allow ourselves to be judged.

Sometimes, it's best to hold back, and to err at the side of caution.

* * *

We've all made such mistake before. Dropping a casual innocent remark, only to stir up a big drana and open a can of worms.

Imagine you're at a weekly meeting. Everyone gives their update. Towards the end, the project lead inquires whether there any matters arising. You, trying to be helpful and make sure nothing goes wrong, points out a potential risk factor. The discussion gets heated. Who overlooked this? Who should take responsibility? The meeting drags on for another hour, you earn a dirty sidelong glare or two from the others, and everyone gets new tasks. All thanks for your intervention.

Now, of course, critical problems need to be highlighted. If the can is already open and worms are spilling out, don't be sweeping them under the rug simply to escape extra overtime shift.

Still, most times, we tend to bring work that's neither important nor urgent upon ourselves. Every action plan comes with a degree of risk of unintended adverse effects. If the risk is minimal and easily mitigated, there's really no need to inflate its magnitude by tenfold just to get people's attention - to make a mountain out of molehill (this idiom's covered before!)

Likewise, moderation is critical when you're making a pitch to a panel of assessors (whether during an interview, project proposal, or debate). Don't oversell your ideas. Don't overstate your case. Don't show off your knowledge for the sake of sounding smart. Overextending yourself can backfire badly. The more you say, the more you invite questions and criticisms.

Say what needs to be said to achieve your goal. Nothing more, nothing less.

* * *

Of course, the difficulty is knowing when to start, and when to stop. We may fall short if we don't put more force behind our words. But pushing too hard may in a direction may prove to be deal-breaker.

Still, the starting point is to be on a constant lookout for random cans strewn in our path. Don't go opening cans without knowing what's inside. Give it a shake, read the label, check the expiry date.

Above all, be patient and prudent. Moderate our behaviour. Sometimes, less is more.