Team Dynamics, or lack thereof

I was part of a team today that consisted of just 2 people. There was this other guy and then there was me. I think Leonard was his name.

I didn’t really worry about much. It was, after all, a course in copywriting. Something I would enjoy. As the wise and suitably white-haired Allein Moore shuffled forwards and back, naming names and explaining why he loved Leo Burnett so much, I leaned back and watched the people in the group while I listened and typed subconsciously into my growing Wunderlist (yes it is very good to use, if you are wondering). 10 people, split over 3 tables, with an almost equal distribution of male and female. Each group already forming some kind of rapport with each other. A young and rather innocent-looking, if unsuspecting female, was starting to warm up to the man next to her. He was also a white-haired caucasian man, not unlike Allein. He was, however, slightly younger.

Another group of 3 women were banded together. They were a tight-knit, sitting right next to each other and angled at the projection screen. One was furiously taking notes. Another, obviously more senior, doodled with her pen and breathed out key words to her flustered companion while the third just sat and listened. I would later learn that they belonged to the same company. The one doodling was obviously in charge.

Which brought me to my table of 4 people. Two ladies and two men. A bond was already established between the ladies. They were manager and executive and possessed a Jedi Master to Padawan Learner relationship. Soothing suggestions mixed in with questions that alluded to instructions flowed forth from the older lady and were met with eager nods. I looked at the guy next to me, the obvious and only “team mate” I would get. He had come in late, pulled his netbook out and started answering emails in the middle of the lecture. It was at that moment that I had an slight worry.

That worry grew slowly and insidiously but there was very little doubt to the trained observer that it was going to develop into a case of full blown frustration for me. It is like a bug that burrows into your skin, only to end up in laying eggs in your blood stream that will hatch into thousands of flesh-eating baby parasites.

We had ambled into the portion where we had to come up with multiple headlines and ideas (I won’t bore you with the details) for breakfast delivery from McDonald’s. It was at this point where we had to come up with attention grabbing headlines for a hypothetical ad brief from McDonald’s. I turned to him and smiled, opening with “Okay! Let’s do this!” as enthusiastically as I could.

No need to get all edgy now right? He nodded, then stared at me blankly. I started to wrote 2 lines on my notepad, showed it to him and asked “What do you think?”
“Okay lor. Can use.” The response was immediate.
There was no critique, no praise, NOTHING. He didn’t hate it or like it.

I asked again “So what do you have? Would you like to share with me?”
He replied “Multiple thoughts.” and showed me 1 line that read “Eat hot breakfast at mcDonalds!” Which was basically what the brief said it  wanted people to do. He did not, however, include anything else that was mentioned in the ad copy.

Another one read “Have a buddy Breakfast at McDonalds”
We never had any Buddy meals in the brief.

A subsequent one was “If it’s hot, It’s fresh”
It could have described anything.

My lines were in the vein of “No pots, no pans, no fuss. Just hot breakfast” followed by [key visual of hot big breakfast]. This was the style I had identified and used throughout this exercise. I came up with 24 more examples, some really bad, some surprisingly good. While that was happening, my “team mate” was replying emails on his netbook, not once contributing another line of copy.

That’s right, he came up with 3 lines that didn’t work then went back to answering his emails. This disturbing behaviour continued for the rest of the day with any other exercise. As a result, the rest of the teams had many examples of  much much better copy all the time. Everybody knows I hate to lose. What everybody doesn’t know is that I can accept losing if everyone involved has tried their very best. This is not the case for this situation and I was livid.

It took me all my self-control not to reach out and murder him. I ended up forcing a smile at him and then sitting down after every group presentation. Needless to say, I would have enjoyed it a lot more if he had actually tried. At least we could then have laughed at our own mistakes.

On my commute home, I thought through the entire process and came to a conclusion that this problem was not unlike the outsiders I faced down everyday. They stifled me and refused to back me up, choosing instead to protect their self-interests. I didn’t have that primal sort of anger at them somehow.

Perhaps my anger resulted from a lack of patience at that very moment. Deep down inside, I was yearning for a better, more lucid partner. Perhaps I ask too much of others.

Nevertheless, I resoundingly resolved to stay away from him this coming Thursday. Then perhaps I would have another better story to tell.


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Video of the Day!

Katy Perry puts Rebecca Black and Kenny G into ONE video. And yes, they all meet.

Your move, rest of the world.

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A Quick Post

Because I’ve been that busy these months, I have not been posting. So some updates:

1) We’ve made significant progress with work. I’ve been confirmed, and I’m getting along well.

2) It’s been crazy busy but I’ve succeeded in making regular time for training. Schedule to be posted soon!

3) I miss all of you. Especially my friends from university. See you soon (hopefully).

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Beating workout pain

This is for those that find pain their enemy during training.

Everyone is susceptible to pain. To most people, it is the pain that stop them from working out. The type of pain I’m talking about is the burning sensation in your limbs, the slight breathlessness during the run and the scorching soreness of your core. Sometimes, it is all three at one go and more. For more advanced workouts, you might be transiting from cardio training straight into strength or a combination of both.

When I first started training, there were times when I wanted to stop or just take a shortcut. When ever I wanted to do that, I used some of the things that I am about to share with you. Some of them are physical, some of them are mental and all of this is about teaching yourself how to be more resistant to pain.

  1. This one is for the beginners: Slow down. I know this is contrary to how most people think about exercise but hear me out. If you just started, you need to know that for every training, you’re

    going to get better.

  2. Focus on the next step. If you’re running, look at the next lamp post/runner in front/tree/sexy girl/whatever. You look and get past it, then look to the next one until you are done.
  3. Keep talking to yourself. I do this when I’m doing very intense bouts of interval training (800m X5 with pushups/situps to failure in between). Tell yourself “Great job man, almost there, come on one more then get up and do that sprint!” or conversely (like me) “Come on you f**king maggot get up and get moving, what the f**k are you doing lying down? You a p***y?”
    Whatever works for you.
  4. Recognise that the pain is your body getting used to your intensity. You will not feel like this if you do this again and you have to remind yourself. All your breathlessness and your muscles that are screaming at you to quit are indications that you

    are doing things right

  5. Focus on the current action. This is going to serve two purposes. The first is maximizing your energy expenditure. The second is taking your brain off the pain of the action and onto the process of the action itself. When you focus on your movement, you’re making yourself more efficient.
  6. Breathe. This might be basic to most people but when the body is under stress, we forget how to breathe properly. When you are training, your breathing technique decides if you’re going to burn out fast or if you’re going to last the distance. Even during intense HIIT sequences, breathing is key to reducing pain. Take in deeper breaths through your nose and push the air out of your mouth. If you are breathing like you have asthma, you’re not going to make it.
  7. Love the pain. This is the best way to combat it. If you internalize the fact that the pain will ultimately bring you a better body, no amount of pain will stop you. I’m serious.
  8. The girlfriend says this: Pain is weakness leaving your body
  9. I say this: Pain is preparing for tomorrow’s glory.

If you’re thinking of starting a workout plan to lose weight or you’re training for a sport, I hope I’ve helped you to fight the pain. Just remember that it will always be there. You’re the one who makes the choice of how to perceive it.

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What “Backing your bro” means.

I have a very simple definition for this: You back ’em anyway you can and you never break from that in front of anyone. You can tell them what you want, but that’s for the backstage. Up in front, you don’t ever throw your closest friend in the fire. EVER.

I’ve only ever felt like telling my close friend that she was wrong in front of everyone, just once. In that time, I only managed to say “Let’s not go there” and then drag her away to explain. Other than that, I’ve always stuck by no matter what. You can say I’m stubborn like that. I prefer the term “solidarity”.

I guess not everyone can show that nowadays. Today’s incident was a prime example. There was a lot of middle ground. A lot of “let’s not fight about this” and “I’m sorry for my friend’s strong opinions on this issue”.

There was no fire. “I’m pissed off at this too!” was not on the list. You’re all guilty of this. YES even you, Julie. What happened to “I’m pissed at him/her because he/she just hurt you, man.” ? Is this gone?

Am I the only one doing that now? I hope I’m not, because I placed my faith in all of you. You should always sand for your friend if he or she has been hurt by someone else. If I’m the only one doing that, I’ll be mighty disappointed.


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Take consensus

This is for everything that transpired on the Twitterverse today.

I don’t believe in slinging mud or being difficult but something when something begs to be looked at, I have to at least tell you it’s showing up on my radar. Wen that happens, I will cross lines and be unrepentant about things. I’m not looking to be friendly.

Just take a consensus. All of you. Amongst yourselves.

Ask youselves if the losses you feel should have been natural.

Ask yourselves if the truth is that we should have “no comment” about things.

Ask yourself if you were worried about losing your place if you spoke up and ask yourself if there is true unity in your midst.

In the deepest, darkest of your hearts, no matter what reason the others left, you knew that there was a better way forward.

There are reasons. No one wants to face them. So once again, I’m just going to ask you to look deep within and see if you have loyalty or not. If you don’t have any loyalty, something is well and truly wrong.


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What was the difference?

What was the difference between then and now?

In the short span of time of 12 months, I’ve been in three different work environments. I’ve tasted some really bitter pills and went with some pretty insane plans. There was euphoria, rage, feeling caged in and some confusion. Often times, there was a sourness to waking up and hitting work.

People loved me as a person. I was the guy that asked you out for lunch and made you feel at ease. I would crack dirty jokes with you, ask you about your day and make you feel like you were important and special. I made you my friend. I cared.

Managers didn’t understand me as a worker. I was lost, confused and running around like a headless chicken. I asked the wrong questions and made them look bad. I planned less and did more. I was like an orphan child. Or at least I felt like one.

I made no excuses for that 5 minute brief of a website. It was a mistake. But I also believe that it wasn’t all my fault. I was fighting blind and falling over like a blind person. I don’t believe that the external partners and me had insufficient contact, I believe that we had the wrong type of contact. I believe I had little to go on with and went on anyway because it was the only way I knew how to.

As I distributed flyers down the street yesterday, a familiar sense of nostalgia hit me. I was brought back to that week when I was working at a certain magazine publisher. I remember pushing a trolley of 5000 magazines all over the CBD and speaking to the building managers individually to accept our magazine FOC to establish a distribution line. I remember getting drenched in rain and then scorched by sun, being rejected and being accepted and I remember that one line that was spouted by the boss who was right there going through it with me. He said:

” This is real business: Pounding the ground, sweating and doing everything you possibly can. You enjoy the little wins and savour them, then continue to pound the ground”

It all made sense yesterday. I knew at that moment why I do what I am doing.

That was the difference.


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Our family and why we are truly from the ‘hood

…but Chinese New Year means a lot to me.  (Gotcha. You thought I was being a bastard again, weren’t you?)

Alright, now back to the topic. I hae very very very little regard towards Chinese New Year traditions in general. I’m not a traditionalist. I really care about my family and Chinese New Year is a time I get to see them. More importantly, Chinese New Year is a time I remember our family origins and how we got here. It’s a time for me to draw upon the memories of my older relatives.

Every first day of the Lunar New Year, I visit a fixed set of homes. These homes house a collection of aunts and uncles who have seen many moons. Now, aged and wrinkled with all their organs failing, they can only talk to a willing ear about their day, what ails them and what makes them happy.

I’ve always been a favourite. I understand that fact as a natural part of my familial structure. There is no denying that providence put me in a position where I’m privy to the ins and outs of all my relatives simply because they like to talk to me. It’s the way I spent time with them as a child that affords me this privilege.

So I listen, as only a privileged child could, with a little empathy and quite a bit of advice. Some tell me their problems, others mumble gossip. All, however, tell me about their past, which is also my father’s past. It is the story of how one fed many and of how many suffered. It was a story of collective will to survive and making good on what little they had. Throughout the past 15 years, I have pieced together the patchwork of stories and learnt a great deal about what it meant to simply survive, simply because theirs was essentially, a survival story.

They had no comforts, no understanding of the world beyond them and no education. They had no money. Simple as that. They only had a hope that maybe one day, they would have a steady flow of food on the table and no worries of paying the bills. From stories having to beg/steal/borrow soy sauce to go with plain porridge, to my grandfather (whom I have never met because he died before my dad met mum) desperately trying to protect his one and only bicycle from the rain while peddling vegetables, there is only one constant that drove each and everyone of them to this stage: Grit.

No amount of explanation can tell us today what they went through. I have only gone through the tail end of the story, with the family growing in leaps and bounds ever since. Even the physical traces of the cracked and yellowed HDB blocks in Aljunied have been painted over. 20 years ago, as a child, I ran about in that neighbourhood. It was, and still is, a place where old and poor live.

Our affluence makes the memories of our forefathers foggy. I can drop money on a videogame easily now, only because they clawed their way to this stage through fishmongering. 3am fish scaling, getting cut and bruised from brutal physical work, being made fun of, getting stepped over by well to do families. Every little bit of their own personal hell to get us here into an era where we can go to a university and debate about our civil rights and whatnot.

These stories are the reason why when there seems to be too much pain, I just fight harder. These stories are the reason why when there seems to be no way, I still chase after things like a hound. I’m a product of 100 combined years of non-stop hard living. It’s become a part of me and it’s written in my makeup.

When it comes to a life challenge, we have no flight response. Our response is a simple one: Succeed, or die trying.

This is our true legacy.


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The best just shut up and do it

I was having a conversation just now with the girlfriend and we came to the topic about how a few of our common friends have this habit of announcing their efforts, no matter how small.

They harp on everything they did right like how they “didn’t sleep for 10 hours last night to do that report” or that “oh my god I didn’t know it was so difficult to do [X job] but I did it because I worked really hard!”. It’s always about how hard THEY worked and how much effort THEY put in. Everyone must know.

Sometimes it’s about how hard they are trying to become the best. They will announce that fact. The endless “I will join X competition and try to win it” and then the endless “I just met [famous dude’s name] and I learnt soooo much from him” etc etc etc.

Which brings me back to the day before while I was scrounging around the library for my work project. I chanced upon an article on Discovery Magazine about pararescuers.

Those of you who know me will know that I am very interested in both local and global special operations due to background. While the pararescuers were not Counter-terrorists, they are involved in extremely risky operations and are classified under the umbrella of US SPEC-OPS, meaning these guys are a Special Operations outfit that specifically jumps in to enemy territory to rescue downed pilots and other guys who cannot get out of enemy territory while treating them medically. To put this in perspective, these guys are:

1) Special operations Guys

2) AND fully trained Medics.

Basically, the article tells you how these guys go through 2 and a half years of training, all the while getting drowned, shot at, screamed at and pushed to their physical and mental limits (yes they do hell week) and then get thrown into a real battlefield to get shot at for real, just so they can rescue their friends.


No they never did. Every time they go out, they risk life and limb. They risk so much more than a few hours of sleep or a day without lunch to fulfill their motto “So others may live”.

The fact is this: The best just shut up and do it. They get it done and move on to the next job. They are proficient, hardworking and know that yesterday’s glory stays there. Tomorrow is another day.

So the next time you want to tell the whole world about how you stayed up 10 hours and never slept a wink to get that A+ report or finish up something, think about what those other guys who get shot at went through. Then shut up and get your job done.


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I abuse myself.

I’m not usually a sadist, except when it comes to 2 things:

1) Work.
2) Fitness.

Someone once said “You have to be mad to train with Kenneth”. It was during a casual conversation about weight-loss and what that entailed. It is true that weight loss follows the 80/20 rule. 80% being food choice or input and 20% being exercise.

I think that 20% is simply due to the fact that we have only that much time out of our days to exercise and because we eat so much more often than we actually train. This is why I believe that every training session can and should be maximised through self-brutality.

Before I continue, I have to say that this concept of “self-brutality” isn’t a physical action. It is more a state of mind and a constant stream of thought. This state of mind drives the actions that you will take during a training session, therefore, training sessions are simply a result of the concept of “Self-brutality”.

In a typical training session, there are two things that matter for any sequence of exercises. The first is the duration of the exercise and the second is the intensity of that exercise. Duration simply refers to the amount of time spent on exercise. The more time spent, the better (provided you are actually doing exercise and not lazing around). Intensity, on the other hand, refers to how hard and fast you are performing a particular action. When you combine duration and intensity with a set of exercises, you get a workout.

It is at this point that Self-brutality enters the picture.

You see, in any workout sequence, you get the opportunity to take it slow and crank out the exercises. You get the chance to slack off and do one less rep or even cut out an entire set. Sometimes, its not running that last mile or cutting out one particular exercise altogether because “heck it I’m damn tired” and you feel like this:

This is when you begin to brutalize yourself.

You know your body won’t like to take another set and your muscles are going to hurt in the morning, but you do 3 more sets of very painful squats.

Your arms hurt, but you crank out one more pushup.

Your lungs are sore from breathing, but you speed up and run one more Klick.

You don’t stop. You keep going. All the way until your muscles fail you. Then you do it AGAIN.

This is when you must begin to enjoy the pain. This is the true secret to enjoying exercise. The fact is when you enjoy feeling the pain, you will want to do more of that exercise. You become a relentless, unyielding pushup/situp/running/squat/whatever machine.


Much like this guy

No one ever got successful in fitness without going through some form of physical pain. You WILL feel like you are going to die and you WILL ache in the morning but feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck means the workout has been effective.

Just remember: The pain lasts for a short time. The glory of achievement lasts forever.


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