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Posts from the ‘Short Takes’ Category

17
Aug

The Little Toes in Life

Short Take: Relationships, Life

 

This year I finally decided to go to the Jeju Salsa Festival, one of the best such festivals in the world. I  prepared for six months, taking lessons, going social dancing, generally upping my level to be compatible with some of these dancers. I was super excited.

 

Set for fly off on a Friday, here’s what happened the Tuesday before.

Little Toe Ecchymosis

Like an idiot, I stubbed my toe against a sofa, but this was no ordinary stub! The pain didn’t go away after a minute or two. After icing it I went to sleep for a couple of hours. When I awoke I couldn’t walk. I headed for the A&E where I was diagnosed with a bone contusion or a possible hairline fracture.

 

Looking at the ecchymosis on my little toe, I was struck by the ridiculous humour of the situation, and acutely reminded how the seemingly most insignificant things can derail the best laid plans of mice and men.

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18
Nov

The Aurora Beside You

Short Take: Goals, Relationships, Success

 

Aurora BorealisOne of my dreams is to one day see the Aurora Borealis in person. Even more incredible would be to do so with a special girl in my Life.

 

I was therefore excited when two friends of mine left for their honeymoon to do the same. It’s always a great feeling when good things happen to good people, and I had a particularly vicarious thrill since this was my own special dream. I imagined all the wonderful moments and emotions leading to that climax of finally seeing the Northern Lights. Excitement, expectation, elation.

 

It was thus a sobering wake up call when I read a caption for a photo they posted of both their glum faces, on their Facebook page: “Last stop of Day 2 aurora chasing. Not so much luck today! :(“

 

And in one of my better moments, I posted this:

“The most beautiful thing you’ll see and experience is already right beside you.”

 

At that instant, I had three thoughts.

 

First: There are many things we aspire to, but we might never accomplish them, through no fault of our own.

 

Second: While we strive for what we haven’t achieved yet, don’t forget to treasure the precious things we already have.

 

Three: Hey, this would be a good post to write for my blog!

 

There are many things we aspire to, but might not accomplish through no fault of our own.

 

The Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights) is an incredible lightshow of Nature. Formed from collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, what is manifested is a dancing, rippling, swirling display of multiple colours.

It has a ghostly appearance, and even watching a video of it, you can see how surreal it all is.

 

To view it is no easy thing, you have to travel North. Yes, in the direction of the Arctic, because you can see them only in the dark, and further North, your hours of night increase, maximizing your chances. That is going to cost money and it’s not going to be comfortable. Most people choose a travel route that takes them to Scandinavia, although some head to Alaska. With the cold it can be pretty miserable. You also only have a specific window: late August to early April.

 

With all this planning, investment, and suffering, you are still not guaranteed to see one! That’s because factors far outside our control have to come together in a happy confluence for it to happen. The sky needs to be dark, the clouds must be minimal, solar winds must occur at the right time frame with respect to your presence.

 

You can do everything right in terms of planning to optimize your chances of viewing the aurora, but you can never be guaranteed, after all that hard work that you will see it.

 

It’s the same in many things in Life.

 

You can put your best in your career, effort, attitude, drive, learning, practising the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. But politics, nepotism, the arrival of a sadistic boss, a company merger, and 101 things out of your control derails your career progression.

 

You can give your business your everything, work long hours, sleep too little, do everything the books and the mentors tell you to. But an unexpected fire, a devastating move in the exchange rate, the landlord tripling your rent, and 101 things out of your control shuts down your business.

 

You can put your all into developing a relationship, do the right things, show care, respect, decency, loyalty, sacrifice, and everything you thought would help you ‘get the girl/ guy’. But that person might be the wrong person, they might meet someone more suitable than you after you’ve had your second date, their priorities might suddenly shift and 101 things out of your control makes you dead in the water before you’ve paddled two strokes.

 

Depressing? Perhaps. But that brings me to the second part of this post.

 

 

While we strive for what we haven’t achieved yet, don’t forget to treasure the precious things we do already have.

 

To me the aurora borealis symbolizes many things, but two of them are beauty and wonder.

 

My two friends have achieved what – in my mind – many people will never achieve, and are richer for it in a way that many people, no matter how wealthy they are materially, will not be.

 

They found each other and married each other. That is beautiful and wondrous.

 

See, I believe that contrary to the illusion so many couples around might give you, the chance you’ll meet that one person with whom you’d spend your entire Life with isn’t astronomically high. The initial tentative stages when you were strangers, through the tests and trials that must be part of any strong relationship, to taking that chance to commit to one person for the rest of your Life is wondrous process.

 

So even though they might miss the aurora, they still have something beautiful in their lives: each other. And while the highlight would have been the aurora, even if they don’t catch it, they still have the wonder of being on an incredible journey together, able to enjoy meeting new people, trying new things, going new places.

 

In Life, we often chase after a lot. Be they magnificent obsessions, ambitious dreams, or even will-o-the-wisps, we are always hankering after something.

 

I am generally for it. We need them! Without them Life would be indolent, empty, drifting, and an invitation to sloth, stagnation and ennui.

 

Do your best to achieve them all, but never forget what you already have, who you already have, and what you are gaining as you move towards your dreams.

 

Keep that mental frame, and when you do make that trip to try to see the real Aurora Borealis, you will do so with the confidence that whether it shows up or not, you already have something just like it in your Life right now.

 

Love it and appreciate it.

 

3
Sep

An Erhu Player

Short Take: Living Life Lessons

Erhu 01Every day, when I walk to the bus interchange on the way home, I’ll cross the road from Northpoint Mall. And on the other side, there is an old man, perhaps 70 years of age, playing the erhu, a beautiful and melodious Chinese instrument capable of producing the most moving and soulful tunes.

 

The erhu (二胡) is not an easy instrument to play. It takes patience, determination, and if you’re serious about it, lessons. In the olden days, most people would seek out an erhu master as teacher and mentor, and I’m guessing that’s what this elderly man must have done, so many years ago.

 

I can’t help but think:

What was his history?

What did he aspire to be when he was a young boy?

What hopes did he have?

What goals did he want to achieve with his music?

What was the future he saw for himself?

And inevitably: Did he ever in his youngest dreams, envision that he would be playing by the roadside as an old man, for a few coins each day, to earn a living?

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3
Jun

Forget the Big Picture, Think Small Strokes!

Short Take: Living Fully, Motivation

 

success jigsaw“Look at the big picture!”

 

At work, in your business, working on your goals… Don’t sweat the small details because it’s the big picture that matters!

 

How often have you heard this?

 

My answer is “Way too often.” In fact, I think it’s often enough that it hurts our chances for success. Here’s why.

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