Overcoming the fear of rejection

I’m been thinking about rejection and I oddly come across this bit in James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself! (Which incidentally is a really good weekend read I will recommend.)

And he writes:

Since the beginning of humanity, we’ve looked for frontiers. It is only a myth that we have evolved to a point as a civilization where we can count on safety. The only truly safe thing you can do is to try over and over again. To go for it, to get rejected, to repeat, to strive, to wish. Without rejection there is no frontier, there is no passion, and there is no magic.

That resonated with me, I swear I’ve been just aiming to get rejected sometimes. As perverse as it sounds it allows me to be more daring and push the limits to things. You can’t imagine how much unexpected gains I received just by trying and believing I will get rejected.

By setting the expectation to a mere rejection, it hurts a lot lesser. I get rejected so often but I soon learnt the point is that I asked and I know why I got rejected. It made me stronger; it made me a sensible realist.

It is what it is

“It is what it is” is perhaps the most mind boggling phrase I ever heard. And, mind you, it is because it makes complete sense — a true tautology. Why say it then?

Each time that phrase is uttered, it suggests the speaker has somewhat accepted what has occurred which should be a good thing until he or she starts to get everyone to accept like he or she did.

It is of course what it is; there’s no way it is what it is not. Unless there’s a bloody misunderstanding in which case it STILL is what it is because you just don’t know that your interpretation of the event is unreliable. Yet.

I propose search phrases to be left out. And I’m not trying to be a smart aleck. I hated the resignation of this statement. We are always taught to assess the present situation and make a move. If things don’t go right we assess on its remedy. We can still try to correct things for what it is now to make for a better outcome.

I paid my taxes

On time! Taxes almost slipped through! I’ve been busy, I always say that to people. I really should stop because it assumes too much about others, basically, thinking they probably aren’t as busy as I am.

You know the feeling of being so busy that all you care about is your immediate goals and you think to yourself, “hey taxes can come on the April 18?” That’s what that made me delay the whole tax filing thing. These are little chores in life that serves to haunt you for the rest of your life. It makes me feel better after I stopped questioning things such as, “why don’t we pay taxes after five years, then I only have to pay twenty times if I live to a hundred twenty,” and accepted it as part of life.

Other annoyances include insurance premiums and credit card bills. Again I stress how little you really need your credit cards. Don’t get so many cards and have a fat wallet. I’m getting rid of one card this coming week. My mistake to apply for it, damn Citibank has amazing coercion techniques. Not a compliment, sentiment analysis engine.

Interesting discoveries #07

Time flies when I’m busy. It seems like April’s here and it’s a rude awakening for me. I’ve met interesting people lately, some from the Singapore Humanism Society and also from one of the frontend developers kinda meetup.

1. Google Whatsapp

Rumor has it that Google’s acquiring Whatsapp. Had a quick conversation over this this evening and it’s a sensible choice for Google. Even if it is 1 billion. Google has not been fast enough to jump into messaging and the other companies are taking over. LINE and WeChat has been especially popular in Asia and Google’s probably finding this hard to ignore. If Google does get Whatsapp, I can imagine improvements to it. I love to watch for SMS integration in this, especially for the iPhone.

2. ChannelNewsAsia has a new design

Woah new design. It definitely a great improvement. The new site takes some getting used to but this is a great step forward. They are a couple of jarring mistakes, more on the choice of colors and there’s some awkward color decisions. I do not think the trend graph is sensible too. Love the bigger images and larger text.

3. Mad Men

I’m watching Mad Men this month and advertising is such an interesting industry. I thank Grace for getting me to watch this. If you’re looking for some drama to watch, this is something.

4. On web design in general

Web design has evolved so fast that tools can’t keep up. I find that designers are painstakingly using Photoshop to work on their designs and there’s no way Photoshop can express responsive layouts. Designers can probably imagine how the layout would change in their minds but it’s too tedious to create mockups. In the bigger design houses, some designers got their hands dirty and do HTML and CSS to just design directly. I think that has to be the way at some point of time. The web designer title is evolving. I see this as an interim though, perhaps tools will catch up and allow designers to express web designs better. Seriously designing a whole website in Photoshop or InDesign is making lesser sense these days. (Note: I’m a web user interface developer.)

5. Grunt.js

Grunt.js is such a joy to use, I’ve been automating some LESS.js and minification tasks at work and it’s making me happier leaving these highly repeatable task to this wonderful tool. I’m starting to use this more efficiently and have introduced this to my colleagues at Tremor Video as well. It’s a slightly different workflow as what we are doing but definitely worthy of further exploration.

6. My best 50 bucks spent

I’ve been bring the phone charger and adapter back and forth for months. One day I bought a set to keep it at home and have my existing set at work. The new adapter at home charges both my Apple iPhone 5 as well as the Amazon Kindle together. I now have one less thing to think about when going home from work. That freed me to think about under things and I swear this reduces my overall stress. Consider getting yourself a set of these too.

7. The curse of credit cards

The curse is to watch out for payments. I’ve been scalded once, OCBC charged me 60 dollars for late payment for 20 bucks. That upset me. I have 8 credit cards today and I only use 2 regularly. I know what to do. I’m just waiting for the time I can cancel without a penalty. I recommend everyone to have as little credits cards as possible. Forget about the dinner discounts, they’re limiting your dinner choices anyway.

8. Roger Ebert, RIP

Roger Ebert died at age 70 after battle with cancer (Sun Times). Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago. He’s one of the best writers I admire. Have a look at this article that’s not movie related.

It’s just really simple

I was reading this post by Michelle Bu and it really resonated with me.

When I was starting do go into programming from doing freelancing on design, my morale is probably at the lowest. It’s been the most discouraging year perhaps. Everybody would go how simple it really is, just do this and this. Some would give suggestion of some super big framework that totally addresses your problem and more.

But. No one, no one, showed me how to do it. No one has any intention to. Perhaps it’s too simple, perhaps it will take too long of their time.

The dirty secret

There’s a vast difference between being able to imagine how to code something and actually making use of the tool to code it. Great programmers can imagine the intricacies of the task and have a good plan how to attack it. Helpful programmers can lead you to completion.

Most programmers underestimated the task at hand and trivialize the task. Why? Because they want to get the feeling of having conquered the problem in their minds without actually doing it. You get the same elated feeling when you do that. Not knowing what you cannot do will make you less disappointed with yourself. Programmers trivialize things to make themselves feel better.

Some programmers want to use your asking for help as a platform to show off how well-read they are too. They tell of a library you never heard of and claim how easy it is to get things done there but not how to achieve that for your task at hand.

Explain your rejection

In many ways, if you are a programmer and you do that, what you are doing is rejecting to help someone. If so, say it directly. I sometimes have to say this is a laborious task and I don’t have the time to guide you through. If there’s a tutorial that I can easily find, I send it to the person to get started too. I think people appreciate the truth. Either help them all the way or lead them to get help from some other source. Be encouraging. I won some friends this way.

Never say it’s really simple.

Notes on frontend development

I’m a Web UI Developer in Singapore and I realized frontend development has gotten really complex. It wasn’t far long ago when users were bitching about Internet Explorer. Today’s Internet Explorer is becoming a better citizen and whoever still screaming about its deficiencies apparently aren’t realizing the bigger issues with UI design in general.

Your pixel is not a pixel

The new issues are resolution independences. Much of the web is still defined by pixels and this no longer makes a lot of sense given Apple having their Retina displays and Samsung having their high resolution Samsung Galaxy S4 coming to Singapore soon. One pixel is no longer one pixel any more.

And given the higher resolutions, the devices do deserve better images. Sometimes this acts as a competitive advantages, your icons are prettier than your competitor, it shows dedication. The issue is not every device support such high resolutions and sending these images to them is just a waste of their bandwidth. Lower end devices might not have LTE either. There’re lots of CSS tricks and JavaScript detection methods to deduce the device capabilities and these workarounds aren’t the most elegant.

DevOps dude says lower number of requests per page

Mobile also has a new priority, to come up with icons all embedded into one image file. This lets the server only load your sprites just one. Sounds like a good deal? It really is, only problem is putting up with the hassle of doing background-position. It’s just too tedious. UI developers struggled and there are better tools to automate this process now.

Backend development might be a little easier these days

Contrasting to backend development, frontend has a different sort of complexity. The challenges of UI development is always learning new technologies and how to achieve productivity through embracing these technologies. There’s often a set back initially and we have to discover (or even make our own) automation tools to remain as agile while still delivering within our deadlines. If you don’t do that, you just can’t survive for long.

The compensation

I found it tremendously difficult to express myself in instant messaging. I don’t get most of the smileys and couldn’t bring myself to use it because I have this feeling that the other party might not get it too. (By the way, I am not too wrong about that; I asked.)

I tend to either use a lot more adjectives or I type LIKE KANYE WEST. I PUT MORE EXCLAMATION MARKS THAN USUAL TOO!!! Also found myself using more punctuation to represent pauses in speech, or something.

Perhaps it’s overdone but there’s no way to better represent intent when left with just lines and lines of text. Everything seemed less exciting on instant messaging.

On the responsibility of conserving nature

Yea, this sustainability thing too, while we’re at it.

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions.

A dude I talked to defined sustainability is leaving the world better than our ancestor left it for us.

Ah, but that’s subjective isn’t it, I retort. And why is it more moral to leave the world better than it was? Did our ancestors really left the world better than it were for them for us? If so, how?

I could go on questioning about how these statements cannot be properly justified. I think it’s a sweet idea — a really romantic one. But we are making too much assumptions here. For one, what we like might not be what the future generations like. We are imagining a future where we want to live in, however our ancestors will never have imagined our future. We may lament how great was nature a century ago but we are trapped in this digital world that makes communication so easy we probably wouldn’t want to really go back to the past. Unless you’re a hipster. Heck, even hipsters have their AT&T telephones.

But there is at least one thing to agree on. We like the future to have more opportunities so that future generations can choose their paths. We really don’t know what the future would want, the future will probably never know what their future descendants want either. We just keep the doors open, try to rid lesser trees, just in case they actually want the trees, squirrels and shit.

As for these moral responsibilities to leave the world better — or come’on, at least as good as we took over it — such obligations are unfounded. I do like it to be retain as a romantic idea but there’s too much uncertainty here. Who’s to define what’s good. How do we measure goodness after being defined? Can be chart our progress somehow? And then I realize these visions that can’t really be debated against and for reliably just fall into something we vaguely term good values — the commonly agreed upon framework of living in our society.

Xenophobia in Singapore

This is taken in the local skate park at East Coast:

Xenophobia in Singapore

Locals only

Through the past decade, Singaporeans saw foreigners coming in and we get upset, that’s perfectly okay because last I check we are upset over everything. So complaining is perfectly normal, perhaps a hobby, the Indians have their cricket we have our complaints. So shutup and stop complaining.

The xenophobia thing got me thinking a lot on identity though. We realized that we are a young nation and for some people their parents were migrants themselves. This puts everyone in an awkward — AWKWARD (cheerfully) — position. What’s a foreigner then, what are we not liking.

Let’s be specific

We don’t like foreigners alright. We love tourists though. Wait what? Okay, change. We are okay with foreigners, we aren’t okay with foreign workers. But that’s not right either, most locals accepted the Bangladeshis here in Singapore because no Singaporean would want to work under those conditions. This is such a sensitive topic but a couple of times I see some Facebook posts celebrating the true heroes — the construction workers from Bangladesh. There’s something really wrong here, but something just isn’t said outright either.

So if we don’t mind construction workers, are factory workers okay to be foreigners. That’s a tough question. Well it depends, some would confess. If you can hire a local, you should, they answer and just moved on. In reality the hiring process isn’t as simple as imagined. There can be hires for entirely new roles and hires that are for replacements for positions emptied — maybe the previous dude left, or something. Typically the latter will require more urgency to fill since everyday that position goes unfilled, there’s reduction of overall productivity.

Argh! A little cognitive dissonance here

We recognize issues of employment. We want better positions for Singaporean if we are the ones getting hired. If we are bosses, we want the position to be quickly filled up at a good price. There are more people looking to get hired than hiring so the xenophobic voice is slightly louder.

At the same time those people getting hired understand that they don’t want to be in construction too. Reason they give — we didn’t study a paper on marketing to go into construction. Hello there, the Filipino house servants we hire didn’t study a degree in homemaking, I met one with biochemistry.

Reality check

We like to think ourselves to be better than others. We feel we deserve a pay better than others. However we cannot ignore the fact that others think the same too. We are the ones who create a system where foreigners come in to take up jobs to spur our economy. There’s no easy way to revert this plan and still keep up with our growth rate.

The best part is that the vocal ones are beginning to understand this as well. So they say, okay okay, foreigners here are welcomed to stay but we don’t want too much new foreigners. Also it’s not me, it’s my government, they didn’t build enough train stations and our MRTs are getting way too squeezy!


There are some people who hate foreigners, they are being led by people who are trying to advance their own goals. The vocal ones have vested interests and xenophobia is an issue that is sensitive and it is one of those things that you can be aware of but cannot have a proper public discussion. They’re entrapping the government for a discussion. Any action or inaction would lead to at least some negative consequences. This however is a good opportunity to come clean with our needs. Try to ask five whys before you give your opinions. Discuss them with your peers. Get validation.

Tiny notes over a sense of belonging in Singapore

I am convinced that most Singaporeans are prouder to be in Singapore than I am. There’s this sense of belonging most Singaporeans have that didn’t seem come as natural to me as it did for others. It got me thinking about leaving Singapore experience what it is like working overseas because that’s what people tell me — you go overseas few years la then sure you miss Singapore one.

So someone from the US pointed this out to me yesterday that in his country, ignoring the party lines, there are people who would just bitch and bitch about America and then continue to be proud of USA. And how it works is that they have the sense of ownership over American and this gives them to right to critique about her.

And my mind’s just blown, although save yourself from imagining that, I know you love to see that. There are two separate things really:

1. A sense of belonging VS a sense of ownership

Ah, the word play. It seemed like, at least to me, that I belonged to Singapore and that would somewhat imply Singapore owns me. This is opposed to what the American dude thinks, he likes they it’s their America, they collectively owned America. I would previously never dare say sense of ownership to describe anything Singapore, it felt brazen.

All this while I am searching for things that make me feel I belong to the country and it takes a conversation to make me realize I don’t have to, I own the country. It is my country. So get off my lawn, will you? Okay, mow it before you leave, thanks.

2. The relationship between criticism and ownership

Supposed I am a fashion designer, I design and manufacture these shirts and blouses and pants and everything. I wear my own clothes and I let others wear the clothes I designed too. Once in a while I would sit and reflect, hey, the white buttons gotta go it’s really ugly. I feel I have the right to say that because I make the clothes. If others were to tell me the white buttons aren’t pretty enough, I will get offended. I think that really is what People’s Action Party (PAP) thinks for many years. (PS: I love the white outfit.) When people start complaining about Singapore being the way she is, her designers felt betrayed.

But, it’s a good thing to critique. And if you feel you own the country, it leaves little wrong to criticize. I would also go a step further to say that the more you critique the more you feel that this is your country due to the time invested on babbling away at common areas. People will have the perception that Singapore mattered to you a lot and you in return have to live up to the impression that you have created. Criticism ends up reinforcing your sense of ownership.

Side note: The Hong Lim Park Speakers’ Corner speech of February 16, 2013

I do not agree with the points discussed. I do however like that people are sharing their opinions and listening to each other. This is yet another critical milestone for my country. All I see is love, baby, all I see is love.