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The next step

I’m back in Singapore from Taiwan, and I’ve got some pretty big news. I’m starting a company in Singapore. I originally decided I was going freelance and keep travelling, but when I was in Singapore a month ago, my friend Hua pitched a business idea to me. It was a little fuzzy at the time, but I’ve always liked the idea of starting my own business, but I’ve never had the catalyst to go and do it.

The business we’re going to start is a digital business consultancy. We don’t like to call it that, but it’s a new kind of business that takes from several different kinds of businesses. We want to work with content creators such as youtubers, musicians, artists and help them to monetise their content. This is a very similar concept to those of the multichannel networks such as Maker Studios, who recently was bought by Disney for $500 million. So there’s definitely an exit strategy.

We will help them to make money by getting sponsorship deals with brands and helping to manage their own digital rights. By working with big brands, that’s where we will help big brands enter new markets by using the content creators as a bridge. Content creators already have great reach, but don’t make enough money from their content and brands have money to spend on marketing. The partnership will be mutually beneficial and will be as good (if not better) and cheaper than traditional advertising. Great content sells better than any advert. User engagement is key.

This is our digital consultancy side as we will be helping both parties to increase their revenue, reach as well as advertising and monetisation strategies.

The other side of our business is going to focus on products. These products we’re going to build for our clients at first as MVPs, and if we see a demand for it we’ll expand on it and try and make a white label or consumer product. These could be platforms, to say house the content we’re representing or it could be analytics material (because Google analytics is already far too complex for the average user).

We don’t want to be doing consulting forever, but with the data we gather from consulting, we’re sure to find a great idea we can turn into a product/platform based business. And with this my travels after 6 months has come to a halt. Onwards and upwards

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In life you must be okay with uncertainty

 Life is a long journey we all must take and from a young age we are taught to be prepared for the big wide wild. Most parents, schools and educators teach us to find a career path; a steady one, one that makes a decent wage where you don’t have to worry once you’re on the career ladder. This sort of thought process seems to spread like a virus into many other parts of lives; relationships, friendships, location.People are okay with being comfortable. But when did being comfortable ever allow someone to do something amazing?

One thing I’ve definitely learnt from travelling is to be okay with that uncertainty. Yes you need to prepare for the worst, but you also need to push for the best. And that means risk. Risk is a part of life, but why worry about something you can’t control. Once you’ve made that decision, don’t worry about the things you can’t control. It’s a waste of time. Most things we do these days, the cost of failing isn’t fatal, the cost of failing is not greater than the risk we take. If we fail we can just pick ourselves up and move on and we can’t always win so you better be okay with that uncertainty and the inevitability of failing.

This sense of anxiety and worry only hampers us from pushing forward, making the most of the decisions we make and taking calculated risks where you can move forward and create new opportunities. You should do this instead of spending time worrying about something that even if you prepare for, isn’t completely in your control.

 ”If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

- Steve Jobs

This quote by Steve Jobs is an idea what we all should all be thinking about, everyday of our lives. Rather than spending our lives worrying about losing what we already have. Opportunities, jobs and companionship will come and go and there’s sometimes nothing we can do to change that. The important thing is the process, what we learnt from these relationships, opportunities and situations. You must enjoy the process or you risk making even your good opportunities a waste of time. Starting about if what you’re doing right now is not what you want to do. If it isn’t the case for too many days in a row, work out how you’re going to move forward in another direction. Life is all about these little calculated risks, and it’s always going to be uncertain, so we need to be okay with failing. Instead of getting down when it didn’t go your way you need to have a mental procedure in place to move past it and learn from the mistakes you have made in a past.

 

I always say to myself, any experience I’ve had, even if it’s a failure or just a flat out bad experience hasn’t been a waste of time. From mistakes I can learn how I can do things right and from bad experiences I can know for sure that is something I need to avoid in future.

 

The importance of being okay with uncertainty is about avoiding what kind of person you becoming if you’re scared of uncertainty. If you’re scared of uncertainty, you become a very boring, safe person. Someone that always wants something stable, steady and ‘just okay’. Someone who is okay with being mediocre. And that my friends is what scares me the most. Mediocrity.

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The lure of independent coffee shops

Independent coffee shops are becoming more and more popular for those that work remotely or those in the creative industry. They’re frequented by artists, designers, developers, musicians – pretty much anyone creative. They’re a home for the wanderer, a pitstop of the traveller and a staple of the freelancer. Many people that don’t travel also love coffee shops, to get away from the hustle and bustle of the daily commute. Some people like to work there, some people like to read there and some people just like to be. Since I’ve been living in Taiwan for about 4 out of the last 5 months, I’ve begun to love them too. They seem to be my rock in a country I don’t completely belong. So I was wondering to myself… what’s the lure of these dainty little establishments?

Comfort

Most independent cafes feel like they’re what your living room should be. Cosy, warm, a full book shelf and art on the walls. In Taiwan the price is one drink and you can stay as long as you like. There’s no pressure on you to leave; it’s like your own home. I myself spend several hours working in coffee shops daily and the price you pay is a cup of coffee, which you’d probably buy anyway if you were out and about.

Social

Unlike your living room you can meet other interesting people here, there’s always new people coming in and out that can enrich your lives and sometimes it’s just nice to be around others. Everyone seems to have an interesting story here as they’re all attracted to these cosy coffee shops for similar reasons. Some might be aspiring artists, struggling entrepreneurs, weary travellers or just coming in for a drink and to soak in the ambiance.

Great to get work done

I used to freelance from home when I was back in the UK, which is great if you have controlled environment like an office. If you don’t you might need to clean you desk to start to work, which is an obstacle to getting started, especially if you set your own schedule. In a coffee shop you always start with a blank slate, a clean desk and refreshments provided. The music is already on and you can just get started without worrying about anything. And one of the best things about it is everyone around you seems to be busy, and there’s this pressure you feel to work when everyone around you is also. It’s the same reason why people go to libraries to read or to co-working spaces to do side projects.

A base

Most people have offices to go to, or homes be at. Being a traveller and a freelancer (and soon to be entrepreneur) I have neither in Taiwan. Coffee shops are my base, they’re a place I know I can go to chill out, kill some time or get some work done.

Own unique character

They all have a rustic, homey character that you can’t get anywhere else and definitely not in Starbucks. They are all influenced by art, movements and ideas. And they all seem to have similar values, for instance the one I frequent in Taiwan closed for a day to protest the nukes in Taiwan. Although at the time I was a little pissed I didn’t know they were going to be shut, I can respect their values and it adds a personal touch when a coffee shop has personality. Each will represent a little bit about you that you can relate to.

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My top 8 tips for learning Chinese… or anything

Recently, I’ve been giving my brother advice on learning Chinese. Both of us as kids never learnt Chinese, so we’ve both struggled to learn it throughout our adult life, we’ve both failed multiple times. During my visit to Malaysia and with my newly acquired language skills, I inspired my older brother to try learning again. It felt great to be able to teach my older brother something, to inspire him to be better. That feeling I can tell you is incredible. Anyway, recently I’ve been giving him tips on how to learn Chinese and it made me think about my top tips for learning Chinese… or anything.

1. Get a dictionary on your phone

It’s a small thing, but not that learners get one right from the beginning. I myself was using google translate on single words a dictionary for quite a while. Pleco is easily the best choice on the market right now and it’s available on both iOS and Android.

2. Start speaking as soon as you can

One thing I can definitely account the speed in which I’ve learnt Chinese is that I started speaking very very soon after I started learning. Language partners started after a month, but i had a tutor right from the beginning (within the first week), which gave me confidence to speak to others

3. Get a tutor

A tutor in China is cheap, you can learn on Skype and it might cost you between £5-10 ($8-15) an hour, it’s worth every penny spent. A lot of people go to classes in the UK and spend as much or more on group lessons where you’re not getting as much attention

4. Use flash cards from day 1 – 30

Flash cards are single handedly the best way of learning vocabulary quickly. You don’t have to like it, but you just need that initial 600 characters to kickstart your learning. And who knows you might even enjoy it. I enjoyed the speed in which I learnt. After about a month or two I started getting tired of spending most of my time doing flash cards and after 6 months I pretty much stopped using them, but the initial month was invaluable to learning efficiently and quickly.

5. Only do things you enjoy

So if you don’t like flash cards, you should stop, because it’s better to choose the decent method you continue than the perfect method you give up on. That doesn’t mean don’t try flash cards if you don’t like the idea. Trying something for about a month gives you the chance to see if you like it. Don’t judge a boo by it’s cover. I wrote a Chinese diary for a month. That was enough to tell me that the task wasn’t enjoyable enough for me to continue.

6. Record words using Pleco

I use the Pleco dictionary and add words I want to know by hitting the plus button. It’s super quick and easy as you can add words as soon as you look them up. You can choose what you want to do with them after. But the simple act of recording words you want to know is a good habit.

7. Talk about your learning

Accountability is an important part of learning. For me I told everyone that I was starting to learn Chinese, I started writing this blog and I even started to teach people how to learn Chinese. All that put together made me learn to the extent I have today. It also helps you to self assess your own understanding of your learning. Assess how well you’re learning or even how you are learning is as important as the learning itself. That which is measures, improves.

8. Start today

Stop talking about learning Chinese. Start right now. Download Pleco and get a tutor.

These tips can be applied to any skill. This is how I’d write the same tips for general learning:

1. Get a reference u can look at all the time any time any place, no excuse.

2. Start practising as soon as you can.

3. Get a tutor/mentor, someone to keep you accountable and teach u new things.

4. Learn the fundamentals as quick as u can (just so happens flash cards is the best way for languages)

5. Only do things you enjoy

6. Record new things you want to learn within your skill.

7. Talk about your learning, your progress. Teach or share.

8. Start now

Get learning.

 

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The Motivation Equation

I’ll be returning to Taiwan on Tuesday from a 3 week period travelling Malaysia and Singapore. I saw relatives who I haven’t seen in years, ate great food and generally had a very good time, but… I’ve lost many of good habits that I had built up in Taiwan. Now that I’m returning to Taiwan I’ve got to get myself back into a good routine again and push forward with some of my goals. A few things that I need to tie up that I didn’t finish before leaving Taiwan and the most pressing of which is to finish my portfolio site so I can start to begin freelancing seriously. The way I’m going to finish my site is by testing out some of the methods that I’ve learnt reading Nick Winter’s The Motivation Hacker

There is one thing that I really should have put more emphasis on earlier, which is my personal site. I will aim to complete my personal site within 1 week of returning to Taiwan so this will be the 4th of March.

I’ve been reading Nick Winter’s “The Motivation Hacker” recently and it’s really resonated with me as there are many things in that book that I already do, as well as things that I would really want to try. I’m going to start analysing my goals using the Motivation equation. Then when I see there is a need to hack my motivation to produce results, I’ll try out some of the methods that Nick has written about in his book.

Motivation = Expectancy * Value / Impulsiveness * Delay

Nick remembers this as MEVID.

Motivation what you are aiming for, the feeling of passion, fire and drive.

Expectancy is the chance you will succeed. Higher expectancy = higher motivation.

Value is how rewarding or fun a task is. Higher value = higher motivation.

Impulsiveness is how easy you will get distracted. Higher impulsiveness = low motivation.

Delay is how far off the reward is. Higher delay = low motivation.

So for instance with my personal website:

Expectancy

My expectancy is high. I know I can succeed, but my expectations for my own personal website are also very high. I want to build a site I’m proud of, so this is not so easy as just building an ordinary website. The site being a collation of everything I’ve done, my writing and my portfolio is the first impression I’ll give anyone when they enter my site.

7/10

Value

My Value is also high. Making a great site is fun, it’s rewarding and since it’s my own site I get to play with any kind of designs or new technology I want.

8/10

Impulsiveness

Impulsiveness is high, because paid work is often more appealing to do than the opportunity to attract future work (as it’s paying right now). Also things such as learning Chinese whilst in Taiwan have more of a immediate impact on my life, whereas this site may take weeks or months to get any attention or any measurable effect on life.

7/10

Delay

This leads me nicely onto Delay, because it may take several weeks or months to see any measurable effect, doing things that have more immediate effect feel more worthwhile doing.

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Motivation = 7*8/7*8 = 1

1 must be around the middle for motivation, neither motivated nor unmotivated. I keep reminding myself it needs to be done, but I’ve been procrastinating about a year. Starting and then stopping. This time I’m going to hack both my Impulsiveness to ensure I get this done when I say it’s going to be done. I’m going to do this with a few methods:

Pomodoro timer. I looked into this method before I left Taiwan. It’s a very simple method of working for 25 minutes and then resting for 5 minutes. After 4 pomodoros (2 hours), you take a longer break of 15-30 mins.

Success spirals. I’m not sure if this is a terminology Nick himself came up with, but it’s essentially just setting a daily task to do everyday with an end date. I’ve been doing this a lot such as pull ups when I go past the park and squats before a shower, although I never set a limit on it, which I probably should have as coming to Malaysia has damaged my expectancy a little.

All in all, I’m going to try improve my productivity by using motivation techniques, instead of relying on occasional bouts of natural motivation. I think through this constant self analysis I will also learn a lot about what I find interesting and what I want to do with my life. Self reflection is never a waste of time.