Friday, 29 March 2013
Selfish Beings

I'm not sure if the news made it to Malaysian waters, but the Australian political scene isn't looking very bright at the moment. With an election in September, I actually feel like Australian politics and Malaysian politics is becoming quite similar. Or at least, that's how I see it- both ruling governments are unpopular, and might lose the next election, but people have doubts about the opposition.

This morning, I read a very interesting article called 'how to sell a sinking ship', where a political campaigner talked about how can an unpopular government convince people to still vote for them.

''There's an old advertising belief that governments have to sell on fear and oppositions have to sell on hope,'' she says. ''I'd be doing big ads which had pictures of Cyprus and rioters in Greece, saying, 'Australia - 21 years of growth brought to you by the ALP'. I'd certainly be touting those kinds of achievements. ''The basic premise for any government, she adds is: better the devil you know. ''Most people vote for selfish reasons, nobody votes for the good of Australia,'' Gregory says. ''We vote for what's going to put the most money in our pocket at the end of the year … no one actually gives a monkey's about the 'economy'.''
I found those few sentences enlightening, for I do think that it is exactly what the Najib government needs to do at the moment- sell on fear and their track record. And the opposition has to sell on the hope that things will get better. And I also agree completely that we are all selfish people who will vote for whatever brings us the most benefit.

Easter, exactly a year ago. Good times!

We don't like to admit it, but we are all definitely selfish. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, but most  of us unconsciously subscribe to the capitalistic and materialistic ideal that the world currently runs on. I definitely am one of them. Yes, I do want better things for my country but I do admit that I will also vote for my own benefit as well.

Take my own career aspirations as another example. That article reminded me of something- that behind every hated regime is probably a public relations team that worked tirelessly to ensure that their clients were perceived in the most positive light possible. Some of you might wonder- why do they do it? Why do they even want to help such a terrible cause?

The simplest answer to that is probably self-preservation and promotion. If they run a successful campaign, it's safe to say that they would not only continue to have a job, but they would also have gained a reputation in the industry for being able to run campaigns against the odds. I mean, Apple doesn't have to do much right now- every product they churn out is going to have the attention of people. It's companies like Nokia and Blackberry whose PR and marketing teams have the most challenging job, and if they were able to bring that kind of favourable attention to their company and products, what does that say about their abilities?

We all want that career boost and being well known in what we do. We don't admit it, but we selfishly think of how to improve our chances every day and how to benefit ourselves at the end of the day. Of course, everyone does this to a different extent, so some of us aren't willing to go as far as others. But we still do it.
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Wednesday, 20 March 2013
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Sometime several months ago, I made a new year's resolution. I haven't actually checked it out yet but I do know a few of them by heart as they're the ones I've never been able to keep. It's the usual suspects- getting healthier, fitter, eating better, being more adventurous and stepping out of my comfort zone. When making it, I definitely had my doubts over whether I would be able to keep them this year, or will they simply be pushed forward to next year's resolutions. But then it hit me. I'm not getting any younger. Sure, when you're 19, eating healthily can wait, but now that I'm fully in my 20s, I came to the sudden realisation that I need to take charge of my life more.

You'll be surprised at how thoughts like these can motivate you sometimes. I for one never entertained the notion of being in my 20s. But this time around, I did, and as usual, it scared me. So this year, I have tried my best to eat healthy meals (cutting down on instant noodles and junk food... I tried anyway) and doing some exercises at home. This week I also started something I knew I should have done a long time ago- I signed up for a gym membership.

Yes, it's one of those things that may seem like a premium that you don't need, and it is true that sometimes you really don't need a gym membership. I found a gym that has excellent facilities- tons of different classes, a pool, and a rock climbing wall. Stepping inside, I felt comfortable immediately, and I knew that I would feel a lot more motivated to work out here. And so, instead of telling myself how expensive the membership is, or that I can workout at home, I signed up. Why? Because I felt the need to really take full control of my body.

And mind you, it's been great. I have been going to the gym quite regularly, and today was perhaps one of the most rewarding days. I tried yoga for the first time in my life. I can see why yoga is so popular; it made me stretch muscles I didn't know I have and definitely don't know how to stretch even if I did. It made me realise how much further I can go if I work hard and am persistent. There was definitely a relaxing factor in yoga that would make me want to go back for more. You are simply in the studio and can forget about the external world, and it feels amazing.

Then there's the rock climbing. Those of you who know me well would know that I'm afraid of heights. But I figured, why not? I'm trying to be more adventurous anyway. So I went through the safety briefing and then started climbing (with supervision of course). After explaining how things work, the instructor told me to climb halfway up. When I did, I asked what next. He said let go.

'W-what? Let go?' was my reaction at first. Yes, there is a harness. But I was still terribly nervous. I mean, there is something to be said about you hanging on by your fingers on a rock, and being told to let go and plunge to the ground (okay you don't plunge, but you get what was going through my body). But I steadied my nerves, told myself to just go for it, and... I let go. It felt good. Then he told me to climb all the way up. He followed me up, and when we reached the top, he asked if I was ready to let go. This time, I was, and let go of my grip on the rocks with less hesitation. There was, oddly, something really liberating and empowering about that moment.  It was a moment where I forgot about everything else that was going on in my life, and just get absorbed in the moment and allowing myself to experience life as it is. To feel the adrenaline rush through my body as my feet left the tiny foothold and the spring tightening around the harness, bringing me back to the ground, was amazing.

I felt nothing else. I thought of nothing else. I just let go, and I think that's something that I might need to learn in life. Sometimes it really is about taking the plunge and just doing things. I did it today. Of course, it didn't hurt being told that I did really well for my first try.
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Tuesday, 5 March 2013
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Today while at the supermarket getting some last minute ingredients for dinner, I glanced upon the candy shelf and saw- you guessed it, candy. More specifically, sour tapes. I've previously written about it being one of the things that would brighten my day, and it definitely did today- I was excited to see it.  But, just a few seconds later I was hit with a realisation.

I'm not sure if you know this, but tennis player Maria Sharapova launched a candy line sometime this year (in Australia at least- think it was last year in the U.S). Here's her description of the products on the website:

I’ve always had a sweet tooth. And I am not exaggerating one bit. My earliest memory of candy is being a little girl back in Russia and asking my parents for a lollipop after a good practice on the tennis court. It was that little treat I looked forward to. And here I am many years later hoping to get a sweet treat after a good practice.

And this was what I had wrote in my previous entry:

I remember that when I was young I took taekwondo lessons, and when I began to lose interest in it and would dread going, that would be my reward of sorts for going. And as I've always loved sour food, and I rarely got to eat them throughout the years, I always get excited when I see them being sold.

And no, I was no excited one bit at the similarities. Rather, I was more disappointed. While I am still happy with my life, it currently is not going anywhere. Sharapova, on the other hand, has so many opportunities lining up. It made me wonder- do I give up too easily? I definitely missed a chance on building a candy empire (okay maybe not, but you get the point). It made me see things a little differently. For instance, I gained some insights into why I think she was able to see this as a business opportunity and I didn't (besides the fact that she's a celebrity, of course!).

Mindset- While I saw candy as a way to make taekwondo bearable, Sharapova used it as positive reinforcement. I had to be goaded into going. Granted, I hated the physical violence that is taekwondo, but still, I did not make the best of the situation.

Perseverance- This realisation made me wonder, perhaps I should have persevered in more things that I was so fortunate to have been able to dabble in- self defence (taekwondo, wushu and Brazilian jiu-jitsu), music (piano, the guitar and an assortment of other instruments), sport (swimming, tennis and badminton). I did not dedicate my attention to anything. Who knows? Had I concentrated on something I might've been at London last Olympics.

Value of tough times- I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that Sharapova went through a rough childhood as she couldn't be with her parents when she was sent to America. I was blessed with a very lucky and fortunate childhood. But as they say, 'tough times don't last, tough people do'. It is during these times that you learn more about yourself and you come out a stronger person.

Importance of passion- Having said all that, at the end of the day Maria has always said that she enjoys tennis. Drive is important, and it's the same as the age-old saying 'do what you like to do'. I guess the lesson here is that passion can be a fuel to a successful life. After all, all the most successful people I know are deeply passionate about what they do for a living.

So, boys and girls, take this as a lesson to remind you that no matter what, you should always try your hardest and not let life's challenges make you turn away from chasing after what you want.
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