Category Archives: Life Series

Mid Year Resolution Review: 3. Finance

New Year Resolution 3: Finance

The aim is to be financially prudent or to quote my company’s expenses policy – “X is committed to ensuring that all expenditure incurred is prudent, reasonable and reflects sound judgement and decision making.” Do I need a cat butt tissue dispenser? No.

No, I haven’t purchased the cat butt dispenser in question.

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This is what I’m babbling about.

Saving money does not come naturally to me. Spending without thinking does. I think part of it is because my parents financially supported me throughout my education life and they’ve never asked for anything in return. Not complaining about how fortunate I’ve been. All my income goes to my bank and I don’t have any mortgage or commitments to pay off (which also means I have zero asset…)

I’ve started becoming more financially prudent lately because I have a friend who is looking to buy a condominium in Singapore (she’s single, smart, around my age – PM me if you want to be introduced?) and I couldn’t imagine myself being able to afford the down payment of a condo here! I know I need to start saving up now rather than wait till I meet someone and save up together for a house. (Two is better than one when it comes to putting money in the bank).

So how have I been saving this year? I’ve saved up about 20% of my income. Not too bad, but I’m aiming to at least save up 30% for the next half year. I’ve not made any big purchases this year apart from travelling – but that’s reasonable.

An area of improvement is how I spend on fitness-related items. I have a gym membership now, so I should reduce how often I go to classes outside of the gym because that’s additional expense. I enjoy trying out new things but it makes more sense to utilise what I already have. Does that reflect sound judgment?

Also, I’m quite fickle when making decisions so I came up with a strategy to eliminate microdecision (Thanks to a colleague who brought this up). The idea is to have a constant answer to all my microdecision. For example, “Should I order food A or food B?” The answer is always go for the cheaper one. “Should I have coffee with my brunch?” Always no. Drink water because it’s less fattening or Chai Latte because it’s Chai Latte.

WhatsApp Image 2018-07-31 at 2.20.07 PM

Sooo….Onward to a richer 2018!

Ka-ching,
Mel.

P.S: I’m doing a mid year review of my New Year Resolution.

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Mid Year Resolution Review: 2. Health

P.S: I’m doing a mid year review of my New Year Resolution.

New Year Resolution 2: Health

Last year I wanted to be healthy and I’ve done so by going for crossfit and signing up gym membership (also actually use it). This year I wanna be healthier and fit by exercising 2x a week (I just wanna make the most out of my membership fee) and watching my diet. Reduce sugar and rice. Hopefully lose 2kg in the process.

My Crossfit Buddy is recovering from an injury so we haven’t been going to the Box of late. Instead, we meet almost every week for an evening run. Besides running with her, I also go to the gym once or twice a week. So resolution no 2 is on track!

Marina Barrage

Evening run at the Central Business District

I’ve also started eating healthier. I wish I could say it’s due to my sensibility but no, I had a persistent cough which lasted 4 weeks and had to avoid eating fried food, sweet stuff, chicken, etc. I’m quite wary that the virus might come back so I’m continuing the healthy diet now although less strictly. Unfortunately I didn’t lose any weight in the process but could that be because I’m also gaining muscles?

In the next half year, I wish to have a more regular exercise timetable (Monday, Wednesday and/or Saturday) and keep a close eye on my diet to lose that 2kg! I’ll start by drinking only plain water or green tea during working hours and continue to eat as if I have a perpetual cough so I would avoid all the food that are bad for the body. My body is a temple. Does this temple needs additional serving of bacon and another glass of G&T? Tempting but NO.(I mentioned ‘additional’ and ‘another’ because the first serving is a yes.)

Overall I think I’m doing pretty well in keeping healthy. Of course it could be improved, but definitely way better than last year. And oh! I’m going for my first Kettlebell class tomorrow. Pray I survive.

X,
Mel.

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Mid Year Resolution Review: 1. God

Am I ashamed of the Gospel? Not anymore. But I am ashamed of how I’ve neglected my New Year Resolution #6. Now that we’ve reached the mid year mark, it’s the time to take stock of my resolutions before it’s too late!

New Year Resolution 1: God
I’m re-cultivating the habit of morning prayer as a symbol and reminder to start everything with God.

As of this moment, I’m happy that I’m back on track with my morning prayer (except today because it’s Sunday which is sleep-in day…) Waking up early hasn’t been easy. I started the year with morning prayer/quite time and then shifted to night time for most part of the year. I don’t think God gives more merits to which part of the day we set aside for Him because ALL of our day belongs to Him anyway and but I realise a few pros and cons –

Morning Prayer
Pros
– There are less distraction as my mind hasn’t been bogged down by the day’s busyness. Also because of “time limitation” (I eventually need to go to get off the bible to go to work), I am more mindful in making every minute counts therefore less distracted.
Cons – There were few instances when I had to read the verses a few times to digest because my brain was still loading in the morning and the urge to fall back to sleep is very strong.

Night Prayer
Pros
– There’s no time limit! I could pray, worship, have a long meditation on God’s words. It’s nice to dwell in God’s presence limitless and because it’s the end of the day, there are more things to be thankful for and to talk to God about.
Cons – Sometimes I ended up giving Him leftover of my time and rush through my prayer because I want to sleep.

At this point, I want to commit myself to spending time with Him in the morning because it is harder for me to wake up earlier than to sleep later to pray. I am not setting myself up for failure but I want to do something that would change my day and shake up my priorities. In order to wake up early I have to sleep early which means I have to be at home earlier than I normally would. By choosing to have a morning time with God it makes me include Him in the decisions I make during the course of the day – e.g. when going out with friends “If I go for more drinks, I would be in bed late and I probably can’t wake up early next day”.

I’m not saying morning quiet time is better than night quiet time. But if I were to quote King David’s “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” , the more we effort we put into spending time with God, the more we grow from the experience of sacrifice*. It’s just like spending time with friends or loved ones. The more effort you put into the relationships, the bigger the trouble you went to help someone the more likely the recipient will be touched. Of course it has to be out of sincerity, not a grouching heart. Imagine someone doing you a favour and he/she rubbing it in your face or humble brag about it – that’s really annoying.

I may not have re-cultivated the morning prayer habit a 100% but I’m on my way and as long as I’m still trying I think it’s a good sign.

Sunrise at Jogja

On a side note, I love watching sunrise.

X,
Mel.

*Spending time with God regardless time of day is a privilege and honour, not a burdensome sacrifice. I’m human. I battle with the urge to sleep or to be disciplined but in the end, I know it’s a joy to be invited to spend time with God.

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Are you ashamed of the Gospel?

I work in the central business district and it’s common to see TV crew (mostly from news TV stations) stopping passerby for opinion on current affairs. Last week I was rushing to meet a friend for lunch when I was halted and shoved with a question:

“A man and his son got into an accident. During the operation the son died and went up to heaven. The surgeon said Don’t take him! He’s my son!
Who is this surgeon?”

I may not have recalled the story exactly but that was the gist of it and the first answer I had in mind was “God!” and then I paused and thought is it weird to mention ‘God’ on TV? Can I think of an alternative answer? So I asked her to repeat the question to stall for time but nothing else come to mind. In the end I just replied “God?” and she gave an expression which made me think I wasn’t the first person who gave that answer and she said “The surgeon is the mother!”.

That was a very random question and I still don’t understand the point of it. I wish I was asked about the recent tax hike instead (though my reply would very likely be edited out). But anyway, I walked off wondering “Why am I so hesitant to say ‘God’ in front of the TV?” Am I ashamed and embarrassed and why?

I think a part of me wanted to fit in with the World. We don’t talk about religion in public. In Toastmaster meetings, we are discouraged (or may even be prohibited) from speaking about politics and religion. These are seen as taboo topics that could potentially incite arguments. However people are getting more vocal about their political stand especially since Trump became president. Politics is now an everyday topic – Even mentioned at the Oscar. So why haven’t we start talking about religion?

Part of the reasons I think is because we don’t know how to disagree well when it comes to religion. When we talk about religion with someone of different belief it could turn to an argument of who is right and wrong, my God is better than yours and escalate into attacks very much like what we’re seeing around the World today (one of them here). When we speak to someone with a different belief, instead of seeking to enlighten the other party of what we believe in, listening to understand their viewpoint, we just want to bulldoze them into adhering to our beliefs. It’s our way or no way.

Pray

Coming back to the question in my title. Maybe I was afraid of proclaiming the gospel, maybe I fear of being seen as too holy or speaking of God would make me an outsider. But if I say that I am a believer of Jesus that means I have a duty to speak of the gospel – not to argue who is right or wrong but to give everyone a chance to have what the gospel carries.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.

Romans 1:16”

You may not agree with what I believe in but that doesn’t make us enemies. Honestly, sometimes my fellow Christians are the ones driving me nuts but that’s another topic for another post.

X,
Mel

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Word of the Year: Sacrifice

My Word of The Year 2017 was Responsibility and as if that wasn’t dreary enough, this year’s Word is Sacrifice.

Last weekend I was scheduled to serve as usher in church. I had the day planned out in the morning, then I watched Netflix longer than what I planned for, grew tired from lying on bed whole morning and decided to take a nap 10 minutes* before getting ready to go out. I snoozed till I either get up rightaway or missed my reporting time. I chose the latter, continued sleeping and woke up too late to report for duty but, to alleviate my guilt, made it to church. That day, one of the sermon’s key message was “The price you pay for worship will correspond with your breakthrough”

Ouch.

I have been coming to God asking “why am I not having the same level of intensity that I had for you?”. The problem is I come to Him whenever it’s convenient; the leftover of my time, when I’m waiting in line and had nothing to do, or when I’m bored. It cost me nothing to spend time with Him.

In 1 Chronicles 21:18-30 King David wanted to purchase a site to build an altar to the Lord. Araunah, the owner of the site, offered him for free yet King David replied:

“No I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

King David (1 Chronicles 21:24)

Jesus died for us. He showed us the ultimate sacrifice out of His love. He doesn’t demand anything in return but His act of love caused my heart to stir and bring transformation to millions. That’s what a sacrifice can do.

What Sacrifice Isn’t

A sacrifice has to be sincere. It cannot come with strings attached. If you sacrifice something with the mindset of gaining something else, then that’s a bargain not a sacrifice. Lent is starting soon and we’ll hear many people giving up something till Easter. It is an admirable practice but I hope those sacrifices are not mere tradition or a “by the way” (e.g. I’ve been meaning to lose weight hence giving up sugar).

We sacrifice to set our heart right before God. When you love someone, don’t you want to spend time or buy gifts or write letter for that person even if you have to inconvenient yourself to drive to where he/she is, set aside time to shop, research on nice restaurants, etc? (P.S Valentine’s Day is coming – this is a hint how to treat your girl/boyfriend)

This year I want to learn to be a good lover of God; to give Him 1. My time – which could mean less time on Netflix, 2. My finances – not getting another pair of sneakers and giving to Mission Trip instead, 3. My attention – abiding in Him and listening. Stop treating Him as my Psychiatrist, 4. Myself.

This year may (you and) I learn to truly live a life of sacrifice unto the Lord.

X,
Mel

*There’s no such thing as a 10 minute nap.

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Agency Vs Client Side

I worked in the advertising agency right out of college. I had an eventful 5+ years in the industry and few months ago, I finally left the circle and jumped to the other side of the fence, the client side.

The client side is often known to be the greener side. I have former colleagues who joined the agency from the client side and they described agency as if it’s a sinking ship where everyone is toiling to stay afloat at the mercy of clients who are pointing guns at us. We’re slaves to clients. While client-agency relationship are now improving as clients recognise the agency as industry experts, ultimately we depend on clients for our rice-bowls and that’s why “customer is king” delineates agency culture.

Now that I’ve switched to a client position, I can finally make a first hand comparison of life in the agency vs client-side and here are my two cents –

Working Hour
Advertising agency is notorious for its crazy working hour because that’s true. Even if you work on a retainer account, somehow you can never guess when you’d be required to stay late for emergency so it’s rather hard to plan activities after working hour. On the bright side, most agencies tolerate late-comers so you can sleep-in a little but you probably need that after working late the night before.

Verdict: Client-side wins!
As client you may need to check your email often even during holidays but you basically plan for things and ask the agency to make it happen. So you have that break time while your agency scrambles to make things happen.

Company Culture
One of the things I miss the most working in agency is the company culture. Agency people thrive on being a fun bunch of people. I remember few of us were staying late and one of the director said this before he left office “It’s just advertising guys! Nobody dies (even if we fail).” Agency environment can be stressful, working around deadlines and unfortunately there are cases of personnel who died from overwork… but I think majority of the days we know how to let loose. On the client side, people are a lot more cordial. They know how to keep things professional on the surface even if they hate your guts. Clients seem more proper than advertisers.

Verdict: Agency wins!
I guess Agency gives off a more fun and genuine vibe. It’s like being in the last class versus the best class in cohort. (Not saying clients are smarter, I’m just talking about the atmosphere).

Projects/ The Work
There are vast learning opportunities being on either side. The benefit of being with agency is that you’ll handle different brands and be exposed to a range of industries (unless you are on a retainer account – then you should experience working for different accounts). You would also learn to manage offline and online media, working with suppliers, third parties, etc. Being a client hones my planning and strategy skills and here I have the opportunities to interact with more senior level executives within my working industry (not just within the corporation).

Verdict: It depends on your interest. Personally I developed an eye for detail (which is NOT my natural skill) working in the agency. Agency does a lot of implementation while clients does planning. Agency is good place to start, but if you start off as a client then stay – Do not enter the agency zone.

Salary
If you start your career as an entry-level in the agency, you probably earn less than your peers in other industry but the learning you get is priceless and you could get more perks (free booze, client’s products, tickets, etc) working in agency. But for long term goal, I think client pays better.

Verdict: Client wins! (Agency wins if you’re director level/ have won awards/ white person in an Asian agency which probably means you’re director level)

***

It’s too early for me to conclude which side of the fence I prefer. I am sure both sides have their pros and cons. I certainly have enjoyed being part of the advertising world because I’ve met really great colleagues who were my comrades-in-arms while battling with client briefs. I just feel that being in the agency allows you to form really great relationships, do work you’re proud of, have fun, be creative however it keeps your world rather secluded. Whenever I meet someone from advertising agency, I look at them as if they’re my countrymen. Maybe I’m dramatic. But you can grouch about timesheet, laugh over client briefs, share crazy agency party stories, you belong to a unique industry. Right now, even if I meet someone from my current industry, I would probably look at them as competitors? I can learn from them but at the same time I need to be wary. I don’t know, I’m really too new to say anything conclusive.

In any case, enjoy yourself wherever you are. If you’re working in advertising agency and feel everything sucks, trust me you’re gonna miss it when it’s over – hopefully it’ll be over. It’s a love-hate relationship really.

Cheers,
Client.
cnorris

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2018 New Year’s Resolution

Finally done drafting my resolution! I take New Year’s Resolution seriously because I’m one of those unmotivated and easily distracted person so if I don’t have a list of goals, there’s high chance I might go wayward and meander through the year. Last year I am pleased that I did well against my resolution for the first time since I started making resolution list. So let’s kick start 2018 with a new set of goals! I’ve categoried them in no particular order.

1. God

I’m re-cultivating the habit of morning prayer as a symbol and reminder to start everything with God.

2. Health

Last year I wanted to be healthy and I’ve done so by going for crossfit and signing up gym membership (also actually use it). This year I wanna be healthier and fit by exercising 2x a week (I just wanna make the most out of my membership fee) and watching my diet. Reduce sugar and rice. Hopefully lose 2kg in the process.

3. Finance

The aim is to be financially prudent or to quote my company’s expenses policy – “X is committed to ensuring that all expenditure incurred is prudent, reasonable and reflects sound judgement and decision making.” Do I need a cat butt tissue dispenser? No.

4. Relationship

Make time to develop relationships. Be aware of who and how I’m spending my time. Accept that I am not be able to keep up with everyone because if I do I will burnout and lose track of people who matter.

5. Self-care

On top of making time for others, I’m setting aside me-time. This includes pampering myself (manicure, creambath, go to salon) and doing the necessities like an overdue visit to the dentist and my doctors!

6. Writing

Starting with 1 post per week to gain back the momentum. The post need not be extraordinary or meaningful as long as they are published.

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7. Career

I am grateful for the new job and now it’s time to take it up a notch – be aggressive and proactive. Do the obvious. E.g. Don’t understand? Ask! Need to cut the meeting and excuse myself? Speak up! Need to chat? Call!

8. Community

Continuing from last year’s resolution on being more involved with Toastmaster and Cell group, this year I want to be more present. To be part of a community means I don’t just receive from the group but also contribute my knowledge, experience, skills and time.

Alrighty. 2018, we’re ready for you!

Cheers,

Mel.

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