Strengths

Fridays have become a much needed oasis in the desert of other day-to-day activities. Although I don’t exactly take a break, I spend the day “studying”.

During the day, I read books on food and drink (my current read is Food and Beverage Service, which is a textbook for hospitality students) and at night, I work at the bar. And although it’s work, it still feels like learning.

As part of my career coaching sessions last year, I was asked to do a Gallup CliftonStrengths test and one of my signature themes was Learner. That was a revelation.

For so long I’d thought my incessant curiosity and dabbling were weaknesses. That my desire to explore and not necessarily master something was a character flaw.

But according to The Gallup Organisation, “the most effective people are those who understand their strengths and behaviours”.

The report went on to say, “These people are best able to develop strategies to meet and exceed the demands of their daily lives, their careers, and their families.”

This means that it’s not so much about what’s right or wrong. Or whether certain ways of being are better than others.

To live a truly satisfying, one has to find the best ways to use one’s strengths. And to do that, you must first identify them.

Meaning

There are days, like today, when I think about the meaning of life and more specifically, whether my life has meaning. 

It’s a question that many people all the way back through time have considered. Wikipedia lists a myriad answers that people have come up with throughout history. 

I thought about this when I was younger — but still of “childbearing age”, as my brother would say — and felt a level of despair. My brother said that I was feeling that way because I hadn’t fulfilled my biological purpose. 

According to James Watson, in response to a question from Richard Dawkins, we aren’t here for anything. 

“We’re just the products of evolution,” he said. We are here — breathing, eating, fucking — so that our genes can reproduce. 

On days like these, stoicism is the one philosophy that has come in handy. Or how I interpret stoicism, anyway. 

I ask myself, “Is it relevant to ask if life has meaning?” Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn’t. But does it matter either way? 

Sometimes I think the antidote to despair is accepting that life may have no meaning, but being determined to live it anyway. To the best of my ability. 

Spotty

July thus far has been spotty, in terms of my daily blog. I’ve missed days, mostly because I have been doing a lot more work-related writing, which would be fine if not for all the other projects I have ongoing.

And instead of feeling guilty or disappointed in myself, what I’ve been feeling is elation. Because writing this blog is still serving its purpose.

Like Seth Godin said, having to say something makes you think about having something to say (totally paraphrasing). And it’s been true. I’ve become more aware of the world around me and thinking deeper about my place in it.

I am always attuned to stories these days. Every time I talk to someone new, experience something different, I think, “This could make a good story.”

Although I’m generally curious, writing this blog has led to a deeper sense of curiosity, a desire to dig deeper into things, to dive headfirst into whatever topic that happens to tickle my fancy.

Blogging daily has led to more ideas. Has led me to want to write more. Has given me more to write about.

It’s also damn good practice at getting the words out, letting go off imperfection anxiety and hitting publish.

Substack

Today I received an email from one of my favourite media tech products – Substack. They’ve raised another $15.3mil in a Series A funding round.

I’m pleased, because this means that there’s still room to grow in the media industry. That there are still spaces for writers to thrive.

In their email, Substack writes, “We know that Silicon Valley venture capital and the media have often not mixed well, but we are committed to getting this right.

“We have a business model that works and that aligns our incentives with the writer’s.”

Their product is free to use, no matter how large your audience. But when you charge for subscriptions, Substack takes a percentage. (Unlike other platforms that collect a subscription fee and give you a percentage – if you know, you know.)

If you decide to leave the platform, you keep your audience.

And this part makes me hopeful: “We will never build ad tech into Substack, and we know that the media can’t be saved by algorithm.”

I’m excited to see Substack grow!

PS. If you’re curious, I have two fledgling publications on Substack – one about books and the other about cocktails. Feel free to subscribe to either or both.

Fever

The story fever takes over me as it usually does, and my entire being belongs to it for however long it lasts. It’s hard to do anything else but read. This time, it was the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. 

Written for young adults in a time when I was also a young adult (age giveaway!), the Uglies trilogy starts with an almost 16-year-old Tally Youngblood who has been told all her life that she is ugly. 

She’s just a few months away from undergoing the surgery that everyone goes through at 16. A few months away from being pretty. 

But adventures ensue and she discovers that being pretty isn’t all that utopian. 

Although I’m no longer a young adult (as defined by book publishers), I still identify with the awkwardness that comes with being a teenager. I’m still learning how to be

There are days when I can’t wait to be older. There are days when I think age makes you indifferent to your place in the world. 

I wonder if being comfortable in your own skin is something automatic. Or is it something you have to foster? 

Or is it something you’re already born with? And if so, does that mean I’ll always be awkward?

Timeless

I binge-watched Timeless over the last couple of weeks and finished the entire series. I’d have added my voice to the #renewtimeless calls if I’d known about it sooner. 

The show is about a group of people who travel back through time to stop the “destruction” of the United States and the more I watched, the more it became clearer that the future is fragile. 

Although the show isn’t too bothered with historical accuracy, it made me realise that split second decisions made at significant moments of time can affect the way things pan out. 

One voice can start a movement that leads to constitutional changes. One death can change an entire society and their livelihoods. One act of kindness can change history. 

And in the episode titled Mrs Sherlock Holmes (Season 2, Episode 7), I was reminded why I am a feminist. 

How could I not be? 

I am a beneficiary of the fight that these women have fought. My education, the fact that I have a bank account, my work — the fact that all of this was possible for me was because of these women. 

Perhaps the struggles of women have changed since then. And perhaps there are better ways to fix them besides taking to the streets. Perhaps things are a lot better now. 

But there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

Routine

Coming out from the haze that was last week — half of it spent crunching, the other spent in bed with a migraine — I’ve been thinking a bit about my productivity routines and how sustainable they actually are. 

Since I began experimenting, I’ve found some methods that work better than others. 

Unlike many self-help articles that talk about waking up at 7am and sleeping at 11pm (sounds like a nightmare to me), I’ve slipped into a schedule that works for me. 

In an article about the benefits of a “productivity purge”, Thomas Oppong writes that there’s no “perfect schedule”. It’s about finding something that fits you and your lifestyle. 

But I’ve always found it hard to stick to schedules — even ones that I make for myself.

So it was exciting to see that Oppong writes about the importance of changing-up one’s routine. To prevent your brain from going into autopilot. 

Having my routine disrupted last week (and yet, somehow managing to get things done with only a slight delay) made me realise that perhaps I could optimise my schedule even further. 

Rather than schedule tasks, I should schedule deliverables. Ask myself, what results do I want to achieve? And then find the most efficient path there.