Noshings #9

Some days, a part of me wishes that I could get a job that just involved heaps of reading and reading (preferably fiction), and writing. So it makes sense I guess, that I read a number of articles about reading and writing. 

Authors Publish’s article on How to Read Like a Published Author has some tips on how to stay abreast of what’s going on in the publishing industry, and how to read fiction as part of one’s research. Much like any other industry, working as an author means knowing what’s trending in the market, as well as understanding why someone is good or not. 

Sometimes when I’m exploring better ways to combine content and commerce, I come across articles like 5 Top Tips to Turn a Blog into a Six-Figure Business. Carol Tice’s “three-prong strategy” is something that many articles recommend using various other names. Finding the right niche, optimising for search, and looking for ways to increase readership are all important if a person wants to make money by blogging. 

When it comes to blogging, the other thing that’s important is having an editorial calendar. Coschedule has a great strategy for coming up with a blogging schedule that one can stick with. (Coschedule is also one of the resource websites I turn to for content marketing.)

I always look forward to Ryan Holiday’s monthly reading list email, which has book recommendations that range from obscure philosophy books to popular non-fiction. Holiday reads widely and I almost always find myself adding his recommendations to my to-read list.  

One of the things I do that helps me keep productive, while still having time for myself is to maintain a system of “untouchable hours”. These are time blocks that I add to my calendar, during which I am mostly unreachable and I use it to focus on the scheduled activity at hand. 

Tranquility

I have been experiencing a high level of anxiety for the past week or so. There are periods of time when I am particularly high-strung. I’m learning to recognise these moments. 

I’m learning to develop strategies to deal with them. 

The Nov 12th issue of the Daily Stoic email newsletter spoke about tranquility and was a good reminder on building my “inner citadel”. Marcus Aurelius cultivated his by journalling. 

Ada Palmer (a historian, professor and novelist), who was highlighted in this issue of the newsletter, uses a strategy that requires “stopping, reframing, changing perspectives”. 

She sometimes imagines life as “being a guest at a banquet”. 

“Many great platters are being passed around for you to take from, but occasionally one arrives already empty, everyone else has already taken it all,” she says. 

She reminds herself that the food “was a gift” from the host, that “you didn’t really need it, there is plenty of other food”. 

“Sometimes just thinking about that can make me less upset by something,” she says.

“Cultivating your inner citadel doesn’t mean reaching a point where one is immune to life’s disturbances,” goes the Daily Stoic. 

“It’s about having your systems in place, your battle-tested line of defence ready to fend off those disturbances when they inevitably show up.”

I’m trying to improve my systems. 

Taco

I binge-watched Taco Chronicles today — finishing up five of the six episodes that I’d yet to watch. What a delight it was, even more so because I’ve been working at a Mexican-themed bar. 

Each episode of the series features a different type of taco. The tacos “narrate” their stories, while the viewers are treated to gorgeous footage of meat being cooked and tortillas being flipped. There are interviews with experts, of course, as well as with eaters at the different taco shops. 

The episode that resonated with me was the one about the taco de guisado, corn tortillas wrapped around some kind of stew. A shop serving these tacos would typically have between 5-30 different guisados that one could choose to fill their tortillas with. 

It reminded me of our local chap fun (mixed rice) shops in Malaysia, where one would also have a whole range of dishes to choose from, to eat with rice. 

Like the taco de guisado, chap fun is a cheap, filling, complete meal. 

Seeing something like that existing in Mexico, across the world from where I am, made me think that although people around the world may eat differently, there is also a lot we have in common. 

We may use different ingredients and spices, but at the end of the day, what we want is a complete meal. 

Notion

One of the things I struggle with is keeping my CV up to date. Besides constantly shifting roles and new startups, I also find myself dabbling in quite a few things that are career-relevant, but don’t always fit into the grander scheme of my CV.

So I decided to set up a “live CV”, that’s not as public as having my own homepage, but also easy enough to update and share. 

I used Notion — which is a tool I’ve been wanting to experiment more with — to set it up, and I’ve fallen in love! 

What an amazing tool, with a level of versatility that some website builders don’t even have. There are limitations, of course, but nothing I can’t live without. 

Because Notion combines databases and documents, among other things, I’m also using it as a no-code tool to build my cocktail recipe database. I’ll probably use it for my personal editorial calendar as well. 

With its collaborative features, it’s also amazing to use for team documentation, work flows. I can also imagine myself using it for a production file (for video production) or even podcast scheduling. (I guess these are content calendars, of sorts.)

I’m also looking forward to when Notion has custom domains, which is “on their radar” (although not high priority). 

But as it is currently, I’m already sold! Definitely adding this to my stack! 

Noshings #8

Inspiration is everywhere. That’s what I think anyway. And over the last week, I came across an eclectic list of things that could potentially spark some ideas. 

A mobile game company (I think) turned to imgur for user feedback. What a scary thing to do! But that bravery granted them results and they tweaked their designs accordingly, then shared their edits and thought process. Also seems like a great way to get people to look forward to the game release! 

In this video on “Using Your Identity to Stay Fresh”, Mikael Moore shared some tips for music artists to use when developing concepts for their albums. You’d think being creative was enough, but there’s something very strategic about design. The advice applies to non-music artists as well, I think. 

As the year is almost coming to a close, I’ve been looking at the things I’ve accomplished this year. I’m also thinking about what I want to achieve next year. This article in The Freelance Hustle on “end of year goal assessment and achievement” was a good guide to follow. Can also be applied to non-freelancers!

I have a love for browsing through designs and this compilation of science and tech ads from the 50s and 60s was a joy to look through. One thing that crossed my mind when I was scrolling through was: Hmmm, the editorials of today look a lot like the ads of yesteryear. What does that say about editorials today? 

We use a lot of icons in design and although they’re so ubiquitous, it seems like icons (and emojis) aren’t always inclusive. “If you search the web for images of “boss,” “entrepreneur” or “leader” the majority of results are images of men,” goes an article in The Noun Project. Apparently, this can have real world repercussions. 

Ego

In the past, I have encountered people who thought they were the only persons that mattered — that only their wishes and goals needed to be met. That their problems were always the fault of someone else. 

I’ve learned that these people aren’t the best to be around. I’ve learned to recognise red flags like these, and keep my distance. 

“This temptation to believe that we are everything, that we are immune to the constraints or flaws of other people is the source of so much pain and misery in the world,” goes the Nov 8 issue of the Daily Stoic newsletter

Even as I see this behaviour in other people and learn to be wary of them, I am also wary of this behaviour within myself. 

The newsletter highlights the fact that many Stoics, especially those who were in leadership positions, spent time “working on their egos”. 

This issue reminds us that “ego is the enemy”. 

“Of what we’re trying to accomplish. Of the people we’d like to be. Of relationships. Of kindness. Of the ‘objectivity’ and rational thought that Stoicism prizes.”

As we climb up the ladder of success, or find ourselves in positions of power, we must remember that it could all disappear in a second. 

“We are not everything. We are ordinary. We are mortal. We are not exempt.”

Practice

Yesterday I made pico de gallo at the bar. 

It’s been one of my tasks for a couple of weeks now and after I was done last night, my colleague (who teaches me so much) said, “Your diced tomatoes look good today.”

I was elated. 

For someone who never spent a lot of time in the kitchen growing up, it was an achievement to make something from scratch, efficiently. 

It’s not that I come from a family that doesn’t cook. All the women in my family cook and they’re the types who cook in huge amounts to feed the entire family. 

Enough pork trotter stew to feed 20. Enough fried bihun (Chinese vermicelli) to last 15 people an entire weekend. Jars of Christmas mince pies to give out to all the neighbours. 

But somehow, I found myself in my 20s, not even able to chop veggies correctly. 

At the bar, as my colleague watched me fumbling with the knife, she just showed me how to use it properly. Then told me to keep at it. 

It didn’t matter that I sucked when I started. She didn’t say “You’re too slow!” and chase me out of the kitchen. “You’ll get the hang of it,” she said. 

Yesterday, I took a little over half an hour to make enough pico de gallo for the whole night. That’s less than when I first started, and my chopped veggies look more decent too. 

Practice makes progress.