Clone

I recently read a hilarious piece of flash fiction titled ‘Taylor Swift’. 

In this weird alternative reality, anyone can purchase clones of Taylor Swift. Each clone knows all the songs, of course, and can sing them “just for you”. 

There are basic clones, and then there are others that are fitted with accessories like wings. 

One of my favourite things about flash fiction is that it can say so much in such a small number of words. 

For example, what kind of a world are these characters living in, that it’s possible to buy a live clone of a pop star with just a few swipes on your mobile phone. How cheap are they that some people can own multiple clones? 

Has capitalism grown into such a state that live Taylor Swift clones can be produced at such highly efficient rates? 

Besides being a “meditation on capitalism, fame and consumer culture”, it’s also a story about being a teenager. How emotions like love and rage seem so much bigger, and yet, you can switch from one emotion to another in a flash. 

At its core, Taylor Swift is a love story. To me, anyway. Or perhaps more of a story about love — wanting it, finding it, figuring out how to get it. 

Fight

“Stoicism is not resignation. It is, in fact, a philosophy that shines brightest when the outlook is darkest.” 

This was one of the lines in the Daily Stoic email newsletter from November 18, 2019. It’s one of the reasons stoicism draws me in. 

In the hardest of times, in the most stressful of times, my practice of stoicism has helped to remind me that as long as there is hope, I can find the strength to keep going. 

That as long as there is something I can do about a situation, all I have to do, is do something. 

This issue of the newsletter highlighted the Spartans, during a moment when King Phillip of Macedon threatened to attack. He demanded their submission, saying that: “If I conquer your city, I will destroy you all.”

The Spartans refused to submit anyway, because the one word they heard was “If”. 

“They weren’t going to lay down their arms without a fight—you were going to have to come and take them,” says the Daily Stoic. 

There are times in my life when everything feels bleak, when it feels like I’ve fought as hard as I can and am still fighting. There are times when I’m tired — not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. 

Stoicism reminds me to “focus 100% of our energy on what is in our control”. 

It reminds me to stay alive, to keep fighting. 

Advertising

I’m always fascinated by the ads that Ryan Reynolds comes up with and this time was no different. His latest stunt is a gin ad in his Netflix movie ad in a Samsung TV ad, which Fast Company calls the “turducken of advertising”. 

In the article, the writer also comments on Reynolds’ “ability to mock pop culture while simultaneously creating it”. 

I love his ads because Reynolds is always on-brand. This style (or shtick) of his works because as an audience we know what he stands for as a brand. Would the same kind of ad work for someone else like, say, Hugh Jackman? 

I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s a question to think about. 

This, I guess, comes back to authenticity. 

Authenticity isn’t always about being the most earnest, or coming up with a message that will tug at heart strings. It’s about staying true to who you are, to what your brand represents. 

When Ron Swanson from the TV series Parks and Recreation sets up his business, he called it “Very Good Building & Development Co”. 

As background, Ron is no-fluff, no-nonsense type of character. And when he cares about something, works on it to the best of his ability. He’d rather have less business than compromise the quality of his work. 

The quality of his work is what sells. And when he needs to create a commercial, I think mainly to tell people that he exists, he goes straight to the point as well. 

For your viewing pleasure:

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! 

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.”