TV

TV has a bad reputation that it doesn’t deserve.

Your brain will rot if you watch too much TV. It’s an idiot box. At some time or other, you’ve probably heard one of those lines.

Like books and magazines and radio, TV is only a medium. Mindless consumption can happen in any medium, not just TV.

And likewise, magnificent storytelling can be executed on any medium.

I’ve been rather taken by the visual medium lately, specifically TV. It evokes a different feeling than books. You use your eyes and ears more. You practice connecting visual and auditory cues on a conscious level.

There’s an element of human psychology at play. To create a good show for TV, the details matter.

What colours your characters wear, the soundtrack playing in each scene, the frame of the shot. It all adds to the vibe you want to create.

I can’t get Russian Doll of my head. I finally got round to watching the fifth season of Bojack Horseman. Every single time I watch TV shows like these, I wonder, how could TV be bad?

You can tell deep stories on TV. You can ask questions about morality and philosophy. You can make a commentary on human nature.

Although everything on TV looks like it’s all laid out for you to see, there are many things below the surface. Even more than books, because on TV, you are on the outside looking in.

There is depth to the storyline, if you choose to dissect its meaning.

Insufficient

I’ve been extremely morbid lately. More than I usually am, less in that adolescent angsty way and more in an estate-planning sort of way. 

I’m realising that time is so limited. “Money is everywhere, time is irreplaceable,” I told a friend the other day, in a conversation about negotiation. 

Say you get the green light for $10,000 in five minutes, would you spend another half hour negotiating for another $100? $200? How much are your hours worth?

My priority these days, when it comes to time, is family. There will never be enough time with them. 

Just the other day, I was thinking about how much time I have left with Jacob. As a small breed of dog, he probably has five to seven years left. (I’d like to say up to 10 years, and I’ve told him he should try to live that long. But I’m also a realist.)

I see him on average about once a week. Even if he lives seven more years, I’ll have a total of 364 days with him. That’s just about one year. It’s not enough. 

My hour with Jacob is worth more than $1000. For me these days, people trump productivity. 

Lifeline

Sometimes even an email from a stranger can be a lifeline. 

At the start of the year, as I was struggling to find the balance between my dual role as an artist and a marketer, I happened to read about “the hidden costs of growth hacks” in one of the newsletters that I subscribe to. And it was exactly what I needed. 

As a marketer, I’ve done things for the quick win. I’ve made content that didn’t resonate with even myself. I’ve written in voices that were not my own. 

And while there’s nothing wrong with that per se, do it too much, too often and something inside you slowly wastes away. We start to see our audience in terms of cost and revenue, and less in the context of community and relationships. 

In the book Start with Why, Simon Sinek writes about how the world’s biggest movements and companies gained traction because at the core of everything they pursued, there was one big WHY. 

It can be tough to focus on that WHY. There’s always the temptation to jump onto everything that’s trending without stopping to think if that’s what our ideal audience actually wants. We think about growth hacks instead of aiming for long-term growth. 

It’s hard to walk the line. But I’m learning. 

PS. Creative Caffeine is one of my must-read newsletters, especially on days when I feel uninspired, alone or just generally listless. 

Dad

On this date in the last couple of years, I always think about whether we put too much pressure on our parents, especially when we were younger. 

For the last two years, I have been older than my father ever was and that makes me feel a little more gracious. 

At this age, I don’t have life figured out. Far from it. I’m figuring it out along the way. 

And perhaps that’s how it was for our parents as well. They don’t know everything and they make mistakes. Just like how we don’t know everything and still make mistakes. It’s part of being human. 

Perhaps sometimes those mistakes costs a life. It happens. 

These days, I am less angry. These days, I wonder less about why and more about how he felt. Did he worry about the people he was leaving behind? Did he feel sad knowing he would never see me grow up? 

Because that’s what I think about. I would never willingly leave the people I love behind. And for years, I had so much misplaced rage because in my child-brain, that’s what I thought he’d done. 

So what can one do after losing a loved one to death? Fully love the ones left behind, I guess. 

Limits

I’ve discovered a love for testing limits.

Today, I finally found the time to check on my Cocktail Thoughts newsletter in Mailchimp — for some reason the campaign hadn’t gone out — and discovered that my account had been suspended due to “compliance issues”!

Where previously I might have gotten frustrated, this time, I felt a sense of excitement.

This had never happened before. I’ve used Mailchimp to send out all sorts of campaigns, including ones that were hard-selling vape juices. What happened this time?

Was it because my content was about alcohol? Considered adult-only?

Maybe because my list was imported and there were no age checks?

Was it because I’d linked to something I shouldn’t have?

The possibilities are varied, the Acceptable Use policy is vague. I contacted the Compliance team at Mailchimp. And if I get a response with more specific answers, I would have truly learned something.

I’ve realised that it’s a good thing to know the limits of one’s tools.

For example, if you advertise prohibited products on Facebook, your ad account will be banned. If you create multiple accounts on some forums, your IP will be banned no matter how soft you sell.

The more we use them, the more we learn about what we can use them for, how we can use them and what will make them break.

Implicit

Today is the eve of the New Year, which means that for the next 15 days, there will be rounds of visiting and merry-making. There will be lots of alcohol, I hope. 

More and more these days, I see social media posts and ad campaigns about how to respond to relatives who ask prying, personal questions like: when are you getting married, why so fat already, how much money you making now? 

We see these questions as annoying. But lately, I’ve realised that perhaps these questions are the only words our elders have to express how they feel. 

When they ask “when are you getting married”, they’re really saying, “I hope you have someone to look after you.”

Any questions related to size and weight mean “I want you to be healthy.”

And when they ask how much money you’re earning, what they actually want to say is, “Are you happy? Is life treating you well?” 

Having lost family members throughout the years, I’ve begun to appreciate even more the ones who are left. 

When I listen with my ears, it’s easy to become annoyed. But when I listen with my heart, I can hear all their wishes of love, concern and good intentions. 

And instead of annoyance, I am grateful that they are still around. 

Can-do

The things you can do if you stop saying, “I can’t.” 

I’m starting to realise the extent of it. 

An actually-in-use chalkboard menu at the bar

In the past, I would say, “I’m not good at art. I can’t draw.”

And yet, when necessity calls for it, I find that I’m able to churn something out. I’ve begun to wonder if the things we say we can’t do remain that way because we say it. Because we don’t try. 

Two years ago, I couldn’t make sense of sheets and databases. Having used only a word processor for most of my working life, even slide decks are a challenge for me. 

But last year I forced myself to create the company’s budget in sheets. And by the end of the year, I was able to do things like connect Google Analytics, write scripts and build tracking dashboards in sheets. 

The human brain is elastic. There’s so much that we can train ourselves to do. Like a muscle, the brain stretches itself to do what is required. We need to place it in an environment that provides a challenge.

But we also need to give it the time to grow. We must be patient. And we must be gracious.