25 January 2020

Yesterday was a pretty good and interesting day, for different reasons.

It was good because in the morning I had a meeting with “senior leadership” at my company. I went in prepared in terms of the slides (I must have reviewed them at least 5 times) but without talking points.

If you know me, you’ll know that going into a meeting, especially an important one, without talking points is a concept completely alien to me. But it’s something I’ve been working on. You’re not always going to have the time and at some point you just have to learn to trust yourself and “go”.

So I went in not really knowing what specifically I’d say, and the sky didn’t fall down, the room didn’t combust into flames. It went perfectly fine, even better than expected.

I was very happy (and a little bit surprised) to find that I was able to verbalize the slides articulately and strike the right tone given the somewhat sensitive nature of the materials I was going through with them.

So the day started off well. After that I had another good impromptu turn talking about a program we’re piloting in the People Team next week. Again, I had a slide which I knew the content of. But no talking points.

Literally, five seconds before going up, all I knew I was going to say was how to transition in from the previous slide the Chief People Officer was talking about. And this was me standing up to present in front of most of the People Team.

But it went fine. I talked. They listened. I think I made some good points.

I remember, back at my old company, always marveling at how my old boss could always talk through her slides in calls without a script. She was always so natural, just talking through the points conversationally, never missing a beat. As opposed to me who was always robotically reading my carefully-scripted points out loud.

She would always tell me one day I’d be able to do the same, but I never really believed her. Until one day, I’m now really able to do the same. Which reminds me: I should write to give her this happy news! (We’re still in frequent contact – she’s a pretty cool person.)

The day was also interesting because I did a full MBTI test for the first time. For those who don’t know what MBTI is, watch this video.

I have done short, free versions before and wasn’t surprised with my results. I’m introverted, tend to take in facts and figures rather than ideas, make decisions with my heart over my head, and plan my life down to a T.

But doing the long version yesterday – there were 143 items in total – made me see myself in a new light.

I was asked to do two things: first, choose which option feels more natural to me e.g. I plan my day off or I run with it; and second, choose which word I prefer e.g. calm or gregarious.

And I discovered that maybe I’m not as ISFJ (shorthand for the italicised characteristics above) as I thought.

When asked whether I prefer planning my life down to a T or going with the flow, I actually found myself opting for the latter. In real life, I have my schedule down pretty much for every working day and most of my weekends. But if you ask me which I prefer: I really relish the rare evenings where I’ve got nothing planned and can just go wherever I want, do whatever I feel like doing. So I guess my preference and my reality somewhat diverge.

And that’s just one thing. I found more divergences in terms of how I am around people, how I value practicality versus ideas, so on and so forth. I sometimes found that if the items were phrased only slightly differently, my answer shifted immediately and swung from one end of the spectrum to the other.

So I’m pretty curious to see what my result is. I’ll find out in our team meeting next week which is what we’re doing the test for. We’ll all bring our results and based on that discuss how we can work better together as a team. Should be a pretty cool and fun meeting.

Alright, this has turned into a pretty long post, which is surprising because I didn’t really know what I was going to write about when I decided to update my blog half an hour ago. Again, on the spot!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and thanks for reading until the end.

Love,

Val

10 January 2020

Ten days into the New Year is as good a time as any to reflect on 2019.

2019 wasn’t particularly eventful (or maybe it was since I changed jobs… but in view of meeting my better half in 2018 and more life changes to come in 2020, a job change pales in comparison). However there were some key learnings and (I’d like to think) growth. Here goes my attempt at summarizing for posterity:

One: I change my mind easily

This discovery about myself came through the series of work-related u-turns I underwent in 2019.

First I became unhappy with work at my previous company, so much so that I had a mild (?) outburst with a colleague and my partner which involved a good measure of hysterics. The frustration and feeling of pointlessness came so suddenly that the next day I told my boss I was planning to leave the company in the next 6 months. I had my mind made up.

And then as the months wore on, as I started seeing the fruits of my labour (I had launched a mobile learning program and feedback was coming in from participants), I changed my mind and thought: work’s not so bad. Let’s stick with it. I still wasn’t keen on corporate life but decided it was good enough for the time being.

Then, once again, mid-year I did a u-turn and this time really did decide to leave and began job searching, which brought me to Agoda, where I currently am. I was excited for the change but was still in an exploratory mode: let’s give corporate another shot.

Then life at Agoda is so unexpectedly great that, lo and behold, I changed my mind again: now I love corporate. Okay, maybe love is a strong word. But I can certainly easily see myself doing this for a large part of my remaining life. Which is basically a complete u-turn from where I was this time last year.

In short, yes, I change my mind easily, and completely.

Two: Speaking up isn’t that hard – even I can do it

So, two of the challenges I had back at my old company were speaking up in meetings and speaking up when I’m not happy about something.

In the first case, I simply wasn’t very good at cutting in in a flow of conversation. The team had a number of outspoken people and meetings tended to be a round-robin of them sharing their thoughts or disagreeing with one another. I always waited for an opening, a pause that was long enough to chime in. But this almost never happened. With the result that I was mostly silent in meetings unless spoken to directly.

At Agoda, I’ve gotten better at this. I’m not sure how or why. But I’ve learnt to cut in. I’ve gotten used to speaking up as another person is tapering off. And now I’m actively participating in meetings. It seemed impossible before, but now that I’m doing it… it’s really not that complicated.

The second issue is a little trickier: speaking up when I’m not happy. My partner has often observed my fear of confrontation and attempt to avoid it at all costs. I remember still all the fuss I was making at my old company when I wasn’t happy with what a colleague did but was finding a million mental excuses not to “confront” them about it.

I’m happy to report that this has changed at Agoda. On many occasions, I have spoken up when a colleague (even those senior to me or above me in the chain of reporting) did something that frustrated me or I felt was not acceptable. And in all cases it has led to good results. A stronger relationship and smoother working experience.

And in no instance did it feel like a confrontation. One colleague even verbally expressed their appreciation that I did so: if not, they wouldn’t have realized and continued doing it, which would have soured the relationship eventually.

Three: It’s about priorities, not balance

A few months into my time at Agoda, a female executive came to speak at the company. Of all the many cool things she shared, one thing stuck:

It’s not about work-life balance. It’s priorities. At different times of your life, priorities change. Maybe now it’s work. But if you have a baby, they will become your priority. So it’s not about balancing equally. It’s about knowing what your priorities are and allocating your time and effort accordingly.

This sharing shifted my perspective on how I view work and life. I did always use to think of it as a balancing act. But once I heard this, I agreed completely. It’s about what your priorities are at any given moment.

And knowing this, it makes decisions much less complicated. For example, coming up this year is a big life decision. Instead of doing a mental cost-benefit analysis, I simply ask myself: what matters more? And the answer is clear.

And from then, everything flows effortlessly. So yes, life decision made. Let’s see how that (to use work-speak for a bit) gets executed on and what the rest of 2020 has in store.

I can probably come up with more learnings, but I am a firm believer that less is more. Plus, three is kind of a cool number.

What has your reflection been on 2019? What does 2020 hold in store for you?

Love,

Val

27 December 2019

Last post of the year!

I hope you have had a lovely Christmas with your loved ones. Mine surely was.

This year was the first time I’m spending Christmas with my partner. And it felt blissfully warm and domestic.

On Christmas day, a lunch hosted by his close friends that stretched into evening (always a good sign). Pigeon and suckling pig and vegetables galore. And lots of wine.

It was one of those afternoons where you just sit back and soak up the atmosphere. Conversation flowing among friends, warmth in the air. Good vibes which rub off on you. And the food was divine, as always.

Boxing Day we spent lazily at home. Watching Star Wars VII and VIII back to back in preparation for IX. And snacking and ordering in. Nothing exciting. A day of rest and recuperation in comfortable company of a loved one.

Add present opening in the morning of 25th December and that was my Christmas! Exchanging presents (which I love) and time with friends and my chosen family.

How did you spend your Christmas? Did you have a good time?

And how was your 2019? I haven’t fully reflected on the year, so some time in January you may hear from me again with my reflections on 2019.

Love,

Val

p.s. I did make it to the gym.

17 December 2019

Hello world!

So, as you can see, I bought a new laptop. And I love it! So silvery sleek, so smooth, so fast. Not surprisingly, I’ve stuck with Dell. (I’m very loyal to my brands.) And for the few days I’ve owned it, I’ve been thoroughly delighted.

I worked on subtitles on it this past weekend, and it worked wonderfully. The typing was smooth, and the switch between languages quite intuitive and fast. Subtitling is all about speed – so this was good news.

But honestly though, just looking at it makes me happy. It’s such a change to have a light-coloured laptop. It’s beautifully designed. It even semi levitates when I flip the lid open (for ventilation no doubt).

Also, another good news (apart from getting a fancy new laptop) is: I’ve lost 2 kilograms since calorie-counting. That all might go away this week as I’ve got festive dinners every night, but it’s nice to know it’s possible.

And I’d like to think I’ve been eating more healthily: more protein and veggies, less carbs and sugar.

In any case though, I need to get myself to the gym one morning this week. I haven’t “exercised” (10k steps a day don’t count for this category) for over a week… possibly two weeks by now.

Jogging on the treadmill won’t burn very much. But it sure will make me feel better about myself. I think it’s more psychological than physical.

Having said that though, I’ve managed to find an excuse not to jog every morning this week: setting up the printer/scanner on my new laptop (Monday), blogging (Tuesday a.k.a. this morning).

In fact, the reason I’m here writing right now at 9:42pm is to remove “blogging” as an excuse. This morning I updated one blog. Earlier this evening another, and now this. Basically, I’ve exhausted blogs to update.

What other excuse will I find tomorrow? Laundry? (That’ll probably be Thursday…) Reading? (Now that’s just being lazy.)

Ah well, I will have this internal fight with myself tomorrow morning. And if I manage to drag myself down to the gym on the fifth floor, you may hear about it later.

Hope all is well, wherever you are!

Love,

Val

9 December 2019

It’s December! a.k.a. the most wonderful time… of the year!

I love Christmas. Don’t you love Christmas? Okay, maybe not. I know it’s not everyone’s favourite holiday. But I love it.

As soon as those Christmas decorations go up, the jingles start playing, my heart lifts off into another plane of existence. One where everything is fuzzy and warm and cuddly.

I probably experience something akin to putting on rose-tinted glasses. I’m walking on rose petals every day. Everything is just wonderful.

One wonderful thing, out of all the many wonderful things, in my life this month is my new app as of Sunday 24 November: Lose It!

(Caveat: calorie counting can sometimes be taken too far, which is counter-productive and potentially harmful to your health – so get informed and be moderate!)

Anyhow (and here is where I gush about the app), the app has worked wonderfully for me in the past 2 weeks. Yes, I’ve lost a little weight, but it’s not that. It’s my shift in perspective.

Only after a week counting calories did I realise why I never lost weight before despite exercising more: somehow, in my twisted mind, I was associating how “bad” a food is for diet with its size.

So for example, I would be eating small cakes all the time and thinking: ah, this is so light, it won’t add to my weight! Same goes with grilled pork skewers and sticky rice, etc. You get the idea… I know, twisted indeed!

Since the days of calorie counting, I’m now aware of how calorific different foods are. Oh the horror of realising that small does not equal not fat! It’s a big shift in perspective for me, and I think a good one.

So yes, that’s the wonderful thing about Lose It! The app has also encouraged me to walk more to counter the food I’m eating. On top of that I’m more aware of keeping a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat.

So far I think the approach is working. I haven’t had to cut all calorific foods. Only a few days ago I had a heavenly seafood risotto with buttered baguette pieces for dinner, and remained under my calorie budget!

Another wonderful thing that’s happening this month of Christmas: my laptop died. Yup. After over 6 years, it finally kicked the bucket.

The funny thing is: it showed no signs of dying before going. And the funnier thing is: only a few days before it died, I was talking about it with a co-worker. We were comparing how old our laptops were and she mentioned that hers had a battery that won’t charge anymore.

Then, a few days later, guess what happened…

You guessed it, my battery wouldn’t charge! No matter how many times I plug it in. I even took the battery out and put it back in (a method that solves many electrical issues). Nothing worked. So, inevitably, my laptop ran out of juice and died.

When I said it’s a wonderful thing, I’m not being sarcastic. For several months up until the fateful day, I’d been waiting for this to happen. I’d already acclimatised myself to the idea of getting a new laptop once my aged and faithful Dell died.

And now it’s actually happened. And not while I was doing something important. Nothing was damaged in the process. So yes, the wait is finally over. It’s nice when something you mildly dread actually happens and it turns out not to be that big a deal.

So sometime this week I’m going to hit the computer stores at the mall and see whether I can a) replace the battery or b) buy a new laptop. And I work in the mall! So that should be easy like a piece of cake. (That I’m not going to eat).

(In fact, now that I think about it: I haven’t had a single piece of cake since beginning calorie counting. I just can’t bring myself to it…)

Alright. I had planned to run on the treadmill this morning in lieu of my evening cycling class as I’m going out for Jamaican food! But I got lazy and decided to write instead. I know, lame excuse. Ah well, I’ll just… walk a lot today.

In any case, it was good to write. I do enjoy writing. It’s nice as a creative and reflective activity. Do you write too?

And with this question, I shall leave you.

Love,

Val

27 November 2019

This is my fourth post of November, which feels strange – in a good way.

Looking back at my calendar, I see that I’ve written almost monthly this year, with a recent hiatus in September-October. Maybe I’m making up for it… who knows?

What I know is that this month I’ve felt more often the urge to write, and I say urge, not merely desire. When I get this urge, I just have to get out my laptop and start typing.

It feels nice to have this urge. I think it might be related to having more head space after those few stressful weeks. When I have some head space, first I read. Then when I have even more head space, I write.

Talking about reading, I’m on Adultery by Paolo Coelho now, and I must say I’m not impressed. The novelty of reading an author I’m not familiar with wore off pretty quickly, and apart from a few snickers, the novel isn’t doing much for me.

I think I’m spoilt by authors like Kazuo Ishiguro, Haruki Murakami, and Milan Kundera. I find their writing more subtle and immersive.

Ishiguro in particular is my number one author. I love love love his books. He is so consistent in style and depth, yet each of his books features a story so different and unique. The Unconsoled in particular is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read – in a good way.

I recently went on a little binge on Kindle, and waiting for me there now is David Lagercrantz’s latest instalment in the Lisbeth Salander series, A Clockwork Orange, and (this one I’m looking forward to the most and plan to read next) David Niven’s The Moon’s a Balloon, the first of his memoirs which talks about Hollywood in its heyday (30s and 40s), which my partner recommended after I saw Judy, the movie starring Renée Zellweger and became interested in the golden age of Hollywood.

I’m still only a little over halfway through Adultery. I’m quite eager to finish it, so I’ll be giving it plenty of time and attention in the next few days. That’s the thing with me: books I don’t enjoy I want to finish quickly, but books I love I want to last. I felt pretty empty when I finished Murakami’s Norwegian Wood a few weeks back.

How did today’s post turn into a post about books? Ah well, I guess that happens when you’re free flowing.

It’s 8:23am and I should be getting ready for work. I’ve been waking up later than usual this week and not getting into work until 9:30 – upside: the BTS sky train is a little less crowded (though not always); downside: I get less done in the morning, which is my most productive hours (or so I’d like to think).

But today should be fine. I have very few meetings today, fewer than usual, with large blocks of time to do project work. Things are moving along nicely at work and I should be able to tick off all but one tasks by December 20, before I fly off to Hanoi for a long Christmas holiday with my better half.

Okay, gotta get going. It’s nice to write in the morning! Maybe I should do this more often (now that I’ve “said” this, it probably won’t happen…)

We shall see.

Love as always,

Val

18 November 2019

I reached a life milestone yesterday.

I hired a cleaner, for the first time in my life, to clean my condo.

It was a decision driven by sheer laziness. I had been meaning to clean my room “this Sunday” for the past months – I’m ashamed to count how many exactly.

Not that I did not clean my room at all during this period – that would be gross. What I did was basically vacuuming and toilet de-grossifying.

But the room had been left to gather an abundant layer of dust, and the shower room floor had become way too slippery for my idea of a safe shower, i.e. not involving broken necks (I have a vivid imagination when it comes to fatal accidents).

I had considered hiring a cleaner for a while. Part of me knew I’d never get to it as each Sunday passed and no cleaning happened.

I’d just been putting it off because I worried the cleaner wouldn’t do it right. That she wouldn’t clean all the things I normally clean, that she wouldn’t put things back where they belong.

Yesterday I finally bit the bullet. A work colleague uses a cleaner recommended by her agent. She said the cleaner did a decent job. So I decided to join the club.

Pre-visit I created a detailed task breakdown of all the things that needed to be cleaned plus which equipment to use. I wasn’t sure which approach to go: let the cleaner do her thing or present her with the list and watch her like a hawk.

Colleague said go with the flow. So I left my list to the side and watched in fascination as the cleaner worked her way around my room, cleaning nooks and crannies and even the tall wooden-glass partition separating the room (that took a while).

After two and a half hours (which is half an hour longer than the cleaner estimated pre-visit; I guess my room had more things to clean than she expected), she announced that she was done and (rather cleverly) said to let her know next time if something wasn’t cleaned properly and she’ll do it.

I did an inspection of the places I guessed she would have missed after she left, and I guessed right (under the drains is one). So I’ll be directing her to those spots next time.

Because there will be a next time. This morning I’m still opening cupboards and discovering she had cleaned them (to my surprise) and rearranged the contents of said cupboards in neat rows, which I would have thought would annoy me (my things being moved and stuff) but actually doesn’t!

I feel like my room has been visited by a magical cleaning elf. Yes, magical‘s the word.

And all that cost 400 baht. I’ve spent more than that on a meal. A thoroughly worthwhile investment. If only for the magic. *Happy sigh*

So yes, another life milestone reached: I’m now the kind of person who doesn’t clean my own room and hires a cleaner.

And oh it’s so wonderful.

Love from a clean room,

Val