Character & Soul, Deborah Tan, Entrepreneurship, Money, Opinions, Self-Improvement

I’m Sorry! But I WANT TO WORK For My Money! – Deborah Tan

Deborah Tan does not agree with ads that promise you a 5-figure salary while working from home selling “nothing”.

Busy as a bee but happy!

Busy as a bee but happy!

I’m sure you’ve seen the ads on Facebook. Ads that go, and I quote them verbatim: “Ever thought it is possible you can make money online without selling anything?”; “Learn how a struggling Singaporean employee makes $20k/month from home in his spare time”; and, “Thousands of people are quitting their jobs and joining our popular online work program.”

Were you tempted to find out more? At the very least, I’m sure you went, “What?!? For real?” For me, after the curiosity, I just went, “Sorry. Not for me.”

Perhaps, in 10 years’ time, all the people who have signed up to these programs would look at me and laugh at me for being a cynical fool. Perhaps, in 10 years’ time, I will still be slogging my ass off working as a freelance writer. Perhaps, in 10 years’ time, I will be the poorest person in Singapore … but, I will not regret not signing up for these “courses”, “seminars” and “workshops”.

Why?

1. If it sounds too good to be true …
… it probably is.  Out of curiosity, I clicked on one of these Facebook ads just to check out their website to see if I can find more information about these programs. I was brought to a page asking me to enter my email address. No. Just no. You see, if I wanted to sign up for an MBA program, the school’s website will tell me details about the coursework, tell me what I can expect, etc. But this website doesn’t want to tell me anything until I give them my contact detail. Are you selling my email address? Are you just another layer in a massive multilevel marketing scheme in the business of collecting email addresses? WHAT ARE YOU? WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO TELL ME MORE UPFRONT?

2. There is no shame in work
What I hate most about these ads is this picture they paint: that you can just do jack-shit, just click on your mouse all day long … and wait for money to roll in. If you set up a hawker stall and sell prawn mee, you know that $5 you earn comes from something tangible. If you set up an ecommerce website selling headphones, you know what exactly is earning you a living. For me, my product is Material World, a content agency and a website. Every piece of writing I put out for my clients, I know how I’m being paid. I am proud of my work and I really don’t agree with this whole “sell nothing, do very little” way of making money.

3. There is an inherent integrity problem
A few days ago, a friend posted up on Facebook how his picture has been used by one of these work-from-home programs for its Facebook ad. The picture of him standing next to a car is a great image of a young Singaporean who has achieved the trappings of success. Hey! But guess what? He didn’t sign up for this program. They had simply pluck his picture from somewhere and used it without his permission! This incident further cemented my belief that there is more than meets the eye here. If people are really becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams with your program, why don’t you just use their photos and stories instead?

I know that in order to be a successful businessperson, I have to find a business model that’ll eventually allow me to make passive income, something that will keep earning me money even if I go on a holiday or when I’m asleep. But I want to be able to grow my business using a product I have built, that will add ACTUAL VALUE to other people’s lives. Just blindly signing up for a program takes away that pride, that ownership that make up the core of entrepreneurship!

If you have no choice but to work from home, if you have no choice but to really consider one of these programs, I urge you to do your homework. It shouldn’t have to demand for an upfront payment of a large sum of money. It shouldn’t demand a percentage of your earnings to be channeled up towards your “supervisor” or “mentor”. You should be able to see if the business allows you to be different and unique from the 678 other people who have also signed up to do it – and we don’t mean just by changing the name of your company.

Like I’ve said before … call me a fool, call me stubborn, call me stupid … but I really rather become rich by working hard, really hard.

I want to get my hands dirty.

I want to get my hands dirty.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She doesn’t respect anyone whose wealth came to them easy. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

 

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Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

10 Things No One Told Me About Being My Own Boss – Deborah Tan

Deborah Tan thought she was ready for life as her own boss but little did she expect …

You can plan, plot and scheme all you want but diving into the world of entrepreneurship is like Forrest Gump with a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. I thought I had sufficiently prepared myself for a new life as “My Own Boss” by reading memoirs of daredevil entrepreneurs and subscribing to websites and magazines about Entrepreneurship. I had made sure that I started my business with people who possess skills and character traits that I don’t. But still, even after a year and a bit of running Material World, I continue to find myself surprised every other day by this rollercoaster ride called Entrepreneurship.

1. The daily panic you get every morning upon waking 
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At first, it was more of a “Is this the day where I finally get a call from the bank telling me, ‘Game over’?” Slowly, if things start looking up, you wake up with this, “Okay … what day is it today? REALLY!” feeling. Every single day, the game plan changes because you have different needs to meet. Today, I could be playing the role of writer, tomorrow, I might have to take off that hat and become a business development manager. Everyone, take a queue number!

2. The amount of negativity you would come to face
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I’m referring to negative voices both inside and out. I remember a meeting I had during Material World’s early days. It was with a guy who is a sort of a “start-up genius”. He has carved a successful career out of starting ecommerce sites delivering food, selling glasses etc. At the meeting, he asked me what Material World was about and five minutes into my intro, he declared that he didn’t see the point of the business. If I had allowed his words to take root inside me, I don’t think I would have lasted to this day.

3. That you need to educate people why your services are worth paying for
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A lot of us go into business thinking we are fulfilling a need in the market, and that people will rush in to pay for our products and services. That’s not always true because sometimes the market might not have realized it needs you. In the beginning, a lot of people would ask to “try you out”, offer to pay you “in kind”. Do you take what you’re given or do you take it upon yourself to explain why you need to be paid in cash? The former earns you goodwill but it doesn’t earn you a business relationship; use it selectively and only with associates you know will honor their word to come through with paying business.

4. That people are more than happy to disavow you
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The silence you receive when you send out emails asking for business, the blank looks you get when you run into familiar faces outside … Thankfully, there are also many who are more than happy to share knowledge, experience and advice. Moral of the story: It’s not always personal so don’t let it get you down.

5. The level of importance you start giving to $5
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Yes … I know some bosses will say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” but when you are running your own business, every cent counts. Besides the onerous task of getting numbers to balance, you have to watch your cashflow like a hawk. There is no room for frivolous spending, no room for unnecessary headcount, no room for late payments. And yes, a lawyer who can help issue Letters of Demand at a moment’s notice is also very helpful.

6. The crazed level of importance you start giving to your Time
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It’s been mentioned more than a couple of times on this website that to an entrepreneur, TIME is everything. In fact, Time is even more important than Money. You feel bad when you are running late, you feel angry when people run late and don’t warn you beforehand, you go ballistic when you are stood up. Everything that takes up Time, takes up Money.

7. That you don’t want to talk about business all the time
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When I was working, I talked about work all the time. And so, naturally, when I started Material World, I thought I would be talking it about 24/7 too! But surprisingly, I don’t! Sure, among us four partners, we do chatter on about the business when we get together for a beer after 6, however, it is not a conversation that lasts the entire night. Also, whenever friends ask me about Material World, I find myself reluctant to talk about it. It’s not because I’m ashamed of my business but because I feel everything’s cool and I’ve done what I can so I would like to focus on other things now.

8. How paperwork can be so, so, so painful
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At this point, I would like to say this to those who get the whole Government Grants game down pat: RESPECT. One of the things we four found challenging AND tedious was figuring out which grants to apply for, how to file our taxes, how to go through our bank statements each month with a fine-toothed comb … Although our business coach has told us many times to hire someone to do that, we still insist on doing these ourselves because we feel we need to know what’s going on. As Jerry Seinfeld said in the episode in which he refuses to just pee anywhere cos he couldn’t find the toilet, “It builds character.”

9. You lose your ego … 
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… or at least learn when to put it aside. I used to think that my pride would be the last thing I would put down. But when you are running a business, you learn you don’t always have to win. As the saying goes, “Which would you rather – win or be right?” There have been days when I found myself tempted to pick up the phone and scream, “The deal is OFF!” but then, you learn to see the bigger picture and after a cup of tea, you go, “Hey … it’s not so bad.”

10. You’ll let go of things that don’t serve you
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At first, as with all rookie entrepreneurs, I saw every contact as important, I valued every event as a potential opportunity to get new business. However, as we developed our intuition, we also learned to discern which business was worth pursuing and which ones, to give up. Because like most goods of value, there is a finite number. If you make yourself and your services so readily available to everyone, then people will either take you for granted or you will end up shortchanging yourself. You can earn so much more – in terms of money, experience and self-respect – by limiting your business to the few who are willing to pay top dollars for it.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She is really enjoying the entrepreneurship journey and says it’s going to take a lot tempt her to return to a full-time job. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Character & Soul, Entrepreneurship, Money, Self-Improvement

The 4 “Mistakes” I Want To Make As An Entrepreneur – Deborah Tan

Everyone who wants to start a business these days keeps talking about claiming the PIC Bonus. Deborah Tan wants aspiring entrepreneurs to know that there is nothing wrong with good, honest work.

Passive income = the ultimate entrepreneur goal?

Passive income = the ultimate entrepreneur goal?

How would you start a business? Would you bootstrap your business, i.e, fund it out of your own pocket? Borrow money from your relatives? Or, try to get investors to put money into your venture? For many of us small business owners, we often take the first option. We dig deep into our pockets to fund the venture, go without a salary until it starts to turn a profit and, dollar by dollar, we build up the business.

While many “business gurus” may turn their nose up at the idea of “starting small”, as a year-old entrepreneur, I must say, I prefer to grow my business step-by-step. There is a certain pride in seeing your business prosper gradually and you are much more aware of what it means to “take ownership”. For instance, I have been advised by many people on the many different ways one can employ to claim the PIC Bonus: from setting up many versions of one business (because every business is “entitled” to claim up to $15,000 in PIC Bonus) to paying a huge sum for a basic ecommerce website, which is something you can easily set up for FREE. Although the methods are all not illegal, they are certainly what I – after much thought – am uncomfortable with.

Articles abound about the “mistakes” first-time entrepreneurs tend to make, most of them about why we spend too much time working and not enough of it growing our wealth. While some I agree with, often, I find myself questioning why these so-called “mistakes” are bad. People have asked if I hated money but I simply just can’t agree with these:

1. “Mistake 1” – Not Paying Someone To Do Your Nitty-Gritty For You
Yes, all of us who come out to be our own bosses would love nothing more than to lay claim to the fact that we have minions running around doing our shit for us. Who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t want to say, “Get your people to call my people.” But leaving a job to “become your own boss” also means you are now your own employee. I like to think that by being able to take care of my own taxes, manage my own timetable, chase down my own payments, I’m getting acquainted to the unglamorous side of what it means to be a business owner. When you can finally afford to pay a part-timer to take care of your things, you will also know what is the real work involved so you won’t be held at the mercy of an admin person.

Be careful of hidden traps!

Be careful of hidden traps!

2. “Mistake 2” – Not Willing To Pay Money To Grow Money
I recognize that for a business to grow, investments have to be made. However, I think investments have to be worthwhile and made in an ethical way. I am uncomfortable with paying someone $15,000 for something that is actually worth $3,000, just so I can make a maximum claim on the PIC Bonus. I’ve been told, “Once you see all that money in your bank account, you will look at things differently.” I hope I never will have to.

3. “Mistake 3” – You Can’t Take Care Of Everything
If it’s my business, I want to know everything – from the product I’m selling to the licensing issues it faces to the profile of the customer who consumes my product. Sure, you should have partners who possess skills and traits that make up for what you don’t have but it doesn’t mean you just leave whatever you don’t want to do to them. You can take care of everything, you just don’t have to do it all. It’s called “taking ownership”. “Taking ownership” means whenever someone has a query about your business, you have all the most basic answers at your fingertips.

4. “Mistake 4” – No-Risk Is Good 
There are many business opportunities out there that allow you to take up the basic template and run with it. They call it no-risk because there is a set pattern you can use to build your business. But the only person who is getting rich out of it all is the one who is selling this same business template to hundreds of people out there. Unique ideas are hard to get off the ground and yes, you may fail. However, if you are really serious about your business, you will want to channel your investments into the things that make you DIFFERENT, not Xeroxed ideas that you can tweak only slightly to set you apart from the crowd.

I realize that it may sound idealistic of me to say that making money is less important than doing things right. However, I can’t emphasize how crucial it is to not go into business simply because you hope, eventually, that the passive income will let you live out the rest of your life in comfort. You still need to have a basic respect for WORK – good, honest work. You can’t just think, “I’ll set this up, sit back and watch money roll in.” If you think the first and foremost thing about business is PASSIVE INCOME, you are truly making a very big mistake.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She recognizes that she may never be rich but at least she is proud of her business. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

 

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Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

Learn the Ropes from Shareen Wong of Embrace Jewellery – Denise Li

 What inspired her to leave her super successful job in radio to become a full-time entrepreneur? We speak to Shareen Wong of Embrace Jewellery to find out.

Multi-label jewellery store Embrace Jewellery was opened by radio veteran Shareen Wong a few months ago. But that wasn’t her first sojourn into entrepreneurship. She has also been running jewellery and home furnishing store Kai Life for the past six years with her father. We speak to her about leaving her job in radio, and about the challenges of running a store on Orchard Road.

Shareen Wong

Shareen Wong, owner of Embrace Jewellery

What made you decide to open Embrace Jewellery?

After working in radio for over 14 years, I decided to take a sabbatical by travelling solo around the world after a bad breakup in 2007. During my travels, I fell in love with many gorgeous home accessories and jewellery and dreamt of opening a boutique which retails stylish, unique pieces. I started with a lifestyle store, Kai Life and opened my first jewellery boutique, Embrace Jewellery, 6 years later to introduce interesting designers around the world to Singapore/Asia while offering affordable, stylish and contemporary pieces.

Having established yourself in radio, was it hard for you to make the switch to entrepreneurship?

It’s always hard to leave my first love – radio – and I always compare it to a drug where you just can’t seem to give it up. That’s why people from the radio industry can fall off the radar and then return years later. But I’m fortunate to have found something I love doing as well – the thrill of running your own business. It’s exciting, a lot of hard work but it’s great that I can shop for a living!

Is this your first foray into entrepreneurship? 

I ran an events company years ago, which I guess is closer to radio deejaying because we did host a lot of on-site shows. However, it is a very competitive industry where there are lot of people who are willing to host for next to nothing. My next project was the home accessories and jewellery store –K ai Life which I have been running for 6 years now. We started at Holland Village and now we have Kai Life Great World City, as well as Embrace Jewellery!

What are some of the challenges you encountered when you started Embrace Jewellery? 

One of the pieces available at Embrace Jewellery

Oia Jules necklace, $135

When we first went into retail, it was definitely challenging as I had no experience and had to quickly learn everything from scratch. It’s still a learning process 6 years in and I do love how challenging and different my work is. The latest challenge was setting up Embrace Jewellery which represented many firsts for us. As our very first jewellery-only store in Orchard Road, we had to contend with a completely new set-up. Taking on a store in a brand new mall also presented a whole new set of challenges that we didn’t forsee. The type of approvals and submissions you need to get when working in a new mall, is something else altogether!

What did you learn from these challenges? 

Patience has never been one of my strengths, so I would say that was something I was forced to learn when the mall was delayed for over 6 months in its opening. After 6 years of running a business, sometimes you start to think you know what to expect but I’ve been taught one should never make assumptions about what you think you know. Especially with running a business, one should be ready to take on whatever comes your way.

Are you the only owner of Embrace, or do you have business partners? 

Yes! My dad is my business partner. It started 6 years ago when we set up Kai Life together. He had just retired and I wanted to set up a store to keep him busy where he could sell his art work (he graduated from NAFA 40 years ago and is really talented!) He helps me with transfers of stock, is excellent at staff motivation and I seek his advice whenever we need to make some tough decisions.

There are plenty of jewellery and multi-label stores in Singapore. What sets Embrace Jewellery apart from them?

We carry designs from many up and coming designers not available anywhere else in Singapore or even Asia. We also ensure that the pieces at Embrace Jewellery are stylish, unique and affordable.

How would you describe your management style? 

I’ve always liked to lead by example. That’s why I love being in the stores, selling, talking to customers. I think that’s really important as I can get their feedback first-hand. With our staff, a lot of them have been with us for a long time and I think of them as friends. They truly believe in our products and what we do and that’s the most important thing.

Fashion is competitive business in Singapore. What is your long-term strategy for success? 

Keeping our customers happy. We’re glad to say we see a lot of the same faces in our store every two to three weeks, checking out our new items and jewellery. I believe in offering an exclusive range of affordable designer jewellery that appeals and entices them to return repeatedly.

Any words of advice for those who are hoping to become entrepreneurs in the fashion industry?

Be prepared for REAL hard work. This usually means doing the job which takes 10 people to do as well as all the dirty work. If you are ready for that, it can be incredibly rewarding!

Embrace Jewellery is at #01-15 Orchard Gateway.

For more stories on Entrepreneurship, click here.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Character & Soul, Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

The One Important Lesson Every Entrepreneur Must Embrace – Deborah Tan

It is easy to feel lousy about yourself when you are caught up in the midst of running your business and trying to establish your brand. Deborah Tan confides how she too suffers from days when she feels exceptionally unexceptional.

“I feel very good about myself every time I tell people that I own a content agency,” said Denise. “Plus, I’m earning more now than I did holding down a full-time job and that is very empowering!”

I looked at Denise and I couldn’t help but smile. In front of me was a person who has wholeheartedly embraced her status as a founder of a business. But me? As much as I would love to shout it out loud and proud that I’m my own boss EVERY DAY, I have to admit that I still go through periods of low self-esteem – especially when I attend events and a voice in my head goes, “You’re now a nobody.” I know I’m being a complete idiot but …

This episode of confidence crisis came about after a particularly “lonely” event last week. There were 2 tables at the event and when I arrived, those from “big media” (my personal catch-all term for titles under the huge companies) had grouped together at one table. The other table was pretty empty and, not wanting to “intrude”, I sat at the second table on my own. For 2 hours, I felt truly alone and unspectacular.

“Why didn’t you just go sit with the media people?” Denise asked when I related the incident to her. “It’s not as if you didn’t know them!”

“I don’t know …” I mumbled. “A part of me just felt like I didn’t really belong there, the magazine world, anymore. I just don’t want to look like I’m intruding …”

“Aiyah! I think you are just overthinking things! No one will say that about you lah!” declared Miss Confidence. “AND … honestly, you are not a nobody just because you are no longer an editor. If you asked me to go back to a magazine full-time, I will really have to think twice. Now, I’m very happy waking up and going to work every morning. We own a business!”

Have I Lost Everything And Become Nothing?
And Denise has a point. While not every business can be an overnight phenomenon like Facebook or Uber, we entrepreneurs need to celebrate that we have done something brave with our lives. This is something many of us – especially myself – don’t do enough of. We need to remember that we took a chance, and we took a leap into a world where the outcome could swing both ways – we could be successful or we could fail disastrously. Giving up a regular paycheque is not something everyone has the guts to do.

It’s easy to get lost in self-doubt when you are struggling to turn a profit or trying to get your brand out there. For me, I’ll be lying if I said I took to entrepreneurship like a fish to water. When I made the decision to give up my car so I won’t have to deal with the stress of meeting the monthly repayments, I honestly thought I was damn “loser” for not being to keep my ride. Losing the so-called symbols of success – the fancy job title, the fat paycheque, the car – was, in a way, confidence crushing because they were what I saw as achievements that I had “unlocked” on my climb up the publishing ladder. By losing them, does it mean I have become nothing?

No. Here’s why:

Mmmm ... mmm .... mmm ...

Mmmm … mmm …. mmm …

The Chest-Thumping Belief Entrepreneurs Need To Have
I have not become nothing because …

1. No matter the scale of my business, I have gone from a salaried worker to becoming a business owner. I have, in a way, progressed.

2. It doesn’t matter how much profit I’ve made, as long as I’m making money, my business idea is viable.

3. I’m not at the mercy of bureaucratic layers and HR processes, I call the shots and therefore I’m no longer a “corporate slave”.

These are just 3 of the many reasons why we entrepreneurs should go about our everyday lives with our heads held high. There is no need to feel we are of a “lower class” than top-level executives of big companies because we are at the top of our own business. While we may not be able to flaunt a large paycheque, we can certainly flaunt the size of our “balls”.

We entrepreneurs do what we do because we have no respect for the status quo and we get a kick out of doing things our own way. We hate uniformity and mindless conformity, we live to be different, and to stand out from the flock.

And, it is this “I’m Not Your Average Salary Worker” mentality we possessed that we need remind ourselves of every day. No matter how small someone may make us feel because we are no longer a part of the corporate rat race, we have to – like Matthew Mcconaughey’s character in The Wolf Of Wall Street – thump ourselves on the chest and proudly remind ourselves that we are the shizzy and that, as entrepreneurs, we are on our way to change the game, change the world.

We are the change the world needs.

Entrepreneurs need to embrace the fact that they ARE awesome.

Entrepreneurs need to embrace the fact that they ARE awesome.

 

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She thanks for lucky stars that her co-founders are balls of positive energy that she can tap into every time feelings of inadequacy threatens to rock her confidence. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

[If you like this story, you’ll love]

1. 4 Awesome Benefits Of Being Your Own Boss

2. Happiness In Entrepreneurship

3. When You Have Been Listed As “Competition”

 

 

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Branded Content, Character & Soul, Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

The Story of This Restaurant Owner Will Surprise You – Vanessa Tai

Lena Sim, founder and CEO of Ministry of Food, has a story that is worthy of any bestselling novel. At Material World’s video shoot for Elizabeth Arden’s new UNTOLD Eau Legere fragrance, Vanessa Tai sat down with Lena to find out more about her fascinating journey.

Material World and Elizabeth Arden Presents Lena Sim’s UNTOLD Story

 

Perhaps one of the last things you’d associate with a restauranteur is a childhood marked by poverty and hunger. Abandoned by her parents as a baby, Lena and her grandmother were left to fend for themselves. Lena and her grandmother were sometimes too poor to buy food that they were forced to rummage through rubbish bins for leftovers.

Behind the scenes of the Elizabeth Arden Untold Legere shoot.

Behind the scenes of the Elizabeth Arden Untold Legere shoot.

After graduating from university, she had a high-paying job in the finance industry but she still felt something was missing. She quit her job to travel for a bit, and found herself in Taiwan where she first tried a delicious green tea dessert from an old Japanese dessert chain. From there, she travelled to Japan to convince the founders of the dessert chain to expand to Singapore. After a lot of time and effort, her tenacity once again paid off and Ministry of Food was born.

Today, there are over 50 restaurants in Singapore under the Ministry of Food brand, and plans are in the pipeline to expand the brand across the region. Of course, the entrepreneurial path is never always a smooth one. Lena shares with us what keeps her going.

Tell us about the challenges you face and how you overcome them.

“Each day is a challenge; there will always be problems to solve and fires to fight. Entrepreneurship is all about facing failure, crying, and then standing up again. I believe the moment you stop running is the moment your business will flop. You just have to persevere and never say die. Every business is like a marathon – you need a lot of patience, discipline, and perseverance.”

How do you cope with the pressure?

“When you are doing something you love, you will naturally have the energy to press on. When I first made the career switch into F&B, my peers used to think I was making a big mistake and would laugh at me. However, these same people who chose to follow their ‘brains’ are now unhappy and stressed out in their jobs, with some of them even facing very real possibilities of retrenchment. This is why I firmly believe in following your heart. I’m full of energy each day, and I rarely feel tired when I’m at work.”

Do you ever find time to unwind?

“I hardly unwind because I enjoy myself so much at work that I don’t find a need to unwind. However, I’ve recently discovered it’s actually very therapeutic to go grocery shopping!”

Myself, Lena, and the videography team!

Myself, Lena, and the videography team!

 

Tell us your very own UNTOLD story and you might just win an Elizabeth Arden hamper worth more than $400.

elizabeth arden prize

Tell us your very own personal story of overcoming the obstacles Life placed in your way. The best story not only gets to be featured on Material World, it will also win an Elizabeth Arden product hamper! Each hamper contains a UNTOLD Eau Légère 100ml (worth $117), Beautiful Color Moisturizing Lipstick #Red Door Red (worth $34), and a Prevage® AM Regimen Starter Kit (worth $248).

For details on how you can win one, remember to watch the entire video.

Score an exclusive sample of UNTOLD Eau Légère! Simply be among the first 150 readers to visit Elizabeth Arden counter at Robinsons Raffles City from NOW and quote “Material World” to earn your sample fragrance vial.

This is the first of 3 videos Material World has produced in collaboration with Elizabeth Arden. Elizabeth Arden worked with Material World to produce a series of videos featuring Singaporean women, each with their own inspiring tale to share. The women featured are not spokespeople of Elizabeth Arden and they were not remunerated for their participation in this project.

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Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

4 Awesome Benefits of Being Your Own Boss – Denise Li

She may not have a regular income, but no amount of money can buy what Denise Li has gained through being an entrepreneur. 

woman-entrepreneur

When you read articles about entrepreneurs, they often talk about the hardships faced by first-time business owners:

1. Not having boundaries when it comes to work. There is often so much to do that entrepreneurs find themselves working late into the night and through weekends.

2. Not having a stable income, at least in the initial stages of setting up the business.

3. Personal relationships being affected as a result of point 1 and 2.

My partners and I have been through all of that, and more. In fact, there were times when it felt so dry, money-wise, that I often toyed with the idea of throwing in the towel and going back to working a regular job just so that I could have a steady income.

But things have gotten better. We have now established long-standing working relationships with a few clients, so we have some regular work every month. Our incomes are still irregular (we don’t make the same amount every month), but we get by, and even have enough left over for some new clothes and dinner at a nice restaurant every now and then.

Truth is, there are so many awesome upsides to being your own boss that money just can’t buy. Now, if you asked me if I would trade it all in for a regular job and monthly income, I’d say, “No”. Or, at least, the money has to be FRICKING AMAZING for me to consider it. Why do I love being a co-founder? Let me count the ways.

(Though I must add that everyone’s entrepreneurship experience is different. People who start up retail or F&B businesses might not have the same sort of flexibility as we do.)

1. I don’t need to arrive at work at 9am

Seriously, I think the quality of my life has improved by leaps and bounds because of this. I always said before that the rush-hour commute to work was the first battle of every day. Now that we allow ourselves to come into the office at 10 or 11am, I feel that it’s been one major stressor removed from my life.

2. We feel justified when we have to work overtime

When I worked in magazines, the workload could vary greatly. 14-hour days were common but, a couple of days a month after we closed the issue, I’d find myself twiddling my thumbs and watching the clock till 6pm came. I had to show up in the office regardless of whether I had something to do. It was excruciating. Now, though we work as many hours as we used to or possibly more, it feels like we have better ownership of our time. I can zip out for workouts or even a massage whenever I want, knowing that I can make my way back to my office after that to finish my work. I don’t mind working long hours because I can take breaks as and when I want to. Being an entrepreneur suits those who are goal-orientated, who finds meaning in little victories (as I do). Essentially, my days at Material World comprise of working steadily to complete a series of goals I set for myself at the beginning of each day. As soon as I finish them, I am free to do whatever I want. Sometimes, I’m only able to finish it all at midnight. Sometimes, I’m done at 3pm. Regardless of how the day pans out, I am the master of my own time.

3. Workplace politics are no longer an issue

Deborah said something the other day that really struck a chord with me: “When I was in magazines, a lot of my time was spent sending emails.” It’s true. That’s what happens when you have not just bosses to answer to, but also other departments to liaise with. Every department has their own agenda. Editorial departments’ commitment is to their readers; sales is to their clients. Needless to say, there were always a clash of interests that required not just TIME but also ENERGY to sort out. And if you’re hoping for career progression, you really have no choice but to play the game. But when you’re your own boss within a small company framework, it’s so much easier and quicker to sort things out. And there is none of that stress that comes from in-fighting, bitching, and knowing that someone is talking shit about you behind your back. When you’re one of the bosses of a small company, YOU play a part in shaping the company culture, and I like the one we have now: Casual, open, and fun.

4. Knowing the value of your work is priceless

Honestly, I sometimes still wish that I had a regular income, if only to make financial planning less daunting, but when I take stock of all that I’ve gotten back what a 9-to-5 job has taken away from me: My freedom, ownership of my time, my sanity, I know that I’m on this entrepreneurship journey for the long haul. I actually LOOK FORWARD to coming into work every day … and you just can’t put a price on that.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

Learn The Ropes From Gan Guo Yi of Jigger & Pony – Denise Li

Cafes and bars come and go all the time in Singapore. So how did cocktail bar Jigger & Pony become the household name it is today? We speak to owner Gan Guo Yi to find out more.

F&B is a tough business to succeed in anywhere, but especially so in Singapore where business owners continually have to face high rental costs and staffing issues. So we thought it was pretty cool that Jigger & Pony – one of the earlier entrants to the cocktail scene in Singapore – isn’t just thriving, but is often the first name that comes to mind when you think of cocktail bars in Singapore. Even more amazing is the fact that 29-year-old Gan Guo Yi – who started the bar with her husband – didn’t have experience in the industry prior to opening Jigger & Pony. We speak to her to find out how she did it.

Gan Guo Yi, one of the owners of Jigger & Pony

Gan Guo Yi, one of the owners of Jigger & Pony

What inspired you to start Jigger & Pony?
It all began in 2010, when my friend casually asked me what I’d do if I could be guaranteed success in the endeavour, and my answer was to open a bar – a place where friends and strangers can meet and be comfortable. At that time, it was hard to find a cocktail bar in Singapore that served good classic cocktails, hence we wanted to fill that gap with Jigger and Pony.

We were also inspired by the warmth and hospitality of the bars in Spain during our travels, and wanted to recreate that experience here. It was Indra (my husband and co-partner) who encouraged me to fulfill this dream of mine and hence, Jigger & Pony was conceived in 2012.

What were some of the challenges you encountered on your entrepreneurship journey?
With Jigger & Pony being my first start-up, I was entirely new to this industry and the learning curve was steep. Searching for the right venue itself took nine months before we finally found this space at Amoy Street. As Indra still held his day job then, I had to do almost everything on my own, from hiring staff, dealing with contractors to getting the place up and running. However, we have been really fortunate that most people in the industry were very helpful and gave us some really solid advice on things like regulations and interior design.

What did you learn from these challenges?
Being  new gives me the advantage of having no sacred cows. Every day is a learning experience and that has been very enriching. Experience is the greatest teacher and passion is my main driving force. I learnt a lot from the people around me so I have to say the biggest lesson of all was not to be afraid to seek help when needed, as people are often very willing to offer their advice. Also, we are very fortunate that the cocktail community is close-knit, united by a common love for all things cocktail-related.

How did you get the capital to start your business? 
Most of it came from our own savings, with some investment coming from Indra’s long-time business friends who came onboard as silent partners. These investors also served as mentors to us as they were able to give us sound advice on running a business.

We're fans of this cozy bar too!

We’re fans of this cozy bar too!

Many bespoke cocktail bars have since opened. How do you deal with the competition?
I’m thankful that Jigger & Pony is now known among customers and industry people for its warm and hospitable service, which was exactly what we hoped to achieve. We don’t see the new entrants as competition, but rather as new members of the same community who are working together to build up a more vibrant cocktail scene for Singapore, ultimately benefiting all parties. Personally, I get really excited about the new bars that open every month in Singapore.

Lots of F&B outlets list high rental costs and staffing issues as challenges of running their establishments. Does Jigger & Pony have face the same set of challenges?
Retaining talent has always been the top priority for us and we’re thankful that we have a fabulous team onboard. Through regular training sessions and company gatherings, we make them feel like they’re a part of the family and that their contribution is appreciated. We had a great time at our recent company retreat in Bali which helped us to understand one another more, fostering a better working environment. I strongly feel that today’s talents want to work in an environment where the purpose and missions are clear and shared transparently.

One of Jigger & Pony's signature cocktails, Corpse Reviver

One of Jigger & Pony’s signature cocktails, Corpse Reviver

How would you describe your management style and why do you adopt this style?
My management style is more hands-on and involved; I enjoy working alongside my team, thanks to the experience gathered working frontline at Singapore Airlines. I’m always willing to listen, keeping the lines of communication open at all times with all staff.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
I derive joy in seeing happy customers, knowing that these people appreciate our drinks and what we do. Validation from fellow industry friends is an added bonus for us; we have had the best talents walking through our bar and working alongside with us. Likewise, our own bartenders have travelled halfway across the world and forged a good camaraderie with notable cocktail aficionados. The establishment of these bridges of friendship make it all so rewarding and motivates us even more.

Do you think it’s important for business partners to have specialised roles when it comes to running a business?
Yes, I think that is important and greatly beneficial for the business. My past experience puts me in good stead for the front-of-house operations, while my partner Indra’s previous appointment as a business advisor and his finance background offer a good strategic approach to the business and contributed a lot to what we are today.

Any last words of advice for young budding entrepreneurs hoping to make their mark in the F&B industry?
I’d say it is to stay focused on your dreams and push on even when the going gets tough. You’ll never know how far your venture will take you unless you give it your best shot.

Jigger & Pony is at 101 Amoy Street. Tel: 6223 9101

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Character & Soul, Deborah Tan, Entrepreneurship, Opinions, Self-Improvement

When You Have Been Listed as “Competition” – Deborah Tan

Do you get upset whenever someone says you’re their competitor? Deborah Tan says you shouldn’t and in fact, you should learn to see it in a more positive way.

armwrestlingI used to cringe at the words “competitor” and “competition”. Why? Well, let’s just say I’m the sort who would pick running a marathon over a 100m sprint just because in the former, you are encouraged to “run your own race”. And even though many of my friends have described me as a competitive person, my brand of competitiveness focuses on improving myself rather than taking people down.

Recently, a friend brought up how her boss told her that we – Material World – are their “competitors” and she was therefore not allowed to do business with us. It didn’t come as a shock – we weren’t expecting to be received with open arms in the first place. But what surprised me was how well (as in, I didn’t lose sleep over it) I took the news.

In another life, I would have taken to being called a “competitor” very badly. It would have hurt my feelings to know that there was a person out there who thought my presence in his life was unwanted, a nuisance, and something to be crushed. The old Deborah would have wanted to find out how I could go back to being “liked” by this person, I would have done all I could to be viewed as an ally, a friend, and a partner.

As I mulled over what my friend told me, something lit up inside me. Her boss had, unexpectedly, paid us the ultimate compliment.

The Unexpected Compliment
When and why do we see someone else as competition?

Imagine this: You’re dating a guy and you find out another woman has her sights set on him. Upon further investigation, you discover that (1) she’s not attractive (2) her personality isn’t that great either and (3) she’s just not his type. Would you worry? Would you see her as a worthy competitor?

To call someone your competitor, you are actually paying that person a compliment. You are:

1. Telling her that she’s doing something right

2. Telling her that she worries you

3. Telling her that you are thinking about her more than you care to admit

You only see someone as the competition when you feel threatened.

Are You Afraid?
Predictably, most people react to competition the same way Margaret Chan’s character in Masters Of The Sea, an old TV series in the 90s, would – crush them like a cockroach. While loathing and despise are two of the emotions most of us would bear towards our competitors, the one we don’t like to acknowledge is FEAR. Fear that the competition would do better, fear that the competition would prove us wrong, and fear that the competition would make us irrelevant. The more negatively we approach competition, the more it shows how great our fear towards it.

Cos honestly, there are more than enough love to go around ...

Cos honestly, there are more than enough love to go around …

Dealing With Competition In A Healthy Way
There is definitely a better, healthier way to deal with competition. Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, on Psychology Today states that, “… feeling competitive is 100 percent natural, and it is impossible to avoid it. The trouble comes when we start to express these feelings by lashing out at others or turning on ourselves. … Listening to and acting on our critical inner voice is the worst thing we can do when we feel competitive.”

To deal with competition in a clean and healthy way, Firestone recommends these steps:

1. Accept the competitive thought for what it is. Don’t rationalize or justify it. Allow yourself to take pleasure the angry thought. We are all just only human.

2. While competitive thoughts are acceptable because we are not infallible, being cruel to someone is not. Don’t start building a case against the person you’re feeling competitive with. Learn to let go.

3. Compete by challenging your inner critical voice, and not by diminishing the worth of the other person. Why try to slow your competitor down when you should aim to be faster and better?

One of the questions I’ve always hated answering is, “Who do you see as your competition?” If you have ever asked me this, you will know one of my favorite answers is, “There’s no competition because there is no one like me.” I never believe in competing with other people because I believe I am unique and what I have to offer is always going to be different. I believe in being the best I can be so people would find it hard to one-up me. To my friend’s boss, I would like to end this by assuring you that, as always, my greatest competitor is myself and while I thank you for seeing me as your competitor, I would like to say you’re definitely not mine.

Have a great week ahead!

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She doesn’t believe in spending her time plotting and scheming to take the competition down, she believes in getting so far ahead, no one can catch up. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

 

 

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Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

Learn the Ropes From Val Lee of Blessed Brides – Denise Li

Can someone with no prior experience in design or in the wedding industry start a successful gown business? Val Lee, owner of Blessed Brides, says “Yes!” She speaks to Denise Li about how she did it.

The wedding industry – whether in Singapore or anywhere else – can be a highly competitive business, with many vendors fighting for a slice of the holy matrimonial pie. So we thought it was extremely brave of Val Lee, who had no prior experience in the industry, to start a business selling and renting wedding gowns four years ago. We speak to her to find out what inspired her to leave her previous job as a polytechnic lecturer, and about the challenges she faced on her entrepreneurial journey with Blessed Brides.

Val Lee in her beautiful light-filled studio on Mohamed Sultan Road.

Val Lee in her beautiful light-filled studio on Mohamed Sultan Road.

1. What inspired you to start Blessed Brides?

It all started when I was on the hunt for wedding vendors a few years ago. My then-fiance (now husband) and I visited many bridal shops in Tanjong Pagar, and the thing that struck me was how they all tried to sell me an all-in-one package. This was something I wasn’t interested in because we had already engaged the services of a very talented photographer. I started Blessed Brides in 2009 specialising in wedding gowns because I feel that brides should have the option of customising each and every detail of their wedding, rather than be pressured into buying a package from one vendor.

2. What were you doing prior to starting Blessed Brides?

Prior to starting Blessed Brides, I was teaching Life Sciences at a polytechnic. I enjoyed what I did, but I’ve also always dreamed of starting my own business since I was in primary school. My dad is a businessman himself, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because the risk of failure is always present.

3. How has the wedding industry changed since you started Blessed Brides?

Back then, there were a lot of local wedding gown designers, but few people were bringing in designer gowns from foreign labels. That’s what made Blessed Brides different back then: I wanted to focus on bringing in gowns from Spanish labels such as White One by Pronovias and Rosa Clara. Now, there are more multi-label boutiques bringing in gowns from designer labels.

4. How do you deal with the increased competition?

By offering service that’s very personalised. We can customise existing gowns by adding a little detail, or create new ones from scratch. This was a huge challenge for me because I had zero design experience before starting Blessed Brides. I had to teach myself how to draw and design, and learned from making mistakes along the way. I’ve lost track of the number of times I had to re-draw my technical sketches because they just weren’t detailed enough! One thing we don’t do, however, is cheap copies of existing designs.

blessed35. Is it really possible to enter such a specialised industry with no formal training?

I believe that technical skills are just one aspect of the business. I think my own strengths lie in the fact that I listen to my customers and am able to understand what they want.

6. Did you start Blessed Brides alone? And how many employees do you have now?

I have a business partner, but she’s more involved with the finance and administrative side of things. I currently have six full-time employees, most of whom do the designing and stitching.

7. How did you raise the capital for your business?

I used my personal savings, but we started really small. Our shop used to be at Albert Court Hotel, and it was a far smaller space than our current studio. I consider myself lucky because we broke even within the first year. Most of our customers heard about us through word-of-mouth.

8. What is your customer demographic like?

We have a good mix of Singaporeans and expat brides. Expat brides like coming to us because they usually hold destination weddings and are only on the lookout for a gown – not the whole package of photography/makeup/hair services.

9. How would you describe your management style? 

Honestly, I know I have the tendency to be a bit of a micro-manager, but I do have quite an open and consultative style. I make the effort to listen to ideas and input before implementing anything new. I believe that with younger staff, you can’t be too much of a “dictator” around them. They don’t just want to work with a boss – they also want to work someone they can call a friend.

10. What’s the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

Satisfied customers! I love it when they send us photos of their big day wearing our gowns, and when they take the time and effort to write to us expressing their satisfaction with our services.

11. Any advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Cash flow is everything. Don’t over-hire or over-commit if you/your business is not ready for it.

Blessed Brides is at 11B Mohamed Sultan Road, #03-01. Tel: 6735 6334.

For more stories on Entrepreneurship, click here.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

 

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Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

Learn The Ropes from Viola Tan of Love, Bonito – Deborah Tan

Viola Tan, co-founder of online fashion retailer Love, Bonito, talks about her entrepreneurship journey with us at Material World. She shares with Deborah Tan about the beauty of being an entrepreneur.

It’s every (well, almost!) girl’s dream to run a thriving fashion business. At 30, Viola Tan already has 7 years of entrepreneurship experience under her belt. Today, Love, Bonito is a popular online fashion retailer with a large base of loyal customers. The label has even branched out from the digital platform by participating in the Fide Fashion Week last year and having a physical collection at TANGS Vivocity. We speak to Viola for some valuable advice on running a business.

Doing every girl's dream job.

Doing every girl’s dream job.

1. What inspired you to start Love, Bonito?
I wanted to empower women to pursue their dreams by dressing them and helping them feel more confident and stylish about themselves. I believe the first step to being successful is to be confident and presentable.

2. What was Love, Bonito when it first began? And how has the business changed over the years?
Love, Bonito was started with the aim to share our love for fashion and do Singapore proud by being a homegrown label. We have grown more passionate and now possess a stronger voice with the support of our loyal customers. We hope that when a woman puts on a stylish outfit, she feels empowered and confident about the way she looks.

3. What were some of the challenges you faced when you first started on this journey of entrepreneurship?
One challenge was definitely having to step out of my comfort zone by starting up a company with no prior training in design, fashion and of course, business. What I learnt in school could not be applied and there was this constant fear that we might not succeed; I gave up a stable job for this challenge. The journey has been extremely rewarding by far.

4. And from these challenges, what lessons did you learn?
The beauty of being an entrepreneur is that I learn new things every day. For one, I have learnt to be more discerning and how to take calculated risks. The company cannot grow if I am always safe and conservative when making decisions.

5. What was the ONE breakthrough moment for Love, Bonito, the point where you know the business was going to take off and be a successful one?
Our closing show at Fide Fashion Week last year was definitely one monumental moment – it was an affirmation of the impact we have made in the local fashion scene. The icing on the cake was that it helped propel Love, Bonito and thrust us into the spotlight in the international fashion scene.

6. What is the ONE lesson you would like all budding, aspiring entrepreneurs to know?
Take chances; speak to people. You never know who might believe in your dream and give your business a boost!

Love, Bonito_Viola Tan (1)7. You are someone lots of young women look up to as well. Have you been a mentor to anyone? What was the experience like?
I was a teacher prior to Love, Bonito so yes I have been a mentor before! The experience is amazing and the sense of fulfillment that comes with it is priceless. I’m reminded of my own mentor as well who told me to, “Pay it forward”.

8. What is in the future for you and your business?
Definitely to grow and expand Love, Bonito. We are working towards gaining more market share in neighbouring countries and expanding our customer base to include fashion-lovers from all over the region!

9. What are the 3 most memorable milestones for Love, Bonito? What do they represent to you as a entrepreneur?
The first would be the day we came together to form Love, Bonito. It was exhilarating to say the least, being in charge of your own business.

The second was when I got the chance to work with a renowned international designer. I benefitted so much from his expertise and experience. We were given the news only two months before the show.

The last, well, this isn’t actually be a milestone per se but seeing women from all walks of life wear Love, Bonito on a daily basis is definitely worth celebrating.

10. What is one book/movie you were inspired by in your entrepreneurship journey? How did it inspire you?
I have been inspired by countless people, books, and movies but one of my favourite quotes is by Vince Lombardi: “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

Check out Love, Bonito here.

For more stories on Entrepreneurship, click here.

 

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She now publishes Entrepreneurship related articles on LinkedIn too. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

 

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Career, Character & Soul, Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

The Surprising Secret To Success – Tan Lili

Poor Denise recently admitted to reaching her breaking point, but she’s also learned quite a bit from the ordeal and has since gotten a better handle on stress; Deborah wrote a poignant piece on our innate need for love and support, and how she’s found it in her boyfriend during a recent almost-breakdown; and Vanessa reminded us it’s okay to not be okay, that we can gain strength from weakness.

Going by our posts on Material World the past couple of weeks, it’s pretty telling that all four of us are feeling more than a little stressed out. We are up to our necks in work, yet there’s never enough to ensure a steady cash flow. Sometimes, the office feels like a pressure cooker of financial worries and personal pride, and it’d take just one tiny setback for it to burst.

We aren’t the only ones trapped in the proverbial pressure cooker. In this success-hungry culture, we’ve been conditioned to believe that overworking is not the exception but the rule. To succeed, we have to continuously push forward, set unrealistically high goals, achieve the impossible, and then strive to meet the next big target. We can’t stop; the moment we enter a lull period, something must be wrong. Stress is the only way forward. Stress is good.

But what if I told you the secret to success is to work less?

girl happy

A whole slew of studies has confirmed it. According to a US study on working memory capacity, too much focus has a negative effect on our creative problem-solving skills. A brain-imaging research found that relaxation leads to enhanced memory and intellectual understanding. Another study showed that play improves our vascular health and makes us present – which translates to us being in a state of true happiness.

Most recently, a University of Toronto research discovered a new pathway of attention in the brain that, when engaged, improves our emotional well-being. Known as interoceptive awareness, it involves the evolutionarily older parts of the brain that are associated with emotions and physical sensations – unlike the newer and more often used parts of the brain that help us distinguish humans from other species and from one another. By training our interoceptive awareness, we tap into bodily awareness that is more instinctual and less affected by social or self-judgement. In other words, it separates us from our thinking mind and helps us calm ourselves down in moments of stress.

Conclusion? By working less, you will achieve so much more. Prioritising your work is always the number-one step. After you’ve made a list of what needs to be done in order of importance, take a look at the list and be honest with yourself: Can you handle everything on it, or would it save your sanity if you delegated certain tasks or outsourced them to a freelancer? Like Denise wrote, there is no shame in asking for help. We are humans, after all – we have our limits.

Even though all four of us at Material World have been feeling rather strung out lately, we make sure to take a break every now and then so we don’t crack under the pressure. For starters, we will be eternally grateful for the Happy Hour promo at Unusual Palate, an eatery located within our office building. Not only does the beer break help take our minds off work for a while, it also makes for great team bonding as well as reminds us that, at the end of the day, we all share a mutual desire for happiness.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

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