2/2 The Return: Final Post on Sabbatical

I received a Facebook notification today about a post that I shared a year ago on “The Last Horse”, where it showed the last Ferrari that I detailed and also the last post I have written before the end of my Sabbatical. Time really flies and I must say this whole work year after being back from the Sabbatical has been really good to me.

As mentioned in my previous post, coming out of the Sabbatical has provided me with a refreshed and positive outlook about my career. It not only widened my perspectives on career possibilities, it also helped me unwind from the “career clock” that I am unknowingly running on, which used to dictate the timely milestones to reach. I would consider this a crucial takeaway because it helped widened the otherwise narrow scope of career exploration and definitely infused some clarity into the future paths.

Sabbaticals can sometimes raise persistent and painful daily questions about what to do with all the time in the world. To be honest, I didn’t have the answer all the time and those moments nothingness could drive people crazy at times. Before the Sabbatical, I’ve always had fantasies about having all the time in the world for “Rejuvenation”. Having experienced the flip side of it, I came to understand that “Rejuvenation” moments can be over-rated. I no longer harbor any fantasies about “Rejuvenation” during a bad day at work and I became more appreciative of the structured work life. I also saw this from an absurd perspective of “Retirement Preview” which invoked some thoughts for the future, totally irrelevant to this topic and I shan’t discuss it now.

Naturally, with all the time in the world and without any stable income, the break has forced me to explore ways to generate income which is serving me well currently. While they don’t make me rich, these streams of income definitely help alleviate the financial commitments to a great extent. Besides monetary gains, the whole process taught me a great deal more than I could wish for. I’ve always thought generating an alternative stream of income required a lot of time and effort (Don’t misunderstand, it still requires decent amount of work), which I would not have attempted before “having all the time in the world” during the Sabbatical. This process not only helped me see a new world of possibilities but the lessons learnt during the process also helped shaped much of my judgment in current work.

It’s been a tad over 2 years since I’ve began writing on this space. This space saw me through the phase where I had a burnout in my career, took a year off on a Sabbatical and another year back into the workforce. It’s time I move on from this topic and get to know more about myself better by journaling my inner thoughts on wider range of subjects. I will be consolidating my Sabbatical experience under a section of this blog (If I figure out the technicalities to it… quite an IT idiot. Hahaha) going forward and talk about anything that inspires deep thoughts within me.

For the final parting note about the Sabbatical topic in this blog, I would like to say that the whole experience hasn’t been an easy one. There were moments the Sabbatical took a quite an emotional toll on myself and many of my loved ones but there were many moments of realizations that I thought were crucial for my growth as a person.

Sometimes, you need to get lost before you could discover beautiful paths.

Your truth awaits you.

 

1/2: The Return

As I reflect upon the mentality that I had back then, I would say there were some pretty significant differences in considering career options coming from a Sabbatical, compared to being in a job.

Have you ever paid for a concert ticket only to realize that the performance, for the lack of word, suck? Perhaps then, the logical decision would have been to leave the theater but I would have stayed on to suffer for the next 2 hours or so, considering the fact that I’ve already paid for the ticket. The alternative of course, would have been to leave the theater to go somewhere else where I would have enjoyed myself more. In any case, the money would’ve been spent but the level of joy during that span would’ve been different. Psychological/Economical term for this phenomenon is also known as “Sunk-Cost Fallacy”.

On hindsight, I realized that the “Sunk-Cost Fallacy” played a big role in my thought process when I considered my career options in the past. It wasn’t that easy to climb down that short ladder (reference to one of my previous posts) and restart after all! The good thing that came out of the Sabbatical in regards to this aspect is that it freed me from the pre-defined mental framework that I had, in fear that the accumulated experiences in relevant industries would go to waste. It not only allowed me to consider almost any role under the sun but also provided clarity to my interest in my field, after some serious consideration and comparison.

I did eventually go back to a related field and in a strange way it felt pretty assuring because of this clarity that surfaced in face of the real prospect of doing something else. I may not know what I want initially, but I think I found a reasonable answer to that through what I don’t want.

This concert wasn’t too bad for me after all. 😉

*Next post will be about the process and some speed bumps I hit to have another go at the corporate life. Watch for it!*

HellO!

The clock struck 3pm and what seemed to be centuries later, I read the clock that says 3.15pm with disappointment. It was another routine day at work and I found myself wandering around the cyber world to land at www.freddiephua.com, the website which I’ve created and almost forgotten about its existence. LOL

The hours that followed were in-depth conversations with Freddie in 2013-2014 through this platform which put many current situations into perspective, while also challenging many of them. Well, I should have believed my teachers when they spoke about the benefits of the keeping a journal! This time, I really saw the connection between keeping a journal and mindfulness.

Biggest issue I face now with this blog lies in closing the gaps on all the happenings from Jan’15 to date. (Yes… I know I’ve been lazy for a while…) Afterall, much has happened to me since Jan’15 and thankfully more awesome changes than sucky ones.

My pal made a very good suggestion over lunch this afternoon saying that I should plan a series of content to close the gaps and doing it in parts meant that I don’t have to cramp all my thoughts into a single post, hopefully allowing me to lay out my thoughts more clearly.

I’ll do just that then! That means… I’m back but not sure for how long… hahaha 😉

10 Lessons Detailing has taught me

29th December was the day I did Project “The Last Horse” which marks a short pause for my Detailing Journey before I’m back to wearing shirt and pants. Detailing and the people that I’ve met in this journey taught me so much about myself. Despite all the weariness and the many lows I have hit in my pursuit of this journey, I am glad to say that I truly enjoyed every moment of it. Here are some of the lessons that I learnt about detailing which in my opinion, would also be applicable to my life going forward. It is a note to myself but hopefully, it’ll be of some help to any readers and friends.

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1.    Begin with the end in mind.

When I first started learning Auto Detailing, I tried mastering it through the technical approach. How many passes of machining per panel is enough, how big a section should we do everytime and the list goes on… Sounds like your attempt at following a food recipe to the last table spoon until you watched your mom just estimating the amount of salt into that dish with the pinching method?

Truth is, it all depends on the end results you have in mind for that car. Whenever I inspect a client’s vehicle, besides speaking about the problems they would like to solve and the results they desire, I would have a mental visual of how the car could look like at the end of the session. While I strived be the perfectionist, this image I have in mind will be adjusted to constraints such as time, client’s budget & requirements. The final approach that I would take is catered to achieve the looks I have in my mind and serve as a guide to let me know what’s good enough.

Whether it’s a 85/100 or 50/100 image that I have in mind, the process I select would take me to whichever standards I would like to achieve. I think the same goes for my life going forward. What choices should I make? How good is good enough? It all depends on the end I have in mind I think.

2.    Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

This is in relation to the point above. When the mental visual I have of the car is a 100/100, chances are it’ll turn out very close and still look awesome even if I missed by a few percentage points.

I’m lucky enough to have realized this very early on in my detailing journey when I did one of my first few experimental cars which was totally beat up and back in my mind, I wasn’t hoping for impressive results. True enough, 7 hours later it appeared to have only gone for a simple car wash instead of a comprehensive session. I was very disappointed and thought that I just wasn’t cut out for this but I was lucky to realize that this might be the cause. The improved mental visual of this same ride on my second attempt really brought the detail to the next level and if it didn’t, I think the disappointment would have beaten me and this path would be left stranded.

Try to be perfect everytime and I think you’ll be consistent.

3.    Do it good, do it once.

Detailing is a very tiring process that could take hours or even days a session. The proposition of taking shortcuts tempts detailers all the time. I can’t say the same for every detailer out there but I admit, sometimes I fall for it and the consequence slapped me so hard in the forehead that I think my balding signs has got to do with this! The unnecessary time correcting a mistake that could have been avoided in the first place could be spent lifting the standards of the detail or even going home early! So yes… whether it’s work, studying my lecture notes or basketball training, this detailing lesson is a good reminder for me to do everything as it should have been done since I’m already spending good time on it!

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4.    Sometimes things needs to get messy before you get clarity.

It happens all the time when we do paint correction. The paint hazes up, you have dust from polishing compounds all over the place and you take a step back thinking it’s a disaster… but this is part and parcel of the process for that crazy wet finish we work towards.

I’ve read somewhere that every difficult situation is here to teach us a lesson about life and if we don’t learn how to deal with it, life would keep throwing these lessons towards us until we’ve learnt. I thought about it and realize every crazy situation I got into always clears up with some good coming out of it. Well, this sabbatical is one crazy ride with many good surprises coming out of every lows I faced!

If you’re in a bad situation, relax it will eventually turn out fine. If you find yourself in a unpleasantly messy situation, relax you’ll be clear of why it happened soon. Hang in there my friend! 🙂

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5.    Don’t forget to look how far you’ve come while trying to move towards your target.

Even with practice and enough detailing hours under the belt, time never seem to fly faster while I’m at it. Taking a step back and appreciate the progress I’m getting with the car always helped me to go the full distance. If you’re feeling exhausted or drained because your goal seems so far, maybe it’s good to look back to see how far you’ve come. I’m sure it will motivate you to move on!

6.    Focus your mind on the task.

10-12 hours straight on a car is a considerable amount of time but I always found it to be very meditative because I have to consciously shift my focus back to the paintwork once my mind starts to drift away. Indirectly, it has helped to improve concentration by raising conscious awareness that your thoughts are drifting away and having to shift them back to the task at hand.

7.    Humility

Auto Detailing, like many other stuff out there, is a blend between science and art. I have met many self-proclaimed experts during my detailing journey who are insistent that their methods used in detailing are the best and everything else are inferior. I’ve realized, with the good fortune of many detailers sharing their methods with me, that there are more than one way to achieve the same results on a car and different situations call for different methods. Yes… I’m talking about towels wrapped around sticks to clean your rims if the gap is way too small for a big brush, pails of water to wash your car if there’re no cool looking pressure washers around etc. All works fine and there have been many instances that I was glad to have had learnt certain methods from other detailers.

Mastering the basics and understanding as many methods used by others as possible promotes versatility by expanding our arsenal. After all, it doesn’t mean we have to apply it. It’s simply an additional choice for us to use it or even tweak to our liking when the situation calls for it. I think this is not just applicable to detailing but really anything else. But before we can achieve this, I learnt that we need to get off our high horses, stop forming a pre-conceived notion and be humble enough to learn from anyone.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ― Isaac Asimov

8.    Being systematic.

You can get impatient washing the rims thinking why it is still not sparkling clean or wonder if you had missed a spot while detailing the car in 2ft x 2ft patches or even get very distracted by fetching tools while detailing.

Detailing has taught me that to do an overwhelming task well and to be efficient at it, we need to be systematic. That in detailing terms could mean going clockwise starting from the hood, planning the steps in advance and having all the tools you need in a pouch strapped around you. Besides, I find that being systematic paces me well because I know exactly how far I am from the destination.

9.    Haters are going to hate.

Haters are going to hate. There will always be somebody who has something negative to say about you or wish for negative things to happen to you to make their lives seem rosier.

Think about it and I am sure you can find a big handful of such characters in your lives too. That colleague who likes to call you in the name of “Emergency” when you’re on leave because they can’t stand it that you’re “free”, that friend who always has something wise to say about what you’re doing while he’s all talk no action (challenging your thought process is always ok, but not critical without logic) or for my case people who claim your details to be inferior because you’re not using the same methods as them.

People worry about their problems in sequence of importance. Sometimes, what you’re doing accidentally put their life choices in question and it bothers them for that tiny bit of time. But, so what? They’d go back to worry about problems in their daily lives such as career choices, exams, money and family etc. So seriously, don’t do things to prevent haters from hating because you might just miss out on beautiful things that could come your way.

An example of this in my detailing journey was that a large part of my portfolio wasn’t posted online in fear of inviting sarcastic remarks or negative comments. This adversely impacted my online presence and I could have met many more nice people that would like to have their rides detailed by me.

I can’t stress these 2 sub points enough:

  1. Just let the haters hate and eventually they’d move on with their lives. Their thoughts should not matter in your choices. That being said, be wise enough to pick up useful feedback instead of being all defensive.
  2. People who can be genuinely happy for you are happy people themselves. Keep them as good friends and uplift each other to greater heights! Shift your focus to those that matter not towards the haters.
Evidence: The first horse which I detailed. If you noticed, I masked details such as the emblem and never posted many other rides on my social media page in fear of the negative remarks. Please ignore the haters.
Evidence: The first horse which I detailed. If you noticed, I masked details such as the emblem and never posted many other rides on my social media page in fear of the negative remarks. I untagged myself when my mentor posted this online a year back and today I understood what he meant by “having the courage to step forward”. Please ignore the haters and don’t deprive those that care for you the opportunity to celebrate with you.

10.    Don’t forget to celebrate!

The best part about detailing is the sense of satisfaction I derived from looking at my completed work and enjoying its beauty. This is also the energy that has kept me going despite the hours I had to put into detailing. Remember to stop and celebrate your work when you hit a milestone. You’ll enjoy the journey way a lot more!

Thankful for team ADS, MGB, friends & my family who have always been behind me on this journey. This day I celebrate your support by dedicating this last ride I detail on my Sabbatical to you guys. Thank you.
Always grateful towards team ADS, MGB, friends & my family who have always been behind me on this journey. This day I celebrate your support by dedicating this last project on my Sabbatical to you guys.  Thank you very much.

 

 

 

 

Time Travel – Brunei

I wake up to the sound of chirping birds and barking dogs every morning. The rising sun sits nicely at the backdrop of the dense greenery. I take deep breaths of fresh air (I don’t know if it’s the smell of the leaves though) as the cooling wind brushes across my skin before I start my work. Some view it as a boring place while others would associate it with military training but to me, I think it is a beautiful place to simplify our lifestyle; this is Brunei.

My mum has always told me that this place is similar to the 80s of Singapore and true enough, many scenes did bring back some good childhood memories. The old provision shops here reminded me about the crazy number of toothpaste purchases I made as a kid for the toys that came with it, the vintage coffeeshops brought back memories of little Freddie nagging all week just to go to his favourite Wanton Mee stall (no longer there sadly…) at Geylang where you’d eat along the walkway and there were flashbacks of my little rascal self annoying everyone in the old “Atap House” of my late Grandmother as I watched the kids play around the housing compound. 

The time here has allowed me a good opportunity to reflect back on my Sabbatical that is coming very close to a year. If I am to do this all over again, there were some things I would have done and some that I wouldn’t, so perhaps it would be good for me to consolidate them into my next post for people thinking of going on a Sabbatical to possibly use it as a reference and hopefully it will help in some way! 

I am drawing close to the end of my trip here as I am writing this and I will let some pictures do the rest of the talking while I savour every remaining second here. 

See you soon! 😉

PS: pardon the weird formating. I typed this from my phone. 

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The beauty I wake up to every morning. Stunning.
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Weather’s hot so some fruits would be good. Hahaha first attempt in my life to pluck fruits off a tree. Not too bad an attempt eh!20140826_154122
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The dogs stole many of my stuff at night. This is one of those that I recovered from the plot of land behind the working area. Best friend indeed.
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My favorite! Somehow it tastes different from the ones I had in Singapore. It had the old school taste! Can’t describe it better except saying it’s old school style. Hahaha
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Little fella that drives me nuts every morning. Greets me by sneaking up on me from behind and goes “ah booo!”. Haha going to miss the fun times with her.
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It’s not all play. There’s work too! I have learnt a great deal restoring the cars here because of the different types of damages I have encountered during my trip. Fun! 😀
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I never quite figured out the craft despite their great effort of teaching me. I must have been a pain! Lol!
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Beautiful structure. I heard that some parts are made of real gold. Didn’t get to search about it because I didn’t know its name in English.

 

 

The Coach with Zero Wins

You’re playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can’t move… you can’t breathe… because you’re in over your head. Like quicksand.

-Shane Falco in “The Replacements”-

3…2…1… there came the final buzzer and we never recovered from the quicksand. We were 13 points behind and the loss marks the end of our journey in the Inter Constituency Basketball Games 2014. Statistics of my first tenure as a coach? Dozens of losses (inclusive of other preparatory games) in the 20 to 40 points region and zero wins. But I am extremely proud of my team.

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The place where I spent most of the time when I was growing up. I even met my wife here!

This team that I have coached over the past few months holds a special meaning to me. It is a community filled with my childhood basketball heroes, peers I had to beat in one-on-one games when I was little to rise up the “ranks” and friends whom I had grown up with. This rundown court was (and is still) where I seek refuge when the going gets tough, it is the place where all the big basketball dreams began and where life objectives used to be small acts such as reaching for the backboard of the hoop or make 10 free throws in a row. It was where it all began and accomplishing these small goals gave me the confidence in other aspects of my life.

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A familiar sight.

Coaching a team graced with talents and start winning games may seem like an easier path to start coaching but that was not what I cared about. If you’ve read one of my previous posts, all I wanted was to be part of a team with a collective purpose and for this team, it was to win ONE game. Yes, seemingly pathetic on the surface but this purpose is so sacred to us. Prior to the final game, we were up against a bunch of 19-20 year olds who were skillful and physically fit because most of them underwent very well structured training in big name teams. Our team of nobodies were all very determined to reach for our first win and were leading all the way to the 4th quarter with 6.39 mins to go. Eventually, we lost by 1 point after going into overtime. The illusive win that was so near eluded us once again and everyone was devastated.

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Sharing my thoughts on how we should play. Also reminding them that they are well prepared for this and they have to depend on each other to fight back into the light. Didn’t happen but spectacular effort though!

On hindsight, the loss was so beautiful because I understood that the pain arises from the strong collective desire to win; something that I wished to be part of for so many years. Watching the team on court that day, I realized how much we’ve grown. We’ve grown from a team of egoistic individuals to a unit that put our personal interests aside and submit ourselves to a higher purpose. We’ve grown from a group of individuals that point fingers at one another after a bad loss to a team that can straighten things out on court and we no longer was the team that will give up after 3 quarters. This game, we’ve broke barriers together and we fought till the final whistle. The team showed me how pure determination stood up well against talents/advantages; something I would remind myself in life.

On a personal level, the aggression that I thought was no longer in my basketball self revealed themselves on court that day. I was  throwing bottles on the ground, kicking chairs, screaming at players and scolding referees for bad calls. I don’t think it was appropriate and I think I’ve always been a person that has good control of my emotions (even on court) but it got out of control that day. My wise wife offered me an insight and told me that it was the “flame” that ignites when you want something bad enough and perhaps, I had forgotten how to want something bad enough for too long. Maybe she’s right. I may have been too satisfied with life for too long and I may have unknowingly fall into life’s version of quicksand!

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Preparing for the real fight. It didn’t get easier, every session got harder and harder. Some even puked but they just walked it off  and proceeded with training, earning their self respect.

Anyway, there was no story book ending despite all the hardwork but I think what everyone achieved went beyond statistics and the column of wins/losses. It was an experience where everyone rediscovered some parts of themselves; something which others could spend their whole lives finding. As for me, I wouldn’t exchange that loss for anything else because it was the only reminder I have received from nature over the past decade that I can still feel this much for anything. My players taught me more than I had taught them for it had been 4 months’ display of commitment, perseverance, discipline, passion and sacrifice. I trained them so hard that I wouldn’t want to attend my own training but they never gave up. They were told that every session is going to be a battle with their own inner demons and I’m glad they did not choose the easy way out by skipping training. They showed up and fight every single session. I couldn’t ask for more.

We may have lost the games but won so much more.

Thank you Team Serangoon CSC. It’s been one hell of a ride for me!