Book Notes: Anything you want by Derek Sivers

Derek Sivers’ “Anything You Want” is a quick hour read that’s easy to understand. I love how he lives by his life’s philosophy and his very human approach to business.

Here are some of the highlights I made of his book:

  • You need to know your personal philosophy of what makes you happy and what’s worth doing
  • Business is not about money, it’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself.
  • Do business so that you can answer the calls for help.
  • You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people – it’s really ok!
  • The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy.
  • Derek goes on to talk about how he started CD Baby as an accidental entrepreneur. His main goal was to help musicians and that was always the guiding principle behind CD Baby – before profits.

It’s about being, not having

  • Some people will tell you to outsource everything, but if learning to do it by yourself makes you happy, then do it.
  • A tech startup that outsources it’s programming is like a musician outsourcing it’s song / music writing
  • The point is not just to cross the finish line, but to enjoy the ride while you are crossing it – for example, you could ride a taxi to bring you to the finish line in a marathon, but what’s the point?
  • What’s most important is that it makes you HAPPY.
  • Write down a utopian view of what you want the world to be and how your business helps to achieve that. Make that your mission.

For Derek, his mission was to run a business that would pay musicians every week, show him where his fans were, never kick him out for not selling enough records, never allow paid placement – otherwise it wouldn’t be fair to  those that couldn’t afford it.

There’s no revolution

The best plans are simple – don’t complicate matters with growth revenue reach and other business jargons.

There’s no revolution, only bit by bit and day by day. Start working on your business idea by building a simple prototype, as long as you are in the race, you can achieve it.

You don’t need funding, just need to find customers and build something people really want. Otherwise all the marketing dollars won’t be able to save your company.

Only do things that make you do “HELL YEAH” – if it’s a hmm ok, then say “NO”.
Ideas are just multipliers of execution. Execute.

How do you grade yourself?

It’s important to know your benchmarks – otherwise how else will you know you are focused on what’s honestly important to you?

Running a business

  • Care about your customers more than about yourself. That’s your #1 rule of providing good service to them, It’s all about them them them – not you.
  • Set up your business like you don’t need the money – the money will likely come your way.
  • Be clear in what you say – it can cause pain when you are unclear to customers and your staff.
  • Be human – you don’t need to act like a mechanical turk just because others are – look at mail chimp and the Treehouse!
  • When delegating, make sure you answer the question and explain the philosophy, then make sure everyone understands and get someone to document it!

Steven King: On Writing

Reading is such luxury. Reading about how to write from someone like Steven King is a greater privilege.

The first thing I thought about after reading the book was, why aren’t Singaporeans writing more? Fiction, non-fiction, whatever? Or are there people who write but have gone undiscovered? What happened to our generation of Russell Lees, our Teenage Textbooks, our Catherine Lims?

On Writing should be made a textbook for all writers. Fiction or not – Steven King covers the nooks and crannies of writing with honesty and pragmatism. There’s lots of practical tips in his “toolbox” for beginners but it’s his emphasis on writing about the truth and sticking to what we know, said what was on everyone’s mind but hadn’t been said before.

Here are my highlight / notes from the book:

  •  Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around. So you don’t need a big fancy desk to start writing under the perfect conditions. All you need is a closed door, a computer or notepad and grit. In fact, put that table in the corner of the room and just focus on the writing.

From the toolbox:

  • The paragraph, not the sentence, is the basic unit of writing—the place where coherence begins and words stand a chance of becoming more than mere words.
  • To write to your best abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you.
  • Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colourful.
  •  One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.
  • The simplicity of noun-verb construction is useful—at the very least it can provide a safety net for your writing.
  • Rocks explode. Jane transmits. Mountains float.
  • You should avoid the passive tense
  • Write The meeting’s at seven. There, by God! Don’t you feel better?
  • You might also notice how much simpler the thought is to understand when it’s broken up into two thoughts.
  • The adverb is not your friend.
  • The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said.
  • Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.
  • while to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine.
  • you always add ’s, even when the word you’re modifying ends in s—always write Thomas’s bike and never Thomas’ bike
  • Easy books contain lots of short paragraphs—including dialogue paragraphs which may only be a word or two long—and lots of white space.
  • Topic-sentence-followed-by-support-and-description insists that the writer organize his/her thoughts, and it also provides good insurance against wandering away from the topic.
  • Writing is refined thinking.
  • The more fiction you read and write, the more you’ll find your paragraphs forming on their own.
  • Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story … to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.

On reading and writing


  • Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction. If not so, why do so many couples who start the evening at dinner wind up in bed?
  • You must learn to use it well if you are to write well. What this means is lots of practice; you have to learn the beat.
  • Words have weight. (Literally)
  • if you’re a bad writer, no one can help you become a good one, or even a competent one. If you’re good and want to be great … fuhgeddaboudit.
  • There is a muse,* but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor
  • if you don’t want to work your ass off, you have no business trying to write well—settle back into competency and be grateful you have even that much to fall back on.
  • If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
  •  Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.
  • If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that
  • Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.
  • Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns.
  • Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.
  • I’d like to suggest that turning off that endlessly quacking box is apt to improve the quality of your life as well as the quality of your writing. And how much of a sacrifice are we talking about here?
  •  If there’s no joy in it, it’s just no good.
  • Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy.
  • The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing
  • Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness.
  • Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind—they begin to seem like characters instead of real people.

How much and when to write?


  • Writing is at its best—always, always, always—when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer. I can write in cold blood if I have to, but I like it best when it’s fresh and almost too hot to handle.
  • When I’m writing, it’s all the playground, and the worst three hours I ever spent there were still pretty damned good.
  • I believe the first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season
  • I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words.
  • You can read anywhere, almost, but when it comes to writing, library carrels, park benches, and rented flats should be courts of last resort—Truman Capote said he did his best work in motel rooms, but he is an exception; most of us do our best in a place of our own. Until you get one, you’ll find your new resolution to write a lot hard to take seriously.
  • The space can be humble (probably should be, as I think I have already suggested), and it really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut. The closed door is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business
  • Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like The Lord of the Rings, the work is always accomplished one word at a time.
  • I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I’m feeling magnanimous, I’ll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with.
  • When you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you not? Of course you do. When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.
  • But you need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door. You need a concrete goal, as well. The longer you keep to these basics, the easier the act of writing will become.
  • Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon or seven ’til three.
  • If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.
  • What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all … as long as you tell the truth.
  • What would be very wrong, I think, is to turn away from what you know and like in favor of things you believe will impress your friends, relatives, and writing-circle colleagues. What’s equally wrong is the deliberate turning toward some genre or type of fiction in order to make money.
  • Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work. Especially work. People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do.
  • (John Grisham)  He was once a young lawyer, though, and he has clearly forgotten none of the struggle. Nor has he forgotten the location of the various financial pitfalls and honey-traps that make the field of corporate law so difficult.
  • Don’t imitate,  emulate Grisham’s openness and inability to do anything other than get right to the point.
  • John Grisham, of course, knows lawyers. What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave. Map the enemy’s positions, come back, tell us all you know. And remember that plumbers in space is not such a bad setup for a story.

Do you consciously need a plot?

  • I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.
  • Honesty in storytelling makes up for a great many stylistic faults, as the work of wooden-prose writers like Theodore Dreiser and Ayn Rand shows, but lying is the great unrepairable fault.

Descriptive writing

  • Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.
  • Good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else
  • It’s also important to remember it’s not about the setting, anyway—it’s about the story, and it’s always about the story.
  •  In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it “got boring,” the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.
  • When it’s on target, a simile delights us in much the same way meeting an old friend in a crowd of strangers does. By comparing two seemingly unrelated objects—a restaurant bar and a cave, a mirror and a mirage—we are sometimes able to see an old thing in a new and vivid way.
  • The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary.
  • one of the cardinal rules of good fiction is never tell us a thing if you can show us, instead
  • Talk, whether ugly or beautiful, is an index of character; it can also be a breath of cool, refreshing air in a room some people would prefer to keep shut up.
  • The only question is how it rings on the page and in the ear. If you expect it to ring true, then you must talk yourself. Even more important, you must shut up and listen to others talk.
  •  I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.
  • in real life we each of us regard ourselves as the main character, the protagonist, the big cheese; the camera is on us, baby.
  • Boredom can be a very good thing for someone in a creative jam. I spent those walks being bored and thinking about my gigantic boondoggle of a manuscript.

The Ideal Reader

  • In the end I listen most closely to Tabby, because she’s the one I write for, the one I want to wow. If you’re writing primarily for one person besides yourself, I’d advise you to pay very close attention to that person’s opinion.
  • Call that one person you write for Ideal Reader. He or she is going to be in your writing room all the time.
  • Ideal Reader is also the best way for you to gauge whether or not your story is paced correctly and if you’ve handled the back story in satisfactory fashion.
  • Pace is the speed at which your narrative unfolds.
  • The best way to find the happy medium? Ideal Reader, of course. Try to imagine whether he or she will be bored by a certain scene

Editing and backstories

  • Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.
  • Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%.
  • Back story is all the stuff that happened before your tale began but which has an impact on the front story.
  • Back story helps define character and establish motivation.
  • In a very real sense, every life is in medias res.

Writing classes and determination

  • Don’t go to writing class, just keep writing.
  • It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

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Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.-Viktor E. Fankl

After visiting the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, I made an effort to finish this book by Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl. I read it two weeks ago but made a special note to write about it. It’s an easy read that can be finished in one sitting, so I highly recommend it.

It’s the first survivor account that I’ve read about the Holocaust and one that particularly stood out since he was a neurologist and psychiatrist. The first 2/3 of the book is about life in Auschwitz and Dachau and the last 1/3 follows his analysis of the circumstances, along with a brief introduction of logotherapy – a form of existential analysis which he founded post-WW2.  

I found his account of the Holocaust is interesting because you hear him describing the circumstances of the Auschwitz  concentration camps from a psychological  perspective. He talks about the limits of a person’s mental strength, what kept him and his fellow survivors alive and the psychological  differences between those that survived and didn’t. He also talks also about how some fellow prisoners who were given special rights to punish other prisoners were sometimes more brutal than the SS commanders. Truly horrific.

I honestly felt that his book recognised the need of survival in all human beings. No matter who you were, you did whatever you could to not die and sometimes it came as a cost to your moral conscience and to your fellow human beings, but also about the generosity of the human spirit in times of great desperation.

2 main things kept people alive in the camps:

1. The hope to see someone that was beloved to them, be it their children, family, friends .

2. The hope to complete work that could only be done by them. For him, it was a paper that he had brought to Auschwitz that was destroyed by the SS guards. Many a time he took the opportunity to continue to remake notes of his paper and this was the sole thing that kept him going for a few years.

His take on the search for a meaning of life – that it is constantly evolving and differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.



The Science of Persuasion



I started thinking about the power of persuasion after watching The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the true story of former stockbroker Jordan Belfort.


Jordan Belfort was convicted of fraud crimes related to stock market manipulation and running a penny stock boiler room. At the point he was arrested, his company Stratton Oakmont employed over 1,000 stock brokers and was involved in stock issues totaling more than $1 billion, including those of Steve Madden’s.


Being able to sell is a fascinating skill. While a large part of the show focuses on avarice and the lengths that man will go in order to accumulate wealth, I was honestly impressed with his ability to persuade people to do all kinds of crazy things and rationalize it. His methods in madness did however, encourage a strong company culture, team bonding and cult of personality.


This is the real Jordan Belfort speaking at a webinar:

If you watch the show, he’s the guy who introduces Leonardo Dicaprio at the sales workshop. I didn’t finish watching his webinar because I can’t stand the way he talks, but if you have the patience do let me know if this shit works.
As it turns out, there is a science to persuasion.


Here are the 6 Key Principles of Influence by Robert Cialdini, based on his book called “The Psychology of Persuasion”.

1. Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.

2. Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. Cialdini notes Chinese brainwashing on American prisoners of war to rewrite their self-image and gain automatic unenforced compliance.

3. Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic.

4. Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.

5. Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed – also known as the “Halo Effect”.

6. Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.


This animated talk explains it very well.

You can read his paper about ‘Harnessing the Science of Persuasion“.


Simon Sinek – Why Leaders Eat Last

Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last from 99U on Vimeo.


Great talk by Simon Sinek on “Why Leaders Eat Last”. He discusses the price of leadership and the social contract we have in place to determine who becomes the alpha and the roles and responsibilities associated with it. Traditionally we’ve created a system where we’re ok that leaders get all the benefits and high salaries, as long as they step in and do the necessary when shit hits the fan.


It’s true. Great leaders don’t micro-manage, they make you want to do better so that they’d be proud of you. The only time they step in is to check on you and when you’re struggling. Great leaders give their time and energy, not money.


I’m lucky to have seen great leaders in action.


Book Notes: Scott Adams’ How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

As a Christmas gift to myself I purchased Scott Adams’ “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”. Scott Adams is known for his hilarious “Dilbert” comics and his 16 years climbing the corporate ladder in a bank sets the background of the comic.



What I really enjoyed about this book is how Scott Adams doesn’t see himself as just a cartoonist but as an entrepreneur. While many know him for “Dilbert”, he’s actually tried a dozen over startups and finally got his big break with Dilbert, all the while keeping his full time job at the bank and later, Pacific Bell.

Little facts that you may not have known about him:

  • He is a failed serial entrepreneur. It’s amazing to see how he’s managed to still keep going after so many failed attempts – from grocery delivery, to keypad patents and even a burrito business named “Dilberito”, he’s tried and tested many ideas. Up to now he’s still trying. See his Dilbert file sharing startup:dilbertfilesharing
  • He claims to be a horrible cartoonist but stuck with it, waking up at 4am in the morning to draw Dilbert strips before he managed to leave his job and do it full time.


Here are some of the notes I’ve compiled from this book:

1. Deciding VS Wanting

One of the best advice he’s ever gotten – “if you want success, figure out the price, then pay it.” In reality, success has a price and takes a lot of hard work, but most of the time it’s negotiable, depending on the systems you choose.

2. Goals VS Systems

Goal: I want to lose 20kgs by the end of 2014.

System: I will jog everyday for 30mins to keep fit and healthy.

Why choose a system over a goal?

If you achieve a goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realise you just lost the thing that gives you purpose and direction. You exist in a state of continuous failure. Systems people succeed every time they choose to apply the system.

3. The Passion Fallacy vs Personal Energy

The reason I was attracted to Scott Adam’s philosophy is because of his “passion fallacy” reasoning. He chooses to believe in managing your personal energy instead of “passion”, which quickly wears out once you hit roadblocks and challenges. Personal energy however, is much more dependable and easy to manage. He goes as far to propose the concept of “the user interface of happiness” as something we can control – especially if we can improve our moods simply by smiling. Once you optimize personal energy, all you need for success is luck.

4. Managing your personal energy

Well, judging by the number of overweight CEOs, I’d say a lot of them would disagree with Scott Adams that exercise and diet is very important to managing your personal energy. But they are. He has a simple, no-willpower, diet system that advocates removing energy draining foods such as white rice, potatoes, desserts and white breads and getting enough sleep so that you don’t crave for unhealthy foods. He also talks about staying active throughout the day by making routines to do simple exercises. He always starts by doing creative work in the morning, followed by breakfast, then errands and exercise in the afternoon and after that, “mindless” activities such as answering meetings and such.

5. The world needs you at your best, so be selfish and take care of yourself

I first heard this piece of advice in the middle of a meeting with my boss, Ziriad. At that point I was working too many weekends (voluntarily) and was bearing the brunt of exhaustion. He, being the awesome boss that he is, comforted me and told me about his own system, which is to make some free time in his calendar to think and strategize instead of filling his schedule with back to back meetings, which can in turn be counter productive. “Your priority 0 is yourself. If you don’t take care of your health and make sure you’re ok, how can you go on to take care of priority 1, 2 or 3?”

When I read it again in Scott Adams’ book, it made me smile. Often times we kind of think that we have to sacrifice EVERYTHING to be successful and we get caught up in peoples’ expectations of us instead of taking care of our health (both mentally and financially). Humans are wired to fulfill our basic needs before thinking about our higher purpose.

Maslows Hierachy of Needs

6. The math of success – every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success

The idea is that you can raise your market value by by merely being good, not extraordinary, at more than one skill. His formula is simply GOOD + GOOD > EXCELLENT.

Unless you’re one of the top performers in the world, you’re better off being good at two skills than great at one. E.g., being a skilled public speaker and knowing your way around PowerPoint should land you a good chance at running your organization.

However, not all skills are equal. Here are some skills that Scott Adams deems as helpful for every adult:

  • Public Speaking
  • Psychology
  • Business Writing
  • Accounting
  • Design
  • Conversation (small talk)
  • Overcoming shyness
  • Second language
  • Golf (and also tennis)
  • Proper Grammar
  • Persuasion
  • Technology (Hobby Level)
  • Proper Voice Techniques


Overall, the theme about this book explores his learning from failure. “…always remember that that failure is your friend. It is the raw material of success. Invite it in. Learn from it. And don’t let it leave until you pick its pocket. That’s a system.”


Anyone who wants to borrow it just tweet me!

10 lessons from a 100 entrepreneurs

I was recently invited to speak at the reunion of  Salesforce BizAcademy, a 1 week leadership apprenticeship program.


With students from Salesforce’s BizAcademy 2012 and 2013 Batch! Thanks to Esther from Salesforce, Jael and Ivy from Halogen Foundation Singapore for hosting and inviting me. 

I decided that the topic “10 Lessons I Learnt From 100 Entrepreneurs” would be fitting given the nature of my work.

The tech industry is nothing short of amazing. Across the last 3 years I’ve met some of the most most innovative, generous and intelligent individuals who want to make the world a better place to live in. I’ve probably met more than 100 entrepreneurs but the number is mostly symbolic, the lessons are those that I felt are worth sharing.


Here are the notes from my talk :)

10 Lessons from 100 Entrepreneurs

This is a photo of my friend Ellwyn, co-founder of a social enterprise called BagoSphere. BagoSphere trains out–of-school youths to find jobs in Philippines’ booming BPO industry. This is him sitting outside of the classroom in Bago City, talking to his trainees after a blackout. 

It takes a lot of effort to build a sustainable company. It doesn’t stop when you’ve launched a product, nor can you just sit back, relax and watch the money roll in. Keeping up in one of the fastest changing industries and making your product indispensable is the hardest part.

I’ve had entrepreneurs come to me at their lowest and with tears in their eyes, telling me about their fears of not making their families proud, that they totally regret making a wrong decision of taking (or not taking) an investment, that they worry they won’t have enough saved up to pay for their kids’ livelihood or get married. These are very legitimate fears.

Making sure you know why you want to start a company is really important. What can you bring to the industry that you can’t while working for another company? Do you see yourself doing this for another 5 – 10 years? What’s the vision and the end goal?

I highly recommend this talk by Simon Sinek about answering the question of “WHY”. In the hardest of times, the answer will guide you through your actions.




Ben Huh, who is Founder and CEO of Cheezburger didn’t just stumble upon being the owner of the world’s most entertaining websites and then earning shit-loads of money from it.

Equipped with a degree in journalism (uh huh, that’s right, journalism),  his first company was focused on the decidedly unfunny vertical of web analytics, failing after 18 months. He was $40,000 in debt, but quickly got back on his feet. After working a succession of jobs, in 2007 he started blogging, founded I Can Haz Cheezburger, and bought the site.

When faced with the choice to progress up the ladder, working for someone else’s startup – or become the CEO of the world’s weirdest cat sharing site, he chose the latter.

To this day it still baffles his investors why people are fascinated with an image of bacon on a cat, but what matters is that he understood that the internet allows us to be a weird, imperfect and still love each other for it.

In his own words, “it is only failure when you don’t get back on your feet.

Good entrepreneurs will never become who they are without pushing themselves and failing from time to time. It’s tough to put yourself out there and let people criticize your ideas, how you’re executing them and then realize you’ve been building something that no one really wants. In fact, it really sucks, but it seems to be a necessary evil – and we need to be less afraid of failing and be more concerned with learning faster.

Life is never what it’s supposed to be. You can always create all kinds of excuses to stop yourself from doing what you want to do, such as the market being too small, or that there isn’t enough money in Singapore for startups, or that you can’t hire good engineers – but at the end of the day, those are excuses.


After spending time speaking to  too many wide-eyed entrepreneurs who tell me that they are passionate about this or that , I’ve grown weary of hearing the word passion. I’d much rather listen to what systems they’ve built in place to differentiate themselves in the market, how they’re going to growth into a successful business with limited resources and time.

It’s not that passion isn’t important, I get that, it’s that you have to grow into it sometimes. At the end of the day, we all have responsibilities and people to answer to, so while you chase the dream, also remember that it’s important to put into place the systems that help your company succeed.

Dilbert was just one of Scott Adam’s many pet projects to see if he could earn money writing this comic strip. Turns out, there was product market and eventually he could quite his job at a bank to work on it full time.

Look for that fit.



I once wrote about the 3 types of mentors that you need in your life.

1. Role Model Mentors

Yup, the title is straightforward enough. These are the mentors who you eventually want to be like. The ones you look to and think to yourself, “wow, this is someone I want to be like if I were to be e.g., a manager / activist /mother / whatever I want to besomeday.

2. Peers who are your mentors

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

Entrepreneurship is tough. If you don’t have a group of friends who are in it together with you or know what you’re going through, go look for those networks! Luckily in Singapore we have lots of meetups and events for you to meet like-minded folks. Trust me, in down times it helps to have friends whom you can turn to to confide in. It matters.


3. Mentoring those that are seek mentorship

They say that you only realise how much you really know when you have to teach it. That is true when you find others looking to you to learn something from.  It’s this kind of pay-it-forward mentality that will increase the average collective intelligence of the world.

CEO really stands for Chief Everything Officer. Especially if you’re bootstrapping. At the start you’re in charge of everything, regardless of whether its HR, Admin, Product Management, Sales, Tech or Marketing.

Toilet flush spoilt? Learn how to fix it.

Can’t afford a cleaning lady? Learn how to use a broom.

It’s not as glamorous as you’d think and you’re definitely not a “rockstar”.

Read: Entrepreneurshit. The Blog Post on What It’s Really Like.



Starting a company is a lot of hard work. As Chief Everything Officer, wouldn’t it be nice if you had someone to share with workload and help you cope emotionally as well? (It’s also a lot more fun if you’d doing it with someone you trust).

A startup is simply too much work for one person. 1 + 1′s efforts are honestly more than two. I’ve met solo entrepreneurs and the speed at which they take action is just too slow.

Find someone who can make up for your lack of skills. You’re a sales guy? Find a technical co-founder. If you can’t convince them of your value proposition, then you might have to re-evaluate your selling skills.

Always pick someone you can trust and would want to hang out with even after work. And sign a founders agreement. Too many friendships go sour because of this.


As a founder you have to balance priorities. Is it the time to go big on sales? Then stop worrying about another feature and start selling like mad. The only goal for a bootstrapping start-up IS TO MAKE MONEY.

If it’s time for you to do sales and meet people, then attend events and sell the shit out of your product. But other times, please focus on building your product, talking to customers and not flirting with girls.


Stay on the fucking bus – a great read.

“…in the first weeks or years of any worthwhile project, feedback – whether from your own emotions, or from other people – isn’t a reliable indication of how you’re doing. (This shouldn’t be confused with the dodgy dictum that triggering hostile reactions means you must be doing the right thing; it just doesn’t prove you’re doing the wrong one.) The second point concerns the perils of a world that fetishises originality. A hundred self-help books urge you to have the guts to be “different”: the kid who drops out of university to launch a crazy-sounding startup becomes a cultural hero… yet the Helsinki theory suggests that if you pursue originality too vigorously, you’ll never reach it. Sometimes it takes more guts to keep trudging down a pre-trodden path, to the originality beyond. “Stay on the fucking bus”: there are worse fridge-magnet slogans to live by. Just make sure you take it off the fridge when your prudish relatives visit.”





Ryan Carson, the founder of Treehouse, wrote an excellent piece on this topic.

“Entrepreneurs: Don’t listen to the “must be not-for-profit if you want to change the World” bullshit. The folks who figure out how to build a truly profitable and lasting company will be the ones that really change the World.”

Without Microsoft making the kind of money it is today, Bill Gates would have never been able to set up his foundation. Neither would Microsoft employees have been able to do this:

Microsoft Employees Raise Record-Breaking $100 Million for Nonprofits in 2011




The last point is about building something valuable for the community and doing that through businesses. My favourite entrepreneurs, Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop) and Jack Ma (Founder of and are examples of leaders that used the strengths of their products to empower  millions of people.

Roddick built her empire through her controversial marketing practices emphasizing on fair trade, gave opportunities for native people of the Amazon to work and was a strong human rights activist. She pissed a lot of people off in the process and yet, although she was selling something as “trivial” or “fluff” as cosmetics, people heard her voice and started to echo it when The Body Shop became a global company.


Former English teacher, Jack Ma, empowered a whole nation of sellers by offering a free platform for small businesses to set up shop on e-commerce platform. It was at a time where eBay was in fierce competition to become a leader of the Chinese market, but didn’t think twice about providing a usable platform for the local people.


Check out the slides here:

Creating new habits and inspired by BJ Fogg’s Behaviour Grid

I was introduced to BJ Fogg’s work by an ex-colleague of mine (Kai Lin from 2359 Media), who used to write bite sized introductions to his work on habit design. Fogg leads Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab and gives great insight on how simplicity helps people to build new habits.


I then stumbled across his talk from Rock Health, which basically gives a great overview into how you can help users create new habits by adapting tiny steps.

If there’s only one thing you do this week, watch this video!





Fogg’s Behavior Grid


You can also sign up for his Tiny Habits course at to start creating new habits for yourself. I’m starting this week.

Essentially, you form a new habit by shifting your perspective of it and anchoring it to an action you do everyday. It has to be something simple enough to do and can be done in 30s.

Here are mine:

1. After I step into the MRT, I will memorise a Spanish Phrase from my app.

2. After I brush my teeth, I will do 5 situps.

3. After I login to my laptop the first time that day, I will publish a headline for my blog article.

Enjoy his talk!

Must Watch: Creating the minimum badass user by Kathy Sierra


I just re-watched this talk by Kathy Sierra about creating the minimum badass user. I know how there are tonnes of videos you can watch to help you create “a better ux”, but this talk just blows my mind. It cuts through all the noise on how you should approach product development and instead re-focuses the creators’ intentions on making products that make their users truly ‘badass’.

She talks about shifting our fundamental premise of getting users to think the app you are creating is cool to inside getting your app to help your users seem cool. Less on your app, more on your user.

It’s a great talk and interesting enough to keep you hooked through the entire sitting. It made me think about why people spend tonnes on money on luxury products or fancy sunglasses (because it makes them look more sophisticated, cooler or ‘badass’).


Also reminded me that somethings are counter-intuitive – like how at a sales call, though you are tempted to flood others with your agenda, it’s much more productive to ask them “How can I help grow your business” and align your goals instead of just talking about yours.


At the end of it she also talks about the 3 pillars of your product that help your user become experts.

They are:

  1. Give them repeated exposure to examples of what really good looks like. (E.g, for photographers it may be repeatedly letting them look at great photos).
  2. Practice Cognitive-Resource-Driven Design - give them things that they can master in just 1 – 3 sessions.
  3. Provide a roadmap of what it takes to be badass at something -  like in karate where people go through clear progressive stages to become a karate master, it’s essential that your user can see where he’s going with his progress.

In the end, you are creating for your users’ users.

Go forth and be badass!