One of these adventures would be to live with Mongolian nomads for 8 days, fully immersing myself into and experiencing the Mongolian nomadic life.
In November 2018, the trip finally happened, and I got to live with a Mongolian nomadic family for a week, in this case, a Mongolian nomadic couple Puulee and Muugii. They were a couple around the age of sixty, and had two adult children who moved to and lived in the cities. Puulee and Muugii spoke only Mongolian, and I did not know a word of Mongolian, but as we found out, spoken language didn’t really matter as much.
The first thing that struck me when I arrived was how empty everything looked against the vast backdrop of the Gobi desert. It was winter, and there were no signs of vegetation, just dried shrubs and rocks. It looked like a very harsh environment.
My phone did not get reception and it was the first time that I had seen my Google Pixel 2XL last 8 days without a charge. After being connected for so long, it was nerve-wracking to not have a connection at the start, but I slowly started relishing the digital detox.
The nomadic nature of the Mongolian couple meant that they had to move twice in a year – once to a summer location, and another to a winter location. I joined them at their winter location. The couple had two gers – the conical-shaped Mongolian tent. One was their main ger in which they slept and cooked in, and the other secondary ger was used for storage and for things Iike drying meat.
Religion and faith
The main ger of the Mongolian nomadic family would contain a small shrine at one end, with the only door facing it on the opposite end. The door would traditionally face south, and the occupants will always sleep with their feet pointing away from the shrine as a sign of respect.
What was very memorable for me was the first night. That was when I saw a night sky that contained the most stars I had ever seen. Puulee and Muugii showed me the sign of Temujin (or Chiinngis Khaan, or Genghis Khan), something that the Mongolian nomads prayed to, and showed where the direction of North was. Containing 7 stars, it took about 5 minutes of gesturing and repeating before I understood and figured out that what was the sign of Temujin to them was actually known as the Big Dipper constellation in other parts of the world.
The Mongolian nomads were accustomed to having guests, as it was frequent that their friends and relatives would visit and stay the night. The ger was in no stretch of the imagination considered big, but they never had a problem fitting everything in. They took out a mat and a thin mattress, and gave me a blanket made of fur to keep warm. The stove that they used was fed coal and animal dung, but would die off in 1-2 hours’ time, causing the temperatures to drop as you slept. It wasn’t luxurious at all, but I felt comfortable and managed to stay warm in the harsh Mongolian winter as I slept.
The next morning, I woke up, shook off the cold, and started my day. Since the ger was small, everything that was used for sleeping in the night was folded up neatly and kept aside.
The Mongolian nomads ate mostly rice, flour, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage for their meals. Meat was in every meal, and it would be typically mutton, or sometimes beef.
Cows were treasured as they were more expensive, and were typically reared to be sold off. Horses were only kept by the more wealthy Mongolian nomads. Most of the time, horses were the strongest livestock and could survive the harsher winters because they were strong enough to dig for plants where the other livestock could not.
Condiments used for cooking were simple – mostly just pepper and salt. Sauces on the dining table were ketchup and soy sauce, and people could sit anywhere. Typically, they sat beside the table or on the beds, which were around a metre away.
When the food was handed to you by the cook, you could eat anytime. Guests could enter the ger anytime, even during a meal, and they would be offered a portion of food when they did so. Meals were very communal in nature, with people using their bare hands to handle food. For instance, a guest could take a rib of lamb in his hand, slice away some meat for himself, and place the rib back into the communal plate.
Almost every part of the animal is used. The other parts that I’ve seen being thrown out were the gallbladder and lungs. Even the eyeballs, brains, and bones were cooked for broth. There was no expectation for anyone to finish the food on their plates, though the cook sees it as a sign that you like her cooking if you finish your food.
Sanitation was extremely basic. The thing about the cold was that nobody showered daily as a result. The nomads would wash their hair every two weeks, and get a bath every month or so.
The nomads had an outhouse, which was basically a little man-sized shed that had a deep hole in the ground inside. In winter, it already smelt pretty bad, and I can’t imagine how it’d be like in the summer.
I started exploring the surroundings, with the only sounds being that of animals baying or the strong wind. The dry, cold winter meant that every step rustled crisply because of the dried grass. And everywhere was filled with dung – either cow, goat, sheep, horse, or dog – but it didn’t smell at all because of the weather.
Alcohol is a big part of the Mongolian nomadic winter activities, typically beer or Mongolian vodka. Mongolian vodka is super smooth and reminds me more of sake than regular vodkas like Smirnoff, Absolut, Belvedere or Grey Goose.
Whenever alcohol is drunk, a male would be in charge of pouring out the alcohol. Typically one or a few communal glasses would be used, and the male would be topping up the glass and handing it out to the guests. Only the right hand is used in handling the glass, be it receiving or giving, and guests can choose to either drink the entire glass or have one or several sips and hand the glass back. The common tradition of toasting and clinking glasses together as one big group is absent, and instead, you’d drink whenever you’d like when you have the glass.
Mongolians are big on singing, and whenever they get together in a group, once someone starts singing, everyone breaks out in song and joins along. Everyone knows most of the popular songs, and there are traditional songs that everyone knows. These songs are typically about the love that they have for their mothers, or their love for Mongolia, or the bond that they have with their horses, which seem to be revered creatures with the Mongolian nomads.
Living a Simple Mongolian Nomadic Life
The daughter of Puulee and Muugii knew basic English, so I could communicate with her. I was very curious as to why her parents chose the nomadic life even though they could choose to live in the city. It turns out that they greatly treasured freedom and autonomy, and much preferred working and living off the land than to be in a cubicle or office.
It was a very foreign concept, but after living with them for 8 days, I could begin to grasp why. It was an incredibly different lifestyle, but one that was so simple. Your basic needs of shelter and food were met through hard work from your own efforts, and you had a small close community who would meet regularly. Anything else that we need is really just a luxury.
Solo travel? And on top of that, getting lessons from solo travelling? That was something that I had never dreamt of before. When I exited my business in 2017/18, I didn’t know where my life would lead. In fact, I didn’t even know that I would still be continuing to learn about business, despite no longer running a business. The business lessons learnt were different and impacted me a lot more than when I was running my business though. Here’s how it all started.
The first thing that I had to face when I exited my business was that I suddenly found myself with a huge void in my life, especially since I spent almost every day working on my business in the past. With my release from my work responsibilities, I decided that I would go travel and see the world properly, which was something that I never had the time to do in the past.
Strangely enough, however, even after making the decision, I still felt encumbered. It was a very strange stifling feeling. I knew that I was definitely able to take the time to travel but yet felt like I had all these ties and commitments still.
I figured that I needed to reset my life, and so I had the sudden decision to go on a purge. The idea struck me one moment, and I decided to embrace it fully. In my mind, purging was a great concept because it could allow me to start from absolutely nothing again – a blank slate. That was the best way that I felt I could make any future decisions without any feelings of existing responsibility or commitment.
In the next few weeks, I sold and got rid of everything that I owned, which included my car, apartment, and most of my possessions. It was scary at first to let go of all these items but it slowly turned into a sense of liberation. It felt good because with every item I let go of, it was one item less of what I thought defined me. It freed me and I felt like I could start on a new slate. I had become a minimalist, and with my greatly reduced possessions, I finally felt ready to go on to travel the world.
Planning A Solo Travel Itinerary
Figuring out where to go was difficult, especially since this was the first time that I was travelling solo. I was hit with decision paralysis because of the sheer options that were available to me. I decided to break down the problem and look at it with just a few simple goals: to travel to where I wanted to do activities such as snowboarding and to visit my friends. This made the problem much easier to work on, and I found that I could more easily work a solo travel itinerary around this.
By piecing together all these trips, this became my schedule:
2018 Nov 08 to Nov 18 Ulaanbaatar Nov 18 to Nov 20 Hong Kong Nov 21 to Nov 23 Macau Nov 23 to Nov 25 Shenzhen Nov 25 to Nov 27 Huizhou Nov 27 to Nov 28 Hangzhou Nov 28 to Dec 01 Shanghai Dec 01 to Dec 17 Singapore Dec 18 to Jan 23 California
2019 Jan 24 to Mar 02 Niseko Mar 03 to Mar 13 Singapore Mar 15 to Apr 09 New York City Apr 09 to Apr 21 Los Angeles Apr 21 to Apr 30 Edinburgh Apr 30 to May 16 Wroclaw May 16 to May 19 Oslo May 19 to May 28 Wroclaw May 28 to Jun 02 Lisbon Jun 02 to Jun 07 Barcelona Jun 07 to Jun 08 Frankfurt Jun 08 to Jun 09 Cologne Jun 09 to Jun 10 Mainz Jun 10 to Jun 12 Frankfurt Jun 12 to Jun 17 Leiden Jun 18 to Jun 24 Taipei Jun 24 to Jul 06 Singapore Jul 07 to Jul 09 Penang Jul 09 to Jul 10 Singapore Jul 11 to Jul 15 Canggu Jul 15 to Jul 17 Singapore Jul 18 to Jul 20 Adelaide Jul 20 to Jul 27 Melbourne Jul 27 to Sep 21 Queenstown Sep 21 to Sep 25 Auckland Sep 26 to Sep 30 Singapore Oct 01 to Oct 03 Kuala Lumpur Oct 03 to Oct 25 Singapore Oct 25 to Oct 31 Canggu Nov 01 to Nov 16 Singapore Nov 16 to Nov 19 Beijing Nov 19 to Nov 22 Foshan Nov 22 to Nov 25 Phan Rang Nov 26 to Nov 27 Ho Chi Minh Nov 27 to Dec 05 Singapore Dec 05 to Dec 10 Bangkok Dec 21 to Dec 25 Danang Dec 24 to Dec 25 Hoi An
2020 Jan 06 to Jan 10 Kuala Lumpur Jan 10 to Jan 13 Bangkok Jan 16 to Jan 18 Tokyo Jan 18 to Feb 29 Hakuba
I still considered Singapore my home. I’d travel for months at a time before I returned to Singapore though, typically to tend to bills and errands and get items that I needed for the next part of my trip.
What Did I Do When I Was Travelling Solo?
Depending on where I was, I had different things that I focused on. When I was in California, I spent time with a buddy of mine and his family whom I hadn’t seen in years because of the distance and the lack of time.
When I wasn’t spending time with them, I had rented a car and so I drove around to different parks and mountains. I loved the views and being in nature, especially since Singapore was such a concrete jungle. The rest of the time I would be going around to different cafes, where I’d read or write articles for my blog.
When I went to Japan in winter, I spent everyday snowboarding. Life then took on a much different focus. The day would be spent on the slopes, and in the evenings it would be a simple dinner and the days would repeat. Almost every day had new friends that I met and could hang out with. I thought time would pass slowly, but the 5 weeks that I spent in Japan disappeared in a blink of an eye.
I also wanted to do a road trip, and so decided on Scotland, especially since I had a friend there. My friend and I rented a little compact Toyota and spent 2 weeks exploring northern Scotland. It was amazing being right in the midst of the awe-inspiring castles, mountains, and rivers of Scotland.
I also did other things, such as pursue my snowboard instructor certification, tried fine dining at a top-ranked restaurant, drive on the autobahn, did a road trip in a camper van, lived out of a farm, and spent a week living with Mongolian nomads. These were both experiences that I cherished and the journey also provided me with several business lessons learnt, which I’ll cover below.
After a while though, I started appreciating slow travel a lot more. One of the best times of my travelling experiment was when I was in Wroclaw, Poland. I stayed in an AirBnB apartment, and spent my days going to the gym, shopping at the local supermarket, cooking most of my meals, hanging out with friends in the evenings, and working on myself. The fact that I was in a location for a month gave me the time needed to think and reflect, and I discovered a lot of things about myself then, especially with the lessons from solo travelling that I had.
Where Did I Stay When I Was Travelling?
While travelling, I stayed in all kinds of accommodations. I stayed in:
Hostels (mixed dormitory)
Hostels (private room, ensuite bathroom and toilet)
One of the lessons from solo travelling that I had was the change in my accommodation preference. When I was doing business and having holidays in the past, I preferred hotels and luxury. After travelling solo, I learnt that my favourite kind of accommodation were hostel dormitories. Because of the communal aspect, they allow me to meet new friends and it was incredibly social, which was great when I was by myself and had a few days in a new country.
I found everyone at hostels to be extremely friendly and welcoming. If you could smile and say hi, you could make new friends.
Lessons From Solo Travelling
Being able to travel this way is a great gift, and I had several business lessons from solo travelling.
Business Lessons Learnt: Simplification Is Key
One of my greatest business lessons from solo travelling around the world that I learnt was that you don’t need a lot. When you’re halfway around the world, you don’t want an apartment lease in your home country because that means you’re paying for 2 places every day. You also don’t want to be lugging big suitcases around the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh or the congested roads of Bali. That means you have to really focus on bringing only what’s essential.
When you are forced to remove what you previously thought was necessary, and then still thrive after that, it becomes a sobering wake-up call. I was actually unnecessarily burdening myself with additional stress and cognitive load without actually becoming better as a result of it. In fact, I was actually encumbered.
That was the greatest reason why I identified with and became a minimalist. It reminds me of when I started and scaled up my business and how one of the things that we absolutely prioritised was to be lean and nimble. That allowed us to run circles around the incumbents and gain market share. You can’t win against a 400-pound gorilla in a head-on fight if you’re a newborn gorilla. However, if you’re lean and nimble, you can gain experience and get the food that you need without alarming the 400-pound gorilla, and suddenly, you’d grow to be bigger and stronger than he was.
Business Lessons From Solo Travelling: Ruthlessly trim the fat. Keep things simple. Be lean and hungry. Simplify, not complicate. That’s how you really grow.
Business Lessons Learnt: Sacrifices Are Needed For Your Vision
All this travelling spanned about a year, and it’s very possible that I could also spend 5 years or even a lifetime doing this in perpetuity. It all boiled down on what I felt was more important to me, and what I was prepared to sacrifice and compromise on. Like almost anything in life, everything happens on a sliding scale and ultimately the choice that we make also incorporates the sacrifices that are built into those choices.
In the case of travelling, I found that the time that I spent travelling gave me great perspective and experience, but it took away the ability for me to set down roots. Friendships and relationships become very transient because I was only around physically for a certain amount of time. I missed events such as birthdays and weddings. While I expanded my ability to meet many people, it is much harder for me to get the chance to develop something deeper.
It reminded me of when I chose to be an entrepreneur in 2002. It was a choice that required sacrifices. I had to give up most of my social events, spend less time on my relationships with friends and family, and pare down on my hobbies and entertainment. In return, I could dedicate most of my time and attention to my business.
Business Lessons From Solo Travelling: Not only do you need to know what your vision and dream are, but you also have to be prepared for the sacrifices necessary to bring it to fruition.
Business Lessons Learnt: Your Focus Can Change Your Behaviour
When I was in my home country of Singapore, I realised that I was living with certain assumptions and perspectives. Without being aware of it, I also let society and people’s expectations affect and mold the way I thought. This meant that I always had a certain way of behaving that stemmed from what was acceptable by society and from people who knew me.
The peculiar thing was that when I left my home country, I had none of these binding me anymore. These lessons from solo travelling showed me that what I had thought was truth was just an assumption, and that I could be free to express myself.
In fact, when I realised this, I slowly became aware that it was even possible to experiment with new personality traits that I had not thought of displaying before. For instance, I was typically more reserved in Singapore, but while travelling and living a life outside of Singapore, I could experiment with being much more out-going and expressive.
It made me realise that if this is true, then we are completely able to shape who we are if we spend time and effort into developing the traits that we want to see from ourselves. With deliberate and progressive practice, these traits would slowly become ingrained and natural to our identities.
If you have thought that you needed to be more outspoken or less judgemental or more empathetic or less shy — the good news is that you can. One way to do it is to force yourself to do the things that you would otherwise not have done, but in a progressive manner because it’s unnatural and absolutely scary. Start with really simple and basic steps to test and see how it feels, and then build the desired behaviour from there.
Business Lessons From Solo Travelling: You can be who you want to be if you deliberately commit to practising the traits that you want to see from yourself.
Business Lessons Learnt: Understanding Your Target Market
I remember waking up in Manhattan on a Sunday with the whole day ahead of me, with nothing planned. I was thinking about activities to fill my day with and the first thing I thought about was to visit an attraction. There were tonnes in Manhattan: the Statue of Liberty, MOMA, Chelsea Market, etc.
Then I caught myself because I realised that I wasn’t feeling particularly excited at all, so I asked myself why I was even wanting to visit an attraction. That was when I realised I was only planning to visit an attraction because they were popular places to visit, and not because I actually wanted to visit them.
In fact, I had a much happier time when I went to a craft beer taproom, hung out there and started having conversations with people I met there.
Of all the lessons from solo travelling that I learnt, this was the greatest lesson and revelation for me: It turns out that doing what is popular isn’t what you have to subscribe to. And what is popular isn’t necessarily what you would want. And that’s something that I found to be true in many cases. In fact, when I travelled and heard the perspectives that others had, I realised that there are so many different groups of people who were passionate about so many different things.
When I was behind a computer, it was hard to imagine my target market or target demographic. I had forgotten it, but while we’re all different, we’re all human beings with pains, fears, dreams, problems, likes, and dislikes. When you truly understand your target market, your message to them can become so much more clear and specific.
Business Lessons From Solo Travelling: Understand your target market and target demographic really well. If you can speak to this market authentically, you can form a real connection with them when you’re growing your business.
Learn how to set SMART goals in business. This process will help to align your business and your team towards the same direction and ensure that everyone is running towards the same targets, which is an essential part of scaling up your business.
We all have things that we want to achieve or obtain, but these thoughts remain in our heads until the day we decide and commit to making it happen. This is especially true for business owners and entrepreneurs because their businesses need to manifest these thoughts.
The way we can translate our thoughts into something tangible is by making them into goals. Goals are great because they give us a sense of direction, motivation, and focus. However, the problem is figuring out how to set goals and achieve them.
Thankfully, there’s a formula for setting good goals – it’s known as SMART. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. This is a formula that helps us ensure that our goals are well-structured, achievable, and trackable. With this formula, we can learn how to set SMART goals in business and achieve them.
How To Set SMART Goals in Business
Imagine you’re a sales executive and you’d like to have some career progression. Here’s a good example and bad example on how to set a goal.
A bad example of a goal is: “I’d like to get promoted soon”.
A good example of a SMART goal is: “Within 5 years, I’d like to have the network and skills needed to be the head of sales in an MNC that leads at least 30 people across the Southeast-Asia region. I’ll need to take on projects that will give me leadership opportunities, go for additional studies to gain management skills, and network with people from companies that I’d like to be part of.”
Similarly, this can be applied to businesses that business owners run as well.
A bad example of a goal is: “I’d like to hit $1 million in revenue”.
A good example of a SMART goal is: “Within 1 year, my business needs to hit $1 million in revenue, up from $500,000 which it is doing currently. To do so, we will need to sign up 6 more channel partners, grow Facebook ad spending to $2 million, and implement an affiliate program.”
Let’s break it down this SMART goal into its components and see how we can set a good SMART goal.
SMART Goals in Business: Specific
Good goals are well-defined, clear, and free of ambiguity. This increases the probability that we will accomplish these goals. When we consider the specificity of a goal, these 5 W’s must be answered:
What is it that you want to accomplish?
Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
Who are the people involved in this goal?
Where is this goal located?
Which resources do I need to accomplish this goal?
SMART Goals in Business : Measurable
It’s important that we have specific criteria that allow us to measure our progress. This lets us know how well we’re doing and whether or not we’re making progress towards the accomplishment of the goal, or just spinning our pedals.
When we see progress, it’s easier for us to stay motivated and focused. Meeting milestones towards our goal gives us a sense of excitement of getting closer to achieving our goal. These are some questions that a measurable goal should address:
Quantity: How much and how many are we talking about?
What are the key metrics that will tell you about your progress?
SMART Goals in Business : Achievable
While we want to shoot for the moon, we should have goals that we can figure out ways to achieve. Good goals should stretch us and challenge us, but not overwhelm us and cause us to give up on the goal. Ask yourself these questions:
How can you achieve this goal?
What resources and capabilities are needed to achieve this goal?
What resources are you missing and how can you obtain them?
SMART Goals in Business : Relevant
One important factor on whether we’re setting a good goal is how relevant is it to our lives and our purpose. A goal must matter to us, otherwise, we won’t have the interest nor motivation needed to achieve it. Consider these questions when coming up with your SMART goal:
Is this the right time for you to pursue this goal?
Is it a worthwhile goal for you to pursue?
Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve this goal?
Do I have the support that’s necessary (especially if you have a family or other commitments)
SMART Goals in Business : Timely
A well-defined SMART goal has one important element, and that’s a timeline. You need to know when the goal starts, and when you’re expecting to achieve it. If the goal has no element of time to it, then you will not feel a sense of urgency, importance, or motivation to work at the goal. Make your goals timely by setting deadlines for your goals.
How To Apply SMART Goals in Business
SMART goals can be applied to all aspects of our lives, not just in business. Try setting small SMART goals to get familiar with the process of how to set goals and achieve them. This gets the momentum going where you start achieving small goals, then move on to bigger goals.
Minimalism and Happiness? Never did I think that becoming a minimalist would change my life so much. Once upon a time, I thought that all that mattered in life were the things that you possessed. Things like your car, house, watch, clothes. I chased all of that for many years, until I woke up one day, and realised: “What’s the point of buying so much stuff?“
That was the first step of me becoming a minimalist and experiencing real joy – exactly 92.6% happier. I kid, the exact number is harder to quantify, but it has definitely made me much happier as a result.
What is Minimalism?
Minimalism is about living intentionally, and with a clarity about what possessions make us happy and what do not. It removes distractions from our lives and allows us to focus on what is essential. Minimalism is highly specific to every individual, so everybody has a different degree of what minimalism means to them.
For example, a baker will probably appreciate and use a blender and a mixer, among other things, in his/her home. However, a baking enthusiast who uses the equipment only once in a year might be better off renting/borrowing the equipment, rather than buying them.
How I Got Started With Minimalism
I first had to understand what made me happy. Through several months of deep self-reflection and self-questioning, I discovered that there was only one thing that truly did, and that was freedom. Freedom in the sense that I was free to make any choices that I so wished.
When I had that clarity, I realised a lot of my possessions were actually preventing me from doing that. Unlike what societal norms encouraged, I didn’t need a flashy car, luxury watches, big apartment, or a multitude of clothes. These were distractions. Buying into them actually gave me a lot more headaches, because I now needed to worry about maintenance, not damaging these items, researching on the next better model, being concerned about the color coordination of my outfits, and the list goes on.
Ultimately, I made the choice to get rid of everything. That was the first step of becoming a minimalist – commitment to the decision.
I started with the bigger objects first. Since I was in a metropolitan city with a great public transportation system, I decided to sell off my flashy car. In fact, I realised I didn’t need a car at all. My original reasons were to keep up with the Joneses and to make myself feel good about myself. I didn’t need to do that. It was just myself speaking from a position of low self-confidence, and using my possessions as a convenient crutch for something more meaningful.
Next, I got rid of my big apartment, and down-sized to a smaller apartment, but in a much more convenient location. My workplace, gym, supermarket were all places that I had to frequent almost daily, and I made all these my priorities. Eventually, I found a location where these places were supremely convenient to access via train or foot.
Becoming a Minimalist: The Initial Sweep
In the process of moving apartments, I had the opportunity to get rid of more of my possessions. Since it was a much smaller space (roughly half the size), I was actually forced to get rid of a lot of clutter. You may not know it, but clutter comes in many shapes and sizes. Most surprisingly, clutter does not just look like “junk”. Clutter can even come in the shape of a fancy Nespresso coffee maker, a classy KitchenAid Mixer, a sporty wakeboard surf rack, or a luxurious TV set.
All these items were really nice things, but they had one thing in common: I didn’t use them much. I got them because they were “cool”, “everyone had one”, and “I would use them someday”. I decided to get rid of all of them, either by giving them away to my friends and family or by selling them away.
I definitely took a loss on all those things, but selling them taught me one thing as well: it was hard trying to get rid of things. It wasn’t something I could do in a day, nor was it something that allowed me to easily get back 100% or even 70% of the item’s value. Sometimes I had to give the item away because no one would buy it, or I had to sell it for half its original value or less. That really taught me about the intrinsic value of things and how we sometimes value things more than they’re worth.
Becoming a Minimalist: Clothes
Clothes were a particular bugbear and one that typically is a common excuse for someone not becoming a minimalist, myself included. I used to be so concerned about whether clothes would match and whether they look good.
Somehow over the years, I bought so many articles of clothing that I’d worn only a couple of times. I committed to becoming a minimalist in my thinking about my clothes and it was a huge change in my life.
Here’s how I did it, in this exact sequence.
I got rid of all my clothes that were worn-out, torn, ill-fitting, or yellowed.
Then, I gave away clothes that were good, but I didn’t like
For those clothes that I was unsure about and felt that “I should keep them just in case”, I forced myself to wear them in the upcoming days. Almost immediately, I knew if I really did like them enough to hang on to them.
For those leftover clothes that survived the rounds above, I wore them in my daily rotation.
I still have around 2-3 too many t-shirts at this point, but the idea is to not replace them after they eventually wear out. Ideally, my wardrobe will only consist of 2 kinds of attire: black t-shirt and jeans for daily wear, and blue workout t-shirt and shorts. I only have one kind of socks – black no-show socks that I can wear with anything (Serious life hack! If you only have one kind of sock, you will never lose socks or spend time matching socks after doing laundry anymore).
I still have 2 pairs of shoes now, but I’ll only have one pair in the end: a pair of white Adidas Stan Smith sneakers. They are great for casual or smart casual wear, and can be athletic enough for hikes or the gym. It’s especially important that they are solid soles because I do deadlifts and squats, so soft-foam shoes won’t cut it.
Becoming a Minimalist: What To Do With The Rest
I realised that I had a lot of small miscellaneous items: low-value, low-reusability items, such as letters, gifts, souvenirs, or swag. Giving away these items was hard because they had absolutely zero value to anyone else. I took photographs of any that I felt had sentimental value, and then I donated most of them to the Salvation Army and threw away the rest.
A lot of other miscellaneous items I had lying around the house turned out to be old micro-USB cables, adapters, screws, buttons and objects that I kept “just in case”. Most of them were never ever used. For those really important ones, I decided to keep them in a small box. For everything else that I could get from the supermarket or convenience store cheaply, I discarded.
I also realised that I had WAY too many supplies. I had multiple tubes of toothpaste and multiple bottles of shampoo and body wash. I bought several as spares because I was afraid of running out, but it’s really never a problem because you will always be able to get a replacement easily even if you really do run out. A convenience store or supermarket is always near enough.
Becoming a Minimalist: Useful Questions To Ask Yourself
Eventually, I got to a point where all my possessions could fit 2-3 suitcases (and my snowboarding bag). However, this was just the start. With the consumeristic society that we’re in, it’s so easy to start collecting stuff again. We get bombarded with advertisements on a daily basis, and we see products all the time. Even if we don’t visit any shops, buying products are just a click away on our mobile phones or computers. To combat this, I started coming up with several systems to stop myself from buying more, or at least be more conscious of what I buy.
I found that if I tried to delay my decision-making for as long as I can, most of the time, I end up not wanting that item after all. Besides delaying though, I found that there were several questions that helped me frame my thoughts properly whenever I considered buying something.
Do I want or need this?
Will I still like this when it’s no longer new and the novelty is gone?
Will it show wear gracefully?
Will it keep working reliably for a long time?
Will I want to maintain and service this?
Am I going to be using this enough?
Is this going to improve my life significantly?
Is there any of my current possessions that I can replace with this purchase?
Try Becoming a Minimalist Today
I hope this blog post helped show you my mindset regarding minimalism and happiness, and give you a better idea of it. Hopefully, you might even be inspired enough to try becoming a minimalist and experience for yourself how much joy minimalism has brought to me.
I’d like to hear from you! If you have any suggestions or anything to share, feel free to use the comment box below.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how to find more time in your day. It’s 2019 and I’m turning 35 years old this year. When I was a young 8-year-old kid in primary school, I had teachers who were 20-30 years old. I remember thinking to myself that they were really old. Now, I’m looking on as my 40th birthday approaches in 5 years’ time, and it’s a stark reminder of how fast time flies by, and how it’s important to find ways to get more time out of your day.
I’ve read a lot and heard a lot from people about how time is finite, and how it’s our most valuable resource. However, it all doesn’t sink in until you really pause and embrace the reality yourself. The biggest amount of time that I’ve spent on something is probably my career and my business. Because of that, I’ve had some form of financial success that I’m extremely thankful about. It took 17 years of my life, but it’s something that I don’t regret doing. Even if I was given the choice, I would not change anything in my past.
How To Find More Time In Your Day
What I have been more aware of though, is what it truly means when we “spend time” on something. I am a lot more cognizant of the fact that time is a resource that once used, is gone forever. That has since made me significantly more aware and careful of what I spend my time on.
Something that I have found useful is doing an audit on my use of time. This not only allowed me to identify what I’m spending time on, but also allowed me to optimise my time usage, and even get time back. In fact, I’ve found that there are 12 main ways on how to find more time in your day.
1. Have a personal master plan for yourself
“If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.”
When I was running my business, it was a necessity to have a roadmap of where we’d like to see the business in 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years. This clarity of your goals is something that everyone can benefit from having in their personal lives as well, and is something that you should have in your personal master plan.
Once you have this master plan, you’d be able to instantly gauge whether or not an upcoming activity is going to be helpful in terms of moving you towards your goals. As a prioritisation tool, a personal master plan is invaluable to help you spend time on things that matter, and if you don’t have one, you should learn how to start a personal master plan immediately.
2. Develop a daily routine
Besides having a personal masterplan, I found that having a daily routine really helps me create the time to work on the tasks that were important to me. More often than not, the ability to achieve a long-term goal is not decided by a single activity, but the cumulation of many repeated activities over time. Having a daily routine really helps you create and dedicate the time needed for these activities. Learn how to find more time in your day by starting a daily routine today.
3. List and prioritise your tasks the night before
Ever come to a point in the day where you’re suddenly at a loss about what to do? This typically happens if we don’t have a plan on what tasks to work on. When this happens, we scramble and start spending time thinking about what to do. The worst thing that can happen is if we end up spending that time on something not ideal, such as a convenient time-filling activity such as consuming social media, watching TV or playing video games.
4. Identify what makes you happy
There are many activities that we can do to fill up our lives. The problem is that we don’t have the luxury of having the time to do all of them. Identifying what truly makes you happy can give you the clarity to value certain activities over others. For instance, socialising is important, but perhaps you prefer group outings over individual catch-ups or vice versa. Knowing your preference can allow you to choose activities selectively.
5. Stop mindless entertainment
This includes activities such as watching TV, playing video games, or consuming social media, but it doesn’t mean stopping them completely (see next point). It just means that we shouldn’t use these convenient activities as time-fillers. These forms of activities are so convenient that if we don’t become more mindful of them, we can prioritise them over more important activities that we need in our lives.
6. Start having planned breaks and enjoy them mindfully
It runs contrary to logic, but you can’t discover how to find more time in your day without spending time doing nothing. Breaks, where we do nothing, are necessary and welcome. When we take planned breaks, they become periods in which we can use to recharge and recuperate. The danger is taking breaks too often or too carefreely. Then they become excessive and consume too much of our time that we could have used for other activities.
7. Batch activities together
One of the worst things that we can do in terms of productivity is to have a fragmented workday or even work week. To switch between tasks back and forth, we have to restart from where we left off and makes the entire process very inefficient. To really see improvements in productivity, try batching activities together.
Batching means grouping activities so that you spend an entire block of time just on one type of activity, such as checking and replying emails, or doing accounting for your business, or working on a marketing campaign.
For instance, you could spend two hours in the afternoon checking your emails and replying to any that need a response. Outside of that time, you don’t check your emails at all. I found that this is a particularly effective way how to find more time in your day.
8. Turn off notifications
Unlike its intent, notifications that our mobile phones and computers send us don’t serve us very well in terms of productivity. The only times that we should be alerted is if something absolutely critical happens. Otherwise, we get trapped into a habit of constantly checking our phones and desktops for new notifications.
It actually isn’t necessary for us to immediately reply to any messages or emails that come in. Focus on your tasks instead, and schedule times to check for anything important. If it’s an emergency, someone will call you.
9. Stop multi-tasking
It seems counter-intuitive, but the less we are juggling at any one time, the better it is for our productivity. Focusing on a single task at a time improves efficiency because switching back and forth between tasks incurs lapses of concentration. We also need to switch our frame of mind back to the task at hand. These micro-instances of time add up, and it becomes better for us to simply just work on one thing at a time.
10. Start saying “No” more often
There are many things that we feel obliged to do because of either our status or of societal norms. If there is something that you need to do, prioritise it above these obligations, and ensure that it gets done before you commit your time to others.
Too often do we agree to people and demands on our time. It could be because we want to be nice, or it could from a sense of duty, but the thing is, saying “no” might be the better option. Agreeing to take on a task might seem like we are helping someone, but just like how the airlines tell us to “help ourselves before we help others” whenever we take a flight, it’s the more responsible thing to do to ensure that we give ourselves the time that we need before we go and give others our time.
11. Delegate or automate
A lot of the things that we experience in our daily lives can be delegated, automated, or even better — completely eliminated. The idea is to question the intent and be clear on whether or not something is done in the most efficient manner, or even needs to be done in the first place. Look to do only things that either make you happier or better, as that is one of the better ways on how to find more time in your day.
12. Stop being a perfectionist
Being perfect is idealistic, and unfortunately, isn’t good for productivity nor is it good for personal growth. What we should aim for instead, is a level of “good enough” where you look at getting the most tasks done, instead of getting the most out of a single task.
How To Find More Time In Your Day
Not all of these ideas can be adopted and used immediately. You most probably will need to ease into these ideas gradually, but when you do, you’ll find that it’ll help you regain so much more time. I hope this helps you find out how to find more time in your day. Do you have any personal experiences, or are there any other methods that you use that aren’t covered? Leave a comment below!
If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt over the years, it’s how important it is for you to get out of your comfort zone and grow. You need to feel uncomfortable. Comfort kills. It’s strange to think of it that way at first, but being comfortable is the worst thing if you are looking to grow.
We only get comfortable when we aren’t being challenged. Without challenges and without pushing our limits, we won’t grow. Our body doesn’t grow new and bigger muscles unless there’s a need for them. That’s why bodybuilders always push themselves to failure. It’s uncomfortable, but like our muscles, stress creates growth. I’ve learnt that being comfortable is a huge red flag that I’m stagnating.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone And Grow: Learning A New Skill
When I first started snowboarding in 2018, I remembered myself falling every other moment because it was so hard to find my balance on the snowboard. My butt, my wrists, my knees, my ribs — they would all hurt at one point or another because of all the falls that I would be taking. Falling wasn’t something that I wanted, but I had to fall before I could learn the movements needed for snowboarding. It was uncomfortable but necessary for growth.
As with any skill that we try to learn though, give it enough time and effort, and you’ll improve. After a few weeks, I became a lot better with snowboarding. One day, I was snowboarding when I realised something: I had learnt the basics and was comfortable with snowboarding. I wasn’t falling anymore. I could travel around the mountain with relative ease, and I could even start to carve. I was no longer the beginner snowboarder. However, this posed a new problem.
There comes a time in any learning journey when you start to stagnate, and I was stagnating in my snowboarding progress. You know the moment has come because you will start feeling comfortable again, and I was definitely getting comfortable with snowboarding at that point. When you feel comfortable, you know your mind has absorbed all the movements necessary and converted it into muscle memory, which means you aren’t learning anything more.
That’s how I knew that I had to find new ways to push myself. I started looking for new snowboarding skills to learn. If you’re familiar with snowboarding, I’ve started to force myself to learn how to jump, to butter, to do presses, to ride switch. I’m starting to fall all over the place again, and I’m feeling unsure and uncertain about all these new movements. It’s uncomfortable, but I love it because I know I’m growing again.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone And Grow: Starting a Business
When I first started my business with my co-founder, we were students and had no idea what we were doing. We weren’t trained entrepreneurs. We had to find ways to do everything. Nothing was guaranteed nor promised – we didn’t know if the business would succeed, nor if it would even work out. What both my co-founder and I knew was that the market desperately needed a good service provider, so we kept at it even though it was uncomfortable for both of us.
There were so many problems that we face while growing the company. For example, hiring the company’s first employees was a tough act. How do you even create an employment contract? How do you know how much to pay your employees? What do you say in job interviews, as the interviewer? Everything was very uncomfortable because it was new and foreign, but my co-founder and I had to do it because it was necessary for the business. It was do, or die.
What we faced wasn’t taught in textbooks. We didn’t have a guide to follow, and most things that we did were uncomfortable. But we learnt to associate that discomfort meant that we were growing. That was the mentality that got us through every single business problem that we faced trying to grow the business.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone And Grow: Getting Fit
Some time ago, I decided that I wanted to get fit. I wanted to look good aesthetically, and also have functional fitness because I wanted to do more sports better. To get fit, I had to embrace discomfort again.
One part of my fitness goal was to have six-pack abs. That involved two things – working out, and watching my diet. I had to ensure that my body fat percentage was low enough and that I work my abs hard enough. To do so, I needed to schedule regular workouts, and change the way I ate.
No matter what the diet was, the base concept remained the same: calories in, calories out. I had to be below my maintenance calories in order to lose weight. For me, that was 1800-2000 calories. I threw everything that I didn’t need out of the window just so that I could hit this caloric goal every day. It was an uncomfortable change because it was a new way of eating. I stopped drinking sugared beverages and reduced my intake of oil and fats. I focused on eating smaller portions and stopping snacks so that I could hit my caloric goal.
I also made it a point to wake up early, so that I could have time to work out. I was always a night owl, but the mornings were the best time for me to work out due to my work schedule. It was an uncomfortable change, but I forced myself to do it every day.
After a few months of this, I formed new habits that became my new lifestyle and I hit my goal of having six-pack abs.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone And Grow: Chasing Your Dreams
Dreams are nice. They give us hope. But unless we actively make it a point to make our dreams a reality, they will always remain as dreams. To do so, we need to make sacrifices that will push us out of our comfort zone.
With only 24 hours a day, the largest sacrifice that we have to make are our activities. Do you have a goal that you want to reach, but constantly have excuses, such as “I have no time”? Well, everyone can make time. You sacrifice other things in order to get the time that you need. It can be family time, fitness, errands, sleep, entertainment, but whatever it is, it won’t be an easy sacrifice. It will be uncomfortable to make.
Things that you might have spent a large part of your life doing will have to change. Just like a diet, you can’t eat everything and be at a weight that you want. You have to cut things out. It might be reading the newspaper, watching TV programs or movies, playing video games, or hanging out with friends. When your friends meet for drinks, you’ll have to decline because you have to sacrifice that for something else that matters more to you.
All these activities that you grew accustomed to will have to be cut away from your life, and it will be uncomfortable. However, it’s a necessary part of chasing your dreams. You’ll need to get out of your comfort zone and grow. You won’t get the time to work on pursuing your dreams if you’re remaining comfortable and make no changes to your life.
I don’t have a TV, I don’t have cable, I don’t play video games, and I limit my social media time. These activities are very entertaining, but I made an active choice to avoid them. There are many dreams that I want to pursue, and these entertainment activities aren’t that high on my priority list. It’s still uncomfortable for me whenever I cut these things out, but it’s easier since I’m aware of why I’m making these sacrifices for.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone And Grow
The area that you’re comfortable in is known as your comfort zone, and anything else outside of it is your discomfort zone. If you stay within your comfort zone, things will be extremely comfortable. However, your discomfort zone is the zone in which you will experience growth. Over the years, I have grown to love the discomfort zone and that’s where I always try to be in, as I’ve associated being uncomfortable as necessary to my growth.
You can start to ease into your discomfort zone too, with baby steps. First, start by becoming familiar with the idea of being uncomfortable. This requires a re-framing of the concept of being uncomfortable: pain, frustration, embarrassment, and especially failure.
Failure is an uncomfortable concept that people try to avoid because it’s a commonly-held misconception that it’s a bad thing. On the contrary, failure is necessary for growth and success. Try something that you know that you’ll fail at, and notice how failure isn’t a big deal at all. Try thinking of failure as a signal that you’re doing the right thing, or as a marker on your journey to success. Similarly, identify all the other negative thoughts about discomfort that are holding you back, and reframe them as positive allies in your journey of growth.
Actively seek out opportunities to test your limits and do something that you’ve never done before. Difficulty and challenge are both catalysts that force you to grow because you’ll need to adapt, change, learn, and stretch in order to overcome them. Start small. If working out is difficult for you, try just doing 10 push-ups every day for 2 weeks. If talking to strangers is tough for you, start by saying “hi” to service staff. These would be behaviours that, though small, are sufficient enough to test your boundaries and show you what’s possible.
All these small actions are a necessary step for you to get out of your comfort zone and grow. Once you get more comfortable and embrace how it feels like going into your discomfort zone, growth will naturally follow.
If you have stories or thoughts to share about being uncomfortable and of your discomfort zone, feel free to email me or leave a comment below.