I Wouldn’t Have Become A Podcaster If Not For This Programme

It’s a little surreal as I type this but since February 2nd, I have recorded 100 episodes of my podcast.

participants of the changing faces 2019 programme offered by the east west center hawaii

I started the podcast in 2020 – yep, during the pandemic lockdown but the idea came to me much earlier. In fact, it came to me in 2019, a couple of weeks before I landed in Oahu, Hawaii for a life-changing programme. A programme that I still hold dear in my heart because it gave me the guts to embark on a project that sounded as audacious if not crazy.

I armed myself with my pitch deck and took a terribly long flight (with a transit in Narita Airport) to Oahu, Hawaii. Until then, I had no idea that the pitch deck would become a reality. I was just thinking, “Oh how nice if I could start a podcast!”

I don’t want to repeat myself – you can hear that story in this episode which is also Episode 100 of my Womenpreneur Asia where Padmaja Vaswani, my friend in Mumbai, interviewed me about my podcasting process including how it began.

The Changing Faces Women’s Leadership programme is back again this year and it is open for any woman in the US or Asia or Pacific to apply. The deadline is 8 March 2024.

Each cohort has about 16 to 18 spots (although funding is for 6 to 8 women). If you get in, you receive a fully funded scholarship that is worth US$3,250.

I was lucky and grateful to have received a full scholarship to attend this programme for 2 weeks. All other expenses were on my own such as the US visa, insurance, baggage fees and air tickets.

Some years ago, friends asked me about increasing their chances of getting into this programme.

At the top of their minds was this: what are the programme folks looking for in selecting programme applicants? And of course, the next question, how did I succeed in getting into the programme?

Here’s the answer that I have uncovered.

Your eclectic interests, passions, community projects, body of work. Something unusual, unique, titillating and provocative.

Something in your background that spells value and contribution.

Something in your work that shows you are a leader.

Something that they can pair you up with another participant. (They usually find matching pairs of participants from different countries so that both can share and exchange experiences.)

Something in your work or pitch that they can find you a mentor for (they paired me with a doctor who is also a Hawaii radio host, Dr Kathleen Kozak for an evening together where I watched her record her radio show at the Hawaii Public Radio studio).

Something in your project that would be impactful to your community.

I deduced all these because I was curious how I was selected among the hundreds of applicants from Malaysia.

I asked my programme coordinator, Liz, who remarked quite matter-of-fact that the selection panel saw something attractive in my book adoption centre project that another participant from Fiji could learn from. (My Fijian friend was leading a book community project – a literacy project for children – at that time and I managed to share some ideas and strategies with her during our two weeks in Hawaii.)

That really surprised me.

That also helped me unlock a little of what the selection panel was looking for.

Complementary peers from different countries to help speed up the exchange of ideas that are already working!

But what happens if you don’t make it into the programme?

Does it mean your work isn’t useful or exciting?

Actually, no.

Again, it seems that if the selection panel cannot find a complementary peer or a Hawaiian mentor for the participant, they probably wouldn’t be able to help the participant.

Does it mean you can’t apply again the following year? You are encouraged to apply because circumstances evolve and you might find yourself accepted.

So on that note, if you would like a life-changing experience and visit Hawaii even if it’s for a leadership programme, check out the programme and apply if you meet the criteria. Even if you don’t, share this with friends. Or share my post with friends. 😉

Check it out here: https://www.eastwestcenter.org/apply/2024-changing-faces-womens-leadership-seminar

The closing date for the programme application is 8 March 2024.

Sometimes women need a kick in the butt to get going because we can offer up many excuses why we cannot leave our business, why this is not the right time for us, who would take care of the family and what would we even pitch as a project and head off for 2 weeks to the sparkling islands of Hawaii.

But you can. You have to want to do this badly though.

You have to believe in yourself when you apply.

Here’s a secret: I didn’t even bring my laptop along for the 2 weeks. My Asia Pacific peers were flabbergasted. Almost everyone brought along their laptops. I didn’t think I would need it and I was right.

We had packed days of lectures starting at 8am till 5pm, site visits on Oahu and to Maui the other island, mentor high school girls, learning visits to local businesses, etc. All I wanted to do at the end of each day was to shower, grab dinner and head to bed. And I just borrowed my Sri Lankan friend’s laptop when I needed to fine-tune my Google Slides.

Curious about all the other stuff? Find out more about what I did there in these posts:




One piece of advice: if you do get into the programme, extend your stay and explore the islands. I have one regret that I didn’t do this and I wished I did. After all, I had travelled so many hours and hopped on and off a few planes so I might have made better use of my time there. Two friends from the programme did just this and I am so envious! (It didn’t help that I had to fly back for a conference in Singapore the week after!)

Questions To Reflect On Your Year…Yes, It’s A Quirky Habit of Mine

I’m really pleased that I’ve just concluded Season 5 of my podcast and I am taking a break this month. December is my time to kick back, chill and rejuvenate myself for the upcoming year.

This year has been eventful on so many fronts but mainly I’ve had a grand time recording, editing and producing episodes. I’ve been talking to quite a number of women in business and interviewing them and sometimes chasing after podcast guests. I’ve had one guest that I didn’t feature because she didn’t meet my deadline (come on, I do my part and you do yours and you can’t even do that? Sorry but I can’t pander to your whims).

This weekend, Nic and I are headed to Gopeng for a short weekend with friends. I consider it a fun time with friends (his, not mine) but a trek in Nature is always welcome. And then my sister and dad will be driving up to Penang for a few days and so the next two weeks of December are basically lots of feasting, not much work or business and certainly licence to laze and graze.

I like taking this month to engage in some mindful reflection and that’s been my habit for many years now.

If I think about it, this discipline has stood me well as I keep benchmarking myself yearly and I am sometimes amazed at how much I have progressed in my thinking.

I encourage you to do so because these days, time does fly so fast. If we blink a bit more, we’d be in 2023. To me, a life unexamined is a life not worth living. Besides my gratitude journal that I attempt to fill daily with 3 things I am grateful for, I look out for other ways to empower me to get better as a human being.

It’s no surprise that I enjoy collecting thoughtful questions that prompt deep thinking. I collect questions to ask my podcast guests, varying questions and figuring out which questions are gems. Yes, I have a Google Doc titled “Great Questions To Ask Myself”. Each time I come by a great question, I file it away like a hamster stuffing pellets in its mouth.

You must be curious now.

I hope you are because I want to share these questions with you.

But before that, I found a website that is equally satisfying (to me at least) where I get to answer questions in a self-coaching method. The best part is that you can be reminded of your answers 3 months, 6 months, 9 months or even 12 months from today.

Reading my past answers shines a light on the way the previous me was processing information or understanding the world. And I get to answer the same questions again and compare my answers.

It’s really about seeing growth in myself over the past few months.

And I feel that I have grown so much in the past year. I’ve been disappointed, felt betrayed and yes even bitter about some incidents and people. I’m no saint. I’ve culled some friends from my life and I’m still removing people from my Contacts list. I’ve decided that there are some people that I would rather not be in contact with because of their selfishness and self-centeredness. I’ve also forgiven them and moved on and praying that they would get the hint and stay away.

You’d be surprised how much your thinking changes or how some principles don’t. I am thankful some parts of me have remained incredibly consistent but I am also surprised to know that some parts of me have re-defined ideas about life. If you’re a ruminative sort, you’d love this website.

My annual review questions help me take stock of my life.

I usually answer them in a Google Doc so that next year I can pull up the document and re-read it. I have a few years’ worth of annual reviews like these. If a company can have annual reviews and strategic planning, you too need to be more conscious of yourself.

I can’t recall who wrote these questions but these are amazing questions to keep asking myself. I’ve modified and combined them, remixed them if you will for my own use. Feel free to use them for your own journalling and reflection. It takes time to answer them all so spread them out over a few days. And if you have a couple of good questions of your own, please let me know too!

I hope you have a wonderful time resetting yourself and getting plenty of fun and rest before 2023 begins.

It’s quite interesting to engage in inner work. It’s the hardest to do but intensely satisfying when I get to the place called Truth.

Truth is painful but it’s there that I start to reset myself. Sometimes I blanket out what’s staring me in the face – denial is more fun – but denial doesn’t help me get better.

  • What have I accomplished in the last 12 months?
  • What was I most proud of? Why?
  • What was I most disappointed about? Why?
  • What 20% of my efforts give me 80% of my results?
  • What lessons have I learned in the last 12 months about myself and others?
  • Did any of the projects or priorities this year lead to improved relationships, partnerships or opportunities?  If yes, how can I do more? If not, why?
  • Was I smart about using my resources this year? If not, what happened? 
  • Who made a positive difference in my life recently? (Time to reconnect with these folks!)
  • Who should I be talking to, if I want to grow myself next year?
  • Who knows the person(s) that I want to know? 
  • Who can I connect with that has accomplished what I want to accomplish?
  • What relationships or partnerships am I looking to start or develop? Why?
  • What relationships or partnerships do I need to let go of? Why?
  • Apart from growth and money, what do I really want out of life?
  • What important issues should I be focusing on that will move the needle?
  • What’s happening around me that I may want to guard against?
  • What’s happening around me that I could take advantage of?
  • What simple pleasures, hobbies or pastimes have I forgotten but need to get back into?For next year, what should I do more?
  • What should I do less of?
  • What should I stop doing completely?
  • What does my 5-year body of work look like?
  • If I am looking at the next 5 years, what priorities make sense for the year ahead?
  • What decision/habit/action would Future Me thank me for?

By the way, a good friend and I are thinking of creating a workshop just for women called The Magic of Thinking Big in March next year.

It’s still in the discussion phase – a cosy group of women, maybe max 20 people – because I think it’s time women shared their secrets and started helping each other overcome some mental barriers. If you want to be notified of this event, email me using the contact form on this blog with the subject line “March”. Let’s see where this takes us.

Until then, have a good holiday season, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Today I Tried TikTok

These days I try to keep an open mind about the stuff around me. And yes, today I tried TikTok. I downloaded the app some weeks ago, checked out what videos are on the platform and initially I wasn’t impressed as I was shown a lot of Malaysian videos. I didn’t like those videos because they bordered on trashiness. Yes, I said it. Some of the videos are time-wasters.

Then I searched for people I know from other platforms and luckily I found a few familiar faces.

I followed them and then the videos on my page began to improve. TikTok probably learned that I didn’t care too much for tabloid videos. I started following some communicators, entrepreneurs and social media folks so my video feed improved. (I saw one Malaysian girl with 2 million followers on the platform and I didn’t like her videos at all! Was it funny? Supposedly. Was it useful? No. I felt I had wasted my time scrolling through her silly antics.)

I started asking myself why I was resistant to TikTok and I figured out that I don’t want to waste time. I like making the most out of my time as I am involved in my own business a lot. I like being effective.

I don’t like doing challenges or dance videos or lip-syncing. Trying to get attention for attention’s sake is not what I’m after.

But I do like to try and get a feel of how different this platform is compared to Instagram. And I like being my own guinea pig and figuring things out as I go along. So today I uploaded my first TikTok video.

So what tilted the balance for me?

Exploration and discovery. I don’t know this platform at all and going in with a newbie’s eyes can be thrilling. I have no expectations but I think I can give myself this opportunity to learn and see if it fits me and my personality. I want to use this to market my podcast – I already have audiograms so let’s see if this platform helps with the listens and downloads.

And anyway, I can always use my experience to help my clients because a lot of us are in our 30s and 40s and while I may not always understand the millennials today, I can try checking things out for myself and see if I like it.

The Rudeness of Some People

Why do people have to be rude? Do they get some secret thrill in being obnoxious and mean to others?

I was thinking about this over breakfast because a friend working at this week’s WCIT 2022 (the World Congress on Innovation and Technology) that’s happening in my part of the world texted me in a huff today.

She is in events and speaker support and part of her role include keeping panellists and speakers taken care of. One particular speaker, a Malaysian woman no less, was utterly rude and “bitchy-faced” to her.

I know this friend and she has been in the events management space for 18 years and has handled all kinds of people from dignitaries to celebrities in all sizes of conferences. She is no newbie to the job.

And that’s why I felt sorry for my friend. It’s the first day of the three-day conference and I’d be upset too if I got such a meanie in my face early in the morning.

What is it in people who can act all uppity and mean and think it’s OK? Are these people lacking a kindness gene or a be-nice gene? What kick do they get out of acting like a prima donna and having their bad reputation get all over the place? Is it a fun thing to do early in the morning?

I had my fair share of meanies too. Once I was recommended by a university friend to contact her long-time friend, A. My friend said A would be perfect for my podcast. I decided to call A after texting her and we agreed to speak.

On the phone, A sounded OK except that she started acting bitchy about 5 minutes into the call. She said she was already widely featured in the media and in no uncertain terms seemed to say, “So how big is your podcast again?”

I told her my podcast wasn’t big – I had just begun in 2020 and I was looking for exciting women in business to spotlight.

She scoffed in my face.

Yes, this Malaysian woman who thought so highly of herself was utterly rude. When she realized she was rude, she tried to backpedal but I said, it’s OK, we don’t have to do anything together.

When I got off the call, I asked myself, what is it with some women who won’t help other women? I was trying to explain to her about my podcast and its purpose but she didn’t think it was big enough for her.

I never give rude people second chances. I swore to myself that I will NEVER invite her to be on my podcast. I have interviewed many women in business and many are just regular women who have no airs. They’re down-to-earth, humble and happy to share their stories. Even the ones who have been interviewed a gazillion times by other media.

But I take the rejection as a lesson for me to be smarter in choosing who I wish to interview and spotlight. Why should I give the spotlight to someone who doesn’t deserve it? Someone who thinks she is better than all of us?

I reminded myself that for that one bitchy woman who derided my request that there are hundreds of other women who will be supportive and even grateful.

Why do some women have to be bitchy to one another when we know how tough it is to do what we each do?

Why do some women compete when they can collaborate?

Why do some women feel compelled to show off and act like the queen when it’s not warranted?

Are these women insecure?

So if you’ve had experiences like mine, I need to know, how do you handle rude people?

Your Chance To Head To Hawaii

The Changing Faces programme is back!

I had the chance to be selected and given the scholarship to attend this women’s leadership programme in July 2019 and it was life-changing!

Thanks to this programme, I launched my Womenpreneur Asia podcast which is now in its 4th season with 45 episodes to boot. And to think back in July 2019, I was scratching my head trying to figure out how to get the podcast launched!

If there are pivotal moments in my life, this programme is one of them. (I did a presentation and talk when I came back. Here are the slides from that session.)

I met amazing women from the rest of Asia Pacific whom I still keep in touch with. And one of the best things is that I get to meet other women who have taken the programme. We are now alumnae of this leadership programme and share a kinship even if we haven’t met each other. The network is incredibly diverse and when you take part in this, you are plugged into an ecosystem of knowledgeable women across the Asia Pacific and beyond.

In fact, I recently interviewed a Mongolian woman for my podcast who is my “senior” from this programme – she had been part of this programme a few years before me. In the Hawaiian term, we are “ohana” or family!

I blogged about my experiences in Hawaii and they are unforgettable.

If you want a quick version, here’s a summary video of what we did in those 2 memorable weeks on the islands of Oahu and Maui.

Can you spot me in the video below?

This year, the programme is open again for applications and if you do get into the programme, you will experience the magic that is Hawaii.

It is only for women though so read the application criteria carefully and may your body of work, experience and knowledge get you into this programme.

Find out more at https://www.eastwestcenter.org/professional-development/seminars-journalism-programs/changing-faces-womens-leadership-seminar

Cultivating The Brand of You: Here’s What I Learnt

As a writer and marketer and a business owner, I have been writing and marketing a lot in the past 2 years (especially live streaming which was a challenge and fear I set to conquer and podcasting). I think of the past 2 years as important because they’ve been instrumental to my own growth, of me pushing my own boundaries.

But the past 2 years have also been memory lapses where sometimes I think hard about what I’ve been doing and I can’t recall some parts of the year or even a specific month! Have you had that happen to you as a result of too many off and on lockdowns?

Work and business have been interesting – many new opportunities are opening up and I believe they’re a result of me finally taking charge of what I want.

And early this month, I was also pleased to receive an award (or rather a medal) from the Penang State Governor in conjunction with his 72nd birthday. It was a delightful surprise to receive the official letter but it was not pleasant to undergo a PCR swab test before I could attend the official awards ceremony!

Received the Pingat Kelakuan Terpuji from the State Governor of Penang on 10 November.

Many friends congratulated me on LinkedIn and Facebook, remarking that I deserved the award/medal because of the work that I have been doing in the Penang community. The oddest thing is, I never started out desiring any award or medal for the work that I do. Perhaps that is the biggest lesson of all – even for me.

The new Penang Governor pinning the medal on me. I know, my hair got messy!

My work originates from the interest that I have in women’s empowerment particularly from the entrepreneurship point of view. I am also a big believer in communication which is again related to my background in copywriting, website content strategy and SEO content development. In addition, I also am a proponent of zero waste living where I personally try to reuse, repurpose and recycle as much as I can. And I love to talk about marketing to clients and friends and all these different threads of interests converge in ways that enable me to serve in various capacities in the community.

So I guess the big lesson here is to truly focus on what you want to do and do it whole-heartedly and with sincerity. People and organisations will notice.

Just last week, I was invited to a youth entrepreneurship competition by a friend. This is how I know that my core interests are resonating with others – they start to associate me with events and people related to marketing and entrepreneurship.

This brings me to this topic – personal branding or personal brand. A lot of people like to talk about this but have very little idea how to go about it. A personal brand is about associating oneself with what one wants to be known for. But it is also about being true to your own motivation and needs. It is not faking it nor is it putting on a mask for the world. It is not about trying too hard or about wanting to please others.

(It’s not about playing to your ego. Some unheard of companies will come to you and say you’re nominated and finalised for the best entrepreneur award or will be listed in some book or Xpedia or publication but here’s the kicker – you have to pay to be listed! In the past, the unscrupulous ones baited people with greed but now with prestige, fame and power, they latch onto your ego and here’s the best paragraph: “To support this, we expect a standard sponsorship fee of $2500 in which you will receive all the aforementioned benefits along with the print edition of the magazine to your office address and one time opportunity to place your company Ad in the future editions of your choice.” To this end, I see so many acquaintances I know who are listed in these “publications” and I want to scream, what the heck are you all sane people thinking?)

In my case, I also enjoy TCM (that’s Traditional Chinese Medicine) and exploring the world of TCM herbs, meridians and Qi and if you know me, you know I even dedicate a blog to this subject. And yet, I don’t talk very much about this unless I need to. It’s because I want to be associated with certain topics that are business-focused. Does it mean that TCM is not important? Not at all. TCM is my lifelong passion but I have no intention of turning it into a business. I am a hobbyist and I am contented to be a hobbyist. I have no grand dreams of becoming a TCM practitioner although I am familiar with herbs and how herbs can contribute to a healthier life.

And perhaps this is where being extremely strategic and focused come into play. In cultivating a personal or even company brand, it takes as much effort to subtract as much as it is to add. It is very easy to add and get complicated. It is a herculean effort to subtract. But it is in subtraction that we cut away the unnecessary and trivialities that bog us down.

I would never say I know everything that there is to know about crafting a personal brand but I know enough to get me where I want to go. I see women, especially women who strive for recognition and success but the formula isn’t about striving for recognition or success – the formula is simply identifying 2-3 core passions that drive you regardless of the fame or money and keep talking about these passions online and offline and keep being valuable and helpful even as you promote these passions!

Even as recently as last week, a woman who works in one of the multinational companies messaged me on LinkedIn saying that she wants to contribute to women’s development and is interested in this topic and could I let her know how she could get started? I give her brownie points for this as she knows what she is keen about and willing to explore!

These days it’s even easier. You have your own blog (which I always encourage anyone with a point of view to start because it is YOUR space to pontificate and no one can ever tell you to get off the platform) and you have social media.

Soon the people around you will notice you and your work. It helps if you can get into organisations that fuel that passion further which means strengthening your brand as you serve the people you are with. Look for men and women who can mentor or guide you and always be open to getting advice. And if you can, volunteer with a diverse group of people because you can only grow when you start understanding others and how to work with others. I’ve worked with all kinds of people, from the very young to people in their 70s and 80s and I’ve appreciated these interactions for the experiences they’ve imparted. I also have friends from all kinds of backgrounds as this helps to inform me of all the things I don’t know about! Diversity truly makes me smarter.

I’ve always been open to working on short-term projects with people I don’t know or even people I know well. In projects, I get to see how people really work (or don’t – and yes there are plenty of that too!). I get to decide if I want to work with some people again based on their behaviour and attitude in the first project that we are in. If I see some aberrations in their character, I stay a mile away after that. It’s easier to say no later because you already know who they are and how they work.

So I use projects to tease the true personalities of people I meet. It’s usually an accurate way of figuring out a person. If someone is helpful in a project, you bet that person is helpful outside of the project. If a person is lazy, crappy on follow-up and goes AWOL most of the time, I will never be in the same project or fundraiser with this person again no matter how nice she or he is in the eyes of others.

I’ve learnt the hard way sometimes when I trust too much so I’ve devised a method to deal with people who initially seem nice but you don’t want to be on their team when crap hits the fan. I’ve seen “leaders” throw their followers under the bus when troubles brew.

Gail Gibson, the podcaster of The Can Do Way

Speaking of which, I spoke about this when I was featured on The Can Do Way podcast recently. Yes, November has been a surprising month for me. Check it out if you want to find out what I said about cultivating my can-do attitude. A friend texted me yesterday from Europe saying that she found it refreshing and authentic and her favourite thing that I said was that “Open yourself up to the world and the world will open up to you”. I can’t recall I said that but hey, that’s what I meant when I said this pandemic is causing me to have memory blips! (And the fact that I am also simultaneously managing various endeavours may have something to do with it!)

I’m thinking of writing a book of what I’ve learnt as a woman, entrepreneur, podcaster, connector, marketer and storyteller. The very least is that I can help someone out there with what I’ve learnt.

What do you think? What would entice you to read a book like this? Or what would you hope to learn from a book like this? Your thoughts are welcome!

The Rocks, Sand, Pebbles and Water of Life

When things get to busy, I try to take a pause and recollect and reflect. This is how I attain some form of peace in my life and also check myself, to see if I’ve been doing too much or “running” too fast.

Many friends I know often exclaim that I do a lot.

And yesterday, I started to believe it when I had to write and submit a profile of community work I had done to someone who was nominating me for something. The fact that she said she wanted to nominate me was itself an honour.

I read through what I submitted to her and realized I have been contributing in my own way to the development of women through WomenBizSENSE and then through the Penang State via Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC).

Granted, I do sit on the board of PWDC as a director (I’d rather just call it committee member) but unlike most directorships where it’s clear who calls the shots and who does the work, the board of directors at PWDC is very much hands-on. I’m truly proud to be with some of the smartest women in Penang on this board.

I was nominated to sit on the board sometime in 2018 and I have taken my role quite seriously because I have come to realize too that women in decision-making roles can impact other women. I never take the role lightly as I know what I say or do can help a woman in Penang (PWDC runs many women-focused programmes as part of their goal to transform Penang into a more gender-inclusive community).

When friends tell me that I’m doing a lot, I believe them. I do quite a fair bit BUT and here’s the disclaimer, I am having fun!

I’ve always reiterated this be it to my mentees or friends; you always need to have fun at whatever you’re doing, pro bono or paid.

Paid is where business is and that’s where I also take it that I must have fun. If I am not having fun, it is time to change up the business or find a new focus or a new angle.

In pro bono work, I must always know that I am enjoying it. If I am not, something is seriously wrong and I could be the wrong one for the role. And yes, if it is not the right role, I will these days leave or at least let others take the helm.

In the community work that I do, I always remember why I am doing it. Fiscally it won’t make the money that can be made through commerce. But if I look at it non-fiscally, I know that the rewards are greater than the physical money. I’ve been amply rewarded with the kindness of friends and people I associate with and with it, a lot of trust.

One mentee told me recently that she was absolutely delighted to find out that I was her mentor in the Penang Women Entrepreneurship Mentoring Programme (that will end after 6 months this 31 March). She had heard of me and known my work way before she applied to be a mentee.

I spent every Saturday afternoon, 4 to 5 hours, virtually with my group of mentees together with a co-mentor Dr Intan beginning last October to coach and guide these fledgeling entrepreneurs. It wasn’t my first mentoring experience but it was interesting to guide 6 women. In the past, I’ve had at most 2 mentees maximum and our engagement was about a few hours a month.

I could’ve done a lot of things every Saturday from 1.30pm to 5.30pm but I chose to dedicate and give my time to help 6 women understand the foundation of business from crafting their mission and vision to building up their Business Model Canvas to figuring out how they would price their products, to developing their marketing channels and more. It has been intensely rewarding as I see them gain confidence not only in business but also in their presentation skills.

Helping people has always been in me. When I was 8 years old, my late mum used to berate me as I was on the phone helping a classmate, A, with her homework. A was rather lazy and never did her homework but at the last minute she’d phone me to ask for answers. In those days, the phone was a bulky, black device. I felt bad and wondered why my mum didn’t like me helping A. I guess my mum saw through A and wanted to prevent A from taking advantage of me.

But I constantly remind myself, that whether I am helping people or not, I have to take care of the rocks, pebbles, sand and water of life. Remembering this aligns me to what I need to focus on the most. Rocks represent the important things in life – family, health, spirituality and friends.

Pebbles are things like job, car, business and home while sand is just everything else that fills up the day. Finally water? That’s the recreation part of life. So if you’ve seen the video of how a jar can be filled up with all these four things, you’d understand how we need to take care of the big things in our lives first. That’s where the importance lies.

Many people take care of the pebbles and wonder they need to work so hard or fear so much (the fear of losing something and usually it is material). Many forget the rocks and later come to regret why they’re lonely or are ill or again, purpose-less.

I believe we need to strike a healthy balance between the rocks, pebbles and sand.

One of the most life-changing books I read just out of university was Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad but unlike many, I didn’t rush out to grab the real estate so that I could rent them out to others. His book taught me about doodads – those useless things we think we need but really don’t. Many people honestly have too many doodads in their lives which sometimes can be those pesky pebbles that start to run our lives.

I have friends who bought into the real estate idea with so much enthusiasm that later on, they got into trouble as they feared not being able to pay for 4 mortgages (yes, I have friends with not one but 4 mortgages plus a growing family). I have a friend who tells me he wants to retire at 40 and run a non-profit (he’s sick of his job). I have another friend who wants to dispose of her KL apartments cheaply (as she can’t juggle the mortgages anymore).

See what I mean by taking on too many doodads? If you take on doodads and can handle them all, more power to you. But most people can’t and we wonder why all those “make money in your pajamas” or “make passive income” courses get so popular?

To complement that book, I also read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which set the tone for who I wanted to be in my life. I believe I am an effective person because I chose to do what I believe makes me happy and fulfilled. These 2 books should be required reading for anyone who is fresh out of university.

These books helped me think smarter about the world at large and helped me see where I should place my focus on.

What about you? What has helped you become who you are today?

Virtual Launch Party for Womenpreneur Asia

Update: Below is the video of my podcast launch via livestream.

I had 10 women entrepreneurs join me live – women from Malaysia, Indonesia and The Philippines with lots of excited audience participation and prizes for quiz winners all in 1 hour 49 minutes.

The women entrepreneurs and CEOs who joined us live – Maresa Ng, Norhani Pacasum, Anushia Kandasamy, Nina Othman, Ann Wong, Marlienna Suwito, Ooi Lay Pheng, Dr Vimi Ramasamy and Anja Juliah Abu Bakar.

We also included a podcast listener, Lerk Shih, who called in all the way from Christchurch, New Zealand to give us her take on the podcast. And we had prizes galore too from our sponsors: STRAVIK, The Spark Group Asia, DG Consulting and SAGE Edu Tech!

We even managed to answer a quick question from a music school teacher who was struggling to keep her business afloat and Anja, Lerk Shih and Lay Pheng gave some really solid advice to Jennifer Eng.

This has been a superbly busy week for me. Still I am forging ahead with my virtual launch event on FB Live because there’s nothing like the New Year and excitement to launch something.

I was initially vacillating between wanting to do a virtual launch or not. After all, I had never launched anything online and live.

Then again, 2020 was an eye-opener for me. I did many things I thought I could not do or hope to do.

My women interviewees were too fabulous to leave alone and I had to bring these women onto my FB Live and introduce them properly.

They are just as excited as you and me.

I was talking to a friend the other day and yes, my podcast is for the everyday woman entrepreneur who wants to learn from other women entrepreneurs and be inspired (instead of feeling envious or jealous) to do even better.

I am not pitching high-flying, uber-famous women entrepreneurs for one reason – I want my audience of listeners to connect with my podcast guests like friends.

Like someone you could pull up a chair and talk to.

Someone you could aspire to become. And know that it’s doable.

Many a time, I’ve listened to some glamorous entrepreneur and I just couldn’t connect with what she had said. Her world was vastly different from mine. I felt like an outsider.

And when I started my podcast, I was intentional. I wanted this for Asian women entrepreneurs in Asia. Nic asked me if it was too niche. I said no. I had thought about this carefully and believe that Asian women in Asia are a formidable breed of entrepreneurs. And I want to speak to these women from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and more.

Given how large Southeast Asia is, I could be doing this podcast for a long time to come!

(Someone did ask me if I would consider “women in Asia” even.)

Anyway, I decided to bring the women I interviewed into a launch event this Sunday, 4pm on fb.com/redboxstudio

That’s Malaysia time by the way. These days I have to mention GMT+8 as I have friends all over the globe who want to join me virtually. Virtual makes so many things easy!

We’d be doing a few things – taking questions and I also have a quiz where you can win prizes! I don’t want it to be typical; in fact, I thought of creating a launch video but vetoed it as I think I want to spend more time having a conversation with my guests than trying to do some form of “launch” that’s overhyped.

Give me a good conversation any day!

Come along with me to celebrate the everyday women entrepreneurs who are doing good in their own businesses and yes, come to ask them questions too.

Oh and here’s a comment a listener left me on Podbean, one of the podcast players. You can get my podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and more. Super stoked!

Thank you to this listener! Made me very excited and happy! See what comments can do? Please rate and review my podcast if you can on the podcast player that you’re listening on!

Shall I Vlog?

I’ve been tinkering with this idea for a while now. I wanted to vlog more as it is a definitely something that is easy to do. I’m not really the in-front-of-camera sort but I do find that it’s easier for me to talk (actually faster too) than to write. I do love writing and nothing beats the written word. Even if I do vlog, I’ll be sure to embed the vlog into this blog.

The reason I ask is that of late, I have been hosting and interviewing clients and friends on my FB Live sessions and I find it less taxing although I have had to do quite a bit of prep work before the interview – marketing the FB Live (it helps if the guests are marketing-savvy but most guests aren’t) and doing a lot of the post-FB Live work after (such as downloading the video, editing off the intro parts and uploading to Youtube as well as doing all the needed backend SEO video work).

Then I embed the video into our blog. It does take time but I have come to a lovely little routine that I can manage quite well on my own. And after that, keep telling people to pop by and watch my FB Live on our blog. I mean, my business blog. Not this one.

(And then I hear things like – “We have 3 people on the back-end helping us with our FB Live” and I am just short of rolling my eyes. OK, maybe I have been doing this for a long time and I am an independent sort. Vimi said I was talented; I prefer to think I have skills and what I don’t know, I will find out and learn.)

Just to share with you, I was exceptionally proud of myself as I learnt how to edit my own podcast episode in Garageband. I never knew I could do it but after watching so many Youtube videos, testing and trying out so many things, I think I have figured it out.

The other thing is that since I write so much for our clients, it’s a lot harder for me to fire up the blog when the muse strikes. OK, so maybe I am a little lazy now but I want your opinion – would it matter if I spoke rather than wrote? What are your thoughts about this?

Will you still come by and hear me rant? 😉

Parallel Productivity

How have you grown since this covid-19 quarantine or lockdown? I saw so many friends sharing their cooking and finished dishes; some went full force into baking while others discovered newer recipes.

Initially, I was all gung-ho but then I realized that I’d rather spend my time elsewhere! I think I worked more during the lockdown and I have never been more productive business-wise!

My podcast interview yesterday with Zhafira Loebis, Indonesia.

So here’s a secret: I prefer working, strategising, thinking of what delicious projects I want to create rather than working up a sweat in the kitchen. It is also not a very good ROI for me as there’s only me and Nic. There’s so much of cake and muffins I can eat in a day. Hence, I’d rather support some local business and buy cakes from them!

I also conquered some of my fears – I went on FB Live so many times (the last I counted, I was on 9 FB Live sessions, 1 webinar of my own and 3 closed-door Zoom meetings where I had to present, host or moderate).

Mac laptop screen showing three women in a Facebook Live session
When I was invited to be on The Spark Group Asia’s digital marketing FB Live with Maresa Ng and Carol Fung.

I never thought I’d be saying that I actually enjoyed doing the FB Live sessions. I enjoyed talking to my guests – many of whom are clients and friends. (And the results have been incredible for some of them – Dr Somas immediately got swamped with appointments. But this was my intention anyway – to help our clients get some spotlight during this quiet time.)

When I first conceived of the idea, I pitched Vimi and immediately she said yes. We both can talk for hours so it was no surprise that our first FB Live garnered a bit of attention and eyeballs.

Mac laptop screen showing a slide presentation on Skype by Penang Women's Development Corporation
Jumping into a capacity-building Skype session to provide input for the JPWK ladies. Organised by PWDC as a closed-door session.

If you want to watch all the FB Live sessions, head on over to our Youtube channel. I’ve posted all the videos in Youtube as FB has this annoying way of burying all the good stuff under the more recent posts.

The lockdown enabled me to work on what truly mattered – my own projects. Over the years, I’ve struggled with this prioritisation. I had so many interesting projects on the side. But we also had to manage website projects for clients.

So this time, I put myself first. I started working on my own podcast while I was working on contacting people for FB Live. I tend to work on parallel mode now which means 2 projects can be running side-by-side especially if they share similar characteristics.

The podcast and FB Live share many similarities in terms of processes – contacting people, talking to them (prepping them before the recording or the Live session) and ensuring I have the questions ready days before. There’s this peculiarity among all my interviewees (even the seasoned ones) that they want to know what questions are coming at them even though they know how to answer them spontaneously!

I discovered this parallel method by accident. But it works for me as I get double the amount of work done, and double the results (or maybe even more). This is similar to batch processing which I also use when I schedule interviews to record. I aim for 2 interviewees in a day if I am doing interviewees that day (for my podcast). This gets me in the mindset of interviews and keeps the momentum going.

I discovered this method during my language learning with Duolingo. I’ve been a fan of using Duolingo to help me learn small chunks of language daily. I find that switching my brain to something non-business helps me relax and learning a foreign language is even more relaxing.

I was using the app to learn Spanish (have been doing so for more than 2 years now) until I realise I could add another language while I’m inside the app. I decided to add Mandarin. I speak it but I want to recognise the characters. Definitely my Mandarin is much better than my Spanish but I spend at least 10-15 minutes nightly learning both languages. There’s something about switching from “Yo no tengo vestidos verdes” to “Wo he lao shi zuo tian qu ta lan qiu” that makes my brain more alert. The patterns are different and that’s what invigorates mine.

One day I thought if I could learn 2 languages at the same time without missing a beat, what about doing 2 similar projects? Of course in business, we often handle multiple web design projects at a time but that’s something familiar that I’ve been doing for a long time (16 years to be exact).

As a result, I looked at my FB Live and podcast as learning projects. I am learning as I go. I am not completely familiar with each one but as Marie Forleo says, everything is figureoutable.

One of my proudest moments was editing my own podcast and through that process, I now know how to use Garageband! I literally recorded, produced and combined everything in Garageband so I was pretty pleased with myself. One achievement unlocked.

My podcast is in the process of being created as I am going to record all 13 episodes before launching it. This was the project that I presented in Hawaii last year during the Changing Faces programme. (I have recorded the episode where I explain the genesis of this podcast and what it means to me and why so you just have to wait and listen to it.)

A year ago in Hawaii when I was presenting this project to my peers and to Liz of the East-West Center, I had no freaking idea how I was going to make it happen. I knew how to communicate but that was about all I know. I had no idea what it took to make it happen technically. I had no idea what kinds of equipment/software I needed to do all this. I had planned to buy a mic but then COVID happened and I just made do with my earbuds and the mic that came with it. Just shows that it was never about the equipment. It was about me and my readiness to jump into it.

The figuring things out, the initial frustration, the technical setup – learning all these in the past 3 months is far more enriching than baking a cake. I still enjoy cooking and all but I believe my skills are far more useful in other matters – interviewing, researching, learning and pushing myself so far out that I’m hanging by the skin of my nails.

If you’ve never felt nervous doing something, it means what you’re doing is already bordering routine. It signals that you’re ready for something new, unexplored and nerve-wracking. What is that nerve-wracking thing to you? Go and make that happen. And when you made that happen, come back here and leave me a comment! Or email me.