About Grace Tan

Grace owns the award-winning business and lifestyle blog, WorkingWithGrace.wordpress.com. She is also the author of the best-selling book 'Blogging For A Living'.

So Pho @ Waterway Point: Value-For-Money Lunch Sets

So Pho vietnamese food at Waterway Point

So Pho is one restaurant at Waterway Point that I have yet to visit since the mall opened early this year. I’m not a big fan of Vietnamese food to begin with, preferring Japanese cuisine over Korean, Western, French, etc. But I’ll always have to walk past So Pho when I’m heading to Zakka Modern Thai, for instance. So I decided that today’s the day!😀 I know Vietnamese coffee is pretty famous, but as I do not drink coffee, I was just hoping the food tastes good.

So Pho will first impress you with the pretty decor. There’s one entire wall full of potted plants and decorative items, and I like the casual vibe within the restaurant. There are plenty of instagram-worthy spots, especially since the restaurant has a nice view of the Punggol Waterway. Go check it out yourself if you love taking photos!😀

Waterway Point So Pho

I had their curry chicken set – select either bread or rice, and pick a drink (lemongrass or honey lemon). I was surprised that although the curry tastes rather different from what I am used to, I like it a lot. However, the bread is really hard and has a weird texture within. It’s kind of like bread that is taken out of the freezer and then microwaved – inside, the texture is like a cross between styrofoam and cardboard. I prefer warm, soft and fluffy bread. Not this kind.

So Pho Waterway Point lunch

The curry is tasty enough though. Can I have Gardenia or Sunshine bread to go along with it? Haha! Instead of having potato within the bowl, they added a piece of sweet potato instead. Sounds odd but it tastes ok. And there’s lots of fried shallots, making this one very fragrant curry indeed.

For S$9.90 (before tax and svc chg), I think this is one value-for-money meal, especially since we get to enjoy that brilliant view of the Waterway. I’ll try the pho next time.

So Pho is located at #01-28 of Waterway Point.

So Pho has multiple outlets in Singapore: Jem, Nex, Novena Sq, Paragon, Parkway Parade and Tampines Mall. You can even order food online at sopho.com.sg. So Pho comes under the Katrina Group parent company, which manages other brands like Bali Thai (also at Waterway Point and other locations), streats hong kong cafe, Hutong, Bayang, RENNthai, Muchos, Indobox, and Honguo. Hmm… impressive. I’d love to interview the founder. [*Information I got from their business card]

Hello Kitty Cafe: Food, Price, Review

Hello Kitty Cafe Singapore

I know I wrote in an earlier blogpost about the Hello Kitty Cafe at Changi Airport that I would never want to be back there again. Well, never say never, I guess. When my blogger pal asked if I’d like to meet her for lunch at the cafe this week, I agreed. After all, I was curious about whether there’d still be a queue outside the cafe even when there are no limited edition plush toys for sale, and whether the food is as bad as one TODAY journalist wrote.

To begin with, the queue was rather short, so unlike on Opening Day when there were probably a few hundred kitty fans awaiting their chance to get one of those “500” plushies on sale. There were probably some 8 people or so ahead of us, and my pal and I happily joined the queue. Just as we were chatting about her recent trip overseas, one of the Kitty cafe staff came by to inform us that the wait would be about “45 minutes”. He also helpfully suggested that it was much more bearable than the 4 hours that patrons had to queue just last week. And he kept reminding us to “BE PATIENT”. I felt like a kid in a kindergarten class, being told by the teacher to be patient, stand in line, and not move. And I wasn’t even fretting or misbehaving. I was enjoying my chat with my pal. WTH.

Instead of constantly telling very patient customers to continue being patient, that guy (I’ll call him J) should have probably offered each patron a small cup of water or a sample of their beverages or snacks. That’s good customer service. NOT extolling the virtues of being patient, or reminding us that others had to wait a much longer time before they could enter the cafe last week. (@_@) Also, he kept ushering people into the cafe with this phrase – “Welcome to Hello Kitty”. HUH? You mean “Welcome to our Hello Kitty Cafe“?

I just kept a poker face throughout, and thankfully got a table before that promised 45 minute wait was up.

My pal said that her food editor friend mentioned that the beef rendang is pretty good, but as she doesn’t take beef, we didn’t order it. She decided on an appetizer of nachos and I went for their dessert. You can’t go wrong with dessert, right?

WRONG.

Hello Kitty Cafe food

In the description within the menu for this dessert ‘Rose, Rose I Love You’ is this line: “Just like the popular Chinese oldie, we are pretty sure this will be a hit with everyone.” Wow. I found the “homemade buttery orange sugee cake baked to moist perfection” dry, dull and boring. There’s no doubt the peanut buttercup gelato will delight fans of peanut butter, but the cake was an utter letdown. My goodness. It was served in such a small pot, but my pal and I could not bring ourselves to polish off the cake.😦

Her platter of nachos was slightly more palatable. Though I cannot imagine why the pricetag is S$15.90 for nachos. There was just one nacho with a hello kitty “face” on it, but take that away and nothing on the plate is related to Kitty. And S$15.90 is BEFORE tax and service charge.

Hello Kitty Cafe Changi Airport nachos

Here’s the best part: the Hello Kitty Cafe does not serve free water. Please purchase one of their beverages instead. Our total bill for just 1 appetizer and 1 dessert came up to S$39.31.

If you are wondering what you should eat at the Kitty Cafe, well, perhaps you should order the Cowabunga, which is wagyu beef and rendang. It costs S$24 before tax and would probably be the best-tasting item on the menu.

Pricing:

Rose Rose I Love You S$17.50

Nachos S$15.90

After tax and service charge: S$39.31.

In the ‘gift shop’ area, you can purchase a set of 4 Kitty postcards at S$16, coffee gift set at S$27.50, or a germination kit at S$34.50.

Customer service was not any better at the cashier counter. The lady, A, wanted us to stand in front of her instead of beside her though it was way more convenient for us to do the latter, and my pal (being more comfortable with Mandarin, did not immediately understand the cashier’s request). Would have been way more polite if A had said “please move to your right” instead of “can you move over here?” (@_@) And do offer a reason if you want people to do something for you. For instance, “please move to your right so you can sign off on the bill here” or “… so our staff won’t accidentally bump into you when they exit the kitchen” or something along those lines.

Finally… I will hesitate to say I’ll NEVER be back again since I might have overseas friends who are also Kitty fans and may want to visit the cafe when they come by, but it is as my pal said that day – this is good for a “one-time visit”.

Hello Kitty Orchid Garden at Changi Airport Terminal 3, #01-22. Tel: 6241 6127.

77th Street @ Bugis Junction Has Shut, More Shops To Follow?

77th Street Bugis Junction

I made a special trip down to Bugis Junction yesterday as I’d read (on Facebook) that it was the final day of operations for 77th Street. Quite shocking, isn’t it? This brand has been around since my schooldays. According to this Straits Times interview, Elim Chew has already moved on and is now managing a logistics business. There is just one 77th Street’s outlet left, at Ang Mo Kio, though I suspect it’ll be closed soon too.

If you’re wondering, I didn’t buy anything at 77th Street yesterday, though I did walk through the store. The items are admittedly much pricier than what we can find online (a point which Elim herself has shared in the interview). It is no wonder that retail stores are closing down because e-commerce has truly disrupted the retail industry.

I’m not sure how the mall’s management team is handling this shakeup. It seemed to me that the other shops near 77th Street at level 3 of Bugis Junction were also having their ‘closing down sales’ too.

I got a bit confused at this particular shop:

Bugis Junction level 3 shop

It has all the signs to suggest that they are moving out. However, when I was within the store, I noted that (1) there’s a lady restocking shelves with A LOT of new products and (2) the other items were not being sold at huge discounts (yet). So I didn’t buy anything here either.

As for the other Hello Kitty shop next door, things were different…

Bugis Junction Trendy Hub

I was told that this store will be shut sometime next month. However, many items were on sale at up to 50% off their usual price. Bought 3 kitty items here. I couldn’t resist. (@_@)

~

I wonder if we should be worried. Is this simply a transitional phase or does it signal that tough times are ahead? Many articles have been written about how Orchard Road is suffering from the exodus of tenants and how fewer people are shopping there now. But it’s not just Orchard. And this problem isn’t new. Far East Plaza, which was really popular among youths during my time (gosh I feel so old) is really quite deserted now, and it has been this way for some time. I popped by this afternoon and there were so many shops shuttered and plastered with “for lease” signages. I don’t think there will be a flood of new tenants anytime soon though.

Will malls of the future only have F&B outlets, cinemas, and services (nails, hair, etc)? Perhaps we won’t even have supermarkets anymore, as people shop for their groceries online. Will “window shopping” be about closing one browser window and moving on to the next online store? Hmm…

Book Review: Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

This is one book I’ve been waiting for ever since I found out what Jia Jiang was doing with his 100 days of rejection project. I loved what happened with the “Olympic Donuts”!😀 And in my own blogging journey, I’ve encountered numerous rejections as well, without having to put myself out there like Jia Jiang. One story I like to tell friends is about how Starbucks actually rejected me (via email) when I asked if I could take a picture within one of their Starbucks outlets to use on my book cover. I thought my request was polite and most likely to elicit a “yes” from them. I offered to buy drinks and food, and not cause any disturbance to their customers. I’m sure many people take pictures daily within Starbucks outlets (not just in Singapore but all over the world) and never had to seek “permission” but I thought I’ll just do the nice thing and notify them first. After that ‘no’ was delivered, I went over to another cafe (goodbye, Starbucks!) and took a picture there without asking/notifying anyone. LOL! And that got the job done. Perhaps, in Singapore, we have to follow the “do first, apologize later” rule.😉

And in the course of requesting for interviews with celebrities, millionaires and entrepreneurs, sure, there were some no-replies (which is a reply in itself), some yeses, and some rejections. I found it pretty interesting how I’d asked to interview three politicians. I got one ‘yes’ (the politician ended up doing very well; and is still in office), one ‘no’ from the politician himself (he got booted out of office), and another ‘no’ from yet another politician’s aide (he had a medical emergency; I don’t know what happened to him thereafter). Towards the people who rejected my request, I bear no ill will. It has to be a coincidence, right? (@_@) But I certainly have learnt a lot from them regarding how to say no to someone without offending the person. Just as Jia Jiang has, in this really awesome book.

Here are some things I’ve learned from reading this real stunner of a book:

  1. Have an idea that people are shooting down? Good. Go do it. Jia Jiang had an idea for shoes with wheels and unfortunately, his uncle told him it’s not a good idea. So those plans and drafts were abandoned. Two years later, another guy started a company making such shoes (Heelys) and the company was valued at $1billion during the IPO. What do I learn from this? Something I’ve always known: If you have an idea, go execute it, or deal with regret when someone else takes “your idea” and becomes super successful.
  2. When you follow your heart, Life has a way of becoming more awesome than you could have dreamed of. Jia Jiang had a cushy 6-figure job (sounds kinda familiar to me) but he was miserable because he had always wanted to be the kind of entrepreneur who would put a dent in the universe. He quit to start his own app company, sought to gamify ‘promises’ and ended up being rejected by a potential investor. To attempt to become rejection proof, he embarked on his 100 Days Of Rejection project, which received early success – viral videos, interviews, speaking engagements, worldwide fame – and he even ended up being offered a job by Zappos’ Tony Hsieh!
  3. Put in first place those people who always put you first. When Jia Jiang wanted to quit his job, while a new baby was on the way, his wife actually supported his dreams, and gave him 6 months to figure it out. When he wanted to quit halfway, she reminded him that he had to give it a full 6 months. Without her encouragement and selfless support, it is unlikely that Jia Jiang would have gotten where he is today. Nearing the end of his 100 Days challenge, when people were telling him that he should send an interview request to President Obama, as a way of ending this challenge on a ‘high’, he decided to help his wife secure a job at Google instead. It’s his wife’s dream to work at Google, and after numerous failed attempts, she finally got the job just by being nice and demonstrating that she really craved the opportunity to work there. Wow. Thankfully, Jia Jiang’s not the kind of guy who lets success get to his head and then forget about the people who helped him get there.

There’s just so much I love about this book. It’s such an easy read; you can complete reading this in 2 days max! But I love the lessons, examples, open sharing and the inspiration and positivity within. Go get a copy now – I’m sure it’s gonna be a bestseller!

Book Review: ‘A Double Shot Of Happiness’ by Judy Sharp

A Double Shot Of Happiness by Judy Sharp

I bought this book at Booktique mainly because I wanted to support a local indie bookstore that is in a rather precarious situation as it is located within Citylink Mall and the bookstore has had some trouble paying the rent in the past. I guess their situation can’t be helped since Singaporeans are reading less often now, or perhaps they are reading more ebooks instead. So far, the books I’ve bought at Boutique are pretty good. I managed to read ‘A Double Shot Of Happiness’ over the weekend, and I truly enjoyed it.

I don’t know very much about autism. We really don’t hear very much about autistic children in Singapore, even if there are top bloggers with autistic kids. I can’t help but wonder if there is a place for these boys and girls in this country where there’s discrimination based on the color of your skin, the school you go to or that you graduated from, your PSLE scores (good grief!) and when members of the public are always happy to send you stares and glares if your child behaves inappropriately in public.

This book really gives me a double shot of reality and compassion towards people with autism. More importantly, it provides an insight into the life of the carers, the people who are tasked (by God?) to take care of these special individuals usually for the rest of their lives. I cannot help but be awed by Tim Sharp’s unique brand of humor, which has even amused the likes of Cate Blanchett and Wayne Bennett. In a way, individuals like Tim are blessed – they don’t play ‘mind games’ with people, they love and embrace all, and as Tim would say, they are always happy.

Through this book, I got to know more about what Tim and Judy went through, and definitely learned more about autism:

  1. Autistic children might crave routine and certainty (they might even want their toys lined up a certain way).
  2. Toilet-training is a big issue. Judy writes that Tim was not fully toilet-trained even by age 7.
  3. Because of their sensory overload issues, autistic children get affected by certain sounds which can cause them “physical pain”. Even a mother’s heartbeat can upset a baby with autism.
  4. Children with autism CAN learn to behave better.
  5. It is really tough raising an autistic child. Without good family support and a supportive spouse, Judy actually became clinically depressed.
  6. The mother is the only expert on her child. No other experts really matter.

Tim managed to defy the odds largely because of his mother who loves and believes in him. He was the Australian flag-bearer at the Very Special Arts (VSA) Festival in 2004, his Laser Beak Man character is not just on tshirts and cards (it’s also on TV and on stage!) but it’s also on a cover for one of The Ghost Ballerinas’ CDs. As Judy shares in this TEDx talk, Tim was the first person in the world with autism to have his creation turned into an animation series for TV. Click to watch:

I’m really glad I read the book before watching the TEDx video because there’s only so much that Judy can share on stage. Because of her habit of keeping a diary, she’s able to provide so many details and stories, making this book a most illuminating read. I highly recommend all parents who have autistic children to read this book. Judy’s story will provide you comfort while Tim’s success will offer hope. Of course, Tim’s brand of humor will make you smile, chuckle, and laugh out loud!

~

I bought this book from Booktique at S$33. I highly recommend you get a copy whether you know of someone with autism or not, as it’s such an uplifting read about a mother’s love, a child’s struggles, and how the world can be a wonderful place when we stop putting labels on people and just see them as fellow humans, nothing more and nothing less.:)

How To Reconnect With Your Family

Four minute stare social experiment

When I see couples dining out and (individually) romancing their phones instead of each other, I roll my eyes inwardly and decide that either the relationship is stale or the phones are new. But one day, I returned home and I realized that we have all gone back to our (individual) rooms and to our own choice of personal entertainment. My dad loves to read, my mom likes watching Channel 8 dramas (and scolding the Ch 8 villains though they can’t possibly hear her), I’m either reading, blogging or surfing the Net, while my sister is most likely watching Japanese anime or laughing her head off at some Korean show like ‘Running Man’ (I’ve only watched one episode!) Yes, some days go by when we are actually “too busy” to have a meal together, or catch a show together, or even just exchange a few words with each other.

Also, there’s a six-year age gap between me and my sister, and while we look like we’re of the same height, we don’t really see eye-to-eye on many things.😀 Since we were young (and foolish) kids, we could quarrel over the most ridiculous of things. A few years back, we had a heated argument over yet another silly matter. I don’t remember the details but I remember what she said after I furiously told her that I’m not talking to her ever again(!!!), and that she can jolly well do the same too. Her response was rather unexpected. She said that she knew I would get married in a few years’ time, move out of the family home, and she’d likely see even less of me then, so could we please put this behind us (or something along those lines). Thankfully, I was wise enough to agree.

Still, while we live under the same roof, we do sometimes communicate via whatsapp (and even, email) instead of walking over to chat. And our flat isn’t very big at all. (@_@) I know this isn’t unique to our family. Many other families have children who hole up in their rooms and keep their bedroom doors shut at all times.

But this is a problem. And alarm bells should sound in your head when your family members are behaving more like tenants within the same rented apartment instead of, well, family. And one day, I got a shock when I realized my sister had gotten a skin infection at her previous workplace (and had sought medical treatment for it), but I didn’t know anything about it when it happened. She probably didn’t want to cause us worry back then, and I was too busy with my own work to notice. If I had known, I’d most certainly want to take her to the doctor’s then seek compensation from her former employer for not ensuring the safety of her workplace! Thankfully, it was nothing serious. In many other families, a breakdown in communication could have dire outcomes. For instance, a teenager could commit suicide due to relationship issues, and the parents may regret not spending more time reaching out to their child and working through the issues he/she faces. [This is based on a true story reported in the newspapers. The devastated mother actually committed suicide after her daughter killed herself.]

Take a few minutes and watch this (viral) video about Singaporeans reconnecting with family members:

I cry every time I watch this video. I’m reminded about how fast my parents are aging, I’m reminded of the people I never really got to say goodbye to, like the uncle who died of cancer in the hospital when I was very young, and my grandmother who died alone in a nursing home at night. So, before it’s too late, let your loved ones know how much you love them.

I know it may be kind of awkward if you just grab a family member and have him/her look into your eyes for 4 minutes. Make it a game. There’s one we must all have played at some point in our lives: “First to blink loses!”:) And he/she will have no choice but to look into your eyes for a couple of minutes.

Besides gazing lovingly at your parent, sibling, spouse, or child, you can also do these:

  1. Share a meal together, without any digital devices. I highly recommend restaurants like Dancing Crab, where everyone eats using their fingers. And it can get quite messy so handphones are usually kept safely in handbags or pockets. You’ll really enjoy the conversation, I guarantee.:) (*A cheaper alternative is KFC, maybe?)
  2. Participate in an activity together. You could prepare a meal together, make dumplings, bake cookies, mooncakes, etc. Alternatively, how about a boardgame like Monopoly?
  3. Take a class and learn something new. My bf and I recently went for a ukelele class together, and it was a lot of fun. We shared a lot of laughs (ok, I did most of the laughing) because it’s such a small instrument and all the guys in the class just had such trouble playing it comfortably.😀

Take some time today to disconnect from the digital world, and reconnect with the people who matter the most to you. Do something you won’t regret.:)

~

#sp #RelationshipReconnect #Prudential

Book Review: Going Off Script by Giuliana Rancic

Going Off Script by Giuliana Rancic

This memoir is probably the best one I’ve read so far. No wonder it’s a New York Times bestseller! I picked up this book to read last night, and I’ve given it ‘unputdownable’ status (a word reserved only for the best books). It’s utterly refreshing, absolutely hilarious, and just the right length, I’d say. Didn’t know who Giuliana Rancic was before I read this book, but now I think she’s a really cool human being.

She also ‘liked’ my post on Instagram😀 LOL

Giuliana Rancic book

It’s a mere 263-pages, but this book seems to lay bare all the ups and downs in Giuliana’s life since the time she was “born a celebrity”, how she got up to all sorts of crazy antics in school, how she saw news anchor Barbara Harrison on TV and made journalism her lifelong ambition, how she impressed Johnny Depp and embarrassed herself in front of Leonardo DiCaprio, and how she dated douchebags and rich dudes and eventually married the season one winner of Donald Trump’s reality game show The Apprentice! (And wait till you get to the heart-wrenching bits)

When reading the book, you’ll get the sense that this woman is unstoppable. Life will hit her again and again, and she will rise to meet its challenges. And her sense of humor is amazeballs. I loved the part about how she returned home after an operation (she had scoliosis) and got tormented by the “Terror Toddler”. I laughed so hard! And I was so thankful I was at home, and not out in public where a concerned member of the public would most certainly call the police. Also, because her parents are Italians who are not too fluent in English, there are so many more laughs. You really have to get a copy of this book – it’s a real treat!

At this point, I really do think that Giuliana’s life should be made into a movie. Her life has been quite extraordinary so I think it certainly qualifies as movie material. For one, she can count the late Joan Rivers as her mentor, she had her own reality show ‘Giuliana and Bill’, and there’s her not-too-pleasant experience with artificial insemination and how it led to her cancer diagnosis, that double mastectomy and finally, the birth of her son (Duke) who was conceived via gestational surrogacy.

(I’m still in awe of how she lays her life bare for us to read about, laugh at, and learn from.)

I’m rather envious of her. She’s one of the rare few who KNOW from a young age what they want to be when they grow up, work hard at it, and eventually succeed in the career of their choice. In this book, she calls journalism “the subject that had grabbed me at the age of seven and never let go”. So many of us search, sweat, and succumb (eventually), not finding out what we are meant to be doing on this earth. Lucky her!

And to wrap up, here are some of my favorite lines from this book…

  1. ‘Learning to compromise and not be right all the time is a big lesson for any couple”
  2. “…doctors aren’t gods… they’re human and fallible just like the rest of us”
  3. “…the power of perception and how your attitude toward something can make all the difference in the world”
  4. “You know how you know you’ve lived life to the fullest, and you’ve won? If you can say, I woke up happy most days, and I went to bed happy most nights.”
  5. “I turn forty in triumph. I feel more beautiful than I ever have, gloriously alive in this body that’s been crooked, infertile, cancerous.”

Go get a copy of ‘Going Off Script’. You’ll thank me for it later.:)

8 Money-Making Tips From Investment Guru, Jim Rogers

Jim Rogers gave a talk recently, right here in Singapore, about the current global financial situation. The event had a huge turnout, with many people from the banking sector all eager to pick Jim Rogers’ brain and score some investment and career tips. Some people actually flew in from their home countries just to hear what Jim had to say!

His talk was part of the ‘Industry Guru Series’ by the People’s Association. This particular session featured Jim Rogers and Minister Chan Chun Sing, and cost each participant just S$10 (inclusive of dinner and an autographed copy of Jim Roger’s book ‘Street Smarts’)!

Jim Rogers Singapore

Jim Rogers talk attendees

[ Pictures from Minister Chan Chun Sing’s Facebook Page ]

Before he began his presentation proper, Jim brought his daughters, Happy and Bee, up on stage to educate / entertain / impress the audience with their admirable command of Mandarin. Elder daughter Happy recited the poem  靜夜思 by Tang dynasty poet  李白 while the little one performed a tongue twister (绕口令) in Mandarin. The duo, aged 12 and 8 respectively, blew us away with their crisp Mandarin and stage presence. Yes, I adore the two kiddos, and Jim, BUT Jim is NOT impressed by Singaporeans’ command of English / Mandarin AT ALL. *hint hint*

Here are 8 money-making ideas from Jim Rogers:

  1. Own real assets: gold, silver, agricultural products.
  2. Be contrarian. If everybody is thinking the same way, then somebody is not thinking. Be very curious about the world. Think independently. Don’t follow the crowd.
  3. Career: Work for an Asian bank instead of US one.
  4. Learn about selling short. If a disaster comes and you sell short, you might make a lot of money. Gain knowledge first.
  5. Buy a Reverse ETF.
  6. Chinese tourism is going to explode for years to come.
  7. Is the Malaysian ringgit going up or down? Jim: “Tell me when he’s gonna leave. Tell me the week before and we’ll buy lots of ringgit. Disaster always leads to opportunity.”
  8. Everything in agriculture has a great future. Buy futures, fertilizer or tractor companies, buy a farm. If all else fails, be a farmer.

After hearing from Jim, I was eager to find out what the Minister had to say. And he did not disappoint. I suspect he has hired a speaking coach. (Aside: Did you hear his speech at the Bukit Batok rally on 5 May?!)

~

Here are some highlights of what Minister Chan Chun Sing shared with us that evening:

  1. Look outward: Our fate is determined by forces beyond our shores.
  2. Every generation must earn its keep, do not leave a burden of debt for the next generation.
  3. While our total fertility rate is at 1.9 (close to 2), one-third of our people are not getting married.
  4. Productivity has to increase.
  5. We have to stay together in spite of race or religion, in good or bad times.

~

At hearing from Jim and Minister Chan, two things were apparent:

  1. Competition is now stiffer. And complacency will kill jobs and companies.
  2. The only way to improve ‘job security’ is to up your productivity.

I walked away from that session with no doubts in my mind that Jim Rogers’ kids will beat most of ours within the local education system. Yup, his daughters study in local schools, not the international ones! Besides the sheer economic advantage they have, thanks to their father’s astounding wealth, the children have direction. They are not learning Mandarin (and clearly excelling it in) so as to pass exams in the government schools here. They are doing this with the aim of heading for one of Beijing’s best universities in future. Also, their formidable command of Mandarin will stand them in good stead after they graduate, thanks to the governesses and teachers their parents have hired to communicate to them (only) in perfect Mandarin. Many parents in Singapore think that Mandarin is not that important, since most of the subjects taught in school use English as the language of instruction. How short-sighted we are.

How To Keep Your Job In An Economic Downturn

The government and Labour Movement keep stressing on productivity and how we should upgrade our skills (double skill, triple skill, upskill, reskill, secondskill). But what I find lacking in the workforce is that sense of urgency, and readiness to gear up for the turbulent times ahead. Just as in an aircraft, we watch the in-flight safety demonstration, hear the instructions of what to do in an emergency, and buckle our seat belts before anything untoward happens, not during an emergency, and certainly not after.

Point is: What are you willing to do in order to keep your job / income, before plans to fire you have already been made?

Consider the factors that are beyond your control, and those that (fortunately) you have some control over.

Firstly, those factors you have no control over would be decisions your employer makes, such as who to fire first. Usually, the more senior, expensive, and “redundant” workers get the axe first. Hopefully, employers and government will feel pressure from NTUC and the unions to retrench Singaporeans last, and give foreigners ‘priority’ when it comes to getting that golden handshake.

Also, if the company decides to drastically downsize or shift its operations elsewhere, and you are unable to follow, then it’s time to get a new job, or start that business you’ve always been dreaming about?

But keep your hopes up! There are factors which are WITHIN your control, and which can help you safeguard your ricebowl, especially if you are the sole breadwinner for your family!

#1: MINDSET

I’d say it’s almost human / natural to become comfortable (or complacent) where we are. If you’re a civil servant and you think you’ll never be retrenched, yes, I’m referring to you too! If you’re not a civil servant, but you’re thinking like one, then you’d need to wake up your idea fast! You have to learn to get uncomfortable whenever you start feeling too comfortable. If you don’t feel the need to constantly learn, unlearn and relearn, then one day, you might find the rug pulled out from under you and you’re sitting with your bum on the floor wondering what just happened. Truth is: There are no iron ricebowls anymore.

One thing I learnt from reading a book about Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, founder of Tesla (electric car company), and the guy who wants to help us ‘colonize’ Mars, is that employees have to step up whenever the company is facing troubled times. When Tesla was going through a rough patch, and orders were dropping (due also in part to the economic climate), it was an all-hands-on-deck situation as technicians, engineers and other support staff all picked up the phones and started reaching out to consumers, selling cars, and filling out orders. They KNEW that if they didn’t do it, the production line would stop moving, and they’d be out of jobs. Whether you THINK you are a salesperson or not, congratulations, you’re now one! Until the orders have all come in!

If you want to show your employer that you are invested in the future of the company, believe in its mission and direction, then you might even want to offer to do what some of Elon Musk’s employees did: They converted their salaries into stock options instead (they were betting on the company’s future), some took out money from their own pocket to become investors in the company, and others put in extra hours at work just to ensure the company gets back on track. When they help the company succeed, they are actually also helping to keep their ricebowls intact. On top of that, they have shown to their boss that they love the company enough to want to be shareholders. And you certainly do not want to fire your shareholders, right?😉

If you’re thinking “No, I can’t possibly do sales calls. I’m terrible at cold-calling!” then how about washing the toilets and taking over the job of the janitor? If the latter’s less appealing, then how about learning how to sell over the phone? You can pick up any skill you want, what with the range of courses available, and the support from the Government, the Labour Movement, and your own employers. Are you willing to change your mindset, and upgrade your skillset?

#2: SKILLSET

I read with interest the recent news article about Mediacorp actress, Julie Tan, taking a 6-month break from acting to pursue an acting course at the New York Film Academy. This comes right after she won three trophies at the recent Star Awards: the Rocket Award, Top 10 Most Popular Female Artiste Award, and Best Supporting Actress Award.

Many artistes in her situation would probably give themselves self-congratulatory pats on the back and rest on their laurels. But she’s off to New York to hone her acting skills. Perhaps, she’ll win the Best Actress Award in future?:)

What about you? What are the skills you currently possess? Which ones need an ‘upgrade’ now? What new skills would you require in order to help your company become the best and the most innovative in its industry?

#3: JET SET

By ‘jet set’ I mean that you are ready and willing to travel for work purposes. Elon Musk’s SpaceX engineers flew wherever they had to be for the rockets to be launched. In a biography of his, I read that engineers sometimes flew in Musk’s private jet and one person usually had to sit in the toilet for the takeoff and landing, because there weren’t enough seats for all of them. But it made more sense (and ‘cents’) for the staff to fly to where the rocket would be assembled and launched, rather than for Elon to recruit and train new staff in that area.

A friend of mine has recently moved over to Singapore with her husband. His employer had shut down the factory in Malaysia and moved operations over to Singapore. If he was reluctant to come over to Singapore, or if she had not been supportive of the move, then he would have found himself out of a job. He’d have become a retrenched PMET in Malaysia, just like many of his ex-colleagues.

It was arguably not too difficult a move as Malaysia is located so close to Singapore. And they can return home to visit their families pretty often. However, there are always some sacrifices to be made. For one, my friend had to quit her job in order to move to Singapore with her husband. Her income has definitely taken a hit.

Will you be willing to travel for work, if it means you get to keep your job, and maybe even achieve greater success in your career? Would you be happy to take a Business Mandarin course in order to aid your business negotiations in China, for instance?

~

Jim Rogers painted a pretty grim picture for us that evening. He’s not positive about the global economic situation, but he’s confident in our government (that’s why he moved his entire family here, and that says a lot). But a rich man like him would be able to ride the waves of a financial crisis. In fact, from short-selling, he might get even richer (imagine that!). What about the rest of us?

Do you have the right mindset, the relevant skillset and the readiness to jet set, even before the first financial tsunami hits our shores? We’ve probably already experienced the first few hard-hitting waves already, with many PMEs already out of work. Will you buckle up and ready yourself for a rough ride, or will you pretend that being in a plane is as safe as sitting in your sofa at home? In-flight safety announcements and calls to up productivity are oft-repeated to the point of being annoying, but they are there for a reason. And that reason will be made known to us very soon indeed.

Disappointed :( Hello Kitty Cafe @ Changi Airport

Hello Kitty Orchid Garden Plush

The Hello Kitty Cafe at Changi Airport opens today, and as I’m a huge Kitty fan, I went to queue, hoping to get one of the “500” limited edition Kitty plushies on sale for S$49.90 each. The Hello Kitty Orchid Garden opened at 11.30am this morning. I was there by 11am, and as you can imagine, there was a really long queue outside the cafe already. However, each person could only purchase two plushies, and so I felt I definitely had a chance of getting one, at least. After all, this admittedly-sizeable crowd did not look like 250 people:

Hello Kitty Orchid Garden Changi Airport

At about 1pm, we were told that the plush toys were all sold out. At that time, there were still about 30-odd people ahead of me in the queue. Disappointed, many of us left the queue after standing in line for HOURS, and went elsewhere for food. Because no one really has high hopes for food at Kitty cafes anywhere in the world. Having said that, the food is pretty decent at the recently-opened Pompompurin Cafe at Orchard Central.

And this article by a TODAY journalist states that the food at this Hello Kitty cafe at Changi Airport is… (and I quote) “decidedly less impressive” (than the decor), “like something I could grab off the shelf at a neighbourhood bakery”, [on the drinks] “too sweet and artificial” and about the dessert – “But at S$16.90, the panna cotta would have to contain edible gold flakes before I’d recommend it to anyone.”

Like the journalist, I was definitely impressed by the decor. It’s gorgeous.

Even if the food sucks, I’ll still fork out good money for it. As long as I get that plushie I queued for.😛

I know the media have had their food tastings done way before the cafe’s opening day. Were they allowed to buy the plushies?

Were there REALLY a total of 500 plushies in the store when it was officially open for business today?!

Why was each person allowed to buy TWO plushies, instead of just one?

To add insult to injury, here’s a Channel NewsAsia report on how the plushies are being sold on Carousell for up to $200. Absolutely disgusting: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/limited-edition-hello/2778498.html

Will I return to this cafe just for food? No way.

Will I return to this cafe if they have more plushies for sale? Definitely not. I’d rather sew on an extra ribbon onto my current plush toys.

One bad experience is one too many.

If you’d still like to visit anyway… it’s at the Arrival Hall of Terminal 3.😛

Book Review: No Fears, No Excuses – What You Need To Do To Have A Great Career

I got to read the book before watching the video of Larry Smith’s TEDx speech, and oh my, I would most certainly have rushed out to buy the book if I’d actually seen the video first.:) On the TEDx stage, Larry gave a most entertaining speech. I love how dramatic his presentation was (reminded me a little of some Harry Potter movies because of the way he speaks) and how funny this guy is. The title of his speech (which has gotten over 2.9 million views on YouTube) is ‘Why You Will Fail To Have A Great Career’, one which will make many people sit up straight in their seats. Thankfully, he picked a more customer-friendly title for his book. It’s called ‘No Fears, No Excuses – What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career’.😀

No Fears, No Excuses by Larry Smith

Here are some tips from the book to help you find a GREAT career – not a good one, but a great one! *wink*

“A career is great when it offers satisfying work, impact on the world, a dependable and adequate income, and personal freedom.” – Larry Smith

  1. Don’t become a commodity, or else it all boils down to PRICE. Don’t be a commodity employee.
  2. Know the difference between ‘getting work done’ and ‘producing exceptional results’.
  3. SAMPLE everything in order to find your passion. But remember that you are not trying to sell yourself something.
  4. Always be a student.
  5. Be a good communicator.
  6. Have an edge, i.e. what makes you better than the others. Even interns need to find ways to shine.
  7. Stand out. Do what no one else is doing.
  8. Don’t imitate. Innovate!
  9. Great family and a great career are not mutually exclusive endeavors.
  10. Remember, a great career means at the end of it and at the end of your life, you leave your mark behind. You leave your work behind to speak for you.
  11. Don’t enter a crowded field unless you’re prepared – really prepared – to minimize the competitive pressure in that field… it’s everyone’s strategy to try, and to work hard. The truth is, you need to do better than that.

I really like this book as it is full of real-life examples. You’ll read about students who offer up excuses as to why they couldn’t possibly make a career out of their passion, how they enter jobs that parents point them to or which money lures them towards instead of following their heart or talent, and what happens to employees who do not keep up with the rate of technological change, etc.

It’s one book that undergraduates should be reading more often than their textbooks. It’s one book that fresh graduates had better read before stepping into the workforce. And it’s one book that those who feel lost (mid-life crisis, anyone?) should definitely pick up and find some answers within.

Definitely get a copy of this book if you’re ever in need of some great career advice.:)