I am turning 40 in June this year. It shouldn’t be such a big deal, really. I have led an honest life (somewhat), stuck to my guts when it came to my own life choices (at least, as bravely as one can be with the occasional sway attributed to a “change” of mind), stayed more or less on track on what I set out to do (with some self-permitted detours to “adapt” to unexpected situations) and built up a higher level of confidence (moderated by a few humbling experiences of life’s harsh lessons). All in all, at 40, I am my own truer and wiser self – a sum of my own opinions and experiences.

Yet, why would a little passing comment like “Are you having a midlife crisis?” concern me? The comment came about with the new haircut I got and a change of wardrobe, neither of which are uncharacteristically impulsive decisions.

At 40, I am not about to become everyone else. Conformity, I opine, is a slow march to a mass unmarked grave.

Through the years, I have progressed from one look to another. I admit to a faux pas now and then, but withage comes with the knowledge of what works for me and what does not. I am also confident about how I look, how I dress, how I don’t care what you think. I am, at times, conceited enough to think you secretly like what I wear.

There’s much to say about the fashion scene in Singapore, because, ironically, there is nothing much to say about it. Here, the general men’s fashion equates to tank tops, beach shorts/berms with flip flops (accessorized with dragon boat oar) or the polo top (and the god-forbidden flipped up collar) and jeans/berms with sneakers/sandals. I am not judging. Honestly. There is something good to say about guys in these get-ups, namely the aesthetics of a tanned fit physique. =D Pardon if I stare (and glare, if otherwise).

I can also understand that this uniform is easily applicable to all age groups simply because Singapore has only 3 seasons – hot/wet, hot/humid, hot/aircon. The lack of authentically changing seasons also does not inspire anyone’s imagination. And with herd mentality and the monkey-see-monkey-do attitude that really, those uniforms in school made a virtue of, it is honestly difficult to see trend setting happening here in Singapore except in the hands of the denizens of one little street called Haji Lane.

Still, it is a matter of opinion what fashion is, but let’s paraphrase this as – it is a matter of opinion, what you want your own fashion to be. The difference is we are not going to mock you for it.

“The mind revolts against certain opinions, as the stomach rejects certain foods,” wrote William Hazlitt in ‘Characteristics’.

In that spirit of revolt, allow me to fashion my own fashion definition. I like a little variety and I like a little impracticality. Let me illustrate.

I like jackets – They falsify my physique beautifully and let’s face it, we spend most days within a full-blast air-conditioned space, be it, home, bus/train, malls, restaurants, bars, clubs and offices cold enough to house polar bears and penguins.

I love shoes – They complete me (look). If they look great, but cripple you to stand for long and walk far, they will, thus, be worn purposefully….with pride.

I like off-beat designs – It is ART that you can wear.

I like scarves – There’s nothing girly about them. They are like ties? =)

I like accessories – They perk up the drab (not just the outfit, but the company you keep too, as you always have something pretty to see).

Carving out your own niche-look requires you to know who you are (avoid being a fashion victim) and having a certain level of self-confidence to enjoy what you want to wear. This is a privilege I have rightly earned at 40 as my own person.

For those who dare, I applaud you. For those who dare not, cheer on, suck it up and enjoy the variant colors of life.

“Few have opinions: fewer still have their own opinions,” stated Ivan Panin in ‘Thoughts’.

Even if I am turning 40 in a few months, I will ROCK this look! =P

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Over & Out,

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It’s like being swallowed by a whale, motorcycling down the throbbing morass that is Kuala Lumpur’s highways, byways and no-bloody-ways. Maniacal scooters that make our taxi drivers look like road-safety poster boys, the city heat that liquidates your eyeballs, that distinct chance of you being shat out a beautiful mess over tarmac – the list of delights goes on.

KL’s roguish charms belie hidden treasures, though. The reason why i’ve winged 4 hours up north to wrangle traffic, on 2 hours’ sleep, is this:



Hey, we’ve just thrown a couple of old containers and awesome bikes together – you should totally come up here and chill!

My achingly talented friends at creative agency Think Tank really know how to bait a girl. Beautiful Machines is their latest brain egg, a thinly-disguised ploy to marry work and their hearty passion for all things loud, hairy and Harley. The custom bike workshop sees them making a surprising transformation of an industrial hole-in-the-wall, creating a living, organic space buzzing with a cheerily insane vibe – you certainly don’t have to be a lover of motorcycles to appreciate the madcap wall murals, the darling dishevellry of those stacked industrial cases, and cute, tattooed mechanics sweating over tangled metal with a cigarette dripping off their lips.

They’ve made room for seriousness though, by packing the entire creative agency – workstations, directors, producers, assorted minions and all – into windowed containers. No one, even friends and clients on the other end of the phone, is spared the throaty howls of V-twin engines, rolling out like thunder with a plantation-wide kill radius. You’d be hard pressed to call this a clandestine operation.

If you ride, and fancy seeing the city and its outskirts amid a cloud of sound and fury, be gladdened to know that these folks need little excuse to take the action out of the garage. Head honcho Rajay keeps weekends sacred for foodie excursions (Genting, Fraser Hill and the like), and he welcomes tag-alongs – although he’d much prefer that your machine keep up in the style-stakes. “Cherie, when are you gonna ditch that iPod and get a REAL bike?” Verbally reduced to pocket-electronics, my 650cc Versys, which bears battlescars from a 7000km ride through Thailand’s northern wilds, cringes apologetically in the corner. If it aint chrome, it’s going home.

Home? The furthest thing from my mind, when we all piled into our saddles and exploded into the night like pillaging Khans, minus the raping, furry hats and horse shit. Rush-hour traffic parted at the blow of an exhaust, which is the Harley equivalent of a gentle but firm elbow through the crowd. This, you will never see happening on Singaporean roads, where anything on two wheels is automatically scraping the bottom of the vehicular food chain. That evening, rollin’ with the big boys, I felt like we were the whooping, gleeful lords of our own chaos kingdom – the sort of experience that puts proverbial hair on your chest.

But I exaggerate. Roll up to P.J. Selangor and find out for yourself just how beautiful custom motorcycles, and the people who love them, can get. i hear that the folks responsible for this gorgeousness are soon to unveil a cafe just next door. I look forward to the weekend when I can knock back a cold one or two while cheerily deafening myself at the windy end of someone’s shiny 883 Iron.

Hit them up at http://beautifulmachines.my

Ready, Steady, Explosions!

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As a self-proclaimed foodie, my weekend luxury consists of having good coffee and chillaxing at a nice, quaint cafe with a good brunch, after sleeping in. I firmly believe in not mistreating my tummy and wasting calories on bad food – and that is a main factor contributing to my picky tastebuds.

But since I enjoy simple, affordable fare as much as the next person, my “luxuries” are (thankfully for my wallet) not usually something to break the bank for. 🙂

One of my absolute favorite spots has got to be Artichoke, at Sculpture Square (www.artichoke.com.sg). Formerly a cafe called “The Secret Garden”, this current incarnation offers Moorish cuisine. They change their menu monthly, which is one reason I find myself returning to this place time and again to enjoy their latest creations.


The setting of the cafe is clean – mismatched wooden furniture (which I absolutely love), with a cosy corner of benches and cushions. Their refreshing yet romantic al fresco area is perfect for a dinner date, actually! Their chalkboard has a food quote that I totally agree with, and of course, their featured dish of the day.


I must admit that when they first served our selections (1. Sauteed mushrooms with rocket salad, 2. Brunch set with bacon chops and assorted mushrooms), I was intrigued by the dry looking strips of dough that accompanied the mains. They reminded me of the way French baguettes would look like if toasted, cut into strips and carelessly doused with olive oil.

Boy, was I wrong. They ended up being my favorite type of bread — Turkish bread! Delightfully fluffy in the middle, complete with well-crisped skin, I was content just munching on them alone. Next was our attack on the mushrooms; the light garlic flavours complemented with the herbs and spices, without being overwhelming. We were pleasantly surprised by the bacon chops too; they were not too salty yet still packed with the sinful goodness of well-marinated pork. Delicious change from the usual crispy bacon strips.

Always the adventurous patron, our friend, S, had the misfortune of ordering lamb meatballs which were heavily spiced with a variety of spices we couldn’t make out. The combination was too weird for our tastes, and S had to struggle to finish his share. We suffered the same fate with one of the 2 portions of moroccan sausages as well. The other portion of meatballs thankfully tasted normal, enough for us to pounce on in order to erase the taste of its strange-tasting other half.

Special mention goes to the dessert of the day: the Toasted Banana Bread with Honey, Mascarpone Cream and Walnuts! (See how I paid extra respect to it by capitalising its name? :P) The portion of the mains was pretty big, but we found space in our tummy to try this dessert out, and we were definitely not disappointed. It tasted like banana cake with a crisp layer enveloping the yummy goodness. The cream had a hint of cheese in it, not too overpowering, yet perfectly complementary to the bread. I am now convinced that everything with mascarpone cream tastes good!

Right before we left, a server stood by the door to hand us a paper bag of gummy rings each. How sweet! Truth be told, in a country overladen with bistros and cafes at every nook and cranny, it’s the smallest acts of friendliness and extra attentive service that makes a place memorable. The parting gift put a smile on all our faces when we left.

Tak Mo Man Tai

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Allow me to do a bit of straight talking here.

Yes, I have been an entrepreneur for the last 10 years. I own two businesses – Utterly Art (2001) and Flight Plan (2011), none of which are multi-million dollar international businesses. I am not a millionaire and I certainly do not own flashy cars and apartments. I do have a decent quality of life, which some may say is an understatement. But, wealth is only a relative metric term for success.

Hence, I blog on my own authority and this is by no means to be used as a text book reference. Authority is not based on my wealth or success, but rather, a conviction on the beliefs, thoughts and opinions that I have built up over the years of being a businessman. I have mentored a number of young entrepreneurs and am proud to state that their businesses have either more branches or fancier office addresses than mine. Most importantly, they are still in operation.

Here are some pointers for aspiring entrepreneurs that I feel are not given enough air-time – the pep talk before everything else begins.

The Genesis

1) Passion drives home the idea

Everybody, young or old, will (at any point in their working life) want to be their own towkay (read: boss). Only then, do they begin to crack their heads on what their businesses should be. They are driven only by their desire to free themselves from the reign of hierarchy and administration. If every aspiring entrepreneur is guided only by this passion, there is little to distinguish them. Their businesses will be alike and highly non-competitive. This is going to make them wish they were back in employment when they struggle constantly to compete for the same customers as everyone else.

On the other hand, a passion for an idea strives on originality through keen observation of what the market is lacking. When it finds its niche, it morphs and evolves into many possibilities for this entrepreneur. His passion for his ideas drives him to stay highly competitive and is easily identified in a sea of pitchers (aka people pitching for jobs and contracts).

Passion is keenly important for another reason. In a cruel world, where everyone, like a broken record, is telling you to quit and get a regular job, your passion will be the only bandaid you have to hold your battled confidence together. Passion is the most basic essential to drive your business idea through to fruition.

“The more intensely we feel about an idea or a goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfilment.” – Earl Nightingale

2) When thinking becomes too much

I know many people who have great business ideas, but never got round to starting any. It more than often boils down to the excuse of “I’m still thinking about it”, which is a sure sign of the fear of the unknown.

Sure, planning is critical to starting and operating any business. However, I was glad I went in with a clean slate. You see, one of the fundamental rules I believe in is: you can’t think of everything. You just do not know everything! And life is a sly poker player dealing with the most unexpected mean hands. You are just going to have to learn along the way.

A clean slate can be your advantage. A person who overthinks and reckons he has covered every aspect of running a business is in for a rude shock when roadblocks come along. And in my 10 years, the roadblocks come in plenty and in shapes and sizes beyond what you can possibly fathom. However, go in with an open mind, believing that this will be a wondrous learning journey where falls are inevitable and are going to leave scars. Scars act as a constant reminder to do better and they usually become a thicker layer of new skin. Thick skin makes for a good business person.

Over-thinking will also clutter your mind and create mental blocks and obstacles. Be concise and clear with your business idea and with what you need to do to roll out the business or fix any problem at any point in time. Remember, if you cannot simplify what your business idea is and what you need to do, you are going to be as confused as your clients on what you’ve actually got to offer. Keep your eyes and everyone else’s too, on the prize – which is your business.

“Just do it.” – Nike

3) Humble pie never tasted so good

Here’s one of the best pieces of advice I ever heard:

“Can you live with the fact that your peers will be rolling in the dough and living the high life, all of which you are giving up to start this business? If yes, do it by all means.” – Jessie Ow aka MUM.

Why am I making this sound so hellish? I suppose I am trying to remind every aspiring entrepreneur that it is not all fun and games. And if you believe so, chances are that you will roll the high stakes unnecessarily, spending more on glam and fun then they are really worth. Most of it is just for keeping up appearances – for potential clients to see that you are not a fly-by-night company and/or to show off a little to your peers.

In the first year of starting my business, I have learnt that it takes 3 hours to walk from Chinatown to Serangoon because I wanted to save whatever little bit of money I had left. I have learnt that it is better to call the bank that you are going to be late for payment than avoiding their calls. I have learnt that eating cheap and in smaller quantities is also a great way to lose weight. The most important lesson I learnt in being frugal is that I get more creative in the way I work. Clients also appreciate your cost-effective spending ways, as savings are usually passed on to them. As such, profit margins are also higher.

By the way, before you proudly proclaim that you are your own boss, remember that all your clients are your bosses. And before you sigh a breath of relief that you have left the office politics in your last work place, the politics of your clients are yours too.

Humility will see you through the angst.

4) Keep your loved ones close and posted

There are two types of investors – those who provide the funds and those who provide the emotional support. No need to tell you already that fund investors need to be kept up to date of your business progress. As for your loved ones, be it family, close friends, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends and life partners, they invest their time and emotion in support of your endeavors. Therefore, they too need to be aware of the status of your well-being. You will be carrying your work with you 24-7, either on your mind or on your smart phone. It will affect your moods and take up every bit of your time. As your loved-ones give you their support, give them the respect and courtesy. Do not be ashamed to share the burdens, as you proudly share the joys.

Lack of communication will create misunderstandings and isolate you from your support system. I confess I have been guilty of that – guilty of thinking it is my own business (pardon the pun) and my responsibility – resulting in hurting and losing two great relationships. Money losses can always be earned back, but love lost remains forlorn. Regretful.

It is amazing how rejuvenating the company of loved ones can be, and the strength you can draw from them to face another day on the battlefield of entrepreneurship.

“Everybody needs a hug. It changes your metabolism.” – Leo Buscaglia

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Over & Out,

 

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Good eats, fine threads and fresh adventures! That’s our rallying call for living the delectable life – and we’ll be sharing our tips, reviews and showering you with little quizzes and goodie giveaways too!

Join us in the cockpit, where we’ll be navigating to one first-class destination after another.

For a start, here’s a peek at who’s behind the controls: