#3: Lessons from a Leap-Year

2016. Outlook.

When I started this blog, probably my biggest dilemma was whether I should write more about my spiritual journey, or my journey as a designer. Well, I named it My Journey of a 1000 Designs after all. But I got to realize that I didn’t have to pick between the two to start with – over time it has gotten more lucid to me that my story isn’t only about a journey of either (i.e. spiritual or design); but rather about a Journey of Purpose.

As we come to the end of 2016, we’re most probably reflecting on the year, and setting our plans, aims and targets for the year ahead. We commonly refer to them as resolutions, and indeed they seem to be a big deal and a precursor to a focused year to come… well, so it seems – ’til sometimes we realize after we’re overtaken by the year and its events that we didn’t get to tick all (if not most) of the things off the resolutions list. We ask ourselves “What went wrong?” “Where did I go wrong?” “Was I that lazy?”. Well, I feel the answer to these question depends on what our motive, focus and understanding of oneself and life purpose was when we made these resolutions in the first place.

To help explain what I have just said, I have made this post to be about lessons I have learnt from my experiences during the leap-year. 2016 was quite a year for me: I have grown, have been challenged, have fought back, have lost some and conquered some; I have been beat, down and out… and I have emerged. But most importantly, I have lived. Let me point out a disclaimer: that the opinions expressed in this post by no means represent or suggest the ideal means for coming up with “resolutions”, plans, targets, etc. (And no, Wiley & Sons haven’t published “New Year’s Resolutions for Dummies” either!).

Lesson 1: Purpose before everything. Before we start setting those life goals, ambitions and yearly resolutions, it is essential to understand why we are planning/setting those goals in the first place. More essentially, it is important to understand our life purpose and how our plans and goals fit in towards fulfilling that purpose. I have learnt that purpose guides good intentions; it “aligns” us and saves us from making shallow plans and setting shallow targets, or doing something for not-the-right reasons – like “wanting to get a car because everyone around you has bought one already.”

Lesson 2: Leave the Theory of Relativity to Science. Do not define your story relative to the next person’s… or your friend’s… or anyone for that matter. They have their own story, most of which you’ll probably never understand – and so do you. No one will know how far you have come and what you have been through better than you and your God. I’ve gotten to realize that the source of our dissatisfactions come from our comparison to others. Think about it: Most of the time we are dissatisfied with the very things that someone out there would wish for (part of the morale behind the “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone” cliché). Nomatter how bad your situation is; your story (and testimony-in-the-making) is unique to you – God has unique plans for each of us, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Lesson 3: Use your gift. It’s probably not the first time I’m mentioning this in my posts, but I believe each of our lives lies on a path towards the fulfillment of a purpose; and along that path we find ourselves and understand more of who we are and the unique gift(s) that God placed in our hands – to lead us towards realizing our respective purpose. I have learnt that we cannot be good at something for nothing; and every gift (physical or spiritual) is given to us raw, and needs cultivation and nurturing… constant nurturing. So, identify your skill, develop it such that each time you retire for the day, you leave your talent better than what it was when you woke up that morning. Remember, nomatter what happens to you, nothing can ever take away that which God has placed in your hands – so use that gift, for God’s glory and the devil’s shame.

Lesson 4: Know yourself. Real good. This is essential in order for one to apply Lesson 3: Use your gift. Are you a team-player? Can you work under pressure? What makes you excel the most? What makes you fail the most? Do you stick to your targets? The list of such questions is endless, but we need to be able to answer these questions so we know our strong and weak areas, and to be able to guard our respective vision, purpose, gifts, etc. – think of it as a personal SWOT analysis. One thing I have come to understand with myself is that I draw my energy and motivation from what I surround myself with, and I have been learning to use that for my design work, photography, art, coding, etc. I use my blog writing sessions as an opportunity organize the constant thoughts of my hyper-active mind and paint a picture of how I perceive, understand and conceive. I guess “Cogito ergo sum” isn’t much a Latin cliché after all.


Lesson 5: Declare and do. Five words: Actions speak louder than words. Mean what you say, and act to show what you mean.

Lesson 6: Stand firm. And fight back. Do not be scared to be bold and confront your fears and challenges. At some point in our lives, we will hit that all-time low – probably so badly that we stop seeing the point of life and its meaning. But have ever asked ourselves what we can/could do about it? They never said it would be easy, but one (and probably the best) way we can start moving away from that state of being overwhelmed, defeated, remorseful, beat, down and out is by doing something about it. What won’t kill you will make you stronger – let yourself get the better of the problem, not the other way around.

Lesson 7: One thing at a time (a.k.a. Serial Processing). Whether it’s starting on that huge project that seems to be overwhelming, or it’s picking up from Lesson 6: Stand firm. And fight back – try taking it one step at a time; take each day as it comes. For Rome wasn’t built in a day. Whilst our daily efforts seem insignificant to our expectations, you may be amazed at the cumulative sum of these daily efforts when put together. Let’s put it this way: try saving a dollar a day from January 1st, and tell me how much you’ll have by December 31st.

Lesson 8: Don’t just push yourself. Challenge your mind. The saying “Don’t work harder; work smarter” best explains this lesson. My high school science teacher used to tell us in energy class that “Nomatter how much force you exert against a wall or a rock, if you don’t move it there’s no work done there.” It’s possible to move the wall/rock; we just need to figure out how. Use what you know about yourself (Lesson 4) to expand your gift/skill, body of knowledge and to be able to work more efficiently. That’s how we grow as creatives, and that’s what brings us closer to full-potential.

Lesson 9: Keep reminding yourself. As William Shakespeare put it, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” It is important to constantly remind ourselves who we are, where we have come from, where we are going, and the battles we have endured. Sometimes our brains tend to act as RAM as we lay prone to a fast-paced world where we have to keep on keeping up appearances and catching up with the rapidly unfolding events in our lives and around our spheres. It’s become quite easy to get lost to the world and digress from our life purpose and goals. I believe the key to our humility and consistency in character is remembering our identity, history and endurance.

 “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Lesson 10: Oh… and one more thing; a secret to one’s successful personal plans and goals, is to be honest… and sincere… with oneself, and God.

Otherwise happy retrospection, and best wishes for a prosperous year ahead!

‘Til the next post…