Upon arriving in Shanghai, I found it was truly the Forbidden Kingdom: you cannot access Facebook, Google, Google Maps, Instagram, etc. No Uber or Grab. The alternative is Didi. It reduced my fancy iPhone to a sudoku handheld device.

I did my work first and devoted 2 days (Thursday and Friday) to trawling the huge SNIEC halls and met with many leading display companies. Like Guangzhou 5 years ago, I was again mindblown.

I went to the mosque on Friday. I was way early for Friday prayers, I think I was the first one to reach at 11.55am. I started reading my way through Juz Amma alongside with the translation. It is said (in a book I read later on Sunday, that the verses of the Quran are renewed every single time you read them. You never read them the same way twice, such that it has the same meaning to you when read again.) I rediscovered the verses and their meaning in the empty hall. Surah Al Fajr in particular stuck a wrench in me and rendered me defenseless.

A few old men started walking in, they stared at me. I said Assalamualaikum to them. Their expressionless faces broke out into toothless grins with faces lined with years of experience and wisdom. “Pakistan?” they ask. “Pu she. Xin jia po.”

Many more filtered in as we came closer to 1pm. The imam came breezing in like an old friend, greeting many in the congregation heartily. He took the pulpit and started talking about ‘Zhongguoren’ and ‘Ummatu’ and how they were one and the same. There was no translation or subtitles, but similarly to how I sat through various sermons in the Egyptian tent in East Timor, all you had to do was absorb the meaning through inflections.

There was one part where the imam talked about ‘wo men de ____ Musa alayhi salam’ where ____ is the word for prophet that I cannot now recall. But upon hearing that part in the sermon, I felt goosebumps rise and tears swell to my ears. For Musa, or Moses, is ours. Ours. Collective. As a whole humankind. Not for the Jews, or the Arabs, or the Malays, or the Indians or the Chinese. He was our prophet. Vocalised in a land thousands of miles away from my own that suddenly pierced my heart as if it was a juicy tomato, and the tears rolled out unannounced.

I felt chastened.

In the trains and the buses, I watched practically everyone glued to their phones. We are all connected all the time. Except those who are disconnected. I saw a man at Nanjing East put down a stool and started singing in an off-tune manner. No one paid him any mind. He seemed like he was having fun. I almost wanted to join in, because I shared the same talent. I felt I’d regret not doing so. I already do.

I went to many bookstores and even the Shanghai library, where I signed up for a library card. I plunged headlong into books. I read a couple from cover to cover and speed-read my way through a number more. I read Malcolm Gladwell talk about Nicholas Nassim Taleb in ‘what the dog saw’ and then heard directly from Nicholas Nassim Taleb in ‘fooled by randomness’ and then swirled the last of my cappucino before I downed it. I sat in a stupor and reflected on what I had just ingested. It made sense. It made new sense. The rubber band has been stretched. It never returns to the same proportion.

Down to the final day. I had visited many different areas of the city, yet each one had a different heart, beating a different drum. I couldn’t pin it down to a single tune. Unlike Ho Chi Minh, or Bangkok, or Kuala Lumpur, or Paris, or Rome, Los Angeles or New York, Shanghai was indefinable. It refused definition. It will not pander to your tourist dollar. It had character and will not explain itself to you. It had hunger, pride, drive and heart.

Jack Ma, Alibaba, Ant, AliPay.

Pony Ma, TenCent, WeChat, We Pay.

Population of 1.4billion Chinese, making up almost 20% of the world’s population. Marketplace. One Belt One Road Initiative and how it’s going to revolutionise how we trade globally.

It was light years ahead. The train to the airport goes above 400km/h and traverses 50km in 7 minutes flat. At that rate, you can go from SG to KL in 40 minutes. They’ve done it already. We want to do it in what? 5-8 years time? As we speak, they are now building a line from Shanghai to Beijing that will travel at 4000km/h.

I stumbled upon a conservation project: a house of a writer and newspaper editor who lived through turbulent times in China’s past and used his pen to further the cause back in the day. The doors were wide open and a lady greeted me as I walked past: ‘Ni Hao’

I hesitated and went in. I looked at the books and newspaper clippings and pages preserved. I took the spiral staircase to the house he stayed in. The table where he pored over his work till the wee hours of the morning. To avoid disturbing his wife, he will pull out a spring bed and sleep in his study. I stood there staring at the table. What do we really leave when we go? I looked out of the window in the study to the garden below. I glanced at the windowpane and half-expected to see a reflection of the man in the chair at the study table.

Disturbed, I turned to leave.

At the exit, I saw a plaque on the wall.

“Time is both cruel and merciful. It has taken many things away from me and also given many things to me. Life is a great book that can never be finished. Life is limited, and everyone can only read part of it, so they should read carefully.”

I walked out and it was raining lightly. When I walked past the entrance doors again, it was bolted shut.

I looked around and there was no sign of activity in the building. I briefly wondered if it was all just a dream.


How to Find the Sweet Spot in Your Business?

How to Find the Sweet Spot in your Business?
How to Find the Sweet Spot in your Business?


It’s extremely important that you aim your product/ service at the right target market.

Aim too high and you don’t get any takers because you lack experience, don’t have the portfolio yet or your company is too small to chew the kind of business they can throw at you.

Aim too low and you might get a good amount of business, but it makes you miserable because the profit is too small and this target group can’t afford to pay you more. You are enslaved to the equation of work much much harder to earn more.

Find the sweet spot. Fish in the right pond where the clients are of the right size and they can pay you well and the deals they give you will stretch and challenge you without breaking you.

This story of target market was already told to you in the bedtime story: Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.

Find the sweet spot. It’s the best Gift you can give your business.

Finding it means your business grows. You make money. You are happy.

Not finding it might mean you keep chasing your own tail for many years to come, breaking chairs and burning your tongue on hot porridge.

Do Your Possessions Possess You?

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 11.41.47 PM.png

When I was young, I was wowed when I visited my cousins’ or friends’ houses and saw mountains of toys and games in their rooms. I was envious and coveted what they had. I didn’t want to leave and wished that their rooms were mine. I felt sad that I didn’t have much. But then again, I knew that I didn’t even want much actually.

When I was in my teens, I had friends who had walls full of CDs and a TV in their room and the latest playstations and laptops computer¬†etc. Again I felt envious and coveted what they had. I wanted not to leave their rooms. I felt sad that I didn’t have much. But then again, I knew that I didn’t even want much actually.

Now I am in my thirties and I realise the hoarding of material possessions are not what I intrinsically desire. Though I might like to see collections etc, I do not really want to possess them. For I’ve learnt there is no joy in possessing. I wander through malls without desiring to own any item within because the tendrils of possession have no hold on me. We who possess nothing really and nothing should possess us. All the things that God has forbidden – alcohol, drugs, vice, interest – are things with tendrils. They urge us to possess and be possessed in return.

There is a saying about marketplaces and mosques. How one leads us astray and the other guides us towards the path.

Can we pass through this world without it sinking its claws into us?

Lessons My Mom Taught Me from Playing Monopoly

Lessons My Mom Taught Me From Playing Monopoly


1. When we were growing up, my family loved to play boardgames together. My favourite is Boggle. I was so good at it, that I usually challenge myself to get a bigger total than all the other players combined. I have my tactics and strategies to get there. You can ask the people who usually lose to me (my siblings) … hehehe.

2. But another game that we all loved is Monopoly. It takes hours to finish a game, but it has lessons that are very practical for life, I have realised.

3. My mom is very good at Monopoly. She almost always wins. But she doesn’t try very hard to win, she just does it calmly and naturally. I realise that the way she plays Monopoly is the way she lives her life as well.

4. These are some of the lessons she taught me:

i) Don’t hold your money in your hands all the time. Don’t be tightfisted about it. Put it somewhere safe, tucked under the board, or under a pillow, etc. Out of sight and out of mind, but somewhere safe.

ii) Don’t keep counting your money. There are some players, who keep counting all their dollar bills every single move they make. They are so focused on how much they have and worried to make sure that their money is still there and didn’t run off by itself. My mum told me don’t count money.

iii) Don’t try to kill off the others. Help them in their journey. Enjoy the game, and don’t worry about winning. Enjoy the journey.

iv) Celebrate small wins heartily. When you take a Chance card and win a beauty contest, celebrate! Laugh, clap, share your joy. People love happy winners, not Scrooge McDuck sulky winners. Win in a fashion that everybody loves to see you winning.

v) A winner can give away or lose all their money and properties, and still come back to win. A loser can try to hold on to all his money and properties desperately, but still lose everything in the end. It is the mindset that does everything for us. That is the ONE thing we need to protect and preserve.

vi) Understand that you’re not alone in the game. Everyone is playing the game as well. And everyone is looking at the board in a different angle. They see different things from where they are, but at the end of the day it’s still the same board.

5. We have all grown up and are so busy with our lives today. But I am happy to have and hold the memories of us playing board games together as a family. I hope that we can build the same memories with our children and impart our values to them as well in a healthy and nurturing way.

6. At the end of the day, the board is folded up and kept away. Then we will know what we truly have. All the money and hotels and houses will be taken away from us. All the metal bits that represented us as players in the game will be taken away from us. What we only have at the end of the day is the way we were and what we did for each other.