Highlights of my 2016 and What I’ve Learnt


I’ve recently had the desire to revive my blogging (not for the first time), and what better way to do that than to write a end-of-year reflection post. So here goes.

  1. Doing what you love 

This year, I finally ended my work with the Singapore government at SPRING, where I spent the better part of about 2 years. So I’m glad I’m now doing my Masters at King’s, thinking about precisely the issues of political economy and philosophy that started capturing my imagination during my time in NUS. I see it as a stepping stone to continue with my PHD after next year; surely a difficult task, but the right one.

Through my time with the government, and moving over to London, the well worn cliche of “doing what you love”, nonetheless resonated very clearly. I realise that having an understanding of who you are, and what you’re meant to do, is absolutely essential for all kinds of happiness, your peace of mind, and just going through dark days. It’s been rightly said before that having a sense of “why” in your life, helps overcome the “hows” i.e. confusion, uncertainty, adversity. It was much easier for me just to stay behind in Singapore, either get promoted eventually or find a better job. But just going off like that, alone for who-knows-how-long? If not for the overriding passion, I would be freaked out by this already.

However, it’s clear that most people don’t really have a clear and strong sense of their purpose. That’s unfortunate. But it’s asked: how do you really know what your “calling” is? For me it certainly wasn’t some burning bush experience. It was just a process of being honest with myself. I just reflected on my strengths and inclinations, which most of us do for sure, except that I wanted to scale this up to the largest possible degree, i.e. for me to be the best version of myself. I surmised that I liked ideas, talking about and teaching them, and being a romantic at heart, what better way to do this than to become an academic and apply myself to change things?

Knowing what you want to do is one thing, but how can these goals, especially if they’re lofty ones, be achieved? Mine certainly isn’t a cakewalk, but I thought to myself, hey, if there’s one mountain to climb and die on (even if the peak isn’t reached), it would be this one. I would be satisfied just knowing I tried.

So for whoever’s reading this, you should remember this cliche again. You need to listen to yourself, your heart probably already knows. You just need to tune out from the distractions and tune inwards.



The people at SPRING I worked with for almost 2 years. Strangely, I miss them quite a bit. 🙂


2) Saying no to get something bigger 

Sometime before I moved to London, I was in this big dilemma about whether to take up a certain scholarship that was offered to me. The problem was this: taking this up, would on one hand, mean that all my tuition fees would be paid, but mean that I would have to return to Singapore for two years after and remain there. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing, except that returning to Singapore would mean I can’t continue my PHD here in London.

So I eventually turned it down. And saying no to that big sum of money (and the ego-gratifying feeling of attending those swanky award ceremonies) wasn’t easy, but it was a justified risk at the time. This brings me back to the earlier point above: letting go of that comfortable security for what you know is right, but uncertain.

Isaiah Hankel in “Black Hole Focus”, tells us to be strategists and not sheeps. Sheeps follow life’s lead, and run after whatever carrots are dangling in front, and run away from the sticks they face. They run around but go nowhere in the end. Strategists begin with the end in mind, then ruthlessly navigate the shortest path to it. Put in such terms, hey, how can I allow myself to be a sheep right?

3) Letting go of the past, and certain people 

Spent a lot of time this year thinking about the past, and the people I used to know and was close with. I realised somehow even though these people are gone, a part of me was still living for them, wanting their approval.

How unhealthy this is. So I made a decision to let go, and what better way to do it than to delete a lot of old photos and individuals from social media. It was very liberating when I did it, it’s like pulling out a bad tooth you grew too comfortable with. Nonetheless you are the people you associate with, so you can’t shortchange yourself.

4) Finding your tribe 

Now this is a very important one. Life gets better when you find your tribe where you belong, where people speak the same language as you do, and like what you like.

Several things this year helped. Attended the Liberty Forum in KL in February and met great people. Later in the year, I also got to gather the libertarians that I know in Singapore and we set up the Libertarian Society of Singapore (I have great hopes for it in the next year).

14448936_10153775717172204_4897535515260329426_n    10426858_10153290219967204_5981557631053969423_n

Had some great travels this year as well. Of course nothing can beat my roadtrip in June in Germany. Bruh if you’re reading this, I luv ya. 🙂

13392071_10153523011277204_3710085427336228144_o     13475036_10153552486377204_3175870693129643085_o


Books, Uncategorized

Libertarian family values?


Those interested in the institution of the family and LGBT rights should read this excellent book by Steve Horwitz called “Hayek’s Modern Family”. Horwitz shows that the institution of the family is a product of cultural evolution. With this basic insight, he shows that BOTH conservatives as well as liberals miss something in their analysis.

Conservatives see the “traditional family” as under attack by liberal norms, but don’t realise that this model of the family isn’t as traditional as they suggest. The family and institution of marriage has changed over time, and this means that they are simply romanticising one slice of time.

Liberals on the other hand, don’t realise that the diversity of family forms that they embrace, actually are a result of changing economic conditions that preceded them. It was actually capitalism and the wealth that “freed the family from a concern with material survival and have opened the space for it as the site of our deepest nonmaterial aspirations.”

Read more on this at Reason Magazine here


Reaching the peak – Reviewing Anders Ericsson’s “Peak”

Just finished an amazing book that I would like to share with everyone here. This is written by K Anders Ericsson, perhaps the foremost expert on the science of expertise. Basically, Ericsson is answering a question that most of us have had before: what is it that separates expert performers, those who are at the forefront of their fields, from the rest? It’s not the first engagement I’ve had on this topic, but the depth of his research on this brings my understanding to a whole new level.

With extensive scientific research, his findings suggest that individuals reach the peak of achievement not due to the magic of innate talent, but a long process of hard work, and quality practice. This is not simply blindly doing something over and over, and not merely reaching 10,000 hours. Quality practice follows what he calls “deliberate practice”, the gold standard of practice, which is focused, purposeful, with a clear plan of action. It also requires constant feedback under the tutelage of an effective coach and role model. The key ingredient is mental representations: the ability to perform a task excellently without needing deliberate thought because similar situations have been so well practiced that they seem second nature.

Ericsson looks into experts from all fields, from top athletes of various types, chess grandmasters like the three famous “Polgár sisters”, music prodigies like Mozart, writers, mathematicians, and shows that these “expert performers develop their extraordinary abilities through years and years of dedicated practice, improving step by step in a long, laborious process.” Natural talent may help at the outset, but confer no advantage in the long run or at higher levels.  Continue reading