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Information Overload June 25, 2011

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I now understand the phrase ‘paralysis by analysis’. Total information overload is happening at the moment. Over the past few months since I started blogging, started thinking about a change in life path, and taking action towards making those changes, I have subscribed to hundreds of various websites, email newsletters, videos, audios, tele-courses – you name it, it’s in my inbox! Add that to the Twitter updates, WordPress and ezine training series and some awful ‘get rich quick’ sales letters and my inbox would rival any CEOs.

I had been putting it off and delaying the inevitable but today, finally, I had a massive splurge, unsubscribed from those sites where I was never realistically going to buy anything or get any good content from and set up email rules so I can filter out the junk from the useful stuff. It’s amazing how much lighter I feel just by doing this exercise.

This is not to say the information isn’t useful but in that volume and frequency it was turning me off so much I stopped checking my emails altogether. I now have a rule that if I see an email I do not immediately open and read then it hasn’t caught my attention enough to keep and it gets deleted straight away. I believe the universe will bring me the information I really need, and the rest – well I can still use Google right?!

Ah, glad to have that off my chest. Now, here’s to a more productive day (3 ezine articles submitted already!)

The dreaded apartment hunt June 12, 2011

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This is a milestone year for me – it is the first year since leaving home at 18 that I have stayed in the same apartment for more than 12 months. I realised my annual moving habits only a couple of years ago when submitting yet another visa application which needed a full history of all my addresses. For anyone that has moved around a lot, you will know what a nightmare this is. I don’t know many people who can remember the street name, number and post code for their last home, never mind their last 10! So I had to resort to getting my parents to dig out their address book and trying to decipher my old addresses under the scribble (my parents’address book has more than 5 pages dedicated to me!)

So staying in the same apartment for more than a year was an achievement, and I think my parents thought they might be able to just have one entry in their new address book, but it seems not. In Singapore, the annual increase in rent causes many people to seek a better deal elsewhere and so begins the dreaded apartment hunt. In each of the 3 major cities I have lived in (London, Sydney, Singapore) this experience never gets any easier. In London (depending on your budget of course) you can often be shown ‘compact’, ‘quaint’, ‘characterful’ places where you’re pretty sure you would be murdered on the stairwell. In Sydney, the Aussie charm is lost on realtors who will quite happily watch people try and outbid each other on the front step of a cockroach infested property just because it has ocean views. In Singapore, however, things are usually a little better, for expats at least. The agent will often pick you up, hand you a printed itinerary of several properties almost matching your criteria (you don’t need kitchen la?!) and negotiate on your behalf. Apart from spending your evenings and weekends looking at semi suitable places it is definitely the easiest place so far. But that comes at a price. It is normal to increase rent in Singapore between 20% – 60% depending on ‘current market value’ although I have yet to determine what drives this current market value when new condos are being built on every street on the island.

But with a new home comes new experiences and opportunities so who knows what’s around the corner or in the next suburb….

The Expat Wife May 18, 2011

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Along with a group of expat friends we went to the theatre last week to see a revised version of a local production called The Expat Wife. A whole play dedicated to the misfortunes, misadventures and experiences of expats? We knew we would be in for a good laugh.

As we walked through the entrance to meet the rest of our party, one of the expat wives (new to Asia) said she suddenly felt quite uncomfortable coming to a play where expats would basically laugh at the locals. For a brief moment I agreed with her but once the play started, we knew it was less about how the affluent expats were supporting the local economy and more about how the richness of the experience of being an expat would be supporting us.

It dawned on me in the first act that I was an expat. I know that sounds ridiculous but you just go through day to day life, doing all the normal things, grocery shopping, paying bills, deciding where to go for dinner on Saturday night that I had never really stopped and thought “hey I’m an expat“. I suddenly felt very lucky and privileged to be one of very few people able to encounter such amazing experiences half way across the world.

During the interval queue for the toilets however, the girl expats in my group all decided that the play was a little outdated and we had actually turned the traditional image of an expat wife completely on its head – as one of my friends rightly pointed out, her days are filled with “Pampers, not Prada“. As for the rest of us with full time jobs and working hours to rival our husbands, the whole expat wife thing has passed us by completely and we have made way for a whole new generation of expat wives, doing things our own way without relying on the husband’s bonus to buy ourselves that pair of Jimmy Choos.

I never cease to be amused at such gatherings where there is a large concentration of expats (in Asia this is usually festivals or gigs with bands from our home countries or events like the theatre) mainly because alcohol is the main differentiator between the cultures. We arrived at the theatre with about 30 mins before the play started, and it was Friday night, and we had all had long weeks at work, and we needed a drink (did I mention it was Friday night already?!) So the queue for the exorbitantly priced wine (where all the expats swarmed towards) was significantly longer than the one for the food (where the few locals brave enough to go to the play headed for). Who needed food? I had had a bowl of soup and a McFlurry 5 hours ago. “Can we take the drinks into the auditorium? No? OK then I will have to double my drinks order please!” You would never get a sensible local doing that.

It’s funny the things which make you take a look at yourself in a different way, and I wonder whether there will be a local version of the Expat Wife as seen through the residents’ eyes – it might not be as funny but I’m sure we would learn a thing or two about our host country!

Published! May 3, 2011

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I got published!

I know I should write the blog much more like a ‘proper writer’ to announce this news but any long drawn out explanation could not emphasise any better the total childish excitement I felt when I found out that my name (yes my real name!) was published not once but three times in a magazine! A magazine that people actually buy and which they print over 16,000 copies (4 of which I own).

An email from the editor a few weeks ago advising me that they were interested in my article submissions was news enough. They said they would post me a copy should my submissions be successful and the heavy envelope awaiting me in my inbox was a sure fire sign I had reached a massive goal in my life; to have something I had written printed in a magazine. One article was a double page spread to which my reaction was a shriek bringing the hubby from the bedroom into the kitchen expecting to find me pointing to a corner of the room where a spider or cockroach was lurking (hence the shrieking). So when I pushed the magazine towards him he was so (pleasantly) surprised he told me what I hadn’t at that point realised – you’re a published writer!

OK, so it’s not a hundred thousand distribution publication or a New York Times best seller but it’s not often I bask in my own glory so I am going to enjoy every second of it while it lasts!

As Paul Meyer said “Success is the progressive realisation of worthwhile, pre-determined personal goals.

This certainly ticks all the boxes for me.

So, what now? Well I need to keep doing more – much more – of the same (there ends the basking) to keep going and writing more articles and getting in the face of more magazines. Oh and the book? Yeah, it’s still ‘going’ – I just need about another 20 hours in the day!

Follow me on Twitter for more updates – http://twitter.com/Expat_Writer

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Do you know what work is? April 16, 2011

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What does work mean to you? Is it just that thing you have to do every day for a paycheque at the end of the month? Or is it a career that you love so much it consumes your whole life and leaves room for little else? Is it a part of your life you hardly give any thought to and it just happens on auto pilot? Is it something you have sacrificed other things to do better in; less time with the kids for more time in the office to improve your chances of a good bonus at review time?

The below quote taken from Black’s Law Dictionary, describes employment as:

A person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, where the employer has the power or right to control and direct the employee in the material details of how the work is to be performed.”

That might describe exactly how some of us see our work, being under the control of someone, telling us what to do; managing us. We sell the majority of our life to our employer – do we always get the best return on investment? I bet almost half of us wouldn’t think so (and the other half wouldn’t admit it anyway!). Seriously though, the time we spend away from our families each day is time we will never get back – still think you get the best deal?

I always envy people who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up – teacher, police officer, accountant etc. These people had only one thing on their mind and that was achieving their dream job. To them, it’s not work, it’s their vocation, what they were born to do. You can spot these kinds of people almost immediately, teachers in classrooms, nurses in hospitals, firefighters, working tirelessly to help others. Ironically, these groups of workers are also usually the ones campaigning for meager (and well earned) pay rises and improved employment conditions.

As idealistic as it might sound, the below quote I recently saw rings very true:

Focus on your passion and commitment – it will override your programming. Focus on your higher vision and purpose and do something you’re passionate about. Do what you love and love what you do.”

As hard as it is to break out of the corporate box and leave the comfort of a solid paycheque, sometimes that precious thing called life reminds you that it’s never too late to follow your dreams and do what you love. After all, we spend the majority of our week at work, surely it needs to be something you enjoy?

I hope as you read this you’re currently working at something you enjoy, or at least (like me) working towards it. Whichever it might be, here’s to our success and happiness!

Biting the Bullet April 5, 2011

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Has anyone else put a CV together where they have little experience in the field they’re actually wanting to get into?

It reminds me of  my younger days trying to apply for my first job with little or nothing to write on the 3 empty pages staring back at me. Now I’m there again, albeit with a few more years of work experience but not much in the arena of writing, not yet anyway. But after doing some research I realised that I do have experience, lots of it, it’s just never been in a traditional writing sense – by that I mean my 6 years in the corporate world were spent doing what everyday? Writing reports, documents, procedures, presentations etc. It’s still the act of writing, whether it was acknowledged as such or not. So in the end I opted for being completely honest but also emphasising the multitude of writing experience I have had, just in the various forms.

I sent the CV to a magazine – in a moment of madness I think but I felt I had to just bite the bullet.

I’m almost done on my copywriting course and just need to complete two assignments. I’ll make the most of an upcoming business trip to get them completed. To be honest, it’s not the best course but it has given me some good insights and things to research further.

Some small articles I have written might be accepted into a travel guide – I hope to hear the final word very soon.

My time recently has seen me working on a few projects, not technically related to writing but that will enable me to write more on a full time basis – watch this space 🙂

Thanks for reading, until next time

 

Home Sweet Home March 29, 2011

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Ahhh there’s nothing quite like resting your head on your own pillow, taking in the smell of freshly washed bed sheets and drifting off into a comfortable and familiar sleep after being away from home for any amount of time. Being an expat though, that bed might not always be the same bed, the home not always the same country. But for me at least, that doesn’t seem to matter, as long as it’s ‘home for now’.

Some people spend their whole lives in the same house, spending just a few nights each year in a different place on holiday or visiting friends; some people never leave at all. To those people, the thought of changing homes every year is not even an option (this has been my living pattern for the past 11 years). To me though, it doesn’t necessarily matter where the house is, but it does matter that it’s my ‘home’.  The familiar smell and feel of my own bed linen and pillows for example makes practically anywhere my home. Take those things away and I definitely feel out of touch with the ‘norm’.

Of course the people make a difference too; whether you come ‘home’ to be alone and in your own surroundings, or whether your significant other, kids and/or pets make the house your ‘home’.  To me, a big bear hug from the hubby on the doorstep as I come in and I know I’m home 🙂

As much as I love travelling and moving around, home is still home, wherever that might be at any given time. We have made our home on three different continents so far and who knows whether we will make that 4 or 5 continents in the future – but it doesn’t matter to me because as long as I have that feeling of being at home, that’s exactly where I’ll be.

Until next time.

Thanks for reading 🙂

3900 Saturdays March 2, 2011

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As I travel on this adventure towards becoming a writer, working freelance and being able to leave the corporate world, I am discovering lots of inspirational ideas, stories and theories. Call it the Law of Attraction, or just coincidence, or it could be because I am signed up to quite a few different websites for motivation, finding your life path, working from home etc etc. A lot of these sites, and what they contain, look similar to something you’ve read before, probably because essentially a lot of the information is exactly the same, just churned out with different words. One story which has stuck with me, however, is one called 3900 Saturdays. It’s from a website called Simple Truths but I have also included the story below.

It made me ask whether I can honestly say that I make the most of each and every day. Of course the weekend for most people means not being at work and relaxing or lounging about. But do we really make the most of these special days? Those of us in the corporate world might even admit that they live for the weekend and when it finally comes around, do little more than veg out in front of the TV, moaning about how quickly the weekends disappear. The idea of having a visual stimulus of how our time is slipping away from us might help to make the most of what we have now, and enjoy time with the people that really matter. At the end of our lives are we going to say “I wish I’d spent more time in the office” or “I wish I’d spent more time with those I love”?

Enjoy the story and thanks for stopping by!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday morning. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles.” I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say.

“Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It’s too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital,” he continued; “Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities.” And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.”

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3,900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I’m getting to the important part.

It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail,” he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1,000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.

Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.

There’s nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.

Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.

It was nice to meet you Tom. I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 year old man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”

“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile.

“Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”

What Do You Live For? February 20, 2011

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I am delighted to announce that I recently became an NLP  (Neuro Linguistic Programming) practitioner and as part of our course we are shown some very inspiring videos and stories. This one seems to have struck a chord with many people and asks ‘What do you live for?’ Click here to watch the video.

This group of elderly and sick Taiwanese men realise late in life what they have been living for before it’s too late and it makes you wonder – what do we all live for? Family, friends, our career, travel? Spiritual or religious people can often answer these questions much easier.  Do we ever really give it much thought until we are faced with old age, sickness or death? These are usually the times when we begin thinking about the bigger picture and what life is all about.

During my NLP study we learnt how to start thinking about what we really want from life and then learn strategies on achieving it.  As humans, we are not programmed to always ask what we want and how we might actually receive it. But the truth is, this is all wrong. The law of attraction is a powerful force and if we can only embrace it, decide what we want and work towards achieving it, it can happen. Sounds too easy? Give it a try and see for yourself. Just making this realisation has changed my life and continues to do so. I mentioned some favourite quotes last week, and this is another top one – “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Living for something gives our lives a daily framework, whether it’s spending time with families and loved ones, achieving what we can in our jobs, trying to make a difference to those less fortunate than us. If we’re not living for anything, then what’s the point? If you think what you’re living for isn’t ‘big’ or ‘important’ enough then rethink that – we can all define our own success and once we know what we’re living for, life can really begin.

Wow, I didn’t expect this week’s post to be so heavy!

Happy living, and as always, thanks for visiting 🙂

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” February 13, 2011

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I am all about quotes – especially those on passion and success. An email with an inspiring quote lands into my inbox without fail every morning (check out Said What to get your daily dose!) Amongst the usual office politics, demands for project updates and countless invitations to another round of pointless ‘meetings about meetings’, those little gems of inspiration never fail to bring me back to my goals, especially those which seem the most unattainable at times (working for myself, being my own boss, becoming a published writer etc).

For some people, quotes are useless bits of nonsense written by someone who died years ago and which have become overused cliches – but I love that little injection of powerful thinking which urges me on a bit more each day to reaching my goals.

The quote in the title (by Hebbel) is one which I have seen in many different forms but to me it says ‘nothing which is worth having comes without hard work, dedication and passion’. As much as I hate the fact that there can’t be an easy route to success, I know that when we do reach one of those goals, or even a significant milestone, it feels so much better than if it was handed to us on a plate. Plus, we care for it so much that we are likely to appreciate it even more.

It reminds me of when I was 10 years old and all my friends had the latest shoes ‘Kickers’ which were all the rage. I stared longinly at my classmates’ shoes – the beautiful black leather shoes with bulky front laces, one shoe with a little red tag, one with a little green tag (indicating they were the ‘real’ thing). I know they sound awful now but everyone had a pair, or wanted a pair, me included! I nagged and nagged my parents to buy me them, but at over £100 (about US$160) a pair, they understandably refused. So I saved my pocket money, did some extra chores around the house like cleaning my parents car and saved any money I got as birthday or Christmas gifts. It took me months to save up enough, and I often wondered whether they were worth it. I could have bought numerous magazines, sweets or ice creams with that money in the time it took me to save up enough but I kept saving hard. Being reminded daily by all the other girls at school wearing the best shoes in the world and me desperately wanting to fit in urged me on towards my goal. When the day finally came that I had enough money (and my Mum took pity on me and gave me the last £10 for saving so well) the time to go and buy them far exceeded any expectations I had. The special treatment of the sales woman in the shoe shop, the anticipation of finally getting the shoes on my feet and parading around the shop, the box they came in, the special bag with the rope handles which I proudly carried the whole way home – all the time and pain it took me to get there was forgotten. I can still remember dutifully cleaning the shoes everyday before school, and making sure I found as many different occasions to wear them as possible – I was proud and wanted people to see my achievement. It didn’t matter to me that other kids had been wearing these shoes for months already and they were probably going out of fashion soon, nothing could deter me from loving those shoes!

Fast forward 18 years and here I am again, aching for something (a few things in fact) which I know is going to take time and effort with challenges and set backs along the way. Only this time the goal is much bigger than two pieces of leather with fancy tags on them. But will the feeling be much greater when I achieve these goals? Of course! It’s one of the hardest lessons in life, but ‘the greater the dream or goal, the more painful the journey’ (maybe I just made up my own quote there!)

Passion is an intangible force, stronger than anything on this earth – it often gets hidden by set backs, failure and rejection but if we navigate these, and continue to let the fire of that passion burn inside us, then anything is possible.

When a goal matters enough to a person, that person will find a way to accomplish what at first seemed impossible.
Nido Qubein

I would love to hear anyone else’s favourite quotes, on anything which inspires you or makes you laugh, please share!

Thanks for reading.

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