Passing 40 and rethinking self value.

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

It is a new world for us Generation X and Gen Y folks, especially after feeling young and fearless just not too long ago, you are now suddenly experiencing an intense acceleration in technology progresses and finding it all so unfamiliar. It wasn't too long ago when we deemed ourselves rather tech savvy, and never knew that this new normal can be uncomfortably unnerving . We taught our parents about Facebook and Whatsapp and you hear now from millenials that Facebook is for "OLD PEOPLE!".

Even Instagram isn't as fun as before cause now Tik Tok's the rage.

Wait, growing up in the 70s and 80s we were the age group that experienced it all. From rotating dial phones, to floppy discs, Sega Saturn, dial-up modem, Icq, Piratebay, multiplayer gaming and now, Youtube, Telegram, Netflix, Call of Duty Warzone but yeah..."we are still on Facebook 😒".

These past 6 months have been a rather confusing time to pass. The usually confident me, had to deal with a whole new level of self doubt never before experienced in my life up till now. With Covid 19 raging across the world, I had to stop the businesses I owned overseas, flew back to Singapore to a time where I had to choose between finding a job or starting new businesses in uncertain times. Finding a job is difficult for an entrepreneur, not only due to the various misalignments in expected qualifications for today's jobs, but it is also a mentally tough hurdle to cross.

I have been dabbling in UX and UI for the last year or so for my own businesses and even picked up a number of design projects along the way that kept me somewhat relevant. Pretty sure my design skills could match up with industry related quality.

Just last month, I got a chance to discuss about taking on a job in UX and UI for an upcoming app, I was told that product teams do not use Adobe anymore.

Confidence shot 😭! I suddenly have to go relearn "common" tools like InVision, Sketch, Figma, Zeplin, Slack, Trello, Jira etc. I was totally open about the transition into a job because I thought even taking on an huge income cut could open myself to a new community to power my own aspirations eventually, but I guess it's back to relearning again. The awkwardness of not knowing the right platforms to do this work was a bitter pill I had to swallow but I now know where I stand. I guess being aware of when you stand, probably allows you to stand your ground to plan for another real fight to start.

I've never been afraid to approach, pitch and speak to find support for my projects, but everything now seems so unapproachable and the technology platforms are getting overwhelmingly complex to handle. I'm left wondering about my value in my community and how to make myself relevant again. I believe many of my peers are going through this period of uncertainty, wondering about career changes, whether if it new jobs are sustainable, especially with those who have family to support. Trust that you are not alone.

The Singapore government has put out the narrative that mid-career workers in their 40s and 50s should retrain. In fact the recent budget allocated $1000 SkillsFuture credit for middle aged Singaporeans to take on more courses to upgrade. Online courses are coming in thick, with NTUC Learning Hub providing many of the courses to help many upgrade. Other platforms like Udemy, Domestika, Masterclass give you access to a huge range of formal and informal knowledge and skills. However with this access, it also also makes many of your previous skills probably not that privy as before.

So what do you do in this fast paced technology driven environment to stay relevant?

Look at your passion, in our case here, bringing great food to people. What are your current skills are and where you want to position yourself in the community. Start looking at how you can teach what you know and in the process learn from those learning from you. Doing that gives you a community to exchange ideas and your ability to show leadership in this interaction. In this new normal, it is all about passing on knowledge and in return your community will return you your worth. The situation is still the same, we need strong leaders to lead and the young ones to flourish.

So what do I learn?

Ok before we talk about what to learn, the most important part is getting pass that mental arrogance that you are too smart and too wise to upgrade. This I believe is more likely a mask to cover the fear of approaching something new. Unfamiliar things are scary, it almost feels like meeting your future father in law discussing about taking away his daughter. But fear is only mental and the world with its technology will continue to keep moving on whether you like it or not.

"Mai lor soh lah how do I start?"

LIST DOWN YOUR STRENGTHS that you believe you can capitalise on, what your passions are and where do you think you lack in knowledge and skills to accomplish your objectives. A simple search online opens up a trove of individuals and communities dedicated to teaching you something and are mostly willing to accept you and your contributions as long as you are not an asshole. Being part of a community assures interaction, real engagement in real projects, realistic understanding of the industry and KEEPS YOU UP TO DATE!. Don't give up because someone is doing it already, because "someone is actually doing it already", business ideas are all happening IN THE NOW. If you have something of value to contribute, start to contribute and participate. Cook that dish and dish it out.

FOCUS ON THE RIGHT TYPE OF UPGRADING. Take on a position amongst all your strengths that you believe you can bring the most to the table. It should also be something that you have the most capability with the included emotional and mental bandwidth to stay on course. Do not succumb to some romanticised fleeting dream for the moment. You then upgrade that particular skill set quickly to start moving towards your objective. If it is something you really love and hope to transition into, don't be afraid to skill up and get educated as soon as possible. And while you are learning, continue to engage in that subject matter with a local community, or if there is none, have a go at creating your very own. Then work hard on contributing and you will eventually get connected to the right people very soon.

For example, if you really want to go into fondant cake baking. Start from Youtube to learn basic skills and learn what basic tools to buy to accomplish basic cakes. Almost every subject, object, equipment is reviewed or discussed on Youtube. If your interests finally take seed, move on to other more detailed online course platforms like Udemy to find more specific paid courses to level up. At the same time, join every fondant cake Facebook Group, Instagram pages, work out your Pinterest idea board and start to focus on who you really are and the type of style you envision your product to be. You will be selling those cakes in no time.

STOP LISTENING TO TOO MANY DREAMS and getting excited on too many ideas. Every project is difficult because success requires focus because when your project starts to grow, so do the amount of components needed to get things done. So pick a dream to fight for. Any dream. Whether it is your business partner's dream, your own dream, some new job prospect, a new type of tart or the kueh lapis you wish to sell. Then find the right community willing to listen to this dream and allow them work their magic for you, together with you. Many older folks who start to experience the internet recently, get too excited about new things with yesterday's mindset. If it's already online, you can only engage it if you work hard to bring real value to the table. If you don't put in the effort to get educated, you are unlikely to even have the chance to be part of it with your wishy washy ideas and participation.

PROTOTYPE AND MOVE AHEAD You can think big but start in small and in rapid sprints. Ideas become common and sometimes obsolete fast. Very quickly you will realise people will have better ideas out there which you then have to improve continually to keep up. Your beautiful tart selling hot today will be overshadowed by another cream puff in the rage tomorrow. So quit waiting for the perfect solution to everything before you start. It retards a project and wilts out interest before it even starts.

Test it out with communities to see if it gains any traction before you pour more resources into it. For example, you just baked up bunch of delicious artisanal cookies that are infused with interesting edible flowers, great! Just put it in a simple bag you can quickly buy from Lazada, spell out your brand with your marker, and start selling on Carousell. Learn your SEOs, find out if your tags will communicating with what people are searching for, then get attention on social media and start talking to communities you can connect with and be daring to ask for feedback. You will be surprised how much faster you will learn in this short process of engaging rather than planning for the perfect cookie slowly while the world moves ahead.

I started Hojiak Times because I believe I have enough mental bandwidth to provide value to a growing home based food business community of those who are looking for ways to engage in this new cyber revolution. I wanted to a create platform to give them a voice and access to capabilities they never knew they could accomplish through prototyping and internet marketing. Knowing how to make the right decision at the right time is still a skill that requires time and experience in this field, so I am now helping businesses scale up professionally and responsibly.

However difficult, know that there are communities out there willing to help you in your dreams if you dare to reach out. There is nothing impossible as long as you don't give up in searching for your new purpose and allow others to help you write your story. I leave you then with a seemingly melancholy tune by Alaina Castillo, "Pass you by." in hope you will be unafraid to reach out.

"Don't let this moment pass you by.

One day your heart might lose it's mind.

You're scared you don't deserve to smile.

Don't let this moment pass you by."

"You've earned the right to know yourself. And you've earned the right to love yourself..."

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