Sunday, April 22, 2012

My associations with Music

Recently, I've been thinking quite a bit about how much I'd love to be in the music entertainment industry, specifically as an artist - a singer, a dancer or both. I think that I'm quite an expressive person and I sometimes do prefer to convey my emotions and thoughts through song, facial expressions, body and hand movements. There are also a lot of times when I feel like bursting out into song, or doing a whacky dance move in the middle of the library or on a pedestrian walkway.

To me, it's just another manner of expressing myself, and I'd want to be free to choose whichever way I wish to do so. I doubt that I have really done any of those crazy stuff in front of the public before, except occasionally humming or singing softly as I walk. Take away all the glamorous stuff about the entertainment industry, factor in all the hard work, discipline and training - I think I still would want in. The only thing that keeps me away from pursuing something that could be my dream (I wouldn't say that it has always been my dream) is the fear of the unknown - the fear of failure (hey cliche but true).

In my opinion, I've always been fortunate enough to be closely associated with music:
  • I started attending Yamaha Music School since I was 2, with my mother by my side.
  • I had private piano tutoring when I was about 5/6.
  • I completed the Grade 8 Practical Piano Exam with ABRSM.
  • I was selected to be part of the Music Elective Scholarship Program when I was 13 (Secondary One).
  • I picked up the guitar during then, and joined the school's Guitar Orchestra for 4 years.
  • I signed up for dance classes (hip-hop and popping) when I was 17, stopped when I was 18.
  • I picked up vocal classes with a performing arts school when I was 18, attending whenever i had the time.
  • I performed 2 short songs for a concert organized by the performing arts school.
  • I've also somehow managed to end up on a stage performing at 2 bars, once in Shanghai, and once at Cuscaden@Chijmes (Singapore), singing 2 full songs.
They say that even if you love music, you don't necessary have to be a singer or a dancer. In the entertainment industry, there are so many options available. So even if you pursue music performing as a career and you realize that you can't 'cut it out', there are still so many options available. But I haven't gotten the proper visualizations of me doing something else within the entertainment industry. I don't know how it will be like, and I don't think I'd like it as much as being a performer on stage. Really not for the glam, but for the full endorsement of my inner emotions outwardly displayed for all to see. So if I can't 'cut it out' as a music performer, if I've failed at trying to be one, what do I want to fall back on?

Of course I haven't given those other options a shot yet ('how would I know that I wouldn't like it if I haven't tried it out yet right'), but that's also because I've always pursued a somewhat safe path throughout my education. And by being safe, I've ended up pursuing my other safer interests - in the banking industry, the business/corporate world. To me, I've been able to find areas of those industries where my strengths and interests lie, minus music. To me, I'd probably be alright, or in fact, happy to do the jobs that I envision myself doing, minus music. And it sounds and feels safe, financially and it's what most other people are doing anyway. In exploring all those various options within the corporate world, I haven't had the chance to explore other options, like those in the entertainment industry.

I bet that there are various functions within the corporate world that overlap with those in the music industry. In these overlaps, there are also probably functions that would allow me to leverage on my strengths and interests. But right now, at this point in my life, I'd say that either I get myself a sweet spot in the corporate world where I love my job, or I get a sweet spot in the entertainment world - which is to be a performer and love my job.

But seeing as how things are going and with the increasing visualization (whether biased due to the current environment that I'm exposed to) of me doing well in the corporate world, I'll probably end up relinquishing my aspirations of being a music performer.

It won't be all bleak and gloomy though - I can always still pursue music as a hobby - indulging myself whenever I have the time and space - and KTV!

Friday, April 20, 2012

April Reflections

It seems like it's always during the exam period that I have the urge to write my thoughts out somewhere rather than keep it within the recesses of my brain. So here goes:

The Need for Self-Reflection and Self-Rectification
I believe that everyone does this every once in a while. I think I do it excessively - even to the extent that I constantly air my thoughts and feelings to people around me till (I feel) they get moderately annoyed and irritated. But I can't help it - I constantly rewind moments a few frames ago to study what I did right and what I did wrong, as well as the details that I notice about things and people around me. If there's something I don't understand, or something that I'm not sure whether I did right or wrong, I'd tend to want to talk about with someone.

In my opinion, I think that it is extremely important to do this. For me, I always want to be in a forward motion - I want to constantly improve myself and become better than who I am today. In order to achieve this, I have to make sure that I minimize any repetitive mistakes that I will make. This automatically means that I have to be aware of my actions and words at any one point in time, assess them after a few frames have passed and make the necessary mental notes.

However, doing this makes me highly self-conscious, which may err sometimes on the side of insecurity, if I choose to air my thoughts out. It also makes me somewhat vulnerable - opening myself up for attacks and criticisms, if any come my way. But that's how I know how I can improve myself - and I believe that I'm more than willing to lower my ego threshold just for this purpose.

But I guess I do have to control myself sometimes - depending on the situation or the people I am with, whether to air my thoughts out or keep them to myself and save that assessment for another time.

The Need for Acknowledgement (The Lack of Praise and 'Thank-Yous')
Having talked about self-assessment and the invitation for criticisms, I realized that I've been receiving less than an optimal amount of praises that I sometimes think I deserve. And people say that I'm hard on myself - when they aren't that easy-going with me either - at least not with the praises. I think we all need praises once in a while. Explicit ones - not in the mannerisms or nuances that I have to look out for. And yet, they must be sincere praises - not for the sake of motivation or as an avenue for self-praise. Praises help people move along - a form of feedback and the creation of positive energy - a good dose is necessary for everyone - especially for one that is so hard on himself.

Same thing with 'Thank-Yous'. It has become a common thing after project submissions that I thank everyone for their hard work and a good job well done - and then occasionally I get a reply with a Thank-You in return. But it seems like I've always been the one creating these avenues for affirmation and acknowledgement. It seems like I've hardly received gratitude initiated by someone else. And believe me, I've experimented well with the timing of my initiations. Well there could be several reasons for this:
  • Busy people
  • Conceitedness - people only really care about themselves
  • Undervaluation of the utility of expressing gratitude
  • None of my work with them deserves gratitude
If you ask me, yeah well as expected, probably a mixture of all those reasons. Praises make people feel good - a form of positive reinforcement. And they spur us do even better. People should just do it - all it takes is 5-10 seconds of sincerity and it could make a difference for everyone around them.

Recognition of Selfish Human-Beings
I'm not sure whether I've brought this up somewhere before, but I increasingly subscribe to the belief that everyone is really just selfish. It's not really a bad thing actually - it's just admitting who we are and why we do certain things. And not everyone has to believe that everyone else is selfish and inward-looking. But I believe that it helps me better understand the world around me. Not that the world has suddenly become bleak and hopeless - none of those dreadful thoughts really.

I am selfish - I want to do things for myself - prioritizing 'me' first. And that is important - not only does it help me focus on things that I really want to do and do them well because I'm doing it - the positive externalities are great. It goes a lot towards self-respect and self-love. In identifying all the good stuff about doing something (that's for me), I naturally tend to feel more energized about doing it. And I don't have to question my intentions - whether I am really doing it for someone else or for myself - I am simply doing it for myself. But because I am energized and pumped up about working on something for myself, I tend to do it well and everyone working with me during that time benefits from my positive energy and my good work. And that's a bonus - externalities of my self-centeredness.

So here's an example: Say I am working on a certain project for one of my courses at college. It requires us to do some research work, compile those into a report and make a presentation at the end of the course.

Most of us would start with thinking about the grades, the amount of work laid out in front of us, and then the inertia sets in and we get tired of even thinking about the project. We might start thinking about how much work we want to do, and how much work we have to do for our teammates that might be slacking off (free-riders).

Well, what if we start off the project by thinking about what kinds of personal benefits we can get from working on the project? Apart from grades, this is a typical list that I come up with:
  1. Improving leadership and project management skills
  2. Improving time management
  3. Improving PowerPoint skills
  4. Improving presentation and verbal communication skills
  5. Achieving greater internalization of course materials and gaining more general knowledge
  6. Improving people-skills
  7. Preparing myself better for work next time
And then I start to worry that the number of projects that I have to do at college is decreasing and there's going to be less opportunities for me to apply and improve myself. You know, this is really closely related to positive thinking. But it makes positive thinking more realistic by recognizing that we're doing it for ourselves. It works for me. And all my teammates have benefited from this as well, whether in terms of overall project grades, or even for their own personal development.

I acknowledge that all of us actually do this to a certain extent - identifying benefits. But I believe that most of this is done subconsciously.
I advocate an active identification of value - and where value is lacking - an active creation of value. I'll type more about this when I have the time in the future.

Limitations: 1) I might end up eating myself out. We are human beings after all - and we all have a limited amount of time. If I'm going to push myself to work on everything that I find beneficial to me, I'm going to end up sacrificing something else. It really boils down to prioritization. 2) And this self-centred motivational model should only be applied for work-related issues (corporate world). Porting it over to social life becomes dangerous - measuring and calculating social benefits during socialization is one sure route to insincerity and eventual alienation.

Amongst Other Topics
I would like to discuss the following topics that I've thought about for the past few years:
  • The Need for Ownership - I think that this is severely lacking in many people
  • The Need for Perception Management - We underestimate the implications too much
  • The Need for Expectation Management - Both ways - our own and others'
  • My Interests in Profiling People
Current Status Update
  • I'm about to complete my second year of study at college.
  • I've secured a 10-week internship with a well-known accounting firm - corporate communications department. Think that it's a good first internship and I hope to learn loads from it.
  • I'm also currently working with a non-profit organization that provides pro bono consulting services for other non-profit organizations. It has been a good experience thus far, and I've been scaling a steep learning curve.
  • My current work aspirations: Management Consulting, Commodities Trading, Private Banking (Hotel Management and Politics will have to wait till later in life)