Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Part 3)

The iTunes Store. There were many illegal file sharing websites like Kazaa, Napster etc. Steve wanted a legal way to download music. The music companies wanted to copy protect their music. Apple decided to work with Sony on that (Warner-Sony). Sony backed out and worked with Universal to create Pressplay. This was a subscription service to music. Steve hated stealing and piracy. Steve wanted the top 5 record companies to sell through the iTunes store. Steve wanted 99 cents per song, with the record company getting 70 cents. Musicians were unhappy that Steve allowed sale of single songs. According to him, tech companies don’t appreciate artists, and music companies don’t know technology. Steve convinced the music companies to sell through iTunes. Doug Morris was head of UMG. Steve had the vision that music companies were lacking. Morris loved Steve. He agreed to join Apple, instead of partnering with Sony. Sony was a good company, just that their divisions never collaborated and there was no synergy. Andy Lack was head of Sony Music. He knew that if Sony sold music through iTunes, Apple would be making a lot of money. He was angry by that fact. Eventually, Sony agreed to sell through iTunes. Persuading the record companies was one thing, now Steve had to approach the musicians. He went to the major artistes, including Bono, Mick Jagger etc. iTunes was released in Apr 2003. iTunes provided smoother and faster downloads. This was the turning point of the music industry. Microsoft was amazed at how Apple had managed to convince the record companies. Microsoft wanted to compete with iTunes. Microsoft tried to copy, but this time they couldn’t. Apple allowed the iPod to work with Windows. Steve was very against this initially. Apple also produced iTunes for Windows, so that more PC users could own an iPod. iTunes for Windows was launched in Oct 2003. Microsoft introduced Zune in 2006, 3 years later. It had very low market share. Sony’s divisions did not co-operate. This led to their downfall. Apple didn’t have divisional P&L. It was one P&L for the company. Steve was not afraid of cannibalizing yourself. Sony Connect was introduced. It was similar to iTunes. It failed miserably. In Jan 2004, the iPod Mini was released in the market. The iPod Mini was a huge success. In 2005, the iPod Shuffle was also a big hit. People loved to shuffle songs sometimes. ‘Embrace uncertainty’. Apple got rid of the screen. By 2007, iPod sales were half of Apple’s revenues. The iTunes was also a huge success. By June 2011, Apple had a database of over 225 million users.

With Andy, it was mostly about his big ego. He never really understood the music business, and he could never really deliver. I thought he was sometimes a dick. – Steve Jobs

With iTunes, it’s not stealing anymore. It’s good karma. – Steve Jobs

Steve Job’s ability to focus in on a few things that count, get people who get user interface right, and market things as revolutionary are amazing things. – Bill Gates

The older I get, the more I see how much motivations matter. The Zune was crappy because the people at Microsoft don’t really love music or art the way we do. We won because we personally love music. We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out. If you don’t love something you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much. – Steve Jobs

If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will. – Steve Jobs

It’s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character. – Steve Jobs

I don’t care much about computers, and kept telling him so, but he goes on for 2 hours. He was a man possessed. After a while, I started looking at him and not the computer, because I was so fascinated with his passion. – Wynton Marsalis, a famous jazz musician

Music Man (The Sound Track of His Life). Revealing your iPod to your friends can reveal what kind of person you are. Music reveals who you are. Steve liked the Beatles and Bob Dylan. He had a lot of artistes from the 1960s and 1970s. Steve liked Bach. Both the Brandenburg concertos and the Goldberg Variations. The second version was much darker and wiser. Steve also preferred the second version. Joni Mitchell was also his favorite artistes. Steve visited Dylan before one of his concerts. Steve was really nervous. Steve was really impressed with him. Artists knew that if they appeared in Steve’s ads, they would have added publicity. Dylan, to Steve, was still cool. After an ad featured him, he was top of the charts again. Beatles was still not on iTunes. Steve made sure they were eventually on it. Bono, from U2, wanted a riff from Vertigo played in an iPod commercial. iPod commercials featured silhouettes of artistes. Bono wanted a special version of the iPod released and royalties for each one sold. Eventually, Steve agreed to a deal with U2. Steve also like YoYo Ma, the famous cellist. He played Bach at Steve’s house. Steve teared by the sheer quality of his playing ability. Steve liked people who are pure. Pure with passion. He made YoYo Ma promise that he will play at his funeral.

He was one of my heroes. My love for him has grown over the years, it’s ripened. I can’t figure out how he did it when he was so young. – Steve Jobs, on Bob Dylan

The way we build stuff at Apple is often this way. Even the number of models we’d make of a new notebook or iPod. We would start off with a version and then begin refining and refining, doing detailed models of the design, or the buttons, or how a function operates. It’s a lot of work, but in the end it just gets better, and soon it’s like, ‘Wow, how did they do that?!? Where are the screws? – Steve Jobs

Steve (Jobs) can be sparky, but those moments have made us closer friends, because there are not many people in your life where you can have these robust discussions. He’s very opinionated. After our shows, I talk to him and he’s always got an opinion. – Bono, from U2

You playing is the best argument I’ve ever heard for the existence of God, because I don’t really believe a human alone can do this. – Steve Jobs, on YoYo Ma

Pixar’s friends and Foes. Lasseter set the tone at Pixar. He let the creative people do the work quietly and did not want to interfere excessively. Steve was more into deal making. Steve clashed with Katzenberg when he accused him of stealing the Bug’s Life from Pixar and adopting it for Antz at Dreamworks. Lasseter was super pissed with Katzenberg and didn’t speak to him. It was Lasseter who first revealed that Pixar was doing an animated film on insects. Antz was released in the market first. . The Bug’s Life did twice as well as Antz, thankfully. Although Steve and Katzenberg was still on talking terms, Steve never really forgave him. Steve wanted a HQ for Pixar. The building was Steve’s movie. The building was designed such that people would keep bumping into each other in a central area. Michael Eisner’s Disney started to get aggressive at Steve Jobs. Steve didn’t want to deal with Disney anymore. Finding Nemo became the biggest hit so far. Lasseter was upset with the breakup with Disney. Steve explained why they had to break up. To Steve, Eisner was a creative guy who performed well in his first 10 years when he had Frank Wells to run the operations for him. After he left, for the next 10 years, Eisner didn’t do such a good job. He had poor managerial skills. Treasure Planet and Brother Bear from Disney were poor performers. Now, Eisner realized how bad his animation team was. Both Eisner and Steve refused to compromise. Therefore, a divorce was inevitable. Eisner was soon axed and replaced with Iger. Steve now tried again at striking a deal with Disney. The iPod video was soon released. Iger and Steve struck a deal. The iPod would also be selling TV shows. This was collaboration between Disney and Apple. Since their animation team sucked, Iger explored the possibility of buying Pixar. Iger admitted they missed Pixar. Steve usually started negotiating by proclaiming the other party sucked. Lasseter was shocked when learning that Disney might want to buy Pixar. Disney produced to buy Pixar for $7.4 billion in equity. Lasseter did all the pitching in the acquisition deal. Eisner was against this and wanted the animation team to get their act together. Steve did the announcement to Pixar employees that Disney was taking over. Catmull would be head of Disney animation and Lasseter would be chief creative officer. It was like a reverse acquisition. Toy Story 2 was an even bigger hit.

My goal has always been not only to make great products, but to build great companies. Walt Disney did that. And the way we did the merger, we kept Pixar as a great company and helped Disney remain one as well. – Steve Jobs

There’s a classic thing in business, which is the second-product syndrome. I live through that at Apple. My feeling was, if we got through our second film, we’d make it. – Steve Jobs, on Pixar

There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow’, and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas. – Steve Jobs

The worst, thing, to my mind, was that Pixar had successfully reinvented Disney’s business, turning out great films one after the other while Disney turned out flop after flop. You would think the CEO of Disney would be curious how Pixar was doing that. But during the 20 year relationship, he visited Pixar for a total of about 2 and a half hours, only to give little congratulatory speeches. He was never curious. I was amazed. Curiosity is very important. – Steve Jobs

He has the absolute ability to make you believe. Suddenly, we all had the confidence that, whatever happened, Pixar would flourish. – Oren Jacob

One of the things that Steve and I are incredibly excited about is the intersection between great content and great technology. – Bob Iger

It’s night and day different from Eisner’s Disney. He’s straightforward, and there’s no drama with him. – Steve Jobs, on Bob Iver

Michael (Eisner), how come you say I can fix it, when you couldn’t fix it yourself? – Bob Iger

21st Century Macs. Setting Apple Apart. The iBook was released in 1999. The G4 was a huge success as well. Jobs wanted to mass market something to consumers. The Cube would not do so well as it priced too expensive. In 2000, Apple had disappointing revenue results. At one point, their share price fell to $15. Flat displays were the in thing then. Finally, Steve and Jony thought of a laptop design. Apple was the only company still trying to innovate. The PowerPC chips they were using was faster than Intel for a few years. Motorola could not keep us with chip development and Steve wanted to switch to Intel chips. The board decided that they had to move to Intel. They hammered out a deal which impressed Bill Gates. He was surprised that Apple’s PCs could transition so seamlessly with different chips. Steve was accused of taking excessive executive compensation with his stock options. It was never about the money for Steve. He wanted even more stock options. Apple tried to backdate his options. This was discovered by the SEC. Steve was eventually not charged for doing that.

Round One

Memento Mori. Steve predicted that 1997 was the cause of his cancer, when he worked on two jobs full time. His immune system was rather weak at that time. A CAT scan in 2003 revealed a tumor in the pancreas. Steve was in denial and didn’t want to do it. The doctor identified it as a tumor. It was a tumor which had a chance to be treated successfully. To everyone’s horror, Steve didn’t want to have surgery at first. He wanted to try other methods to cure himself. He was not ready to go for surgery. He thought he could cure himself by eating nutritious foods. Everyone kept advising him to take the surgery. Steve was still living in his distortion reality field. He liked to ignore things he didn’t know how to deal with. By July 2004, the cancer had spread. He underwent surgery in 2004. The doctors only removed part of the pancreas. Tim Cook took over the operations in Aug 2004. Because of the lack of protein in his diet, doctors advised him to take more meat. He refused. The bad news was that the cancer had spread. The cancer had spread to his liver. He underwent chemotherapy. He lied to his friends, saying that he was ‘cured’. He was 50 when he gave the commencement speech at Standford University. He wrote the speech himself. It was simply a graceful speech. Famous colleagues attended his 50th birthday. Cook was calm and decisive when he took over as temporary CEO. Steve made Cook COO in 2005. Steve let Rubinstein leave eventually. He hired a professor to develop case studies on Apple so that new executives could learn from top management. ‘Memento mori’: Remember you will die. This helped to keep things in perspective. Steve recovered temporarily and worked even harder. He became somewhat a better person after his cancer episode. Ive was still perplexed by his behavior. Steve felt the rules of social engagement didn’t apply to him. Gates and Jobs sat in for a joint interview in 2007.

I think Steve has such a strong desire for the world to be a certain way that he wills it to be that way. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Reality is unforgiving. – Laurene Powell

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason to follow your heart. – Steve Jobs

Some people resent the fact that Steve Jobs gets credit for everything, but I’ve never given a rat’s ass about that. Frankly speaking, I’d prefer my name never be in the paper. – Tim Cook, new Apple CEO

I realized very early that if you didn’t voice your opinion, he would mow you down. He take contrary positions to create more discussion, because it may lead to a better result. So if you don’t feel comfortable disagreeing, then you’ll never survive. – Tim Cook

The iPhone. Three Revolutionary Products in One. By 2005, iPod sales were skyrocketing. It accounted for 45% of total revenue. The next step was to create a phone. A good phone competitor could cause iPod sales to plunge. Steve thought about partnering with Ed Zander, CEO of Motorola, to create a RAZR that could play music. Eventually, hardware and software with not in sync and integrated. Steve decided to work on his own model. Most of the phones in the market were too complicated. There was a huge market for phones. They wanted to modify the iPod. Eventually, they did away with the click wheel. The idea for the iPad came before the iPhone. A Microsoft kept revealing information about the tablet to Steve. Steve never liked the idea of a stylus. He made one without a keyboard and a stylus. His engineers took 6 months to come out with one prototype. Steve liked the idea of multi-touch technology. Apple bought over FingerWorks, a company dealing with multi-touch trackpads. Steve wanted rounded rectangles for the shape of the iPhone. They used anodized aluminum for the case and gorilla glass. Steve was impressed with Weeks idea of gorilla glass. It was technology developed in 1960s, but never utilized. Once again, Steve decided to change the design at the last minute. Jan 2007 was the release date for the iPhone. ‘It was a 3-in-1 device’. By end of 2010, it sold 90 million iPhones.

He’s always believed that thin is beautiful. You can see that in all of the work. We have the thinnest notebook, the thinnest smartphone, and we made the iPad thin and then even thinner. – Tim Cook

Round Two (The Cancer Recurs). In early 2008, the cancer was spreading. The pancreas failed to produce enzymes to digest proteins. He also still kept to a strict vegetarian diet, which made it worse. Their family hired a cook. His eating disorders got worse. The media soon was attacking Steve Jobs at hiding his health condition to the public. During the 3G iPhone launch, he was super thin. Apple said was it due to a common bug. Apple share price kept falling when Steve’s health got worse. Steve based out of an interview with Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Michael Dell. He also cancelled the Mac product show. In early 2009, he defended his absence by saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. He tried various forms of therapy overseas. It didn’t work. He decided to take medical leave in early Jan, 2009. Tim Cook would take over the daily operations. SEC wanted to accuse Apple of withholding material information about Steve’s health. The board at Apple was torn as to whether to reveal more information about his health. Fisher was now saying that Steve needed a liver transplant. However, there was a long waiting list. Steve was placed on 2 different states’ waiting list at the same time. The liver transplant was a success. There were tumors throughout his liver when it was removed. He nearly died at that time. Even when doctors tried to put the mask on him, he commented that the design sucked. Steve recovered from this episode and he was still as grumpy as ever. Apple’s stock fared well in the time that he was away. He faced the public again in Sept 9. He revealed that he received a liver transplant. He revealed the new iPod Nanos. At the beginning of 2010, it would be one of his more productive years.

To manage Steve, you have to be persistent. Eason managed Steve and forced him to do things that no one else could, things that were good for him that may not have been pleasant. – Tim Cook

The iPad. Into the Post-PC era. As usual, Steve kept tinkering with the design. Apple licensed the ARM architecture. They used the A4 chip instead, instead of dealing with Intel. Intel was too slow sometimes. The iPad was launched in Jan 2010. It was in between the iPhone and a laptop. Bill Gates and some of the media was not impressed with it. There were a lot of emails complaints that were sent to Steve Jobs. Steve wanted the next version of the iPad to emphasize on artistic creation. The response was mixed and there were some media groups who liked it. It was very intuitive and easy to use. Even a 6 year old could figure it out. Sales were extremely good. It was one of the most successful consumer product launch in history. Steve was angry with the quality of commercials and he wanted something better. It had to be a manifesto. It had to be big. The app store was becoming huge and it allowed people to do all sorts of things. They needed to empower develops to make lots of apps. Steve allowed outsiders to write apps, but they would have to meet standards and could only be sold through the iTunes store. The App store opened in July 2008. Apple was also competing with Amazon on ebooks. He allowed the publishers to set their own price but not the music companies to do so. Steve wanted to work with NY times to strike a deal.Steve refused to give out subscriber info to the NY times. He didn’t want the publisher to develop their own app and sell it through the iTunes store. He also succeeded in convincing a few magazine or newspaper publishers. Rupert Murdoch and Steve became quite close. Steve now wanted to target schools and replace textbooks with his iPad.

The reason Apple can create products like the iPad is that we’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts. – Steve Jobs

New Battles (And Echoes of Old Ones). Google created the Android operating system to compete with Apple in the phone market. Eric Schmidt was on the Apple board and Larry Page/Sergey Brin were close to Steve as well. He was pissed. Their multi-touch device was also similar to the iPhone. Steve tried to dissuade them from creating the Android. Apple sued HTC (as they were the first to create the multi-touch device). Steve wanted to destroy the Android. Google Docs was shit to Steve. There was always the debate between open and closed systems. Schmidt admitted that Apple always believed in a closed system. An open system would lead to more options and consumer choice. Apple want to ban apps that defamed people, were politically explosive or deemed to be pornographic. He had a verbal sparring with Tate regarding censorship of apps. Apple doesn’t want to be seen as restricting freedom by choosing the apps they wanted to display. Others starting seeing Steve and Apple as being very arrogant. Design vs engineering was a big problem at Apple. Whenever the engineers couldn’t do something, Steve would persuade them to keep trying. For the iPhone 4, if you held it in a certain way, one could lose connection. It became the Antennagate problem. Steve Jobs gave a press conference to the public to address this. He allowed people to return their phones. Only 1.7% did as the problem was not too serious. iPhone was the best selling product. The Beatles were finally released on iTunes in a special edition.

Adobe Flash is a spaghetti-ball piece of technology that has lousy performance and really bad security problems. – Steve Jobs

To Infinity (The Cloud, the Spaceship, and Beyond). The iPad 2. Steve wanted to add back and front cameras. He wanted it slimmer. He wanted a detachable cover that was magnetically controlled. It was a smart cover. This cheeky cover impressed many people. He was there for the product launch in Mar 2011. Globalization effects were everywhere, even in Turkey. He kept trying to design a boat again. He was determined to keep working on the boat’s design. It was his twentieth wedding anniversary. In 2008, he predicted that cloud computing would be the next big thing. He was right on that. iCloud was launched in June 2011. He was still on medical leave. However, he desperately wanted to give the speech. Steve looked weak. Everything would now be moved to the Cloud. Steve bought the Cupertino campus. He wanted a showcase HQ. Sir Norman Foster was the architect for the project.

It’s like a spaceship has landed. I think we have a shot at building the bet office building in the world. – Steve Jobs

It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. We believe that it’s technology married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing. Nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices, – Steve Jobs

Living with a disease like this, and all the pain, constantly reminds you of your own mortality, and that can do strange things to your brain if you’re not careful. You don’t make plans more than a year out, and that’s bad. You need to force yourself to plan as if you will live for many years. – Steve Jobs

I’m very lucky, because you just don’t know what you’re getting into when you get married. You have an intuitive feeling about things. I couldn’t have done better, because not only is Laurene smart and beautiful, she’s turned out to be a really good person. – Steve Jobs

I want to leave a signature campus that expresses the values of the company for generations. – Steve Jobs

Round Three (The Twilight Struggle). He had a burning desire to see his son graduate from high school. Unlike his dad, Reed was empathic and affectionate. He loved Steve. The moment his Dad had cancer, Reed spent time at the oncology lab to study about cancer markers. Reed could interact with many of the famous doctors. Reed wanted to combine biology and technology. He had a playful and warm personality. He wanted to be a cancer researcher when he grew up. At his high school graduation, Steve was elated. Erin, Steve’s daughter, was not very close to Steve as she was sensitive and quiet. Steve didn’t want to take her for any important events. Erin was fine with Steve treating her this way. Steve took the whole family to Kona Village for holiday. He even took them to Kyoto. Steve liked sushi and soba. The trip to Kyoto was also a spiritual one. Eve, Steve’s other daughter, wanted to be a horseback rider at the Olympics and was determined to get there. She was also a very sensitive girl. In Feb 2010, Steve turned 55. His health was now better. Powell arranged for Steve to meet President Obama. However, Steve was unwilling to meet him as he felt it was very ceremonial. Eventually the meeting lasted 45 minutes. He wanted Obama to make things more business friendly as there were too many regulations. Also, the American education systems had too many union work rules. He also wanted interactive educational materials. Steve wanted foreign engineering graduates a visa to stay in the US. He also wanted more trained engineers. His third medical leave took place in 2011. He lost his appetite and felt pain in his body. In Nov 2010, he had to be fed through tube. However, he didn’t want his condition to be leaked out. He had no appetite anymore. He also became increasingly emotional. In 2011, there was evidence of new tumors. At this stage, he was moaning in pain. Since young, he knew he could induce euphoria and ecstasy by fasting. He was absolutely ignorant about the need for medication or to seek professional help. Tim Cook was once again put in charge of Apple’s operations. His treatment was not integrated but taken care by many different specialists. Steve had his genes sequenced. This molecular therapy was better than chemotherapy. Lisa got back in touch with Steve then. Lisa was 32 then. Steve Jobs even told Larry Page how to build great companies. Bill Gates also came to pay a visit. They had a nice warm chat. That Day Has Come. Steve wanted to create an integrated television set that would be synced on the iCloud. By July 2011, the cancer had spread to the other parts of his body. He spent almost all his days watching television. The author met him in Aug 2011. Steve was too weak to get out of bed. Steve showed a few family pictures to Walter Isaacson. Steve wanted the author to write about him while he was still alive so that he could project a better account of himself. He knew he would not be returning to CEO anymore. In Aug 24, he announced the decision to the board that he was stepping down. The directors praised his contributions to the firm. Resolutions were passed on who would succeed him. It was decided that Tim Cook would succeed Steve Jobs. The board gave Steve a hug.

She’s a pistol and has the strongest will of any kid I’ve ever met. – Steve Jobs, on Eve

Like many great men whose gifts are extraordinary, he’s not extraordinary in every realm. He doesn’t have social graces, such as putting himself in other people’s shows, but he cares deeply about empowering humankind, the advancement of humankind, and putting the right tools in their hands. – Laurene Powell

That’s how I’m going to spend part of the time I have left. I can help the next generation remember the lineage of great companies here and how to continue the tradition. The Valley has been very supportive of me. I should do my best to repay. – Steve Jobs

I’ve had a very lucky career, a very lucky life. I’ve done all that I can do. – Steve Jobs

Legacy. The Brightest Heaven of Invention. His personality was reflected in the products Apple created. He was super intense at times. This could be either charming or terrifying. He had a binary view of the world and of almost everything. He wanted end-to-end control of every product. Steve always looked to integrate hardware and software. ‘Open’ VS ‘Closed’ software. Steve also had a good ability to focus and to filter out distractions. Everything was about simplicity and elegance. He was a brutally honest guy. He had a nasty personality and was mean to others. This had an advantage when he got people to do things they never dreamed of. He was both good at sizing up the big picture and also the minute details. His inventions are as follows (The Macintosh; Toy Story and other Pixar blockbusters; Apple stores; The iPod; The iTunes store; The iPhone; The App Store; The iPad; iCloud etc). He was a genius at sensing what lay ahead. Steve can be placed alongside Edison and Ford. The products were the motivation, not the profit. Sculley wanted to make money. Figure out what the customer wants and not give them what they want. You need good foresight of that. Being closed allow you to control the experience. Bill Gates was more of a business guy than a creative guy. Xerox and IBM let the salespeople run the show. They didn’t understand the product well. I wanted a company to last. He wanted everyone to be brutally honest with each other.

I hate it when people call themselves entrepreneurs when what they’re really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on. They’re unwilling to do the work it takes to build a real company, which is the hardest work in business. – Steve Jobs

What drove me? I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that’s been done by others before us. I didn’t invent the language or mathematics I use. I make little of my own food, none of my own clothes. Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on. And a lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow. It’s about trying to express something in the only way that most of us know how – because we can’t write Bob Dylan songs or Tom Stoppard plays. We try to use the talent we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me. – Steve Jobs



Azimuth Event with Singapore Watch Appreciation Group (SWAG) on 22 April 2017

Azimuth Watch Company is a Singaporean watch brand founded by Christopher Long and Alvin Lye in 2003. They have production facilities in Neuchatel, Switzerland. However, their watches are all designed in Singapore and is made from the ground-up. Their goal is to make avant-garde, innovative and statement watches which allows one to stand-out from the crowd. Although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I find their watches unique in the watch industry and the brand exudes the independent watch vibe. Their pricing ranges are reasonable and it allows one to enter the realm of Independence watches without breaking the bank.


I joined the SWAG (Singapore Watch Appreciation Group) Facebook group in middle of 2016 and have been posting my fair share of wrist-shots of the day for others to enjoy. Joining such an interest group certainly helped to enhance my knowledge of watches and appreciate the fine wrist-shots of fellow members. I chanced upon a post on SWAG when their administrators was organizing a gathering with Azimuth/ Red Army watches to showcase Azimuth’s private collection. Being an Azimuth fan and also having owned an Azimuth watch myself (The SG46 NDP version), signing up was a no-brainer.



The event was held at Azimuth’s office at 38 Jalan Pemimpin. It was a cozy space that contains their service centre, watchmaking classes and office. Upon entering, I was greeted by an array of Azimuth watches, like the Bombardier series, Roboto series, Roulette series, Back-in-time series, dive watches etc. The Azimuth and Red Army staff were very hospitable and were patient in explaining the time pieces. As a bonus, Azimuth offered good discounts for their timepieces during this private event.



About 30 minutes in, Azimuth’s founder Christopher Long, explained his motivation for creating Azimuth and some of the struggles he faced as a business owner even today. Christopher has an engineering background and has always been a watch collector since young. He started off his career in Sincere watches as a brand ambassador. However, he realized that instead of promoting Swiss high-end brands, perhaps he could start his own watch business with the drawings and design cues which he possessed. The rest was history. I found Azimuth’s drive to keep innovating and produce interesting complications like the back-in-time series (anti-clockwise way of telling time), roulette series (able to randomly land on a number on the roulette wheel by pushing the crown) very inspiring.



After this segment, each SWAG member had to introduce themselves and their favorite brand of watches. It was heartening to know that others also had the love for Azimuth watches and were passionate to support a Singapore brand and the whole eco-system.

Next, Christopher gave us a tour of his office and we also witnessed the watch-making benches and tools upstairs. Azimuth is launching a workshop for customers who want to learn how to perform some hands-on operations on watches. Customers will learn to assemble a watch from scratch and they will also get to bring the watch back. I have attended a watchmaking class previously and it has certainly gave me a better appreciation of how the intricate parts of a mechanical watch interact to record time.





I was very grateful for the chance to have a short chat with Red Army Watches founder, Suji. Red Army Watches carries non-mainstream watch brands and has stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Some of the brands they carry include Alexander Shorohkoff, Laco, Itay Noy, Seven Friday, Zeppelin, Junkers, Laco and of course, Azimuth. Like Azimuth, Red Army Watches appeals to the crowd who wants a statement piece that allows the wearer’s personality to shine through. From our brief conversation, I understood some of the difficulties of running retail stores and learnt more about the watch retail business. I wish Azimuth and Red Army watches all the best in their future business pursuits.

At around 7pm, we adjourned to the rooftop of the building for a sumptuous BBQ dinner, with free booze provided. The brilliant evening sky and the private pool provided an excellent backdrop for networking. During my numerous chats with fellow SWAG members, we all shared about our watch collections and I impressed them with my UV flashlight when it came to charging the luminescence of their timepieces.




Overall, it was an event that was executed well and which gave SWAG members a chance to know about Azimuth. Azimuth, in turn, also gained some important publicity via the SWAG Facebook page. It was a win-win for all.

*Kudos to the SWAG administrators for organizing this event and Azimuth/Red Army for hosting*

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Foreword. I only knew Paul after his death. After he was diagnosed with cancer, he had a desire to write a book. We become aware of our own mortality after reading his book as well. Paul had a flair of writing, however, had a calling of being a physician. He would eventually be a neurosurgeon. Paul writes occasionally and was an excellent writer. Paul has been very vulnerable and revealed a lot about himself.

Prologue. The cancer had spread and was widely disseminated. I was the patient this time. Lucy was my wife and she was by my side. When I had back pain, I went for an MRI scan. X-rays aren’t good for detection of cancer. Weight loss became more common as the days went by. I was an outstanding surgeon and had a bright career ahead of me. A few weeks later, I had strong bouts of chest pain. My work and the demanding schedule had put a toll on our marriage. My wife wanted to leave me. The pain was getting more severe and I was in trouble. I also started to tell friends about my cancer. My wife learnt about it and promised not to leave me.

Part 1: In Perfect Health I Begin

I never thought that I would be a doctor. I didn’t know much about medicine when I was young. We had two dogs. Once, we went to the desert and found the insects there to be fascinating. My younger brother was Jeevan. My dad was the one who brought our family to the desert town of Kingman, in Arizona. The issue with Kingman was that the education system was bad and there were many dropouts. My mum instilled in us, a love of reading. I eventually got into Stanford University. I liked a girl named Abigail in school. In school, I was driven to understand what makes human life meaningful? One of my favorite authors, was T.S. Eliot. Literature was a form of moral reflection for me. Was the unlived life worth examining? I did an internship at Sierra Camp, which was very eye opening indeed. I studied both neuroscience and literature in school. Many of the caregivers will not even show up to pay the patients of severe brain problems. Some parents even abandon their kids. Brains indeed play a crucial role in our ability to form relationships. Language of life was a passion, hunger and a love. I studied the work of Walt Whitman. I wanted to find out how biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersected. I was contemplating medical school now. After I enrolled myself into the HPS program at Cambridge, I started to realize that only by practicing medicine, I could pursue a serious biological philosophy. I cut my first dead body and it felt alright. These were cadavers or donor corpses. I hardly ever felt like vomiting. The book by Shep Nuland on ‘How we die’ was very popular. It addressed the fact of existence. Although I read about the particularities of death, being a surgeon allowed me to understand them better. I was asked to deliver a child. I was educated on how to read the fetal heart rates etc. The twins were in distress and their only hope was a C-section. However, they didn’t survive as they were premature. On my next case, the baby was successfully delivered and I was very relieved indeed. Next on my rotation was surgical oncology. Many of the medical students chose to specialize in things like radiology or dermatology, which were deemed easier. Eventually, I chose neurosurgery as my specialty. Part of a doctor’s job is about to be emotionally attached to the patient and to calm them down. Brain surgery has a huge impact on the patient’s life. Would you trade your ability to talk for a few extra months of mute life? What makes life meaningful enough to go on living? Neurosurgeons have a huge responsibility. During the first year of residency, the workload was tremendous. The papers I file are narratives of risks and triumph. I finally lost my first patient. I saw a few people die in the course of my work. Sometimes, death has a suffocating weight on me too. In the second year of training, I was the first to arrive in an emergency. I was doing a lot of overtime work, which was very tiring indeed. It was so stressful that some left the profession. Some cases were beyond hope, where even surgery would not do much good. I did not think I was a doctor who missed the larger human significance. My dad was an inspiration to me and he even when to buy meals for his patients when they requested for them. I once persuaded a girl’s family that surgery was the best option for her. Announcing the bad news to a patient is very difficult indeed. Brain surgery for cases for cancer that metastases from other parts of body, can help to prolong life. In medical statistics, there is the Kaplan-Meier curve. This measures the number of patients surviving over time for any particular disease. It is a metric where doctors understand the ferocity of a disease. Instead of saying ‘You have a 95% chance of being dead in two years’, doctors can say ‘Most patients live many months to a couple of years.’. It is useful to hold a patient’s hand when announcing bad news. Sometimes, there can be an emotional cost as well. However, it can have its rewards too. For a neurosurgeon, it is also important to keep up to date on the latest technologies available in the market too. I loved talking to other scientists. Pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate. A patient can only be under anesthesia for that long. It is like finding the middle ground between the hare and the tortoise. Time flies in the OR. Technical excellence, was a moral requirement for me. For brain surgery, it is extremely important to be precise, up to the exact millimeter. The worst part of the brain damage is the cortex, the Wenicke and Broca area. These control one’s language abilities. I was excellent at my job and rewards and awards were coming naturally. My scientist friend committed suicide one day after he had a difficult complication. This made me contemplate the meaning of life even more.

The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving. – Paul Kalanithi

Books become my closest confidants, finely ground lenses providing new views of the world. – Paul Kalanithi

Indeed, this is how 99% of people select their jobs: pay, work environment, hours. But that’s the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job – not a calling. – Paul Kalanithi

Rushing a patient to the OR to save only enough brain that his heart beats but he can never speak, he eats through a tube, and he is condemned to an existence he would never want…I came to see this as a more egregious failure than the patient dying. – Paul Kalanithi

Amid the tragedies and failures, I feared I was losing sight of the singular importance of human relationships, not between patients and their families but between doctor and patient. Technical excellence was not enough. As a resident, my highest ideal was not saving lives – everyone dies eventually – but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness. – Paul Kalanithi

The call to protect life – and not merely life but another’s identity; it is perhaps not too much to say another’s soul – was obvious in its sacredness. – Paul Kalanithi

A resident’s surgical skill is judged by his technique and his speed. You can’t be sloppy, and you can’t be slow. – Paul Kalanithi

Neurosurgery requires a commitment to one’s own excellence and a commitment to another’s identity. The decision to operate at all involves an appraisal of one’s own abilities, as well as a deep sense of who the patient is and what she holds dear. – Paul Kalanithi

Cease Not till Death

The CT images were not good. My identity no longer mattered. It was life shattering and it hurt me. My potential would never be fulfilled. I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Emma Hayward was my oncologist. Emma was one of the best lung cancer specialist out there. She was also compassionate in nature. I felt weaker as the cancer spread. I couldn’t know my spot on the Kaplan-Meier curve. One option for me was chemotherapy and the other was therapy targeting at molecular defects. I had a PI3K mutation. Emma suggest carboplatin as chemotherapy for me. She refused to discuss the Kaplan-Meier curves. Lucy and I went to the sperm bank to preserve gametes. There is no point in depending or reading too much into statistics. I felt a drop of hope. After a drug, my appetite returned and I was happier. I had to figure out what is the most important for me. Cancer had helped to save my marriage with Lucy. I was also in physical therapy now. I was lifting my legs, but it was so exhausting and humiliating. I kept pushing myself. Finally, my condition improved. I could ride a bike for 6 miles and that was a massive achievement. Emma was a friend to me as well. I wanted a child, but the decision would ultimately lie with Lucy, because she would take care of the child. Life wasn’t about avoiding suffering. Life was about striving. We all need to carry on living. Only the best embryos would have a chance of survival. The tumor was reduced after a CT scan. It was good news. Life was looking up now. I started reading more about mortality. I pushed myself to return to the OR. Some patients could live for at least 10 years on the drug. I felt it was a moral responsibility to continue being a surgeon. Suddenly, halfway through the surgery, I felt faint and couldn’t continue. My junior resident took over. It was disappointing. Over time, my skills started to improve and I was getting better. However, it felt joyless as sometimes I would still be in pain. I wanted to be a doctor-scientist, but there were no vacancies. I overcame my pain and continued to see patients. I wanted to run a cancer lab as it would less demanding. I had to figure out what was the most important to me. God and meaning were linked, but it was also possible to believe in one and not the other. The problem is that science cannot reach some permanent truth. Hence, it might be incompatible with human life, which is more unpredictable. Science is cold, unlike the warmth of humans. I returned to Christianity as I found it to be compelling. Humans do not like blind determinism. A new tumour emerged in my latest CT scan. I was neither angry nor scared. I felt really tired after a grueling surgery. My last surgery was a big success and I could end on a high. Chemotherapy was the only way as localized treatment was out of the question. It would start on Monday. I felt very tired and the food was tasteless. I wanted to go for graduation but I started puking and it was horrible. I had to be placed on IV drip. My condition worsened. My kidneys were starting to fail now. I was placed in ICU now. Many specialists were now attending to me. Lucy was now 38 weeks pregnant. The problem was that the specialists could not come to a common consensus. No 1 party was willing to take responsibility. Some of them suggested ill-advised tests. I struggled to listen to them. Emma was now the captain of the ship. I was discharged from the hospital finally. I was very tired again, after the chemotherapy doses. Emma finally revealed that I could live for 5 more years. Lucy was in labour. My baby was finally born and it was a complete joy. Time began to feel static. The days of the week no longer to mean anything to me as I wasn’t working.

If I were a writer of books, I would compile a register, with a comment, of the various deaths of men: he would should teach men to die would at the same time teach them to live. – Michel de Montaigne (That to study philosophy is to learn to die)

The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live. – Paul Kalanithi

Only 0.0012% of 36 year olds get lung cancer. Yes, all cancer patients are unlucky, but there’s cancer and then there’s CANCER, and you have to be really unlucky to have the latter. – Paul Kalanithi

It’s easier when the patient is 94, in the last stages of dementia, with a severe brain bleed. But for someone like me – a 36 year old given a diagnosis of terminal cancer – there aren’t really words. – Paul Kalanithi

Many people, once diagnosed with cancer, quit work entirely. Others focus on it heavily. Either way is okay. – Emma Hayward, an oncologist

If the weight of mortality does not grow lighter, does it at least get more familiar? – Paul Kalanithi

If human relationality formed the bedrock of meaning, it seemed to us that rearing children added another dimension to that meaning. – Paul Kalanithi

I would push myself to return to the Operating Room. Why? Because I could. Because that’s who I was. Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living. – Paul Kalanithi

The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. – Paul Kalanithi

The way forward would seem obvious, if only I knew how many months or years I had left. Tell me 3 months, I’d spend time with family. Tell me 1 year, I’d write a book. Give me 10 years, I’d get back to treating diseases. – Paul Kalanithi

Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world. – Paul Kalanithi

But at my back in a cold blast I hear the rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear. – T.S. Eilot

Part of the cruelty of cancer, though, is not only that it limits your time; it also limits your energy, vastly reducing the amount you can squeeze into a day. It is a tired hare who now races. – Paul Kalanithi

Epilogue by Lucy Kalanithi

Paul died on March 9, 2015. Chemotherapy stopped working a few months before his death. We still had our family dinners etc. Paul was focused on completing his book. At his late stages, he lost his appetite completely. At times, he would suffer from a really serious fever. Paul chose the do not resuscitate status at the very end. We chose comfort care at home as he didn’t want to die in hospital. His carbon dioxide levels were too high, indicating lung failure. Paul wanted to hold Cady, his daughter. Paul was really to remove the breathing support and die. His wish was for us to publish his manuscript. I hope that he would be resting in peace now. Our family continued to sing to him and look at his facial expressions. Soon, his breaths became more faltering and irregular. During his last years, Paul wrote furiously and wanted to complete the book. He was very determined to write. He was brave throughout his most difficult days. He did not avert his eyes from death and was strong. Our love stood strong and firm throughout his difficult days. Paul suggested that I remarry after my marriage. I was definitely very blessed to have known a man like him. He was an unwavering source of support to our daughter. Throughout his illness, he faced it with grace and authenticity and acceptance. He was fully alive and his life was full of meaning even in his darkest days. This book is his culmination of his life and love for literature. Paul had made great contributions in the area of neuroscience. Paul managed to face death with integrity, and I was as his wife, his witness.

Conversely, we knew that one trick to managing a terminal illness is to be deeply in love – to be vulnerable, kind, generous, grateful. – Lucy Kalanithi

Bereavement (of a partner) is not the truncation of married love, but one of its regular phases – like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. – C.S. Lewis




Do Over (Make Today the First Day of Your New Career) by Jon Acuff (Part 2)

Win the Way You Won Before. We have definitely picked up skills in the past. Ask yourself what skills did you learn in the past? It need not be work skills only. What were the circumstances that conspired in your favour? You might have an audience to drive your development of the skill. Sometimes, you could have been pressured by a tight deadline. Find a new crowd you share your skill with. You could devise a reward system once you have attained a particular skill. Set a countdown on your phone to motivate yourself to do something, it could be 60 minutes or something. Don’t be afraid to devise new methods in your pursuit of new skills. Learn the strategies employed in the past to help you improve and give yourself a better chance at success. Never reinvent the wheel and always learn from your past.

Kick-Start Your New Skills with Something Fun. You can learn by necessity or curiosity. Necessity are related to work skills. Curiosity is more borne out of desire. Both types of skills are important for us. A smarter approach is to start with something fun. Developing a curiosity skill is more fun and easier than a necessity skill. Keep it simple. You only need time and knowledge at the start. Time and knowledge are more accessible than money, time, gear. You can research about it for free on the Internet. You need to make time for learning your skill too. You must decide exactly when do you want to learn it. Macro means printing out next month’s calendar. You will realize that you have more time than you think. Fear likes to tell you that you don’t have enough time. Learn to utilize your time well and in a fruitful manner. The micro is exactly which days and how many hours you will use to hone your skill. What’s consuming your calendar daily? Start your day with what matters most and that will help you the most. Work on your skill before other things get in the way. Who will help you learn this new skill? Skills are no exception. It is more fun to learn with a friend. Someone should track your progress. This person should ask you for updates on a regular basis. Check in twice a week.

If you really want to learn something, you have to decide when you are going to do it. Otherwise, you dramatically reduce your odds of actually doing it. – Jon Acuff

Days are like snowballs rolling down a hill. I don’t care how perfectly you’ve planned it, something unexpected is going to get picked up as your day rolls down the slope. – Jon Acuff

An accountability partner you only contract when you are winning isn’t an accountability partner, it’s a cheerleader. – Jon Acuff

Learning a new skill doesn’t have to be miserable, especially if you start with something fun and easy. – Jon Acuff

Skills Get Sharp Slowly and Dull Quickly. Skills will go dull if not used frequently. If you are writer, you should write daily. Once you get lazy, it will be hard to kick-start the habit again. At that time, you need motivation from friends to kick you to start again. The hardest competition you’ll ever face. The key for sportsmen is to be disciplined and do the same time every day of the week, even during off season. Learn to outsmart yourself. There is a problem with first times. First times should be the worst experience. Every time you start a new job, the skills you learn in your previous job are not useless. For every repetition you make, you should lay another brick in your foundation. You work best when skills become second nature to you. This will free up brain space for other things. If you discipline your life, it creates freedom in another. For instance, you could buy many sets of the same clothing. This will help you pare down your decision making. Your career is not shampoo. Nowadays, videos are big part of blogging. You must step into the tension of skills. Some skills cannot be simply put on autopilot, but should be on fighter pilot.

The more you can turn an important skill into a repeatable habit, the more you can trust the power of autopilot. – Jon Acuff

When you refuse to practice a skill today, it makes it harder to practice it tomorrow. Weeds of fear grow stronger the longer we wait to hustle. Get in the garden today. – Jon Acuff

Grab the Right Kind of Hammer for Your Career Ceiling. Do not build your cage. When you are stuck, you can choose to accept it or change it. Your skills will help you break ceilings. The ceiling is challenging you to break through it.

The father of every good work is discontent, and its mother is diligence. – Lajos Kassak

Should you ever stay at a bad job just because other people in your field don’t have a job? What are you really saying? That until everyone in your field is employed you can’t apply somewhere else? You can’t have another job until everyone else does? That doesn’t make any sense. – Jon Acuff

We build elaborate internal campaigns justifying where we are. We trick ourselves into thinking it’s someone else’s fault or that maybe it’s not so bad. It’s not a horrible job, it’s a good-enough job. If we stay there long enough, we eventually forget that we are even allowed to change. – Jon Acuff

I can’t tell you if in ten years I will have written five more books. But I can tell you that this year I will write one. I can’t tell you if in 10 years my blog will have 5 million readers, but I can write a new post today. – Jon Acuff

Investment 3: Character. Character is who you are. Character is the reason why people will give you another opportunity if you fail the first one. It is a pre-requisite for many things to come. Everything is personal in work. Character is impossible to ignore. Character will also determine your resilience to move things forward. Start planting your orchard and be generous and empathetic. People with bad character might win, but they may not last.

A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world’s torrent. – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Plant an Orchard. Character is a slow process and takes time to build. Character is like an orchard. The trees are the character traits and the weeds threaten to destroy your orchard. Which is one character trait that you want to develop? Ask a friend if you are clueless. Trust could be something you want to work on. Take a look at your whole orchard. I was addicted to chaos and busyness. However, if you like chaos, your character falls on the wayside. Write down the jobs you’ve had. Give a brief description of your job performance. List the way you left each job. Describe the strength of the relationships you left behind. Pull the weeds as fast as you can. Narcissism is a problem. Dishonesty is a horrible weed too. Pessimism is an issue too. Pessimism can grow and it can become a problem. Apathy is a big issue as well. Apathy cripples your ability to launch a career jump.

The future is purchased by the present. – Dr. Samuel Johnson

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. – Old Saying

Most destructive of all is that apathy cripples your ability to launch a career jump. No one who is apathetic has the energy or heart to try a positive, voluntary career transition. That entire quadrant is off the table when weeds like this have grown in your orchard. – Jon Acuff

Generosity is a Game Changer. We need to be generous as it can help us greatly in our careers. It helps to breed loyalty. People will support you if you have helped them before. Do not hesitate or hold back. Greed will cost you more than you think. Generosity is always cheaper than greed. Your generosity will pay dividends. It is for long term benefits. If you find that people are exploiting you, make sure you don’t have an itchy trigger finger. Learn to draw some boundaries. You can let the person learn from a painful experience. The worst case is to avoid them. Make your definition of generosity bigger. You can be generous with your time and skills. Ideally, you should be able to do something you are good at.

Service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will sustain us. – Rachel Naomi Remen

Before you make a Career Jump give generously of your time, talent and resources without keeping score. If you keep a record of who you’ve been generous to with the expectation that they’ll return the favor, you’ll build transactions not relationships. – Jon Acuff

Empathy, No Longer Just for People Who Like to Cry with Friends. You need to navigate with empathy. It means understanding someone else’s needs and acting on them. Most people are the same and they all have hopes, fears, dreams, frustrations. Having empathy allows to work with just about anyone. If you have empathy, you can do sales and sell stuff. Take time to know someone’s real story. You will understand that they might have undergone to get to where they are. Compassion is important. Fear is an amazing storyteller. Care about what the people you care about care about. Character is an orchard, it changes over time. You don’t have to quit your job to engage in a career jump, but you can do something positive and voluntary. Read less minds, ask more questions. Instead of guessing, learn to ask them directly. Simply showing up shows empathy. It doesn’t have to be big actions. Make people bigger. Ask questions to your colleagues like ‘What can I do to make you look like a rock star to your manager?’ Put someone’s needs ahead of your own. What to do when empathy is broken. Be honest and admit you were wrong sometimes.

Everybody has a story. When we don’t take the time to know someone’s story or worse, create our own version of it, we lose the chance to understand what they need, which is the first step to empathy. – Jon Acuff

Be Present. Showing up at your job is important. You have to deal with your phone, your computer, and your meetings. We use our phones way too often. If you are not present, your relationships might be threatened. When you use your phone, you are putting other people on pause. Be present with your computer. People might surf the Internet at work in their free time. We are all guilty of it. Do work while you’re at work. Be present in meetings. Learn to take notes. It is easier to hide behind a laptop by being old fashioned and taking down notes is easier. Ask at least one question during the meeting will help you to stay engaged. Turn your phone upside down. You could just not bring your phone to the meeting or something.

Never Jump without Character. You need character when you decide to chase a dream. Character helps you navigate through chaos of change. You can always rely on your character. You can’t completely eliminate chaos from your life. Over time, you get used to living with chaos. It’s time to hustle.

Investment: Hustle. We are more capable than we think. Hustle means hard work. It helps you to build on relationships, skills and your character. You don’t get anywhere without hard work. There is a thin line between hustle and hassle. Use grit, awareness and flexibility.

‘Music is in the piano only when it is played.’ Jack Gilbert

Grit is a Choice, Not a Feeling. You will feel a sense of apathy if you have given up on your dream. Grit is not fun or easy. You might have to stay up late to work hard etc. It can be ugly and messy. However, grit is a choice. You might ask, what if I don’t have what it takes? You don’t need some ultimate goal to work on Do Over. Fear will always discourage you from working hard and acting on your goal. Tell yourself that you have what it takes to try. We all get to try. What if I pick the wrong thing to hustle on and miss my opportunity? The thing about life is that you will have many opportunities that will come your way. Therefore, do not apply the once-in-a-lifetime label to things you face. Regret is much worse than fear. Which would you rather choose, fear or regret? Make grit decisions. Give your hustle some time to succeed. Counsel and lean on your relationships. Ask for awesome opportunities. Give yourself permission to be kind. Be honest to yourself. Build a grit list. It’s like running, I don’t like it but I put in on my Grid List due to the benefits I derive from it. Go with grit, don’t be most people. Don’t wait until you feel brave to hustle, choose to hustle until you feel brave.

I didn’t want to be selling insurance at 40, wondering what it would have been like to do stand-up. – Steven Wright, Comedian

If you’re going to make new relationships, you need to have grit. If you’re going to learn new skills, you need to have grit. If you’re going to have strong character, you need to have grit. If you’re going to hustle, you need to have grit. – Jon Acuff

There’s no such thing as a perfect job. There’s no job where you get to do only the things you love doing. Those don’t exist. – Jon Acuff

There will be tasks, projects and activities you have to do in your career that you hate. No matter which stage you’re in, you’ll have to do some things you don’t love. That’s why we all need a Grid List, a short list of the skills we grit our teeth and do regardless of how we feel. – Jon Acuff

Hustle Has Seasons: Use Awareness to Recognize Them. Do not try to hustle at wrong points of your life. For instance, do not hustle on a holiday as you will not feel rested or recharged. You need to ask ‘what season am I in?’ Learn to focus. Hustle is a scalpel. Doing more action might not be the solution all the time. Do not hustle too much that you neglect your family etc. Instead of blaming your boss or colleagues, ask yourself ‘Did I expect this job to be something it never would be?’ It does not mean you are a failure. It just meets that you just took a wrong path and need to find a new one. Keep your head down and hustle on your work.

Be proactive about doing that in your own life. Work on your sense of awareness. Don’t wait for someone you love to call you out. – Jon Acuff

You don’t have to know the exact path, because nobody does, but are you roughly headed in the right direction? If you want to be a musician and you’re a pharmaceutical rep working 70 hours a week, not playing any music, stop kidding yourself. That path doesn’t lead to music. – Jon Acuff

Career Yoga. You need to spend time planning your day. Things rarely go according to plan. Hustling with flexibility is the best, as it leads to less disappointment. Be flexible with your dream. The work you end up loving might not even exist yet. You have to flexible about what you study as well. Your dream will change over your lifetime. Be flexible with your definition of success. Let new be different, not old. Humans love to idealize your past when our present doesn’t meet our expectations. Have fun storming the castle. Having fun is important as it helps you to get going and to push on. Having fun helps you to prevent burnout.

Always Use This to Multiply the Moment. Hustle offers you unexpected opportunities. Overcome your fear and learn to speak to a crowd. Say yes to small opportunities and learn to build from there.

Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other. – Mary Caroline Richards

Hustle works those two ways. You hustle hard to stir up more opportunities. And then when you have one, you hustle hard to blow it up as large as it can possibly be. – Jon Acuff

Three Final Words You’ll Tell Me Someday Soon. Work can be more meaningful than we think. We have to change ourselves. We don’t get to pick a transition permanently. Your work is a lifestyle. Anyone can have a Career Do Over.

O you who sit over your full cup and do not drink, tell me, for whom are you still waiting? – Hermann Hesse



Do Over (Make Today the First Day of Your New Career) by Jon Acuff (Part 1)

The Career Savings Account

You control more of your career than you think. You need to rescue and look forward to Monday. A better job begins with building a better you. This book is about building a career. Career ceilings are problems and also retrenchment is one of them. In some jobs, you know when you hit a ceiling and can’t go higher anymore. There are a few options: 1) find another job; 2) Do a job you didn’t want to do; 3) Suck it up over 30 years. Over 70% of the people felt disengaged with their jobs. Learn to embrace career transitions. How do we make career jumps, navigate career bumps, break through career ceilings, make the most of unexpected career opportunities? Learn to build a career savings account. You must keep making deposits into your career savings account. Relationships + Skills + Character X Hustle = Career Savings Account. Relationships are the people you know, skills are the things you do, character is who you are, hustle is how you work. You should have all 4 of them. Most people only work jobs, not build careers. Most people do not have anyone to turn to for career advice once they are in a rut. There are only 4 possible types of career transitions around. Some are voluntary while some are involuntary actions. When you are stuck on a career ceiling, skills will help you breakthrough. When you want to do a career jump and gain progression, your character is the most important investment. Great lives are rarely created in great comfort. Most people are afraid of the unknown. It is never too late to do a do over. It’s time to DO a Do Over.

We eat at TGI Fridays not TGI Mondays. We live for the weekends because we’ve accepted that the weekdays are where dreams go to die. Poke your head up if you’re reading this book at work. – Jon Acuff

Do This First. Fear and complacency are things we need to overcome. Choose your attitude and adjust your expectations. Don’t listen to feelings, but rather, learn to make choices. Adjust your expectations and write down what you see in a job. However, do not completely eliminate them, rather, you can adjust them.

Tomorrow at work, choose to have a good attitude. Choose not to be cynical. Choose not to act like you’re doing them a favor by showing up. Choose not to complain. Choose to cheer for the accomplishments of your co-workers. Choose to treat customers like superstars. – Jon Acuff

Relationships. Finding good people is the key for a successful business. Skills can be judged on a resume, but attitude can’t be judged. Therefore, relationships get you the first gig. During career setbacks, relationships help you too. This book provides some tips on how to strengthen relationships.

You Don’t Know Who You Know. People hate change. Most people despise networking. However, we acknowledge the importance of networking. Who is someone you can turn to for help with your career Do Over? Use note cards. Writing stimulates information retention. Please buy them. It’s okay if you don’t know what to do with your life. Find an accountability partner to monitor your progress on a skill. Answer the question ‘Who do I know that is wise about career issues?’ Answer the question ‘Who have I worked with?’ Answer the question ‘Who do I know that is influential?’ Answer the question ‘Who do I know that owns a business?’ Answer the question ‘Who do I follow online that is in my desired career space?’ Answer the question ‘What casual relationships am I forgetting that might have a career impact?’ Always remember that you don’t know who you know unless you spend deliberate time focusing on your relationships.

It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction. – Warren Buffett

Dentists say, “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.” The same is true of career relationships; only invest in the ones you want to keep. – Jon Acuff

Gives Your Foes What They Need Most. You must know what type of relationship you want to develop. You could meet foes along the way, these people are against your dream. They do not support your dreams. Friend is someone who will cheer you along. Advocate is someone who is significant in helping you shape your career. Start to label your friends in the different categories. How do you deal with your foes? This category doesn’t matter and your best bet is to ignore them. There is a difference between an idiot and a foe. Shrink your definition of the word ‘foe’. Don’t search for foes. That’s your best solution. Compare the Internet to Real Life. People are often critics only online and they do not like to criticize in real life. If you have such people, distance yourself from them. Stop hanging out with lobsters. Lobsters just want to make others feel miserable. Distance yourself from them. How do you deal with bad bosses? The first you can do is to improve your work performance to see if it improves your relationship. Admit you’re an employee. Turn the frustration of working under a bad boss into fuel. Your boss is essentially saying ‘I dare you to get a better job’.

One of the easiest and fastest ways to turn an accomplice into a friend is to simply tell your accomplice what you are working on. Most of the time just the act of telling someone what you are trying to do with your life changes things. – Jon Acuff

Sometimes, people who hate on your dream aren’t really mad about your dream. They’re mad because you’re making them jealous. – Jon Acuff

You can’t change someone, but you can impact a work relationship sometimes if you improve your work performance. – Jon Acuff

Casual Counts. Casual friends count too and you never know when they might be able to help you. You need to have a massive collection of these people. Throw as many boomerangs as possible. If you are lucky, one might come back into your life with a work opportunity. Use social media to connect with people whom you haven’t kept in touch. You should try to do some casual relationships. I hate asking people for help. Most successful people didn’t accomplish everything alone. We have to give the casual relationship information. If you’re looking for a new job, tell them that. Start with a small table. Say things like ‘it was wonderful seeing you tonight’. You need to find a table. Put a big table in your house and invite people over for dinner. You need to be a little brave and desperate for community. This is how friendships start. Find a table first. Make new casual relationships on purpose. Casual means deliberate. It’s impossible to predict whether someone can work with you at the start. Be a first responder and do not sit on emails for days. Don’t ignore people and pick up on the first ring. Learn to own the inconvenience. Increase the frequency of your interactions with these casual acquaintances. Friendships built on selfishness never work out. Increase the frequency you see them on their terms, not yours. Own the inconvenience.

Casual relationships run on (and deepen) based on your willingness to share information. – Jon Acuff

If people don’t know you need help, they can’t help you. – Jon Acuff

Whether you’re chasing a new dream or trying to climb the ladder at work, casual relationships won’t know how to help us unless we ask for help. – Jon Acuff

Great Career Take Great Advocates. Not all your friends can give you good advice. There are 3 characteristics that advocates must have. They have to be brave and to tell you the truth, even though it hurts. They have to be respected. They also have to be trustworthy. Cheat Codes make the game a lot easier. They will tell you shortcuts which actually work. However, you must be willing to listen to them. What do career advocates need from us? What’s in it for them? Expand your definition of the word ‘expert’. There are generally 3 types of expertise: Industry, life and You. A best friend can be an advocate too. Advocate is like a mentor and the advice mostly goes one way only. An advocate must be someone smarter than you. Join people in your profession and ask for advice. Know other people in similar firms. You might also build some long-distance advocates or heroes you have read about in books.

It’s one of my theories that when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past. – Steve Garguilo

An advocate is only as good as the amount of access you are willing to give them into your life. The best advocate for your career can’t do anything if you stay surface level with them. – Jon Acuff

Don’t Burn Many Bridges. Sometimes, it is inevitable. However, do not burn many bridges as it might haunt you. Boomerangs will return, even bad ones. The fewer you burn, the better. Do you form hate clubs about people you don’t like. Sometimes, stupid people can be your boss also. Leave Jobs with your thumb raised. Do not raise your middle finger as the experience is not worth it at all. Keep your matches away from digital bridges too. Don’t do social media gloating. Apologize if you have to. Your industry is smaller than you think. Treat everyone like you’ll work with them again someday.

It is seldom indeed that one parts on good terms, because if one where on good terms one would not part. – Marcel Proust

I’m not asking you to be fake and give long, deep hugs to people who spent the previous day verbally assaulting you. – Jon Acuff

If you currently have a job, do not go online and criticize the company you work for. – Jon Acuff

Community Shines Brightest in the Darkness of a Career Bump. There are only 4 things which can happen: 1) career ceilings; 2) career jumps; 3) career opportunities; 4) career bumps. Relationships will pick you up. Friends will be there to help you. Rock Bottom is a Trampoline. Sometimes, you will spring back into life, just like that. A career bump will rock your boat and it will reveal who are your true friends. We need friends and advocates.

Investment 2: Skills. Relationships get you the first gig, skills get you the second. However, if you have no skills, you sink. The difference between an amateur and expert are skills. They give purpose for life. Skills are ability and provide you with natural talents. Old dogs can learn new skills. Your skills can come in handy. Skills are the key to getting unstuck.

Everybody wants to be somebody: Nobody wants to grow. – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Once you have skills, they are yours forever. No one can take that skill away from you. When you leave a job, the skills you learned there leave with you. You must keep them sharp, but a skill you put in the Career Savings Account stays there. – Jon Acuff

You Have More Skills than You Think. Most people claim they don’t have many skills. This is because they are just things you do, but you don’t classify. Get more skills. You should write down a list of current skills. Write down ideas. Look for patterns. Ask what are you good at. Do not be humble. It could be personal skills as well, need not be work-related skills. Ask yourself what comes naturally? Write down ‘what do people pay me to do?’ Write down ‘what are you afraid of?’ Write down ‘If you wrote an eBook, what would the topic be?’ Bring the cards along with you. If you do not know what your skills are, ask a friend for advice. You need to be aware of the skills you might want to acquire.

Whether you want to get better at your current job or find a new one, chances are you will need new skills. – Jon Acuff

Somewhere on the road to adulthood we decided that dreams were dumb. We stopped wanting to be firemen and astronauts and settled for stuck and predictable. We accepted the lie that Monday must be boring. – Jon Acuff

Master the Invisible Skills. Everything is a skill, everything you do at work is a skill. Communication, fixing paper jams are all skills. The small things add up. The small skills do not seem flashy. You just need some tweaks to be great at them. Many people miss these invisible skills and overlook them. Going to work is a skill as it shows that absenteeism is not value highly by employees. Go to work and go on time. You will already be better off than others who don’t show up at work. Learn to add value. In every job, there must be something that you do which adds value. Ask yourself what is the currency of your company. How does what you do add to your company’s mission? You can tell your boss: ‘I’ve been thinking a lot about the best ways for me to continually add value to this company. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how I can do that.’ Employees must add value. Own your attitude. It is not the employers’ job to fulfil your career desires. When you have a bad attitude, it shows. It’s your job to enjoy work, not your employer. Attitude is a decision you choose on a daily basis. Express gratefulness. Show consideration for others. Focus on what matters. Play to your strengths and everyone else’s. Learn to be flexible. Respect their gear. Continue with your education and learn more. If the company wants to train you, you should be grateful.

The goal of your first job is to teach you how to have a job. – Jon Acuff

Over and over again, career experts bemoaned the fact that employees who don’t show up to work get fired. – Jon Acuff

Attitude is a skill. It can be changed. It can be improved and it starts with owning it. You determine your attitude, not your day, not a job, not a situation. You. Own it. – Jon Acuff

If you need more to do, find more work to do. Finishing the work your boss thought would take you 40 hours in only 25 hours doesn’t mean you’ve just earned an extra 15 hours of me time that week. – Jon Acuff

Never Become a Dinosaur. There are people who don’t love to learn new skills. With technological advances, skills are important. If you don’t have them, you are a dinosaur. Your skills can get obsolete quickly if you are not careful. Old skills might not work all the time. New skills open the doors to wonderful opportunities. It will value-add to your resume. Sign up for classes is also a signal to your boss that you care about the job. Passion won’t show up from nowhere. You won’t find calling out of nowhere. There are hassles with learning something new. It’s not easy but you can pretend to be a tourist in a new country and ask a lot of questions to find out more. If you want a Do Over, you have to pick up new skills. It’s hard to get stuck in your old ways when you prioritize learning new skills.

I like being a beginner. I like the moment when I look at everyone and say, “I have no idea how to do this, let’s figure it out.” – Jon Acuff

If we all don’t want to become dinosaurs, bemoaning the good ol’ days, we have to stay current. We have to stay relevant. We have to stay employable and the best way to do that is by learning new skills. – Jon Acuff

New jobs always require learning new skills, even if that just means learning a different way a new company prefers to do something. – Jon Acuff

Learning a new skill can reveal a new dream. How can you know you love doing something if you don’t try it? – Jon Acuff



Review of the ATOP World Time Singapore SG50 Edition

I purchased this watch in July 2015. This was the first quartz watch which I purchased on my own. I was really thrilled with the idea of owning another SG50 watch after owning the Ball SG50 nighttrain piece. In addition, the ATOP World Timer was only produced in 100 pieces and seemed really exclusive. This was the third watch I purchased since pursuing the watch hobby in April 2015. I first learnt about this watch from SJX’s website: The watch has an interesting feature of switching to different time zones. This feature has won the brand some accolades as well.


ATOP also produces world timers in other colours and designs. You may check out the other designs here:

The ATOP World Time Singapore SG50 Limited Edition watch (44.5mm case and is 12mm thick) has a day night indicator and a unique feature of switching to different time zones. It runs on a quartz movement. One could switch to a different time zone via rotation of the bezel. On the top of the watch, there is an engraving of the number of the watch. For mine, it is number 2 out of 100. For me, this limited edition is of significance as it marks Singapore’s 50 years of independence and is certainly a moment worthy of celebration.


ATOP is a Taiwanese brand that was established in 1984. It was founded by engineer Mark Lin and his wife. Their precision movement is also patented and their brand is known for the automatic setting of world time as the watch contains 24 pre-set destination times. ATOP watches usually come in playful colours and tend to attract a younger crowd.


The ATOP World Time Singapore SG50 Limited Edition is a fairly new model, and follows on from other world time models. It is heartening to see unique technology employed in a quartz watch. In the brief period that I used it, the watch keeps time well and is very light and enjoyable to wear on the wrist. This is certainly a watch that stands out from other brands that carry many quartz watches, like DW, Swatch, Fossil etc. In addition, this watch will suit frequent travellers as switching time zones is such a breeze. ATOP watches are made in China, however, this is no way compromises the quality aspect of their timepieces.


The main reason why I found it so attractive was the technical features and also the playful feel that came with the watch. My reasons are listed below:

The ATOP World Timer comes in a high grade polycarbonate case and a durable rubber strap. The watch is relatively lightweight due to the use of a rubber strap and the use of polycarbonate. The polycarbonate feels harder and superior to normal plastic watches. The strap is comfortable and still in great condition. The case is all black and the red accents on the dial provide excellent contrast to the overall appearance of the watch. This contrast gives the watch a youthful and playful feel. The bezel is also made from polycarbonate and is relatively easy to turn.


The watch screams playfulness, which I like. This is certainly one piece which you will not see on the wrist of others. It has a hardened mineral crystal which is fairly scratch resistant. Although not as hard as sapphire crystal, it is still acceptable due to the price positioning of this watch. Due to the materials used, the watch will not develop patina over time. There is a sub-seconds dial at 6 o’clock of the watch.


The ATOP World Timer is a weekend watch with 30 meters water resistance. This is a watch where you can wear daily without having to worry about it. As the watch is donned with a rubber strap, one can certainly use it for sporting activities. After nearly 2 years of use, my watch is almost scratch-free and still in mint condition. I have also wore my more expensive watches more frequently.

The ATOP World Timer uses an in-house quartz movement. This a certainly a workhorse movement with a long battery life. The battery can be easily replaced via unscrewing the caseback via the tool provided. This type of CR battery will likely cost less than $10, if brought to a watch shop for replacement.

The black dial on the watch has different textures under sunlight/artificial lighting. This is certainly very attractive to look at. At the 12 o’clock position, the country stated would indicate that the current time zone the watch is in. For instance, from the pictures, Singapore is by default positioned at the 12 o’clock position and is in red font. The bezel can only be rotated in an anti-clockwise manner. There is a day-night indicator at 3 o’clock and it will slowly rotate as time passes.  There are tinges of white and red on the dial and this gives the watch a playful feel at times. Overall, there is minimal text on the dial, apart from the ATOP logo at the 9 o’clock position. The bezel is of the right size and does not overwhelm the dial. The hour and minute hands are filled with luminous materials and can glow at night. However, the lume is weak and practically non-existent.


The ATOP World Timer has a closed caseback. As mentioned earlier, it can be opened up via the tool provided. Once the caseback is opened, one can replace the battery and also change the time. Therefore, there is no crown on the watch. This actually gives the watch a symmetrical feel.

Overall, I am still impressed by how the watch has not ‘aged’ and still looks in like-new condition. I have worn this watch on a rotational basis among my other watches. The ATOP SG50 watch is a weekend watch which will pair well with casual clothing. The two most outstanding features are its (1) World time feature and (2) Day night indicator. I purchased this watch for SGD 193 from Red Army Watches and by now, all 100 pieces would have been snapped up by now. If you want to lay your hands on one now, you will have to get a pre-owned one.