The difference between Lent and a full-on 40-day fast is that one is a journey while the other is a discipline.
One of the things I set out to do in my first Lent is to celebrate on Sundays and special occasions. And it’s been a while since I looked forward to Sunday as much as I have. It was like a much-needed pit-stop to celebrate the journey so far (however short) and to remind myself of the blessings that I’ve always enjoyed and taken for granted.
For starters, I drank my usual cup of Nespresso coffee in the morning. Then for lunch, I ordered a ribeye steak ‘xtra cut at Aston’s and even drank teh peng jia C to my heart’s content. And for dinner, I tucked into Mummy’s homemade chicken rice, helped myself to a serving of young coconut juice and before the night is over, I’m sure I’ll be gobbling down some honey mangoes.
There’s something beautiful about delayed gratification, especially in this microwave generation where everything is instant.
I also took the opportunity to log in to Facebook and Instagram and realised that there’s really nothing important that I’ve missed, despite the 100+ notifications that were beckoning my attention. Lull time (periods of inactivity where nothing happens) is better utilised when you sieve out the distractions.
But the most beautiful thing about today was the spiritual conversation that I had with Mummy in the late afternoon. She asked me all kinds of questions that young believers would ask. It felt like the Holy Spirit triggered her curiosity to learn about the things of her faith. I was energised by our interaction together and for the first time in her life, she actually said she would consider going to cell (to ask all these questions); she finally saw that there was another purpose for cell besides just sharing about her problems (which she is extremely reluctant to). Perhaps Apokalupto finally took place in her spiritual life. I am thankful. May God continue to fuel this spiritual hunger she has.
As I gave thanks for our 元宵 dinner just now, I felt an intimate connection with God; it wasn’t just customary, but heartfelt.
With that I greatly anticipate the week ahead.
For our integrated marketing communications assignment, my schoolmates and I examined how TOMS Shoes employed cause marketing as their main vehicle of publicity, and how this eventually led to sales.
There was no better way than to actually practise what the company preaches as one of their key annual activities – to go one day without shoes. At least, that’s what it challenges all its existing and potential consumers. TOMS’ business strategy is simple – you buy a pair of shoes from them and they will give another away to an underprivileged child in a third-world country. A remarkable and novel idea, really.
In our detailed analysis of this tactic, we’ve discovered that there are brilliant brains behind TOMS, from its founder Blake Mycoskie, to its sales staff, and to its interns (better known as Agents of Change – ostentatious but unique no doubt). And we’ve observed that they’ve left no stone unturned – everything that can be used has been used and their marketing strategy is one of the best we’ve seen of any footwear company, by far. It’s almost fool-proof and fail-proof; it’s so comprehensive that we’ve struggled to make recommendations to improve it. We take our hats off to TOMS Shoes.
That was until two of us (Melodie Lee and I) actually decided to go barefoot in Singapore for a day. And so it was, our very own one day without shoes. It was then we discovered the few weaknesses of such a tactic. I will share bits of it as I record my thoughts of this radical experience.
Attempting an against-the-norm feat is always easier when you do it with someone else. Melodie and I felt somewhat comforted and empowered by each other’s participation; knowing that we weren’t going to do this alone provided an impetus for the actual deed. I left home excitedly and I was curious to see the different reactions I’d receive from strangers and bystanders alike.
Coincidentally, I left home with my sister and met my mother en-route to the bus terminal; both thought that I was crazy and had my safety at the forefront of their minds. And as expected, my sister wasn’t too keen on walking beside me simply because it was weird. “So paiseh”, she stated. Funnily enough, that actually affirmed my decision more than deterred it.
I tried to behave as normally as I could. Of course I would avoid tough, dirty or wet terrain but I did not walk awkwardly or in embarrassment. I like doing radical things once in a while anyway, as my youths and peers would know, so standing out from the crowd wasn’t something that was all together foreign to me.
I arrived at our meeting point in Forum, drank a small serving of Caramel Latte from Coffeebean and discussed how we were going to capture people’s responses on film. And on my own, I intentionally recorded as many of these steps as I could through Twitter. After all, it was through social media that this campaign spread like a virus. As expected, I received a flurry of responses almost immediately on both Facebook and Twitter, from both friends and acquaintances. And just as I had expected, the attention waned as dramatically as it had built up as the day progressed, despite my regular pictorial updates.
Hence it leaves me to conclude that a wholesale dependence on social media has its own limitations. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a celebrity with an enormous reputation, but isn’t viral marketing all about the word-of-mouth from the man on the ground? It’s short-lived at best; my network’s interest in my adventure sustained for a couple of hours and my own interest was roused for a day at most. My mini-campaign was as current and newsworthy as the next 160-character tweet by a teenager about where he was or what she was doing. How effective could this method be for the long-run then?
I hereby propose that social media is only good for initial awareness but not prolonged interest.
One talking point in my day without shoes was when I nearly lost my right big toe. I am so used to everyday-walking that it slipped my mind the importance of literally watching my next step. It was a near-death experience (haha pardon the drama-mama) and my odynophobia caused me to visualise a severed foot. I still cringe at the thought of that near-mishap and I understood why Crocs encountered a safety issue with their footwear – people are negligent because they take things for granted and when they think they can depend on what they are used to (can’t help but to think of Psalm 119:105).
There are only two retailers in Singapore that sell TOMS Shoes and we had to visit one of course. It was a disappointing experience to say the least. We all thought that this could be one of the greatest flaw in this otherwise great company. A retail shop is quite possibly the most appropriate touch point for a fashion product (to see and touch the actual shoe and try it for sizing) and interacting with the sales staff left a horrible taste in our mouths; they were apathetic, ignorant, uninvolved, not helpful and unnecessarily rude.
While this reflects more badly on the reputation of the shop, it indirectly impacts a consumer’s attitude towards TOMS; you cannot help but think that TOMS did not conduct a meticulous screening of their franchisees or provide them with sufficient product training. Their unacceptable service became a fundamental failure in representing the goodwill that TOMS have existed to create all this while. After all, we’ve observed that intimate interaction with consumers is one of the keys to their outstanding business model.
We started our barefoot adventure at 3pm but by 6pm the novelty of this activity had already worn thin on us. We were no longer amused by people’s stares or consciously thought about what we were doing. I asked Melodie, “Are you even thinking about the children in Africa without shoes to wear?” Our answers to that question was synonymously negative. Perhaps we were inadequately prepared for this activity, throwing ourselves in without much fanfare (like posters or tee shirts) or perhaps we didn’t do it with an entourage. But honestly, the thought of doing this for the less-fortunate and under-privileged probably crossed our minds only once, and for a fleeting moment.
While those kids suffered from inevitable abrasions, we sampled invited attention; while those kids struggled to go to school, we savoured what it felt like to do something cool; while those kids survived on a single pair of shoes for years, we stepped into shops that sold enough shoes to last a village for years. How effective then, is this campaign to actually help those kids?
I began to question the integrity of this apparently fantastic movement and I couldn’t help but to conclude that cause marketing should only be employed for the short-term and not to be exploited for the long-term.
I’ve written these thoughts on my way to school and during lecture itself. Honestly, while going without shoes was fun while it lasted, I cannot be bothered anymore about how this makes me feel or what message it sends out because the only entity that benefits from this seemingly out-of-this-world initiative is the company itself. Based on my experience today, I scribbled down five recommendations that may make TOMS Shoes a tad bit more successful and perhaps, less suspect. We will propose them at our presentation next week.
As with many things in life that the world offers us as a tradeoff for satisfaction, it can feel good at the start but it is still hugely inadequate and empty eventually. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”, as King Solomon famously philosophised. The words of the Psalmist Asaph resonates in my head: “You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth!” (Psalm 73:25, The Message Bible.)
Oh, the temporal happiness of earthly pursuits and the heavenly void that we all need God to help us fill!
I know I’ve lost the momentum to write again – I blame the weekend – but in my daily (my youth leaders call it stalking, but I call it) web-trawling, I read an article written by one of my favourite youths (Okay, I have a lot of favourites. HAHA). I’ve seen this fine young lady mature from a loud and energetic 14-year-old girl to well, a loud and energetic 20-year-old young adult, except that she’s got tons more wisdom between her shoulders now. (:
Her short testimony demonstrates the wisdom that she has gained over the years and proves the power of hindsight at the present – and how it provides insight of the past – and eventually foresight into the future. Today, only two out of the eight post-‘O’ level students in REAL 2011 were posted into their first choice. A part of me is clueless in dispensing advice, except in encouraging them to remain hopeful and trust in God; it has been more than a decade since I received my posting results, so it takes someone who’s current to the education system to encourage these students with conviction and credibility.
I’ve always stated that Jesus > Grades in my sermons or on Facebook; I mean seriously, did you really think that a B or C could stop God’s will from unfolding in your life? Tonight, I’ll reiterate this point – Jesus > Posting; getting into your 2nd or 9th choice isn’t the end of God’s will for you – in fact, it’s PART of God’s will. Why am I so confident? I say this with such conviction because I know you’ll unravel the answers for yourself a couple of years later. The real question to ask is: can/do you trust Him? I can because Jesus > MOE and Jesus > Education.
(For those who are keen, you can read Yixian’s excellent sharing here: I thank God for bad results.)
Remember, young people, God’s faithfulness is best experienced at the END of a journey, never at the beginning; and you just got started! Chins up – you’re walking on good ground! (:
A couple of hours before I turned 21 for the seventh time, I received a Facebook message from a correspondent in BBC. She googled Wayne Rooney related news and chanced upon my blog. And she asked if I was keen to be on the “World, Have Your Say” radio talk show. I didn’t ask for this and I thought it was a pretty cool birthday present from the Lord, so I agreed without blinking. And it wasn’t before long that I was on the line with the talk show host, awaiting my turn to speak.
As a student, I was trained to talk on the radio, but nothing quite prepares you for your maiden experience, no less than on an international platform like BBC. Many things rushed through my head in the build-up to the programme and I was getting ready to regurgitate at least five minutes of continuous talking. As it turned out, based on the question that I was asked, I only managed to air about a tenth of what I had intended to share.
At the end of my very short interview, I hung up with a sigh of disappointment.
No, it wasn’t because I didn’t get enough time. And no, it wasn’t because I spoke poorly. It was simply because I didn’t get a chance to talk about Jesus Christ and about young people. I was disappointed with myself for that. I felt I had let the Lord down, and let my profession down.
So in order for me to go to bed with a peaceful heart, here’s the full part of what I had intended to say just now. Of course I would never dream of saying this entire chunk, but well, this is my blog and so I shall freely air my opinions here without any time or space limits. This is in context of the recent headlines of Wayne Rooney deciding to leave Manchester United and to answer the question: “Is money your priority at work?”
Hi Ros, thank you for having me on the show. Now, there aren’t many things that Wayne Rooney and I have in common except for the fact that we both belong to Gen-Y.
Before we talk about his supposed motivations of money, which we speculate, let’s take a step back to examine the generation that he belongs to. Unlike Gen-X, or the baby-boomers, who pride themselves in staying loyal to an organisation and finds it an achievement if they can call themselves a one-company man, Gen-Y, or the Millennials, is a group of people born from 1982-1995 and are motivated by their own personal ambitions. It has become a common practice for people of this age group to change jobs frequently, not because they are fickle, but because they are ambitious and adventurous; they are achievement oriented and want to attain as many career landmarks in their lives. We must not forget that Wayne Rooney is just 24 years old – he’s about as old as my extremely capable younger sister!
I think I can scarcely identify with Rooney because I am a Gen-Y in contact with Gen-Y everyday. I’m a youth minister with a Christian church in Singapore and for me to even be doing what I’m doing is proof of the characteristic Gen-Y attribute – to pursue your dreams; I’ve always had childhood dreams of being a youth pastor simply because of the way that I was brought up and the people who came into my life to invest in me. To be in the pastorate is something I’ve always wanted to do.
Before I worked in church, I worked in the marketplace as a marketing manager with an imported wine company. To a lot of my peers, especially the older (Gen-X) ones, what I have done is career suicide, simply because I have swapped a relatively high-paying salary to take on this job and earn an amount that half of what I used to take home. There are initial struggles with the financial adjustments of course, but I’d gladly do it all over again, anytime, any day. Simply because I’ve always dreamed of being a youth pastor.
That is why I think it wouldn’t be too far-fetched an idea to say that it’s for monetary factors that Rooney has decided to leave United. Even in his latest statements, we can pick up traces of ambition and pseudo-guaranteed success (or at least the platform to achieve it). On one hand, I won’t be surprised if Rooney cloaked his decision to leave United due to the recent controversies surround his private life – and I think if family is his priority, then good on him to move abroad to escape the vicious press in the UK – but on the other hand, I think it’s really because he’s an ambitious person.
Maybe he’s doing a Ronaldo, where he’s won everything he could win in England and wants to move to greener pastures. Or maybe he simply wants a change of environment after being at United since he was a teenager. A lot of people will tell him many different things – some advice are born from personal financial gain (his agent, perhaps) and some would simply be for the sake of his family (Coleen, perhaps). I wouldn’t be surprised if Rooney’s father was against his decision to leave United because of the loyalty-stained blood he has as an older gentlemen.
What I would tell Rooney, if I ever had the opportunity, is to listen to what his heart is telling him to do. I would love to say that he should listen to the voice of God, for that speaks louder and clearer than any other voice this world is offering – the only catch is that you have to first hear it! Unlike Rooney, who I assume isn’t a believer, I had an inner peace and an inner motivated that I’d like to believe is placed there by a divine being. With a supernatural backing, it was easy to go against the natural. I banked on God’s prompting in my heart and I made a decision based on a simple virtue that is uncommon in this world – obedience.
I’m not sure what you would think about it – but honestly, it doesn’t matter – because we could go on and on about opinions; they will continue to differ and digress. Everyone has childhood dreams. For Mr Rooney, he wants to be constantly on a platform that would enable him continuous success; I don’t think it’s really about money and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with a club that gave him a similar salary as what United offered. For you, Ros, maybe you’re already halfway through your childhood dream of being able to speak to a worldwide audience.
For me, I am certain that what I am doing – and man! I absolutely love what I am doing! – and at this point of my life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I consider it an immense privilege to be able to play a small part in influencing, inspiring, intervening and interceding for a generation. For I know that whatever that I am doing with them today will impact them in their tomorrows. It gives me great satisfaction that I’m investing my life in theirs, and to tell them how much God loves them, has a great plan for them, and then to play my part in believing in what God can do through them – wow, what an honour! It really gives a reward that the world could not offer.
Thank you for having me on the show. I know that I’d never get to say all these things on air, but I thank you for giving me an opportunity to spill my heart in this setting, on my blog, as I always do. It is my prayer that this blog gives God full glory, for I am merely putting into words what He has put into my head. What a way to kick off my seventh 21st birthday. Be blessed, and be awesome. Cheers!
I know I am supposed to sleep, but I just remembered that United is playing Bursaspor now! Of course I will give in to this temptation to watch a Rooney-less United in action! With or without Rooney, Ronaldo, Beckham, Cantona or the plethora of talents that have gone before them, United will continue to advance. If they have survived Busby, Best, Charlton and Law, they can survive anything! United we stand, divided we still stand and remain United! GGMU!