Johnathan Teh

Wisdom of 2013

2013 has truly been an astounding year filled with many experiences, lessons, people, and countries. Sharing here are some of the wisdom I gathered. From packing my bags leaving Sydney to this year long of travelling and entrepreneurship - taught me:

1. Being spontaneous in most cases can yield positive outcome.

Making decisions on the go may seem lack of thought but the truth is that these decisions are more likely to bring about positivity than negative. As I am writing this post, I am over in Romania building a mobile messaging application. Circumstances called for product re-development and I made a decision to Eastern Europe after a few talks with some Romanian friends in the Bay Area. Looking at it today, the risk definitely paid off choosing something I have little expectation or knowledge of.

For every question you get on "why”, there's always "why not". I follow my heart: if it feels right, then go for it and be ready for any challenges.

2. New experience enriched our lives in ways we least expect it to.

SFO.jpg It’s in our very human nature to lean back to what we know best. Instead, look at each new experience as an opportunity to broaden our perspective. Being over in 11 different cities this year, I can’t help but to be reminded how different each of these cities are. Just a few examples – NYC - fast paced and glamorous, SF Bay Area - tech haven, London – rain and tube is almost part of everyday life, Stockholm - alluring and chill.

3. In crossroads of making a choice; it matter less what you choose, what matter is that you choose.

We do our absolute best not to miss out and research into more options. Suddenly, you are confronted with endless of options and worst yet not able to make a decision. So often this year I am faced with situations like this; who to couch surf with first arriving in Palo Alto, where to stay in SF, multiple events happening simultaneously and being presented with 9 different routes by 4 different travel agents. At the end of the day, all I needed was a plane ticket to get me to Europe. Don’t get too stuck with choice, make one and you will make the best of it.

4. Plan, adapt, risk and learn.

Simple as that - plan as you go, adapt if necessary and risk when requires. Then, learn from the experience. I personally believe there is no good or bad / right or wrong decision. There is just decision and the result of that decision depends on how we execute it and what we learn from it.

5. “Oneself” and alone time helps.

This year long of travelling help me discover my inner self. Try it; let yourself surface from all the noise modern society produces. Stop chasing after what every one is following and pursue the path that appeals you most.

6. Make new friends in every place you go.

Housewarming-Cluj.jpg New local friends will help you experience a new area much easier with much more fun. I have made friends with taxi drivers, hairdresser, waiter/waitress, friends of friends, cleaners, and streets people.

7. In doubt or are curious, just ask.

Everything I know today starts with curiosity and/or in a state of not knowing. I learnt about company structure in U.S., immigration, basic programming, design, drawing, and startup among many others this year.

Be like a child seeking to unravel the truth in everything. There is absolutely no shame in asking or saying I don't know. You are not meant to know all the answer or worst pretend to have them.

8. "Simple" is not the same as "easy". Simplicity is difficult to achieve.

Be careful when someone says - "it's simple". Simplicity is never as easy as it seems. I have come to understand that simplicity takes time. Simplicity requires you to sit long and hard to consider what are the absolutely essentials and having them alone.

9. Realise we all have the ability to simplify things even the most complicated situation

“When things get too complicated, make them simple” - Jenny Perry (Yes, it’s possible to do that)

10. Get your hands dirty and be creative.

I believe we’re all born to create — create things that are bigger than ourselves. I get questioned a lot on my background and why am I in the digital tech industry. The truth is that my educational background didn’t direct me into the tech sector, my passion and interests did.

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up”  – St. Francis

If you don’t feel it yet, you just have to seek deep in you to find that creativity of yours. Don’t get trapped by the system set up before.

11. Ego and selfishness will hurt.

Learn to understand others, be an empathetic listener. Listen to their emotions and what they care about. Ask about their life, their culture, and their language. You will be different when you start letting go of your own opinion. I have come to see how different culture practices even on the simplest things in life – transporting, gathering and communicating. Start getting familiar with the idea of perspective.

12. The impact of every person you meet, no matter how big or small they may seem to you at first.

Landing-in-Paris.jpg The rich, poor, fortunate and unfortunate all have their teachings for you. I realised this year learning come from strange way and hit you when you least expect it to. I still recall an interview I had back with one of the richest man in Australia and what he told me about the importance of time. It’s still stay true to me till this very day. Or the decision to Romania after a demo pitch night in SF; how a Romanian couple sparked my interest in Romania as a destination for development. Also, the man suffered from a 3rd degree burnt made me inform of the unfortunate people and be compassionate.

13. Accepting things you cannot change.

Quote to live by:

"Grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” — St. Francis

14. Get rid of the unnecessary.

How many emails do you get during the day from email subscriptions? Or that bookmark lists that’s pilling for the last 2 or 3 years? Make it a New Year’s Resolution to start clearing out all the unneeded belongings and/or attachments you have accumulated throughout the years. You will feel much more free and lightweight once you cut down to basics.

15. Learn something new everyday.

Go out, make new friends and learn something. Life is so much more than just working and staring in front of a computer screen. Everyday I strive to see and learn something new. Whether is it a new word in a foreign language or a seeking understanding on our human anatomy or learning to play a new board game. Be curious and learn to understand why people do what they do.

16. Every person can gain so much from travelling.


“In both business and personal life, I’ve always found that travel inspires me more than anything else I do. Evidence of the languages, cultures, scenery, food, and design sensibilities that I discover all over the world can be found in every piece of my jewelry.” – Ivanka Trump

“Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.” – Ralph Crawshaw

We, Aussies are definitely walkabouting out there.

18. Unique idea doesn't exist, only golden execution.

Forget about creating a unique idea or business proposition. Rather start following #4. Make mistakes and make lots of them. Mistakes are how we learn. Failures are the stepping-stones to success. Reminded by my uncle in London.

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

19. Be accountable and take responsibility.

Complete something; create a list of what you need to do and be accountable to yourself. Being an entrepreneur is a tricky one; you’ll have to train your self-discipline and be reminded that you answer to yourself. Taking responsibility is an act of confronting yourself – knowing you have the ability to make change.

20. Key to be productivity is to be organised.

2013, the year I have been exploring on productivity hacks! Some quick fun concepts (google them): Inbox Zero, Task Management, Digital Folder Organisation, GTD, unsubscribing and deleting. I realised how much more productive I have became from choosing the right tools and approaches to be organised.

21. If you can do it right now, get it done now.

The time has come to stop postponing, if you can do it now, do it right now!

22. Everyone everywhere basically wants the same thing.

Everyone wants to feel loved and to be acknowledged. Show love and you’ll receive it back. Fundamentally, we are all seeking for that one thing regardless of the distance apart.

23. Nobody has it all figured out.

Met with some of the smartest and brightest individuals, one thing certain is that no body has it all. The great thing is that we humans are collective people. Work with people and we will reach and see further than to stubbornly trying to cover everything alone.

24. You can’t please everyone.

Don't fight too long and hard on a topic, everyone has their opinion and is entitled to it. Let it go and acknowledge others too. More than that, it’s hard on yourself to spend all that time and effort convince and please every person. Let it go.

25. Don’t take anything for granted

My airbed in Stanford: airbed.jpg Being now away from home for the last 11months. I too miss home, family and friends. I miss the food that I crave for only home could make them so perfectly, or the conversations you share only with close friends or the love you receive from your family. All these things never seem potent till you realise it’s missing.

"we are said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasure." - Thornton Wilder

26. Personal transformation and growth is found by confronting fears.

It never gets easier, you just get better. Be happy and confident in everything you do. Experience is the greatest teacher of all. Stop reading about or watching the world passively and start living it. Never stop learning.

That's it for 2013, let's look forward to the year ahead.

Happy New Year to all.