Link love (Powered by itchy feet)

NZMuse - Link love roundup with awesome reads from the week
Literally. I’m a magnet for insects. It’s been a week since we were in the Coromandel and only now has the swelling and itching dissipated!

This week’s links

There are two ways you can squeeze your budget 

The life you want – no matter it looks like – costs money 

On not giving up, even when times are tough and stressful

The six pillars of mental stability

The underrated art of coping

Would you go back to a former employer?

The three types of interview questions 

Rebuttals to the relentlessly chirpy sex-positive movement, take one and take two 

How blogging made me a better negotiator

Blogging taught me how to negotiate

Let me tell you a little story about how blogging gave me the confidence to negotiate my worth.

I remember the first time I ever made any money off my blog. I was astonished that somebody would pay to place content on it. Blogging – still the easiest yet hardest thing I’ve ever done to earn money.

From then on, it was a slippery slope, I admit. There was a time when I accepted way too many sponsored posts.

But despite that, I still didn’t say yes to everything. I was reasonably picky. There were some compromises I just didn’t want to make.

I started negotiating, somewhat regularly, with potential advertisers. It was easier than I thought. Faceless people behind an email address. A business transaction. If they didn’t want to pay my rates, that was fine. No deal. There are plenty of other advertisers out there who can, and do. I don’t need your money.

I’ve lost count of just how many email threads with stingy lowballers I closed off with ‘if your budget increases in the future, feel free to get in touch’.

And if my blog is worth more than that, then I’M certainly worth more than that.

Turns out that was really good practice for real life.

And that is how blogging helped boost my confidence, leading to my first actual pay negotiation.

Link love (Powered by impatience, mostly)

NZ Muse - link love

This post was brought to you by Solarcity Solar Power Auckland.

It’s Labour Day weekend! With any luck I’ll be off to the Coromandel soon; it’s probably too much to hope for good weather in October on top of that. But dreams are free.

Enjoy this week’s links

Do what you love is the ultimate individualist myth, one that normalizes a world in which most people have jobs that are just barely this side of tolerable, because if we are special enough, hardworking enough, and love the work enough, we will make our way to the top.

Renting is lethal:

Every year people die prematurely in winter in New Zealand, a phenomenon unheard of in the coldest parts of Europe and North America, where houses are built and heated to protect people from winter cold. People are more likely to die in winter in New Zealand if they live in rental housing, because it is likely to be older and in poorer condition than houses which are owner occupied, and which provide more protection from the cold.”

The GATE approach to networking:

Give: The most important point about this is that you give a true gift. Something you provide with no expectation of return. You find someone who you want to help and you help them in the best way you can.

Ask: Make a commitment every day to ask for something that you need. There are people in your life who are waiting to help you. Take the time to let someone know about a challenge you are having or something you could use insight on. Acknowledge what you still need help with and reach out.

Thank: Take the time each day to identify someone in your life who has done something for you and give them a clear account of how they have helped you. Say thank you in a meaningful way and make sure that the other person understands the value they added to your life. All too often we thank people in less than three sentences. We can do better.

Experiment: Every day look at your existing social systems and try something new. This could be as simple as choosing to use a different location for your one on one meetings or changing the language you use when you greet someone. In all of our social interactions there are hundreds of variables. Experiment and find new ways of interacting.

Link love (Powered by matters of the heart)

NZ Muse - Link love - blogging roundup

Thoughts for the week:

It’s amazing how powerful inertia and fear of change is.

It’s amazing how long people can tolerate living in limbo.

This week’s links

Ask yourself the hard questions

When financial fatigue gets the best of you

Class mobility, decision fatigue and budget failure 

The times when you need to say no

What exactly makes a happy marriage?

Marrying for money

And on a lighter note:

What happened when I tried being white (oh how I relate! Today I love my straight hair and my weirdly shaped eyes, but not that long ago I was obsessive about my lack of lashes and flat nose)

Foodie Friday: Japanese indulgence

Light and fresh are the two words I’d pick to sum up Japanese cuisine. While it took a day or so to adjust, the food definitely agreed with me. I grew up on a diet of rice, and to this date my stomach still does best with Asian food – I have trouble digesting heavier meals.

Also, impeccable? Someone on the Japanese food subreddit commented that while they’d encountered some food that wasn’t up their alley, they’d never had a bad meal there – and I couldn’t agree more.

Udon noodles in Tokyo - NZ MuseI’ll never get tired of udon and tempura.

Burnt ramen noodles at Gogyo restaurant Kyoto- NZ Muse

You definitely wouldn’t want to eat burnt ramen too often, but it’s certainly something special.

Champon noodles in Tokyo - NZ Muse

Stumbled across champon noodles, which turned out to be his new favourite dish.

Sushi in Kyoto - NZ Muse

Sushi (say no more). Lean red tuna, get in my belly. The miso that came with this particular meal was mind blowing – the most complex and subtle I’ve ever had. Like with Vietnamese pho, I doubt we’ll ever find that here at home.

5 things you really, truly must do in Tokyo

Sumo stadium - Tokyo 2015

Although we briefly visited Kyoto – and swung through Osaka for lunch – most of our week in Japan was spent in the big smoke of Tokyo. Spoiler: I LOVE it. (I feel this way about most global cities, to be fair.) Here are a few things that stood out.

Stay in a ryokan

A must do in Tokyo: Stay in a ryokan
The whole guesthouse experience is just so unique, from the sliding doors to the tatami mats and the baths. It was an incredible introduction to Japan. Also: Sleeping on the floor is amazingly comfortable.

Order food via a ramen machine

Ramen machine for ordering food in Tokyo

Need I say more?! Didn’t think so.

Go shopping

Uniqlo cardigan haul from Japan

Everything is SO cheap compared to home. I’m madly in love with the merino cardigans I got at Uniqlo for practically nothing.

Also, as an Asian person, shopping in an Asian country makes so much difference, be it bras for the flat-chested or glasses for the flat-faced (you know how the plastic frames that are hot right now have only tiny inbuilt nubs designed to perch on high nose bridges, rather than traditional nose pads?! I found some with extra-big ridges).

Visit a park

Just some sake barrels in the park, enroute to Meiji Shrine
Every city needs green spaces, and Tokyo does them well. Ueno Park brought to mind San Diego’s Balboa Park, crammed with attractions (a highlight were the turtles in a pond!) and at Meiji Shrine, we saw an elaborately dressed bride getting wedding photos taken.

See a sumo match

Sumo wrestlers - Tokyo 2015

As it turns out, we were in town for the very start of the autumn sumo tournament. I wasn’t sold on the idea of shelling out for sumo tickets (and didn’t want to gamble on queuing up on the morning of the match) but it turned out to be the highlight of our trip. The bouts are short so the pace doesn’t flag, the atmosphere surprisingly lively and the rituals fascinating. And we got to see one match that was clearly a bit of an upset! We also saw some of the wrestlers before and after, as people lined the pavement outside like a red carpet to watch them come and go. What  a way to end our last full day.

Link love (Powered by brainstorming and planning)

NZ Muse - Link love - blogging roundupConfession: I’m a bit of an employment snob.

My career so far has seen me alternate evenly between working for big brands / household names versus smaller organisations.

I’ll admit, that prestige, or instant recognisability, has been hard to leave behind. It’s so easy to say, I work for X and have a stranger understand right away, rather than have to go into an explanation of the company. Giving that up was definitely a factor I considered.

This week I was part of a strategic planning session around sharpening our mission, if you like – in order to guide our work, and also (fringe benefit) enhance our employment brands (yeah, I hate myself a little bit for having just typed that sentence). I’m 150% behind what we do and am stoked to really see it gaining traction.

Fittingly, this week’s links are all about career, fulfillment and getting ahead:

The changing nature of creative careers

Forget about finding your passion – ask yourself these questions instead

When personal problems spill over into your job performance

Every writer should read this when feeling low

Two questions that guided a journey from poverty to Yale

8 things that surprised me in Japan

8 things that surprised me in Japan

Roughly in order of occurrence:

They eat lotus root!

This is a food I remember fondly from childhood. I guess I always presumed it was a Chinese thing. We’d have it in this rather plain, watery, chicken type soup. (Yeah, not very exciting – the lotus was basically the only part I enjoyed.) In Japan, we were served lotus root at breakfast, and alongside sushi one night.

The quiet is real

And the courtesy signs/warnings on public transport, incessant. No loud, obnoxious, inappropriate phone conversations on trains around here, thank you.

The only place that was remotely rowdy (bearing in mind we’re not drinkers and didn’t do anything remotely night-lifey, ha) was a little ramen restaurant we stumbled into – it was noisy in the way Gina’s Italian Kitchen in Auckland is.

So is the cute factor

Particularly when it comes to roadworks/construction. The billboards I expected, but these little surprises were next level.

Food isn’t just divine, it’s affordable

We ate well in Japan, and yet most meals clocked in about NZ$20 or sometimes less for both of us. That just wouldn’t happen at home.

The toilets are like nothing else

I was prepared for bidets. I was NOT prepared for heated seats and buttons in the wall you can push to lower the lid – so you don’t need to touch the toilet itself. GENIUS.

Everyone’s so well groomed

I was a slobby heffalump in comparison. No surprise.

Umbrella stands everywhere!

So, it was pouring buckets when we arrived in Tokyo. The first things we bought at a 7-11 were two white umbrellas. It wasn’t long before we realised practically every building has an umbrella stand at the entrance. Heck, at our last hotel, there were secure slots for individual brollies, with a lock for each one.

It’s really family friendly

For example: specific diaper disposal and diaper change table in the bathrooms aboard trains. Stroller service at the sumo stadium. High chair attached to the wall in a public toilet, presumably so mum can have a moment to relieve herself.

Just a few random thoughts. More of a debrief to come next week!

3 pet peeves of a freelancer

3 pet peeves of a freelancer - NZ Muse

I know a few people who’ve struck out on their own in recent times, one of whom has gotten through the honeymoon phase and has now lost those pretty rose-tinted glasses about being self-employed.

It got me thinking about all the things I detest about doing freelance work (aside from chasing payment, obviously)! Bad clients are rife, especially when you first start out. And as a rookie you often don’t know the traps to avoid.

If you’ve ever freelanced, odds are you’ve come across your fair share of bad clients. Here’s three pet peeves I have that I imagine are pretty much universal:

The client who doesn’t actually have a clue what s/he wants

You know the type. Wishy-washy, lots of back and forth over email. Potential clients who won’t tell you what they have in mind, are super vague on the details of a project, and ask you for a quote without giving enough information to go on, probably don’t know what they want. And clients who don’t know what they need are prone to scope creep, blowing out projects way past budget and timeframe.

The cheapskate

There’s always a client who wants you to cut them a discount because they’re a small startup, or threatens to go elsewhere because they can get the work done for half the price. Whatever the reason for their stinginess, it doesn’t bode well for your working relationship.

The needy one

Like a clinging partner, an overly demanding client expects you to be at beck and call, all the time. Last-minute changes and deadline shifts are all to be expected.

The single worst client I ever had ticked all of these boxes. I found myself groaning every time her name popped up in my inbox, and putting off responding to her emails as long as possible. Reluctance to even open emails from someone is a pretty good sign that all is not well. Unfortunately, since this client was a referral from another client – a GOOD one – I was reluctant to cut her loose.

But here’s the thing. If you don’t value your own time, how can you expect your clients to?