Be So Good At What You Love To Do

I like to read two types of books. First, fiction books, such as action, adventure, crime, thriller and romance novels, with a captivating story that fuels my imagination. Second, non-fiction books, especially self-help books and biographies, which I read to reflect on and improve myself.

I started reading the book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport. It is a non-fiction book that says don’t follow your passion but let passion follow you in your quest to become so good that they can’t ignore you. I agree as well that passion alone is not enough to make it a career. To make a career out of passion, you also need to develop rare and valuable skills, also termed as career capitals in this book. When you gain the right skills and become so good at what you do, satisfaction and confidence follow. It is true to some extent that passion is a side effect of mastery. Being good at work makes you feel good. It is hard to develop passion for something that you spend so much effort and time in but not getting good at it. Instead, it can be frustrating and demotivating even if you are doing something you are passionate about. Nonetheless, mastery itself also does not guarantee happiness at work.

In order to feel motivated at work whether or not it is something you are passionate of, you need to feel that you are good at what you do (competence); have control over your day and feel that your actions are important (autonomy); feel connected to other people (relatedness). Besides, great work fuels your creativity, has an impact larger than self, plus you have control of what you do and how you do it. Control and mission are two important traits to acquire with your career capital when creating the work you love. People who love their work can often relate to these traits. Most importantly, in order to get so good at what you do, the book emphasises on deliberate practice where you deliberately stretch your abilities beyond where you are comfortable while also receiving immediate feedback on your performance. Cal also stressed on taking little bets in exploring and taking small steps that propel you towards a good direction. Lastly, he introduced the law of remarkability which says to get a compelling mission-driven career, it must compel people to remark about it to others using a venue that supports such remarking.

When I read this book, I reflected on my work and it resonates with me. I have full autonomy over how I want to spend my day. I believe that my actions in doing this research are important in producing meaningful work and an original contribution to knowledge. I sure hope that findings from my research can be applied in the conservation scene. Nonetheless, I sometimes feel a lack of motivation. It is common for PhD students to feel incompetent. Sometimes I do not know what I am doing and I wonder if I have what it takes to complete this. It is hard to feel competent when I have to keep revising my writing, not knowing when it will be good enough for submission. Furthermore, PhD students mostly work alone, having few, or sometimes no other people on their project, which can lead to the feeling of isolation. Everyone is doing independent work and nobody can help me write my thesis but myself. Looking at it from a different perspective, what I am doing is deliberate practice. Spending hours reading, writing, rewriting, revising, editing feels like a never-ending loop. It certainly does not feel comfortable. But I get constructive feedback on each draft and hopefully the revised draft is an improvement of the previous draft. So, on a positive note, I am deliberately practising to getting good at this. And as Cal says, be patient as it takes time and practice to be so good at something.

This book says following your passion is a bad advice. For me, it works both ways. Surely not everyone starts off with knowing what their passion is until they start exploring. Many people often stumble into a profession and end up loving what they do where their passion for work increase along with their expertise. There are also those who pursue their passion and continue to be better at making a career out of their passion. Either way, it is about getting so good at what you love to do, whether passion comes before or after expertise. It is not just to love what you do and do what you love, but to make it a compelling career.

First Draft of the Result Chapter

I finally finished the first draft of the result chapter. It is then I realised I have so much data and the tricky part is to know what to include and what not, which is what I have been struggling with. So I ended up writing all the human-sea turtle interactions, including the local involvement and opinion regarding each interaction. Sometimes I wonder if I had taken too much time writing the first draft of the result chapter but I guess it is a learning process. I traced back my photo album (as I randomly take photo of my writing progress from time to time) and I realised I started writing in July. Seven months for a first draft of a chapter. By hook or crook, I am going to finish this.

Positive Jar – Week 5 of 2020

Everyday I’m dissertatin’ and writing word after word, paragraph after paragraph, the draft slowly forms. I’m down with the last interaction of the Result Chapter – “Sea Turtles in Tourism”. As usual, I got stuck again. I spent the whole day today staring at that heading and only managed to write 100 words. I find it helpful to know what to write first. This is what takes up the most time. Sometimes it also helps to just write and figure out the what goes where later. Almost there, almost there!!

Positive Jar – Week 4 of 2020

It is the Chinese New Year on 25th January. This year seems quieter and we visited fewer houses. At the same time, the new Coronavirus outbreak happens. It feels safer to stay home. This week has been exciting, partly because of the opportunities that lie ahead in the new year. Looking forward to some changes in life.

Positive Jar – Week 3 of 2020

The past week had been a lot of spring cleaning as Chinese New Year is just around the corner. Could not help but think of Fifi. As I cleaned the house, it felt like I was wiping away every evidence that she once lived in this house. She left her fur and whiskers at every corner of the house. She definitely had explored every corner of the house as everywhere I swept or vacuumed, I found her fur and whiskers, which reminded me of her a lot. Thank you for all the love and joy you brought into our lives. Wished that you were at a better place now.


Positive Jar – Week 2 of 2020

Three days late to write a note of what was good in week two of the new year…

The first best news was our new paper titled “To Ban or Not to Ban? Reviewing an Ongoing Dilemma on Sea Turtle Egg Trade in Terengganu, Malaysia” has been published the Frontiers in Marine Science!! Three years plus of persistent writing finally paid off!

The second best moment was meeting Aqilah, my degree course mate, who is also a lecturer at UMT. She is one of the very few who understand the PhD journey. It is always motivating and assuring to share my ups and downs with her. When I think I am doomed, she gives me advises that not all is doomed. We rarely meet but every time we meet up, it has been a good conversation. And we understand that cats that live with us are families, not just animals. Thanks for your kind words and support.

Thesis Writing Progress – Sea Turtle Egg Sale

Recently I realised that if I force myself to write, eventually there will be something on the draft. Sometimes I could not figure out what to write or how to go about it and it is easier to take a break and not think about it. However, if I keep thinking about it, I will eventually figure it out.

Yesterday, I started the section titled “Sea Turtle Egg Collectors, Sellers and Middlemen”. Then I got stuck. Surprisingly, I managed to put words down eventually and rearrange the structure. I had breaks in between to visit Fifi’s grave and go for Zumba. Usually I like to wind down the day with something more relaxing and does not require any critical thinking – watching movies or reading a book. But yesterday I decided to continue writing until I feel tired. At one point, my brain felt saturated so I stopped. I tried to sleep but it was past 4am and I was still awake. I thought I would start the next day late but Farah called and that woke me up. Today I continued writing on the section I had started yesterday. Ta da, it was done by 3.40pm. This means I had finished writing one of the interactions titled “Sea Turtle Eggs as a Traded Commodity”.

The next interaction listed on my draft is “Sea Turtles in Conservation”. As usual, I already feel that it is daunting as I don’t know where to begin. Writing is hard because I am sure this will not be the final version. There will be more corrections, rewriting and restructuring. I wish I know of a better way to write faster. My aim is to finish the results chapter before Chinese New Year.

2019 – Stay Strong and Have Faith

Wow, I did not realise my last post was in January. I have not written anything since. I have not been active in updating any updates or posts on social media as well. I actually find all of it daunting. With all the writing (for my PhD) and posting (for study- and work-related) on social media, I just do not feel like writing anything else that is not required. In fact, this year I read more books than the years before. What I miss about blogging is not so much about writing but more of reading back on places I have been, things I have done, people I have met. It brings back memories. As usual, before a new year begins, I reflect upon the current year before it ends and write a blog about it so that I could read back again in the future on the year of 2019.


I love to travel, to explore into the unknown. It feels exhilarating. However, this year I travelled abroad less. The only trip abroad that I planned was to India for Salima’s wedding. Thankfully she got married, otherwise India would still be on my bucket list of countries to visit. It was a hectic yet very meaningful trip. As usual I wish we had stayed longer. It was my first Indian Wedding in India and the preparation and packing were quite stressful. Of all my life, I had never put on a sari or any Indian attire. I am glad that a few Indian friends lent us their saris and lenghas. We managed to prepare a few different attires for different wedding events. Before the wedding, we spent a few days in Mumbai to explore the city. We even went shopping in Mumbai for accessories. Dad needed his too! Guys always had it easier, I think. Mumbai was much exciting and safer than I thought. People were polite and friendly too. Food tasted better than I thought although Dad was pretty much done with roti and Chicken Briyani by the end of our stay there. Thankfully, no food poisoning or diarrhea. The weather was hot during the day. I could not fathom the way they drive there. No rules applied and the honking was insane! We met so many scouts and guides there which made our daily schedule packed. If we had more days there, perhaps the meetups could be spread out so that our days were more relaxed. Not only were we attending different wedding events, in between we were scheduled to meet scouts and guides and attend different scout events. There were times where I just wanted to stay in and rest. Nonetheless, I really appreciate the warm hospitality. While I was walking on the streets in Mumbai, I realised how much I miss travelling. I remember telling myself “I wish I could do this every day”! It felt energising. The longer I am in my PhD journey, the more I feel tied up to it. This means if there is no solid reason for me to do something (non-related to my PhD), then my conscience reminds me constantly that I should be writing my thesis. This is one of the reasons I have not been able to plan another trip other than India. There was no reason to. In 2020, instead of letting my thesis tied me down, grounded at a place, I am going to make it a point to travel more. Life passes by each day and time flies. Just gotta go with the heart and do it.

YSEALI Boot Camp

YSEALI started in 2014. Back then I was interested to apply for the Professional Fellowship. Five weeks in the US sounds like once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, I was not eligible to apply and by the time I finish my PhD, I would be past the eligible age. I grabbed an opportunity (PhD) and missed the other opportunity (YSEALI), that’s life I suppose. When I saw the advert for YSEALI Boot Camp 2019, I was debating for a long time whether or not to apply. It was not just a 2-day boot camp, the winning teams would have to execute the solution they pitched. I did not think I have the time for another project. In the end, I applied after knowing Wid and Melisa were joining. Little did I expect that our pitch would be the winning pitch. I barely remember what I learned throughout the 2-day boot camp. At that time I was actually confused (big time) with what we were supposed to do. In such a confusion, I was surprised that we won. USD2,000 was not a lot but the project that we had to execute required a lot of commitment and time. It sounded simple, the planning looked straight forward but there were challenges and frustrations. But hell, we managed to co-organise the Run for River Terrapin with the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia. During the grand finale, I felt relief that it was over. I still remember one of the slogan “Never Too Young to Lead”. It did not relate so much to me who was already 35 years old. “Never Too Old to Lead” would have been more appropriate. Their enthusiasm was really something! Although I could not apply for the Professional Fellowship, I am glad for the opportunity to join the YSEALI Boot Camp. It would be my first and last YSEALI programme because I am now past the eligible age of 18-35 years old.

(Virtual) Run for River Terrapin 2019

During the YSEALI Boot Camp, we were tasked to brainstorm a solution to a local problem faced by a local NGO. Our team, Hungry, pitched a solution for the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia (TCS) to raise public awareness about the society and its work in conserving freshwater turtles as well as to raise funds for them to carry out conservation and research work. In a team of five people, we proposed to organise a physical run in conjunction with the TCS annual river terrapin release programme in October. However, we decided to organise a virtual run instead so that the project could be completed before the deadline at the end of September. Few of the main challenges included (1) coordinating among team members as everyone had their own schedule and other commitments, (2) promoting the run to get more people to register and (3) troubleshooting issues encountered by runners while tracking their run using the app. Nonetheless, we managed to pull it through with Daryl being the main force in making sure that tasks were completed. We had lots of support from TCS, BiiB+ (the online platform/app we used for this) and Me.reka. It was a great experience. This idea was pitched with the aim to make it an annual event. Lessons learned from the first time orginising this event could be used to anticipate and mitigate issues so that the upcoming events would run more smoothly, reach out to more people and raise more funds. Besides being in the organising team, I also participated in the run with my family and friends. I do not particularly enjoy running but in that month I walked/jogged between 5-15km every day. I did not know where I got the motivation from but seeing my parents walked every day pushed me to do the same. It was like a competition. I felt relieved when the run ended. I was more than ready to go back to swimming and Zumba.

Sea Turtle Photo-ID Project

I have a thing for photo-identifying sea turtles. I like looking at the scale patterns. Since the start of a photo-ID project in the Perhentians, more and more sea turtle projects are starting to identify individual sea turtles using this methods. All of us are a part of the Malaysian Sea Turtle Photo-ID Network. SEATRU is the last to join the network in 2019. Thanks to Lyvia and SEATRU for making this happen, from bunting design (check out the bunting here!), distributing buntings to receiving sighting photos from citizen scientists. Not many members of the public have submitted sighting photos but we hope to engage more people. Szabina also helped in collecting sighting photos on nesting beaches. Sea turtle conservation has begun at Redang since the 1980s but conservation efforts focus primarily on nesting beaches. Photo-ID is a cost-effective and less invasive way to identify sea turtles in the water but gets more time consuming as the database increases.

Minggu Penyelidikan dan Inovasi (MPI) 2019

Thanks for SEATRU’s involvement in taking part in this Research and Innovation Week, I had the opportunity to participate and be part of the team. Lyvia and I submitted an entry to present about the photo-ID project at Redang Island. However, the project at Redang Island had yet to begin so we used the outcome from the Perhentian Turtle Project to show how a citizen science sea turtle photo-ID project could raise the interest and engage the public in sea turtle conservation. At the same time, it helps us to better understand about the sea turtle populations, for example the number of individuals present in an area and the threats they face. I truly enjoy myself during MPI as there were a lot of other interesting research and innovation being presented, not only from higher education institutions but high school students! Very proud of SEATRU for winning the special prize for their Turtle Lab at Taaras Redang Resort. Besides, Lyvia and I also won a bronze medal for the photo-ID project. Overall, it was a great experience.

International Congress of Conservation Biology (ICCB) 2019

The ICCB is an international conference that brings people from a diverse fields of study in conservation together. Attending it in home country was an advantage for Malaysians as we could save up a lot more than attending one abroad. It was nice to catch up with friends and meeting people whom I only knew from social medias. There were so many concurrent sessions, making it hard to decide which to attend. The schedule was back-to-back from morning until night. Every day was well spent, listening to other people’s work, meeting new people, learning new knowledge, etc. It was a place to listen to conservation optimism stories and get inspiration from others. Definitely hope to attend it again in the future!

Fifi (My Cat) and My Aunt

My aunt and my cat left one after another within three days. It was the lowest point in my life this year. Not long after Fifi stopped eating on her own, my aunt was hospitalised after a stroke. We had hope that they would get better but they left in the end. It was already sad to grieve for my aunt. When Fifi left, I was devastated. The loss was unbearable, knowing that she won’t be around anymore in the house or rubbing herself against our feet. There was guilt, wondering if we could have done something earlier to save her. She was only with us for less than 3 years but she was already our family. She did not just come into our house but she entered our hearts and brought so much joy and companionship. I never knew it would hurt so much when a pet leaves. Pets are not just pets, they are indeed our family. The only comfort of their passing was to know that they were no longer in pain. As a Buddhist who believes in reincarnation, I am hoping the next life would be a good one. I hope Fifi will have a healthy life.

Paper Publication

This deserves to be mentioned here as writing this paper took three years plus until it was accepted for publication. Allim and I started writing separately in mid 2016. It was not until November 2016 that Dr. Ja, our supervisor, began organising writing sessions to work on the paper together. We first submitted the draft to a journal in mid 2017. After not hearing back from them for half a year, my supervisor wrote in to inquire about the status. It turned out they had not sent it to the reviewers. Three months later in March 2018, we were informed that the paper was rejected. On the positive side, there were comments to improve the draft. At that time, we thought that paper could be split into two papers. My supervisor suggested to take out a part to make it into another paper. I did but just to find out from my supervisor later that the paper would not make sense without the part that was taken out. So we worked on the initial draft but improved it before sending it to another journal in November 2018. It was not until November 2019 that the paper was accepted. In between, there were lots of comments to address and corrections to do. It felt like the paper would never see the light of being published. I am glad that it is done as I have read the draft so many times that I could not work on it anymore.

Final Thoughts

These are a few of the more significant events that happened this year. Another important aspect of my life is finishing my thesis. Finally I am able to put my thoughts down in words and sent my supervisor a draft. As expected, I need to rewrite and restructure. To me writing a thesis is hard. I can’t wait to get it done and begin a new chapter in life! I look forward to 2020. When I was in primary school, our Prime Minister talked about Vision 2020. At that time, 2020 seemed like a far far distance away and I could barely imagine what I would be doing or where I would be in 2020. Time flies indeed. There is so much I want to do, I just have to get this done once and for all.

Highlights of 2018

2018 had gone by, just like that. It is sometimes scary how fast time flies by. My life has turned into a routine since I started studying. What I do every day is very predictable. Being sucked into the PhD life feels like a piece of clothing being tossed in a dryer (with no end to it). No matter how it spins, I am still in the dryer, just keep spinning. Therefore, anything that is non-PhD related excites me. Because it is like as if somebody stopped the dryer, took me out of it to do something else, before I had to go back into the dryer and spin. Not the most appropriate metaphor, but it does feel like that. Nonetheless, 2018 had been an eventful year!!


Attending the International Sea Turtle Symposium (ISTS) @ Kobe, Japan


Travelling with Family @ Japan


Organising a Sea Turtle Photo-ID Workshop @ Tioman Island


Participating in the Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Presentation @ UMT


Attending the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5) @ Kuching


Falling in Love


Volunteering with SEATRU at the Sea Turtle Hatchling Release Program @ Laguna Redang Resort


Work & Leisure @ Perhentian Islands


Travelling with Bestie @ Phu Quoc, Vietnam


Gathering / Visiting @ KL & Ipoh


Counting Down to New Year with Besties @ KL

So bye bye 2018! Looking forward to what lies ahead in 2019!