Quitting something I love

Last week I had my exit interview with Shashank and we chatted at length; three hours to be exact. Even that was not enough to sum up my journey and feelings for SimpliFlying since I started full-time five years ago.

I never expected to see so much change in myself, in my personality and in my outlook on life. When I graduated from university early on, I thought I already knew who I was and what I would spend my years doing i.e. clock my work experience and achievements in marketing and communications.

I did all that. However, my most gratifying takeaway thus far is discovering that there is so much room for change for the better; that many conventions in life are misplaced and it is okay to change course.

It is okay to refuse requests from or stand up against people I love; it is okay to ask for help or someone else’s time even though it may feel an imposition; it is okay to quit a job without necessarily having another job lined up.

The act of understanding something and the act of doing something is not the same. Like my good friend Dennis Wong says, many people may understand that smoking is bad for their health but they cannot bring themselves to stop.

It took me a long time to become at ease with acting differently from societal norms. In Singapore (this probably extends to other Asian cultures), the idea of remote working is likened to having an unstable job, a consequence of not being able to get full-time employment elsewhere.

Whenever my relatives, friends or acquaintances ask what I do, I struggle. There are two reasons:

1) I work remotely so naturally there are the above assumptions about my capabilities

2) I assume at least 3-5 different roles (we all do at SimpliFlying) so it is hard to describe what I do.

Later on I realise that this is exactly what has enabled me to grow faster in my personal development.

1. Freedom

Remote working gave me the flexibility to experiment in terms of working environment and hours.

I have worked from my dining table next to a window where air is fresh; on the uncomfortably low coffee table at my parent’s home; at the gym that even has sleeping pods; at noisy hawker centres serving laksa and popiah; at least 20 different cafes (and found two that serve awesome chai latte) and not forgetting, from a treehouse in Thailand.

Hits and misses were aplenty but the learning was tremendous. I have learned that I am more productive with white noises in the background; that I can work non-stop for a maximum of 2.5 hours, after which I need a break to re-charge; that exercises, meditations and naps are the best ways for me to recover before a second or third sprint in work.

Knowing what environments and routines increase my productivity allow me to immerse in deeper thinking, produce higher quality work and become more confident of my abilities.

2. The team showed me the different possibilities to living life

My colleagues come from all over the world: Shashank is Indian but spent much of his early years in Singapore, then migrated to Canada a few years ago; Marco is an Italian living in Spain; Baiba is Latvian and she’s moved to Spain as well not long ago; Shubhodeep and Ravi are the weirdest pair I’ve seen because their personalities could be any more clashing yet they have been best friends since young; David and Dirk are both from the UK but their approaches in life and in work are nothing alike.

Despite each of our differences and oddities, the synergy working together has been superb. SimpliFlying has shown me that we don’t have to make ourselves be like another person in order to get along well.

During our quarterly retreats, we have our heart-to-heart talks about our history, relationships, values and perspectives. With them, I began to familiarise myself with different philosophies. Through them and their stories, I eventually found the courage to break away from conventions in Singapore.

Last year, Lester and I moved out of our parents’ homes. We rented a place of our own, even though the flat we had bought was just 12 months away from completion. (Read about Built-To-Order concept of government housing in Singapore.) This was the single most important and impactful decision I had made in 2016, and I have no regret at all.

This year, we decided to quit our jobs to travel as well as to pursue further learning in many other fields e.g. surfing, painting, business Chinese language, agile project management (PMI-ACP). This was not a passionate decision made in haste. We planned months for it and prepared for the compromises that would come with it e.g. finances.

My favourite guy Derek Sivers summed it up best in his article about quitting:

I still love everything I quit. But not as much as I love all this room for change.”

To my team mates — Shashank, Shubhodeep, Marco, Baiba, Ravi, David, Dirk, Vishal and Gina— you guys have no idea how much you have influenced my life. The candid post-its about what you love and not love about me are one of the most precious things I hold dear. Thank you for helping me learn about myself, simply by being yourself. I love you all!

Li Guen

Li Guen

Head of Communications and Marketing at SimpliFlying
Li Guen heads the communications and marketing functions at SimpliFlying where she drives corporate branding efforts and industry research initiatives. Prior to this, Li Guen was at Weber Shandwick working with clients including Rolls-Royce, Changi Airport Group and P&G. In her free time, Li Guen likes trekking mountains in Asia. You can tweet her at @SimpliGuen or email her at guen@simpliflying.com.
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