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Dear Professor Campbell,

I hope you're doing well! As I'm getting older and getting closer to 30, I'm writing a few letters to people who have made an impact on my life!

The first class I had with you was my Comms 211 class. It was one of the pre-requisites to take to get into the comms program, and that class was big, so you wouldn't have known me from Jack. It was an interesting lass to sit in, learning about PR and advertising and journalism. Little did I know I would TA for (and teach) that class under Prof. Carter a couple years later.

I distinctly remember the day a year or so later when I was in the newsroom, and you called me over to your cubicle at the front of the room. You had already helped me secure an internship with Answers.com in NYC that summer, which I thought was pretty darn cool.

You asked as I walked in, "You're from Singapore, right?"

When I responded in the affirmative, you said that there was an internship opening at Bloomberg News in Singapore for the summer, and whether I'd be interested in the role.

A couple of interviews later, I had the internship!

Prof. Campbell - every professional success I've had since then can be tied back to that internship during the summer of 2012. I learned a lot there, about writing and financial journalism. And, as an added bonus, I got to spend some time at home.

After the internship that summer, I interned at Goldman. To be honest, I don't think they would have even looked at my application (I had cold-applied) if they hadn't seen that brand name, Bloomberg, on my resume.

If you didn't already know, I moved back to Singapore last year to work for Uber. If I didn't have Goldman on my resume... i think you get the point. Also, it just so happens that the person who helped me with my application at Uber was a fellow another guy who had interned with me at Bloomberg that same year, who is also now at Uber. Small world huh?

It's all about connecting the dots backwards.

Your zest and willingness to help students succeed, without a thought of repayment or praise is admirable, and it's what makes you a wonderful person. Thank you for your lessons in the classroom and your help in my internships and career. Most importantly, thank you for being am example of selfless service and a teacher of life's good values, of helping people all along the path of life.

Many Thanks,
Ee Chien
You might be wondering - just so you know, I'm still not done with my 30 till 30 list. I'm about halfway there.

One of the goals on that list is to visit 50 countries by the time I'm 30. At that time, I was under the impression that I had already been to 35 countries, so 15 wouldn't be terribly hard. Unfortunately, I grossly miscounted that. I was at 24. I'm still not sure how I was off by not just one or two countries, but off by 11.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been traveling around Europe in what was a vain attempt to hit 8 countries: Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and Lichtenstein. We only hit the first four, which brings the count to 28. That means there are 22 countries to hit in the next 15 or so months.

Is it doable? Yes. Will it be challenging? Quite. There's also the consideration that I was to visit the countries and actually get to spend some time there, and not just be there for a few hours to check it off my list. I now have to figure out whether to go for it anyway, or reduce the number.

What do you think?

It's one of those random things I discovered years back - chocolate, frozen, is amazing.

A milk chocolate bar, Maltesers, See's Coconut-filled dark chocolate, peanut M&Ms - chocolate's just better when it's frozen.

The texture - it's crunchy and cold, then it softens and melts in your mouth, so it doesn't coat it with warm, brown goo.

When you bite into a frozen Kinder Bueno, it's solid. The snap of the bar is that much more satisfying, and the hazelnut cream filling takes it's time to moisten your mouth just enough before you swallow that chocolatey hazelnut blend.

I love (frozen) chocolate.


I went to a chocolate tasting class in Provo once, it's this fancy shop called Taste. If you haven't been, you should go - it's great for date night. You know, they're making their own chocolate too, because it's the right altitude to do so?

Anyhow - the chocolate bars obviously weren't frozen. What they had you do was take quarter pieces of these artisan bars, rub them between your thumb and forefinger, then stick it to the roof of your mouth and move it around.

These bars, according to them, and to my knowledge, weren't flavored in any way, but depending on the cocoa bean, took on their own natural flavors - raspberry, honey, peppers. It wad quite fascinating. Possibly the only time I wasn't grumbling about my chocolate not being chilled.


Chocolate cakes are just not my thing. Half the time, it's some crappy chocolate mousse cake, otherwise, it's as heavy and gloopy as concrete. Bleh.

When I was a kid, my Mom bought me chocolate cakes for my birthday for a few years, till she realized one year I wasn't eating it.

"Why aren't you eating the cake?" she asked.

"I don't like chocolate cake."

From then on, it was ice cream cake or cheesecake.

There's one exception - Secret Recipe has this Chocolate Banana cake that's to die for. And, Red Velvet Cake, who knew it was choc cake in disguise?

Aged 6, with a chocolate TMNT cake.

For the record, I also don't like chocolate ice cream. Cookies and Cream, any day.
Why do the CIA and FBI love hiring from BYU? Why does Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse come to Utah to find their analyst class? Why are there so many successful entrepreneurs from a small religious group? What's the deal with the disproportionate number of Mormon Congressmen?

As an inactive Mormon, I sometimes wonder if there was value in serving a church mission. For those of you unfamiliar with it, at age 19 (now 18), Mormon men sacrifice two years of their life, leaving family, school, and life to convert people to their faith.

Most people my age have now completed graduate school, or are further along in their careers. At times, this has been rather frustrating. My thought has been this - If I don't fully hold to the tenets of the faith, what was the point of giving up two years of my life? Was there value in what I did, and if there was, could I have learned it doing something else with added value/results?

The answer is, I don't know. Going on a mission was a choice I made with the knowledge and belief I had then. Instead on harping on the what-ifs, I've started asking myself - what did I give, and what did I gain? My mission taught me lessons that have been invaluable in the workplace, and have helped me, years later. Life really is about connecting the dots backward. I've slowly learned to not harp on past choices but take the best from it (and what life throws at you).

I believe that because I went on a mission, I am a better employee in the workplace. Not that I'm better than anyone I work with, but more that I am a better version of myself, and would have been a lesser person without the mission.

So, what did I learn?

I Can Do Hard Things
That was an important lesson I didn't realize I had learned till years after my mission. When I started at Goldman Sachs and started putting in 12-15 hours days, there were days I wanted to quit, but I didn't. Why? I learned on my mission that you don't quit. You couldn't quit. There was days when 25-30 people would reject you in a row, they wouldn't listen, they'd curse at you. But, you just kept on going - "Hi, my name is Elder Chua..." There were hard days when you just didn't get along with your mission companion, or you especially missed your friends, family, and even college. But, what did you do? You woke up and followed the routine. Exercise, breakfast, study, talk to people, lunch, talk to people, home. And that routine continued day in, day out.

Since then, whether it's been at school or work, I've learned to persevere and push through what might be hard or seem even quite impossible. Because of my mission, I hardly ever give up, I can do hard things.

What's Rejection?
"Go away."
"This is of the devil."
"You're not welcome here."
"I'm calling security."

Not many people are willing to listen to two awkward kids barely past their teenage years asking them to meet up to read a newfangled scripture. You get rejected A LOT in the two years. Let's say you talk to 50 people a day, and about 40 of them reject you daily. That's 40 people x 365 days x 2. That's 29,200 people who say no to you.

That's why, Mormons make excellent door-to-door salesmen, and why Provo, Utah, is littered with companies that push door-to-door sales - alarm system, trash collection, pest control and more.

Religion is the thing to sell, and you develop a great sales pitch. Most people either have it, or want it, but they just don't know it yet.

Social Graces
Whether you like it or not, you're stuck with a companion 24/7 (aside from the bathroom, of course). This means that sometimes, you get stuck with someone you really don'y get along with, but have to be with anyway. While this can be extremely stressful (and at times, cause shingles), being on a mission teaches you to tolerate and even love someone, even if you don't really like them.

You learn together, you suffer together, you grow together. What greater way is there to build a bond? Some of my mission companions (and non-companions) continue to be some of my best friends. Even though we don't see eye to eye on religion anymore, we still trust and respect one another, and have all the fun along the way. Some of my best memories in life are from that time - getting stuck on 10 foot high fences, playing Settlers in the evenings, splitting pants trying to carry too many pamphlet boxes or getting drenched by passing buses.

All in All
All of the above is why many people who serve missions go on to lead successful lives in their entrepreneurial endeavors, or in their careers. Missions aren't a through train for success, and not everyone comes out with the same perspective, but in my personal experience, it taught me a lot about myself, about other people, and how to be a better person.

I'm not perfect, I've made some mistakes along the way (Mormon or not). But, I learned that we can always make it eight, with ourselves and good values that grounded me, and while if uprooted, can be re-soiled.

Lastly, and without getting too preachy, I developed a stronger faith in Jesus Christ. I learned that there are certain things in this world that I cannot do alone. There were times on my mission that I know there was more than just me carrying me through. I'm glad I got to spread His message of love and hope and joy, and hope that as I find my new (religious) path in life, I continue to draw on the good I learned.

Hire a Mormon missionary, and you'll get a honest, hardworking, kind (and sober) employee or business partner. Good luck!

From a young age, I've been known in various circles as someone who's happy and bubbly, but perhaps someone who isn't very serious, lacking in maturity or responsibility.

This perception has followed me from high school to my mission, and on to college and the workplace. It's frustrating to me that it's been an issue, though I constantly try to improve. It's feedback I've received from a couple of managers. I've always been chatty, but, to paraphrase what a colleague said to me at dinner the other night, "Sometimes you say stupid shit." It's not exactly what anyone wants to hear, but nevertheless, a point well taken.

While we are blessed with distinct personalities and ought to be ourselves, finding the balance between what talents to optimize and what talents to temper is a tricky business.

On my mission, I had a companion, Elder Palfreyman, who was able to strike that balance. Quiet confidence, or quiet dignity, is one of the bigger lessons I took away from our companionship. In an email he wrote me reflecting on the topic, he said:
"The gist of the matter is that there is a great power in speech, but it is only made powerful by the moments that go unspoken. As important as words are, they can be over-used to the point of making them completely useless.... more often than not, a decorum reflecting quiet dignity is much more desirable for professional settings or even in cultivating higher respect from one's peers."

It's a characteristic I'm working on developing, and trying to be more cognizant of my words and actions.

When they come of age and as they so desire, Mormons receive what is known as a Patriarchal Blessing. In it, a man called especially to this role acts as a conduit of God to give you a blessing that tells you about your life ahead, and provides you words of counsel to help you along the journey in this mortal sphere.

While I don't subscribe to various tenants of the Mormon faith anymore, this is one thing I've clung on too. A friend who's also left the Church made a good point - that any religion has good people who can truly act as messengers of God to us. In the blessing, the Patriarch said:
"Watch what you say, what you think and what you do for you will be judged by these things and your judgment will not only be from the Lord but from those around you. Remember that whatever you do, whatever you say, how you think and what your attitude is will be reflected and obvious to those around you. So be aware of this and do the right things."

I received this blessing when I was 16. More than a decade on, it still rings true. I'm honestly not sure why that's the case - why is what I think and my attitude so obvious to those around me? Is it that obvious or crazy or somehow incongruous with who I'm supposed to be? And, from my perspective - why did God tell me that, what does He want me to learn from this? I guess the only way to find out is by working to change and improve on it.
In that sense, I'm an advocate of letting (and helping) people change, of giving them the benefit of the doubt that they can be a better version of themselves. We come from different backgrounds and experiences, with strengths and fallibilities and some are I guess, more obvious than others. I'm working to be more conscious of how I act and what I say. I hope I can change the perception people have of me as a bubbly goof-off to a bubbly mature person, and I'd love your help along the way.

I visited Sam Palfreyman, my old mission companion in Boston back in 2013. He's always been a font of wisdom and an example of a genuinely good and kind person. During my visit, our conversation drifted towards self-improvement and development, and we talked somewhat about something we had actually discussed on the mission - quiet dignity and confidence. I asked Sam to email me some thoughts on it, and this is what he sent over, June 25, 2013.

"So as my memory serves me (correctly or incorrectly I know not for sure), I believe I received a lesson on "Quiet Dignity" in one of my first District Meetings in Kuala Lumpur (my first area on my mission). Unfortunately, I do not have the notes with me, but I will attempt to recall some of my thoughts here as well as some observations. I hope this doesn't sound too preachy (this is not to say all of my thoughts apply to you or any one person, but rather the ideas are put in general terms to express a quality of decorum that I respect in others. I am very guilty of light-mindedness and flippant speech, so this was a good exercise for me to reflect upon). 

The gist of the matter is that there is a great power in speech, but it is only made powerful by the moments that go unspoken. As important as words are, they can be over-used to the point of making them completely useless. On the extreme side of things, people can develop a habit of swearing incessantly. This habit demonstrates a difficulty in expressing ones thoughts. Trite expressions and vulgar sayings are frowned upon by in large most audiences.

More often and more subtle, however, are the people who have a sense of propriety and a respect for elevated speech, but due to nervousness and anxiety they speak quickly before they can even process what has just been said by others. This habit is not fatal, and in fact, it often is quite acceptable in many social settings. But more often than not, a decorum reflecting quiet dignity is much more desirable for professional settings or even in cultivating higher respect from one's peers.

An interesting example comes from music. I am not a musician and thus I do not understand composition to any professional degree. But conceptually, I have heard from those who are that the only thing more important than composing the notes is inserting the rest notes. That is to say, there is a great deal of dramatic effect and framing that goes into choosing when to remain silent and when to make noise. This serves well to illustrate the point of quiet dignity. The person who knows when to speak is clever, but the person who knows when not to speak is all the more clever. Surely you can error on the side of being too silent (a song would be awful dull with no notes), but assuming we all use words to communicate, the conservation and intentional use of speech is quite remarkable.

Think of someone you admire who exhibits quiet dignity (perhaps a Church leader, a family member, or the Savior Himself). That person tends to carry himself  in a unique way. Rather than constantly talking he (or she) reserves the moments for conversation for when it is necessary; when there truly is something worth saying. Words are guarded as pearls of great price, not to be cast about without great care and forethought. There is a great confidence and power to this person's words. Rather than being conditioned to put on a smile and prepare to laugh at his cleverness, you open your ears to his words; you listen for the content that has been chosen, guarded, prepared. This quiet confidence is closely related to humility: a divine attribute worth striving for. Humility is not a weakness but a strength. To be possessed of it is not to be self-effacing but rather to put your trust in another and to patiently seek to do as He would do, and say what he would say."

In rare times of peace and quiet, I sometimes reflect on my days in college. Back then, multiple people I encountered who were already working kept telling me college was the best time of my life, and I should appreciate it. I didn’t understand what they meant till now.

It’s especially during this season where I long more for the days gone by. I remember many a winter’s day, where I would trudge home in the snow to my apartment, take off the layers, then curl up on the couch with a cup of tea. More often than not, one of my roommates would also be there, Zane would be taking a nap or watching a rerun of Seinfeld. Blake would be perched on the edge of the couch reading a book, or hanging out in his bedroom.

We would always argue about whether to put the Christmas tree up after Halloween or after Thanksgiving, and we would always compromise – put the tree up between Halloween and Thanksgiving, but instead of a start, a baseball on top. Zane’s the biggest baseball fan, and that was our little ode to his devotion to the game. Christmas music was off limits till after Thanksgiving.

Our neighbors were also our best friends, and they’d walk in here and there. We'd borrow each other's salt or rice, we'd play board games or make dumplings into the night. Hot chocolate was always an easy way to convince the group to pile into a car to the hot chocolate shop and chat for hours on end. Often, we'd try to see if we could various female friends to come along. 

In the summer, we would stoop on the steps in the evenings. It was scorching hot in the summer, but evenings would bring beautiful sunsets and a gentle breeze. The quadrangle was a lively place, people would be chatting or trying to grill something on a portable BBQ. The chatter was always there, but not too loud, like birds chirping - people laughing and talking to each other happily. Wild nights meant hammocks tied to the porch posts, with people playing Four Square, or Just Dance with 30 people following the screen at the same time.

I love my job now, it's fulfilling, and I learn much each day. I get the opportunity and autonomy to grow a business, and work with some fantastic colleagues. It's not healthy or helpful to dwell on days gone by.

But, there are days when, just slightly, I wish I could go back to the simplicity of those days where friends were family, where the only thing I had to worry about was completing that homework assignment or taking that test.

That's the beauty of life though, we move on. We learn and change and love and grow. Sometimes, we make mistakes and fail and struggle to get back up. I miss college, but I'm ever grateful for the path I'm on, and hope that in whatever small way I can, I'll move forward and do my best to make this world a better place.

When I wrote my last post, I was in a very different place. a different job, a different country, a different state of mind. 

Moving back to Singapore is one of the better decisions I've made in my life thus far. Some of the challenges I faced living in Utah are gone, some of them remain, while new ones have cropped up. 

I've learned things about myself, about what I am capable of, what I'm not able to do. I've made choices that have caused grief to people I love, but also to me. I've been happy and I've been sad. I've been lonely and I've been fulfilled. 

Life happens.

With that in mind, here's why I'm starting back blogging and writing.

This year, I turn 29. Next year is the big 3-0.

A couple weeks ago, a friend from work asked me if I had thought about turning 30 (she's just a month behind me), then asked if I wanted to do a 30 things to do before you're 30 list with her. 

It's something I've seen people do, and I thought it would be really cool! I mean - I have my life bucket lists - why not knock out a number of them in the next year and a half?

One of the things to do, of course, is to track it, so why not record it? While I've been busy this past year, one of the other reasons why I stopped writing is because I've had writer's block. The words don't flow so easily. I'm trying to stimulate that part of my brain again and get back to that emotion and core of who I was and who I am. 

Being able to articulate it on pen and paper (or a keyboard), I believe, will help me redirect my compass where I want it to go, and help me stay the course. 

I'll be sharing the vast majority here, along with my journey. I hope that through this, I become a better person, in others eyes, but more importantly, in my heart. Through humililty, grace, and a bit of fun, I'm excited for this! 

The very first goal on the list is one that will be ongoing, and that's to write a blog post at least once a week so I can get back into the writing groove. 

Here's to doing 30 great things before turning 30!

On a drive to pick a date up yesterday, I was talking to my mom and mentioned where I was headed.

Her response to that was, "Does she know you're inactive?"

What she was asking was whether I told the girl I wasn't active in the Mormon church. I told her that I'm pretty upfront with my dates about that - if they're Mormon. Then we continued on chatting about other things.

Later that night, as I was lying in bed, I replayed that conversation in my head, that got me thinking. Why should that really matter? I know, I've grown up and been Mormon most of my life, and, to Mom's point, the vast majority of Mormon girls want to date a church-going, temple worthy, returned missionary. I mean, with that comes all the values and attributes they could want in a man. 

But, and this is the big but for me, does the church make the man, or does the man make the church?What I mean by that is - does being an active participant at church define who I am as a person? I struggle with that because I still profess to be a Christian and strive to be the best disciple of Christ that I can be, but I happen not to subscribe to certain tenants and interpretations of the Mormon church. 

As a person, I still strive to be honest and kind, faithful and humble. I hope and think that I'm a good person who still tries to make good choices. But, it seems that my worth, at least to certain others, is derived from my activity in the church, rather than my personality, my likes and dislikes, my humor and hobbies. Church can be a part of my if I choose, and in that sense becomes a part of who I am. Though, at the end of the day, I am who I am because of the choices that I make. But - that choice of not being active in the church doesn't fundamentally change who am I am, but rather, my perspective on things. 

But, why did my Mom have to ask me that question? I think that to be an unnecessary question, because it doesn't change the way I treat my date, if I am a shallow man, that is who I am, if I am more than that, my inactivity doesn't change the way I treat or view women. 

Dating in Utah can be quite the challenge. As someone explained on a Facebook group I'm part of, my band of people are"too heathen to be Mormon, and too be Mormon to be heathen." We find it hard for people on both sides of the spectrum to relate (though the non-Mormons are a bit more open). Outside of Utah, it seems that non-Mormons just don't care, and can even be a fascinating subject for discussion, while the Mormons are more open to your spectrum of religiosity. 

And so it goes, it's an interesting journey, and one that I'll navigate as best as I can.