Brian Tam On Creative Entrepreneurship, Life Outlook And His Forthcoming Book

I first met Brian Tam in Shanghai shortly before or after he had founded his company Let's Make GREAT!. A regular speaker at a variety of community events, Brian is always a wonderful person to listen to or chat with. Leaving his audience inspired he has an uplifting aura of positivity.

So, Selective Attention caught up with Brian to get his take on entrepreneurship journey, life outlook and his forthcoming book.


In your own words could you tell us about Let's Make GREAT!?

We help multinational companies in China develop new products, services and brands from zero.  Most of the time, our client's internal staff are specialized in only one aspect (finance, marketing, manufacturing, etc.), so our team is hired when they need someone to explore new opportunities.  That's our specialty.  We're based in Shanghai and the team is made up of international Chinese, with diverse creative and business backgrounds.

How has your company evolved since you launched it in 2013?

In the beginning, we started with creativity training but soon evolved to include more consulting work.  So our work has moved from the classroom into the field.  Even with these changes, we saw that it was either feast or famine as a service-based business.  China's business cycle has seasonalities (things are very quiet during the winter) and that kind of irregularity affected our cash flow.  After about 2.5 years of this irregularity, we decided to develop products for individual consumers.  That's where PROTO came from.  Its a social card game that we designed to ease people into joys and challenges of entrepreneurship.  We successfully crowdfunded that in 2017 on Kickstarter and have been selling it on our website since then.


You're currently working on a book, can you give us a sneak peek of when we can expect it to be published and what it will be about?

Yeah!  So I know now, I'm an entrepreneur and creativity consultant, but it wasn't always that way.  I studied business and back in the day I preferred the logic systems of excel spreadsheet to the chaos of creativity.  I always chose the safest path: safe university, safe major, safe friends, safe first job... but I was bored and didn't feel challenged enough.  That's what this book is about: choosing creativity.  It's called Awrignawl Creativity and its 65+ visualized reflections (part graphic design and part inspiring principle).  I wanted to capture the key lessons and be able to pass it down to that younger version of me.

What lead you to make the jump from employee to entrepreneur?

The fact that I didn't feel like I fit in, at any job.  There were aspects that I liked, but it was never completely satisfying.  After 7-8 years of trying different things, I wanted a way to combine my skills together in a meaningful way.  I couldn't find a job that did exactly that, so I invented it.  The passing of my best friend also was a key factor.  It made me realize time was limited and working as an employee was basically giving it away.  This really accelerated my desire to find something meaningfully challenging.

What's been the most rewarding part of your journey?

All of it has really been amazing, but the best part or most important part rather, was finding out who I wanted to be.  Entrepreneurship is a kind of self-making process.  Everything is dependent on you: the direction, daily tasks, and deadlines, but also deeper questions like your identity, purpose and value to society.  It's kind of lofty but it has very real-world implications... like how do you introduce yourself to others, to potential clients? or how much is your time worth, really?  So I often say entrepreneurship the modern day spiritual journey; it's where philosophy meets practicality.

How has this aligned personal life philosophy? 

I guess society largely recognizes work and money as the only criteria of success.  But there's also personal growth, intellectual challenge, meaning and happiness, relationships, and family. These factors are just as important if not, even more important to me in the long run.  Unfortunately there isn't much weight given to these factors in the traditional setting. So I'm very thankful to entrepreneurship for forcing me to evaluate these intangibles and to be rewarded in the way that I value.

What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs based on your six plus years of experience?

Don't wait. Don't wait for the perfect partner, the right idea, or until you have enough savings. The only way to do it is to start small and to keep making progress.  Don't wait. Start as small or cheaply as you can and keep going. Waiting is a reflection of your fear. Trust that you'll figure it out as you go along, and go. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Buy my book! Haha, no, just playing. I could talk for days, so I should probably just stop here :)

To find out more about Let’s Make GREAT! check out their website here. You can add Brian on WeChat his ID is tamonline or follow him on Twitter or Instagram @letsmakegreat.

In Conversation With Brøgger Co-founder & Designer Julie Brøgger

Selective Attention caught up with UK based womenswear brand Brøgger to chat with their co-founder and designer Julie Brøgger about how she got started, multicultural design inspirations, the changing definition of luxury and inspiration for tomorrow’s aspiring designers.

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Could you tell us a bit about how you got started?

After almost a decade of working for other brands, I had a dream of bringing my own vision to life, but the world never really needs a new fashion brand. I needed that decade of learning and honing my skills before I could circle in on a tangible concept of what I wanted to add to the saturated world of fashion. It started with and is still the main focus, to create a brand that offers women standout pieces that has longevity and desire in equal measures. There is so much talk about about sustainability and the challenges for fashion to live up to any standards in that regard, but to me longevity is where sustainable fashion really excels. I aim to create clothes that will be cherished not only for one season but for many and in a quality that allows that. Like I did from my own mum, the dream is that in the future the Brøgger customer will pass on her Brøgger items to her's. In order to do that people really need to fall in love with the clothes!

From the beginning it has been important to me to be conscious not only about the quality but also the circumstances of manufacturing. Brøgger stays committed to keeping the sourcing and manufacturing within the EU, keeping the supply chain as close to our London base as possible. All our tailoring is made locally in London by specialist manufacturers, and that is a decision based not on pricing vs quality but on supporting what London is best at.


How does being bi-cultural inform Brøgger's design aesthetic?

Danish design and architecture relates to an aesthetic tradition that that builds on functionality and is stripped of unnecessary ornamentation. They beauty is often found in the craftsmanship and an elegant form that seams to be an inevitable consequence of its function. It is a great privilege to grow in a society where design is valued and public buildings are filled with design classics. But it does also create a normative approach to taste that can seem uniform, and London offers a clear juxtaposition to that. London is wilder, colourful and a true melting pot of influences. Working creatively in London taught me the love of florals, colours and that things should be a imperfect, unfinished at times. My favorite London local is an older woman that always wears florals from top to toe, all mixed up and it has nothing to with fashion it is just what she likes. That level of eccentricity is very rare in Scandinavia and exists in abundance in London.

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Who is the Brøgger woman?

The Brøgger woman is confident in her choices and want wearability from her clothes but will not compromise on the desirability. She likes to stand out in a crowd and to discover new brands that will add uniqueness to her wardrobe.

Based on your team's design experience, what is today's luxury consumer looking for?

I believe the luxury consumer has changed over that last decade of recession and shift in spending, most luxury consumers focus more on displaying their individual taste and style than their wealth. She doesn't only buy luxury any more but across the categories. It is a consumer that demands much more now than ever before from brands. Shopping smaller independent brands like Brøgger offers that sense of exclusivity and a contrast to the worldwide exposure of big luxury brands, which is attractive to a conscious luxury consumer.

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In Asia, the brand is currently stocked in Joyce (Hong Kong), Saisons (Chengdu) and Tom Greyhound (Seoul). Compared to Western markets, what are some key differences in taste or market demand that the team has observed in these cities? What's similar and or different?

The Asian market is of course difficult to describe a one unit, but with the danger of generalization, I think it is a much more explorative luxury consumer than in Europe. One that takes chances with fashion. The before mentioned stores always do very interesting selections. Our bold floral prints can be challenging to some areas of Asia but general we do well across the collection.

Does your team have any advice to offer young designer brands who are interested in expanding their stockists into Asia?

First of all you have to stay true to what your core aesthetic, authenticity is key for a fashion brand in any market.

Be aware that not all shapes and lengths work for an Asian market, so adjust your ranges but always within your brand aesthetic. It is a dangerous path to try to please one market at the price of your identity.

Music Collective Yeti Out On How They Got Started, Their New Fashion Brand And Top Travel Picks

Founded by brothers Arthur and Tom Bray together with Eri Ali, Yeti Out has become one of the best known DJ crews for youth nightlife and fashion marketing activations in Greater China.

What started out as a party-promoting music collective has evolved across several verticals. Selective Attention caught up with the founders to chat about their new clothing brand launch, how they made the crossover into fashion and their favorite spots to visit while traveling for gigs.

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Could you tell us a bit about your music collective?

Arthur: Yeti Out was formerly named Yeti in the Basement, a music blog-turned-party series founded in the pre-Instagram era. Eri and I met on Myspace circa 2006. We then lived together during our University years in the UK, and founded a few years later.

Eri: We were going to so many club nights and raves every week, and wanted to document all the madness. Having a blog also meant that we could blag press passes and guestlists – we didn't sleep much back in those days.

Tom: ...We don't sleep much now!

Arthur: Yeti in the Basement then became a party in East London, taking over basements in Dalston and Shoreditch. In 2012, I moved back to Hong Kong and Tom to Shanghai, and we revamped things as Yeti Out. In essence, the Yeti left the sweaty London basement and returned back to Asia - an analogy which reflects our own journey back to China. We wanted to bring the same vibes to these cities, so we continued booking artists and throwing club nights. With Eri in London, Tom in Shanghai and myself in Hong Kong, Yeti Out expanded to become a booking agency, planning EU and US artists' tours around Asia.

Tom: The family also grew. Yeti Out is now a crew of DJs, graphic designers, photographers and editors, with a record label titled Silk Road Sounds and a number of subsidiary club nights: Yeti: Disko, South Canton Soul Train, Mean Gurlz Club and United Airwaves.

You’ve recently launched a brand. How did it happen? What inspires the brand’s designs?

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Arthur: We've been doing flyers and artwork for so many years, so last year we started a brand as just another medium for us to share our visual identity. Hedonism, self-indulgence, late nights & early mornings are some of the aesthetics of the brand, alongside early 2000 rave flyers and visuals from the dial-up internet era which we grew up on.

Where can we buy the product?

Eri: We release limited piece on our online store and sell collaborations at our parties and pop-ups.

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Late last year Yeti Out collaborated with Coach for its Shanghai fashion show, launched collaborative product with Under Armour and regularly DJs at fashion events. Could you tell us a bit about how your crew crossed over into the industry?

Arthur: We've always had one foot in fashion, I used to work at Hypebeast and Tom's consulted for Dior and Nike. It's nice to be able to turn our ideas into reality with the help of another brand's expertise and resources.

Tom: For Coach, we connected with British creative director Stuart Vevers over a shared love for The Hacienda, so the rave-inspired capsule felt very natural, while the Under Armour collab stemmed from a Yeti & Friends Boiler Room party we did in Hong Kong.

Eri: We have a lot of friends who also have brands, so really, the fashion week parties are just an excuse for us to catch up and have fun!

Although you guys are based in Shanghai, you regularly travel for gigs. What are some of your favorite shops, restaurants, bars and clubs by city?

Eri: Oil is a sick club, Beam Bangkok too. For food, Supanniga in Bangkok L'Avant and Chicken N Sours in London.

Tom: In Shanghai, my favourite club is ALL, then ArkhamLe Baron and Dada too. For food, i'd recommend Spicy MomentDi Shui Dong (Hunan Cuisine) Old Jesse (O.G. Shanghainese cuisine).

Arthur: My favourite club is still Blackmarket in Manila, because it’s so ratchet. As for dive bars, it's got to be between Cha Cha Lounge in LA or Bridge in Tokyo.  Food: 5th floor curry in Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong. Oh, and Felix in Venice Beach.

How To Learn Chinese

Inspiration is a funny thing when it comes to writing. Sometimes you literally have a million ideas falling out of your a** from, I don’t know where. You’re brilliantly shiny!

But other times, it’s like grasping for straws. Especially when you’re writing for a buck. Feeling uninspired, not loving the editing angle, topic or sensing nobody cares if you write well or not. Deadlines, create, create, create! You start turning in hot turds like they’re just as good as your work you put you heart into, but deflated you just think poo emoji, put on your best fake smile and hit send. Meanwhile you get edits, edits, edits. You start thinking damn, how long can this go on for? Sometimes, even when you are writing for yourself you get in the same funk.

Lately I’ve been a bit stuck on ideas here. But, today I got a gem of an idea!

On Instagram I got a DM ask on how to learn Chinese and then I laughed because I realized I took my first Chinese class at 20 (right now I am 32) and started studying with a tutor in maybe 2011, use it for work research, have lived in China for a solid decade and often ask my current Chinese tutor I have been working with since 2013 (we do six hours a month) when I can stop studying, semi-desperate with a dash of humor. Or I just ask if we can gossip instead… So I really thought this was a brilliant topic for a semi expert like myself to write about. In all seriousness though, despite the long lead in, here’s what I’ve used so far:

Self knowledge / purpose

It’s important to know why you want to learn Chinese. For work? Out of personal interest? Purpose matters.

If it’s just for personal interest, I would say learning how to read on an advanced level is of moderate use.

That being said being able to read helps you understand how words are built. A lot of Chinese words are fun like kid which is ‘xiao pengyou’ little friend or be careful ‘xiao xin’ which is little and heart combined together. Rather poetic. But, since you need to learn the phonetic spelling - pinyin, meaning and characters, reading can be pretty rough.

If you do want to work in China or write about it, it really, really helps to be able to read for research.

Next, set your mindset

Some people are great at learning languages, but I’ve never been one of them. So if you are like me, for English native speakers, Mandarin Chinese is a level 4 language, meaning one of the most difficult to learn. Be prepared for difficulty.

While purists prefer traditional characters (used in Taiwan and Hong Kong), in mainland China simplified is used. If you are studying for professional opportunities, I highly recommend simplified.

Create a base

While I spoke Chinese at home growing up, it is super useful to take level 1 Chinese in a school setting to develop a proper base. Chinese has several tones, the grammar is very easy though for conversational stuff.

Develop a thick skin

If you look Asian like me, I do feel you get the second degree for not magically speaking the language. I don’t know how many times I have been made fun of for grammatical errors, saying a word wrong, etc. The only thing that matters it to remember who gives a fuck. It’s like working out, you suck, you are out of shape, you have to keep going to get fit.

If you really want to learn ignore the haters, or use it for motivation to get better. Don’t be self conscious, it’s how one learns.

Continuous learning is clutch

Ok so now that you have the mindset for learning established, just remember mastering a language is a continuous process. After developing a baseline, just keep dedicating time to learning. You might not notice you are making progress but it’s probably happening. I would say it’s more important to just develop the habit of studying.

Here’s some of the stuff I used previously:


Mandarin Chinese English Bilingual Visual Dictionary by DK publishing

Language apps:

Pleco (my favorite Chinese dictionary)




When I arrived in China in 2008 it blew my mind how everyone used drop down readers to read English for research. There’s a Chinese to English web browser extension called Zhongwen for Google Chrome that I use which is great.

On Apple products you can turn on the speech function, this allows you to highlight text which is then read to you by a computer. You can also copy text into Google translate and then you click on the microphone icon and it can also be read to you. has a bilingual section. Click around, use the speech feature or Google translate to read it to yourself.

I use to take some free classes online from China Pod way back in the day, they also have paid content, BBC also has free stuff here

Look for vocab lists for HSK 1-6 online. Go through them.

Otherwise watch movies or tv shows, I use to watch a kids cartoon, Xi Yangyang - Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf. These days you can easily find English articles about shows or movies to watch.


I also bought myself kids flash cards, when I first arrived in China I worked in bilingual early education for awhile, so I needed to know animals, fruits, transport. This is also a great way to build vocab.

Basically that’s all I’ve figured out for now. It’s essentially just trying and keeping at it.

In Conversation With YSM8 Supper Club Founder Poonam Dhuffer

Selective Attention caught up with Poonam Dhuffer, the founder of London based supper club YSM8. Since the events look like a lot of fun, we asked Poonam to give the low down on YSM8.


What is YSM8?

YSM8 is a supper club event series all about celebrating vegetarian Punjabi food, curating world sounds, and creating affordable events for an inclusive community.

YSM8 (yes mate!) is my motto when I greet my friends. It's what I say when I eat something that is delicious. It's my way of celebrating life - in an energetic, upbeat and positive way.


How did your personal or professional interests lead you to found a supper club?

I left my full-time job to go freelance as I wanted creative freedom to create something of my own.

I’ve always loved cooking, sharing food and stories with people from a young age. It was quite a natural transition.

What has been the hardest part of starting up YSM8?

I was doing a lot of running around at the beginning, looking at venues. Figuring how the logistics of running events. Sometimes you just have to throw yourself in the deep end and have faith in yourself.

And the most rewarding moment so far?

There have been various moments since starting from people complimenting the food, strangers interacting with each other and my talking to my parents.  There was something really special about the last supper club, I remember my Dad saying in the car home, “YES MATE, you smashed it” I laughed and a few tears rolled down my cheek. “ I couldn’t have done it without you or mum supporting me.”

Also in the middle of one of the events my twin brother had to leave early, he text me saying ‘the buzz was decent”.

Lots of people sent me feedback all via Instagram DM.

At the last event, we donated 50% of the profits to Help Refugees charity. It felt rewarding to be helping others in need.

What kind of individuals show up to the dinners?

It’s a complete mixed bag of young creative females and males, parents, friends of friends, neighbours, people I’ve met through IG.

We welcome everyone to YSM8.

How do people find out about the dinners?

At the moment we have only be hosting breakfast / brunches.

Most people find out through Instagram and word of mouth. Hardly anyone connects with me through FB or Twitter.

What are your plans for 2019?

I would love to do collaborations with brands, small business and agencies who align with values and believe in the power of inclusive communities. There will always be a charitable element to our events.

Stretching For Growth

Growth is a funny thing, once you’ve achieved something, you forget you had to endure quite a bit of discomfort to get there.

And as we age we become more aware of the chance or “likelihood” of failure. We worry about outcome instead of simply listening to our intuition to identity a vague direction that we can tap at, if it doesn’t work we can always just move on to whatever is next.

Since a big part of last year was stretching for growth and I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel - so to speak, going from analysis paralysis to, as I have written about a few times, to trying a career coach to give my self a kick in the ass, doubt, then moving on to slightly furious frustration and ending with let it be, let me keep amplifying my effort, I thought I’d write about the topic. Currently as I sit at a rather zen, big bitch energy so here’s my tips below:

Do personal check-ins: I find a lot of the suggestions about finding your passions or strengths kind of useless. It’s too clichéd. There’s a lot practical things that need to be added to the equation.

In general self knowledge is something foundational everyone has to do before you can do a personal check-in though. Read about attachment patterns, psychology, take personality type quizzes for fun, think about your communication style, what you actually care about in life, how are you perceived. You can’t make progress if you haven’t established your starting point.

Once you have spent some time figuring yourself out, I suggest doing personal check-ins. How are you feeling about the general state of your life and why? What bothers you? What would you like to change? What are your feelings trying to tell you? Why are you feeling anxious? If you pause to think about how you’re feeling and why, you can develop a stronger clarity of where you are at and where you’d like to be. This sort of intention setting mindset will naturally help you see more opportunities and to pursue things to move you towards your desired destination. Think about what you’ve tried, what’s working, what’s not working and how you can reallocate your fuck bucks and time for a better investment yield.

Practice Ikigai: I really love the Ikigai venn diagram for searching for direction. Achieving balance in life is sort of like a sliding scale where you need to balance what you like, what is needed, what you can be paid for and what you are good at. Over last year after doing some career exploration I quickly realized I wouldn’t want to do some jobs due to the pay. I might not love x - like socializing at times or public speaking but since I might earn a double digit percentage range for the said skill it would be more balancing than just being super unrealistic and thinking about my passions and strengths. You can’t live on those.


Get creative with reconnaissance work: whether you are looking for a job or trying to develop a new skill, there’s a lot of ways you can compensate for hiring biases if you can be a little creative with reconnaissance work. I think I’ve written this somewhere in another post, I thought I’d bring it up again since I thought the flash of inspiration worked so well.

I was thinking about companies I’d love to work at in the future or industries I’d like to switch to, so I paid for premium on LinkedIn to see who is looking at my profile, where certain companies hire from (schools and previous employers) which could help me think about where my money would be best spent for some continuing education or to see what jobs were being posted so I could compare my current skills to market demand. This also enables you to either think about ways you can gain experience in the skill gaps you have at your current job (just make sure to tell the story through your corporate lens) or to find freelance work in the area. For women I’ve previously read that you get hired on performance, not potential so to address hiring biases it’s good to gain experience in anything that’s lacking.

I also added random people from companies and asked to interview people in certain fields which is A. good for learning and B. networking. Beyond that I asked people for coffee to have a casual chat about their industry. I tried to be helpful by sharing some knowledge around mine too. I also put up a post on social to ask if people knew professionals in certain industries which helped me improve my knowledge.

Overall there’s no need to overthink things, just constantly explore, try new things, observe, adjust and repeat. When you stop being as results focused I find things naturally just line up when you get the process down.

First post of the year down. More awkwardness to ensue until the flow of this blog is truly set.

Creating A New Algorithm For Your Perception Of Reality

We all live in bubbles relative to who we are. Nationality, gender, age, socio-economic status, industry and our individual realms of knowledge. And as we move beyond our pre internet knowledge orientation that focused on institutions, timelines, periods, prominence, geography - it’s a wild west world filled with digital platforms and algorithmic discovery powered by our past behavior that pushes us content based historically who we have been, rather than who could become. With on demand information available at the tip of our touch screen or possibly a laptop scroll, we may not even realize we’ve been swimming around in tepid waters that offers multiple reiterations around our currently fetid cesspools of thinking or socializing for that matter.

It is what it is, but what we might want to try to do is be a bit more expansive, to shop around for new knowledge or perspectives. To stop being stale just because it’s easy to slip into auto-pilot.

Sometimes it’s good for your career, creating a diversified dating pool or other times for a laugh - just this month I went to a Hacker X event at Nike’s Shanghai headquarters thinking it was going to be a tech related talk, my weakest area of knowledge I’m trying to beef up in, it turned out to be a recruiting event for developers. I almost died laughing in my neon green windbreaker, faux Issey Miyake plisse pants from Korea and clown boots from JNBY that are likely inspired by Guidi a brand that had been popular among those more directional fashion types in say early 2010s?, only to be the odd one out surrounded by Mark Zuckerberg types as my friend hilariously pointed out.

Whoopsies I definitely dressed for the wrong occasion.

Well at least I learned something new. I don’t know why I assumed it was more of an educational talk. I slipped out as soon it was time to do speed networking, but was happy I was getting out of the fashion silo even if I happened to be dressed in my own hodgepodge of trend vomit when doing so.

Wondering about that mis-attribution my own behavior had caused I postulated they must have gotten my email from either:

Le Wagon, a coding boot camp that held a free talk about marketing that I went to or from General Assembly, which offers some free webinar classes - I had recently taken online. I really enjoyed the user experience design one which made me realize that content strategy, writing and information design is all part of UX. Check this read out: The UX Careers Handbook which made the Mixed Methods podcasts a researcher had recommended make a lot more sense.

So yeah how did small things end up helping me find these talks and or classes that ultimately had me laughing at myself for being such an idiot?

  1. Decide on a purpose. For now I’m trying to beef up my knowledge in certain topics, but this process is something I’ve also used to increase my likelihood of meeting someone IRL for dating when I was single. Back then it was all about diversifying my social pool to improve my prospects. While this is totally irrelevant approaching discovering in a gamified way makes the whole process more fun. After all life is a lot like a video game, only we take it much too seriously.

  2. Look for free or affordable events in your new area of interest. Check your local city publication for events. I also scroll WeChat group chats, accounts and people’s Moments updates for events to attend. On LinkedIn and Instagram as well I follow accounts in newer areas of interest whether it’s a company or a hashtag. If you’re feeling ambitious you can check who they follow on Insta or similar companies on LinkedIn to add more accounts. That way your new behavior will help push new events or content to your feed. I sometimes also comb Meetup and Eventbrite for suggestions. Click on them, like the content. You’ll get fed more.

  3. Ask people you know who either work in a field or are interested in a topic for suggestions about events, publications and people. Shy? Just check what they post on social. Do a good old Google search. Click around. I’ve been finding more articles, companies and events in industries I am interested in learning more about after trying to re-jig things whether its on my LinkedIn or Instagram feed or suggested articles from Pocket.

Thanks For Reading Selective Attention In 2018!

Wow, I’ve stuck with the blog this year and it feels great! Thanks for reading what I have been randomly writing.

If you’re enjoying Selective Attention I have a major ask! If you like what you’re reading or just want to help hype me out of the kindness of your heart ;) and could help share this digital publication with your network on social that would be amazing. So far it’s been really cool to see which geographies I’ve reached on Google Analytics. Who knew a girl from suburban Michigan would be doing this?

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Over the last year I've reached more than 1,600 readers - who are you?? Leave me some comments. Super curious how you found me.

Also interesting to see the demographic breakdown. For a while the readership leaned towards male. Guess I have mannish interests. Ha.

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Next year it would be great to grow the readership by x10.

I should be focusing on deep dives across fashion, lifestyle, culture and tech, monthly global events, original interviews, meditating on greater thinkers, explorations of novel concepts, happenings and hopefully tested reviews of things. Beyond that I have 0% of my content plan done. :/

If you have anything you’d like to read about please leave me a line! I usually try to crowd source inspiration because writing is basically like having a long conversation with yourself, which can be fun but sort of lonely if you do it for your day job, freelance work and also in your free time too. Jeez, no wonder I can’t stop myself from being way too friendly lately and asking everyone what’s the goss(ip)?!?

Thanks for enjoying all this wonderful awkwardness.

Getting To Know Sara Radin

One of the perks of working at a trend forecasting company is the brilliant people you’re surrounded by. Everyone tends to be open minded and falls across the spectrum of innovator to early adopter. With their quick minds and wide variety of interests conversations are never a bore. 

Sara Radin is one such person. We first met through work when she joined WGSN as a travel associate editor before she applied for an internal promotion to become a youth editor. I always enjoyed reading her reports. But, as bright lights go they tend wander off to better pastures when the time is right.

Having left the company in the spring, I see her updates on Instagram and find she is going for her dreams which is inspiring. It's easy to go for the adulthood realm of shoulds but instead she has opted for could. 

Sara Radin photographed by  Lauren Tepfer

Sara Radin photographed by Lauren Tepfer

Now working as a freelance writer covering culture, youth, mental health and identity she also speaks at events and organizes her own, one of which was featured in The New York Times. Keep reading below for her personal reflections on her career and life.

Can you walk us through how your personal interest, personality, education and work experience led you to writing?

I never really considered or planned for a career in writing. I like to think writing found me. Sometimes I even wonder if I really am a writer? Maybe that sounds ridiculous or perhaps it's my impostor syndrome, but I guess it's really more about storytelling for me. This is just a channel that allows me to be me. It's a way for me to tell my own stories, and use my voice to lift up other people's stories too.

When I was younger I struggled to pick a creative medium that would allow me to explore all of my different interests. I went to school for art and design, but realized I wasn't an artist, maker or designer. At the same time, I was full of ideas and fascinated by the world around me. I'm an Aquarius and I live with chronic anxiety, so I'm innately an incredibly curious person who has to know the WHY behind everything. Whenever I can't sleep, I like to spend hours on Wikipedia reading up on random topics (mainly the career trajectories of different celebrities or historical movements). But for a long time, I didn't know how to translate a creative mindset and the desire to ask questions and find answers into an actual career.

I wound up working in the fashion industry when I first graduated college, doing concept design and trend forecasting for Converse, the footwear company. Once I left that job, I decided I wanted to share some of the art that was inspiring me, so I launched a personal blog back in 2015. I desperately needed a space to learn about the things inspiring me. So, I started interviewing artists and designers, and also began reflecting on my own creative process through blogging. From there I eventually started writing for some publications (mainly for free!), and then ultimately landed a job at WGSN as the Youth Culture Editor. Over time, I realized that writing really suited me in a lot of different ways, and got more serious about it in the last year or so. I went freelance full-time in April. It's been a challenging but amazing experience. I'm still really figuring things out, but I love waking up everyday knowing that I am able to turn my diverse interests into shareable and monetizable content.

How did you decide to focus on culture, youth, mental health and identity?

I've always been interested in how culture is shifting, and I think the youth are more often than not the people who are really pushing it forward. As someone who learned they were living with mental illness fairly recently, I try to use my voice to challenge some of the stigma around it. Writing about this topic and approaching it in different ways has helped me heal, and it is my hope that sharing my experiences and learnings can also help other people heal too.

What are the positives and negatives are being a freelance writer?

I love how much freedom I have to create my own schedule and pitch all of my own ideas. When I first went freelance I was worried I would feel alone, but I've actually found a lot of community. There are some amazing resources out there for freelance writers - like Facebook groups and newsletters that share opportunities and contacts. Managing the financial aspect of this lifestyle has been hard, though! I mean, I'm basically running my own company. I'm my own HR person, finance department, CEO, marketing team and so on. Figuring it out as I go, and staying patient though!

You've managed write for several well-known publications since going freelance, can you tell us how that happened?

There isn’t a simple or straight-forward answer to this question. Honestly I think it’s been due (very luckily) to a lot of different things… In the last few months, I’ve been honing my pitching and writing skills, and also discovering the work of some amazing creatives who use their platforms to discuss critical, intersectional issues. Connecting the dots to help these individuals get their stories out there in a larger way has become my mission, and I’ve grown more fearless in my pursuit of this type of work. This is my calling.

Beyond this, I’ve been finding creative ways to track down editors’ email addresses, cold pitching them, as well as connecting with other writers, who have graciously taught me everything they know about the freelance pitching and writing process. Finding community and believing in yourself are so necessary to following this type of alternative path.

You also organize events, could you let us know how those happened?

In the past, I was organizing events every month but I recently have been slowing down on this to focus more on my writing. I think both are a way of fostering community. Planning events can be physically and emotionally draining, so taking this break has been really nice.

What's your favorite part of organizing events?

Giving people a platform to share their own experiences. Bringing people together to help them feel less alone.

Do you have any upcoming ones planned?

Not right now but I have something in mind for next year!

What is your advice for aspiring creatives?

I think often the hardest step in doing anything is starting somewhere, so try and start with what you know. 

You're very open about your personal struggles on Instagram, as a mental health advocate why is this important for you?

I try to be vulnerable and open about my life as much as I can, on and offline because I'd love to see more people doing that on the platform and in real life. I'm tired of seeing overly-filtered posts and content on Instagram. It's an amazing tool for connecting people, and I believe showing our full spectrum of emotions and experiences could help us foster more empathy.

What are some of your favorite places in New York?

MoMA PS 1, The Wing (my co-working space), and recently any place that sells oat milk lattes.

Interested in reading Sara’s work? Follow her on Instagram or check out her website here.

Rethinking Possibility In Your 30s

If your 20s is about idealism, I would say your 30s is about realism which can be disillusioning. But, it doesn’t have to be. It can easily become a slippery slope towards cynicism that has you living your #worsenightmare versus being blissfully basic and living your #bestlife.

Without the power of reflection that aging offers, known as intellectual depth, a younger me found the concept of midlife crisis, rather, funny? Since we’re now living longer and are obsessed with being young, this term seems to have evolved to quarter life crisis since my childhood. 30 as they say is the new 20. Or is it?

While the video has some powerful points, if you’re in a bad place or a late bloomer it could also reek a bit of doom and gloom that if you don’t set yourself on the right path in your 20s you are sort of fucked for life which is disempowering for someone who may already be seriously lost or struggling. Why are we so obsessed with achieving benchmarks at certain ages instead of seriously committing to however long it takes to be killer?

I was there and if I had seen this when I was renting an apartment for $350 dollars a month with a detached bathroom down a flight of stairs that featured frosted glass as privacy for showering by a shared entryway, with no hot water for the utility sink, well as I biked around trying to return my metro cards for the 10 kuai deposit (literally $1.5) because I didn’t have any money left at 26 having been paid late once again, I don’t think I would have felt empowered to get my shit together, I think I would have just given up and crumbled. I was trying my best to make it, but getting fucked pretty hard by life along the way. So, it goes without saying I much prefer this article that poises the question What can we learn from people who succeed later in life?

Anyways in 2013 I finally got the “big” job at a multinational company (which is often shortened to MNC) which is just a fancy way to describe businesses with offices in multiple cities and countries, finally I was being paid decently. In 2016-2017 I focused on job progression and forgot to keep my eyes on the prize, my career. If you don’t know what I mean you can watch this video I previously posted.

But, then I got into a bit of a funk, worked with a career coach, worried nothing would change and now I find myself at the end of the year realizing that by just going back to my ‘fingers in many pie strategy’ and ‘let’s try and see what happens’ I used in my early twenties that I used to get my current job, the ball is starting to roll. Instead of drinking career Kool Aid I could simply use what I learned to create a better iteration of 2010’s blog 1.0 for the fifth or so attempt at blog 2.0 in 2018 in quest to find what’s next.

So now that I’m on vacation but don’t have anything super inspiring striking my fancy I keep repeating my shift in strategy to myself. I am even writing it down, repeatedly in different forms so I can be more expansive in exploring possibility. I guess it’s like public accountability or whatever. And who knows maybe my personal reflections will make you reflect on your past and if you’re in a slump, how you can get out of it.

Since I tend to look for new things to read any time I have down time to get new ideas, I did manage to find some good articles to keep me thinking about how to maintain momentum for discovering and moving towards what’s next. Here’s my latest finds below:

How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You), Wait But Why I didn’t read the whole thing, but I enjoyed to the lo-fi illustrations and storytelling

Learn Something New with recommended breakdowns you can click through categorized as general, technology, language, creative, business, music, extra and local. I a big fan of the idea of combinatory play for creative breakthroughs, so I often try to learn new things for intellectual stimulation, sometimes understanding A helps you articulate B better and by having a wide range of interests as well you tend to be a more engaging conversationalist. Who wants to speak to a dud?

Towards Data Science which has articles about data science, machine learning, programming, visualization and AI. I really think tech will be an essential skill of the future and due to the industry’s earning potential I definitely would love to up skill in the field. Can a fashion b make it? I don’t know but if their motivation is having more cash to be more fabulous, probs (sort of kidding, sort of not)

So, with that my real point was that in your 30s don’t get crushed by some shitty experiences in adulthood, as one person in 7 billion you have experienced an infinitesimally tiny portion of the world’s total human experiences on life. 0.0000000001 % ? which is not at all generalizable, me, you, we, all still know essentially nothing about life. Instead grab your curiosity by its balls and silently think about how you’re going to make the doubters eat your dust in 2019 and beyond.

Emulating Great Thinkers: Einstein

This year I’ve worked on becoming more numerate. One of the ways I’ve done it was to use LinkedIn data, which in and of itself, is really not that interesting.

While I already knew I was an anomaly as the only American staff for the company I work for in Shanghai, and only Chinese American English report editor on the global team (discounting the translation team), the statistical likelihood of me being hired was further illuminated as being an absolute fluke when accounting for the school I went to, MSU.

On LinkedIn, in case you are unaware, if you pay for premium you can see company insights to see number of staff, turnover, headcount growth or shrinkage, average tenure and how staff count breaks down across role types. You can also click on a job description for roles that are open at a company if you want to see where companies hire from, aka you can identify hiring biases you can try to address. With 601 staff listed according to LinkedIn premium, I was the lone wolf who went to MSU. As a percent point that’s 0.16%. Pretty low.

Which brings me to today’s topic. I’ve been trying the conventional approach to career planning and I would say sure, I learned a lot. Yes, this is probably a great way to validate research findings but in terms of personal effectiveness in personal or career growth I would say it’s an approach that might be an interesting reality check but it reeks of a scarcity mindset. So, as I’ve written in my last career related LinkedIn post, I’m not going to drink the career Kool Aid.

You never know what can happen if you analyze for probability. Instead, what if you emulated history’s great thinkers? Like Einstein?

A quote I read from him from maybe a year and half ago that stuck was:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

I’d rather be a 0.16% and make it by being open to possibility than to focus on historic data. Wouldn’t you? Instead of lumping yourself into that horrid term outlier, what if you just maintained the open-mindedness of your pre 25 year-old self that you will always be an individual first and foremost. That you’re here to explore, and see what happens? Do or die, sink or swim. In it to win it? That’s where personal innovation is found.

Thinking About 2019 & Beyond

December feels like an immediate projection into the future even when the month has just begun and lately there’s been a lot great research that’s been published for either continuing education in your field or thought starters to expand your mind. I haven’t had time to read most of this, but hopefully I will have some time soon!

Check out what I’ve been finding on LinkedIn, you got to love algorithm pushes and premium which enabled me to look up companies I know and check what other companies people looked at that were similar to map out my business knowledge across less familiar industries.

Trust 2030, Method x Hitachi

5 Trends For 2019, Trend Watching

Top Graphic Design Trends For 2019, Digital Synopsis

Media Predictions 2019, Kantar

Game Changing Startups 2019, CB Insights

Blockchain Trends 2019, CB Insights

Spotlight 2018, China 20 Retail Cities, Savills

Recommend Reading From November

As a trend analyst I spend a lot of my time reading to add to my baseline knowledge for reports or advisory research. It also helps me to see what’s on other companies’ radars and how they are talking about it which will help me think from a broader industry perspective that accounts for a wide variety of angles ensuring my findings are more reflective of market trends.

Seeing how someone else put something together something also lets me think about how I can continue to improve and perfect my own work when I consider their approach.

Anyways my general point is reading not only helps you build knowledge if you have a more expansive or imaginative mind it can also help you generate new ideas on how you’re approaching your own work. If you only read for information rather than to get out of your own mindset I think you’ve missed at least 80% of the point of reading. Literal thinking is dead thinking. Just saying.

So here’s a few things I found in November or that were shared with me that should make for good reads!

The State Of Open Innovation, Luminary Labs

Year In Fashion 2018, lyst

The Future 100: 2019, JWT Intelligence

The State of Fashion 2019, BoF x McKinsey & Company

The Digital Consumer In Asia 2018, Tofugear

(WeChat) Industry Best Practices: November 2018, Curiosity China

Content Evolution

It’s always awkward starting something new. So far this blog has had a decent, but not great freshman year. After getting the hang of things though I’ve finally decided on a more structured approach to writing so the tagline has changed from:

A creative learning exercise exploring my professional interests and personal thoughts through content creation with the aim of providing useful, thought provoking content for you, the audience.


A creative exploration of the forefront of fashion, culture, lifestyle & tech from a macro meets micro global perspective.

So soon this post will serve as a little scroll break between the adolescent version of the blog to a transition to early adulthood content. Still need to brainstorm the details but I’ll approach as more of a formal publication for my writing flairrrr.

ICYMI: My LinkedIn Career Posts

In May I wrote a post titled ‘Career Planning: Building Knowledge’ where I shared a few links to posts I’ve been writing on LinkedIn. After seeing some people in China repost WeChat articles on LinkedIn, I was thinking about how cross-pollination across different networks enables users to extend their reach, so I though it might be a smart move to link to the LinkedIn posts I’ve written since then ICYMI!

Please find them below:

How To Plan Your Professional Continuing Education

How To Become A Ham

Are You In Professional Shape

How To Get Over Your Fear Of Public Speaking

Authentic Networking 101

How To Stay Competitive In Today’s Talent Market

How To Use Social Media To Develop Subject Matter Expertise

Developing Visual Literacy

How To Rise In Your Career

If I were to create a map of the year of the amount of posts I was writing versus my day job work load the two would probably indicate an inverse correlation trend. Basically what I’m saying is I’ve been working quite a bit so I haven’t written much but I’m trying to redevelop the discipline I had in my younger years to do all the things I set out to do! Like writing more.

Today’s post is short and sweet - a collection of videos from a book a colleague recently lent me called How Women Rise. I wouldn’t say the tips are necessarily gender specific as they might apply to anyone depending on your seniority, industry or if you work in a work place culture where you are a bit foreign or an anomaly you might be hitting some of these roadblocks. If you don’t have time for the book check out the videos below!