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everything i need to know, i learned from…

throw away your textbooks, burn your references. just go out and buy a novel (trashy-ness optional) today.

you’ll learn more from it, than any book in school, or so i’ve learned.

in my more than 3 decades of existence, i’ve learned the following:
1) novels are cheaper than textbooks or reference books
2) novels are more fun and interesting than said books
3) i’ve read some novels like 10 times and keep going back years later.

can’t say the same for my school books though.

what i’ve discovered is that the novels give a clear sense of ‘real life’ compared to the musty theoretical tomes in school. i’ve learned more from watching, reading what the characters go through, than merely the description, explanation and examples given in textbooks.
and besides the novel’s topics are infinitely more interesting.

let me give you an example.

1) Private Parts: This is a great book. No relation to Michael Chiang’s private parts (his comedy production, not his genitals….). A semi-autobiographical account of radio shock jock Howard Stern’s rise to prominence (or notoriety), this is an engaging read, from his dreams of becoming a radio personality “It dawned on me that if you were half a mutant you could probably get on the radio”. It also talks about his attempts to launch ‘Gay Dial a Date’ in Washington DC and being lauded for “one of the best, most senstivie treatments of Gay themes ever to air on the mainstream media”. The book is much better than the movie of the same name, and gives insight into one of the most influential men in radio.

It kinda makes me think that Singapore ‘shock’ DJ weenies ought to take a page out of Howard’s book. I don’t know about you, but hearing grown men call each other ‘brudder’ all day and acting like teenagers grates on my nerves after the first 20 seconds.

Besides getting an idea of how to create a distinct identity, the book serves as a primer to bring out creativity and innovation in an industry where everyone mimics everyone else.

2) Monkey Business (Swinging through the Wall Street Jungle) by John Rolfe and Peter Troob: not to be confused with the Black Eyed Peas “Monkey Business” Album, this novel (i’m assuming it’s fairly accurate) chronicles 2 guys who finish their MBAs at ivy league schools and attempt to break into the world of investment bank.

great for those planning to enter the finance industry, this work is studded with pearls of wisdom like:
1) don’t take a big crap and stink up the bathroom in your interviewers hotel room (you won’t be called back for a second interview)
2) how dapper bankers dress… “The DL Thompson partner who greeted us was straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. He had stuffed his generous ass into a tight pair of seersucker trousers. On top, he wore a bright red sweater vest that looked as if it had recently been pulled from the garbage receptacle behind the office tower that was home to DL Thomspon and Co’s offices…The guy was a freak, a bad Halloween rendition of an innkeeper out of the Canterbury Tales, and we were there to kiss his ass. His name was Chester Goodman III.”
3) For those with aspirations to list a company on the stock exchange or be on the investment banking team that brings it public, the authors happily deflate all high and mighty expectations. For example in explaining a stock offering prospectus, they happily explain the following sections:
“Use of Proceeds: Not too many people pay attention to this section, but they should. A careful reading of this section will tell you where the hell all the money from the offering is going. If it’s not going into the company coffers to help grow the company, but instead is going to pay out existing owners and management, then stay away. If owners are cashing out, there’s no reason for you to be cashing in”

pretty commonsensical advice for stock investors.
another handy explanation:
“Management – This section presents biographies of both the management team and the board of directors. Members of management and/or the board of directors generally get only two to three senstences each to make themselves seem important, so they maximize the balderdash per sentence. The Management section also presents the reader with an opportunity to assess just how inbred the board of directors is. A good way to figure out how likely it is that the directors are sucking money out of a company is to draw a chart with each director’s name in a box. Read through the Management section, and each time that you identify a professional or personal connection between two directors, connect their boxes with a line. If you also happen to know about other relationships between directors, for instance one director is married to another director’s daughter, or one director is an old college buddy of another director, you can draw a line in there as well. If upon completion, the chart looks like a spider web, then hold on to your wallet”

good stuff for those planning to enter the finance industry or looking for more insight into the workings of the stock market.

someone reading this book would gain enough insight to keep clear of the many companies in dire straits which have imploded in recent years.

3) An Unseemly Man: and less i be accused of promoting ‘cheem’ or esoteric books, there’s Larry Flynt’s autobiography. Flynt better known as the subject of the film “The People vs Larry Flynt” is probably best known as founder and publisher of porn mag Hustler.

The book chronicles his rise from a farmboy growing up in Kentucky, his sexual experience with a chicken, serving in the military, starting his first working class bar and working 24 hour days to promote it and keep it running. gradually he opens a strong of Hustler Clubs across Ohio with clubs in Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Akron, all the while taking amphetamines (or ‘Speed’) to keep him working 4 days without sleep.

eventually he asserts his position as ‘this century’s most ardent advocate of First Amendment rights, a man whose landmark Supreme Court cases are studied by every law student in America’. In his fight against the legal system over First Amendment rights, the mainstream media reluctantly joins his cause, with the New York Times Company, the HBO, the American Civil Liberties Union, the heavyweights of the publishing industry rallying behind Flynt.

The books provides an interesting perspective, especially for those who might be interested in starting a business or going into journalism.

i realise that it’d probably be impossible that novels will totally replace textbooks, however think about how much more interesting if such novels were added to supplement the teaching in schools…

perhaps the times will change, but till then there’s the library and the bookstore.

gamers addiction: even five hours isn’t enough

An interesting item today, carried in the Straits Times, not a whisper or a peep in Today, the ‘other major paper’ in Singapore.

Are you one of nearly 40% of gamers who are hopelessly addicted?
Additionally, do you have an inner psycho just waiting to jump out?

Self-appointed Internet ‘advisors’ Pagi (Parents Advisory Group for the Internet) (I believe I could have come up with a better name or better initials…) commissioned a report during a video games showcase at the Science Centre and made mention of this in October last year.

Today (as in this day, not the ‘other’ paper) the findings come out that ‘game addiction’ hits 37 percent of survey respondents (of the more than 1,000 visitors to the PlanetGames games exhibition last year) and their symptoms include:
1) inability to stop playing when they know they should be doing something else
2) constantly obsessing over the game
3) engaging in conflict with parents and other family members over their addiciton
4) needing to play more and more to get their fix

Also, most at risk are males aged 17 to 20, with 1 in 8 gamers spending more than 5 hours daily in front their computers.

Ok, I admit I’m an addict.

Whether it’s the bouts of Defense of the Ancients or DOTA, a Warcraft 3 modification (a violent real-time strategy game in which humans, elves, orcs and other fantasy creatures beat each other into the next era), or in Maple Story, an adventure game from the creators of Gunbound, there is something sickeningly satisfying about spending hours in front of a screen, pounding furniture and the keyboard all the while yelling, screaming and cursing at the screen. i guess it’s something like watching a soccer match or wrestling then.

but then again, i’m sure there are golf enthusiasts who scream at the screen yelling, ‘damn, i could’ve hit that putt, Tiger, with my eyes blindfolded and my hands wrapped around my wood. my 3 wood, that is…!’ or something to similar effect.

after a long hard day’s work, there’s nothing like beating up some virtual creatures, considering the real world alternative of beating your boss or colleague up, could possibly land you in a cell next to Took Leng How who’s facing child murder charges. gorgeous, ain’t it?

i’ve definitely hit the ‘computer addict’ charts a couple of times, from clocking up between 5 and 7 hours of game time a day on weekdays and between 10 and 14 hours during weekends during my university days.

for me, the computer has been a game machine, more than a glorified typewriter, or a email or internet surfing machine.

it’s been there the times my parents were out for dinner when i was a kid. when the tv showed crappy stuff during the school holidays. the times when everyone was out of the house and i was there bashing on the i-j-k-m combination (to move the game character up-left-right-down respectively) on my Apple ][ clone computer when i was 12 (that’s about 2 decades ago for those of you who’re counting).

i have to admit those Apple games were kinda pathetic and weak, but then what would you expect from a computer with 48kb (yes, that’s kilobytes, about 48,000 bytes in comparison to today’s computers with 512mb (megabytes) or roughly 512,000,000 bytes. yes, yes, i know the tech guru readers out there will correct me with 8 bits equals 1 bytes. yes i know that, but i’m making it simple here…).

back then a game consisted of a green blob (not to be mistaken with ‘blog’ which is what you’re reading now) moving around the screen firing small dots at other green blobs. it sounds sick, but this stuff was addicitive and i sometimes stayed up overnight to play it. the only sound was a distinctive bleep, kinda like the ‘censored’ sound when someone says ‘shit’ or some other naughty word on tv. you sometimes got soft bleeps, sometimes regular bleeps, and if you were really lucky, you got to hear loud bleeps (especially when you died).

the reason why all the characters were green was coz this was the age of monochrome computer monitors.

yes, there was a time when computers didnt have colour. lots of kids find this unbelievable, just like they dont believe there was a time when you had to WIND your car window down, not just push a button up and down, and occasionally (or perhaps deliberately got your brother’s finger or face caught in the window).

fast forward 15 years and i’m playing Counterstrike (a game of counter terrorists wasting terrorists) and DOTA, Tank Wars (another variation of Warcraft 3) and now Maple Story.

These games wastes lots of time and hardly generates any income, unless you’re the game developer or you set up a nifty ‘hints and tips’ website or sell a book related to it.

the worst part of it, is that even if you’re the top dog today, 2 years down the road, you become a ‘has been’, kinda like being the Pac Man champ. ‘yeah, that guy was the best in the world for this freaky game in which you played some kinda yellow circle with a quadrant cut out that if you imagined really hard, you might think you’re some kinda yellow mouth or monster or something, and then you ran around this maze, eating dots or food or some weird stuff, and then you’d have these ghosts chasing after you and if they touched you, you’d disintegrate.

weird stuff, sounds like something Game Theory developer, John Nash, might have said in A Beautiful Mind

the interesting thing is that while all these studies will continue to show how bad all this stuff is for us, that it’ll rot our minds, reduce us to social imbeciles, bring out our dark savage and violent tendencies, we’ll continue to have one of Asia’s largest telecommunications companies and the largest company listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange,Singapore Telecom, launch one of the most addictive online computer games World of Warcraft (WoW).

This will undoubtedly mean that countless new players will get hooked on WoW and we could expect to see more ‘violent’ and addicted gamers in the near future.

I definitely would love to spend all day and night playing this game, although at the end of the day, i’m very sure that this will certainly bring me further away from my goal of hitting S$5m in net worth by the age of 35 (about 3 years away).

as of yesterday i’ve sworn off games until i achieve a couple of milestones in my quest towards my goal.

the milestones are:
1) balance my stock portfolio
2) launch my business website at http://www.bizexcellerator.com (not quite up yet, though with a draft at least ready by Aug 1st).
3) spend more time with the wife.

these 3 could keep me quite busy for a while.

I know that there are a couple of readers out there, judging by the counter hits.
do feel free to leave some comments or perhaps even share your own experiences.

in the meantime, live long and prosper.

stuff inc

I don’t know about you, but one of my cardinal sins is accumilating stuff. lots of it.

maybe it’s a holdover from the world war 2 years when everything was in short supply (not that i was born then). or as financial guru Suze Orman says, it represents a holding on to something, just in case we need it. it’s an expression of a fear of loss.

and so i keep receipts for purchases i have difficulty recalling later, buy books at warehouse sales, dvds (some of which i haven’t watched since buying them about 3 years ago).

and it’s an addictive kick.

once you start, it’s difficult to stop.
the frightening thing is that whatever you buy, drops to about 10% of what you paid for it if you decide to sell it when you’re sick of it (in most cases).

in fact, whole industries have sprung up to deal with the accumilation of stuff – storage cabinets, wardrobes, storage racks, plastic cargo bins, public self-storage facilities (which are starting to make their presence in singapore.

there’s a major difference between ‘junky’ stuff and ‘useful’ stuff though and i believe it’s in the frequency with which we use the items. here’s a selected record of my ‘stuff’ so far.

less useful or ‘junky’ stuff:
1) CDs: accumilating a couple of hundred CDs because they were ‘cheap’ when i bought them through a CD club when I was living in the US. I hardly listen to them more than once or twice. After factoring in the freight costs shipping them back here, the storage and space they’ve occupied over the years, i figure that it’s probably cost me much more than their initial cost.

Now when i’m looking for places to sell them, i find that the stores that do buy them are picky and selective about what they buy.

that’s headache 1.

2) Books: books represent knowledge, an accumilation of the knowledge of great minds. however, i have yet to read that andy warhol biography, or that fiction novel i had planned to start. the books are nearly occupying an entire room now and again like the CDs will be a major pain to dispose of.

argh, headache 2.

3) steam cleaner: bought this super karcher steam cleaner. it kicks major dust butt. it will be awesome to clean my parquet floors, it does a great job of cleaning the air conditioner, but due to it’s lack of use, it’s kind of been sitting there.

my new commitment is to use it more often to keep the home clean.

and now for useful stuff:
1) black and decker clothes iron and leifheit ironing board: lifesaver, without which i’ll be walking the streets in crumpled shirts and pants (not that there’re exactly pristine now…)

probably cost about $80 for the iron and $80 for the ironing board.

it’s very therapeutic to iron clothes while watching tv, and nothing beats seeing a crumpled shirt become a nice, crisp one.

i figure i must use these babies at least once every 2 weeks.

ah, the simple things in life.

2) Desktop computer: this computer i’m using is about 3 years old. it’s a pentium 4, 2 gigahertz machine and has 512 mb of ram, has a nice graphics card for gaming.

funny story how i got it.
i was doing a consulting project and the client ran into some financial dire straits.
in lieu of making a final cash payment, he gave me a computer instead.

which is kinda a godsend actually.
i store my music collection on it, send email, surf the net, keep my business accounts on it, play games, backup my nokia mobile phone address book on it, edited training videos.

it’s been on 24 hours for the last year or so and keeps on chugging.

great stuff!

3) knives: erm, yeah. no, i’m not some psychotic maniac. my collection of penknives and kitchen knives are a joy to behold (at least to me).

find the perfect knife is like looking for the perfect woman.
she’s got nice curves, a sharp edge, always reliable, doesn’t rust on you (interpret it how you will).
my henckels knife is like a jack of all trades. i cut butter with it, spread cream cheese, cut fruit, meat and use it when i’m making cheesecakes and ice-cream.
truly a universal cooking instrument.

penknives: the universal office tool. it me it’s more useful than a swiss army knife in removing staples, opening letters, preparing presentation materials.

sometimes i even use a penknife when i should be using scissors.

there you have it.
my definition of ‘junky’ vs ‘useful’ stuff.

will go into decluttering clutter later.

have a great one.

kids: would you like fries with that….?

procrastination hits even the best-intentioned of us, and i’m seeing how blogging takes commitment.

no longer will i look at other blogs with their last entries dating back 6 months and go ‘what the hell, they couldn’t spend 5 minutes each day updating a blog?’

2 days, faithful reader, since i’ve not blogged, and i’m going to do my darndest to put a new post up every day (unless i’m sucked away to an electronics or ‘adult’ convention, in which case it might be a little longer…

When I was a teen (18 to be exact), i always thought i’d achieve the following:
1) get married by 25
2) have three kids
3) even picked out some kids’ names -
3a) bianca (french equivalent for blanche – which also happens to be one of the characters on ‘golden girls‘ which is an earlier 1985 series by the creator of desperate housewives’ Marc Cheery. blanche as a verb has similar name etymology meanings. it means pale (fair-skinned) and beautiful.
3b) nausicaa: came up with this name when i was majorly into japanese manga/anime. for those familiar with Hayao Miyazaki’s works, it’s the name of the lead protagonist of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. On IMDB (Internet Movie Database), it’s shown up as the names of French actresses’ too. You can see the search results here.

My mum wasn’t too hot on this name however, cos she thought it sounded too similar to ‘nausea’.
3c) Grey: was thinking of this as a cool name for a son. Again, going back to my manga reading days, Grey is the name of the protagonist for a self-titled title. In fact there’s a DVD out and it’s listed at old faithful, IMDB.

Besides naming a kid after a comic-book character (not necessarily the best way to choose a name). I believe it embodies the qualities of the character: resilience, intelligence, integrity and perseverance.

Grey as a colour is interesting too, because of its dual nature (neither black nor white, embodying characteristics of both) and it is engimatic.

Of course, all these ideas are moot, cos i didn’t get married at 25. Got married at 30, and i don’t have any kids’ yet.

Will likely consult the wife when it’s time to think of names, though i’ve developed an aversion to ‘common’ names like tom, jerry, mike, john, sarah, sally, jane, michelle, jessica…ok you get the idea.

i guess i’ll work on that hurdle when it comes.

live long and prosper.

finding the love of your life…in this lifetime

My classmate, Leslie Kwok (the national swimmer) once said: “For every girl or guy, there is a perfect mate for you out there. But whether you find them in this lifetime…that’s your problem!”

Perfectly flip answer from a fifteen year old (this was some years ago), though the quote has stayed with me through the years, meriting a mention during my wedding about 3 years ago.

A friend dropped me an email about his ‘interactions’ with the opposite gender:

I have approached a handful of girls since the seminar and have been pretty successful in chatting them up, carrying out the conversation and getting their contacts so far. However one thing i realize is that i kind of lost the momentum after a few days. I feel that i have no
purpose to approach them as I am not looking to get laid. I question myself what is the point of approaching so many girls and then not establishing any meaningful relationship with them? Yes it would widen the cirlce of people I know but that what is the purpose of having so
many acquaintances but none i really know well and knows me well in return?

I still could not find any answer. Do you have any insights on this? :)

My reply was:
it sounds like you may wish to consider what your purpose in talking to the ‘girls’ is.

maybe after answering the question, ‘what will approaching girls do for me?’ will you gain more motivation to do what you do.

maybe you dont want to get laid, maybe you want to make new friends? expand your business contacts? find that girl who was like your dream girl that you know in primary/secondary/jc/uni that you wanted to approach, but didn’t and subsequently lost touch?

maybe you did answer your own questions also. you said you didnt know them well. do you want to get to know them better? if so, what are the things to try out? maybe different questions, or a different approach would work.

actually all these steps are not that useful yet, until you answer the question ‘what will approaching girls do for you’.

if you do set the goal of getting to know a girl really well and are able to answer the following questions:
1) What is her favourite colour? Why?
2) What is her favourite food? What is it about that food that she
3) What is her favourite book or tv programme or film? What does she enjoy about it? What would she do different if she was the director?

(sample questions only…you can come up with different ones).

it might help you go beyond the surface to have a feel or an idea of what the true person beneath the skin is really like.

from my past experience, knowing a person (whether male or female) in terms of their ambitions, dreams, fears help me better understand the person better and is a much more interesting or attractive or seductive (take your pick) experience than just being able to chat them up whether for friendship, romance or business.

in all honesty, i’m not sure about the degree of ‘insight’ in my reply.

meeting people (male or female) has always been exciting during the first few encounters, especially when you’re getting to find out more about the person.

more importantly i feel is that the feeling has to be reciprocated as well.
else the object of your attention might as well be a blow-up doll.

i believe the feeling of ‘clicking’ comes when both persons feel the same way, and hence there is ‘feedback’ from whatever we do or say (see Newton’s third law of motion: action=reaction).

else without any perceivable feedback from the person, it’ll be a fairly empty exercise.

there’s a quote from the movie City Slickers that was pretty useful/relevant for me.
It goes:
“Do you know what the secret to life is?” asks Jack Palance in the 1991 movie City Slickers.
“No, what?” says Billy Crystal.
“One thing, just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.”
“That’s great, but what’s the one thing?”
“That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

Which just about sums up what the quest to finding the ‘perfect one’ is like.
Sorting through a lot of fodder, erm, make that ‘non-perfect’ ones and finding that special someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with. for tomorrow, the next week and the next 50 years. if you can’t imagine the person 50 years from now, it’s better to cut your losses and get the hell out.

you’ve been warned.

in the beginning…

a long time ago, i told myself that i’d start a blog.

a couple of months passed. i’d decided to finally get cracking on my blog.

some time passed, i figured i’d start my blog when i had something to say.

about a year later, i finally start this, even though i’m not sure what i want to say.

last week i went for a conference and the speaker, Brad Sugars (www.bradsugars.com), mentioned that a number of people procrastinate about taking action. They decide to wait till tomorrow, next week or next month.

He also mentioned that each of us will live about 4,000 weeks.

How long does each of us have?
Use this simple formula.
4000 – [your age in years * 50] = your estimated life expectancy

i did the calculation and figured i have 2400 weeks.

Not very long huh…

I’d better do something useful today.