Money Heist Part 1 Episode 3 – Tension Runs High

As mentioned in my previous post, I am slowly rewatching Money Heist, and I have just finished the third episode. I don’t know when I can finish, but this rewatching exercise gives me more insights and draws more lessons in life and work than the first pass. Let’s get going.

After the stage is set, now we see tension run high as the group started getting to work inside the Mint. In the language of project management, this is the start of project execution, after the project planning phase. And it’s really when tension starts increasing ans people start deviating from plan. There comes the first lesson: Project plan tends to fail, and when it does, it’s important for the project manager to stay close to the team and work together to pivot. Tokyo was right. The Professor was too far away to be effectively managing his project, and without his close attention, the plan started falling apart as issues occurred that was not in the plan and the team started improvising solutions. So, be with your team and work closely with them so that you can resolve arising issues promptly and reasonably.

Another lesson from the episode is: Keep your emotion out of business. As a famous movie character once said: “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.”, mixing up business and personal life can be detrimental, especially in a highly charged project like a heist. The Professor was well aware of that pitfall, so he went to great lengths to prevent the team members from getting personnally connected or attached, like referring to them by nicknames and not real names. He had a reason to do so. Personal emotion can cloud your judgment and when you take things too personal, most of the time you cannot think straight anymore. However, it’s easier said than done. You put a group of young people in close proximity for a couple of months, and sparks likely will fly. And so it did. That’s why companies normally try to avoid having family members working in the same team.


Squid Game – A thrilling series with lots of meaning

By now, if you still haven’t heard anything about Squid Game, you must have been a hermit crab, or you must have been hiding under a rock somewhere. The thrilling series has been conquering the top position in Netflix most watched lists all over the world, and spawning countless related products, memes and quotes. It’s on track to be the most watched series on Netflix ever. And audience are starting to speculate about the second season, even though the first one was released only less than 1 month ago.

The show is rated M18, due to its violent nature, but instead of being a niche one for a group of viewers only, it is still attracting more audience everyday. I myself was curious when I saw the poster in the coming soon section of my Netflix app, so I added it to watchlist, but I did not immediately jump into it when it was available, due to the lack of trailer and the fact that the description and some photos from the series looked a bit dubious to me. But the moment I started watching, I got hooked right from the first episode. With only 9 episodes the story was unveiled quickly and the events were fast paced, unlike some other Korean dramas.

The concept of the series is not new. It’s the kind of survival game, where players fight, and even kill, others to live. We first saw it in the global phenomenon called Hunger Games. However, this series is quite different, in the sense that the producers focus on the life stories of the players, and their emotions throughout the course of the game, from their joining day to their demise. It’s not just senseless massacre, or even the games themselves, that makes this series a hit. It’s the rollercoaster emotions of the players, big and small, and the touching story behind each character. The series devotes enough time to each character so that we can understand the reason why they join the game, and build connection with them, so that when they leaf the game, their death sparked in us some kind of feeling.

What I love most about this series is the meaning, stories and sacrifices. All the players joined the game without any idea what would happen to them. However, when reality set in, and they knew the deaths were real, they quickly adapted, found a way to stay alive, and even saved others’ lives. That ability to collaborate and adapt is what helped human evolve from caves to the most prominent species in the world. And it is proven to be vital skill to survive the rest of the game as well.

Another spotlight of the series is how people deal with each other when they need to do whatever it takes to survive. Loyalty is non existent. Allies are created just temporarily, to get through one game at a time. And all the ugly things about human beings surface. They cheat, lie and backstab in order to get through, even willing to sacrifice others, step on others, or hide behind corpses just to get to the next game. And as one player said, nobody was really innocent, and everyone had blood on their hands, the further they proceed in the game, the thicker the blood trail they left behind them. Unlike the first time when they entered the game without any knowledge or expectation, those who decided to come back knew full well what they signed up for and what was at stake, and willing to risk their lives for the remote chance of earning billions and having another restart of life outside. The situation is really kill or be killed, and for those players, it has robbed them of their humanities, only left the human instinct and the primal, animal like behaviours. It’s fair to say that, the further they proceed, the less human they become.

However, right in the center of that survival madness, where there seemed to be no more kindness, only brutality and death, kindness blossomed the shone brightly. The main character was hardly the smartest or strongest player, but what set him apart from others was that he never failed to show kindness, no matter what the situation and how doing so put him at the disadvantage, and might even endanger his own life. He cared about the old man sincerely, and he was not angry with his childhood friend even though that guy sold him short. He took in his team those weaker players that nobody else accepted, and he willingly forgave people no matter how wrong they were to him. That set him apart, and in return, he received help, and kindness was given back to him, mostly in critical moments when he was between life and death. That reminds me of what Cinderella famously said: “Have courage, and be kind”. Be kind to others, and one day others will pay back to you.

So, if you have not watched Squid Game yet, I suggest you should. It’s short, thrilling and hugely entertaining. It will give you a good time, and it may even change the way you perceive life and its value and meaning. And if you have watched it, what do you think about the things I wrote above?

Money Heist rewatch and lessons – Part 1 episode 1&2

So, as a preparation for the upcoming new season of Money Heist, I decided to start rewatching the series from the start. It was fun, even though I am quite sure I will not finish all of them before the new season rolls in, judging from my snail pace of progressing at the moment. And along the way, I gathered some lessons on work, life and management, so not really a wasted effort in the end.

Part 1 episode 1:

1. Don’t mix business with personal, and leave your emotions outside the door. It’s never a good idea to mix work and life, especially when you are embarking on an important, high stake, crucial mission. Keep a cool head and avoid being emotional. That way, even when situation turns bad, you will have higher chance of finding a solution. Otherwise, you will either panic, or be overwhelmed by anger, you reasoning will be clouded, and you will likely make knee jerk reactions or stupid decisions (Tokyo shooting at the police is a case in point).

2. Have a plan and devote sufficient time and efforts to understand it thoroughly. The more important the project, the more detailed the plan should be. And the plan should contain not only the happy path but also the failed scenarios and contingency actions. Otherwise, that plan is deemed for failure, since it’s unlikely for the happy path to happen in real life. And the project team should study the plan and understand it properly, especially their own parts, but also the overall direction of the project. That way, they may be more ready to change course when things go wrong and improvisation is needed. It’s like you need to learn to jump before you can fly.

3. Be flexible and adapt the plan based on the situation. As Mike Tyson famously said, everyone has a perfect plan until he is punched on his mouth, a lot of plans crumble when they are put through the acid test of reality. That’s why it’s really important for the team to be flexible and ready to adapt it. It may sound contradicting with the point above, but it is actually complementing that one indeed.

4. The plan maker should be as close to the action as possible. The Professor was having distant and not continuous connection with the team, so he could not get hold of the situation in time. That made it difficult for him to adjust the plan accordingly. Fortunately it did not turn out too badly (both Rio and the cops did not die in the shootout), but it could have been much worse. That’s why Agile project management strongly advocates all the team members to work closely together on a daily basis instead of a traditional top down approach of project planning.

5. Avoid playing the blame game. It’s good to perform a retrospective and identify what went wrong and how to improve in the future, but it’s not helpful to blame each other when things did not work according to the plan. Instead, effort should be spent on remediating the issue at hand. Also, when the situation deviates from the plan, it’s more helpful to identify the issue and work to bring it back under control. The Professor did it, in a calm manner, and the team was not torn apart when Tokyo made her mistake, and the plan continued rolling.

Part 1 episode 2:

Episode 2 was lighter than episode 1 in terms of implications. Instead, it focuseed more on actions and setting the stage, introducing the main actors at play on the opposite side of the chess game. We got the first interaction between The Professor and Raquel, the chief hostage negotiator, and there lied the lessons from the episode:

1. Always keep calm when negotiating. Things almost always turn bad when people start shouting in negotiations. Your negotiator will try to provoke you and manipulate you, to make you lose your calm and expose your weakness. That’s why it’s crucial to stay calm and reason logically. Besides, your negotiator may also try to distract you with seemingly random questions, like what the weather like or what uou wear to work, or just introductions and nonsense pleasantry, so stay on course and focus on what you want to get out from the negotiation. Write down the objectives if you want, and tick them off everytime you achieve one. That will keep you grounded throughout the whole process.

2. Know your opponents, and also the key stakeholders of the game. The reason the Professor managed to win the first battle was he knew who he had at his custody: The lamb. That one key component managed to tip the scale in his favour, and buy him much more time to execute his plan. Without her, the plan would have failed miserably. So, identifying key stakeholders and getting their buy in is one of the most critical part of project planning and execution. That will surely increase the chance of success significantly.

And there they are, the major lessons that I learnt from the first 2 episodes of Money Heist. Not bad for a show that is meant for entertainment, isn’t it? And I believe there are more. So come back again soon, or go ahead and rewatch, and maybe you can find out some lessons for yourself. Happy watching.

Happy 56th Birthday, Singapore

With one day left to National Day and #SG56, I am very happy to see the government making a brave move to start opening up the economy in a bid towards becoming Covid resilient, and accept the fact that it’s unrealistic and impossible to keep closing the country up in order to keep infection to zero. It’s even more encouraging that they even decided to move the opening timeline forward, not backward like what happened in past restrictions. That gives us some hope of a new normal that is really coming soon, and allows us to look forward to a better time ahead as we celebrate Singapore’s 56th birthday, in the most different way since the day we became independent.

Today is also the end of the Olympics #tokyo2020. Everyone has been holding breath and fearing the worst, of a major spreader event that brought us backwards in our fight against #covid19. Fortunately the worst scenario did not happen, and Japan managed to still organize the major event, albeit at great financial losses to the country that is still struggling to revive the idle economy and fighting the pandemic. We all must thank Japan and the Japanese for their great sacrifices. Like what was shown on the screen at the end of the closing ceremony, Arigato Tokyo. Arigato Japan. You have done the impossible. We take our hats off to you. And good luck for the fight, you will prevail, that I am sure.

Happy Birthday Singapore 🇸🇬 May you weather this storm and come back stronger. #economy #covid #singapore

Eventful July

July was a special month for me.

First of all, I was certified to be Covid-19 fully vaccinated, after receiving my 2nd dose and a waiting period of 2 weeks for my immunity to build up. It’s not a 100% guarantee against getting Covid-19, but at least I have done my part in reducing the chance of infection, and with good practice of safe distancing, wearing mask and washing hands frequently, I believe that will be a great step forward in ensuring the safety for myself and my family, so I would proudly say, I am relief. And I strongly urge everyone to do the same, so that we can soon at least get back to some sense of normalcy, for our lives have been upended for too long and we have lost too many precious moments with our loved ones already.

My second important thing happening in July was the Pilot launch of Bullish exchange. For the first time ever, we kicked open our door, the door we had guarded very carefully and religiously, and welcome the world. We invited a selected group of investors, traders and crypto enthusiasts to come and get a first hand experience of our product, which we have dedicated countless hours to building out from scratch, our very brainchild which we are absolutely proud of. 

It was exciting and at the same time nerve wracking to see it making first public appearance. Like parents sending kids to school the first day. Thank God everything was quite smooth. There were some teething problems, but the core features worked fine. Our giant effort finally paid off.

Now it will be even busier time. There are still developments in the work, while at the same time we need to guard our child as he takes the first steps in this new world. There will be more interruptions and last minute actions to take. But we will pull through, that I have no doubt. We have a great team with hugely talented people, and we will do it. 

Go Boldly. Go Bullish. Go Live.

1st July

Hello July. So we are officially entering the 2nd half of 2021. While 2020 was really a lost year, 2021 is so far only slightly, not significantly, better. Travel restrictions are still in place. Borders are still tightly shut. Within the country, there are still a lot of restrictions and prohibitive measures that really impact the normal way of life. As someone said, Covid-19 is still robbing us of our freedom and livelihood. Families are still separated. Jobs are still lost. Businesses are still closing down. When will this end? Only time can tell.

Today, the Health Minister announced publicly that we would likely be able to relax further on July 12th, then establishe a new normal by September, and leisure travel could resume partially by year end. That sounds quite promising, but from past experience, all it takes to throw that plan into whack is simply a major spike in the number of cases. It happened before, and there is no guarantee it won’t happen again. That’s why I will not count the bucks until the day comes and we really are released from this mess. Let’s see.

First jab of Covid-19 vaccination

This afternoon, I had my first jab of Covid-19 vaccine, and it was a really smooth experience. Having eagerly registered for the shots right when I was eligible, I managed to get a relatively early slot, at my preferred timing right after I was done with my normal working day. And since I was not so fussy which vaccine to take (Pfizer or Moderna), I did not have to wait too long, and could register for the shot at the nearest vaccination centre to my place, which was within walking distance, or in my case, cycling distance. So there I came, and I was utterly impressed with the efficiency of the whole operation.

It took less than 10 minutes from the time I reached the center to the time the last drop of vaccine was pumped into my arm. There were many registration counters, so I only waited a few minutes at the holding area outside before being whizzed through to one of the counter, where the lady checked my IC and then asked me questions about my allergic history. She was kind and very thorough, making sure I understood every question completely before answering, and tried to explain in more layman terms when she found me struggling to comprehend some of the technical terms that she used in her questions. After I cleared that stage and got my vaccination queue number, I was almost instantly directed to one of the vaccination booth, where a young man checked my queue card and explained briefly to me about the vaccine and the potential side effects, before asking me which side I would want to get the shot. Being left handed, I asked him to jab my right arm, which he readily obliged, and even helped turn my chair. I rolled up my sleeve, looked away (I was a bit scared of seeing the needle, I admit), took a deep breath as per his instruction, and before I knew it, it was done. Not really painful at all, and very very fast. I was impressed. And I was out of the booth, with the full dose of Covid-19 vaccine in my body, heading towards the monitoring area, where I had to spend 30 minutes just in case I got some vaccination shock or severe immediate reaction. It was quite dull, with a TV showing the vaccination promotion ad and some other government health campaign ads on infinite loop, and a radio playing at such low volume that I could barely catch what the DJ was talking about. At least, there was air conditioner, and I brought my book along, so the 30 minutes waiting time flew by in a flash, and they called my name to come and receive the vaccination card. There another young guy explained to me again about the potential side effects, and what I should be doing in that case, before discharging me and reminding me to come back again for my second shot. Wow, they really did not leave anything to chance, and made sure the message was hammered to my brain, no matter how much distracted or dense I could possibly be 😀 I guess many people must have been very concerned about those side effects. To be honest, I did not think about them much, and I really feel it’s the right thing to do, for myself, my family, and my community as a whole.

That was it. Less than one hour end to end. I was very surprised as I thought there would be a lot of people and the queue would be crazily long. There was barely no queue at all. I don’t know if I will have any side effect in the next day or 2, I will deal with it as it comes. For the time being, I feel good, at least good enough to cycle back home, eat dinner with my family, and watch an evening program on TV with my kids. Towards the end of the evening, I could feel some numbness and a little bit sore around the injection area, but nothing unbearable or even uncomfortable. Just like what you feel after you lift weight in the gym for a while. I am ok.


So there I was, back to my normal life, feeling a bit more secure, a little safer, and very relieved. I can’t wait for the second shot, so that it will be complete. Until then, I will just be careful as I have always been, keeping my guard up, and avoiding going outside unless absolutely necessary. Hopefully the scientists can come out with a vaccine for small kids soon, so that my whole family can be protected, and we will be one more step ahead in our journey back to normal life, or should I say, the new normal, whatever it may look like 😛

Last but not least, I just want to say that I am deeply grateful. Thank you, Singapore, you really care for us. While other countries are still struggling to find the sources to import vaccines to fight their new waves of infections, or having to contend with whatever type they can get their hands on, regardless of efficacy or potential side effects, thanks to the government’s foresight, decisive actions and constant follow up, there is enough supply for everyone eligible, and we don’t have to wait too long, and we got the 2 vaccines that are recognised worldwide to be the best and most effective against Covid-19 virus. That’s really more than enough reason to be thankful for.

So that’s it. My first dose went in smoothly, no big deal so far. The only thing that bothers me a little is that, I need to stop exercising for one week, to reduce the risk of getting some complications. Luckily, it coincides with the kids’ school holiday period, which also means I have little motivation to wake up early for my usual morning run before the start of my working day, so not much is lost anyway. And right when the week is over, the school will also start, and normal routine will be back again.

Another lockdown is looming soon in Singapore

Singapore is entering another partial lockdown due to the spike of local Covid-19 cases recently. It started with imported cases from high risk South Asian countries, then spilled over to the community. We all know that it will happen, it’s just the matter of time, but I did not expect the spillover happened so fast. No matter how much precautions we take, when we have a constant influx of people from those places with millions of cases, the virus would find a way to spread to the local community. And it did. So now we are going to enter a difficult time again.

It’s not easy to go through a lockdown period. Normal life will be upended for sure, and there will be major inconvenience. However, I feel this time will be better, since we have gone through it once, and we are better prepared, logistically and mentally. But I am still very grateful that we still have a job, and we have our own home to live, and we still have a way to move around, albeit far from freely, and everyone is still well (touch wood 🪵). This one shall pass, and if God helps us and the situation is brought under control, who knows maybe the measures can be relaxed sooner. Fingers crossed, and until then, we just have to hunker down, follow the regulations and keep our guards up to the highest level possible to protect ourselves and at the same time bring the whole nation back to the new normal again.

Tom&Jerry – A movie that brings back nostalgia

For those of us in our 30s and 40s, seeing the trailer and advertisement of the new Tom&Jerry movie really brings back a sense of nostalgia. We grew up with the original Tom&Jerry cartoon series, and although I always rooted for Jerry, I also sometimes sympathised with the poor cat, especially since he was most often on the losing side, and ended up getting beaten to a pulp. So, when I saw the poster ad at the bus stop near my house, and knew that the release date was right during the Lunar New Year holiday period, I immediately went ahead and booked tickets for the whole family to spend some time during our super long weekend. And there we came, armed with the jackets (for the cinema was like a chiller), a big tub of popcorns and a tall mug of ice lemon tea (I know, it’s hugely overpriced, but it’s part of the fun of going to the cinema, and we don’t really do that often nowadays, so a bit of contribution to the country’s GDP is not much harm anyway), and we had a nice 2-hour experience on the first day of the Year of the Ox.

The main theme of the movie is still the same as the cartoon. Tom tries to catch Jerry, and Jerry always finds a way to trick Tom and make him suffer, and in the end they put aside their enmity and join force to clear the mess they created. The fun part is in the details. It’s very entertaining to see the schemes and plans that Tom hatched to catch Jerry, and the way Jerry foiled those plans. Furthermore, bringing the story to New York gives a bigger backdrop with more room for the story to unfold. And the way the producer overlay the 2D cartoons on top of the live action movie instead of rendering Tom and Jerry in 3D really paid homage to the original version, and helped us relate back to the old story, on the same vein of the movie Enchanted some time ago.

2021 seems to be the year of Chloe Grace Moretz. Besides starring in Tom&Jerry, she also stars in Shadow in the Cloud, an action movie that will be released to cinemas soon as well. Overall, her performance was quite average, but there were still rare moments where she sparkled some star quality, such as the scene where she took the identity of the interview candidate, and put up a great performance in front of the hotel boss to nail the event manager role. But again, acting is never her forte, as shown in her past movies, so it’s kind of expected for me. Moreover, the reason I go to the cinema is to meet my old friends again, not to watch her side story, so as long as she can contribute something to carry the story forward, it’s good enough for me. And I love the background theme of the prestigious wedding that set everything in motion. It’s so hilarious, and gives some logic to the whole story and events. After a quiet year at the movies because of Covid, this year is witnessing some cinemas opening their doors again, especially in countries that control the virus relatively well. Hopefully with the roll out of the vaccine, the situation will be improved even faster, and life can get back to more normal again.

There was nothing amazing or original about this movie, but it’s really entertaining and is made purely for fun and relaxation. It is the first introduction for 21st century kids to the classical duo of cat and mouse, and a lovely trip down memory lane for all the millennials. It will not win any award, but it will definitely do well at the box office, given that there are not many movies released during this time of the year. As for me, I am really happy that I got a date with the clueless cat and the witty but also naughty mouse again. Tom&Jerry is a happy part of my childhood, and an inspiration that helped me and other kids of my age overcome our hardship, and shortfall in life and work harder to achieve the better things in life, and for that, I am so grateful.

Soul – A nice Pixar movie to start the new year with

If you need a nice, heartwarming family movie to start the year with, you can consider Soul, the latest animated movie by Pixar, the legendary studio that has amazed and delighted families for more than a decade. The makers of Up and Inside Out were back again, and they did not disappoint. But be warned, the movie may be a bit hard to understand for too young kids, since it has quite a lot of layers, and the concepts are quite abstract, in the same vein as Inside Out, and very far from the like of Moana or Frozen.

The movie is about the journey of 2 souls, and the context is switched back and forth between the land of the souls and the land of the living. Although the land of the living is quite realistic and straightforward, and the story and events there are quite comprehensible, the same cannot be said of the land of the souls. Credits must be given to the creators of the movie, who tried to emphasise the stark difference between the 2 realms, by making the latter much more abstract, with shapes and objects that look a bit like Candy Crush land or an alien planet. They nailed it perfectly on that part, and the 2 worlds were very much distinguishable. However, I feel what happened in the soul world and the concept of different zones in that world was quite hard to understand for small kids (and even harder to explain for parents). The movie was deep and meaningful, but because of that, it required a certain level of maturity in order to fully enjoy it.

There were some funny scenes in the movie that made us laugh, like the part where 22 drove her past mentors nut, or when Joe’s soul tried to eat the slice of pizza, and there were also touching moments that could make those who are soft-hearted cry to teary eyed a little. That’s the beauty of many Pixar movies. They make us laugh. They make us cry. They entertain us, but at the same time they make us sit back and think a little, in order to fully comprehend the plots. And that’s why they have won so many awards. Their movies are not those cheap, easy, straight-to-your-face animations with no attention to the storylines at all. Except for just a few, their movies have some messages, some ideas or morals that they want to weave into the actions and dialogues, so that audience will get back something that enrich their lives in exchange for the time, effort and money they put into going to the cinema and sitting there for 2 hours to watch the events unfold. And that what makes many people love their movies, young and old, adults and children.

I love the way the Pixar wizards explain difficult concepts in a very visual and user-friendly way. The ideas of death, of the great beyond and the great before, and the stairway to heaven has appeared in many texts and movies before, but never in a cartoon, and they normally appeared quite morbid and creepy, even scary, but in Soul, they did not look scary at all, even friendly and welcoming. And the depiction of the out of body experience when one is in the zone, as well as the misery of those lost souls who have lost their purpose and the meaning of their lives was very creative, clever and amazingly original. Hopefully those children who watched this movie will grow up with a little more appreciation of life, and a little bit less worried and scared of what will be coming after that.

The main message of the movie is to treasure the life you have, every moment of it, and don’t waste your time, because it can end abruptly anytime, and and any moment can be our last. Life is a journey, not a destination, and you should always aspire to do what makes you the person you want to become, instead of chasing a lofty goal, for that goal may not even be what makes you happy in the end. The same idea was shared by James Clear in his best seller Atomic Habits: Focus on your habits, and your identity, not your goals. After all, achieving the goal should not be a means to an end, and it may make you feel a loss of motivation and stop you from working hard and kicking in a feeling of complacency.

Overall, it’s a nice and meaningful movie for the whole family. It will be perceived a bit differently by people of different ages, but I strongly believe that everyone will get something for themselves. It remains to be seen whether the movie will become a classic, like Up, Inside Out or Toy Story, but one thing for sure, it will warm your heart in these winter days and make you feel that life is still beautiful.

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