What I’ve learnt in 2015 – Soly

December 21, 2015


2015’s been an exciting year for the Intelligent Ink team, and we’ve all learnt a lot along the way. In this end of year series, each Inker takes a look at what they’ve learnt and how that’s impacted on their lives – you might call it a peek inside the minds of the Inkers. Here’s to another year of learnings and laughter – see you in 2016!


Soly Hak

Soly HakHow to say “I don’t speak Japanese” in Japanese

I was in Japan with some friends recently, and Japan is the land of the unfailingly polite. I think I’m a better person just for having been there for two weeks. Everyone waits patiently in line for escalators; no one jumps the queue! And the elderly, of course, have right of way.

The first day we were there, we had just gotten off the train from the airport. At the first elevator we’re waiting for, there’s this slowly approaching older woman. And I spot her. And I’m onto it. I make eye contact with my buddy Sally and I tilt my head at the lady, meaning Let her go first!, and all four of us (and our bags) part majestically, like a 90s men’s hairstyle, to let her through. As the lady slowly passes, she gives me a significant head nod like, Yes, obvious leader, you did a good job. Already my heart is warmed! I’m sooo proud of myself. Then she’s standing there and there’s room for one more, so I (and my bags) get in. We ride in silence until she starts saying something to me in Japanese which I think was probably, Are you Japanese? Not wanting this blistering conversation to spiral out of control, I brace myself. Here it comes, my secret weapon, the only piece of Japanese I practiced. “Watashi wa. Nihongo ga. Hanasemasen,” I stumble out. I can’t speak Japanese. I’ve absolved myself of any responsibility to know what I’m doing. The lady gives me another nod, like she was prepared for this and she says something else in Japanese. Something longer that I could never understand. But I didn’t need to understand because I got it. She was almost definitely saying, “I totally approve. You might as well be Japanese, I’d be honored to have you as a granddaughter. I, as a representative of all elderly Japanese folk, judge you as righteous and your Asian ancestors would be proud.”

So first day in Japan, I got two old person nods of approval. What have you done for the world lately?


Motivation doesn’t happen to you, it’s a skill you can learn and get better at.

I think when you’re younger and in school, creativity is something you have to force out at certain times in order to fulfil deadlines. You practice and get better. I had a tendency, like a lot of people, to procrastinate, I mean, REALLY procrastinate. I’d get down about how unmotivated I was. It was such an enigma – I mystified the idea of motivation in my mind, as something other people can do really well. Drive and ambition weren’t a part of my personality – I was a flighty creative, it was my job to wait for inspiration to strike and be motivated then – and only then!

But motivation isn’t sustainable if it strikes like a lightning bolt. It’s a powerful force, but it doesn’t stick around for very long, and you’re absolutely destroyed after. Motivation also doesn’t occur when you push the right buttons of reward and punishment. Motivation is a discipline. Motivation is a skill. You need it to be that way, so you can spread your productivity out and it doesn’t drain you and reinforce negative habits and associations. Just like any other skill, you can learn it and get better at it; you have to practice in order to do so. And practice means discipline. I’ve learnt that with discipline, motivation can be more than some fleeting force of nature that comes and goes depending on mood and weather. It can become consistent. Once those habits break, and new associations form, it’ll demystify the creative process and help your life seem a lot less stressful. I think so anyway – I’m still working on it. Don’t give up, self! Don’t think of yourself as an unmotivated person! You will be if you work at it!


Nothing you do is ever the sum total of who you are.

It can be hard sometimes to get outside of your head, or outside your current day-to-day habits of going to work or school. Whatever you do can become your whole life, the signifier of who you are. How you measure your success is beginning to be defined, and it’s often in relation to your success at work or school or sport etc. The things that are tangible and measurable – a grade, a trophy, a salary – understandably eclipse the other parts of your life that are less quantifiable. Other things that you are doing well in your life – your relationships, your spirituality, your hobbies, your mental health – become devalued and sidelined. It can be hard to get outside of that and see yourself as way more than what you do.

Especially when you’re young, there’s a narrative that this is a formative time in your life! This is when you set the foundations of who you are and where you’re going and when you learn to become an adult, a person, a real live human being – that’s a lot of pressure!

But once you make it through that hard time, once you forcibly lose (often through the sheer passage of time) a lot of what defined you, it dislodges some of the entrenched views of yourself, your life and where you’re going that you may have. You find out that maybe you’re not entirely the person you thought you were, that there are more messy complications than you thought. Truthfully, I didn’t have a sense of who I was as a person before this year, beyond whatever it was I needed to be in order to succeed at a role or task. I still kind of don’t, but at least I think about it now. It was initially an uncomfortable realisation because I always thought I was so self-aware, so good at stepping outside of myself to have perspective. Turns out not so much when it comes to measuring my success and value as a human being and not a fill in the blank.

I try to remember to see myself from an eagle’s eye perspective. In my mind, I’ll rebalance the components of who I am on a regular basis – remind myself that one thing does not rule my life. I am more than what I am doing right now. I am more than what people see. I am more than even I know. It’s okay to keep discovering myself anew.