Posts

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How to Survive in a Traffic Jam

Yesterday, while I was driving slowly and safely on the left lane, a car behind me started to honk. The honking repeated for a while until it became an infuriating, resounding blare. My natural instincts told me to stop my car in the middle of the jam, grab the hammer under my seat, get down from my car and smash the other car’s windscreen.

Well, I didn’t.

Instead, I just continued crawling in the jam and ignored him. Well, it turned out that the other driver was just impatient and wanted to make a quick turn left to escape the jam and I happen to be at the turning that was stopping him (he seemed to have overlooked the fact that we were all in a jam and I cannot move anywhere else). In his agitation, he showed me the middle finger as he made his left turn. In that split second, in my anger, I wanted to curse his next ten generations so that they will all be caught in car accidents involving huge trucks and if that doesn’t kill them, the cement slabs from the flyover constructions will collapse and crush them like minced meat (all of these happened while I had loud Christian music playing in the background).

Well, I didn’t.

Instead, I retracted all my murderous, diabolical thoughts and said a prayer. I asked God to forgive me for allowing my carnal self to foster such thoughts. I asked God to bless him, keep him (and others) safe on the road and that this man would reach home safely to his family.

You know what? Jesus did that too (no, not driving recklessly on the road). Unlike any other prophet or deity ever, Jesus asked God to forgive those who hurt/offend Him. He prayed for those who were against Him. When He was wrongly accused by those who were against Him and unjustly crucified for crimes He did not commit, He prayed for His accusers, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NKJV)

Now, that’s what I call living (and driving) with style.

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When Clients Don’t Pay Up

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a client who had a catalogue layout job for me. At the end of the project, they decided not to pay up. Yup, they decided that my designs were not “satisfactory” and “did not meet their expectations,” hence, nothing was given to me despite my late nights to rush and complete their job. They did not keep their part of the bargain. They did not keep their word.

Let me give you a little background about the disappointment I had to go through. The job was “simple.” I was only supposed to design a layout for the catalogue and place all their pictures and info in it. Everything was supposed to be provided by them. And then, it turned “not-so-simple.” Soon enough, they had me editing their logo, editing and manipulating their pictures, added two extra pages, check their English and grammar, endless changes and additions to the layout and so on. All done without extra charge out of my goodwill. Fine, you can say I did it out kindness or whatever.

At the end of the project, they finally decided they were dissatisfied with my work when I said I had to charge extra for the further changes they requested (well, why didn’t they say anything about it earlier?) and refused to pay the balance. Well, it’s only right and logical that anything extra out of the agreed contract needs reimbursement. Just because you’ve paid a deposit, doesn’t mean you can keep adding to the job at the expense of… nothing!

Below is an excerpt of our emails. Let’s just call the client “Miss X” for now.


Dear Aaron,

For page 12, we have already informed our printer to do for us. To be frank, we found your service is not up to our expectation. For your information, I need to pay our printer to touch up again on your page 1-page11 work for few days just because the dimension of the products is unclear and it can’t proceed for printing. My printer is helping me to make whatever changes that we need all over again, for instance enlarge and make the dimension clearly seen and take out the labels. But, you need to charge all these jobs. Don’t you think this is the designer’s job to ensure the piece of work is acceptable by the client before proceed for printing.


Dear Miss X,

I apologize if I have not met your expectations. I do agree that it is a designer’s job to ensure any design work is acceptable by the client but with all due respect, I also believe it is the client’s responsibility to provide the designer with clarity of the job required and to understand what are the agreed terms and conditions and boundaries stated clearly in a contract/quote, which in my case, I was made to understand that I am only doing the layout and you will be providing me with the information and images (if you refer to the quote I sent you, I never stated to include image manipulation and editing services).

It is only professional that you do not expect a designer to do everything that you require without extra charges (for example, edit your logo, edit the flattened pictures you provided, check and improve the grammar of your English and Malay and etc). Anything as such is done out of the good will of the designer since you’re not compensating the extra work. To put it in perspective, let’s use a parallel. When you’re renovating a house and you’re hiring a bricklayer to do your walls, can you ask him to also fix your roof, install the toilets and do the wiring but pay him only for the brick wall job because you think it is his job to make your house look good? Of course not.

And if you read my terms and conditions clearly on the right side of the quote, it is stated that “Price quoted includes min of 3-6 design cops for initial review and 3 revisions. There will be an additional charge for all additional revisions past the first 3” I believe you have made quite a number of changes for the catalogue design due to your unconfirmed product writeups, SKU/code corrections, missing images, change of grammar for text, adding from the agreed 10 pages to 12 pages and etc. And for your information, as far as I recall, I have always been prompt and fast to make the changes you require. Most of the delays are from your side as you change, compile and finalize your information. I hope you take this as a good will service from me as I did not impose any additional charges for you for the numerous changes made on your side.

And to make it clear, the reason why I need to charge for the resizing of dimensions of the images is because the images were already flattened. In order to change/resize the dimensions, I need to edit the pictures one by one and type/place all the dimensions in again. I also hope you understand and remember, at the beginning of the project, I asked you and you clearly mentioned that I do not need to edit any pictures as you’re providing me with the final images.

With all that said, please accept my sincere and humble apology for the miscommunications and also the unmet expectations for the job. I have attached the invoice for your kind attention. Please settle the balance and let me know once you’ve done so.

Thank you.


Dear Aaron,

Our big boss has given instruction that we cannot pay you the balance of the payment due to the incomplete and unsatisfied jobs being done. She stays in Indonesia and I am only one of the employees in the Company. I am not the one who signs the cheque.


Dear Miss X,

I find this very unfair on my side as I have completed my tasks and have delivered the service I promised. Anyway, I’m fully at peace and my conscience is clear. I choose to forgive, release and bless you and your company in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. May He bless you in your life, health, family and all your other endeavours.

PS : I will pass all your materials (cds, catalogues, etc back to your colleague)

God bless


For your information, the last two emails happened almost a month after the email where I confronted them and have sent an invoice to them. Throughout the whole month they were either not picking up my calls, not responding to my emails or just plain avoiding me.

Was I angry? Of course I was. I had every right and reason to be. And sadly, this is also the first time in my life that someone has called my artworks “unsatisfactory” and “did not meet their expectation.” (If you know my works and have seen my portfolio, I really believe my works are nothing short of professional and creative). And worse, I was shortchanged. I worked hard and got nothing out of it. I kept my part of the bargain. I was professional and I kept my integrity. But they didn’t.

In situations like these, it’s so easy and natural for me to throw a curse on this client and wish the worst would happen to her and her company. Or throw red paint on their office windows (I know where they work). That’s carnal. Anyone in the world could do that. But I chose not to.

I clearly remember what my dad used to tell me. The world is full of these “small people” (in Chinese, it means uncivilized people with no principles and integrity). He told me to never stoop low to their level lest I become one of them. “Always choose to be the bigger person,” he taught me. My dad’s pretty biblical too. The bible did give us a heads up on what to do when you face these kind of people.

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” – Proverbs 26:4

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:27-38

Am I still angry? No. I was, but not anymore. Because I believe in a God who doesn’t shortchange me (He promised to give me a reward and it’s a great one) and when I extend mercy to others who trespass against me, He will extend mercy for my trespasses too. They might be able to escape my judgement, but not God’s. And for that, I tremble for them. Was it a difficult decision to let them go? Definitely! But I have the Holy Spirit to empower me to do what I could never do on my own limited human strength and carnal will.

And guess what? It feels great to be the bigger person! To know that I have a clear conscience and I can sleep peacefully at night. To know that money is not everything. To know that you can forgive even when it’s difficult. To know that you can bless your enemies when they work against you. To know that you can be more Christ-like in an unfair world like this.

If you’ve been shortchanged by others too, like me, then learn from my experience. Always be the bigger person. And remember, that’s why the world needs Jesus!

Do you need a dose of Jesus in your life too?

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Fruitty Business

I have failed. Again. After two years of much restrain and self control, I went berserk yesterday and roared at the delivery guy who made me wait the whole day for him, falsely accused me of not being home and was utterly rude. Technically speaking, I have every reason to be upset and every right to give him a piece of my mind. And I did. And I was the spectacle of the neighborhood when I roared at him at my front porch (if you know me, you’ll know that God has blessed me with a loud and pitchy volume). And it violated my conscience.

You see, I remember losing my cool two years ago screaming at another guy who ticked me off and I discovered it is not cool at all when I lose my mind and self control. Doing so never fails to make me feel like an uncivilized barbarian or a total idiot. Hence, to avoid the sleep-robbing-violation it does to my conscience, I vowed to never do so again in the future.

And yesterday I failed. Miserably. It was also the day that made me question if I’m a genuine Christian.

Ironically (or not), I was preparing to blog a post on the manifestations of the fruit of the Holy Spirit if we are real Christians. I guess God decided to use yesterday’s incident so that I can take a long hard look at myself in the mirror even as I write this.

“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” – Matthew 7:16-20

Ouch.

If you read the Scripture right, going to church, reading the bible, praying and doing all sort of spiritual stuff does not make you more “Christian”. If you are for real, it’ll be undeniable and evident from the inside out. It will show. Just like a real tree and it’s fruits. Everyone will be able to identity what kind of tree you are by looking at the fruits you produce in your conversations, actions, behaviours, the principles and values that you practice and stand for. And the next scripture gives us exactly a list of these fruits that should be evident in our lives if we’re to call ourselves Christians.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” – Galations 5:22-23

There’s a Sunday School song that teaches us to remember these fruits and it’s deeply imprinted in my mind because I’ve been singing it since I was a kid. Now that I’ve grown older, I find myself asking, “Are these fruits evident in my life?” Well, judging by the incident, I definitely need a larger dose of patience, gentleness and self control. Add on kindness, goodness, peace and love (that’s almost all of them).

But there’s no need for me (or for you too, if you, like me, lack some of these fruits I’m your life) to feel utterly hopeless and guilty because I believe the manifestations of these fruits are a process until Jesus returns. It is Him who makes us perfect, not by our might, strength nor self-righteousness so that we can’t boast about it.

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” – 1 Peter 5:10

How about you? Which fruit do you need most to be evident in your life so that the world can recognize which vine do you belong to?