Ping, Team Choice winner, Creative Director. Jacket from Primark, Shoes from Nike.
Rushing over to our studio after his day job leading a team as a creative director in a major advertising agency, and with his mind on his first child on the way, we’d understand if Ping was a little frazzled and overwhelmed. But from the moment we met again for the second time, we were glad to see that some things hadn’t changed, like his cool composure and quick wit. Ping shed the stresses of his day and gamely posed for the camera, and as he shared about his formative years and the childhood photos and objects he’d brought along, we realised that the expectant father is really just a big kid at heart. We caught up with Ping to learn more about the major choices he’s made in life, his sartorial misadventures, and how he’d like the world—or at least Singapore—to be a little different, not just for his child, but for all youths.
What’s changed since we last met you?
I’m expecting my first child in July! With the baby coming, my wife and I are also moving out to a new house—we were previously staying with my parents, but now we’re going to have our own place. Work-wise, it’s still the same, we’re staying busy with new campaigns rolling out.
What’s something silly or untrue that you used to believe as a child?
I used to think TV shows were filmed live in real time. (laughs) I’d watch a programme that was airing at 8PM and be amazed at how it could be daytime on screen when it was dark outside.
What were you doing then in the photos you’ve brought along with you? Can you share with us about a memory you have from that time?
This was in Primary 5, when I was drawing more frequently. Obviously things were much simpler back then, I’d rush home after school to have lunch, do my homework, and play or watch TV. I was quite introverted then; I remember staying in my room to draw or do my own thing while my parents and my sister were watching TV in the living room.
Did you have a dream job growing up? What drew you to it, and is it still something you’d like to try now?
I wanted to be a cop. I thought it’d be cool to be a police detective, show up to crime scenes in a cool car, and save the day. I think I was inspired by TV shows and my love of cars. Later on, I wanted to be an architect, but finding out that I had to study math put me off. (laughs) I liked that being an architect was a creative job, but also one that was professional, and designing big buildings is a physical legacy you leave behind. Oh, and I wanted to be a club DJ too! I was really into rave music when I was 14, but I was too young then, and there weren’t tutorials online like you have with YouTube now.
What are you nostalgic about?
About playing block catching with my neighbourhood friends, my sister, and my cousins. We used to live in the same HDB estate when we were young, and we would shout to each other across the blocks. We’d call out when a goal was scored in a soccer match, or we’d call each other names—little things like that that made growing up fun.
The most ridiculous things you’ve worn as a kid/teenager:
Oh man, this is going to be embarrassing. (laughs) I tried to be cyberpunk, so I wore wraparound Oakley shades with a silver windbreaker that was zipped up all the way. I was sweating inside, but I thought the futuristic look would be so cool. I also used to wear baggy jeans, like the ones from JNCO, because they were popular at one point. I kept one pair from back in the day, just in case they’re ever back in trend.
If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be? How different do you think your life would be now?
I think I could’ve been nicer to people. We’ve all said nasty things to people at different points in time, and looking back there are things I wish I hadn’t said and done, or I wish I’d apologised for them sooner. In terms of decisions I’ve made in life, I don’t think there’s anything I regret or that I would change, but it’s just how I interact with people. You’re more foolish or act less maturely when you’re younger, after all.
As a creative director, how do you deal with creative block?
I watch videos, do something else, or think of another brief. We’re usually working on more than one project at one time, so it can help to step back from something I’ve been stuck on. Beyond that, it also helps to take your mind off of work entirely. Watch movies, go for a run, or do something not related to work so your mind can relax.
In your TED talk, you talked about the importance of having the courage to make unconventional decisions. Tell us about a time when you took a big risk, how it turned out, and what you learned from the experience?
I’ve made decisions to step out of my comfort zone a few times in my life. During my education, one thing I was adamant about was not going to the same schools as my friends. Whether it was from secondary school to polytechnic, or from polytechnic to university, I would purposely choose schools that not many of my friends would attend, just so I’d be forced to make new friends and start over again, even if it meant having to be a loner for the first few months of school. That taught me that venturing out of your comfort zone is important for growth, even if it’s something as simple as changing up your circle of friends, because it allows you to redefine and rethink who you are. If you’re always interacting with the same group of friends, that ends up limiting your growth as a person.
If you could meet your younger self, what would you tell them?
When I was younger, one thing I used to tell myself whenever I was going through a bad experience was to imagine myself in the future, and that the discomfort I was experiencing in the present would be nothing by then. (laughs) A piece of advice I’d give myself would be to keep doing what you’re doing, because life will turn out fine. That applies to the bigger things in life—that I should just continue pursuing my passion, because things will work out and there’d be lots of opportunities for me in the future, no matter what path I go down.
You drive a Land Rover, and are the secretary of the Land Rover Owners Singapore (LROS) group. What got you interested in Land Rovers, and how you did get involved with the group?
It started with my dad. He owned a Land Rover, which was a fairly affordable van for a P-plate. I got hooked then, but it was the sense of community that got me addicted. I’d just be on the road when other Land Rover drivers would spot me, and they’d wave at me even though we didn’t know each other. One time, I chanced upon a gathering of Land Rover owners and that’s how I got to meet the group.
We know LROS has also worked with charitable causes to organise activities and events—why is it important to you or the group?
The main thing is that we enjoy each other’s company, and we all bond over our shared love of the car. At some point, we thought we should give back to society in some way through sharing our experience. We partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to put together a Nerf gun battle for a young boy who’d just battled leukaemia.
What’s something that isn’t taught in schools, but that you think everyone should learn?
Hardship, flexibility and being able to communicate your ideas to others, and to have a point of view, to ask the right questions. Right now it feels like you just download everything your teachers tell you, and accept it as the gospel truth without examining it. A lot of the time Singaporeans don’t question enough and don’t have strong opinions on a lot of things.
If you could change or introduce one thing into local education, what would it be?
Real world skills and work experience. Or more accurately, I’d like students to understand the actual applications of the things they learn in school. For example, we all had to learn formulas and theories for science and maths, but without knowing how they can be applied in the future it’s hard to be motivated to study. I think that having that context would have made me more attentive and interested in class, even if I wasn’t going to end up being an engineer or a scientist. (laughs)
We know you and your wife are expecting your first child—congratulations! Have you thought of a name, and is there a meaning behind it?
We’re having a girl. We’ve thought about names, but it’s not something we want to disclose for now. It’s unique, we’re not going to make up a silly name like other parents (laughs) but it’ll be something special to us.
What do you hope to be able to pass on to your child? Do you have any hopes for them?
It’s easy to say you want your kid to chase their dreams, but I want her to pursue her passions and interests, and hopefully to be good at them. (laughs) I hope she’ll put her 100% into everything she does, and that she’ll enjoy herself along the way.
Ping was previously seen here.