FRANK x SHENTONISTA: Quarter-life Confidence — Measured Steps

Mok, Café Floor Manager, wants to monetise his passion for aquascaping

The twenties are a daunting time, even for the best of us. With one foot into adulthood and the other stubbornly clinging onto the more youthful days of our past, we’re expected to navigate the different challenges that working life brings us, while growing into the person society demands us to be. For Mok, who’s undergone his own share of trials and tribulations, looking back at his twenties brings with it reflective nostalgia. Having met him just a week after his thirtieth birthday, Mok laments to us about how he’s getting ‘old and naggy’, but speaks with a gravitas that comes with having experienced various ups and downs. There’s still a long road ahead, he says, and everything he’s learnt during his twenties has now become important stepping stones to reach the goals he has nurtured for the future.

Shentonista (S): You’re currently working as a barista—how did you get started on this path?
Mok (M): I started my own Mookata business, and it failed, so my neighbour, who also happens to be my childhood friend, approached me to work in his café. I had never explored the café scene—I was more into the nightlife scene and F&B—but I decided to give it a shot, and here I am.

S: What were some main takeaways from your previous business venture? 
M: Whatever I’ve learnt from my failures, I’m applying them now. One thing I learnt from my failed business venture is to choose who you want to work with wisely. The difference is that I’m more settled now—I know what I’m doing right now, and I know the general direction where my life is headed. I used to be extremely messy but I’m now a more organised person. The environment forces you to grow and bloom.

S: Looking back, is there any advice you wish you had before you started your own business?
M: I’ve always been a sales-oriented person, so I didn’t really put much thought into the operations side until I started my own business. That was when I realised there were a lot of things to do for operations, so I started learning everything then. You don’t actually have anyone to rely on when you’re the boss, so you’re pushed to the corner and to your limits.

S: Were there any goals you had hoped to achieve by the time you turn 30?
M: I’m very easily contented actually—I don’t know if that comes across as being an underachiever. I guess something I want to be better at would be work-life balance: whenever I’m passionate about something, I get very caught up in it and end up neglecting my friends and family for my passion. But ultimately, my end goal is to earn enough to support myself and be financially stable.

S: Now that you’ve turned 30, what’s one goal you hope to accomplish in this year?
M: Monetise my hobby of aquascaping—I’m basically an interior designer, but for fish. I’m pretty good at it and it’s been a passion for a long while, so I want to look further into it. For now, I’m helping my friends with their tanks. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’d like to think I’m halfway to my goal.

S: How did you become interested in aquascaping?
M: It all started with just a few guppies my close colleague kept. I was inspired by them, so I bought 3 cute red little shrimps when passing by a fish shop. When I threw them into a guppy fish tank, they started to spasm and then died! I killed them and it felt terrible! So with the power of the internet and a like-minded hobbyist, I now successfully have a few tanks at home.
I enjoy the time I spend looking at my fishes, plants, and environments that I’ve created. I like to get my hands dirty—it’s been a habit of mine since young. I think it’s been a really good form of therapy for me, which is very important in an urban city like Singapore. We get stressed easily and people can turn to vices and decadence, and having this hobby has been a good distraction for me.

S: If given the choice, would you want more time or more money?
M: Definitely more time. It’s not that I’m financially stable or well-off, but I feel that I don’t have enough time. Once I hit my late-twenties, I realised that every year passes really quickly. The last five years felt like just one big year.

S: As you leave your twenties behind, what do you think quarter-life confidence means to you?
M: Having the wisdom and experience to navigate your surroundings. I work in a café setup, where there are a lot of youngsters. I’m not exactly old, but some of them do ask me for life advice. I have had interesting jobs and rotated around different F&B joints, so I think I’ve had a different walk of life compared to the usual, and can share some advice.

S: Who do you think has taught you most about life?
M: It’s going to sound pretty narcissistic, but it’s actually me. There’s also this old dude appearing in my dreams to give me life lessons once in a while. I reflect a lot, especially when I mess things up—and I mess up a lot, so that’s when I learn.

S: Tell us more about something adventurous you’d like to accomplish soon.
M: I’ve always wanted to backpack across Southeast Asia on a really tight budget. I’ve wanted to do this for about 5 years now. I want to really explore everything while walking, if possible, with maybe the occasional boat rides.

S: What’s one thing you’d like to change about society?
M: Society’s perception of “success” that always gets in the way one’s happiness. You always hear things like “get a high paying job or “get engaged faster and get a flat”, but I feel that there are many branches to a tree—and almost all the branches will have leaves. Don’t let society get in your way of finding the right branch to happiness.

FRANK by OCBC is giving away up to $20,000 to help you achieve your goals and attain #QuarterLifeConfidence. Find out how you can take part in the contest here.

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