By a stroke of luck, I had the immense pleasure of meeting one of Singapore’s top lifestyle writers at an event, and I simply had to steal a photo moment!
But, why was I acting like some fan girl when I saw her?
Friends around me would know that I loveeeee reading magazines, and was once an ardent subscriber to Cleo, and counted such female glossy pages as my staple of reads. Denise Li used to write for Cleo, and truth be told, I’ve seen the editor move from Corinne Ng to Deborah Tan (we talked about her below!), and then to Cheong Kamei. So seeing one of these writers in person was just surreal to me!
So I jumped at the chance to steal some of her time to snag an interview piece with her. Now that she’s an entrepreneur, there’s so much to catch up on her new adventure!
Hi Denise! Could you share an introduction about yourself?
As the co-founder of Material World, how did this idea come about and what made you venture out on your own?
How has managing your own business been? Any nerve-wrecking challenges so far?
Spill the beans about a lesser known fact of your business partner/friend, Deborah Tan! :P
We have been reading about your adventures since your Cleo days – backpacking, fitness and now Brazilian jiu-jitsu and….. calligraphy?! How do you find time to do everything?
Of course, I must say that I’m very fortunate that being your own boss helps a lot. My business partners are used to seeing me zip out of the office during lunchtime so I can get an hour of Brazilian jiu-jitsu training in. But my “dedicated hobbies” do require a little bit of sacrifice at times. Sometimes, I choose to forego dinner or drinks with my friends to train.
That being said, I think it’s about time that more bosses start re-examining the benefits of a 9-to-6 weekday. I feel that I am working fewer hours these days, compared to my days in magazines, but I get a lot more done. I feel a lot less stress now that I’m no longer pressured to be in the office by 9am every day. I get way more sleep and exercise than I used to, and that’s done wonders for my productivity.
I believe that bosses should set targets and goals for their employees and leave them to execute it to the best of their abilities within the specific time frame. Chaining someone to their desk for nine hours a day is not the most inspiring way to boost productivity!
Were there any turning points in your life that made you determined to live life fully?
About six years ago, I was partying a lot and I did NO exercise. I woke up one morning with a hangover and realised that I couldn’t carry on that way forever. I was very taken with the idea of learning a martial art, so, two days later, I made a beeline for the one nearest my office at the time, signed up on the spot, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The cliche goes, “Don’t regret the things you do in your life; regret only the things you do not do.” I’d say that’s how I live my life. I’ve made a number of seemingly risky decisions in the past six years of my life, and most of them have paid off.
Do you eat to live or live to eat? :P
I live to eat … Most people think I subsist on rolled oats and chicken breast because I’m so active. But I really do love my deep fried chicken wings, ramen, and beer and I don’t ever see myself giving those up!
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
This is a challenging question as planning so far ahead is not really my thing. But I certainly hope that our baby Material World would have expanded by leaps and bounds by then!
What do you hope to be remembered for at the end of this lifetime?
I hope to be remembered as someone who lived her life fully and fearlessly. My colleagues always say that I’m all about “go big or go home” – and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing!
Please do share some tips with the rest of us who are trying hard to work an active and healthy lifestyle into our crazy schedules!
It’s really all about priorities. If something is really important to you, you will make time for it. For me, fitness is not something I try to fit in as and when I can – it’s a non-negotiable aspect of my life. I recognise that I am a better person for it – I’m happier and mentally stronger when I do it – which is why I always make time for it no matter how hectic things get. In fact, the more stressed I get, the more I need to go work out to stay on top of my game.
At the same time, if you’ve been largely active and want to take a day or two to slack off, I say: Just do it! Previously, I used to guilt trip myself whenever I decided to forego my workout in favour of beer and chicken wings. Now, I just take it that it’s my body telling me to take a break, so I fully “own the feeling” of slacking off. There’s really nothing wrong with cutting yourself some slack at times – and I think this applies to most aspects of Life, not just fitness.
It was such an interesting sneak peek into Denise’s adventures and how she strives to keep a balance with work and personal interest. I guess many of us covet a balance too (me, included!), and it always seems so hard, but definitely do-able!
Thank you so much for sharing a slice of you, Denise! Feel free to follow her on Instagram (@smackeral83) and see what else she’s up to these days!