Things They Don’t Tell You is a weekly online column that dives deep into the lives of Prestige 40 Under 40 class of 2020 laureates, where they share little-known stories and offer insights on things that go under-the-radar. This week, we get candid with Fang Low, CEO and Co-Founder of Figment.
During my years abroad, I had repeatedly returned to a sprawling construction site that is Singapore. There was a mounting anxiety in my gut. You know, that feeling of not being able to recognise your own country. I guess I was simply grasping for a more permanent reminder of who we are. A building block for our identities, you could say. I found that shophouses, quintessentially Singaporean works of art, can anchor and inspire us to live better in an increasingly uncertain and ambiguous world.
It meant a lot to me to be able to find my ikigai, a Japanese term for a reason to get up in the morning; that neat overlap where the thing you’re good at and love to do is what the world needs and what you can be paid for. That’s a mouthful. For me, it’s being able to pursue my passion for reimagining spaces for people to thrive. God knows I’ve spent years trying new things and figuring things out.
I still think I got my education from relentlessly backpacking and couch-surfing across a hundred countries before I hit 30.
My dad has been an inspiring figure in my life. He was the OG shophouse champion, having the appreciation and foresight to invest in shophouses from way back, even when many of these shophouses were to be found in less-than-savoury neighbourhoods. He took the risk to renovate these shophouses, setting the scene for avant-garde architecture and interiors.
Singapore is the combination of Islamic rain eaves, Japanese-manufactured Peranakan tiles, European-inspired Corinthian pillars, and Chinese Jian-nian stuccoes of mythical beasts that make up a shophouse facade.
I have a strong imagination, can be overly competitive and have an inherent passion for people. But I guess my strengths can also be my weaknesses. At various times of my life, I’ve been called unrealistic, insecure and too talkative!
Fear is a sign that you’re making progress.
I practice fifteen minutes of metta (loving-kindness) meditation every morning. I believe we can all start by learning how to be kinder to ourselves.
I’ll tell young Fang to do what matters most. Life is too short to spend collecting badges. Also, read René Girard’s Mimetic Theory.
There is no such thing as failure if you know that ultimately you’re the one setting the rules of the game.
What can beat hearing “I love you” from the person you love for the first time?
I’m sick of people saying new is always better. Also, something along the lines of: “Hey, are you getting the new iPhone?”
God forgive me, but I clicked play on another episode of Selling Sunset. But what’s not to love about the ultimate property porn?
I accidentally broke a Ming Dynasty teacup that was on auction at Christie’s. The inscriptions were so beautiful I was turning it in my hand when the lid slipped off and broke. I still can’t believe that happened.
Having a food coma after gobbling down a whole plate of my favourite Beach Road Scissors Cut Curry Rice is a wonderful feeling.
I had the opportunity to take a course at Harvard on Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development. That led to a quantum leap in how I thought about being an adult, and how we are all still going through distinct developmental stages even as grown-ups. Development never ends. It’s a little too complex to cover in detail here, but I suggest readers check it out.
It is so important to be able to enjoy it while it lasts.
(Main and featured image: Prestige Singapore; all other images courtesy of Fang Low)