@MusingMutley: 7 defining moments in my life thus far (and what I've learnt)

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Text: Norman Tan

What have been your defining moments?

The thing about working in digital is, you're constantly looking ahead: How can we push the boundaries further? Who else can we collaborate with? What's the next big thing?

It's an inexorable ride of better, faster and smarter.

Exciting, for sure. Tiring, to be expected (and needs to be managed). But in this rush for greater innovation, to become even greater story-tellers, it's easy to miss the moments.

The launch of the latest Ermenegildo Zegna campaign starring Hollywood icon Robert De Niro paired with newcomer McCaul Lombardi — check out our exclusive behind-the-scenes video above — was a reminder to take stock and reflect. What decisions have I made that have led me here? Who has helped me become the man I am today? Or, to put it in Zegna parlance, what has been my defining moment?

For me — and I imagine, for the majority of us — it hasn't just been one moment, but a series of moments. Here, I recall seven key defining moments in my life thus far, and with the beauty of hindsight, what I've learnt from them.

McCaul Lombardi Ermenegildo Zegna campaign car driving

1. The time I was driving around Melbourne Law School...
Looking for a carpark, 20-minutes late to a lecture and cursing at the cars occupying two parking lots — "Who taught you how to park? Go back to school! (oh, the irony) — I was suddenly hit by an overwhelming urge to act. Never thought about this before. Totally out of nowhere. But intensely acute and urgent. That same week I auditioned for a university play, and surprising even myself, landed a supporting role. I learnt about following my instincts; something that I would return to time-and-time again.   

2. When I ripped a hole in the wall of my apartment...
Because I was trying to reposition a photo frame — one in a series of 12 that I'd meticulously aligned and glued to my lounge wall with supposedly removable 3M velcro stickers; in order to create a 'French Hang' — just because I thought it was one centimetre off. One centimetre. Now there was a hole in the wall. I was livid. I called a friend to vent my frustration. She told me to frame that hole in the wall instead of trying to hide it as a reminder of what happens when "you're too bloody anal!" I learnt about the price of perfectionism. 

3. Scrutinising street style on Tommy Ton and The Sartorialist...
During fashion weeks instead of going out to lunch when I was still practising commercial law in Melbourne. There was something about the transformative and personal nature of fashion that captivated me. It made me want to experiment with what I wore; to try new things. Soon, I started wearing cardigans under my corporate grey and navy suits to the office; and, shortly after, started a fashion blog called, 'Musing Mutley'.  It was the birth of a passion. 

4. Telling my parents I wanted to leave the law...
After having studied law for five years and practising for four. It sounded ludicrous: Pursue a career in fashion after nine years of building a legal career? "What do you want to do?" they asked. "Anything!" I replied. "It could be styling, marketing or buying." I took a leap of faith: Left the law, picked up a part-time job as a sales assistant at Country Road, and actively went around town knocking on doors and harassing people in the industry for a coffee. I learnt a heck of a lot about rejection and, as a corollary, perserverance.  

5. Flying over to Singapore to interview with August Man...
Because I was determined to secure an internship with the fashion team. I came armed with two moodboards about trends, printed photos from my 'Musing Mutley' blog to highlight my eye for street style, and several writing samples to show that I was serious about publishing. They didn't offer me an internship; they offered me a full-time fashion writing position. What did I learn? You have to seize opportunities with both hands. 

6. Taking a chance with digital...
When everyone in Singapore was still obsessed about print. It started with a drink with Christian Barker, which eventually led to leaving the safety of the most-read Singapore men's magazine in August Man, for an unknown start-up called Who knew that my subsequent experience in helping grow and develop that digital platform would lead me to meeting Miroslava Duma in Moscow two years later, talking to the founder of Buro 24/7 about launching in Singapore. Sometimes, you have to trust your gut. 

7. Praying and praising in the IMV office...
On a Sunday afternoon after church in 2015. I was setting up my desk in preparation for my first official day as editor-in-chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore. It was exactly six weeks to the launch of the website, but not one word had been written, no advertisers had been signed, and there was a launch party for over 180 guests planned with confirmed attendance by Mira Duma, Diane von Furstenberg, and Steven Kolb, chief executive of the CFDA. I was beyond stressed. I pumped up some Christian music and started declaring favour over the company, favour from advertisers and the industry, and ultimately, that God would perform a miracle. The following three days — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — we signed three key A-list advertisers in succession. It signalled confidence for the project to the Singapore market. The rest followed suit. The launch was a success. I learnt about the faithfulness of God and the power of worship.

I believe that it's just the beginning. There are more defining moments to come. The rest is still unwritten. But for now, I'm just grateful that I get to wake up each day and do something I love. What are you thankful for? What have been your defining moments? 

Related stories:
Audio review of Alessandro Sartori's debut collection for Ermenegildo Zegna
Exclusive behind-the-scenes images of the Ermenegildo Zegna campaign with Robert De Niro and McCaul Lombardi


Check back every Monday for another @MusingMutley column from Norman Tan, Editor-in-Chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore. For more columns from @MusingMutley, click here.

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