STYLEGUIDE sits down with Wan Wei, the founder of IKIGUIDE, Asia’s first personal branding portal. To date, Wan Wei has conducted interviews and talked to more than 100 presidents, ambassadors, entrepreneurs and C-level executives globally. Her expertise lies in the domains of social media strategy, Public Relations (PR) and more recently, PR in cryptocurrency.
STYLEGUIDE: How did you get started initially and what inspired you to do what you do?
Wan Wei: I started IKIGUIDE because I was curious as to how people saw themselves. I was also curious about why people do what they do. Since I’m good at branding and PR, I thought why not make it a career?
It paid off, because I’m the first Singaporean who initiated and helmed a project involving top politicians and influencers in Finland. Personally, it was a real honour for the project to have been endorsed by the Finnish Prime Minster’s office.
Many people tend to underestimate the power of branding and PR because we tend to forget that we live in a world today where attention is extremely scarce.
Think about it: If there is no objective truth in the world, then isn’t everything about branding and gaining public support for your version of subjective truth? If one doesn’t understand the power of branding in this aspect, then I don’t see a need to convince them. I’ll rather work with people who see the power of branding and want to go all out fighting for their visions.
STYLEGUIDE: What were some things in your life that made you dissatisfied with the way things were?
Wan Wei: Along this entrepreneurial journey, I’ve worked with quite a wide range of people, and at one point I thought, “Okay, perhaps business is all about people and human nature. Once we have a greater awareness of the systems behind human nature and behaviour, the technicalities should naturally be settled.”
The complicated part in any business is always about human beings—yourself and people you’re working with! Therefore, it’s always wise to have a greater sense of awareness of yourself and others.
STYLEGUIDE: What would you say is your purpose in life?
Wan Wei: My purpose in life is to empower people to live life on their own terms.
And then I’ll use my skillsets in digital marketing, branding and PR to help them live out their personal or company visions on a global scale.
The ultimate goal that informs all my actions in PR for example, is the company’s vision. I have to be personally convinced that the company is doing good things for the world.
STYLEGUIDE: What is the change or impact that you want to make in this world?
Wan Wei: One of the change that I want to make in this world is to help as many individuals as possible make peace with themselves! I really hope that people can be more honest with themselves and I think this is something difficult.
Because sometimes when we lie, we don’t really know that we are lying due to the Hawthorne effect. The Hawthorne effect states that when there are other people observing you, you might change your behaviour.
Sometimes due to fear, or due to uncertainty, we tend to lie to ourselves. And we deny that we are lying to ourselves so in the end you don’t know what’s the truth anymore.
So I guess like, if I can use some part of my life to change this, I’d be really happy.
Photo Credits: Niko Nyrhilä
STYLEGUIDE: Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?
Wan Wei: I love colours and creative people, so I get a lot of inspiration through them.
This is precisely why I protect creative people a lot. I tend to avoid people who think they can use money alone to solve everything.
STYLEGUIDE: What is your greatest inspiration in life?
I’m actually inspired by a lot of things.
I think the top thing that I am inspired by, are actually beautiful things. I see beauty in everything!
Even in nature, even in the simple things in life, I do see beauty in it. Usually I’m inspired by maybe, the simplest things in life. Maybe taking a walk, pausing when you are super super busy, things like that.
STYLEGUIDE: What were some of the biggest challenges you've faced?
Wan Wei: Initially, choosing the right team partners was really difficult for me. I used to be too trusting - a state where I tend to believe whatever people tell me! That’s how I even got to work with narcissistic and delusional people at some points in my life. In addition, I have a tendency to take on too many responsibilities because I can be really impatient.
Both challenges are solved however by taking time to profile the people talking to me. I now have a list of “red flag” questions to spot whenever I test for someone’s abilities.
For people who tend to boast about themselves and their abilities, I’ll request for verifiable evidence that they can cite to back up whatever they say. Sometimes people think too highly of themselves in terms of market value, so I will ask to see past portfolios or request to see current distribution channels.
Most importantly, with anybody in your team, it is always important to stop and realign expectations, intentions and personal agendas from time to time.
I have grown not to be unafraid of saying "No" to people, and I have also grown to be brave enough to cut off relationships if needed.
STYLEGUIDE: What does success mean to you and what is the greatest success you’ve experienced?
Wan Wei: Personally, success means peace and internal congruency to me. In business, one of the greatest success I’ve experienced was during a PR case that I fought and won after we were forced into a corner. Everything was seemingly against us then.
I realised too, the power of new media and how to utilise it to our benefit.
That single moment was definitive for me, because I realised I could do PR naturally and effortlessly on a strategic level. Prior to that, I never knew PR and strategy were my strengths.
STYLEGUIDE: What would you say was the single most influential factor in your success?
Wan Wei: I guess I’ve always insisted on living life on my terms and I fought really hard to be able to do so.
Photo Credits: Jenni Aho
STYLEGUIDE: What is the most interesting life experience you’ve had so far?
Wan Wei: I used to do waitressing in Japan in a club at Roppongi while I was doing my student exchange in Tokyo. At the end of my working period, my boss asked me to pay a 10% tax “to the Japanese government”.
I thought, “Oh that is so strange, because I did not get any official letters addressed to me?” Years later I found out that the 10% tax “to the Japanese government” meant “to the Yakuza”.
That was really interesting. I miss those days where I said “Hi” to every single bouncer along the streets of Roppongi Street 5 where all the clubs are…because they always protected me and I knew them all by name.
STYLEGUIDE: What would your ideal lifestyle be in 1/5/10 years and what is your dream lifestyle like?
Wan Wei: I’m 29 now, and I’ll probably have a wedding at 31. I’ll like to retire by 37, and by 39 I’ll like to have completed something related to PR on a global scale. I also hope to have a kid or two too with my Finnish boyfriend—they’ll probably be cute!
I hope for a life and career where I can fly between Singapore and Finland, because my parents are in Singapore after all.
I also hope to be one of the more prominent bloggers in the cryptoworld, because so many smart people are there! If you read enough ICO (Initial Coin Offering) whitepapers you can’t help but marvel at the level of talent of the PR practitioners and coders in that field.
I love talking to strategic people and I wish to continue to do so all my life.
STYLEGUIDE: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Wan Wei: I would say that it is to experiment more instead of less. Because there are a lot of things that I wanted to do in this life in the past and, yeah I guess like — I could have experimented more when I was young instead of being afraid of results, being afraid of failure.
For instance, playing more musical instruments or draw more stuff or apply more make up on a lot of women. Because that was something that I wanted to do when I was young, but I don’t dare to do it anymore since there are other priorities in life now.
Once you experiment more, you can have a better idea of what you can do and cannot do, and then you can make more informed decisions later in life.
STYLEGUIDE: What are your hopes and aspirations for the future?
Wan Wei: I’ll like to be financially free by 37 or earlier so that I can then concentrate full time on the vision behind IKIGUIDE.
Before this year, I thought attaining financial freedom at the age of 37 was an impossible dream, until I met people who did just that!
There was this lady whom I personally met five years ago; at that time she just came to Singapore with close to no social network. Yet, she attained financial freedom in four years by just working really smart on her business.
It’s simply inspiring and amazing. We’re standing at a brand new era now where disruptions are the norm. Most people do lapse into the nostalgia mode, yet some will see the opportunities in disruptions and never look back. I find the latter group amazing.