Month: July 2015

Start Small

By Eduardo [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sleep per Day: (Target) 7h30m / day (Actual) 7h07m  / day (33 day average)

I realized that a lot of times my biggest successes came when I stuck to something through thick and thin.

Because like the tale of the rabbit versus the snail, the snail won because it kept making progress bit by bit.

Even the maths shows the importance of not slipping back in progress. If you bought a stock and it dropped 50% in value, you’d need a 100% comeback in order to just recover. Think about the possibilities if you reduced or even eliminated your losses in progress in any aspect of life.

But at the same time there’s a danger of not acting at all. As I mentioned in a blog post “Done is Better than Perfect“, perfectionism shouldn’t paralyze one into inaction.

So the best way is to keep sticking to something through thick and thin. And the best way to do that for me is to start small and ramp up gradually since I get too excited too quickly and then burn out very soon afterwards.

That’s what I’m trying to do with many aspects in life.

For investing, I realized I was still investing with too much capital whenever I got jittery with the volatility in price, so I decided to gradually exit all individual stock positions until I held enough cash to make me sleep well (which is at least 1.5 year’s worth of cash). I now have 1 year’s worth of expenses in cash and I aim to boost that figure up to at least 1.5 year’s worth with any bonuses I get while I regularly invest in a commission free index fund with leftovers from my monthly salary after deducting living expenses and taxes. Even though holding lots of cash is going to kill my returns, but as long as it gives me peace, it will allow to stick through my investing plan whether tomorrow is a bull or bear market.

For exercising, I follow the New Blood plan of the book “Convict Conditioning” (I don’t get anything for mentioning or posting this link), which only requires me to exercise twice a week, since that gives me no excuse to not exercise at all and allows me to not burn out too quickly when my unfit body starts “objecting” to the exercise stress I give it if I were to exercise more frequently.

For writing, I try to force myself to write 15-30 minutes a day. I may not post the blog post in the end, but at least it forces me to produce something, and this tactic has made me a much more productive writer so far.

For sleeping, I’m further re-adjusting my ambition level from 8.5 hours to 8 hours. The closer I am to a very easily achieved target, the more likely I will follow it.

For volunteering, I’ve requested to start regular volunteering with half day on Saturdays first before I decide to ramp up my volunteer time.

As long as I’m inching forward, I’m going to be making much more progress than most humans can imagine to achieve.

All it requires, is for me to start small.

Start small.

[Disclaimer]

Not advice. No offer. Do not rely. May lose value. Risky. Conflicts hidden/obscured. (Borrowed from Terrence Yang‘s Disclaimer on Quora)

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Not Letting Fear Grab Me By My Balls

By Phillip Capper from Wellington, New Zealand (Sam meets Moominmama, 3 November 2005) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sleep per Day: (Target) 7h30m / day (Actual) 7h11m  / day (30 day average)

Everyday I wake up very content with life.

But that doesn’t mean I still don’t have fears.

But most of my fears seems to all originate from one source, which is a lack of money.

I fear going homeless again… because of lack of money.

I fear seeing my savings account go zero again… because of lack of money.

I fear having to living a life that isn’t authentic again… because of lack of money.

I fear having close ones reject me asking for help financially again… because of lack of money.

I fear having to go hungry because I can’t afford 3 meals a day again… because of lack of money.

I fear having to rely on or interact with people I absolutely despise again… because of lack of money.

I fear having someone feel they have a right to dictate how I live my life again… because of lack of money.

I fear having to feel hopeless, knowing if I fuck up I ain’t going to have a safety net again… because of lack of money.

And there seems to be central themes that surrounds this fear of lack of money, which are safety and optionality.

Both of these disappear at the same time once I lack money, and both I treasure a lot considering my experiences in life.

But sometimes I think I lose direction or miss out due to my intense reluctance to spend money. The accumulation of wealth is for safety and optionality, not for the sake of accumulation of wealth.

And optionality itself entails that I get to make friends or experience things spontaneously, which doesn’t have to be delayed by the time I can obtain full optionality after financial freedom.

So I’ve been trying to add spontaneity to my life. My best friend’s going to Muse concert? Sure I’ll join. I really want to volunteer? Join the charity the Saturday immediately after sending off an application email. I want to watch a movie? Just travel to closest cinema that has the movie.

But these are just baby steps.

My next crazy experiment to push myself out of my comfort zone is to travel to Shanghai alone (something I fear) around Sept 26th by overnight train (something I fear doing alone as well), go attend Wang Feng’s concert, field ride with my colleagues in Shanghai and just do a lot of walking, eating, singing, rapping, thinking, and reading.

Traveling alone has always been something I’ve always wanted to do (keep getting inspired by 2 friends of mine who keep doing it) but have always never had the courage to pursue myself. But those days are gone.

And I think to get myself into a position to feel comfortable to do crazy things like this, I’m going to allow myself to use half a month’s salary every year to splurge on experiences I would otherwise not even think about doing considering my intense reluctance to spend money.

*P.S. [Aug 6th 2015] Just an update, I won’t be able to go to my Shanghai trip since I have a department team building workshop on Aug 28th and a Muse concert (Hong Kong) on Aug 31st, which means if I’m going to attend Wang Feng’s concert on the 29th I will only have less than 2 days in Shanghai, which defeats the whole purpose of backpacking to explore a city alone.

That being said, the money will just stay in my Regret Averse Fund and for other crazy ideas I want to try in the future.

Getting What You Want From Others

By Weldis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sleep per Day: (Target) 7h30m / day (Actual) 7h08m  / day (28 day average)

I got lucky.

I have two flaws (and many more) that usually stops me from optimizing what I get from others.

One is low assertiveness. The other is bad decision making when rushed.

Today I was granted access to facilities and resources for a full day for my work (can’t say much more as I’m not sure if disclosing will breach my contract). I could’ve been denied both since I didn’t directly explain what my real purpose was when I requested access last week out of anxiety of not wanting to bother someone.

I was lucky the person was very nice and allowed me to do whatever I needed to do for the full day.

On Saturday I was playing a game of Citadels with my Students’ Union exco mates. On the second round, I made two fatal mistakes when I was rushed that cost me a very good chance of winning.

The first mistake was related to my first move. I had 3 Purple Cards on my deck (buildings with special abilities, for more of the game rules you can read here) with which 1 Purple Card’s ability got better if I had more purple cards built, so I knew from the get go I needed to draw a Tax Collector to get as much gold as possible, and even though the card was in front of me and I wanted to draw it, for some reason in the end I drew a Magician card instead. The lack of gold in beginning meant that my friend who drew the Tax Collector instead could kick start the compounding effect of gold income growth when I could have also done that if I didn’t make such a stupid mistake.

The second mistake was related to my two last moves. My friend who drew the Tax Collector for her first hand was on the verge of ending the game (whoever builds 8 buildings first will bring the game to a final round). I had lots of gold, and I knew if I drew a Diplomat card (you can swap buildings with other players as long as you pay the gold difference cost) I could get a good Purple Card that would boost my end game points.

There were two options, which was namely one Purple Card that added 1 point for every building built, and another Purple Card that added 1 point for every Purple Card built. Without giving it too much thought and not wanting to keep my friends waiting too long when choosing my next move, I went for the 1 point for every building built Purple Card, which immediately triggered him to swap back his Purple Card (his whole strategy depended on that Purple Card) at the same moment that my Tax Collector friend finished building 8 buildings and was bringing the game to an end. I didn’t have any rounds left to make my move and wasn’t even close to winning when tallying points. In hindsight I should’ve went for the Purple Card that boosted other Purple Cards since I had so many Purple Cards built and the owner of the card didn’t have any other Purple Card built, which meant that the Purple Card wasn’t important enough to retaliate and swap back with.

I was lucky that this was a game and not a life threatening situation. Things would go so badly if it were.

So what three lessons did I learn?

Be direct in asking what you want before delivering how this can help the other person. I focus too much on the latter and forget about my own key objectives.

When in a rushed situation, take 30 seconds to calm down and process. Others can wait and would prefer that if it means better decision making that works out much better for everyone.

When on the offense, only attack / seize areas that your opponent doesn’t view as life / death if they lost the battle. That way you don’t over-spend time / resources which could’ve been put to use in grabbing low hanging fruits that don’t put up a strong fight.

*P.S. I see a downward trend in my sleeping time, which is worrying me. I seem unable to sleep long hours (Yesterday slept at ~21:00 in anticipation of at least a 9 hour sleep, but woke up at ~03:00. I also wanted to sleep in on Saturday night but could only sleep for ~8 hours). I will continue to monitor the situation, but one solution I will implement is to enforce better sleeping discipline since it’s easy for me to cut sleep but hard for me to sleep longer to repay my sleep debt. I will aim to sleep 8.5 hours every day until my average sleeping hours / day equals or exceeds 7.5 hours.

Relationship between Rationality & Emotion

By Estudio Guto Requena (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sleep per Day: (Target) 7h30m / day (Actual) 7h11m  / day (27 day average)

Over almost a year I’ve been utterly obsessed with being as rational as possible, and it’s a whole lot to do with inspiration from Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger once said, “Being rational is a moral Imperative. You should never be stupider than you need to be“, which seems aligned with a Stoic ideal that “destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of “moral and intellectual perfection”, would not suffer such emotions.

This appeals to me greatly, since in the blog post “Abursdism” I mentioned that as a naturally very emotionally person, extreme emotions have never done me any good, and that staying calm and being content seems be the state where I’m most happy in.

So for my overall happiness, rationality has been surprisingly a very helpful force. It has also been rewarding financially as well since it aids in better decision making, and also allows me to profit from “the stupidity of the world”.

But ultimately, humans aren’t 100% rational. We aren’t robots. This imperfection seems to be what makes us human (which is described perfectly in a 27 minute philosophical video called “OTH: The Last of Us on Human Nature (Feat. Grant Voegtle)“.

So what should be the relationship between rationality and emotion? I wouldn’t go as far as thinking that the pursuit of rationality is the end game objective (though I do agree it should be a moral imperative). Instead rationality should be viewed as a means to an end. And the end, at least for me, is to be as human as possible, since that is the essence of being.

And since “Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being“, this is why in the face of the reality that the world is absurd, I choose to rebel.

In simpler terms, I try to be as rational as possible in as many aspects of my life to retain the right to be as irrational as possible in the most important few aspects of my life.

And this leads to why when choosing to be as human as possible, I choose to “Dedicate my whole life to effective philanthropy.” Empathy is a crucial part to my essence. It is what riles me up, and it is what compels me to act. And since I’ve been in a fortunate position to being born, raised and also having lived and worked in both first and third world countries/regions, I feel that there’s just so much good I can do before I die to help solve the issues that I’ve witnessed that still rile me up.

Just like my humanity made me lose my religion, my humanity has also given me a firm purpose in life. Even if at the end of the day it’s all for naught, at least on the day of my death bed, I could say, “I stuck true to my humanity, and I did some good”.

*P.S. I’ve removed the Exercise and Digestive System stats since I think it’s better to log my Exercise stats on a separate page which shows a weekly overview since each day’s exercise target is different. For my Digestive System stats, since the stats will always look so similar, it’s probably better to be in the back of my mind rather than being logged everyday.

**P.S. I’ve also joined a 2 hour Site Tour at Crossroads’ Hong Kong office (it’s a pre-requisite before volunteering). I’ll be emailing them shortly about interest to volunteer regularly every Saturday for the next 3 months (3 months is the minimum commitment requirement for regular volunteering).

Absurdism

© Optimist on the run, 2008 / , via Wikimedia Commons

Sleep per Day: (Target) 7h30m / day (Actual) 7h14m  / day (24 day average)

Exercise: (Target) 30 min walk (Actual) Walked 30+ minutes today

Digestive System: (Target) No.2 twice / day (Actual) 1 time today

For some reason a conversation today with a colleague and also good friend of mine touched upon philosophical views, and there was a lot of shock when he heard that I was a existential nihilist.

He asked why I’m still living on, or why I don’t max the shit out of my dopamine system with drugs.

I just feel that if life has no inherent meaning, then death has no inherent meaning. As a result, there’s no point in prematurely dying since it doesn’t change the fact that either has no inherent meaning.

However, since suicide is always an option, it allows me to be fearless in living out a life I want (live with integrity, transparency and rationality), and I get to satisfy my curiosity of how my life pans out. If my life doesn’t pan out the way I want and it gets too painful, then suicide is always an option at the end of the day.

As for why I don’t max the shit out of my dopamine system with drugs, it is because I adhere to a Stoicist or Buddhist tradition of tranquility. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally a very emotional person (I’m a INFJ according to MBTI), and nothing good has ever happened when I was extremely emotional, so staying calm at all times has been very important to me. To me, true happiness is being content, and it’s that attitude that I try to bring to life and work every day.

I also just think there’s a certain cap on how much of a high you can humanly experience due to limitations of our biological system, and usually these highs are followed by extreme lows, which is exactly the kind of extremely emotional situations that I’ve been trying to avoid my whole life. I’ve also always strongly believed that hedonism is not the way to go when it comes to happiness (have too many real life examples of people I know of).

Which is why when it comes to facing the reality that life has no inherent meaning I choose to be an absurdist under the definition of Albert Camus. Knowing full well that life has no inherent meaning, I would do whatever allows me to maximize appreciating the beauty of life, which is to do what my humanity compels me to do.

And what does my humanity compel me to do? Dedicate my whole life to effective philanthropy.

So even if at the end of the day my actions are meaningless and my humanity is absurd, I get to appreciate the beauty of what this game called life is.

After all, no one ever asks the question of why I should eat that chocolate if I’m going to die anyways. You’d just eat the chocolate when you want to and cherish the moment while it lasts.

Sick (1)

By Mennonite Church USA Archives [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

Sleep per Day: (Target) 7h30m / day (Actual) 7h14m  / day (24 day average)

Exercise: (Target) 30 min walk (Actual) Walked 30+ minutes today

Digestive System: (Target) No.2 twice / day (Actual) 14 times today (diarrhea)

I seem to always fall to the curse of diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Every time I get sick due to such, my friends who dined with me don’t seem to have a problem.

The doctor said I should avoid eating food that are starchy, are dairy or soy bean related, are fatty and meaty, which basically means I can only eat plain porridge. She also said that the food I had yesterday night is still in my digestive system, so I’m expected to continue to have diarrhea despite the medicine given to me.

I think I just have a weak stomach.

Chasing Dreams

By 401(K) 2012 [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sleep per Day: (Target) 7h30m / day (Actual) 7h7m  / day (22 day average) Exercise: (Target) 30 min walk (Actual) Walked 30+ minutes today Digestive System: (Target) No.2 twice / day (Actual) No.2 twice today

The topic of effective philanthropy has fascinated me for the past two weeks, and I’ve been thinking about the idea of setting up my own charity trust for a few months already.

And just so happens that a good friend of mine who’s running a social enterprise (something I started with him 4 years ago when I was in HKUST but ended being less actively involved after graduation) was telling me that for him, source of funding was a huge ongoing obstacle.

I told him if he ever thought about starting a charity trust.

A light bulb set off in his mind and his eyes brightened.

He’s looking into the legal paperwork needed to start the trust. I’m thinking about the investment process needed to fund the foundation.

After all, he did offer me the job if he were to start one, and I’m seriously entertaining the idea since it’s a match of mission (knowledge) with passion (investing).

We’ll see.

**Update** My friend consulted a lawyer but found out that there’s way too much legal and reputation risk with setting up a charity trust, so he’s abandoned the project.

Staying the Course

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Greatness is a lot of small things done well, day after day, workout after workout, obedience after obedience; day after day – Ray Lewis

Following up with yesterday’s blog post of “Done is Better than Perfect“, I wanted to take my daily 30 minutes to examine bit by bit the areas where I want to measure and continuously improve. Why 30 minutes? Since the desire of always wanting every article to be perfect (which would require lots of time and effort) has been my enemy, I wanted to stick to a small unit of time which would force me to write something and then ship it out. 30 minutes seemed like a good balance between having enough time to develop my thoughts and write something decent, and not too much time that I start attempting to write my next masterpiece. So what things do I want to examine first? I’ll probably start with health first, since health is wealth. The minimum standards I want to maintain are:

    • Sleep per day is 7.5 hours (quantified by Sleep Cycle, and no I’m not sponsored by them)
    • Exercise 30 minutes a day following the New Blood exercise schedule of Convict Conditioning (once again, not sponsored by author or publisher)
    • Excrete feces minimum twice a day
      • This forces me to constantly look out for food that provides lots of fiber. And just so happens that vegetables and fruits contain lots of fiber, which I heard is good for the body.

So how did I do today? Pretty bad. Sleep Indicator: I slept 2 hours 41 minutes last night, and I’m currently lagging behind the 7.5 hour daily sleep with my average time in bed at 7 hours for the past 21 nights. Ouch! Will sleep very soon. Exercise Indicator: I did do 2 strength training exercises today (full pushups and flat straight leg raises), but only came up with the walk the rest of the exercise session when I was commuting to work. Will implement the walking starting tomorrow. Digestive System Indicator: I excreted feces thrice today, so that’s been good. All three times were smooth. Hope I can continue to stay the course.

Done is Better than Perfect

I’ve paralyzed myself from writing due to my perfectionist intentions.

I refuse to be a slave to my perfectionist intentions.

I want to write 30 minutes a day, recording whatever is on my mind.

I want to measure and improve on things that are important to me.

I want to do autopsies on things that went wrong.

I want to write my eulogy one blog post a day.

I refuse to be a slave to my perfectionist intentions.