Random Musings – Life

Reflections from Singapore and Seoul Trip

Ion Chibzii from Chisinau. , Moldova.“Pending” (1968).

  1. Maybe my mum is right, I am destined to be single
    • My requirements are too high and I don’t have a strong desire to find a partner. Was chatting with the 1st lady I ever fell in love with (and arguably the most in love with compared to any ladies I’ve ever liked) and the discussion made it depressingly clear that the probability I find a partner is extremely low.
      • Forget about all my detailed checklists anymore, I realize there’s only 3 things I look for in a partner that truly matters, which is I need someone who is conceptually smart, has strong empathy and respects my time. But let’s be honest, finding people with any of the three is hard enough, let alone all three
      • I don’t have a strong desire to find a partner due to me having too much fun with seeing friends and doing my interests
      • The lady said she lucked out when I asked her for tips as a fellow INFJ on how she found her strong fit (current fiancé). Considering I’m the type of person who’s lucked out in friendships, career and finances, I cannot fathom how I can have as much luck in the romantic relationship department (there must be reversion to the mean of luck somehow, either in other areas of my life or later on in life). A low success rate in compatibility plus a low desire and thus focus to source strong fits means logically speaking I’m very unlikely to find a partner that’s good enough to entice me, let alone who’s also interested in me
    • I’m too complex. My good friend said that I’m too multi-dimensional, introverted while extroverted, emotional yet rational and systematic but also flexible. Any person who is purely one-sided would have a hard time dealing with me because of how much I’ve developed both sides of the MBTI spectrum (besides N/S, where I’m purely N)
    • I get really bored very fast due to my vast interests. I realized through this trip that there’s a reason why I need variety in meetups with friends, and that’s because I just haven’t really met anyone in this world that’s fascinating enough to not bore me after spending lots of time together. I need to see a variety of friends because I have too many interests (investing, psychology, decision making, rap, comedy, film making, philosophy, history, politics, economy, energy (environment), poker, soccer etc.), because there’s just no one person who can chat intensively on that many topics with me
  2. I really want to prioritize on friendships for now
    • Was sharing with the 1st lady I ever fell in love with that if I ever move to a new city, the 1st thing I’d do is try to meet different friends (lest I die of boredom due to my vast interests) rather than find a partner. The rationale is simple in investing terms
      • Friends (if filtered properly) are low risk and average to good (occasionally great) return investment opportunities
      • Partners (even after proper filtering) are high risk and below average to great return investment opportunities (worst part is I’ve never found a lady who gave me average returns, let alone good to great returns, just way more emotional headaches that doesn’t warrant the effort)
      • In the ideal world where I had infinite time, I’d go for the Partners route because I only need to succeed once. But if I were to move to a new city where I had a finite time period of 2-3 years there, for my mental sanity, it’s probably prudent to build a network of variety of friends instead of concentrating time and energy on just one or a few potentially high risk opportunities that might end up just being zeros by the end of my stay, which I cannot afford. There’s a reason why venture capitalists spread their bets so much, it’s because in order to find the unicorns (1 billion USD valuations) they need to survive the risk of failure by minimizing the damage each failure of betting would cause them
      • Also even if I were to find an ideal partner, the struggle between finding enough time to meet a variety of friends to keep me sane and giving enough time and energy to maintain the relationship with my partner is going to be so difficult
    • I really don’t want to go through the headache of caring so much about someone anymore (or maybe because it’s too recent). I seem to always care more about the other person rather than vice versa whenever I like someone and go for it, and I don’t think I’ve ever been truly happy in those relationships. If I don’t want these types of relationships bad, if these types of relationships make me more upset than happy in general, it doesn’t make sense to proactively look for these types of relationships anymore. Only if the other person wants it bad would I consider, since then turning up my commitment level is not a question at all since I have plenty of commitment in my makeup if I want a relationship to work
  3. I’m surprised I’m still pissed off as hell when I’m reminded of people I used to really care about who disappoint me multiple times. There’s a point in me that’s just pissed off on why I still care and just wants to let go
  4. My biggest motivation in life is to have the ability to really don’t give a fuck without any of the repercussions really affecting my survival. It’s what driven most of my biggest decisions in life, and thankfully I’m on the right track
  5. I’m quite ruthless these days. Spending so much studying rationality and decision making and applying it in investing and poker has made me very good at cutting losses if I realize I made a mistake, but sometimes I find myself a bit too trigger happy with cutting loose relationships or objects
  6. I’ve pretty much figured out what my next steps are in terms of priority outside of work once Feb 1st starts (in chronological order):
    1. Secure a 2nd hand car
    2. Convert international driving license to Swiss driving license
    3. Find St Gallen University German courses to attend during weekday evenings (at least 1), and ramp up frequency if I can handle it without affecting #2 priority
    4. Go to Zurich / Munich during weekends and join Standard German speaking / learning meet up groups
    5. After 1-2 months I should be able to figure out where I want to live (Buchs / St Gallen), then I make my move for house hunting. In the meantime I’d rather stay in a hotel which is cheaper than renting a normal house whilst it gives me optionality
    6. Depending on my assessment by 1-2 months of living in Switzerland, I’ll really learn to cook tasty food if I realize I enjoy or feel the need of inviting people over to my house or joining food parties in the area
    7. Once I’m at conversational level of German (can understand 80% of a customer visit in German speaking countries), I will spend more time during weekdays / weekends joining interest based meet ups and youth hostels in nearby areas to aggressively broaden my network of friends
    8. Start learning French using italki and Duolingo until I’m at conversational level of French. It makes sense just because France is my 2nd largest market, I have basic level of French, and French is 1 of the 2 official languages of Canada (hint: I’m Canadian)
  7. In terms of work, I’m prepared to deal with the 3 month idiot curve by working ~50-55 hours / week in the 1st 3 months. My next line manager has put lots of faith and beared lots of risk hiring me, so I want to make sure I’m not a liability  and become a very productive member of his team by the end of the 3rd month. That’s the least I could do to repay him
  8. I cannot fathom why I’m so lucky to have so many loving and kind friends in my life
  9. I’m starting to love the process of making videos more and more. It’s really fun to come up with a video idea and then find a song (or vice versa), storyboard, plan out all the resources you need, execute and possibly ask for assistance from friends during execution, edit and then wrap up the video idea
  10. I’m starting to worry if I’m spending too much money and that this becomes a habit
  11. Making the effort to visit cities that have 2+ friends is totally worth it (USA here I come very soon, haha)
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Lots of things to explore, not enough time

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

Since my last post, a lot of dust has settled emotionally and in results from the 2 big decisions I made. Unfortunately I still can’t disclose details as of now.

However, what I can disclose is that I’ve found myself running out of time for all the different things I really want to explore.

What are the things I really want to explore?

  • Film making (cinematography, and eventually other aspects of film making, like directing, writing, background music, sound effects etc.)
  • Financial Advising for family / friends
  • Teaching ToK
  • Stand-up comedy
  • Counseling

Film making

I don’t think I’ve really disclosed this to a lot of people, but I’ve actually co-directed two videos for my company. One was for internal purposes so I unfortunately can’t share to the public space, but one is for external purposes which I hopefully can share in the next 2-3 months once my company posts it on official social media channels.

And one of the pleasant surprises was that it stirred up an interest in film making that I never realized I had before.

One pleasure that I’ve always had but never really shared with anyone is studying what constitutes good film (eg. Every Frame A Picture, the nerdwriter, Sam and Niko), exploring topics like themes, camera angles, color grading, writing, storyboard, sound effects, music, use of off camera movement, use of on camera movement etc.

What both projects did for me was really give me a taste of putting what I learnt from all those videos about what constitutes good film into action, and it was really fun.

And the reason why it was fun? Good film is damn hard to make since it involves so many moving parts (see all the topics mentioned above). And that’s what’s interesting to me, because not only the challenge is interesting, I also like the fact that it involves so many moving parts since I like enjoying multiple interests at the same time rather than focus on just one aspect (eg. photography, storytelling, music).

From the get go I already have a few video ideas in mind, but I’m only seriously exploring 2. One involves a song called “Home” by Explosions In The Sky, and the other another song called “Opera#2” by Vitas. I’ll leave the details of “Home” and “Opera#2” in a separate post as this post is more focused on the different interests that I can’t seem to find time to manage.

Financial Advising for family / friends

One other thing I usually do in my spare time when I talk to friends is advise them on how to manage their personal finances and invest the money.

Personal finance and investing has always been something I love to think about ever since I started self-funding my tertiary education, and even more so when I almost went bankrupt on my self-funding journey. So to see my friends struggling, I naturally like to share my knowledge and experiences as a lot of their challenges I’ve already faced or thought about before.

What’s surprising is that something that I just casually brought up from time to time with friends has manifested into a more time consuming project since now I’ve got quite a list of friends who want to be on a monthly mailing list that essentially guides them on how to invest.

And I really feel the weight of responsibility in this, since a lot of questions start popping up, which is what should be the format of this monthly mailing list, what content should be in this monthly mailing list, how do I incorporate the step by step instructions in this monthly mailing list, how do I remind my friends about the importance of the personal finance aspect for their financial planning besides investing.

I’ve got a vague idea what I’d do, but I haven’t really hammered out the details yet, and I think that’s going to be another post for another day.

Teaching ToK

Teaching Theory of Knowledge (epistemology course that’s compulsory in International Baccalaureate program) has never occurred to me until one day I was having dinner with my ToK teacher.

Anyone who knows me knows that my interests are very broad, and I read and think about how to synthesize all the big ideas from different disciplines into multiple frameworks which allows me to reduce psychological biases and improve my decision making and forecasting skills.

So when my ToK teacher saw glimpses of my multi-disciplinary thinking that I’ve acquired since high school, he immediately told me that I was destined to teach ToK, since ToK is all about the different areas of knowledge, how people know and factors that transcend individual ways of knowing and areas of knowledge.

And I must say, the idea was very tempting to me.

I’ve always been told that I’m pretty good at breaking down complex concepts and explaining it to people, I’ve always loved multi-disciplinary thinking, I love people, I love to see the meaning behind my work, and to have a stamp of approval from my ToK teacher who’s the Asian representative for the International Baccalaureate curriculum committee really made me think that maybe I really can do this.

But of course for now I’ll put this idea in the back burner as I’m having too much fun with my current career. I will however not rule out this option as a possibility, and who knows what would be in store for me for this path.

Stand-up Comedy

Another thing that I rarely share with people is my love for stand-up comedy. I’ve watched multiple shows (even on repeat) of well known or unknown stand-up comics, I’ve watched live shows of stand-up comedy, and I love watching interviews of stand-up comics sharing how they think, what they think comedy is all about, and how to get better at comedy (which if you have an hour to kill and are interested, I highly recommend the group interview / chat session called “Talking Funny” involving Louis CK, Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Jervais and Chris Rock).

But interestingly enough, for all my love of stand-up comedy (I’ve had it since Secondary), I’ve only done one live stand-up comedy routine.

It was actually really fun sitting down and just thinking about a theme, and then coming up with the different stories that all tied to that one theme so that there was not only structure, but just laughter all through the routine.

And I’ve actually kept practicing and honing my comedic timing and material ever since. Ask anyone who has had a conversation with me, and if they enjoy humor and the setting’s not formal, I guarantee you I’ve made them laugh. And I mean real laughter, not laugh at your lame jokes just because that’s the pilot thing to do.

And having done this over and over again has given me so much feedback over the years that I just know when a great comedic timing is coming or not whenever I have a conversation with someone. Essentially I’ve been doing more improv comedy rather than stand-up comedy.

But I really wonder why I never pursued stand-up comedy considering how much I love the art form and how much I love practicing the art of comedy. Not having an English speaking audience isn’t really an excuse anymore considering there’s a English Hong Kong comedy club called TakeOut Comedy that has open mic nights every week.

It would be interesting if I explored this as well.

Counseling

Reading the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” was life changing for me, as it opened my eyes to the world of logotherapy, and it showed me the power of what humans can endure when they have someone they love, something important to do, or if they see meaning in their suffering.

Personally I can relate to this as I still remember that moment when the 1st person I ever fell in love with told me during exam week that she thought I knew that she didn’t like me all along in the past 3 months of being madly in love with her. I just remember when I hung up the phone, I was alone in Beijing (parents were out of town), and I really felt like jumping off the window.

And I remember vividly that the moment I really wanted to jump off the window, I immediately thought of my mum, and I realized that if anything, I had to live on at least for my mum. And that immediately killed any thoughts of suicide then.

And funnily enough it was vice versa, because during the toughest emotional moments my mum had to endure, the thought of my sister and I was literally what pulled her through to endure.

So to me, logotherapy is something I strongly believe to work, and so counseling is an interesting option for me. I’ve gone through some very very tough moments emotionally in my life so it helps with the empathy part, I’ve always enjoyed guiding people to see a different perspective of their current situation and releasing them from their emotional dead corners, and just like what I mentioned above in “Teaching ToK”, I love people.

This option seems the farthest stretch to me though since logotherapy courses aren’t easy to find nor easy to enroll without any philosophy / psychology background in bachelor’s degree. But we’ll see.

Opening Pandora’s Box

By F.S. Church. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I realize there are things that still make me profoundly sad, and that shocked me considering how much Stoic calm has been part of me over the past year.

So a few things were brought up during the past few conversations I’ve had:

  • Almost no one ever asks me if I want to hang out or have lunch / dinner
  • Numerous reasons that led to me rarely disclosing how I really feel
  • The effect that the lady I led to Christ ending up committing suicide had on me
  • The near miss moments where I almost did commit suicide
  • At my time of need, how family was not family and how non-family was family
  • The anxiety of how my relationships will change in dynamic in the near future
  • The realiziation that time is really ticking now

Almost no one ever asks me if I want to hang out or have lunch / dinner

Memory is always fallible, but there’s only three people of all the people who also live in Hong Kong that I know who really proactively out of the blues asks me if I want to hang out or have lunch / dinner. That’s out of the 286 Facebook friends I have left from the original 550+ that have remained based on the simple criteria of we both would be willing to meet up if we’re nearby.

And that’s sad. Like really sad.

I mean, sure, I know that in life, the person who wants it more should take action, but when only 1% of your real friends that you still keep in touch with finds you to meet up rather than the other way around, it does hurt I must say. There is such a small statistical chance that it’s my friends’ problem when it’s such a drastic % of a relatively large sample size. Statistically it seems like I’m the problem.

Either I’m not approachable or I’m just never top of mind. I really don’t know the answer.

I don’t know, I’m just really hurt even though I shouldn’t be. Anyhow, I’m going to keep finding people to meet up because relationships are too important for me.

Numerous reasons that led to me rarely disclosing how I really feel

This really hurt as well.

Sure you can always say that having an introverted personality probably contributes to the tendency of rarely disclosing how I really feel (I almost never share publicly my successes, failures, happiness or sadness).

But I think it’s just the numerous times where I was feeling really down and I try to find someone to talk to, and then there’s just many cases where the person wasn’t the right person to talk to.

Majority of the cases are that the person I end up finding actually is feeling really down too, so I for some reason end up usually being the counseling role or I can’t even find that person at all as he / she is just not responding, with the latter being more common than not.

Another example is when someone offers to lend their shoulders to listen to you, but when you do share you realize it was just lip service and so you end up just never bothering to share since you won’t be taken seriously.

And another reason why I end up rarely disclosing is as an INFJ, emotions are very volatile. I could be feeling very down at one moment and then feel completely fine the next moment. So sometimes I don’t even bother to share because based on experience the feeling would expire soon anyways.

All in all this has led to the rather unhealthy habit of almost always processing emotions by myself.

The effect that the friend I led to Christ ending up committing suicide had on me and the near miss moments where I almost did commit suicide

For me, the reasons for disbelief are three-fold (one is purely emotional, one is half emotional half rational, and one is purely rational), but when I was recalling what happened to the friend I led to Christ who ended up committing suicide, I just knew at that moment that there must be at some level an effect of my friend’s suicide on my faith.

There just has to be.

And the reason I was recalling that episode of my life was because I was sharing with a friend how for those who are in depression and end up committing suicide, there’s not much you can do but just do your best to show care.

At the end of the day, objectively speaking, one person’s effect in preventing someone’s suicide is only so limited. This comment from my counselor was what really got me out of the self-induced guilt of feeling like there was blood on my hands when I absolutely could see that my friend was having smiling depression but I didn’t do much to care for fear of her thinking I was showing intentions beyond friendship.

Speaking from experience, I just remember how there were quite a few moments where just by pure luck, someone showed care and I stopped the thought of suicide when I was about to do or commit to anything serious.

I count my blessings everyday since being alive today and doing well is absolutely not taken for granted.

But those conversations really made me re-live those emotions, and it wasn’t pretty.

At my time of need, how family was not family and how non-family was family

Another topic that was brought up which I rarely like to think about are those moments when I was absolutely broke (had $7.18 in my bank account left) because I only planned to self-fund my tertiary education for the original 3 years, but ended up realizing I need to extend it for 1 more year for job hunting as I realized I wanted to do B2B marketing too late for my final year’s job hunting season.

I won’t delve too much into the details, but let’s just say that experience really changed my perception of what it means to be family, and who are really the most important people in my life.

But it just reminds me that forgiveness is never an one-off thing, it’s a continuous thing that you have to commit to yourself to do. And I just can’t.

The fear of how my relationships will change in dynamic in the near future

One of my biggest fears has always been this picture I had that I got from a prayer when I was still a Christian. It was me at 40-50 years old, sitting on a throne-like chair, with lots of success and wealth, but very alone.

To this day, this picture haunts the shit out of me because that’s absolutely not what I want in life.

As much as I admire the Steve Jobs or Elon Musks of the world, I absolutely don’t admire how they were as fathers. I’m not saying I want to be a father (I actually really don’t want to be), but when I look at them I always think to myself that sure they’ve achieve such extraordinary achievements in life, but to what avail?

If all you have left in life is just your career, to me that’s a failure, not a success. If you ever lose a career you can always theoretically have the chance to rebound. But relationships? That’s a different ball game.

So if relationships are the end game for me, I really fear how my relationships will change in the near future, which is related to the last point.

The realiziation that time is really ticking now

For a certain reason that I still can’t disclose, time is really ticking. And that uncertainty of how the relationships I treasure will get affected by this event that’s going to happen really deep down bothers me.

So ya, I’ve had a lot of heavy emotions to process in the past few days (and maybe upcoming few days too), but all in all I feel much better after really giving my feelings some structure and capturing it.

80/20 Examined on All Aspects of Life

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

I talked about the need to enjoy the pleasures of life 20% of the time, so I wanted to thoroughly examine my life to ensure that for activities that mainly only brings pleasure, I can leave reasonable buffer for it.

Let’s start off with health.

For sleep, I will still aim for 8 hours of actual sleep (~9 hours of sleep time), since having enough sleep is the most crucial factor to physical and emotional healthiness. This one I can’t compromise with 20% of pleasure.

For food, I eat 21 meals a week, so my tolerance for bad food is 4 meals. Bad food is essentially anything that’s really processed.

For exercise, I aim to eventually be able to do 24 minutes of HIIT for 6 days a week. I see no need to compromise with 20% of pleasure since I love calisthenics and I really need to reduce my blood cholesterol. The reason for 144 minutes of HIIT a week is because the American Heart Association recommends at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise / week, and the HIIT exercises I do are in 12 minute segments, so doing double the recommended minimum should help me optimize my physical fitness without eating into the time for other activities.

For solo time (as I’m an introvert), I will aim to have at least 20% of my waking hours reserved for solo time. That means for 105 hours a week, 21+ hours is spent alone to do whatever I want.

Let’s move onto relationships.

I will focus 80% of my socializing time on 20% of my friends, even after cutting our a significant portion of them from my life. That means of the 307 Facebook friends I currently have, I will focus on the 61 friends most of the time. As for the criteria of who would be the 20% I spend most of my energy on, it would be basically people who possess qualities I respect and admire, namely reasonable, open-minded, good tempered and graceful.

Regarding how much time I should spend on my friends, it would be the same for solo time, which is at least 20% of my waking hours. So for the 21+ hours I spend every week on relationships, 16.8+ hours is spent on my top 20% friends.

Next stop is financials.

For my budgeting, I will tolerate 20% of my budget for pleasure (thus I allow 25% expansion of budget on top of bare minimum expenses).

For positive budgeting surprises, I allow 20% of the positive surprise to go to my Regret Averse fund.

For investing, similar to time spent on solo time and friendships, I will spend at least 20% of waking hours to investing, with 80% of that time spent on researching on great companies worth buying and holding while 20% of that time is spent researching on companies that have decent moats at significant discounts to fair value.

Last stop is career.

I don’t think I have much of a choice but to yield at least 63 hours every week to work.

The only addition to my work would be to study at least 50XP every day on Duolingo for German.

Reflecting on “On Old Age” by Cicero

By Woodcut by unknown artist; book printed by Hieronymus Scotus; page scanned by Aristeas (Roman Eisele) from his own copy of the page. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As today’s my 24th birthday, I thought it appropriate to fast forward to my death bed to reflect on “On Old Age” by Cicero to provide insights on how I should conduct my life 24 years old onwards so that I can say I lived a good life.

First off, I should focus on improving my character everyday to be reasonable, open-minded, good tempered, and be graceful“For old men who are reasonable and neither cross-grained nor churlish find old age tolerable enough: whereas unreason and churlishness cause uneasiness at every time of life.”

Secondly, I need to focus on living a life of virtue, since “the arms best adapted to old age are culture and the active exercise of the virtues. For if they have been maintained at every period—if one has lived much as well as long—the harvest they produce is wonderful, not only because they never fail us even in our last days (though that in itself is supremely important), but also because the consciousness of a well-spent life and the recollection of many virtuous actions are exceedingly delightful.”

Since what constitutes a moral life is subjective depending on which school of thought, I’d like to define mine. For me, a life mixed between libertarian, Rawlsianism and utilitarian would be the ideal that I strive for. I strongly believe that everyone should be able to decide what they want to do with their body in life (libertarian), but in order for that to work, everyone needs to be economically sufficient enough to make choices out of free will rather than out of necessity, so for those who’ve won the ovarian lottery and thus possess aptitudes that are highly valued by society at this moment of time, these people need to give back to society whether through government tax or self-enforced tax (Rawlsianism and utilitarian). In the event that society faces upheaval that requires tough decisions in order to survive, personal liberties should be scarified if deemed as a temporary measure, but if the day comes that survival is impossible or extremely improbable, than personal liberties should be restored until the end of life.

The implications for me to living a life of virtue is thus this:

  • In everything that involves other people’s services, I must ensure to the best of my ability that the person is complying to service by self will rather than forced will.
  • Costs must be justified by benefits. When society or lives are not under serious threat, my stance is firmly on the side of people being able to do whatever they want with their bodies. If the ideal of personal liberties threatens existence, then no action or words should be enacted if the less than ideal existence is still pleasant and bearable in general.
  • I will try to be as tax efficient as possible (eg. Focus on capital gains rather than dividends to minimize tax impact of 30% dividend withholding tax), but not exploit loopholes to avoid paying taxes (eg. Not reporting income or setting up overseas entities for tax purposes). I will happily and promptly pay my taxes.
  • I will further self-tax my post-tax income based on Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save calculator to ensure economic sufficiency can be effectively tackled in areas that aren’t reachable by government initiatives.
  • When investing, when it comes to long term holdings, I will only buy and hold stocks of companies that are good corporate citizens (tries their best to be fair to all stakeholders) and provide products / services that societies can’t live without. This ensures companies whose existence benefits society is rewarded accordingly by stock prices that are less likely to go down because I’m unwilling to sell.
  • Even though I will punch above my weight when it comes to giving back to society, my life is still my life, so I don’t owe it to society that every decision I make would optimize maximum compounded financial returns for society. As long as I fulfill above-weight class contributions, I can do whatever I want with my money as long as it doesn’t infringe on libertarian values (eg. purposefully buying products / services that further the agenda of slavery).

Thirdly, I will keep improving myself so that I can be of value to society. “The great affairs of life are not performed by physical strength, or activity, or nimbleness of body, but by deliberation, character, expression of opinion”, “Old men retain their intellects well enough, if only they keep their minds active and fully employed. Nor is that the case only with men of high position and great office: it applies equally to private life and peaceful pursuits” and “But this is enough to show you how, so far from being listless and sluggish, old age is even a busy time, always doing and attempting something, of course of the same nature as each man’s taste had been in the previous part of his life.”

Fourthly, I will do things that my body permits me to do at different seasons of life if I really want to do it and it doesn’t infringe on libertarian principles, and make sure I exercise regularly (eg. HIIT) to improve my chances of still being physically active into old age. “You should use what you have, and whatever you may chance to be doing, do it with all your might”, “For what is more charming than old age surrounded by the enthusiasm of youth? Shall we not allow old age even the strength to teach the young, to train and equip them for all the duties of life? And what can be a nobler employment?”, “The course of life is fixed, and nature admits of its being run but in one way, and only once; and to each part of our life there is something specially seasonable; so that the feebleness of children, as well as the high spirit of youth, the soberness of maturer years, and the ripe wisdom of old age—all have a certain natural advantage which should be secured in its proper season”, “Active exercise, therefore, and temperance can preserve some part of one’s former strength even in old age.”

Fifthly, I will enjoy the pleasures of life in moderation using the 80/20 principle, where I will only indulge in the pleasures of life 20% of the time to yield 80% of the fun. “No ore deadly curse than sensual pleasure has been inflicted on mankind by nature, to gratify which our wanton appetites are roused beyond all prudence or restraint… For when appetite is our master, there is no place for self-control; nor where pleasure reigns supreme can virtue hold its ground”, ” For pleasure hinders thought, is a foe to reason, and, so to speak, blinds the eyes of the mind. It is, moreover, entirely alien to virtue”, ” Nor was I, in fact, ever wont to measure my enjoyment even of these banquets by the physical pleasures they gave more than by the gathering and conversation of friends”, “What pleasures are there is feasts, games, or mistresses comparable to pleasures such as these? And they are all tastes, too, connected with learning, which in men of sense and good education grow with their growth.”

Sixthly, I shall live everyday of my life reminding myself of my mortality so that there’s urgency to live life to its fullest, but to not be afraid of death when the day comes. “Death, that is either to be totally disregarded, if it entirely extinguishes the soul, or is even to be desired, if it brings him where he is to exist forever. A third alternative, at any rate, cannot possibly be discovered. Why then should I be afraid if I am destined either not to be miserable after death or even to be happy? After all, who is such a fool as to feel certain—however young he may be—that he will be alive in the evening? Nay, that time of life has many more chances of death than ours”, “Now the harvest of old age is, as I have often said, the memory and rich store of blessings laid up in earlier life. Again, all things that accord with nature are to be counted as good. But what can be more in accordance with Nature than for old men to die?”

Catching Up with Friends Project

By NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona (NASA Image of the Day) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So I’ve actually been on a secret project for a few weeks now where I’ve been filtering out my friends based on two criteria:

  • Is that person willing to meet up with me once a year if we’re geographically nearby?
  • Am I willing to meet up with that person once a year if we’re geographically nearby?

If any “friend” didn’t meet either criteria, I’d unfriend on Facebook.

The objective was to leave behind only real friends so that anytime I go through my Facebook timeline, every update was related to someone I really cared about.

This to me is the purpose of social media, which is a medium to let me better keep in touch with my friends.

And the learnings from this project have been quite profound:

  • I’m surprised by how many real friends I still have
    • I was half expecting my friends number to drop from 550+ to around 100-200, but right now I’ve drop to 361 (as of Jul 16th 2016) and the pace of unfriending has dropped significantly
  • It’s been a quite heart breaking experience too
    • There were quite a lot of friends when I glanced at their names and realized that we were quite tight before. Now quite a few of them had become quite distant due to my procrastination. Newton’s law of an object in motion stays in motion really applies in this situation when you the word replace “object” with “relationship”.
  • “If it’s to be, it’s up to me”
    • You can really filter out who really gives a damn about your relationship with them when you try to get an appointment with them. People who really want to see me maybe too busy at this moment of time, but they would always proactively propose future dates that might work out. People who don’t want to see you would either not reply you or just say something to the extent of “oh I’m busy”
  • I have OCD with people replying me within 48 hours
    • I’m not sure if it’s because I’m really self centered (people should respond to me!), I’m impatient (I want things to happen now!) or my professional habits spilling over to my personal life (48 hours is standard business etiquette! Oh wait, this is a personal interaction…), but it REALLY GETS INTO my nerves when people don’t reply me within 48 hours (actually I already start getting irritated if it doesn’t happen within 24 hours…). I’m really unsure if it’s just good etiquette to reply people within 48 hours unless your physically unable (dead, seriously ill, no internet connection etc.) or if I’m just being a dick (could simply be that I’m just a dick). But anyways, I do see a strong correlation with unfriending and people not replying me within 48 hours.
  • Many friends are actually going through tough times
    • But at the same time, it’s hard to discern if someone’s not replying you within 48 hours because they are physically unable, or if they’re going through a tough time. One thing that surprised me most was how many of my friends were going through tough times simultaneously. If it weren’t for me reaching out because of this secret project and really following up on people who weren’t responding, I really wonder how many friends have I overlooked or ignored when I could’ve lent emotional support? Or to put it more bluntly, how much of a friend am I?
  • I find myself to be very boring
    • Like boring for other people. I love investing and anything related to investing (psychology, history, sociology, economics, finance, engineering, maths etc.), and I’m always reading, thinking or learning about it, so it’s really exciting for me to talk about these topics, but I sometimes catch myself just always talking about the same topics over and over again. I had deja vu just now when a friend of mine kept talking about the same topic over and over again on the phone just now, which absolutely drove me a bit nuts. I’m surprised how many of my friends haven’t flipped their tables on me yet (Or maybe they have psychologically and are proactively avoiding me, which probably is why people don’t reply me within 48 hours :/).
  • I burn people out, like literally
    • I sometimes question if I’m too hardcore when it comes to relationships. I take every conversation quite seriously (unless it’s just a joke), so I’m always diligently replying or following up and always putting serious thought behind what I’m about to say. One example of burning someone out with my intensity was the girl I’ve been seeing, where she told me that she really tried to adopt this intense method of communication with me but ended up just burning out because of me and along with other things going on in her life. Thankfully we’re still friends, but any progression beyond friendship is definitely out of play.
  • I have a hard time being very close to people
    • Follow-up to my previous point, my intensity either makes people burn out or make people feel uncomfortable. Either way, reflecting upon my whole life so far, I’ve realized I’ve never had a “best friend” by conventional definition since I would always never hang out with the same people out of school / work. I’ve always just been too intense, which is why I end up needing personal time and my friends ending up burnt out.
  • It really sucks when people don’t reciprocate
    • This should’ve been a given, considering my aforementioned point, but it still stung. Each time. I still remember today where there was a friend who was going to Bangkok and very happily shared his / her boarding pass on Facebook. Seeing that the barcodes were explicitly shown (it actually contains a lot of information about you), I gently reminded him / her about the security risk of doing so and wished him / her a safe trip. He / she promptly covered up the barcodes with images and deleted my comment. I promptly unfriended him / her as well. Although this was an extreme case (1st case where not responding = unfriend), I just got pissed off how my suggestion was adopted, discarded and not thanked for.
  • It’s starting to get hard to keep in touch with people
    • Basically for any meet up I’ve had with friends in past few weeks, I’ve basically scheduled to meet up on a more regular basis. The good side is it meant I was consistently seeing friends I wanted to see, but the downside is that time and energy is just not on my side. As much as I love to socialize, I’m an introvert by nature, so I realized that at most I can only have 3 appointments every week lest I start burning out. And if I have 361 friends (maybe around 150 after taking out colleagues whom I see everyday and people who aren’t geographically nearby) and there’s 52 weeks in a year and my objective is to see my friends that are geographically close at least once a year, then my weekends have to be packed full since I will be overlapping with existing recurring appointments whom I would see more than once per year. So far I’m managing, but I need to really figure out a system to deal with this
  • Starting to compete with life’s other priorities
    • Related to the above point, but in terms of time and energy, being a good friend has meant that it’s been competing with health and work and giving up on family. Spending so much time going through annual reports and 10-Ks as part of my investing hobby is almost like a second job in a sense, which leaves so much less time to cultivate other interests or organize / join socializing activities. Also every time I have an appointment during the week, it absolutely wrecks that night’s sleep and possibly 2-3 more days of sleep as I just always get sleep deprived on the same night due to appointments always lasting until 9-10 pm. It starts making me question where I want my priorities to be.

Treat Yourself As a US Technology Company

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

Going into the US stock markets on Jun 24th after Brexit was confirmed made me confront the issue of how much cash to retain for emergency reserves, which then determines how much cash I can deploy to take advantage of the correction.

And I realized as a person who’s income is mainly from one source (employment) and would be completely obliterated in the event of a lay-off, I displayed characteristics like a typical US technology company – Once a disruption happens (technological disruption such as digital cameras for technology companies like Kodak, or economic recession after 1929’s Black Thursday that had 19% unemployment for people like me), income sharply drops to zero.

One could even argue, anyone who relies heavily on employment as their source of income displays characteristics of a typical US technology company on steroids. Any technology company that gets disrupted has their income sharply drop to zero, but it doesn’t drop to zero over night. For people like me, the income goes to zero over night once I’m laid off and receive my severance payment.

And that’s terrifying. Conventional advice for emergency reserves has always been around 6 months of cash. Let’s be generous and double it, but for the emergency reserves to work it assumes you can find a job within 12 months. Under normal economic conditions, the search for a new job could easily take 24 months, let alone during bad economic conditions where the economy was the reason that you got laid off and the reason why the job search gets prolonged.

So if the top 10 cash hoarding companies (IT and pharmaceuticals) have an average current ratio of 3[1] (which means if they had zero income they could survive for 3 years), and they have multiple lines of products / services that reduce the probability of all sources of income going to zero, shouldn’t employees like me who rely almost exclusively on employment for my source of income hold even more cash?

After all,wasn’t the book name of Intel’s Co-Founders Andrew Grove called “Only the Paranoid Survive“?

[Appendix]

[1] As of Jul 1st 2016, the current ratio of the following companies:

Apple – 1.28

Microsoft – 2.90

Alphabet – 5.14

Cisco – 3.27

Oracle – 3.74

Pfizer – 1.44

Johnson & Johnson – 2.83

Amgen – 4.95

Intel – 1.56

Qualcomm – 2.87

Reflecting on Four Burners Theory

I’ve been constantly thinking about the Four Burners Theory since James Clear released an article about it 7 days ago. The gist of the theory is that everyone has to juggle with four burners in life, namely family, friends, health and work. The dilemma that everyone has to face is that if you want to be successful you need to turn one burner off, and if you want to be really successful you need to turn two burners off.

The reason why I kept thinking about the Four Burners Theory was because it coincided with a recent period of feeling lost, where I was and still am in a middle of a period of reflection upon where I am in life and where I want to go in life.

So where am I in life? Actions speak louder than words, and so when I look at how my days are scheduled, I see a pattern emerging already on what my current habits implicitly prioritize:

[Weekdays] – 8 hours of sleep (Health), 1 hour of walking + calisthenics (Health), 30 minutes of filtering menus for the most healthy food option (Health), 75 minutes of eating healthy food (Health), 9 hours of work (Work), 1 hour reading / thinking about investing (Work), 3 hours 45 minutes of doing random things (Neutral)

[Weekends] – 8 hours of sleep (Health), 1 hour of walking + calisthenics (Health), 30 minutes of filtering menus for the most healthy food option (Health), 75 minutes of eating healthy food (Health), 3 hours reading / thinking about investing (Work), 2 hours chatting with mum (Family), 60 minutes chatting with friends (Friends)

So what do we have? 45% of my time spent on health, 33% of my time spent on work, 18% of my time spent on random things, 3% of my time spent on family and 1% of my time spent on friends.

Time Spent
I must say I’m surprised for the family and friends part. For someone who always publicly espoused that relationships are important to me (heck I even did a Europe trip just to exclusively meet friends), I look very like a hypocrite. Even if I merged family time with friends (I consider my mum to be a very close friend), that still only makes up a meager 4% of my spent time.

And I think that’s why I’m in a period of feeling lost. The recent combination of being friend zoned and getting promoted within a very short time frame made me really question my priorities.

Maybe it’s the pent up sadness / frustration that came from being friend zoned by someone you explicitly told you liked and whom reciprocated and was willing to try out but eventually found out that being in a relationship wasn’t for her that’s still affecting how I feel, but I can just sense how hollow I felt ever since even though I don’t really feel it since I’m very good at subconsciously disguising my emotions even to myself.

And that hollowness is telling me that something’s wrong, and that what’s wrong is my priorities aren’t aligned with what I want.

I think what it boils down is that I have no intention to be very successful in two aspects of life (which I am implicitly doing by spending 78% of my time on work and health), but rather be successful in three aspects of life (work, health and friends). And I am failing miserably on the latter.

One reason why I’m failing miserably is that I’m looking for heart to heart friendships in the wrong places. The workplace is a horrible place to find such relationships due to the need for professionalism and the huge amounts of conflict of interests between colleagues. Going to interest groups in meetup.com hasn’t been satisfying so far as they usually just end up being very small talk oriented. Overall my experience since university graduation is that it’s been very hard to get to know new friends which might develop into more heart to heart friendships.

Another reason why I’m failing miserably is that I seem to attract people who don’t like spending too much time together all the time. I mean sure that means that I can keep the friendships of a lot of people while I spend personal time with myself. But the downside is that I’m just never close to any particular friend. And come to think of it, I’ve never had any close friends in a conventional sense since I’m never always thinking of someone when I make plans or want to find someone to talk to.

Which leads to the other reason why I’m failing miserably. I’ve become very reclusive. I don’t know if it’s because the amount of time spent being by myself when outside of work, but whenever there’s a problem (emotionally, financially, physically etc.), my first reaction is never to ask for help or reach out – my first reaction is to deal with it myself. And the thing is, I’m usually able to solve it almost all the time. Even for the friend zone incident, sure it hurt like hell and I sure would like to cry those negative emotions out and get it over with, but I never sought out anyone for a crying shoulder or attentive ear, I just dealt with it just like how I deal with any other adversity I’ve faced since university graduation – with Stoic calm. I just acknowledge that the negative emotions are there but I’m able to keep my composure and keep my performance level or decision making at the same level. And this to a certain extent makes me less human as I just rarely share with others how I really feel, and thus it’s hard to expect anyone to reciprocate and share with you how they really feel too, so I just end up not having close heart to heart relationships.

So for all the success I’m having so far in my career, it’s as I expected, not fulfilling. I always knew I didn’t want career to be my only focus in life, but ironically it has been. For someone who keeps defending himself as not a workaholic but an unwilling person who’s working workaholic hours, I sure do act like one.

So I don’t know. I’m stuck. It’s not the first time where I kind of feel lost and sad about being lonely. The only difference is I would really break down and cry during high school or university while now I’m just calmly typing up this article and being very callous to my emotions.

Eating My Own Cooking for Financial Advice

By Madhu15121992 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Any friend I have a conversation with which ends up on the topic of investment or retirement savings would always end up with advice for investing which would be that “if you don’t have the interest, time, energy or competence to invest, stick with index funds”.

The rationale is simple, 90% of fund managers fail to beat the market.

But here comes the problem with my advice. Even though the advice is sound (read The Little Book of Common Sense Investing for a detailed explanation of why, I don’t get paid for referring you to John Bogle’s book), a lot of people always ask me, “well but what about you? Do you invest in index funds?”

And I think that’s the problem. I don’t invest in index funds, because I think I’m the statistically improbable few who can beat the market, and that sets a bad example to my friends of do as I say and not as I do.

Sure I have friends who say “well you did say if you don’t have the interest, time, energy or competence to invest you should stick with index funds, but you obviously have the interest, time, and energy”, but I’m pretty sure quite a few are actually convinced by my actions that they might be the statistically improbable few who can beat the market as well.

And generally speaking, for the majority of friends who hear my advice but go their own merry way to trade stocks with disregard to fundamentals or valuation, many have been burned badly. Still they remain deterred and continue stubbornly without index funds.

So when a friend actually told me that he took heed to my advice and was socking away a regular amount of money into the Hang Seng Index every month, a sense of responsibility and an epiphany dawned upon me.

For my friend who believed in me, my sense of responsibility compelled me to match the amount of money he’s invested so far in the Hang Seng Index and his monthly contributions to the Hang Seng Index as well. I wanted to eat my own cooking since if my advice of investing in index funds was shit, I’d suffer too.

The good thing about aligning interests was that it would also force me to closely monitor the fundamentals and valuations of the constituents of the Hang Seng Index since I absolutely hate overpaying for things and losing money. This way I could also give advice to my friend when to pause monthly contributions if overvalued, or even when to sell if the Hang Seng Index is ridiculously overvalued.

The epiphany part was basically that if I wanted my advice to be taken seriously, I needed to walk the talk. Sure the Hang Seng Index would never give me great returns, but it would still guarantee a good return at the right valuation, and that’s the lesson I want my friends to learn regarding index funds, that a good return is still good in a world of sub-market returns of active investing.

So that’s it, I’m officially indexing for a part of my stock portfolio so that I can eat my own cooking and walk the talk. The idea still kind of drives me crazy that that amount of capital would never generate potentially market beating returns (there’s still a decent amount of wide moat companies that I deem under to fairly valued), but if it helps me be responsible for the financial advice I give people and allow people to take my financial advice seriously, then so be it.

After all as mentioned earlier, a good return is still good.

[Disclaimer]

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

What I Learnt Cutting My Hair For A Few Months

This was my hairstyle before and after the few months cutting my own hair.

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This was my hairstyle (freshly cut) during the few months cutting my own hair.

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And this was my hairstyle when my hair grew out more.

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So what did I learn about cutting my own hair for a few months (from around mid-July 2015 to around mid-Jan 2016)?

1. If it doesn’t cost much to learn and do something, and you’re intrigued, go for it.

I had the idea of cutting my own hair one weekend when I thought to myself, “I’m paying QB House $50 every month just to cut a very simple haircut (see the 1st photo). Why don’t I go cut my own hair and save that money?”

And so I did. I paid $498 for a Philips QG-3362 Multigroom Plus and went ahead and taught myself how to cut my own hair referencing this article called “How To Cut Your Own Hair With Clippers“.

2. Bank on the activity’s ROI on the fun you get from fulfilling your intrigue rather than financial ROI.

Theoretically speaking, a $498 hair clipper would break-even after 10 cuts. Considering I cut my hair around once every 3 weeks, I probably only did cut my hair for 9 times.

Which means I never did break-even before I called quits.

I think the same can be said about my Kindle, since I don’t think I’ve broke-even yet on the price I bought the Kindle with the savings I made on cheaper e-Books versus hard copy books.

And that taught me a good lesson, which is any purchase that promises to save you money on a long haul should be carefully reviewed before committing to it, because the premise of the long term savings relies on consistently reaping the benefits of the purchase, but I usually over-estimate / under-estimate how much I can or am willing to commit to any purchase.

You might save more on the average unit cost theoretically, but in reality you might end up spending more on average unit cost if you don’t fully utilize your purchase.

3. When making a purchase that promises to save you money on a long haul, take your salary into consideration

I usually quantitatively measure my time’s worth based on the hourly rate of my monthly salary divided every hour in a month. I call it my passive hourly rate (money I’d make by just being alive).

It might sound ridiculous that I consider myself getting paid outside of work as well, but essentially the clause in my contract of not being able to do part time work unless getting approval by my line manager is implying that my company owns my time at work and off work.

And from a company or personal perspective, rest is work, because maximizing productivity in a short term but risking the employee burning out doesn’t make much business sense. A well rested employee that has consistently good productivity makes business sense.

And making those calculations made me realize that cutting my own hair just wasn’t worth it. The number of hours required to cut my hair and clean up * passive hourly rate was higher than the savings I was making versus my alternative (which was QB House).

Couple with the fact that I also had to break-even my Philips hair clipper purchase first before I could reap any financial benefits, then the whole thing made less and less financial sense a few months into the project.

4. If the displeasure from hassle > pleasure from activity, really consider quitting

I quit cutting my own hair at least 2-3 months late.

I probably continued because I was lazy to switch my decision (which is ironic since committing to cutting my own hair cost me even more hours). Or maybe it was sunk cost bias of not wanting to let my hair clipper’s investment go to waste. But either way, I was stupidly 2-3 months late in calling quits.

And the signs were so obvious I should’ve been quitting earlier:

  • I really hated having to clean up my hair every time I cut (I grow hair very fast).
  • It was always frustrating to get my hairstyle right (even though I was already choosing a relatively easy style, the High and Tight), especially on the back side with no additional help.
  • As I improved in hair cutting skills it created a sense of discontentment as I realized that if I really wanted to cut my hair the way I really wanted it, I would need to buy more equipment (hair trimmer and hair thinning scissors) and spend more time per haircut to perfect the fading.

And that just killed the fun out of the activity.

The original premise was that I’d cut my own hair and have an easy time because my hairstyle was a simple one, but for something that could be done in 10 minutes by a barber I would require so much more time since I had to constantly evaluate my hair cutting progress with many mirrors and measurements.

5. Some kinds of money really deserve to be earned by the professionals

This cut my own hair experience really gave me a new appreciation for barbers.

Something that seemed so simple was simply because the barber has paid his / her due to be able to cut a decent hairstyle in 10 minutes (I’m still referencing QB House). Plus he / she has all the equipment to get the job done in 10 minutes, rather than mimic different effects with just one equipment (hair clipper).

And to an extent, for $60 / haircut (yes QB House has increased their price recently), the money I pay for knowledge / experience / equipment arbitrage is really nothing.

It saves me money compared to cutting my own hair, it’s much more fun, and I end up liking the end product more (since I can better communicate with the barber what I want since I know about the hair cutting techniques better).

But all in all I enjoyed the experience, and I have no regrets going ahead to do something like this.