The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation

I read an excellent post from the Art of Manliness here, from which I note the following observations:

Notions of success are personal. “Thoreau wasn’t ambitious for the traditional status markers held up by society, he was ambitious for something else: life. Life at its very essence. Life in its fullest form.” How many of us buzz around life like busy bees, without stopping to smell the roses? Or get so caught up in our endless pursuit of wealth that we fail to see that that the journey there had been filled with lessons and meaning that we never thought to consider? Has financial security and a big bank account balance become the only measure by which we can consider ourselves to be successful? Thoreau certainly did not think so.

External vs internal pursuits. “Approaching the world with imaginative openness, Thoreau lived for intense insight and for direct experience… His aim was to know himself, and to preserve this self sovereign in the face of the pressure to conform to deadening conventionalities.

To Thoreau, his rich sense of the inner world provided more than enough stimulation for him. This compared to our “busy lives” mentality seems incomprehensible at first, but I realise that introverts can relate. The blog post states that Thoreau was mostly homebound and rarely traveled far from home, yet he was able to live such an enlightened life. Most people constantly seek more things to add to their lives – more money, more friends, more hobbies, but Thoreau’s point was that these external pursuits will create an endless cycle of coveting for “other things”. His solution was to instead look within, to rediscover the minute things already in his life and to rediscover the “worlds within worlds”.

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Can’t help but insert reference to Inception here 🙂  what lies within our own “world within world”?

Deep sense of appreciation of nature. What can city-dwellers learn?

As a city-dweller, I am not privy to the sights and sounds of the big outdoors. I can’t just decide to take the weekend off and venture deep into the forest for a field trip, or take in majestic views of a mountain complete with the calm stillness of a giant lake. Thoreau had these “props” that he used to stir his curiosity; what can people who live in cities use?

We have little nature reserves and parks in Singapore that most of us will admit to visiting “many years ago”… why not give them a second try? Perhaps something new will spring out of an otherwise seemingly-boring nature reserve? Or as I would often like to think, perhaps the interactions with one another, understanding someone else’s perspective in life is enough stimulation to begin the journey into my own inner life.

Job Security? Whose World Do You Live In?

It is no secret that the fund management industry has been under siege of late. Flip any newspaper that covers the financial services industry and you will see how active managers are finding it harder to justify their management fees, while fending off criticism on their inability to produce returns in excess of the benchmark. Banks are letting go of their employees to lower their costs from shrinking top lines.

With that said, certain sectors within finance have been more insulated than the others when it comes to layoffs. Having been on the buy side, I can attest to this. But I recently heard about the newest round of layoffs from a company I worked for previously. To my knowledge, they have never had to reduce their headcount here in the Singapore office. Up till now.

Job Security? Please look elsewhere… perhaps in a galaxy far, far away

I had thought that people working there would be very safe against the usual banking-style hire and fire cycles. But it seems like business conditions have become so dire that they have no choice but to cut costs this way. It is yet another reminder to myself that there is no such thing as job security – even in workplaces where you think you can park yourself till retirement comes.

It also reminded me that we cannot rely on having just one source of income. The traditional “iron rice bowl” concept just doesn’t exist anymore. I do acknowledge that there are still companies that have many employees hanging around till they retire – and congratulations if you are in one of them – but for most people, that idea should no longer exist in their minds. Even so, most people still stick to having just one source of income i.e. their jobs. What happens when the axe falls?

I am big believer in diversifying sources of income. There are many ways to do this. Investing (be it stocks, bonds, funds, property etc) is one good way to achieve this. But doing so requires you to put up quite a large sum of money upfront. To those who do not have so much spare cash lying around, it can be difficult to start.

But there are so many other things that one can do to diversify. Starting a small project on the side that doesn’t take up too much time is a good way to dip your toes into the water. If you have a skill or knowledge that you can leverage on to earn extra income, why not? So many people talk about being disengaged from work. If they were to tap into their existing pool of experience and knowledge, and harness it to generate some spare cash, who knows what that could bring in the future?

Two Months into 2017


We are now 1/6 of the way into 2017 already and time really passes so quickly. From my reservist at the start of the year, which then flowed into Chinese New Year and a February marked by my transition into a new function within my corporate job, it has been quite easy to lose track of time. I thought I’d write this post mainly for my own purposes to review what I have learnt over the past two months.

Looking back at the goals I set for 2017, I think it is safe to say I will have to continue being focused and trim down the list of things to do even further. After some consideration, I am already thinking of dropping the idea of going for JLPT N1 again this year due to the onerous commitments that will bring. N1 is akin to studying for the CFA, only perhaps (a little) less stressful because it is a lot more about memory work than trying to learn and understand new concepts.

What went well?

  •  Finally took action on getting the online shop up. Placed orders in early February only to experience delays and unexpected additional shipping costs. But all in good stride – this was meant to be part of the learning journey, with many more lessons to come.

What could have been improved?

  •  I admit I have used the rainy weather as a convenient excuse, but I do need to keep tabs on how often I exercise (read: MORE).
  • Fallen a bit behind on reading, but a minor problem that can be fixed easily.

Most interesting podcasts:

Sidehustleschool, the new podcast by renowned world traveller Chris Guillebeau, is quickly becoming one of my favourite podcasts. Chris sought out to create a show where he introduces everyday people creating side hustles. Each day there is a new case study of someone earning extra income apart from going to their day jobs. What I like about the podcast is that 1) episodes are mostly (deliberately) kept under 10 minutes to make them ‘bite-sized’ so that you can finish it along your daily commute, 2) Chris tries to illustrate how there are many ways to having a side hustle – if you keep listening you will realise that the featured business models vary from episode to episode, and 3) some of the weird and crazy ideas stir up thoughts on how I can generate more ideas myself.

Among the episodes I liked:

  • Someone who turned unwanted penny coins to a work of art by arranging them to form a mosaic of Abraham Lincoln, later selling the poster outline online
  • A political analyst who sources for cheap flight deals online on behalf of his clients, earning on a subscription model basis as people pay to be notified whenever cheap deals are found
  • A Gallup Strengths Finder coach who printed his clients’ Top Strengths onto mugs, generating sales through his customised merchandise
  • An engineer who, being good with his hands, sold hand-crafted slate artwork to people who wanted signs that showed which state they were from
  • A guy who dropships crickets from cricket farms in the US to other buyers (perhaps to make cricket protein bars? hmm…)

Listening to Sidehustleschool has opened up my eyes to the many creative ways people are earning an extra side income, and inspires me to continue to look out and be curious.

Shows I recently watched:
I do not watch much TV at all, but I do watch some dramas and catch the occasional movie. Watching movies and dramas offer me a temporary glimpse from the perspective of others, and stir emotions within me that are not so regularly felt during the regular hum-drum of office life.

The Man in the High Castle. An alternate history drama in a world where the Nazis won WW2. It is chilling how there are so many parallels between what is happening today in the world and what went in in Europe in the early 20th century. Watch this to provoke your senses on what could have been, and what could possibly come (assuming a worse case scenario).

Jin, Seasons 1 and 2. I suspect most K-drama fans will know this as Dr Jin, but the original series did start as a Japanese drama adaptation of the manga by Motoka Murakami, so yea… It’s an old drama (2009-2011) about the protagonist who travelled back to the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate (much like Nobunaga Concerto, another J-drama whose main character travels even further back in time, to Oda Nobunaga’s period in 1500s). Watch this if you are a time travel drama fan while reflecting on humanitarianism and its progress over the centuries.