Two Months into 2017

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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.

Hypothetical Question

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“Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew no one.

You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500 dollars.

What would you do in the next 7 days?”

This question is posed by John Lee Dumas, founder of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast.

As I sat down to ponder about this question, I guess that the core of the question is asking “What skills do I have today that I can monetise instantly?”

Throw this question to the average Singaporean and chances are they will be stumped as how to answer it. $500 is not a large sum to survive on — if the answer is to start trawling job websites for something that fits the skills that they have, how long will it take before they can be gainfully employed? One or two months? Or even longer? Beyond the knowledge and skill set that their current employer requires of them, what secondary skills do they have that will allow them to start making money quickly?

Personally I think I would be hard pressed to find an exact answer myself. If I were to rule out the option of trying to sit squat and keep spamming job websites in the hope that someone would respond — a rather passive approach, I think — the next few options could be to:

1) approach non-profit organisations to offer my help. It could be to help them modernise their website, handling day-to-day operations, basically anything that could be of use to them. The goal would be to start interacting with other people and broadening my social network. With time, I would be able to meet people from all walks of life and have contacts that can place me in another position

2) approach a language school and offer to work administratively, while again building up my networks with the teachers and students there so I can start building out a side income as a language conversation partner. Also, to offer translation services.

3) start attending meet ups in the areas I am interested to move towards

4) bid for projects to work on in translation/writing/research work

4) with some or all of the activities done above, to start looking for product gaps — products that people want but cannot find online — and start thinking about how I can offer them that product.

I read several people’s responses on another website to see what they were writing about. In the end, it all boiled down to the same key points: that you must start an online profile, expand your social circle, and work like mad to offer your services to anyone who could need it.

Is there anything that I missed?

Beliefs

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Our thoughts shape us. Who we are today is a reflection of the thoughts and beliefs we have held in our heads for the longest time.

I was just thinking about my own thought systems and beliefs this morning. Over the past year I have read numerous blogs of digital nomads, people who have been traveling the world while working from their laptops. I was very envious of how they were able to dictate their own lifestyles, choosing when and where they would work from.

And then I thought to myself, why can’t I be one of them as well? To live a wandering life on the road, constantly seeking new places to go and meeting new people?

Being a digital nomad is definitely not for everyone. Those with commitments will find it difficult to instantly pack their bags and go. But I think, is this way of thinking really just a self-limiting and convenient excuse for just staying with the status quo?

Of course, there will be people who do have genuine commitments that force them to remain in one location. The one reason that comes to mind is when a family member is ill and require caretaking on a daily basis. Aside from this, almost every other “commitment” that I can come up with falls into the “excuses” bucket.

“What about my mortgage? And my credit card bills? My student loans? All these are keeping me in place! I can’t possibly just wander away without any income!”

It’s true that you should not just pack your bags and go without having built for yourself another source of income that you can rely on when travelling. But I’m sorry to say, all these “commitments” WERE consciously undertaken by you, so there is always another way to consciously relieve yourself of them. All you need is to be a little more creative in managing your way out of these commitments. Often that boils down to being able to think out of the box, even if it were for just a while.

The mind is one of the most, if not THE most powerful tools ever known to man. If one chooses to construct his life like a cage, where he is bound by his own bars, it will be impossible to break free. Instead of complaining about how circumstances suck, perhaps it might be more productive to allow oneself to build a larger cage instead. Or even better, why live in that cage in the first place when the keys are already in one’s possession?

Away from civilian life

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This week, being in reservist has made me thankful for the simpler things in life. The ability to sit in front of my desk, surfing the internet in an air-conditioned room are simple day-to-day comforts that most of us have taken for granted. Also, I am re-discovering the simple things in life, like being able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want while I am out of the camp over the weekend. It was a heck of a week as my unit cleared our stations for ATEC 1, and next week will be even tougher as we head outfield for another week.

On a side note, the amount of creativity that people have always never fails to inspire and amaze me. Alongside catching up on my reading activities, listening to podcasts and clearing my inbox, I keep thinking to myself about the many ways people are generating ideas and making profits out of them. It only takes part curious mind, part research and mostly good-old rolling-up-the-sleeves to achieve something!

We are already heading into the third week of 2017, and there is so much more to be done. Yet I wonder how many people have started to fall behind their 2017 resolutions/goals. While in camp I met a serviceman who is in the business of branding consultancy. He has had a non-typical career path, with many side hustles along the way. I really respect and admire people who are able to juggle many hats at one go, and continue to be surprised at how people are lulled into a false sense of security with their day jobs being the single source of income for their household. No one needs any reminder that times are bad for finance professionals at this moment, so anyone with an inkling of an idea for a side hustle should definitely spend some time looking at how they can create more income opportunities for themselves.

Speaking of side hustles, a new podcast that I have been absolutely loving is Chris Guillebeau’s Side Hustle School. Every podcast episode features normal people like you and I who have managed to start side hustles while holding full-time day jobs. I like it for its bite-sized content, with podcast episodes going under 10 minutes for most, making them ideal for listening while on the go without being overloaded with too much information. A new episode is released every single day – making it a useful source for personal motivation to get started on a side hustle yourself. Give it a go!