Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Psyching myself for 2011

One of the good point about being a self employed tutor is that you can control the amount of work that you do in order to control the amount of income that you earn. This in turns affects the amount of savings you can feasibly achieve, especially after you've kept track of your expenses and know approximately your savings ratio. I can imagine being an employed worker who wants to increase his saving ratio but will be hard pressed to squeeze more out of the available pay or the available time to make more active income. I mean you can't control the amount of bonus or promotion that your superiors will grant you, and working hard/smart doesn't necessary translate into tangible financial rewards.

The bad thing about being a self employed tutor is the amount of planning that had to be done in order to maintain status quo pay. While an employed can enjoy the carry-over pay from last year, I will have to work hard to maintain status quo pay, harder in order to increase my pay, yet even harder to have bonus. What I earned last year need not necessarily be what I will earn in 2011 because basically I start over again at the beginning of the new year. It's like the doomed Greek dude, Sisyphus, who is cursed to roll a boulder up a hill but before it can reach the peak, the boulder will come rolling down hill again. The poor Greek dude will have to repeat this for all of eternity.

Hey, try getting retrenched every end of the year and get hired back at $0 pay at the beginning, then prove your worth and repeat this again and again. It's not funny and imaginably so, it's quite stressful for me towards this part of the year.

I like the caption: Realizing the impossible. Can we change it to improbable? Hmm...

But don't get me wrong, I'm not whining about the advantages and disadvantages of being self employed. Me getting worried about my pay check is the same as me clearing up the clutter to prepare for the new year. And oh my, this new year is something of a mixed bag of feelings. On one hand, I'm feeling the pressures of paying off a huge amount of my savings on my home. On the other, it's a little exciting to think about all the different renovation ideas and furniture that I can buy to do up my nest. Oh, and to live a life together with my wife and the potential to stay at home to work. This, on top of the yearly pressures of matching up 2011's salary to 2011's salary, is perhaps robbing me some nights of good restful sleep. I don't spend my waking hours thinking about it but I guess subconsciously I still do. I can't control my subconscious, can you?

Another huge part of the stress is the amount of uncertainty overshadowing the next two years. I'm really going to step over my comfort zone and move into a new era of my life intermingling with stay-at-home work. I don't like coping with new things and I need time to adjust. But suddenly a lot of things in my life are turning around, for better or for worse, and this makes me uncomfortable. It's not that I don't understand being uncomfortable is actually a good thing but as the saying goes, it's easier said than done. I wish I could just say it rather than do it. Every fiber in me is screaming at me to go back to the comfort zone and not to take up any risk but I'll still go on ahead ignoring all of them. It's like the head has a plan, the heart is willing to do it, but the body is weak. So the head starts to doubt and the heart wills the body further and the body pushes on. Don't know if I'm making sense here.

It certainly doesn't help that every person I met is thinking that I'm overpaying for my flat. Geez, even my mother in law is saying that and asking my wife if we can keep up the payments. In days when my mental strength is stronger, I can repel it off but these few days are my 'down days'. Little things like these, when taken frequently, just wears off my armor.

Hey, but I got to turn this around and make it to my advantage. It's like when I was doing my third and fourth year in university and I was striving to get a first class honours. By taking the usual buffet of required modules and getting all As, I could not hit the requirements. There just isn't enough points to hit the requirement, even with all the modules in 3rd and 4th year getting As. So I came up with a plan to take extra modules (I think I took around 4 in total). If I managed to get an A for all of the extra modules and an A for all the required modules, I'll be able to hit the points requirement for first class honours. The naysayers said I'm wasting my time and it can't be done. Impossible. Nobody wanted to do it together with me. In the end, it was a lonely road up to accomplish a goal on a plan that nobody thinks is possible. On hindsight, I could have given up and proven all the naysayers right. 

But I didn't.

And I'm going to do an 'impossible' task again. Impossible? Let's add an apostrophe and a spacing to impossible. I'm possible.


AK71 said...

Hi LP,

That's the spirit! Stiff upper lip! Soldier one, old boy! Hip hip hooray! :D

Armour wearing off? Imagine your wedding ring as a Ring of Protection +3! I had one of those when adventuring as a Cleric! Well, your wedding ring is like a Ring of Protection. Think positive. ;)

Ken said...

Nice post.

I've been there and I'm still going through a lot of what you've described.

It certainly isn't easy. Even our subconscious and conscious minds are giving conflicting signals at times. Even we ourselves have doubts when we feel weak. That's how I tend to forgive others for not giving the necessary support.

However I'm sure you can do it again, like how you've done it over and over in the past. And I'll strive for excellence as well!

Anonymous said...


Everyone of us has this feeling when moving into uncharted waters. That is why it is always easier to start a venture when you are young and don’t have so many fixed commitments and before you are in your comfort zone.

Imagine if you have the apartment and a kid ? Chances are, most people would look for a fixed income and forget about the uncertainties of working for your own. But it is also where working for your own can bring rewards where working for others cannot match. You call the shots and you decide how hard you want to work. What you earn is yours to keep.

Plan your moves and move one step at a time. Like in engineering, break the problem down into manageable smaller ones and solve them. You have decided to take this path so move forward and don’t look back. Cross the bridge when you come to one. No point worrying about how many bridges you have to cross at the beginning of your journey.

Frankly, I don’t see how you can fail if you have the determination to succeed. The tuition industry is never going to contract, thanks to the increasingly difficult syllabus in schools. It would be an interesting journey where you would be forced to learn new skills and experience difficult situations. But then, only through these experiences will you grow, mature and move on to handle more complex situations.

The night is darkest before the dawn

Fellow Engineer

Anonymous said...

Cool story, bro.

I guess the real question is "Was it worth the effort?"

Your friends may not want to take the extra modules with you, because, to them, university life is not only about grades. They may be happy with a 2nd upper with more time to enjoy university life. You get to do it only once, right?

So, on hindsight, was the first class honours worth the sacrifice, given what you are doing now?

Again, ask yourself about your new venture. Is it worth the effort? ;)

Derek said...

Hi LP,

Look at it this way, you are fortunate that you are forced out of your comfort zone. This enables you to be more prudent.

For myself, I know that I have to step out of my comfort zone but the environment around me makes me complacent.

Negativity only makes you want to work harder to succeed because you have nothing to fall back on but for me, it will only encourage me to hide back into my shell.

As the year draws to a close, look at the positives, learn from the negatives and strengthen you beliefs. I believe you will have a fruitful year ahead.


Musicwhiz said...

Hi LP,

Nice and honest post, I like that!

So it seems December is your most relaxing, yet also your most stressful month as you worry if you can keep up the "business" in the following year. Wow quite a mixed bag of feelings indeed, and all I can say is with your talents and reputation, I am sure you can get the students and maintain your income.

But it's true that I perceive being self-employed as more difficult than being an employee. I prefer the fixed hours and fixed salary, and also the CPF contribution, annual leave and medical leave. For me it makes it easier to budget and to plan my time. But to each his own - just relaying my feelings on this.

I've no doubt that you are a great tutor! Don't let the stress get to you and just relax and enjoy the festive period. Also don't let the in laws and older people bug you - this one I can relate to! It's not easy but you have to do what's right for you and your wife and only you know what's right cos other people aren't living your life, so the best they can do is offer their version of what's best.

Happy New Year!


Createwealth8888 said...

To add on to MW's comments on leaves and other benefits:

Don't forget employee's medical benefits, vacation allowance, annual health-screening and full-pay hospitalization leaves up to 90 days and some companies may have extended hospitalization leaves up to another 90 days at half-pay.

Some companies in addition to annual leave may have x days of flexible leaves for child and dependent care (e.g. spouse, parents, grand-parent)

MakeTraffic said...

Hi LP, that is one of the most encouraging posts. You not only psych yourself up but also me as well.

First class honours! wow! I salute. Not for the 1st class but for the effort you have to go through. I have been there (no, i did not get 1st class :-P but what you said brings back memories.

Never mind what others say. Just live your life. As what MW said, it is your life not theirs and you know what is best for you.

One thing i do every end of the year is to count my blessings. I am thankful for all the things i blessed with; family, health, house and a job.

By the way, i like ALL your posts. i am a regular fan of MW, AK71 and yours. It helps me to de-stress after hard days work and to motivate me as well. So KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

HAPPY 2011!

Singapore Man of Leisure said...

I hear you!

I too am weaning myself off the "addiction" of a regular paycheck in exchange for the freedom to start living!

I am 43 years old, started late; but better late than never!

All the best to your journey.

la papillion said...

Hi AK,

Oh I like the idea of the wedding ring as a ring of protection :) But jade's ring is better, she got three little diamond studds, so her ring is really +3. Mine is just a plain vanilla ring of protection..better than nothing haha!

la papillion said...

Hi Ken,

You agree too? There are times when my self doubt rises to a dangerous level where everything I see is pessimistic, there's why I posted this to let it off my chest. Immediately I felt much better.

I've mentioned before that blogging is therapeutic to me :)

Thanks for your encouragement Ken! May you reached excellence in the coming year :)

la papillion said...

Hi Fellow engineer,

It's nice and warming to hear from a fellow engineer who understand my thoughts and how to solve problems. Divide and conquer, yes!

I think as a self employed, I'm losing out on a lot of fronts in terms of benefits, so I better buck up and maximise my only advantage - which is unlimited pay and maximum control over my time.

Otherwise, I might as well go and work for others :)

Thanks for your encouragement :)

la papillion said...

Hi anonymous,

Interesting question to answer, "Is it worth the effort?"

Regarding the first class honours thingy, it's worth the effort for me. It gives me a lot of self confidence and the determination that as long as I put my heart into something, i can do it even though others might not see it.

Thanks for your enlightening question, I'll keep that in my mind!

la papillion said...

Hi Derek,

You feeling comfortable? Don't dig in so comfortably that it's hard to dig out later...don't be like me! I've dug myself a nice little pattern and routine for almost 5 yrs...it's been a long while since i'm feeling uneasy about the new year because of uncertainties, bro.

I thank you for your encouragement :)

la papillion said...

Hi mw,

You like my post? Thanks :)

Usually my self doubt is not strong enough to make me feel depressed, but it had been accumulating inside me for the past few weeks so I have to get it off my chest by blogging it out. I almost always feel better after doing that :)

I'll TRY not to let other people's view get in my way. I'll remember that dearly :) Thanks for your encouragement and have a merry new year!

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

There's a lot more bad things i can say about being self employed. Interesting, when I first started, I never really pay much attention to these bad stuff...and now that I'm into it, I doubt I can work for another person again. I seriously doubt I can.

I guess I just have to make it bigger than I would ever be if I'm employed. That's the only way to offset the good things I'm missing out in being an employed worker.

la papillion said...

Hi Maketraffic,

You got psyched up as well? Good for you, because I did after I blogged it out :)

The most encouraging thing I get from blogging are those sincere comments from strangers whom I've never met before but still found my post resonating enough to comment on it. It's for readers like you whom I dedicate the blog too.

Thanks for your encouragement! :)

la papillion said...

Hi Man of leisure,

Wow, new blogger, hi! I love your blog and would love to see what's your next 12 months towards retirement would be like - it'll be so interesting!

Thanks for your encouragement, I wish you all the best in the coming year too!

Chong Jun said...

Hey LP,

hope its not too late to comment.

What you have mentioned in your uni life truly inspires me to work even harder and looking even more forward towards my last phrase of education.

I might not be able to understand the kind of situation you are going through right now regarding the payment of house and upcoming time bombs which you have mentioned in your previous post, but I sincerely do wish you all the best. (:

la papillion said...

Hi CJ,

Wow, I didn't know the post is so inspiring :) I only wrote it to flog myself to work harder haha :)

Thanks for your well wishes. I wish you the best in your last phase of your study as well :)

Ken said...

Hey, I do not think you are overpaying. Most people just do not understand the pricing of property in a good location (its been going one way, just up up up). I am in the same situation, faced the same criticism, but I have been living in my new place for over half a year now and I think its the best investment in my life, so take heart! and I also feel that being self employed is the way to go, just that I do not have the courage to do so, at least not yet

la papillion said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for sharing your experiences :) Self employed is not an easy path to walk, because you've to learn a lot of things just to keep pace with others who are employed. But ultimately, I hope the rewards will be worth the effort :)

Have a merry new year!