Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Sharing my emotional upheaval

Whenever I'm feeling moody, or easily irritated, I try to correct my own biochemistry first. This means that I will settle all my physical bodily needs. Do I have enough food, water, rest and leisure time? If I don't have any of these, I will try to correct them first and see if I feel better. Most of the time, I do. Usually, I don't have enough sleep, and I'm always surprised by how much a good night's rest or even a short afternoon nap can do wonders for my emotional stability.


But if I did all these, and I'm still feeling miserable, I think there are some deeper issues at work here. There are a few types of issues, but I'm not an expert, so I will rather not mislead. I can only share the ones that I've experienced before. 


A long long time ago, the stock market crashed and I lost a large percentage of my networth. How did I lose it? I keep averaging down as it goes down, thinking that the fundamentals are still intact. Eventually, I can't take the losses and cut them off at a huge loss. That stock is Longcheer. Is it still around? I'm not sure. In hindsight, I lost more than the money - I lost confidence in myself and I was suitably depressed for about 3-4 months. I think it was quite serious because others around me can feel my gloominess and I even entertained thoughts of suicide. That's when I knew it was bad. I eventually clawed my way out of it by working hard. I realised that by working, I can put the needs of my students ahead of mine, and for that time being, I can forget my own troubles. But at night? Nighttime is the hardest period to go through if you're depressed. There are fewer distractions and you just have to deal with your own troubled mind alone.


I guess I'm lucky that I got out of it on my own. I might sink so deep that I can inflict irreversible self-harm. That episode made me stronger and more empathetic regarding such inner turmoil. It's quite useful in my line of work since students these days are so highly strung up that they might be just one trigger from crumbling catastrophically. I heard that more and more young adults too are facing tremendous stress and are suffering emotionally.



I have recommendations to make for anyone who needs such help.


I have a good friend Patrick, who did a mid-life career switch from IT to counselling. Counselling is not exactly a field that one associate with making big bucks, so you can be sure he switched because of his natural passion and affinity towards it. Nobody I know makes a career switch midlife because he wants to make more money as his primary reason (though it could be a 'side effect'). 


Patrick is now doing an internship, working for his clinical hours. He has started accepting clients for therapy and it is 100% free of charge and with no obligations, and no hard sell to sign up for packages. The sessions are conducted on Google Meet (fully HIPAA compliant) and will last typically 60 to 90 mins per session. If necessary, face to face sessions can be arranged near OCBC center on Saturdays.


What have you got to lose? At worst, you wasted your time only since there's no financial cost to this. At best, you find the right match for a person that can guide you out of your underlying issues. For people who needs this, I think it's a godsend. Patrick comes highly recommended by me since we've been good friends for many years. I might even consult him except that I can't, because he adheres strictly to SAC ethical guidelines so he can't do therapy for friends/family due to dual relationship issues.


This is not a sponsored post by Patrick. He didn't ask me to do this and I have no financial gains for referring clients to him. I just want to help him and believes that he can help others since I trust him enough to endorse him personally for his services. You can reach him through email at patrick.toh@solace.asia.


Monday, March 01, 2021

I have a spate of good luck recently...

I had a spate of good luck recently in the past week or so.


Firstly, my car that was parked got bumped by another person (let's say that the driver is a male for convenient's sake). It's not a huge dent since cars that are parking are moving at a slow speed. The good thing is that he put an ang bao on the windscreen with his contact details and is willing to pay for the cost. That's cool. I have had people bumping into my car and running away. 


Secondly, my washing machine died on me. I had used it for 10 years so I guess it got tired. Thankfully it died when the water is maybe about 10% filled. If it's anything higher, the washing machine will lock up the door with the water inside and that will be disastrous. The good thing is also that there is only like 3 pieces of clothing inside, so it's not that bad to remedy the whole laundry situation. I always say that things that can be solved by money are a small problem. I've already ordered a new one, and hopefully, by the time this article is online, my laundry problem would have been resolved.


Thirdly, I put an order to sell a counter after my gym session in the morning. Perhaps I was too tired so I didn't check properly. I actually used a different platform to buy and to sell the counter, so effectively I'm doing a short sell. Thankfully after an afternoon nap, I woke up suddenly and had a sinking feeling that something is not quite right. I double-checked and realised my mistake, so I sent a quick buy order to neutralise the naked short sell. I lost $23 as a result of this dumb error, but the good thing is that I could have lost hundreds because of the penalty imposed by SGX for naked short selling. I'm also quite impressed by my sudden insight to check my sell order after my nap lol



Lastly, an ex-student of mine sent me an appreciation text. I taught him 10 years ago. Just the week before, I went by his address and thought about him, so it's really great to have him contact me again to tell me that he is going to start work soon. It's great to know that I did something right and changed someone's life for the better. That really made my day (and week).


Just always try to look on the bright side of things. Live long and prosper.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

How to save time?

To save time, there are really just three ways. The first way is to make our usage of time more productive, hence we use less of it, thus saving it. If instead of accomplishing just 1 thing, we aim to accomplish 2 or more things at the same time. That's saving time. The second way is to change our perception of how we utilise time to 'save' it. If we hate reading and doing any reading is perceived as a waste of time, then changing our attitude towards reading will make our usage of time more productive. Not doing something you dislike is time saved. Nobody wants to save time when doing something that they like. The third way is to spend other resources to save time. Usually, that means spending money to save on time, but not always. I can use relationship points to save time too. If I've accumulated many points to strengthen my relationship with a friend, I can ask my friend to help me to do something that saves me lots of time. 



This post complements the previous one. There are so many things to do and so many projects to accomplish that you might ask how can anyone do that? Here, I will share how I handle some of these tasks. It's easier to give examples:


1) Laundry/folding

Nobody I know likes doing laundry and folding clothes. You either outsource this to a domestic helper or you do it yourself. I like to do chores in front of my kid. Doing so will accomplish two tasks - firstly, I can teach my kid to do chores and not to take such things for granted. I believe in teaching young children without explicit instructions through modelling and setting good examples. There's no formal instructions or a PowerPoint presentation on folding clothes - he sees me doing it, if he shows a little more interest, I'll guide him and let him help me in what ways he can. So far so good. Secondly, I get to change my perspective on folding clothes, from an unpleasant but necessary task to a teaching moment for my kid. Thus, I saved time by accomplishing more things in the same duration (completion of chores and teaching kids) and also remove the unpleasantness of the task. Two birds with one stone.


2) Blog articles

I mentioned in the previous post that I give myself a quota of writing 2 articles per week. Until the experiment ends, I'm going to have to squeeze some time out to brainstorm for ideas and also to write/edit the articles. How to find the time for this? For the creatives out there, you should know that brainstorming is not something you can force out in a scheduled time. Just feed brain food (aka reading) then hopefully something good will appear at random when you're doing something else. So, the brainstorming part is already a time-saving activity, because it can't be scheduled anyway. When I shower, or when I'm falling asleep, some good ideas for an article pop up in my head, then I'll just quickly jot it down in my phone for future reference. What about the actual writing? This activity takes about 2 hrs, and I usually do it while working. There are some lull periods when students are doing work, so I'll just flesh out the articles (like now, lol). 


3) Reading

To reach my goal of 52 books a year, I have to read ebooks on my mobile phone. I very much prefer paperbacks, followed by a dedicated ebook reader like Kindle, but I've no choice. With a kid, I just don't have the time to sit down to read 1 to 2 hrs in one sitting. I've to do stealth reading - stealing minutes here and there to read. Quite irritating at first, but I get used to it by now. If I can, I'll also borrow a paper version of the same ebook that I am reading. I like to read in front of my kid, to let him see me reading. These days, I can see him picking up books to flip through and pretend to read, so I know it works. It's quite charming actually. Again, I want to stress that I'm trying to tick as many things as I can while focusing on one thing. 


I think giving three examples should be good enough to illustrate my point. I want to highlight the fact that I'm not multi-tasking. I'm just doing one thing at a time, but accomplishing many goals at the same time. Research shows that multi-tasking is not possible - what we're doing is actually just switching tasks frequently to simulate the appearance of doing tasks simultaneously. I don't recommend that because we'll end up doing things half-heartedly or absentmindedly. 


Live long and prosper.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Why am I pushing so hard?

My wife asked me an interesting question recently. I was telling her that I'm quite relieved because I've completed the week's quota for my blog articles. The quota stands at 2 articles per week, rain or shine, until an undetermined period of time. So she asked me why am I pushing so hard? It's not like I am being paid or sponsored right? And there's no manager behind my shoulders barking at me to fulfil my quota. So why?


Her question makes me realise that I am indeed pushing myself on different aspects of my life. I didn't even realise that. Here's a list of the stuff (I call them projects) that I'm currently doing:


1) 30 to 60 mins of practice on the piano every day

2) exercise every weekday for at least 1 hr, except on Wonderful Wednesday, which is my break. There are more detailed fitness goals to do on each gym session, like 30 pullups, at least 30 mins of running, 30 mins of weights training or bodyweight exercises 

3) 2 blog articles per week

4) 1 book per week (on average)


That's a crazy amount of things to do on top of work and family time. And I'm still deciding if I can add one more project - to practise digital drawing. One quick sketch per day. But back to the question, so why am I pushing myself like this? I can come up with a few reasons:


1) I value personal growth. Every year, I strive to be a better version of myself.

2) This builds up willpower. There are days where I don't feel like doing anything (like exercising), but if I push through that feeling and still do it anyway, this will build up a reservoir of mental willpower to tap on whenever I'm doing something difficult in the future. Willpower is a very valuable and scarce resource. Like mana.

3) I try to fulfil the 10,000 hours needed to master anything. At 1 hr per day, I need 28 years to clock 10k hours. At 2 hrs per day, I'll need 14 years. At  3 hrs daily, I'll need 7 years. At 4 hrs daily, I'll need 6.5 years. I don't have a lot of 6.5 yrs, not to mention 28 yrs left, so I better get moving right now and seize each moment as best as I can.

4) I try my best to be a good role model for my son. I want him to know that failing is okay, I just need to fail better the next time and try again and again until I get it. I want him to see first hand that as long as I keep trying, my practice will see some results.

5) It's important to keep me in a newbie mode. See this post to learn why.



Every person has 24 hours each day. That's 3 buckets of time with 8 hours in each. After subtracting 8 hrs to work and 8 hrs to sleep, we still have our last bucket of time. What we choose to do with this last bucket will determine how we are going to be like in the future. Choose carefully.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

So, which am I? A monk, shaman or wizard?

In the last 3 posts (here, here and here), I've shared what my thoughts are on different ways to reach financial freedom. I've done nothing new, as there are other more prominent bloggers who shared similar ideas that I've copied proudly with some of my own inputs. Essentially, one can be financially free by either reducing expenses (monk's path), earning a lot of income (shaman's path) and lastly by being a good investor (wizard's path). Let's explore that a little more.  I'll also share which of the 3 types I am most aligned to in this follow-up post.


One doesn't need to be a pure class to win the rat's race. In fact, I think being a pure class will be a much harder journey. I think we can all aim to be above average in just 2 out of the 3 types and we can still nudge the odds in our favour enough to reach financial freedom. Someone asked me which is the best way out of the three. I think that's the wrong question to ask. Rather, you should ask which way is the best based on your own personality type and temperament. At a certain life stage, it's better to play to our strengths instead of improving our weakness, because it'll give us the best reward with minimum effort. 


After investing/trading for so long, I slowly came to the realisation that I'm just, at best, an average wizard. Current abilities aside, the more important question is if I am willing to invest more time and effort to improve my wizardry skills. I think honestly, it's a flat no. There was a time when I've read the entire library worth of investing books and I think that time had passed for me. As it is, I have more and more projects that require my time and commitment, and that I've found it more meaningful to do. So, I can safely rule out being a wizard now. That's also one of the reasons why I'm moving towards Endowus to manage an increasingly larger and larger part of my portfolio so that I can concentrate on the things that I do best. Moving forward, I should have a small trading portfolio, a med sized SG portfolio (with good dividend-yielding stocks and REITs) and a large invest-the-world portfolio using Endowus. The trading portfolio is to curb my gambling instincts, while the SG portfolio is to generate passive income to supplement my active income. The main mover of networth should be the Endowus portfolio.


After tracking my networth for many years, I realised that the main contributor to my networth is still my active income. Investing gains/dividends is not the main contributor. What took me so long to realise that? I guess it's just stubbornness plus inertia. From my expense tracking, I know that I don't spend a lot of money as well. Hence, I must be a hybrid monk/shaman. Being a monk is natural for me, so much so that I have to reverse some of the natural inclination to save money to have a bit more quality of life. Does a bird have to think to fly, a fish to swim? No, it comes naturally to it. I guess being a monk is the same thing for me. 



At the same time, being a shaman doesn't mean I'm a super high-income earner. I am self-employed, yes, but far from being a business owner. But the hybrid class of shaman combined with monk means that I don't have to earn a crazily high CEO level kind of pay to reach financial freedom. The special power of this hybrid class is that I have a naturally high base savings rate. It's easy for me, and I don't have to suffer at all to maintain it. And that's the only way to do this. Because if you suffer too much over a long period of time, spending precious willpower every day for like 20 to 30 years, chances are that you will give up.


As I grow older, I realised more and more that there is some money that is not meant for me. The wise ones say this: when young, experiment; when old, specialise. When I'm younger, I'll dabble in all sorts of ways to see which is suitable for me. But when I'm older, time is increasingly becoming a precious commodity. And energy. I just don't have that drive to suffer as much as when I'm younger. I think it's natural because as we get closer and closer to financial freedom, the ability to take hardship reduces.  So, I'll do more of what I've shown to be good at, with less experimentation, especially those that requires too much effort. If it's not a hell yes, then it's a straight no.


I'm going to make the second part of my journey towards financial freedom a happier and a more balanced one. The ideal situation is that I don't even need to worry if I am going to reach financial freedom or not because I'm already living the kind of life I've envisioned after reaching it. The destination should become less and less important, with more and more importance placed on the journey itself.


Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The 3 ways to Financial Freedom (Trilogy part 3)

 Fully expecting 

another knock on the head,

I shut my eyes, 

and slowly opened them in dread.

The old man seems older, 

he took a deep breath,  

gave me an unnerving stare, 

to try to freeze me to death.

"I'm going to show you the last way

to be financially free,

if this doesn't suit you, 

pack your things and leave."


"If you decide to choose 

the powerful Wizard's way, 

you will need to study 

until your hair starts to grey.

You will learn to read, to research, 

using old charts and tomes

in order to investigate anomalies

as astutely as Sherlock Holmes.

You will learn to manage money, 

and possess a mastery of your mind,

and cultivate an investing method 

that will be polished till steel fine."


"There are three Circles of power 

that an aspiring wizard must learn,

the First Circle is of Method - 

"How", "What", "When" he must yearn.

When honed to near perfection, 

it gives the Wizard an edge

to slice, to dice, and to push 

his opponents right off the ledge.

The Second Circle is of Money - 

essentially it is portfolio defence.

To manage risk or diversify, 

to ensure you don't lose your sense."



"The Third Circle is of Mind - 

the most important of the Circles.

With this last mastery, 

you can clear all investing hurdles.

A good Wizard is cool, 

especially when the heat is on.

The mastery of his emotions

makes him inert like Argon.

He's greedy in the face of fear, 

afraid when the rest are blissful.

A Wizard thinks and acts alone, 

yet somehow finds it cheerful."


"All Wizards are drawn to a field,

and have an area of speciality,

could be stocks, forex or crypto, 

bonds, metals, and property.

Actually, in the entire universe 

there are two branches of wizardry.

The first branch is the Chartist - 

a master of charts and all its trickery.

The second branch is the Investor - 

like Buffett, Dalio and all they represent

Matters not which branch in the end, 

if your annual returns exceed ten per cent.


"A Wizard is ultimately

a master of compounding,

conjuring returns 

in a rate that is astounding.

Twelve per cent returns 

with half a million dough,

in six years will turn to a million, 

and that's still considered slow.

By the harnessing and control

of his immense investing power, 

a Wizard wins the rat's race 

by this innate superpower."


And with this our story

has come to an end. 

So which of the three paths 

will you choose, my friend?

In truth, you don't even need

to pick just one path. 

Mastering two out of three, 

you'll definitely hit home-run.

So there you are, these secrets, 

I'm sure you will need'em

in your long arduous journey

of achieving financial freedom.


The 3 ways to Financial Freedom (Trilogy part 2)

But how can I choose which path

until I know much more?

Oh please, enlightened one -

do teach me, my mentor! 

The sage looked up at me 

and this is what he said,

"Those who choose the Second path

this road he will tread,

He lives the life of a Shaman 

who is an excellent rainmaker. 

A Shaman always finds a way, 

that clever money-maker" 


"A Shaman can invite a parrot

to grant the gift of the gab,

to charm his way around you

to make you pay for his tab.

By making an origami fold, 

he turns it into a spider 

that can spin the most intricate web 

for his network to grow wider.

By tapping on his special bond

with animals of Mother Nature,

a Shaman uses his druidic power

to call a bonded creature."


"After the summoning smoke settles, 

out comes a poisonous adder,

that can aid its bonded master

in the climbing of career ladder,

or a brightly feathered toucan

who just loves eating pecan,

that specialises in business ventures

to create a source of income. 

The way of the Shaman 

is to bring in so much dough,

that he doesn't have to try

to keep his expenses low."


"By boosting his total income,

and earning more than his peers,

he can save more in a year, 

what others must do in years.

Shamans can have two options:

First to climb the career ladder

by invoking the special talent

of his summoned death adder.

Second to call a toucan 

to build a business empire,

that rains a constant income 

to lift his networth higher."


"Savings is what remains of income

after subtracting what you've spent.

While the philosophy of the Monk

is to live on just one cent,

the way of the Shaman 

is to earn all that he can, 

because being a hermit or a caveman 

is never his game plan.

As long as he doesn't do silly things,

and keeps his spending in check,

the Shaman will win the rat's race 

by the power of his paycheck."


"So young one, what do you think?

Do the Shaman's path call on you?"

I can feel his attention all on me.

Let me think first....... mmm....hmm....ewe

I don't think I'm a Shaman,

never had a gilded tongue.

So many animals tagging along, 

Gosh, I don't want to step on dung.

Honestly, I don't mean to complain,

but being a shaman sounds so meh,

perhaps you can aid me once more

and show me the Wizard's way?


Sunday, February 07, 2021

The 3 ways to Financial Freedom (Trilogy part 1)

I heard of a sage 

who lives up the highland,

located in an old and hidden,

largely forgotten island.

I trekked all the way 

right up to his doorsteps,

to ask the wise man 

the secrets of his success,

and what ways there are 

to be financially free

so that when I'm working, 

I don't scream like a banshee.


After ten minutes 

(it could have been twenty),

he broke into a smile

that meant aplenty.

"Three ways there are

 to be free financially. 

The First is a Monk - 

the disciple of frugality. 

The Second is a Shaman - 

master rainmaker. 

The Third, a Wizard - 

investing kingmaker"



I'm not sure what's a monk 

(I mean... I do know).

Will I have to live

in a temple in Guangzhou?

Can I have a wife? 

Can I still eat at Tex-Mex?

Oh...no no no no no, 

does it mean I've to give up sex?

Before I could voice-out 

more concerns about being a monk,

there's a knock on my head, 

like I'm being hit by a trunk.


The wise sage continued, 

albeit a little angry,

"You can still have a wife, 

continue your hanky panky.

You need the eyes of a hawk, 

to track your own expenses,

and the immense strength of a bear

to slash spendings that dull your senses.

Eventually, you'll find felicity 

by basking in simplicity,

purging the toxicity

of living in complexity."


"The way of the Monk

is to keep his expenses low,

and not to compare income 

with people like John Doe.

By choosing instead to spend 

on things that truly matter,

he deftly side-steps to avoid

becoming a source of flatter.

Striving to keep his ego 

firmly on the ground,

he wins the rat's race

by simply sitting around."


"If you don't have the quiet temperament

of the frugal and disciplined Monk,

you like to party, to dance 

and imbibe like a wasted drunk,

then this kind of simple life

is really not meant for you, 

hence we shall take our leave 

and bid this path adieu.

The way of the Shaman

and the Wizard lies ahead.

Now of the two pathways,

which one will you tread?"


Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Book recommendations from year 2020

Year 2020 is the year of the books for me. I read voraciously because I can't go to malls and I'm 'stuck' at home most of the time. But I'm secretly happy because that's exactly what I want to do most of the time - just blanket myself up, put a book on my lap, a pillow behind my back and read myself to sleep.


I read a total of 59 books, way exceeding my target of 52 books a year. I know, I have no life. Since I have the time, I also wrote down short summaries for all the books read. There are some worthy books have a much lengthier summary for my own records and learning purpose. 


In descending order of books read, here's the list:


59) The psychology of money - Morgan Housel

58) The almanack of Naval Ravikant

57) Network Effect - Martha Wells

56) Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory - Martha Wells

55) Exit strategy - Martha Wells

54) Rogue Protocol - Martha Wells

53) Artificial condition - Martha Wells

52) All systems red - Martha Wells

51) Manners begin at breakfast - Marie Chantal

50) Kappa quartet - Daryl Yam

49) X-men: days of future past - Alex Irvine

48) Lee Kuan Yew - Graham Allison/Robert D. Blackwell/Ali Wyne

47) Memoirs of an infantry officer - Siegfried Sassoon

46) Trollhunters - Guillermo Del Toro / Daniel Kraus

45) Too much and never enough - Mary L. Trump

44) Hidden girl - Ken Liu

43) The wandering Earth - Liu Cixin

42) Supernova Era - Liu Cixin

41) The weight of memories - Liu Cixin

40) Of ants and dinosaurs - Liu Cixin

39) Die with Zero - Bill Perkins

38) Beacon 23 - Hugh Howey

37) Hard choices - Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh

36) Ultralearning - Scott Young

35) Opposite of Always - Justin A. Reynolds

34) Hard at work - Gerad Sasges

33) Tripping over the truth - Travis Christofferson

32) Goodbye, Things - Fumio Sasaki

31) Waste tide - Chen Qiufan

30) Currency war - James Rickards 

29) Funny, You Don't Look Autistic - Michael McCreary

28) Things my son needs to know about the world - Fredrik Backman

27) How to forge a frogman - Max West

26) Islands of Genius - Darold A. Treffert

25) The collected stories - R.A Salvatore

24) Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris

23) Boundless - R.A. Salvatore

22) The new "hidden hand" thread - compiled by Wes Penre

21) How to stop time - Matt Haig

20) Money wisdom - Christopher Tan

19) Maybe you should talk to someone - Lori Gottlieb

18) Maid - Stephanie Land

17) Art of simple living - Shunmyo Masuno

16) Wes Penre papers - 1st level of learning - Wes Penre

15) The man who solved the market - How Jim Simons launched the quant revolution - Gregory Zuckerman

14) Children of the Resistance series - Dugomier/BenoƮt Ers

13) Invisible planets - Ken Liu

12) Goh Keng Swee: A portrait - Tan Siok Sun

11) Don't fall for it - Ben Carlson

10) Win Bigly - Scott Adams

9) Can't hurt me - David Goggins

8) It's easy to cry - Subhas Anandan

7) The best I could - Subhas Anandan

6) Impractical uses of cake - Yeoh Jo-Ann

5) Loserthink - Scott Adams

4) The new case for Gold - James Rickards

3) Homerooms and Hallpasses - Tom O'Donnell

2) French kids eat everything - Karen Le Billon

1) Fundamentals of piano - Chaun C. Chang


As usual, I'll list down the non-fiction books that I think are great. You decide if you want to follow them up. Most of the books can be borrowed through e-book format from the great NLB accompaniment app Libby (not the NLB's official app).


1. Can't hurt me - David Goggins


This book is about channelling the shit that is happening in your life: all the anger, the injustice and the unfairness, and then funnel them into a motivating force to get better. This helped the author, at least for a while, but later he realised that channelling all the rage isn't going to work anymore. Hence he seeks a sort of contented peace towards the end of the book. The author's extraordinary life in which he overcomes all the obstacles is very inspiring. In the book, you'll see the major events that shaped his life, followed by lessons in which you can do to challenge yourself. Highly inspiring and teaches you how to suffer well. But who exactly is the author? He is the crazy dude who does pullups to break the Guinness record until his skin peels off but continues doing anyway. Or runs ultra-marathons once a week, something like that. 


2. Money wisdom - Christopher Tan


A collection of articles written by the chief of Providend, a fee-only financial advisory firm. I think the book talks about all aspects of personal finance, including insurance and investment. I learnt quite a few things reading it, to the extent that I went ahead to close the gap of long term care in my insurance portfolio by upgrading my Eldershield plan. Makes me want to really go and visit them, pay them a fee and see if I get my financial shits right before it's too late. Highly recommended. 


3. Ultralearning - Scott Young 



I can't stop recommending this enough. If I have to choose the one book to read in Year 2020, this will be the one. This book teaches you how to learn anything. It's the ultimate meta book on learning how to learn. This is one of the worthy books that I mentioned earlier and I made detailed notes in the link here. I expect that I'll be revisiting this book again and again whenever I need some tips and tricks to get through any learning obstacles in the future. 


4. Die with Zero - Bill Perkins



Another worthy book. This book changes my viewpoint on having a poor person's mentality to something more balanced. It's about not leaving excess behind and spending all that you want. I know I know how this sounds like. Doesn't seem fitting for someone on the journey to financial freedom right? But I promise it does make a certain sense. Not suitable for those who are spendthrifts in personality. Very very suitable for hardcore savers looking for another viewpoint towards frugality. Good quality of life, not necessarily materialistically speaking, is what the author is trying to convince us to do. And he convinces me.


5. The psychology of money - Morgan Housel



This book deserves a second or even a third reading. The author is a very good writer and it makes the lessons inside all the easier to assimilate. Each lesson starts off with a story (or two), so it is easier to relate to. Of the many lessons inside, a few stand out to me. The best lesson I've got out of this is that everyone is reasonable. It might not be for you, but it is for them at that point in time, so respect that. The second thing I got out of this is that we don't have to aim for the highest return, just reasonable will do. It'll be easier to sleep at night. Great book.


I read lots of fiction books. For those who don't know my story, I do not read fiction at all for many years. In fact, from after primary school until adulthood because I thought they are just stories. How silly. Non-fiction books teach one about life's reality and fiction books teach one about how to be a human. Both equally important.


For fiction books, I read a lot of books by one of China's sci-fi greats - Liu Cixin. Anything by him is generally good. Of the books written by him, Supernova Era, highly disturbs me. It's a chilling tale about how a supernova from light-years away gave off deadly radiation that killed off all adults on earth. The world is then governed by children. Will that kind of world be a world full of wonders and full of child-like innocence? In short, no. And it's a disturbingly strong no. 


Supernova era by Liu Cixin


Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Then when I was in the library, I chanced across a series of 6 books by Martha Wells named Murderbot Diaries. Oh My Goodness, it was so good. The Murderbot Diaries is written in the perspective of a part organic part inorganic security droid that called itself Murderbot. It hacked itself so that it doesn't have to follow the orders, and yet it cared way too much for the human clients that had hired it. The characterization of this part machine part human being is so good that it makes me want to read on and on and see what it is going to do. This has the potential to be a hit series in Netflix original production and I'm so glad to have chanced upon it. Serendipity. 


2020 is also the year that I started listening seriously to audio books and podcast. At first, it's a little strange, because I find that reading is faster and easier to absorb. But it's all a matter of getting used to this. Eventually it's quite good because I get to listen together with my wife, and possibly lead us to discuss related topics. Shared experiences are good, especially since reading is such a private experience. I expect myself to do more of this in year 2021.


Alright, that's all from me for now. Let me know if you have any good books to recommend me. Also let me know if you had read the books that I've listed here and agree with me that they are fantastic read. Live long and prosper.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Don't be a target board

Recently I've been reading on the works of Michael Bazzell. He is the expert in privacy and does consultations with people who need to disappear from scrutiny. I just finished his book on Extreme Privacy and learn some ways to better prepare myself if the need arises. Why am I reading such books on opsec (operations security)?


You must have heard of the revolt against the establishment by the people. These days, the fight is not out in the streets, like HK, but it happens in the digital space in the stock market. The 'streets' that they fought on are the counters GME (Gamestop), KOSS (Koss) and AMC (AMC Ent Holdg). Though there are no actual groups of people clashing against each other physically, the harm and damage done are very real. I'm not going to repeat the long story you must have heard countless times in social media. Can you feel the sentiment on the ground?


There are lots of angry people out there. Some of the angry people are also desperate and destitute. These attributes are not funny when mixed together. It creates a very volatile situation that will ignite and burst into flames that will spread all over uncontrollably. All it needs is a spark or two. I'm not here to debate who is right or who is right. I just want to make sure no matter what happens, I must survive it all.



Don't be like the aristocrats in France who are still sipping tea and attending balls, totally unaware that people from the Third Estates are already marching to the Bastilles to take up arms. For those who feel what I'm talking about, do the following:


1. Stop flexing. Immediately. Stop posting how much returns you make from your investments in social media. Don't be the spark that causes the fire.

2. Stop posting on social media about where you have been eating your delicious lunch, or where you had been out jogging when others are working. Don't let people with ill intent track your movement.

3. Stop putting pictures of yourself and family members on social media. Don't let people with ill intent know how you look like. Turn off tagging of photos on social media.


I think that's the bare minimum we can do. I'm not talking about more extreme measures like VPN, PO boxes, burner phones etc. Just don't bring unnecessary attention to yourself and your family will be a good enough preventive measure. Stay hidden in plain sight.


Live long and prosper.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Don't let your Organic Intelligence box me up

Recently WhatsApp had to roll back an initiative to share data with her parent company Facebook. This is after receiving a severe backlash from users, which led them to switch to alternative messaging services like Signal and Telegram. The perception of the data sharing between Whatsapp and Facebook is that if two persons are messaging each other about cars on Whatsapp, both of them will start seeing personalised ads for cars on Facebook. It might not be like this in reality, but that's the perception and hence people are pissed off about the perceived privacy intrusions by these MNC.


I think when communicating with people, we are also collecting personal data. Inside our minds, we have a little secret dossier about the things we know about that person. His likes, dislikes, personality quirks, birthday etc. And from this collection of data, we form an idealised form of what the person is like in our minds. It may not be the real person, but that's the perception of that person in our minds. And perception is often reality. 


So what do we do with the personal dossier formed in our minds? We do more of the things a person likes and do less of the things he doesn't (unless we invert it to achieve other more nefarious objectives). Isn't this similar to personalised ads from Facebook and Google? Their Artificial Intelligence is trying to mimic what our Organic Intelligence is doing unconsciously. In truth, we also collect data on others, often without their explicit consent, with the aim of helping us to achieve some aims. This is called under various terms, like team bonding, dating, networking etc.



I'm okay with the things that are forwarded to me because of my perceived liking. If I like ebooks, and I'm shown more ads or information on ebook devices, or new listings from the authors that I like, that's perfectly fine with me. But what I'm not okay are the things that are missed out because of my perceived dislike or just general disinterest. I might not like it eventually, but I still want to be exposed to it. Maybe after a few more exposure, I'll begin to like it? How many opportunities are missed out because I wasn't forwarded some information that I am perceived to be disinterested in or even hate? I guess we'll never find out because this is censorship straight from the source. Others just stopped sharing.


And here is the thing. While I hope Whatsapp do not share my data with Facebook, I also hope that my friends do not stop sharing things, especially those things that they perceived I do not like. I want the dossier in their minds to list me as curious, open-minded and not afraid to try new things. No matter what my age is. I want my child to tell me his favourite band, his first love and his misadventures. I want my friends to tell me new things that I am never exposed before and that I've never shown an interest in before, because they know I might change. I want them to believe that I can change and adapt, and not box me up.


So, delight me with your surprises.