Friday, December 30, 2011

Making mistakes

I made a couple of mistakes these few weeks as I shifted over to my new home. Most of them happened in the kitchen, because that's the part of the home that I had least experience in. In school, we make mistakes when doing tutorials. In work, we make mistakes in handling people and other more technical stuff. At home, what kind of mistakes can I make?

Well, I'm going to list it out:

1. As I was sweeping stuff into my dustpan, I moved it over to the rubbish chute (which is inside my home) to clear it. But without concentrating on what I'm doing, I didn't grip the brush hard enough, as a result, the whole brush fell into the chute, all the way down to the bottom. It's so silly that when I told my wife about it, we all laugh at the kind of clumsiness we can exhibit. My wife had her own episode too - she was putting some door stopper on the window when it dropped off. All the way down from the 22nd floor! Thankfully it's made of sponge, otherwise who knows what damage it can cause!

2. Things that look like silicone might not be silicone. Silicone has high melting point, so it can withstand temperatures up to 250 degree celsius plus minus. I had a scrapper that I had bought which I thought was made of silicone (maybe it is, but not the heat resistant kind), so I used it to fry pancakes with. As a result, part of it melted. Luckily I saw white marks on the pan and ceased using it, otherwise I might become plastic man instead.

3. I first started using the oven by re-heating frozen pizzas bought off the shelf from supermarket. I preheated the oven to a certain temperature, accordingly to the 'instruction manual' at the package of the pizza. Okay, what's so difficult about preheating the oven. Just turn the knob to the desired temperature and wait right? Wrong. I didn't know that there is a temperature light that goes off when the temperature is reached. So the pizza is half cooked. Seriously, it's silly.

4. Cooking without researching (meaning sufficient youtubing and reading through the recipe thoroughly) is a sure fire way to fail. Fail to plan? Plan to fail. There are countless times that I thought the wife knows what she is doing, and she thinks I know what I'm doing. In the end, nobody knows what they are doing.

I think making mistakes is part and parcel of trying out new experiences. I haven't made so many mistakes for so many years since I left school. That means I haven't been trying out so many new things in the past. While new mistakes are unavoidable, repeated mistakes are totally avoidable. I think that mistakes are life's great teachers, if you wish to learn from it. If you live your live to avoid making mistakes, then I'll say your life is pretty safe and conservative. Not much adventure too.

I think the same goes for investments. I've made countless mistakes, many of which I'm still living through the repercussions. But that's life - we have to learn from our mistakes and move on. If because of this and that mistake, you totally give up, then you'll never see the breakthrough. Thomas Edison is said to have made 2000 life bulbs before successfully finding the right material to make the filament. Did he have 2000 failures? Nah, he discovered 2000 ways that a light bulb will not work.

So, don't be afraid of making mistakes. If you haven't made a mistake today, you haven't tried something new!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Taking on full responsibility

The recent mrt episodes in Singapore highlighted a couple of bias that can be equally applicable in the investment/trading mentality. I saw some report saying that since the CEO had been in the company, the company had grew its profit from xxx to yyy per annum. This implied that the CEO is responsible for creating the profits. But when the spate of incidents causing the train to breakdown happened, there's no report saying that the CEO is responsible for it. I mean, why is it so easy to attribute good things to the CEO but not the bad things?

Will that happen to people who invests or trades too? I guess so. When the stocks that you bought went up, it was a good call or a good investment decision. You picked a stock that ran up, so you are good. But when the call turns sour, you start blaming the general investment sentiments, or the euro crisis, or the fact that you are not there to execute the orders, or that you are busy with work. A thousand and one event happened to prevent you from making the right decision, it seems to me. That's just self delusional.

If you keep on coming up with excuses on why you cannot do this or that, then perhaps you are shifting the blame to anything or anyone but yourself. By doing so, you are empowering others, making yourself a victim of the circumstances. Playing the victim is such a good role to play, it would seem to me, because a lot of people like to complain about their lot in life. Okay, granted that everyone needs a space to vent out their frustration and to release the emotional steam that builds up inside you. But what do people do after they complained? They'll just go about doing the same thing again. If you keep doing what you have been doing, you will keep on getting what you have been getting. I don't know about you, but I try to distance myself far from such people because they tend to be quite infectious in their negativity. I call them vampires - real life vampires do not suck blood, they suck energy from people around them and make others vampires too.

So, this coming new year, how about putting up a resolution to change this mentality? Instead of thinking that "I could do this if only _____", how about thinking that "I could do this by doing _____". Only by taking full responsibility of your situation can you empower yourself to do the necessary changes to improve it. Unless you're contented at playing the victim, of course.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Choosing quality over quantity

As I get older and hopefully more mature, I realised that if I have to choose between quantity and quality, I'll go for quality these days. It's not always like that. There was a time that I thought more is good. For example, having more of a cheaper share is better than having less of a better one. Or eating more lousy food in buffet is better than eating less but higher quality ones. There are many many such examples where I can quote you that lets you see how I chose quantity over quality. Hopefully I will reduce such nonsense from now on.

Specifically, here are the areas that I would need to rewire my thinking regarding the choice of quantity vs quality:

1. I've always had a target to read 1 book a week. Initially that target was set so that I can read more. I remember the times when I was reading maybe less than 5 books in a year - that was not okay for me. I wanted to change that, so I set up a target of 52 books per year, since 5 yrs ago. While I understand why I set the target back then, I think the reason for such a goal no longer exists. I don't think I need to force myself to do such a target anymore.

As such, I want to read less and enjoy more. Instead of reading 52 books per year, how about reading 12 good books in a year?

2. Trading 20 ideas in the stock market can be further reduced to trading 10 good ideas in a year. Slowly but surely, I'm getting more patience about the kind of setup I want to see before entering a position. I am no longer looking at the market as fervently as, say 2 yrs ago. When there's nothing to do, do nothing. That doesn't mean that you totally ignore the market - it simply means you wait for the right time and right situation before doing anything. If I miss it, so be it. I realised that there are many ways to make money, but unfortunately, going through the stock market is not my way. That's an important realisation. With that thinking, I not longer try to showoff my skills (not that I have any) or trying to hit certain targets. There are other ways that I can earn my money and fulfill my other goals at the same time. I would focus my time and energy on that instead.

3. Playing 15 so-so computer games is something that I simply cannot afford to. If I want to fulfill my gaming needs (yes, there is such a thing in me), I would rather play 1-2 good game. Again, it's a conscious choice of quality over quantity. I will have to reduce the amount of games that I buy online over steam.

4. A few good friends is better than 30 so-so friends?

The whole point of quality over quantity is really also to reduce the clutter in your life. With less stuff and stuff that you really really want, you can increase your satisfaction and happiness while not cluttering and filling your life energy with all sorts of rubbish. Life works best if it's simple but not simpler. Perhaps when one gets older, you'll realise that time is about the only asset that is decreasing whether you use it sensible or not. Not money.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Hill Harper's "The Wealth Cure"

If you're looking for prescribed, step by step ways to kick start a healthy relationship with money and wealth, then Hill Harper's "The Weath Cure" is not your type of book. Initially when I read the book, I found it rather strange because of the way the book is structured. There are 5 big parts to the book, which each part having a couple of smaller chapters that is related to the parts. But here's the thing - I don't see the relation at all. Perhaps I had been to used to seeing other financial related books that are usually more straightfoward. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, it's just different. 

Halfway through reading the book, I realised that this is a chicken-soup-for-the-soul kind of book. Each of the smaller chapters are actually stories written in the point of view of the author himself. I thought it's a very refreshing way of looking at financial related stuff. The chapters are not written in the typically sermon like way, "You must do this..." or "you should do that...". Instead, the chapters are really just reflections of things that had happened to the author as he lives his life. Like chicken soup for the soul, this book can be re-read again and again. Depending on your situation at different points of your life, I'm sure you'll get different perspective from the stories. Same story, different life stage, different interpretation and meaning. That's why this book is a keeper - it's not something that you should just read and never pick it up again. 

I don't like all the stories, to be honest. Some of them are inspiring, some are just puzzling. The inspiring ones touch on the key points of important ideas without giving you too much details. Thankfully, there is a bibliography at the end of the book for readers who wish to dig more into the subject matter. This makes the book an easy read, without all the (boring) details and leaving the motivation to find out more solely on the reader. The puzzling stories are those that I think shouldn't have a place in the book. It's either because I do not have the life experience to appreciate the reflections that ought to follow after each story, or I simply don't see the point of the story. Fortunately, such puzzling stories that leaves you duh and speechless are few and far between.

If you've read about other financial related books, you'll find familiar concepts and principles. How many new ones are there? But that's not the point. What I liked about the book is that the same old concepts are put into fresh new perspectives - the author's perspectives - and that makes this book an interesting read. I don't really know the author as a celebrity (sorry, but I don't watch the CSI : NY at all) and you can't really tell from the style that the author writes. The author writes in a very down to earth, honest manner, which is kind of endearing especially if you know his background as a celebrity. He certainly doesn't seem like those financial wreckball kind of celebrities that the mass media loves to publicize. 

Would I recommend this book? Yes, if you're just starting out on changing your relationship with money and trying to find out more about wealth. If you're looking for more detailed answers, this book isn't your cup of tea. Nevertheless, it's still a good and enjoyable read to see how different people interprets age old principles in their own way. I'll say it reads like a blog, haha! 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Positive mindset vs possibility mindset

I was reading this book by Dr. Robert Anthony "How to make the impossible possible", when I discovered that the author actually differentiate between positive mindset and possibility mindset . We know the usual positive thinking - if we think positive, then the outcome can also be positive. This is opposed to thinking negatively about a situation. But I've always wondered about the limitations of having a positive mindset and the book addresses exactly that problem.

I thought that if I think hard enough, will things really happen? For example, if I 'will' a book to move, will it really do so, even if I'm ultra positive about it? To the majority who don't have special powers, I guess the book is going to stay there. So there is a limitations to how much positive thinking can do to us. It's like if you never study hard for your exams, no matter how positive you are about it, you probably wouldn't do very well in it, unless you're a genius. You can ever call such a person naive, or overconfident. Positive thinking can make a person in denial of the actual situation.

Now what is possibility thinking? That is when you think that things are possible in the first place. For example, if you think that the book is going to move, having a possibility mindset means that you know that the book is not going to move on its own (though it's possible to move it), so you're going to move your butt and move it yourself. Or if you know that sitting for a test without studying isn't going to work but it's within the realm of possibility to pass and even to ace it if you just start working hard on it. Having a possibility mindset essentially entails that things are possible, if you are willing to do it. This mindset takes into account of reality and places power in your hands, because only you alone can change an impossible situation and make it possible.

It's a subtle difference but it makes all the difference to me. So actually, when I referred to having a positive mindset in the past, I'm really talking about having a possibility mindset - an attitude in life that views that things are possible if you are willing to take actions to do it. I'm not saying that having a positive mindset is not good - it's just not good enough. A possibility mindset allows you to think that something that you deem impossible is possible in the first place, and then forces you to address on how to achieve it.

Here's more examples:

So are you ready to take on the world? Haha :)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Am I certified to trade?

As I logged into my poems account, I saw this screen asking me to do a test. I think it's the new ruling that is going to take effect on 1st Jan 2012. If you do not satisfy certain criteria, you'll be asked to take a test to determine whether you know what you are doing. If you fail, you won't be able to buy (though you can sell your existing holdings, from what I read from the site). I don't know who the ruling is trying to protect - the advisors or the consumers. Anyway, it seems that I do not have to take the test since I had made more than 6 trades with regards to shares. I can't do CFD or unit trust myself though, until I take the test, that is.

Anyway, I would like to take the test and see if I 'know' my stuff or not. It'll be interesting, haha!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The joys of working from home

As I was starting work in my new flat, I realized that there's a few things that I liked about this arrangement. As I was slacking now after my student left, I realized how fortunate I am to be able to finish work and still be at home. I cherish this feeling and felt an immediate sense of satisfaction. On reflection, I think that working home allows me to :

a. Multitask things with regards to my personal and work life. For example, I could be in between doing household chores and having tuition at the same time. Of course I don't do it while teaching, but I do it during the lull moments like when the student is doing work. These kind of stuff are important to me as a time saver because in the past, I had to work outside and come home and settle my personal stuff. In the future, I would even be cooking lunch/dinner while working. That is something that most people would not be able to experience.

b. Since I'm at home, I can start using some stuff that are useful teaching aids. For example, during today's lessons, I was showing a student about how sounds waves though invisible can actually be felt. My desktop and my big subwoofer is just in the room, so I popped over and asked her to bring a piece of paper to place is near the subwoofer while I played a sound with a good beat to it. The paper became vibrating and I began linking that to the lessons itself. I think such interactive learning cannot be done in the student's place, because I cannot possibly carry all my stuff with me when I travel. Since I'm now stationary and fixed in one location, I can truly add another dimension to the lessons.

c. I feel more energised because usually it's the travelling and walking that tires me out. With that out of the picture, I can have more time of my own and that alone is priceless. I can free up the travelling time in between locations (usually takes up to 1-2 hr per day for a fully booked day). I can nap, I can settle my household stuff, I can prepare lessons, I can play games....infinite combinations with one single result - it's making me a very very satisfied and happy man. I wonder why I didn't do this sooner!

The answer to the question whether the expensive resale and expensive renovation is worth it or not, should be obvious to me by now. A resounding yes. It's one of the best thing that can happen to me in 2011.