Monday, March 26, 2018

Feed the fish, or fish to feed?

Ever since I became a parent, every day I have to think about choices and its implication. I often wondered about my role as a parent, and thought about whether I am making the right choices right now that might affect my son in the future. So sometimes, I feel guilty that I am relaxing in front of the tv, instead of teaching some stuff to my kid. You know, stuff like that.

As a parent, my role to my son is two-fold:

1) Make sure he survives, so that will include feeding, bathing, changing his diaper and be safe from harm.
2) Make sure he survives without me around.

The first goal is easily done. You can do it with a foreign domestic helper. You can do that with any grandparents around. You can outsource it to a childcare center or infant care center. It took me a few months to get to a stage where it became routine for me. Me and my wife knew what to do everyday and we can do this all the time without much disruption to our own personal lives.

But the second goal...that is something. If the first goal is to feed the fish, the second one involves teaching my son how to fish. This will broadly encompass education, including teaching of moral values to the alphabets and the plus minus times divide, to learning how to pick up after himself, feed himself and so on.

I have a feeling the second goal is a goal that will take me all the way up until my grave. It is never ending, and in a good way too. I hope I am wise to always have something to teach my son too. But it is so hard. Say for example changing his clothes. It's so efficient to just take it off him, whether he is struggling or not. A few things will go through my mind: do I involve him in the process, no matter how clumsy or how distracted he will be? Or do I quickly go through the routine without his involvement so that I can move on to the next task at hand? I know what I should do, but sometimes the mind is willing but the body is weak. And I suspect these kind of choices are making me guilty every now and then.

I think my job as a tutor is the same. Student asks a question. I can answer it straight away and we can move on to the next agenda. Or I can take the time to make him understand, so that the next time he encounters such questions, he don't have to ask me again. While it is right to always do the latter, sometimes circumstantial time constraint means that I have to make a judgement of whether to feed him or to teach him how to fish. It's a balance between the two. If I keep feeding him, he won't be able to survive without me (hmm, that's a evil thought as a per hourly paid tutor). If I keep teaching him to fish, he'll starve to death right now, nevermind the future.

Balance, balance, balance. Everything in moderation.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Indifferent to the difference between needs and wants

Today I was chatting with some members in the Bigscribe facebook group regarding fixed and variable income. It's just the usual banter that happens daily, so it provides an environment where you get saturated with how to build wealth and generally live a good life. Like diffusion and osmosis, you have no choice but to be the average of the 5 people you hang out with.

But that's not the point of this post. I was reflecting on my journey regarding the separation of needs and wants. You know the usual rules when it comes down to controlling expenses, that gurus will first ask you to list down your needs and your wants. By strictly managing between your needs and wants, you can reduce your expenses. I've nothing against this, and I've also done this before, but no longer do that anymore.

So why is that so?

In this particular aspect, my journey is as follows:

1) Know nothing between wants and needs. Just spend as long as I have cash or credit.
2) Know the difference between wants and needs. Just spend on the needs and cut back on the wants.
3) Question the difference between wants and needs. Start to spend more on the wants to enhance quality of life.
4) Know nothing between wants and needs. Just spend as long as I have cash or credit.

Life is often like a game of snake and ladders. We travelled so far to go back to square one.

It seems that I have travelled around the world and went back to square one. But this isn't the case! On the surface, it seems that I no longer care about the needs and wants, but the mindset is totally different. I don't care much about spending now because I already know that even if I were to go mad with shopaholic disease, I couldn't possibly bust my bank account. Hence the difference between stage (1) and stage (4) is a deep understanding of myself and my limits. Everything is internally controlled and there is no need for an artificial demarcation of spending into needs and wants.

There are many other examples where I have gone full circle and went back to square one, well, superficially. But the journey is not just what happens on the surface, it is a journey travelled internally as well.

And what is essential is invisible to the eye.