Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Two Paths - Freedom And Slavery

Source: Aesop, Fables
"Zeus once ordered Prometheus to show mankind the two ways: one the way of freedom and the other the way of slavery. Prometheus made the way of freedom rough at the beginning, impassable and steep, with no water anywhere to drink, full of brambles, and beset with dangers on all sides at first. Eventually, however, it became a smooth plain, lined with paths and filled with groves of fruit trees and waterways. Thus the distressing experience ended in repose for those who breathe the air of freedom. The way of slavery, however, started out as a smooth plain at the beginning, full of flowers, pleasant to look at and quite luxurious, but in the end it became impassable, steep and insurmountable on all sides."

Who is Prometheus? By the way, a movie with the same name coming our way soon.
I love Greek mythology as it has lots of similarity to Chinese mythology.

Unless you became an entrepreneur straight from school or inherited a family business, most of us would have walked on the smooth plain path towards slavery at some point in our career – although our parents and schools would very much prefer to sell it as taking the educated path towards “getting a high paying job”. 

Once upon a time, getting a high paying job in the government was the number one choice. Then big banks became the flavour of the decade. So was MNCs with their lure of overseas postings. I guess now its small start-ups with the potential to become the next Facebook? 

Wait! Rewind. Working at start-ups is not taking the easy path. It’s taking the rough path.

Only during the famine of winter do we realise we have been taken for fools. Especially if you have been “volunteered” by others to be jettisoned off the boat so the same others could remain afloat and “meet the numbers”.

Notice how the shares of public listed companies go up when the CEO announces they would chop off 10% of the workforce?

If you are one of those “investors” eagerly counting the potential increase in earnings per share for your stock, just remember when your number is up, other investors too will cheer the resolute and shareholder friendly decision of your chainsaw CEO.

What goes around comes around.

No whining please! We are Singaporeans!

Once great companies like Kodak, Nokia, Sony, Lehman Brothers are either bankrupt or are struggling to keep afloat. Is the company you are working for now better than them?

Working for the government safe? Countries can and have gone bust too. And there’s regime change. New political master must make room for their cronies supporters. Are you the willow who can bend in whatever direction the wind blows?  

Judging by the number of people who are willing to pay serious money to learn the way to financial freedom, I guess many have realised the path they have chosen is not the right one. 

Alas if they only knew that sitting in an air-con room for a few days or weeks is still the easy path…

The rough path means exactly that. You have to sweat, get some cuts and bruises along the trail, expose yourself to the wind, sun, rain, and snow…

You may want to read Aesop’s quote above again. 


  1. Hi SMOL

    Fables/parables are evergreen because they unveil the fundamental issues that human beings struggle with in finding the right path in life.

    I would suggest that everyone has to decide and chart their own paths in lifes. Where it leads us, no-one knows. But the key is to decide on the path that one wants to take and to accept the consequences of taking that path.

    Be well and prosper.

  2. Yes Panzer,

    Walk our own path.

    Following the well-trodden path of others is safety in numbers, but we may end up in a place not to our liking.

    It will hit us during our mid-life crisis ;)

  3. Most people are taking things easy, thinking that to follow the majority and you will not be wrong. From the results of the GE2011, most people just vote the incumbent govt as the safe path...sad..

    1. Anon 9:02

      Politics will mature and develop in Singapore when people don't take the easy path and hide under brown paper bags when making political comments.

      It's improving. More Singaporeans are using real names when writing to the media and is not afraid to be filmed on TV supporting Opposition. Got to love the Worker Party supporters at that coffee shop. No one hide their faces from the cameras. Bravo!

      Being responsible and accountable to what we say and do - that's taking the rough path.

      Thanks for your comment,
      Jared Seah

  4. Hi SMOL,
    That's why dentist can become chef and lawyer becomes teacher.And teacher become lawyer. Well don't say it never happens. These are people who really feels strongly what they want in life and go for it. i think it happens more often in the west-more developed countries. Because opportunity for switching profession is more easily done.

    1. Temperament,

      It's happening more amongst the "young" in Singapore.

      I see more people in their late 20s and early 30s leaving "corporate" to do their own "thing". They call it quarter-life crisis!? LOL!

      Could be a small eatery, a retail boutique, a no safety-net career switch to the arts, etc.

      Many may fail; but what's the risk?

      Corporate will always be around.

      The most come back, recuperate, and strike out again!

  5. Hehehe! Right on! My chosen path was definitely not easy, but maybe it's the middle ground. WHen I developed a passion for optical science, I was just a kid in the Philippines. I didn't even know what the job prospects were for an optical scientist. I didn't even know how much they would get paid and where I would end up. I blissfully and naively thought that I'd be perfectly satisfied with a low paying job and ride a bike to work everyday as long as I could design lenses and lasers. But it somehow lead me to where I am now, and it's been tough, rough, fun, and exciting all at the same time. I call it the "middle ground" because what I did was not entreprenuership, so it wasn't "hard", but it still was challenging nonetheless. Now, I'm 37 years old, but I have partial freedom, with no debt. So it's the middle ground.

    1. Ronian,

      Middle path is good!

      I've walked the middle path too.

      My former day job paid for the "medical bills" for the "slings and arrows" I took during my part-time speculation excursions.

      Now my part-time speculation pays for my days of leisure.

      Still middle path as it's not 100% days of leisure yet :)

    2. "Now my part-time speculation pays for my days of leisure."

      so who pay for your losses?

    3. Coconut,

      Past winnings and accumulated networth.

      That's what I meant with my previous post:


      When winter comes, I still can hibernate in peace. It's a metaphor for my current situation.

    4. ok, i though you took your profit and go enjoying yourself haha.

      profits (if any) are first to be pay for future losses, than pay for mininium daily expenses, left over leave them in your account. thats part of money management.

    5. so how do one determine his future losses? actually the bigger the amount (of future losses), the better it is!


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