Sunday 29 July 2012

Own time own target, fire!

Looking back, my 2 years of NS is a great source of learning experience.

During range shooting, the above phrase is commonly used.

And we in the back row behind the shooters have to "echo" it loud loud ;)

 We can also apply it to our life journey as well:

1) Don't shoot other people's target.

2) Pace yourself. There's time enough to finish the shots.

3) But don't wait too long as there's a time limit!

4) Aim, fire! Don't aim, aim, aim, aim, and still aiming!?

5) When I.A. happens, don't panic. Fix the problem yourself.

6) No matter what happens, don't point your rifle at anyone.

As in real life, there will be marksmen, and there will be "boh-boh" shooters. While the vast majority will be just "average".

If you are marksman, don't be too cocky... The targets are not shooting back.

If you are "boh-boh" shooter, don't be despondent... Isn't it nice to know you're not good at killing your fellow man?

Of the 6 metaphors above, point 1 & 6 are closest to my heart. 

Which of the 6 strikes the most resonance with you?

It would be nice to share your reasons why.

We shoot the breeze together!

Or if you prefer, we can talk "male-chicken" like during our NS days :)

Thursday 26 July 2012

The elephant keeps walking while the dogs keep barking

I first came across this phrase when Suzie Orman (she also borrowed it with pride too) used it to explain how she feels when under “attack” by other financial commenters and bloggers.

Let them have their 10 minutes of “fame” Suzie would say. What a cool lady!

If you scan the media today, you can see lots of stone throwing at people who are famous; more popular; richer; stronger; in an authoritative position; and at a higher social standing than us.

Although I applaud the retaliatory actions of Xiaxue (you go girl!), Suzie’s respond struck a stronger chord with me.

This post is an inspiration from a conversation with a fellow blogger. Stand tall and keep walking!

There’s another angle to this phrase.

And that’s to remind us to keep walking towards our destination despite the many distractions we may encounter along the way.

For example:

If you want to save $100,000 for the 20% deposit for your first home, rest assured there will be lots of sirens of the sea to lure you off your goal.

Special low low interest for car loans! 

Psst! Come invest your money in my scheme. Sure win one!

Let’s travel first class and in style! Don’t worry, spend now worry later. It’s priceless!

Keep walking! Let's all be Johnny Walker ;)

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Investing Diary Or Trading Journal – Complement To Your Annualised Returns

You know what? 

I suspect the reason why many investors and traders get so interested or hung-up on their annualised performance in percentages is because they are right-handed.

Right-handed means left-brained, and that’s the domain of numbers and analytical skills.

I always have a laugh when I see people write their performance down as in + 10.23%

A 10% rounded is not good enough… Must also include .23… Well, I guess 10.23% beats someone who got 10.21%

So competitive! 

Let’s take a hypothetical example of Mr X’s annual investment/trading returns:

Year 1             =          + 100%
Year 2             =          - 50%
Year 3             =          + 30%
Year 4             =          - 23%

Those good in math will know immediately that this person – after spending 4 years in the market – has “lost” to someone who has put the same money in a savings bank.

So by looking at the numbers, how can Mr X improve his performance for next year?

Eh… (Of course can but with lots of assumptions! And the usual platitudes like let your winners run and cut short your losers, etc…Don’t you want to puke if you hear another hackneyed book “advice”?)

Unless you have the memory of an elephant, may I suggest an Investment Diary or Trading Journal to complement your addiction to numbers?

You can just Google or search in Youtube for the many suggestions on how to go about it.

Choose a medium and format that suits you.

I personally use a spreadsheet. This way, I have the database of individual trades, and I can have summaries on the monthly and annual performances in money with the aid of formulas in different worksheets.

I use the insert comment function to add the reasons why I entered into that position, and my exit plans, if any.

Put down in words

By writing in words, together with recording in numbers, we get to use both sides of our brain.

You’ll be surprised what little lies you tell yourself when you review your diary/journal looking back.
The amount of detail to record is entirely up to your pleasure. Some may want to write a thesis on their positions, some just bullet points.

When I started out, I wrote under 3 sub-headings:

  1. The macro environment – Economic outlook, political situation, etc.
  2. The position itself – The reasons why I initiated this trading position. For core investment holding positions, I also add how I go about building a sizable position. All in or scaling in, for eg.
  3. My mental state – Whether I am sanguine, nonchalant, stressed, angry, happy. How I was feeling that day when I made the trade/investment.
That was then. 

Now I don’t need to write on my mental state anymore. If I not in an optimum frame of mind, I stay out of the market. And my writings are now shortened to a few key words as memory aid. But that’s after many years of self-reflections and reviews. 

It’s like adjusting the radio. Your turn left, turn right, and finally turn a bit left again. Optimum! So don’t worry if you find yourself writing too much or too little in the beginning. You’ll know the right level of detail for yourself soon enough!

As an investor, even if you hardly make any trades in a year, if you review your portfolio every quarter or half-yearly, you can record down your thoughts during these periodic reviews. For example:

Why are you not trimming your positions when some of the reasons you have bought have started to deteriorate? 

Why are you not adding to positions when market is offering your same positions at a much lower price?

It’s no magic bullet

Depending on how honest you want to be to yourself, looking back at your own trades and positions, you can better see your strengths and weaknesses. 

And to focus on your strengths or weaknesses is again up to you ;)

It’s sort of like putting muscles and flesh to the numbers skeletons we are so fond of.
Soon, you will be your own cheerleader and aunt agony :)

Trading and Investing is not a group adventure.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Shawn Achor - The Happy Secret to Better Work

When we were young, we study hard so we can get good grades. With good grades, maybe our parents will love us.

Upon stepping into society, we work hard so we can achieve success. With success, maybe we can find the love and the recognition our parents never gave us.

The trouble is once you hit your goal, they keep moving the goal posts...

First in your class? Good boy! Now shoot for first in school. Next comes first in Singapore, and since you are at it, must aim for first in the world too!

When I was a purchaser, and have hit the target of reducing the purchase prices by 20% over 5 years. Guess what was my reward? Another 20% price reduction for the next 5 years!?

I joke to my boss that at the pace the company is going, our suppliers will one day give us their products for free!

And soon we begin to get lots of quality recalls and delivery delays... You guess what's the cause?

Yup, we had our SMRT lesson too. 

So much for the single-mindedness in achieving one single KPI...

This moving of the goal post is not only foist upon us by others. We do it to ourselves too.

After hitting salary of $100,000 per year, we now aim for $200,000 as our next target. Why? 

You tell me :)

I guess how we were brought up has a lot to do with it.

Imagine if you grew up in an environment where love is not condition on what grades you have, what schools you go to, would you not be more likely to be a happy person? 

Less insecure about your future and our place on this little earth?

We can be happy even if we are "damaged goods" (like me).

All we needs is the conscious will to choose happiness.

Compliment more; complain less.

Be grateful; less about entitlements.

Do random acts of kindness; don't hurt others.

Start by holding the door for people behind you ;)


Sunday 15 July 2012

The Elephant And The Rope Round His Neck

The tree loggers ran out of the forests as a herd of wild Thai elephants came marauding out to defend their habitat.

In their haste, Baba, a fully grown male and domesticated elephant was left tied to a tree by a puny rope around his neck. His trainer had gone to pee and never came back…

The alpha male of the herd found the frightened Baba.

“Don’t be afraid. You are one of us. Come! You’re welcomed to join my herd if you so wish. Leave the humans; you’re free now.”

Baba shakes his head, “I can’t! I’m tied to the tree with this rope around my neck.”

“You got to be joking!” The alpha male thundered. “A fully grown elephant like us can easily knock down a whole tree with a gentle nudge of our body. That rope can’t hold you back…”

Seeing the puzzled look of Baba, the frustrated alpha male moved towards Baba, “Here, I’ll break the rope for you.”

“Don’t do it!” 

The old female of the herd bellows to the alpha male.

“It’s not the rope that’s tying him down. He has to figure it out for himself. If you free him now in his current state, he won’t be able to fend for himself in the wild. We could do him harm despite our good intentions.”

Upon reflection, the alpha male nodded in agreement reluctantly. 

“Friend, we have to go now before the humans come back with their thunder sticks. I hate to leave you here like this, but you have to believe no rope can tie a fully grown elephant down. Once you have freed yourself, come seek us out.”

The alpha male turned around and leads his herd deep into the cover of the forest.

Baba looked longingly at the wild elephants as they disappeared from his sight.

“Why do the free elephants keep saying I can break the rope around my neck on my own?” Baba ponders to himself.

“Since the day of my captivity as a baby, many times I’ve tried to pull away and break this rope. I’ve got rope burn scars on my neck as proof. It’s not lack of trying. I’ve tried! 

It’s no use. The rope is the same rope tying me down all this years. It can’t be broken.”   

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Follow the crowd

I read the Straits Times with admiration and envy how some young Singaporeans were quitting their well-paid corporate jobs to join internet start-ups. Similar stories were repeated in the next weeks. You can feel the buzz in the air!

Six months later, the Nasdaq dot-com bubble crashed together with the blue-eyes dreams of many… That was year 2000.

I’ve never liked crowds. 

I prefer watching movies in half-empty cinemas. I definitely would not queue for hours for that “popular” brand of bak-kua or wait 20 minutes for that “famous” hawker food.

I just make do with the next best alternative. Most of the time, I can’t taste the difference anyway.


When I make my core equities acquisitions, I prefer to do it when crickets are chirping.

Often when I find a company I like, I would do a quick scan to see if any sell-side analysts have issued “buy” recommendations on it recently; are there bloggers “plugging” this stock; and if there are numerous “glowing” posts on the company in equities forums by many different members.  

If I do, I’ll kick myself for being late into the game… I’ll pass on this stock and look elsewhere for the next best alternative.

Now I noticed in the papers and on various business media, most talking heads are plugging a particular investing style. It’s getting to be a bit like 2000 all over again.

My pattern recognition brain is telling me it’s time to…

Saturday 7 July 2012

笑傲江湖之滄海一聲笑 - Fear of Retirement

作詞:黃霑 作曲:黃霑 

滄海一聲笑 滔滔兩岸潮
蒼天笑 紛紛世上潮

江山笑 煙雨遙
清風笑 竟惹寂寥

蒼生笑 不再寂寥


I remember when I first saw this scene and heard this song in the cinema, I was blown away.

The movie is the Mandarin version; but I prefer the original Cantonese version. Thank goodness for DVDs! 

It left a very strong imprint and I guess it has stuck with me till today. 

This song came to mind after bantering with two readers recently.

Six months into my sabbatical from work (退江湖), I have a new appreciation to what the genius song writer 黃霑 meant in his words. 

Life is good. I am happy. 

I don't like the word "retirement". It gives me the impression I would retire to bed and then drop off... 

I'll stick with "sabbatical from work" until I find a better phrase to replace it. 

Fear of retirement 

The superficial "fear" of retirement is perhaps more related to the worry of:  

Do I have enough to maintain my current lifestyle? 

Do I have enough to pay the medical bills? 

Do I have enough this and do I have enough that!

It's like the pugilist who constantly searches and upgrades his kung fu to the next higher level. Always fearing his ranking in the martial arts world will be usurped by another challenger. (Sounds familiar?)

But I suspect there's another deeper fear of retirement…

And it does not matter whether you retire at 35, 50, or 65.

It’s waking up the morning after and discovered you only know how to make money. 

There’s no music, no art, no literature in your heart.

No appreciation of the beauty in our world, no sense of wonder of Mother Nature.

No love for your fellow man, let alone animals! 

At least while we are working, we have the “excuse” we are too busy to consider such silly things.

Perhaps that’s why you don’t hear writers, artists, architects, gardeners, farmers, etc. talk much about retirement or being financially free...

Wednesday 4 July 2012

What do you think comes right back at you!

After asking this “what do you think?” question, how I would respond may depend on whether I am on a one-to-one situation or in a group setting.

Group situation

Newbie – If the question is so basic until I feel embarrassed for the enquirer, I would ask the rest of the group who can answer that question?

It kills 2 birds with 1 stone. 

Remember our school days where there’s a teacher’s pet that is ever ready with the right answers? Yup, they are still with us as grown-ups. Some even end up as bloggers. Hey! Don’t look at me! I’m the class clown. 

I cringe every time I see “it’s my passion to educate”. Brurrr….

This smart alec will feel happy he/she is “educating” his peers; and the enquirer will get the gentle message that he/she has come unprepared.

Plus it helps greater group interaction so I as facilitator can relax a bit. I save myself for more intellectually stimulating questions!

Think he/she knows – If I know his school of thought, I will quote from his “guru” to drop the hint I know where he is coming from. And I will follow-up by “I am sure you know” this and that complementary and opposite schools of thought.

The purpose is not to destroy the enquirer’s position or point of view; but to engender a bit of self-doubt within his over-confidence. He learns quickly what we meant by “beware the man of one book”!

But what if I have no freaking idea what school of thought or book this enquirer has read? Now the eggs are on my face… Hey! I never said I am a know-it-all!

I would say “that’s a very interesting point you’ve brought up”, and ask the group how many shares that viewpoint?

If only a minority agrees or understand what talking him, phew! That means I am not the only one! 

Then it’s just a matter of replying “I thank you for your interesting contrarian or alternative viewpoint. But it seems it’s not very mainstream… By the way, can you give me your source of reference so I can get back to you with a more complete reply?” 

Now I will be prepared for the next group session in case this “cold door” (unpopular) school of thought’s disciple pops-up again!  

But if the majority agrees, then I will use this Zen trick. I will pour water into an empty cup, and pour water to another cup that’s filled with water to the brim. (No props draw!) 

This way, I can get the group’s understanding to “temporarily” pour out their prior knowledge to make space for what new ideas I am introducing.  I can finish my sharing and we all can have a more productive Q&A session at the end without too many interruptions in-between. 

Experts – If I sense this bugger is out to get me or likes the limelight, I would let him have the stage. The more he talks, the more he may put his foot in his mouth, or others in the group will ask him to sit down and stop showing off!

People are not stupid. (OK, some are!)

And if I find this expert has a very valid point to make, I couldn’t be happier! Nothing stimulates me more than an intellectual debate! (Honey, honey… of course I love you in your teddy more!)

I have to be conscious that I don’t neglect the rest of the group members so it does not become a 2 man show.

There’s a Chinese saying “no fight; no know friend”!

What do you think?

As you can see, the “newbies” and “experts” are much easier to communicate with. It’s the “think you know” that are murder!

“Scholar meets foot-soldier, how to bloody communicate?”

Do you have similar experiences?


Unless you are a recluse that has no human interactions, I shall leave it blank so you can have fun filling-in yourself.

I know you know I know you know the answers already!!!

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