Wednesday 20 February 2013

Don’t forget number 1

I had a Taiwanese colleague who is the “unofficial” leader in the office in Taiwan. We call her “Da Jie” (Big Sister).

At that time, all the official heads of our offices in Asia Pacific were either a Swede or a Dane. You know how it is when we worked in a European MNC. (It has since changed with more diversity. And don’t you believe this “tapping the local talent” crap… It’s all about dollars and cents.)

This Taiwanese colleague got posted to Shanghai 9 months before me. She was I guess 5-8 years older than me (never ask a lady her age)? And I believe she had been in the company 10 years longer.

Long story short. She was fired during my 2nd year in Shanghai. One reason I like working for this company is that we have many cases of someone getting fired in one division or office, and weeks or months later the same fired person will be reemployed elsewhere in another organisation in the same company!? I don’t think it can happen in an Asian or American company.

Suffice to say she was offered a job at the Head Office by her previous Swedish boss who has returned backed to Sweden. She turned down the offer and returned to Taiwan instead. So it’s more a matter of “differences in opinions” between her and her present Shanghai boss. 
I met this Taiwanese colleague in Taiwan during one of my business trips and over dinner, she shared with me her regrets and offered this advice to me – Don’t forget number 1. 

Assumptions and plans

She had planned to work until retirement with our present company. She loved the job, worked hard with the late nights and weekends burnt. In reciprocate, the company encouraged and motivated her efforts with promotions and overseas posting.

She had prioritised her career over love. She is single. She thought work can replace her emotional needs. She bought into the men’s war cry: “Work is my life!” 

She assumed doing a job she loves will take care of her forever.

It’s all a lie. An illusion. A mirage. 


Not getting a property when prices were low. She mistakenly thought since company is paying for accommodation and/or since living with parents, no need to get tied down to a place. She got a rude shock upon returning to Taiwan. 

Her contemporaries who were below her in the career ladder were much better off financially in net asset terms just by owning their own homes – especially if they had bought during the 97 Asian financial crisis or during the aftermath of the bubble bust in 2002 to 2003.   

She also regretted not getting herself financially literate all these years. She has some money stashed away and is not exactly what you call poor. 

She has no problem making decisions using other people’s money when working for someone. Where to source a product - from which country and supplier - is not exactly involving peanuts. 

But now using her own money, she shared it’s difficult to squeeze the trigger on her own investments. Something she has only recently got acquainted with…  (I used the word acquainted to differentiate people who out of the blue declare they want to invest/trade for a living after losing their job from those who are passionately investing/trading on the side with a day job and naturally transitioned to fulltime when “it’s time”. Same same but different!)   

Her biggest regret is not thinking what she really wanted all these years. She had been too busy “working”.  

(I’ll leave out the emotional regret parts out. It’s a bit personal. Just a hint that’s the biggest regret above.)  

Interesting new developments in Taiwan

Although it does not affect my ex-Taiwan colleague directly, I think it's relevant to this post.

Don't forget number 1

Although I’ve not said a single word on what’s “Don’t forget number 1”, I believe when you are receptive to hear your own inner voice, you know what it is.



  1. what is "Don’t forget number 1”??? lea bo qu!

    1. by the way i'll will be meeting up with my friend (who lost his job) again for copi, beside financial, what advise should i give or should i keep my bloody mouth shut.

      i know he is not interested in trading and i'm not interested in other subjects.

    2. coconut,

      But of course you don't!

      You have never forgotten or ignored who is the "most important number 1 person" in your life. This post does not apply to you.

      Keeping him company is already showing support. I would rather let him figure it out himself.

      ONLY if he persistently asks for advice would I say something like: "Now you have the opportunity to do what you've always wanted to do; but can't as work always got in the way."

      Men have a bad habit of giving advice (wah kali kong) that doesn't concern them while women are better at consoling others - they listen, hug, hold hands, etc.

      My best female friend taught me this.

      I don't know how close you are with your friend, but hugging and holding hands are optional I guess between men?

    3. "most important number 1 person" - myself?

      i think my world view is a little different from others, friends? come to think of it, all my friends, including my wife, i know them since below 15 years old except one that i know him when i work.

      so this friend of mine i know him when he was 7 years old, my pri classmate. very smart guy! i don't have any friend or i consider friend when i grow up. i guess its the memory of our childhood that keeps me close to them, when i see them, i see youth haha.

      no doubt i had this social disorder, i don't asociate with people i don't know, only those that i grew up with i can relates to them.

    4. so you can immagin when i talk to them, i will fire it up, just like when we were kids. and thats my problem!

      he is not as close as my the other friends that i grew up and spend most of our time together, we are a bit further away but nonetheless, still meet up once in a while which is pretty bad i consider.

      i got a feeling he is "lost" and need someone to talk to, i'm usually not a good candidate. anyway i'll try my best, its a tough job for me. (throw him in the sea and wake him up would be my better choice haha)

    5. coconut,

      Only when we have taken cared of ourselves can we support our friends in need.

      Hey! You are bloody normal and smart! Who wants to be friends with people we can't relate with?

      Slap! Oh it's me! I was once a man-whore... I had to pretend to be friendly and work with people I can't relate with.

      I guess most of us have "prostituted" ourselves at one time or another?

      As ex-salesman, I keep a distance to those who are too socially "smooth" ;)

    6. so if you raise your right hand and count the finger on it, thats about the number of friends i got. one that i can truly talk to without holding back.

      ofcos that does not include "family" friends, whom mostly from my wife, and many countless others who i can't really talk to and i never really want to talk to including the current one.

      put another words, i don't really want to meet up but in this case, i just can't reject him, a borderline case.

    7. yayaya, "prostitute" or selling is the right words for me to discribe it hahaha...i'll never want to do it!

    8. people having this attitude, like my buddy, are always very poor. i'm damn lucky in the sense that i can manage money, that little money we have.

      ever since i started business then went into trading, i always want my buddy to be part of it, never mind about the capital, just get involved but he refuses, not interested. (but he did offer help in some aspect of it without any pay!)

      ofcos now i'm better off, i'll look after him when ever he needs it (but he never once openly say so).

    9. You both have a good thing going, treasure it!

      One helped the other without expectation of being paid, while the other supports in return whenever there's a need without waiting to be asked.

      Don't fxxx it up by being business partners. Many a friendship have been ruined by money and who gets to make the final decision.

  2. Hi SMOL,

    Interesting post. I would have walked the same path if I hadn't met a decent enough man many years ago. Being in a job that's on a fast track leaves no time and no room for other things. My mum used to tell us that love isn't worth much. Financial independence is more important. Even till today, I still hold the same belief. If I were to be single ever again, I would probably spend time pursuing other things than love. I have much higher expectations these days, unfortunately. Soul mates are hard enough to find and on top of that, expecting that somebody to match in terms of intellectual capacity would make it even harder still.

    If love is important to this 'Dajie', now that she has time, she can go out to meet people and love will find her somewhat, somehow. Whichever path we choose, we should live with no regrets. :)


    1. Endrene,

      Wow! Lucky I have the emotional capacity to empathise with what you've shared. I had a wry smile when reading your "intellectual capacity".

      It takes a strong woman to say that. I'll reveal my cleavage to reciprocate:

      1. I have not "settled". (That's a bit rich for someone who left school at 16)

      2. No man is worth a single tear of a beautiful woman. Wink.

      I agree. Life's too short to have regrets. If I made a wrong turn (and I know it), I just u-turn (even if there's no u-turn sign).

  3. Hi SMOL,

    Maybe I should use a more humble word like 'same frequency'. Hahaha. Came across far too many geh kiang people who have neither enough intelligence nor humility. I work hard to become more learned but I honestly don't think I'm damn good. So to be with somebody who can't even match my standards, then it isn't quite meaningful. But of course, what I've chosen long ago, I'll stick with my choice. I live with no regrets and yes, u-turn is always possible if I think I'm on a wrong path. :)

    I super like your point 2. That's precisely my thoughts too. I'm quite narcissistic.

    Lucky you only say you show your cleavage and not butt crack. Lao hero wear super low hipster can be quite orbit lor! :P


  4. Thumbs up :)

    You and I are definitely not "restrained" ;)

    Hey! Let's encourage our other "shy" archer friend to burn his underwear?

    Then he will stand before us and declare:

    I am man.

    I am power.



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