Friday 30 December 2016

A Flat Pancake Trading Year

Oh well!

I guess the streak has to end some day, isn't it?

2013 - Doubled my trading account (Rampage!)

2014 - Tripled it! (Godlike!)

2015 - Up 88% (Double happiness!)

2016 - Up 13%... (Shy, Shy, Shy - Yes, its from K-Pop Twice's Cheer Up MV)

Tale of 2 halves

2016 started fantastic. Got played out as the trend reversed?

Then came mid-year where I thought surely this must be the one...

Nope. Got played out one more time... The market is such a tease!

Luckily, both times I got profit-stopped.

I'm not smart, but even I can take a hint from the price action the market is giving me!

Rather than be stuck in the middle of the ocean with my little sail boat with no winds, I decided to anchor myself back at the harbour. Safety first.

No wind at least I can still do my wine, woman, and song at the taverns that lined the harbour. Was pretty much on the sidelines for the 2nd half of 2016.

Then came mid-November for the US elections. Was positioned for a Clinton win but hey!

Lucky as lucky does!

Wrong but made money!?

Not one to look at the gift horse in the mouth so I cashed out.

A few days later, realised this Trump rally got legs! Jumped right back in.

And here we are. Up 13% for the year.

I guess can't complain. Was only up 5% before the US elections.

The extra 8% came within the last 6 weeks of 2016 - now that's trading for you!

I count in actual dollars

Accounting for my trading account is easy.

I funded it 4 years ago with $1, never took money out nor added new money in.

After 4 years, it has now grown to $12. (For the CNC precision machinists out there, its $12.43. Happy?)

From 11 baggers in 3 years to 12 baggers in 4 years.

Want to know something interesting?

In dollar terms, I made slightly more during 2016 than in 2013 - $1.40 versus $1.00.

Due to the low base effect for 2013, if we count in percentages, its an easy 200% smoke and mirrors spin!

Now you know why most who use fundamental analysis prefer to overlay the Cash Flow statements on top of the Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet statements. Wink.

Cash flow is much harder to fake. (But still possible. Just ask Toshiba shareholders)

That's it!

Closing my trading book for the year.

A flat pancake trading year. Move along now... Nothing much to see.

P.S.  For new readers who are interested in the backstory:

Monday 26 December 2016

The Real Benefit of Blogging

What you expect?

Money from blogging?


Want to know what I think?

One good investment or one good trade for 2016 should be many times the dollar value what one could get from blogging.

Now that's getting our priorities straight! (Something for wannebe bloggers out there)


There are quite a lot of interesting characters that make this watering-hole a fun place to mingle (龙蛇混杂) - provided one is not so thin-skinned that one gentle poke you go, "Teacher, teacher! Botak disturb me!"

If you are a regular here, you'll know the popular and recurring characters.

I've thanked and complimented them (they will say where got?) enough already. 

Today, I'll share the unintended and unsung benefits that I've found from blogging:

Getting to know interesting people.

These characters you seldom see them commenting here. If they do, its once in a thousand years...

1.  The Cartoonist

He's a real life scientist. Got publish research papers kind. I've forgotten how we met over here for I don't recall he's into investing or trading... I suspect its because he's into drawing cartoons and I into painting with words.

This man knows his heart's compass when he shared the cartoons he drew depicting how he and his wife met and fell in love... (If I'm a girl I'll go aw...)

He has since left Singapore and is now residing in Canada. Miles apart, seldom stay in touch, but he is one of those people where if we meet and talk, it would feel like we have just parted yesterday.

2. The Cat Woman 

This "crazy" woman (she'll know I say it with affection) trades WTI crude from home, and is once upon a time a legend from the trading community. Yes, having a pretty face helps. But that's more a distraction.

If you can go beyond her crazy (did I say it again?) good looks, you'll discover she's a warrior trader - one who can bring meat to the table!

I never understood her psychedelic charts. She will make 20 t0 30 trades a day, lose a few hundreds here, make a few hundreds there. End of the month she'll be up $10,000??? How on Earth she does it???

She's not trading now. She is now full time taking care of her hordes of cats living with her.  

3.  Smart Beta

This is one good example of a one-sided relationship; I'm the thick-skinned one. You can tell by the way he blogs he is or used to be from inside the industry; not the usual regurgitate what they've read from books and re-summarise for dummies kind of blogger.

Waiting for his next post to engage with him is like watching paint dry...

He is the reason why I like to mix with people who are different from me.

Beginning of the year, during the commodity rout, he made a brave trade to long the Canadian Dollar without leverage (which shows how much money he has).

I on the other hand decided to short the Canadian Dollar end of this year just after OPEC's agreement to cap oil production with 10:1 leverage (which shows I'm tiny).

We both made money.

4.  Patty,

You won't see him commenting on my finance related posts. He'll only appear on my wine, woman, and song posts. Especially when it concerns Anime, Manga, and all things Japanese.

I've stolen with pride quite a few "inspirations" from his Facebook page for my blog posts.

He definitely got culture and soul in his heart. And a song or two! 

Now he is busy playing with his DIY bicycles?

Idiot, makes me look bad with my inactivity...

Blogging to receive

So many have grand manifestoes to give and share. Yet they spend quite a lot of time and effort on blog monetisation...

I suspect that's the main reason why most bloggers stop blogging after the honeymoon period...

A beggar would probably make more money than us!

But I don't feel poor.

On the contrary, I feel quite "rich" with the relationships I've made.

Thank you everyone! (I now sound like a politician)

P.S.  Eh! So when you are going to buy me coffee?

IKEA coffee 50 cents only, and comes with unlimited refills!

(That's how you tell whether a company is great or not. If an ex-employee leaves and continues to promote his ex-company... The company is good, better, best!)

Saturday 24 December 2016

Hallelujah - Pentatonix

Song dedication to friends of the cross out there!

To some people, it's all about the bass, no treble.

Some exalt the fidelity of treble.

While some just prefer the comfort of the midrange tones.

And then there are those who will debate whether we should include beatbox into a cappella...

But put them together...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Monday 19 December 2016

What are Bucket Shops?

I noticed a bad habit by some readers of financial blogs - too reliant and dependent on their favourite "shepherd"...

For example, got question on CPF matters, instead of checking the CPF website or contacting CPF directly, prefer to be spoon-fed...

If you get a summary from a summary from another summary, what do you think?

Want to bet there's some "oil and vinegar" (油加醋) added to the mix?

How do people get scammed?

Yup, they don't do the verification themselves.

Assuming others will do it for them, and/or have their best interest...

Think about it. Would you help others get richer than you if you do not get any benefits in return?

What are bucket shops?

I think I'll do it differently.

Anyone of you have placed 4D, Toto, or soccer bets illegally with private bookies?

There must be some "incentives" for you the retail bettor right?

If not why you would want to choose this illegal option over betting legally with Singapore Pools?

When you place your bets with these illegal bookies, they are taking the opposite side of your bets right?

These bookies are trading against you.

They make money when you lose; and they also make money when you win (bookies take a cut of your winnings).

And there's another risk.

Some of the bookies never pass your bets to their big syndicate boss.

If you win big, these bookies may "run road".

How to collect your winnings like that?

You can't complain to the syndicate boss - you don't know them.

And please hor! You can't go to the police too!

You betting illegally remember?

And that describes pretty much how a bucket shop operates. Wink.

You whiter than white bei kambing

What? You not "Hokkien peng"?

You "ang moh pie" and educated type?

You catch no ball what I say?

Hello, there's such a thing called Google.

OK, OK, don't hit the face!

Here's the Wikipedia link: Bucket shop

If you read to the  bottom, there's this "See also" section on forex scams, binary options, boiler room, and pump and dump.

You may want to explore own time own target.

Tip: Don't assume everything that's written in internet is correct or up to date.

If you got do your homework first, then if you want to jio me or the fisherman out for coffee to do verification, your questions will be much more intellectually stimulating.

Anything is better than, "What stock to buy?" or "At this price can enter?"




Thursday 15 December 2016

What is the No. 1 Export of US?



If you are into bonds, currencies, gold/silver, you would know the answer.

But if you are an equities only specialist, then excusable.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Who died and made you Indian Chief?

For those of us in my generation, its a common phrase we use during our National Service.

In our little financial bloggers community, its definitely a breeding ground for lots of self-styled Indian Chiefs. Wink.

Let's turn the tables and focus on us for a change.

If you are a polytechnic graduate, doing well in your career with frequent promotions despite not having a university degree, guess what? You often get well meaning advice to "upgrade" and study for a degree from classmates whose career are not going anywhere, but they are always on the paper chase thinking that more ABCs behind their names will help them in that promotion they so desperately seek...

You are single and happy but every stranger you meet always tell you to get married. Yet their marriage lives are not exactly what you call "bliss"...

You happy and contented being a believer of your own faith. You put the symbol of your faith outside your door. Then some strangers come knock on your door and tell you in your face your faith is wrong and you are believing in false gods...

To those over enthusiastic evangelists, how would you feel if some militant atheists come to your house and tell you its the 21st century already?

You enjoy life and never bother anyone. But everyone is always telling you how to live your life - with good intentions of course:

Don't smoke - wait you get lung cancer. You die.

Don't drink - can get liver cancer. You die.

You eating that fried chicken? High cholesterol. Wait you get stroke or heart attack. You die.

You buy Toto? You know the odds of you winning? See? If you save and 30 years later...

Eh, you look fat (how rude!), still don't diet or exercise? Obese no good. I think you know the drill by now. You'll get this and that.

And then you die!

Friends, in the long run we all die lah.

Friday 9 December 2016

The confused "Value Investor's" transition from Value, to GARP, to Growth Investing...

This post is stand alone.

For those who have the time to read a century of comments to get the context and perspective, you may want to read this old post: Here's a question to Value Investors.

When to buy

When do Value Investors buy?

They buy when they can find a stock that is selling below its "fair value".

There are quite a few metrics to use, but fair to say these "fair value" metrics can be "calculated" from published quarterly or annual statements.

Teaching or learning these metrics is easy. There are formulas, excel file templates to fill-in, numbers to crunch.

All very black and white stuffs.

When to sell?

When the reason you bought was because there was a "discount" to fair value, then the logical "catalyst" to sell is when that "discount" is no longer present.

That's what the pros do.

After the sale, they go hunting for other stocks that are selling below fair value.

Buy, sell, rinse, and repeat.

If they can't find stocks selling below fair value, they don't bite.

Retail Value Investor don't have the same playbook

The competent ones do buy at discount to fair value.

But when the stock price has risen to fair value, that's where retail value investors deviate from the pros...

Nope, can't sell.

What if after selling the price goes higher?

Now these retail value investors have transition into Peter Lynch's Growth at Reasonable Price (GARP).

And when the price has soars to more than 2 standard deviations from fair value, with P/E multiples that will make any true blue Value Investor puke, now the same retail value investor will morph into a Growth Investor like Philip Fisher.

No worries!

See? I made a mistake with my "fair value" calculations. The stratospheric price today is the new "fair value". So there's lots of room for price to go much up before everything is overvalued!


Am I making it up as I go along?

No way! Look, I'm a LOOOOONG term investor OK?

When shit hits the fan

Its not so bad if one transitions into GARP or Growth Investing from a Value Investing mindset,

All of the above entry methods have their own exit strategies.

But if we morphed into a long term buy-and-hold strategy mid way, that's similar to the joke traders use to mock themselves - letting a trade become a long term investment - you know it usually does not end well...

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Where are the Retail Growth Investors?

In my previous post, I wrote in the comments section that most retail investors began their journey as a Trader, then as a Value Investor, moving on to Dividend Investing, and finally capitulating towards Low Cost Passive Indexing when all things fail...

What about Growth Investing?


That was deliberate.


Because most retail traders and investors behave like Growth Investors - no matter what they call themselves.

Verification 1: When you made a trade to buy (long), and/or you invest in something, were you expecting the price to go up higher?

Verification 2: When equities prices were low in 2009 and end 2011, did you do most of your buying then? Or looking at your entry prices, most of them were bought near intermediate highs?

Verification 3: How many of you waited for the dip to scale into your position (let the price come to you)? You chased the market didn't you?

So tell me, how are you not a Growth Investor by default?

P.S.  For those who are not familiar with Growth Investing.

The father of Growth Investing is Thomas Rowe Price, Jr.

Most retail investors are more familiar with Philip Fisher and his book "Common Stocks And Uncommon Profits".

This post is a parody.

Although most of us act like "Growth Investors", there is a reason why most retail traders and retail investors lose money.

And for those who like to do reflections and 2nd level thinking, ask yourselves why there are so few seminars/courses on Growth Investing?

If you think you have the answer, buy me kopi and we can exchange our thoughts over drinks. Wink.

Saturday 3 December 2016

Most Retail "Investors" Are Failed Traders

Need I say more?

You know; I know.

Everyone knows.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Bernard Baruch - 10 Rules of Investing 

If you ask retail and professional traders alike, most will agree one of our all time favourite trading bible will be:

Reminisces of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefèvre.

It's a thinly disguised biography of Jesse Livermore.

A lot of trading's popular adages came from that book. If you have not already read it, I would highly recommend it. It's not your typical trading book. I promise you that!

However, there's a fly in the ointment. Jesse Livermore blew his brains out...

A fitting reminder to all traders out there, I guess.

This post is not about Jesse Livermore.

I would like to introduce to the newer traders out there another one of the great traders during Jesse Livermore's time - Bernard Baruch.


Well, for one, he speculated himself into a great fortune before 30 (a bit like those young 20 somethings start-up millionaires of today).

Escaped the Great Depression.

Became advisor for economic matters to 2 US Presidents.

Lived to a ripe young age of 95.

Evidently he is more than just a speculator.... Wink.

Bernard Baruch's 10 rules of Investing 

“Being so skeptical about the usefulness of advice, I have been reluctant to lay down any ‘rules’ or guidelines on how to invest or speculate wisely. Still, there are a number of things I have learned from my own experience which might be worth listing for those who are able to muster the necessary self-discipline:”

1. Don’t speculate unless you can make it a full-time job.

2. Beware of barbers, beauticians, waiters — of anyone — bringing gifts of “inside” information or “tips.”

3. Before you buy a security, find out everything you can about the company, its management and competitors, its earnings and possibilities for growth.

4. Don’t try to buy at the bottom and sell at the top. This can’t be done — except by liars.

5. Learn how to take your losses quickly and cleanly. Don’t expect to be right all the time. If you have made a mistake, cut your losses as quickly as possible.

6. Don’t buy too many different securities. Better have only a few investments which can be watched.

7. Make a periodic reappraisal of all your investments to see whether changing developments have altered their prospects.

8. Study your tax position to know when you can sell to greatest advantage.

9. Always keep a good part of your capital in a cash reserve. Never invest all your funds.

10. Don’t try to be a jack of all investments. Stick to the field you know best.

OK, point no.8 is not applicable to us Singaporeans. What must we do? 1, 2, 3, ready?

Thank you Big Daddy!

Retail investors and traders just starting out, you'll probably read and shrug.

No worries, just remember to refer to Bernard Baruch again when you have several more years of track record, then you may appreciate the meanings better.

Especially when you blew your trading account or experienced a devastating meltdown in your investment portfolio....

Veteran retail traders and investors out there, how?

Whether you agree or not is the question right?

You and I will agree the secret sauce is:

"for those who are able to muster the necessary self-discipline.”


Friday 25 November 2016

Headless Chicken

In the world of trading, I've learnt from painful experience its better to take a quick and small realised loss than to suffer a conviction sapping and margin eroding unrealised loss.

Once I have cut loss; I feel relieved.

Money can lose; but presence of mind cannot.

Same goes for the investment side of my portfolio.

Not taking profit can mess with our minds too.

Take for example - M1, a stock I'm not vested in.

If you had bought in at $1.50 during 2009, you would be a most happy retail investor during March 2015 - M1 hit $3.94!

That happiness was short lived as by May 2015, it broke below $3.50.

Some of you wily old fox retail investors may have sold all or half your position here.

Any lingering doubts whether you have done the right thing are all cleared out during August 2015 when M1 broke below $3.00.

This was your last chance to protect your 2 bagger winnings.

Want to guess how the person who didn't sell at $3.00 is feeling now?

Would he join others in adding to M1 at below $2.00 since its "so cheap"? Or would he be more likely to "capitulate" and sell if M1 drops down to $1.80? Surely he is not going to let a winning position turn into a loss? Or?

All of us have our "uncle point".

Once we've reached that level, we become like headless chickens.

Its better not to let ourselves be in such situations.


Tuesday 22 November 2016

That 2% Trading Rule

It's quite easy for us trading veterans to sniff out whether a blogger is writing from personal experience or just copy paste (more polite word for plagiarism) from some other official sources.

To a "bei kambing" or "white paper", since you know nothing, you'll just swallow hook, line, and sinker wholesale. That's until you have chalked up more experience points and now looking back, you'll just laugh it off.

It's part of the journey.

Never risk more than 2% of your trading capital per trade

Let's take the above risk management rule as example.

Can't go wrong with parroting this rule right? Wrong!

One, you reveal to the world you are NOT a trader. (I never understand such financial bloggers. Don't trade but like to write about trading stuffs!? For pageviews?)

Second, if you do actually trade part time, that will put you in the same basket with those people who say one thing; but do anything. Be honest now, do you employ that 2% rule in your own trading?

Institutional trading not the same as retail trading

That 2% rule is meant for institutional or proprietary traders.

Depending on the institutions, some may argue 2% is too risky! Some have a more conservative 1% or 0.5% limit on their trading positions.

For a bank forex trader, if you employ a 2% limit on your $10 million position, you are risking $200K per trade!

If you are his boss and this trader is inconsistent, would you allow him the full 2% limit?

And if you have friends who are trading their own money full time, go ask what limit they use when they first started out

I guarantee you the majority of them would have used a limit greater than 2%!

Don't just believe what I say, verify for yourself. Wink.

Ownself check ownself

If you are already trading part time for sometime, no need to ask others.

Yup, that's the reason why the majority of retail traders blow up their trading accounts.

But if we had stuck with the 2% trading rule, we would be "eating grass" when we win... And that's not what we have signed up for... Didn't we?

Intermediate to Advance trader

How to know your have improved as a trader?

Most people may think of trading account size. Yes, its a factor. But not the most important yardstick.

Its this fuzzy, grey, and vague thing called Wisdom.

I know, the left-brained precision people will raise you arms in despair! You can't put a SMART goal to wisdom!

LOL! (Its not that I don't set goals or make plans; I just set them different. Wink)

Wisdom comes from experience. Knowing when to bend the rules, when to break them. When to verify and dig deeper, when to disregard "noise" or "falsehoods".

And that's different from Knowledge.

Any studious trading newbie can "out knowledge" a trading veteran. What's the definition of this and that; who said this and that; parrot, parrot, parrot. Sure score distinctions in a trading theory test!


When I started out trading full time 4 years ago, I employed a 5% limit on my trading positions. Now that my trading account has grown by quite a bit, my trading limit is now closer to the 2% limit.  

Saturday 19 November 2016

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Peer to Peer lending at 240% interest per annum?


But now illegal.

Still can. Just don't get caught!

Remember what they said during our National Service time? Can do anything we want, just don't...

The highest interest a fellow blogger got from his peer-to-peer lending "investments" is 18% interest per annum.

Already a sizable "discount" from the 25% that credit card companies charge for unsecured "loans" from individuals...

But if we compare against high yielding junk bonds, 18% is a lot better than the 6.5% yield Swiber bond holders got.

Well, so much for accredited investor "status"...

Some learnt the hard way that seeking out a vehicle yourself that you bought into is not the same as the one you were sold to.

Bond traders were once upon a time known as Masters of the Universe.

I personally think they still are.

There is a reason why there are so few retail bond investors/traders out there.

OK, I'll concede the minimum $250K a lot is one deterrent. But we have the retail friendly Singapore Savings Bonds. Why the lack of retail interest?

I think we know the answer intuitively.

To be in the usury business, we need to be smart. Not just smart; but brilliant smart! And be really great with numbers!

What's the similarity and difference between bond traders and illegal money lenders?

Both know how to price risk; the difference is that one got education at the right schools, the other just happen to have little schooling despite having a high IQ.

New readers may want to read this 2011 post of mine: Can you lend me some money?

Monday 14 November 2016

Life is Better when you can say No

To continue the dialogue at LP's Choose Yourself post, I would like to share my story why if you can say no, life is a lot "freer".

You are speaking from a position of strength.

When I was 24 and working at Robinsons, I was invited to the management trainee program.

Its the equivalent of a non-commissioned officer being sent to Officer Cadet School.

If I had gone on to university and did 2 years of NS, that will be the same age 24 that I'll be joining the management trainee as an undergraduate candidate.

My alternative route of leaving school at 16 had ended me at the same starting point with my "can study" peers once again. Who knew?

In the retail industry, the "glamour" position was the Buyer's job.

Can wear "plain clothes", work office hours, and best of all - overseas buying trips!

The management trainee program was 12 months long, but they were already going to give me the Stationery Buyer's position 7 months into the program.

But I said no and left Robinsons. HR was furious!

By then, I had found an even better opportunity!

I decided to join Melandas to sell sofas at the newly opened IMM building in Jurong East. I'm the pioneering sales there.

A few years later, again I said "No" and accepted a big pay-cut to be a Hardlines Purchaser with Montgomery Ward Buying Office. 


Have you had the experience where you wanted something very badly and when you are about to get it or once you have it, you don't care for it any more?

Yes, the you of today is no longer the same you of yesterday.

You are probably stronger, taller, wiser, more aware of who you are, what you like - less following the path of others.

You know why some people are always unhappy despite the "success" in their lives?

They were sent to the Science stream when in their hearts they prefer Arts subjects...

Got promoted to a position or department they don't like...

Married a person they "settled for"...

Once upon a time, there was one student at the end of Secondary 2 who asked for transfer to sub-science stream so he can drop Additional Math in exchange for taking 2 Science and 2 Arts subjects - hybrid between Arts and Science.

He has no clue how he ended up in the Science stream as his Secondary 2 exam results must be a fluke!

That student was used as an example by the Vice-Principal to encourage other students to choose what they like; not what others expected of them. Nope. No takers.

That student was me.

Thursday 10 November 2016

Bet you never saw it coming! (Wrong but make money)

Neither did I!

Let's not talk theory about Trump's win yesterday.

There's enough pontifications and red-faces out there. We know who got it right; who got It wrong...

Boy, was I wrong!!!

Like the majority of the market, I had a small skin in the game that's positioned for a Clinton victory - long USD/SGD.

Nearly spilled my coffee when I saw Trump leading Hillary early in the morning.

Markets went bonkers and it was Brexit deja vu all over again.

USD dived; equities markets in Asia bled big time. S&P futures went limit down 5%, and gold went ballistic!

I was so close to closing my position - to protect my profit - before I noticed something interesting in the price action.

Each time Trump won a state, the USD/SGD pair will bounce up a bit; and the reverse is true when Hillary won? All these happened in a broad and general USD downshift. 

That's not how its "supposed" to be??? Isn't USD "supposed" to weaken if Trump won?

The advantage of trading fulltime and watching the price action "live" is spotting these little tell-tale signs that someone is building a counter-trend position against the general market.

I removed my finger from my mouse as I watch in suspended animation when the markets start to reverse in the afternoon.

Simsci was off the lows of the day, so was USD/JYP, and gold has lost its upward momentum.

I finally closed my long USD/SGD position at a profit of 511 pips in the evening at around 5:20 pm.

Before you get any wrong ideas, I had this position since August - no, it wasn't an intraday trade. I'm not an intraday trader; I suck at that!

There you go! This is another one of those examples where I was wrong; but I made money.

Its better to be lucky than smart!

I was so glad I'm not in the long USD/JYP pair for I surely would have been profit-stopped out and missed the reversal in the USD...

No, this is not a bragging post.

Guess what? At 10:00 pm last night, I knew I had sold too early. USD/SGD went up another 40 pips.

And this morning at 8:00 am? If I held my position one more night, I would have made an extra 80 pips.

See? After so many years, I still leave so much money on the table... How's that for my exit skills? Much work remains to be done...

I think I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I was wrongly positioned and when market gave me an opportunity out, I should take it!

For those who don't trade forex, did you expect the STI to gap up today after the sell-off yesterday?

No right?

And if you panicked sell yesterday, don't be too hard on yourself too.

Remember beginning of this year? Those who panicked sell on the first day were glad they did so;  especially when seeing STI continue to bleed towards 2500 in the coming days...

Whether you are an investor or trader, once you in this arena for a few years, you'll soon discover there's only 2 things you can control:

Your entries; and your exits.

Humbling right?

Sunday 6 November 2016

My Braless Literature Teacher

This is the last post as part of the trilogy of posts looking back on my school days.

For a change, its not about me.

Its about the young and vivacious Literature teacher that taught us in Sec 1 at an all boys school (it was co-ed for Pre-U classes).

She did her degree in UK and from the way she dressed and talks, you can tell she is "different". She got that bohemian air about her...

And when she taught in class, she was not teaching us robotically so we could pass Literature exams... No, she was clearly in love with the written word.

It was only years later I realised what she tried to imbue in us...

Feel! Don't think too much!

Embrace! Immerse! And dive in!

Imagine my delight one fine day, for 3 days in a row, she walked into class braless!?

You know, when she walked, its ding-a-ling-ding-ding!

I never paid more attention in class ever. I learnt something during those torrid few days - focus.


Sadly, she put her bra back on soon after. And I noticed she never recovered her usual energy and effervescence... Some idiot must have talked to her about her dressing...

I wasn't surprised before the year ended, she left.

I've no clue what became of her. 

Interesting how some people just leave a deep impression in our memories even though the encounter was brief? 

Yes, not only students can be "different"; teachers can be "different" too.

And our struggles are similar - whether it be in school or in the corporate world - how to fit in when the majority just love to beat us into their one mould fits all...

There are 2 paths for minorities like us:

Job hopping - That's the path I took. Like migratory birds, I just hopped from one environment to another until through pure dumb luck, I found an eco-system with inhabitants that not only accepted me as part of diversity, but encouraged me to thrive and spread my wings to be myself! (I stayed 14 years in that wonderful company)

Be your own boss - Some just can't work for other people under other people's house rules. So these minorities - like the beaver - will create their own eco-systems and hire people they want to work with. The entrepreneurs.

Please don't say no choice. There's always a choice. Unless you are slave or live in North Korea or something.

If we think too much, we won't hop or dive in...

Feel! Embrace! Immerse!

P.S.  It's harder, but see if you can relate it to your investing/trading journey.

Friday 4 November 2016

I'm not making Tools; I'm making Art

You know what?

I missed out Technical Studies completely from my previous post!?

Did I study so many subjects during Sec 1 and 2? Now that's what I call a broad education!

Subconsciously, it probably showed how much I hated Technical Studies....

I'm a klutz when it comes to DIY. So how did I ended with a DIY company!?

Yes, I'm the kind of "dainty" Singaporean male who will pay for someone to assemble the furniture...


My Gan Eng Seng School (Anson Road) did not have a workshop. So we had our Technical lessons at Bukit Merah Secondary School.

I'm terrible with woodwork. Can't saw straight. Cannot hammer the nails in straight. I think I have a talent for veering off tangent!

Metal work slightly better. I enjoyed this thing we do with the metal file to get a rounded corner on a metal plate. And remember countersunk? That's the fun part where we widen a hole to fit a screw or bolt to make it flush.
Guess what?

I often failed. Lots!

Why? I never adhere to the instructions when it comes to measurements. When it says 5 cm, I'll produce something like 4.98 cm or 5.3 cm... I'm more a "agar agar du hor" (estimate can oredi) kind of person...

Don't ever hire me as your renovation contractor! No matter how cheap I quoted you!

As for my woodworking instructor, he "sees" me as transparent. So I shan't talk about him.

Now this metalwork instructor couldn't take it anymore one fine day. He called me out during break time and threw the handheld garden shovel tool I've submitted back to me on his desk.

"Why did you countersunk on the reverse side?"

"They looked pretty...The 2 silver rings."

"Do you know how to use a ruler?" You can almost hear the exasperation in his voice...

I can't say I don't care about precision; sure get scolding. Till this day, I don't know what transpired me to reply in Mandarin...

"我不是打造工具,我是创造艺术品。"   (I'm not making tools; I'm making art.)

He was surprised by my answer; and he stared at me through his glasses for quite a while. Then he waved me off saying never mind...

From that day onwards, I never got into any trouble with the metalwork instructor. He still fails me; but now he will speak to me in Mandarin whenever he passes my workstation. Curious to see what product adaptations I'll be making next!

Years later, when reviewing my Jedi skills (EQ), I realised I had intuitively replied in Mandarin as I knew the metalwork instructor was Chinese educated from his English accent.

I showed him respect and created a closer bond by speaking in the language of his heart.

I do this too during my weekend sales gig by speaking in broken Malay to my Malay customers. They laughed; I laughed. Rapport created.

As a Chinese educated instructor in a English educated world, he definitely has a hole in his heart.

I'm purely guessing here, but I think for that instant, he realised what I am going through was similar to his hole in the heart... A broad brush stroke trapped in a CNC (computer numerical control) precision world...

He cannot pass me like my Art teachers - this is after all still a Technical class - but by seeing me in a different light, he wasn't angry or exasperated with me anymore. Phew!

This is why I can poke and debate vigorously with bloggers holding complete opposite views, and we still can have coffee together. Wink.

I don't need to stick only with my "own kind".

As for the woodworking instructor?

Well, it shows my "bawu" (Jedi mind trick) will not work on everyone.

And this is very true as they would prefer to see me as "transparent". 

Especially if your worldview is based on - either if you are with me; or you are against me.

So serious!?

Thursday 3 November 2016

I never failed in Art classes

I'm not sure about school nowadays, but during my Secondary 1 and 2 (1980-1981), we had to take 10 subjects.

Looking back, it was the best of times since I had to learn everything - English, Chinese, Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, History, Literature, and Art.

I think that's a great approach if one is starting out on their nascent investing/trading journeys.

Start broad and specialise when we know our interests and aptitude.

Lawyers and doctors follow a similar path.

But that's not how most retail investors/traders approach investing/trading...

I think most students (and KPI centric educators) are glad they don't have to take Art for their O' levels.

If Literature is hard to score distinctions, what more about Art?

I on the other hand love Art classes; I never failed.

Don't get the wrong impression. I could not paint or draw even if my life depended on it.

And the funny thing is, some of my poster paintings have been held up by my Art teachers to the class as "creative" and very "interesting"!

That's the beauty of Art! Its all about interpretations!

Now looking back, I understood what my Art teachers tried to convey - there are no  such thing as rules, boundaries, or conventions in Art.

There are only expressions.

How can anyone fail me when I am merely expressing my interpretations?

No, I'm not saying Art is "easy" either.

Yes, you may want to view the markets as "Art" instead of treating them as "Science".

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