Friday, 29 April 2016

Do what you like; like what you do

I've always envied others who knew what they wanted to do when they grew up.

Me? I've no clue except I know I don't like a desk bound kind of job. 

My career was a series of job hopping until I found the right fit (see my story). Its more a "crash got sound" way of finding out what I liked; what I hated.

I think the more "educated" way of saying is "Learn By Doing"?

So I'm probably the last person to give you any career advice.

Just would like to share with you a story from my past.

During my secondary school days at Gan Eng Seng School during the early 80s, I think I was in Sec 2 (1981), the Army came to our school during one assembly to do a sales pitch for the SAF Boys' School.

Basically its to sell to those of us who are not academically inclined to join them. We can earn a small allowance while we "study"! How cool is that!

Further more, we can have a head start if we sign on to the Army!

While our peers are recruits, we are already NCOs lording over them during NS. Wink.

Interestingly, the SAF Boys' School closed in 1984. (You pause and reflect for a moment)

Fast forward to my NS time at 9 RITC Taman Jurong Camp. 4/5 of the store IC sergeants were from the now defunct SAF Boys' School.

Let's say all except one managed to renew their contracts when they hit 28 years old.

When I bumped into them in civilian life, they were now either storemen or despatch riders...

What do you do when you have a shortage of NCOs?

What do you do when you no longer have a shortage?

What do you do when you now need thinking soldiers who can operate computers and complex equipment? (You prefer Poly graduates )

Do you still care about those words written on water that you have uttered when you were doing your snake charming to impressionable 14 years olds?

Don't get me wrong. There will always be those ex-SAF Boys' School who had successful long military careers as warrant offices, and when they left the Army, became well to do business owners.

They will wax lyrically how they would probably end up as gang members, and if without the early discipline in their lives, they won't be where they are today. Sob, sob. Can you pass the tissue? 

There will always be a bell-shaped distribution curve thingy... How about the majority that fell through the cracks? 

Remember when we had a shortage of teachers?

What did they do?

How's the attrition rate and morale of teachers today?

Now we worry we may have a shortage of engineers.

What did they do again?

If you wanted to have a military career, be a teacher, or an engineer, you would do it even if the pay or the prospects suck. Anything more is a bonus! That's knowing what you want!

If you no clue what to do (like me), well, nothing wrong with "tikam tikam", try try. That's the Thomas Edison's "crash got sound" way of discovering what element to use for the light bulb's filament.

Now you know one profession you either like or hate! 

But if you go in knowing in your heart that's NOT what you like; you are just in it for the money. Well, you deserve it, doesn't it?

There's a name we call those who do it just for the money.


P.S.  Welcome to the club. Although I call myself a man-whore when it comes to investing and trading, somehow, I don't think we have much in common...


  1. SMol,

    I think there are plenty of people who like money and will go for the job that pay well.

    However, there are also people who have no choice but to work for money. I never believed in working for interest and passion when I am younger. I have this survival instinct, feed the stomach first, the rest talk later.

    I fact, j wondered to get an engineering degree first before going to NIE (teaching college). Kind of like an insurance.

    When my parents are old, and my friend told
    Me that are scholarship that pay me allowance as I get my degree, I jumped at it. Some seniors also advise me against doing that; as I need to study for 4 years and bond with ministry for another 4 years. A total of 8 years, even my brother who is a teacher said i "Siao" too risky

    I think about it, thought about what I have always wanted, then told my dad I need not a single cent for my university and they can stop hawker work if they wish. I signed

    Glad it turn out well for me

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      1. Agree. That's why there are so many people in our community who are hoping investing/trading can allow them to "escape".

      2. Of course they are "bo pian" cases. We can't always live for ourselves. Just don't always bring up the guilt trip to "blackmail" your love ones into submission...

      3. I'm glad you are now "sunnier". You should read some of your old posts to see if you still recognise the dark and sombre you. While others were bringing umbrellas to shield you from the sun, I was kicking you into the sun ;)


    2. Read? School Teachers and Investment "Gurus" teaching passion???

      Teaching can be a strange career with some taking up scholarships to teach; but later either break their bonds or run road soon after completing their bonds while some others from outside taking PAY CUT to find their PASSION by doing mid-career switch!

    3. CW,

      Same like marriage right?

      Those inside want to get out; while those outside want to get in!

      I take that back. Without your wife to rescue you, you won't be here right now ;)

      She scold you right! Don't fxxx-up the end game!!!

      She probably wants you around so you both can take up social dancing! Cha-cha-cha!

  2. SMOL,

    The inner demons are still there. Maybe more tamed? Glad some what the sun is out again let what u say.

    Enjoy while the sun is out. Time to hang out the clothes

  3. can relate so much. my career is still in the process of job-hopping till I found something that fits me.

    I quit my job for full-time trading once and didn't turn out well, like what u tell sillyinvestor, use trading to escape. opportunity cost hv been great (no salary no cpf) .at least i learn alot about myself that i cant gamble/trade as i cant contain my emotions well. i hv to go for longer term investments where i hv less chance to meddle with my emotions.

    nw i dont go work feeling sour and i appreciate the fact that i hv a stable job... of course i dont wish to be like this till i die !

    1. Black,

      Its always so humbling and refreshing whenever someone who is (or was) inside the industry come here and share their testimonies with us.

      There are so many styles and different forms of trading and investing.

      I am always pleasantly amused when I read so and so from day 1 already knew what works for them; without even exploring or considering the other styles? Wow!

      After a few months or years, we will get "born again" conversions from trader to investor and vice versa; from active to passive investing or the other way round; and so on and on...

      I'm always evolving - discarding those setups that don't work for me and adding new tool kits into my playbook.

      The last thing I want is to be a one trick pony like the Koala bear or Panda - they are on the endangered species list for a reason ;)

  4. Nice post SMOL. A trend follower or a contrarian. I'm naturally a born contrarian, while doing what I like to do.

    1. Yaruzi,

      Thank you ;)

      Tell me about it! You are the very few, almost extinct, financial bloggers out there who have the contrarian courage to still go for actively managed mutual funds :)

      When we have found a shepherd who can outperform the index, why are we too cheap to pay for performance?

      Life is full of ironies. I'm a grasshopper; but when it comes to trading, I'm a trend follower!?


  5. I am still trying to find what I like to do while still earning a living. "Crash got sound" must crash when young haha.

    1. Rainbow lady,

      If I can do all over again, I'll backpack around the world in my twenties. Travelling is one of the best way to discover ourselves (and our future partners).

      That's why my contribution to the "If I had $20K to invest" e-book has a section on travelling.

      If we discover we CANNOT function without a tour guide and being herded from destination to destination, then we should avoid jobs that does not have a clear SOP on what should or should not do. DIY trading is definitely out!

      But if we can ENJOY fumbling around without an iron-clad itinerary, then a job without clear roles and responsibilities is great! You'll enjoy active DIY investing too!

      Being young is great! That's why all cultures in the world celebrate YOUTH!

      My take is youths can listen to themselves more; trust less the "good intentions" from the experienced.

      The experienced seniors on the other hand would do well to listen to others more; less telling others what to do ;)

      How to have a generation gap when we flip things around?


    2. SMOL,

      "My take is youths can listen to themselves more; trust less the "good intentions" from the experienced.

      The experienced seniors on the other hand would do well to listen to others more; less telling others what to do."


      Try telling my mom that and she will give me a good 'slap'. lol

      Ideally I think that juniors sometimes ought to listen to seniors to avoid big pitfalls. Seniors should be more receptive to new things /ideas while sharing their own experiences. Youth may not always follow step-for-step but could improvise. :)

    3. Like I borrowed my friend's used itinerary but won't follow it word-for-word.

      I just found a new job. End of hiatus came faster than I thought. :P

    4. Rainbow lady,

      There you go! You got my drift ;)

      Taking counsel is wise; but WE make the decisions.

      People who followed the decisions of others, and when things don't work out, will often say, "I should not have listened to XXX."

      When we take responsibility for our decisions, we grow.

      I often find it perplexing when I met backpackers who follow the itinerary of guide books like Lonely Planets to the dot. Like that what's the difference from taking a guided tour?

      Congratulations! Life is so much fun when we have "surprises"!

      Now you can reward yourself with new shoes!

  6. Hi Jared,

    Slow to join in the fun as always.

    Do wat u like and like wat u do is slightly more difficult growing up in a poorer non-educated family back then.

    My brother was coerced into signing on for the SAF as we need money, but it only last one term. If not for my slight better grades n my sis insistence, I will have quickly go for where the quick money is!

    That said, even if we do not financial problem, WITHOUT parents guidance, it will be very difficult to know wat we like to do as kids. Unless u r in the category of WB, Bill Gates, Jobs, etc...

    In today's generation where money for staple food is no longer an issue, do wat u like is somewhat made easier. Yet, not all solve? Parents can be dictating? Or kids is lacking exposures of wat the real world is indulging in cyber world more.

    So exposures by doing is IMPT. Seeing / Stepping outside Sg n c the real world is also impt. Try and fail - lagi better! But make sure learn n continue propel fwd.

    Eventually passion must still be sustainable over yrs n make economical sense.

    1. Rolf,

      It's not just about the financial situation.

      This post writes about career choices since it's less sensitive.

      It can easily apply to relationships and our life cycle.

      Some have to wait till their significant other has moved on... Or when their children have married and left the house...

      Then finally they have the "space" to start living for themselves.

      Glad your brother had the courage to leave after one term. When a man gets tied up to the ground, he gives the world its saddest sound...

  7. Not many can live their dreams
    We need to pay bills support our family etc
    Sadly most people work for the money
    Pls don't ask me to quit my job and live my life
    My Wife will kill me, my parents will nag me and my children will be disappointed in me haha

    1. Jimmy,

      That's why the majority are not happy.

      One of the 5 biggest regret of the dying (CW got a post once on this topic) is not living for ourselves.

      One regret is living a life what others expect of us. Always seeking approval...

      How about this more controversial regret? Living our lives FOR others.

      Surely this is noble?

      Well, just as long we don't always it put on our lips to guilt others, "I sacrificed so much for you, now you do this to me?"

      I let you be the judge. In our community, there are bloggers who:

      1) Never got a "proper" job in corporate world after graduation. You know, the "normal" - study hard; work hard for others path ;)

      2) Then there is one who decides to take switch from corporate to freelance work. Eh? His wife never killed him?

      Is love guilting the other party do what we expect of them, or enabling our partners in their pursuit of happiness?

      But if we enable others, don't we have to sacrifice?

      Ah! That is the fine line we have to tread.

      Who said its easy?

      If everyone is at peace and happy, there will be no religion ;)

  8. Hi SMOL

    It is in your blood. It can't be fake to be a contrarian every few days. You are consistently poking from post 1! Does it always lead to arguments in your real life? Actually, I am too :P I am usually sceptical.

    Given your contrarian nature, I think it is hard to find love in what you do, right? Doubt, Verify, discovered, and love? Every single moment? Haha. Maybe do what you love is easier? :P

    1. Frugal Daddy,

      You frightened me!

      My EQ where got so bad?

      You made me go back to my first 3 posts to double-check. Anyhow say!

      Phew. You har!

      I got do foreplay one hor. Start gentle gentle, tell stories with hidden meanings, then slowly slowly more of the sugar-coating came off, and finally full nudity ;)

      That's the trouble with younger men; always in a rush...

      Girls, I'm the man with the slow hands (must advertise a bit).

      Sceptical is OK; just don't veer towards cynicism.

      In real life, I don't argue with stupid people.

      With smart people, just a nod, a wink, a change in tone, we will get what the other party meant. No need to argue one.

      In work, I always change jobs withing 3-5 years. I get bored easy.

      Even in my previous company where I stayed for 14 years, its the same pattern of job rotations between different departments and organisations every 3-5 years.

      They discovered I am good in taking on "missionary" projects like in Change Management.

      Go in and do my snake-oil selling, once others have converted (or bought our bull-shit), I leave and let the maintenance team take over ;)

      It takes bull-shit to recognise other bull-shits.

    2. Haha. Get to know you better than your online persona.

      People in their >40s always puzzled why people <40 change job every 2-3 years. Welcome you to the strawberry generation. We are all gentle internally, like how you advertise yourself. Haha

      Say in your past x (4 is a secret? ) decades, Which period is not loving what you do? How will you do it differently again? Maybe I can pick up from your experience.

    3. Frugal Daddy,

      Don't lump me with the >40s ant people. I'm grasshopper. I side with youth! I never want to grow up! LOL!

      I think I must correct some misconceptions and corporate myths out there. Careful now, here comes the equal and opposite force!

      I started working during the mid 80s. At that time, jobs were more plentiful than applicants. Good times! Each time we job-hop, our salary increase :)

      The press and employers at that time were lamenting and chiding our generation about this cock and bull about rolling stones gather no moss...

      Sorry hor. Peole like me when doing interviews will look at job applicants who never changed job position for 5 years as "suspect" - is this person a condemn case?

      Don't believe?

      Just look at how often our ministers change portfolios?

      How often CEOs rotate doors at our listed companies?

      How often high fliers in your company stay in a job position?

      You know someone is being groomed as "high potential" when they stay max 18-24 months in a position ;)

      I average; I only change job positions every 3-5 years :(

      Which period not loving what I do?

      I'll say school. Don't get me wrong, I love learning! Just never liked studying for exams.

      I never stopped learning.

      You'll be amazed how many graduates stopped learning after school. It'll show when you have a conversation with them ;)

      That's why I quit school even though I can proceed on to Pre-U.

      What we are today are the DECISIONs we have made (or have not made).

  9. I am been honest here,at my age of 37. I still do not know what I like and what I want in life! I am just someone who is lucky to have meet all the right people at the right time and do the right things.

    1. WolfT,

      Yup, its definitely not something we can "plan" ;)

      We'll know when we know.

      Like you, I prefer to be lucky too!

      If we are happy, it does not matter if we can't describe or explain it.

      The beauty of Zen is it can't be described by words ;)

  10. its may day shoun't we celabrate jobs?

    first came into trading when i was doing business, it was leisure, pass time like gambling, never really expect to make money but it turn out well in the begining!

    hate my job, hate my businesses, eventually i sort to trading again to try and make a living, try once try twice and i ended up totally broke!

    its is this time when there is no more road for me to go that things started to turn around, thank goodness!

    if i don't fall into that deep vally, i doubt i can ever be trading for a living.

    my point is, if you don't face death, you will never know what life is about, same goes for trading.

    1. ofcos i never faces death before myself so i probably don't know what life is really about, i'm talking about trading and surviving.

      the image of eating bread and water for lunch, living in a small rented flat with no job will always stay in my mind forever.

    2. so no matter how good or how far you can achieve in your trading, how many millions you can make in the market place, you are never far away from the deep valley you once in.

    3. best of all, becos you know you never far away from that valley, somehow you able to avoid it which is probably just a foot or 2 away.

    4. coconut,

      You must be the few who left a business to trade full time.

      Same like for building our own businesses, sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we can see the "light" when it comes trading or investing.

      Yup, those of us who had seen the valley of death has no wish to go there again.

      Hence most of us who trade full time focus a lot on risk management ;)

    5. ya, after i quit my business, i actually did quite well full time trading for 2 years, able to live comfortably, but after that everything go down hill and fast!

    6. that is why my number one rule is to cut losses at certain %, no matter how confident i feel about my trade, no hesitation!

      remember my hudge losses, painful but no regrets!

    7. coconut,

      Yes, that's why there's a limitation to reading books, taking courses, and so called "learning from the mistakes of others".

      Yah right... The pin no prick our skins we won't feel the pain.

      I was "lucky" I experienced the 3 years of melt down of 2000 - 2003. Took the Iraq war of 2003 to jump start the bull market until the 2008 Lehman crisis.

      That's why even though my trading account is 11 times what I started out with, I've only doubled my position size.

      It would screw my annual returns in % terms, but since I'm not managing outside money, it doesn't matter.

      More importantly is I don't give my winnings back to the market!

      Increasing my position size 10 times is the fastest way to lose it all back!

    8. I cannot help but stop by to congratulate you on growing your trading account by 11 times. Even more impressive is holding back your position size. I am confident your prudent risk management will ensure that your days of leisure will remain forever. There is no need to go greedy by taking more risk to earn that extra money if the present lower-risk lower returns can support your present lifestyle.

      You said "I've always envied others who knew what they wanted to do when they grew up." Personally, I think most of us don't really know what we like until we have really tried it out. What they say they want today may not turn out to be what they really like. Why are there so many marriages that end up in divorce today when couples started out loving each other so passionately?

      However, there is one thing that I am sure everyone loves without even trying. It is what our government like to throw around when they try to solve a problem. You know what I am referring to. What did the government throw around when Singapore have a shortage of teachers? What did the government throw around when we have a shortage of engineers today? Money!!

      This only work when people do not have enough money. At this stage, borrowing a blunt word from you, these people work as prostitutes. I was no exception when I just started out work. This strategy is simply not sustainable because if the government carries it all the way, what you get is lots of highly paid, demoralized workers. I cannot imagine how we can have highly motivated prostitutes around unless every customer looks like Tom Cruise. It is not a clever way to allocate capital over the long-term.

      Occasionally, Singapore will get dedicated people who will work their ass off and I don't think these people really care about the money. I wish Mr Heng a full recovery from his stroke so that he has the chance to enjoy life. I hope Mr Heng gets to finally retire and become a Man of Leisure, although secretly, I selfishly hope he recovers speedily and gets back to work because Singapore needs people like him so that people like me can enjoy life.

    9. hyom hyom,


      I got lucky when it comes to my recent trading ;)

      People with money often throw this hubris at my face, "If something can be solved by money, its no longer a problem."

      The younger me would seethe in anger as its easy for them to say...

      Thankfully, the more mature me just let sleeping dog lie.

      Let it go...

      It doesn't affect me anymore...

    10. Hi Jared,

      To grow an account 12 times require some luck. But I think to keep the account from shrinking as it grew from 1 time to 12 times require good risk management skills. To be able to manage risk which keeps returns down while growing the account 12 times is no mean feat, even if the account size is not big to start with. Or maybe it was big, I don't know but I think you should always keep that a secret for your own good.

      I don't really care when people boast and throw money around to solve their own problems. But when taxpayers' money (your money and my money even though I don't pay a lot of tax) is being thrown around, that is another matter. Spending other people's money is a big responsibility and people with such responsibility should learn how to operate on a shoe-string instead of throwing other people's money to solve problems to hit their own KPIs.

    11. hyom hyom,

      I hear you.

      That's why its shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations...

  11. temperament,

    Yes, life is simple once we have found what we like to do ;)

    You are definitely not investing to "escape" ;)


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