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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.


  1. The key word is CAN!

    Don't even try to say NO when it is just MAY BE!

    World of difference!

    1. Haha, I disagree.. There is no CAN, there's only YES or NO Lol :) If you want to break up, must cut off all the roots, cannot wishy washy and create hope :)

    2. CW and LP,

      Isn't it ironic that the person who exalts the "precision" of goals now wants to be grey when it comes to decision making ;)


    3. When the Goal is achieved; anytime Can!

    4. CW,

      You happy can oredi!

      You are the sequential kind of guy - when I achieved this, then I'll do that.

      Grasshoppers start many things at the SAME time, but never seem to FINISH anything!?

      We are the "process" people.

      Like Tao, there is only flow ;)


    5. Flow is only possible from higher to lower. Not high not low then stagnant!

    6. Then there is the flow of time.

      No man steps into the same river twice ;)

  2. another tricky post, the word 'can' say no means u have the choice to choose 'no'.
    guess u are engineered differently
    many a times we 'do not' have much choice
    sometimes having too much choice may not be a good thing

    u shd be born in a diff gen

    1. Jimmy,

      Don't take what I write too seriously. We are only bantering.

      I give you one example where we like to "lie" to ourselves:

      We often "pretend" to draw up various options to weigh ourselves or to seek advice from others.

      When others give feedback, we'll say, "But then hor..."

      We know what that exercise is all about - seeking affirmation.

      Or outsourcing the decision making so one day can say, "Idiot! I got bad advice from... Not my fault!"

      When you have options and like CW has said - CAN - you would have made that choice oredi!

      The act of drawing a list of options is in fact a cognitive device we use to give the illusion we "have" a choice.

      To make us "feel" better.

      The reality is we have "no choice". That choice has already been dictated by our particular circumstances...

      That's why the wise guru never gives advice to his students; but encourages his students to figure out the answers themselves ;)

  3. Hi SMOL,

    I'm somewhat ambivalent over saying no, haha :)'

    I think it takes a while to differentiate between the "NO" when we're afraid of new challenges and out of fear, vs the "NO" when we know what we want and we want to focus on the parts we want instead of what others want of us. The two are not necessary so clear cut and separate. Not a science, an art :)

    If someone is asking for advice whether to accept something, I'll try to suss out whether that person is afraid of trying or that he really knows what he wants. Important distinction :)

    1. LP,

      Yes, I wasn't like this from day 1 - just like James Altucher - we both needed life experiences to suss out the difference between the 2 "NOs"; and the courage to acknowledge the little lies we tell ourselves.

      Then we can develop our empathy to others.

      That's where my hole in the heart came from.

      Some "braver" bloggers have already shared their goals of financial freedom were written during the low points in their corporate careers...

      Financial freedom to escape is not the same as financial freedom to achieve.

      Some marry to escape, similar to those who just grab any "promotion" just to escape only to find out its jumping from the pot to the fire...

  4. SMOL,

    Looking at what you have wrote, it seems to be you have said YES first before saying NO? Isn't it?

    1. Blursotong King,

      You are not so "blur" as your nick suggests; but more a King!

      Yup, when I said, "Yes" - That's me from a position of weakness. My feathers not fully grown mah ;)

      When I said, "No" - Hey! I can fly!? Bye!

      Can reveal more about yourself?

      You Arts student or you got some Buddhist/Taoist leanings?

      Always nice to meet 高人。

      You 卧虎藏龙 for so long... Naughty, naughty!

  5. SMOL,

    I have been an ant for half of my life. Planning and setting goals. Now I want to be a grasshopper. Enjoy the music and go with the flow.



  6. Hi SMOL,

    Thought-provoking post and I have quite a few take-aways from it:

    1). Sometimes a university education is questionable. Traditional parents think that must tak chek or else bo qian tu. What they got in the end is college debt and the need to pursue post-graduate qualifications. College graduates are taught to think within a mold, and produces output that fits the mold. Occasionally, you find one or two that has street smarts and are able to navigate the contours of life. However, this is few and far between.

    It is quite enlightening that once, during lunch, my reporting officers were talking about how blue-collar workers (e.g. crane operator) could have higher salaries than the average over-educated and in-debt Masters/PhD holders. So much for tak chek = instant win for monetary remuneration.

    2). I'm inspired by your sharing! Next time, my "substance" level up liao, I can be as cool as you!

    3). Gradually, my perspective changes. I wanted to become a researcher as it is fun to create and conduct experiments, analyze the results, and (hopefully) publish it. Difficult journey, but as I draw closer to it each day, the "glory" of the goal becomes more lacklustre. Is it because I found investing that's why if my research career does not "take off", I got my investment portfolio as my dang jian pai, so my ego would not be hurt? I think so.

    4). I'm a Science person who wanted to be in Science. But my results is so-so, that's why I'm in Arts (Social Science). I used to think that Science is superior to the Arts. After being in the Arts and enjoying the idealism, possibilities, sublimity, and the beauty of the Arts, I don't think that way anymore. Each has its strengths and its weaknesses......so why not develop both? (or many more, in fact!)

    1. Unintellignet Nerd,


      For someone new to blogging, you are refreshingly "open" ;)

      Education is not the filling of a vessel, but the kindling of a flame - Socrates.

      Same time as we are aware of the changes in us, we should be mindful not to forget our "original mind" - 初心 ;)

      Yes, its never about which is better - being left or right brained.

      Ideally if we develop BOTH sides of our brains even better!!!

      I like biology (evolution) and physics (space time). Chemistry I no feeling (I don't do drugs).

      Math I got mental block (can only count up to 21 using all my fingers and toes looking down)

      So happy hand phone got calculator function!!!

  7. SMOL,

    Would like to understand if you were always sure of what you want to do? I meant, there are so many things to try? How can you be sure, this is the want for you?

    Looking back on the hindsight, what advice could you share on making decisions?

    1. Blursotong King,

      Being in the flow is not knowing what will happen next ;)

      In Hokkien, its known as "crash got sound" (long dio wu xiah).

      In proper England, its known as the feedback:

      Do something, if feedback positive - rinse and repeat.

      Do something, if feedback negative - don't do again!

      There is a reason why I said the strength of youth is they don't know what cannot be done.

      Youths are more likely to DO first, then figure out later. Getting into all sorts of trouble is part of growing up :)

      As we grow older, we tend to think too much... vacillate a lot... keep moving the goal posts, and worry more about what others think about us... We become NATO :(

      We like to live in the future.

      Its less painful as if we live in the HERE and NOW, its a lot harder to be in denial of the daily feedbacks we get as we look into the mirror...

      OK, enough foreplay.

      How to make decisions?

      Hungry eat; tired rest.

      If you look at my blog's masthead, you'll also find:

      Why stand when you can sit? And why sit when you can lie down? 醉生梦死


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