Friday, 20 September 2019

How to know you have achieved Mastery?

During my weekend sales gig, its easy to tell the experienced and competent customers apart from the "bei kambing" newbies - when it comes to buying kitchen appliances.

Experienced and competent ones go for analogue ones; "bei kambings" go for digital ones.


Don't worry. You'll understand when we reach the end of this post.

Remember the 10,000 steps walking craze some years back?

I'm a city walker. I know.

I even installed a walking app in my mobile to track my daily steps.

Uninstalled it after a week.

I easily exceed 10,000 steps a day. Why should I measure my steps again?

Let me ask a silly question to those who are anal about up to 2 decimal places. 

Are you less healthy if you've only walked 9,999 steps a day? 

How about 9,000 steps? These 9,000 steps are "wasted" if we don't hit our 10,000 steps daily goal?

Similarly, in this community, you can spot veterans who have tracked their spendings in the past, but have now stopped. 

Gee, I wonder why?

I mean after 5 or 10 years of tracking expenses you still don't understand yourself? 

If you have poor self discipline; no self control; can't entertain delayed gratifications; how would more tracking help you?

The best example is cooking. When you started out, you'll follow every steps laid out in the cookbook diligently. 10 ml is 10 ml; 1 teaspoon is 1 teaspoon. 

When we don't know; we follow.

But now that you know how to cook, its a dash of this, a sprinkle of that. LOL!


That's for newbies.

Everything now is about feeling and your mood. Wink.

We use the sampan to cross the river. Once we've reached the other end, we leave the sampan behind on the river bank and continue on towards our journey.

Have fun spotting those who still like to carry the sampan over their heads even though they are miles away from any river or lake...



  1. Hi SMOL,

    Analogue or digital, as long as it serves its purpose and "last long" for me boleh liao.

    Maybe the analogue ones allow more 'customization' for the experienced ones who knows what they want? Newbies just want preset functions, lol.

    1. Rainbow girl,

      A digital one can easily cost more than double that of plain vanilla analogue ones.

      Snake oils like to upsell newbies to digital ones just like those life insurance sharks pushing wholelife over term insurance policies - commissions better mah!

      You are right.

      The analogue ones, the user have to do the "customization" on their own. Must think for themselves! Which is not a problem for experienced users :)

      Digital ones boasts lots of preset functions which are the equivalent of "XXX for dummies". Look! No brains needed!


  2. This sounds exactly like a story a salesman shared with me when I bought my washer and dryer. The flashy sections e.g. Samsung, LG has the digital bling bling LED screen washers that make sounds with tonnes of options. Cool siah.

    "Come, my friend - let me show you what I use".

    He led me to the German juggernaut - Bosch section.

    "Very easy to use. Put in clothes. Pour in detergent. Turn one knob. Press start."

    Imagine you have to use it 100 times a year. You don't want options! You want easy and reliable, even Ah Ma can use. Plus, when there is only 1 knob, there is only 1 point of failure.

    I took his advice.

    1. Kevin,


      Its fun to do sales.

      We can see all kinds of human behaviours.

      Some are super easy to manipulate/indfluence.

      Some are impossible to change their minds despite overwhelming evidence.

      Some can't think or use logic. You tell them the Earth is flat they will believe!

      Some got mental issues...


    2. The promoter will finally lead us to that brand that gives him or her the better commission or incentive. :-)

    3. CW,

      Human nature. Why settle for $50 commission with brand X when we can make $100 just by promoting brand Y?

      That's why when Swiber bonds defaulted, big daddy got investigate whether there were "extraordinary incentives" given to the private bankers to push these junk bonds to unsuspecting bei kambing accredited investors...

    4. Hahaha I think that's why promoters hate me. I always ask them questions and sound interested but in the end never buy. Just wanted to learn new things :D

    5. Kevin,

      Most promoters are OK with it if its on normal quiet days. It helps to pass time with customers to talk to ;)

      But don't do it during busy sales days.

      Some promoters can curse customers' ancestry up to 18 generations when they discovered they have been "played" by the customer...

  3. "Have fun spotting those who still like to carry the sampan over their heads even though they are miles away from any river or lake..."

    Portaging .... for the love of pain LOL!!

    My built-in oven still has a mechanical timer (good for 60 min) ... a knob for the fan .... and the most important knob -- for the temperature LOL!

    Analog stuff are usually hardier. My single-knob front load washer died after 20 years --- not becoz of anything with its simple electronics or basic functions, but becoz one of the drum spindles broke. The manufacturer could only change the whole drum at a few hundred dollars, grrr! so .... LL! Yah the irony is that the fatal cause was a mechanical failure and not an electrical one LOL!!

    Nowadays even an analog looking appliance is controlled by microprocessors & integrated circuits underneath. Any repairs, if possible, is done by swapping out IC modules and PLCs hahaha!

    Speaking of semiconductors, I think for this bull to continue, we'll need to see semis continue to push a sustained move above the epic 2000 highs.

    1. Spur,

      I learned a new word today - portaging ;)

      Nowadays, more and more home appliances anbd electronics will include processors that can detect movement, sound, and light; have the computing power to do fuzzy logic in anticipation of what's our favourite settings...

      As IT dinosaur, I was pleasantly surprised the high end TVs have a computer chip inside. And its probably more powerful than the first PC computer I used in the army - the IBM AT PC.


      P.S. You sure know your ETFs ;)

  4. Nowadays we use tracker apps to count 10,000 steps to claim rewards.

    National Steps challenge season coming soon. More Ntuc $5 vouchers waiting to be redeemed.

    This time is different. LoL

    1. CW,

      In the past, big daddy's favourite tool was the stick - fine us until our pants drop...

      Now it has shifted to the carrot ;)

      Carrots don't work on cats.


  5. I think Smol, this is a difficult qn.

    When we know what we are doing we have conviction, but... When we think we know.

    We usually learn a lot lesser or slower. Maybe it's just me.

    A myself. A bit like oxomorom

    I just attend a mentoring session. We are told to read an article on marigold and walnut.

    One is uplifting another energy sucker. The funny thing is, throughout the reading and keep thinking how much lesser a marigold I am now and more of a energy sucker.

    But the presenter went on to talk about mental images and who as energy suckers. She then conclude that we should be marigold. Hahahahahahahahahaahah

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      If you, as an educator, find it hard to know when we have achieved mastery, pray tell what business do you have in grading students and streaming them in accordance to what we think is good for them!?

      The presenter is not doing coaching or mentoring - letting you decide or figure things for yourself :(

      What kind quack mentoring is that? When the whole purpose of the session is to STEER everyone into being a marigold?

      That's re-education, also known as brainwashing.


  6. When you are getting the results you want?

    1. Macroanalyst,

      Yes, that's the black and white verification version - hence the prevalence of KPIs, SMART goals, winning gold medals, etc.

      I prefer the grey, grey, fuzzy, fuzzy version:

      We first try to achieve mastery to gain the acceptance of strangers; anyone and everyone.

      Then we seek the recognition from our professional peers; people whom we respect.

      Finally, we only care about mastery over our own selves. Run our own race that sort of thing...

      We've ascended to emotions and feelings that can't be verified or measured...

      How to measure contentment, serenity, joy, etc?

      Is mastery a result of our efforts?

      Or is mastery an emotion?

  7. Hi SMOL,

    This is a question I'm always wondering. I'm guilty as charged. I'm tracking my expenses after all these years and I'm also tracking my step counts after all these months. I track a lot of other things too. Why don't I stop?

    A few reasons:
    1) it doesn't take much effort. It's so ingrained now that I often do it without thought.
    2) tracking things require discipline. While continously tracking after many times bring no more benefit to the activity being tracked, the discipline can be transferred to other fields. Discipline to me is like a muscle. You don't maintain it, you'll lose it.
    3) I know what motivates me. Knowing that I can outlast the 'me' from my past keeps me motivated. Hence I track.

    Thus, the answer to ur title blog question is known to me now - I will never reach mastery and will continue to seek mastery over myself till the day I die. I also realise that what your mastery and mine could be totally different things. It's subjective and there can be no true comparison. The river never stops in my journey, even though it seems to stop. I will carry my sampan across the land to continue my journey in another river. I see another traveller stopping, I smile and wave back as I continue rowing my never ending river. He has reached the end of his journey, but mine has just begun.

    1. There's more to say.

      To be honest, if I'm 1000 shy of 10,000 steps, I will try to walk more to complete it. In my mind, the last thing I will think of is how that extra 1000 steps will make me healthier or not. It won't, of course, but I'm more afraid of how this little shortfall might cascade into something more serious. Then perhaps next day, I'll think what's another day of slacking, it probably won't affect my health if I skip this day of exercise. What's another day of sub standard work, just 60% effort will do. In terms of practical results, there is no difference between 9000 steps and 10,000 steps, but I will know that there is slip up, a lapse. I will know that there is a substandard work that I could have submitted and still aced it. My soul will die a little until it is desensitised.

      So I will push a little more, if only to be accountable to myself for wanting to walk 10k steps a day and not a step less.

      That doesn't mean your thinking is wrong. I think eventually I will adopt that thinking. A few more decades down the road? But not today, and not now.

      I also want to share that the weakest students always think they had already mastered all there is to know. They skipped a few steps in this, they take shortcuts in that. For easier questions, you can't tell the difference between a weak student and a good one, since they produce the same outcome with the right ans. But when they get tired, or things change a little, it's the iron-clad discipline in following steps from a to z that matters. But I always tell my good students that I don't do the things that I teach them, and I jump steps and adopt behaviours exactly like how the weaker students will do.

      Ironic? Not so. When I no longer think through all those mundane steps that I had drilled into me for the 10,000th times, when I have the right NOT to follow the steps, that's why creativity comes in. That's when I achieved enough mastery to stop following the steps to mastery. I'm bored enough to try funny, circular methods to achieve the same results. Why?

      Just for fun :)

    2. LP,

      1. Tracking is a tool. Its not the destination.

      2. Upon arrival at the destination, some will discard the tool - like me ;)

      If I come to another river or lake, I'll get another sampan or maybe experiment with a new tool instead? Try new experiences?

      Some will continue to use the tool over and over again as they have found other uses for this tool:

      Like acting as dumbbells to ensure your discipline don't deteoriate through lack of practice. (Then again, some may argue discipline is like muscle memory with riding a bike...)

      Or for the simplest reason using the tool gives us pleasure or sense of security. Never mind the original purpose of using the tool in the first place has long been forgotten...

      3. Then there's kaizen or continous improvement. Not to be confused with kicking the can down the road ;)

      There's kaizen that's forced unto us by vested interest (usually a landowner or shepherd) who wants to squeese blood from stone.

      Then there's kaizen that's only answerable to our own selves.

      Craftsmen who seek to perfect their crafts - good keep; bad discard.

      4. Yup, just like your weakest students are often those who think they have mastered all there is to know, we have the same in our community ;)

      You know what?

      "That's when I achieved enough mastery to stop following the steps to mastery. I'm bored enough to try funny, circular methods to achieve the same results."

      Your last paragraph, last sentence has nicely encapsulated the essence of my blog post :)

      When we have achieved mastery, we often have fun breaking, bending, and even discarding the very same rules that got us where we are today!!!


    3. Hi SMOL,

      Captured the essence? haha! But talk so much, still can't answer the question of mastery. When do we know whether we are having fun because we don't know all the rules yet, or we are having fun breaking all the rules that we already knew?

      Maybe the question itself is a non-question. Just have fun, eventually you'll reach the fun from mastery, and not the fun from ignorance.

      Just like these back and fro questions and replies. I had fun, so it doesn't matter if I really know the answers or not (though, just from thinking about the issue clarifies the fog a little). Eventually we'll find out by continuing to have fun :)

    4. LP,

      I thought its already been answered?

      We all have our own answers as to what is mastery :)

      Its was never my intention to ramrod my own version of mastery down the throats of others.

      I'm a jazz player; not the conductor in an orchestra ;)

      My question is just to "throw brick to attract jade".

      One thing I noticed both sillyinvestor and you have a bit of reluctance to claim "mastery"...

      Understandable since both of you are educators. Perhaps its our cultural trait of modesty too?

      A skill has many levels of competences.

      Take for example driving. To drive on our roads, we need to pass the driving test.

      No, we are not F1 drivers, but in the eyes of big daddy and other road users, they are satified you have achieved "mastery" in the basic skill of driving.

      Similarly, I can't write poetry that will impress the panties off girls, nor can I write a best selling novel.

      However, I have no problem admitting I have mastery over the art of making conversation and writing in England to EXPRESS myself.

      I'll still make the occassional spelling or grammar mistakes; I don't see them as hindering my expression of thoughts and feelings to others.

      If I have NO mastery over this skill, I won't be able to do sales and be a shepherd in corporate selling ideas to landowners and cheerleading my flock ;)

      Yup, I am shameless too!


    5. Hi SMOL,

      Hmm, good observation. I can't say for him, but for me, I will say it as it is. Definitely not being humble or modest. If I think there's a lot of room for improvement, I can't possibly say I've mastered someone. Maybe my yardstick is an imaginary ideal self, not with others, so it's hard to reach mastery in that sense.

      Haha, likewise, I wouldn't say I've mastered English but I can be functional with it.


    6. Singapore Man of Leisure22 September 2019 at 08:55

      I've noticed this trait during my facilitation of our company's in-house leadership course.

      If we have not mastered even the basics, why are we even bothering with continuous improvement of the more advanced stuffs?

      I even poked some of the participants why are they even in this leadership course?


      That's why you've ended where you are ;)

      And when I was in corporate, my personal motto is, "If I can't be famous; I'll be infamous instead!"

      If not, how to be noticed by landowners amongst the thousands of co-workers in multiple offices globally?

      Acceptance of who we are.

      Find or create an environment that suits us.

      Only beavers and humans can do that.

      You have created yours; I've found mine.

  8. Hi Smol,

    My take is that one has achieved mastery when he/she takes the first step.


    1. Ben,

      If one can overcome his habit of procrastination or indecision, then like you've said, taking the first step is mastery of self ;)


      I better tone it down a bit before left-brained people start protesting!


    2. Smol,

      Toning it down is not your style. Just state directly as per your view in this blog. This is the way in which you are what you are. Natural and fitting and suit your pattern of living.

      My two cents of views.


    3. Ben,

      LOL! You got me.

      OK, you stand in front ;)

  9. Adam Smith's concept of free market (a.k.a invisible hand) is an accurate way to measure mastery. If a person can make good money consistently with the subject matter, he is a Master.

    If an individual can't make good money, the free market is telling him he'd better switch to something else. Maybe he is not cut out for the job or living in the wrong time or working at the wrong place, working for the wrong person. Do something to change the status quo.

    For companies, the free market is merciless. If you're not a Master, you die. If you don't die, you're hogging resources which can be better utilised by the true Masters. In the free market, non-masters must die so that the true Masters can prosper. Allowing non-masters to survive will bring down everyone else because they are hogging and wasting precious resources.

    I can think of some exceptional cases when this form of market-based measurement in the labour market fail badly. However, it works well enough to make ex-communist countries who switch over to free market-based policies to prosper.

    1. Hi hyom,

      Don't want lah, this is so vulgar. Everything linked to money meh? I think when van gogh is still alive, his paintings are worth shit. Hence he is not a master. But after his death, his painting are worth a lot. Hence he is a master.

      Something doesn't quite tally lol

    2. hyom,

      Best selling movie does not always equate to best award winning movie.

      Same goes for writers - best selling author may not be the most respected and recognised author amongst his peers...

      My critique of our community - when people whined why don't more people want to follow financial bloggers - is who wants to associate with people who open mouth money, close mouth money?

      Plus whole body reeks of "bronze smell"?

    3. Hi la papillion,

      Haha. Money is a vulgar topic, this is why I only talk about money online without showing my face. It is a sensitive, taboo topic that had better be avoided when in doubt at social settings. I don't even let my close friends and family members (except my wife) know that I am a financial blogger.

      While money is a taboo topic, the reality is it is the main driver of how humans behave. People don't talk about it openly but it is usually on their hearts and minds. For financial bloggers who have good personal finance habits, not everything is linked to money but when a person doesn't have enough of it, then everything is linked to it.

      The free market doesn't work all the time but work well enough to bring prosperity. I also can't explain why certain items are priced like that. Art paintings by Vincent Van Gogh is one example. Another good example is this piece of painting by Jackson Pollock. It is worth USD140m. Look at it. I can't explain why it can command such a price.

    4. Hi hyom,

      What that also 140m!! LOL

    5. hi SMOL,

      In ordinary social settings, money is taboo topic that is safer to avoid. It's another matter for financial blogs because the whole purpose of setting up a financial blog is to talk about money.

      Hard to avoid open mouth money, close mouth money when objective of the blog is to talk about money.

    6. hyom,

      Just teasing.

      You are right.

      When I was climbing up the mountain, I behaved differently from the me that's strolling down the mountain now.

      After crossing the river, and not carrying the sampan over my head, I am free to poke myself, "Mountain oredi climbed; river crossed liao too. So what to do next? How about crossing the Eastern sea eh?"


      P.S. I'm quite proud of this watering hole. Got talk about anime, coin collecting, hokkien songs, and other non-financial stuffs.

      Most fun of all is when we can talk about sex, religion, and politics without being asked to "lim kopi" by big daddy ;)

    7. SMOL,

      Yeah, your blog is different from other financial blogs. Besides money, there's talk about sex, religion, politics etc. It's unique. I see your skill as facilitator being played out in the blog.

      I thought today is your work day. Hope it's not because you or loved one is sick. Speedy recovery if it is.

    8. hyom,

      You observant ;)

      My grandaunt died last night. She passed peacefully in her sleep. A blessing.

      Took no-pay leave today to accompany mom to the funeral wake this afternoon. (Boss good. Today got promotion sale; but he understood family more important than KPIs)

      As facilitator to Asians, can vomit blood (exception are the overseas educated ones). Try getting everyone to speak up and share their thoughts with the group!

      Then I discovered and borrowed from Zen the technique of the "poke" ;)

    9. SMOL,

      Sorry to hear about your grandaunt.

      I wish I could die in the same way as she did when my time comes. My grandmother died the same way too. She's a kind woman and I will always remember her fondly.

    10. hyom,

      Birth, aging, sickness, and death.

      The cycle of life.

  10. 请节哀顺变

  11. Hi SMOL,

    Deepest condolences to you and your family.


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