This Article Changed My Life

I was once in a rut with a mediocre salary and barely getting by. Life naturally felt very unfair to me, and for years I lagged behind my peers. My perspective and life changed after I read this article by Oliver Emberton, and since then I think my life has been on an upward trajectory since. It’s not personal finance per se, but it has dramatically helped in my career and therefore finances.

You can read the article first if you want, but in my post and video I talk about my takeaways and how my life has changed since:

Life is a competition

The author states off the bat that life is a competition, and everyone is competing for just about everything, be it life partners, jobs, or achievements. He seems to suggest that many things in life are a zero-sum game, and I largely agree with his points.

Things like money or winning aren’t necessarily the keys to happiness, of course, but I think that such things are still big factors to enjoying a good life in a capitalistic society like ours. We feel happy when we get a promotion and feel good when traveling in nice hotels and business class. There is a sense of comfort if we feel like we’re not hopelessly behind our peers, perhaps some joy if we’re comfortably ahead. These are very natural feelings to have, and unless we can transcend such desires, we have to participate in the rat race to some extent. It can get very exhausting, but unless we are perfectly content to fall behind and run at our own pace, life is a competition.

I asked myself if I was happy to lag behind, practically not moving, watching my peers in the distance. The answer guided my path since.

Reward is based on impact, not quality or virtue

As a young twenty-something trying to be an ethical financial adviser, one of the more idealistic things I believed was that if I did the best job for my clients, I would be duly rewarded in time. I spent almost four years of my life earning around $1,000 a month before slowly realising it wasn’t going to happen.

We believe that doing good begets rewards, and producing things of the highest quality translates into rewards. But karma doesn’t exist – at least not that I can tell, anyway – and having the best product does not matter if no one is buying. There have been a few aha moments in my life, and this particularly major realisation was succinctly crystalised in the two graphs from the article:

From: Oliver Emberton

I realised that I needed to do something entirely different if I wanted any semblance of actual income. There is little reward in trying to provide ethical advice client by client, but what if I had a website or YouTube channel that’d do that? There’s still room to grow for sure, but in the short time I’ve done this, I have earned more than the four years combined, and my posts and videos reach at least 1,000 people. A modest number by social media standards, of course, but so many more people impacted than what I managed to do back then.

Fairness, logic, whatever is subjective

The last rule “we see fairness based on our own self interest” tempers my expectations of people. We tend to see things a lot from our own perspectives and value system, judging people based on our own world views. As much as I think it’s highly illogical to be buying endowment policies or whole life plans in this day and age, some people are still more comfortable with them. I feel that agents selling these products are unethical, but perhaps some really do need to put food on the table for their families. I still have strong opinions on the poor standards of “advisers” in the industry, but I guess my feelings have mellowed somewhat… to the benefit of my sanity.

Life is just like that

In any case, we live in the world as it is, and not in the one we wished it were. This article gave me the reality check I sorely needed, and my life has been in an upward trajectory since. Hopefully this was of some value to you… if not too late, you already read it *ad revenue increases* 🙃

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1 thought on “This Article Changed My Life

  1. The key point to ask is after buying all that wholelife & endowments, if you die or hemiplegic from stroke tonight will your dependents & family be able to maintain their standard of living?

    Chances are no.

    Not even Elon Musk will be able to afford wholelife or endowment to maintain his kid’s & wife’s standard of living if he were to insure his future net worth of say US$1 trillion (compared to $1M or $2M for the average Sinkie).

    Knowing the typical Asian customer, a wholelife or endowment is the best way to establish a client-advisor relationship & at least get them to think deeper about insurance adequacy (via term insurance) and retirement adequacy (via long term low cost investments).

    This is what I used to do during my insurance agent moonlighting days. I often convince them to split their “budget” between a wholelife (becoz Asians don’t want to “flush money down the toilet”) & term for better coverage.

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