It’s been another year and what a year it has been.

I don’t re-read what I’ve read and it appears I should. Because this is what I wrote in my birthday post last year (emphasis mine*):

Of course, life is about pushing one’s limits and in the coming year, I’m going to push those limits much more.

I can think of at least three areas – health, wealth and new skills.

I definitely need to get healthier. Recently, I’ve begun doing morning runs but that’s still pretty infrequent.  I need to get those in on a more regular basis like every other day or at least once every three days. That’s on top of my gym sessions which need to be at least once  a week.

As for wealth, I don’t want to make this an explicit goal but rather it should be a byproduct of something like picking up a new skill that I can freelance some stuff with or creating some little business that can be run in my spare time.

For skills, getting more proficient in coding would be something. Right now, I’m probably familiar enough with python to get other people’s packages to work for me. I need to get to the level where I can program enough to get it to do simple repetitive tasks for me. Also, trying to put together a machine would be awesome as I can get more bang for buck. That would also give me the chance to get more familiar with modifying systems.

I’m happy to report that I failed spectacularly on every count.

First, let’s see where I went with getting healthier. This year, for the first time ever, I hit a new high in terms of my weight. I haven’t been all that regular with my once-a-week gym routine either. Thankfully, it’s not like I had any serious health issues due to the weight gain and fortunately, I’ve gotten my weight back down to below that high but looks like it’s going to take a lot more to get my health to where I want it to be.

The upside is…I’m happy to say that after serious reflection, I’ve realised that the weight gain always comes after a deviation of my usual routine. That is to say, my usual eating habits, while not perfect, weren’t contributing to my weight gain. It was usually after a holiday or a gathering with friends when the weight gain happened. Why? Usually, because there was either a smorgasbord of food that I had to try or an increase in consumption of beer. Or both.

On the second count, wealth, I’m glad to say that the portfolio has done exceptionally well (by my standards at least) this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up creating some sort of side hustle because I lost sight of all my goals.

The upside is…that my system of accumulating wealth is pretty much running on autopilot and has proven that it can survive the vagaries of my horrible lack of focus. In fact, the portfolio might have worked so well because of my horrible lack of focus on things.

In late April, I shared a graph showing how much my portfolio has grown since 2011.

Here’s how it stands today.



Basically, I have 3.5x what I had in 2011.



This isn’t really much of an update but a reminder that while your portfolio is small and tiny, it pays to have a good habit of saving and adding to that portfolio. Keep saving and keep letting your dividends and gains compound until you reach a stage that your savings can’t move the needle much on your portfolio.**

Third, I was getting better at coding but for some reason, I took a holiday and now I’m in a funk. The problem was also that I kept getting pulled in all directions with respect to learning how to code. One moment it was learning basic programming. Next, it was learning Flask. And because a website is pretty much useless without data, I started learning how to scrape and add data to a database. Then I realised that without being able to analyse the data, it was useless so I started on Data Analysis. Then sometime later, I realised the language of the web was JavaScript so that’s where I went.

In short, I went in so many different directions without having mastered any one first that I got burnt out. It’s really difficult to learn things on your own without having someone to guide you. -_-”

The upside is…I’ve managed to get a grasp on how to solve many different coding problems despite the lack of focus on a particular area. In fact, the one common thing that you keep having to do in coding is to sift through whatever lots of other people have encountered and thankfully there’s stackexchange.

Other stuff

Besides failing to do any of the above, this year has also been a year that I can only label as volatile.***

On the downside, I had a near nuclear meltdown somewhere in the middle of the year. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to recover from it. The reason for that episode is personal and shall remain so. The irony of the whole situation is that earlier in the year, I was blogging a lot about rationality and mindfulness. (see here, here and here) yet when it came down to it, I was overcome by a flood of emotions and I actually felt the physical effects that come with being depressed. It’s a serious thing and it’s no fun.

Also, on the work front, I was supposed to leave the school. To be honest, I didn’t know why I accepted the posting at that time because right now, I love my colleagues and the environment is fantastic. I guess I was thinking that I should challenge myself and put myself in a situation where I would have to work probably 2-3x as hard as I have to right now. Anyway, things happened, and I’m not going anywhere.

Also on the work front, I screwed up big time. I made a major mistake that no one ever should. I felt really bad about it though and I hope none of my colleagues ever make the same mistake ever again.

What’s the upside to all this?

The upside is that having a year like this gives you plenty of fodder for reflection and introspection. Giving myself enough time to think about the things that happened, how I felt about each event, and whether I could have handled things differently has led to a few conclusions.

One, in order to be a better person, I need to cultivate better habits. After all, there’s a famous quote attributed to Einstein that goes like this:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Your habits will definitely lead you to the same results. If you want different results, you have to change your habits. Some of my habits are downright terrible.

Two, in order to change your habits, you can’t just depend on willpower. I should have realised this sooner given how my wealth accumulation strategy was going. In fact, even with some semblance of a strategy, you need some great incentive or disincentive to stick to it. For example, I had come up with a simple rules-based strategy to lose weight. Basically, I already decided that on days where I go canteen A, I would only have the sandwich from there and if I went to canteen B, I would order the salad.

What actually happened is that whenever I had a lunch kaki**** and when classes started,  this plan would utterly fail as I didn’t have the willpower to stick to the strategy. When you’re tired and want to relax, your willpower is spent. Your mind then naturally thinks of stuff that gives you the most reward. In my case, that would be fried stuff or carb-laden dishes as most local foods are.

The only solution I can think of is to increase the stakes of committing to the plan. As discussed in an episode of the freakonomics podcast, you can do so in many ways such as having a pre-commitment to donate a painful enough sum to the person you like the least or, my favourite, hanging a jar of vomit around your neck and opening the lid to take a whiff of it whenever you feel hungry.

Three, getting majors fails and feeling really lost is not fun but there is some good that came out of it. I feel a lot more grateful for my life. I’m grateful for a family that loves me and that has confidence in me.

I’m grateful for the fact that I was part of the lucky sperm club. Just being born in the right country means that I never had to face the threat of war and that basic infrastructure has not been a concern. Being born at the right time also reinforces those notions as one or two generations before mine would have endured a lot more hardship. Being born into the right family meant that I basically only faced #firstworldproblems. And all of the above also increased the odds that I would meet the right person to spend the rest of my days with.

My wife isn’t the perfect person (show me someone who is and I’ll show you a phoney) but she’s the perfect person for me. She’s smarter than I am but she never lets me feel inferior for it. That automatically makes her more humble than me as well. When baking, she’s the one who will follow a recipe to a T while I might read the recipe to get a feel and then adjust accordingly. I don’t tell her enough but I love her.

Also, we adopted a cat! I never had a cat in the house before so it’s a whole new situation that we have. Initially, there were a lot of known unknowns. Will he scratch the furniture? Will he pee outside his litter box? Will he leave us alone when it’s time for bed? All those fears turn out to be unfounded because cats, like everyone else, can be trained to a great extent. Watch enough “My Cat from Hell”, do your research and through trial and error and you’ll see that most of the horror stories you hear about are due to bad owner behaviour. In other words, it’s not the cat. It’s you. I’m glad to say that our cat loves it here and we love having him around.

What’s next?

30 something years of life isn’t that short but yet it’s far short of a lifetime in this day and age. I’ve already decided on my goal for the next few years and it’s for me to embark on the path to being a craftsman.

In this day and age, with the threat of automation to jobs that are repetitive and mundane, I believe that there isn’t a future for those who take on a job hoping to go through the motion of passing each day while meeting the bare minimum.

Therefore, I need to hone a craft. Get the fundamentals right, repeat the fundamentals until they become second nature. Then push the boundaries and create something new.

That’s what I need to do with investing.


*lol. who else could it be? I only realised the irony of the parentheses after I typed it. Hence this very meta-sounding comment.

**Let’s say you have an average job that pays S$4,000/month (that’s literally the average in Singapore). Saving 10% (S$400) a month easily adds about 10% of growth when your portfolio is $48,000. However, once your portfolio hits $480,000, that same savings rate only adds a percentage point a year. The solution is, two-fold, either (a) increase your savings rate over time and/or (b) increase your income. The problem is that for most people, both options are pretty difficult to do.

***I use the term as it would have been in the finance world i.e. flucuations.

****kaki is the local term for a buddy.