I am a great believer in the 6Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
This was partially driven by my parents’ harrowing experience during the Chinese Cultural Revolution where unprecedented uncertainty prevailed in their lives. This led them to have a plan for every eventuality. I must have inherited their planning brains.
When I was 18, I learned an ancient Chinese proverb which reads “san shi er li”. It means that a man should become independent by the age of thirty. That phrase dwelled deeply on me and I made it my goal to fulfill its spirit.
So I made a list of life goals to hit by the age of 30. I’ve just turned 29 and it is time for an “independence review”.
Engage in a purposeful career
I grew up in a household where both of my parents weren’t only successful financially and professionally, they also relished working. They genuinely enjoyed their career and that sense of purposefulness propelled their strong work ethic and ultimately achievements.
My goal therefore was not only to merely find a job that pays. I wanted a career that I am proud of and that I love doing. I see way too many workers on my morning commuter train who seem to have the lives sucked out of them. I vowed to myself not to become one of them.
Verdict at 29: I am in charge of operations and data analytics at a young British startup. The work is exciting; I get to do what I want most of the time; the culture is flexible and the pay is decent. I am definitely on the mark on this one.
Goal 1: Be financially solvent
I’ve come to realise that having a solids financial foundation is one of the key happiness factors. The most elementary pillar of this is to be financially solvent.
This simply means that I am cash flow positive at the end of the month. Put it more bluntly, I spend less money than I earn and save the surplus.
Verdict at 29: Ever since I entered the workforce, I’ve always budgeted carefully and ran a “fiscal surplus” at the end of every month. Over the last 2 years, I have started to track my saving ratio closely and it’s routinely exceeding 50%. I am doing well on this front.
Goal 2: Create a foundation for wealth accumulation
My father always says to me that “income is what you earn today, wealth is what earns you tomorrow.”
When I first heard this at the age of 15, I always thought it was just him being the occasional philosophical self. After all, it’s my mother who is the accountant. However, as I became more astute to the financial world, I began to realise the importance of that phrase.
Wealth, put simply, is all your future income discounted to their present value.
I knew early on during my career that I did not want to be an employee forever. This was primarily inspired by my parents and my boss at the time, all of whom were financially independent. They didn’t need to turn up to work every day and the only reason why they did was for greater personal fulfillment. The reason why they reached FI was that they were wealthy. They owned assets that generated income to sustain their lifestyles.
Verdict at 29: I took note and began saving my income aggressively and learned about investing and financial leverages. 7 years later, I own a modest portfolio of property and shares that consistently generate a monthly income. I am not 100% FI yet but it’s getting closer.
Goal 3: Embrace lifelong learning
My professor at university was a strong advocate of continuous improvement. She often told us that most people’s wisdom tops at the point of college graduation.
What she meant was that the majority of us fail to acknowledge that learning needs to be a lifelong mission. One of the reasons why technological unemployment is increasingly prevalent is because people let their mental inertia take over and fail to upskill.
The key to lifelong learning is through persistence. An hour may not seem like a lot but if persisted over 365 days then that’s 45 working days. Imagine the productivity improvement that is possible if you are trained solidly for 45 days per year on your job.
- Completed an Ironman;
- Almost fluent in Spanish;
- An expert in back-end system engineering;
- A qualified scuba dive master…
Verdict at 29: Even though I have acquired many different technical and “soft” skillsets since entering the workforce, I could do better. I need to be more focused and improve my persistence. I know it’s possible because I wrote my first novel this year based on these principles. I need to apply them more broadly.
Goal 4: Adopt a global mindset
Many of the ills facing our world today are a result of cultural misunderstanding. We fail to understand others’ perspective simply because theirs seems alien to us. It seems alien simply because we do not possess the knowledge nor could we be bothered to acquire such knowledge.
Goal 3 should make you a consistently curious person and be constantly seeking novel concepts. Yet knowledge has self-reinforcing effects. It means that the more knowledge you acquire, the easier it is to acquire any additional ones. As a result, having an abundance of knowledge at the onset conveys an enormous advantage over not having such.
No matter what type of nationalistic rhetoric that’s going in today’s political landscape. The technological revolution and economic specialization excitably mean our world will become more interconnected. As a result, it is imperative that I adopt a global mindset.
Having a global mindset means that I can think from and appreciate different points of views. It also means that I can work with these differences and reach a consensus amongst sometimes conflicting and competing interests. This skill will become invaluable in our century as the world becomes more connected and integrated.
Verdict at 29: I am lucky that I grew up in 2 vastly different cultures and have become competent in handling cultural differences. However, I can still do better by interacting with people whose socioeconomic experience to-date have been completely different from mine.
Thirty is indeed an important milestone. What you do in your 30s sets the foundation for the rest of your life. How far you can achieve during that decade depends on the foundation you’ve built for yourself prior to that.
Set your goals and go and get them. Onwards and upwards.