Life is becoming more complicated as you grow older

I realized that once you get older, life tends to become more complicated. This is because you have or are expected to make more commitment:

  • Family – as a child everything is being handled by your parents but as adult you are expected to support yourself plus your parents, spouse and children. As you grow older, you meet more people (in your college, workplace, church) but require to keep contact with previous people you know earlier in your life (family, relatives and schoolmates).
  • Career – You are expected or willing to learn new stuffs (taking online courses, degree or industry certification), enhancing your communication, presentation and leadership skills while still keeping your technical skills.
  • Spirituality – As a new believer (spiritual infant), you do not even have obligation of attending church every week. But as you grow spiritually more mature, your church and your own conscience want you to be involved in more ministry, more evangelism, more prayer time.

Obviously, it is not sustainable to those aspects in life keep growing forever because children, adults and elders are still limited by 24 hours per day. Their brain speed, memory and stamina will not becoming double or triple when they reached their 20s, 30s, or 40s.

Here are the list of meaningful events I encountered during this year:

  • Graduated with my Masters degree
  • Being scolded by my advisor because of low thesis standard (for him)
  • Almost lost my wedding ring during church retreat event because it dropped to the sea
  • Accepted into NUS PhD programme – but changed my advisor before even start first semester (yeah, it sucks…)
  • Need to learn more complicated theoretical and technical stuffs – statistics, machine learning, and systems security – far more complicated than my work as a consultant in Hiend
  • Have serious dispute with my spouse until we need come to my church pastor for counseling
  • Interacting with seven NUS professors who specialized in security research (somehow NUS feel they need to hire more faculties in this area)
  • Government decided to handover my system I developed with Hiend to another vendor by the end of this year
  • Global economic crisis is gradually becoming worse – now the talk is practically everywhere

How can an individual handle these stuffs with sufficiently good quality? The classic answer is that you need to make priority. Another option is to change culture of always wanting new things like learning new things, buying new stuffs, or meeting new people if you think it is not possible to achieve those things without discarding the old one.

You have heard about this nonsensical advise from career counselor, CEOs of big companies, and rich people of keep growing yourself and of keep learning new stuffs every 4-5 years as if it is possible to learn new materials deeply without forgetting previous ones. If such materials are expired every 4-5 years, then is it really worth our times of learning those things? You may argue of doing something is more virtuous than doing nothing. I disagree, doing something useless or not meaningful for me is worse than doing nothing at all.

The entire world is the same thing – focusing on the positive side while ignoring the negative one. Take a look of GDP as economic indicator. It focused on production of wealth without counting the loss of other forms of wealth, such as leisure time, nature environment and community relationship (broken family and friendship). Because, if such things are counted as financial equation, the GDP will be negative.

Having said so, I am still grateful that God is still leading my life to keep my faith, study, work and family intact. And I wish this to continue.

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The meaning of life outside career and progress

As I get older, I begin to somehow take apathetic posture of life and tell myself that no matter how hard I try in what I do, I cannot change my fate or world very dramatically and permanently and I am beginning to see myself like Solomon in Ecclesiastes. The world view is also the same….in this book he espouse cyclical worldview, unlike most people in modern times who think that every generation is better than previous one.

From the worldview change around 4 years ago, there is a positive effect for me that I think helpful. I begin to care less about comparison of social status based on lucrativeness of our career. People that earn 4 times than us will not live 4 times longer than us. They are not necessarily have family 4 times bigger than us and even in big cities, they cannot have room 4 times bigger than us! (However, their apartment may have more facilities and located in more strategic area). Maybe the only difference is that they can have 4 times more oversea vacation than us, which I do not think is significant advantage.

Of course, if you want to have a family in big city, it is essential that you make a progress in your career because the older you are, more likely you will have more dependents. But I am not thinking of providing my dependents with the same standard of living with Baby Boomer generation -> meaning I do not think of spending six-digit cash for my children to go college, I also do not think of buying my own property as it is ridiculous to tie yourself to bankers for 20-30 years in the world where layoffs are norm every several years. Essentially, I have prepared myself that the world in next 15-20 years will be worse than past 15-20 years.

So how can a person with cyclical worldview like me have a meaning of life? Why do I start family if I think that the world will be worse for my kids? Why do I do research if I have the same opinion as Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun?

Because I believe that the meaning of life is not about continuous progress of society or spirituality or myself or my ability in my workplace. It is about to stay faithful to God regardless of the circumstances, whether progress or decline. And the memory which accompany this process that give me the meaning of life. Also, no matter how memorable your life will be, it is still limited to around 70 to 90 years. If I define myself with my work, then do I lose myself when retire or I am in heaven after I die?

Definitely, there will be a lot of human occupation that will be obsolete in heaven. If there is no disease, you will not need doctor. If there is no evil people, there will not be a need of judge, police or army. If everything is made of precious metal, there will not be decay so why do you need technician or tradesman? If it is being illuminated by God’s eternal light, why do you need electricity? If you can communicate by telepathy and have photographic memory, why do you need internet, computer, and data storage? So, those people that define themselves by their career, then they will not be in peace in heaven.

Instead of work, I personally think that one need to define himself on what he like to do during leisure time. Capitalist society put a lot of emphasize on long working hour to build one’s career but civilization may not be necessarily become better with our effort. I miss opportunity of 1 year of free time to explore and learning all interesting things under the sun: religion, philosophy and science, and also trying every kinds of recreational activities – mount climbing, horse riding, mahjong, classical musics and literatures, and so on. This thing make life happier instead of endless deadlines of exams, paper conferences, product launch, and business meetings. By doing such thing in regular basis, it will be sufficient for your soul and you do not need progress. It is perfection.

Of course, this is politically incorrect thing to say in the world dominated by capitalists and Protestants. But this is a reality that most people silently will agree.

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My Vacation – Phuket

After spending two days in Bangkok, we went to Phuket. Here, we ride chartered bus from airport to our hostel. I just realized that the motel we booked is a very old building and looked not very well maintained (The name is Patong Studio). I cannot complain because it is very cheap. We shared our motel room with 5-6 other people. When we reached, my wife is informed that the tour guide that supposed to bring us to tourism spots in Phuket asked for cancellation because one of his driver involved in car accident.

So realizing that, we adjusted our schedule accordingly. Luckily, there is a place for vehicle rent near our motel. My wife and me went there and decided to rent a bike and then just use it to go to Big Buddha. It is a very big Buddha statue located on the top of the hill in main Phuket island. This is the first time two of us used rented vehicle in other people’s country whose language we do not understand and none of us have international driving licence.

It is further complicated by the timing and road towards that Big Buddha. When we started our journey, it has already around 4pm and the journey took around 1.5 hours. The road is extremely hilly and there is no light at its sides. We only have around half an hour to enjoy our time there and when we went back, it was heavy rain! So no road light, no road sign, we cannot use our phone for GPS because it was raining, the road was hilly, and hence we have complete suffering for 1.5 hours. I seriously that time scared that something bad will happen.

But in the end, we still come  back in one piece. So, we rested awhile and we walked to restaurant near our motel to ate local food and enjoyed it. I was thinking that surely the worst is over but then I cannot sleep that night because my skin felt very itchy everywhere. I suspect that there were some bed bugs on my mattress but somehow only me affected and my wife was not. The worst come during last day when I had a diarrhea and fever and I could not sleep. Definitely this is because eating street food but somehow it need to wait until last day to see the effect.

Overall, it was a tiring honeymoon but very memorable one

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My vacation – Bangkok

It has been a while since last time I wrote something. Time flies, however today I am happier than ever before. At last, me and my wife went to Thailand for our honeymoon for four and half days. I am very happy because the last time I went outside Singapore and Indonesia is in 2008 (I went to Beijing and Guangzhou that time). So, it has been 10 years since that time!

There are many memorable moments there and we visited many places. On first day, we went to Sea World and Madame Tussaud in Bangkok. I am impressed by the wax statues there and I think it is really similar to real person. One noticeable thing in Bangkok is there are more dogs than cats, different from Singapore and Indonesia.

On the second day, we went to ancient temple along the Mekong River of Bangkok – Wat Pho and Wat Arun, where I had a foot massage there for awhile. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to visit Grand Palace because when we reached there in the morning there is a ceremony and the entrance was not opened for public. We then tried to come back in the evening but we just realized that the opening hour is only until 3pm. We reached there 15 mins late and we cannot enter.

Hence, we ride tuk tuk (It’s a kind of motor trishaw in Thailand) and went to Wat Saket (Temple of Golden Mount) instead. It is a Buddhist temple on the top of the hill and from the top you can see entire Bangkok and the scenery is very nice. However, we need to climb a lot of stairs to reach the top. It is quite cloudy when we climbed that stairs and luckily we managed to reach the top and get the picture near its big bell before rain started.

From Wat Saket, we ride tuk tuk again to reach Khao San road and this is basically a street market for tourists, selling merchandise, clothes, bags, shoes and so on. My wife went here and bought several clothes for both of our parents and relatives. After that, we walked to the river bank and took ferry to reach our hostel. We put our stuffs and we visited massage parlor as my wife want to have massage there (she did not do that in Wat Pho because she felt it is quite expensive…).

After went from massage parlor, She just realized that she lost her mobile phone and she said she asked me to keep it for her but I forgot. There is a bit quarrel between us but we returned to that parlor and found her mobile phone on the sofa where I sat. So, apparently the phone was slipped out of my pocket when I sat there.

However, this case does not reduce our enjoyment for the picnic we have in Bangkok for two days. Next, I will continue the story of another two days of our picnic in Phuket.

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Why you will never be successful (Hint: it’s demographics)

It is all too familiar for all of us that work in corporate world. Career stagnation, underemployment and retrenchment come for you and people about same age as you. How come Baby Boomer have it so easy but for us, Gen-Y and Gen-Z, everything are screwed?

We can explain this thing by demographic trend. Currently what we have is something like this:

People born in 1950s                                              X

People born in 1960s                                         X        X

People born in 1970s                                     X       X        X

People born in 1980s                                         X        X

People born in 1990s                                              X

As you can see, during 1980s, there is fertility drop and most people have less children. This can be attributed to several things, like global urbanization, female joining workforce and hence having less children, wage stagnation and resource constraint.

However, as all of you know that ALL organizations are on the form of pyramid structure. For corporations, it will be similar to this figure:

CEO                                                                            X

Vice President                                                     X      X

Directors                                                            X     X     X

Managers                                                       X     X     X     X

Executives                                                  X     X     X     X     X

You know what this means? Ideally, when there is no demographic decline, there will be continuous expansion of companies because population keep increasing and hence it will generate demand for education, property, leisure and so on.

Even if you screw it in your career, it will be easy set up your own business and find someone which is younger than you and need a job because the number of older people is larger than number of younger people.

Those that works in big companies, they can take their time knowing that they are guaranteed promotion even with just moderate performance since companies will continue to have increasing demand and need to keep hiring junior staffs. Hence,

  • ALL people who worked for 2-3 years can promote from Executives to Managers
  • ALL people who worked for 3-6 years can promote from Managers to Directors
  • ALL people who worked for 6-10 years can promote from Directors to VPs

Now, when demographic is declining, there will be less demand for childcare, education, and property. As the result, companies’ sales will stagnant or even decrease and they will start to use all those nonsensical KPIs to retrench underperformed staffs.

Then, during demographic decline and stagnant revenue, the employment pattern will be similar like this:

  • ALL but one people who worked as Executives for 2-3 years will be retrenched and replaced with younger executives. One will be promoted as Manager.
  • ALL but one people who worked as Managers for 3-6 years will be retrenched and replaced with younger managers. One will be promoted as Director.
  • ALL but one people who worked as Directors for 6-10 years will be retrenched and replaced with younger directors. One will be promoted as Vice President

So, the only way to survive from this continuous staff trimming, if you want to work in big companies is to forsake all your free time including fellowship time with your fellow church members, family, and relatives, your leisure time and even your eating and sleeping time.

Even so, it will not guarantee success if there are exists people who are equally dedicated and talented like you pursuing the same thing. Journalists in mainstream media always tell you about success stories of the winner. But there can be only one CEO. Most of us will end as loser (if you define your success as becoming CEO of large organization).

The only realistic way to prevent disaster is to have large portion of population to invest in children and nature. Demographic decline is caused by resource constraint and hence we need to cultivate agriculture so that we have enough food for sustaining large population.

Also, it is better to avoid big cities because of horrible competition and working condition. The living cost in big cities can be 4 to 5 times more compared to smaller cities.

Such actions are more realistic than to suggest people to spend continuous 60-70 hours per week to advance their career (but it does not guarantee them even pay increase!)

 

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