As mentioned in one of my first articles, many of us commoners start off from the same level playing field – from an average background, receiving education in a free and peaceful society, having a healthy body and average intelligence. Despite many restrictions and unfairness of the world, what we have give us the ability and the opportunity to climb up the financial ladder.
You would have realised that many years later, despite graduating from the same class, the gap between classmates and friends seemed to widen over the years. On one hand, we have those who fall to a very low point, either through bad decisions like gambling or simply squandering everything they have worked for, such as buying expensive houses, cars, bags and spending generously everyday, leaving themselves with no savings at the end of the month. Most of us are average, being a normal salaried worker either in the private or public sector, stuck in a job we do not like yet have no guts to quit, but at the same time slowly accumulating our savings throughout the years. There are the minority who did well, either in their jobs, or in the financial aspects.
I graduated in the field of Statistics. Unfortunately, I went on to the public sector, doing a job that pays relatively well in a niche sector that has no value when I grow old. Neither did I apply any of the statistical knowledge that I learnt in the university. One can say that the only thing I got out from university was a paper licence that ‘proved’ my capability, getting me a somewhat decent job where I am also easily replaceable. One of my friends however, made use of his knowledge and went on to take a job in this field. While working, he did not stop learning. By continually improving himself through taking a Masters degree in Statistics, by joining competitions in the field, by learning new knowledge etc, he has continually and consistently upgraded himself in this field. At the same time, he slowly gains recognition in a small circle in the industry, having a network of his own in the field. Among our circle, he is the most advanced in this area and easily earned the most. Of course, with higher salary and higher ranks, he also has a higher responsibility and a higher stress.
Financially wise, I am still better than him. He did well in his area and consequently achieved higher and higher salaries over the years. I on the other hand, focused solely on earning money through various (legal) means. Out of our own work hours, we put in efforts persistently in different areas and yield different results, slowly moving towards our different goals.
Some of us are lucky, having a less stressful job. Many of us are in a tiring and stressful job. To be honest, many days I come back from work, I am tired. I just want to relax and de-stress. I am pretty sure that is the case for many of us. Of course back at home, many of us still have a family to take care of. By taking care, it ranges from doing housework to simply spending time with the children to taking care of elderly parents who may be dependent on us. Even if we got the time, we do not have much energy left.
Some may say, I need to take care of my physical and mental health. I cannot be working a combined average of 12 hours every day. I need time to rest and relax. I have a family to take care of. These are all valid reasons. What is money if you end up sacrificing your health? What is money if your family breaks down? But it is precisely because all these are valid reasons, that people use them all the time to give themselves an excuse for not working beyond their day job hours. It is precisely because these excuses are so good, that they end up not putting in the extra effort. 10 years down the road, they realised they are still the average commoner, having only the place to envy others who did well.
There are sacrifices to be made. Without sacrifice, nothing can be achieved. Of course, we do not need to take things to the extreme. Humans are highly adaptive creatures, and if you are used to working a little bit more after work, very soon you will get used to it. I know because I have been doing that ever since I was 19. When time is a constraint, you learn how to manage your time more efficiently and effectively. You learn how to prioritise your different tasks. You learn how to balance things out.
I was working many hours during my university days, in order to pay my school fees and living expenses, just like many of the others. I did not want to get into much debt, and wanted to pay off my university loan by the time I graduated. I worked very hard, and neglected my studies somewhat. I did not like what I was studying anyway. The result was this: I paid off my debt by the time I graduated, but did not get a good academic result for my education. I passed in the end, but not with a good result. You see, your rewards pay off accordingly to where you put your effort in. If I put in the effort in my studies, I would have a good grade (I am confident of my intelligence) but might end up with a debt. Earning money to pay off my university fees is a valid reason, a reason nobody can fault me. Yet it is also a fact that compared to others, I did not put in much effort for my studies. I fully deserved the mediocre grades I got.
The same applies in our adult life. Spend time on your family, and you may get a healthy happy family. Spend time upgrading your skills in your job, and you will climb up the corporate ladder. Spend time taking care of your health, and you will have a healthy body (probably). But remember, we are not aiming for the extreme. We are not going to be Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. We are not going to be the CEO of some MNCs. We do not need to take things to the extreme.
Manage your time well. Prioritise your tasks. Have a plan. You do not need to work hard everyday. Take a break some times. Sometimes I slack off for 3 months while still doing the bare minimum to maintain my business after work. After I rested enough I work hard again. You do not need to abide by the cliché theory of improving yourself 1% every day. Take a break if you need to. Just remember to get back when you have rested. Learn to balance things. Look at things in the longer term.
You do not need to have mini results every day, or every week, or even every month. But at the end of every year, ask yourself if you have improved. It may not necessary be in terms of finances (I lose money from trading too). It can be in terms of skills, of experience, or back to the main thing, finances. As long as you improve continually, bit by bit you will be better off. If not, 20 years later, you will still only have the place to envy others.