Career Planning is Like Walking Through a Foggy Maze

I’d like to talk about career planning. Many times I think back at my career development and think about lessons learned. What I have discovered is that career planning just doesn’t seem to work.

Many people pressure you into defining what you want to do before you go out and do it. The problem with this idea is that it assumes that it is easy to determine what it is that will fulfil you. It is not. Suppose you think you like accounting. There are so many branches of accounting that you can’t possibly know if the branch you eventually fall into will satisfy you. Furthermore, there is so much more that makes up career satisfaction than a broad academic category like “accounting.” You may love cost accounting but when you end up in a job where you hate the people you work with or you hate your manager, you will not be happy.

To complicate matters, although you may think you like accounting, there is no guarantee you will even end up in an accounting role. You may study accounting and specialize in, say, accounting standards, but once you enter the job market you may find that there are no jobs available that suit your stated passion, and you have to settle for something else.

Career planning is like walking through a maze. You know you need to reach your destination and you may know the general direction of your destination, but there are multiple walls or obstacles around you, so much so that long-term planning seems pointless.

So what are we to do when we walk through the foggy maze that is our career? When you walk through a maze, you focus on what is ahead. You focus on the walls around you. You focus on what paths that are available for you right then and there. If you make a wrong turn and reach a dead end, you walk back and learn your lesson.

The same applies with your career. You follow the paths available to you. If the only jobs available are general finance graduate jobs rather than the accounting standards job you were hoping for, it may be better to settle with what is available. Even if you get something you think you want, for whatever reason, you may end up not like it. Even if you end up liking something, circumstances change. Your manager can change. There might be a restructure. The world is not fixed, and planning too much leaves you inflexible and vulnerable to a rapidly changing world.

We need to be flexible and adaptable. We need to be prepared to be the best we can be regardless of the situation presented to us.

What is the Best Diet for a Recovering Beta Male?

What is the best diet for a recovering beta male? Dieting is a controversial topic. I can only tell you what my diet is. I am a male, about six feet tall, and reasonably skinny, weighing in at around 75kg (165lb). I joined the gym about a month ago and have been going every second day. Each time I go to the gym, I spend about 20 to 30 minutes there mainly lifting weights. I aim to lift heavier and heavier weights. I started off lifting 25kg but now I find I can do double that, around 50kg. This may be little for some but I am just a beginner, and I have noticed a difference not only in my appearance but also my mood and levels of energy. I recommend the gym for anyone. Just google around, find the cheapest place, and sign up. Read the contract to make sure there is nothing dodgy, like an exit fee.

Dieting for someone who is lifting weights is very simple. Just eat a lot. I don’t bother with counting calories. I figure that if the goal is to develop muscle then it is important to eat as much as possible because food is necessary to build muscle. I aim to get protein, so I tend towards eating meat, cheese, and milk, which is helpful since I already love eating these things. For the sake of the animals (as well as my health), I tend towards grass-fed animals like grass-fed meat (and milk and cheese) rather than conventional meat that is fed with soy, corn, and hormones. In terms of what I avoid, I avoid refined sugars and salt. Refined sugars (e.g. in sweets, chocolate, cakes, and so forth) causes obesity and likely causes diabetes as well. Too much salt causes high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular diseases. I don’t mind eating carbs, but I feel low GI food is better than high GI food, i.e. complex sugars is better than simple sugars because fluctuations in blood sugar levels can overwork the pancreas, which can lead to diabetes. Bottom line is to eat everything, aim for protein-dense food from animals that are fed grass, and avoid sugar and salt.

I don’t eat six meals a day, not because it is not healthy but because it is too hard because I work nine till five (or more). I have three meals: a quick breakfast, a medium lunch, and a fairly massive dinner. There are many moments in between when I am hungry. When it comes to snacking, I prefer to drink red tea with milk. Red tea (called rooibos tea or African tea) is caffeine free, which means I can drink it at night and afternoon without fear. Furthermore, red tea is free of oxalic acid, which means you don’t need to worry about kidney stones. The milk in the tea provides protein.

Some people have suggested I try protein supplements. I have been recommended isowhey. I haven’t followed through with the recommendation. The idea is that, after a workout, you drink protein shakes to provide your body with the necessary ingredients to build muscle. The reason why I don’t take protein supplements is the same reason why I don’t eat six meals a day: because I work. I gym where I work, so if I wanted to take protein supplements after a workout, I’d need to bring in a giant tub of protein supplement to work and then prepare it in the office kitchen after a workout. It is too much hassle and frankly it’s a little embarrassing and weird. Studies show that drinking milk after a workout is great for building muscle, and given most workplaces provide milk to their employees for free, it’s an easy decision.

Be More Assertive by Talking About Your Feelings

One of they key aspects of becoming an alpha male is to be more assertive, which means I need to express my interests. When I was a beta male, people used to ask me to come along to something I wasn’t interested in going to, e.g. they asked me to come to their house for dinner or go to a party. Rather than just say no and tell them that I didn’t want to, I usually just went along. Becoming an alpha male, in my opinion, means I need to do what I want to do and not do what I don’t want to do, and that normally starts with expressing my desires.

The first step in expressing myself, in my opinion, is to be clear about your position from the outset, which means saying “yes” or “no.” That should be sufficient. Usually when you say no to someone, they ask why. They ask you for a rationale. A response I should give is that I don’t need to give a rationale. I think it is best to hold out and not give a reason for why you want to do something. If pressured, just say, “I don’t feel like going” or something similar.

Expressing your “feelings” may sound feminine, but I have learned that this is the clearest and best way to express yourself. Humans do what they feel like doing and don’t do what they don’t feel like doing. It is simple and basic. If you are accused on being selfish, you can accuse back and tell them that they are selfish. Everyone is selfish to some degree. Everyone acts based on what they predict will give pleasure and don’t act on what they predict will not give pleasure. Predictions are made based on past experiences.

I find a good technique is to simply give a concrete story of something that has happened in the past and then describe how you felt based on those experiences.

If someone asks you to come to a party, you say, “No! I’m not going. I hate parties.” This very clearly gives your position very quickly. If you are asked why you hate parties, then you start the story based on concrete examples with a description of how you felt. You can say, “I’ve been to some parties before and they were boring. All I did was walk around and talk about useless things to people. The music was too loud, so it was difficult to understand what people were saying. It was so boring and I felt like it was pointless.”

I’ve used this technique when I have expressed to people that I do not want to have children. I’ve told ex-girlfriends this as well. I tell all my friends, even the couples who plan to have children. I tell them I hate children. They ask me why and I simply tell them my experiences with children. I tell them my experiences with relatives who are children, how these children are chaotic and annoying. They always demand things. I am someone who likes peace and harmony. I like order, not chaos. Often when I am in a mall, I see children throwing tantrums and going crazy, and the parents are almost in tears.

The great thing about true stories and your feeling in response to the events in the stories is that you cannot be wrong. No one can say, “Your views on children are wrong!” because you haven’t really given a view. You have just given a true story and your feelings in response to that story. No one can deny that your story is false. More importantly, no one can deny that you didn’t feel what you claim you felt. No one can say, “That negative feeling you got when you were around misbehaving children! That is wrong!” They cannot say this because that is what happened. That is fact. Your feeling are your feelings. Your feelings are biochemistry. Other people cannot understand your biochemistry. Even you cannot understand your own biochemistry. But only you know how you feel in response to something, and it is either a good feeling or a bad feeling based on whatever chemical is secreted: cortisol, adrenalin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, seratonin, and others. Your body, your physical makeup, and the chemical in your body are out of your hands. It’s what you’re born with.

When you talk about your feelings, you don’t have to give negative feelings. You can give positive feelings (or the absence of positive feelings). For example, when I gave my views on children, my friends told me that they find children very rewarding, to which I told them that although they may feel that, I certainly did not have any positive feelings from being around children. Other people also told me that these misbehaving children have simply not been raised correctly. Their message was basically: this happens to other people’s children but it won’t happen to my children. I was told that if the children are raised correctly, with proper discipline, I won’t need to worry about misbehaving children. Rather than talking about my negative feelings to misbehaving children, I simply switch to my absence of any positive feeling around children. My argument was pretty much that even if I can get the children to behave well so that they annoy me less, the fact that I get no happiness or positive feeling from them means that there is no point in me having children. If you were asked to buy a pink elephant, would you buy it? Probably not because (unless you’re a circus owner) a pink elephant is pointless. Furthermore, you have to buy it off someone and then you have to feed it. Suppose the seller tells you that there is a huge discount of 90 percent off this pink elephant and that the costs of maintaining the elephant has also been discounted. So what? You don’t need a pink elephant, so why buy it, even if it is on discount. Same with children. If I don’t need them and don’t get any happiness from them, why should I bother if the pain is reduced somewhat with excellent discipline thereby resulting in a reduction in the pain of having children? This is simply a cost-benefit argument but used to describe positive versus negative feelings.

To summarise, when asserting yourself, make sure you say “yes” or “no” straight away and then say something quickly to make it completely clear what your views are on the matter. It should be left at that but if you feel you need to rationalise yourself, it is best to give a true concrete story and to describe your feelings in response to what happened in the story. You can talk about your positive feelings and negative feelings. To borrow from business school, you can talk about costs and benefits and even how you feel about risk.

It is incredibly important to get your feelings and views out there so that everyone knows where you stand. This is important because then, as you go on in your life interacting with the people you interact with, how people will guide you and the people you meet with will change according to your desires. For example, if I express my desire to be childless to everyone, mothers and father will likely hate me or just not be interested in me, and they will stop inviting me to their children’s parties, and they will stay away from me completely, choosing instead to be around those who share their views. If I express my feeling about parties, people will stop inviting me to them, and party animals will think I am boring and will stop associating themselves with me. Over time, I start to becoming surrounded by people I am interested in and I am drawn to events that I find interesting, and this leads to greater happiness in the future. This is why it is important to send out signals and vibes to the world that is consistent with your feelings and desires. If you do not, you will find you go along with other people’s values and desires and you will be miserable. This is a lesson I learned the hard way during my beta male years, and I am desperate to fix this problem.

Is Your Primary Residence an Asset? Yes, But…

I was having lunch with a colleague a week ago and he said the following to me: “Your primary residence is not an asset but a liability because you have to continually pay for it. You don’t own your house. The bank owns it.”

This got me thinking because years of education has taught me that a house is an asset since assets are defined as anything that produces value. A house can be rented out to produce rental income. Indeed, it is an asset according to this definition.

But technicalities aside, I do understand what my friend was trying to say. After some googling, I found that this concept derives from the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad in which Robert Kiyosaki explains that a house generates negative cashflow and therefore is a liability for you.

He is wrong. It is not the house that creates the negative cashflow. It is the mortgage. The problem is, for most people, in order to afford a house, they need to accept the mortgage because they simply don’t have enough cash to buy a house outright.

It is this connection that the bank has concocted that fools people. When you buy a house, you get an asset, but it doesn’t end there. Two sets of assets are created. The first asset is the house, which you hold. The second asset is debt, which is held by the bank. Houses tend to go up in value, but not always. House prices tend to move up only slowly and are volatile. The asset the bank holds, on the other hand, is much more valuable. The bank holds debt. It produces income no matter what. Even if you default, the bank simply takes your house. Effectively, when the bank lends you money to buy a house, it is doing two things: (1) directing cashflow from you to itself and (2) transferring risk from itself to you. The cash the bank would have held would have sat in a vault doing nothing but by lending it to you, that cash now generates interest that flows to the bank. Rather than buying real estate itself and suffer from the risk of volatile prices, the bank simply puts that risk on you by lending to you. It gets a steady income while you wear the risk.

I am not against buying a home. What I advise against is the debt. Unfortunately, when most people buy homes, it is connected to debt. It is like coffee. Research shows the antioxidants in coffee prevents prostate cancer in men. But if you put four teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, the sugar will hurt your health. Likewise, even though a house is great for you, the debt that is attached is what will work against you. If you need to buy a home, I recommend you buy a small home to minimise the debt. Otherwise, pay off the debt as quickly as possible. Rent out spare rooms. I have nothing against buying a house as an investment, but it is best to stay out of debt.

Spread Your Wealth

“Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.”

Ecclesiastes 11:2

You may be wondering why a blog that focuses on being an alpha male is concerned with financial matters (see my previous post on the importance of keeping debt low). I believe that financial health is extremely important. I have recently watched a YouTube documentary called Wham Bam Thank You Scam! This documentary is about an Australian who invested $150,000 with a fund manager who turned out to be fraudulent. He flies to Bangkok to find the fraudsters. It is heartbreaking to see the desperation and futility of his search. Documentaries like these strengthen my belief in the value of diversification.

It is easy for people to look down upon the victims of fraudsters and accuse them of not researching enough, but the reality is that there is no consistent way you can reliably know if an area you park your cash is safe. Most people judge the trustworthiness of an individual or institution by the prestige, niceness of the website, how professional the people who work in that organization work, and so forth, but it doesn’t take Einstein to realize that these superficial cues are not always reliable indicators. Highly regarded money managers have turned out to be scam artists, for example, Bernard Madoff. Highly regarded institutions such as the prestigious and powerful HSBC have been found guilty of corruption and money laundering. It is great to research an investment and do your due diligence, but research is not enough because research is flawed. We can look with our own eyes, but appearances deceive. Research will only take you so far in protecting your wealth, but diversification will bring you much further.

Just how far should you diversify? In my opinion, go as far as possible. I have multiple financial institutions and within each financial institution there are multiple funds and multiple accounts. Never put too much in any one institution or account. Trust no one fully.

When spreading wealth across multiple investments, make sure the different areas you park your cash are actually different. For example, if you invest in BHP shares using two different brokers, you have diversified across brokers but not across companies. Better to use one broker to buy BHP and the other to buy something else, such as CBA. As much as possible, spread your wealth across different types of investments.

The biggest downfall of diversification is the complexity of remembering everything you have. Having to deal with multiple organizations can be difficult and confusing, but I believe it is worth it. You cannot afford not to do it. Make sure you hire a registered tax expert to do your taxes for you. Unless you are an expert, you will need it.

A way I keep track of my investments is to always invest in investments that pay an income (called a “distribution”) to my main bank account. This way when an investment makes money and puts it in my bank account, I see it on my phone and I am reminded that this investment exists. I never follow a dividend reinvestment plan or invest in anything that produces no income (for example, physical gold produces no income). Some highly regarded shares produce no income either, for example, Google and Berkshire Hathaway have not paid dividends so far. These aren’t necessarily bad investments. I just personally like to receive reminders that my investments are working and that they exist.