“Act as if You will be Fired Tomorrow” – the Impact of Capitalism on Family, Career, Society, and Trust

In the last few months I have been really busy. A lot of my work is mainly stakeholder management and project management. It can be very stressful but at the same time it can be rewarding because you produce something very tangible at the end.

The routine of work sometimes depresses me because it feels meaningless. The financial year is over, so I will need to prepare my tax return soon. This has its upsides because I get to see how much passive income I have received. Last year I made about A$20k in passive income, which works out to around A$1666 per month (US$1200 per month). (According to most digital nomads, passive income of US$1000 per month is enough to retire in Chiang Mai.) However, I don’t feel that US$1k per month is enough. Now that I have reached this milestone, I feel more secure in my job because, if I were fired the next day, I could simply fly to Chiang Mai and retire. Approximately two years into my job, there was a large restructure of the organisation. I saw colleagues being fired and legally abused. This experience taught me at an early age that the job you have (even a government job) is precarious and not secure. It was devastating seeing colleagues with family responsibilities and large mortgages being fired. In my opinion, this experience, coupled with witnessing the divorce of my parents, have shaped me greatly. These were hard moments but I got through these moments stronger, and thankfully none of these incidents affected me. They affected others, but because I witnessed these incidents, I was able to learn from them. The key lesson is the importance of acting as if you will be fired the next day. Whenever I walk into the office, I act as if I will be fired. I do not take my job for granted. I structure my life as if I will be fired and live accordingly. If I am not fired and make money, that’s a bonus. 

Marriage and career are similar in that, if you don’t handle them correctly, you will be in a position of dependency. My mother is a traditional woman. She cooked and cleaned and tended to the household. She was loyal. However, my father cheated on her. Many people ask me what I think about the incident and what I will do, almost expecting me to disown or become angry at my father. But I was too numb to really do anything. When I really think about, even though my father cheated with another woman, I begin to realise that my mother shares some blame because she made herself dependent on my father. She thought she was doing the right thing. Traditionalism seems like a good idea. Most people, when they are unsure of what to do, do what has always been done, which is the allure of conservatism. It provides an easy default answer. The problem is that what has been done in the past does not always work, especially when the world today is very different to the world centuries ago. Today we live in a highly capitalist individualistic society. As Margeret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.”

quote-there-is-no-such-thing-as-society-there-are-individual-men-and-women-and-there-are-families-margaret-thatcher-29-25-01

However, Ms Thatcher was wrong. The quote should be: “There is no such thing as society or family: there are individual men and women.” Society is just an aggregation of individuals, and so is a family. A family is simply a mini-society. Thatcher was a political conservative and as such felt compelled to accept capitalist ideology without understanding that capitalism and traditional family values are incompatible. Under a capitalist system, it is each man for himself, and family is an expense and liability. This explains why, as countries become more and more economically developed, family structure changes from extended family to nuclear family and now the nuclear family is breaking up into pure individualism. Under pure communism, the community, country, or people is the family. The nation is the family. However, as market capitalism is introduced, this family breaks down gradually. The next phase of capitalism will be technocapitalism, which will make the world far more individualistic. Whenever I see families, the children are on their smartphones, disengaged. In fact, often the parents are on their smartphones as well. Everyone has separate lives. Everyone is an individual, and this individualism is enhanced by technology.

So while family was important in the past, those days are over, and we must adapt to the changing times. The same applies to career. In the past, it was normal to have a job for life, but such an idea goes against free market capitalism because businesses should have the freedom to hire talent that benefits them, and so under pure capitalism you should only be hired insofar as you are profitable and if you grow older and your productivity deteriorates, the ideology of capitalism would state that you should be fired unless your experience and wisdom compensates sufficiently. More rights for businesses to fire workers as well as more private sector and contestability principles being applied to government jobs has made jobs more precarious over time. The idea of an employer being almost like a family is starting to diminish under the weight of individualism.

As such, the best approach is not to be suckered by the delusion of the sacredness of collectivist fantasies such as family, nation, or organisation. You are just an individual. You are expendable. You may be divorced, fired, or betrayed at any moment. You must expect that and you must prepare for it.

The solution is as follows:

  1. live a minimalist lifestyle in opposition to consumerism
  2. minimise all obligations, not just financial obligation (e.g. debt) but also non-financial obligation (e.g. social norms, obligations to family and friends, etc)
  3. diversify your investment portfolio
  4. live off passive income.

Ultimately, it comes down to trust or lack of trust in others. These recommendations address the risk of trusting in others. If you live a minimalist lifestyle, your distrust is in business whom you believe will try to profit off your impulsive desires. If you minimise debt, you do not trust that your the source of income to pay the debt will continue forever. If you keep people at arms distance, you do so because because you recognise that anyone can betray you at any moment for their personal gain. You diversify your investments because you cannot trust any one investment to perform well. You live off passive income because you cannot trust your job to provide for you, and you cannot trust your body to always be young and agile enough to provide value to an employer.

In an individualistic world, the only person you can trust is yourself, so you structure your life so that you never need to trust anyone.

Benevolent Sexism

In my free time, I often read old blog posts to remind myself how much I hated my job in the past, but things have changed now. When you endure the pain of work, often things change. Workers around you change. People move on. Suddenly I am surrounded by better workers and suddenly I enjoy my job. However, just as things can change for the better at work so too things can change for the worse, which is why I live off dividends and minimise obligations. I live as if employment termination is imminent.

Something I have noticed is that there are many powerful women in my organisation and that the line between me and the man in charge of the organisation is mostly filled with women. I may have had an issue with this earlier, but I’ve had a change of heart, and I don’t mind women occupying positions of power in society. I find I don’t mind treating women better than men. I open doors for them and even walk with them through dark alleys to protect them. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist because feminism implies equality. I now believe in benevolent sexism. Of course, when I behave like this around women, I’ve had men tell me that women won’t love me because I am nice to them. These men are typically married and feel as if they can teach me a thing or two because I am single and therefore must be desperate to do whatever I can to attract women. Their great value-add is that women do not love nice guys. They tell me this as if it were such a huge revelation, a secret that only the smartest men know. According to these people, I need to display more dominance if I want to be loved. I need to rough women up and put them in their place. They are begging to be dominated by powerful men. To be honest, it is annoying when people impart this advice on me because clearly they look down upon me as if I am inferior, and the solution to my problem, according to them, is to spend more time trying to conform or do whatever is necessary to impress others. What ever happened to just being yourself?

Nevertheless, I do want a girlfriend. However, I am content being single, and I am prepared to be single forever. I suppose I am selfish because I do want a girlfriend but I don’t want the commitment. I don’t want the obligation. I believe in antiobligationism, i.e. do whatever you can to minimise obligation whether it is financial obligation (e.g. debt), legal obligation (e.g. marriage), or social obligation (e.g. customs, norms, or tradition). The minimisation of obligation and control over the “direction of flow of obligation” is central to freedom and autonomy (see The End of Slavery: Why I Live Off Dividends).

When I had a girlfriend in the past, I complained about how expensive it was to take her out all the time, but it’s been a long time I’ve been single and I find I am losing passion in my life. I don’t look at travel or going out as something enjoyable anymore. If there is no one to go out with or travel with, I feel I am wasting my time. I am saving a lot of money, but now that I have more passive income and therefore more money budgeted for spending, there is little I can do other than make the routine of work more comfortable or luxurious.

I notice that many people at work go to incredible lengths to save money. During lunch they bring their disgusting smelly food to work, and they wash their plates after they’re done eating. They drink instant coffee at work. They wear old clothes. They do whatever it takes at work to slave away and save money, but then outside of work these people splash out and go on consumerist binges. They have multiple children, they go on lavish vacations, and they send their children to private schools. This is the work-life balance that people talk about. People work to live, but work is not living. Work is something to be endured, something to slave away at so that you can live your real life, which is outside work, mostly on the weekends.

However, I don’t have a typical life: I don’t have children, I don’t have a family (or at least, I have a dysfunctional family), I don’t have a partner, and I have few obligations. My spare time mostly consists of work or passive electronic entertainment (Netflix, YouTube, Kindle, etc). When I am not working, I barely spend anything. Netflix is only $14 per month, YouTube is free, and Kindle books cost maybe $15 and I spend many months finishing a whole book. Because I don’t have a “life,” then work is life, and life is work. If I don’t spend money at work, there is a risk I will never spend any money ever, so I allow myself, while I am at work, to indulge in a coffee at a proper cafe, or I eat out at a restaurant during lunch. I like to get out of the office, breath in the fresh air, chat to the barista, and indulge in that warm $5 coffee.

To be honest, I would love to be a “normal” guy i.e. I would love to have a girlfriend so I could have someone to travel with, and I do value female intimacy, but at the same time I am skeptical of marriage and I never want children, so if I do have a girlfriend she needs to have similar values. But I just can’t find such a girl and there is no way I can meet such a girl. I cannot use Tinder because I don’t want people to see me on Tinder. I used Tinder before and found out that there were rumours around the office that I was using it, so I completely shut down the account and vowed never to use it again. My friends and family have tried to arrange relationships for me, but these relationships failed. Finding female intimacy at work is very dangerous, so I am extremely cautious. There is no way I am going to a bar or a nightclub. I do not like these places. Therefore, there is nowhere I can go and nothing I can do. It is as if modern society has conspired to make it impossible to find love. I just need to find happiness in being single.

The End of Slavery – Why I Live Off Dividends

One of the reasons why I don’t like being around people most of the time is because they tend to say things that trigger me. Maybe I am too sensitive. Most of the time people just say whatever is on their mind, and they quick jump from one superficial idea to another. Most of the time human interaction is just an attempt to say something for the sake of saying something, so perhaps I take things too seriously.

I live with my mother, and a few days ago, someone at work commented that I should not live with my mother because she will become a burden on me as she grows older. The reason why this comment triggered me is because there are many assumptions made, and it simply isn’t true. I didn’t get much of a chance to explain myself before the topic of conversation moved on, but days after this colleague made this trivial comment, I am still thinking about it, and my colleague may have forgotten all about it.

If I moved out from my mother’s house, she could still be a burden on me because technology connects us all, so even if I lived far away from my mother, she can still call or message me if she wants something from me.

However, suppose my mother and I lived in different cities. It would be more difficult for me to get to her, so she won’t be as much of a burden on me. Regardless, currently I don’t consider myself to be too close to my mother even though I live with her. I work quite often, and she also works as well, so we often do not see each other. My mother and father divorced a few years ago, so my mother learned from experience how important it is to be independent and to never trust or be dependent on anyone. Even on weekends I may be out somewhere, and she would be as well, so we rarely see each other. The only time we regularly see each other is at night when I get home from work and she cooks me dinner, and this is a tradition that seems to just happen all the time. She has always cooked dinner for me, and I never objected to it, so it keeps happening. In fact, my mother cooked dinner from my whole family, but over time everyone moved out. After the divorce, my father moved out, then my brothers moved out, and now she only cooks for me.

Even though my mother is in the habit of cooking dinner for me, this doesn’t happen all the time. For example, last night I had dinner with a colleague at work, so I came back at around nine at night, had a shower, and went to bed. This tradition of my mother cooking dinner for me seems to be the only habit that keeps us together. My grandmother on my father’s side used to wake up early and cook breakfast for me. I didn’t like it because there were days when I wanted to go to work earlier, so I just wanted to make my own breakfast or skip breakfast and just drink coffee, but my grandmother wanted to make breakfast for me. After the divorce that ripped through the family, my grandmother left the house to live with my father, and now I rarely see her. Most relationships are based on dependence and habit. When you are a child and you’re dependent on your parents, you are forced to interact with them, and they become familiar to you, so you bond to them. The same applies with work. You provide skills to your employers, and employers give you a salary, so you are mutually dependent, and over time there are colleagues at work you see all the time, and familiarity breeds trust and bonding. But as people become more independent, that dependency goes away, and as a result, bonds break.

Going back to the topic of my mother and her habit of cooking dinner for me, there are many in my family who jokingly talk about how I need my mother to cook for me (or I need a woman to cook for me), but I think many people say this because many people are traditional, and they believe in the traditional family. They want to believe that the woman’s role is to cook. This includes many traditional women. However, in my opinion, modern technology has made cooking irrelevant. You can easily eat out at restaurants, but even if you consider that to be expensive, it is not difficult to cook simple meals for yourself using e.g. a blender or microwave. For example, it is not hard to microwave or boil beans or to throw fruits and greens into a blender. To clean up, there is the dishwasher. There are many traditionalists out there (mostly women, based on my observation) who want to go back to the days of old when they stayed at home and engaged in low-skilled cooking and cleaning duties, and I think the allure of this is that woman don’t need to go out into the workplace to make money, and this is what drives anti-feminism among women. These women are simply selfish. I would consider myself to be a feminist man, and I encourage all women to get out into the world, work, invest, and become financially independent. They should resist the temptation to glamorize slavery.

My mother does not always cook dinner for me. There are times when I eat out, e.g. when I had a girlfriend a few years ago I spent a lot of time having dinner with her. If I wanted a cheap dinner, rather than eating out, I can bring meal replacement powders (e.g. Aussielent, Soylent, Huel, or Joylent) to work, and after work I can simply mix the powder with water and drink it as dinner. For added nutrition, I can come home and prepare a green smoothie using the blender. Because these foods are simple to make, I am not dependent on my mother for anything.

In the future, I intend to rent a one-bedroom apartment in or near the city because I am quite tired of commuting to and from work. I love to just be able to walk to work. Once I grow my dividends, my dividend income should cover the cost of renting an apartment in the city. As my dividends grow even more, I may be able to work part-time and use the spare time to work in a coworking space doing projects that I enjoy. With the proliferation of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, I suspect that a lot of business in the future will be done online and on the blockchain. It is a new frontier. Basically my plan is to transition gradually from living in the suburbs with my mother to living in the city and being self-reliant. I will also transition away from the traditional 9 to 5 job into more flexible work that gives me more control over what I do and with whom I work, and all this will be funded by dividend income. I recently performed a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation and found that I am investing about $70,000 per year, which is a lot. A considerable amount of this (about one-third of it) is going into my superannuation fund, which means I will not have access to it until I am very old) but about two-thirds of it is going into dividend-paying stocks or ETFs, so I expect my dividend income to gradually increase, which will improve my standard of living. I want to use my dividends to fund a more autonomous life with more freedom. I want to be free from my family and from my employer.

I expect freedom to come gradually. Most people have a date when they simply retire. There is a clear date, a line in time when they are no longer slaves but are free. I will have no such date. I believe that slavery is a continuum. On one end you have total freedom, i.e. no debt, good health, and living off enormous amounts of passive income. Then on the other end you have total slavery, e.g. shackled and in prison. Then there are degrees of slavery, and most people have quite a considerable degree of slavery imposed on them by their jobs, their family, their children, their mortgage and car loans, etc. For me, there is no retirement, just a gradual move from slavery to freedom.

As my dividend income increases, I will eat out more for dinner (or drink Aussielent) rather than go home and get my mother to cook. As my dividend income grows even more, I will sleep at home less. Rather than commute back home, I may hire places to sleep at night using Airbnb or I will rent apartments in the city for longer periods of time. The same applies for work. My intention is to reduce my hours so that I work part-time, or I may be more flexible, e.g. I may work at coworking spaces or at cafes. I may even ask my manager if I can work at overseas coworking spaces. This is good for me because I get away from the office, but it is also good for my employer because my desk is not being used, so there are cost savings. If technology is good enough, working remoting should not make me any less productive. This will be my main digital nomad plan, which is to do what I currently do at work but to gradually do it remotely as my dividend income and skills increase. As dividend income and skills increase, I have more bargaining power, and technology will improve over time, which should make remote work be easier. There is also a broader push by feminists for more flexible working arrangement because women want to spend more time looking after their family, so this could possibly benefit me.

Basically with higher dividends, I have more power so that I can shape my life the way I want my life to be. This has been the intention since the beginning. Living off dividends is my guiding philosophy in life because it gives me the freedom and power to do what I want. The basic idea is that you increase dividend income so that you get paid without needing to work, and at the same time you reduce all obligations, e.g. debt, marriage, and children. You minimize responsibility, obligation, and duty. By not putting any future obligation on yourself, you are free to do what you want. You are free to experiment with what makes you happy, and dividend income will allow you to experiment.

At the end of the day, my belief is that freedom depends on the direction of flow of obligation. When you hold stocks, ETFs, government bonds, etc, then there is an obligation for others to pay you money. There is a legal obligation for companies to pay you dividends. There is a legal obligation for the government to pay you interest because you are a bondholder. The flow of obligation is from others towards you. However, if you have debt, then the flow of obligation is reversed. For example, if you have credit card debt or a mortgage, you owe money to the bank. If you have obligations to family, friends, spouse, or children, that also imposes either a legal or social obligation from you to others.

The flow of obligation from you to others makes you a slave. The flow of obligation from others to you makes others your slave and increases your freedom. Freedom or autonomy is dependent on the flow of obligation. Manage the flow of obligation and you manage your freedom, and freedom is happiness.

Happy New Year 2017!

The holidays have been nice. It’s alway nice to take time off work and recharge. People often ask me if I’m travelling anywhere. This time around I am not going anywhere. I haven’t been doing much other than lounging around, relaxing, and visiting family.

During new year’s eve, at about six in the evening, I went to my dad’s house for a new year’s party. It was nice being there. I had a good chat to some of the people, but after a few hours, there was too much beer going around and people became too loud. My dad was drunk and stumbling everywhere. This has happened before during previous parties. Whenever my dad gets drunk in front of many people, it’s difficult to describe how I feel. I feel deeply ashamed and embarrassed. I just cannot believe that, when I was young, I looked up to this man. He was my father. I respected him, and it turns out he is a drunkard and a clown. He is not the sort of man I can be proud of. It just makes me so sad. Many people at this party were drinking and shouting, but I wasn’t in the mood to join in, so I left at ten, which is fairly early.

I’m trying to be true to myself more. In my twenties, I was very concerned about not offending others. I wanted to fit in. I was the nice guy. Now that I am in my thirties, I have made it a priority to try to be true to myself, to feel how I feel, to do what I want, even if it goes against the norm, even if other people in the room all think I’m a weirdo. As everyone was drunk and stupid, I simply sat there, and I even excused myself so I could sit in the lounge room by myself. When my dad walked by, I told him I was leaving.

I deliberately parked my car outside on the curb to ensure that no other car could block me. A very important lesson I have learned in life is that you must always have an easy exit plan, a way to get out of any situation if you need to. As I have always said, even more important than a plan is an exit plan.

cicero-quote-unpopularity-earned-by-doing-what-is-right

Rational Misanthropy

It’s a Saturday morning now. I woke up at nine, drank a protein shake, and prepared a cup of tea. I’m writing this now on my laptop in a small room at the back of the house (see Why I Still Live with My Mother). I feel comfortable now but mainly because I am by myself. I’ve learned over time that not only am I an introvert who has difficulty being with other people but I am also a misanthrope who dislikes humanity. Google defines a misanthrope as “a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society.”

Especially since I’ve gone mostly vegan I’ve just noticed that people are really cruel and evil, and this applies to just about everyone, even family members and friends. I pretty much limit my human interaction to the minimum nowadays. Rather than try to get along with others and improve my interpersonal skills, I’ve simply given up on people.

I know these are extreme thoughts, but I’ve had these thoughts for a long time. I keep thinking about this too often, and there’s nothing I can do about it. One option is to conform to society, that is, I can just be “normal,” be like everyone else and eat meat, get married, go into debt to buy a luxury car, and so forth, but this cannot be the answer. If I do what other people want me to do, I’m not doing what I want, and I can never be happy following the path other people have laid for me. The only solution then is to do the opposite. Rather than conform and go into society, I become a nonconformist and get out of the society.

I have recently purchased a book on Kindle called Gorilla Mindset, which I hope can help me with how I think about things in my life. Rather than be filled with negativity, I can replace negative thoughts with better thoughts, but I don’t want to replace negative thoughts with wildly optimistic thoughts either because this can be harmful. Rather, I should simply have factual thoughts.

I currently live off dividends, so strictly speaking I don’t need to work, so I don’t need to go to work and be exposed to annoying people. But my dividends are not that high, and I feel like I should be able to earn an online income before I go off and become a digital nomad.

When I’m a digital nomad, I imagine I will be a freelancer. I will base myself in Australia and I will be an Australian for tax purposes, but I will fly to other places for long periods of time, say, three months. This means I don’t need to worry too much about applying for long-term visas. My aim is pretty much to get away from people and do my own thing, and I think travelling achieves this. I can stay at home with my mother, but if she annoys me or if my friends or relatives here keep bothering me, I can just try off to Chiang Mai where I can be by myself.

When I am a digital nomad, I will pretty much be semi-retired. I will have enough dividends to support myself and live a luxurious lifestyle, but I will keep myself busy I will do freelance work via, say, Upwork. I am not too picky about what kind of remote work I do so long as it is remote and allows me to work by myself. Freelance work requires you to deal with clients, so of course that might be difficult, but at least I get to pick the clients I work with. If there is a skill I don’t have, I can easily learn it online.

I have no idea what the pay will be like. It might be lower, but it won’t matter that much because I will already have dividend income I can live off. This is just something I can do to keep myself busy.

The digital nomad dream within me has been strong at times, and there are times when the dream dies. For example, when I went to Bali by myself a few months ago I realized how uncomfortable and lonely it was being there. I have also felt more comfortable in my job lately because I have changed teams and I am working among better coworkers. But there are times when I am around very difficult people at work and it bothers me so much that the digital nomad dream is rekindled.

A few days ago, I met up with some old colleagues who now work in a different areas in the organisation. I mostly don’t see them much, but every now and then when I’m in the lifts, I bump into them, so I meet up with them every few months. I cannot be rude to these people because they technically work in the same organisation as me, but they are often rude to me, so I am thinking of deliberately being rude to them so they start to hate me and get away from me. This is what I hate about work. You have to be so fake. You cannot offend the wrong person and you cannot burn bridges with people, even those people you really don’t like.

I am also tired of friends and relatives who try to get me to marry. I am a male in my early thirties now. Everyone tells me to get married. They will me that a man in his early thirties should not be single and that they are happy to “set me up.” Many people say that this is how Asian culture is so I should just go along with it to appease my parents. But I feel like I should not do that! I should do what I want to do. I am quite tired of tolerating this nonsense. I feel like I need to rebel now. I need to muster enough courage to go on massive MGTOW rants at weddings so that people will get the message and leave me in peace.

Something else I hate about work is how everyone always brags about how important they are. There is so much namedropping and humblebrags. Then there’s all the gossip. Everyone gossips as if they’re in high school. Often when I go have lunch with people or go on a coffee run with them, they’re gossiping about this person or that person. I just find it annoying. I hate the 9 to 5 but I endure it because I need to increase my dividend income. 

Dealing With a Non-Vegan Father

When I had lunch with my dad today, he told me that he believes that animals should not be kept in zoos. He is against horse racing and is against trophy hunting. Yet he eats meat. I didn’t raise this with him. Maybe I should have. He constantly rails against injustice. He complains about how the rich are corrupting politicians and how politicians do not work for the people. Basically he complains about how powerful beings exploit weaker ones, but then he eats meat and therefore exploits beings weaker than himself.

When I think about this, it makes me depressed about mankind because of course they will just do what’s easy for them, and many people love eating juicy succulent meat, so they will continue to do it, and complaining is easy, so they will do that as well. Any problem in life that reflects poorly on them can be explained away by blaming the rich and powerful. 

I suppose I have always been skeptical of my father. Especially after he divorced from my mother after it was discovered that he was cheating on her, I started to lose faith in him. He is, after all, just human. I still visit him every now and then, but I am careful now because I don’t trust him. He cheated on my mother and hid it for over a decade. Now he eats meat and doesn’t give a damn about animals, so if he is so deceptive and callous towards other beings, why wouldn’t he treat me the same way? Maybe he tries to meet up with me every day to keep me close so he can exploit me or use me in some way. I just don’t know.

I’m not comfortable with just cutting my dad out of my life or calling him out on his sins. He is my father, and I do believe I should at least treat him well. He and my mother did put in a reasonable amount of effort to raise me, so I am torn. I just feel like I’ve seen too much of him that disgusts me, and it gets me down, so I need to spend more time with other people, and preferably I should spend time with more of my vegan friends. I need to connect with people who share my values. This will truly give me happiness. When you try to connect with people who absolutely do not share your values, this only creates discord. I’ve tried to explain veganism to my dad many times, but he just doesn’t get it, so there’s no point. He is just a bad person. It’s tough coming to that realization that your own father is a bad person. It’s really tough. That’s just the way the world is. I won’t cut him out of my life, but I’ll definitely try to spend less time with him.