What Do You Have Left To Prove?

Ship in the sunsetI like conflict because it gives me motivation to try harder. During high school I had the talent to play at an elite level of tennis if I trained more. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to work on my backhand and nobody was really badgering me. As a result, I only received “First Team All District” honors instead of achieving “All Sectionals” honors at the end of senior year. Because I wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend and I didn’t want to spend time traveling on weekends to play tennis tournaments, I never received any recognition from college coaches except for a small Division III school. I sometimes wonder what could have been if I went all out.

Nobody made me feel like a loser about tennis because I was already the team captain for two years and had a girlfriend. Girlfriend + Captain in high school is a respectable combo. I didn’t have anything to prove, so I didn’t do anything more.

But now as a 37 year old, I love playing tennis. I’ve worked on my topspin backhand religiously for three years and I’m entering tournaments now. The problem is my body isn’t as fast or as strong as it was 20 years ago. I’ve got a torn meniscus that is slowing me down. Damn. I wish I had the same enthusiasm back then. It’s because I know my time left playing competitive singles is limited, that I’m trying to do as much as I can now. When you’re young, you think everything will last forever.

There are other events that have left an indelible mark on my psyche. When I was 20 years old, four offensive linemen from the university football team came into Denny’s and attacked me and my girlfriend with racial slurs. We were used to racial conflict living in the South, but I was still pissed because they attacked my girl’s honor. Attack me all you want, but don’t attack the people I care about. The incident motivated both of us to do well for the remaining two years of school and try to become financially independent as soon as possible. I wanted to prove to them that I could rise above their bullshit perceptions.

When I was 32 years old, a junior colleague started making fun of me when I told him I was starting a personal finance site. He started making a weird face and typing on an air keyboard, mocking my idea. I guess I smiled, but inside I was thinking, you little prick. Whenever the going gets tough online, I remember back to this incident and push on through. Word has it he’s miserable at his job because he’s stuck. Welcome to the real world, buddy. Guess you should have joined me in air keyboard class.

Are Personal Finance Bloggers Some Of The Sexiest People On Earth?

Personal Finance Bloggers Are SexyI was eating dinner at my local Indian joint when a late 20s couple sat at the table right next to me. The guy, a new pharmacy graduate from UCSF was with a female pharmacy student. He was buttering her up with praise about how she’s so popular now that her research report got published in some pharmacy journal. She blushed with pride.

I tuned out their entire conversation for 20 minutes as I stuffed my face with chicken tikka masala until I couldn’t help but overhear one phrase. He awkwardly said, “I think I’ve gotta build myself an emergency fund, you know? I hear it’s a good idea to build this emergency fund so I don’t go into high interest credit card debt.”

Wahoo! Music to my ears and music to his date’s ears as well. As soon as he started talking about securing his financial future, the female pharmacist started leaning into the table all excited. “Tell me more,” she said with a sultry, but incredibly nasally voice. I’m pretty observant – like CIA observant – where I can tell you what color your shoelaces are and point out the stain on the lower side of your shirt 30 minutes after our meeting is over if questioned.

It’s pretty clear to me they’re both getting lucky tonight all thanks to some personal finance dialogue.

So I got to wondering: Are personal finance bloggers (and readers) just abnormal because we talk about money all the time? Or are we simply some of the sexiest people on Earth?

Let’s discuss!

Are You Smart Enough To Act Dumb Enough To Get Ahead?

Are You Smart Enough To Be Dumb Enough To Get Ahead?The smartest people in the world are listeners, not speakers. If all you’re doing is speaking, how do you learn anything new?

There was once this portfolio manager I covered who had this uncanny ability to make you feel uncomfortable without saying anything at all. He had a poker face when you spoke to him, and when he felt like changing expressions, he’d go from solemn to smiles in a millisecond. We nicknamed him Crazy Eyes. It turns out that he was literally a genius with an IQ over 160. He also consistently beat his index benchmark for eight years in a row and made millions because of it.

The earliest examples of acting dumb to get ahead starts in grade school. You know what I’m talking about. Those kids who were too cool to study and too cool to sit still in class as they flicked spitballs from the back of the room. These kids weren’t just acting dumb, they really were dumb.

When you purposefully waste your opportunities growing up, you’re not only disrespecting your parents, but also the millions of other kids around the world who will never have the same opportunities.

This post will do the following:

1) Argue why acting dumb is a smart move to get ahead.

2) Provide some tips to help you look and seem a little dumber than you are.

3) Share three personal examples of how acting duhhh, has helped in work, stress management, and relationships.

Wish Your Parents Were More Strict On You Growing Up?

Father's Day by Colleen KongThe earliest memory I have of my father disciplining me was when I threw a hissy fit as a 4th grader. I went into his office and tore up all his meticulously typed work papers and went to bed crying because he didn’t allow me to do something. There was no computer to save your work then, just original copies that had to be painstakingly retyped if something was off.

Instead of waking me up for punishment, my father waited until the next morning when I had calmed down. I knew what I did was wrong and felt a tremendous sense of guilt and trepidation. He sat on my bedside and told me calmly, “Son, what you did was wrong last night. Those papers took hours for me to type. Don’t do that again.

My father was stern, but compassionate. Because he didn’t yell or hit me, I developed an enormous sense of appreciation for his guidance. I began seriously listening to all his advice, and being more compassionate as a person as I grew older. I am all about second and third chances.

Dear Minorities, Use Racism As Motivation For Achieving Financial Independence

Beach at Golden Gate BridgeWhen I was a kid, I used to be very combative when it came to fighting racism. Part of the reason had to do with attending international schools in Asia growing up. Kids from all over the world can get pretty nasty towards each other along racial lines. I took up martial arts and learned debilitating hits to cripple my opponents in a fight if necessary. It’s just in my personality to stick up for myself and others, even if it means going to the hospital.

It’s easy to dismiss racism as no big deal if you’re not a minority. Behind closed door comments from Clipper’s owner Don Sterling are always hurtful, but not a surprise. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Or perhaps Don was just saying things as any jealous man would to an attractive woman 50 years his junior. When a $1.8 million condo and $500,000 in automobile gifts isn’t enough, I guess some spiteful things start coming out. Whatever the case may be, we know people all over who act one way, but think another way in private.

If you are a minority, you are well aware of every slight, perceived or otherwise, that comes your way. It happens at work, or in the grocery store, or on an airplane, or when you’re standing in line minding your own business. Over time you become inured to the insults, but the pain really never goes away. It just gets buried.

Now that I’m an adult who has gone through the system to reach financial independence, I’m slightly less sensitive to perceived injustices because people stop pissing me off as much. I don’t have to kiss someone’s ass to get ahead, nor do I have to sacrifice any shred of dignity to make more money. I’ve really got nothing to complain about, so I don’t.

But my new life as a blogger has reawakened my combative side, especially when you hear extremely racist comments from very famous or powerful individuals. Can you imagine being one of the many black employees of the Clippers organization? I’d probably just get up and quit, because there’s no way I’d work for someone who feels that way about my race. Money be damned.

I do believe words have the power to affect positive change and raise awareness regarding issues. As a result, I feel it’s my duty to speak out against wrinkles in the system with my existing platform. Apathy be damned.

In this post I’d like to share some perspective as an Asian minority living in America. Racism was a big reason why I decided to save so much and aggressively work on my passive income streams to achieve financial independence. The desire to have absolute choice and be beholden to no one was and still is a huge motivating factor. Perhaps readers in the end will share their motivations as well.