Some of you may have noticed I haven’t written here for some time, and that’s because I’ve been expressing my thoughts on my personal Instagram account. I do think I’ve made enough of such thoughts that it’s worth compiling them into this post for others to read. Also, for those who wish to follow me on Instagram, please let me know by filling up the Contact Us! form so I can send you my Instagram handle (I keep my profile private for privacy reasons, hope that’s understandable).
Without further ado, here are the stories, listed in chronological order that I posted them:
1. The most precious resource in the world is not money. It’s time. Consider that companies offer to exchange your time for money. Who do you think is getting the better end of the deal? You can always get more money. But you’ll never get more time. Ever.
2. Most people are trained to see work as pure financial gain. That is why most conversations about careers are about salaries. But these people don’t realize that work is actually a trade – you trade your time, a finite resource, for money, a potentially infinite resource. Oftentimes, you trade away your health and happiness as well. Everyone needs to put food on the table, of course, but beware of thinking that work and money are the be all and end all of life. They aren’t.
3. In Singapore from young, we are appraised based on our academic grades, with parents and teachers constantly exhorting us to do better. So we work hard, hoping for the pride and compliments we will get if we do well, and fearing the shunning and being looked down upon if we don’t. Is it any wonder, then, that we spend the rest of our lives chasing the approval of others? We study the degrees that will get us into the highest paying careers, and see ourselves as superior to those who earn less. Because Money = Respect in our society. And so the cycle of narrow-mindedness and materialism perpetuates.
4. The first time you experienced A, it filled you with happiness. You need A to be happy. And so you chase after it, wanting to experience it again and again. Eventually you work your way to the point where you can have A regularly forever. Congratulations! But are you happy? No. Because by then you’ve just had your first taste of B, and THAT filled you with happiness. You need B to be happy. And so you chase after it, wanting to experience it again and again….
5. It is thanks to this materialistic world we live in that the word “frugal” has a negative connotation. Think of it and you imagine an ascetic monk with no possessions, living a barebones existence. But frugality actually means to use your limited resources (time and money) in a way that will provide the most value. And what is more valuable in life than happiness? Is a frugal person really the miserable Scrooge you imagine he or she is? Chew on that the next time you’re encouraged to buy something that won’t really make you happy because of slogans like Just Do It (Nike) or Because You’re Worth It (L’oreal).
6. You know how some love to lament “No choice” when faced with something they would rather not do? There is no such thing as no choice – it only seems that way because it’s easier to pretend that you don’t, so you can forego the responsibility and consequence of making the alternate choice. Do this enough, and eventually you’ll have convinced yourself life is just something you experience passively, just going through the motions. Your life runs you, not the other way around. And that, in my subjective opinion, is absolutely tragic.
7. No one will ever understand you like you do yourself. Whenever you hear anyone make a sweeping statement like “Everyone should do this”, they’re really saying it to assure themselves that they are on the right path. Such statements say more about the speaker than the listener. So know yourself and keep your own counsel, and live life the way you want, for life is too short and precious to spend it trying to appease others.
8. It is difficult for people to accept that there are multiple solutions to the problem called Life. We are all convinced our solution is the best, and everyone else is doing it wrong. There is probably someone in the world right now who holds opposite views, values and beliefs to you, but nonetheless manages to live a good life. Maybe it’s a fault of our education system that focuses so much on finding the right answer that we think there can only be one.
9. Step One: Working hard is stressful. Step Two: We spend on ourselves to relieve the stress. Step Three: We now need more money so we work harder. Step Four: Working hard is stressful. Rinse and repeat until you’re too old to work, and then hopefully you have enough to pay for your medical bills as an elderly. This isn’t the only way to live life, but it sure is the most popular way for some reason.
10. Everyone has heard the phrase “Time is Money”. It is often used as an exhortation to make the most of our time to generate value – which is where money comes in. But is money the be all and end all? If you don’t know how much money you need to live a happy life, then yes – it is, and you will forever be working for money instead of the other way around. I think a better saying is “Money is Time”, because having enough money can give you time – a finite resource you can never get more of.
11. It often feels as if everyone is in a rush. A rush to achieve this, attain that, to complete this, to become that. I’m guilty of it too, being a naturally results-oriented person. But if you spend life rushing from place to place without stopping to just admire things as they are, aren’t you just rushing towards your death then?
12. For some reason, it is very easy for humans to believe falsehoods. Anything to suggest life has a deeper meaning or is less mundane has easy purchase on our minds. And before we know it, we’re anchored. Invested, refusing to acknowledge its logical flaws to the point where ignorance is bliss. In the end, we can build an entire belief system around it. How do we do that? Simple – we just get others to believe the same thing, and then get them to spread it to others…
13. Hard work = success is a lie. Hard work+ working smart + a whole lot of privilege and luck = success is the truth. Of course, it is always easier to believe our successes are all due to our own effort. But that ignores many who struggle and are made to feel that their lack of success is due to a lack of effort. That is what meritocracies often do: Convince people at all positions of the socioeconomic ladder that they deserve to be there, from the top to the bottom.
14. Something we don’t talk about often enough: The undeniable fusion of our identities with our work. When we work for a big name company, when our job title sounds impressive, when our salaries are big, we feel good about ourselves. But does that mean that outside of our work, we don’t deserve to feel as good? Is it only our value as employees that props up our sense of self-worth? Now you know why most people will only dream about not having to work, but will never act upon that impulse even if they have more than enough means to do so. Because they have devoted so much of themselves to their work, they fear that there will be nothing left when that work is gone. “What will you do with all that time?” “Won’t you get bored?” The idea that work is the only thing that can engage us, give our lives meaning: Such is the reality of the modern workplace.
15. We have a hustle culture nowadays. It is no longer good enough to engage in hobbies for their own sake – anything you devote your time to outside of work needs to be a side hustle, a way to generate money. Know how to write? Write a bestseller and get rich! Know how to draw? Become a freelance artist and sell your works! Like playing video games? Become a top-grossing streamer! And so on. I wonder if anyone has sat back and really asked themselves, “Why? Why can I no longer engage in an activity simply because I like it? Why does everything I do lead to the eventual goal of making money?”
16. Allow me to answer the question posed in my previous story by suggesting that people who are comfortably middle class but feel compelled to monetize their entire life do so out of a feeling of insecurity. Thanks to social media (Yes, I get the irony) and the Internet as a whole, it’s very easy to become conditioned to desire things and experiences that we believe will give us the ideal life if we had them. More often than not, these things cost money – often a lot of it. And so, to prevent us from feeling like we are getting left behind by our peers that are seemingly living the good life, we feel pressured to make money at every available opportunity. In doing so, we lose something very important: Being able to live life with childlike passion, free from the chains that constantly thinking and obsessing about money that bind almost every adult.
I’ll keep posting compilations of these Instagram stories here, so do let me know if they gave you some food for thought! Until next time, keep asking the important questions! Question everything.