Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Appear rich or to be rich?

Buying stuffs has always been a big topic, at least at the back of my head. For me, it is always a decision on whether I need the stuffs or I just want them. What I need are food to keep myself healthy, and clothing to keep myself away from the weather elements. What I want are things that make my life easier, and some of the times, makes me look better(tm).

As far as I can see, the modern society lives on capitalism, with people being persuaded and coerced into buying stuffs that they don't really need. Most of the books that I have read about being successful in life emphasized buying and maintaining a financially heavy lifestyle. The book "The Rules of Work: The Unspoken Truth About Getting Ahead in Business" advocates "buying nothing but the best accessories" in order to make oneself look "great" enough in order to climb the corporate ladder. The writer, Mr. Richard Templer mentioned that we need to behave and walk like the general managers if we want to be promoted soon to their position. This goes to the extent that  we should buy their kind of watches, cars, ties, clothings, handbags, and so on. Of course, there are many more rules that are highlighted in the book, but since those are not the theme of this post, I will not discuss them here.

In the book, "The Secret" Rhonda Byrne touches on the need to change the way our minds think in order to achieve our wishes. So, in order to become a successful high ranked manager or CEO in a company, we have to walk and talk and dress their way. However, it is also subtly hinted that we should start dressing they way they do and use their kind of accessories in order to be able to join their ranks.

It is a well known fact that, in order to join a group, we will need to behave and look like them. But I shudder to think the economic impact this kind of culture is bringing to our world today. Everywhere around me, I see people won't can't really afford things taking loan to buy and tote LV/Bulgari handbags, driving luxurious BMW, Mercedes and high end Toyotas, buying the ever so expensive iPhone, buying the biggest mansion and so on.

During this time of economic downturn, we should really start to think of the implications of our high spending culture on ourselves and the economy in general. This economic crisis itself is caused by the banks in America lending money to people who cannot really afford big homes to do so. When much of these lenders don't get their money back, an economic downpour happens, causing a rippling effect on the world at large.

We as consumers should really start looking into the larger scheme of things, and ask ourselves the main question before embarking on an purchase: "For what do I need to buy this item?" If the answer turns out to be as a show off item, then keep the money safely in the pocket, and turn down the ego. The world now needs more people who can spend wisely rather than more people who spends more on borrowed money.

Remember, in the end, all status items are cosmetic and hence temporary. For me, the real measure of success is a contented life. A person don't really need much to be contented, and most of them cannot be bought by money. For me, a successful life is a life in which I am always surrounded by family and friends who will accompany me through thick and thin, as I will do the same to them as well...

This post is inspired by a post at the Simple Dollar, "Do you want to appear to be rich? Or do you want to be rich?"


Monday, September 14, 2009

Book: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Chapter Review: Chapter 1: "The Matthews' Rule"

It has been quite some time since I last read a book at the speed and enjoyment that I am having now, in fact, since I got myself a more or less permanent internet connection there in Germany. You see, having an almost always connection to the wide wide web causes my concentration to falter to such a degree that I can no longer single-task well. I really think I should disconnect once in a while, just so that I can catch my breath and get away from the overloading inflow of information for my many sources of news.

Anyway, that is not the point of this post today. This post will mark the starting of a new series of posts in this blog, talking about the books I am currently reading and the insights that it provided me with.

Currently I am reading the book Outliers written by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell had previously also written "The Tipping Point" and "Blink," all serving to point the little points that ultimately build up to success. In "The Outliers," Gladwell points out the various small external factors that lead up to success.

Chapter 1 of the book talks about the Matthew Effect, named after a phrase in the Matthew Gospel: "For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." Matthew 25:29.   Gladwell talked about the peculiarities of the ice hockey professionals in Canada, and the football and hockey team of Czech Republic. When we look at the birth month of all these teams, almost all of the players were born early in their respective year.

This boils down to how the selection of the players when they are young are done. The cut off month for most selection process is put at the middle of the year, making those born later in the year not eligible. So, at a young tender age of 6 or 7, those born earlier in the year have a small advantage over those born later. This small difference builds up as the years passed, since the "best" will always be selected to train with better trainers. So after 10 or so years, the best players are the ones with this small advantage when they are young.

This trend continues in life as well. The best people in many fields gets better and better at their own field; the rich kept getting richer; the best athletes kept beating their own records; the best scientists kept discovering newer and better ways to generate energy. The list is endless.

So for me, the lesson from the first chapter in Outliers is clear: opportunities are essential to success. When the opportunity is there, seize it, no matter how small it is, and build on it. Success is often built on a good foundation. Once the basics are down, we can continue to the next step, which is hard work. This is outlined in the next chapter: The 10,000 hours rule. I'll post a discussion on this when I am done with that chapter.