Books Business Life Lessons Personal Finance

The secret to becoming an outlier – 10,000 hours

It’s been quite a while since I posted something in my blog.  I’ve been busy for the past couple of weeks at work and had a lot of things in my mind, especially with the current financial crisis and how it impacts me and my wife’s life.

The one thing, though, that I am always fond of doing, is reading books.  I read from a blog about this new book of Malcolm Gladwell titled “Outliers – the story of success”.

The new book by Malcolm Gladwell aims to explain how successful people become successful, not by identifying their traits, or what they do, but by examining their past, their history, whether they got to be successful by their own talents or by chance.  I was fascinated to see the story of Bill Gates in that book.  According to Malcolm Gladwell, the number of hours it takes to become an “Outlier” (exceptionally successful) is 10,000 hours.  That number of hours is the magic number to become an expert in a chosen field.  Long before Bill Gates became the richest man in the world, he was just a kid, who loved to program day and night, who had the extraordinary opportunity to be exposed to this technology, in a time where a PC was still an idea and computer is synonymous to BIG mainframes occupying entire rooms.

10,000 hours.  That’s a lot.  No wonder, the very successful people start out very young.  It made me think, if I want to spend the 10,000 hours to become a master in what I do, I must REALLY LOVE what I’m doing.  Otherwise, it will be such a drag and it will seem to be a punishment instead of a blessing.  The more I think of it, the more I question myself whether I’ve already earned my 10,000 hours.  And whether I really love what I do for a living.  And if I find out I don’t really like what I do, whether I would want to finish earning the 10,000 hours.

How about you?  What would you do for 10,000 hours?

Books Life Lessons Money Mindset Personal Finance

Your Money or Your Life

For the past couple of days, I’ve been reading the book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez.  It’s a book I bought out on a whim as I saw it on sale at 20% discount.  I was actually looking for another book, but when I saw the title, I remembered reading rave reviews about this book from some of the financial blogs I’ve read.

Money = Life Energy

The book describes money as life energy.  I realized that having a job has additional costs associated with it in terms of life energy.  For example, I use about an hour of my morning to prepare for my job.   I buy clothes to wear at my job.  I even have to take lunch, snacks and sometimes even dinner at the office canteen.  Fortunately, I don’t have to ride a cab or drive a car to and from work.  But even that takes time as I need to walk for around 15 to 20 minutes each way.  To tell you the truth, I never really thought that I was actually spending money to have my job.  The truth is, having a job actually costs money.  And here I am thinking my job is supposed to pay me. 🙂

Track Every Penny

I just finished listing this month’s expenses.  I was asking my wife earlier whether we could use a credit card to buy the groceries so that I don’t have to enter each item in the grocery list. But when I asked whether the credit card statement will show each item, like 100g of garlic, 200g potato, etc, she laughed out loud.  Then I realized, the credit card statement will actually just list one entry for the whole grocery of more than 20 items.

Crossover Point

The book also mentions something about a crossover point where the income from investments is enough to pay for the monthly expenses.  To keep track on this goal, the book’s advise is to create a chart to plot each month’s personal income, expenses and income from investments.  The chart tells a story.  For some, it starts out as expenses greater than personal income, with lots of debts.  Then gradually, debt is being paid up, expenses goes down, and income from investments moves up.  At some point, when the income from investments matches the monthly expenses, the crossover point is reached.  When this happens, I don’t have to “work” anymore.  I can do whatever I want.  I can sleep more and stay in bed in the morning.  I can spend my time just relaxing and reflecting on life’s blessings.

The book is about discovering life.  It challenges each person to have an honest self-reflection by reading through our own personal finances.  It speaks of having the freedom to say “no” to our job and do our life’s purpose, or what the “Alchemist” described as “Personal Legend”.  It paints life’s possibilities and dreams. It’s a very nice picture.  And it is something I hope to achieve.

Life Lessons Money Mindset Personal Finance

Mindset – the thin line between scarcity and abundance

I’ve just finished reading Steve Pavlina’s latest post about “Living paycheck to paycheck”.  I don’t think I am currently living on a paycheck to paycheck at the moment, but one thing that struck me about the post is sharing from a place of abundance rather than scarcity.

On a typical day, my wife and I both love to logon to the internet and surf after we get off from work.  She likes watching TV shows online.  Her favorite, at the moment, is a Philippine’s TV drama series titled “Tayong Dalawa” (The two of us together?!).  I, on the other hand, love to checkout my yahoo fantasy basketball team.  I play fantasy basketball with my officemates and it’s one of the topics we often talk about at work.  Unfortunately, since we can’t access yahoo at work,  I’d have to check it out at home.

Since we only have one laptop at home, we have to share it together.  Sometimes, she has to watch me go through the bunch of basketball statistics for my fantasy basketball team.  And on other times, I’d have to watch the TV drama series together with her.  To a degree, it is a very nice experience, and I love spending this time with my wife.  However, at a certain point, I would rather check my favorite basketball team than watch people crying on TV.  In those times, I wonder whether buying my own PC would be the perfect solution.

In all honesty, I can actually afford the extra PC if I really want to.  However, I often wonder whether it’s really worth it.  Most of the day, I would be at the office, and I would only need the PC when I get home.  This morning, while reading Steve’s post, I am reminded about having the right mindset.  Do I serve more people by being cheap?  What about sharing from a place of abundance?  Or is this just an excuse for myself to buy what I really want?

How about you?  Have you been having second thoughts buying something you really want lately?

Books Business Life Lessons Money Mindset Personal Finance

Searching for the book Ready, Fire, Aim – Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat and learning how to sell

A couple of days ago, I read from a blog about a book titled “Ready, Fire, Aim – Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat".  The book is about growing your business, whether it is from startup to a profitable stage, or from an stagnating business to skyrocketing success.  I got excited about it since I wanted to start my own business.  So immediately after work, I went to the local bookstore to look for the book.  I scoured the whole business section, but since it is only a small book shop with a few titles in it, I was more trying my luck than really searching.  After running out of luck, I went to my favorite bookstore at a nearby mall, hoping that with their bigger collection of books, I’d be able to find what I was searching for.  To my surprise, I did find the title in their database, but unfortunately, the only copy they have has already been reserved for someone else.  Oh well, there goes my chance of getting the book on my second try.

I was really very eager to read the book, and I wanted to do everything I can to get a copy of it as soon as possible.  Once I got home, I searched the internet for other bookstores.  Luckily, I found one which carried the title I was looking for.  The only catch – it was already middle of the night.  So I had to wait for the next morning to try and buy the book.  Well, I can wait.

The next day, I hurriedly finished my work and got off early to go to this bookstore, which was around half an hour commute via train.  It was a hectic and long ride given the rush hour traffic of commuters.  Once I got to the bookstore, I immediately went to the business section.  At first I tried to manually look for the book and flipped through the each title one by one, but after around 10 minutes of hopelessly checking the titles, I gave up.  I then tried to look for an information counter or a computer kiosk where I can search for the book. Luckily, I found the kiosk a few shelves from where I was.  I typed in the author’s name to search and voila, there it was, the book was located under business section 16-B-02.   I went back hurriedly to the business section and found what I was looking for.  To my surprise, the book was hard bound.  No wonder the price is a bit hefty.  I didn’t mind, as I was happy to get the book.

I went home and immediately devoured the first few pages.  I’m still reading it but I’m extremely excited on some of the ideas I learned so far.  I now know that the the first thing I need to do if I want to become a business owner, is learn how to sell.  My main goal is to sell. Sell. Sell. Sell.  It’s a scary thought for me knowing that I’m quite shy and have very little experience selling anything in my life.  It’s a big challenge for me, but I know how important it is, and I really want to learn how to sell.

Life Lessons Money Mindset

Waking up early and my typical morning routine

For the past few days, I’ve been waking up a little earlier.  I initially set my phone’s alarm to 7am, but I keep getting up before the alarm comes off.  Sometimes at 5am, sometimes at 4am.   I don’t know if it’s just me but I feel I’m not getting enough sleep.  Or maybe it’s the caffeine kicking in.

Anyway, once I get up, I head for my laptop.  I checkout my email, blog, facebook, friendster, etc.  I get a hot cup of my morning dose of coffee.  I grab the book I was reading last night and wait until my wife wakes up.  It’s a lovely feeling to wake up before the sunrise.  I feel more energized compared to when I get up at 9am and hurriedly prepare for my daytime job. 

Brand new day is here! 

Life Lessons Money Mindset Personal Finance

5 things I learned while reflecting on my life’s passion and dreams

The past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about what my passion is.  To tell you the truth, I still don’t know what it is.  What else is out there?  Is there something more to life?  What’s my life’s purpose?  What are my dreams?

1) Have fun 

For a long time, I haven’t really asked myself what I really want from life.  What did I dream about when I was young?  Did I always want to be a programmer?  Did I want to be a doctor?  How about an airline pilot?  Honestly, I can’t really remember what my dreams were when I was a kid.  I only cared about playing, having fun with my friends.  During the day, we play basketball or do some crazy stuffs together.  When we get hungry, we climb the mango tree to enjoy its sweet fruits.  Or if we feel a bit more adventurous, we try to climb the coconut tree or go swim by the old school’s wild lagoon.  Life is so much fun.

2) Take responsibility

When I got older, I learned that life doesn’t always give us what we want.  I thought playing was the only thing that mattered in life.  But when I went to school, life became a challenge.  Everything was new and hard.  I had no friends to play with.  I didn’t even know what everyone was talking about.  There was no easy way out.  I needed to study or I don’t play at all.  I learned to go through life’s struggles and take responsibility for my own decisions.  I learned to face them head on.

3) Work hard

I learned that in life, when you want something, you have to work hard for it.  You have to have something in return.  When I got older, I learned they call it “paying” for something.  When I was in grade school, I really wanted to have the best garden in our class.  So every weekend, I would get on my bike, drive to the school and take care of my little garden.  I watched the plants grow day by day.  When graduation came, it was one of my proudest moments.  I worked hard for it.  I earned it.  I paid my dues with my sweat and patience.  Now, I have it.  And it is very sweet.

4) Treasure life’s blessings

I learned that sometimes life gives us so much more than what we ask for.  When I was a kid, all I really knew was playing around with my friends.  I went to school. I met other people to whom I can get to play and be friends with.  Together we experienced everything life has to offer.  I travelled to places I’ve never been to before, to places I never knew existed.  As I got older, I was able to visit other countries and learn from their rich culture and history.  I feel very blessed having been able to experience things I have never imagined possible. 

5) Have faith.

Lastly, I learned to have faith.  That somewhere, somehow, life will reveal itself to me in its own time.  Perhaps someday, I will look back and see what magnificent moment today is.  That everything I’ve experience so far is a like a fiber on a beautiful tapestry, each telling it’s own story, building a great picture I call my life.  Perhaps then my life’s dreams & passion will come alive. 

Business Life Lessons

The next revolution of transportation technology – high-tech bikes, flying cars and intelligent machines

I just watched Discovery Science on TV.  The episode featured the next revolution of transportation technology.

In Europe they have this high-tech bikes equipped with built-in GPS.  These bikes can never get lost.  Anyone can ride the bike, go somewhere then leave the bike at the station nearest to their destination.   The bike is free of charge for the first 30 minutes.  Longer than that and there’s this smart card they use to pay for the bike rental.  This lessens the dependency on cars.  It lessens traffic.  It solves the problem of parking.  It’s environment friendly.  It’s seamless.  It’s even good for the body.

In the future, they even envision these bikes to be able to generate energy out of the pedaling action of its users.  The energy generated by each bicycle will then be collected once they are parked in the station.  Each bike might give out only a fraction of energy.  But when thousands of bikers each contribute, the total energy becomes massive and could be a viable source of energy.  Perhaps, in the future when this technology becomes sustainable, and more of these energy creating ideas become mainstream, the world will no longer need to depend so much on oil.

There’s also a hydrogen-powered bike, which looks like a scooter more than a regular bicycle.  It can accommodate two people at a time, which is great.  It looks very easy to use, and no balancing required.  Even kids can use it.  It is also nature-friendly as it combines hydrogen with oxygen to generate electricity and disposes off its very safe by-product which is water.  Its slick design, ease of use, and “green” technology is a powerful combination that solves peoples problems.

According to the show, the future will also allow everyone to fly their own cars.  That will definitely solve the problem of traffic.  The two-dimensional problem of roads can then be solved by the three-dimensional solution of flying.  In the future, they expect anyone, even those with totally no background in air flight technology, will be able to drive these flying cars.  Boeing is developing these virtual three-dimensional lanes similar to roads but hanging on the sky.  The intelligence built into the flying cars will be able to detect and prevent any collision as well as dangers brought about by the weather.  To solve the same problem, some scientists are also studying how swarm of insects and/or bats efficiently maneuver themselves without ever colliding with each other.  They simulated these insects using mini flying robots which look more like helicopters with built-in cameras and transmitters than insects.  The data coming from the camera feed are transmitted to the computers and the artificial intelligence kicks in so that each of these mini-helicopters could communicate with each other.  For example, in the advent of a pending collision, one of them could tell the other that it is trying to go to the right. The other then receives this message, processes it and decides to go to the left to prevent collision.

While watching these marvelous and futuristic inventions, I could not help but reflect how far will technology take us.  At what price will humanity need to pay for these great inventions?  Can the bike of the future make us more human?  Can the ability to fly make us reach out more to each other?  Can artificial intelligence bring more meaning to our empty souls?  Perhaps only time will tell.

Business Credit Card Life Lessons Money Mindset Personal Finance

3 tips on how to track cash expenses effectively

For the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to track my expenses.  But my problem is, I haven’t found a nice way to track cash.  Yes, I use cash.  In this part of the world, cash is still king. 

I remember when I was assigned to the US for a 6-month stint.  While in the US, I rarely used cash.  I can count on my fingers how many times I had to reach out for my wallet and spend cash.  In most cases, I used my corporate credit card.  On other times, I used my ATM debit card.  Of course, when I buy online, I can only use paypal, or my credit card.  Once a month, I would receive my statement from both my savings account and my credit card.  If I want to check the transaction real-time, I can just login online and check my credit card and bank statements through their internet banking services.  Instantly, I would know where my money went.  Sweet.

But when I got back, I had to use cash again.  The problem in most of South East Asia is that people rarely use a credit card.  Unless I am buying a washing machine, or any other home appliance, I don’t want to use my credit card.  Besides, most stores have either a minimum order to accept your credit card, or they charge the same item for a little more when you pay using your credit card instead of cash.  So, cash it is!

Track each transaction.

I tried to track my expenses monthly through my bank statements.  But I can only see deposits, withdrawals and the occasional online internet banking transactions.  It doesn’t give me any idea how I spent the cash I withdrew the other day. Now, I’m trying to track each cash transaction I make.  How? By keeping the official receipt.  Keeping the receipt of each of my cash transactions helps me know where I am spending my money.  In my case, most of my receipts come from the office cafeteria, the local grocery or my favorite bookstore.  That’s when I realized, if I wanted to cut back on my expenses, I could probably eat my lunch in the cafeteria less often.  Perhaps, keep it to only 3 times a week instead of everyday.  In addition, I could buy a book only after I’ve completely read the last one.  Or maybe, I can buy only a few items in the grocery store, not a whole-month supply.

Write it. Picture it.

I thought of carrying a small notebook with me everyday so I can take note of each cash transaction on the spot.  But when I realized I would need to carry it with me down the office cafeteria where my officemates also are also having lunch, I hesitated.  Perhaps, I’ll just keep the receipts for now.  In the end, however, I still need to consolidate all these receipts and come up with some kind of a report.  For now, I’m using an excel spreadsheet.  I just list down the date in the receipt, the amount and a brief description.  Then I try to generate a pie chart out of this data.  In excel, this is pretty straightforward.  Just select the list of transactions, then click the Chart Wizard at the top menu.  This pie chart gives me a summary of my expenses. I can take a quick look and easily picture out where the bulk of my expenses are going.

Keep it.

The reason I wanted to track my expenses is because I didn’t know where my money is going.   If I don’t know where is it going, I wouldn’t know where to cut back.  After I found out which transactions are eating my budget, I started to cut back a little bit on them and saved a little cash.  I haven’t figured out what to do with the extra money. For now, I am just keeping it at the bank.  To my pleasant surprise, I’ve seen my savings grow month after month.  It’s one of the most liberating thing I’ve felt in some time.

It’s just 3 simple tips but it helped me gain back a little control over my money, even if only to save a few extra bucks.  How about you?  How are you tracking your cash expenses?

Business Life Lessons Personal Finance

3 tips on starting a business and why I am still clueless

Over the last couple of months I’ve been contemplating to go into business.  The thing is, I have no idea what business to be in.  Or how I plan to do that.  I don’t even have any background in business.  I’ve been raised from a family of hard workers, working for the government, working for other people, working for money.  I am not even particularly good in selling stuffs.  I’d end up giving everything for free. =)

Or maybe these are just bunch of excuses.

They say, do what you love and the money will follow.

I like to read books.

I like Rich Dad, Poor Dad written by Robert Kiyosaki.  It’s liberating to know that there is indeed a way.  There is hope.  There is freedom.  Freedom to do the things I love to do, without worrying about where to get the money to pay for my daily expenses.  Maybe someday I’d have a taste of that freedom.

I also like iWoz by Steve Wozniak, the creator of Apple Computer.  I love the book mainly because I can relate to what Steve was saying about designing and maximizing the use of computer chips, the adrenaline flowing when you find out a neat way to do something better, perhaps with fewer chips.  I do love solving problems.

In reading books, I particularly like to know how other successful people think.  How they managed to solve their problems.  How they added value to this world.  Perhaps, I too can add value to the lives of other people.  If I help them achieve their goals and solve their problems, maybe then, I’d have the strength to solve mine.

I also love watching TV series in DVDs.  I don’t want to wait another week to know what happened to the story.  I like having to devour the whole season of 20+ episodes all at once.  When “Heroes” came out, I was pretty impressed with the story line and the thrill of discovery, finally finding out who they really are.  At about the same time, I came across “Prison Break”, a story about a structural engineer, gifted with extraordinary problem solving skills who did everything he could to help his brother break out of prison.  When the two shows started, I liked “Heroes” better.  But after a few seasons, the story of “Prison Break” seemed to be more interesting.  In “Prison Break”, everything is a puzzle, and the better you figure it out, the better chances you have of staying alive.  Prison break also has this obsession of killing characters and then resurrecting them after some time. Remember Sarah?

Anyway, I still don’t know how to make money from these two things I like to do.  On the contrary, it seems to be going the other way as they also get heavier on the wallet as time goes by.

They say, do something that you’re good at.

Well, I am good at solving problems.  I love programming, and seem to be doing pretty ok with it as my day time job can cover daily expenses and I’m able to set aside a little money every month.  The thing is, most of my working life, I have programmed using mainframe languages like COBOL.  I know a bit of C and assembly language but the last time I used them was way back in College.

I am also good in automation.  At work, I always try to find ways to make my tasks (and life) a little bit easier.  I’ve never been good at routine tasks like doing documentation…For a programmer, it’s one of the unglamorous but necessary “evils” of the job.  I try to automate these things so that the computer can do it for me.  Then, I’d have more time to focus on more important and interesting things at work. =)

While we’re in the subject of automation, I remember having a great time back in college playing around with robots.  Me and my classmates created this autonomous line-following mobile robot for an inter-school contest .  It’s actually just an RC (remote controlled) toy car, with the remote replaced by a microcontroller chip to act as “brain” and teach it how to follow the line.  I had the most amazing time building that robot and writing the software to be written into the chip.  As I watch the RC car turned mobile robot glide through the track and sweetly following each and every curve, I could not help myself smile and marvel at this brilliant masterpiece.  It’s a labor of love.  And to top it off, we actually won first place and got to receive a small cash award! =)

Maybe someday I’d figure out how to apply this experience to solve other people’s problems.

They say, find a niche and stick to it.

Over the past couple of months I’ve tried to write various topics in my blog.  I tried to think up of a particular niche.  I love playing basketball, so I write about basketball.  I also like playing badminton and watch the great players display tremendous grace and flexibility executing those unbelievable shots at dizzying speed.  So I write about badminton.  I also tried playing tennis, and watched Federer and Nadal slug it out.  My breath stops when both Federer and Nadal display their best tennis and the rally is so long it seem to have no end.  And so I write about them.

I also like to travel and take some pictures. So I post some of that too.  I also love to eat.  So guess what?  I take some pictures of my favorite delicacies and write about them too!

I still don’t know what niche my blog posts are supposed to be in.  Maybe someday I’d figure out which niche I really want to be in, but for now, I’ll just post whatever it is on my mind, whether it is sports, books, DVDs, or just about anything in life.

I’ll leave time to tell whether these are things I could do business in.

Business Life Lessons


Here’s my personal recording of the Beatle’s Yesterday. Enjoy! 🙂

UPDATE as of May 8, 2009:  Unfortunately, about a month ago, SINGSHOT was no longer available as EA discontinued the service.  Too bad.  Anyone know of any other alternative for online videoke site?

Rate this performance at The Sims On Stage