Monday, February 19, 2018

The Art of the Good Life #11 : The Focusing Illusion

Suppose you had a really bad day in the office. Meetings were extremely long and dwelled on unimportant matters. Your boss is also giving grief once again over small matters like the formatting of your powerpoint presentation.

After a tough day at work, you managed to crawl out of the office to attend a financial talk and the guru then paints you a wonderful picture about financial independence.

The guru, a master of failure pornography, first tells you a story of his life, how he never did well in school, how he was a dropout from the education system, and constantly underestimated throughout his entire working life. He then talks about how successful he is today, shows you nice pictures of money being credited in his bank account whether through means via MLM, internet marketing,property speculation or forex trading. He then goes for the kill... He talks about how his financial independence allowed him to give the middle finger to his boss and finally leave the rat-race.

You are inspired by the inspiring talk. The guru is a school drop-out. You are  professional with a decent degree. You start to ask yourself,  how can he be the guru and you the low-wage corporate slave? The guru then offers you a solution. With a low fee of several thousands of dollars, you can get 1-1 mentorship and can get out of the rat race.

Mai Tu Liao ! You rush in to make payment...

I liked to see myself as a finance speaker who takes the high road.

The last thing I want to do is to hijack your amygdala and paint you a wonderful picture of what to look forward to in your journey towards financial independence. Perhaps I am irrational, my gang at BIGScribe wants to serve a calm and rational crowd which is why we put such a huge premium in research and are highly evidence-driven when we make an assertion about what investments work. While we may not be as persuasive as that finance guru I spoke about,  I think deep inside we want to be seen as being intellectually superior and have a system that can be  replicated by a smart, well-informed, and educated audience.

Naturally, our business makes less money... for now.

What makes these gurus so powerful is the rampant abuse of the focusing illusion.

If I bring your focus on how inane your last meeting is, or what a nit-picker your boss is in your last encounter, I can probably make you discount the value of having a good corporate career. It is not difficult to trick you into focusing on what's the shittiest thing about your working life. For government servants, I can possibly hurt you quite badly if I talk about procurement and GeBiz. For MNC workers, I just need to talk about late night conference calls and how NA and EMEA regions just can't fucking agree and advance the meeting agenda so Asia can get some sleep.

But work is more than just conference calls and procurement paperwork. Sometimes, you get a connection with a co-worker gain access to workplace gossip. Some other time, your company takes you out for some Lou Hei ( which I have missed for the past 4 years )! You also meet like-minded people from the same economic strata at work so it's a great source of friends.

When you look at the bad and the good in totality, having a career is not as bad as when you are just focused on the negative parts of the work commute and administration.

After leaving the workplace four years ago, I definitely achieved a high degree of personal satisfaction, I no longer have senseless paperwork to do and feel unmotivated when a bureaucrat forces me back to the drawing block over a small technicality in my paperwork.

But in essence, I'm just replacing some bad experiences with other bad experiences when I left the workforce for Law school.

Some administrative work in law school can be just as bad as procurement work in the public sector. I have spent time trying to trim down the text of fellow classmates to get our research paper within word count. We still do this for Court of Appeal paperwork that is limited in number of pages. One particular fight I had with a fellow student over which discount rate to employ to price intellectual property was more violent than any work conflict I ever had in my entire life ! Don't even get me started on arguments over the Law.

I guess the most important lesson in this chapter of the book is to review your life in totality and not to let some guru hijack you emotionally so you end up helping him attain his financial independence.

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