Saturday, 31 October 2015

Know yourself and define your own success!

I wrote this article as an after thought and response, after I received a comment from LP – a fellow great blogger in my last article “What can we learn in stocks from boxing?”. LP is a great blogger in his own ways, that I had learn many things from, in my blogging journey. He is owner of “Bully the Bear”  where you can find so many excellent articles in life and in financial education. In LP comments to my last article, there are 3 HARD questions. Not only are the questions hard, it let me think so HARD as well. I decided to post “my response in this article instead. I also want to express my sincere appreciation to LP, because those questions asked are really good ones.

Why are questions and answers good?

While it takes a fair bit of my time off my usually super busy weekend to respond, having these wonderful questions help us to think and learn more. It’s fantastic and I appreciated it!

In fact, some questions do not have right or wrong answers. Likewise an answer is not concretely correct or wrong. What it really matter is if the question allows the person to start thinking on the subject in a different perspective from what we thought in the beginning. This is because learning together going forward is more important than getting the answer correct in the first place.

So whatever my response may be interpreted in the following article, I emphasize that the ultimate goal is to learn and move forward together. :-)

Question 1

1. What if Ali didn't win this match despite adopting the rope-a-dope strategy? What if he had a plan and waited for the right time but still failed? Is the strategy wrong? Is it that he lacked patience? Or is he simply employing the wrong strategy against the wrong opponent?

Take Action
Of course there is always a flip side. If Ali went in this match only keep thinking about the "what ifs he will loose", he will not even want to participate in the match then. Unless he was only attracted by the price-money, which I think he is not.

Irrespective of if Ali win or lose (which is not important to me), first and foremost, I already admire his ability to challenge an opponent who is deemed so much stronger than him during that time. He takes ACTION and PARTICIPATE, which most people do not even have the guts to do it per se!

I came across so many people who are so good in theory and giving some fantastic talks, but when it comes to the real thing, the action is limited. Knowledge alone does not propel a person, you require organizing it into a specialized knowledge, putting it into an action, and possibility fail, learn and move forward. And repeat this process. So I guess Ali is already a winner with the guts to fight the younger Foreman at his peak.

A strategy is better than none
What if the strategy does not work?  

Who cares!!! Guess first having the guts and then having a strategy is better than no action no strategy. Which strategy always works? 

The great Joe Frazier and Kenny Norton who fight in their usual styles against the monstrous Foreman lost in a pathetical manner, knocking out in early rounds. In fact Joe Frazier fought Foreman twice. The first time was when Frazier was the world champ and was complacent and was knocked down 6 times and finally KO within 2 rounds. Then there was a rematch, Frazier became slight smarter this time and survive more rounds. Still KO but at least performance improved. And Frazier is a man with HELL LOTS OF GUTS!

As for Ali, he has a strategy! He is clever and understands not only himself really well, but also his opponent’s strengths and weakness. Ali will then deploy the appropriate strategy against his tougher opponent. Ali could be wrong, but to me, its not important! It’s the flexibility to adapt, to change and evolve. If wrong, ADMIT it, re-think and then come back stronger.

Establish true strong belief and be consistent
If your belief is so strong after doing so much research and continuous improved yourself, you could have stick to your belief even if it means decades to get just that one success right. Look at Steve Jobs when he was ousted from APPLE, and then started NEXT. He faced so many rejections in NEXT, and it will take him more than ten years before he become even more successful with blossom with so plenty of wisdoms rather than pure hot headedness before!

Look at Jim Rogers. For so long, he has been talking about commodity and eventual China success and USA failure. To me, even if USA will not collapse in next decades or so, and even if China is not going to be successful which means Rogers is wrong, but so what? Are we then going to LABEL Jim Rogers as a failure? Not for me, at least he is convicted to his belief (which to some extent do make sense), and he stick with it all this while. And at least his daughters will be BILINGUAL even if he is wrong.

Another example is Marc Faber a Swiss Investor in his 70s who published the Gloom Boom Doom report. As per Wikipedia "

“In 2012, Faber claimed that there was a "100% chance" of a global economic recession later that year or in early 2013.
On September 23, 2014, Faber said we have "bubbles everywhere".
On January 14 2015, Faber predicted that gold prices will rise by 30% in 2015.
On July 23 2015, Faber stated that investors must hold cash for better buying opportunities after correction.”

So there is no crash in 2013 and gold prices did not rise 30% in 2015. Faber is WRONG. But so what? At least this guy is so strong in his belief and he dare to speak what he believes. And at least what he says makes a lot of sense to me, rather than many political leaders of today. Faber continues to predict the upcoming crash. When….. ? Ask him… haha!

It does not matter what is the outcome – either one I win!
Honestly for me, it isn’t important when is the crash or if it is really going to come. It is more important to me that if there is a crash, I will NOT be wiped out!  And the only way to stay resilient now is to be prudent and make the right preparations. Remember bad things sometimes do come in a bundle, stock crash, job loss, health problems etc. If it does not happen, I am even happier! J. Regardless of the outcome, either ways, I will not be beaten down terribly. It is even more important for me at this stage of my life as a father.

Another example is Pacqiao vs Mayweather boxing match. To me, Pacqiao wins the heart of many even if he lost the match. He still win!  To Mayweather, he gets what he really wants, which is money and undefeated record. So getting strategy wrong and losing the match does not necessary mean a bad thing.

Question 2

How do we know it's the high point of his career? I thought career high is only determine when you start falling and falling and never recovered. In other words, a career high is formed went you reached a high of your career and then start falling. But how do we know he won't recover? So how can we be certain it's the career high and not merely a minor 'correction' in his career?

High point is not the highest point
I apologized that I mentioned highest point in my previous article, which essentially means high point not highest point.

My definition of high point is not necessary the highest point, and it need not mean that the next instance, it started falling. So career high, by all means DOES NOT necessary means you started falling next and never recover.

Now, I cannot possibly tell when is the highest point. But I can reasonably identify when is a high point for myself. For Eg. In careers, it's not difficult to define high or low points making ref. to remuneration and promotion/demotion. Of course you may want to debate that is not necessary the high point, but I am talking from a tangible point of view and this makes sense!

In health, we somehow know what is low point where symptoms show. In stock markets, there are signals as well. Whether it will recover I do not know. All I know for myself is if there are signals, I stop worsening my health and stay prudent. Same for stock market, I cannot define what is bull or what is a bear situation. What I know is when there are signals that I think it is going in a certain direction next, I take action to prepare. So that either way it goes, I stay resilient and my ultimate goal is to be sustainable throughout a long period of time. Of course you can choose to continue drink lots of alcohol if your health worsen, or continue to delve into the stock market when it hits its all time high. The decision is really up to individual. But not me!

To recover depends a lot on mental strength and not just physical strength in life.

For example Foreman lost his mental strength after the loss to Ali and 3 years later he collapsed and retire. During his retirement, he regained his mental strength with the help of religion and come back 10 years later and will then become the world heavyweight champion at age 45. He also became an Entrepreneur and in fact his entire character took a change for the better after 1977 retirements.

For Ali, winning the Rumble in the Jungle is one of the high points in his career, but his even higher point (to me), is when he experienced Parkinson's disease (low point?) and continue to stay strong.  Thereafter he became a truly different person both on personality, behavior and more important mentally. That to me is his higher point and not necessary means he need to fall from there. 

Therefore ability to recover is related to one’s mental well-being. Mental well-being is all about balance and accumulated life experiences which translates to knowledge and wisdom. Once you have that, the fall can be less painful each time we do the same time again.

Question 3

What if we reached the lowest point and never recovered? Do we write it off and say this experience is not for me?

Your must know your own high and low points
Again I do not know when are the highest/lowest points in my life only until when the day just before I die and I look back. This means that I do not know whether if I will recover if I reach my lowest point. What I am sure is as of today, I definitely has not reach my lowest point, because every of my low points, I already recovered and become stronger. I am not sure about you or others, but for me, I am very clear the definition of high or low points in my life now using my own H2F3 theory. E.g. I think I am now living in high point, because I am healthy, family and career intact, no financial problems and able to enjoy my hobbies regularly. The reverse is true for low point. In my high point, therefore I cannot be complacent and continuously upgrade myself to prepare for a possible low point.

Qn: When do we say it's a good learning experience and we move on from now on?

Focus on what you will do when you hit a low or high point
When is not important, how and what I will do is more important.

I went through many low points in my life. Family problems since young; relationship problems leading to bloodshed; health problems facing impending death; career tumble at high point…

Therefore, using all these experiences, if one day I reach a low point in my life, I will CRY over it and yes, really loudly for a long time. Maybe also isolate myself to think really carefully. As an exercise lover, I will also sweat it out as often as I can. Then I will pour out the troubles verbally by talking to people close to me to let the “steam off my chest”. The more I talk, the better I feel. Next, I will seek help and talk to people who had successful gone through the low point that I experienced, and learn from them. With all the aforesaid ways, I believe that I should be able to get over the low point and re-start again. I don’t know?

So the key factors are the mental strength and more importantly focus on what you will do during the low point and to be able to move on quickly. Rather than pondering so much if this experience is for me or that experience is for you. After that and after a while, let nature takes its course to tell you if it is a good learning experience or not. For me, most of my failures after I look back are good learning experiences. If I have the mental strength and focus on what I should do during the low point, DOES IT REALLY MATTERS then “When do we say it's a good learning experience and we move on from now on?”

Qn: I think a lot of success seems like it's a rationalized story. This happened and that happened next, and then we have this success. In truth, for all the failures and success that is happening and unfolding RIGHT NOW, we don't know anything about it. And I doubt we will ever know. Is success therefore dependent on results? If we have the results, then we can talk about how we planned out well and strategise and then we reach this result?


Fooled by randomness!

Define your own success
Just like defining high or low points, I already define broadly my success using my H2F3 as mentioned earlier. Then I will further refine it into more details for each element of H or F.

In my opinion, it is totally not important whether success is a rationalized story or not? What is important is I KNOW MY OWN DEFINITION OF SUCCESS. Furthermore, I need to define the boundaries of my success and boundaries might change over time, depending on which stage of my life.

Success is dependent of results
Answering to your question if success depends on results? My answer is YES! But the results are what I want to achieve in my own definition of success. It is different for different people. For E.g. let’s say I am very pragmatic and has a highly result or goal oriented personality, then I will always set my own objectives and try to achieve it.

For me, I set my PURPOSE/MISSION in life, and then continuously EVOLVE to achieve it!  

To evolve, I will always need to have new experiences, failing, recover and move forward and repeat this process. Then I will probably NOT die with regret.

And that is only for me! My wife always says I am more different compare to her. She and possibly many others (I think) prefers a much simpler life.

Fooled by Randomness
I read the book from Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness. And thanks a lot LP for recommending this book to me. For more about Fooled by Randomness, refer to my earlier blog post here.

For Ali and Foreman, they both have their successes and failures. While there were much painstaking training to bring them to their successes, I also believe at certain points of their career, they were “Fooled by Randomness”.

Again, it depends on how each individual define their own life. Some people prefer a simple life and never in their life to be ever fooled by randomness of successes. It is perfectly fine and admirable too in their own ways.

Some think it is BETTER to have at least go through that “Fooled by Randomness & delusional situation” in our life than not.

At least for Ali or Foreman, it is a remarkable experience to be “world heavy weight champions at least two or more times!” They worked hard for that, and from this aspect, it is not fair to just label them as randomness. And how many people can have that kind of Randomness experiences to speak of.

Therefore “to be Fooled by Randomness” sometimes is not really a bad thing in itself, if we later realized it is a random event, so that we can come back even stronger.


  1. When we have live long enough and when we look back at ourselves and those around us, most of the outcomes are rarely random.

    1. Hi CW,

      Yeah... "when we live long enough!" So still have a long long way for me. :-)

  2. Hi Rolf,

    Hahaha, you are a very good sport! I asked the questions without seeking an answers, it's just a way to let myself think also. I fully agree with you that a question is just a starting point to find out, to explore and to discuss. It's not about who gets the right answer. For that, I salute you for your attempt to take up the hard questions and answer them as fully as you did here. Well done!

    I find myself nodding as I scrolled down, until the last part about being fooled by randomness. Not sure if you misunderstand me, but I'm not saying that success is all based on luck. It's the part where we find ourselves narrating a series of things that we did, and each falling into place to lead us to a desired result that irks me. I admire strength of character, and agree that training all day long and being disciplined to do things to improve ourselves will eventually lead to success. But the sequence of events might be all haywired. Steve Jobs took up a class of calligraphy, without knowing why and without thinking it'll eventually create the beautiful typography of apple computers. He just did it. I'm quite sure he didn't have a great plan and he is doing a sequence of steps to reach that big plan. He just took what feels right, and forge his way towards the end goal with whatever he brings along in his baggage.

    But when we explain our success, we suddenly narrate it in such a rational story. The truth is, sometimes we succeed, and we don't know why. We just succeed and suddenly we're the happy winners of a lottery. Perhaps the hardwork played a part, but i'm sure there are times where we worked like crazy without seeing even an ounce of success. So what gives?

    I don't know. But I do know that to experience more success, we should be open minded and try out different things. It's always the people outside your group of friends that brings in revolutionary ideas and new business to you.

    To me, to be reminded of being a fool of randomness, is a call to be also the lottery winner of randomness. By going out of our usual pathway, and through reflections, we might hit something we never will if we continue our usual way.

    That, I think, is the spirit of the book and the spirit of Black swan by Nassim Taleb.

    1. Rolf,


      Next time someone feedback my comment long, I'll refer them to this post.

      I think this is the longest reply to rhetorical questions ;)

    2. Hi LP,

      Hahaha. I felt that the questions are good and led me thinking HARD. So instead, I decided to use it as an excuse to write myself a post on it.

      Engineer-trained Singaporeans all very obedient. Got questions CONFIRM must have answers!

      I think u probably remember I agreed on the Fool by Randomness part. We discussed before and that is why I was attracted to the book recommended by u.

      Yeah I think I misunderstood u earlier, that's when I felt strange that u can't possibly don't understand that success is not entire random.

      The hokkien song do make some sense "30% fate 70% effort!" And yes plus gut feel and just do it!

      Thanks LP.

    3. Hi Jared,

      hahaha... classic example of not only think too much and talk too much also... hahaha...

      That's why we are still young, you know! I don't believe when I am 60, I still write this long!

      CW - can vouch? Ooops not yet 60!

  3. Hi Rolf

    Wow mind boggling post and interactions you had there with LP!!!

    How do you know it's the highest point if not looking on hindsight? Who is to say that you are successful when your journey of life is not ended yet? Who are these people who commented and bragged so much about themselves? :D

    1. Hi B,

      Hahaha.... interactions create thinking. Yes, the finishing line is not yet there! Save the best for last.

      But frankly highest or lowest is difficult to tell unless you look back. But we should be able to identify our high and low points on a more current basis, which to me is sufficient to help us tide out most (not all) storms.

  4. Hi Rolf

    Good conversation you have with LP here. Frankly, in another 60 years or so, most of us will be gone. Live your best life and don't look back.

    1. Hi FD,

      Thanks. Don't look back cannot identify the highest point. Haha..... but I agree to what you said. Highest or lowest is not important at all sometimes..... living the best of life is.

  5. Mental strength is everything. You just remind me of Stephen Hawking.
    And you are right, "Chiang se Lau de Lat"
    So is investing in the stock market needs a lot of mental strength.

    1. Hi temperament,

      Yeah you and CW are old gingers! Mental strength sometimes also being developed through great difficulties.

      Thanks for introducing Stephen Hawking. Something new I learn from blogging again.

      In 2006 Hawking posed an open question on the Internet: "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?", later clarifying: "I don’t know the answer. That is why I asked the question, to get people to think about it, and to be aware of the dangers we now face."

  6. Amazing info and this article tell us how to define your self and how to tell us about your thinking in interview thanks for sharing product description example .