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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Making enough to retire at 35?

Wow! This is like reading a letter from myself written 7 years ago. How things have changed :

1)I did that half marathon. In fact, i did a full marathon the year after. Felt great to complete the marathon. Definitely one of the more memorable experiences in my life.

 2) I was 1 year late. I sold my company in 2011 age 36. And yes, i collected enough immediately to have an option to retire at my standard of living. But of course, i did not retire and am still happily running the company i founded.

3) I failed totally in being less competitive. In fact, from 2006 to 2010 was my most competitive period of life. I would compare myself obsessively with other people in terms of achievements. I think that is what spurs me on. Today? I am somewhere inbetween. Still very competitive but now i try to compete on being happy and not just numbers.

4) Trip. I made many in these 7 years. Some with kids, some without. I am very blessed. been to Bhutan, Europe x 3 times, China x 3 times, Japan x 2 times, USA x 2 times, Phuket/bali/koh samui many many times etc

So do i feel i am an entrepreneur? It is a definite yes! Because I cannot imagine not running and owning a company if i am to work long term till i am in 50s. I may take breaks, I may do a corporate stint for couple of years but i will always be involved in startup scene as investor/director/advisor etc. Now i realize that entrepreneurship is part of life, it is not everything but it is very important to me. Only things more important is my family , wife, kids and mental/physical health.

===================================================================== (Article first appeared on sgentrepreneurs - July 2006)

Recently, it seems that God is trying to tell me something. I was a speaker and career panelist for Confluence 06 (for overseas students to speak to Teo Chee Hian and others) and had to speak to 200+ undergraduates on my experience in business and my aspirations. My company is helping EDB with a web site called Aspirations which is focused on providing career information to students. In both, the word “Aspirations” kept hitting me and got me thinking about what I wanted to do in life. I think most people would agree with me that we do not want to settle for a life less than exciting.

As entrepreneurs, people sometimes think that all we want to do is grow our business. For me personally, that is definitely not true by now. In fact, I see my “aspiration” as one whereby I am challenged daily but in a way that is not just mental but also physical and spiritual. And yet at the same time, I do not want to always be challenged. Sometimes, I just want to kick back, chill out and play with my kids, wife or just laze. Other times, I am so inspired by nature, I want to scuba dive the pacific islands or walk the appalachian trails. I wonder how other entreprenuers who are above 40 can plug away at the same task for a lifetime. Sheer one-dimensional passion? Lack of imagination of another type of life? What is the motivating factor that drives and more importantly satisfies? I examine some that I know thrill me.

 Intellectual challenge.

This has always been fun for me. Whether it is the satisfaction of thinking of good work flow, business model, sales pitch etc. But when I compare it to the intellectual completeness of academic thought and the wit and beauty of literary and philosophical thought, then the intellectual challenge of running a business is so much more limited in scope and untidy. Physical challenge. There is an intrinsic beauty to being fit and being physically energized and challenged. I used to windsurf a lot and scuba dive. I still do a little but I think running your own business kind of occupies so much time that there is no time for the quietness that I used to enjoy with such sports.

Spiritual Challenge.

Entreprenuership fails even more on this count. To me to play the game of running a company is to play the game of capitalism. So it is always cost benefit in the long term that matters. And frankly there is little spiritual about commerce and money. So where do I go from here? As usual, the tedium of life will drag us down and remind us of the responsibilities we have to clients, staff and family. That is why subconsciously, I have always known I am not a true entreprenuer. I am like a pretend person, performing the role adequately but always aspiring for a deeper life. I know all about enjoying the journey while getting to the goals but it is tough to always focus when it is a fact that life as a business person is quite demanding in terms of time and energy.

Some key stuff I aspire for that will alleviate this sense of “ennui” or boredom/emptiness.

Run a half marathon (full is too much for me).

Make enough money to have option to quit by 35.
Be less competitive and not benchmark material acqusitions to much with others.
Need to sneak a trip (without kids) to some nature haven. Nepal? Tibet? …

Well.. this is the inner musing of an entrepreneur. I believe man are quite common in this respect. Some can articulate their inner thoughts, others cannot. But I would love to hear from others how each deals with this essential question.

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