Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Planning Makes All The Difference: Alice In Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland (1951) is one of my most favourite and trippy movies to watch. Of course, this is the movie adaptation of the world famous classic written by Lewis Carroll back in 1865. If you have never read the book, shame on you! But all right, perhaps I could interest you to watch the original technicolour movie instead? It condenses the book and largely keeps most of the ideas intact, I feel.

Although there are many, many, many very famous scenes and ideas in the book and the movie, my most favourite scene that has always stuck with me in this scene with the Cheshire cat:

When I was a younger boy, my grandfather once sat me down and tried to explain all of this to me. He talked about maps, navigating in the sea or air, compass, directions, calibrations and a whole lot of stuff. Today, I can look back and I can quickly piece together the idea and wisdom that he was trying to impart.

You need to know where you are right now. You need to know where you want to end up eventually. Then finally, you need to know which way to roughly start heading towards.

Even if you don't know exactly where is your final destination, it still helps if you know the continent, the country, the region, the town or even the road that you are heading to. And eventually as you progress closer, you will figure out the right and exact destination.

Some people think that not knowing their final destination and just doing SOMETHING, ANYTHING with their lives will eventually help them to realize their dreams when they one day want to. However, sometimes what you might be doing will be actually sending you in the opposite direction, making it twice as hard as ever to reach the place you want to be. If you are in Singapore and wanted to go to Bangkok, you don't fly to Australia for a transfer, right? That is the total opposite direction! Many people jeopardize their future dreams with their current plans and actions without knowing it. You can plead ignorance, but that still doesn't change how far you are to realizing your dreams.

I was actually going to write a more technical post today about the recent market action, as well as the long-term in-sustainability with such a huge disconnect between debt and economic output, but reading this post by Teenage Investor made me re-think why I firmly I believe in periodically taking stock of your life.

I would politely disagree with a dated post by SG Wealth Builder titled, "Why I would never advise young Singaporeans to plan for their future". Perhaps it is the philosophical difference of how we view life. I believe that fate and luck plays a part in our lives (some more than others), but it is possible for most people to do what they want with their lives. If you are in the camp that life has too many variables or scenarios, therefore there is no point planning, that can still be valid point. However, how about combining both? Plan and prepare for the most likely outcomes and finally also equip yourself with the skills to manage the rest of the outlier scenarios. That seems like a pretty solid action plan to cover everything. Who says that you can only plan outcomes or react to scenarios. Why can't you do both to mitigate risks?

I must thank Howard Marks for imparting this wisdom during a Bloomberg interview for this perspective. "Risk means more things can happen then will happen" (5.29). "You have to look at it like a probability distribution. You might want to prepare for the middle of the probability distribution, but sometimes you end up at the tail-ends." (6.56)  

Many of my friends are currently undergoing a quarter-life crisis. It doesn't help that many of my friends are graduates who cannot find jobs suited for them. Many of them seek my counsel when talking about their plans for the future. Rather than tell my friends what I think they should do (I don't think I have enough information to do that), I instead prompt them with a series of questions and guide them along a thought process which I think is useful. There are many questions that I can ask. But the gist of every conversation like this eventually boils down to the same few essential questions:

Job aside, how are all other aspects of your life?
Is this a field you can see yourself in when you're 50?
Will this job give you the experience or skills needed for the career you want in the future?

These are just the real-world, job-related equivalents of the Cheshire Cat scene.

Where are you now?
Where do you want to get to?
Are you heading in the correct direction?

Essentially, this is a navigation problem. You need to know where you are (current location), where you want to be (final destination) and the correct direction to go (compass).

However, you can be like Alice and don't know where you want to go. In that situation, then yes, it really does not matter which way you go. It's just a simple toss up whether you'd like where you end up, or not.

Rather than leave things to a higher power, fate or mystery, why not take the less exciting option, but perhaps a bit more practical and actionable, and think about those 3 simple questions today? They needn't be about jobs, they can be about relationships, ambitions... anything. Go ahead. It takes just 5 minutes. Then it's going to be the start of your new life, heading in the right direction towards your goals.


  1. good post.

    thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Even if planning turned out to useless, it is still better to go ahead with a plan. How much time and effort can we lose over our "lousy" planning? Many days?

    Use our 6 cents and plan ahead!

    How much can we lose? Not much. Right?

    But, when we win, we win big!

    1. Hi Uncle CW8888,

      The time and effort for planning usually doesn't take up as much time and effort that people imagine!

      Even some "lousy" planning is still better than no planning!

      It probably takes less time taken to just plan, rather than think how long it takes to plan!

  3. Thank you for sharing such valuable and helpful information, tips and knowledge. This gives me more insights on this. I would love to see more updates from you.

    Shares to Buy


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