What you do, Where you live, and Who you are with.
I started 2021 determined to think deeper on these, hoping to find some answers.
By the middle of the year, I was convinced I solved all 3, conclusively.
Start of 2022 and I’m back to square one, all my answers now flipped on their heads.
Why these 3 things?
Early last year, my submarine commander asked me:
“Eugene, what are the 3 most important questions in life?”
I had just finished reading The Almanac of Naval Ravikant not too long before that, and the answer Naval gave was exactly the same as his.
Either a pure coincidence, or there is indeed some wisdom here.
It also happened to be the year I turned 25, and I felt that answering these 3 Things was my ticket out of the dreaded Quarter Life Crisis my seniors warned me about.
“Most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75.” - Benjamin Franklin
Who you are with
Shortly after I began my quest for the answers to these questions, god/life/the universe decided to drop one at my doorstep.
"Who do I want to be with? What am I looking for in a long-term life partner?"
After some insightful conversations with close friends, I came up with 5 qualities that I would use as a guide/filter when assessing potential partners:
Attractiveness, Independence, Makes me a better version of myself, Intellectually Stimulating, and Skin in the Game.
Attraction is first because these are qualities in a romantic partner, so without it I would just stay friends.
Independence because I consider myself quite independent and value time for solitude and introspection very much, so a partner who is similar or at least is able to accommodate this aspect of me would be great.
Better version of myself is quite broad - it could be that the person brings out certain good traits in me, or that I feel comfortable with her, versus being anxious or on my toes. This is probably the easiest criteria to fulfil because of its subjective and wide-ranging nature, but still important because if I feel like i’m becoming a version of me that I don’t like, then this isn’t going to work.
Intellectually Stimulating is a historical quality - a pattern i’ve noticed from past girls i’ve dated, that I am lowkey sapiosexual (finds intelligence sexy).
Skin in the Game can be seen as integrity, or follow-through. I want to be with someone who means what they say and if they champion a cause, they actually do things to advance that cause. Someone who puts themselves out there, isn't afraid to try new things, take risks and fail.
These 5 qualities also apply to me.
After all, if I am ‘demanding’ my partner to have these, the least I can do is to have them myself.
Am I attractive? Am I in the best shape I can be in? Am I taking good care of my body, my health?
Am I truly independent and comfortable with solitude, comfortable with my own company? Or am I walking away because I am avoiding something?
Do I bring out the best in other people? Do I leave them better than when I found them? What is my impact on the people around me?
Am I intellectually stimulating? Am I reading enough, learning enough?
Do I have skin in the game? Am I following-through with things I’ve said before? What causes am I championing, and what am I doing about them? Am I taking risks, putting myself out there?
So, early 2021. I meet someone (she initiates) who seems to meet all 5 qualities to a decent degree. We hit it off, and it's going well for the better half of the year. I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, all this manifesting stuff really works! Setting intentions, vision boards, all that good stuff. Quarter Life Crisis? Come at me, bro.”
Things have since ended between us. (Press F to pay respects)
Looking back, it does seem like a confirmation bias, rose-tinted lenses, love-is-blind sort of thing was going on. I was eager to answer the 3 questions, so when she came along, I kind of fit her into my own picture of this ‘5 qualities partner’, and it was only after going through the relationship and the infatuation fading that things became clearer.
Nothing against her by the way, I still think she’s great, just not compatible.
And now I'm questioning these qualities, the mental model, perspective and approach. Which parts need changing? Does the whole thing need an overhaul?
Where you live
I wrote in my 2021 new years’ intentions that I wanted to buy my own place by end 2022.
Similar to the question of who to be with, I also had qualities for the property I was looking to buy:
<5minutes walk to a good MRT train stop (anywhere within the area bounded by the Circle Line; beyond that is too far from the buzz of the city for my liking)
Enough variety of cheap, good food nearby (as much as I liked cooking my own meals as a student in UK, it seems a lot less feasible to cook my own meals while living a working-man life in Singapore. Plus, hawker centre food here is amazing.)
I must like the surrounding neighbourhood; the vibe of it. After all, I foresee myself walking/running around the area a lot, and getting familiar with the things/buildings/people there.
This is going to be the property I intend to stay in from my late 20s to mid 30s, after which my life circumstances would change and so will the criteria for the property.
I had 3 options as of early 2021, when my commander prompted me to think deeper about it: One Pearl Bank, Jadescape, Leedon Green.
One Pearl Bank sits on one of the best MRTs in the country, has tons of good food around it, and I love the Tanjong Pagar & Tiong Bahru area. At the time, honestly the thing holding me back from buying a unit there was not having enough money. Later on, as I explored more of the surrounding area, I realized that it didn’t really vibe that well with me. I don’t know how else to describe it. Having the huge hospital next door is good, considering my dad’s condition. But I don’t like Pearl’s Hill, and not really into Chinatown other than being a pseudo-tourist there.
Jadescape’s MRT is okay (Marymount), food is great, and its really near my parent’s place, where I grew up basically my whole life. But that’s kind of a double-edged sword because I want to move out of my comfort zone, and try living somewhere ‘new’, someplace different. Other than that, honestly a really good option, and much cheaper than One Pearl Bank.
Leedon Green’s MRT is also okay (Farrer Road), but theres barely any food nearby and I don’t really like the surrounding area. Doesn’t seem like there's much going on, less Holland Village which is a 15minute walk away. I was considering this more for its investment value, and the price it was going for at the time.
Come mid-2021 and the universe drops another answer on my lap.
One North Eden. Meets all 3 criteria, particularly the 3rd one, being in the ‘Silicon Valley of Singapore’ startup hub of one-north.
Went to the show-flat, put my name down for the ballot, ended up getting a 1000+ ballot number when the development only has 162 units (this development sold >90% on launch day), so I just gave up and started moving on.
2 weeks later, my agent calls me to say one of her other clients is swapping his unit for a larger one, asking if I want to take it. I had to decide that instant, if not she would open it to other people, who are for sure going to grab it.
I say yes.
I cash out my crypto and $TSLA, make the downpayment (if only it was as simple as I’m stating here: it was such a crazy rollercoaster of red tape, admin, finance shenanigans, etc.) and voila, I’ve become a homeowner!
“Quarter Life Crisis, where you at?”
Sounds amazing, right? So how has this been flipped on its head?
The saga with the 3rd Thing would reveal how.
What you do
I started 2021 determined to do my full-time job as a Submariner well - train hard, learn loads, and take care of my fellow ‘dolphins’.
For those who read my previous blog entry, well, you know what happened.
TL;DR: I quit because i didn’t like it there.
Even now, I still think back to that decision, asking myself whether it was the right call to make, whether I was indeed throwing a good career away for nothing.
But anyways, apart from the day job, I still have Rats to Riches.
I started the year thinking that Rats was a thing of the past; a project that has come to the end of its 'product life cycle', as we learn in business school.
Then, in middle of 2021, I got 2 offers for new licensing contracts for the game, to refresh its design, improve the mechanics, add new content, and expand the distribution and sales channels to new regions of the world. Insane stuff.
To put this into context so you have a better sense of how it was like at the time, all 3 Things - getting serious with the girl, buying the house, getting the Rats offers - were all happening within the same 3 week period.
There’s this quote we like to use in crypto:
“Nothing at first, then all at once.”
Or “Gradually, then suddenly” if you prefer Hemingway.
It was exactly like that.
Why couldn’t the universe line these up one by one, so that I could deal with one properly before moving on to the next?
But oh well, it be like that. Its a first-world problem. A happy problem.
“Quarter Life...? Piece of cake. ez game. gg next thx.”
Over the years since the frantic bootstrapping, hustle start-up days of Rats to Riches, there has been this recurring thought gnawing at me:
"Rats to Riches was just a one-time fluke. You just got lucky. If you tried again, you would fail. So just stick to the stable military job you have."
The new licensing offers were the first triggers, the inception of a different thought:
“Maybe it wasn't a fluke, maybe I do have innate talents that are valued in other areas”.
In the second half of 2021, more and more bearing lines (pardon the navy lingo) came.
Play-to-earn crypto games like Axie Infinity got me super hyped, and I was putting (still am) massive skin in the game in this field.
I also got an offer to work for a VR board game startup that would pay handsomely, plus equity.
Both areas I am really passionate about, regardless of the money. I would gladly work in these fields even if they paid peanuts. And if I had enough money to retire right now, I would be drawn to them anyway and work for the fun of it.
So I guess this paints a clearer picture of why I left the submarines; after that blog entry, many of the responses I got were commending the courage it must have took to make that call, that jump, that step out of the mainstream. I don’t think it was so much a 'courage' thing than it was how the facts and events were lining up. I was lucky that doors were opening up for me because of things I did in the past, and there is the conviction that if I took the jump, there is a high chance I would land somewhere solid, somewhere decent.
I’m currently reading Matthew McConaughey’s book, Greenlights. It’s always nice to read about people who have 'made it', recount their younger days going through similar issues as you. Matthew would call what I’m going through now a ‘Red Light’ - what seems like a bad thing, a stop, zero progress, but will either get you to change paths, or if you are patient, would turn into a ‘Greenlight’ and become a hidden opportunity.
The idea of a non-traditional working lifestyle is very appealing to me. Being a digital nomad, working essentially 100% through the Internet (or rather, Web3, the new digital economy), only working on projects that I like, that I have a stake or ownership in. Doing things with greater ROI and greater impact.
It's appealing, but scary, of course. Going ~into the unknown~, as my sisters used to sing all the time, is daunting. And I want to make sure that I’m prepared to do so when the time comes. So I intend to spend the next few years building and exploring, while serving the remaining time of my bond with the Navy.
Hopefully now its clearer why the 2nd Thing is now turned on its head: I bought that house thinking I would live in it once its built, but that reality is looking less and less likely to come true considering my updated worldview. Of course, it isn’t so bad, because I have the option to sell it, or rent it out too. Its just kind of disappointing that I went down the path, only to reach an impasse and now am trying to continue walking, reverse-justifying to myself why we are here in the first place.
A podcast episode I was listening to (Steve Bartlett with Mark Manson) offered a comforting perspective:
“Sometimes you need things to go wrong a couple of times before you get it right. Hit a couple of dead ends. Sometimes you have to earn your values - you have to truly live them, and see them fail you.”
Lesson Learnt (still learning)
The 3 Things aren’t things that you solve once and that’s it. Job done. Thank you, next.
No, these are things we all need to continuously revisit and update our answers to.
You will meet plenty of good people in your life. You may be with one person for your whole life, but as you grow together, you are becoming new versions of yourselves and the dynamic might need to be updated too.
Where you live will change too: even if it's the same house all the way, how you use the space, what you look for in the surrounding environment, all evolve as we get to different phases of our lives.
What you do is the one that I feel a lot of us don’t spend enough time on - because it concerns our livelihoods, it's risky to change. But because we spend so much of our lives at work, it's paramount that we start spending a good amount of time thinking and exploring the infinite other possibilities (lol multiverse) that could be open to you.
Be careful when taunting the universe: it hits you hard. In spending the year trying to avoid and overcome the Quarter Life Crisis, I ended up getting served with a pretty solid one.
As my favourite animated philosopher (apart from Uncle Iroh) would say:
“One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.” - Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda