Entering Uncharted Territory

I have not updated my blog for quite some time now (almost 6 months by my count). Since my last post, I have had major life changes which have kept me pretty much occupied since…

I QUITTED MY FULL-TIME JOB!

No, I am not yet FIREd, but rather I have decided to leave my full-time employment to pursue what I have always wanted to do and try in life, that is trading the financial markets for a living.

Initially, that was supposed to be the plan once I have achieved the ‘RE‘ part, as I never had any plan to do nothing and bore myself to death. While at the same time, this would allow me the chance to work anywhere in the world while traveling and perhaps spend some time to work/volunteer for a Not-For-Profit/NGO/Social Enterprise organisations.

ARRIVING AT A CROSSROADS

When I first started my FIRE journey, the formula was clear, the plan had been drafted and the wheel had been set in motion. Achieve ‘X’ amount of networth invested at 7%+ p.a. return (after inflation) by 2025, at the latest, while maintaining 70%+ target savings rate on average throughout. That formula, if followed with rigour and discipline, should allow me to reach the promised land safely and without too much turbulences. Yes, there will obviously be sacrifices that need to be made along the way but ‘nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring‘.

Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring

St. Catherine of Siena

For a while, things were chugging along fine, the train was on course, on time and the route ahead was clear of any visible obstructions. Until one day I arrived at a crossroad where decision had to be made.

I was at a point in my career last year (mid-2018s) where I know I probably only had a year or so to go before I will most likely start to outgrow the role at my then employer. Realistically, the best course of action is to try to land another role to progress my overall career’s development. Without further ado, I started to look for a potential new role immediately, while being careful and selective.

It then occured to me that while waiting for that coveted role, I should also start a new side hustle or look to the gig economy for opportunity to earn more as a hedge incase career’s stagnation arrives faster than my next ‘gig’. At least that way, I would be able to maintain the level of income projected within my FIRE’s blueprint – as I have included in my projection certain numbers of pay rises before reaching a terminal salary level by 2021s which is then to be maintained until FIRE is reached – and be on track. I have looked into alternatives from being a ride-share driver, creating a YouTube channel to doing all sort of freelancing jobs on top of my current hustle in the financial markets (I really enjoy the later very much!).

In October that year, I attended a talk by Gary Vaynerchuck and some of his messages, some directly related to my situations and some are not, but they drove the message home! One that eventually inspired me later on is embed below:

Gary Vee: 99% of you.. are not going to do s**t about it

Although at that point, the thought of immediately leaving the security of my day job never really occured to me. For one, I get along well with my colleagues in general and it was a decent place to work at. Furthermore, the deliberate planning I had done for my FIRE blueprint actually revolves around my salary after all.

Alas, I was not able to find/secure anything as 2018 reached its conclusion.

THE MOMENT OF REALISATION

2019 rolled around and I picked up where I left off, continuing to look for that perfect next role. There was not really much job vacancies popping up at that time of the year obviously, post-Christmas holiday and all, which is to some degree expected. I was actually approached for a role that pay slightly higher but is not exactly within area of my interest. I politely declined, as I know I would not be satisfied with it.

As the leaves start falling, days pass by and summer slowly turned to autumn, I was still not having much luck on the job search front. This made me start to think of alternatives and to wonder whether I was unrealistic in my expectation of my next role. By that point, I have also had the occassional thought of going out on my own to make a living from ‘a passion project’ (if you have not figure it out by now, to trade stocks for a living), but I am not going to lie that everytime the thought surfaced, I have always swiftly buried it six feet deep. However, the harder I resisted, the more the thought persisted. After all, what attracted me to the idea of FIRE in the first place is the concept of trading money for invaluable time to allow me to do whatever I want to do. Period.

One day, during one of my pre-bedtime ritual which occasionally consisted of watching random YouTube videos to wind down, I came across a recommendation on a video by @Afzal Husein, helping aspiring students to get into finance. In doing so, he actually left his job at Goldman Sachs to pursue his passion in career development on a full-time basis. I was instantly intrigued and amused at the same time. Not going to lie, but I would do almost anything in my younger days to get a job there and yet he gave it all up. On another occasion, YouTube’s algorithm let me to another video about another YouTuber (@VanessaLau) who left her cozy marketing job to pursue personal coaching. She detailed her journey and her struggles throughout and there are a lot of things that I can totally relate to!

Looking back with the gift of hindsight, those two innocent but inspiring moments – without my realisation at the time – were the beginning of the end of my corporate career. That is, the turning point towards entering uncharted territory.

ENTERING UNCHARTED TERRITORY

At some point during my commute home, I got myself lost in my train of thoughts while digging deeper and reflecting on my situations at the time, I had flashes of memory of what Gary Vee said back in 2018. That’s when the ‘Aha…‘ moment occured out of the blue and I suddenly realised that perhaps quitting my corporate career and following my passion might be what I had actually wanted and needed all along, but I was too comfortable and too scared to look the other way.

Perhaps Gary had a point, I should not just think about it but rather do something about it!!! It became clearer to me that the cost of not following my dream would be dearer than the cost of failing.

Despite being in an inspired state, there were so many thoughts that raced through my mind afterwards.

-What happen if you fail, given only about 1 in 10 traders make it out alive, and you have wasted few precious years for nothing?

-What happen if you fail and you could not get a job again since there will be a humongous gap in your resume? Or you might get paid much less etc…

-Are you throwing your life away? Hellooo… you are no longer twenty something buddy! It’s a bit too late now isn’t it? Beside you only have about 5+ years before FIRE, assuming things went according to plan

And many more I assure you!

Following few months of indecisiveness, I then went on a vacation with my friends and that was perhaps the reset that I needed all along. It provided me with a clarity of mind and thought. While lying on the beach one day, being in the moment and enjoying the gentle breeze, it suddenly clicked to me that pursuing my passion and dream was exactly what I was going to do! Looking back, the momentum had gathered pace rapidly by then and nothing was going to stop it. I knew then that I have pretty much reached the point of no return. My mind was dead set.

Sometimes it just takes that one moment, to say yes and to commit. That is exactly what happened then. Carpe Diem!

Moment of Tranquility

On my second day back to the office, I tendered my resignation and the rest was history.

AN AFTERTHOUGHT

I do not know yet at this point in time where this route will take me and where I will end up. So far, in my life as a financial trader, I have had my fair share of ups and downs, from feeling unstoppable to feeling like nothing could go right. But I know, whatever the outcome and wherever I ended up, I have learnt tremendously as a person from this experience. If I was given the choice again, I would not have done it any differently.

It is perhaps easy to write and talk about this now after the fact. But looking back to the past through the lense of the present, sometimes I still felt silly for having those negative thoughts in the first place during my moment of indecisions. Fear is real but it is not always your enemy. If you are an avid reader, what have helped me were reading the book ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers and watching Tim Feriss’s TED talk on the subject of fear setting.

Although this was not the outcome that I had in mind when I first embarked on my FIRE journey, I have to say that the things that I have learnt and implemented to my life throughout the journey, including the concept of minimalism and stoicism, have helped me tremendously in reaching this point. I might write about this separately in another time. Not least, having supportive family and friends helped tremendously too!

If you are still reading this and I have not bore the living daylight out of you, please allow me to say thank you for letting me share my story! The content of this post is perhaps slightly out of topic, as it is outside the realm of personal finance, but one that I have always wanted to write about.

If by any remote chance you are currently in a similar situation, just know that you are not alone out there! I managed to draw strength from the experience of others out there (credit to Vanessa and Afzal). Sometimes all you need is that one little kick to get the snowball rolling, ha! I can’t tell you what is the right thing to do or what you should do, but as cliche as it sounds, trust me you will eventually figured it out.

Keep persisting and don’t forget to run your own race!

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