pawn looking into mirror and see a queen

This year’s most meaningful birthday gift

My birthday was yesterday, and I received quite a few gifts, and still have some gifts in transit. And I just want to engrave a gift into the memory by dedicating a blog post for it.

Tl; dr;

A marble chess set that is the same age as mine. However it does have some broken pieces and I will need to find a mason or a sculptor to fix it or replicate the piece.

The gift giver

She is a special friend of mine, and depending on how it goes I will demystify her in later blog posts, and also update this one too. I endorse her for the well-thoughtful gift and also her dedication to help other people. She also has a constant improving mindset, and actually follow through with actions; which I highly value.

The present

marble chess set

This is the chess set, which now sits in my office and I look at it every day. All pieces are hand crafted from marbles, and the chessboard is also marble with wooden boundaries. If you look closer, the wooden boundaries is also hand crafted with symbols.

The special thing about this chess set is it was created in 1991 (approximately), which puts this at the same age as me. Therefore, it adds to the preciousness of the gift. Also there are some broken pieces which I need to fix. To me it just means nothing is perfect and by continuously improving we get better over time.

The broken pieces

There are 2 broken pieces, the pawn that loses its base, and the rook that is broken into smaller pieces.

I will need to replace this pawn with a new hand crafted piece to bring the chess board back to its glory day. It could take quite a bit of time to find someone who can work on this, but I have high hope.

I will need to glue this piece together, but it would be great if I can pass this to the sculptor to carve the piece from scratch too. Luckily all the smaller pieces are not missing as we broke it accidentally.

Summary

The chess set will be a beautiful piece of decoration in my home later. As time goes by, it will remind me of who gave it to me, how fragile things are and whether improvements complete me in a good way.

“A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.” – Robert Frost

By Tuan Nguyen

chess board with pieces

Scattered thoughts – chess and traps

Playing chess really helps me think about different problems and finding solutions for them. One of which is realizing there are 4 different types of people when it comes to dealing with traps, whether it is in playing chess or living your lives. Today we will discuss the first 3 types.

Tl; dr;

  • The victim: these people are oblivious or too suspicious to the traps in front of them, and sometimes walking into them without knowing until it’s too late.
  • The trapper: these people will lay out the traps and patiently waiting for the preys. It takes creativity to do so.
  • The spectre: these people voluntarily play into the trapper’s setup, with the knowledge and understanding that ultimately they will get what they want.

The victim

The victim is simply someone who have not encounter a trap before, therefore they are more likely to fall into it and does not realize the damage until it’s too late. I also include people who are too suspicious of a (seemly) obvious trap so that they fall into another one.

Any chess player will tell you that they fall into their opponents’ traps multiple times before they learn how to avoid or counter them. We all start here, at the bottom of the food chain. At first, we fall into simple traps, like the fool’s mate or the scholar’s mate in chess. Over time, with practice, we learn how to avoid these traps and then start falling into more advanced tactics. And the cycle begins again.

There is a simple way to avoid falling into traps, which is learning from your own mistakes and other people’s mistakes. Be observant and think critically on how and why things are done that way.

One example is the credit card trap. Most people who utilize credit cards spend the money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like. As a result, they are pulled into a financial hole that is very hard to get out, and they become gold mines for credit card companies.

The trapper

Trappers are the ones who create and set up traps. They are exceptionally creative when it comes to lure preys into their convoluted design traps. Essentially there are 3 things to make a successful “operation”:

  • The trap: designed to come out with a decisive advantage after the victim falls to it.
  • The bait: something to lure the prey into the trap, needs to be beneficial for them in hindsight.
  • Patience: probably the most important element, the nature of traps requires it. You need to wait for the preys to fall into it. It will be less effective if you need to coerce them into the trap.

A good trapper has the creativity to design the trap, the mean (or matter) to give out baits, and the patience to wait for the results. Following the example above, we can see credit card companies are expert in this field. They have the high interest rate credit card as trap, giving out credits and also interest free period as baits, and the patience to reap the results.

The spectre

These people study the system, understand it really well, and therefore willing to fall into certain traps if they know they can benefit from it overall. They can walk in and out of traps as if they are ghosts, and I just like the word “spectre”. Coincidentally, it really fits here.

In chess, we have an attack called the fried-liver attack. It is vicious for the receiver if they don’t know how to deal with the attack. However, some players intentionally play into this attack, as they can utilize something called the Traxler counter-attack. Which renders the fried-liver attack useless, provided that they play it right.

To put it simply, the spectres go into the trap, take all the bait and run away before they are imprisoned. There are 2 things required when it comes to be a spectre.

  • Critical thinking and self-learning: extensive study is needed to understand the system before walking into such system. 
  • Self-control: baits are very delicious, and taking too much can make you fall into the trap without knowing, even with all the studies and knowledge. I often say “Greed is good”, but probably not in this case. Understand the limits, take what you can, and get out as planned.

Summary

There are a lot of traps in the world, and sometimes we just need to be a bit sane to realize them. Once we identify the traps, it’s time to learn how it works and use the system for your benefits. Most people stops at realization and start blaming the trapper, which is a waste of time and non-beneficial for everyone. Why not turning it around and use it to your advantage?

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

By Tuan Nguyen

woman with laptop

How to Overcome the Fear of Starting a New Business

Before you can succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to overcome your fears. The fear of starting a new business is one of the most common fears that hold back individuals from becoming successful entrepreneurs. The fear of starting a new business is so common that there is even a name for it: the fear of failure.

The fear of failure is a central challenge to anyone who aspires to start their own business. After all, if you’re afraid of failure, how can you take the risk and go out on your own?

And yet, overcoming the fear of failure is necessary in order to become an entrepreneur. If you want to start your own business, read on for some helpful tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, brought to you by Tuan Nguyen’s Blog.

Build a Business Plan

The fear of failure is a lot easier to overcome if you know what you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to take the time to plan out your business idea and decide exactly what you want to do.

Start by obtaining your own white paper on your chosen industry and looking at the competitive landscape. Where are your competitors located? What is their business model? What problems do they solve for customers? What value do you bring to the table?

Once you’ve identified what your competitive edge is, you can begin to outline your business plan. What are your financial goals? What is your timeline? What actions will you take each month to achieve your goals?

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that it’s not just a set of promises you’re making to yourself. It’s a legally binding document that should be submitted to the appropriate government agencies if you plan to operate your business as a corporation or partnership.

This in itself can be an intimidating task. That’s why you may want to hire an online business formation service. They can handle the challenging aspects of forming a business and help you choose the best one for your needs.

With the right business structure, you can enjoy less paperwork, more flexibility, and even tax advantages.

Network and Build Relationships

As an entrepreneur, you are likely to spend a significant portion of your day networking with other like-minded individuals. You may organize social gatherings for your friends and business associates, or join business networks on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.

While networking can be a helpful way to meet potential customers and partners, it’s also important to maintain healthy relationships with your current clients and customers.

Clients and customers are the lifeblood of any business. A healthy relationship with either can last for years and can even become a lifelong relationship. Maintain good relationships with your current clients and customers, and you’ll stay top of mind when they need your services again.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Advice

Asking for advice is a great way to overcome the fear of failure. This can apply to many aspects of starting your own business, such as hiring employees, finding investors, or securing funding for your business idea.

People are usually willing to give advice to those they know, and if you ask for it, people are also likely to give it to you. There are a number of online forums, communities, and blogs where entrepreneurs can seek advice from each other.

You might even want to work with a mentor to assist you. They can teach you how to improve on your weaknesses, grow as a business leader, and much more.

By Carleen Moore

My goals for 2022

Just like everyone, New Year Resolution is something that I have done every year. Unlike most people, I want to write it down and therefore have something to look back by the end of the year. This post will do just that, looking back  to 2021 and plan the next moves in 2022.

Tl; dr;

  • In 2021, I have done:
    • Purchased a property.
    • Left my position in Adslot Ltd. and work full time for myself.
    • Purchased the first watch by myself.
  • In 2022, I plan to:
    • Able to run 10km in 50 minutes (military standard);
    • Able to meditate for an hour;
    • Purchase a watch from James Bond movie; and
    • Travel to a new place.

Looking into the past

January, the name originated from Janus, the god of doors in Roman Mythology. He has 2 faces, one looking into the past, another into the future. And now is the best time to look back on what did I do in 2021.

At the beginning of the year, I found a good opportunity to add a small property into my portfolio, and I took the chance. It is supposed to be a positive cashflow position for me, which is much needed when I decided to quit my highly paid full time position. Overall, it was a great experience and taught me many things about legal and financial matters as I bought it under a family trust, and everything is different in there.

In August 2021, I decided to leave my position as a senior fullstack developer and joined Digital Envision full time. It was a hard but well-planned decision. We had it planned out since the beginning of the year and get it done. I went from a 6-figure salary down to minimum wage salary and it was not easy to do.

Lastly, I purchased the first watch for myself. I haven’t bought any watches before, and it felt ecstatic. And the watch holds a purposeful significance to me, it reminds me about that every time I wear it.

Envision the future

Physical exercise is what I am lacking in the past years. In 2021, I started to go and have myself checked out physically, but there is still a lot to be improved. I have always want to be in the military, and in a way, if I can train like them, I will feel like I achieved that goal. Getting fit is a good thing to have. I believe that it will prepare me for future scenarios. It’s always good to be ready, for what to come.

And of course mental exercise is also important. Given my current position, that is more crucial than ever. I am constantly under pressure and guarding my mind against the negatives is mandatory. I have started to meditate since last year, and can be in a session of about 20 minutes. I think with frequent practice, I can increase the time and feel better each day.

Gotta have more watches

As a novice watch enthusiast, I decided to collect the watches that are on the wrist of James Bond. It will be a hard collection to complete, but there is no rush in it. I like purchasing watches with stories behind it, unlike some other people who wear watches to show how rich they are.

I am looking for a Gruen Precision cal 510 17J Starburst. It is quite rare to find something that still comes with the original paperwork. But I will keep looking and, who knows, maybe one of my readers will help me with it.

Gruen Precision cal 510
Source: ebay.com

Travel to a new place

It is always a good idea to travel and see different things. I believe that epiphanies are often come when we travel. In the business world, a single light bulb moment could make me millions. And also discovering different scenes, cuisines and cultures are great too. I myself have not been to a lot of provinces in Vietnam. And I would like to do so in 2022.

What about career goals?

Since I am working for myself now, the career goals are now with the company goals. We have already planned out what needs to be done and KPIs for the company. Therefore I do not need to include them in my personal goals. I think personal growth is pertinent to this blog post.

Summary

Well it’s a short post, but a lot to be done. By the end of 2022 I will look back and see what have I accomplished. I have high hopes that I can do all the things listed above, and will update my blog on each milestone achieved.

“You should set goals beyond your reach so you always have something to live for.” — Ted Turner

By Tuan Nguyen

What does chess teach me?

For most people, chess is associated with old dudes sitting and looking at a wooden board for hours on end. It is a very time and brain consuming activity, and unfortunately not a lot of people can sit and think for a long time. Chess is my favourite boardgame by nature, and I’d like to keep a note on a few things that I learned from it.

Tl; dr;

Chess teaches me a lot about principles of life and also, death.

  • Every pieces have their own role.
  • If you get to the end, you can be whatever you want to be.
  • It helps me practice thinking about multiple scenarios at once.
  • Sometimes sacrifices are required for the greater good.

Every chess pieces are important.

All chess pieces play their own role in the game. Not a single pawn or piece is useless. The player is the one who put them into useless situations. You can win games with just a pawn, and can lose games with queen advantage.

The thing I get out from is, we cannot do everything, be everywhere, and satisfy everyone. We can only do what we want to do, be where we want to be, and make only the people we care about happy. I guess it is kind of similar to not giving a f**k about matters that I don’t really care about. Flipping the thought, would that mean criminals, cancer patients, homeless people, etc. are actually playing a valid role in the game of life? There is no good without bad, no happiness without sadness, no yin without yang. Should we just need to accept that bad things are bound to happen, how we respond to them defines how we can win the game?

The end is always good.

pawn looking into the mirror with queen reflection
Source: chess.com

There’s an old saying, “Everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.” As you know, when a pawn go to first rank or eighth rank, it can be promoted into a more important piece. Therefore it transforms from a seemingly useless chess piece to a more powerful and more important piece.

There are a lot of threats on the way for a pawn to reach its final destination. Promotion is a reward for that journey. And the best thing about it is, when the opportunity for a pawn to head towards the end, every other pieces will support that pawn, and every other pieces from the other side will try to stop it. We just need to recognize and take the opportunity with a strong determination, other people will help us get to where we want to go.

Thinking in multiple scenarios.

Playing chess, or any games that require strategic and tactical thinking, will train the players to think about multiple possible scenarios. This translates well in life and in business. Whenever I deal with a client, I can think of a few different ways that they can react to my proposals, and prepare the response in advance. I tend to do the same in life, and it is quite hard for me to be surprised by something, since I have already thought about the scenarios before hand, either during drift off, dreams, or day dreaming.

It’s a good thing in business. But in life, sometimes I have to fake being surprised. And to me that just feels weird. Maybe I’ll get better at that in the future.

Sacrifices are required sometimes.

thanos meme with text
Source: me.me

It’s hard to talk about chess without mentioning sacrifices. If you sacrificed and won, it’s the best feeling ever. If it doesn’t work out, you will be blaming yourself for the stupidity. The thing about sacrifice is, you can’t take back what you have given up. Therefore we need to be very careful when deciding to remove an important piece of our lives, whether it is an asset, or a person. However, in real life, at least you have a chance to get back what you surrendered before.

For example, I give up my free time, my high figure salary, to build up the company that I own. I accept the low salary amount, barely enough for me to live, with the expectation that my company will grow bigger and bigger. And so far it has been growing exponentially. I feel happy and grateful for that, and ready to forgo more things as needed to see it grow.

Summary

Above are just 4 of the lessons that I learned while playing chess. There are a lot more that I realized when playing but I’d like to keep them to myself for now, as some of them are quite controversial. Maybe in the future I will note it down, when I deem appropriate.

“There are tough players and nice guys, and I’m a tough player.” ― Bobby Fischer

By Tuan Nguyen

Is it bad to move to a new place?

Recently I moved to another apartment, and I just want to note down what I went through and whether it is a reasonable choice for me.

Tl; dr;

It was a great choice. Both in financial and mental aspects.

  • Financially: saving on rent per week, and it is actually a lot.
  • Mentally: soft reset on life, and re-evaluate the items in my possessions.

Financial numbers

Since I am more attracted to numbers, this is normally the first point of view that I consider.

With the rent price going down across Melbourne CBD, I did some research and decided that I currently pay a bit more than what the market has to offer. Therefore I decided that it is time to do something.

What did I do first? Well, I asked the current landlord to drop the rent down. They didn’t go down to the level I expected, and they were going to sell the apartment anyway, so I realized that I need to find what I want elswhere. I sent my 1-month notice to the property manager and started to find another apartment. It is necessary for me to do so since now I have a deadline to adhere to.

It is easy to find something good in the CBD with the budget of $300/week. You wouldn’t imagine the view and the convenience some of these apartments offer in this price range. However, that is not my budget. My budget is a modest $250/week.

I have a hypothesis that some landlord would be motivated to drop their pricing a bit more in this weather, especially in the lockdown period. Yes, I gave notice just before Melbourne went into the 5th lockdown. And I have 30 days to play with that idea. I cannot inspect the apartment physically, only through images and videos. And I need to put in a lot of offers to confirm the hypothesis.

The steps I took are as follows:

  • I spent a few hours in the first weekend, shortlisting the apartments that are in my range and around $50 above. So anything less than $300/week is considered.
  • Prioritize the ones that I would like to live in, with good view, good natural lights and preferably unfurnished.
  • Contact all the property managers asking for the videos if it was not available, and normal conversational questions to keep them engaged. Also tell them that I need to move by that date.
  • Wait a week and then apply to all those apartments, with the rent offers scale back 10-20%, e.g. $300 -> $250, $250 -> $210, etc.
  • Keep monitoring the market and add new listings into the shortlist if they satisfy the criteria.

From all apartments I applied (probably around 40-50 of them), I have 2 offers accepted by the landlords. Both apartments dropped their rent from $300 -> $250 per week. Now I have the ability to choose. And I ended up choosing the one that I think suits me better. The hypothesis was proven right.

Now is the fun part, how much do I save, considering all the cost I needed to spend?

Above is the moving cost as well as my previous rent.

  • I hired a removalist company to move all my stuff, and only need to pack them up.
  • I hired a cleaner company to thoroughly clean the old apartment.
  • There is a small setup fee for the internet at the new apartment.
  • I pay for 6-months mail redirection from Australia Post to ensure that my mails are not missing. I do have a few bills that are still going through the mails.

The meaning of the above table is, I need to live in the new apartment for 10.63 weeks (around 2.5 months) to recoup all the moving costs, and anything after that is basically what I can save from the moving exercise. Not to mention that I will free up some money that was stuck in the bond for the previous apartment.

Mental aspect

Lots of people are afraid of the thought of moving houses. And it is for good reasons. People like to settle down, whether it is their parents and friends told them to, or they believe in having a stable base and then they can take off in their career. Asking someone and you will get a reason why they don’t want to move, or trying to find a place to stay for a very long time.

I believe that I am always home. I don’t need a physical place to remind me of that. That can change once I have my own family, but by that time, I will be in a much better place comparing to where I’m at now. However, we are living in the present, and I feel quite good about the decision to move. It is like hitting a reset button in life, moving to a new place, but not so strange that I feel lost, and I spend time to look through all the luggages I brought with me until now.

It’s a good exercise to audit all items that are in my possession every once in a while. I found that I could throw away a few unused items, restock medicine cabinet, and re-evaluate wardrobes.

I also did a small experiments on my friends, I selectively told certain people that I was going to move and see how they react throughout the period. So far, only my family keep up with what I have been doing regarding the move, the rest don’t care enough to ask. Which is quite interesting. I shall note this down for future references.

Summary

Overall, the move went smoothly. I could have bargained for removalist and cleaner services. But given the tight timeline I ended up going with what I have, knowing that after a year I will be in a better place anyway. And who knows what will happen after a year, I may move again.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

By Tuan Nguyen