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

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What I learned after 3 years doing business – part 3

Continue from Part 2, let’s talk about the last 2 lessons that I learned over 3 years of managing a business; talk less, listen more; and a new world of opportunities.

Tl; dr;

  • Talk less and listen more.
  • Access to a whole new world of possibilities.

Interactions with other people

I have always been a quiet person, which I find it a lot easier when I realized this approach actually works. People tend to complain about their issues, brag about their achievements, and talk about their plans. All of these can be converted into opportunities. All I need to do is to ask the right questions to keep them talking. Looking back, most of my meetings will consist of about 80% of other people talking about their businesses and their issues. At the end of the conversations, I know more about them than they do about me, but that 20% of me talking is embedded in their mind, and I make sure that they remember me and my services through talking about how my services can help them.

Credentials are often overrated. I find that when dealing with a person, they care a lot less about what achievement you have, and more about how you can help them solving their problems. So I don’t even bother telling them about my companies size, how much clients have we served, etc. I listen to their issues first, and if I can help them with Digital Envision‘s services, I will align the discussion that way. If they query about the credentials, then I briefly talk about that, but it never is the start of my conversation.

Negotiation skills are something that I have been working on in the last few months. I practice methods in Never Split the Difference book, which is suitable to my style of interactions. So far it has been helping me securing a few contracts, so I will continue on practicing the methods. There is one sentence in the book that I like the most: “Negotiation is an art to make other people have your way.” I guess once you really understand this quote, then you will be an effective negotiator.

Opportunities

There are things that will never be available to non-business owners, simply because we don’t even know about it. One example, everyone uses American Express cards. Some even use multiple credit cards, which we call them card churning, which is a method to rack up bonus points, often flight points, to be able to claim for free flight travels. The major down side of credit cards is they cannot be used to pay invoices with bank transfer payment method.

Well, not really. Amex allows business owners to access something called Access Line, which allows us to pay our employee salary, our invoices, and even our tax returns with Amex account. And we can rack up the points with these payments. Through card churning, you need to apply to multiple credit cards, damage your credit scores to get a few hundred thousands points. For us as business owners, we just need to pay everything with our credit account and the points are quickly stacking up. (We’re not there yet) Imagine we spend like 100k each month as employee salary, and with 1 Qantas point per dollar spent, it’s already 100k Qantas points per month. That’s like a free ticket back to Vietnam every single month.

Apart from exclusive services, I also have access to certain conversations that contain information before it was reveal to the public. I know about how Federal government rolled out their COVID-normal plans probably 2-3 months before it took place. And that privilege really helped us realign our business to fit the direction from the government.

Summary

2 words to sum up the lessons: Quiet and Opportunity.

It has been a life-changing experience for me over the past 3 years. Lots of lesson learned, and there are still numerous things out there waiting for me to know about them. Life has never been more exciting for me.

“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” – Ram Dass

By Tuan Nguyen

Digital Envision Logo

What I learned after 3 years doing business – part 2

Continuing from Part 1, in this post I will discuss on another 2 massive lessons that I learned, managing people and work-life balance.

Tl; dr;

  • Managing people is getting more and more complicated as the team grows.
  • There is no such thing as work-life balance for the owners (or at least myself).

Managing people

When there were only 2 of us, life was simple.

Then we added an admin, and a developer. It was something that we needed to get used to.

And then, everything changed, now we have 18 in Indonesia, and 3 in Australia. Now things like company values, company cultures, etc. are something that we need to create and effectively communicate to our employees.

I read a lot about these topics, trying to figure out how other companies do it and grow to over 100 employees. I like Simon Sinek’s way of thinking, I adopted some of that principles into the company. We put employee benefit first before our clients, believing that they will deliver better results and in turn, the clients benefit from it. A lot more was spent into creating an enjoyable working environment than we spend on marketing, which is basically just our time at this point. We have not seen a persuasive way to spend our budget on marketing effectively (yet). So far we managed to keep our staff happy and productive. But that does not mean we don’t have people resign or get fired from the company.

So far we had about 6-7 people who left DE. Most of them resigned because of various reasons. I only had to fire one person due to his performance. And it was a devastating experience. Before the day, I had to find a friend and had a drink with her, which I don’t normally do, to prepare for that. Firing people is not easy, the first time you do it, it was hard.

We can’t get to over 20 staff without doing A LOT of interviews. I started to be able to feel what other people don’t talk about. Sometimes I see the desperations in their eyes, the lack of food, the distress in trying to find another job, etc.. And it was hard to turn them down because their skills are not good enough for us. We have to put our company before all else, otherwise it is a crime against our current employees. And that means we have to be cruel sometimes. The other day I interviewed someone who is in my dad’s age, and it is hard to put him into the declined status, his skills are not what we looked for, but still, his eyes showed me the misery of life.

interview count
As of today we have completed nearly 600 interviews

Looking back, my business partner and I have sacrificed quite a lot for the company. Over 3 years, it was and still is our top priority from morning till night. We do everything to nurture it. In a way, I understand more about being a parent, and I am ready to sacrifice a lot more to see it grows.

Work-life balance

As an employee, all we want is having 8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest and 8 hours of entertainment. And that’s how the whole revolution started and now we have Labor’s day to memorize that.

I am here to tell you that once you become a business owner, you can forget about that. Maybe later on, once you have someone run it for you, but I’m not there yet, so this is what I noted down for myself in the future.

Over 3 years, my schedule has been 16 hours of work and (maybe) 8 hours of rest. And it is necessary, we had to plan the next catch ups, who to meet next, creating processes for staff to follow, etc. There are a lot of work that come with having employees as well as keeping the leads coming in. Mental breakdowns are expected. And I sometimes feel overwhelmed with all of these. I am scared, but I can still push on. Most people will not understand this, and I don’t bother telling them.

Lockdowns have been really good for me. I don’t need any excuse to go out on weekends, no planned dinners and other social conventions. Over 18 months, I have been able to focus on growing Digital Envision, and it will be better next month, next year and beyond. While most people complain, I kept my mouth shut, and keep pushing through all barriers.

Summary

2 words to summarize the above lessons: empathy and sacrifice.

I learned how to read people when they need something from me, and it is not pleasant most of the time. I get used to it, but still it stings everytime.

When you’re working to provide for your kids, you would do anything to keep them happy. I have the same feeling when it comes to Digital Envision. There is no compromise to that, and it makes me happy.

In the Final part I will talk about how I interact with other business people and the opportunities that I captured.

“Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it.” ― Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

By Tuan Nguyen

Digital Envision Logo

What I learned after 3 years doing business – part 1

People say that over 50% businesses fail after 2 years, and over 90% fails after 5 years. Given that Digital Envision Pty. Ltd. has been running for over 3 years, it’s time to look back and reflect on the lessons learned.

Tl; dr;

  • Start from scratch is a lot heavier than purchase existing businesses.
  • Building contacts and networks takes time, A LOT of time.

How did we start?

The journey begins in September, 2019. A friend of mine worked for a clinic and the IT company who supported the clinic went out of business. She asked me whether I knew another IT company. Coincidentally, I was planning to participate in an event called Startup Insider, which was a Shark Tank – like event. “Right now I don’t know, but give me a week and I’ll send you the details of an IT company.” – I told my friend.

In 1 week, my business partner and I created everything from nothing. We registered the business name, created the profile website, created a brochure representing our services, basically everything needed to present to the clinic. And we got that contract the week after. It was simply just maintaining and further developing a few WordPress websites, nothing too special. However, part of me was surprised of how fast one can build up a company just like that. All we needed was the will to do.

So we got our first client, how did we get our second one? This was difficult for both of us, but we managed to get 2 more small projects from the first client as well as the employer of my business partner. However, both of us were just working on this company part time, there was no commitment and therefore the sales became rarer and rarer. And because of a misunderstanding from within the company, my business partner got fired and we faced the first opportunity of having him doing full time for DE.

Everything changed.

He started doing full time for DE. I introduced him to BNI and we decided to join under web development category. We started the most difficult time of our company, survival. BNI has been really important for our growth, my business partner spent a lot of time making connections and joined meetings with business owners in BNI. I did a lot less networking than him due to working full time for Adslot still. I was in charge of all technical aspects and around this time we had our first staff, a general admin and a developer.

That was a lot of work for 2 amateurs trying to start a small business. Looking back on that, it was good that we started from scratch. We now understand what needs to be done to build the business from ground up. However, next time, we will look around first and try to buy an established business instead of growing from scratch.

Growing business networks

Like I said before, BNI has been a key factor for our growth. However, it took us a year and a half to finally see the fruits. Through the first and second lockdown in Melbourne, everything froze and we managed to get most of the grants, which were tremendously helpful. We had barely enough to pay our employees, while continuing to conduct meetings with more and more people within BNI networks.

After a while, we made some people think of us whenever their clients said they needed a website or a mobile application. And it all started to explode, especially in the first half of 2021. Before that, we had doubts on whether this actually works. We had a hard time discussing on whether we needed to extend BNI membership because we didn’t see anything fruitful at that time. But we persevered on that chosen path. Since then, we joined 2 more business networks, one being Victorian Chamber of Commerce, where we had the opportunity to meet with the politicians and listen to their plans ahead; another one is Club of United Business, which we found extremely helpful on our path of building a better business.

Zoom networking meeting
Me at the top left corner in a meeting from Victorian Chamber of Commerce

After talking to people who referred us business, I realized that it is crucial to keep in touch with the key referral partners, as they need to remember us first thing when they hear anyone talking about needing our services. If they don’t remember us at that time, most likely other company took our place in their mind. This aligns well with one of BNI’s principle: be visible. And we will continue to be visible in all of our networking events, by participating in the conversations, people will remember you and your services.

Summary

If someone asks me to sum up my experience on the above lessons, I have 2 words only: decisive and persevere. We saw an opportunity, we took the leap of faith. Business partner and I all agree that I have a lot of patience when it comes to business matters. And so far, it worked out for us.

In Part 2 I will discuss 2 more lessons about people management and work-life balance.

“Be decisive. A wrong decision is generally less disastrous than indecision.” – Bernhard Langer

By Tuan Nguyen

New normal – are we fked? – Part 3

Last 2 blogs are about my observations, and this one will be about my assumptions and actions to deal with this “new normal”

Tl; dr;

Assumptions

  • The pandemic is here to stay, maybe downgrade to a seasonal flu.
  • People will be working remotely more.
  • There will be financial/economic consequences after we get out of the pandemic status.

Actions

  • (Try to) ignore the news that is not related to my goal(s).
  • Keep a consistent daily schedule.
  • Research and prepare for future real estate investments.
  • Improve Digital Envision and VA For Everyone businesses.

Assumption – COVID-19 is here to stay

cat with cute eyes

Since September 2020, when we just got out of the longest lockdown in Melbourne, I started to expect that the pandemic will not be gone any time soon. We have made great progress on vaccinations, but as long as there are still a significant population who are not immune, we still face the chance of mutation and therefore, outbreaks. Not to mention people are irrational and there is always a thirst for physical connections. Which is why I was not surprised when there were other lockdowns and outbreaks afterwards, as they are all expected in my mind.

With that being said, we are living in the best time in history. All previous pandemic experienced a lot more cases and a lot more death. Black Death plague in the 1300s, it killed over 30% of Europe’s populations. Spanish Flu in the 1900s, which infected 500 millions people and 100 millions people died. We should be grateful that we are in a much better place now.

Assumption – Working remote will be more common

work from home meme

With social distancing rules applied, offices cannot put as many people like they could before. There is a chance that some of the workforce will be working remotely as a norm. This will change a lot in the professional services industries. I am still unsure if blue-collar industries will be affected or not.

I have been working from home since March 2020 and my personal experience is that sometimes I get distracted of certain issues in the house, therefore reducing my performance. Moreover, the line between work and life fades when I work from home. Long term it may lead to work-life unbalance, which is not what anyone wants.

Therefore my thought is that we will come back to the office part-time instead of full-time. How many days? I don’t know. People are still trying to figure out the balance.

Assumption – There will be an economy consequences

frog meme

Since the government has to publish a lot of fiscal as well as monetary policies to support businesses as well as citizens during this time. There will be a time when we need to pay back what we spend today. Will it come any time soon? I don’t know. For now everyone is happy because their asset values are climbing up day by day, week by week. Who cares about the downturn, right?

I am no economist, and surely everyone has their own judgement about the future. I only want to ensure that my future is somewhat predictable in financial term.

Action – focus on what matters

yoda on focus teachings

We have too much distractions today. Our attention has become a currency that every business out there try to buy. This is why advertising businesses are so successful. They broker those deals.

We all know that to be good at something, we need to spend a lot of attention to it. Therefore, I decided to block out all news and information that are not relevant to my goals and my interests. This started when we started going into lockdown last year (March 2020).

I realized that if there was something really, really bad, I would know it from my friend and business circle. So I don’t need to read the news to know about it first hand. People have the need to share disastrous news anyway. We had a tiny earthquake a few days ago for like 20 seconds and the whole social media is already flooded with it for a few days. As a result, I unfollowed all news site, drop my email subscriptions to minimum, and only check social media during my breaks throughout the day.

This frees up time for me to do things that I deem more important to me. I started to spend more time cooking, do some exercising (not much but I keep it consistent), improving important relationships and working on my business. I also started to research the spirituality topic and find it very useful to keep me stay in my track. Through my spiritual journey, I feel at peace with Death, when the time comes, I will welcome it and walk along side with Death like an old friend. But I know that I can still contribute to Life, so I have a strong faith that until I cease to prove my usefulness, I’m not going anywhere. This helps me stay calm during life and death situations.

Action – research

During this time, I read a lot of books related to real estate investments and do researches on them. All to prepare for the case when there is an economy down turn. My patience is somewhat higher than average, so I believe that I will be able to wait for a good deal to strike.

Researching is not an easy thing to do. I need to keep an open mind, as well as managing my risk level to figure out which assets can be comfortable for me to hold long term. To me, anything that is less than 5 years is considered short term, 5-15 years are medium term, and longer than 15 years are long term holding. Obviously I would like most of my assets in the 15+ years. Therefore a thorough research is required before I jump into a new investment deal.

Action – work on my business

Lately I decided to quit a high paying job to fully work on my business, which is a big decision because now I only get paid for half of what I used to get. However I get to work for myself, and it is really a different world to me. I worked 2 jobs for the last 2 years and it was time to eliminate one thing in life and fully focus on the other one.

The businesses are flourishing, in both Digital Envision and VA For Everyone. I believe as a business we can hit 20 staff by the end of the year, probably more. We are still small but our growth has been great in the last Financial year. And there is a different world when it comes to business finance. I am looking forward to taking advantage of it. This financial way will help me purchase more and more real estate assets in the future. And who knows, I may dabble in other investment assets as well.

Summary

I believe that everyone must have a plan for the future. Sadly most of us walking around with no idea about tomorrow. Is it the lack of education? Is it just human nature? I don’t know. But the fact is that we are irrational creatures, and logical thinking is basically unnatural to us. It takes a lot of courage to actually follow the plan we set out for a better future.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” ― Albert Einstein

By Tuan Nguyen

New normal – are we fked? – Part 2

Let’s talk about what I see in other people when we are all put into an unexpected situation.

Tl; dr;

Most people I know have negative thoughts about the future. They all have different ways to deal with the pandemic.

  • Some withdraw into their self-built containers where they just wait for the storm to pass.
  • Others break the rule repetitively to go where they want, do what they want, and justify it as freedom of choice.
  • Some others pursue new habits, hobbies.
  • Only a tiny portion of people that I know, who can and commit to take advantage of the circumstances.

The hibernators

Source: libraryvisit.org

As the name that I just made up suggested, this type of people will create a safe haven for themselves and stay there until everything is over. And as long as they are comfortable, staying out of troubles and other issues that are happening, it’s all good right?

I am lucky enough to surround myself with friends who have stable jobs and income. They are generally did great in university, being respected in their fields, and therefore secured jobs and in some cases, career. It is understandable that when the whole pandemic happened, and if they are not being affected by the economy, then defensive cocoon is definitely an appropriate choice to go. (Defensive cocoon is a term in chess where you just put all the pieces next to your king to weather the enemy’s attacks).

It is quite easy to spot these people, especially with limitation in travels and reason to go out. Some behaviours include:

  • Being lazy to go out (within the rules), and if going out, they are the ones who look at the time first in the group.
  • Avoid drastic changes, even if they know it’s right for them. Changes can be relationships, jobs, place to live, etc.
  • Often use the phrase: “Once we get out of this…” Every exciting things are pushed into the future, leaving all other things in the present.

I think it is a perfectly reasonable way to deal with the crisis. However, there are little contributions from these people to other people, or to the humankind as a whole. But at the end, they may survive, and that is important.

The rule-breakers

Let’s put aside the anti-vax and anti-mask people, since they generally fall into this category. In this section, I only want to talk about those who break the rules in a more subtle way, but still think they are in the right.

One thing to note is that I have done breaking the rules as well. This is only what I observe from myself and from other people. Most common things that we do is that despite curfews and restrictions, we find every ways to get out of the house, even though it’s not deemed necessary. And we tell ourselves things such as:

  • I can’t stay at home, I’m an outgoing person.
  • It’s only a few hours.
  • I just want to have some fresh air, I didn’t come into contact with anyone.
  • I have work permits, they can’t fine me. (my all time favourite, also apply people who has permits to do charity works)
  • I have freedom and rights, noone can restrain me.

My thought on this is, it is somewhat selfish to justify going against the rules to satisfy oneself the “need” to go out. The 3rd and 4th lockdown in Melbourne happened partly because of the one unlucky person who did exactly that.

So, if you don’t want to break rules, or get tired doing so, what else could you do?

The hobbyists

“I am experimenting something new”, “I just started on the thing that I’ve always wanted.”, “I plan to do this and that”. These are the typical sentences that I hear my friends say every now and then in the last 18 months. And it is quite exciting and beneficial to start a new hobby or a new business idea. But I have some concerns when certain signals appear. Considering this scenario: a person who has never touched anything musical, suddenly announced that they want to start on not one, but two different musical instruments. Or a person who has never started a business, and then plans to start 2 different businesses within a span of 6 months. Something doesn’t add up here.

My hypothesis is that these people are just looking for something, anything, to distract them from the real issues. Most common ones are binge-watching movies and TV-series, but I purposely exclude them from this category. I only want to look at people who start something new during this time. The truth is that to build an actual hobby or a business, you need to focus on doing just that one thing. Juggling multiple things at once will either exhaust you, or you will end up with nothing done, because everything is half-baked.

This is me speaking from experience, I used to do a lot of different things in my free time, all at once, e.g. building electrical circuits, playing guitar, playing piano, rubik speed-solving, etc. And let me tell you, I ended up knowing a little of everything, but nothing to be proud of. I would rather do one thing and be an expert in it.

From the observation, it seems like these people does not have any goal in life. They simply live and go with the flow. “You Only Live Once” mentality. People with goals behave differently. They are focused on one thing at a time and do not stray from it. This is why those people are quite boring to talk to sometimes. As all they know is that one thing and you will end up listening to the same thing all the time when you talk to them. But those people are the ones that actually make things happen and change the world around them.

The world changers

These are the ones that I admire the most. They believe that it doesn’t matter what is happening out there, how they respond to it is the only thing that matters. They happily adapt to the new circumstances, and even thrive from it. They rarely listen to news, but they know everything related to the topics that interest them. World changers believe in helping people get what they want, and in turn, they receive what they deserve.

I happen to be a part of a small group of people who strive to be the best at what they do. We all have our own goal written down and carried with us all the time. It’s the compass that guide us when we feel lost. The written text prevents us from doing anything that does not contribute to achieving that goal. I pretty much have the text in front of me all the time when I’m working. And when I’m walking outside, the tiny piece of paper is felt in my pocket as a constant reminder.

It’s not that hard to spot these kind of people. They can always recite their goal in a 1-2 sentences without even thinking. The best thing is that I always have a feeling when I talk to different people, whether they are focused on their goal or not. Sadly I have not encounter anyone outside the group who is determined to get to their destination, by any means necessary. But maybe one day I will.

Summary

People have different ways to respond to the change in circumstances. Above are just 4 different ones that I observed. Without a doubt, I want to be one of the world changers, because if I only live once, why not lead a life that affects as many people as I can in a positive way.

In Part 3, I note down a summary of what have I done in the last 18 months that contribute to my goal, and how I ignore almost all news that are non-related to my goal.

“Clarity and simplicity are the antidotes to complexity and uncertainty.” – General George Casey

By Tuan Nguyen

New normal – are we fked? – Part 1

Just my thoughts on the “new normal” that has been talked about in both social media as well as government official announcements. What I observed other people’s behaviour after a year and a half under COVID-19 influence, and how did I respond to the same circumstance.

Tl; dr;

I think we are heading towards a cliff as a whole. Big explosions are expected to go off at anytime. However, it depends on what can I do if and when they happen.

I choose to hold close to my investment assets, and not selling anything as of now. Holding as much cash as I can in the offset accounts, while looking for more investment opportunities. I will only expand my portfolio if I find something that fits my calculations and risk tolerance.

The economy

Did you ever look back 2 years ago, when a 2-litre bottle of milk is $2.00? Now, it is $2.40. Same brand, same bottle. What happened? Did inflation go up so much that we did not even notice? Other food products have gone up too, maybe not 20% in the case of milk, but surely, 10% is the norm. While people are looking, researching on stocks, real estates, cryptocurrencies, other aspects of our lives are also going up at a high pace. And nobody bats an eye.

So why did it happen? According to investopedia, there are 3 forces that may affect the inflation rate of a certain product. Cost-pushing, Demand-pull, and Expansionary Fiscal Policy.

  • Cost-pushing: with the restrictions in travelling as well as worsened relationships with foreign countries, we are not importing as many materials in the last 2 years. As a result, a lot of subsequent products are going up due to the lack of materials. We can see it in the increment of new property builds.
  • Demand-pull: this probably can be observed the most when there are disconcerting news, like the first lockdown in Melbourne last year. People flocks to purchase food, and not surprisingly, toilet papers. We did have some people hoarding them and resell with a higher price. And sadly some people bought the items.
  • Expansionary Fiscal Policy: I strongly believe this is the cause of all food prices going up. With various supports coming from the government, suddenly there is more money in people’s pocket, and they can afford more. Corporations are probably the best people to take advantage of this fact, and they raise the price, just a little. I don’t blame them, if I were in their shoes, I would probably do exactly the same.

However, our economy has not been thriving at all. Lots of money going into people’s hand end up in properties. Let’s consider 2 streams, one is purchasing established properties, the other is purchasing new builds.

  • Established properties: this purchase, in my opinions, does not contribute to the productivity of the whole economy. It’s just moving money, or mostly credits in this instance, from one bank to another. And because the price of properties has been rising, there is more and more credits being created every time properties change hands. Which may lead to the breaking point where people realize that there are just too much debt to pay, and we have a time bomb waiting to explode.
  • New builds: contribute a temporary boost of productivity and jobs, due to the fact that someone has to build the property. However it is not sustainable. Some people will argue that we can keep building houses, but we only have like 30 millions population. Who are you building these properties for? Unless the government has a better migration policies, and hoping that people will flock into Australia, we might not end up where we think.
Source: ABS

Since when are we borrowing to buy properties more than we invest into our business, and therefore the economy???

Employment

I have seen companies who wants to employ an experienced level person for 6 months, but unable to do so. They put their compensation to more than $160,000 per annum but there was no hope. At the end, they needed to source the resource from oversea.

We are facing an issue where most of our senior level employees are from migrations, and not a lot locally. This may be the reason why employment is still high, and even if it’s low, the people who got employed may not worth it. The longer our border restriction is, the companies become more desperate and they will need to either go for offshore resources, or agree to a sub-optimal local one.

I know about this because I’m running a service to help businesses finding their offshore resources. The business is called VA For Everyone. And I talked to a lot of business owners with resounding answers that are similar to what I described above.

Summary

I guess that’s long enough for a rant. The economy and the employment aspects are pretty weird and I manage to take advantage of it by providing people what they need. However if this drags out for another year, I am not sure what is going to happen.

Next part I will share my thoughts on people’s psychology from observing people in my circle.

“You see, but you do not observe” – Sherlock Holmes

By Tuan Nguyen

A cocktail in your hand, and on your wrist

Imagine you’re in a bar, you walk to the bartender and say “Get me something that looks like my watch.”

The bartender looks at your wrist, and say, “A mockingbird, sir?”

You laugh.

He laughs.

Seiko laughs.

Tl; dr;

I bought a Seiko Presage watch for my birthday. It is the most valuable watch in my collection so far.

The watch signifies a milestone in my career, and my life. Looking at it reminds me of that milestone, and in the future, it will be an invaluable memory. And this timepiece will be there to remind me of that.

The watch I bought.

Seiko was my choice of brand when I decide to buy a watch for my birthday. Mainly because I need a dress watch, and it fits my budget.

This watch is part of the Midnight Cocktail collection. There are 5 different designs, which represents 5 different cocktails. I chose the Mockingbird due to the simple design, and suitable for a good dress watch on my wrist.

I almost picked the one that features a whisky-based cocktail, however decided against it because I don’t feel like the face and the strap has the same colour. Maybe in the future when I can ask for a strap replacement, I’ll consider purchasing that kind of watches.

Price differences

It is very hard to track the watch price in the market. The Presage Mockingbird RRP is $699, but a quick google search and you can find various pricing from different dealers.

I have been browsing the market for a while, and have my eyes on a few other watches from different brands, such as Rolex and Omega. However the price is surprisingly unpredictable and there are a lot of people buying/selling for a profit.

Google image for Seiko Presage Mockingbird prices
Source: google.com.au

I ended up picking the one in Myer, mainly because I can obtain the watch in store and can inspect it immediately. It was an exciting day when I picked up the watch and tried it on my wrist.

The feeling

Wearing this watch is very comfortable, the strap and face is not too big to overwhelm my wrist. It sometimes feels like I don’t wear a watch at all, very lightweight. I feel a lot more confident, more empowered when I have it with me.

The great thing is that there is no battery, it recharges itself through my movements. So theoretically, it can run with me until the end of days, and plus 2 more days. 😀

Symbols of the watch

So what is this one signifies?

Well, it is my 30th birthday. And people have an expectation that these kind of round-number birthdays need to be celebrated differently. So as part of the excuse to mask my true reason, I can simply use this one as an important milestone of my life journey.

For the true reason? I would like to only disclose that to only people that I trust. So if you see me going around wearing this watch, it is an important event. I will treat this as a special jewellery for special occasions.

Summary

This is the first watch that I bought for myself, and for sure it will not be the last. I am somewhat of a watch enthusiast, and I will continue collect other timepieces as part of my life journey.

By Tuan Nguyen

2020

Discussion – My goals for 2020

Setting goals is a good way to start the new year. Here are the outline of what I plan for my life in 2020.

Tl; dr;

  • Straighten my finance.
  • Purchase at least 1 more property.
  • Grow emergency fund to 3 months living expense.
  • Write at least 52 blog posts.
  • “Challenge” gather a good deal to present to investors.

First thing’s first….

financial review

Reviewing my current personal financial situation, I think it is in a mess currently, with loans are everywhere and there are no system around them. So for 2020, I want to restructure my finance to have a better interest rate on my loans, better visuals on how the investments are going.

At this moment, my loans are as follow.

LoanInterestNotes
Home loan (now investment)3.85%fixed 2 years, ending 04/12/2020
Investment loan4.16%a bit high at the moment, can be lowered to a considerable amount

I’m aiming to have them lowered, considering there may be further rate cut from the RBA going into mid 2020. I would consider fixing the interest if the RBA lowered the cash rate to 0.25.

The good thing from low interest rate is that my cashflow from the properties will be much better and I can save them up to invest in more properties.

Property purchase

property investment

As some of you may know, I want to be a professional investor, concentrated to properties. So in 2020, I will be active to find a suitable property for me to purchase, and looking to renovate it to make some instant equity, as well as structuring it to at least neutral geared after tax.

I have been reading up a lot about the topic. And it is challenging to not fall into “paralysis by analysis” syndrome. Basically it means that researching too much leads you to the state where you see risks everywhere and do not start taking action.

By leveraging the young age that I have, mistakes can be fixed. I will prepare myself to purchase at least another property, fixing it up, putting it up for rent, and reconsider my financial position to see if I can redo it all over again. If I find problems in any steps, there will always be people who are keen to help.

Emergency fund

emergency fund

This is what I learned from various books like The Barefoot Investor, The Total Money Makeover, etc. I have grown my emergency fund to be sufficient for about 1.5 months now. And the goal for 2020 will be growing it to at least 3 months of my monthly expense.

This way I have a good cushion to fall back on, should any unexpected events show up. I will just park it in a high saving account (I use ING, with their high saving account at 1.95% pa).

Blog posts

Fullstack developer illustration

Of course I will continue writing blogs. It is entertaining and providing me a way to memorize what I learned, as well as sharing my knowledge and perspective to the world.

The goal for 2020 will be writing at least 52 blog posts, or 1 each week. This should be achievable, considering I only spend around 3 hours to create an article.

Upcoming blog posts will focus more on property investments, rather than just technology aspects that I have been posting. I feel like I have absorbed so much knowledge regarding property investment that I should go out and implement, then report my findings to you all.

“Challenge” present a good deal to investors

This is what I would like to try out in 2020. Where I can find an outstanding investment opportunity and gather all information needed. By presenting it to the investors, I hope to raise private funds to buy another property. This is a bonus challenge for myself, and I really hope that I can achieve it.

Summary

Well that is a lot of goals that I set for myself in 2020, and we have already finished the first week of 2020. I better be fast before the year ends.

By Tuan Nguyen

career achievement

Retrospective – What I achieved in 10 years?

10 years seems to be a long time, however to me, it sometimes happens so fast. Let’s look back and see what I have achieved in the last 10 years, and what I plan for the next decade.

Tl; dr;

What did I do?

  • Arrived in Australia.
  • Finished Bachelor degree.
  • Bought a house, and some investment properties.
  • Visited various places in Australia and the world.
  • Moved to Melbourne and obtained a good income position.
  • Got introduced to financial education.
  • Became an Australian citizen.
  • Founded a company.
  • Found a girlfriend 😀

What am I planning for the next 10 years?

  • Get personal finance organized.
  • Buy more properties :)))
  • Get married.
  • Achieve financial confidence.
  • Give back to the community.
  • Help suitable people to reach financial confidence as well.
  • Travel to various places.

What did I do and achieve in the last 10 years?

I arrived in Melbourne on the 14th of February, 2010. So it is almost 10 years living in Australia. I did a Bachelor degree of Information Technology and had the opportunity to work for IBM as an intern for a total of 5 years (2011 – 2015).

Graduation photo

Funny enough, I did not work there as a programmer, but rather a network engineer (SAN storage engineer). However I did have some opportunities to create automated scripts for the team to use (mainly in daily healthchecking, and storage provisioning).

In 2013, with some helps from my beloved parents, we purchased a property in Ballarat, and I lived there until I moved to Melbourne in 2016. Back then, the property price was $175,000; which we negotiated down to $160,000 and got the property with a small home loan, thanks to the stable income from IBM internship. The broker said it was the smallest one that he filed since he started his career.

In Ballarat, I have the opportunity to make friends with many people and they brought me to various areas that gave me the experience of how Aussies do in their weekends. I’ve been to numerous camping sites, walking tracks, skiing and even went to a scout camp retreat. Ballarat is a small town and there are not many activities, but somehow being with the nature helps me not feeling boring.

Some activities I engaged includes

Skiing

Skiiing

horse riding

Horse riding

spear fishing

Spear fishing

I also travelled to other countries as a tourist, e.g. Italy, Russia. The trips gave me a lot of new perspective, as well as opened my eyes to different cultures that I will express more in future blog posts.

What did I do in Melbourne?

After nearly 7 years in Ballarat (2010 – 2016), I decided to move to Melbourne after securing a better occupation after my granted PR. Funny that it only took me 2 weeks to get accepted as a PHP developer, and another 2 weeks to resign from IBM. So after 4 weeks I jumped from working in Ballarat to commuting and working in Melbourne.

After 9 months of commuting, and every Saturday driving for an hour to Melbourne for inspections, I decided to purchase another property that I called home for the next 4 years.

melbourne home

Since moving to Melbourne, everything exploded. Events happened so fast that looking back now, I probably have grown more after 3 years in Melbourne than the previous time in Ballarat. I got introduced to financial education via the first book I read Rich dad poor dadAfter finishing the book, I got curious and since then have read multiple books on the topic, e.g. Barefoot investor, The Richest man in Babylon, The 4-hour work week, etc. Now I am developing my own financial plan following some of the advice that I learned from the readings.

In 2016, just before I moved to Melbourne, I officially became an Australian citizen after 6 years living and studying. It was a big milestone and opened the doors to multiple opportunities that otherwise blocked for non-citizen.

dual passport

Last but not least, I got a girlfriend :D. She is smart and beautiful and I feel lucky to have her.

MJ and I

What’s my future look like?

First priority will be getting my financial position organized, since I have not had a good structure just yet. Only recently I have consulted several financial planners and see if their expertise align with my goals. 2020 will be a great year and I hope I can secure a good position in the first half of the year.

I have decided that investment properties will be the investment vehicle for me. Therefore buying more suitable properties is crucial to achieve a solid future. From the advice I got, I will need at least 5 Millions worth of net worth to be able to have a splurge life without having to work anymore.

Once I achieve financial confidence, I hope to give something back to the community. Either in the form of charitable funds, or going to exotic places and help people who have less luck than myself.

I also want to help other people who share the same vision for the future to achieve what I have. Once I have the experience, it is definite that I will pass on the knowledge to people. It is better to have more friends that share and achieve the same goals in life.

Marriage pressure is increasing year after year. However I hope that I will get married within the next 10 years. It is a long time so reasonably safe to assume.

Summary

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.” – Matthew Kelly, The Long View

With the above forecast about my future, I am certain that I can achieve a lot more than what have been outlined. I believe that I create my own luck and will take all responsibility for my decisions.

My final question for you is, what did you do in the last 10 years?

By Tuan Nguyen