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

financial review

Financial review – How do I do it?

Every month, I conduct a financial review for myself. I go through what I spent in the last month, making sure that I recognize all transactions and categorize them into different sections. From there I plan my spending for the next month, and have a better forecast for my finance over the next year or so.

Tl; dr;

The steps that I go through (should take less than an hour to do)

  • List out all bank transactions
  • List out all credit card transactions
  • Put the transactions into several categories.
  • Put the final numbers into a spreadsheet.
  • Split the income into the same categories, and move them to corresponding bank accounts.
  • (Quarterly) Review investment portfolio.

You can’t control what you can’t measure

If you aim to achieve financial freedom one day, you need to control your finances. And the only way to control it is to measure what you have done over a period of time. I get paid monthly, so that’s why I do this once a month. I encourage you to do it in conjunction with your pay day.

It is even more important to me because I one day will work full time for my own company, and at the beginning, my income will drop significantly to keep the funding inside the company for growth. That’s why I do need to know how much my expenses are; and from there determine how much I need to take out of my company for living.

I begin the financial review with listing out all bank transactions within the last month in a text document. You don’t need to have the bank statement, just transactions history is fine. Don’t forget your credit card transactions as well. I myself have quite a few bank accounts, so pulling all of them together requires me to log into each and everyone of them at least once a month. I just copy and paste them into a text document. Below is an example.

bank transactions
Bank transactions
transaction text
Transaction list

If you do this step, you’re probably ahead of many many people in terms of financial control. At least you have a rough look at what you spent over a period of time. Therefore it triggers something in your mind, and every change begins with the mind.

Categorize transactions

So, when you have a list of transactions, it’s time to put them into several categories. For me, I follow the Barefoot Investor categorization. You can read more about it in his book.

The categories are as follows:

  • Income: all your income sources (you can split it into salary, reimbursements, side income, etc. if needed)
  • Daily expense: all your necessary living expenses, e.g. food, electricity, gas, water, home loan mortgage payments, etc.
  • Splurge: all your optional expenses, e.g. eat out, TV/internet subscriptions, coffee, etc. Anything that you can live without, but choose not to.
  • Investment: all your investment expenses, e.g. putting money into stock market, purchase of something for work, charity donations, etc. Basically anything that potentially making you money, or at least can claim back on tax.

Note: I don’t count my investment income in this calculations, since I would like to reinvest all of them back into the market. So I keep them in an investment bank account, and only look at that once every 3 months.

The Excel spreadsheet for financial review will look similar to this. I also attach a sample file at the end of this section for you to try out. For people who can use accounting software, I’d recommend Akaunting because it’s free and should be enough for this.

Excel spreadsheet showing financial calculations
Sample Excel financial sheet

Here is the link to the sample document. Each month you just need to add another column to the right, and continue the calculations. Overtime, you can see what’s the average spending is; and from there, calculate your own financial plan. Every year I change to another sheet for clarity purposes.

Plan your expenses

Now you know how much you earn in the last period, it’s time to plan your expense for the next month.

Following The Richest Man In Babylon, I immediately pull 10% of total income into my investment account.

For the first time, I have no average number to plan my expenses, so I can only estimates how much do I spend for each categories. Your last expenses total is a good place to start. The average numbers should be around 6-12 months accumulations to be accurate, which means you need to adjust your plan every month until it becomes stable.

So let’s say your income is $3000.

  • 10% to investment ($300) – put this in a separate account, and review/plan it every quarter.
  • 30% to rent/mortgage ($900) – I split this because I need to measure whether I can move to another rental place, or move back into my own place. You can just put it together with the daily expense.
  • 30% to daily expense ($900) – You will have $900 to buy food and pay various necessary bills.
  • 30% to splurge ($900) – You have $900 to buy all the things you want to buy, no question asked.

The percentage will change based on your own spending habits. However, the aim is that no matter what you spend, at least 10% will need to go into investments for the future. Once the planning is done, move the money into each of their own bank accounts.

Congratulations, you have finished reviewing your financials for the month. In future posts, I’ll share my way of determining the expense a bit more accurately, so that you don’t trip on unexpected bills.

Summary

Financial review, in my mind, is what you must do, not what you want to do. It has to be done regularly so that you have a chance of having a better future. The hard part is doing this repeatedly over a long time. I have done this for almost 2 years now, and my numbers are getting better and better everyday.

By Tuan Nguyen

Experience – Thinking into Results – Week 2

Following up on my week 1 post, this is my experience about knowing-doing gap when I am in the middle of week 2 materials of Thinking Into Results course.

Tl; dr;

Week 2 is all about learning what I can do and what I actually do. Being aware of them helps me to close the gap between what I know and what I do.

  • Most people know a lot but not doing anywhere near their knowledge level.
  • People do things they do not want to do, hence getting results they do not want to get.
  • Only by changing paradigms, you can change your behaviour, which will change your results.

What is the knowing-doing gap?

Bob Proctor introduces the idea of knowing-doing gap, which is the difference between how much a person know, i.e. his/her knowledge, and how much that person is doing. We learn a lot about different things in life, but how often do we actually do it?

For example, I know a lot about the theory of sales and marketing, but am I a good salesman? Far from it. This is my knowing-doing gap that I need to close. There are 60 trillions in US dollar per year that corporations spend on training their staff, helping people to know more. However the missing link here is that we need to help people to DO more.

Why people do what they do?

Imagine someone who needs to get in shape, they have just started dieting and exercise. Then they see their favourite cake. They know that it is not right to eat that cake, it will not help them achieving their goal of getting into a good shape. However most of the time we observe that they will eat the cake anyway.

So why do people know that doing something will harm them, but they do it anyway?

The answer lies in our subconscious mind. It is the way we are programmed to do. Imagine you have been eating excessively in the last 10 years, now suddenly you want to stop doing all that? How would your mind react to it? The subconscious mind resists change. It does not like doing new things. If the current way is safe, why doing something different?

Well, the answer here is that we need to implement a new programming into our subconscious mind, getting it to perceive another way as “safe”. Because only by changing ourselves, we can get different results.

What do I need to work on?

Firstly, I need to work on my concentration ability. I find myself easy to be distracted by mobile phones. So what do I imagine my life will be if I am able to concentrate?

  • I concentrate on the task at hand, and will keep going until it is done.
  • I only access my phone 2 times during work hour, 11am and 4pm.
  • I still have access to the phone to answer phone calls and text messages.
  • I turn off most notifications except phone calls and text messages.
  • I get more done during the day and be more productive.

Secondly, I want to work on my organizational skill. I am aware that I do not have the cleanest apartment in the world. So let’s do something about that.

  • I clean the dishes after cooking and eating.
  • I vacuum the apartment at least once a week.
  • I keep the desk organized with labeled items.
  • I throw away boxes that I no longer need.

Summary

This lesson help me figure out the knowing-doing gap: what are my undesirable results and how to address them. I can see the clarity in my actions now and will follow the new way that leads me to the result I want.

“Do everyday things in a new way to get the brain thinking in new ways.” – Jesse Itzler

By Tuan Nguyen

Experience – Thinking into Results – Week 1

As stated in my previous blog post, I start week 1 of Thinking Into Results program on Monday (31/08/2020). And it is harder than I thought. First lesson is setting a worthy goal, which turns out to be much challenging than expected.

Tl; dr;

  • Setting a clear vision of a goal involves how I feel about the outcome.
  • Being able to clearly “see” the goal proves to be challenging.

Setting a C type goal

3 different types of goals

According to Bob Proctor, there are 3 types of goals.

  • A type goal: something that you can do. For example, you bought a new car 5 years ago. Now you have a desire to purchase another new car. For this goal you already know how to do it. Therefore there is no personal growth attached to the outcome.
  • B type goal: something that you think you can do. For example, your salary is currently $50,000 pa. You set a goal to make $60,000 pa. But this is so small that you already map out steps to be able to achieve it. Negotiating salary, working harder, making yourself noticed by the manager, etc. The point is, you already think that you can do, therefore you have no motivation to do it after a while, and often end up not achieving it.
  • C type goal: something that you want. This does not involve you knowing how to achieve. The point is to clearly see the the target and direct your actions and emotions toward that goal. The path will be laid out along the way.

Vision a goal

The goal has to be in the fantasy realm. I need to use my imagination to “see” this goal. It is easy to say “I want to make 1 million a year in income.” It is much harder to imagine how my life will be when I reach there. The workshop exercises require me to describe how I envision what I want, down to minute details.

The objective is to push my vision down to the subconscious level, which I will learn how to do in future lessons. I will need to repeat the process of finding and defining goals for the next 2 weeks.

Dr. Jordan Peterson has a great view on why do we need to set goals in our lives. And I think it aligns with what I am studying at the moment.

Summary

Starting to know what I want, and envision them in details makes me feel like I have more control. Control over my life and my circumstances, I feel more powerful and can take on responsibilities for getting what I want, no matter the circumstances.

I will continue on this path and see how it turns out.

“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” – Napoleon Hill

By Tuan Nguyen

Discussion – Pareto distribution

Recently I came across a lecture from Professor Jordan Peterson. In this lecture, he talks about Pareto distribution and comparing it with the Normal distribution. There are massive distinctions between these two and I think it is interesting to note down some of them.

Tl; dr;

  • Pareto distribution deals with creative domains, or human creativity. Where the majority of work is produced by a small number of people.
  • In a domain, the square root amount of people produces half of the product.
  • Given a randomized trading environment, the trading activity always end with one player holds all the money.

Pareto distribution

In contrast to the normal distribution, where most activities occurs in the norm, Pareto distribution argues that the most activities occurs around a very small set of units.

Galton board
Normal distribution visualized
pareto distribution
Credit: mode.com
Visualize the 80-20 rule with Pareto distribution

One thing that we may have heard before, 80% of the work is produced in 20% of the time. This is the most common example of the Pareto distribution. One thing to note is that this distribution works best in creativity domain, where things are not certain.

There is a formula, called Price’s law, is used to determine the amount of creative work. This formula is derived from Pareto distribution theory. The formula states that given X people working on a creativity project, square root of X people produce half of the progress, while others produce the remaining half.

For example, if 10 people are assigned to do a project, then 3 people will deliver half of the project, and 7 people deliver the other half. This does not make sense when I first read about the theory, but experimental results clarify the point. An amazing thing about this law is that if 10,000 people work on a project, we only need 100 people to deliver half of the project. It becomes ridiculous at a large scale.

Applying Pareto distribution to the Game of Money

With the same understanding of the distribution, and project it to how wealth are concentrated only in a few individuals. We can clearly see the Pareto Distribution at work.

Professor Peterson talks about an example, like Monopoly, we start with 4 players, and at the end, 1 player ends up with all the money and wins. And even if we start again and again, only 1 person is the winner. With Pareto distribution theory, in a randomized environment, and we apply randomized trading rules, the game always end with 1 player having all the money.

I did not believe it.

So, I decided to write a small web app to test the theory, what’s programming is for right?

To my surprise, it always end with one player holding all the money. Which player is not important, the important thing is that we know the end result will take a shape like that.

You can access the game here https://lightbringer1991.github.io/trading-game/

Summary

Knowing about Pareto distribution, I finally have an answer to the question: “Why can’t we distribute wealth evenly to everyone, would the society be better off that way?”. The simple answer to that, is, even if we do the distribution, over time all the wealth will concentrate to a small number of people anyway.

“The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” – Aristotle

By Tuan Nguyen

Experience – Thinking into Results – Prologue

Last week I decided the participate in a personal development course called Thinking into Results from Proctor Gallagher institute. Below is a recording of my activities after I signed up, but before starting the course.

Tl; dr;

  • Waking up earlier is not an easy thing, but it frees up a lot more time to work with.
  • Start thinking about my long term goals proves to be the hardest thing I have ever done.

Why start my day early?

early bird gets the worm

Throughout various books about success building and personal developments, there is one thing that resonates with me. “If you want to be like other successful people, you need to mimic what they are doing.”. It was repeated to me by the mentor and apparently one habit that the successful people I read about is they start their day much earlier than other people.

The mentor proposed waking up at 5am in the morning, however I have only managed to waking up at 6am for the last few days. Slowly but surely transitioning to a lesser goal of starting my day at 5am.

Thinking about long term goals

short term, long term street sign

Have I ever thought about what I wanted to become in the future? Maybe, but I did not have a vivid picture of the future me. And I still don’t. People take quite a bit of time to develop the image and that is why the first few weeks of the course I will learn how to do that.

I attempted to start building my ideal image and it turned out to be much harder than I expected. Surely imagining myself being a successful person is easy, but how to imagine what that persona (he) think, what he eats, how he treats people, what exactly his day is going to be like. That is a real challenge.

Summary

Starting to know the importance of growth is quite revealing for me. Personal development is a vague topic that is not discussed in households. Only by knowing that you need to improve yourself to make your life better, you start looking for answers. And I hope Thinking into Results will deliver that answer.

“You can have more than you’ve got because you can become more than you are.” – Jim Rohn

By Tuan Nguyen