Buy Your Freedom. Breakout from the Self-Made Prison

Chained
Chained

The year is coming to an end. Some of you may receive a year-end bonus for a job well done. How are you going to spend your money? My advice is to buy your freedom. 

Most of us live in a self-made prison. The prison door is unlocked, but we cannot leave. I am a typical case of SITCOM – Single Income Two Children and Oppressive Mortage. We have volunteered to put ourselves in prison in the name of family. 

We are holding to a job that we dislike just because it pays the bill. 

It does not have to be like this. The prison door is unlocked; there is no correctional officer. We can leave anytime. The outside world is scary, but it has wonders and dangers. I know I am too afraid to leave the prison. 

Are you willing to rot in your prison cell while wondering about the world has to offer? The employer would want you to stay because you are eager to exchange five days of slavery for two days of fake freedom. When you are old and desperate, you receive your walking papers because your presence is not aligned with the company direction anymore. 

I refuse to live my life in an unlock prison. I want to buy my freedom. Do not buy things. Buy freedom.  

It is not easy. We are doing something that is outside the prevailing beliefs. Other prisoners, including your loved ones, will tell you it is a bad idea. They inform you that they love you, and you should not expose yourself to such risk. Please stay inside the prison, at least you are sheltered from the weather. 

Hold their hands. Look straight into their eyes. Tell them that you will buy your freedom and you will show them how. 

Invest in yourself. The investment that offers the best return is investing in yourself. I am a book lover. I would give up a meal or a piece of new clothing for a book that I think will change my life. Not all books are 100% useful. If one sentence inside a book can change my life, I think it is money well spent. Give yourself the gift of knowledge. Knowledge will change how you see the world and how you work. If you are feeling trapped in your work, education can help you to escape. 

Cut back on buying material goods. I am not asking you to live like a monk. Instead, I am asking you to cut back on expenses that you do not need. If you enjoy an exotic meal over other materials goods, you should aggressively cut back on other materials goods and splurge on exotic meals. You will appreciate the experience of a good meal more than other things. There is no shame in admitting you enjoy something or experience that speak to you. The important thing is, you must know what you want and cut back on what you do not need. Freedom is not about having all the options. It is about choosing what you want.

I try not to spend money on things that I do not need. If I am buying something, for example, a piece of clothing. I make a point to throw or donate one clothing to make way for the new garment. This behaviour forces me to think deeper before I make any spontaneous purchase. Materialy speaking, we are living far healthier and wealthier than our grandparents. We do not need anything more to survive. 

You buy your freedom by buying fewer things. 

Volunteer your time for a useful cause. Spent one hour a week by helping out at any religious centre or community hall. These places always need excellent talents, such as you to help out. It is a perfect opportunity to practice your skill such as communication, coordination, budgeting and even cooking. You gain credibility through volunteering. You also make friends that will last a lifetime. When the time is right, opportunities will appear by itself. Sometimes freedom is not bought with money but with time and effort.

I have volunteered in feeding the homeless. No matter how difficult or frustrated I feel about my life or at my job, after each event, I go home and sleep like a baby. I did not change the world, but I know someone is not sleeping with an empty stomach. Having the ability to sleep well is freedom. 

Manage your money wisely. When you receive a paycheck, immediately pay yourself. It is not by spending the money. It is by automatically putting the money into an account that you do not usually access. The cash is untouchable. It could be for your children education or your first house. You may think that the money you saved is insignificant. It is tempting to buy something or go on holiday. No matter how little amount, you should keep the money. Your money will grow over time.

You can use the money for investment to generate passive income. With a passive income, you will have a lower dependency on your regular paycheck. With that, you have more options with your career choices, and you may choose to walk away from a job that you dislike. 

A millionaire in the United States on average has about seven different sources of income. You have worked hard for the money. It is time for the money to work hard for you. 

The price of freedom is not low. You will encounter setbacks. It is tempting to give up and remain in prison. Stay in the job that you hate; at least it helps to pay the bill. Is this the life that you want?

You have to dig deep. Plan your escape and take action. Life is never meant to be easy. You will suffer, and you will cry. It is the journey to buy back your freedom and break out from your self-made prison is life-defining. I do not guarantee happiness when you finally escaped the self-made prison. What I can guarantee is a life that is more fulfilling than a nine to five hamster wheel grind. 

How to Find Time and Ways to Study While Working

I get nervous whenever there is an announcement on company restructuring. Someone is going to lose their job. Loyalty is underrated. The company only assess our skill and its alignment with the business strategy. Any misalignment will be deal with swiftly.  We have to find time to improve and stay relevant in the job market.

Anyone who draws a paycheck is at risk of losing their jobs. Many of us may feel trapped in our jobs. We put up with it because we need it to put food on the table. The only solution is to skill up and grow beyond the job. 

As a full-time employee and a full-time dad, to find time to study is not easy. I have signed up to many online courses but I never got around completing any of the courses. 

My excuse is I could not find time to study.  

I have decided to challenge my excuse. I will find time to study. In about two weeks, I have completed multiple short courses in LinkedIn Learning

Some find my method and dedication extreme. It is to the point of obsession. There is a worry of burning out. Yet, the more I studied. The more engaged I get into the act of studying. 

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In any journey, you must know why you are doing it? By having the correct mindset, you will find time to do the necessary work. 

In my 30s, I have wasted most of my life believing that I can achieve success by merely thinking about it. I hang out with bad friends. We did nothing but bad-mouthing our jobs and life. It was only a series of retrenchment that woke me up. I may lose my job and I do not have a plan B.

Time is ticking. The race is to improve is on! There is no turning back. I cannot gain back the time that I have wasted. I can only keep moving forward.

We cannot be greedy. If we aim to study as many hours as possible. We will soon burn out, frustrated and quit. The aim is just to improve 1% a day. In 72 days, we would have double our knowledge.  

Here are my methods. My methods may not work for you. I encourage you to explore and feel free to share in the comments section.

I start my Monday on a Sunday night. I plan out the work that I need to do and the study topics that I want to cover for the week. On LinkedIn Learning, the courses are broken into multiple videos. Base on each video, I know how much time I need to finish and understand the video’s content. 

I am a person who is easily distracted. I cannot study in a group or an environment is highly engaging. I choose to study alone. I prefer to lock myself in a quiet room and do the necessary study. If I have to hide in the kitchen or the toilet, I will do it! For as long as I can study. 

You may prefer to study in a group setting. The choice is yours. You have to be honest with yourself that you are finishing your studies. 

I am a morning person. I guard the first waking hour with my life. The first hour is my time. That’s the time where I find myself most engaged and feeling refresh. My first hour is always a mixture of study, exercise and meditation. By completing two or more of the task, I feel good about myself and I am set for the day. 

What is the time where you can be most effective to study? Guard it with your life and schedule that time for your studies. 

I have been practising intermittent fasting for about two years. I would only eat between 1 pm and 9 pm. I may feel hungry during late morning but I noticed I can think and concentrate better. I do not feel sleepy in the afternoon. 

While everyone in the office is away for lunch or coffee break. I would fire up my learning program. By skipping breakfast and coffee break, I found time to study. 

LinkedIn Learning has a goal tool that allows you to set the hours that you want to study for the week. Make use of the tool. Gamify the whole learning experience. Every week, I would try to match or exceed the study hours. When you have the motivation, you will find time to study.

You may not agree with this approach. I always have two topics in the pipeline. Whenever I am tired of one topic, I will switch to another. It takes twice the amount of time to master one topic. Nevertheless, I find this approach effective. If I have to force myself to study when I am bored. I am not able to retain anything that I have learned. 

There is never a perfect moment to study or to chase your dream. Therefore you should not wait for the elusive perfect moment. If I have pockets of time for as much as 10 minutes. I would take the opportunity to write or study. There are certain topics would require longer concentration. I will have to schedule a time for it. It is normally early in the morning or after the kids are all asleep.

The best way to learn is to share your knowledge. I write about what I learned through my blog and LinkedIn. Writing helps me to gather my thoughts and challenge my understanding. Without writing it down, I do not know how much I have grasped the idea. 

By sharing my ideas, I can reach out to like-minded individuals. 

These individuals are chasing the same dream as me. They offer opportunities to network and provide valuable feedback on my work. Getting feedback is not for the faint-hearted. You put your ideas and hard work for the world to see. The feedback will come back hard and fast. It may not be anything that you want to hear but necessary to take heed. You have to suspend your ego when asking for feedback. It is better to have a bruised ego than not improve at all.

These are all the methods that I have used to find time to study and improve my knowledge. It has served me well. I encourage to dig deep and explore within you. Have faith that you can learn new skills and remain relevant in this ever-changing world. Ultimately you will find the time and put in the effort if you want it bad enough. 

Gain More By Sharing

For those who want to have a quality network or quality audience. LinkedIn is the perfect platform to get connected with professionals who are like you.
How do you stand out from a noisy and large crowd? In fact, how do you attract the correct group of people’s attention?

The keyword is “sharing”.

In LinkedIn, I would share technology news, productivity ideas and lifehacks that I find interesting.

I would use a tool called Buffer to schedule my postings. This tool helps me to stay engaged with my audience, especially on days where I am busy and could not do any postings.

Lately, I have participated in LinkedIn’s Daily Rundown. The editors share a daily writeup that made up of three pieces of news and a quote from a business leader.

I would take part in the discussion and share comments that I believe I can contribute to the writeup. I have been contributing to the writeup for four days.

Linkedin view
Linkedin view

The result is obvious. The number of views of my profile increased by 25%. I have also gained two new connections.

Does the increase in views and connections bring me immediate rewards? Probably not. However, by keeping myself relevant and taking part in the discussion, it helps me to keep studying and stay relevant to the industry.

If I never needed help or contact. I know I can to rely on my LinkedIn connections.

Does sharing work outside of LinkedIn? Yes! The act of sharing is the greatest gift. You can share your time by helping out at the local community hall. You can share your expertise on Quora. You can share knowledge with colleagues or classmates.

Through sharing, you know your knowledge gaps and you can improve on it.

The world does not owe anyone anything. We have to fight for what we want. Before we can receive what we want. We got to share it. Through sharing, we get recognition. We become the go-to person. By being the go-to person, opportunities will come our way.

See the world in abundance, and you will receive far more than you gave.

When You are Not Detail Oriented

Work
Work

Anyone who has held a job would go through an annual evaluation. It is a time where the manager would evaluate the employee’s annual performance.

What scares me the most is the feedback for being “not detail-oriented”. By being not detail-oriented means getting send for more training on processes. There will be quick hacks such as using check-list. The work would be under constant scrutiny in the name of compliance and audit. Maybe, the person can produce work that has sufficient details.

Not being detailed oriented is not a process problem. It is a problem in mindset. It is a problem where a person is not interested in the given work.

A person who claims that he is bad with numbers but can remember all the stats of his favourite sports. Is the person really bad at numbers? Or merely an excuse for not having the interest?

If the person shows passion and interest, the person would be detailed-oriented.

When you find yourself not having the depth that you supposed to have in your work or any task. It is time for you to evaluate whether the work is still important to you? If the answer is no, it is time for you to move on. Life is too short for anyone to work in anything that does not give us any inspiration.

Are You the Cheapest Most Qualified Employee?

Cheapest Most Qualified
Cheapest Most Qualified

How does a business make money? They maximise profit and minimize cost. To a business, an employee would be considered as a cost. Employees who are not aligned with the business strategy will be let go.

Cruel? That’s the reality of life.

As an employee, we are paid to be compliant and play to the tune of the organization. Nothing wrong with that choice. You got to ask yourself whether it is the life that you want? To be a cog of a huge organization. Exchange 5 days of prison for 2 days of freedom. You can be creative but not too creative because many of us are not paid to be creative.

If you still have a job or you are being hired. Chances are you are the cheapest of most the qualified employee.

You can live life on your own term. The door of your prison is not locked. If you enjoy writing. Write. If you enjoy going to the great outdoors. Go to the great outdoors. Document your work. Share your work and create value that truly belongs to you.

When you have enough reach. Enough people who notice your work. You will no more be the cheapest most qualified employee. You will be fully valued and appreciated.

How to Manage Two Jobs Without Burning Out

Stressed
How to Manage Two Jobs without Burning Out

Doing one job is already challenging. Doing two jobs are literally double the challenge and stress. No doubt modern life has created a lot of conveniences. Yet the demands in life has added more pressure to family commitments.

It is common to hold two jobs just to keep the family in order. If you are one of them. I applaud your conviction to provide to your family.

I have the experience to hold two jobs. I am constantly tired. I am constantly worried stressed over work and family.

Family and friends always comment that I am never around. If I did, my mind is in a distant land. I do my best to cope. Here are some things that I did.

Exercise. I always find time to exercise. A few sets of push-up or burpees will suffice. The intention is to keep the blood flowing, releasing the happy hormone and get some oxygen into the brain. I would feel better and sleep better.

The human body is designed to move. Find time to move and get some sweat rolling down from your forehead.

Practise gratitude. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed by work stress. Sometimes I bring the work stress home and let it on my family. It was only an un-employed friend remarked that I am lucky to have two jobs while he has been searching for nearly a year. He woke me up. Since then, I write down things that I am grateful for on a daily basis.

Today I grateful for my cup of tea, the eggs that my son cooked for me and the driver who let me into the lane. Just to name a few.

Cut back on alcohol. I used to drink a lot. I drink in the name of stress. I drink in the name of hanging out with friends. I wake up feeling terrible. I despise the world, my jobs because of my hangover. When I had a bad day. I drink even more. It was a vicious cycle.

I cut back on my drinks and focus on enjoying the company of my friends. I still can have a good time and wake up feeling fine.

Sleep. If you find yourself mindlessly surfing the net, maybe it is time to go to bed. You may think that it is your “me” time. If it is a real “me” time. You should be doing something that you find inspiring and challenging. When you are tired, go to bed and refresh your body.

Celebrate the small win. Why we keep two jobs? Because we want to provide for our family. But never forget about yourself. If you did a good job or receive praise from your work. Take some off to celebrate small wins. It can be a nice cup of coffee. Maybe a body massage. For myself, I would reward myself a cup of coffee at a cafe with a good book.

I know it is not easy to hold two jobs. Sometimes, it feels thankless and trapped. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. I feel the same way. I wish I could cry and breakdown.

The purpose of this blog. This site is to tell you that you are not alone. Keep going. Keek providing. One day, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

I love you.

Are Your Ready for Your Dream Job?

Imagine someone offers you your dream job to you and you can start immediately. You must be excited. But are you ready for your dream job?
If you are ready for your dream job. Do this exercise. Get a piece of paper and start writing down, exactly how ready you are for the job. Be honest!
When you are done with the exercise, go through the list. Realistically are you ready?
If you are not ready. Do you know your gaps? Do what is necessary to breach the gap. Read books. Take courses. To test your understanding, imagine you need to teach the knowledge to a group of newbies. If you are stumped in any of the topics. It is probably wise to revisit the topic again.
If you are ready. What are you waiting for? The masses want you to stay where you are. They tell you stories about gatekeepers who will stop you from pursuing your dreams. They may be gatekeepers, but there are also other platforms for you to shine. Write on LinkedIn. Write on Medium. Start your own blog or YouTube channel. None of it requires the gatekeeper’s approval. The only thing is you need to create quality content.
The prison that you created is all in the mind. There no locks. You are free to leave, but you must be ready. Know yourself and take what life has to offer to you.

Never Use BCC in E-mail

I have no idea when the e-mail function Blind Carbon Copy was invented. Personally, I find this feature brings more problem than it solves. Whether you are a recipient of BCC or a sender, it creates problems down the road.

Lost of trust. I received an e-mail from a colleague providing feedback on how I do my work better. I accepted wholeheartedly and thank for the feedback. Later I received the same e-mail from my manager demanding me to put the feedback on my performance checklist and create a timeline. My manager was not on the mailing list. Thus, the manager was on BCC when this colleague sent the e-mail to me. Since then, I kept this colleague at arm’s length. I do not trust this person.

You do not have the full picture. I received my share of BCC emails. I am careful not to reply or take part in the e-mail discussion. If there is a follow-up discussion in the mail, I will not have the visibility, as I was BCCed! If you choose to respond. Your team will wonder how did you found out. Good luck in gaining their trust again. Your action may not even be appropriate as the matter could have been closed but you were not informed.

The only time I use BCC is when I need to send the e-mail back to myself for records.

Be careful of people who frequently use BCC. You are probably being manipulated without knowing.

Stop Asking “Why?” Ask “How” and “What” Instead

As a project manager, discussion plays a crucial role. Certain days, I may have up to seven meetings. When the meetings are all done, I have to prepare meeting minutes and take action on the agreed task. Having an effective meeting is important. All of us dread the meetings that go on forever and with no outcome.

To get the information that we need, we have learned to ask “what”, “why”, “when”, “how” and “where”. From my experience, I have stopped using “why”. I have replaced “why” with either “what” or “how”.
Here is an example of a discussion where someone did “X”. Regardless of the outcome, we sometimes need to understand the justification behind the decision.

There are three ways to start a discussion.

“Why did you do X?”
“What do you intend to achieve by doing X?”
“How to get our intended results, by doing X, ?”

See the difference? By asking a “what” and “how”, the question points towards the action or the topic that is being discussed. If you are asking a “why” question, it is perceived as confronting the person. This put the person in a defensive mode. The discussion will quickly turn cold and goes nowhere.

It is not easy to have a mind switch by avoiding the use of “why”. I have personally struggled with it. It is better to go into a meeting prepared. Besides learning the facts, but also prepare some questions. The questions should not be confrontational but focus on the discussion point.
All of us cannot avoid meetings. But we can make the best of it.
Our working life is not a reality show where every week someone gets voted out. There is no need to work with the person anymore. Good or bad, we will be working with each other on a daily basis. Therefore it is important to keep the relationship professional and positive. The less confrontational we are, the more willing are people to work with us.

Good luck.

Recharge Yourself Like Recharging Your Gadgets

We all have electronic gadgets that require regular charging. Especially my mobile phone, I would charge it right before going to bed. Without a good charge, our gadgets may not have sufficient power to get through the task that we needed it for.

Do you give yourself sufficient charges to be functional? The answer is probably not. Whenever I caught myself doing mindless surfing or flipping aimlessly through TV channels, I would I am tired. Or sometimes I wake up feeling worse than before going to bed.

If this is symptoms of fatigue and burn-out. I am definitely guilty of burning both ends of the candle.

There have been days where I feel great. There have been days where I feel that I am being buried alive.

For the days that I feel great, here are a few things that I did. It works for me. I hope you will find it useful too.

Meditate

Ever since I learned about Tara Brach through Tim Ferris’s podcast. I have been hooked with her guided meditation. No doubt I am not doing it frequently as I wanted. Whenever I do it, I always feel recharged and more aware of my thoughts. Through meditation, I am able to catch hold of my anger and frustrations whenever it arises. Even if I had a bad day, it quickly blows over.

What if, you fall asleep during meditation? That’s okay. In a way, it is your body telling you that you are tired and needed rest.

What if you do not like meditation? Or do not like the idea of sitting still? Here is another idea…

Exercise

Exercise gets the blood flowing. Exercise helps to trigger the hormone that regulates your happiness. By keeping your body active, you will be paying attention to your body. By paying attention to your body, it distracts you from whatever stress or problem that you have at hand. This helps to put your problem into perspective. This is why writers such as Nassim Taleb and Charles Dickens would take long walks.

Last but not least.

Go to bed.

I know it is a no-brainer. But how many of us actually refuse to go to bed even though we are tired? I am guilty of this. One more video. One more article. One more post. By the time, I go to bed, it has passed my bedtime and waking up feeling ever tired. Sleep helps to reset the brain and prepare us for the following day’s challenges. Do not underestimate the danger of being sleep deprived.

Being sleep deprived, we face the risk of accidents, hallucinations, impaired judgements and mood disorders. For additional reading on the risk of sleep deprivation. Watch the video below.

The world is ever getting more competitive. We need to be constantly alert to stay in the game. Recharge yourself. Stay alert. Stay safe.