Inflection Points

 

We plan meetings for the next week, outings for the next month, forecasts for the next quarter, and profits for the yearend but we can never fully plan out our Life—the things beyond our control after the next set of 365 days when our inventory of Time seems to run out earlier than we expected—or hoped for.

I'm going to talk about the best investments I have made in my life by illustrating three types: personal ones that I have made for the last two years, the ones that I am currently invested in, and plans I intend to carry out for the next two years.  In doing so, I will also cover the reasons why I chose to focus on those investments and consider them worthwhile my time.

Investopedia defines an investment as ‘an asset or item that is purchased with the hope that it will generate income or appreciate in the future.’ (Investopedia) In this hope that future wealth will come to us in the form of financial gain and returns, quite ironically also holds the risk that we might not have the privilege to enjoy the profits of this transaction because of things beyond our control—the weather, the market outlook, the political atmosphere, and the unforeseeable future only the fair few can explain or try to.

We talk about risks from an Economics standpoint –often harsh and bearish to a fault—it is what it is. We ride with the times and often profit from it, especially when the market is volatile during crisis—"the best time to invest!” 

On the flipside, studying Philosophy made me question the ulterior need to gain things. We want fixed assets to build our name: material goods, new cars, and a five-star loft by the central business park. But what about the intangible assets? The gesture of goodwill in the literal sense, has the authenticity of helping and being of service others lost its appeal to our generation? Every once in a blue moon, I’d take a step back to think of the materialism of things relative to one’s self—as Kierkegaard succinctly puts it: “The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc.–is sure to be noticed.” (Kierkegaard)
 

Ever since I can remember, I have been cynical about the quarter-life crisis that seems to attack my peers once they hit 24 or 25 years old. This inevitable identity crisis seems to be the norm, following questions like What am I going to do with my life? or Will I ever amount to anything? Sure enough there are moments when I begin to question what kind of career I really want to have. My parents are both doctors—a lifelong career in the medical field did not really appeal to me at a very young age and we knew this. So, I started to try out new things that touched on creativity and entrepreneurship like taking up business courses along with media production electives—a safe blend of passion and a course that is “profitable.”

In 2016, I read this online article featuring John Maeda, a MIT professor who by profession is both a designer and a technologist. He took up MBA to understand the businesses he was designing for. This was the single source of that aha! that triggered me to do the same thing within my own means. I wanted to complete my own trifecta of building a career that revolved around Business, Technology, and Design like Maeda is doing for his career.

In the same year I took a good look at the global trends—technology companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Alibaba all over the world were rising and disrupting legacy businesses. This is the dynamic field that I too wanted to play in. Demand for talent in cloud computing and knowledge in data analytics was soon-to-be high in the Philippines, despite its current adoption rate and appetite for new technology.

This is what brings me to investing in what clinical psychologist Meg Jay would call ‘identity capital.” Jay is convinced that careers and personal accomplishments do not begin at thirty, but rather in twentysomethings whose time to prepare for the future begins now and not later. As a twentysomething, I believe in using this stage in my life to build the best version of myself to produce the right set of skills as assets to alleviate my net worth. The next few paragraphs will detail the steps I chose to take in this direction.

Firstly, the best investment that I (and my parents) made would be in my Education. Many would say that pursuing an MBA in my twenties is an investment in itself—the time, money and effort you put in to hopefully gain the desired outcome of financial stability and career success. For me it was an easy decision to make but a much harder commitment to make. With perseverance and time, the late-night classes kicked in to habit and the school papersseemed like a nice break from the usual corporate work. The commitment to earn an MBA degree has taken me more than two years, with some considerable gain by leveraging on the general learning and building up my gravitas to earn valuable trust and credibility in my workplace.

Secondly, the smaller investments I frequently make are for my personal well-being. Putting in the conscious effort to be healthy and maintaining a good diet provides the quickest returns that one can feel because this directly affects one’s self. Managing stress and the social environment I expose myself has helped me become a master of time. This also involves managing the time I waste on useless social media, and focusing on passively expanding my skills and knowledge through books and newspapers.

Lastly, the next type of investments I plan to make would be for the future. I’ve spoken to people who have had good experience in trading and buying stocks to understand the tools that can be used to easily and safely set it up. Prior to taking up this Investment Management class, the concept of stock market, owning real estate assets, and building business capital seemed to be unreachable.   The key takeaways for anyone who plans to invest are: (1) knowing everything you can about the market and industries, (2) understanding your personal risk profile, and (3) of course, buying low and selling high.

I want to dwell a bit on the Theory of Reflexivity by George Soros in his conceptual framework about the relationship between thinking and reality. In his pursuit of being known for his works in Philosophy (and doubly in his unique approach in discerning the Financial markets) he idealizes this concept wherein, put simply, the way that the market influences public opinion also loops around in a circle wherein public opinion influences the market. I would relate and apply this to what I learned in business ethics and marketing where a company with a good moral foundation and operates in conscientious methods sustains itself in a virtuous cycle of ‘doing good.’ Marketing represents the channel that influences public perception and consequently, stakeholder decisions on whether to invest in a certain company or not.

As I grow I learn that investing in a strong, solid foundation is my best bet. Whether or not I continue to contribute in the growth of the company where I work in or end up creating my own business in the next two years.

It’s crazy to think of our time limited, quantifying our short-term accomplishments somewhat limits us to yesterday’s triumph. It is with knowing and not knowing the future—the uncertainty of what can happen in the market or our personal lives—that makes life both interesting and scary at the same time worth living. My risk profile shows that I take some time to make careful assessments, and even my shopping behavior shows that I’m not prone to impulse buying to avoid buyer’s remorse–however my general outlook in life is to set out bold ambitions and to pursue them. In doing so I recognize the rarity of opportunities and acknowledge that the cost of not taking these risks outweighs my preference to stay in the same spot I was in the last two years.

Let me end with the most important inflection points I learned this semester: the two strange dots where the Market and Life intersect is in times of volatility and crisis. For the first one, we can interpret an unpredictable market in so many ways and end up overanalyzing it, paralyzed—most people will fear it and end up not doing anything. On the other period, some people take advantage of crisis scenarios as a leeway to paramount profit. All I’m certain is that when the time comes that I need to make a decision that can have profound positive or negative impact on my life or the lives of others—I can lose all the spare change I have in my pocket but never let go of my moral compass.