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In search of a quaint type of peace

Saturday, May 6, 2023
  • Writer's pictureK

I have never been much of a waterfront-living type of person, but the view of the Victoria harbour can be quite addictive.

Quiet mornings overlooking the harbour are some of my most enjoyable moments over the weekends in Hong Kong.


I realised recently that for a lot of companies out there, it's actually the season of promotions.

For a number of friends whom I've known for some time and who were newly minted, I'm truly happy for them.

Those that I have been acquainted with on a more personal level have all been very consistent people. Some of them came from relatively humble beginnings, either from totally unrelated backgrounds or started off in companies that practically had no bragging rights when you showed up at social events. A lot of them were hungry for technical skills and deal experience, and wanted to acquire these in the course of their work.

Technical skills were important as juniors, but I think what made them stand out were often the softer aspects: the ability to make friends, staying in touch, knowing how to navigate politics at the workplace, or just having the ability to survive in an environment with repeated rounds of layoffs and corporate re-organisations.

Looking back on more than 17 years of being in the workforce, you realise that consistency and patience are sometimes all highly under-rated attributes.

That said, success means different things to everyone. I think that most consider landing a promotion, a big bonus payout, being publicly recognised or associated with someone reputable or distinguished in their field, the hallmarks of success.

Being appreciated and recognised at the workplace is being important. The need for career progression has also been deeply inculcated as part of "life after graduation", especially for those who have had the privilege of going to school.

No matter which it was, it mostly all came down to being able to accumulate more money, and so, all of success seems to come down to that moment of glory and the wealth that accompanies it.

But the most valuable form of wealth is not having to impress anyone.

Social comparison is the biggest culprit of dissatisfaction. See, because not everything can be measured in dollars and cents. The same way not everything is measured in terms of lofty positions and titles, or material possessions. Also, I learned recently that more important than getting rich is how to stay rich.

A good number of people I know earn an average or less-than-average income and stay in very humble houses. In theory, they should be worse off when compared to those who are earning a lot more. But many of them are "doing well" simply because they didn't take excessive risk with their money, stayed consistent and perhaps well-grounded in their material expectations. Most of all, I think they stayed contented.

"At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you."

This was what Denzel Washington said to Will Smith after his notorious outburst on Chris Rock at the Oscars in 2022. Although Will Smith won an award that night, he was subsequently banned from the Academy events for the next ten years.

Today’s success story can very quickly turn into tomorrow’s failure.

At any point of time, nothing is ever so good or bad as it seems.

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