Stop specializing: I am my own niche

For years I’ve thought that the way to truly be successful and influential in your field(s) was to specialize – experts would always best Jack of all trades, masters of none.

Yet I quickly realized I had so many interests, genuine passions, for so many different fields that didn’t necessarily coordinate well together.

In high school, I’d be deeply interested in chemistry and math classes and how the world worked, my favorite class still was acting, and yet I received the top English award.

After class, I’d balance basketball practice with musical theatre rehearsals and violin orchestra practice. I constantly wondered whether I was spreading myself too thin, and I also realized I was never truly able to be the best in any one field.

I ended up dropping the basketball team out of lack of dedication, I felt like an imposter leading my high school strings orchestra as concertmaster for 3-years, and when I played Scar in Lion King I couldn’t help but have a lingering feeling of regret that I sacrificed basketball to sing. Why couldn’t I be like Troy Bolton?

Now I am at another semi-crossroads.

Am I the magician?

The philosopher, daily blogger?

Will I work on Wall Street and run a hedge fund, trading stocks, and options?

Or will I dive into academic economic research and cure poverty – my all-time goal?

I don’t have the answer, but I think I’ve come up with a path: I am my own niche

Specialization worked in the days of Henry Ford assembly lines, and yes it still works today too

But there’s something to be said about the creativity of bringing in interdisciplinary skills and disciplines

The most recent book I’ve been reading dives deeper into this concept of Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.

Steve Jobs famously cited his Chinese calligraphy class for giving him the inspiration for pioneering Apples typography and design

Roger Federer didn’t specialize in tennis until much later than his peers, and in fact, might have learned towards soccer at one point in his childhood

And Lindt chocolate brought together dark chocolate and spices to create something new, unique, and not necessarily specialized but surely special

There’s ultimately nothing wrong with specialization, and equally nothing wrong with having a broad range of skills.

I hope to find a balance between both practices so that I can further build bridges between philosophy and business.

undervalued investing

I feel undervalued by society

whether or not I am justified in that feeling is for discussion another time

but in general value investing theory, you are taught to invest in undervalued stocks and companies

so now is the time for me to dive deep into personal investments

academics, career, physical & mental health, passions, creativity, knowledge

time for me to invest as much as I can into myself

undervalued investments pay the biggest dividends

Winners and Losers: a cashless society

In Sweden, cash retail transactions have fallen 80%

Digital transactions in China have risen from 4% in the past 20 years to 34% in 2017.

A cashless society provides many benefits to society

Countries spend roughly 0.5% of their GDP managing physical cash

Consumers have better tracking of their money in digital forms, more convenience, and quicker and easier access to payments

Black market transactions dealt in cash will be strapped down

But consumers who value data privacy will also lose, as governments will likely use digital transactions as data

The poor and unbanked will lose out if cash is phased out

And society may become less democratic, with more power funneling towards institutions, governments, and financial corporations who control the digital system

 

Calculated risks

We make calculated risks every day – intuitively

How quickly can I jaywalk without getting hit by a car?

What if I run through a yellow light?

Eating spicy food

As I learn more about investing and trading, I’ve tried to apply those skills to life in terms of making calculated risks.

But not just intuitively. I love the idea of making decision matrices or weighing the options at hand.

My senior English thesis in High School was about the Paradox of Choice and how too many options in this world can put us in a state of paralysis of analysis. I found it interesting because I’ve used that knowledge to better my understanding of making – and going through with – certain decisions I make.

Of course, life offers many options. I chose Villanova over Toronto. I chose Economics over Finance. Every choice I make, I have to forsake something else due to opportunity cost.

But being too focused on opportunity cost may make your completely paralyzed and fail to actually make a decision.

And so there are two parts to being a great decision-maker: taking calculated risks (intuitively and planned), and making decisions and going through with them.

Being a great decision-maker. That is a strong skill to have.

fighting climate change

Climate change—or let’s be blunt here, global warming—is a difficult topic of discussion not only because no one genuinely understands the ramifications of a warming Earth, but also because there is not one unified blueprint to tackling the problem.

We fight fire with water. We fight obesity with exercising and dieting. We fight lethargy with sleep. We fight boredom with Netflix. But how exactly do we stop global warming?

First off, this is a global issue. When one person is obese, that individual can fight obesity with independent exercising and dieting. But global warming requires the entire world—or at least, a large majority of the population—to come together and tackle the issue. And this is where we have a quagmire because pollution is an externality: 

“For economists, the problem is that polluters are not required to bear the full cost of the pollution they create in terms of the costs to wider society.”

My proposed solution?

Look. I won’t give you one.

Because, let’s be honest, we all know how to reduce our carbon footprint.

And if you legitimately don’t know how to help the environment, then you’re not being creative enough.

Instead, I urge you to think more about what it means to our world if we don’t do anything. And I mean now. And even if it means baby steps towards a better future, at least we are doing something, anything.

Because in a world where everyone wants to take take take, let’s remember that we need to give back to Mother Earth too.

Money

Modern money has no intrinsic value

and I think that makes it the most fascinating case study ever

The USD is the global reserve currency and 60% of world transactions are dealt in USD

That’s crazy

The USD is backed by US.

But if the country’s economy fails, like Venezuela, Ecuador, or Zimbabwe, then the currency also fails. Zimbabwe now uses the USD after their currency fell to a value of zero. Now you can get 100 trillion dollar Zimbabwe bills on eBay for roughly $80

Money has value not intrinsically, but universally is accepted as valuable because of a universal trust

This is the reason a lot of things in our world exists

Communities, religions, brands, Bitcoin and all cryptocurrencies

Even the local bar you go to, which might not intrinsically be better than the pub two doors over, will garner more people if there is a higher perceived trust of value

Certain parts of India don’t accept the 10 rupee coin because it is perceived as non-legit, despite being fully and legitimately backed by the Central Bank of India

psychologically, we want to tag along on what everyone else uses

and that’s why money is valuable: because we all deem it to be

But what if one day we don’t?

That is why money is so interesting. It is a platform for power, but also a platform subject to collapse

Career

I really have no idea what I want to pursue for my career

Originally I thought it would be clear that I’d follow a career in finance

But the more broadly I learn, the more broadly my interests become

Below I will want to just list a few of the things I’ve considered pursuing just so I can also have a better framework of my passions

  • Finance
    • Investment banking
    • Wealth Management
    • Investments
    • Hedge Funds
    • Private Equity / Venture Capital
  • Academia
    • Economics Research
    • Economics PhD
    • Philosophy
    • Professorship either in Economics, Finance, or Philosophy
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Writer
    • The Economist
    • Personal blogging (Travel blog?)
    • Write economics/humanities books?
  • Places I’d love to work:
    • Vancouver
    • Toronto
    • New York
    • Los Angeles
    • Singapore
    • Shanghai
    • London

At the end of the day, I suppose having broader interests is better than having none. But I understand that specialization is important and one of the major keys to success as we are taught in economics. It’s more efficient to specialize in a few skills.