This is why Sensei is happy whenever his students tell him that they want to be teachers in the future. This means that he must be doing something right haha.
You made me dig out the letter I wrote for my son some years back. I will shamelessly share it here:
Dear son,
Every parent wants their child to be happy. I am no different.
Your job will occupy most of your waking hours. So, it makes sense that job satisfaction will constitute a large part of your happiness.
I hope that you will be gainfully employed in a line of work that enriches your mind, engages your heart and most importantly, makes your soul sing.
As you grow up, you will come across diverse trains of thought, some of which seemingly contradict each other. For one, there's this concept called Ikigai, which refers to the sweet spot where four things converge: what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs. It urges you to follow your heart and identify a calling so that you can hone your skills in an area of specialisation and serve others. Fulfilling your life purpose, so as to speak.
Ikigai is a Japanese word. The Japanese are famously dedicated to their craft. They don’t mind spending long hours and thinking about how to work in tandem with their environment in order to achieve the best results. Retirement may be furthest from their mind as they gain intrinsic joy from labour.
On the other hand, there’s this concept called FIRE, which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. It advocates people to earn as much as possible, spend as little as possible and save to invest as much as possible. Many people who subscribe to FIRE even undertake a side hustle so that they can build their financial weaponry. Once they reach the magical number that enables them to attain financial freedom, they will retire from the rat race early and live life on their own terms.
Some people who have achieved FIRE will continue to work; launching websites and podcasts that impart tips on how to FIRE is an example. Others will, however, choose to spend more time with their families and communities, and maybe even travel around the world.
Now, I'm not going to declare that Ikigai and FIRE are so distinctly different from each other that one cannot pursue them at the same time. But, in my experience, I think it's fair to say that in the beginning years of your career, you will face the quintessential dilemma: which do I prioritise in a job - passion or salary? The job which you may be passionate about may not be the one which plays to your strength and yields you the greatest earning potential. On the other hand, the job that pays you handsomely may not be the one that resonates directly with your heart.
So what do you do? Well, I don't exactly have advice for you; there's the domain of career coaches and counsellors. What I will like to do for you is to share with you my life experiences and decision-making process. After all, I am a product of the Singaporean system who has paved his way before you!
Given our small size, it's easy to get consumed into the prevailing trains of thought and ways of living. Nowadays, the idea of accumulating one million dollars before 65 (aka 1M65) is gaining traction. In fact, many enterprising Singaporeans are gunning for 4M65! So is the idea of saving $100k before the age of 30. Now, these ideas were unheard of when I was in my 30s, but I think that I would have made the same decision even if these ideas were trending during my prime years.
For you see, when I was 31, I took a pay cut and joined the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) program. (Incidentally, that's how I met your mother, but there's another story for another time!) This meant that I had zero CPF contributions for two years. Neither did I get to save much during my stint. After all, I travelled to more than 30 prefectures, not to mention South Korea and Taiwan.
On the other hand, I had total freedom. Not only did I have an entire apartment to myself, but I could schedule my days and nights in whichever way I desired. No one to answer to. Lots of novel experiences to embrace.
I'm sure you want to ask me whether my time in Japan has in any way benefitted my career trajectory. Not in the monetary sense, I guess, but I am paid handsomely in other ways. My horizons have been broadened because I crossed paths with so many people from diverse countries. (Everyone has a unique reason for coming to Japan!) My wanderlust was fulfilled. My zest for learning reached its zenith.
Now, your old man may come across as tooting his own horn and rehashing old accomplishments, but I just want to make a simple point: It's okay to choose a job that doesn't allow you to hit $100k or 1M65 if it enriches your life and leaves lasting memories. Sing a different tune. Take the path less travelled. Just be.
That's not to say that I will actively discourage you from pursuing FIRE if that's what appeals to you. Just forget the rhetoric about the sandwiched generation and happily give me a fat allowance every month. I'm rooting for you! (Just kidding.)
Have fun figuring life out,
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