Letting Go


So we were thinking about the title for this week’s piece, and somehow the first line kept coming to mind. Maybe because markets have been really brutal this year so far, or maybe because it’s the 3 rd crisis in our working lifetime for the older folks. But it really has been a year of firsts for many of us – first time we’re having a soft curfew here, first time school holidays have been shifted, first time oil prices went negative, the list goes on!

Life is already tough for us average Joes. I mean, having studied Chinese Literature in secondary school, most of it was about songs and poems written by average Joes (and hence becoming immortal Joes) who got stiffed by corrupt and wealthy Joes. And in my previous life when working for a sovereign fund, I was known somewhat affectionately as The Farmer– simply because the other traders were covering sexier sectors like energy and metals. I might have been wrong, but back then in Singapore it generally impressed people (girls) more if you told them you were an energy or precious metals trader rather than “I trade beans” or “I trade lean hogs”. To make things worse, while I spent a decade trudging through places like the US Midwest literally counting beans with shotgun-toting farmers in trucks, or harvesting rice in the padi research fields of Los Banos, my contemporaries in energy were partying away on beaches. So… forgive us if the insight we share below might be a little simplistic, or rough around the edges, or too down-to-earth – it’s me, not you!

Supporting the underdog has always been an Achilles heel and never lucrative (I’ve often said things to my bosses I shouldn’t have). So I can only hope my wife thinks me better for it, but a wise man told me to ask only after the CB period (Circuit Breaker Duration). On this subtler note, of all our clients, I remember most vividly and fondly two gentlemen – Matthew and Koon.

Matthew was an MD in a financial services firm in his early 50s, divorced with two teenage children, stout and muscular, witty and sharp. As with most successful men that age, Matt had no qualms measuring those around him in financial terms, and was looking for beautiful ladies more than a decade younger than himself and whose looks were befitting of his achievements in life. As a serial dater, Matt was frustrated and intent on moving on the next phase of his love life, but he also had a penchant for measuring success at dates by the duration of the date (2 hours minimum) and whether the ladies initiated after meal coffee or dessert. In fact, I recall one date in particular stretched for 5 hours from lunch to almost dinner.

Koon was a young chap in his early 30s, did his vocational training here, lanky and good looking in a Jay Chou way, but faced challenges on the learning front during his time in school. He overcame those challenges and now works in the IT sector, but is the most down to earth, yet driven man we know who decided that his spare time as a single on weekends was better spent as a food delivery rider to supplement his already respectable income. He on the other hand, seemed to think his learning disabilities in school, while not physically apparent, posed an almost insurmountable challenge on the dating front.

Why bother mentioning two guys with such a distinct difference in personality and backgrounds? Their problems might seem vastly different, but it’s really just the same thing.  Our advice to both quite simply was to 放下自己, but on different tones as you might expect.

“If you keep going at the same problem but with the same outcome, perhaps it’s time to change the way you go at it.” Koon caught on to this much faster, he realized he’d better stop declaring all his problems out on the first date, and just try and find out more about what the other person was like.  Matt I’m less certain, and amidst the earful of insinuations that he rained upon us, his only takeway was that our database lacked women who were both beautiful and wanted to date men of substantial means more than a decade older than themselves.

The real question going through our minds should be whether you and your date might enjoy each other’s differences and company over time . Why bother obsessing over how others might view you as a couple or how many points he or she gave you for that date. Yes, it’s important to understand how people view us, so that we can improve or change where we need to, not so much so that we can pat ourselves on the back for scoring more points than the previous date.

Well, no prizes on guessing whom of the two gentlemen are on the verge of exiting our database for happy reasons.