recent thoughts on dreams and money

Think of this as a documentation of my journey to realise my dream, start a business and achieve financial freedom. I hope that when I have succeeded I can look back at this and laugh.

How the journey started

So last week I listened to “The Millionaire Fastlane” by MJ DeMarco. Then I couldn’t get it out of my head and I listened to it again. I resonated with it so much. While I’m not going to give a book summary here I just want to briefly jot down my thoughts and struggles I have now. I know everything I do, every decision I make now contributes to the future. I am documenting my journey here now. Welcome to join me.

One decision I made last year that might have contradicted with what illustrated in the book is that I decided to pursue a master degree. Yes, I’m on a student loan and I honestly have no idea when and how I am going to repay it. Is that a mistake? I will disagree. It is not a fault to pursue a career that I love. And it’s in the healthcare industry so I need to get qualification. Following an observation opportunity I had this week with some registered music therapists I am more certain that it is something I would like to do in the future. Unlike those accounting internships I had before, I could actually see the potential future. With me in it. The future that shines bright like a diamond. Unlike accounting, in which the future path is darker than my hair. So my point is I don’t regret making the decision to take up a master degree. One point I would always argue with people is that I could always make more money, but there is no time to waste sitting in the cubicle punching figures.

On the point of “you can always make more money”, this is one of the most important mindsets illustrated in the book. People in the slowlane find ways to cut expenses and “live below their means” while people in the fastlane find ways to “expand their means”. This is interesting. I “bought” myself time by being a full time student again. That means I have all the time in the world to start a business which could potentially pay off my student debt even generate enough passive income to live another lifestyle. Sounds exciting, no?

The process

The problem is the process. The key idea of this book. You need to start executing ideas, get your hands dirty in the process. Most people love events, for example winning the jackpot or becoming a millionaire overnight, while they ignore the blood, sweat and tears behind every success story. In order to make the journey of immersing myself in the process more interesting, enjoyable and endurable (because let’s be really honest here, there are ALWAYS something you hate doing), my advice is to make yourself fall in love with the process itself.

Take fitness as an example. Everyone wants 6-pack abs but no one wants to work for it, nor to give up binging potato chips on the couch on a Saturday night. One way to achieve the goal is to find the type of workout you absolutely enjoy, stick to it, while finding the type of diet that works best for your body (consult a PT or nutritionist for this). Maybe combining your weekly football practice with some weight training, plus keto diet would work just fine for you. You never know unless you put yourself out there. Find something you love and find the effective way. Recently I started boxing and I found myself enjoying the process and the post-workout effects (physically and mentally). It even gives me a mindset shift to unconsciously replace processed food with fresh produce.


Starting a business is similar. Actually, achieving any goal is the same. There are many ways to achieve success. It might take a long period of time for some people, or it might be a one-hit-wonder for some other. What I am doing now is trying to build my personal brand while I continue to pursue my master degree. I absorb as much information as I possibly could every day, and I try to be extremely productive. I am willing to do the hard work. But it’s just tiring sometimes and I want to whine about shouting into the void. Don’t mind me. I will know what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes I am just afraid I put effort in the wrong places. I have self doubts. This is when I need to keep working on my mindset and reaffirm my goals through visualisation. In those fastlane stories illustrated in the book, I bet those people didn’t even know if they would succeed or not. They just kept grinding. But indeed the book gave some good guidelines of fastlane businesses that would make millions, billions or even legendary money.

Dreams vs Reality

Last year I was still thinking in some frugal way that “artists are the ones who are broke but happy doing what they love”. Now I want to laugh. There is a cost to make your dreams come true. Material cost. Life isn’t all about money but there is no limit on how much you can earn. There is a way to support the lifestyle you want and the life you want to be living. While there isn’t always a contradiction between doing what you love and earning big money, people always find it hard to blend the two.

Balance between dreams and reality

Check out this article written by Derek Sivers here. He illustrated a good way to find balance between job and art – however you define art. First of all, I don’t disagree with his point. You can definitely be happy working on your art purely for the passion while sustaining life through a well-paid job. Maybe those people are actually the happiest going down this path.

However it didn’t work for me. I have been there for 5 years. Yes Derek is right. The day job should not fulfill your emotional needs. Nor should it be occupying your mind when you are not working. Surely no one expects being an accountant would fulfill any emotional need. My problem in the past 5 years was that the job completely drained my energy out. Yes I did put videos on YouTube twice a month over the past 2 years and I finally launched my website earlier this year. But it was the hard way and I wasn’t happy. I was in a constant dissatisfied mood. I believed there was more in life.

Then I found music therapy. Or it found me. Whatever. I realised there is a way to blend passion with profession, without splitting my job and my art in two to compensate each other.

One thing the coronavirus taught us: a full time job totally DOES NOT mean stability. As MJ DeMacro said, starting a business is as risky as working as a full time employee. Gee, I feel so much better thinking like this. So in the article Derek mentioned the job should be something that pays well with a solid future. There was a link to 2015 labour department data from The Wall Street Journal. And you know what? I was really surprised when I found accountants and auditors on the list. To be honest, I can’t believe my eyes. 28.9% earning growth? Are you kidding me? Yes, therapists and generally the healthcare alliance are the group that has the most potential to grow both in demand and wages. No doubt. One thing Derek didn’t mention is jobs that might disappear in the future. Yes, I am talking about AI. Robots. We still need lawyers and accountants for sure, but I really am not sure about in-house office staff. Before I applied for the master degree of music therapy I did my research. According to this research conducted by the University of Oxford, recreational therapists are the group that is least likely to be computerised. Interesting thing to note is that musicians and singers rank at #155, given that some human computers can come up with far more composition patterns and arrangement than human. Debatable, but somehow true. Anyway, there are too many uncertainties when it comes to planning for the future. You can never really plan everything out. 

My dilemma

So after listening to the book and reading this article, my issue became: okay, I would be one of the happiest people in the world if I work as a music therapist while I keep putting my art out there (handpan videos, blog whatever) when I’m not working, provided that I take good care of myself to avoid burnout. But as I said, the future is uncertain. Will I be tired of composing songs and practising the piano after work? No one knows. I could totally live the rest of my life like that. My vision is to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing through music. Goal achieved. However, this is a slowlane approach. I want to be on the fastlane. Heck, I want to drive Aston Martin and McLaren. Maths don’t lie. I will never get to where I want to be if I work as a music therapist full time, or with multiple part time jobs. There is no contradiction to want to live a luxurious life while saving lives like a superhero. I just need to work it out. Do the damn work. Get into the process. When I own the business that generates enough passive income for me to live a good life I can even provide free music therapy service to people I care about the most. That’s the ultimate goal.

This is my thought. It is messy I know. But life is complicated anyway. And I am always open to opportunity. I am just going to give my best shot. I’m not “hoping to get a raise” or “hoping the stock market doesn’t collapse again”.

Enough of the ramble. I should get back to work.