Get Updates by Email

Saturday, 2 October 2010


Dear friends,

Thank you for your support. My life has been in equilibrium for a while. She wants to maintain her lifestyle of seeing other men. She will watch a movie with a man-friend while I work tomorrow. (We had planned to go to Pulau Ketam, but a phone call from her implied that I shouldn't go to Pulau Ketam out of fear of her going out with other men. She said that I needed to focus on work.)

There is no need to get disappointed in life. After assessing the situation I realise that I will either have to accept the situation or move on. This is life made simple, or life made dumb enough, to make choices: Yes, or No. In, or Out. Stay, or Leave. Even in our spending habits, things come down to the basic question of: Buy, or Don't Buy. We often get confused, however, with questions of: Should I buy? Do I already have this? I have something like this, but surely this is kind of different? If I don't buy this, maybe I can spend the money on something else. (Which is true, if you do not convert your money to consumables, then you can still purchase something else.)

I found this quote from Tolstoy, which turns out, came from his novel Anna Karenina: “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Perhaps the same thing could be said people as well: Most happy people resemble one another, but each unhappy person is unhappy in his or her own way! We are happy when we feel satisfied with life, which in Maslow's theory of needs means that our basic needs are met, and our higher ideals are also satisfied. For some other people, being happy also means seeing the people around you happy. (How can you be happy when people all around you are suffering?)

For my girlfriend, she evaluates her happiness in life and her relationship with me by comparing what I do (or do not do) with her friends, her friends' boyfriends or friends, movies that she watches, and songs that she hears on the radio. Unsurprisingly, she who has much to compare with, will feel much dissatisfaction. (Example: During the movie Eat Love Pray, the protagonist e-mailed her lover a sad email. My girlfriend whispered, "You used to e-mail me! You don't e-mail me anymore." I replied, "Well, you don't e-mail me either." "Ah! You like to compare! Cannot compare with me!" she protested. "I bought you many things and I will sponsor part of your trip to Taiwan! And now you are unhappy because I didn't e-mail you." I said. "Don't compare me with other guys and don't compare me with movies and songs," I said. "Shhh quiet already!" she said, and pinched me.) Sad songs make her find fault with me, and happy songs make her think of -- well, not me.

But I digress. In life, certain principles of economics hold sway. One of the things that we learn about in the management course is opportunity cost. (It's also part of high school level economics.) Let's put it this way: In life there are opportunities that we must seize, and bear the risks that accompany them. If we decline to bear the risks, then we lose the opportunities! For example, national car maker Proton could continue selling their best-sellers and never innovate. After all, best-sellers dominate the domestic market because of steep import duties, et al. But over time, there will be risk of the market finding the product out-of-date. Sales may drop -- but the price factor will ensure that consumer demand from lower to middle income groups will continue. This is the situation if our national car maker decides not to take risks. On the other hand, if Proton wishes to innovate, pursuing R&D in hybrid engines, or more fuel-efficient vehicles, perhaps, it will be able to capitalize on emerging consumer demand for cars of this type. Indeed, if it is the trend of the future, then Proton may need to consider such trends. However, these opportunities are not without their risks. For example, there may be risks of R&D not bearing fruit at all -- depending on the direction taken by the R&D department. (There are finite resources, and R&D requires highly skilled workers. There must be allocation based on emphasis.) There may also be dangers of a new standard emerging, which eliminates the competition -- and therefore eliminating the benefits of any R&D. (Look, for example, at the Betamax-VHS video tape format wars, the HD DVD and Blu-Ray Disc format wars.)

Likewise, in life, we must recognise the opportunities and risks that accompany our options in life. Perhaps the wholesale application of economic principles to making decisions in life, seems ridiculous to some people. But there is a logic for it. Sometimes in life, when we deal with irrational factors such as happiness and sadness, disappointment and joy, there is the question of how we rationalise and quantify such emotions, and how we make decisions that make sense. The theory of diminishing marginal returns means that the joy and satisfaction that we get from repeatedly doing the same thing, gets less and less with each act. The explanation, for the girlfriend who insists of watching movies and going out with other men, can be based on the theory of diminishing returns. By adding variety to the same act, the utility that is obtained from watching even the same movie, but with a different man, is not diminished -- because utility is derived not from the watching of the movie, but from the company of the different man. But this merely serves as an explanation for the heinous act -- what about the evaluation of "What next?"

In making decisions, rather than making snap decisions (Yes/No, In/Out, Go/Don't Go, Buy/Don't Buy, etc) perhaps there are times when we fear that we will regret our decisions. (Especially big decisions in life with far-reaching consequences.) One model for working out the decision is the SWOT analysis model. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The model is used conjunctively with the analysis of several outcomes. Once the desired/potential path(s) of action is/are identified, the SWOT model is applied to each scenario. The results of the analysis will determine the path of action to be taken. Another model, which is favoured by my lecturer, is the Porter's 5 Forces model. For example, in entering into an endeavour, we consider: (1) suppliers bargaining power; (2) purchasers' bargaining power; (3) threat of new entrants; (4) threat of substitute products; and (5) competitive rivalry within the industry. In our personal relationships with others, for example, the following may apply: If you consider yourself as both a supplier and a purchaser, then you may look at the malleability of your partner and gauge your bargaining power. Once you are in an exclusive one-to-one relationship (example: marriage), competitive rivalry may drop drastically due to the morally demotivating status that a third party gains as an "intruder" or "home-wrecker". However, internal factors must be accounted for: If your partner views you as undesirable, there is threat of him/her seeking out alternative partners, or having an affair. In life, as in relationships, there is rarely any real bargaining power when one is viewed with disdain by his/her partner. Sometimes it is the question of whether being together is bearable only because we do not wish our partner to be with someone new -- but that entails enduring destructive behaviour for the sake of avoiding another painful experience. It's a lose-lose situation. Unless your partner appreciate you for who you are, s/he is likely to think that there are many substitutes out in the world.

When studying different models used in making management decisions, it becomes apparent that most of these focus on two types of factors: Internal factors, which describe what is indigenous to the organization (or person), and External factors, which describe what is non-indigenous to the organization (or person). For me, this means that we should try to calm and energize our internal thoughts, to exploit the internal factors as much as possible in an advantageous manner. Recognising that we are who we make ourselves, may allow us to focus on our internal states for an advantageous resolution of unhappy affairs. In fact, self-confidence is derived, directly and indirectly, from a peaceful mind. Allowing ourselves to function optimally, and to perform well in society, will create a history of optimal function. When our self-confidence is challenged, we tend to remember (or are encouraged to remember) the moments in life when we were at our best. (Not at our worst -- and people who encourage you to remember the worst moments in life whenever they have a row with you, are out to destroy your self-confidence.)

This quest for self-confidence may become a lifelong one. But when I have found the peace, perhaps I can impart it to others who may need it.

Before I end this article: Chloe, I'm used to the words "kiam siap" which means "stingy person". Recently I have become re-introduced to the subject matter of economics, which held hours of countless fascination for me. From an economic point of view, what is the difference between the Philippe Patek and the TAG Heuer? It boils down to the product itself. Is one product any different from the other? Of course there are perceived differences in products, but are these real or merely perceived differences? For example, if both are waterproof, then the strength of the waterproof protection may be a factor. On the other hand, if things like glow-in-the-dark faces and chronometers are necessities in your life, then one watch may have a real advantage over the other. If all other things considered, the watches are equal in every sense, then the only factor left to consider is money. Ceteris paribus!

Thank you for reading.


Chloe said...

Oh wow...i'm still digesting the information overload on marketing and economics!! You definitely have a gift of explaining these concepts in relation to real life events! :-)

There is a tendency for humans to compare with each other...I find it very annoying when someone does that to me. It is neither beneficial nor does it make you feel good about yourself! At times like these, one has to do some self- brainwashing to feel better about life and to really count one's blessings. A person will never be happy if they always compare with others...

So, Kevin... You mentioned that your gf would like to continue to see other men "friends" while still in an official boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with you. Is this normal? ( I don't mean to be rude... On the contrary, I am just trying to understand the situation? ) You must love her very much to tolerate and to allow this to go on....! Have you considered that perhaps you might find yourself in the same situation again in the future, the only difference is that you both are married and hve children. What gurantees do you have that she would not do this again?

I am sorry if I overspoke and offended you. I'm in your age group and I have never encountered such a situation within my circle of friends. Perhaps it's new evolution to the meaning of a "committed relationship"!

God gave us a heart to decide what is right and wrong and the free will to do the right thing! I believe if we follow our hearts, whatever problems we may face will eventually be resolved favorably! :-)