Are Singaporeans Unhappy?

Tell me whether you agree with this: Singaporeans are unhappy.

I was talking with a friend about the rather unusual path he has taken. He’s a planner focusing on helping people achieving financial freedom. He’s a guy that has to meets with people from different income levels every day, even high net worth individuals. And he pointed out something interesting to me about my fellow Singaporeans, many of them, even those that have made it, are apparently unhappy.

He’s right though most of us are deeply unhappy. Deeply, deeply unhappy. We have a really high employment rate, pretty good benefits and earn passable money at our jobs. Yet, we don’t like what we’re doing, we have the lowest job happiness index in South-east Asia, we apparently hate we are doing.

How my friend turned his life around

My friend was in the same boat. He had no problems funding his lifestyle with his old job in the government sector. And his wife was working then too. But he always felt that something was missing from his life. 

And then something happened. Their baby came along and his wife quit her job when they had a baby and started teaching tuition. She decided not to go back to her job because she felt happier than she had ever been. She encouraged my friend to look for something that would make him happy. So he quit as well and became an independent financial planner. Both of them went from being employed to self-employed. He’s happy than ever that he left his government job.

And he regularly talks to clients who are earning enough but feel trapped in their lifestyles. They feel like they can’t ever leave their jobs. And they stay there ticking along even though they’re unhappy. Because they fear change, they fear rejection

Fear of rejection and change

What is it stopping everyone from finding a better job? Is it the economy? There are lots and lots of jobs out there. I like to think it’s something a little deeper.

This was something that happened to me a while ago: I was shortlisted for a job and I was able to get on the list before it was “on the market” so to speak. I studied hard on the company, researched the current problems the team might be facing by speaking to people working there and people who have worked there, and found out all I could about the hiring manager’s likes and dislikes.

In total, I did over 2 weeks of preparation. And the phone interview lasted just 5 minutes.

The hiring manager was rushing into another meeting and he didn’t spend much time talking to me. He kept me on his review list for 2 weeks and then finally decided I was not experienced enough for the position.

How do you think I feel? It sucked, of course! I’m not sure what went wrong and I may never know the answer. That’s the reality of it. Some part of me feels like I did 2 weeks of preparation for nothing. The hiring manager seemed made up his mind before talking to me.

Rejection stinks. We all feel rejection extremely strongly. Human beings are extremely sensitive to social rejection. Being rejected for a job tells us we were not good enough to join the tribe. We all want approval and acceptance. It dates back to 10,000 B.C. We formed tribes for protection because we know being in the wilderness on our own in a land filled with animals that view lone humans as so much hamburger meat, was certain death. Evolutionarily speaking, we are hardwired to form social relationships and strongly motivated to feel liked.

We have to look to the past to embrace the future.

Remember how it was like when you were younger? You were so arrogant and also stupid but so, so confident that you know everything and everything will fall into place. Kids will run up to jump up and try cycling because they don’t fear getting hurt. And there’s an advantage when you are young; you don’t have any money so it’s impossible to blow a lot of it. I talk to the people around me who claimed they have failed at the ripe age of 22 because they couldn’t find a job after graduation. And they don’t know what to do next. There are just too many things wrong with that statement; you can’t fail at 22 and you do know what to do next.

Just do the next thing that you think of. Holding regret for the past or too much anxiety about the future will just steal your life away. You succeed by doing enough bad things in a row while trying to do a good thing.

You don’t become a musician without first waking up your neighbours with the horrible screeching that you call music. You keep doing what you’re doing with the intention of eventually getting good, and good things will happen. It’s just how it is.

Investigate the limitations you’ve placed on yourself

One of the most frequent objections I hear about starting a side business is that my company is in XYZ sector and they’ll never allow it. I work in one of the most regulated companies in Singapore. These guys will fire you if you trade shares without declaring it. I’ve openly told my bosses that I have a side business and am thinking of starting more. Not only have they said it wasn’t a problem, I’m thought of as one of the top performers. There have even been people who have raised “concerns” to my boss about whether or not it would affect my work. My boss response was to tell me that he didn’t care what I was doing if I kept delivering.

So dig deep, what’s your real objection for not starting a side business?

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  1. I was in the Govt Service where it viewed stocks investment with disdain. At end of each year, we had to declare our stock holdings, investment and any other employment etc.

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