Interview with Bao by Balcony Salon 访谈 | 宝强的另类创业路

OK this is not actually an “Exclusive interview” conducted by me for life-after-banking.com, however it is an interview whereby I’m the interviewee for once! Hope it is allowed that I put it under the ‘Exclusive interviews’ section 🙂

 

访谈 | 宝强的另类创业路

采访整理:张羽冰

做Balcony Salon 以来在香港也算是遇到过不少创业者了。在香港很多创业者都是遵循这么一个路径:工作几年有点儿没劲了,想一个idea, 几个人筹划筹划,然后有点起色了再辞职专心干。 但这种兼职创业是属于比较稳妥的,但的往往进度缓慢,很多项目最后也不了了之了。像宝强这样,先辞职,再环游世界,还思考了人生,然后才开始坐下来想创业计划的人,在香港这种时间和机会成本高到没边儿的地方确实是不多见的。

宝强是Balcony去年6月创业论坛中的speakers之一。当时他一出场就给我留下了很深的印象。大部分的创业者讲起自己的project来都是激情四射,跟打了鸡血似的。唯独宝强娓娓道来。他讲了自己裸辞之后花了两年时间去读书,去游历,去思考。他讲了经历了六年高强度的工作之后,这两年“停下来”的经历给自己的心灵和人生带来了怎样的改变。他还讲了最终为何选择创业这条道路。总之不到十分钟的演讲大家听得屏息宁神。后来我在看视频回放的时候,总觉得听宝强说话不像是听一个80后的年轻创业家,倒是像在听一个深谙佛道的智者在阐述人生。

辞职纯粹只是想停下来,想一想。
“我辞职的时候以后的事情完全没想过。当时很迷茫,很累,想停下来想想清楚。”

640

宝强之前六年的工作强度很大,连睡觉这件事情都经常要都在办公桌前和厕所里进行的。拿着丰厚的薪水,做着在旁人眼里看来很光鲜的工作,他却很迷茫很困惑。他最常思考的两个问题是:工作的意义到底是什么?而我又应该做些什么?这两个问题虽然很抽象很哲学看起来也很装逼,但我相信每一位读者都曾经在深夜里就着一盏床头灯反复思考过这两个问题。宝强也尝试在深夜里思考。但是大部分时候他都因为太累所以睡着了。经过了半年的思考之后,他想通了一件事情:如果继续白天的工作,那永远也找不到答案。于是宝强辞职了。

旅行,阅读,思考人生。
虽然说在这个网络时代,“不顾一切去旅行”和“改变世界靠创业”貌似已经被说烂了。但四年前宝强毅然辞职背上包包去南美的时候,不少人还是觉得很崇拜很欣赏的。当时宝强并没有给自己设定一个期限,要花多久找到人生的答案。他就是带着一个笔记本电脑和几件衣服上路了。

宝强和他的好基友(后来成了他未来创业搭档)踩着单车穿行智利大戈壁,在杳无人烟的土地上露营。因为戈壁寸草不生,周围没有人也没有小动物,到了晚上一片死寂。正是这样绝对的安静给了宝强和他的好基友很多很多的空间去思考,去畅谈人生。创业的想法也是在像是那片星空下一样的异国他乡慢慢萌生出来的。

640 (2)

他俩一路旅行一路想创业点子。想法太多,名字取不过来,所以就统一用地名命名每一个创业计划(跟小贝和维多利亚给孩子取名是一个原理)。从南美到亚洲,也就有了Project Arica(南美的一个小城市),Project Great Wall 还有Project Sakura。

在东京闭关Brainstorm
花了两年时间阅读,旅行,思考后。宝强正式决定创业了。有了决心,也有了搭档(一起环游南美的好基友),现在就差idea了。在这个时候另类的宝强又做出了一个与众不同的决定:他决定搬去东京,和他的搭档把自己关在东京郊区的一个小房间里brainstorm创业计划(房间有多小看下图就知道了),关到想出一两个靠谱的计划为止。

640 (3)

他们brainstorm的方式也很另类很系统很科学化。他们把一个人从早上起床睁眼的第一分钟到晚上睡觉前的每一个场景每一个动作梳理了一遍, 把一个人一生从呱呱落地到垂暮的每一个阶段的需求也梳理了一遍,寻找不同的人在日常生活中的创新空间。每想出一个好的想法之后就去网上查,如果有人已经在做了,就放弃,想下一个。最终他们花了整整一个月的时间,在东京的这个小房间里想出了两个创业点子。其中一个就是他们一直做到今天的Impromptoo。 Impromptoo简单来说,就是一个供香港工作繁忙的年轻人last minute约吃饭约活动的平台。具体的来说呢,就请点击文末的链接到我们的Past Events的页面观看宝强介绍他的创业计划的视频了。

最后宝强想跟大家分享一副漫画。漫画里超级马里奥的心理医生在问他成名之后的感受。马里奥说:The fame is fine, and the money is great, but sometimes I miss theplumbing.

640 (4)

Advertisements

Fight After Banking – Interview with a banker who just resigned to learn martial art!

There is a kong fu hero living within every boy (and girl, sometimes!). I for one, for as long as I can remember, had always been fascinated by sticks, ropes and knives alike – basically anything I can swing about. Playing Street Fighters 2, watching Dragon Ball Z and reading Jin Yong’s novels contributed tremendously to this passion. To this day, I still have “getting a Karate black belt” on my bucket list!

However, few of us really pursued this childhood dream to become a real kong fu hero (大侠) beyond perhaps throwing a few punches at a sand bag in the gym. This is why I was totally astonished at the fact that Josh, after 5 years of banking, has quit his job to do exactly that!

Nothing says better than his own last-day email:

Dear friends,

     After living in HK for 5 years, I have finally had enough of the HK taxi drivers!

     I’m kidding… I love HK, but I am actually taking a year off from the hussle and bussle of the city life. I will be training with some of the world’s most fearsome fighters from Thailand to Brazil to Korea and Japan for one year. I have resigned from MS last month and planning to leave HK in early July. I will travel first to Thailand to train at a Muay Thai (Thai boxing) camp for three month. Then I will go to South America for six month, where I will train in Jiu-Jitsu as well as Capoeira. Afterwards, I will spend the final three month in Korea or Japan to learn Tae Kwon Do or Judo.

     While it is extremely difficult to leave the comfort and familiarity of the city, with amazing friends, great job, and incredible girl/guy ratios. In order to grow more as a person, I’m looking to put myself outside of this comfort zone for a year to seek out situations that are unfamiliar and scary.  Given that I’m still (relatively) young, have no major obligations, and the Dow being below 12000, today’s opportunity cost is pretty low. And at the end of my travel, I’m still excited to come back and work in the field that brought me to HK in the first place.

     I will setup a blog with frequent updates on my wherabouts, which you are all welcome to join me. And I will be in and out of HK until early July; I would love to catch up with many of you. So please let me know if you are in town.

     P.S.

        I wanted to do this ever since my family bought our first television set way back in China when it was a big deal to own a TV. We turned it on and the first show we ever watched was called “The Legend of the Condor Heroes” (射雕英雄传) about… you guessed it… Chinese martial arts masters. =D

     Everybody is kung-fu fighting…

    Josh

     Two quotes that inspired me to do this –

     “Change is not something we should fear. It is something we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom. And nobody in this world would ever move forward to become the person we are meant to be.” – B.K.S lyengar

     “Have you ever wondered if there was more to life than just being rediculouslly good looking?” – Derek Zoolander

Now you can understand why I was attracted to this story like a moth to a flame.

ME: So Josh, what made you decide to quit and do something so different and COOL?

J: Two main reasons. First of all, time pressure. I just turned 28 and realized that I’m not getting any younger and the big 3 is just around the corner! It’s basically now or never. I want to do something when I still can, while I have no family obligations and can make my own decisions. Secondly, I felt that I was no longer growing as a person. It has hit a wall, a stagnation point. I’ve been working for 5 years and really like my job, but it’s just getting a bit too comfortable and no longer challenging. I wanted to see growth in myself as a person and not just the number in the bank account.

ME: I can totally understand that being 29 myself… what made you decide on martial art?

J: I love travel and adventure, but at the same time I don’t want to just be a tourist. Backpacking to 50 different countries is not something I’m interested in. I want to be able to immense myself into the local culture, actually live in a place, make friends, learn the language, etc. That means spending months and not weeks in a given place. I thought about the different options, such as enrolling in language schools and other things, but nothing felt quite as challenging and out-of-my-comfort zone as what I’m about to do! Plus, I’ve been training Muay Thai for 6 months now and tried various different martial arts before this. I really enjoy it. If you get one chance to do something in life, why not do something bold? And of course, I’ve always wanted to be a Kong Fu hero J

ME: I’ve seen a Muay Thai match in Bangkok and it looked extremely dangerous. One guy was knocked out completely and had to be carried away in a stretcher. Are you not scared?

J: I am extremely scared! Muay Thai is arguably the most physically demanding and dangerous form of all martial arts. Can you imagine standing in the ring, facing a Thai guy who is in the best shape of his life ready to take your head off? Of course I’m scared. But that is the point. Learning to fight is not so that I can beat people up, it is to teach myself how to face fear. If I could handle the situation in the ring, overcome my fear, then I know I’ve come a long way to being able to handle any situation in life. (although a friend of mine who just became a dad said he would take on a Thai boxer any time over having to take care of his baby who wakes up every hour on the hour every single night…:P)

So fighting is really just a means to an end. It is a tool to help me grow. I’ve used other such “tools” before. For example, I was bad at public speaking before, having moved to the US from China at an early age and unable to speak the language. In order to overcome that, I joined Toast Masters (http://www.toastmasters.org/) and gave 10 speeches to hundreds of people. It helped me build confidence and works the same way as learning martial arts.

All these experiences you have cross reference each other and make you who you are as a person.

ME: Let’s talk a bit about your quitting process. How did your bosses and family react to it?

J: They were all very supportive. My direct boss told me if I ever wanted to come back, just give him a heads-up a couple of months in advance. When I talked to the head of my team, he first spent 10 minutes giving me a lecture on why I shouldn’t quit, then he asked me “what is it that you are actually going to do anyway?”, after hearing my reply, he leaned back to his chair, paused for a second and said “man, you should just go do it! I wish I did something like this!”

My parents were also very supportive. They even offered to give me money to help me do this. They know I’m not going to disappear for years, I’m just going to do this for one year and then I might come back to the industry. As I said, I actually really enjoy finance and might just come back to it.

ME: How much do you budget for the trips to Thailand, South America, Japan/Korea etc for this whole year?

J: around 50K USD. This excludes air tickets as I have enough miles fortunately to cover everything.

ME: What advice do you have for people considering similar things?

J: You just have to do it. Life is finite. Think about when you are on your death bed, what you would like to have happened in your life. More 0’s in the bank account or a more fulfilling life. Sometimes money and time are exchangeable, and the “exchange rate” changes at different stages in life. The quality of time also changes with your age, so you got to think about maybe sometimes it is better to give up some money and seize the moment.

People who can get into top-tier finance jobs are reasonably smart and are already better paid than 99% of the people. It should not be impossible to find a job after the break.

I would also recommend a book called “The 4-Hour Workweek” (http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/). In there it talks about a concept called “Mini-retirements”. We work hard through our youth to save up for a retirement in old age. That seems backwards to the author – we should have our fun now, while we still can. Mini-retirements also mean repeating what I’m doing now every few years. It’s possible and I’m going to try to do that!

ME: Thank you Josh and kick some asses in Thailand!

As Josh dashed off to his Muay Thai practice in Soho, I was left with a strong echoing of the word “self-growth”. It was the second time in three days that somebody had talked to me about it. It seems that people working in Central often attribute the lack of satisfaction at work (and in life in general) to a lack of opportunity to “grow”.

What exactly is self-growth? What are we trying to achieve in the end? How do we go about doing it? These are really hard questions to which perhaps there is no universal answer. And yet, it seems that many people around us almost had to answer these questions in order to be truly happy. Maybe it is worth our time to really think about it.

As Josh said, the point of learning martial art is not about being able to fight. It is not about how to become ‘able’ from ‘unable’. It is more about changing your mental status and your heart rather than your physical capabilities. It’s about transforming yourself as person, about changing how you think, about changes that take place from within that can’t be seen or easily measured. It’s more like a 内功. Everything else is just means to this end.

That’s all well and good, but what exactly are we trying to achieve by improving our inner capabilities? To Josh, perhaps it starts with overcoming his fear. Not just fear in the boxing ring, but fear in life. This is huge though if we think about it! Can you imagine living a life without any fear? Can you imagine always being able to face atrocities with a smile, may it be mistreatment at work, failing a relationship, loss of a friend, old age, or even death? Can you see that what we are trying to achieve is the ability to have total control of our mind? We can’t change the world, but we could possibly change how we perceive the world. Simply put, we are trying to achieve eternal happiness.

Well, “eternal happiness” sounds awesome! What do I do exactly to get there? One can’t possibly “think” his way to eternal happiness right? unless he is at least somewhat mental and performing hypnosis on himself? This last part of the question is perhaps the most difficult, because the answer is different for every single person. For Josh, he has chosen to take a year out to learn martial arts. For you and me, it may be something completely different, including continuing with our office jobs. What you do doesn’t really matter; it is how you do it or what you think about while you do it. There isn’t a series of tasks on a checklist that you need to tick in order to achieve the goal. It is entirely possible that even if you spend your entire life trying to be rid of fear, you would still be scared shitless when death is in sight. The outcome is not guaranteed, the only decision you can make is whether to at least give it a try.

When we were walking out of Pacific Place and passing by all the shiny branded shops that represent a certain HK culture (or shall I say cult), Josh pointed to them and said “this should not be what life is about!” I couldn’t agree more.

<The End>

Written on 25 June, 2012, on behalf of www.life-after-banking.com. All rights reserved.

Bank on Mustique – Interview with a banker who runs her own luxury travel business on the side

London is best known for its weather. Once again, it lived up to this notorious reputation with snowfalls and freezing conditions that crippled airports, closed schools, and made everybody look like Eskimos.

If there’s any upside, it is the enhanced experience of sipping Cappuccino in a warm coffee shop. People took refuge and piled into any places indoor, and I found mine right next to the Bank of England, in the heart of London’s financial district, aka “the City”. Grand buildings made of limestone, tailor-made suits and shining shoes constantly remind passersby where they are. Even the tube station is called, quite simply, “Bank”.

It is here I met Sophie, a Shanghainese girl who believes life doesn’t have to start after banking, and proved it by pursuing her passion to set up her own company, all the while being a banker. She showed all of us that banking doesn’t have to consume all of your life and you actually can have the best of the both worlds, so long as you have passion, curiosity and guts.

ME: Thank you so much for talking to me. It’s been so long since we were at university, could you remind me again what you did since graduation?

S: Sure. I stayed to work in London after school and was with Morgan Stanley’s M&A team for three and a half years. I left in 2009 to join a boutique advisory firm and have been there since.

ME: Why the move?

S: It’s quite interesting actually. A few years back, someone very senior at MS left the firm after over 20 years of service to join Lehman Brothers, and transferred all his stock holdings into Lehman shares.(OOOPS!) Obviously in 2008, the bank went down and he lost a lot of money overnight. The guy later said that it was a “refreshing” experience. (interesting choice of word, I would have gone for “gut-wrenching”) The reason being, he woke up the next morning, despite of losing in financial terms, he still had good health, family, friends and clients who would still call him for advice. Nothing really has changed except for those figures on the bank statements. He also had a moment of “epiphany” to realize that as long as the same people who trusts you for your advice, they will pay you for it! which is why, with a  couple of other partners, he set up a boutique advisory firm to bring back the old school “trust based” corporate finance business.. He wanted to build a team of truly trustworthy problem solvers instead of empty suits. After hearing him talk about his vision, I was inspired and decided to join them.

ME: That’s an amazing banker! At which point during the process did you start thinking about starting your own business?

S: I have always enjoyed spending generously while going on holidays (it’s the only valuable time spent with friends and family!). Of course, it’s just a personal preference, some girls love branded bags or spending money on shoes, whereas I enjoy a flawless travel experience. At the beginning of 2009, I went on holiday to the island of Mustique in the Caribbean Sea and it all started from there.

Mustique is an amazing island with ultimate privacy and a simple yet luxury lifestyle; it’s a place where one would go every year. I was really surprised that very few people know about it in London. This is where I got the wild idea that, maybe I could help people to discover amazing places like this. There must be so many others out there! So while I was in Mustique, I talked to the management company that runs the island and they are also very interested in having somebody introducing new clients to them. The seed of the business venture was sowed at that moment.

Later in the same year, I changed job and had two and a half months in between, and I decided to formally set up the business.

ME: Interesting. How exactly does the business work?

S: My typical client would be a senior officer at a bank, say a MD or a Partner. They have little time to spend on planning their holiday, but really wants to make it worthwhile for their family and are willing to pay for it (although value for money is always important). SoluxTravel (http://www.soluxtravel.com) comes in and we provide a tailor-made service to them.

For example, I would first receive an email/call from a client, stating that he or she is thinking about going on holiday with a family that includes two small children, to somewhere warm with a beach, but has less than five hours of time difference. I would then prepare a PPT research report with a few options that fit the criteria. The client would then pick 1 or 2 places out of these and I would provide more detailed information on the selected target destinations. Once they decide on the final choice, I would make the booking for them. I then also liaise with the hotel before and during their stay to make sure everything is up to standard and they get a little extra.

The business model is simple, my clients pay the hotel or resorts directly, and the hotel then pays me a commission. I don’t take any client money, so, for them, it’s really a free service. You can see that given the small commission rate and not charging extra from the clients, it is only worth my time if the client going for high-end resorts for a long-ish period of time, Although, once they’ve known me, they also come for weekend trip ideas etc, which is also nice to work on.

ME: Sounds like a straightforward business model. How much business have you gotten so far?

S: Well, on average my client would spend US$10,000 per trip, and in the last two years I’ve helped to plan around 20 trips. Most of the business comes from 4-5 clients who I regularly serve, and another 4-5 clients who are referred by my existing clients.

ME: That’s some handsome money made on the side. Does it take a lot of your time?

S: I haven’t hired anybody yet so everything is done by me. A typical presentation with 5 pages takes 3-4 hours to prepare, and I usually send it to clients within a week of getting the request, or even a couple of days if their request is very specific. But of course it takes a lot of time to keep up-to-date with the industry so I regularly read related magazines, go to industry forums to meet counter parties at various hotels and resorts. This is fun for me, it’s my hobby anyways. Sometimes I have to get up early or stay till 2-3am to make oversea calls and prepare the research, but I don’t mind doing it!

ME: Sounds like a good money-making hobby to have. Does it ever interfere with your work?

S: Not really. The clients I have usually start planning their holiday 3-4 months in advance, so there’s plenty of time to plan things around. I only use my free time in the evenings and weekends, so it is quite manageable given the size of the current client base and the fact that I don’t work in a big bank so no need for face time

Some people at work know that I’m doing this on the side, but it’s no big deal.

ME: I’m curious how easy it is to set up a company in the UK.

S: It’s pretty straightforward. The company is registered as a limited company and to be registered as a travel agency, I also needed two sponsors. So the contact I made at Mustique was one of them, and I approached Aman Resorts (http://www.amanresorts.com/) to be my other sponsor. Once I explained to them what I was doing, they were very supportive and sent their London representative to meet me. The whole process took 1 month.

ME: What are your plans for the business going forward?

S: Because it is a niche market and a very localized business, I think the room for growth in the UK/Europe is relatively limited. I would love to access the China market though. It’s going to take a while to educate the market, letting people know what luxury travel is. There are a lot of rich people there but many of them may not see the value of a hotel being a destination in itself. i.e., it is not just for sleeping, it’s the whole experience.

The potential is huge but a lot of work is needed and I would need to be on the ground. Unfortunately I am not moving back to China immediately due to personal reasons, but it would make sense to work with a local partner.

ME: What would be your criteria for choosing local partners in China / Asia?

S: First of all, you need to be really into luxury travel. The work is only interesting if you yourself are into it, otherwise browsing through details of resorts could be very boring. Personally, I try to go to as many destinations as I would recommend my clients to (and I enjoy a travel agent discount), so I am in a position to give them first handed advice. If you don’t like it yourself, it is also hard to understand what the clients are looking for and be on the same page with them (some can be quite pandemic and specific, think quality of the bed, softness of the sand, within certain timezone, small things like that).

Secondly, some banking skills and mentality would be useful. Our product is just the advice given in the form of a presentation, so not dissimilar to banking. Also, most of my clients are in the financial industry, it would be helpful if you know their mindset, what they look for, and how they work. For example, I send things to them always in blackberry-friendly format and I am always on standby to answer my client’s calls and emails.

Thirdly, a curious mind is very important. We are constantly looking for new and interesting destinations for clients and it makes a big difference if I am the first to introduce a certain place to someone. It’s a bit like introducing potential M&A targets in that sense.

As you can imagine, people like that are hard to come by!

ME: There are a lot talented people in Asia and perhaps when they read this, they will contact you to be your partner! Switching gears for a minute, how did you think about entrepreneurship? Did you do it because you were unhappy with banking?

S: I actually enjoy my current banking job, mainly because the nature is different from what I got from MS and because the seniors I work with are great individuals and I learn from them about life. My entrepreneurial spirit has always been there, so the idea came naturally when I visited Mustique. If I had 20 more clients, then I might consider doing SoluxTravel full-time, but at the moment, I am quite happy with the status quo. Plus, the connections made from my day job could also help with the side business.

ME: I guess it all came quite naturally to you. Do you have any advice for those who are thinking about doing the same thing?

S: If you are thinking about it, stop thinking and start doing! There’s so much unknown in a business that the only way to know is by doing. It is especially the case if the idea you have don’t require that much start-up capital.

ME: Thank you very much for your time. Last question – where do you recommend I go at this time of year?

S: I would recommend Amanpulo (http://www.amanresorts.com/amanpulo/home.aspx), it is a resort situated on the private Philippine island of Pamalican. It has the whitest and softest sand beach, one of the best I’ve seen in a totally private and comfortable setting. Cost is around USD1,000 per night.

If you are into skiing, I would recommend Schneider Almhof in Lech, Austria (http://www.almhof.at/) for a true alpine experience.

ME: Great ideas. Hope I can check them out one day.

As I was walking out of the coffee shop and into one of the coldest winters England has ever had, my mind drifted to the exotic island of Mustique. I saw myself lying by the beach and sipping margaritas with little umbrellas on it.

Finding what you want to do, is it really that hard? It all seemed to have happened very naturally for Sophie. If I asked 100 people whether they would like to have a small business on the side as a hobby, and at the same time make some money, I think 99 of them would say yes. But why aren’t people doing it? “I never thought about it.”, “I don’t know what I want to do”, “I don’t have the time” are perhaps the common answers, or shall I say, excuses. Well then, why not start thinking about it? Why not put in the time and effort to really try to find out what you want you do? If an investment banker can find the time, I’m sure most of us can.

At dinner on that same day, I overheard a conversation from the table next door, a man was saying to his friend: “My worst fear in life is that I will never find what I really want to do”. I think it is the “worst fear” for many of us. So how shall we deal with this fear? As a psychologist would tell you, the best way to overcome fear is to confront it. If you’re scared of spiders, you should put them on your palms. If you’re scared of the lift, you should ride it repeatedly. If you are scared of not knowing what to do in life, then you should keep thinking about the question, stay in the feared situation until it begins to subside.

I believe the answer is out there. We just have to find it.

<The End>

Written at Taylor St Baristas on 7 February 2012, on behalf of www.life-after-banking.com. All Rights Reserved.

Let life be beautiful like summer flowers – Interview with a veteran banker-turned-entrepreneur-turned-banker

I met Summer just as autumn was leaving Hong Kong, if there ever was an autumn.

This is my favorite time of the year. On a good day, the cool air mixed with a beam of tranquil sunshine is just about enough to fool one’s nostrils into believing that the air is actually fresh and free of pollution. Festive decorations that always seem to appear much too early and from nowhere, indiscriminately remind passersby that the year, indeed yet another, is coming to an end.

To some souls in Central, unfortunately, the year is not the only thing that’s coming to an end. Recessions saw many “bodies” – a term often used to refer to junior bankers, being thrown onto the streets. “Finding a job” quickly found itself to be on top of many New Year’s resolutions, replacing the usual suspects such as “Finding love” and “Becoming a better person”.

At this time of self-reflection and in the midst of this mixed mood, I had the pleasure of talking to Summer. For those who have not had the pleasure, I would highly recommend it. Rarely do you find somebody with whom holding a conversation feels like a gentle stroll along a little unpaved road in the countryside, with mid-summer’s sun shining through the misty fog and leafs above. Fast paced life turned many people into aggressively fast talkers, always eager to leash out every single thought that comes to mind irrespective of what the audience is saying or doing. Talking to Summer is different, a calming, smooth and enriching experience. The mere fact that she did not check her phone or blackberry even once during our two-hour conversation was incredible.

ME: Great to see you today, so what kind of business did you do when you took a break from banking?

S: I left Investment Banking on October 1, 2007, after working for over two years as an analyst. One of the projects I did was helping a famous nation-wide company that makes hair products like shampoos. I was both inspired and a little surprised at how easy it was to make these products, so I wanted to give it a go myself! After 4 months of preparation, I opened a cosmetics shop called “MaxSummer” in the East Gate area in Shenzhen (equivalent of the Mongkok area in Hong Kong). We sell our own branded cosmetics products while providing free makeup tutorials to customers, and yes, some young girls come to the shop at around 5 or 6pm just to get a free makeup before their evening dates!

ME: Wow that must have been a big change! How did you like the experience?

S: Yeah it was very different, I was working harder than Investment Banking! We hired two staff and my mum was also helping out. The shop was open from 9:30am to 10pm and I was pretty much there all of the time. For the first two days after opening, hardly anybody came into the shop, and I was getting really worried. Maybe it was because of our high-end decoration that scared off the bargain-seeking customers, which constituted the majority of foot traffic in East Gate. Magically, as soon as I hang out a big “Discount” sign on the third day, customers started pouring in.

On the other hand, I was suddenly dealing with a whole different group of people, juggling between customers, staff, landlord, tax collectors and chengguan. East Gate area is not your typically Landmark orIFC, it’s a mass market shopping area for the local people. For example, my next door shop neighbor was surprised that my shop had an English name. People were shocked that I could talk to foreign customers in fluent English and one of the foreigners said to me:”you must have been an office lady before!”

ME: That sounds like a lot of fun, but also work and commitment. When you entered the business, did you plan to be in it for the long run?

S: I was actually very serious about this business and wanted to make a living out of it. Before I opened the shop, I travelled to Guangzhou several times to do market research, studying similar shops in shopping malls, and coming up with product and marketing strategies. It also took a lot of effort to cut through all the red-tape, get the necessary certificates in order to start operation. I wanted to try to build a real business out of it, definitely not just for fun or as a hobby to kill time.

ME: I understand you sold the business in the end after 4 months of operation, now looking back, would you consider it a success?

S: From a pure business prospective, I wouldn’t say it was a success. Although we did attract some interested parties who invited me to join their larger franchise. There were also customers taking photos of our shop because of its fashionable design. There were a few reasons why I decided not to continue with the business in the end:

First of all, I was disappointed and realized that the beautiful picture of entrepreneurship I painted in my head was too naïve. I knew too little of the real world before I started, and I didn’t like what I found out. People played a big factor. I all of a sudden had to deal with people that are from much more grassroots background, there was sometimes a lack of common language and some of them were rude. However, in order to do business, you had to deal with them. Then I kept asking myself, “why do I have to put up with it?” From friends in Shenzhen, I also heard stories of having to pay “protection-fees” to crime organizations and make under-the-table transactions to various stakeholders, I had to again ask myself, could I really deal with that in order to become successful.

Secondly, the commercial side wasn’t rosy. Making money from real businesses is much harder than getting paid a big check at the end of every month. After a while, you realize that even taking into account an aggressive expansion plan, it would still be many years before the business profit exceeds the opportunity cost. If you are a professional like a banker, your income level increases very steadily at a steep rate, whereas a real business often has to sustain a long period of much lower cash generation capability, hoping that one day you can really “make it” through an IPO. I have seen many successful businesses when doing banking, but now I realized that the successful ones are really the exception rather than the norm.

Last but not least, my parents worried about me even more than when I was being sleep deprived as a banker. It was harder work than before and my parents didn’t think it was sustainable.

ME: What are the lessons you learnt from this experience?

S: I feel that I matured a lot after 8 months of start up experience. My state of mind changed for the better. I realized that it’s not a good idea to start something you have completely no knowledge of and no advantage over others. I’m still very glad that I managed to execute my idea, which I’ve wanted to for a long time. No matter what the result is, at least I can say that I did it.

ME: Your courage is admirable indeed. Let’s move onto why you left banking in the first place?

S: It was a mixture of reasons, probably not dissimilar to what anyone else would say about a banking analyst’s life. I wasn’t getting the satisfaction from the job, it was not fun, not innovative, and I felt trapped and was in a constant battle with myself. The monetary reward did not make any difference. I have always been free spirited and would read entrepreneurial stories online all the time. I know that I wanted a different life and wanted it badly.

On the other hand, the banking job relieved me of any financial pressure and I had the capital to be able to start the business.

ME: I am intrigued that after all this, you decided to come back to banking. Why?

S: Sometimes you need to distant yourself from something in order to appreciate its beauty, just like in the case of startups, I had to get into it in order to see the ugly side of things.

After selling the shop, I thought very hard and explored other opportunities too. I realized that I actually don’t dislike banking itself, I never did. What I didn’t like was myself at the time, the state I was in, with an overhanging ambition to create my own business. Once I’ve tried and done that, a void in my heart was filled and once again, I was able to assess banking with a new and more objective prospective.

Now I actually really like my job! I joined a Chinese bank where I think the culture fits me much better. I was given a lot of responsibilities to do the things I enjoy. The entrepreneurial experience taught me a lot on how to deal with different type of people, which has proved to be invaluable experience at my current job.

ME: Congratulations. Do you have any advice for younger bankers who are thinking of doing the same thing?

S: It is very hard to give general advice, because it depends on each person’s character. If you asked me four years ago whether I would encourage people to choose startups over banking, I probably would have said “go for it” in a heartbeat. Now, I would say that you really need to think about it. But hey, some people really need to “do” to “believe”, like myself. An idea or a longing for something is like a hungry beast, the only solution is to feed it once and for all before you can have peace and move on.

ME: Thank you very much for your time.

My interview with Summer was quite timely, some people were beginning to question whether I was anti-banking and actually spend my nights secretly “occupying Central” in tents under the HSBC building. That is obviously not the case. Summer has shown that you can definitely find happiness, or whatever it is that you think is important in life, in banking. In fact, if you have the right state of mind, I believe you can find it doing pretty much anything. Banking or not banking, that is not the question.

People who love what they do are blessed. The hard part is finding out what you love doing. Getting to know yourself may be the most difficult thing in one’s life, yet we spent astonishingly little time practicing it. After following an already laid out path for too long and being detached from your true self, it is almost impossible to figure out what you want. No wonder when we hear Steve Jobs say “Stay hungry, stay foolish”, we panic. On one hand, we feel the “hunger”, on the other hand, we have utterly no idea what type of “food” we need to satisfy the hunger. We don’t even know if we are vegetarians or carnivores, because we don’t know ourselves. Summer told me that she sometimes takes very long walks in the park by herself, to be with herself and listen to her heart. Maybe that’s a suggestion.

I leave you, and this year, with this line below. Hope Summer’s life continue to blossom like a true summer flower.

“Let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves. (生如夏花之绚烂,死如秋叶之静美)” —       Tagore (泰戈尔)

<The End>

Written on December 1, 2011 on behalf of www.life-after-banking.com. All Rights Reserved.

Lucia’s in 906 on 9.06 – Interview with an ex-banker turned Entrepreneur on the opening day of his shop

On September 6, 2011, Tianyi finally shaved!

Many of us were wondering to how long his beard would grow, for Tianyi has sworn not to shave at all until his jewelry shop opens. Apparently, he got this idea from Yao Ming (姚明) and Mei Lan Fang (梅兰芳), and for all three of these extraordinary people, this simple trick seems to have worked exceptionally well.

Although we were all secretly hoping to see Tianyi with an ankle-long beard or even a mustache, it was nevertheless an extremely exciting day for all of us.

Finally, one of us did it. Finally, a friend whom we know, whom we eat and play with, whom we can actually feel and touch, has built a business from scratch and opened it in the nucleus of Lan Kwai Fung. Finally, someone pursued his dream with passion and showed us that there’s a life outside of banking.

If life is defined by a small number of special days, today would certainly be one of them for Tianyi. After an opening ceremony involving eating roast pig (a Cantonese tradition for business opening) and the biggest moon cake known to men, I sat down opposite him on his well-decorated brand new shop. Shadowed by a flower bouquet with a message that reads “Tiffany’s today is Lucia’s tomorrow”, I asked Tianyi about his journey since leaving a top-tier US bank 15 month ago.

ME: So, first things first, who do you think will be mandated to take your shop IPO?

T: (lots of laughter) Although it’s “slightly” too early to consider this, I must say that Morgan Stanley has made a very good first impression, for my very first customer today is an employee of MS!

ME: This definitely shows the importance of early client coverage! Let’s get started, how do you feel today?

T: Very excited indeed. I’ve been working on this for 9-10 months and finally, I did it! Creating something from nothing is really hard work and I have come a long way. I am happy with what I’ve done to date, but this is just the beginning, real work starts today and I can’t wait to get to it!

ME: Tell us about the preparations for the shop, did it take as long as you thought it would?

T: The whole thing took 9-10 months, and when I first started, I thought 3 months was all I needed! Looking back, I could have done so many things differently. I was a complete novice and knew nothing about the business a year ago, so I took many D-tours. This is the price you pay for learning something from scratch. If I had the opportunity to start over again, it would probably only take half of the time, like 4-5 months.

ME: Yeah I noticed that your beard was getting long… What are the major reasons for the delay in opening?

T: First of all, my own inexperience as mentioned earlier. Secondly, I am a Perfectionist, which didn’t help! Lucia’s is named after my wife and I wanted everything to be perfect, which meant everything took twice as long as it otherwise would if I was simply shooting for a mediocre shop.

Thirdly, I have to say I sometimes purposely immense myself into a lot of the details, for which maybe I could have leveraged other people. Because I saw this process not only as setting up a shop, but also as an opportunity to actually get to know myself better. For example, I realized that I enjoy high-level strategic planning and choosing product designs much better than the knitty gritty administrative stuff (who doesn’t?). Maybe it’s the way I think, which is more like an artist than a scientist.

Specifically, the one thing that kept haunting me and caused much of the delay was website building. I had to outsource and find a programmer in mainland China and it has proven to be rather difficult to find someone who is both reliable and capable.

ME: Did you ever hit a road block and think about quitting it altogether? How did you deal with it?

T: Are you kidding? I have been stuck, many many times! In fact, I can’t even count the time of times I was stuck. Sometimes it lasts a day or two, sometimes it takes weeks. When things don’t work out, like you just can’t for the life of you find the right supplier, I start to get frustrated, start to think about “what if”, think about whether this thing will actually work, and think about failure or disappointing others and myself.

When this happens, I usually allow myself to take a break, spend some time talking to friends, wonder around the streets of Central to get inspirations, browsing on the internet and Weibo (Chinese tweeter) also helped. I think it helps a lot to keep forcing yourself to read relevant information even when you are stuck, and new ideas will eventually come to you.

The important thing is that, although I’ve been “stuck”, I was never really in doubt of the fact that I wanted a jewelry store. The goal never changed. I might have doubted whether and how I was going to get there, but never the goal itself.

ME: I can only imagine how hard it must have been to create something from nothing. Why did you put yourself through this? Why jewelry store?

T: There are 3 main reasons as to why I chose “jewelry”. First of all, support from my beloved wife who is also keen on jewelry (surprise surprise!). It’s hard for a man to fully understand a woman’s business, and Lucia’s acumen for jewelry made it possible for me. Secondly, I am naturally interested in design. I love beauty and love creating beauty in the world. It is where I can find passion within me. Lastly, I see this jewelry shop as a pilot test for a “Physical store + Online store” business model. This is also why I spent a lot time on our website (www.lucias.hk). Many products may be suitable for this test, it just so happens that jewelry fitted the bill for me.

ME: Let me take a step back, could you take us through the thinking process behind your resignation from banking and how you decided on jewelry?

T: The reason for my departure from banking is simple: I wanted to try start-up. Unlike others who might quit to travel, to take a break, to find meaning of life etc, I quit for a clear and simple reason – to start my own business. I thought about this carefully and for a long time, and decided that it was impossible to do a “part-time” start-up, it’s simply impossible and you may end up losing on both sides.

Only after I quit had I started to think about which business to do. Being an ex-banker myself, I realized that I knew many young professionals working in Central and living the busy lives of HK, so I started brainstorming services that I can provide for these gold-collar workers and friends. I toyed with several ideas including fresh juice store, food delivery service, etc.

At the same time, I realized that pretty much all the ideas I was thinking about required a physical store, so I started looking for suitable locations at the same time. It soon became obvious to me that those curbside retail shops in HK are way too expensive to be sustainable, so I focused on “upstairs” shops. I went to a few buildings in Central/LKF area asking the door man if any room was empty or for leasing (very brave!), and quite luckily, I found this location which was previously occupied by a dentist. I was able to lock in a 3-year contract at a reasonable price.

The jewelry idea really came to me in an epiphany, one evening around the end of last year. Maybe because there was a jewelry exhibition in HK around that time, or maybe because there was some media coverage about Zbird (钻石小鸟) that I saw, or maybe it was just meant to be. Something hit me that made me decide. It felt good! Not knowing what to do was painful for me, and from that moment on, I had a purpose in life.

ME: Congratulations, I can almost feel your excitement on that night when you figured out what to do. I am curious how your boss reacted when you resigned.

T: She was very surprised. My boss was not convinced that I was going to do a start-up business which I didn’t even know what it was going to be yet. She was suspicious that it might just be an excuse for me to quit and join a competitor. To this day, I’m still not convinced that she bought my story the day I walked into her office and out of the firm. Well, she sure believes me now!

ME: How about your parents and family? Were they supportive?

T: My wife has always supported what I wanted to do, I couldn’t have done it without her. My parents are also very open-minded, they value my happiness above the perception of a good job and supported me every step of the way. Also, the idea of starting your own business is probably more common and acceptable in Guangdong, where I’m from, so my family is not foreign to this idea.

(In fact, Tianyi’s father took a bus for more than 7 hours from Maoming, their hometown in Guangdong province, and came to the store opening in Hong Kong to support his son.)

ME: It’s great that you have such a supportive family. However, now you are closer to 30 than 25 and having been married for several years, things like kids, buying a house etc must be coming to mind. How does this whole start-up thing fit into your life planning? Put it another way, how much time do you give yourself to try startup businesses before going back into the job market, if god forbid the business doesn’t work out as well as you had hoped?

T: I will never sacrifice my family. I will never throw everything I have on the line and risk the future of my family. The investment size at the moment is manageable and I will only take risks provided that I can provide a comfortable life for my family. I have been very diligent in controlling cost every step of the way and any loss that may incur so far would be acceptable to me.

The best case scenario is that the shop can breakeven in a year or so, and once it is on the right track, I can then free myself from the tedious day-to-day operations and focus on more strategic thinking, and may venture into other related areas. Going back to the job market will be a last resort, and I will probably give myself a couple of years trying to make this work, before considering going back.

ME: Last question, any advice for those who are also thinking about quitting their job and do startup?

T: Really take the time to carefully consider whether startup is what you want to do. If the answer is yes, do it ASAP.

ME: Thank you very much for your time on your first day of opening!

As I walked out Room 906 of Yip Fung Building on D’Aguilar Street, a few things came to mind.

“Startup”, to many, is a somewhat glamorous term. “Startup” to bankers is like “Investment banking” to undergraduates. Hardly anybody knows what it is, yet everybody feels a magnetic compulsion towards it. The advice in both cases should be the same – only do it for the right reasons. “Creating beauty in the world”, in Tianyi’s case, sounds like a pretty good reason to me. As he said, creating something from nothing is extremely hard work; it takes effort, time, serious commitment and even love. Many people start out trying to find out what they are made of, but end up not liking the view.

Some entrepreneurs have suggested that you need to be under heavy pressure to be successful. You need to give up everything in order to gain something. Some suggest putting everything you have on the line and even take on debt, in order to burn all your exit options so that you have nowhere to go but forward (that’s certainly what VCs like to see!). Tianyi’s philosophy is clearly different. Is the business world really a place where only the blood-thirsty can survive, and that the nice guys who care about their families can’t? I look forward to the day when Tianyi proves them wrong.

Lastly, the cliché “behind every successful man, there is a woman” comes to mind. In this day and age, when many mainland girls require their boyfriends to own a house (and put both their names on it) before even consider marriage, it is not easy, to say the least, to give your other half the freedom and financial support to pursue his/her dream. Tianyi is a lucky man. We hope the power of love will sweep through all the obstacles along the way and take him to ultimate success.

<The End>

Written on September 6, 2011 on behalf of www.life-after-banking.com. All Rights Reserved.

A Tale of Two Sabbaticals – Interview with two Investment Bankers who are taking 6-month to travel the world

When Janet and Stanley walked through the door at Slim Taste, a typically crowded lunch place made mostly of paper in Lan-Kwai-Fong, I felt sunshine on my face.

It’s not just their colorful T-shirts (with teddy bears on it in Stanley’s case) and sandals that instantly stood them apart from all the other suits and ties in the restaurant, but the energy they are beaming, sparing excitement. It felt as though they were the most alive people in the room. Well, they were the best looking for sure.

“So, how does it feel to be free at last?” I asked without hesitation.

“Busy!” comes the surprising answer. Not that surprising really, considering the two are off to South and Central America for 6 straight months to visit some of the most wonderful places man has ever seen. A lot of planning is required, and without the resources of multi-billion-dollar banks under their belt, even the lack of a printer could prove to be a pain in the rear.

I have known both Janet and Stanley for quite a while, still it came as a shock to learn that both of them suspended their highly-paid, well-respected jobs at top tier investment banks, to do nothing but traveling and raising fund for a charity. After all, it is rather uncommon for mainlanders working in Hong Kong to pursue this path. I had burning questions in my mind which I’m sure many others do too, so I sat the two of them down and fired away.

Me: It’s amazing how the two of you synchronized your sabbatical taking, how did you time it so well?

S: Actually you know what? We have a legally binding agreement which sets a deadline to leave our current jobs and that if one person quits and the other doesn’t, the deal breaker will have to pay a hefty penalty! (Are you kidding me??) We even got a friend at a professional law firm to draft a two-page contract. The penalty is not small you know, multiple months’ salary!

J: Haha yeah, Stanley was so worried that I’m not going to quit after he has, since he quit a month earlier than me. It worked out well as a catalyst though, forcing both of us to carry through with the decision we made.

Me: Wow that’s amazing. I guess it’s a big commitment to give up your jobs. Will you get to keep your pay and position during the sabbatical? And Bonus?

S: Our sabbaticals are completely unpaid, but the position is kept in the sense that my email account still works but no more access to it of course, but there’s no guarantee I won’t be laid off by the time I come back… bonus wise, I’m entitled to the pro-rata bonus for the number of months I have worked this year.

J: In my case, they guaranteed that I’d have my job after 6 months. I’m the first of such case in the history of the firm, so I had to draft my own agreement with the bank! My year-to-date performance will be taken into account when deciding bonus.

Me: That’s not bad at all, at least you got some bonus going for you. How long have you guys been preparing for this?

S: Since February! – which is when I got my year-end bonus. We thought about quitting back then, but Janet’s bonus was delayed to the end of April. By then, it was only 3 months away from my sign-on bonus lock-up in July, so I finally told my boss in July.

J: Yeah we pretty much finalized everything by April/May.

Me: I’m curious as to how you told your bosses, what were their reactions?

S: I just walked in and told my boss that I wanted to travel. It’s rather straightforward. Some people have suggested that maybe I should make up an excuse like family issues or something, but telling the truth is always the easiest. Words are bound to come around that you ended up traveling in South America instead of staying at home!

J: Exactly. I just told my boss that I needed a break. He too was quite understanding.  They are somewhat concerned about me jumping ship though, and the fact that it might set a “bad” precedent for other employees, given I’m the first one, but once I explained it to them, it was fine.

S: The key is to be firm. If your boss knows you’ve made your decision and that you would rather quit if you are not allowed to take a break, they would usually be accommodating.

Me: Sounds like you guys have really cool bosses! Is it really that easy to take sabbaticals in Hong Kong’s i-banks?

S: My firm had 3 people doing it in recent years, although they are foreigners and HK locals, guess it’s less common for mainlanders. But it shows that it’s definitely doable, especially if you say you are going to learn mandarin, which is what the 3 guys ended up doing….

J: It’s easier than most people think.

Me: OK here comes the big question – why are you doing this?

(after a long pause and deciding who goes first…)

S: I’ll go first. The decision was really inspired by my climbing experience last year in Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest mountain). The week I spent with friends in the wild, camping and all, really inspired me. Many negative things disappeared or were trivialized in the face of nature. You realized that what you thought were essential things are not really all that important. We can still live without blackberries, mobile phones, electricity, shower facilities or even clean water for example! Even the concept of “time” seems to be different. I realized that traveling really opened my mind and I wanted to do more of it. 2 weeks of holiday a year is just not enough. Through subsequent travels, I’ve met with more people who I will never meet working for an i-bank in Hong Kong, and they can give me ideas I wouldn’t even know was possible otherwise.

J: I agree with Stanley. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long long time, 5 years at least! After some years working, you get to a stage where money making and corporate ladder climbing is no longer the most important goals. I’ve always liked traveling and mingling with people from different cultural backgrounds. It will help me to find my next goal in life.

Me: Agreed. Why didn’t you guys do it earlier? Or later?

J: I wanted to do it earlier, but as a girl it’s not safe to travel alone, and it’s hard to find somebody who can spend 6 months traveling with you. A lot of people SAY they want to quit, but there are a lot more “talkers” than “do-ers”. So it’s a natural decision once I found Stanley, who has strong execution skills! (LOL)

S: Anybody who’s been an Investment Banking analyst has probably thought of quitting, like hundreds of times. I used to work in London, and back then it seems to be a shame to quit without seeing what HK and Asia is like. Now is the best time to do this.

Me: Have you calculated the financial and opportunity cost of this sabbatical?

S: Our traveling expense will not exceed 100k HKD per month. (Janet jumps in to say 50K is probably more than enough…). I haven’t really thought about the opportunity cost. This stage in life is more about experience than wealth accumulation. It’s not like I have mortgage to pay or kids to feed.

J: The benefit definitely outweighs the cost of taking a sabbatical. Plus, the benefit is life-long and permanent, while any financial loss is only temporary.

Me: Did your parents agree with you on this assessment?

S: Yes they were very supportive. My dad said that it is good to get out of your comfort zone, you become more courageous! My mum had some concerns, mostly about whether I can still get a job afterwards etc, typical Chinese mum mentality.

J: My parents are supportive too. They love traveling as well and are actually seriously considering to come along or to meet us somewhere in South America! My parents also contributed 10K HKD to our charity fund raising effort as an anchor investor.

Me: Talking about the charity you are trying to raise money for, what’s that about?

S: That’s also inspired by my other group of friends from London who climbed Kilimanjaro last year. Unlike us, they climbed with another objective – to fly a kite at the top of the mountain and make that the highest flying kite in Guinness Record! It also seemed like a great opportunity to associate with some fund raising. We regretted not doing something like that last time, so wanted to do something meaningful this time.

J: Again, this kind of charity work is something I’ve wanted to do for a long long time. Finally the opportunity comes. (Stanley: so I’m like an angel granting all your wishes!) I’ve been to Africa twice and seen some kids in dying need of help. My first fund raising experience was for my trip to Ethiopia with Deutsche Bank, who was sponsoring a local medical centre there, I raised GBP 1,500 for a Cancer Charity back then. My own experience made me think that charity for children is the most meaningful. It made me realize how lucky we are, and that we are not any different from those children apart from having been fortunate enough to be born to different families. Furthermore, there’s not nearly enough awareness in Asia compared to the UK and other western countries. Read our full story onhttp://www.simplygiving.com/sawonders

Me: Last question from me, what advice do you have for fellow bankers who are thinking about doing the same thing?

S: If you are thinking about it, just do it, you won’t regret it. My short trip to Guilin last week has already turned out to be very rewarding, I met a hostel owner who cycled around China and now running a top rated (by tripadvisor) hostel in Yanghsuo. I never meet people like that in Hong Kong. Being an I-banker in HK makes you think there are only two options in life, IB or PE. That’s a very narrow view of the world.

J: This kind of experience is not always available when you want it, money maybe, not experiences. Sometimes it’s like getting stuck in a vacuum, the more you stay there, the more you are stuck. Once you are married with kids, it’s never going to be the same again, so seize the moment!

Me: Thank you so much guys. All the best for the next 6 months!

As I waved Janet and Stanley off to their Spanish lesson (very good idea given their destinations), I thought of two things.

First, taking a sabbatical should be the easiest thing in the world to do! Yet it is the hardest in a social environment like China and Hong Kong. Are we already too trapped in a cage made of money, family, status, that we have lost ourselves? It is scary to think that, we might already have been tamed, and are now sitting comfortably in this cage, with the key to freedom in our hand and not willing to use it. Stanley’s dad is right, getting out of your comfort zone is good.

Second, if you are working as a banker in Hong Kong, then you have been on the receiving end of good fortune, but how many of us have been on the giving end?

Why give? Because you can.

<The End>

Written at Holy Brown on 25 August 2011, on behalf of www.life-after-banking.com. All Rights Reserved.