What is success?

There are many dimensions to success. I collected a few versions of meaning of success that I find interesting from investor, writer, coach, mathematician and entrepreneur as references.

Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.

Warren Buffett, as documented in The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

Buffett, the world renowned investor currently 93-year-old with a net worth of over USD 100 billions as of 2024 (despite having donated more than half of his fortunes over the years since 2006), measures success with one word.

The ability to do what you want, when you want, with who you want, for as long as you want, is priceless. It is the highest dividend money pays.

Morgan Housel, author of The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness

Housel is a financial writer and he defines financial success. When you reach financial independent, you have the ability to choose the life you want.

For I have a single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18, right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge; not your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the decorations on your lapel. If you do not feel ashamed, you are successful. All other definitions of success are modern constructions; fragile modern constructions.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

We don’t have to keep up with the Joneses. Success, according to Taleb, is having time to kill. You set your own schedule. Taleb developed the theory of black Swan events which is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.

Success is peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

John Wooden, author of Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization

Be the best version of yourself. The only limit is the one you set yourself. Wooden was considered the greatest basketball coach of all time who won countless championships.

The real winners are the ones that step out of the game entirely. Who don’t even play the game. Who rise above it. Those are the people who have such internal mental and self control and self awareness that they need nothing from anybody else. Winning or losing does not matter to them.

Naval Ravikant, as documented in The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness

Success is mastering our mind. The quality of our life depends on the quality of our mind. According to entrepreneur Ravikant, happiness is a default state that is achieved when nothing is missing in your life, leading to internal silence and contentment.

Final thought

Success defies definition. When we see success from richer perspectives, we are better able to choose the right version of success we want in our life.

Have a great day ahead.

2023 The Shape of Net Worth Growth

Net worth growth from 2008 to 2023
Net worth growth from 2008 to 2023

Net worth grows 29.31% this year compared to the beginning of 2023. The growth is mainly contributed by saving, dividends and capital gains (on paper).

The shape of net worth growth of Warren Buffett

Image credit: https://finmasters.com/warren-buffett-net-worth/#gref

AgeYearNet Worth USDNet Worth USD (Inflation adjusted to 2023)

The table above shows the net worth of Warren Buffett by his age.

I am using this calculator https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/ to adjust the USD amount of respective year to USD of the year 2023.

Warren Buffett was a few hundred times more productive than I am when I am at his age. The gap only gets larger over time.

That is the power of finding your passion young and focus on your passion for a long period of time for compound interest to work its magic.

Stream of dividend incomes

I treat this post as a shareholder letter to myself. I will report my dividend incomes for the year 2023.

Below are the total dividend collected for the whole of 2023 from Malaysia, America, Singapore, Europe and Hong Kong.

Total over 12 months22415.112121.5612670.471343.7525852.66
Total over 12 months in MYR22415.119748.5644111.046828.8515217.38

The table above shows the monthly dividend collected for the past 12 months in respective currency from the countries where the dividend comes.

The last row converts the amount to MYR (ringgit) using these conversion rates as of 29 December 2023 from Google:

  • MYR/USD = 0.2176279
  • MYR/SGD = 0.2872403
  • MYR/EUR = 0.1967752
  • MYR/HKD = 1.69889

Total dividend collected for 2023 in RM 98,320.96.

This is roughly RM 8,193 per month or RM 11.20 per hour for the whole year.

Whether I am sleeping or busy having fun, these countries are working hard to make me wealthier around the clock. Life can’t get better than that.

Musing on investing

I spent a lot of time thinking about investing. What is investing in a nutshell? Below are my views after getting burned and making endless mistakes over more than a decade of investing in stock market.

Picking bad stocks does more harm than missing out on big winners elsewhere.

Good investing skill is about preventing future disaster. Good understanding of the market reduces risk by more effectively preventing disaster.

Prevention is more effective than cure. But cure grabs headlines. Prevention work that is done well is like nothing ever happened.

Investing is prevention work. What the wise does in the beginning that the fool does in the end. Avoid delusion to prevent disaster.

After you become good at preventing disaster, ensure what you own are what you really want. Know what you want to know how to choose. Each choice is an investment decision in disguise.

A bird in hand is worth 2 in the bush. Play whatever cards that are dealt well. Treasure what you have, make the most out of them. Double-down on winners.

Hindsights are sources of insights. You see better after-the-fact, when the dust settled following the well beaten path. This is counterintuitively the path less taken by the majority.

Midas touch: whatever you touch becomes gold is a game for the fools. Whatever is gold, you touch. Play predictable games where you have better odds of winning. Use common sense. Thinking things through. See things as they are and beyond. Buy productivity.

Recognise good behaviour and bad behaviour. Good behaviour prevents disaster. Good behaviour is what matter in investing.

Happy new year.

2022 The Shape of Net Worth Growth

Net Worth Growth Chart since 2008 till end of 2022

Net worth grows 12.66% this year. This is the second lowest growth rate since 2018 where it grew at 12.31%.

I work harder this year even though the return is lower. This is fine as the outcome rarely correlates perfectly to the effort we put in. The world is more random than we thought.

I gained new investment insight this year which is that ensuring portfolio longevity is more important than getting high return in any particular year since most of the gains in the market are driven by tail events that are unpredictable. We will benefit from these events eventually if we survive long enough in the market regardless of our investment skill.

In other words, large margin of safety eliminates the need of investment edge.

In investment world, as well as in life, behaving well is very rewarding as it increases our chance of survival. It is especially critical during crisis. When we survive longer, we are automatically exposed to the unlimited upsides from the market. We become the inevitable beneficiaries of whatever the market produces in the future.

There is no need to chase returns.

We think linearly and the world does not work in a linear fashion. By the time we see good returns from other people investing in certain assets, it is too late. Also we will not be able to recognise that particular investment as a good investment in the first place. It is just an illusion caused by our own bias and incompatibility between linear thinking and non-linear reality.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that impatience is greed in disguise: the urge to want everything and to want them now. And we are greedy by nature. Impatience causes us to misbehave. We can’t have everything from economic perspective and not to mention everything at once. Knowing this fact is a huge investment edge.

Good behaviour is knowing what is good and is actually doing it.

Be patience is a timeless investment principle. When we are doing something that is timeless, it is as if we are already living in the future. We bring the future forward since there is no difference between now and the future when the time is not a factor. Speed is pointless in a timeless world. Chasing returns is pointless and exposes us to risk of ruin.

In a nutshell, slow is faster. It is more enjoyable too as I have plenty of time and peace of mind. Peace of mind is priceless in a noisy world.

Contrarian is by default unpopular and misunderstood by the majority. Sometimes it even looks dumb. Contrarians are those who choose the road less traveled which makes all the differences in investing and in life.