Short Form in 2 minutes:
Serial explorer playing in the intersection of investing, media, and human performance.
Purpose is to create ecosystems where people are inspired to be unconventional.
Passionate in systematic optimization of human performance.
Modus Operandi per various tests:
Myers Briggs: ENFJ
Enneagram: Type 8w7 (Maverick)
Rubin 4 Tendencies: Questioner
Worked as Value Investor, Management Consultant, and Accountant.
Held world records in Powerlifting, training to be world class strength athlete.
Lived in 6 cities in 3 countries and traveled to 65+ cities.
Education: Books, conversations and experiences (especially mistakes)
Belief/Way of Life: Some mix of capitalism, stoicism, buddhism, pragmatism.
Obsessed with systems and optimal human performance. Check out MY SYSTEM
For those curious, this is where my time is invested NOW
My Story. It’s actually long. You shouldn’t read it if you’re not excited at the potential of having found a like-minded friend….
Born in Seoul, South Korea. Left early to live in Hong Kong, escaping the Asian Financial Crisis that bankrupted my home country.
In Hong Kong, I attended a British international school. I learned English early but it wasn't easy. I entered a foreign country knowing one alphabet, 'Z', got bullied for not being Chinese, got suspended for fighting bullies but couldn't explain why, and eventually adjusted.
Moved to Vancouver thanks to wonderful parents. They moved to a country that did not recognize their career capital in the hopes that I would have better opportunities. I can only hope to have the same courage for my family in the future. Vancouver was a Hong Kong with more space, nature, snow and nice people. Western education also let kids be kids so I had a childhood.
Attended an all-male catholic private high school. Left all my newly-formed friends to enter a new environment once again. I was a straight C student in elementary school. But I started building a habit of reading. I had straight As in my final year and I attribute reading as being my turnaround point that got me into a fancy high school. Getting grades became systematic. Learn the system and play it to get the marks you want. Sit up front, pay attention, know how you'll be tested and it was that. Academics in autopilot I eventually got 2nd in my graduating class to my own surprise. I used to lament being in an all-male school but I can't be thankful enough with the opportunity I had. This became the topic of a very unpopular speech I gave to my university speech class where I praised the need for single-gender schooling for teenagers.
I was fat and unathletic in an all-male school. Puberty didn't make this any easier. I ran everyday for 20 minutes, continued playing ice hockey in my community, did hundreds of pushups and situps. I joined whatever sports team would take me without tryouts: lacrosse, wrestling, track and field. I had small bouts of success but found my love in the strength training I did to get stronger at the sports I was playing. Learned I didn't enjoy team sports and preferred being an independent athlete. Would've never thought powerlifting would be my sport of choice.
My obsessive planning came out when I planned out four years of high school. I eventually completed university requirements a year ahead, orchestrated multiple spare blocks in my schedule so I could manage student operations, and graduated with 40 extra credits. I prepped 4 years to become an engineer and future architect. Scholarships in hand from all top institutes, I tossed it all to pursue business to the shock friends and family. Being the president of three student bodies, executive of six others, lead in two bands, three sports teams annually and an extroverted personality may have played a factor. A major factor was the experience leading testosterone-filled teenagers on a 5-day, no-technology retreat in the woods where we focused on breaking down barriers of stereotype and unloading 18 years of pan and suffering men experience growing up. That was special. With assumptions of an extroverted and social future, I went to study accounting in Waterloo. I figured I should learn the language of business first.
I moved to a new province , new city and new school with no familiar faces. Again. I nearly flunked out of accounting 101. I could not complete my midterm because I didn't get what a balance sheet was. It was odd having to unload all my calculus and physics. People think accounting is numbers. It's not. It's closer to law than math. I filled out my application to switch to Kinesiology. My life was filled with powerlifting four days a week in the mornings and breakdancing seven days a week at night. Kinesiology seemed to make sense. I don't know why I didn't proceed. Maybe fear. I'd like to think it was mostly anger at the thought of quitting. Seemed too early to quit. I stayed.
I got my first co-op term at a Big Four accounting firm. 'Finance' stream student were not allowed to recruit for the Big Four accounting firms. I had to select before the program started and 'finance' just sounded cooler than 'public accounting'. A mistake in hindsight. Turned out regardless of "streams" everyone wanted to be in the Big Four. That's what all 400 students wanted to do, 300 being finance kids. What did I know? I figured I had to get a Big 4 job too. I snuck into major networking events. I networked non-stop and over the summer break. I had 1 interview. Apparently the partner wanted "the guy that deadlifts 400lbs". Who knew getting a personal training license and doing what you loved instead of doing the extracurriculars everyone else did would put me ahead.
Funny thing is, the university career development director told me to not even bother applying for Big Four jobs. He said I had such a low probability of getting it I should go for financial analyst jobs at a bank or something. It's true, I was part of the 2% of finance students hired by the Big Four. It's a good thing I learned guidance counselor weren't to be trusted. In high school, I taught our guidance counselor about all the Ontario universities and advised classmates during his office hours on how they should strategize.
Investment banks sounded cool, so I asked to audit them. I got my wish. Turns out no one wanted them because they had double the amount of work for auditors. The regulators had their own year-end requirements on top of the already required year-end audit. The investment banks were the firm's bigger accounts and those who specialized in it were promoted fastest. I aligned myself with this political "line". Partner in seven years was the goal.
Went through three 'busy seasons' there. Equivalent to two to three years full-time but condensed to nine months. I learned a ton. I taught newly hired seniors how to audit investment banks and led teams of full-timers. One 25 year old was not happy to learn I was 20 at the end of the year. I did audit sections allocated to managers, presented at management meetings, had people betting on how much faster I'd finish audits compared to colleagues and working 100+ hours a week became normal. A long distance relationship, training at the gym and constantly being called a loser for not drinking took its toll. I only slept 2- 4 hours a day I think. By my final months in audit I ended up punching a hole in the wall. I figured I was done with this job. I knew what my future looked like as an accountant. My mentor said my learning would stagnate if I came back for my final co-op term. With his blessing, I rejected the return offer.
=Pause=…. I’m so happy you made it this far. If reading is hard for you and you’d rather listen I talk about my weird career journey it in my podcast episode about myself here. If you’d rather read on then please do. I applaud you and thank you.
I wanted to be a trader. I thought my life was "set" with my accounting job. I got complacent and stopped learning outside the job. I continued powerlifting in university. I had quick successes. Second in a university meet, second in nationals, two junior world record, and invited to the junior worlds. Won my weight class at worlds and broke my own world record the year after. With no "set" accounting job I looked for something like powerlifting. I only audited investment banks so I was familiar with what traders did. It seemed heavily psychological and like a sport. It seemed like powerifting.
In less than two months that dream shattered. I enrolled in quantitative finance and the professor, an ex-trader, told us trading was dead if you weren't a quant. I was not. The calculator did my BEDMAS as an accountant. If this wasn't proof enough, the miracle of me not flunking out of that class was enough to know I was not a quant. I asked the professor what I should do if I want to be in the capital markets and he said look at long term investing because machines have the short-term.
To this day, I am so glad he told me "long term investing", instead of saying "be an investment banker".
I typed "long term investing" in Google. After three years in business school I learned who Warren Buffett was for the first time. That was my indoctrination to value investing and the pursuit of becoming a learning machine. Buffett says "You either get it or you don't" with value investing and it hit me. Light bulb.
In the meantime, I became a management consultant at another Big 4 firm. Following Buffett's wisdom, I sought to "learn about businesses to become a better investor". I now have the opinion that to learn about businesses you either join a startup at <15 people or start your own. The next best is to be an investor.
I quickly fell into the management consultant dream. The social prestige, the exit opportunities, the higher pay, working with smarter people and all the ego-driven stuff. I was also able to double-dip and get my accounting designation hours while doing consulting for my final co-op term. Consulting had its own heirarchy of top firms. Waterloo wasn't a target school for these branded firms so I networked. I cold emailed dozens of people in McKinsey, BCG and Bain. I was already hitting two birds with one stone at Deloitte. The opportunity cost was a much stronger brand. I did 100s of practice case interviews and got interviews for all the big consulting firms. I didn't close any. I hated doing cases in practice and I didn't fare well in the interviews either. I hit a mental block in all quantitatively intensive questions.
Ego bruised, I continued the double-dipping path. I passed the accounting exam. A process I so hated the entire way that the thought of being an investor in the future kept me going. My recruiting efforts for consulting taught me what it took to break into a field you don't "fit the profile" for. Hedge funds was no different. I had no finance background and no finance work experiences. I sent out cold emails the week I started full-time as a consultant.
I had a mental model of the investor I wanted to be. I had been studying value investing for two years and investing my own money. The desire and conviction grew stronger everyday. I went through all the buy-side funds in Canada to short list those most similar to the Buffett-Munger style of investing. Over 1.5 years I cold emailed 60+ individuals and met 20-30 of them. I woke up at 4:30 am to write my investment reports to pitch them in my coffee requests so they'd get some kind of value from speaking with me. Most interviews came from these coffee chats.
I learned to be intrapreneurial in consulting. I didn't want to show face, nor suck up at socials. I was 100% honest with what I wanted to do and what I didn't want to do. Without knowing any excel formulas I built my brand as a financial modeler. I did all the 'cool' and 'strategic' projects people brag about in recruiting events to wide-eyed type-A students. I received the fastest promotion whilst only having a 65% utilization rate. I helped built out projects to sell to clients, tried to make an internal venture fund and held 'office hours' to coach colleagues with their career. Most days I came into the office just to grab coffee and advise colleagues. I later realized those coffee sessions brought more fulfillment than any of the strategy projects ever did.
I learned to take ownership of my own time. I learned to negotiate and use my results to arrange remote working situations on projects. My honesty had 50% of the practice love me and 50% hate me. It was an indicator I was doing something right. I had achieved the generalist experience I wanted. I completed a diverse set of projects from strategy, operations, human capital and technology to various industries in mining to banking with companies ranging from startups to public giants. Unlike my time in audit, I learned to keep on top of my priorities and explored. It was time to leave.
I embarked on a new adventure back west to Calgary. I joined value-focused long-only investment fund that managed $50bn in assets. It was one of my top choices and I considered it the replacement of a MBA. Most people spend two years and $250K for a small chance to join an investment fund. I figured going to Calgary would be my way of "going away" to learn. Only, I was directly learning what I wanted to. Not only did I have to test this "dream job" of mine for its validity but it was also a good opportunity to stress test my 5th year relationship with my girlfriend to see if long distance would work. It did not work and I was rather happy to celebrate our 6th year anniversary together back in Toronto. I learned a weak social circle had material impacts in all systems in my life. I know others aren't as affected but it was a big deal for me.
My desire for exploration continued as an investor. Using my Korean background, I learned about businesses in Asia. I eventually touched every inhabited continent outside North America. Speaking to more CEOs in 1 month than I would've in 10 years as a consultant, it was a role best suited for the inquisitive. I had also never worked with a diverse background of intellectuals. Ranging from economists, PhDs, rocket scientists and the like.
A big lesson I learned from audit was to avoid complacency. Getting comfortable and complacent makes one lazy. Complacency comes from a lack of purpose. A lack of purpose comes from lack of self-awareness. Since then, I started journaling everyday. This continued as an investor too. I upped the ante by also journaling activities and feedback separately. Activities were measured quantitatively on engagement (i.e. flow state) and energy. Feedback was measured on strengths vs. improvements.
When I uttered the words "I no longer feel motivated" to my girlfriend five months into the new role, I knew something was wrong. I reviewed the journals and I had written about leaving in the near term, just two months into the job. What unraveled was more digging to realize: though I loved investing, this was not the way I wanted to do it. I wanted a different process. A different routine. One where I would hit my flow state activities more. I also associated the constant emptiness I felt to a lack of fulfillment. Though I loved the constant learning as it fed my curious mind, I could not answer the question: "To what end?"
I'd continued to be honest and upfront in this new role. I brought up concerns on my assimilation to the firm's culture. I continued fighting for cultural changes in decision making and environmental construction. All these factored into deeper introspective journal entries. They also led to more candid conversations with my colleagues. With the facts having changed, the prudent person would change his mind. Hence, I left the world of institutional investing to take a sabbatical.
I wanted to review my three years of notes from careers in accounting, consulting and finance. Business school undergrads are told they must pick 1 of the 3 and 60%+ of MBA grads exit to those 3 fields. I had experienced all before 25 with the best of the best and I needed to figure out the next steps. With a "north star" constructed and the lifeview that I would not compromise on, I set out on testing more hypotheses.
This platform is the result of that journey. After 1 year of my sabbatical, after multiple projects (i.e. consulting, podcasting etc..) and 100s of conversational interviews with companies and professionals of all kinds of backgrounds I've reached this point. The point of creating my own platform to test out another hypothesis. One more with many more to come in the future. Thanks for partaking in my journey of exploration and investing.
Oh yeah. I’m still powerlifting too. Since my glory days I had to get knee surgery and thanks to National healthcare it took 2 years + $400 for a 10min MRI in Korea. Now I'm back on the hunt to become a world champion against some real strong fellas that are much younger.
All this was fun. Now, I can only hope to make this a footnote to what I will create for the world.
So you want more of me?
If you've made it down this far it means you've been able to swallow all the narcissistic self-talk about myself so thanks for being a fan. So I'll let you get more of me whichever way it entices you...
Here is my LinkedIn for professional/educational experiences. I generally only like to take stances on things I've experienced so this is a way for you to validate.
To follow my powerlifting training and world travels you can check out my Youtube. Because, like Rome, these quads weren't build in a day.
If you'd like to talk about investing, career, fitness, life, books or anything positive and uplifting feel free to connect with me via social media or contact me or to stay informed on weekly developments as a supporter and stakeholder of the platform.