Moments When You Start Seeing

Understanding could only get me so far and it was in the unprompted moments of stillness that I could embrace a new reality. 

Most of my essays take time. Most are ideas that have been brewing for a while. Some take over a year to publish. Never has one been written at 11pm, the day before my deadline. I daresay, this piece was "inspired" in a moment's notice. 

I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.
— Michael Scott, The Office

I had my weekly two hour call with my parents just prior to writing this article. 

Amongst the many things we talked about, one particular subject was my learnings on my journey.

It's been 13 months since I left the institutionalized world of having a job and income. It led to the creation of OMD Ventures and hundreds of new relationships with fascinating people.

In our chat, I brought upon the subject of "seeing" things differently.

Inspired by an analogy from a friend, I told my parents it felt like I was driving in a congested road for a while. A traffic jammed road where people were barely moving. All honking and angry. There was a side road filled with dirt and untraveled. Going down that road was the start 13 months ago. 

But what couldn't be seen from the congested road was that this dirt path, although filled with shrubs and unpaved, was running parallel to the main road. Only, those in the congested main road could not see this dirt path hidden behind trees and covered in debris. Yet, I could see the full road with its unending traffic jams. 

This may sound pompous with a "high-and-mighty" vibe but it's my genuine thought. Just like how I'd love to slap myself from 7 years ago, I may cringe at this piece 7 years later. But alas, it merely marks a state of mind in a world of change. 


It's fleeting but recently, I've been experiencing moments. Maybe 30 seconds or a few minutes. They happen suddenly when I'm writing, in the shower, in the gym or on my long walks. Moments when I start to feel free. Moments when I can actually see money as something completely different than what I thought before. Moments when I see a job not as a title, an identity, a measure of success or anything I had believed before. 

Tim O'Reilly has a great quote:

Money is like gasoline while driving across country on a road trip. You never want to run out, but the point of life is not to go on a tour of gas stations.
— Tim O'Reilly

It's a quote I wrote in my newsletter and one I understood. But understanding is not the same as embracing, Embracing it feels like something has changed intrinsically. It's actually a genuine feeling I have. A genuine thought and emotion of how I feel instead of telling myself how I "should" feel "rationally". 

I always said jobs were learning opportunities. It's the pragmatic approach. All the "successful" people said view it this way. But there are moments when you actually feel it. It's like you feel it in your bones. It doesn't require any convincing. It's a matter of fact.

These are moments I would've never felt without the journey I took. I had to see from the other side. Even then, it took time. Most of the time, I spent worrying about not being on the same side as everyone else. But only now am I realizing why I needed this time away. Only now am I slowly starting to see the institutional world for what it had trained me to think. 

It's in after telling my parents this that my dad sent me an article titled "Steve Jobs' Last Words"

“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success.

However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.

At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.

In the darkness, I look at the green lights from the life supporting machines and hear the humming mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of god of death drawing closer …

Now I know, when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth …

Should be something that is more important:

Perhaps relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days

Non-stop pursuing of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being, just like me.

God gave us the senses to let us feel the love in everyone’s heart, not the illusions brought about by wealth.

The wealth I have won in my life I cannot bring with me. What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love.

That’s the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on.

Love can travel a thousand miles. Life has no limit. Go where you want to go. Reach the height you want to reach. It is all in your heart and in your hands.

What is the most expensive bed in the world?

Sick bed …

You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you.

Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost — Life.

When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading — Book of Healthy Life.

Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down.

Treasure Love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends.

Treat yourself well. Cherish others.”

Right after, I read that Anders Holch Polvsen, the founder of online clothing retailer Asos and the richest billionaire in Denmark, lost three of his four children in the Sri Lanka bombing while on vacation with his family. 

Life is fickle. Life is tragic. I think I spent the last decade of such a fickle and tragic life looking down a narrow barrel. It's only now that I feel my vision is widening. Just ever so slightly. To undo the damage done from a decade of tightening and narrowing. 

On a side note, there are many articles saying the Steve Jobs article is a fake. But what isn't fake is my father's unprompted love to send me that article in hope it can aid me. 

Besides, we have hundreds of millions of people believing in stories and words of people we don't even know existed. At least I know Steve Jobs was a real person with 100% certainty. 

Everyone is free to choose to believe the stories they want. But, the choice to see something different is one that can't be undone. I'm not trying to convince you of anything really. I'm merely sharing with you the thoughts and realization I had whilst on a journey I know very few have ever dared to take. So take it or leave it. Without having gone on something similar I really doubt you'd be able to relate anyway. 


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