Embracing the finiteness of life and what remains ⌛

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Note: A keystone post that I do update as I age and understand life better.

Memento Mori (a Latin phrase that translates to “remember that you must die”)  is a Stoic reminder of the certainty and inescapability of death. It is not intended to be morbid; rather, to clarify, illuminate, and inspire.

It is important to understand the finiteness of life to take life more seriously and plan early on things we always want to do while we can do them. We will never know when and how our life will end, or when and how our health and mental capacity will deteriorate. Do not just kick the can down the road thinking we have time; we don’t know.

Money reigns supreme. Many of us spend our lives trading hours, days, weeks, months and eventually years for the money it costs to live a comfortable lifestyle. More money is better; this is a belief that many have and drive us throughout our lives – study hard, earn more and climb up the corporate ladder. The “more” that was supposed to make life “better” can never be enough. More is not necessarily better, while “enough” is both supremely fulfilling and achievable. 

We came to the world with nothing and we will leave with nothing, What can we fill time in between?

Life is not all about earning money. Job is not our identity. The objective is not running the fastest in the corporate race; rather, it is about finishing it earliest and achieving financial freedom. Money is meaningless if one does not have time and health to enjoy the benefits that come with money.

Many are very presumptuous about their lives and others. We assume we live long; at least like an average person based on the national statistics. We do assume that if we eat and exercise well, we will be healthy and live well and long. We assume we can retire and enjoy life. We assume our spouse, family and friends will be healthy and enjoy life with us as we retire. We leave it to the future and busy ourselves in the present. We cannot be that unlucky. This is our life.

What surprises me most is “Man” because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present; The result being he doesn’t live in the present or the future; He lives as if he’s never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.

His Holiness Dalai Lama

Refer to this post on money and life: Redefining our meaning of money and life towards financial independence 

Humans are inclined to hide from death, to push it to the back of our minds. Bring death to the front of your mind. Let your mortality serve to clarify your daily motivations. Let your mortality inspire you.

Sahil Bloom

The Death Paradox: You must know your death in order to truly live your life.

The more I ponder about The Death Paradox, the more I think about its finiteness, meaning and worth of life, especially while writing this post.

Don’t wait and assume.

Several perspectives have been developing and I am sure more insights and perspectives will develop over time:

  1. More on being happy (internal bearing) than successful (what others judge us)
  2. More on understanding than judging; no one is perfect and everyone has character
  3. More on family, relationships and friendships than the corporate title, authority and power
  4. Beyond us towards others of what we can do within our lifetime and beyond
  5. More on health and time than money

I have witnessed the passing of my parents, family members, close relatives and good friends. I had several memorable chats with friends about their near-death experiences and approaching death as well as stories of how people embrace death and the things they are doing and preparing for their children.  “Tuesdays With Morrie”, “When Breath Becomes Air” as well as “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” are books that give me lasting impressions about life.

Here is some stuff that I have done and am working on.

Beyond us, towards others

As we get promoted, lead a team and have a good salary and wealth, we can think more and more of our success and material being. With time, we also accumulate knowledge, experience and expertise. We may become confident, assertive and at times, stubborn; believing more in ourselves with strong views. We may have a view on many things, how things are wrong and how they can be right.

When responsibilities reduce or retire with more time, the lack of purpose and focus may make us feel lost about the meaning of life. The availability of social media may exacerbate to show our presence and wisdom. Complaining may, unfortunately, become a new “hobby”.

For people to focus on “my life”, “my life”, “my life” destroys the capacity for compassion. From that perspective, a small problem appears to be a gigantic problem and only brings more unhappiness, frustration, insecurity, and fear.

His Holiness Dalai Lama

A strong inward focus on oneself means not focusing and neglecting others. Before our body fades aways, let’s use some time and money to leave the world a little better place.

Let’s have a  pastime to keep us active, engaged and fulfilled. To be able to do good and help others is always good and encouraged. Life should not always be about oneself, rather, it is about our family and friends but also the broader society.

Our lives are finite, but life is infinite. We are the finite players in the infinite game of life. We come and go, we’re born and we die, and life still continues with us or without us.

Simon Sinek

Also, doing good helps us be more empathetic to understand the broader society; to use our fortunate position to help others where possible. Helping others allows us to be less focused on ourselves and more on others.

Life notes: Own the game blog

Teach your children early what you learned late.

Prof. Feynman

吾生也有涯,而知也无涯。以有涯随无涯,殆已!已而为知者,殆而已矣! 《庄子·内篇·养生主第三》

In translation: Life is short, learning is limitless.  If you use your short life to chase limitless learning, you will eventually fail. If you know it and still trying to learn everything, you will be more tired. There is useful knowledge, but most of them are not that useful and profound.


Reflecting on what I have experienced, useful and important life lessons are not found in formal education. I learn a lot from books, videos, social media, training programmes, valuable guidance and advice received, and my own realisations from hard knocks and mistakes. I believe that it is very valuable to condense into useful summaries for others to be aware of and take note of.

At times, unfortunately, some life lessons are better understood and appreciated at certain stages of life as we get older. Often, we learn better after making mistakes and facing challenges, situations and events. I wish I know them and had taken heed of them earlier.

As I observe, some people at a certain age (in their 30s onwards) can have values and beliefs that they strongly hold and believe that they are right. No one can change and their character is formed. They may have to go through some very hard knocks to realise the flaws.

Hence, this is the purpose of this blog that I have been jotting down (as you are reading now). I hope these posts will serve as a useful guide for my kids and others to navigate through their lives and possible challenges. I  write about life in general, my money and my investing journey. After years of working and mediocre investing, I begin to understand money and invest to compound the money saved. I hope they will be useful for others to learn and avoid the mistakes I made. Conversely, as I write, it also creates heightened awareness and consciousness of what I can do to work and help others.


Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Phillip C. McGraw

Marathon epitomises life well in many ways. Everyone should train and run at least one marathon for a few hours to understand life.  A marathon, a distance of  26.2 miles (or 42.195km), requires lots of training before the race to do well. During the race, it again takes determination to finish the race. It is mind over body (mental states and adversity quotient versus skills). Similarly, life can be a long journey where during preparation and the journey itself, we need determination, discipline and grit to overcome challenges and enjoy the moment. Success does require hard work. Marathon is possible for everyone. Marathon is an individual sport but we can train and run with friends and experienced marathoners with their encouragement. Like life, we live our lives, it can be long and arduous but we can have friends and mentors for guidance, companionship and encouragement.

4 marathons + 1 ultra marathon (50km); more than enough for each kid

“Like the marathon, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging and present obstacles, however if you believe in your dreams and never ever give up, things will turn out for the best.”

Meb Keflezighi, U.S. Olympic marathoner

Beyond money

~郭鹤年 母亲 (Robert Kuok’s mother)

If the children and grandchildren can be like me, then they require not of material inheritance;
If the children and grandchildren are not like me, then of what use is my wealth to them?
Do not seek personal interests but peace for all

Money is just a tool. Money is a magnifier. Money can change lives for the better or worse depending on the attitude and character as well as financial literacy.

“After much observation of super-wealthy families, here’s my recommendation: Leave the children enough so that they can do anything, but not enough that they can do nothing,”

Warren Buffett

Give in at least two tranches
It will be good to give them in at least two tranches to allow learning about money. They can be frivolous with the first tranche with extravagant spending and/or poor investments. Hopefully, they will learn from the first tranche and put the second and subsequent tranches to much better use.

Money and investments

Investments are more useful than just money. Holding good investments provide actual learning of investing and show the magic of compounding than just saving to earn bank interest. Investing can be a powerful engine to generate another stream of income with money saved. The magic of compounding, as well as the volatility of holding the investments, are best learnt by experiencing it. Hope a good overall return will spark interest to save more, spend less and allocate more spare cash into investing as a viable strategy toward their financial independence. It will be great if this becomes a common interest among the kids where they can collaborate and help each other on research and share good recommendations.

Investing is being a business. Investing will teach about businesses and life. It teaches about humility, lifelong learning, temperament and risk-taking and these can be more important than the technical aspect of finance and valuation.

Have a great life ahead!
Keep going!