Comments on finishing university and in the (endless) pursuit of “what’s next”

In today’s society, there is an undying and unwavering desire for everyone to step over each other in their pursuit to get ‘ahead.” This has been a feature I have observed having lived in several international financial centers, and I believe, this is also one of the greatest flaw in the manner by which citizens live their lives.

So this poses a question, should we provide ourselves with intrinsic or extrinsic motivation?

The case for extrinsic motivation:

Marc Bain, a fashion reporter with Quartz, released an article on Quartz today about the price we pay as a materialistic society. According to the recent BAML report, “Vanity Capital: The global bull market in narcissism”, Bain says that it “put[s] a price tag on the amount we spend globally on products and services that enhance our appearance or prestige,” a price tag of approximately $4.5 trillion, amounting to approximately 5.16% of global GDP PPP. Although Bain signifies that, “just the fact that Bank of America Merrill Lynch, one of the largest banks in the US, would try to quantify the size of worldwide vanity spending indicates that this is a market worth watching,” the intrinsic motivation discussed below does not address a point highlighted by Scott Galloway, a professor at NYU Stern, who says that “the cachet that all vanity capital carries is distinctly libidinous.

According to Bain, there has been a large push for self-help and money gurus in pushing debt ridden citizens towards “the pursuit of, and the accumulation of, attributes and accessories to augment self-confidence by enhancing one’s appearance and prestige. It is self-actualization through self-improvement and self-focus.” So are Gordon Gekko and Abraham Maslow truly wise? I think not.

The case for intrinsic motivation:

In the below video, Alan Watts, the late British philosopher, talks about the idea of ‘purposelessness’.

Alan Watts has talked at length about ziran, the idea that something exists in itself. I have extensively disagreed with the attitude of Hong Kong citizens in saying it is because it is in shying away from systemic problems of the broken oligarchy. The idea of ziran is thus somewhat different to “it is because it is,” and poses as perhaps a more purposeful idea of purposelessness.

In the below video, Bertrand Russell, another late British philosopher, shares two pieces of advice: one intellectual and one moral:

On the intellectual front, Russell asks you to be steadfast when inquiring on any ‘matter’, whether it be considering any philosophy or studying some material. Russell recommends that you should always “ask yourself only, what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out.” In my experience, this takes a form of patience and maturity to allow yourself the adequate time required to fully asses what truth lays out in front you; otherwise, “you will be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think could have beneficent social effects if it were believed.” This resonates with an interpretation of what Aristotle talks about in Book I of Politics, “In this, as in other fields, we shall be able to study our subject best if we begin at the beginning and consider things in the process of growth.

On the moral front, Russell says that, “love is wise, and hatred is foolish.” As Russell lived between 1872 to 1970, he would have witnessed the rise and fall of several institutions, nations, and intellectual thought. Yet what he saw was the onset of globalization in the form we see it today, especially on the interconnected interdependence we have with one another. Even prior to the advent of the Internet, Russell foresaw that in order for globalization to be for the ‘good’, we needed to “learn how to tolerate each other… [as] we can only live together in that way, if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and tolerance that is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.

In light of the intellectual advice, a key word is truth. In my experience, being truthful and humble have been a “winning formula” for me in dealing with certain obstacles and goals that I have faced along the way. When you are faced with a problem, be open with yourself and look to what is required to solved the problem. If you cannot deal with it on your own then be open with yourself and ask for assistance or help as this will help you gather the right knowledge and learn from mistakes. In a recent sit-down I had with a recruiter, I felt it necessary to be open and honest about my intentions working at the firm. The firm presented an invaluable learning opportunity with a prestigious alumni, but more importantly, I openly said that it could help shape me into an individual that had the right ‘tools’ to tackle real world problems necessary to mend our broken system for future sustainability.

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