The Most Important Question


01 Nov The Most Important Question

Every one of us wants to be rich.

We all want to have an unlimited supply of money in the bank. We want to be able to spend on anything and everything our hearts desire.

We want to be able to provide for our family. We want the freedom to not work, or to choose our work. We cannot wait to travel to the most exotic destinations as and when our hearts desire.

We think about how good it would be not to have to worry about money. We look at people who have arrived. We yearn to be like them.

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There is nothing not to like about being rich. Life is sweet.

Sobering Questions

I could go on and on about the trappings of a rich life. But I will not.

Instead, I will present some sobering questions. Questions that few would have considered, but questions that hold great meaning within themselves.

So ask yourselves this.

What pain are you willing to endure to be rich? How much of a fight are you willing to put up in your quest for financial freedom? In your struggles, what are you willing to give up? What are you NOT willing to give up?

The Corporate Ladder

For many, their pathway to riches is via climbing the corporate ladder. Their chosen field might vary, but the modality is always the same – to rise to the pinnacle of their profession. Such a position will inevitably roll in the money.

If such is your choice, are you willing to endure long hours, corporate drudgery and often unsatisfying but necessary work that will see you rise through the ranks? Will you fight tooth and nail for your promotion, perhaps losing friends in the process?

Will you complain and curse deep down while you brave the morning and evening commutes, secretly wishing for the weekend to arrive and bring some reprieve? Is this what you are willing to endure?

Leading a Frugal Life

For others, they choose the frugal route. Perhaps they have no desire to out earn their peers. What they can do though, is to lead a cheaper life. The hope is that they will arrive faster at destination financial freedom.

This route is not without its perils. The saver watches the budget like a hawk. Any leakage is plugged. Any unnecessary expense is eradicated. Taking a cab becomes a crime because public transport is still available. A meal in the food court would cost double that of a hawker center and should be avoided like plague. Friends laugh at you (often behind your back) because they do not understand you.

Are you willing to forgo life’s pleasures in order to be rich? Are you willing to inconvenience yourself endlessly just to achieve financial freedom? It is a painful and unnatural process and the saver justifies the pain by turning it into a challenge. Some have succeeded. Others decide it is too much pain to endure and they give up.


For a brave (and foolish) minority, they become entrepreneurs. Seduced by the success of a few, they plunge head first into building their business.

It is a long and hard grind. As an entrepreuneur, you operate in highly uncertain environments. You have to contend with clients, supplier and staff issues. You life revolves around problems, and your very existence as an entrepreuneur is to solve problems.

You will end up thinking about the business 24/7. Your family time will suffer. You will feel stress. Some are able to handle stress better than others, but an entrepreuneur that is never stressed is never a successful one.

Like Twilight the movie, entrepreneurship is a over-romantised concept. Many will fail in order for a few to succeed. Are you even willing to take your chances and embrace these struggles? Are you willing to forgo security of a stable paycheck? Are you willing, at least in the initial phase, to work harder and earn less? Or is the pain too much to bear?

Investing your way to Riches

And finally, people invest to become rich. The notion of being a successful investor appeals to many.

Yet many overlook the struggles these investors have to overcome. Investing success does not come overnight. Be it in global markets, local stocks, properties, private equity or even alternative investments such as wine and art, it takes years of involvement and study before one truly understands the market.

In order to make money, the successful investor first has to lose money. Yet even after losing money, there is no guarantee of riches from investing.

Investing requires contrarian thinking. Not only that, investing requires contrarian doing. When the markets have crashed and everyone is selling out, it takes someone with great conviction to step in and start buying. It is extremely uncomfortable. When the markets are breaking new highs and everyone is jumping in and making a killing every day, it takes someone with great courage to forgo the gains, liquidate and stay on the sidelines.

It is extremely uncomfortable and the investor is constantly fighting battles within himself. Many of us are investors and I am sure we can relate to that.

The easy way out is of course to denounce the battles. Let others worry about them, they say. I will invest in what I feel comfortable with, when I am comfortable to. Always remember the next time you have to make an investing decision – if the decision is easy and comfortable, it is probably not the right one. Investors who are not willing to endure pain often end up mediocre.


This article is inspired by a Mark Manson piece of the same name. In his work, he asked the audience what they are willing to struggle for.

What you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy struggles of the gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are the ones who eventually live it and make it.

We all want to be rich, we always ask ourselves how. In my opinion, ‘How’ is really the wrong question to ask.

The Most Important Question is – What Pains are You Willing to Endure to become Rich. Our struggles define our success. Only when we define our struggles will we find success.

image: bloomberg



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