A Fortunate Case of Misdiagnosis

A Korean language school classmate, K, used to do all sorts of work from business consultancy and finance to sales of software for educational institutions; from being an insurance agent to a horticulture business owner. Recently, K bought a franchise for a sports class targeted at children under 10 years of age. Since it’s a new business, classes offered are limited and he wasn’t able to find anyone who was willing to do part-time for his once-a-week, three-hours-a-class business because most people would rather get something that offers more working days to get a more decent income. I offered to help at his new business since I am available on the day he holds classes and recently, I asked him out for dinner after class because I wanted to hear more about his business experiences and that unexpectedly made me learn something that might help some lost souls out there decide on their paths.

K is around 50 years old and had been working at an IT software company for a number of years now. During a regular body checkup, the doctor told him he’s got liver cancer. He was shocked and spent the next several days preparing for the remainder of his life. He got his insurance settled, his properties handled, his will drawn, and whatever that should be resolved, resolved. When he went for his follow-up checkup to do a deeper diagnosis, the doctor realized there had been a mistake. K didn’t have liver cancer nor any form of cancer at all. That was of course a relief for K and he could’ve then returned to normal life. But the shock of his supposed liver cancer made him realize he didn’t want to work at the software company for the rest of his life, especially if he were to die soon. He doesn’t enjoy it one bit especially when there’s someone at the company who makes him feel uncomfortable. That was when he decided to quit and start his own business.

It doesn’t pay yet since it’s still fairly new, but he enjoys what he does now. To be more accurate, it’s still in the red. But the point is, what was considered a fucked up situation of a misdiagnosis actually turned his life for the better, albeit not financially. I am not certain if that would help any of you out there, but it did give me stronger resolution to push on after what I had recently just given up.

A couple of months ago, one of my ex-managers called me to offer me a job that pays 8.5 million yen a year. That’s about $105,000 SGD a year based on the current exchange rate. After giving much thought, I turned it down despite the fact that it’s a few times more than what I currently get. It’s a really great job at a great company with great learning opportunities, not to forget the great pay and great prospects, but it isn’t what I really want to do. Further, my manager asked me to join within 2 weeks then and I couldn’t screw my current company over by just suddenly leaving although they were open to discuss other options to work together.

It’s been a couple of months now and sometimes I still wonder if I should’ve taken that job, get the pay to finance my next move and then leave to start my business. A couple of days ago though, that manager called again and told me they haven’t found anyone even though they’ve interviewed a lot of people and are still interviewing more. He asked me if I would reconsider. I said I would even though I wasn’t really going to. But that got me back into the same predicament I thought I had gotten out of. In my mind, I told myself I’m not going for it but my heart still leans toward the opportunity to get that much fatter paycheck. If anything, I can be sure to say that the biggest reason for my headache is merely the pay. I don’t think I will enjoy doing the job because that’s ultimately not what I want to do. K’s story gave me a bigger reason to not go for the money and assured my decision.

Interestingly, a few days ago on TV, where a bunch of specialists sit around and provide research information on a wide variety of topics offered something similar. A research of close to 2,000 respondents revealed that the happiest groups of people are, in no particular order:

  1. Civil servants
  2. 50 to 60 year-old women
  3. Self-employed

All these people have one thing in common: free time. In other words, time for themselves.

Civil servants in Japan typically end their workdays at around 4-5pm (not teachers though), so they have a lot of time for themselves and their loved ones. 50 to 60 year-old women typically have children who are already grown-ups, so they no longer have to spend as much time caring for them or working. Men of this age, however, still have housing loans to take care of, and feel the pressure to continue working to pay off the loans. The term “self-employed” speaks for itself. You are your own boss. You can choose to work as much as you want, when you want. That was the best time I had a few years ago when I was doing freelance work full-time, getting to travel every month anytime I want and still not jeopardize my assignments which can be done as long as I’ve got computer and an Internet connection. And I enjoyed every single job that came in, no matter how tough it is because that’s money coming into my pocket. As an employee, that’s less exciting because you typically get paid the same amount regardless of your workload.

My former Australian colleague is still doing freelance full-time and is constantly spending time in Europe a few weeks a time taking language classes at the native lands. How envious I am of him.

To be honest, I’m still wondering if I should take up the offer even though I’m not actually going to do anything about it because I know I am happier now despite the lower salary. I took my first step out to Japan not for the money, and I hope I can continue leading my life this way. I’ll leave you with a quote by Warren Buffett:

Look for the job that you would want to hold if you didn’t need a job.

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