In recent news, new recruits were no longer accompanied by their parents or family when they enlist for basic military training. Awww, so poor thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally empathize with them. As a matter of fact, I remember vividly that fateful day in 2001 when I enlisted for Basic Military Training at Pulau Tekong.


That’s how it’s like as the second child sometimes.  The big one has done it all, and there is nothing new when it came to my turn. And so, I went to Pulau Tekong alone, while my parents were working.

Tell you what, I’ll make it even better. I also completed my Passing-Out-Parade (POP) ceremony without my family, too.

Well, technically I wasn’t alone. I had my section mates with me as we completed the last leg of our journey in Tekong. Back then, the end point of the route march was still in Tekong and not on the main island.

These Things Build Resilience.

Before National Service (NS), I was the typical introvert. Scrawny, nerdy kid. Into video / computer games. Totally not athletic. Many stories for other days. I did managed to scrape by with the bare-minimum to make it for the enhanced batch i.e. 2-years and 4-months. This is not a typo, I’m not exactly that young.

I decided that I’m not going to be scrawny guy anymore, especially not in NS. I trained hard after ‘A’ levels, and IPPT ‘silver’ awards became the norm for my NS days. It was exceptionally odd when people started thinking of me as one of the ‘fit’ guys, when that was the furthest thing I have been my entire life. And yet, inside of me, I was still that same, old introvert.

What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger.

Turns out that building a different persona was a very useful skill to have. It was basically a self-defense mechanism. A lot of times, I have learnt to take on and project desirable traits because that’s how the world works.

Wait! Before you go “WTF is this psychopath shit”, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing freaky about this. It’s about the simple stuff, really. Outwardly, I’m try to be much more sociable and extroverted than I really am. But make no mistake, I’m 100% an introvert and this stay-home-social-distancing thing is right up my alley.

Simply because I went ahead and did things I wouldn’t normally do (I joined an university orientation camp, got acquainted with new friends, befriended faculty seniors, participated in flag day etc), my university life became much more fruitful and memorable. Of course, the most important detail was that I eventually got to know my wife due to my contacts that I’ve made, plus I did what I wouldn’t normally do – I asked her out.

I figured, what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger. And I’ve taken that mantra and applied it to work life. Of course, with my so-called work persona.

But, Don’t Be An Arrogant Ass.

Along the way, I discovered something else that is now my guiding light. I’m fortunate to be part of the financial independence (FI) or financial independence, retire early (FIRE) community. It is somewhat laughable to suggest that the current situation will derail the FIRE movement, like what I’ve seen on Twitter-land.

In all honesty, the FIRE community is the best-positioned people on Earth who can weather this storm. We have what it takes to rein in expenses. To craft multiple sources of income. To protect our assets. The resources to ration with. The will to survive with the bare minimum. The mind to plan for emergencies. The perseverance to hunker down for the cold winter.

Not too far in the future, people would be writing about running a Covid simulation against your portfolio to see if it will survive, like it is “normal thing” to do. The FIRE community will be even more resilient than it ever was when this episode is over.

In a few of my older posts, I wrote about retirement preparation which involves three things :


Those who are lucky enough to be in a good position now with respect to the above three points (and you know, perhaps having a job would be nice), please – be generous to those who need help.

Be nice and support one another. Some personal-finance content I’ve seen on social media is .. ridiculous. Keep insensitive and impractical advice to yourself. For a lot of people who are out of jobs, it is not exactly a choice they get to make at this point, right?

Don’t be smug about it, and please – don’t flex your financial prowess at others. Don’t rub it in. So what if you’re doing exceptionally well? At best, you’d still be a rich asshole.

Inside of me, I’m still the same nerdy and scrawny introvert. Only that I have managed to build layers and layers of defenses. We would all get through this. Together.