Jack Ma tells his son not to be an A student, and I'm following his advice

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba tells his son that, "being in the middle is fine, as long as your grade aren't too bad. Only this kind of person [a middle-of-the-road student] has enough free time to learn other skills. I think, if China’s economy wants to develop, it needs a lot of SMEs and individually-run companies, and that requires a lot of entrepreneurs with values and drive."

Ironically, when it comes to work ethics, Jack Ma also defends the long gruelling practice, of 996 (9am to 9pm, 6 days a week) in his company and that workers should consider it as an honour. I mean, if I am entreprenuerial, working this long hours, and deem myself capabable with the drive to achieve things, I might just leave the company and run my own business.

I want to be a middle student

That aside, I'm following his advice of being an in the middle student. Recently, I decide to get an ICT degree from SUSS. Yes, at the ripe age of the big 30.

Juggling work, studies, learning how to invest and just flat out bingeing on cat videos, I know that the amount of time I choose to devote to each option represents an opportunity cost.

After a/n (un)fruitful decade of exploring career options and running my own startup, I'll be the first to admit that I lack in the entrepreneurial skills that Jack Ma mention as the reason for freeing up time from studies.

But the premise of the arguments remain.

There is a finite amount of time and energy that we can spend. What we decide to build and/or cultivate our lives in, we will have to allocate the corresponding pragmatic amount of time and energy require to achieve our visions.

You can be the top student.

You can be a very successful entreprenuer.

You can have great relationships.

You can be the healthy.

You can have six packs.

You can perform in a high paying and demanding job.

You can have a full eight hours of sleep.

But you can't be all of them at the same time. Maybe someone did it, but that's gonna be rare. We are not machines. We get tired or we just can't make 26 hours out of a day even if we don't sleep.

Don't not be for the sake of not being

That doesn't mean I have to slack off just because I choose to be a C student. Judging from the current situation, in which there are less job seekers than job offers in the tech field, companies might have been moving away from a degree as a prerequisite to the job. My very own experience of being a developer without a degree is that, having a degree is not a baseline that is set in stone.

There are ways to prove your worth as a developer. I'm being contented as a C student as at my current stage in life, I am clear about my career direction and life trajectory and I have set a game plan to achieve that.

I don't just want to be a frontend developer for the rest of my career.

I don't just want to be working for someone till the age that I could retire.

At the point of gradueation, around 34 -35, I want to work in a role revolving more around data. I also want to move overseas to work.

At the age of 40, I want to be able to have the freedom to move into a more freelance or ad-hoc position because the various income streams that I have worked on is able to sustain my monthly pay.

Create a game plan for the "free" time

Yes, sometimes I watch too many cat videos. Sometimes I spend too much time on dating app, conducting weird social experiments or just trolling people.

But I'm also slicing portions of my time to learn about personal finance (options and investing), to hit the gym and to create probable alternative income streams.

At the end of the day, how I plan my allocation of time is the risk and reward attach to the actions I take. Will I get a continuous 10% annual increment because I devote my time to be an A student in a not-so-top-tier university? Or will I have a higher probability of becoming more skilled in generating my own revenue, be it from investing or creating content online?

Yes, the very truth is, I'm very much a 996 worker, but I don't leave my fate to one single organisation or one single certification if I have the option to choose not to.

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