age40-50career peak..really@@stereotype,brainwash,,


We all hear (and believe) that the 40-50 period is “supposed” to be the peak period in the life of a professional man. This expectation is created on the mass media (and social media such as Linkedin) brainwash that presents middle-aged managers as the norm. If not a “manager”, then a technical architect or a doctor.

[[Preparing for Adolescence]] illustrates the peer pressure (+self-esteem stress) felt by the adolescent. I feel a Deja-vu. The notion of “normal” and “acceptable” is skewed by the peer pressure.

Q: Out of 100 middle-aged (professional or otherwise) guys, how many actually reach the peak of their career in their 40’s?
A: Probably below 10%.

In my circle of 40-somethings, the norm is plateau or slow decline, not peak. The best we could do is keep up our effort and slow down the decline, be it wellness, burn rate, learning capacity, income,,,

It’s therefore hallucinatory to feel left behind on the slow track.

Q: at what age did I peak in my career?
A: I don’t want to overthink about this question. Perhaps towards the end of my first US era, in my late 30s.

I think middle-aged professional guys should read [[reconciliations]] by Theodore Rubin. The false expectation creates immense burden.

##[18]G4qualities I admire]peers: !!status #mellow

I ought to admire my peers’ [1] efforts and knowledge (not their STATUS) on :

  1. personal wellness
  2. parenting
  3. personal finance, not only investment and burn rate
  4. mellowness to cope with the multitude of demands, setbacks, disappointments, difficulties, realities about the self and the competition
  5. … to be Compared to
    • zbs, portable GTD, not localSys
    • how to navigate and cope with office politics and big-company idiosyncrasies.

Even though some of my peers are not the most /accomplished/ , they make a commendable effort. That attitude is admirable.

[1] Many people crossing my path are … not really my peers, esp. those managers in China. Critical thinking required.

I don’t have a more descriptive title for this blogpost.

wage+homePrice: biased views@China colleagues

— salary

Many China colleagues (YH, CSY, CSDoctor, Jenny as examples) say their classmates earn much more than them in the U.S.  These colleagues seem to claim their Typical Chinese counterpart earns higher than in the U.S.

Reality — those classmates are outliers. The average salary in China is much lower than U.S. Just look at statistics.

Some of these guys (like CSY) feel inferior and regret coming to the U.S.

— cost of reasonable lifestyle

Many Chinese friends complain that cost level is higher in China than U.S. and Singapore. A young MLP colleague (Henry) said a RMB 500k/year feels insufficient to a Chinese 20-something.

In reality, per-sqft property price is indeed higher in some cities than in the U.S. Everything else in China, cost level is much lower than in the U.S. Just look at statistics.

t_siddesh^slowTrack ^t_brank^ T_effectiveOC^ t_gzPeerComp^ gzMgr

  • t_siddesh is more specific about .. a few named individuals like TYY.
  • t_slowTrack is fairly specific
  • t_brank is not on named individuals, less about peer comparison, but focused on the concept of “brank”.
  • T_effectiveOC is about .. the motto “increase effectiveness through other people”, not necessarily brank-related
  • t_gzPeerComp is mostly about “high-flying” peers, very similar to t_siddesh. Perhaps i should remove this tag
  • Most (if not all) blogposts with these two tags are logically in the gzMgr category.

Those IV victories define me!

Q: how is the Siddesh phenomenon related?
A: I think my dev-till-70 longevity is my strategic advantage. The Siddeshes can’t have it due to tech interview capabilities.


Without those IV successes, I am likely to feel a total failure and worthless, esp. when comparing to the so-called “high-flyers”, virtually all managers in big companies. As grandpa pointed out, these managers belong to a incompatible, unsuitable comparison group.

Nevertheless, I would probably fall into this pit at least once a years, based on my self-knowledge.

Q: with aging, my IV success rates would probably decline gradually. What’s the plan?

  • #1) maintaining my IV body-building “form” and stay “in-shape” is still the #1 most reliable solution
  • nonwork income, mostly from rentals, can help cushion the decline and hedge the loss of self-esteem, but the high credit risk in the high-yield investments can create stress and self-hate (beside the financial impact)
  • favor longevity jobs — Questionable! I feel very unsure about this strategy, after licking the multiple woulds for years due to repeated PIP.
  • specialize in low-churn, high-accu domains — but very tricky to find one. So far coreJava is the best, with c++ showing many problems. BondMath, MktData are some of the dnlg domains I favor.

compare-up too much; too little compare-out

Comparison with “peers” is really hard to rationalize away.

Now my habit is 80% compare-up; and only 20% of the time we feel fortunate comparing to the wider population.

It’s better to become 20% compare-up.

Reason – Those up-comparisons are usually impractical, irrational and with wrong groups i.e. managers.

self-hate due to hearsay 300k salary #XR

.. You seem to feel the (hearsay) income level of 300k is the minimum you need to feel good about yourself. In that case, your worry and negative self-assessment about income is misaligned with reality.

A bit of real statistics to chew on – rank all countries by GDP per-capita. Most of the top 10 richest countries have population below 9 million including Switzerland and most of the Northern Europe countries.

Q: How many countries are richer than U.S. *and* with a population above 20 million?
Answer: zero. Japan, Germany, UK, France,  … are all less rich than the U.S. Now, I believe you don’t want to compare with developing countries like China, Korean, Taiwan, India, let’s first focus on rich countries —

  • I believe half the American families earn less than 60k combined income, so do you think half the American families are struggling to survive every day?
  • I would estimate (based on my knowledge) more than half the *families* across the rich countries earn less than USD 60k, but you are implying that a single income of 300k is the minimum you need?
  • USD 300k single income would put you in the top 2% in any rich country, but you feel that’s the minimum you need?
  • USD 300k is higher than at least half the doctors’ and lawyers’ income across the rich countries, so you seem to say most doctors and lawyers are struggling to survive based on their income
  • My wife’s income is about SGD 30k. A regular teacher’s salary in Singapore is about SGD 50k. Singapore is, by most rankings, more affluent than the U.S. and teachers are a large, white-collar workforce. By your standard, even a 500% increase in a Singapore teacher’s income would still be too low for you.
  • In one of the most expensive cities of our world – London, a USD 300k salary would be top 2%. I know from many sources that London finance IT salary is lower than New York. A 700-pound daily contract rate is “extremely rare” (unheard of to many people) but it works to be only USD 230k, but you would think that’s not enough to survive. Mind you, London is more expensive than New York.
  • Some would say London is still cheaper than … Hongkong. A UBS VP position I tried was at HKD 1.2 million, about half your minimum standard.
  • I have friends in Shanghai and Beijing – the most expensive Chinese cities (along with Shenzhen). A 300k USD salary would be one in 500 jobs over there, but you think it’s barely enough for you. They would guess you live in a city where home price is 10 times higher than Shanghai/Beijing but in reality, your home is more affordable — A comparable apartment (not a 2-storey house with backyard) in Beijing/Shanghai would cost at least USD 1.5 million.

You are living in an ivory tower (and refusing to step out to the real world) if you hold on to that irrational and negative view. You sound like a guy complaining about his 10-room, 3-story mansion. It’s not depression but hallucination.

If you carry this habit into parenting, then beware — your kids could be top of their class but you may still feel they are not good enough because they didn’t win a gold medal. Would be tragic. I think Chinese parents are demanding but most are not at that level. We love our kids and accept them. We ought to love and accept ourselves.

I recommend [[compassion and self-hate]] by Theodore Issac Rubin, my favorite American self-help writer. His books changed my life. I feel good to know he is now 95. I’m grateful to Dr Rubin; I’m grateful to my dad; I’m grateful to Buddhism teachings; and I’m grateful when I answer your questions — I often get a chance to look into myself. I thank our creator to give me the analytical powers (though not as powerful as Dr Rubin) to dissect the layers and uncover the core issues in my psyche. As I endeavor to answer your questions I often reach a deeper understanding of my own pains, stupidity, irrationality and unfairness to myself and love ones.

irrational envy for all-round high flyers

When I first identify an acquaintance as an all-round high flyer, his (her) “note-worthy” achievements were invariablly rather few, thanks to my automatic filter on his other “success” stories … becasue those kinds of “successes” are, at a deep and personal level, unimportant to me. But then those things insidiously sneak past my defence into my inferiority complex and /infest/. Extremely irrational and 不值得.

I would rather feel inferior to someone (I know well) with many unrelated yet worthy achievements [3]. I doubt there’s any in my circle.

Incidentally, when a public speaker is introduced on stage, the audience often hear a list of “successes” which are mostly unimportant to me.

(Even though none of them is a friend I know well enough) Over the years there were a small number of acquaintances [1] I have singled out. Once I singe one out, I tend to lose my critical thinking and see many unimportant/insignificant/secondary “achievements” as enviable. Critical thinking is badly, badly needed at such a juncture!

Incidentally, one of the most effective ways to feel not-inferior is a lucrative job offer, even if I don’t take it.

The initial “enviable achievements” are usually one of these 5
1) income, almost always managerial [2]
2) investment, mostly property
3) beautiful wife
* fitness, flexibility and body shape
* short commute

The other factors are usually (as they should) in my “don’t-care/unimportant-to-me” list, but they sneak into my inferiority complex.

* (multiple) degreed from prestigous universities? Actually most of them are inferior to me!
* academic kids
* competitions and awards to himself or kids
* branded employers? many of them have fewer than mine
* running his own side business? I did while many of them didn’t
* wife professional career
* work-life balance… “easy job”? Questionable. Most high-paying jobs require effort
* writing and music skills? I achieved more than most of them!
* publications
* cars? is a liability not an asset!
* green card
* vacations to many places? Huge cost, no real gain for me
* magerial success at an erly age
* golf skills? i couldn’t care less when I’m not losing my critical thinking.
* networking skill, smooth personality? I’m not this type

[2] as soon as I hear the MD title of some ex-classmate, I lose my critical thinking defence.

Better consider [[compassion and self hate]] and Buddhist teaching

[1] Beside ML, Here are some questionable names. Many of them I barely know the name and job title, so my inferiority is fundamentally similar to my infatuation over the Indonesian girl Sandy, whom I spoke to fewer than 3 times.
* Lu Nuo — I only know he has a writing hobby …
* Cai Hongyu
* Tao YY — I don’t really know how he is doing
* Yang Yang
* Xie Xiaoli

[3] briefly on myself — math, piano, c#, swing, properties, blog, helping friends with job hunting

DanYu: finIT ≠ so bad #long pre-retirement

See also a profession u Enjoy with good {income+barrier}

(A letter I didn’t send out) Hi Daniel,

I think the programmer profession (financial software dev in particular) is not that bad:

  • Career Longevity — (I will delay or completely skip retirement) Reasonable in the U.S. Some professions (like doctors, accountants, teachers) are even better. but most professions (90% of the U.S. working population) can’t expect to have such a salary at age 65, including executives, lawyers, quants… Why do we always envy those guys?
    • Age discrimination — better than most professions including managers
  • Entry barrier — formidable, comparable to doctors or lawyers. See ##行行出状元,但有几个行业不容易出头
  • market depth — see salary probabilities(distro): mgr^NBA#market depth 
  • Job security — actually reasonable, despite the threat of globalization and threat from younger guys. I think the high entry barrier in financial IT is to our advantage
    • I was told some managers have job security concerns too
    • I was told U.S. university professors also face elimination (淘汰).
  • Work Stress — Significant variation across firms and across teams, but generally more stress than other professions.
  • Workload — much higher than other professions. Programming is a knowledge-intensive job.
  • Job market demand — very high for IT skills. Therefore people from other professions are drawn here.
    • Market depth is excellent. You can find plenty of jobs from $50k (easy to cope) to $300k
  • Income — well above average among all professions. Just look at national statistics and world-wide statistics.
  • not a sunset industry, not under threat like music, movie, journalism.
  • knowledge intensive, challenging complexity, engaging, but without excessive mental stress.

lower pressure to move up ] U.S.^sg

In U.S.,  the overall income differences between a hands-on developer vs a leadership role is smaller.

UE: U.S. engineers;
UM: U.S. managers;
SE: Sgp engineers;
SM: Sgp managers;
  • salary — UE much better than SE. The few high salaries in SE are too rare and unreachable
  • career longevity — UE clearly better than SE; UE probably better than SM too.
  • job security — UE much better than SE due to abundance of similar jobs; UE probably better than SM
  • fungible — UE can move into technical UM and back, more easily, thanks to abundance of jobs
  • tech lead, architect roles  — UE can move up in that direction more easily than SE, thanks to abundance of jobs. SM and UM may not have enough technical capabilities.

Economy — I feel hands-on specialists are more central to the U.S. economy and U.S. companies than in other countries. In Singapore, manager is by far the most instrumental and dominant role.

For a Chinese techie in the U.S. the prospect of managerial path is limited. Most of these managers won’t rise beyond the entry-level. And then consider your own background relative to the average Chinese here.

My tentative conclusion is

mis-perception: wrong peer group

see salary probabilities(distro): mgr^NBA#market depth

A poor perception (Maslow) and the wrong peer comparison group directly hurts my drive, my effort, my self-esteem…and leads to self-hate.

Even at the best of times, it is already hard to keep a consistent focus and keep working on any long-term goal. A invalid comparison is extremely destructive.

social class]U.S. n%%chosen tech domain

I used to feel US is a less class-conscious society than China or Singapore. Anyone can make it in this “free”, meritocratic country. Then “insiders” tell me about the old boy’s circle, and the alumni circles on Wall St.

I feel in any unequal, hierarchical society, there are invisible walls between social strata. I was lucky to be an immigrant in technology. If I step out of tech into management, I am likely to face class, racial bias/affinity and … I would no longer be “in-demand” as in tech. Look at the number of Chinese managers in GS. Many make VP but few rise further.

Therefore the tech role is a sweet spot for an immigrant techie like me. Beside Tech, a few professions are perhaps less hierarchical – trading, medical, academic, research(?), teaching …

if you have a technical mind

If you have a technical mind, financial IT (and Silicon Valley) rewards you better than other industries I know.

In Singapore, I worked (or know people working) in telecom, manufacturing, university R&D, online gaming, logistics, search engine .. These companies all “value” your technical mind too, but they don’t generate enough profit to reward you as trading shops do.

Raymond Teo pointed out the project budget for a big government project would be a few million, whereas the trading profit supported by a mid-sized trading platform would be tens of millions (possibly hundreds of millions)  a year.

Culture is another factor… what type of contribution is considered important and highly valued…