“Sense of security, like pockets jingling…”

Growing up, my knowledge of a midlife crisis resembled the following:

1. Old guys driving fast cars
2. One of my favourite songs, “Midlife Crisis” by Faith No More
3. A state of mind for the meek

Well, I was a presumptuous young hoon when it came to point number 3 – because the concept of mid-life crisis seems to be a thing. And it scares the living shmoozies out of some people my age or thereabouts. According to Wikipedia, mid-life crises are a thing or aren’t a thing depending on the research. Whatever it is, people can engage in deep life reassessment as they near or reach middle age – something of a place marker for review, reflection and planning. Some initial questions:

1. Am I content with what I’ve done?
2. Am I content with where I’m going?
3. I really need to start thinking about retirement. WTF, retirement?!
4. Did I do enough stupid things in my pre-midlife days to feel like I’ve ‘lived’?
5. Could I have done better?
6. Will I ever stop creating lists?

I feel as though I have done plenty – so I’m okay with Q1. I reckon there was a bit of stupidity in that plenty, so Q4 is sorted. Q2 is tricky – though it’s difficult not to back the decisions made up until now. That said, Q5 is a doozy – I passed up at least 3 great career opportunities in my time so far due to indecision, misplaced loyalty and sheer naivety. A bunch of business opportunities were either ill-timed or exited too quickly – a web design business in 1996; an online accounting business in 2002; a growing consultancy business in 2006… quite a list now that I look back – so a firm ‘no’ to Q6.

Which leaves Q3. This is the one that irks. As a younger tacker I always thought people preparing for their retirement in their early 20s were boring sods living too far in the future – sacrificing the present unnecessarily and valuing thrift over experiences. That’s probably partly the case. For example, by not investing in property early (when every person and their 5 year old around me seemed to be buying up property left, right and centre, in many cases burdening themselves with heavy mortgages) I felt unencumbered and able to travel, start businesses, experiment with creative pursuits, just living for the sake of it…

Then sometime last year, this concept of ‘midlife’ became apparent. And I freaked out.

Not getting any younger. Kids will need their schooling funded. Need a house somewhere. Body is going to start doing strange things. Will the savings be enough… Need to beef up the retirement account… the words of the Faith No More song (and title of this post) ringing in my head…

So instead of buying music, gadgets, pants, or a really fast car – I started buying shares again (for the record, I actually did buy a car as well – a Volvo – very un-midlife crisissy). Week in, week out, I tracked the market and loaded up on as many shares as I could afford. I started longer-term savings plans, padded investment banker coffers through managed funds, discovered ETFs… and found this all quite interesting – even fascinating – for the first time in my life.

I remember having a so-called “Dollarmite” account when I was about 6 years old. This was the bank savings account marketed to 6 year old school kids in an attempt to teach long-term savings skills while building that bank’s brand awareness from a young age… It obviously left no lasting impression on me as far as early savings go, and as it turned out I have not banked with that bank since becoming an adult.

I needed a pesky, very real midlife crisis/stressor/place marker to ram the point home. I needed a midlife crisis to realise that midlife crises really exist in some way, shape or form. Thankfully, courtesy of this flexion point I am in a far more comfortable state of mind than I was 12 months ago.

Interestingly, the most unexpected of middle-aged people around me tend to be buying fast cars – so I can only assume that’s really a thing too. So, with the benefit of experience, I can now sum up a midlife crisis as:

1. Old guys driving fast cars
2. One of my favourite songs, “Midlife Crisis” by Faith No More
3. A complete, shock to the core wake-up call

Good night.

TL;DR: Lived and did a bit, thought the concept of a midlife crisis was BS as a youngster, then had something of a midlife crisis, made a bunch of investments and lived happily ever after.


Typhoon Usagi whirling its way to Hong Kong

Typhoon Usagi is headed straight for Hong Kong, putting to rest any well-laid plans for a cruisey Sunday evening by the harbour.

The Hong Kong Observatory this evening downgraded Usagi from an all-conquering ‘Super Typhoon’ down to a supposedly meeker ‘Severe Typhoon’, meaning winds will reach only a breezy 150 km/h.

With typhoons on the mind, have a listen to one of my favourite tracks of the year – “Hurricane” by MS MR:

It’ll blow you away… Okay, perhaps that’s stretching the theme a step too far.

Fun learning is the best learning

All learning should be fun. Surely even accounting instruction could be twisted in a way that would make it immensely engaging and interesting? 🙂  It’s surely possible, it just needs the right people in the right positions of influence to make it happen.

I remember some of the best learning experiences in high school were game based. Wherever it was fun, learning was easy. The classic whodunit adventure game “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” was a fine geography teacher. It then made an otherwise drab atlas much more interesting. 

On a similar topic, I had a discussion with one of my guys today about US politics. It came up in conversation that Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show makes it easy to take in political news. Why? Because it’s darn funny, and with a high level of accuracy to boot. Someone who would never watch the news could sit through The Daily Show, laugh, and learn something along the way.

Again: Make it fun, and it will be easy to learn. Why are there not more fun learning experiences out there?

The Internet community really is a noble mass movement

We take it for granted now, but the level of contribution and collaboration on the Internet, without clear tangible reciprocal benefits for those contributing, is mind-blowing. In a selfish world, the amount of free information, free advice, and free goods (namely software) gives a sense of hope that the human race can indeed band together for the common good. Even more remarkable – this is happening on a global scale. Though I could be considered “Internet-native”, having used it almost daily since 1995, this astounds me still.

I have the utmost respect for opensource programmers, Wikipedia contributors, informative bloggers and those of a similar ilk. Brilliant.

Learning that works for everyone

I don’t believe in cookie-cutter approaches to instructional design, though success-backed methodologies obviously have merit. How to engage learners who are in specific situation and mindset? That is, how to make everyone happy all of the time. For something as important as education, this endeavour should never be consigned to the ‘too difficult’ tray.

Tailored learning? Core curriculum modules and tasks which are twisted to fit the real-life scenario of the student, perhaps? Possible with tech + money + creative people today, surely.

Pull your socks up, academic software people

It has always struck me how badly academic sites and software is designed, from technical, aesthetic and usability perspectives. Most seem to have been designed sufficiently well from a database/data storage perspective, but this often creates a long ‘click stream’ to achieve a goal, which is bad usability design and results in a frustrating user experience. Graphic designers evidently aren’t on the books of most journal publishing houses and academic software outfits, given the aesthetically unpleasing nature of most academic sites

Days are numbered for the term ‘eLearning’

To learn online or not to learn online, that seems to be the question.

The debate should not be about whether eLearning and emerging web technologies can be used to replace face-to-face teaching. eLearning is a reality today and will only become more mainstream and accepted as time passes. It is likely that there will be a complete blurring in the near future, where there is learning delivered in several ways.

Today’s younger people are comfortable in an online-social environment, and don’t necessarily have preconceived notions of what ‘works best’. The importance placed on physical presence/interaction in learning environments will only diminish over time, creating a market for solid, useful and enjoyable online learning content that may or may not be supplemented with face-to-face meetings.

Further, many of those driving this debate may not fully understand the digital generation (regardless of how much research is conducted), and indicates how important it is to somehow engage, observe and seek feedback from young Internet users. Ideally, they would be part of the process, not just on the periphery.