Compromise and Acceptance- Be realistic about your life

The most interesting question I’ve come across in my career as a world top 50 university professor was asked by a university freshman (first-year student). At the end of my lecture, he approached me and asked me: “Which job in the aviation industry has the highest pay?” Hmmm… I was surprised!

Then I told the kid that: “It’s perhaps the CEO, but each airline has only one CEO. Is that your career goal to become a CEO of a major airline?“. The student responded: “No. I just want to know which job has the highest pay and I want to do it.” I was thinking in my head: “so, this kid is only interested in $?” Then, I asked the student: “Why do you want to do the job? Is it because of money?

The student said: “Of course.” Hmmm… I see.

Working only for money may not work for the long term (Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

During my career of coaching top research (Masters and PhD level) students and in my private coaching for young adults, the two most common issues I have faced so far are: (1) lack of urgency and motivation to change; and, (2) unrealistic expectation for life and efforts. I’ve talked about the lack of urgency in a previous post, so I will focus on the second point here: unrealistic expectation.

Imagine this life style:

You wake up whenever you feel like in the morning. Usually around 10 or 11am, because you had so much fun at a party last night. Then you stroll to a local cafe and have a nice brunch. You took a photo of yourself and the nice brunch and post it to Instagram and Facebook. Hundreds, if not thousands, ‘likes’ flood your page. You then do a little bit work, perhaps for one or two hours, then it’s already 3pm. Time to go to the gym and also prepare to go to a dinner gathering at 7pm. You put on your best outfits and arrived at the restaurant in style at 7. You, of course, take a selfie and post it on Instagram and Facebook. You then enjoyed good foods, good wines and of course, wonder accompany of other people.

This is the view I want to have when I turn 55. And, I’m working towards it!

Do you like this life style? I’m not sure about you, but I certainly do! This is my ‘dream’ life style. Increasingly, I’ve seen young adults (under 30) who think that they should live such a life style. Perhaps not the ‘porsche’ version of this life style, but something similar; a ‘cheaper’ version is also fine.

The issue with this mindset is that this life style is not realistic, especially for young adults. Why? The only one thing most young adults commonly lack of is … money! If you have not much money, then how can you fund such a life style?

A few years ago, I had this similar question for a young couple I knew at that time. The young couple had all the fancy stuff, especially keen on ‘fine dining’. At that time, I told me wife: “Sorry honey, we can’t afford going to a fine dining restaurant and spend $150 for two of us. With that $150, we could have done our weekly grocery shopping.” Some time later, I learned from a common friend who was close to that young couple. I realised that they funded those fancy stuff with credit cards (i.e. debts). Those Facebook fine dining photos did look v nice and people nowadays “judge” a person often based on his/her Facebook posts. (If so, I guess I will belong to the ‘common’ citizen category …)

This quick afternoon tea at Hong Kong Airport is certainly not fancy on my FB page, but that’s my true me! Who doesn’t love some local treats when travelling?

In my coaching (especially for young adults), I always ask my clients to ‘sketch’ the goals they desire. That could be a life style, could be wealth, could be a beach house, or could be as simple as a fit self. Many young adults nowadays would sketch that life style I just described, perhaps because they have seen too many examples on the social media and think that this is how it should be?

There is nothing wrong with this goal/dream. What matters is what you do about it. Most people work their ares off when they were young and lucky enough to transform to that life style before 65 and retire early. These people have got money to fund this life style. If a young people does not have the money to fund this life style, then what does he/she do?

Two options. One is to fund that through loans and credit cards. This almost always leads to financial and family disaster. The other is to create a plan to achieve that goal with a strong motivation! I’m not saying that you can’t go out and have a drink with your friends (while posting some fancy photos on the social media). What I’d suggest is that you create a ‘lite version’ of the dream life style. While you progress through your work/career life and have more resources, you gradually ‘expand’ your lite version and transform it to the full ‘fancy version’. It’s like upgrading yourself from the economy class in the aircraft to the premium economy class; then eventually to the business class and even the first class.

From little things, big things grow. Create a plan, be smart, be prepared and achieve your goal in style.

With this plan, you still have your dream life style ‘in sight’ so you are motivated. You learn to be realistic by not spending your future money, making a compromise with yourself (with the ‘lite version’), being patient on life, being smart on improving yourself, and accepting yourself.

Trust me: with a plan and a good coach, you will be there soon. My college mate started enjoying his new career owing a few restaurants in his early 40’s. He told me how much tax he paid last year; well, that’s more than my annual income… He was bankrupted at 30 (business failure), then he got himself back up. His company went public before he turned 40. He is living (almost) the life style I described earlier. Except that he still works hard even now, although only a few hours each day. I believe he truely enjoys his life.

Yes, I also want to have that life style by 55 and I’m pretty sure I’m kinda close to it by now. ^_< I’m v happy about myself and my achievements so far.

Dr. C. Richard Wu @

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