How to Survive Without Having to Migrate?


“If you want small changes in your life, work on your attitude. But if you want big and primary changes, work on your paradigm.” - Stephen Corey

What if you want to emigrate to the West but are not able to? Don’t worry – if you shift your paradigm, you don’t need to even worry about survival because you will thrive. Not being able to emigrate can be a blessing in disguise.

Oftentimes, having more choices means wasting more time and effort doing something which would eventually turn out to be pointless after all – more haste more waste. But in order to turn your inability to emigrate to the West into a blessing, you must have an actionable game plan – one that puts you on a path of least resistance towards your goals.

Let’s assume that one of your goals is to achieve complete financial freedom. By that we mean absolute freedom from having to work for money to pay for your living expenses. So, with that goal in mind, you work very hard to get the best results in school, so that you can get into the best university, graduate with Magna Cum Laude and then get the best-paying job in the Goldman Sachs and JP Morgans of the world. With that job, you will be able to buy all the best things that money can buy and after that, you still have enough to save for rainy days and you will live the good life ever after.

So when certain people tell you that if you migrate to Australia, you will have a brighter future, they basically mean that you will be able to live the good life. Everything seems so logical on the surface. You do what most people do. You work hard, play hard and then work even harder than ever. Yet life, to you, seems to get tougher, not easier. How come?

That’s because most of us fail to realise one very important point: we have equated life to a race. To some, it is a 100m sprint whereas to others, it is a marathon or a cross country run. Whatever it is, we assume it is a race but it is actually not. If it is, then the faster runners will almost certainly beat slower ones every time, right?

Yet we all behave and act as if it is. No wonder it’s called a rat race. But a rat race is not what life is really like. Life doesn’t have to be a rat race because it is not. In reality, life is like a maze – one with multiple starting points and multiple destinations. The “winner” therefore is not always the fastest runner but one who possesses the clearest vision as to what he or she wants, where he or she should be heading towards and how best to realise them.

If you have a clear enough vision, you will realise that emigrating to the West might even pull you further away from the good life that you want! Yes, we know there are many problems to overcome in Malaysia before we can live the “good life”. Here are some of the most common problems that Malaysians face. While these problems are very real, they are not completely impossible or unresolvable – if only we get our paradigm right.

How to Pay for My Children’s University Education

Okay, you might then say if you migrate to Australia (or the US or UK), your children will get free university education and it is world class as well. First of all, it is not free. Your child will be slapped with a student loan worth tens of thousands of Australian (or US) dollars or British pounds before he or she even has a full-time job!

Second, not all kinds of jobs need a university degree as an entry requirement.

That means, one can save a few years by working full-time straight after he or she graduates from high school where they can earn and learn at the same time. In fact, in May 2017, The Sydney Morning Herald published an article entitled “PwC to end university degree employment requirement”:

“Designed and led by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the programme will run for 18 months and allow school-leavers to get a business diploma while they work alongside graduate employees in core company areas. At least five other companies are expected to participate.”

It is not difficult at all to foresee that, moving forward, this trend will only pick up, both in momentum and in magnitude. Amid the hustle and bustle of our rat race, we have forgotten our original purpose of getting a university degree – to acquire the knowledge and skills required for the job which our degree is supposed to equip us with.

But it seems that we, especially the parents, have lost the plot and failed to see that many colleges and universities have sprung up over the decades mainly just to serve a burgeoning market need to chase after that piece of paper that will prove to our prospective employers that we indeed possess the knowledge and skills to perform the job for which we applied.

As a result, a majority of university students are more interested in getting that piece of paper than in really learning about the subject that is being taught at all. In fact, in this day and age, anyone who is sincere and committed enough to learn can learn all the things that are being taught in a university degree course without paying a single cent of tuition fees!

All you need is a laptop and internet connection and you can start doing your degrees from MIT, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and others for free! Don’t you think the job interviewer will be even more impressed? After all, unless you are fully committed to learning for learning’s sake, you wouldn’t have done it at all. And if you have done it, the interviewer can surely tell that you are not faking it.

Our Malaysian Ringgit is So Weak!

The thing we really need to worry about is not the strength of our currency in relation to other currencies, but the amount of money we have coming in every month. Without regular ongoing income, whether in the form of salary, interests, rental income, dividends or other forms of investment returns or business profits, it really doesn’t matter how strong our ringgit is, does it?

Why complain about the strength of our currency when it is so out of our control? We don’t think even our prime minister or Bank Negara has much control over the ringgit’s strength either!

Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus more on the things we can control? Are we making ourselves economically productive enough or not? How effective are we in helping our employer or clients solve their problems? The more problems we can solve for more people while still being able to keep ourselves intact and assertive about our own space, value and self-worth, the more money we can make.

To solve problems, we need resources. But when we are short on resources we have to be more resourceful in our thinking first. Here are some principles to consider – OPM, OPI, OPN, 10 x Rule and the one-minute rule.

OPM stands for “other people’s money”. When you have no money, you should use others’ money. To do that, you must be trustworthy and responsible enough.

Otherwise you will not be able to sleep well. OPI stands for “other people’s ideas.” When you lack ideas, you use others’ ideas. Many rich people have money but no ideas. So they employ others to provide good ideas for them. OPN stands for “other people’s network.” When you are the new kid in town, you have no connections. So you use other people’s network.

All the above does not imply we should be taking others’ things in a shrewd way. Rather, we earn their trust by being honest and helpful to others. Otherwise, nobody will suffer a fool indefinitely, not even your most beloved family member.

Under the 10 x Rule, you should constantly ask yourself why you do what you do in the first place. The reason you do what you do is because it matters to you. For anything that matters enough to you that you have to do them, you should attempt it at least 10 times until you succeed. Hence your likelihood of succeeding is greatly enhanced – because you are willing to give yourself nine times more chances than your “competition”. When you have nine unfair advantages over others, how can you not succeed?

The last principle, the one-minute rule, is one we got from Tansel Ali, a four-time Australian Memory Champion. He even managed to memorise two fat books of the Yellow Pages of Sydney a few years ago!

The things you want to do every day sometimes get neglected because of your busy schedule. Do you discard them altogether? Instead of jogging for 20 minutes a day as you have planned, on very busy days, when you don’t seem to have that 20 minutes, why not still do it anyhow? Do it for one minute, at least. This will keep the continuity of your daily routine. Being 19 minutes short in your daily jog is surely not as disruptive as having the day-to-day continuity broken, and you might never get back to it again until the next New Year’s resolution!

If you use all the above principles when trying to solve problems for yourself and others, we don’t see how you will ever come short in monetary terms. Also, try to link your problem-solving abilities for others to your own passion. For example, if you are very passionate about painting walls, try to solve problems for those who love their walls painted but don’t know how or hate to do it themselves. So basic and yet so many of us don’t practise it.

Finally, don’t just solve problems for others thinking about how much you want to charge them. When appropriate, solve others’ problems for free also. Only then will you be in a league of your own. Competition is pointless if it does not bring you happiness. Beyond a certain point, any competition becomes absurd and meaningless – a race to the bottom.

Sydney Hospital. The waiting time in the emergency department of many public hospitals in Australia can get very long.

Consider this. The more “successful” person is not necessarily the one with the most money. You can have lots of money but still be a servant to it. You can have less money and still be more successful if you are a money master, not money servant. Money masters don’t do anything for money. Money servants cannot resist the temptation to charge others whenever there is an opportunity to do so. Hence they live less because they are too busy serving their money god.

Worrying about the strength of our ringgit is like worrying about the weather. If you worry about the rain tomorrow, would you bring your umbrella, or would you just wish it away? Of course you would bring your umbrella, right? So, when it comes to our exchange rate, we can only improve our earning capacity and not wish that it will strengthen next month or next year. Also, the exchange rate is not unlike a yoyo. If it is too high, it can only come down and when it is too low, it will only go up. It’s an utter waste of time to worry about the strength of our ringgit, if you ask us.

Stagnant Wages and Rising Inflation in Malaysia Are Making Life Very Difficult for the Working Class!

Just like we can’t deny the difficulties that stagnant wages and rising inflation bring to the average salary earner in Malaysia, we can’t deny that these are not happening in the West as well! When jobs that can be shifted to Asia (where costs of production are much lower) have been shifted, are being shifted and will be shifted, which business owner in his or her right mind would adjust his or her employees’ wages upward without having to lay off some of his or her less productive ones before doing so? At least in Malaysia, we have more full-time jobs than in the West, where companies are “casual-ising” their full-time employees.

Here is a poem Ken has written to illustrate the dilemma which confronts the average wage earner who has migrated from Malaysia to Australia. It’s called “The End of Jobs”:

The End of Jobs

In Malaysia, I was stuck in a dead-end job.

In Australia, I tried hard to stick to a few loose-ened jobs.

In case the ends don’t meet, I’d probably have to quit eating meat.

Whilst dead-end jobs got me nowhere, Loose-end jobs got me going everywhere.

Yes, you literally rush here rush there along with your Tupperware,

Yes, the end of jobs is near – in case you’re still unaware.

But Western countries have unemployment benefits, welfare support and a better health care system!

Why should we be so excited about free crutches now when we can still walk? Since we can still walk now, why don’t we spend our time more wisely in terms of educating ourselves financially, learning more about the context in which we live and how we can be financially secure? If we have to be on crutches, it’s always better to buy our own. Whatever the government “gives” you, it can take away just as quickly as it gives.

It seldom occurs to people that they actually do not need any government-sponsored crutches at all. With the way things are going (and the inflation rate is rising) in the West today, many pensioners, retirees and welfare dependants are finding it hard to survive with the insubstantial payments afforded them by their “benign” governments.

Many public health care systems in the West are already showing signs of distress because too many people are abusing the system. People would often go to the doctors just to get medical certificates, or every time they sneeze. After all, they don’t have to pay out of their own pockets. The waiting time in the emergency department of many public hospitals in Australia is appalling. In fact, many who have experienced it say they have experienced third-world service in a “first-world” country.

Basically, the lazier and greedier people are, the more they are attracted to such “perks” and benefits. Yet, these “perks” are not free! The taxpayers pay for them, not the government. Then, people would say since they have paid for them, why not use them? This line of reasoning makes sense only for those who are in a welfare state.

However, for people living in Malaysia, the reasoning should be along the lines of, “If I have to pay so much taxes to support the welfare state before I can enjoy its ‘benefits’ only in my old age, isn’t it the government that is holding me back in the first place?

Unless I am a lazy bum, why should I be held back just so I can have welfare support in my old age-leh?”

Finally, let’s get one thing straight. Even if, for a minute, we pretend the West is really better than Malaysia, relocating there will not automatically make our lives better. We will only do well when we really do the things that will make us do well, not by going to a “better” country.

We all know Damansara Heights is a “better” place to live than, say, Pulau Ketam, for argument’s sake-lah, being nearer to the CBD and all those conveniences. But does that mean we will be better off by just moving there? Of course not! As long as we do not fix our financial problems, nothing in our lives will be better off.

On the contrary, we will be immediately worse off, having to incur higher living expenses and all that. So, for an already poor Pulau Ketam resident, let’s call him Hong, he will only get poorer when he moves to Damansara Heights if he does nothing to improve his financial position first. In fact, he will get poorer faster!

Alternatively, while most Pulau Ketam’s youngsters can’t wait to leave the island when they come of age, Hong can choose to remain in Pulau Ketam. Or he can choose to return to Pulau Ketam after working and saving hard for a few years in KL, and then build a small business in his hometown and at the same time, leverage on the power of the internet to promote the island as a tourist attraction, and start a string of Airbnb accommodation facilities and fishing tours. He will most likely do very well over time. Why? Because by then, most of Hong’s potential home-grown competitors would have left the island.

The moral of the story is very simple, but most people don’t live by it – that is, fix your relationship with money first and the rest of the problems will eventually be fixed! Then, even if you want to migrate to Kenya, you will still have a bright future there!

This is an excerpt from Brighter Future in the West, Sure Meh???, which is available at all leading bookstores in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia as well as online at

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