There is Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself


First off, I want to thank everyone for all the kinds and words and support that I’ve received since I announced to the blogging world that my days as a corporate engineer are over. I really do appreciate all the love and support! With that said, with this post today, I’d like to address something that has been on my mind since I decided to make that leap and turn the page to the next chapters of my life.

Everything that I’ve done up to date, and everything that I will do in the future… is nothing.

It’s all child’s play.

Although it may seem like a big deal to myself, at the end of the day, what I’m attempting is nothing “courageous” or “bold” at all.

Really, someone with over $1 MM in assets, $500k in liquid funds, and over $2,000/month in passive income, is only now just ready to embark on a new journey?

Seriously?!? Is that what is necessary, these days, for someone to take on even a moderate degree of “risk” with their lives?

Risk is relative. But coming from where I came from, what I’m trying to do now is akin to someone playing a videogame on “easy mode” with both cheat codes and Game Genie enabled… It pales in comparison to some of the real struggles that many people routinely face everyday of their lives.

With that said, I’ll take you back to the origins…

Every Story Has A Beginning

On this blog, I’ve oftentimes mentioned the adversity and struggles that I’ve had to face in my life; I use that simply to give myself an extra “edge”. From growing up poor, to working a menial job throughout high school, to having people doubt me basically my entire life, but that doesn’t even begin to tell you half of it…

For me to do that, we have to go back to the beginning of this story.

My parents were born and raised in Vietnam (although my heritage is Chinese), and they had to endure all kinds of hardships throughout their lives. For them, they were entering adulthood in the 1960’s and 1970s at the most crazy and tumultuous of times. To make a long story short, as the war dragged on, my grandma (who has ALWAYS been my hero and role model) saw what was going on and refused to let her kids grow up and raise their own families in this type of inhospitable environment; for her, the writing was clearly on the wall, so she knew that she had to formulate a Plan B.

My grandparents weren’t well off, so they always had to be resourceful to get things done… Luckily for my family, my grandma was always shrewd enough to accumulate gold (whenever she could), so over the years she had amassed a few meager ounces. She never trusted government, and knew that no matter what happened, at least gold would retain its store of value (heh, perhaps that’s why I’m so open minded when it comes to the yellow metal!). Eventually, my grandma arranged a way for all her kids to escape — When the appropriate time came, she exchanged her gold (they wouldn’t accept any other form of payment, especially not worthless paper!) for boarding passes so that each one of her children could flee the country, by boat.

She stayed behind in Vietnam to take care of my ailing grandfather.

My grandma didn’t want to split the family up (what kind of parent ever really does), but even to this day, she has always done what had to be done for the betterment of the family, even if that meant that she herself had to endure agonizing pain as a consequence of her decisions. She has never shied away from making tough decisions, ever.

So, my parents got on board…

The most beaten down, unstable, most crowded of wooden boats. For my mom, it meant not knowing if she would ever see her mom and dad again…


Photo Credit:

That was just the beginning of the nightmare…

Nobody knew where they were going, or headed next. Everyone on board was hungry, thirsty, and miserable… But in times of calamity, what choice do you really have? In the heat of the moment, all that you’re trying to do is survive…

Live to see another day.

When I was a little older, my mom used to tell me these stories, and she would say things like, “It was very much like rolling the dice… with your life at stake.

Hearing that, always broke my heart.

Not every boat made it to shore… Many boats that embarked on the journey towards REAL FREEDOM, didn’t make it. There were always so many crazy storms, and like I said, these boats weren’t the most luxurious of variety…

My mom saw with her own eyes, boats alongside her go down under… Over the years, she learned of friends, family, other loved ones who were lost at sea…


For myself, even as a kid in high school, I mean, how can you possibly learn about your true family history, hear things like that, and still complain about all the useless bullsh!t in your own life?!?

Count your blessings.

I was lucky… I was born and raised in California. When it comes down to it, I had it really, really, really easy… My life was a picnic in the park, by comparison. I ain’t never known a day of real struggle… I have never experienced life or death before…

So really, who the hell am I to complain or gripe about anything?

Honestly, I should just be damn grateful that I’m even here and alive today.

It’s interesting how that works right? Once you put life into the proper context, I don’t know how to say it, everything else just becomes so much… easier to deal with.

The Next Chapters

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful and thankful for everything that I’ve got… I worked hard for my success, and to get to early FI… But again, everything is relative… Frankly, one of the main reasons why I feel so confident about being able to take on the next chapters of my life is because I want to test myself…

Working a comfortable, cushy corporate job that pays exceptionally well is not a true test of strength… It’s kind of the easy way out, and at some point, I need to grow up a bit and challenge myself more.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m still very much learning as I go.

But for once in my life, I want to embrace the uncertainty and unknown…

It’s kind of exciting waking up every morning and having no clue what’s going to happen next…


So, I refuse to be intimated by fear (fear of the unknown, fear of uncertainty, fear of failure, fear of EVERYTHING!), because I know that I can’t grow as a person that way.


Instead, we are going to go full steam ahead and embrace life.


Life is awesome! Let’s live it!


My parents arrived in this country as refugees with two suitcases of clothes, no money, no education or degrees, they didn’t speak the language, they had no friends or relatives nearby… yet they still found a way to make it… And a spoiled brat like me? I’ve got Game Genie on my side! 🙂


Fight On!

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Income Surfer
4 years ago

I didn’t know the background buddy, but I’m glad you shared. My family has been in this country for 150 years, so I feel most of us have lost that “immigrant fire”. That drive to advance and better ourselves. I’m always impressed at the work ethic of immigrant families. I know it feels liberating to step away, because it did for us as well. Getting together with some other FIRE bloggers tonight in Colorado. Wish you could join

4 years ago

Very cool to learn about your background. It’s interesting that many 1st/2nd/3rd generation immigrates have more fire to establish themselves in the new country than others.

Midwestern Landlord
Midwestern Landlord
4 years ago

Thanks for sharing Jay. While life is not easy for any of us, a little perspective is a good thing. In general, most people in the USA have it much better then a lot of other areas in the world. And for that we should be thankful. For centuries and centuries, mankind was just trying to survive from one day to the next working to get food and shelter. Today getting those items is relatively easy. Once we have the basics met, I think it is natural for human beings to seek out things in life they find fulfilling. That… Read more »

Dividend Hustler
4 years ago

Great story FIF. I’m also from Vietnam and my parents left and was on those boats as well so I totally know where you’re coming from. We got it made here in Canada and U.S. Bud. It’s all first world problems. Let’s create a wonderful future bud. We’re in good spots and it’s only gonna get better. Thanks for sharing.

4 years ago

Hi! thanks for sharing the story. I have only just come across your site and this was the first article I read. Bravo! Full respect to your Grandmother and you and your family. Perspective is everything and you just made my reflect on my own (comparatively less dramatic) past few years. I moved to HK 6 years ago to follow the love of my life who I had only just met at a party. The process to get to HK involved quitting my cushy job, selling all my earthly possessions (except my apartment), and convincing friends and family I hadn’t… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  FI Fighter

Hey, yes please look me up when you’re in HK. My skype is crdward so feel free to add.

Love the latest article you sent out…. and unplugging from the matrix.

I was wondering how your parents find your early retirement. I’m 12 years older than you and my mum has a really irrational fear of any of her kids not working. The concept of FI is a real alien concept for her, eg not working = destitute and living on the streets.


Elle @ New Graduate Finance

This is something I struggle with, so I really appreciate your post.

The way I see it is that you have had periods in your life when you have worked incredibly hard.

The fact that you have been able to work so hard means that if it came to it, you would be able to summon some of that drive and work hard again to support yourself and create the life you desire.

I would love to see more posts about the story of how you got your net worth from 0 to $1MM!

4 years ago

Reading about your grandmother brought tears to my eyes as I’ve just lost mine. She was my true role model who raised me but when there was a chance to leave Eastern Europe for the US she told me not to look back and do it. Her hard work and ethics will always inspire me. Thanks for sharing your family story.

No Nonsense Landlord
4 years ago

Best of luck to you. I am waiting to have a bit more income, and a bit more assets, before I jump.

But only 105 days left. 15 weeks. 68 working days.

Out of State Investor
4 years ago

This article hit home. My parents were also both immigrants. They were the first and only to leave their respective countries. They met here in the states at random. Set up a life here and a business when they didn’t even speak the language well. It always amazes me to see how courageous one can be to pack up and move to a place with no support and an empty wallet. Definitely puts things into perspective. To your point about living life at the moment with the “cheat codes” in hand, that made me laugh. You’re so right about that.… Read more »


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