“What do you want to have for lunch? Fishball noodle or You Mian?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” replied my son.

Making a choice can be difficult. It becomes harder as the amount of uncertainties increases.

Growth OR Income Investing?
Work OR Life?

Fortunately, we do not always need to just choose one option. “Reject the Tyranny of the OR and Embrace the Genius of the AND” is an idea that I came across when I read Built to Last more than a decade ago. Since then I often remind myself that I do not need to choose one option over the other. I could have both options but not at the same proportion and time.

Genius of the AND is a concept developed in the book Built to Last. Builders of greatness reject the “Tyranny of the OR” and embrace the “Genius of the AND.” They embrace both extremes across a number of dimensions at the same time—purpose AND profit, continuity AND change, freedom AND responsibility, discipline AND creativity, humility AND will, empirical analysis AND decisive action, etc.



This is NOT a recommendation but to illustrate that when I don’t see a distinct advantage of one over another, I will in general buy both counters. I get it that we have limited resources and sometimes it does make sense to choose one to have sufficient exposure. I remember struggling with the choice between investing in DBS* or OCBC then as I wanted some exposure of bank in my portfolio. However, due to my limited knowledge of banking sector, I did not know which was a better investment. To overcome the constraint of resources, I bought DBS with cash and OCBC with CPF. I bought more OCBC than DBS, not because I thought that OCBC was better than DBS, but simply I did not have much cash then.

The choice between the two banks is just an example. The thinking can be applied to choosing between REITs or other companies in the same industry to invest. It does not have to be A OR B, but both with different amount. The divergence will come later as we get to know the businesses better.

* I have fully divested DBS in end 2021 as I was uncomfortable with the repeated technical glitches. You can read about my decision in this post.

Growth AND Income Investing

Image from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/analytics-chart-drawing-colors-3268935/ and https://www.flickr.com/photos/91261194@N06/51763487722

In my initial years of investing, I was not bothered about dividend. I wanted to invest in companies that have potential to grow. Whether the companies declare dividend or not does not affect my investment decision. However, as I moved into forties and with a larger portfolio, I decided that there is a place for income counters in my portfolio.

The dividend can provide a steady stream of passive income and since then part of my investment strategy is to increase this stream of income. Nonetheless, I still like growth companies and about a third of the portfolio is still allocated to them. The proportion is likely to change in the future as my life goal changes.

Work AND Life

I do not like the term work-life balance as again the word “balance” suggests a mid-point which I do not think it is such. A former boss said this, “Work is a subset of life.” I am with this view. Two other big aspects in my life would be relationships and personal well being. Each aspect can branch out further to finer details. The three aspects are related to each other but I don’t see it like the famous purpose Venn diagram that is often misconstrued as Ikigai.

Rather I see the relationship being a fuzzy one where boundaries are not clearly defined and changes dynamically. Depending on life stages, I have adjusted the amount of work I want in my life. It wasn’t always a conscious decision but thinking back, I had no qualm spending time on my work when I was much younger. I had the energy and enjoyed my work. Of course it was tiring at times and certain work felt meaningless but the overall experience is fulfilling.

It was in the early forties that I decided to re-prioritise my life and that was when I went slower in work and spent more time in the other aspects of my life. Again, I expect further adjustments going forward.

Embracing AND

Compared to “OR”, thinking “AND” requires more conscious effort. The effort is worthwhile as embracing “AND” often brings about a new perspective and different result.

Anyone for You Mian with fishballs?