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12 Oct 2022
SOURCE: CPF Board
Is there a secret ingredient to a happy life? To some, it might be to become rich and famous. To others, it means being able to spend time with loved ones. But life isn’t so straightforward. There are always setbacks and challenges that may halt your progress in the path you choose. How you handle these obstacles determines if they stay as a roadblock or become a stairway to greater heights.
Like you and me, Mediacorp artiste Brandon Wong is also doing his best to walk his own path in life. We sat down with him and sought his opinions on life, retirement, and how to approach both to achieve happiness. Here are some insights he has to share:
When it comes to happiness, Brandon defines it as having four things: Relationships, Time, Health and Wealth. The importance of these things may not be apparent when one is younger, but they are definitely things you will appreciate as you grow older!
In its simplest definition, relationships are what connect people. We commonly associate it with romantic love, but it also extends to family and friends. For Brandon, having strong relationships means spending quality moments with his spouse as they age, maintaining a connection with his children, and having good friends who can interact at a pace that is comfortable for everyone.
Time and health are also essential. If you have the means to enjoy life but not the time or health to do so, you will be unable to taste the fruits of your own labour. Thus, it’s important to set aside time for yourself and to keep yourself healthy, be it mentally or physically.
Finally, there’s wealth. Money is, without a doubt, important. But how much money do you need to be happy? Well, according to Brandon, happiness doesn’t mean being a millionaire! To him, it's simply about having enough, such that you need not worry about basic needs such as your daily meals.
To Brandon, achieving happiness means to have all four of these aspects combined. Only when these aspects are balanced, can one truly be happy with what they have in life. These aspects also guide his outlook on life.
As a loving husband and father of three, Brandon is very much a family man. When it comes to his duties as a father, he sees education as the most important thing in raising a child. However, this is not restricted to academic grades. Rather, it is about raising his children such that they develop good character and principles.
His education method of choice? Leading by example. To become a good role model for his children, Brandon behaves in the way he believes is appropriate for them to emulate, such as being courteous and not acting selfishly.
As Brandon himself puts it best, “As a parent, the most important thing you should concern yourself with is your child’s future.” Brandon also believes that parents should do their ‘homework’, by considering what their child is capable of and understanding what they like to do. While we all wish for our children to be the best, unrealistic expectations could end up putting more pressure on them and affecting their well-being.
In addition to raising them in the present, Brandon is also concerned with their futures far beyond their schooling years. As a father, the main thing he wishes to achieve in retirement is to not become a burden to his children, be it financially or in terms of health. As such, he strives to have enough savings set aside for unexpected expenditures in retirement, so that he will not have to ask his children for money and add to their financial concerns. Brandon also does not impose unnecessary expectations on his children. He does not expect them to provide for him when he has retired, nor does he have any intention of making them follow in his footsteps by becoming actors themselves.
Drawing from his own experiences, Brandon understands the importance of parental support in one’s endeavours. He shared that in his acting career, while he did not have a wealth of accolades, his parents nonetheless supported him because they respected his decision. This is a major source of motivation for him. Due to his own experiences and struggles, Brandon emphasises the importance of doing what you want to do, rather than what you’re told. As he puts it, “If you chose this path yourself, don’t come to regret it.”
For Brandon, he believes that if you were put on a path because someone else told you to, you are not likely to be able to withstand the hardships along the way due to the lack of motivation. As such, Brandon would rather his children follow their hearts and do what they wish to do. Of course, if they wish to pursue a career in acting, he would naturally support them wholeheartedly!
As a child, Brandon did not come from a well-to-do family. From a young age, he had to deliver newspapers before going to school in the mornings. As a result, Brandon does not covet a lavish lifestyle, and advocates having a steady income as that is comforting to him, especially in retirement. But just relying on that is not enough. In life, accidents can happen, and while it’s not something pleasant to think about, it’s also unwise to be unprepared for the rainy days. Hence, it’s also necessary to have a good amount of savings set aside, for when the unexpected situations call for it.
At the end of the day, achieving financial well-being is all in the planning, and achieving financial well-being is in itself, a long-term goal to plan for. But is that the only goal one should set? Might it be more fitting, then, to have many short-term goals to strive towards, in the hopes that financial well-being will eventually be achieved when all these goals are reached?
When asked about this, Brandon shares that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. In life, he notes, it’s important to have a combination of long-term and short-term goals. If your long-term goal is the finish line, your short-term goals are then the checkpoints along the way. Should you only have a long-term goal, you’ll end up feeling very exhausted when chasing it because it just seems so far away. Progress can seem less rewarding, and it becomes easier to downplay your own efforts and achievements.
On the other hand, having only short-term goals can cause one to end up feeling directionless in the long run as they do not provide a very concrete idea of where you’re headed in the future. In chasing only goals that are closer, you’re more likely to lose sight of the long-term direction, and your progress might stagnate or even halt.
More importantly, you don’t have to sprint towards the goal in one breath, and it’s okay to take detours! Each checkpoint helps you understand your progress towards the finish line, and to celebrate the distance you have already covered. With checkpoints, you can always move at your own pace, while enjoying the scenery around you and those taking this journey with you.
Of course, there’s no avoiding the notion of setbacks and failures. Regardless of your age, there are always lessons you can learn when it comes to approaching life and its challenges. One such lesson is how to tackle setbacks—which, according to Brandon, lies in having a positive mindset. As he puts it in a Chinese quote:
“If the mountains won’t turn, turn the roads. If the roads don’t turn, have the traveller turn. If the traveller’s body won’t turn, then move their heart.”
Life isn’t always smooth sailing, and one may not always find immediate success in whatever they do. But that does not mean that the effort up till this point has been for naught. Sometimes, you just have to keep going to achieve success, and a positive attitude is what helps you do just that.
Throughout his long career in the entertainment industry, Brandon has faced his own share of challenges and setbacks. Unlike some of his fellow actors, Brandon did not win his first big award right after he started acting—a setback that could potentially dishearten any newcomer. However, rather than losing faith, Brandon kept going and put his heart and soul into his craft, continuing to perform in many shows and movies over the years.
After a long and arduous 27 years, he was finally able to achieve his first big win on the Star Awards stage at the age of 50. Through his achievement, Brandon demonstrates not only resilience, but also the virtues of perseverance. For Brandon, the secret lies in a Chinese saying by Mencius that stuck with him since he first heard it in secondary school:
“When Heaven is about to place great responsibility upon a great man, first it shall bring frustration upon his spirit and will, exhaustion upon his muscles and bones, emptiness upon his being, and disrupts his endeavours so as to invigorate his spirit and strengthen his capabilities, such that he may face anything.”
While life may not throw us such grandiose obstacles, the lesson is nonetheless sound. To prepare you for great things, life first sends challenges your way to train your body and spirit. True to this saying, Brandon adopts a positive attitude towards any setbacks he encounters in life. To him, any setbacks you face should be viewed as challenges to help you improve, such that you become a stronger person when you eventually overcome them.
Having reached the age of 51, Brandon is naturally looking at life beyond working as well. In addition to his concerns about finances and health, Brandon also approaches his housing options with a practical outlook. As with all his spending decisions, Brandon believes strongly in the notion of “buy what you can afford”. Or, as he puts it in Cantonese, recalling a saying from his grandmother, “If you don’t have a head that large, don’t wear such a big hat.”
Where spending is concerned, Brandon believes in keeping it to a range you can comfortably afford. When he and his wife first bought their house, Brandon considered their then financial situation and projected their ability to finance the loans based on that, instead of going for more expensive options that they could have worked towards as a greater goal.
In his opinion, it’s not wise to use your ‘future money’—money that you might get in the future, but do not have right now. While it is nice to have such aspirations, making purchases based on such ‘future money’ will ultimately put more pressure on the spender, as their current situation is simply unable to support said aspirations. Instead, it would be wiser to ‘keep both feet on solid ground’.
In Brandon’s words, “plans won’t be able to keep up with life’s changes”. One cannot anticipate everything that might happen in the future, so one must simply do their best to prepare in the present, to the best of their abilities. You may not know when the rain might come, but if you have an umbrella ready, you won’t have to worry when it does!
To Brandon, retirement also doesn’t mean to withdraw from working altogether, as that can lead to a decline in one’s mental well-being. Instead, he believes in going for jobs that are not as mentally taxing, or jobs that are more aligned to your interests to help pass the time, make new friends or both. This way, you can continue to keep your mind active and healthy, even in retirement!
For himself, as his greatest passion lies in acting, Brandon wishes to spend his entire life doing so and further improving his craft. The difference, however, is that he wishes to be more selective about the types of acting jobs he takes on in the future, so as to not invite too much pressure on himself. This way, he can simultaneously enjoy life in retirement while continuing to pursue his passions!
On the long, winding road of life, there are many experiences to be had. There will be times where the journey is smooth, and there will be roadblocks along the way. Nonetheless, they can all contribute to your happiness in the long run. While you may not be able to change what lies ahead, how you tackle life and its changes can greatly influence how happily you live. For Brandon, finding meaning in both the successes and the obstacles allows him to walk forward without fear of stopping. For him, each and every step is not only a testament to the progress he’s made in the face of adversity, but also reflects the steady progress he makes towards the future.
As he himself puts it best at his win at the Star Awards stage, he is a ‘thousand-miles horse that doesn’t fear labour nor hardships’.
Information accurate of as of date of publication.