Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Simple Life

Participants: Liyun, Kevin, Wilson, Angela

Okay, our question today is ‘Why work?’

You ask me, I’ll say, trading daily necessities, or trading value. It could be intangible.

I totally like that definition. That’s the portfolio life, totally.

My opinion is, the reason we work is not only to satisfy mandatory needs, like obligation to our children. We also have to fulfill your own goals, or enjoy some achievement.

But how does that relate to work?

Of course we want the money, but beyond the money we want to achieve something. Maybe it’s the character of my job, because I work for a research institute. Our dream is we want to establish something, or design some product. So it’s not a commercial purpose, necessarily, if we establish a product, it’s for a dream. So earning money is the mandatory purpose for our work, but beyond that we want to satisfy our dreams, or some enjoyment. It’s kind of like a portfolio life, but a little bit different.

What’s the difference?

It’s not the money, for portfolio life, you must control your needs, especially if you want to earn much more money to fulfill your needs, that’s the concept there, but for the concept, to earn money is your mandatory needs, because you have obligation to your children, so earning money is your first purpose for work, but beyond the bottom line you have another purpose.

That’s why I went into architecture. I wanted to make money and also pursue my dreams. I found it didn’t work. It wasn’t anything like pursuing my dreams, really.

But for Kevin, the key term is value?

I would say money is a kind of value, I want to get this thing, and so money is a way to do that, but I use value, as its broader than money. in ancient time, we trade thing, now we use money, but it doesn’t have to be money. So it’s trade.

Let’s exchange.

Right, so in the beginning, it’s a tiny thing, but it probably grows in to something valuable. Maybe for you it’s not very important, but maybe for your trading partner, it’s quite valuable. So it’s an intangible trading value.

What is tangible?

The thing you can touch. Let say, that’s my mobile, I trade for your watch, okay, that’s very conventional form of doing business.

So your opinion is you’re working to own something, the real something, and to include, some intangible things.

No my point is, to work, you create your own value. When you work , you have to continuously create your value, so someone can take advantage of your value, otherwise they can kick you out.

So the value is evaluated by some other people?

Could be. You could think you’re very valuable, but actually nobody want to hire you, so, you have no value.

So your opinion is like, uh, you are more concerned about the society point of view about your value. I mean, the other people make, for example, you think you are valuable, but other people don’t think your value is reasonable.

So then your position is not that reasonable, yes. You live in this society…

You need to obey the society rule.

What about if society has conflicting ideas about your value. For example, if people ask what I do, I tell them I’m an English teacher, and they go, ‘oh’, and kind of look down and away. But I know my work is valuable, because lots of people ask me to work for them, and I’m paid well. So it’s a bit difficult to determine if my skills have value. I’m paid well, but looked down on. It’s kind of interesting.

So there’s fairness and justice. You think you’re valuable, but other people don’t think. It’s a judgment, it’s an own opinion.

According to this article, it says, just as work distinguish some different types of job, like dirty work, or non-dirty work. I just interested about, just as you say, if you feel it is your…it’s your responsibility to clean up your environment, your environment surrounding your house. If you think it is your responsibility, you will make it clean.

It’s your job, right.

So you think it is your responsibility?

So yes, no one has to pay you or force you to. Some people have different standards, someone ask you to clean, but you think it’s okay. Like washing the dishes, it’s a kind of responsibility. I wouldn’t say it’s that someone has to pay you, for me it’s quite natural to do this thing.

I know that sometimes in western society, the standards or different you have to clean your house or garden, or they will fine you.

It’s a community force.

A kind of standards, yes.

I think even inside, they will check. Like when Taiwan was colonized by Japan, the authorities would go into your house to check if it’s clean. Because they thought Taiwanese are not clean, not disciplined. They think, if your house is not clean, how can your environment be clean? So they do a checkup, to see if your house clean or not. So they want to, so they try to help people have the idea, you got to keep the area good. Otherwise you go to prison.

It’s like the Japanese cultural approach to discipline, they like to have a regular life.

I was taught in Netherlands, there’s something like this, they will check your garden.

In the US, it’s property owner’s associations. I heard that in the US, in 90% of suburbs, the property associations have a regulation that you can’t hang your laundry outside. All that sunshine, and you have to use a dryer, which destroys your clothes, dryers do, really, and all because someone’s afraid of seeing your underwear?

[general laughter and discussion about whether or not it’s okay to see others’ underwear]

So what’s your opinion?

My simple life opinion, is earn money is okay, and spend other time on things you like to do. Because I have been working for almost 33 years, because I was working since I was 16 years old. I worked all day, and went to school, and my, so one year ago, I stopped my work, the routine work. I didn’t get the pay from that time, take a rest and to maintain my health. So, that’s why I’m learning English in here. That’s my hobby, and my, I was major in management, so I think I will find a job like our teacher, in my near future. That’s my opinion of the simple life, because I’m still simple too, also. I’m not married before, so I think one person living alone is simple.

I really agree with you.

I don’t have obligation to next generation, and my parents died 10 and 4 years ago, and so yesterday I went to the Hualien tower mausoleum, to see my father and mother. I went to there for worshipping them yesterday afternoon. I asked the management of the tower, a middle aged lady, asked do they have somebody here, and she said, already there were 4 people here, because the doors were open, because it’s ghost month.

Oh, ghost month! I always have so many accidents in ghost month! I’m starting to believe in it for real.

So anyway, for me, everything for me. I don’t have any responsibility.

No, you have responsibility for yourself, and for your life!

Of course, for your life!

So you have no burdens.

For money, like our teacher told us, she lost money on the stock market because she didn’t take it out in time. For me, the same. I had the chance to earn a lot of money, but I lost it. We had money in the science park, and should have sold it when it was high, for about 10 years, but I didn’t. Now I can tell myself, that’s how it is, because I didn’t handle my money well. I don’t want to think it over again, so I just deal with what’s in front of me. So I just want to take a rest, and maybe next year find a job. Still in preparation for myself.

That’s brave, though, that’s a brave thing to do.

But it’s good. In this year, I do exercise, chi gong, almost every day. This is helping me to recover my physical condition. And I eat right. Everything is not more than what I do to recover myself. In my old job, had a lot of pressure, and I like to do everything perfect, and so I did things on my work very careful, and I did a lot of good job, very good job. TSMC, I was the assistant of General Affairs, and I got prize in the company internal contest. In 30 years I got 8 promotions, and, I design, you know one furniture, and got the designer prize. That’s not my main job, but I think there is some room for improvement. That’s why I stop my job, the environment, the people was not good, and not made us feel comfortable.

It’s interesting, for a young man, if you ask the question, why do you work, the standard answer is to earn money. but for middle age worker, if you as the same question, they say, to earn money, but I want to get something else.


As the article mentioned, the simple life represent the less needs, so you need to control the needs, so the needs include the money, and include some necessary you want to get.

Good question. For my part, I think I need to prepare if someday, I lost everything, property, without a place to live in, and how to survive. That’s what I always ask myself, these years, the idea is stronger than before. I think, if I can overpass the challenge, then I will be a happy person. I know what the really value in my life.

Can I ask, what kind of challenge?

If you have the opportunity to start over your life, what kind of work you want to do?

The work where people need me.

Like you said, if you have value for others, then you are valuable.

It's like service, there's two sides. You think about other side, other side think about us. What we think about ourself, where is our value, what is value to us. So, I would say, I do…yesterday and before, is for the future. I don’t want to ask someone borrow me money, or give me something else, so my ideal would be healthy and simple life, and I can do something for others, and enough money, not too much money, and I just think if money is enough, don’t eat too much, don’t wear too beautiful. Don’t spend too much. That’s the simple life. And the value others think about us, we need to create or that’s…potential. We need to calculate really our daily life to make strong our mind than before. Do not be hurt by others anymore. I think we all nice people, we don’t want to hurt others, but daily life, another people want to make money, but don’t care honest, so maybe they hurt honest people.

In some cases yes.

But although the simple life is want to reduce your needs, less needs, I would say it is difficult. For example, for money, you want to get enough money, but I would say it depends on what is your needs. If you ask young people, they say they want to earn more money. But the same question to middle age workers, they would say just a little money, but they want to get other money from other side. So it's difficult to control enough, to be satisfied for enough money. It’s difficult to identify or achieve.

Okay, my major in management in financial, I work a long time in financial before. Recently I read some of financial articles, just like a review, and how can in the future I can manage my money, better than before, because in Chinese, there’s a saying, money have four legs, and people just two legs, we don’t care money, and money don’t care us. So I don’t worry for money since I have some passive income.

Some people say, they want more money so they want to help other people, so they want to have more money.

Yes, I do some charity.

Yes, so they want the satisfaction so that they can help people and from the engineering side, if you can earn enough money, you can plan the efficient good way to earn the money, so you can do well plan. That’s the engineers aspect. If I need 10000 dollars, I can achieve the enough level. I can use one year to achieve 10000 level, then I can use the other time to do something else. That’s young people thinking logic.

I think the young people, it’s better they save money than spend, that’s important.

You know, I didn’t start saving money till I was 34. But I know how much I need, how much is ‘enough’ for me.

So if you know what’s enough, then you can make a plan to earn that money.

I always though if I just work hard, just study hard, then I will get what I worked for. And I think a money plan, I can make money again, don’t give myself too much pressure.

Yes, if you worry about money, you might as well go back to work.

During my career, I had a lot of pressure, because I had a mortgage on my house, and I was very nervous, and I sold my stock very low, and paid down the mortgage, and that was a release for me, because we have a loading. Someone said to me, you are so young to be tired! Someone asked me, why you just stay at home? I was very shy about this question, I was worried about a lot of things. After a year, everything is okay.

So you have retired? You retired 2 years ago.


So you have fixed income?

She said, she sold her stock to pay off her morgage.

But stock is not fixed, you said fixed income?

Passive income, not fixed income. I have a house I rent to others. So I have a simple life.

But renting out property is not simple!

It’s simpler than running a business!

Yah, true.

But now she has free time.

But now I have adventures in learning. Before I have an MBA degree, but I never used it, so I think that’s a pity. So now I think I study hard, I can learn till I understand. Life is harder than before, for everybody, so we need to be a commercial animal.


Because money has four legs? So we have to get four legs like money?


We have to use all four limbs!

Actually I have a question. When we say career, just like she was retired. So she finish a career, and started another career.

So living the simple life is really like a trade off. I need a 30 ping house, but I don’t want a car.

But you live in Taipei city, so you don’t need one.

Exactly, that’s why I live in Taipei city, so I don’t have to have a car. If I lived in Hsinchu, I would have to have a car, and that would make me really unhappy, and I know that, so I would never live in Hsinchu.

You know, before, I was afraid to die, but now I’m not. That’s one kind of value. If you’re a good heart person, you care about when you die, or waste your life. But if we do something worth in our life…. That’s one kind of concept, in such a complicated society, it’s very strong and big challenge, how to manage ourself, especially in my experience. Not only money. Just for money, just earning money, I think both of you, you get salary, fixed salary, because you got salary…if I pass through this kind of life, I just continue the way as before. I have pressure, but I adjusted myself. Now, I feel peaceful than before. It was very hard way to go, because lonely.

Actually I know an organization, they set up, like, a house, and this is for older people, it’s set up by private company.

Retirement community.

Each day they have a program, and each person, you can stay there, and you don’t feel lonely.

There is one in Zhubei.

I go to a class, in such a community, I learn drawing. Some of my classmates from EMBA travel abroad. But I don’t like that, I think that’s a very simple life. 2 or three times, just go overseas and take a trip.

But some people they just stay at home and play mahjong everyday.

It’s their lifestyle.

But I don’t want to live like that. You said, retirement community, some of them, they don’t really know what they want, they just spend their time, and what do they think about? The meaning? Why do they go to that place?

The company of others!

But the company is for what? It depends on who your company is?

They do that for what? They don’t really know why they are here? Doing what? They don’t really have one self thinking or opinion. I should say, thinking by themselves, independent.

That’s the point of community. You don’t have to think.

Sure, but that way you don’t have to stay with your children. You could be a public volunteer, you could find some activity to do, instead of sitting at home, watch TV every day, because your life gets more and more boring that way.

So retirement community is to establish environment to have friends, so you don’t feel lonely.

You could do that a different way, just get involved in things to find friends.

I think every character is different. When they retire from their career, they stop growing. They did the same thing for 30 years, they always do the same thing to organize their life, and so that’s why the talking would be boring. So I like to spend alone, and I could think something by myself, not around people, and I don’t want to care my time in such place.

It’s just an option.

That’s my option, yes.



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