Tuesday, 31 December 2013


There are a few things I started to turn into reality this year. This process must continue in 2014.

In view of the whole humans-are-a-collection-of-atoms-that-constantly-renew story, the following advice: Will and thou shalt become.


Instinct – or desire – always want to compel you to psyche yourself up on this last day of another year. You imagine everything is going to start moving faster soon. Dreams will become a reality within the next couple of weeks. By the end of February … then, by the end of March …

One piece of advice: Accept the possibility that it may take you several more months to master a few things, and to make all those decisions that are part of what will eventually be a successful business.

* * *

Usually, at this time of the year (23:36), I can’t wait for the formalities to pass so that I can continue my work. That is also the case at this moment.

2011 was a good year.

2012 was a good year.

2013 was also a good year – and I’m not just saying that to not hurt the year’s feelings!

I am definitely exiting this year in better shape than I came into it. I visited my family in South Africa. I published more of my writing. And I worked hard to make more money. On the other hand, I didn’t spend a lot of time improving my Chinese. I didn’t do a lot of exercise other than pedalling around on my bicycle. I also didn’t lose much weight, although I didn’t add much either. Overall, though, I am happy with what I did in 2013.

* * *

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”


Make money without knowing the secrets


A few hours ago I spent NT$1,900 on a guide that teaches people how to speculate on prices in UK horse races. As I read through the PDF, I learned a few things I didn’t know. Still, I kept waiting for the NT$30,000 a week secrets – things that only the author and the lucky buyers of the manual will know.

As I said, a few things learned, but no secrets. Just like there were no secrets in the spread betting guide I bought in July. Just like there are no secrets in the approach of the respected Ian Erskine to buying and selling prices on soccer matches.

And yet, people make money with these activities, year in and year out.

For months I tested what Chris Elliott teaches in his “Trading FX for Profit” manual – no secrets but some good ideas and a few bits of advice. The ideas work. Not every single time, but if you approach it with discipline and a calm mind, and you close your position when you must (win or lose), you make money, you pay rent, you buy food, and you go on vacation. Like the man explains in his manual. And you do so without knowing any secrets.

What is the difference then between people who make money in this way and people who continue scratching the bottom of the barrel? And what do you have to do to become part of the first group?

A good place to start is to figure out exactly what you want to do, where and for how long every day. Then you would have to learn some basic principles – by reading articles, working through training manuals, watching videos, and learning from your own experience. Things that are not going to develop overnight but which you definitely would have to work on include a positive attitude, emotional resilience, and discipline. Adjustments also need to be made to the environment where you work to make it conducive to success. Then, when you are ready, apply what you have learned as often as possible.

The alternative is to continue searching for secret knowledge that you reckon only a select group of people has the privilege of knowing. I have a faint suspicion, though, that you’re going to search for a long time, and you might just be scratching the bottom of the barrel for a long time, too.


The Christian in my mind’s eye


Christian: Follower of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

This Christian thinks it is ridiculous that anything has to be confessed, that there should be displays of faith with ritualistic recitations of doctrines, that recognition should be given to God in public and in private, to “his” name, what “he” is, and so on.

He will ask: “Do you mean I have to gather with other people and confess that I believe I must love my neighbour? Why would I want to do that? No, I’ll just love my neighbour. That’s what Jesus taught.” This person will also agree with the idea that Jesus is not an insecure teenager whose identity should be confirmed as often as possible by people who “love” him.

The Jesus whose teachings are followed by the Christian in my mind’s eye will most probably not think much of ritualistic congregations filled with emotional displays. Chances are he will only be impressed if you actually love your fellow human beings, give them a blanket when they are cold, give them shelter when they are homeless, and so on.

The follower of Jesus as I think of him will also not attach much value to the identity label of “Christian”. He will simply say you can call him what you want. All that matters to him is to love his fellow human being as he does himself.

* * *

What is the Christian religion? Is there something like a true Christian? What were Jesus’ true intentions, and what were the intentions of early church leaders like Peter and Paul?

I don’t think there is any doubt that church leaders in the decades after Jesus’ death were aware that they had a religion to administer and lead.


I was thinking of something tonight – giving people the space to be as human as you allow yourself to be, and the next moment I was testing and trying words and phrases to explain my position regarding religion.

It came down to this: In my early twenties I got the overwhelming impression that the Christian religion with which I grew up and to which I had become increasingly attached in the first two decades of my life was man-made. To put it differently, in my opinion the Christian religion is steeped to the bone in teachings that show a human hand – or, in the words of a renowned German philosopher: “[It is] human, all too human.”

Important to explain what I mean by steeped to the bone: Once you start cutting away doctrines of the Christian religion that seem, after careful consideration, to be just too human to be “divine”, there will not be enough left of the patient for it to survive.


Encountering a savage


Just before I moved into one of only two open parking spaces (think of a space wide enough for bicycles, scooters and motorcycles) at the supermarket this evening, a woman and her son manoeuvred into the adjacent bay. But she parked at such an angle that half the bay where I was planning to leave my bike ended up being occupied by the front of her scooter. Walking away, she looked over her shoulder. She must have noticed how she had parked. She must have noticed that I had to enter the space where the front of her scooter protruded. Nevertheless, she turned away, and disappeared through the sliding doors of the supermarket.

My view of her is simple: She’s a savage.

What else? She probably expects consideration from other people in a parking lot, yet she showed none. Also, if everybody did what she did, there would be chaos and conflict. Not only is she not a reasonable person, she also doesn’t behave rationally.

I tried to give her a dirty look at the vegetable section, but she looked away.

What else could she do? (Or am I overthinking it?)

In other news, I had a narrow escape shortly before the skirmish with the barbarian woman. I was pedalling through the tunnel under the railway line near our apartment. In front of me was another cyclist. I usually stay on the right side of the narrow underpass so people on scooters can pass me, but in this case I could see I was going to have to pass the other cyclist. Just as I was squeezing past him, I heard a bang. When I looked back, I saw that the guy had hit something that ruptured his rear tyre.

If he were not there, it would have been me going over that sharp object. Which means I wouldn’t have made it to the supermarket, and therefore I wouldn’t have encountered the savage woman. That, in turn, means I wouldn’t have had reason to produce this short piece of text, and you would be reading something else right now.

Funny how things work out.


My five lives in Taiwan, so far


As I pedal over the train tracks, I glance over the dark industrial plain in the direction of Fengshan train station. As per my habit, I think something in the line of, “I’m still here – in Taiwan.”

Then it hit me: That’s nonsense – literally not true.

The person who arrived here in January 1999 no longer exists. He didn’t leave or die … he was reincarnated into another person. And that person reincarnated into another person, and so on. All of these people, as biological continuations of the person, “Barend Smit” (better known as “Brand Smit”), and “heirs” to the name, were legally and morally responsible for any misconduct or agreements entered into by earlier incarnations of “Barend Smit”. Later incarnations also continued to get praise for good things that “he” did, and are still intimately connected to certain people – who are also more recent incarnations of earlier versions, and all on their own personal journeys.

I reckon I have had five lives in Taiwan: Brand who arrived here in January 1999 – single, smoker, dreamer, little angry with the world … who reincarnated, or was transformed into Brand of 2001 – creative, ambitious, slightly manic … who was reincarnated or transformed into Brand of 2005 – serious romantic relationship … which, in turn, reincarnated or was transformed into Brand of 2006 – desperate to provide a better life for himself and the special woman in his life, obsessed about making money from home … who eventually reincarnated or was transformed into the most recent incarnation, Brand of 2011 – married, non-smoker, once again dedicated to creative projects, still serious about financial prosperity but also careful not to waste his time and money.