Chapter 1: The Question

Have you ever wondered how and why your life has turned out the way it has? For me, this question is as fascinating as it is intriguing, and finding the answer to it has been the driving force behind this book. Since it was clear to me that the way my life has turned out must be the effect of something, and since every effect has a cause, it was necessary to discover what that cause was.

In order to do that, I began to write my life story, thinking the answer to the question would take a long time to emerge. But it didn’t.

As soon as I began describing the events, experiences, and people that were significant in shaping my life, it became apparent that it has been caused by an ongoing series of decisions – decisions that began with one critical one before I was born and continued to shape and build my life over the next seven decades.

So, the initial question was answered, and it seemed that my story would mainly comprise a list of decisions and their outcomes and would most likely be of little interest to family and a few friends. However, as I proceeded, something exciting began to emerge. It was, I realised, not just about the actual life-shaping decisions I made but about how those decisions were made.

As a child and adolescent, decisions about my life were made mostly by other people, especially my parents, other family and teachers, who also helped shaped my mind, so that I learnt to behave compliantly with the cultural norms of the social environment I grew up in – though I wasn’t a complete ‘yes-man’ and was well capable of rebelling against the norm’. A new stage came after I began to make decisions for myself in my teens and early adulthood, but even those decisions I can see now were still strongly influenced by my parents and by society at large. As far as I was concerned, I was acting freely, voluntarily, and independently. It took two significant events, however, to break that illusion, after which I moved gradually into a third stage of decision making, where I begin to think for myself, not having to rely on what society told me, and to use tools and skills in order to develop a mind that thinks strategically.

It is only in retrospect, of course, that I can identify when and how the progression happened. And each stage did not just finish abruptly with the next one clicking in seamlessly. My life has been much messier than that.

To some extent the ‘minds’ of the different stages still co-exist. I remain strongly influenced by my upbringing and I still make automatic decisions. But I am mostly aware of this, and I believe that most of my life-forming decisions are now made independently, rationally, and strategically.

There have been several key moments that reflect how my mind began to think differently – a mind that could make decisions based on the outcomes I desired while avoiding consequences that would prove damaging to myself or others, a mind that was inspired by a new-found understanding of what was really important to me, and a mind that began to think strategically and enabled me to make more effective decisions about my life and money.

This, then, is what this book is all about. As you accompany me through my journey of self-discovery, I hope you will begin to examine the decisions that have shaped your life and how you can develop a mind that thinks strategically and inspires you to create and live the life you want. My purpose in telling you about my life is not to impress you with all the great things that I did or the huge problems I encountered and overcame. My purpose is threefold: first, to narrate my story in a way that shows how my life has evolved from a series of decisions; second, to examine these decisions to see how exactly they were made; and three, to explain my thoughts on how to make more effective decisions about life and money.