How to win when your take home pay is $1400 in Singapore

So plenty of people are complaining about this article about how a ST Managing Editor questioned Singaporean Worker’s right to a higher salary.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 12.01.10 AM

This is going to be super unpopular, but I have to say it:  While I don’t agree with everything that the Managing Editor of The Straits Times said, I do think that there is SOME point to the whole idea that Singaporeans don’t deserve to be paid a premium.

We’ve been taught, from a young age, that our studies and good results would be all we needed to command a good starting salary. We were told that University Students would be able to do anything.

Nope Sorry

I’m sorry, special snowflakes. We aren’t special at all. In fact, thank your lucky starts, because you’re freaking lucky that you didn’t need to start from the bottom of the pay scale, like I did.

That’s right, I’m the guy that took home $1400 a month when I was 24. Now, start gasping at how “underpaid and undervalued” I was, like everyone else that knew about it.


But Why!?

They always ask me why I took the job. My short answer is “I’m a fucking oddball”. My long answer, if you really want to know, is:

There’s 2 ways I could do it.

One. You could start in a place which was comfy and reasonably well-paid and then just move with the flow of things. Maybe change my job every 2 years, grow my salary and have a more comfortable, but longer learning curve.

Two. I could start in the worst, most difficult situations and escalate my learning curve. Get exceedingly good, exceedingly fast, then have nobody be able to say no to me the next time I demanded something from them.

I chose number 2 and started running


I started working on branding for my first client, spending my every waking hour thinking about what it meant to me and to them. To their credit, these were pretty good clients, and of course, I had a great team to work with. But I also knew that I was at the bottom of the pile, that everyone was above me. So I started participate more aggressively in everything, sought new solutions and fenced hard with both colleagues and clients when it came to ideas. The difficulty started to help me win, mostly because I was pressed to deliver on high stakes situations.

Sure, I was pretty broke. But, I lived within my means and paid only for what I could afford. No credit, no long holidays and no big ticket purchases.

It was only after I completed my first major event for a client, that I asked for a raise. Guess what? I got it without asking too hard. This pattern continued even after I left that place to join my current company. In fact, I’ve almost tripled what I make in a year since then.

You see, you basically want to give your employers no fucking choice, so that when you do this to them…


They gotta come back to you with this…

Throwing money

Here’s the thing: You have to make them want to keep you, not ask them to keep you.

Look, I’m not a masochist. I just deeply believe in value, and its creation. I believe in presenting my value first, then getting back the returns in spade loads later. I believe in being irresistible to the right people, so that I’ll end up at the right place. I hope that you’ll recognise that we’re operating in an environment and world that does not give a shit about how you feel about it. That’s why you have to make people care about what you do, by showing them why it’s worth doing what you do, the way you do it. Then, and only then, will people sit up and pay attention to you. When you have their ear, do everything in your power to show them how good you really are. Make it count.

I know many of you will scoff at me, and at this, but here’s my bottom line: Give value first. The money will follow.

Now, if you don’t believe me after everything I’ve said today, that’s fine too. Just close the door on your way out.

One comment

  1. Carrie says:

    Great perspective on hustling, Kenneth.

    More money doesn’t always mean more value. More work also doesn’t mean more value. 🙂 If more people recognise this, they’d be much happier and fulfilled at work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *