Neighborhood Wisdom

My Father-In-Law Is A Millionaire, Financially, and Spiritually

Here’s what he taught me about life.

Image by Dragon Pan from Unsplash

Dirty jokes, silly pranks, giggling of a two-year-old.

These are the traits of my father-in-law who live more than 400KMs away from me and my wife. He enjoys occasional drinking sessions, one-day road trips with the love of his life, and together-time with the family.

His children are mostly living independently in another state, so the house that’s over four times bigger than my apartment is empty whenever it’s not the holiday season.

You can hear the echoes of your steps around the house and it can feel eerie if you wanted to get some water from the kitchen in the middle of the night.

During holiday seasons, we would gather around the large, round marble dining table to talk about life. With some cold beer, Sauvignon Cabernet wine, along with some snacks, I get to learn more from this silly but wise family man.

Work Hard In A Smart Way

My father-in-law would often articulate the following phrase repeatedly to hammer it into our heads:

Be hardworking when you’re young and energetic. Nothing happens if you’re lazy.

At his age, he still spends six days at work a week and constantly innovates on how to perform his work more efficiently.

As a brilliant inventor, he’d use the resources he has to complete his client projects as fast as possible. From a business perspective, this means less time spent, more profit for the company.

His go-to motto for work was:

Why do the work when we can automate with machines?

He still works hard, not in manual labor but by using his head to make tasks simpler.

Everything Is Negotiable

“Impossible” is a word that’s not in his dictionary.

I learn this from a story that my father-in-law told me over chilled Tiger beer and pistachios:

One fine day, my father-in-law was chatting with a friend named Chong who loved collecting trees.

Chong was eyeing two saplings in a high school and wanted them in his garden.

Unfortunately, the principal turned him down when he offered to purchase the saplings for his own collection. It was uncommon for schools to sell their properties.

After hearing this, my father-in-law went and bought coffee for all the teachers in the school to gather intel on the principal and the school.

Upon confirming that the principal was a reasonable man, he bought another cup of coffee and approached the principal.

Being thick skin was one of my father-in-law’s recipe for success.

The principal was reluctant at first, but after some persuasion coupled with sweet words, the principal gave in to the request.

The very next day, my father-in-law called in the big boys. They uprooted the school saplings and replaced them with two younger saplings (which they probably got from the side of the road) so that the school still seemed “complete”. They did everything in two hours.

It cost my father-in-law some saliva and RM6,000 to bring the saplings back.

He sold them to his friend for RM30,000.

We can always negotiate what we want as long as we’re dealing with people.

Make Money With A Clear Conscience

One night, filled with curiosity, I asked if I could visit his birdhouse that was on top of his factory. He built it years ago to collect and sell bird nests, which was a luxurious edible product among the Chinese community.

In a polite way, he rejected my request.

He said now is not a good time because the birds are trying to hatch their eggs. He didn’t want to disturb the birds now so maybe we could visit their home in another month.

People can collect bird nests once every two weeks. A more frequent collection would be sensible from a business standpoint. Since more bird nests would generate more profit.

While being a business person, my father-in-law disagrees.

He was concerned that frequent collections might harm the hatchlings because they are not used to flying like adult birds. Put it simply, the hatchlings are more likely to die before growing into adults if people were to mess with their homes.

“It’s good to earn more money, but we should do it without harming others “, said my father-in-law.

Humility In Learning

My father-in-law is planning to retire in another couple of years.

With much enthusiasm, he’s learning how to plant durian trees in the backyard of his steel factory. He would check out how his trees were doing every day after signing off work.

On evenings, when everyone is doing their own thing, he would watch Facebook videos of various durian tree gurus talk about the best practices of growing durians.

When there is an issue with any of his saplings, he’d immediately consult the durian experts to learn about what’s happening. People his age would normally be too proud to learn something new, that’s never the case for him.

Even with many estates under his name, he still allocates time to learning every day.

Like a curious kindergartener, he’s not afraid to ask as long as he gets to learn about what interests him.

In Summary

These are some nuggets of wisdom that I extracted from one of the many respected men in my life.

My father-in-law didn’t have the privilege to attend school. Yet, with the right attitude, he achieved what he has today.

As long as we are humble ourselves to learn and work hard, we all have a shot at being rich — both in money and in life.



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Nick Wong

A minimalist writer, fitness enthusiast, and a geek in Psychology. Feel free to reach out to me via