After several misjudged career choices, Mike Li found a job that gives him satisfaction while, he believes, enabling his clients to improve the quality of their lives.
What’s your story?
I chose to embark on a career that many in society despise and make a joke out of. I was guilty of it as well. However, as I joined the financial advisory business, I realised how I was more than just an insurance agent.
I realised that most of the arguments that I used to have with my wife were about how we spent our money or how we spent our time (mostly it was the lack of spending time together). Upon reflecting further, I found that it was a pattern in my life. Even in my early years, I felt distant from my Dad growing up because he was busy working and did not have time for me. It didn’t help that my Dad was a traditional Asian Dad who didn’t know how to communicate or even express love. It took me years of proactively reaching out to him before we had deep conversations that strengthened our relationship.
Today, on top of helping my clients to protect their families and secure a financial future, I empower and coach them (mainly the men of the family) to manage their time better and be better communicators.
What excites you most about your industry?
My industry has had a lot of negative stigma for ages. So much so that I let the stigma affect me at the start of my career. I was even afraid to introduce myself as a Financial Consultant for fear of people shunning me. It took a huge mindset shift and affirmation from happy clients to see that I can be celebrated for what I do and who I am.
I see it as a challenge everyday to educate and help people make an informed decision. The bigger the challenge, the more satisfying it is when you overcome the challenge.
The challenge itself drives me and excites me everyday to make a tangible impact on people’s lives, one family at a time.
What is your connection to Asia?
I grew up in Singapore and I’m a true blue Asian. I always use the simplest examples to tell people how Asian I am. If I had to choose between an Asian cuisine or any other cuisine, Asian always comes first.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
At home in Singapore. Access to world class infrastructure, strong governance and people who are always looking to innovate.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success starts from home. When we were all cooped up at home due to COVID-19, I hardly spent time with my wife despite working next to each other. We had huge fights over how I was married to my work and my clients. Days of unhappiness affected my ability to focus and give my best to work. Whenever you have something hanging around your head at work, resolve that first. Without resolving family issues, it will always be baggage holding you back from soaring.
Who inspires you?
My Dad. He has been a school bus driver for more than 40 years, wakes up at 4am everyday without fail, takes a lot of pride in his tool for his trade (his mini-bus). He never taught me through his words, but I gained the values of dedication to craft from his actions. Being a sole breadwinner for most of his life, he worked extremely hard to ensure my 2 brothers and I had enough to get through university.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
A happy life is not one where we possess all the material objects we yearn for. Most people spend money to buy material objects to fill up the void they feel in their life. A truly happy life in this noisy world is one which is as simple as being distraction free, without having to deal with texts, emails and calls every other minute. What we are all looking for and working for is peace of mind… and that comes from inside of us.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Take more risks earlier in my life.
I’d led a very secure life, always choosing to take the safer path. Instead of going for a field of study I loved, I chose to follow my brother’s footsteps when biotech was the sunrise industry.
After regretting what I chose to study, I joined the military and soon regretted that as well. I tendered my resignation in 2013 but couldn’t find a job outside. Fearing unemployment, I requested to withdraw my resignation to continue in a stable government job till 2018.
I realised my life had been recurring episodes of fearing the worst and not taking risks, and then regretting the choices I made.
How do you unwind?
I like taking walks without any of my devices. I walk on my own on most days and it gives me a clear mind. Sometimes, I get a lot of new ideas on how to do my work better or serve my clients better.
Some days, I invite my wife along and we have the most amazing conversation during those walks.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Kinmen Islands in Taiwan. It is a very laid-back destination with wonderful views around the island. It reminds me of the 70s in Singapore that I see in pictures and on TV, with everything much cleaner. The Taiwanese are hospitable and friendly. My wife and I enjoy being able to ride a scooter and explore the entire island.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss. Chris brings an interesting perspective to negotiation. We’ve all been taught to split the difference for a win-win outcome in a negotiation. Every time we have to make a choice is a negotiation, sometimes within ourselves. If I was negotiating within myself to wear either brown or black shoes and went for the win-win outcome by splitting the difference, I’d be wearing a brown shoe on one leg and a black shoe on the other.
That made me realise how flawed we have taken negotiation to be. It showed me a different side to communicating effectively. Every conversation we have is a negotiation, be it with others or within ourselves.
Shameless plug for your business:
I empower time-strapped career-oriented men to feel less guilty about spending time with family, through thorough financial planning and better time management. You can’t buy back time with family, but you can invest in yourself so that you have more time with the people that matter.
How can people connect with you?
I write a weekly newsletter to convey my unconventional thoughts on money management, making our tasks more efficient and better relationships. You can enjoy the read at
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To hear how entrepreneurs around the world overcome their challenges, search your favourite podcast platform for ‘CallumConnects‘ to hear a 5-minute daily breakdown.
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built, and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’, and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.