Consumerism – Overconsumption Poisons Individuality and Growth

Happy Holidays to everyone and their loved ones! I hope everyone will be able to spend time with their loved ones and rejoice for the new coming year.

This post comes at an awkward time especially as I try to shop for some last minute gift giving. Black Friday shopping is definitely the embodiment of frenzied consumerism and really should have been the time for this post.

I dedicate this post to my cousin Eric. I want to say first of the bat that this post is not meant to be a rant about buying things we like or having fun, more so about consumerism that is fueled by materialism. Buying things that don’t make us as an individual happy, but more so to fulfill the command of hype setters. Why should there be hype from any one individual, celebrity known simply for their lifestyle rather than the substantive value they produce towards society. How hollow and superficial a society that is.

I’ve been meaning for a while to write about wasteful, needless consumption. Consumerism promotes overconsumption, and has very effectively manipulated the desires of people to surrender their money for materialistic products. It is quite unsettling to see essentially the mass transfer of wealth on the command of ads and popular culture from the poor to the rich. The poor gets poorer by their own doing, foolishly falling pray to the rich who dictates what shoe should be sought after, even to murder for, literally. Think about it. During Black Friday, which exemplifies consumerism, many people would forgo time with their family on holidays and would fight each other for the right to throw their money at companies. If I were the companies I wouldn’t mind if you do. Thanks. Now get back to work on Monday to make more money to spend. It’s almost a cyclical trap. Work more to buy more useless things. A stagnant cycle.

Money is an arbitrary currency for exchanging labor. Money is essentially labor. You work to give your labor to a company who pays you and takes your labor to produce a service or product that will net them more money. Money when used to purchase other products or services becomes a source of power/influence. Finite time however is the limiting factor for produceable labor. Instead of investing in yourself for growth, money when used to purchase items not needed is like throwing your labor away. Similar to a baker baking more bread than he needs, but not intended for sale. Why is it that we must waste our labor just to give what we earn back to the company we work for. We’ve become a slave to companies, working and buying. We must break out of this mentality trapped in part by popular culture. There is no growth. Growth I would define is the net surplus of labor, money, or influence. By building your own product and selling, surplus is gained. When surplus is gained we are no longer moving in that cyclical trap. Even easier, by simply realizing that you should protect your money and not freely give it away. You’ve already won, beating enslavement with realization. Consumerism fueled by materialism is what keeps the poor, poor. Misguided management of wealth leads to working just to make another person richer. Transferring wealth from one company to another company. I wouldn’t work for a company for the money, rather for the benefit of learning and growing with the company’s mission.

The two most important thing consumerism endangers most is individuality and growth. No longer do we take pride in our own style or control over our own desires. We buy what were told we should by by popular culture such as who and who wore what. Celebrity endorsed products are marked up many times its retail price, and thats retail, not production cost! We lose our style in what we desire, and cater to what society desires, what popular culture desires. Who are we if not for our individuality. We’re told to buy, to transfer our money and we do so so willingly. We wait in lines for hours, walk for many more, gridlocked in traffic for the goods we want. Paid whatever amount disregarding utility value, paying instead for popularity value. The worst is when openly acknowledging the wastefulness of labor for what people will like you for, your shoes.

This self harm, destruction of self individuality as a consequence destroys growth. You’re now stuck in the cyclical enslavement as described above. You don’t take pleasure in self reliance, we’ll just buy it. I’m not saying buying things isn’t a good idea. In fact when we’re trading our finite time for economies of scale for experts to produce services or product of higher quality and less time. Face it, the clock never stops running and we can’t make everything ourselves as much as we want to. So it’s good to have division of labor and specialist. This is not a production and consumption was never the target of this post. What I’m stressing is overconsumption and materialism that is promoted by consumerism is what damages our individuality, allowing others to manipulate us into essentially throwing away our money in an imbalance trade. We don’t need these items but are made to obsess over. This idea I wanted to say doesn’t apply to the rich if they had the capacity to spend alot because they earn alot, but I take it back. This concept applies to everyone and the only reason the rich are rich is because they’ve controlled the consumption all the while taking advantage of the poor who are more likely to transfer their wealth that is harder earned. You can definitely earn alot yet consume more than your income. The only key difference is the poor’s margin of discretionary income is much less than that of the rich. But anyone can grow their net worth by decreasing their consumption of needless things or increasing their income, or both ideally as this is a mentality issue.

Self reliance is our exciting ability to influence and control of our destiny. By rejecting buying what we don’t need and rejecting a materialistic mindset, we poise ourselves for upward growth, leaving the cyclical cycle of wealth transfers. We can finally start accumulating wealth and in turn control our destiny through influence and not be influenced by other, becoming free.

I would love for your perspective. Share your thoughts here or on twitter.com/andrewtvuong or facebook.com/andrewtvuong

Take Control of Your Gifted Life and Live

I encourage everyone to break out of other’s control and pursue your belief. Do not let yourself be your own limit because of what other people believe.

Read a great quote by Steve Jobs. Building things is the only way I see that will progress your life forward from a status quo established. Building things can be as simple as writing a post.

Maybe status quo is good for stability? but that seems very boring, unfair, and unfulfilling to me.

When you grow up, you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. And that is: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.


I find Job’s quote above a good articulation to what I experienced growing up. Even as a child before my father’s passing, I was always curious to why things were the way they are as all children’s curiosity. My father’s early departure had really forced me to mature quicker than normal all the while capturing the energy of what would have been teenage angst. I think the angst or entitled mindset never really happened because of a continued curiosity from all of the why’s asked, and more importantly what I can do about it. Why me? Why despite being poor, I would also lose my father, to be left alone with only my hardworking, elderly widowed mom. Growing up alone, I became used to finding my own answer because no one was really there to tell me why or this is just how it is. I had to adapt and learn quickly the rules of the world in order to support my mom and myself.

One of the byproducts of adapting was realizing the systems the world has in place such as do x, y, z for a, b, c, it meant there’s a game to be played. I loved video games, and boy did I also played the system’s game well. I knew I had to work hard in high school because I had no money for college and it paid off with a full ride to university.

I grew up in a culture that as an understatement, greatly valued education and risk aversion. Similar to what Jobs mentioned, my parents placed great importance on education so that I may have a white-collar job, making a comfortable living with stability unlike their journey of volatile, manual labor. Surprisingly my Mom had eventually picked up a bit of entrepreneur spirit by opening her own nail salon; however, the stress was too great for her after my father’s death and from unethical business practices of the landlord. They wanted me to have a skill through formal education so that no one may take this source of living away from me. I wholeheartedly agree with them and still do, despite harboring some disdain and regret for what I had believed.

Growing up even since elementary, it was always natural to know that education was of great important. Everything non-essential such as video games, relationships, extracurricular were before education, unfortunately this meant grades primarily instead of learning. My parents are also number ones, which meant their desires as well.  I knew instinctually to get good grades in high school, get good grades in college, get good grades in professional school, get a job, make good money, marry, buy a home, have kids, and retire.

Please don’t confuse them for tiger parents or in this case tiger parent. They had simply wanted the best chance for me through education to have a stable, comfortable life, something they never had.  My parents had never finished high school because they never had the chance due to a war that killed millions of their countrymen. I owe them everything and am inspired to live to my fullest potential so that their sacrifice would not be in vain, escaping war so that I could have a better life and more opportunities than they had. They drifted to a new land with nothing and staked everything on my better life without any expectations for themselves, there’s no word for my gratitude.

When my dad died, I made the decision on my own during my undergrad junior year to pursue medicine to become a physician. I wanted to be able to heal the sick like my father so that their children and cherished loved ones wouldn’t grow up alone. Until that year I had wanted to be a pharmacist, naively enticed with a relatively quick program compared to medicine and $100,000 salary for little work. I wanted to come out quick and help my elderly mom.

Selecting medicine was the beginning of 3 stages of realization that set myself free from the control of others. I was never the same again. I no longer have my ignorant bliss, and more painfully, cannot remain willfully ignorant.
1. Understanding myself better and why I want what I want

I was immature when I first pursued pharmacy because I grew up poor and sought to fulfill my immediate needs rather than thinking of the potential I would be wasting, selling myself short for a bit of money but not having any real impact on the world. This was my first major realization that my life mattered and I didn’t want to be controlled by lower physiological needs or what was the risk-aversed path a lot of my peers took seeking the same as I wanted and what my parents wanted for me. I didn’t want to spend forty years putting pills in bottles while fighting in a rat race to the bottom (post about pharmacy school to come). I wanted more. I wanted purpose. I wanted impact and to not squander the precious life my parents gave me, I pursued medicine and worked hard with purpose. I played the game again as was required by med school admission albeit with genuine passion for medicine and succeeded. I’d put my parents’ hard work and sacrifices to shame for not reaching my full potential, safely.

I would say after my first realization of pursing medicine for purpose unlike pharmacy was the stage of understanding myself better and what I wanted. I wanted purpose and caught fire with medicine.

2. Realizing the realities of the world and the systems others have in place

My second realization during the summer before matriculation to medical school crushed my purpose and dropped me to the lowest point in my life. Losing my purpose was one of the worst things I’ve ever felt, akin to dying when realizing then that my life was meaningless.

A very close person brought a very interesting and seemingly simple observation that physicians lacked creativity and were preservers as a result, waking me from my naive idealization about medicine. I lacked foresight and grasp of external forces that have an immense hold over the profession. I had considered after spending a significant portion of work and was prepared to spend the rest of my life pursuing a calling to make up for my inability to help my father when he needed me most, all the while neglecting my elderly widowed mom from my life. I can’t stomach the idea of running around for 8 years of my life in debt and for the rest of my life for the deepest care of others while essentially abandoning my mom to let her slave over humiliatingly for her own living as a widowed, elderly manicurist worker. I can’t let her live her life like this from beginning to end.

In regards to the profession that I would have spent the rest of my life in, it requires true, untainted, naive passion. I commend all physicians who truly believe in this as their calling to heal others. It’s noble. I see it; however, as a game not worth playing. I’ll be short in this post about the topic.

Many in med school did X, Y, Z; high GPA, high Medical College Admission Test, medical experience, some luck and an acceptance will most likely happen. The med students then do the same again on steroids; high GPA, high STEP scores (first part of board exams), more medical experiences, some luck and an acceptance to residency programs will most likely happen. Residency training in the U.S. is necessary to practice as a physician in the U.S. so without the full completion of this whole process, you’ve wasted 12 years minimum of your life and probably the rest of it due to an unpayable student loans without that high salary expected. This leaves the students to the whim of anyone senior to them in a position of power, many leaving their dignity if needed. Throughout the 8 year training, an endless pecking order process is encouraged as the natural way of things and tradition without question. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met countless good-willed doctors, but there are a few who are terrible beings. One of my mentors, a doctor, is one of the most genuine, passionate, open-minded, caring person I know.

All of this wouldn’t deter anyone with the passion they’ve conveyed to admissions unless they’ve realized some sickening, discouraging truth along the great journey of medicine. In the interest of keeping to the theme of living free, I will not go into great details regarding a broken healthcare system in this post. I did not want to sacrifice my life for the sake of being profiteered by pharmaceuticals, hospitals and its investors, legislature, and insurance companies, all the while being scapegoated to the public to conceal their greed. These entities who bear none of the sacrifices physicians go through for the public good, yet they are well positioned to control the lives and determination of physician’s own profession, warping it into a money making vehicle.

I don’t mean to be dramatic when I say life sacrificed because it would have been well worth it had the profession retained control of itself and allowed innovation to improve its good to society. Innovation; however, is not possible in modern medicine because creativity leads to lawsuits when not following every procedure in the book to the last letter. Being a physician today is much like a highly skilled, human mechanic, and in that respect with empathy aside, robots do a better job (but who’s to say AI wouldn’t pass the Turing test some day?). Of course it’s important to perform procedures correctly when trusted with another’s life, and this is not to belittle physicians who I have the utmost respect for. But the nature of the profession to me is dreadfully boring as a result of stifled creativity, depressing due to control by others’ self serving interest and public misguided disdain as a result, and tiring as many conditions are self-inflicted and people want a quick fix such as obesity, genetically wrought diseases are different. Mostly seeing the same problem everyday and changing one life at a time until your own is over, repeat ad infinitum. No progress made compared to creating actual value through innovation that will change the world.

My journey into medicine helped me better understand myself and taught me two important lesson; it allowed me to realize that there is a hegemony in place for all aspect of this world almost entirely concerning money, even in what I had considered the noblest of professions, and the fear established that preserves the hegemony. Hegemonies are the ones in the position to establish systems and set norms that protect their largely favored interest, regardless of detriment to humanity’s progress. Intimidation set repercussion for not following the rules of theirgame, with hollow diversions on the other hand to keep people distracted from rocking the boat. They create an ideology reinforced by your family, friends, and society that fear for change. Don’t rock the boat and you’ll be fed.. by the game owners. Fear and uncertainty is powerful.

3. Overcoming fear and embrace uncertainty 

Realizing how pitiful such existence is irreversible, yet moving forward against uncertainty and discouragement may seem insurmountable.

I found after leaving what I had known to be the construct to the way of living, the most difficult part is overcoming that lifeless standstill of not being able to return to an ignorant bliss of doing as told to live in the rewards others want, yet directionless to move forward.

There was as expected a period of openly shaming of my decision to leave medical school. I was called a quitter, a loser, a coward, and a shame to my parents by other family members, friends, and even strangers. These put me downs though not of much influence, definitely hurt. “Why didn’t you just finish medical school, you’ve came all this way for something people would die for,” “you’ve become selfish in not wanting to be one of the most altruistic profession,” and “even if you didn’t like it, you’ll get paid so much, suck it up cause no other job will make that much money,” were the most common comments, almost pleads. Why did other people care so much about my life? If they wanted it that badly, why didn’t they work for it?

Eventually I grasped through these same why’s I had asked myself that everyone is only upset because that’s what they’ve been told how to live and what to want. Fear originates from within and shouldn’t be mistaken for what others are kept in and instilled by the ones taking advantage; they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. What they should fear is themselves. They were taught by others to fear uncertainty, uncertainty being dangerous to money, and money was worth trading a meaningful life for security or cheap materialism. I want to feed myself and live my own life. I sound crazy to them, but stepping back, everyone looked crazy to me.

Unstifled curiosity as an unintended product of growing up alone, without my parents being around much, gave way to embracing uncertainty and things I had perceived as fear. I had to learn a lot on my own and this sparked my curiosity because I didn’t have anyone telling me how this or that was suppose to be. These experiences I credit for laying the foundation of understanding that everything that happens is based on perspective, nothing inherently good or bad. There will always be another side of an event that may have been perceived as negative, but nothing can be solely one aspect when nothing is inherently of anything. We give things power by our own perspective. I had unlimited power as a result, and everything now relied on attitude. Uncertainty now became exciting, a breathe of fresh life.

Without certainty, innovation is without bounds. Create your own change, your own living, and influence by building value that will help others. That’s why tech is so appealing, almost every industry is vulnerable to massive disruption by anyone who is able to break out of fear and create value on their own. With my mom, I deeply struggled with trying to convince her that I too wanted entrepreneurship, but I was lucky she stood for my happiness. I want to build things myself and create value that others want, not the other way around in a consumerist mindset. I wasn’t going to consume what others wanted either.

I only feel bad because delusion or not, becoming a physician and not bashing against the confines of others would have been a quiet, easy way to honor my parents’ hard work. If there were any regrets, it would be my failure to honor them if I didn’t succeed now.


Though initially I hadn’t realized what I know now, to not play the game at all because my life or anyone’s life isn’t and shouldn’t be a game. I don’t want to play someone else’s game and get rewarded and punished by their will. I don’t want to not only be dependent but more importantly limited by what others allow me to be. I am human and the human spirit has no bounds. I see everyone the same, entering this world no more gifted than any other. It deeply saddens me when people lose their will and waste their gift of life by succumbing to suffering and fear. I wish everyone the dignity respected by life. We all have individual free will, anything otherwise is constructed by another person to serve their interest.

I find myself never the same again as before. I feel reborn.