World Domination Summit 2013

Peg Cheng at WDS 2013Sometimes you have to do something you don’t like to do in order to gain something wonderful.

This is what happened when I attended the World Domination Summit (WDS) last week in Portland, Oregon.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand sitting in a small seat in a very large auditorium with thousands of people for hours and hours.

Makes me claustrophobic. Makes me cramp up. Makes me want to leave.

I will tolerate all this to see a play, concert or performance that I’m really interested in, but usually, I avoid.

The WDS attracts a lot of entrepreneurs, writers and bloggers. I’m an entrepreneur, a writer and a blogger. My friend Laila Atallah went last year and told me it was awesome.

So, I went.

I had to sit in a little seat in the Schnitzer Concert Hall for two days in a row, for six or so hours each day, listening to 10 different keynote speakers with 2800 other people.

Uncomfortable? YES.

Worth it? HELL YES!

I came to be inspired, to get new ideas, and to meet other entrepreneurs, especially solopreneurs. I accomplished all three of my goals.

Sukhneet, Me, Sean and Michelle at the WDS Opening Party at the zoo

Sukhneet, Me, Sean and Michelle at the WDS Opening Party at the zoo

I especially loved learning how to improve my workshops through story from Nancy Duarte; how self-knowledge is the key to happiness from Gretchen Rubin; and how to embrace rejection from Jia Jiang.

Not only that, I got to DANCE BOLLYWOOD STYLE with thousands of my fellow conference-goers at the after-party!

Which just goes to show…sometimes you have to do something you don’t want to do to gain something wonderful.

ps. This video of thousands of WDSers dancing Bollywood Gangnam Style was shot by my husband Marcus Donner who couldn’t join me at the party since he was not a WDS attendee but he could watch and shoot from the balcony of a nearby Starbucks. Way to rock it, Marcus! Here’s the full article from the Portland Business Journal.

Why I save money

tortoise-and-the-hareEveryone has different motivations.

What works to motivate one person may not work to motivate someone else.

For me, I’m motivated to save money because I don’t want to have another job.

In 20 years, I’ve worked at 33 different jobs.

I’ve worked at everything from Public Toilet Researcher for a Seattle City Councilmember, to Communications Director for an environmental non-profit, to Pre-Law Adviser for the University of Washington.

I am grateful for the fact that I’ve had so many diverse opportunities. I’ve learned a lot about what I like and don’t like, met tons of interesting people, made some money, funded my retirement account, and gained some great skills.

Do I want to get another job? Not really.

I love being self-employed and I love being my own boss.

I am currently the founder, boss and sole employee for Prelaw Guru, a consulting company that helps people kick ass on their law school applications.

I love setting my own schedule every day. I love being able to take a break in the middle of a work day to go to my qigong class. I love sitting quietly and undisturbed for an hour just to think. I love making my own daily business decisions without having to check with anyone else. I love not having to go to staff meetings. I love being 100% responsible for everything that happens with my business–both the good and the bad.

The career of an entrepreneur is not for everyone. Many people would hate it. They consider it too risky, too much stress, and too much work. But it works for me.

Every day, I’m conscious of how I spend or save my money because I want to be an entrepreneur for the rest of my life.

Running my own business means I have to be able to ride the ups and downs of revenue (and losses). I have a hefty safety net because you just never know what might happen when you’re running your own business. I’d rather be extra safe than sorry.

I’m not going to say I’ll never take another job because I don’t know what the future holds. There might be an organization and a position out there that’s the perfect fit for me. Never say never.

But, for the time being, I know what motivates me every day to save money: being job-free and being my own boss.

It’s hard work but I love it.

What’s something (an experience, a goal, a lifestyle, an actual thing) that you love so much that you’d be motivated to save money every day in order to reach it?

What’s your motivation to be Super Frug?

How to know when a job is toxic

CanaryI’ve had 33 jobs.

In college, I often had three jobs at the same time. There were some stressful times, but more often than not, I liked the variety, I liked the stimulation, and I liked paying my bills on time.

From doing database management for the food court, to walking around with a walkie-talkie as building manager of the student center, to cleaning and sterilizing lab equipment, I was thrilled with how much you could learn on the job!

I became a big believer in getting paid to learn rather than the other way around.

Not every job was good though. Some were boring. Some tasks were pure drudgery. Some had terrible managers. Some were temporary. When a job got bad or ended, I would just look for a new job and move on.

Once I graduated with my Master’s degree and started working at full-time jobs though, things changed.

I discovered that leaving a full-time job and finding a new one was not as easy as when I was working all kinds of part-time jobs.

I discovered that sometimes your new workplace has just as many problems as your last one.

I discovered that a workplace with toxic people, terrible management, and/or lack of ethics can deteriorate your health.

Do not wait until a job gets so bad that you start throwing up every day or having such terrible pains that you have to call in sick or pop Tylenol to get through the day. I know how that feels. It’s terrible and makes you feel fearful and helpless.

Through making my own mistakes and learning from the mistakes of others, I realized that it is much better to be proactive than reactive.

I learned how to recognize the canary in the coal mine.

Like canaries sent into a coal mine, I figured out how to sniff out the “toxins” in a workplace. But unlike the canary who would die if it detected dangerous gases, I could recognize what the warning meant and start taking action.


1) Your boss consistently makes promises to you that they do not keep and this has been going on for more than a year.

2) You’ve caught your boss or the head of your organization lying to you and they don’t think that it’s wrong.

3) You’ve caught your boss or the head of your organization lying to your clients or customers and they don’t think that it’s wrong.

4) Your boss or coworkers do unethical and/or illegal activities on the job but when caught, they are not fired, prosecuted or justly punished.

5) Consistently, the most incompetent employees in your organization are promoted while the most productive are demoted or forced out.

All of these situations are like toxic “gases” warning you to get the hell out of the “coal mine.”

If you experience any of these situations, it would be a smart move to start looking for a new job. I have experienced every one of these situations and was able to move out before things got worse, which they inevitably did.

NOTE: Do not rush and do not get desperate. You do not want to leave this job only to go to one with just as many or more problems. Do your research and put out feelers to trusted contacts who can keep your search confidential. Do not share your job hunting with your coworkers and boss in order to avoid potential retaliation.

Take the time to find the right next job or position for yourself before you resign.

You might be asking, what has any of this got to do with being frugal?

I truly believe that the more unhappy you are, the more money you will spend. Visit any workplace and talk to people and you will find this to be true.

I believe that unless you find work that is a good match for you, you cannot reach your full potential in terms of how much money you make and keep, and how good of a life you can have by managing that money well.

Spending money to make ourselves feel better gives us a temporary boost. We feel better but only for an hour or part of a day.

Can you imagine feeling so good every day that you don’t feel the need to spend?

You can have this. Truly. I will cover this more in my next post.

If you are in a toxic situation at work, have faith and keep looking. DON’T GIVE UP. In time, the day will come when you can fly out of that coal mine to a better place and a better life.

Becoming Super Frug

I started being frugal out of necessity. I wanted to live a life free of a 9-to-5 job and I wanted to live on my own terms.

When I quit my job at the University of Washington to start my business, Prelaw Guru (formerly known as The Personal Statement School), I knew that it would take years to make a good living. In most cases, it takes 7-10 years to foster and grow a successful freelance business.

I had started two solo businesses in the past that failed (though they were great learning experiences). I thought for years that I wouldn’t go into business again. It was much easier to just go to work and have someone else pay me. But, seven years after closing my last business, the freelance bug bit again. I wanted to run my own show once more.

I had to figure out ways to spend less money so that my business-building years were not unbearable. I really didn’t want to get another job so I started to learn how to be super frugal–or what I like to call Super Frug (pron. sooper froog).

Being Super Frug is not about being cheap. It’s not about the lowest price. It is about quality over quantity. If you buy quality, then you only have to buy once…most of the time. Something of quality will last you for decades, if not the rest of your life. Buying less means you have more money to save and/or spend on other areas that are important to you. It also means less waste.

Being Super Frug also means understanding what quality is. It means doing research to find the best buy. For example, studies show that in blind taste tests, consumers often like less expensive store-brand foods (called “generic” or “plain wrap”) about the same, or better, than pricier name-brand foods. Makes sense. Who do you think makes the generic store-brand foods? The same manufacturers that make the brand-name foods! Understanding quality will help you save money.

Lastly, being Super Frug is knowing what’s important to you. Many of us spend on things that we get little or no satisfaction from. Often we blame it all on not making enough money. As the old saying goes, the more you earn, the more you spend. You spend more and yet, you’re not more satisfied. It’s a never-ending cycle. I say, get off the consumerist carousel! Pay attention to how you spend your money now. Figure out what’s most important to you and spend your money on those things. Spend less on the things you don’t care about.

While I’ve always been frugal in some way (learning from my immigrant Taiwanese parents who worked themselves from poor into the middle-class), it wasn’t until I was nearly 40 that I learned how to be truly frugal. My point is, it’s never too late.

Becoming Super Frug helped me to pinpoint exactly how much money I have and how I’m using it. I’m more satisfied with how I spend and save money now than I’ve ever been.

You can be Super Frug too. Just remember these 3 points:
1) quality over quantity,
2) understand what quality is;
3) know what’s important to you.