Feast or Famine: Know Where you Are in the Cycle

Marvin Liao
3 min readSep 10, 2022


2022 has in some ways been one of the more debilitating years for many people. Yes, we are coming out of the pandemic. But right into an inflationary & commodities/ energy-driven world recession, exacerbated by a massive land war in Europe (May God curse Putin and his cronies). The money printing boom times of 2020–2021 are over and truly was “the best of times and the worst of times”.

It’s interesting being in the tech ecosystem these days, talking to founders and investors who are literally in shock. Especially new and young ones who have never been through a downturn.

Valuations have gone down, due diligence has gone up, rounds are smaller with a few certain exceptions like founders with massive previous exits.

The lesson is that World works in cycles. Life is in cycles. Cycles always turn. The eternal parable of ant and cricket still holds. For anyone who is wondering as per Wikipedia:

“The fable concerns a grasshopper (in the original, a cicada) that has spent the summer singing and dancing while the ant (or ants in some versions) worked to store up food for winter. When winter arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and begs the ant for food. However, the ant rebukes its idleness and tells it to dance the winter away now.”

The point: enjoying life during the summer is fine but winter always eventually comes, so you need to prepare.

Personally, I’ve always wondered whether it’s better to grow up in good times or grow up in bad times. And the implications of either growing up rich or growing up poor?

Growth is good as a rising tide lifts all boats, almost everyone is happy making money. But the downside is you end up learning really bad habits and your spending and cost structure goes up as you expect this to last forever. You get sloppy, fat and usually spoiled. And this is especially lethal for investors in bull markets as the much repeated comment stands: “The four most dangerous words are ‘This time it’s different.”

On the other hand, growing up in recession, you end up in survival mode which makes you scrappy & to abhor waste (ie. Become very efficient). But you end up with a mindset of scarcity that is hard to grow out of, something I’ve personally struggled with. You tend to think win lose (not win-win) because you are literally getting a scarce resource over some else.

And many times, using a poker analogy, when times turn good and you have a strong hand, you tend to play things Tight ie. more cautious and defensive which limits growth versus being more aggressive as the new situation calls for.

Everything is a double edge sword. Having been fortunate or maybe just plain old, I’ve been through about 5 downturns now. (Ie. “Be wary of an old man in a young person’s game”).

So I tend to be somewhat paranoid in good times but also know for a fact that bad times don’t last. You need to try to avoid being overly exuberant/ optimistic or too depressed/ down. As long as you keep fighting and trying, you can outlast bad times which I hope everyone out there takes to heart. Cycles always turn.



Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com