Economy Class

February 27, 2009

Last week I got a letter from The Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Miles Club that instantaneously changed the smile on my face into a slight frown. I couldn’t understand it. They have downgraded my status from “Elite” to “regular” informing me that I have not met the required sectors or mileage for year 2007-2008. This came to me as a surprise. I take a local flight every week (or maybe every other week) and I have in fact traveled more times domestically last year compared to the previous years.

And then it dawned on me. I have always persuaded the organizers of my speaking events to book me on PAL flights as I usually take the first flight out and would prefer the comfort of the Mabuhay lounge for a little bit of rest and preparation. But due to budget considerations, organizers book me promo tickets that do not provide miles credit and thus, the downgrade.

Now this leaves me with a quandary. Should I then just leave them to book me whatever tickets they want or maybe I can require them to book me “Business Class” as part of my demands?

My constant email pal Philip See sent me this interesting article that made me decide on the proper course of action. It is based on an article written by Singapore’s millionaire Adam Khoo. Adam says: “Someone came up to me and asked, ‘How come a millionaire like you is travelling economy?’ My reply was, ‘That’s why I am a millionaire.’ He still looked pretty confused. This again confirms that greatest lie ever told about wealth. Many people have been brainwashed to think that millionaires have to wear Gucci, Hugo Boss, Rolex, and sit on first class in air travel.

The truth is that most self-made millionaires are frugal and only spend on what is necessary and of value. That is why they are able to accumulate and multiply their wealth so much faster. I refuse to buy a first class ticket or to buy a $300 shirt because I think that it is a complete waste of money. However, I happily pay $1,300 to send my 2-year old daughter to Julia Gabriel Speech and Drama without thinking twice.

I noticed that it was only those who never had to work hard to build their own wealth spent like there was no tomorrow. Somehow, when you did not have to build everything from scratch, you do not really value money. This is precisely the reason why a family’s wealth (no matter how much) rarely lasts past the third generation. Then some people ask me, ‘What is the point in making so much money if you don’t enjoy it?’

I don’t really find happiness in buying branded clothes, jewelry or sitting first class. Even if buying something makes me happy it is only for a while, it does not last. Material happiness never last, it just give you a quick fix. After a while you feel lousy again and have to buy the next thing which you think will make you happy. I always think that if you need material things to make you happy, then you live a pretty sad and unfulfilled life. Instead, what makes me happy is when I see my children laughing and playing and learning so fast. What makes me happy is when I see my companies and trainers reaching more and more people every year in so many more countries. What makes me really happy is when I read all the emails about how my books and seminars have touched and inspired someone’s life.

The point I want to put across is that happiness must come from doing your life’s work (be in teaching, building homes, designing, trading, winning tournaments etc..) and the money that comes is only a by-product. If you hate what you are doing and rely on the money you earn to make you happy by buying stuff, then I think that you are living a meaningless life.

End of article. Thanks Philip for the wonderful article.

How true this is. Now I know what I would do. I will never insist on my organizers getting me a Business Class ticket. I will feel the joy of lining up on economy row just like the rest of the people I know. I wouldn’t mind waiting outside the lounge because while these things offer me convenience, they do not offer me happiness. And I will be happy not because of what is on me but what is IN me.

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Lujene

    intially, i was pretty much surprised to read your first paragraph article.
    i thought a Francis Kong would not be the person who will “demand” for a business class, because i assumed that you already have the “mind” or thinking of an “adam khoo”

    but then again,since you are francis kong, and you have already reached the “status”, wherein a normal person who is at the same level, would also demand for a “business class”

    and i am again, very much humbled by your realization 🙂

    a typical chinese, thinks like “adam khoo”, always looking for the possibility of a more affordable alternative.

  2. Dick

    This is my first email received and these are the things I want to read and be reminded from time to time… to maintain and make me a better person.

  3. Wilma Estaura

    Dear Francis:

    You are such an ispirational speaker and writer. This article surely will benefit a lot of people that center their lives on the tangible things in life. What really matters are the intangibles things that we have especially the love that we share to the people around us.
    All the best,


  4. joseph

    I will never be tired of saying thank you.. Every article you posted have lots of meaning!!

  5. Nonoy Espeleta

    Hi Francis,

    I also experienced the same “downgrade” from Elite to Economy last year. What I did was just to return the Mabuhay Card to PAL with a handwritten note on that same Notice of Downgrade saying, “Is this the way you reward frequent flyers? With this downgrade, i can now start experiencing to fly with Cebu Pacific and be more flexible on my choice of carrier. This includes my international flights, along with other people in our company and business associates.” So I mailed the card back and the letter, including my business card.

    Two weeks later, somebody from PAL called and apologized. They sent me a replacement card reinstating my status as Elite for 2 years. While I still continue to take promo/discounted flights, I know this can only be temporary. You may do the same thing, anyway, just try if it will work (and to check if they are consistent).


    Nonoy Espeleta
    Julie’s Franchise Corporation

  6. Ronald

    I learned something again. Thank you.

  7. Jimie Lawagan

    Thanks for the knowledge shared. Keep it up.

  8. Francis Kong

    Thank you for all the very positive comments! Humbled indeed!

  9. Mike Manlangit

    Hi Francis,

    Truly, I believe you had just defined “Happiness” in deeper sense but very practical and more realistic. Thanks so much for the insight.

    Mike Manlangit

  10. Kenneth

    Good morning Sir Francis.

    Thanks for the insight about being money-wise. However, thank you, all the more, for validating what i have learned lately – that, truly, it is the necessary things that one must only buy. We must, rather, invest in things that mattter ost – like education and the well-being and equipping of our children. I think I have already reached a leveling in my learning curve about finances. I have reached a point that only simple things that bring simple smile and laughter are more worthy of money spending priority.
    Sometimes, I abstain from buying immediately a certain item, only to find out after a few days of abstinence, I didn’t really need such item.

    Anyway, many thanks for the lesson. May God continue to use you in opening minds and hearts in others in order for them to realize God’s plans for them.

    God bless.


  11. Thet Mesias

    It’s amazing how one simple realization can wipe the frustration [caused by the superficiality of life] off someone …
    You and your words are truly inspiring.
    Thanks Sir Francis! May God continuously use you to bring ‘life’ to others.

  12. Cornel

    Sir Francis,

    Since what is “IN” you is more than gold, it creates an anchor for people like me who are anxious for what lies ahead. Taking care of what is inside predetermines how you take care also of what lies ahead. Thank you!!!

  13. Indeed. Right Investments and savings are the building blocks of self-made millionaires.

    Thanks for the tip Sir Francis. Hope to hear you speak again soon.

    Your fan, PINOY BLOGGER of Cebu

  14. ema

    this is very inspiring and I can related on that, because I myself is frugal. And yes, material things are temporary. Buying necessities satisfy me already. Besides, being able to buy necessities makes me happy already. There are many reasons to be happy in life, not just some material possessions.

  15. Rex

    I have had a similar condition in the past as you have had sir. I used to practice my specialty outside the big city and was earning more than enough and yet I was not happy professionally, I pursued my dream to fight cancer and transferred to a big city, though what I am earning now is just a fourth or a third of what I used to earn before I found myself happy and contented with what I am doing now.

  16. ram catadman

    Hi Francis,
    The first time I saw you was in AIM, during a John Maxwell event a couple of years ago. It was the start of a series of life changing experiences. I see you in EDSA Shangrila from time to time but I never found the time to introduce myself, perhaps one of these days…Thanks.

  17. dan

    Hi Francis!

    Not too long ago I refrain from buying stuff with the main goal of saving up, and the mentality “delayed gratification” was still hanging over my head then. But slowly, for some strange reason any fondness to most material stuff (clothes, shoes, gadgets, etc.) begun to fade and I started just having the basics and a lot of times family and close friends would jokingly advise me to buy new clothes because I look so plain, and sometimes below being plain. But the best thing about it is I don’t mind.

    I like being simple, just having the basic. I am very thankful that God had developed such attitude in me because I give more importance to other “things” such as relationships. Now even if I have the luxury to buy things, or demand more conveniences I am really glad I can choose better.

    God bless you and your family!!! =)

  18. Erwin C, Arar

    Sir Francis,

    I am so down after i read your story. it made me cry then think may pag asa pa pala salamat po talaga ng marami.

  19. manya lay

    Yes, im agree with you. At first i tought that happiness comes after i reached the matter… getting wealth, being rich, and have much money in our bank accounts. But its just make ourself being zero, turn into someone who has nothing, because we’re going look for more…and more money and lost the value of our life…
    Some reading inspired me and say that: The happiness comes when we make other person happy…
    In this life, there’s no FOREVER HAPPINESS… if its come from the material things…
    But when we make our lives meaningful for others…
    Im teaching sunday school, and im happy that i can share about my experience and inspire these kids to be good adults. God bless you!

  20. Eden Claire

    Used to be a PAL flyer, but since I’m thrifty, I started booking with Cebu Pacific 🙂 True indeed, money and material things are just quick fix. Happiness comes from being anchored with the Lord. All else is immaterial.

Leave a Reply