Call It Living

I grew up dreaming. I wanted to have my own business – a business that is on the road to world domination.

I remember vividly that I knew this is to be true on one of my trips to Singapore. I cannot remember what the speaker was expounding on – something on dreams, make your dream happen (yada yada yada) – but I felt strongly convicted that I will have my own outfit someday. It took 8 years for this vision to bear fruit. Not as bad as Noah but it was bad enough in my books.

It was not smooth sailing at the start. My first ever attempt (back in 2004) was cut short in just 6 months – quite foolishly because I quit my job and declared that I wanted to start my own gig – with no plans in hand. Quite sadly, I had to rely on someone else’s product to sell and they were not convinced that I am the right partner. As this product had a long sales cycle, my savings ran out which brought me to the decision to hop back into the job market, painfully and shamefully, with my tail between my legs. Even though it was my fault the venture failed, it was painful nonetheless.

My second start, OrangeTree was a little more promising. We sold handmade baskets sourced from the Philippines. It was by accident – we came across some pretty baskets over there, we took a liking and took the gamble of stocking up, lugging them back on the plane and selling them to families, friends and hey, at the bazaar! We quit after the second attempt at shipping in the stocks when we were clobbered with a 20% import duty – which literally ate into our margins! At that time, making a grand total of RM8,000 for a couple of months work was outstanding.

This taught me important lessons – that my wife is better than me at remembering product prices and most importantly, it taught me that I could really make money. You see, I have never sold anything in my life before this. This built my confidence.

My third attempt was PositiveLinks Asia, a boutique executive search firm, which I started late 2010.

Truthfully, if I were a betting man, I would not have wagered on myself. And to the reason why, let me share with you my life qualifications.

  • I’m of average intelligence. Really. My IQ scores suck (but not that bad). Like I mean, I can really identify with Moses when he said that he was of “slow speech and mind”. I amm toooo.
  • I’m a late bloomer. I need time to figure things out, to mentally process them. I have no witty comebacks. No insights to share or spare.
  • I’m no sales guy. Someone recently mentioned that I did not have the “killer instinct”. He’s right. After 7 years in business, I still don’t.
  • Did I tell you that I’m monolingual? I can only speaketh English. As this post is evidence itself, I can’t write for s**t.

But, with God’s grace, it has been 7 years a very fulfilling, non-linear journey. The good and the painful; of growth, of pruning and of adjustment; and of faith.

I gained and I grew. From success, mistakes and failures in a life that isn’t linear. However, I don’t intend to rabble on.

What I’m trying to express is this – that setbacks and failures shouldn’t be reasons for us to quit our dreams, to quit trying. Sure, our confidence takes a good knock, we blew off (burn, burn, burn) some serious cash, we upset people, we are mocked. But the thing is this – we experience failures only when we put ourselves out there.

I failed many times. This is what I did – I picked myself up, spend some time in solitude to lick my wounds and unwind, figure out what the learnings were and then carry on with my life.

Is PositiveLinks Asia on the path to world domination? Not even close. But I still harbour this ambition. World domination may not ever come but this doesn’t mean I should quit dreaming.

After all, is this not what we call living?

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