There are moments in life that are truly defining where one must make the change or make the conscious decision to stay stagnant. A choice to change one’s perception of events or stay unmoved. I must say, though the choice to change nor stay stagnant is neither good nor bad, the consequences of each choice will have a lasting impact in one’s life. One may see the short-term consequences of his or her choice but to foretell and understand the repercussions is often a mammoth task. Which is why it is essential to have a coach or mentor – someone who is experienced and ‘walked’ the path. For it is through their guidance, can one clearly realize the long-term consequences of one’s choices and from my experience, without a doubt, is the difference.
Throughout my life, how I viewed and perceived my father never remained the same. Like most of us, in our formative years, fathers were our heroes and whatever they seem to say or do was unique and special. My father was an accountant by training and after many years working in the accounting industry, his colleagues and him, at the height of the Asian Economic Crisis in 2001, came together to start a distribution business, selling the ‘Brother’ brand of office equipment. As a young teenager, I had dreams of wanting to work under my father so that I could spend more time with him, to be around him, watching him do his ‘magic’. However, he was not too keen in me being involved. Initially, I thought it was because of my studies but only much later did I comprehend the gravity of his decision. As time went by, we spent less time with each other because his growing business which required him to invest more time there. My lack of time and communication with him gave rise to unresolved disagreements and differences in views and opinions.
In my late teenage years, his business, initially performing well, started experiencing more and more challenges and the stress of it started to show on my father. Both him and I did not see that coming. His usual calm self soon was displaced by a more irritable uncaring persona. He made a huge deal out of simple and mundane mistakes that I made – not switching off the lights or heater switch – which was uncharacteristic of him. Soon, the money challenges due to a failing business started affecting my family’s lifestyle and that really angered me as it was getting very difficult to convince my father to get the things that I wanted. Finally, in a last-ditch attempt to save his business, he started borrowing money from my relatives and even asked me to empty my bank account. Even that could not save the business from folding and in the process, he became a bankrupt. That was the final straw and my image of the hero had shifted to one of a failure and a villain. I started to blame him for the financial challenges that my family and I faced. I had lost my respect for him and felt embarrassed talking about my dad to my friends and when I did, it was always about his failure in business. Unconsciously, I allowed my resentment for my father to take over any appreciation or admiration of him. Everyone around me believed and accepted the stories I shared about my father – a failure figure in business and life, the cause for all my family’s financial problems – until I met my business coach, William.
It was during a period in building my business during my university days that I had reached a plateau – no business nor personal growth was taking place. Although I knew William and vice versa, my impression of him being a tough taskmaster and his reputation as a ‘tormentor’ – a tough-questioning one instead of an accepting, nurturing mentor – deterred me from reaching out to him. Nonetheless, one of my associates who worked with him closely strongly recommended reaching out to him to help me overcome my challenges. Reaching out to him was a tough task in his own right as he was mentoring many young and aspiring entrepreneurs, so I knew he was very busy and probably did not have the time for me. So, I chose not to bother him. Yet, the flow of events that came forth after certainly took a change of course in my life.
Weeks later, a business meeting ended late and I had missed the last bus and to save a few dollars, I decided to ask around for a ride somewhere close to my home, Pasir Ris. My close associate told me that William was staying in Potong Pasir at that time and reluctantly asked to hitch a ride with him to the bus stop near his home. Expecting him to refuse, but instead, he willingly accepted. Seated in the front seat, we spoke and the question came about my family eventually came and when it came to sharing about my father, who was now working as a taxi driver, I shared the same version of the story that I had been telling since my teenage years.
Patiently listening, he slowed his car and stopped at the nearest bus stop. He proceed to ask sternly, “How many fathers do you know would have taken huge risks to start a business so that he can provide a better life for your family and you?”
I assumed that he would empathise with me but this was the exact opposite. Angry, I wanted to refute him but I knew the answer was zero. But I told him he could have stayed as an accountant and worked in a company and none of the problems would have existed. He then asked,
“How many accountants do you know are wealthy? Do you know the older your father becomes, the more likely he would be retrenched during a recession, the unemployable he becomes after he is retrenched?”
I knew I was ignorant. Memories of my father travelling to Australia in 1996 to further his studies and complete his accountancy degree at the age of 45, and yet, being retrenched during the 2001 recession flashed through my mind, giving me a deep realisation. Sensing that, he continued.
“Your father may not communicate his problems to you because he probably wanted to shield and protect you. I know from experience, your father intuitively knew that the only way to provide your family a better life, to sponsor your university education, was through business.”
I sensed a shift in the way I felt about my father.
He proceeded to share that he too was a father of 4 children, the eldest being just a year younger than me, an accountant by training too, had previous failed businesses, lost more than half a million dollars and almost became a bankrupt in the process. I knew that William understood what my father would have gone through.
“You may think your father failed in business, but it is only through failure, one succeeds. No one in business succeeds without failure, even you.”
That hit me hard and I was starting to see how foolish I was.
“You can either choose to believe your father is a failure or you can choose to learn the lessons and wisdom from his experience so that you don’t make them in future.”
“Lessons from my father’s failure?” I replied.
“Yes. The best form of learning is …”
Pausing to hear my response, I said, “through experience?”
“No!! The best form of learning is through experience but … provided it is through others’ experiences!” answered William, drawing chuckle from both of us.
He elaborated that the shortest way to accelerate my growth in any field was not only to learn the lessons of others, from others’ mistakes and failures but also to find a coach or mentor who has a vested interest in me succeeding, to consult with and seek advice from.
It then dawned onto me the treasure of knowledge and distinction I can gain from associating with like-minded people, reading and listening to personal development books and audio material and most importantly, coaching and mentorship that I was receiving through this business opportunity.
He continued to share more of his wisdom and experience that night and I, seeing new value and perspective, was busy taking notes and recording what he shared. At the end of about an hour, I knew I had a shift in thinking and my belief systems about money, economics and most importantly, the role of a coach and mentor in my life and how grateful I was to have his time. Thanking him, he calmly asserted,
“The best way to thank me is by succeeding.”
I was in awe what had just happened, and I found it rather confusing he said that.
Before I dropped off at the bus stop, he told me,
“I have an assignment for you. I want you to speak to your father. I want you to ask your father about his experience building his business, the feelings he went through and most importantly, ask him why he failed in the venture. Then, speak to me about it.”
Feeling awkward about having to speak to my father in depth after such a long time but I placed my trust in William and decided to question and seek my father out. Being naïve, little did I know the influence and impact that simple assignment made in my business, vocation, health and family.
Funny, how a choice, a moment defines the future.
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