Recently I was invited to speak at an event on entrepreneurship. When I first received the email, I was stunned – the other speakers were established industry stars whom I respected and admired. Surely they got the wrong person when they contacted me?
I had to be frank and told them I could only share as a struggling entrepreneur of sorts. One who hasn’t launched yet, and is still in the midst of learning the ropes. (Till this day I still don’t really see myself as an entrepreneur yet for some reason).
And it turns out that was the type of story they wanted to add into the mix. So I said yes, because I felt that if at least one person benefited from my story, it would be worth it.
When working on the slides, I realized there were a ton of stories that I had to tell. Although the initial 15-20 min allocated seemed long at the start, turns out it only allowed me to share the tip of the iceberg when it came to lessons on this journey!
Although I had danced in front of thousands of people before, spoken about my company to potential hires in front of hundreds, this was the first time I was speaking to such a large live audience about… me.
In this quick talk, I shared how I decided to leave my job in marketing after close to three years, and bits of the many struggles I’ve faced since then – trying to source for reliable suppliers in China, learning how to guard my free time, coming out of a failed partnership, and the list goes on.
Only after working on my slides did I realize – that the single most important lesson that I’ve gained through this whole experience is the building of my character.
In having a less than stable income while freelancing and pouring all my savings in to start my business, I’ve learnt to be more appreciative of money. In the past, I used to spend without really thinking twice on shopping, eating out and drinking with friends. Although I now have to guard my expenditure, I’ve also learnt how to lead a simpler life with less things.
While people were making it big in their own careers and businesses which they’ve launched successfully in a much shorter time than me, I’ve learnt humility and perseverance. As someone who is used to achieving a lot in school and activities, this has certainly been a very humbling experience. To be able to savor everything that I’ve learnt although I have nothing to show for it in the meantime.
I’ve hit so many bumps in the road that I feel pretty much immune to it now and the most important thing is to keep trudging along until the dream finally comes true. I’ve been very blessed to have a supportive fiance, family and close friends who do not tire of hearing my stories on how things are “still not there yet”.
A lot of times people who first find out what I’m up to say it’s really exciting to be able to do what I’m doing. And I fully agree and believe that – in no way have I regretted the path I’ve taken. But deep inside, I sometimes feel sad (and even embarrassed) that I can’t share this same initial bubbling excitement that I once had when I first started.
I love what I’m doing, but sometimes it does become a painful struggle. I guess I’ve pretty much grown into a seasoned relationship with this start-up business life. It’s no longer an initial courtship type of love that brings a glow in the face and overwhelming excitement with rose-tinted glasses, but more of a way of life that has grown to be part of me. Something that I know I can’t live without, but sometimes brings painful memories along with the joy.
Regardless, this is a path that I would encourage everyone to try. Not because it may potentially earn you a ton of money (in fact it may completely bankrupt you), but because it is a journey that builds your character that nothing else can. And I say this not as someone who has “made it”, but as someone who is currently going through it.
But hopefully, I’ll reach the other side to tell you that it’s safe to swim in this ocean soon :)
Side note: A group photo alongside the other awesome speakers (Chris Lee from Asylum, Daniel Ong from Twelve Cupcakes and Karen Cheng from Pachelbel) and the really sweet organizers.
Side side note: Most people don’t realize I was suffering from a stomach infection and was heavily medicated (I think I took about a total of 9 pills before the talk). So finally, I’m just very thankful that I didn’t faint halfway and that I made it through the entire event in one piece.
Have a great weekend coming up!