Yes, I’ve been a highly successful entrepreneur, and yes, I’ve learned how to build on that success. But that hasn’t always been the case.
Although I was born into a nice, middle-class family, a series of devastating events threw everything into disarray. I found myself in a deep hole, desperate to climb back out and simply survive.
Here’s how it all unfolded…
Growing up in modest circumstances.
My dad was an independent renovation contractor, while my mom stayed at home to take care of my two brothers and myself.
Doing what he did, Dad drove around in a big car, yet we lived in an average house handed down by Granddad. So most of my friends just assumed I was a rich kid. I wasn’t.
Dad’s business had the usual ups and downs. During the ‘up’ times, people from the outside looking in assumed we were better off than we really were. What they could not see, though, was the best financial asset Dad could possibly give me: financial savvy.
Learning the ropes very early on.
I was only eight when Dad recruited me to sort out his company’s bills, statements, receipts, invoices and all manner of other accounting documents. It was a simple matter of separating the pile of documents into their respective categories.
Over time, this mundane exercise led me to understand how the world of finances works: how much things cost, how prices fluctuate from one month to another, what happens when payments are delayed, different types of fees for goods and services, etc.
As a result, I developed a keen sense of how all of that had an impact on our family’s financial position.
Thinking about a career path.
When I was just 15 years old and while my peers were caught up in their social lives, I was actively exploring career options. Naturally, I asked my dad for pointers.
Again, I was treated like an adult as he introduced me to his friends and business associates: bankers, accountants, business owners, and various other professionals. I got to interview them and ask about what each did for a living.
The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis changed everything.
When business was good, Dad bought heavily in the share market and off-plan properties. Unfortunately, he did not have any mentors advising him on how to invest in stocks, nor did he understand how to buy investment real estate.
So when money left Asia in 1997, the local share market tanked. The bottom line: his business dried up and Dad was forced to retire. The family went bankrupt overnight with millions in debt. No income, just expenses.
Investing in me despite everything.
Fortunately, Mom had set aside some money for such emergencies, and we lived on these savings for several years.
Although my parents could ill afford it, they still gave me money for my tertiary education. This came with one condition: I had to see my younger brothers through their own tertiary education to graduation.
At the University, I held two jobs and worked over the summer holidays to supplement the funds from my family.
Exploring the world for opportunities.
By 2000 I had already graduated and earned my degree in Accounting and Finance. Now I had to figure out how to finance my brothers through college.
My first job paid $1,600 a month, which was barely enough for the family’s expenses let alone seeing both siblings through college.
I realized very quickly that if I did what everyone else in this company did, I would have the same result they had. And that was nowhere near enough.
So I decided to change the rules of this game. Immediately, I began to spot opportunities everywhere–including those outside the country that had not even crossed my mind before.
It worked out beautifully and things changed again!
My income went from $19,200 a year to $288,000 in a very short time. So by the time I returned to Malaysia at age 30, both my brothers had finally graduated.
At the time this article is being published, my dad is in the hospital fighting yet another battle. If you’re reading this, I humbly request that you help me pray for his healing and for his condition to stabilise. This is also a tribute to my dad. If you wish, please share to let the world know what a great dad was. “Dad, wake up soon-let’s celebrate our successes”