We were both in the same class in primary school.
And that was 20 years ago.
He was my best buddy in school, together with Colin. We hung out together, ate together, and talked about what we were gonna do in life.
I continued talking.
He, took action.
He started by taking baby steps. And he let his passion show him the way.
He was always passionate about magic. He learnt how to perform magic tricks by buying videos (those were the days before youtube). He didn’t just perform in front of a mirror. He put his skills to the test by volunteering to perform for charity. He did it for free. Day in, day out. And he got better! And people started hiring him to perform.
He continued doing that for a while as it was his passion but he realised that it wasn’t scalable. He could only do one performance at any one time. He decided to find something else that he could do. Something that was scalable. Something that went beyond entertainment.
In those days, there was no iPhone, no Android. Those were the days of Windows 95. But there was a new product which captured the imagination of techies all over the world. It was called Palm.
He bought a Palm and became an early adopter. He didn’t just use it. He learned how to code and write programs for the Palm. He was one of the earliest Palm developers and he got lots of business doing simple apps displaying advertising content.
And all that when he was 13-years old.
Despite his success, he didn’t rest on his laurels. He continued learning, reinventing, pushing ahead.
As he continued improving his development chops by taking on increasing numbers of projects and earning lots of money at the same time, he got better at marketing himself to would-be clients. He realised that no matter how good he was at development, new customers would never know what he could do. He had to get them to take the leap of faith, and the key differentiator between him and other developers in convincing someone to make the leap, was his ability to sell.
He discovered the power of storytelling.
He decided to reinvent himself again. This time, as a content writer.
He put in the hours and went through the grind. Slowly, article by article, he established his reputation as a copywriter. He wrote sales letters, e-books, brochures, flyers, you name it, he did it. He got the results for his customers, and in the process, he made his money.
All these before he turned 18.
He bought himself a car when he turned 18. With his own money. Now that may not sound like too big of a deal, but if you live in Singapore, it’s a really big deal.
He went to university and disrupted himself again. This time, as an accountant. He graduated with top honours, and made the decision to pursue his PHD. He eventually went into academia.
We’ve since lost contact, but the lessons that I learned from him remain. And I want to share them with you.
- Life is a constant process of invention and reinvention. Don’t be afraid of disrupting yourself.
- Start by taking baby steps. Build on your wins to achieve greater success.
- Don’t be afraid of the grind. When the going gets tough, persevere, eke out a result.
- Don’t fear that you can’t see where you are heading. Think of life as climbing a mountain. We can only see better when we keep moving. There will be some peaks and troughs, but as long as we keep moving, and keep climbing, it’s OK. As we climb higher, we can see better, and the road forward becomes clearer.
I thought for a long time about making a career switch, from a comfortable job, to starting my own company. It was difficult, but I eventually took the leap of faith, and these lessons had a part to play in giving me the confidence to take that leap.
Therefore, if you are thinking of making a career switch, pursuing that passion, or wondering if you’ve got what it takes to make it as a freelancer, be brave, and be courageous. You can do it. You can make it. Give it a shot. Else, you’ll never know.
Won’t you like to know?