Poly Drop-Out To $6,000/day
I’m a victim of our education system. Not fitting into the system was the best thing that has happened to me. Otherwise I may be living day to day like a zombie, holding onto a job that doesn’t make me happy.
My life journey turns from being a victim during my young adult years to taking responsibility in creating the life that I love.
It all begins from the time I was admitted to Polytechnic.
Misery is the word to describe my years in Poly. I was dragging myself to school every single day, asking myself the purpose of schooling. There was nothing worth remembering during my Poly years.
By the nature of the education system, I was left with a few choices based on my ‘O’ Level result. Any business courses were out. (How irony, now I’m in business) I was left with three engineering courses to choose from. Little did I know that I am going to waste three years of my life.
Every semester, I was scraping through exams, failing modules and repeating them. Eventually after much crawling and struggling, I managed to progress to the final year. Unfortunately or fortunately, I failed all the subjects the first semester’s exam of the final year.
I finally got sick of it. I was tired of going through a meaningless life.
So I made a decision that no parents would be proud of. I quitted in the final year. Everyone thought my life was gone. In a country that emphases so much on academic education, without a proper certificate, what will my future be like?
Honestly, quitting school was my best decision. Endless possibilities open up because I am never being boxed up in one career path. I am never being trained to think in one direction from the formal education way of thinking. Looking at what I have created and who I am now is the proof of it.
Fast forward to 2002, after working for two years in the non-profit and commercial world. I discovered that working for others was not for me. I wanted to make more money. The reason to make more money was a bad spending habit. I got to make more to fund my out of the chart spending habit.
After working for three years, I didn’t have any savings. No matter how much I got in pay increment, it didn’t help.
I remembered I was so broke that I saw $17.20 reflected in my bank statement. I couldn’t withdraw any money from the ATM machine that dispense at least $20. I had to do things differently. Working for others is not the way to go.
I started with investment books. Unfortunately without experience and guidance, I lost my first investment in the stock market. I need to learn more, so I read more books. As I read more, I learned that books were not giving me enough.
While learning fast and furious, my mindset started to shift, gaining new awareness about money management, self-consciousness and businesses.
Two major turning points occurred that shifted my life completely upside down. My career went upside down, my close friends went upside down.
I read a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad in 2002 and attended a program called Money & You in 2003. After these two major incidents, I confirmed my decision to quit my job, start a business and investing for more wealth.
In August 2003, I started my business with $20, Actionpreneur Pte Ltd, conducting innovation and entrepreneurship workshops for children. But I underestimated the challenge of being an entrepreneur. First challenge was cashflow. I quitted my job and the business is not generating money fast enough. Generating some real cash quickly for survival was my immediate priority.
The fastest way is to sell fast moving products. I chanced upon an opportunity to sell some novelty products, targeting parents to purchase for their children. Neither I have a shop nor license to sell in public, so I have to sell with guerilla style to avoid being caught by authority.
Every night I approached hundreds of passer-by to make $100 – $200. Actually by doing this, I polished up my sales skills. At the same time built my confidence in striking a conversation with strangers.
I was running Actionpreneur in the day and sell novelty products at night. Things got better when Actionpreneur Pte Ltd was one month old. An angel who believed in us gave us our first break in the school training business. The total worth of this contract was $18,000.
I was extremely proud then – $18,000 in the first month of business. It solved our cashflow problem and I don’t have to sell on street anymore.
Life seems rosy, but rose wither very fast too. Just that I didn’t expect it would wither so quickly. In fact, I didn’t expect it would wither at all. A major challenging was about to happen.
Two of my team members left the business. This was an extremely painful experience. One of them was not an amicable departure. A bitter after taste remained in my mouth for years before I had a closure with him. I’m glad that we are back being good friends again.
The business was left crippled with half the team gone. Taking up the slack with the other partner, I became something that I never thought I will do – a Trainer.
In the original team, I was the guy who brought in the sales. Another partner was the trainer. After the split, I have no choice but to take up the Trainer’s role. I was never good in front of the room. I couldn’t express myself properly. I was the quiet one whenever I was in a group setting.
Being an entrepreneur, I am expected to face new challenges. Taking up the role of the Trainer was a new challenge. Unfortunately, I didn’t handle this new challenge well in the beginning. I screwed up big time when I did my first public presentation. One person from the audience commented that I was a lousy Trainer in front of everyone.
And then another blow when my client gave me a warning to buckle up. I was upset with myself, but I never gave up.
With the encouragement of friends and my wife, I turned these upsets into motivation. Gradually, I yearned to become a better Trainer. I searched for more speaking opportunities. I didn’t care about the venue or the remuneration, as long as I could gain speaking experience.
For one year, I was doing free talks just to hone my skill. In the one year, I met masters who are willing to teach me the skill of great presentation. I was asked to sit in their class to learn from them. I’m very blessed to have met generous masters in my journey.
I was doing this for about a year and a half. One day, the organization that I was supporting with free talks started paying me. I was astonished. My next step towards a professional speaker and trainer.
In 2005, a morale booster event that shot my career into new height. I was awarded the Spirit of Enterprise Honouree 2005 by the Ex-President of Singapore, President Nathan. This is a huge encouragement and acknowledgement of my effort.
By this time, my attitude towards business has shifted. My focus of making money first shifted to adding values first. Seeing the transformation of the people is more satisfying than the making lots of money. The transformation of people fills my heart.
A young girl, who went through our first workshop, came to us with a proposed training program three years later. Being the President of Entrepreneur Club in her tertiary school, she requested us to support her new venture. She got interested in entrepreneurship because she went through our course in 2003.
Creating an impact for others became my new purpose.
In 2006, we changed our business direction. We started to engage in adult’s training, targeting the corporate clients. A new market segment, new ball game, I do not have an idea how to put my feet into the game.
I searched for a mentor again. I found him this gentleman by the name of David Tan who is very generous to show me the ropes in training the corporate market, shared his training content with me, taught me how to create programs, how to facilitate a class and allow me to use his activities.
After that one year learning from David, I gathered some track records under my belt. Corporate training is no longer as daunting as before. At the same time, some associates started to spread my name in the training arena which got me a couple of corporate training jobs. A new adventure began.
You must be thinking I’m flying with ease by now. Actually, more challenges are lining up to pin me down.
The first time that I flew solo, I fell badly. At the age of 30, I was training a group of middle managers whose age were between the age of 40 – 60. Not an issue actually, but I wasn’t certain of the requirements and the profile of the audience. Thus, I scored very low for my evaluation. To compensate to my client, I didn’t want to be paid.
I took this failure as a learning experience. My lesson was I didn’t have a presentation skill issue, I had a misunderstanding of the requirements and topic issue.
Very soon, I was engaged for more corporate trainings in the area of team building, peak performance and presentation skills. Learning from my previous lesson, my evaluations improved.
Some of my clients include, Singapore Police Force, Development Bank of Singapore, Konica Minolta (Malaysia), AXA Life Insurance, China Insurance, JobsDB (SIngapore), National University of Singapore, Ministry of Education, Supreme Court, Subordinate Court etc.
In 2011, I went for the coaching program because I felt there is a gap in the training industry.
The problem of attending a training program is usually the post-training. Typically about 10% of the participants will implement the new knowledge and skills. The rest of them will stay status quo, not doing anything with the new knowledge. Not a good statistic to me.
Coaching complements that gap. Coaching adds an element of accountability and progressive transformation. It enables the participants to learn the knowledge from training and later implement the knowledge through coaching.
Therefore it resulted in creating this blog to inspire you to excel and get you into action.
Fast forward to 2013. I was invited to start a new business, Echelon Minds Pte Ltd, to train corporate sales professional. Also I was asked to co-train in an entrepreneur program.
From a Poly drop out, went through the adventure in life like a roller coaster. From nothing to earning $6,000 a day, I am very thankful to all the events in my life. These events provided me life lessons that I would never got from school.
I love my life now. My loving and supportive wife who is always there to support me. A group of friends and business associates who constantly ask more of me.
What I want to do now is to inspire one million people. To influence one million people to love their life, to love what they do. This is the mission of coaching with Joe.
Watch me in action!