Poly Drop-Out To $6,000/day
I’m a victim of our education system. Not fitting into the system might be the best thing that had happened to me. Otherwise I may be holding onto a job that doesn’t make me happy, living like a zombie.
My life journey turned from being a victim to taking responsibility in creating the life that I love.
It all began from the time I was admitted into Polytechnic.
There is only one word to describe my Polytechnic years – MISERY. Dragging myself to school every single day, asking myself the purpose of doing these. There was nothing worth remembering during those years.
Why did I get into Polytechnic doing the course that I am doing?
Due to the set-up of the education system, I was left with a few choices based on my ‘O’ Level result. Any business courses were out of my reach. (How irony, now I’m in business) I was left with three engineering courses to choose from. I chose the one that my seniors chose.
Then hell began. Every semester, I was scraping through exams, failing modules and repeating them. After much crawling and struggling, I did progress to the final year. Unfortunately or fortunately, I failed all the subjects in the first semester of the final year.
I got sick and tired of going through exams after exams without any purpose.
So I decide to quit school, a decision that no parents would be proud of. My life was failure till then, that’s what everyone thought. In a country that emphases so much on academic education and certification, my future looks bleak.
In retrospect, quitting school was probably my best decision (beside marry to my wife). Endless possibilities opened up because I escaped the boxed-up process by our education system. I was not trained to only think in one perspective from the institutional thinking. This provides me the creativity to resolve challenges.
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. Firstly, I desire full control of my life. Working for others does’t allow me to do that.
Secondly, I wanted to make more money. Who doesn’t? (Later in my life I realised there are some who don’t) I needed more money to fund my bad spending habit. Working for others wouldn’t allow me to fund all my indulges.
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 learned that it’s not how much I earn, but how much I keep. I first had to change my spending habit to build wealth.
Seeing $17.20 reflected in my bank statement awakened me big time. I couldn’t withdraw any money from the ATM machine that dispense at least $20. I had to do something about my life.
I started with investment books, and dipped into the stock market. Unfortunately, I lost my first investment. I read more books wanting to gain as much knowledge in the fastest possible time.
Actually my mindset about money started to shift gradually the moment I picked up the first book. I gained new awareness about money, self-consciousness and businesses.
Two major turning points occurred that shifted my life completely.
I read a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad in 2002 and attended a program called Money & You in 2003. One book and one seminar reinforced my decision to quit my job.
In August 2003, I started my business with $20, Actionpreneur Pte Ltd. We conducted innovation and entrepreneurship workshops for children. This is a major milestone in my life, but I underestimated the challenge of being an entrepreneur.
First challenge was the lack of cashflow. I quitted my job and the business was not generating money fast enough. My immediate priority was to generate some real cash quickly for survival.
The fastest way was to sell fast moving products. I chanced upon an opportunity to sell some novelty products to parents who would purchase for their children. I sold these products the guerrilla style to avoid the authority since I did not have a shop or license to sell in public.
Every night I approached hundreds of passer-by to make $100 – $200. At the same time, I polished up my sales skills, built my confidence in striking conversations with strangers.
I ran Actionpreneur in the day and sell novelty products in the night. Things got better when an angel believed in us. She 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 less than three months of operation. It solved our cashflow problem and I don’t have to sell on street anymore.
Life seems rosy, and rose wither pretty 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 challenge was about to happen.
Two of the team members left the business. The first excruciating painful team experience that I ever experienced. 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 crippled with half the team gone. Taking up the slack from the other partners, I became something that I never thought I will – a Trainer.
In the original Fantastic 4 team, I brought in the sales, another partner trained. After the split, I had to take up the Trainer’s role. I was never good in front of the room. I never could express myself properly in front of a group of audience.
But I guess being an entrepreneur, I am expected to face new challenges. This new role was a new challenge. Sad to say, I fumbled initially. I screwed up big time when I did my first public presentation. One of the audience commented that I was a lousy Trainer in front of everyone.
And then another blow by my client who gave me a warning to buckle up. I was upset with myself, but I understood that it is a process. I needed to learn to spak publicly, and I needed to learn fast.
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 honed my skill by giving free talks. In the one year, I met masters who are generous to impart their presentation skill. I was asked to sit in their class to observe their training style. I’m very blessed to have met generous masters in this journey.
I was giving free talks for about a year and a half, until the organization that I was supporting with free talks offered to pay me. I was astonished and satisfied as my effort had been paid off.
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 shifted. Adding values comes first instead of making money. Seeing the transformation of m participants is more satisfying than the making lots of money.
A young girl, who participated in our first workshop, approached us with a proposed training program three years after attended our workshop. Being the President of Entrepreneur Club in her school, she requested us to support her new venture. The workshop ignited her entrepreneurial spirit, since then she saw herself running a business.
In 2006, we changed our business direction. We started to explore adult’s learning, targeting corporate clients. A new market segment means new ball game, I did not have an idea how to win this game.
I went searching for a mentor again. I found this gentleman by the name of David Tan who is very generous to show me the ropes in adult’s learning. Not only that he 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 one year of learning from David, I gathered some track records and experience under my belt. Corporate training was no longer as daunting as before. Associates started to spread my name in the training arena which got me a couple of corporate training engagements. A new adventure began.
You must be thinking I must be flying with ease by now. Actually no. More challenges are lining up to pin me to the ground.
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. It should not be an issue, but I did not find out the requirement from the clients and the profile of the group. I scored very low for my evaluation. I took this as a learning, and I did not want to be paid for this engagement.
Very soon, I was engaged for more corporate trainings in the area of team building, peak performance and presentation skills. My evaluation has been going up and up since that flop. I have been averaging 4.3 out of 5.
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 a coaching program because I felt there is a gap in all training programs.
Training programs are good on the training days but pale on the post-training. Research shown that less than 10% of the participants will implement the new knowledge and skills learned in training. The rest of them will stay status quo, not doing anything with the new knowledge. Not a good statistic to me, but this means there is an opportunity.
Coaching fills this 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. In other words, training provides inspiration to change; whereas coaching provides sustainability to the change.
This blog is created to inspire you to excel. Furthermore, to sustain your excellence.
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 love their life, to love what they do. This is the mission of coaching with Joe.
Watch me in action!