Late-night blogging. Join me as I talk about potential startup opportunities in Malaysia.

It’s almost 4 a.m. now and I’ve just finished amending my resume for Bain & Company. This is the company which I’ve dreamt of getting into all this time. If I somehow do not make it through, I feel like I’ll have the urge to start my own company.

I personally enjoy all kinds of excitement which can bring different forms of experiences into my life. This is the reason why I took the opportunity to work in Japan around a year ago. It’s funny how people always ask me this question whenever I’ve told them that I want to start my own company: what product do you have in your mind?

In my opinion, for any business to thrive, it must first identify a lucrative and sustainable industry. The product itself should not come first, and the entrepreneurs should never fall in love with their products. A product which cannot justify its position within its own market is most likely merely an internal hype and it will never become a commercial success. Think of that electric tie press in Jeff Bezos’ ‘The Electric Metaphor’ TEDTalk.

I am a strong believer in the fact that mankind will constantly evolve to become greater. Through the universalization of education, humans will become more humane in the future. (Slightly off-topic here, but this is the exact reason why I believe that a 3rd World War is unlikely.) Through history, we know that it always took time for mankind to build up their sense of morality as in the case of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 or a more tangible example – environment protection act. Every country and civilisation has to experience major revolutions to bring forth the improvement in the quality of life, but these often give rise to unforeseen complications. As an example, the Slavery Abolition Act created a void in the labour force, solved by the application of steam engines after the industrial revolution which in turn prompted environmental concern due to the high CO2 discharge rate. Based on my deduction, green energy and sustainable production technology are going to become more and more dominant in the future and thus I’m considering this as a very viable option.

I’m also setting my eyes on e-commerce. The market in well-developed countries is probably way too saturated with this now but for developing countries like Malaysia, there is still a very big room for improvement. E-commerce allows trivial tasks to be done more efficiently and thus it is perfectly logical to deduce that it’ll become an essential part of our lives in the future.

Malaysians are still used to ordering online just to receive their parcels around a month later. In my opinion, this phenomenon won’t stay for long as it is human nature to pursue a better life. A local parcel delivery startup which can match SF Express in China will probably make itself to the headlines in the future.

These are just a few of my ideas which I’ve thought of recently. I’m still struggling (or rather, procrastinating) to identify the field which I want to get myself into if I’m going to build a startup. I’m not being pessimistic here, but if I got rejected by the big names which I’d applied to, I’d probably go all-in to start my own company. The recent gold price surge is basically telling us that people are losing hope in the global economy and that a recession is likely to come soon. Just like how the 2008 financial crisis had created Uber and Airbnb, this could spark the growth of some unforeseeable markets. We should either grab this chance or miss it and wait for another decade.

What does it take to win?

I’ve grown to become who I am today by conquering fear, depression, suicidal thoughts and a lot of adversities. Just when I thought I was unbeatable in every aspect of my life, something hit hard right in my face. I had a wonderful time during my study at The University of Manchester, but I was also being forced to swallow the bitter pill that says “Hard work doesn’t really correlate to good results.” Now, before the “study smart, not study hard” comments flood into the comment section, let me clarify one thing: I appreciate the knowledge and hence I don’t take any shortcut, no matter how attractive the reward is. Perhaps ‘any’ is an overstatement, but in my 2nd and 3rd year, I did rely a lot less on the ‘external resources’ and worked harder to solve the problems on my own. One could say that I don’t care about my result as much as most of the other students, and while I have to admit that is true, I also have to say that I live by my own principles. I simply cannot abandon my principles for the sake of better marks.

Whenever I told my dad about these, he would always tell me that academic result is not everything and that my attitude is the key to success. While I strongly believe in what he had told me, my academic result is indeed everything I have so far. I was originally enrolled in the MEng Chemical Engineering course at The University of Manchester, but somehow I got sick of the education system which sometimes doesn’t really reward students who have worked hard for it. Therefore, I have decided to end my study at the BEng level, which means that I’ll graduate one year earlier in 2019.

Back to the question, what does it take to win? Staying for another year to complete my MEng is certainly not the winning way. Even though there is the likelihood of me achieving a First if I continue to pursue the MEng level, it simply doesn’t excite me anymore. I think that all great things which had happened in the past were the fruits of brave decisions made by visionaries. I do have a vision of who I’ll become in the future, and it definitely has nothing to do with engineering.  For once, I hope I can make my own decision to be the kind of person I want to be in the future. I love dealing with people and managing a company. At least when I’d come across a challenge in business,  working hard always guaranteed a great result. Although it can get quite subjective in business sometimes, metrics can be easily measured unlike some of the course units at my university which are highly reliant on the supervisors assigned to you a.k.a. luck.

I’m definitely not the most talented engineering student in my course but I’m definitely one of the most hardworking one. So, to be able to ‘win’, I must take in more skills and knowledge out of my own discipline. Luckily, I just so happen to be kind of gifted when it comes to memorising stats. I’m very sensitive to figures so I can easily spot the error made by the other people provided that I’m familiar with the background information of the data (Ben Shapiro 2.0??). I’m also very interested in history so you can bet that if you’ve mistakenly reported the war casualties which I’m familiar with by the magnitude of 10, I’ll be the first one to point it out. “Magnitude of 10! That’s easy!”, you might think. Well, Enrico Fermi who was one of the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project approximated the explosion yield of the Trinity Bomb and his result was barely in the range of 10 times the actual value and his achievement was considered by many scientists during his time as extraordinarily spectacular. He was able to do it because of his proficiency in physics, but I’m able to make my judgement because I’ve stored a lot of information in my brain and therefore I have more resources to assist me in the process. Now, how is that even applicable to my life? To answer this, I’ll have to brag about my dad. Just by having a glimpse of a piece of land, he can approximate the height of the wall which has to be built to prevent flooding or landslide to be around 1-3m from the actual height, the number of houses which can be built on the land and heck, he could even approximate the capital of investment required to complete the project. When you’re a property developer and you could somehow identify all these data within a few minutes, it’d be quite difficult for a sweat deal to slip past you and you’d even know which project is the best to go for so the project which you’ve chosen doesn’t incur an opportunity cost on you.

Winning is easy. Just do whatever you’re good at and don’t assume that you can do everything as perfectly as the other people. Everyone has a good combination of skills which makes each of us unique. My dad, despite how omnipotent he might seem, is not really a charismatic person. I could have talked more, but I know he’ll be reading this blog so I should stop here. *insert cheeky face* While ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ has its own merit, it’s not entirely true. It’s meant to reprimand all those people who have no perseverance in trying to master something before getting into another entirely new field. When it comes to problem-solving, having more skills under your belt often proves to be more advantageous as you’re more capable of dissecting the problem differently compared to the other people and solve it from a different angle which would otherwise not be possible if you’re technically a ‘master of one’.

To win, you just have to be open-minded and appreciate all forms of knowledge. It really teaches you to be creative and be optimistic amidst the odds. Even if you can’t actually use some of the knowledge in your everyday life, knowing more does make you more fun to talk to, ain’t that right? 

Abel

A Letter from the Generation Y to the Generation Z.

Before I start talking on this topic, I thought it’d be better for me to explain the meaning of generation Y and generation Z. The internet defines the generation Y as everyone who’s born between 1977 and 1995 while generation Z covers the rest who were born after that. I was born in 1996 and I’d say I belong to the generation Y but to be honest, there is really no clear-cut between those 2 generations. Let’s proceed to the letter:

Dear Generation Z,

We’ve all been through the stage in our lives in which we feel lost. Some of us did not manage to get out of the maze and we started doing things aimlessly, either by picking up a random subject that we’re not even interested in or by going on to pursue an idea that seems too good to be true. Sometimes, this ends quite well but most of the time, it ends in a catastrophic failure. Frustration gets onto you and you don’t feel motivated to keep on walking the path that you’ve chosen yourself and finally, you decide to give up, losing precious time, resources and efforts that you’ve put in along the journey. To save you from falling into the pit, I’ve written down some of the most common mistakes that young people make nowadays.

‘Follow your passion’ is impractical.

Now, you might be thinking that there are examples of individuals who are incredibly successful in what they’re doing and also being passionate about it. Take the founder of Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg as an example. He is passionate about Facebook and he’s operating one of the greatest companies in the world that seemed like an overnight success to most of us in its early days (More on this later on). Guess what, I’m still adamant on my statement that ‘follow your passion’ is indeed impractical. Let me ask you one simple question: What is the biggest difference between Mark Zuckerberg and a person who can code? Mark is a genius. Combined with plenty of hard work, he was able to achieve a breakthrough that rocketed him to become the next big thing in Silicon Valley years ago. The next question is, why is this relevant to my statement? To answer this, you have to first confront the brutal fact that ‘follow your passion’ rule will only work if you could be one of the best in that particular field. Otherwise, you’ll end up being mediocre in whatever you’re doing and when you’ve come to realise this, you’d have already wasted a large amount of time in it. (Though I’ve seen some people who’ve settled on mediocrity because they really love what they’re doing. I have no objection to this, but first, you’ll have to ask yourself if you’ve really tried on various things to identify your passion.)

What if you don’t know what you’re good at?

Determining something that you’re good at can take a while if you had not started trying out things early. In Mark Zuckerberg’s case, he was lucky. His family had a computer when he was young so he could find out what he was capable of doing at an early stage (Being a genius coder and has an insatiable passion for it combined with a family background advantage, a pretty lethal combo isn’t it?). Anyhow, what I’m trying to say is that if you still haven’t found out your strengths, it could be due to the fact that you haven’t tried hard enough to identify them. Go explore the world. Read more books. Talk to more people. There are endless possibilities in this world. Some people just went for one of the mainstream courses offered by the universities even though they could be one of the greatest data scientists in the world. Sadly, they would have thought that ‘data scientist’ is just two words being put together randomly from a jargon bank. That’s just how gullible some of us are that left us with no choice but to seek the others for advice.

The Asian parents.

If you’re not a doctor, an engineer, an accountant or a lawyer, then you’re a disgrace to the family. – 21st century Asian parents

American comedian Jimmy Ouyang once said: “I was an economics major. Because that’s the easiest major that would still please a foreign (Asian) parent.” To be honest, I’m one of the victims who fell into this trap. My parents started brainwashing me ever since I was 5-6 years old to become a doctor. This went on and on until I’d finished my A-Level that I’d finally decided that medicine was not what I was passionate about. I can still remember vividly that I was really interested in economics and I used to borrow books from the libraries to read about them. I also spent my free time searching for economics-related knowledge on the internet. The only difference between me and Jimmy is that my parents won’t even let me study economics. For them, it is a learn-it-yourself kind of thing. Also, I remember back in the days, I did not even have to study hard to get the highest mark in chemistry exams. I was also very passionate about it. The idea of studying chemistry at the university once crossed my mind but my parents were telling me that I’m very likely to end up being unemployed upon graduation. Left with no choice, I took a gap year to figure out what I really wanted to do and even picked up accountancy (Yeap, I took the suggestion from my parents) for around 3 months before deciding that it’s not for me. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do when the UCAS application deadline during my gap year was approaching and I risked losing the opportunity to pursue higher education. That would mean that I would have to wait for another year to apply for a place at a university. I was really afraid of losing the chance so I only did a little research and eventually choosing a course that seemed to be the closest thing to chemistry and still falls into the Asian parents’ ‘Golden Career’ category. Little did I know that chemical engineering, similar to chemistry as it may sound, is actually not quite related to chemistry. I can be a very competent chemical engineer, but I’ll never be the best. My advice is, if you really love something, go for it. There is nothing that can stop you but remember, stay within practicality. You wouldn’t want to pursue a degree that will leave you jobless. If you are not sure about how to ‘stay within practicality’, you should consult other people in the field and hear what they have to say. I’m a strong believer in self-learning and I believe that your educational background will not hinder you from doing what you want as long as you have an insatiable hunger for knowledge. you will eventually pick up the knowledge after years of learning either by reading books, observation or by practising.

“Be My Own Boss.”

First, please ask yourself these questions: how much do you know about doing business? Do you have any experience in selling products, advertising and marketing, managing a group of people, negotiating…? If you don’t, the truth is that the likelihood of you being successful right away is almost non-existent. It’s also important to know that most of the tech giants and other big companies did not strike gold straight away when they first started out. A successful business is not something that can happen overnight. Media coverage often only comes in after a company has been enduring for years to achieve greatness. This creates a false impression of those companies being successful overnight. Traits like being responsible, curious, hardworking and persistent are also very essential to the success of a business. There is a reason why most of the companies are always looking for graduates whenever they’re hiring. Graduates are presumed to have a greater sense of responsibility and they are also presumed to have useful skills which are beneficial to the companies. Afterall, a company is not an education centre which aims to educate you. Rather, it is playing a survival game with many other companies in which only the strongest one will remain in the end. A crude example of Darwin’s theory – survival of the fittest.

I chose chemical engineering blindly instead of pursuing the subject that I could possibly be the best at. Have I ever regretted this? Well, my answer is no. Although my major is not even close to chemistry in the slightest bit, it offers me the opportunity to pick up many useful skills along the way. When I had (at the point of writing this, I was still working there) an internship at a Japanese company in Tokyo, I could leverage my skills to generate greater profits and also improve the efficiency of my company. This would later help me to find out that I’m actually very talented in management and also in the corporate world, which sets the path for me to continue pursuing my MBA (Master of Business Administration) in the near future. My point is, as long as you don’t give up, your mistake could possibly be a blessing in disguise.

I hope this article can benefit my young readers and also the parents by changing their perspectives on how they view a successful individual. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. Some of the most successful businessmen did not even complete their college. Provided that you have the right attitudes, you really shouldn’t worry too much about your future.

 

Best regards,

Abel

 

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