Ain’t no mountain high enough.

Work has always been on the forefront since I left tertiary. Work to live or live to work, I no longer could tell the difference. Coming from Asia where only hard work pays, self-development is key to compete with the ocean of talents out there, not to mention global. I could still remember the debate I had with my mom on which profession I should sign up for. She advised: “If you pick something common, you’ll end up competing with the mass. If you pick a specialised field, the pool would be smaller. Demand and supply.” – I went for something common.

In case you haven’t heard, doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers are highly sought professions in Asia mainly because they are specialised fields that possess superpower in commanding higher salary. In fact, these were the professions that echoed throughout my childhood years. I was exposed to “what we should be” instead of “what we can be“. Limited to professions that have been proven success over the last generation, expressing my passion towards being an artist would be a waste of time. By definition, success in this context means ability to earn money. Fast. Passion, on the other hand is a luxury that doesn’t necessarily pays bills.

With the most common profession, the pressure is always there to strive for the best. Just as benchmarking within local boundary is always insufficient to achieve global exposures.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars – Les Brown

Born and grew up in an emerging country dominated by working class, the exposures received during childhood years were limited. For those who’re tight on resources, achievement lies in the hand of those who seek out and work hard for it.

I could sit there feeling envious of those who’ve been given resources to excel, or I could earn through the hard way. Nothing to lose, I signed up for a local entrepreneur nationwide competition back in 2008. Everyone laughed thinking it was a naive bet. Because it sounded foolish for someone inexperienced as me to participate and potentially make a fool out of myself on national TV. I thought if I could get through this, at least I’d know where I stand. I went for it, qualified, and lasted until the end of season. No one took notice of me until I got into Top 3. I did it as a personal challenge instead of fame. I was in it to win it. Regardless of victory, it was once in a lifetime experience that changed my professional life forever.

An immigrant in the UK today, it was neither planned nor given. Back home, race discrimination is prominent and people just live with it. It doesn’t matter how well you do, opportunity is given to the major race unless you’re the crème de la crème within the minor race. There is a quota system for each race. My brother scored a string of A’s only to be offered a place at mediocre public university with course options that guaranteed rubbish future or he knew nothing about. He sought for private option after and earned himself a well deserved scholarship. Politicians who were responsible talked highly on the local education system but sent their children abroad – biggest hypocrite of all time! I’ve given up since school days. I wanted to flee but my wings were tied down by financial constraint. I’m not as clever either. Feeling like a second class citizen, there is clearly no difference no matter where I choose to venture. I worked hard, took risks on challenging roles and part-time studies to secure extended professional responsibilities. From one country to another, constantly pushing my limit, earned credibility the hard way and self-sponsored my way to the UK. There was no discussion on which path I’ve decided, only announcement to family once opportunity was granted – everyone was surprised.

I constantly wonder what would I’ve become if I was given more support? Would I excel even further than today? Feeling envious towards others is inevitable. Maybe they worked hard too. Looking at what I don’t have is common but it urges me to go after the impossibles. Thankfully, it has been an interesting journey so far. A blessing in disguise, what is the meaning of life when there is no challenges to conquer?

Photo by Peter Conlan

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