If you walk in with fear and anger, you’ll find fear and anger. Go into situations with what you want to find there. . . . When you worry, you’re holding pictures in your mind that you want less of. . . . What you focus upon, you become. What you focus on comes to you. So hold in your mind what you want more of.
― John-Roger Hinkins
I took a 10 days trip to Taiwan.
A personal retreat.
To hit the reset button and to start 2017 right.
It was also a good chance to take time off and do some thinking. About the company, about life, about my wife and about me.
I finished reading Shoe Dog, a memoir by the founder of NIKE and how it got started. I chanced upon the book after my colleague Iccha, who is also an avid reader, brought it to work one day.
There were many things I could relate to from the book, from Phil’s (founder) shoe sourcing adventure, mishaps, ever growing problems, love and passion for sport and family.
- Grow or die
- Your team makes or breaks the company
- We get more problems as we grow, not less
- Life, is about more than just money
- Luck matters.
If you haven’t you totally should get it.
Back to 2016, what a year. The company grew, made more money, raised more money. It also operated at higher cost, had more operating problems. We moved offices, started paying ourselves a little more decently and had a bigger team. I moved to a new place and thankfully am about to be a father as well.
All these happened in less than 10 months and while we closing last quarter, I realized I was burning out. I grew tired, everything looked bleak, profitability seems further away. I had doubts about the company. The founders made plans, we discussed about layoffs, paycut, All sorts of worst case scenario played out in my mind. We weren’t sure if we were in it till the end.
It was until the trip away that I managed to take a step back to realize what I was thinking. This article on a Medium pretty much sums up what I was thinking:
1. In life, your only opponent is yourself.
I treated everything like it was zero-sum when there was so much else to gain.
That’s the chess mindset. And it holds you back.
In Tetris, you’re only playing against time and the never-ending flow of pieces from top to bottom. The mindset is internally focused — you are challenging yourself to correctly manipulate a random stream of inputs into an orderly configuration. There’s no final boss. No blame to assign.
The real game of life is completely internal. There really are no big, bad enemies who exist to make you suffer. There is no absolute right or wrong move that a certain opponent can punish.
I realized it was internal, it was fear. Fear has been rearing his ugly head. Fear got me thinking that we will run out of money and close. Fear got me think about quitting, even though we still had a product people were paying for.
This is what we learnt. Tests started with a maximum score of 100 and points were deducted for every wrong answer. If tests started at zero and awarded points for every correct answer, we would be encouraged to continue doing better. Instead, we learn to fear mistakes and point them out in others.
Startups start at zero and earn points along the way. We expand our strengths instead of minimize our weaknesses. There is no maximum score. Steady progress, not expected outcome, is the measuring stick.
via A manager’s FAQ
We started with almost nothing and we’ve created a product that is shipping by the thousands every month. Fear is a good motivator, and it should feel like a driving force but I’ve let fear stopped me from moving forward.
Steady progress, is what I should be doing. Sure, BG may have to course-correct along the way, but we should always be moving with a purpose. I should always be moving with the purpose, and that purpose is to build and create value, whatever it may be, and it should be an enjoyable process that makes me feel alive.
“When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is—you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman. Maybe it will grow on me. THERE”
― Phil Knight,
Also counting our blessings that we are better than where we are a year ago financially but there’s still a lot more to be done.
People makes the company, not the other way around.
When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” – Sir Ray Avery
The average age people live up to is 82 years old, and even that is not guaranteed.
Amidst all the media coverage, not all is bright and rosey behind the scene. (Still appreciate the support from everyone though!)
Spent the week in the KL office and realized there is still so much work needed to get business off the ground (lack of revenue, market exposure, hiring fit, managing people out, growth, you name it).
So while I was waiting for the flight back to SG, I fired up Pocket (an app for saving articles offline for later reading) and found a god-sent article buried deep in the list of articles that I’ve saved. Extract and link below.
TLDR: Take away the spotlight, tune out the noise and get back to the grind.
“while building and iterating on Justin.tv (long before launching Socialcam), there were many times I came to the brink of packing it up and moving on from the company that bears my name. Shameful? Perhaps, but I know the same thoughts have occurred at times to my co-founders, who are still with the company to this day.
The reasons? Take your pick: we need more traction, we need hockey-stick growth, we need more revenue, we need more buzz, we argue about management issues, we have diverging interests. In the past five years I have personally experienced all the startup failure cliches that exist.
When startups commit suicide, often the root problem can be traced back to a lack of product traction — it’s rare to find people willingly quitting companies with exploding metrics. But one thing that many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that patience and iteration are critical in achieving product market fit. Overnight successes might happen fast, but they never actually happen overnight.
Persistence isn’t just key — it is everything. Getting in the ring is hard, but staying in the ring is even harder, especially when you feel beaten down, tired and alone.
I can’t promise you will succeed if you stick with your startup. What I can promise is that if you give up, you won’t possibly succeed.”
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya AngelouBehind every successful story is a group of people working hard towards a common goal. Thank you all everyone.Whats installed for a startup that has been funded? The clock is ticking for sure. but as i make a case of how much this company is worth and needs to grow, I need to go out and hire some folks right now.The BoxGreen team is hiring and we’re obsessed about building a great family. Got talent? Apply here. 😃
It has always been a pleasure speaking to grab/uber drivers. They are generally optimistic, happy and usually come from interesting backgrounds (salesmen, entrepreneurs, part timers etc). A reminder of how technology has changed our lives.
A huge part of satisfaction and happiness in running a business is the ability to bring people from all walks of life together. People who are better, smarter and more capable than the founders. The next part is believing and trusting that they will get the job done in the most awesome manner and seeing that vision being realised.
The company is but a shell of the ideals and dreams of the founders, which may or may not weather the tides of the business world. But the friendships forged during the journey will last a lifetime and be part of an everlasting memory.
I’m thankful we have rockstar interns and capable people joining us in such a short time and I am fortunate to be working along side with each and everyone of them. Go Nuts Squirrels!
*2 mins read*
It’s official! It has been 6 months since I left my job to focus on a business venture not new to many called BoxGreen.
The truth is, after 6 months of doing this, I’ve realised it has been a wakeup call for me to start finding my passion back again.
I recently met a friend who has left the bank and she mentioned it felt like she lost part of herself in the 3 years which she was working. She is currently taking a break to discover herself back again. I can’t help but to agree with her.
The past 6 months was more of a rehabilitation/discovery process of myself. In the past, I’ve been told to wake up, go to work, come back home, sleep, rinse and repeat. I have given up on my interests, hobbies, doing things that I used to love doing in our past. With the sudden amount of free time after leaving my job, I became quite lost for a period of time because I don’t really know what I am going to do with my life! Work has become part of my life and now it feels like I’m missing on something. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. What I know is I don’t want to be trading my hours for dollars, at least the concept of automating businesses so I have more time to focus on the more important things in life, my wife and my family was something I thought makes sense.
The process of building BoxGreen is definitely a character building exercise. But in the midst I’ve also realised what matters more to me is having the time to do whatever I want, whenever I want.
Some business takeaways.
1. If you wanna go fast, go alone, if you wanna go far, go together.
2. It’s not a 9-5 job. The time spent does not determined your results. Automation is the smarter way of doing things. Smart business owners create a process which allows them to work on more opportunities.
3. It’s not all about the end goal but the process.
4. I wrestle with fear on a daily basis and that is what keeps me alive and opens the doors to more opportunities.
5. There’s a reason why many opportunities happen to be found in the road less travelled.
*2 mins read*
Today is the eve of the lunar new year, which marks the last day of the year in the chinese calendar. I thought it would be appropriate to share some thoughts on the last day of the year.
I have been on this journey of starting my company for almost 6 months now. And more often than not, I felt like giving up almost every alternate days and starting a company is not easy.
Quoting Andreessen Horowitz in his book The hard thing about hard things
What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology
There are times when I felt like I have been working in overdrive for an extended period of time. As compared to working in 9-5 job, I started asking why did I gave it all up. The idea of going back to a day job sure sounds tempting as hell.
As of now, I’ve learnt to pace myself better, I realized I can never finish doing everything. I have to focus. So I set off to complete only 3 major tasks each day. Having a to-do list also helped tremendously.
Last but not least, this is more of a marathon than a sprint. I was too fixated on the result that I lost track of why I started this in the first place. This led to a tunnelled vision of working mindlessly, not remember the bigger picture of helping people find healthier snacks easily
To quote an excerpt from AH’s blog,
A Final Word of Advice—Don’t Punk Out and Don’t Quit
As CEO, there will be many times when you feel like quitting. I have seen CEOs try to cope with the stress by drinking heavily, checking out, and even quitting. In each case, the CEO has a marvelous rationalization why it was OK for him to punk out or quit, but none them will ever be great CEOs. Great CEOs face the pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweat, and what my friend the great Alfred Chuang (legendary founder and CEO of BEA Systems) calls “the torture.” Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say: “I didn’t quit.”
All that’s been said, the journey is still a fruitful and humbling experience. Every day is different. So here’s wishing everyone a happy lunar new year and a prosperous year of the goat ahead! Mehhhhh~!