Confessions of an entrepreneur (Part 2)

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According to Wikipedia: Work life balance is a lifestyle concept including proper prioritizing between ‘work’ (career and ambition) and ‘lifestyle’ (health, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation). This is related to the idea of lifestyle choice. The term was first coined sometime during the mid-1800s, and I believe it does not require much elaboration on my part as to what it refers to.

Now before I continue, let me just say that I am not against anyone striving for a healthy work life balance. In fact, I think it is extremely important for us to strike a balance between the two. After all, it is common sense that when one person devotes too much time, energy and/or resources to either end of the spectrum, one will find oneself consumed to the brink. I for one, can speak from personal experience. That said, while it is important to find that ever-changing balance, it is equally important to be able to prioritise properly. Success does not occur with a quantifiable balance.

The first few years (2009 till approximately 2014) of 9tro saw me devote my entirety towards conceptualising, developing and building up the brand from ground up. My two year relationship with my then-girlfriend faltered into the abyss; my closest friends became acquaintances I met a few times a year because I kept saying “sorry guys, too busy to hang out”; and my personal life morphed into my work life, culminated into an 18 to 20 hours work day, seven days a week.

On one side of the argument, you can say that I was too engrossed and blinded by ambition and desire to do well. Sacrificing away many things that should be dearly treasured, and this included my health! Sleeping on the office sofa for weeks at a time and eating fast food twice daily became a norm. The only exercise I managed to squeeze out was literally the one sit-up I did every day when I woke up. Occasionally, some of the more dedicated team members will stay overnight in the office as well, sometimes for as long as a week! I remember giving up my spot on the sofa for them, sleeping on the concrete floor (layered with the cheapest and thinnest carpet our contractor could find), only to wake up from such intense back pains I had to be carried up the next day.

Every waking moment of my life revolved around 9tro, but it doesn’t end whenever I had the chance to sleep. The worst recurring nightmare I had, had to be the one where the team lined up in front of my desk throwing their resignation letters in my face, before going to the back of the queue and repeating the process again.

On the other side of the argument will be that I was extremely focused and devoted towards building the team, the brand and the company. Aside from my two and a half year stint in the Army, never had I worked so hard to achieve a goal. I gained a dual-edged-sword reputation for sending out and replying emails and messages 24/7 from my Blackberry, appreciated by some but equally hated by others. I was highly motivated, often telling people about the nuclear power plant I have within and that “sleep was for the dead and dying.” Phrases and words such as “it cannot be done” or “no” were struck out of my dictionary, believing whole heartedly that everything can be achieved with hard work and sacrifice, and that if others can, so can I.

On more than one occasion, this extreme lifestyle proved to be as beneficial as it was detrimental. Good days saw a significant boost in both morale and spirits, but bad days saw me crash out for days. There is no perfect formula, because every single one of us is different and unique in our own way, with different levels of tolerance. However, it is precisely these differences that separates failure from success, mediocre from average, and survival from obliteration.

After six and a half years since the creation of 9tro, I am still a firm believer that every step towards success requires total focus, perseverance, vision and sacrifice. Take all the off-days you want or need, but in my personal opinion, the very moment your work life balance finds equilibrium, you will find that uphill gradient toward success a lot harder to climb.

Some say we (9tro) have attained a certain amount of success. I disagree, because the satisfying sense of being contended will result in stagnation. Resting on laurels must be omitted from the mindset of anyone hoping to achieve anything. It seems to me that many people remain stuck in a cycle, not because they do not know how to improve and expand, but simply because they refuse to step out of their comfort zones.

Challenge yourself as much as you can, because your competitors and enemies alike will. Know when to give up and cut losses, but also identify when not to give up and persevere onwards!

“休息,是為了走更遠的路” (resting, allows one for a further journey ahead.)
“失敗是成功最大的朋友,放棄是成功最大的敵人” (failure is the greatest friend to success, giving up is the greatest enemy to success.)

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” Newt Gingrich

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