Where I stood between Comfort and Challenges

Growing up, I never had much to worry about.

My parents took great care of both my sister and me. While my Dad made sure that we were brought up in a comfortable environment, Mom took care of our daily needs and all the household chores. We got through university education without having to hold part-time jobs or restitute our school fees to our parents when we started working.

Everything was planned out with us in mind. When Dad bought a new property in 2009, he built it with ample space for both of our future families and us. That is my Dad – a far-sighted and extremely responsible father. He wanted us to be secure and well-housed by hedging us from the possibility of surging property prices in Singapore.

Being in a sheltered family, my ability to handle challenges was naturally low. But life throws curveballs so one learns to dodge or get stronger taking the blows. I joined an organization that forced me out of my sheltered world into one that would challenge me from every front.

While pursuing a Bachelor in Life Sciences, I interned at a financial institution that provides personalized financial advice, which paved the way for my career in the next decade. When I broached the subject of joining the financial industry full-time with my family, my first challenge came in the form of rejection from my Mom.

“Boy, three years of study in life sciences and you want to switch to Finance? You have no background in Finance. I thought you wanted to be a scientist? A vet? How much are they paying you? Will you have CPF?”

“I think this company has a good environment and culture. I’ll be building a professional practice! Err… no basic salary…and no CPF,” I answered sheepishly.

You can figure out the rest of the conversation. But it was my first big step into adult decision-making, and it’s been 10 years since the decision was made.

Was it easy? Hardly.

I had zero knowledge about investments and planning for my clients’ finances. The term ‘inflation’ was alien to me. I didn’t know that putting money in the bank long term was (and still is) as good as a guaranteed loss!

But I took a leap of faith, joined the company and learnt to embrace challenges. I realised that challenges are meant to shape and develop my character – to propel me further!

Six months into my career, I rose quickly to become one of the top few consultants. I was chosen as a young leader and placed as a team leader with two seniors in my team.

I was driven and full of energy, scheduling 25-30 client meetings a week with a strong desire to succeed and serve my clients well.

I was constantly thinking of taking my business to greater heights. Wasn’t this what entrepreneurship is all about?

While my heart was with my clients, I neglected my role as a leader for my team. Their performance was not on my ‘priority list’. It wasn’t long before I was summoned to my boss’s room. As I approached his office, a thousand and one thoughts swirled in my head. I was doing well and had progressed quickly. What could be the problem?

Now, my boss had always practised an ‘Open Door Policy’.

When I took my seat in the office, his secretary closed the door.

A shut door meant trouble.

He laid our organisation’s business plan on the table, and flipped to the page titled ‘Vision’, and instructed me to read it out loud.

1. Profit for the Organisation

2. Contribution to the Society

3. Continuous Growth for the People,

I replied.

He probed further, “so what have you done so far?”

After a brief pause, I replied: “Profit for the Organisation.”

“Daniel, if your objective is merely to make money, this organisation is not for you. We do not want a capitalist in our company. You can look for other places to make your money. Think about it and come back to me on your decision in 2 days. You can leave the room now.”

I was utterly STUNNED. Wasn’t this a financial company? Wasn’t it all about the revenue? I thought I was doing so well! My morale CRASHED, I couldn’t comprehend this setback.

I went home dejected and confided in my dad.

Dad quietly said, “Boy, you have found a good boss.”

My perspective changed, and I soldiered on bearing in mind the hard lesson that I’d learnt.

Challenges have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. In 2011, my boss decided that our unit would separate from our previous company and start Unicorn Financial Solutions to bring enhanced financial solutions to our clients. But this meant that I would have to give up all the business profits I had built and move on with nothing.

I was due to be married in February the following year and embark on the next chapter of my life. Leaving the previous company would be a tough decision to make. As the Chinese saying goes: ‘饮水思源’, (to think of the source of the water when you drink it; to be grateful for blessings).  I followed my mentor in a greater pursuit of providing even better services for our clients.

That decision proved more challenging than I thought.  Coupled with no income and existing financial commitments, I wasn’t equipped to handle the situation. What added on to the mental stress was the good news of my wife’s pregnancy one month into our marriage!

Having the responsibility of an additional mouth to feed in the family while building my practice from scratch again was really tough.

Clients I met asked if I was well as I looked stressed. I didn’t give up and soon progressed to being one of the few ‘Fee Based Planners’ in Singapore. I currently relish my role as a Business Unit Leader, strengthening the team with like-minded Business Partners, and enjoying a fulfilling career.

In retrospect, this challenge had made me stronger in facing life’s adversities!

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit” – Napoleon Hill. 

I learned never to shy away from challenges as they come packaged as a bitter pill that heals. It was indeed ‘苦尽甘来(sweetness coming after the bitterness).

We can perceive challenge as a bullet that can either hurt or kill us, or we can take it as a firing pin that will propel us further in our character development and in our lives.

Does that mean there are no problems in my life?

Of course not! I am human, after all. But I’m able to accept them more readily, because I know that God must have planned them for me to grow, so as to be able to handle bigger challenges in the future.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Author: Daniel Wong

Edited by: Jillian Wong & Sophia Tan