I decided to retire from the corporate world at 29.

At the age of 29, I was very well paid for a Human Resources (HR) professional and had an extremely stable job with a world class employer. My colleagues were nice, work environment was awesome and the job was definitely comfortable. The key here, COMFORTABLE. Every time that feeling creeps in, I start getting worried. I wonder if I’m learning enough? Am I pushing my limits sufficiently to be the best version I can be? Is this really what I should be doing at the early stage of my career to bring about the most impact? Even though it means that I’m getting the hang of things and becoming better at what I do, it somewhat worries me.

As I was approaching age 30, I started having some sort of a quarter/mid-life crisis. I kept questioning myself on what have I achieved thus far. I was blessed to be awarded the National HR Scholarship, be recognized by HRD Magazine as one of Asia’s HR Rising Stars in 2016 and did many roles within HR while helping my organizations make different impacts in various areas even though I wasn’t in the market for as long as most seasoned veterans. But are these really what I was looking for? Are the superficial stuff important enough to define me or am I pursuing an impact beyond that?

When I started digging deeper, what I really wanted to do was to make a real difference to my profession and leave a legacy by the time I kick the bucket. This set me thinking, can I really attain this dream if I stayed on in the corporate world? Is this the only way to pursue my career for the next 30 years? What are the alternatives that I could consider?

I’m always a person who believes in building options so I started mapping out the possibilities. This struck me that being the corporate world, regardless if I was in a MNC, regional role, local company or whatever it is, I’ll still be limiting the impact I can make to one organization. In addition, I had to spend time and energy climbing the corporate ladder first before being able to truly influence and make a substantial impact. Is that really where I want to channel my energy towards? No. This led me to realize that in fact, entrepreneurship might be a good alternative given my goals and experimenting personality. Here’s why:

  • Instead of wasting my energy trying to climb the corporate ladder, I can now focus solely on the kind of work I want to do and those that I believe will deliver the most impact.
  • I will be able to widen my outreach to more people and organizations since I’m not restricted to one company.
  • I could get my hands on a variety of work which helps to speed up my learning curve and strengthens my ability in a shorter time frame to add value to the profession.

I took great pride in upholding the values and spirit as a HR professional and did not want to compromise on the integrity or violate any conflict of interest policy so I realized that there was no way I could do this part-time. On a part-time basis, I could only meet up with people, establish relationship and that’s pretty much it. Therefore, after much deliberation, I felt that the best decision for me was to take the plunge and do what I believe in on a full-time basis. That is the only way to show my commitment and help realize the full potential of what I set out to do. That said, the lead up was still months of preparation and it was definitely not easy. What gave me the confidence to do so? 4 important things – mentorship, community, family and passion.

1) Mentorship. I was fortunate to have a couple of mentors who stood by me throughout this time. They had different strengths and areas of focus which equipped me with a wide array of skillsets that I would not have developed if I did not work closely with them. Needless to say, if I did not meet them, I would probably not be where I am today having the competency to run independently with confidence. I’m truly grateful because I never thought that strangers would lend me a helping hand and more so, to such a great extent. We are now mentors, friends and even partners in crime trying to grow the profession together.

2) Community. I always tell others that I’m running my gig platform solo but not alone. Why so? Because I have a strong and huge HR community behind me at all times! It all started with me contributing selflessly just wanting to share my thoughts and adding value to others. At that point, the idea of being an entrepreneur has yet to be seeded in my mind but little did I know that what I did without an agenda came back to help me when I needed it most. My contributions made me a recognizable figure in the community and with that, helped gained the trust and support from other like-minded professionals. When heading out on a tough journey, it always gives you additional security knowing that you have a strong support network that you can rely on if you need them.

3) Family support. As a married man, it’s important to consider my family’s needs before myself. Will I be putting extra pressure on my wife if I potentially live with no income for the next 6 months? Will I be causing my family any sort of inconvenience or insecurity? I’m so thankful that I had the fullest support from every single member of my family and that took away the unnecessary pressure to then help me focus on what’s important. The buy-in and trust you establish is an essential piece before going full steam. Otherwise, distractions will surface along the way and I’m sure it will derail you pretty quickly.

4) Passion. Finally, it’s never easy to start your own business, let alone doing it as a solopreneur. Having a strong belief and passion is key because that’s what keeps in awake positively at night and that’s what gets me pumped up even at the toughest moments. With a strong passion, I’m fully locked in and know exactly what I need to do and how can I re-focus when I get a little lost at times. If you wonder how I found this passion, I honestly don’t know. It may be by chance or because of the experiences I had. Regardless of how the passion grew, it is something that I firmly believe in and I’m sure there are things that can excite you and draw you towards it in one way or another. Follow your heart and you will definitely find it!

I can be sure that the journey ahead will be filled with plenty of challenges but I’ll be blessed when that happens because I know that I’m living my life to the fullest and for a meaningful cause. My message to you out there is this, follow your heart and do not be blinded by the expectations of others. The norms are there to create a safety net, but who says that it is always the best way? The tested and proven route may work for others but does not necessarily mean it works best for you. There are always ways to do things differently and more effectively if you are just brave enough to take the first step out of your comfort zone. Believe in yourself because self-trust leads to self-confidence.

With that, I wish you all the best in finding your passion and grow your career and life in the most fulfilling way possible.

Cheers!

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