3 min read

The Privilege of a Lifetime is to Be Yourself

This is the note that I write for myself and read it whenever times are tough and difficult.
The Privilege of a Lifetime is to Be Yourself
The entrance of the Philosophical Path in Kyoto and taken in 29 April 2023 during a holiday in Kyoto, Japan. 

The time has finally come. It is the time to explore, create and build. This is not the best of times, as the era of cheap money is over in an inflationary and high-interest business environment. This is not the worst of times because the best companies are built at a time when the economy is in its most dismal state. Being outside of the startup world for a decade, I am finding my way back in and taking nothing for granted.

Hopefully, the years of preparation over the course of the past 12 years with corporate experience will allow me to navigate better. It is the chance to be a beginner and look at everything with a fresh pair of lenses untainted by what people deem as conventional wisdom. This is the comeback story which I have told myself to write once the years of wilderness in the corporate world are over. It is the fight that I have been relishing for the longest time. All those days of impatience and pondering when I can get back into the arena are finally over.

I have learned and walked through the struggle and often aspired to be part of the Inner Ring. To overcome the struggle is to understand why you want to do this in the first place. Being an entrepreneur is never going to be easy and there will be good and bad days. There is no certainty that I will be successful. That probability is a one-in-a-million chance hence the failure rate is extremely high. I have to accept that the odds of success are as high as anyone else in the field. As for the inner ring, you have to realize that it's a never-ending cycle. The allure of joining an "Inner Ring" of exclusive, seemingly important people often fades quickly, revealing that these new connections are no more fulfilling than your old ones. This is because the desire to be "in" is a fleeting pleasure, and once the novelty wears off, you'll find yourself seeking another exclusive circle, perpetuating a cycle of exclusion. The irony is that once you're in, you too will make it difficult for newcomers to join, just as it was made difficult for you. Unlike wholesome groups formed around common goals or interests, these Inner Rings thrive on exclusion; it's their very essence. However, if you focus on the quality of your work rather than the allure of exclusivity, you'll naturally find yourself in a circle that truly matters—one based on skill and genuine respect, rather than superficial social hierarchies. This authentic circle won't be the source of scandals or crises, but it will fulfil the true purpose of your profession and earn you lasting respect.

There will be tradeoffs and things that I will not compromise. My family and their needs remain to be the top priority. To walk the path without breaking the law is the next thing that I do not compromise. Last but the least, the quality time I would like to have with friends whom I value is not a tradeoff I would give away. I learned to accept that there is no perfect state to start with. You go to war with the army you have and not the army you want to have.

The key is to be who you are and not who others think you are. We often hear about the importance of being unique and authentic. The advice to "be yourself" is almost a cliché, but what's often left unsaid is how much effort it takes to maintain that uniqueness in a world that constantly tries to make you conform. Don't underestimate the energy required to stand apart. While it's tempting to believe the fairy-tale notion that being yourself magically erases all difficulties, the reality is different. Authenticity comes with its own set of challenges, but it's a price worth paying. Continual effort is required to preserve your individuality, but the rewards—being true to who you are—are invaluable.

What I've come to understand is this: It's the journey, not the destination, that should be your true objective, and it's from that journey that your ideal life will emerge. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll achieve fame or financial success. Your ultimate dream might be entirely about living a life rich in happiness, free of regret, and guided by a sense of integrity. I've realized that while money can offer options, it can't make up for a life half-lived or bring you inner tranquillity. The real purpose of life is to evolve into the person you were meant to be, continually growing and rediscovering yourself.

I have often told myself over the past decade that my eventual destiny is to be an entrepreneur, a founder and a wartime CEO because I live for the purpose of making a difference and not standing by the sidelines. It is in that perspective that I am getting back into the arena and fighting the battles that will give me the final ride of a lifetime. Now the hard part.