Browsing through my 30 Before 30 list, I won't deny that I have been incredibly fortunate to have had all these wonderful experiences. Some may say I'm just lucky or that I'm rich to be able to do all these. No I'm not rich, and yes luck played a part, but luck didn't just fall from the sky. I've also put in a lot of hard work and seized many opportunities along the way to build up these experiences and to get to where I am today. Most importantly, I didn't squander my 'luck'.
As the saying goes, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" - Seneca. I value working hard to create your own luck and I don't believe in sheer dumb luck (unless I win a lottery one day).
Well, this was kinda like winning a lottery?
Before I go down my 'lucky list', here's a bit on my background to give some context:
1. I was lucky to graduate debt fee
I was lucky to have parents that prioritized our education because they strongly believed that education is the stepping stone to success. I was also lucky to have a twin brother who gave me the 'sibling rivalry' motivation to do well in school. Luck aside, the merit-based education system in Malaysia rewards hard work. My good grades in primary school gave me to 'entrance ticket' to one of the best public high schools in the state. I continued working hard to get good grades in high school, won several athletics competitions, and was actively involved in extra-curricular activities. The reward of my hard work was a 100% merit scholarship for 4-years of undergraduate studies in Malaysia.
Yes, I was lucky to have parents who cared about and supported my education, but at the same time, I wouldn't have gotten these scholarships and graduated debt free if I hadn't put in the hard work.
Giving credits to our parents for our achievements (with a newspaper front page appearance). =P
2. I was lucky to have the opportunity to study abroad
To be honest, my ultimate goal of doing well in high school was to get a scholarship to study abroad. Unfortunately, that didn't work out (thanks to the race-based preferential policies). I'm not going to talk politics here but if you want to complain about inequality, reading about Malaysia's policy may make you feel better. Anyway, one of the advantages of being a minority is that I learned to make the best of what I have despite the disadvantaged circumstances - I gladly accepted the scholarship to complete my undergraduate studies locally for free.
Just as I thought my hope of studying abroad was bleak, I received a full ride exchange scholarship to study in the US for a year. The scholarship covered pretty much everything – tuition, room & board, international round-trip flight, health insurance, book allowance, and a monthly stipend of $400. Looking back, it was truly a blessing in disguise.
Yes, I was indeed lucky to be one of the seven scholars from Malaysia to receive this scholarship, but my dream of studying abroad would have remained just a dream if I didn't take the effort to submit the application and build up a strong resume to support my application.
When one door closes, another opens. The door of opportunity is wide open for those who are prepared. Work hard and look out for opportunities around you and you too can be 'lucky', no matter how you started out.
3. I'm lucky to have the opportunity to travel
In 2002, my parents brought us to Hong Kong as a reward for doing well in the national exams, and I caught the travel bug ever since. Yes, I was lucky for all the PaMa-funded trips while I was in school. Since I started working, I've been fully responsible of this hobby. I'm able to afford traveling because I prioritize my spending on 'experiences' that mattered to me, and I don't spend a lot on other 'stuffs'. As the saying goes, "You can have anything you want, you just can't have everything you want". I also took the effort to seek alternative ways to fund my 'expensive' hobby:
Yes, I know I'm incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunities to travel to different parts of the world, but I've also worked hard to make all these possible by prioritizing saving and seizing every opportunity that came by.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
4. I was lucky to transfer with my job
I mentioned before in a previous post that apart from "lucky", I couldn't think of a better word to describe my entire job transfer/relocation process. Yes, it may sound like I was lucky to be working on the 'right' project, with the 'right' people, at the 'right' time. The missing piece of this 'perfect' story was that I've been working on this project and this team for 4 years, and have worked hard to earn the trust and support from my superiors, which helped open this door of opportunity for me.
Yes, I'm absolutely grateful for the 'luck' to work with this team for the first 4 years of my career, and I worked hard to ensure that I made the most out of this learning experience, and not waste my 'luck'.
Work hard and always do your best even when the reward is not apparent. You may not notice but people will remember and recognize your good work.
5. I am lucky to have a stable job
I was lucky to grow up in an environment where most parents encourage their kids to study hard, get good grades, and preferably major in medicine, law, engineering, or accounting. That's because they know you are pretty much guaranteed a job (and decent pay) with a qualification in these fields. They definitely got that right, and I'm so glad they never said "follow your passion", especially when I didn't even know what my passion was. I was also lucky to be able to follow my brother's footsteps to major in accounting and started my career in the same company. I never thought I would stay in this job as long as I have been, but I guess this job turned out fitting me well since I like spreadsheets. I'd be lying if I said this job is my passion, but at least I'm not hating this job, yet.
Luck aside, I wouldn't have gotten to where I am today if I didn't have a good GPA and resume to get my foot in the door, and continuously put in the hard work (and long hours). I even spent almost a year staying up past midnight to study after a full day of work, to get my US CPA qualification. I don't disagree that work can suck some days, but I'm still thankful to have a stable and fairly well paying job.
One of my subordinates asked me - how can we be happy with this job when we are expected to work all these crazy hours (without overtime pay), and the bosses don't seem to appreciate it. Most importantly, he/she doesn't feel fairly compensated. Sounds like typical entitled spoiled millennial? I paused for awhile and said "I've got an answer for how to be happy with your job, and the answer is simple, only one word - Gratitude". He/she may not fully agree with my answer but it's true. At the end of the day, your happiness depends on your perspective and I've chosen to focus on the positives.
Hard work doesn't guarantee stable job or good money, but hard work puts your in a position to take advantage of opportunities and make the best out of it.
Regardless of where you come from and what your background is, you too can create your own luck by putting in the hard work and setting yourself up to take advantage of opportunities as they come by.
I'll wrap up this post with this 'life manifesto' I included in my scholarship application 10 years ago:
I am who I am;
Learning to be a better person in life;
because there is never an end in learning.
Striving to improve;
because everyday is an opportunity to make things better.
Pushing the limits to bring out the best in me;
because I believe the sky’s the limit.
Learn & explore as much as possible in life;
because life is meant to be an adventure filled with new experiences.
Life doesn’t hold tryouts;
I may be disappointed if I fail but I’m doomed if I don’t try.
Always have a goal to aim for;
make it achievable yet challenging keep it fresh and varied,
and most importantly enjoy every moment of it!
Live life, love life! =)