Today is a very special day, a day that I will start by telling you about my relationship with my father.
I was never the model son growing up, far from that actually. I refused to study and I was so rebellious you'd wonder if I was dropped on my head while I was a baby. I even recall times where I would actually pretend to be sick just to get away from tuition classes so it was no surprise that out of 12 subjects or so in school I would fail half of them all the way up to Form 1.
My parents tried very hard to motivate me to study using both carrot and stick approaches. They tried to tell me that they would reward me if I got good results, but it didn't work. Then they tried to tell me that they would spank me and ban me from watching TV and playing computer games but again it didn't work. I would just sneak to play computer games when they're not around.
Then just right after Form 1 my parents decided that they have had enough of putting me in a co-ed school. They thought that maybe I was getting distracted with all the girls there especially with all the overflowing hormones at that point in time. I was sent to a boy school in Penang called St. Xavier's where they streamed classes. That means they put you in class based on how good your results before were.
Out of 8 classes, 1 being the best and 8 being the worst, I expected to be put in 1 but to my surprise I was put in 5. That was the day I realized that I was quite a moron after all! So for the first time in my life I started studying and my grades slowly improved. From being ranked 168 out of 280 in the form I went to 120, 96 , 66, 4 and eventually 1 (before quickly falling back to 4 and 5 again).
My father was proud to see my grades improve but he wasn't the kind to show it.
He told me "Son, don't think you're so smart, there are a lot of people out there smarter than you and you'll know it sooner or later".
And he was right. I went to college to do my A-Levels and realized that there were a lot of people there smarter than me. Then I went to do my Economics degree at UCL in London and heck compared to the brilliant minds there, I was a total idiot.
Then came to the next part of my life... what I was going to do once I graduated. I always thought that I was going to end up in an investment bank simply because it was a job that paid really well. So much that I made it a point to do internships at a couple of foreign investment banks during my summer holidays.
All that changed however one summer during my internship with Deutsche Bank. I got together with some friends and worked on a little fun non-profit project to help students find tuition teachers. I came across the realization that I enjoyed the adrenaline of running a web startup and around the same time I started blogging too leading to a growing sense of passion for the blogging community.
Just before I graduated I told my father that I didn't want to work at a bank. Instead I wanted to start an internet business and expecting him to ask me to work first to gain some experience, he instead said "Okay son, lets talk about this when you get back from London".
I got back to Malaysia on the summer of June 06 and along with Ming I started working on a business plan for a web startup that was to be called Nuffnang. After I presented the business plan and financial models of Nuffnang to my dad, he made me make a decision
"Okay I was going to give you this sum of money to do your Masters but you decide what you want to do. If you want to take it to start a business instead then go ahead. Either ways I think you will learn something and become a better person".
We got to working and for someone who was new to running businesses, I made a lot of mistakes and struggled to learn. Then when Nuffnang officially launched in February 2007, the real stress started.
There was pressure to bring in sales because a company without sales is a ticking time bomb and it didn't help that both Ming and I didn't know anyone in the advertising industry neither did any of our family members so we resorted to cold calling and begging for meetings.
But we got really lucky and as people (both clients and bloggers) put their faith in us, Nuffnang grew. But a growing company comes with its own fair share of stress and days went by where I never got much sleep.My father though was always there for me being supportive all the way. Always guiding me teaching me how to deal with the stress and how to solve problems I faced. I know there were even times when my own problems troubled my father as much as it troubled me.
At the same time, my father always tried to manage my expectations. Always afraid that I might get disappointed, he constantly reminded me
"Son... this is your first business and it may not work out. Most people don't get it right the first time round so if you don't, then don't be disheartened okay?"
It really took us both by surprise how Nuffnang grew to where it is today and how it is still growing so rapidly. One day not too long ago, my father for the first time in my life said to me
"Son... I am very proud of you".
To a son who has had a rocky start in life and who was a little devil to raise.... those were the best few words I could ever long to hear in my life. Little does my father know that whatever I am today though is whatever my father shaped me to be. My father taught me so many things that I now carry with me today.
He taught me to be humble for no matter how successful I may ever be in life, there will always be others who are more successful.
He taught me to be nice to everyone you see on your way up in life, because you will see those same people again on your way down.
He taught me to be determined that the ones who persevere are the ones who eventually make it.
Sometimes I wonder what good I must've done in my previous life to deserve such a good father.
I love you Dad... Happy Birthday!