4 ways entrepreneurship has shaped my life in SMU

I am a recent graduate from SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business, majoring in Strategic Management. Before this, I ran a small tuition agency (founded in 2009), which was eventually liquidated in Summer 2012. I re-entered the startup world again in December 2012, when I joined Reactor as a trainer and partner. Here’s how my entrepreneurial experience has shaped my journey in SMU.

1. Be willing to live with uncertainty and dare to take risks

"Team Reactor in Arc-II, Reactor's co-working space"

As a partner in a startup, one quickly learns that uncertainty is omnipresent. It is only given greater visibility in the startup space. One will never have perfect information. One will never know what the outcome will be. We can create models and prediction machines, input massive amounts of data (assuming we can get that data anyway) to make the “best” decision and guess what? Things can still go wrong. I chose to forego exchange to keep Reactor running. Do I sometimes regret that decision? Of course. I did not make as much out of that one semester that I had running Reactor and I had given up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But I also did learn many valuable lessons that led to a 30% increase in contract closes the following quarter. Do not fear uncertainty. Accept that bad consequences and results are part and parcel of life, but also do not discount the good that was gained.

2. Take charge, craft your own path

There will always be naysayers. And then there is conventional wisdom. If you want to be conventional then you should never deviate from conventional wisdom. But so many of you are unique individuals with the potential to make a significant positive impact on yourself and the greater community. You are the only person holding you back. Listen to advice and fact-find, but I have learnt that I need to brave enough to use that to craft my own path instead of simply allowing it to direct and move me. Michael Jordan, who once stood at the pinnacle of sporting excellence said, “You must expect great things out of yourself before you can do them.”

3. Learn to commit and what it really means

"ASMU fellas in our 2013 photoshoot”

In a business like mine, in choosing ASMU and being chosen for it, in choosing your major, life partner, in choosing a way of life, in accepting a project, in making any long-term decisions, you will face multifarious challenges that will push your physical, mental and spiritual limits. I learnt that when I choose, I should stick with it regardless of the pain, because of the very conscious decision I made in the first place. Sticking with Reactor for the past 2 and a half years has been very, very difficult; it should not take much effort to imagine the questions of concern and skepticism, scoffs, laughs and other various forms of dismissal that I have endured from loved ones and friends. Nonetheless, I chose to push on. To me, it is reflection of belief and fortitude. If one cannot push on for one’s dreams and beliefs in times of hardship, one will never be able to achieve those dreams. One of my closest held values is that commitment is sacrifice and pain, which leads to the question, “What and who are you willing to sacrifice for?”

4. Manage your time well and that includes developing yourself

Despite the diversity of the Corps, one commonality is that we are all very busy people. I need to qualify that ‘busy’ is not a good term. Read the article, The Glorification of Busy by Guy Kawasaki on HuffPost. Spend time meaningfully and efficiently. Time management is key. I found that by creating a system where I am able to prioritize tasks and order them the right way, I could get them done well and efficiently. When I was President of ASMU, running First Class Tutors and then Reactor while juggling family issues and studies, good time management was desperately needed. However, during that time, I made the mistake of not investing deliberately into developing myself. My biggest advice is to always set aside time every day to reflect and engage in activities which will help you develop as a person. The best investments you will ever make are in yourself.

These are lessons that I have learnt on my path as an entrepreneur. However, one does not necessarily have to be an entrepreneur to learn or do them. But one has to be entrepreneurial. It is my personal (and biased) belief based on my experiences as a 25-year old, as an entrepreneur, as a student of life and of school. Listen to advice and fact-find but at the end of the day, decide your own path. And do not take too long about it.