After living over 16 years of my life away from Malaysia, I finally returned home in 2013.
While it seemed like this was a natural progression considering the market focus(SEA) of my second startup(Storehub), I knew that there was a deeper purpose behind this move. Although it was not clear what this was at the time, there were a bunch of ideas I’ve been toying with for a few years now. Community development, encouraging entrepreneurship, solving real problems and adding real value.
What I didn’t realise however, was that I had stepped into an environment where entrepreneurship was everywhere. Because it was difficult to grow rich, or even make a decent living from chasing a career as a professional, many Malaysians turned towards building their own businesses. Whether it was as simple as a single cafe, or as ambitious as a large chain of coconut ice cream stores, there was a desire in many Malaysians for the chance to break out and build something big.
Of course, we at Storehub believe the same. We believe that the work we do daily form the foundations that allow us to serve a bigger vision: 100,000 SMEs around the region whose businesses are made awesome because of us.
Yet, this journey has been full of the difficulties and complexities of such an endeavour. How I wish there was someone to guide me as we navigated through all the challenges of scaling and hiring and raising money and other startup mountains as we journey towards our goal. The number of days where I feel inadequate far outnumber the days where we know exactly what to expect and what to do. Everyday is a learning experience, but most days I feel like the frustrated learner more than the enthusiastic beginner.
And so I seek.
For those willing to speak wisdom into my constant searching. For clarity and meaning and understanding. But there are few who could. And even fewer who would spare the time.
This was when it occurred to me.
That if I, a second time entrepreneur, is struggling this much to make my startup work, wouldn’t it be equally if not more difficult for my fellow entrepreneurs? Most of whom are doing it for the first time?
The reality is, the entrepreneurs are plenty, but the teachers are few. Not because there aren’t many qualified to do so, but rather that there aren’t enough willing to do so. And in the wave of new startups popping up everywhere, the kind of mentors we need that have the kind of experience worth sharing, those are even scarcer.
Perhaps this is why I’m always lending myself towards helping out whenever I can. Speaking into the journeys of those entrepreneurs who I can see myself adding value to. Taking up offers to share my learnings and stories in talks and conferences. But truth be told, we can do so much more.
Perhaps it’s as simple as dedicating my Saturday afternoons to entrepreneur coffees. To listen and understand and share and encourage those that believe that they may benefit from a conversation with me.
Perhaps it’s a small thing. But perhaps it’s a good enough start. And perhaps if enough of us do it with enough of us, it’ll create a big enough ripple to stir up our hearts and lift each other up towards the great heights we all have set for ourselves.
Perhaps what it’ll really take for some of us to build great businesses that have real, tangible and meaningful impact on our communities is for all of us to believe in one another.
My deep hope is that we all learn to believe in one another. And that as these seeds are planted, some will get the chance to grow into trees of shade and rest and refuge for the community at large. Let us not wait for the teachers to come. Let us first start with being teachers ourselves.
P.s. If you are reading this and feel that you relate and might benefit from a Saturday afternoon coffee, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn. I’d love to connect.
Over dinner last night, a friend and I had a spirited conversation about a whole range of issues that we as Christians today engage with. We both agreed that there is a lot of fixation on ‘sin’ in church culture and that it tends to lead to a culture of condemnation. Nonetheless, he asked me to clarify my understanding of sin and how it sits in my theological framework.
Here’s my attempt at a response:
Sin is missing the mark. It is not fulfilling the full potential God envisions for us. It is us pooping our pants as toddlers. It is us falling down in our learning to walk.
Should we obsess over our falling down or our poopings?
Because we either grow out of it, or we learn to walk better. I believe that God is less fixated on our falling down than He is on our walking. I believe He is about the words of encouragement, the “That’s alright. Get up. Come on now. Let’s keep walking” than naming and blaming and shaming our falling.
His forgiveness, is in Him giving us this encouragement. In not choosing to focus on our falling short, but on the full potential of what is to come.
Of course, if we choose to remain in our sin, to not get up when we fall, to essentially not ‘repent’, then we can never experience the full forgiveness of what God wants to give to us.
We fall short/sin on a daily basis. There is so little of our lives that is truly Spirit-led. So much of our lives are lived out of our flesh, our selfish instincts. Every so often, we bear some semblance of the very image by which we were created in; when we love, when we care for one another, when we create, when we pause to appreciate beauty. But more often than not, we resemble mere animals.
Salvation is Jesus saving us from our state of devolution. What started out as image bearers of the Creator has spiraled into cycles of death, animal instincts, evil. Jesus showed us what a human being bearing the full image of God looks like, lives like, talks like, eats like, loves like. And He promises a New Life to all that choose to follow His life. A life after life after death(no typo here). A resurrection.
We are not saved from a fiery place called ‘hell’ that we go to when we die. We are saved from our own degeneration. But salvation is received only if we choose to reject this degeneration by our own will. Many will prefer to live out of their selfish desires, many will refuse the Spirit’s urging towards life that bears the Creator’s image. But when the Creator comes back to clean up His house, those that no longer bear his image, will be cast out of the house.
Our salvation, is not just about my ‘rship with God’, it is about us as a humanity, coming back to what it means to be truly human again, bearing the image of the Creator.
Today, I got a message from an entrepreneur wrestling in their journey and sharing some of the struggles they’ve had to deal with.
In the midst of the rant, there’s the popular disclaimer that we commonly hear of “I’m only Human. (therefore)I’m weak.”
And while most of us will typically attribute our ‘humanity’ to weakness, I would dare say that the biblical story points to a very different view. One that talks of a Creator that made Humans in God’s image. And of a Man who came to show us what being truly human is, in the person of Jesus. The kind of walking and talking and living that was full of grace and love and life.
Being Human was never meant to be an excuse for our shortcomings.
Being Truly Human is about fully bearing the Image of God.
Sometimes I feel this. The world falling out from under me. Whether its ‘good’ things or ‘bad’ events that accumulates, you can’t escape that sensation and that knowing that sometimes there’s just so much outside of your control.
We’re constantly bombarded with the message that to remain in control is the successful life. I can’t help but wonder if true success is not so much as to be in control, or seek to attain it, but in learning to embrace the things we don’t and can’t control.
To trust in the things we can’t control. To embrace the uncertainties and the only thing inevitable in life: change itself.
So today, I commit to a life of trusting, of being found in You, the Creator of whom I have no way of ever controlling. For this is the Way that leads to Life. Abundant. Full. Overflowing.