Saturday, 4 June 2016

I am meant for bigger things in life than this?

During a dinner conversation with my wife, I was lamenting on my job. For the past few years, job scope and responsibility have been pretty mundane and limiting. In other words, stagnant! With the recent oil crisis, it is a double whammy. It is not that I have lost drive or not willing to work hard. Yet, it really had to do with the current company culture in limiting one’s ability to perform beyond their potential. In comparison to the years prior, I was holding bigger responsibility with accelerated work rate day by day. NOW, it is definitely nowhere near even half of my true potential.

On a brighter note, I am having less overtime and less pressure nowadays. As a result, more time for my kids and seeing them grow. Besides, the big focus in the last few years for me was really on personal development outside work. In particular the much needed “Financial Education”. While the lesser workload was seen as a blessing in disguise, it is no denial that career satisfaction is still an extremely important element of a person's life no matter how much you choose to focus on life outside work. Well that is at least true for me!

I told my wife "I am definitely meant for bigger things in my life than this!

10 years ago!

My wife recalled that a decade ago, I said the exact same phrase to her!

Deja vu!

At that time, I was working in a small local company as an engineer. I did not hate my job, because colleagues were helpful and bosses were really nice people. Exposure was good as I travelled frequently. Furthermore I had ownership of the entire project; from site survey, proposal, modelling, analysis, site measurements to the eventual submission of report to the satisfaction of client.

The downside are the smaller project value at most up to tens of thousands, and maybe also the people I dealt with were mostly engineers (like myself) or executive level with no helicopter view. The site conditions can be harsh, dirty and even risky most of the times. Above all, the thing to rant most was my troubled health during offshore work.

So I took action and left.

Health was a reason but not the driving factor. It was definitely not for money too. I had no pay increment in the next company. Distance is way further from my home also, meaning more to spend on transport. I guess it was my GUT FEELING. Somehow I felt I was meant for bigger things than what the company can offer me to do.

Bigger company, horizons expanded

After joining a bigger local company with both local and regional offices and factories dealing with clients globally, my horizon expanded. Projects were typically valued from hundreds of thousands to millions. People I liaised with were often either owners or management of a bigger organization. My communication and interpersonal skills improved by leaps and bounds. Confidence rose and mind-set changed! I learnt about business. I learn to see a bigger and more complete picture. Internally, I also learnt how to circumvent interdepartmental politics not to impress, but to get things done. Providing exceptionally good services for my client and bringing value to the company are the main things in my mind.

Nothing starts easy
It did not turn out as smooth initially though. My new direct superior and colleagues were not the friendliest. There was neither proper guidance nor training. I was expected to perform miracle in things I did not have knowledge on. It was like all, all your colleagues out there wanted to see you fail, rather than to help! I was mocked so many times as a newbie and yet have to bite my lips and gave an awkward smile. I did not even have my own personal email, namecard and no internet access to speak of, only until after probation. The hours in office were dreadful. At one instance, I felt so miserable because I was tasked to do unimportant things including photo-stating for almost a week. Imagine I was no intern, and not a fresh graduate.

The turnaround
I persisted the dreadful period for approximately two to three months! Things took an unforeseen change. One day I met the founder of the company (the big boss) in the toilet. He asked if I am busy with my work. I told him no. He was shocked and said "how come?"

I told my big boss I had nothing much to do and asked if he can bring me out to see customers so that I can learn and do more. There were no hidden agenda on my part. I do not know why I said that, but maybe it was just me.

The same day, my big boss questioned my manager. My manager’s face turned charcoal black. As expected, it turned out to be a really terrible day for me. It was all worth it! It was the most important turnaround in my career. I was put under a new superior later. Situation improved but the new manager was also selfish and I did not learn much from him either.

Find good mentorships 
The good news was since then, I had more direct dealings with the two owners of the company. My big boss brought me out to see clients who are at director levels or owners of multi-millions companies. My second big boss also provided me with so much guidance. More difficult tasks followed and pressures mounted. But it was good. This is because as long as you work hard, you can learn so much more. Good mentors are so important, but it is NOT always there for you just as you wish. Many people think it is luck. I reckon you ought to find or fight it yourself!

More exposures and responsibilities
The next few years my career exploded vertically. This was especially so, when my bosses sold the company to much bigger global MNC. There, I was provided with even broader exposures globally and assigned with heavier responsibilities. Of course the route up the ladder was not as easy as I had to ward off much internal resistance. This is typical corporate power struggle. Lest not forget, the GFC made things difficult too and I was bedridden during the same period, a result of overwork! Then again, life as a whole was never easy. Pressure is always good. For as long as it does not crumble you such that you can never recover, it is necessary for us to progress in our life.

Ignore the naysayers

Most naysayers (not true friends) will attribute the “upward path” of others to mainly due to luck and will NEVER probe further into it. These are jealousy and man’s ego embedded in human nature. It often stifles one’s progress in life. For me, I prefer to be inquisitive to find out the story behind the upward scaling in life and learn from them. Give credits and learn! A person’s progress in life often can be a combination of luck, opportunity, desire, hardwork and most important of all, TAKE ACTION!

Rolf's thoughts

Since young, I always thought I am meant for big things in life. I thrive off better via inspiration rather than obligation. I love freedom and flexibility in my work which I always have in my working career. Call it “lucky or unlucky” – I do not know! Lucky, because I had been enjoying most part of my career. Unlucky, because that is why I am still an employee. Frankly, I may even do the things I love for free.

You can say that I am lucky to meet the right mentor.
You can say that I am lucky to ride the offshore boom in the last ten years.
You can say that I am lucky to be given more opportunity and exposure.
You can also say I am unlucky because I am still an employee.

It does not matter for I am extremely grateful today that I am equipped with competences of: 1) “Engineering Education” background, a decade long of 2) “Sales, Business and Management Experiences” and 3) Self-taught “Financial Education” expertise.

Ultimately for me, it is somewhat the gut feeling that "I was meant for bigger things in life!" which provides the impetus in my life. I will continue to evolve. abou the deja vu? 


  1. Hi Rolf,

    Enlightened being...good to know you, even if it's just bits and bytes haha :)

    I always love your autobiographical posts! Keep it flowing man!

  2. Hi LP,

    Thanks for reading. Autobiography for a mainstream normal guy can be boring. You are also one of my inspirations to keep it flowing. Do you know that? haha...

    Hope to be able to catch up one day, just like I already met with Jared.

  3. Hi Rolf

    Like you, 10 years ago, I said the same thing to myself that I should be doing bigger than what I was doing right now. 10 years have evolved, I now hold greater responsibility and roles and managed more people than I did back then.

    I asked myself, do I want to do something bigger or just different? It's different that leads to the same "outcome"

    1. Hi B,

      Congrats to hear on the progression. Guess we must have the desire! That is important.

      Perhaps "bigger" means bigger outcome or having a bigger influence over more people.

      If it is just different or bigger input that lead to same outcome, then maybe something is not right.

      It still boil down to understand ourself if we really want or really suitable for bigger things n in the process that can make us naturally more energetic n happy.

  4. Hi Rolf,

    I was the opposite. No balls. When I was in the work force 2-3 years, I wondered a lot" how much I am worth outside" and wanted to become a insurance agent when my ex-colleague approached me. He was doing really well then. He is still, now.

    I took the books to read for the three modules and everyday going to work, I ask myself, Am I really leaving.

    When it is decision time, I said no and stayed. But no regrets :)

    1. Hi SI,

      I know so many people that venture out as regular from SAF and almost all that I know are more happy exiting. For teaching, I almost hear none in my circle venture out. This is also bcos I rarely hear my teacher frds complain about work. The reason to become a teacher is clear!

      So maybe it's not that u lack the courage, but maybe u r less swayed by the money in insurance than the meaningful work in teaching.

      To be in insurance, u must really like to meet people n chatty even above the magnetism of money as one of the criteria to do well in the long term.

      You can still exit. It's better than late than never! haha...

  5. Btw, how did u get so sick from overwork? Or was there an work accident ?

    1. gastric pain leading to severe intestinal bleeding. Less comparatively to do with diet but instead more related to the mental well being. The problem was at that time I was not stress nor tired, but just keep working and working because of the desire to "do well"!

  6. Rolf,

    Idiot! Your roar of the heart is even more powderful!!!

    Finally someone worthy enough for me to share:

    People like us MAKE a decision FIRST; then goals and plans follow naturally.

    Most others use goals and plans to buy time to avoid making a decision :)

    1. Hi Jared,

      That's why there is this more popular phrase of "follow your heart" and not "follow your mind" or "follow your plan or goals"

      I agree. Take action is often the most difficult because if u fail, there will be pain. Humans are fearful of pain in general. Plans or goals not executed will never fail!

      But frankly if I have more responsibilities at home now, it's no longer just jump into personal action immediately like in the past. Also need prudence to make sure that things are taken care of at home before taking off.

  7. Replies
    1. Hi Cw, tks for sharing. Agree to certain extend about the real world. It can be tougher and not so ideal than one expect.

      Nonetheless sometimes it's better to have dreams n no knowing the real world and being curious n step out n try n fail than always worrying about the real world n stay enclosed! For u can also know more of a real world if u try! Most impt, u need to get up again if beaten.

      Of course there r some naive pple who only see the good side of things, then they r bound to fail.

      The biggest problem in SG is the lacking of creativity n entrepreneurship as we can see from our own leadership themselves, being scholars, generals etc!

      Ur ex boss is an employed boss always limited by others. Even CEO or MD is still just a corporate boss, seriously not so big deal for many are just a corporate guy who work or climb within the system. This I can vouch! Trust me!

      But if he never venture out he will never know the problems of shareholder.

      No job is ideal even ur own business, but the issue is really if u r following ur heart, the countless problems encountered can also be overall satisfying! As long as u dun bring worries to ur family n others when doing it.

      Of course, it applies to minority as we still need mainstream to stay employed like me now! :-(

  8. Hi Rolf,

    Thanks for this post. I was actually feeling kinda low in recent days at my lack of career progression. Just like you, I hold similar belief that I am meant for bigger things.

    This post has actually imbued me with the sense that as long as I continue to grind at work, perhaps someday a silver lining will appear. Such is the life of a cog in the system..

    Wishing you the best for your health and career:)

    1. Hi PP,

      Thanks for the compliment,

      Guess it's common to have career crisis once in awhile. But we must have belief in ourselves and constantly look ahead. Staying stagnant for awhile is good because it builds patience and a strong foundation.

      But if it is too long, something can be wrong.
      Do remember that job problems are everywhere! If we leave because of problems, then we ought to be more careful in analyzing what exactly is wrong.

      Maybe internal transfer can sometimes be a good option if external move is uncertain.

      I wrote a post sometime back relating to resignation as follows.

      Hopefully it can help u.

      Thanks for the well wishes. Continue ur belief and dream. Do not be dampened and continue to evolve.

      I wish u all the best too! :-)

  9. Thanks Rolf!

    I blazed through several of your blogpost detailing your job anecdotal, starting from the link you gave.

    Those are very good guidance indeed for people my age. Very lucky of me to chanced upon urs and SMOL blog during this period:)