TURNING 32 last week offered Joel Neoh, founder of fitness startup KFit, an opportunity to reflect on his life’s journey so far. Out of that weekend came a post he shared on LinkedIn.
Eight nuggets of advice that he was told were ‘facts’ ended up being reshaped over his dozen-year entrepreneurial journey. “These were facts, I was told. But I had to unlearn them over my entrepreneurial journey to be both a better person and entrepreneur.”
1) Accomplish all goals
We’re not supposed to accomplish all our goals.
As we spend the first two decades of our lives in schooling systems that condition us to have an intense ‘results focus’ about everything, we predictably set out to do A, B and C. And, either we accomplish them or we don’t. If we do, we succeed. If we don't, we are supposed to have failed.
Yet, in my 20s I learnt that life doesn’t actually work that way. To wit, 10 years ago, I wrote down a list of goals I wanted to accomplish by today. The goals were ambitious and I took the list very seriously.
Today, I’ve accomplished one-third of those goals. I’ve made progress on another one-third and basically have done nothing about the last one-third. But I’m actually really happy about my progress.
Growing up, I’ve discovered that some of the life goals I set for myself were not things I actually wanted, and setting those goals taught me what was absolutely not important to my life. With the other goals that I didn’t attain, the act of working towards them for the past 10 years has taught me so much.
To sum this up: The value always comes from the process of failing and trying, not in the achieving.
2) Big things matter
The sum of little things matter much more than big things.
Last year, an interviewer asked me what it felt like to be an entrepreneur who had achieved ‘overnight success.’ Pausing two minutes, I reflected back on all the long nights (including weekends) for 10 years straight.
Overnight success? No. Over many, many, many nights? Yes!
We often assume things just happen as they are. As outsiders to the journey, we tend to only see the result of things and not the hectic process (and all of the failures) that went into producing the result.
We have this idea that we have to do just this one big thing that is going to completely change the world, top to bottom. We don’t yet realise that this ‘one big thing’ is actually composed of hundreds and thousands of daily small things that must be silently and unfashionably maintained over long periods of time with little fanfare.
3) What the world thinks is important
The world doesn’t care.
Frightening thought at first glance: “No one cares about me?”
Don’t fret though. It becomes liberating as we understand its true implication: We’ll stop worrying what others think about us when we realise how seldom they actually do.
You and me, and everything we do, will one day be forgotten. It will be as if we never existed. Nobody will care. Just like right now, almost nobody cares what we actually say or do with our lives.
And this is wonderful news. It means we can get away with a lot of mistakes and people will forget and forgive us for it.
It means there’s absolutely no reason to not be the person you want to be.
4) Friendships are forever
Friendships cannot be forced.
There are two types of friends in life:
The ones who, when you go away for a long time and come back, it feels like nothing’s changed with them; and
The ones who, when you go away for a long time and come back, it feels like everything’s changed.
I’ve spent the majority of the last five years in a number of different countries. Unfortunately, that meant that I left behind a lot of friends in various places.
What I’ve discovered over this time is that we can’t force a friendship with someone. Either it’s there or it’s not, and whatever ‘it’ is, is so magical that neither one of us could even explain it if we tried to. We both just know. We can rarely predict which friends will stick with us and which ones won’t.
For friendships which don't stick – it’s not that they were bad people or bad friends. It’s nobody fault. It’s just how life works.
Next Page: Relationships, and when being a know-nothing is the best thing