What keeps me going

by wynlim

The couple of months leading up to our product launch was particularly hard for me. I was feeling alone without close friends or family near me, I keep having this paranoia that whatever I did would not be accepted positively, I was very tired, didn’t have enough sleep, couldn’t sleep even if I had time because I was stressed. 

There were some dark moments when I felt like I wanted to throw in the towel, not because I had doubts over external factors, but I was very doubtful towards myself. I honestly wondered if I had the strength overcome all the odds. (I am sure whoever’s of startup blood would empathize with me ;P)

During those times, what kept me going was not the promise of riches or grandeur, they were things that were somewhat unrelated to my work.

There were a few nights when I was completely fatigued by work but unable to sleep, I turned to Netflix and my Kindle – I’ve always believed films and books have this uncanny timing of bringing the right message to me at the right time. 

Many times I wondered to myself, seriously, I was so spent, was I sure that I wanted to read a book or watch a movie? I could use that time to do more work! However, each time in turned out every book and every film was significant, I never regretted any of the time I lost, because what I gained in return was something intangible – continued hope and strength.

Here’s a snippet of what I watched and read for the past couple of months:

1. Capitalism, a love story
Was particularly moved and encouraged by the solidarity and team spirit shown by the factory workers in Chicago

2. Coco before Chanel
I hmm, didn’t know Coco Chanel had so much influence in redefining women’s fashion, it was incredible considering her background and what she went through to make Chanel the brand it is today. I changed the way I perceived Chanel as a brand after this film.

3. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
I don’t think I can particularly point out to any part of this book because I was highlighting tons of passages in the book:

We wouldn’t tolerate schools that don’t teach, that are chronically underfunded and understaffed and underinspired, if we thought that the children in them were like our children. It’s hard to imagine the CEO of a company giving himself a multimillion-dollar bonus while cutting health-care coverage for his workers if he thought they were in some sense his equals. And it’s safe to assume that those in power would think longer and harder about launching a war if they envisioned their own sons and daughters in harm’s way.

4. Michelle Obama in Her Own Words
Reading this was particularly inspiring for me because I’m reading a book which echoes my own thoughts and beliefs. It is a book of such great quotes and these are my favorites: 

When you know you’ve been blessed and know you have a set of gifts, how do you maximize those gifts so you’re impacting the greatest number of people?

and

The selfish part of me says, “Run away! Just say no!” because my life would be better. But that’s the problem we face as a society, we have to stop making the Me decision and we have to make the We and Us decision.

and

Things get better when regular folks take action to make change happen from the bottom up. Every major, historical moment in our time it has been made by folks who said, “Enough,” and they banded together to move this country forward—and now is one of those times.

There is a common theme throughout these books and films. They are stories of ordinary human beings who chose to be extraordinary. Like the factory workers in Chicago showed what it means to unite for a common cause, that collectively, common people like you and me can make a difference. 

These events inspire me for my work because they show me what is possible with belief and perseverance. That the impossible can happen if only you have the will to try. That sometimes it takes courage to want to act for the greater good than for yourself.

Unlike some other people I don’t believe tech startups are trapped in their own silo or echo chamber. There have been tech startups making great strides towards making this world a better place (think Khan Academy). I honestly believe those of us who have the blessing to be working in tech have additional resources to make this world a better place:

“It used to be that in order to reach more people than you could talk to in a day, you had to be rich and famous and powerful, be a celebrity, a politician, a CEO, but that’s not true today. Now ordinary people have voice, not just those of us lucky to go to HBS, but anyone with access to Facebook, Twitter, a mobile phone. This is disrupting traditional power structures and leveling traditional hierarchy. Voice and power are shifting from institutions to individuals, from the historically powerful to the historically powerless, and all of this is happening so much faster than I could have imagined when I was sitting where you are today and Mark Zuckerberg was 11 years old.” – Sheryl Sandberg

I am greatly inspired by these stories of people who had more difficult circumstances or faced with more difficult choices but they did it anyway. Those of us who are privileged enough to choose, and by privileged I don’t mean having material wealth or being born with a silver spoon; by privilege I mean the fortune to have health and mobility which people in third world countries may not have. If we have the privilege to choose, or rather, if I have the privilege to choose, I cannot in my conscience, choose a safe and comfortable existence. 

I now consider myself highly privileged, because by the fortune of my birth I don’t have to be in some country where females are subjected to constant threats or unfairness, though I was never born with a silverspoon I never had to worry about the survival of my family, though I don’t have the best health but I have full function of my body.

Everybody has their own reasons why they live, or perhaps most people don’t even wonder why they live, for me, it is becoming increasingly clear why I live. 

I live, because I want to make a difference, as long as I am not bound by unavoidable conditions, I will try to always make that choice to have the uncomfortable but meaningful existence, to always make that extraordinary choice to be extraordinary, even if I am an ordinary human being.

 

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