Article by Daniel Lee; Editing by Anobik Saha
I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going.
It was January 2016. I had left my corporate job a few weeks ago, to spend more time with my kids. However, the time had also come for me to get back to reality and start earning money again.
Embracing my fears
As a freelancer, it took me upto 6 months to become aware of and start ‘embracing’ my fears. These fears originated from inevitably blowing up my career, not pulling my weight in financially supporting my family, of irrelevance, of facing uncertainty, of outright catastrophic failure, of not knowing my next steps, to becoming a ‘give Dan a handout’ person.
I took tiny steps to minimise these fears. I am happy to even take you through the precise steps that helped me overcome these fears, below:
- Fear of inevitably blowing up my career: In this fear I kept taking calls from potential employers and eventually turning them down until the calls stopped. I turned them down as I was persistent about searching for the kind of work I was passionate about instead of just giving up.
- Fear of not pulling my weight in financially supporting my family: Coming from an East Asian culture, the role of a man is that of exhibiting strength by being the breadwinner and thus I had a hard time overcoming that my wife was playing this role. I pushed back from this mindset only to realise that it was about ensuring the success of my family as a whole and not about who earns the money. So I took the necessary steps to sharpen and improve my domestic skills, as the house husband and contribute in any way I could.
- Fear of irrelevance: When I was freelancing as an Associate Trainer running soft skills workshops across schools, I started questioning the employment of my other professional skills that I had built through my career in Human Resources, like networking, managing client relationships, solution offerings, etc. I eliminated this fear when I consciously started to apply these wide range of skills, contextually.
- Fear of uncertainty: I found a simple solution to this fear – whenever I did not have clarity over my next steps or a concrete plan of action, this fear of uncertainty kicked in. I stopped feeling it by starting to set daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals for myself.
- Fear of outright catastrophic failure: One of the many podcasts I listened to gave me the solution – that the mind is designed to protect you and therefore it is necessary to tame it. Thinking about my worst case scenarios and gaining clarity about their realistic feasibility helped me overcome it.
- Fear of not knowing my next steps: The modern world and evolution of the human mind, synchronised, makes you project your image into the future and then start to stress about how you are going to get there. A very common sympton that can be tackled by two specific technqiues: (a) Be process-oriented – Create a process and the goals you need to achieve, understand what needs to be done to achieve these goals and complete them, daily. Remember that nothing in this world was ever changed in one day. (b) Focus on each day, because in the end, how you lived your life depends on how you are living each day now. These two techniques helped me overcome this fear.
- Fear of becoming ‘give Dan a handout person’: With the income source now reduced to one (my wife), my friends and family started supporting me by paying for my meals, etc. I was naturally feeling uncomfortable until I soul-searched to understand what I was uncomfortable most about. My friends and family were just playing a role to look out for me and it was my responsibility to share with them my progress. I was in fact not looking for a handout but a hand-up. I knew in my heart that once I am able to, I will give back the kindness to them in the future in different capabilities.
Your support team
I started to network based on my interest of the month. One time, it was stock investing, then it was human resources, because I considered going back to the corporate world. It was hard initially, to walk up and start speaking with these established individuals.
So I started preparing and gathering enough knowledge on the content to be able to ask a standard set of questions to spark a conversation. The more I was persistent, the more stuck to it, I gained a knack for it and eventually, started hanging out with fellow trainers and speakers running their own businesses.
There’s a saying that goes ‘you are the average of the five people you interact with most’ and this doesn’t sound very far from the truth because the mentality of the people you hang out with, rubs off on you. Similarly, the saying, ‘your network is your net-worth’ resonates with me so well because hanging out with business owners and other experienced individuals simply protects you from making mistakes, that you’d eventually trap yourself into otherwise. Experience is the best teacher and thus taking as much advice as you can is never a bad thing.
I am thankful to my business coach, Eileen, who guided me through the risks of the training domain, challenged my mindset and helped me through my emotional downturns. My peers at the Association of Professional Speakers Singapore (APSS) helped me get close to my authentic self and also find my current mentor, Avi Liran, a veteran of the professional speaking industry.
Finding a direction
The challenge of being self-employed is really to find a general direction. Until I was internally clear of my direction, all advice and opinions are paradoxically relevant and irrelevant at the same time.
For the first half of 2017, I took on many freelance training jobs to earn a living. By the second half of the year, I cut back on many of those jobs. Why? My initial factors led me to take them up and these factors started to change as the months went by. Opinions and advice either reinforced my certainty or bounced off if I felt they were irrelevant. After all, no one knew my circumstances better than I did.
I was then reminded that when I had clarity of purpose, I spoke with unrivalled certainty and confidence that made people observe and listen.
Clarity of purpose was the magic and it was only by removing the inner clutter that I could tap into.
With clarity comes hope, a direction that I could pour my energies into, in order to bring about success.
It is all about hope
In the end, it was and continues to be, all about HOPE. I took tiny steps in the hope that failure would not be catastrophic. I networked, masterminded, hired a coach, all in the hope of finding a direction to pour my energies into. I dived within myself in the hope of finding clarity of purpose.
In my journey so far, I understood the saying that we are ‘hope-filled’ creatures.
It is hope that sustains us in pursuance of a direction and purpose. Hope makes us go to work everyday, hope that keeps us going even with the chips are down.
When that realisation hit me, I had made the biggest discovery that would be the centre piece of what I do now. Hope brings along confidence to engage in the world. The power was in me all along.
Now I vigorously train my mind to drive out automatic negative thoughts and feed it with positive and inspiring messages that drives me to be a better person. I work on building better relationships with those important to me. I continuously stay in touch with my inner self, to ensure that I have clarity of purpose and direction. Opinions and advice still matter, of course, though I am more selective about the sources.
More importantly, I get up whenever I fall down and keep going. It is in the getting back up and continuing to walk that is the true measure of my journey.
About the Author
Daniel Lee is a seasoned Human Resources professional with over 10 years of experience in Banking, Consultancy, Manufacturing, and Facilities Management. In his corporate life, Daniel has held positions responsible for learning calendars of global business units involving four thousand employees, and millions in learning budgets. Employing a facilitation style that utilizes personal experiences, storytelling, improvisation, humor, and stage performance, Daniel engages audiences from the very beginning of his trainings. Deep knowledge and skills transfer linked to personal development is his main aim. He focuses on the concepts of Personal development and Personal leadership, and help others find clarity of direction in what they do, and imparts the understanding that all leadership starts with the individual. More information on that can be found on his website: www.charmandhumour.com. Daniel has lived and worked in Australia for 10 years, and easily adds an international element to any engagement. He has professional training experience with the following organisations:
Accenture, ISO Team, American Express, PPG Industries, Bank of Singapore, Marina Bay Sands (MBS), BNP Paribas, Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) , Coles Myer , Ridley Corporation, Chanel, Spotless Facilities Services, Digipen Institute of Technology , Standard Chartered, eBaotech, Singapore Police Force
Diploma in Adult Continuing Education (DACE), Institute of Adult Learning, Singapore, 2018
Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment (ACTA), Institute of Adult Learning, Singapore, 2016
Masters of Human Resources Management, Monash University, Australia, 2006
Bachelors of Business and Electronic Commerce, Monash University, Singapore, 2003
Mobile: +65 9176 6734 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org