The summer of 1999, one year after graduating from National Taiwan Ocean University, armed with enthusiasm and ambition, I came back to Malaysia and immediately got into shrimp farming right after a brief break. The work was in the middle of the Malaysian Peninsula, in the middle of a remote, tucked away, large palm field, a facility that served as both shrimp farming production and teaching center. I vaguely remembered it was August and thought at the time it was the beginning of a life-long career. As an entry-level staff, there were a lot I had to do. During the day I shuffled between the farming ponds and the laboratory, and at night I worked taking notes and making records. Although I had to weather through the busy work through the sun and rain, living environment was poor, and I was often made fun of as a “foreign worker”, but I liked the work itself so I just laughed it off. I still gladly enjoyed the hardship.
At that time, I was young and headstrong and was often sticking up to any injustices that I saw. The Proprietress of the shrimp farm frequently exploited the old man working at the farm, so I would speak up for him, but that actually ended up causing him to lose his job. The guilt stayed with me till this day. Since then, I had harbor grudges against her and I got even angrier when I heard she was not going to renew my employment after the trial period. Luckily at that time, there was a senior alumna who contacted me while returning home on vacation and he was also recruiting for a new Indonesian business, and that’s how I left the shrimp farm.
The November of the year I went to Indonesia I met the most critical person in my life there – my then girlfriend, my now wife – she was the biggest turning point.
I lived in Indonesia for nearly three years, working at the shoe factory from seven to nine, but it was not bad since the company provided room and board plus airfare. However, I wanted to try it out on my own, so I left the shoe industry and went back to Malaysia and opened up a fabric store with a friend. This was back in 2002. Of course it was failed business, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today. After I got out that business, a friend introduced me to a senior alumna from his school who was in the ornamental fish farming business. My entrepreneurial fire got ignited again after visiting his farm. After a few meetings and discussions, that alumna got two of his friends to co-invest, and I also didn’t hesitate and invested all my savings, preparing to make it big in the Malaysian ornamental fish market.
In the following year or so, I went from working in the air-conditioned environment back to the South East Asian, all-year-round summery outdoors. In a short time I went from a pale white office worker to a dark-skinned farmer. Fortunately, I was able to completely adjust to such a change.
Reality is cruel. To succeed in a business, you must have the right timing, location and people, none of which can be missing. In this ornamental fish business, first of all, I didn’t have the right location and the timing was not right either. Worst of all, I was dealing with swindlers. I couldn’t handle one loss after another and didn’t have any more capital to invest, so I can only get out of the business with a loss. People say “established at thirty” and this “establish” means establishing a career, but for me it was a close call for “establishing” an IOU.
In 2004, after I lost all of my savings from my previous jobs, I went through a short period of confused days of not knowing what path to take next. It was at this important juncture, that most critical person in my life called me to join her in India. It started a crucial transformation…
Since that first trip to India till now, eleven years has passed. My original small town Malaysian life has turned into an urban life in Taipei. I went from being single to being married and now a father of two kids. A life of two turned into a life of three and then turned into a life of four plus a dog.
Life is like a meandering river. Even though there are twists and turns, but that is only natural. Let everything flow as naturally as possible. Just simply be natural.