For most youths, completing their studies and getting a diploma or degree that would land them a good job is the norm. But there are those who are willing to put studies on hold to follow bigger dreams.
NICHOLAS Chong is just 20 and yet he has already set up a company with his friend Joey Tan Hooi Choo who is also 20.
After doing their research, they decided on a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) rather than a “Sdn Bhd” because the former is cheaper and kinder to new startups like theirs.
“For an LLP or a Sdn Bhd, any liability is borne by the company and not the individuals in it. But the advantage with the LLP is that we don’t need to pay company secretary, taxation and auditing fees or submit tax returns every year if the company is not generating any income,” says Chong, as he confidently details the process of setting up an LLP, the RM500 needed, the registration and submission to SSM (Companies Commission of Malaysia) for approval.
Which is something you wouldn’t really expect of a 20-year-old.
But Chong and Tan are not your typical bunch of youths.
They dream big, exude confidence, have a plan in place, are unafraid of taking risks and striding down the-road-not-taken, even if it means dropping out of college, deferring university, changing courses and starting all over.
“I am thinking global,” declares Tan, who is managing director of Joshberg, the company she and Chong founded and have just set up.
They plan to use their company to nurture start-ups in South-East Asia.
“I’d like to inspire and rally youths in my generation and the future generation to dare to dream and pursue their dreams
“I want to bring together the talents, ideas and innovations of the people of our 10 Asean countries, and together we can break barriers.
“If we combine our strengths and talent, we can beat Silicon Valley hands down,” says Tan somewhat boldly.
Equally bubbling with enthusiasm is Chong who is the operations director of Joshberg and who is currently pursuing a diploma in IT.
Chong remembers himself as a child peering behind computers to see how they were assembled, trying to figure out how technology and coding worked, and trying to crack software.
In other words, it is his passion and he knows what he wants and likes.
Sadly though, it is not always the case with most youths.
Chong says most youths his age are still “lost” because they have not found their passion, goal and purpose in life.
So they just go along with what their friends are doing or follow their parents’ wishes to study something that they are really not keen on.
“How can you get good results if you are doing something you don’t like? So go out and do what you really like,” he says.
Tan is one of those “lost” ones. And it took her a bit of time to find herself.
All her life she had studied in Singapore but found she could never fit in.
Her school life was a painful roller coaster ride, she says. She was ostracised at the elite school she went to, for reasons she never could figure out.
Wanting to be a pilot, she took up aerospace electronics at Ngee Ann Polytechnic without actually studying the modules before hand.
It turned out to be not what she wanted or expected.
So after the first year, she started skipping classes, handing in assignments late, failing exams, having to repeat a semester, deferring another. And she was on the verge of expulsion.
“You could say I was a problem kid. I was emotionally not stable and started having an anxiety disorder,” she says.
Realising that she was about to fail her final project, her mother stepped in and appealed to the polytechnic, which agreed to void that semester so that Tan could take a break.
At around the same time, she attended the Malaysian Student Leaders Summit in KL. And things started to click and fall in place.
Tan discovered that she has a keen interest in nation-building. She dreams of being a “change maker” and a successful social entrepreneur who “produces something that will change the world.”
With just a year to go to finish her course in Singapore, Tan took the bold decision to withdraw from Ngee Ann and start all over.
She got a place at a university in Australia to do a pre-university foundation course in philosophy, politics and economics.
Her father’s business was collapsing and both parents tried to persuade her to at least finish her final year at the Singapore polytechnic but Tan was resolute.
“Everyone thought I’d be wasting the three years I had already spent at the polytechnic and that I should finish.
“But my thinking is that I would rather waste three years than 30 years of my life! Because if I complete my aerospace course and graduate, then I would be bonded. I already know I don’t want to be an engineer or an aircraft technician, which is what the course prepares you for,” she says.
Tan’s father made it clear that financially he would only be able to support her for a maximum of one year study in Australia. But she is willing to take that risk and finance herself in the subsequent years.
“I understand it is a risk but great things only come when you take the risk,” says Tan, who is flying off to Australia next week to start the course.
Since “finding” herself, Tan has already made a good start.
She is now the director of the ONEworld Summit (Malaysia) (OWS) which will hold its inaugural gathering here in July.
She explains that OWS is a Melbourne initiate which is now held in different parts of the world, intending to gather “purpose driven” youths who are “social entrepreneurs and dreamers” who want to “inspire, educate, act” and impact the world by solving problems and creating breakthroughs.
The difference between entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs, she explains, is that with the latter, whatever they do or sell has an element of social impact like, for example, pumping profits back to the company to give back to society.
“I am a small kid with a big dream,” she says.
Tan and Chong are not the only ones with big dreams.
Tai Yi-Weii, 19, is yet another self-motivated youth who dreams big.
He was studying marketing and international trade at a private university when he felt that the education system did not suit him because it was too rigid and “all about ‘copy, cut and paste’ type of assignments and passing exams”. So he dropped out.
“Our education system destroys creativity and innovation. It just teaches people how to be a good employee. It doesn’t teach us how to survive in society, how to be righteous or a good father or leader.
“The university was not teaching me stuff related to what I want to do in the future,” he says.
In the middle of last year, he set up his own event management company, and he plans to use it to organise low-cost educational programmes to bring value for young adults. Targeting the 5% whom he describes as “creators” and the 15% who are “managers” and “leaders”, he aims to build their mindsets, soft skills, and financial intelligence so that they will be “mission-oriented and purpose-driven”.
“I want to awaken the young adults,” he says.
That’s not all that is on his plate.
He plans to go back to university (a different one this time) to do a research paper and his PhD on a theory he has on people. He wants to build his business all over Asia, be an inspirational speaker, travel the world for a year, do some acting, and then enter politics.
“You can’t change a country without politics. I want to work forever because I love what I do,” he says.
Tai says he is already half-way through writing a book and has even found a publisher.
“People think it is hard to get published. But it is all about networking, leveraging and building on this.
“Once you know the right people, you get the network. Then you can find people who have what you don’t and build on it,” he says.
The super confident and articulate Tai feels comfortable on stage and thrives on having an audience.
He says he watches President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and other great speakers to learn the nuances, gestures, tones and what goes into being a good public speaker.
Drawing inspiration from Google’s offices, Tai, Chong and Tan want to set up a similar cool office with slides and stairs where young adults can come, have fun and learn, and build things in.
Tuan JiYin, 19, has volunteered to be secretary for OWS and double up as Tai’s personal assistant.
She has completed her A levels and wants to study psychology.
But she wants some work and life experiences first before going to university.
That, however, has not gone done well with her father, who wants her to start university right away.
“I don’t want to rush. I have a plan. I want exposure to people, to interact with them, read their minds, learn their problems before I go into university to learn the theory.”
So she took on three temporary jobs within the span of a month-and-a-half.
One of the jobs was to collect data and survey customers. She found Malaysians did not like it and often rejected the free gifts they were giving out in exchange for taking part in the survey.
“Even if they said ‘no’, I always smiled and told them ‘Have a nice day’ and to take the free gift anyway. From this, I learnt not to let the environment affect me.”
Her second job was putting flyers on people’s cars. She said people thought she was from a poor family and was taken aback when Ah Long loan shark promoters were distributing flyers the same way.
“From this, I learnt that once you promise to do something, even though it is tough, you must finish the job.”
The third job she took on was to promote a drink.
“I found that I must first convince myself of the product, only then could I convince the customers.”
Tuan says she does not have big dreams like setting up her own company or becoming filthy rich.
“I just want to be a positive charge for people. Whenever they need me, I’ll be there.”
For her, family comes first.
Even if she is out late at night, she makes it a point to get up early to do chores and spend some time with them.
“Even if they do not agree with you, family will always support you. I have found my purpose in life. I have a plan. And I will make my dad proud.”