Finding the right fit

Reaching out: Faizal delivering a motivational talk during one of the Skim Latihan 1Malaysia open interview programmes this year.

WHEN I saw firsthand the live performance of Negaraku sometime last year, I remember sitting up straight in my chair to identify who the lead singer was. Not only did this man’s melodic voice captivate me, but the lyrics of the song stirred something in me.

Negaraku (My country)

Negaraku (My country)

Kuberi sepenuhnya (I give my all)

Kuberi sepenuhnya (I give my all)

Ini negaraku (This is my country)

Oh darahku (Oh, my blood)

Hiduplah sepenuhnya (Live life fully)

Dirgahayu semua (Long live all)

The man I was looking for on stage was rock singer Faizal Tahir. This award-winning singer, songwriter and producer came to prominence when he scored the first runner-up position in reality television show, One in a Million, in 2006.

Growing up, Faizal was forced into something he was not passionate about. At one point, he had reached his limit and the rebel in him drove him to go against naysayers to pursue his dreams in music.

Today, he has made a name for himself in Malaysia and South-East Asia.

Growing up in a strict and religious household, Faizal – whose real name is Ahmad Faizal Mohd Tahir – admits he didn’t have much exposure to sports or music.

So, how did his passion for music start?

“I have no idea. I just love music. I was a hungry young kid full of fire and very passionate about things. I didn’t like people stopping me. I think it was the rebellious side of me,” says the 40-year-old singer with a smiles.

The singer never had any formal music education or vocal lessons prior to taking part in the show.

Since his stint on One in a Million, Faizal has produced five albums and even started his own label, Faithful Music (together with Hanie Soraya, Elizabeth Tan and Aziz Harun).

But it hasn’t been an easy journey to get here, he shares.

There are some important lessons that graduates can learn from Faizal’s experiences in terms of striving for their dream job.

Know your dreams

Upon completing secondary school, Faizal went on to pursue a diploma in mass communication and a degree in advertising.

Just a month before the completion of his degree, however, Faizal dropped out.

“I wanted to make music. I just didn’t believe in being dishonest with myself – going to classes and not feeling it (the motivation and passion),” he says.

His parents were not happy with his decision, but they had also grown weary of his rebelliousness and left it to him to chart his future.

Thereafter, Faizal went on to work several odd jobs. He dabbled in teaching, sales and sports commentary. He was also a cashier at a fast food restaurant and a bank teller.

He didn’t last long at each job because his heart wasn’t in it, he says. But that didn’t stop him from pursuing his lifelong dream.

When the opportunity came, he took a leap of faith and auditioned for One in a Million. The rest, as you know, is history.

“You have to have a strong gut feeling about what you’re doing. With anything in life – career, family, relationships – it’s always about having the right amount of

balance. You can’t have too much or too little of something.

“You have to know that you are capable of doing something and that you love doing it and it can challenge you. You need all the ingredients. It’s not just one thing,” he says.

Faizal’s parents disapproved of his choice to pursue music, but he knew what he had to do to fulfil his dreams and he believed in his talent, and went for it.

One lesson graduates can learn from this is to know what it is they want to achieve and to be persistent in waiting for the right opportunity to come by to achieve their dream.

When choosing your degree and career path, should you choose to follow your passion or go with what is safe? Some questions you have to ask yourself when making a decision are: What do I want? Do I have the capabilities to achieve it? Do I know how to get there? Do I have the means to do so?

Be kind to yourself

The Faizal we see today on stage is confident, charismatic and engaging. He knows how to connect with his audience. Performing for a large crowd is a norm for him.

But the award-winning singer wasn’t always like this. In fact, Faizal suffered from low self-esteem when he was younger.

He says: “I had to go for counselling at one point.”

Growing up abroad, being the only Asian in class, and having experienced racism firsthand, didn’t make things any better, he says.

The negative experiences he faced as a child can be seen translated into some of his songs such as Assalamualaikum and Negaraku which centres on unity, harmony and patriotism.

Seeing as the singer is an ambassador of the Skim Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M) programme – a training programme that helps underemployed and unemployed graduates enhance their marketability – I asked him what are his thoughts about Malaysian graduates.

He says that, unfortunately, a lot of them seem to have low self-confidence. His thoughts echo multiple news reports which have cited a lack of confidence as one of the issues among Malaysian graduates seeking employment.

The father of six adds that it is everyone’s (parents, educators and society) responsibility to help Malaysian youth build a positive self-image of themselves.

Self-confidence is the trust you have in your abilities and is therefore key to help you achieve success.

Luckily, it is a trait that can be developed or learned.

In an interview, Angie Morgan, author of Spark: How To Lead Yourself And Others To Greater Success, shared these tips on building confidence: remind yourself of your past successes. have positive self-appraisals (self-talks), surround yourself with positive role models and manage your fears, insecurities and worries.

Mistakes happen

During a concert performance in 2008 – in the heat of the moment – Faizal removed his jacket, belt and Superman T-shirt to reveal his bare chest which had a painted red letter “S”.

What happened next was a painful backlash from Malaysians.

He was banned from making appearances in any entertainment programmes for six months and royalties from sales of all his albums and concerts were frozen. 

He was reportedly absolutely devastated by the incident, has wept in private and even thought of quitting the local music scene.

Faizal shares that it was a valuable lesson for him albeit a painful one.

“At the end of the day, it’s about being positive and knowing that certain things are worth letting go,” he says.

Former United States Attorney-General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy once said: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

Failures and mistakes are part and parcel of life. You may feel dejected, embarrassed and you may also have a bruised ego, but brooding and over-analysing your mistakes and failures won’t get you anywhere.

The important thing is to never stop trying. Find another way to reach your goals. Never lose belief in yourself, your passion and purpose.

Be patient

Not everyone gets the chance to fulfil their dreams right away. These things take time, as can be seen in Faizal’s story. We may need to start from the bottom and grab the opportunities that come our way.

As a graduate, for instance, finding a job that matches your interests and qualification as well as provides a decent pay, is not easy.

Today’s competitive work environment does not permit one to be too picky, especially if you are at the entry-level.

Starting somewhere and gaining some work experience can help bring you one step closer to your dream or ideal job.

To apply for SL1M, visit To find out more, you can visit SL1M’s official Facebook page at Skim Latihan 1Malaysia.

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