If the movie Moana is about my life when I was starting out my entrepreneurship career, then Reflection in Mulan is my theme song during the phase where I was finding and creating myself.
I change every year, but it feels like I am just becoming more comfortable in my skin. I feel like the best version of myself every year, as I lean in to what makes me, me. At the same time, I spent a good 6 years trying to find myself and create the environment where I can be my best self. And over the next 4-ish years, I kept leaning in to creating that best version of me. In hindsight, things are better than I ever imagined. But those 6 years of finding myself broke me a few times.
I could quote everything in the lyrics.
Look at me, I may never pass for a perfect bride, or a perfect daughter. Can it be, I'm not meant to play this part? Now I see, that if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family's heart.
I remembered when I first moved to Hong Kong in 2013, I felt so free. It was the freedom to truly be me, to break out of the feeling where I don’t belong. I found my social group and I did everything I wanted to do, without expectations from society. And being me means to embrace the crazy weird side of me, to take risk and be an entrepreneur, to dream big and achieve them anyways.
I never felt like I was a typical regular person on the street. And I remember back in 2019, one night, I just wondered if my parents could choose again, would they want me as their daughter because I don’t follow the norm. I don’t date a Singaporean, I don’t follow the “Singaporean dream”, I don’t want an “iron rice bowl”. I’m not the perfect daughter they would have wanted. Well fast forward 10 years, I know that was a silly thought to even entertain. Still, at that time, I felt like I was letting them down.
How I pray, that a time will come, I can free myself, from their expectations On that day, I'll discover someway to be myself, and to make my family proud.
I feel incredibly lucky to be able to begin my life again and again — Hong Kong, Vietnam, Netherlands, UK, US. With every trip, I was finding myself, I was figuring out my principles, my values, who I am. And with those restarts, I could begin again and lean in to what makes me, me.
My family never had any real expectations of me. They just let me be me. They get worried that I am risking too much in entrepreneurship. I’m very grateful to have found myself and created myself, to be this current version.
I know who I am, and I love every version of me, every work-in-progress iteration. I’m grateful I never have to hide the real me. I’m privilege that I never need to pretend that I am someone else. I did not enjoy my schoolmates in university because they think in 1 dimension and I’ve lived in 3 other countries by then. Instead, I became friends with my professors, and had plenty of intellectual conversations that stimulate my thought process.
In my companies, I know exactly what we are doing, and where we are going. I never make my strategies based on macro conditions, but rather, focused on systems and scalability. This is not what other founders do, and I’m glad I could be the real me, all the time.
When will my reflection show, who I am inside?
It took 10 years of fine-tuning, experimenting and reflecting to come to this conclusion. The grateful thing is that I am always very happy with who I am and be the best version of me at that moment. But now, right now, I am the best version of 100% me.
When I was studying, I would lean in to the studious version of me. The one that gets good grades, maintains scholarship and whatnot. It helped me to create discipline and various principles like grit and perseverance through hard times. It’s not 100% me, because contrary to popular beliefs, I am not studious all the time. I enjoy play a lot.
When I was in Vietnam, my world and principles crashed. I had to rebuild my values and principles again. Many of my principles stopped working then. There, I could create and rebuild myself, based on all the learnings before, and create this version of me that I have been working on for years.
When I started Economics Design and later Orus, I had the opportunity to create the culture I want to build, and to define what kind of boss and leader I want to be.
In retrospect, I’m glad to have broken myself many times. Broke my beliefs and principles by testing them, and build new robust ones that I base my life upon today. I continue to improve and update the systems I have, to keep creating the best version of me. There is no reason for that other than, I genuinely find it fun.
More often than not, people always tell me “never tell people about this because it’s really weird”. But I like telling people about it. And I embrace every aspect of it. After all, I choose to be this weird.