As I transitioned into becoming an entrepreneur in Malaysia, I received a lot of negative comments and statements from people around me. Amongst the comments I heard and received were: I’m a woman, I don’t have the network to succeed in business, I am the wrong race to own and run a business, will I be successful in my endeavours, what if I fail, especially after I left my permanent job in the government sector? None of them were my cheerleaders. So, how then, did I storm these low-energy statements and comments and emerge alive and well?
In this article, I share my panacea that I used to sustain myself as an Indian woman, owning and running a business in Malaysia for over 20 years.
There are three parts to my panacea.
The first part – My personal leadership
I discovered that I had an adventurous streak when I was a teenager. I had a certain level of confidence to try out new experiments, viz., baking cookies, cakes, and icing them with cream, learning cutting hair techniques, planting, re-arranging furniture in the house, purchasing fabric and designing clothes, accessorising my outfits appropriately with matching shoes, trying out new hairstyles, undergoing the Lasik eye correction operation, and even tattooing my upper and lower eyelids. I felt that if I had asked people around me, I would have been dissuaded from attempting these adventures, as they would naturally steer towards the failure part of them.
Hence, I realised that I had built within myself a certain level of self-leadership. Leveraging on this built-up asset or resource, I had the courage to push myself into the world of business. I had a sense that I would do well and survive.
Read more: Five Steps to Build Greater Self-Awareness
There were many challenges. I realised that Malaysia is a masculine society and the men in business who had the power to make decisions on whether to hire me for a consultancy job or training program, would demand favours, such as lowering the price of the program, or asking for a bigger commission if I wanted to be granted that project, and more. I would never allow my values to be compromised. I knew when to walk away. This was mainly due to the second part of my panacea.
The second part – My spiritual guidance
From young I had been brought up to be grounded in my faith in God. I was taught to differentiate between doing good and otherwise. Of course, I made a lot of blunders along the way, and all of them were teaching moments for me to learn and grow stronger in my faith.
I began to realise that having a personal talent for being a consultant, trainer and coach could propel me so far in my career. That was as far as my human frailty could energise and propel me. I learned that I needed to ground myself deeper so that I could go farther in my career. I did this by investing time and resources in educating myself by enrolling in classes around my faith and religion.
Additionally, I also spent more time meditating and building up my capacity to be present. These various personal development investments paid-off as I noticed that I was able to support my clients more effectively and more innovatively in their current challenges.
I also noticed my inner wisdom came to my rescue. From this emerged insights and intuition that provided unique solutions and ideas on how to support my clients in their predicament. It was a win-win situation for all of us.
Finally, the third part - My tribe
I realised in my university days that I am a people-oriented person. I am very creative and innovative when I am alone, and I am energised when I am with people. Some of my best elements of ‘me’ emerge.
Knowing the correct network is important in my line of work. This group of decision-makers must like you as well as what you're proposing for their teams and leaders. This was a particularly difficult phase for me because the size of my network was limited to my students and peer lecturers at the university where I was lecturing.
Hence it was a big leap of faith, a big stretch, a big new blue ocean, and a big belief in my self-confidence. All of these was my scaffolding or safety net to embrace me when I was rejected by the decision makers. I continued to strive forward.
Related: How to Get The Most Out of a Networking Event
When one break-through came, it propelled and energised me so much, that I could feel I had moved up to the next level. I used the current organisation to become a member of my tribe, and they introduced me to others. Soon I formed a tribe of supportive leaders who believed in me and willingly expanded my network of clients. I am so deeply grateful and feel humbled by their faith in me and the programmes I designed, developed, and facilitated for their teams and leaders.