Lessons on the journey called life
When I saw firsthand the live performance of Negaraku sometime in 2017, 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. Accompanying him on stage that day were fellow well-known local artists Joe Flizzow, Altimet and SonaOne, who are featured artists on the single released in 2016.
The 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 Southeast Asia.
Faizal ─ whose real name is Ahmad Faizal bin Mohd Tahir ─ was born on October 26, 1978. He spent his early childhood in the United Kingdom and he and his family returned to Malaysia when he was eight. (This explains why he has a hint of a British accent till today.)
Growing up in a strict and religious household, Faizal admits he didn’t have much exposure to sports or music.
So, how did his passion for music start?
The 40-year-old singer smiles and says: “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 (coming in my way)… I think it was the rebellious side of me.”
You’d be surprised to know that the singer never had any formal music education or vocal lessons prior to taking part in the show. (I was surprised myself.)
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).
1. Their dreams for you vs. yours
Upon completing secondary school, Faizal went on to pursue a diploma in mass communication and a degree in advertising at UiTM (Universiti Teknologi MARA) Shah Alam.
Just a month before completion of his degree, however, Faizal dropped out. He says he woke up one day and realised he couldn’t bring himself to do it anymore.
“I wanted to do music. I just didn’t believe in being dishonest with myself – going to classes and not feeling it (the motivation and passion).”
His parents weren’t too pleased with his decision, but they had also grown weary of his rebelliousness and left it up 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 KFC and a bank teller. He didn’t last long at each job. 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 it, is history.
He shares that it hasn’t been an easy journey to get here.
“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.”
Faizal’s parents disapproved of his choice, but he knew what he had to do to fulfil his dreams and he went for it. But it also required a lot of hard work and perseverance.
The questions you have to ask yourself is:
• 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?
For example, your passion may be in fine arts, but you are also good in mathematics and physics. Perhaps engineering would be a more secure path to take and fine arts can be taken up as a hobby?
Think wisely before making a decision.
This might interest you: From Zero To Hero: Life Lessons From The Sea
2. Don’t be too hard on 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 1 Malaysia (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.
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 for some of us, confidence is something that can be learned!
In an interview, Angie Morgan, author of Spark: How To Lead Yourself And Others To Greater Success, shared these tips on building confidence, which I personally found useful:
1) Remind yourself of the successes you have had (no matter how small they seem).
2) Have self-talks – because your thoughts influence your feelings and behaviour.
3) Surround yourself with positive role models – people who can build you up.
4) Manage your fears, insecurities and worries by acknowledging them and taking action.
3. Mistakes happen, even to the best of us
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, especially from the Muslim community. He was banned by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) from making appearances in any entertainment programmes for six months. Adding to that, 8TV froze royalties from sales of all his albums and concerts.
According to The Star, Faizal was absolutely devastated by the incident, has wept in private and even thought of quitting the local music scene.
Faizal shares with me 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. Yes, you may feel dejected and embarrassed, and you may also have bruised you 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. Just like Faizal.
4. Cherish what you have
It was a trip Faizal made to a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon back in 2010 that changed the way he saw himself as an entertainer, according to an article by The Star.
Observing the sufferings endured by people less fortunate than him, Faizal wanted to do something to help them. He figured, why not use the reach he has as a public figure to create awareness and leave a positive impact on the community.
So he started his own charity initiative, iamFaithmen.
Faizal recently made a trip to Bangladesh for the Faith for Rohingya mission.
When asked about the trip, he says: “The condition of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh are very far from being okay. It’s different from all the other experiences I have had.
“These kinds of trips are very life-changing. It really opens up your eyes and heart to newer things and makes you appreciate your country even more.”
It’s so easy to complain about the things we lack or are missing from our lives.
Everyone is on a different journey and if you are going to zero in on what people say about you, you won’t go far in life.
Highly successful people such as Tony Robbins, Ariana Huffington and Oprah Winfrey make a list of things they are grateful for on a daily basis.
Huffington said: “What we focus on, what we put our attention on really determines how we feel about that particular day or our life in general.”
Bringing it all together
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, and that 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.