Startup Stories Part 1: A Positive Start

Ever since I started my new position at MaGIC, I’ve hardly had any time to blog. However, inking a bi-weekly column with The Star Metrobiz has pushed me to put out more content in the local Malaysian newspapers. See the original post here. Figured I’d repost them here. Enjoy!

Mt Agung

One step at a time: Our mountain guide on Mt Agung in Indonesia

Malaysians, it is time to believe in ourselves. It is time to embrace positivity. We are after all in this hike together.

Having relocated back after 12 years abroad to lead the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), a government-funded initiative focusing on high growth entrepreneurship development, I’ve observed that Malaysians have become more cynical and pessimistic about the state of our country. We let the voices of a negative few dictate the mood of the country and the startup ecosystem is not immune to it either.

However, having been an entrepreneur who has founded several failed products and subsequently sold my company to Walmart Labs, I know that any successful entrepreneur has to have that extra dose of optimism, idealism, and a conviction almost bordering on insanity. How else can one get through the emotional roller coaster of startup life and manage your own psychology when the whole company is relying on you? When anything that can go wrong tends to go wrong and you just have to keep going.

Positivity is one of the most important determinants of entrepreneurs who will eventually succeed.

In fact, positivity is a powerful motivator and it is contagious — at an individual level, as a group, or as a nation. It breeds hope and perseverance. It compels us to push boundaries and fight against all odds to achieve something meaningful and impactful.

Without hope, we cease to dream. We attack ideas before they can even materialise. We stop taking risks. We criticise. We give up on ourselves, on others, and on our vision. That has to change. And I believe we can do it together as entrepreneurs, and as a nation.

Over New Year’s Eve, a group of friends and I hiked Indonesia’s second tallest volcano, Mount Agung at 3,031m, and from it, I learnt to appreciate the concept of collective positivity even more.

As Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Our fellow hikers represent the community that we surround ourselves with.

Find the ones that will be there for us to lift us up when we fall, and the optimistic ones who will cheer us through the darkest parts of the journey. Just like how mountain guides help us with each turning and path, we can learn from mentors, advisors and seasoned entrepreneurs in our community, who are willing to share openly and constructively, with a positive mindset to build things together.

In the end, we have full control over whom we choose as our support network and whom we want to learn from. If there are detractors in your community that don’t add value to the group’s vision, ignore them, because they sap the collective energy.

It’s often said, positivity starts when a critical mass of people rally around a symbol or a belief system.

This belief starts with ourselves. However, positivity doesn’t mean blind faith. It means being fully aware of how tough the mountain is, getting fully equipped with the right gear and guide, yet approaching it with a good attitude and the right people to cheer you on, come rain or shine.

Another thing that has recently inspired me is how the Malaysian startup community rallied together to build MyBanjir.com within 24 hours in response to the flood.

This represents one of the many symbols of true hope, that when we believe in the best of each other, we can really make an impactful difference.

As we take on the new year that lies before us, let’s challenge ourselves to work together as a community and move forward with positivity and a mindset of abundance. Just as the mountain taught us to take small, steady steps; let’s keep putting one foot ahead of the other toward our goal. We can all do it together.

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