Since I was a child, I unknowingly followed a movie script passed down to me by my parents and teachers…
The script said that I should study hard to get good grades, in order to get a good job, and presumably, a happy and fulfilling life.
Not knowing the existence of other scripts, I followed this plot to a tee.
I studied hard, became a leader in my school activities, and even scored a prestigious scholarship by the Singapore Exchange (SGX).
At first I enjoyed my work, as I was learning a lot about the financial industry, and my senior colleagues were kind and nurturing.
As I progressed in my career, I began to desire a higher and higher salary (mostly because my family grew in size, with three kids…).
I wasn’t sure why, but I also worked hard to climb the corporate ladder, and managed to succeed in this pursuit.
In 2008, I was poached by a Japanese bank in Singapore, and my salary doubled that year (from $6,000 to $12,000 per month).
Then in 2011, I was headhunted by a global bank in Hong Kong, and my paycheck doubled again, this time to over $24,000 per month.
As my title and bank account kept growing, my heart grew increasingly dissatisfied.
Being a Christian, and a middle-aged man by that time, I was quite sure there was much more to life than a stable high-paying job.
Each time I watched a video or read the news about someone leaving his job to pursue a meaningful career, I would feel very envious, but I did NOTHING about it.
What could I do? I was the sole breadwinner, and wouldn’t DARE to leave my job.
Would I be able to earn as much if I pursue my dream to be a life coach and motivational speaker?
So this became my life for a few years – physically going to office, but mentally and emotionally wishing I was doing something more meaningful.
I prayed to God for a solution, and in late 2013, He answered my prayer.
I lost my job.
Hundreds of my colleagues were retrenched during the same period. I received a call from HR, went into a room where my manager and saw my colleague from HR sitting there.
They gave me a few minutes to leave the building.
I asked for permission to pack my stuff at my desk, and they replied, “There’s no need to. We will courier your stuff back to your home.”
Wow, a few minutes ago I was the Vice President at this bank, and now I wasn’t even allowed to walk back to my own desk.
Life is indeed fleeting, full of ups and downs.
Losing my job wasn’t the worst thing that happened to me.
For the next 9 months, I tried looking for a job, and was rejected or ignored by hundreds of companies.
At first I tried to look for “meaningful” work, a job that paid well AND could help me grow and impact lives, but I realised too late there were very few such opportunities.
On a few occasions I was tempted to start my own life coaching company, but I stopped myself.
“What do I know about running a business?”
“What if I fail? How can I provide for my large family?”
So I continued my job search for the next few months.
But nothing. No good news. Rejection after rejection. Silence followed by silence.
Meanwhile all my hard-earned savings in the bank was sucked dry by monthly expenses, and in late 2014, I was left with no choice but to borrow money from my elder brother.
I also had to apply for the “Financial Assistance Scheme” which was designed for the bottom 20% income earners in Singapore. The government gave my three kids food coupons to bring to school, as I couldn’t afford to pass them cash.
And I also received a transportation card that allowed me to save a lot on public transport.
In 2015, I budgeted $5 per day for my own meals, and could only afford to eat “economy rice” (similar to “economy flights”) – which cost me only $2.50 per meal.
When I was at the rock bottom, I was left with no choice. The only way I could provide for my family was to start my own company!
Life wasn’t easy as a new entrepreneur, but boy, did I feel ALIVE!
Everyday I was living the life I dreamt of – coaching people in need, speaking on stages to large audiences, and training motivated professionals.
For the first year I did all these for free, so my income didn’t improve.
But my emotions and mental state went through the roof!
I felt that I was living the life I was meant to live.
Could this be my mission and calling, perhaps?
In 2016, my income gradually improved and in 2017 I was earning the same pay as my banking job! I couldn’t believe it!
It felt like a miracle.
What if it’s just luck? Perhaps my income will drop in 2018?
But it didn’t! It continued climbing, as I began to build trust in the community and became more well known as a life coach.
As I write this story, it’s now 2020.
And in the past 5 years of running my own coaching and training academy, I learnt something very valuable.
When I pursued money as the key driver of my work, I began to feel unfulfilled. I even became a “corporate zombie”
(someone who’s physically present at work but emotionally disengaged)
But once I pursued meaning as the main motivation, then I became more joyful and fulfilled – much more alive! (What’s more, the money would gradually catch up too!)
I’m very grateful for the trust bestowed upon me by the regional community. To date, I have been interviewed on TV, radio and newspapers to share my story and insights, and also invited by companies in many countries to inspire their teams and clients at large conferences.
As a fan of the TEDx talk series, I am especially honoured that I was also invited to be a TEDx speaker! (I couldn’t sleep the night I was invited!)
I have not arrived. There is still a long way to go in achieving my life mission.
As long as I live, I want to empower communities to live a fulfilling life and choose meaningful work.
I call this the movement of #SayYestoAbundance
It is not a coincidence that you are reading my story. (I don’t believe in coincidences.)
You too have a life purpose and a mission to fulfill. And my mission is to help you achieve your mission earlier rather than later.
Eugene is the founder of Trainium Academy, a coaching and training institution that empowers teams to achieve their goals.
Eugene’s life mission is to empower you to live a life that has more than enough or what he calls the "life of abundance". Complete this form to register for his complimentary 1-hour abundance coaching.