There is no shame is being a hawker, but there is great shame in being prideful and foolish
June 1, 2012
Recently I came across this really dumb write up in the internet: http://politicalwritings.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/hawker-school-yet-another-stupid-idea-from-vivian-b/
Let me be crystal clear – if you buy into the substance of what the author of this write up believes to be good or bad. Then you are just cutting off a world of opportunities for yourself to explore a whole new way of branching out and making it big in life.
There is nothing wrong with hawkering as a career and if there is any negative connotation that is associated with this profession it usually lies in our own prejudices and baisness of how we usually ascribe value to somethings we either consider valuable or worthless in life.
I am one of those who happen to believe this perhaps the ONLY sensible plan that has emerged from anal constricted officialdom that currently stand the highest probability of success to produce an emerging merchant class in Singapore than any other program out there that is currently offered by either govt agencies or for that matter the private sector. This is really a golden opportunity for ANYONE to learn how to be your own boss and feel comfortable with the whole idea of managing an enterprise.
But before you can really jump and grab this opportunity. You have to kill off many myths abt hawkering that can do very little except hold you back and deny you a whole world of opportunities to personal freedom.
My logic stands the test of reason – as when nobody wants to be a hawker, that is the best time when you should seriously consider this as a career. Sometimes in life, you don’t need 10 bullet points – and this is really one case, where one diamond point is all you need to get on your bike. As when you decide to EXPLORE the whole enterprise of what it takes to make it as a hawker NOW. You are really buying into a very good thing when it’s dead cheap.
Besides just because you choose to be a hawker doesn’t mean that you will end up peddling char kuey teow all your life – manage an enterprise well and you could even be looking at a chain of eateries spanning Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo and London – there are really no limits to what you can do with an enterprise. But if you delay or worst pooh pooh the idea as beneath you or demeaning – then all you are really doing is painting yourself into a corner and denying yourself a whole continent of possibilities – all because you can’t seem to wrap your ego around what to me is a perfectly great career that is only limited by your imagination and your courage to explore and go where no mind dares to go. Trust me, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, just do it, as some time down the not so distant future, when hawkers start buying ferraris and crashing them all over the place in Singapore, then I don’t think it’s possible to be a hawker any more, as by then the cost of buying in to be a hawker would be impossibly high. But if supposing you decide to be a hawker. You must be your own man – and here clarification is required, because many people these days like to call themselves their own man, when infact, they are no better than remote control toys. Being your own man means if people don’t respect you just because you happen to be a hawker, that really just bounces off you like a shell striking a tiger tank – it has no effect; no impact; it is like mosquito bite. That is because you know who you are and most importantly everyone in your family knows why you are doing the things you do. That if you must know is the only thing that matters, the rest you can throw into the dustbin. So don’t sweat the small stuff.
It is the same if you wish to be a farmer – there is land all over the world – most of it is taken up, but there is still free land in places where people like to carry guns and from time to time shoot at you – but if you are the sort who likes to live dangerously, then you can be farmer in any part of the world. Sure many people will say it is dangerous. As there are alot of dangerous people in those countries that offer free land to anyone who wants to be a farmer. If it is not risky, it would be worth USD$50,000 per hectare. But remember what I mentioned earlier abt going into something when it’s at rock bottom prices that no one even one’s to touch it with a barge pole. In these countries there are also no laws – so a man has to be very clear abt what he’s going into. You may end up dead or worse still decapitated and your execution broadcasted in YouTube. But at least you have a chance to make it big. Not a very secure proposition some many say. But I am one of those who believe firmly that security is relative. After all even brigands do their risk assessment – they aren’t bloody fools who will rush to eat a boney fish even if the flesh taste great. They might say, this will be hard to swallow, things can get very complicated, I may end up in the morgue – so as you can see it is not as bad as it seems, there is always an opportunity to make peace and live and let live. Besides why should dying be an issue, you can also die very easily in Singapore as well when a Ferarri ploughs into you or when a diplomat can’t get it up and decides to run down a few innocent people just to prove that he is a real man – so you can really die anywhere. But I think the risk is acceptable, as usually conflict and risk can both be managed.
But the most important thing when you decide to commit your mind, body and spirit to these things is to know why you are doing it – this is the secret recipe for having the right attitude and stamina to see a thing from beginning to end – it is to know what it means to “lor tak hei, fong tak lok” – to pick up a thing and set it down.”
Extracted from The Way of the Farmer – proudly brought to you by the Brotherhood Press 2012
“The difference between a salaried man and a business man who runs his own enterprise is really like a F1 racing car and a clapped up bone shaker – there is no comparison. The attitude that you may have as a salaried man is NEVER as intense and engaged as a someone who runs his own enterprise. As for me. I like to blame others when things don’t pan out the way I planned it. When I was a salaried man. You can even say I was spoilt rotten. As there are plenty of people to blame and I had the entire resource of the firm behind me. If I want more manpower, I will just up next years budget for the headcount. If there is a headcount freeze. I even know at least 3 or 4 ways to get around that roadblock. But as someone who runs his own enterprise. You even have to shop for the paperclips and toilet rolls yourself. I doesn’t appear magically like when you used to be a salaried man. So it is really not so different from a learning how to work all over again. But for me, I realized there are many things one should first UNLEARN when running your own enterprise. Do not be so quick to load new software into your brain. Unlearn diligently first. Interrogate many of your time honored assumptions without your ego and affectations – if it is useless chuck it out. If it is worthwhile keep it. Because when you run your own enterprise, if it fails you really have no one to blame but yourself. Then again if you succeed, it is also because you have done the right things consistently.
I think this idea of being a hawker is the best idea that has ever came out from a government that has as much imagination as a door knob. The idea is deceptively simple, but yet very effective. Not too flashy or even a bridge too far such as Philip Yeo Byzantine “whale and guppy” fantasy that crashed and burnt disappearing into the abyss – this idea of encouraging people do be hawkers as a reliable way to turn the wheel of life has plenty of room for improvisation. And within its rudimentary structure it is really like a Lego set, there are endless ways to experiment and find your strengths and highlight your weaknesses without taking extraordinary risk as in my case – so this will take out much of the baby pang grief of striking out in business. Unlike a do or die case where so much is invested that it is really like launching a three stage precision rocket – where failure is not an option and that stresses everyone out and causes mental problems that may possibly lead to suicides. But this idea of being a hawker is very manageable, it is really a modular way for anyone to get up to speed about learning the ropes of how to run an enterprise like one of those dummies series books or in a flight simulator – and I must say Vivian Balakrishnan and his team has really done an excellent job of hitting the nail squarely on the head. As many stupid politicians out there still believe Singapore can have the luxury of not building a mercantile class. But I see the creation of a merchant class as strategic, if the goal is to keep us ahead of the competition – and this will is a very good platform of creating a new class of entrepenuers in Singapore which would otherwise have ended up as robotic salaried men. I have no doubt in 10 or 20 years. This great experiment that for some strange reason has received so little or zero public and private support and press coverage will spawn a new generation of innovators, who may at first just preoccupy themselves with churning out good and cheap food on the go. But as they get to know the ropes of hawkering better. Some of them may even migrate from the core idea of serving it up fast and furious – some may see niche opportunities like manufacturing meals mountaineers regulars chow – these are high tech, ultra light and super expensive – some may even venture into developing kitchen equipment and catering solutions serve the needs of people who eat on an industrial scale – others will explore franchising, marketing and product development to even possibly synthesizing a whole new range of products and services that we have never seen before – one day in the not too distant future. This new generation of brave young men and women who have chosen to go into this career will be the ones who laugh last. I can bet my last dollar in ten years time, if I walk into one of their outlets in Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Venice or even Lagos. They will be offering something very exciting that people will vote with their wallets. I do not know what I will be walking into – but I know it will be a very exciting collage of new ideas that will push the whole envelop of innovation and creativity to a new level. And hopefully when these young businessmen learn to do all this – they will develop the right muscle memory to be comfortable with taking calculated risk. And as they themselves graduate to be leaders in their respective industry. They are better placed to shape and change society for the better. As life is very simple. If you can blog very well, so what? It means nothing. That I am afraid is the truth and nothing but the truth. But if you are a successful business man, you can use your money to move even mountains. Money makes the world go round. If you have enough of it, you can even create a reliable means for people to turn the wheel of life – you can grow lives, seed the future and have a hand in shaping destiny – like a farmer who nourishes trees, only as a businessman, you are really using money to realize dreams to produce sweet fruit that edify you and others. This I find is something very few know abt till they go into business. Above all as a business man you will have the power to effect your own philosophy of what it means to be an organically balanced person. One of the turning points in my life that prompted me to go into business occurred in Simei when I visited by friends plastic injection factory – it is a SME. Not very big outfit with just 12 workers manufacturing specialized speaker parts- but one of the factory hands I noticed had down syndrome. I was fascinated by how everyone in this factory treated this man and even how the mother of this boy was allowed to stand next to the son to help him. The owner even set aside a small corner for her – they were all like a happy family and kind to this fellow. And they took great pride that they had such a fellow working with them.
When I saw all this, I felt powerless and ashamed. As although as a salaried man I had over 40 men reporting to me and the firm I worked for was a multinational. I could never create a slice of heaven in my workplace for such a fellow – I felt angry at my own powerlessness. As when you work for others, you have to abide by policy and HR regulations. So what this humble business man did for this chap – I could never do. That is the painful truth. No amount of clever words can negotiate around that awful reality and it gnawed at me.
But this SME boss could just do it – he can say fuck off to the world. As a salaried man, you cannot do that. Then it struck me then like a diamond bullet – This is real POWER! The power perhaps not to save the whole world or even the rest of humanity. But for that boy who was suffering from Down Syndrome. I think that businessman made a very big difference to his life. And then I saw for the very first time how useless I really am. In that moment, I envied my friend And so I said to myself, it is time to do something with my life.
That is why when you see an opportunity to be your own man – grab it and run as fast as you can. Be selfish even. Don’t look right or left. Don’t bother what others may even think – better still fuck them off – just take it and run till your lungs give out to an aching pain. And if possible run some more. As I guarantee you when you take and run with this simple idea, you will arrive at a place that is very different from the one that you started this journey from – and with this you will discover a new you that can suddenly do so many things that you could never ever conceive ever doing before you began this epic journey called being your own man. That is the reward that life confers as a gift to every man who runs his own enterprise – doesn’t matter whether it is small enterprise like running a mamak shop selling knick knacks or a juggernaut firm like General Motors – what you will have is a microcosm to create either heaven or earth in your own enterprise, not when you die, but NOW. So grab it. Do not worry too much abt what others say or even how you may come across to others – if possible fuck them off in one straight line in your head. As for your ego – for fuck sake grow up lah! As this is very valuable. And if others cannot see value it it – it does not alter the fact that it is still valuable – I think if such a scheme existed BEFORE I went into business – I would just probably sign on for it. I don’t think if I went through such a graduated learning process abt running my own enterprise – I would have made so many mistakes in the beginning when I started my own enterprise or gone through so much isolation and grief. As I will be making this epic journey with others with the help of the government. But in my time, no such scheme existed. So it was very difficult for me to past from the realm of theory into reality with relief. as I was thrown into the deep end and had to really swim like a crazy man. Today it is there like Prairie land for the taking – all you have to do is go out there and drive a stake into the ground and say, this is my enterprise. I am going to make something out of it – so what the fuck are you waiting for? Do you want an invitation from the Aga Khan? But I warn you all – if you pooh pooh this idea of fashioning a great life out of just starting off as a hawker – be very careful. I say be five chili careful! As I can assure you even if you are salaried man right now and at the top of your game you will not go very far in life, if you CANNOT see value in this proposition. That sort of attitude will always hold a man back. I know. I happen to know all this things very well not as a commentator. But as someone who has gone through this before, during and after to stand a this place on a hill. So please be mindful what you blog abt this. Don’t show the world what a fucking idiot you are! At least have the decency to pretend to be wise lah! That is the only advice I give to you motherfuckers who are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.
May I ask a very polite question: who exactly is the sisterfucker who is the ring leader in this forum? I want to talk to him – tell him Darkness of the Brotherhood is looking for him! Go and tell him it is time for the sleeper to awake.”
Extracted from a thread two weeks ago in Ekunaba.