I started the year 2019 with the goal of launching yet another startup. I thought to myself: I’ve worked in several successful startups and I’ve read a lot of books about starting one. It’s about time to give it another shot. Five months down the road, I find myself in Singapore instead with a new job and yet another failed dream.
December last year, I was brimming with optimism. Thinking to myself, how hard could it be? This idea had been brewing in my head for two (or maybe three) years now and I thought it was the perfect time to take it out of the backburner. They say the third time’s a charm. I was confident.
I quit my job as AVP in a conglomerate and dove headfirst into entrepreneurship. I gave myself four months to somehow gain traction—God-willing, profitability. I told myself, if things don’t seem promising by the end of April, I’m pulling the plug. Again, I was confident. I thought to myself, April is just a cushion. Things should be looking up by March.
By April, panic and anxiety attacks have become a regular thing. I couldn’t sleep at night. A vendor pulled out and we didn’t have any backup plans. See, I planned this whole thing to perfection but didn’t take into account the black swans—events that deviate beyond what is normally expected of a situation. Only in hindsight did I realize how I’ve, once again, set myself up for failure.
This is the complete opposite of successful startup stories you hear in every podcast episode these days—how founders talk about taking risks, leaving their jobs and justify their decisions by saying, “if I don’t try this idea now, I will regret it.” They jump the gun and the rest is history—standard Silicon Valley startup folklore. Mine is the version where nothing went as planned. Mine is the version where one jumps off a cliff and builds his parachute on his way down only to realize he had no clue how to actually build one. Splat!
Towards the end of April I’ve bled our savings dry, was back in debt and didn’t have a clue where to get the money to pay next month’s rent. I was back to zero. I had nothing.
Letting go and letting God
I can be a stubborn man, really. I’ll be honest. I wanted to push my luck for as long as I could. At this point, I was even too proud to look for a job. My wife, bless her heart, was true to her vows and stood by me through everything. But the fact that April was almost over and I had nothing to show spoke volumes to me. I realized pride and ego won’t get me anywhere. I was humbled.
We decided to test the job market and so I started reaching out to friends and former colleagues. I met with headhunters, updated my CV and started sending them out. I didn’t think twice before I posted on LinkedIn that I was in between jobs and actively looking for one—the equivalent of the villain in the movie firing his last bullet at the hero before falling off a cliff.
My wife and I prayed fervently and left everything to God. I am an introvert who gets needlessly technical on things so I find ambivalence in ambiguity. I always ended my prayer asking God to tell us what to do or, at the very least, give us extremely clear signs.
Right before April ended, the offers started coming. Headhunters and recruitment officers called left and right. I could argue that my experience in ecommerce—a very relevant industry at present—is what caused this but honestly, at this point, I didn’t have the energy to even think that. I knew this was God orchestrating our very lives.
The only question now is: which one do I choose? My wife and I had a list of criteria on which job to choose. One, I needed to start right away. Two, the pay has to make sense (no point low-balling ourselves at this stage). And three, it has to be something I’d be genuinely interested in.
I dreaded the previous job because I didn’t fit into their culture and felt like an outsider for my entire stay. I jumped the gun to escape what was quickly becoming a dire and awful situation at a job prior to that. But I’ll stop myself there and end it at that. I’m not sure I am ready to talk about it just yet. I lasted 5 months—shortest gig ever—but it honestly felt like an eternity. So now, I wanted to find something where I would feel welcome and actually enjoy what I’m doing.
After sifting through everything, 3 offers remained. The first one was with a leading specialty retailer locally. Finally I’d get to work with brands easily recognized by people, I thought to myself. The hardest thing in working in tech startups is no one outside of the company knows exactly what the hell you’re doing and I’ve always dreaded reunions especially when a relative asks me what I do for a living. The role sounded promising but the working hours were brutal. 10 hours daily with a very slim chance of working remotely. That and the fact that it’s a family-run business didn’t appeal to me. It somehow reminded me of my previous job—the AVP gig.
The second offer was from a FinTech startup founded in Indonesia. They were slowly expanding into other markets and they interviewed me for a position based in Manila. The thing I liked about this particular company is they were fully remote—meaning I can work anywhere. Huge points for that! I get to be with my family all the time.
The third and last offer, which we hardly considered, was a job in Singapore. We only considered it because a good friend was asking for help. He saw my LinkedIn post and checked whether I’d be open to working with him in a different country.
Now, you have to understand that we are a small and tightly-knit family. We are very close and we’re used to being with each other every minute so the thought of working in a different country and being away from them for extended periods of time felt foreign to me. So I said, let’s keep this in our back pocket just in case.
We continued praying and the other offers started falling off one after the other. The only thing that remained was the Singapore gig which we’ve started to consider since the clock was ticking. But after thoroughly reviewing the offer, it didn’t seem like we could make it work so we were back to zero. At the same time, the offers stopped coming.
I wasn’t sure if we were to make next month’s rent. I thought of selling some of our assets and just go back to my parents’ house until I’m able to figure things out. I even considered going back to the call center industry just to make ends meet.
Light at the end of the tunnel
God is never late nor early. He is always on time. Right when we were about to lose hope, the Singapore gig came calling. They surprisingly agreed to the package I initially requested. The only catch is I had to fly in a week.
The timing couldn’t have been any better as my in-laws were visiting from abroad and were staying with us. Nouelle and the kids wouldn’t abruptly be by themselves when I leave—at least for another month. We took this as a sign that Singapore is where He wanted me to be. And I can give a lot more examples of how getting to Singapore, finding a place to stay, applying for documents and getting approved last-minute—all went without a hitch. As to why Singapore, I am still figuring that part out.
It’s been very hard I’ll tell you that and I’ll write all about it in a separate entry but truly when you put your faith in Him and believe that He’s continuously working in your life, everything else is gravy.
For now, I’m watching the 2019 National Day Parade near our office while learning about different cultures and how a country can be successful when people look out for one another. I’ve joined a company where I felt very welcome and where I actually enjoy what I’m doing that I look forward to coming to work in the morning.
The panic and anxiety attacks have lessened, except for days when homesickness hits hard. We were never delayed in paying our rent and we didn’t need to sell any of our assets. I’ve found a very nice place to stay in Singapore (right next to the coast!) and the owners are heaven-sent. My wife is scheduled to visit next month and I’m excited to show her what I’ve been up to the last couple of months.
He might’ve not given us exactly what we asked for but He surely has given us something more and perhaps something better. And right now, at this very moment, there is nothing more I could ask of Him.