Career Guide

Are you happy?

If you’re truly happy in life, great! If not, there’s just ONE thing you need to do to find your purpose.

As I visit businesses, schools and universities, delivering talks here in Malaysia and overseas, there’s never a time when I’m not bowled over by the enthusiasm of people who have a strong desire to develop themselves and make a difference in the world.

Every time I engage with students, professionals, senior managers and chief executive officers (CEOs), the questions I’m asked could fill a book – not that it’s a bad thing!

I relish the challenge of having my mind stretched as I help people move along the road to achieving their goals in life.

Every now and then, I get into a conversation with someone who is somewhat less enthusiastic about what they want to achieve.

They tell me things like:

“What if I don’t want to be a leader?”

“Why is everyone telling me I need to be successful – can’t I just be happy with where I am?”

“I don’t want to change the world, I’m quite happy working in my 9–5 job and leaving my work at the office.”

For every one of these interactions, I have very short responses:

“You don’t have to be a leader – you can be whatever you want to be.”

“You’re not obligated to listen to what anyone tells you; if you’re truly happy where you are, you’re free to stick with what you’re doing.”

“Who’s saying anything about changing the world? Very few people actually get to do that. If you’re happy in your job, that’s your privilege. No one is making you change, nor should they try.”


Now, you’d think that the discussion was over, but almost always, the conversation would carry on.

I’d sometimes wonder if the person is expecting me to try to convince them that they should be a leader or that they should be aiming higher in life.

I imagine that they would have had their counter-arguments ready to go, before my replies made them redundant.

Nevertheless, they voice their arguments to me, and I listen politely, but I eventually realised what’s really going on.

They’re not trying to convince me of anything – they’re trying to convince themselves that the lives they’re now leading is exactly what they wanted.

‘It’s my life!’

Let me be clear: if you are genuinely happy with where you are, then you should absolutely continue doing your thing. There’s a reason it’s called your life.

As Bob Dylan once said, success is when a person gets up in the morning and goes to sleep at night having done what they wanted to do in the hours in-between.

If you feel that you don’t need more, don’t shoot for more. If you feel like you don’t want to develop yourself and contribute more to the world, nothing or nobody can make you do otherwise.

But here’s the interesting thing...

In almost all of these conversations, it quickly becomes clear that the person does want more, they do want to push themselves, and they are desperate to make some kind of contribution beyond what they’ve already made.

Begin where you are

As it turns out, a lot of them just don’t know where to start. As a result, they’ve concocted this defensive story in their minds which they use to convince themselves that they’re quite happy with life.

As the conversation goes back and forth, the question eventually arises:

“Ok, so let’s say I could develop myself and do more – how do I start?”

They answer their own question here. But I return it anyway, just in case.

“You start.”

A baffled look comes over their faces and I try to explain to them what I mean by this fundamental piece of advice.

When I was younger, I was terrible at sales – and I mean terrible. But I knew it was a skill that I needed, and so how did I become better at sales?

Did I read books? Attend seminars? Speak to people mastered in the art of selling?

Sure. But that gets you only so far.

So, I said to myself, ‘You have to start.’

And so, I began selling door-to-door and I honed my skills over time. All the things I had learnt before only really sank in after I began putting myself in the position of selling.

The reason I became better at selling was because I started to sell.

The right time is now

At this point, the realisation dawns on the person that life isn’t going to wait for them. There is no right moment. No one can do your growing for you.

You’re in charge and you have two choices: you can either get out there and grab life by the throat, or you can sit back and let life’s current sweep you along wherever it pleases. Either way, you make the decision.

Again, if you’re happy with your life, that’s great. Maybe someone else will try to convince you to be this or that, but I’ll applaud the fact that you are where you want to be and leave it there.

When people ask me, “How do you convince people to buy your product if they’re resistant?”

I say, “You don’t. If someone has no need for what you have to offer, walk on and find the next person who does.”

But if, deep down, you have that idea for a business nagging away at you; if you want to learn those new skills; if you want to go back to school and get that degree; if you want to make a difference beyond what you’re making now...

Do yourself a favour and see the story that you’re telling yourself for what it is: a bunch of limiting beliefs that are feeding you lies to say that you’re not good enough to do anything but settle and be grateful.

And once you’ve done that? Start.

Out of your comfort zone

If you’re an introvert who’s terrified of networking but wants to connect with others? Start.

Attend as many events, gatherings and parties as you can and talk to people. Is it tough? Sure!

So was selling items door-to-door, but you learn so much and grow so much in confidence when you just decide to put yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Perhaps you have an idea for a business but are unsure where to begin? Start.

Read three books by experts in your area of interest; connect with people on social media who are relevant to your business; engage with them and add value to that relationship; ask questions; or take one or two industry leaders out for lunch and ask for their insights.

Build up from the bottom and don’t give up until you reach where your ‘top’ is.

Success is a journey

Remember that success is never an end-point.

Warren Buffett is not successful. Bill Gates is not successful. Oprah Winfrey is not successful. Their success is ongoing. Always.

Buffett has a net worth of over USD84bil and he’s still working hard, pushing new boundaries, continuing to learn, and making a difference... at 87 years old.

Whatever you have nagging away at you, whatever makes you come alive – pursue it with all you’ve got.

The fears we encounter tell us the biggest lies we’ll ever hear. Go beyond the limiting beliefs and just... start.

In conclusion

You’ll stumble, fall and learn along the way, but that’s where we meet the most valuable lessons in our journey towards achieving the goals we set for ourselves.

Read all the books you can, talk to all the experts, attend all the conferences – these are undoubtedly valuable resources.

But keep in mind that the most valuable learning of all comes by doing. That’s something that will never change.

Be a leader!

- Roshan Thiran is the founder and CEO of Leaderonomics – a social enterprise working to transform lives through leadership development and nurturing potential. Connect with Roshan on Facebook for more insights into business, personal development, and leadership. You can also follow Roshan on Twitter and Instagram (@lepaker).

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