Evan Wong's Five Senses of Entrepreneurship

Editor’s Note:I really enjoyed this essay. Evan’s “five senses” are spot-on, and can be applied to a variety of situations. It’s clear that the act of defining these qualities has been just as constructive for him as having them in the first place.

It’s a great lesson to us all- how would you describe your own “five senses”?

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I have never met or read about any entrepreneur who said it was easy, who didn’t encounter failure and who didn’t hustle to get what they wanted. I am no exception. I am currently 20 years old and almost all of my peers are students – they spend most of their time studying and focusing on getting good grades to hopefully get that internship that will land them their dream job. But for me, my main commitment has been my business.

I am the founder of HiRe Education, an HSC Physics and Chemistry tuition centre. In my “spare time” I am also a commerce-law student at the University of New South Wales, a university co-curricular enthusiast and a passionate martial artist.

In my short 3 years as a business owner thus far, I have pursued and continually developed what I believe are the five senses to entrepreneurship. These 5 qualities are of course not the only qualities that define an entrepreneur; they are simply the qualities which have defined me the most so far as I hustle in my attempt to make an impact.

FIRST SENSE: FOCUS

When you have focus, you see opportunities for your business everywhere in your day-to-day life.

Have you ever been so excited about something that you’re constantly thinking about it no matter where you are? I feel that all the time. Starting your own business is like opening a blank canvas with an infinite amount of space to fill. Unlike almost any other work, you’re in control of everything with no restrictions on the direction or implementation of your ideas. But it runs both ways.

The canvas doesn’t paint itself. If you neglect it, your business becomes stagnant and, just like the hopeless attempt at blending colours with dried paint, you may miss the opportunity to create something amazing. But give it attention, and each stroke you make feeds the living and growing creature that is your business.

Focus is one thing that I have, but at the same time, I don’t have. I have focus because I’m constantly thinking about my business. I’m always thinking about new initiatives I can implement and how I can make existing processes more efficient and effective. I think about it when I’m eating, in the shower, when I’m on the train, you name it! It’s this lingering thought that creeps in and out from the back of my mind every moment that I’m breathing.

On the other hand (or should I say eye), I don’t have focus because I am committed to more than just my business. As a student who is active in the community, I have assignments to do, lectures to go to and several other responsibilities to fulfill outside the classroom. All of this detracts from my ability to focus.

But in some weird sort of way, I am at the same time still focused. I’ve found that I am more interested in classes now because things that I learn may actually have some practical implication, something I might be able to use to further my business. Even though I’m already suffocating from my workload, I actively seek new roles because there is so much I can learn outside to improve myself, which I can then bring into my business.

SECOND SENSE: BELIEF

When you have belief, you can smell the trustworthiness and capability of yourself and others.

It’s important to believe in yourself. If entrepreneurs don’t believe in their own work, why should other people? There have been several occasions where I have been told, mainly from my parents, that I should stop investing so much in my business and focus on studies. They tell me that this won’t last, but a stable job will. As much as I respect my parents, if I had listened to them a few years ago, I would not be sitting here now in my teaching space, surrounded by piles of my resources and looking up at the wall decorated with my business name. Starting a business is risky, and belief is sometimes all you have to keep you going.

Sometimes I wonder, “what makes me so special?” There are so many talented people in this world, so why should other people trust the work that I have created? Can I really do this role justice? It’s times like these that I’m glad I have people who support me – friends and family who believe in me, even customers who believe that I am the perfect person for their needs. It is important to have these people, because it is their belief in you that keeps you going, even when you lose belief in yourself.

And I must mention belief in others. I have read about entrepreneurs who have been back-stabbed and betrayed by their colleagues. Although it doesn’t hurt to be cautious, I would not be where I am today without placing trust and belief in my team. I am 100% confident in the abilities of my staff and their growth and commitment is a testament to that.

THIRD SENSE: STRONG WILL

When you have a strong will, you will taste all the flavours of failure but continue fighting.

Failure and strong will go hand in hand. As Stallone said in the movie Rocky Balboa, “[I]t ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward.” I couldn’t agree more. There were a lot of times, especially starting up, when it was very difficult and- I’m ashamed to admit- I thought about quitting.

During the start-up phase, I spent every sparing moment of my free time authoring the resources that are used for teaching at HiRe Education. Every week was a race against time to complete the materials that would be used in class that week. I would try to get ahead of schedule to give myself some breathing space when the demands of university became high. Nonetheless, in mid-year of 2012, with a dense load of university assignments and my tutoring classes caught up to my prepared books, I underwent an extremely stressful period.

I distinctly remember eating dinner at home with my family. Mid-way through eating, my heart became heavy and I found myself staring at the dishes laid out on the table. My eyes began to fill up with tears and my breathing became irregular. I shoved a ball of rice into my mouth in an attempt to block the tears from trickling out. It was at this moment that I truly realised how much emotional and mental strain was involved with what I was doing, and at that moment, I thought I was going to give up.

This is where my strong will kicked in, and without over-thinking the probability of making it out of these two weeks alive, I put my head down and worked. I worked through any time I had, and I even worked through my sleep. I would get home from uni and work late into the early morning and wake up early the next day to continue work before heading out to uni again.

And yes, you’ve guessed it – I made it. Looking back, I am so grateful that I stayed strong willed, and I continue that mentality today and going forward.

I have learnt to embrace failure and rejection. Gathering the courage to put myself out there, I occasionally talk with strangers on the train, visit schools and hand out flyers at train stations. I’ve gotten rejected so many times I’ve lost count – but it’s always worth it; there hasn’t been a time where exposing myself to the public hasn’t generated positive results.

What really hits me hard, though, is when a student discontinues. It is as if my business takes a step back, albeit rare, every time it happens. Nothing discourages me more than a lost customer. But I don’t ever let that stop me. I try to understand what happened. I reflect on what I could’ve done better to retain them and ask for their most honest feedback. Because of this, I have only grown better and better.

FOURTH SENSE: SACRIFICE

When you make sacrifices, you hear of all the things you’re missing out on and the excuses in your head, but if you had the chance to go back and change it, you wouldn’t.

Sacrifice is probably one of the biggest features that is common to all entrepreneurs. For me, sacrifice means having little to no ‘down time’ over the past 3 years. Sure, the hours are flexible when you’re your own boss, but that also means you could be working at any time. As I alluded to earlier, my business is like a blank canvas with an infinite amount of space and that means that there is an infinite amount of work that could be done. Unlike employees who can rest and forget about work outside their 9am to 5pm shifts, work never ends for me.

As a young adult, I have had to give up many temptations that my peers are indulging in. Many times, I have had to turn down parties and road trips and get-togethers because I was too busy. Even when I could make it out with friends, I would often be on my laptop or phone attending to business matters. Beyond that, it’s the little things that I miss out on – my friends playing online games, or watching a new TV series.

Last year, one of the biggest things that I now regret sacrificing was my health. The lack of rest, sleep and self-reward really deteriorated my condition. I became so busy that I even ceased martial arts, another one of my passions and only source of exercise. Nowadays, I try to find a better balance. I am back at training and I am definitely a lot healthier mentally and physically.

Every now and then, someone I know will make a comment about how I’m so lucky and how they’re so jealous of everything I’ve achieved. All they see is the success. They don’t see the hardship or the sacrifices. No one is successful because they were ‘lucky.’ Becoming an entrepreneur has made me understand that success is proportional to what you put in, and this has allowed me to view the world in a more appreciative way.

FIFTH SENSE: PASSION

When you have passion, you feel a burning desire to do the work not because you have to, but because you want to.

I left passion till last because it is the one I feel most strongly about, and it is most appropriate here that I have represented passion as the sense of touch. In recent years, I have really learnt the value of passion and its powerful drive. Passion is as Dan Martell describes: the source of my ‘unending, relentless energy’.

Passion is loving what you do. When people ask me ‘how was work?’ they are usually surprised and somewhat envious of my answer: ‘Amazing as always!’ I love teaching and passing on knowledge. My greatest satisfaction is definitely watching students grow and mature because of what I have created.

Passion is what I hold when I do my work and it is what pushes me to sustain the other 4 senses above. I search for and hope to ignite passion in my staff and any other person that comes in contact with my business so that they too can benefit from this potent force.

THE SIXTH SENSE

Despite everything thus far, I have only just begun to develop my five senses. Starting a business isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would do it. But it is something that I love and something that is extremely exciting and because of that, I will continue to pursue it and, maybe one day, a much more experienced, successful entrepreneur will call me a hustler.

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