“To boldly go …”

Commonwealth Essay Competition 2013

Commonwealth Theme 2013 – Why Opportunity
Through Enterprise?

Senior Gold Award
By: AntZ

 

“To boldly go …” The Star Trek motion picture epilogue boomed across the theatre with an inspiring tenor, “… where no one has gone before.”

It is one of those quirks in time. It is one of those moments when a great movie unravels yet another cosmic mystery. And it began with a feast of thought!

What?

In the real world, that mysterious place could be referred to corporate success. A really accomplished business, one that would be hailed as legendary throughout generations to come, is indeed a business like no other. That, therefore, excludes Hewlett Packard and Dell because for decades all they did was produce ticky-tacky metal boxes. Because all they had to do was come out with one product after another, each one merely evolving, satisfying some minimum standard, for sales, for creating some likeness of competition. Apple, on the other hand, falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. It is the most highly celebrated technological company in the world, one that continues to lead the way by which the business operates, or at least seeks to emulate. They initiate the game. They define the scene. They are á la mode.

And just like a venture into space on an unsettled planet, the boulevard of the corporate world requires an expansive impulse of boldness to face the possible outcomes of failure.

Why?

The truth is, you would usually have to fail to succeed. Not many emerge on top at their first attempt. Even those born lucky eventually get a turn on the wheel of misfortune. Anyone with a résumé of accomplishments had also experienced failure, humiliation and setbacks. This is to say, failure is inevitable and to resurrect oneself is an act of boldness.

This is not the time to worry about talent.

Did success rolled easily for teen superstar Justin Bieber who pretty much has a ‘chilling’ life than the overworked parent on the mommy track? Is the musician to whom melody comes naturally more noteworthy than the one who sweats out every note? We may enjoy American Idol, but should we applaud for American Juniors? It was not talent that brought Bill Gates to success. Most of the time, it’s just discovering the right dream to be ambitious about.

This is also not the time to have a sentiment of status anxiety.

How wealth or poverty influences one’s destiny is unpredictable. Grow up in a rich family, and you can inherit either the energy to achieve or the indolence of the aristocrat. Start up poor, and you can end up with either the motivation to strive or the inertia of the hopeless. Even members of the upper middle class, who have safe and sound economy but not so safe that a bad break could not spell catastrophe, may possess the same drive.

Who? Where? When?

The pursuit for courage in confronting failure isn’t only an adult’s concern. From the beginning of life, we are plagued with anxiety about our performance. This seems to be ingrained within us as a natural way to develop. The tough and savvy survive (and get the mate). The weaker counterparts savour scraps and enjoy the company of human leftovers. “Losers,” we call them.

The talk of economic disaster is so pervasive throughout our time. It is the caption of every channel and it’s the preordained end of every dinner party talk. All over the world, governments keep providing band-aid after band-aid but the problem insists on resurfacing. Markets are struggling to critically reboot themselves. And economists are at stake in trying to find a way out of the whole situation. Theories and ideologies can be futile, thus provide us with ineffective solutions.

We have run ourselves ragged looking for answers. We have gone exhausted after giving our best shot to fix the current dilemma. Hopelessly. Haplessly. So much so that we are on the brink of crumbling, just resigning ourselves to the fact that an even hazardous peril is coming and that we would have do well to just brace ourselves for impact.

How?

We do not have God’s power. So we do what we can, while we can, wherever possible, utilizing the utmost capacity of our brains and brawn.

Firstly though, we need to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart. A few powerful words of wisdom should suffice and shine.

Jimmy Choo: Very important to have patience. Second is to love what you do.

It shows. Take a glimpse into Jimmy Choo’s past, one just cannot help but admire the extent of being persistent in pursuing his fantasy of becoming a world renowned couture shoe designer. Born in a British colonial era where family members have a tradition of working together on one particular profession, Jimmy was bestowed with the skills and – eventually – the passion of shoemaking by his father since an early age. During much of his years as a student in Cordwainers Technical College in Hackney, England, Jimmy independently supported his education fees by working part-time as a cleaner. It was only after four painstaking years of plunging drop in sales, confined within the walls of an abandoned hospital, that he went into the limelight after being featured in Vogue magazine and met his first celebrity client, Princess Diana.

Chef Wan: Ha! Ha! Ha! Many years ago, I was doing a Kuali show. I was supposed to bake a cheesecake and I was talking about how to make a cheesecake that does not crack in the middle. I was working with a new oven and the heat went too high. I opened the oven door and there was this huge crack in the cake and I turned smilingly to the TV cameras, and said: “Look at the St Andreas Fault. Even our faces have jerawat (pimples) sometimes.” And I laughed! The whole idea is we should not panic. I took marmalade and filled up the crack in the cake and I put pieces of oranges on it and it looked so beautiful. It all boils down to how you handle the situation. We all have boo-boos. So my cake had a crack in the middle. Nobody will know if you just fill up the crack. So tomorrow you do better. Good, better, best!

He is full of humour, this one. The celebrity chef, whose real name is Redzuawan Ismail, is also a professor in disguise. In any television shows, he would effortlessly tell the history about the foods found in a certain place, just as effortless as he pulled the legs of anyone he met. That is why, in every recipe that he prepared, there is a unique blend of ‘story’ and culinary skills plus a large pot of passion.

True enough, his was a huge passion that never withers for any failures. After receiving “The Best Celebrity Chef In The World” award in the World Gourmand Cookbook and Media Awards 2009, Chef Wan was praised for “… able to improve his cooking style in the shortest of time …” by Gourmand Chief Executive, Edouard Cointreau.

Tony Fernandes: Now everyone can fly.

Such encouraging words can only be heard from a man who has reached the skies. In a recent twist of fate, one of his old classmates made him walk down the lane of memories, back to the boarding school where he used to “believe the unbelievable, dream the impossible, never take no for an answer”. He was handed his little tack box which he used to tag along with. On the cover were three stickers: A picture of a Quantas plane, a picture of West Ham Football Club, and a picture of the Williams F1 sports car. Today, he owns an airline, a football club and an F1 team.

The moment he took over Air Asia, a struggling airline company, is a moment of promising revolution. Even a school teacher can afford premium seats to Seoul for his family. Air Asia’s workspace is an open plan workspace where nobody has rooms. All brains (from errand boys to senior management) work together. If a stewardess dreams of being a pilot then so be it. There are no layers of bureaucracy. In fact, the man is exemplary himself; coming from a music business background, he knew nothing of airline industry but did a great job in managing Air Asia anyway. Everyone can really fly too.

Conclusion: If we come to a consensus that wisdom, confidence and a better individual are gifts of failure, then why are we so afraid to allow it in our lives? In a culture where failure is not given a well-enough comprehension as a necessary way to grow – and one’s accomplishment is ranked according to classes of finite monetary income – then no one gets wiser or better. And a nation populated by such people may not survive.

Umar Zain

I have had a good (as in amount) time quarrelling with Zain (my alter-ego) regarding what to find our way through this self-definition conundrum. As usual, his nature of immediacy made him the first to come up with a response: recount an emotionally stirring past. While I could temporarily dismiss my resentment towards sorrowful endeavours and lead myself to believe that he has what it takes to tread such path, I would never play the pity-seeking game of life tragedy and self-development juxtaposition only to end up with a dicey charming-spell.

At last, the dragged argument concluded with a mutual agreement; it marked the beginning of an intimate story on how our contrasting values intertwined into a singularity. It was a story best narrated from my perspective though Zain would tenaciously squeezed his part in along the way. So henceforth unfolds the story of Umar Zain:

For me, none of the buzz – about the constrictions, trials and tribulations inflicted upon anyone who embraces Islam – budged my faith even slightly. After all, there had been years-long research and oath sworn to unceasingly find the true religion. It was my eyesight that worried me the most. Will I hurt my loved ones? Treat women with unworthiness? Criticize everything and lose myself? These questions relied crucially on the hidden purpose of a name: the root where a person’s traits blossom.

Despite the whole painstaking week spent on ‘Googling’ the meaning of every Arabic name ever existed, settling with a name was as sure as eggs is eggs. It was as though the name was just waiting there for a perfectly fitting entity, like a jigsaw puzzle and its missing pieces. The pride and honour arose from a grand name bestowed were beyond measurable, and more so the magnitude of identity embossed thereafter. Zain was equally triumphant with his name. In one word, it was transcendent. By the way, mine was Umar.

We were not a pair of good-and-evil as much as we were a duo of scientist-and-artist. My side contributed the scrutiny of reality observation. Judicious use of accurate facts coalesced with neck-deep analysis were the aces up my sleeve. Zain, on the contrary, was made out of an outlandish realm; everything he did or said signified a subtlety of bizarreness with endless possibilities.

It seemed that the lively imagination erupting from his head turned out to be, astoundingly, very handy during and outside class hours. Once upon a time, we encountered a chemistry test, asking for reasons why iodine is able to make more bonds than chlorine. I was at the verge of quitting – exhausted from the struggle of recalling oxidation state’s concepts and making sense of the question’s existence – when I glimpsed Zain’s images of atoms. The sizes!

Sometimes, though, he would put me in the hot soup. In the midst of Mrs Rohana’s blazing fury, he could manage to whisper me a snarky pun, “Burning hair plus crashing thunder equals to Kraken.” What a scolding-of-the-century for that little chuckle he triggered.

He wept silently to sad movies. He succumbed to jealousy and frustration, wasting my precious time to come up with words of encouragement. He went silly at the slightest hint of humour. He bobbed his head to rev-up songs. Et cetera.

I ruined the fun, sometimes, “Listen more carefully.”

“You know, you’re such a mood spoiler. Fine then. The background music is kind of…”

“Exaggerated.”

But eventually, he grew up, “We’re handsome.”

“Ah-ah. We are the group of ugly geniuses who created social websites, gadgets and fashionable clothes for those commercially appealing people.”

“Look more carefully.”