“Salary is the drug they give you to forget your dreams” – This was a saying by Kevin O’Leary which I heard a few years ago that really embodied the way I felt about the working world from even before the time I graduated from university. Since I was seventeen or eighteen, I would tell my classmates and close friends that I wouldn’t mind eating instant noodles everyday and living on a meager salary if it meant that I would be able to steer my own business in the world’s hyper-competitive choppy seas. This pushed me to always think about my own business ideas (which my friends have at times told me to stop repeating to them) and dream about one day being able to call a business my own.

Driving a business is what “living” literally means for me, it is what it means to be “free”. But the sad reality of the world today, especially in Asia, is that young millennials struggle to understand this world view.

Especially in Singapore, the idea of success in one’s career is almost strictly confined to working as a salaried employee to one of the nation’s or the world’s largest MNCs, drawing a large salary and maybe one day making partner in that large corporation or conglomerate. This view is further cemented during university, where any mention of starting your own business may sometimes attract many raised eyebrows or strange looks. A very close friend of mine attributes this problem to degrees being a set of “golden handcuffs”, once you’re poised with the pedigree to enter the world of large corporations and eye-popping salaries, any mention of owning a business or starting from ground zero as a startup is seen as irrational risk and is viewed as akin to throwing your hopes of what would otherwise be a happy and stable life into the sea.

And I know that this problem is not faced by graduates alone, as many Singaporean or Asian parents in general, tend to question your decision- making should you opt to enter smaller boutique set- ups over established companies or perhaps enjoy repeating to you the importance of “making it in life” by entering said large companies. For some of you, these views are ingrained in you from a young, through no fault of your own, society has conditioned you to think that way.

I speak to the listeners brave enough to question that type of thinking and the kindred spirits who live with that sparkle in their eye that never fades.