I was 15, naive, easily fascinated, and wildly curious.
In was during this age that I had started to lose interest in material objects. I’d found the love of books, pocket notebooks, pens, and computers.
It was also at this age that I witnessed the progress of my father’s career as it flourished. With the progress came the attention, and with the attention came the increasing demand for social interaction.
We’d been invited to a dinner with my father’s work friends; and being a successful lawyer, he had some powerful friends.
I remember the house the dinner was being held at, marble flooring in the parking lot, two Rolls Royce parked out front, a private mini-golf, a bowling alley, swimming pool, an in-house massage area, and spoilt brats.
Before this experience I was always very fond of material objects, I loved cool cars and fancy cell phones.
Up until that point I’d always wished that someday I too would have access to the same things these guys had access to, and all the glamour that came along with it.
I was forced to socialise with the other kids; obviously quite privileged and spoilt. I was the odd one out really, I was nerdy, skinny, dressed in odd clothing, with an eccentric desire for asking questions. The other kids weren’t like that, they talked about their lavish vacations, their sports cars, their private tutors, their personal designers who accidentally confused ocean-blue with a slightly darker blue and how angry it made them.
It was the first time in my life that I felt truly uncomfortable; it was daunting — like an evil spirit had consumed the place.
I went up to my father and made up an excuse that I wasn’t feeling too well, and we departed the party shortly after.
Later on that night, my father came into my room to check up on me and found me crying; he asked if I was sick, and I told him I was scared.
He was curious, and wanted to know why.
I explained, as best as I can remember:
“These kids, they didn’t seem normal. And it kinda feels like we’re going to have to meet a lot of these people from now on and I’m just really scared cause I don’t really want to be like them..”
My dad, smiled and asked why being like them was so scary..
And I said something to the tone of, “Well they didn’t seem like kids. Who lets their under-age kids own a Mercedes?”
My father, humble as he is to this day, answered; “Well, that’s quite simple. They’re just insecure. So they need to constantly consume to feel good about themselves. And you won’t be like that because you’re smart and you’ll always have humility.”
I realised that day that success didn’t necessarily mean owning a private plane or a Rolls Royce, true success was earning your place and then having the humility to not show it off to feel good about yourself.
I went off abroad after that for my further education, got myself a job — my career progressed. I learnt the importance of discipline and hardwork.
And then one day, at the age of 25; I received a mysterious offer from a very wealthy Construction Group — wanting to offer me a senior job position.
The job description was obscure; but between the lines it was obvious that taking this offer would be the death of me.
My friends made fun of me for being scared to take the job, they didn’t understand — It wasn’t about money, it was about being a slave.
This company wanted to own me for 10 years.
I wasn’t going to give that up for money.
My dream and goals weren’t for sale.
I wasn’t for sale.
I thought about the dinner I’d had when I was 15, and experienced that feeling once again. I thought about the kids now my age, most of them struggling with drug addiction and the recession that had fallen upon them.
The Rolls Royce, the private planes, the private bowling alley — all now for the banks to settle the debts of their parents’ doing.
The kids unaccustomed to a lifestyle they never expected to experience.
Suicide, Loss of Love for their parents, Loss of any salvageable self-esteem, Excruciating details of their private dealings for the public to witness; was all that was left of their legacy.
It was my gut and every bone in my body telling me not to take this job offer.
So I declined.
The company was amazed and believed I was putting up a show to get a higher offer; shortly after another offer did come through for a larger sum.
So I went down to meet the team and explain to them in person, out of respect, as to why I wasn’t interested.
The CEO didn’t utter a word during the conversation; I mostly chatted to the team in the room. Explaining to them that I was willing to help but wasn’t ready for the kinda job they were offering.
Amazed and appalled by how I got up from my seat to serve coffee to them when the office boy came to serve us instead.
Later on the CEO wrote to me; letting me know how much he respected my decision, and how he’d never hire me as a Financial Advisor. He was a lovely gentleman with a great sense of humour, who’d worked his way up — he understood what I felt. He knew the humility of building up something from nothing.
How my father, to save the electricity bill in his youth, studied under a street-light. How he walked to and from the college instead of taking a bus, to save a few cents.
He understood — the value of money; and the dangers of when it came to easily to those who didn’t deserve it.
He didn’t want to be owned so he created something of his own.
He knew I wanted the same.
He respected my decision and wished me well — taught me one of the most important lessons of my life, “Don’t chase the money, Chase the dream. Then you’ll be truly unbeatable. Because nobody will own your freedom.”
Bless his Soul.
— In memory of my first and most special Mentor “He who shall not be named”.