‘If you love writing, why didn’t you become a writer?’ I asked my English teacher.
She laughed, then said, ‘You cannot make money writing. Writing is not practical. You need to find something practical to do to make money.’
I was 14 years old. I believed her.
In my head, I crossed out my ambition to become a writer. ‘How sad,’ I thought. But if that was the way adult life was like, I did not think I had a choice.
[1 Year Before Facebook Was Born]
I don’t blame my English teacher for telling me that. It was the year 2003, 1 year before Facebook was born in the dorm rooms of Harvard and many years before anyone had any idea on how to make a lot of money writing online.
She could not predict that eventually, thousands of people <i> would </i> make money writing as bloggers and internet entrepreneurs.
She could not predict that beyond a reasonable monthly income, a portion of these bloggers and internet entrepreneurs became millionaires.
And that their best skill was that skill that was so unprofitable before: writing.
[But even if you don’t make money writing, you should do it anyway]
For a large portion of my early 20s, I was fixated on making money. I did only things that I felt had the highest potential of helping me make money.
I started a small e-commerce business selling gadgets. That was before Lazada entered Malaysia. My brother and I made RM22,000 in 4 months.
Then we wasted it all.
Then we stopped. The customer service became overwhelming for two introverts to handle. We let our domain name expire.
After that I tested out 20 more business ideas, eventually crossing out all of them because it made me feel less of myself doing them.
I became depressed.
I started writing again.
The thing I would do differently
A few months after my English teacher told me that writing would be an unprofitable career, I gave up my goal of writing my first novel.
It was not that I was onto something great or big with that novel. It was such a bad idea that I can hardly remember it today. But it was something that I had wanted to do for a while then.
I wish I had just done it. Written it. Printed it out and showed it to all my family and friends.
Instead, I gave it up to focus on my science subjects instead. At 14, I had no idea what I wanted to be in the future. But I thought maybe I could become a doctor because that was what other smart kids in my class wanted to become.
The worst advice I ever got
The worst advice I ever got was this: base your life on other peoples’ suggestions on how you should live and what success looks like.
Who gave that advice to me?
And it was the worst advice of all.
The truth is, only you know what is best for yourself. Other people may give you suggestions but in the end, you have to make the call.