Leaving On Top

“You’re born, you take shit. You get out in the world, you take more shit. You climb a little higher, you take less shit. Till one day you’re up in the rarefield atmosphere and you’ve forgotten what shit even looks like.” 

– From the film “Layer Cake”

The book titled “Leaving On Top” by David Hennan was a timely gift from a dear friend, Ibu Aryani. She is the founder of Arva School of Fashion, Surabaya, Indonesia, and a friend and trusted business partner of FMDS.

May 2014 was our regular FMDS annual retreat, which I often took the centre stage to update my team members of the school’s development, and to share its growth plans. Along with a host of other agendas, I have inserted a surprise announcement indicating my goal to step down as FMDS principal latest by year 2020. Though it is another six years from now, I owe it to the team for their commitment and loyalty – having helped build FMDS into a fine boutique school widely regarded by the industry for training industry-ready designers and designpreneurs. Also, it is my way of trying to avoid disappointment or surprises with a last minute announcement; or an abrupt departure, inviting unnecessary speculation.

What have pushed me to make this decision? To leave, stay or hand over the leadership to one of my children? The answer was crystal clear to me.

Firstly, I know my limits and my productive lifespan. Secondly, as designer, I designed my life with an end in mind. Thirdly, all my children have been encouraged to pursue their own interests and maintain their own upkeep thus eradicating their sense of entitlement. Lastly, a leadership renewal will do well for FMDS – with a new leader and vision to chart its next path of progress into the next decade.

Phasing out of one’s comfort zone has been one of my trademarks given my past exit records. I have never overstayed in any role and have learnt to exit at its height of success. As with my last position, resigning as CEO of First Media Group in 2006 was never a gut-wrenching decision and I managed to do it a year ahead of my exit plan.

Reading ‘Leaving On Top’ has literally opened up my mind as if it was speaking directly to me. Far too many people would seek solace in the familiar environment clinging to the safe, risk-free position. My exit decision at the heights of success has always surprised many, leaving them to wonder why would someone who has painstakingly built a lucrative business from scrap be willing to give it all up.

As a contrarian, I love my life too much to be dictated by the circumstances. I enjoy the thought of being able to define success base on my own terms and not by others. In the course of my personal and financial growth, each and every major decision has always been carefully planned and executed within my grand life plan. To explore new direction in the next phase and thrillingly seek out new actions excite me more. Rather than happily staying in a self-constructed prison and held back by financial motivation, living out a quality but monotonous life is never my cup of tea.

As a person, I also refuse to succumb to the regular human nature – driven largely by money, greed and fear. Instead I value the opportunity to dive into the unknown, make a mark in the industry and head for a graceful exit once I think I have exhausted all my contributions, and of course before I forgot what shit even looks like.

Now that the clock has started clicking, grooming a strong management team to support the incoming new leader, Ms Audrey Chong, will be my priority.

Here are few quotes to share.

On Personal Happiness

“Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.”

On Success as an Educator

“Success is keeping people believe that they can do something great.”

My Winning Formula

“For what I lacked in natural talents, I made up for it with my competitive spirit.”