Put in the work

Recently our Prime Minister Tun Mahathir caused an uproar because he feared that the Malays and Bumis couldn’t compete with 3 million Chinese from China that were expected to come to Malaysia.

He said, “If we bring in another three million people from China, what will happen to us? They are strong, able, knowledgeable in business; they come not as labourers but as successful entrepreneurs…. Can we compete with them?”

Naturally the Malaysians aren’t happy with his statement. “Are you saying that we aren’t capable? Are you saying we will lose our competitive edge?!”

Honestly, I agree with him. We can’t compete.

Outside a wholesale mall in Guangzhou. These clothes will be delivered to other cities in China or abroad. People are hustling all day.

My one-month stay in China has completely opened my eyes on what it means to work hard.

When I was young, my grandma who was raised in China always taught us that the only way we can change our lives is through hard work. That strong commitment and dedication to hustle is deeply interwoven in their DNA.

I still see this work attitude in China today. The people I met here are extremely committed to their work.

The bread shop near my apartment is open daily from 7am to 12am with the same staffs. The cosmetic shop on the same row is constantly playing loud music and welcoming customers. The fruit store on the other street is open until midnight too.

Everyone is hustling to survive in a country crowded with 1.4 billion people.

Last train of the day. Need to snap a photo for memory because the train was NEVER empty.
Anyone who has read about Elon Musk would surely be fascinated by the Tesla cars in Guangzhou showroom.
Corridors of a students’ hostel was full of clothes waiting to be dried.

My professor is a Chinese man in his 50s. One day he was explaining a science theory to me in Mandarin. Although I can speak Chinese fluently (in Malaysian’s standard), I still struggled to understand what he meant. He knew I couldn’t grasp what he said.

On the next morning, he explained the whole idea to me again, this time in full English. I’m so impressed. He must have spent the night reading about the topic, in English. He didn’t have to do this, but he did it because he’s dedicated to his work.

“In a mega crowded place like China filled with people smarter than you, the only way you can stand out is to work hard,” his words stuck with me until now.

This is why they have TenCent, WeChat, Alibaba, Baidu, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo… a the cutting edge technologies and convenience that we have yet to see in Malaysia. This is why they develop so quickly in the past ten years.

This experience left a major impact on my life. I always thought that I have tried and given my best. Sometimes I gave up and got intimidated by a task too early.

Now instead of giving up, I always ask myself, “Is this really the best that I can do?” Sometimes this question makes me anxious, but it also pushes me to think and take action beyond my usual comfort zone.

We ordered drinking water from this dealer. He would carry it to our apartment in the 5th floor.

You might ask, but hey, what about work-life balance? Things like art, leisure, love and all the other things are equally important too!

I don’t have an answer for that question yet. I am also finding my own balance. But from what I observe from the people in China and here in my country, I think we Malaysians are pretty good in balancing between work and life. We certainly know how to enjoy life.

What we lack is the drive and ambition to take action and move forward.

The only distance between your dreams and reality is called action.

If anything that you want to achieve takes 10,000 hours, are you willing to put in the work?

If you feel inferior, jealous or even threatened by your competitors ask yourself – have you really put in the work?