October 20, 2008

Who Are Your Friends ?

I remember a Chinese saying that my father taught me when I started working a long time ago. It goes like this: "Internally we have our family, externally we have our friends". It really tells us how important friends are … I mean the true friends. Throughout my working years, I have met all sorts of people. I have seen all kinds of characters and I am very lucky to have known several good people who have remain very good friends with me through thick and thin.

I started working many years ago and spent a major part of my working life in the corporate environment initially with a British construction firm, then an American financial institution, followed by a Swedish auto manufacturer and finally with a French MNC. All in all, on and off about 16 years in the corporate environment beginning as an executive and slowly moving up through rank and file to a senior manager.

Working in the corporate environment is very enticing and addictive. When I was a corporate manager, I have very strong influence over a lot of people simply because of the substantial A&P budget I have at my disposal. I am sure you will agree with me that money moves everything. With that magic wand in my hand, suddenly I have many "friends" and "hing tais" (brothers) who put my name first on their speed dial list. I have endless invitations to expensive dinners, night clubs, karaoke sessions and late night parties. I rubbed shoulders with the “who and who” in social galas, openings, launches, concerts and shows. Plus the festive gifts and tokens that comes a few times every year. I embraced glamour, tasted luxury and lived the high end lifestyle for several years. At one point it became so addictive and I was craving and looking forward to it every week. As much as I wanted to deny it, but it was becoming a little bit difficult to balance with my family life. Somehow I know I have to give it up before it gets really deep into my system.

And gave it up I did. And as soon as I no longer have the magic wand, reality strikes and now I know who my real friends are. The so called "hing tais" or "brothers" that used to call almost every day and showed up every other day immediately disappeared. And every now and then when I bumped into one or two of them, I can almost feel the note of rejection in between the conversation lines. I said to myself: “Hey, what did you expect?” Life can be so mean and I have expected it.

I remember I saw an interview of a very popular retired politician on TV not too long ago. Being a popular politician he was quite influential when he was active. What he said was very true. He said only when he has lost his influence after resigning as a powerful minister that he found who his true friends were.

It was not an easy decision to quit, leaving a stable financial income and starting again at my age. It took me several months (and some excuses) to make that decision. Since then, I took a break to relax and put some thoughts to what it is going to be moving ahead ... for my family and myself. Obviously now I do not have much influence as before. Do I feel sad? NO, because I know who my true friends are. And I am very glad to be blessed with such good people as my friends.