Monday, January 20, 2014

The Forbidden Path

It’s not actually forbidden, just that no one encourage you go there, your seniors and peers don’t go there, you heard of someone gone there and struck gold, and you are drawn there by mysterious forces.

I am not the type who would take the forbidden path. I study and work hard, fairly obedient and follow instructions pretty well, and would probably live a normal life with a normal career. I think the only things which tick me off is that Bill Gates the Techie could be a billionaire, and my brother saying there is no future in employment.

After 7 years of employment in two companies, my normal career kind of ended. I had been freelancing while working and I freelance full-time when I quit my job while I try to develop some product. Some people don't know where to get customers for freelancing projects, and I guess when you are doing it for a while, word will spread with referrals, and you will get repetitive business. I think things are better nowadays with Elance and oDesk, plus various online community and offline meetup; plenty of jobs, it’s a matter if you are interested or not. Though freelancing is pretty common, but I don’t have a friend who is actually a freelancer as well, until much later. I would assume less than 5% of people in IT embark on freelancing? So this path is still less than normal.

I thought I could build a product and sell it for money, but I don’t have the sales and marketing skill, and I didn’t meet someone who could help me. Then I just follow my passion and build something which I found useful, without much market study or business model. I developed a website to list new property launches, and another one to list restaurant reviews. It took about 3 years to generate USD 100 per month (luckily I live in Malaysia), and without knowing or planning for it, I have the most bizarre form of income: Adsense money. I have the hard time explaining how I manage to make money without selling anything or soliciting advertiser myself. Then I realize it’s like those free newspaper, give it for free to increase readership and get money from the advertiser, except I have an advertisement broker which is Google (less money, but no sales and marketing cost). How many of my friends actually make money from online advertisement (including bloggers)? None, except the new found bloggers which I came to know after running the food review site.

I guess there are many forbidden paths where we heard of, and people around us doesn’t seems to do it: freelancer (programmer, designer, photographer, etc.), blogger, people who sell things online, renting out room with airbnb, people who do a start-up, or people who start a conventional business. Sometimes you get people who work from home and people who don’t sell anything, or professional gamer (make a living by playing computer games).

If you kind of doing a startup (or just making a product), there is the thing with funding, market study, business model, validating your idea with customers, etc. What if you are a person who builds a product but you do none of the above? Does that make you a planned failure or irrational optimist? There is a Chinese saying 性格决定命运 (your character decide on your fate), so I am guessing its happening to me. I am not motivated with the business and customer stuff, and I am delusionally building a product which interest me, and hoping others would like it as well. I am pretty sure I am not an entrepreneur, probably just someone having fun building stuff. I accepted the fact I probably wouldn’t become filthy rich, but I shall become someone happy building things which I like. It might be difficult to make tons of money, but it shouldn’t be that hard to make a decent living while doing what we love, in a way which makes us happy most of the time.

Life is of many choices: I can choose to live the life I desire or give in to society norm; I can try to enhance the sales and business skill which doesn’t interest me, or I could seek an alternative model like Google Adsense; I could insist on making lots of money, or live a more meaningful life with less money; even though I am not a successful entrepreneur, there are still options besides employment. There is the normal path, less than normal path or the forbidden path that almost no one could guide or encourage you.

Some say normal equal mediocre. I think normal or mediocre is alright if this is the path you have truly chosen for yourself. I always assumed people have the naturally tendency to make more money, then I realise this is not true. Most people might choose the path with the least hardship and uncertainty, and some indeed feels more money isn’t really more attractive.

The forbidden path is mysterious, but not everyone wanted an adventure, as it’s filled with great uncertainty, with the promise of great reward or nothing at all, depending on how you look at it.

Every time when you want to claim that you have no time or no choice or no money, pause for a moment and think again, think about alternative choices.

If the logical mind doesn’t favour the forbidden path, where does the logical mind leads to?

Have a look at some of my projects: Malaysia Most Wanted, hackerio (new) and travelopy (work in progress).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The Forbidden Path"
AKA: The Back Door
AKA The Brown Eye
AKA The Poop Shoot
AKA Where the Sun Don't Shine...
He's right, maybe logic dictates that the Forbidden Path be left alone...But if you don't have any alternative, with enough lube and an open mind The Forbidden Path can help you get where you want to go.