Why do the tough only get going when it gets tough? My friends requested me to write about the tough times during our early primary school years. We were no more than seven or eight years old. Many of us walked to school, some for many miles, others walked for many miles after a long bus ride. Teddy wanted me to tell his story about the day he lost his bus fare, forty cents in those days was the equivalent of two sumptuous meals at the school tuck shop. Apparently he had to walk an unimaginable distance home after school that day. The chorus went out, almost in unison, when it gets tough the tough get going. You could not miss sensing the pride and satisfaction in their jubilant voices or imagine the smugness in their smiles. But what Teddy failed to disclose was how he “lost” his fare. Teddy has always lived up to his name. His big paws alone will inform you of how ravenous his appetite was. His Buddha-like smiles at the canteen table were a sure sign of his appreciation for the food that was about to be served. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he had lost his bus fare but gained two bonus bowls of “tok tok” mee. When it was tough for Teddy’s tummy, you know he was going to find something yummy.
So, why do the tough only get going when it gets tough? Why not get going from the start? Before it gets tough? Why wait? What would they do if it didn’t get tough? They wouldn’t get going? When life was good and without stress – albeit only for a few years – I relaxed the tight reins held on my business and went on cruise mode instead. My father during those years was becoming bed-ridden in a nursing home. I sensed his life was getting short, spending quality time with him became my only focus. I would spend a minimum of two hours with him daily, sharing happy news about my children’s success in music competitions, concert opportunities, exciting new store openings, anything to make his eyes light up and deliver a smile to his face. When there was nothing to share, I would watch the same episode of The Water Margin, Shui Hu Zhuan, with him. That episode was about the hero Wu Song, killing a tiger with his bare hands. Maybe I was still the little boy trying to impress his father? I do not think so. For men, there is a time when bonding is important and necessary. Then was the time for me and Pa. I harbour no regrets at all, even though the price was high. Letting go the reins of my business was costly. A rebellion challenging my franchise system was started by none other than my own Franchise Manager. Staff morale dropped, sales turnover crashed, franchisees threatened to walk out. Pa passed away in April 2007, and eighteen months later, the Global Financial Crisis hit my business, like a tsunami. It was neither life threatening nor debilitating to my mental health. But it was a clear and imminent threat to my financial health. There was every possibility that my business would be added to the list of casualties of the GFC. It sure was tough during those five years after Pa passed away. I mourned his passing daily, the tough business conditions only exacerbated my emotional fragility. When it is tough, the tough get going. The rally call echoed in my head, I need to be that hero in Shui Hu Zhuan.
If I only got going before it got tough. Urghhling!