Francis Kong has run his own garment business for 17 years before finding his niche sharing inspiring talks, lectures and seminars on entrepreneurship, leadership, money management and even parenting. His audience, both students and businessmen, started from a small group of six and has now multiplied to thousands.
His own success, he said, did not come overnight, but from years and years of learning and growing through hard work and practice born from the love of his craft. He compels people to listen because of his gentle yet powerful manner, but more so by the truth in his words.
iMoney one morning met with businessman, columnist, broadcaster, book author and inspirational speaker Francis Kong over coffee, hot chocolate and a basket of fries to ponder over the intricacies of success.
In part one of this two-part exclusive interview, Francis Kong gives us a different take on success: why people are fixated to achieve it, what you lack and what you already have that will drive you to succeed and the family’s role in character and confidence building.
How do you define success?
Success for me is something intangible. When people ask me what my success is about, I would always counter by saying, ‘I have never thought about success.’
But what is important for me rather than success is progress. This means it is a continuing journey without having a fixed destination. That way, you can continue to level up.
So, if you want to be technical about it, I think, it’s about meeting goals and then exceeding it. This for me would define success.
True success has to be fully integrative and it has to be holistic in approach. So you cannot be a person who is successful in one highly departmentalized compartment of your life. If you want success, you need to be successful in your business, your career, and in your family. And as far as your own spiritual journey is concerned, you have to be quite successful in that area as well. It has to be holistic.
Why are people driven to succeed?
We are living in a highly competitive economy wherein the population explosion seems very high, especially in our country. So people instinctively know that they have to be competitive and they have to be driven to success.
Now, this is the inherent feeling of every person exacerbated by the fact that parents now really hone their children to be competitive and successful.
And the parenting style over the years have really changed. For example, during the earlier years, parents would value character in their kids. As a matter of fact, parents would tell their kids ‘don’t be proud,’ ‘stay humble,’ ‘be respectful,’ ‘be courteous,’ but do hard work. So if you are successful, you don’t flaunt it.
During the last 20 or 30 years, the parenting styles have really transformed into putting a lot of confidence into your kids. Convincing your kids that ‘you can do anything you want,’ ‘you can be anybody you want to be,’ it’s teaching them that ‘you have to believe in yourself.’
These two factors have driven people to have a very high level of desire to want to succeed or be better than anybody else. So I would say that’s the reason why people are driven today.
In your opinion, is being driven to success good or bad?
Both. This is bad because this fosters a lot of unhealthy competition. Second, this creates disappointment and frustration, especially when young people today see the magazine covers of 19 and 20-year-old billionaires. And parents exacerbate the fact by telling them, ‘you can be like him if you want to.’ So some kids grow up into thinking that having low scores and low grades make them losers.
Another result which bad, is that for some people the end justifies the ‘meanness.’ They can be mean in wanting to arrive at their goals thinking that life is simply one-upping the other. If you’re smarter, you’re more aggressive, then you tend to get the opportunity.
On the other hand, being driven to succeed can be good in the sense that it shakes people out of their lethargy and apathy. It’s telling people that ‘you got to do some work.’ People now will have to learn the fact that the world does not owe them a living. They have to earn their stripes.
And so, the curious thing here is the balance between the two. How do you maintain confidence, yet maintain humility in the process. But not giving out of the traditional value of hard work and honesty.
So how do you strike a balance between character and confidence?
I would start with parenting. That’s the reason why even though I’ve given about 320+ seminars in a year I still give a lot of parenting seminars that are free. And it’s important to start at home.
Rather than just building confidence, which is also important, make sure that you don’t neglect building character in kids.
Character building will balance the whole thing. Making money and being successful does not mean at the expense of other people and that you take advantage.
Doing hard work, earning your stripes and then earning money also gives you a responsibility to learn to give back to others and bless them, too. So that gives you a healthy cycle.
And then with the constant reminder, which is a favorite thing I like to say in my seminars, that ‘you never allow success to get into your head. But you never allow failures to creep into your heart.’
So there must be a balance of the two things.
What do people nowadays lack but need that will propel them to success?
I would rather reduce that question into a more specific boundary.
1. For the young people, what I’m afraid of is this constant living in the moment phenomenon, which they call YOLO (short for you only live once). I had someone in my seminar say, ‘Sir Francis, people our age have this concept of living for the moment, and we want to pour everything right now, what’s your take on that?’
My response is, ‘It’s OK, as long you make sure you pour everything today, and tomorrow you die. What will happen if you continue to live tomorrow? Resources are limited. Pouring in everything now without any regard for the future will make you totally negligent and reckless.
And secondly, life catches up with you. I’ve got news for you, I used to be your age. What if you reach my age now, what resources will you have left? So a wise, successful person is always somebody who studies the lessons from the past, make good of the current moment, and exploit it to the max, not wasting time with a future orientation knowing that the success today may not be working for tomorrow. So you should always be goal-driven, a person who has a vision for tomorrow.
2. As for other people, what stops them from being successful is idleness. There are people who still hold onto their competencies which they have had in the past not knowing that the world has already changed. I find this happening in many organizations wherein senior executives would still hang on their positions and not upgrading and updating their competencies, especially in leadership skills. This tend to cause them to be very irrelevant as far as dealing with the new generation.
And the same kind of idleness and the lack of desire for self-development will also cause them to be technophobic. So rather than learning, and getting out of their comfort zone, they’ll just demonize it.
Some people would even proudly say, ‘You know what, I still don’t have a Facebook account.’ For me, that’s not something to be proud of. Because if you are in business, how can you say you’re not familiar with Facebook, when social media now is THE thing apart from traditional advertising.
If your children are in Facebook now, how can you be so isolated without knowing what’s going on? And so, technology, Facebook is not something that you should ignore. You have to go through the discipline of understanding it — and use it for the good. So that when it’s not being used for the good, you have the right to explain why it should not be done for the bad. If you’re ignorant, then people won’t respect you.
3. Finally, ignorance is dangerous, ‘lethal knowledge’ is even more dangerous. I find a lot of young people mouthing cliches without deeper understanding. When you ask young people, ‘what are your intentions?’ They answer, ‘I want to earn passive income.’ When I say ‘how young are you?’ ‘I’m 19.’
I tell them: You’re so young you don’t have income, yet you want it to be passive, are you crazy? You are the most important income generating machine you could ever be. That’s why rather than thinking of passive income, why don’t you think of generating active income?
And this extends to active study, development, investment in growth, working hard, looking for the vision of the future — not living YOLO, and spend less time playing COC (Clash of Clans).
Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, you and I, we’re all given exactly 24 hours in a day. The question now is how do you use it to your advantage?
So if you’re using one hour doing COC vs one hour reading books, guess who loses? So another hindrance towards achieving success is the typical mentality of our people to favor entertainment over education.
Education may be boring for now. It is hard work, so it’s not fun. But it reaps results. Entertainment gives you pleasure for the moment. But it doesn’t reap any long term results in the future.
So how do people find success?
You find success the same way you do investment. You invest first before you can make a profit. It is impossible for you to have a profit first before investing.
Success is like profit. To earn your success, you invest by pursuing knowledge, educating yourself, developing your character and attitude, continuous improvement, working really hard, networking with people, creating a service mentality and a good attitude.
But the most important factor in order to go up the step ladder of success is making yourself likeable. The likeability quotient required now is very high — almost as high as IQ and EQ.
In the world right now, wherever you go, people just want to do business and give opportunity to people they like, all other things being equal.
If you’re brash, arrogant — because you never knew that there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance — you’re going to be left alone. Opportunities will not go your way.
So likeability quotient now is an essential thing in order to achieve success — without compromising your ethical principles, of course.