“Errr... I’m heading to Paris for exchange next semester.”
My heart sank when those words were said to me by Ele, my tech co-founder at Sqkii.
At that time, we were in a particularly exciting phase of our entrepreneurial venture. Our team was beginning to speak to various investors to bring our company to the next level. There was work to be done. Ideas were flowing in abundance. All this pointed to a promising future which lay ahead for us.
Therefore, the news of Ele deciding to leave the company, though temporarily, for his exchange programme was the last thing that I wanted to hear. This would mean that I would have to handle more responsibilities alone, especially when another of my co-founder Marcus will also be returning to school after serving a semester-long sabbatical with me.
I was caught in a real dilemma. On one hand, our company was starting to gain momentum and I knew that much effort is needed to sustain it. On the other hand, I cannot help but entertain all the ‘what ifs’ of extending my leave-of-absence by yet another semester. I wonder if it is going to be all worth it.
It was a very difficult decision to make because it required me to exercise trust once again.
Trust: what I thought it meant
It is about taking a risk for someone, thinking that the person will also do the same for you.
Trust: what I later found out to be
It is about taking a risk for someone, hoping that the person will also do the same for you in the future.
I had come to realise that there are no certainties in trusting someone. If we are only willing to take the risk when we are absolutely certain that the person will do the same for us, then only a handful of people in this world will ever get to exercise trust. It has to be a risky bet to trust someone. But somehow, my experiences have convinced me that it will always be a worthy bet to do so.
Allow me to share with you why.
It is the first step to any trusting relationship.
This dates back to 2012 when Ele took the first leap of faith. He did so by forking out a few thousand dollars to start a business with two complete strangers who approached him at the lobby of the university where he was studying in. It sure did take him by surprise; and in hindsight, I can only imagine the risks involved in such a decision and the courage required of him to eventually make it. That leap of faith taken by Ele signified the start of our trusting relationship.
The three of us – Marcus, Ele and I – subsequently set up a Partnership together and I could still vividly recall the very moment that I got Ele to sign the Partnership Agreement which I have drafted. I deliberately added several clauses which ensured that his opinions on those critical areas of our business will not be simply overruled by the two strangers whom he had just recently gotten acquainted with.
10. Decisions that may affect the viability or direction of the business or those that are not in line with the values in which the business operates will require the unanimous agreement from all partners. The core values of the business are defined in Para 1. 21. The Head of Technology Department will have overriding power to make decisions within his department.
Of course, there is some risk in binding myself to clauses like the foregoings.
However, I knew that exercising empathy was essential to bring our trust in each other to the next level.
Realising that it takes trust to breed trust
If trust were to be what I previously thought it was—which is that of “taking a risk for someone, thinking that the person will also do the same for you”—every member in a team will just be waiting for the other to take the first step. It will be impossible for everyone to be equally prepared to make similar sacrifices for one another.
We cannot wait to only exercise trust when we are sure that the person will do the same for us. It always takes one person to make the first move before opportunities can be created for others to do the same when the situation calls for it. In essence, trust breeds trust.
Fast forward to today.
The earlier draft of this article was actually written back in 2014 when I was 24 years of age. Then, I did not feel that I was ready to publish it because I was not completely sure that I was advocating the “right” thing to do. Therefore, I waited to confirm my opinions before completing this piece.
It has been about two years since Ele told me about his decision to go on an international exchange programme. Shortly after he flew off to Paris, I extended my sabbatical by another semester, brought our company’s first investment round to a successful closure and returned to school in the early months of 2015.
Today, as I commence my last semester at NTU, both of my co-founders have graduated, turned down good-paying jobs and are now into their sixth month working full-time in the company that I had previously taken a gap year for. It couldn’t have turned out any better for me.
US President Abraham Lincoln once said that “the best way to predict your future is to create it”. In a similar vein, the best way to find out if a person is trustworthy is to trust him. Perhaps we may end up trusting for naught and feeling disappointed, but we will earn a better understanding about whether it is worthy to continue investing our trust in that particular individual.
Trust someone not because we are absolutely certain that the person is worthy of it. Trust someone because it is the first step to any trusting relationship. It takes trust to breed trust, and it is better to be let down than to live in denial.
Take the first step to trust someone. Perhaps one day, just one day when we are in need of someone’s trust and faith, that same person whom we had once trusted will be there for us.
It is all about paying it forward, is it not?