Tired of being stuck in the rat race?
Rebelling against a culture of overwork with little reward, millennials in China are ‘lying flat’.
The movement known as 躺平 (tang ping) is a growing sentiment among college-educated youth in China, raging against traditional concepts of success such as a good career, money and status.
Young Singaporeans are not spared from stressful societal pressures, with the expectation to excel at school and carve out successful careers.
These millennials, however, have taken the road less travelled in their careers, choosing to leave the rat race to pursue their own versions of happiness and success.
Here are their stories.
Andre John, motorcycle artist
Andre served in the Singapore Armed Forces for 12 years before he left in 2017 to start his own motorcycle painting business.
“I used to think the army was everything in my life,” the 35-year-old tells The Pride.
“The path is comfortable, the money is good, everything is safe, but I didn’t get a sense of overall achievement. What I’m doing now, it’s my pride.”
Andre describes himself as a tattoo artist, but for motorcycles. He does airbrush painting on these bikes; his largest group of customers comes from those who ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Andre says that he started Paintfull Industries with no knowledge or experience of motorcycle painting at all.
So what made him take the plunge?
“I always had an interest in it, and I didn’t see many people in Singapore doing it. When I first started hydrographics, or water transfer printing, there were only three companies doing it. I was the fourth,” Andre says.
However, it was not easy starting out.
“No one knew who I was and what we offered. I opened the shop in August (2017) and my first walk-in customer was only in October,” Andre says.
He also has to balance between his business and family (he is married with an 8-month-old baby and has another on the way), while finding time for self-care for himself and his wife.
Did he worry about making ends meet?
“Every single day! I even started thinking if it was the right move to leave my comfort zone in the army and that steady income. But I knew I wanted more so I just kept pushing. Even though times are bad now and everyone is counting what they spend on, I know it’s just another obstacle that we have to get through.”
He attributes much of his success to the support of his wife. He laughs: “I remember once she told me, ‘it doesn’t matter if we don’t have much to eat as long as we are happy together and you get to do what you believe in’. I immediately knew I married the right woman!”
But it also drove him to work harder. Running a business is never ending, Andre says.
“Even when I’m at home, I have to think of new products to bring in. I don’t get much sleep. About three hours a day.”
He adds: “But it’s something you want it to grow, it’s like your baby.”
Andre’s goal is for the company to be known worldwide. He says he’s on the way there but true success to him is to have “no stress” and to “just live life”. He hopes to pass down the business to his kids someday.
His advice to those who are worried about plunging into the unknown to pursue their dreams?
“There will always be naysayers, people will ask why don’t you get a fixed paying job; some will say things like ‘some are meant to run a business and some are meant to do the work’. These people are the ones that I thank the most because they make me want to improve myself and my business. I take the positivity from all that negativity.”
“If you want to do it, just do it. Don’t think ‘there will be a time’ that you will do it — that time will never come. Just do it.”
Daryl Tay, musician
Daryl has always loved music — in particular playing the guitar.
After completing his National Service in 2014, he had no doubt that he wanted to pursue a career in music.
“But back then I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to do (in the music industry), or what I could do — I didn’t even know anyone who was a full-time musician,” the 29-year old tells The Pride.
Then an opening came up to play at a club.
“These gigs enabled me to make a living playing six to seven nights a week. It was good for me as someone just starting out, it gave me a lot of experience,” Daryl says.
Through these gigs, he got to know people in the music industry, which helped him get other jobs at weddings and corporate events. He also got to travel to countries like Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand doing training clinics.
But all that had to stop when Covid hit and live performances were halted.
In the meantime, Daryl has re-adjusted to the “new normal”. Today, he is a guitarist and educator. He does training videos for Yamaha and teaches guitar as a CCA at a secondary school.
“I still perform twice a month on 93.3FM at the studio as part of the band,” he says.
Why did Daryl choose to go into music instead of a corporate job like most of his peers?
It’s simply something he enjoys, he says.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a calling. But I believe at this point in my life, it’s what I’ve been steered towards,” he adds.
While Daryl says his parents were a little worried of him pursuing music as a career at the start, they were supportive once he got into the swing of things and he is thankful for that.
However, he says that Covid has completely changed the music landscape and the uncertainty in the past year has been a huge challenge for him and many others like him in the entertainment industry.
“I had to recalibrate my goals to figure out what I could do sustainably for the next few years.”
He admits that he wouldn’t advise anyone right now in these challenging times to be a freelancer. Nevertheless, he advocates keeping an open mind towards opportunities that may crop up.
He says: “We tend to be a bit idealistic, especially before Covid. But if you keep an open mind you will realise that there are things you never thought you’d do that you’d end up doing, and jobs you didn’t even know existed that you’d enjoy!”
Leandra Chee, yoga instructor
Leandra had worked as a marketing executive for an IT company for four years — her first job out of university — when she decided to do yoga as a full-time career.
She didn’t plan for it, the 32-year-old says.
Although she started practising yoga in 2010, it was only when the opportunity came for her to do her yoga training in 2017 that she considered teaching.
Leandra says: “In yoga we have this concept called swadharma, which is our individual purpose that we have to fulfill.”
“Some people’s individual purpose is looking after their families, earning enough money to live a good life, and that’s fine, even if it’s a corporate job in the rat race. Some people have ambitions and thrive well in that situation.”
“But if continuing in that role causes you to feel restless and frustrated and is not in line with your nature, talent or skills, you should consider changing your job.”
“In my own journey, I realised that my purpose is not about earning money and supporting the family, but in teaching.”
As a freelance yoga and barre instructor, Leandra teaches six days a week. She also volunteers her time at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) once a week, teaching yoga to persons with intellectual disabilities. Due to safe management measures, however, they have put a pause on classes.
While teaching yoga has given her more flexibility and control over her time (she spends her free time planning classes and upgrading her skills to be up to date with current styles of teaching), Leandra says that there are drawbacks to not having a fixed income, especially during the Phase 2 Heightened Alerts when classes were cut down significantly.
Yet, Leandra is happy doing what she does and thankful that classes have resumed again.
She says: “It’s important to self-reflect: Put aside societal pressures and expectations to ask yourself, is what you are doing giving you purpose?”