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Anger is nature’s best renewable energy source

Keith Tan
September 5, 2016
My cofounder and business partner for the last 15 years Ivan Chang, who is the Executive Chairman of Wonderlabs Group, once told a group of shocked students that he wakes up every morning feeling angry.

Successful entrepreneurs are highly imbalanced people who are monomaniacal about their businesses and attaining success. They sacrifice family, friends and recreation time in order to build organizations that will outlast them and build fortunes they can never finish spending. To some, it seems bafflingly futile. As such, I am often asked “what drives you?”, or “what motivates you”. And just like Ivan, I too am driven by a deep and seething sense of rage. It is a rage that has been boiling for two decades, and continues to simmer.

 Where does it come from? For me, it is a rage that comes from a childhood of bullying and being a misfit in my teenage years. It is a rage that comes from an academic record of trying exceptionally hard but never quite making the top spot and dealing with the ensuing parental disappointment. It is a rage that comes from being a square peg in a society of round holes. But it is a rage that has settled and I am thankful for that, because the same situations could have easily produced despair and nihilism, as they have with many others. But it is a rage that I have cultivated as my source of energy and my eternal motivation. In a world where “passion” is the cult-speak of fellow entrepreneurs, “anger” probably seems politically incorrect, and even narrow minded.

Think of an organization as a living, breathing organism with a spirit, a culture, and an interflow of energy amongst its members. To give birth to such an organization, its founders must have within them great and boundless energy, such that the founders can imbue the organization day after day with said energy, until the organization can stand on its own two feet, and its energy perpetuates itself. For me, the source of that energy is anger. And it is eternally renewable.

And in speaking to many entrepreneurs, it appears to me that my story is not a unique story. Often, most do not wish to discuss this. It is deliberately hidden. Entrepreneurs may speak of a larger and altruistic narrative, to change the world or to disrupt some monopolistic industry. But empires are built not because of altruism. Passion dissipates in the face of failure and difficulty. Everyone knows the initial surge of passion when a new idea gets going, but what keeps you alive and plugging on when you’re in the bowels of 2 bad quarters. It is nature’s most renewable energy source - anger – that keeps you going.

No mere mortal wakes up one day and decides to change the world. Dig deeper and you will find that an entrepreneur’s desire to change the world is almost always bundled up with their desire to reorder the world along with their place in it. That’s the angry hard truth of why we do what we do. At some point in our lives, someone pissed us off in a very big way.

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PS: This is an opinion piece by Keith Tan, Group CEO of Wonderlabs. Wonderlabs is the leading service provider helping companies build and manage software development teams in Indonesia and Vietnam. Across our various shared and dedicated centers, we have over 350+ active software developers. Since our founding in 2015, we have grown rapidly through innovation and our relentless mission focus - Connecting you to success and productivity. Alumni of Wonderlabs have gone on to work at some of the biggest companies in Southeast Asia.
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