The Young Man’s Dream


One day, a young college boy in England phoned his mother in Malaysia. He asked, “Can I come home for half term.” And she replied, “I’m afraid it’s too expensive.”

His request got denied because flight is expensive. But that ignited a flame of dream in his heart – that is to have a long-haul low cost airline sometime.

In 2001, this man left his job in the music industry and then pursued his dream. He said, it was “crystallized in my thought, and remained in my thought.” On September 8, 2001, he bought a struggling two-carrier airline start-up and turned it around into a phenomenal take off. Today, this airline reported 172 A320 carriers in its fleet and has been awarded as the World’s Best Low-Cost Carrier for seven times in a row. This is just part of the stellar story of Tony Fernandes and AirAsia.

At times, when we read or hear about stories like this, we stand in awe and wonder how they did it. At times, people would think that these successes came to life because of luck. What we also often miss is that along their journey to success was a series of failures. One of the known failures of AirAsia was its first attempt to open in Japan. It was a failure then. But now, they are going back to Japan with something new in their table. (I’m not promoting AirAsia. It so happened that this is the company I’ve looked into for our case in one of my subjects in school. I figured that there is a lot of learning we can gain from it but sometimes academic papers are stiff in style and at times don’t capture the soft yet essential part.)

In an interview, Tony was asked how he deals with failure. His response: We don’t give up. There is no substitute for hard work. There is no shortcut. There is no easy deal. There is always an element of luck. But there is no substitute for hard work.

I remember John Maxwell giving an illustration about iceberg thinking. What we see on top is just a small part of the huge iceberg. If you look beneath, there is a much, much bigger part. What you see in the surface is way much smaller compared to what’s beneath.

Using this illustration, what we often see in success stories is just the surface – the stellar awards, the remarkable profits, and the world-renowned name. What we often do not see is what’s beneath – and that is hard work.

Young minds like me would get excited to start something while being inspired of success stories like this. But at times, that inspiration would begin to fade as we struggle at the start and as we experience turbulence even just in the first phase of the flight. They say that there is more fuel that is burned during takeoff. In other words, it is normal that more effort is needed when something is just being started. That is hard work!

“Alright, we get it. Work hard! But how then do we drive the takeoff and navigate the turbulence of any venture or dream we want to achieve?” From an interview I watched, Tony gives this four-part advice to the young:

One, “have a business that people want.”

This is often discussed in basic business subjects. Is there a demand for it? Is it being supplied? Is there an unsatisfied demand? Or, how will you differentiate your offering from the existing supply so that the market will want it? The problem sometimes is when the essence of business concepts gets drowned in the complicated terminologies used. So there you have it, have a business that people want.

Two, “surround yourself with good people.”

To have the right group of people surrounding you is important. This may be your team working with you and this may also include the people whom you hang out with. I’ve heard it from several big names that you become the average of the five people you often hang-out with. Bam! What do you say about that?

Three, “don’t be afraid of failure.”

I’ve heard this from a wise man, “Failure is a pre-requisite of success.” Great men and women also say, “Fail your way to success. Fail forward.” I believe they have seen this at work as experienced it. Take it from them who worked their way to the top.

Four, “invest in branding and marketing.” Tony explained, “Good product is useless if no one knows about it. In this world of so much noise, marketing is so important.”

Tony piloted AirAsia to its phenomenal flight. It started with a dream. Through basic business sense, right people, courage, and right strategies, they have fuelled to take-off to the bright sky; they have navigated lots of turbulence and have arrived to their targeted destinations… and beyond!

How about you, what is the dream that one time spurred in your young heart? Is there a business, a project or a venture you want to start? Pick something from Tony’s story and advice. Then see how you can apply them in your own situation.

(I’d love to hear from you. Email me at | PASS or Progressive Academic Support System embarks on a flight to help accounting students in their studies. Stay tuned to get updates.)