As we sped down Penang bridge I clung on to my father like my life depended on it. Because it really did. I was about 10 years old when my father got into this new hobby of riding motorbikes. He used to joke that it was his mid-life crisis but he found joy in buying these big motorcycles and going for rides in them.
So there I was one faithful night, wearing a kid-sized motorcycle helmet as I clung on to his back looking down on the road below me. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that if I let go and fell off the bike, something really bad would happen. Really bad.
I wasn’t sure which was worse. Falling on to the road below or falling into the sea on either side of the bridge. I decided that falling into the sea in the dark of night would be worse. I mean if I fell on the road I would hopefully die on the spot. If I fell into the sea, I might not die on impact and nobody would be able to find me in the darkness. Meanwhile the waves would sweep me away along the Straits of Malacca and I would drown.
So I stopped looking down.
In the distance I could see the mainland. Butterworth as we all call it, where my father worked. My father at the time was the Managing Director of a company called Acidchem. It deals in the processing of oleo-chemicals and many of the factories that we see in Butterworth from the bridge belong to the company my Dad worked for. The company was started by my mom’s family… but they eventually sold it and my Dad continued working there till he became MD. I remember he did a great job too and he was well respected within the company.
Once over the bridge he would ride around the factories or what he called “plants” and at certain points he would stop, observe and then go again. I asked him what he was doing and he explained
“You know son, I run these plants day in and day out. But every night when I come on my rides here I notice something happening that shouldn’t be happening. Or something that should be happening but isn’t.
Remember that in life, never take for granted the importance of being physically present at the company you run. You will always find something wrong”.
Upon reaching home he would pick up the phone and call his managers who would be very surprised to find out how he knew about something going wrong in the middle of the night.
My father has taught me and mentored me with many of these lessons growing up but this one came to me today when I was doing my morning run. As I ran past the building of our new venture that was being renovated I noticed that the lights in some of the rooms were on. Why should they be on over a long weekend? Were the air-cons on too?
The contractors were supposed to be working today though so I thought maybe it was them. When I tried to go in I then realized something else. Nobody was working as per schedule.
I went home and made some calls. It was then that I thought about this lesson my father gave me when I was just 10. A lesson I will always carry with me from now on. That no matter how much technology allows us to work remotely or how tempted we are to not be there, never ever underestimate the effectiveness of being present.
I am the man I am today… because of my father.