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Read Letter

Mr. Tu and the gift of difficulty

Dear Jack,

You’ve probably never heard of a gentleman named John Tu. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Kingston Technologies. Now 73, but he doesn’t look it.

Kingston is the world’s dominant largest independent manufacturer of “memory products”, things like flash drive and add on memory for digital cameras. You’ve probably used his product without knowing. Mr. Tu is actually Chinese American. Got to America via Shangai, Taiwan, Germany. (Long story). He ended up studying electrical engineering in Germany. That sounds glamorous. Only that in Germany you must apprentice for two years before studying engineering. He therefore went to work at a shipbuilding factory. The foreman treated him like cheap labour. In his words he had to “tough it out”. And this after overcoming language challenges; and being called, as foreigners were in those days “Auslanders”, implying second class citizens. He couldn’t even rent a room to stay. No one wanted a foreigner. The apartment he finally got had no hot water. That couldn’t have been funny in winter. Every day the landlady plunked a bucket of water at his door step. Overnight the water would freeze. He’d have to break the ice to wash his face! But he says those two years of brutal apprenticeship were crucial in his life.

When challenges arose in his business, he’d always say to himself: “Compared to that time in my life, this is nothing.” Today Mr. Tu is a billionaire several times over. The disclosed private company’s earnings in 2010 was $6.5 billion. Kingston was actually his second break. He had hit an entrepreneurial jackpot with the sale of his first technology business. That business was sold for $6 million. His stake was worth $2 million.

Unfortunately, he handed the money to a money manager. The manager lost it all in the Black Monday October, 19, 1987 stock market crash. He said “it felt like the end of the world”. Yet Tu recovered himself and started another venture – Kingston. Starting all over again must have taken an awful amount of determination. But Tu did it. I like this Tu man. I like his spirit, I like his determination, his never-give-up attitude. You do need to read the full story. Read the Dec.23, 2013 edition of Fortune magazine; under Ventures. It’s one of the most inspirational stories I’ve ever read. I’ve always encouraged you to read biographies. They’re micro histories. They make pursuit believable.

As I thought on the life of Mr. Tu, among his other virtues, perseverance stands out. He endured the unbelievable and the undeniable in the pursuit a vision to become successful. When he moved to America he’d hoped to get a job with Motorola but the economy had tanked. No jobs. Instead of moaning and wasting he set up a gift shop. Started importing items from China to sell. The cost of rent however forced him to close the store. He couldn’t save. He couldn’t build capital. He borrowed $5000 from his parents and went into home construction. He just kept on pursuing the future. Mr. Tu’s story shows the path to the future is not always clear. But he kept pursuing the desire to succeed. The pursuit of desire to succeed is thus the path to the future.

He met his business partner on a basketball court. Fortunes can intersect in the unlikeliest of places. They applied their intellect, spotted opportunity, didn’t succumb to the limitations of their deficiencies. They improvised and worked hard. Oh, they worked hard! You don’t make honest billions without hard work. Who’ll believe that that lonely poor Chinese immigrant would become a billionaire. Endure hardship for the prize set before you. Too many of us give up easily. The slightest discouragement and we give up. To give up in life is to give up on your life!

Admittedly, life’s difficulties can sap the will and kill the dream in man. But Mr. Tu never succumbed. You can’t succumb! Mr. Tu simply chalked up those difficulties. He later realised his difficulties were gifts. Without them he wouldn’t have had the capacity to endure the difficulties that attend to high level dreams. Difficulties are life’s gifts. Without them we won’t have the musculature for our future. Even Paul wrote that at one point he could clearly see that his difficulties were gifts. He had entreated God for better terms of service but God turned down his request. God refused to spare him life’s difficulties. That is the fate of those destined for greatness. Persevere. Keep your vision. Keep going. Don’t give up. Just keep pushing in the direction of your dream.

Would Mr. Tu’s story be compelling without those difficulties? I doubt. Would we be talking about Paul without his difficulties? Most unlikely. Our difficulties are the first paragraphs of our testimonial, the first chapters of our motivational biography. If you want to become an inspiration to thousands, even millions, you’ve got to endure present circumstances. We don’t know why, but the future takes Difficult Avenue. We can only discover why with the benefit of hindsight.

Your future is worth pursuing. Persevere.

Your mentor, LA


© Leke Alder 2014

Tags : Determination, Succeed, Difficulties

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