I Came Within An Inch Of Losing My Soul

THE CHILD

Growing up, I wanted to wear a cape and save the innocent and punish the evildoers just like every other kid in town. There was only one problem. I was scrawny. Between age 10 to 16, I was bullied at school a lot. And I handled the bullies in the best way I knew how. By laughing with them and never fighting back. Inside, I was crying but the conflict taught me an important lesson.

THE TWIST

When I turned 16, life delivered one of its jokes. An unexpected growth spurt made me a lot bigger than the other boys. But the bullying persisted, having evolved from the physical to the mental. By then, I knew to hang out with the friendlier seniors more. Eventually, we banded together to form a covert group that spied on and meted out punishments to the bullies at our school. At last, I was a vigilante and it felt right.

THE RISE

My experiences helped me relate to the sufferings of others profoundly. As a young man, I was eloquent and my presence was commanding. And I used both to help others and advance my own career. Solving people’s problems came naturally to me, that soon, I was crushing it in sales! I rose fast without an expensive education, supportive friends or a rich set of parents. I was proud, but the mask I had donned years ago was still on, hiding my insecurities.

THE FALL

Soon, my life was all about chasing money, power and glamour, not so much about helping others. I was young, talented, hungry and well... foolish. I degenerated from the superhero I had dreamed of becoming, to the supervillain I had disdained. The betrayal was complete when the most important people in my life noticed my shrinking values. One of them sat me down for a talk one day, and I gave him a low blow.

THE REBIRTH

That light-hearted comment shifted something in me and I couldn’t sleep for days. But in the darkness, I finally saw the real, hollow me. I remembered a time when I cared about others. When I helped people not so much for money, but for the sheer pleasure of witnessing a breakthrough or a grateful teardrop. I wanted that sublime feeling again. I knew what I had to do. It wasn’t easy, but once I removed the mask, my words acquired a purer form of power that truly served others. And the Storyteller was born.

Meet AJ

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As the brand storyteller of SouthEast Asia, I've had the privilege of speaking at over 200 events since 2013 around Brand Leadership, Inter-generational (Gen XYZ) Dynamics, Digital Disruption, and Workplace Emotional Intelligence (EQ). I’m also a two-time TEDx speaker.

I was awarded the title ‘Best LinkedIn Influencer’ by Marketing In Asia Magazine (Malaysia Social Media Week 2019). The magazine listed me as one of the Top 43 Inspirational LinkedIn Icons to follow in 2018. I was also invited to be a member of ‘Top Voices Malaysia’ - 30 Most Influential People on LinkedIn that same year.

In 2020, I was recommended as a member of the Forbes Communications Council, given my track record in brand storytelling. It’s a huge honour as the council is an invitation-only based organization for senior-level communications and public relations executives.

Before becoming the serial entrepreneur that I am today, I spent 13 years working with brands like Google, Allianz, Legrand, MarcusEvans, Tune Group, and others. One thing I’ve learned is that machines will never truly be able to replicate compassion, empathy, belief, humility, & purposeful innovation. That’s on us.

I see myself as a futurist and storyteller on a mission to disrupt people’s mindsets instead of just their business models. How would you like to see yourself? Are you ready to begin a journey of discovery?