By PRETHIBA ESVARY
When Sukur Ibrahim was a young boy, he used to ask his parents the following:
Why am I like this?
Why was I born like this?
What mistake did I make to deserve this?
Challenges came in different forms for Sukur and this made his childhood and adolescent years tough for him.
The team from Leaderonomics had the opportunity to meet him and listen to his motivational talk at the Skim Latihan 1Malaysia’s (SL1M) open interview programme on Feb 24–25 in Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS).
This is a story of his success, as well as lessons he left us and fellow graduates with.
Sukur was born in Muar, Johor in 1984 and is the fourth child among six siblings. As a child, Sukur shared that he was incredibly timid.
He was very much aware of his distinct physical appearance and struggled to accept himself the way he is.
He said: “When people came to my house, I would run and hide in my room. If people came into my room, I would hide under the bed. If they checked there, I would hide inside a box!”
At primary school, he drew a lot of unwanted and uncomfortable stares.
His peers would sometimes ask his teachers:
Why is he so short?
Why are his hands and legs so short?
Is he a ghost?
Sukur’s turning point came when his dad took him to a community rehabilitation programme run by the social welfare department. It was there that he realised there were others who had more severe conditions; conditions which required a certain amount of dependency on others.
He shared: “My legs may not be that long, but I can walk and I can go up and down the stairs. There were people there who can’t even walk!
“I am able to manage myself, I have a mind that can think and I have five senses that work.”
It was at that point that Sukur learnt to be grateful and to accept himself.
Optimistic and supportive parents
Sukur’s family – especially his dad – has been a strong pillar of support for him from the start. From a young age, he was pushed to perform – singing and acting – at events. Such an exposure was one of the factors which drew him closer to self-acceptance.
The one thing he said he will never forget is the sacrifice his parents made when it came to getting his school shoes. One, there were no white shoes in his size and two, his shoes wear off easily because he drags his feet when he walks.
His dad would purchase a few pairs of shoes at one go. When there was no stock at the shop, Sukur’s dad had to buy children’s light-up shoes or squeaky shoes. Sukur had no choice but to wear them, and that meant drawing more attention to himself.
He said: “Watching them (parents) sacrifice for me touched my heart. From that moment, I became so determined to be successful.
“I wanted to repay them.”
And how did he come to where he is today? These are his tips:
1. Have a dream and ambition
When Sukur was a young boy, he dreamed of becoming a doctor and then an engineer. However, his teachers advised against it due to his physique.
He ended up pursuing information technology at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia as this was a field that would allow him to code and develop programmes or software while being deskbound.
After graduating, Sukur struggled to get a job. This, however, did not crush his spirit. In fact, it spurred him to start his own business.
Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine he’d be an entrepreneur, and that too, standing on a stage sharing his journey towards success. He said: “You have to have direction. This will lead you to your destination.”
One way of bringing yourself one step closer to your dreams, he said, is by connecting it to your family.
He gave an example. It has always lingered in his mind to one day take his parents to perform the umrah (a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims). After all the hard work he had put in and all the challenges he braved, he will fulfill this dream at the end of the year, he announced with evident pride.
He advised: “Everything begins with a dream.”
2. Take action now
The path of entrepreneurship is never easy. It is one that requires a lot of passion, grit and resilience. Take Sukur as an example. His first three businesses failed.
“Perhaps it was because I lacked knowledge in marketing and finance at the time,” he shared.
But he believed that business is his forte. So, he tried again and his fourth business plan became a success!
Dstrike Solutions is now an eight-year-old company which supplies and installs wall-to-wall carpets commonly found in mosques and offices.
He started out small and didn’t have an office. After just one year, however, he had his own store. Today, he has five employees and has customers across Peninsular Malaysia!
His advice to students is this: “You have to be hardworking. If you are lazy and don’t go out looking for opportunities and interviews, your chances will be slim.”
3. Persevere to succeed
In the journey towards success, there will be various obstacles. Having the perseverance to push forward, is therefore key to ensure one reaches their destination.
Sukur can relate to this. During his talk, he shared about some of the challenges he faced when meeting with clients.
He said, there was a time when a client refused to let him into the office because they assumed he was a beggar. There was also the time where a client had already agreed on a project with Sukur and pricing was set, but the moment the client saw Sukur in person, they declined the project.
“Perhaps the client didn’t believe in my capabilities,” he said.
But he didn’t let such negative scenarios affect him and it didn’t stop him from continuing to strive for success. He kept going and he is where he is today because he persevered.
Something to also keep in mind, he said, is to never compare our progress with others.
“We may be slower than others, but the key is that we reach our destination.”
Sukur shared his experience hiking up Broga Hill in Semenyih. At 400 m, the hill offers a scenic breath-taking view once you reach its peak.
There were a few instances during the hike when he and his two friends stopped to rest, and he would feel a wave of regret. He kept thinking he couldn’t go further and wanted to stop.
But then, he asked some of the groups walking down the hill, “Tinggi lagi tak puncak? (How much farther to reach the peak?)”
All their replies were the same: “Sikit jer lagi (Just a little bit more).”
Hearing those words of encouragement lifted his spirit. He knew he couldn’t give up just yet. Believe it or not, Sukur reached the peak in 1.5 hours.
His advice is this: “Don’t compare yourself with others because everyone’s journey is different.”
In a nutshell
Sukur faced numerous challenges growing up. His exposure to the world outside his home, and the support he received from his parents, led him to self-acceptance. With a clear goal in mind, he set himself on a path to become successful.
Today, he has achieved that and so much more! Aside from being an entrepreneur, this 34-year-old lad is a happy husband and a father-to-be!
His story goes to show that anyone can be successful, regardless of their physical limitations.
As Roy Bennett, author of The Light in the Heart said: “Believe in your infinite potential. Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself.”
Finding a job that matches one’s field and qualification, and that provides a good pay, can be tough, especially in today’s competitive work environment. If this is you, we’d recommend you to try SL1M. What is it? It’s a training programme which aims to help young graduates like yourself who are unemployed and underemployed. It is conducted in collaboration with government-linked companies (GLC) and private companies to help you enhance your marketability with soft skills and on-the-job training for up to 12 months.
If you perform well on the job and a vacancy is available, there’s a high possibility you will be absorbed as a full-time employee at the said company.
Sukur was a speaker at the recent SL1M open interview programme held at MAEPS. Numerous companies, big and small, have made significant contributions to the country by helping our young graduates. You can do the same. Want to know more? E-mail email@example.com.
Prethiba is passionate about impacting people through the written word. She believes that our lives are solely written by us, and thus the power to change for the better lies with us.