Monday, July 20, 2015

I Don't Want to Be Poor: The Boyd Au Success Story.

Boyd Au. I Don't Want to Be Poor: The Boyd Au Success Story. Marshall Cavendish, 2013. See here to buy the book.

I first came across the book when I was browsing through Popular Bookstore a number of years ago. My first impression of the book based on its title and its cover picture of the author was that it was one of those “How I got from rags to riches” story. Honestly though, I was somewhat turned off by the title of the book because I had the impression that it was going to be one of those kind of books where the author is going to say that he got rich simply out of his own hard work or determination, and that if he can do it, so can anyone else. I was worried that it might implicitly carry forth the "pick yourself up by your bootstrap" kind of message that no one ought to be poor in life because they can change their financial circumstances as long as they are as hardworking or determined as the author. I find such views by some self-help authors repulsive.

But I had second thoughts and was willing to reconsider my negative prejudices when a friend of mine who was with me told me that the author of the book is a devout Christian. I was thus curious as to whether my negative prejudices were justified, or if I was mistaken instead. I was also interested to see whether there are any tidbits of Christian wisdom that they author might share which I may find edifying, and whether there are any pointers about how Christianity affects his own career as an entrepreneur. I came across the book again while browsing through the library recently and picked it up to borrow for reading.

I Don’t Want to be Poor is an autobiography by entrepreneur Boyd Au who was former boss of public-listed electronics company Enzer. I don't know much about the company, but I heard it was quite big and well-known back in the 80's and 90's. The book describes, amongst other things, Boyd’s childhood growing up in the Salvation Army Boy’s Home in which he was placed in by his mother when his parents separated as they couldn’t afford to raise Boyd up. Boyd recounts how the Salvation Army took care of him, even though resources were scarce, and food had to be sparingly rationed. During his growing up years in the Salvation Army Home, Boyd shared about how he worked at a small chicken coop in the backyard to earn a sparing income, and even learned some mischievous tricks to hide some of the eggs laid by the chicken for himself. What seems to affect Boyd the greatest at the emotional level is the large absence of his mother during his childhood years, who did not visit him once throughout his growing up years in the Salvation Army Home. He resolved thus that he didn’t want to be poor when he grows up.

In later parts of the book, Boyd credits the Salvation Army for bringing him up, and also imbuing in him Christian values which continues to guide him as an adult. Boyd writes in the later part of his book about his experience with running and growing his business, from one based on a distributorship model, to one which manufactures electronic products of its own and sells them to the market at large. He subsequently listed his company, and his wealth increased several folds for him to become a multi-millionaire. Boyd writes at one part of the book about how the Christian religion even facilitated his business decision making process, such as when he sold off his company when his church pastor told him to do so, and was subsequently relieved when the Asian Financial Crisis happened which Boyd says would have greatly lowered the company’s value, and as such, he made a great deal by selling it off at a good price before the financial crisis. I was actually a little uneasy when I read that part about the pastor telling Boyd to sell off his company as I wonder whether the pastor was overstepping his line as a church authority by advising a congregant on his personal business decisions, but I was relieved when I read the subsequent part that Boyd thinks it was a good decision overall that he could not have foreseen except by divine wisdom and the subsequent impending financial crisis validated that decision. Nevertheless, this account by Boyd left me to question as to how far God actually advices people when it comes to such matters as business and career, and whether it is a prudent method to consider decisions in these areas of one’s life based on one’s impression of God’s prompting. I know of fellow Christians in my own Christian community who speak of making personal life decisions in such manner, but personally, I would be cautious against doing so because I think it is prone to misinterpretation as to whether the prompting is actually from God. Generally, I would be quite adverse towards mixing religion with personal decision making in one’s career, but I am actually glad for a person when I hear that he has made good decisions because of God’s promptings, even though I am a little uneasy when I hear about such sharing. I wouldn’t be surprised that there are also failure stories by Christians who thought they heard God’s promptings to do something in their career, and ended up making decisions that cost them dearly.

I enjoyed the book as being that of a story of a man who came from hard and humble beginnings to obtain the success he has in life, and who expresses thankfulness rather than pride for the success that he has in life. Boyd was thankful for the Salvation Army for providing for him both materially and spiritually as a child, and he gave back with the financial success he has obtained in his business to his church, and to the Salvation Army. I suppose I would say that I have a more positive change of view towards the book from my initial impressions after reading it.

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