“Prior to starting The Black Hole Group with a friend, I travelled the world quite a bit. Back when I was still studying psychology at the National University of Singapore, I went to the States during my summer break to work as a lifeguard for three months.
It was part of a work and travel programme, and I had to go through two weeks of intense training. I was taught how to perform CPR, how to go five metres deep into the water to retrieve an unconscious person, and I even rescued some poor souls while on duty.
After my time in The States, I travelled to Australia to bum around for a bit. I knew some people there, so I shamelessly bunked at their place and worked at a farm for a short while. While picking fruits to earn some money, it dawned on me that I had to think about life after graduation.
At the time, I had a friend in the Singapore Civil Defence Force who encouraged me to sign on. I thought life-saving sounded like a pretty fulfilling job, and I did have lifeguard experience and certification, so I just went for it. It ended up being my career for over three years.
Why did I leave? To cut the long story short, my love for travel called out to me again. Of course, I did realise I couldn’t travel forever. That was when I thought of maybe opening a hostel. Instead of travelling to meet new people, I could bring new people to me.
That’s how The Black Hole Group began – with a hostel. Today, we also run a number of cafés. We’ve turned into a collective of talented people capable of running many different businesses, so if we want to open a café in KL or even a boxing ring in Cambodia, we can.
Career advice? Well, if you’re inspired by my story and think you’d like to do what I’m doing, all I can say is this life is not for everyone – the struggle is real. People tend to see the glamourous aspects of my life and how it panned out, but they don’t see the hard work that goes behind the scenes.
People don’t see how I’m sometimes the one scrubbing the toilet after an event. People don’t see how I’m still at the office late at night trying not to cry because of Murphy’s law. There are days where you wonder if it’s all worth it.
The caveat aside, my philosophy in life is to simply do my best in whatever it is I’ve put my mind to. Whether you’re saving lives, scrubbing toilets or running a business, just strive for excellence, and everything will fall into place.” – Mustaffa, 32
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