Before beginning their journey as network marketers, my parents used to leave the house early in the morning, sometimes coming home just before I went to bed. They had little time for interaction with the children or with each other. As a young child, I sometimes thought my parents' lives revolved around work and business.
When I was twelve years old, my parents were given a lifeline: they were introduced to a network marketing business.
At first, it seemed no different from any other job—maybe even worse, as now I hardly ever saw them at home.
Once a month our family would attend a business gathering where business partners would share about their successes in the past month. Each new gathering would bring new faces, while some of those I had seen the previous gathering were now gone. I deduced that this network marketing business was all about rejection. It was as if my parents and their business partners had to work so hard only to fail and start all over again.
So when my parents told me that when they retired, they would hand over the business to me, I secretly hoped that they would not retire!
I have friends who do not think highly of multilevel marketing, and when people would ask me what my parents did for a living, I would be hesitant to tell them. (This, despite the fact that my father has a Ph.D. in engineering and a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation and is a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Singapore Armed Forces reserves.) I did not want them to judge my parents, and certainly did not want my parents likened to those senior citizens who roamed the streets, going from door to door selling perfume or Tupperware.
When my parents first made the switch to network marketing, things initially were not as difficult or uncomfortable as I expected them to be. However, after the novelty had passed, dealing with rejections and disappointments over and over again was tough. I recall asking myself (and I'm sure they were asking themselves, too) when they would have a breakthrough—or if they ever would. Why they continued to brave the storm baffled me, but they continued to face trials and failures with optimism.
I do not expect things to be any easier; people will continue to reject and disappoint them, but now they are able to deal with them better. The situation might not have changed, but they have become stronger.
From this, I have learned not to give up easily, but to be unyielding in the face of hardship. I know I will always be tempted to give in when times are tough, but if I learn from my parents and surge on, I will become bigger than my difficulties.
After that initial adjustment period, the business began slowing down. My parents started to be at home a lot more, since they no longer had to work in the confines of an office. I remember wondering at times if they were working hard enough.
Suddenly they had more time for non-work related activities: time to exercise every day and spend time with people. My father started spending his Friday afternoons with his father, taking him out for exercise, food, and sightseeing. I could tell my grandfather really appreciated it. My father also began attending more personal development courses and started coaching others.
My father also started spending more time with my older brother, my younger sister and me, and got more involved in our non-academic development. All of us were involved in competitive sports, and he started coming to school twice a week for two hours each time to coach me in pole vaulting. He started coming to our competitions.
My mother began devoting more time to her church and started pursuing a diploma in Christian ministry. She became a more reliable chauffeur, with the newfound time on her hands, offering to drive us places and therefore also spending more time with us.
As a family, we have been able to have meals together more often because of the time freedom that network marketing has offered my parents. It has also allowed them to live a much more balanced lifestyle and channel more time into the things that really matter.
When I was fifteen, my father worked with me on my first book of poems, TeenY Thots. He sold me on the idea of publishing a book and selling it to friends and family so I could earn my own pocket money. Frankly, I thought it was a wild and weird idea, but my father, with his penchant for the unconventional and love for the road less travelled, was enthralled by this whole enterprise and he enrolled me into going along with him. To my utter amazement, the first book sold 1,200 copies in two weeks and earned me five years' worth of pocket money.
Five years later, my father again nudged me to do a sequel to TeenY Thots, entitled Growing Thots. The second book was tough in its birthing, but we produced it in three short months and at Christmas, once again, sold 1,200 copies.
I really don't know how many fathers would have the boundless time and energy to do something like this with their teenage sons. Network marketing gave my dad a can-do attitude and freedom to pursue his weird and wonderful ideas and help me write and publish two books as a lasting legacy for our family.
My parents also have a tight-knit group of friends in their business partners. It is heartening to see how much they enjoy one another's company at every monthly gathering and how much fun they have. They do everything together: they go on trips, throw parties, attend Bible study together. I would never have imagined that people who work together could be so close, but when I see how much time they spend with each other and how much they genuinely enjoy being around each other, I begin to see how much network marketing has actually given them.
I'm sure my parents always wanted to be able to spend more time with us and their loved ones, but in their previous jobs, they just didn't have the opportunity to do so. Now that this door has been opened to them, I can see how big a difference it makes.
DANIEL CHIA, 22, is a second-year student
at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, pursuing a
degree in Animal Science. His parents, Dr. James
and Jackie Chia, have been successful network
marketers since 2001.