Linus Tan: The Alternative Path

Linus Tan: The Alternative Path

Do you believe that the traditional path is always right? Well, it didn’t feel right for me. And I chose to give up everything for my passion. 

I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, always looking for that opportunity to turn my passion into a reality. As an elementary school student, as an avid card collector, I soon realised that selling the rarer of my stock could draw in a significant amount of cash. Soon, I expanded my collection to include toy collectibles and music memorabilia, finally taking this side hustle of mine online by selling on the internet. I even dabbled in a tourism business right before I enlisted in the Singapore Armed Forces. Back then, I started an online travel services platform with a couple of friends. However, it was only after I had completed national service that I had the chance to invest my time in entrepreneurship – and it paid off. This is where District, the business I founded, went places. As a company that strives to fill the gap in the retail industry, District works with brands to ‘power’ their physical operations and solve problems. 

I made the choice to pursue entrepreneurship at the expense of furthering my education. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I do not value education. After all, it provides the foundation for one to take on the world. I chose to forgo a university degree because I disagreed with the conventional schooling system. When you’re in school, everyone’s bound to yield to the ideals of the system – even I did. Study hard, score well, get rewarded and move on – it was a textbook formula that I came to master, but not love. 

It was only after attending junior college, when I was presented with several options, that I realized that the universities couldn’t offer what I wanted – experience. This is my mantra: Learning is doing. I know that my opinion may not sit well with everyone – it definitely didn’t with my family, friends and teachers. What we have been familiar with is a well-oiled machine, an all-encompassing system, one that we have all inadvertently remained in long after we graduate. After surviving the system for the first quarter of our lives, we proceed to tell our children that success in life cannot be achieved without success in school. I am thankful to the system because it has led me to where I am today –  this revelation, this major decision, became my ambition, the reason I decided to give my passion my 110%. I wanted to show the world that a degree doesn’t truly define your calibre. That only we, ourselves, do. 

To me, age is just a number. In fact, the younger you are, the bigger your head-start. Age shouldn’t be able to dictate the stage you’re in at life. However, I know that society sees this differently. I’ve faced many rejections because of my youth and lack of credentials. More so when you’re different, as someone who is pursuing a less traditional path. What I believe in are persistence and gradual progress. Over time, with constant effort, you’ll find a way – proving the naysayers wrong and getting the deserving satisfaction of saying, ‘I told you so’. But what’s most fulfilling is the fact that you become an example – a walking statement that you have achieved success despite being deemed fit for the sidelines by society. You prove to others that the key lies in self-belief. 

The decisions I have to make in my entrepreneurial journey are not easy, but that’s where leadership lies in wait. To many, leadership is contingent on people – a leader is an individual who listens to different perspectives and then determines the best path forward for his team. However, the way that I think about it, leadership starts within yourself. You need to have clarity. Know what you want in life and find out how to go about achieving those goals. I believe that personal leadership comes before leading others and therefore, true leadership is only realised when you’ve fulfilled both. 

We’re always in a constant state of growth and learning. My journey may be long and arduous, but I know I can do it –  because I believe in myself. But if there’s anything I can leave with you today, it is the spark to just start. It’ll always seem that there are thousands of reasons to hold yourself back, but you’ll eventually come to realise that the only thing that will ever hold you back in life is yourself. So, take the idea that’s lingering at the back of your mind and make the first step. You will eventually find the path you’re meant to take. The one your heart has always wanted to. 
Check out Linus’ new online store at:

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