By Mario Pinti
When the going gets tough…well, it gets tough.
For Hemi Hossain, international business coach, digital entrepreneur, author and long-time resident of the west, life has over the years presented many difficult challenges.
As a young migrant studying business systems at RMIT, he had to support himself by working intermittently in low paid manual jobs, often going penniless and hungry. Not an unusual story in this country even when it meant he was short changed on pay and conditions by some employers. Nor is it unusual for a student when applying for jobs to fail to make it to the interview stage.
After many frustrating knock backs, Hossain went to one of his university’s career counsellors for some honest feedback and advice. What he was told was as unexpected as it was brutal.
‘I asked what I had to do to get a job in Australia, what did I need to change. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t making progress,’ says Hossain. ‘He said to me, “You can change your skin or you have to be ten times smarter than the Australians in the room.”’
Well, there was nothing he could do about the former, he shares with a wry smile, but he knew he could tick off the latter.
Fast forward a few years and Hossain has broken through the race barrier, working for some of Australia’s largest corporations. His talents and leadership potential were noted by senior managers. It really seemed like the sky was the limit.
And then in 2007 serious and debilitating bouts of pancreatitis stopped him in his tracks.
‘The pain was incredible. I had a two-minute conversation with my surgeon and he said I had two options; he could operate and remove part of the pancreas and leave me with maybe a year of life. Or do nothing, but if it got worse, then he couldn’t save me.’
Here was a turning point. Initially agreeing to have the operation, that short conversation changed Hossain’s frame of thinking. Against medical advice, he decided to forgo the operation in favour of using what time he may have had left to find the purpose and meaning in life he always wanted.
And a bit more on this later.
A complete recovery that surprised everyone had Hossain slowly but decidedly moving away from the corporate world that he had till then wanted, and worked hard to be part of. In 2015 it was time to strike out independently and begin flexing his entrepreneurial flair with his own life coaching-digital coaching business. It was also time to eke out more hours in the day for his young son.
And it’s here, for his child and family, that the greatest pain of his life was experienced. One can have all the qualifications in the world, but if a new business has financial outgoings far greater than earnings this will only lead to crippling debt. Hossain recalls the night when he didn’t have enough money to buy milk for his child.
‘I started a business without knowing the business well enough. I lost all my money within eight to nine months,’ he recalls. ‘I literally was sitting in front of Coles with no money, crying. What have I done with my life, I asked myself.’
It was a low point for Hossain.
But here we return to the first challenge, having to confront the reality of racial discrimination. Believing in himself, looking past the bigotry, buoyed with the confidence others had in him, Hossain worked hard to learn the businesses he wanted to succeed in. He knew he could become the smartest guy in the room. His persistence would see to that.
‘I was upset,’ he says about being told his skin colour was a potential barrier to employment, but not offended. ‘My friend was trying to help me, telling me the truth as it was for someone from Bangladesh or India. But Australia is now much more accepting. Australia has changed.’
Next, with serious illness behind him Hossain wanted to leave behind a legacy that would outlive him.
During his recovery phase, searching for meaning and purpose, three things emerged: ‘Firstly, I wanted to fix my finances to be able to help people. My family first.’ says Hossain. ‘Second, I wanted to add value to people’s lives. And third, leave a legacy for people to remember me.’
As a high-profile figure in the Bangladeshi community Hossain is one to whom many go for support and advice. Which he is happy to give freely.
‘I will talk to anyone,’ he says. ‘A two-minute conversation with my surgeon changed my life. Maybe I can help someone add value to their life. If you just want to make lots of money, I’m not the person for you. If you want to add value, have purpose, realise a passion, come and speak.’
Hossain believes success is as much a collective achievement as it is about an individual’s unique talents. Family, culture, mentors and fruitful collaborations have been important ingredients taking him to where he is now.
Hossain proudly works with many people around the world, regardless of colour or ethnicity, on strategies and ideas to build happier, more fulfilling working lives and businesses. His international best-seller Fire Your Boss is part of the positive legacy he seeks to leave behind.
Sometimes in life the going will get tough. But it’s how you respond, as Hossain has found, that matters most.