During an interview for a documentary recently, I shared with the producer from ChannelNewsAsia on the 3 things that I have learned from and shaped me after the 1985 Pan Electric crisis, where it sparked the beginning of financial difficulties during my childhood and formative years;
1. Resilience and Gratitude
Suffering, setbacks and pain are key ingredients for building a strong and resilient character. Crisis gave me the opportunity to question the dogma and doctrines passed down by the earlier generations and their relevancy in an ever-changing world. I learnt to differentiate between Universal Principles/ Immutable Laws of Nature (道和法) from Strategies/Tactics (术). Focus on the former as it leads to peace, positivity, possibilities and growth while the latter is subject to changes and correction. Many are stuck with beliefs that are against universal truths with outdated strategies, yet refuse to make corrections (我执). Thus, they keep getting the same results in life repeatedly (轮回).
Crisis has also taught me to never give up. A good sword is forged with repeated knocking under extreme heat. I call it the “Warrior’s Mettle” (十年磨一剑).
After experiencing hardships and financial lack, I learnt to appreciate and be grateful for everything in my life now. I learnt what is truly important and non-negotiable in life; Sustainable Good Health, Supportive and Positive Relationships, Humility and Compassion to Serve.
Hence, I have no issue living in public housing, eating by a roadside stall or wearing a 10-year shirt, as long as I am with my loved ones, doing meaningful and passionate work.
2. Knowledge and Massive Action
The only thing that remains unchanged is change itself. And the only way to stay in flux despite changes is through constant learning and self-education.
However, acquiring knowledge itself is not enough. We will have to put the knowledge into action (知行合一) and to distill distinctions from it so that we can continue innovating to serve humanity in moving forward. This is how we evolve ever since humanity discovered fire.
Knowing and not doing, is actually as good as not knowing. You may think you know, but in reality you don’t (无明). A large number of people fall into this category and that is why they are stagnated in their growth. And if you continue practicing with the right knowledge, you will eventually become a Master in that domain. And when you decide to use that Mastery to do ever, ever more with ever, ever less (add sustainable value) for humanity, you will command respect, fame and wealth. There is no question about it.
3. Prudence and Frugality
Throughout history, great empires, nations, companies, families and individuals fall due to one main reason; their ego, desires and greed have expanded way beyond comprehension. This leads to a number of reactions or outcome; for e.g. uprising from the common folk, war from neighbours, jealousy from family members, peers and adversaries, bankruptcy of corporations etc.
Charlie Munger famously said, “Tell me where I will die and I will never go there”.
Hence, I have long decided to live my life and build my business with little or no debt, and to focus strongly on the fundamentals. Instead of focusing on my self interest, I learnt to share the fruits of my labour with more people who believe in our vision. In other words, building an idea larger than myself so that my legacy will persist long after I am gone. My aim is not to build a bigger or better business but a sustainable one, because if the business is still around after many years, it will most definitely be a great business, especially when the compounding principle is at play (不愿企业做大做强但愿企业活的长久因为长久的企业一定很强).
My segment may or may not be aired on ChannelNewsAsia because they are interviewing all the key movers and shakers in the commercial, political and public sphere. Nevertheless, I hope you will benefit from my documentary interview in this post.
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Inspire someone positively forward today.