Achieving Success By Not Focusing On Success

by Patrick Liew on October 24, 2017

It may sound strange to a lot of my friends if they know that I did not start off in my working life wanting to be an entrepreneur or an investor.

After my graduation, I wanted to be a … (sound of drum roll) … social worker.

As someone who grew up in poverty and has experienced many hardships, I wanted to devote my life to helping others so that they could have a fair chance to do well in life.

I could not see myself doing many type of jobs other than being involved in serving the poor, the needy, and the disadvantaged.

Back in 1976, I was given the opportunity to intern at a youth organization in Hong Kong with a view of learning how to be a social worker.

At that point, my family was literally living hand to mouth and therefore, they could not afford the expenses for my trip.

Some of my friends offered to sell old newspapers, do odd jobs, and pool their savings to raise funds for me.

They believed in me and worked very hard to ensure that I could go on that life-changing trip.

Though they have moved on with their lives and the whereabouts of many of them are unbeknownst to me, I am eternally grateful to them.

Their sacrifices and contributions have given me the impetus to help others whenever it is possible to fulfill their dreams.

I was sent to understudy Mr. David Chu, the National Director of a youth organization.

Mr. Chu was an ex-teacher and a charismatic youth leader.

He gave up a relatively secure job because he was passionate about transforming young people for a good cause.

Learning from him and watching him in actions planted an inspirational seed in my mind.

That seed has continued to grow. It is a seed of belief in the potential of young people to change the world.

We used to say, “If we don’t win young people’s hearts today, they will break ours tomorrow.”

If we mould and shape their lives correctly, they will create a brighter future for all of us.

As our movement was not adequately funded, Mr. Chu and I had to sleep in the office.

At the end of every evening, we would each roll out a mattress and lay it on top of an office table and sleep on it for the night.

Although I came from a poor family and did not sleep in the most comfortable condition, that experience capped it all.

Sleeping on a small table almost felt like I was learning a special martial art from a legendary kung fu master.

I had to learn how to sleep lightly and in a controlled manner so that I would not fall off the table.

One evening, I did fall off the table. I hit the floor so hard that it woke Mr. Chu up.

The pain from the fall was soon forgotten because both of us could not help but burst out laughing.

Since then, I did not fall off the table again.

Perhaps, it was a sign that I have mastered the secret kung fu of internal energy (“Hi-yah!”)

Throughout the day, I would spend most of my time with Mr. Chu as he went about helping young people, teaching, counseling and guiding them.

Mr. Chu ran his operation like it was a life-or-death mission and that was why he had worked with utmost commitment and discipline.

As I reflected on the internship, I realized it has influenced me more than my few years of formal education.

It secured my commitment to make something good out of my life and giving of myself to serve our Creator and help Him reclaim humanity.

Mr. Chu’s personal influence and impact on me lasted to this day. He inspired me to pour out my heart to transform lives and serve worthwhile missions.

That was why I have always made it a point to share my experience and expertise with different mentees.

Mentors like Mr. Chu and many others had helped me coined one of my organizing principles – “Anything worth doing is worth doing with passion and excellence.”

During my internship in Hong Kong, one of the highlights was immersing myself in deep meditation every morning.

Our organization operated from a rented space in the YMCA Building at Nathan Road.

Besides the building, there was a clump of trees that covered a small hill. I could see the first few steps of a concrete staircase that ran up a slope to the top of the hill.

I spent many a morning at the peak of the hill meditating about my life.

Reflecting, praying, and planning on how I could be a better leader; and how I could be used as an instrument to inspire more people to serve a higher calling.

After completing my studies, I applied and got a job as a social worker.

Subsequently, life played what I thought was a cruel joke on me till it turned out to be one of the best gifts in my life.

Just before I started work, the leader, who had employed me and promised to guide me, stepped down from the organization.

He left me feeling disappointed and lost.

After seeking wise counsels, I was advised to go out to the real world and chalk up real life experiences.

By undergoing some pain and sorrow, I would then earn my stripes and scars to help others with their challenges.

That was how I decided to experience what it meant to work in and what some would call, a “cold and cruel” business world.

Instead, the experience turned out to a meaningful, exciting and fulfilling one.

Up till now, I’ve not lost the romance of working and the romance of making the most out of my work.

After walking into the business world, I thank God for helping me rise through ranks and files.

I eventually ran the regional office of a multi-billion dollar company that was listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). I also had a good run as an entrepreneur and an investor.

Along the way, I was given the privilege, capacity, and other resources to pioneer and participate in many charitable, humanitarian, civic, grassroots and philanthropic initiatives.

On 5 December 2013, 37 years after ending my internship in Hong Kong, a strange thing happened to me.

It happened a few months after I had sold most of my shares in a public-listed company and decided to “retire” from the business world.

I was invited to speak at a CEO Conference held at The Cityview hotel in Hong Kong.

After checking into my room, I drew the curtains.

Guess what I saw?

A clump of trees that covered a small hill. I could see the first few steps of a concrete staircase that ran up a slope to the top of the hill.

I rang the receptionist and asked her, “What was on this site before the development of The Cityview hotel?”

She replied me casually without realizing the impact of her words in my heart, “The location of this hotel used to be that of the YMCA building.

“In fact, many of the taxi drivers still know this place as ‘the former YMCA’”.

After I hung up the phone, I broke down.

I never thought I would be back to that location again. It brought back memories of my life-changing internship.

From 1976 to 2013, I felt like my life has gone one full circle.

I started my work life wanting to be a social worker.

However, I accidentally stumbled onto the path of entrepreneurship and investment.

For 37 years, I did not become a social worker, nor did I review any possibility of becoming one.

However, as an entrepreneur and an investor, I was able to achieve similar objective of a social worker – to help others live a better life.

I was also able to give more to the society and achieve more through supporting worthwhile causes.

Looking at the hill again from the same location that had played such an important part in my life, I decided to re-dedicate my life to our Creator.

I endeavored to be His clay so that He could mould me into His image and help me make a positive difference to others and the environment.

Why am I sharing this story with you?

I want to use this story to share with a very powerful principle in life.

This principle is encapsulated in the Law of Precession as propounded by one of my mentors, Dr. R. Buckminster Fuller.

Bucky, as he was affectionately known by many of his students, was known to have one of the most profound minds in the last century.

He was truly a Renaissance Man – a well-balanced person who has distinguished himself as a visionary, philosopher, inventor, engineer, architect, poet, and more.

Bucky defined precession as “the intereffect of individually operating cosmic systems upon one another. Since Universe is an aggregate of individually operative systems, all of the intersystem effects of Universe are precessional, and the 180-degree imposed forces usually result in redirectional resultants of 90 degrees.”

Now that I have impressed you by quoting something that I do not understand, let me give you my layman’s interpretation of the Law of Precession.

For every force that is applied in one direction, it will give rise to a resulting force that runs 90-degree to that direction and the resulting force is more powerful than the initial force.

Take for instance, when a stone is dropped into a pond, it will cause ripples.

A bee is attracted to a flower because of the nectar. As a result, it will pick up pollens, drop them to the ground and cause the growth of new trees and plants.

Both the Sun and Earth have gravity. The gravitational forces will draw both the Sun and Earth to each other, resulting in the Earth orbiting around the Sun.

How does the Law of Precession affect you?

If, for example, you want to be rich and wealthy, do not focus on money.

By focusing on money, it will cause you to become greedy. That will repel people from wanting to be your friend and do business with you.

You will also become unhappy because you will never be happy until you earn the next dollar.

If you want to be rich and wealthy, make money the resulting force.

Focus on delivering positive values to others. At the highest level of value-additions, offer love to the people around you.

In doing so, you will attract more friends and positive relationships. More people will want to do business with you and invest in your ventures.

How can you achieve success? It is by making success the resulting force in your life.

Learn to become a servant leader. Seek to love and serve others.

If you do not have a heart to love and serve others, you do not qualify nor deserve to be successful.

Be mindful of the vision, needs and concerns of the people around you.

Look after their best interests.

Reach out to bring out the best in them and help them live the best of life.

Seek to not only help them go far in life but also, help them carry their burdens.

Continue to value-add to them.

They should be better off with you in their lives than without you.

Whatever you do, don’t do it to satisfy your ego and never be driven by a self-serving agenda.

Serve with humility, and value others above yourself.

Help them achieve their desired outcomes and make them feel that they did it on their own.

Inspire your team mates to believe that they are able to pursue a higher level of achievement and that they know how to do it even in your absence.

Develop a won-win relationship with them.

The won-win relationship is based on the Golden Rule:

Do to others what you want others to do to you – even before they have done it to you.

Having a won-win relationship means that they must win first before you can win.

They have to be successful before you can be successful.

When you help enough people to be successful, some of them will also help you to be successful.

Focus on the quality of your contributions and not on the quantity of your possessions.

When you have a track record of helping others to succeed, soon you don’t have to chase for success.

Success will chase after you.

As for me, I don’t even seek a win-win but a single-win relationship with others.

As long as they win, I’m happy. I don’t need to win at all.

I aim to be the best number 2 so that the people around me can be number 1.

There’s no desire to pursue any recognition, reward and return for myself.

On my journey in life, I seek to live for our Creator and to inspire others to greatness.

By living out these principles, I believe all of us can make positive and sustainable social impacts. We can make our world a better home.

Now, isn’t that what good social workers seek to achieve through their work and contributions?


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Please ‘Like’ me on

Please visit my website,

Follow me on:

Visit my Inspiration blog at

For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at

Let’s connect on
– via @patrickliewsg
– via @patrickliew77

My LinkedIn

Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.


Powered by Facebook Comments

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: