Creating Wealth Part 9 – Asking 5 Key Questions In Life

by Patrick Liew on January 12, 2012

On Friday, 21 May 2010 at 9:30am, I was invited to address the Singapore Polytechnic  50th (Golden) Graduation Ceremony, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

I like to share with you a revised version of my speech. This is to help provide a more balanced perspective about wealth creation.

5 Key Questions In Life 

I do not wish to give you any advice. You are the ‘Answers Generation.’ In other words, with the Internet and other sources of information, you will probably be able to find answers to many of your questions in life.

I came here today to suggest 5 key questions to pose to yourself. How great your life will become depends on the number of great questions you continuously ask yourselves.

For example, if you wake up in the morning and you ask yourself, “Why is my life so wonderful?” You will be predisposed to enjoy a great life.

On the other hand, if you keep wondering, “Why is my life so miserable?” I want to caution you that you will continue to go on a downward spiral.

You may need to struggle to find answers for these 5 questions throughout your life. In doing so, I hope you will find the answers to help you live a meaningful, rewarding and fulfilling life.

The first question is, ‘How Do I Measure Success And Therefore, Make My Life Count?’ 

In 1974, as a freshman of the Singapore Polytechnic, I was coerced into joining a beauty contest. This was a part of an orientation programme organized by the older students, otherwise known as ‘senior ladies and gentlemen.’

They needed a clown to provide additional fun and laughter – a ‘William Hung.’ I was the perfect choice.

The organizers told me I needed to put on a nice jacket during the finals. Coming from a poor family, I did not have the luxury of owning a jacket. I was desperate.

At the eleventh hour, I thankfully recalled that my secondary school’s head prefect had been given a jacket. I managed to contact him and borrow it.

My head prefect was a tall and lanky person. So, when I put on the jacket, I looked like a bumbling chimpanzee.

To make matters worse, the jacket was tailored as a student jacket and was made out of bright turquoise material. It was the oddest looking jacket for a formal occasion. Definitely, not ‘Boomz!’

I must have been the first person in the world to put on a turquoise student jacket in a beauty contest.

I took to the catwalk amidst applause, whistles and catcalls. I was told that the stronger the response, the more marks would be awarded to me. The weaker the response, the lower the marks.

I walked nervously to the centre of the stage, embarrassed and struggling to keep my balance. Suddenly, from the back of the room, a lady screamed,

“That is my former head prefect’s jacket!”

That evening, I ran all the way home with tears streaming down my cheeks.

I swore that when I grew up, I would never be poor again. I would be somebody in life. At that young naïve age, I thought that if I were more successful, I would have more personal glory and material comforts in life.

This is a belief shared by many. They measure success by the amount of money in their bank accounts. They believe that position, power, pleasure, possessions and prestige are the traits of success.

But I believe there is a more compelling and higher purpose to live a good life.

For example, the engineering profession gave rise to the industrial age and has brought about some of the greatest advancements in technology. Unfortunately, one of the by-products is environmental destruction.

Our planet as it stands today is dying. I believe the solution or part of the solution to stop and repair this destruction lies in the hands of engineering professionals like you.

As you go through life, you need to maximize your potential. You need to capitalize on every given moment. You need to do everything you can to live a worthwhile life, make a positive difference to others, and make our world a better home.

So, how will you measure success and therefore, make your life really count?

Second Question: ‘How Do I Serve The People Around Me So That They Can Lead Better Lives?

This brings me to the second and closely-related question,

‘How Do I Serve The People Around Me So That They Can Lead Better Lives?

1991 is a year I will never forget for the rest of my life. That year, I was kidnapped!

I was taken hostage in a third-world country and housed in a remote bungalow.

The guards watching me had guns and rifles because they were part of a ‘consortium’ formed by people from the police, the army, and the business community.

Their business model was so ingenious I almost begged them to sell me some shares in their company. Jokes aside, death was literally one breath away.

You cannot imagine the fear that pounded relentlessly at my heart.

At the brink of death, I saw scenes of my life flashing through my mind like a movie.

I realized when I was facing death, I did not wish I had earned more money or accumulated more material possessions in my life.

My deepest regret had to do with our Creator and the people that mattered to me. I wished I had given more love to Him, my family, my friends, and my colleagues. I regretted not doing more to improve the quality of life of the people around me.

When I was finally released – after having lost some money – I did not cry over the money because the experience was worth every cent. The lessons I learnt were priceless.

I came out of it, a new person with a new heart. I aimed to love people, touch lives, and be a blessing to others.

I learnt that the best way to live my life is to live it for others. The more I reach out to bless other lives, the better and richer my life will be.

Third Question: How Can I Continue My Learning Experience And Maximise My Potential?’   

The third question is,   ‘How Can I Continue My Learning Experience And Maximise My Potential?’

In the old economy, we needed to go to school to learn a profession. However, in the new economy, to survive and succeed in your profession, you cannot afford to stop learning, growing and improving in the school of life.

When I was a student at the Singapore Polytechnic, I used diodes, triodes, and transistors. After I graduated and completed my national service, I realized that, like dinosaurs, they had ‘vanished’. They are now invisible parts of the Integrated Chip.

I also used slide rules which most of you have probably not even heard of. They are the analog ancestors of your programmable calculators.

And, can you imagine, personal computers did not even exist during my time.

I assure you – you will have a similar though not necessarily the same experience.

The pace of change is even faster in your generation than in mine. Many of the lessons you learned at the Singapore Polytechnic will become obsolete in the near future.

Therefore, you must continue to learn. The ability and willingness to learn is the only absolute advantage in the workplace and in life.

This is why I believe there should be a ‘shelf life’ for your Diploma. It should be valid for a maximum of 5 years only.

In fact, we should never ‘graduate’ from the school. Our education should be a lifelong process of learning, changing, improving, and growing. The day we stop learning, we should be considered as uneducated.

Fourth Question: ‘How Can I Learn From Failure And Rise Above It So As To Live A Meaningful, Rewarding And Fulfilling Life?’   

The fourth question is,

‘How Can I Learn From Failure And Rise Above It So As To Live A Meaningful, Rewarding And Fulfilling Life?’

On 21st March 2003, I received an interesting call, “Patrick, you better fly back right away. People are carrying things out of the office.”

This call started a series of events which changed my life forever.

Prior to that call, I had scaled down my personal involvement in my company and left the daily operations of it to a management team.

At the trough of the SARS outbreak, sales had dipped to their lowest point. Operational expenses were at an all time high. Our competitors took the opportunity to head-hunt my management staff, and several of my key people literally left me overnight.

Subsequently, my colleagues, clients and suppliers began to leave me in droves. Vicious rumors circulated in the market and they were growing stronger by the day.

During that time, I lost an enormous amount of money. I was also carrying personal liabilities to the tune of millions of dollars.

I went through the darkest period of my life.

At night, I slept with tears in my eyes, curled up like a little baby. I lived in constant fear. I was worried about what would happen to my family and I.

It was a daily torture to wake up, drag myself to the office, and face another day of pain and sorrow. I walked around like a zombie, not knowing what to do, say or believe.

I was totally helpless. I could not run away. No matter which way I turned, I would feel another huge wall collapsing on me.

It was then that I started searching my soul. I looked for wise counsel.

I looked up and asked our Creator for help. I needed a modern day miracle to turn the tide.

I sensed a divine calling to rebuild my company into more than a business, a company or an organization. I was to go beyond personal profits and gain.

The initial instruction I received was to ‘Touch Lives’.

Our company would be devoted to inspiring, motivating and helping our people to be the best they could be. Through them, we would touch lives, bless families, improve communities, and enhance society.

When I decided to take up this challenge, I felt our Creator saying that this step was only Part One – the easy part.

The most important and also the most difficult part of the message was I had to tell my people three simple words, ‘I love you.’

I knew that love is the most powerful force in business and in life. Sadly, I had barely scratched the surface to tap this awesome force.

I did not learn how to live and work with love from any guru, school or book. (I suspect most people would not even dare to talk about love in the workplace).

I had to learn how to rebuild my company on love and to live out the power of love. I had to chart a new course. I had to pioneer a different way of running the company.

I decided to make my company the extended family of our people – and our office, their second home. I endeavoured to build my organization into a warm, dynamic and caring family.

Out of that major crisis, I was forced to recreate myself, my philosophy, my business, and my aspirations. It became one of the key turning points of my life.

Today, my company is arguably one of the market leaders and the largest companies in the industry. I have personally won more than seven business awards. And all these happened because I went through a major failure in my life.

I have gone through many other failures. Failures are part and parcel of life.

I believe that had I not encountered failure, I would never have truly succeeded. The only permanent failure happens if I fail to try and push myself to a higher level of success.

I made failures my servants and not my masters. Failures are but feedback to help me learn, change, improve and grow.

Failures are mere road bumps in the expressway of life. They serve to correct me and help me live in a wiser way.

When encountering each failure, I did not run away. I took the proverbial bull by its horns. And I emerged a better person.

I want to learn how to fail successfully so as to achieve more enduring success in my life.

Fifth Question: ‘How Can I Dream Of A Better World And Turn It Into A Reality?’   

My fifth and last question is this,

‘How Can I Dream Of A Better World And Turn It Into A Reality?’

As you step out of this wonderful campus and onto the vast campus of life, I want you to know the future belongs to those who dare to dream great dreams. These people take massive action to transform their great dreams into a reality.

As long as you work towards great dreams, you will always be young. But when your dreams are replaced by just ‘hopes’ and ‘wishes’, you will start to grow old.

The size of your achievements in life will be determined by the size of your dreams and your actions.

My friends, I believe there is no better time to be alive than right here and right now.

As the economic tide flows from the West to Asia, I believe Singapore will enjoy one of its strongest economic booms in the near future. There will be tremendous opportunities waiting for all of you.
I believe this is one of the best of times to dream about a better world and make it a reality. You can also enjoy tremendous opportunities to live a meaningful, exciting and fulfilling life.

Always remember, you are in a position to transform the world for the benefit of our children and our children’s children. You can leave a positive legacy.

Please make full use of your destiny.

Thank you.


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

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Please go to ‘Notes’ found below my profile picture.

Visit my Transformation blog at

Visit my Inspiration blog at

Please read them and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


Wealth refers to the condition of well-being. It includes my physical, emotional, social and environmental well-being

Having the resources to help others and myself live a meaningful, exciting and fulfilling life in a healthy environment

Anything that grows wealth

Anything that decreases wealth

Having the money and material possessions to achieve the same aspiration for being wealthy

Money is the instrument to facilitate transaction of products and services. It is a measurement of the results of a Wealth Plan

Wealth Plan
An effective and an ever-improving blueprint to create wealth


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