In Death, There Is Life (Part 4).

by Patrick Liew on August 23, 2012

The postcard-like scenic view laid before my eyes. Melbourne’s central business district glistened under the afternoon sun and looked absolutely stunning.

A panoramic view of the beautiful city on a nice and lazy day could have raised many a person’s spirit but not for me. My eyes on that day might look like I was charmed by the landscape but my heart was somew…

here else – faraway.

On that unforgettable day in 1997, I had received a call from my wife. True to her straight talking way, she had wasted no time to break a tragic news to me, “Your best friend, Richard Tan was diagnosed with cancer.

“His doctor is making arrangements right now to admit him into the hospital for an operation. Pray for him.”

The news stunned me momentarily. After calling my travel agent to book me on the next available flight home, I stood by the window of a friend’s office for a long period of time.

That afternoon in Melbourne, I had made a decision on what I would do when I returned back to Singapore. I would close down Success Resources.

I loved Richard too much to see him go through any struggle to run the company. For that matter, I did not want him to undergo any form of stress and have his health affected.

I was willing to take on another job if need be to support him. I once joked with him that I would apply to be a security guard in a rice warehouse and I would work the graveyard shift.

At the end of the working day, I would pick up every grain of rice that was spilled on the floor. I would bring them home and cooked porridge for him.

I might take on another job as a busker along Orchard Road. ‘Customers’ would have to pay me to stop me from singing.

With the collection, I could buy picked lettuce and soya sauce to add to the porridge. We could survive through the twilight years of our lives.

My plan to close the company did not come to pass. In fact, I had to not only scramble my plan, I dared not even tell anyone until today about what would have turned out to be a very bad decision.

I would never forget visiting Richard at the hospital. From listening to different members of his family, I pieced together what had happened to Richard after the successful operation.

After coming to his senses, he had started to talk to the other patients around him. Soon, he was making and responding to phone calls, keeping himself updated about the company and pursuing business deals.

It was not long before Richard was walking around the wards making new friends. Obviously, he was also looking for opportunities to sell them another one of our “life changing seminars”.

Looking at him, it was not unclear in my mind that Success Resources was not just work or a business, it was his personal mission. It was life.

If I had closed the company or disconnected him from the business operation, it would have killed him. It was like unplugging him from a life support system.

I would never forget what he once told me. He said, “When I set out to accomplish a goal, it means the world to me.

“Goal-setting is an integral part of my self esteem. I put in my honour as a human to make it work.

“I’m willing to die to achieve my goal. If I set a goal and do not believe in achieving my goal, life is not worth living.”

These shocking statements originally did not sit well with me. Over the years, I have seen Richard breaking one record feat after another and leading our company from strength to strength. I realized there was a tremendous amount of wisdom and truth in his work ethos.

That momentous afternoon, while I was staring at the Melbourne city, my mind was absorbed by a totally different scene. I was being carried back through time, back to the the years that I had known Richard.

“Watch it! If you play rough again, I’ll beat you up!” Those were the earliest words I could recall speaking to or rather, shouting at him when he was a teenager.

Richard and I had first met at the basketball court. For some reasons, we did not get off to a good start.

The friendly basketball game almost turned out to be an ugly scene. Temper was flaring and we could have ended in a fist fight.

Not too long after that, I of all people, the street kid became a ‘born again’ Christian. Funnily enough, I was shocked to see many youths like me in church and I was sure they were equally shocked to see me sitting on the church pew

That was how I felt when I met Richard again at a youth meeting held in the church. After an initial and awkward conversation, we became better acquainted.

It was good to find out that he was a friendly person, a humble and very creative talent. For those who didn’t know him, he was and still is a wonderful soul.

He grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Singapore. In fact, it was a stone throw away from Desker Road, one of the oldest red light areas.

Richard’s father left his wife and comfort of his home in Foochow to seek his fortune in Singapore. As a trishaw rider, he worked very hard so that his wife could join him much later.

It was in such a poor family that Richard was born. He spent his life until he was a young adult, living in a room that was hardly bigger than 30 square meters.

His family lived so simply that they were sometimes using fruit wrappers rather than toilet papers. Like my family, Richard’s family was poor but a happy family.

Richard and I spent a beautiful part of our young adult years leading a youth organisation. We were managing a large team of passionate and competent leaders, looking after many students in more than 17 schools.

In those years, Richard had already proven himself to be a true pioneer, one who was gifted with an entrepreneurial spirit. Nothing seem to be able to stand in the way when he was focused on achieving a worthwhile cause.

I was constantly amazed by his organisational skills and abilities to plan large scale projects and turn them into a reality. He was able to motivate an army of volunteers from different background and inspire them to make great sacrifices to achieve seemingly impossible tasks.

Among the projects that he had helped me to organise were the ever-popular series of what was known as the ‘Wild Goose Chase’. We packed many buses with excited and screaming young people.

There were different clues that they had to break to lead them to interesting destinations all over the country. We made them do some of the most ridiculous things, such as surrounding a lamp post and singing a Happy Birthday song to it.

Another project that Richard primed was the ‘Serampics’. We booked the Farrer Park Sports Stadium and organized a series of wild and whacky games.

These games included a trishaw race and til today, I still do not know how in the world Richard managed to borrow the trishaws for us. We could have possibly destroyed them in the process of trying to race and beat each other to the finishing line.

When I first came out to work, I wanted to be a salesperson before deciding whether to become a social worker. Richard was my first sales trainer.

He taught me that nobody was born to be an effective salesperson. You need to constantly learn and take the right actions to become one.

Once, Richard brought me along with him to do cold calls at the first industrial park in Batam Island. By then, Richard was already an entrepreneur.

On one sales call, he asked the customer, “What do you need in your factory?”

The manager told him, “We need ELCBs, the voltage-operated and not the current-operated type.”

Richard replied enthusiastically, “No problem. Just give me your detailed requirements and I’ll give you the best price and service.”

After we left the office, he asked me, “What is an ELCB?” And we had a great laugh.

Richard is like a sponge. If he didn’t know an important subject, he would go all out to absorb the information about it and eventually become an expert in the subject material.

He was a risk taker and was always prepared to push the envelope to pioneer new grounds. He did not give up easily and would find different ways to achieve sustainable success.

That was how we got into a new business together in 1991. We started a company to sell a totally unfamiliar product in an unchartered market.

Unfortunately, we had been ‘conned’ into selling an industrial product without being told of its side effects. As a result, within a short period of time, the customers became very unhappy.

The company was inundated with a growing number of complaints, lawsuits and threats. Every single cent belonging to the company and its principals were poured into trying to dig the company out of the ever-deepening pits of hell.

It was almost impossible for Richard to turn the corner. He also could not start a new business or look for a new job.

By a stroke of divine inspiration, we decided to totally transformed our business model.

We wanted to improve quality of life and upgrade professional standards by helping to deliver first-class education to working adults.

It was our deep belief that education was one of the greatest equalisers in life. Education was a fast track to help people expand their potential, enhance their performance, and achieve their pursuits.

At that point in time, we made a commitment, “If we are going to be in the education business, we might as well stretch it to the highest possible limit.

“We will bring world-class gurus to train Asians. That is the only way to strengthen our country and make the world a better home.

“What’s more, we will not only make the trainings available, we will also make it accessible and affordable”.

The rest as I would like to tell you was history but history was not that easily crafted. Richard and I faced many more, what many people would call insurmountable challenges.

Along the way, we had more than our fair share of discouragements, even from those who were close to us but to be fair to them, they did it out of good intentions. We also went through many gnawing fears and painful failures.

Just when we were about to turn the corner, Richard was diagnosed with cancer. He had to undergo chemotherapy and at the same time, he had to travel overseas frequently to keep the company afloat.

With two young children in tow, his future was doomed. At that point in time, Richard was organizing the National Achievers Congress and it was to be held at the Hong Kong Coliseum with a total seating capacity of 12,500 people.

At that point in time, only 250 tickets were sold.

He pleaded with the doctor to let him continue the chemotherapy treatments in Hong Kong. In between the treatments, he would lead the sales force to knock on the doors of many offices, from one building to another to promote the event.

In 1995, he stood on the stage – without hair – at the National Achievers Congress in Hong Kong. He inspired the participants with his indomitable spirit and fierce determination to make his dream come true.

Richard took the company to a height that was never achieved by any other company in the same industry. We were especially proud when we took over the running of a public-listed company in Australia.

He continued to be a model for many entrepreneurs, including me. He once said, “Don’t quit until you win. You’re not out of the race until you quit.

“It can be a long corner but it’s just around the corner.”

In 2003, the Economic Development Board of the Singapore Government awarded to Richard Tan the Phoenix Award. This award was created to honour an entrepreneur who has survived major setbacks and was a model for the business community.

Currently, Success Resources is arguably the largest seminar organizer in the world. Our personal development seminars are probably the longest established and most successful series of such seminars in the market.

We represent some of the biggest names and the most respected experts in the industry. Through various programmes, we have helped to share cutting-edged knowledge and expertise online and through bricks and mortar to participants in more than 60 countries.

To me, Richard is a possibility thinker and a miracle worker. He will run the extra mile to look for solutions to resolve challenges on the journey of life.

Looking back, if Success Resources was not on the verge of corporate death, we would not be compelled to reinvent the company.

Richard’s near-death experience did not deter him from pursuing his dream. In fact, it gave him a heightened sense of urgency to turn his dream into a reality.

It is unfortunate that in the process of making a living, we may not remember to live life. There is a greater fear for death than for not living a full life and for a worthwhile cause.

A life without purpose is mere existence. Not having something to look forward to is worse than death.

We live only when we have a sense of purpose and destiny. Knowing that there is a deeper meaning in life makes us feel alive. It lends significance to our being and helps us live with excitement and fulfillment.

If we are willing to die for our dreams and freedom, very few obstacles can hold us back.

When we live up to our calling and the world knows we are totally committed to it, we will be able to soar higher and live at a higher plane of life.


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

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at

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

Please read them and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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