I Could Have Made Tons Of Money! – Part 3

by Patrick Liew on October 24, 2017

In 1992, I made a brave move to escape from a prison of stifling employment.

I left a well-paid job and a beautiful office at the heart of the Central Business District as a free man.

Free to do whatever I wanted to do, enjoy whatever I wanted to enjoy, and achieve whatever I wanted to achieve for a good cause.

Or, at least that was what I had hoped to accomplish in the near future.

Little did I know that it would be a long, steep and rocky climb to freedom.

Along the way, there were many temptations to take a shortcut.

All it took was to compromise on my integrity and sell a part of my soul. Simple and easy decisions.

Let me share some examples with you.

I was a co-founder of a company that was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

We were also arguably the largest personal development organiser in the world.

There was one time we were solicited to promote a vice in one of our seminars.

The potential profit was no small potato, and it amounted to a six-figure sum of money per campaign.

Truth be told, my partner and I did not reject the offer immediately.

Like all good leaders working on a major project, we seek wise counsel.

Perhaps, at some small little corners of our minds, we were hoping that there was a way to justify the deal.

One of our highly-respected spiritual mentors told us, “It’s ok. Take the money from the devil and use the money for good.”

In the end, our troubled mind and sleepless nights made us felt that it was not morally right.

It was not worth abandoning our principles and values for any cost.

Another time, my team and I were building a technology company with a view of listing the company on Nasdaq.

That technology company was underwritten by a prominent investment bank for a relatively high price/earnings ratio.

In other words, the bigger the profit, the higher would be our company’s market capitalization.

Likewise, the higher the company’s market capitalization, the richer would be our personal net worth and status in the business world.

At that point, I was doing a lot of businesses in emerging economies.

I had a lot of contacts with high-level and not-so-straight government officials.

It was not difficult to be involved in corruptions to improve our financial bottom lines.

For instance, there was a government official who once showed me a beautiful piece of land.

He told me, “Just do the right things and this land is all yours.”

Obviously, “just do the right things” was not the right thing.

The lucrative gift of a land was so loaded with dark meanings that there was no need for any elaboration from the official.

There was no need for any negotiation too.

It was understood that the deal would work to our profits and advantages.

I responded to the official without any hesitation.

“It’s okay. I would like to look at other ways to contribute to your province and the economy.”

Much later, I also ran a real estate company that was eventually listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

I loved the industry and I still do, but unfortunately it had a dark side, especially during a downturn.

When I first joined the industry, I was taught many illegal and unethical practices.

Those practices were prevalent in many sectors of the market.

The leaders, trainers, lawyers and veterans who perpetuated these practices even have a name for them.

From “cash back”, “cash down”, “silver bullets”, “fishing”, “alternative money lending”, to “putting customers in the pocket” – every tactic was designed to take their customers for a long ride.

I decided that my company would not participate in any of those practices.

A Code of Honour was crafted and our people had to carry the printed Code together with their identification tags to remind them about setting a high standard of ethos and conduct.

I warned my people, “If I catch any of you doing anything illegal or unethical, I will personally drive you to the authorities, lock you up, and throw the keys away.”

You could imagine the amount of businesses and profits that I had lost as a result of standing on high moral ground.

As a market leader, we were also given first-mover options to participate in many shady deals, including land scams, overpriced properties, phantom projects, and crooked deals.

Over the years, I must have walked away from hundreds of millions of dollars offered to me both above and under the table.

Do I have any regrets?

Absolutely not.

If history could repeat itself, I would not hesitate to reject those appealing offers again.

To many, the concept of success is purely about achieving a personal goal and enjoying the benefits of achieving the goal.

A successful person is frequently defined by his personal net worth, position, power, possession, pleasure, prestige and privilege.

In the pursuit of success, there was a lack of or no consideration for people, communities, the society, and the environment.

As a result, we have seen abuses of labour, harms to humanity, unnecessary destructions of natural resources, and degradations of planet Earth.

Success should not just be a focus on material wealth and achievement nor be measured and evaluated by these factors.

Success should not be about forging ahead at the expense of others.

It should also not be about improving one’s socioeconomic status while leaving others behind in life.

In the process of producing better results, a good human should also reach out to help others raise their levels of performances and accomplishments.

Share in the responsibility of helping the last, the least, the lonely, and the lost who do not enjoy the same position, power and privilege as himself.

Working purely for success is likened to working for the road and not reaching a desired destination.

Ultimately, the end purpose of success should be about raising well-being of the people and the environment around you.

In Chinese philosophy, one of the key pursuits in life is to learn how to be a human (做人).

The Chinese were encouraged to take a more holistic, balanced, calibrated, and values-based approach in being a good human and living a good life.

There is a proverb that says, “学做事, 先要学做人.”

In other words, before any attempt to achieve anything, one should learn how to be a human.

There’s another proverb that says, “只要讲诚信, 做人并不难.”

What it means is that, if one has honour, integrity and honesty, it is not difficult to learn how to be a human.

To be human, it starts from an inside job.

When the internal world is right, it is easier to develop the external world.

In essence, becoming a human starts with being a moral, responsible, productive, and useful person.

It should be defined from the perspective of a human’s unique personality, advantages, and aspirations.

And measured from his contributions to the economy, community and society.

Therefore, success should have many definitions.

It is about how a good human should leverage on his strengths to put to right many of the wrongs that crossed his path and the wrongs that are out there in the world.

Ultimately, success is about touching lives, blessing families, improving communities, and making the world a better home.

Call me an idealist if you will, but I believe that if every one of us join hands together and do our part as humans to spread more love, compassion and kindness, we can make our world a better home.

We can also inspire a new generation to address social injustice.

Together, we can leave a brighter future for our children and our children’s children.


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

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.


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