Living The Way

by Patrick Liew on August 8, 2017

Imagine two adults leaning on the edge of a swimming pool – deep in a conversation.

You have to imagine the scene because that swimming pool, which was located in what was known as the Pinetree Club, doesn’t exist anymore.

The Club, including the pool, had been demolished to make way for an upmarket residential development.

That two adults, totally strangers to one another, had just met while swimming after office hours.

Both of them were living in two different worlds.

Yet, in their own different ways, they were trying to change the future.

One of them was a hot-blooded and starry-eyed entrepreneur who was deeply engaged in the early stages of a new era.

That entrepreneur was yours truly.

The other person, whom you would call a money man, was looking to finance the next entrepreneurial breakthrough.

That year was 2000. Prior to that fateful meeting, the world had become more and more mesmerized by an invisible force.

There was no name for the force but many believed that it had the power to affect almost anybody, anywhere, and at any time.

There was no appropriate name to describe the force. Some call it the “Dot-com boom”.

Historians can argue over many of the issues during the dot-com boom.

However, they cannot deny that it had played a part to influence the start of a “tsunami”.

A tsunami that can potentially change the landscape of the global economy and society – right down to possibly the last person in the remotest part of the world.

At that point, my friends and I had developed arguably the world’s first multimedia online learning platform.

This platform is to ensure that learning from world-class gurus and accessing their knowledge and expertise areavailable, accessible and affordable to ordinary persons on the street.

Within a relatively short period of time, we had thousands of fee-paying customers in more than seven countries.

To say that we were breaking all previous records forbusiness growth during the dot-com boom was an understatement.

We were literally blazing new trails and chalking up unprecedented achievements.

By comparison, most of the pioneers of the dot-com boom were burning warm tender cash while trying to attract more and more eyeballs.

They were giving away all kinds of freebies in the hope of eventually winning loyalty from a critical mass of targeted customers.

By doing so, they hope to impress the next round of investors to finance their “world-changing” pursuits.

Every entrepreneur during the dot-com boom was selling his own version of a life-changing and world-beating dream and business model.

Sadly, many of them were not able to raise the oft-repeated “just a little more money” to turn their dreams into reality.

Almost on a daily basis, there were reports of start-ups crashing and going belly up.

The dot-com highway was strewn with broken dreams and in some cases, broken lives too.

Our company was one of the few companies that was ahead of the game.

We were achieving exponential growth – but we also had our fair shares of fears, uncertainties and doubts.

And so it came to pass when I was at the swimming pool trying to “drown” my worries, stresses, and fears when I met “Mr. Financier”.

I gave him the title in my mind and I was not giving him the accolade lightly.

After sharing with him our dream of transforming the world, he offered to invest in our company.

Subsequently, I realized he was the second man in probably the largest investment company in Singapore and also, one of the largest of such companies in the world.

Mr. Financier eventually became one of the most respected and influential leaders on both national as well as regional levels.

At that point, our dot-com company had achieved phenomenal growth.

However we were still losing money even though we had reduced our burn rate to a relatively low level.

Still, the losses were eating into our diminishing savings.

When Mr. Financier offered to invest in our company, we were jumping for joy.

However, we faced a difficult and a painful choice.

If we had accepted Mr. Financier’s investment, it could help us strengthen the capacity and capability of our company, and helped us improve its edge and growth.

On a personal level, we might even be able to draw a better salary, reduce our stress levels, and hang on to our business for a longer period.

Truth be told, we were not sure if the investment could help us stay alive on a sustainable basis.

The business world was changing so fast and technology was advancing at such a rapid rate.

We were beginning to see many similar companies, including copycats, competing with us.

They added a variety of features to their business models to differentiate themselves from us.

What if we took Mr. Financier’s money and then the company bit the dust?

How would we give an account to Mr. Financier and his shareholders and investors?

Would we be able to appease our conscience, maintain our reputation, and face the world subsequently without feelings of regret and remorse?

How would our families, our friends and the market feel about us?

Could we sleep well after losing other people’s money?

These were some of the questions haunting us and causing us many a sleepless night.

In the end, my partner and I were not confident that with the fresh injection of capital, we could achieve success, let alone survive the bloodbath ahead of us.

We could not assure ourselves that we could generate an equitable return for the investment company.

After considering the decision from many angles, the draw of good money couldn’t move our hearts and minds.

We turned down the investment.

Our decision was driven by what our forefathers hadtaught us – a value that was embedded within the Chinese culture.

We aimed to be a “jun zi” (君子) or to translate it loosely, an honorable and exemplary person.

In a nutshell, a “jun zi” is a moral, responsible and knowledgeable person. He is a trustworthy person who upholds positive values and conducts himself properly.

Moreover, the “jun zi” is disciplined in addressing social injustice and contributing to the wellbeing of his community and society.

He seeks to serve the interests of the others instead of serving his own interests.

The ways of the “jun zi” run contrary to the “xiao ren” (小人) who does not appreciate and live out the value of virtues.

The “xiao ren” seeks his own gain, without considering both the intended and unintended consequences of his actions.

In addition, he forges ahead at the expense of others and has no concern about leaving them behind in life.

At the core of being a “jun zi” is integrity.

Integrity is the state of being whole or complete.

In other words, to have integrity is to seek to adhere to the highest possible level of moral, ethical and performance standards.

A life of integrity is a life that’s based on values and the good of others rather than on personal pleasures, interests, or benefits.

You should not settle for anything less than what is the right thing to do.

What you do in private should be in alignment to what you do in public.

By doing that, you can live your life with confidence because you can be honest and true to yourself as well as to the people around you.

Should your life be published in the newspaper or made into a movie, you have no need to feel guilty or worried.

Your family or your friends will be proud of you and happy to know your life story.

Your children can only think well of you and want to grow up to be like you.

As they say, the best way to be trusted is to earn it.

The best way to earn trust is to not only walk your talk. You should also walk the walk that will earn admiration and respect from others.

As a leader seeking lasting success, you need to live the dream and show the way.

You need to say what you would do and do what you said you would do.

Be the kind of a leader that you want your colleagues and followers to emulate and a leader that they are happy to emulate too.

Continue to learn, change and improve yourself so as to exemplify the pursuit for higher standards of performance and results.

In doing so, you live out the qualities that will continue to win their cooperation, respect, affection, and loyalty.

Without integrity, what you have built will not last long. It’ll eventually fall apart and lead to failure.

Therefore, Integrity is first and last. It is the underlining drive for all your actions.

You should never compromise on integrity and sell your soul for any price.

It is sad that these values are not being taught and passed down by many leaders, teachers and elders and being enforced as a way of life.

In today’s world, we see many who are pressing on towards meaningless pursuits without achieving lasting purpose and significance.

As the Good Book would say, “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Mark 8:36 DBT).

In the end, what you may be left with are your memories, satisfaction, pride and fulfillment for what you have done, achieved and contributed to the world around you.

At the end of your life, how would you want memories of your life to be?


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

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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Life is FUNtastic!


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