Inspiration

Necker Island

Feeling Good

The 60″ screen served up lyrics and a dodgy karoaoke video. The mic was already in my hand.

“I feeeeeeel good!”, I broke into the midnight air with my James Brown number. Fellow entrepreneurs looked up in shock and amusement. Their wives came up to dance, with wild smiles and snapping fingers.

This was my last night at Sir Richard Branson’s home on Necker Island. I had to end it correctly.

The climax unfolded in the “Temple House”. Where hilltop views of surrounding Caribbean islands pampered our sights. Where Sir Richard Branson held meetings with The Elders, with the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Former President Richard Nixon, and Nelson Mandela convening to solve global problems. Where I brought James Brown back to life, for one night only.

To think that only 4 years ago, I had emailed Mike and Vishen,

And 4 years after the email, in the exact week I was off to Necker Island to spend 3 days with SRB himself. My dreams tend to have had a habit of realizing themselves, and this was a good reminder.

How did this happen?

I was dining with Vishen at Vineria. Our catch up dinner was long time coming. I had left MindValley, the company he founded, for more than 3 years now. We had a lot to catch up on.

I was told about an exclusive trip to Necker Island, where Sir Richard Branson wanted a group of adventurous entrepreneurs to ideate how his non-profit Virgin Unite can better solve global challenges. Vishen was going. He nominated me. I wasn’t sure if my credentials were enough for me to get me on this trip, especially after the rest of the group had already been selected.

But I was given a yes in 48 hours, and a list of everyone else in the select group. There was an eclectic mix of founders of market-leading companies in airport logistics, finance, direct-response internet marketing, air-purification, and the world’s best in fundraising, accelerated learning, intuitive healing, and more. I was the youngest, and only representative of the tech startup breed. I had a lot to learn from everyone.

3 Days in a different reality field

From the moment I got off my 30+ hour flight and transit, and got onto my yacht, I knew I was in for one helluva ride.

Vishen and I had chartered a yacht to get from Tortola to Necker Island. The yacht’s name was Aquila, which coincidentally is the name of my 24 year old colleague who leads community relationships at SAYS.com. This yacht was also where we would sleep on, as all spaces on Necker Island were full (half the resort burnt down a year ago, and spaces on Richard’s own yacht, the Necker Belle, was full).

What came next was whirlwind of surreal experiences. Beachside barbecues with glowing torches, Greek-themed toga parties, floating sushi kayak lunches, clubbing on other islands, feeding exotic animals, riding the Virgin Nymph sumbarine. More importantly, a series of mind-blowing conversations, fun, laughs, and peer learning with fellow guests, and Sir Richard Branson himself.

He made himself available to us throughout the day. Walking around the island. Challenging us to tennis. Teaching some of us how to swim. Joining us for every meal. Lounging around, chatting, listening, sharing stories. He was very laid back and took his own sweet time with us…. he was on an island, after all.

Highlights

The Necker Island Staff – World Class!

The staff on Necker Island attended to our every need. Each of them were consistently caring, super fun, happy, very beautiful people, and really good at what they needed to do. They had great cooks, too. I had different concoctions of fruit smoothies brought to me throughout the day. I ate the best steak I’ve ever tasted in the world. Every meal was top notch. Each of the Necker Island Staff were rockstars in their own way, and together, they made our experience unforgettable.

Sailboat racing against the Google family

On the very first day, we were informed that Larry Page (co-founder of Google) had friends and family over on the neighboring island of Eustacia (which Larry owned). They wanted to challenge us (Necker Island guests) to a sailing race! Despite never having sailed before, I wanted to be in this race. I got a Necker Island team member, Gemma, to give me private lessons at noon. That very afternoon, I was on Hobie Cat sailboat with team mates Robert and James, founders of The Elevation Group, and we were off! It was a close match, with my boat swapping lead position throughout the race. The last 50 metres had our sailboat and the brother of Larry Page’s boat neck-to-neck. It got really wild as all of us stretched across our boats trying to shove and push each other’s boats off-course! In Robert’s heroic last ditch effort, he threw half of his body over the boat, pushing our rival in the wrong direction, just enough to fall out of favor with the wind’s direction – and we hit the shores moments after – and won!

Sunset Drinks on the Necker Belle

It’s a pretty neat boat, as you can imagine. I was on the ‘crow’s feet’ with property mogul, Ash, going 100 ft up the stern. Scary! Did 2 different somersault dives into the ocean from off the boat, one of which had me gloriously land face first.

Massage session with Candice

I booked an early morning session with Necker’s resident massage therapist, Candice. We were on a high point in the island, overlooking a cliff. The sounds of birds and waves splashing joined us. She began with a conversation about how I was feeling, and recommended specific oils for me to approve. During the session we chatted about spiritual development, tantra, and I got to learn about her dreams to open a healing center to help women recover from emotional distress. I was inspired by her quest, and offered to make a few helpful introductions. But the big highlight for me, was about how all of the Necker staff were just really stellar people. Richard really hires only the best!

Interacting with Sir Richard Branson

He was really present, and accessible man. Imagine, my first breakfast on the island, noticing a new face, he came over to introduce himself to me. I was in conversation with someone else at the time, and had to look twice as he extended his hand out.

In our first beachside discussion, I probed him on Virgin’s involvement in Silicon Valley type tech innovation. He asked me and Vishen about Malaysia’s progress. On another occasion, I proposed ideas to help him bring his vision of ‘Capitalism 24902’ to life, drawing with coloured pens on paper (I always carry this with me). He looked at my visual interpretation of the idea, still and silent for a while, and told me he loved it! He then invited me to go an a walk with him, as we meandered down to the beachside in the dark, he chatted with me about my journey, my challenges, and gave me encouragement. At the end of the walk, he instructed his top staff to follow up on some of the ideas we discussed, and thanked me for coming to his island.

What I took home

My biggest learning had a lot to do with the relationship between happiness and wealth.

Everyone in the group had different wealth levels. Some gained plenty and lost plenty. Some were on their way up, some were way ahead. However, that didn’t stop each of them from being awesome people. Many of the most happiest ones, I realize were

  • Emotionally connected – One successful entrepreneur, when sharing his vision for his company with me, tear as he spoke. Another readily confided in his current challenges in his love life. This reminded me of Steve Jobs, as his autobiography often told tales about how he never hid his emotions from work, and wasn’t afraid to cry at work when especially passionate. The entrepreneurs here were so emotionally present and powerful.
  • Self-aware and authentic – No one bothered with ‘putting up fronts’, you could feel how each of them are coming from a place of self-acceptance and embrace.
  • Seeing the best in people and situations – They were so good at picking out the best qualities in others or in tough situations, and shining light on it. They were infectiously, constructively positive people.
  • Eager to give and share –  Everyone openly shared their plans and strategies with one another, unafraid of ‘competition’ or ‘stealing ideas’. They were here to give and share. Richard himself mentioned ‘Giving is as interesting as receiving, isn’t it?”
  • Living their life freely and in love (instead of in fear) – seeing Richard walking around in his flip flops without bodyguards, with strangers roaming in and about of his home… this was a free man, not living in fear, but in love of life itself.

I believe everyone has a natural tendency to embody and live the above qualities. I distinctly know I do as well, except that I sometimes forget. It’s like a foundational kind of happiness to fully accept yourself, be yourself, share, see the best in any tough situation, and live freely, doing what you love. This is what success looked like on that island, and from this trip, I can imagine how, practice of the above qualities, coupled with good ideas and relentless execution, can be a great wealth magnet as well.

Next

I left my yacht on a speedboat at 5AM to catch my flight. The stars and faraway lights were made brighter by the pitch black seas as I sped away from Necker Island.

As I write this, I am in a Malaysian Airlines flight, 7 hours away from home. I’m excited to see my team. I was informed that they broke an ‘impossible’ sales target while I was away. Things are looking up – and I know there is more ahead. I was given priceless insight and inspiration, which I can’t wait to put into action, to grow my team, and our company as a vehicle to serve the world in bigger, new ways. After all, we all have our own adventure ahead to create.

//

PS: Special thanks to Joe Polish, Yanik Silver, Kim, Eunice for putting this together!

The Modern Workplace = Spiritual Practice

OK. So, I was on SAYS.com checking out News Remixes when I came across a YouTube video which resonated with me. I’ll embed it for ya in a sec, I’d like lend some context first.

I was in a paddy field in Bali recently, when I thought about the opportunity to use the modern workplace as a place to practice spiritual growth. I thought to myself, that if you spend 90% of your productive life working, you might as well use it as a sparring ground to challenge n grow your spiritual / personal path, too!

That way you don’t need to only rely on a yearly escape in a paddy field to indulge in spiritual pursuit 😛

Example of the insight in action: If you think compassion and kindness are ‘enlightened’ ideas, you can use it with your colleagues and clients etc.

So when I saw minute 28 on the YouTube video I mentioned, I realized that this kid is using basketball / NBA to practice his spirituality too.

Note: Though he may be using a Christian context, I can relate to how he’s approaching his work, and it’s pretty neat. See minute 28.

So, what values, principles and ideas do you live by? How fun would it be, if the modern workplace as a daily 9 to 5 opportunity to live your truth? I’m grateful to have multi-faith colleagues who are already great examples, and knowing that this works for NBA stars too.

Chinese Farmer Grows Robots

I know, I know, first MC Hammer, now this.

No, I won’t be a source of offbeat news. This blog post is about finding your bliss.

Please watch this Chinese farmer grow robots for a living to see what I mean.

Look at that man.

And notice that

  • He found something he really enjoys doing
  • He is damn good at it
  • He gets a chance to do it very often
  • When he has an idea, he can instantly leap into the creation process…
  • He doesn’t give a nut (or bolt) about what other people think

I admire this man. I really do.

Aside from the fact he is also willing to burn his house (and his marriage) in pursuit of his passion, lets imagine if….

  • He gets paid boat loads of money to do what he loves.
  • His passion also provides something of immense value to the world

Now that’s a sweet deal.

And that’s where I’m headed! (or at least where I intent to head)

In the meantime, I get distracted.

I was building wax sculptures all morning, Friday. Not quite as cool as ghetto robots, but I’ll show you some pictures real soon…

"Going Behind The Brain Of…"

This is a short and exciting game I play with myself. I play it when I feel like some rapid learning.

Playing this game once a week might make you go crazy, I’m not sure, I don’t play it that often. But I allow myself this pleasure once in a while, and I’d like to think it helps me grow as a person. Curious?

Here are the rules to the game
  • Choose someone you either admire, or someone totally strange to you
  • Immerse yourself in blog posts/ articles/ books they wrote/ related to them
  • Observe and note down new ideas, mental notes, and thoughts worth sharing.
  • Blog about it (might as well share the learning with others)

I have been sub-consciously doing this for a while now, minus the blogging bit. It usually starts with reading one thing cool about one person, then craving for more… My past victims include

Jeff Bezos

Founder and CEO of Amazon.com, I admire him because it’s a mean feat to transform yourself from startup cowboy all the way to big name CEO of a solid dot-com definer.

Henry Ford

A thinker way ahead of his time.

Not that I was born in the 40’s but you know what I mean.

I used to just get lost in reading whatever I could find online about them. Pity I didn’t take down notes I can share.

So really, today is the first time I’m going through the process, and blogging about it.

And for you to see how I play this game…

Going Behind The Brain Of… Tim Ferriss

The man behind “The 4 Hour Workweek”, a book which really jives with me and how I want to lead my life.

Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve been reading articles about him, as well as his book. But for this game, I’ve spent the last 4 hours consuming all his blog posts.

Here are some notes I taken down…

From Tim Ferriss’s blog

Achievement VS Appreciation

If we define “achievement” as obtaining things we desire (whether raises, relationships, cars, pets, or otherwise) that have the potential to give us pleasure, let’s define “appreciation” as our ability to get pleasure out of those things. To focus on the former to the exclusion of the latter is like valuing cooking over eating.

Time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time.

Most people spend more time planning their weekends than their relationships. Don’t make that mistake. You are the average of the 5 or so people you associate with most.

My own notes…

  1. I have have learnt the hard way (through being one of those kids who must ACE every subject in uni) that time management is BS. What I needed to manage was my energy, attention, and awareness. It’s good to know Tim Ferriss preaches the same.
  2. I noticed I rarely allow myself to be too content with what I have. My impatience and hunger for chaos has always driven me to do crazy things, sooner. I like it this way. But in light of not turning into a mean, greedy, crazy dude, I will learn to include more “appreciation” and “gratitude” into my daily experience for a healthier equation.
  3. I’m glad my experiments in being selective with who I spend my time with has paid off. Life is even more fun given my new social cliques. But this is only the beginning. I’ve always found myself the happiest when surrounded by the right people – and I’m going to take it to the next level in 2008 with my new, yet-to-be-revealed projects… 😉

Future victims of “Going Behind The Brain Of…”

  • Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator
  • Einstein – the forgotten Ninja Turtle I think you know this guy?
  • Who else should I go behind the brains of? I want to an “unusual suspect” – I want to pick someone very different from me…

Now that I’ve revealed my game to you – you are forced to

  • Tell me who you would  “Go Behind The Brains Of…”
  • And leave a comment here if you decide to blog about it!

How to feel alive

Imagine… the right music, the right people, the right vibe… all the elements needed to smile for no reason.

When was the last time that happened?

For me, it was 2 hours ago.

Been attending (and organising) quite a few gigs over the past year, and until tonight, I admit I was almost getting used to the live music scene here.

So what was different about tonight?

The bands I’ve heard before… The venue (Laundrybar) was the same. I didn’t drink or sniff anything funny.

While I can’t put my finger on it, I safely to point to some aspects of the live band experience tonight:

  • The emotions the musicians on stage are emitting through their music, I felt them. And I responded. The crowd responded. With bobbing heads, stomping feet and clapping hands. Random shouts and nods of approval, all that…
  • Music Genre I used to be so in love with post rock (now i’m kinda looking for something else), nevertheless tonight’s gig had local post-rockin’ cult faves like Furniture and Citizens of Ice Cream at full blast… brings me back to the good ol’ days, reminding me that post-rock still rocks.
  • My hair was in place. After surviving an unexpected ugly haircut I’m glad I’m finally holding my head up high. This may not have much to do with the live band experience, but it is worth noting.

Never been to ProjectBazooka @ Laundry (or any Malaysian gig)? Meet me there. Who knows… it might just remind you how to feel alive.