On SEA Games 2015

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So I made it. (Super long post warning.)

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. – Babe Ruth

After 10 years I actually made it to my first SEA Games representing Singapore. Not for the decathlon event though, but for the shot put event.

It’s been a long break since my last post in Krabi, so many things happened along the way and every time I wanted to write an entry I ended up waiting too long and something else happens and the moment is gone.

Anyway, so here I am back in Loughborough in November 2015, back where it all became real and the journey really started for me. (Here for a break from work.) Decided to take some time out and write it out fully.

So where do we begin?

Well first a super quick summary for those who are new.

I dreamt about being a decathlete and going to the Olympics at 18, 18 was a long time ago (that was in 2005 to be exact, so 10 years ago). Back then I was doing throws but really not anywhere even near decent to start. Ditched everything, decided to chase the dream, went to Loughborough University from Singapore to do a degree in Sports Science with Management not knowing any better, found out how incredibly hard decathlon actually was and how limited my talent was. Didn’t managed to go to the Olympics (missed it by like a thousand miles). Came back to Singapore after 2012. Felt lost for quite a bit, went through a really difficult period towards the end of 2013 and start of 2014. Decided to get myself back together and build myself back up. Started training in 2014 with the aim to go to the 2015 SEA games. Made it. Kinda.

That is the super summarised version of what happened. One thing I kinda wish I did more was to blog more during that period, but anyhow, here’s my best recollection of what happened.

The Plan

An army may march great distances without distress, if it marches through country where the enemy is not. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.
– Sun Tzu

The quest to get onto the SEA games squad for 2015 kinda started in 2014 when Lance came over and we had a good chat about launching our campaign to qualify or to get selected for it. There actually was a lot of strategic considerations going into this. Lance was a 400m specialist before and had a long spell dealing with injuries and there were quite a few younger fast guys that could run around the track.

Being the home games in 2015, we thought there is a good chance they would field 1 or 2 athletes in every single event, regardless of qualifying scores, thus strategically it would be a good bet to try to get selected for the event that no one else was doing, the decathlon.

I knew that no one else really was training for it, I’ve heard there were a few guys that tried, but a lot of people underestimate the challenge of just preparing for the decathlon event. The technical challenge of acquiring the necessary skill sets, the logistical challenge of equipment and finding venues to train at, the fact that there wasn’t any multi-events coach in Singapore meant that for anyone else it would be huge challenge.

Luckily for us, the advantage we had going in was that I actually knew and could coach the decathlon event, had most of the equipment necessary, was prepared to spend the time and effort to train for it. So we laid down our plans sometime in June/July of 2014 and we went for it.

The Grind

Training as full time working adults has it’s whole range of challenges, time is not on your side and you got a ton of other responsibilities, but end at the end of the day, nobody cares about your excuses, so just get to the track and get the job done.

When you’re a student and in your early twenties, you can afford to spend 5 hours a day at the track with little else to do, but when you’re working a full time job or running your own business, you obviously do not have those luxuries. If you make it a priority though, you’ll then make time for it. There’s that saying that you can’t find more time to exercise, or in that case anything else grand you would like to do, you have to make time for it. It’s true.

We trained from 6pm to 10pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday was an active recovery day and Saturday was Pole Vaulting at 745am in the morning followed usually by interval runnings. Knowing that biggest challenge for Lance (he was still in relatively good running shape) was that he did not have the technical skill set to do the technical events (Hurdles, Pole Vault and Discus), I designed the program to maximise our time getting as much experience within the short few months we had to prepare.

I knew that when I did that I was making a sacrifice in terms of my own performance because myself on the other hand, had the technical skills, but lacked the fitness. I thought if it really boiled down to them selecting only 1 person, Lance had a better chance to score higher given his running background. And if it’s about Singapore putting on the best show it could come the SEA games, I was ok with that.

And so we began the grind.

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Above: First time training in the new stadium in September 2014. Lance here holding the pole.

When Things Don’t Go According To Plan

No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. – Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Things were going well, we had loads of fun training together, and more importantly, things were going according to plan. We finished a low key decathlon in January 2015 SAA Series 1 with the goal of just finishing it without injury to test ourselves and put in a score. I didn’t score well but the body actually felt that it was keeping up in one piece. Right after finishing that decathlon I flew off to Krabi and wrote that last blog post.

Things were going according to plan until late Feb/early March, and then the old injury struck back.

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Above: Hello old friend. Knee pains, we meet again.

I’ve had knee pains for a long long time, I tried to manage it as best I could, but somewhere in Feb and March, it got pretty bad. I couldn’t really sprint, pushing off at angles caused sharp pains which resulted that I couldn’t hold any sort of drive phase. I did the best I could and worked extensively with my physio Sharon (from moving spaces, awesome physio do check them out at http://movingspace.sg/) to get myself back together. And after quite a bit of work we figured out that it was my left hip joint was having mobility issues that then caused the knee to hurt because the hip wasn’t rotating properly.

Still, I guess it was a little too late. The qualifying window for the SEA games was until the end of March and the competition that we intended to put out our best scores was during the Malaysian Open meet in March.

Regardless, we went, had a great trip and managed to help Lance get round to a PB score.

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Above: The Malaysia Open crew, from left, Justina (Pole Vault), Lance (Decathlon), Sharon (Team/Investment Manager), Me.

Myself however, was just struggling to get through. I just didn’t have the power to sprint or jump with my left knee and hip still bothering me. I went round the two days alright, but it was more of just finishing the decathlon event rather than trying for any scores.

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Above: Got him through the finish line.

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Above: That’s what it’s all about. 

My score was about 4100pts, lower than the January scores that I posted when I was just conserving myself to get through the two days. What was done was done though, and it was up to the selection committee and Singapore National Olympic Committee to make the final decision.

Defeat

Weeks went by, and the call finally came.

I didn’t get selected.

Looking at the scores they thought I simply scored too low (which is true and I agree with their call) and decided just to send Lance as our representative.

Sigh.

I must admit that even though I thought it was likely to happen, when the call came and when I knew the decision was made, I was disappointed. Having spent the last 10 years trying, only to come up short once again, was well disappointing to say the least, but I knew it was the right call from the selection team.

However, as a result of of me competing and training for the decathlon, I’ve somehow became the second ranked shot put thrower in Singapore and they’ve selected me to take the no.2 slot for the shot put event.

My first SEA Games Team Singapore selection, well I couldn’t say no to that.

Sometimes if you work hard enough and long enough, you get a little bit lucky.

I got a little bit lucky.

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. -Thomas Jefferson

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Above: We made it!

When Things Don’t Go According To Plan, Make Another One Quick.

To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities. -Bruce Lee

Now as a shot putter, the game has changed for me, I now wanted to be the best shot putter I could be in 12 weeks. So I changed up my training program, did a bit of thinking, thought my best chance was to first bulk up fast in the first 6 weeks, forgoing the technical side of throws, then focus on the remaining 6 weeks to switch into a power phase and throw more to get the technical movement back in shape.

I offered to continue coaching Lance and train alongside him to ensure that he could score well during the SEA games itself as well.

Bulking was the name of the game, and what better way than to find the experts of bulking, bodybuilders.

Starting training with Sha (bodybuilding.sg) and gosh, body building training was hard hard work. It was the first few times that I felt like throwing up in the gym and had forearms so pumped that it felt like it was going to explode.

And boy did hit work, I managed to get from about 85kg to 90kg in those 6 weeks.

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Above: Hard work pays. Thanks Sha, for the brilliant 6 weeks.

And off I went into the SEA games 2015 village to begin my SEA games experience as part of Team Singapore.

Living The Dream

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. -Eleanor Roosevelt

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Above: Opening Ceremony of SEA Games 2015, really emotional one for me, I guess nobody realised how long and how much ups and downs, heartbreaks and self-doubts it took for me to get here, but there I was.

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Above: My accreditation pass, my team kit and my number tag.

Back in 2012 during the London Olympics I travelled down to the Olympic village and remember seeing all the national athletes wearing their team kits walking around with their accreditation passes, looking at them thinking well, that’s that and I’ve failed in reaching my dreams, never going to be able to walk around with a kit and a tag. 3 years later, I was walking around the SEA games village in my team kit and a tag. I guess sometimes dreams do come true.

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Above: They even put us in a 5 star hotel, The Swiss Hotel, for 3 weeks! With a million dollar view like this, what more can I say?

A little side note here, in the hard times is when you really see people’s character. Those 3 weeks in the games village with competition stress and such, you really got to see what kind of people they really were. It’s always easy to be good and all when times are easy, but when it boils down to the hard bits, that’s when you see people’s real character show, and I must say there were some less than stellar experiences. Whilst I shall not get down into the detail, I must say for a big majority of the squad they were nothing but an outstanding stella crew.

And then we began, competing in the amazing new stadium that Singapore has built.

My turn came, I stepped into the arena, stepped into the circle, and threw with all my might for 6 throws.

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Above: Brilliant photo by Red Sports.

Truth be told, I kinda wildly whacked all 6 attempts. I knew I was in good shape because I was throwing easily over the 12m mark in warm up, so I saw no reason of holding back and made all 6 attempts a maximal effort attempt (unlike during the decathlon where you get 6 throws and tend to be more controlled to ensure that you actually get a score).

I knew I wasn’t exactly competitive against the other guys who were all specialist throwers, I was a decathlete put in to compete with the big boys. But I had my own personal benchmark which was to have a distance that would have won the shot put event for the decathlon.

I did.

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Above: My best throw of the night, 12.55m, which was actually 1cm off my lifetime PB which I threw during a decathlon in England back in 2011-12.

The 12.56m throw I did back in England was a fluke though, it was the only time i ever went above 12m. So the 3 throws that were recorded (I fouled 3) were respectively my 2nd, 3rd and 4th best throws in my life, I can’t quite complain about that.

Even managed to cheer Lance on through his last event, the 1500m.

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Above: Even managed to cheer Lance on inside the track whilst he ran his last event, the 1500m!

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Above: And that’s it, it’s done, my event is over. Back into the tunnel with my shot put team mate Kai Yuen, bright young guy who’s now pursuing his university education and throwing at UCLA. I’m sure he’s going to have an amazing time and go far in life. This kind of things you can kinda tell.

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Above: Photo with Lance after he finished the decathlon, proposed to his girlfriend and get mobbed by his friends and family.

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Above: That’s all folks! It’s over!

Just like that, it came and it went. 10 years of preparation down to just those few moments.

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Above: The class of 2015, photo by Singapore Athletics. It’s a special photo this one.

I still remember how we were all gathered at the track at the last day of the track events. We knew, as a team, we done ourselves proud. The individual battles that we fought, we gave it our all and supported one another. We could hold our heads up high knowing that we were part of something special.

It’s crazy isn’t it? How this journey that I tried to capture in this blog almost 5 years ago ended the way it did. For those few moments when I had the flag on my chest in the arena, I did everything I could to try and make my country proud.

All those years of work, blood, sweat and tears. Yup it’s true, as cliche as it sounds, it was worth it.

Even though I didn’t win any medals, even though I didn’t exactly achieve my goals. I gave it everything I could.

And for all those experiences, I wouldn’t trade the world for it.

Man In The Arena

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt

I wrote in an instagram post quite a while back about this, and it still remains true. I hope whoever reading this be, for lack of a better word inspired, to actually go out there and apply yourself. Don’t just think about what you could do in life but actually to go all out and find out.

I won’t lie to you, it’s shit hard. For 10 years I was struggling like hell to make sense out of it all, but looking back you realise its those struggles that define you and shape you into something better.

It’s so easy to give up, so easy to give in, holding on to your dreams and working day after day with no end in sight can quickly suck the life out of you. I’m not sure how I stuck to it for as long as I did, but in any case, here are somethings that I thought I’d share so as to hope that you have an easier time than I did and manage to get further than I ever could.

The Blueprint (sort of)

1. Dream

Have a goal, have a vision, have something. It really can be anything, but you have got to aspire towards something especially if you are young. If you don’t, you’ll quickly find yourself swept into leading a life that popular culture dictate to you and miss out on a big part of what life could be. If I haven’t had that dream of becoming a decathlete it would have never pushed to me to go out of my comfort zone, make the decision to study overseas, find the motivation to work towards earning the resources that I needed to do what I wanted to do, which ultimately lead to me running my own businesses and investment portfolios now. It all started with a dream. And heck, I didn’t even exactly achieve a big part of it.

2. Be Strategic

Have a plan. You got to think, what are the best chances for me to succeed in achieving what I want to achieve? Where in the world has the best opportunities for me to get to where I want? What are the best odds of getting the resources I need? It’s hard enough already, so make your life slightly easier by actively training to improve your odds of success. Strategy matters. Don’t go blindly knocking down every wall for the sake of knocking down walls. Concentrate on knocking down the ones that you think will matter the most.

3. There is no substitute for action, so get to work.

You’ll be amazed at the amount of hard work it takes to be successful in achieving whatever you want to achieve. If anything being in Loughborough and actually getting to know and be with world class athletes, I came to realise the amount of planning, thinking and just plain ass simple hard work that it takes to get good. There are no shortcuts to this. If you’re just in it for the good times thinking that you’ll be able to get through easy, life has a great way of changing your mind.

4. Keep it simple, get good at the basics.

I think we as human beings tend to like to over-complicate things. A lot of high level training here involves very basic movement patterns and training philosophies, it’s just really really well executed. I’ve seen people back in Singapore try some amazingly complicated stuff for training when they simply haven’t mastered the basics, it makes no sense in doing that. This applies to other aspects of life as well, may it be in business and investments etc. Keep it simple, get good at the basics, and that is hard enough already.

Which leads me to my next point…

5. The hard thing about hard things, is that it’s hard.

It’s ironic. The sooner you accept that life is hard, the easier it gets. Trust me on that one.

If it was easy everybody will be good, everyone will have their lives in order, be billionaires and happy fulfilling lives and living their dreams.

But most people don’t, so go figure.

6. Some mistakes can be fatal, try your best to avoid it.

Fill a bowl with water.
Pour the bowl of water into the ground.
Say sorry to the bowl.
Did the water come back?
No?
Try picking the water back into the bowl.
Was it easy?

You’ll be amazed at how easily you can screw your life over as you get older.

Time passes and life moves forwards. It’s a lot easier to avoid mistakes than to make it, and so whilst it’s inevitable that you make a few, try not to make any major ones.

7. Everything is but a passing moment, if you’re not enjoying it now, you never will.

Goals are important, but the moment the goal actually arrives, it goes just as quickly. You see it in sportsmen after major games, or when they retire, quite often they actually go into depression.

The concept of now is a difficult one to explain, but your experiences will just be a collection of moment of nows. You will have no control over the future, no power over the past. The moment, no matter how great, will pass as well. It’s how to live day to day that matters the most.

And that leads me to the final point, that on a day to day basis:

8. Be a good person.

At the end of the day, the truth is that you might make it, you might not. Somethings are really down to luck.

What you do have complete control though, is how you live and behave as a person in face of the circumstances.

So be the person that you would be proud of, a person that does good in this world, that nourishes relationships, that build societies, that enables others to become better. Those are aspirations that are truly worth living up to.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has put together a brilliant video that pretty much sums up more stuff that I want to say beautifully, so do watch that as well to know the mindset of getting great.

Where Do We Go From Here?

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Above: Picture from Hyde Park London from a week ago when I was jogging round it.

Well for those that follow me on Instagram would know that I said I am retiring from decathlon, that’s partially true. In a sense, I’ve retired from competitive athletics, I’m no longer trying to make any squad or represent my country for any more international meets etc.

I kinda knew I was done with this dream getting to represent my country in an international competition, there are other dreams that I have and it is time to live those, but it didn’t mean I would stop training or keeping a healthy lifestyle, I still enjoyed the sport.

A few months of offseason break after the SEA games and I have started training again. This time I’m taking my time, just sorting out the issues that I’ve found, making sure I have my mobility in my hips and hopefully as a result solve the problem that was causing my knee to hurt that much. (Check out Dewey Nelson’s youtube channel for great mobility exercises that I follow and built into my routine)(Added 4/1/15: Do join us at Anytime Fitness Kallang Wave, a gym that I started with my partners, where we practice these fundamental ground up training approach to fitness and performance).

Beyond track one thing I’ve noticed through the years is that I’ve kinda mellowed down. I did some reflecting the other day and watching Arnold’s videos made me realise one thing, somewhere along the line I’ve kinda lost the winning drive.

The desire to win. That used to drive me quite a bit and I’m not sure why along the way in this 10 years I’ve kinda lost it.

Maybe it’s because after this experience of chasing decathlon I’ve learnt to accept the limits of my ability, accepting that I can’t win. That’s rubbish isn’t it?

So yeah, time to sharpen up, time to be the man set off to be.

And that’s for me.

For you? I hope you have an amazing adventure ahead of you.

Believe in yourself, work hard, go out there and live.

Be whoever you want to be.

Look forwards and please, hold on to your dreams.

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p.s. Thought it’d be cool to link through to some of the post I’ve written in the past 5 years. It’s quite amazing how when I look back these are slices of time that resulted in who I am today. First Post in 2011, Last post of 2011… Will add some more later as I go through the previous posts.

One year later, Krabi.

Back in Krabi after nearly a year.

Back in Krabi after nearly a year, feels like I’m in a much better place on somehow.

I am learning to understand rather than immediately judge or to be judged. I cannot blindly follow the crowd and accept their approach. I will not allow myself to indulge in the usual manipulating game of role creation. Fortunately for me, my self-knowledge has transcended that and I have come to understand that life is best to be lived and not to be conceptualized. I am happy because I am growing daily and I am honestly not knowing where the limit lies. To be certain, every day there can be a revelation or a new discovery. I treasure the memory of the past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude. – Bruce Lee

It’s funny how I’ve come across this quote from Bruce Lee for many many years yet I’ve only started to truly understand the meaning behind it.

Almost a year since I’ve been to Krabi, and what a year. It wasn’t easy, going through my blog and journal entries through the year was actually quite an uncomfortable and painful experience for myself even now. But I’m glad that I’ve been honest about it and tried to reflect upon it as honestly as I could.

The year was riddled with ups and downs, but in a large sense there was a slow and steady build up of momentum. Even through the down times, I knew I was going through it to come out the other side better.

The biggest breakthroughs were those in the mind.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance taught me that it’s ok to be stuck and stay stuck, because that is in itself a process of becoming unstuck. Often the solution to the problems we haven’t solved are outside the realms of our experience, hence the only way is to embrace being on the edge staring out into the unknown, because that’s where the answer lie.

Be Here Now taught me to be here now. Be in the difficult and painful situations, acknowledge it instead of trying to run away. Then actually take the steps to deal with it. Too often our minds forward project or fall back into the past and apply what they call hyperbolic time discounts on things that we ought to be doing today, thus procrastinating and never getting to where we want to go. It’s funny when you realise that, you realise that all you need to do to change your life is to change one day, and that day is today.

I am super thankful and grateful for the lessons that the year has taught me, I guess like what Bruce Lee said, I treasure the memory of my past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude.

And from here on out, I feel a sense of calm in a sea of uncertainty and opportunity. I guess it comes from the confidence and competence that I’ve learnt and sailed through troubled waters.

To be here a year out and to be looking ahead and focusing on what’s possible, I have to thank my lucky stars for it.

Focus on what's possible.

Focus on what’s possible.

And being back competing in the local athletics scene, what a blessing as well.

Final meeting Natalie, a young athlete who followed me through the years on social media, seeing her grow up into a great person with winning ways. Maybe I have a small part to play in it, and if it is the case then all the work through the years would have been more than worth it to me. What I didn’t tell her was that somehow actually she’s also a reason why I’m still on the track, because I can’t let her down by not finishing the race can I?

Also got to know a few more younger athletes in the local scene, I am grateful that I am able to share my experiences and stories with them. Hopefully they can learn from my mistakes and go further in life than what I managed.

So I’ll leave you with this music video from Avicii, which just about perfectly sums up my emotions and the message I am trying to share with you.

He said, “One day you’ll leave this world behind, so live a life that you will remember. My father told me when I was just a child, these are the nights that never die.”

Dream big, be strong, be brave, always pick yourself up after you fall, never give up.

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015!

Gone pro! Haha, just a quick video montage from my new gopro, happy new year everyone!

Be Here, Now. A look back at 2014.

Merry Christmas!

Last few days of 2014.

What a year, what a year.

Seen a lot of post, courtesy of facebook, saying “It’s been a great year, thanks for being part of it.”

Well, I’ll be honest, 2014 hasn’t been great for me. It has been quite challenging with me going through a bout of depression at the start of the year.

Extended quarter-life crisis maybe?

In any case I guess it is coming to terms with the fact that the dreams I pursued whilst I was younger just didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to, and now I have to deal with the aftermath.

There really was a period when I was thinking #TIFU (this I f-ed up, a la Reddit’s thread), especially with how my 7 year on again off again relationship blew up, along with another relationship as well. It’s time I can never buy back for her and nothing kinda solves the pain and the paradox that blew it up.

But then there is a silver lining (there always is one if you look hard enough for it).

Having to deeply question myself and reflect upon the decisions that led me to what I am, I must say I’ve learnt a great deal from it.

Two big influences was the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig and “Be Here Now” By Ram Dass.

To sum it up:

Everywhere you go, you’re still here in your mind.

Anytime it is, it’s still now that you’re here in.

So be here, now.

And that’s it.

However sinful a person may be, if he would stop wailing inconsolably: ‘Alas! I am a sinner, how shall I attain liberation?’ and, casting away even the thought that he is a sinner, if he would zealously carry on… he would most assuredly get reformed. – Ramana Maharshi, excerpt from Be Here Now by Ram Dass

For the longest time, reading through my journal, and probably a lot of my previous post in this blog, it shows the mental loop that I was stuck in, trying to get out but doing the same things repeatedly. And that’s the key, it’s not to keep trying, just doing and get on with it.

So the formulae still stays the same:

  1. Dream big.
  2. Make a plan (as best you can).
  3. Get on with it and take the massive actions you need to take.
  4. Keep getting those big and small task done on a daily basis.
  5. Expect obstacles and things you had no idea you would have to encounter, but face them head on anyway and find ways to move through or around it.
  6. Repeat until you get to where you want to be, which is likely to be where you’re at now (success is a state of mind, this part can be confusing, it took me a long time to understand this).

So trust yourself, trust your dreams, trust your struggles.

It’s longer and harder and more excruciating than you expect, but at the same time it’s a lot more beautiful than you can ever imagine.

So here’s to a great 2015.

Cheers!

Another wet day at Kallang Practice Track. 2014, that's all folks!

Another wet day at Kallang Practice Track. 2014, that’s all folks!

P.s. Just an update, I have been selected by SAA to be considered for the 2015 SEA games, I now have until March 2015 to post a qualifying score. Well here goes 😉

Once in your life, try something. Work hard at something. Try to change.

So inspirational.

Tried a startup last year and it promptly failed, been dragging my feet over it for a while now.

Time to keep going.

The Art of Getting Stuck and Learning How to Get Unstuck

Friend's bike stuck in soft mud.

Friend’s bike stuck in soft mud.

What do you do when you get stuck? When the going starts to get hard? When things start to fall off the rails of your well laid plans?

Do you bail and look for an easy way out?

Start getting frustrated and look for things to blame?

Wish that someone/something can come along to solve all the problems for you?

Well, I’m all of the above I realized.

Last Saturday I was back out in Gelang Petah offroad riding. 

Tried the KTM 200 this time, a 2 stroke 200cc engine scrambler which was much more powerful than the KLX150 that I went on the past few times. 

Main reason was that the KLX was just too small for me and the riding position really didn’t fit me at all, but the jump to the KTM is a big one and seeing how some of my other friends struggled with it in the past I was hesitant to make the jump.

The bike fit me well but soon into the ride I realized a big problem, the engine idle was very low, which meant it would stall even with the clutch is pulled in if you didn’t keep revving the engine.

And when it stalled, the kick starting began. Without an electric starter, kick starting the KTM soon took a toll on me as each time to get the engine started it took several kicks, and with it constantly stalling, I was pretty much just struggling with starting the bike for the first part of our journey.

And soon it got worst as I felt pain in my right ankle from the kick starting, somehow the way I was doing it was putting tremendous stress on the ankle and it quickly felt as if I sprained it, with each subsequent kick hurting more, resulting in me fearing to kick hard that further complicated trying to start the KTM.

One of the thoughts running through my head was to swap the bike with one of our guides and take his KLX instead. Everything will then be solved and this kickstart/stalling problem would go away. 

But I won’t learn to conquer riding KTM scramblers or to learn how to manage bikes with similar problems. 

And that’s when I caught myself with my old thinking habits of trying to run away from problems.

The bike was not going to change (at least not whilst I was in the middle of the jungle halfway into a trip), the only thing that was adaptable was me. I had to change.

And since the guides somehow could kick start my bike when they came over to help much more effectively than myself, I knew there had to be a technique or way to do so

So I tried different ways of kick starting, different angles and speed which I applied force and moved the position of my foot on the kick starter to my heel rather than having it on my midfoot, and found that by doing it that way and kicking in a diagonally backwards direction, I was able to kick hard without hurting my ankle and at the end of the kick my foot would slide off the kick starter and have no “kick-back” by the starter that was hurting my foot massively.

Success rate of starting the engine went up exponentially, problem 1 solved.

Then I adapted the way I used the clutch and throttle to prevent the engine from stalling even at low speeds, key was the keep the engine rev high enough to prevent it from stalling at idle.

Problem 2, kinda solved.

By the end of the day, I was so happy on the KTM I knew I was probably never going out on the KLX again cause it simply didn’t fit me. 

And I guess this lesson learnt does not just stop at motorcycling, but in the way I have been facing life.

Thinking back so many times when things got a little harder, I kinda just bailed and look where it’s gotten me.

Now I finally understand, and more importantly been able to actually do, to stop running away from being stuck and the feeling of stuckness. 

For that is only a temporal state which one has to go through before figuring out what that has not been figured out yet. 

Getting stuck is a process of getting unstuck.

The only way you can never be stuck is to always remain in your comfort zones and stay well within your own boundaries of previous experience and competences. 

But if you don’t push your boundaries of what you do, you’ll never reach the places you haven’t been or do the things you haven’t done before.

All these reminded me of a scene from The Long Way Round (what inspired me to start riding motorbikes), when things got really tough for them in Mongolia, I’ve attached the link below. 

But then maybe the point is that it is a struggle, and then we struggle on. – Ewan McGregor

So we struggle on =)

Me in the middle with the KTM, great friends and guides. =)

Me in the middle with the KTM, great friends and guides. =)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

 

This book possibly changed my life.

This book possibly changed my life.

Started writing on this post a day after my birthday, that was over a month and a half ago.

The difficult part about writing this post is that it involved a deep set of reflections that are still ever changing, but heck, I’ll try to put it down in words my thoughts so far.

Meta-thinking.

Thinking about thinking.

Self-reflection.

You only start to realize how important it is after you get stuck long enough on something, then you realize it might not be the situation that needs to be changed but the way you approach the situation that does.

And that’s what I realized after reflecting and reading my own post and journal entry over the last 10 years.

I’m still stuck in the same thinking pattern, and that thinking pattern is not bringing me results, or rather, not giving me the inner peace or state of mind that I sought.

Going through the peaks of motivation and valleys of despair, often leaving good work unfinished.

I guess at 27 you start to realize the pattern since it has been long enough and that if you don’t really change anything, everything’s going to stay the same and that the best years of your life is just going to pass you by.

I read somewhere a good description of hell will be on the day you die, you meet at the gates the person you could have been.

Yup, that will be hell in my opinion, a life full of potential unfulfilled, and yet somehow I sense myself tumbling into that direction.

So I started to really question myself about myself.

Taking a trek into the high mountains of my own mind as the author Robert Pirsig described.

Since 2012, after the Olympics, I found myself largely stuck.

It’s a mix of not knowing what to do next, mourning over the opportunities lost and regret certain lack of actions that I could have but didn’t take.

And quite frankly, that lead to some very troubling times. The best way I can try to describe that feeling is to have a fractured mind.

And a fractured mind trying to heal itself was like a broken bone trying to mend itself whilst it had to bear the weight of the body to keep the body alive.

I found myself repeatedly trying to focus on immediate goals, achieving them (such as getting my motorbike license), but then fall back into the valleys of despair ever so quickly after the peak.

Hence I sought to solve the bigger problem here.

And upon much reflections, I realized that all I was seeking wasn’t quite the material or achievement wants that I thought was the important bits of success, but rather all I sought was just a state of mind.

A state of mind that is in complete self-control, the only control that one can have.

What I had been doing is best described in this paragraph:

“What’s really been getting you stuck is the running from the stuckness through the cars of your train of knowledge looking for a solution that is out in front of the train.”

I’ve been trying to find the future in my past.

And another big realization I’ve had from the book was that I had been an ‘ego-climber’ rather than a ‘zen-climber’

            “Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself.”

            “Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster. Now we’re paying the price. When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do it’s a hollow victory. In order to sustain the victory you have to prove yourself again and again in some other way, and again and again and again, driven forever to fill a false image, haunted by the fear that the image is not true and someone will find out. That’s never the way.”

            “When an ego-climber has an image of himself to protect he naturally lies to protect this image.” 

So why did I try to go to the Olympics to start off with all those years ago?

Was I doing it for self-glorification?

Yeah, I was, I wanted to be great. I wanted to be somebody.

I guess that’s why when I failed along the way, the false identity that I built up around myself being a great athlete fell apart, and along with that it fractured my mind.

So what should I be doing?

What should I really seek?

This concept of quality is described in depth by Robert Pirsig, in fact, it probably is the central idea which the entire book revolves around (hence I highly recommend to everyone to read this book).

To describe my overly simple interpretation of it, it will be to seek excellence with a peace of mind.

Aretê, this other concept that Robert mentions, a concept of holistic excellence, is something I sought as an individual, which is probably why I was drawn to decathlon to start off with.

So where do I go from here?

I still don’t know.

I’m still stuck.

But at least I know that it’s ok that I’m stuck, and that I should not run away from the feeling of being stuck but to stay in it.

For it is staring into the unknown, being right on the edge of consciousness that is now, that we can forge the future with.

What does the future bring?

We can hope, plan and take some action.

And perhaps that’s what dreams are for, to serve as a beacon where you should sail the ship towards and set the plans for.

This time before I set off on the next journey, I can safely say I honestly don’t know where I’m exactly going to end up, but wherever it is and wherever it may bring me, I’ll enjoy the steps as I take them.

“Trials never end, of course. Unhappiness and misfortune are bound to occur as long as people live, but there is a feeling now, that was not here before, and is not just on the surface of things, but penetrates all the way through: We’ve won it. It’s going to get better now. You can sort of tell these things.” – Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig

Perfection vs Getting Things Done

So I wanted to blog about some deep thoughts I had after reading the Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, never could quite get it right hence I procrastinated and other things I wanted to write about started to get backlogged which made me procrastinate even more.

Story of my life eh?

So here’s to getting on with writing, even though it’s not perfect.

Because here’s to getting things done.

Latent Growth

 

Random graph grabbed off a site talking about virus growth.

Random graph grabbed off a site talking about virus growth.

A friend of mine had a chat with me a while back and we discussed this subject of latent growth.

Growth that doesn’t appear on the surface, but happens within that builds up slowly.

And then it hits a ‘boiling point’ and everything explodes.

Will kinda.

Why I’m talking about latent growth is because I’ve realised that a lot of the times, the little things that you need to do to get good, or the failures that you go through, on the surface at a day to day level, it almost never seem like you’re going anywhere.

I say that because after going through weeks of my ‘recovery’ from the downward spiral that I fell into.

I feel kinda stuck and down again.

I’m taking a week off hard training to give my body more breathing space, and a chance to adapt properly from each training phase to another.

But the sense of, I’m still stuck feeling just slowly creeps in.

Am I really growing? Or is this once again going to end up as nothing?

Take my 1500m timing.

Last Sunday I did another test run and the result was 6min 7s, this compared to 3 weeks ago of 6min 17s. 10s improvement, yes it is an improvement, but now 5mins (that I always targeted for my decathlon) seems like such a long way away, or is it?

Here are the splits.

1st 1500m time trial.

1st 1500m time trial.

2nd 1500m time trial. Notice the much more even pace ran.

2nd 1500m time trial. Notice the much more even pace ran.

In this case, the quality of the 1st 1500m and the 2nd 1500m run is miles apart.

I’ve made it a point to start running on an even pace. I used my training 6 x 500m pace (24s per 100m) to run this 1500m and though yes I was dropping pace, I was so much more relaxed and the whole 1500m just felt 100x easier than the one I ran 3 weeks ago.

And that’s when I realise that the training’s working.

I have to continue to increase my aerobic capacity and the pace which I can be at the limits of my aerobic capacity.

But how do you stick to a long term plan that requires you to go through long period of latent growth before you see anything really tangible?

You focus on just getting small results.

This is a trick from the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely who used the rewards of watching good movies help him stick through a horrible medication program to cure his illness (majority of the participants of the experimental drug failed to keep to the entire treatment).

Many many months ago when I was still unfocused and running at Kallang track, I set myself the goal of running 500m in each rep of my 6 x 2min interval sessions.

Somehow I never did quite make any progress towards that then, but once I was on my comeback trail, I had intent, I had focus, and it made a world of difference.

In that last 6 x 500m rep on Friday last week, I was actually hurting to keep to the pace. And in my head, the old me starting bargaining.

It’s ok, you can always do this again next week.

No. I want my rims, I shouted back.

And that’s the thought that carried me through that last 3-400m of that last rep.

Crossed the line for 500m and 1min 58s was on my watch.

My ride with a used set of Prodrive 17" GD-06 rims and Goodyear Efficient Grip Performance tyres.

My ride with a used set of Prodrive 17″ GC-06 rims and Goodyear Efficient Grip Performance tyres.

So how do you stick to your life goals and keep working on them every day, when on the surface at a day to day level, it almost never seem like you’re going anywhere?

You focus on a few small things. You set yourself some small rewards for getting those small task done right (or big rewards if they are some big milestones).

You get it done and you keep going.

Because with each time you do it, you’ve proven to yourself that you can have a vision, no matter how small, in your head and have the ability to execute and make that vision a reality.

Next stop, brembo brakes 😉

Little Results Matter.

Nothing is more motivating than seeing results.

Nothing is more motivating than seeing results.

Focus on just a few small things.

Work at it.

Stick to working at it.

See results.

These simple steps got me out of the rut I am in.

As mentioned in my previous post, I fell seriously off the fitness track, so I bit the bullet, took time completely off to work with a physio to get rehabilitated and then started my training program.

This time I wasn’t overly ambitious, I focused.

Get cardiovascularly fit.

Instead of trying to do 10,000 things at once, just do 1.

Do it well, then move on to the next.

I bit the bullet and took my own harsh medicine.

And these are the result:

One month ago, running 1m7s with full 1 min rest.

One month ago, running 1m7s with full 1 min rest.

This week, running 1m03s with 1min plus jogging active rest.

This week, running 1m03s with 1min plus jogging active rest.

Funny thing is that it still feels like I’m running too slow everytime I run, but hey, I gotta trust the results on paper and stick to it.

I’ve now increased the time I am able to spend in my max heart rate zone from 4 min to 5.5 min, and I’m doing it at higher speeds.

And that’s the amazing part, this process of focusing on small things and getting them done over a period of 6-8 weeks just gave me the confidence in myself.

It’s like learning to trust myself again, that I can produce results.

And if I can do this, I can build my dreams.

Now to keep going at it, small tasks, every single day.

Miss one day and you’ll miss everyday.

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