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.


Thinking about thinking.


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

Even the Sun Sets in Paradise.

Even the sun sets in paradise. One of my last few days at the Loughborough Track.

When it comes to an end, you realise that everything you’re doing, you may be doing it for one very last time.

One last time I’m at the track jumping, one last time I’m at the the track running.

I guess having spent 4 years here, it has been a large part of my life.

And as much as I hate to leave, I know that it’s time to go.

Last year when I graduated, I knew the job hasn’t been done and I would have never forgave myself if I went back then.

This time, somehow I know it’s right to go.

As they say, everything that has a beginning, has an end.

I guess that’s just the way life works, because if it didn’t, we’ll take everything for granted and not savour the beauty of each moment.

Looking back, man it has been amazing.

So I guess this is what it means when people say ‘go live your dreams’. =)

On the Law of Success

Law of Success by Napoleon Hill, great book to read.

Amidst my packing, I have finally completed reading the Law of Success by Napoleon Hill.

Firstly this is a big book (1035 pages), I must have bought it more than 5 years ago back in Singapore but never really got around finish reading the entire thing.

Whilst I enjoy reading so called ‘Success literature’, I always take everything with a pinch of salt and know that there are more bullshit out there in the ‘Self-Help’ section of a book store than there are actual useful stuff.

(Always liked this scene from School for Scoundrels, watch at 0.40)

Anyway there are a few good books that have genuinely good concepts and ideas out there, this will be one of them.

Below is a questionaire at the start of the book which I’ve completed about 5 years ago, to score myself in each of the 16 Laws upon 100, I’ve put my new scores that I just did yesterday to the right of my original scores. Have a go yourself and see how you fare!

5 years ago Now
The Master Mind (Having a good team) 70 50
A Definite Chief Aim 50 30
Self Confidence 60 50
The Habit of Saving 10 0
Initiative & Leadership 50 60
Imagination 75 50
Enthusiasm 60 50
Self-Control 50 40
The Habit of Doing More Than Paid For 60 70
A Pleasing Personality 70 80
Accurate Thinking 50 80
Concentration 40 50
Cooperation 70 55
Profiting by Failure 50 80
Tolerance 70 80
Practicing the Golden Rule 60 90
Average 56 57.19

Interestingly,I thought I would have scored worst now than 5 years ago before I compared the results. The reason for that is sometimes now I feel a little lost in the sense that I’ve finished this 5 years and failed to achieve what I set out to do, hence now I got to figure out what to do next.

But when the averages are compared, I’ve actually improved by roughly 1 point.

5 years on and 1 point of personal growth.

Can’t say it’s been amazing, but then looking at the specific categories, I started to see why.

The dreaming side of things, like ‘A Definite Chief Aim’ and ‘Self Confidence’, have definitely taken a hit from my failures, but at the same time the doing side of things, like ‘Profiting from Failure’ and ‘Accurate Thinking’, have definitely improved.

My weakest point ‘The Habit of Saving’ still remains. I used to blame the fact that I have irregular income sources due to the nature of business and thus it is hard to be budgeting and saving, but I know that is just an excuse and I am determined to work on this factor everyday.

So to sum it up, I think what happened was that in the last 5 years, I set out with a huge dream but I didn’t really know how to go about doing it, thus I failed.

Now, I know how to go about doing it, but then I’m a little afraid to dream as big because now I know there’s a heck of a lot of work to be done to achieve it, and also having failed before doubt now sometimes overtake the desire to keep dreaming.

So, do I just back off, resign to my fate (if there is such a thing) and accept my limits of today as the limits of my future?

Or do I now armed with the experience of my failures and the knowledge of how to be doing, dare to dream big again and work 10 times as hard as I used to in order to get to where I want to be?

Well I think you know the answer to that. 😉

On Keep Figuring It Out.

Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls, amazing read.

Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls, amazing read.

Life is but a series of figuring it out.

You never quite really get ‘it’, because as soon as you do, life changes and you it’s time to go figure it out again.

Just finished the awesome book Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls, absolutely fantastic inspirational read for anybody out there.

What it made me realise is that even the guys whom we view as very successful, usually had a very trying past and is still constantly trying to figure it out.

Bear worked really hard to and managed to pass the SAS selection in his second attempt (where most people wouldn’t even phantom trying one, least failing and going at it again), only to break his beak in a parachuting accident. He withdrew from the service due to the injury and started on another ridiculous adventure, to climb Mount Everest, as a goal that would drive him to make a full recovery from his back injury. He almost died trying to do so, but after he did, he was back to square one. He had no money and once again needed to figure out what to do next.

Somehow reading his story gave me some comfort, knowing that perhaps it’s just part of life, so I too am trying to figure it out.

I’m planned to go back to Singapore in less than 2 weeks, but I’m not quite sure what to do next. At the same time, business here seems to be finally kicking off and I might need to extend my stay here again just for a little bit so that I can fly off to Ireland to meet some potential investors.

Mid-20s can be a confusing and scary time of your life.

But I guess from all the stories I’ve heard and the people I’ve met, one thing I know is that if you figured it out, then you’ll keep figuring it out.

So it’s time for me to once again, figure it out.

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