On SEA Games 2015


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.


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.


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.


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.


Above: Got him through the finish line.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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?
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?


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.

IMG_3225 2

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.

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.


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

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.

After a breakdown, you build yourself back up.

Friday night lights in an empty gym.

Friday night lights in an empty gym.

About 2 and a half months since my last post, then I thought I hit rock bottom, I was wrong.

Shortly after that post I had a full-blown breakdown.

I somehow just felt the overwhelming crushing weight of defeat.

I ended up driving around for an entire day just crying at my steering wheel and for a couple of days I was just lost.

Crying at what exactly, I’m not entirely sure.

It’s a combination of mourning a past relationship lost, feeling the pains of regret and the failures I had.

I guess for the longest time I’ve been sucking it up and pushing things aside to keep pressing on, and slowly these things just added up until the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And then the realization came to me, that I was stuck in a rut.

Since 2012 I’ve had no clear goals, not doing what I really wanted to do, the business that I started isn’t really going anywhere and I’m just not spending my days in a fulfilling manner.

I’ve spent a large part of my twenties chasing my dreams but at the end of it, I had pretty much nothing to show for except the scars of my failures and the pains of my defeat.

I needed results.

I realized that if I don’t do anything about it, if I remained the same and kept doing the same things, saying the same things, I’m going to crash and burn, heading nowhere real quick.

I had to get myself out.

The breakdown gave me a chance to have an honest evaluation of my life.

What I have got going and what I did not.

Most of all, it made me realize, I wasn’t happy.

So I had to change.

I took some hard decisions, broke up another relationship with a great girl (hurting others is always the worst, but I knew I wasn’t in the right place and time and that the hard thing to do was the right thing to do).

And then I took some time off.

If you go to another place at another time, will you become another person?

If you go to another place at another time, will you become another person?

Bought tickets to Krabi at 1 in the morning, flew off to Thailand with no expectations just a couple of hours later. One backpack on me, I left everything unnecessary behind.

Sometimes, removing yourself from the familiar and putting yourself in an environment that you got to start all over again makes you realize what you truly need.

Got on the bus and started chatting with another young fella from Brazil. He was traveling for a month whilst taking a break from his studies in Australia.

Straight away, I realized something that I’ve forgotten for a long time.

One of the reasons why I set off on this journey all those years ago was to be free. I watched Jason Mraz’s video and just felt a very deep connection to the message back then.

Along the way I’ve just forgotten what it was like to let go of expectations and enjoy the moments, embracing the uncertainties and just going with it.

Got checked in to a random hotel I booked online called the Happiness Resort (hey, I guess I was looking for happiness), and immediately rented a scooter.

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Water, food, shelter and transport.

Somehow those few things have always stuck on in my head since my army days.

In essence, those are perhaps the only things you truly need. Everything else just weighs you down and slows you.

So I spent the next few days just riding around Krabi on my scooter, exploring the area, hanging around the beaches, went water taxi-ing around to other beaches nearby.

The week went by with me just roaming around, but there wasn’t any sudden realization or enlightenment I was hoping for.

I think perhaps that itself was the enlightenment.

I’ve been travelling quite a lot by myself and roaming around hoping to find myself whatever that means, then I realize that it actually doesn’t quite matter which part of the world you are in.

Happiness is a state of mind.

You’re not going to find it by suddenly being in a different environment and suddenly become a different person.

You’ll just be the same person in a different environment.

Nothing changes.

And being in Krabi made me realize that all along, the state of mind I was looking for was freedom.

Freedom from inhibition.

Nope, I realise you won't. And that's ok.

Nope, I realise you won’t. And that’s ok.

I realized that there was just so many things I do holding myself back, and that if I don’t let go of those things now, I’ll never be happy and I’ll never be the person I could be.

And it’s all about just taking the actions you need.

I wasn’t happy about my weight, my fitness, my career, my personal and social life.

It was time to stop giving myself excuses and work at it.

So I got back to Singapore and actually made the decision to work at it.

No excuses if good enough this time.

I decided to work on what makes me happy.

Being fit and riding a motorbike around came to my head as the obvious ones to start working on.

So I decided to sort my body out, my Achilles tendon was giving me big issues still when I ran, so I sought out a physiotherapist and went for intensive 2-3 times a week rehab/therapy sessions, completely stopping any training for a month to focus on healing.

Every single night I worked on the rehab exercises, no exceptions, no excuses.

If I missed one day, I know that I’ll miss everyday.

After I got that sorted, then I went to cut down my weight.

Over the year I’ve gotten fat.

Was weighing in at about 86kg, up from 83kg back when I was competing in decathlon.

So I put my sports science knowledge to use, cut out carbs completely from my diet to get into a net negative caloric state and after 4 weeks, this is my current weight.

Yup, it's back got it back down.

Yup, it’s back got it back down.


Next phase is to get myself cardiovascular-ly fit. I will be using my 1500m timing as a gauge of my fitness (my best time was back in 2012, 5 min 26s during a decathlon).

Time to take some of my own medicine that I have prescribed.

After 3 weeks I took a time trial and it turned out to be like this:

It's slow, but I'm ok. I'm working on it.

It’s slow, but I’m ok. I’m working on it.

Yup, definitely a lot more work needed.

But this time, I found myself a lot more determined.

I boiled down the essence of my life to this:

At 530am when the alarm rings, either I get up or I give up, it’s that simple.

I always struggled in the past to put in these before work training session, but now, it’s gotten a lot easier.

I guess it’s because the alternative, which is a life wasted, is a lot more painful than the feeling of waking up early.

I’m running with my heart rate monitor and paying attention to the time spent in the heart rate zones to maximize the effectiveness of my trainings.

I found out that I tended to be overly harsh on myself at times, cause I kick myself for not going hard enough to hit the times or reps, but when I look at the data from my HR monitor, it clearly shows the improvements and that session after session I was pushing into new times spent in the max zones.

My next test will be in 2 weeks time, will post out the results then.

Next, motorbike license.

Well this is what classic procrastination looks like.

Each day you delay is a day longer you will take to succeed.

I’ve enrolled in motorbike riding school since late 2012, could have gotten my license by mid 2013 if I focused and took consistent lessons back tend. Which would mean by now I can take my 2A license (Singapore’s riding license format requires you to wait a year after you get your 2B license (200cc and below) till you take your 2A (400cc and below) and another year to class 2(unlimited)).

Instead, I’m still without a license and it would mean it would be at least another 2 years before I can get my class 2 license and get my dream bike, a BMW GS1200.

So I set a schedule, 2 lessons a week, no excuses.

After two months, finally.

After over a year and a half, I finally completed all the lessons.

After over a year and a half, I finally completed all the lessons.

I passed all the school lessons and internal evaluations, allowing me to book a test date (28th May).

In fact, I failed the lesson 8 evaluation once because I was a little too nervous, then I realized, heck, I’m prepared to keep going until I passed everything.

And being in that frame of mind, failure really doesn’t faze you anymore.

Fail forwards until you reach your goals.

That was the idea behind the company I started last year, but I guess along the way we’ve kinda gotten sloppy due to the lack of results.

So I got together with whoever was left in the group committed to the process, and decided there was no substitute to being competent and getting skilled.

To build a modern business empire, we realized that a big skill set that was missing was the ability to code.

Which incidentally once again was something I started learning 4 years ago but just procrastinated over.

So I bit the bullet and threw myself into it.

No excuses this time.

You can follow our process at this other blog where we are building a super awesome to do list (a web app built on Ruby on Rails) as a technical exercise to learn coding.

Functional version of the web app, still primitive but rapidly iterating. Great learning experience.

Functional version of the web app, still primitive but rapidly iterating. Great learning experience.

So two and a half months later, here I am and I’m seeing small results.

Am I happy?

Happier I must say, but I know there is still a lot of work to be done.

How do you build a life worth living?

I’m not sure, but I’m doing my best to find out.

There’s a difference between failing and being a failure.

Singapore Sports Hub, rainy day.

Singapore Sports Hub, rainy day.

And the months go by quick, hello 2014, almost hello February.

Past few months has been difficult, truth is I was depressed.

I felt that I was stuck, I felt that the thing I was most afraid of is almost coming true.

I keep trying to summon the strength to make resolutions and to get the strength to make it right, yet the weight of my past failures just crash down on me.

I look at my surrounds, the place I work at, where I live, and I just felt that the old me is just engulfing me, and I hate it.

What happened to all the dreams I talked about? The good life so to speak that I espoused to everyone I met? To chase what truly made you happy?

I felt like a fraud and a hypocrite.

Because mainly, I knew I didn’t work hard enough.

Truth was, I didn’t give it my all. More often than not, I took the easy way out.

I dropped reps when the sessions got tough, I didn’t stick to the training plans, my diet ran amok.

It’s easy to come up with the big plans and big dreams, but getting down to the small and unpleasant stuff, the daily grind, that’s what that counts.

And I didn’t make it count.

Now I feel like I wasted over a year when I could have been more focused on my training.

But that’s all over now.

What matters is what I’m going to do right now, and what I’m going in the future.

Focus, discipline, work.

Get fit, stick to the program, work my butt off.

SEA 2015.

6 Things I need to do whislt I’m 26

Me on top of Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa 2 weeks ago. The years are starting to show.

Me on top of Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa 2 weeks ago. The years are starting to show.

Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five. – Benjamin Franklin.

Today is my birthday.

I turn 26 today.

I guess it’s not until you reach above 25 that you start to understand what Benjamin Franklin meant.

Here are the 6 things I need to do this year, when I’m 26.

1. Keep Dreaming

Funny thing was, shortly after I left for Loughborough the credit crunch hit and the economy tanked. The industry I was in went from booming to a standstill, what can I say? I was lucky.

Look forward, but please, hold on to your dreams.

It’s so easy to let go and start dying a little bit inside each day.

It’s so easy to let today’s reality overwhelm you and beat you into submission.

It’s so easy to let the pains of failure from yesterday rob you of your confidence to keep dreaming for tomorrow.

At 20, it’s so easy to look at your life ahead and dream big dreams for it.

And 26, things change a little, dut don’t stop dreaming.

The past 8 years of my life, the journey to become a decathlete, if nothing else, has taught me the powers of having and pursuing a dream.

It’ll drive you to see and experience great things in life that you will never otherwise have a chance to.

Things may not always go your way, but it will still make life better.

Now at 26, I have to summon up the courage to take the pains of failure from my past and transmute them into lessons for success in the future.

I have to dream bigger, plan better and execute the hell out of my plans to make it happen.

I have to be thankful too for my past, despite it’s shortcomings, for it is said best by the following great:

I treasure the memory of the past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude. – Bruce Lee

I also have to be thankful for my family, mentors, coaches, training partners and friends.

Sometimes I find myself blaming the people around me (including my family) for the lack of success today, but I realised its just a cowardly avoidance of the real problem, which is myself.

So thank you all, for everything.

Time to man up and point the finger back at myself.


2. Follow Through

Trap Shooting at Sun City, South Africa

Trap Shooting at Sun City, South Africa

Lessons from my previous sport, shooting.

Steady the aim, pull the trigger and follow through.

Thinking back on the past 5-8 years of my life, one very big reason why I failed to achieve the success I wanted was that I failed many a times to follow through on the little things.

The small daily rehab routine for my injuries.

The daily diet and food preparation that I should have made.

The weekly financial planning and decisions I should have taken.

All the small little things that I should have been doing on a day to day basis to learn the skills I wanted or to complete the goals I’ve set.

I’m pretty good at making big decisions with my life and taking big chances, but its the little mundane stuff that gets to me.

So no more of this nonsense.

Put out the to-do list everyday, attacking each small task to make it happen.

No excuse is good enough anymore.


3. Choose


Jordan 2011

There is no more time to stay uncommitted, to ‘keep my options open’ and just wander around hoping that something great will happen.

Time to make a choice on what kind of person I want to be, the path ahead I wish to take, the family I want to have and the city I want to live in.

As how Dr Meg Jay puts it brilliantly in the video below, the course you set out for yourself in your 20s is going to have a huge impact on how your life turns out to be in the future.

At 26, you realise you’re starting to run out of time.

I have to force myself to make the hard decisions to close some doors and to start walking through the ones I left open.


4. Be Brutally Honest

Malibu Beach, California 2012

Malibu Beach, California 2012

No more time for bullshit.

Time to be completely honest with myself, see the harsh reflection of myself and pinpoint what I’m doing that’s holding myself back.

Equally important is to be completely honest with myself about what I want or do not want with my life.

Life’s too short to be living out somebody else’s desire or dreams.

And only with this honesty can I make those difficult decisions I need to make above.


5. Network

Johannesburg Airport, South Africa 2013

Johannesburg Airport, South Africa 2013

We’ve heard it all before, no man is an island.

In fact one of the first few steps in Napoleon Hill’s success instructions was to form a mastermind group (another term for a great crew).

So enter The Company.

A group I am part of that aims to fulfil our own potentials and engage in start ups and small businesses to make the world a slightly better place.

One of our start ups, 9squares.sg an e-commerce platform in Singapore will aim to make e-commerce easier and better with a fulfilment service for retailers (third party logistics) to make selling online easier as well.

As I grow older, I learn the importance of making connections and in my travels I realise that the world is just one big tribe.

Be part of it.

Aim to make it better.


6. Simplify


Buy less, buy better.

Time to de-clutter my life.

Not just with the things I own but the activities that I do.

And it’s mainly just about overcoming procrastination.

To make the time to empty out the junk in my life and make space for more awesomeness to come in.

And that’s it.

6 things on my to-do list.

Another year ahead.

Time to do it and fly.


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