| Historical events and living legends – Superman and Spiderman; instant coffee and instant noodles; World War II and the Vietnam War; mini skirts and bell bottoms; the United Nations, European Union and Asean; Beatles and Nat King Cole, Smiley and Hello Kitty; the first dog in space; the first e-mail… – left their imprints on the soul of humanity.
Likewise, the major events of my life – my childhood struggles with extreme poverty; my father's prejudice and abuse; my addiction to gambling and the 3Vs of vulgarism, vandalism and violence… and my adulthood achievements in post-graduate studies, career and entrepreneurship – left deep imprints on my soul.
These are my soulprints.
In sharing them with you, it is my wish that you be inspired to overcome the challenges you face, no matter how hard they are, and transform your rough life, into a rich life.
My mother put me down, went to the doorway and came back carrying her pair of slippers. I never noticed them before. They were worn out with holes. For the first time too, I saw the soles of her feet — rough, ugly soles, too ugly for a lady. “It is all about endurance,” my mother said.
It occurred to me that I had obtained the slippers through my own means. I felt very proud of myself. Earlier, I was thinking that the trishaw boy knew how to make money. I realised that I had done the same — I had sold my champion spider for $2.
I felt great respect for the one-legged man who endured the difficulty of moving about with crutches. Even though he did not talk much with anyone, he did not look very sad either. He seemed to have accepted his fate. It was all about accepting oneself.
My mother had to learn to swallow her tears. Her daughter had run away. Her twin sons had dashed her hopes. But she had to learn to bear with the pain and get up every time she was hit, as the family still needed her. It was all about resilience.
I continued to squat on the beach and watch the waves come and go. As one wave subsided, the next wave came. They never gave up. They seemed to be telling me never to give up too.
The tear-jerking reunion between mother and Phoenix left a deep imprint in my memory. Seeing how my mother’s persistent efforts paid off in changing Phoenix’s attitude affected me in a deep way even as a child. It taught me to have faith in persevering.
I finally understood where my mother had obtained her money from. She must have managed to borrow from friends and relatives. They trusted her because she was a lady of her word. It was all about trustworthiness.
She was determined that I should not lose my arm. She wanted me to be able to lead a normal life. She wanted all this for me when nobody else in the family cared as much, or simply did not care at all. Love propels one to action. Love conquers all.
That thin, underweight and undernourished primary school boy had now become the “Strong Boy”. I was proud of my transformation. It made me realise that, with self-discipline, it was possible to change myself for the better.
If there was anything I had learnt from my experience with my tutor, Victor, it was humility. One should always maintain humility whether one has achieved success or encountered a setback. With humility, one can improve and move on in life.
I told the class about Hwa’s plight and urged my classmates, as well as my friends from the other classes, to donate whatever money they could. Helping a person from the heart produced such a wonderful feeling. It was all about helpfulness.
She feared that if I took up Rachael’s loans, I would be indebted to her for life.My mother thus made her position very clear. If I wanted to go overseas for my studies, I must rely on my own means to do so. It was all about backbone.
My mother also believed that, eventually, things would turn out well. Her marriage to my father took a very long time to improve, but already, my father had become a changed man.
She always had to be on the lookout for surprise raids, since her bread stall was unlicensed. At first, she would cut her fingers because she had to be vigilant and cut bread at the same time. Likewise for my two sisters. But after a while, they got used to it.
My mother said she had failed so many times in her lifetime. But she always bounced back. As much as she wanted me to succeed, my mother wanted me to be able to bounce back from failure. It’s all about not being defeated by failure.
My mother advised me to be modest about my achievements. When her bread stall became profitable, she did not like to boast about how much she earned. Because of my mother’s modesty, some customers would rather queue up to buy bread from her.
I hear the wind and the rain beating against the
leaves; but I continue to play my flute and
move on through the trees.
A bamboo walking stick and a pair of straw shoes
make a journey lighter than riding on a horse;
what’s there to fear when a straw hat takes me
through the wind and rain throughout
my journey in life.
A gust of wind in the spring wakes me up; the wind
is a little cold but the oblique rays from the
mountains warm me up.
I look back at the tumultuous road which I had
just travelled; they are all gone: the wind, the
rain and the sun.
— Su Dong Po (1037–1101)