100 Stories by Uantchern Loh

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Finding Your Base Camp in Life A base camp is a place where climbers gather their resources before attempting to reach the summit of a mountain. Whether the climbers succeed or not, they always return to base camp to celebrate, to recover or to try again. In life, we also have our successes and failures. Laugh or cry, our base camps ­— family, friends, religion — will always there for us. I hope that this 100 stories journal can help you find your base camp in life. Uantchern #alwaysbelieve


16 November, 2015

Return to Mount Kinabalu A team from Singapore will be amongst the first to climb the Ranau Trail, one of the two new trekking routes to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu from Laban Rata. The inaugural climb will flag off on 1 December 2015, with the climbers reaching Laban Rata on the same day. The climb to the summit will be in the early hours of 2 December 2015.


16 November, 2015

Where Is Basecamp.Cafe Located It’s expensive to setup a cafe, no matter how simple. So as a start, Basecamp.Cafe will be whereever someone can host us. Check out the Meet Ups section and find out where the next Basecamp.Cafe meet up will be held. One day, we will have our own place where we can share our impossible dreams.


4 December, 2015

The Journey Matters as Much as the Destination On 1 December 2015, almost 6 months after the earthquake hit Mount Kinabalu, we made our journey up the mountain to watch the sunrise again. We reached the summit of Mount Kinabalu, my fifth time, at 6.15am on 2 December 2015. Why, you may ask me, do I want to climb the same mountain so many times? My answer – because each journey up the same mountain is different, even though the sunrise at the top is always the same. Each journey is a different story, and my 5th journey up Mount Kinabalu was to pay a tribute to those who died in the earthquake earlier this year, and to encourage people to climb Mount Kinabalu again. We all have our own journeys, and our own summits to achieve; be it to achieve a successful career, complete a critical project, or to win an important deal. Each of our own journeys are different because each of us have our own stories. You must believe in your own journey in order to reach your summit. Believe in yourself and be brave.


27 December, 2015

A Job, Your Passion and What Do You Want to Do with Your Life A job is something that you are good at, and you are paid for being competent or fired for being incompetent. That’s about it. It’s a contractual thing. Passion is some thing that you are willing to suffer and die for. Most of us, I suspect, will not be willing to die or suffer for a job. It’s something to work hard and go into overtime, but it’s another thing to suffer and die. Perhaps we would die for a cause, or a belief, but not a job. And finally WSIDWML – What Should I Do with My Life. One of the toughest questions to answer. Some of us will never know. And for those who do, you are blessed. Your job, your passion, what you want to do with your life are 3 separate things. Don’t mix them up. There are many paths to the summit. Choose not the most difficult path, nor the easiest, but the one you make for yourself.


27 December, 2015

Summit Fever is Contagious Summit Fever is a state of mind in which a person fails to notice dangerous weather, route conditions, physical exertion or refuses to take them into consideration in a single minded attempt to reach the summit. Jon Krakauer, in his book “Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster” wrote about two climbers who, in their ascent of Everest, walked past dying climbers without offering any help. And their excuse? “We were too tired to help. Above 8,000 meters is not a place where people can afford morality.” 8,000 metres and above is what mountaineers call the death zone. At this altitude, there is insufficient oxygen to sustain human life. Mount Everest is 8,848 metres high. Summit Fever doesn’t just occur on mountains. It also occurs at work, where people climb career ladders, and succumb to Summit Fever in a winner takes all stakes. Promotions, salary increases, a bigger office matters, everything else is secondary. Does the end justify the means, where you want to succeed at any cost?


28 December, 2015

Can You See Animals in the Clouds? Have you ever looked at clouds and started to see shapes of animals or patterns? The human brain is an amazing thing – it searches for patterns even when there are none. Life is a bit like that. You think you are going somewhere but actually you are going around in circles to nowhere.

Take a pause in life and see where you are. And take time to look at the clouds.


1 January, 2016

The Paradox Of Choice –

The More Choices We Have, The Worse Will Be The Decisions Made The challenge in making resolutions for the New Year is not in keeping them. It is the number of choices that we have – get a new job, go on a diet, travel more, climb a mountain, and on and on. We list them down and ponder on them for awhile, and inevitably we swallow more than we can chew and make promises to ourselves that we can’t keep. The paradox of choice – the more choices we have, the worse will be the decisions made. Choices lead us to over-analyse our options, leading us to make poor decisions because there are just so many permutations, variations, options – it’s mind boggling. And finally, even after making our decisions, we wonder if they were the right ones. Should we have chosen the other choices available? What then should we do? We can’t get rid of the choices because it’s a complex world. The answer – manage your expectations. Instead of choosing something that’s the best, perhaps good enough is a better choice. In choosing the path up the peak, mountain climbers don’t always have the time to ponder on a multitude of choices when you are pit against bad weather and precarious conditions. Climbers choose paths that’s good enough. Because it will get them up the peak safely. And that’s good enough.


2 January, 2016

Taking Chances In a classic behavioural experiment, one group of participants were told that they will receive a small electric shock. Participants in a second group were told that the risk of this happening was only 50%. The researchers measured the anxiety levels of participants in both groups (heart rate, nervousness, sweating, etc.) shortly before commencing. The results – there was absolutely no difference. Participants in both groups were equally stressed. Next, the researchers told the participants in the second group that the chance of being shocked will be reduced to 20%. The result – still no difference. 10% – no difference. 5% – no difference. However, when the researchers declared they will increase the strength of the expected current, both groups’ anxiety levels rose by the same degree. It’s alright to be anxious as life is full of electric shocks – not getting a promotion at work, failing a subject in school, not awarded a scholarship or a relationship that’s not working out. But don’t wait for the chance of being shocked to be reduced to 0%. Take your chances in life. Live and let live.

“Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.” – Edmund Hillary

First man to reach the summit of Everest.


3 January, 2016

Because It’s There Mount Elbrus, together with Everest, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Denali, Puncak Jaya and Vinson, are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Reaching the peaks of the Seven Summits, which includes reaching the peak of the highest mountain in the world – Everest, is considered a mountaineering challenge. George Mallory, an English mountaineer who attempted to make the first ascent of Everest was once asked, “why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” His reply has been called the most famous three words in mountaineering, “because it’s there.” Most of us will not have the ability nor the opportunity to climb Everest, but that should not stop us from defining our own Everests – our own challenges in life and wanting to conquer those challenges “because it’s there”. “The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, “what is the use of climbing Mount Everest?” and my answer must at once be, “it is no use.” There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.” – George Mallory


4 January, 2016

Coming Down is Mandatory On 29 May 1953, Edmund Hillary became the first climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Since then, over 4,000 people have reached the peak of the highest mountain in the world. The images of being at the top of the world have inspired many to follow, and to seek the fame that comes with a successful ascent. It’s difficult to play down successes like reaching the peak of Everest or a popular restaurant. We think we can do it too. However, what remains unseen are the hundreds who have died in their attempts to conquer Everest. Over 200 bodies still remain on the slopes of Everest, their remains acting as markers to guide other climbers. Don’t overestimate the chances of success. You can learn from failures as much as you can learn from successes.

“Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.” – Ed Viesturs

Summited Everest seven times

Only 5 people in the world has achieved this.


5 January, 2016

Keep Your Feet on the Ground We all want to look better, earn more and be happier. Who doesn’t? And these aspirations become especially stark at the start of the year when we follow the crowd and make resolutions that perhaps border on delusional, rather than aspirational. And then we succumb to buying self-help books (there are millions of them out there) thinking that we can read ourselves to achieving success. There’s a cheaper way of achieving success – take a selfie and be honest with what you see, and what you can achieve.

“Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet.” ­– African Proverb


6 January, 2016

3 Rules of Life and Mountaineering There is an anonymous quote on the 3 rules in life that you often see: 1. If you do not go after what you want, you’ll never have it. 2. If you do not ask, the answer will always be no. 3. If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place. There is also an anonymous quote on the 3 rules mountaineering: 1. It’s always further than it looks. 2. It’s always taller than it looks. 3. And it’s always harder than it looks. The difference? The rules in life seem so much more positive – ask and you shall receive. On the other hand, the mountaineering rules made everything look so daunting. And yet it’s a mystery why mountaineers still want to climb.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” ­– John Muir Environmentalist, Naturalist, Traveler, Writer, and Scientist, and probably best remembered as one of the greatest champions of the Yosemite National Park.


7 January, 2016

So Random There’s a story of a man who kept looking for a lottery ticket that ended with the number 48. He finally found the ticket, bought it and won the first prize in the lottery. When asked about the significance of the number 48, the man replied, “I dreamt of the number seven for seven straight nights. And 7 times 7 is 48.” We may laugh at this story, but the reality is that luck and randomness play a big part in our lives. We can follow the signs, heed our dreams and depend on our intuitions – but our decisions may have nothing to do with how we get there.

“There’s a lot of randomness in the decisions that people make.” – Daniel Kahneman Nobel Laureate


8 January, 2016

More Randomness In 1976, a young director managed to convince 20th Century Fox to produce a movie based on a script that he wrote. The title of the script was “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as Taken from the Journal of the Whills”. The studio wasn’t terribly confident of the director, George Lucas, and decided to pay him just $200,000 in exchange for the sequel and merchandising rights. The budget for the movie was $11m and was released as “Star Wars” in 1977. To date, Star Wars has grossed $775m.

“If I had said yes to all the projects I turned down, and no to all the other ones I took, it would have worked out about the same.” – David Picker

Movie Producer


9 January, 2016

5 Tips on Choosing an Adventure Travel Company Planning your adventure trips for 2016? Here are 5 simple tips on how to choose the right company to book your trip with, and have a memorable adrenalinefilled experience. 1. Do your homework. Find out yourself as much as you can about the destination that you plan to go. This will help you ask the right questions when you call up the adventure companies. If you don’t do your homework, you will probably ask the simple questions that the adventure companies can easily answer. You have to ask the tough questions because more things can go wrong on adventure trips. 2. Things can and will go wrong. That’s the nature of adventure trips. You have to be prepared and the adventure company must have the experience in helping you be prepared. If the adventure company says that nothing has gone wrong on all their trips – walk away. 3. Equipment is important. The places that you want to go will have extremes. Very cold, very hot, very high or very deep. And having the right equipment to handle these extremes is important. The adventure company should be able to recommend not just the right equipment, but they must have used them before. 4. Local knowledge. You will be going to far flung places and off the beaten trail. That’s why it’s called an adventure. This also means that not many people would have been to these places. You need an adventure company who has been to these places before and not just once, but many times. 5. Sustainability tourism. This is about taking care of the environment so that future generations can enjoy the gifts of nature. Responsible adventure companies should have a code of conduct and be involved in programmes that promote sustainability. Ask the adventure company as to what they are doing for the environment, especially for the places where you intend to go. If the adventure company is only profit-oriented, run away.

Once you have settled these 5 things, the rest is easy. Have an awesome 2016 filled with great adventures!


17 January, 2016

The Story of the Good Samaritan A traveller was robbed, beaten up and left for dead on the side of the road. A couple of people passed by the injured traveller but didn’t stop to help. Finally a Samaritan came along and helped the traveller. This Bible story of the good Samaritan is often repeated to emphasize the importance of helping others. In 1973, an experiment on behavior was conducted on a group of university students. These students, who were studying Theology, were told to quickly rush to another building to give a talk on the story of the good Samaritan. On the way to the second building, the experimenters placed an actor who pretended to be injured and in pain. Did any of the students stopped to help? The answer – only 10% of the students stopped to help the “injured” actor. And these students were on the way to give a talk on the good Samaritan. Mountaineers climb because they want to reach the summit. When the desire to climb becomes too intense, mountaineers become obsessed and are overcome by Summit Fever – they want to reach the peak at any cost. Don’t rush.

It is better to travel well than to arrive. – Buddha


19 January, 2016

It’s Not About The Shark Jaws, the 1975 movie directed by Steven Spielberg, is considered to be one of the greatest movie ever made. Of course the movie is about a giant man-eating shark. But the shark doesn’t even appear in the scariest parts of the movie. In fact, the shark doesn’t appear at all until almost at the end of the movie. How did Spielberg make a shark movie without a shark?

“The less you see, the more you get because that invited the audience to come to the movie bringing their collective imaginations, and their imaginations helped me make that film a success.” – Steven Spielberg Jaws


20 January, 2016

Birds of a Feather Are there more English words that start with the letter K or more words with K as their third letter? Which is greater – the number of 6-letter english words with n as the 5th letter or the number of 6-letter english words ending with “ing”? Most people would believe that there are more English words that start with the letter K. They would also believe that there are more 6-letter english words that end with “ing”. Actually the opposite is true in both examples. The human mind creates a reality based on what most easily comes to mind or what it remembers most often. This means that we will only see what we have seen before, and we can’t see the things that we haven’t seen before. We make decisions based on information that’s easily available, rather than think about what we don’t know. How can you overcome this “blindness”? Spend time with people who think differently from you. Birds of a feather shouldn’t flock together.


23 January, 2016

I Do Not Understand What I Do. For What I Want To Do I Do Not Do, But What I Hate I Do Running an ultra marathon race in the Gobi Desert is tough, it’s tiring and you can get lost. So who would want to run over 120km over 4 days in the desert? You’ll be surprised – many people sign up for such races because this is what they want to do. Even more surprising – many people don’t act in the same way with their lives. They do what they hate doing. Worse still, they don’t understand why they are doing it. Confused? Unfortuntately that’s how many of us feel in life. And the answer seems simple – do what you want to do. Very simple indeed but so difficult.


24 January, 2016

What’s Behind the Door? You are a participant in a TV game show, and you are shown three doors. There is a car behind one door, and one goat each in the other two doors. You pick door #1. Before opening all the doors to reveal what you won, the host of the TV show just opens door #2. There is a goat behind door #2. The host of the TV show then turns to you and asks, “do you want to stick with door #1 or switch to door #3?” Would you stick to your original choice or switch? When trekking or climbing mountains, finding a toilet with a door is a luxury. Finding a toilet with no door is normal.


24 January, 2016

Kinabalu Revisited On 1 December 2015, Prasanna Srinivasan, Uantchern Loh, Neo Boon Leong and Sim Benson, started their journey up Mount Kinabalu. They were part of a pioneer team to summit Kinabalu via the Ranau Trail, built after the June 2015 earthquake destroyed the old summit trail.



27 January, 2016

When Is Good Enough, Really Good Enough In an OECD study published last year, Singapore was top in Mathematics and Science scores among 76 countries. In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Singapore has consistently been among the top scoring countries. Something to be proud of. Or not? In parliament today, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, MP Liang Eng Hwa, said, “our education system cannot be narrowly focused on exam-based academic performances. It just stresses out everyone — students, parents and teachers — with very little gain in return besides generating the national exams scores to sort out school postings.” And two days ago, Foreign Affairs Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, said that there is a need to “completely rejig” Singapore’s education system. When is good enough really good enough? In 1979, the English rock band, Pink Floyd, released the song Another Brick in The Wall (Part 2) as a protest song against rigid schooling in the UK. That song went on to be a number one hit in many countries. Have we become a nation of bricks in the wall, and what can we do before we enclose ourselves within four walls? We need wide open spaces.


27 January, 2016

Taking Risks Inan article published in the Straits Times today, the Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health, Mr Chee Hong Tat, said, “Singaporeans, too, need to change their mindsets towards failure, to encourage risk-taking.” He added, “as a society, we must not be intolerant of genuine mistakes and come down too hard on people who try and fail.” We can learn much about risks taking from mountaineers. People seem to think that mountaineers are a bunch of happy-go-lucky folks who go blindly where angels fear to tread. Yes, mountains are by their very nature – dangerous. So is driving or jaywalking. And yet people don’t realise that because mountaineers know that mountains are dangerous, the amount of preparation taken before they climb is tremendous. Days and days of training, getting and testing the right equipment (and not just having a pair of trekking poles), doing acclimatization climbs, and lots and lots of planning. And even on the day of the summit climb, mountaineers know to never second-guess the weather and Mother Nature. If the weather looks bad or the conditions doesn’t seem right – turn around. Go down and climb another day. The mountain will still be there.

Yes we should take risks, because without risks, there will be no glory. And there is glory in not reaching the summit because you can survive to climb another day.


29 January, 2016

1st Basecamp.Cafe Meet Up 好的开始,是成功的一半 There is a Chinese saying that says 好的开始,是成功的一半, which translated means anything that starts well would have achieved half the success. The English version of this saying is “well begun is half done”. After weeks of planning and support from lots of Basecamp.Cafe fans and friends, we had our first meet up last night at Campers’ Corner. It was a great turnout, meeting old friends from past climbs, making new friends and most important of all, being able to share the spirit of Basecamp.Cafe through an adventure. An earthquake destroyed the old Kinabalu summit trail that many of us have climbed before. Lives were lost, the mountain guides lost their jobs and people became fearful of climbing mountains. Even when the new Ranau Trail was built, there were concerns whether it was safe again. Will another earthquake happen? Life can be like that. Something bad happens and a job is lost, a relationship broken or a business fails. But the view at the top will always be spectacular no matter what. And that’s what should motivate us to climb again even when disaster strikes. The sun always rises no matter what, and the view of the sunrise at the peak of Mount Kinabalu is a sight to behold. See you at the top! “Using adventures as a theme, Basecamp.Cafe is a platform where adventurers, entrepreneurs, students and anyone can meet up to talk about their dreams and share their stories. Basecamp.Cafe brings people together – whether it’s mountain climbing, starting a new business, embarking on a career or rebuilding their lives after failures.”


31 January, 2016

Why Do You Work? Many work-related surveys often ask employees if they think they will perform better if they feel more valued, focused and purposeful. Not surprisingly, the answer is almost always “yes”. But employees continue to be disengaged from work. In a 2013 report by Gallup, only 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work. Around the world, across 142 countries, the proportion of employees who feel engaged at work is just 13 percent. Recruitment firm Randstad’s survey of 5,670 Singapore workers in 2014 found that nearly half do not like their jobs, while three-quarters see their job as nothing more than a way to put food on the table. The 2014 National Workplace Happiness Survey found that the Overall Workplace Happiness Index in Singapore was 59, which falls into the “Under Happy” band (51-67). The other bands are “Unhappy” (0-50) and “Happy” (68-100). Perhaps we can learn about work happiness and purpose from mountaineers. When asked why they climb, many mountaineers would simply say, “because it’s there.” Why do you work?

“There were many, many fine reasons not to go, but attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act – a triumph of desire over sensibility. Any person who would seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument.” – Jon Krakauer, Author of Into Thin Air


1 February, 2016

Hitting the Target The first month of 2016 has come and gone, and February is aleady upon us. Have you had a peek at the resolutions that you made for 2016, and perhaps think that you are still far from achieving your targets? Or maybe you haven’t even started on them yet! Resolution targets. KPIs targets. Sales targets. We are so focused on trying to hit our targets that we miss the big picture. We can learn from the Bhutanese and their focus on happiness. Be happy with what you do, instead of being happy only when you have achieved what you have done.

“The arrow of the accomplished master will not be seen when it is released; only when it hits the target.” – Bhutanese Proverb


4 February, 2016

Work-Life Balance The results released in 2015 from the Survey on Social Attitudes of Singaporeans showed that more Singaporeans were unhappy with their work-life balance. Another survey indicated that 57% of Singaporean workers said they would give up a chance to earn higher pay for a better worklife balance. Seriously? Really? Our paper chase in schools, our chase to achieve targets at work, our chase for materialistic things – these have made us unbalanced. It is easy to say that we want work-life balance, but it is not so easy to let go. Earn less and don’t go for that nice holiday? Don’t worry about grades and not have a degree? We can’t let go. Perhaps balance can be found when we are happy with what we do, instead of being happy only with what we have achieved. And let’s not forget that there are still many who may not have a choice. For them, they have to work in order to have a life.

“Work-life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation). This is related to the idea of lifestyle choice.” – Wikipedia


6 February, 2016

When You Can’t See Where You Are Going Because of the altitude, mountains make their own weather. It’s not easy to forecast the weather on mountains. Unexpected thunderstorms, clouds moving in unexpectedly, snow, hailstones and the list goes on. The forecast for the economy in 2016 seems to be cloudy, with possible thunderstorms and limited visibility. We can’t always see where we are going in life. We don’t know if the dots will all join up. But the summit is always there no matter what. It’s just sometimes hidden from us. Climbers always prepare for bad weather, no matter what the forecasts.


7 February, 2016

Journey to the West I The Mogao Caves, also known as the Caves of a Thousand Buddhas, were built in the early first century. Over one thousand caves were built over one thousand years. Sculptures were carved out of the cave walls, then covered with clay and painted, together with intricate murals, among which are many masterpieces of Chinese art. Xuanzang, the legendary Buddhist monk whose 17-year journey to India inspired the novel Journey to the West, would have passed by the Mogao Caves. Besides Xuanzang’s amazing journey, there are countless others which are just as epic. Gandhi walked for 23 days over 390km in his famous salt march. Apollo 11, on man’s first lunar mission, travelled almost 400,000km to land on the moon. Zheng He, in his seven epic voyages, sailed thousands of kilometres to reach distant lands. All journeys start with the proverbial first step. Embarking on a career, recovering from failure, finding your purpose in life – it all starts with a single step, which is always the toughest part of the journey. The rest is easier. Your first step will make your journey epic. I wish all Basecamp.Cafe readers an abundance of blessings on your journeys in the Year of the Monkey.


8 February, 2016

Journey to the West II Gold was discovered on 24 January 1848 in California. Prior to this entirely random event, the population of San Francisco at that time was about 1,000 people. The random discovery of gold led to many people journeying to the west, one of which was Leland Stanford who made his fortune from the gold rush. Unfortunately, Stanford’s son died from an illness while on holiday in Italy. In memory of his son, Stanford built a university. William Hewlett and David Packard were Electrical Engineering students at Stanford University, and with encouragement from their professor, started their own company after they graduated. A random event. Hewlett-Packard’s first large order was from Walt Disney for audio testing equipment to test the sound quality from Fantasia, an animated movie with classical music. This random event led to the success of Hewlett-Packard. That led to the the creation of Silicon Valley. San Francisco and the surrounding area is now the 5th populous city in the US, with close to 9 million people. And it all started with a random event in 1848 and a Journey to the West. The wide open spaces in California allowed all the random events to mix into a successful recipe for innovation. We need space in order to think out of the box. Go on a long trek or climb a mountain. It will open your minds.


9 February, 2016

Go Fever – Journey to the Moon The moon has been associated with countless legends, stories and festivals. This month, we celebrate the rising of the new moon by ushering in the year of the fire monkey. Of course the monkey Sun Wukong, together with his travelling compatriots Zhu Bajie, Sha Wujing and Xuanzang, were characters in the classic legend Journey to the West. Zhu Bajie (Pig) himself was associated with the moon – when he was an immortal, he flirted with the moon goddess Chang’e and was banished to the mortal world. Chang’e is also the name of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. And we all know about Apollo, the American lunar exploration program, named after the Greek Sun God. The first mission of the Apollo program was never launched. On 27 January 1967, a fire erupted in the Apollo 1 spaceship during a test on the launch pad, killing all 3 astronauts on board. The term “Go Fever” was coined after the Apollo 1 fire, and has been used in subsequent disasters including the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia disasters. Go Fever has been described as an “overall attitude of being in a rush or hurry to get a project or task done while overlooking potential problems or mistakes.” Closely linked to the concept of groupthink, “Go Fever” occurs because no one wants to be the one who says no. So its always “go”. And that’s when things start going wrong. Just like Summit Fever for mountaineers, Go Fever is contagious and can be fatal. Enjoy the journey and don’t just look forward to arriving at the destination.


12 February, 2016

Journey to the Point of No Return 破釜沉舟 General Xiang Yu crossed the Yangtze River with an army of 20,000 Chu soldiers to take on the formidable 300,000 strong Qin army. After crossing the river, the General ordered his men to burn and sink all the ships, leaving behind just 3 days worth of food and supplies. The Chu soldiers had two choices facing them – fight or die. Retreat wasn’t an option. Despite having superior numbers, the Qin army eventually lost to the Chu forces. Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to speak with a few hundred final year Diploma in Accounting students at the local polytechnics. I was sharing with them the details of the Advanced Diploma in Accountancy, a new SkillsFuture pathway created for these students. Understandably, many of the students were skeptical about the new pathway. Some of the remarks overheard, “we want to go to a unversity after we get our diploma. Our parents want us to get a university degree so that we have more choices. A degree is a good backup, just in case. We want to keep our options open.” We need to learn to close doors. Having as many options as possible leads to failure. Life is not just about what to pursue. It’s just as much about what NOT to pursue. It’s tempting to have many doors but most will lead to nowhere. Learn to sink your ships.


15 February, 2016

No One Who Can Rise Before Dawn 360 Days A Year Fails To Make His Family Rich In the book “Outliers”, the author, Malcolm Gladwell, claims that the key to achieving mastery in any field is to practice for at least 10,000 hours. At 40 hours a week over 50 weeks a year, 10,000 hours would roughly translate to 5 years of practice. It has taken years of discussions, planning and disciplined execution to develop Singapore’s National Professional Accountancy Qualification Programme. To be precise, the journey started in December 2008 and culminated in the first batch of candidates who passed the entire programme on 12 February 2016. Just over 7 years of effort to arrive at the basecamp of the accountancy summit – to be the global accountancy hub. 年到头都在天还没亮的时候起床的人肯定能让家人过上好日子.


17 February, 2016

What Do People Really Want? Po Bronson, the author of the bestseller book “What Should I Do with My Life?” posed this question – What do people really want? And his answer – “They want to find work they’re passionate about. Offering benefits and incentives are mere compromises. Educating people is important but not enough – far too many of our most educated people are operating at quarter-speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing too little to the productive engine of modern civilization, still feeling like observers, like they haven’t come close to living up to their potential.” So how do we find work that we are passionate about? Here’s how: 1. Dare to be honest with yourself. Spend time (a lot of time) asking yourself what you are capable of, what you can really do, what you are willing to do. Don’t waste time trying a job and then “see how it goes” for a couple of years, and finally quitting (an inevitable outcome) when you don’t find a fit. Invest time in yourself upfront. 2. Dare to dream and don’t stop dreaming. It takes time for things to happen and you need to let randomness happen. But don’t dream of perfect fairy tale endings. They are not called fairy tales for nothing. Instead, ask yourself what is good enough. Fulfilment is more important than perfection. 3. Dare to face hard times. It is through tough situations and making mistakes that we build resilience. When our backs are against the wall and we run out of options, that’s when things become clearer. That’s when we know the right things to do.


20 February, 2016

It’s Just 5 More Minutes to the Peak! The summit height of Mount Kinabalu is at 4,096m. In order to reach the summit, you must first arrive at the halfway point. And in order to reach the halfway point, you must arrive halfway to the halfway point – which is the onequarter way point. You get the point (no pun intended) – in order to reach the summit of mount kinabalu, you need to reach the halfway point of a halfway point of a halfway point and on and on and on. You have to reach an infinite number of halfway points to cover a finite distance, which means that you will never reach the summit. So why bother starting. This is the dichotomy paradox, first described by Zeno, a Greek philosopher, “that which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal.” Of course common sense, and calculus and modern Mathematics, tells us that Zeno’s paradox is incorrect. But what’s wrong with Zeno’s logic, which is still being debated among philosophers today? Climbing mountains requires a certain level of physical fitness. It also requires a high level of mental fitness. Mountaineers always tell themselves, “it’s just 5 more minutes,” and when the 5 minutes are up, it’s another 5 more minutes, again and again until they reach the summit. It’s when your legs give up on you, your mind tells you to keep going. Just another 5 more minutes. Don’t give up on your dreams and what you want to achieve. It’s just 5 more minutes away.


24 February, 2016

Waiting for the “Aha!” Moment The “aha!” moment is a “moment of sudden and great revelation or realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension”. We wait in anticipation for the “aha!” moments or epiphanies in our search for a purpose in life, a dream job or a perfect partner. In the book “What Should I Do with My Life?”, the author Po Bronson shares inspirational true stories of people who have found their answers to that difficult question. He wrote that: “Many people have this notion, or maybe it’s a hope, that their calling will just come to them one day, as an epiphany, and it’ll be clear. We wait for that clarity. When our notions are muddled or vague, we often don’t pursue them, assuming the lack of clarity is a sign it’s not our true course. If we really wanted to do a certain thing, the feeling would be strong, right?” Should we wait for the “aha!” moment to tell us what is our calling, our purpose in life, or what makes us happy? Po Bronson gives us the answer – “Probably not. For most people I talked to, very little was clear when they began their journey. It had to unravel, slowly, over time.” “Do not wait for the clarity that comes with epiphanies. In the nine hundred plus stories I heard in my research, almost nobody was struck with an epiphany. It was one of my biggest surprises. Most people had a slim notion or a slight urge that they slowly nurtured until it grew into a faint hope which barely stayed alive for years until it could mature into a vision.” “I now tell people not to wait for epiphanies. They’re great if you get one, but so often they tell you something you already know in your heart. Never underestimate our ability to ignore the obvious. So often, that’s what keeps us from clarity – not a lack of desire.” There are no epiphanies when you climb mountains. It takes hours of training, endurance and often failures in order to finally reach the summit. There is no “aha!” moment when you stand on the peak.


26 January, 2016

What If Someone Offered You A Pill That Would Make You Permanently Happy? The Gobi Desert measures over 1,600 km by 800 km and occupies 1,295,000 square km. It is the fifth largest desert in the world and Asia’s largest. There are no discernible landmarks in the desert to guide you. The Gobi Desert is not sandy and is mostly exposed bare rock. Everything looks the same as far as the eyes can see. Without a compass, it is easy to get lost in such a large desert. A compass tells you where to go. Similarly, our emotions guide us where to go in order to discover our purpose in life. We can’t be happy all the time, we would be lost if we were so.

“If someone offered you a pill that would make you permanently happy, you would be well advised to run fast and run far. Emotion is a compass that tells us what to do, and a compass that perpetually stuck on north is worthless.” – Daniel M. Gilbert,

Author of Stumbling on Happiness


28 February, 2016

In Pursuit of Happiness: You Have to Keep Running Just to Stay in the Same Place Would winning the million dollar Toto first prize make you the happiest person forever? Daniel Gilbert, a professor in Harvard’s Department of Psychology, thinks that the answer is no. In his study of lottery winners, Prof Gilbert found that the happiness effect didn’t last. That’s because when it comes to predicting how happy you will be, you are most likely wrong. This is due to a behavior called “affective forecasting” – our inability to correctly predict our own emotions. When we get rich due to lotteries or career promotions, our expectations and desires rise in tandem. This results in no permanent gain in happiness as we end up where we started. This related behavior is called the “hedonic treadmill”. If affective forecasting and the hedonic treadmill makes the pursuit of happiness close to impossible, how then can we ever be happy?

“We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” – Daniel M. Gilbert,

Author of Stumbling on Happiness


28 February, 2016

In Pursuit of Happiness: We Fear Loss More Than We Value Gain People prefer avoiding losses to making gains. This behavior is known as loss aversion. Studies have shown that losing $100 costs you twice the amount of happiness than the happiness you would feel if you won $100 in a lottery – the fear of losing $100 motivates people more than the prospect of gaining $100. Mountain climbers don’t seem to be affected by loss aversion. In fact, they are attracted to the risks of climbing dangerous peaks.

“There is probably no pleasure equal to the pleasure of climbing a dangerous Alp; but it is a pleasure which is confined strictly to people who can find pleasure in it.” –A Tramp Abroad

A travel literature by author Mark Twain, published in 1880.


29 February, 2016

Mountain Climbing Is Extended Periods of Intense Boredom, Interrupted By... Approximately once every 4 years, one day is added to the month of February. With that we have 29 days in February and 366 days in that year. How did the leap year come about? It’s a complicated affair but the net effect is that birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates that fall on 29 February can only be celebrated once every 4 years. 4 years seem to be a long time to wait for an important date to come around. When climbing a mountain for the first time, a commonly asked question is – when is the best time to climb? Beginners always can’t wait to get to the summit and see the spectacular views. Obviously the answer is not once every 4 years. When to climb? It depends on the weather, whether you’ve had enough training, and whether you realise that “mountain climbing is extended periods of intense boredom, interrupted by occasional moments of sheer terror”.


29 February, 2016

What Is the Most Important Thing on the Mountain? When Sir Edmund Hillary was climbing up Mount Everest enroute to be the first man to summit the highest mountain in the world, he was carrying at least 20kg of equipment. He was wearing bulky clothes and his ice axe had a heavy wooden handle. Although his boots and crampons were probably considered light for their day, they weighed a ton when compared to modern boots. As you browse through the “where to find stuff” section, you will be amazed at how technology and modern manufacturing techniques have made climbing equipment stronger, lighter and better. Does this mean that modern climbers have lighter loads when compared to Sir Edmund Hillary? Probably not as they can’t do without their iPhones, iPads, Androids and battery packs, and the miles of USB charging cables and adaptors. And don’t forget the selfie stick. Sir Edmund Hillary would have rolled his eyes if he can see this photo.


7 March, 2016

What’s the Purpose of Basecamp.Cafe?

What’s the purpose of life? This profound question has kept us awake for centuries. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher believed that happiness is the central purpose of human life. The Dalai Lama has the same belief – “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, felt that you won’t know your purpose in life until you find it – “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Perhaps Steve Jobs had divine guidance from Buddha, who said, “your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.” And in between Aristotle, the Dalai Lama, Steve Jobs and Buddha, we have many other luminaries who have their diverse views on what’s the purpose of life.


And what’s the purpose of Basecamp.Cafe? The purpose of Basecamp.Cafe is to help people find their purposes in life. It’s really that simple. It’s a movement, it’s a platform and it’s a place where you can hopefully join your dots and find your purpose in life. I created Basecamp.Cafe as a place where people from all walks of life can come together and find themselves. Why use adventures as a theme? Well, I haven’t come across anyone who isn’t excited, amazed and motivated by adventurers. We watch movies of adventurers, we listen to their stories, and although we may never go on these adventures ourselves, the images and the sounds stay with us forever. And through these I hope to be able to inspire people to find their own purposes in life. How do people come together at Basecamp.Cafe? Since it’s very costly to setup a real cafe, for now Basecamp.Cafe is a website where I share stories through my blogs. I hope that these stories, perhaps written randomly at times, can help people find their purposes in life. We have regular meetups where we feature speakers, using adventures as a theme, talk on topics that can inspire, motivate and bring hope to people who have failed. We depend on supporters of Basecamp.Cafe to provide their premises for these meetups. Will Basecamp.Cafe ever have a physical location? Of course. That’s my dream. It’s to setup a real cafe to bring people together, whether it’s mountain climbing, starting a new business, embarking on a career or rebuilding their lives after failures. Basecamp.Cafe is virtual for now but one day, we will have hundreds of Basecamp.Cafe locations all over the world, helping people everywhere to find their purposes in life. And always using adventures to lift people’s spirits. Join me at Basecamp.Cafe and find your purpose in life.

“Being successful and fulfilling your lifes purpose are not at all the same thing; you can reach all your personal goals, become a raving success by the worlds standard and still miss your purpose in this life.” – Rick Warren

The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?


9 March, 2016

Panalaban Base Camp @ Mount Kinabalu The starting point for climbing Mount Kinabalu is at Timpohon Gate, at an altitude of 1,866 metres. From here, climbers will trek a distance of 6.5km over 3-6 hours to reach the Panalaban Base Camp (Laban Rata is the old name) at 3,270m. There’s a variety of accomodation at Panalaban Base Camp such as the Laban Rata Resthouse, Pendant Hut, Gunting Lagadan Hut, Waras Hut and Lemaing Hut. Although there’s no WiFi at Panalaban Base Camp, mobile reception for voice and data is generally at acceptable levels. This is the “best part” of the Mount Kinabalu climb because you will be asking yourself – why? Why wake up at 1am and it’s freezing cold? Why climb at 3am in the dark, and it’s still freezing cold? Why after 3 hours of climbing you haven’t reached the summit yet? And it’s starting to rain! Why, why why? The answer can be found when you reach the peak of Mount Kinabalu at 7am and you watch the awesome sunrise. At that moment, you stop asking why, and you ask when. When will you go back and climb Mount Kinabalu again.


“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” – John Muir,

The Mountains of California


15 March, 2016

Barrels Huts Base Camp @ Mount Elbrus There are 9 barrels at the Barrels Huts Base Camp, each sleeping 6 climbers. Barrel #3 was home for several days as we completed our last few acclimatization climbs before attempting to reach the summit of Mount Elbrus. Electricity from the power generator is only available for two hours every night. You can imagine the device-laden Singaporeans all rushing to charge their devices, all ready to take selfies the next day!

Meals are taken in the mess/ kitchen next to the barrels. This is where stories are told, adventures exchanged, failed climbs remembered and friendships made. More time is spent at the base camp than at the the summit, and more memories.


And when the weather turns bad, the base camp is a safe place where we can plan our next moves. It’s also a time when we have to think about turning around and come back another day to conquer the summit. There’s no certainty in climbing – sometimes you reach the peak, sometimes you don’t. Just like life.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” – John Muir


15 March, 2016

Sembalun Crater Rim Base Camp @ Mount Rinjani Even though Mount Rinjani is shorter than Mount Kinabalu, there is a reason why the nickname for Mount Rinjani is Mount Regret. The starting point for the Rinjani climb is at the Sembalun Village at 1,150m. It takes about 8 hours to reach the Sembalun Crater Rim Base Camp at 2639m. During the 8 hours, you will encounter the dreaded “Seven Hills of Regret� before reaching the Sembalun Crater Rim Base Camp. Many climbers regret making the decision to climb Mount Rinjani when they encounter the Seven Hills. But once you conquer the Seven Hills of Regret, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view at the Crater Rim Base Camp.


Unlike the Panalaban Base Camp @ Mount Kinabalu, accomodation at the Sembalun Crater Rim Base Camp comprises of tents. And ladies, toilet is a hole in the ground. Don’t worry, your modesty is protected by a flimsy curtain tent that threatens to blow away in the strong winds at the crater rim. What fun! You will wake up at 2am and have breakfast in your tents while its freezing cold outside. The summit climb starts at 3am, and once again, you will ask why, why, why? You will get the answer when you reach the peak of Rinjani, a live volcano, overlooking the crater lake at sunrise.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” – John Muir


16 March, 2016

Base Camp @ Gobi Desert Pitching your tent after running the whole day in the Gobi Desert is more challenging than the run itself. You are totally exhausted from the heat, but if your tent isn’t put up by sundown, the freezing temperature will make you even more miserable. This is the paradox of the desert – extreme temperatures. After thinking about nothing but water the whole day, food is the last thing on your mind in the desert. But you must eat in order to recover and be well enough to run the next day. And of course, you will need to do your “business” in the open air toilet. It’s an amazing feeling to squat under the vast open sky of the Gobi Desert. Simply unforgettable. When the sun has set and the temperature falls close to zero, that’s when you sit alone in your tent and you survey the damage. An unbelievable number of blisters on your feet, blackened toenails that will fall off soon and sand in your shoes, running pack, water pouch – everywhere. It’s during times like this, when you are at base camp, that you wonder what’s your purpose in life. And you also wonder why someone would want to run in the Gobi Desert and lose all his toenails. Life is full of mysteries!

“The world’s big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” – John Muir


21 March, 2016

The Fault with Default: Losing Our Purpose In a study of work behavior, researchers found that employees who used Firefox or Chrome to browse the Internet stayed 15% longer in their jobs than those who used Internet Explorer or Safari. The same study also indicated that Firefox and Chrome users were 19% less likely to miss work than those who used Internet Explorer and Safari. On these and other metrics, Firefox and Chrome users were more committed in their work and better performers. Why the difference in performance? The answer lies in how the users obtained the browers that they were using. The Internet Explorer and Safari browsers are default browsers in Windows and Apple computers respectively. In order to use a non-default browser like Firefox or Chrome, users would have to take the initiative and make some efforts to download these browsers. Users who didn’t accept the default browsers approached their jobs differently. They changed the things that made them unhappy. They questioned the status quo. In a recent feedback session, a group of young people commented that Singapore’s education system was too competitive and stifled their sense of purpose. As a result, they had no idea who they were and what’s their purpose in life. Can our sense of purpose be found by not clicking on the default? Climbers accept defaults because they are safe, but will quickly adapt as weather conditions changes.

“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.” – John Muir


21 March, 2016

Bumdra Monastery Base Camp @ Bhutan The happiest country in the world. What else is there to say?

“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain-passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.” – John Muir


27 March, 2016

Dream to Be Daring, and Don’t Stop Daring to Dream Remember the dreams you had when you were young? The dreams of being daring astronauts, mountaineers and adventurers. We dream to be daring. And then we grow up. Studies, getting married, having our own young ones, careers, professional qualifications and material things take centre stage. We become pragmatic and many of us forget our idealistic dreams. Perhaps some of us still hold on to those dreams, and maybe after we have become financially independent, after we retire, we can still make those dreams of daring adventures come true. But for some, those dreams won’t ever come true. Many children are born with, or develop life-limiting conditions. This means that they have illnesses with no reasonable hope of cure that will ultimately be fatal. The dreams of their parents also vanish – learning that your child has a lifelimiting condition can be devastating. Special palliative care is needed when their physical, emotional, social and educational needs change as they grow up with slowly regressing illnesses. Mountaineers spend time at base camp planning to reach the summits of their dreams. Children with life-limiting conditions may never reach the summits of their dreams, but they can dare to dream of summits. Together with organisations like Star PALS, we can help children with lifelimiting conditions believe that they are at base camp and dare to dream with them. What’s your purpose in life?

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary The first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest


28 March, 2016

Where Is Your Base Camp? It’s known as Sagarmāthā (brow of the sky) in Nepal. It’s Chomolungma (Goddess Mother of the Earth) in Tibet. For many it’s known as Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Straddling the border of Nepal and Tibet, Everest is 8,848 metres above sea level. For some, reaching the summit of Everest is their purpose in life. Since 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary became the first man to reach the summit of Everest, over 4,000 people have achieved the same feat. It takes about two months to climb Mount Everest, from the time you leave home and arrive safely back. You start with a 5 hour flight from Singapore to Kathmandu. From Kathmandu, it takes about a week to get to the Everest base camp. Once you are at base camp, you spend four weeks doing acclimatization climbs up and down Everest. The final summit push takes one week. Given its challenges, climbing Mount Everest is obviously not everyone’s cup of tea. But once you have decided to climb Everest, the physical and mental preparation and endurance, and the financial and emotional commitment is tremendous. Even though many Everest climbers may not reach the summit, just getting to base camp is an extraordinary achievement. Have you have figured out what your summit in life is? Once you have, then you will know where is your base camp and how to get there. And that’s extraordinary.


“The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ And my answer must at once be, ‘it is no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. “What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.” – George Leigh Mallory,

English mountaineer who may have been the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1924.


31 March, 2016

To Pee or Not to Pee – That Is the Question Mountaineers and adventurers are constantly faced with making difficult decisions – when to attempt the final climb to the peak, where to pitch tents for the night, what equipment is needed to descent safely from the summit, and so on. Perhaps the most difficult decision to make is whether to pee or not to pee. There are many factors to consider when faced with this life-threatening decision, including: • There are no toilets in sight and you think you can hold it; • There are no toilets in sight, but it’s too difficult to take off all the clothes and equipment in order to do it, and you think you can hold it; • There are no toilets in sight, and modesty dictates that you hold it, even though you don’t think you can hold it; and • There is a toilet nearby but the condition is so bad that you would rather hold it. My advice – you won’t be able to hold it for long, so just do it.

“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” – William Blake, English Poet


3 April, 2016

Day 1: Expectations


Over the next 20 days, I will be trekking to the Everest Base Camp and climbing Imja Tse. Day 1:

Day 2: Day 3: Day 4: Day 5: Day 6: Day 7: Day 8: Day 9: Day 10: Day 11: Day 12: Day 13: Day 14: Day 15: Day 16: Day 17: Day 18: Day 19: Day 20:

Singapore-Kathmandu It’s a 5 hour flight from Singapore to Kathmandu. What does the view look like when landing at the Tribhuvan International Airport? Staying one night in Kathmandu at Hotel Shakti. Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakding Trek to Namche Namche - Acclimatization day Namche - Khumjung Khumjung - Phortse Phortse - Dingboche Dingboche Dingboche - Loboche Lobuche – Gorak Shep - Everest Base Camp Gorak Shep - Kala Pattar - Loboche Loboche - Chhukung Chhukung to Imja Tse (Island Peak) base camp Imja Tse base camp Imja Tse base camp - Imja Tse Summit Imja Tse base camp - Pangboche Pangboche - Namche Namche - Lukla Lukla - Kathmandu Kathmandu - Singapore

“If you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is keep on walking.” – Buddhist saying


4 April, 2016

Day 2: Disappointment

Kathmandu-Lukla-Phakding Day 2 was supposed to begin with a short 30 minutes flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, the starting point of the Everest Base Camp Trek. Lukla Airport has a very short airstrip and has been called the most dangerous airport in the world. Weather conditions in the mountains change very rapidly, with fierce winds and poor visibility. This is the cause of frequent deadly accidents at Lukla Airport. We had a taste of mountain weather today. All flights to Lukla were cancelled or turned back. We had to go back to the hotel and try again tomorrow. Were we disappointed? Of course. But we still have tomorrow, and the day after, or even next year. We can always come back to Nepal. For children with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions, they won’t see the end of their journey. Tomorrow may never come. For them, it’s not about disappointment. It’s about making the best with what they have. Don’t be disappointed. Be happy.

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an everlengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” – Sir Winston Churchill


4 April, 2016

Day 3: Hope

Kathmandu-Lukla-Phakding From disappointment, hope springs eternal. We managed to get a chartered flight from Kathmandu to Lukla leaving at 7am. We woke up at 430am to catch the flight, well knowing that so many things could still go wrong. Even with a chartered flight, bad weather would still prevail. The bus to the airport could break down or be caught in a traffic jam. Our duffel bags may not get loaded on the plane. The plane could suffer mechanical failure and not be able to take off. And even if the plane did take off, we are landing in the world’s most dangerous airport. But we landed safely in Lukla and trekked to Phakding where we stayed the night. The parents and families of children with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions live with uncertainties. They also live with hope. You can help.

When the world says, “Give up!” Hope whispers,

“Try it one more time.”


7 April, 2016

Day 4: Choices

Phakding-Namche On the trek from Phakding to Namche, you have to cross several suspension bridges hanging over the Dudh Kosi River. You will come across the “dual” suspension bridges, and make a choice of crossing over the higher or lower bridge. Of course we took the higher one.

There are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy. And its only reward is that it’s easy.


7 April, 2016

Day 5: Children


A rose can say “I love you”, orchids can enthral, but a weed bouquet in a chubby fist, yes, that says it all. – Author Unknown


22 April, 2016

Day 1-20: Know Yourself

Everest Base Camp

The single biggest lesson that you can learn in going to the Everest Base Camp is knowing yourself.


10 May, 2016

Choosing The Right Path Is Never Easy The movie Everest (2015) is based on real events that occurred 20 years ago on 10-11 May 1996. Those events, known as the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, revolved around the attempts by two expedition teams to reach the summit of Mount Everest, one led by Rob Hall and the other by Scott Fischer. Eight people died in that disaster, and one of the survivors, Jon Krakauer, wrote a book “Into Thin Air” detailing his experience. Jon Krakauer wrote in his book that: “Mountaineering tends to draw men and women not easily deflected from their goals.” “This forms the nub of a dilemma that every Everest climber eventually comes up against: in order to succeed you must be exceedingly driven, but if you’re too driven you’re likely to die. Above 26,000 feet (8,000 metres), moreover, the line between appropriate zeal and reckless summit fever becomes grievously thin. Thus the slopes of Everest are littered with corpses.” Summit Fever is a state of mind in which a person fails to notice dangerous conditions in a single-minded attempt to reach the summit. We won’t achieve all our goals all the time. In life, failure happens and accepting failures is important for future successes. The cure for Summit Fever is to make sure that we have our base camps in life. This could be your family, friends, religion, a hobby, a social club, a book – anything. Your base camp in life is something that helps you to recover when failure occurs, somewhere you can feel safe and comforted, someone who inspires you, a place where you can dream. We spend too much time trying to climb the corporate ladder and during those times when we fall, we don’t have a base camp to catch us.

“Choosing the right path is never easy. It’s a decision we make with only our hearts to guide us.”


11 May, 2016

6 Useful Quotes About Base Camps In Life We all love to read quotes about success to inspire us to keep pushing forward and achieve our dreams. The interesting thing about success quotes is that many of them talk about failure. It’s like a standard format – success will come if we endure failure. Quotes on failure, just as interesting, talk about success – failure will result in success if we are persistent. What is missing are quotes about base camps in life — a place where you prepare and plan for success, a place where you recover when you encounter failure. Here are 6 useful quotes about base camps in life:

“A base camp is a place where you can be who you are.”

“It brings a smile to “You know your face. That’s someone is your base camp.” your base camp when you can laugh about your failures together.”

“Your base camp “If you can spend is something that hours and days you believe in.” and months on it, then it’s your base camp.”

“Your base camp is where you have your best dreams.”


12 June, 2016

Learning From Failure Imja Tse, also known as Island Peak, is located in the Himalayas of eastern Nepal. Towering at 6,189m, Imja Tse would be the highest mountain that I have attempted so far. Mount Elbrus, which I summited last year, peaks at 5,642m. on a cold morning in April 2016, I set off for Imja Tse at 2am. The climb to the summit of Imja Tse starts from base camp at around 5,000m. For the first 6 hours, we climbed up steep rocky paths in the dark, guided by the dim lights of our head torchlights. We had no idea how steep it was until when we were coming down many hours later. When we reached the snow line, we put on our snow boots and crampons and were immediately faced with steep blue ice cliffs and crevasses. I was climbing up a blue ice cliff when the rope I was holding came loose. And looking back, I didn’t know why I wasn’t hooked on to a safely line. And of course I fell. Everything happened in slow motion as I fell past the climbers below me. It was a miracle that I had my ice axe in my hand as I fell. As I hurtled towards the bottom of the cliff with an inevitable ending, I arched my arm and whacked the ice axe into the hard ice. And it held and I stopped falling. I was surprisingly calm as I hung there while the guide came towards me and asked me if I was ok.


With a near death experience behind me, I continued on towards the summit of Imja Tse. By then, I was exhausted but still intent on reaching the peak. Summit Fever had gripped me until I was just 200m from the peak when my lungs gave up on me. The peak of Imja Tse was within sight and I could see the climbers ahead of me who were almost there. And I was almost there too. But almost there is still not there and I was falling behind with every passing minute. I knew that if I pushed hard, notwithstanding my lungs, I can stand on the summit in just two more hours. And I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to come back down alive, having expended all my energy to reach the top. This is the moment that climbers call the summit dilemma – would you want to attempt to reach the peak but risk never coming down? Do you give up on all those hours of training and costs incurred getting to this point of being so close, and yet so far. I looked at Imja Tse and I said, “see you at the top another day” and I turned around. On the way down back to base camp, and even now and everyday, the thoughts of “should I have pushed on?” still swirl in my head. But I know I have made the right decision because I am still alive to climb the next peak.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”


5 July, 2016

You Can’t Connect The Dots Looking Forward The history of the world is filled with explorers and the epic journeys that they took. Often these expeditions took years of determined wandering into uncharted territories fraught with danger and unknown risks. All journeys start with the proverbial first step, which is always the toughest part of any journey. Taking the first step involves leadership with the vision to venture into the vast unknown. Zheng He, the legendary admiral of the Ming Dynasty, sailed thousands of kilometres in his seven voyages to reach as far west as Africa. Each of the seven voyages involved thousands of soldiers and hundreds of ships, some of which were reputed to be far larger than any other wooden ships in history. Difficult journeys also require knowledge of the paths to take. The mission to land a man on the moon, known as the Apollo programme, involved years of planning, employed hundreds of thousands of people and gave rise to many new inventions that benefited mankind. The lost of the lives of three astronauts early in the programme resulted in wisdom to learn from experience. The novel Journey to the West (西游记) was inspired by the pilgrimage of Xuanzang, the Buddhist monk who went on a 17-year journey to India in search of the original Buddhist scriptures to bring back to China. Crossing the vast Gobi Desert alone to reach India, Xuanzang faced countless encounters with fierce bandits and extreme weather. Written almost a century after Xuanzang’s epic pilgrimage, Journey to the West gave us memorable


characters such as Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing. It also taught us to draw Strength from friends and alliances and the perseverance to recover from hardship and failures. The journey for Singapore to be the leading global accountancy hub started in late 2008, and we are the first country to embark on such a journey. Although in the last 8 years we haven’t encountered the same extremes as faced by Zheng He, the Apollo programme and Xuanzang, the challenges we faced have still been immense. Since the beginning of our journey, the Singapore Accountancy Commission has been guided by Leadership, Knowledge, Wisdom, Strength and Perseverance. The accountancy sector in Singapore has rallied behind us on this journey, and for that I would like to express my gratitude to everyone. It has been an incredible journey for me. It is also by no coincidence that the SAC’s logo looks like the Chinese character for jǐng or well. The idiom 临渴掘井 (lín kě jué jǐng) exhorts us to dig a well before we become thirsty. Together with the accountancy sector, the SAC has built deep wells that will provide us with water for years to come.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.” – Steve Jobs


6 July, 2016

Be Like Water Water is an amazing thing. It covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, and is vital for life as we know it. 60% of the human body is made up of water, and you will die from thirst first before you die from lack of food. Water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius and when that happens, life stops. There’s no doubt that water is life. And life is like water. It’s forever changing and evolving. We adjust to successes and we are shaped by our failures. Life will come to an end when we freeze up, like when we become fixated on goals and targets. We freeze up when we believe that only the summit matters. We freeze up when we think that only the top of the career ladder matters. We freeze up when we think that there’s only one measure of success, and that failure is the end of the world. Failures help us with the flow, guiding us to our purpose in life. Failures give life a meaning. be like water.

“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee


20 July, 2016

How Many Men Have Walked On The Moon? At 10:56 p.m, on 20 July 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong said the famous words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” before becoming the first human to walk on the surface of the moon. Since then, 11 other men (no women) have walked on the moon. A total of 12 men out of Earth’s population of billions of people. Thousands of people have aspired and dreamed about going to the moon. And only 12 people have made it. What happened to those who wanted to go but didn’t make it to the moon? Are they failures? How do we measure success? “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir, known as “John of the Mountains”, was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States.


28 August, 2016

Finding Good Things Without Looking For Them The trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) is a tough one. Starting from Kathmandu to Lukla, home of the world’s most dangerous airport, it takes about two weeks to reach EBC. The days are long and the nights are cold, and meal times are quiet moments of rest and respite. The food served is simple – noodles, rice and the all time favorite Dal Bhat washed down with piping hot honey lemon ginger tea. Simple but nourishing and with little expectations. It was just pure ecstasy when I saw the bottle of Maggi tomato sauce on the table of a tea house in the middle of nowhere along the EBC trek. Serendipity had intervened! Anything eaten with Maggi tomato sauce will, according to my taste buds, qualify for at least one Michelin star, if not more. From then on, the rest of the journey was with a happy step in my feet. Penicillin, inkjet printers, Coca Cola, potato chips, saccharin and many other famous inventions were not really inventions. They were created by serendipitous moments. When it was least expected, just like the bottle of Maggi tomato sauce, serendipity would intervene and seemingly magic would occur. What does it take for serendipity to change our lives? Perhaps we should all lower our expectations of life and take time to smell the roses.

“Innovation is serendipity, so you don’t know what people will make.” – Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, An English computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web.


3 September, 2016

Why Do We Play Candy Crush? In addition to the Base Camp, climbers have to reach Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3 and Camp 4 before they finally embark on the final stretch to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Only 5 camps to reach the highest mountain in the world. In contrast, Candy Crush has hundreds of levels. You can see players in the streets, in the trains, on buses, in schools, at work and everywhere. They will be furiously trying to create the striped candies, the wrapped candies and the ultimate Color Bomb. And you can never seem to outrun the Chocolate pieces which multiply incessantly. For many of us, playing Candy Crush seems to be a losing proposition. We can never win and many a times we are tempted to open our wallets to buy Color Bombs in order to whack those pesky Chocolate pieces. And we moan and groan when we run out of lives and have to wait 72 hours to play, unless we start pestering our Facebook friends to help. But that is precisely why we play Candy Crush. It’s all these agony we go through that makes it fun. Even though we may never complete all the hundreds of levels, Candy Crush is our base camp. It gives us hope. It keeps our dreams alive and that maybe we will be given a treasure trove of Color Bombs. Don’t stop Crushing. “Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all. Fame! You’ll be as famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching you win on TV. Except when they don’t. Because, sometimes they won’t. I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you.” Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!


7 September, 2016

Learning How To Fly Jonathan Livingston Seagull, written by Richard Bach, is a story of a seagull who is frustrated with the meaningless materialism, conformity, and limitation of the seagull life. “Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight – how to get from shore to food and back again”, writes the author. Jonathan vents his frustration by learning everything he can about flying. In doing so, Jonathan discovers his purpose in life. Jonathan Livingston Seagull has been flying with me ever since I read the book and he tells me...

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”


13 September, 2016

How Long Is Your Bucket List? The peak of Mount Kinabalu is at the height of 4096 metres. It’s difficult to feel what 4096 metres mean when you haven’t climbed a mountain before. But what if you are told that Mount Kinabalu is almost half the height of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth. Then suddenly you would want climbing Mount Kinabalu to be on your bucket list. A bucket list is a list of things to do before you die. The term comes from another term “kick the bucket” which means to die. To put an item on your bucket list is a very serious act. It’s a promise that you have made to yourself to achieve these items before you die. Because it’s half the height of Mount Everest and because it’s a tall enough mountain, Mount Kinabalu appears on the bucket list of many people. Besides Mount Kinabalu, we all have many other things on our bucket lists – get a dream job, do a masters degree, see Angkor Wat with your own eyes and the list goes on and it never gets shorter. We add on items to our bucket lists as if we will live forever. But we won’t live forever. Don’t wait.

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius


18 September, 2016

8 Reasons Why You Should Climb Mount Kinabalu Located in the East Malaysian state of Sabah, climbing Mount Kinabalu is on the bucket list of many people. Mount Kinabalu is almost half the height of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. This makes reaching the peak of Kinabalu a worthwhile item to be on your bucket list. If this is not enough reason, here’s 7 more reasons why you should climb Kinabalu: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

It’s on everyone else’s bucket list. Why not? Kota Kinabalu is just 2.5 hours flight from Singapore. Kinabalu can be summitted over a weekend. If you are on a shoestring budget, you can possibly do it with just under SGD$1,000 all in. A great opportunity to experience altitude sickness, which makes for a good story to tell. When was the last time you watched the sunrise while sitting above the clouds?

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous


9 October, 2016

Reflections How do you want to live your life? What would you want to be written on your tombstone? What do you want to be known for after you die? It’s easy to think about all the noble things that we want to achieve. And we don’t want to make mistakes and we don’t want to have regrets. who doesn’t want to be famous, rich and successful? But life is about climbing a mountain – it’s tough, the weather is unpredictable and you don’t always get to reach the summit. Notwithstanding, if we stop climbing, if we stop trying, then when will we ever see ourselves in the reflections of our achievements, whether we succeed or fail. Every attempt is an achievement. We only fail when we stop climbing.

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.” – Leonardo da Vinci


15 October, 2016

The Reason For Which Something Is Done In an uncertain world where it’s easier to attack then to defend, resilience means the abilities to recover and adapt in an everchanging environment. In the 2013 Global Risks Report issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF), resilience to global risks was seen as becoming critical in an increasingly interdependent and hyper-connected world. Fast forward to the 2016 edition of the Global Risks Report, the WEF quoted the Global Agenda Council on Risk and Resilience on the importance of a culture of integrated risk management in building enterprise resilience. Companies can no longer afford to have silo thinking in risk management. The entire organization, including its supply chains, must collaborate transparently on risk management. The UK Financial Reporting Council (FRC) report on “Corporate culture and the role of boards� echoes the views of the WEF with respect to the importance of culture in building enterprise resilience.


In the foreword to the July 2016 FRC culture report, Sir Winfried Bischoff, the Chairman of the FRC said that, “A healthy culture both protects and generates value. It is therefore important to have a continuous focus on culture, rather than wait for a crisis. A strong culture will endure in times of stress and mitigate the impact. This is essential in dealing effectively with risk and maintaining resilient performance.” The FRC culture report unequivocally states that the board should spend sufficient time on evaluating culture and deliberate on how they should report it. The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) has recently issued an exposure draft of an update to its Enterprise Risk Management – Integrated Framework, which was first issued in 2004. In the July 2016 exposure draft, enterprise risk management is defined as the “culture, capabilities, and practices, integrated with strategy-setting and its execution, that organizations rely on to manage risk in creating, preserving, and realizing value”. The WEF, FRC and COSO are concerted in their views on the importance of culture in building enterprise resilience. That said, culture is not easy to get a handle on, given its intangible nature. Does the corporate strategy drive culture or does “culture eats strategy for breakfast” as management guru Peter Drucker once said? And how do you fit purpose and values into culture?


In her book “Grit”, the author Angela Duckworth wrote that “whether we realize it or not, the culture in which we live, and with which we identify, powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being.” Dan Chambliss, a sociologist who conducted a study of competitive swimmers said that “look, when I started studying Olympians, I thought, ‘what kind of oddball gets up every day at four in the morning to go to swimming practice?’ I thought, ‘these must be extraordinary people to do that sort of thing.’ But the thing is, when you go to a place where basically everybody you know is getting up at four in the morning to go to practice, that’s just what you do. It’s no big deal. It becomes a habit.” Whether it is “just the way we do things here” or “no news is good news”, culture is inherently difficult to understand and measure. Companies need to start by defining their purpose and values and setting out clearly the desired culture. They then need to develop the frameworks and tools to benchmark actual behaviour throughout the organization and report it. Reporting frameworks such as the Securities Exchange Commission’s Form 10-K which mandates the reporting of risk factors by US listed companies will have to evolve to require more disclosures on how culture affects the risk appetites of companies. “Go Fever” is a term used in the US space industry to describe a culture of “being in a rush or hurry to get a project or task done while overlooking potential problems or mistakes.” The term was Companies must learn how to detect fevers and cool them down before things go terribly wrong.


15 October, 2016

Slowly But Surely Natural selection is the “process by which forms of life having traits that better enable them to adapt to specific environmental pressures, as predators, changes in climate, or competition for food or mates, will tend to survive and reproduce in greater numbers than others of their kind, thus ensuring the perpetuation of those favorable traits in succeeding generations.” Also known as “survival of the fittest” or “slowly but surely”, natural selection was conceived by Charles Darwin and elaborated in Darwin’s influential 1859 book “On the Origin of Species”. The amazing features of today’s plants and animals took millions of years to evolve, going through small and simple changes that appear complex in aggregation. Reaching the summit of a mountain is by no means accidental. It is through a similar process of “slowly but surely” beginning with training months before, being focused during the actual climb, and sheer willpower during the final push to the summit. Each of these steps add up to reach the peak.

“It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and in organic conditions of life. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the long lapse of ages, and then so imperfect is our view into long-past geological ages, that we only see that the forms of life are now different from what they formerly were.” – Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species


16 October, 2016

Story Of The 3 Monks There once was a monk who lived a simple life in a temple at the top of a mountain. Everyday, the monk would descend from the mountain to bring up buckets of water from a nearby river. One day, a second monk came to the temple. Both monks worked together to bring the buckets of water up the mountain. Soon, a third monk arrived and they couldn’t agree on who should fetch the water. As a result, there wasn’t enough water in the temple. One night, a rat in the temple knocks over a candleholder, leading to a devastating fire in the temple. Learning their lesson, the three monks worked together to fetch water up the mountain and the temple never lacked water again. The moral of the story – reaching the summit is only half the story. Learning how to descend is just as important.


19 October, 2016

The Most Dangerous Airport In The World Lukla Airport, also known as the Tenzing-Hillary Airport after the first men to summit Everest, is the gateway to the Himalayas. Built in 1964, Lukla Airport has no radar system and a very short runway of just 500 metres, which is a tenth of the length of a normal runway. In addition, the runway is located on a steep slope on the edge of a cliff. Pilots landing at Lukla Airport have to rely on voice communications to get updates on traffic and weather, and on their eyes. Located at almost 3,000 metres, any pilot mistake would mean the plane plunging off the cliff edge. All this just at the start of the climb to Everest Base Camp. What else can go wrong?

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford


19 October, 2016

Taking A Step Towards The First Step Today is Evaluate Your Life Day. It’s a day where we take stock of our achievements, near misses and outright failures and decide whether we are on the right path or hopelessly lost. It’s a day where we try to motivate ourselves with inspiring sayings: (A Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With One Step - Lao Tzu), brand exhortations (Just Do It – Nike), a quote from a famous person (You Can’t Connect The Dots Looking Forward – Steve Jobs), a life guidance book (What Should I Do With My Life – Po Bronson) or just a plain common sense smack on the head (Stop Dreaming, Get A Job And Pay The Bills! – Mother). But how do we go from these words and then really take the proverbial first step when we don’t even know what journeys we should embark on, let alone how long is the journey. One mile, ten miles or a hundred miles? How indeed do we take the step towards the first step?


23 October, 2016

How Heavy Is A Glass Of Water It’s coming to the end of October 2016 and the shops are already displaying Christmas items for sale. Gleaming new toys, amazing gadgets, glamorous party dresses, glittering Christmas decorations, gala year-end parties and celebrations, sumptuous festive buffet offers at restaurants and hotels, and fun vacations and wonderful holidays. Your eyes are filled with the red, green and gold colors of joy and happiness, you smell Christmas cakes and dessert and you start to hear the familiar refrain of jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way... All these would be great if you are successful. For the many with money to spend, well deserved promotions to celebrate and hard earned graduations to look forward to, the end of the year festivities are a great time. But the reality for the just as many of us is that there are failures to contend with. You didn’t get the raise you hoped for, the promotion didn’t happen, you got laid off and someone in the family fell ill and medical expenses are starting to pile up. Suddenly Christmas doesn’t seem so merry after all. Q4 is tough for companies facing economic challenges as they struggle to meet targets. Q4 is just as tough for those who have not been successful so far. Do you feel that you are unlikely to achieve your 2016 resolutions with just 2 months left to the year?


Failures weigh heavily on us. Just like the story of “How Heavy Is A Glass Of Water?” It depends on how long you hold it. If you hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If you hold it for an hour, you’ll have an aching arm. If you hold it for a day, your arm will hurt badly. It’s the same glass but it gets heavier the longer you hold on to it. Failures hurt but they will hurt more if we hold on to them and don’t put them down. Here are 5 ways to deal with failures and you can look forward to a happy ending to 2016: 1. Make new resolutions. What didn’t work in the past is in the past. Leave them be. 2. Learn from what went wrong and be honest with yourself. 3. Celebrate the little achievements such as reading a small book, watching a movie, as they can lead to bigger things. 4. Help someone. There are always people who are in worse situations than you. 5. Make more resolutions. Something is bound to work.


25 October, 2016

On The Road To Somewhere Hikers on the Everest Base Camp trek will come across a familiar figure after passing Namche Bazaar. Depending on donations from hikers, Pasang Tharkey Sherpa has been tirelessly helping to build the trails and roads in the Himalayas for over 50 years. The Himalayas can be both magnificent and harsh at the same time. Without roads, we will never get to see the awesome views and reach Everest. Even with roads, the trails of the Himalayas are fraught with danger but at least we will get somewhere. No roads means nowhere. Each of us can be like Pasang Tharkey Sherpa, helping to build roads for people who are lost and need guidance in life to reach their base camps.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “– so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” – Lewis Carroll,

Alice in Wonderland


28 October, 2016

Don’t Cross The Bridge Until You Come To It Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it is an English proverb which simply means – don’t be concerned with future problems until you come face-to-face with them. But what if the bridge looks too scary to cross when you come to it? Perhaps a better proverb would be “build safe bridges that you can cross when it’s time to cross”.

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” – Isaac Newton


30 October, 2016

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning. They do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Dylan Thomas (poet, 1914 – 1953)

“Dylan connects all men together--wise men, good men, wild men – by writing that they all will face death. When they do, he urges them to fight — “rage” — for more life, rather than gracefully slipping into darkness. No matter what these men have done with their life, good or bad, they shouldn’t give up the struggle for more.”


30 October, 2016

People Don’t Buy What You Do. People Buy Why You Do It. In his TED talk, Simon Sinek shared the concept of the golden circle. At the outermost ring of the golden circle is WHAT. The centre ring is HOW and the innermost part of the golden circle is WHY. Simon cited Apple as an example of how the company used the golden circle to be far ahead of its competitors. “If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: WHAT – “We make great computers. HOW – “They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?” But Apple goes to the core (no pun intended) of the golden circle and talks about why. This is how Apple becomes great. WHY – “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?” People don’t buy what you do. People buy why you do it. Purpose does matter. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said that purpose can be found when you believe in what you do – “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” It’s not about WHAT is your job, it’s not about HOW you do your job. It’s WHY that’s important: Purpose. It’s so simple and at the same time the most difficult thing to do – the search for purpose, finding your base camp. There’s no magic, there’s no “ah ha! moment” and there’s no parting of the skies. Just believe, and you will start discovering your purpose.


31 October, 2016

Push Or Pull: Unlocking Your Mind The Stanford Prison Experiment was an experiment conducted on 24 male students selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford Psychology Building. The experiment was supposed to run for a fortnight, but on the sixth day it was terminated because the so-called guards started abusing the prisoners and the prisoners started to act like real prisoners and suffered emotional disorders. This classic experiment showed what the human mind is capable of. We can decide for ourselves what doors we want to open, and what rooms we want to lock ourselves in.

“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein


31 October, 2016

All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter, Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.


1 November, 2016

It’s Always Further Than It Looks The 3 rules of mountaineering: 1. It’s always further than it looks. 2. It’s always taller than it looks; and 3. It’s always harder than it looks.


4 November, 2016

Don’t Look Down “What would you do if you believed you only had a few minutes to live? Don’t look back. Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up. Don’t Look Down.” – Richard Branson

Speaking on the documentary Don’t Look Down, which is about his attempts to cross the Atlantic and Pacific by hot air balloon.


5 November, 2016

Inspiration and Perspiration In his book Peak, Anders Ericsson brings together decades of research to show us that each of us can achieve the seemingly impossible. We don’t have to be born with the talent to be world champions, to climb the highest mountains or to be great basketball players. Ericsson shows us that a combination of inspiration and perspiration can help us achieve our peaks. Here’s an excerpt from his book where’s he writes about Ray Allen, one of the greatest NBA stars who just retired in 2016. “If you talk to these extraordinary people, you find that they all understand this at one level or another. They may be unfamiliar with the concept of cognitive adaptability, but they seldom buy into the idea that they have reached the peak of their fields because they were the lucky winners of some genetic lottery. They know what is required to develop the extraordinary skills that they possess because they have experienced it firsthand. One of my favorite testimonies on this topic came from Ray Allen, a ten-time All-Star in the National Basketball Association and the greatest three-point shooter in the history of that league. Some years back, ESPN columnist Jackie MacMullan wrote an article about Allen as he was approaching his record for most three-point shots made. In talking with Allen for that story, MacMullan mentioned that another basketball commentator had said that Allen was born with a shooting touch – in other words, an innate gift for three-pointers. Allen did not agree.


“I’ve argued this with a lot of people in my life,” he told MacMullan. “When people say God blessed me with a beautiful jump shot, it really pisses me off. I tell those people, ‘don’t undermine the work I’ve put in every day.’ Not some days. Every day. Ask anyone who has been on a team with me who shoots the most. Go back to Seattle and Milwaukee, and ask them. The answer is me.” And, indeed, as MacMullan noted, if you talk to Allen’s high school basketball coach you will find that Allen’s jump shot was not noticeably better than his teammates’ jump shots back then; in fact, it was poor. But Allen took control, and over time, with hard work and dedication, he transformed his jump shot into one so graceful and natural that people assumed he was born with it. He took advantage of his gift – his real gift.”

“We can shape our own potential.” – Anders Ericsson, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise


5 November, 2016

Bend with the Wind

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” – Bruce Lee


5 November, 2016

What Does the Number 6 Mean? For many of us, the number 6 is just a number. It can represent the month of June, it’s the atomic number for the element carbon and it’s the number of strings on a standard guitar. But for the blind, the number 6 has allowed them to see the world. The basic Braille cell is made up of 6 dots and the combination of raised dots has made it possible for the blind to touch what they cannot see. Braille is the base camp for the blind. What does the number 6 mean for you?

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince


6 November, 2016

前人栽树,后人乘凉 前人栽树,后人乘凉 is a Chinese idiom which literally translated means “one generation plants the trees under whose shade the next generation rests”. A close Western equivalent of this idiom would be “pay it forward” which means that “if something good happens to a person, he turns around and does good for someone else. The idea here is that instead of paying back to the person who has helped you, the good deed is passed forward to someone else”. Both idioms illustrate the importance of doing good, whether it’s planting trees, paying it forward or building base camps to help children reach their peaks (not literally). Each of us can make a difference, and perhaps find our purpose at the same time.


12 November, 2016

It’s Just Around the Corner “It’s just around the corner” is an English idiom. If something is “just around the corner”, then it is expected to happen very soon. Whether we are climbing a mountain, studying for a degree or working hard for a promotion, we are always holding our breath in anticipation of what’s around the corner. We expect a spectacular sunrise as we turn the corner and we reach the peak, we expect a first class honours and being on the Dean’s List and we expect a double promotion and a huge office with a view. Sometimes we get what we hoped for, sometimes we get bitterly disappointed and sometimes one corner leads to another corner. Corners are great because there’s always something around the corner. Always. What’s not great is when we give up and sit down at the corner because we are fearful of what we might see. 2017 is just around the corner. What will the New Year bring? Was 2016 a bad year and you just don’t care about what’s around the corner? Do you feel like just giving up and sit down and cry? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t achieved your resolutions because 2017 is just around the corner.

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.” – Tom Hiddleston, Actor


19 November, 2016

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones but… Words? “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is an English idiom which means that people cannot hurt you with bad things they say or write about you. Or can it? In a Bloomberg article, an employee was reported to have committed suicide after being overworked. This prompted the company to review one of its principles – “If you have tackled it, don’t relinquish it. Even if you are killed, don’t relinquish it until you achieve your goal.” Words are the basecamp of life – they can motivate you to climb higher or they can distress you to depression and ultimately drive you to death in the above case. In Singapore, an estimated 5.6% of the population are affected by depression during their lifetime. People with depression hear words like “Snap out of it!”, “What’s wrong with you?!” and “It’s all in your mind.” These words can hurt and these words can kill.

“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” – Buddha


26 November, 2016

Strength and Flaw-Tolerance Spider silk is commonly known for its unusual strength, having been compared to steel and kevlar. This makes the spider web strong since it’s made from spider silk. There’s another property of spider silk — it’s way of first softening and then stiffening when pulled — that gives the spider web it’s special characteristic. It makes the spider web flaw-tolerant. In a study by MIT, it was found that “spider webs, it turns out, can take quite a beating without failing. Damage tends to be localized, affecting just a few threads – the place where a bug got caught in the web and flailed around, for example. This localized damage can simply be repaired, rather than replaced, or even left alone if the web continues to function as before. “Even if it has a lot of defects, the web actually still functions mechanically virtually the same way,” Buehler says, “it’s a very flaw-tolerant system.” We can learn from the spider web – build strength, tolerance for when things go wrong and resilience.

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” – Ethiopian Proverb


6 December, 2016

Helping People Help Others

What’s the purpose of Basecamp.Cafe? It’s to help people find their purposes in life. It’s also to help people help others. It’s really that simple. It’s a movement, it’s a platform and it’s a place where you can hopefully join your dots and find your purpose in life. Let me know if you want to help and be a part of Basecamp.Cafe


6 December, 2016

What Is Your Why In jail twice, school drop out and twice divorced with four children. No one wants to make mistakes, but life can be unkind and when one mistake after another accumulates, you will feel that you have no more chances left in life. Each of us can be that chance that many people need. Why should we be that chance? This is when you should ask yourself... What is your why?


8 December, 2016

Triple Double In the game of basketball, a triple-double is where a player accumulates a double digit number in three categories in a game – points, rebounds and assists. A triple-double is seen by spectators as an excellent all-around individual performance. However, the converse is not necessarily true. A player can have an excellent all-around performance while failing to achieve a triple-double. It’s good to achieve excellence in all that we do. We just have to realise that excellence can be measured in many ways. Doing well for the PSLE exams is one measure of excellence but not the only one.


9 December, 2016

100 Year Plan It takes time to build and nurture talent. In a recent report by Swiss business school IMD, Singapore has fallen five places to 15th place in a global ranking of an economy’s ability to nurture and attract business talent. Does this mean that Singapore doesn’t have smart students? Not true – in the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, Singapore students aged 15 years old were ranked No.1 in maths, science and reading. We have the smartest kids in the world. And yet more contradiction – people in Singapore work among the longest hours in the world, but they are described as ‘’not hungry’’ and lacking ‘’fire in the belly’’. What’s right and what’s really wrong?

“If your plan is for 1 year, plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years, plant trees. If your plan is for 100 years, educate children.” – Confucius


12 December, 2016

Light at the End of the Tunnel “Light at the end of the tunnel” is an english idiom that means “signs of improvement in a situation that has been bad for a long time, or signs that a long and difficult piece of work is almost finished”. “Light at the end of the tunnel” gives hope, provides encouragement and makes you put in that extra effort to make it to the finishing line, to reach the summit. “Light at the end of the tunnel” could also mean that it’s an oncoming train and you are standing in its path.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – Winston Churchill


13 December, 2016

Making Your Own Luck Opportunity, it is said, knocks but once and you should seize it because it’s not going to knock twice. But what if opportunity doesn’t knock? Do you wring your hands in despair and hear that familiar refrain in your head – some guys have all the luck, some guys have all the pain, some guys get all the breaks, some guys do nothing but complain... We wait for that opportunity of a life time to knock. We wait for that one lucky break. And we look for that one glimmer of hope. And we wait and we wait and we wait – and it never happens. Instead of sitting around and waiting for luck to appear, here’s a list of tips on how to make your own luck happen: 1. It’s hard work. Blood, sweat and tears are the ingredients of luck. “Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” – Ray Kroc 2. Be positive, keep doing and don’t stop doing. “The day you decide to do, it is your lucky day” – Japanese Proverb 3. Don’t be taken by get-rich-quick schemes. As they say, if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.“ – Thomas Edison 4. Build your base camp and practice, practice and practice. “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” – Abraham Lincoln 5. Keep your eyes open for the right things. Don’t be blinded by regrets. “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell 6. Count your blessings. “Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens Get off your chair in 2017 and make your own luck.


27 December, 2016

Life Is Not Measured by the Number of Breaths We Take The latest iPhone 7 comes with a camera that has a 12 megapixel capability – that’s 12 million pixels. Now imagine taking a long distance photo of a car driving across the Golden Gate Bridge at a resolution of 53 Billion pixels, and the logo on the car seat appears with superb clarity. That’s breathtaking. That’s how our lives should be – breathtaking. Take a closer look here.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.


15 January, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Why Climb Mount Khuiten? Mount Khuiten, the highest mountain in Mongolia, has been listed by National Geographic as one of the world’s Top 10 Climbs. I am planning to climb Mount Khuiten in August 2017 and as a result have inevitably attracted that most difficult question in life, which consists of only one word – Why? Are you climbing Mount Khuiten because: - It’s on National Geographic’s list? No. - The expedition needed a random person to make up the numbers? Absolutely not. - You want to see Kazakhstan from the peak? No and there are easier ways to see Kazakhstan. Whether it’s climbing a mountain, getting a degree, applying for a job or simply life itself, we ask ourselves why. Why are we doing it? What’s the purpose of life? From a literal perspective, purpose can be easily defined – it’s the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. As we dig a little deeper and look at the synonyms and antonyms of purpose, it gets more interesting. The synonyms for purpose includes – aim, intention, meaning, resolve and intent. OK got it. More of the same. Then we have the antonyms – vague, meaningless, aimless and unplanned. Does it mean that if we cannot articulate the purpose for each thing that we are doing, then it’s meaningless? This is where I, like many people in search of purpose, turn to philosophers, divine intervention and words of wisdom from an eclectic mix of luminaries. First up, the philosophers. Here’s a sample of quotes from these wise men who walked in gardens and pondered on all great things and small. I guess this is where the saying “lead us down the garden path” comes from. The logic of philosophers can be dizzyfying. A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. – Lao Tzu He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. – Friedrich Nietzsche


Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius Then we have divine intervention, where we quietly ponder words with reverence. The purpose of our lives is to be happy. – Dalai Lama Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it. – Gautama Buddha “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” – Bible, Job 42:2 And finally we have the luminaries comprising of billionaires, writers, artists and scientists whose advice on purpose are captured in autobiographies and selfhelp books. We devour them hungrily, hoping that we might extract the nuggets of wisdom within, and be enlightened with untold riches. The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything. – Warren Buffett The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. – Ralph Waldo Emerson The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. – Pablo Picasso Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. – Stephen Hawking Can we distill the essence of purpose from this short collection of thoughts? Purpose – an elusive but innate part of us; we know it’s there and continuous effort is needed to draw it out; and we will know it when we find it. So why do I want to climb Mount Khuiten? I will find out when I reach the summit.


23 January, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

What We Do, and Why We Do It The Lunar New Year of the Rooster is just around the corner and it’s reunion time again with family, friends, and former classmates. The usual questions will pop up - are you married, kids, studies and that all-time favourite question – what are you doing now? And the usual replies – I just finished school and got a job, I am doing sales now, I am in between jobs and thinking about what to do next.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs Last year, a survey showed that Singaporeans were the unhappiest workers in South East Asia. Similar surveys found that people in the UK are miserable at work and it’s the same for the Americans. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it,” Steve Jobs consoles us. Yes keep looking but first look again at what Steve Jobs said, “do what you believe is great work.” We have been focused only on the WHAT (doing the job) and not on the WHY (believe).


Simon Sinek, the author of “Start with Why” explains it well – “Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief ? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?” How do you believe in the work that you are doing? Start with asking whether the company has both a mission (What we do) and a purpose (Why we do it). Simon Sinek believes that all organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year. Those who forget WHY they were founded show up to the race every day to outdo someone else instead of to outdo themselves.

“I want to discuss why a company exists in the first place. In other words, why are we here? I think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. While this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being.... Purpose (which should last at least 100 years) should not be confused with specific goals or business strategies (which should change many times in 100 years). Whereas you might achieve a goal or complete a strategy, you cannot fulfill a purpose; it’s like a guiding star on the horizon – forever pursued but never reached. Yet although purpose itself does not change, it does inspire change. The very fact that purpose can never be fully realized means that an organization can never stop stimulating change and progress.” – David Packard, Co-Founder of Hewlett-Packard


13 February, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Failure as a Purpose The story of Icarus is the foundation of the book “The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?” by Seth Godin. We all have heard of this tale before from Greek mythology. Icarus and his dad are attempting to escape from the island of Crete using wings made from feathers and wax. Icarus’ father warned him not to fly too low (the sea’s dampness will clog up the wings) or fly too high (the sun will melt the wax). Icarus got a little too excited by his new found power and flew higher, closer to the sun, which predictably melted the wax that held his wings together. Icarus plunged to his death and with that, we are left with the moral of the story – play it safe. “We’ve been trained to prefer being right to learning something, to prefer passing the test to making a difference, and most of all, to prefer fitting in with the right people...” wrote Seth Godin. “We see what we believe, not the other way around.” We believe that a mentor is going to change our lives, we believe that there is a secret, and we will soon learn it. Just play it safe and your time will come. Even when we fail, we play it safe by failing normally. “It is more acceptable to fail in conventional ways than in unconventional ways. And its corollary: The reward for succeeding in unconventional ways is less than the risk of failing in unconventional ways. In short, you can screw up with impunity so long as you screw up like everybody else.” Purpose can’t be found when you only look in the usual places. You need to change how you fly. Fly a little higher and fly a little lower. “Change is powerful, but change always comes with the possibility of failure as its partner. “This might not work” isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you must seek out.”


“It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” – Winston Churchill


5 March, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Choose Your Struggle Altitude Sickness (also known as AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness) occurs when you cannot get enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes. This causes symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, tiredness and trouble sleeping. Experts still do not know a lot about altitude sickness – who will get it and who will not, how fitness levels play a role or whether it matters whether you are male or female. Altitude sickness is painful and it can be deadly at high altitudes. “If I ask you, “what do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything. Everyone wants that. So what’s the point? What’s more interesting to me is what pain do you want? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives end up. People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to love the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not. Some people are wired for that sort of pain, and those are the ones who succeed.” In planning to climb a mountain, it’s normal to aspire to want to reach the summit. Get to the top, take a selfie, be immortalised in Instagram and gain instant fame. But mountaineers know that many things can go wrong on a climb – avalanches, bad weather, altitude sickness, a fellow climber falling ill and the list goes on. Mountaineers don’t just choose which peak to conquer. They also choose their struggles – they embrace the negatives, they endure the pain, and they are prepared to turn around when conditions become bad. It’s painful to turn around, especially when you are near the peak and it’s just 5 more minutes but you will have another amazing story to tell. Purpose can be found when we choose our struggles.


“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and crap out twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and a half kids goodbye. Then fly your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing incredibly meaningful work that’s likely to save the planet one day. Ironically, this fixation on the positive – on what’s better, what’s superior – only serves to remind us over and over again of what we are not, of what we lack, of what we should have been but failed to be. After all, no truly happy person feels the need to stand in front of a mirror and recite that she’s happy. She just is.” Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck “What determines your success is –What pain do you want to sustain?”


2 April, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Don’t Settle

I spent some time reading quite a few books on purpose, to understand what made them best sellers and whether they have any common themes. They do, and one of them is “don’t settle”. What does “don’t settle” mean? In his 2005 Stanford University commencement address, Steve Jobs described it well – “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.” “Don’t settle” means persistence, endurance, being uncomfortable and trying harder every time you fail. Here’s some great “don’t settle” quotes from these 5 worthwhile reading purpose books.


“We’ve been trained to prefer being right to learning something, to prefer passing the test to making a difference, and most of all, to prefer fitting in with the right people, the people with economic power. Now it’s your turn to stand up and stand out.” – Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? “You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice – well, then you’re going to get fucked.” – Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life “Failure is not an option if success is just a matter of trying harder.” – W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose “Remarkable visions and genuine insights are always met with resistance. And when you start to make progress, your efforts are met with even more resistance. Products, services, career paths – whatever it is, the forces for mediocrity will align to stop you, forgiving no errors and never backing down until it’s over. If it were any other way, it would be easy. And if it were any other way, everyone would do it and your work would ultimately be devalued... without people pushing against your quest to do something worth talking about, it’s unlikely to be worth the journey. Persist.” – Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us “So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.” – Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life


2 May, 2017

In Search of Purpose:


There are hundreds of books like Dan Miller’s “48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal”. Many of these books, just like this one, make it to best sellers lists, leading us to believe that many people don’t love their jobs and or they are not in a normal situation. The “new” normal sounds more exciting than the “old” normal. If the “old” normal is what Dan Miller says, “the most common mistake people make in choosing a career is to do something simply because they are good at it,” then what’s the new normal? “They need to shift from thinking about jobs and careers to think about challenges and problems” is the advice for students in the BBC article “The Next Generation Of Jobs Won’t Be Made Of Professions”. “Instead of identifying your job role or description, you will be constantly adding skills based on what is going to make you more employable.” Where does that leave our next generation? This excellent piece written by a student says it all: “Yes, a conventional job does have its undeniable benefits, mainly the security that comes with a tested and stable career. However, a question we have to answer, is whether we are willing to trade our true passion for practicality. Life will be full of risks that we have to take and it will admittedly be too short to regret the paths wanted, but not taken, because we feared impracticality and uncertainty. Perhaps, in order to pursue the passions close to our hearts, the risk is one that is worth taking. To all the prospective bartenders, backpackers, and hairdressers out there, don’t feel guilty about wanting to pursue your dreams. True, you may have been fortunate to receive a good education, but don’t let the pressure force you to become someone bigger than you want to be. A small, energetic spirit is sometimes better than a large empty shell, and there can always be something extraordinary found in all things seemingly ordinary.”


May 7 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Letting Go

You have the right academic qualifications and aced all the exams. You have trained for years for the dream job and gotten all the professional certifications. You have missed countless birthdays, anniversaries and get togethers because there are always deadlines. And there’s that just one more deadline, and another and another. And soon it’s difficult to let go.

“Failure is hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.” – Po Bronson


14 June, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

How Long Is a Piece of String?

“How long is a piece of string?” This is a phrase that’s normally used as a response to questions such as “how long does it take to be successful?” or “why should I climb Mount Kinabalu?” – where the answers are not known or difficult to find. For example, if someone asked you “what is my purpose in life?” You would respond by saying “how long is a piece of string?” Because you don’t know the answer. In the famous Asch Conformity Experiment, it was shown that people had a tendency to “follow the crowd” even though it was wrong to do so. Also known as herd mentality or group think, people tend to conform because 1) they want to fit in with the group (even if the group is wrong) or 2) they believe that the group somehow knows better (even though they know that the group is wrong). Wrong can be right. So, how long is a piece of string? Of course, the logical answer is — a piece of string is twice as long as half of its length — if you know long it is in the first place. Confusing? Searching for your purpose in life can be like trying to answer how long is a piece of string. It’s difficult and we end up following the crowd, even if the crowd is wrong.


18 June, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Being a Role Model The movie Everest is about the story of the 1996 disaster on Mt. Everest that killed 8 climbers, one of whom was Doug Hansen. Doug, who worked as a mailman, was on his second attempt to climb Mt. Everest. When asked why he wanted to climb, Doug said, “ I have kids. They see a regular guy who follows an impossible dream, maybe they’ll do the same.” Being a role model to your kids doesn’t mean that you have to climb Everest or run an ultra marathon in the Gobi Desert. You just have to show them that you don’t ever give up on your own dreams. Be a base camp to your kids. And your kids won’t forget that. Happy Fathers’ Day.


1 July, 2017

50 on Kinabalu:

Making It Count What’s 50 years? It’s 18,250 days. It’s 438,000 hours. It’s over 26 million minutes. When counted from this perspective, 50 years is a lot. And that’s what the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) has achieved in the last 50 years – a lot of nation building. 50 on Kinabalu will see 50 members and friends of the MIA celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MIA by reaching the summit of Mount Kinabalu on 26 September 2017. Over the next 12 weeks, the 50 summiters will train by climbing a team total of at least 60,000 floors and mentally prepare to summit a peak that’s 4095m (about 1,000 floors) high. That’s a lot of floors. But some may say that 50 years is only half of a century, that 50 years is only 5% of a millennium. And Mount Kinabalu is only about half the height of Mount Everest. Does it count?

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.” – Muhammad Ali


8 July, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

When Doors Are Closed It happens often enough to many of us. Doors get shut in your face – sometimes by circumstances, sometimes due to our own doing, and most times you shout out, “why me? It’s not fair!” You don’t get promoted because of a mistake, you got a bad school grade because you didn’t sleep well the night before the exams, and you didn’t reach the summit because of bad weather. It just happens. Of course, the easiest way to react is to stare at the “Door Closed” sign and wonder why. The more difficult thing to do when a door has closed is to look for the other doors that have just opened for you. Those other doors are always there – you just have to look hard enough. And believe.

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius


10 July, 2017

50 on Kinabalu:

You Can’t Connect the Dots Looking Forward The 8km sign post on Mount Kinabalu is famous because many climbers give up when they reach this point. From here, they can see the summit of Mount Kinabalu in the glow of the rising sun, and it is just another 720 metres to the peak. But the climbers are totally exhausted when they reach this point, miserably cold and they say to themselves “I can see the peak from here. That’s good enough for me. I am too tired to go on.” Besides the 8km sign post, there are several other notable points along the Mount Kinabalu climb where climbers will feel like giving up: • At Layang Layang Hut where you stop for lunch on the first day. You are too tired to continue after eating a cold sandwich and you wish you had done more stairs training; • During the last one hour before you reach Laban Rata Hut (where a hot buffet dinner awaits you). This one hour stretch is infamously called “the never-ending trail” because it really feels that you will never reach Laban Rata Hut;


• At Laban Rata Hut, where you start to get a headache, a common symptom of altitude sickness. That’s when you tell yourself, “I am getting a certificate for reaching Laban Rata. That’s good enough for me,” especially after eating that delicious hot buffet dinner; and • At Sayat Sayat, the final check point, and then you realise that there’s at least another 2 more hours of climbing in the dark before you reach the summit. At this point, you will have no idea that you will feel like giving up again at the dreaded 8km sign post. • And then you reach the 8km point ..... Nooooooo......! If you have never climbed Mount Kinabalu before, it is difficult to imagine why anyone would give up at the 8km sign post or at any point. Indeed, it’s difficult to connect the dots (or points in this case) looking forward. You can only connect the dots looking backwards when you realise that the sandwich wasn’t actually that cold, the trail wasn’t really never-ending, the headache wasn’t that bad, and it’s just 5 more minutes to the summit. That’s when everything comes together as one and the dots connect. “Asam di gunung garam di laut bertemu dalam satu belanga.” <Tamarind on the mountain, salt in the sea meet in the one pot.> – Even things that are far apart can meet as one.


12 July, 2017

50 on Kinabalu:


Here’s a collection of quotes from the 50 climbers who will be summiting Mount Kinabalu on 26 Sept 2017: “I like the outdoor and if I am still able, health wise, I will continue to do these activities. Also like to see the new trail. Climbed via Timpohon and Mesilau before. Was inspired by a fellow climber once, who promised himself to climb at least once in 10 years.” “Turning 50 in 2017(Dec) is a reason to celebrate and to renew my spirit. No better way than celebrating with beloved MIA who also turns 50 and MIA friends. Last climbed in 1992 as a very fit 24+ person. Also a tribute to my parents who have encouraged me to go for greater heights in spite of limitations. As I write this my mum lies in an extended care facility ravaged by of a neuro degenerative disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy for which there is no cure and she is in an advanced and critical stage. Her body is stiff and her brain is unable to command her body to work. When she was still able to speak she asked her doctor to make her walk again. Now she lies immobile and dependent. I would like to push myself physically so as to do what my mum can no longer do and which she so wants to do, i.e to just stand up, move around like the lively person she used to be. I want to do this for her and in her honour. She is in a critical stage and could be called by the Lord anytime as complications have set in.” “We must live our life, live our dreams. Our dreams keep us alive and remember to make life as great as you can make it to be.”

George Mallory is famously quoted as having replied to the question “Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” with the retort “Because it’s there,” which has been called “the most famous three words in mountaineering”.


12 July, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Ropes and Knots

Mountaineering is an exhilarating sport filled with emotions at every stage. You are filled with wonderment when researching on which mountain to climb. From the awesomeness of the Himalayas to the bucket list must climb mountains such as Mount Kinabalu, there’s just so many mountains to choose from. Then there’s the pain of training, forcing yourself into a routine, groaning up endless staircases and running those kilometres when your friends are out merrymaking. And then the day comes for the climb and the adrenaline starts pumping. The funny thing about climbing is that many mountaineers swear that they’ll never climb again after coming down from the summit – it’s too painful! So they say... and a few weeks later the cycle starts when they look at the list of mountains and start planning for the next climb. Everyone who climbs want to get to the top. Who doesn’t want to reach the summit and bask under the rays of the rising sun, high five-ing with your fellow climbers. But just like life, things don’t always go your way. And here’s the thing about mountaineers – they know a LOT of things can go wrong when they climb and that’s why they train hard on the proper use of ropes and knots. The right knot can help rescue you after falling into a deep crevasse. Mountaineers are one of the most safety conscious people in the world – they don’t want to get injured because if they do, there goes their ability to climb the next mountain. Life, just like mountaineering, is full of challenges and can be an emotional up and down. And just like mountaineering, you should learn to see knots as things you can create to make climbing safer. Don’t see knots as entanglements – they help you get to the next level in your climb in life. Knots can also help to get you out of crevasses.

“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot, and hang on.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt


19 August, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Disconnect to Connect

Mount Khuiten is located in a very, very remote corner of Mongolia. To be precise, the highest peak in Mongolia can be found in the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park in the western-most reaches of the 18th largest country in the world. It takes several days of flying, driving and trekking to reach the Mount Khuiten basecamp, and some more trekking to the Mount Khuiten advanced base camp. Getting to the basecamps is the easy part. The tough part is the waiting – waiting for the right weather and conditions that will allow climbers to commence the push from base camp, to the advanced basecamp and then the final climb to the summit of Mount Khuiten. It could be days of waiting and all this in a desolate area without any Internet, social media and mobile phone communications. Totally disconnected and totally awkward because we had nothing to do but talk. We could not type LOL and WTF – we had to say it out loud and we struggled to speak sentences to replace the abbreviations that we have gotten so used to thumb-type in Whatsapp. We have become so addicted to social media that we are losing the ability to be social. And with that we also lose our ability to find our purpose in life. For in that few days of disconnected desolation, we realised that purpose can be found only when we talk. End note: After much actual talking and many moments of awkward silence with thumbs twitching to type, we summitted Mount Khuiten on 10 August 2017.

“We don’t need competition between people. There is competition between every person and this mountain. The last word always belongs to the mountain.” – Anatoli

Boukreev from the movie Everest (2015)


26 August, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Slow and Last to Reach The Summit Mountaineering is not for the faint hearted, even if you are a professional mountaineer. Most people have a natural fear of heights (not necessarily acrophobia) and would not relish talking a selfie while perched on a rock overlooking a sharp drop thousands of metres high. It therefore requires a huge leap of faith for an ordinary person to want to travel to remote places, go through days without a shower and then tremble with fear as they reach the summit while croaking out a weak “yay!’ to celebrate the climb. And then face more fear descending because now you can clearly see how far you will fall if you stumble. It’s always a long way down. Of course, there’s the compensatory joy of dropping your pants where ever you want to pee amidst the splendour of the majestic mountains – there’s no modesty in the mountains as they say. But this cheap thrill is more than overshadowed by the scaredshitlessphobia that you will face. So why do ordinary people want to climb and leave their comfort zone? Precisely that. Because they want to leave their comfort zone. It doesn’t matter if they are slow, last to reach the summit or even if they don’t reach the peak. Being at base camp is a great achievement in itself.


“It is hard to find one’s calling because many mistakenly believe they need to look only within to discover their passion. Although it is true that we have innate interests and talents, we often do not know what they are until we have real-life experiences. Having a wide range of experiences can help you uncover your inner passion. Try various part-time jobs and internships, or volunteer. Don’t be afraid of rolling up your sleeves and diving in. While immersed in a job’s reality, you will discover whether it’s a good fit. Work experiences may unlock the door to a career opportunity you hadn’t considered.” – Haemin Sunim, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World


August 30, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

A Hole in the Ground Is Worth More Than Rocks in the Open


You will gain immeasurable wisdom when you use the diverse range of local toilets in Mongolia. First, we have the common “hole in the ground” toilet that never fails to elicit shrieks of “omg!” from ladies (and some men) who peer into them for their first time. These shrieks occasionally turn into screams of “OMG!!” when they accidentally drop their phones into the hole. Lesson learned – don’t take selfies while balancing precariously over a bottomless pit. Second, not all “hole in the ground” toilets have doors and for good reason – no doors means better ventilation and fresher air. But when there are doors, you will soon realise that they don’t have locks. And the doors are designed to be kept opened by default, once again for ventilation reasons. Just like it takes two to tango, it also takes two to poo. Lesson learned – you need a friend who can help push to keep the door closed (and hold her breath) while you do your thing. And no, it’s not possible to simultaneously hold the door closed yourself, do your thing and hold a pack of tissues all at the same time. You will fall into the hole and join the phone. Third, when you encounter the more exotic open air “on the rocks” toilet, you will sorely miss (pun intended) the “hole in the ground”. Doing your thing “on the rocks” is fraught with danger. Your delicate parts are exposed to frostbite, which isn’t that bad when compared to the sharp rocks that come too near when you squat at the wrong angle. You almost have to be a contortionist to enjoy being “on the rocks”. Lesson learned – we don’t realise the value of what we have until it’s too late. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”


1 September, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Which Road to Take The Altai Tavan Bogd National Park is about 180 km from Ölgii. The journey to the edge of the national park takes about 7 hours due to non-existent roads, high mountain passes, and lack of bridges. This harsh terrain can be crossed by using horses (totally so Genghis Khan), camels (a Genghis Khan roll eyes moment) or the Russian UAZ van. Given our lack of horsemanship, and that it was going to be extremely uncool riding on a two-hump camel (plus sniggers from the Mongolian guides), the Russian UAZ van was the obvious choice of transportation to get across the vast grasslands and mountains of the Bayan-Ölgii Province. And so began our love affair with the UAZ van. It was love at first sight when we first set eyes on the fleet of UAZ vans waiting for us at the the Ölgii Airport. The UAZ vans were unpretentious looking, without the usual trimmings of passenger vans. But over the next two days, we witnessed the awesomeness of the UAZ vans. They cruised at high speeds along the flat grasslands, muscled their way up steep slopes and splashed across deep rivers without a pause. Needless to say, we were tossed about like salad inside the vans, but the experience far surpassed any theme park rides. And the extremely affordable local beer helped to enhance the experience. Life is like the rough and tough Mongolian terrain. You have some idea of your destination but the way there is never a straight road. You just have to choose the right mode of transport (it’s ok to use a camel) and enjoy the ride. You’ll get somewhere eventually. That’s life. Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “what road do I take?” The cat asked, “where do you want to go?” “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


10 September, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Don’t Judge a Camel by Its Humps Have you ever heard of a camel being called cute? You hear parents telling their kids “ooooh look at that cute furry bear” or “isn’t that fat hippopotamus cute?” Unfortunately for the poor camel, not only is he not called cute, most of the time he’s actually called ugly. To add insult to injury, the camel’s humps are always referred to as “water bags”, which is technically incorrect. The camel’s humps don’t contain water. They store fat, which can be converted to energy when food is unavailable. With the humps, camels can survive for many months without food or water. In addition to the humps, camels have many other great features that earns them the nickname “ships of the desert”. Did you know that: • Camels have three eyelids. The third transparent lid helps keep out sand and dust; • Camels can close their nostrils at will, which prevents them from inhaling sand during a sandstorm; and • The feet of camels are split into 2 large toes linked with webbing, creating a “snowshoe effect” that allows camels to walk easily on sand. Camels may be ugly (they are just not cute), but they can sail across the sand dunes of the deserts. Your purpose in life isn’t determined by what you look like or by what people think of you. The philosopher René Descartes famously asserted that “I think, therefore I am” to proof that he exists (if I can think about existence, then surely I must exist). To proof that you have a purpose in life, you just have to believe in yourself – you don’t need to look in the mirror. The camel may be cuter than you.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”


11 September, 2017

50 on Kinabalu: Countdown DAY 1 KK to National Park Sunday, 24 September 2017

6.00am - Welcome to Kota Kinabalu! Your first stop for the day should be the Gaya Street Sunday Market. It opens from 630am and it’s an incredible collection of sights, sounds and smell. Have your breakfast at one of the many coffee shops along Gaya Street and buy your souvenirs. 1.00pm - Make your way to the Grandis Hotel where we will gather. With more than 50 of us, the hotel lobby will be quite crowded, so smile and don’t grumble – shake hands and make new friends. As you meet each other and exchange notes on what equipment you have packed, you may realise that you are short of some things. There is a adventure shop called Montanic that’s located next door in level B-68 of Suria Sabah Shopping Mall where you can buy last minute gear. I will be sitting at the Starbucks next to Grandis Hotel from 11am onwards if you want to come by and have a chit chat. I’ll be happy to treat you to a latte and we can take a selfie for the MIA Facebook. 2.00pm - The route from Kota Kinabalu to the Kinabalu National Park is about 100km and will take approximately 2 hours. We will be travelling from sea level to almost 2,000 metres above sea level by the time we reach the National Park. The road is windy and some of you may get car sick, so make sure you have plastic bags handy. You may get some slight symptoms of altitude sickness – a bit of headache and some nausea. Enjoy it! I get it also, even for experienced climbers. If you want to have the best views, sit on the left hand side of the bus – you will be able to see spectacular views of Mount Kinabalu as we approach the National Park. Recommended attire: T-shirts, bermudas and slippers (let your feet rest – they will be tortured over the next 2 days). Bring along a light jacket as it will get chilly once we get higher and closer to the National Park.


5.00pm - We should reach Kinabalu National Park, and you must now learn the art of being patient. There are 9 different accommodations at the National Park and we will have to sort out the keys to the accommodations. While that is being sorted out, take time to breathe in the fresh cool air and enjoy the peacefulness. Talk to each other and make new friends. 6.00pm - Make your way to the National Park Auditorium where you will be briefed about the climb and your questions answered. This is where you start getting nervous and wonder why you ever signed up. Be brave! Recommended attire: T-shirts, long pants, beanie and shoes. I normally wear compression shorts and ladies can wear tights under the long pants. It will start getting chilly so wear a fleece jacket, and depending on the weather, bring a windbreaker in case it rains. Also always bring your headlamp with you from now on – NEVER go anywhere without your headlamp. It gets very dark. 7.00pm - Dinner and depending on the weather, you can join me after dinner to look at the stars in the night sky. Simply awesome.

DAY 2 Timpohon Gate to Panalaban Monday, 25 September 2017

5.00am - Wakey wakey! Pack everything that you don’t need to bring up the mountain into a separate bag. You can leave this at the Park Locker located at the National Park main reception. Recommended attire: T-shirt, fleece jacket, long pants (compression shorts/ tights), beanie and shoes. No need to wear thermals for now. You can take off the fleece jacket and beanie as it gets warmer. The weather from Timpohon Gate to Panalaban is generally pleasant and not cold, unless it rains. 6.00am - Breakfast. Eat lots of carbohydrates – bread and noodles. You will need the energy to climb. Don’t forget to collect your lunch pack which you will eat at Layang Layang. 7.00am - This is where a lot of confusion happens, so you have to be very patient and focused. You have to register, get your climbers name tag, deposit what you don’t need with the Park Locker, look for your guide and


look for a porter and agree how much to pay to bring your backpack up the mountain and down. Once you have settled all these, you will have warmed up considerably and you can take off your fleece jackets. Look for your buses next. 8.00am - Get on board the buses which will take us to Timpohon Gate, the starting point of the climb. The ride is about 15 minutes. 8.30am - And the climb begins. 1200pm - You should target to reach Layang Layang by noon and eat your cold package lunch. By now, you will be hot and sweaty and beginning to wonder if you can even reach Panalaban/Laban Rata. Of course you can! Layang Layang is the first “I want to give up!” point. Be strong! 3.00pm - The average climbers should reach Panalaban by 3pm. Good climbers reach by 1pm. The slow and steady climbers should reach by 5pm. I will be with the slow and steady climbers and will push you to reach Panalaban. Into the zone – by the time you arrive at Panalaban, you would have reached 3,300 metres. You will feel very very tired, cold, miserable and the full effects of altitude sickness may start to set in. This is where you want to give up. Never, never, never give up! It’s just 5 more minutes! 5.00pm - Buffet dinner will be served and end by 7pm. Sunset is breathtaking so get all your cameras ready. 8.00pm - Time to get to bed. It’s going to be difficult to fall asleep, even though you are so so tired. The altitude sickness plus people walking up and down the corridors going to the toilet will be so irritating. It will also be very cold and you will need to sleep in all your layers. Tip: bring your own 3-in-1 Milo and have a hot drink before sleeping. It helps. I usually don’t bother bringing any sleeping clothes. I sleep in the same clothes that I trek up with and when I wake up, I go on the summit climb with the same clothes.


Day 3 Panalaban to Summit and then back to Timpohon Gate and to KK Tuesday 26 Sept 2017

1.00am - Wakey wakey! Recommended attire: For upper – T-shirt, thermal shirt, fleece jacket, down jacket/outer shell. For lower – long pants,compression shorts/tights, beanie, buff, gloves and shoes. You can leave the rest of your clothes in your bunk. Just bring a backpack and water. 2.00am - Breakfast. Eat lots of carbohydrates! Don’t eat meat. 2.30am - Let’s start the push to the summit! The next 4 hours is going to be the toughest part of the climb. It’s dark, miserably cold and you are just ready to give up anytime. Don’t give up! 5.00am - We must reach Sayat Sayat by 5am as this is the cut-off. Climbers will not be allowed to climb beyond Sayat Sayat if they reach after 5am. 7.00am - We will reach the summit and watch the sun rise. This is a moment that you will never ever forget for the rest of your life! 8.00am - Start coming down from the summit.

Day 4 -

Wednesday 27 Sept 2017 10.00am - Reach Panalaban, have a quick bite, pack all your stuff and start heading down to the Timpohon Gate. 3.00pm - Reach Timpohon Gate and you are now officially a Mount Kinabalu summiteer! 7.00pm - Back to Kota Kinabalu and a hot shower. Depart for home sweet home. See you at the MIA AGM on Saturday 30 September 2017!


1 October, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

In Seventh Heaven If you say that you are “in seventh heaven”, it means that you are in a state of euphoria, complete happiness, and eternal bliss. For example, “She was in seventh heaven when she received the acceptance letter to her dream university.” Although used in a secular manner, the phrase “in seventh heaven” has religious origins. The search for purpose in life seems to be unequivocally linked to the achievement of perfection, to be in seventh heaven. Anything short of that is not just seen as imperfect, but unacceptable. There is no such phrase as “in sixth heaven” to give recognition for being close to perfection, for being second, for being good enough – because good enough is not good enough. There is one phrase though - “below first heaven” or in other words “being in a very hot place where the heater is permanently on” that’s commonly used for those who stumble in life and don’t make it to the finishing line. Only perfection matters. And thus many live their lives chasing after perfection. Isn’t being at base camp good enough and do we always have to reach the summit? “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali


8 October, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

The Next 5 More Minutes Just over 3 months ago, a few of us got together and planned for 50 on Kinabalu. Although the team could read about the tough conditions, the weeks of training and hundreds of WhatsApp messages prior to the climb could only prepare them for the pain and endurance needed. What they couldn’t prepare for was the discovery of themselves. Every climber discovered something of themselves that will be remembered forever. It’s not about reaching the summit. It’s about the next 5 more minutes – the journey matters much more than the destination.

“Maybe true. Maybe not true. Better you believe.” – Sherpa Saying


10 October, 2017

In Search of Purpose: “Face” Book

In Asia, “face” (miàn zi) is a huge thing. Face represents a person’s reputation and status within different communities, including the workplace, family, friends, places of worship and society at large. To “give face” means “to show respect” while to “lose face” means “being humiliated, losing dignity”. Failing is a tough experience by itself already. But failing in Asia is a double whammy because it doesn’t just mean you’ve screwed up, it also means you will “lose face”. When you have lost face, you will try to “save face” (avoid humiliation) and here’s where Facebook come in. You don’t need a scientific study to tell you that the sentiments of Facebook postings are undoubtedly, overwhelmingly positive. Or are they really “save face” posts? And these posts pressure us to reciprocate with “give face” posts that are even more exceedingly positive. Because if we don’t, we will “lose face”. We need to “give face” in order not to “lose face”. That’s when we succumb to the backwards law – the harder you try to do something, the less likely you are to succeed. “Because here’s the thing that’s wrong with all of the “How to Be Happy” shit that’s been shared eight million times on Facebook in the past few years – here’s what nobody realizes about all of this crap: The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience. This is a total mind-fuck. So I’ll give you a minute to unpretzel your brain and maybe read that again: Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law” – the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.” – Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life


13 October, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Empty Your Cup

There is an oft-repeated story about a tea-pouring monk who had a reputation for being very wise. The monk would pour tea for visitors who came to seek his wisdom. Each time, he would pour until the tea overflowed the tea cup, causing his visitors to wonder if the monk was really wise or just had a bad sense of not knowing when to stop. After drenching his visitors with tea, the wise monk would say “your mind is like that overflowing tea cup, so full of opinions and preconceived notions! You must first learn to empty your minds before you can gain wisdom”. Of course, not all the visitors were amused at being scalded by hot tea, and but they understood the deep meaning of the monk’s words. They knew they had to unbelieve in order to believe. And not quite a few of them went on to establish their own Overflowing Tea Cup schools of wisdom. The phrase “I think, therefore I am”, attributed to René Descartes, a French Philosopher, Mathematician, and Scientist, shows how difficult it is to empty our minds. Descartes believed that that he couldn’t not believe that he exists because he was the one who didn’t believe he exists in the first place. We fill our minds with so much convoluted thinking that we don’t need a tea pouring monk to mess us up. We are already messed up. “Emptiness the starting point. My friend, drop all your preconceived and fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.” – Bruce Lee


18 October, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step The temperature in the desert oscillates between 40 degrees celcius to somewhere below zero. It does things to your brain and that’s where the idea for Basecamp.Cafe was planted – in the Gobi Desert in 2012. It’s been 5 years now, Alex is 22, Singapore has its very own professional accountancy programme and we have taken our first step with the opening of Basecamp.Cafe. The journey is still fraught with huge challenges, but that’s life isn’t it? Basecamp.Cafe is for all of us to build, a place where we can exchange ideas, create opportunities and prepare for the challenges ahead of us. “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu


20 November, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Expect the Unexpected The start of a journey is always exciting. There’s the thrill of the unknown and the anticipation of the unexpected. It’s really like unwrapping Christmas presents, that moment of wonder just before the contents are revealed – “What’s inside the box?!” That’s also the same moment when the seeds of expectations are planted. There were expectations for Basecamp.Cafe when we began our journey. We were starting something that has never been done before anywhere in the world. As we took those first early steps, we were amazed by the comments we received: - “This place feels like home.” - “It’s a gem. It’ll be packed once people hear about it.” - “What a great idea!” - “It’s my space.” - “There’s nothing like Basecamp.Cafe.” - “Unbelievable!” We are grateful that we have unwrapped an empty space and found inside a base camp for everyone.

“If you do not the expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.” – Heraclitus

Greek Philosopher


22 November, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

Sail Into The Blue Ocean Many organisations have embarked on their blue ocean journeys in their search for growth and new markets, to find their purpose. Paradoxically, one of the key components of successful blue ocean thinking is “humanness” – inspiring people and giving them the confidence to venture into the deep blue ocean. But many organizations have internal silos that are resistant to change. They have anchored their thoughts with mindsets like “we’ve always done business our way” or “these are lines that cannot be crossed”. It’s not easy for organisations to sail beyond their perceived safe harbors and are still stuck in shallow waters.

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” – Steve Jobs

Quoted in “Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing – Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth”


4 December, 2017

In Search of Purpose:


“The romantic notion that a calling makes you happy is false. If you go blindly chasing after your calling, that’s a sure-fire recipe for a miserable life.” – Quote from “The Art of the Good Life” by Rolf Dobelli


10 December, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

The Things That Matter

Purpose = Circle of competence – Sturgeon’s Law Start by drawing your circle of competence. Then subtract from the circle 90% of what you do. The remaining10% is purpose – the things that matter. Sturgeon’s Law, named after science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, states that 90% of everything that we do is crap. Our achievements aren’t as as great as we think they are. Most achievements don’t matter. All the more reason to make sure that you have a good base camp in life.


31 December, 2017

In Search of Purpose:

2018 Resolutions

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus 2017 is coming to an end, but it also heralds the beginning of 2018. Here’s a countdown of 10 great base camp resolutions that we hope can inspire you to a great New Year! We start with base camp resolution number #10 – Find something (or someone or some place) and leave it better than when you found it!

Don’t you find it odd that many people travel to get away, but they always ask, “is there WiFi?” We need to disconnect to connect. It’s much more fun asking for directions by speaking to someone, rather than using Google Maps. Base camp resolution number #9 – Let’s wander where there’s no WiFi.


Impossible can be made possible. You just need to look at things differently and you can really touch the clouds! Base camp resolution number #8 – Reach up and touch the clouds. Planning your career and not sure where to start? Things have gone wrong and you are lost? Take one step forward! You may not know where you are going but every step you take will strengthen your base camp in life. Base camp resolution number #7 – Take one step forward.

You don’t know what you’re missing until you look up. And you won’t get to where you’re going until you get up. Look up, get up and it’s always just 5 minutes away! Base camp resolution number #6 – Look up, get up.

Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness. Base camp resolution number #5 – Indulge in solitude and me time.


Base camp 2108 resolution #4 – Create your own paths

Here’s the first of the top 3 base camp 2018 resolutions – “Take time to watch the sun set (and not just watch a sunset which takes just one second)”

He was fired from a newspaper for not being creative enough. He started a company that went bankrupt. Unable to pay his rent, he even ate dog food until he could get back on his feet. Walt Disney wasn’t perfect but he dared to dream about Disneyland. Here’s base camp 2018 resolution #2 – “Dream to be daring and don’t stop daring to dream” Dogs are known for loyalty, compassion, unconditional love and selflessness. Dogs don’t judge you and they have no expectations. They are always there for you. Dogs are the ultimate base camp! Here’s to a great 2018 Year of the Dog! And here’s base camp 2018 resolution #1 – “Expect the unexpected”!



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