I have redefined retirement at age 23. I have a lifestyle where I do the things I like, with the time I have and still get paid for it. I designed my freedom these two decades, traveling to more than 40 countries. I run a successful business doing consulting works as a Corporate Writer, Corporate Emcee, Event Producer and a Workshop Facilitator. I am also a talk-show host on an Internet Radio station with two programs "A Course In Miracles for Work-Life" and "Freedom Speaks". Life is Healthy, Rich & FREE! You can design this lifestyle according to your willingness. I hope mine will inspire you to achieve that freedom too.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Toastmasters Club - the highway to my lifestyle makeover

Joining Toastmasters Club was a decision I made 10 years ago because I wanted to tell stories to a ready audience. I learnt so much thereafter that I launched my career in training and events management. I am also now a much sought after corporate Master-of-Ceremonies.

I was only in employment for 5 years. In that 5 years of employment, I worked with 5 different companies. After that I started my interior design company and successfully managed it for 11 years. So, I have never attended a company's annual dinner, let alone knowing how corporate comapnies work.

But Toastmasters open up lots of opportunities for me to get a taste of corporate lives. Working with so many fun and loving corporate people was inspiring. I was KL2002 District 51 Toastmaters Annual Convention Chairman. The convention was held for the very 1st time in Kuala Lumpur after District 51 been in existence for 9 years. The convention attracted about 1,000 Toastmasters members from 15 different countries. In the process of organising the event, I learnt the most important lessons in loving people and leading a group of corporate highfliers to work harmoniously together.

It was a tediuos and a time-consuming 3-year planning process. We had about 20 main committee members comprising of MBA qualifiers, General Managers, Entrepreneurs, Doctor, Corporate Trainers and many more corporate highfliers. We broke into groups led by various Events Directors, such as Sponsorship Director, Workshop Director, Venue Director, Program Director and so on, for each event throughout the 3 day event. We had, at the end of the day, about 100 sub-committee members.

The end result was spell-binding, inspiring, life-changing for most of us, an event even other organisers talk about until today. To me, the learning experience catapulted me to discover my inner potential. The realisation of my innate talents was so strong, it eventually led me to give up my 11 years of Interior Design business.

From that day on, there was no looking back. I went on to take up challenges I knew I had but did not put them to good use. These 10 years in Toastmasters, I had so much fun playing exciting roles and building a reputation through them, eventually, I am paid handsomely in terms of professional fees. What roles did I pursue?

Acting in Astro's TV series

One of the expression I like was extending my acting and theatrical talents. I love theatrical plays and arty-movies for years. Whenever I am in London, which I was there for about more than 6 times now, I had never missed going to the musical and other broadway plays. So, when I saw the advertisement on Astro looking for new talents for their cantonese TV series, I jumped at the opportunity. I went for the audition where I had to memorise a script and acted it out. Then, they wanted me to talk to the camera for more than 5 minutes - no script, no preparation, no topic. The moment the director said go, I began talking. This was where my Toastmasters training came into play. Just like Table Topics Session in a Toastmaters regular meeting. I was so well rehearsed with Table Topics Session that when I was asked to speak to a camera, it just went off natually.

Finally, I got myself a profile with a production house which produces TV series for Astro. I got into playing many roles thereafter. I had played Doctors, Marketing Manager, Cusotmer etc. I really enjoyed acting in front of a camera. The best thing, I was paid for it.

Naturally, when we were planning an impersonation for a Toastmaters outing at Port Dickson last year, my team and I came up with a fun and daring idea. We chose to impersonate The Three Degrees gyrating to their tune "When Will I See You Again". The performance was so funny, I laughed throughout the rehearsal period. I laughed so much, I can't even move.

Oh yes, the bra was real (what cup-ah? I don't know, but it fits), the high heel shoes were real, the skirt was real. The best thing was, I had so much fun. And everyone did, they told me they laughed until their bellies hurt.

Master of Ceremonies for corporate funtions

These 10 years in Toastmaters, I had raised my hand to volunteer for many functions and events in Toastmasters Clubs up to the District level that I improved my MC abilities. I am so experienced and I learnt so much from my MC engagement that I had been conducting workshops to teach everyone how to excel as an MC.

I began emcee-ing in Toastmasters for free. Most of the functions and events in my club and at District level, I sometimes head the team, or I was one of the trainers, or I was the MC. Imagine that I had spoken in front of so many audiences, and because I am so good and so experienced, naturally there will be a General Manager or a CEO or a Talent Search Expert in the audience. That was how I was "picked up". Initial years I had been doing it for free for organisations such as Malaysian Nature Society, Toastmasters Clubs etc. As I grew to be a professional, I was being paid starting at only RM200.00. Then, companies began to offer me more. So, I began to know my "worth" and my "market value". Now I am offered RM1,000 for each engagement. Some launching events only required me to be on stage from 10am - 12noon, I am paid the same.

And I thank you all for the offers, I am so fortunate be able to serve you all.

I did not, in my slightest test of my will, expected to take up MC professionally. Thanks to Toastmasters, I am now a full fletch professional MC and a much sought after one.

My advice to all, find out more and go join Toastmasters, you will unveil your inner talents - and networking is fun and great in Toastmasters too!!

As Corporate Trainer

I never, in my waking hours, had the inclination to be a Trainer. The funny thing was, I asked my friend, who is a Consultant (Trainer) what he does actually. Then he went on to explain what a Trainer and a Consultant do, then I just left it as it is.

Now I am one. Thanks to Toastmasters.

It is a natural progress when I began giving presentations to so many people and organisations. Initially, it all started for free. Then, when I took one year sabbatical, corporations began to call me and offer me training contracts. So, like MC job, I started off by accepting offers that paid me only RM700.00. But there was so much joy and satisfaction.

Eventually, it built up to be a profession I can also work at. I had, in the past 5 years, since going pro, trained personnels from these corporations - MIMOS, AMI Insurance, Barber International, SBB Mutual, Extra Excel International etc.

I am now leading an exceptional life, thanks to Toastmasters.

An Exceptional Life, indeed!

This is the way I live my life now. My full-time business in freeze dried fruits & vegetables is running very well. I am able to exercise my talents fully. I don't know what I am going to do next, but it will be an explosion, no doubt!!

Cest la vie and seize the day!!

P.S. I am a member of D'Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club, check our activities

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Nepal - knowing that all is good

I had been travelling to so many places alone. All I went without knowing what my itineraries were. And they turned out to be the best days of my life. Now I know that I cannot not know what I want - only when I truly allow, then I will be given. Just like the mystical journeys I had when I was backpacking in India.

I was taking a 24-hour train ride from the border of Pakistan, after taking a bus down from Dharamsala (Dalai Lama's place in exile) to Gorakhpur, the border town into Nepal. While on the train, I was in their 3rd class seat. As you know, it is tough to get on a 3rd class coach in India and you hardly can get a seat, let alone a place to lie flat. But I was lucky, I had the "luxury" of laying down my tired body on a bench, I did not know why so few were occupying the seats that day. I was so tired, I could hardly think, so I slept. When I awoke in the middle of the night, I found a magazine laying there by my side. More strange is to find an English magazine on a 3rd class coach. I flipped through it anyway and read about Lumbini - Buddha's birthplace. Now, I had to tell you that I did not know that Lumbini was Buddha's birthplace when I stepped into New Delhi airport. In fact, I hardly knew India then. As usual, when I travel, I only know where the plane is going to land, then the rest I leave it all to .......hmmm.....God? Universe? So, there I was, reading about Lumbini and discovering that it is a historical site. I changed my course when I crossed the border, instead of taking an 8-hour bus to Kathmandu, I went straight to Lumbini, which is about 1-hour bus ride away. But I was literally taken for a ride. When I got on the bus at 5am, I was told that the bus will go into Lumbini, but when I reach the junction to turn into Lumbini at 6am, I was asked to get down, the bus conductor pointed to a small road and indicated to me in broken English that the bus was going to Kathmandu and I had to get down there to walk in to Lumbini which was about 3 km away. And mind you........it was winter, temperature felt like 10 celsius, it was 6am, dawn just broke. I can't argue in a foreign country (I tried that in Vietnam, I still couldn't get through to Cambodia and I got turned back to Ho Chi Minh........well, that was another adventure...), so I flung my 75liter Karrimor backpack to my back and strapped my smaller carry-on in front of my chest, I stuffed my hands in it to keep them warm and walked head-on into the unknown. The road was narrow and the visibility was only about 10 feet. The entire place was shrouded in mist. I looked to my left and to my right, it was a mangrove swamp with mangrove trees shredding their leaves leaving them bare to look like arms reaching out to pluck my eyes right out of their sockets. But such scene did not disturb me, I clutched on tighter to my rucksack, not because of fear but of the cold. I walked on. After nearly 30 minutes, I still saw no one, the quietness was peaceful, sort of ringing in the ears. I did not know why, I felt safe. I continued to walk and it was getting slightly brighter. I saw a silhouette figure of a man after a bridge but I wasn't sure, he was not moving at all. When I got nearer, he began to move ahead, I was so relieved, I finally found someone to ask for direction. He told me he was going there too - to open his shop, he sold food to passers-by. We walked for quite a distance, he showed me where his shop, he was kind to cook me some food and after paying him, I asked for permission to leave my big backpack at this shop while I walked around the place.

There was hardly anyone awake yet, except a group of Tibetan novice monks doing their cleaning in silence. I walked pass them, smiled and went on my way. I sat on a bench marvelling at the pond where Maha Maya (Prince Siddharta's mother) took a bath before giving birth to baby Siddharta. It was still misty, and so early, only at a distance, I heard the clinging sound of a bicycle chain rolling out a hardworking soul, that was all. The place was quiet, not a sound - just for me!? I listened, then I felt it, it was a sense of returning and capturing the essence that a great divine person was born here 3,000 years ago. I wept. Uncontrollably, tears kept washing down my cheeks. I let them.

The experience was more of spirit than of body. I could not explain why that I had turn up at a place where I did not know it existed. I did not even know that Lumbini was Prnce Siddharta's (Gautama Buddha) birthplace...........but then, without having prepared for it, I was led there. I just say Thank You!

Likewise, for the trekking to a remote place in Nepal. I just sat there because the price to pay for a week-long trek to Annapurna range was expensive. So, I did not know what else to do, I just sat there under a tree and wonder....... one young man approached me and told me that there was a prettier trek somewhere else which is 3 hours bus ride away from Pokkhara. He said he will take me there for a small fee and I had to hike for at least 2 days to reach the place. I believed him. It turned out that he took me to his house on top of a mountain which is 7,000 feet above sea level. We trekked a lot, staying at teahouses along the way. Strangely, it became the best and most enjoyable part of my trip in Nepal. If I hadn't sat there and waited for the universe (God) to arrange for me, I would have planned it with my physical mind and would have missed all the goodness of the trip. Look at the photos above, weren't they breathtaking?

The best part of my life was not planned with my physical mind, I invited God in and allowed the whole universe to conspire to make all good things happen to me - and I venture into life with love as my guide, light as my path - and so it is, Amen!!

Top pic : I was on the roof of the bus taking picture of people on the roof of another bus. It was a funny sight. It was even funnier when I need to scramble down the roof because in front was police check-point. Then, the bus passed the check-point, all the Nepalese will climb on top again, then all helped each other to get up including giving me a hand and pulled me up again.

Middle pic : I was on my way huffing and puffing for a 2-day climb to the guide's home at 7,000 feet above sea level. It was exhilirating yet so breathtaking.

Bottom pic : Met 2 beautiful villagers asking me in Nepalese where I come from, I got it interpreted and the old lady smiled. The sun shone onto the plains and got her face, so peaceful!