Singapore is in celebration mood when Joseph Schooling made history after winning Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal.
The significance of Schooling’s success is much more than bagging the first gold for Singapore.
It is the touching story of a young boy who met and inspired by his idol, the reward after his hard work to compete in the same contest as him, and the happy ending of the magic moment to beat him.
He reminds all of us who are stuck in the mundane world that we can choose to do something different; that it is important to aim high in life; that we should never give up; that childhood dreams do come true.
Winning gold despite all odds
Exactly two decades ago in 1996, windsurfer Lee Lai Shan won the only Olympic gold medal for Hong Kong during the Atlantic Olympic Games.
Growing up on the island of Cheung Chau where most inhabitants are fishermen, she took up windsurfing at the age of twelve. Her childhood dream was to be world’s number one in the sports.
However, Lee’s journey to windsurfing gold was far from smooth sailing.
There was almost no funding from the Hong Kong government. Nurturing local athletes was not the colony’s priority.
She couldn’t find sponsorship from large corporations either. They would rather sponsor celebrities than athletes.
Everything had to be self-funded.
One winter, she flew to Europe for training with her coach and another national windsurfer Sam Wong (her boyfriend at that time). To save money, three of them had bread for lunch. Hot meals were only available at dinner.
They couldn’t afford to stay in hotels. Under sub-zero temperatures, a tent was set up outdoors. Every night they used rock, paper, scissors to decide who slept inside the car or on the cold floor outside.
In 1990, she represented Hong Kong to participate in Europe’s Windsurfing World Championship, the most important event of the sports. The organizer wanted to invite more non-European countries to compete. That antagonized the European contestants. One of the coaches said,
“Those athletes from Hong Kong are rubbish. They shouldn’t even enter the event.”
From that moment, she vowed to prove herself whenever she was given the chance.
But life was tough. Despite winning at many international competitions, the government’s athlete subsidy was a humble sum of HKD2,000 (S$400) a month. Training and preparations for events required lots of money.
Lee Lai Shan and Sam Wong knew that they could only afford to have either one of them to continue pursuing the windsurfing dream.
To support Lee’s dream to be world’s top windsurfer, Wong gave up his own.
For years he did all sorts of odd jobs to raise money for his girlfriend. Day and night he would help Cheung Chau fishermen to mend their fishing nets for some extra cash.
There was no million-dollar prize money waiting for her. But politicians and tycoons placed ostentatious congratulatory ads in local papers. Organizations showered her with sponsored gifts.
At the press conference, she told the media emotionally,
“I prove that Hong Kong athletes are not rubbish!”
Secrets of having no regrets
John B. Izzo’s The Five Things You Must Discover Before You Die is one of the best books I have ever read.
To learn the secrets of living a purposeful and fulfilling life, the author interviewed 235 wise elders aged 59 to 105 who claim that they have lived a meaningful life and have no regrets.
Izzo finds that there are only two things that humans want most: to find happiness and to find meaning.
You will find happiness if you put love as a priority in your life and give more than you take in this world. You will find meaning if you can be true to yourself, follow your passion and leave no regrets.
These two things have nothing to do with money and material things.
You may have worked hard in your life to buy a BMW. But your BMW won’t come and visit you when you are in a hospital or in an old folk’s home.
Pursuing your childhood dream
In early 2016, a skincare brand conducted a survey on 5,400 women in 14 countries. Results showed that one in two respondents have given up on their dreams and are unsatisfied with their current lives.
Women from Japan, Korea, and Singapore are the top three countries with women giving up their dreams. Lack of financial support, fear of leaving their comfort zone, and dreams not fitting into traditional definitions of success are the main reasons for not pursuing their childhood dreams.
Compared to their western counterparts, only 30 percent of women in the US and UK have to give up their childhood dreams.
To encourage women to pursue their dreams again, the brand launched the ‘Dream again change destiny campaign’ with a heartwarming 4-minute commercial.
As a child, I don’t just have one dream. I have many.
I’ve dreamed of traveling around the world. I end up traveling most of the time for business.
I’ve dreamed of staying at my own place one day. I end up buying five properties in five years.
I’ve dreamed of being a novelist. I end up writing a book on property investment.
Do you remember your childhood dream? How far have you gone for it?
Have you forgotten how to dream?
This article was first published in Property Soul.com