Sunday, 28 August 2016

46: Lessons from umi and nathan.

46 is just a number. Dismiss-able. Forgettable. But it is also the measure of one’s age, that is, my age thus far

Yesterday, I crossed that line – supposedly one year older or younger depending on how I see or feel about it. 46 is also a reminder of how far I have come in my life. 46 years and counting. The years just adds up whether I like it or not. 

And here’s the tally. With a marriage of 16 years and 3 kids in tow, I can’t say that I have nothing to show. I have been moderately active. It took me 46 years to come this far – whether for good or bad (hopefully all good that is). 

In these 46 years, I have picked up many road kills along the way. Most of my pickings were of the mistakes that I have made thus far. Mistakes in words, deeds and thoughts. Mistakes I should or ought to have known better. Mistakes of the most unnecessary kind. Mistakes I cringed every time I think about them. 

Not 46 mistakes mind you, but 46 x 46 maybe, or more. But each mistake polishes me just that tad bit. It sets me straight, forms me right and molds me whole. Each of them comes with a sharp pinch at the side to remind me about just how much more I have to go. And trust me, it is a lifelong road ahead. 

The journey of life is made up of one learning experience after another. They come in the most unexpected intervals and they give you no forewarning. They don’t RSVP you. There is no sign or hint to discern from. 

They come when you’d have thought that there is nothing more to learn. Oh how wrong I was.
And the learning doesn’t stop. It doesn’t go on my clock. And if I don’t learn from them, I would have to suffer for it until I learn. Life – like a terrorist negotiator – is a tough teacher and its terms are non-negotiable – “learn, or be burnt until you learn”. 

And this is where the love of one couple comes in for me. At 46, with 16 years of marital brownie-points under my belt, no birthday for me would be complete without learning a lesson or two from a love that endures and thrives for 73 amazing years. 

This love is the timeless devotion of one Madam Urmila Nandey (“Umi”) for her man, SR Nathan. 

Many things can be said about our former President. In his eulogy, PM Lee recounted four to mark his life. First, he was a man who lived fully, seizing all that life had to offer. Second, he never gave up. Third, he always did his best for Singapore. And fourth, he had great personal integrity and commitment. 

But one thing that I paid particular attention to (and was deeply inspired by) is his love for his first, last and most enduring love.
For me, the highlight of PM Lee’s eulogy was this:- 

“Quite apart from Mr Nathan’s remarkable career, the central and brightest thread in his life was his love for Umi. He first set eyes on her in 1942, when she was 13 and he 18. After a courtship of 16 years, braving parental objections and a two-year separation while Umi studied in UK, they married in 1958. Their relationship spanned an astonishing 73 years, an inspiration to us all. SR loved and honored Umi all the days of his life. And she in turn was his anchor throughout his career, including the 12 years that he was president, when she supported him with grace, charm and warmth. Mrs Nathan, thank you.” 

Personally, I find it easy to keep up with the relationship of thousands, even millions. You could be a superstar on the world’s stage with millions of adoring fans. You could be put on a pedestal with every word and deed of yours emulated to the minutiae. But to remain faithful to one for a lifetime, and to be receiving her undying affection in return, is the crowning glory of a man’s life and this presidential couple undeniably led the way here. 

Nothing defines a man’s life more than his first marital oath to his love before a crowd of public witnesses, and then living by that solemn promise through all of life’s trials and temptations, and finally coming out of it shinning even brighter, stronger and longer. That’s the priceless love between Umi and Nathan.

SR Nathan’s niece once told reporters this: “When he walked into a crowd, the first thing he did was to look for her.” And “when Mr Nathan went out for functions without her, he would pack and bring home food for her if it was something she liked.” 

All these decades, Umi stuck by her man and Nathan kept his vows to her in a way that makes their relationship truly a garden City on a Bukit Timah hill – so to speak. It is therefore no secret that Umi was the woman who made Nathan’s “imagination went wild” and right up to his death, he only had eyes for her. They were practically inseparable – two devoted peas (or loving dhal) in a marital pod. 

In this heartfelt tribute, his friend of four decades, Mr Gopinath Pillai, said: “My wife and I travelled often with Mr Nathan and his family. On those trips, we saw a side of Mr Nathan that few outside his family saw. He was above all a family man. The childhood love between Mr and Mrs Nathan seem to have only grown with the passage of time. Their marriage is an extraordinary tale of devotion that inspires us all. The family he created…is a closely-knit one. Mr Nathan lives on in them as he does in our hearts.” 

So, I am back to that number, that double digit, 46. I am older, hopefully wiser. The years will definitely change things. The one I marry will grow old with me, our children will leave the nest eventually and start their own family with children of their own, and the only thing that keeps us together is love. Not so much romantic or erotic love, or some love chemistry or potion number 9, but an almost divine alchemy of intimacy and bonding that is forged by the years of being together, strengthened by our mutual trust and devotion, and deepened by sacrifices, understanding and hope. As a couple, we are still learning, discovering, roughing it out, filling the gap, and sometimes groping.

However, it is the love that Umi and Nathan so magically shared that has taught me to pursue it, and to pursue with unfailing passion (despite all my flaws). The reward of such love is the reward of a lifetime because it lasts a lifetime.

And here, as I end, I recall a scripture in 1 John 4 that mentioned something about God is love, and goes on to say that “no one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” That’s how compelling this love is. It is a love that is made complete in us. A love that embodies divinity. And a love that is empowered by omnipotence. Cheerz.

Remembering our First Elected President.

When Straits Times erroneously published on the front news that SR Nathan was "Singapore's first elected and longest-serving president," the papers was half right. I trust you can discern which part is inaccurate (because it is really not difficult to get it right since we have only three elected Presidents since 1993. And if you exclude the current living president, you are left with just two. The mathematical order is unmistakably elementary).
Ok, let me spell it out nevertheless. Ong Teng Cheong was in fact Singapore's first elected president in 1993, the "People's President" that is. And SR Nathan was the second, the Compassionate President. I guess if both presidents were alive, they would have squirmed at the error - more so for SR Nathan since he was once the Chairman of The Straits Times Press.
But of course, Straits Times have admitted to it and have accordingly apologized to her readers. Kudos.
However, this kept me thinking about the two great Presidents. I thought about their similarities and differences.
Character wise, both were giants in their own right. Both were handpicked by the government. Both served with exceptional dedication and commitment. And while Ong Teng Cheong spearheaded the President's Star Charity, SR Nathan continued with it with millions donated to help the poor and disadvantaged. They have indeed made an enduring difference in many lives.
Both served as public/civil servants with Ong Teng Cheong serving as the second highest political office in the land, DPM, before he resigned to be Singapore's first Elected President.
Both had the trust, admiration and respect of LKY (at least for a time for one). And both served the people with humility, honor and integrity. The list of distinctions, of course, can go on, but I think you get the point. Singapore can be proud of them and we are greatly blessed in return.
Lesson? Here comes the differences between them - with some trivial (immaterial) and some less so.
Ong Teng Cheong was a Colombo Plan scholar and SR Nathan was not a scholar - however, SR Nathan's grit, dedication and compassion were his sterling and timeless credentials.
SR Nathan was awarded the Order of Temasek (First Class) in 2013, but Ong Teng Cheong was not a recipient of the same. Ong Teng Cheong was elected in 1993, beating Accountant-General Chua Kim Yeow with 58.7% of the people's votes. However, SR Nathan was elected in uncontested elections in 1999 and 2005.
SR Nathan, in 2009, surpassed Benjamin Sheares to become Singapore's longest-serving President to date. Ong Teng Cheong served only one term till 1999.
Now comes the less so immaterial ones - for sentimental reasons at least.
Ong Teng Cheong surprised everyone when he openly criticized the government. During his presidency, he disclosed a "long list" of obstacles he encountered. There were "disagreements over accounting principles, the lack of clarity over the definition of "national reserves" and whether "net investment income" comprised part of the current or past reserves." ("50 Constitutional moments" - pg 184).
Needless to say, SM LKY was not pleased. He put on record in Parliament that "by using the press meeting to "vent his frustrations", the Government was left "with the unpleasant task of having to rebut him in public." ("50 Constitutional moments" - pg 185).
In another occasion, in 1986, when Ong Teng Cheong was NTUC Sec-Gen, he sanctioned a workers' strike against an American company Hydril for better working terms. This was another move that ruffled many political feathers locally and abroad, that is, the US.
In a Asiaweek interview in year 2000, Ong Teng Cheong recalled this about the sanctioned strike:
Some of them were angry with me about that… the minister for trade and industry was very angry, his officers were upset. They had calls from America, asking what happened to Singapore?” (FYI: the minister for trade and industry then was Tony Tan).
However, the strike was a success and this was what Ong Teng Cheong had to say:
I had the job to do… [the strike] only lasted two days. All the issues were settled. It showed the management was just trying to pull a fast one.
There was in fact a time when people didn't think Ong Teng Cheong would be an independent President since he was a DPM before the President Election.
But with that show of "public defiance", I guess he was given the unofficial title of being the People's President - because he has shown to the people that his allegiance has always been with them and not to any political party or ideology. And neither to any force of personality.
As for SR Nathan, in 2009, he approved a withdrawal of $4.9 billion from past reserves to help the economy at that time of the worst global economic crisis. It took him less than two weeks to deliberate and decide after considering all relevant areas of concerns.
So, the difference between Ong Teng Cheong and SR Nathan when it comes to the presidency is one of style and approach. The former adopted a “confrontation boxing glove” style while the latter applied a “low-key velvet glove” approach.
Another difference between Ong Teng Cheong and SR Nathan is that one had a state funeral and the other did not. The best Ong Teng Cheong got was a state assist funeral.
When asked by a concerned citizen "how come?", the PM's press secretary replied with characteristic diplomacy:-
"When Singaporeans who have made major contributions to the country pass away, it is right and fitting that they be honoured and mourned by the nation. They may or may not be former Presidents. The appropriate way to do so will vary with each individual.
It is not feasible to have a set formula as to who should receive a state funeral, based simply on the person’s rank or the appointment that he or she had held. It depends on the person’s services to the nation, as well as other special circumstances."
I guess the last difference between them is that Ong Teng Cheong and SR Nathan shared different "special circumstances" and these nuances of judgment are better left to the prudence of the government to painstakingly enunciate.
So, in my earnest view, both presidents deserve the highest honor and respect and Singapore has lost two great sons. Both fought for the people admirably, one openly confrontational and the other quietly transforming. Both are respected for their love for the people and their sacrifices. We are infinitely better off because of their life and contributions.
Respect and love always, Mr Ong and Mr Nathan. Shalom. Cheerz.

Ps: Remembering our first elected President too.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Ten commandments for the boy from Aleppo.

I dare not imagine a near perfect world. A world of intentional living for others. A world of self-sacrifices where unconditional love reigns. A world where the weak are protected, the old are respected, women are treated as equals, if not exalted, and the young do not lack heroes and role models they can look up to.

Such a world would be wishful thinking. I know that. My imagination does not fly me that far. My wings are clipped. I am not a head-in-the-sand optimist.

I am nevertheless a hopeful realist. And I do sometimes dream of a world a couple of notches down on the idealism scale. It is a world somewhere in the middle, hovering steadily above the barbarity and below a certain paradise. It is a world where expectations can still fall short, disappointments abound, and dreams unrealized at times. It is a world where new lives are born as old ones expire, and success and failures are part and parcel.

I harbor no illusions of perfection and I believe in cause and consequences. Sickness will strike. Happiness fades. Tears will be shed. Death and taxes assured. And sadness descends. It is no doubt an imperfect world, but not a savage one.

Yet, however imperfect, I cannot imagine a world that falls way below the steady middle where babies are mindlessly murdered and forgotten, young boys are mechanically trained to kill and disposed, young girls are mercilessly sold to slavery and abused, mothers are brutally raped in the name of religion, and fathers are cruelly tortured to death and burnt.

There are indeed limits to my imagination to dare venture into the realm of perfection, but never am I able to imagine a world where our protectors become our enemy, our elected leaders masquerade as our torturer, and our trusted custodians disguised as our betrayer. It’s a mind-boggling world to say the least. 

Alas, it is a world that is no different from a world of predators where we live for nothing but the hunt, where we pursue no higher goals than to satisfy our baser instincts, and where we care for no one else but ourselves. It is a world completely devoid of love, hope and joy.

Does human depravity not hit rock bottom? Is there no evil that is beyond our reach?

The Aleppo boy ("Omran Daqneesh") reminds me of how perilously close we are to such a world – if we have not already arrived. In Omran's hometown alone, 4500 children had died, and in the past five years of the Syrian civil war, 250,000 people have lost their lives. In the picture, Omran was in a state of utter shock as he was pulled out of the bombed rubble and he shed no tears. He was still coming to terms with the madness. In fact, he appeared more embarrassed and self-conscious than in pain and sorrow. While the bomb had hit his home and family, the reality of the chaos has yet to hit him. Soon it will.

While a perfect world is unattainable, a savage one where kids have no room for travailing tears but only paralyzed fears is truly unthinkable. And however unimaginable it is, such a world makes an absolute mockery of everything we have achieved thus far, that is, the so-called enlightenment we have attained and the modern civilization we are so proud of.

So, we can boast of many things. We can stand tall at the pinnacle of our own inventions, discoveries and innovations. We can brag to others about how far we have come in our learning and institutions. However, if we can’t keep our children safe, protect them from harm and preventable death, provide them with an environment of love and nurture to grow and mature, set an example in words and deeds for them to follow, and give them hope of a brighter tomorrow, then all our accomplishments in this world – be it material, technological, artistic and architecture - means nothing and amounts to nothing. We would have been no different from the savage animals that we so shamelessly pontificate against. And we would have failed humanity as a whole right from the start.

Let me end with the ten commandments for the little Aleppo boy, Omran, (and many war-ravaged victims like him):-

1) Thou shalt not forget me (I want to live too).

2) Thou shalt not make war at my expense.

3) Thou shalt not hide behind the name of democracy when it is all about self-preservation and greed.

4) Remember how thou have taken our parents away, and leaving us defenceless, orphans, rejected refugees and sold to slavery.

5) Honor thy words and don't wax lyrical in the international media just to further thine agenda. We don't need your sympathy or pledges. We need your help.

6) Thou shalt not kill to silence the voices of truth or mute the courage of the few.

7) Thou shalt not commit acts of hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

8) Thou shalt not steal to fatten thyself and leave thousands hungry, homeless and dying. 

9) Thou shalt not bear grudges and pursue vengeance and forget how many innocent lives like mine have to suffer just because thou can't resolve thine own differences or thine ego is just too ginormous to man up and take responsibility.

10) Thou shalt not covet after fame, fortune and power by selling thy humanity or conscience to the highest bidder. Leaders, please grow up soon so that we may have a chance to live.


Crouching Tiger. Hidden Dragon. Chasing Monsters.

What do you get when you cross a man with a ponytail and a mole on his face playing Pokémon go and a driver honking at him in a mall entrance? Well, if today's papers is anything to go by, you'll get a heated exchange and a fight.

The police were called in and both men were handcuffed. They were arrested for the offence of affray, and if found guilty, they face up to one year or fine $5k, or both.

In Parliament last week, Pokémon go was singled out and one NMP Rajaram said, "Again, and increasingly, consumers have to accept responsibility for playing the game."

Lesson? (This is a long screed, so pardon me). Here goes.

Forget about catching spiders. The world is busy hunting down monsters. It used to be crouching tiger and hidden dragon. Now its chasing monsters and people are converging at parks, malls, private properties and graveyards to religiously capture those otherworldly creatures with a nonchalant swipe of their index finger (the cooler ones use their pinkie; the more aggressive ones, middle).

This hungry ghost seventh month festival will see the territorial landscape getting more crowded than usual. Apart from studiously appeasing the ancestral spirits with food and burnt offerings, the finger warriors are taking to the street to lead the ghost busting trail on a mad rush to disarm monstrosity.

The one difference however is that the seventh month lasts for only, well, one month before the spirits pack up and head down-south. But the Pokémon craze is here to stay and come this September, the game will be equipped with a blue-tooth-low-energy-wearable-device for a more personal, futuristic touch.

When the fictional squealer in Animal Farm declared that "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others," the same applies to Pokémon Go in that some monsters are more equal than others.

And the prize catch of the day is the slumbering snorlax, who is ideal for battle with its high hit points (whatever that means for an ignoramus like me). The overbloated somnambulant cat-mouse mutant is very rare and its recent sighting at Punggol Park caused a Mexican-run of Pokémon Go fans crossing a relatively busy road with car jamming to a halt and horning with disgust.

Local businesses are diving into the craze as well and for good profitable reasons. A dentist admits that he is "releasing lures every day at a location 10m away from his clinic at The Rail Mall in Upper Bukit Timah since Monday." The reason? The dentist said, "I am not trying to attract footfall like the malls. I am just trying to make the wait at my clinic more bearable and pleasant for my patients."

Mm...I wonder whether a good book or some quiet reflection while waiting would have a better medicinal effect?

Nevertheless, he's right about the malls and footfalls because Resort World Sentosa, Ion Orchard, City Square Mall, Singtel, Starhub and M1 are all releasing lures on a grand pandemic scale not so much to attract those furry ethereal animals. No way Hosea. They are merely secondary target to these companies. They don't increase overall profitability directly. What these corporate vultures are trying to bait are those hot-blooded, novelty-seeking social bipedal animals instead. And they are coming in the busloads with a hunger that is out of this world. The irony here is that humans are using monsters to bait their own kind.

The reality is that this Pokémon craze has reached unbelievable proportions and Nintendo and Niantic are laughing all the way to the bank. It is reported that Nintendo's market capitalization had more than doubled to hit $42.5 billion last Tuesday.

Here, the indulgence vendor Johan Tetzel's jingle that "as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs" would equally apply for Nintendo's bank account with this modern tweak: "As soon as the download in the phone rings, the monster from one territory springs."

With a craze this huge, you can rest assured that the society will be divided. The fault lines are split between those who swear by the game and those who literally swear at it. There will also be people who play it for recreation and those who avoid it so as not to ruffle their style, standing and status.

Lastly, some see it as a game that fosters community, creativity and healthy competition, and others see it as a perpetuation of satanism, pantheism and polytheism. And it is reported that "Kedah Fatwa Committee has ruled that the Pokémon Go game is haram due to its potential to "jeopardise faith" in Islam."

Monsters Inc. strikes back I guess.

Here is the downside to the game. Two enthusiasts actually fell off a 50ft cliff playing the game. There were also reports of road accidents, robbery, gamers disturbing the peace and storming into private estate, military installations and churches. Four teenagers on a monster hunt had recently been rescued from a mine after getting lost in the complex. And now our first reported (and arrested) mall fight.

What is most unfathomable is to have people playing on the site of Auschwitz Memorial. It is reported that "in one case, a player claimed to have found a Koffing at the Holocaust Museum. The creature in the game excretes noxious gas, which some deemed inappropriate due to the use of poison gas during the Holocaust to murder millions of Jews." Some lines are just not meant to be crossed, regardless.

Alas, we are generally attention and sensation seekers. And the convergence of consumerism, internet and technology have reduced our attention span, heightened our drive for greater highs, and turned us into short-term pleasure seekers. For this reason, we are always on the lookout for the next new craze and we can't wait for one to come before we readily abandon the one before it.

One professor from NTU commented that "Angry Birds and Candy Crush were massively popular, but players lost interest and moved on to other games." Breakdancing, goli (marbles), spinning tops, yo-yo and Kendama have gone that way. I guess it's just a matter of time for Pokémon Go.

Personally, I don't prohibit my children from playing Pokémon. In fact, I don't talk much about it to them. I once asked my son, 14, why he's not playing the game and he told me this with pretentious toughness, "I've got a life."

Well, life or otherwise, Pokémon Go and any game of this genre will draw the people and money in because we are basically thrill-seeking, competitive and social animals. The catch is that if you build them, they will come. And if you push the right buttons, they will stay long enough until the next big thing comes along.

Here I recall what Eric Hoffer once said, "When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other." And Pokémon Go is the perfect mass mobilization social copycat exercise where such unfettered freedom comes fully alive. Most of us would go to where the action and crowd are. There is definitely fun to be had when people are engaged in the same activity en masse. It's an inclusive feeling of identity and community on a large scale.

But let's hope that the familial and community fun do not mutate into a form of personal obsession and cause the gamer to escape the real world just to immerse in an augmented fantasy reality. Or worse, turn players into "monsters" themselves being triggered by the slightest of agitation like the mall fight.

Because, if you think about it, at the end of the day, what matters most is not to capture those pocket monsters. On the contrary, what matters most is to "capture" the respect, affection and trust of the people we love. And you just can't do that hiding in a world of imagined monsters

Let me end with what Stefanie Sun (who recently released her new song "Rainbow Bot") said regarding her privacy: "Aiyah, I don't keep such a tight lid on my personal life. I don't hide at home and am everywhere with my family. It's just that everyone is playing Pokémon Go these days not Spot-the-singer-with-the-kid." I guess we can always turn a recreation into an obsession and miss out on the real good stuff in real life.

And as Jesus told Martha: "But few things are needed--or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

That's about eternity perspective. The earthly parallel of that is family and loved ones, and Sun has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her (on this side of heaven). Cheerz.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Schooling for life.

This moment is not about me, it’s about my coaches, my friends, my family…This swim wasn’t for me, it was for my country.” That’s what Schooling, the Olympic gold medalist, said. His father, Colin, told him to stun the world before the final, and he did just that.

He united a nation, changed our sports history, inspired hope, and with modesty, he demonstrated not just resilience and perseverance, but character. It’s definitely Schooling’s moment and he and his family deserve it.

The journey has just started for the 21-year-old with a "face like choirboy, ambition like a streetfighter.” But it was a journey his family walked with him every step of the way.

At 6 years old, in 2001, he was inspired to be like his granduncle, Lloyd Valberg, who was Singapore’s first ever Olympian in the 1948 Games as a high-jumper. At 13, in 2008, he met his idol Michael Phelps. He then competed in the nationals in ACS(I) and moved to Bolles School in Florida in 2010 to be trained under one of the best swimming coaches.

Since 2010, he had competed in the SEA Games, Commonwealth Games and Incheon Asian games, and bagged numerous gold medals. The victory trails led him to the summit of the Olympic glory yesterday when he beat three international superstars (or pantheon’s gods of the sea) to secure Singapore's first gold.

My mum, 60, said, “I have got to take care of two households on both sides of the world. It has been tough. Tough because we are not getting any younger…It is tough on family life, missing each other. Financially, using up all our reserves and having to budget like crazy. It has been tough on all of us, but he wants it.”

Altogether, the realization of the dream costs the Schooling about S$1.35 million. And every cent of it was well spent.

Now the nation celebrates. PM Lee said, “The motion will be formal recognition of his achievements by Parliament.” Schooling is scheduled to return First Class compliments of SIA and he will make his rounds in an open-top bus in like fashion as our football dream team winning the Malaysia Cup in 1994. 
What’s more, Singtel, McDonalds, Brands and SPH have all published a full-page Straits Times’ tribute to our champion flying fish from the humble estates of Bedok.

Lesson? Let's face it, not all of us can be like Schooling. It’s reality check time. We can admire, emulate, and even idolize him for a season, but his Olympian journey is a physically, emotionally and spiritually tough one and he has changed history of competitive sports for this little garden-city state.

In a historic moment, Singapore flag stood alone at the top spot with three other national flags (US, South Africa and Hungary) in a three-way tie.

This was what the water god Michael Phelps announced after clinching the silver medal yesterday: “I’ve been able to do everything I’ve ever put my mind to in this sport. And 24 years in the sport. I’m happy with how things finished. I’m ready to retire. I’m happy about it. I’m in a better state of mind this time than I was four years ago. And yeah. I’m ready to spend some time with (baby son) Boomer and (fiancée) Nicole.”

The reality is that there can only be one Phelps, one Bolt and one Schooling. They are top athletes who have paid the price, completed the race, and earned their place in sports history. Their paths, backgrounds and circumstances differ from each of us.

We can envy, adore or be inspired by them, but we have to confront our own obstacles, trials and challenges. Real life for most of us is not reel life for some of us. We have our own demons to wrestle. And we must never forget that the greatest privilege in our life is to live up to who we are, what we can do and what we have set our mind to achieve. It is essentially about overcoming and prevailing over our current circumstances and be the best that we can be.

The story of Phelps, Bolt and Schooling is our story too. It is a story of determination, faith, vision, raw grit and a never-say-die spirit. These traits or values are common to all men and women. They are not exclusive only to superstar athletes, empire builders or national leaders. Heroes were once strugglers who kept the hope up, the faith within, and the passion going.

You don't need to win a gold or silver medals to possess or embody these values. No doubt it is a matter of degree, and Schooling fires up with them, but each of us confronts our own battles and choose our own fights. In other words, our life is unique to us and only we can live it, excel in it, and keep the faith about it. 

Ultimately, life's gold medals (so to speak) is all a state of mind. The gold mentality is a mindset that never gives up. That is what set us apart from the animal world. That is what makes ordinary folks extraordinary. That is the mind of champions.

You therefore don't need to be recognized, famous or rich to be considered successful. They are the frills of success, not her causes or reason. If I have a definition of success, it would be about living with a sense of purpose, fulfilling it at your own pace, and being content with each progress made towards it, however small. Character always precedes enduring success.

Neither Phelps nor Schooling took giant leaps to arrive at where they are today. They took conscious, measured and oftentimes painful small steps to reach one set goal after another. In the end, we must not forget that a straight line is made up of innumerable almost unnoticeable tiny dots that band together in one direction for unity, visibility and impact. It’s the same with small daily victories in life that all adds up in the end.

Most of us live seemingly ordinary life. We may not win medals or attain the same level of fame as some people we marvel on tv. But living to the fullest is what joins us together in one common bond. And living to the fullest often takes extraordinary effort and strength.

For a mother who raises her children with love unconditional, a husband who loves his wife to the end, a friend who stands by another in good and bad times, and a father who sacrifices all for his children, they are all “life's medalists” in their own rights. They all deserve credit and recognition for leaving a legacy their loved ones can be proud of. Schooling's parents, coaches and friends are exemplary examples.

I guess the only consolation prizes in life are reserved for those who wallow in self-pity, indefinitely. They make excuses for their shortcomings, failures, and mistakes. Blaming others instead of looking inward for lasting change. The winners however pick themselves up from wherever they have fallen, kick the dust off their feet, and move forward with renewed hope and passion. They don’t hide behind excuses. They are not embittered, or embroiled. They are not waiting to be consoled. They are just looking to complete the race. To live life to the fullest. We can all do just that. Cheerz.