I met up with an old friend over coffee a few days ago. And when I mean old, I mean 17 years in the making. We have not spoken or seen each other since we were in primary school, i.e. 12 years old!
It was nice of him to reach out via instagram when I was in London holidaying three months back (he’s based there and just got back KL for a short while).
You know it’s a really nice catch-up when you feel good not just during, but after the meet-up as well.
I do enjoy meeting friends, old and new alike, very much. But this felt somewhat refreshing. And I figured it was because of two things: he had a very easy-going, pleasant disposition, and that he was willing to share what he know and has experienced, modestly. There was not a single air about him at all.
He shared with me about his working life in London, about how he manages a team of people, the work culture being practiced and he adopts. He treats his subordinates like friends, and as long as they deliver what they’re supposed to, they are free to take-off even before the project deadline.
He loves surfing and spends his annual leaves doing that. He travels with a surfing school — having been to almost all of Spain (places he mentioned sounded so foreign to me), Portugal, France, Sri Lanka, and this time around, the Philippines. And on some weekends, he takes a road trip to Cornwall to surf. I asked him why does he like to surf so much. He says while he likes the adrenaline rush, surfing takes on different forms as well — depending on the tide, it can also be slow and steady. I can understand the thrill of surfing and getting it right (albeit briefly), though mastering it is a whole different story and feel altogether.
It was nice listening to these as I did/ do not have that opportunity to be able to travel to so many places like he does — on a rather frequent basis! He showed me a picture of him and his friends surfing with a (snowy?) Spanish mountain as a backdrop.
While commuting to and from work, he tries his best to walk the whole way if he can (i.e. if the weather permits) rather than take the tube. He listens to a variety of podcasts which I find interesting. This ranges from The Inquiry (BBC), The Minimalist, Serial, Motivate Yourself, The Meditation Podcast, My dad wrote a porno (a funny one). I got the list from him hehe. I haven’t tuned in to any and hope to, sometime.
He uses social media but doesn’t believe in being hooked onto your phone. During our entire conversation, he has not once looked at his phone. He always carries a book with him. Most of his good friends in London are the locals. I asked him if being an ex-national athlete contributed in honing him to be adaptable, he said partially, yes.
His parents are based in China, while his brother is based back here. He said he likes Malaysia a lot and do want to come back, but he isn’t sure if he will be able to get used to the working culture here.
As we were about to leave, he offered to pick my grandmother up (I was going to grab or uber to get her) and send us home. Without complaining about the traffic jam, he says he has always been like this, not letting things that he can’t control affect him.
We know the importance of being nice, but sometimes it takes meeting someone as such (again) to truly remind us or reiterate to us the ‘pleasantness’ of it.
Of course, one may argue that we always put up our best when we meet new friends or catching up with long-lost ones, and hence we should discount what we see. Well, I believe no one is perfect, and if that someone is putting his or her best self forward, I will chose to see that best. Plus, it’s something that I can emulate.
This reminded me of a time when my mom sent us an email (back in 2015), recalling her meet-up with someone who has left an impression on her.
This is entirely a different scenario of course, as mine was about someone’s life abroad and persona, while hers was about the person’s life experience (with lessons to be learned). Nonetheless, both our takeaways after the meet-up was something worth mentioning.
My mom’s email snippet as below:
I had coffee with an interesting person today. He was an ex-consumer who wanted some Shuang Hor products. He is L, 38 years old real estate agent. When I first knew him, he was in his late 20s, just starting out as a real estate agent. He was a workaholic then.
Today, what appeared in front of me is a very different man. He is financially sound. He has time on his hand. He is simplifying his life with minimal bank accounts and cards. His residence is 2 Semi-Dees, which his family lives with his sister-in-law. His sister in law manages his household for him. He has few business, which are run by his partners who are his friends or relatives. He travels widely, and his latest holiday was to Italy to rent and drive those exotic cars like Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Maserati etc.
He divorced and remarried. He has a daughter aged 2 years old. He has registered his daughter into Alice Smith pre-school as he believes the Western education is broader and more open minded. At the same time, he says he makes sure his daughter is exposed to the Chinese teaching of obedience and well-mannered. He has influenced his wife who is a banker to resign by end of the year to spend more time with the daughter, and have another kid; and also to manage his portfolio.
This is a man who is 38 years old but have a lifestyle of a successful and established 50 year old man.
He shared with me his divorce was a result of him being a workaholic and that his growth path was steeper than his wife. I could sense a certain remorse that his first wife did not stay on to enjoy his harvest of his labor. He said he supported his first wife till she remarried 5 years after their divorce.
His divorce awakened him that he should share his profit with others, so that he can have more time for family and himself. He started bringing his friends and families into business with him. He guided them in the business and now they are running the show. He reckoned they may make more money than him, but he is alright with that as he has more time to do the things he loves. He reckoned that if he had not divorced, he would still be working like a cow today.
Few things I learned from him.
- Uber. He has sacked his driver as it gave him many problems. He now uses Uber to move around.
- He is buying insurance from Singapore as the premium is cheaper.
- He is not comfortable with the Ringgit and have many foreign currency accounts (I have omitted the description this out)
An amazing guy, no? He is the first 38 year old man I have met, who talks like this, and lives like this. What I like about him, is that he learns from his mistakes and makes his life better as a result of it. He has a vision of how he wants to live his life.
I left congratulating him on his success. We promised to stay in touch.
Speaking of this, there are many more out there with various rich life experiences — whether you’re rich, poor, young, old, male, female. A car dealer whom we crossed paths recently had aplenty to share as well that amazed my mom. The tougher one’s life is or had been, and the more mistakes or failures one had, the better these stories are…. naturally.
We may not have the chance to experience them all the same, or may not want to, for that matter. But to able to listen to and know of these life experiences, we may be able to learn or takeaway a thing or two…. 🙂