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The joy of moving forward


“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

- Martin Luther King


One of the things in life that used to really get me down and out was my inability to bounce back from failure or at least what I perceived to be a failure. I only realise now that these were merely stumbling blocks and that I had allowed them to hold me back from perhaps achieving a lot more in my tennis career.


Even as I recollect the times I chucked my racket on the tennis court after losing points and self-destructing during and even more so after the match, I understand now how profound an effect all of this has on us when we are unable to move forward in life. Let me say that differently, we are not just looking to move forward but instead to find joy in moving forward.


As I reached what was perceived to be the ceiling of my tennis playing career (which is actually only limited by our own thoughts and my lack of foresight and perseverance), my self-destruction had unknowingly begun. Tennis, once the love of my life, had dropped down the priority ladder, and gone was the rigours of disciplined gym sessions, hitting numerous balls, and taking part in tournaments. I started giving myself excuses as to why I could not be good enough and that being good enough wasn’t my thing. I had reached my ceiling.


The truth is that I chose to limit myself by dwelling on every loss that came my way. I chose to look back more than I was looking forward. I chose to let myself think that I wasn’t good enough to move forward with my game and constantly looked for new coaches who changed my playing style so many times that I was as confused as a lab rat asked to run a maze. The truth is that I wasn’t strong enough to pull myself together to journey forward and always blamed someone else or listened too much to chatter when I stepped onto the courts. Mentally, everyone knew I was as frail as it got, and handing me a defeat was no harder than cracking an eggshell.


As I started to show disdain towards my tennis, things started going downhill in all aspects of my life. Little did I realise then that the one thing which would keep me focused was now taken away by my own hands. Within a span of 10 years, I had gained weight and reached lofty peaks of 150kg. My career, though successful was nothing to shout about as compared to my alcoholism, failing liver, and soon-to-be statistic on a 30-year-old who would not live past to see his 40th birthday.


Me at 150kg


I had given up on life and the scary part was that I didn’t even realise it.


In June 2012, I hit rock bottom. Multiple failed relationships, the same attitude I had carried over from my tennis to my entrepreneurial journey and failing health reached the breaking point when I witnessed the death of my favourite uncle and how helpless everyone around him was. I don’t quite remember what the true trigger point was but I do remember waking up one night, heading to the refrigerator, drinking a glass of wine, and weeping myself to sleep because I had let myself get out of control.


Things had to change.


The date was September 21st, 2012 when I donned an unused pair of running shoes for the first time in a long time and set out for a run at the running track nearby. That didn’t last long as I pulled over at the 100m mark and threw up. Looking back now, there were many of such episodes in the past 7 years but one thing had changed since my tennis days. I was beginning to understand (partly due to desperation) that no matter what happened, moving forward was the only way I could undo all the damage that had been done.


In the years after that first run, I have come to realise the power and joy of being able to move forward and stop looking back to think about what could have been. I now apply this principle to everything I do, every race I run, every task I’m given, and every tennis match I play (yes I’m actually back at it). My advice would be to focus firstly on what you can control and forget about what you can’t. This helps a great deal because it releases unwanted pressure on you. Next, all of us will make mistakes, have a bad race, miss a sitter, or even lose a match we’re expected to win. That’s just life.


Take the positives and move on. Don’t dwell on what’s been done or the negative parts. Simply wipe them clean and start moving forward again, sometimes as soon as you reach the hotel room after a bad race. Wash it off, cry in the shower if you need to but importantly, move on. We live one life and it is way too short to be dwelling on the negatives. If you speak to any professional athlete or exceptional individuals, they almost never remember the negatives but always focus on the positives. Sometimes, they are even able to find positives in the most negative of situations.

Completing my first ever Ironman in 2016.


It is by no means easy. Looking back, I found that many times I could not live by my own ethic but that has also become part of the process of moving forward. We stumble and fall, hit obstacles, bleed, and occasionally falter. But that’s just life. We only become better at what we do when we are able to enjoy the process and importantly, to find the joy in moving forward. Hence my moniker:


Onward.


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