Thursday, 16 October 2014

Conquer Your Mountain With Tenacity

All of us engaged in our respective work, passions, businesses, family commitments and other priorities are really not that different from one another, are we?  Every day we face our individual mountains, trying to find ways to get around it, climb it, burrow underneath it or chip away through it.  Nonetheless, these mountains are there before us no matter how we think about it.
 I watched a program aired on BBC Knowledge called How  We Made Our Millions, hosted by Peter Jones  of the Dragon Den’s fame, who was on a mission to uncover the secrets of success of self-made millionaire entrepreneurs.  In the program, Jones  interviewed  Chris Dawson and the Constantines, owners of famous UK brands The Range and Lush respectively.  The program fascinated me, not because these entrepreneurs had the business savvy to identify the right opportunities to deliver products that consumers need.  What fascinated me most was their tenacity and grit in spite of the hurdles they had to face both personal and outside where the competition was rife and consumer preferences were fickle.

Chris Dawson - Managing The Range Like Everyday Was A Recession

 Chris Dawson, who owns The Range, a chain of stores in the UK,  selling home, garden and leisure products,  used to be an open air market trader.    He was  dyslexic and  dropped out of school as a boy.  He could not read or write at an age where many kids in school were pouring through stories from Enid Blyton and Dr Suess. Yet Dawson’s unwavering determination spurred him to become a billionaire who at 62, still works from dawn to dusk, giving himself a treat of a full English fry-up only when he had  successfully clinched a deal.  Apparently he detests any waste of time and watches his expenditure very closely.  During an interview with Michael Ribbeck, the editor of South West Business, Dawson underscored his business ethos with this comment, “The recession is tough for everyone including us.  The difference is I have always run my business as though we are in a recession.”

The Constantines - Adhering To Principles Of Social Responsibility Through Lush

 The Constantines’ story was  even more interesting.  I am a fan of Lush, the company that produced delicious-smelling bath products and cosmetics because they adhere to the philosophy of  no animal testing.  Lush also produced “Charity Pot” a hand and body lotion where 100% of sales proceeds would go to the charities that Lush supported .  Lush became a big supplier to The Body Shop as Anita Roddick at that time, had shared the Constantines’ business vision.  However, in time, seeing that The Body Shop was heavily reliant on the Constantines as their biggest supplier, they bought the Constantines’ out for £6M.  The Constantines ploughed the money into their online retail store Cosmetics To Go.  However Cosmetics To Go went bust and the Constantines had decided to return to their former business model of hand-making bath and body products, this time, successfully growing Lush into a £130M business.   In 2001 when the Constantines offered to buy The Body Shop, Roddick purportedly called it the biggest “April Fool’s joke”.  However, the joke was on The Body Shop, because they were eventually bought by L’Oreal which was owned by Nestle, one of the biggest companies in the world that had seen a lot of attacks for animal testing.  The Constantines’ story was particularly riveting.  They saw a marketplace that was big enough for friendly competition which bred good business sense, great products and better value for consumers.  They even spotted a way to feed into the value that The Body Shop brought by supplying their hand-made products to the latter.  However, when Roddick referred The Constantines’ bid to buy The Body Shop as a joke, it smacked of the “big boy arrogance” in business which was truly unnecessary.

He Rongfeng - Gratitude As Heavy As A Mountain

  Another story that moved me, was that about Chinese millionaire He Rongfeng. He was a homeless teenager at 17 years old when he met a noodle store owner by the name of Dai Xingfen while begging on the streets.  The latter invited He home, offering him temporary reprieve from the cold outdoors, gave him food and some money, and urged him to set a good example and grow up to be a good person.  As elaborated in the story published by the Stomp team in Singapore on 11 October 2014,  when He turned 38 and became a successful businessman, he tracked Dai down in the hope of repaying that “debt” by giving her one million yuan but Dai upon reuniting with He, turned down the cash offer.  So He had decided instead to present her with a huge plaque that read, when translated, “ Gratitude As Heavy As A Mountain”.   

These stories fascinated me because I learnt that it was reasonable to expect to climb even the highest and most death-defying mountains through pure tenacity,  grit and authenticity of purpose.  These entrepreneurs did, and have proven that even in the face of nay-sayers, skeptics and the cynical laughter of the “bigger boys”, they could compete, find opportunities within the market place, develop products that add value to consumers and achieve tremendous success in the process.   None of these had old money.  None of these had wealthy backers.  There was no special secret to their success.  What drove them was pure hard work, determination, and simply, authenticity of purpose.  

Erik Weihenmayer - No Barriers

On that note, I would like to introduce the work of a very inspiring man, Erik Wehenmayer, the only blind mountaineer who has ever reached the top of the Everest in 2001.   When Wehenmayer was younger, he suffered from retinoschesis and was gradually going blind. He fought against using canes and wanted to just live life as normally as he could.  He turned to wrestling and represented Connecticut in the National Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championship in Iowa.  When he could hardly see anything, he started using a guide dog.  He then turned his passion towards rock climbing and realized he was very good at it. In 2004, he led 6 blind Tibetan teenagers and completed the climb up the north side of the Everest at 21,500 feet, higher than any group of blind people have ever stood.  There you go, even a blind man can make his way up a mountain with 6 blind kids, so what is stopping the rest of us with our respective dreams and goals from achieving them.

Ezzy Wang - Inspiring Lives

 Closer to home, let me introduce you to my colleague Ezzy Wang.  When I see Ezzy hobbling across the office with 1 leg and a crutch, I would try to hide the pain I feel in my knee after a strenuous workout at the gym.   Ezzy handcycles 4 times a week, averaging about 180km each week and swims 20 laps in an Olympic-sized pool about 3 times a week.  He champions the cancer cause as the ambassador for the run event called Run For Hope.   Ezzy lost his right hip to a rare pelvic cancer many years ago, then subsequently lost his entire right leg when he suffered a relapse.  Today, he looks fitter and stronger than some of  my friends who fight professionally, and he is a testament to how anyone, and I MEAN ANYONE, can handle a mountain no matter how difficult a climb it may be.

 So whatever your mountain may be, whether in business, work life or personal life, don’t ever let it beat you.  Conquer it with a strong belief in your own capabilities, your will and your own strength.

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Muay Thai and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

My colleague Ezzy Wang continues to inspire lives in our office everyday.

Chris Dawson, the billionaire who owns The Range.  Photo credit: South Western Business UK

Mo Constantine, millionaire owner of Lush Cosmetics. Photo credit: The Independent, UK

Erik Weihenmayer, first blind mountaineer to conquer the highest peak of the Everest seen here climbing the Ben Nevis in the UK.  Photo was taken off this site.

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