I had the wonderful opportunity to ask, Richard Tan, founder and CEO of Success Resources, a few questions about his time climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. He has now climbed Kilimanjaro twice, and inspired many others, including myself, to go climb Kilimanjaro.
Why did you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
I first heard of “climbing Mount Kilimanjaro” at a seminar in London from a 50-year-old volunteer staff. She and her husband were going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and were recruiting others to go. I thought, “If this couple (the husband is a very large man) could climb Mount Kilimanjaro, it should not be too difficult.” Moreover, the name “Kilimanjaro” sounded cool.
When a friend, Blair Singer, invited me to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with him, I agreed to it straight away. I had no idea where this mountain was located or that it was the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
I just wanted to do something different and interesting, and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro sounded like an interesting goal. So far, I have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro twice. It created interest in some of my staff and customers. Even some of my family members were excited too!
I planned a third climb because I wanted to spend more time with my family members who were going. The climb would give me the opportunity to train and climb with them. It would be a family-bonding activity.
Any interesting stories or incidents from your climb?
On the third evening after dinner, I walked out of the tent. We must have been at around 4800 meters above sea level at that point. I looked up to the sky and saw vast patches of “white clouds”. I marveled that even at night, somehow the area did not experience total darkness because of these “white clouds” in the sky.
I pointed out the “white clouds” to my friends and was told that they were not clouds but milky ways! The “white clouds” were in fact clusters of billions of distant stars. When I realized what the “white clouds” were, it struck me how very small our earth is compared to the whole of God’s creation.
It made all our human issues so insignificant compared to the grand totality of the whole universe.
What were some of the challenges you faced during the climb and how did you overcome them?
I didn’t have any real challenges during the climb. On some nights, it was really cold. I would take out all my gear and clothes from my duffel bag and place it around the tent to insulate myself from the cold. I filled one of my water bottles with hot water and used it as a heat-pack inside my sleeping bag.
Any life lessons you learned from the climb?
I saw a porter bend down and pick up some plastic wrappers and litter left behind by other climbers. He put the plastic in his pocket and deposited it in the trash bag when he reached the next camp. Spending time with the native porters shifted my perspective to the importance of preserving nature. The recent hurricanes in the east coast of USA destroyed many properties and lives. Could this have been due to climate changes caused by modern-day humans neglecting to look after our environment? From the climb, I am more aware of protecting our environment.
How has life been different since climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was an illogical goal for me. In fact, when I made the commitment to climb the mountain, I was physically not ready. Because of this commitment, I signed up at a gym and started to train.
The goal to climb Mount Kilimanjaro became magical for me because I grew to become the person it took to climb this mountain. I exercised, I trained, I ran.
The difference for me was that I became healthier and started living a healthier lifestyle than before I set that goal.
I enjoy helping people find their passion in life. For someone not sure what area they want to work in or what they are passionate about, any advice you would give them?
One advice is “don’t just sit there and do nothing”. Sitting there and doing nothing is one sure way of not be able to find your passion.
If you know the Chinese story of Tang San’s journey to India to find the Buddhist scriptures, along the way, Tang San found Sun Mo Kong and the others. If Tang San sat there and didn’t move, he would never have found Sun Mo Kong and the rest. Same with finding your passion, you have to keep moving and working and soon you will realize what makes you feel alive and happy. That could be it, your passion.
How have you been able to successfully work with so many teams from different countries and cultures around the world?
Firstly, we have to respect people from different countries and cultures. Never act as if we are more superior just because we are from a more developed country. That was the mistake the British made that caused the downfall of the British Empire. The British were disrespectful of the Indians in India. They made the Indian soldiers use cow oil to clean their guns even though they knew that cows were sacred to the Indians. This caused the Indians to revolt and eventually drove out the British.
Secondly, we spend time training our teams so that they are in the loop of what is happening in our company. When they know what is happening, they feel a stronger sense of belonging to the company and ownership over the work. Surveys by reputable HR firms have shown that teams are motivated not just by financial rewards, but they are motivated because they are kept in the loop.
What are some of the characteristics you look for in the people you hire?
I don’t really look too much at their academic qualifications. Firstly, I look at their past experiences to predict their future performance. If someone is rude as a receptionist in the last job, it is unlikely they will be nice as a receptionist in this job.
Secondly, I look for positive attitude and passion, then the academic qualification.
From all your experience in business, what are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned?
I have learned many lessons in business. These are some of the lessons. Firstly, business owners must know how to sell. Without selling skills, you cannot generate revenue. Secondly, they need to know how to read accounting numbers. Thirdly, they must have a team. Fourthly, don’t quit until you win.
Any other adventures similar to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro that you are going to next?
I am going to join the Bintan 2018 half Ironman race.
That sounds very exciting and we wish Richard good luck on his new adventure!
P.S. If you’re interested in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro you can check out my (Bjorn) posts and videos from Day 1-6 here.