Jeff Tan had a military career cut short, he moved to Shanghai and set up two businesses.
What’s your story?
I started life flying helicopters with the Singapore Air Force straight after high school fully expecting to retire at 55. Somewhere along the way, the rules changed and all military officers were told that we could (or must) leave at 45 instead.
I was totally lost and found myself staring at immense uncertainty. Thankfully, I found my identity, purpose in life and core values during an intense personal mastery course and voila! – I left the air force after 26 years of service with gusto and enthusiasm.
I came straight to Shanghai even though my Chinese was at the level of a two-year-old kid, and I went from being a super duper logical and by-the-book military pilot, to becoming ultra flexible as a business owner. Today, if you tell me to bend and touch my toes I’ll need to ask if you want me to bend forwards or backwards.
I’ve been in Shanghai for 11 years now and my Chinese has improved to that of an almost three-year-old. I own two businesses, a training and coaching company, and one that makes learning products for young professionals.
Clichéd though it may sound, finding my purpose in life, identity and discovering my core values made all the difference as I didn’t just have a mid-career change but rather, a revolutionary change in life, as I went from safe and certain Singapore to anything-goes Shanghai!
What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most now is being part of the burgeoning personal development industry. I have a chance to reach out to so many more people to help them become the person they want to be.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Born and lived in Singapore for 45 years then in Shanghai for the past 11. Both great cities but with a completely different energy.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Must be Shanghai as that’s where I’ve been for the last 11 years. There’s an incredible “can do” attitude here that’s really empowering for budding or even experienced entrepreneurs, super useful networks to tap into, and generous people who share their time and experience just because they can. Throw in the very cosmopolitan population and you have a very good mix of resources to get things done.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Instead of approaching my business with a “ready-aim-fire” mindset, do it with a “ready-FIRE-aim” mindset. In other words, perfection at the start won’t help and isn’t necessary, and it’s far better to quickly get a close to perfect product out to the market and refine it later.
Who inspires you?
Anyone I come across in life who doggedly persists to achieve what they want in the way they want it! This means I’m constantly inspired as I keep meeting some pretty amazing people.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
How much my 22-year-old daughter earns with her first job!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Only one thing – continue growing to 1.8metres tall instead of stopping at 1.7metres.
How do you unwind?
By going home and doing nothing and letting my mind wander off to wherever it wants to wander off. Horror of horrors – I even watch TV to unwind! I’m not one of those who accounts for every second of the day with a strong desire to always do something productive. In the winter, I take very long walks through Shanghai’s amazing streets. One moment there’s Prada and Chanel stores and literally around the corner is local housing with happy old folks who have lived in the same home all their lives. Extremely therapeutic.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Can’t single out one place so here’s my three favourites: Hong Kong in the winter – perfect weather, perfect food. Bangkok in Dec / Jan – perfect weather, perfect food. Singapore anytime – it’s home. Happy to be in all three places regardless of weather!
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite” by Paul Arden.
Why this book? The title alone tells you so much about running a building or running a business doesn’t it? Although it won’t tell you how to…
Shameless plug for your business:
Calling all young professionals – you know you want to grow and develop and be your best, right?
It doesn’t matter if your highest desire is to save the rainforests or scale the corporate ladder, so why not learn and grow in a fun way with online learning that really tells you HOW to get things done, e.g., how to present better, how to think with great clarity, how to speak like a pro, how to influence, how to solve problems with critical and creative thinking.
Many personal development resources tell you what to do and you feel inspired to try, then …. you realise you don’t know how to do these seemingly “simple” steps. With our Sticky Steps products, you’ll know what to do and HOW to do it!
How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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