They say in life, it is not just what you know, it is who you know.
I first heard of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) through Marcus Luer, who served as my mentor for MillionaireAsia's Enterprise Development Challenge two years ago. In fact, joining EO was the very first advice Marcus gave me.
"It is very important that you surround yourself with like-minded individuals," he said. "When you are in the company with other individuals in similar position in life like yourselves, you get access to a whole group of people who supports you, mentors you and gives you opportunity to mentor back. When that happens your whole thinking and approach to life and business changes."
Alright I'm interested. So how do I get sign up for this EO thing?
"Well, you cannot just join like that. They are quite selective about who gets into the organization. First, you must be the founder or shareholder of a company that makes USD $1 million a year."
Okay. Not quite there yet.
"Next, there's the membership fee, which is around RM8,000."
"No, a year."
With that, I put off my thought of joining this elusive club called EO, until late last year when these two letters popped up again.
Joanna Ling, a friend of mine who is probably the only EO member in Kuching, asked if I would be interested to go on an bicycling experience of a lifetime organized by EO called the EO Tour de Malaysia - 5 Days, 4 States, 300+ km, 1 bike.
Sure, why not? After all, what's there to lose... other than my pair of legs?
With that, I packed my bags and my bike to KL to have a glimpse into what this exclusive organization called the EO is all about.
DAY 0 - PREP TIME
What do founders and directors of companies making more than US$ 1 million in revenue look like?
Well, they look just like you and me. But one common thing that stood out is how open, friendly and unreserved members of EO are.
Everyone goes out of their way to talk to you or help you out, even if they don't know who you are. There's no such thing as who is more senior or who makes more money. Everyone sees everyone as an equal.
When EOers organize events for other EOers, they always seek to create magical moments that money can't buy. Examples in the past include shutting down Petaling Street for a Chinese New Year celebration, or getting toured around Manchester United by actual former football players.
For the EO Tour de Malaysia, you know this event is highly exclusive when the special guest invited to give a lecture is a Tan Sri from Royal Selangor.
Lesson Learnt: Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep on moving.
Malaysian cycling legends honoured by the organizing committee.
DAY 1 - PUTRAJAYA & TELUK INTAN
Woke up at 5:30am. Just in time to take a selfie clad in lycra.
This is probably the only time in my life I would be seeing 65 company bosses carbo-loading in preparation for a 100km ride ahead.
The morning of Day 1 is a 50km ride around Putrajaya.
It's such a joy riding in the administrative capital of our country. The roads are relatively flat and the the boulevards wide. As one rider remarked, "Finally, we have found a use for Putrajaya!"
I thought it's also pretty cool we were given a police motorcade around Putrajaya, like we're some VIPs in a city with no shortage of VIPs.
Ironically, the official colour of our jerseys for Day 1 is yellow.
Wonder if Najib got worried when he looked out the window, and thought a bunch of BERSIH protestors were riding towards him!
It's a crime to still look this good after a 50km bicycle ride.
Anyway, we kinda cheated and took a 2.5 bus trip up the North-South Highway to the sleepy town of Teluk Intan, Perak - where the local's claim to fame is this leaning clock tower.
Of all the designs we could have copied from the Italians, we copied their lousy building construction method.
From Teluk Intan, it's a 70km bike ride to the Lumut jetty.
It was a tough ride, and the leisure riders have opted to take the bus to the destination instead. The hardcore ones gulped down a few cups of FruitBank juices and continued the journey with no complaints.
The skies turn golden just as we were about to depart for Pangkor Laut.
And after a gruelling 130km first day, we finally "kaw liao".
Time to celebrate in Pangkor Island!
Lesson Learnt: Good entrepreneurs must learn how to take risks.
Snagging a photo op inside a ring of fire probably isn't one of those risks.
DAY TWO - CAMERON HIGHLANDS & BANJARAN
The day barely broke, and we're already departing Pangkor Island. Some EOers probably haven't even slept!
Day 2 of the EO Tour de Malaysia commences at Cameron Highlands, Pahang.
Despite being a Malaysian, it's my first time here and I like it! It's so picturesque!
Our first stop is the 'BOH' Tea Centre in Brinchang.
Like primary school kids, we line up two by two, holding hands, as we visit the very fascinating tea factory to see how tea leaves are processed.
An obligatory group photo before we journey 120km downhill!
The downhill bike ride is super easy. All I had to do was control my brakes!
Lesson Learnt: In life, you must learn to take plenty of breaks and enjoy the smell of tea leaves.
Our next pitstop is my most favourite out the entire trip - the Banjaran Hot Springs near Ipoh, Perak.
I have long heard about The Banjaran, and how it is the only true 5-star wellness retreat in the whole of Malaysia. I'm glad I wasn't disappointed.
The Banjaran is truly beautiful. Set amidst lush green rainforests and vertical limestone hills, I felt serene as soon as I stepped into the gardens.
Nothing beats soaking my tired legs in these geothermal hot spring waters.
I didn't wanna leave, but I have to be careful my eggs don't get cooked.
Massage is not included in the price of entry. But heck, after riding almost 200km in two days, I could care less paying nosebleed prices for a 45 minute treatment.
Next, we were given a tour of Sunway Group Chairman Jeffrey Cheah's private wine cellar set inside a limestone cave.
This was another one of those magic moments that the EO team sought out to create.
When Jeff's Cellar was first opened, only his families and close friends are allowed to enter. Eventually, he opened it up to his hotel guests, but still, it remained the most spectacular wine cellar in Malaysia that no one has heard of.
Thanks to some "connections" within the EO group, we were able to wine and dine with stalagmites.
Sadly, I had to leave the EO Tour de Malaysia prematurely.
But the few days I spent with this bunch of EOers is enough for me to appreciate the unique bond and camaraderie they have with one another.
In a short course of two days, I had met a real estate consultant from Hong Kong who taught me how to "read" shopping malls, a young Harvard graduate who is also a CEO of a drink manufacturer, and a brash businessman who said being in EO "saved his life".
All of them I wished I could spend more time with. All of them have lessons I could learn from. All of them have stories I could be inspired from.
Unfortunately I had to leave because after cycling 2 days straight for 200km - dammit... MY BUTT HURTS!