“THE LIFE I LED, WAS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED – TO BE WHO I AM TODAY.”
From bitter to better: Tyrone Williams used to be angry with the cards that he had been dealt with in life, till he reframed his perspectives through syadyaya. Now, he embraces his days with vitality and purpose
Most people are raised by their parents and some extended family – I was raised by a village! My growing up years were filled with a myriad of experiences, thanks to time spent staying with extended family, as well as my mum’s friends.
Most of my holidays (plus some weekends), were spent with mum’s Indonesian side of the family in Bandung, Jakarta. They were pious folks who attributed all their substantial success to God – they were also the ones who taught me my first prayers, and although I remained sceptical about their beliefs for many years, I must point out that they were also the ones who taught me values like humility, kindness, compassion, and the importance of having strong family values.
During the early years when mum and dad were still together, my dad’s brother, Uncle Brian, was the best father figure influence I had as a little boy. Always calm and caring, he taught me how to think rationally and logically, and took the time to teach me good moral values.
After my parents separated, mum tried her best to raise me on her own. Facing the challenges of a young single mother juggling a child and a budding career, she often had to leave me in the care of her friends during the weekends, or when she had to travel for work. It was quite unsettling for me as I didn’t know them, but of course, they’ve since grown into my good friends too.
When I was about eight years old, I moved in with my maternal grandma, and attended school in Australia. Grandma lived in a beautiful Australian country town and was a great cook. I really enjoyed her delicious home cooked food. This was also when I experienced winter for the first time!
When I turned nine, I attended a boarding school. I recall the discipline involved when it came to maintaining my school uniform. I learned everything from keeping my hair combed neatly and polishing my own shoes, to picking up skills like starting a camp fire and surviving in the wilderness. Those were probably the best years of school life I ever experienced – I remember camping overnight in the woods without teachers! My two years here were spent with 20 to 30 other youths. We all bonded and were very close, my friends felt like family.
At 11, I returned to Singapore to stay with my mum and step-dad. This was a really challenging period as I didn’t really want to come back to Singapore. As a result, my relationship with them became quite strained.
Another two years passed, and this time, I was sent back to Australia to live with my dad and step-mum. It was fun at first, but living with an alcoholic father soon took a turn for the worst when he started abusing me. My time at school offered no reprieve – the situation there was very different to what I was used to. Kids were dealing drugs in the classroom. Before long, I found myself with rainbow-coloured hair, and was frequently in trouble for smoking and drinking.
I’VE EXPERIENCED ALL WALKS OF LIFE
Everyone I met or spent time living with, taught me different things. They each came from different backgrounds and cultures, with different religious beliefs. I grew up living with devout Christians, a Muslim step-mum, Hindu friends, and a mother who’s a practicing Buddhist.
I was exposed to people from all walks of life, from the mega-rich, to the poorest of the poor who live in rural parts of Indonesia. I made a lot of interesting observations – one of them being that money can buy you nice things and give you choice, but it definitely isn’t the secret to happiness. Because how else are the farmers so happy, while the bankers so miserable?
As a young boy, I was enamoured with fantasy. I read a lot to cope with the loneliness. Books were my doorways to whole new worlds, worlds where I could transport myself to and learn new things from, whenever life was a little less fun.
I always imagined myself to be some kind of protagonist, wanting to live an epic life like the heroes in the story books I read as a child. I just didn’t know what that meant – yet.
I WAS WINNING AT LIFE – OR WAS I?
When the time came for me to do National Service in Singapore, I fulfilled my duty, then headed back to Sydney with just $5 in my pocket. I was at the edge of being homeless and was severely in debt. With no proper education and an empty resume, I was desperate to be hired. A chance encounter with a stranger led to my first sales job – a commission-only role. But the performance-based remuneration turned out to be a fantastic opportunity for me because I was used to being a high performer. I loved a challenge. I hit my first target within a week and was promoted. Hungry to prove myself, I continued to hit my targets and secured my second promotion just five months later.
On the outside, I looked like a young man who was winning at life – I had found my niche and was climbing up the corporate ladder rapidly. But the reality of my success involved regular work days that started at 5.30am and ended at 8.30pm. The truth was, I was on my feet hustling hard six out of seven days and clocking 81 hours per week, sometimes more.
My second promotion saw me taking on the role of a sales coach, and I loved the fulfilment I got from coaching as it allowed me to delve into the ins-and-outs of business, leadership, and the ability to replicate my skills in others. However, the role also required me to spend entire weeks with my team in other cities, with everyone living under the same roof. There were times when I became very disorganised. I struggled with poor health and bad sleeping patterns, and often ended up running late for work.
There came a point when my body felt so broken that I couldn’t get out of the bed in the morning without suffering severe back pain. I was only 21, but already, I felt like an old man.
I started to pursue knowledge about health and wellbeing through nutrition and movement, and went from feeling terribly sick to feeling better than I ever had in a long time. I eventually left my sales job and became a finance broker, but despite the lucrative income, I never really enjoyed it.
I thought that chasing money would make me happier, but as it turns out, I hated what I was doing. Talking to people about financial services, percentages, interest rates and what the banks were doing, sucked my soul dry.
As a result, I was constantly distracted, tired, avoided my responsibilities, and didn’t get much done. I started wondering if I was just potentially lazy. But on the flip side, I started spending all my free time reading and upskilling myself in areas that I cared about. I devoured books on psychology, human behaviour, and business start-ups. I loved reading about my favourite entrepreneurs because their lives excited me more than my own.
Friends started asking me for advice about upscaling their businesses, or to help them improve on areas in their personal lives. I loved doing it because it was so much more fulfilling to help them than to work on finance deals.
But still, I continued to toll away in the finance industry, until I burned out. This time, I became more spiritual, and started picking up meditation, yoga, and journaling. I asked myself questions designed to understand my inner workings and why I was the way I was.
The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions.
It didn’t take me long to realise that it’s not about the fancy cars, money, or luxurious destinations. It’s not even about your title or what you do for a living.
It’s about the emotions you carry daily. If you have $1m in your bank but are consistently angry, guilty, depressed, or jealous, then your life will be all about anger, sadness guilt and envy.
If you have no money, but your life is joyful, fun, hilarious, and full of love, then your life becomes all those things.
My turning point came when I decided to leave the job that was filling up my pockets but emptying out my soul – I needed more clarity on how I wanted to shape my future.
BALI CHANGED MY LIFE
Or did I change my life, then move to Bali?
If you can’t already tell, the Tyrone I am today, is hugely passionate about personal development and self-education. I spend anywhere between two to five hours daily, learning about new topics through podcasts, books, seminars and workshops. I even invest in coaches for myself.
After quitting my job, I spent the next few months trying to figure out my path ahead. I dabbled in a Shopify store, and worked in hospitality for a while to pay the bills. I continued helping my friends out with advice and coaching, until one day, one of them said to me, “Tyrone, it seems like you’re already doing what you love, why don’t you turn it into a business?” Turns out, the answer I seeked was right under my nose the whole time!
Inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit, collaboration, and abundant living in Bali, I felt the pull to move and start afresh there. The leap was seamless and the transition felt so natural because this time round, everything clicked. It felt like I was finally being me.
AUTHENTICITY IS ABOUT HONESTY
It dawned upon me just how lucky I was. I realised my strengths in understanding people. Having experienced such radical situations in my life, and having met so many characters from different walks, I’m able to read people, understand when they’re not being true to themselves, and guide them towards their own truths.
My “aha” moment came when I recognised just how depressed I was despite having achieved the goals I set out for myself early on in my sales career. Having been homeless before, and almost homeless again right before I got my first break into sales, I had believed then, that the reason for my depression and anxiety was my empty bank account. But guess what – when I had money, I was still depressed.
The turning point for me was realising that everything in life is happening FOR us, not TO us.
Every painful moment, memory, or challenge, prepares us to serve a higher purpose in future.
The drug addict who was addicted for years, is now able to help other addicts overcome their problems.
The man who lost his daughter, is able to empathise and help other grieving families.
The war veteran who lost his entire platoon, is able to help others cope with getting through similar losses.
The moment of pain is painful right there and then – but it often leads to growth.
REACTING TO LIFE’S CHALLENGES
I used to expect and want an easy road. I looked at those who I perceived as having it easier, with envious eyes.
I used to wish for an easier life. I wished for a different upbringing. I wished I had it differently – until I realised that the life I lived, was exactly the life I needed to live, to be able to stand in this moment today.
I used to have a lot of resentment towards my mum for not being there when I was younger, until I reframed the situation to “She was young and tried her very best to provide for me. She too, has her own story and suffering. I wouldn’t be who I am today, if it wasn’t for her.”
Self-reflection has brought me new awareness and changed my view on what life’s challenges are for.
If we wish to lead a meaningful life pursuing the things that fulfil us most, there’ll certainly be challenges along the way. And if every challenge we face throws us off balance in a bad way, then life is going to be tough.
Challenges are life’s way of making you grow into the role you wish to play, so that you have what it takes to overcome hurdles and hone the skills needed for you to realise your dreams.
See, if everything in life were easy, you wouldn’t have to grow. All growth is good growth. And all experience, translates into experience that will serve you in future.
Life doesn’t always get easier, and the world won’t change just for you. So you simply get better (or you don’t, but that’s up to you).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and find some time to reconnect with yourself in a relaxed space.
MEDITATION, LOVE, AND LIGHT
For me, meditation was integral in bringing about greater awareness and shifts towards personal growth. I try to meditate twice a day – once in the morning as part of my “hour of power”, and once again right before bed.
My morning meditation starts with five minutes of gratitude and connecting my breath to my heart. I imagine a blue light flowing through my head into my chest, and then out towards the people I love, wherever they are in the world. I then visualise completing three priorities for the day and focus on how that would make me feel.
At night, I get ready for bed by practicing breath work. I do a 4/7/8 breath count to calm my mind and body, and take a moment to practise gratitude again right before sleep. It’s a strategy I use to “tune” my mind to wake up with my first thought as one of gratitude.
Right now, I’m planning retreats designed to help people uncover their passions, design their service offerings, and launch successful online businesses. I’m working towards a world where, instead of just 15 percent of people loving what they do, I envision a world where 85 percent are fuelled by passion for their work – imagine what that world would look like! One day, I hope to be able to partner a non-profit to help elevate people out of homelessness, and propel them into business – just like I’ve done.
TYRONE’S TIPS FOR PRACTICING SYADYAYA:
- Keep a daily journal. Write about your day and notice key themes and emotions that pop up continuously – ask yourself questions like, what are your triggers? What can you learn from them?
- Notice where your mind routinely wanders off to – is it work? Relationships? Health? Or perhaps, memories that won’t go away? If your mind keeps going to a particular area, there may be something there that you haven’t dealt with. Take a closer look.
- Get feedback. Ask someone who knows you well, to honestly tell you if they’ve noticed any areas that you can improve in. tell them to be brutally honest about your shortcomings.