The Worst KICKSTART and The Wish That Came True

It’s 7.30pm. Hundreds of KICKSTARTers were already in the Hall of Awesomeness. Unlike the previous KICKSTARTs we had ran for the past two years, there wasn’t hip hop music blasting through the speakers. The usual video loop of our great community sponsors were not being projected. Cameras weren’t setup, registration was messy, and every one was in the dark.

The power was cut off about 2 hours before, and it never came back on. I prayed silently for electricity to be restored, but the prayers were left unheard. I looked at the committed Mindvalley team trying their best to think of Plan B. Over 370 registered, over 40 on the waitlist still, for the first ever KICKSTART Entrepreneurs Dialogue with Cheryl Yeoh, the CEO of MaGIC, and for once in my life, for a split second, I wanted to give up.

Is this a sign that I had been too stubborn with the outcome of things, that now the KICKSTART brand and community members had to suffer through my ego?

Has my gung-ho-ness finally led me to the dead end that I had to fail for real, despite the pivots I made in the past 5 days.

It's almost as if Cheryl was saying "You'll never get funding for VCs if you wear silly shirts like Maverick."
It’s almost as if Cheryl was saying “You’ll never get funding for VCs if you wear silly shirts like Maverick.”

Backtrack 5 days ago, I found out that the speaker of the upcoming KICKSTART, Pa Joof, couldn’t make it for the event. I mean, this is the guy I had been telling people about, the Elite Trainer for Tony Robbins in Europe. Over 180 people had signed up to meet Pa Joof for the first time, and now the organizer said that he couldn’t make it. Honestly, I was pissed. 3 weeks of marketing effort down the drain.

Well, that was for a good 5 minutes of bitching and cussing, before I knew I had to make a choice. Just inform the 180 people that Pa couldn’t make it and cancel the event, or live up to the maverick in me to pivot the event into something else. A few calls later and an email to the MaGIC team saw that Cheryl agreed to come for an Entrepreneur Dialogue I just conjured up in my head a few minutes after the bitching and cursing. Speaker for the night, checked.

Now, to fill up the event with my previous track record of no less than 150 people. In less than 4 days! I used to have 2-3 weeks to do that, but hey, I got lucky too. As it turned out, we got one of the highest signups since 2014. I was convinced even with the drop-offs due to traffic or rain, I can easily get 250 people in the room. Hall full of eager entrepreneurs, checked.

As I start to put the slides for the event together, I started coughing. A bit of fever and flu, but I figured I would pull through. That kinda explained me drinking from a bottle of cough syrup, live on stage, during the event. Emergency health boost, checked.

Throughout this time, I was reminded of my mom’s message. “If you want to do something, do properly.” I wanted people who come to our KICKSTART events to have an awesome time learning, connecting and believing. I had a certain expectations to fulfill. I need to make sure the sponsors are properly exposed and thanked. I want to see people having an amazing time, looking forward for the next KICKSTART.

Well, my mom’s advice was put to the real test, when we have to move every body downstairs to Mindvalley’s main HQ, and have the event at the kitchen/dining area – an area where no more than 50 people had fit in before. Problem was, we already had more than 150 people.

Well, I like to think those lucky people get an unplanned tour of Mindvalley's award winning offfice space!
Well, I like to think those lucky people get an unplanned tour of Mindvalley’s award winning office space!

It was 8pm, so we started the show anyway, despite not having a speaker system, no microphone support, no live stream, no videos, no projectors. It was really, really bare bones. Even the uncle at the pasar malam was more equipped to host Cheryl. The A/C was maxed out and people were sweating. I put on the best smile I could, tried to make fun of us practicing Earth Hour at the wrong time, and got in front of the crowd.

That was when I realized I had brought gifts for everyone. A book by a good friend of mine, W Mitchell, titled “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do about it.” As I was giving out the free books and telling Mitchell’s story off my mind (I had actually prepared a 5 minute video on Mitchell’s live story), I started to choke up. It’s such an irony that Mitchell’s message came at such an awkward time, but as I think back of the many years I’ve known Mitchell, he always told me that “we can’t remember everything we know; we’re not smart enough. That’s why we have to be reminded.”

And what a reminder it was.

As I looked at the crowd, the community I’ve built for the past 2 years, my hands trembled a bit, and my legs started to grow weak. I was really, really tired, physically and emotionally, and inside the battling conversation was “Do I continue to embrace Mitchell’s message?” or “Just put down your ego, say sorry and cancel the event?”

It was then that I was brought back to the oriental dinner Mitchell and a few speakers friends had 9 years ago. Mitchell, with his disfigured hands (his fingers were burnt off in his bike accident) was trying to pick up peanuts with chopsticks, a feat even the seasoned Chinese would have some difficulty with. After like 15 minutes or so of trying, we asked him to just use a spoon instead, saying it was too hard for him. Mitchell looked at us, a look that I’d never forget, and said “There are billions of people in China, and all of them use chopsticks. I don’t believe they all had perfect hands. If one of them can do it, so can I.” And he went back to trying. “I can always use the spoon tomorrow, but today, I’m just gonna try to do it with the chopsticks.”

“I can always quit tomorrow, so why not just try my best today?”

So as I stood, back against the kitchen counter, room getting so warm because it’s seriously over crowded, looking at the KICKSTARTers who had invested their time and effort, sitting very uncomfortably on the hard floors, I made a decision to take Mitchell’s message.

I kinda choked up a bit during this moment.
I kinda choked up a bit during this moment.

I never knew if the audience really enjoyed the session, or if they will ever come back after such an experience. I knew I let down some of the audience sitting at home wanting to watch the event live, because I couldn’t tell them we couldn’t set up the system. I looked at Cheryl’s face, flushed because of the warmth, and felt really bad to have to put her and her team through such an experience. I wish I could go back to five days ago, and made the easier decision to cancel the event and just focus on the next KICKSTART in September.

Now back home, recounting the experience as my son slept soundly, amidst the mix of emotions, I wondered what would Will had wanted his dad to do? I just had such a great time meeting new people, having conversations about the movies he just watched, or teaching entrepreneurs how to throw a fish out of water. If only Will knows the thoughts his dad had been battling with, what would he have said?

I would sincerely thank the support of the volunteers and sponsors who stood by me even as all hell breaks loose, and having to deal with the frustration. Thanks for Lu Xanne, Tristan and Roman for thinking up Plan B. You guys represent the awesome spirit of Mindvalley. Thanks to Nantha for letting us use the kitchen space. Thanks to Cheryl and the MaGIC team for being such a good sport and going on with the show, despite the conditions. Thanks to Jikey and Daniel for video, photo and tech support. Thanks to Win Nee, Carmen, Lily, Nicole, and Mun Foong for sorting out the registration despite not having a stable internet connection. Thanks to Carina, Ciinndey, Sue and Lilian for the snacks.

And for the rest of the KICKSTARTers who stayed despite the conditions (yes, and I thought for once I don’t have to chase you guys off after the event ends), thanks for your belief and faith. Despite the heat, you guys still came and congratulated me on putting up the event. Despite the tiredness of having to stand throughout the session, you guys still came and offered me help to pack up. Despite being dehydrated, you guys still stuck around and network. (and refused to go home!)

The crowd may look angry, but frankly, they were just trying to read the kamasutra sex positions off my tee.
The crowd may look angry, but frankly, they were just trying to read the kamasutra sex positions off my tee.

As I’m now taking the last drop of cough syrup (careful to not exceed the daily max consumption amount), wanting to finish this little expression of the Maverick inside, I wanted to capture a moment and end this writing. Frankly, looking at tonight’s event, I realized that my wish two years ago did came true. Back in July 2012, when we started KICKSTART, I wanted it to be a social experiment, to see if people can come together in communities, and make shit happen.

Shit did happen, and it’s the kind that makes you warm and fuzzy inside, and ultimately creeps out as a satisfied smile, before you hit the Publish button.

You guys rock!

This guy literally Facetimed the whole event to the iMac in the other room. He looks really proud.
This guy literally Facetimed the whole event to the iMac in the other room. He looks really proud.


Co-Founder of KICKSTART by night, Talent Development Consultant, organising workshops and conferences by day, and full-time single dad in between, Maverick is pretty much a renegade. An ex-monk who's always first to ask "why not?", Mav enjoys hacking the way things are done, and pretty much happy with the success rate of 50% (coz sometimes mom is right after all...). When it comes to business, give him a million bucks and he'll most probably get a new set of gadgets, drive home an Audi R8 and reload his Starbucks card. But give him little to nothing, and see how he starts switching on the little brain-matter between his ears. Challenge ACCEPTED!

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