@August 15th – after our morning trail run, stretching on top of Tadom Hill Resorts, and dunking under a huge ice bath…here we are in this pic – most of the Mr World Malaysia 2016 finalists + 3 Miss World Malaysia Finalists + Dato Anna!

Always say YES to what tugs at your heartstrings and discover the magic that unfolds. This post is about yet another time I did this, and I didn’t realize a) how much fun this lil retreat would be, and b) how much I’d learn.

I fall in love with places and moments where you can connect with nature, getways that feel deeply like getaways, places that inspire you to be more of who you want to be. Bonus points if there’s water, has good views of the sunrise/set, has good spots for yoga, can run, and where shoes are optional. Tadom Hill Resorts was exactly this, just outside of KL. Last week was also the perfect setting for an insightful, fun, and reflective trip :)

I was offered the opportunity to teach yoga for the Mr World Malaysia 2016 Finalists before the final competition a week ago. Thank you Josh Lim, and Michelle Hoops for recommneding me! I also got to join their adventure/training session. Competitive activities for the guys included swimming, diving, morning run, public speaking, bamboo raft building and racing, yoga, fire making, weight lifting, and more. It wasn’t just a fun retreat, but training, competition, and bonding for the boys. Also there was the organizer Dato Anna, also a former pagent queen herself, 3 of this year’s Ms World Malaysia finalists, Yusef, the current Mr World Malaysia, and Data Mahadzir, a mentor/public speaking trainer and emcee of the past 37 years of Ms World Malaysia and the first few Mr World Malaysia competitions.

I got to listen to a few of the guys during their public speaking training, and also had some really great chats with them over the 2 days. Here’s a peek into some of the topics:

– Jeff Lim – The first contestent I met had just finished his final university exams while also overcoming dengue. I asked him what made him enter this competition. “I’ve never done something like this. So when I heard about it, I thought, ‘Why not try?'” It made me think that just maybe, many decisions are this simple after all. Why not, right?

– Edmund Yap – “Why is education important?” was his public speaking question. Not as eloquently worded as him, but here’s a summary: ‘It’s like languages. If everyone spoke different languges, no one would be able to communicate. Same thing – if the whole world went about their education learning entirely different things, no one would be able to communicate or work together to make a better world. Education helps bring everyone together.’ An angle I hadn’t thought about, and I was very impressed with his delivery. When I asked Edmund if he’s thought of that answer before or done much public speaking, he said, “Nope. I just say what I feel and speak from the soul.” He enjoys meditation, and it made me think. How could we all get right down to the heart of what we think and feel on any topic? What more could we discover about ourselves and our path? How would we better contribute to the world? Which parts of us would we share with others?

– Yusef Tony is the current Mr World Malayisa, and he came to be a mentor/big brother/trainer. During the public speaking training, he gave a talk on how the boys should be proud of how far they’ve come, but also on how they need more discipline, to show up more for themselves. Among many well worded things he said, was to “Put your effort in yourself.” I think this spoke to me the most, b/c I often forget about myself as I pack in my days and evenings and trips. The single best thing we can ever do for ourselves, is to put effort in ourselves. To put everything we got, into everything we do.

– Khary shared with me that he used to be a much chubbier guy (not the only contestant with this background!) and borderlined health issues. Yet he committed to the change, put in a lot of hard work, and turned that around. He draws inspiration from his family, including his sister, a paraolympic badminton player. With people around him overcoming the odds, and doing so himself, it’s a reminder that we all can draw so much motivation and strength just by looking to those around us. For all of us, just think of our parents and grandparents – how different of a world they grew up in, hardships we’ll never face? Whenever we have doubts about what we can achieve, we can just look to people around us who have overcome so much. Whenever our confidence or commitment wavers, know that we can overcome any odds to achieve our goals. (I hope this becomes part of your story, as you have such an amazing story to tell!)

– Sean Lee – I think one of many/most guys who didn’t swim before, or were not comfortable with it. Yet all of them, tried swimming 10 lengths in the lake during the swimming competition, then straight after, swam to the diving area to then jump 3 times off a 17ft high bamboo diving board during the diving competition! Sean was one of many guys to get onto the diving board and suddenly become immobilized with fear. We all know that feeling in your stomach, whether we’re scared of heights or not. Some of the guys, inched back to the tree platform, went back to take a breathe and try again, or go behind another contestant, or just go back and hug the tree. Everyone cheered and encouraged each other on, but in the end, it is always you against yourself. Sean was one of these guys, and when he finally was determined to jump off, he did so with an almost run, a mighty roar and just like that, conqured this fear. Similarly for the other guys, their turn was a moment many would go back to, when they overcome a fear. Often the more we think, the more fear builds up. It’s when we think less, breathe, trust our decisions, and take the first step, that we can get through it and come out the other side triumpant. And as Sean said, “when we are nervous, there’s nothing we can do but face it. Use your heart to do it, use your heart to answer, use your heart to perform.” It’s then that we can discover what we love and who we can be.

– Lucas Loo – Not a Mr World contestant, Lucas was a big part of the retreat. He is the founder, visionary, owner, manager, chauffer, and much more behind Tadom Hill Resorts. The eco-resort is breathtaking, a place for all of us to ground ourselves and push ourselves outside our comfort zone…and a year since it started, the eco-resort is only 10% complete. He gave a talk around the campfire and also shared more later on what drives his passion to create such a place, where he draws inspiration from. I was first there December 2015 for a work team retreat, when it was 5% complete, and I can’t wait to go back more. To getaway, to see how it all unfolds, and to meet more people the Tadom experience transforms. Many of Lucas’s decisions and planning involves how he can help others, i.e. the impact employing the surrounding village communities. After all, as Lucas is driven by, “What is it all for, if it doesn’t help others?”

All the guys are very insightful, and they formed a brotherhood that they’ll remember forever. While one finalist won (contrats Anthony!!!), they EACH won so much for themselves. Maybe it was the place, their hard work, the nature of the experience, but they wasted no time to get into deep conversations and answer big questions. Find out who you can be when you put yourself out there, allow yourself to be open and vulnerabile, and step outside your comfort zone. You may begin to fall in love with your hero within 😉

Keep reading if you want to hear more about the adventure retreat! Here’s a recap of the 2 days I spent with them:

Upon arrival, the first task was swimming 10 laps in the freshwater lake (meaning: not naturally bouyant, lifejacket required). Many of the guys don’t swim or didn’t know how, yet they gave it a shot! For the second task, we swam over to the 17 foot high bamboo diving board. Each contestant was to dive 3 times for a score, even if they never tried before! They had to jump off, then try a front flip, then back flip. No biggie… I still can’t believe they did that with almost no instruction, for many it was their first time diving, or jumping off something!

It was incredible to witness many overcoming fears. As anyone would expect, there were many belly flops, back flops, and many times becoming immobilized by fear. The guys faced them like warriors. Some stood there for a minute, or 5, or maybe more. Some went back to come back onto the diving board, some went back to let someone else go first, some went back to hug a tree. It’s not an easy task! But then you saw them one by one conquer their fears. Some walked back out steadfast with determination, and with a manly roar jump or flip off like a warrior. No matter how loud the others behind them or in the water cheered them on, no matter how many countdowns, the only thing one needs to overcome is what’s in our own mind. And as always, the task isn’t as scary as we build it up to be. When you finally take a breath and take that leap, nothing else can replace that feeling of pride and accomplishment that fills you up when you surface and realize you DID it.

When we’re scared, we just have to take a step, breathe, take the leap, and get over our fear. Myself included! After the boys all jumped, I knew I wanted to try a handstand flip off. I was almost certain I wouldn’t be able to straighten out immediately to avoid a belly flop. And I was right, I had a full on face and belly flop (optional viewing here). But I knew the time was now to try it! I don’t recommend this, the faceflop gave me a headache for the whole next couple days and neck stiffness on the 36 hour journey back to San Francisco. And the backflop from practicing front flips gave me a huge bruise for a week.   

After diving, I continued playtime with 2 staff members – acroyoga with Jess and Ben, a yoga teacher and skydiving duo traveling the world. Tried some new partner poses, got some beautiful sunset shots, and then practiced handstands off the platform into the lake.

By then the rest of the Ms World Malaysia 2016 finalists had arrived for the evening, and we all had dinner and talent practice. It’s been incredible the past few months that I’ve been able to surround myself with people in music and arts, and here I was again, with sweet people, singing and playing guitar around a campfire!

The night was winding down, and Jessica, one of the Ms World contestants staying the whole retreat, and I had a midnight yoga class on the floating platform under the bright moon and stars. Somehow time flew by, and what was meant to be a 30 minute wind down class turned into a relaxed class with sun saluations, a moon salutation, while we worked on our splits, king pigeons, and handstands. When we opened our eyes after namaste, we looked out and saw Tadom Hill across the lake had somehow lit up. Not sure why the lights turn on after midnight, but it was just stunning, moreso as it was reflected in the completely still waters. I am still in complete awe of the resort and environment there.

The next morning, we did a 3k trail run, walked up the hill, and stretched over gorgeous views of the lake and palm oil tree plantations around us. On the way back, we came across a massive container of ice, I assume for Maybank company adventure team retreat happening that day. The ice was still rock hard, and it didn’t take more than a second for us all to decide we were going to jump in. Some guys jumped in, then the girls did, then the rest of the guys…then we all jumped back in again — fully dunking our bodies and heads under the ice bath. SUPER cold with leg muscles almost cramping up, but afterwards, the freshest thing ever. Always take the opportunity to try something new, you never know when it’ll present itself again. Be childlike in trying new things, and you’ll find so much fun all around us.

That day, I got to listen to a few of the guys during the public speaking training, and got to talking more individually with some of the guys.

The boys went off to build rafts made of bamboo to race, but then ended up using the resort’s rafts for the real competition (the girls team ended up winning!). And then we were set to do yoga! But more on the sunset yoga class in another post with pics, was so fun to teach and practice!

After chilling with the guys, dinner, dance class and practice, enjoying the talent practice, and finally, learning to make fire out of bamboo (every time you needed more bamboo tinder shreds or matches, you had to do 10 push ups), I had to bid the guys bye as I headed off to the airport to start to make my way off to visit family and US.

It was an incredible 2 days I didn’t expect. Thank you to Dato Anna and Mahadzir – these pagents and competitions are life changing for so many. I have such great respect for those that enter, organize, and put themselves out there for the world.

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Get out of your own way and discover who you can be. Be proud of who you are and how far you have come. Honor each step you take, honor the work you did to get to where you are. Thank those who have supported you to be where you are today. Surround yourselves with people who are pushing themselves, so that you can push yourself further. Have confidence in your presence, in what you say and what you do. Because if you don’t have it, no one else will believe it. You gotta do what you gotta do. Say yes when you know you must, and trust the decisions you make.

“When you have inspired thought you have to trust it and you have to act on it.”

When we have nothing to lose, we have everything to gain.

Congratulations to Anthony, the winner of the competition and Mr World Malaysia 2017! And congratulations to each of the finalists – I am so proud of each of each of you, and it was an honor to take a tiny part in your training. I am humbled and inspired by you all, and I hope you are in yourself as well :)