August 11, 2022
I first met Singapore football legend, Fandi Ahmad on 13 April 2016, with the hope to pen his story. I shared the idea with him and on 29 May 2022 (on his 60th birthday), we launched Fandi: Honour & Sacrifice, now a Sunday Times Bestseller.
Just as Fandi found himself in football, I found myself in writing. These two dates will forever be etched in my heart for they influenced the way I think, feel and act towards my goals and life now.
‘I launched Fandi Ahmad’s biography’ — it still feels unreal to say that and see the book in bookstores. The journey was exhausting, exhilarating and to say the least mind-boggling.
I not only wrote the book, but WriteHaus Asia (the business that I run with my husband Allan) published the book. So, we had our work cut out for us.
But more than anything I have learned that it has been a humbling experience.
There was so much to discover during the journey — not just about writing a biography and the publishing world but also what it means to honour our past, present and future. To know that the choices we make, the struggles we endure and the fight in us create a might to carry one through all of life’s ups and downs.
While walking this journey with the support of loved ones, I developed strength of mind and body. I realised that true strength is not about how much we can bear but how we let it affect change in us. Because the learning never stops, especially when you run a business.
In this article, I share key lessons I learned writing Fandi: Honour & Sacrifice.
#Be Open to Opportunities
Before Fandi: Honour & Sacrifice, I wrote other books, but they were not my own. As a ghostwriter, my role was to stay anonymous and get the job done. While the anonymity was exciting in its way, I wanted to publish something on my own. The question was what? I always believe that if your intentions are in the right place, the universe will show you a way and it did for me.
One day my husband, Allan asked me, “If you were to write for someone here in Singapore, and put your name on the book, who would it be?”. Without hesitation, I replied “Fandi Ahmad”. He was surprised and asked me “Why Fandi?”. I said why not?
During Fandi’s playing years, football was a national idea and was rooted in who we are and were as Singaporeans. Fandi became an icon of that idea — loved and respected by Singaporeans of all ages, races and religions. Football brought people to the stadium and Fandi brought Singaporeans together. He always believed in strengthening the bonds of the community.
Why wouldn’t I write the story of someone who made thousands of people happy? Someone who made us feel like we all belonged to a sense of home and pride — Fandi was not a stranger thousands of miles away that we cheer and revere — he is right here and why should we not learn from our own? He who shares a similar cultural backdrop as us.
So, I approached Fandi with the idea of how this can be done and here we are today.
#1 Take the Shot and Trust the Process
As a writer, the hardest part I believe is the beginning — to get words on paper. Though I had done it before, it felt daunting to write the story of Singapore’s favourite football son. What do I share that people don’t already know and how do I respect his story in the process of doing that? I wanted to walk away from it.
It is probably the hardest thing I have ever done, but I buckled down and wrote it. It is then I realised that writing gives you the power to see humanity at its best and worst. While writing someone’s story they are letting you into some of their hardest and proudest moments.
You hear different perspectives; it becomes liberating and you learn from their experiences. Fandi always shared that it is important not to be afraid to take the shot on the field if the opportunity arises, you never know if it will be a goal or hat-trick.
#2 Burnout is Real and Don’t Ignore It
While writing the book, I was also running WriteHaus Asia, the creative agency that published the book. At WriteHaus Asia we offer communication, PR, design, writing, editing and project organisation services — juggling these projects while writing a biography was like juggling 10 balls in the air. I felt like I was chasing deliverables all day.
If I was working on one project, I felt like I was neglecting the other. Very quickly, I felt burnt out and ignored it for a while. But it soon affected my day-to-day, I found myself yearning for a break and never taking one because of guilt. So, I decided to be honest and acknowledge the struggle. I asked myself “What needs to change?”
Writing is isolating and it can feel very lonely, so I made an effort to have check-in days, meet people and prioritise my projects. We should never underestimate the power of human connection and compartmentalising our hard-to-reach moments. No problem is too big if you see it as an individual challenge. Like Fandi always shares; if there is a will, there is a way.
#3 Challenges Are Necessary
While writing, I learned that Fandi faced many challenges in his life and some of them were hard to hear and write about. I could only wonder how he managed to get through them — he has an incredible sense of calm and patience as he walked toward them. Fandi embraces the challenges ahead of him and is solutions driven, his strength of mind and resilience are bar none.
We have all been caught in a challenge or felt the situation taking over our emotions. It happens to the best of us. By affixing a label to our challenges —we minimise their importance in our life. I think of my life as a map and all the moments I experience as the compass that navigates me towards the journey (map) I want to create.
What if by suppressing the scars or hurt left behind by our obstacles we suppress the power that resides within — the fullness of who we can become? Challenges are life’s way to a new and better us. Each learning moment during this book journey shaped and strengthened every facet of who I am — my personality, mindset and character.
#4 Get to the Finish Line
Writing a book takes an insane amount of dedication and commitment not knowing if it will be worthwhile, and thus it can be tempting to give it up midway. While we never announced the intent to the public until it was completed, I owed it to Fandi and myself to complete the book. Writing over 40 years of Fandi’s life into a book was the challenge I faced.
We sat down for numerous interviews, travelled to Holland and Kuala Lumpur and went through numerous edits until Fandi: Honour & Sacrifice was complete.
At each stage, it felt easier and I learned that getting to the finish line no matter how the outcome may look is far more important than giving up. Fandi’s 3DS (determination, dedication, discipline and sacrifice) was very helpful in getting me through this.
#5 Learning is Non-Negotiable
Writing a book seems like a mammoth task and it is — writing is one part of it and as WriteHaus Asia is the publisher of Fandi: Honour & Sacrifice, I also had to manage the communication, book marketing, materials designs, public relations outreach, and the launch organisation for the book amongst other areas.
When the writing was complete and off to the printers, it was time to work on other aspects of the book and its launch — while it seemed a lot at first, again we broke down the tasks to what we would accomplish each day. We had to be patient and learn with each task.
It took me four years to complete the book and another 6 months to prepare for the launch. Anything worth doing takes time and can’t be done with haste. So, we prepared ourselves for the long road ahead in 2016.
# Gratitude Above All Else
There must always be a place for gratitude — each step we take towards fulfilling our goals and dreams is a moment to embrace thankfulness. Fandi often says “The humble don’t stumble and I believe that there is no greater truth. For without gratitude, we are merely existing and not living the life that we have created for ourselves. Gratitude enables us to honour our choices, our support system, our challenges, our goals and our wins before taking the next big step. It helps us learn from the past, embrace the present and walk into the future with confidence.
What have you learned from some of your special moments?
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