Woon Tai Ho - founder of Channel News Asia and Author - shares his life story and career advice with Ling Yah, host and producer of the So This Is My Why podcast

Ep 146: Is ‘Success’ a Painful Burden? | Woon Tai Ho (Founder of Channel News Asia & author]

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Welcome to Episode 146!

Growing up, Woon Tai Ho – Channel NewsAsia founder & Bestselling Author of books like the George Yeo trilogy, Soul of Ink, Riot Green- didn’t know he was poor.

Until he invited his friends over and was asked questions like:

❓ Where’s your phone?

❓ Where’s your sofa?

None of which he had.

Which made him realise that actually, he was pretty poor. 😅 

But he was never ashamed of it.

When his sister invited him to stay at the house she was working at as a domestic helper, that changed his world.

I couldn’t believe it, the way they stayed… these people had a dimension of luxury that I didn’t know about. So I told myself, I need to work very hard.”

And work very hard he did. 

We know Channel News Asia as one of the preeminent TV news channels in Asia, but that wasn’t always the case. As Tai Ho shares, the earliest days of CNA was very much a ‘wait and see’ game.

It was hardly easy too. 

Television is a very, very hungry animal. A news channel is a very, very hungry animal. Every hour, every minute, every second needs content. Otherwise it’s black.

❓So how did Tai Ho build CNA from the ground up?

❓Position CNA amidst other giants like CNN & the BBC?

❓ Gain support from the likes of former Singapore foreign minister, George Yeo?

❓Handle challenges like when he was summoned to China for their coverage of Falun Gong?

You’ll have to listen to Part 1 of this STIMY episode to find out. 😉

P/S: And don’t forget leave a rating & review!


A special shoutout to Karl Mak (STIMY Ep 55) & his team at Hepmil. 

They’re the ones who made this sub-series possible and helped me record all my interviews in their studio.

I definitely couldn’t do it without them – thank you Hepmil!

P/S: Let me know if you’re interested in doing a studio recording in Singapore! There’s plenty of space at Hepmil’s Limpeh studios. 😉

P/S: This episode is available on YouTube too!


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    So This Is My Why podcast

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    Woon Tai Ho - founder of Channel News Asia and Author - shares his life story and career advice with Ling Yah, host and producer of the So This Is My Why podcast


    • 3:00 Would you consider yourself successful?
    • 6:34 Family
    • 8:27 Becoming a chef?
    • 11:00 Singapore is a pretty good place!
    • 13:29 “I never thought about being the best”
    • 14:20 “When I was a kid, I didn’t know I was poor”
    • 15:50 Mediacorp
    • 16:53 Founding Channel News Asia
    • 20:48 The reality of founding a news channel (that most people don’t know)
    • 23:09 How do you define “quality content”?
    • 24:28 Establishing the boundaries for quality
    • 26:01 Looking at competitors to figure out CNA’s value proposition
    • 28:33 No government support?!
    • 31:14 Pushing the Singapore government’s perspective?
    • 34:32 Getting into trouble with the Chinese government
    • 37:56 Knowing which stories and perspective to put forward
    • 40:51 Time to move on? 

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    Part 2 with Tai Ho

    When people say it’s ok, I don’t need a family, I don’t need a partner, I say bullshit.”

    Woon Tai Ho is most known for being the founder of Channel News Asia & author of prolific books like the trilogy by George Yeo (Singapore’s former foreign minister). 

    But has the success been worth it?

    What are some of his biggest regrets in life?

    In Part 1 (which you should listen to if you haven’t), we explored all of his big career achievements and the challenges that came with it, including being summoned by China to answer for their coverage of Falun Gong.

    But today, we cover something very different.


    More personal.

    Starting with Tai Ho’s major pivot from broadcasting to author.

    Because nowadays, it’s common to make career pivots. It’s hard enough when it’s just jumping from one company to the next in the same industry, but Tai Ho has made that huge jump so…

    ❓ How did he do it? 

    ❓ How does he think about the ‘Second Act’ of his career? 

    ❓ How should people plan for their own Second, Third or even Fourth Act, especially when it comes to retirement?

    And is there such a thing as living for too long and just ‘waiting to die’?

    We also talk about some of his deepest regrets, his relationship with success and thoughts on relationships.

    His advice to people: Go marry, have kids, then go back to your career.

    We don’t have to be that woke. 😅

    Do you agree?


    • 3:14 Becoming a biographer by accident
    • 5:29 What makes George Yeo (Singapore’s ex-foreign minister) so special?
    • 6:56 Transparency & Lee Kuan Yew
    • 7:53 Is living to age 102 a blessing or a curse?
    • 9:35 “If I don’t have my second act, I don’t know what to do with my time”
    • 12:36 Is all of Tai Ho’s success worth it?
    • 15:40 Tai Ho’s biggest regret
    • 19:31 His biggest advice for people
    • 23:02 Why does Tai Ho collect bunnies?
    • 25:57 Do you feel like you’ve found your why?
    • 26:51 What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind
    • 27:05 What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?

    If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:

    • Justin Byam Shaw: Co-Owner of the Evening Standard & the Independent – on building the UK’s largest media empire
    • Lucas Lu: Head of Zoom Asia – on his secret to climbing the corporate ladder to the top of the tech world in Asia!
    • Loh Lik Peng: Founder & CEO, Unlisted Collection – on how a lawyer transformed himself into one of Singapore’s top hoteliers with 40 properties under him (including 9 Michelin starred restaurants!)
    • Fong Wai Kheng: On life as the 4th generation owner of Tong Heng – Singapore’s best, 100-year-old confectionary town with its famous diamond-shaped egg tarts
    • Adrian Tan: The Late President of the Singapore Law Society & King of Singapore

    If you enjoyed this episode, you can: 

    Leave a Review

    If you enjoy listening to the podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on iTunes / Apple Podcasts. The link works even if you aren’t on an iPhone. 😉


    If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s Patreon page here

    External Links

    Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:

    • Subscribe to the STIMY Podcast for alerts on future episodes at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher & RadioPublic  
    • Leave a review on what you thought of this episode HERE or the comment section of this post below
    • Want to be a part of our exclusive private Facebook group & chat with our previous STIMY episode guests? CLICK HERE.

    STIMY 146 Part 1: How I Founded Channel News Asia - Woon Tai Ho

    Woo Tai Ho: The day we started turning around was when we got substantial funding from the government. Channel News Asia was able to convince the government that it is in the interest of the government to support Channel News Asia because Channel News Asia is very important and effective soft power for the government.

    Give you an example. When Lee Hsien Loong goes to China, CNN is not going to carry it unless there's a news angle. When Lee Hsien Loong goes to Indonesia, CNN, CNBC, BBC is not going to carry it unless there's a news point. And even when they carry it, it is probably weighed down in the order of things. But CNA makes it, it's headline.

    And because, at some point, they saw the fact that actually, this is very important. Because if we support this channel, and if this channel is seen throughout Asia, we can use this channel as our

    Ling Yah: hey STIMIES!

    Welcome to Episode 146, part one of the So This Is My Why podcast.

    I'm your host and producer Ling Yah and today we have a very special guest, Woon Tai Ho. Now Woon Tai Ho is the founder of Channel News Asia, which is now a part of Mediacorp in Singapore. And if you've been around Asia or are in Asia, you have probably heard of this TV channel, which he founded.

    It's one of the biggest in the region, as you can imagine, In this episode, we dive deep into how Tai Ho ended up doing what he's doing, because he didn't actually start out thinking he was going to start a news channel, who does? And he hasn't stopped there as well, because he has gone on to start his own media consultancy business, also helped to launch a news channel in Myanmar, also worked in a law firm for a bit, and has now become an author, writing for the likes of George Yeo, the former Singapore minister, and Lim Tzu Ping, a hundred plus year old artist in Singapore.

    Where we deal with questions like, is living until you are over 100 a blessing or a curse? How do you think about second acts in the career and plan for it? And are you actually happy with what you're doing?

    Now because this episode was a bit long, I decided to split it into two parts.

    So today is part one, where we essentially deal with the start of Tai Ho's career all the way until he begins to explore and discovers a talent for writing and how launching a book for Tzu Ping was what changed his life.

    Now, if you want to watch this version, the full version, you can because this episode's actually recorded at Limpeh Studios. So just head over to YouTube. Look for, So This Is My Why and watch this episode there as well.

    Are you ready?

    Let's go.

    Hi, Tai Ho. Thank you so much for joining me today on the So This is My Why podcast. Normally I like to start all my interviews by going to the very beginning, but then I thought to start something slightly different for you because I look at your CV, anyone looks at your You founded Channel News Asia.

    You also founded a news channel and also an entertainment channel in Myanmar. You've also written many books, also for, on behalf of the likes of George Yeo. And people will look at it and think, this is a really successful person. I wonder if you agree.

    Woo Tai Ho: I think success is relative and subjective.

    And in the end what one gets out of a project or a series of project depends on what one needs at that point in life. So when I started Channel News Asia in 1999 at that time, it felt quite incredible.

    I didn't think very much of Channel NewsAsia then because they thought, okay, you can start a channel, but let's see how you compete with the likes of BBC, CNBC and CNN.

    And for the first few years, our team really didn't know we were actually going to make it. It was only when we got a substantial funding from the government to the tune of several million, that we realized that we actually stood a chance. And that was when we started developing our correspondence, especially in China and in Malaysia and Indonesia, Thailand.

    And that was when we felt we stood a chance against established players. So, looking back, it was like, say, Channel News Asia, it was after several years that we thought, oh, okay, we did something worthwhile, but at that point in time, we were just struggling. So as with many things in life, like now, I've written several books but when I first started, I wrote a book

    I didn't think very much about it. I just wrote the book. It started with me doing a documentary on him. he told me, I don't watch TV. Can you just show me the script? So I said, okay. This is the script for the documentary. One night he called me up. He says, my God, I didn't know you wrote like this.

    You should make this into a book. And that was how I had my first book To Paint a Smile. Looking back all these are quite good experiences. But I think for me work was always all consuming especially television.

    Going abroad studying television writing books.

    They're all very time consuming and quite individualistic, you know. You do it on your own. So I think in some ways I neglected my personal life. Looking back, if I would have also spent an equal amount of time Nursing, my personal life, my life would have been slightly more complete, but that's our reality.

    Ling Yah: But then some would say, if you had focused on the personal, then maybe you wouldn't have achieved as much success in your career because the things you mentioned are incredible, but they are all consuming as well.

    Woo Tai Ho: How much success do you need? I think if my personal life would have had inched into my professional life, it would have been okay.

    Ling Yah: I wonder, that personal side, before all these things came, I found this picture of this family of yours. Yeah. And you have a twin brother. Yes. In addition to two sisters. Yeah. What was it like growing up back then?

    Woo Tai Ho: I ended up being the first person from my family, my line of family, to actually go to the university and for my family that was a big deal.

    So I think to a large extent my sisters sacrificed a fair amount for me to be in the university. I mean, they were domestic helpers. My brother decided sometime back to not be in the university and started working very early. Also because, actually, of the situation at home. So I was the only one that was lucky enough to not just go to the university, had scholarships and was sent to Holland.

    And then also I studied in the States. I mean, in some ways I would say my family sacrificed quite a bit for me to attain what I did. Yeah. Why just you though? My brother both my sisters. Did not do well in school and they decided they just work. My brother did not see the need to go to university and did not go to university.

    So, I was the only one.

    Ling Yah: People must have commented, because in a place like Singapore, if you do so well in studies, and everyone else in your family doesn't, they would make a remark.

    Woo Tai Ho: Yeah Not so much to my face. I think

    I think people are just so consumed by the idea that my team and I could actually start General News Asia, that they, initially, of course, they didn't think much about it, but when General News Asia became what it did, people could not stop talking about Channel News Asia.

    Ling Yah: But before Channel News Asia, weren't you also considering being a chef?

    Yeah. Like your dad. Yep.

    Woo Tai Ho: But that was just I was kidding around. I was never going to be a chef. I don't have a kitchen. My kitchen is a bar. So no, I never, I never thought of anything else. When I started out I was offered a job in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    But you're glad you turned it down. Yeah, then that was a Saturday morning, I went to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and at that time it was at Dempsey Road.

    I remember walking in and Billahari told me that they have given me the Malaysian desk. And I thought, wow, It's like studying all over again, So I actually went to the office that they gave me, and it was kind of a small room, but on the table were files, and lots of files, defying gravity. And I looked at it and I said, I don't think I want to be studying all over again. I mean, it felt like studying.

    And I never went back. I took the scholarship from Mediacorp. And I went to Holland to study. that was the first time I stayed abroad. And it was eye opening.

    It's the kind of experience that without staying abroad, you would never have had.

    Why was it eye opening? I was staying with many international students.

    Many of them were from Africa. And for the first time, I came into very close range with Africans. And I realized that the culture, the approach, and values were very different because they were, they came from very poor countries. Every time when we were given our allowance at the end of the month, they would just pay the town red.

    they couldn't keep their money. Yeah. And I realized the reason for that is because they never saw so much money in their lives. For me, it was not so much money. And I needed to see myself through the months. But for them, they were so overwhelmed by the guilders that they had. One of them even turned around and said, I think I can buy a car with this.

    And I said, you can't, but it's okay. I mean, this whole idea of the concept of money.

    and I saw a few other things in Holland. The drugs, the moral corruption. And I just thought, actually like many people who lived abroad, I just thought Singapore is a pretty good place.

    Ling Yah: So that just solidified your determination to come back?

    Woo Tai Ho: Yeah, I mean being in Holland I never, I loved it. But I knew it was not home. Um,

    Every day could be bleak because the sun never came out. When the sun does show up, people don't want to work. Because they want to celebrate the fact that they have a good day.

    So, for me, it just dawned on me that, wow, in Singapore, every day is a good day.

    So you started to have a perspective. And I knew I would go home.

    Ling Yah: Would you say that perspective helped you to identify who you were as a person, and how you thought about things like money?

    Woo Tai Ho: Yes no, I, I then realized that we came from a rich country, even though we are very small the governance was good.

    I learned to be highly appreciative. And at that time, it was the last few years of Lee Kuan Yew being the prime minister.

    And I was lucky when I went into a mediacorp because I was a scholar. They put me on to many trips with Lee Kuan Yew. So, I managed to know him firsthand through travel.

    I saw how close he was with his wife. I saw how intense he was with everything he did. For instance... When we went to Pakistan, I thought he knew Pakistan well enough, but no. I mean, the way he prepared himself, I couldn't believe it. He was reading, reading, more reading. And even when he was in Pakistan, I still remember Nawaz Sharif and Nana Zabutu, they sought his counsel.

    You know, they asked him for advice and he gave them very good advice. But I remember having come back from Pakistan, he would call us up and ask, What are your views of Pakistan? As a journalist, what do you think? So he was always learning.

    He never had this idea that knowledge was enough. And I think that is something.

    That I took to heart and and I learned too like for instance, when I finish a manuscript for a book it's never really done until I send it to the printers. So at every point in time, I will delay, can I do better?

    Ling Yah: How were you making sure that you were learning? And were you thinking, I want to be the best there is in my cohort, in this company?

    Woo Tai Ho: I never thought about being the best in the company or in the cohort. I just wanted to be better by myself. I think all of us know if we have given our best. Someone looking in won't know. But we, ourselves, would know if we had given our best. And most of the time, I've given my best only when I've scrapped the very bottom of the barrel.

    Have I done everything I can? And only you know. Even your best friend, even your family members won't know. They look at you, you're studying, you're doing... You're working day and night and they say, oh, you've done your best. You don't, they don't know. Only you know.

    Ling Yah: Where's that drive coming from? I noticed in Facebook you have this tag, Try Harder, as if you're not trying hard enough.

    Woo Tai Ho: When I was a kid, I didn't know I was poor. One day I asked a few of my classmates, To my home. I was so proud of my home. We were staying in Geylang. Then, one of the kids said, Where's your phone? I said, Oh, I don't have a phone. Oh, where's the sofa? You know, then I said, Actually, at that time I didn't know.

    What's a sofa? You know? And Then I think, what else did they ask? They asked a few more things that I realized that I don't have. Then it dawned on me that we were quite poor. You know? Do you feel ashamed?

    No. But there was one weekend, my sister said, Oh the master of the house is...

    on holiday in the United States. Why don't you come and stay with me? She was the domestic help. So I went to I still remember taking the bus all the way to Holland Village. And as I was approaching the house, I couldn't believe it, the way they stayed, you know. I mean, not just what they had, but these people.

    a dimension of luxury that I didn't know about. So, I told myself,

    I need to, I won this. I need to work very hard. So, you need to try harder. Yeah. So that's the

    Ling Yah: drive. And you thought that you could do that, achieve that level of success with

    Woo Tai Ho: Mediacorp? No, then, you know, Singapore in some ways spoils you, I think that, that level of drive, that level of want being able to see what you don't have, I think doesn't exist anymore in Singapore.

    Most people have a lot. I talk to a lot of young people and It's what else do they need, you know? Like, for instance, they will look at their sons and daughters and say, Oh, just buy her another iPad lah, you know? Because I think she needs it. And then, oh we are going to London this weekend and then we, you know?

    But when I was that age, that dimension doesn't exist.

    There was no such thing as a trip.

    I don't think it was poverty, yeah? But it was, in some ways, I think, I'm glad I went through that.

    So I can now look at someone and say, wow, you don't know what you have, you see? But it's a reality. We don't change our reality. The drive is different.

    What were some

    Ling Yah: of the milestones in your career at Mediacorp that reached the point where the CEO went, I want to start a new channel with you?


    Woo Tai Ho: When I started okay, how Channel News Asia started was I came up with this, program on Mediacorp called Extraordinary People, yeah. And it was highly successful. I mean, everyone loved it. Every episode just, people just said, you know, the people that we profiled were wonderful.

    Then at that time, the group CEO was Lee Chok Yew.

    He says, he asked me to see him and said, We have this bandwidth. Why don't you start a new channel? Don't start a kid's channel because TV12 already has it. Don't start a minority channel because TV12 already has it. Sports, we already have it. Think of something else. What about news? I looked at him and said, we?

    News? Singapore is not known for news, but no news. No one cares about what happens in Geylang, but no one cares about what happens in Toa Payoh, you know. I said, go think about it, you know, so I went to think about it.

    We were very good with one hour news, you know. Every hour we give you a news, but whole day, whole channel, But uh, when we thought about it, we realized that actually we were the one that should be doing news for Asia. Because if the channel came from Indonesia, it would be Indonesian news. Because they have lots of news. If the channel came from China, it would be Chinese news. If the channel came from Malaysia, it would be Malaysian news.

    But because we don't have real news, because we are so small, we will look at Asia from an Asian perspective. Because we would then be the ones to... collect Asian news

    the more we looked into it, the more we realized that actually Singapore is in a very good position to do news. And also because we all use English and English then become the common denominator. We don't speak Chinese, we don't speak Indonesian, we don't speak Bahasa, we don't speak Filipino.

    So... Anyone who comes to Singapore will use English as the operational language. So on many fronts, we were very well poised, very well positioned to start the channel. But of course, you know, it went through its its many heartaches. But when I finally started, When I led the team and when we finally started Channel NewsAsia, then I think my bosses started to see that I could be the person to actually revamp some of the other channels.

    Yeah. So I started revamping. I came up with a channel called Art Central, Kids Central a Tamil channel called Vasantan, and Surya. And then of course the region saw what I could do. So one day someone came to me and said, he's from Myanmar. Would you want to come to Myanmar and start a channel in Myanmar?

    I thought he was joking, but of course he was not. And then I ended up going to Myanmar and starting a. information channel called IMTV, I, MITV. And then several years later I was asked to go back to Myanmar to start an entertainment channel Channel K. And honestly, those were the most eye opening, best years of my life, because nothing like stretching yourself abroad, yeah.

    Ling Yah: You make it sound so easy to open different channels in different places.

    Woo Tai Ho: No, no, no. I, I, I think it's very nice to say that you go abroad and start the channel, but of course you have a lot of help, you know,

    Ling Yah: What is it that takes to start a channel that people don't see?

    Woo Tai Ho: What people don't see would be especially the technical aspects, what systems to use in the studio When I

    went to Myanmar I realized that They can't start a channel. they couldn't start a channel because they they didn't have the Software software meaning they didn't have the people They have the technical stuff, that's for sure. And technical stuff you can buy. But the presenters on the, fronting the channel, the Myanmar presenters speaking English, you can't buy.

    You have to teach. So, we spent close to a year grooming the soft power grooming the manpower, you know. And in the end, we still ended up Getting talent from Singapore. Getting talent from Singapore to front it, first. Because the spoken English in Myanmar just wasn't there. And eventually when we left, they moved their whole team in.

    Because, you know, they can't be paying for a foreign team to run the channel for a long time. When we turned the channel on now, we couldn't watch it. Because the English wasn't there. The content wasn't there. So in the end, what drives a channel is the content and the people behind it. And it is the standards you put yourself.

    In Singapore, we are used to such a high standard. We won't put up things that we don't think is good.

    But I realized that when we left, the content wasn't there. They would put up content that we would not have put up. So what you don't see is the rigor of maintaining quality you don't see, especially in a foreign country.

    where a TV station is 24 7.

    Television is a very, very hungry animal. A news channel is a very, very hungry animal. Every hour, every minute, every second needs content. Otherwise it's black, you know. So, the people who start a news channel don't know that. in the end, I think what I see in MITV now is 90 percent repeats.

    10 percent original content. And even the original content is highly compromised.

    Ling Yah: How do you quantify

    Woo Tai Ho: quality? You, you don't. Quality is a subjective matter. What is good for me at that time, for people in MITV, Oh, that's too much. We don't need that. This is good enough, you know. But good enough is not good.

    So if you go to, let's say, the Scandinavian countries, where they score very high in quality of living. They will tell you what is in Singapore is not good enough for them. They've told you that before? No, yeah, because their quality of living is, you don't spend so much time at work. Yes.

    Ling Yah: Family time, I would not respond to you.

    Woo Tai Ho: Family time is important and at work they give 100%. which is why I think Switzerland scores number one in everything they do. So we try very hard to be like the Swiss but, but number one, they will look at our government. They say, okay, number one, even political representation, we fail because they don't believe in a one system, one party system government.

    They will say, you know, equality of women, Singapore is doing very well. Corruption free, Singapore is doing very well, So Singapore still score high, but in their minds not high enough. So quality is relative quality is personal to every individual.

    Ling Yah: But you still have to communicate that to your people though and say that's not up to standard So, how do you communicate that?

    Woo Tai Ho: Yeah, so when I was in Myanmar, it was very tough it's a poor country The fact that they got it running, the fact that they have a station up for them is good enough, I remember when we launched the channel, when the signal was up, my staff were just jumping up and down with joy, but I was not smiling because I realized that this is where it all begins.

    Now they're going to look at the content. And say, Ooh, this is a horrible channel. there's no content. Huh? You're going to show me that? But for them, putting it on air, getting the set in place, getting their cameras in place, having a PA, having, you know, everything, it's, it's wonderful, But for me, it's, the beginning of real scrutiny.

    And of course today, If I look back, I can't watch the channel anymore, because when I look back, it's what you've not kept up. Yeah.

    Ling Yah: But I imagine you can look back to Channel News Asia, it still maintains its

    Woo Tai Ho: quality. Oh no no, Channel News Asia is quite different.

    Channel News Asia, I can watch Channel News Asia every day because the people there maintain the quality, in fact improve on the quality. When we started it was a one hour channel. And there were a lot of repeats. But today, even with the repeats, the quality is good. It can stand the repeat, you know.

    No, I mean, Channel News, Channel News Asia has done very well. Yeah. In

    Ling Yah: those early days, when you had no one to compare to locally, you obviously were looking at competitors, BBC, CBC, and thinking, we want to do the same. You must have taken some inspiration and thought, you did this well, we could do it.

    What does that game plan look like in putting together a channel?

    Woo Tai Ho: After a while we realised that what the BBC did and still does, what the CNN did and still does, it's not so great.

    They criticised Singapore, for having no, you real freedom of expression. But now I realize that their freedom of expression is also totally reflective of their very narrow, and their perspective of the world. So if you looked at what's happening in Israel and what's happening with Hamas, and then you look at what BBC talks about, and what CNN talks about, my God.

    you can't say anything against Israel. You can't say anything against the Jews. Yeah, you can't even speak on behalf of a Muslim person. So in many ways, we very narrowly see the world from our own perspective and I no longer apologize for Singapore. I no longer apologize for C N A or even C C T V.

    You know, I watch a lot of CCTV and I think they do well.

    When we first started out, oh BBC and CNN, they were gods, That was because they started a long time ago, they had a big head start We didn't so

    Ling Yah: Did you think, I want to be just like those guards first?

    Woo Tai Ho: out your stuff after. Well, it was impossible for us to copy them. Yeah. Because of the resources they had. All news channels lose money. BBC is propelled and kept afloat by the government. CCTV is kept afloat by Chinese government. Japan TV is held afloat by the Japanese government. Every TV station, without the government's support, would die.

    The only TV station in the only information channel in the world that is kept alive without government support is CNN. And that is because of the markets they have. They started early enough. And the world still watches CNN. And because of that, they have the world as their market.

    They don't need their own government.

    Ling Yah: But when you started CNA, you didn't quite have the support of the government. George Yeo thought something, yeah, knocked your

    Woo Tai Ho: head. No, no, no, because in the beginning they didn't believe in us.

    When I went to George Yeo and said, we're going to start this channel.

    He looked at me without saying anything. He did not want to discourage me. Then when I told him that I'm not actually here to ask for money you know, we have the resources. He said, okay, I'm not going to discourage you. Good luck. and it was only after a few years that he looked at us quite differently, but he, he still launched a channel for us.

    Today, of course, he, and today, him and a few other ministers who were around when we started, congratulate us. But when we first started out, it was a wait and see.

    Ling Yah: What were some of the things that happened in the early days that changed his perspective?

    Woo Tai Ho: The day we started turning around was when we got substantial funding from the government. Channel News Asia was able to convince the government that it is in the interest of the government to support Channel News Asia because Channel News Asia is very important and effective soft power for the government.

    Give you an example. When Lee Hsien Loong goes to China, CNN is not going to carry it unless there's a news angle. When Lee Hsien Loong goes to Indonesia, CNN, CNBC, BBC is not going to carry it unless there's a news point. And even when they carry it, it is probably weighed down in the order of things. But CNA makes it, it's headline.

    And because, at some point, they saw the fact that actually, this is very important. Because if we support this channel, and if this channel is seen throughout Asia, we can use this channel as our


    At one point, I think I got a award. It's a brand award. There were two awards given. Two Singapore companies won the award. One is Singapore Airlines. And the other one is CNA.

    And then when the person went up there to talk about it, the person said, these two brands of Singapore we are very proud of because everywhere we go we can see we, we can see SQ as Singapore Airlines. Everywhere we go we can see C N A. I thought that was a kind of compliment. Compliment that we would not get in Singapore, but you get it when you are in, another country, you know? So I think we did well.

    Ling Yah: Yeah. But wouldn't that be a double-edged sword as well? The government sees the potential behind CNA, but it becomes a vehicle for the government, and you can't really provide an Asian perspective. It's more the Singaporean government's perspective.


    Woo Tai Ho: the Singapore government's perspective in some way is the Asian perspective. Mm-hmm. , because we don't really have a national interest as such. 'cause we're too small. So it is in the interest of Asia, that it is in the interest of Singapore, the Asia as well. So in many instances the Singapore perspective is really the Asian perspective.

    Not all the time. But you

    Ling Yah: can't go against the government and you have people like Peter Lim speaking out and then he's been told, oh, your deputy's taking over.

    Woo Tai Ho: Okay. The good thing or what is lucky about Channel News Asia is that 90 percent of the news is about Asia. Yeah. 10 percent of the news is about Singapore. The government is only interested to this 10 percent of the news. Yeah. So for this 10 percent of the news, if we are compliant, it's okay because 90 percent of our news.

    And Asian news, the government doesn't really interfere because this is Asian news. So if let's say we cover China in a certain way, that's because CNN covers China that way, BBC covers China that way. They are looking at the news. Yeah. So most of the time, if you are just reporting on the news, the government doesn't have a problem.

    It's only when you have an opinion about the news. That's when you have current affairs. Then the government will look into it, yeah? But even then when you have a news about, when you have a point of view about China, when you have a point of view about Thailand, most of the time it is a fairly international point of view.

    Yeah, it's not a very Singaporean perspective because the Singaporean perspective would be quite international. But wouldn't that

    Ling Yah: 10 percent still be one sided?

    Woo Tai Ho: Yeah. Well, if you say that the 10 percent is one sided, I would say that 90 percent of CNN is one sided. Yeah. Because CNN looks at the world from a U. S. perspective. Yeah. And they don't even know that they are looking at the world from a U. S. perspective because they think that the U. S. perspective is the objective perspective. They think that how they look at the world should be, should be the way that the world looks at Harvard. It looks at the world.

    So they don't even know that they are biased. They don't even know that they are speaking from a one perspective, which in some ways I think it's more dangerous If you ask someone from China, they know that they are speaking from the Chinese government point of view Yeah, but if you go to America, they don't know And they think that Biden's perspective, they think that the U. S. foreign minister's perspective is the perspective.

    Ling Yah: Hey, STIMIES!

    If you haven't done so already, please do head over to give a rating and review for this podcast, because without it, Apple Podcast, Spotify, would never push it forward to let anyone else see. So just head on over, share with people, so that people will know about this special series, especially the ones that we are showcasing right now on Singaporeans who have achieved incredible success.

    So would you say that you were thinking more in this terms of, I want to cover all the news in Asia, but I realized to operate in certain countries, I must toe the line. For instance, with China, you excellently talked about Falun Gong. And they got hold over

    Woo Tai Ho: there.

    Yes same with if you were CNN and you were in China and you talk about Falun Gong, they kick you off. Yeah. Yeah. If you're BBC and you talk about a dissident, they kick you off. Yeah. So, for us that is probably 10 percent of the news.

    We don't mind being compliant and still stay in China.

    And after a while, all the others also fell into line, because they want to stay in China.

    Ling Yah: What was the experience of having to go and apologize, and the fact that they still let you continue to operate? Okay,

    Woo Tai Ho: What happened was, one day I got a call from the Chinese I got a call from my staff who was telling me that our correspondent in China, having caught up because they found an accidental kind of probably about three seconds worth of footage of Falun Gong, which we had accidentally put out.

    There was zero, it was zero, zero tolerance. If they told me. You get on the plane and come to China. I got on the plane the next day and I was in China. And we of course say that it was not intentional and it was true. I think we were fined very heavily. I don't remember the amount.

    And I don't know whether a BBC person would have done the same thing. I don't know whether the CNN person would have done the same thing. I think they would. Because they want to stay in China. They want to report from China. But of course it was not a good thing to do. But it was okay. You learn.

    With it's not just China. You don't say the wrong thing about Malaysia also. You don't say the wrong things about Indonesia. They are our neighbors. And being neighborly, in an Asian context, we operate differently from the West. We understand the sensitivity of a neighbor like Indonesia.

    We understand the sensitivity of a neighbor like Malaysia. Especially when it comes to racial and... religious affairs. We don't mess around. So, you learn very quickly that being an Asian broadcaster is quite different from being a Western broadcaster. And I think the Asian countries like it much better.

    That we observe what is sensitive to them.

    But of course, when we report the Taiwan incident, we have to report the Taiwan incident because it is a political situation that's unraveling. So in that instance, we report both sides.

    We show China's situation, we show Taiwan's situation And we show how America is on Taiwan's side. it's actually not that difficult when you look at it that

    way. Did you prepare yourself internally for backlash from China? .

    We won't get into a situation where we will get a backlash from China. I think that would be, in some ways, An unfortunate and not so intelligent thing to do.

    Ling Yah: I wonder, being sensitive to the different considerations in different countries in Asia, there's one way of putting it. Some other people would then say, well, that's just pushing forward the main narrative and you're suppressing minority voices.

    A bit like Israel Palestine. Some people would say, look at what's happening in Gaza. You're not sharing these voices that no one is hearing, even though They've been, you know, screaming for 70 plus years. Oh,

    Woo Tai Ho: no. I mean, with with Hamas bombing Israel, and the retaliation, it is important to show, to have both sides of the issue.

    Yeah. I mean, it would be insane to just show one side of the issue. So I think... With politics these days most of the time it's not that easy, not that difficult to report anymore because because of social media, you see. Social media has equalized everything. So if social media, on social media you get the Muslim clamoring, that's their side of the issue.

    Then you have the Westerners and Israel putting out their side of the issue. So very quickly you, an intelligent person will get both sides of the issue and then they will side one way or another. Most people will understand both sides.

    Ling Yah: I wonder, going back briefly to when I mentioned Peter Lim, I heard an interview with Balji, your very good friend.

    He said, when he saw what happened to Peter Lim, he thought, Oh, I need to think about where my career is going because it could end at any moment. I wonder if you at some point started thinking maybe Mediacorp is nowhere I'll be forever and how you thought about what your next step would be.

    Woo Tai Ho: Peter Lin operated at a different time. He operated when Lee Kuan Yew was at his fiercest and most unforgiving. and He filed a few reports about Lee Hsien Loong that was not complimentary to the Prime Minister. So yeah, they told him, your assistant is ready to take over your job. And when...

    So, Balji also lived in the same era. And Baljeet says, well, I want to retire early so that I, I, I don't want to have a situation where my boss tells me your system is ready to take over. I feel that it's slightly different today. I feel that number one there is no one person who is all powerful in a news establishment, in a, TV establishment.

    They are a team of people. More and more, I think, the reliance is on a team of people and not on one person. It's not like Lee Kuan Yew's time where they speak to the, all the editors. All the editors come for briefing and all that. I'm sure it still happens. But because of social media, I think the leadership is a lot more forgiving, tolerant and inclusive.

    Ling Yah: So when did you think, my first act, Media Corp, is at an end and I'm ready to move on?

    Woo Tai Ho: Oh, okay I told you when I published my first book To Paint a Smile and it was out, and I think one day Business Time called me up and said can we look at your book? Because we wanna see what the head of a news channel writes about.

    So I was going to Bali for a holiday I still remember going to the airport. the reporter kept coming to my house and said, I said, here, here's the book. And I, I went to the airport. I did not think very much about it. A few weeks later, someone told me that eh, there's a review of your book in Business Times.

    I went to look at the review. They gave me an A. I did not know that I knew I could write, but I did not know that it would be embraced this way.

    So that was the first time I realized that maybe I could make it into a career. And then I wrote my first novel. Riot Green. Yeah, Riot Green.

    And someone said they want to make a movie out of it.

    Then I realized actually it's not such a bad thing if I can write.

    I left Mediacorp to write but I was offered another job in a law firm to start the media arm of a law firm, which was a good experience. So I put writing aside and joined the law firm.

    I was very good three years, working in Shenton Way, I mean, you know, as a, as a journalist, you never work in Shenton Way, so you, you come down, you see all this. Commercial people. It was a good three and a half years. Then I was headhunted to go to Myanmar. And then that was several years abroad.

    But even in Myanmar, when I had nothing to do in the weekends, I started writing short stories. And the coup d'etat happened. So I just decided, come back lah. So when I came back, that year, Lin Tzu Ping was 100 years old. I went out with the son and then he saw me and says, Tai Ho, would you write a book for me?

    I'm 100 years old this year. I wrote Lin Tzu Ping at 100. And I think in some ways that changed my life.

    Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 146 part one.

    The show notes and transcript can be found at www.sothisismywhy.com/146

    I would also love to give a special shout out to Limpeh Studios.

    They very kindly provided this incredible studio for us to meet and record the interviews for these very special Singapore personalities.

    If you want to see the video version, just head over to YouTube and look for So This Is My Why. And if you want to book a studio for yourself in Singapore, just head over to hepmil.com/limpehstudios for more details.

    And see you next Sunday, because we'll be listening to part two of this interview with Tai Ho.

    Don't forget to subscribe!


    STIMY 146.2: Waiting to Die + We Don't Have to be that Woke?! | Woon Tai Ho (Founder, Channel News Asia + Author)


    Woo Tai Ho: But, I would say... That I should not have been so cavalier about my first few relationships. Because I was young, because I was

    I had money because I had choices, that it was very easy for me to ignore. Ignore a person ignore a person's qualities, you know, because you live fearlessly on the assumption that the, next person's better, there's always going to be choices. At some point, the choice stops, the, yeah, the choices stop.

    Ling Yah: Hey STIMIES!

    Welcome to episode 142, part two of the So There's My Why podcast. I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah.

    And today we're coming back to Woon Tai Ho, who, if you didn't listen to the previous episode, is actually the founder of Channel News Asia and has had an extremely prolific and successful career.

    So in part one, we talked about all that. His childhood, how he ended up going to news, how he ended up launching the biggest regional TV news station. But there's also a second part to it because Tai Ho has since left and started his second act of his career, which is being an author. And he writes for very prolific people like George Yeo, the former foreign minister of Singapore, and other books that he's published himself.

    This episode deals with that second act.

    And it's not just about writing about being an author. it's a far more contemplative episode. And it talks a lot about life When you think about the fact that we all care about careers these days, and how family can wait, tai Ho thinks differently.

    he thinks that when people say it's okay to say that I don't need a family, I don't need a partner, that's bullshit. They say you should marry, have kids, then go back to your career. We talk about whether living to an

    old age, 102, is a curse or a blessing. And also, does he think that he's successful in life?

    And what is his advice for other people out there? Personally, I found it to be a very insightful episode. It really made me think a lot about life because while this podcast is so much about how do I build my life so that I'm living the version that I would never look back and regret, there's also the part which is less about achievements and appearing on media headlines. It's really just about life and the question of, at the end of the day, what brings you the greatest joy and fulfillment?

    I hope you find this episode helpful. It's shorter than most but I think there's a lot of things to learn from and listen to. So before we start, just a reminder, there is a YouTube version of this so if you want to watch the high quality version, which was recorded at Limpeh Studios, you can go to YouTube and look up So This Is My Why.

    Now, are you ready?

    Let's go.

    Woo Tai Ho: The Prime Minister launched the book. It became such a high profile book, And in many ways, I became a biographer after that. Quite by accident. Yeah, because everyone said, hey, can you, this person, I think his life is worth profiling, you know. So, I started profiling high level people, you know. Yeah. And then of course, nothing is more. High profile than George Yeo When I was in Myanmar, George Yeo came to see me. Because we were friends, because I He launched Channel News Asia, so we kept in touch all those years. So when he was in Myanmar, I was in Myanmar, and we went out for a meal. When I came back, He did a welcome lunch for you.

    Yeah, he gave me a welcome lunch during the lunch, I told him, What about a book? He says, No such thing. He says, No such thing. I don't want a book. It's too much work. And I was hiking one day. A Saturday, I remember, I got a text from him. Let's do it. And that was two and a half years ago. Three years ago.

    In many, many ways, being involved with musings is a very big deal. Because I didn't know that George Yeo was so well loved. I remember after one session, with him, we went down to Chinatown for lunch. I was walking with George Yeo Then this old man stopped me.

    Was he the ex minister? I said, yes. The entire team of hawkers provided free food and all that. He was worshipped. And then these people, you know, these hawkers, they remembered him.

    For the first time, I'm involved in a book that stayed in the bestseller list for seven months. , it's still in book

    for three years, yeah. So it it gave me a different perspective on what it means to write. And what it means to affect ordinary people. With words.

    Ling Yah: What would you say is the secret sauce behind George Yeo? What makes him so special?

    Woo Tai Ho: Okay George Yeo was an unusual politician. His intelligence, his knowledge, his wisdom is rare.

    And I think even his colleagues his fellow ministers knew it.

    He resigned as a politician and went into private sector. For many, for many reasons, for reasons that we still don't know. Singaporeans and regional people followed his career.

    They love him because they saw in him as a possible and a very good prime minister that he never became. They love his wisdom. And when he talked about China, when he talked about the region, they like his perspective. He was wise he had a geopolitical understanding. So people just love his knowledge. And of course people who are closer to him, or people who knew about his personal life, identified with how he suffered when his wife and two kids had cancer.

    So all that made him the... Beloved ex politician and now political, geopolitical thinker. They love that,

    Ling Yah: yeah. Were you surprised by how transparent he was in, say, how, Lee Kuan Yew treated him, how he was treated after he lost?

    Woo Tai Ho: Yeah. when we did that chapter... He was very careful because you're talking about the father of Singapore who does not exist anymore, who is dead. And these are things that have not been public until now. So we were very careful and he was very careful and he, he showed it to many, many, many people.

    And many people said, put it out. It is another layer of political reality that needs to be told.

    If you read the whole two chapters in its totality, it was a tribute to Lee Kuan Yew. But of course People niddle in on the few chapters that no, the paragraphs that... He talked about how Lee Kuan Yew treated him, you see. But I think for him, it was closure. He needed to get it out of his system.

    Yeah, and I'm glad he did.

    Ling Yah: I imagine these experiences, because you do a lot of research. You, for instance, with Lim Tze Peng, you spoke to over a hundred different people. You would go in watching pains without him even knowing you were there. Yeah. It must have affected you and made you think about, gosh, how am I living my life as well?

    When you close that book and you wrote the en thing, you said he was 102 and living that long, is it a blessing or a curse? How would you answer that question?

    Woo Tai Ho: 'cause I was writing his biography. Yeah. And I was writing two. I saw a very lonely man. when you reach a hundred years old, all your friends would have died.

    You are alone, Even your kids, those people who are supposed to be interested in you, have heard all your stories. They are there to make sure that you are okay.

    They no longer have the time to make you excited every day, every minute, every second. They can't, you know. So in some ways when your wife is no longer around mentally, she's still around but she has... Alzheimer's All your friends are no longer around.

    You're sitting alone.

    And the only thing that is keeping him alive, at 103, is that blank sheet of paper that he has to conquer every day.

    But he knows that the moment he can't paint, he will die. You know, because... There's nothing left to do. So I think it's very lonely, very... What's the word?

    It's bittersweet.

    Ling Yah: Sorry? It's bittersweet.

    Woo Tai Ho: I think it's more bitter than sweet. Because I think when you come and visit him maybe you spend one hour. He has 23 more hours left, you know. When he paints, it's probably... Forty five minutes, no? Yes. Twenty three more hours to kill, you know. And when you're old, you don't sleep very well, you know.

    So, you have those, hours to kill, And very often it's killing time, And so, when he tells me that he's happy to see me, I think he's happy that someone is helping him to make time go faster.

    He says, you know, there are many friends of mine who are also 100 years old, but we don't talk because we don't even, we're in different parts of the island, right?

    I still want to paint because if I don't paint, I'm just like my friends waiting to die. So, it is this very big problem for Singapore that more and more people are going to live longer. People are going to live till they are 80, 90, even 100. What do you do with these people? So of course, if you have a second act, For instance, I was in broadcasting, I was in TV, so my second act is writing.

    If I don't have my second act, I don't know what to do with my time. So number one, we not only need to have a second act, sometimes we need to have a third act. But there's also the thing is, at 80, how effective are you going to be with your second act?

    So I read a report recently. Many old people live alone. time you are in your 70s and 80s, it's scary to be alone. So it is going to be a problem for Singapore. The aging population. It's going to be... a problem for every family. Yeah. Yeah. It's going to be a problem for the old person.

    Yeah. How does the person entertain himself? Yeah. I'm writing a book for Lim Siong Guan And he tells me, Tai Ho, the only blessing are grandchildren. And maybe he's right. That you don't take care of your children anymore, you take care of your grandchildren. And your grandchildren becomes your preoccupation.

    Because when his kids were children, he was too busy. He had no time to be the father. So now, he's retired. He told me, I can be a grandfather now. A kind of parenting, but different.

    Ling Yah: Yeah. Does it make you reflect on yourself and the fact that, well, I don't have children, grandchildren.

    What would that future look like for me?

    Woo Tai Ho: Yeah, I think it's a living question. what would the future be like for me? Yeah. I think it would be scary. So, every day, Trying to find a way out, you know, like okay, maybe I'll do this. Maybe I'll do that, but it's a living issue.

    Ling Yah: Does it make you think, oh, that success wasn't worth it?

    I imagine it must have taken you away from your relationships.

    Woo Tai Ho: Well, I have relationships and I have a partner and We see each other quite a lot, but it's different from having a family. It's different from having an institution. Having a wife is an institution, is the institution of marriage.

    Having a family is the institution of marriage. Many of us are okay because we belong to that institution. We are taken care of. But of course, there are people who are not part of those institutions. And society does not know what to do. There are old folks homes, there are old folks home, there are many alternatives.

    But honestly, there are not solutions. The solution is always family, the solution is home. so When people tell me It's okay. I don't need to be married. Oh, it's okay. I don't need a partner. I say bullshit

    You don't know what you're talking about so when someone a young person tells me oh, I I I Have a boyfriend. I see. Yeah, that's very good for you I will marry, but my, career come first, you know, my career. I said, marry, go marry, go have kids, then go back to your career.

    Trust me. Of course I'm not in their shoes. They don't exactly trust me. But I speak from. experience of other friends. I have friends who are my age.

    They are ladies who were totally fearless when they could have boyfriends. They say, I don't want this one, I don't want that one. He's like this. You know, his face is not bright. He's too short, he's too tall. And then, 31 became 41. I don't think you have a choice anymore. And then, 41 became 51. And they have to come to a point where they say, This is reality, I'm going to be alone.

    They find a way to have a community of support. They find a way to have a reservoir of resources, but it's no longer easy. Yeah, so I think in some ways, the modern government has a role to play. I don't think we should say,

    this is their life, we can't live for them, you know. But you can talk about it. I don't think we want to be that westernized to say a personal individual life is their own to live. You need to educate people of the consequences of the decisions. I don't think we need to be woke.

    Of course life is different for different people, you know. But life is also the same for a lot of people. So,

    I think the government has a certain responsibility, in that.

    Ling Yah: What would you say your biggest regret is?

    Woo Tai Ho: Oh I have a partner now and we're happy. But, I would say... That I should not have been so cavalier about my first few relationships. Because I was young, because I was

    I had money because I had choices, that it was very easy for me to ignore. Ignore a person ignore a person's qualities, you know, because you live fearlessly on the assumption that the, next person's better, there's always going to be choices. At some point, the choice stops, the, yeah, the choices stop.

    Ling Yah: What about your relationship with your twin brother? Because normally when you're twins, you hear them all the time. But he even has a different

    Woo Tai Ho: name. Yeah. My twin brother with me I think there are twins that are close. In fact, there are twins that do things together. I mean, I've seen twins that are inseparable.

    We are the opposite of that.

    I think when we were in school, there was some rivalry.

    Then I think at some point he does not want to be part of the rivalry anymore. And he decided to work and let me be the student. And because of that, I think we're not as close as other twins. Many of the things that I have said to you I think I can't say here because I think I may need his permission to, to talk about them. But I think suffice is to say that I still know what he does. Yeah. When he need to do something that is going to affect his life, he will tell me. We meet during family gatherings, but we don't have the same group of friends.

    We don't move around the same crowd. some people will say that Oh, this is quite sad. No, because I think for the both of us, we want to live a life that is not a twin life. You know? It does not belong to a twin. We want to live the life that is fairly independent of the other person.

    Ling Yah: Hey STIMIES!

    Just interrupting this to say that I hope you've been enjoying this episode and if you'd like to support what we're doing at So This Is My Why because there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, not least of which is I normally spend at least 60 hours just researching for the interview.

    feel free to head over to the show notes or visit www.sothisismywhy.com/support to essentially help support what we're doing at STIMY for as little as 10 cents a day. The link is www.sothisismywhy.com/support or just look for the description below.

    And let's head back to this episode with Tai Ho.

    I imagine when people come, they listen to your episode, they're expecting all the highs.

    Look at this person, founded this incredible channel multiple times in different countries. And then they hear that there is also the other side. There's also failures,

    Woo Tai Ho: right? Oh, but but, but I think there is no, there's no human being. Mm. That if you talk to them, you would not find lows. Yes.

    Rough patches and all that. I mean, there would be, and there are 24 hours in a day, you know, you can only be so happy in one or two hours of the entire day. Most of the other day, most of the other hours are routine, everyday, unglamorous hours, you know, where you have to do the unglamorous thing of you know, life, you know.

    Ling Yah: What are the main takeaways that you would like people to take from this entire conversation?

    Woo Tai Ho: Oh, oh, live, live life, enjoy life. But, certain things in life, you need to, you need to do it and you need to do it early. For instance, if you have to have a very serious financial issue in your life.

    Yeah, like losing a lot of money or losing a lot of money in a stock market. Make sure those, those things happen early in your life. still enough time for you to recover and learn from it.

    I had a very bad stock market incident, but I'm so glad it happened when I was young. I don't go near stock market at all. People tell me, this is stock you need to buy. I say, go buy. I, I stay my, yeah. So do as many things as you can and do them early. So that you have the rest of the life to make them better, to improve a bit.

    And so, for instance, if you want to... Start a career, start it early. Even marriage, do it early. It's nothing like being able to go out with your grandson when you're still able and

    Ling Yah: mobile. I

    think said before, when you think of second act, you need to start planning 10 15 years before. How do you start planning for those?

    You know, the advice for those who are thinking about it.

    Woo Tai Ho: About their second act? While you're at your first act okay, I've written a book called Art of Joy. Art of Joy is about an accountant who is an artist. But he knew he could not be an artist straight away. So he became a very successful accountant.

    And he saved up. He was frugal. And he had enough by the time he was in his fifties. But he kept his art alive. Weekends he would paint and all that. He became an artist only recently. Very successful, you know. His name is Yip Yu Chong.

    I think he is now 54 years old. He's at the peak of his career. but he's unusual because he's very hardworking, you know, so he made sure, so he's one person that I want to learn from also because whatever you do, do it well, make sure that you do it well.

    Ling Yah: What else can we expect from you? How can people listening support you? Oh,

    Woo Tai Ho: no, no, no. I There's no need to support me. Well, if you... If you know someone that I can write about.

    Ling Yah: Who would you love to write about?

    Woo Tai Ho: Oh no. It's

    I would like to write, I think at some point I would like to write about a commoner. Not a big name. But I think that concept is still raw. But when it comes, it comes.

    Ling Yah: Balauji said once in an interview, and I clearly have been looking into what he says a lot, he says that a lot of journalists in Singapore tend to take, know a lot of stories and bring it to their graves.

    Yeah. I wonder if there's a story that you know that hasn't been shared yet.

    Woo Tai Ho: I, I, I, I don't think that... There are that many stories of mine that I will bring to grave. I think my big story is my Channel NewsAsia story. My big story is my Myanmar story, which I've shared. So so my continuous story is my writer's story. I hope I'll write a few more good books.

    Ling Yah: And collect a few more bunnies, which I believe you love. Yes. What's the story behind that?

    Woo Tai Ho: Oh I

    experienced a bad patch in my life. Yeah. Yeah. And at the prompt of at the prompting of a friend, I went to see a fortune teller. so fortune teller said actually it's not so bad, you know. You have many good friends and they're all born in the year of the rabbit, you know. And I talk about, I thought about it.

    Yeah, actually, many of my good friends are born in the year of the rabbit. So since then, I have kind of kept statues, images of rabbits.

    Ling Yah: This interview is quite unlike anything I've done because normally it's very chronological and we've gone all over the place, but there is, and I do want to go all the way back to Myanmar because you said before, that's been really, really important to you.

    And I know that there are certain people that you met that you felt were very instrumental. To who you are. One person was Radha Chowdhuri, and you said you told her a lot of things that you experienced that you couldn't tell anyone. I wonder if there is anything that you could share that you were discussing with her now at this point in time.

    Were they

    Woo Tai Ho: highlights? No, I think what I shared with her was about No, I think most of the things that I've shared with her, I'll share it with you.

    Ling Yah: So it's pretty in depth. Yeah, I

    Woo Tai Ho: think, yeah. No, I think Radha was a free soul, you know? Yeah. And I think recently she got a very bad experience in Myanmar and she ran from Myanmar.

    So she went to Thailand. A lot of what she told me What she went through. I can't say this here because I think she would be in trouble. But what I like about her case is if the situation normalizes in Myanmar, she would go back in a heartbeat. Yeah. Most of us would because if you take away the political situation in Myanmar, it is and will be.

    A wonderful country, yeah. I

    Ling Yah: did sense a lot of joy from when you were charting your time there. Yeah. You were getting sprayed with water. Yeah,

    Woo Tai Ho: because I You forget that Singapore is a city. Yeah. And then when you go to a country like Myanmar, it is a country. Yeah. It's a country with real differences in each part of the country, you know.

    Like for instance, the very top of Myanmar has snow. Because it shares the border with China, you know, and then Yangon is tropical so you can, you can imagine the differences in terrain and the differences in the people that Myanmar has. So Myanmar is a rich country.

    Ling Yah: Tai

    Ho thank you so much for your time here and for the wide ranging and in depth answers that you've given.

    No problem. I always end with the same questions. So the first is this. Do you feel like going through first act, second act, that you have found your why? I have. Normally people would say, I think you might shift again. Oh, yeah. Do you think that would come for you? Or do you feel like this is the second act?

    Woo Tai Ho: No, but I don't think that it should preclude me from a third act. So in other words, if for some reason, I'm in my sixties, for some reason, if I live to 90, that's another lifetime. So maybe there's another act.

    Ling Yah: Yeah. I just love it because people so rarely say yes. Yeah. They always qualify, but you did.

    What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

    Woo Tai Ho: Oh, it's not for me to, yeah. I think my legacy is work hard.

    Try harder. Yeah, try harder. And be the best. Yeah.

    Ling Yah: What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?

    Woo Tai Ho: Oh, be kind. Be kind.

    Ling Yah: Where can people go to find you? Support you? Support me up.

    Woo Tai Ho: When you release your next book? Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, yeah, I think I'm very public that way. Yeah. Because my books are available everywhere. So, yeah, support me.

    Ling Yah: Tai Ho, thank you so much for your time.

    Thank you.

    And that was the end of episode 146.

    The show notes can be found at I really hope you've enjoyed this episode. If you did, please go to Apple Podcasts, scroll to the very bottom. There is a section that asks for your rating and also to write a review.

    I would love it if you could do so because Apple Podcasts will only boost a podcast if they get enough ratings and reviews. So everyone that you leave behind make a huge difference. And don't forget to subscribe to this podcast if you haven't done so already. We'll be back next week with a final episode from Singapore with one of the most exciting and brave hoteliers that you have ever met.

    See you next Sunday.

    Woon Tai Ho - founder of Channel News Asia and Author - shares his life story and career advice with Ling Yah, host and producer of the So This Is My Why podcast

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