AT the age of nine, Adam Khoo was kicked out of school after being caught fighting with other students.
Performance wise, he was at the bottom of the class, once emerging number 156 out of 162 students.
But look where he is now: at 31, he is a self-made millionaire who earned his first S$1mil (RM2.2 mil) when he was 26 – doing business involving education and peak performance.
Khoo – an entrepreneur, author and a peak performance trainer – said he is already a multi-millionaire with his three companies recording a turnover of S$20 (RM44mil) annually.
What has set him apart from many other competitors in this industry is perhaps the first 13 years of life.
It is a story many parents and students will find no difficulty to relate to.
Growing up in Singapore, Khoo, an only child who was supposed to be the “trophy” of his parents, turned out otherwise in his primary school years.
His parents, Vince Khoo and Betty Lau, were at their wit's end when he was kicked out from school.
As they were both busy with their work, they took to sending him for more tuition classes after they got him enrolled in another school.
But their agony did not end there.
For the crucial Primary School Leaving Examination (this determines whether a child can go to a prestigious or choice school or otherwise), Khoo emerged number 156 out of 162 students.
“I failed five of the eight subjects and got admitted to first of the three schools from the bottom of the list,” he quipped.
It was another big blow to his parents.
“I was 13 then. My dad was so embarrassed that he threatened to send me to boarding school in London if I didn't buck up.
“But my somehow optimistic mum told me that I could be the best among the lousiest,” Khoo recalled.
His parents divorced shortly after, and his mother remarried and migrated to Australia.
Vince and his son, who maintained that he was not the reason for the split, remained in Singapore.
But it was Vince's marriage with Joanne about a year later that marked the turning point in Khoo's life.
“My exceptionally brilliant stepsister, Vanessa, was a Gifted Education Programme student at Singapore’s prestigious Raffles Girls’ School,” he said.
Her presence, he related, made him sit up for the first time and think hard on how to do better in his studies.
“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” so the adage goes, and Khoo found his through a gift from an uncle.
It was a book titled Use Your Head by world-renowned mind mapping expert Tony Buzan, and it led him to discover the power of the human brain, Khoo said.
“It is all about the fact that one can achieve whatever one wants to achieve via creativity and proper strategies,” he said.
All human beings, said Khoo, have the same number of brain cells and their different level of intelligence is a result of the way they use their brain.
For instance, showing enthusiasm in the face of challenges could form new neuron patterns or connections in the brain, and such patterns or connections would determine a person’s intelligence.
“And it would be otherwise if you think the challenges are beyond your control,” he said, before relating his own experiences.
“For my first 12 years in life, I believed it was impossible for me to do well in school,” he said, attributing it to mixing with the “wrong group of friends who did not even know what NUS (National University of Singapore) was.”
“My world was playing computer games and fighting in school, and no amount of tuition could get me out of the rut,” he said.
Then Vanessa appeared.
Soon after, he began to chart his life’s journey – step by step – and his first major destination was to become top student at the NUS business school.
True enough, he was among the top one per cent of academic achievers of the university and he also completed his four-year Bachelor in Business (Hons) course in three years.
“If I can achieve that, so can everyone,” said Khoo, who had his audience all excited during a talk organised by the Malaysia Mental Literacy Movement at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Petaling Jaya recently.
To him, success is a journey towards the various destinations or the goals he has set for himself.
“Even though one might have the best goal and the desire to achieve, it is not necessary that one will hit the target all the time. But if you have a target, you will continue to strive towards it.”