Tai Chi has always generated a curiosity in me, but never enough to actually go learn it. So when I got a request from Born Strong author – who is a well known Tai Chi expert, to review his book, I thought this is the opportunity to understand this art form (I assume it can be called an art form). However, Born Strong by Paul Lam is not about Tai Chi but a rather memoir-based biography of the author. I had no idea about who the author was, so everything in his story was a revelation for me.
Paul Lam’s childhood in China, during the time of Mao, was an eye-opening read for me. The author talks about growing up in China where they had no freedom and most of the times no food to eat. While the world was watching its stage-managed drama of being a happy state. The family values are not very different from Indian family values. I even found some cultural similarities like Chinese also wear White to funerals and Red on weddings. Even in China people believe, they will be found if they are good enough. And if your product is good enough, people will seek it – something that makes us Asians week at advertising but high on ethics. For what is advertising but exaggeration and misrepresentations of facts.
It was heart-wrenching to learn about the trauma of a wealthy family. Blacklisted and denied the most basic amenities. I learned that word Kung Fu refers to skill – something that is done manually rather than a martial art. Author’s journey from those circumstances to Australia via Hong Kong is incredible. How many people can have such a story where the childhood has no hope and you end up being in a career that gives hope to the hopeless.
His journey to medical school and discovery of Tai Chi for his own arthritis is inspiring. What is interesting is that author shares his struggle to get into a medical school. How he survives as a student who could not speak English well. How he makes his videos. His first book is published. And develops his business as a Tai Chi teacher and as a speaker. Quite a bit to do in a single lifetime. Sometimes you feel he spent more effort on promoting himself than on developing himself. He talks about his failures through these journeys. For me, his story, the second half that revolves around his emerging as a Tai Chi guru, is to tell the world about the hard work he did to reach where he is.
Incidentally, I failed to see his effort in either developing his craft on in healing people; it was more about marketing and promotion of his business and how he became the money-spinner that he is today. His story holds some lessons for entrepreneurs, but for healers – I am not sure. The book is full of PR for his ‘Tai Chi for Arthritis’ program and keeps reminding you that you can buy that video or that book. It could have been a memoir that is a very strong story of a small boy with impoverished childhood. The author takes away that essence, for me.
The book Born Strong by Paul Lam has used many Chinese sayings that are eternal pearls of wisdom. Look at some of them:
- Flowers leave some of their fragrance in the hand that bestows them.
- A smile can erase a million worries.
- Like the weather, one’s fortune may change by the evening.
- A book tightly shut is but a block of paper.
- A book holds a house of gold.
- The lotus may be severed, but its fibered threads are still connected.
- When you drink the water, remember the spring.
- With time & patience, the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.
For the book Born Strong by Paul Lam, take your call.