What do you Hear?

I read a news article this morning and it kept me energized for the whole rest of the day. It was the story of Marcelo Iriarte, an Argentinean, and how he became a lawyer after having been a newspaper seller, bus driver and street sweeper all his life.

Marcelo never finished his primary education. When he was three, his parents got divorced. Due to poverty, he started selling newspapers in the streets at the age of eight. He became as a bus driver some years later.

One day, a lady passenger changed his life. Apparently this lady, a passenger in the bus whom he had never met, said to him, "You should really continue your education. I see such potential in you."

What she said struck Marcelo like a bolt of lightning. Nobody had ever told him anything like that. He thought he would end up driving a bus or selling newspapers in the streets for the rest of his life. For the first time in his life, he realized he could actually do something better.

Marcelo decided to heed the advice of this lady, who he now fondly refers to as his 'fairy godmother'. At the age of 35, he picked up his education from where he had left off as a child. After completing his high school education, he went on to study law. After 8 years of gruesome studies, he finally graduated and became a qualified lawyer.

Marcelo's success story has made him a media sensation in Argentina. He is seen as having finally bridged the wide divide between the country's hardcore poor and the societal elites. His story became headline news and he was an instant celebrity.

It had all begun with a single suggestion that he heard uttered in a casual manner by someone he had never met. However, it changed his life forever.

We are given important senses to function effectively as human beings - we have eyes to see, ears to hear, noses to smell, skin to sense and tongues to taste. Our brain interprets all of these sensory signals for us to derive possible meanings out of them.

Perhaps one of the most important organs is our ears. We are impacted by hundreds of thousands of different sounds everyday. While many of these sounds are meaningless noises, some carry meaningful messages and influence the way we think and behave.

Our lives are often changed because of what some people say to us, casually or intentionally. I once read in the news that a lady committed suicide because a fortuneteller had told her that she had a bleak future and would never find a good husband.

There was another story of a man who decided to join the underworld and became a gangster because his father had said to him he was useless and would never succeed in life.

I think it would be dangerous to take whatever we hear and immediately act upon. What we may hear in the run of a single day will consist of things that are good and bad, useful and useless, harmful and harmless, productive and counterproductive, meaningful and meaningless, constructive and destructive. It is imperative that we learn to sieve out the useful things we hear from the harmful ones.

We must therefore pay attention to what we hear. We must learn to analyze good information from the bad, useful advice from the harmful. If we act upon good advice, our lives can be changed positively. However, if we erroneously believe in bad advice and thereupon, act upon it, our future can be permanently destroyed.

Keep in mind though, good advice may not equal the 'safe' path. Just because there is a risk involved in heeding advice, does not mean that we should hide from it. Whenever you hop into your car and drive out into the streets, there is an element of danger involved. And yet, we still must do so, so we just learn to drive carefully and buckle our seatbelts.

On the other hand, to be insured against acting upon bad advice, you must use common sense, knowledge and analytical skill. So when you hear something suggested to you, be open but think about it before you act.

If after much thinking your conclusion is that it is a great advice, then do not hesitate - jump into it! You may never be the same ever again.

Be a Marcelo - have the courage to heed the words of the wise and brave uncertainty.

The question is - What do you hear?

“Life is about constantly going beyond limits.”
- Erican Chong


  1. The world is never fair. Rich or poor, abled or disabled, you have to make a life for yourself, albeit it is doubly hard for the less fortunate.

    No matter what you are trying to do in life, if the achievement requires a huge input of effort it can be difficult to continue with it, especially if you do not see results within a short period of time.

    Very few people have the patience required to just continue on and on with any project if they cannot see at least a tiny shred of improvement along the way. The sheer heartbreak of repeated attempts and repeated failures can be too much to bear.

    Anything that requires effort will give you feelings of despair when it does not pay off after the expected time.

    But if you do give up then you have guaranteed your failure. At least when you constantly try you have a chance of success, but if you do not try then there is not even a hope attaining your goal.

    No matter how hard it feels to constantly try and constantly fail, you must never ever stop aiming for your goal. Even if it takes a lifetime of effort before you get the thing you covet, you cannot allow yourself to stop.

    Allow famous personalities, film and TV characters to inspire you if they can, but do not allow yourself to get depressed when you have absolutely no idea where to even begin.

    If what you try does not work then try something different. If you have a competitor that achieves something you want to achieve then follow the same format they used and try to mimic their results.

    Above all else fight with all you have got to achieve your goal and never give up. Only you know if you haven't tried as hard as you could have done, and you then have to live with the guilt of knowing that you did not try hard enough when the going got tough.

    However, in whatever you do, be grateful and thankful that you have the soundness of health, mind and soul to seek the betterment of life. Share with the less fortunate and live an honest, happy and fulfulling life.

  2. What an inspiring article! This story proves that it's never to late to do anything!

  3. Dear Mr Erican Chong,

    We must indeed open our ears and hear the 'good sounds' and filter out the bad ones. I am greatly inspired by this article. Thank you.

    Yours sincerely,
    Choon Eng


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