Where Tolerable Risks Take You — Dinner with Stephen S.Y. Wong, CEO of Asia Miles

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Dinner with Stephen has raised 157 volunteer hours

Sometimes the most meaningful and inspiring conversations happen over casual meals. The Time Auction Blog is a snippet of our meetings with people who have found passion in their life and career, where we get a glimpse into their mentality behind their ventures.

Stephen manages Asia’s leading travel and lifestyle rewards program, Asia Miles, with over 10 million members and 700 program partners worldwide. As one of Hong Kong’s leading names in Design Thinking, a customer-focused problem-solving methodology, he is also a sought-after speaker on customer loyalty and customer relationship management.

Over dinner with Time Auction, Stephen talked about leaving your comfort zone and taking tolerable risks, which gave him the courage to took a temporary break from Cathay Pacific and sold his apartment to fund his dreams of going to Stanford University.

What is your life motto?

Be humble, be curious, always be willing to learn and be open-minded.

Being humble is something I learned from my parents. They are very hardworking and always humble.

I’ve always been very curious. In the modern world, one of the new virtues is curiosity. Anything that can be found on Wikipedia is worth nothing, and being curious actually helps.

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What is that one habit that has significantly improved your life?

Be stakeholder-centric or customer-centric to whoever you serve.

Do not put yourself in the centre, put other people in the centre.

Ask yourself: Why are they here? What do they want? Ask the deeper questions, not the shallow ones.

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If you had to give a lesson unrelated to your career, what would it be?

When you are young, go out of your comfort zone and do something different. Try to push yourself a little bit.

At the same time, while you’re growing and getting better, pat yourself on the back and cheer yourself up. At the end of the day, you are the only one who is going to take care of yourself, so it is important to allocate time and care to yourself.

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Can you give an example of a time you went out of your comfort zone?

I worked for a long time in Cathay Pacific, joining in 1998. In 2010, I decided to go back to school. This was quite a big decision in asking for a temporary break from Cathay Pacific and sold my apartment to fund my dream of going to Stanford University.

If you know where you want to go to, and the risk is tolerable even if everything goes wrong, then go for it. You can say to yourself: At least I tried. Otherwise, you will regret it.

I had an offer from another school before I went to my dream school. I had to turn down the offer and wait a year to see if I could get into my dream school. It was a risk, but I asked myself: What’s the worst that could happen? Worst comes to worst, I don’t do an MBA. I won’t die. But going to Stanford was my dream, so I bet on it. I was lucky that I bet right and got in. It could have gone the other way. But even if I didn’t get the offer from Stanford and didn’t accept the other school’s offer, I think I would still be okay. I would still be happy.

Take some risk — tolerable risk.

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What is one act or action that you want everyone to take away from meeting you?

We have three guiding principles in Asia Miles, which can be applied to everyone.

The first one is being “customer-centric,” putting people in the centre. The second one is about “taking tolerable risks” and the third one is “bias towards actions.”

You never know what the future holds. You will be surprised by what comes up. Sometimes we may perceive the risk as very big, but everyone else looking from the outside thinks it’s not that big of a deal.

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Thank you Stephen for donating your time and raising 157 volunteer hours!

BIG thank you to our venue sponsor Mustard Seed, food sponsor Deliveroo & Sohofama and volunteer Ivy Fung!

These awesome photos are brought to you by Freehunter — an online marketplace for reaching freelancing talents in Hong Kong!

For more amazing opportunities, visit Time Auction to volunteer and meet inspiring mentors!

This article originally appeared on our blog on Medium: https://timeauction.medium.com/where-tolerable-risks-take-you-dinner-with-stephen-s-y-wong-ceo-of-asia-miles-916dbb6921fd

Updated on 8 April, 2021
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