We live in extraordinary times. A crucial period where more people seek to find answers for themselves. Questions of happiness and fulfilment are being raised. Materialistic goals no longer satisfy. In a time where self-manipulation through so-called “status symbols” on social media have not become less but have been intensified, people feel stuck not to move forward.

Unfortunately, the 10-year challenge trend on Instagram is primarily focused on the outside rather than the inside that it misses a crucial point after all. A question and a thought process that would enable more people to determine what they need to do today in order to become that type of person in the future: “What is my legacy going to look like? How do I want to be remembered? Was this really everything?”

These lines are personal and are edged in my deepest inner thinking, my character and in my soul today. And now, I want to open them up for those who still seek answers and inspirations for their own path.

A Tale of Two Childhoods: From Bullying And Racism To Legacy Thinking

Ten years ago, I was a 14-year old kid. Back then, I hadn’t thought about personal achievements or greatness. The term “self-confidence” had been for me only accessible in a dictionary. Although by that time, I already formed a strong philosophical view of liberalism and freedom, I was caught in the inside. I believed that racism, bullying, harassment, disrespect for people who look differently and have a different background were part of my destiny. “It’s just the way it is” I was thinking back then.

I struggled with my health. I thought being obese and unfit was part of my DNA. That’s at least something I was being told frequently since I ever took a footstep into a kindergarten or a school. From teachers and principals to classmates, friends, and family members.

I thought “making fun” of my cultural heritage was part of my identity. Not everybody knows it, but I was proud (and I am still) to be an Eurasian – being born and raised by a family with German and Thai descent. I guess that was a true gift that enabled me to have a broader horizon after all which has shaped my character and thinking ever since. 

But back then I thought, “This is it, that’s my destiny.”

However, I learned racism at its deepest level each and every day for the first 18 years of my life, especially in school. I thought it was appropriate to say racist slurs daily, like “Did your father meet your mother during one of his sex trips to Thailand back then?” or “It’s pretty sad that you are a bastard because you are mixed.” Theseare just two phrases that sometimes remind me of the journey I started in the first place. I learned that racism has many faces. They are embodied in people who do ordinary things today, in different variations: They are teachers, sales manager, account manager, “people manager”, consultants, journalists, and retailers.

Mental anxiety and stress were unfamiliar issues for the 14, 15, 16, and 17-year old Mark who grew up in the western part of Germany. In a country he may call as his “country of origin” but hardly recognises as a place calling “home”. I carried the illusion that I was strong from the outside but I was broken in the inside. Years passed, and I thought, “This is it, I need to deal with this path.” My continuous practice of Chinese and Filipino martial arts since I am seven years old gave me the only hope to survive each passing day. 

Do something today. Not in 10 years

I used to chase people. People who I can look up for. Even as a 14-year old, I was desperate to find that one person who could give me all the reasons in the world not to feel small. Just for a minute. Weeks pass, weekends come and go, and so did all sorts of external resources that supposedly brought one “to have the best time of my life” before the horror scenario in the school, in the locker room, in the floor, on the streets, at family gatherings were back on the table. One month after another, I used to look for the escape holes that, just for a moment, would distract me from the places I never wanted to stay and in the body I never wanted to be.

Shortly before and after I turned 18-years old, I could no longer face this mental pressure. A few days before Christmas, I somewhat collapsed at 6:00 am in the morning and on the floor. All sorts of things went through my mind and my breath was heavy. I couldn’t possibly give up. I didn’t realise then how worse the whole situation has become. My mind wasn’t on my personal issues but by those I actually care about, especially my father who was at the same time in the hospital, not knowing is actual condition and what could have happen if we hadn’t reacted quickly enough.

I am not the product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. – Stephen Covey

Months and almost a year passed. I looked in the mirror and asked myself what I can do to make a change. I cannot entirely remember when, but at some point, I found this quote on Facebook: I am not the product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. I asked myself how I want to be remembered. Knowing what I had experienced back then gave me all the reasons in the world to lay out the foundation to become a role model for other people. To serve those I care about. To be a source of inspiration and change for those who face similar situations. To people I loved then, love now. To the people I will meet in the future. To the children I will have. And to those I will encounter in the future. 

It then dawned on me that I didn’t have to chase people. I cannot wait until somebody comes to me. I need to be the person I desperately wanted to have by my side for all these years. I needed to become the change I was looking for. I imagined how I would look like, think, and act as a 24-year old man and how people will remember me. The images were so vivid, vibrant and colourful that I started to think and act as if I was already that person. Not someday but today! Step by step I did things that lead me to become the person I am today. 

Don’t wait for the “perfect opportunity” to do something. That’s why it’s called NOW. No Opportunities Wasted. You don’t have to be brilliant to become, get, or achieve what you want but to be consistent on the supposedly ordinary things daily.

It was a one big challenge. But a challenge worth to face. I learnt that consistency beats everything, even the greatest and most brilliant minds out there.

That ought to be the challenge for you in the next ten years. I know you can do it if you are ready. The question is: Are you ready NOW?