How do you strike a balance between your dreams and reality?
Raymond Young Lap-moon, former Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, has made two life-changing decisions.
After making it to the finals of the 1982 TVB International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship, Young decided to quit his budding music career and join the civil service.
And after 32 years serving in various government bureaus and departments, he decided to retire at age 54. He wanted to return to his old passion, singing.
“First, make ends meet, then pursue your dream.” Those were words he heard from his father, and he intends to follow that philosophy.
“In the 1960s, parents had to work hard to raise their kids. I was born in an average family with four children. And my father worked very hard as a writer to support the family.
“He was quite lucky, and got many jobs writing for TV stations, writing TV dramas to make ends meet. But it’s a tough job, and it won’t make you rich.”
His father Yeung Po-Hei (楊普禧) was a famous TV drama writer whose penname was Ching Shue-mun (程雪門).
He wrote many popular dramas for Commercial Radio and RTHK, such as The Diary of a Big Man, 18/F Block C and the movie The Student Prince.
He named his son Lap-moon, which means “honor the teacher and respect his teachings”.
“My father was a freelance writer, not a regular employee of Commercial Radio. He had no retirement package, healthcare or insurance benefits. He had to rely on himself and had no income when retired.
“So we knew how hard it was to earn a living even when we were small kids.”
By sheer hard work, his father gave them a decent life and realized his personal dream of buying a car.
“Looking back, my father was not very good at wealth management,” Young said. “He bought a car while the family was still struggling to make ends meet.
“My father loved cars, and he was determined to buy his own car anyway.”
In a car plate auction in 2007, Young, who was then earning HK$160,000 a month, paid HK$100,000 for a car plate. It was 1854, the same car plate number his father once owned.
The car plate brought back happy memories of his father. Young remembers his father driving the car for family sightseeing tours. He was then just a small boy.
When his father passed away, the car plate was retrieved by the Transport Department. So Young acquired the car plate in honor of his father.
His father has been a great influence on his life.
After graduating from college in 1982, he made it to the finals of the first TVB International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship. He sang “Hatred of Lau Heung” (留香恨), a theme song from the popular TV drama series “Chor Lau-heung” originally performed by Adam Cheng.
The top-rated singing competition has been the launching pad of many musical careers, including those of Anita Mui Yim-fong, Jacky Cheung, Rita Carpio and Deric Wan Siu-lun.
Young was proud of his achievement. But it was also then that he received an offer from the Hong Kong government to become an administrative officer.
Without hesitation, he chose to join the government and quit the contest.
So for the next 32 years, Young held on to his father’s philosophy: “First, make ends meet, then pursue your dream.”
It is quite reassuring to have a permanent job with a stable income and to look forward to your pension after retirement. He never regretted his decision.
So he sacrificed his dream of becoming a full-fledged singer to pursue a career in civil service.
“There is no choice at that time,” he said. “On one hand, you have such a great job in front of you after graduation. Will you choose another job with great uncertainties? Will the company treasure you? Will you become famous? We’ve seen many so-so artists. For a 20-year-old college graduate, it’s not a difficult choice.”
Lucky next generation
Young realizes that times have changed, and his values may not appreciated by the next generation.
“The young generation may not care so much about money, as they know they won’t starve without money. And their parents will support them if they are jobless. They would not be interested in you if you always talk about making money. They want much more in life. So you need to show respect for their dreams, or they might resent you.”
Whatever dream they are pursuing, it’s worth their while regardless of how much they earn, he said.
“Take music for example, it’s really hard to make a living as a musician, and you may not even be able to support your family. But I will support my son if he wants to pursue music.
“It’s fine even if he might regret his decision when he reaches 30 or 40. I will continue to support him if he decides to change his profession one day.”
His only son has returned to Hong Kong after finishing his university education in the UK several years ago. His son now works at a local car dealer.
This is the first in a two-part series on Raymond Young. This article appeared in the Hong Kong Private Banking Journal on Nov. 18.
Translation by Julie Zhu
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Raymond Young: How to live a meaningful life