Meeting Shaun Tan for the first time is quite an experience in itself. His composed nature is perhaps attributed to his knowledge and experience as a lawyer, a Barrister-at-Law from Lincoln’s Inn, to be precise. That’s not all, he wears many hats!
After a few years in legal practice, Shaun moved into E-commerce and started a company selling his own products and services. With close to 20 years of experience in E-commerce, Shaun went on to become one of the best-selling Malaysian authors of self-help books on entrepreneurship and marketing under the moniker, “Sen Ze”.
Beyond his credentials, social causes and helping those in need are close to his heart. He is the CEO and co-founder of BeepBeep Nation, a social enterprise committed to make an impact in society by bridging the gap between those in need and those who can help the needy.
The GoodNews team sat down for an exclusive interview with the man himself on his remarkable feat in 1999 that made the world stop and take notice of his unique talent and his next major project in aid of charitable causes.
1. Back in 1999, you actually drove a 4WD Pajero blindfolded in aid of charity. Can you tell us about this experience?
Yes, that was a good two decades ago. I remember it clearly. It was a sunny Sunday morning on 24th of January, 1999. A month before the event I had received a letter from the National Council for the Blind requesting a donation. I thought of contributing in a different way by attempting a daring and one-of-a-kind stunt that Malaysians have never witnessed before, to raise awareness about the lack of funds faced by the organisation.
What better way to create a lot of buzz than to drive on the busy streets of KL, blindfolded with a hood covering my head!
2. Was it difficult to pull it off and more importantly, worth the risk?
I studied several possible routes and picked the best alternative. A lengthy journey would be too difficult for me and a shorter route would not be very appealing. On the day of the event, I started driving from Dataran Merdeka to KLCC, accompanied by a convoy of traffic policemen, my friends and supporters. It took me a few weeks to organise things. It was definitely great teamwork with the Malaysian police force that made it all possible.
The event was filmed by our local TV channel, RTM, which compiled it into a 2-minute clip, for distribution to other news agencies. In no time, the news was picked up by CNN and eventually broadcast to millions all over the world!
3. Did you experience any problems when you were driving the car without being able to see?
Here’s something only a few people knew at that point in time. I nearly passed out from the heat of being blindfolded and the thick hood covering my head, as it was a scorching day! Although I had trained along the designated route, I never did it blindfolded for obvious reasons – it is simply illegal to do so and of course it would not go down well with other vehicle drivers on the street!
I was extremely happy that I managed to complete the journey in one piece during the actual drive wearing 2 blindfolds, and without hitting anyone or any vehicle along the way! I must say, I would never do it again, because it wasn’t easy to do. At the end of the day, I am glad to have fulfilled my mission to raise funds in aid of the National Council for the Blind.
4. That’s truly an amazing feat. You can also read minds. How is this possible?
As human beings we tend to do it all the time without actually realising it! What I mean is we regularly second-guess a person’s intentions or motives before or when they are doing something – and we are often right. For example, we may have experienced completing a person’s sentence even before they can finish – why? Perhaps, we already know what he or she is going to say.
Our mind is subconsciously spotting patterns in the behaviour of those around us, and this can be a good thing because it can make things easier for us in our daily activities. Sometimes, merely looking at someone’s face will tell us what the person might be thinking.
Given an interest in psychology (I studied the subject in law school), and the knowledge of spotting patterns in human behaviour, one may possess a higher chance of being a good mind-reader. I simply spend more time doing it out of sheer passion, which makes me more capable than most people in this area. If you really think about it, it’s the same thing with any other interest as well.
5. You have read the mind of the late legendary singer, Datuk Sharifah Aini. How did it happen and what was she thinking about?
I was scheduled to appear on TV3’s “Selamat Pagi Malaysia” talk show back in 1996, to read the mind of the show’s host. However, Datuk Sharifah Aini was also one of the guests that morning, so the host asked me to read her mind instead!
It was a pleasant surprise, as she was one of the biggest celebrities in Malaysia. But, I was also nervous because I had never met her before, and I didn’t have much time to “calibrate” her mind with mine by observing her interview with the host and listening intently to what she was saying, among other things, before it was time to do the reading.
In any case, when it was time, I stood behind her and asked her to think of 3 things – favourite city, favourite singer, and favourite colour. After a few moments of concentration, I mentioned her choices were “London”, “Gladys Knight”, and “black”.
The expression on her face said it all – she was stunned that I got all 3 items right! I was relieved too, because I didn’t fail on National TV!
6. We heard that you are back this month with a new and interesting fundraiser. Tell us more about it.
The Big Prediction Sealing Ceremony-3 November 2019. Source: YouTube/Shaun Tan : Amazing World
I’m doing something huge right now called “The Big Prediction” in aid of Tender Hearts Café which provides jobs for the intellectually challenged, and Pertiwi Soup Kitchen which provides meals for the homeless.
Sunday, November 3rd was “The Big Prediction Sealing Day” where I jotted down on pieces of paper, my predictions of headlines and news items in 7 of Malaysia’s major print newspapers to be published 2 weeks later. Those print newspapers are The Star, The News Straits Times, Berita Harian, Harian Metro, Sin Chew Daily, China Press and Nanyang Siang Pau.
The predictions including a bonus prediction have in turn been sealed in a bigger envelope, and placed in a Transparent Box under lock and key. Note that the keys to the padlock are also inside the Transparent Box!
Members of the audience present on the day have attached their signature to the sides of the Transparent Box to ensure the Box and its contents remain the same until The Big Prediction Reveal Day on Sunday, 17th November 2019.
7. What else can we look forward to on The Big Prediction Reveal Day on the 17th of November?
I’ll be hosting an hour-long show that will showcase some amazing entertainment, which most people have never seen or experienced before.
At the end, the locked Transparent Box containing my signed and sealed predictions will be brought out and opened. If all goes well, my predictions should match the headlines and news items published by the 7 major newspapers.
So, head on over to Brickfields Asia College (BAC), PJ Campus and witness it for yourself on Sunday, 17th November 2019! Entry to the show is by a minimum donation of RM100 and above.
8. How will the donations benefit social causes?
All donations will be channeled to Tender Hearts Café which provides jobs for the intellectually challenged and Pertiwi Soup Kitchen which helps the urban homeless.
This event is in collaboration with the Make It Right Movement (MIRM) which supports and promotes deserving social enterprises and charitable causes.
9. What is the “bonus prediction” you mentioned earlier?
The hot topic in Malaysia currently is the Tanjung Piai by-election and the results will be published in print newspapers on Sunday, 17th November 2019. My bonus prediction features some details of the results ranging from the party that won the election right down to the number of votes obtained by the winning candidate and the candidate that lost the election. As mentioned earlier, this prediction has been signed, sealed and locked in the Transparent Box together with 7 other predictions of newspaper headlines.
10. Finally, what remains on your bucket list?
My bucket list is rather different from others. I am focused on one main goal – to help the needy including the intellectually challenged and those with special needs, as well as finding different ways of achieving that goal.
In collaboration with the Make It Right Movement (MIRM) as well as the support from Mr. Brian Lariche and Mr. Raja Singham, together we can create a positive impact in society and help more people in need everywhere in a much faster way, too.
Watch Shaun Tan’s daring Blindfold Drive, here.
We wish Shaun nothing but the best for his upcoming show all for a good cause!
Follow and like Shaun Tan : Amazing World on Facebook @shauntanamazingworld and on Instagram @shauntanamazing to get insider updates on The Big Prediction.
To make a donation and gain free tickets, visit https://shauntan.co/thebigprediction/ and click on the red button.
*Featured image sourced from Shaun Tan : Amazing World