Conversations in Singapore

Book cover supplied courtesy of Michael Daly

By Eoin Meegan

In ‘Conversations in Singapore: Searching for True Success on the Silk Road One Question at a Time’ Michael Daly sets out to answer the question, what is the meaning of true success?
This may seem innocuous enough, but finding a satisfactory answer can be more challenging than the question’s beguiling simplicity would at first suggest. We might proffer: material blessings, earning a lot of money, love, family, a good job, and so on. And while all these are very worthwhile, do any of them, in themselves, offer an absolute on success? Just as an experiment, take a minute and see if you can answer what true success is for you? Maybe it wasn’t as easy as you thought.
This is Michael’s second book. He is already the author of the critically-acclaimed ‘The Six Traits of Self-Leadership: How to Create a Life of Success and Happiness’, published in 2014. He is a speaker who has led workshops both here and throughout Europe on personal development and goal-setting. He has worked in a variety of jobs, including health care and as an entrepreneur; as well as training as a monk.
To assist him in his quest to find the meaning of true success, Michael engages in a kind of Socratic dialogue with a young lady by the name of Parandin, a waitress and the daughter of the owner of the Hotel Falah in Singapore. By asking him a series of penetrating questions, usually over coffee or dinner, a picture of what true success is slowly begins to emerge.
It’s all rather subtle. This system of eliciting an answer that is already there, but hidden, is steeped in an ancient tradition. Socrates called it midwifery, whereby one gives birth to the truth by means of uncovering all the falsehoods that seek to cover it up; all the time aware that the person already has the answers within them. Some today might call it psychoanalysis. Or life coaching.
Parandin’s motto is: “Know the way and go the way.” She encourages Michael to seek true success, and then write about this, and make it his legacy. Which, I suppose, is what he did. The book is in the tradition of Paulo Coelho or Carlos Castaneda with Parandin playing the role of the Yaqui Indian Don Juan. And I think here the conceit works very well as it facilitates eliciting answers to important questions as much from the reader as from Michael himself. The device further serves to remove the attention from the author, thus avoiding preachiness.
Conversations in Singapore is a hybrid of road book and philosophical inquiry. Michael sets out on a journey, a physical as well as a spiritual and metaphysical one, that takes him from London to Sydney along the Silk Road, with a bunch of travelnics who call themselves ‘the Village’. Mingled with the philosophical excursions are a healthy sprinkling of wisdom and banter from the Village; shades of Kerouac and Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) abound.
Thinking of going to Singapore soon? Well, even if the mood takes you it’s probably advisable not to be in too much of a rush to find the enigmatic Hotel Falah, which we’re told was itself established to discover what true success is (the word falah by the way means ‘success’ in Arabic). In all likelihood you won’t find it. Apparently they’re not actively seeking guests!
Is there a main theme you can take away from Conversations in Singapore? On the one hand, much like other books in this category, yes: look inside for real wisdom, cultivate gratitude, follow your own star and don’t be dissuaded by the opinions of others, or the world at large. On the other hand no: Conversations in Singapore resists giving you the answers, as so many self-help books feel it is almost their duty to do.
In some ways this book doesn’t pretend to have the answers. It elucidates the question, and gently encourages you to find the answer in yourself, which as all those other books say, is where real wisdom resides. After all, true success is a subjective matter, and the answer will be very different for each reader. Often there may be more than one answer.
Parandin reminds us of the fallacy of self-image. She says: “Your self-image makes you act like you, Michael. It keeps you within your comfort-zone.” Which means it keeps you limited, often unconsciously so.
We all walk around with a set image of ourselves, and upon that, whether it is healthy or weak, proceed to construct our lives; so awareness is the first step to awakening. “Your self-image and level of success are always equal,” she says, and in order to be successful you must first change your self-image, and then raise your comfort-zone.
A short book, but one which you will return to many times. I like it, not because of the answers it withholds, but for the important questions it raises.
Conversations in Singapore: Searching for True Success on the Silk Road One Question at a Time, by Michael E. Daly is published by Liberties Press and is available in Book on The Green and on Amazon at €7.