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Unleashing the hero within

Published on Thursday, 17 Nov 2011
Matthew Lui survived triad links and a drug-addict father to become a role model for the young.
Photo: Gary Mak

From zero to hero – this  pretty much describes the story of Matthew Lui Yue-chun, who went from being a gang member to a respected public figure. Known as “Zero Boy”, Lui scored zilch  in his first attempt at the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE). It became a defining moment for him. Today, he holds two master’s degrees and a PhD. He works as a financial planner for AIA Hong Kong and part-time as a principal and teacher at  an education centre.

How did you  become Zero Boy?
I came from a broken family. My father was a drug addict and I grew up in a public housing estate, living off social welfare. With  this kind of  start, I told myself I had every excuse to do poorly at school. I was a triad member in secondary school and was expelled on a number of occasions. My record was so bad that I had a hard time finding a school that would enrol me. I worked as a printing apprentice after quitting Form Four. The working conditions were unbearable, so I decided to attend night school and sit the HKCEE. I was such a poor student that I scored zero in the exam.

What inspired you to turn things around?
With my zero HKCEE score, I went to interview for a job as a messenger. When they asked me to fill in an application form, I was stunned because it was in English and I didn’t even know how to write my address. When the employer looked at my embarrassing application form, he said: “What makes you think you qualify for this job?” That was a wake-up call for me because I couldn’t even become a messenger. I knew that I  had to do something.
I set a goal for myself – I must work hard for a better future. A friend from church was kind enough to support me to study again, and this time I gave my best effort and scored 19 points in my second HKCEE attempt. I went on to university, and graduated with a first class honours degree.      

How did you become a financial planner?
After graduation, I became a liberal studies teacher at a secondary school and was active in voluntary work with  youngsters. In 2006, I was selected [by the Junior Chamber International Hong Kong] as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Persons” – which changed my life forever. During the selection process, I met my mentor, Samuel Yung Wing-ki, who happens to be an iconic figure in financial planning. He  invited me to join his team.  

How did you inspire others with your story? 
After I  became a financial planner, I had the chance to share my story. So far, I have been to more than 3,000 seminars and talked to more than 100,000 people. I teach   English to adults on a voluntary part-time basis. Many of the students have tried to learn English all their adult  life, but have been unsuccessful. They have very little confidence in learning English, but I encourage them with my case story. I couldn’t even spell the word “father”, but with hard work, things can change.        

What is your motto?
One must have a goal. Imagine you are sailing a yacht in windy weather, it is supposed to be easy, but if you do not know where you are going, the wind cannot be of much help. I set a goal for myself every year, and this is what keeps me going. The goals are diverse, such as learning to speak Mandarin and to lose weight. Set a goal, work out the correct methods to achieve it. Be consistent – no matter what hardships you encounter along the way – and you will be successful.

What is your goal in life?
I hope to have a successful career in financial planning, and help society. I am very concerned about drug problems, especially among youngsters. I hope to get more involved in youth services. I  am in talks about the possibility of  starting nighttime  Project Yi Jin classes [continuing education for secondary school leavers and adult learners] for people to upgrade themselves. In my experience, education is the only way  for young people to achieve success.

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