I like to think about life in terms of happy moments and firsts. I don’t like to think about life…
My Philosophy On Money
When I was a child, my mom used to tell me never to let money own me. As someone who has experienced both poverty and wealth, I appreciate her wisdom now more than ever (even though I never quite understood it as a child). Money is important, but it is not everything. You see, too many people fall under the spell of money and are slaves to it. If you are a slave to money, you will do anything for it even if it means losing yourself, your integrity and your character. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. However, if you are a master to money, you will not sacrifice yourself, your integrity, or your character for the sake of money. I have been fortunate to escape poverty; I still vividly remember the days when my mom and I ate $1.50 microwave meals every day and slept on the floor in sleeping bags when we lived in California. More important than my wealth today though is that I am happy with the person I see in the mirror. I have lived life on my terms, and I have never sacrificed who I was for the sake of money.
The secret to money is to do what you love and to add value to as many lives as possible. If you chase what it is that ignites your soul and how you can genuinely help people, you will make money (by virtue of adding value to the lives of others) and you will be happy with who you are. If you chase only money, you will never be happy with who you are (and there is a possibility that you will never make money). The driving force in life can never be money. The driving force must be what is in your soul. Money is a by-product of adding value to the world. The more value you add to the world, the more money you will make. Of course, you must be genuine and authentic in your intentions. People can feel authenticity, and the truth is that authenticity is the key to your personal happiness; and your happiness is the key to your success. When your mind, body, and soul are aligned with who you really are, you will be happiest and most successful. Be a master to money. Don’t be a slave to money.
For me, money is now a way to change the world. Bar none, Evolve MMA, one of my companies, has the highest pay scale in the world for the martial arts industry. Many of our top instructors at EVOLVE earn up to $15,000 a month (or $180,000 a year). The same goes for the rest of our top staff. When people ask me why I choose to pay the highest in the world, my answer is simple. They deserve it. I have not forgotten my past. Not only are they the hardest working team on the planet, but the vast majority of the team at EVOLVE comes from humble backgrounds of poverty, adversity, and tragedy. (Of course, I could choose to pay salaries as low as possible like many martial arts schools do, but I believe in expressing my gratitude through my actions). For everyone on the team, EVOLVE is the single greatest opportunity to escape poverty and to achieve the life of their dreams. I am thankful that they have entrusted me with their lives, their futures, and their dreams.
Inspired by the life of my Muay Thai master, Kru Yodtong Senanan, and my own experience with poverty, I launched the EVOLVE Community Outreach Program almost 10 years ago as a way for the EVOLVE Family (students, instructors, World Champions, fighters, and staff) to give back to the world. With partners like the Boys Town Home, Singapore Children’s Society, Children’s Cancer Foundation, and several other organizations, the EVOLVE Community Outreach Program serves as a pro-bono program for various orphanages, youth homes, and charities and as a platform to unleash human potential through martial arts. Since 2010, the EVOLVE Community Outreach Program has been helping the less fortunate and underprivileged through charitable donations, free martial arts training, life mentorship, gift drives, and sponsored activities such as Movie Nights, Bowling Parties, and Team BBQs for kids from humble backgrounds. EVOLVE has a mission to change the world for the better by making a positive impact on the lives it touches. A big part of our joy stems from giving back to the community, especially to those less fortunate. Almost all of our instructors and World Champions overcame a life of hardship and poverty with very little food and shelter. Martial arts gave them confidence, tenacity, discipline, and a path to a better life.
Entrepreneurship has given me the wonderful opportunity to change the world in a way that reflects my values and who I am. I might not have any time to work at EVOLVE anymore (I am blessed to have an outstanding leadership team that runs it for me), but I am there every day for my 1-2 hours of martial arts training when I am in Singapore. You see, I have been a martial artist far longer than I have been a businessman. A decade ago, I started EVOLVE with a mission to unleash greatness in everyone through the power of martial arts. I still remember teaching our first class with only 3 students in it. (Actually, the thing that I miss the most is teaching Muay Thai classes). As a lifelong martial artist, I am most proud of the tens of thousands of lives (students, instructors, fighters, staff, community outreach kids, etc) that EVOLVE has managed to touch over the years. I am most proud of celebrating Asia’s greatest cultural treasure and honoring its deep-rooted values of integrity, humility, honor, respect, courage, discipline, and compassion. Martial arts changed my life and I know that it has changed the lives of my students. As Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
A man is not what he owns. A man is what he loves. #gratitude
Chatri Sityodtong is a self-made entrepreneur and lifelong martial artist from Thailand. His rags-to-riches life story has inspired millions around the world on BBC News, CNN, Financial Times, Bloomberg TV, CNBC, Channel NewsAsia, and other major media. He is the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of ONE Championship, Asia’s largest global sports media property in history with a global broadcast to over 2.6 billion potential viewers across 140+ countries around the world. Forbes most recently selected Sityodtong as one of Asia’s next generation tycoons. He was also named “Asia’s King of Martial Arts” by the Financial Times and the “3rd Most Powerful Person in Sports in Asia” by FOX Sports. He is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD, Europe’s top business school. Sityodtong holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from Tufts University.