Unleashing the hero within

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2011, 12:00am


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 and part-time as a principal and teacher at an education centre.

How did you become Zero Boy?

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 and was expelled from school on a number of occasions. 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 grade, 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.

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. With hard work, things can change.

What is your motto?

One must have a goal. I set a goal for myself every year. 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.