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Literature

Five books the CEO of Save the Children can’t live without: Amy Fong’s must-have reads

Spirituality, yoga and meditation are high on the agenda for Hongkonger Fong, who left a high-flying, stressful career in finance to helm the children’s organisation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 June, 2018, 1:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 June, 2018, 1:32pm

Save the Children CEO Amy Fong was born and raised in Hong Kong. She studied international finance and accounting at Georgetown University and earned an MBA at Columbia University. After almost 20 years working in financial services in the US and Hong Kong with JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Merrill Lynch she became the CEO of the children’s rights organisation in 2015. She has a 16-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son.

Here are the five books she would take to a desert island, in her own words.

Siddhartha

by Hermann Hesse, 1922

I used to have a successful career in investment banking in Silicon Valley, but I felt as though something was amiss. That’s when I came across this book and it had a big impact on me. It’s about the spiritual journey of a man named Siddhartha, He renounces all his belongings and becomes a wandering beggar, then meets a courtesan who encourages him to go into business.

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He becomes a rich man, but in his old age he longs for a spiritual life. I won’t spoil the story by saying more, but the critical moment comes when Siddhartha realises that his journey is the cycle of life. What I took from this book is that everyone has a path – it might look like a winding path, but every step is meaningful. Realising this relaxed me a little and helped me to go with the flow.

Thrive

by Arianna Huffington, 2014

I picked this up at an airport soon after it was released. I was working on a hardcore crisis project with a bank and needed to grow my team from 10 people to 50 in three months. I was given the authority and budget to fix a big problem, but it meant working long hours and getting just four hours’ sleep a night.

I accomplished a lot in the three months, but it came at the expense of my health. This book was a wake-up call for me. Arianna Huffington is a smart and articulate woman, and she made me realise that while work was important, I couldn’t kill myself over it. Huffington is a big advocate for getting eight hours sleep a day and also the value of meditating.

I value sleep more now and I started meditating. These changes really transformed me and eventually led me to leave the bank.

Autobiography of a Yogi

by Paramhansa Yogananda, 1946

Apple founder Steve Jobs was a spiritual person and read this book every year – it was apparently the only book on his iPad. I’ve read it more than 10 times. Yogananda brought the idea of yoga and meditation to the Western world. He started a movement in Los Angeles called the Self-Realization Fellowship.

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His book is about soul evolution and soul growth and he talks about the miracles that happened to him, his parents, his family and fellow students. When you read it, you realise that miracles are a daily occurrence when you are connected to the divine. I came across the book around the time that I left JP Morgan and joined Save The Children, and began mediating about the same time.

The Woman Who Saved the Children

by Clare Mulley, 2009

I read this biography of the founder of Save The Children soon after I joined the organisation and started my spiritual journey. Eglantyne Jebb was well-educated and studied at Cambridge University. She faced a very difficult time trying to help children in Europe after the first world war because many people saw them as children of the enemy.

Jebb faced adversity head on, going to war-torn places and being arrested at Trafalgar Square, all because of her belief that it’s important not just to think about our own children, but our enemy’s children as well. That remains the spirit of Save the Children – the organisation transcends politics, nationalities and religion.

The Simple Truth

by Ocean Whitehawk, 2011

I was introduced to my guru Ocean Whitehawk by a friend of a friend. She’s a spiritual teacher who used to live in England and is now based in Malaysia. This book is essentially a handbook of profound lessons which aim to wake up our soul self. The truth is often simple, but our mind makes it more

complicated which is why meditation is important.

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The Simple Truth talks about fear as the greatest illusion of all – it’s a denial of our own power – and yet many of us suffer from this virus of fear. Fear is something that the mind comes up with to protect us. When we don’t understand that protection mechanism that’s when the mind tells us we need to be worried and the barriers come up.