Every mountain is within reach if you keep climbing. This is amply demonstrated by Wang Shi, founder and chairman of China Vanke, the nation’s largest residential real estate developer and the oldest Chinese national to reach the summit of Everest, the highest mountain on Earth. “Mountain climbing leaves us open to death, and if we can face the fear, we will know how to live on,” Wang said during an inspirational speech titled “Choosing Your Own Path” he delivered as a guest speaker at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) during the celebration of the university’s 25th anniversary. In his talk, Wang revealed how he founded Vanke and how he insists on high moral business values. The lecture hall was packed with students, faculty members and guests from HKUST, eager to learn the secrets of success for this passionate explorer and pioneering entrepreneur. Recalling his two successful Everest ascents at the ages of 52 and 59, Wang described them as “close brushes with death”. During his first conquest of the peak, his oxygen tank ran out before he reached the summit. What drove him on to get to the top was sheer willpower. “On the journey back, I had no choice but to bet my life on an oxygen tank found beside a dead body,” Wang said. The second conquest proved no easier. Apart from the physical and mental exhaustion Wang experienced, temporary blindness caused by hypoxia also put his life at risk. “But the more scared you are, the harder you have to try. It's only when you have a near-death experience that you know the joy of surviving to the end of the road,” he said. These adventurous experiences have not only given Wang a greater perspective on the subject of life and death, they have also empowered him to scale every great height in life and become one of the world’s most admired and extraordinary property tycoons. Wang joined the military in 1968. Five years later, he switched careers to work in the water and electrical supply department of Zhengzhou Railway Bureau. He graduated from Lanzhou Railway College in 1978, majoring in water supply studies, and then worked for Guangzhou Railway Bureau, the Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation Committee of Guangdong Province, and the Shenzhen Special Region Development Company. In 1984, he established Shenzhen Exhibition Centre for Modern Science and Education Equipment, the predecessor of China Vanke. He became chairman and general manager of China Vanke in 1988, and gradually developed it into the nation’s largest property developer by sales revenue. Moreover, his enthusiasm for outdoor sports such as mountaineering and sailing has turned him “green” and made Vanke a national leader and pacesetter in nature-friendly building. While everybody else believed the real estate mogul had everything he wanted in life, Wang decided to drop it all to pursue a dream. He left his comfort zone of business and returned to school at the age of 60, attending Harvard University as a visiting scholar from 2011 to 2013, and taking classes at the University of Cambridge last year. His studies abroad enriched his view of the world and have also been a powerful influence on how Vanke does business. Wang’s educational pursuits stem from his first teaching experience in 2010, when HKUST invited him to teach an EMBA course. “HKUST has developed into a leading university, not just in Asia but also the rest of the world over a short history of 25 years,” says Wang. “The lecturing experience gave me the idea of studying abroad, as well as teaching at top universities around the world.” “Knowledge is about opening a new window, reaching out to the world and challenging our horizons.” This is also the principle Wang applies to the relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland. “Although China has opened up in the last 30 years, it still has lots to learn from Hong Kong in areas such as the rule of law, finance, free trade and urban planning. On the other hand, Hong Kong’s economy is in a transitional period and China, with its robust development, can offer the city many opportunities,” Wang says, urging Hong Kong people to seize these opportunities. Nowadays, new graduates feel as if they are facing an unknown future. Some believe they will never get a job that meets their criteria; others worry that their dreams will never come true, while those planning to set up a business are threatened by keen competition in the market. Wang offers three pieces of advice for the new generation. Firstly, establish strong foundations of knowledge before entering the real world. Secondly, pursue your dream without hesitation. Thirdly, love your dream and you will have the courage to brave difficulties and learn from every lesson. “Keep going! Life is one adventure after another,” says Wang, the genuine adventurer at heart.