Yuppies happy to pay for vision of new life

South China Morning Post/September 18, 1994

Young urban professionals weaned on a Hong Kong diet of study, long hours and stress are spending thousands of dollars in search of fulfillment.

Scores of people, aged 25 to 38, are signing up for group therapy courses which urge them to reach for their dreams and live happily with family and friends. But the territory's new self-discovery courses have both supporters and critics.

Lan Kwai Fong, company AsiaWorks has taken a sledging from a concerned former participant who complained of long hours and dangerous techniques.

Managing director Chris Gentry has also recently extricated himself himself from a public spat with a former colleague, but Hong Kong professionals are brushing aside the snarls and speaking up for their new-found awareness with the zeal of reformed smokers.

"I felt nervous at the beginning, but I also noticed that it [nervousness] was what was between me and success - this is the obstacle," said Cammy Wong Che-mei, a 21-year-old life insurance consultant.

The course attracts equal numbers of each sex, but the proportion of Chinese participants has grown to about 80 per cent during AsiaWorks' three years of operation, according to Mr. Gentry.

Those who are curious about the company's Lifespring technique attend a weekly "just night," which offers a taste of the full course before they decide whether to pull out their wallets.

The first four-day course, Basic, costs $4,500 and the second, Advanced, course will set participants back by $8,000.

"One of the significant factors that make the course so effective is that it has a little bit of a bite to it - It's for profit," Mr. Gentry said.

"People have to confront themselves before they come into the room, to ask themselves" "Why am I doing this, is there something wrong with me?"

Former life insurance consultant Stephen Tsai Yew-dao, 39, is "between jobs, deciding what to do with my life," but champions the concept.

"A lot of people are very price conscious. If you say it's not worth anything, they won't put forth their concentration and energy," he said.

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