Alpha Male (an interview with Fred Uytengsu)

Wilfred Steven Uytengsu Jr. is president and Chief Operating Officer of the Alaska Milk Corporation, Team Owner of the Alaska Aces PBA team, and arguably the most visible active triathlete in the country. He started in sports as a child with competitive swimming and baseball. But at the age of 11, he made a decision to focus on swimming and began to train and swim with the Philippine team. He prefers individual sports because you win or lose based on your own performance as compared to team sports where if one makes a mistake it can cost the whole team. Triathlons came after he graduated from college. He did a few while in the US and when he came back here, it was a fledgling sport. He then stopped training for more than 10 years and only resumed 7 years ago when he felt that he was getting older and out of shape. Since then, the sport has grown. Although this Alpha Male admits to pouring in a lot of energy into his professional career and athletic endeavors, he loves spending time with his family just as much.

On Competition and Teamwork:

I enjoy competition. My wife says I tend to be on the borderline of being over-competitive.

I enjoy the challenge because I feel that competition really brings out the best in people. It forces you to be the best that you can be whether it be in business or sport. To be faster, stronger, better, in whatever you are pursuing.

Having a competitive background helps me understand professional basketball players. I know what it takes to perform at your best. Training from swimming has helped me in terms of learning perseverance, commitment and dedication. Those are all things I carried over into my adult life and my business career. Those are attributes and characteristics that have molded me and made me who I am. You need those attributes and you look for them in the people you hire, to have in your team. You need people who are committed to the goals of the company and the team.

On Persistence:

Persistence is key, and if you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. In the realm of sports you need to continuously practice and train. We would swim 2 to 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, roughly 320 days a year.

In business you need to be persistent and that is something I work on with my management team in terms of pushing people. In this case, my responsibility is to push people further than they think they can, than they’re comfortable doing, because that’s how you can get the best from people.

On Perseverance and Inspiration:

I would say that someone in the business world who I find fascinating is Steve Jobs of Apple. He’s the consummate entrepreneur who really helped develop the PC revolution. But he was ousted from his company, which I think was a great American tragedy. Here’s one man who was forced out by a professional hired gun and basically be left for dead in his professional career. Only to come back for an encore and achieve greater than he did the first time around. That’s the classic case of perseverance.

It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life

It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You look at Lance Armstrong. He’s a person we all admire not only for what he achieved in his professional biking career but what he has achieved in his life as a classic case of never say die, literally. What also inspires me is after I read his book, It’s Not About the Bike, which is very moving in terms of what he has overcome, and I have several friends who have been diagnosed with cancer. I have given them a copy of that book and what’s so powerful is that 3 of them are now in remission. So maybe the book has inspired them. I think the mind can overcome whatever physical ailments you may have if you believe that you can help and heal yourself

Both these men were very brash at a young age, then they became statesmen of their respective endeavors, computer technology for Steve Jobs, while Lance Armstrong is the undisputed greatest bike rider ever.

On Achievement:

One motto I have that the people in my company and basketball team know I use frequently is: Good enough never is. That’s from the book “Built to Last” by James Collins. I believe in hard work to achieve what you want. To move ahead you need a strong work ethic. That’s something my father believes in and instilled in me.

Integrity is very important. I live by a very finite set of principles. Nobody succeeds in life just waiting for things to be served to them on a silver platter. You have to pursue that. Never be afraid to try anything. People live with preconceived notions of what they can or cannot do and you need to break those barriers down. The minute you relieve yourself of those barriers you’ll find the opportunity to surpass them.

I’ve looked to overcome certain personal physical barriers. I’ve just finished Ironman Australia which is a fairly long and competitive event and is something I’ve hoped to do and do well.

Right now, that’s been the apex of my physical accomplishments. I don’t know what lies ahead. Maybe I’ll continue to do Ironman. The motto of the Ironman is: Anything is Possible. Look at what ordinary people achieve if they put their minds to it.

-interview by Jude Defensor, first published in Men’s Health Philippines magazine, 2006

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