WHEN JOEY YAP speaks, everyone listens. He commands an audience of thousands at his popular seminars and workshops, and when he's hired for a consultation, you can be sure his clients are all ears.
But don't mistake him for a garden variety Feng Shui master. He is the founder of Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics, of which Feng Shui is one of several components that also include bazi or 'destiny prediction' and qi men dun jia, which is an ancient form of divination. It's not quite fortune telling as one might imagine, as it involves complex mathematical complications and formulas which Mr Yap has distilled into a syllabus that his academy teaches. And he spends as much time trying to dispel the stereotype of Feng Shui as a dubious practice steeped in superstition and black magic.
Business-wise, the 42-year-old Malaysian Dato' has built up a sizeable corporate entity that includes a consulting company of which he is the chief consultant.
Besides having written over 170 books, he has advised and lectured at MNCs like Citibank, Microsoft, Audi and Intel. Which is pretty good for someone who got into Feng Shui as a low-esteem, overweight teenager looking for a way to change his destiny.
Still, despite his success, it hasn't been smooth sailing all the way even for one supposed to have good luck coming out of his fingertips. So in the spirit of Chinese New Year, if you're looking to 'Huat' in the Year of the Rat, he lets you in on a secret: Luck is really what you make of it.
You don't look like a geomancer with your cool, trendy outfits. Is it a deliberate move to dispel the stereotyped image of Feng Shui? No, it's not deliberate. I've always felt more comfortable dressing in a contemporary look. It's in line with my work as a Feng Shui practitioner as my solutions need to be current and aligned with the times. I've never liked the so-called geomancer outfit which makes you look like a Tai Chi master with a silly fan.
What are some of the misconceptions about Feng Shui that irk you the most? For example, that it's all superstitious hocus-pocus to boost sales of lucky cats and kumquat trees. What annoys me the most is the thinking that decorations usually used for Chinese New Year are Feng Shui cures. People think that Feng Shui requires you to turn your house into a Chinese restaurant, by hanging all these fruits and lucky cats. Another is the idea of lucky colours. Almost every time I meet someone who is new to Feng Shui, they will ask me for lucky colours - there's no such thing as a lucky colour. For example, when we talk about fire, some people will say fire is red, and wood is brown or green. And when I ask them what's the colour of water, they tell me it's blue or black. No. Water is transparent. If water is a lucky colour, you would be wearing nothing. This is nonsense, and that actually annoys me the most.
You specialise in metaphysics and are keen to emphasise the scientific aspect of Feng Shui versus the murkiness of fortune-telling. Can you explain the difference and really, how does shifting furniture affect relationships and luck? Yes, my objective is to explain Feng Shui in a more methodical and logical manner. People are under the impression that Feng Shui is just about moving stuff around the house - put some furniture here, put some magic items there and your life will change. That's not what we do. Feng Shui is a tool for understanding how the energy or vibrations from the environment work according to the goals you have set for yourself.
Scientists have already proven that the entire universe is vibrational and vibration is energy. Our space and living environment are vibrational as well. The idea is to align that with our goals. For example, if we have a higher level of energy, we are all more optimistic and happier. And in our happy state, we are more forgiving; we are nicer and more kind to others. But when we are frustrated and angry, we are forgetful and we tend to block out other people, and then we don't see opportunities. So generally, it's about getting the vibrational energy to resonate at the correct frequency.
People will be wishing for good luck for Chinese New Year. Do some people simply have more luck than others? In general, when people think that someone is lucky, it just means they do nothing and get something. We need to establish that's not what we mean by being lucky. Again, it has to do with energy. If your energy vibration is strong, you are more optimistic. If your energy level is low, it's easier to get emotional. Such people question themselves, create obstacles and limit themselves. They are driven by anger, frustration, envy - if that's the case then someone is considered unlucky. To change that, we need to change their energy level. Feng Shui is one tool to understand how to be more conscious about our emotions. The more conscious we are of energy, the more we can control it.
Even though you've built up an enormously successful business, you've also experienced ups and downs in terms of losing money, making wrong hiring decisions and the like. Does that mean being a Feng Shui expert doesn't make you infallible? Just because you know Feng Shui doesn't mean you will not fail. It means you have the positive energy to get up and fight again. Like all entrepreneurs, you will still have hard times, partnership and cash flow issues, and all that. You need to understand that in business there are many aspects you need to handle. These include your vision, the ability to create a loyal base of customers, and to make an impact. You also need to keep on transforming, as change is innovation. That's why I want to be a contemporary master, not an ancient traditional master. You don't want to go back in the past; the past does not work anymore in contemporary times. Innovation is very important in metaphysics.
You've been engaged by big corporations such as Citibank and Microsoft. Do you see Feng Shui becoming mainstream? And do you have any anecdotes to share about your most memorable consultations? I think it's getting there. In the past five or six years, more companies are open to telling people that they use Feng Shui. But there are also some companies who require us to sign NDAs. As for an anecdote, I was asked to consult a Spanish football club a couple of years ago which was ranking at 14 or 15 and risked being booted out of the La Liga League. I'd never done a club or stadium before, so even I was sceptical about applying Feng Shui to it. We couldn't exactly renovate the whole stadium so what we did was improve the flow of the team's locker room and rest area, and increased the negative flow in the visiting team's areas.That changed the dynamics because the team used to be boo-ed even on their home ground, so when they started winning matches, their confidence improved. They hit a winning streak and now they're at the top of the league. They haven't looked back since and yes, this is a very popular football club.
What's next for you? I want to make Chinese metaphysics a more mainstream practice. More accepted openly as a metaphysical science much like how Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and psychology are. It's a big task but I think we are getting there. My goal is to use this as a transformational tool.
Since it's Chinese New Year's Eve, do you have any advice for people for a happy and prosperous Year of the Rat? Well, you have this traditional practice of welcoming the god of wealth, but it's just wishing upon a star. What nonsense is this wishing, you might say, but really it's about starting the year with a clear goal. People have a vague idea of wanting more money or finding a partner, but if you can break down a big goal into three small parts and make your wish, it just means that you have more clarity. And when you have clarity, you're one step closer to making that goal happen.