Life has a way of throwing curve balls at us. When all seems to be going fine and dandy, we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of a mighty ocean, sinking under waves of despair. Zhariff Afandi is no stranger to this. All his life, he has had setbacks and disappointments. People doubting him, people leaving him, projects that didn’t pan out … the list is long.

“My marriage has failed, I had to give up a job I liked. My heart is broken. I call the state I am in as I start this book, SOS, a state of loss,” he writes in his debut book, S.O.S.: Surfing Out Stuff – A Book Of Growth & Guidance.

But from a very young age, Zhariff was the sort of person who allowed the trials and tribulations of life to weigh him down and impede him. So he did what naturally comes to him. To take life by the horns and tackle it like a fighter.

“I used the painful experiences as fuel to write this book. In some ways, it really helped. It was a way to heal myself,” the father of one said during the book’s launch last month at MPH Bookstores in Nu Sentral Mall, Kuala Lumpur.

Interestingly, it took Zhariff, 37, several attempts and years before this book came into being. He says, “When I did want to write a book, the wisdom, experiences, story and fuel were not enough. But now, everything kind of came together.”

Published by the Make It Right Movement and Faceberry Publications, a division of the BAC Education Group, the 126-page book is his way to not only inspire people who are in the dark but also to share some of the life lessons he has learned along the way.

Previously, the Make It Right Movement published Little Book, Big Secrets by Rachel Siew Suet Li in 2017. Siew suffers from Morquio Syndrome, a rare degenerative condition that affects her physically.

“Hopefully it gets people not only motivated and inspired but also gives them the tools and proper spark to reach the best that they can,” Zhariff, who holds a triple degree in psychology, sociology and law, says about his book.

Heck, everything about Zhariff is inspiring. When he was just six years old, he proved to his headmaster that he deserved a chance at education by just writing his name and the headmaster’s name in his exercise book. The latter, looking at this determination, relented.

What’s so inspiring about that, you may wonder? You see, Zhariff was born without arms. But he wasn’t going to let that stop him from achieving his fullest potential.

Not only is he a well-known motivational speaker and life coach (our version of Nick Vujicic), Zhariff, who was named a National Youth Icon in 2012, is also an avid sportsman. He loves horse riding, diving, surfing, skateboarding and bodyboarding.

He made headlines when he finished a 6.5km swimathon from Kapas Island to Marang, off the coast of Terengganu, in under two hours and 47 minutes.

And he details all of these amazing achievements that defy expectations in his new book, which he took eight months to complete.

In fact, the first part of S.O.S. is all about his life experiences, the highs and the lows, from his childhood days to where he is right now. In one chapter, Zhariff recalls the time when he and his friend were holidaying in Indonesia when the infamous 2004 Boxing Day tsunami hit the archipelago.

But instead of flying back home, the duo decided to help out in Aceh, one of the worst hit places. Despite all the stumbling blocks, they managed to collect enough funds to smuggle themselves into Aceh to help out the tsunami victims.

In the second part of the book, Zhariff shares the life lessons he has learned based on his experiences, research, contemplations and reading.

He also draws practical wisdom from spiritual teachers, philosophers and the Japanese concept of ikigai, or the concept of self.

Zhariff writes that he wants to share the “knowledge, attitudes, and practices that to a large degree helped me go through multiple experiences that many could only dream of, and many would rather not”.

Chapters such as “Identifying And Overcoming False And Negative Beliefs” and “Being Your Authentic Self” are packed with psychological and spiritual meditations and include interactive exercises for readers to participate in.

Ultimately, Zhariff hopes his book will “inspire you to start believing in yourself, gravitate you to love and seek more of the vastness that exists”.

S.O.S.: Surfing Out Stuff – A Book Of Growth & Guidance is available at major bookstores.