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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Nightmare of Malaysians

What's the worst thing that happened to Malaysia recently?

Earthquake at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah?
Missing airplanes?
Haze from Indonesia?
GST?
Inflation?
Weakening exchange rate?
A more corrupted government?
No more scholarship from the government?
Increasing crime rate?

It's the loss of faith in Malaysians towards each other.
Let me tell you 2 stories and you will understand.

Story 1:
Natalie was new to her working environment and she forgot to bring her phone to work one day. She turned to a staff who happened to walk into the office at the same time. The staff didn't recognise her as a colleague and thought she was a client. The staff refused to lend Natalie her phone, using the excuse that she was in a rush when in fact she was not.

Story 2:
Felicia went to a library in a university. She wanted to print and scan documents, however, she didn't have a student ID which was required for free printing and scanning services. She approached a student who was playing with her phone. She asked the student if she has time to help but the student said, "But I don't have any more money."

The faith in the good-heartedness of the people around is clearly absent in these 2 stories.
That's a heartbreaking realisation because Malaysia used to be a land of kindness.
Before, we relied on each other to catch robbers, thieves, and pickpockets.
Now, we don't expect anyone to help if we are in trouble. We deal with it ourselves.
One thing that doesn't change is we never depend on our police force and the government.

I used to confidently say that I love my country but not the government, now my confidence is clearly shaken.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Trial and Error

"If you can't have what you believe in, believe in what you have."
If you have strived hard for what you believe in and you realise it is not going to work out the way you wanted, believe in what you have.
This process is termed as disillusionment.

I would not see the act of "striving hard for what you believe in" (especially when it is against popular opinion) a waste of time or a mistake because it is the trial and error process in life where you want to prove it to yourself why the popular opinion is popular.
The idea is that you leave no regrets; you have honestly expressed your feelings and opinion, you have done what you have always wanted to do.

There are many choices in life. However when we decide on one, we are actually forgoing the others.
All of us have wondered what it would be like if we have made a different choice.
We asked, "What if..."
If we haven't had the courage to do what we wanted to do the most, we are living a life dictated by others; we are not taking ownership of our lives.

Life is like a series of experiments. We create hypothesis, we design experiments and we make conclusions.
The conclusions are however unlike the conclusions we make in scientific reports. They are never conclusive because we could not go back in time to test the outcome of all the other options so as to say which is the best decision I should have made.
Every false hypothesis is an interesting story to tell.
What if you made false hypothesis? It is the whole process of experimenting that gives fulfilment and meaning.

I make mistakes and I am not ashamed to admit those mistakes.
Well, you can sit down and cry over spilt milk or you can reflect on what you have done wrong and move on.
Although it is no big deal to make mistakes, it does not mean you should take irresponsible action.
The state of mind of "no regrets" can only be achieved if you have been thoughtful and mindful about your actions.

Think before you act, and accept the outcome of your own decision.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Find Peace in Chaos

I wish to tell a story that goes like this:
3 students were studying in a room when suddenly a cockroach appeared in the corner of the room.
It flew and landed on student A's hand.
Student A shouted loudly and shook his hand forcefully. 
Student B started shouting before it flew and landed on student B's hand.
Student B shouted more loudly and shook his hand forcefully. 
It flew and landed on student C's hand.
Student C carried it slowly to the door and flicked it to the street. 
All of them returned to studying after this episode.

I have another amazing experience that I wish to briefly summarise here:
Person D shouted at me unreasonably for choosing to text on the phone than to eat lunch.
I responded with a clear explanation in a calm tone that I am actually settling important matters.
Honestly, I was confused because she was making such a big fuss over small matters.
The next morning, she apologised for shouting at me and asked me to ignore her when that happens again.
I was surprised that she apologised for that because I didn't treat it seriously and I knew she was not in a good mood when she shouted at me.

I wonder what would happen if I have shouted back at her. Things would have gotten worse.

I learnt:
More than the problem, it's my reaction to the problem that creates chaos in my life.
I should not react in life. I should always respond.
Student A and B reacted, whereas student C responded.
In the second story, I responded instead of reacted.
Reactions are always instinctive whereas responses are always well thought of.

Identify problems in your life, then respond to it, not react.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Reminder for myself

This is another list of things that I would like to remind myself to invest more time doing.

1) Work on important life skills, such as cleaning the house and cooking.
2) Read, a good mix of fiction and non-fiction.
3) Take preventative measures to stay healthy. I need to drink more water.
4) Build in cushion time to get where you are going. Slow down my pace.
5) Do something social and accept challenges.
6) Never give up on my passion.
7) Spend time by myself.
8) Be philanthropist.
9) Save up for the future.
10) Become better informed by reading the news.
11) Don't be afraid to fail.
12) Reflect.
13) Travel alone and with my family.

Modified after a post by Business Insider, titled " 14 ways 20-somethings should invest their time to set themselves up for long-term success"





Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ethical Dilemma

As we grow up, we encounter more and more ethical dilemma.
In the boarding canteen, when I took the last two watermelons left in the fridge, I thought about others who were going to come for dinner later. I decided to leave the last for others.
Well, I could have taken both, at least I know the watermelon will be eaten. Its sacrifice is well appreciated. I never know if there will anyone taking the last watermelon that I have left. It could have been thrown away because no one wanted it.
Nonetheless, I decided to leave the last for others. 

I realised different people have different moral threshold. 
Taking the previous example, some might not even think about saving for others. 
Viewing it from a moral lens, you can say they are selfish and call them names. 
However, I'd like to take it as "they did what they did" and "others" just slipped their mind at that point in time. 
We have those moments that we think about ourselves, our loved ones and forget about "others".
Those who think about "others" more often are people who have a higher moral threshold as compared to those who constantly just think of themselves.

So where do we draw the lines?
Is it better to have a higher morality threshold?
Why do we need to think about others?
Personally, I believe in offering a helping hand, loving people like loving myself and building relationships to construct meaning and purpose in life. 
"Death ends a life, not a relationship", Morrie told Mitch in Tuesday with Morrie.
We were all given life when we were born but at the end of the day, we will cease to live. Life is fair in this aspect as all life comes to an end.
Death brings wealth, fame, assets and all material aspect of life to the grave because we cannot enjoy them anymore.
However, a relationship continues after death. A relationship that ended with death never really began.
You will never forget how the person makes you feel, how the person will advice you if you were to face problems, how the person has impacted your life and how the person has held your hand through all obstacles. His/her spirit will stay with you as long as you live.
Therefore, building relationships that are based on faith and trust is important because we all need people whom we can trust. We need to reach out to people as well as let them into our lives.

Values and conviction like these help shape my moral threshold.
I can never tell where I should draw the line because many times, it's the matter of intuition and the heart. I did what I did because at that point in time I thought that was the right thing to do.
Reflection of oneself thus become more important because what one did at one point in time might not be right. (Right is relative here) Constant reflection helps us to develop different perspectives, understand ourselves better (from what we did), shape our principles and turn ourselves into a better person.

As we grow, we carry with us the moral threshold that becomes more and more distinct through constant reflection over the years.
This has large implication in our future, be it career, marriage or relationships with others.
A person who is self-centred should not be a doctor whose objective is often to safe lives.  
Businessman whose objective is usually to maximise profits often has a different moral threshold as compared to caretakers.
Constant reflection of one's action helps one to understand oneself better. From there, wisely choose and envision your future.

At the end of the day, you cannot bring wealth and fame with you, why don't you build on something that doesn't end with your death but lasts as long as other people live?



Friday, October 23, 2015

Sin of Omission

I graduated last Friday.
Our principal gave a speech which is modified after Jim Ryan's commencement speech at Harvard this year.
Jim Ryan is the 11th dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
In short, Jim Ryan preached about the sin of omission; it is wrong to not do anything.

When was the last time I stood up against a teacher's inappropriate comment?
When was the last time I gave my friend an honest piece of advice?
When was the last time I argue/debate about something I believe in?
In becoming a better person, some people deviate from the original course of staying good at heart.
Some focus more on being a likeable person who doesn't offend anyone. Often these people are guilty of the sin of omission because they tend to take a neutral, mild stance on everything.
Some slowly forget that sincerity is all it takes to become a better person.
Just be yourself, speak for yourself.
Some people are not meant to be on par with you. If they don't agree on your viewpoint, so be it, at least you have done your part in challenging their perspectives.
Agreeing to whatever others say so as to please them, especially when you are a differing view is a reflection of one's cowardice. So is remaining silent when something is not right. Omission will make you a shadow of everyone.

Listening to Jim Ryan's speech, I was reminded a lot of instances where I let events to take its natural course.
When I am faced with difficulties that I feel I can't overcome on my own, I often resolve to leaving the matters aside.
By doing so, I committed the sin of omission.
While I could have done something to change the outcome, I decided not to.
While I could have prevented something bad from happening, I chose to regret later on.
Like committing a crime, failing to act is also a choice.
Many times, omission is an act of escapism because one refuses to confront the difficulties.
It is easy to tell yourself that "it doesn't matter and life will go on the same".
However, one's initiative might change another's life positively in ways one can't imagine.
It is choosing to devote that is difficult and commendable.

However, it is not possible for one to react to everything because there are so many things under the Sun that we can interfere in.
So what decides which to omit? The question remains.
Life is full of events and possibilities. They slip away when you are not watching.
The analogy used in Jim Ryan's speech is "tugs at your sleeve that are easy to ignore."
It can be as trivial as a call from a friend at midnight while you are half-asleep.
You can choose to let your phone vibrate until it dies off or you can wake up and pick it up.
The answered call can turn out to be a turning point in one's life. You never know.
I guess the question "what to omit?" can be answered by our heart and our spontaneity.  

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
This is a powerful quote by Martin Luther King.
If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.
Try telling the fat friends of yours to start exercising.
Try telling your teacher that he/she is too judgemental about student X.
Try telling your colleagues that they are being too inefficient.
Also, suggest ways to improve, voice your opinion.

See what needs doing and do without being told.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Multipotentialite

I am at this funny junction where I have to decide what I want to be in the future.
I realise I have been changing my mind everyday, jumping from engineering to medicine, back to engineering and now actuarial science.
I reckon myself as a person with multiple passions and interests.

When I was in kindergarten and primary school, I was a playful child who like to watch TV and do nothing else. Of course, my grades suffered.
However, when I started secondary school, my passion for mathematics and sciences fire up like fireworks during Singapore National Day. My secondary school teachers successfully plant the seed of curiosity in me which continues to grow till today.
I am interested in a lot of the fields, including aerospace, material science (especially nanotechnology), applied mathematics and architecture.
I went for VOILAH! where Claudie Haignere and General Jean-Pierre Haignere, two French astronauts shared their experiences in space exploration.
I went for Research Exposure Programme, through which I learnt more about the research institutions in Singapore, such as Biopolis and Fusionpolis and their research projects.
I did my homework and I think I am really interested in these areas. I am confident it's not academic "infatuation", a short-lived passion.

However, I can't be all, I have to choose one of them as my course in university.
This costs me a lot of anxiety. I am afraid such limitations will cause me to lose interest in the course I choose because my curiosity stem from my freedom of learning a wide range of knowledge.
The problem remains: Which course should I pursue? Does this mean I have to give up on the others?

And...
I chanced upon the TED Talk by Emilie Wapnick, titled "why some of us don't have one true calling?"
From her speech, I learnt I am what she calls a "multipotentialite", a person with multiple and creative pursuits.
These people are said to have three advantage over others:
1. Idea synthesis
2. Rapid learning
3. Adaptability
I am surprised, in fact, a lot of successful people turn out to have a lot of different duties.
Most importantly, I learnt the world need people like me. (Haha)

Somehow, this reminds me of Steve Job's commencement speech in Standford University in 2005.
One of his stories is about "connecting the dots".
Unfortunately, the fact that the dots will connect can only be learnt on hindsight.
When you pick up a skill, you don't realise they will come in handy in the future until you did utilise them. Only upon introspection will you be able to connect the dots.
Steve Jobs asks the graduands to have faith that somehow the dots will connect.

Combining the lessons I learnt from Emilie and Steve Jobs, my synthesis is this:
I should pursue my passions because I might be able to bridge the gap between different disciplines and go on to create my empire.
In response to my problem: "What should I choose as my course in university?", I think the key is to figure out which one is harder to master.
Once, a wise man told me "you should not study business in university because you can still pick it up when you are 60 years old. You should take advantage of your age and study something difficult, something that you can't learn at the age of 60." Very true.
I should pursue the one that is the most challenging at the same time explore other fields of interest.

Somewhere deep down in my heart, I know I wanted to pursue engineering courses because I have always been interested in science. However, considering practicality, it is not a professional degree and that a lot of people will graduate with the same degree.
Therefore, I venture into actuarial science, a professional degree, also a combination of my pursuit as an entrepreneur and a mathematician in the corporate world.

Knowing that there are people who are as uncertain of their career path as I am comforts me.
I think now I understand myself a little better and I have a clearer idea of how my future is going to unfold.
I am no longer anxious but hopeful. I am looking forward to see what I can bring to this world as a proud multipotentialite.



I don't usually take photos with celebrities. But when I do, I take photos with astronauts.
Photo featuring Claudie Haignere, the first European woman to visit the International Space Station.