50 Faces: What is success to you?

Nov 18, 2016 05.00PM |

by Iffah Nadhirah Osman, Jonathan Leong and Li Shan Teo 

WHAT is success to you? To become a doctor or a lawyer like your parents told you? Achieving academic success is sometimes equated with success in life, but is that always the case?

Parents shape how children see the world and can influence their kids’ decisions. Mr Khairill Rassidy, 40, a manager, feels that success is to see his children put their best foot forward daily. His son, Rakin Kaisa, 11, a primary five student, said “Success is working hard, in a positive manner, for a good school grade which in turn will enable me to obtain a cool reward from my father.”

TMG asked 50 people – 25 parent-child pairs – for their views on success. Here’s what they said:

Ms Sharon Peters, 48, administrator (left) with her son, Mr V. Nashvinn, 22, year two university student (right).

Ms Peters: “Success to me is ensuring that I do my duty as a single parent, and guide my son to be a decent successful human being with compassion and the drive to make a difference in the lives of people around him.”

Mr Nashvinn: “To me, success is knowing that you have made a difference in people’s lives, for the better.”



Madam Devi Vembadian, 55, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officer (right) with her son, Mr Teo Zhi Yang, 21, year three polytechnic student (left).

Madam Vembadian: “It’s being able to have a close family as they’re the only ones who will always be with you.”

Mr Teo: “Success to me means accomplishing or achieving a goal that I set for the future.”

Mrs Liu Li, 49, hairstylist (left) with her daughter, Ms Xia Ming, 19, year two polytechnic student (right).

Mrs Li [speaking in Mandarin]: “My success is from choosing my path and achieving my goals within the time I set myself.”

Ms Ming: “I don’t think I need to earn millions as long as I am able to live life comfortably, do what I like and eat delicious food. I think I’m pretty successful.”

Mrs Sharon Tan, 56, self-employed (left) with her daughter, Ms Rachel Lim, 17, secondary five student (right).

Mrs Tan: “That we are there for each other in good and bad times, to be a good listener and advisor but not [a] dictator.”

Rachel: “Success is a an attitude and state of mind where I feel the exhilaration of knowing that I made a difference for many, did this doing what I love, and making a lot of money in the process so I get to experience many things in this extraordinary world. The most important part of success is a deep knowing that I made a difference for others.”

Mr Francis Leong, 54, multimedia specialist (left) with his daughter, Ms Josephine Leong, 17,  year one polytechnic student (right).

Mr Leong: “Being able to provide reasonably and sufficiently to the family through living a knowledgeable and productive life, keeping all things simple.”

Josephine: “Success to me is to be satisfied and appreciative of life, of what you already have and to be the best person you can be to others around you.”

Mrs Ranjeet Kaur, 57, senior financial consultant (left) with her daughter, Ms Shirin Kaur, 24, year two university student (right).

Mrs Kaur: “To me success means having a job that you enjoying and a happy, healthy and financially secure family life.”

Ms Kaur: “At this point in life when I’m concerned about my future after university, success to me means graduating with a good degree so that I can be employed swiftly after with a good starting pay.”


Ms N. Nathira Begum, 44, administrative staff (right) with her daughter, Maghfirah Senewi, 15, secondary three student (left). 

Ms Nathirah Begum: “Success is to see my children succeed in life.”

Maghfirah: “Success is being able to achieve my dreams with my loved ones right beside me and not behind.”



Madam Michelle Vembadian, 48, administrative executive (left) with her son, Jethro Lim, 11, primary five student (right).

Madam Vembadian: “As a parent, success to me is when my kid can confide his problems to me. In my career, being in a high position and being able to mingle and be an approachable person to people of all levels would be another achievement.”

Jethro: “Success is when you never give up and pick yourself up when you fall down. Success is also when you achieve the goals which you have set.”


Madam Isbahiyah Abdul Wahab, 45, special needs teacher (right) with her son, Mr Mirza Mas’od, 20, year two ITE student (left)

Madam Isbahiyah: “Being able to help others while being an independent woman.”

Mr Mirza: “To be truly happy with oneself by accepting yourself as who you are , whilst constantly setting goals to progress yourself further and making it an enjoyable thing to do.”



Madam Nur Aishah Abdullah, 44, managing director (left) and her son, Mohamed Shafiq Mohamed Ansari, 15, secondary three student (right).

Madam Aishah: “Success is to stand alone upright and be able to help others too.”

Shafiq: “Success is basically hard work, dedication, sincerity and confidence in yourself. If you have confidence in yourself, you can overcome anything. That’s my policy.”


Mr Khairill Rassidy, 40, manager (left) with his son, Rakin Kaisan, 11, primary five student (right)

Mr Khairill: “Success means that my children put their best foot forward, either physically or mentally, in their daily challenges.”

Rakin Kaisan: “Success is working hard, in a positive manner, for a good school grade which in turn will enable me to obtain a cool reward from my father!”


Madam Rohaidzan Md Pilus, 56, clerk (left) and her daughter, Ms Umairah Huda Sahri, 21, year two university student.

Madam Rohaidzan: “Success to me is if you manage to settle or overcome a problem or difficulty and it gives you satisfaction and makes you happy.”

Ms Umairah: “Success starts with small steps, such as getting my assignments done. And then, graduating and hopefully in the future, getting a job I like. In general, it’s just taking steps to your goals.”


Madam Salbiah Asan, 53, assembler (left) with her daughter, Ms Amelia Norman, 21, year two polytechnic student (right).

Madam Salbiah: “Success is when you don’t pay attention to what people say about you, and know that you are as capable as any of them.”

Ms Amelia: “Success to me is finally being able to accept my flaws and work around it. Success to me is achieving the little things I go through in a day.”

Madam Hani Sallim, 42, entrepreneur (left) with her son, Imaan Khalid, 10, primary four student (right).

Madam Hani: “Success to me is when I am able to turn my passion into a business successfully and in turn, using my experience, educate the underprivileged by equipping them with skills so that they can survive on their own.”

Imaan: “Success to me is [when] I am able to achieve the goals I set for myself. The impossible is possible.”


Mrs Jeraline David, 45, IT manager (left) with her son, Andrew Jonathan Casala, 17, year one polytechnic student (right).

Mrs David: “Success is not measured by the wealth a person have accumulated in a lifetime; it’s not about how much money you have in the bank or vast properties and luxuries you enjoy. It’s about being contented in life and having joy and peace in whatever circumstances you are in because you know that all things will work out good for those that trust in God.”

Andrew: “Success is when all things are right in your world.”

Madam Suzana Ismail, 42, self-employed (right) with her daughter, Nurul Syuhadah Ani Suffat, 10, primary four student (left).

Madam Suzana: “Success [to me] is to think positively in whatever we do. The most important thing is to be humble. Obstacles are always there so just go with the flow. Don’t stress.”

Syuhadah: “Success is made at home. My parents don’t give me stress and give me what I like such as cooking my favourite food.”

Madam Mala Garunagaran, 46, entrepreneur (left) with her daughter, Sashreena Nambiar, 16, secondary four student (right).

Madam Mala: “Success is having complete education, proper education, stable income, being independent while helping poor people. Happiness and a happy family [is also part of success].”

Sashreena: “Passing all major exams and making your parents proud. My aim is to go to secondary five with a t-score of about 18 points. Being happy [is success].”

Mrs Jocelin Cai, 50, homemaker (right) with her daughter, Jadyn Lavenia Caijing, 12, primary six student (left).

Mrs Cai: “Success is hard work, courage, resilience, and determination. You can’t expect a child to get straight As. Most importantly, [the] child has to understand that without all these values, they cannot succeed.”

Jadyn: “[Have] courage to say what I want. Be honest, ask what you want. Success is actually through resilience. If you work hard, you can get what you want. Have hope and faith.”


Madam Rowina Sim, 50, administrative manager (left) with her son, Eng Qi Hong, 16, secondary four student (right).

Madam Sim: “A success to me means having a prospective career, doing my best to cultivate kids the right value and doing the right things, and contribute back to society if possible.”

Qi Hong: “Success to me basically means to be able to achieve, to complete what I set out to do at the very beginning. An example being test results in school. I study in order to improve the current grades and maybe even obtain a considerably good mark, but the thing is, if I’ve improved or I’ve gotten what I feel is a high enough mark, that will be a success to me. There’s no need to be the very top.”

Mr Zhou Jianying, 43, senior manager (left) with his daughter, Zhou Yutong, 21, year three university student (right).

Mr Zhou: “when I will one day see my children use branches and sticks to move a dead rat from the middle of the walkway to the grass patch at the side of the road. To me, passing on values to my children is more important than anything.”

Ms Zhou: “For me, success in life is to be carefree. To be able to spend time with your family and friends, and not having to worry about where your next meal is going to come from or if you have the money to pay for your child’s school fees next month.”

Suzy Yeo, 60, self employed (left) with his daughter, Christy Liam, 18, year one polytechnic student (left).

Mrs Yeo: “For me, I can provide my family with quality life in terms of education and living necessities, I can have good quality time with my family without having to worry about tomorrow’s.”

Ms Liam: “Success to me is actually just to be happy with what I’m doing in my life. For example, achieving a high paying job which I have no passion in would be of no use. I’d rather choose a job which I enjoy doing even if it isn’t high paying.”

Mrs Christina Chionh , 59, associate sales director (right) with her son,  Arthur Chionh, 21, year one university student (left).

Mrs Chionh: “Happiness. Work hard and enjoy life. Happiness is when life fulfils our needs. Happiness comes when you feel satisfied and fulfilled. Live life to the fullest with no regrets.”

Mr Chionh: “Meeting the interests of as many people as possible.”


Madam Tai Pin Pin, 45, entrepreneur (left) and her daughter, Ms Rachael Tan, 19, year three polytechnic student (right).

Madam Tai: “Success means personal and family happiness and health.”

Ms Tan: “Success is feeling completely awesome about yourself and having accomplished something that defines you as a person.”

Mr Yeo Hock Cha, 56, architect (left) with his son, Mr Genewaye Yeo , 21, full-time national service man (right).

Mr Yeo: “Success is when you are at peace with yourself and able to deal with the people and events around you with tranquillity.”

Mr Genewaye Yeo: “Success to me is not the achievement of my goals but rather the experience I obtained on my journey to reach them.”


Madam Noraisah Khamis, 45, office administrator (right) with her son, Abdul Mateen Khayry Osman, 12, primary six student (left).

Madam Noraisah: “Success is an accomplishment to do something you fear most. To me, it also means that you are able to better yourself than yesterday.”

Mateen: “Success means excelling in my exams and always reaching my goals. I would also like to succeed as a person in my job when I grow up.”


This article is part of a series on SkillsFuture, in collaboration with MOE and SSG. Read the other pieces here:

  1. Poly vs Private degrees: It’s not the money that matters
  2. Private degrees: data needs to tell a fuller skills story 
  3. 5 new jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago
  4. SMACK IN THE MIDDLE: Keys to success
  5. 5 skills employers want you to have in tomorrow’s job market
  6. Don’t underestimate ‘soft skills’ in your career


Featured image a collation by Sean Chong.

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