June 25, 2017

Tags Posts tagged with "success"


L-R: Ms Charis Low, Mr Edmund Chen, Mr Mervyn Hoe

by Ryan Ong

SINGAPORE is a country of opportunities; but opportunity also means tough competition. It takes more than just talent or working hard to succeed. We spoke to some of Manulife Financial Advisers’ (Manulife FA) top financial consultants, and some shared qualities emerged.

In this article, we spoke to three successful young Singaporeans, financial consultants Mervyn Hoe, Charis Low, and Edmund Chen from Manulife FA. Be it ensuring the financial stability of the clients in their care, or gaining a place in the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), these top Manulife FA financial consultants display similar traits that took them to the top.

While their roads are different and uncommon, they all lead in the direction of extraordinary success. The key factors that set them apart are:


Success Factor 1: Thinking beyond paper qualifications

Ms Charis Low, Manulife financial advisor. Image by Mohamad Aidil.

Ms Charis Low, who was a Singapore Airlines cabin crew stewardess, graduated with a Degree in Business Marketing. Becoming a financial consultant would seem like an unlikely career trajectory; nonetheless, in the two years since she joined Manulife FA, Ms Low has already become part of the noted Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) circle.

Ms Low believes education has to be backed with the willingness to step out from one’s comfort zone: “Qualifications do matter, in Singapore’s competitive environment; but it’s not the only way to success. There are life lessons that you don’t learn in any school, outside of lectures and books.”

Mr Edmund Chen, another leading financial consultant who became part of the prestigious Court of the Table (CoT) in his first year with Manulife FA, had a more “traditional” background. He began his career in financial planning as far back as 2007, with a degree in Banking and Finance from SIM. He also believes the right qualifications mean little without persistence, and the willingness to keep learning.

“Having a degree is beneficial, as it gets you into many job openings. However, I strongly believe that that is not the only way to get opportunities in life. Being intellectual without having the right attitude will not bring you far,” he said.

“The hard truth is that a degree doesn’t necessarily result in higher earnings.”

“The hard truth is that a degree doesn’t necessarily result in higher earnings.”

“Self-discipline and persistence are imperative qualities to success. And in today’s competitive world, regardless of your line of work, lifelong learning is paramount for building a successful career.”

Mr Mervyn Hoe, another entry into the MDRT, graduated from NUS with a background in Material Science and Engineering. He only got started as a financial consultant when he helped fill out an empty spot at an orientation camp (and even then, he only sold pet insurance at the start). Today he’s a successful financial consultant at Manulife FA, and he values the ability to connect as much as he does a degree: “Academic qualifications are important in Singapore, especially if you want to climb the corporate ladder,” Mr Hoe says, “And I’m quite happy I graduated with a Bachelor in Applied Science. But the ability to meet friends in University was just as important.”

“In NUS you can meet people from all different faculties and disciplines; and it’s important to build good networks. You need to the ability to build friendships and get along with people, as you never know when you’ll need their help later.”


Success Factor 2: Knowing when to keep going, and when to quit

A common quality among the successful is their seemingly perfect timing – they know when to stay invested in something, and when it’s time to try something different.

For Mr Chen and Ms Low, persistence has to be balanced with the costs they’re facing.

“It’s a mistake to give up prematurely – nothing worth doing comes easy, and the middle of the road to success is always messy. But persistence doesn’t mean being to obstinate either,” said Mr Chen.

“We should evaluate the positive trends we see in our efforts. If there are none, and the price of restarting or trying a different approach would be more cost-effective, then perhaps it’s time to cut losses and move on to a new method.”

Ms Low considers the consequence of failure, when it comes to pushing on. While she agrees persistence is important, she takes the view that: “There is no right and wrong in making such decisions; you just have to weigh up the consequences of further failure. Can you manage those consequences? If your instincts and gut feel say you cannot, you should try something different.”

Mr Hoe also suggests that you need to draw a line, when it comes to work and family: “Draw a line and don’t overwork. Don’t forget about your loved ones.”

“Draw a line and don’t overwork. Don’t forget about your loved ones.”

“If you get too into your job, your job will control you, and you won’t be happy. I don’t work on weekends, even if on weekdays I have no choice and have to sacrifice time with my children.”

Ms Low also draws a clear line on when to stop. “Don’t sacrifice your health”, she said, “Because without it, you can’t do anything. And don’t sacrifice your principles.”


Success Factor 3: Setting separate and targeted goals for work and life

Mr Mervyn Hoe, Manulife financial advisor. Image by Mohamad Aidil.

Mr Hoe separates his work and personal goals: “For work, I set a new goal every year after a conversation with my boss. We set the targets to reach, as well as milestones that are broken into specific days, weeks, and months; that’s the way I’ve worked for the past six years.”

“For personal goals, I have three children and aim to spend sufficient quality time with them. I set goals to spend time to teach them and play with them, and for myself I set goals to exercise daily and learn God’s word.”

Ms Low divides her goals along broadly similar lines, although family, career, and financial goals are separated. Each goal is specific and measured: “For family goals, I set a minimum of one family trip per year, and one family dinner per week. For career goals I got into the MDRT last year, and the current one is to set up my own team. Financially, I focus on saving $150,000 a year at minimum.”

For Mr Chen, effective goal setting goes beyond the self. Success comes from also ensuring you bring others with you: “My goal is to help grow the branch, improve the personal growth of newer colleagues, and assist my clients in growing their wealth. My personal goals are to achieve financial independence, and to enjoy life to its fullest.”

However, Mr Chen acknowledges that motivation is important in reaching those goals, and one source of motivation remains: “Having the desire to contribute to and draw inspiration from others.”


Success Factor 4: Cultivating a sense of empathy

Life inevitably brings confrontations and disappointment. What creates exceptional people is the ability to face such situations, and defuse them with empathy.

Mr Chen actively reminds himself to cultivate this behaviour, saying: “I am very adaptable and independent, and I can act in ways that sometimes seem aloof or uncaring. So I make it a point to go out of my way, to be as sensitive as possible; to have more open communications with people around me.”

“We will face awkward or difficult conversations. We have to understand where the other person is coming from, and understand their point of view. Most people are quick to talk, but it’s important to listen,” said Ms Low.

“Most people are quick to talk, but it’s important to listen.”

However, this doesn’t mean agreeing with everything: “There are times when I’ve had to say no to my bosses as well, because of things that clash with my principles.”

Mr Hoe says besides having empathy, the key is finding solutions amidst the tension: “Every now and then I need to tell someone their insurance claim is denied, or that they do not have the right coverage. But even then it’s important to focus on helping them, and keep looking for alternatives.”


Success Factor 5: Being disciplined in routines

Mr Edmund Chen, Manulife Financial Advisor. Image by Mohamad Aidil.

As any NS man who has been on a route march can tell you, rhythm and repetition do wonders to combat fatigue. Having productive routines can help to steady your mind, and keep you focused.

Mr Chen is a big believer in discipline, of which routine is a part.

“I have a practice of waking up four hours prior to my work schedule. I include a daily run, to train my endurance and give me the capacity to keep focused with a sharp mind,” he said.

“My other routine is giving my wife a goodbye kiss in the morning, before I leave for work; and then a kiss when I return. My family, especially my wife, is a pillar of support that makes my career successful.”

“I make it a routine to spend quality time with my children, to know about their day. Engaging them through play is important- carrying them, spinning them around. Before I end my night I catch up with my wife, have a Milo and some cookies, and allow myself a short television session after the children turn in.”

Mr Hoe has a fixed schedule.In the morning, I send my children to school, and I then go jogging and do whatever marketing I need. From noon I start work, and I begin the work day by thinking of client profiles and working out the plans they can use,” he said

“Routines help, and I follow them day by day. They also give my children a sense of comfort.”

Ms Low keeps a routine that prepares her at the start of the day, and winds down toward the end: “I wake up at 9am for breakfast with my husband. I read the newspapers, create the day’s to-do list, and then keep updated (usually on investment or Forex-related issues).”

“At the end of the day I do sports; I exercise two to three times a week. Then I spend time with my husband, maybe enjoy a movie together.”


Looking ahead with Manulife FA

Many of these success factors are straightforward and easy to understand. But it takes effort and discipline to cultivate them, and it’s an everyday process, as these Manulife FA financial consultants have shown.

But the sooner you begin, the sooner success itself becomes a habit.


This is an editorial series done in partnership with Manulife Financial Advisers.

Featured image by Mohamad Aidil.  

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by Jonathan Leong

MANY people may think that being deaf is a physical disability but that’s not how these people see themselves. From celebrities to the average Joe, the deaf community has been showing the world what they can get accomplished, which seems to be anything – except hear.

Here’s a round up of some deaf people making the news recently for what they’ve accomplished:


1. The South Korean tennis ace


Image is a screenshot from ATP’s website.


Mr Lee Duck Hee, 18, a South Korean junior professional tennis player was ranked at a career high of 143rd globally last month by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). He is also deaf but that’s not stopping him from striving to be one of the best players in his country, having already ranked second-highest in the under 18 category.

In the fast paced game, some top players say that being able to hear the ball is an important advantage. According to The Straits Times, a college tennis coach and volunteer coach for the US deaf tennis team, Mrs Katie Mancebo said: “But a deaf player doesn’t know that sound, so they have to focus more on what the other person is doing, how they’re making contact, and what the ball looks like as it’s coming over the net.”

While Mr Lee has yet to play in a main match in an ATP World Tour tournament, which has a prize award of more than $2 million for topping the Singles category, he has managed to reach the finals of an ATP Challenger event. The ATP Challenger is just one step down from the ATP World Tour.


2. The model who danced his way to fame 


Image from Flickr user Maryland GovPics.


Mr Nyle DiMarco, 27, might have been the last winner of the TV series, America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), but he was also the reality show’s first deaf contestant. He shared with Daily Mail that he felt “his journey is proof of how ‘deaf people can do anything’.”

And Mr DiMarco’s journey didn’t stop there. Along with his dance partner Peta Murgatroyd, 30, both have gone on to captivate the judges of another TV series, Dancing With The Stars, with their dance routines in May, earlier this year. They won the contest even though Mr DiMarco could not hear the rhythm of the music he was dancing to.

The dancer said he had to rely on signals and physical cues from his partner to keep him dancing in time to the music. For example, Mrs Murgatroyd would squeeze his hand to let him know that he needed to turn around.

In an interview earlier this year, Mr DiMarco told People through an interpreter that he was “ready to take the world by storm and have them look at me and say, ‘deaf people can dance'”.


3. NBA’s first deaf player


Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Another athlete that has been inspiring people is Mr Lance Allred. He was the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) first deaf player.

Mr Allred got his chance to play as an NBA player after an overseas basketball stint in Turkey and Spain. He earned his spot first, in the NBA’s Developmental League with the Idaho Stampede. He was then later signed on, in 2008, by the Cleveland Cavaliers for 14 months.

He retired from basketball last year to become a motivational speaker, sharing with people how he overcame both being bullied because of his deafness, and said bullying’s resulting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

He was recently featured by Forbes earlier this year in March for creating Manestream, a tech company which aims to provide faster access to Internet resources. This system works through a network of online servers, and secured data storage providers which enable users to work on the web without the need for a hard drive.


4. Deaf but with a flair for acting


Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Mrs Marlee Matlin, 51-year-old deaf Academy Award winner lost her hearing at a young age but chose to pursue an acting career, becoming successful and winning the award, at the age of 21, in 1987 for her role in Children of a Lesser God.

She went on to star in TV drama series Reasonable Doubts in 1991 as well as explore humorous roles in various shows such as Seinfeld and Picket Fences, in 1993. Mrs Matlin was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress for her role in both series in 1994. She has since received three more Emmy Award nominations for the same award, with the latest in 2004, for her guest appearance in TV drama, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

One of Mrs Matlin’s more recent performances is in a television film, Sweet Nothing in My Ear in 2008, as the mother of a deaf child. The film looks at the issues surrounding cochlear implants, a type of device that picks up sound and sends it as electric signals to the brain, giving a deaf person some sensation of hearing.

A year later, in 2009, she published a memoir, I’ll Scream Later.


5. The ‘not so average Joe’ deaf driver


Image is a screenshot from TNP’s website.


Among all the celebrities is a local deaf man who’s had a taste of celebrity himself. Mr Roland Goh is an UberX driver who was featured by the The New Paper (TNP) as part of a group of deaf Uber drivers who have benefited from a deaf-friendly app called Beethoven which assists the drivers with picking up passengers.

The app includes features such as flashing lights to indicate an incoming notification as well as notifying passengers that their driver is hearing impaired. Mr Goh has made over 2,900 trips since the start of the year, in March.

Mr Goh told TNP at the launch event of Beethoven on Sept 26, through an interpreter: “Some passengers who are riding with me for the first time are curious and will ask if I can drive (because of my disability) and whether I can hear cars honking.”

For easier communication with his passengers, he provides a small clipboard with paper for them to write messages for him. He also has a sign to inform passengers of his hearing impairment.


Featured image ASL fingerspelling: W-A-D by Flickr user daveynin. (CC BY 2.0)

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by Natassya Siregar

THE journey towards success is as vast as the sky. There is no telling what you will face on the journey. Being equipped with more skills helps you overcome and weather obstacles, and will allow you to soar high.



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
  7. 50 Faces: What is success to you?
  8. Got an F in school? There are still ‘100 ways’ to be successful


Featured image by Natassya Siregar.

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by Wan Ting Koh  

IS THERE a future for those who fail in school?
The answer is “yes” for a group of parents who are bucking the traditional mindset that good academic grades are the only route to success. Named 100 Voices, the group came together recently, spurred by the rise in teen suicides here and the shared concern about Singapore’s obsession with grades.
Led by full-time father of two three, Mr Dean Yap, the group of 25 founders includes stay-at-home father of two Calvin Soh; Mr Jack Sim, who has four children; and father of one, Mr Kenny Lew.
These founders have achieved measurable success in their careers. Some are associate directors, others are entrepreneurs. They all share something in common: They know what it feels like to get an “F” in school.
That’s why they are named 100 Voices, the founders said. The group believes that there are at least “100 ways of achieving success” and just as many definitions of success. We spoke to three of the founders on why this was a cause they all wanted to get behind.
Mr Jack Sim, 59, father of four.
Profile picture of Jack Sim
Photo provided by Jack Sim.
While some would consider Mr Sim, founder of World Toilet Organisation, a successful man today, the 59-year-old said he was no model student while growing up. In fact, most would see Mr Sim as a “problem child”. His grades were dismal to the point that his father, a provision shop delivery man, told him that he didn’t want his son to follow in his footsteps.
“My father would tell me: ‘I don’t want you to grow up to be like me.’ They worried but they couldn’t help it,” he said.
Being caned in front of the school for talking too much in class did not help his case either. “But that was good for me because then I don’t have stage fright. So it helped me with public speaking in the future,” he said.
But Mr Sim’s experiences have given him a new perspective on success, and its link to academic grades. To him, exams are an inadequate measure of a child’s talents, especially since each child is different. “They are measuring multiple talent with only one ruler. Some children are creative, some are charismatic, some are dreamers. Not all are scientists and mathematicians,” he said. “The purpose of education is to help the child, not to punish him.”
However, according to Mr Sim, parents focus too much on academic success, and this mindset has persisted through the generations. In fact, he thinks that there is even more emphasis on grades than ever before, and the billion-dollar tuition industry is a testament to that.
Said Mr Sim: “Last time the parents wouldn’t know how to teach their children because they are not very educated. Now the parents want to grill their children.” Parents too, become victims of the system, believing that they have no choice but to send their children to tuition for them to succeed in life.
While his parents were more concerned about his grade, Mr Sim, in turn, gives his four children the freedom to take ownership of their life. He called it the “laissez-faire”, or a hands-off, approach. “As long as they pass, everything will be all right,” he said.
He prefers to lead by example. And if there’s one thing Mr Sim’s children could learn from him, it’s his spirit of continuous learning.

Mr Sim returned to university at age 52 and graduated with a Master in Public Administration at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy four years later. Just two months ago, he graduated from a Silicon Valley think-tank, Singularity University, in San Francisco.


His advice? “The child is on a discovery journey. We shouldn’t try to block that journey… let the child discover [their own interests], don’t force them into strange situations,” said Mr Sim.

 Mr Calvin Soh, 49, father of two.
Profile picture of Calvin Soh and Dylan Soh
Mr Calvin Soh (right), with his son Dylan Soh (left). Photo provided by Calvin Soh.
Some might recognise Mr Soh’s son, Dylan, the 14-year-old who gave his first TED talk at age nine, and conceptualised his first kickstarter campaign on urban farming just months ago. But most wouldn’t know that Mr Calvin Soh’s upbringing was pretty different from how he’s handling his children now.
Mr Soh, 49, was raised by a “typical Asian father” who taught him not to question his parents’ decisions. For his children though, the full-time father – a former vice chairman of an advertising firm – is trying a different approach.
Said Mr Soh: “We all tend to fall back on what works for me will work for my children.” But that’s not always true, he added.
This new approach allows Dylan some room to disagree with his father. If Dylan thinks that his way works better, he is given the leeway to try it out first. Mr Soh admits that the process takes more time, but it helps Dylan to build up his self-confidence.
Said Mr Soh: “If this new approach works, I must be a big enough person to say ‘hey, I learnt something new today’.” And it seems as if Mr Soh’s style is working, as Dylan has multiple achievements outside of academics, including co-authoring a book, The Big Red Dot, and founding a kickstarter project in urban farming – achievements that would beef up his resume.
Given the shifting nature of jobs and technological change, Mr Soh thinks that academics no longer play as important a role in career success. To him, soft skills, such as public speaking, are the ones which allow an employee to adapt to different environments.
Said Mr Soh: “A child is worth more than a piece of paper. We want children to grow up to be resilient, who can fall down but get up by themselves. Nowadays, we focus too much on the falling down and not enough on the getting up.”
Mr Kenny Lew, 43, father of one.
Profile picture of Kenny Lew
Photo provided by Kenny Lew.
For Mr Kenny Lew, failing his studies wasn’t an option when he was a child. His parents were so strict with their expectations that believed there were only a few pathways to pursue: lawyer, doctor, engineer or accountant. “I thought for my whole life there were only four careers,” he said.
Now a career coach however, he asks people to go beyond grades when considering their career options.
He referred to his own experience at the “bottom rung” of his cohort in secondary school, thanks to too much time spent on co-curricular activities, such as band and track and field. He even fared poorly for his O levels.
“I was never bright in school. That was a struggle,” said Mr Lew.
When he recently caught up classmates who faced the same problems in school however, he found that they’d carved a path for themselves. “The whole bunch of us were at the bottom of the rung of the school level. We were a naughty bunch of students. Today, they are so successful,” he said. These friends of his have gone on to top the corporate ladder or run their own large businesses.
That has further strengthened his notion that “failure” in school does not necessarily translate to failure in the workplace.
What parents should focus on instead is life skills, such as training children to be independent from a young age, he said. Mr Lew encourages his seven-year-old son to organise his own day-to-day activities, manage his own pocket money and to problem-solve. When the front of his son’s shoe came off, for example, he encouraged his son to fix it instead of throw it away.
“There is no straight path and there is no one path. Everyone is different and everyone is unique… You should ask yourself what problems you want to solve instead of what you want to do,” the career coach said.

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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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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For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.


by Natassya Siregar

HAVING good grades isn’t the only way to success – explore different life skills which can then unlock different paths to success.


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

5. 5 skills employers want you to have in tomorrow’s job market

6. Don’t underestimate ‘soft skills’ in your career

7. 50 Faces: What is success to you?


Featured image by Natassya Siregar.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

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Black and white image of an empty lecture theatre.
Empty lecture theatre

by Suhaile Md

PUT your best foot forward, especially in your resumes, or so they say. Clearly Princeton Professor Johannes Haushofer disagreed when he posted his “CV of failures” online last month. It went viral worldwide. It was a bid by the professor to right a perceived imbalance: that successful people do not fail.

This struck a chord with Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 8th Teacher’s Conference at the Singapore Expo earlier today, Mr Ng referenced Professor Haushofer’s viral CV, saying there was a need to teach our students to learn from failure.

Professsor Haushofer graduated from Oxford in 2003 with a First Class Honours degree, from Harvard in 2008 with a PhD in Neurobiology and another PhD in Economics from the University of Zurich in 2012. Not to mention the various fellowships under his belt from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard. Impressive accolades that he realised often led others to believe that “most things work out” for him and that their own failures were a result of their inabilities – nothing else.

This realisation prompted him to show his list of failures. He missed out on PhD programmes in Stanford, graduate courses in Cambridge University and University College London, fellowships in UC Berkeley, Yale, London School of Economics and so on to name a few.

Some have taken his laundry list of failures positively: That is it alright to fail, that it is as a brave move on his part, an inspiration even. Others though criticised his move. “We have developed a culture of celebrating failure, and it’s completely phony” according to Quartz. Others like Sonia Sodha of The Guardian wrote that “only successful people can afford a CV of failure.” Straits Times carried a response by Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times. Kellaway remarked that it’s easier to declare one’s failures when already established and successful. She then proceeded to “cheerfully… compose my own CV of rejections.” This led her to realise that not all rejections hurt equally. In fact it was the failures in her school days that stung the most.

Perhaps that is precisely the reason why Minister Ng Chee Meng believes it is important for Singaporeans to fall and learn from their failures while still in school? He said “when we allow our students to stumble from time to time, encourage them to have ‘productive failures’ and in the process develop their emotional and mental resilience, we would have helped them to prepare well for the future.”

He explained that the school environment has to be designed away from a fixation on results and increase emphasis on the student’s journey. While results are important, it should be balanced with the non quantifiable aspects like character and values. How would that be achieved? Programmes should give students the space to experiment – and yes, fail – their way towards discovering for themselves what it means to be successful.

It is as yet unclear what Mr Ng’s words would look like in practice. Or how the cultural inertia of Singaporean Kiasuism might shape this eventually. Remember when the Ministry of Education declined to release the names of top Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) graduates in a bid to reduce the stress on PSLE students? It only prompted kiasu parents to mount a search and compile their own lists through online communities. Cultural change is required. Nonetheless, the Acting Minister for Education (Schools) has made his views clear – he wants to move away from that culture. Tensions will mount as kiasuism pulls in the opposite direction, but the ministry’s move is a clear step in the right direction.


Featured image from TMG file. 

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