Just some thoughts on my mind

It’s time to update my profile picture on Facebook just in case people thought I am still bald. At the same time, just sharing some thoughts on my mind.

I have never been someone who needs people to agree with the action that I take. I think about it, I consult others, and I make up my own mind. As much as I desire others to agree with my decision, I still have to move ahead even when people don’t see why I do what I do. With time, sometimes, they catch up. Other times, it is a learning opportunity for me. After all, no one is 100% right all the time. But the fact remains that we can never take ownership of our own lives if we have to hinge upon others for our own decisions. You probably won’t understand me as a person if you haven’t had a good long discussion with me. But not everyone has the time and not everyone takes the time to, and it is okay, though I would love to have such conversations with people.

Wearing office attire today brings back some memories. Back when no one put on a suit to attend a wedding, I already did. To the culture back then, it was overdressing. But to me, the logic is simple. Why would I wear my work clothes to someone’s significant life event? I take the effort to dress up because I put significance on your event. I can always come in shorts and slippers. Then society caught up and suits are not much of a big deal anymore; I start to see more people wearing them. When I was in school, sometimes I make an effort to come to school in office attire. I was setting up a social enterprise back then I wanted to seize every opportunity. I don’t know who I will meet every day. It was experimentation and it was tiring. But it worked for me, at that time. Meanwhile, other students will give me that weird look, feeling that it is completely normal when they come in slippers and shorts.

When I was in Drew, I only see lawyers dress in suits. To me, it is just lame to put a windbreaker over your office attire. It is called a coat for a reason. Why should I be putting away the coat that I bought as a set at home and use another one just because everyone else is doing the same? So I went to work carrying a coat and sometimes wearing it. Perhaps people think I am trying to pretend I am a lawyer or to look more esteemed as who I truly am. If I have bought the suit then might as well use it right?

Finally, when I was doing my internship, I wore my polo T-shirt with my social enterprise logo. It was an attempt to promote the business of course. But I was told that I am underdressing. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”, I remember my boss told me. So I took his advice and change.

Most of the time, I dress with an intention. For example, now, I am considering printing a set of polo T-shirts that promotes organ donation and wear it every day because that is on my agenda. And again, people might think that I am weird. Of course, not all the time it’s with a serious agenda, sometimes I just feel like looking good. But the key point remains: I refrain from doing something just because others are doing it. To me, it is lame. Herd mentality is what helps certain species survive. But I am an eagle, and eagles don’t flock. At this point in time, it may seem like I am a very individualistic person, difficult to work with. I am not. I recognize the importance of teamwork and it is what I preach to my students as well. I often quote Aristotle for matters like this: A virtue is a mean between extremes. Teamwork is good. Blending in is good. But when it reaches the point when it results in group thinking, bystander effect, it is no longer good. How silly when I read about social experiments where people start to face the back of the elevator just because they see others doing the same.

I also operate with a “why not” mentality. Most people operate with a “why”. If there is no critical reason why I shouldn’t do something, I’ll do it. And this is why I have a wide area of exposure. But this also induces others to think that I am weird. Perhaps indeed I am weird. Recently one of my friends sent me a video on “having the courage to be disliked”. I think he can sense that sometimes I am bothered by the opinion of others. Who wouldn’t? But as much as I am disturbed by the rejection, questions, and judgment of others, what I fear more is that in the process of getting acceptance, I am no longer a free agent. Being normal is overrated. I reckon most of us, in our own skin, is not normal. We pretend that we are so in order to blend in. I envision a world that we can all be comfortable in our own skin, that we have the courage to be ourselves. Diversity, as I have shared during my staff expedition years ago, is more than color and creed. It is an acceptance of differing habits, culture, mannerism, and even dressing. It is a mindset attuned to acceptance regardless of the form it presents itself. It is not, however, an acceptance of differing standards and quality, because standards have to be met.
The last thing I want to say is about money and results. I once told someone that I don’t care about money. Not that I have a lot, or that I fail to recognize bread and butter issue. But because I know that money is a byproduct. If you are doing something well and good, money will come naturally. Facebook is free. Google is also free. But they make billions. Once you are good, you can start to think about how to monetize it. But if you are not, then there is no point in thinking about it, because money won’t come anyway. It is the same thing as my academic results. As a student, I seldom worry about my results, because I know that once I get my learning in place, the results will come. No wonder I struggle in Uni, right? Well, I am definitely not the best student, but I think if I am able to grow from the last student out of an entire cohort to where I am today, there are some merits to this mindset. And systems are not perfect. While I don’t deny that generally, it does reflect competence, intelligence, work ethics, and attitude, it is not a perfect indication. I remember scoring an A- on a topic and my friend told me she got an A+. When I ask her how she did it, she said she memorized the answer. Whether she is being humble or not I don’t know, but I think it is a fact that our education system is not perfect. There were examples of people being rejected for local university later doing extremely well overseas, and as a country, we have worked towards preventing such “injustice”. Perhaps memorizing will get me the A+ I want, but what’s the point really? At the end of the day, results are just an indication. If we merely look at a number and just that number, we miss out on a lot of details that paint the whole picture. Results are important, but really only up to a certain extent. That is why from a certain point onwards, I stopped worrying if I get my degree. To me, it doesn’t really matter anymore. I have done what I said I will do to the best of my ability. And I have fulfilled whatever that I have promised. Is it a pity if I don’t? It is. But there is nothing more that I can do about it. It is done.

Of course, you don’t have to agree with me. Neither am I someone of significance, at work nor am I a top student. But this is the philosophy that I abide by for as long as I remember. From a Chinese saying, it is up to humans to plan and execute. But it is up to the heavens to determine the outcome. It doesn’t mean that we should stop working hard towards good results, but to put it in perspective with other things that sometimes matter even more. It is a best-case scenario that I graduate early, get a job that I want, married, and have a family. But many things don’t happen in an ideal way. We are all dealt with different cards and we just have to make the best out of our situation. Perhaps if the degree is really so important to me, I could have graduated earlier. But will I be married today, passed out as an Instructor, or attempted my own business? Probably not. Everything has a trade-off. What is really important in life?

Categorized as Thoughts

By ben@sgben.com

Hi, I am Benjamin. I am a Singaporean son, born and bred. I came from a modest background, just like most Singaporeans and went to mainstream schools like most middle-class Singaporeans. What makes me different is my unconventional choices and journey in life, giving me more profound insights. Entering a secondary school infested with secret societies in the earlier days exposed me to a different side of Singapore. I graduated well despite having a volatile phase. I chose one of the youngest polytechnics despite having a score good enough for JC, even as others tell me it is not recognised, and I would not make it into university through that path. During my National Service, I also went through a difficult phase of rediscovering the purpose of serving. My university was another defining chapter, spanning over nine years, involving many adventures and endeavours. As you can see, I seldom bother myself with dogmas. I strongly believe in Steve Job's speech at Stanford University. I hope to lead others by example, inspire them to do the same and empower the decisions they have to make in their lives. Reach me at sgBen.com.

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