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Monday, 6 October 2014

The Key to Success?

Watch this 6 minute video:


You know what? Sometimes the same idea can be stumbled onto by two separate persons miles apart and yet having similar conclusions. The interesting thing is that they are both educators.

The similar idea in local context:  Persistence and Grit triumphs Talent

I've a great Geography teacher at Gan Eng Seng School during my secondary 2. 

She told me, "Jared, don't give up. Others study 10 minutes, they understand. If you need 7 hours, so be it. Once you understand, there's no difference."

Mdm Foo is still teaching at Gan Eng Seng and still very much loved by her current students and past students; judging by the comments in Facebook.

Compared to some teachers who take the easy way out by encouraging students to drop subjects (don't mess up their KPIs), how not to love and respect teachers like Mdm Foo? 

And that's pretty much the story of my life. Others have i7, I'm stuck with Pentium 386....

When I cross the finishing line in life's marathon, there's no cheering crowd, no organisers to give me a certificate, no cameras, no nothing.

But if someone asks me whether I have completed life's marathon, I can answer proudly with head high chest out, "I did."

And the answer is no different than if you ask the one who finished in 3 hours.


  1. Hi SMOL,

    There are always a spectrum of cases, most teachers do not advocate dropping of subjects per se for KPI sake, although I would not say none.

    I never ask my pupils to drop my subjects, in fact, many parents ( again they are the minority) find ways and means for the kids to be exempted from exam, and the situation is particularly glaring for parents able enough to go for medical tests. Even those exempted, but willingly to learn, I teach.

    Seriously, there is no running away from results. I am
    Still finding my footing in my new school. New and different pupils, different system, and hence I made mistakes. Of course, there are other weaknesses within myself that are not obvious with my previous set of pupils but suddenly become glaring.

    Kids are very different now too. You will be surprised what they tell their parents.

    I do not deny I am a less effective teacher now, but I have a nasty parent who question my passion, say I high pay cannot teach might as well quit. Reflecting, why is she so upset? Simple, results have dropped.

    Sorry for OT, still upset even after a week.

    What I am saying is, there are always exceptions, exceptional good and bad teachers, but most are just boring people trying their best, but boring people make the news.

    Also, it's no longer just about the teacher and the pupils now. There are many more "stakeholders" now.

  2. I mean boring teachers dun make the news or good inspiration stories

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      1. There is no "out of topic" thing at this watering hole. Let our minds wander without inhibitions ;)

      2. You know why I poked you some time back? The way you were critcising big daddy was like that "nasty parent"... I couldn't be happier that you reverted to the you before bitterness took over.

      Take a good look at the "nasty parent" next time she rile you up. She's hurting. She does not know how to handle the anger and bitterness within herself. Her escape mechanism is: "Others give me shit; I give shit to others!"

      3. Notice I have carefully chosen the word "finish" with my marathon analogy? If the questioner had asked what's my ranking or do I have a certificate to show for, whatever I answer I will be deemed a "failure" or "loser" in their eyes.

      I have a choice.

      I choose to focus on "finishing" the marathon and be with people who accepts me - irregardless of my ranking or whether I have papers - and be happy with what I've got.

      Happiness is a choice; and I choose happiness.

  3. Hmmm....

    The only time I remember hitting Big Daddy is when the retirement village is not used for retirement ...

    Other than that, I dun remember hitting big daddy, big daddy feed me, you know?

    Anyway, I know what u mean, some things come and go faster, some linger longer, but all will go...

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      We let sleeping dog lie.

      The meaning is more important than specifics ;)

  4. You made my day w positive thots.
    I'm quite sianz...hv to come back office to work while those smart ppl already finished.

    But oh well, if i hv hard work as a quality over smartness...i shld thank God for placing me at a position where my hard work is appreciated.

    1. pf,

      Come Tuesday morning, no cares whether your work is completed Monday morning or Friday evening.

      Like what you have said, being appreciated is the key ;)

  5. When i was in primary school, one of my teacher wrote in my report card the the word "determine boy". Errr... what did she meant?
    Now i know.
    Alas determination is good but have no talent leh.

    True grit with lot of talents:-

    i witnessed my wife's neice who unfortunately has a "Broken family" since primary school but she seems to know what she wants in life form very young. "Broken family or not", with true grit and gifted academically she has become a GIC scholar working in Europe. And that's what she wants in her life. No Singapore boyfriends (equally smart) can hold her back.

    So true grit with talents = Scholar?
    (i think or guess she aimed to be a President scholar. i heard she cried when she saw her HSC results. This is only my guess.)

    1. temperament,

      When we loose out sight, our body will compensate by enhancing our hearing and touch.

      Your niece has found her own way to compensate; just like some will use investing to compensate for a unfulfilling career...

      True grit and talent? It just mean finishing life's marathon within 3 hours of less; it only matters if we care about "ranking".

      If we prioritise living a good life, does ranking matter?

    2. i beg to differ.
      Most children even gifted would have been crumbled when the home has been "broken". The psychology of trauma would have been too much for the young and fragile mind to bear. You are not insider. You can just said over-compensation did it for her. i rather think true grit is the secret for her success.

    3. temperament,

      We gain strength by subjecting our muscles to pain and stress. It's when our body OVER COMPENSATES by repairing our torn muscles that we are able to exceed our previous weight limitations.

      Same for the fists of a boxer. By bloodying the fists against sand bag, the body OVER COMPENSATES by giving the bones of his fists a higher density to overcome the trauma of flesh pounding flesh.

      Stress, trauma, pain - these are catalysts for grit to overcome inertia.

      There's nothing to differ :)

      Thanks for the retort; I need to reflect.

      I guess "compensate" is not that a neutral word that I thought it is....

    4. Ha! Ha!
      Your talk about compensation is all about the bone and flesh.
      Tell me how to compensate the psychology trauma to a very young child's her brain?
      Remember she did not have any mentor or social worker to help her all the way to her scholarship.
      That's why among all my wife's nieces and nephews who are doctor specialists and atas Bankers, i admire her the most. I still wonder how she did it? If it is not grit & gumption & talents, i wonder besides all these she must have something else.
      i think under such mental stress ("broken family) almost all younger children not to mention adults will cave-in.

    5. temperament,

      Ah! Silly me. Your bias and love towards this niece of yours is pretty obvious. Now I get it :)

      I think we are on the same page when it comes to grit as an element for "success".

      To me, grit has to come from somewhere. And the catalyst for sparkling grit is normally pain, trauma, stress - negative incentives. Then there are positive incentives like passion, self-actualisation, ikigai, etc.

      Two President Scholars - one from a broken home; the other from a privileged background.

      BOTH need grit to achieve what they had achieved.

      Why is the one with the privileged background less deserving of our respect?

      Isn't it reverse snobbery? Or letting our bias, emotions, and prejudices colour our views?

      Overcoming the long shadow of great expectations can be just as, if not harder...

      I only see 2 persons finishing some personal mile stones of the marathon of life. What has background or where they came from got to do with how we view their "success"?

      There are those that are crushed by misfortunes of lack; there are also those smouldered by the unbearable boredom of plenty.


    6. Ha! Ha!
      Not so fast;
      Everything being equal:-
      i think Singapore has statistics of from what "type" of families most of our scholars come from. i don't think we can deny that - not even the G.
      "Two President Scholars - one from a broken home; the other from a privileged background"
      If you have to choose a President scholar to lead in a live or die situation, which one will you choose? Cross your heart. Don't bluff!
      i think one has been tested with psychology trauma, the other has been "enjoying life".

    7. temperament,

      Don't worry. I not fast. I Pentium 386 remember?

      First its about your niece, now you are adding in your political leanings.... LOL!

      Careful now...

      We don't want to take away the love, compassion, leadership, and wisdom of the man just because his daddy is the most powerful of all...

      I wouldn't want to join those we can't rejoice in the achievement of others and must nit-pick:

      "Of course he can do it mah! His dad is XXX."

      "If my dad is XXX, I for sure I can do better than him!"

      "What so special about him? He is son of XXX what."

      Let's not go down the path the Red Guards took during China''s Cultural Revolution...

    8. Alamak!
      Cross my heart. Never think in terms like what you think father & son thing. i was thinking in one particular year there was a President Scholar who came from a "broken or very poor " home.
      Just like everyone know, you really can't tell how many untested soldiers (Singaporeans) will fight or defense or surrender or run away if someone attack Singapore. No one can tell how psychological prepared our soldiers are. i believe the psyche of a person is very important besides grit & gumption and talents.

    9. temperament,

      Oh! I so enjoyed this bantering of ours!

      Sex, religion, politics - right up my alley :)


      I hope I will never be tested. Never want to see my vacuum packed AR15 in my lifetime ever again!

      There's so many things to be grateful for as a Singaporean. I've already won the genetic lottery!

  6. Hi SMOL,

    I was from GESS too... Mdm Foo sounds familiar but can't remember well. Cannot imagine we are from same school! Dunno Heng or Sway?

    I remember I was last in my biology tests always. Before my o levels, my bio teacher Ms Fernando (I dun really like) gave extra lessons. Some Kiasu top students wanted to attend, but Ms Fernando said it was meant to help the student in need.

    Then she said " everyone else can dun attend except me!" I was angry then, but after my O levels I was grateful.


    1. Rolf,

      A warm hello to a fellow Gessian!

      I am from the 1980-1983 Anson Road batch.

      If you go to our Gessian Facebook, Mdm Foo was photographed during the recent school reunion or something.

      Before I entered GESS, I heard its top ten. After I joined, no longer top ten. I think I pulled the average score down.... LOL!

      Heng lah!

      I am your Xue Zhang :)

    2. Hi Lao Xue Zhang

      Is Mdm Foo photo with Lim Bun and Wong Chun Beng also?

      I was from the 1991-1994 batch not at Anson but Raeburn Park. Your time is all boys... Boring...I was already in mixed school..

      Indeed GESS was very good school during the "ancient" time...

      I do not think you dragged down the average score... You are just being one of the them... Haha

      Do not worry! My batch pulled it all up!

      During my O level graduation, Mediacorp! - oops I think its TCS (your time is SBC I know) , did a News Telecast for GESS as the most improved sec school. We improved our rank to 20th in Singapore then.

      I just "Heng Heng" be one of them...

      School song - "In 1885, our founder Gan Eng Seng, conceived the noble aim, for a breed of man.... Bla bla bla... "

      Good to find a fellow school mate (little bit old but still great to know)
      I had a very good friend and still in touch with him regularly. He is your batch, and use to be in Table Tennis.

    3. Rolf,

      Yes, she's the one. Wong Chun Beng was my form teacher, he got married to the lab technician during m time.

      Just Xue Zhang will do; no need to add the Lao.... @@#%*^%)^@!!

      Ah! My time got Pre-U centre at Anson. You don't know the pleasure of chatting up jie-jies; laced with the fear of getting caught by the bigger Pre-U boys who don't seem to like it a whole lot.... LOL!

      I was in the Table-Tennis school team - played doubles :)

    4. I was school team from table tennis for 4 years too. Let's have a game soon. I ten years never play already..

    5. Oh! Then you better than me.

      I only got in Sec 3 and Sec 4 - played for 2 years. Only won 1 South Zone bronze medal :)

      I 30 years never play :(


  7. Hi SMOL,

    Thanks for putting up my link :)

    As a tutor, one of the ways to make a student be self motivated is to work on achieving small success.. once you get the student to be addicted to success, they will be much more motivated for greater success. It could be a remark on their exams by the teacher that they've done well. It could the way the teacher's reaction when they say out the highest scores belong to the very students he/she had condemned. Once you get the student started, the engine self runs itself.

    The hardest part is to get them started. That's where grit and persistence comes in. They are going to be working hard on seemingly no results at all. Then, when the 'moment' comes, other things drive them to success. Suddenly they become more passionate about that subject.

    So i think both passion and grit comes hand in hand. If there's no passion and there's only determination, you can go far, but life can be quite meaningless. If there's passion (and it's often fuelled by success, not the other way round) combined with grit...the entire world will stop to let you pass.

    I'm quite sure this can be applied to life in general, even though my context is motivating students.

    1. LP,

      You're welcomed!

      Grit is momentum to overcome inertia. But we still need passion to point our energies and time to the right direction.

      If not, we may end up trying to impress others and living a life conforming to their wishes than our own...


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