Tonight I’d like to share with you the stories of three inspiring individuals who took the stage days ago at the National Young Leaders’ Day 2014 along with Matthew Zachary Liu and completely swept the audience off our feet, overwhelmed with emotions toward their heartwarming and nerve-wrecking recounts of different phases in their lives. These three stories, I decided, shall be told within the same post because of the common thread that they share– the value of hard work. In reading the notes I had scribbled down during the event in a desperate attempt to remember everything that had been told (and taught), I realised that these three speakers had strong gusto in what they pursued and a kind of resilience driven by hard work that I look up to a lot. Hoping that these people will inspire you as they’ve inspired me, here goes:
The first of them, is Laurentia Tan, one of the Singapore Youth Award 2013 awardees. Despite being diagnosed with cerebral palsy from a young age and being profoundly deaf from when she started to remember, these circumstances put her in a position I could never imagine myself in. With little confidence in my ability to relate to you the story and struggles of her sporting career, I urge you to take some time to watch this video. Everytime I watch her video or listen to her speak, I can’t help but feel an immense amount of respect for the way she had been a warrior in times of struggle and still manage to uphold the values she holds dearly to her heart. In her sharing, she shares the importance of trying: “you do not know what you can or can not do, until you try” and in the trying, she highlights the importance of believing: “believe in yourself, the only limits in life are the ones you set for yourself.” I suppose the greatest takeaway though, was the way she reinforced my belief of doing what is close to heart for you; as in her words “focus on the things that make you happy, because life’s too short to do otherwise”. In her account, all I saw was a massive amount of hardwork, that brought her to be the Olympic medalist she is today.
Second, Yuni Hadi is the executive director of the Singapore International Film Festival and the director of award-winning film, “Ilo Ilo”. Her presentation was structured and crystal clear in the main messages and advice she wanted to give to the youth in the audience– one that painted the picture of three lessons that her career and life thus far had taught her. Of them, the first was to never put your life on hold because you “achieve things by doing things” and no matter the outcome of an experience, you will learn something new about yourself when you try. In this, I saw great similarity to Laurentia’s sharing about her belief in trying. And the next of the three lessons, was that to get back up when you’ve fallen down– the idea of the most important part about making mistakes and failing. And lastly, that “nothing beats old-fashioned hard work”, because it’s the most purpose-driven works that brings you steps toward success. In her sharing, she explained that she treasured the process of celebrating little benchmarks of success that she set for herself because she believed that what was more important than the outcome was “who we are and who we become in the process”, since the choices we make in this process spell out the values that we want to uphold.
And third, the most refreshing of the three for me, was the the presentation by David Hoe because his sharing felt close to heart. His parents divorced and he was left under the custody of his mother who later turned blind– in a nutshell, by the time he was in primary school, he had been well acquainted with the discipline master who taught him how to wash his own clothes in their weekly meetings. As a child, he proudly knew almost every hawker centre there was in Singapore as he went around selling packets of tissue paper to support himself and his mom and his childhood ambition? To be a chicken rice stall uncle. And as the years went on, and his horizons broadened, he found himself finding joy in sharing his knowledge with others when he understood simple formulas while has was studying in ITE– and these sowed the seeds for his new dream to be, a teacher. With the resolve to become a teacher, he transformed his determination into resilience and diligence that brought him to be the National Top Student and later repeating upper secondary twice in order to get through O levels and obtain a certificate to become a teacher. He went on to study in Catholic Junior College, National University of Singapore and then Harvard University. Even with this transformation and progression that anyone would call a ‘miracle of hardwork’, David remains humble in his stance of believing that “diligence will bring me somewhere”. In fact, the punchline I found inspiration from in his entire sharing goes, “If you are going to fail, fail gloriously. There is pride in failing when you have given your best”.
At this event that brings together that most inspirational of youths in our time, I find the common threads of trying, believing and working hard across the sharing of these three speakers, values that I always have, and will continue to hold close to my heart and apply in what I do.