I started my primary education in 1979 in Chong Yi Primary School. It offered a curriculum based on the Chinese education system. I remembered vividly the day my dad saw my first report card – he flung the report book far away, took out the cane and left a deep impact in my life. I cried not because he caned me, but because no one understood how I felt – my family could not even allow me time to complete my schoolwork after school, as help was constantly needed on the farm. Subsequently, I “consistently” failed in my exams and became well known as the kid with the worst results in the class. Till today, I can’t figure out how I made it to secondary normal technical stream as I had scored a “F9” in English during the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

After my “O” level, I managed to obtain a place in Singapore Polytechnic and that marked the turning point in my life. I attempted suicide about 3 times as I was suffering from depression. Once, after sitting on the edge of the balcony for 2 hours, I decided not to give up on myself. I told myself that anyone and everyone could give up on me but I just couldn’t give up on myself. The next day, I sat down and started to plan to live a life with happiness. I decided to work on all aspects viz. family, health, education, career, service, financial and spiritual. Frankly, life after that brought more joy than sadness.

In 1995, I started planning for a degree course in United Kingdom. Knowing that my results in the polytechnic were not good enough, I decided to find something that I could Ieverage on to gain entry into a university where I could really excel. I found the NAVY and thought that perhaps the British would give more respect to a Naval officer than just an officer. Sad to say, I had to face the dilemma that I couldn’t swim and was phobic about swimming, I told myself that I must overcome this weakness. I planned a timetable where I would swim 3 times a day and after 3 months of hard work, I finally became one of the only few NSFs to be selected for the divers’ course in Naval Diver Unit.

Another bigger obstacle I faced was how to convince my father to give up his hard-earned money for my study in UK. I was always the disappointment in the family as my grades were the worst among my siblings. One evening, I bucked up my courage to talk to my dad. He was initially shocked and didn’t believe that I dared approach him about this. I told him that I was being offered a place by the University of Surrey (Unis) and I assured him that this university is one of the best in UK. I even showed him a newspaper article about NTU ordering a satellite from Unis and started sharing with him that I was going to study rocket science and not just engineering. 

He was skeptical about whether I would be able to complete the course successfully. I overcame his skepticism by telling him that I was one of the few selected to become a Naval officer. By making it to the rank of a Naval officer required a high level of standard as I had to train to handle sophisticated naval craft systems and to lead a disciplined life. I even promised him that I would definitely obtain a first class honor from the degree course in UK. Finally, I set off to UK in 1996 and I did badly in the first 2 semesters. It’s so bad that I was drunk for 3 days because I was really troubled. 

I am a person who believes in under-promise and over-delivery as integrity is paramount in my list of values that I hold very dear. I couldn’t face my dad as he’d already given all his money to me and he was counting on me to do well. I decided the only way that I could do well was to burn the bridge so that there was no turning back. I spent 3 months of my summer holidays studying and making sure I was better prepared. I requested my classmate to shave off my hair in front of all and told everyone that I would definitely score first class honor no matter what came. The following 2 weeks in the school, I started “hunting” for the most difficult subjects to study as this would stretch me to the limit. 

I even took 2 subjects for which no one had ever scored an “A”. In each of these subjects, only four students sat for it and it was conducted in the office as the class size was too small. I also sought help from senior students, who were scholars, to help me. I realized that I could only be the best if only I learned from the best. I learned about this attitude of “passion” from the top students. Guess what, I scored a lot of “A” and distinctions in my final year and was awarded first class honor. This has enabled me to lead a better life from then on. In fact, in the last few years I consistently spend at least $10,000 to $20,000 annually to upgrade myself in order to stay relevant. This also adds value to my clients’ financial plans and personal life. 

I have gone for about 30 courses in the last 6 years and am currently a certified Associate Financial consultant, B Eng (1st class Hons) Electronics, Chartered Financial Consultant, Chartered Life Underwriter, Fellow Chartered Financial Practitioner, NLP Trainer & Consultant and JobEQ consultant. These courses have prepared me with adequate knowledge and skill sets; they also offer me an opportunity to learn from experts who are the best of the best in Singapore and in the world. This world is dynamic and it’s important not to just acquire certificates but to make sure we use what we’ve learnt and continue to make it even better.

5 Life Lessons

Values Learnt and Gained from Real -Life Experiences