This post is dedicated to all my current and past students who have completed my course UTC2712 – Hard to Secure Easy to Waste – Singapore Food Story in Residential College 4 since AY16/17 semester 2.
When I first mooted the idea of this senior seminar, it was a hunch I have gotten after visiting AVA. I knew that something needs to be done to bring this “out of sight out of mind problem” to the surface and create more awareness about our food challenges in Singapore among the community. I was not a strong systems modeller and I was struggling with coming up with ideas to make this course meaningful for my students’ learning. I was facing not just a crisis in my modelling capability but also a crisis in my teaching and learning ideation capabilities.
However, like with many things in my life, I made a conscientious effort to do it anyway. There is this ingrained character of improvisation and resilience in me. I thank my beloved mother for it.
I recalled when I was at the young age of 12, my family went into a crisis. My dad was declared a bankrupt and my mother (who was a housewife then) has to bear the weight of supporting the family while my dad fleed overseas away from his debtors. I remembered I used to live in in the dark at night because we were too afraid to switch on the lights in our home, fearing that this will let the debtors know that someone was in the house and came knocking.
Having no skill, my mom had to knit and sale hundreds of tissue box cover to support me and my brother. I remembered how rough her hands were after knitting hundreds of tissue box covers. While those hardship days had long past me, I always remembered my mom’s resilience and amazing capabilities to improvise and make do to cope with these otherwise life-destroying crisis. Blessed by divinity, I have inherited some of her resilience and improvisation capabilities.
My greatest achievement in my life was when I finally graduated from the school of hard-knock in 2013. It was the year that I took the leap of faith to start a new career completely from the bottom at the age of 39 as an academic. I said this was my graduation year because this was the year that I have developed the firm belief of my ability to improvise and stay resilience in whatever crisis that I may face in the future. And I thank life every single day for giving me the opportunity to hone these abilities of mine. Not many people knew about the potentials of these capabilities, let alone having the chance to discover and develop them to its fullest levels. Just to give you an illustration of the kind of life training that I have put myself through voluntarily before 2013.
Between 2007 and 2012, I started and completed my 5 years journey in PhD, shouldered increasing responsibility as a Senior Manager in NUS IT in the day, mentored and coached students at night as a Resident Fellow in King Edward VII Hall, found time to lose 15 kg of weight and trained myself from being an IPPT failure to gold award winner and completed my first full marathon. Any one of these tasks would be tough to achieve excellence by anyone standard. But I just jumped into it and somehow managed to improvise and push them towards excellence progressively.
Ever since 2013, I have never chosen a path that is easy. The more uncertain, the more challenging and the more unsure of the end result a path is, the more likely that I will just go ahead and do it. That is the reason why I enjoyed watching this video from David Goggins. While I know physically and mentally I am probably not as strong as him, I know I do a lot of things today that ‘sucks’ and I do it to a point that I actually enjoyed doing then repeatedly.
A once good friend of mine called me a masochistic man, i.e. a man who enjoys an activity that appears to be painful or tedious. I think he is spot-on about me. I always enjoy the process of trying to do something that I am unsure of. Something that I cannot see a clear benefit of whether to do it or not. Something that requires an enormous amount of efforts, time and pains to become good at.
So when I was faced with the challenge of designing this senior seminar course on Singapore’s food challenge, I readily felt at home. I love the challenge and it seems that after 1 full years of trying to perfect the art and science of teaching this course and making a conscious and carefully thought out plan to get students to become active citizens, I think I have achieved a reasonable success now. As I reflected upon the learning blogs written by my students (this and previous semester), I can’t help to feel that I have come a long way from a year ago. From someone who is facing a competency and ideation crisis to resolving it one after another to get to this stage. I know with absolute certainty that I can only get better.
So my beloved brothers and sisters of UTC2712, if there is one thing that I hope you can eventually get out of this senior seminar besides the skills and knowledge of systems thinking and modelling, that one thing would be your ability to harness your fear of the uncertainty. Make it work for you. Because it is in the environment of fears where your resilience and improvisation abilities grow. And as these abilities developed into its full maturity, you can graduate from the school of hard-knocks too.
With these abilities, nothing in life would be able to stop you. And this has always been my hope and wish for you. That has been my hidden secret or agenda. 🙂
Ignite your passion, nurture your resilience and silence all your fears. Nothing will be able to stop you from achieving what you want to achieve after that.
Ending this blog with an inspiring video by Will Smith about facing fears.
Your brof forever,