At the root of your careers, academic pursuits, and daily efforts, lies one thing – our aspirations. Everything we do is aimed at matching our aspirations. Alumni share how they work towards making their achievements and endeavors match their hopes and dreams.
In their book “The Wellbeing of Singaporeans“, Dr Tambyah Siok Kuan (BBA Hons 1988) and Dr Tan Soo Jiuan (BBA Hons 1980) from the NUS Business School noted that Singaporeans from higher income households experience a lower sense of achievement compared to their less affluent counterparts. In explaining the irony, they said, “Perhaps such families have expectations that are so high that their members fell they have not accomplished much. Alternatively, they may feel that they have not pushed themselves to limits because their lives have been comfortable thus far.” The authors have advised that “more can be done to help them appreciate their own achievements and to find enjoyment in life. Perhaps they have forgotten how to savor simple pleasures”.
The heartening thing is that there are those willing to be less harsh on themselves, learning to find a balance between their high aspirations and dealing with the opportunities that life hands them.
As Julie Nathan (MBA 2007) discloses, “I was always flexible. I was always interested in new things, new opportunities. I was always able to adapt to the situation and make the best of it. And in critical times, I was able to make decisions and take the necessary action to move forward.” This has helped her to realize her core aspirations. She says, “I have a career which interests me on a daily basis with new ideas and challenges in a field that is of personal interest as well. My lifestyle and family life, while different from what I have imagine when I was a child – I wouldn’t have thought that I would live in Europe, for instance – is enjoyable for me. So if I simply consider the “happiness factor” and leave alone the facts of where I am, who I’m with, and how I live exactly, then these things are in line with what I would have imagined for myself when I was younger.”
Erica Wong (APEX-E MBA 2007), currently in Business and Market Intelligence Management, puts it frankly. “Youthful aspirations can be very valiant because when we are children, our social experience and exposure are almost negligible. So, I wouldn’t feel thwarted or restrained if I haven’t quite fulfilled my aspirations. When I was young, I was very ambitious and organized. I dreamed of becoming a good surgeon, professionally; and for my personal life, I was into music, geography and sports. When I look at myself today, it doesn’t match my youthful aspirations. The most important thing for me now is to have quality time with my family and in my work. How people view me is not my priority for happiness. I have taught myself to compromise and understand others’ differences and roles, so that the boat will sail more smoothly throughout the whole journey. I always see the positive side, do things within my conscience, and stick to my principles and values, And I will continue to pass on these values to my next generation.”
Park Jaewoo (MBA 2007) tempers his ambition with the realities of life, and still finds time to indulge his passion for travel. He says, “I have spent more than ten years in three different corporations, bringing myself closer to my career goal to be in the global business and cultural consultancy, particularly in Asia. My current responsibility doing global sales and marketing in Samsung Electronics is accelerating my dreams. But to reach my career goal, I must have an open mind for foreign culture, food and people. I’ve been travelling since my university days, backpacking mainly in Asia, writing travel essays and sharing the experiences. Those activities were for pleasure, nothing more; but they’ve prepared me for life abroad.” Where realistically possible, he goes for things that will give his ambitions a boost, as he explains, “My NUS MBA programmed and two years in Singapore were critical to my global exposure. That was my renaissance!”
Abhay Bangi (MBA 2007), from India, believes “dreams are important for every individual, and a plan to achieve your dreams and aspirations is even more so. I decided to do my MBA to broaden my horizon in Singapore, which was popular for the kind of jobs that I was interested in. It was a difficult decision in the early years of my career. But had it not been for this decision, my life would have taken a different course, and I would be much farther away from achieving my aspiration as compared to my position today. The only way to answer the question of whether I have fulfilled my aspirations is by asking if I am happy and satisfied. If the answer is yes, which is the case, I would think that I am on course to achieving my aspirations. Because I sincerely believe that life is a journey, and we must make it seam less so that we enjoy the experience. This is my mantra to meet my aspirations”.
His batch mate, Jim Liu (MBA 2007), from China, says his current aspiration is to get a home, and he is working towards it. He explains, “As a foreigner studying and working in Singapore, I have to rent a place to stay, and it doesn’t feel good sometimes, as many things in a rented place can be uncomfortable. I have told myself to get a place of my own and make it a ‘sweet home’ for my loved ones and myself.” To make that possible, it’s first things first, and that means getting “a stable job with a good pay” for him. “So I decided to enroll in the pioneer MBA course in Healthcare at NUS, and hope it helps me with career advancement and better income. So far so good; the healthcare industry is very stable. But it also takes time for a new MBA graduate like me to develop a career in the industry.”
Dr Tan herself shares how she came to terms with her own aspirations. “As a middle child among five siblings, my academic performance from primary to secondary school paled in comparison to my high-flying siblings, some of whom were scholars. So from young, all I wanted was to have a successful career and to achieve financial independence so that I can live comfortable. I started work as a banking inspector right after getting my BBA (Hons). One day, I received a letter from our then Dean, inviting top honors students with work experience to serve the university in its senior tutorship scheme. It was an ego trip for me; and after attending the tea briefing, I was sold. It was tough changing tracks; I had to take a severe pay cut, and have to tutor for two years before going abroad. But the opportunity to be sponsored for a PhD, with the prospect of becoming an academic with NUS, spurred me on. Since then, there was no looking back and I am glad I took the ‘plunge’. I am still trying to be a good academic, but I have definitely achieved my financial independence.” They are clearly ambitious, but these alumni have learnt to enjoy and appreciate the journey in, as well as the fruits of, their efforts – no matter how big or small, whether sweet or tinged with some bitter. Others could follow their lead to raise their “happiness quotient” too.