Making the second half count

Han Kiat Lee (BBA 1982)


Han Kian Lee (BBA 1982) is a man whose success follows two tangents. On one hand, he is the ASEAN Vice President of Sales for IBM; while on the other, he is the CEO of Halftime® Asia, an organization with the unique mission of inspiring business leaders to utilize their time and energy to contribute to meaningful pursuits in the second halves of their live.s

Learning about life and business
While Han Kiat may not remember every little event that took place during his days at NUS Business School, he fondly remembers many valuable experiences that affected his later life. He particularly remembers the enjoyment he had running a small t-shirt printing and men’s swim wear business and providing photocopying to his classmates. This entrepreneurial experience taught him much about the importance of maintaining good customer relationships.

However, the friendships that he gained at NUS were much more memorable. As a young man who ran a business in addition to attending school, Han Kiat often faced instances when he couldn’t make class. Thankfully, he had many friends who gladly shared their notes with him and kept him up to speed with any classes he could not make. “I learned the importance of having good friends, as they make tackling life’s challenges a little easier,” related Han Kiat.

Overcoming the challenges of a demanding career
The path to career success was anything but easy for Han Kiat, as his first employment opportunity saw him working a sales job at the information systems giant, IBM. “I remember I had to study much more than I did at NUS to pass the examinations set by the company,” states Han Kiat. In fact, he often related to his training manager that if he had put in the same time and effort into his university studies that he put into this company examinations, he would have received all A’s.

Despite the demanding requirements of the company, he persevered through many hardships to develop a prosperous career, learning much from his seniors within the company about what i takes to be successful. “You need to identify what you do not know or cannot do well, and then you put in the effort to learn and choose the right role to match your interests and strengths,’ advises Han Kiat.

A different kind of success
At about the time he had reached his 25th year at IBM in 2007, he was faced with profound realization that his time was now more precious than ever. Han Kiat asked himself, “Beyond my career and financial success, what else is important to me for the rest of my life?” In 2009, this question was answered when he attended a three-day workshop help by the Halftime® Organization. Through the workshop, he was able to gain clarity on his passions and his strengths, his capacity to give in terms of time and money, and where he could serve to have an enduring impact.

Taking the workshop with other like-minded professional who were asking themselves the same profound question of “what else?” stirred him to make the transition from questioning to action. Determined to bring about the completion of his transition, Han Kiat took a year off to get in touch with his own identity, detached from the identity associated with his professional career. In the course of his journey, he came to the conclusion that he should help others with their transition as well, and chose to serve at Halftime® Asia.

Helping others make the most of their “second half”
According to the Halftime® Organizations’s founder, Bob Buford, “Halftime is a pause in the middle of the game of life to reflect on our first half and who we have become, to decide what will matter in the end and to redirect our time and resources to the second half.” With this idea in mind, Han Kiat sought to encourage more Singaporeans to use their “second half” to enrich the lives of others. While philanthropy is seen as one part of this equation,  he believes that using your competencies and skills to enlighten and assist individuals is equally important.

“Writing checks to fund charities is a great thing to do, but giving your time and talents in the areas associated with your passions will give another level of personal satisfaction,” reflects Han Kiat. He believes that by applying your passions through volunteer activities where you “dirty your hands” in delivering the assistance to those less fortunate, you will learn more about “who you really are” and “what values you truly have in your heart.”

What are you doing with your “second half”?
By taking the time to converse and share his experiences with others who have wondered about what to do during the second half of their lives, Han Kiat hopes to help them find their passions and discover how they can best serve others. At Halftime® Asia, he continues to dedicate his time towards helping to convert the latent energy of Singaporeans into active participation in activities that will bring significant to the second half of their lives journeys.

“The average life expectancy of Singaporeans is 81 years, and we are much healthier, more educated and better connected globally. There is a need to channel Singapore’s pool of time, talent, and treasure to address social causes. When we do, we will live out the most meaningful part of our lives in the second half,” states Han Kiat. With many more Singaporeans starting to venture into the second halves of their lives after long, successful careers, this may be the time when they begin to make the transition from “success to significance”.

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