I Scored 207 for PSLE; I Still Became a Lawyer.

You decide your future.

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I’ll never forget the day I went to collect my PSLE* results.

I walked up to my form teacher nervously. She looked at me with disappointment, shook her head and said,”You could have done so much better.”

Those words burned into my head.

(This is the same teacher who did nothing but tell my whole class that we girls were “so complacent and so conceited” throughout the year. Maybe we were, maybe we weren’t, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the right way to motivate a bunch of 12 year old girls. But I digress…)

Of course, there was the mass comparisons of PSLE results happening around the school hall, but not on a scale as large as now, what with the availability of social media.

I remembered feeling upset, thinking I was stupid.

And I felt worth less.

I carried these feelings with me for a long time. Always an invisible barrier to the success that I wanted.

Ok, let me first take responsibility for my results first. Did I study hard? No, I’ll be the first to admit. But I was busy enjoying my childhood. I was busy playing, learning, asking questions and laughing.

I had a happy childhood.

But my point is – it didn’t matter that I was doing so well in other areas. I was netball captain. I was a school prefect. I did all sorts of creative stuff like putting up the P6 concert and participating in our 150th anniversary concert.

All it came down to was 3 numbers at the end of my primary school endeavours.

I was placed in Express stream in St. Margaret’s Secondary School. Went to Nanyang Polytechnic to get my business diploma. Went to Curtin University and obtained my business degree with distinction. Then completed my education with a law degree from NUS. And finally, got called to the Singapore Bar.

I managed to achieve my dream of becoming a lawyer with sheer determination and my family’s support.

I am married to a wonderful man, and we have 3 beautiful children.

Standing where I am now, I really feel for the kids who are considered “low PSLE scorers” and labeled as such. I feel their own disappointment at their results, and even worse, their parents’ disappointment at their results.

As a kid, the worst thing to me was to disappoint my parents. (I actually don’t remember my parents saying anything, they probably felt sad with me. But I remember my grandmother’s disappointment.)

 

Why do we need to place kids in boxes and categorise them as “high achievers” and “low achievers” at such a young age?

Isn’t it more important to ignite curiosity in a child and to let him/her discover who they are and what they are good at? Isn’t it more important to equip children with the right tools to survive and thrive, which includes a strong sense of self-worth and self-confidence? Isn’t it more important to let the child know that he/she is loved completely whether they do well or badly in school?

Instead of crushing their confidence and dreams so early on and allowing them to think they are not as smart or as good as someone who did better than them when that is complete and utter bullshit.

My children are all under 5 years old at the moment. And I am dreading putting them through the local primary school system because it might not develop all my children to their fullest potentials. They are all different. Some might thrive under this system, some might not.

Don’t get me wrong, as a type A personality, I am all for the spirit of competition and doing well and I encourage it.

But not at the expense of my kid’s self belief in his/her own abilities because I have learnt without self-belief and confidence, there is nothing.

*For my non-Singaporean friends, PSLE stands for “Primary School Leaving Examination”. It’s a huge exam which streams kids into different categories for Secondary School/High School at 12 years old. And their academic talents are nurtured accordingly from then on.

Supermamapreneur Sighting: Claire Chiang, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts Co-Founder

An original Supermamapreneur

When you meet Claire, you know right away that you’ve met a Woman of Substance.

And it’s not because of her many awards or that she is the better half of one of Singapore’s high profile power couples.

Claire possess what many people don’t: a fire-in-the-belly type of passion for what she believes in, a presence that will make you sit up and pay attention (you’ll know she has arrived when she walks into a room) and a contagious, fun energy – the kind of energy that only comes with being truly interested and wholehearted about what she is doing in and with her life.

Claire Chiang and Lise Chew

 

Google her and you’ll find countless articles on who she is and the things she has done.

Claire has been at the forefront of many things, like being the first woman on the Council of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry and helping AWARE set up their helpline.

She’s married. Has 3 kids. Was former Nominated Member of Parliament. Her World Magazine’s Woman Of The Year 1999. Amongst many other things. Business. She is by all counts an original Supermamapreneur.

One of her businesses is Banyan Tree Gallery, which retails art from indigenous artists and Asian botanical blends. The idea behind this business was to retail items to empower local communities and their trades. I thought this was an excellent idea, given their already established platform that is Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts.

I finally got to meet her at the Shirin Fozdar Programme Annual Lecture At The Frontlines of Change: Women Who Dared (By Dr. Noeleen Heyzer) last Friday. She invited all her mentees to this event and I must say it was thought provoking.

Claire speaks with conviction and it is clear she is an ambitious woman.

And when she pulled all 4 of her mentees in for a photograph with Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, she said to us, “You better be on stage in 15 years!” She’s even ambitious for us.

When I went up to her and introduced myself, she received me with a warmth and enthusiasm that I didn’t expect. And when I mentioned that my mother used to be her neighbour, and when she realised who it was, she started speaking to me in Hainanese like I was long lost family.

I am so very lucky to have her as my mentor and I’m looking forward to learning from her.

 

 

Girl Talk: Elim Chew, Singapore

Found of Iconic Streetwear Brand 77th Street and Serial Entrepreneur.

Recently, I had the chance to meet and interview Elim Chew, Founder of iconic streetwear brand 77th  Street and serial entrepreneur. She was a panelist at Galboss Asia and shared her insights on being an entrepreneur.

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Y’know having hung around the 77th Street stores in Far East Plaza as a teenager (uh-huh, I have the ear piercings to prove it), I’ve long heard hallowed whispers of her name. The boss of 77th Street is a lady, people would say. And her name is Elim Chew.

So when I finally got to meet her in person at Galboss Asia, it was a real treat. What struck me most about her was her easy manner and warm smile.

Here are 3 things she shared which stuck with me:

#1: People, People, People

It’s easy to start a business, but difficult to manage. As an entrepreneur, you need to be a good boss, then your heart and vision for the company can shine through. This is when your people will go all the way and guard and run your business for you. She has had staff who have been with her for 20 years.

#2: The Importance of Giving Back

Elim shared how she made her first $50,000 and then gave it all away to her church when it was raising funds to build churches in India because she felt it was the right thing to do. That money went into building 6 churches in India. A few years later, there was a terrible earthquake and those 6 churches were the only buildings that stood strong, so they were used as rescue centres.

This just goes to show you never know how far-reaching the consequences of your actions can be.

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#3 We Must Be Driven By Purpose

“Driven By Purpose” is actually the title of her book and  I couldn’t agree more with this statement.

The “how” of finding your purpose is the tricky part to me, but that’s another story for another time.

Watch her video for more of Elim Chew: Life after 77th Street, her new book and TV Channel and her biggest challenges in business.

Elim’s current businesses: 

Fast Fast Delivery (I tried it, it’s good and reasonably priced)

Goro-Goro: Korean Steamboat and Buffet

I’m Kim: Korean Barbecue

Kokomama: Korean Snow Ice (“Bingsu“)

 

 

Manic (Mentor) Monday

Claire Chiang, Co-Founder of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts

OMG.

I woke up to exciting news today!

Claire Chiang, Co-Founder of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts is going to be my Mentor!

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I recently became a member of the Young Women’s Leadership Connection (“YWLC“) because I wanted to be connected to a network of women who want to make a difference and who are about something.

YWLC is committed to connecting, nurturing, and empowering young women leaders between the ages of 21 and 35 with the aptitude and attitude to lead and serve. (If you’re 35 when you join, you’ll still be able to be a member until you’re 40).

Besides their many awesome events (I got to see Annie Leibovitz live because of them! Read my post here.), they run a yearly prestigious Mentorship Programme where their members get the chance to be mentored by power women in Singapore. For example, Senior Ministers of State like Indranee Rajah and Josephine Teo, Managing Director of UBS Wealth Management Singapore, Christine Ong, Managing Director of IBM Singapore, Janet Ang, and of course entrepreneurs like Claire Chiang, Senior Vice President of Banyan Tree Holdings. The Mentor list goes on.

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Picture Credit: Banyan Tree

The Importance of Mentors

I’m a firm believer that the right mentors are important to help you get to where you want to go. Mentors who have achieved what you want to achieve and who can save you from costly mistakes before you make them. In short, because of their experience, the right mentors provide valuable shortcuts to your success.

The Importance of Someone Like Claire Chiang

As an entrepreneur, I meet and hear about a lot of big businessmen who are really successful, and they have happy families also. But right away I can’t help but think – BIG DEAL, because these businessmen weren’t the ones raising their families. More often than not, it’s because they had a wife who didn’t need to work who was at home looking after everything there.

And in terms of balancing raising a business and a family from a woman’s point of view, what these businessmen could teach me was limited. I don’t have a wife at home to raise my family. I am the wife. And so is Claire Chiang. She has a husband, 3 kids and a super successful business so she’s really someone I want to emulate. She’s an original Supermamapreneur!

I can’t wait to start learning from her. I’m beyond thrilled! Can you tell?

On a side note, I told my mother about getting Claire Chiang as a Mentor and apparently my mother knows her. They used to be neighbours and Claire Chiang is Hainanese also (I’m half!) and my mother used to play on their piano before they got their own.

OMG. This. shit. just. got. serious.

Good Morning!

But, it hasn’t always been easy to wake up at 6am because, and I kid you not, my bed has magical powers that could lull any foul beast to sleep. That, and it’s not always easy to switch my brain on and shake the sleep off.

I haven’t always been a morning person.

In fact, I used to do my best work after 11pm, to like 2 or 3am because there’s nobody to bother me.

It’s quiet and the kids are asleep.

But it doesn’t make for good waking up habits and because of that my day would be thrown into disarray. I’m grumpy because I haven’t slept enough, and because of that I have less patience with everyone, and it just becomes a struggle to start the day.

I’ve also noticed that when I sleep late and wake up any time after 8.30am, I feel all groggy and underpowered, for the lack of a better word. And it takes me more time to recover from the late night and waking up later, which means time in the day is completely wasted.

So for the sake of the bigger picture, I decided to start my day early and go to bed at a reasonable hour. (I noticed that when I start at 6am, by 11pm I’m knocked out anyway.)

But, it hasn’t always been easy to wake up at 6am because, and I kid you not, my bed has magical powers that could lull any foul beast to sleep. That, and it’s not always easy to switch my brain on and shake the sleep off.

So after much experimentation, I’ve realised the only thing that helps is to do something I like right away to distract myself from going back to sleep. E.g. scrolling through Flipboard for interesting reads, or checking to see how many orders we got while I was sleeping to see if we hit our target, etc.

For some reason, after my brain moves into gear it’s a lot easier to get going to become Master & Commander of my day. As opposed to getting my ass kicked by it.

So I’ve slain this beast, it’s time for the next one.

Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn