Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Speech at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Book Prize Ceremony on 12th November 2013

What prompted you to take on this road (Of Social Entrepreneurship) very early in your career although you were trained to be accountant?

Like many social entrepreneurs, the reason why I started Envisage was a very personal one. Prior to starting Envisage, I was already heavily involved in social entrepreneurial projects through Enactus (Or formerly known as SIFE) for over 6 years. Discovering that I have the talent and ability to change people’s lives through the positive power of business in a much more sustainable way, truly inspired me to expand the possibilities of my own potential to be an individual of influence.

Nonetheless, it did not take me long before I realized that trying to change a world by my lonely self, was indeed too lofty a goal. I am but a man, with limitations no matter my past accomplisments. It was then that I thought to myself, “Why not attempt to motivate others to do the same? Was the responsibility of making a difference a job of my own?”

As such, I soon decided to shift myself away from being the person who does everything, and to instead learn to motivate others to be involved and empowered to effect positive change! The famous “fishing analogy” is rather fitting in this context and that’s what I am trying to achieve. If everyone strives to do something positive for their society, no matter how small the scale, we can all live in a better one.

Defining Success

Success, does this mean obtaining vast sums of wealth? Does it mean leaving behind a legacy? Or gaining the best academic results and achievements for one’s own personal prestige? Perhaps it is the tingling feeling one gets when he or she helps someone in whatever shape or form? The list goes on and that’s the wonderful thing.

Success can manifest itself in a myriad of shapes and forms. I have come to realize that the definition of “success” comes down to relativity and what one’s personal dreams and aspirations are.
If you haven’t put together a mental picture of how you endeavour your life to be, it is paramount that you take a step back and do some serious soul searching. You do not want to end up with a death-bed regret of living in someone else’s dream instead of yours.

Do not force yourself to live in other people’s measure of success. Instead decide for yourself, “What motivates you? What makes you tick? What makes you happy and satisfied?” For whatever you decide, someone will surely disagree with you. But have the confidence to realize that “It’s ok!” to think for yourself.

It can often be mistaken to assume that the CEO of a MNC has achieved more “success” over a worker at a barista or has done better than a social entrepreneur (wink wink). However, it would probably be a surprise to you that he might be much less satisfied than the common man. I have met many high achievers in life who quickly realize that after all the wealth they have accumulated; they have learnt a few lessons about themselves:

1. It was never about the wealth, as it will never “Be enough”
2. It was always about what they were truly passionate about that drove them to do soooo well it what they have set out to accomplish!

Many of you here are high achievers too, well, at least academically. I applaud you for that, and there is no shame to give yourself a pat on your back for what you have accomplished. But one must remember to not stick his or her head in the clouds for too long. There are those that you have relied on for you to get this far. Your parents, your lecturers, your friends and probably many others. It is through their fervent support that you have achieved so much, for no man is an island. Hence, do remember that when you get the chance, go to those who have helped you and Thank them for what they have done for you! Nonetheless, remember this life-long lesson that only after I’ve experienced countless set-backs to realize, “Being humble is not about making yourself lesser as an individual, but making things less about you.”

The Courage to Do it!

On the note of accomplishments. An extremely memorable advice given to me by my mentor, Jack Wang, an extremely successful entrepreneur, was this…. “Stanley, due to your courage to defy the impossible, you will soon realize that the entire universe will come together to conspire in helping you succeed.”
Back then when he first said this, my immediate reaction was “Why?!”

His answer was simple. “Just experience it and get back to me when you have found the answer.”

Remarkably, the answer quickly emerged within the first few months of my endeavours. It is in the midst of all the drama…

1. Attempting to reach out to 3 thousand youths in Singapore towards effecting social change over the last 3 years
2. Being selected to represent the youth voices in the Our Singapore Conversations
3. Nominated to represent Singapore in the 7th UNESCO youth forum in 2011

That I came to realize that despite my own constant feeling of inadequacy standing shoulder to shoulder with illustrious youth leaders from all over the world, or discussing national issues with ministers, did I discover that it was the mere “courage” to take on increasingly seemingly insurmountable challenges which allowed me to keep growing from both my failures and successes.

It was the courage to envision what our society should look like, and the greater courage to pursue that vision, as well as the radical enthusiasm I have in imparting my vision to others that I have managed to inspire many others to follow and serve the community in the way which I’ve attempted to.

So I come with this message, to ask you to keep the courage in your hearts alight.

Dare to dream big and have the guts to do what you have the passion and desire for.

As Plato once said “Courage is knowing what not to fear”. Fear not the possibilities of failing, instead focus on what you can achieve!