teaching

I Had An Epiphany. But It Was So Counter-Culture, I Initially Kept It To Myself.

Some months ago, after some conversations I had, I had an epiphany.

It could explain, at least in part, some of the nagging doubts I’ve been having throughout this year.

This is what I realised about myself, and I wrote it down in these words:

I DON'T want to touch as many lives as possible.

Before you frown any deeper, there is a second part:

I want to deeply impact a very few.

Splash

For so many years, I keep hearing advice about increasing my reach so I can impact as many lives as possible.

For example, I hear of music stars who record a single song and, because it reaches so many of their fans so quickly through so many channels, they earn a tidy income from the exposure. Their fans convert the people around them into more fans, advertisers can’t wait to sign them up for endorsement deals, and they get invited to exclusive events and perform on ever-larger stages.

It’s all about gaining leverage and using it to get yourself out of exchanging time for money. In the music star’s case, the recording of the song required spending time once. After that, it constantly ‘works for’ the star.

music

It sounded logical. And it was.

And I kept hearing this, especially from well-meaning fellow educators and trainers, especially those I knew from networking events and meetups.

Yet, there was always something about it that didn’t sit quite right with me. I didn’t know what it was, until recently.

It was the ‘volume’ of people that I was being told I had to reach that was bothering me. But why? What could have brought this on?

As I dug a little deeper, I was reminded of the times when I just started being a trainer and got affected by less-than-stellar feedback. Though these incidents didn’t happen often, every time they did, I felt bad.

Eventually, I learned to remove my focus on the negative feedback because they were the tiny minority. Most of my feedback was good. Some were great!

Good Feedback

Why should I have to feel low if I had already tried multiple times to engage the student who ended up deciding that he/she didn’t want to be there in the first place and was adamant about keeping a bad attitude about it?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on those who were eager to learn and apply themselves?

And these were the memories that made me realise that I had known all along that what I wanted to do was to focus - very sharply - on the very few upon whom I know I can have the greatest impact because we were compatible and we found each other at the right place at the right time. Sounds almost like a love story, doesn’t it?

Neon Laser

I was then reminded of three students that I taught. Two of them went on to pursue education paths in the subject matter that I taught them, one locally and one overseas. In recent conversation, they expressed their gratitude for my being part of their decisions to learn more.

Another one became my colleague - a fellow trainer - teaching the same types of courses that I do even today.

Out of the thousands of students I’ve had, of whom I still keep in touch with a few, these were three that pointedly remind me about why I do what I do.

This is what I want to keep doing - to find the very few for whom I can deliver the deepest impact and help them effect the greatest change.

Doubtlessly, it will entail a certain amount of ‘outreach’, but this recent realisation has sharpened my focus and it will feature strongly in my goals for the upcoming year.

2019 Begins

Nature Nurtured - Listening to Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai

On Monday night, at the SG100 Foundation Meeting, our speaker was Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai, a lifelong naturalist and a wildlife consultant. Honestly, I can think of very few professions cooler than that.

When he took the platform, I could feel the passion behind his words as he told us about his humble beginnings and the immense work he had done to push for the conversation of what we now know as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, amongst other little-known but no-less-massive efforts to preserve Singapore's wildlife and its habitats.

He highlighted some of his favourite animals and showed us that Singapore, despite being a tiny country, has some of the richest biodiversity in the world due both to our geographical location (close to the equator) and the age of our rainforests (older than even the majestic Amazon).

When he came to the topic of rapid development and urbanisation of Singapore, he emphasised that he saw this as a necessary part of Singapore's growth, though he was firm in his belief that it needs to be done in a responsible manner and with respect to the natural environment.

To this day, he works in his favourite classroom - The Great Outdoors - both as a teacher and as a student. He gives guided tours, conducts nature programmes, and does field surveys alongside other researchers and nature enthusiasts.

Mr. Subaraj is a man I highly respect. He lives his life in the pursuit of learning and passing on what he has learned, and he encourages others to do the same.

He reminds us that we cannot live apart from our natural environment, that if we care for nature, nature takes care of us.

Thank you for sharing your life and your passion, Mr. Subaraj. Through your words, I am inspired.

Mr Subaraj

Advice on Becoming a Public Speaker from Dr. Andrew Goh

A little over a week ago, I had an opportunity to speak to Dr. Andrew Goh. 

I told him,

"Dr. Andrew, you may not remember me. A few years ago, I asked you for advice on becoming a public speaker. Today, I am well on my way. Thank you for your advice."

I then gave him two copies of The Introvert Teacher, one addressed to him and the other to pass on to anyone he wants.

This was the advice he gave to me. The elaboration is my own:

1) Volunteer to Speak and Practise

At the start, the only way to get known and gain recognition is to speak whenever you have an opportunity.

Also, you are going to need the practice and volunteering yourself will help you to figure out your niche topic, which brings us to...

2) Have a Specific Topic

It's all too easy to take on any and all projects that come your way. 

However, being a generalist can be confusing, especially for those who are looking for speakers on a particular subject. It also makes you less memorable to those who have already heard you if you tell them that you can do 'any topic you need'.

People look to experts. Establish yourself as one.

3) Once Established, Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Speaking Fees

At some point, you are going to have to be paid if you intend to embark on speaking as a career.

This can and does happen organically but the surest way is to ask.

Start by getting the organisers to cover your travel expenses, even if it's just a taxi ride.

From there, as you gain confidence, ask for more. Be reasonable. You probably shouldn't ask for 10 thousand dollars per hour if you only started speaking 2 months ago (unless you're already some sort of celebrity) but, hey! If you get it, that'd be quite an achievement.

Still, be firm in your requests. If you give in too easily, you are only shortchanging yourself.

Thank you, Dr. Andrew, for being a teacher I look up to and for taking the time to advise me.

With Dr. Andrew Goh

To My Pioneer Group of Students from Chung Cheng High (Main)

A decade has passed since first we were introduced in a smallish but, thankfully, air-conditioned room on the 2nd floor of the new(er) study block in CCHMS.

You were new to life in Secondary School and I was new to the world of training.

A number of you knew (or came to know later) that Chung Cheng High (Main) was my Secondary School. As such, I was elated to have been offered an opportunity to give something back to my alma mater. I am glad that you were the ones I could render this service to.

There were times of boring instruction, times of necessary discipline and times of intense focus. Above all, there were times of fun and sessions of learning.

Though some of you have professed to me in recent years that you had forgotten almost everything I had taught you in the DNA Hub, there were also moments that you remembered. I hope that they will always have a place in your memory.

In the past weeks, many of you have graduated from University - my heartiest Congratulations to you! - and had arranged for photoshoots in your now-alma mater. Clearly, CCHMS is dear to you. I hope that she will always be, as she is to me.

We no longer share a teacher-student relationship and I will not be presumptuous enough to assume that we are now friends, though I have at least one colleague amongst you and fairly regular correspondence with others. For that, I am thankful.

Wherever life takes you from this moment on, know that you can always count on your family and friends to support you. Though there will be down times, never feel embarrassed to reach out for help. And, of course, when times are good, share your joys with others.

To reach your goals, be resilient and always remember that a situation may fail, but that does not make you a failure. Look up and carry on. That is how success is made.

If you are able to, find a mentor, perhaps even different ones for different aspects of your life. It is true that information is readily available at your fingertips today. Nevertheless, it can never substitute real-life experience that your mentor(s) can bring.

You may not know it, but I learned from you, perhaps more than I ever taught you in return. In that vein, realise that you are an influence to the people around you and that you have an impact on them. Strive to be a positive one.

I wish you the brightest of futures, the richest of experiences and the deepest of relationships. May you discover your path early, may you find favour with those with whom you interact and may your future endeavours leave a legacy that will swell your heart when you look back upon what you've accomplished.

Here's to your journey ahead and the many adventures you will embark upon! Oh, what adventures they will be.

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