SPEECH BY JOSEPH CHUA
LEO BURNETT - SINGAPORE
AT THE SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC CONVENTION CENTRE
WEDNESDAY, 25 MAY 2011 (Session 6)
t is truly an honour for me to be here with you today. I must thank your Principal – Mr Tan Hang Cheong and the Director of CASS – Mrs Lam Yoke Peng for their bravery in handing a microphone to an advertising person and say, “Talk about whatever you want, for as long as you want.”
- Many of my teachers that I ever had in primary school, secondary school or Polytechnic would've believed that there was even the slightest chance that one day I would be asked to give this speech to all of you at this fantastic polytechnic.
- Many, given the opportunity, would've bet large sums of money against it, putting up their homes, children and CPF as collateral. And I'm very grateful that I never wasted any time trying to become somebody else's image of what I should be.
- So let me begin. This is finally the end of your academic journey in this lovely institution, a significant day for each and every-one of the graduating class of 2011. I am realistic that the average time-span according to TIME Magazines of young adult these days is a speech not more then 15 minutes and you have my assurance that I will keep this speech short, crisp and sweet.
- This is one of the only days in your life, in which you will spend the day surrounded by so many highly intelligent people, people who are such independent thinkers, most certainly not if you come to work in Advertising.
- The good news is that everywhere you go, there will be at least one very bright person—and that’ll be you. I know that’s putting some major responsibility on your shoulders. But I believe you’re all up to the challenge.
- Graduating Class of 2011, you are the fortunate ones. You were born with brains and natural ability. You have the capacity and drive to excel. You live in a time where this country is gearing up towards the 4G leadership, where your voices are being heard and acted upon. Empowered to create change by a single touch of a button. You will be the generation. Most importantly, You are graduating from one of the world’s best Polytechnic.
- You are fortunate, because the future lies wide open before you. Granted, you’re inheriting a pretty screwed up world.
- For many of you, this is the end of a journey, many of you will move on to higher education, join the work force, partake your national service. It does seem that you have moved on to the next phase of a life which society has planned out for you.
- Studying in Singapore is a privilege. We are lucky enough to be part of an education system which is ranked top 3 by any standards in the world. The quality of examinations and rigour of the system ensures the finest calibre of individuals. Education in Singapore, is fairly linear in nature, we go to a PAP kinder-garden, our parents line up senselessly outside a fantastic primary school (Or they buy property which is near to one). We slog through the numerous CCAs and tuitions to eventually reach PSLE, followed by the O Levels. The Education industry in Singapore is worth at least SGD 100 Million dollars, and that includes all the tuition centres, assessment books and Adam Khoo’s life lessons.
- There is always a guide to ensuring success in any subject, exam and module. The teachers taught the right methods to us, 10 years series gave us the right answers, Wikipedia and the Internet gave us a right solution. If we had a question, the right answer was in reach.
- The right answers led us to academic success. Measured by the A’s, the scores and the GPA.
- Congratulations, graduating class of 2011 for some of you who are going on to university, GOOD LUCK! because the next lap will be filled with another round of exams and grades.
- But for those blessed individuals who will be joining the work-force. Success is no longer determined by a score on a piece of paper.
- Some people will quote the 5Cs as the hall-mark of success, I, however believe that true success in life is revealing your true potential and enjoying what you are doing. Success in life = Your Happiness in Life. You determine how hard and how much you want to push yourself to achieve anything. Success is determined by you.
- There is no guidebook or 10 years series that can give you an right answer on how to be successful in life. There is no right answer or path to being successful.
Just for starters, I will give you my four rules on a successful living to think about, many of you will quickly forget, but years from now when it comes in handy and you have forgotten, well… that’s your problem.
- Rule #1. Don't think about your future, especially right now.
- You'll miss my speech. There will be plenty of time to contemplate your future right after the ceremony, but then you'll miss all the celebrating and partying. So just wait until you get home, lie on your bed and have a good think about something that will happen in the future that will make you happy.
During my years in Singapore Polytechnic, I spent a lot of time thinking about how cool it would be to be a lawyer. I joined the debate club, read a mountain of books, researched on university options and started to apply for various placements in Universities all around the world. A few months later, it happened. I got a placement in University Sydney, provided I take an entry examination. I was over-joyed, I told everyone that I was going to be a lawyer one day. And then I failed the entry examination. Boy, was I a loser. Eventually I got over the embarrassment, but I never got those years back — years I spent waiting for some future event to make me happy. I had tricked myself into thinking, "As soon as I become a lawyer, I'll be OK."
- I work in the advertising business where almost everyone is waiting for the next big thing. Sometimes it comes, and sometimes it doesn't. But it doesn't matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping.
- So get out there and go for it, but don't be caught waiting. It's great to plan for your future. Just don't live there, because really nothing ever happens in the future. Whatever happens will happens now, so live your life where the action is — now, today, the status quo.
- And one more thing: If you're on the verge of accomplishing something, don't call your friends and tell them to congratulate you until after you've accomplished it.
- Rule #2: Don't do anything that 30 years from now you'll look back at and say, "Oh, my God, why the hell did I do that?!"
- I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone start a sentence with, "If only, when I was younger, I would have...." So I did a little informal survey for you, and I found out that, amazingly, all these people had the same regret. When they graduated from polytechnic, sadly, they started buying a car, or loading up their credit card bills on expensive holidays.
- This probably needs a little explanation. Right at this moment in your life, you are in a unique position that you may never ever be in again. You have nothing to lose. Everything you have acquired of worth is stored inside you. If you have a dream, now is the time to pursue it, before you start facing the mortgages and instalments.
- I was one of the lucky ones. I graduated from the Singapore Polytechnic, had no university placement. It meant I had to start from scratch and figure out where I fit in. I didn't come from a family with loads of money, but I could afford to fail, and there were many failures. But I found out what I was good at. I found something I loved - Advertising. And money then becomes a by-product.
- Remember, you have nothing to lose.
- Rule #3: The Story of Clementi Ave 2.
- When I was in national service, I was a medic and as part of that assignment, we were attached for 2 weeks in the fire-station as part of the ambulance division. It was a Saturday morning at around 11am, when we got a call to rush down to Clementi Ave 2 to assist on a traffic accident scene.
- After 3 mins, we were there. A motorcyclist had knocked into an Ah-Ma crossing the road and she lay in the middle of the road. My buddy the paramedic quickly rushed over to the Ah-Ma and started to perform the routine examinations on the Ah-ma. I was trying my best to assemble the stretcher to quickly whisk her off the heavily trafficked road. In the meanwhile, there was a large crowd gathering on the sides of the road watching and taking photos. When suddenly a Chinese uncle shouted, “Check what in the middle of the road! Quickly ta-pao her over to the side of the road and then you can continue check check.”
- Credit to my buddy, he quickly scooped up the old lady and lifted her on-to the grass patch on the side of the road.
- There are two morals to this story. One, never assume that just because it's someone's job, they know how to do it. And two, don't let yourself be intimidated by professionals or their uniforms.
- My family members are all either teachers or bankers, no one knew anyone in the advertising business. I never even knew anyone who knew anyone in the advertising business. That world of advertising had a mystique that made it seem unattainable to me. But, like the chinese uncle, I sat on my desk as an intern and I watched someone else do it, and I said, "I have a better idea." And like the uncle, I seized the moment.
- If you have a better idea, if your plan makes more sense, if you have a vision, then put don’t be shy and make a little noise. Tap your EZ-link card and join in the fight and never let professionals or their uniforms prevent you from telling anyone how to make a situation better and the world a better place.
Rule #4: If you're going to fail, fail big. If you don't, you're never going to make a difference. Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. For many of you, the biggest obstacle to getting there will be a fear— the fear of humiliation, of embarrassment, of ridicule, you have to stop caring about that, which brings me to Kurt's law.
- Kurt is the first boss I had in advertising, a highly successful individual, sharp, smart. As my first assignment, he let me work on a retail account in Singapore. Within 4 months of me working on the account, we lost it, major lost for the company. It was a colossal failure by any standards and I was deeply upset and depressed. So here I was meeting him on Monday morning poured out my heart to him, explaining the pain of my humiliating misfortune.
- Well, Kurt only responded by smiling and saying, "Joe, the thing you have to remember nobody pays attention to your failures as much as you do. You are the only one who is obsessed with the importance of your own life. To everyone else, it's just a speed bump on the expressway, so just move on.
I found that advice very enlightening — that the only one who my big failure was truly big was me.
- So fail, knowing that it ignites your success later, fail wisely and enjoy failure to truly savour your success which soon follows.
- My 4 humble truths –
- Not thinking about your future, living in the NOW!
- You have nothing to lose
- Do not let anyone / anything tell you that’s the right way
- Fail miserably, because only you care and that’s how you will start to succeed.
- Congratulations Graduating Class of 2011! Welcome to the real World! You have finally graduated from Singapore Polytechnic!
- Thank you.