Speech by Mr Jeffrey Seah

MONDAY, 20 MAY 2013, 2.00PM (SESSION 8)


Mr. Tan Choon Shian,
Principal of Singapore Polytechnic

Mr. Tan Yew Meng,
Director of the School of Communication, Art & Social Sciences

To the graduating cohort of the School of Communication, Art & Social Sciences,


  1. Good afternoon, graduating class of 2013.

  2. My name is Jeff.  I oversee the multi-national media and digital agency brands of VivaKi across South East Asia, a holding entity for Publicis Groupe, the third-largest communications group in the world. 

  3. Today, I hope to share some of my thoughts as you look to a new journey outside the gates of Singapore Polytechnic.

  4. When Mr. Tan Yew Meng invited me to speak at this graduation ceremony, I accepted readily, but I had some hesitation after. 

  5. It had dawned upon me, the realization that the wisdom espoused in the 4,000 plus graduation speeches on YouTube is readily available to each and every one of you. 

  6. So in the next 12 minutes, I will share with you my personal journey, the one I took since I left the comforts of my last school 20 plus years ago.

  7. I was given some life-forming advice in the early part of my career which had benefitted my development and growth.

  8. And being an old timer, they are neither on YouTube nor Facebook, so I will share them with you here and now. And you decide if you want to re-tweet them.

One. Make Three New Mistakes Every Day

  1. As you move into the next stage of your lives, you will be judged, valued and benchmarked each day, by your peers, your colleagues, your bosses and all who interact with you, even in N.S.

  2. Because you have the notch of a Diploma on your CV.

  3. In our highly transparent and connected global society, achievements drive success, and they both define you and the persona that you will build.

  4. The concept of Natural Selection, as proposed by Charles Darwin, is the inspiration for this piece of advice.

  5. Learning and adapting fast are key components of evolution.

  6. As you embark on your personal evolution, to survive as the fittest in today’s world, you must do more than just outsmarting and outdoing your peers in work situations.

  7. The fittest are the ones who are most adaptable, and the ones who make changes fastest.

  8. Make your mistakes early, make new mistakes.  Whether in decision making, in management of people, or even in decorum.

  9. You should rather try and fail at something, than not try anything at all.

  10. If someone tells you something cannot be done, do not let go of your ideals.

  11. You have the excuse of youth and inexperience to be forgiven. By others, and importantly, by yourself.

  12. You will develop openness and self-awareness, sharpen your communication skills in duress, and forge a foundation of humility in the journey of lifelong learning.

  13. The journey you take will determine the destination you reach.

Two. Make Friends, Not Networks

  1. To get to where you’d want to be, you will most likely not be able to do it on your own. You will need people around you.

  2. In today’s world of connected society, networking and contacts can make, and break, the cadence in your life.

  3. But before you go out and add a thousand names on LinkedIn, I would say - make friends first, not networks.

  4. The networks will come thereafter.

  5. Look around you, sitting beside you could be the next hotshot creative director, the next board member of a MNC or NGO, or the next Mark Zuckerberg – imagine being the friend of the next Zuckerberg.

  6. Your family too will form part of that valuable network as you learn to integrate your personal and your professional lives. Your family network will also be a constant source of support and new connections.

  7. Through cultivating and building friendships and relationships with the people around you and the people you meet, you will raise the importance of relationships and what matters and what people value.

  8. Learn to classify your friends, family and contacts mentally. So that you will know in various times, scenarios or circumstances, who you can seek out for help, and conversely, when they are in need of help from you, you can help them in a timely fashion.

  9. When people can see that you value their time, and that you care for what they do, sound relationships will form, and your reputation and integrity will go further than you think.

  10. Thereafter, networks will come naturally, as you will be someone whom people want to know or conduct business with. 

  11. The journey you take is determined by the friends you make, powered by the networks of your friends.

Three. Be Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations

  1. Look beyond where you are now.

  2. Actively push yourself into situations where your senses are raised. Ask yourself hard questions.

  3. Your initial discomfort will be replaced by a sense of self-discovery. 

  4. You will adapt to change as you release yourself into environments that are new.

  5. Change is never easy and looking ahead is always tougher than staying where you are in your comfort zone.

  6. History is littered with famous stories and legends of people and organizations that stayed as they are, and resisted change.

  7. So I will share a catchphrase with you, one from the company I work for - Futureproofing.

  8. Futureproofing is a phrase and a process. A process of trying to anticipate future developments, so that action can be taken to minimize possible negative consequences, and to importantly, seize new opportunities.

  9. To futureproof is to live a life of continuous learning. Your graduation ceremony is not the be-all and end-all your learning years.

  10. The journey you take is determined by the questions you ask.  You want to be better than what you were yesterday.

  11. So, these are the THREE lessons from my journey to share with you.

Finally, Take Stock & Give Back

  1. As you leave Singapore Polytechnic and the comforts of CASS to embark on your next adventure, you will find yourself caught up in the hustle of competition and the stress of the big, wide world.

  2. Remember to take stock regularly to keep yourself balanced.

  3. You are now going into a world where there are no longer any constraints; you have to develop a mental discipline of review.

  4. Your velocity of growth is determined by you, the acceleration of growth will be determined by external factors. 

  5. In parallel, you will have an unconditional and irreversible impact on those around you.

  6. Remember to impact them positively.

  7. Giving back and helping others will keep you grounded.

  8. So congratulations. Today marks the start of a brand new journey for you.

  9. Make it count, and have a wonderful life ahead.

  10. Thank you.
Back to Speeches