Measures of Success

A friend of mine, who happens to be the same age as I am, mentioned that most of her compatriots who graduated alongside her have reached some manner of success while she was still struggling on her own. This got me thinking about my own situation. I would have to agree with her on one part that is – I am still trying to find my way to success and that it is a long way away.

However, it got another part of me thinking about what I have already achieved in the last 30 years – the unique experiences that I have gained and the lives that I have touched along the way. If I ever say that I am a failure, that would be a lie. There are plenty of people out there who would be happy to trade places with me (although it could just be a case of the grass is greener…). However, to say that I am satisfied with what I already have today, would also be a lie.

I think that I would have to frame the situation this way. Many people would probably consider me a success and some people would consider me on the way to greater success. However, I consider myself an abject failure and there are reasons for this – because I have never achieved anything of significance nor hit any of my targets in life. Never. Not once. This could be a symptom of a larger problem.

Honestly, I am not trying to gloat.

One of the targets that I set myself when I was 15 was to be a millionaire by the time I was 21. Obviously that has not come true. However, in the pursuit of that target, I released my first commercial software product at the age of 17, which ended up being shown at the ministry level in front of the DGs and used by a government school for a while. I learned a lot of important life and business lessons through that one single experience which lasted several years of my life of trying to push a commercial product into market single-handedly.

In school, I have never ever been able to hit the results that I aimed for and have regularly failed to impress anyone. In fact, I can still remember the expression I got from my teachers when I went to collect my SPM results – it was as if I had let down the entire school. However, in pursuit of education excellence, I earned my way to a PhD at one of the top universities in the world. Working through blood, sweat and tears, taught me a lot of important lessons on strength and tenacity.

Maybe, just maybe this is the reason why I still have the drive to risk my dreams wherever they may take me. I still need to prove to myself that I can do it.

Or maybe, as another friend of mine put it – I just need to be happy.

PS: This tune randomly entered my head and got stuck there.

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Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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