How many of us grew up believing the Singapore success story: that by ac-ing our grades in school, getting into a local University, followed by corporate employment is a form of success. You’re then supposed to fall in love and get married, upgrade to a condominium, one of the five Singapore Cs in a couple of years and live happily ever after. That’s the model Singaporean son success story… just that life rarely pans out this way.
Is Being the Model Singaporean Son Story a True Success Story?
The model Singaporean son goes to school, follows the system, get good grades and qualifies for a good corporate job. He gets good at gaming the system. He never questions the curriculum, the way it’s taught, the value of the curriculum. I wasn’t Einstein, however, I was a thinker. I never liked the way the Singaporean education system from the way it’s being taught: namely rote learning. I hated memorizing. In fact, I hated gaming the system. I prefer learning things because it was fun and interesting.
I realized that I’m not your typical Singaporean son.
I’ve been fortunate to live a varied life. I’ve been to multiple cultures and countries, more than the majority of my peers ever did in their 26 years of life. Of course, I pushed myself and did many of ventures solo. It got me reflecting about the metrics of success of a typical Singaporean son.
Interestingly, a lot of my clients have similar stories, they graduate from a local University, got a corporate nine to five, wake up one day, shit hits the fan and life hits them. They seem to have once believed and lived the typical Singaporean success story.
This taught me that adversity may not be entirely a negative thing. I experienced bankruptcy and my parents almost got divorced. I think those events single-handedly shaped my views on authority, the ‘system’ and our metrics of success.
Those events hurt and helped me. I wasn’t easily shaken by failure, despite my failing academic grades from junior college up to University, I never allowed myself to be defined by that. Many of my peers that get broken after a single life event. I had an uncanny, never die, never quit, fuck you I’ll do it myself attitude.
I singled handledly started my business as a dating coach, everything you read on this site is handwritten by me, from how to pick girls in Singapore guides to Facebook advertising campaigns. I also coach all my clients by myself and handle everything from invoices to email marketing.
The Nice Guy Problem
Since this is a dating advice blog if you haven’t noticed by now. I’ll argue the mirage of the typical Singaporean success story from a relationship perspective. The typical Singaporean son is brought up to measure his success on the approval of society and others. You can argue that the typical Singaporean son is always pleasing of societal and parental expectations.
This leads to the Mr Nice Guy problem.
If you haven’t heard by now, nice guys finish last and… unfortunately that’s true.
The Singaporean society is engineered in a way to bring up Nice Guys. You should never authority and just follow the system. Look, I’m not arguing a system that worked for the last half a century. That system worked 50 years ago when there’s a need to be law and order for Singapore to make significant economic gains. However, I’ll argue that the old way continues, you’re going to end up in a fragile society.
Let’s take a look at Nassim Taleb’s argument on the different modes of living and learning:
If you don’t have hopes of running for the future Prime Minister of Singapore, you minimally can rest assured that Nice Guys definitely fall in the fragile category, and that’s a problem. Nice guys don’t get anywhere in their career or dating life. If you’re always people pleasing and rules following, you’ll never be a leader. You’ll never have any impact on anyone.
Secondly, if surgeons don’t look like surgeons (quoting Taleb), then nice guys aren’t really nice guys. Nice guys are forced to be nice on the surface for social approval. Nice guys believe that by not being outspoken or blunt is a form of politeness or niceness. However, their behaviour often speaks otherwise. They don’t wear their heart on their sleeves and don’t express their real intentions. That’s manipulative behaviour at best.
Dr Robert Glover a psychologist argues that the making of a Nice Guy is rooted in family and upbringing. You can observe this pattern in relationship dysfunctions within families. There are families where everything seems nice and perfect on the outside, however, broken and dysfunctional on the inside. In many cases, no one is allowed to disrupt this false sense of peace for the sake of Asian values such as harmony.
In this case, they’ve gotten the entire idea of values totally wrong. A false sense of harmony isn’t harmony. Those aren’t values.
Scars are Not Only Sexy, But They are also an Honest Signal
Nassim Taleb argued that scars are honest signals. This means that taking risks and failure are actual honest signals of competence. In Singapore, this is dependent on who you’re talking to. There’s a handful of Singaporeans that desire everything to be paper perfect: from parental, employment and relationship expectations. This is why I think Singapore is still pretty much a traditionally Asian collectivistic culture.
It doesn’t matter if you quit your degree to pursue something you’re actually interested in, society doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter if you can perform in your job, you’re filtered out by your academic performance. It doesn’t matter if you’re a starving artist or entrepreneur, your parents and girlfriend don’t want to hear that. She wants to hear that you’re a swanky banker that she can show off to her friends.
I know I know, I’m generalizing. However, you get my point.
If you consider yourself a typical Singaporean son, a typical Singaporean success story, then I have some bad news for you. You’re a great catch on paper, however, if you haven’t noticed by now relationships aren’t built on a resume. This is why dating agencies are a poor solution to someone’s long-term dating woes.
Secondly, I’ll advise you to actually take a year off and pursue the things you actually desire to pursue. Take some risks and put yourself on the line.
Should You Pursue Your Passion as a Singaporean Son?
Should you follow your passion in the Singaporean culture? I prided myself for years as a man of practicality. However, for the sake of innovation, I’ll say Yes. Especially so in a traditionally conservative Singaporean culture. I personally believe it’s the rare few that go forth with creative ideas in spite of society’s pressure are the ones that actually contribute to the advancement of society at large.
I left my accounting degree to lengthen my days as an undergraduate. This way I’m officially unemployable and am damned forced to succeed as an entrepreneur. You can label me as a risk taker. However, in my perspective, I’m merely attempting to contributing bigger than myself. It may or may not pay off on the long. This is soul in the game. However, I can safely say I had the courage to attempt making a mark in history, and I prefer it that way.
It took me years to accept that I am not built to be that finance guy. I used to pride myself on rigid practicality. However, I found going back to entrepreneurship and enjoyed reading philosophy/psychology books. Hey, I’m not that practical after all. I’m not your model Singaporean son. I’m not your model Singaporean success story. That’s okay, I know of many others that aren’t as well.
If you feeling lost or dis illusioned on the typical Singaporean success story, you’re more than welcome to apply to one of my life coaching programs. I promise you no B.S. politically incorrect advice that may change your life.
Finally, let’s leave the Singaporean cultural narratives as that and see the world for what it actually is.
You do have a freedom of choice, a responsibility and ability to paint a future in whatever ways you desire. If you really think about it, the cost of not finding out is far heavier than not trying at all. There’s no reason not to risk something.
The only lost here is not living up to the model Singaporean son success story, which is unsexy and boring anyway.