Of Leadership

It’s been more than a week since the end of camp and everyone must have talked about it til death yet I’ve been strangely quiet about the whole event. I’m not sure if I’m jaded, detached or for whatever else reason, somehow I just don’t feel the attachment to Xcalibur 08. Someone (I think it’s Isaac) once told me that the 2 camps that’d be most memorable to you will be the one you attended as a freshman and then as a group leader. True indeed, I remember fondly Yo-A-Ke and Chiarimento. Emerga of last year seems like a whiff of a dream, barely conjuring an imagery from my mind.

It’s not that the camp was bad; I am in fact very proud of my guys who broke new grounds, attempted novel ideas and more so for carrying them out well. I will also remember the new faces and names, especially those who came to help in the float sessions, though there’d always be people who wave at me once semester starts, only to get a puzzled look in return.

Over the past several months, I’ve questioned myself on numerous occasions the meaning of being a leader. Having no student leader experience before university and not much of a team to leader when I was the Comms Director, the appointment of Freshment Orientation Projects Director was possibly the first real foray for me in leadership. There were some expectations on my part when I first agreed to oversee the orientation activities but it never prepared me for the amount of work and actuality of it. There are some things I can’t fulfill and time I have to spend away from family and loved ones but this isn’t a new problem to me, is it? Although we’re only roughly half way through the projects, I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is no regrets for doing what I’m doing, as with everything else I’ve done in life, and I’m enjoying every bit of it.

Back to the topic of being a leader, there are times when I feel lonely as a leader; the solitary person in that position, one shared by none yet looked upon by everyone else. I’ve learnt that is doesn’t have to be that way, as I can always turn to the people I work with and the people I have around me. The more I make myself less alone, the more likely the team is able to come together as a family and less likely I’ve seen as the authoratative bad guy. The school sent us on the Dale Carnegie course and it’s all well and good; all of us can pick up any self-help book or read on the Internet to improve people skills and learn how to be a leader. We’re always told to lead by example, to motivate, to set visions, to solve problems, to achieve goals. Something I’ve learnt through the months that I realise isn’t said enough about leaders is the need to inspire people, to dispense confidence and to groom new leaders.

One problem faced every year is probably the seeking of new blood to take the reins of the Management Committee. One year isn’t a long time, neither is it too short for one to learn the ropes to take it to the next level. Have we trully been that busy handling projects and tasks that we couldn’t pass on our knowledge to some new folks, to show them the way? I think not. Are leaders then just selfish and paranoid that they’re unwilling to see someone else take their places, even though it’s inevitable? Even if someone else seats where they are today, the new guy should never outshine the old bird? If this is the way, maybe it’s time for a little change.

I’d like to think of a leader as being an illusion; here I am telling people to do what they already know to do, giving advice which should already be common sense, telling them they can do it when deep down somewhere they should never doubted themselves. Leaders are but humans and shouldn’t be worshipped on a pedestal; one day the follower too will step up and he will think to himself, “Hey, this isn’t that bad afterall.” More often than not, the first step is always the easiest, after that, you just hang on for the ride. Right now, I’m enjoying the ride, knowing that some day it might end but before it does, I hope I can inspire some to take it with me. That is why it never fails to bring a smile to my face when someone steps out of his comfort zone to do something he never thought he could or enjoy doing.

Database project

This was the most interesting project that I’ve worked on so far. Our topic was to do a movie catalog. Within 1 month, I’ve picked up html and php, with many thanks to my group mates and google. I’ve learnt a lot from this project, not just the coding part but a bit of life’s lessons as well.

Thinking back on the experience, it reminded me of a GEK module I took a sem back. We studied about group dynamics and how innovation may occur due to “creative abrasion”. In other words, it encourages people of different personality to work together as their differences may lead to something good. I would say, we were brought together under such circumstances. Before this module, I didn’t know most of them nor see them around school. I’ve said it a lot of times that this group was brought together “randomly” and yes, we more than survived the project.

{database proj} our webpage

Here’s a printscreen of it.

{database proj} project group mates

The group that made it possible. It’s the hardships we faced and the final sweet rewards that made what we did so satisfying and rewarding. (Not to forget the times we sneaked food in while coding.)

I can’t help but think that God put little barriers in the course of looking for my project mates to lead me to something better.

Thanks for everything and good luck for your exams! :)

Afterthoughts of camp

It seems like 4 days has gone by in a flash. Numerous new friendships were forged and existing ones strengthened. Through this camp, I’ve discovered more about myself, TTB and other seniors who also joined the camp.

Firstly, I’ve to thank JQ and Pauline for being there for the group and taking over my responsibilities when I hurt my foot. It tugged at my heartstrings that both of you took up the added responsibilities that were not required of the oga – bringing the group for treasure hunt and beach games.

My dear Subby who took me to the chiropracture and hospital. I am touched by the great lengths you took to get me there and bearing with my frustrations and moodiness from the injury.

If you’re wondering what happened, the group was playing a game such that everyone have to squeeze their feet into a small area of a mat and sing “twinkle twinkle little star”. In the midst of that, it became “London bridge is falling down” and someone stepped on my foot which caused a great big patch of blue black and a skin graze on the last toe.

I’m amused at what the doctor wrote about me

“Main complaints/History

left foot stepped on by another person this morning

now has bruising and pain over dorsum of foot

no other injury”

My prescription included a sachet of muscle relaxant aka sleeping pills.  :shock:

The dark past

Having talked about said classmate, I shall talk about something locked and tugged away in the deep recesses of my brain.

Making friends was not so sunny and rosy for me in the past too. (In primary school) I had 2 friends. Both of which I still keep in contact although I seldom talk to one nowadays. I used to blame it on my sucky classmates. ( Many didn’t make it to the affliated secondary school and those who did are snobbish elitist who label themselves “cool”. ) Perhaps I was at fault too as there has to be a reason for children to hate each other. Most likely, childish, stupid reasons.

What was most hurtful were the badmouthing and namecalling done right behind you (sometimes in front), inevitably ending up in “trash-bin” project groups and often alone during recess. It has a pretty bad 3 years. ( Yes! They were my classmates for the last 3 years of primary school!) Although I had 2 friends, they belonged to cliques. ( which hated me ) I guess they sympathised me then. (Or I’d like to think they saw something good in me ) Despite all that, I kept everything inside and not telling a single person of authority to help me with it.

Perhaps, a child psychologist would suspect that I have been damaged by those 3 years. I can’t deny that. Sometimes, when I walk along town or campus and see them walk past me in the opposite direction, I can’t help but feel bashful about how they still look at me with recognition and maybe they still remember the dark past. Nevertheless, there are a few who would initiate polite greetings. That experience shaped a great part of who I am today. I take on the mentality that there are 3 kinds of people: those whom you can’t get along with, acquaintances and sustainable friendship. Yes, three different kinds with three different attitudes to cope with them.

1) Those you can’t get along with: If anyone can get along with everyone, they probably have multiple personalities and are having an inner struggle with their identity. If from the start, the person shows it clearly that we belong to different groups, walk away. If interacting with anyone brings discomfort or the values they embrace is an offending contradiction to mine, avoid them or be truly nasty so they’ll leave me alone. Minus them away, there are still many others that you’ll meet who won’t be in this category.

2) Acquaintances: Nice people I seldom meet or have little share experiences with. They have the possibility of moving into sustainable friendship. Chances are, I won’t contribute money to their bday presents when asked. =x

3) Sustainable friendship: A very broad category with varying degrees of closer friendship. I have more concern for them.    The closer you are, the more I’ll share with you my thoughts, jokes, observations and life.

I believe that everyone will face social problems at least once in their life and that there’s always a balance in life. The later you face it, the harder it is for you to learn to cope with it and a greater tendency to self denial. Who says those who put themselves in the “cool cliques” are truly happy? I doubt having similarly bimbotic and snobbish friends makes one happy. Or spending hours putting on cosmetics to keep up with the “cool” look or spending money you don’t have on clothes or spending most of your life practicing how to bitch about others. There will come a time where these skills expire and they’ll be looked upon as childish. That’s when the balance of life returns the favour.

A strange encounter

I was on the train platform near my home on Friday when this teenage boy who’s slightly taller than me and wearing white school uniform without any badge of proper name tag approached me. He started off saying that no one wanting to help him and asked if I could help him. I asked what help does he want and he requested to converse in mandarin. So there I was, trying to reply with the best I could translate from what I wanted to say in english and sifting through his accent. Here is the account in english.

Boy: My mom gave me $5 and I lost it. I need to get to Bedok.

Me: You could take a train towards city hall and transfer. -Points to the direction-

Boy: But I don’t know how to go.

Me: Let me show you the map. (I was about to walk towards the map and point the station to him but he seemed unwilling to follow me.)

Boy: I’m not lying to you. I really have no money with me now. I need to take buses to Bedok.

Me: -puzzelled- (Why is he in the station and not at the bustop?) How did you get in?

Boy: The station person let me in.  Please, do you have $5 or even $2 will do.

Me: (I would if I had $2 or something. Just to get him off my back.) What bus are you taking?

Boy: 100.

Me: (I don’t remember a 100 here)  Are you sure?

Boy: Yes, I sure. You know, the bus stop across the road..when you cross the bridge over there, you take Bus 100. I have to change 5 buses

Me: (You think I stupid ar?) It’s faster if you take a train. I can show you which station to stop.

Boy: I don’t know how. Even if you show me I won’t know how. I know how to take the bus there.

Me: Are you Singaporean?

Boy: No. I’m Malaysian. Please, could you give me $5?

Me: I don’t have $5.

Boy: Then how much do you have?

Me: (I’m not going to tell you I have $10) I don’t have any money.

Boy: Are you going to give me money?

Me: No.

Boy: Why?

Me: (I was infuriated that a kido is challenging me as to what I should do with my money) Cos I don’t have money for myself.

The train arrived and I strode in. Thank goodness he didn’t follow. I felt rather guilty after that…he was pretty good at manipulating my emotions. I found out later that night that bus 100 doesn’t go to woodlands. Thank goodness I didn’t give him any money or I would have felt really dumb.

The down side of a cosmopolitian society?

After a long day in school from 9am (GEK) to 6.30pm (LSM), Subby and I went to NYDC to have dinner. As we were walking towards Buona Vista MRT on the secluded pathway between Holland V and the bus terminal, a group of teenage caucasians were heading in the opposite direction. They looked like they just had a party, with some of the girls carrying balloons. As they walked pass us, one of the boys made a sign with his hand and waved it in front of us. I couldn’t make out what it meant as the lighting was very dim but it didn’t look like a thumb up or anything positive.

I was taken aback when he did that as no stranger has ever showed such a outright display of unhappiness towards me before. I speculated that it was some sort of vulgarity and racist gesture aimed at me and soon began to feel crossed. This didn’t not happen when I’m a minority in a foreign land, it happened right here where I was born, bred and lived for the past twenty years.

After we boarded the Marina Bay train, Subby spotted a big board which had words of protest against Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Fa Lun Gong1

There was a man and a lady guarding the board and they started giving out flyers to commuters around. This lady took a flyer from them. Beneath the flyer is a newspaper. When her friend asked her what it is, she said “Fa Lun Gong”. Her friend’s expression showed signs of fear and they started whispering softly. The two people attracted the attention of many commuters around the area as well. If you’re holding a board with such strong words, you bet you’ll attract attention. They soon turned the board the other way around to reveal a newspaper article.

Fa Lun Gong2

After witnessing such an event up close and personal, I can’t help feel that these people are threatening the security of my home by gathering supporters against our government. I respect Mr Lee as a great man who brought our nation from 3rd world to 1st in just two generations. I can’t help but cringe when I read the board on the train. In case you haven’t heard about them, Fa Lun Gong is banned in Singapore, and for good reasons from what I saw.

People used to get fine for littering and spitting chewing gum. By the broken window theory, our island became a safe place to live in because the person who was caught for thowing a cigarette butt on the floor could be off to rob someone. As we prosper, we soon began to demand more freedom and say in our governance. There is now a feedback unit, the MPs interacts with the people in order to find out their needs. However, there is a surge in litter around the island as well. Take a look at the open field beside Jurong East MRT and the beach at ECP and you’ll know what I mean. I’m sure it isn’t restricted to these areas since the papers have published the litter problem as well. Perhaps this small little crack in the window have lead to more daring occurances as what I have witnessed today. Perhaps it is time to start catching litter bugs again.