This is perhaps my favourite speech of all time. I came across this speech as my teacher read it to us during our English class. Till today, I remembered the key message it brought across as I encounter the speech. DON’T WORK. BE HATED. LOVE SOMEONE. It was indeed an inspiring piece of speech. Strung beautifully with words, it has found its way to my head and knocked it. This is the 3rd time I am reading it. Each time, I took home a different message.
This time, I am going to read it part by part to look deeper into the speech. It is indeed inspiring.
“I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.”
I have met lots of people, talked to many friends. I realised I can boldly categorise people into 2 types. Planners and wanderers.
Planners are people who, like the word suggests, plan. They like plans, schedules and have goals to work towards. I am a planner. Before I start on anything, I’d like to plan. Making sure I stay on track, checking back with the goals and purpose, having short milestone goals to look forward to; planning is my forte.
On the other hand, wanderers are people who have no specific goals. “Cape Diam” they say. I have many friends who are like that and sometimes we just do not understand each other. Wanderers are people who move with the flow, people who “live in the moment” and their ultimate life goal is to live to the fullest and to be happy. They do not make plans they just do everything that makes them happy.
For me, my goal in life is to live it right and live it great. I want my name to be heard globally. People know who I am. It gives my life a meaning, a purpose. It makes living worthwhile. That is my goal and I am on my plan to reach there.
“And you never, ever want to expect being average… I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average… Your degree is a poor armor against fate.”
Indeed, no one aspires to be average. I can’t stand the thought of being average, of being the same, of fitting in. Why fit in when you’re born to stand out? I don’t get why people want to fit in. Do the popular thing. Be the same as everyone. That’s what average means to me. I hate people having the same things as me. I hate things that are common and overrated. Then it hit me.
Many traditional parents and people are all opting for a ‘safe route’. “I’m going into accountancy because there is a sure demand for it” “Engineering is what I am for because they earn a lot” “I want to be a doctor/lawyer because my parents say so and it is safe” These are common phrases I hear all the time because well, this is the age of plans, of deciding what you will be doing for the next 4 decades. But when I asked further on what they really enjoy, 95% of the time, they do not enjoy the degree they are pursuing, not even close. It hurts me to see such talents go to waste. If only they do not aspire to be average, only if they stood up for themselves, if only they dare to pursue what they truly want, I believe that would lead to an even brighter future.
Why then, do people aspire to be average and doing things they do not enjoy? The Singapore Education has successfully groomed everyone to take the safe route. Parents have also cultivated an environment similar to that to provide safe options and reduce risks. As such, Singaporeans are in general, fearful of risk and enjoys safety. Why do people start tuition at as young as 4 years old? Why do people take pure science than taking what they like, say arts and literature? Why do people prioritize JC over poly? Why do they pursue a degree and career they do not enjoy? The answer all boils down to: it is safe, low risk and assures returns on investment (be it good grades, prospective employers or salary).
As such, Singaporeans are opting for safer routes, especially during their university cross-roads. I do not agree with such safe plans. I believe that you really grow and understand yourself when you are outside your comfort zone. News flash: Being in such a safe environment protects you in your comfort zone. You have so much more potential in you but you fail to see it because you are just too comfortable in the current stage to change anything.
Play. A Lot
I am so tempted to quote the whole section of the speech. Whatever he said was really what I believe in and it resonates with me. Do not work. I never ever aspired to work. Working as in slogging your life away in a company, perhaps an MNC that sounds good on your resume, with good benefits just for that paycheck at the end of the month.
“If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.”
I always viewed an occupation as a formal hobby. I do not believe in working for money. I work because I enjoy it because I love what I do. “Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.” You will find your niche some way some day. You will know because you are you. Only you truly know yourself. Go out, push yourself, see yourself and understand yourself. Only when you are outside of your comfort zone will you really appreciate and learn about yourself. Then, you know what your obsessions are. You know what you love. You know what makes you JUMP when the alarm rings in the morning. You know what makes you so busy but you just enjoy it so much. You know what makes you excited despite long hours. You know what keeps you alive inside.
Find out what keeps you burning inside. That fire, that passion. Feed that fire with actions that can turn that passion into an occupation. Be an entrepreneur, be somebody, be you. Be the best version of you ever. Do you want to look back 40 years later and think “ah, I always wanted to start my own business? But I didn’t”. The only things you will regret are the things you did not do. If you want to slog your life out and suffer every day, dragging your body out of the bed just to ensure a good paycheck for the last 15 years of your life, business tells me that the opportunity cost is too great and it is not a worthy investment. I’d rather you invest your burning fire in something you really enjoy.
My ideal plan is for me to focus all my energy into what I love and let this love slowly kill me. If I do what I like, I can literally go on without sleep for 3 days and keep doing the work. I hope I will never retire and I can keep doing what I like – planning, management, improving efficiencies and making the change. I never want to retire because when I do what I love, I’d love for it to kill me.
“One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.”
I never understood and never will understand popularity. “Doing what is right and not what is popular among the people”. If you remember this, good job on your humanities education. People are usually hated because they are different and radical. Therefore, I am totally cool with being hated. I know a lot of people hate me (I think) but so many others love me (for real).
“You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart. You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you.”
Because love can change the world.