On Life and Work

By Ken Quek
Apropos of nothing, I want to share some of the thoughts that I went through while in HQ.  I know that sometimes (often?) there is a feeling of disillusionment when we think that we are only working for someone else’s pleasure and not necessarily for what is ‘best for our children, best for Singapore.’

I want to say that as I matured in a HQ environment, I’ve learnt to pull my own ego back whenever these thoughts come around. Almost always, the genesis of such feelings is because WE THINK WE ARE RIGHT.

I hope I do not sound harsh. If you feel such disillusionment, I would first like to pat you on the back. It tells me that you are passionate about education. Passionate about doing the right things, instead of only doing things right.

But hear me out.
We do not always know what’s right. Nor are we going to be right all the time.
Everyone uses his/her own personal judgement to make their decisions.

Before we even come to that, I’d like to ask you. What sort of boss do you THINK you would like?
(a) A boss who follows the instructions of his/her superiors all the time.
(b) A boss who does what he/she thinks is right all the time.

I believe many would choose (b).
I would as well. But I remember a time not too long ago when I was working on a project and I did not entirely agree with my boss (Boss I). When the project went up to the bigger boss (Boss II), I was happy to hear comments that, to me, sounded like many things would be changed.

As I recall, when we went back to the office after that meeting in which I thought ‘many things would be changed’, the response from Boss I was “That went well. We just need to make a few tweaks to our plan and we should be good to go!”

I was floored!  And so were a few others with me.  In private, we questioned just what the hell Boss I was doing.  It seems that we all heard something vastly different from what he had heard!
We were upset, angry, frustrated that we didn’t have the same ideas. Most of all, we were worried that what we were doing would be thrown into the trash by Boss II and we’d have to start from scratch all over again.

I’m sure that back then we were wishing that we had a boss that could follow instructions.
We wanted a type (a) boss.

Do you know what Boss I was doing?
He was exercising his own professional judgement.
He heard the same things we did. But decided to see how best those comments could mesh with his own vision of what the project was to be about.  He was a type (b) boss.

It took me a long time to realise this.  I’m glad that I was never ostracised despite me always wearing my heart on my sleeve on how I sometimes disagreed with Boss I’s decisions.

I’ve realised that leadership is a lonely role.  That you have to balance both expectations from above and below and mesh them with your own vision of how things should be.  And in a field like ours, you almost never know if you were right.

It takes courage and a strong will to go your own way in the face of opposition from your superiors and subordinates.  It takes skill and wisdom to know HOW to go your own way without being condemned by both superiors and subordinates.

It is a balancing act.
Recognising this has made me kinder to bosses. They are people too. And their job isn’t easy at all.

I also recognise that the source of my frustrations, besides my passion for education, stems from an implicit assumption that I KNOW WHAT’S BEST.

That, is an amazingly egotistical thought.  In the face of so many others who have been in the industry for so many years and faced so many different situations and challenges in education, I thought I was better than them, smarter than them, more moral than them.

That is why, when they did something I disagreed with, I immediately responded with a “What?! That’s ridiculous!”, instead of a “What does he see that I don’t?”

From here on, read my previous post dated 9th Sept on cynicism.

I’m not saying that we should douse the fire that burns so strongly in us on the importance of education and the work that we are doing. God forbid that that happens.

But the words ‘be positive’ ring very true if we are to continue in education.
First of all though, I think I have to be humble.

God bless.

Honeymooners’ class – Lesson 1

We had our first proper lesson yesterday and I was looking forward to it! Basically this class is meant for those who are married within the first two years and through the discussion and sharing from fellow couples, it is hoped that they bring back some lessons and thoughts for reflection.

Ken and I got married after a seven-month courtship. We were not any young kids who acted rashly ( at least I hope!) and the good thing was we found that we shared the same values which was important to us. We had not have any big argument during our courtship and this blissful times extended to the first year of our marriage. We were living with our parents then (weekdays, my place and weekends, his place) and thus things were a lot easy for us. We got to observe how we were brought up when we lived with the respective in-laws and thus this helped us a little in our perception of each other.

But of course, all is not bliss and will NEVER be when you are living with a person who is different from you. I don’t want people to think that we have no troubles. The fact is, we DO face more conflicts along the way especially when we have to do everything ourselves now. I intend to be plain in sharing my thoughts through the lessons learnt from this class, with the permission of dear hubs, of course. I don’t know if it is a taboo to talk about relationship woes but it feels strange to only hear of the good stuff and nothing of the bad ones. We live in a fallen world, mind you, and surely things will not go smooth all the time. Hopefully, these entries will serve to give you a glimpse into a couple’s world and the struggles some of you will face (if you are not married yet) in the near future. But then again, let me qualify. These are just some of our experiences as a very young couple and there is definitely a lot more struggles as we progress in our journey especially when major decisions have to be made (e.g. purchase of house, renovation and design, children, work vs family, etc).

So here goes!

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Merging the pieces

It has been quite a chore to manage different blogs.

I started blogging in 2002, mainly to inform friends where I was when I was on the road (travelling). Then it expanded to building my own website (remember Angelfire?) through the prescribed templates and then on to designing one using Frontpage and Dreamweaver and finallyback to blogs again.

So in these 8 years, I have had multiple blogs and closed some which was really quite unfortunate. I wanted to erase some awful memories but in doing so, have also trashed those sweet ones away.

With so many blogs floating in the Internet, I decided that once and for all, I would consolidate the recent three years of thoughts into one main blog. Ken has suggested this to me before but I didn’t heed his advice then (I should have!) and now I think it is high time to do so.

Over the years, I have and we have grown and matured into another phase of our lives. As I looked back, it is interesting to note how I have evolved in my interests and the amount of time I have allocated to them. My perspective on life (or marriage, family, etc) has changed over the years too and all these thoughts (happy, sad, angry, etc) were recorded in this electronic diary.

So, to make my life simpler (I realised I need to do that as I age), I decided to merge all the blogs that I have (I have lost those initial years of my young adult life by pressing the DELETE button). So there you go, my life continues here. =p