Don’t be afraid, you were born to do this.”, my husband said to me before I went up on stage.
I was at the National University of Singapore, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, to share my views on holistic education and self-development with an audience of academics and faculty staff.
My presentation was titled “Roots & Wings – A real education for a real world”.
The night before, I had told one of my dear Singapore friends about my presentation and he yelped “Huh? Why are you speaking at the University? You don’t even have a masters degree! And you didn’t study education! What on earth could you teach them?”. It was slightly disheartening. But I realised that this was precisely why I wanted to share my views.
Because I believe that what we need is to shift our focus from academic results, rankings and hard skills, to what are known as soft skills.
I like to think of these so-called soft skills as personal and societal leadership. Roots and Wings stands for the personal and interpersonal skills we need to make us whole. Things like taking responsibility for one’s destiny. Resilience and frustration tolerance. Unlearning old habits and being able to learn new ones. Emotional intelligence. The art of persuasion. Roots let us come home to ourselves and Wings allow us to contribute and connect to our society.
They’re called soft skills but they are what employers are looking for today, and they are what will make the biggest difference to your happiness and fulfilment because they apply to every area of your life from vocation to relationships to parenting.
I think about what Lazlo Bock, head of hiring at Google, said.
“You need a big ego and a small ego in the same person at the same time.”
We need to have an ego big enough to speak up, embrace risk and defend our ideals but also the humility to step back when we’re wrong, learn from mistakes and embrace better ideas.
Another great quote by Nisargadatta Maharaj:
“Wisdom tells me that I am nothing.
Love tells me that I am everything.
And between the two, my life flows.”
And indeed my life flows. I have been offered a role at the National University of Singapore heading up the Centre for Future Ready Graduates, leading a team of counsellors who oversee career guidance and personal growth.
It is an extraordinary privilege to continue the self-development work that we have pioneered in Legacy and bring it to a platform of 20,000 undergraduate students and 2,400 faculty members. Unfortunately this means that I will have to leave Legacy Retreat, but I will be handing over to Mark who will take over Legacy’s corporate training programmes and custom retreats. Mark will be communicating our new direction for Legacy Retreat shortly.
But right now, I will have to say farewell with much sadness and happiness, and leave you with a story.
When Lee Kuan Yew passed away recently, it was harvest day at our vineyard in Australia. We had a bumper crop this year and the whole vineyard was full of beautiful plump ripening Pinot Noir grapes. It was a sad thing to grieve alone. No one in Australia understood how I felt. For most of us Singaporeans, regardless of whether we agreed with the man or not, there had been a death in the family. I snipped the bunches of grapes off the vines, reaped our beautiful, heavy fruit and thought about the abundance that the man had created and wondered about Singapore’s future after he had passed.
Later on that evening, Mark said to me, “I find it strange that LKY’s funeral is at the National University of Singapore, I guess I’m used to seeing funerals in religious buildings.
And I said, “But education was LKY’s religion. And NUS was his cathedral.”
Well today I find myself honoured to be called to be in that cathedral and to do work which I consider sacred.
In the coming months, my team and I will embark on an ambitious journey to reshape our attitudes towards education. I’ve come back home because I believe that our survival is tied to this project. That our visions of innovation, research and learning have to be married with visions of self-awareness, higher consciousness and unlearning. Above all, I have come to invite everyone to walk with me until we find our way back home.
Sending you love & light