It’s great to have passion. Fiery ideas that change the world often start burning in someone’s belly. Passion turns hard work into fun and challenges into adrenaline-fueled adventures. When you have passion it suddenly becomes easy to do the right thing and to fight. Character becomes effortless.
But what do you do when the thing that makes you tick and the thing that gives you your paycheck are no longer one and the same?
It takes uncomfortable effort and difficulty to force fit a square peg into a round hole and then keep it there. But when the right fit is still elusive life as it is goes on, so that has to be done.
You’re square. Your heart does not beat for the round hole. Your angular match has yet to be found.
This is when you summon your character in order to deliver in the midst of drudgery. You have responsibilities to discharge and you need to restrain your free spirit no matter how it squirms and struggles.
You may not do any life changing things for now. Everything is grey and mundane. You endure by the moment so everything is dealt with in bite-sized bearables.
Be still, oh heart. When the right time comes, the fuel lying dormant inside you will be free to catch fire and burn forevermore.
For now, it is you and what you are made of, against the cold sleepy winter and rain.
When God set about knitting me together in my mother’s womb (Bible verse to come later); He probably had a smile on His face (verse to come later). It was probably a big smile, and at some other moments a tender one. He had an end in His sovereign mind as to what my destiny looks like, but He was creating a free spirit, an individual with her own quirks and fancies. He was probably shaking His head as he foresaw all the twists and turns and bumps in my journey, some due to others’ decisions, many owing to my own choices. I was His creation but He was bestowing on me a free will. And He knew the extent to which I would exercise that free will.
He knew the exact moment I would respond to the gentle nudge of His Spirit, to invite His Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus to come into my life. And He knew all the fine tuning that would be needed in that new relationship, before I would finally get in optimal sync with His leading and began moving into the purpose for which He has created me. The closer I walk with Him, the clearer the purpose will become – from a vague inkling based on what makes me tick, to the first tentative step that may lead to bolder commitments, and finally to that moment of clarity where the very specific reason for my life comes to light, so clear that there are no more doubts!
Help me get there sooner, Abba Father – because the safest and most joyful place to be is the center of Your perfect will. Anything less would be a sad compromise that I am not willing to settle for!!!!
At my parents’ house, there is a pond where tiny fishes barely the length of my thumbs happily co-exist with bulky koi fatter than my arms.
The tiny ones look carefree while their gigantic pondmates seem unperturbed.
And therein lies the allusion to yet another paradox. That it is actually, albeit counterintuitively more pleasant to swim among giants than those smaller than you.
True giants invoke feelings of awe and inspiration – but instead of making you feel small they make you feel like you want to and that you can get to their stature if you would put in the giant-sized beliefs and effort that they do. They do not belittle anything or anyone because it is just not in their DNA to dabble in smallness! They do not respond to big dreams with a joke, they respond with excitement because they have been there and know that dreams are worth chasing even if you have to die trying. Dreams are only a joke to those who do not believe in their own.
They do not respond to ideas with sarcasm – subtle or overt – because people who believe in themselves always believe in others. The way they see you is simply a reflection of how they see themselves.
When you reflect on a mistake with a giant, the giant will remark on the lessons you have gained and get excited about your way forward. The dwarf will at best shrug or at worst slap a label on what you did and remind you not to do it again, probably thinking that they are being helpful or maybe because they were not even thinking at all.
So I would rather spend my time in the company of giants. Dwarfed in stature, but have my limits stretched to the point of growth.
I would rather feel humbled and inspired by greatness, than feel insulted and frustrated by smallness. Because while successful people find joy in encouraging and challenging others to pursue their dreams, small minded people crave the comfort of hanging out with the ones who want to stay the same. That is why when you want change you would find people who would crack jokes or cast doubts.
Shrug off the smallness, and look for some Giants to look up to and to look up with. Because here’s the paradox: true Giants inspire greatness and growth in those who dare to dream. They may look intimidating from afar but their spirits are kind and nurturing. Dwarfs look humble but are in fact too proud to fail. They will not bother to see beyond their eye level because it is just too uncomfortable and unfamiliar – so if you find yourself feeling small, get away from dwarfs for they embrace you only if you stay the same.
I am a Malaysian who sincerely admires our Southern neighbour, the tiny island state called Singapore – who is somehow always one step ahead, one pace faster. The bustling city state that used to be a part of my country till it was expulsed in 1965 due to ideological differences between its ruling party and Malaysia’s.
With a small disparate population, and even fewer resources – the tiny newly independent nation had to find its own way to survive.
And when you are small and vulnerable with so many disadvantages, how do you overcome the odds? Singapore ended up becoming an example of how a nation can thrive despite it all. Having traveled there regularly for work for the past one year, I observe a culture that I am convinced has enabled the meteoric rise of this country from 1965:
1. Wise picks of battles to fight
When your resources are limited you have to decide carefully where you want to focus them on – whether it’s your energy or money. I have yet to come across any colleagues in my Singapore office sweating the small stuff, for example worrying about form and not substance. Though Singapore is now way past its past struggles, the wise pragmatism seems to have remained.
2. An absence of excessiveness
There is a fine line between making tremendous effort in the name of excellence and trying hard to impress. The city looks impressive, no doubt – but that is just the inevitable result of thoughtful and pragmatic planning done with the intention of inspiring the confidence of its own people and the foreign people whose skills, talent and investment would be needed to help Singapore prosper. Not to impress and boost fragile egos. No wonder I have yet to come across any kitschy or tacky looking buildings or monuments in Singapore. It is quite simply the epitome of elegance.
3. A strong focus on developing its uniqueness, and looking to others not to compare, but to learn and find strengths to leverage
This is closely related to picking battles wisely. Of course many would argue that Singapore is a competitive place – but we tend to forget that being competitive does not necessarily mean comparing with others. It is when we give our all to make the most of what we have that we become a force formidable enough for others to reckon with – and by then we find ourselves in our own league. I posit that Singapore does not focus so much on competing as much as it focuses on leading and leveraging its neighbours’ strengths. Any wonder why so many of my country’s best and brightest end up happily heading down south?
I love my country and I know Singapore has its own flaws. But there’s so much to learn from our excellent neighbour down south.
So this is how I have experienced Singapore. I would love to hear what you think, whether you are Singaporean or not.