Growth: From 21 to 24

August 5, 2009 § Leave a comment

Every now and then, its good to pause and reflect on life.

I turned 24 this past July, and apart from the celebrations, meals with friends, and realizing that I am stepping into the mid-twenties zone, I thought it would be meaningful to take a step backwards to ask the question “How different am I now at 24, than I was when I was 21?”

I’ve become a lot more critical towards ideas and people even though I intended to be more open minded.

After a failed business venture, and going through my late teens without any definite self beliefs or core values, I pretty much took in whatever people around me told me. Failures comes with lessons, and I’ve learnt to put more careful thought towards what others say. One good example would be how I’m now highly suspicious of people telling me about “a great business idea” or a “lifetime opportunity” , people asking me if I want to earn five-figure incomes in 3-5 years. (read: scams) As a result, I think I’ve become a more critical person, but I’m wondering if I’ve compromised on the entrepreneurial spirit of keeping myself open to many possibilities.

I’ve become a lot more tolerant of solitude

When I was 21, it was a very good year. Good from the present perspective. Most of my spare time was spent at computer games or dance clubs. I couldn’t stand being alone, being out of touch with my peers. Everyone else was “clubbin”, drinking, and having fun, and not doing so would have made me a loser. So thats where I spent lots of my time! When I started reading and got more athletic, things started to change. Reading and marathon running taught me the value of quiet self reflection and proper focus, away from the many distractions of life, which was essential if one wants to leave meaningful footprints in life.

I’m more confident communicating with women now than I was at 21

At 21, I was still relatively shy, and largely an introvert. I definitely couldn’t start a conversation with a stranger, so beautiful girls (and women) were a huge problem for me. Through these three years, I’ve learnt to be more sociable, while reading and athletics also improved my confidence. I’ve learnt to take it all less seriously and see it as yet another growth opportunity through life’s experiments. Actually, speaking to beautiful women still scares me sometimes, but now I can keep a poker face about it, the same way I do during public speaking.

I’ve become more appreciative of being Singaporean

One of the syndromes of being a Singaporean is not realizing that many of us are living like “bubble boys”. I think we are sanitized from the strife and suffering that goes on around the world. Couple that with material abundance, we get people who are unhappy with their lives even though living standards within the country has taken a great leap from days of the nation’s independence. I was one such example! This was especially true for me prior to my service in the Army. In terms of the odds of life, being born in a first world country and into a middle class family, not having to worry about basic necessities, has made me realize I am very, very lucky indeed.

I now have better role models in life

I can only speak for the guys, but I’m a firm believer that boys need to have good role models to look up to as they grow up and mature. Role models helps one to have standards of comparison and someone to learn from. These days the media floods the masses with false information about what their ideal lifestyle should be. Soon every teenage boy wants to live the MTV bling lifestyle of huge mansions, 24/7 parties, and multiple friends-with-benefits. Back when I was in my late teens, my idols were Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. Don’t get me wrong, I believe they created amazing music and were a creative force. But they are definitely not good “role models”. The process of identifying role models is something of a blog post in itself (even a book), from identifying one’s own strengths , to recognizing a role model’s own character traits. I was fortunate to have had a mentor / role model in my Battalion S2 during my national service in the army. As I developed a passion in athletics and sports, Tiger Woods’ positive character traits helped me identify him as a leader I looked up to.

There’s been an abundant opportunities for growth these three years, and I am thankful for them. I can only look forward to more.

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