My own speech was on youth empowerment. It wasn't a topic that I'd chosen - it was something that the organisers had asked me to speak on. In a nutshell, my basic message was that:
- (1) youths in Singapore can achieve great things of their own choice; and
(2) to do that, they must learn to disbelieve and distrust all those forces in society which tell them that they can't.
And as examples of such forces, I cited their parents, their teachers, their principals, their future bosses, and the government.
I further argued that none of these forces necessarily knew anything better than the youths themselves. That's because the wisdom of these forces is based on experience, and experience is always based on the past, but past experience doesn't necessarily count for that much in a world that is always rapidly changing, always rapidly evolving.
(Any sensible person who has ever had to work for a stupid, older boss will instantly know what I mean.)
"No one has all the answers," I boldly declared. The implication being that since no one has all the answers anyway, youths should feel entitled to jump into the deep end, innovate and do things their own way.
I might be wrong, but I sensed that the reactions from the audience were quite mixed. Some of them were fascinated and inspired by this Mr Wang fellow on stage who confirmed their long-held suspicion that indeed, they were cleverer than their parents and teachers.
Others however looked somewhat dismayed and shocked by the suggestion that their beloved parents and teachers could be stupider than themselves, and that the traditional, conventional ways of doing things might not be the best.
And there were yet other students who simply didn't seem to believe that they, mere youths, could actually be capable of great things. It was with this third category of students that I felt a sense of disappointment.
Today, thinking about my speech again, I realised that if it had failed in some way, then a good explanation for its failure lies, once again, in Myers-Briggs (it's uncanny the number of things Myers-Briggs can explain things).
Under the Myer-Briggs classification of human personality types, I am an INTJ. And my speech turned out to be a classic reflection of the INTJ's thinking patterns. Click on the hyperlink and in the very paragraph, you'll see that they say this about INTJs:
"People with INTJ preferences are relentless innovators in thought as well as action. They trust their intuitive insights into the true relationships and meanings of things, regardless of established authority or popularly accepted beliefs. Their faith in their inner vision can move mountains. Problems only stimulate them--the impossible takes a little longer, but not much."Because I am a "relentless innovator", the past experience of more-senior persons does not impress me much. I'm not interested in the past, I'm interested in the present and the future, and how to find new ways to make things better.
And because I have such deep "faith in my inner vision", I have little difficulty rejecting "established authority" or "popularly accepted beliefs". In other words, I easily recognise stupid ideas for what they are, even if they come from supposedly "respectable" sources like parents, teachers, government etc.
Furthermore, as an INTJ, my tendency is not merely to believe that it is possible to achieve great things. As an INTJ, I constantly expect great things to be achieved:
They place a high value on competence--their own and others'. Being sure of the worth of their inspirations, INTJs want to see them worked out in practice, applied and accepted by the rest of the world; they are willing to spend any time and effort to that end. They have determination, perseverance, and will drive others almost as hard as they drive themselves ....Alas, in making my speech, I forgot one very basic thing. Not everyone is an INTJ.
... INTJs have an inner world rich with endless possibilities that, when combined with their Thinking-Judging preferences, gives them a drive toward constant improvement of everything. Indeed, these are the "better idea" people of the typological world. Everything--words, plans, designs, ideas, even people--has room for improvement. In the INTJ's eyes, even the best can be made better.
In fact, INTJs are statistically the rarest kind of human being in the Myer-Briggs system. So most of the students in that lecture theatre would not have been INTJs or even one of the more closely-related types like INTPs or ENTJs (all relatively rare as well).
No winder there seemed to be students who seemed sceptical when I told them that they could achieve great things.
Damn. If I'd realised this earlier, maybe I could have found some other way to package the message.
Please, folks. Don't sell yourselves short. All of us are capable of great things. All of us have so much potential that most of it will remain untapped for our entire lifetimes. The only real question is - how much of YOUR potential do you want to try to tap?
You're 17, 18, 19 years old. At your age, there are already people in the world who have won Olympic medals; obtained their university degrees; graduated as doctors; written award-winning books; made millions as top fashion models; played in the World Cup finals; or become the Dalai Lama.
You may never go that far in life, but couldn't you go half as far? Or a quarter as far? Maybe one-eighth or one-sixteenth?
Don't be mediocre. You've got one life - since you're going to be here and the time will pass anyway, why not DO something with your life?