May 10, 2013

I was that kind of soldier


I am not a clever person … in my school days I was just an average student … I did not expect to go into the Science Stream (Science Stream classes were for the clever ones) but somehow got myself into it. I should thank my Form 3 Science teacher Mrs Teh (she never liked me), who told the class that everyone will pass the Science exam except me. That fired me up a bit … so, to prove her wrong, I studied extra hard for Science (only) and scored an A1 for Science in my LCE Exams. The rest of the subjects were “so so” only.

So the school decided to put me into the Science Stream … I had the choice to change but decided not to … I thought I could do it but I was so wrong. I have to do three sciences, two maths, two languages, Geography and try to have fun with whatever time left. I barely scraped through my MCE Exams (O-Level) … even though I did not fail any of the subjects but the aggregates were not good enough … got me a Grade II and so my tertiary education was out of the picture.

 With a Grade II O-Level qualification, I can only find work in small companies … went from jobs to jobs and struggled for several years.

Then an opportunity came and I joined the “big boys” of corporate world but I know I was never able to go very far up the corporate ladder. I have to admit I was not top level material ... not those who can conceive corporate strategies, plans and policies … I will never be.

I don’t know how to sugar coat proposals with impressive jargons and terminologies and I don’t know how to write long proposal to tell people what to do and how to do it. In other words, I don’t know how to tell people to go to hell in such a way that they actually look forward to making the trip.

I knew what my limitations were and I have to learn how to make up for what I lack of. And so I learned … to be resourceful, to be practical, to be creative, to be hands-on and to be always on the go. It was these traits that kept me in place in the competitive and challenging corporate world. I became a doer ... I did what needs to be done. I was what I like to call a “middle” manager because I was always in the middle of things … never worried about getting my hands dirty.

But that was not enough ... I also learned how to “maneuver” around rigid bureaucratic processes, boring administration systems and redundant standard operating procedures. My approach may be unconventional and my behavior seems a bit eccentric at times ... you see, my idea was ... if you can’t convince them, confuse them.

My ways of getting things done may be unorthodox because most of the time it was easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for approval ... what do I mean?

Let me tell you a story to illustrate my point … a general gave a soldier one week to come up with a proposal on how solve the difficulties of building a bridge across a huge river. A week later the general asked for the proposal but the soldier said he has not done the proposal yet. The general was so angry with the soldier for causing the delay of building the bridge and wanted to punish him.

Then the soldier said … “SIR, the bridge has been built, SIR! As for the proposal, I don’t have time to do it SIR. SORRY SIR!

I was that kind of soldier ... still am and will always be.

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