Quite a few of you know about this, but for the rest of you: I got a Scholarship to Boston University’s Communication Programme.
So recently, I was having this conversation with Sheena, my wife, about our move to Boston. I listened to the feedback that people have given her and started matching that with the feedback that I received from friends and family, and it’s really interesting how people approach our big move with their mindset.
A Fear-led Mindset is real
We had a good set of people who got super excited (Shoutout to all of you!) when we told them about me getting into Boston University, but also a good set of people who started to ask both of us about what it would mean for our current lives. It came to a point, where people were asking Sheena (or me) if this was even appropriate for her life. This move, they perceived, would “disadvantage” us somehow. After all, they felt that it would:
- Put our careers on hold
- Put our lives in flux
- Make us poorer because we would have no income
How would she explain her gap to potential employers? Will you have money for your future housing? Won’t that take away time for you to have children? Isn’t Boston too far? Will a Masters Degree be a waste of time?
It’s not that I don’t appreciate this concern, or that there’s no validity to them. But I know the following:
- The people asking don’t understand our context
- They also don’t understand our plans
- They are definitely using their own fears as a directive to ask these questions
Fundamentally, many of the questions asked were a result of the fear of the unknown, and the resultant projection of that feeling. Often times, it was the people who couldn’t grasp the context of our plans that didn’t think it was a good idea. They immediately started to de-risk the situation by suggesting that it wasn’t a good move, not realising that they lacked situational awareness.
Why do I say this? Well…
De-risking is built into our lives
Look, I empathise and I don’t fault them. It’s not their fault that they have been taught since they existed to look at a situation and pick out every single risk, then move to de-risk or avoid risk whenever they can. It’s something we teach intensely in Singapore, from a very young age. The school system, most of our parents, practically all of our relatives and even our workplaces. Society taught us that the path less taken, is the wrong path.
But to de-risk yourself is very different from helping other people de-risk. There is a high probability that you won’t know the following things about others:
- Their Formative Backgrounds
- Their Current Context
- Their Future Direction
We need to know all three with clarity, in order to give accurate de-risking advice. I regularly tend to refrain from giving this advice, without finding out more about the 3 factors above. All the people that came in with a perception of “disadvantage” were unclear of at least ONE of the 3 factors.
Optimism is not Wilful Ignorance
A lot of those that questioned our moves also tended to see our optimism as wilful ignorance. Some people seemed to think that we didn’t put ourselves through the thinking process sufficiently, while others viewed us as naive.
I actually understand that. After all, they can’t read our minds. However, I would like to say that there’s something I like to call “backgrounding the risks”. That is to say I think of all the possible pitfalls, and I come up with Plan B accordingly, and I accept these risks. When I do accept those risks, I place them in the background to avoid it interfering with my future decision making process.
This is a huge move for me, and while people might not see it, I do have many many questions in my head. In the lead up to the acceptance of my spot in Boston university, I had asked myself if I was truly up to the task. My own doubts also caused me to second guess my application, and I almost didn’t execute. But when I objectively looked at my own background, context, and direction, I realised that I had to figure out a way to execute with the risks in mind.
On the other side of Fear…
Will Smith said it best in this video:
I’m going to be really honest: I can’t tell you how much it means to me to qualify for a Scholarship only 20 people out of the thousands of applicants would get. It meant even more to me that the acceptance rate for my programme is 22%, and that it’s a Top 50 school globally. After all, for most of my childhood, the system I studied in rated me sub-par at best.
But the best thing is that I’m going to do this with a person whom I’m going to spend the rest of my life with, and that’s magic to me. While I was, and still am pretty terrified, I believe that Will Smith was right about this:
“The best things in life are on the other side of terror”
So, we’re going on to do this, and I hope you’ll join us in whatever way, shape or form on my journey!
Let’s keep seeking our greatness together.
Until next time,