19 Lessons for my 19th Birthday

So my birthday arrived a few months back and I was pretty much reflecting on my personal growth over the past 19 years. What made me, me? What did I learn over the years, was I a better man than I was a year ago?

birthday

The last 19 years of my life has have it’d ups and downs, its challenges and difficulties, but I’m grateful for them and the life lessons I’ve learnt.

  1. Happiness is found within

    a. Material possessions don’t make us satisfied. We grow weary and tired of them easily. You can have as much money and possessions as you want, but ultimately, happiness comes from your mental attitude, morality and it is drawn from your relationships with others. Buying myself an iPhone didn’t nearly give me as much satisfaction as buying my friend a decent meal and just chillin’

  2. Relationships matter

    a. Don’t let your friends and family take a backseat in your pursuit of greatness. Even when you stand on the top of the world, if you have no one to share it with, it is pointless. Every relationship, friendship, romantic, or otherwise—is a series of gives and takes For a relationship to work, both people must contribute to it. If you just give but don’t get, you’ll feel used, exploited, taken advantage of; if you only take but don’t give, you’re a leech, a freeloader. I’ve always pursued personal excellence as my utmost priority, as I got better at my studies and my sport, I didn’t feel great, I felt hollow and empty, because I was above it all, but I stood alone

  3. The world doesn’t revolve around me

    a. It is incredibly difficult to see the world from someone else’s view, walk a thousand miles in someone else’s shoe. We are so concerned about our own lives that we fail to see the difficulties and battles our friends around us fight, We fail to be good friends, good family to those who love us. I have never been to concerned with the opinions of others, just doing my thing and trodding along life with tunnel vision. Never did I realise how neglected my friends and family felt when I left them just to study for the exams I had. To those who I have “dao-ed”, here’s a heartfelt apology.

  4. Helping others will give you a greater satisfaction than anything else

    helping othersa. Contributing to someone else, or a community, will make you feel good, no, not good, great. Contribution will make you feel more alive than any other thing. Contributing is what keeps us going, gets us up in the mornings, and what makes life worth living. Seeing the smiles of the dementia patients I helped when I wrote their life stories and layed it out there for them to read brought me even more joy than receiving straight As for my A Levels. It made me feel as if I made a difference

  5. You can count your closest friends on one hand

    a. Friendly people are everywhere, but they aren’t necessarily your friends. The term “friends” is often used to liberally. Most people, will at some point or another give you up for their own interests, but there are a select few who will always put your interest above theirs. I used to trust almost anyone that shook my hand or smiled at me, until they turned their backs on me in my time of need to further their own interest. Yet when I turned cynical, I saw hope in friends around me who were willing to shoulder my mistake for me and take the punishment for me. If you have these friends, cherish them,

  6. Learn the difference between letting go and giving up

    a. I was also a determined person, perhaps to the point of stubbornness, There are some things in life you can’t control or influence. Fretting about it or trying to do something when nothing can be done will just add unnecessary burden to stress you out. Everyday, I could choose to rant about how my superiors wronged me, or how my circumstances can’t be changed for the better, but just let it go, The day will seem a lot brighter.

  7. Status is a misnomer

    a. Status and money. Our society places an absurd amount of emphasis on wealth and power. Yet none of these truly matter. Even with all the money and power in the world, you can feel miserable, trust me, I have seen  CEOs who have told me about how empty their lives truly are. Your worth doesn’t have to be tied to your social status.

  8. Pain can be turned into fuel

    a. Pain lets us know that something isn’t right, something’s got to change. It drives us to change, for the better, such that our suffering may end. Don’t see pain as something inherently negative, see it as one of the most powerful motivations in this living world. I don’t come from a stellar and happy family, but I don’t blame the world for my troubles, I know that I must make it out myself, to forge a future for myself such that I don’t feel the pain I feel right now.

  9. Sincerity and honesty is important.

    a. Telling the truth is simple, yet at the same time, rare in this crooked world. Honesty, at the simplest level, is telling the truth—not lying. The only people who will believe your lies are those who trust you, so don’t ever lie, to those who care about you.

  10. Work Hard

    hard work-antsa. “Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work” – Albert Einstein. Take this from a guy with a 150 IQ. Talent is overrated. You can’t control how intelligent or talented you are, but you can control how much effort you put in. No successful person slept his way to success. Every single one of them slogged their guts out to get to where they are now. Telling yourself you aren’t where you want to be because you weren’t good enough is just pathetic. You aren’t where you are because you didn’t want it bad enough. I knew I was never intelligent like my peers at Raffles Junior College, those guys that played PES Soccer and had perfect scores. People around us may outsmart us, but we can make sure that they will never outwork us.

  11. Self-discipline is the secret to success

    a. People often fail because they give up what they want, for what they want now. It really couldn’t be put better than this. When you are tired and you don’t want to study anymore, what keeps you on your books and off the bed? Discipline. When you friends want to party and you have got a test tomorrow, what keeps you at home studying? Discipline. When you want to lose weight and there is a cookie staring at you begging to be eaten, what keeps you on your diet? Discipline. Without discipline, you would give into the boundless temptations that will hinder you from achieving your dreams

  12. Motivation Is A Lie, It May Get You Started, But Habits Keep You Going

    a. We have all watched motivational videos on youtube, read articles on how to be great, felt all empowered and awesome, ready to kick ass. But how long after these videos ended, did you start scrolling through Instagram and Facebook instead of preparing for the test next week? About 15 minutes for me. Motivation might get you started, but habits keep you going. I didn’t do well in school because I watched Eric Thomas’ Secrets To Success, I got my results in my academics and my sports by putting in hours into my work, dry boring hours. Establishing habits to train for 2 hours a day and study for 8 every single day, no matter how difficult it was.

  13. It is not about how many hours you put in, but what you do with those hours

    a. Work hard, but more importantly, work smart. Claiming to study for 2 hours when the bulk of that time is spent chatting on WhatsApp isn’t really studying. Why not study for an effective 1 hour, rest and then study again with full force? Personally, turning my phone off for 45 min and resting for 15 min in a continuous cycle made me a lot more productive than claiming to study for hours on end whilst I was constantly distracted by my surroundings.

  14. Time is the most valuable asset

    a. I used to spend a lot of time as a child just staring at the sky, lazing around, watching Hamtaro and Spongebob Squarepants and of course, I didn’t do that well in Primary School. However, as time went by and I met people who were smarter and more capable than me, I realised the one thing they had in common; how much they cherished the time they have. Money can be earnt back, but time lost, is lost forever. So whenever I feel like just slacking the day away, scrolling through Facebook and what not, I think twice about it, and what else I could be doing, that could help me succeed in the future, to become a better student, and a better man.

  15. Stop procrastinating

    a. This is a huge one for teenagers and youths. Just like everyone, I don’t enjoy doing homework, especially flipping through that huge textbook on European history. Nobody likes doing mundane work right? So in my early secondary school years, I always threw these humanities at the back of my head, delaying humanities homework as long as I could. But I realised procrastinating doesn’t make that mundane task go away, That boring tough social studies assignment that you have been avoiding is just going to linger in your head and on to the next day, if you don’t settle it once and for all. So might as well just clear it first so you can enjoy the rest of your day!

  16. Get at least 7 hours of sleep a day

    a. Rest isn’t for the weak. Resting gives us the strength to walk the longer and more arduous journey ahead. We all love lying in bed checking WhatsApp and Instagram. However, I realised that sleeping late made me groggy and less focused during the day. Getting more than 7 hours of sleep a day is tough, but doable as long as you  shuffle some activities around and with slightly better time management skills, all of us can do it. It’s just about making it a priority :)

  17. Exercise consistently

    abdominal-exercisea. Not having enough time to exercise is probably not a good excuse. Throughout my A levels (yes during the examinations) I dragged myself to the gym for about an hour a day as a means to relieve my stress and sweat it out. Initially, it was tough and um well, sian. However, it soon became a hobby and habit. In fact, I went for a heavy squatting session right before my Biology paper and I felt great!. There are numerous studies showing the benefits of exercise for cognition so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Health is the one of the few things you shouldn’t neglect. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have the years to spend it, it is not going to be worth it. Just try committing 10 minutes a day, then 15, then 20. Progressive work can get you to where you want to be!

  18. Slow down

    a. I continue to struggle with this everyday. Every waking moment, I feel as if I got to do something. I have to work, to improve myself, to step my game up. Being hardworking is great, but failing to appreciate the world and people around you in that pursuit, is just going to leave you tired, empty and hollow in the long run,

  19. I’m still trying to figure life out

    a. I don’t necessarily speak the ultimate truth or principles that apply to everyone, these lessons are just a culmination of the 19 years I have lived on this beautiful Earth. I still have a long road ahead of me, in which I hope to learn more and continuously develop myself as a better person, I implore you to do the same.

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Seah
I’m Seah Yi, a graduate from Raffles Junior College, Class of ’14. My subject combination was Biology, Math, Chemistry and Economics (4 H2s) and of course General Paper and Project Work (H1). Studying was never an easy thing for me. I don’t consider myself to be a smart kid and I don’t credit my grades to my intellect either. In my opinion, the greatest asset I have is hard work and the knowledge on how to work smart and hence my motto, “Never Maximal, Never Minimal, Always Optimal”.