Hi 5 – 8th January 2016 by Mr Lee Kah Wai
Small Consistent Effort Applied in a Focused Manner = Persisting!
When you receive your student handbook either next week or the week after, you will notice that there will be one habit of mind for each of the month, that the school like every GESSIAN to build on. For January, it is this habit known as “PERSISTING” (spell out).
First, let me say what is NOT persisting?
- It is not like “when you see a beautiful and very fashionable school bag at the mall, and insist “I want I want I want!”. You cry foul if your parents don’t give it.” This I submit to you, is “childish” desires.
- It is not like “I want to try what adults only permitted by law to do, for example smoking cigarettes. I don’t care if massive research data says it hurts me. I just want to do it.” This is want a Chinese term “禺顽” translated “foolish stubbornness” refers to – those who will not take heed to wise instruction.
- It is not like “I want this whatever it takes, whatever it costs. Even if I lose the things that are most precious to me, I don’t care.”
What then is persisting?
- The dictionary says: “continue in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”, or “To last or endure tenaciously.”
- Costa and Kallick, the pair that developed the 16 habits of mind, define persisting as: persevering in a task through to completion, remaining focused.
Today, I like to share with you a subject/discipline that excites me a lot as a student and as a teacher – mathematics! I enjoy doing math, thinking over and relishing in the exhilarating feeling when I solved a really hard math problem. I got really serious about math at Sec 2, encouraged by my brother that it is one subject that I could score full marks. With daily practice and a decided heart to excel, I put in daily effort – consistently and sustained, paying attention in math lessons, and attempting many math problems to seek understanding and mastery. From then, my enjoyment and mastery in math just came. However, because of the attitudinal change, I also began to do well not just in math, but also in my languages, humanities and science. But what’s the big deal about doing well in math, or for the matter, everything else?
Let me share with you a glimpse of how math change the world we know today.
Math literally means “things which can be counted”. It was useful in early civilisations because with the means to count and take stock of what you have, you created ownership, trade and commerce. In geometry, with math, we have great buildings and monuments built that not only inspire awe in its days, but continue to inspire us today. Imagine without math, can we, the human race, build the Great Pyramid of Giza standing at 146.5 metres tall and 230m wide sides at its base, the Great Wall of China of 8,852 kilometres in length, the 828m tall Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the 324m Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, or even the 156m Pinnacle at Duxton at Cantonment Road, Singapore. Once a while, as I drive through the CCE tunnel or the newer KPE tunnel, I can’t help but be inspired that we can build these! Without math, science, technology, engineering and aesthetics, how could all these come about? Impossible.
Coming closer to home, Singapore has convinced three world-renown scientists to return and contribute to world-class research under the Returning Singaporean Scientists Scheme. I encourage you to read the Strait Times today which covers their stories.
World-renown biotechnology expert Prof Chua Nam Hai is returning to Singapore with the ambitious goal of helping to solve the world’s hunger problem by producing super plants. His team has discovered a specific group of long noncoding RNAs which are highly responsive to drought stress, suggesting that they could regulate how plants adapt to such situations. He hopes to develop crops with enhanced drought tolerance and more efficient utilisation of fertilisers.
Dr Aaron Thean, with his team in 2007-08 created novel materials to make transistors, which in turn are now used to make more efficient microprocessors in smartphones and tablets from Apple and Samsung. Recently, Singapore announced that it is setting aside an airwave frequency band for automotive use. Imagine driverless cars and delivery trucks. What are the implications for you? How would a career in transportation look like in 10 – 20 years?
Prof Andrew Lim designed a real time Web platform for electronic giant Philips to help the company save US$1billion annually in more efficiently awarding logistics contracts.
But, all these applications, created by people to solve real world problems, come about not simply because of our ingenuity, which all of us have; but also by the habit of persisting – which I personalise as “small consistent effort applied in a focused manner”. Every one of you has the potential and talents to be successful in all you set your heart to do, but it takes persistence – which is the small consistent efforts applied in a focussed manner, to achieve success. And it is a habit! You need to train your will, your mind and your body. I have a suggestion for everyone:
- Write down one very hard thing you want to overcome – could be a subject you are struggling to pass or a skill you are trying to master, or simply not dozing off during lesson.
- Plan what and how you are going to work at it, seek advice, get friends to give you moral support – in a consistent and sustained manner – for ONE month. No cheating, but daily effort applied to work at the task every day before you go to bed.
- Do it every day for a month (January), and see the magic of it changing your life!
May you experience the daily magic of persisting in 2016! ONWARD!