Monthly Archives: June 2013

7. Letter to my mentor, leader and friend (Mr Kwek Hiok Chuang)

Dear Mr Kwek,

Just wanted to tell you that it has been my great pleasure and privilege to have worked with you for twelve years (Pioneer 6, Nanyang 6), out of my 24 years in MOE – how time flies when one is having “fun”! Both colleges were /are great places to work, due in large part to your leadership and wonderful ability to connect with people in a sincere, humorous and authentic way. I also write this letter to share that you are someone who has made a huge difference in my life, as a mentor, school leader and friend.

Let me highlight how you have been such a role model to me with some episodes and examples below.

The first is your action orientation. I still remember a time at Pioneer JC, during an exam I was invigilating. The afternoon sun was shining onto the backs and desks of some students. Without hesitation, you quickly assessed the situation and started to help shift the entire row of students  away from the sunlight, personally carrying the tables for many of them. I was certainly surprised and impressed (how many Ps would do that?). It clearly indicated to me that here was someone who was always ready to roll up his sleeves to help his students, and that no job that had to be done was beneath him.

The second example is related to the first. You were always innovating, decisive, and never afraid to fail. In Pioneer, one thing you said has stuck with me all these years, and that was how you would prefer your people to try 10 new things, even if 7 or 8 of them failed. To this day, it is clear that you stand by that principle  e.g. Nanyang JC’s unique timetable structure, and our JC experience for potential students/parents testify to this. In my own journey ahead, I intend to fully live by this principle too.

As a leader, you always took care of your people. The above demonstrates this amply, and so do a multitude of others – makan sessions for staff, limiting the number of Saturdays to come back, providing food for night study, installing fans, study tables and chairs, no red tape, …  . As promised during Pre-U Sem2013, I attach some of the things that your ex-staff and students have said about you, in their facebook posts (blame Dennis for starting it!!)…(however, to preserve confidentiality since I did not ask them for permission to share, I have blocked out their names, even though I suspect all of them would be happy to let you know how much they appreciate you!).

Lastly, I cannot thank you enough for accepting me into the NY family during my “mid-life crisis” in Aug 2007, and for accepting my application as HOD in Pioneer way back in 1999. Life in Nanyang these past six years has been really good. and at Pioneer, you gave me and the department the space that was necessary for us to grow and achieve.

May our paths cross again, and wishing you, your family, and Nanyang JC all the best!

warmest regards
Wah Liang



Filed under Fifty before 50

This is No. 6 of my “Fifty before 50” list, Publish a work related website (lucky this is haze-proof : )  …

but unfortunately, training for No. 2 Penang marathon put on hold : (

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June 22, 2013 · 1:58 am

In the beginner…

Shunryu_Suzuki_by_Robert_BoniIn the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

My favourite quote from the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki. He adds that the goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything…

btw, I shared this with a young “old” man just yesterday … although “young” in age (not even 10), he had a a tendency to reject experiences as his first response, perhaps due to his past (“unpleasant??”) experiences. Rather sad for one so young, no?

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June 20, 2013 · 5:06 am

beginner’s mind

beginner's mind

The characters for “beginner’s mind” in calligraphy by Shunryu Suzuki

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June 20, 2013 · 4:49 am

Fullstops are fun!!

Fullstops are fun!!

er hmm, so true …………….. (lol! ………..)

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June 6, 2013 · 2:59 am

1. the letter …

I submitted my resignation letter on 29 May 2013 (2:45 pm, after my last lesson of the day) to Mr Kwek Hiok Chuang, Principal/Nanyang JC, with whom I have had the privilege of working closely with for many years (more about that elsewhere). We both felt a little sad, I believe … he said, “I thought you will wait until next year and retire with me” somewhat jokingly and we shared on old times at Pioneer JC.

Yup, the letter should count as the first thing in my “Fifty before 50” list.

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Filed under Fifty before 50

Life is like riding a bicycle …

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This seems to fit my life quite well …

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Albert Einstein, 1879-1955


Filed under Life Lessons, Random Stuff