I'm grateful to Spencer (Mr Fan Siyu) and Emma (Dr Xi) for their invitation. I still remember that week when Spencer and Emma both coincidentally invited me to the SMC Hiking Library event. The theme of the keynote speaker "Samantha Ghiotti" was “serendipity”. Perhaps all of this was a prelude to my destined connections with SMC.
The two Saturday hikes provided new avenues for me to understand Singapore, think, make friends, and get closer to nature. It was a physical workout and a relaxing mental pleasure.
As a journalist, the first thing I enjoyed the most was interacting with people.
David put a lot of thought into the design of SMC Hiking Library, dividing participants into two groups - "mentors" and "mentees", with one mentor matching one mentee and re-grouping every 20 minutes. Under this design, one mentor can interact with three mentees during a one-hour hike. After the hike, there will be a keynote speaker sharing their personal insights and a Q&A session based on their speech. The intensity of the thoughts and interactions during hike was amazing.
In addition, the participants have two characteristics. The first one is “multicultural”, with participants coming from all over the world and friends who live around the world, different English and Chinese accents, creating a mini-United Nations atmosphere. The other is diversity in background, whether mentors or mentees, covering various industries and disciplines. One round could be talking about Web 3, the next round could be exploring media content production, and the next round could be a new topic, such as medicine, technology, finance, etc.
From an educational perspective, I would summarize this model as – teachers and students growing together.
Personally, as a young person not long into my career, I was initially quite surprised that David put me into the mentor program. I often thought that I might not qualify to be a mentor friends who are still students yet. However, this might also be David's intention as there is no requirement that a mentor must be more knowledgeable in all aspects than the mentee. Mentoring is meant to be an equal exchange and sharing of growth, with both mentor and mentee growing together. I have also learned from feedback of other participants that experienced mentors often find value in communicating with young people.
Each communication is full of unknowns and surprises, be it an exchange of knowledge, an emotional release, not confined to academics and professional fields, or even just a casual chat. If the mentor and the mentee find a link between them, this 20-minute conversation could lead to a long-lasting friendship. For me personally, when facing mentors who are still in school, I would share my experiences in further education, job hunting, and industry insights. When paired with mentors who are not much older or even older than me, we share our learning experiences and joke about some interesting life experiences. I have even made a good friend, "Huiting," through this program and we still keep in touch.
The second thing that touched me was nature.
A friend who had lived in Singapore for a while heard that I was going on a hike and joked that "Singapore is too small for a good hike." However, I think my friend underestimated David's planning. Thanks to his familiarity with the geography of Singapore, David developed many hiking routes that are not commonly known, which for someone like me who had just come to Singapore was undoubtedly the best way to explore the island.
In addition, I happened to experience two walks, one on a sunny day and one in the rain. I remember the cool breeze and rustling leaves on the sunny day; I also remember the fun of trying to cross a pond when it was raining and listening to the guests share their experiences while the rain pattered down. Now, when I close my eyes and recall each weekend hike, what comes to mind is the green, both the natural green and the green of the mind.
Finally, I want to share what Samantha Ghiotti shared that day and how she touched my heart with her sharing.
1) Serendipity is a mindset. You can turn a catastrophe into a masterpiece.
2) Be grateful for what you have. Do with what you have.
3) The third point is the post-meeting communication: It's impatience that makes patience. If you don't practice intentionally and impatiently, you cannot grow patiently.
The theme of Sam's speech that day appeals to me a lot because I have always liked the word “serendipity”, which means "the ability to discover something valuable by chance". I personally think the Chinese word "yuanfen"(缘分) best expresses this meaning. It represents many things that cannot be clearly explained, that are unpredictable and full of chance.
However, Sam said that serendipity is a state of mind, something that can be controlled and expected. She used three small stories to illustrate this view. The gist is that when faced with something that might have been a disaster, if we choose not to accept reality pessimistically and instead, think about what to do next and “how to play with what we have right now," perhaps things will change for the better and that's when serendipity arrives.
In other words, "serendipity" is not always coincidental and not always due to luck. A part of it is due to human's subjective attraction. You are willing to embrace and accept the "surprises/shocks" life brings you, and in the process of dealing with unexpected events, there may be "rare" events that break away from routine.
That day was not long after I came to Singapore. I was facing a new job and a new living environment. Everything around me and what I was going to do may all be full of "surprises". Sam's speech changed my view of "surprises" and I saw it as an opportunity for innovation or a chance to stimulate new thinking.
Furthermore, I was in a state where I felt things were difficult and I am running out of time. Talking to Sam, she taught me that: "It's impatience that makes patience." Although everyone says take it slow and time will prove everything, if you want to reap the gift of time, you need to work hard at the present moment. Only by "impatiently" making rapid progress in a short period of time, squeezing time, solving obstacles, can you then "patiently" wait for time to give you answers and enjoy the benefits of time.
Looking back now, I am grateful for that conversation. And I believe as long as you are willing to open your heart, you can also reap your "serendipity" (缘分) in SMC Hiking Library.
(Disclaimer: This article is only personal opinions and is not related to CNBC's position)