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Speech By Mr Uantchern Loh At SIM University Convocation 2014

Speech By Mr Uantchern Loh, Chief Executive, Singapore Accountancy Commission, At SIM University Convocation 2014 On 10 October 2014, 9.30am, The Grand Hall Of SIM University

Mr Gerard Ee, Chancellor, SIM University;
Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, SIM University;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen

  1. Commencement is a grand occasion where individual achievements are recognised and celebrated collectively as a group. I am indeed honoured to be part of this joyful celebration with over 350 graduands at SIM University who have been groomed to be the future leaders of Singapore. The term commencement symbolises both the arrival at a destination and the beginning of a new journey. Looking at all of you today, I see faces of happiness and excitement as you eagerly await the end of an epic journey – graduation. You have arrived at your destination. I also see some of you who are quietly reflective as you realise that you will soon embark on a new journey – an exciting job, a career to build, new places to see.
  1. What do you do once you have arrived at your destination? Do you look forward to the next destination, and the destination after that? This morning, I would like to share with you some important life lessons that I hope would put you in good stead for your journey ahead. The advantage of me being 50 years old, which coincidentally is the same age as SIM University, is that I have been on a longer journey than you. I am no fortune-teller, I cannot tell you what are the next steps to take, but what I can offer are a few life lessons that I have learnt during my life journey.

Life Lesson 1 – The journey matters as much as the destinations

  1. Have you ever wondered if life was a series of destinations or a continuous journey? Personally, I have always seen life as one great journey, bringing me to various destinations, where I have a short rest at each destination to recharge, before continuing on my never-ending journey. I recall the many destinations in life that I have reached, such as the time I graduated from university to landing my first job. Whenever I arrive at these checkpoints, I always ask myself this question, 'What do I do once I have arrived?'.
  1. In 1987, I arrived at my own graduation ceremony, sitting in the same position as you all are right now. I had butterflies in my stomach because I was excited yet nervous to receive my scroll on stage. All I was thinking of was just to enjoy this joyous moment with the people – friends and family - who had accompanied me through this journey. At the end of the ceremony, we took photos together, capturing the memories of our arrival at a destination.
  1. Thinking back, the images of my university journey still remain fresh in my mind. The journey to our graduation day was not always a straightforward one. There were times we went down the wrong path, we got lost and we turned back. But along the way, we realised that it didn't matter which road we embarked on. If it were the wrong road, we would back-track and start again. If it were the right road, we would keep going. Rather, what mattered most was that we kept going on the journey through good times, bad times, happy days and sad days.
  1. I believe that we will always arrive at our destinations if we keep going on our journey. And I have applied this belief in all the challenges that I face. In 2012, I was in a race across the Gobi Desert. In 2013, it was the launch of the Singapore Qualification Programme. In 2014, I trekked up a mountain in Bhutan and did a second climb up Mount Kinabalu. Next year in 2015, perhaps I will run across the Atacama Desert in Chile, reputedly the driest place in the world. The journey is more rewarding than the destination and it's the people you meet along the way that enriches the experience. It's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. It is in the learning, the doing, the experiencing, the practicing, the being there, living each moment for what it is, that makes our lives interesting and shaping us into who we are today.
  1. You will never reach your destination if you only travel on sunny days. Focus on the journey with all of its ups and downs, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but having the triumphs and failures captured forever in your memory. The road of life twists and turns, and no two paths are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination. It was the same in your university life and will be the same in your working life. What will YOU do once you have arrived?

Life Lesson 2 – A destination is both a finishing line and the start of another journey

  1. As you may have gathered, I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie and I am always going on adventures such as desert races and climbing mountains. When you are at the base of a mountain, you only have one objective – to reach the top of the mountain. Now, picture yourselves at the start of your career, at the base. I believe all of you have a dream of reaching the pinnacle of your career.
  1. Just like climbing a mountain, your career starts from ground zero. Each arduous step you take, each checkpoint reached will be a new destination and a new learning experience for you. We all know that the sun always rises from the east and sets in the west. Whether you are in the Gobi Desert or up on a mountain top in Bhutan, the sun will still rise and set, and the views will be spectacularly the same. But all mountaineers will tell you that every journey is different, even if it's the same mountain. That's why viewing a sunrise or sunset at the top of the mountain is not as awesome as the next journey.
  1. When you are at the pinnacle of your career, and you start admiring your achievements, I hope that you will remember the journey there. Admire the sunrise and go on your next journey. We always hear of mountaineers who successfully conquer Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth. But do you know that Mount Everest is actually not the tallest mountain in the world?
  1. "Highest" is measured from mean sea level to the summit, while "tallest" is measured from the bottom of the mountain to the top. Calculating from the base to the top, Mauna Kea in Hawaii is actually the tallest mountain in the world, measuring at 33,465 feet. Mount Everest only measures 29,029 feet from its base to the tip, which is shorter than Mauna Kea by over 4,000 feet, or an estimated 1.2 kilometres. There will always be the next tallest, highest, deepest, driest, wettest, coldest and hottest destination. Success is not about reaching these destinations, but the journey that you are on.

Life Lesson 3 – Never forget the people who were with you during your journey

  1. Recognise that you will meet many people with different backgrounds during your journey. You make new friends, you learn new things, and you help one another. The problem is, we get so occupied in the hustle and bustle of the busy world that we are living in today, that sometimes we need to be reminded of what is really important to us while we are accumulating and acquiring along the way. So who do you want to remember during your journey? Is it the people who were next to you when you were facing the greatest challenges of your journey and were there to celebrate with you when you arrived at your destination? Or is it the people who only appear in front of you when you have arrived successfully?

  2. Today's commencement is a testament of your achievement and qualification, but never forget the wonderful support from your families and the encouragement of your lecturers that took you this far. I urge all of you to enjoy this special day with your family, lecturers and group of buddies. Take many photos, jump and do all kinds of poses, upload them onto your social media platforms! Capture this milestone and achievement!

  3. I would also like to offer my acknowledgement to all the marvellous parents who have been there in your journey to this destination. Today, you've arrived at SIM University where it’ll be a proud moment for you as you will witness your beloved children receive their scroll on stage. Your tireless dedication, love, support, and attention all these years has made them who they are today. Now it’s the time for them to make you proud..

  4. To the graduating cohort of 2014, the peak is a destination that always looks further than it seems, and seems harder than it looks. But it is not about conquering the mountain, it's about conquering the inner you. The journey from the bottom to the summit unlocks the mystery to why people climb, because only when you’ve been through the journey of the deepest valley and the toughest slopes, will you only understand the triumph of being at the top of the mountain. Remember that every mountain top is within reach if you believe in yourself and have the perseverance to keep on climbing this journey.

  5. You are moments away from graduating, moments away from moving on to your next destination and moments away from writing a new chapter in your life journey. The journey of your life is now up to you to choose, to make and to control. Think of how far you've come, how far you will go, and give yourselves a massive round of applause.
  1. In ending, let me share with you a quote from Mark Twain, the famous American author. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
  1. Congratulations on reaching this destination, and I wish you all the best in your journey ahead!
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