I’ve been living and working in Singapore for well over four years now. Its the longest period of time I’ve stayed in a single place/region/area since I graduated from high school. Naturally, people assume (rightfully) that I absolutely love it here, when actually, they couldn’t be further from the truth. Like the yellow chick trying desperately to fit in above, I have never fit in here, and probably never will. At the office I’m fine…but I’m talking bigger picture here, and I stick out like a yellow chick. What makes it more difficult is the fact that I tried (and still try) really hard…and the sting of rejection at times is felt more acutely as you age. On one hand, I’m more resilient as a result, but I’m also battered up.
What keeps me here is a strange combination of fate and free will. Fate brought me here, and kept bringing me back everytime I nearly left (and did leave at one point for good); but I’m also here because of “free will.” I have loved the work and types of opportunities I’ve been given, however hard they have been, and the resulting professional and personal growth have been tremendous. But being beaten up regularly and constantly has its effects, and at some point your elastic limit is reached; your rate of fatigue outweighs rate of recuperation, and you start to feel permanently changed, even deformed.
For years, I struggled to succinctly describe WHY I was struggling to fit in or even enjoy the place…after all, Singapore is a really cool, hip and happening city. Most people who come here absolutely love it. It lies at the crossroads of interdisciplinary cultures; is vibrantly growing and brilliantly surfing the wave of Asia’s incredible economic boom; people speak English; and it has superb infrastructure and all the facilities to rival any other modern city in the world. Yet I, an avid world traveller really struggle.
Then today, I saw a brilliant venn diagram from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner that summarized my answer. Jeff says that three qualities define the people he most likes to work with…something I would most definitely agree with: people who “Dream Big”, “Get Shit Done,” and “Have fun doing it.” (I would add a fourth one that includes “share my core values.”)
What has made it extremely hard for me to live and operate in Singapore is that its been HARD to find people who fit in any of these three circles, leave alone at the intersections. You find lots who talk about it and try to sell you on why they belong in those circles. But few, if any, actually do. In Singapore, Its easiest to find people who “dream big”, and then talk incessantly about their dreams and how cool they are as a result. The innovation usually stops there. Few work to make anything happen, and almost no one I know has fun doing whatever they do. Of course there are people who fit into these circles, but they all leave for the most part. Fleeing to places where they are welcomed and accepted, and the barriers to being innovative are MUCH lower.
So there you have it in a nutshell…the fundamental reason why I struggle in Singapore.