Image from digitalsydney.com
When Mr Jack Sim, Founder of World Toilet Organisation and BoP Hub met Mr Brian Lim at NASA at Singularity University. He was amazed by this Singaporean who is working for the Australian Government to commercialize their Space industry including Space Mining.
Mr Sim asked asked Brian Lim what would bring him back to Singapore, Mr Lim told him that Singapore saw him as a failure as he did badly in Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), entered Normal stream, repeated his O levels and failed at Polytechnic. He added that there should be room for failure as everyone learns from mistake. He finds it sad that Singapore has “a culture of failing once is failing for good.”.
In the response, Mr Lim said that he had wanted to do space in Singapore for more than a decade, but no one offered to give him help on this matter. He also note that National University of Singapore (NUS) knocked him back for not having the knowledge to execute.
Mr Sim wrote in his facebook status update saying,
“Despite of these academic results he is not stupid at all. He got his Masters in Space at International Space University. The Australian government saw his talent. Whereas Singapore is still following the traditional conformist route, we are wasting all these talents who migrate overseas because they are NOT SCHOLARS.”
He requested for permission from Mr Lim to publish the reply so that there can have a wake up call in Singapore.
The following is the reply by Mr Lim;
It was a wonderful surprise to meet you at Singularity University. Thank you for your kind words around what I am doing in Space in Australia.
Thinking about your question Jack, I wanted to do space in Singapore for more than a decade, but every attempt even at Polytechnic and at NUS knocked me back for not having the knowledge to execute and no one willing to give me the help to attempt this.
So at the start of 2013, I managed to get into the International Space University, which trained me in the basic of the Space Industry, and it gave me enough knowledge to begin working on my own to build business. Since it was lacking in Australia, I also began the work to build the entire commerical industry in Australia, which is what I am now working to achieve.
As to what we can do better at home?
The government should not be afraid when Singaporeans attempt challenging and disruptive industries. A lot of the Singaporeans I know, do not wish to innovate in Singapore, because they feel that the government will shut them down as a competitor to a government owned business or a “protected” business
After helping build and participating in Startup Ecosystems in different countries, there is a strong sense of trust among the communities that do well. In Singapore…there is a culture of keeping things close to their chest, and not trusting the people around them. People have shared with each other thousands of dollars of mutual support for each other, educating and raising the system.
Embrace the strange and the non-conformist. I did poorly at my PSLE, I got into the normal stream and I repeated of O levels and I failed polytechnic. By the Singapore system, everyone saw me as a failure. Yet despite that, I got my Masters and I am now helping build the commercial space Industry in Australia. I was never stupid, I simply had a kind of smart which was not recognized in the education system of Singapore. A lot of my friends from Singapore dislike the conformist nature of the education system and the workforce. Yet despite that, we made it on our own overseas.
Let there be room to fail. Everyone learns from mistake, so its rather sad that Singapore has such a culture of failing once is failing for good. Some of the smartest people I know, have made tons of mistakes, but they eventually found the right answers. If there is no culture and support to allow people to fail often and learn, we can’t progress very far.
Encourage bold visions and idea, no matter what they are. One of the reasons why Singaporeans overseas do not want to come back, is because the smallness of the vision of the local population. The big bold visions draws out the best in us, they draw people to us. No one believed me when I first said we could build a space industry on our own, now 18 months later, the Australian government is supporting its creation along with Universities and Commercial entities in the creation of the Delta –V which is now leading the creation of the Space Industry in Australia.
Reduce the amount of red tape to experiment. At Singularity University, I am investigating, Bio electric batteries, next generation drone flight systems, Genetic Modifying organism, and new ways of traveling into space. We know that we can’t do all of them, but we can test all our ideas and experiments on them to validate them.This is incredibly useful for generating new ideas and validating old ones. I intend to already build a similar facility back in Sydney to support the space industry.
I hope this helps.