How can I manage my job and my career?


5 traits of highly effective people

Highly effective people collage

Highly effective people are ordinary beings like you and me, except that they have figured out a way to get the most out of life. However, there are parallels between their life stories and ours, and most of us can be inspired by them.

Do what people don't do (and get what they don't get)

A simple philosophy that Nick Zhou holds dear. While he was not exactly sure of his path in life after graduating with a Diploma in Business Management from Nanyang Polytechnic, he knew that he did not want to follow a path well-trodden. So instead of getting a cushy office job like most of his friends did, he went into an industry that most youngsters would not have thought of - aircon servicing.

However, his parents strongly disapproved of his decision, so he had to keep his real career under wraps initially by holding another job. With the support of his then-girlfriend-now-wife, he stuck with his career for another eight years, moving from aircon servicing to installation and to sales. This gave him a solid foundation in the trade. He eventually decided to strike out on his own, founding Air Connection Design Pte Ltd . Not surprisingly, his business quickly stood out for its superior workmanship. A GST-registered company, Air Connection Design Pte Ltd employs more than 30 people today and makes over a million dollars in sales annually. Nick's advice to people, “If you do what everyone else is doing, you will not stand out. Dare to try something that others will not try.”

Nick Zhou with colleagues

Credit: Nick Zhou

Don't bow down to fate

You may think that highly effective people are those who were born with higher IQ or with a silver spoon in their mouths. But, that is rarely the case. Take the example of Australian motivational speaker, Nick Vujicic who was born with no arms and no legs. Considering his physical circumstances, he lives an amazingly normal life. He swims, surfs, skateboards and plays soccer and golf.

Nick Vujicic playing golf


Not only is he able to live like a normal person, he has created a spectacular career for himself with his voice. Nick has spoken to over 400 million people across 57 countries . His books have been translated into over 30 different languages and have sold more than a million copies internationally. He said: "I really forget I have no arms or legs sometimes." Nick Vujicic is also happily married with 2 kids. So how did he propose? Well, he used his mouth to put the ring on her finger.


Sometimes things happen beyond our control. However, what matters is how we react. Flashback – Singapore in the 70s and early 80s when pig farming was a main livelihood. In 1984, the government announced that pig farming would be phased out due to concerns of resulting pollution. That sounded the death knell for pig farmers.

Lim Hock Chee was one of the pig farmers who was affected. Realising that pig farming was no longer viable, he wasted no time on despair and adapted quickly. Lim Hock Chee and his brothers borrowed money from relatives and took over a retail supermarket store in Ang Mo Kio. The Lim brothers knew barely anything about this new field and worked hard to pick up the ropes. They struggled initially in competing against five other provision stores in the same area. To survive, the Lim brothers developed their customer service along the way, helping customers carry heavy items up the stairs and paying attention to the tricks of the trade, among other things. Their adaptability paid off. Today, Sheng Siong has over 40 stores islandwide and is even listed on the SGX . As Helen Keller famously said, “When one door closes, another opens”. Lim Hock Chee stepped through the opened door rather than bemoan the closed door, and was able to thrive despite adverse circumstances.

Lim Chee Hock at supermarket

Credit: The Business Times

Invest in yourself

You have heard of investing in stocks or properties, but what about investing in yourself? This came from the world's best investor, Warren Buffet who said that "the best investment is in yourself". Although one of the richest people in the world, Warren Buffet never stopped learning. He reads about 50 books per year, or about one per week, no matter how busy he is. In fact, it was one book, "The Intelligent Investor" that put him on the right track in his investing career.

Knowledge doesn't come from just books. Warren Buffet is a firm believer in upgrading oneself. Interestingly, he credits his success to a course he attended out of school. “In my office, you will not see the degree that I got from the University of Nebraska. You will not see the master's degree I got from Columbia University. But you will see the award certificate I got from the Dale Carnegie (public speaking) Course."

Sure, degrees are important, but as Warren Buffet has proven, external courses and books can also have a profound impact on our career. This is especially true in today’s fast-moving world where there is rising demand for skills of the new economy. People who invest in themselves therefore become highly sought-after assets.

Warren Buffet quote


Stay open and try different things

Many of us know Irene Ang as the actress starring as Rosie Phua in P. C. K. Private Limited. However, do you know that she also wears many other hats? She is an actress, host, stand-up comedian, event coordinator, motivational speaker and CEO of talent agency FLY Entertainment. She was nominated as the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004. She was also offered a fencing scholarship in France and even qualified to be a member of the Singapore Olympic selection squad.

One lesson we can learn from Irene's diverse experience - be open to trying new things because you never know what it will lead to. In fact, in an interview with High Net Worth, she confessed that she was never interested in acting. Yet, when the opportunity came knocking, she stayed open to it. It eventually led her to fulfil her passion of changing the industry with her company, Fly Entertainment.

An anonymous quote I saw on my Facebook Newsfeed left me pondering, "Life is fair because it is unfair to everyone." Everyone starts at different points in their lives and accumulates different achievements, each remarkable in their own way. Highly effective people are not especially wealthy but they roll with life’s punches and live fulfilling lives. Ultimately, success is never defined by society but by ourselves. The only yardstick for success is whether we led a life that we can be proud of at the end of it.