SINGAPORE – Though there might be some truth that prompted the famous saying, "Youth is wasted on the young", DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta thinks his older self should not "forget my younger self along the way".
In an interview published in the new book "Lessons for My Younger Self: Powerful and Candid Conversations That Inspire a Better Life" by ex-finance correspondent Gabriel Chen, Gupta expanded that he was "big into the environment" when he was younger and rediscovered his love for nature some 10 years ago. "I used to be so involved with bird watching and nature all through my middle school. My younger self used to do all these," he said. "Then I got caught up in the world of finance and I stopped thinking about the green agenda, the conservation agenda. About 10 years ago, I re-found my love. I started getting more involved in nature, and bird watching, and so on."
"Frankly, the advice I'd give to my older self is to make sure my older self does not forget my younger self along the way."
Beneficial life lessons
Currently working in an investment firm, Chen said he wanted "people young and old to benefit from the life lessons of accomplished Asian personalities centred around the advice they would give to their younger selves".
"I searched and could not find such a book. So, I wrote it," he said. The book , adding that "the hardest thing about writing my book were the 30-minute conversations... getting someone to open up in a 30-minute conversation takes a lot of trust and courage".
Besides Gupta, 20 other personalities and leaders – such as Eu Yan Sang chairman Richard Eu, former star national footballer Quah Kim Song, jazz maestro and Cultural Medallion recipient Jeremy Monteiro, and civil activist and writer Constance Singam – also contributed their advice and musings.
Here are a few excerpts from the book:
1. Piyush Gupta, CEO, DBS: On staying grounded
""If you're successful like I am, it's very easy to get caught up with the lifestyle," he says. "The best way to stay grounded is go back and spend time with the friends you had in school. They know you for what you were. Within 20 minutes of meeting you, they bring you back to the kind of person you used to be."
"What I do believe is that at the end of the day, one of the biggest differences you can make is on people," he states with a slow smile. "When it's all done and dusted, people will remember you for how you made them feel and what you did for them.""
2. Quah Kim Song, ex-national footballer: On just being yourself
"At this stage of his life, Mr Quah is comfortable in his own skin and does not see the need to apologize to anyone for anything he is not. For one thing, he is still unwilling to coax a room of unfamiliar faces with laughter or chit-chat.
"Even till this day, I've very few friends. To me, my advice to people is it's better to have a few good friends than to have a lot of friends. If not, you've a lot of problems: you would have different opinions, people passing remarks, arguing, quarrelling and so on.""
3. Jeremy Monteiro, jazz maestro and Cultural Medallion recipient: On asking for what you need
""I've learned if I need something, I just ask for what I need and sometimes, people give you exactly that, but sometimes they'll surprise you with a couple of notches above what you asked for," he puts it so pithily. "I think it's important for us to know how to ask for what we need from our life partners or colleagues. If you ask, the most they can say is 'No', and then you've to train yourself not to be angry because they've said 'No' and they've every right to say 'No'.""
4. Richard Eu, chairman, Eu Yan Sang International: On not discounting the lucky breaks
""Somebody gave me some advice early on in my life," he says. "Whatever you're born with, you've to make the best of it. If you're lucky you were born into this circumstance, in a way you've a leg up, right, so make the best of it. Don't screw it up. In fact, you should achieve more, right?"
"I mean, this is something my mother always told me: 'Look, you've this name. It can be a burden.' In the sense because you're in this position, you actually have a responsibility to help other people.""
5. Constance Singam, civil activist and ex-president of AWARE for three terms: On learning as you do
"As a civil society activist, Ms Singam has learned that the more you do, the more things you know – and the more you know, the more impact you can have on your community.
"I know if I don't participate in this kind of activity, I can't blame others for not doing their part," she argues. "How can I accuse other people of not participating and in being active towards making a better Singapore, when I am not involved in it myself?""
The author's royalties will be donated to the Singapore Cancer Society.