A Programmer's Perspective

The yellow brick road of life

Published on: 15 July 2020

I have the tendency to worry about the future... a lot. Sometimes, I stagnate for a period of time worrying about whether my decisions would land me at where I want to be in the future. Sometimes, I fall into the trap believing that success can only be achieved by following a singular path.

It is quite funny actually. I am known to give pretty good advice to others with regards to helping them figure out life but when it comes to myself, I tend to forget these nuggets of advice or just ignore them.

So this post is a reminder to myself that success is non-linear.

Dear Jia Hao...

You don't need a degree in Stanford or MIT to become successful. You don't need to travel across the globe because you believe that, somehow, by moving away, you will attain the happiness and success you so desire. You don't need to be the top of your class to be successful or well-liked.

As simple as that seems, you always forget about them. You started with nothing and clawed your way to where you are today without all these fanciful things. You come from a lower-middle income family. You grew up with little luxaries; You never got the latest games or watched the latest movies. You never went to an elite primary school, secondary school, or polytechnic. Even after getting an amazing score for your O'Levels, you still chose to attend a polytechnic to pursue your love for programming. You have never been one to trod along the well-worn path. You have been following your own yellow brick road. Why are you hesitating now? Why are you trying to rush your future? Why are you comparing yourself to others?

Do things because you want to, not because you believe that somehow they will lead you to success. I believe that you need a constant reminder for what your goals are because when you worry too much, you begin to fallback on common stereotypes and fail to find the meaning behind your actions.

You want to attend a good school because you want to discover yourself as a person and to be amongst like-minded individuals to you can share your passions with. The brand of the school is not as important as the experiences you choose to be a part of. You will naturally find yourself amongst friends who share common interests, so do not worry about where you end up. Rather, focus on what you make out of your time there.

You want to travel because you know that experiencing different cultures will allow you to better understand others and develop your outlook on life. The destination, duration, or purpose may vary, but the one thing that cannot change is this openness to new experiences.

You want to be the top of your class because you genuinely love what you are studying and will achieve these results because you are studying something out of passion. Your love for learning has always spurred you to go above and beyond, do not let this never-ending hunger for knowledge be a hindrance. Rather, let it be your guiding light - a constant reminder of why you are doing what you are doing.

You managed to reach where you are today because you genuinely loved the process of learning and growing, so why stop now? You managed to carve out your brand of success by persisting through hard times. Ironically, it was because of these conditions that you are who you are today, and that makes you so special.

Rather than trying to look at everything in a negative light, focus on the positives of each outcome. Pessimism is the ticket to regret. Do not live life with regrets.

Rather than being fixated on the vague end goal, set out to achieve it. It is your life, your decisions, and your future. It is not up to someone else to mandate whether you are successful or not. It is easy to conflate academic success or material wealth with success in today's society. But these notions of success are never-ending. You will never be happy trying to pursue these vague ideas of success. Instead, turn these ideas of success into guidelines to charting your own success. Do well because you enjoy what you are studying and love the process of learning. Earn enough so that you are able to survive but do not fall into the never-ending cycle of pursuing wealth for the sake of pursuing wealth. The endless pursuit of wealth is one that will suck the life out of anyone brave - or foolish - enough to venture down this path.

When you start to focus on the true meaning behind your decisions, you will be able to naturally achieve them.

You already know all of these. I know that deep down, you have never faltered in your goals and ambitions. You may get lost and fumble at times, but I believe that your pursuit to understand the world around you and be a good person is never lost, only clouded by the circumstances presented to you. So, why are you still doubting yourself? You have proven that you do not need to be dealt the perfect hand to win the game. So go out there, pursue what you love, be focused, do not waver in your conviction, and you will attain your brand of happiness - one that comes from being your true self to others and to yourself. Who cares whether your yellow brick road has detours or bumps and imperfections? At the end of your journey, look back and smile knowing that it is through this yellow brick road that you are who you are today.

So please, stop doubting yourself and second-guessing every decision you make, you will be happy, no matter where you land because happiness comes from within, not your circumstances.

Regards, Jia Hao

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