Michelle Chong has correctly identified the disease that is plaguing Singapore. What is lacking now is to know why.
I’d like to take a stab at diagnosing the cause of the disease. Here we go:
a.) We’re obsessed with chasing money
b.) We have unhealthy ambitions to be managers
c.) We cheapen skills
I’d like to start with the first, because its the one that pisses me off the most.
How many times have you heard someone say “Money is not important, it is more important to be happy in your career”.
Here’s a big fat, middle finger of a “NO” to this overused quote.
Money is important. It feeds the family, it pays the bills and it gives us hope of a better future. Those with not enough of it knows what this means. Those who have lots of this spout idiot things like “Don’t work for the money, work for passion”. Unless you’re a sex worker, passion doesn’t keep the repo man away better than cash does.
It is precisely because money is so important that we are constantly on the search to fill this massive void. As we grow older, we don’t need less money… we need more. There are social needs to fill, family needs to appease, emergencies to see to and we need to save for investment, otherwise us and our children will be entangled in a net of financial inadequacy for generations to come.
Like a bath that is not plugged, fee hikes, inflation and family responsibilities drain away the money that trickles to us each month. Most of us are busy finding new taps to turn on, frantically keeping up with the rate of drainage.
We’re so obsessed with the need to turn on as many taps as we can, we neglect attention to the quality of our work. We can’t tell the difference between important and urgent. Clients want everything done yesterday. It is little wonder that we no longer care about the details, the important stuff that distinguish professionals from amateurs.
Next, I’d like to point out the fact that this country has an unhealthy obsession with becoming managers and leaders.
Everyone wants to lead, nobody wants to do. Everyone wants to build skills in managing, nobody wants to be the one being managed.
But management is a very unique skill. It requires empathy, salesmanship, vision, ability and the talent to solve conflicts, not create them (which many an inapt manager is inclined to do, in an eagerness to flaunt their new found title).
So what happens when everyone chases the managerial title? Well, they try their best to pave their careers that way and neglect to build the skills that they’re really and actually good at.
If you’ve been a salesman, you’re good at selling. If you’re a designer, you’re good at designing. If you’re a pilot, you’re good at flying. If you neglect these things and force yourself to be a manager, of which requires a very specific set of skills… then you lose focus, you try to be something you’re not and you lose the respect of the people who paid you for what you were good at doing.
We are cheapening skills. We reward the lowest bidder, we don’t respect the designers, the craftsman, the plumber, the driver, the shop floor worker. We pay them the lowest possible rates, we ask for free services where we can and disguise our disrespect dressing them in this word called “collaboration”.
The consequence to this is the one with cheap skills will answer your call. With cheap skills come cheap responsibility – and that, is the answer to why this country is losing its pride for our work.
No one cares if you do good work, they only care if you can do it at a good price and do it fast. Some clients even think they can do your job better by dictating your work. “Make my logo bigger” is the designer’s joke on clients who think they have got better artistic sense than someone whom has been living and breathing art for a lifetime.
So you’re right Michelle, this is a country that has lost their appreciation for skills. Because of the reasons discussed above, we have come to accept the “pass up homework” heck care attitude.
It is quite sad really. Even sadder when you realise all of society is like this and there really isn’t anything we can do about it.