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Serve To Lead 4 Change

The only constant in life is change, and the rate of change is increasing. With today's pace of change, there is an increasing need and demand for us to embrace agility, flexibility and adaptiveness in our professional lives. What are these characteristics in actuality?

  • Ability to move quickly and easily.
  • Ability to think and understand quickly.
  • Ability to be easily modified.
  • Ability and willingness to change or compromise.
  • Ability to adjust to new conditions.
  • Ability to be modified for a new use or purpose.
When I turned 13, I enrolled in the Royal Military College. Being an innocent young boy, I had zero expectations of the reality I was about to face for the next 4 years. Little did I know, this was a key tipping point in my life. Nevertheless, I distinctly remember my first day as a Putera or "New Boy" as we were fondly called. It was the day when the pace of change in my life accelerated evidently in contrast to everything I've experienced up to that point.

Me and 25 others were assigned to Charlie Company, where we were told that we will cooperate and stay together as a squad. Our Form 5's a.k.a the super seniors went on to explain the 4 rules to survive our military duty. Reflecting on times, I realised how we learnt to "Serve to Lead" or "Berkhidmat Memimpin" by clasping the idea and importance of change in our lives. I set out below the 4 rules introduced in Bahasa Malaysia which have been translated into English for you:

1. Tiada yang tidak ada (there is nothing you do not have)

When your superior asks for a Nasi Lemak Ayam at 1 am in the middle of the night, you are required to "produce" it. There is no such thing as saying you "don't have one" as an excuse. You will do whatever it takes to "produce" it, even if it means running across jungles and golf courses to "sneak out" of campus, get to a mamak restaurant, buy the Nasi Lemak Ayam and get back to your superior with his supper.

In a corporate setting, I learnt the value of coming up with solutions when there is a problem or issue in work projects. If you're keen on progressing in your career, don't approach your boss with just a problem. When you encounter a problem, go to your boss with an understanding of the problem and optimally have 3 proposed options to solve the problem. Problem-solving skills are highly sought after and you get better at it by understanding the nature and root cause of your problems and formulating prospective solutions to address them. It never gets easier, you just get better.

2. Tiada yang tidak tahu (there is nothing you do not know)

When your superior asks you what's Saturday's schedule of military training for his batch, you are required to find out. There is no such thing as saying you're "not sure" or you "don't know". You will locate and find the schedule wherever it may be, commit it to memory and provide the information to him flawlessly. In the event of further queries, you will provide an accurate response or scout for more intel on the matter.

In an audit context, I learnt the importance of fact-finding by soliciting information from documents and probing clients as necessary to obtain an understanding of any company. In performing analytical procedures to understand revenue trends of a company, you may not be able to explain spikes or sudden falls in certain periods. You can change your ignorance or lack of knowledge of the matter at hand by asking questions and seeking out sources of information to corroborate evidence. Fact-finding skills can be developed by tactfully asking the right questions, actively listening and keeping an open mind whilst exercising scepticism and professional judgement. You have two ears and two eyes and only one mouth. Because you will learn twice as much as what you will ever have to say.

3. Tiada yang tidak boleh (there is nothing you cannot do)

When your superior asks you to do his laundry, cook instant noodles and to grab a history textbook in his classroom whilst you are already on different superior's instructions to polish his shoes, you will make time to obey all instructions. There is no such thing as saying you're "busy" or you've "never done the task". Only once you have completed all instructions, you are allowed to do your own tasks. Being idle is not tolerated in the army. If you cannot do something due to lack of experience, you will learn how to do it and do it well.

In a professional context, I learnt the significance of upskilling to perform tasks which are new to me. Working in a project-based environment entails being exposed to new problems which require new solutions. To address these problems, a can-do attitude is crucial in learning new skills and understanding required facts. Laws change, accounting standards change and amongst others, people change too. Learning how to learn is competence worth developing. These ten 2-letter words capture the essence of personal change: "If it is to be, it is up to me."

4. Setiap yang bermula, pasti akan berakhir (this too, shall pass)

When all is said and done, my 4 years in the Royal Military College did come to an end upon my passing out parade. The daunting early mornings and late nights of blood, sweat and tears were not indefinite. The joy of camaraderie and the animus of physical and mental torture is but a memory to me. Time changes everything.

In life, you can change by choice or by chance. Either you disrupt or you be disrupted. Men are not creatures of circumstances, circumstances are creatures of men. Thus in any circumstance, you have 3 choices: to accept it, change it or leave it. If you can't accept it, then change it. If you can't change it, then leave it. Life is your story, you choose the contents.


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