Photo: Buddhists parading with lighted paper lanterns

Bjorn Lim gave up his five figure salary advertising job to be an urban farmer in 2012 after his returned from England. He left his cushy job for one that pays him so little for the simple reasons: joy and satisfaction working with nature. He was sent to England for work for three years. His stayed in England-Wale makes him question his life purpose and definition of happiness. He and his wife took calculated risk to venture into urban agriculture industry. He collaborated with a few restaurant owners and grows herbs in their compound as land space in Singapore is scarce and expensive. This concept is new in Singapore, but he managed to see some results. Now, he has his own farm to grow his crops. He was featured in the Tuesday Report-television programme on 8 October 2013.

Many of us dare not take calculated risk and venture into unknown territory, including yours truly. We would rather remain in our comfort zone and live life normally. We like to follow the crowd and take the familiar path. Uncharted path is not for the faint hearted. You may be ordinary salaried staff; but you still can make a difference in your work place as a contrarian.

You can train yourself to do things differently, increase productivity and make your work more challenging. Help your company to cut cost with new system or operational procedures. Think out of the box and be bold to come up with new ideas and persevere in getting it implemented.  By doing things differently from the rest of your co-workers, you are a contrarian. Rewards belong to those who believe in their choices and dare to be a contrarian. Bjorn is a good example of a contrarian when he chose to abandon his high salaried job to do what he believes in giving him the happiness and satisfaction he wants.

In our daily lives, we can choose to be a contrarian in many other ways. Be it education or career, we don’t have to follow the standard path taken by the majority in our society. It doesn’t matter how we get to our destination. The important thing is that we get there eventually.

In our society, it is a norm for parents to desire for their children to finish their degree education. However, some parents insist that their children must go to the Junior College (JC) and subsequently go to a local University (Uni).  Unfortunately, not all children are suitable for this standard educational path. There are multiple pathways for success and we should recognise the diverse ability and interests of our children.

My aunt wanted his son to study in a JC, since both her older daughters completed their degree courses at the National Technological University; even though he wanted to pursue a course of his interest in a Polytechnic. He flunked his JC1 and he was required to repeat another year. He was reluctant to continue with his JC education. My aunt relentlessly agreed to let him enroll into a Polytechnic. He did very well in his studies and scored A’s in almost all of the subjects. He was among the top 10 per cent in the whole faculty in his first year of Polytechnic education. This is a classic example of a parent’s attempt to follow the standard education path against the will of her child.

My daughter was not eligible for JC education. But she was eligible to apply for courses in the Polytechnic. However, she couldn’t find a course that interests her. I didn’t want to force her to study something which she doesn’t like. As a contrarian, I didn’t want her to retake her GCE ‘O’ level so as to get better grade to enter JC. Instead, I enrolled her into a private institution for a degree programme. While her classmates were studying in Polytechnics and JCs, she was doing her degree course. She completed her degree course in four years and she was glad that I encouraged her to take this uncommon path. I take comfort that she completed her degree with reasonably good GPA in spite of having to assist me in taking care of her chronically ill father during the first two years of her course. While her friends are still pursuing their degree courses, she has already completed hers and has started work since February this year. By the time they graduate next year, she has already clocked one year of working experience. This is the benefit of having a contrarian parent.

I have learnt to be a contrarian since the day I quitted my full-time job and devoted my time caring for my family when my eldest was a year old. With one income, money was tight. Instead of spending money on what I like, I choose to buy what is essential.  Instead of buying my clothes from shops in Orchard Road, I shop in the neighbourhood shops.

You don’t have to go shopping for the sake of promotion or the yearly Great Singapore Sales. If what you need is not urgent, wait and source for good bargain. You don’t have to buy branded goods to make yourself feel good or to impress people around you. It’s important that you buy essential things, and preferably at discounted price. I have the habit of asking for discount for most of the things I intended to buy from shops in the neighbourhood. I often manage to buy at discounted or bargained price. I always believe that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:8 (NKJV)

I encourage you to do things differently and explore new avenue to make your life better. Don’t give up and keep knocking on doors. You’ll be amazed when favour comes your way at the right time. Remember, you don’t have to follow what the crowd is doing. Be a contrarian if you desire to live your life according to your own definition.



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