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Every now and then, The Straits Times and other mainstream media outlets publish inspirational stories of Singaporeans who have achieved extraordinary accomplishments.

The message is clear: These are the role models of our society, and readers should be doing more for their own community.

Reiterating the need to inspire Singaporeans that there is more to life than just the rat race, ST has even launched a Singaporean of the Year award.  

These profiles follow a certain thematic pattern that suggest that success in this country can only be defined by several markers listed below.

And while “feel good” stories are a welcome addition to the daily mundane, what they really accomplish is force us to take a hard look at ourselves and reflect on how little we have achieved despite the privileges available to us.

 


 

1. An ex-convict who has turned over a new leaf

 

A stupid mistake lands him behind bars. He regrets it immensely, perhaps finds God along the way, and strives to do good for the community when he is released.

He joins a NGO, starts a social enterprise, or even becomes a lawyer to defend the helpless.

MPs and the community praise his contributions and attitude. After all, it’s not easy to leave one’s dark past behind.

Thanks to initiatives like the Yellow Ribbon Project, opportunities abound for ex-convicts who put their mind and heart to starting life anew.

However, even the poster boy of successful rehabilitation, Eighteen Chefs founder Benny Se Teo, thinks this is really just a facade. In reality, few ex-convicts are truly accepted when they are released.

 

 2. An underdog beats the odds and becomes his school’s top scorer

Troubled childhood. Low-income families. Born with a disability. Dislike for school in general.

These are the common challenges that some of our country’s top scorers have had to conquer.

They say that our education system is elitist, what with premier institutions and integrated programmes.

But these top scorers prove that meritocracy is still alive, and every school is a good school.

You just need to find the discipline to bury your head in the books, while juggling responsibilities as a CCA or student leader, and you will score straight As to get a scholarship for further studies at Oxbridge or an Ivy League college.

Good luck winning the rat race.

 

 3. High-flying banker gives up high salary to take over family business

They studied hard to graduate from university with first-class honours. Some were even high-fliers in the corporate world.

But when duty called, these men and women made the ultimate sacrifice.

They put down everything, including pursuing their own dreams, to return home and take over their family’s business. Decades-old traditions are thus preserved a little while longer in a modernised and high-tech society.

Thanks to them, we still have our pre-schools and beef noodles.

Many young Singaporeans help their parents at mom and pop shops after school and their filial piety goes unnoticed. Yet, it is the act of giving up a five-figure paycheck that is deemed most noble.

 

 4. Fashion designer makes Singapore proud overseas

With our tiny geographical and population size, seeing a Singaporean name or brand in the West is therefore something worth celebrating.

Whether you are a fashion designer or a musician, the country salutes you for flying the national flag high in a foreign land.

Never mind that many of you decided to move overseas due to the dearth of opportunities and support back home.

As long as you’ve made it, Singapore proudly showcases your feats as her own. After all, you are the epitome of “passion made possible”.

 

 5. Rich man quits job to do charity full-time

Being a kind and generous Singaporean seems to be a mean feat these days.

These white-collar high-fliers are here to remind you that if they can take time off their busy schedules or even quit their jobs to do good, then you really have no excuse to be shying away from basic moral obligations.

Don’t forget, for many of these Singaporeans, time is money.

But the scale of their charitable projects also require them to be equipped with vast financial resources in the first place.

For the ordinary Singaporeans who have been volunteering weekly with non-profit organisations, your big hearts still pale in comparison.

So really, the takeaway once again is that huge financial sacrifice is highly inspirational and definitely worth celebrating.

 


 

If most inspirational stories follow the same formula, then how can they still light the fire in us?

Aren’t we tired of reading the same old tales over and over again? Just by looking at the predictable headlines, we already know the stories before we actually read them.

Maybe these stories aren’t so much inspirational as they are instructional:

Be an active citizen who contributes to society. Follow these exceptional Singaporeans and play your role in nation-building.

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