5 Life Lessons Schools Did Not Teach Me


The season of graduation is upon us once again. I looked back to once upon a time two and half years ago, to a naive period where I was once again a freshman, but in the society, and ditching my books to build the possibility of a career, in a niche and unregulated industry; the lessons that I have learnt along the way through trial-and-errors. Most importantly, lessons that schools did not pre-empt or prepare us for. I hope that it gives you a glimpse of what could possibly happen if you do choose to embark on that path less traveled and join an industry or a company that is not amongst the norm of choices. They are personal life lessons that I have reflected upon and thought it to be important, no matter what path you have chosen.

1. Always be realistic about your expectations

I guess you could attribute this factor to many failed relationships, whether in work or personal. Parents’ expectations of their children, the society’s expectations of people in general, managers’ expectations of their team, your partner’s expectations of you, customers’ expectations of a product or a service; the list is endless.

Expectations aren’t all bad. When does it become a bad thing? When it is unrealistic, when it is uncalled for, when it is a one-sided affair. And why are they bad? I think the nature of expectations itself is selfish and greedy. They are things that you pile on other people, without the permission to do so, to fulfill your own needs/wants. Basically, ignoring who or what the person is about, and creating a mold for that person to fit in, and when it does not happen the way you want it to be, you feel disappointed, angry and etc.

I think it is one of the crucial steps to learning how to love yourself too. I often set such unrealistic expectations of myself that I drive myself into corners without any leeway, then I beat myself up because I am unable to reach that goal I have in my mind with those self-imposed expectations. And becoming so disappointed and unhappy with myself after that. Loving myself starts with setting the right expectations.

On a more technical aspect of things, I find this management tool exceptionally useful now – SMART goals. And a constant reminder to put the matching of expectations at the start of any partnership, friendship, relationship, in all scenarios, every single moment and interaction of every day. So this is my expectation of myself now: I expect that with this realization, I’d be able to play the different roles better.

2. You define your own version of success
I reconnected with some long-lost friends for the past half a year, most of which are old classmates or good friends from the good old school days. When they ask me what I am doing now as a living, I often find it very difficult to explain, partly, it is because of the fact that it is very different from what they have expected from me. And I have to admit that some parts of me actually felt a little inferior in comparison and I cared about how they looked at me. All of them has a fancy title and a corporate name following behind, a prestigious school name, accolades and credits, and well-manicured looks and increasing spending power along with the package, while I have none of the above. Heck, when we hang out, they pay my share of the bill!

But then I sat down one day and thought about what I have, which are probably important things that not all of them have; I have people whom I enjoy working with, a job that is mission-driven, great bosses, and most importantly, autonomy to make decisions, freedom to choose for myself where I want things to be and being able to be the catalyst of change.  I get to define my definition of success. I hate the goddamn title to begin with, I hate how the society tries to shape and impose their impressions on us, I hate bureaucracy, monotony, pleasing everybody and not living with a purpose, (but yes, I do want to look better), so why the hell am I even bothered?

It made me ask myself what I really want, and how I could achieve my definition of success. And that definition of success include helping others to succeed, include making a dent in the world, include being open to the possibilities of life, to the extent of what I could become, what I could achieve. I take pride in the fact that I chose a different path, and in turn, very grateful for what life has endowed me with, the good, the bad, the joy and the tears and each one of them a beautiful lesson that came out with it. It gave me inner peace; of being constant in an ever-changing surrounding.

3. Confidence and hard work are correlated 
Some people do not believe in it. They think that confidence is like a clothing that you could put on the next morning. Many self-help books and people tell you that. That it is not something that is acquired. Oh, you just wake up the next morning and you feel like you could take on the world.

On the contrary, I’d like to think that it is a process of attempts and failures, and finally recognizing the fact that with hard work, you could get better and even excel at it, so when you are task to do something totally new the next time, you know that you could handle this, even if you know shit about this arena. And that is how confidence is being acquired; it is the self-knowledge that you have the ability to become better at something with diligence, even if you are not, at this moment.

It is acquired from the days where I want to pull my hair out, those mistakes, those moments where I embarrassed myself with my ignorance, where I made premature judgments due to the lack of maturity and understanding, the oily-faced nights of dwelling into a subject, of making the wrong decisions and being fucked for it. Who said confidence need not come with hard work?

It is a process of diligence of working on oneself, leading to self-awareness and self-acceptance; where one is conscious of one’s limitations and potential, where I become a version of myself that is better than the day before.

4. Perfectionism does not exist and is a disability
The last scene of “Black Swan” really haunted me then. I did not quite comprehend it at that time; why the protagonist went to that extent, of destroying oneself to achieve that state of perfection, in her eyes, that is. Perfectionism , I think, after all, is just a mirage. It is that oasis you see in a desert, that you thought is so near, but it is just an image that gives you hope to move along, to move that one more extra inch today.

Perfectionism is a state of idealism that is not real, and can never be real. It is a form of over-expectation or unrealistic expectation of what reality actually is. When does it become a disability? It is a disability when it mars the reality and stops you from taking actions because you are afraid that it might not turn out the way you want it to. It has held me back from starting on projects, from forming new connections with new people, from trying new things, and a general dissatisfaction with my life.

One area where I realized that this is a problem is my relationships, where I always had this ideal person in my mind; he should be this and that and et cetera. I eventually realized that this person is only a figment of my idealism; he is not real. So I put myself through this whole entire process of imposing my unrealistic expectations I have configured in real life. And oh boy, was I disappointed every single time. When this barrier to the perception of reality is removed, I see everything and everyone for what and who they are and what a wonderful change it has been. I start on things and I do not get stuck when a problem arises, but understood that that is how it should be, and it should serve as another lesson for me.

5. Talent and intelligence are overrated
I used to admire people with talent and people who are extremely intelligent. I mean, that is what we have been taught in school right? They favor the intelligent and talented ones, and I understand why, but they failed to teach us that those are not the most important factors to happiness or success in life.

Nature versus nurture. I think talent and intelligence can be nurtured. Some people are lucky to be born in an environment with nurturing parents, thereby leading to a higher level of intelligence and talent along the way. So given these right climate and conditions while growing up, they seem to have it easier in life afterward. But we forgot that it is because they have put in the hard work necessary at a very early stage of life. And what led to the so-called talent and intelligence are perseverance, grit, and discipline to go through the process. Talent and intelligence, hence, are results that we see, not the factors that contribute to success.

This mindset that we grew up with, has cultivated a generation who gives up easily in the face of  difficulties, who do not understand the real value of hard work, who are not driven, who do not understand what is work ethics, what being responsible truly means and what commitment is.  And having the best conditions while growing up might not necessarily mean the best thing either. For those of us who has a hand of bad cards, we realized that this is probably the best that we are given, so we try our best to play the game with whatever cards we have. I am not talented, possess average intelligence and looks, and was born in a dysfunctional family with toxic parents and domestic violence, growing up was financially and emotionally tough, but that made me realize how important grit is to get what you want.

A personality characterized by grit is really what will get one to where they want to be. The rest are just by-products acquired along the way.

Working in a startup-like environment, it challenges you to go beyond what you are accustomed to. You are open to a very dynamic environment of uncharted terrains, and how you choose to view each difficulty determines how well you’d do eventually. It challenges you to look deeper within yourself to discover what you can become. As stimulating as it is, the package also comes with a label that shouts “WARNING! DANGER!”. The journey was made possible with an internship that set the directions of what is to come.

3 Real Values A Gen-Y Brings To The Workplace

Gen-Y, a broad name to identify my generation (those born between the 1990s to early 2000s), we are the up and coming generation replacing our parents – the Baby Boomers, in the workforce. Because we are the up and coming generation, it is inevitable to have the spotlight cast on us, and being studied and scrutinized upon like lab rats.

There are some collective thoughts about us from the society at large that probably sound oh-so-familiar if you are a fellow Gen-Y. Contrary to whatever the society at large claim to understand about us, I’ve spent the past two years working together with a bunch of Gen-Ys who are the total opposite of the following characteristics.

  1. We cannot take hardships

    That we are not resilient enough. We give up at the slightest hint of challenges. We are strawberries and softies who melt under pressure and heat. But in relative to whom? Our parents? Yes, they have indeed come a long way. And it is because of their efforts that we have a good foundation to grow up with. But just because we grew up in better environments, it is ASSUMED that we are not persevering and is not willing to suffer. The constant comparison is tiring.

    We are willing to go through hardships and make sacrifices. But we only do it when we find that the purpose and values of the company we are slogging our guts out for are aligned with ours and hence worth it. We are discerning about the leaders we choose to follow and we do not tolerate bullshit people. In other words, without having to fulfill survival needs like a roof over the head and et cetera, we are in search of self-actualization. We are willing to suffer, but only with a clear purpose in mind. Purpose over paycheck anytime. 

  2. We are apathetic and materialistic

    That we do not care about world issues such as environment, politics, etc. We only care about the latest fashion trends, entertainment, where to go for holidays and curating our social media content. That is a misleading image. Because those of us who do not partake in the above have really nothing to post about on social media. Our #OOTD is T-shirt and Harem pants. We care about the state of the world. We get angry about stupid decisions like building a railway that cuts through the natural reserve. We live in the most minimalist way possible, indulging only in the pleasure and meaning of the work we do. (Okay, I admit sometimes we drink a little now and then.) 

    Have you seen the posts we shared on conservation, education, politics on our Facebook walls? Do you know that we would rather spend more money on sustainable products and on brands that care about the environment? 

  3. We are young HENCE naive

    That we see the world through rose-tinted lenses. We think that everything is possible. We are not in touch with reality. On the contrary, I think there is too much cynicism coming from the elders – our teachers, parents, relatives. When you tell them with excitement about the opportunities that you are given, they say you have been made use of – “Where got so good one!” When you show them the results, they say this is just a passing cloud, it will not last – “Won’t last forever one la!” When you choose to take the road less traveled, join a startup, or pursue a career you think gives meaning to your life, or even just do something radical that swerves from the conventions, they say, “Are you crazy? Study so hard the pay so little.”

    We are not naive. Precisely because we know how much the world has changed since our parents’ generation, and we know that it continues to change as we speak, we see the world for what it is and we understand the harsh realities – technological advances replacing jobs and leveling playing fields. The Industrial Era is so over. This is the Information Age, where a new model of capitalism is evolving. Trust us when I say that we have calculated the risks involved in our decision before taking that leap of faith.


And we know that all the exploration and discovery are only possible because of what our forefathers have built. We know gratitude. But we also recognize that we need to think differently, do things differently.

Labelled as “The Lost Generation”, it seems like we do not know what we want. We job-hop, we move from one relationship to another. We are not lost. We are just looking for meaning. Options and information are aplenty. Give us some time to explore and figure things out. We are trying to figure ourselves out, figure the world out and figure our life out.

To the Gen-Ys, I’d like to say, it is okay if you have not figured everything out yet. Continue exploring (not wandering!). Continue beating the conventions. It is okay to make mistakes on your journey because that’s what make us better and stronger. And ignore the noises in your life. The most important thing is to stay open, be humble and take actions, it will bring you to where you want to be.

I chose the road less travelled, and it has been an amazing journey with a group of equally amazing Gen-Ys.

And here is how we embarked on this amazing journey!

Outstanding Contribution to Instructor Development

Outstanding Contribution to Instructor Development


ADA received an award from PADI Asia Pacific recently for “Recognition Of Outstanding Contribution To Instructor Development” for 2014.

Thomas Knedlik, Director of Training for PADI Asia Pacific and Johnny Chew, our PADI Regional Manager, both came down to Singapore and presented the surprise award during our ADA Appreciation Night 2015, where we acknowledge the outstanding contributions of our dive professionals and other dive industry players.


Outstanding contribution to PADI instructor development


ADA’s CEO Jacki Ng, and COO Ricky Koh were on-hand to accept the award, on behalf of ADA and the entire IDC Team, including PADI Platinum Course Director Richard Mei, myself and all of the staff that make the IDC happen. Without all your great work, we would not have been able to get to where we are now, so our thanks go out to you!

And we would also like to thank PADI Asia Pacific for their continued support in Singapore, without which our progress in Instructor Development would not have been possible. And special thanks to Thomas and Johnny for coming down and presenting the various awards to our instructors for our App night, thank you and we hope you had fun!

ADA Outstanding Contribution 2014
ADA Outstanding Contribution 2014





New EFR Instructor Trainers – EFRITs!


Yesterday, the EFR Instructor Trainer Course was held in Singapore at ADA, conducted by Trainer and PADI Examiner Rob Scammell. In this course, the candidates will be able to teach people to become EFR Instructors! Which is good news for everyone in Singapore; More trainers, more instructors, more emergency Responders!

Congratulations to them all and especially to ADA’s three new EFRI Trainers, or EFRITS (pronounced eff-rits) as Andrew likes to say, Ephraim Ang, Hu Lunchi and Andrew Wong.
I bet you can’t wait to get teaching EFRI in 2016 right? 🙂

SMUX Divers – A Decade of Cooperation

Smux divers

Smux Dive Camp 2015 Smux Dive Camp 2015

We have been working with the Singapore Management University Dive Team or SMUX Dive Team, for 10 years this year.
That is a long time, now that I am looking back. It’s been a great journey and partnership I would say.

I am glad that we have had the opportunity to train or educate the next generations of divers coming from SMU, many of which will and have become the future business leaders, public servants, financiers, lawyers, fellow educators and other prominent and influential players. I hope that even just a fraction of them, are touched by scuba diving such that they will become ambassadors for the environment. Then, we have truly done right.

And the SMUX Dive Team Managers over the years, are the students leaders that get elected and essentially chosen to make the decisions for the team. Over the years, there have been 10 of them and I thank them for their support and in many cases, friendships.

2005: Er Jun
2006: Shaun
2007: Sheryl
2008: Nyan
2009: Ryan
2010: Sebastian
2011: Cedric
2012: Sam
2013: Iris
2014: Anton
2015: Keith
2016: Jay

These student leaders are the ones to really make it all happen and many of them have come to be woven into and form part of our crew and culture.
So thank you and hope to have a continued partnership that works for everyone.

Smux Camp 2015 Smux Camp 2015

MV Nautica – 2 Years Party

Nautica 2 years birthday
Nautica 2 years birthday

We marked the second year that MV Nautica has been running in Singapore with the MV Nautica Birthday Party in October. Thanks to all the boat crew and dive crew that have made all our trips and events successful. It has been an interesting and fruitful 2 years and we will continue to learn and improve as we go.

This year, apart from the party, Eugene has designed another collectible:

Nautica 2 Year Birthday T-shirt
Nautica 2 Year Birthday T-shirt

We hope all the attendees enjoy the commemorative T-Shirt to mark this milestone, and those of you that missed out on that, come join us on trips on MV Nautica, or learn more about Liveaboard Management in our business training.

DMA Night!

PADI ReActivate- Common Questions

PADI ReActivate

If you have been to PADI website or read the training bulletins and Undersea Journals, you should have already come across PADI’s new ReActivate Program. It is essentially the new and updated version of the Scuba Review. If you have not completed a PADI IDC lately, you may not have actually encountered the complete PADI ReActivate yet, so here are the answers to a couple of the most commonly asked questions about it.

What is PADI ReActivate?

The PADI ReActivate Program is a semi replacement for the Scuba Review and it consists of 2 parts.

1. A fully Digital Knowledge Review – Online for Computers, or the Interactive Reactivate Touch for tablets or mobile devices.

2. In-water Skills – Much like a scuba review except now, they are more tailored to the diver’s needs, by conducting an interview with the diver to evaluate how comfortable the diver is, as well as to discuss what skills and techniques they want to practise.

The skills that must be conducted are:

  • Mask removal and replacement
  • Neutral buoyancy and hover
  • Emergency weight drop
  • Alternate air source ascent, with the diver acting as both donor and receiver
  • Any other skills the diver would like to practice, or the dive professional feels they should

Upon completion of the PADI ReActivate Program, we can issue a replacement certification card that shows the original certification date plus the new ReActivate Date.

Is the PADI Scuba Review no longer Valid?

No, it is still valid as a PADI Program for now, just that it is no longer in the Instructor Manual. It is meant to replace in Scuba Review in all ways, except that:

The PADI ReActivate minumum age is 13
This is due to child protection laws in the USA regarding the internet.

So hang on to your Instructor Manual 2014, the Scuba Review is still perfectly valid and in fact necessary for refreshing the skills of divers below the age of 13, until further notice.

ReActivate Thru Date
ReActivate Thru
What does ReActivate Thru Date Mean?

This date is more of a reminder to diver that basic knowledge and skills deteriorate over time so if they have dived in some time, they should consider taking a continuing education course to brush up their skills with a PADI Pro, or even take ReActivate again. PADI Certification Cards DO NOT EXPIRE.

Should I refuse Diving Services to a Diver when it is beyond the Reactivate Thru Date?

No, PADI Certification Cards DO NOT EXPIRE.

You can use this as a tool to access diver readiness along with the normal logbook and certification card checks and asking the diver directly about their recent dive activity.

What is a Platinum Course Director?

2015 Platinum Course Director Richard Mei

Our Course Director Richard Mei was awarded the Platinum status again by PADI, and CD Jacki Ng, the Silver Status for their work in teaching PADI Professionals in 2014.

In the world of PADI Professionals, there are few achievements higher and it is something that we actively monitor and strive towards in ADA. As divers are looking around for a place to complete their PADI IDC, they will most likely come across this term “Platinum Course Director”. Now, what is that all about?

PADI Frequent Trainer Award

PADI recognizes dive centres, resorts and individual instructors who are the most active in the industry, the ones who are very impactful in shaping the next generations of divers though frequent trainer awards. For Instructors there are Elite Awards and other awards of excellence in customer service and professionalism. For PADI Instructor Development Centres, there are various types including the PADI CDC or Career Development Centre, and for PADI Course Directors, they have annual certificates of excellence from Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Only Course Directors who are renewed and have no verified quality assurance complaints for the review or award year can earn the Awards.

Here is an overview on what the Course Director Frequent Trainer Certificates of Excellence are awarded.

Silver Course Director Ranking
  • Authorise 10 or more DM/AI/OWSI/IDCSI certifications.
  • Authorise 20-49 Instructor level certifications.
  • Have a 50% instructor level continuing education ratio.
Gold Course Director Ranking
  • Authorise 20 or more DM/AI/OWSI/IDCSI certifications.
  • Authorise 50-99 instructor level certifications.
  • Have a 60% instructor level continuing education ratio.
Platinum Course Director Ranking
  • Authorise 30 or more DM/AI/OWSI and/or IDCSI certifications.
  • Authorise 100 or more instructor level certifications.
    Have a 70% instructor level continuing education ratio.

So what does that mean?

Having a Platinum Course Director means that you can learn from someone who has extensive knowledge and experience with the PADI IDC Program and other dive professional courses. Generally, that is a good thing because you can draw upon their wide range of understanding of the nuances in terms, PADI Standards, the IE Process, assignments, and life as an instructor in general.

Richard Mei and Monica Choo

I for one, am thankful to have Richard around because not only is he like THE MANASTONE of the PADI System (just being near him keeps me sharp) but we have great discussions about the intent of Standards and peculiarities we encounter in the IDC Process and he is a constant source of humourous anecdotes and outrageous soundbites.

So that’s it in a nutshell.
Congratulations again to Richard and Jacki.

Silver Course Director Jacki Ng

PADI Seahorse Specialty Instructor Training

PADI Seahorse Specialty

PADI Seahorse Instructor Training

Almost as soon as I came back from my PADI CDTC in March this year, I certified my first instructors-level candidates as PADI Seahorse Distinctive Specialty Instructors, in a series of training sessions in Singapore, as well as one in Jakarta.

It felt right, doing this amalgamation of things that preoccupy me; Observation of Nature, Conservation and Education. Also because the next generations are going to be more environmentally minded, interested in, and care deeply for these issues as they become more apparent in the coming decades.

Experts say we entering the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history, and humans are to blame.
Our greed and unsustainable consumption of all things, is destroying the planet, and everything with it. And we need to start the change within, first understanding the situation and then taking personal responsibility, if we are to overcome it.

So – Why Seahorses?

Seahorses are recognizable and unique ambassadors for the threats that face many marine creatures, such as habitat loss and overfishing. They have interesting behaviour and special biology, but we also do not know enough about them. And they are being fished in the millions yearly, mainly for consumption. We can use peoples natural curiosity of these interesting animals to lead them to the broader issues that are affecting the marine environment and its inhabitants.

PADI Seahorse Specialty Course – What is it about?

This is actually an non-diving Distinctive Specialty with optional Open Water dives. You can teach this course for people that are interested in learning about Seahorses biology, how to identify them and what threats they face. Also, the main point of the Course is to get divers involved in Reporting their seahorse sightings on iSeahorse. This is a citizen science program, getting people involved in seahorse research in an extremely useful way!

What is involved in the PADI Seahorse Specialty Instructor Training.

We do it in one evening session of about 3.5 hours. And you will learn the following.

  • Structure of the Course
  • Materials and tools available to you
  • Presentations on Seahorse Morphology, Biology, Habitat, Threats and Surveying Methods
  • Presentation on Identifying Seahorses – We do the 9 large species in South East Asia
  • Seahorse Identification and Survey Methods Workshop
  • So if you are a PADI Instructor and are interested to teach this course, just <a href="/contact/"reach out to Asia Dive Academy, it would be my pleasure to get more Seahorse Instructors out there.