+(65) 9851-5162


Get Free Tips, Tools And Stories

For Living An Empowered Life



Excerpt from The Art of Determination

Chapter 2

Why does Determination Matter?

Determination is important because it enables us to build up our vision, helps to align ourselves with whom we want to be and makes us work hard for what we want to achieve.


Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) reads: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – If vision is so important, it is imperative that we understand more about it.

A visionary paints beautiful scenes of the future and articulates them with great enthusiasm. But a true visionary brings that vision into reality, thereby impacting the space we dwell in.

Though he was asked to leave the company that he co-founded, Steve Jobs never threw away his vision of what he set out to achieve, with or without Apple. Instead, he dug deep, persevered and when he eventually returned to Apple, he impacted the company and the world in a far greater manner.

The table below highlights the differences between visions and dreams. Understanding these differences will help us in our vision setting.




Represents a wish

Represents a desire

Aimless, unrealistic

Purposeful, realistic


lacks direction


clear goals



Fade from memory

Committed to memory

Takes foolish gambles

Takes calculated risks

Table 1[2]

In vision setting we need to first get people to believe in our vision (positive ‘buy-in’).

People often mistake visionaries as loners. But ‘no man is an island’. In order for a vision to become reality, we cannot work alone.

Steve Jobs would not have achieved what he did without Steve Wozniak and other friends. Lee Kuan Yew would not have led Singapore so successfully without Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye or S.Rajaratnam.

Hence if we want our visions to be realised, we need like-minded people who believe in a common vision.

Once you have the right people on board, help them visualize the big picture – the game plan. The truth is people do not just buy into visions; they buy into the person as well. So while they may agree with your vision, they might have no clue on how to get there and we should be prepared to lead them.

This second step essentially requires us to draw the reality for them – set realistic goals, carve out boundaries, and initiate a plan to work towards that vision.

Third, we need positive reinforcement to maintain that mindset of hope. After all, visions are built upon future probabilities not from past liabilities. The more positive our thoughts, speech and actions are, the more dynamic and motivated our lives will be.

Over the past few years, I have realized that nothing is as impactful to the soul as the words we say to ourselves. The repeated use of a word drives the subconscious because of the connection between our ears and our brain.

In vision setting, sometimes circumstances require us to tweak that vision along the way; and that is why we need positivity to keep ourselves and those alongside us on the journey motivated to stay the distance.


In 1994, Jim Collins wrote a very successful book entitled “Built to Last” contrasting companies that have become and remained great with those that have not. In the course of his discussion, he identified a fundamental difference.

Companies that are great are well-defined – they understand their purpose, values, vision, mission, goals and objectives.

These companies have a common characteristic. They have identified why they exist as a company and what is important to them. They have visualized their future as what they want it to be and developed goal statements that will lead to achieving that future state.

Finally, they have ensured that everyone in their organization knows and understands why the company exists, what it stands for (and will not stand for), its desired future state, and what each business unit and the people within them must achieve to reach the company’s goals and attain that future state.

In other words, these successful companies were more aligned as compared to the rest.

Just like organizations, it is important for us individuals to align ourselves with goals and objectives and the reason of our existence, as well as set visions for our future.


Any individual who goes around performing activities without having any vision or alignment can at best be viewed as hardworking.

Do not get me wrong. I believe in hard work. In Thomas A. Edison’s own words: “There is no substitution for hard work”.

But we also know that hard work alone does not get us very far.

Hard work without a vision or alignment will only yield small fruits. However, with the three elements of ‘Vision-Alignment-Hard Work’, we should be able to see our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


I personally have always believed in working hard. But I am an even stronger advocate of working smart.

By working smart, I mean doing things with a clear vision and singularity of alignment. I have discovered that the best way to achieve this is by setting mission statements that are as authentic and aligned to whom you are as a person.

Looking back I have always firmly believed in the value of education and the importance of learning. So when we first started Potter’s Clay Education, the pioneers and I knew we wanted to create a centre based on the vision of “Making a Difference through Excellence in Education”.

To me, Potter’s Clay Education was not and must not be a run-of-the-mill education centre without a clear purpose to the community I was serving – my students and their parents. Other than helping students excel academically, I was determined to able to help nurture each individual who came through our doors.

As a company, we focused very much on the triads of ‘Vision-Alignment-Hard Work’. We wanted to help students do well so that they could proceed onto the next stage of their lives with good expectations.

With that in mind, we developed an innovative 2-year programme – the Project ACE! Programme designed to bring out excellence in our students.

This programme guarantees a distinction grade for the GCE ‘O’ Levels examinations for the subjects – Science and Math otherwise there will be a full refund of the years’ school fees.

Over the years, I have been very careful not to let the centre become just another business entity purely concerned about profits. There were times when our mission was questioned, but we were steadfast about our vision and objectives and persisted on.

Year on year, our students have been performing better than the national average and we are thankful for students and parents who believe in us and in what Potter’s Clay Education stands for.

In 2014, we changed our motto to ‘ACE it!’ – ACE stands for Academics, Character, and Excellence.