Yesterday I spoke to 200 students at Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur. I was asked to address questions like: What does it mean to be a leader? What constitutes a strong leadership mindset and how to foster it? How to be a leader in the actuarial field?
Very often we see success in terms of corporate positions, in terms of influence, acquisitions of wealth, and of recognition. Over the years I learned that it is more important to have a vocation that is aligned with our internal orientation, interests, competency and values. To let our lives speak. To live our own lives. And not to be over-influenced by external marks of success, or what others expect of us.
In the earlier part of my life, I measured success in terms of positions and attainment of material things. I have been fortunate that I climbed corporate ladders and I was rewarded in some ways. But at many other times, my deeper fulfilment comes from the alignment of my own personal skills, insights, values and resources – what I could do, and to make a difference in the world around me.
I shared my story with the students in what I hope is a balanced way. I am aware that I am in a more reflective stage of my life, whereas they are just setting out. I shared that the highest level of leadership is how we lead ourselves.
Parker Palmer, in his book, “Let your Life Speak” said, “Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about -quite apart from what I would like it to be about- all my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.
That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity: not the standards by which I must live-but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life. “