TL;DR – It’s the exponential age. Focus on your Life Skills CV.
I peered down the hallway of One Kind House, a quaint abode nestled in Telok Kurau, where I was supposed to meet Calvin Soh – former advertising extraordinaire turned urban farmer, idea generator and exponential age evangelist.
He warmly beckoned me in and I was immediately transported decades back while I strolled past paintings, a mosaic-inspired tiled staircase reminiscent of olden days and a living room with relics my grandmother would have used in her younger days.
The house was as much an enigma as the person whom I was about to speak to.
All that jazz about the Exponential Age
Calvin lives and breathes his theory about the exponential age.
Driven by Moore’s Law, which asserts that computing capabilities will double every 18 months, it is therefore the case where we will see exponential advances in technology that would disrupt every industry.
He lets me in on a scary possibility that would change the way we NEED to think.
“If you look at it, we are actually preparing our children for jobs that do not exist yet while the parents do not even know if their own jobs would exist in 5 years’ time.”
This is a big mindset shift. In fact, now you need to be both a generalist and a specialist in a few fields – you have to be a Jack of all trades and Master of a few. And if you adopt a growth mindset, the exponential age brings exponential possibilities.
Calvin insists there is “method to his madness.”
“Because of exponential change, industries will constantly be disrupted. My father had one job all his life, he said I would have three jobs in the same career. But if I think exponentially, my children would be having seven to eight different careers.
This is why it is so important to be adaptable, to constantly learn, to always try new things, to be incredibly agile and constantly asking why why why.”
“You need to be both a generalist and a specialist in a few fields
– a Jack of all trades and Master of a few.”
Parenting in the exponential age
It is clear that Calvin’s philosophy spills over into his parenting style.
Because of a different mindset that focuses more on being future-ready and having skill sets suitable for the exponential age, pure academic grades become less important. With the O-Levels results released at the start of the week, we asked Calvin his take on grades and education.
“How do you judge a child?” He asks, “On a piece of paper?”
In a post for Life Beyond Grades, an initiative started by parents to alleviate the pressures of the Singapore education system, he shared how his less than stellar academic results did not stop him from working his way up to being a high flyer in the advertising industry.
“The world is changing, there are exponential opportunities. There should be a focus on what I like to call Life Skills CV.”
He cites a great example – Dylan, his 16-year-old son, is a product of parenting with the exponential age in mind.
At a tender age of 16, Dylan has already successfully funded a Kickstarter project, co-authored a book, given motivational talks on Tedx, scored an internship with internationally-known mobile game Angry Birds to name a few. The lad is now happily learning more about being independent and going to school in Finland. Yeps, flourishing in a Finnish school, in fact.
Watch then 12-year-old Dylan give that a-little-raw-but-filled-with-so-deep-quotes Tedx talk.
Giving public talks and tours of the One Kind House to media and tourists have helped build his confidence, going through the process of a Kickstarter project saw Dylan having to craft a compelling story, make a multimedia video and have a hand in prototyping and manufacturing.
All these add to his Life Skills CV.
The world is changing. Sure, you have an academic CV,
but what makes you stand out is your Life Skills CV.”
Singapore’s education system
Calvin shares that while he feels there have been changes in the Singapore education system, there is a lot more that can be done.
Recent changes saw the Ministry of Education cutting down on school examinations as well as the removal of academic indicators on report cards.
“Yes, compared to last time, the education system is moving faster than it has ever been. But how about when it is compared to the rest of the world? It is not evolving fast enough.”
That said, what the education system lacks, the onus falls on the parents to inculcate. “Creativity needs to be nurtured, it needs to be cultivated. But in Singapore, compositions are judged on spelling and grammar rather than how creative it is.
Parents have to ask this question: Are we living in the industrial age or the exponential age? If it’s the latter, then can the current system prepare you for that? If yes, then all is good. If no, then what can you do about it. Ultimately this is the question we all have to answer.”
Therefore, Calvin is preparing his children for a future of “I don’t know”. He hopes that such unconventional wisdom and pushing his children to develop a varied set of skills will enable them to succeed on the global stage.
Singapore economy and foreigners
“Actually… back in 1965, Singapore was the ultimate startup country.
In fact, the pragmatic thing then was to take risks”.
Calvin goes on to explain that Singaporeans do have that “startup DNA” but that there needs to be more effort to encourage this sense of innovation and entrepreneurship.
We then discuss whether the rigidity of our education system, which has seen us doing very well on international benchmarking exercises such as the PISA, has stifled some form of creativity and skill sets needed for some roles in Singapore, which then have to be filled with foreigners.
“Sometimes it’s not Singaporeans’ inability to do things, it’s because of the mindset. There needs to be a change in mindset that we are still living in the industrial age.”
“I’ve worked with some really good foreigners who did their best to share knowledge. Are there bad ones? Yes. So let’s make sure we hire good ones who want to help our own people. But immigration is not the problem. After all, most of us are immigrants.”
“We need to hire those who buy-in to the (Singapore) story, who believe in the philosophy of imparting knowledge.”
To the exponential age and beyond!
The 90 minutes I spent with Calvin could only be described by one word – mindblowing.
Our discussion revolutionised the way I approached work, continual learning, parenting and life. I left One Kind House feeling a little bit more wiser and a little bit more determined… to navigate and make my mark in this exponential age.