Having been the only person here who’s been to every single one of the 20 classes of PSOL, I think it qualifies me to be the chosen candidate to share with you some of the greatest lessons we learned from PETRONAS School of Life’s speakers.
1.Oleksandr Elkin (Alex), Founder of EdCamp, Ukraine
On our very first session, we dialed to Ukraine to learn about the lessons of RESILIENCE from the founder of EdCamp, which supports and trains 40,000 teachers. Throughout the entire session, the mood was somber. I guess when your country is going through war, that is the only sentiment you would expect from anybody. When asked about what it’s like to be in a war, Alex simply answered he wishes that no one will ever get to understand what it’s like to go through what he went through. And then a student asked a question - what do you tell the young people about the propagandas and fake news going on on social media about the war that’s spreading.
I was fully expecting Alex to say, don’t trust the Russians. Instead he uttered something along the line that both sides of the borders hold their own truth, depending on who you are talking to. Only history will reveal the truth long after we are gone. The key is not to teach the young people what to believe but giving them the tools to think independently for themselves so that they can learn to discern, interpret, discover and decide for themselves - what is right. That interview was nevertheless, one of the most profound experiences of anyone I have interviewed, even though we are both half a world away.
2. HE Dato Raja Reza, Malaysian High Commissioner
We had the master networker / practitioner to share his secrets to networking by preparing his own slides giving us a 40 minutes lecture. During the Q&A session, when asked about what he was like when he was young, he gave an impromptu answer that was completely off the script. Dato Reza said that learned his highest level of life skill in his 2nd year of university, organizing a regional conference raising RM100k to get participation from 10 ASEAN countries. In his 3rd year, he organised a conference that involved 31 countries. By the time he graduated, it was so easy for him to look for jobs. He told us that many corporations came offering him scholarships that he had to reject. Beyond the lessons in networking that afternoon, Dato Reza gave us an important insight on what potential employers are looking for. Not just the first class honours.
So what happened to the very resourceful young person who volunteered as an event Organiser back in university? He went on to become the High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam representing Malaysia. I guess as they say in every great movie line, the rest is history.
3. Jenny Malai Ali
How do you teach people about stage presence and confidence in public speaking? You don’t. Sometimes, you’d just have to show them. The first 2 minutes when Jenny spoke, she seamlessly captivated the crowd the way that only Jenny could do. We spend the next 45 minutes dissecting and unpacking the art of public speaking from Jenny at Politeknik Brunei. Apparently it has nothing to do with the ability to communicate with the Queen’s English, but the genuine intention to understand the audience, empathize and connect with them. More than that, Jenny also gave us a crucial tip, that separates the great from the good public speaker. And once again, it has nothing to do with speaking skills but the effort you put in beforehand; to always be over prepared, no matter how experienced you are, no matter how good you think you are in public speaking. Ladies and gentlemen, I can’t teach you all that we learned from Jenny in 10 minutes, but you can pay attention and watch how she do her thing for the rest of the afternoon as the emcee for the day. No pressure, Jenny.
4. Basma Lachkar Kumamoto
During Basma’s session, we spoke about the importance of rituals and mental toughness for elite athletes using the great tennis legend Rafa Nadal as a case study. Basma shared her own story about her obsession with details, control and pregame routines. She told us how she would always be wearing her tiny earrings as her ritual and also spoke about how she would never ever talk to her competitors before the game because of a bad experience when a competitor tried to get into her head by tapping into her emotion and eventually beat her at the game. All with her dirty tactic of getting her sympathy by sharing her sad life story. The ability to get an insight like this from the highest level of competition is something I would always treasure and would never forget. I don’t know how we could ever apply the lesson of this particular story to our own life, but I just think that it’s a cool bragging right to tell you guys that we got to learn from a world champion.
5. Iqbal Damit
Finally, just last week Iqbal Damit, the Points of Light awardee from Queen Elizabeth shared with us his addiction in volunteering and his adventure in creating over 60 voluntary projects in Brunei and abroad in the last decade. When asked why he was doing what he did, he said he started off hating the concept of volunteering but he was forced to volunteer through his SSEAYP, his youth exchange experience with the Japanese cruise ship.
He shared with us how a volunteering experience in Cambodia changed his life. He said that when you get to talk to people who eat meat only once a year not because of their dietary preference, but because it is only during the special festival that is the only time they can afford meat, it changes you.
There are so many more great great lessons we learned throughout the last 3 months that it’s impossible to pack them within this short speech. It would simply be inaccurate for anyone to have a top 5 list that reflects everyone’s point of view, because oftentimes it’s not how great the stories are, but what resonated and spoke to you personally at each point of your life.
In running through the video submissions for us to shortlist the candidates to the stage to represent their university to speak to you today, I came across a video from Syafiqah, a student of UTB detailing how Pg Hjh Cam’s story of stepping out of her comfort zone in working overseas changed her perspective for her future career. Prior to that, it had never occurred to her that there are so many other career options and exciting opportunities that exist in the world beyond just aiming to work for the government to find a guaranteed stability. Truth is, there is no work in the world that guarantees stability in 2022. But I digress.
Ladies and gentlemen, stories have power, stories can have a tremendous impact on your life when it catches you at the right moment. As we gather here together to celebrate the incredible milestones of the students having gone through the PETRONAS School of Life Program, we also want to take this opportunity to honour each and everyone of our speakers who have given their time so generously to develop the youth together and the volunteers who have dedicated their tireless effort to make this a success.
To quote the great philosopher Mr Iqbal Damit, the greatest thing about having the opportunity to listen to people’s stories is that, IT CHANGES YOU.
Through this experience with PETRONAS Carigali Brunei Ltd we have had a chance to meet some of the most incredible lineup of speakers. Some of the stories have changed me profoundly. I certainly hope that it changes you too.
Thank you !