Building the right character

January 2, 2010 12:49 am 0 comments

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Good character is built from a decision made within us. It comes from a heart of wanting to make a difference in the time we are here – and doing the right things.

AS adults we have grown up believing, and naively so, I would add, that the young in our societies are minimalist and insignificant to the goings-on in an adult world.

We have been conditioned to believing only grown-ups make earth-moving, life-changing pinnacle decisions. No one else can manage this seemingly gruelling charge.

The exponential growth and progress globally, in the last decade alone, has proved this theory, Oh so wrong! The momentum to change has altered the dynamics of decision-making; crushing the assumptions the world traditionally operated from.

When it once took us centuries to get from dye print press to print and then decades to telephone, it now only takes months to get from personal computers to palm top gadgets. Singular pen drives can today store the knowledge that could run nations and markets.

The emergence of friendsters, chatline, messengers, Facebook and Twitter demonstrates that the young have embraced these revolutionary changes faster than baby boomers.

That the young have been more adaptable to the market revolutions, they have been able to effect and impact change through these mediums much more effectively than us baby boomers.

The impatience of the young to yesterday’s theories and the “used to be’s” is fast defining the growth of technology and economies. Their haste to answers, I must add, is also directly changing the face of socio-political environment in markets; developed and otherwise.

The learning never stops

This said, I often take cognisance that in an environment driven by fast-changing external demands, one that is often out of our direct control, the proverbial question of doing the right thing at the right time emerges. The struggle nonetheless is – what constitutes the right thing? Is the right thing for the moment, the right decision that would endure the times?

The most important thing I have learnt is – the characteristics that make us are the sum of the many individual decisions we take in our lives. It begins and ends with the sum of all the choices and actions we bear in our journey.

I have found that the essence to a rich learning is one that is driven by purpose. In such an instance every small action taken each day and everyday is cast back to a purpose we each choose for our journeys. It is these small actions and decisions that culminate to making us and the future we build for ourselves. It cultivates the character and attitude we will each sow in our own unique and individual paths.

No matter what we choose to do, we require knowledge and education in a form and fashion. Be that medicine, law, drama and arts, journalism or even taking up public service. It is this knowledge and learning that provides the much needed common sense in our daily choices. Common sense comes with much knowledge, learning and exposure.

When we choose a purpose-driven path of seeking knowledge, learning becomes a culture and a habit. The excellence we aim in education no longer intimidates. It is within our reaches and grabs. The world before us becomes a globe filled with learning opportunities no matter the difficulties.

I am convinced that it is the strength of education and knowledge that will have you shine as individuals in a noisy room of talents. By talents I don’t mean the listing of As, but that, and much more. That you stand out as individuals aware of global happenings. You are well read and you have honour as a human being.

You exude maturity and wisdom, regardless of age, in your decision makings. This is reflected in how you treat yourselves and others, especially the weakest amongst us. You are able to handle differences maturely and accept criticisms positively as a tool to growth. You are well adapted and adjusted to serve and shine wherever you travel in the world.

The subject of character

In reminiscing our lives and choices we make, we will find that the one thing evident every time in all situations is our character. In each and every situation we participate in, our character is always mirrored in that situation.

I cannot overemphasise how important this period of your life is. The learning of good morals and setting of crystal clear boundaries of rights and wrongs will define the path and pattern you will set for your own journeys and how that journey shall impact the world around you.

It has been said – “Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are to some extent a gift.

Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece — by thought, choice, courage and determination.”

Character is built from a decision made within us. It comes from the heart of wanting to make a difference in the time we are here. Where there is strength in character, you will execute the same sound actions whether being watched by many, by one or by no one.

It will not matter whether your parents are watching over you, your teachers and lecturers are grading you, your peers judging you or your bosses checking on you. You will act and deliver to form, with or without an eye over you. This is the fundamental to being true to yourself; it is the crux of good character-building – it is doing the right thing, every time.

In the final analysis, it is your day-to-day decisions that will reveal your true self and potential to the world.

It is this self that will beckon opportunities and open doors. It is this self that will attract sustainable success and senior investments of trust by many in you. It is this strength in character that will stay long after you are gone. The work and deeds that you leave behind will speak louder than your own voices.

That is what our places of education must imbue and instil in our young and youth. Individuals with the strength in character of doing the right thing!

Heartbeat of nation’s future

Youths are the heartbeat of Malaysia’s future. As its heartbeat, you must each build and focus on good character building. Higher learning institutions must concentrate, motivate and reward good character building in all their curriculums. A character that will have you excel as individuals in your studies, excel in being a good child and a parent in time to your own children, a character that contributes to the building of our nation, its society and its future.

A character that will brave times and situations because the core is founded with strength and substance of knowledge!

No matter the teachers who have stood to inspire you or the leaders who have influenced your ideas and views of life, the responsibility of your lives lies with you. Governments can set standards of achievements, society can offer moral support in your quest of knowledge and lecturers can demand excellence through teachings and assessments of you.

But even with the most devoted parents, the most dedicated government policies and actions, the most encouraging educators and the best universities – none matters if you don’t decide the fundamental questions for yourselves – the life you wish to lead, the character you wish to carry and the responsibilities you want to fulfil as individuals given the blessings to experience this life.

The responsibility of your life starts with you. What you make of your education today will decide the future of this country. As inconsequential as you may think it is, decisions you make for yourselves today, may in fact alter the face of Malaysia directly. How you see education and respond to the learning of life will determine whether as a nation we can meet our greatest challenges set by the future.

The future in your hands

These are times when what seemed impossible a few years ago is now passé. We can barely fathom the waves of change that are to be. We could redefine medical, science and technology landscapes to heights not known to the minds today. But none of these achievements and conquests will come to serve well if in your youth today, you do not set the stage for what you wish to be remembered for. You do not set the purpose to your own lives here and beyond.

The exposure, knowledge and discipline you build in your youth will serve an immeasurable asset in your adult life. It is this asset that will define and decide your own impact on yourself, your families, the society and nation.

Lasting success, I am convinced, always knocks on the doors of those who choose knowledge, responsibility, fairness and humility as their partners. It is our duty to ensure that the young who make over 35% of our population are blessed with good knowledge and education.

It is my hope that the topic of character will be placed rigorously in panel sessions on KPI, KRA for Nation Building. That KPIs and KRAs are built based on the essence of good character – one that will always have them do the right thing each time, every time. One that will have you go to bed a better person than the one who woke up that morning.

> This is an excerpt of the Keynote Address delivered by Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, Chief Secretary at the KSN Lecture 2009 at Universiti Teknology Mara.

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