How to equip oneself to excel

Managing transformation in a rapidly changing world

It is important that the youth today possess an open mindset, stay curious, uphold integrity and collaborate (rather than compete) with others, to rise far in living their dreams. These values I mention here are critical to succeed in a world dominated by economic globalisation.

As this intensifies, digital globalisation will become what I call the next biggest ‘crustal movement’ of our time.  It will re-shape our lives in many ways and bring disruption and change. This has relevance not just to countries and governments but to every individual out there.


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The impact of digital globalisation

One of the areas most directly impacted by such digital reform in globalisation is the job market. Work is being redefined, organisations revamped and industries reorganised. According to a recent study conducted by Oxford University, 47 percent of jobs in the US are at risk of being automated within the next two decades. Another study estimates that 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately work in new job roles and functions that do not yet exist.

Think about the impact of that for a second.

As someone who has been involved in the digital epoch during its infancy, I know first-hand the challenges that the youth of today will face when they join the workforce. The best way for our youth to take full advantage of today’s globalised world is to become global citizens.

What does this mean? It means you do not define yourself as a member of any country or tribe. You define yourself as a human being whose mission is to make the world a better place to live. I propose five pathways towards this global citizenship.

The first pathway :  A global citizen rejects extremism

In a highly interconnected world where data flows freely, more and more people are contributing to the formation of new knowledge online. However, the ability to access and add to information in the public online sphere carries the risk of inheriting the biases and prejudices of others. Such biases may not be immediately obvious. They may also be deeply ingrained in our personalities.

The question, therefore, is how can you get rid of something that you don’t even know you have? The answer is to experience the world with an open mind.

To be a productive global citizen in a multicultural and multi-faceted world, you must be able to see things in the same way that they are perceived in different parts of the world by different cultures, with differing points of view. This open-mindedness requires critical analysis of the message and, sometimes, even of yourself. Often, it requires you to leave your comfort zone to experience the unconventional and the unorthodox.

By having an open mind, you will be able to defend yourself against the evils of extremism. Extremists, regardless of their ideology, present only a selective, skewed view of the world. Their messages are seductively simple, easy to absorb and require little thought. Hence, their popularity among those who fail to see through their lies.

Having an open mind allows you to see extremist messages for what they are – hollow words with no substance. A truly global citizen is able to respect others for their points of view as well as learn from other cultures and communities to broaden his knowledge.

 The second pathway :  A global citizen is a master of technology, not the opposite

Technology’s influence will not diminish with time but penetrate deeper into your lives as you benefit from the convenience of continuous technological advancement. Think of technology as an impending tidal wave – you either embrace it or be swept away.

However, simply making use of technology is not enough. While you eagerly await the latest gadgets to add to your collection, you remain oblivious to the science developing in the background. This ignorance will only turn you into a slave, eagerly obeying the machines that you crave.

You have felt the frustration of witnessing an unresponsive computer. You punch in commands hoping the issue will be magically resolved. You scour the Internet for a solution to your problem. When all else fails, you call in a technician to take care of your expensive but currently unusable device. How is it possible that you have become a slave to the machine and not the other way round?

In order to be masters of technology (and not the servants), you have to speak the language of technology. This can be as simple as learning how to code. By learning to code, you understand machines at their level.

However, not everyone has the time or opportunity to learn how to code. The next best option then would be to examine the world in the same way that scientists examine everything in order to cultivate a deeper understanding.

Having a scientific mindset is a twofold endeavour. Firstly, you must be perpetually curious. Always dig deeper, always ask why. Strive to understand the big picture.

Secondly, use empirical methods. Theories, especially hearsay, are not to be trusted without adequate evidence. Question everything. Accept nothing at face value.

The third pathway :  A global citizen leads with integrity

Being in a leadership position carries tremendous responsibility. Leadership is all about trust. We trust our leaders to act appropriately and to honour that trust, we accord them a position of power on condition that they use that power for the good of their followers.

Those who aspire to be leaders must begin early in life to develop a moral compass that will guide them along the right course.

This is especially true in the field of information technology. Digital globalisation has allowed us to access the Internet easily, everything is literally at our fingertips. Yet, the price for that ease of access is a constant flow of data (especially personal data), either willingly or unwittingly, across the World Wide Web.

Those who aspire to be leaders must begin early in life to develop a moral compass that will guide them along the right course. That compass is  leading a life of integrity.

Integrity in a leader is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, it is about not doing wrong. For leaders, this is particularly important because they are constantly observed and emulated by their followers. The other side of the coin is to actively seek to do good. Following the example of information technology, leaders with access to ‘big data’ must never misuse it. At the same time, they must make proper use of it for the benefit of society.

Acting with integrity is about doing the right thing with the authority and responsibility you are entrusted with. Global citizens lead with integrity not because they are worried that they will get caught misbehaving but because they have a responsibility to live up to.

The fourth pathway :  A global citizen collaborates rather than competes

In today’s world, old ideas about how the economy functions have become obsolete. Corporations should no longer view each other as enemies to be defeated but as partners working towards the same goal.

Today, industries are increasingly segmented and no company can stand on its own. The shared economy, as it has been called, favours collaboration over competition. You must put aside the conservative leadership model that emphasises the individual and focus on the shared economy that advocates a win-win solution for all.

Nowhere is this mindset more critical than in the realm of technology. Advancements in technology should be seen as expanding the pie of prosperity for all players involved so that progress can be made by the industry as a whole. For example, if it were not for the development of cloud storage technology, companies such as Uber and Airbnb may never have gotten off the ground.

In short, it is no longer relevant to think of rivals as competition to be crushed. Everyone has their own strengths and if different individuals and groups work together, they can accomplish so much more than what they could have achieved on their own. 

The fifth pathway :  A global citizen embraces authenticity

As a global citizen, you can only excel at doing the things that you are passionate about. Thus, you must learn to live out your own dreams and not the dreams of your parents. Staying true to your passions and exploring the possibilities within your imagination are the keys to establishing authenticity.

Through your mistakes, you learn who you are, you solidify your ideas and dreams, you find out what works and what doesn’t, and you grow as an individual.

Instead of trying to be the next Steve Jobs, you can strive to make your own mark in the world. That is more meaningful than blindly emulating someone else. In the real world, as in the world of art, no one wants a copy. The value lies in the original piece.

You must not be afraid to make mistakes.

Whether you are a college student or a senior executive, mistakes are the only way in which you learn. Through your mistakes, you learn who you are, you solidify your ideas and dreams, you find out what works and what doesn’t, and you grow as an individual. If you have the courage to try something new, there is the always the possibility of failure. But persevering is what helps you discover your true potential and develop the authenticity you need as a global citizen.

If you can become a person with a truly global mindset, you will be rewarded both socially, spiritually and financially. Yet, do not allow yourself to become a blind worshiper of money, stature or titles. A reputation for integrity is far more important and lasting.

In parting, I leave you with this famous poem to help encourage you to make the most of the opportunities offered by a new globalised world.

“I pray that you will one day be granted the serenity to accept the things that you cannot change, the courage to change the things that you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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This article is based on a speech I gave recently, ‘The Opportunities of Globalisation and Digital Connectivity’, at INTI International University and College where I urged the audience of young people to have an open mindset, stay curious, uphold integrity and collaborate.

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