Who Contributes to My Success? by Sulynn Choong

Part of the Success Series, a series of Question/Answer pieces centred on John Maxwell’s The Value of Asking Questions


What is the greatest lesson you have learned?

Sulynn: The greatest lesson I have learned is to smile even though my heart may be breaking. This has, in turn, taught me to be resilient, to be grateful, to look up and to keep moving forward. That it all depends on who I am and want to be rather than what happens to me.

What are you learning now?

Sulynn: Curiosity and love of learning are my top VIA (Values in Action) strengths. My home is a library and a treasure trove of books and materials on subjects that matter to me – positive psychology, organisational behaviour, leadership, change management, coaching, learning, neuroscience, psychotherapy, food and nutrition, autoimmunity, yoga and physical exercise, music, cookery, art and craft, theology, and that which eludes me, literacy in ancient languages like Chinese, Hebrew, Greek and Sanskrit.

What I am learning right now is not to panic at the thought that I may never ever read every book I have nor learn to play satisfactorily any of the half-dozen musical instruments I have (piano, violin, cello, er-hu, guitar, ukulele) and that it is OK. What I know for sure is that I will never be bored for there is also Google and the internet that distracts and informs.

How has failure shaped you?

Sulynn: Failure is subjective. My ‘failures’ are self-incriminations rather than public shortcomings.

For instance, the fact that my ex-husband thought it fit to walk out, that I sent my only child to boarding school at 12 and then further away, that upon the recent demise of my mum who lived with me during the last 20 years, I wondered if I had done enough, the many projects I dream about but have not actualised, that I procrastinate as a way of life – whether out of exhaustion or malingering, or distraction from what matters. Failures? Not at all. All are outcomes of choices made, based on what I had known then. I am loathed to judge my choices using what I now know and have learned since then.

Failure has not shaped me. I have kept moving forward towards new goals and new realities. They say hindsight is 20/20. I say no one runs a race looking backwards – we sprint towards the finish line instead. Running without baggage is much lighter and more efficient. Live life with no regrets. Live in the present totally, freely and abundantly!

Who do you know that I should know?

Sulynn: Who am I to decide whom you ‘should know’? When you tell me what you need to move you along life’s path, I would know who to connect you with. I have met hundreds yet I have known but a few for I loathe casual and shallow acquaintances. I believe that we can make real and deep connections which for the most part are transient – happening for a time for a purpose best known to the Universe to be useful to either or both of us. So when you tell me where you are at, I might know of someone who may be right and ‘fit for purpose’ to connect you with.

What have you read that I should read?

Sulynn: I could answer this question the way I responded to the previous but then I would do the same for the next two.

My early reading began with life stories of the great inventors, Enid Blyton, the Secret Seven, Hardy Boys, Watership Down, the Chalet School series, Beano and Dandy comics,  the Britannica encyclopaedia and National Geographic.

In my youth, I was devouring Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Roots, The Holy Bible,  the Classics,  Thomas Hardy, William Shakespeare, To Kill a Mocking Bird, the Bhagavad Gita, Lobsang Rampa, James Michener, Les Miserables, Christian Living and lesser-known Asian-born writers. When I had money to buy my own books, I devoured the contents of thousands of books in my library and online materials.

A more pertinent question might be: What have I read that might be interesting and illuminating for you?  Why? Because it starts with who we are and what we believe in, then it moves on to what amuses and entertains, and then we start wondering about what life is all about and getting to what we aspire to.

We might be interested in how to do or make things, how we can alleviate the negatives and elevate the positives in ourselves and others, fill our being with an appreciation of beauty and excellence around us. Perhaps expanding who we are by becoming aware that we are all one – wonderfully similar and amazingly diverse, and perchance, we may wish to understand how we might live together better and more effectively.

What have you done that I should do?

Sulynn: Oh! The audacity of any response to this question. What could I have done that would be of any value to you? How I was in absolute awe when I flew up the Southern Alps in New Zealand and set the first footprint on a frozen glacier after several weeks of snowfall and then descended to cross the narrow country road to trek through a tropical jungle.

Or the thrill and sense of adventure the time when I drove my young daughter through the dark forests of south-western Australia without GPS nor any idea where we were heading. How about sharing how life is worth living with an entire country or 3000+ graduating students? Then what about the soul-rending experiences of a life of poor health and pain, of heartbreaks, of missed opportunities or vicarious loss and suffering?

You might have done better and worse things than I have, in comparison, and that’s OK because you are you and I am me. We can regale in our shared stories and learn from one another. You will do what you will do just as you have done what you have done. No one should do what anyone else has done. Ever.

How can others add value to you?

Sulynn: I certainly do not expect anyone to add value to me per se. I am more aligned with “how can I add value to you”.

Partner with me. It would be wonderful if you would share your thoughts with me openly and be ready to hear me out. Let’s dream and aspire to passion-inspired synergistic contributions that add value beyond ourselves. Involve me in adventures of meaningful work that recognises what we each do best and love doing. Believe that I aim to serve and not exploit. I am not taking anything anywhere anytime in the future. Be a friend even though it may be for a little while. Build relationships.  Let us walk together and flourish, each in our own way. There is abundance when we open our hearts and our minds – more than enough for you and me. Reach out. Give. Share. Care.

Sulynn ChoongSulynn Choong is a Positive Change Consultant / Coach with Human Capital Perspectives and the Founder / Chief Engagement Officer at the Asian Center for Applied Positive Psychology (ACAPP). She works with organisations to energise their workforce for outstanding performance. Combining practical corporate experience with evidence-based research in positive psychology, Sulynn assists CEOs in evaluating their organisations’ existing and proposed change initiatives for coherence, congruence, relevance and positive impact through strategic road-mapping and targeted interventions. She  has 23 years of research, management and consulting experience working in several industry sectors. An erstwhile economist-statistician and human resource management consultant with experience in a variety of capacities, she is passionate about people and lifelong learning. Sulynn was the first Asian to graduate with the pioneer class of Master of Applied Positive Psychology led by Prof Dr Martin Seligman in 2006 at the University of Pennsylvania.


This is one contribution, of many, to the Success Series, a series of Question/Answer pieces centred on John Maxwell’s The Value of Asking Questions. To read other contributions in this Series, please go to the original introduction of the piece, Who Contributes to Your Success

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