Navigating the Singaporean Paradox in Pursuit of ‘Number One’

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In the bustling city-state of Singapore, where accolades and achievements abound, the pursuit of being “number one” can be a common goal. Dr. Tan Bee Wan, Executive Chairman of Integrative Learning Corporation and host of the Breakthrough Podcast, explores this quest for excellence with international keynote speaker and global trainer, Stephen Krempl. Amidst Singapore’s numerous achievements, there is a paradoxical issue – many millennials are feeling the pressures of their careers. This phenomenon raises questions about the pursuit of excellence and work-life balance. In this article, we will delve into the insights shared by Stephen Krempl on how Singaporeans can unlock the secret to being “number one” in their lives.

The Singaporean Paradox

Singapore is renowned for its excellence in various fields, from education and seaports to airlines. Yet, a recent survey among Asian millennials revealed that 28% of Singaporean respondents described their careers as stressful, the highest in the region. This stress often leads to millennials shying away from leadership roles due to the fear of increased stress. The pursuit of work-life balance becomes paramount, with one in two millennials standing up for grievances in this regard.

Stephen Krempl highlights the irony of Singapore’s pursuit of excellence. While the nation and its organizations strive to be “number one,” individuals within the country may not see themselves as such. This discrepancy is a common challenge in many organizations, where leadership teams sometimes consist of fewer Singaporeans than expected, despite the presence of corporate headquarters in Singapore. The mindset of Singaporeans may play a role in this phenomenon, as they often expect success to come to them rather than actively pursuing it.

Three Strategies to Achieve Excellence

Stephen Krempl shares three essential strategies to help individuals achieve excellence and be “number one” in their respective fields:

  1. Seize Opportunities: Recognize and seize opportunities for growth and visibility in your organization. When you see an opportunity to be more visible or take on new challenges, take it without hesitation. Many people hesitate or underestimate the impact of small actions like asking a relevant question in a meeting.
  2. Make Informed Decisions: Consider your goals and what it takes to achieve them. Be willing to compete for opportunities and make decisions that align with your objectives. Understand what is driving you, whether it’s personal ambition, financial gain, or work-life balance.
  3. Cultivate Drive: Find the driving force behind your pursuit of excellence. Your motivation could be to support your family, attain financial success, gain recognition, or achieve a personal goal. When faced with challenges, your drive will determine whether you persevere or retreat.

Embrace the Three-Part Statement

Stephen Krempl encourages individuals to formulate a clear statement about their goals and intentions. The statement follows a simple structure: “In the area of [fill in the blank], I want to become or be known as [your aspiration], because [your motivation].” This statement serves as a guiding beacon for your pursuit of excellence, helping you stay focused and driven.

The illusion of ease in Singapore, where many aspects of life are efficiently managed by the government, can lead to complacency. It’s essential to recognize that personal success often requires proactive effort and adaptability, even in a highly developed environment. Singaporeans must be willing to challenge themselves, take risks, and actively pursue their aspirations to achieve true excellence.


In the quest to be “number one,” Singaporeans face both opportunities and challenges. While the nation excels in numerous areas, individuals must embrace proactive strategies to unlock their personal potential for excellence. By seizing opportunities, making informed decisions, cultivating drive, and crafting clear goals, Singaporeans can rise to the occasion and achieve greatness in their chosen fields. The path to excellence may require breaking free from the illusion of ease and embracing the power of personal initiative and determination.