Don’t Learn The Wrong Things

Never stop upgrading yourself.

By Alywin Chew      8 February 2021

One of the buzzwords these days is “lifelong learning”.

Singapore’s SkillsFuture initiative is one example of a rallying cry for us to seek self-improvement and learn new skills no matter how old we are. Because in this age of artificial intelligence and automation, many of us are susceptible to losing our jobs to machines.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Relying on machines for certain tasks means improved productivity and efficiency. This would be especially relevant for the military.

Unlike humans, robot soldiers don’t need eight hours of sleep, don’t report sick and will never suffer from medical conditions such as “excuse grass”, “excuse No.4” and “excuse sunlight”.

I kid you not, someone in my BMT company actually managed to get himself excused from sunlight. That was the first time in my life I learned that vampires truly exist.

Speaking of learning, nothing in life induces as strong a desire to learn and improve oneself than love. You see, we naturally learn and improve ourselves when it comes to doing what we love.

If you love food and cook frequently, your culinary skills improve over time. If you love reading, your vocabulary expands over time. If you love football, you will spend countless hours on the pitch honing your skills and maybe even become good enough to be a professional S League player cum Grab driver.

Of course, there are exceptions. When I was in BMT, my platoon mates would cheer each other on during the 2.4-kilometre run, hoping that everyone would improve on their timings. We’d even run during our spare time.

But it wasn’t because we loved running.

We just loved canteen breaks, which the platoon sergeant promised if everyone passed.

We also learn and improve ourselves for love.

In fact, love in the time of Covid-19 has certainly been a learning experience for many. Single men who never believed in using dating apps had to learn how to navigate this virtual realm when bars and clubs were closed during the lockdown.

Now that we’re in Phase 3 and allowed back in the hunt, some of my friends have also been diligently learning new pick-up lines to stay relevant with the times.

Here are my personal favourites:

“Hi, do you want to wash hands together?”

“Damn, girl. I would definitely swab right on you.”

For many of us, being in love means wanting to better ourselves for that person of our heart’s desire. Of course, the definition of “better” is contentious. To most people, becoming better means working hard and making sacrifices so that they can afford a nice diamond ring and other luxuries in life for their better half.

Of course, there are outliers, like my friend Ken, who have a very different understanding of the concept of self-improvement.

“Don’t you think it’s a little inappropriate for you to be going to siam diu (Thai disco) twice a week? You have a significant other,” I asked.

“Not at all. This is all part of self-improvement,” he replied.

“I’m not sure I understand you. How on earth are you improving yourself by partying?”

“My friend, let me share with you an enlightening piece of advice that I got many years ago. There cannot be self-improvement without self-compassion, and self-compassion means treating yourself well and understanding your own needs. It just so happens that I need to party.”

“Sheesh. Whoever told you this?”

“A Thai nun. From a mystical realm called Neverland.”

Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to constantly seek self-improvement for the sake of your girlfriend or wife. Trust me, I’ve been married for 12 years.

This is the only thing I’ve learned – treat your woman like how you did the platoon sergeant. Just do whatever the heck they say.

What’s the best thing you’ve learnt to do recently? Share your stories with us at!