I’m not sure why, but I have had an urge to include in this memoir a chapter on my shortcomings. Maybe it’s because every day, many times a day, I’m reminded of my flaws. Maybe it’s because my father used to tell me, “Self-praise stinks,” and a memoir is such fertile ground for self-praise; after all, no one is there to stop the memoirists from piling on the self-praise, perhaps even taking liberties with the truth to paint flattering self-portraits. Maybe I’m writing this chapter to decrease readers’ expectations should they ever meet me. I figure that at 67 years of age, I still have about 1/3 of my life left, another 33 years or so; thus, I’m likely to meet lots more people, although I’m guessing that the only people who will read this memoir are those who’ve already met me and are curious to fill in a few missing details.
Maybe my #1 flaw is not doing things in a detailed manner; I’m too prone to do what here in Singapore we call a “half past six” treatment of a task instead of doing an in-depth job. 40+ years ago, after a friend criticized me for this, I reflected for a little while before replying, “You’re lucky. You only have to deal with my unthorough self every now and then, whereas I have to deal with my slipshod behavior all the time.”
It’s very humbling to see my two brothers and wife in action. I’ve quit for the day, while they are still marching forward with whatever they have set their mind to. Partly, I give up sooner because I figure I’m not as smart as them; so, even if I try hard, the result won’t be as good. This was a pattern I noticed back in junior high school. My school had tracking (putting students into classes based on past performance), and while I was in better than average classes, I was never near the top. Maybe that’s one reason I like cooperative learning; so, that I can get smarter people to help me, although I also help them.
Maybe my lack of smarts is the reason I like the theory of Multiple Intelligences, that we are all smart but in different ways. That theory allows me to feel good about myself even while I acknowledge that I am spectacularly bad in some areas, such as sense of direction, drawing, anything that requires accuracy, and recognizing tones in language and music. On the good side, recognizing my flaws does, at least usually, make me more tolerant of the flaws of others.
I’m surprised about one task I seem to do well that doesn’t fit with my flaws. I’m better than average at proofreading, which takes a lot of attention to detail. For instance, I’ve proofread for people such as Dr Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org, and I’ve worked as a writing guide for university students and lecturers. Why can I find errors that others can’t? (By the way, if you find any typos in this memoir, I’d appreciate them being pointed out.)
I’m also surprised that I’ve been given various leadership positions in various local and international non-profit organizations, even though I’m much more comfortable as a follower, rather than a leader. In fact, all the way back in high school, I was president, or maybe vice president, of the Key Club, the youth arm of Kiwanis Club, a service organization. My explanation for my rise to leadership is that these have been unpaid positions which no one else wants. That’s why I’ve never faced opposition in being elected to any of the leadership positions I’ve held. Even worse, the only way I could step down for my leader roles was to resign; I couldn’t find anyone to take my place.
Another flaw of mine is that I don’t smile often enough. Once, while I was living in a Latin American village, the villagers nicknamed me El Serioso (The Serious One). It’s not that I’m unhappy; it’s just that I’m not the haha type of happy. Nonetheless, I have attempted to lighten up. For example, just for fun, one day, Fong (my wife), a brother of mine, a nephew, a niece, and I decided to take nicknames rhyming with “innie”. The nephew and niece became Vinnie and Minnie, based on their given names. My brother became Innie for the type of belly button he wanted. My wife was “Binnie” for the wealth level she wanted to achieve, and I was Grinnie, because I wanted to smile more. Toward the same goal, I try to apply and share lessons from Positive Psychology. For example, I look for opportunities to express gratitude to people by thanking and praising them, and I look for the positive in situations, as I’ve mostly done in this memoir.