Mr Wong also admitted that looking back on his own career, he too felt the “same pressure to compete and compare with others”.

At one point, he was tempted to leave the government but he then met mentors who inspired him to stay in the public service and helped him find purpose in his work.

Hearing similar feedback from young Singaporeans, he said some have told him that they don’t want their self-worth and success to be defined by narrow metrics of academic and material achievements. 

“So as we refresh our Singapore dream, let us also redefine what success should mean for Singapore. I have a few suggestions,” he said.

“As a society we have become used to attaching prestige to some professions. We should open our minds and embrace the different ways people can flourish.

“We are happy for our young talents and super achievers but we should equally embrace our late bloomers and and those who get their second wind after a series of failures and setbacks.”

Using the healthcare sector during the pandemic as an example, he said that unsung heroes such as nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and radiographers should be celebrated as much as doctors.

“Success is about excelling at what we do today, persevering at it and doing it with pride instead of worrying about status or rewards,” he added.

While some will choose a slower pace of work to make more time for their families, others may aspire to move up the career ladder or pursue business ventures.

Stressing that each path is different, he urged Singaporeans to appreciate what they have and revel in the success of others, as it is “not a zero-sum race”.

Redefining the metrics of success is a recurring theme for Mr Wong, who was sworn in as Singapore’s Prime Minister last month, taking over from Mr Lee Hsien Loong, who is now Senior Minister.

During an interview with the Singapore media just before the leadership transition, he spoke about “embracing these different, multiple pathways of success” in a “society and system where every job is respected”.

At the launch of the Forward Singapore Festival last October, he also said that  the “Singapore Dream” is no longer solely about material success.


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