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Overcoming Past Failures to Be Resilient

07 Feb 2018

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From school a dropout to becoming an award winner. Kenny used his past mistakes as a motivational fuel for success.

Failure hurts. Often, it leaves a mark in our hearts and sometimes our mind but experiencing failure is necessary because going through it teaches us valuable life lessons.

From dropping out of school to graduating with a perfect 4.0 GPA and earning the Lee Kuan Yew Model Student Award in 2017, here is how Kenny Tok, a graduate from The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) grew from failure.

He was dismissed from ITE in 2011 due to disciplinary issues. Kenny recalled, “My parents were very disappointed and refused to talk to me for a period of time”. The silent treatment from his parents left him a scar and made him do a major steer to get his attitude steered in the right direction. He saw the pain he had caused his parents’ and realised that being a disappointment was not what he wanted to be.

“It was a very devastating moment for me. Everything at home was quiet and cold, I felt that my life was over. “I couldn’t take the cold shoulder so I told myself that it’s never too late to do something right,” said the 23-year-old who is currently pursuing a Diploma in Electronic & Computer Engineering at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Making a Positive Change

Having to serve National Service after being dismissed also helped him grow and made him reflect on life. He asked himself, what his life purpose was and what does he really want to do. Kenny wanted to continue studying, so he reapplied to ITE. His application was initially rejected and he tried again. So when the letter of admission came, he knew that was his second chance at life.

“During my 2 years in national service, I felt the need to change my whole character and make my family proud of me, all over again. Through the experience, it taught me a lot of moral values and I also learned to be more disciplined,” said Kenny. He added, “After national service, I applied back to ITE and I was so happy when my application was accepted. For some, you need to win awards to consider that as an accomplishment but for me, being given a second chance to be back in school was my proudest moment.”

Kenny did community service through his Bridge Leader Club Co-Curricular Activity (CCA), where he visited homes for the elderly and organised fun activities for them such as Karaoke and Balloon sculpturing sessions. Through these community service activities, Kenny observed that many elderly faced difficulties during their physiotherapy sessions and realised that they needed a lot of support and care. As a result, he designed Project Carapace, named after the exoskeleton of animals, which is a device that helps in arm-flexing exercises to improve mobility. The device is suitable for those suffering from chronical illnesses such as Stroke or Sarcopenia and could also help to minimise their recovery time.

“That's when I fully utilised what I had learned from my Electronics Instrumentation course in ITE to create Project Carapace,” said Kenny. “It helps them to lift up and down with their hands using minimal amount of strength. There is a built-in controller which has an Up and Down button and also a speed controller which allows the user to control the speed.”


Kenny plans to explore more opportunities in creating devices for the elderly and collaborating with other care centres as well.

Surround Yourself with Positivity

“I’ve made a mistake. I joined a gang and a few months later, I started to skip classes and became defiant towards the teachers,” said Kenny who felt that it is important for students to choose the right group of friends.

When Kenny was in school back in 2011, he lost interest in his studies because of the group of people that he was hanging out with. Kenny realised that the company one keeps, have a major influence on how you behave. Thus, it is important to surround yourself with supportive friends who life you up and push you to be better so that one can be inspired to be a better yet motivated person. If you surround yourself with positive people, their positive energy will begin to rub off on you as well.

“Thankfully, by joining the Bridge Leader Club in ITE, I get to bond with like-minded individuals and also pick up new skills such as leadership and public speaking,” he said.

Nothing Comes Easy

Instead of seeing one failure as the end, see it as a stepping-stone to future success. That is how Kenny would advise those who are facing roadblocks in life.

“Never ever give up. I didn’t. And I hope my story will inspire others.. There’s always a turning point, a chance for you to make a positive change for your own good. It is not the end of the road if you fail or if you disappoint your family. There’s always a way, there’s always time to turn over a new leaf and make a change. Most importantly, to move forward, you must be positive, forgive yourself and apologise to those you’ve hurt,” said Kenny who added that “of course, don’t forget to put in effort and hard work, only then you will see the fruits of your labour!”