Stephen Lew is interested in making a difference through positive psychology with his business, The School of Positive Psychology.
What’s your story?
Since a young age, I have been curious about the world and the events behind human existence. I posed loads of questions in school but it didn’t help as the education environment in Singapore was based on academic success and not human excellence. The search for meaning spurred on heaps of insightful conversations with people from all walks of life, through these dialogues, I uncovered insights into human experiences. In 2005, a World Health Organisation report cited that the main challenge of the world would be depression. I became interested in making a difference, more than just making a living. Seeing that workplaces and communities are challenged with higher cases of burn outs, depression and suicides. I had a vision to create a platform to help people and organisations to develop sustainable and practical wellbeing skills. In 2007, ‘The School of Positive Psychology,’ a higher education and training institution was established in Singapore to execute this mission. Through the science of positive psychology, I wanted to bridge that gap from “surviving to thriving,” and develop pro-social thinking and business leaders to bring about positive human experiences to improve our world.
What excites you most about your industry?
I am really fortunate to play a part in people’s careers and crafting their lives. That really gets me going. For individuals, it is really fulfilling to be involved in their positive, transformational journeys. The fulfilment is simply priceless, seeing people coalescing into better versions of themselves. For organisations, it is especially meaningful and gratifying to hear how their employees develop resilience and wellbeing and up their psychological capital skills. The feeling is simply extraordinary.
What’s your connection to Asia?
As a positive organisational coach and psychotherapist, I care deeply about helping develop the community and workplace wellbeing. I’d like to reach out and connect to more Asian thought leaders as collectively we can empower or nudge others to nourish a collaborative, trusting, prosocial and thriving workplace for all. The world needs us to play a bigger role to make the world a better place to live in, especially for our next generation. Currently, apart from Singapore, we have extended to Japan, Hong Kong and Philippines. We are hoping to form more partnerships to offer our training programmes and services.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei and Tokyo. I am constantly charmed by the diversity of cultures, as there are simply so many flavours in cultures, human energies and connections. If I had to shortlist, it’d be Singapore. Singapore is a great melting pot to cultivate ideas and springboard them into actions.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
It is more of a quote that has stuck with me for years.
“The meaning of life is, find out your gift, and the purpose of it, to give it away.”
Who inspires you?
My dad. Since a young age, he has been a great storyteller and I have learned a lot from his life experiences.
Apart from him, I am inspired by people who are kind. It actually takes courage to be kind and I have seen uncelebrated heroes who demonstrated kindness by taking on selfless acts. They give up their time, energy and resources to bring light to others. They do not judge others, and they don’t look for praises, their acts of kindness are simply contagious. If you are a kind person, thank you!
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Heliotropism is a phenomenon that all living organisms are attracted to light energy. Even in the most dire conditions such as darkness, given a small source of light, a seed can sprout towards the light despite its fragility and its lack of supporting resources. All living organisms are energy tracking and light seeking. To me, this is a form of innate resilience. Human beings are heliotropic in nature. Everyone gravitates towards light to grow, and becoming better versions of themselves.
In this space of unconscious potential, we can develop the heliotropic effects in leadership and people. As such, this will result in wellbeing and engagement at the workplace, hence creating positive cultures, and lead to higher performance and peak experiences. This is totally neat.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am grateful that I am able to do what I love. If given the chance to re-live my life again, I would not change anything.
How do you unwind?
Nature and animals energise me! I love to hang out with animals, interact with them is relaxation for me. I especially love dogs. Apart from that, I enjoy being outdoors and connecting with nature. Driving in the vast landscapes of nature rejuvenates me.
Having meaningful conversations with people energises me too.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
My recent trip to Bhutan places it as my favourite Asian destination. Bhutan offers a gorgeous landscape of virgin forests, paddy fields, waterfalls and nature. Bhutanese people are hospitable and deeply connected with their environment. Their unspoken respect for nature, environment and culture is highly admirable. I find Bhutan a great place to offer respite in both physical and mental space. Apart from this, Thailand and Indonesian islands are next on my list.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek. When you identify your “why” (purpose), everything you have lived for will line up and show you your “what” (role) and “how” (goals).
Shameless plug for your business:
The School of Positive Psychology (TSPP) is a leading higher education and training institute in Singapore and Asia that offers world class training in positive psychology, organisational psychology, coaching and psychotherapy. We offer academic and professional courses in positive psychology, organizational psychology, coaching, psychotherapy and counselling programmes. Apart from that, we offer customised bite size training programmes and consultation services for organisations. We have trained more than 10,000 students and learners; our corporate arm has trained several MNCs, SMEs, and governmental organisations. We bring world-class experts and leading authorities to share their learnings with our students. In return, our graduates become effective thought leaders, coaches and trainers, and they become people champions and make a difference in others.
If you are an opinion leader, or an aspiring individual who seeks to make an extraordinary difference in leading, facilitating and enabling others in your organisation, community, or social environment or, if you seek to become a coach, psychotherapist, trainer, capabilities developer, we would like to co-create and establish that space and goal with you.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.