Speaker Night: Responsibility, Compromise and Sacrifice

We gathered around the fireplace once again last Tuesday, for the first session of our Responsibility, Compromise and Sacrifice series! (The series runs to the end of April, so stay tuned for more). We were very happily packed that evening! So thank you to all the new and old Dwellers who showed up, for your curiosity, questions, and sharing.

Dwelling was honored to have down as our speakers two very distinguished guests, Catherine Tan and Sean Ong. The evening began with Cat’s sharing on how responsibility was inculcated in her since young, and how she in turn has learnt about responsibility through her own experiences while growing up. For instance, Cat shared about an incident in primary school when she decided not to pack her bag and uniform before school the night before. The next day, she experienced the unfortunate consequences of the decision — when she woke up, she rushed through her preparations and forgot the belt to her pinafore. As a result, her friends teased her, asking if she was pregnant! This experience was significant enough that she remembered it many years on, serving as a reminder to her to take responsibility for herself.

Cat’s experiences with responsibility have also extended to her family (she is a mother of two) and the workplace, especially in times when she had to resolve conflicts between her two roles as mother and employee. What to do when the responsibilities of motherhood and career opportunities come into conflict? When Cat’s overseas travels for work resulted in negative behavioral traits in her son, she had to seriously contemplate what to do next. Cat shared how she came to her personal decision to choose her son over her job, leaving work to care for him herself. Many in the audience, whether parents or not, could relate to having to make a similar difficult decision when several roles of theirs came into conflict. Catherine’s sharing helped some to gain clarity, and it most certainly underscored the importance of ownership, and understanding the consequences of one’s actions, when making a responsible decision.

Sean, our next speaker, shared about his personal experiences as a father of two, author, and business owner. Sean had previously written a book, titled “Mend Your Socks! — How to prevent your riches from crushing your family.” In it, he wrote about powerful strategies to create positive kinships. In the speaker session, he shared endearing stories of mending his socks in front of his daughter, and taking the opportunity to teach her about responsibility while at it.

He also shared about implementing a great working culture (Sean runs a team of 20 people), and how inculcating responsibility often begins with setting a good example himself — such as turning up on time, and playing his part when he asks his own team to take responsibility for their actions. Sean also brought up for discussion common issues he has had to think about: such as, “If your team messes up, do you think the responsible thing is for you to take responsibility for it yourself?” The room was in two minds about it, with half saying yes, and half saying no. The questions continued, as we would come to see…

Sean and Cat are avid contributors to wider communities. While Cat volunteers with her husband at the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home, Sean has previously run 1,000km in 87 days to successfully raise over $13,000, for a children’s charity in Singapore. This raised the question of responsibility beyond the self: what are these, and (why) should one care? Leroy from the audience raised an interesting question: would you call this altruism? And how would it relate to responsibility?

Some other Dwellers chipped in by sharing examples of how they, too, have extended themselves to care for others beyond themselves. So how do we decide who and what we are (willing to be) responsible for?

Many other fascinating questions also came out over the course of the evening. For example: can you ever make someone else responsible? Who is responsible for your motivation? And, surprisingly, many came out admitting that they did not even fully understand what responsibility was. So… what is this thing called “responsibility”, really?

In our Wisdom Session on 14 April, we will take a critical eye to what now appears to be the very fuzzy topic of “Responsibility”! Before we can know what we are responsible to and for, we first need to have a working (and ontologically precise) definition of what responsibility is. This will enable us to see clearly how we are or are not being responsible, and what we can do about it. So join us then to get started. In the next session, Julia will also be sharing a new coaching sequence that can help you work through a responsibility-related issue that you might be grappling with. So thank you everyone, and we look forward to seeing you in three weeks!