Lessons from an ex-offender's life

| 22 Oct 2019

Asia Advisers Network has brought to you plenty of sharing from CEOs, senior executives, inspiring personalities and successful agents and agency leaders. Today, we learn from an ex-offender.

134 ex-offenders were commended for seizing second chances and giving back to society earlier this month in Singapore at the Yellow Ribbon Celebrating Second Chances (C2C) Awards Ceremony organised by the CARE Network. A particular ex-offender stood out for how she turned her life around. Here’s what we can learn from her to grow our business and self.


Ms Kasmawati Bte Kali Ubi, a therapist at health solutions firm Synphne Pte Ltd and a recipient of the Bronze Certificate of Achievement, had been in and out of prison multiple times.

(Credit: SynPhNe)

More than two decades ago, her mother passed away during one such stint and she had to attend the funeral in handcuffs.

She reflected on her emotional journey and memory in an interview. And what I got away from it were these lessons:

1) You need a strong “why”

Her greatest regret was that she was in prison at the time her mother died. She cried when she first heard the news in prison more than 20 years ago and she was still emotional as she reflected on the memory during the interview.

It didn’t happen immediately. Imprisoned six times altogether for drug-related offences, she served a total of about 11 and a half years before being released in 2013 and turning her life around. She’s now a grandmother to three grandchildren aged 8-10 years old.

While it didn’t happen immediately, a strong “why” or emotional reason is needed to push you forward and persevere when the going gets tough.

Question: What’s your “why” and for whom are you doing it for?

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2) It’s going to be tough

If you want to turn your life around or to achieve great things, it’s not going to be a walk in the park.

It’s going to be tough and there will be times when you would want to throw in the towel.

Ms Kasmawati had juggled two jobs in the beginning - one as a cleaner at a private estate where she worked 7am to 3pm and another as a cleaning supervisor at a mall in City Hall where she worked from 5pm to 10pm.

Even when she had the opportunity to upgrade herself in a new job with better prospects, her lack of education (she studied until secondary 2 only) meant she had trouble understanding English instructions and was not comfortable with computers. She came close to quitting countless times and she was filled with self-doubt.

She only managed to pass the course after one month. Most people do it in six days.

Question: How hard are you willing to work and how do you prepare yourself mentally for the inevitable days when you feel like quitting?

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3) You can’t do it alone

As amazing as the turnaround is and as strong a woman as Ms Kasmawati is, she did not do it alone.

First of all, when she was working hard, taking on two jobs as a cleaner, her mentor posed this question to her: for how long did she want to be a cleaner?

She would have been in her comfort zone continuing to be a cleaner but she said it was a wake-up call. Shortly after, her mentor informed her of an opening at the company and encouraged her to give it a shot.

Even as she was struggling to pass the course, she had the guidance and support of her boss. When she wanted to give up, her boss said to her: ‘Don’t run away from your problems, try to solve it. I cannot help you unless you help yourself.’ And she did. By searching for solutions and getting help.

Question: Who is in your corner supporting you and who is your mentor that can help you navigate the storms?

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Read her interview here.