Victor Tan

Victor Tan is incredibly excited about AI technology and its potential to transform the world. He is the creator of Transform Your Creative Writing With ChatGPT on Udemy and the author of The Little Robot That Could Paint, an AI-generated children’s book that introduces children to artificial intelligence that will release on March 14th, 2023. He is deeply passionate about education, and In his coaching and tutoring business Ascendant Academy, he teaches students not only how to sell themselves to top institutions, how to write effectively and conceptualize ideas with AI, believing deeply that AI is not here to replace us, but instead to help us to level up as a species as we conceptualize and create the most powerful tools that the world has known since the dawn of humanity. When he isn’t spending time writing, creating online courses, and creating the occasional video about ergonomic chairs and curious uses of ChatGPT on his YouTube channel, he’s probably  spending time coaching students to enter top universities in the US and UK, creating new Apple Homekit smart home automations, and playing an already unreasonably large yet still growing collection of musical instruments.

The author has 75 posts

Fighting Perfectionism

If there were a flaw that I would observe about myself, I think it would be this. That I am someone who thinks a little too much about what other people think.

What this means sometimes is that I tend to not want to release things because I fear that they won’t be appreciated, people won’t like them, or anything else of that nature.

And granted, that doesn’t happen across everything. If it’s just an Instagram story, for example, I just enjoy releasing dumb, interesting things that reflect the different random things that happen during the course of the day.

But when it comes to more extended creative projects, I think that I am restrained in some ways by feeling that everything needs to be perfect.

Everything needs to somehow just match up with the best. And in some ways, that is kind of negative, because if you were to just try for things that aren’t always good, if you’re a new perfectionist, then what ends up happening is that, sure, you might end up creating a good product, but what will probably happen also is that you’ll just not release anything.

And believe me, that does happen quite a fair bit for me. I am the kind of person who tends to hem to haw, to just kind of let things go by because I think, “Oh, it’s not ready. Oh, I shouldn’t release this. Oh, more needs to be done.”

And that’s just my nature. I tend to be pretty careful with a lot of different things.

But at the same time, I’d like to try to get past that and I think that that can happen in at least two different ways.

One is that I reach a level of ability whereby the things that I do end up matching what I consider to be a nice standard. Maybe that’s a bit of a cop-out because that requires me to get to a certain level whereby pretty much anything I say or do just becomes acceptable as a creative product. It’s not really that sort of change of heart that I was kind of going at along the way earlier, but it’s one possibility, really.

I genuinely believe that people who can produce prodigiously, many of them are at that level partly because I think that that is the level that I would need to be at.

Maybe that’s a limiting belief.

Maybe in reality, the vast majority of the things that people make out there in this world are just not particularly good.

Maybe I’m just a little too self-concerned, conceited, caught up in my own thinking when actually there’s no enemy.

But who knows?

What’s for sure is that there is a sort of limiting belief that has been operating in my life, and I think it’s a good time to let it go – one of the reasons why I’m treating this website sort of as a group therapy session at the moment.

But in the future, I do genuinely hope that somehow or another, a little part of me is going to change. A little part of me is going to transform. A little part of me is just going to develop that skill, that pride, that recognition of something worthwhile to share. Maybe so worthwhile that it doesn’t matter even if I come out imperfect, even if it’s not ready, whatever – Because what matters most is the contribution and not perfection.

Who knows? Anyway, life has been interesting, and I’m kind of looking forward to what’s coming up here and there. So many different things to update, lots of ideas to share along, and a whole range of things I never thought that I would ever experience.

I’m very grateful for what the universe has brought, what it brings, and what it will continue to bring. Let’s just put it there.

Time and Existential Risk

Time is the ultimate existential risk. 

I know this not just from deferring to the vague idea of theory or of an arcane book somewhere. It’s something that I’ve experienced deeply and intimately from my own struggling with the realities of procrastination in a world that seems to tolerate it on the surface, but only because I wasn’t able to appreciate what that procrastination brought about, the end of many different things, on timescales that I did not appreciate and therefore could not apprehend. 

Now the thing is, as a child, you maybe don’t appreciate that time is passing. Far from it. When you’re in the midst of school, it feels least like time is passing. In boring afternoon lectures, it can feel like the entire moment has lasted more than a lifetime plus some change. And still, the teacher is there yapping about something that you don’t really care too much about. 

All of us understand in life that all things come to an end. 

Human lifespans are finite, averaging 72.6 years according to the WHO in 2019, with exceptions like Japan at 84.5, Singapore at 83.9, and Monaco at 89.4. The average career is 40 years. 

School concludes in no more than 6 years at elementary level, 5 years in secondary. It kinda depends what kind of schooling system you go for and where you were born, but that doesn’t really matter. From school, maybe you work, or if you’re lucky enough, you go on to university. Then poof, 4 years later, maybe you graduate, get a new degree, and so on so forth – but in the moment, it feels like you were engaging with a distant theoretical concept, and the temptation draws us in to believe a quixotic ideal:

“This moment will last forever.”

But it will not.

Though you may feel that it will last forever, you will see that the whole affair was much shorter than you think. 

That was high school for me. A time that felt like infinity, but that somehow turned into vague memories of the past – something so far away that it feels like it was only a theoretical existence.

If I were to generalize, time is the ultimate existential risk because time brings everything to an end. 

Without question, whether you’re young or old, there will one day come a time when you too will die. In the long run, all there is is death. In the longer run, perhaps beyond the end of the expansion of species, potential nuclear wars and maybe other sorts of conundrums and fracas as well, there will lie the death of our sun. And beyond the death of our sun, in its eventual outburn of hydrogen, rendering human life, existence, love, hatred, on our pale blue dot into the whisper of nothingness into the ear of the universe, then will come the eventual death of the galaxy alike. And when we take the timescale slider all the way to the right, moving beyond the horizons of the past and into a future so distant that none of us could possibly ever experience it, there we shall see, at the close of the metaphorical curtains that circumscribe an infinitely expanding universe, the heat death that attends the logical consequence of entropy taken to ultimate limit.

The practical time constraints, though, take place over smaller and more seemingly trivial time scales that seem petty in the universal yet are infinitely meaningful in the everyday.

At different times and decision points, we often have to make decisions that are crucial, that determine the entire future course of our lives, career, relationships, the people we talk to, the people we choose not to talk to – the events that take place in the days, the months, the hours that we spend in the course of a waking day: All these things influence the opportunities, moments, encounters, people that we meet along the way on this strange and wonderful journey of life. 

In a personal capacity, I don’t look towards things that are especially grand. I have no dynastic vision of being enshrined forever in the universe’s collective memory. 

In this limited time that I have upon Earth, I think I would want to follow the resonance of my soul. Within the set of all possible resonances, though, I can see the multiverse split into a million different parts, which in turn split into a million different parts, many of which involve me pointing at the absurdity of thinking purely on the scale of trillions, when in reality, that multiverse is infinite. At the same time, though, I imagine that some of those universals will involve me taking a different tack and simply looking forward to the more meaningful thoughts, ideas, and and notions in a life that I hope won’t be a constant running away from time and its logical consequences. 

In the upcoming days, and through this dance with time, there are a few things I hope to do. 

One of them is to move fast, to develop the ability to get things done efficiently in order to save the time that I otherwise would want for a hundred different other things. Video editing, traveling, hanging out with friends, spending time with family, all of those cool experiences that make up the entirety of a meaningful life. I hope to get work done quickly and also high in quality to make sure that the scope of my ambitions and goals can come to fruition over the timescales that determine their binary success and with better coordination. 

So many things go into that. Organizational skills, the discipline to persist even when it feels uncomfortable, and the strength to be resilient, adapt, be vulnerable, and to know that there are so many things that aren’t perfect about the way that we are going about life. 

At the end of the day though, time’s reality remains, whatever machinations, efficiencies, ideas, or thoughts should come into play. 

But I would hope in my heart of hearts though that at the very least, one thing will be true: That at the end of the day, when I take into account all the moments that had passed, that somehow I would think that all of it had been worth it, that the journey had been worthwhile, the process was meaningful, the memories were great, and that somehow or another every single moment was a moment that was meaningful, even if it was not joyful, even if it was not the greatest of happinesses. 

I think that’s about the most that a person can ask for in this timeline. To be able to look back at it all and say, wow, that was pretty cool. It’s kind of unclear where things will head towards in the finality of my moments because those are far from here. 

But for all we know, maybe this helped to set the direction.

Sleep In Progress

I lie in bed, my eyes are closed.

My over-caffeinated heart is beating, “Thud, thud, thud, thud, thud” in the depths of a chest that will not rest.

This is the fruit that has grown from the coffee after a joyous evening, reminding me that not all that is pleasant is desirable and not all that is enjoyable yields longer term joy.

It doesn’t help that the sound of laughter repeats from outside my window, innocuous at best at 10am but odious at 1am – a one digit separation, but a universe apart.

The judgmental part of me considers the inconsiderate neighbors and their inconsiderate family members just casually laughing away with no thought for anyone whom they may affect, and somehow in a flash, it dawns upon me:

This is the nature of true evil.

Evil, in all likelihood, is not callous nor is it particularly malicious.

It’s just the result of doing what feels right at a particular time, feeling that one is justified, with no deeper meaning underpinning it.

I don’t suppose that my neighbors have a particular wish for me to experience sleep deprivation. No, rather they wish merely to enjoy their weekend. Does it mean that I am unaffected by what they are doing? No, by no means. I certainly am affected. That is why I am lying in bed right now, talking to myself.

I think this characterizes most evil in this world. The consequence of people simply just following their self-interest in ways that they justify.

“I was so tired the entire week.”

“I need to celebrate.”

“We’re all together right now. Why shouldn’t we make as much noise as we want?”

“It’s just for the weekend. Surely they will understand.”

But I don’t.

I don’t think that there is anything particularly noble, wonderful, or celebratory about this whole coincidence of things because it is an unambiguous negative to be awake at 1am, but if there is anything that I do know, it’s that at the very least, this harangue has made me think and this thinking is of the somewhat beneficial sort – the sort that makes me hope that it will remain as something when I wake up in the morning rather than something ephemeral, passing, gone in the puddle’s evaporation from the sunlight of consciousness.

That’s the kind of thing that I’d like, I guess, from this next era of my life. If it’s vague, know that it’s not coincidence. The thing is an era where things become tangible, they have a form – where whispers and thoughts come to life in the concrete, the accepted, the things not rejected out of hand simply because I hadn’t planned them out well.

So here I am, wondering to myself, in the midst of this noisome disturbance, praying for sleep. Will there be a time when every single thought that comes from my head will find itself in the form of a living memory that stands the test of time, even as I resist my urge to edit, reframe, consider again?

As I pray for the evil to come to an end, these are the thoughts that my soul will rest with as I pass from the conscious waking world into the velvet room of dreams.

GRE – A First Test.

Today, I did my very first GRE at home, and let me tell you – that’s a fascinating experience to have.

It was my first time experiencing at-home proctoring, which the test agency, ETS, carried out by means of a proctor who did some of the following things:

  1. Checked my ears
  2. Checked my hands and arms
  3. Asked me to look under my bed
  4. Asked me to close the doors, turn on the lights, and everything else.

If you haven’t heard of any of this before, rest assured that you’re in good company – I hadn’t either!

Either way, not too sure what actual score I’m going to receive, but the test was an interesting one (as interesting as your standard issue GRE can be); it was a little bit disappointing to see the unofficial score that I’d received, given that I’d done a bit of practice and had done quite well, but I was shocked to see the result that had appeared on the screen – an estimated 320, despite PowerPrep Plus practice test scores of 331, 334, and 330 previously.

I have no idea how well ETS performed the estimation, but rather than reject it, I’ve decided to take it seriously and take action along the way, because what this result showed me was that maybe I had been a bit too presumptuous about my own strengths and abilities to the point that I thought that I’d be able to game the test.

Still, I think it was a shock and a wake-up call to try a little harder and not to give up and, accordingly, to carry on with the articles of mental development that the GRE has brought about – because the GRE certainly has brought about many of these things in the week or so that I’ve spent preparing.

#1: To become more efficient at writing.

The GRE has definitely taught me to write much more efficiently and to structure my writing – to get much better at deciding what parts of my argument should be supported – and to make sure that things are logically organized; in that sense, it’s been truly a boon for my writing skills, on platforms such as this one.

#2: To become much faster at mental calculations and better at verbal reasoning.

The GRE is a test of mental math and verbal reasoning – things that I might have considered myself to be strong at in the past. The test is fast, and it stretches your brain – but perhaps most importantly, it forces you to reason very quickly and efficiently; in that sense, it’s a real challenge with a truly insane curve that forces you to dramatically level up.

#3: To consider further ambitions.

The GRE is a test that is taken for graduate school. I’m not saying that I *will* end up going to graduate school, but taking it has made me think about who I am becoming and who I wish to become through the training process, which has been nothing short of a whirlwind of progress and development.

#4: To acknowledge where I am.

Realistically, unlike the SAT, the GRE is the kind of exam whereby you compete not just against people from a single country or untrained high schoolers, but with legitimate and hungry people from IIT’s, China’s top universities, and many other places around the world that are interested in demonstrating that they’re ready for graduate school.

Because it is an international competition in which the best and the brightest participate, the GRE is not a test for the weak – rather than pity you, it is more of a test that, if it had a spirit animal, that spirit animal would be a cat. Moreover, if it were sentient, it would probably look you in the eye if you give the wrong answers and simply tell you that you should die.

The exam doesn’t particularly care about what you think about and who you are or what sort of life history you’ve lived out so far – all that matters is whether you get the questions right or not.

Accordingly, it has led me to think about where I am, and where I will be in the future.

#5: To refrain from making excuses.

It would be very easy to talk about how the test was rigged or provide any number of excuses for why X didn’t happen, Y did, or Z will or won’t happen.

To be honest, I am tempted to talk about practice tests, external validity, the constraints of the clock, the deceptively easy verbal section… But I recognize that that is unbecoming. At this time, I’m accordingly reminded of a quote by the late Bruce Lee:

“Ask not for an easy life – but for the strength to bear a difficult one.”

It is very tempting to blame the universe, to think about the external factors that could have come into play, the curve, and any number of other things – but when challenges come and if they should amp up, the logical solution is not to whine and complain: It is to level up.

I’ll be taking the GRE one more time, and will be looking forward to the mental growth that this process and the many other things that are happening in life now will bring.

Thanks for reading – Here’s to much more ahead!

An Interesting Year

What an interesting year it has been, and what an interesting year it will, no doubt, continue to be.

I’ve met many people in the past year, some of whom are famous, some of whom are less so, but every single one unique, interesting, and educational in a hundred different ways that have transformed my life in ways that up until now I still can’t comprehensively elucidate. New roles have come in as well, as have new responsibilities, including the responsibility of managing the AUAM’s LinkedIn page, and to continue onwards with opportunities to meet many different people, often of tremendous qualification and bearing. Continuing onwards with a trend that somehow began last year and has continued in ever more improbable scenarios along the way.

A funny thing that has changed is that somehow, my soul’s resonance doesn’t echo so much with the need for financial gain anymore. It’s hard to say that I don’t need money, but it’s just that that is not my primary motivation.

I think that there was a time when, in the past, having more and more money was really the goal. And I’m not saying that it isn’t needed.

But somewhere along the line, I think that this should change.

It moved away from having every dollar and cent and having every inch of capacity towards being able somehow to make a difference in different ways towards being able to fund my goals and aspirations, ambitions one after another.

I’m not a greedy person, I don’t think. Not a particularly flashy one either.

I don’t have grand aspirations of having the most gigantic house in this world or the most incredible car.

Rather, I think I’d rather just live a simple life with the capacity to get most things that I do want with the ability to travel, and various other things of that nature, and to enjoy the small gifts that life has such as friendship, new experiences, and many other things along the way.

I think that there comes a point in each person’s life when they begin reflecting on these things, and they realize that many things in this world are not either-or, though.

Sometimes opportunities come into your life, like lightning, once certain conditions have been met.

Maybe your mind has reached a certain level that you’d not anticipated before.

Maybe you, as a person, have become someone capable of delivering certain kinds of experiences, value, or outcomes into the world that you should be compensated for it.

Whatever the case may be, at least for me, it’s still a time of patent reflection and many new joys. Some of which I hadn’t considered at an earlier point, but that are coming into my life one after another.

The friendships that I thought I’d abandoned.

The learning that I thought I would never have.

The opportunity to meet my heroes and to greet them as peers.

The expansion of horizons that hitherto were very shallow.

The universe seems to have blessed me in many ways that I had not taken account of before and as such, it has given me certain revelations that are unique to me and previously, in my mind, unprecedented.

I take each as a new seed, upon the soil that is my consciousness.

What flowers and fruit these seeds shall yield, nobody shall know.

But whatever it is, I know that if I look at the evidence of the past, I have seen good from this universe – and I have no rational reason to say or believe that it will not be so again in the future.

– V

A 100% Strategy For 10A’s In SPM – A (ChatGPT 4o and Python) Data Analysis

So Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) data analyses have been super popular in Malaysia recently, partly popularized by the incredible Cambridge-trained economist and data scientist Thevesh ., who’s been sharing his very cool visualizations of SPM data on both X and also LinkedIn ever since SPM results were released on 27th May, 2024.

Curious about his work, I dropped a quick message, and Thevesh was kind enough to share with me a little bit about what he had done – and I found myself analysing a little SPM dataset from Lembaga Peperiksaan (Malaysia’s Examinations Board) that Thevesh was kind enough to send to me through Github, which I did with a mixture of Python ala Anaconda and OpenAI’s ChatGPT 4o in data analysis mode.

What it told me was what I now call “The 100% Strategy”.

If you want 10A’s for SPM guaranteed(?), you should take Apresiasi Tari (Dance Appreciation), Sinografi (Sinography), Tarian (Dance), Aural dan Teori (Aural and Theory), Produksi Seni Persembahan (Performance Arts Production), Reka Bentuk Industri (Industrial Design), Multimedia Kreatif (Creative Multimedia), Sejarah dan Pengurusan Seni (History and Management of the Arts), Lakonan (Acting), and Penulisan Skrip (Scriptwriting).

Why do I say that right there?

We will talk about correlation v. causation a little later (of course!), but if you look inside the SPM dataset for 2023, you will notice that for each of these ten subjects, the proportion of A grades is 100%.

What does this mean?

Every single candidate who took these subjects in 2023 received an A for the subjects, no questions asked.

Here is a handy visualisation to help you see what I mean, with the proportion of A’s for SPM 2023 sorted in descending order of proportion and number of candidates.

…And here is a small table containing the sorted data.

Yes, these are real subjects, and yes you can sign up for them as a private candidate on the Examinations Board website in case you want to relive your SPM years for some odd reason, or force your children to do so.

In other words, it is not irrational to choose to take these subjects in the hope of getting A’s for them.

But then you might well ask:

Why is this relevant at all?

It is relevant because whether we like it or not, we do live in a grade-conscious society.

More concretely, if you’re from Malaysia and you’ve been through a government school of any sort, you probably know that scholarship bodies and universities care about the number of A-pluses that you get in your exams and make university placement and scholarship offers on the basis of SPM grades, commonly the number of A’s that a student has.

It’s not that it’s illogical – but it’s certainly the case that at the highest levels of competition, this does result in a drive towards the top where people try to get the largest number of A’s and A-pluses that they possibly can, find anything in their power to get ahead of the competition.

As I reflected on this, I realized that it was easy to be blinded – yet, recognising that this was part of reality, it made me wonder:

If I were to go back in time and re-do SPM with the aim of getting a scholarship from a scholarship body that simply requires me to get a certain number of A’s, what should I do?

Certainly, many scholarship bodies require A+’s rather than just A’s – unfortunately, Lembaga Peperiksaan doesn’t really break down what kind of A it is that has been received right here but hey, an A is an A, and I figured that it was interesting to discover the answer to that question – and here it is, for your consideration:

If you want 10A’s and you’re making your judgment just based on historical data, take Apresiasi Tari, Sinografi, Tarian, Aural dan Teori, Produksi Seni Persembahan, Reka Bentuk Industri, Multimedia Kreatif, Sejarah dan Pengurusan Seni, Lakonan, and Penulisan Skrip.

Now, the reality is that in order to receive an SPM certificate, you still need to take certain basic subjects such as Malay, History, Math, English, and so on so forth, and so even if you were to try to game the system, you’d still find yourself in a position where if you don’t study at all, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you have 10 A’s and also maybe 5 G’s or something of that nature.

…But maybe you don’t care?

That is entirely your right!

Even so, before you start enrolling yourself in some of these rather… Unique subjects, it’s time to throw some cold water on that hype, as we consider…

What explains a 100% A grade rate?

Intuitively, a 100% A rate suggests that a subject must be ‘easy’ to get an A in, and therefore that taking the subject entails that you will do well – one reason you might be hovering your cursor over that registration button at the moment.

Even so, simply because it’s not irrational to choose to take Dance Appreciation (hey, it could be interesting!), not all that is rational is correct, and there are some things worth thinking about.

#1: Self-Selection.

In the SPM 2023, the subject with the smallest number of students was Reka Bentuk Kraf with 17 students.

The proportion of students in Reka Bentuk Kraf relative to the 372,656 students who took the compilsory Sejarah (History) in 2023, is approximately 0.0046%, which tells us that not many people elected to take Reka Bentuk Kraf relative to the total population size of SPM takers, to say the least.

This was true for all of the other subjects for which there was a 100% A rate, with Reka Bentuk Kraf only having 17 students, Sejarah dan Pengurusan Seni having 67 students, Produksi Seni Persembahan having 171 students, Multimedia Kreatif having 23 students, Aural dan Teori having 71 students, Penulisan Skrip having 100 students, Apresiasi Tari having 56 students, Lakonan having 44 students, Tarian having 56 students, Sinografi having 44 students, and Muzik Komputer having 76 students.

Please bear in mind, therefore, that the subjects identified are very niche subjects and they often require specialised equipment or training, and secondly, bear in mind that there are very, very few candidates for every single one of the subjects identified here.

Given that we have a maximum of only 171 candidates for any individual one of these subjects, we are forced to consider why that is the case, and it leads us away from the “they got A’s for this subject because it is easy” interpretation – indeed, if you are one of the few students who took these subjects, there’s a good chance that you were interested in the subject and invested enough to receive training, practice, and coaching to participate.

In other words, one possible interpretation is that if you were one of the rare people who took these subjects, chances are that you had been quite interested in the subject itself, hence why you’d make a special accommodation, and therefore why you might be likely to get an A for the subject.

In other words? Correlation does not equal causation.

Simply because 100% of the candidates for all the subjects I identified got A’s for each of the subjects I identified, there’s no guarantee that taking these subjects will definitely grant you an A, and there is no guarantee that you will get an A in SPM 2024 or 2025 simply on the basis of this data because the candidates may have gotten A’s on the basis of their interest, ability, and disposition – NOT because the subject is easy.

If you just go right ahead and take all of these different subjects but you have no interest in them, that could still mean that you just don’t end up doing well for it because unlike the rest of the people who took it, you just didn’t have the interest or nature to do well.

That said, let’s look at the next interpretation.

#2: Coursework basis.

None of these subjects are listed anywhere in the SPM timetable.

Now before people out there start screaming about how there must be some scamming and cheating going on, know that they are all coursework subjects.

What that means is that essentially in order to receive a grade, you submit a portfolio and coursework over to the examinations board, and then from there you receive a grade.

Of course, if the percentage of A’s for the coursework is to the point that every single grade is an A, then that might raise some questions about artificially inflated standards, but that’s not something that I’m about to comment upon too extensively, partly because that can be accounted for by the self-selection I talked about a little bit earlier on, namely that only people who are interested in these disciplines might be fascinated enough to undertake the long hours of research for the purpose of performing well in these exams.

Still, is there something afoot? That’s a separate investigation to be made, and I leave it out there to those of you who are interested enough.

What I will say is, coursework isn’t something to shake a finger at right there, it does require commitment and skill to be able to create a coursework project, and even more so if it’s something that you’re not really a fan of.

Is it worthwhile to investigate whether there’s a scandal such that every single person who takes the subjects I mentioned will receive an A regardless of how poorly they do?

I suppose that’s up to you to decide!

Now, what do we make of this?

The data reveals to us that there are ten SPM subjects in which the A rate was 100%, and I pointed out that there were several possible explanations to this that elude the easy intuition that if you want 10A’s, you can go ahead and register for every single one.

Of course, someone might very well read this and decide to register for all of those subjects at the same time anyway in the name of using this data to make an informed decision.

To them, I wish all the best – I am not here to judge, only to present nuance, to play Devil’s advocate, and therefore to ask:

If it were really possible to get 10A’s in SPM or any other form of consequential public examination just by following this advice alone, should you do it?

I suppose some people might, in the push for scholarships, university admissions, and any number of other things in which the question of exam results are important – and frankly, it is hard to blame them if they don’t particularly care what subjects they take, the people evaluating them don’t care either, and their only goal is just to get to a better place in life.

To each their own utility function, of course – but if nothing else, perhaps what this may tell us is this.

Whether we are a scholarship body looking for the best students, a selective employer seeking after the best talent or otherwise…

Perhaps we shouldn’t be looking at people just based on the number of A’s that they have. Rather, perhaps we need to look more closely and beyond the superficial in order to get a real sense of what people actually are about – their character, their motivation, and their purpose, before we make consequential decisions like whom to hire, whom to choose for a selective university program, and whom we choose to represent us.

This is, after all, something we aren’t insulated from this even if we are looking at more ‘difficult’ exams, however difficulty is operationalised. (Failure rate? Proportion of grades below C? Dropout rates?)

Although exam results measure something and they are certainly important particularly with respect to certain professional qualifications and certifications, they aren’t the only thing that we should consider, and evaluating a person requires a deeper insight that simply a gaze upon the surface, at the report cards, or a blind deference to what the late Daniel Kahneman would have called System 1 thinking – rapid, intuitive, but in the absence of verification in the face of a reality to which intuition does not apply, potentially hazardous and externally invalid.

Whatever the case though…

Enough rambling!

You now know the 100% strategy, its ins and its outs. If signing up your child for SPM Dance Appreciation as a private candidate is something that you want to do right there, please let me know how that goes – Do leave me a message, leave me a comment, and I would love to hear your story.

On the other hand, if you just enjoyed this analysis and would like to hear my thoughts on education and exam performance, or watch the (many!) conversations that I am fortunate to have with some of Malaysia’s best thinkers, make sure to follow me on LinkedIn and YouTube for more in the days to come!

Alright, and that’s it, thanks for reading, and I will look forward to seeing you in the next one!



A Few Things I Did Recently

There are so many different and new things that happened recently that it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

I’m sorry for not updating, but that is just what it is.

If you follow me on Instagram or have watched my YouTube channel or been aware of some of the things I’ve spoken up about, I guess you would know.

But if you’re just reading this for the first time from lord knows where, then here are some things that happened in the past couple of months.

1. Interviewed every single member of Yale’s class of 2028, and 3 out of 4 of Harvard’s class of 2028 from Malaysia, and several Stanford, Columbia, KYUEM students.

It is a bit of a skewed sample, and I hope to demonstrate excellence in a more diverse form in days ahead. If you have any suggestions for future interviewees or people whom I should consider speaking to, please feel free to reach out and drop me an email at!

Also and videoed legendary economist and Council of Eminent Persons member Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Wan Nadiah, President of the Harvard Club of Malaysia, Emma Davidson of the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Malaysia, and Mr. Jarrod Sio of Sarawak’s State Education department.

Some future interviews include interviews with the CEO of Teach For Malaysia Chan Choon Seng, as well as Mr. Khairy Jamaluddin. Interviews I wish for are those with Ms. Fadhlina Sidek, Minister of Education of Malaysia, Mr. Rafizi Ramli, Minister of Economy of Malaysia, Mr. Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn, CEO of EPF, and Tan Sri Lin See Yan, amongst others.

2. Reached out to His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Shah to ask about economic history and his Economic History of Malaysia project and the ex-CEO of 1MDB as well, all part of that initiative to understand history a little better.

This is an ongoing initiative and Your Highness, when you eventually see this as I am confident that you will, the invitation stands open and it would be an honor to meet you.

3. Became significantly more active on LinkedIn. Follow me there to see some of these updates.

4. Started a national campaign against a Bruce Gilley for his misleading statements that reached over a thousand signatures as a result of going around talking to different people, having people spread the word from where they were to every single member of their congregation in a mosque, spread it in a gym, spread it on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and even received financial support for it.

5. Learned a lot about the NEP, new economic policy.

6. Exposed myself to so many hundreds of different ideas that I know it’s going to take a long time to integrate into my world.

Thank you all for a tremendously exciting past few months. I can only imagine what the future is going to hold, but I know that it’s going to be similarly exciting as it had been before.

Many of these things are things that I could have scarcely imagined just two months ago, but that had come to pass anyway. A nice little reminder that considering that I was wrong this time, there’s a very strong likelihood that I’m going to be wrong in the future as well about what truly is possible.

Looking forward to what the future holds!

– V

Pathways To Excellence

Pathways now has a podcast – please follow it!

In the past couple of days, I’ve had the chance to speak to some very, very smart people, and it’s all the result of a weird series of coincidences. Or maybe they’re not really coincidences, and maybe they’re just fate. I don’t know what it is, but either way, I realized that every single member of Harvard’s class of 2028 and Yale’s class of 2028, as well as Stanford’s class of 2028, was watching Pathways to Excellence.

Why do I know this?

I know this because I ended up speaking to almost every single one of them, only to hear that they were aware of what I was doing, that they had watched the videos, that prepared for their Harvard interviews, or otherwise in some way, shape, or form.

It’s also been interesting to watch things play out, as I’ve secured interviews that are very different along the way, with people of rather unique backgrounds, which I’ll perhaps talk more about in the days to come.

It’s very inspiring to speak to smart people – I have no idea how that’s going to influence my future just yet, but the outlines are there, but I would have done this regardless of what had happened anyway. What is clear for sure though is that this is meaningful, something I’m honored to be a part of and a journey that I will continue to value in the days to come.