Wednesday, March 16, 2011

You can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Case study: You can't teach an old dog new tricks?

I am reminded of an English idiom I had to memorise and understand for my PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) exam in Primary Six in 1962 when I was 12 years old. The only dogs I saw in the Redhill area I lived (there was actually a real red hill) were stray dogs and no resident in the S.I.T (Singapore Improvement Trust) apartment keep dogs as pets. It was the 1960s and the residents were the working class. I am sure the rich families living in Cluny Road or the other areas keep dogs as pets. As for me, I had never seen dogs performing as there was probably no TV yet or at the most, a black and white one.

This idiom was: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks". What did it mean to a 12-year-old boy whose life was decades from being an old foggy.

When I encountered the real situation yesterday, March 16, 2011 during a class I had to attend at 60 years of age, I could understand the meaning of the idiom. See whether you agree with me as to whether the story explains the idiom succinctly?

On March 16, 2011, I attended a REA course which lasts 2 months with lectures 3x/week from 10am - 1 pm. A fair lady in her late 30s who is in the family of developers said: "I am too old to study. When is the examination? I have to go overseas in May."

"The exam is in May," I said. "After the end of the course, you will get a completion certificate (75% attendance needed). Then you can register for this examination conducted by Informatics. It is best to take this May exam after the lectures if you wish to have a better chance of passing."

Our lecturer, white-haired and trim in his late 60s said: "I can pass the exam and you are much younger. If you put your mind to it, you will pass. My student studies 3 hours/day and he passed."

I said: "You must have missed renewing your real estate licence with the IRAS (Inland Revenue of Singapore) before the CEA (Council of Estate Agents) takes over the regulatory functions in 2010. Otherwise, you will not need to take this course."

"Yes, for the last 3 years, I did not renew the licence with the IRAS."

All licences must be renewed but in this case, the IRAS did not provide the electronic debiting of licences unlike the CEA. The IRAS declared that all realtors had to self-renew and no reminders would be sent.

There were those who did not do so. When the CEA took over, these were the fishes trapped in the net and if they want to be the KEO (Key Executive Officers) of their realty firms, they have to take this REA examination. No mercy or compassion from the CEA even if you have the CEHA certificate. I had the CEHA but I had not renewed my licence. Bad luck to me. So that is why I am in class studying the laws of tort, contract, architecture notes and more regulations.

My class-mates appear to be over 30 years mainly and I presume we are all in the same boat as this developer.

The mind must not think "old" if one wants to live longer and be successful in examinations. Otherwise, the self-fulfilling prophecy kicks in - you think you are old and can't pass the exam or be successful. So, your mindset becomes negative and you really age soon.

The lecturer had 5 shophouses to sell at $14 million for re-development. He asked this developer firm for her name card. Then he threw his name card onto her table.* I asked for one too. One must network and think positively.

P.S. In some cultures, throwing the name card to another person may not be polite. It should be handed with two hands. You will see Japanese businessmen handing name cards with two hands as that is their way of doing things.

This lecturer was very supportive and encouraging. He is a very good lecturer. He said to me: "Just study my CD. Or you can download to your phone for reference." I was surprised that this could be done. He showed me his Nokia phone and there were the notes. According to some classmates, the notes in the CD needed to be printed in 400 pages! There are so many new technology and if one knows how to use it, one could just study from the smartphone when one is free. This may be a useful tip to veterinary undergraduates. The old lecturer had someone to download the CD for him as I asked how he did it. Always ask and you will find that people usually are kind and will answer your "stupid" question.

From this experience, write down a list of licences to be renewed on a piece of paper and display in front of your desk. Nowadays, most Singapore government departments don't do what the IRAS did to the realtors. They send e-reminders and that should be the way to serve the tax payers.

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