Quick Read

Do you want to be a chrysalis or a butterfly?


By Gill McLaren

Gill McLaren, paperback/224 pages/$35.33 with GST, available on order from Books Kinokuniya


More than 10 years ago, a chance remark at a business forum in the United States changed corporate chieftain Gill McLaren's life.

Ms McLaren, who turns 50 this year and is a mother of twin girls, told The Sunday Times here last month : "It was a women's leadership panel of very senior leaders, and the topic was work-life balance. Then one woman said, 'I don't believe in work-life balance. I believe in living your best life.'

She later asked the woman what that meant. The reply: "Work out what your best life looks like by your own standards, then navigate your life towards it." That sent Ms McLaren soul-searching for about a decade. The outcome is this pithy and practical book, which is part-theory, part-personal journal, part-memoir and all heart.

The quest is for a "life fingerprint", which would be your "compass" for life. All you need, she said, is self-awareness and curiosity.

Ms McLaren, who had spent 30 years in corporatedom, was general manager of Coca-Cola for Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei for 41/2 years before leaving in April 2015 for her start-up Syntegrate. She has since coached about 20 people one on one, a couple of hundred more in classes and now, with this book, she wants to help everyone to "unlock" their best life yet. She said: "Check yourself on the model (of life) you're following because if you go, 'That's the way things work around here, so it must be me", that diminishes you … (But if) you get strong with it, as in 'Do you know, it's me!', then push out. It's either be a chrysalis or be a butterfly."


1. Your goal in this book is to find a strategy for living that keeps you happy, healthy and successful. Ask first: "Where am I now?", "What is all the feedback about my current reality?", "Where am I trying to get to?" and "What are all the gaps that are stopping me from getting there?" Strategy is using your strengths to plug those gaps.

2. Then ask: "Who am I?", "What do I like doing?", "Whom do I like doing it with?", "Why do I like doing it?", "Where do I like doing it?" and "When do I like doing it?" Your answers will show what you are strongest at, what you value most, and how you spend your time, energy and money.

3. Also chart your "Life Line", or where the highs and lows of your life have been thus far. Aim to live more on the highs than in the lows.

4. Work out what your foreword and chapters to a book on your life would be - and what you wish it could be.

5. Many bosses are status-obsessed and push people down so they can lord over them. It is far better to lift them up by encouraging them to solve problems on the job, such that they will look up to - and do their best for - you.

6. Unless your job compromises your integrity, do not rush to quit it. Instead, find other bosses within the workplace with whom you are compatible and work with them. Don't force yourself to fit in. As Ms McLaren says, "Why fit in when you can stand out?"

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline Do you want to be a chrysalis or a butterfly?. Subscribe