To this day, national hockey player Ishwarpal Singh Grewal vividly recalls returning home as a tearful 15-year-old, afraid to tell his father that he had failed to make the school's hockey team.
His late father, former news editor at The New Paper and Straits Times (ST) journalist Santokh Singh, was deeply invested in his son's progress as an athlete. But when he received the bad news, he simply told his son to watch as he threw a ball onto the floor.
"The ball hit the floor and bounced back higher than where it was. That was the first time he taught me this lesson that stuck with me for the rest of my life: It's not about how you fall, it's about how high you bounce back," Dr Singh told young graduates at an annual Sikh Graduates Tea yesterday.
Dr Singh, 26, graduated from Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine this year.
"Throughout my career as an athlete, I've had a lot of failures. I have been benched for important games, lost finals, made decisions that have caused the team to lose. All along the way, I always remembered to bounce back.
"This lesson is something that can make a big difference to our day-to-day lives," he said, adding that he did not make it into medical school on his first try.
The event, organised by the Young Sikh Association, recognised 36 young graduates from the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics and universities for their academic achievements. Dr Singh, who graduated with a degree in medicine and surgery, was invited to speak as valedictorian.
He told ST that resilience was a value instilled in him from a young age. He started playing hockey with his father and siblings from the age of five, before training in Raffles Institution where he studied. But he began playing for the national team only at 19.
"Many times, I was not selected to teams. I've never played for the national team in any age group, only as an adult," added Dr Singh, who has since represented Singapore at three SEA Games. "Without resilience, I don't think any of this would have been possible."
At the event, Young Sikh Association president Sarabjeet Singh flagged the importance of mentorship for young people.
Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, who also gave an address, urged young graduates to recognise that success is reaped through the experience of managing failures and overcoming challenges.
He told the youth to be open and ready to step out of their comfort zones: "Asean and the larger Asia must be seen as our economic hinterland."
Dr Maliki also commended the Young Sikh Association's approach to dealing with "insensitive comments" by a social media influencer recently.
Singapore is multiracial and multi-religious, he said, adding: "Differences will always be highlighted. Although we can't take away those differences, we can focus a lot more on the similarities and make effort to bridge those gaps. I think young people must continue to do so."