There Is Virtue In Work And Virtue In Rest

Bernard Tan from the Government Technology Agency reflects on the need to rest – and laugh – to be resilient.
Bernard Tan there is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest.

Bernard Tan

  • Director, Government Cybersecurity Consulting Services, Government Technology Agency (Jun 2019–present)
  • Chief Information Security Officer, then-Infocomm Development Authority (Government Cluster), Ministry of Home Affairs (May 2016–May 2019)
  • Senior Technical Consultant, IDA (Government Cluster), MHA (Nov 2012–Apr 2016)

Dear Young Officer,

When asked to write this letter, I wondered: “Why me?” I was honoured to learn that it was because of my posts on the One Public Service Workplace platform, which have generated many followers.

Looking back on the past two years of posting, here’s what I would like to share from my most-liked posts.

The Fool Thinks He Is Wise, but the Wise Man Knows Himself To Be a Fool.

In my fast-paced work of dealing with cybersecurity, the only way to keep up is to tap the wisdom of others. They may have better ways of problem-solving. I remind myself to not play the hero and to reach out to my team of cybersecurity comrades so we can get the best work done for citizens.

Care For Yourself Before You Can Take Care of Others.

When I started my cybersecurity journey in the Public Service, there were many things to learn. I spent long hours to ensure I could deliver, on time, what the bosses asked for. There is nothing wrong with that. Hard work does see returns. However, it’s tough to feel joy if you’re going 100km/h all day and have no time to rest. I cannot sustain such momentum in the long run without it taking a toll on my health.

I often hear people say things like "I do it all for my children," or "My focus is to reach a point in my career where I can retire and commit all of my efforts to the wellbeing of those around me," and "Isn't that what life's about?" My answer is no.

To keep my energy high, I took deliberate steps to stay healthy, such as by doing yoga with my loved ones. I am not good at it yet, but the whole process keeps me physically and mentally stronger. That is how I get my batteries recharged in a fun way.

When you have a true love of self and focus first on your own needs, you will have a greater ability to give to others. Build your days around those needs. This perspective will provide you with much-needed strength on your journey to help others beyond yourself.

Even during the busiest days, taking just a few minutes to disconnect and unplug can give you a massive boost. There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Have both and overlook neither.

Confront Adversity With Might and Get Back Up.

During this COVID-19 period, the world is undergoing its toughest challenge. Everyone has their own struggles, with some people facing more difficulty than others.

There are many moments when I feel fatigued. What keeps me going is my resilience. To me, it is about being able to acknowledge and work through pain and suffering, and maybe eventually even find meaning in it. 

I believe everyone is resilient. But we often don’t know what we’ve got until we’re down and dirty in life’s trenches. We often don’t trust our capacity to cope until we can and do.

As Christopher Robin tells Winnie the Pooh in the movie Pooh’s Grand Adventure: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Many colleagues and Workplace followers have asked me how I keep up my daily posts. My humble reply is that I enjoy what I do and share what I have read to end my day with a reflective moment. Sharing good finds helps to keep me going.

Let me share what I feel has been useful in keeping me resilient:

  • Be there for others in need. All the decency in the world relies on us helping one another. Volunteering is a powerful way to help others. Helping others also helps you – it is a win-win.
  • Ask for help and graciously accept it. Humans are not built to go through life alone. Reaching out and allowing others in when you need help is a sign of self-awareness – arguably the best psychological resource of all.
  • Remember to laugh. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve seen many people struggling. They’ve lost loved ones, jobs, businesses, relationships, travel plans, hopes and dreams. It’s been tough. It’s still tough. But here’s the cool thing: They can still make or take a joke, and have moments when they feel good, light-hearted and hopeful.

In my Public Service journey, being able to have a genuine belly laugh amid the struggles is more than resilience, it’s gold. Take a deep breath. Regroup your thinking and get back up for the next challenge.

As leaders, always have clear thoughts and the wisdom to make sound judgements. Be mindful of your needs so that you can then help others. Look out for role models and glean positive traits from them. Let failure not deter you but motivate you further towards solving problems and meeting our mission.


Want more stories like this, subscribe to the Challenge newsletter or follow the Challenge Telegram channel.

    Nov 16, 2021
    Bernard Tan
    Lei Ng
  • link facebook
  • link twitter
  • link whatsapp
  • link email