Why is Joseph Schooling just like us?

by Wei Ying  September 16, 2021

Before I get slammed with an influx of eye rolls, internal ones included, hold your horses and tell me, have you failed before?

Dig deep now, and list every single one of your failures out. I’ll start,

1. The time when you thought you had it all in the bag and asked the new girl out but got rejected miserably.

2. The time when your make-or-break business pitch was an utter flop.

3. The countless times you put yourself on a diet, but then the weekly McDonald’s sessions happened and the rest was history.

You know it all too well

The list could go on but I’m sensing some heat from the reemerging eye rolls, so let me break it down for you real quick — Schooling most definitely had gone through similar failures that you and I did or will in the future. Hence, Joseph Schooling is just like us isn’t it?

If you’re aren’t convinced yet, read on.

(Not so mindblowing) facts,

Four limbs, two eyes, and stands at a perfectly human height of 1.84m

#1: Failure is in our DNA.

Last I checked, Schooling has four limbs, two eyes, and stands at a perfectly human height of 1.84m, does this sound familiar? Well, that’s because I just described a typical description of a human being, aka you and I.

However, it seems that many Singaporeans aren’t able to quite connect the dots, I know huge shocker, and drew a divide between Schooling and ourselves. Having been placed on a pedestal, he now cannot do what every human does daily. He cannot fail.

Honestly, that is a ridiculous expectation. Research shows that a whopping 92% of people do not reach their goals. Thus, I do think it’s high time that we normalise failures of all kinds, big or small.

#2: No categorising needed. Category: Failure.

“Failure is defined as
an absence or a lack of success.”

So why is it that Schooling’s “failure” — of not qualifying for his pet event, men’s 100m butterfly, in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is regarded so much more of one as compared to any of those that I had listed out at the start? So long as one does not accomplish something that he had set his sights on, that is a failure.

Unfortunately, Schooling’s failure was regarded as an extraordinary one due to our unreal expectations of him. At the end of the day, do remember that he failed just like how any other human being would. He didn’t fail extravagantly or poorly, he failed, period.


Failure is in our DNA, humans will fail, you will fail, Schooling is allowed to fail, his failure is just the same as yours and mine. Hopefully the notion that Joseph Schooling is just like us has somewhat sunk in, so Singapore, please accept it and move on.

#3: Darn it, be your own cheerleader!

When we fail, we tend to use the cliche excuse of, “We’re humans and no one is perfect,” as we lick our wounds. Don’t get me wrong now, there is certainly nothing wrong with this statement but think about it, this comforting thought only comes into our heads after others say it to us first. We strive for perfection unknowingly and when we fall short, we are sadly never our own cheerleaders.

We have a little Lucifer in all of us more than we think

Like it or not, that little inner voice of a devil, that cartoon devil standing on one side of the shoulder that you see in movies, it’s real all right. We are in fact, our very own enemies.

Yup, imagine how sucky Schooling must have felt. No one gave him that liner for him to retreat into. Ugly is an understatement of how Singaporeans reacted, so much that our president had to step in to put in a word to tame Schooling’s harshest critics —his supposed supporters.

Trust me, you know yourself best and will be so much happier cheering yourself on, because depending on people for external validation only buys you a one-way ticket to disappointment-ville.

So what are you saying???

Just like how you chug your daily cup of Joe, treat your failures the same! Drink them like coffee for they will be common and like it or not, here to stay. No use in trying to categorise the grandeur of failures, if you spill your coffee, you spilled it. Instead of tearing our own down, at the end of the day, Joseph Schooling is just like us, he fails just as frequently. Lastly, for the love of God, give yourself a pep talk now and then, for you’re #worthit.

Real Talk Series by Millennials of Singapore

Here’s some real talk with First Media and we aren’t talking about the talk show series featuring Jade Rasif (iykyk). We embrace our students’ failures because we are mentoring normal human beings, not aliens. We mould students to have realistic expectations and dreams, we are a school that isn’t afraid to tell you that you will fail. If not, how else will you learn from your mistakes and improve on them?

Who am I kidding? Failure is scary af* but hey, if you jump, we jump, but rest assured that you’ll always have safety nets in the form of our knowledgeable trainers and skills that you’ve acquired!

As all ups go, there will be downs. It’s about time that we glorify and shine a little light on the downs, and accept the fact that failures come as frequent and common as your late-night instant noodle cravings.

As for Singapore’s pride and joy?  Joseph Schooling is just like us.