Believe to achieve

Believe to achieve

One star student says if you take the initiative and strive for greatness, you can be as successful as he is

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Dicky Cheung says if you can't teach it, you don't know it well enough.
Dicky Cheung says if you can't teach it, you don't know it well enough.
Photo: May Tse/SCMP
Show of hands: who's interested in being a financial analyst in your first year at university? Or being founder and CEO of your own company aged 20?

It's a pretty impressive CV for a guy from an ordinary middle-class Hong Kong family, who graduated from Po Leung Kuk Lo Kit Sing (1983) College. Not that you can really call Dicky Cheung Chun-hin run-of-the-mill. The reason for his success is simple: he set his goals early and kept his eyes on the prize.

Cheung was admitted to the University of Hong Kong through the Early Admission Scheme (EAS) and is now in his third year, studying Government and Laws.

While many students spend much of the early stages of university life socialising and trying to make a quick buck tutoring and doing odd jobs, Cheung was already planning for the real world of work. That's how, at 18, he became a financial consultant for insurance company Prudential.

Studying at HKU, having already worked for a multinational company and having founded his own business, Cheung is proof Hong Kong's education system can work.

Even so, he's critical of that system, saying it focuses too much on rote learning, not encouraging students to think outside the box and be innovative from the start.

The public examinations expect students to simply spit out what they were repeatedly spoon-fed, he says. Everything, both teachers and students, seems scripted, so students are afraid to stand up and say something different.

He does concede the system is fair, however, and provides opportunities for people of all social classes to enter a good university.

"People can excel in this system, but it requires taking initiative," Cheung says. "I studied at an ordinary local school, and I showed initiative. When I was in Primary Three, I always thought the school bags were too heavy, and when I complained to my teachers, they simply said: 'Stop complaining and just accept it.'

"But what I did instead was [start] a petition in my class to [complain about] the heavy school bags to persuade the principal. Although it wasn't successful, it inspired my friends to stand up and take initiative, as well."

His top tip for success is to plan. Every month, every day and every hour in his diary is neatly organised.

"The very first thing I do when I wake up is to plan my day," Cheung says. "Everyone has dreams of being successful, and if you don't plan how to achieve your dreams, then they will forever be just dreams and nothing more."

Since it takes only a few minutes, people can do it while waiting for their tea to brew or their bread to be toasted, he says. It's a time to focus.

If you are considering applying for university through the EAS, Cheung says it's important to be prepared for people's reaction. As you will be a year younger than most students, people may doubt your abilities, so you have to make extra efforts to convince them.

When it comes to successful studying, one of Cheung's favourite approaches is to join a study group and teach each other. It is a great way to review and find holes in what you don't know. To be able to teach something, you must know it from back to front. If you can't, it's a sign that you should review it again.

His final point may seem light-hearted, but has a serious message: as fun as video games are, boys in particular shouldn't become too attached to characters, or think your success in games reflects real life.

"I'm not saying never play games, as I play video games myself," Cheung says. "But don't derive your sense of pride and achievement from it. Remember, it's just a game."

Cheung is also a motivational speaker, and goes to schools to and give students tips for university interviews.

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