“There’s more to life than just career success,” declares Dr Gerald Tan. While epiphanies about breaking away from work usually come late in life for professionals ambitious to make their mark, the realisation hit Dr Tan when he was just 30.
That was in 2008, when he was burned out from having launched his private practice in cosmetic dentistry. On top of that, he was voted into office in 2012 as the president of the Aesthetic Dentistry Society of Singapore, after volunteering time to the committee for years.
“I was so busy that I felt I was spiralling out of control. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed by the passion you have for your work,” he says. In addition to seeing clients and patients, he had to attend meetings to tackle matters like marketing strategies and branding, for both his practice and public office.
He kept his sanity by turning to a sport he had been playing since he was 13 years old – basketball.
Even now at 35, his face lights up when he describes the game he plays recreationally thrice weekly after work, mostly at Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road).
“I see basketball as a good way to train your mind and your body, to really focus your mind on a task. It’s a lot about mental strength, focus, concentration and, of course, your physical athletic talent,” he says.
He is nimble on the court where he plays shooting guard. “I shoot long distance. The tall guys grab the ball, pass it to me and as the name suggests, I just shoot into the hoop.” It’s camaraderie with fellow players, not the spirit of competition, that draws him to the game. It has allowed him to combine career success, friendship and an active lifestyle.
“A healthy body is a healthy mind. On top of that, it has given me enduring friendships. Some of the players have even become my patients,” he says with a laugh.
Despite the jokes, keeping a balanced life is serious business for Dr Tan. “I work very hard. Basketball keeps me sane. It makes me feel alive.”