30 March 2015

His Legacies Continue - The Voice of the Next Generations

After the The State Funeral of  our nation founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew, my daughter Jayne, wrote the following on her Facebook. I was very touched and impressed and have gotten her permission to share her post here. It gives me confidence that Mr Lee's legacies will continue. Below is her post:

The mourning period is over; now, we may fight again.

To those who upheld the man, who extolled his virtues, and pledged your unwavering support to him: fight to befittingly carry on his legacy.

To those who opposed the man, who criticised his faults (for what man is wholly without them?), and decried his approaches: fight to better the lives of those who have fallen through the cracks.

To those who are ambivalent, who feel nothing one way or another: figure out why you do not care, and what would make you care -- fight for that.

But this is not a fight opposing each other. It is not a fight to see which party is stronger, which group of people is more correct, or more popular. It is a fight for our nation, for our people, in which the only winner or loser can and will be the entire state of Singapore.

I challenge you, Singapore, to fight alongside, not against, your fellow Singaporeans. I challenge you to fight together, not separately, to improve our country. I challenge you to fight with the same goal and vision in mind, and to remember that everyone else around you is fighting for you too.

Now, we fight.                 
By Jayne Lim,  29 March 2015 

27 March 2015

Art of War reveals the Greatness of Lee Kuan Yew and the Success of Singapore

Sun Zi's Art of War teaches us 5 factors and 7 measures to enable us to know whether we will win even before we start a war. It reveals to us the greatness of Lee Kuan Yew and explains the success of Singapore. This then enables us, and even others, to see how we can continue to build upon the legacies of Mr Lee and to sustain the success of Singapore.
As I was doing additional readings on Sun Zi's Art of War and revising my own notes to prepare to conduct this very popular Art of War course soon, it suddenly drawn on me that I can use the teaching of Art of War to understand the greatness of our nation founding PM Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the success of Singapore. It is well accepted that we have a great leader that transformed a third world nation to a first world nation within a generation. But how did he do it? Can it be repeated? Can another person do it? I think Sun Zi's Art of War is a good guide for us to think about this issue. While it may not be complete or right, it is a good starting point.

Sun Zi gives us 5 factors and 7 measures to enable us to evaluate and compare against others so that we can determine whether we can win or loose even before we start a battle with another. Actually, Art of War is not just about warfare, it is more about how to build a strong nation; so strong that others do not dare to attack you. The best strategy, according to Sun Zi, is not winning every time but rather, win without a war. Sun Zi's strategy is about maximizing benefits at minimum costs and risks. For a more complete picture see Durians, Singaporeans, Li Ka Shing and Sun Zi's Art of War.

The five factors are 道 philosophy,天 seasonal timing,地 terrain,将 commanders,法 systems& laws. The seven meaures are: (see Sun Zi Art of War-3: Health Check with 7 Measures)

1.  Does the leader has internalized and exhibited the philosophies, values, mission and visions?

Sun Zi explained that Dao 道 is the thing that unite the people from top to bottom such that they can live and die for the Dao. So, Dao is the values, philosophies, mission and vision that the people can believe and commit to.  A more important measure is not just about the Dao, but rather, whether the leader, the King in the past and the President or PM in our modern times, practice what he believes. In our case of Singapore, we share and strongly believe in the values, mission, vision and challenges that our Founding PM told us. Furthermore, he dedicated his whole life living out the values and vision that he shared with us. He is the great 4D leader in my leadership model The Superior Mindset of A Leader - The 4 Dimensional Thinking.

I like the following quote:
  • "I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There's nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life." is a quote from Mr Lee in 2011.
2. Are the Commanders/Cabinet Ministers capable?   将孰有能?
Some people said that Mr Lee did not do it alone. Credits should be given to others as well. This is such a bad misunderstanding of leadership. A good leader should not do everything by himself. A true leader is one that pick the best and motivate them to achieve the shared mission together. It takes great leadership to pick the right talents with the right character, assign them to the right jobs, and working together full heartedly to accomplish the shared mission. Mr Lee did just that. He got an excellent team of Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye, Lim Kim San and many others. They themselves pick other talents like the Ngiam Tong Dow, Philip Yeo, Lim Siong Guan and many others  to help build Singapore.

Sun Zi gives us 5 attributes for a commander: 智、信、仁、勇、严 namely Wisdom, Trust-worthiness, charity/love, boldness/decisiveness, and strict/disciplined. I think it is an apt description of the capabilities of our Mr Lee.

3.  Are the timing & position and positioning right ?天地孰得?
Our leaders recognised the urgency for action. So we started first before our neighbours and China then was stilled closed-up. Singapore is blessed with a strategic location. The positioning was right, to move from a trading port into higher value creation of industralisation. We get the expertises from the MNCs of the developed nations and provide them with good terms and most importanly educated and skills workers. During those days, Singapore was a very good choice for MNCs expanding globally.

4. Are the laws being implemented ? 法令孰行?
Singapore is well known as the FINE city. Our laws are relatively severe and executed fairly, quickly and strictly.  The government is clean and corruptions are relative less. When a command is given, do the people follow quickly? Singapore is also known as the efficient and safe city. Things get done quickly. There may be faults and breakdown now and then. But they are addressed quickly. Consider Bukit Timah and Katong and many other low lying areas, there used to be floods often. But now they don't happen at all except on very rare occasion. From expecting flood to happen, now any flood become big news e.g. Orchard Road flooding a few years back. Efforts are continued in improving the drainage and water capturing systems. Identifying and fixing the water supply problem is a great accomplishment.

5  Are the strength of the men strong?  兵众孰强?
There are a few ways to look at the overall strength of men. The easiest is the number of men. But more importantly, it is the capability of the man. MM Lee has put much emphasis on education since the beginning. There was the stress on technological skills, multi-lingual. Dr Goh followed up with a major restructuring to ensure education fit the capability of the students, catering to the needs of not just the talented, but more importantly towards the needs for those that need more help. Then there is the emphasis on vocational skills to ensure all c an find jobs or start their own small businesses after graduation. The emphasis in skills development provide the workers, managers and talents that extract the MNCs to come here.  The only regret, may be, was the lack of emphasis on developing our own SME which the government now is spending much effort. But, in the needs of speed, attracting the MNCs was the right move then. The other is the organizational strength. Are the man well organized to give of their best and well co-ordinated to move as one unified force. The organization, operations and systems are covered in the 5th factor 法 of Sun Zi. Some have pointed out the good Civil Service operation was the good thing left behind by the British. But, it still took good men to follow, run and continue to improve it. Our Civil Service in the was not as customer friendly as today's. Changing the Civil Service from red-tape focus towards serving the people was a key and very good move by the leaders.

6 Are the men well trained?   士卒孰练?
There was much emphasis at the start to build up our own national defence force.  National Service was implemented. The training in the early days was very tough and demanding. They were trained by the best from over the world. There are many exercises carried out not just locally, but over the world. The effectiveness of the training could be since in a few major incidences like hijacking of an SIA flight, rescue of those trapped in cable cars, the search and rescue, the peace mission etc.

7 Are the rewards & punishments fair & transparent?   赏罚孰明?
Singapore is also known as nation run by Laws. The laws must be opened to all, be fair to all, and the execution of the laws must be just - impartial and no mercy.  There were cases that even ministers and high ranking officers were investigated and charged.  The government also follow the meritocracy system - making sure that the talented, irrespective of status, were given scholarships and other aids, there were tested and promoted accordingly. There are many ministers and high ranking officials that came from poor background and also from foreign countries. It is a performance base system to ensure those talented are discovered and employed gainfully Even so, there is the other side of the governement system ,,, the care for the poor. The social and medical subsidy systems are rather complex to make sure the system is not exploited but only the needy enjoyed it. It goes but the house you stay, the income the family and siblings etc. The government system is tough but also it has a heart. People sometimes complained about the too much red tape of the government. But we must appreciate that the rules are there to make sure the benefits are not misused and abused. Even so, despite the rules. there are still people finding loopholes to beat the system. Hence it goes back the very basic. the Dao 道, the values of the people. To inculcate the Dao into the people is first priority. Then relying on social pressure is the next. Lastly, we rely on the Laws, to ensure peace and order in the society. Laws is the most effective short term solution. But long term solution must be on Dao.

By looking a the success of Singapore through the eyes of Sun Zi's Art of War, I hope you can see the why and how of the greatness of our Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew. It gives us the framework to continue to build upon the legacy left behind. I am sure you can list other great attributes and work of MM Lee within the framework.

Building upon what he left is our best tribute to him.

See also:
Strong Nation, Great Man, Wise Wife and True Love - Reflection on the Passing of Our Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew.

The Real Master of Sun Zi's Art of War

Lim Liat (c) 27 March 2015

(To understand the Singapore Values in a ligther spirit, see The Kia-Su Kia-X's Uniquely Singaporeans - Mindset & Their Values).

23 March 2015

Strong Nation, Great Man, Wise Wife and True Love - Reflection on the Passing of Our Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew

I think the best tribute to show our appreciation and respect for our founding father is to follow his example, and continue to build and grow upon this foundation that he has laid for us. Here are a few key things that I can learn and do ---- pursue wisdom and righteousness, be bold to do them and stick to them, willing to take advices and be corrected, especially to share and listen to your wife, and love your wife truly.
During this period of mourning for our nation founding father Lee Kuan Yew, everyone of us, in our own, may be even little ways, wish to express our appreciation and respect for the man who has impacted our lives much.  There was this artist Ong Yi Tech who painted a portrait of Lee Kuan Yew by writing his names! See Lee Kuan Yew is a 'legend': Man behind viral portrait.  Since my interests are in Chinese Philosophies and their applications in modern management (see Ancient Chinese Wisdom), I shall show my respect and appreciation from such a view point.

The Life of a Great Man is much Longer than his Age
Lao Zi's DaoDeJing Chapter 33 verse 4 has a saying: (for more see The Principles for Greatness)
  • Not losing oneself will last.不失其所者久,
  • Died and yet one’s legacy continues is long life.死而不亡者寿。
While our founding father may have passed away, his legacies and his influence, will continue on through many generations after. He will always be remembered as the founding father of Singapore. He and his team will always be cited as examples for all to follow. Legacies comes from sticking to one's values and mission. Despite the difficulties, the risks, and against all odds, under his leadership, Singapore succeeded. There are many great things that he did and many people will write about that. One particular and vital key to his success was the support of his extremely wise and talented wife and their true love for each other. See The Lee Kuan Yew And Kwa Geok Choo Love Story ... The post has the title "Behind every successful man there stands a woman".

While not many will be as wise and great as Mr Lee, there are simple lessons that we can learn from him and apply to our own lives and making whatever small contributions that we can. Chinese has a proverb "勿以恶小而为之,勿以善小而不为。 --《三国志·蜀书·先主传》"
  • Do not do something because the harm/evil is small norfail to do something because the benefits is little.
There are four lessons for us:
  1. pursue wisdom and stick to the righteous values.
  2. be bold to execute and realise one dreams despite the challenges.
  3. be ever ready to seek and listen to advices, especially one's wife.
  4. love one's wife truly.
In my study of China history, one particular emperor and his wife, had a similar story to tell. It confirms the applicability of the above lessons. It is the story of Emperor Tang TaiZong 唐太宗 and his wife Queen ZhangSun 长孙皇后。

Emperor Tang TaiZong Li ShiMin 唐太宗 李世民 and his wife Queen ZhangSun 长孙皇后
While Tang TaiZong was the 2nd emperor of Tang Dynasty 唐朝, he was actually the son that encouraged his father to rebel against the oppressive Sui Emperor then. He was the one that planned, fought and won the many battles that established the Tang Dynasty.  He was one of the few emperors that founded and then ran the kingdom well. The period under his rule, popularly know as, 贞观之治, is one of the most powerful, prosperous and peaceful period in China History.  China town in many countries are called Tang Ren Jie 唐人街 Streets of the Tang's people.  We can see the success and influence of Tang. Tang dynasty with 291 years was also one of the longer lasting dynasties of China. It was also the period where the women had the most freedom and were most well educated.  The only Empress in China, Empress Wu, was in this period.  One of the key contributor of Tang TaiZong success was his wife ZhangSun. 

Queen ZhangSun  was one of the best Queen in Ancient China. She was well educated and married at 13 years old to Li ShiMin who was 16 then. This was before they started the rebellion against the Sui Emperor. So, we know that ZhangSun took good care of and encouraged Li ShiMin in the challenging times of wars to established the Tang Dynasty. ZhangSun later helped ShiMin to overcome the murderous attempts of his brothers to become the 2nd Emperor of Tang. Even after she became queen, she still stick to being frugal and loving. She refused to meddle in the political affairs of the country even though her husband has often consulted her. Her advice to the Emperor is:
  • “居安思危,任贤纳谏而已,其它妾就不了解了。”
  • When living security, think about the probable dangers.
    Appoint the talented and listen to criticisms.
    I do not understand other things at all.
How to correct your susperior rightly?
Once, the Emperor was very angry about his officer stopping him from hunting in the spring season because it was the period for animals mating and feeding the babies, ZhangSun got her ladies to all dressed up in official ceremony dresses to congratulate the Emperor. The Emperor was surprised and asked why. She said that she heard that only wise and good king can have his officers to dare to advice him. Now that there is an officer who did that, it showed that he was a wise king indeed. That made the Emperor very happy.

How to bring up children?
Her son complained through his nanny that he did not have enough things to enjoy. ZhangSun said,“为太子,患在德不立,名不扬,何患无器用邪!As a prince, the concern is about not having the right virtues, not being well regarded, why care about not enough things to enjoy?”. She rejected the request.

Her love for ShiMin was seen with her care for ShiMin and readiness to die with him. ShiMin was sick for a long period of time and she stayed with him day and night. She carried with her a bag of poison all the time. She was prepared to take the poison once ShiMin died! (上得疾,累年不愈,后侍奉,昼夜不离侧。常系毒药于衣带,曰:“若有不讳,义不独生。”)

How to truly love dearly? Your spouse and your people.
On her death bed, she requested the Emperor to give her a simple funeral and not to waste money on building great grave. She said she did not contribute anything in her life and should at least not harm people in her death. She reminded the Emperor to be close to the good man, distant himself from the villain, accept corrections, reject gossips, do not labor the people, stop travelling & hunting for pleasures (妾生无益于人,不可以死害人,愿勿以丘垄劳费天下,但因山为坟,器用瓦木而已。仍愿陛下亲君子,远小人,纳忠谏,屏谗慝,省作役,止游畋,妾虽没于九泉,诚无所恨!儿女辈不必令来,见其悲哀,徒乱人意。” - 资治通鉴).

A Great life is not measured by the duration of one's life
The sad thing was ZhangSun did not live long. She died in the 10th year of the reign of ShiMin at the young age of 36! Li Shin Min was must blessed to find another young, brilliant and righteous lady XuHui 徐惠妃. Like ZhangSun, she was able to remind and advise ShiMin not to waste resources on fighting wars and building palaces. Her famous words to ShiMin was

  • "故有道之君,以逸逸人. 无道之君,以乐乐身.
    Good King ensure his people live in comfort but bad king only selfishly enjoy himself (at the expense of his people)". 
XuHui loved ShiMin so much that when ShiMin died, she fell ill and refused the medicines offered. She died as she wished one year later at the young age of 24! It goes without saying that we are truly touched by such loving relationships.

Strong Nation, Great Leader and Loving & Wise Wife
Strong and prosperous nation is built by great leader. Great leader has wise and loving wife. He loves and appreciates his wife advice and correction if any. Let me ends with a quote from Mr Lee on marriages:
  • We have never allowed the other to feel abandoned and alone in any moment of crisis. Quite the contrary, we have faced all major crises in our lives together, sharing our fears and hopes, and our subsequent grief and exultation. These moments of crisis have bonded us closer together. With the years, the number of special ties which we two have shared have increased.
Let Do Our Part:
I think the best tribute to show our appreciation and respect for our founding father is to follow his example, and continue to build and grow upon this foundation that he has laid for us. Let everyone of us contribute in whatever small way that we can towards the continue growth and well being of Singapore and our fellow men and women.

I shall offer an amended wording as follows:
"behind every great man is a wise woman who loves him much and who he appreciates and listen to".

May the legacies and the contributions of our founding father Lee Kuan Yew continues through all generations.

Lim Liat (c) 23 March 2015

See also: 

19 March 2015

Getting Others to Follow Orders begins with Yourself

Sinology, the Chinese Philosophies and Literature, has much to teach us about human motivation, behavior and management. Here are wisdom from Confucius and Sun Zi.


If you lead a life of righteous behavior, setting the examples for others, then even if you do not give any commands, things will be done and done well by others. However, if you do not behave well, then if you give the orders, the commands will not be followed!

Sun Zi's Art of War has a similar passage:
令素行以教其民, 则民服;
令不素行以教其民, 则民不服;令素行, 与众相得也。
Commands followed by commanders in the normal life, commanders setting the examples, to teach the men to follow, then the men will be persuaded and convinced. Otherwise, the men will be happy to follow the commands. Commands being followed daily by all is the gain of commanders and his men.


Lead by your examples. Don't expect others to do things that you don't want to do yourself.

Lim Liat (c) 19 Mar 2015

17 March 2015

Learning from Jenson Button in Challenging Times:

At the end of the Formula 1 opening race in Australia where former world champion Jenson Button came in last in the McLaren Honda, he said,
“There were more positives: we’re as quick as the Force Indias in the corners, and we look similar in speed through the corners to the Red Bulls and Saubers, too. It’s been a tough winter – our longest run in testing was just 12 laps, so today’s 58-lap run was a good step forward – but we know we’ve got a lot of work to do. But, with all of today’s learning, there are many areas we can improve for the next race.”
Honda returned to F1 as an enginer supplier to McLaren this year. They are, at present, the worse performing engine, suffering from reliability and power issue. It was obvious to all the real cause of McLaren lack of performance. Under such challenging partnership times, we can learn a few things from Button.
1. Look at the positives.
2. No need to point out the lack of performance of the other party.
A typical reaction for failure is to find out and point out who is at fault. If one party starts to do that, the partnership will be broken. To get the partnership to go well, it is important for mutual encouragement, understanding and trust. So, if we are tempted to find faults and blame others, we can take the opposite approach of looking for the positives and bringing hope and encouragement to continue. It does not mean we ignore the faults but that all have a positive and hopeful approach to find and fix the faults. The positive environment will lead to greater creative ideas and energy to fix the problems and make good progress.