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 advice 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, every one 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 the 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 viewpoint.

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 come 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 nor
fail 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’s dreams despite the challenges.
  3. be ever ready to seek and listen to advice, 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 known 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 contributors 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 stuck 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.

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 the wise and good king can have his officers who dare to advise 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.

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 having 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。”)

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).

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 much 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. A Good King ensures his people live in comfort but a bad king only selfishly enjoys 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 these loving relationships.

Strong Nation, Great Leader and Loving & Wise Wife
A Strong and prosperous nation is built by a great leader. A great leader has a 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 every one of us contribute in whatever small way that we can towards the continued 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

Leadership is as Simple as 123 according to CEO Handbook

Sima Guang, a famous Chinese Historian and a former Primer of the Zong Dynasty, gave as two sets of three key principles, one on personal development and the other on running successful organization. This wisdom is distilled from the study of the rise and fall of nations and leaders in China from 403 BC to 959AD. It was written as a guide for the King to rule the country well.

The famous history book written by Sima Guang is The Zizhi Tongjian 资治通鉴, literally in English is, “Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance“, or in my translation, “The CEO Handbook”, since it was writtent as lessons for the rulers. It is published in 1084, in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 CE, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered Sima Guang (1019–1086) to lead with other scholars for the compilation of a universal history of China. The task took 19 years to be completed. It records Chinese history from 403 BCE to 959 CE, covering 16 dynasties and spanning across almost 1,400 years, and contains 294 volumes and about 3 million Chinese characters. Sima Guang gave his evaluation for the reasons for success or failures throughout the chronicles. Most kings through the Chinese dynasties had recommend the study of the book. Even Chairman Mao of China has recommended it as well.

Sima Guang listed 3 key qualities for being a leader and another 3 principles for ruling the country. Here is the mind-map that explains what these mean:

Character Development:

Character Development has 3 key qualities:

  1. Benevolence,
  2. Discernment &
  3. Decisiveness/Forcefulness.
  • Benevolence is not raising children with indulgence. It is improving the politics, promoting education, raising all things, caring for people. This is the meaning of benevolence of a People’s King.
  • Discernment is not critical and extensive fault finding. It is about knowing righteousness, understanding of security and danger, discernment of wise and fool, differentiating right and wrong.
  • Decisiveness is not ruthlessness and brutality. It is deciding and sticking, without any doubt, to the principle(Dao) such that it cannot be tempted by evil, changed by flattery.
Hence,
  • Benevolence without discernment is like having fertile field and yet not ploughing them.
  • Discernment without decisiveness is like seeing the weeds among the wheats and yet not removing them.
  • Dicisiveness without love is like only wanting to harvest(cutting out)  without planting.
  • Having all three leads to a strong nation. Less one leads to decline. Less two leads to danger. Less three leads to death.
  • Since the beginning of man, there is nothing before nor has changed.
  • Quotes
    • 得财失行,吾所不取。——《资治通鉴•陈纪》
      Gain wealth to loose one conduct is not want I choose.
    • 能择善者而从之,美自归己。——《资治通鉴•宋纪》。
      Choose to follow and do the good and kind things will bring beauty back to self.
    • 仁者不以盛衰改节,义者不以存亡易心。——《资治通鉴•魏志》。
      The kind does not change with riches or poverty,
      The righteous does not change for life or death.

Managing the Country – The Three Principles


Governing has 3 Principles:
1. Assignment
2. Rewards
3. Punishment

  1. Assignment: Matching People to Job ie 知人善任 Know People & Assign Them Rightly
    1. The abilities of people differs. Different jobs have their specialization.
    2. During the ancient times of Yao and Xun, the capable people stayed in their specialty and changed not.
    3. If assign them here and there, change their jobs, then cannot reach excellence.
    4. Hence, leader with integrity can gain the best of the world and deploy them according to their strengths.
    5. Assess capabilities then Assign
  2. Rewards for Performance
    1. Heavily rewards those with accomplishments。
    2. Those that did well, rapidly reward them and don’t change their job.
  3. Punish in time. Severely punish those with wrong doings.
    1. This is like controlling the horses of a wagon, direction & speed.
    2. Demote or replace the under performers by able ones.
    3. Those with faults then punish or kill without mercy.
    4. If goodness is not rewarded and evil is not punished, the good ones will be lazy and the evil ones diligent.
Putting Things in Context:
Running a business or governing a country takes more than just leadership qualities and management skills. One must watch and make sense of the external environments, the non-controllable, the influence-able and controllable factors in the them. Sun Zi’s Art of War gives a more comprehensive framework for understanding, adapting and exploiting the external environment. But basically, life is about changes and good life is about knowing how to adapt and make good use of the changes. The best on this is the Book of Change, the root of all Chinese Philosophies, including Art of War. Here is a mind-map that put the study of Sinology in proper context:

In the above mind-map, we can see that “The CEO Handbook” is just part of a larger framework, covering only the ‘People’ factor. There are other factors listed by the Art of War. On the left side, we see the origin of Chinese Philosophies, the Book of Change, also known as I-Ching.
Please see:
Lim Liat (c) 21 Jan 2015

Who has the Best Mission statement?

A mission statement must be inspiring to begin with. It should be shown and not just tell. It is best internalized and entrenched. It is shown in the products and services offered. Hence, customers can tell you what your real mission is, Apple is one that achieve the highest standard in inspiration and showing of their mission. We can also learn mucth from the Apple’s mission too,

Inspiring.
A mission statement is about the purpose of your existence. It is your identity and the value that you provide to a particular group of people. It gives meaning. It should be inspiring. It differs from Vision statements. Mission is about why whereas Vision is about what at some future point in time. Vision explains what your mission looks like to internal and external people. Values are your key believes that shape your decisions and behaviors; those important qualities and moral standards that define who your are. Getting back to mission, a mission statement must also be inspiring.

Recently, Li Ka Shing, Asian richest man, was reported in ZaoBao of 8 Oct 2014 (Chinese Newspaper in Singapore) that he liked a particular quote in the book “Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The quote is:

  • If you want to build a ship, don’t just drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead inspire them to yearn to set sail for the endless sea.
He further said that if the society can be inspired to set sail for sea, then an Asian Silicon Valley will appear. Hence, we can see the importance of the inspiration in a mission statement. It is of course very sad to see most companies, even the large listed companies, have mission statements that are vanilla statements of what they do. They are just making a living rather than impacting the world.

In Sun Zi’s Art of War, the first of the five factors for winning war is 道 Dao, the mission and values of the people. Sun Zi explained Dao as the one that unite the top and the bottom so that they can bravely live or die together. Unity is one of the 5 keys for winning that he emphasized again in the later chapters of his book.

Show, Don’t just tell.
If you try to look for Apple’s mission statement, you will not be able to find it even in their website or their publicatioins. However, I believe, Apple’s Mission is personalized and personified in Steve Jobs. “Making a dent in the universe” is one of his famous quote. He had over the years, created the unique Apple culture that reflected its mission. Steve Jobs believed in showing rather telling. This is in fact a great teaching of Lao Zi. In Dao De Jing chapter, we find the following statement:

  • 是 以 圣 人 处 无 为 之 事  行 不 言 之 教.
    Therefore, the saints do things that violate not the nature order. They are to teach without words (i.e.  teach by examples. The exhortation is not about not to teach, but to teach rightly, by being the model for others to follow). This teaching without words is repeated in Chapter 43.
The mission is not taught but caught and is shown in the way the staff work and in the products and services that they offer.
Nevertheless, Apple did begin with a mission statement, in 1980s, as
  • “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”

But once the mission is internalized, there is no need to state it explicitly.

Internalized and Entrenched – The Culture
Mission statement must be implemented in the company policies, procedures, practices and systems. Also in the building design, office layout, retail space deco, the vehicles and everything else. It takes time and effort for the staff to internalize the mission and for the mission to be entrenched in all the practices. In the long run, it creates the unique culture that give its the competitive strengths. Technologies can be bought, practices can be copied, but culture cannot be easily copied.

Customers tell you your real mission.
The mission best shown in the products and services that the company offer to its customers. Customers are the ones to tell you accurately and truly about your mission.

What is the Apple mission statement? What words come to your mind when you think about Apple?
Simplicity, Elegance, Beauty, Wow, Eaes of Use, Fashionabe, Stylist and Classy, even Sexy. You are right. Those are the key ingredients of Apple’s mission. The true mission of a company is in its Brand. Brand is not what you claim but what customers say about you from their experience with you over a long period of time. In short

  • Your true mission is not what you say but what customers say!

My mindmap of Apple’s Mission:
Apple’s mission can be found, indirectly, in Youtube videos on “Apple – Design by Apple – Intention” and “Apple Ad – Our Signature”. Apple called their mission statement, intention and signature. Indeed, your signature is your identity which is also your mission.

Notice that the value that customers appreciate is in how they feel about your products and services. It is all about creating a wow experience that get the customers to ask for more!

Lim Liat (c) 8 Oct 14