Keeping The Government Clean

A precondition for an honest government according to LKY:

A precondition for an honest government is that candidates must not need large sums of money to get elected, or it must trigger off the cycle of corruption. The bane of most countries in Asia has been the high cost of elections. Having spent a lot to get elected, winners must recover their cost and accumulate funds for the next election. The system is self-perpetuating.

My beloved Indonesia:

Indonesia was a celebrated example of corruption on such a grand scale that Indonesian media coined the acronym “KKN”. President Suharto’s children, friends, and cronies set examples that made KKN an irreducible part of Indonesian culture.

Amazing book –

The Perfect Type

There are two types of people in this world.

Type one is people who wake up, know what to do next, loving their job, never be aimless, be in the “flow” state often, and when they hit the pillow at night. Poof! They are gone to the dream world in seconds. The cycle repeats.

A different type is the ones who wake up, not really clear about their days ahead, loving some part of their job, browse the internet at work, occasionally in a “flow” state but most of the time not. And when they turn off the lights at night, hit the pillow, and un-poof! They did not sleep and start thinking. Thinking about something, something they want, lack, crave. Some dreams they’d like to achieve, some ideal they’d like to become. Chattery mind.

This writing exists because I was the second type. I raise from the bed and write down what’s on my head. Why couldn’t I go to sleep? Am I not happy with my life? Am I not grateful for what I have? How can’t I just accept everything and be at peace? Why I anxiously lying on my bed thinking that I have to change, I have to be successful, I have to finish my book, I have to switch career, and so on.

Wait, there is another type of people. The one that is more like no. 1 whose life seems aligned with their expectation but turns out they are unable to sleep well at night. So, they continue working until they feel exhausted, had few hours of sleep and back to their work again. The cycle repeats.

Is there a right or wrong about this?

Wait! There is another type. The one who is at peace with whatever state they are in, may or may not work, and able to sleep quickly.

Which one is the right type? Which one is the best and which one is the worst?

Well, I don’t know.


What you do defines you

You appreciate your health when you work out. You appreciate your money when you invest. You value your relationship when you discuss and agree on the hard issues. You value kindness when you help others. You value your time and family when you work hard. You appreciate God when you are grateful.

Do only what you value. Don’t lie to yourself. If you know something is bad for you, don’t do it. It sounds simple. But, like me, people are just crazy.

Benjamin P Hardy in his Medium article:

In the recent book, Skin in the Game, Dr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains that WHAT YOU DO is the purest definition of your value system. In Start with Why, Simon Sinek said the same thing. Your actions demonstrate what you really believe.

Gandhi said, “Action expresses priorities.” He also said, “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest,” which is what psychologists call “Cognitive dissonance” — the state of internal conflict. You can’t be confident if you don’t trust yourself. Confidence is a byproduct of congruent and successful behavior.

What you do defines you.

Why I do this?

Remember: it’s not because I want to be famous or wealthy or something like that although I want to.

It’s obviously not to look smart, different, or something like that although I want to.

I’m not a good writer or whatever. I don’t even speak the language well.

It’s because I don’t want later in life to look back and regret I never started writing and showing my vulnerabilities to the world.

We can’t get back the time we spent. So why not try?

Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

I like this one. It’s why you make sure your baby to live correctly. You will make her follow the right routines. You will think and act for your baby’s best interest. And it’s usually right.

Why you seem to know what’s right for someone else you care but not to yourself?. Why don’t you make a strict schedule for your sleep? Study? Diet?

Every day, remember: when you decide what’s best for your baby or someone you care about, determine for yourself too. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

When you do that, you choose what would be good for you. This is not “what you want.” It is also not “what would make you happy.” Every time you give a child something sweet, you make that child happy. That does not mean you should do nothing for children except feed them candy. “Happy” is by no means synonymous with “good.”

We don’t know what is good for ourselves, although we know. But, we certainly know what’s good for others. By thinking ourselves as someone we responsible for helping, we will make ourselves the object of our care.

Your path?

Thomas Aquinas argued that to lead a good life, it is necessary to focus more on our exemplars than on ourselves. We do by imitating those people as much as we can.

But, other wise men said that we should create our own path because we are a unique creature. There is no way imitating others’ path would perfectly fit ours. Logically, we live in different places with different people and different problems. Why should we imitate others?

We must believe that our path is unique, and our story is also unique. This is merely a fact because each of our gene and life situations is indeed unique.

But to act and to live well in the now, we should follow and learn from what has been successfully done in the past. This can be done by imitating exemplars. The phrase “what would Jesus do” will pause you before taking action, and offers you with options, then? You would mimic what you think your hero would do. Because that’s what you believe to be good. And doing what’s good for yourself is the foundation for a good life.

And those good acts you do by imitating your hero will become part of your unique life, and you will grow apart from your hero and found your path.

So, decide for yourself what you want, try to achieve it by imitating your hero. Fail, try again, fail again, try something else, fail again, try again. And you just created your own path.

Lessons from Lee Kuan Yew

The father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew said: “The present generation, below 35, has grown up used to high economic growth year after year. And they take security and success for granted. And because they believe that all is well, they are less willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others in society. They are more concerned about their individual and family welfare and success. Not their community’s or the society’s well-being. This is very dangerous.”

We can all relate to his statement. But why is it dangerous? And what would he want us to do correctly?

It is only rational if we put our needs first. We live in a competitive, complex, dynamic world where success is expensive and hard. Why should we care about strangers’ lives?

At work, I focus on being good so I can move up the ladder. I care about myself first then only I care about my company.

It’s the norm in our generation to focus on ourselves first. But, not in the older generation. Not for Lee Kuan Yew.

In his 2007 INSEAD keynote session, the moderator asked him “How leaders develop their sense of responsibility? How do they internalise it?”

He answered “In my case, we were thrown up as a result of wars and revolutions and that created a generation that was ready for a change. In that milieu, we turned into politics. It’s either we could mobilise to take over, or the communist will. You either do it or die. And we just had to do it.” Then he continued:

“It’s not a vocation it’s a crusade.”

He did not plan to be the father of Singapore. He did what he thought best over and over with one thing on his mind: a better Singapore. Whatever decisions and actions he did, his focus is to improve Singaporeans’ lives. He devoted his life to the people of Singapore. And I believe that is the highest success every man should strive.

“It’s not a vocation it’s a crusade.”

Notice the contrasts with the current generation?

According to David Brooks:

Today, commencement speakers tell graduates to follow their passion, to trust their feelings, to reflect and find their purpose in life. When you are young and just setting out into adulthood, you should, by this way of thinking, sit down and take some time to discover yourself, to define what is really important to you, what your priorities are, what arouses your deepest passions. By this way of thinking, life can be organised like a business plan.

Lee Kuan Yew found his purpose in life using a different method, one that was more common in past eras. In this method, you don’t ask, what do I want from life? You ask a different set of questions: What does life want from me? What are my circumstances calling me to do?

But, today’s world is at a much better place than the past. Do we have to be put in a time where our lives are at stake, so we can start our crusade for others?

The answer is no. Learning from LKY’s history, there are at least two habits we can cultivate now.

In whatever you do, shift the focus from yourself to others.

While writing this, I can focus my intention to look good and become a famous writer. But, I can also shift that focus to others. Instead of thinking about my success, why don’t I aim to share this writing so others can benefit by learning the wisdom from history? And in the process, I also benefited myself.

Because when you’re proactive about service, and when your service makes an enormous impact, people will do incredible things for you. They’ll do it not out of a need for reciprocity. But because they genuinely appreciate you.

Shift your focus to the communal. Because you are part of a group, a company, or a country. Never think small of yourself. If you’re an employee, remember you’re working for a company. It’s a no-brainer that you should think about the success of your company first. And when you make them successful, they will make you successful too!

Look around and fix the things that announce themselves as in need of repair.

Viktor Frankl described in his famous 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning “It did not really matter what we expected from life,” he wrote, “but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly.”

Look around you, ask yourself, what is it you could do to set things more right today that you would actually do? If you find that the answer is “no,” to any or all of the questions, then look elsewhere. Aim lower. Search until you find something that bothers you, that you could fix, that you would fix, and then fix it. It can be a small thing, throw the trash, tidy up your room, doing the administrative work, anything that would make the world slightly in order. It isn’t exactly so important that your room is in order although it is. What’s important is you learn how to distinguish between chaos and order. You put the world together a little more, and that spreads out; that makes you incrementally stronger.

These two immediate actions may look inferior to what Lee Kuan Yew did. It’s the accumulation of the two that shape a great leader like him. But, how he kept his vision clear and consistent all the time? He added one more thing: The imagination of a perfect Singapore.

He fixed things, and he focused on others first. He did it the other way around. Because he served others, others appreciated him. Because he thought for others, others thought of him. Because he helped others, others helped him.

Let’s not get complacent. Let’s not waste what has been built. Let’s learn and improve from history.

The key is to fix the immediate things for the common good. Repeatedly.

As Benjamin P. Hardy said:

“You’ll be successful because life gives to the givers and takes from the takers.”