I am in the midst of the longest ever business trip I have undertaken, starting with Mexico City where I attended a meeting of the SwissRe Advisory Panel and had several GIC business meetings, then onto São Paulo in Brazil where I inaugurated what is GIC’s tenth office worldwide and again had several GIC business meetings, and then onto London for GIC meetings.  I share in this blog a good number of the little wisdoms I picked up during the trip.

Our Country Needs Good Children

First, a remark that Carlos Slim, the one of the world’s richest men and Mexican business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, is reputed to have made when someone said what is needed is to have a “good Mexico for the children” of Mexico.  Slim countered this is wrong: “What is needed is to have ‘good children for Mexico’.”  We also should think the same way of the need to have “good children for Singapore”.

This wisdom reminded me of a visit I made many years ago to a research station in the Negev desert in Israel;  the research was to develop a self-sustaining community that made its own electricity and water and grew its own vegetables and poultry – a community that would not require external supplies for its survival and sustenance. Someone in the visiting team remarked: “This is very good.  When you succeed, you can bring the people to the desert.”  The chief scientist countered with typical Israeli directness: “You’ve got it wrong. Bring the people here in the desert and we will succeed.”

Approach Life with a Sense of Humour

I was sitting at dinner in Mexico next to a senior manager who was doing two jobs at the C-suite level – in other words he was Chief of two different functions in his company.  I asked him jokingly whether he got double pay.  He, just as jokingly remarked: “No, they pay me half my pay, because I must be an idiot to agree to do two jobs.”  Life is always easier if we approach it with a sense of humour!

Competition is Good

In one of the business meetings, we were talking about business competition. Our business associate said: “When you lose a great enemy, you lose a lot of information.”  In other words, having strong competition keeps you alert and continually aware and sensitive to what is going on in the environment. Killing competition weakens those who remain.

Feedback from Readers of “The Leader, The Teacher & You

Finally, it was heartening that several people have been reading “The Leader, The Teacher & You” and were quoting the parts they were particularly struck by.  I list here what they quoted as indication of what they had found to be particularly helpful to them, which was why they were able to immediately recall what they had read:

  • “It is better to have stallions, which we occasionally have to pull back, than to have donkeys you have to kick to move.” (Dr. Goh Keng Swee)


  • “Nothing in our past is wasted.”
  •  “Be in time for the future.” 
  • “The Circle of Improvement: from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence to Unconscious Competence and back to Unconscious Incompetence.” 
  • “Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last, and least, experience.  Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind.  Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people who have all the other qualities.” (Dee Hock) 
  • “Challenge 12 is so moving:


          A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet.  He held up a sign that said, ‘I am blind, please help.’

         There were only a few coins in the hat.  A man was walking by.  He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the            hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote several words.  He put the sign by so that everyone who walked by would          see the new words.

         Son, the hat began to fill up.  A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy.

         That afternoon, the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were.  The boy recognised his footsteps and asked,          ‘Were you the one who changed my sign this morning.  What did you write?’

          The man said, ‘I only wrote the truth.  I said what you said but in a different way.’

          What he had written was: ‘Today is a beautiful day and I cannot see it.'”

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