Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed on young…will you too?

Mr Lee Kuan Yew

As Singaporeans continue to ponder the legacy of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, it would do us well to recognise that Singapore is a product of imagination and human endeavour, a mix of ideals, vigour, fortitude and courage, the attributes that make for superior leadership.

A highly inspiring poem in this regard is “Youth” by Samuel Ullman.  It is a poem which highly inspired Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Panasonic, the largest Japanese consumer electronics company.

“YOUTH”

by Samuel Ullman

Youth is not a time of life;

it is a state of mind;

it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees;

it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigour of the emotions;

it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity,

of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.

This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty.

Nobody grows old merely by a number of years.

We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart

the lure of wonder,

the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and

the joy of the game of living.

In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station;

so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power

from men and from the infinite,

so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism,

then you are grown old, even at twenty,

but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism,

there is hope you may die young at eighty.

We honour Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was a leader and a fighter with a relentless drive to improve the well-being of his nation, and who continued to learn well into his old age.

With his courageous and adventurous spirit, Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed on young at ninety-one. 

Will we be young when we pass on?  It is a worthy choice we all can make.

Chase that rainbow

Honouring a Great Leader, Mr Lee Kuan Yew (1923 – 2015)

Lee Kuan Yew

Today, we honour our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away early this morning. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was, without a doubt, a great leader, a real blessing and inspiration to all Singaporeans.  

If we look at an atlas of the world, Singapore, the country, fits quite nicely into the letter “o” in its name.  Indeed, in most atlases, they have to make a point of enlarging the dot so that Singapore may be pointed out. That is how small Singapore is.

When Singapore became, rather unexpectedly, independent in August 1965, it had to find its own way into the future: the dream of a common market in Malaysia was broken, and Indonesia was still conducting konfrantasi (military confrontation against) Singapore.

Singapore had to reach out beyond its immediate surroundings and “leap frog” the region to adopt the whole world as its hinterland, its source of capital, investment, research and technology, management capability, and, most of all, markets.

Singapore is the result of human imagination and human endeavour.

Singapore has attained First World status economically, and has become a guide and a hope for many nations.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew personified leadership that was visionary and courageous, which set Singapore on the good and right path to all we have been able to accomplish in the first 50 years of independence.  Plans for economic and social development were carefully conceived and well executed.

But there is a deeper cultural reason to explain Singapore’s success since independence.

The explanation lies in an ability to trust Singapore to be honourable and be a place where promises are kept, the rule of law is maintained, justice is assured, intellectual property rights are protected, meritocracy is practised, and government policies are consistent.

Singapore offers integrity, incorruptibility, reliability, quality, and trustworthiness, keeping promises even though it may involve lots of hard work and overcoming unexpected difficulties.

“Trust” and “trustworthy” are the key words.  Trust is the lifeblood that determines the quality of relationships that undergird every community and society.  And honour is the foundation of trust, where the people, business and government deliver on their word of honour.

Honour has been the foundation of Singapore’s trustworthiness.  It is a fundamental virtue in the compass for the country’s success in the years to come.  It is a virtue which has to be renewed with every generation of Singaporeans as well as be a constant reminder to all Singaporeans.

Honour is the essential quality that distinguishes Singapore from many nations in the world.  It is the special brand of Singapore. 

Mr Lee, we owe so much to you on the way to think, the attitude to life, and the resourcefulness and determination to get things done.  This is our expression of gratitude and praise, that you left us a legacy that is for us either to enjoy and build upon, or to take for granted and waste.

Lesser leaders count the value of their leadership on the basis of the organisation breaking down after they leave.

Great leaders count the value of their leadership on the basis of the organisation they leave behind being able to go on to greater heights with strength and vigour.  

Mr Lee Kuan Yew was, without a doubt, a great leader.  

Photo Credit: http://www.lee-kuan-yew.com/leekuanyew-memoirs.jpg

Wisdom from Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett has just released the 2014 Berkshire annual letter to shareholders.  As always, it contains much common sense, straightforward talk, simple truths, and lessons for wise living and investing.

Following is a collection of quotable quotes from the letter:

  • At Berkshire, we much prefer owning a non-controlling but substantial portion of a wonderful company to owning 100% of a so-so business.
  • Fortunately, my blunders normally involved relatively small acquisitions. Our large buys have generally worked out well and, in a few cases, more than well. I have not, nonetheless, made my last mistake in purchasing either businesses or stocks. Not everything works out as planned.
  • Attentive readers will notice that Tesco, which last year appeared in the list of our largest common stock investments, is now absent. An attentive investor, I’m embarrassed to report, would have sold Tesco shares earlier. I made a big mistake with this investment by dawdling.
  • Investors, of course, can, by their own behaviour, make stock ownership highly risky. And many do. Active trading, attempts to “time” market movements, inadequate diversification, the payment of high and unnecessary fees to managers and advisors, and the use of borrowed money can destroy the decent returns that a life-long owner of equities would otherwise enjoy. Indeed, borrowed money has no place in the investor’s tool kit: Anything can happen anytime in markets. And no advisor, economist, or TV commentator – and definitely not Charlie nor I – can tell you when chaos will occur. Market forecasters will fill your ear but will never fill your wallet.
  • There are a few investment managers, of course, who are very good – though in the short run, it’s difficult to determine whether a great record is due to luck or talent. Most advisors, however, are far better at generating high fees than they are at generating high returns. In truth, their core competence is salesmanship.
  • From my perspective, though, Charlie’s most important architectural feat was the design of today’s Berkshire. The blueprint he gave me was simple: Forget what you know about buying fair businesses at wonderful prices; instead, buy wonderful businesses at fair prices.
  • Too often CEOs seem blind to an elementary reality: The intrinsic value of the shares you give in an acquisition must not be greater than the intrinsic value of the business you receive.
  • Post mortems of acquisitions, in which reality is honestly compared to the original projections, are rare in American boardrooms. They should instead be standard practice.
  • Since I entered the business world, conglomerates have enjoyed several periods of extreme popularity, the silliest of which occurred in the late 1960s. The drill for conglomerate CEOs then was simple: By personality, promotion or dubious accounting – and often by all three – these managers drove a fledgling conglomerate’s stock to, say, 20 times earnings and then issued shares as fast as possible to acquire another business selling at ten-or-so times earnings…For many, gushers of easy money washed away ethical sensitivities…Back then, accounting shenanigans of all sorts – many of them ridiculously transparent – were excused or overlooked. Indeed, having an accounting wizard at the helm of an expanding conglomerate was viewed as a huge plus: Shareholders in those instances could be sure that reported earnings would never disappoint, no matter how bad the operating realities of the business might become.
  • At both BPL and Berkshire, we have never invested in companies that are hell-bent on issuing shares. That behaviour is one of the surest indicators of a promotion-minded management, weak accounting, a stock that is overpriced and – all too often – outright dishonesty.
  • With all its excesses, market-driven allocation of capital is usually far superior to any alternative…Nevertheless, there are often obstacles to the rational movement of capital…A CEO with capital employed in a declining operation seldom elects to massively redeploy that capital into unrelated activities.…At the shareholder level, taxes and frictional costs weigh heavily on individual investors when they attempt to reallocate capital among businesses and industries. Even tax-free institutional investors face major costs as they move capital because they usually need intermediaries to do this job. A lot of mouths with expensive tastes then clamour to be fed – among them investment bankers, accountants, consultants, lawyers and such capital-reallocators as leveraged buyout operators. Money-shufflers don’t come cheap…In contrast, a conglomerate such as Berkshire is perfectly positioned to allocate capital rationally and at minimal cost. Of course, form itself is no guarantee of success: We have made plenty of mistakes, and we will make more. Our structural advantages, however, are formidable.
  • If horses had controlled investment decisions, there would have been no auto industry.
  • Charlie told me long ago to never underestimate the man who overestimates himself.
  • never forget that 2+2 will always equal 4. And when someone tells you how old-fashioned that math is — zip up your wallet, take a vacation and come back in a few years to buy stocks at cheap prices.
  • As Ben Graham said many decades ago: “In the short-term the market is a voting machine; in the long-run it acts as a weighing machine.” Occasionally, the voting decisions of investors – amateurs and professionals alike – border on lunacy.
  • Character is crucial: A Berkshire CEO must be “all in” for the company, not for himself. (I’m using male pronouns to avoid awkward wording, but gender should never decide who becomes CEO.) He can’t help but earn money far in excess of any possible need for it. But it’s important that neither ego nor avarice motivate him to reach for pay matching his most lavishly-compensated peers, even if his achievements far exceed theirs.
  • A CEO’s behaviour has a huge impact on managers down the line: If it’s clear to them that shareholders’ interests are paramount to him, they will, with few exceptions, also embrace that way of thinking.
  • In its early Buffett years, Berkshire had a big task ahead: turning a tiny stash into a large and useful company. And it solved that problem by avoiding bureaucracy and relying much on one thoughtful leader for a long, long time as he kept improving and brought in more people like himself…Compare this to a typical big-corporation system with much bureaucracy at headquarters and a long succession of CEOs who come in at about age 59, pause little thereafter for quiet thought, and are soon forced out by a fixed retirement age.

Read the full letter here: http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2014ltr.pdf

Photocredit: http://pbrnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/warren_buffett.jpg