Win with Honour with Graciousness

In the introduction of our first book, “The Leader, The Teacher and You”, we wrote that all of us have the potential to make a positive difference in our own spheres of influence and be leaders in our own right – you could be the CEO of a multi-national corporation, a stay-at-home mother, an emergency room nurse, or a secondary school student.

The fact is that your life counts and you have the potential to be a thought leader and influencer in your own right.

Later in the same book, we mentioned on page 153 that there are two aspects of leadership we have to master to be an outstanding leader:

  • Position Leadership: leadership that is expected of someone in the appointment that one holds.
  • Personal Leadership: the kind of leadership that causes people to respect and want to follow a leader, not because they have to, but because they want to. It can be exercised by anyone at any level in an organisation.

In short, “Position Leadership” describes what the leader is expected to do well; and “Personal Leadership” makes the point that it is the quality of personal leadership that determines how successful you can be as a leader.

To win with honour in personal leadership, it is important to lead with graciousness, as pointed out by Mr David Brooks of the New York Times in this article that was published in The Straits Times on 29 August 2016.

Win with Honour by Leading with Graciousness

We quote a few pertinent points for your reference:

  • “it’s not enough to be experienced. The people in public life we really admire turn experience into graciousness. Those people, I think, see their years as humbling agents. They see that, more often than not, the events in our lives are perfectly designed to lay bare our chronic weaknesses and expose some great whopping new ones.”
  • Sooner or later life teaches you that you’re not the centre of the universe, nor quite as talented or good as you thought. It teaches you to care less about what others think and, less self-conscious, to get out of your own way.”
  • Gracious people are humble enough to observe that the best things in life are usually undeserved – the way the pennies of love you invest in children get returned in dollars later on; the kindness of strangers; the rebirth that comes after a friend’s unexpected and overawing act of forgiveness.”
  • “The gracious people one sees in life and reads about in history books – I’m thinking of the all-time greats like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and (US social activist) Dorothy Day as well as closer figures ranging from Pope Francis to (Czech writer and statesman) Vaclav Havel – turn awareness of their own frailty into sympathy for others’ frailty.
  • “Such people have a gentle strength. They are aggressive and kind, free of sharp elbows, comfortable revealing and being abashed by their transgressions.”
  • “Experience distils life into instinct…if you treat the world as a friendly and hopeful place, as a web of relationships, you’ll look for the good news in people and not the bad. You’ll be willing to relinquish control, and in surrender you’ll actually gain more strength as people trust in your candour and come alongside.”
  • Gracious leaders create a more gracious environment by greeting the world openly and so end up maximising their influence and effectiveness.”

Will you choose to be gracious and surrender your need for control in order to win with honour for the greater good?

#WinningWithHonour #TheLeaderTheTeacher #Win  l


Winning with Honour  l  Gold for Singapore, Honour for Best Efforts

Joseph Schooling winning with honour, making history, and breaking an Olympic record, at the Rio Olympics is an awesome historic event. Seeing him sing our national anthem, Majulah Singapura, at the victory ceremony made Singaporeans proud. A marvelous and inspiring achievement!

Thank you Joseph, Mr Colin Schooling, and Mrs May Schooling for the unseen sacrifices and enormous efforts that it took to enable Singapore to be world leading…not just world class.

But in the midst of all the applause and congratulations, we should ask ourselves: what exactly are we celebrating? 

If we are concentrated on celebrating the achievement, we would be making a big mistake. We should be celebrating the sustained effort, the sacrifices, the push, the drive, and the tenacity to get to where we have never been to.

We have to celebrate Schooling’s courage to be different from others, to stand up against detractors and sceptics along the way, and to believe that size (be it of the physical body or a nation) must not hold us back – instead, it should push us forward to try even harder!

If what we celebrate about Schooling is the sacrifice and the effort that draw our attention with the gold medal along the way, it must make us celebrate the sacrifice and effort of everyone else in Team Singapore at Rio, everyone else who tried to get onto that Singapore team, and everyone else who tries, and keeps trying.

For the continued survival and success of our “Little Red Dot”, Singaporeans have to be a people who honour best efforts more than achievement. We have to stand by everyone who tries according to what their talents and abilities allow them to be. To only remember or celebrate the medalists is to undermine our future.

Winning with Honour  l  Honour Best Effort over Achievement

There is the story of two teams of kids playing soccer for a treat at McDonald’s. Think about it…who needs the treat more at the end of the game – the losing team, demoralized and in tears, or the winning team, basking in their success? Usually, it is the winning team that is given a treat, but objective thought would tell us it is the losing team that needs the McDonald’s treat more (but only if they had tried their best).

To concentrate on just the winners is to reinforce the “winner takes all”, “put your opponents down”, and “sabotage your competitors” culture that pervades far too much of what we do in life, and what, most unfortunately, many parents teach their kids. 

The real challenge for all of us is to be the best that we can be and to give the best that we can everyday. We lose if we don’t try. We win just by trying.

It is by honouring effort that we can be the innovative, creative, entrepreneurial people that Singaporeans need to be to order to be in time for the future. All innovation and enterprise will need energy and imagination, stamina, and guts – this applies to sports as it also applies to business and organisations, research and leadership.

Thank you Joseph, Mr Schooling, and Mrs Schooling for showing us that it is only by effort, determination, commitment, and the encouragement of family and community, that the impossible becomes possible. As Schooling declared: “‘I hope this shows people from small countries can do extraordinary things!’”

Majulah Singapura! Onward Singapore! Let us work together to Win with Honour for our lives, our families, our communities, our organisations and our nation!


Photo Credit: Reuters and

‪#‎oneteamsingapore‬ ‪#‎standupandbecounted‬ ‪#‎standtogether‬ ‪#‎olympic‬‪#‎JosephSchooling‬ ‪#‎olympicmum‬ ‪#‎olympicdad‬ ‪#‎whatwillyoudo‬‪#‎oneteamonefight‬‪#‎oneteamsingapore‬ ‪#‎standupandbecounted‬ ‪#‎standtogether‬ ‪#‎olympic‬‪#‎JosephSchooling‬ ‪#‎olympicmum‬ ‪#‎olympicdad‬ ‪#‎whatwillyoudo‬‪#‎oneteamonefight‬

What we can do to make Singapore a place we are proud to call HOME

Winning with Honour  l  Happy Birthday, Singapore.png

Today, we celebrate 51 years of Singapore’s independence and 51 years of calling Singapore HOME…a place where we have HOpe and MEmory. This is no mean feat for a small nation where survival and success are two sides of the same coin.

In our Op-Ed (Straits Times, 2 June 2016) “Getting to the future with honour”, we said Singapore has the opportunity to set the benchmark for a “First World Society”. To do so, we start by establishing a culture of honouring, moving deliberately from me-centredness to other-centredness for the collective long-term well-being of both current and future generations of Singaporeans.

A First World Society is one that is not only economically successful, but is also socially successful, where the elderly and the disabled, the invisible people and the forgotten people, can each have their place in society. It is a society where people honour each other with due consideration, not for the praise of others but because it the right and good thing to do.  If those who reach the top do not look out for those lower down, society will disintegrate.

Many might say: It is already difficult enough for me to take care of myself and my family, why should I even bother to honour others?

Well, the following two studies show that being other-centred is actually “enlightened self-interest” as love and concern for others reap satisfied lives for ourselves.


As mentioned on page 11 of our book, “Winning with Honour“, Harvard University conducted an epic study over 75 years to determine what human beings need to live a happy life.

The Harvard Grant Study began in 1938 and followed 268 Harvard undergraduate men who came from all walks of life. Over 75 years, researchers followed developments in the men’s lives and tracked a wide range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits, including intelligence levels, alcohol intake, relationships, and income.

Dr George Vaillant led the study from 1972 to 2004 and published the fascinating findings in a book entitled: “Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study” (Belknap Press 2012).

The study revealed six secrets to living a happy life:

  • Secret #1: Value Love Above Everything Else. The most important finding is: “Happiness is love. Full stop.” There are two cornerstones of happiness: “One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”
  • Secret #2: Relationships Matter a Lot. Relationships with other people matter more than anything else in the world. This applies to overall life satisfaction, as well as career satisfaction. Early relationships are significant – those who had warm childhood relationships with their mothers were more effective at work, and earned about USD 87,000 more per year compared to men who had uncaring mothers; they were also less likely to develop dementia later in life. Men who had warm childhood relations with their fathers were less anxious as adults, enjoyed vacations more, and had increased “life satisfaction” at age 75. While we cannot do anything about our past, we can take steps to help the children in our spheres of influence today.
  • Secret #3: Beware Alcohol and Cigarettes. There is a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and neurosis, mental illness, and depression. Alcohol, coupled with cigarette smoking, significantly contributed to morbidity and early death. Also, alcoholism was found to be the leading cause of divorce.
  • Secret #4: Be Content. When it comes to work, one should aim for contentment, not cash. This finding is aligned with a 2010 study by Angus Deaton, an economist who was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2015. According to Deaton, increases in annual income beyond USD 75,000 do not increase emotional well-being. Hence, money matters…but only up to a point.
  • Secret #5: It is Never Too Late to Change. The study found that it is possible for those experiencing hard situations to find happiness and, with the appropriate coping mechanisms, to turn suffering into lessons. Men who did well in old age did not necessarily do well in mid-life, and those who did well in mid-life did not necessarily do well in old age. The background that one was born into also had no correlation to one’s happiness.
  • Secret #6: It is Mostly Up to Us. The study found that physical health after age 80 is less determined by our genes and more by our habits prior to age 50. According to Vaillant: “The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.”


We also mentioned on page 15 of “Winning with Honour” a study conducted by Abraham Harold Maslow (1908–1970), an American psychologist who hypothesized that the needs of human beings lay in a hierarchy where once one level of needs is met, the next higher level of needs gains prominence.

Maslow identified five levels of needs:

  • Biological and Physiological Needs (e.g. food, air, water, shelter)
  • Safety Needs (e.g. security, stability, law)
  • Love Needs (e.g. family, friends, sense of belonging)
  • Esteem Needs (e.g. status, reputation, achievement)
  • Self-Actualization Needs (e.g. the realization of one’s potential)

Further research has concluded that the list is incomplete: human beings have three more needs:

  • Cognitive Needs (e.g. understanding a situation or knowing the reason for having to do something)
  • Aesthetic Needs (e.g. beauty, balance, form)
  • Transcendence Needs (e.g. thinking of others, helping others realize their potential)

The research finds that the highest need is not Self-actualisation (“me-centredness”) but Transcendence (“other-centredness”).  The final hierarchy of eight needs is shown in the diagram “Maslow’s “Extended” Hierarchy of Needs”.

Winning with Honour  l  Maslow's Hierarchy Extended.jpg

The highest need we all have is to move beyond just thinking of ourselves to contributing to the lives of others by doing good for their lives. To put it simply, if we want to live a happy life, we have to remember that it is not about ourselves, but about others.


Relationships are what define life.  Unfulfilling, dysfunctional, and abusive relationships impact our lives negatively, while honourable, meaningful, and positive relationships empower us to fulfil our potential.

What we learn from the Harvard Grant Study and Maslow’s “Extended” Hierarchy of Needs is that

  • Relationships and love matter more than any other thing
  • Material things matter only up to a point
  • Our habits and mind-sets determine our lives
  • It is never too late to change
  • We must take self-responsibility for our own satisfaction and happiness
  • Transcendence is our highest need as human beings



We live satisfied lives when we have long-term loving relationships, and trust is the most important currency for any long-term relationship to thrive, be it in the

  • Personal space (i.e. families, friends, relatives, etc.)
  • Professional space (i.e. customers, business partners, bosses, and colleagues, etc.)
  • Public space (i.e. government, communities, etc.)

And Honour is the foundation of trust – for a system of Honour to work and for trusting relationships to be established, honour must first be offered by one party and reciprocated by the other party on an on-going basis.

We build trust most fundamentally by Honouring our Word and Honouring Each Other.

A first world society is one that is not only economically successful and viable, but is one where its members looks out for each other’s well-being.  The secret to life satisfaction is to remember that at the end of the day, it is not about ourselves, but about others.

For Singapore to be HOME, offering HOpe and MEmory to Singaporeans today and the generations to come, we need to be a people who honour our word and honour each other.

Will you honour our HOME, Singapore?



Right Direction.jpg


There is a story of a young warrior who rode his horse ready for battle.  Along the way, an old man stopped him and asked where he was going.

The young man said he was on the way to fight for his country, and he would win because he had a brave heart, a strong hand and a fast horse.

The old man quietly said he would not win even though he had the courage and will, the strength and skill, and the horse and sword, because the war was in the North while he was heading South.

We lose when we are not prepared properly for battle.

However, we also lose if we have worked hard to prepare ourselves, but miss the battle and lose the war because we are headed in the wrong direction and getting to the wrong place.

The key lies in a good process for anticipating the future.

One way to do it is by scenario-based planning. But this could be too complex and involved for many organisations.

A more straightforward approach is described by Jack Welch, who was Chairman and CEO of General Electric from 1981 to 2001, in the book WINNING which he co-wrote with Suzy Welch.  His approach was to seek answers to (just) five questions:

  1. What does the playing field look like now?
  2. What has the competition been up to?
  3. What have you been up to?
  4. What is around the corner?
  5. What is your winning move?

These questions offer deep insight if answered thoughtfully with a view to conscientious action.

Try answering these five questions today to see if your organisation is headed in the right direction for tomorrow!