8 valuable lessons you can learn from Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew

8 valuable lessons you can learn from Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew

1. It pays to be brilliant

Described by Time magazine as "a man of great intelligence, with no patience for mediocrity", Mr Lee Kuan Yew is incredibly brilliant, and it shows in his words and actions.

He did very well in school from a young age, studying at Raffles Institution, which at the time housed the top 150 students from Singapore.

He was the top scorer for the School Certificate examinations in his year, and was awarded several scholarships - one of which was the John Anderson scholarship to attend Raffles College.

However, he eventually attended University of Cambridge, reading law at Fitzwilliam College and graduating with a Double Starred (double First Class Honours).

This degree in law eventually led to the start of his life in politics, where he represented trade unions as a legal assistant at a legal firm Laycock & Ong.

"I was a young legal assistant at the firm of Laycock & Ong, and the postmen were about to go on strike. I was asked to look after them. They went on strike. For two weeks, the union ding-donged in the press against the Commissioner for Posts representing the Colonial government on the merits of their case. I drafted their statements. Public sentiments swung towards the unions, and the Colonial government had to give way: higher wages and better terms and conditions of service, removal of thick printed red stripes on their trousers making them look like circus attendants. Because the union won, I was next briefed by the clerical union of Post & Telegraphs for their demands, which went to arbitration. Again the union won." - NTUC's 50th Anniversary Dinner, Friday, May 13,2011

Without Lee Kuan Yew the lawyer, we wouldn't have had Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore.

2. Sometimes you need to make unpopular decisions to reach your goal

Lee Kuan Yew has been known to take extreme measures to deal with Singapore's future, but he's done so only in order to bring Singapore from troubled times to the thriving metropolis it is today.

And while some of his actions remain questionable to many, he stands by his actions, because they were what it took to build a nation.

"We would not have made the economic progress if we had not intervened on very personal matters. Who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit or where you spit." 

It's tough to make the decisions Mr Lee has made for Singapore, given that they were often unorthodox or even unpopular. But in the end, only a man with a strong mantle and a tough exterior can do these things.

"I stand by my record. I did some sharp things to get things right - too harsh - but a lot was at stake. But at the end of the day, what have I got? Just a successful Singapore."

3. Speak with power

If you've seen Lee Kuan Yew in action, or even watched any of his speeches from his prime, you would know that he exudes a presence that invokes respect.

He is known for giving powerful, passionate speeches, and when he speaks, it's difficult not to listen.

In 1965, an upcoming movie made in honour of SG50, Lim Kay Tong plays a younger Lee Kuan Yew, acting out his mannerisms and presence amazingly.

Makes you wish you could have been there to see him in action.

4. Don't give a crap what people think

While Lee Kuan Yew is a strong leader, he is not particularly careful with his choice of words. In fact, there have been many concerns over his lack of tact.

As a politician, it might be ironic that he is often not politically correct, but it's quite obvious that he doesn't really care.

Is this a show of strength or a leader's weakness? It's tough to say. It's especially apparent in this video, where you'll find yourself cringing at his lack of tact about the role of women and children suffering from Down syndrome.

Yet, the pragmatism behind his concerns about Singapore's shrinking population is clear for all to see.

Being able to care less about what people think, and focus on getting your facts right is something many people can learn from. Though perhaps the lack of tact shouldn't be learnt.

"I have been accused of many things in my life, but not even my worst enemy has ever accused me of being afraid to speak my mind." (1955)

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