Nail problems without hammering people

Nail problems without hammering people

The Leader, The Teacher And You: Leadership Through A Third Generation
By Lim Siong Guan and Joanne H. Lim
152 pages/World Scientific Publishing/$51.36 with GST (hardcover) or $29.96 with GST (softcover) from major bookstores

In 1980, high-flying civil servant Lim Siong Guan met a Singaporean manager who had studied and worked so well in Japan that even the Japanese mistook him for a countryman.

Mr Lim, who was at that time principal private secretary to then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, asked the man what the difference between Japanese and Singaporean children was.

The latter replied that if a Japanese father wanted to hang a picture and asked his son for a hammer, his son would bring him a hammer. But then the father would ask him, "So where's the nail?" and the child would say, "I'm sorry, of course I should have brought you a nail too."

But, the manager continued, if a Singaporean father asked his son for the tool and then demanded why the latter had not given him a nail too, the Singaporean son would have likely said: "If you wanted a nail, you should have told me to bring one."

In a recent interview, Mr Lim recalled: "He said the Japanese child has been taught from a young age to think about the purpose of anything; that is, see the bigger picture.

"Therefore you must think not only of what or how to do something, but why. And he said maybe not so many Singaporean children are brought up with that frame of mind of asking why, because if you don't understand why something is (the way it is), you wouldn't know how to improve."

Time has, of course, marched on since Mr Lim's encounter with that manager, but it is among the anecdotes Mr Lim includes in his debut book, titled The Leader, The Teacher And You.

The golden thread running through it is how to find, and live, a life of purpose because that really is the way to be happy.

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