3 Lessons You Can Gain from Lee Kuan Yew — Life-Changing!

“Clarity of thought produces game changing outcomes. Why? Because it gets you on the right track in the first place!” ~ Benjamin Foo, iPOSSIBLE, Chapter 4 on Power from Clarity.

What happened a week ago was extraordinary!

It was history in the making — one that will not recur because the world will not see another man quite like Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), founding father and architect of modern Singapore.

Hundreds of thousands had spontaneously showed their love and respect, round the clock like never before. That many were from the much younger generation, who never knew him in his prime, is astounding — young adults, youth, teens and pre-teens! It was a natural, un-orchestrated, emotional outpouring of appreciation.

They were deeply touched and thankful to be beneficiaries in a land of plenty with great prospects. And so they wept for the man who played the most critical role in creating it, whilst living so simply and frugally to the end. The circumstances and challenges faced in our nation building were such that we could easily have, by some wrong turns, remained a small town in the backwaters of Asia today.*

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This, however, is not a blog to extol the man, as much as I highly respect him. Many others have already done that so well. Instead, this is to consider what we can learn from him to make a difference. While we may or may not agree with everything a man does, we can certainly take the best and learn from a man so extraordinary. There are life-changing lessons that we can use to live to our fullest possibilities.

Many words come to mind when people think of him. He is a visionary, leader, and fighter. Not only is he passionate, persuasive, eloquent, and multilingual, he is intelligent, committed, courageous, consistent, persistent, focused, detailed, and more.

What can we discover behind the external display of these characteristics that drove his actions? If we must narrow it down, what would they be? Please allow me to share three key lessons from LKY that, when applied, can change the future.

Clarity of Vision

Western experts concluded, from experience elsewhere, that our high-rise public housing program would create urban slums. How did anyone dare risk social and political catastrophe by going against proven experience and conventional wisdom? Clarity of why, what and how, among other things, produces courage. He was so clear on why it is needed and how to make it work unconventionally that it naturally gave him the guts to drive it hard. This is but one example. Clarity of vision and direction is a key driver. The outcome, we see, is courageous and visionary leadership.

Doing the Best

In his own words, he did his best. And his best was executed to its extremities! Now, doing your best is not the same as “trying” your best, which actually means you may or may not do it. Doing the best means putting all that one’s got – capabilities, passion, resources, effort and time — into action. One’s best coupled with one’s clarity creates a high probability for peak outcomes and success. It’s alright if we falter and do not always get to where we want as long as we have truly done the best. Just rise again.

Tenacity of Pursuit

When you have clarity on what must be done and give of your best, you will have a singularity of focus that creates tenacity of pursuit. You will not give up or let go till you reach the finishing line. Even in dark moments, he said, “Never fear!” So, when you feel like throwing in the towel, you know what to do — re-examine your clarity and your willingness to give the best till it’s finished. Don’t let circumstances discourage you. Ask yourself if what you are doing is the right, important and must-have thing. And so, make the sacrifice of re-committing your best and doing what it takes to achieve it.


I am sure some of these things resonate with what you see from your own school of experience. The big difference is the degree to which we apply them. For instance, I have always wanted to improve my Mandarin. But my few attempts pale in comparison because it was just a nice-to-have thing. I didn’t really see and feel that it was critical. So, I didn’t give my best.

As for LKY, he had a long-term clarity that for him it was an absolute must-have and a do-or-die means for political survival and nation-building! He gave his utmost tenaciously till his last days to something that many would not see as worthy and critical. That’s an extremely vast difference in degree. This is repeated in many areas. And that’s why he succeeded so well even in this pursuit that many may not think much about. Without his multi-linguistic ability to communicate, he could have failed!

A difference in degree will, therefore, change the course of your future. May we catch the significance of this. And grasp how changing our DEGREE and INTENSITY in clarity, giving the best and tenacity in various areas WILL change our destiny.

So, join me in:
o Seeing things with more intense clarity, and
o Giving our utmost tenaciously to reach our fullest possibilities.

Surround yourself with like-minded people. Rest well along the way. May I cheer you on. God bless you in this exciting journey!

~ Benjamin Foo

* Singapore’s per capita income grew from USD500 in 1960 (equivalent to that of the USA in 1860) to over USD55,000 today (the only Asian country to exceed that of the USA) within a span of 50 years. World Economic Forum Report 2014-15 ranks Singapore as 2nd Most Competitive Country (after Switzerland), 2nd in Higher Education and Training (after Finland), 2nd in Infrastructure (after Hong Kong), and 9th in Innovation.

About the author: Benjamin Foo is the author of iPOSSIBLE, a book to help people reach their fullest possibilities. He seeks to help change people’s futures using his experience, including that of an executive vice president in a major publicly-listed company, previously. You are welcomed to connect with him more regularly on the iPOSSIBLE Facebook Community or benjaminfoo@iPossible-International.com

Benjamin Foo


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