An Elegant Mind: Elegance comes from the mind. How to develop an elegant mind. This is my personal tribute to one of the greatest man, Lee Kuan yew, that ever lived
It is my habit to study people who stand out in ways that I admire. I hang on to their words, watch like a hawk at their actions, and try to figure out how they make decisions. I study their choices in life – which is really telling of the character they are.
I sometimes go further, I try to study their parents, family, environment to figure out if it is their upbringing that made them who they are. I wonder if it is all because of the luck of the draw where a certain God-given intelligence coupled with personality that shaped their character.
Eventually, I analyze the person and attempt to find out how he/she thinks. That is usually what makes the person stand out from the crowd. How different they think.
One of the key influence in my life, whom I hope to emulate in thinking is one of the founding fathers of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who has passed away this morning on the 23rd of March 2015. He was 91 years old.
I wrote this on my personal Facebook page as tribute:
He has done great things for Singapore, building it from a poverty-stricken, tiny country of no natural resources to a thriving bustling country. All those things I’m grateful for, but what fascinates me is his mind – his elegant mind.
Elegant Mind Case Study: Lee Kuan Yew
Elegance in the Mind
Although this website is about achieving an sense of elegance in your life, true elegance comes from the mind and heart. As I wrote about the heart in Elegance Self-Confidence, what strongly influences the heart is also the mind.
We are constantly AND increasingly bombarded with messages at every corner. From the beeps of our cell phones to the Facebook postings to Instagram and Twitter updates. If we don’t have a habit of reading a daily devotional or taking a few minutes out of your day to meditate, how do we find calmness and peace and balance in our minds?
What is the state of your thought-life? Do you have time to think?
I know this because it happens to me! For instance, if I have a big problem at hand, I may avoid thinking about it. I putt it off. I then try to distract myself by keeping busy..
When I’m actually thinking about my problem, I think of all the possible solutions. Then I think about what other people will think of me and maybe write away half of the possible solutions I came up with. Then my mind go back and forth and I reach no conclusion.
Then I trap myself again in this pattern of avoiding thinking about the problem. I keep putting it off.
My mind is cluttered and I’m stressed, I do not know how to make good decisions.
This crowded, worrisome state of being is not going to help my countenance of elegance, nor help me stay calm and in control.
Thus, this is one thing that I can learn from this great man is how to have a brilliant, elegant mind.
First, some background information about Lee Kuan Yew
He was born to a poor shopkeeper in Singapore, when country was a poor, undeveloped country. He was intelligent and hardworking, and eventually read law in Cambridge university. He later set up a law firm with his brothers but left to enter politics and built Singapore to what it is today.
From his example, he has shown that it doesn’t matter what family you are born in. If you work hard and maximise whatever opportunity that is given to you. You can achieve something.
He married a lawyer, and together with his wife raised an inspirational family. Sometimes, we have to look at how the people we admire do things like the kind of principles they raise their family with. However, the most notable achievements were the things he did in building a nation.
Through the whole process, he had to make many difficult choices, sometimes to choose to fight and become unpopular. He is not only known for his brilliant vision, but his courage and conviction to do the right thing, not caring what other people (including influential world leaders) think.
Over the years, I’ve been listening to his words, and reading his books. His books inspire me the most. See below for recommendations.
To pay tribute to him, I thought I’ll just highlight from him what constitutes an elegant mind.
After all, an elegant mind can change the world and influence people for the greater good, as Mr Lee Kuan Yew has done.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew always had conviction in what he was doing.
He would not do something for popularity. He believed strongly in what he was doing. He had a calling.
He believed he was doing the right thing. He entered politics without any income, even stating that he could because his wife willingly became the breadwinner, while he focused his energy and attention to what was needed of him. Singapore at that time needed a leader, and a person with strong foresight to build a nation.
He didn’t do anything for the sake of appearances. He had a purpose behind every decision.
We can tell his priorities from the kind of budgets he allocated. He went against advice to make world-class high rise public housing at the time when most country’s politicians criticized him saying that he was just creating future slum towns. We can proudly say that there is no homeless person in Singapore.
He had a big budget for education and made education nation-wide compulsory. It was mandatory and affordable. There is no child who can say they cannot afford to go to school. He believed in a society of meritocracy and devised policies for it.
He made healthcare extremely affordable, and helped citizens of Singapore afford their own homes (over 90% home owners) and education. He was the pioneer of many notable initiatives and achievements too many to count here.
Self-reflection: How many of us have conviction in what we do? We can’t make a difference if we don’t have conviction.
Many times he had to do unpopular things to push the truth and to do what is right.
He had to face the anger of many neighboring countries. Sometimes, the unhappiness and doubt of his own people.
He always wanted to do what is right and had the courage to do so.
“To straddle the middle ground and win elections, we have to be in charge of the political agenda. This can only be done by not being beaten in the argument with our critics. They complain that I come down too hard on their arguments. But wrong ideas have to be challenged before they influence public opinion and make for problems. Those who try to be clever at the expense of the government should not complain if my replies are as sharp as their criticisms.”
– From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000
3. Not Caring What Others Think
He does not care what people think. He says, ‘Caring what people think shows weakness of mind.’
As long as he does what is right, he said what people think is irrelevant.
“I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters – who your neighbor is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.”
– Lee Kuan Yew
4. Lived for a Cause greater than himself
“I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There’s nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.” – Lee Kuan Yew
How many people can say they worked and lived for a cause greater than themselves?
I know not many people can afford to do so but I believe that we as fellow citizens of the world must step outside our preoccupation with ourselves and lend a hand to others.
An Elegant Mind
To have an elegant mind, we need to find a personal conviction of what we’re doing and why.
Next we need to have the courage to do what is right. We need to believe in our cause strongly enough to do so and to have high standards for ourselves, so at least whatever we do, we can live with ourselves. To do things because of what others think is a weakness of mind and a weakness of character.
To have courage is also to stand boldly for the consequences that may come. You will stand tall with dignity knowing that you did right by yourself.
Lastly, is to live outside of yourself. To care for others in your own way. To make a difference in this world.
If we can follow these principles, perhaps, we won’t be so wishy washy with life’s choices and decisions. We will develop and curate an elegant mind for ourselves. We then can be good friends, wives, mothers, employees, employers, church members and useful member of society.
Last but not least
I just want to say I’m very grateful to have been personally impacted by this man. I think he is one of the rarest breeds of people you can find, being born in the older traditional elegant generation. He strongly believed in education, and lived for others before himself.
I can’t wait to go back to all the books he wrote and study his philosophy in life. There is much to learn. Thank you, Lee Kuan Yew for everything.
Thank you, dear readers for indulging me in this tribute. Meanwhile, below, I’ve included some of my favorite articles about what he said about life. I hope you can find some inspiration to develop an elegant mind.
5. Love Does Spring Eternal Article by Dr Lee Wei Ling, daughter of Lee Kuan Yew, at her mother’s passing.
6. Lee Kuan Yew’s Memorable Quotes(Not all are popular!)