"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Friday, March 27, 2009


In an earlier post, I have reviewed award-winning innovator Jack Matson's 'Innovate or Die: A Personal Perspective on the Art of Innovation', in which the author has shared many interesting perspectives about 'Intelligent Fast Failure'.

Somehow, I am not too sure whether I have been triggered to post the review by a very pertinent & yet very insightful article I have read in the Wednesday issue of the 'Straits Times', under the 'Think-Tank' byline.

The article is entitled: 'Can Singapore Fail?', & has been written by Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore's former diplomat to the United Nations, & now Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the NUS.

Let me recap the prologue of his article:

"I have just finished writing an article for the Wilson Quarterly, an American journal, on the topic, Can America Fail? The opening paragraph reads as follows:

"In 1981, Singapore's long-ruling people's Action Party was shocked when it suffered its first defeat at the polls in many years, even though the context was in a single constituency. I asked Dr Goh Keng Swee, one of Singapore's three great founding fathers and the architect of Singapore's economic miracle, why the PAP lost.

He replied, 'Kishore, we failed because we did not even conceive of the possibility of failure'."

Wow! What a penetrating insight from Dr Goh!

Although Dr Goh has meant the conceptualising of failure from the national leadership point of view, I am certainly intrigued by its implications from a personal standpoint.

In life, I reckon, for most of us as we chart out what to do in the longer term, we always look at the forward journey in terms of success.

The 'image of achievement', as Dr Karl Pribram of Stanford University has so eloquently postulated as part of his 'Holographic Brain Model' rings very true here.

Frankly, I don't think anyone really look at the road ahead from the perspective of the possibility of failure.

There may exist the fear of failure, at least in the heart, but nobody ever sit down to conceptualise for such a contingency in the head.

Hence, the question I am now posing to myself: Can I fail? That's something really worth pondering.

[Kishore Mahbubani is also the author of 'Can Asians Think? Understanding the Divide Between East & West' (2001), & 'The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East' (2009). I have read the first book. It sets out a wake-up call to all the westerners as well as Asians.]

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