12 lessons I have learned from Be At the Table or Be on the Menu – A Singapore Memoir by S Jayakumar

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Be At the Table or Be on the Menu – A Singpapore Memoir by Former Minister of Forreign Affairs of Singapore – Prof Jayakumar

I bought this book a half year ago and read for first time within one week. This book is a further extending time after I read about Lee Kuan Yew in two book (1) Conversations with Lee Kuan Yew: Citizen Singapore: How to Build a Nation (Giants of Asia) by Tom Plate and (2)  Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World by Graham Allison,‎ Robert D. Blackwill,‎ Ali Wyne. I reread it randomly later and now I think I need to note down what make me impressive most.

I am myself a person falling in love which Mr. Lee’s wisdom, knowledge, deep insights and leadership style. I think I tend to skew to think of in a way like what Mr. Lee’s think (and learn to think like that). As a foreigner always pay a respect to what Mr. Lee has done for his country and his generosity for teaching and transferring his thinking and problem solving methods to people like me, I am loving to read more to know and learn further about him.

One of the ways is to learn about what people around him thinking and acting, like the content in the book Be at the Table or Be on the Menu – a Singapore Memoir above I have mentioned.

Sir Jayakumar is exact the person who shares same way of thinking and acting like what Mr. Lee’s as far as I’ve keen on learned and read. After I read his memoir book, I found the impact Mr. Lee has endowed his next cabinet generations and its future citizen. Mr. Jayakumar is a person of integrity, erudition, visionary – who has devoted his lifetime for tremendous success of Singapore story. He has held many positions in the Singapore Cabinet under various terms: Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and as a Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Senior Minister in the Singapore Cabinet, serving alongside Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Chok Tong and Lee Hsien Loong. Beyond his vast experiences, he is a very humble person as far as I’ve known.

Knowing the Singapore story: Starting from Zero and Build to Hero – A respectful DOT country, knowing Mr. Lee and now knowing more about another person who has contributed to its success – Mr. Jayakumar, I am grateful to share what I have learned from reading A Seat at a Table to all of you – 12 short lessons of how Mr. Jayakumar has gone so far to become himself today:

  1. For whatever happens, always do the right thing to others. Don’t expect when it comes to help or asking for something for helping anyone. (Page 39 (in Vietnamese translation edition)).
  2. A Socrate thinking and problem solving method – Particularly in the context of teaching method at Yale Law School – We tend to look problems radically and to the roots if we know how to raise right questions and discussion. (Page 41)
  3. Be kind & have a considerate treating toward people around you. Sometimes you need to think in the way of servants no matter what positions you earn in life. (Page 64).
  4. Don’t promise to things we cannot do or are not sure of our capabilities.
  5. In any organization, it has always its culture. The culture needs smooth transition and succession. Hasty just ruins things only.
  6. Separate emotions and nature of problem. Know what you want and benefits. Focus on those principles in negotiation.
  7. Willingness and a friend/professional network is very important. Know how to take advantage of it.
  8. In negotiation in specific and in life in general, remember and practice the rule: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
  9. For whatever happens, accept life as it is. Adapt to new situations and always try our best.
  10. When facing with adversity/difficulties, always think in terms of various scenarios. Also prepare for the worst. Think of consequences of consequences under any solutions.
  11. How Lee Kuan Yew see problems under different view thanks to his understanding of human procrastination and his guide for a better regulation by applying inverse thinking (Instead to think of Yes, think of No for example).
  12. The Singapore Story is based on these fundamentals: (a) A Meritocratic System; (b) Diverse in Harmony of Religion, Ethnicity and Languages; (c) Integrity and Anti-Corruption; (d) Searching for Perfectness; (e) Safety, Security, Law & Oder and (f) Always Adapt, Innovate & Explore New Land of Opportunities.

See things objectively as it is and consider it in the context.

The ending of the book is the most personal touching email Mr. Jayakumar sent directly to Mr. Lee after a banquet celebrated for the lifetime devotion of Mr. Jayakumar held by the Singaporean government and Mr. Lee’s instant reply.

I know what makes a man and aspire to be the man like Mr. Jayakumar and Mr. Lee.

Saigon, 02 02 2018

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