Black cat, white cat – who catches the rat? Get things done

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Cats lazying in the sun in a Sarawak longhouse. Photo taken by L.

A man was overheard apologising to the Minister TCJ at the funeral wake of LKY, that he was wearing a colourful shirt. Instead of either black or white, traditional Chinese funeral colors. The man had rushed to the procession from work and was worried that he couldn’t make it in time, and so did not go home to change his clothes. Incidentally the queue to pay last respects have stretched from an average of 5hrs to 10hrs.

Some of us may wonder at the man’s superficial concerns.  However, in the study of cultural differences, Asian cultures including the Japan, China, Hong Kong and Singapore belong to high context cultures.  What is unsaid, the gestures, the body language, the eye contact, and the symbols remain important part of communication, more important than what is spoken. Low context cultures (US, UK and Australia), on the other hand, pay more attention to the “content” of what’s spoken rather than what’s in the context.

The Minister replied him that what mattered most was his heart. He cared to come. His desire to pay his respects. Thank You. Not the color. We are one heart, one people.

The man, LKY, would have said the same.

“I am not great on philosophy and theories. I am interested in them, but my life is not guided by philosophy or theories. I get things done ….” – Lee Kuan Yew

Deng Xiaoping, the architect of modern China, in defence of pragmatism, once said “Black Cat, white cat, Who cares? As long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat”.

His remarks were in reference to comments on whether a democratic system or a communist system was better to bring forward reforms in China. Incidentally, Deng himself, was an admirer of what LKY had done for Singapore’s public housing and city planning when he visited in the late 1970s.

My gift to my younger self would be this advice:

Gift #1: Get things done

Have you misunderstood someone else’s intention before? Valued form over substance? Look at the person’s heart and intention. Value pragmatism. Look at the results.

A man with many words to speak, look at his own life. Has he followed his own advice? What is his life behind closed doors?

Eloquence is no proof of a man’s integrity. Not a man’s political affiliations. Who his parents are. His color, his creed.

Black Cat, white cat, Who cares? As long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat”. -Deng Xiaoping

Man looks at outward appearances. God looks at the heart – 1 Samuel 16:7


29 gifts to my younger self are reflective reminders on how I would like to live my life differently.

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