Primary amongst those are “standards of excellence”. It seems that citizens here are fond of pointing out that things are different here than anywhere else, and hide behind this excuse as a reason not to adapt, to grow, to think freely or differently.

One issue of note with this ingrained way of thinking is that many think it requires the government, or the corporate world, or education system to change the way ‘things are done’, and in response you hear such lofty phrases as ‘the need for entrepreneur spirits’ and ‘teaching creative thinking’ and ‘thinking out of the box’ as if such innovations come from organisations instead of individuals.

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You see, doing business here, I’ve found that if things are not done in a proscribed and pre-outlined manner, if a structure is not imposed from the top down, the individual soon becomes lost, unable to cope with the unknown. Constantly bombarded with instructions to conform to standards, the individual is unable to set their own standards, so powerless have they been left by ‘group think’.

But the world is changing right under their feet. Singaporeans of all races I’ve spoken with this past month have all told me that their society is governed in such a way that they cannot function without direction, without orders, without standards to measure themselves against. In post-communist countries, this was called the ‘wall in the mind”.

The average worker here, left to his own devices, soon settles into a pattern of chaos, inactivity, a ‘not my job’ mentality that threatens this country’s very future due to the many innovative countries, whose citizens, while poorer, have become more creative in finding solutions to their needs.

These yearning masses WILL outpace any culture that lacks the ability to think on their feet, to adapt to changing situations, to grow as individuals. Hopefully the opening up of the world will expose more locals to just how truly global they can be, the question is however to be found if they will be forced to adapt, or if they will proudly but ignorantly find succour in the excuse that “this is the way things are done in Singapore”. The way how things are done in the world today threatens to leave Singapore in the dust of irrelevancy.

As a boy, in scouts, I learnt a lesson that stayed with me throughout my life; that leaders should not be measured by the number of followers they have, but by the number of leaders they create. For a real leader makes himself unnecessary as he teaches those in his charge how to think and function for themselves, to their fullest potential. A weak leader makes himself too necessary, so that his or her absence brings the whole order down.

So how about it? Are you qualified to live your own life? Only you can decide the standards that will guide you!

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