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Confidence is everything

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 10:54

Confidence is everything. Whether we're discussing the stock market, sports, politics or any aspect of life, without confidence, it's very difficult to succeed.This bit of wisdom emerged over the past week after many conversations with friends on LKY's legacy. Yes he was a ruthless visionary and great intellect but his biggest gift in my view was the unshakeable confidence he had in himself, his principles and his methods. And because he exuded that confidence all the time in everything he did, he could rally the population around him to work towards the goals he set.

In sports, a similar recent example that comes to mind is that of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. Ferguson was an abrasive, tough, take-no-prisoners sort of manager, who grew up in the cut-throat world of the Glasgow docks. His methods were not always welcomed by non-Utd fans but he delivered trophy after trophy in 27 glittering years at the club. What makes his achievements all the more amazing is he did it with players who I believe were mediocre and not world-beaters. In his final season in charge when Utd won the League by 11 points, I asked all my football-loving friends whether any Utd player in that championshop winning team could command a first-team place in the top European clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Every single friend - Utd fans or not - said no chance. Rooney and Van Persie might get places as substitutes on the bench, but the first team? No way. Yet the reverse held true - every one thought that almost all players from those teams would easily walk into Utd's first team. And I was proven right - the season after Ferguson stepped down was disastrous by the club's high standards as Utd's mediocrity was painfully exposed. 

So how did Ferguson do it? Through sheer force of personality, single-mindedness, a winning mentality and unbreakable confidence that he would succeed. No ifs or buts, no doubts. And when the leader believes with every fibre of his being, followers will also believe. 

All of the above applies to LKY. Through sheer confidence that his vision of the world was correct and that he could take Singapore from being a small country with no natural resources into the first world, LKY achieved the immense success he did. True, like Ferguson, he had an excellent support team which also deserves tons of credit for the role they played. Also the millions of Singaporeans who worked hard to elevate the country to its present status. In football parlance, it's the players that win matches, not the manager. 

 This is largely true but as I always tell my friends, it's a fact of life that history rarely remembers the supporting staff - who for example, remembers Abraham Lincoln's vice-president, or for that matter Britain's cabinet under Churchill? Mandela's assistants in the ANC? Virtually no one.

Unfair though this may be, it's a fact of life - just as it's a fact that with confidence, almost anything can be achieved. Undermine that confidence though, and trouble awaits.