Be The Best You Can Be by Lim Siong Guan

Group President, Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Former Head of Civil Service
Be The Best You Can Be by Lim Siong Guan

Dear young officer,

If I am allowed to offer just one piece of advice to anyone newly starting work, it would simply be, “Be the best you can be”. This requires three actions:

  • Do the best you can in whatever you do;
  • Be the best you can be – reach out to realise your potential;
  • Work well with others – accomplish more than working just on your own.

“Do the best you can” means to be never satisfied until you have put your all into any assignment. There needs to be the “intellectual restlessness”, a continual questioning as to whether things could be done in a better way, and whether you could do better things with your time and energy.

There needs also to be a “constructive dissatisfaction”, an unwillingness to be satisfied until the best possible has been done, but an unwillingness which manifests itself in a constructive, rather than destructive, sceptical, complaining, or cynical way.

“Be the best you can be” means taking every opportunity to improve yourself. It is a willingness to learn, a willingness to accept criticism, a willingness to listen, and a willingness to try new things.

I am saddened when I hear someone say, “I don’t see why I should do this when they are not paying me more.” That isn't how we miss opportunities to become better, stretch our abilities, and learn how more capable we could be.

Separate the matter of pay from the willingness to do more. If you are not prepared to do more, you miss the chance to establish your credentials to be entrusted with more. And if you do do more but do not get the promotion or recognition in due time, you always have a choice to go somewhere else where your skill and experience would be given adequate recognition.

There is no need to stay where you are and be miserable. At the same time,

the only one who loses by not stretching himself or herself is you.

“Work well with others” means recognising there are very few things in work and life which you can do all on your own. Develop networks of contacts and nurture relationships.

Synergy and symbiosis guarantee greater achievement than “flying solo”. Learn to “put yourself in the other person’s shoes”. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” There has to be self-confidence but there has to be humility, too. Share with others and together make things happen.

Living these three precepts in the Public Service is not difficult if you are willing. The mission is honourable – to serve Singaporeans and Singapore. It lives on meritocracy, offers opportunity to contribute and to try, and naturally demands working not just within a department but across agencies.

“Be the best you can be” is good for your advancement, your sense of self-worth, your enhancement of knowledge and experience, and your ability to contribute. It is good for your soul.

    Jul 6, 2010
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