It’s not how you begin the journey, but how you end it


The past week represented a turning point in the Singapore landscape. The passing of our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, shook a nation, and prompted us all, a nation of grumbling complainers, to become markedly more patient, tolerant and downright kind in waiting in line to pay our final respects to the man to undoubtedly brought Singapore to where it is today.

Although Singapore is not without its own set of problems today, they are for today’s leaders to solve. He had to do what he did in order to ensure the survival of Singapore, then in a very precarious situation from the merger and subsequent separation from Malaysia.

While watching the live funeral procession on Sunday, and the subsequent interviews with foreign dignitaries, I came across this clip with the King of Bhutan, who recounted his experience with Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. When he asked Mr. Lee for advice, LKY told him, Ït’s not how you begin the journey, it’s how you end it.”

Elsewhere on the internet, we find text everywhere espousing about the journey, and not worrying about the end. We’d hear advice saying “it’s all about the journey”, and I just thought it interesting how 2 very contradicting pieces of advice this was, and if there was an underlying philosophy, or which types of people sat on which side of the fence.

My take is that leaders would take on the former philosophy of the ends justifies the means, and that it’s how you end the journey that counts, while followers prefer to take on the scenery and enjoy the ride, because at the end of the journey, they actually have nothing to show for.  (This might probably be why I see a lot more of “enjoy the ride” types of advice, because let’s face it, there are infinitely more followers than leaders in the world)

Let’s see how Mr. Lee lived his advice to the King of Bhutan.

The Beginning

He co-founded the PAP in 1954, and first won the Tanjong Pagar seat in 1955. In the 1959 National Elections, the PAP won 43 out of 51 seats, making him the first Prime Minister of Singapore. This was a time of chaos, a time of rebuilding after WWII, and definitely a time of uncertainty across the world.

He’d also led the meger and subsequent separation from Malaysia from 1963 – 1965. Post independence in 1965 was another huge test for LKY’s cabinet, in a bid to show the world that we can stand up on our own, and be accounted for in the world, that we’re not just making up the numbers on Earth.

The End

By the time he’d left us on 23 Mar, 2015, we’ve become arguably the most successful nation in Southeast Asia in economic terms, have world renowned land, sea and air infrastructures, and have even “won” the not-sure-if-i’m-proud-of-it title of world’s most expensive city.

He’s built up a nation that is now attracting huge foreign investments, and which often acts as a hub into the rest of Asia.

He’s left his family with an abundance of wealth and opened doors that will pave the path for future successes downstream.

So yes, it’s not how you begin the journey, but how you end it. And that’s the mark of a true and impactful leader.


“His journey, his physical manifestation may have ended, but I think his legacy will live on forever”: Bhutan King His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who was at Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s State Funeral Service today.

Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Sunday, March 29, 2015

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