Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Make the Chemistry Right

Chemistry taught me that if I have a good understanding of the chemical nature of matter I can make reactions take place under conditions I can create and control. That’s how I worked in my profession and produced the results I did. As I grew up I have to understand human nature. There are many similarities between chemical nature of matter and the nature of Man. I discovered many interesting findings which I never knew before. Man can achieve marvelous things if conditions are made right for the desired objectives to be achieved.

Not everybody likes to study chemistry or human nature in detail. But it is good to know some simple facts about human nature so that we can take advantage of this knowledge and make things go the way we want it to or to avoid unwanted “explosions” in our lives. Some common questions asked include:

1. How to raise the money to start projects?
2. How to get others to support without having authority over them.

Many were paralyzed when they can not get the answers and solutions to these questions.

My friends and I had raised or earned millions of dollars from locals and foreign sources for our work and building our organizations. Many have asked me to help raise funds for their projects and were quite disappointed that often I could not help them. These people do not understand why they have something that is good which they believe others need and yet they have difficulties in getting people to finance and support them. To help these people understand the situation I used to give them this example:

There are boys and girls in our community, in our work place, in our universities, polytechnics and schools who are marriageable yet there are many who even at a very matured age are still single. This trend is causing concern in our society and the government has set up the SDU (Social Development Unit) to handle this situation of having too many unmarried people. What is the problem? The young are biologically compatible for marriage but the Chemistry between them is not right. Make the chemistry right and there will be more marriages. The people involved must take the initiative to win the spouse they want. Arranged marriages, with some exceptions, are not acceptable to many in modern times. If you have a successful marriage people will respect you. Similarly if you dare to start something and succeed people’s support will follow. Asking others to help you raise funds for your pet projects seldom works.

When Singapore became independent many had doubts that we could survive as a nation on our own. For the individuals just keeping their small pieces of cake to themselves was hard enough. To expect people to work together and produce a bigger cake for all to share was not a well accepted proposal. Most people fear exploitation by their fellow men. When success comes the sharing of the cake will not be equal. This common belief, if not debunked, would have hindered the cooperation between the important sectors of our society and bog us down.

In chemistry the past alchemists thought that natural organic compounds could only be made by the natural metabolic processes. Man could not synthesize natural organic compounds because we did not possess the vital force or “magic” required. This belief held up the development of natural organic compounds and organic chemistry for many years until a German chemist, Friedrich Wohler synthesized urea (a natural organic compound produced by the body) in the laboratory in 1828. Wohler proved that the common belief of the day was not true. We need more people like Dr. Wohler to create more breakthroughs for us to progress. The modern organic drugs we have today have improved and prolonged our lives.

Similarly people believe that only those with the “magic” (money and authority) can start or initiate worthwhile projects. Those without this magic are lame ducks that people shy away from. This is a pity. It is not true that we cannot start working without money or authority. Our successful private enterprises, non-government organizations, charitable organizations, some statutory boards have shown that they can start and get things done with their own “magic” and entrepreneurship. Many will gather around people with the right spirit and thinking, give their support, raise the funds and do what has to be done. It is part of human nature to do something good. Our society has done this for many years. Let us continue to cultivate this part of our nature and bring the best out of our people. These people do not seek fame or personal rewards. Being able to contribute and help others is good enough for many. Let us attract more such people to do public service. If we succeed our society will be a much better one to live in. If we can get the chemistry right we can do it.

Lee Kum Tatt

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