Few leaders have exemplified and towered over their countries as Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore. The city-state’s founder and long-time leader stated at his 60th birthday dinner in 1983,

What have I learned since 1973? Some more basic unchangeables about human beings and human societies, the ways in which they can be made to do better, and the ever-present danger of regression and even collapse … I realize how very fragile a civilized society is … I have also come to understand the insignificance of personal achievements. For at 60, more than at 50, comes the realization of the transient nature of all earthly glories and successes, and the ephemeral quality of sensory joys and pleasures, when compared to intellectual, moral, or spiritual satisfactions … I have wondered how much of what I am is nature and how much was nurture? Would I have been a different person if I had not been tempered through the crucible of struggle? … Having taken life-and-death decisions and gone through one acute crisis after another, my perspectives, ambitions, and priorities have undergone a fundamental and, I believe, permanent, transformation. I may not have changed in my physical, mental, and emotional make-up, the hardware side. But the software side, my responses to God, glory, or gold, has been conditioned by my experiences. In other words, however capacious the hardware (nature), without the software (nurture), not much can be made of the hardware.

Source: Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World, a compilation of Lee Kuan Yew’s insights and opinions on globalization, geopolitics, economic growth, and democracy.

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