High 5 – 15 July 2016 by Ms Foo Lee Wee
Gathering Data Through All Senses
This morning’s High-Five, I will share two books to illustrate this habit of mind – gathering data through all senses.
The first book is an essay, penned by Hu Shih who is well known for his language reforms in China set in the mid 1910 to 1920s.
The story goes like this.
Do you know who the most famous person in China is? Just mention his name and everybody will recognise it. His family name is “Cha” (差) and his given name is “Bu-Duo” (不多). Translated in English, it means ‘Close Enough or ‘Good Enough’. Every province, county, and village has someone named after him. It is certain that you have met him – and you have undoubtedly heard others talk about him. Each day, Mr Chabuduo’s name is uttered by countless people to the extent that he has come to represent the entire population of China.
Mr Chabuduo’s appearance resembles yours and mine. He has two eyes – but does not see things very clearly. He has two ears – but they don’t listen very well. He has a nose and a mouth, but does not distinguish much between different smells and tastes. His head isn’t particularly small; however his memory isn’t very good.
He would often say, “Things only have to be done ‘chabuduo’ which means ‘more or less’ or ‘close enough’ to be good. After all, what sense does it make to be a perfectionist and waste the time and effort necessary to have things absolutely correct all the time?”
By now, you would know that in the story, Hu Shih presented laziness in human form whom he calls Mr ‘差不多’. What happens to Mr‘差不多’ eventually, I leave you to find out.
Hu Shih wrote this story in 1924 to describe how China during that time was subscribing to the attitude of Mr ‘差不多’as its way of life towards learning, working, and living. He used the story to give a grave warning that a societal cancer of laziness is spreading in China and must be purged.
I learnt at a very young age, what is meant by ‘Good enough’. When I was in primary school, a friend of mine, commented she did badly, I thought she scored a D or C grade. Upon clarifying with her, it then shocked me how low my benchmarking was as she meant short of an A-star!
Perhaps we have not caught this human condition. But as I tried to relate to my primary school friend’s high expectation of herself, it gave me another perspective concerning this ‘Good Enough’ thinking. This ‘Good Enough’ human condition may be the hallmarks of mediocrity, and casual attitude towards oneself, which if we are not careful, we may catch it.
So how do we prevent ourselves from becoming ‘Mr Good Enough’?
Another book, which I am about to share holds the solution to ‘the Good Enough’ mentality.
This book is written by a Taiwanese. He uses the Japanese winning attitude towards work, education and living as examples to bring across the Japanese persistence in doing and becoming their best. The title of this book is called 一公分的输赢. Translated literally in English, it means one centimetre determines winning or losing.
What is one centimetre? It may be the length of our hair or nail which is so short that we may not take notice of its growth and hence we may dismiss its importance or trivialise its significance.
However just imagine if one of our legs is one centimetre shorter or longer than the other leg? Or what happens if we accidentally put one button one centimetre away from the hole of our school shirt or blouse? Well I do not need go into the details of its consequences, you get the idea of how important this one centimetre can do to one’s life.
Of course, this one centimetre measurement which the author uses here is not just about precision or accuracy per se, more importantly he is talking about the importance of attitude and habit of persistence, which all of us know its importance yet we may not quite know how to translate this belief into concrete actions.
According to the author, the Japanese cultivates this one centimetre thinking from young and this one centimetre mentality is very much ingrained in the Japanese way of life. They leave nothing to chance. In all matters small or big, they will dedicate their whole being to it. There is no such thing as ‘马马虎虎Ma Ma Hu Hu’ or ‘青青菜菜Qing Qing Cai Cai’ in the Japanese vocabulary. For our non-Chinese teachers and students, they meant not taking our tasks seriously or casual in discharging duties. The Japanese since young have been educated and trained to be extremely demanding and strict on themselves.
How do the Japanese apply the one centimetre mentality towards learning and living?
First, the Japanese embraces the one centimetre attitude by minimising the ‘I’ ‘Me’ and ‘Myself’ and enlarging the needs of the team, the community and the country first. Second, when it comes to work and learning, the Japanese will pay attention to even the most minute details.
So typically if their reporting time for work or school is 9 am, they would find it unacceptable to reach the premises on time. They will come in early enough for them to read through the day’s duties and get themselves ready way before the start of the day. Japanese’ dedication and respect for work is legendary.
The Japanese cleanliness and orderliness are also unparalleled. Everywhere in Japan is clean, neat and orderly. The Japanese have been trained young to always place others before self and are highly sensitive and conscious of the surrounding and their conduct in public spaces.
How could the Japanese overcome the ashes and ruins of the WWII to become a global powerhouse and the world‘s second largest economy after the United States by the 1960s? Why are Japanese goods considered synonymous with quality guarantee? The answer lies in their one centimetre mentality and persistence towards learning and living?
So in closing, let us say no to “Good Enough” thinking when it comes to giving our best. Why settle for anything less! Let us learn from the Japanese and choose today to embrace the ‘one centimetre’ winning attitude as our way of life.