The Uncomfortable Truth

Rome was one of the founding cities of Western Civilisation. For more than a thousand years, Rome was the largest, strongest, richest and most politically powerful city in the Western World. Rome won battles. The people of Rome were prosperous. Rome was an empire.

Perhaps the only thing more famous than the prosperity of the Roman Empire is the decline of the Roman Empire.

There are many theories that have been floated since the 18th Century about why the Roman Empire ‘fell’. Almost all of them share a common denomination at their core: At the height of Roman success, the emperors thought they were immortal, undefeatable, and indestructible. They had nestled into a comfort zone at the very top of the world, and into this comfort zone crept complacency. And from complacency, they fell.

A valuable lesson can be learnt here. A comfort zone is a very scary place to find yourself in. A comfort zone is detrimental to your drive and passion. Before long, you are not as ‘hungry’ anymore to better yourself. You don’t work out as much. You don’t push yourself or challenge yourself. You procrastinate.

Nothing is permanent in this world. When you find yourself in a comfort zone, ask yourself this: “If everything I have worked hard to achieve was taken away from me, would I be able to go back and live a simpler life and cut down on my lifestyle?”

Be ready. Be introspective. We should recognise success as the place from which we can acknowledge our own accomplishments and possessions, and start looking outwards to the world. How can you use what you have achieved to help others? How can you better yourself while bettering others at the same time? How can you Raise Yourself To Help Mankind?

Please take a moment to ponder… It is scary to get comfortable. We should not be complacent because it kills us. It kills our drive, our perception and our passion. And without these, where are we? Who are we?


Joseph Bismark

Group Managing Director, QI Ltd

The Truth of Loyalty

During one of my speaking engagements with the business network, someone asked me, “Are you loyal to Vijay (Eswaran)?” And to that I answered, “No.”

Yes, it surprised everyone and I know it will surprise those of you who are well acquainted with the longstanding partnership I have with Vijay.

I explained: “My loyalty is to truth. Because Vijay upholds the truth, then it follows that my loyalty is with him.”

This is where I would like to take a stand on what I see as true and false loyalty.

One of the most common misconceptions people have when it comes to faithfulness or devotion is that they think loyalty is to a person. This is not right. Loyalty should not be based on personality; otherwise, it could turn into a ‘personality cult’. A personality cult is defined as excessive public admiration for a charismatic person (usually someone famous like an actor, politician, or perhaps sportsperson). Don’t think you are following righteousness or truth when the merits of the person you adulate are not proven.

A leader must be followed not because he is famous, but because he is a follower of the truth. We have seen some people get out-of-hand with eulogising or worshipping people who are no longer on the right path and who start making their own rules for their own vested interests. A classic example of this is the cult following of evangelist preacher Jim Jones who was preaching in the name of Christ in a small community he founded called Jonestown in Guyana, USA. Power began to corrupt him and after allegations of human rights abuse were beginning to be investigated against him, Jones led his followers – about 900 plus – to mass suicide. The extent of this action now constitutes one of the greatest single losses of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster.

There are other disturbing similarities with our present day leaders. Let us not have this blind allegiance to cult personalities. Loyalty must be to broad principles; to universal truth that applies to all and not to a particular sect, religion or group; to basic truth such as refraining from lying, killing, or exploiting. You should be on a constant guard with your leaders, no matter who he or she is. And because we are not perfect and we make mistakes when we are on the wrong path, we must have the willingness to be corrected.

Please take a moment to ponder… The only influence people are open to having is the truth. The truth is always logical, and anyone who follows the truth is consistent. This is the power of the truth.

Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd


Character Building is Integral in the Journey of Life

During the recent V-Convention last month in Malaysia, I had the privilege to address an audience of over 6,000 people. One of the topics I spoke on was ‘character building’, which I have also occasionally touched upon in my previous Gems of Wisdom posts.

What is ‘character’? Character is the most fundamental definition of any person. It is what differentiates us as humans. It is our very essence. It is what guides us in our journey from being a ‘nobody’ to a ‘somebody’.

How then does one build character? Character building begins with our thoughts. Thoughts translate into words. Acting on our words forms habits. And over time, habits shape character.

Character development is a continuous process and is so important in our lives. Be it the business of life or the business of work, the reality is, our journey is all about relationships and teamwork. Remember, you are the leader of the team you build. And if you seek to build a team that lasts, as is the goal of every leader, it is important to have a rock solid foundation of good character.

True, every person is unique. We are all born under different circumstances; go through different life experiences, all of which contribute to shaping our character. While some take on leadership roles effortlessly, there are many who feel they lack in the qualities of a good leader. This is where character building helps.

Generally, every human being is unconsciously attracted to people with good qualities. Virtue, compassion, goodness… these are just some of the qualities people seek in others.

Remember, whether we want it or not, our character comes across clearly and transparently to anyone tuning into us, consciously or otherwise. So avoid falling into the trap of pretentious behaviour just to impress someone or achieve short term gains. To be really successful, be honest to yourself, and to your team.

To be a successful leader, build that character in yourself that you would like to see in your leader. Ask yourself, “Would I actually like to follow a leader like myself?”, “Am I not a leader?”, and “Should I not have the qualities that make one?”

Your character determines your destination. If you don’t like where you are headed today, create your path towards your desired destiny. Character is what will help shape that path.

It is no secret. There are many ways to build your character. One way is to conquer your fears. It is one of the biggest tumbling blocks in developing character. Be confident!

Talking about a good thing also leads to it. Constantly associate with people who carry good qualities or are successful. Learn, adopt and absorb their positivity.

Refrain from doing what is not good for you. Control your senses. Weak morals point to a weak character. If you allow yourself to be swayed by simple things, how can you expect to be trusted? Practise strict discipline. If a person is not hard on himself, the world will be hard on him; if he is hard on himself, the world will be easy on him.

Last but not the least, in your journey from being a ‘nobody’ to a ‘somebody’, find someone who will be a contrarian to you; someone who will challenge you just when you think you have found the easy way to success. By doing so, you will find yourself sharpening your skills, wanting to learn, focussing on building yourself and making the necessary changes to be better. This is the fastest way to build your character.

Please take a moment to ponder… Character building is not a one-off attempt. It is a continuous process in the cycle of life. Once we have traveled the path from being a ‘nobody’ to a ‘somebody’, we have to start all over again. We have to step back into the shoes of other ‘nobodies’ in our team and lead them through the same journey. And that is the true test of character.


Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director
QI Group