My Contrarian View About Kiasu Spirit

by Patrick Liew on March 15, 2017

I was thinking about the infamous “kiasu” spirit.

We laugh over it and criticize it. But there’s also a good side to it.

Think about it.

1. Kiasuism can prevent us from being reckless and compel us to take calculated risks.

2. Kiasuism can help us to be paranoid and being paranoid is not necessarily a bad thing.

Wasn’t it Andrew Grove, one of the founders of Intel who once said, “Only the paranoid survives”.

When you’re kept on your toes, you tread more carefully, learn to balance, and plod a safer and more sustainable path to success.

3. When a person is kiasu, he will not be complacent.

He knows that if he slackens and takes his eyes off the ball, he may end up losing everything.

4. To live up to his kiasu belief, a person will have to constantly look over his shoulder.

He will monitor the performance of his competitors and benchmark himself against others so that he will not be overtaken.

To do so, he’ll have to enhance his values and value-additions and creations so as to achieve a higher performance and results.

Kiasuism will therefore drive him to stand out from the crowd and stay ahead.

5. According to Professor Ciadini, people have a tendency to act in accordance to their beliefs.

Therefore, when a person subscribes to kiasuism, he will work harder so that he’ll win at the end of the road, no matter how long the road will take him.

What’s important is not to kill the kiasu spirit but to harness and channel the spirit to the right cause and to win for the right purpose.

In school, we should win at developing sound character and values and developing future-ready skills – not just getting good grades.

At work, we should win at helping our employers and our colleagues to do well and do good – and not just aim to get promoted and earn higher salaries.

As a people, we should win by aiming to build a livable and lovable country that will bring love, joy and peace to one and all.

We should never fight for our ethnocentric interests. We should do our part for the country.

6. A healthy kiasu person empathizes and sympathizes with the last, the least, the lost and the lonely.

It takes a kiasu person to understand a kiasu person and feel for the people who have fallen out on the journey of life or fallen through the cracks.

A kiasu person will reach out to them and help them on their feet.

He’ll get them started because he knows that, in the final analysis, helping others is the best outcomes for a true winner.

When he realizes that, the “Kiasu” spirit will become a “Huat Ah!” and “Cheonging” Spirit. A spirit that helps one and all to prosper and succeed together.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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