Veteran broadcaster and writer, Eugenia Abu, sits down with a philanthropist, sanitation activist and founder of World Toilet Organisation, Professor Jack Sim, in an exclusive interview in Abuja. In a bid to help break taboos around toilets and make sanitation for all a global issue, the UN designated November 19th World Toilet Day. In this exclusive interview, Professor Sim talks about toilets, life, love, legacy, and how the UN got involved.
Let’s start from the very beginning, you started in construction and that came to me as a bit of a surprise and then at 40years old you decided, well you have some financial consolidation and you are now going to go into social engineering and social work; tell me all about this.
So in the beginning I grew up in a very poor family and we are not very good at schooling, so I failed everything at the O level which is secondary school, I couldn’t go further to university or even pre-university so I started to become a salesman and within three years, somebody spotted me and invested a 100,000 Singapore dollars and we started a business, trading with building materials.
And business was so much easier than studying, so we made money and I started 16 companies, so we created building material trading which led to manufacturing which led to bricks factory, clay roof top factory, acoustic partition factory, then we went into Real Estate development, we do a lot of different projects and one day we started to build the Australia International School in Singapore with 3,500 students and business doesn’t need to be about something I know, it just need to be about society lack.
If society needs an Australian school, I create one; if they need a brick factory, I create one and it doesn’t even matter if I don’t have resource. I can call the French company, the world biggest glass company Singobe to partner me to build the roof top factory and I can ask the Malaysian government to invest money in, as long as it is good for everybody, I’ll just believe that I can convince everyone and I always convince everyone.
I see that you always convince everyone, I mean listening to you is like a light bulb, everybody is inspired just listening to Jack Sim say if it is doable than I can do it. Let’s talk about how you ended up finally at the door of the toilet.
So when I was 40years old, I asked myself, Jack you are never going to be the richest man on the street because there are so many neighbours with so much money but then what is the point of having more money anyway?
You are not short of it, you have enough to send the children to school, to eat, to go on holiday and there must be something more important than making material comfort.
What would you like to say to yourself on the last day of your life and so this conversation I am having with myself. My answer is, on the last day of my life, I don’t think I will check my bank balance, I don’t think anything material like cars or products is going to interest me because we are going to die.
So I think I will reflect on the journey based on my contribution, my impact and my relationship with my family, my friends, my country, my society, my world; okay that is a nice feeling and how do you do it?
So I said the highest value for time is service because you can’t get more time and if you sell time to get more money which you don’t need, you are stupid. If you are businessman, you do not give something more precious for something less precious and your life is the most precious, so you exchange it with a higher value which is service.
And which service, it has to be the service that nobody wants to do, neglected, no funding, taboo, ugly, and I realise that for people, a greater percentage of the world’s population don’t have toilet and nobody wants to talk about it because there is no funding.
When you talk about poop and pee, it is brand issue; so I start to ask myself, why did the development sector call it a water agenda? So I interviewed the NGOs and they said you know we cannot say brand issues, we are to say glamorous things that attract money and so we call it a water agenda, it is a blue issue, if we can talk about trees and flowers, it is green issue, so banks and rich people and politicians they like this. Who is going to vote for somebody who promise them toilet?
So I said maybe they should because they need toilet. So I thought who in the world has solve this problem before; I found a man called Mr Condom in Thailand and he his name is Michai, and he promoted in such a funny way that because Bangkok was like the sex capital of the world at that time that there is a lot of venereal diseases and unwanted babies and people are suffering.
So he went … so that this problem gets mitigated. I went to find him and I said, now I want to do toilet, what shall I do? He says can you make people laugh, I said I am a joker, I always make people laugh, good.
And will you be able to be not upset when people laugh at you, I said its fine, people always laugh at me, so that’s good because when they laugh at you, they are listening to you.
That message I went and create WTO, …so my strategy is like that; if World Trade Organisation were to sue me I’ll be famous, if they don’t sue me I will also be famous because I can call myself the WTO, either way I get the same result.
They didn’t sue me, so I continued to be called WTO and the media they loved it; what does the media want? The media wants readership, sound bite, things that are bizarre, sensational, they want stories..advertising income.
So if I create stories that are so bizarre and entertaining then this is called mutual exploitation, it is collaboration.
So, Jack you are a showman?
Yes, I can design this such that the media will love me and we will be partners for a long time. People ask me you’ve been talking about toilet for 21years, doesn’t the story go stale, I said no, the story is always fresh. How did you do it? I said it is the same, have you stopped listening to love songs? Why is love song never stale because you add to it, you make it into different sounds, you do context, everything is fresh.
So well, who else is interested in the media? The politician, they are very intelligent people, they start to say this Jack Sim guy, he is talking toilet and the media is covering and suddenly they are listening to him and it looks like they want toilet.
Now I am going to say Jack come over, let’s build toilet, let’s change policy, let’s drive this demand.
And get media attention.
And so now you have a triangle of mutual exploitation, I can’t give the politician anything but I can give the story to the media, the media will then give the publicity to the politician and politician gets popular votes and still in power.
So what happened then? Then the bureaucrats have to start to write policy but they need evidence, so we had to pull along the academia who if they don’t publish they will perish, so they do all their research, we pull them up, we give it to the bureaucrats, they start calculating cost benefit analysis, they justify the politician wish and then the donors start to put money, the government starts to pour money, blended capital, corporate starts to join in and then NGO come in because there is money now, so they don’t just chase water, now they chase sanitation and everything works. So this is call mutual exploitation, it is collaboration, collective selfishness is selflessness.
Talk to me about how the visioner for modern Singapore, President Lee Kuan Yew, influenced you and quite a number of generations of Singaporeans?
So Singapore when I was young as a small island, with 600sqkms and 2.5million people and we are all poor because they are all emigrants, some very few people are locals, there is no water, there is no food, there is no energy, there is only people and there is a shipping port.
And when we were independent in 1965, our GDP was the same as Kenya but in 25years we became a first world country and today we are like the fourth richest country per capital in the world. So how did that happen?
So we learn from our Prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew that you can create something out of nothing if you can leverage everything else, you don’t need resource, the resource are waiting for you to go and leverage.
So we don’t have oil, we tell Brunei we will refine your oil for you, you don’t have to do it..just ship it over to our place, we have oil and we export it back to them and export to other people, we make profit.
We don’t have water, we tell Malaysia we will clean up your water and we will use some and we will sell the rest back to you for a profit.
We don’t have food, we import other foods, we don’t have skills, we tell everybody to come and invest and train our people and we will give you tax concession.
And every other country like Hong Kong and Malina or Bangkok they are offering the same thing, so we thought maybe we should plant trees and flowers to make our city more attractive, so it is not because we are hippies you know.
We plant trees and flowers because the investor’s wife’s are going to live there and the wives are going to tell the husband, we want to live in Singapore because there are flowers.
And all these kind of thinking is so amazing, so I grew up seeing that this is possible and the amazing thing is that, soon enough China copied the Singapore model and got 700million people off poverty in 30years. And then Dubai copied a little bit and Rwanda called itself the Singapore of Africa and today it is the fastest growing state of Africa, so the Singapore model works.
We clean up the river, clean up the street, clean up the toilet, then we clean up corruption because our mindset is always clean, clean, clean, so clean up corruption, we clean up the mafia; today there is no corruption in Singapore and there is no gangsters.
And because of that it is clean we are healthy and the tourist comes because they don’t get food poisoning or diarrhea and everything works, so this is amazing.
I think this is fantastic model and I have read a lot about Prime Minster Lee Kuan Yew, it is something that everybody should take on board and learn a little bit about so that we can all learn from each other. And talking about learning from each other, how did the UN come into play, let’s return to the issue of the day which is World Toilet Organisation and your passion for providing toilet for the poor and ensuring that you can have some kind of sanitation economy around that. Tell me how the UN got interested.
The UN is a place that has got convening power, it has got moral legitimacy but it is a hardly a place that can implement things. If you ask the UN to implement something it is going to cost a lot of money because of bureaucracy and layers and layers of staffing and approvals.
So the way to leverage the UN is you go and do all the work, prepare for them and give it to them and then they endorse you and then this mutual exploitation is collaboration.
So on the first day I started the World Toilet Organisation, we name our founding day, World Toilet Day, in the first World Toilet Summit. Overnight the world media go crazy, we probably reached out to like few hundred million people by having a one-man NGO, I don’t even have money to employ anybody, I was just alone, telling this story.
And even to get the World Toilet Summit, I had to help the exhibition organisers sell books and earn him some money so he give me a free conference.
Then I called 15 countries government to come and they came and it was a very big overnight sensation and everybody said hah, somebody ought to have started this long ago and so every year World Toilet Day became larger and larger.
But every year that I go to the ministry of foreign affairs and say to them, I am not a member of the UN, only countries are members so I need a sovereign and it should be my country to go and present this UN resolution to name World Toilet Day, 19 November as a UN day.
But my ministry of foreign affairs always says we can’t go to the UN and embarrass ourselves. How can we go to the UN and talk toilet, come on, please don’t make it a joke, we are a serious country, we are respectable.
I said this is precisely the problem, people think that talking about toilet is not respectable, that is why you have got to make it respectable by making it a UN day, he said no, no.
So I waited and waited but along the way, we promote World Toilet Day, so every year it is more and more popular until we get 3billion audience per year, that’s like one gangnam style per year, do you remember this song?
Yes of course
Oppa gangnam style, and that is like only one year but we are doing this every year.
To be able to achieve those numbers?
Yes, and so I say what shall I do? Then my foreign affair minister lost the election, very nice guy, Josh and I said here is the chance.
I said Josh, come to my World Toilet summit in Haina Island 2011, he said why do you want me, I am no more a minister and I said that is why I want you because now you are free, come and see.
So he came, he was the guest of honour and he saw 1,000 government officials from all the tourism bureau in China, gathered at World Toilet Summit in Hiana to talk about tourism toilet and how profitable it is.
At that event…picked by the Haina governor, so he said Jack you are so amazing, how could you do this, you are an ordinary citizen, no power, you mobilize the party secretary of a whole province, you get them to do this and they pay 50,000 US dollars for the right to host this event; how did you do it?
I said we do this every year, we were in so many countries and they always pay us and the story is that Tom Sawyer did that. Tom Sawyer was asked to paint the fence by Aunty Poly, he doesn’t like it, he pretend to have fun and he managed to persuade all his friends to paint three times and they paid him, so I learn from Tom Sawyer, I didn’t invent anything.
So he said Jack I have got to help you, what do you want? I said that is the reason I tricked you to come here, to show you and then to make you ask me this question. He said okay, what do you want?
I said I want you to call ministry of foreign affairs to make the proposal for the UN World Toilet Day, he says I will do it; so he picked up the phone and he called her, deputy secretary and the deputy secretary said, no I can’t do that. He says listen, just listen to Jack for half an hour, if you don’t like him, tell him the meeting is over, she said okay, for you I will listen half an hour but I can tell you nothing will happen.
Then after half an hour, he continued to be interested and we talked for one and a half hour and the deputy secretary says why didn’t you tell me that you are doing all these things.
I said you don’t even want to meet me, how can I tell you, he said okay, sorry, we are going to help you, we are going to support it, we are going to make Singapore table the first ever resolution we have ever done alone as a UN member, so it is history.
And then we went to the UN and talked to 193 countries representative and we have reception and lunch and dinner, we can’t talk to all of them because some of them we can’t even find them, there is a little island somewhere else but the majority of it, we got 122 signatures which means that the resolution will pass because more than half of 193.
So on the day it was to be tabled at the UN General Assembly, I was watching in Singapore like 3am in the morning and it was like resolution blah, blah, blah, any objection? And silence and then the gavel was hit and they said passed. So unanimous, 193 countries has…
If tomorrow I die, at least I did something for history that after that all the countries started calling me up, Jack come over let’s do this, let’s do that and then Prime Minister Mobestar started building toilets, 110million toilets in India and it was the biggest toilet construction project in the history of mankind.
And then at the same time, President Xi Jinping started China toilet revolution and Brazil in 2019, we went there to lobby for a change of the law to allow their state own water treatment company to accept foreign investment.
And I convinced them, the senate that they are actually losing so much money by not treating their sewage, illness, pollution, tourism income loses and they were convinced.
And so they passed the law at World Toilet Summit in Sao Paulo in 2019 and by 2020 June it became law and since that time until now, it is two and a half years, 10billion US dollars foreign fund invested in their water treatment company.
I mean I don’t even have any resource, I don’t collect any money but I am so happy that Brazil has a big change… they invite me back again and I am going to talk to the new politician because … they have new politicians and Bosonara is gone and Lola is back, so there is a lot of education to do.
And as long as you pay for it, you fly me there, I am going to do my work and enjoy this very much. I travel to 61 countries only to visit people’s toilet.
Tell me, are you a famous man?
When you know that you are going to die and everybody should know because everybody is going to die, then you will start to realise that it is not important whether you are famous, powerful, rich, it is not important.
What is important is the remaining days, every single day is usefully deployed for something that will make the world better and if you can do that every day, that’s fulfillment.
And fulfillment is better than fame, fortune because these are very superficial things that are never going to have a legacy and if you die, you don’t have to worry whether people remember you, whether there is a name left behind, you just have to be happy that things have changed and also it is changed by other people doing the work, not you.
And do you know that when you are dead, you don’t even know who comes to your funeral. So the answer to your question is, I am not important, you are not important, we are all not important but our work can be important.
And the other thing is that, do I think fame is useful, the answer is yes. Fame is not for me to enjoy, fame is to create legitimacy for the mission to normalize sanitation so that everybody can one day talk about toilet, poop, pee… things that they do every day as a normal thing rather than feeling it is rude and awkward and cannot say about it, because what you don’t discuss, you cannot improve. And that goes for menstrual hygiene and all the other things
It is interesting to listen to you talk about your passion with so much verve. There are people out there who say well what makes Jack Sim, what makes him tick, what does he eat, how does he stay so nimble. He travels a lot, what are his dos and don’ts for staying this young. Talk us through that.
I think if you are happy because you are doing things that you enjoy that keep you healthy. I don’t diet, I eat whatever I want, I have just eaten gizzard and they taste pretty good and I don’t exercise but because I travel I have to carry my luggage a lot and log it around and walk a lot, so I call that exercise.
But the main exercise is thinking and being very creative and the other thing is that I am in love every day with my wife and I am in a romance even when I am not with her. I feel I am in love, if she is in love or not, I don’t really care but I am in love because I can’t control her but I can control me.
And I always imagine that I am so lucky, marrying a very smart wife, she can give me all the freedom, no control and I can do what I want and the work is nice, the wife is nice, the children are nice, the money is not really a problem, so if you are happy and healthy, I think it takes care of itself.
In terms of sleep I don’t sleep a lot because there is always jet lag and this, change of timing and there is a lot of work to do but even that doesn’t really matter.
And in terms of number of employees, I employ one full time staff, Sarika and two part time staffs and I have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and people come and work for free.
So the first time on the seventh year of the Water Toilet Organisation, I went to India and President Abdulkalam came to open it with the crown prince of the Netherlands, William Alexandra and it was a very big event.
And the crown prince asked me, so Jack where are all your people? And I said to him you are looking at all the people, it is only me and he was shocked, he said how could that happen, how could you have done all these things with just yourself and I said yea, that is the power of storytelling, you get other people to do it, willingly, happily and they pay you for it and they fly you there.
Today a Nigerian airline is my airline partner and Indonesia just told me City Link wants to be our ally, partner for Indonesia flight and we never solicit but Racket Benkazia and Likso and these people they call Gates Foundation for the World Toilet Summit in Nigeria, they call me and they say shall I give you some money for the event, I will say yes, I will take it and it to Upwash, I won’t keep it.
And people ask me why is it that you don’t want to make money out of this? I have been working 25years with no salary, free of charge. They said why don’t you just take a salary of whatever. I said no, if I take a salary people will think that I am doing it for myself, I don’t need money so I am okay.
But if there is donation I will employ another person that might help but if they don’t come it doesn’t matter and so a lot of the time, NGO work is all about money and money and I try not to do that by staying frugal and leverage everyone.
Leverage everyone, great! Let’s talk about your wife, you talk about her in a manner that makes every man want to go and get a wife like yours; tell me what it was on the first day you met her, and how you have endured your relationship that makes you fall in love with her every day even when you are not there.
When I first saw her, she was wearing a red dress, with hair covering one eye, red lipstick and I was like hmmm. I don’t even remember the hotel, the coffee house that I met her and I am like should I date this girl?
But I was divorced the first time after one year marrying the wrong girl, so I said I better asked my brother to take a look. So I asked my brother and he says, she looks good you know, you should try her and so I dated her and then after six months we got married. Now we are married 31years.
Never quarrelled before, whenever we are not happy with anything, we stop talking and initially we stopped talking for maybe three, four hours, nowadays we stop talking for five minutes and then we come back very fast, so we have improved a lot. But very seldom we have disagreement anymore.
Tell me what should I be taking as Jack Sim advice for young man about how to marry the right girl.
You never marry the right person, I mean if you marry the wrong person that’s very clear but usually you marry somebody, you give and take, you learn to adjust and a girl normally I mean women are different and men are different but normally a girl just want you to love her.
So if you love her like crazy, she is willing to do a lot of things for you and if you don’t know what to do, you just love her, it is so easy.
You said to me you don’t care whether she is in love or not but you are definitely in love every day with your wife and you said also about this time, when it is around her birthday you are hardly ever there and so she says it is okay, she has gotten used to it; what do you do to compensate when you get back home?
Nothing, 17th November is her birthday, 19th November is World Toilet Day, it is always somebody hosting World Toilet Summit or at least I am somewhere else and I have to put in my calendar to remember just before midnight Singapore time and call her but sometimes I fall asleep like two days ago, I got jet lag and I fell asleep and I woke up and seven hours later, I wish her happy birthday but it doesn’t matter.
I think that the one thing to learn is, even if she don’t forgive you, you have to forgive yourself and just imagine that everybody loves me and everybody will forgive me, then I can go and make all kinds of freedom of speech without being too self-conscious.
I want to return to you now and talk about how you felt when you were named the Time Magazine hero of the environment; how did you feel?
So you know when you get some fame or media publicity, the first thing that comes is like, wow, tell all your friends about it you know and after a while I feel a little bit uneasy to say Jack are you becoming an egomaniac? And do you enjoy this?
And then I say to myself, you are enjoying it and so if you enjoy it, is this good or bad? I say well, I don’t think I can stop resisting, I can stop myself for not enjoying fame.
But I have to shorten the time that I enjoy it so that I should be very happy that the fame legitimize the mission and bring some more supporters, make them safe to join me to do the good work, not because I am a great guy, you must know the difference.
And you know, this I have to remind myself initially every 20minutes because it just come back and then I have to remind myself every two days and then every time it happens I have to remind myself.
Nowadays I get skill, I get experience, I enjoy it little bit and I know why I am generating publicity for the work.
And from the outside people they might say, oh Jack are you trying to be famous and I say I don’t want to tell you no, I am telling you this is good for the work. But it really doesn’t matter what you think I know why.
Yes, you have earned it Jack, it is a good feeling to know that people understand what you do and legitimize it for the work that is the essence. You’ve written two books, are you working on a third one?
Yes, I find that writing books is very laborious and I am very lazy person, so I leverage again and I told one of these famous writer, his name is Wu Tai Ho and I said to him, why don’t you write my biography and he said yea, it cost 100,000 dollars and then I can write a very good book for you.
I said you know, I don’t like to pay you anything but why don’t you take all the royalties, it is 12% and I don’t need it and he says okay, fair enough, I am sure you are going to sell, so I will write it.
So it is like that, right, you don’t need anything, you don’t struggle, you pass the work to other people, so every week he interview me and we write the book and I know it would be good because I did a Japanese one already and the book sold 15,000 copies in Japanese and it says I am the author but actually I just went on interview with a PHP institute the biggest publisher in Japan and they took down everything, they wrote the book and they said this is your book and I am very happy. And now in Japan if anybody asks, who is Jack Sim? Somebody will say go read the book.
Talk to me about the attire you are wearing today, this is very Nigerian and it is certainly not Singaporean attire. You are wearing a red cap which is for chiefs in Igbo land and you are wearing the Nigerian shirt.
I was trying to buy Nigerian shirt…the selection was not very nice. I don’t know why everybody wears so nice and the shop don’t sell it and I realise that everybody has a tailor and it is strange because in my country nobody has a tailor, everybody goes to the shop and buy.
So I was asking, Didi Walson Jack, the permanent secretary, where is the shop?
And then she called me at night to say, I am sending you something, are you in the room and I said yes, 8:30am I will be in the room and she sent her personal assistant to deliver two Nigerian shirts and she said if it is the wrong size, she is going to send it back and change. And I wore it immediately and I took a photograph and sent it to Didi and said perfect.
You know I am so, how do I say it, impressed by the thoughtfulness of a person who just react to an inquiry and you know I come to Nigeria, I get used to Africans and I see truly everybody is the same as everybody else and then the media is telling stories as if Africans are strange people or something is wrong with them, nonsense.
And then you watch Hollywood, it is always the white guy who is doing the right thing although he shoots a lot of people and the black guy is either his assistant or the villain, sometimes the Chinese guy is a clown, they stereotype everybody. And the Indian guy could be a mastermind or some very big sinister thing. Why is the white people always good people?
I think Africans are so nice people, you have to tell your story, you have to go out there to show that you are just as good and as normal as everyone and also as unique.
The first time I went to Nairobi was to visit UN environment programme and when I was in the Hotel, the receptionist said, you know you are foreigner you don’t go out, you always eat at my restaurant and then you go …and the car will bring you back, if you go out, they will mob you and I was like then it is very dangerous I have to stay here.
Then on the last day I said, maybe this receptionist just want me to spend money in the hotel but if I don’t go out of this hotel and walk around the shops, I think I will never overcome my fear of Africans, so I have to go out.
And then I went to a pub and there was this office executive and I just talked to them and they were talking about cars and property prices and stocks, they are talking about things that we talk about everywhere, in Singapore in anywhere.
And then I went to an ice cream parlour, I chit chat with some young girls and they are talking about looking pretty just like any young girls.
Then I went to a pizza restaurant and ate with a family and they are talking about children and education just like anybody.
Then I said everybody is like everybody, why are people stereotyping Africans or Chinese and glamorizing white people. I get very upset when I go back home and I see in the shopping streets, all the billboards are white models and I think that colonization is over but the syndrome continues and people still think that white people are more glamorous and the products sell at higher price if the models are white, we have to change that.
We have to change that narrative. What is your narrative to people who ask what is Jack Sim’s daily routine?
I don’t have a daily routine because I live in white space that means I don’t have a job, I give out work to everybody else, I create new ones and I give it out again and I am always involved in the project but they are always doing the work.
So some people say aren’t you exploiting them? I say no, the one that don’t enjoy it they run away, so the remaining one because they work for free, it is because they find fulfilment in it, and they are so happy with the opportunity to work with me and to learn and to become themselves.
So I am creating a compendium of World Toilet standards and then Asian Development Bank says they want to fund and I am going there and I am saying you’ve got to fly me there, I am not going to buy my air ticket. So they fly me to Manila
I am going on a holiday with the family to the north of Thailand, beautiful cultural place and since I am there, the professors there say can you also conduct a lecture. Okay, I will take one afternoon off.
Then the Brazilians have finished their election and they say, you know there is this North Eastern part called Panaboko and why don’t you come here and make it the Singapore of Brazil just like Rwanda did, I said okay I will come and so they have arranged me to be there for a week to talk to the new mayor of a city near the swampy part.
And I am going to transfer all the public policy lessons that we learn from Singapore over and you remember I was a school failure right and now I am called a professor, how did that happen?
That’s a good question.
When I was 52years old, I was having dinner with my mother and we already started having money and my brother is also my business partner and we also have money and my sister is married and she is okay with her husband.
And then my mother was saying you know everything is fine except my children has never wore this graduation gown and all my siblings they take photographs with their children graduating but my children never graduate.
I say I will go to university and she said what are you talking you about, you are 52years old. I said I can go to university and I will graduate and we will take the photographs and you will not have to say that again and she laughed and I went to study public policy.
Why did I study public policy because I thought why is that the bureaucrats always saying no to me, at such brilliant idea and they are always saying no, I want to understand what is wrong with their brain, so I have to become one of them.
So I went to study public policy and I learn they are so much constrained, suddenly I became empathetic, nowadays I know how to incentivize them because I know all the things that are so restricted.
I also know that a lot of them actually care, it is just that they don’t have the power, so I will give them power by incentivizing them their bosses and their bosses until the minister, the prime minister, president and so you will start to do this incentive mapping, you can convince everyone.
And nowadays I know how to motivate people that I never met, through the media, through the story telling and sometimes I meet people and they say I was so inspired by you that I resigned my job and I went to do this because I want to find purpose because I heard on the radio or I read your book or an article about you and I was like wow, did I get you into trouble? They said no, no I am enjoying it. But you lost your job, no I don’t want the job, it was toxic, it makes me unhealthy and I was like okay.
So I think we are connected with each other through the universal vibration and we should feel connected. Everybody I see, I talk to them like an old friend and my son is like how did you know the taxi driver so well? I don’t know him, I just talk to him and this is very enjoyable.
Did you get that picture with your mother?
Yes and then University of Stroughlight called me and said we want to give you an honourary doctorate, so now I am Dr. Sim, so you know life you never plan, you just keep doing what you do well and do good and good things happen to you and if it doesn’t happen, it really doesn’t matter because you are already enjoying yourself.
Talk to me whether a person like me can become a sanitation millionaire if I want.
Basically, we will never grow hungry but we also don’t need too much food because we will go fat. We will never have no place to sleep and so, that won’t happen to you, that won’t happen to the camera man, so I don’t think that we should even worry about being wealthy or a millionaire.
The new definition of a millionaire should be the one that improves the life of a million people, not necessarily having a million dollars and a billionaire should be the one that improves the lives of a billion people and then you get the impact, you feel good about yourself, you tell yourself this is what it is all about, making it better than when you came.
And I think if many, many people do it, not everybody but if 10% of people does that, can you imagine the world will have no war, it will be peaceful, we will have shared prosperity, you don’t even have to call it democracy or socialism or capitalism, just get it done. All the dogmas are so single dimensional that they are actually not relevant.
Tell me what is Jack Sim’s favourite thing, what are your hobbies?
I like arts.
Are you a collector?
No, I like to draw.
You like to draw?
Yes, I like to make things. I like nowadays to use this creative ideas to produce things that are really creative. For example right now, I am creating a symphony in P minor.
No, I am asking the symphony, Singapore Symphony Orchestra to find a composer to compose this piece of music that sounds like urination and P minor is a new musical note, the sound of urination and why minor because you pee major first and then you will take a breadth and then you have a little drip after that is the P minor.
It is so funny and the symphony orchestra said we are serious people, we don’t do things like that, why we are doing this? I said no, you see symphony music is getting old fashion, what do you do with the young people?
You make a piece of music that is humorous, you bring the crowd back again and they say yes, that is exactly what I need. There I told you, would you do it and they said yes.
Bring me 60,000 dollars Singapore and we will employ this people and we will do it and I said okay. How do I find 60,000 dollars, so now I am looking but if I find it they will get a composer, they will do it and I will have to add direction so that this is actually going to be effective.
Of course we are to give the composer a lot of artistic licence but we don’t want a mediocre piece of music, we want it to be so iconic, it has to be like the typewriter conjector, when they bring a typewriter in and they play music.
It has to have iconic sound, like symphony in C minor, it has to be sounding something like kamira borana or whatever, we have to have powerful sound that starts with a little tinkling and then a struggle and then a release and then a crescendo of flashing.
Absolutely unbelievable, I can’t wait to hear it, I hope you find the money. I’d like to ask the last two questions and they are short and one of it is this; what would you like to see on your epitaph? Here lies Jack Sim.
Nah, you just die, it is not important. What’s important is what I will say to myself, imagine I don t have dementia, I am still sound mind, on the last day and I want to say to myself, first I have done as much as I can and I am quite happy.
Secondly, there is so much unfulfilled dreams that I couldn’t continue because I was creative until the last day and it was a good sign that they were unfulfilled because it means that I was optimistic.
Very optimistic, your last words.
Last word is life is only made of time. When time runs out, life is over, you can’t save it, you have to use it to be a useful person.
I have had the greatest time talking to you Prof. Jack Sim, your life is quite a testimony to how to be someone, how to help someone and how to help the rest of humanity recognize other people. I have had the greatest time, I have enjoyed the interview, listening to you inspires me and I hope that all those who engage with this will be inspired. Thank you so very much for making time to speak with us.
Thank you very much. But I will also like to tell you, I didn’t do it, I make the other people do it for other people. The only way you can change the world is when it becomes a movement and it is not done by you.
Well spoken Prof. Jack Sim, thank you so very much.