Each year since 1982, we have celebrated Teacher’s Day on November 20th here in Vietnam. It is a chance for students, past and present, to show respect and admiration for the teachers among us.

And one of our most famous sayings about education always reminds me of my father and his great childhood friend Uncle Tư, who is also THP’s head of R&D. It is “học không bao giờ là quá muộn”, which translates into English as, “it is never too late to learn”.

It perfectly sums up their attitude – we should never be afraid of learning new skills. And that applies no matter how old we are as well. For both my father and Uncle Tư remain passionate about advancing their own education despite being the company elders to whom everyone else looks for guidance and advice.

I know that new THP employees are often quite surprised when they spot either one of them sitting in on company training sessions. That’s because we are all very familiar with the type of corporate executives who try to demonstrate their power by highlighting a huge gulf between their knowledge and that of their subordinates.

But this type of executive will only ever get so far. What that gulf actually creates is a very large repository for all the useful information they could have learned from everyone else had they been listening.

No individual person ever has all the answers no matter how learned or experienced they are. My father’s personal motto is that “smartness starts when you know that you are dumb.”

True intelligence is about being open to new information and ideas, actively seeking out someone else’s expertise. My father knows that there are few things more valuable in life than being able to borrow an expert’s time.

So he devours knowledge from wherever he can source it: from his own lived experiences, from inside the heads of trusted experts, or through the traditional medium of reading books and watching TV.

He is not, therefore, someone who always wants to project outwards. He is just as much an observer. It helps him to advance his own skills and to understand what is going on inside the company.

When he was growing up in Vietnam, neither he nor Uncle Tu got a particularly good education by modern standards. There was a big emphasis on rote learning, which my father rebelled against and consequently got a lot of poor grades.

Both he and I believe that being a good teacher boils down to something different. It is about understanding your subject matter and being enthusiastic about it transmitting that to other people.

The teachers we remember are the ones who are passionate and inspire that feeling in us too. If we are lucky, they will take an active interest in trying to get the best out of us and remain a mentor for us.

This is just who my father is. So he loves Teacher’s Day because it is an opportunity for him to re-connect with many of the people that he has trained at THP and now work elsewhere. He is our teacher, but anyone who has every worked for him knows that he will always remain the eternal student too.

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