Low-hanging fruit. It can get some leaders misguided into addressing a problem just because it is easier to solve and check off, without even first weighing it out against the other more fundamentally relevant issues.
Remember those seminars teaching us the difference between urgent and important? Well there is much to learn about Filipinos by simply dissecting their thought process and discovering what really makes them tick – in particular, how they set their priorities.
The Need for Focus
Identifying which problems to focus on and finding the most effective strategy to solve them are the types of critical decisions leaders face, especially for countries that do not have the luxury of time, cash and resources to put a plug on every ship-sinker hole simultaneously.
President Rodrigo Duterte comes in as a fresh new set of lenses for Filipinos, whose myopia has made the country renown for being a sick man that has faltered and lagged behind most of its neighbors in almost every field that makes up a nation.
President Duterte has set his eyes on drugs and criminality. On top of that, various sectors clamor and cry hard to be heard: agriculture, education, defense, rebel forces, workers, investors, commuters, media and businessmen. It looks like it’s a contest of shouting the loudest to get attention. The more relevant issues though get drowned out in all the noise.
Considering the country’s limited budget, we tend to allot a little for everything. Rather than focusing on just the few major problems a set at a time and solving each effectively, we choose to solve every little problem halfway all at once just to appease the many disgruntled voices. This is probably just a reflection of our national culture of moving into a house that’s only halfway finished.
Take a tip from the medical field – specialize! It is no longer practical to be a jack-of-all-trades master-of-none country. We as a nation should learn to focus on a niche and build on our few limited strengths.
Knowing the Goal (Motivation)
As we transition from a failed ineffective administration to a new one brewing with promising fresh new blood, it’s a good time to sit on the sandy beach, look towards the golden sunrise off in the seemingly unbounded sea’s horizon and reflect on the things that really matter. Let’s begin to ask the deeper questions – like the why and how, rather than the who and where.
Many of us are just too caught up in the routines of daily life, that we forget why we are even doing things in the first place. We have allowed empty traditions to take over our critical faculties, and believed with blind faith in people who claim to be authorities just because they changed their title of Mr./Ms. to something else.
Learn to say “No.” If you don’t plan how you use your money or time, others will do the planning and use it for you.
What is this country’s dream? As to a little lad in preschool, we are wont to asking: what do you want to be when you grow up? Does this country have a dream to be something someday? Why does it seek to go in that direction? Is it just to feed our national pride?
Everyone is just doing his/her own thing. We are all pulling and pushing one another for our own selfish agendas. Can we not unite for a common purpose even for once?
Many have grand goals – to reach the top of the mountain. And when they get to the top, you ask them: what’s the point of getting there? They are clueless.
People are driven by various forces: a force to survive, to live a comfortable life, to become great, to excel or to fulfill a dream. Ask a pedicab driver, and he will answer you: I just want to provide pan de sal for my 6 kids each morning. With that motivation he risks life and limb slugging it out on the highway with trucks and jeepneys, oblivious of the traffic he creates.
At this point in the life of our nation, let us move forward a step higher from “mere survival” to becoming a decent and functional society. After defining our goal and motivation, we need to identify the major roadblock that keeps us from getting there.
The Country’s Biggest Problem
Just what is the biggest problem in the country? What issue deserves honing in our strength and skills most to bring about its resolution? Is it the traffic in Metro Manila, the squatters and shanties that riddle urban places, the lack of classrooms and navy vessels, the ASG/MILF/NPA, the lack of local jobs, or overpopulation? Or is it something much deeper?
I don’t think our problem is really that complex. Peering through to see the crux of our dysfunction as a nation and society, I think our biggest problem is simply the lack of common sense and basic honesty. These are elements of reality that reside in the unseen world of the mind and heart. And we will never really rise up above this tide that drowns each passing generation when our teachers, parents, politicians and priests are bankrupt, with nothing of genuine value to pass on to our youth. Because these are not really passed on to the youth through just words (as powerful we may think they can be) but by example through our actions.
All this nation’s apparently big but actually secondary problems are really just symptoms of these two deeply rooted deficiency-based evils that make the Philippines decay at the core. Ours is a house whose foundation has been made hollow by termites. But rather than replacing the foundation, we continue to build on top of the building until all the more the weight bears down on our weak spot and our great edifice comes crashing down like a precariously built house of cards.
Success – Being Part of the Solution
If you are a student, begin to realize that it’s not the head knowledge that you come out with that will really make a difference for this country, but how much integrity was ingrained in you while you worked towards attaining your degree.
If you are a teacher, begin to realize that it’s not the amount of information you were able to spoon-feed into your students’ gray matter that matters, but whether you have equipped them well enough to reason by themselves with a level of logic that can withstand a super-typhoon barrage of counter-arguments in a debate.
Fast forward… Imagine the last day of your life, at which point you find yourself lying down gasping for your last few breaths before you leave this planet. You ask yourself: what could I have done differently to make my life a resounding success?
Then travel back in time to this very day. Go and make a difference now. Be a part of the solution. Life is best lived not by gratifying endless desires, but in knowing our higher purpose and giving up ourselves to inspire others.
Six years is a short period of time. President Duterte is determined to leave a lasting legacy when he steps down. Let’s hope he truly finds the mother of all problems that eats at the heart of our people, and crush it at its core. How about you – will anyone ever remember you made a mark in contributing to solve this country’s biggest problem?
PS: If you do decide to make a difference by running against the grain, don’t be surprised or discouraged by all the opposition you’ll get. There’s a saying in Filipino: Ang punong maraming bunga, laging binabato. Benign0 recently brought up its English counterpart: If you are not annoying anyone, then you are probably not doing anything important.
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