Not very long ago, when I was facing a business challenge, I did what I had decidedly not done in years: ask my parents for a loan. It wasn’t a big amount and it was only for 15 days, and I needed it to bridge my payments and collections. What a lot of people don’t understand is that growth can just be as dangerous as stagnation if unmanaged. Getting big doesn’t mean becoming successful. Sometimes it means becoming fat and unhealthy. This is true for health and for business. Anyway, met with my parents one February evening, and after discussing with them, including a heated back and forth, I left their house without a loan nor a donation (which I wasn’t asking for anyway).
I remember driving back discouraged and bitter, and I remember having a thousand thoughts flying through my head, like I normally do but this time all selfish and angry. Thoughts like, “Why can they spend so much on other things and not help their own son?” and “How lucky my friends who have rich parents to invest in them and provide fallbacks.”, among other thoughts and four-letter words. We may be the pastor’s family but we’re not immune to financial conditions, to our setbacks, to our own mistakes, and to our own sinful inclinations.
Looking back, now with the benefit of hindsight, I can identify two clear mistakes with my thinking:
1. I was not coming from a position of faith in God but frustration in my situation and the inability of people to make things better. I was trusting in man’s ability to lift me, not God’s purpose. Sometimes, many times actually, God uses a need to draw us to Him. If my parents had bailed me out, I would have been drawn to my parents, but God was bringing me to Him.
2. I was selfishly making my concerns and interests more important than those of others, not able to see the big picture. To me, meeting my payments was the most important thing. I didn’t see my parents preparing for retirement, lowering their risk profile, supporting my grandparents, and the reality of their own situation, and I didn’t think of my brothers as well.
Both of these come from an attitude, a very destructive attitude of entitlement, which is thinking I deserved something from certain people.
I didn’t. And I don’t.
I didn’t deserve money, not even from my parents. They had given me so much already, great education, spiritual impartation, wise counsel, a good name, and here I was not able to see all these things because I needed a few million. Here I was wishing I had other parents when in reality I have the two best parents to walk the planet. How easily entitlements make us stupid.
And this didn’t make my parents bad or evil or even unwilling. The situation simply was bounded by realities and the current limitations. Learning to not just recognize but appreciate these realities not only save us the bitterness but help us become resourceful and find other ways. My parents had not given me cash but they did give me a good name, and this was useful when I approached potential shareholders. If I had stayed bitter I would never have appreciated the asset I had with me all along and I would have hated the people who gave me that asset. Entitlements make us blind to what we do have and to the people who make it possible.
I commented on my wall about why I disagree with the people bashing the Philippine government on not funding the Filipino skater and I want to go into more detail about it. From the news it is reported that he didn’t win a medal but he’s a success nonetheless for overcoming obstacles. It’s great to see private individuals and companies supporting him.
Now let’s talk about our government.
1. Our government, heck, most governments, are inefficient. This has been a reality for generations. Inefficiencies are fixed through investments in better people, better processes, and better technology over time. Without fixing these systems we will have a lot of waste and will not be able to effectively power the institutions meant to support things like culture, sports, social welfare, and others. We have a leaky bucket and removing more resources by funding the dreams of individuals won’t fix the picture but will hasten the drain.
2. The government is huge and has a huge scope. 100,000,000 people. That’s the number of direct “customers” the government has. Now who should they prioritize? What should they prioritize? Is P1,000,000 to an athlete better allocated than P1,000,000 to a Yolanda victim? Is P1000 to an athlete better allocated than P1000 to a Yolanda victim? So easy to get caught up in the moments need and think it’s the greatest need, and so easy to give an opinion on it. Difficult to really weigh the worth of ideas especially in a nation that mistakes feeling for thinking and consumes the heart and mind.
3. The government is limited. Let me repeat that. The government is limited. Like my parents, though in a much larger scale, they have a limited amount of resources, a limited amount of understanding, and must make the best decisions with what they do have. This is why calls for transparency, efficiency, and fair rule of law are right because they help us hold governments accountable. The problem with our government is not that they didn’t fund a skater but that it’s a corrupt institution. We don’t correct specific mistakes by not focusing or by investing elsewhere. Years of corruption is what have limited our athletes (and other sectors at that). Addressing the root of the issue is a wiser allocation of resources – even if that root is not glamorous and is not on international news.
4. You own your dreams and must care for them – not the government. This was another lesson I learned from my early difficult years in business. Your dreams, your goals, their yours to enjoy but their also yours to make happen. No one owes you your dream.
My point is this: though ideally having government funding for our interests and pursuits would be great, given the current state of the country, it would be idiotic for me to expect nor rely on support from a poor government having to support millions people and their individual needs.
It’s like expecting an empty glass to quench my thirst. Plug the holes first. Fill it up first. Then drink.
And if I really really want my dreams to come true I’m, I’m better off making them happen myself, relying on God, holding the government accountable to what it should be accountable for (justice, security, infrastructure), and removing the entitlements that blind.
My parents would later go on to help me in the way they were able, and gave me financial stability for that season, but I’m glad I learned the lessons that I had to learn first or else I’ll be just another brat living off his parents, with negative contribution to the home (taking more from them than giving to the home), yet deluded enough to think I deserve more.
These people will never become a success no matter who tells them they’re ok, or quotes they share, or Bible studies they attend, or ideas they toss around.
Success, in any area, is taken not inherited nor bestowed. People can inherit money and that makes them rich, but not necessarily a success. People can impart values and good attitudes, and that makes them nice or kind or of good character, but not necessarily a success. Success is the attainment of one’s chosen pursuits.
I like what a friend and business mentor told me yesterday, “Being loyal, being able to get along with others, these are good but without results these only put you in the “nice guy” category not among successes. What differentiates excellent people are results.”
Combining it with last night’s reading on leadership, I’m reminded that at some point everyone who wants to achieve their goals and dreams must move from the conceptual, from the brainstorm, to execution, to delivery, to results – which are less glamorous, more gritty; less talk, more do; less inspiration, more perspiration.
It’s not a title or a label but an achievement and it belongs to those who take it not to those who merely expect it.
So take it.