The Steve Jobs quality Filipinos should emulate
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-10-16
In mourning the passing of Steve Jobs and celebrating his memory, Filipinos should take inspiration from the character of the man who reshaped the 21st century. We may not have the talent of Steve Jobs, whose impact on science is now being compared to Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, but we can easily adopt the winning qualities of his character.

From your Chair Wrecker’s perspective, the courage of Steve Jobs to venture into never before explored horizons substantially determined his success. He dedicated his entire being to the pursuit of a technological dream. This underscores positive character traits of boldness, tenacity and the ability to think outside the box.

For Steve Jobs to synthesize into pocket size what used to occupy an entire floor of a corporate office would have required junking old notions and mindsets. Mediocre minds are inclined to think: “That’s the way it is and it cannot be done otherwise.” Geniuses, on the other hand, think that there is a radically different and much better way of doing it. Lesser men fall prey to boxing their minds with imagined limitations while geniuses courageously envision and explore new horizons.  

You cannot think outside the box and implement new innovative measures if you’re unwilling to unlearn outmoded or irrelevant methods and mindsets. More than the admission of ignorance as the first major leap towards enlightenment, it is the character to unlearn that becomes the crucial turning point for major endeavors.

Successful nations took off after they had decided to unlearn their old failed ways of doing things. World War II had razed Germany. The Germans then junked Fascism, Nazism in the German model, and embraced its present winning ways. The Japanese veered away from its old ways, unlearned to worship their Emperor like a god and became the second biggest economy. Japan won in peace what they sought to attain with war.

One might say that the new systems were imposed on Germany and Japan by the victors of World War II. While that may be true, the point is the Germans and the Japanese willingly embraced the new system and made it work for them. They unlearned what got their country into trouble and adopted a new way of doing things.

China courageously unlearned practically 90 percent of their Socialist ways and adopted some of the Capitalist methods. Now, they’re topping the once highly regarded Capitalist states like the US and the UK. Another bulwark of Socialism, Russia, went the same unlearning route of China and is now producing more billionaires than the US. This is easily seen from the number of super-priced luxury items that are being marketed in Russia.

In the theatre world, the celebrated musicale My Fair Lady was all about the transformation of an English flower girl into a sophisticated lady worthy of mingling with royals. Elisa Doolittle made the bold step to unlearn her way of speaking in order to deserve an invitation to the royal ball and gain acceptance in high society. While My Fair Lady is fiction, its subject matter — unlearning — is a great truth in life.
In religion, Christianity was born from the willingness of people to transcend the Old Testament and live under the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, this unlearning (an eye for an eye) and learning (love your enemies) was resisted by vested interests that eventually plotted the death of Christ. However, Christ’s death did not end Christianity but launched it with a flourish.

In our world today, we can see the many instances that demonstrate how many Filipinos are not even aware that they have to unlearn some things and learn new ways of thinking and doing things. Agriculture productivity, corrupt practices, environment abuse are but some of the showcases of failure that mandates unlearning.

Even in media, there’s a lot of unlearning that needs to be done. One is the wrong mindset that media are society’s watchdogs and must always criticize the government. This mistaken notion has led to an overly negative media in our country, something that’s believed to be bringing our country down.

Classic cases are those commentators of media who are dedicated to solely criticizing the incumbent rulers, especially the president. They fail to provide balance to the news, consumers keep hearing only bad things about their rulers. There’s a need to expose anomalies and identify the culprits but there’s also a need to support our good rulers and help them succeed.

When the media only present the bad aspects of governance and fail to cite good performances and developments, a cynical public mind is formed. In the extreme, this could lead to a dysfunctional government — as when a government can no longer get the cooperation of its citizens whose minds were poisoned by one-sided media reporting. In the end, this affects the economy. Media, which rely on advertising revenues, eventually start becoming victims of the negativism that they’ve sowed in the public mind. Economic downturns have a concomitant effect on advertising spending. Shrinking markets cause the slashing of ad budgets.

Among Filipinos who suffer from what is called damaged culture, no reversal is possible unless unlearning happens first. Take the case of our mistaken notion that the US is a caring “father” of the Philippines. To unchain this polluted Filipino mindset, one has to unlearn the fictitious benevolence of the US and learn how the US rendered our country the biggest damage.

Before the American occupation, Filipino nationalism was at it most boisterous state. During the American era, the Jose Rizals, Apolinario Mabinis and Andres Bonifacios disappeared. To replace them were a long line of American lackeys who were willing to put US interests ahead of Philippine interests.

To unlearn, the Filipino must develop an analytical mind that consistently questions why we keep doing things the same way over and over again. To unlearn, the Filipino must have the intellectual integrity to admit that there are wrong mindsets and methods that need to be changed. One who goes into a state of denial will never make the important step to unlearn.

The rulers of our country keep focusing on improved education. They should do their homework first and that is to initiate the unlearning of counterproductive ways and thinking.

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