August 29, 2010

On Competence and Excellence

After all the drama that happened early last week in our country, plus going through my personal reflections on some of my thoughts and observations, I decided to write this blog about competence.

Lately, we Filipinos are receiving plenty of bashes and criticisms from the international community.  And many of us Filipinos have been sentimental about these issues.  We've been thinking so much about the "only-ifs" and "what-might-have-beens""If only the authorities played it smarter with the hostage crisis negotiations..."  "If only the police were better-trained and better-equipped..."  "If only Venus Raj was able to nail an impressive answer to a seemingly simple yet difficult question..."

I assume that we have imagined ourselves on similar situations, thinking of what we could have done if ever we were in the middle of the action.  If we were in charge of the crisis management, what could we have done to prevent matters from getting worse?  If we were asked the same beauty pageant question on the spot, what could we have answered?  Let's ask ourselves as individuals (not only as one Filipino race), are we capable of handling these situations?  Are we going to prevail and conquer the odds, or are we going to break under pressure?

The competence of the Filipino people is in question.  

First, let's define competence.
  • The ability to perform a specific task, action or function successfully (Source: Wikipedia).
  • The state or quality of being adequately or well qualified; ability (Source:
  • The quality of being competent; adequacy; possession of required skill, knowledge, qualification, or capacity (Source:

Now, let's apply all these with our daily lives.  At work, in school, on activities we're involved in...  Let's ask ourselves, are we competent?  Or if we think or feel like we're not, are we doing anything to make ourselves competent?

I'll connect it with my job as a professional musician.  Am I competent, or at least making myself one?  Am I doing actions or activities which can lead me into becoming a better musician?  Am I showing care, discipline & professionalism in my craft?  Am I being a good example to people around me?  Am I being persistent and diligent?  Am I still practicing and looking for ways to further improve and develop my artistry and skills?  Am I pushing myself to become the best I can be?

Reflect on your work, your performance in school, or whatever activities you're involved in.  Ask yourselves some competence-related questions.  It doesn't matter who you are or what you do.  Whether you're an executive, a manager, a teacher, a janitor, a chef, a public servant, an athlete, an artist, or whatever profession there is...  Are you competent?  When you claim that you're doing your best, are you really doing your best?

We should take note that being competent is different from being competitive.  The latter involves rivalry, such as sports and in some business matters.  In the music world, for me, there's no need for competition in the arts.  There may be some competition ongoing, such as record sales and winning fans' hearts, but these are lame, as far as I'm concerned.  As a musician, I'm not aiming to outdo or outplay my fellow drummers/musicians.  I am aiming to play to the best of my abilities, continue to improve and develop in order to express myself more effectively and convincingly, and to make the music a much better, more enriching, and more inspiring experience to the player and the listener.

Among my inspirations in life are successful people who work hard and give their best in their chosen field or specialization.  They may be athletes, inventors, innovators, or artists.  They are people who never rest on their laurels, and they always strive for excellence.  And more often, these role models don't do it just for competition.  Their competence is for the sake of maintaining their standards, or better yet, for continuous improvement. 

I also have a huge admiration for races or cultures who are competent in various fields.  I admire the engineering and design prowess of the Germans.  I admire the discipline and the technological advancement of the Japanese.  I admire the persistence and the flood management of the Dutch.  I admire the sense of precision of Swiss manufacturers.  I admire the musical innovation of British and American artists.  These cultures have found excellence on different fields or specializations, and kept themselves competent through the years.

It isn't so hard to believe that we Filipinos have the talent and the skills. 
But, are we honing these talents and skills?  Are we investing our time and effort in making ourselves more competent?  Do we possess the right character and/or attitude?  Are we instilling the right values to people around us and to the next generation of Filipinos?  All the senseless blaming, unreasonable finger-pointing, the crab mentality, the "pwede na yan" (that's good enough/that can do) attitude, and all the negative traits should be corrected.  Enough of these bad habits, for if we continue to do these, this nation has nowhere to go and we'll remain in mediocrity.

This blog is a call to change for the better.  Enough of the mediocrity.  Let's strive for excellence.  Let's make ourselves competent.

Highly Recommended:
The Philippine Bus & Miss Universe, by Daniel Wagner, 8/25/2010. 
Why there’s hope and the ‘Pwede na’ mentality, by Erwin Oliva, 8/30/2010.