Before I copy and paste this monster of a commencement address into this post (I have good reason why I did not merely retype this), please note that this is a Filipino transcription — and any and all spelling/grammatical errors are from the transcriber. Not me.
93rd SILLIMAN UNIVERSITY COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES
Luce Auditorium Lobby
March 26, 2006
Descending to the Top
Delivered by: Mr. Menardo “Butch” G. Jimenez Jr.
Senior Vice-President, Retail Business Group PLDT OIC, Wireless
Consumer Division, Smart Communications
It is a privilege of mine to be here. In 2003, I was requested to be the commencement speaker for the graduating class of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. And after I gave that address, I said to myself-and this is true-the only other invitation that I will accept after UP Diliman is Silliman University. I have actually been waiting for almost three years.
And I would have waited 30 more years to address you. You may be asking, “Why is that?” It is simply because of the Christian roots and the Christian heritage that this university has; the same roots and the same heritage that my great grandmother, my grandmother, and even my mother have tried to instill in my life. That is why I am here. So thank you very much for the privilege. I am actually quite excited to address all of you.
One of the questions running in your mind today as you graduate and move forward is, “How do I reach the top?” A fair question and one that needs to be answered. And since I now presently handle marketing for both PLDT and Smart, let me share with you some marketing principles that I have learned, that may guide you on your quest to the top.
A battle for the mind Success in marketing is a battle to be the first in the mind of the consumer. That is the principle proposed in the ’80s by two authors, Al Ries and Jack Trout, in their classic book, “Positioning.”
Ries and Trout said that success in marketing is a battle to be the first in the mind of the consumer. If you are first in the mind of the consumer, in most cases, you will rise to the top and become the leader or number one. So, the battle is to be the first in the mind.
Let’s give a couple of examples. When I say cola, what comes first in your mind? It’s Coke. And today, Coke has risen to the top and is number one. When you say beer, the first thing that comes into your mind is San Miguel. They are first in the mind, they are at the top, and they are the leader. When you say toothpaste, in most cases, what comes to mind is Colgate. The same rule holds true. Colgate is at the top of your mind, and they are number one. When you say photocopier, it’s Xerox. They are first in the mind, they are the leader, and they have risen to the top. Let’s try something more hip for the new generation kids. When you say mp3 player, what’s first in your mind. I can actually read your mind.
The iPod. They are first in the mind, they are at the top, and today, they are number one. So, in many instances, the rule actually works. If you want to rise to the top, you have to be the first in the mind.
The second thing that Al Ries and Jack Trout talked about, aside from being the first in the mind of the consumer, is burning an attribute or a characteristic in the minds of the consumers.
For example, Volvo did that. They burned into the mind of the consumer the attribute of safety. If you want a safe car, Volvo is it. iPod, for example, is burning in all our minds the attribute of being cool. They want to drive into our minds that the Ipod is the coolest gadget in the universe today.
So, two concepts we learn from Marketing to reach the top: Be the first in the mind and burn an attribute in the mind. Then, you start rising to the top.
So what does this all mean to you, as you go out into the workplace?
If you guys want to start rising to the top, you have to do the same thing. You have to be the first or the top of mind amongst the people that you work for specially your boss. When the boss needs something done, you have to be the first in his mind. If you’re just the third, or the fourth, or the fifth, or the tenth in his mind, you’re just like a company that is in third, fourth or fifth position — far, far away from rising to the top.
But like I said earlier, being top of mind is not enough. You also have to burn an attribute in his mind. Now, a slight word of caution. Burning an attribute in your boss’s or co-worker’s mind is a double-edged sword. You have to make sure that you burn a positive attribute and not a negative one. Ries and Trout explain that it is very difficult or next to impossible to dislodge an attribute in ones mind once it has been established. If you go into the workplace and the attribute you burn in your boss’s mind is tatamad tamad ka (you’re lazy), mahirap kang pakisamahan (you’re not a team player), or di ka mapagkakatiwalaan (you’re not trustworthy) then chances are, that attribute will stick in his mind for years to come and you’ll have a hard time rising to the top.
How many classmates do you know have been branded “lazy”, “a flirt”, “playboy”, “cheater” etc. Think about it, no matter how hard they try to change their image, it just sticks and is so hard to dislodge from your mind isn’t it? That’s how powerful burning an attribute in the mind is, positive or negative.
So, key lessons if you want to rise to the top is, you have to be the first in their mind and you must burn positive attributes in their mind.
This leads me to the question, “What attribute should you burn in the minds of the people in today’s world?” There are many attributes that I would have wanted to share with you, but in the interest of time, I will focus on two.
The first one is the attribute of discipline. If we want to be able to compete not only with our peers, but with the best in the world, we have no choice. As a person, as a people, and as a country, we have to be disciplined.
Discipline is a very fascinating thing. In the world of competition, you’re always competing with somebody else. There is Smart competing with Globe, There is GMA competing with ABS-CBN, there is Sony competing with Samsung, and the list goes on. But when it comes to discipline, you are not competing with anybody else. You are only competing with yourself. And if you lose, guess who actually loses, only you.
A year and a half ago, I went to a leadership conference in Singapore that put together and assembled some of the best speakers in the world. I actually had to pay a huge amount-probably my whole month’s salary-just to be able to enter that conference. Al Ries was speaking. Film legend, Francis Ford Coppola was speaking, Rudy Giuliani, who led New York to rise from the 911 crisis, was speaking and Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore was one of the speakers.
I wanted to listen to Lee Kuan Yew and what he had to say. Lee Kuan Yew shared how he built Singapore from nothing to where it is today. He shared that Singapore, barely a generation ago, was far worse than many of its peers. But today, it is an economic superpower. He narrated that when he first started to lead Singapore, he asked his think tank to visit neighboring countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and figure out what they don’t
have. He said they all came back with one conclusion: These countries lacked discipline. So to differentiate Singapore from its neighbors, he decided to build his country on discipline. This meant that if Singapore promised something to its people, to its foreign investors, and to other countries, it will be fulfilled. A disciplined country and a disciplined people-that’s what he built Singapore on.
Discipline is a very important attribute all of us must have to be able to bring this country up from where it is today. If you want to reach your goals and dreams, you cannot do it without discipline.
One of my good friends is the president of Alaska Milk, Fred Uytengsu. I used to see him on the baseball field when he used to coach his son’s team and I was an assistant for my son’s team. One day, I saw him wearing a shirt that said, “If you don’t have discipline, you don’t deserve to dream.” No matter how harsh it may seem, the point is true. If you’re 350 lbs. overweight and you’re dreaming to become the next big hunk, but you don’t have the discipline to watch what you eat, to exercise, and to make it happen, it isn’t going to happen. Don’t even bother dreaming, if you don’t have the discipline to make it a reality. You’ll just get frustrated. That’s how important discipline is in achieving success.
In the world of business, discipline is defined as work ethic. I’d like to share with you an anecdote from a great man who epitomized what work ethic is all about. Thomas Alba Edison. At the age of 82, the President of the United States said it was about time he was honored with an award for his lifetime work. So they put together a huge event in honor of Thomas Alba Edison. Being 82, he felt a bit sick that night and fainted. Good thing they were able to revive him and he was still able to go up on stage. Edison upon accepting the award simply said, “I am tired of all this glory. I want to get back to work.” 82 years old, and all he can think of is going back to work.
That is work ethic. That is discipline. And that is one of the attributes we need to burn in people’s minds if we are to rise to the top.
The second attribute we should burn is execution. We need to be able to drive in the minds of the people that we work with that we are the “go-to” guy. That if they want to make something happen, you are the guy to go to, because you are the person who can execute. Execution is one of the attribute that will help you rise to the top.
I’d like to quote one of the greatest mentors of all time who said to his pupil: “Luke, there is no try. There is either do or not do.” You know who that is? That is Yoda teaching Luke Skywalker of Star Wars one of the most important lessons in life: execution or making it happen.
An icon of execution, of course, is Michael Jordan. He is arguably one of the greatest basketball players that ever lived, but not without getting the ball, taking that shot, and executing the play. Can you imagine what would have happened to Michael if all he ever did was to plan on shooting the ball but never did? One of the things you have to remember about execution though is that it doesn’t mean you have to be successful every single time. Part of execution is learning how to fail yet rising up again.
Michael Jordan says this, “I missed more than 9,000 shots in my career and lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life, and that’s precisely why I succeed.”
When you go out to the real world, you will realize that there are many people out there who have great ideas and great plans. And that is good. But like I always tell my team in PLDT, what separates the good from the great is execution. We can spend endless hours and tons of money strategizing, planning, team building, and analyzing to come out with a great plan. But until we execute that plan, that’s all it will ever be, a plan.
When something goes wrong in a company, the question the leader or the CEO almost always asks is not, “Who has the best grades?” “Who has a diploma?” “Who has all the awards?” “Who is the summa cum laude?” “Who graduated from an Ivy league school?”
The CEO just asks one question: “Who can get the job done?” That, dear graduates, is the importance of execution.
Let’s learn a lesson from Mickey Mouse. Well, maybe not from Mickey, but from his originator, Walt Disney. Walt had four mantras: dreaming, believing, daring, and then doing. Of the four, “doing” is what turns everything into a reality. Walt said, “Dreaming, believing and daring without doing is just like Dumbo, the elephant, without ears. It just won’t fly. ABRAKADABRA will never work.” Only execution does.
Descending to the Top
In my UP speech, I talked to them about “what’s better than,” and I juxtaposed what’s better than this versus what’s better than that. Now, all of us want to ascend to the top. No doubt about it. And we should. We should plan on ascending all the way to the top. But I will pose the same question I did three years ago: “What’s better than ascending to the top?” The answer is DESCENDING to the top.
That may actually baffle a lot of your minds. “What is he talking about?” “How can descending to the top be better than ascending to the top?” It is a biblical principle. The Bible tells us that he who wishes to be the greatest must be the servant of all. That is the concept of descending to the top.
What I want to share with you is that as you rise to the top, the more you have to be a servant. The keyword is humility. The more you start rising to the top, the more humility needs to become an important place in who you are and in your life.
I want to share with you what happened to Steve Jobs the founder of Apple computers and now the Ipod. We all know what a great visionary Steve Jobs is. But if we chronicle his career, Steve Jobs, as he was ascending to the top, as he was rising towards greatness, forgot all about humility. While he was hitting his peak, all he thought about was how great he was, how fantastic he was, and how the world and his company revolved around him. That is ascending to the top. The higher you go, the bigger your head.
What happened to Steve Jobs as he hit the peak? He was driven out of his company both in failure and in disgrace. Then after having failed in many other endeavors, he started again and went on to make an indelible mark in the entertainment industry, and with the extraordinary success of the iPod, regained his reputation as the “greatest innovator of the digital age”. And so Steve Jobs, after having ascended to the top and then unceremoniously booted out, now gets the chance to lead Apple again. But something was different about the man this time.
People started to feel Steve had changed. And so in a big conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, there he was, listening to the chants of his people, demanding him to come back and run Apple again. Let me share with you how the new Steve answered the call. No longer ascending to the top, but understanding what descending to the top is all about. And I will quote from the book, “Icon: The greatest second act in business”.
For the first time in his public life, there on stage, Steve appeared genuinely touched when the people were starting to ask him to come back and take the CEO position. He wasn’t brash or cocky anymore. Maybe his four kids and the complete failure of a company and the near failure of another taught him something. There on stage, he fought back the tears as he mumbled something to make it clear that yes, even Steve Jobs can change.
He had made the transition into a world where feelings and passion could partner with business and technology. Steve Jobs said, “You guys are making me feel funny right now. I get to come to work with the most talented people on the planet at Apple and Pixar. The best job in the world! But these jobs are team sports. I cannot do it alone; I can only do it with a team.”
A team sport. Fifteen years ago, it would have been a lie. It would have been all about him and how great he was. But now, everything was different. He now understood that it was really the many others who helped him succeed. He did realize it wasn’t all about him. That Apple is a team sport.
That is descending to the top – the higher you fly, the lower the ego.
If you’re able to get a copy of Time Magazine’s issue where they declared who their Man of the Year was for 2005 you’ll see their choice was Bill Gates. But not because of what Bill Gates has done for Microsoft. Not because he revolutionized the computer industry. But because of what Bill Gates has started to do for humanity. If you read that article, Bill realizes that this is probably the generation where if health care were given enough resources, he can actually make a big difference in millions of people’s lives. And that has become the man’s passion and advocacy, donating billions to uplift the health of poverty stricken nations. This today is what truly defines him; no longer his technological achievements.
It is now about serving and helping other people. In other words, descending to the top.
A heart for our Country
Finally, as you rise to the top you should never lose your heart for our country.
I always tell my team in PLDT, that yes, we have a business to run, but let us never forget we also have a country to serve. And that is the same thing I will tell you as you guys rise to the top. You will have businesses to run, you will have your own careers to take care of, and you will have your own dreams to pursue, but never forget you have a country to serve.
You may ask, “How? How do I serve the country?” One way is actually quite simple. I’ll give it to you in one word. If you are great, if you are smart, if you are the best, if you have a Silliman education, then, please STAY. Just stay in the country. You would have actually done a great service to our country just by staying.
But if you can’t stay, or you don’t want to stay, that’s fine. If you think you want to make it out there in the world, that’s a-ok with me. But I want to ask two things of you.
First, go out there and show the whole world how great the Filipino is. In whatever field you’re in, prove to the world how special we Filipinos truly are.
Second, don’t just plan to COME back. Plan to GIVE back to the country. If you do that, if every Filipino who goes out there into the world – and there are millions of us already — proves to everybody how great the Filipino is, and not only plans to come back, but actually plans to give back to this country, in less than one generation, we will be an even greater nation.
I will end with what I told the UP students in 2003. You must be asking yourselves, “How do I reach my dreams?” or “How far can I go?” I told them this: In the last 42 years of my life, I have realized one thing, “There is no destination beyond the reach of those who walk with God.”
So when you go out there in the world, take God’s hand and walk with him. Because when you do, whatever destination it is you are hoping to reach, if God walks with you and takes you through, there will be no destination beyond your reach.
To the graduating class of 2006, I will meet you at the top and nowhere else!