Discipline is what we need

by Henrylito D. Tacio

During the so-called “new society” of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, one of the most often-quoted lines is: “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.” Literally, it means that if we want this country to improve, we need discipline.

If only, at that time, Filipinos followed this mantra, the Philippines would have been out there already! Look at Singapore now! In a speech delivered during a recent graduation at Silliman University in Dumaguete, Menardo G. Jimenez Jr. informed that during a leadership conference in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew shared how he built Singapore from nothing to where it is today.

Right now, Singapore is a showcase of Asia without poverty, without the overcrowding, or space. It is certainly Asia without dirt. “In many ways, Singapore is the perfect place for the newcomer to Asia,” wrote one travel author. “It is like an Asian showhouse.”

In his speech, Jimenez said: “He shared that Singapore, barely a generation ago, was far worse than many of its peers. But today, it is an economic superpower. When he first started to lead Singapore, he asked his think tank to visit neighboring (Asian) countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, and 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.”

Jimenez, senior vice-president of the retail business group of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone, explained what discipline really meant: “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.”

He who lives without discipline dies without honor,” said an Icelandic proverb. George Washington, the first American president, noted: “Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable, procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.” David Campbell pointed out: “Discipline is remembering what you want.”

Nothing of importance is ever achieved without discipline,” comments Bertrand Russell. “I feel myself sometimes not wholly in sympathy with some modern educational theorists, because I think that they underestimate the part that discipline plays. But the discipline you have in your life should be one determined by your own desires and your own needs, not put upon you by society or authority.”

Film actor Clint Eastwood knows to well: “It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.” Immanuel Kant believes: “Man must be disciplined, for he is by nature raw and wild.”

An unknown author once penned: “Discipline, like the bridle in the hand of a good rider, should exercise its influence without appearing, to do so; should be ever active, both as a support and as a restraint, yet seem to lie easily in hand. It must always be ready to check or to pull up, as occasion may require; and only when the horse is a runaway should the action of the curb be perceptible.”

If you want to be successful in life, practice discipline. “If you want to reach your goals and dreams, you cannot do it without discipline,” Jimenez said in his speech.  He cited the case of one of his god friends, Fred Uytengsu, president of Alaska milk.

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 pounds 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.”

Discipline is defined in the world of business as “work ethic.” To drive his point, Jimenez shared an anecdote from Thomas Alva Edison, a great man who epitomized what work ethic is all about. “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 the inventor.

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.’ Eighty-two years old, and all he can think of is going back to work. That is work ethic. That is discipline,’” Jimenez said.

But are Filipinos disciplined people? Let me give you an idea. In 2000, when I went to the United States for the first time, I was surprised to see people forming a queue when the attendant told us that they were already boarding passengers from numbers 51 to 65. Sure enough, only those with seats being called were in the line. The same thing happened when other numbers were called. I observed that most of the passengers were foreigners – either Japanese or Americans. There were some few Filipinos, too.

It was a different story when I returned home. I was at the airport in Detroit and there were many passengers. Most of us were bound for Manila. When one of the attendants announced that boarding would be started – most of the passengers rushed toward the two assigned attendants. “Sir, we are boarding only those from 51 to 65,” the attendant explained. “And yours is 24C.” The male passenger replied, “I am first here. So, allow me to board first!”

The scene looked like I was in Davao boarding a flight going to Manila. To think of, we were still in the United States and those Filipinos who rushed thought they were already in the Philippines. How rude and how uneducated of them. And the foreigners? Well, they were at the far back, waiting for their numbers to be called!

I learned later on that Filipinos wanted to go first because they had so many hand carries. Instead of the accepted two hand carries per person, they had four or more. If they went first, they could put them in the compartment allowed for hand carries. With such kind of traits, do you think Filipinos are disciplined people?

If you drive, don’t drink. If you drink, don’t drive. So goes a familiar adage. But I know a lot of Filipinos who do both. If they are caught, they don’t give their driver’s license. Instead, they pay the cops money. That’s bribery but I know also of some policemen who want to be bribed. Except for a few of them, though.

Why Filipinos are not disciplined people? The reason is that most parents don’t teach their children this trait. The Bible urged: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverb 19:18). Here’s another: “Do no withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die” (Proverb 23:13).

A Chinese philosopher said, “Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on toes.”

And yes, if we want to move as a country to greater heights, we have to have discipline. We lack discipline and that’s what we need. — ###

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