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Imagine-Nation

Imagination can be seen at two levels:
the self and the world,
the effect of the self to the world.
Intervention
– the world intervenes and affects the self.
Intervention
– in time, the self sends ripples that change the world
the world he/she directly encounters
(people, places that are deliberately transformed)
as well as the indirect receivers
(strangers, institutions, hard-and-fast norms)

The imagination that the self has —
“Vision is the best insight.”
where square pegs fit round holes,
the home of flying pigs,
and ubiquitous equitable societies
“Vision is the best insight.”
threatens,
questions,
and – (write it!)
alters
the oftentimes cruel status quo.

“The success of the intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor”
The self relentlessly wants to
make all his surroundings home.

Home begins within;
being comfortable in your own skin,
building confidence in who one is,
who one can be.

Home is the journey beyond the self
Onwards, to the world!
Home is the decision to
make the imagination
become the reality.

The dream of a dream
is a daily struggle;
Waking up to make it real –
saying yes
day in
and
day out –
is the root of inspiration and frustration.

Nation is an imagined community
So what next?
“Nationhood
not as search for a destiny but an attempt to create our own destiny…
Nationalism
can be created at will
and its contours are limited only
by our imagination
rather than by political entities or territorial boundaries;
Nationhood
as an unending project of
creation
of a people who chose
to collectively pursue
the fulfillment of their individual happiness”

What are we crazy enough to imagine for our nation?

All of the recent tweets I read about Usec. Puno, Magtibay and the hostage taking investigation in itself has reminded me of Adam Kahane’s thoughts while he was in the midst of helping post-apartheid South Africa get into dialogue:

You have to remember that deep dangerous conflict isn’t usually the result of your rational arguement versus my rational arguement. It’s the result of your rational arguement hitting my blind spot, and vice versa. Listening openly helps us defuse this dynamic…

One of the new steps I think we should take is to listen to those we consider ‘the enemy with the same opennes, non-judgment and compassion we listen to those with whom our sympathies lie.

Everyone has a partial truth, and we must listen, discern and acknowledge this partial truth in everyone – particularly those with whom we disagree.

I believe what we are facing right now can be classified under the three types of complexity that Kahane asserts. I learned this during the Tuloy Tulay Bridging Leadership for Youth camp:

To solve complex problems, we have to immerse ourselves in and open up its full complexity. Dynamic complexity requires us to talk not just with experts close to us, but also with people on the periphery.

Generative complexity requires that we talk not only about options that worked in the past but also about ones that are emerging now.

and Social complexity requires us to talk not just with people who see things the same way we do but especially with those who see things differently, even those we don’t like.

We must stretch way beyond our comfort zone.

Largely, the incident highlighted one of the troublesome creatures spawned by the previous administration – weak and (sometimes) unresponsive systems. When systems and institutions are captured or bogged down by years of normalized deviance (e.g. sanay na sa lagay, sanay sa maraming “health breaks”, passive versus pro-active in innovating to help make basic services people-centered), the entrenched pattern won’t easily be broken. Heck, the cause-effect relationship is quite hard to pinpoint because of the chaotic mess of interrelationships that have forged over the years. Finger pointing and the blame game cannot be done here.

It is difficult to be cognizant of what one knows and then question if it ought to be unlearned. We’re just not used to doing this. I mean, why do you need to subject “filtered water” to the filtration process again right? Apparently for us human beings, the process has to be done every so often to stumble after and get a few inches closer to the ideal. Who can blame these people who don’t want to unlearn? These truths and beliefs that one has nurtured and lived by are not easy to throw away or question off the bat. There IS comfort in the familiar. After this one big baby step, identifying one’s “blind spots” and growth points, assessing if said spots/points are indeed worthy of unlearning, and then re-learning can then be considered.

This first baby step of unlearning and obtaining new tricks can only be done with other people serving as (objective) mirrors to what one may be so used to seeing every single day of one’s life. Abnormal as it may seem, request a group of your pals / fellow leaders to pinpoint your weaknesses and make them tell it straight to your face. Not only does that require a touch of madness and pinch of courage (for both parties), but a hefty spoonful of humility is direly needed by the one asking for the punches, so to speak.

As my friend Kevin from Tuloy Tulay learned a few hours ago (while Clang, Emman, Ayie, and the grand entrance awardee Dapor were contiunuously posing questions about Kevin’s on-going project), a fresh pair of eyes is needed to push the envelope of one’s vision. Sometimes, we need to be placed in the hot seat to help us clarify and refine the vision we forged as well as tweak the concrete steps to achieve it. Randy Pausch aptly summed it up when he said that “the brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” Let the brick walls of difficult questions be made manifest. Nothing can be more exciting than challenges to one’s dream after all. Di ba minsan mas masarap kumain ng chips pag may kaagaw ka? :p

Take a few hits from your teammates and friends. It will likely hurt at first. Might even bruise your ego. Rest assured, these hits are “wake up calls” (as Kevin put it) for the difficult questions that one will have to face. Believe me, these types of I-cannot-sleep-because-these-questions-are-bothering-me are priceless and are best encountered before an event or project has reached the midpoint.

I believe the questions that can be posed at the moment are:

  • What are the partial truths in my comfort zone? How has this shaped my dialogues with others?
  • What are the partial truths of other people which I do not hear due to my blind spots?
  • Do I still openly listen (i.e. I do not sift through others’ views and take what I can use for my own
    points) though I personally do not like what the other person has to say?
  • When it comes to conversations, meetings or dialogues, am I more tactical than relational?
  • The recent events that transpired in the Quirino Grandstand have shown the good, the bad and the ugly.

    We heard of some of our OFWs getting sacked from their jobs simply for being Filipino. Other stories show denial of one’s own nationality for fear of being harmed, despised or shunned. A teenage Filipina residing in Hongkong who was being harassed by her classmates said in an interview, “I told them ‘I’m Indonesian! I’m Indonesian! I’m not Filipino!’“

    We have heard the inimical and edgy statements by various government officials and civilians, both from Hongkong and the Philippines. Continuous finger pointing and Pontius Pilate hand washing permeate our television sets and newspapers. The situation has grown tense. The level of trust between our countries is in the ICU unit and any kind of mistake, be it major major or tiny tiny, can further add fuel to the fire.

    ———————————————————————————–

    “Our talking and listening often fails to solve complex problems because of the way that most of us talk and listen most of the time.

    Our most common way of talking is telling: asserting the truth about the way things are and must be, not allowing that there might be other truths and possibilities.

    And our most common way of listening is not listening: listening only to our own talking, not to others.

    This way of talking and listening works fine for solving simple problems, where an authority or expert can work through the problem piece by piece, applying solutions that have worked in the past. But a complex problem can only be solved peacefully if the people who are part of the problem work together creatively to understand their situation and to improve it.

    Our common way of talking and listening therefore guarantees that our complex problems will either remain stuck or will get unstuck only by force…

    My favorite movie about getting unstuck is the comedy Groundhog Day. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a cynical, self-centered television journalist who is filming a story about Groundhog Day, February 2, in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvannia. He despises the assignment and the town. The next morning, he wakes up to discover, with horror, that it is still February 2, and that he has to live through these events again. This happens every morning: he is stuck in reliving the same day over and over. He explains this to his producer Rita, but she laughs it off. He tries everything he can order to break this pattern – getting angry, being nice, killing himself – but nothing works. Eventually he relaxes into appreciating the present, and opens himself up to the town and to Rita. Only then does he wake up to a new days and a better future.

    Many of us are like Phil Connors. We get stuck by holding on tightly to our opinions and plans and identities and truths. But when we relax and are present and open up our minds and hearts and wills, we get unstuck and we unstick the world around us.

    I have learned that the more open I am – the more attentive I am to the way things are and could be, around me and inside me; the less attached I am to the way things ought to be – the more effective I am in helping to bring forth new realities. And the more I work in this way, the more present and alive I feel. As I have learned to lower my defenses and open myself up, I have become increasingly able to help better futures be born.

    The way we talk and listen expresses our relationship with the world. When we fall into the trap of telling and of not listening, we close ourselves off from being changed by the world and we limit ourselves to being able to change the world only by force. But when we talk and listen with an open mind and an open heart and an open spirit, we bring forth our better selves and a better world. ”

    – Adam Kahane, author of “Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening and Creating New Realities”

    ————————————————

    In our everyday conversations with other people, we all operate on a common assumption: when we say something, the receiver will understand it perfectly.

    As we all know, assumptions are dangerous. When we assume, we draw certain (imagined) conclusions and formulate (somewhat educated) guesses. What I’m trying to say is that we have all been burned once or twice because of maling akala (incorrect assumption).

    Why does our real message get lost in translation? Because all individuals have filters and, whether we accept it or not, filters complicate communication. Here’s a quick rundown of a number of things that can skew the real message that we want to communicate or water down what we should have heard:

    • Preoccupation
      Mind wandering
      Past experiences
      Self-esteem
      Status in a group
      Emotional state
      Bias / prejudice / stereotypes
      Physical state
      Physical state
      Volume of voice
      Articulateness
      Language differences
      Amount of information
      Culture

    We sometimes forget that most of the people we talk to do not have our point of view.

    They did not have the same unique family background, education, and childhood experiences. Our historical melodies have distinct timbres and rhythms which evoke distinct undertones that other people may not necessarily comprehend or appreciate at first. We may be using the same words but these “common words” may bear different definitions to the persons in communication.

    In short, they are not us. We cannot assume that they perfectly understand the text and the subtext always, all the time.

    The first step towards open talking is the acknowledgement that you “do not know the truth about anything.” (Easier said than done eh?) The crux of the matter is that the root of not listening is knowing.

    If there is one thing that I always try to remember in any dialogue that I am in, it is this: the listener also has other truths which may simply be striking my blind spots – the things that aren’t in my line of vision because of the truths I have nurtured and lived comfortably with.

    It is better when we talk with the point of view of the learner foremost in our minds. This difficult step is something that we have to deliberately take if we are to create new realities and help bring about desired futures. Honestly, it took awhile for me to practice this. In my view, there is weight and worth in making an effort of stepping into another person’s shoes and walking around in their skin so that real communication can happen.

    The person at the receiving end of the message has an equally important role as well. He or she must listen, give feedback, pose questions or acknowledge commonalities and differences. In other words, he or she ought to participate in the conversation.

    Peter Senge said that

    “Listening requires opening ourselves. Our typical patterns of listening in difficult situations are tactical, not relational. We listen for what we expect to hear. We sift through others’ views for what we can use to make our own points. We measure success by how effective we have been in gaining advantage for our favored positions. Even when these motives are covered by a shield of politeness, it is rare for people with something at stake truly to open our minds to discover the limitations in their own ways of seeing and acting.”

    The person sending the message must likewise provide the open spaces for the receiver to pose said questions, listen to the receiver and be sensitive to what he or she may not be hearing. It is an iterative rather than a linear process. They did not call it dialogue – dia (across) and legein (speak) referring to two or more people in conversation – if it was only for one person talking down and nobody listening.

    ————————————————

    In school, we were wired – no wait, brainwashed – to think that there is only one right answer. Mathematical equations forced us to use various ways to get to that one right answer that our teacher already had in his/her answer key. During class recitation in Biology or Chemistry, it was apparent that the teacher wanted to hear the specific scientific term or equation that was in our respective textbooks. Majority of our lives in school – from age 6 to 18 or so – we were all in pursuit of that ONE right answer that would help us reap awards and recognition.

    It is the same “There is only one right answer” attitude that has freaked out my fellow fresh grads last year as well as this year (perhaps even next year?). I have met with some of them and I hear the same concern only phrased differently: How do you know what you want and recognize that it’s actually what you want? How do you make the right decision?

    This perennial question shakes them to their core perhaps due to the attitude that has been subconsciously drilled inside our heads: that we had to find the one right answer so that we don’t mess up and make a mistake. We have been brought up in a society that expects us to get it right lest you be ridiculed for your decision.

    But then there is no one right answerespecially when it comes to systemic and complex societal divides that have been brought about by various stakeholders and interrelationships over a significant period of time. The evolution of how leaders respond to societal change is likewise hard proof of not having one magic bullet that will solve everything.

    The Quirino Grandstand incident drew a lot of potential “answers” to the messy systemic symptom that has again manifested. Yet, it is likewise during this time that openly talking and listening openly can come in handy. Suspending our prejudices, setting aside our emotional state and using common language are just a few of the actions that we can take to address the “filters” that will perpetually hound us. We have the opportunity to truly share our minds, wills and hearts.

    This incident has brought out the good in the Filipino. I have read blogs and seen videos that show both Pinoys/Pinays and foreigners alike showing how proud they are of our People. More than that, my reason is simple: we are a resilient bunch of people who are still hopeful despite the despondency that others seem to shove to our faces. Sabi nga nila, ang pag-asa ay ang pagtanaw sa posibilidad ng imposible.

    Kailan pa nga ba maipapakita ang kayang makamit ng ating bansa kundi sa panahong hindi pinaniniwalaan na mayroon pang pagbabagong maaaring mangyari?

    ———————————————————————-

    “Who we are might be predetermined. The path we follow is always of our own choosing. We should never allow our fears or the expectations of others, to set the frontiers of our destiny. Your destiny can’t be changed but it can be challenged.”

    (posted on Facebook May 1, 2010)

    You get what you give.

    On the way home from the Dialogues@Starbucks sponsored by OneTama last Thursday, I found myself still mulling over the challenge that had been posed: “Because this country is as much as YOURS as it is the next president’s, have you thought about who YOU will be under a new administration?”

    We have seen the onslaught of candidate profiles, platforms and stands in the last couple of months. Exciting debates, infectious election jingles, and mudslinging fests conquered our televisions and print media as well. Opinions abound about candidates and even the present administration, with some too gauche to see the light of print. Clearly, everyone has been focused on D-day and whose candidate has the better platform, better track record, better “everything”.

    But have we stopped to think about what the act of voting means to us as individuals? Not all voter education seminars tell us that the moment we shade the “bilog na hugis itlog”, we not only vote for a candidate but we also exercise our responsibility as a citizen of this nation. You vote for yourself! Jor-El Soyangco of OneTama tagged this as the “Dual Motion of Voting”. To be honest, I was taken aback by the suddenness of how he stated the obvious.

    By the simple act of voting, we affirm our duty to be a responsible citizen from May 11 and beyond. In the course of the discussion over glazed bite-sized donuts and cinnamon rolls, it was clear to everyone that the exercise of democracy should never be a one-time thing. It takes two to tango.

    Time and again, we have strived to hold our national officials accountable. In Edsa Dos, people took to the streets because former President Estrada needed to answer to the people for what he did (and did not do). Our interest in Senate inquiries during the ZTE fiasco and Fertilizer fund scam also show our pursuit for accountability as a vital ingredient for good governance. However, in the course of our relentless complaining and bad-mouthing of the people in power, we seemed to have forgotten the role that individual Filipinos play in the systemic sludge that we have found ourselves in.

    When one gets pulled over by the MMDA, slip a five-hundred-peso bill and all will be forgotten. Do a stop dance while crossing the street instead of using the overpass since it’s tiring to do the latter. Our individual actions are just as important as the systemic changes implemented by the President.

    At this point in time, the question really is – Do we hold ourselves accountable as much as we hold our candidates accountable? Or do we say that the government should be more responsible in bringing about a better nation?

    AIM Professor Jacinto Gavino said “You can’t be part of the solution if you don’t see yourself as part of the problem… Kailangan may konti kang bahid.” We are equally responsible for our country as the government officials who have been put into power.

    As we count the days before our first automated elections, may we bear in mind that we all play a part in the development of our Motherland. It takes a nation to build a nation.

    You get what you give.

    ———————–
    HOW to VOTE for YOURSELF (what I learned from the OneTama Dialogues@Starbucks)

    1. List down 5 traits/characteristics which your next president ought to have.
    2. Draw a table with 11 columns and 6 rows. In the first row, write the names of the presidentiables (Acosta, Aquino, Delos Reyes, Estrada, Gordon, Madrigal, Perlas, Teodoro, Villar). Leave the last column blank for now.
    3. Rank each candidate based on the five traits you wrote. 1 = lowest, 10 = highest.
    4. After that, write your name on the last column (yes, you read that right! haha). Rate yourself based on the traits you demand from your presidentiable🙂

    OneTama also proposed to have the State of the Citizen Assessment. Truly, it is high time for citizens to assess themselves. A year from now, we will have the SONA by the next President. Perhaps we can also have a SOCA (:p) and check if we held our end of the bargain.

    You can also use the Score card developed by the Movement for Good Governance. Access it at http://mggphils.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/2010-election-scorecard-for-voters/

    (posted in Facebook on June 7, 2010)

    I have always believed that all things happen for a reason. Triumphs, mistakes, tribulations and determination are but threads of various colors woven into an elaborate tapestry others will fondly call destiny. Some would shudder to use the term “destiny” because of its two conflicting definitions; it is the inevitable or the changeable. I personally believe in the latter.

    Though I am a firm believer in our ability to influence fate, I am quite embarrassed to admit that I am also a sucker for those “magic moments” – when circumstance and grace converge and enable us to get a glimpse of the long-awaited ideal. I have always been on the lookout for those rare magic moments and undoubtedly, the Tuloy Tulay (Building Bridges) Leadership Camp for the Youth that happened from April 19 to 23 was nothing short of enchanting. The inside joke of the Tulayers is that our instant connection and natural affinity was a fortunate accident – serendipity. I guess you can say that in this particular case, the path seemed to have chosen the walker rather than the other way around.

    The Bridging Leadership Camp for the youth of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) – TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Societal Divides is the first of its kind in the Philippines. Our pioneering batch of 16 youth-leaders from the National Capital Region, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro and Roxas City were fortunate to have undergone guided activities, processing sessions, community immersions, and dialogues with distinguished AIM professors and change-agents that inculcated the Bridging Leadership framework in us.

    Tuloy Tulay has influenced and continuously affects the way I follow, lead, and perceive dynamics within a community and Philippine society itself. In “magic moment” terms (sort of), the spell was cast and I chose to fall for it hook, line and sinker. Indulge me as I share some insights:

    a) The journey is equally important as the destination. One must place necessary value in viewing the process by which a leader leads. I remember during my high school and college days that our organizations solely focused on projects – planning, implementation, and evaluation. I had always assumed that leaders are exclusively judged by what they finished. We did not make it a habit to deliberately look back to the vision-mission statement to ascertain if our projects were in conjunction with it. We were never trained that as leaders, it was extremely vital to achieve personal clarity first – know the values that will govern our actions, take stock of our leadership capital, learning style – before leading others. I re-learned that a leader is only as good as how he or she achieved the output. Some of the questions which will bombard a youth-leader of a student organization or someone at the forefront of community organizing are:

    • Does the team have a shared vision of the future? Does each member understand his/her personal vision-mission and leadership capital?
    • As a leader, do I ensure that members are able to participate and have their voices amplified?
    • Do I always go back to the objectives – the reasons for my ownership of the advocacy – once I see some cracks in the “responsive institutions”?
    • Do I constantly make sure that everyone understands how everything works?
    • In the work of co-ownership within the group, how do I address the critical quandary that accompanies it – building trust?

    The camp opened my eyes to what can easily be overlooked in the work of leadership: the process by which the shared vision is achieved.

    b) It is all about the view from the top and the view on the ground. In Stephen Covey’s popular book, he differentiated a manager from a leader. If both of individuals were in a coconut plantation, the former will be the one overseeing the laborers whacking their way on the ground whereas the latter will be situated at the top of a coconut tree to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. I would like to believe that a true leader knows how to shuttle back and forth between these two personas. Since Tuloy Tulay, I found that because I re-learned how to listen, observe, talk and engage with others, I acquired a heightened awareness of knowing when to get my hands dirty on the ground and when to step back to see the macro perspective.

    In the recent automated elections, I was the head of the PPCRV – Voters’ Assistance Desk (VAD) of one of the polling centers here in Las Pinas City. I was assigned just two short weeks prior to the elections and it was my first time to be a PPCRV volunteer. Though we were pressed for time, VAD was able to have a meeting so that all members would know the role they had to play. At the time, I believed that letting them know the various functions was a way to empower them to see the essence of their work in the greater scheme of things. Come Election day when everyone was comfortable in their respective roles, I found myself stepping back from the manager role to see how everything else was going. That was the time when I saw the ruckus due to the queuing system (or lack thereof). No one seemed to see the need to address it and the voters were starting to get agitated. It was funny because I suddenly recalled what I learned in Tuloy Tulay at that moment: You cannot expect new outcomes from the same old system.

    So I found myself starting to talk to a few friends about addressing the problem that was right in front of us. Fortunately, a good number of them shared the same sentiments and we believed that having 13 lines to accommodate each cluster precinct would be the most efficient manner. We pitched the idea and got shot down thrice. Eventually, a friend of mine convinced those in Crowd Control to give our idea a shot. Our small group of yuppies convened yet again to get a sense of the “how” of our plan then proceeded to implement it. To cut a long story short, a more efficient manner of falling in line was crafted. We were able to implement a systemic change and thus obtained new outcomes. Apart from having order within our group, it was just as vital to obtain some semblance of harmony in the larger system.

    c) WE are all part of the problem. In my college years as a Development Studies major, I have learned from the countless lectures and field work that development workers can never claim to be the panacea for any community. I believe I had always seen societal problems from a participant-observer’s point of view and responded based on my duty of state at the time (i.e. college student, member of a barangay, etc). Yet I realized in the camp that it is unwise to put credence on the 1960s slogan “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” The societal context of our time demands us to think, act, and react differently. As Adam Kahane put it, we have to be part of the problem in order to be part of the solution. He also said that what we do and not do contributes to the status quo and if we cannot see this, then we have no basis for addressing the situation. This bold acceptance of being part of the problem’s existence is crucial before any real change can come about. In Filipino, this is called the stage of “pag-ako” (acceptance of the responsibility).

    The complexity of societal problems and interdependency of visible and invisible changes is too much for any single person to handle. I stressed the “we” because one can only do so much. Individually, we have more to give than we realize. What more if we combine our respective potentials? After all, five loaves and two fishes cannot feed the thousands who are hungry.

    The magic of the “fortunate accident” that is Tuloy Tulay continues to pursue me in my daily life. It has enabled me to excel more in my work to empower communities at the grassroots to bring about quality education in public schools as well as learn more about my emerging future of helping fellow youth-leaders learn about themselves and the process by which they lead. Each day is a magical opportunity to know more about how I can best apply the Bridging Leadership framework at my current context as well as rediscover how I naturally use what I learned during the camp in my day-to-day activities.

    Largely, this miraculous journey has been about gaining more knowledge – about myself, the people around me, the world – and falling in love again with the whole of mankind in the process. How did love come up in this journey? Simple. I uncovered my center once more by rediscovering my humanity and how to bridge the divides that plague mankind. Ultimately, the camp enabled me to uncover the anchor of my being and the wind to my sails.

    MRT rides are always an experience.

    Once the train chugged away from Taft Avenue, a woman immediately caught my eye. No, it was not because of what she was wearing. She was sleeping very soundly actually. But her sleeping position was quite… memorable. Perhaps she was dead tired or lost a few good winks the past week. Whatever the reason was, she must have been sooo tired to sustain a difficult position: her face was parallel to the ceiling, her mouth wide open for the world to see.

    Boy, did everyone stare or what.

    I found it quite interesting. No, I wasn’t interested in the woman per se but the attention she generated. The people around her were gawking at her. Yes, gawking. Some concentrated on her face first then proceeded to look at her outfit then her bag, among other things. Most of them had curious looks on their faces, visibly intrigued by the sight.

    I was then distracted by a little girl who was sitting on her mother’s lap. She was around 4 years old, had a pink shirt on and was quite amused by her surroundings. She had a weak smile on her face whilst taking in the sights of the exciting train ride she was in. Her head slowly swiveled around the train, as if deliberately surveying the women around her. Then she suddenly stopped and stared at someone. She then blurted out to her mommy while pointing her little finger, “Is she a boy or a girl mommy?”

    A young Muslim woman dressed in full regalia was standing a few feet away.

    The young Muslim lady gave an easy smile to the child. The mom, visibly embarrassed by what happened, flashed an apologetic grin. The little girl found out from her mom that the person she was referring to was a woman; her mom explained that the woman was only dressed in clothes that the little girl is not used to seeing.

    ————————————————————————–

    When people are compelled to confront a difficult problem, the knee-jerk reaction is to quickly respond to resolve it. However, there are a number of reactions that arise prior to resolution.

    Some will gawk at the crisis first, taking in the view in all its glory.
    Others may wish to observe or poke through the other aspects of the perceived crisis.
    Still others will pose questions, test their hypotheses, or ask help from other people.

    The two situations in the MRT present various ways by which people normally react to unusual circumstances. I believe it gives us a glimpse of how certain types of leaders act.

    There’s a fair amount of leaders who, upon detecting challenges, instantly react as he/she sees fit. Sometimes, these leaders may gawk at the crisis, perhaps download past leadership solutions without deliberately stopping to sit down and sense the situation. They are more concerned with solving the problem quickly than allocating time to pose questions to their followers and ask them if it is, indeed, a problem to begin with. Having been wired to react instinctively, they draw conclusions right away and act based on it (along with unchecked assumptions).

    I have seen student-leaders who are well-meaning but have focused on the oft-repeated (and “dangerous”) leadership-related quote – “We are judged by what we have finished, not by what we have started”. The result? Project-driven student organizations. In one of my conversations with student-leaders of an Ateneo student organization, they expressed concern over other orgs coming up with projects left and right while they were still in the process of preparing for their projects. They shared that a lot of orgs were getting “popular” because of the constant bombardment of projects.

    I believe that if there is such a thing as “Facebook status anxiety” (urge to continuously update one’s status) then there can be such a thing as “Project anxiety”. After all, having projects promotes the organization and enables name recall. Think of it as commercials to remind the clients of the product. The danger with being caught up in the momentum of “Project Anxiety” is crafting projects that are not directly needed by the community.

    Yet in the same conversation with said student-leaders, I found out they crafted a method by which to generate ideas for projects or activities that are proposed by members themselves. Talk about power to the people! Apparently, one of the reasons why it is taking quite some time before they implement projects is because they are still in the dialogue phase with the members. They have taken the time to engage with the members, and perhaps test their hypothesis regarding the importance of projects – resonant projects that respect what members also value are more successful versus that of “imposed from the top” knee-jerk reaction projects. Very rare stuff.

    There are not a lot of youth-leaders who think the way these students think. To actually take the time to hear what the members have to say – that’s not a typical perspective that is taught or observed among the young people.

    Adam Kahane was spot-on when he said that we have all been used to always talking rather than developing the equally relevant skill of listening.

    In school, for example, we had painstakingly numerous exercises for writing and speaking. I remember the countless hours of slaving over essays, composition papers, reflection papers, and thesis (don’t get me started on this one!) as well as the scores of oral recitations, declamations, speech fests, debates and group reporting. Our listening skills were not subjected to the same rigor.

    More often than not, a good number of leaders come into a meeting with a project in mind which he/she will fight tooth and nail for. This clouds their ability to openly listen to new ideas and innovative solutions. These leaders simply “listen” to what followers suggest but foremost in their minds are obtaining parts of what followers said which will support what the leaders assert. In short, they do not fully listen at all. In this type of “dialogue”, the leader may win the fight but the whole community will lose the battle.

    Leaders young and old may want to get unsettled every once and awhile by observing oneself whenever one facilitates a meeting or a planning session. Observe what you do and what you do not do. Blind spots can either become your strength or your fatal flaw when in the dialogic process.

    • Do you open the floor for reactions towards the situation in the community?
    • Do you have a “safe space” in your team that fosters open talking rather than talking politely to each other?
    • Do you and your team go the extra mile to listen to the people you lead? Or…
    • Do we instinctively download past leadership solutions and call the shots based on what worked before?
    • Are the leaders and the community on the same page with respect to expectations of where the organization wants to go?

    There are more questions that may crop up and I am certain that the personal observations can bring more queries to the surface. As we all strive to bring our organizations to places where it has never been, let our vision, strategies and projects be culled from the followers themselves.

    May leaders learn to gawk at the situation, ask difficult questions, immerse and poke into the organizational frequency of the community, ask help from the followers, then collaborate and launch into an open dialogue with people we lead.

    The journey is just as important as the destination.

    I am still a student.

    Though it has been 1 year, 1 month and 17 days since I started working, I still have my fair share of readings, “seatworks”, papers, and the classic I-can-live-with-you-I-can-live-without you orals. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a blog to illustrate the difference between college life and that of the “real world”. No siree. This is actually my means of “launching” this little project I am about to start. Let me share a little history as to how this came about.

    Tacitly exploring.

    A month before the graduation of Class 2009, student organizations in the campus finished conducting their respective elections and announced the new breed of leaders who would be at the helm for the next school year. For me, this was a time of early goodbyes and interesting conversations about the future of the organization. It was during this time where the incoming Chairperson (equivalent of President in other orgs) approached me and asked if I had any more advice to give for possible blind alleys that the org can run into. I distinctly remember her teasing me to write blogs on specific experiences I had and possibly narrate problems encountered as well as how it was addressed. You can think of it as her way of saying, “share your leadership journey and maybe I can learn more”. We settled on meeting each other every so often so that she could vent her concerns, discuss solutions on potential problems, talk about navigating the org to a certain direction, and simply share stories about the growth of the organization.

    ‘There are no Lone Ranger leaders’.

    It wasn’t until after the AIM Tuloy Tulay Bridging Leadership camp (where I met fellow youth-leaders and obtained new-found energy) that I fully understood what my friend truly wanted to tell me. I believe John C. Maxwell captured her concern succinctly: “Every leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him… What prompts men and women to become leaders is due to the influence of another leader.”

    “John Maxwell conducted informal polls in his leadership conferences on what prompted men and women to become leaders.” Below are the results:

    Natural gifting

    10%

    Result of Crisis

    5%

    Influence of Another Leader

    85%

    One of the “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” is simple yet often taken for granted: it takes a leader to raise up a leader. After Tuloy Tulay, this unexplainable renewal sprung forth in me and I found solace in learning each of my co-Tulayer’s stories about how to conduct dialogues on peace and development for youth, re-assess processes to ensure co-ownership of projects, and focus on how to level-off objectives so that a win-win situation is achieved both by organizers and the community. Basically, I found home in the community of youth-leaders I am fortunate to be part of.

    So after some thought, I told myself, “Yeah it’s high time to write this all down.”

    This blog will bear witness to my triumphs and travails as a youth-leader and a young development professional. I guess this will be a way of “testing” myself on the application of what I learned about the Bridging Leadership framework, a bit of project management, process observation, “the open way of talking and listening”, and then some!

    Boy, this is going to be an interesting few months of observing, reflecting, and writing. Told you I’m still a student!

    “In embarking on an external journey, we find that an internal journey has also taken place.” More often than not, the steps we take have an equal and opposite change in us. Compared to the direct effect of said steps (i.e. burning of calories, possibly muscle strain?), the effects of the internal changes are more elusive and needs utilization of brain juices as well as the good ole thumper.

    I guess I’d like to think of myself as a wayfarer – “a traveller especially on foot” – heartily breathing in the view and musing on the journey that will lead to the longed for destination. Choosing “The Caminante” as the title of this blog was intentional; you can say that the work of Antonio Machado spoke to me. In Machado’s poem, the path of the Caminante is forged by his/her own footsteps. I believe this will happen to me as well – nay, I KNOW that this is the future I will give birth to! Paths forged by my own footsteps.

    It’s going to be quite a journey – externally and internally. You guys with me on this one? Would appreciate some companions on this long-winded road.