(Referring to my eldest brother as a role model of success.)
My 7-year old daughter asked me out of the blue whether she would be rich when she grew up. I was startled especially that she asked it while I was accompanying her to the bathroom last night and I was just getting impatient to go back to my laptop. Well, what could I say?
I began to think about my eldest brother, the most successful person in our brood. My mother always believed that he was successful because he always honored them–our parents, that is. Whenever he was being criticized or scolded by either of our parents, he would just keep silent, patiently listen, bow down his head, and never answer back. (Of course, there are other ways that a person could show respect to his/her parents, but not answering back or being rebellious must be the most obvious act of respect parents could see.) I suppose she’s right. After all, it’s in the Bible:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3 (NIV)
And so I told my daughter to be always respectful and obedient to us her parents. I used my brother as an example and I cited the Bible verse as well.
However, there are other factors behind my brother’s success, and I slowly enumerated them, explaining them carefully to my daughter as best as I could.
1. Motivation and clear goals. My brother had a motivation to become both successful and rich. Although we had everything we needed–we owned a house and even had two at one point–attended good schools, and had our own means of transportation–a land cruiser, jeepney, and car at different times–we still couldn’t say that we were living comfortably. My father was a family driver to a very powerful business tycoon during the Marcos administration, and he made sure that none of his sons would end up like him–to the point that he would not allow my brothers to learn driving. But my brother wanted a car for himself (who doesn’t, by the way?), so he determined that before he reached the age of 30, he would have his own house and car.
His other motivation was bigger than the material things he dreamed of having, however. He married just before he turned 18 or when he was still in college. Apparently, my sister-in-law came from a family that is considered as one of the old rich of Manila and some of her ancestors even served as government officials and war veterans. Her family looked down on our family, especially on my brother who had not yet finished his college education then. Thus, to gain their respect and provide a good future for his own children became his strongest motivation for success.
2. Passion. My brother studied and worked at the same time. He eventually finished his college degree—Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Communications Engineering. However, by the time he finished school, his family was already broken. He devoted more time to his work and we saw less and less of him as he tried to build a career. By the age of 26 or 27, he was able to buy his own car and house. More, he had already traveled all over Asia and the US by the time he was 30.
He loved his job so much. Almost each time he would get hired by one company, another would try to pirate him. Apparently, he redesigned a robot for one of the first few companies he worked for and he became known throughout the industry since then, maintaining the robots of other companies as well. His specialty was robotics and he even worked alongside scientists of different nationalities when he stayed in the US. His name is known throughout the semiconductors industry in the country, especially among top executives.
I remember him telling me the famous adage about choosing the work that you will love so you will never have to work for life before I entered the university. I think my brother’s a fine example of someone who has done exactly that saying suggests and succeeded as it has predicted too. And so I also told my daughter to choose a career that she would love–something that she would enjoy because it tickles her interests and curiosity, it enables her to put her skills into good use, at the same time gives her enough challenge to grow career-wise and as an individual. Frankly though, it was quite a challenge explaining to her this part.
4. Education. I know there are people who did not finish school but are able to run a successful business. However, I don’t want my daughter to have the wrong message–that it’s okay not to study since she may still become successful even if she doesn’t have a college degree or has poor grades in school. Sure, she may but why else would her father work abroad just to make sure she and her sister get good education? Not to mention he had the opportunity to work abroad because of his educational background. And yes, even her uncle had to finish his college education, too.
5. Right attitude. Success did not bloat my brother’s head and this is what I want my child to understand and model too, especially when she finally reaches her goals. You see, my personal annual income is probably worth just a few centavos compared to what my brother’s earning, but you’ll never see him dress in fancy clothes or drive fancy cars. In fact, even to this day and despite all the technology that one could see in his home, he still washes his own clothes–hand wash–and irons them, too. He also enjoys going to the wet market with his children and teaches them how to do the house chores. He’s also a great handyman–you won’t see him pay someone to fix a leak in his bathroom, etc. even if he could well afford it. When his children all left for college, he alone would clean the house and take care all of their plants and pets aside from the house chores he usually does. I guess my brother’s one of those people that you could truly call down to earth.
You would also never see him look down on anybody. He is one fine example of someone who makes friends easily and gets along well with just about every person from different walks in life. He shows respect even to people who had treated him or anyone in our family with indifference or disrespect. I don’t think I’ve ever heard my brother speak ill of others although he would sometimes joke about irritating people and situations. (In fact, when I was having problems with my mother-in-law, he was the first to advise me to “ignore her as her insults cannot really hurt me or any of our family members–they’re just words that carry no meaning, words spoken by someone who is not in her right mind, and I should not let her affect me”. He said that I should choose my battles and be pliant like the bamboo as the needs arise. I listened to him, and I think it was good that I did and dropped the charges I filed against my vexatious mother-in-law and just moved away.)
Most importantlly, however, he has faith that God will bless all his efforts.
As I tried to end my very enlightening conversation with my daughter, I reminded her to choose her friends well. That is, she should find someone who shares her interests, well-mannered, and would not urge her to do bad things. After all, the Bible says that “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV), and character has a lot to do with becoming as well as staying successful (or rich).
In the end, I assured my daughter that she will succeed, especially if she honors and delights in God (everything else follows). I wasn’t sure if I had satisfied her with my answers or if she even understood them at all. I only hope that when she grows up and start thinking about getting rich or successful again, she will remember our conversation and follow my advice.
Although it’s rather difficult finding the right words and it takes time to explain things, I still appreciate my daughter’s question. It reminds me of the things that are essential, including my duties as a mother. One of them is to lead my children to the right direction, arm them with everything they need to the best of my ability, so that their chances of success in life would be greater, and thereby bring glory not only to themselves, our family, and the community, but to God most of all.