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The Eight Keys of Success

By Senator Blas F. Ople
President of the Senate

Excerpts from a Commencement speech at the Graduation exercises of Fortress College, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, Sunday, March 26, 2000

I am delighted and grateful for this opportunity to visit the city of Kabankalan and to participate in the commencement exercises of Fortress College. Dr. Tingson and I became good friends at the Constitutional Commission of 1986, both of us having been appointed by President Corazon Aquino, among a group of 48 persons chosen for their probity, integrity, patriotism and nationalism. We who served in the Con-com which framed the present 1987 Constitution will always remember Greg Tingson for his Christian boldness in introducing the word “love” in the preamble of the Philippine Constitution, and then by implication, putting the imprint of the Christian Bible on the very face of our fundamental law.

My friends, Kabankalan City is therefore fortunate to have the Fortress College in its midst, as a guarantee that a high quality of Christian education is made available to its people. The city is also fortunate in the loyalty of its native sons like Dr. Greg Tingson, who dedicate their talents and their entire lives to the welfare of their beloved communities.

My friends, you belong to the first batch of graduates in the new millennium of Christianity whose Great Jubilee is being observed this year throughout the world. It is said that in this Jubilee year 2000, the Lord Jesus Christ will be disposed to be even more kind, more merciful, and more generous to those who believe in Him. May He therefore cast an approving eye on all your efforts at self-improvement. As the Good Book says, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.”

As one who has explored the world’s vast storehouse of knowledge in a wide range of disciplines, I can assure you that there is no definitive text encapsulating the secrets of success. But I believe this sort of wisdom exists and may be summarized as the Eight Keys of Success.

The first key to success, worldly or otherwise, is to set a goal for one’s self. Most of mankind get born and die without ever knowing what they really want.

The second key is to develop a positive outlook in life. Problems are often opportunities in disguise. As someone has said, pessimism is just a state of mind but optimism is a strategy for living.

The third key is to develop an active, rather than a passive, view of one’s environment. Successful men do not merely wait for things to happen to them. They take initiatives. They try to make things happen. They create their own challenges and opportunities.

The fourth key is to stand by one’s principles when life’s crises must be faced. The test of character, in the phrase of William James, is not in choosing the path of least resistance but the path of the greatest traction. The temptation to make the easy choice must be resisted. This merely means that most times, the harder choice is the correct one.

The fifth key is to be absolutely dependable and trustworthy, so that your own colleagues know they can trust your integrity even in the most difficult moments. The trust of colleagues and subordinates is what can propel you to success.

The sixth key is a commitment to continuing personal and professional growth. Most people stop growing after leaving school. Education is for life.

The seventh and last key is to live a frugal and disciplined life, shunning all forms of waste, whether of time, talent, money or other resources. Life itself is a finite and most precious gift, and wasting it through frivolity and self-indulgence must be offensive to the Giver of Life.

For most of us who speak at commencement exercises, of course, these formulas for success represent wisdom after the fact. I have never really sat down at any point of in my life to analyze the secrets of success. Most of those who are acclaimed for their success were too busy answering the challenges of the moment, which very likely they have themselves created, to bother about large and sweeping principles.

I still vividly recall my own graduation night in the plaza of my hometown, Hagonoy, Bulacan, on March 23, 1941. It was the first time ever that I gave a formal speech, as valedictorian of the graduating class, which I had composed with great care and committed to memory. It must have been a flawless delivery. But what the audience, including my classmates, did not know, was that I was wearing ill-fitting leather shoes borrowed for the occasion from an affluent uncle, and my aching feet nearly ruined my performance.

Few of us will ever have the leisure that afforded Lord Chesterfield the opportunity to write the letters to his sons that, until today, represent the best advice on how to navigate the frail craft of one’s life through the shoals of a dangerous and treacherous world. But commencement exercises do afford such an opportunity. The commencement speaker is a surrogate parent giving frank but sympathetic advice to his own children who are about to leave on an exciting but dangerous journey — the journey of life.

Unfortunately or not, the advice will mean nothing until the principles of success are internalized in the convictions of a young man or woman setting out on that all-important journey. He or she will have to weigh the counsels of fear and hope contending inside the heart. In the end, we are most answerable to ourselves and not to any jury. And that is the eighth key to success. To thine own self be true.

In closing may I wish you all Godspeed as you leave your beloved Alma Mater to go forth into the real world. You will discover again and again that the Bible is your best companion. Certainly, there is no more forceful argument for success than the exhortation: “Look for the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and the rest will be added unto you.”