Achieving professional excellence

Cliché as it may sound, but the phrase “try and try until you succeed” can be turned into a battle cry for people who want to achieve professional excellence in whatever field of work they will choose.

For seasoned journalist, news anchor and award-winning documentarist Kara Patria David, her start in the broadcast industry was not exactly a rosy path. This Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service Awardee, Founder and President of Project Malasakit, and the country’s second Peabody awardee, admitted having had her share of rejections from among the broadcast networks she applied for work back in the 90s. Since she was more at home using Filipino, she confessed having difficulty with the English language, which was the norm in TV networks’ writing exams and script development back then.

“I really had a hard time, but it was GMA Network that gave me a chance to work first as a researcher/production assistant. It may not be a dream post but because I wanted to work in the media industry, I grabbed the opportunity,” she narrated during the second episode of “People of Excellence: Achieving Professional Excellence” webinar organized by Taiwan Excellence.

When David started working at GMA Network, she studied everything, from being a cameraman, a segment producer, and steadily rose from the ranks to become a news anchor and producer of documentaries.

Her rise to prominence was also the result of what she called “special accidents” that led to being assigned with important tasks, which she performed very well. She was also noticed for her other skills, and eventually got promoted.

But just like any professional, Kara came to a point that she wanted to quit, not because she doesn’t like her job or the company anymore, but more of lack of fulfillment, that she felt she was not being able to help those people she wanted to help. She recalled doing a documentary on malnutrition in the Philippines and interviewed three children several years back, and the documentary was noticed by several award-giving bodies. But every time she won an award, one of the kids would die.

So, she asked herself “is this job really the right one for me? I wondered, yes, we won awards for our story, but did we make an impact on our subjects’ lives? Did the lives of those we interviewed change?”

That’s when she decided to put up Project Malasakit Foundation to provide help in her own little way to those who need it. She decided to look for her purpose in life and in her work, found it, and continued to work up to this day.

And she remains to be a student of life who never stops learning. “If we stop learning, that’s when we stop growing,” she said. Which is why now, Kara teaches at the university, she does vlogs, but never tried her hands on being a “plantita.”

How important is achieving excellence? She emphasized “resting is better than quitting.” For her, rest is about doing something outside of work. She tried to engage in various interests like sports (triathlon). She may be tired physically, but it allowed her mind to rest by not thinking about work and released happy hormones. “That for me is rest so when I get back to work, my mind is refreshed.”

She suggests to those who may feel burned out, they can try mountain hiking, diving, or just go on an adventure. “This is also the reason why I went back to school to teach, and even earned a Master’s Degree that is not related to journalism.”

When it comes to success, for David, winning an award is also a good measure of her success, being the second Filipino to win a George Foster Peabody award, the most prestigious award for journalism in the world. “Winning an award is good but for me, the greatest award is being able to make an impact on the lives of other people, become an instrument of change, contribute to society and to excel with honor and integrity.”

She’s an icon in the Philippine News Industry who is multi-awarded world-wide. Just like Taiwan Excellence brands, it is not recognized by just Taiwan but also by award giving bodies globally.

As for lecturer, entrepreneur, author and life coach Francis Kong, he doesn’t waste his day not learning something. “I take note of what’s happening around me, and have a good glass of water and my supplements. I then open my laptop for my quiet time to read the Bible to strengthen myself to face the challenges of the day, then listen to the news and work the events/webinars for the day, and finally, to be with my family at the end of the day.”

The secret of successful people? He said the first thing that enters the mind defines the day. “Some will pray and say thank you to God, that I will do my best and God will take care of the rest. During all my events, I always pray extensively for me to have the love and wisdom to share to the people who will attend the event. That is extremely important.”

As a professional, Kong said it is important to have the skills and competence to determine the details related to a certain product, topic or task and more importantly, understand those details. For him, the night before an event, he already strategizes and plans by providing an outline or synopsis of the things he needed to do.

Amid all the developments in technology and things that attract people’s attention, the most important thing is the skill of “focus.” “Even if I have a computer, I still use my pen and notebook and list down all the things I need to do in bullet points,” Kong narrated.

When it comes to loving our work, Kong suggests that instead of saying “I love my job,” why not say “I love the fact that I have a job, and then I will work harder on myself and my job so that when I gain the competence and improve on my skills, the company may notice me. But if they don’t, I know that I am ready to face other companies who may need somebody like me. The mindset becomes important here.”

And for those who aspire for more success, do not be complacent. He said it’s important to not just remain successful on the same level but aspire for the next, higher level in the success ladder. “And as you learn more, win more and gain experience until you achieve mastery, that’s the time you can say ‘I love my job,’ where the motivation now becomes intrinsic because of your achievements.”

It is also important to rest, he added, to pace yourself but to never stop learning in order to achieve your dreams.

He explained that there are also some habits people need to remove, the biggest stumbling blocks to success and excellence, like the habit of “pwede na ‘yan” (that’s enough). “In the field of business and career, that’s only average, and you don’t get noticed compared to others. You need to go faster, higher and stronger.”

The second habit, he said, is “bahala na” (come what may), which is wanton disregard for careful planning and strategizing. It is important to strategize with the mindset of continuous improvement and not leave everything to chance to achieve success and attain excellence.

The third is entitlement. Entitlement, per se, is not bad if you deserve it, Kong said, but misplaced entitlement is. “What I learned in life is I do not deserve this, but God is gracious by granting me the opportunity to hope and get into the process of achieving excellence.”

Life is like a bicycle ride, he pointed out, that we should keep pedaling. People should not compare themselves to others but rather compete against themselves (am I a better version of myself compared to the one last night? Did I learn something new or a new accomplishment?). Success is what people see in others, he said, but what they don’t see is the process in achieving that success and the journey behind it.

Finally, he emphasized that we should never think that we are successful. Rather than thinking about it, we should think “progress.”

“What did I learn today, no matter how small? That’s cumulative advantage. You accumulate little successes until the end where it becomes exponential success. Don’t think about the success; the process going there is more important. That’s the secret of successful people: they don’t focus on themselves. Really successful people don’t even notice that they’re successful.”

As a parting word, Kong said that excellence is about delivering more than what is required to achieve exponential success. “There is no shortcut to life. There is always a cumulative building up of competence, together with the right mindset and perspective.”

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Introvert, wanderer, blogger, foodie, a hip-hop music writer, and one of the co-founders of a tech start-up company called GigsManila.