Start 'Em Young
I have always championed entrepreneurship as a key ingredient to national development. The economic history of many progressive countries has been built on the shoulders of entrepreneurs who understood the needs of the times and, using their imagination and skills, proceeded to help build nations. Some of them even changed the world, and the way people view their world.
So I have always championed fostering the entrepreneurial skills and spirit of our people, particularly the youth. We cannot achieve true prosperity for as long as students would rather dream of becoming employees rather than entrepreneurs.
I also think that we can do this—foster entrepreneurial education—at a very young age. We need our young people to develop the habits and values of successful entrepreneurs. I am not an expert on child development but my experience has taught me that the core formative experiences of young people are critical in developing those values and skills.
At a young age—that age that serves a clean slate for critical habits and values to take root without any inhibiting factors—many successful entrepreneurs today have already exhibited signs of the character that helped them excel. Given this, the role of parents and teachers becomes extremely critical. They are ever-present in the formative years of individuals.
This was especially true in my case. My mother, Nanay Curing, taught me the foundational values and habits of entrepreneurship. It was not set in the four corners of the classroom but in the expansive space of the market where she sold shrimp and fish. She had no syllabus, she did not use any fancy words or complicated concepts, but just like all the mothers of the world, she used the experience as a teaching tool.
For instance, I learned at an early age how to set goals and execute. I acquired the confidence to turn ideas into reality. I also learned how to treat mistakes as learning opportunities. I absorbed all this watching and helping my mother in the market. I would see her buy shrimp and fish at auctions very early in the morning, then set up her stall in time for the early customers.
We would encounter many problems and I would see my mother put in the hard work and show persistence in the face of many obstacles. People have different levels of talents and intelligence but hard work and perseverance are the constant ingredients to success. At an early age, I discovered that rejection is not connected to failures.
That problem-solving attitude is very important to entrepreneurs. We do not look at the world and see how to make money out of people. Rather we look at the world, understand its needs and problems in order to provide solutions. I went into real estate because I saw a gap in the way we address the needs of people in terms of buying houses and lots. I offered an innovative way and the rest, as they say, is history.
This kind of thinking, some believe, cannot be taught; some people are born with it. Others believe such ability is teachable. If it can be taught, I believe it should be taught by parents and teachers at a young age. The foundation of the entrepreneurial spirit—problem-solving, hard work, perseverance, among others — needs to be built in homes and schools; not through lectures and seminars but through experience.
Parents emphasize the need for good values. I think those values should include those values that would help our country develop a cadre of entrepreneurs prepared to take on the task of building a nation, one enterprise at a time.