ESSAY: Karen Davila Answers the Question, “What Makes a Game Changer?”
February 4, 2019
Hard work works! Here’s one thing I want you to remember. There are no overnight successes in life. Well, not literally, at least. Overnight success is a phrase we love to use when something or someone wows the market, takes over in seemingly fast breath-taking speed, and becomes a sensation in what we feel was like a blink of an eye. The problem is, while we see the fame, money and success, the truth of the matter is, overnight successes really take more or less years. Mine took maybe…10 to 20 years.
I’ve been in the broadcasting industry for 25 years now. Starting my career fresh out of college from the University of the Philippines, I never dreamed of becoming a broadcast journalist. I honestly wanted to become international fashion designer Donna Karan and live in New York. I have to say that my career found me.
I first worked for a small morning show called “Business Today” on GMA 7, where I would wake up at 4AM every morning and work until the afternoon doing reportorial work. I started off with a salary of P5,000. Thank God, Starbucks didn’t exist back then. If not, I’d have nothing left after the price of a cup of coffee. Little did I know that from that time on to 25 years later, I would still be in the same career—doing the same thing day in and day out, and having an amazingly meaningful life while doing it. I have no magic bullet. Hard work works.
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Throughout the years I’ve been a broadcast journalist, I worked on most mediums and tried all fields. Early on, I anchored the news (Bandila, TV Patrol, Headlines, and even earlier, Saksi); reported, wrote and produced documentaries for The Correspondents and Krusada, which I love and miss; did daily radio commentaries on Pasada 630 and DZMM; and hosted a daily morning show Headstart on ANC. Most of these, I did daily and consistently for a period of 20 years. In journalism, you can’t become good at what you do overnight. The testing season can get tough, mistakes are costly and embarrassing, but like iron—all are necessary to hone you into gold.
This is what changes the game. Malcolm Gladwell said it best, “We become an expert on something after 10,000 hours of time put into it. Whether in sports, banking, finance, arts, teaching…there is something the daily grind of experience teaches us that gives us the blink of expertise after.” In other words, to have the skill of “blink” Gladwell tells us…time, effort and sacrifice have to be put into it as capital. This expertise gives us the credibility and confidence that pave the way for us make a difference.
Don’t get me wrong. Geniuses surround us. Facebook. Google. Amazon. WhatsApp. We’re surrounded with new blood of start-ups that move us into a direction where start-ups change the world. Yes, they do. But it’s also possible to change the world and change the game by not being a start-up.
In whatever profession, you need to fill not just a market need but be the standard in the industry you’re in. Studying Mark Zuckerberg’s story, even Facebook wasn’t perfected overnight. It went through hours of sitting in front of the computer, testing his innate skills, trying it on smaller markets like colleges, and seeing it through with the vision for expansion. Underneath it all was hard work.
To change the game long term, there are two major qualities I feel are non-negotiable, given that hard work is a given. Integrity and excellence. I’m often asked to define what integrity is. Simply put, it is “doing what is right even when no one is looking.” Integrity isn’t easy, but what some young people of today need to know is that even small choices made professionally have an effect in the long run. Integrity also gives you a higher intention of purpose, with money not being the end game alone. This is why excellence in every aspect matters. Excellence starts off as a state of mind, a standard you impose on yourself. Excellence is when “good enough” simply won’t do because we know “good enough” won’t be a game changer.
How will you know you’re a game changer? One word. IMPACT. In whatever field you’re in, the lives you’ve helped, affected and influenced are the true measure of change. And let me stress, you will not achieve this, overnight.
This article was originally published in Lifestyle Asia’s February 2019 issue. To see the entire list of Game Changers (The Class of 2019), please pick up the latest issues on leading newsstands or online via Lazada and Shopee.